An Answer

The past couple of weeks have been a blur with the start of a new school year, homeschooling co-op, new classes, and commitments.  I’ve been on this crazy natural yarn dyeing kick right in the midst of it all.  I’ve dyed more yarn than I could knit in a couple of years, so I’ll be selling it in my Etsy shop soon.  I’ll let you know!  I really, really love dyeing with plant based dyes, almost all of them sourced on or near our property.  It’s been a lot of fun, though I’ll be glad to slow down as my selection of plants begins to dwindle with the change of season.

Silas learned to ride a bike last week!  We bought him this balance bike for his third birthday. It took him a week or so to get the hang of it, but he’s been balancing ever since.  That little bike has been to every baseball tournament, camping trip, and even went to New York a few weeks ago.  He loves it.  I was at the thrift store last week and noticed a nice little boys’ pedal bike for five bucks.  I’ve never had a four year old ride a bike without training wheels, but I bought it, wondering if Silas might be able to ride it because of all his balance bike practice.  He needed a little help getting on and getting going, but sure enough he is riding that bike without training wheels all over the yard now. The other night he was sitting in my lap and we were discussing how precious he is.  I asked him, “Do you know why you are so precious?”  “Yes,” he replied, “I’m precious because I can ride a bike with no training wheels.”

Remember when we bought the lot next door to our house last year?  Well, there was an adjacent lot that we also wanted to buy, but couldn’t afford.  Over the past six months we’ve watched part of that patch of forest be cleared and a house erected.  Jonny was a little upset to watch that happen to land he had hoped to one day own, but I’ve been hopeful.  I started praying early on for good neighbors.  I kept my definition of “good” simple, not wanting to trouble God with things that aren’t that important in the big picture.  Maybe that’s something I should get over, but I tend to feel like I shouldn’t ask for much.  I simply prayed for neighbors who wouldn’t hate children or animals and really hoped that my prayers would be answered.  Beatrix, on the other hand, was far more specific in her prayers.  She told me that she wanted a friend, a little girl one year younger than her six years, but with a November birthday like her.  She wasn’t afraid to ask for her wishes to come true.

About two weeks ago, we noticed that someone was moving in.  The house had only been on the market for about a week, so that was quick!  We’ve been living mostly in isolation here for 13 years with the exception of some old-timers across the street.  We weren’t quite sure how to handle this development.  I called a friend to discuss.  She suggested we take them some baked goods.  But what if they have allergies?  What if they hate baked goods?  I was too nervous to do anything.  My kids took matters into their own hands and headed off into the woods to try to get a better look at these people.  In other words, they spied and I supported them in their spying, instructing them not to look into any windows, because that would be peeping rather than spying.  It’s important to differentiate.  I doubt they were discreet as they watched the family moving in.  They came home reporting that there was evidence of children, a girl and a boy they thought, along with two dogs.  In the days that ensued my kids made friends, the boy and girl being close in age to Beatrix and Larkspur.  Jonny made friends next.  Finally, I got up the nerve to walk over and introduce myself too.  They seem sweet, this new family.  I am happy to have neighbors, and our kids have already made a trail between their property and ours.  They like animals and are considering a flock of chickens of their own.  They think the goats are cool.  On Friday, the mom walked over with her kids unexpectedly.  September is our absolute messiest time of year.  Jonny is slammed with work and I am busy getting into the new fall routine.  This translates into our house and yard looking like a total dump.  She didn’t seem phased, and I thought to myself that we can only go up from here.  Good that she sees me at my worst.  I showed her around and then asked the question I have worried about most, “Do you guys have allergies?”  She answered, “No, none” and didn’t seem to think it an odd question.  I followed up with, “Not even bees or wasps?”  And she said no.  I told her, “We have honeybees…nine hives.”  She replied that her husband was interested in keeping bees himself.  I showed her the hives, and it was no big thing.  Exhale.

We have new neighbors.  They like kids.  They like animals.  They go to our church!  They aren’t allergic to honeybees.


They have a little girl who is one year younger than Beatrix and her birthday is in November, four days after Beatrix’s. 

When Beatrix came home last week bouncing and giggling with her news, I fought tears as I told her, “Bea, do you see?  This is God showing you how much he loves you.”

The (meal) plan

We started homeschooling again on Monday, this week.  I know that many people who start in September wait until after Labor Day, starting on a Tuesday, but I couldn’t handle that.  I start things on Mondays, not Tuesdays.  Today was our first day of homeschooling co-op.  It went well, but I am wiped out and a little freaked out over just how much school work these five school aged kids of mine have to do, and the fact that it’s up to me to make sure it all gets done.  I have to pour most of my mental energy into this task, so there’s not much left for anything else, like planning meals.

Meal planning for me is not an easy task.  Nor am I a natural cook, one who looks in her pantry at what’s available and throws something together that is both creative and delicious.  A plan is necessary.  I had to come up with something easy-ish to fall back on, something to take the stress out of making my weekly meal plan and executing it.  It’s not fancy.  (Sorry, no Pinterest worthy images here!) In the past I have planned roughly one week of meals at whatever point we run out of them, and then gone grocery shopping for the week’s provisions.  I have a master grocery shopping list with most things that I purchase regularly, so I can just circle what I need.  I have also relied on a master list of favorite meals in the past.  For some reason that list has stopped working for me.  I need even more structure.  I came up with themed weekdays, with an idea list for each Monday through Friday.  Monday is for chicken, Tuesday is black beans, Wednesday is ground beef, Thursday is pinto beans, and Friday is just meatless and a place where I throw some of our vegetarian staple meals.  The recipes might vary, but the spine of the meal doesn’t.  Weekends are more flexible and open to being filled with meals that might end up being shifted from a weekday, for trying new recipes, or for special meals. I plan to make and laminate a fancy spreadsheet including all the different ideas for each day so I can keep it hanging on the fridge, but I haven’t yet.  For this post, the best I have is photographs of my messy Mama’s Notebook page where I scratched out the bones of my plan, still a work in progress and being added to as I think of other meals.  Following that photo is one of a real week’s plan all filled in.  Each week I look to the master list and make my plan before going shopping.

I am planning breakfast and lunch as well.  I find that having a breakfast plan in place works well for us.  It keeps me from having kids upset because we’re having oatmeal for the fourth day in a row.  They know it’s only twice a week, and even if they hate it they can look forward to other days and just try to choke it down in the meantime.  If I am struck with some sort of fancy breakfast inspiration, of course I will deviate from the plan, but I really like not having to think, especially on school days.  I also prefer not to leave breakfast open to nine people making whatever they are in the mood for that day.  That type of breakfast scene tends to drag out for too long.  On weekdays we can’t spend ages on breakfast. As far as planning lunch goes, I need to always do it because if I don’t, I end up forgetting to feed my people.

Lastly, I have moved from shopping when we run out of food and I absolutely have to go, to having a regular shopping day each week.  Keats has orchestra on the same day each week and it happens to be near the stores where I shop and is also on a convenient day and time.  So after I drop him off, I shop with my little ones in tow.  I used to always avoid shopping with them by going during the evening or on the weekend, but I find that having a regular shopping day and time alleviates more stress than bringing four kids along causes.

Being married to Jonny, the “free spirit,” for almost seventeen years has forced me to bury any type A tendencies I might have, but sometimes they make an appearance and I find myself feeling very soothed by a little structure and order.  The routine helps me to function more efficiently and effectively which is just going to be necessary for me to keep up this crazy gig we’ve got going here.