Friday, November 28, 2014

So Thankful

We had a very nice, quiet Thanksgiving yesterday... just The Man of the House, Ladybug, Monkey, Noodle and me. We watched the Parade (or rather, the kids watched it, while I was in-and-out cooking) We ate lots of delicious food, and just enjoyed hanging out together.


The table, all set

Our Vegan Thanksgiving Feast: Butternut squash, maple roasted carrots, corn,
green beans, Tofurky with roasted yams and onions, mashed potatoes,
cranberry-apple stuffing, cranberry sauce and freshly baked rolls. 

I have SO much to be Thankful for this year, as always. I am truly Blessed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Our Thankful Garland

Every year for Thanksgiving, our family does a little "Thankful" craft... we always make a little banner of paper leaves, on which we write things we are thankful for. (You can see last year's banner here) Some of the leaves are very sincere... "Our Home" "Our Cats" etc... while others are a bit sillier (like "Peanut Butter") We've  been making these in one form or another since my oldest child was about four, so I think this is our tenth year! It is definitely one of my favorite family traditions.

It begins as cut out paper leaves and sharpies
This year we did it a little differently... rather than hang the leaves from string or twine across a wall or window as we usually do, I decided I wanted to put it up on our newly-revamped mantle this year. I found some nice grapevine garland at AC Moore, which seemed perfect to use as our base.  I'm very happy with how it came out.

After writing things we're Thankful for, we
tucked the leaves into the grapevine garland.


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Importance of Weekends

It has been our practice for quite some time now to "schedule" down time into our calendar. In our busy lives, it's very easy to find ourselves always on the go, and if we don't take the time to recharge, renew and refresh, we will burn out. We have usually been pretty good about keeping our weekends as clear as we can for family time, household projects, and just chillin' out. I don't mind being busybusybusy during the week, if it means we get some downtime on the weekends.

As the kids are getting older, this is becoming a bit of a challenge, however, as their schedule of activities often involves weekend commitments. This weekend it was to the extreme, and I'm feeling the effects of that quite a bit. On Friday, we had back-to-back commitments from early morning until early evening, and we didn't even end up getting dinner on the table until 7 (late for us, as we usually eat between 5:30-6) Saturday was spent running around doing the errands we usually do on Fridays, as well as shlepping the kids to events and activities which didn't end until 10pm. Sunday was a little less hectic, though we were still pretty busy. The craziness of the weekend has me starting off this Monday feeling behind and a bit cranky. I'm behind on laundry, the kids didn't do any of their chores this weekend, and I have a list of household tasks that I didn't get around to this weekend, either. Most of all, I missed having our usual relaxing Saturday Night Pizza Night, which seriously renews my Spirit each week. I definitely feel like I'm starting this week on the wrong foot.

Clearly, having crazy busy weeks followed by crazy busy weekends that lead into crazy busy weeks does not work for us. The question is... what to do about it? I love that my kids are active and have a good network of friends and interesting things to do. But, as a family, we need time to just BE sometimes. Being constantly on-the-go is not consistent with the Simple Life we're striving for. So how to find the balance? This is definitely something we'll be working on. It feels extra important to be conscious of this as we are entering the busy holiday season.

For now, I'm looking forward to getting this week back on track. It's a short week, with all of our commitments ending by Wednesday afternoon. We can then begin our Thanksgiving holiday! It will be a quiet one for us. I'll be cooking up a nice vegan Thanksgiving feast, and we'll enjoy some peaceful quality time together.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Some Awesome Things About My Life Right Now...

Can I just say... I seriously LOVE my life right now? The path to get here has been... well, let's just say it has been a wild ride. But now, I feel like I'm settling into the happy, healthy life I've wanted for a very long time. As nervous as I was to quit my job, I have not one regret now that it's done. I have so many good things now that I did not have before.

The kids, just hanging out
 in the playroom together.
1. Our home is our own again. Can you imagine how awesome it would be to gain two whole new rooms in your house? Well, that happened for us! We got to turn the two rooms that had previously been taken up by our daycare into a home office and a "big kid" playroom. This has doubled the living area on our first floor. And another thing about the playroom.... it's SO nice to have a space for my kids to all hang out together, in the main part of the house. This is a huge difference from before, when the kids spent their free time hiding in their rooms. Having the new playroom has been great for their relationship with each other, and for my relationship with them. We all talk and interact so much more than we ever used to. While the extra space is totally awesome, it's also just nice that our home is our HOME now, and not our work place. For the first time in a long time, our home feels like our sanctuary from the hectic world, and that's a wonderful feeling.

2. I'm really involved with my kids homeschooling. Quitting my job has given me the time to really give my attention to the kids' homeschooling in a way I haven't been able to be in years. Now I'm spending my days with my kids, driving them to classes, going on field trips, participating in activities. I also now have the time to do a lot of volunteering with our homeschool group. I love it!

3. My house is clean! Most of the time, anyway. Now that I'm not working full time in addition to homeschooling, I find it much easier to keep my house clean. I've also had time to tackle lots of little projects around the house, which is nice, too.

5. I read with Noodle almost every night. My older kids got TONS of reading aloud time with me when they were little, but I feel like Noodle got short-changed on that a bit, since he was only 3 when their dad and I separated and our lifestyle changed. Now that I'm no longer doing work stuff in the evenings, we sit down together most nights after dinner and read for a while. It's different now that he's 9... instead of me reading to him, we take turns, each reading a chapter. We both really look forward to this ritual.

6. I knit everyday. Sometimes just for 10 or 15 minutes, but I love that I am able to make that time for myself, to do something that soothes my soul and makes me happy.

7. I'm happier in my relationship. While, for the most part, The Man and I enjoyed working together, it did sometimes cause tension in our relationship. Being your mate's boss adds a weird dynamic to a relationship, which I did not enjoy. I'm very happy that he is now just my partner, and not my employee. Our partnership feels much healthier now. I miss him when he's at work all day, but then it's wonderful to see him when he comes home in the afternoon.

8. I'm enjoying parenting more. Now that I feel less stressed and stretched, I find myself yelling less and feeling much more patient when parenting challenges arise. As a result, I have a lot less parental guilt than I have had in many years.

9. I can be spontaneous. While the kids do have a fairly full schedule of classes and activities during the week, our new schedule does allow us several unscheduled hours each week where we can just do whatever we want. We can go off on an adventure if we wish, or decide to take a walk to the library or we can just stay home and bake cookies. When the kids were really little, spontaneous adventures were one of the things I loved best about being a full-time homeschooling mom. I'm so grateful to have that back again.

10. Peace. I feel at peace with the life I'm now living. It feels really right for my family. It has been worth every risk, every stretched dollar, every worry. Sometimes taking a leap of faith and taking a chance at changing your life works out. I'm very happy that for us, it did.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sharing is Caring

Some silly fun with friends... Turning the
Three-legged Race into a Five-Legged Race!
Last Friday we had the most WONDERFUL Community Thanksgiving with our Homeschool group. All the families contributed traditional homemade dishes and gathered together to decorate the room, play games, talk, and share a delightful feast together. We all had a great time, and many wonderful memories were made. We feel so lucky that events like this are a regular part of our life, and we know we are truly Blessed to have so many amazing friends to share in this homeschooling journey. Whenever people give me that "You homeschool? But what about SOCIALIZATION?!" line, I always laugh, because my kids have a much more active social life than I ever did as a public school kid.

But the downside to all this socialization? Sometimes along with sharing food, friendship and fun, we also sometimes inadvertently share GERMS. About 30 or so hours after the party, at least 30 people, fully half of the party attendees, came down with a nasty tummy bug. My three kiddos were among those hit. I don't know what this bug was, exactly, but it was a strong one, to affect so many people. In our family, Noodle was the first, at 1:30am on Sunday... we were awakened by "that sound" that no parent wants to wake up to. By 10am the other two had it. Fortunately, the first two kids only threw up a couple of times then just slept it off. They were both fine in 8-12 hours. Monkey, on the other hand, continued to vomit for 13 straight hours. I brought him to the ER 6 hours in, and he ended up with an overnight hospital stay. It took two different anti-nausea meds and four bags of IV fluids to get him over the hump. This is  the second hospital stay for Monkey in less than a year. I had hoped after his bout with Norovirus in March we'd be done with hospitals for awhile, but no such luck. I'm now trying to heal his gut and boost his immune system with probiotics and vitamins. Fingers crossed we'll get through the winter without further incident.

After all this drama, we are getting back into the swing of normal life. Today we've got a busy day of classes, appointments and activities. I am grateful that we're all healthy, and able to do this stuff! Once we get caught up, I do have several posts I've been wanting to write, (about my indoor garden, and my new cold frame, my bird feeders, some recipes, and more!) and hopefully now that things are settling down I'll get to those, soon. Stay tuned! :)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Furry Love Story

In February of 1998, my former husband (who was not yet my husband) and I had just bought our first house, and we were set to move in in May. After living in "No Pets Allowed" apartments for many years, I was very anxious to welcome a furry friend or two into our new home.

Meanwhile, that very month, some friends were walking home from the subway very late one evening when they found a small cat wandering in the cold. They brought her in for the night, to keep her warm. After trying hard to find her owners, to no avail, they ended up finding themselves the parents of this sweet little girl. They named her Twizzler, and it was soon determined that Twizzler was expecting! When we heard that our friends would soon have some kittens needing homes, we immediately volunteered to take two. It was meant-to-be.

On April 15, 1998, we got the call that the kittens had made their debut. Like the eager expectant "parents" that we were, we rushed over to meet them as soon as possible. There were four, altogether, and we named our two kittens that night... Gus and Tallulah. We visited  them often over the next 8 weeks, and we brought them home to our new house in June. They turned out to be wonderful cats... funny, affectionate, each with a distinctly awesome personality.

And so it began. Those cats stayed with me through my engagement, marriage, the births of three beautiful children, a move to a new house and the end of my marriage. They were by my side through money struggles, new careers, and new friends. They were there for the formation of a wonderful new relationship, and making of an expanded family. They were with me while my family suffered loss, and while we worked our way through grief. They have been furry little constants for me in this crazy life, and I'm so grateful for the quiet comfort they have given me all these years. My kids have never known life without these two cats in it. They were so sweet, gentle and patient with the kids, allowing them to pick them up, hug them, hold them and even tolerating being dressed up in doll clothes. Not once did they ever scratch or bite, but instead would just get up and walk away if they'd had enough of playing. For my youngest child, who had challenges with developmental delays, Gus and Tallulah were like therapy cats for him. They taught him so much about love, compassion and patience.

One year ago tomorrow, on November 7, 2013, Gus left this Earth at the age of 15.5 years, and is still sorely missed. Today, after a long illness Tallulah joined her brother in Kitty Heaven. I am so sad at this loss, but I take comfort in the idea that their souls are reunited. I hope there is some good catnip up there.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Time to Harvest the Herbs

With the temps outside dipping below freezing, it's time to harvest our herbs from the garden. A little past time, actually, but I was a little slow this year. It seemed like the cold weather sort of snuck up on us! One day we were outside in just our shirt sleeves, and the next day they were predicting frost. We even had a little bit of snow this past Sunday! Since I didn't have time to harvest then, I just draped some tablecloths over the herbs to protect them until I could bring them in. This morning I finally got out there, and cut a whole bunch of herbs... rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemon balm and sage. They've all been trimmed and rinsed, "yucky" leaves discarded, and are currently spread out on towels on the counter, ready to be bundled up and hung to dry for our winter enjoyment. Later I'll go out to get the chives, mints and catnip. The last of the lavender came in a few weeks ago, and the last of the basil has already been turned into pesto, which is in the freezer, ready for our pastas and pizzas over the winter.

We use our herbs for so much more than culinary purposes. While I do love the delicious flavor my herbs add to my cooking, we also use herbs for medicinal purposes. Peppermint, spearmint and lemon balm make a nice tea to soothe tummies and aid digestion. I love to have a cup of this tea after dinner. When you've got a cold, tea made from thyme with a squeeze of lemon and a spoonful of raw, local honey is great for soothing coughs and sore throats. A rosemary rinse in your hair after washing is great for soothing a dry itchy scalp, and is even said to promote hair growth. No matter the ailment, chances are there is an herbal remedy to soothe it.

And finally... we'll also be reserving some for some herb crafts: smudge sticks, wreaths and fire bundles. But first, I'm going to sit with a cup of peppermint tea and enjoy the wonderful herbal smells wafting though our home.