Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What I Learned in August


Linking up with Emily to share a few things I learned last month:

1. Nighttime park trips are magical. And I don't mean like dusky, sunset trips. I mean like, NIGHTTIME. Like Annie insists we wait until it's "really dark". Peyton and the kids came up with this idea and the other night I joined them for the first time. It was cooler of course and the park was mostly empty (a few teenagers were hanging around- more talking and texting, less necking and petting, I know inquiring minds want to know). Peyton calls the slides the "dark dark caves" and we went up and down them with the kids. To be honest, they were sort of creepy in that neat, magical way. I don't think the kids pick up on that yet, exactly, but I did. I sat up at the very top of the tower that the slides come down from and listened to their excited voices and watched their shadows dance. It was lovely and perfect and I wonder how much beauty like this I miss because I refuse to stop and be still like that.

2. I finally- six years into marriage/living on my own-am sort of finding my cooking "style". 

The other night I realized that if I worked a bit more on trying some new recipes I might not only have a handle on things in the kitchen, I might have a style. This is oddly comforting to me. Maybe because my mom had a very definite home cooking meat and potatoes style and Peyton's parents had a very definite large family casserole style. I think part (definitely not all) of my ambivalence in (and sometimes dread of) the kitchen is that I couldn't pinpoint how I wanted us to eat. Anyway, one of my best discoveries this Summer was a super simple tomato tart that is just delicious, pretty, healthy, and easy. Then last week, I cooked these fish tacos that meet the same specifications. Last Winter, I became obsessed with this six ingredient tomato basil soup. Other favorites of ours are veggie dinners and taco bars in the Summer and spaghetti and chili in the Winter. Here's the thing about all these dishes-
- They taste DELICIOUS. This is clearly the most important thing. But not worth sacrificing the rest, most nights.
- They are SUPER easy. They don't have a ton of ingredients and aren't very time intensive.
- They present well. You can pair them with salads or fresh produce and especially in the Summer it's a pretty presentation. I can feign being capable
- They go beyond healthy and with these three things they are *mostly* made of "real" food and not processed junk. It's not accident this is last. As much as I've wanted this to be, it's never been a priority in our kitchen. The kids eat tons of fruits and veggies but I've always been that mom that cooked with lots of cream of chicken soup for dinner and that kind of thing. However, sort of by accident, I've discovered that I can put together meals without it and they are still tasty, easy, and present well.
Now to just find a few more recipes to rotate and be consistent!

3. We have a READER.
A homeschooling friend and I talk about this sometimes- when do you call your child "a reader"? I mean, ovbiously once they can read. But it's not the first word they read, is it? The first sentence, the first book, the first time they begin reading fluently without sounding everything out? When? Not that it matters much, it's just interesting to think about. Anyway, I'm confident Annie is very officially a reader. She read aloud a good bit of this dinosaur book to Graves's while back and last night she was reading sentences from an adult book that Peyton got from the library. I wasn't too impressed with the former (I'll admit to being impressed with the latter) but here's what I do observe: she has SO many hours in her day to figure out what SHE wants to do with her education (like learn to pronounce dino names and read to her brother) and she has had such a soft, gentle place to be wrong and I think (for her) that's been paramount in her being brave enough to try things in which she might fail. I've said it before, but watching her learn to read has probably been more significant to me than being there for her first steps and first words. It's just so amazing. 

4. Our new schedule is requiring a good bit of adjustment and calendars/planners are key. I keep meaning to write an actual post about Peyton's schedule changing up, but it has been a BIG change. Mostly for me, if I'm honest. Anyway, we have been making tons of use out of Google Calendars (at Peyton's insistence) and really planning our days. And I've been enjoying my new planner. I feel like we're both enjoying planning our days in small increments rather than just making a big to-do list and running around trying to accomplish things.

5. Tongs make good tools for cleaning up and creative solutions often work better with Graves than overt consequences.
This past week, he had privileges taken away multiple times this week for not cleaning up his room. Who cares? This weekend I let him do it with a pair of tongs and he finished in ten minutes without me needing to keep on him the whole time.

 6. Completely finishing the main room of the house felt incredible.
We spend a lot of our day in the den. The kids watch television in there when they get up, I do morning school in there with them, Annie spends most of rest time there or in the kitchen, we often hang out in there all four of us, Peyton and I sometimes watch TV in there (especially when we get take out) and it's by far the most used room when we have visitors over. I've always loved the room. It's just spacious enough and I love that the colors are bright but not overpowering. I do still want to change out some pictures in the frames, but that's something I'm not in a huge hurry about.

7. Good books inspire me.
This seems pretty obvious and it's one of those things (it seems like I have at least one each month) that I knew in my heart but maybe forgot the full extent of. Anyway, I feel more creative, more engaged, more alert, more inspired, and perhaps most of all more joyful when I am reading good books. I often (often!) fail to prioritize it and it should be a wake up call.

8. A really people heavy week is going to simultaneously nourish my soul and deplete my strength. We had a pretty heavily peopled week a week or so ago and it about did me in. But at the same time, I felt like my heart was very full, my soul was nourished and healthy, and we were, in many ways, fulfilling a large part of the purpose of moving back here. It's hard balance but I'm determined to find it most of the time and live as thankfully as possible in the tension the rest of it.

9.  One thing that has been fun about trying different denominations and traditions as we search for a new church is that I've been introduced to some new songs I might not have ever heard otherwise. We were visiting a Baptist church this past weekend and I heard this song I've never heard before called God, Whose Giving Has No Ending. I couldn't find a version on YouTube that I really loved but here's a couple of stanzas I thought were beautiful:
God, whose giving knows no ending,
from your rich and endless store--
nature's wonder, Jesus' wisdom,
costly cross, grave's shattered door--
gifted by you, we turn to you,
offering up ourselves in praise;
thankful song shall rise forever,
gracious Donor of our days.
Skills and time are ours for pressing
toward the goals of Christ, your Son:
all at peace in health and freedom,
races joined, the Church made one.
Now direct our daily labor,
lest we strive for self alone.
Born with talents, make us servants
fit to answer at your throne.

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