Thursday, February 21, 2013

Winter Gardening! Growing Potatoes Indoors, Part 1

I am utterly fascinated with the concept of four-season gardening. Here in New England, growing stuff in the winter is no easy feat, but I have been hoping to work on extending my garden season, so I’ve been reading up a lot of ways to garden year round. With that goal in mind, last month we began a little experiment… we are currently attempting to grow potatoes inside!  We've always had good luck growing potatoes out in our garden beds, and I did read that potatoes can do very well in containers, so we thought we'd give it a go. Here is what we did:

First, we got ourselves a big 5 gallon bucket, put some rocks in the bottom for drainage, then we tossed in a few shovels of compost. Next we cut some sprouted potatoes in chunks, making sure that each chunk had at least one good eye on it.

We placed these chunks into the bucket, and covered them over with more compost. We water this as we would any other plant, though we are careful not to water it too much, as we don’t want our potatoes to rot.

As the potato sprouts start to grow up through the soil, we keep adding more soil to cover them up. In Potato-Growing Lingo, this is known as "Earthing Up" your potatoes. Now that the soil has reached the top of the bucket, we keep watering, and let the sprouts go. This is where we’re at right now. Once the greens start to die back, we will dig in and see what we have… hopefully, we will have some potatoes!
 I will post updates as this project continues! Meanwhile... the Family and I are beginning to plan out our outdoor garden for the spring! More on this later!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nurturing Your Relationship When You Have Children

So, I planned on doing this post for Valentine’s Day, but since we’ve had a lot going on here at home, I’m a few days late. But… better late than never, right?

As I was writing this post, I was thinking that there are already hundreds of articles and such out there that speak of how to keep the magic in your relationship. Most of them probably even have some good advice. However, many of the typical relationship tips and tricks are a little harder to pull off when you have kids. Meet your husband at the door after work wearing just a martini? Yeah, notsomuch when you’ve got a bunch of little ones running around waiting for dinner. Go away on a romantic weekend together? Again, not so easy when you’ve got kiddos.

Here’s the thing… The Man of the House and I each have a failed marriage under our belts, and we have learned A LOT from our past mistakes about what makes a relationship work (or not work, as the case may be) We also began our relationship already parenting 5 kids between us, which made our courtship a bit out of the ordinary, as well, so “couple time” has always been something we’ve had to work really hard to make a reality. In the first few of years of our relationship, we did have some weekends free, when my kids would visit their dad and his kids were with their mom. Those weekends are what got our relationship rolling… but now that we’ve got kids in the house 24/7, we definitely have to be a bit more creative to get time alone. Here are some things that work for us:

1.       Have Bedtimes. Our kids have bedtimes. The last one is up in bed by 8pm. They are allowed to read quietly in bed for awhile (“lights out” times are staggered by age) but they do need to chill out quietly in bed at bedtime. This is good for them, as it helps them unwind and relax at the end of a busy day and sets them up for a good night’s sleep. And it’s good for us, because it gives us some much-needed “grown up time” together.

2.       “Run away” together (to another room). I’m not generally a fan of using the TV as a babysitter… but… as long as it’s used sparingly and not abused, it can be an effective way to help parents nurture their relationship. About twice a month, we let the kids eat pizza in front of a movie, while The Man and I have dinner alone together in the kitchen. This gives us a 90-120 minute “date” during which the children are occupied and happy, and we get to enjoy some adult conversation and a grown-up dinner.

3.       Touch each other. Never underestimate the power of touch. Greet each other with a hug and a kiss. Reach out and touch his back when he passes you in the hallway. Kiss her cheek while she’s cooking dinner. Hold hands while you’re watching a movie. These small, affectionate gestures will keep you connected throughout the day, even when you’re really busy.

4.       Leave notes for each other. Write “I Love You” in the steam on the bathroom mirror. Send him an IM while he’s at work to let him know you’re thinking of him. Leave a Post-it note with a sweet message where she’ll see it.  Send a text to let him know you are looking forward to spending time with him later. This kind of communication takes only a moment of your busy day, but it lets your partner know that they are important to you.

5.       Make time for sex. This is really so important, and it’s something that we tend to put on the back burner when we’re busy parents. But the fact is, couples who have more sex are happier. There have been lots of studies done to confirm this! Sex is good for us physically, mentally and emotionally. Try to get the kids to sleep early enough that you can spend some quality time between the sheets with your mate. I understand that making time for sex is particularly difficult if your kids are very young. It is also especially challenging when you have babies that don’t sleep through the night, or you have kids that share you bed. In those cases, you have to be exceptionally creative about where and when you do it. Sneak into the bathroom together or down to the couch when the kids are asleep. Not every encounter has to be a full-on romantic adventure with candles and music (though that is nice, when you can swing it!) Sometimes a quick little interlude is enough to keep the fire burning in your relationship.

6.       Get a sitter, even if only occasionally. Sometimes, you need to have time alone together, without having to worry about what the kids are doing. If you have family nearby who can watch the kids occasionally, that is great! Take those grandparents up on any offers to spend time with their grandkids so you and your mate can sneak away for lunch or dinner or even just a walk together. If you don’t have family who can watch the kids, then consider hiring a sitting now and then, or do a babysitting swap with other parents.

Having a strong, stable, loving relationship is one of the best gifts you can give your family. Happy Parents make a Happy Family. It is also important to remember that when the kids are grown up, it’s just going to be the two of you… so it’s well worth the effort to nurture your love, now and always.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Finding Light in the Darkness

So I haven’t posted in quite a while, as our family has been going through a difficult time. I wondered whether to post about it here, but ultimately have decided that it feels like the right thing to do.

On January 16th, my children’s father lost a 10-month long battle with pancreatic cancer. The weeks leading up to his death, and the weeks following, have been a struggle for the children, and for us. They weren't able to visit him much this past year, because of his illness, and that, in itself, has been hard on them... they missed a lot of time with him. Because nothing in life is ever simple, we have had a few other difficult struggles in our path during these weeks, as well, which has definitely added to our pain and feelings of being overwhelmed. However… We are Blessed to be surrounded by much Love and support, and that has helped our grief enormously. During this challenging time, I needed to take a break from the blog to focus on caring for my family.

We are trying to ease our way back into a “new normal.”  I know that this will take time. Right now, we are just taking things day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. I know that some days will be easier, some will be harder, and that's OK.