Fixing What Bothers You

I love staying home and caring for kids and the house,  but sometimes I feel myself going a little nuts with small frustrations.  In some ways the kids get easier as they get older, and in some ways harder.   Everything become physically easier but a tougher battle of wills, as food pickiness, homework resistance, and laziness emerge.  You can no longer excuse their bad behavior with their age, and this makes them more frustrating.  You are expected to feed all members of the household and clean up after them when they are perfectly capable of doing it.  And yet… you are a housewife.  Isn’t that what you are here for?  And so on.  Small annoyances.  You can fix them.

I read somewhere to make a list of what bothers you and see if there aren’t solutions.  Think of what advice you would give a friend with these complaints.  It sounded like a very silly exercise, but I did it.

Here is my list.

  1.  Kids don’t clean up after themselves and waste art supplies and create piles of paper.
  2. The kids stain their clothes and are ruining them and they have to last for three girls.
  3. I hate making lunches when everyone is home.
  4. My husband piles his stuff up on the kitchen counter even though we have a mudroom.

So, on to the solutions.  They have an art cabinet in the breakfast room that was getting cleaned out and then messed up constantly.  I look everything out, labeled it, and told them everything must go in the correct box before they go up for baths.  They figured it out pretty quickly.  Having things labeled has made all the difference.  They produce a stack of art every day, and every  night I go through it, tossing most of it and keeping select pieces to go in their art folders that live in the drawer above this cabinet.


To keep them from staining clothes, I put a bundle of already stained or torn clothing in the mudroom and they must change into this before playing outside.  Maddie has to change into an old shirt before eating because she is destroying all of her clothing with hot sauce.

To deal with lunches, I have started having more ready to eat foods available so people can help themselves on the weekends instead of asking me “what’s for lunch?” and driving me batty.  On kitchen days I cut up veggies and make a tuna or chicken salad, I boil eggs, make sandwich rolls to pop in the freezer, mix up salad dressing, and pre cook bacon so those of us on low carb diets can still eat something quick.



For the age old kitchen counter piling problem.  This is a problem I need to work on on my end, having some patience with someone who has just come home from a long day at work.  I also added the basket on the very left to at least corral the papers.


Then I got distracted and rearranged the open cabinet.  I am slowly realizing I despise color. There was a pretty red bowl in this shelf before but it was too… red.  It is a cabinet, and now everything is beige or white.



So beige. So dusty.  I just dusted two days ago.


So beige!  Is this an acceptable decorating style?  I want to add white.  Brightness but no color.

I have ONE burgundy sunflower plant still blooming.


Colors are acceptable here.


What a masterpiece!

Fall at Home

After a very sad week, I am back home and settling in for fall and the upcoming holidays.  I always crave baked goods and hot drinks this time of year, but have not had much of either this year since I am trying to lose the last of the baby weight.

Every time I lose five pounds I buy a small treat for myself.


Some cleaning products and some twine.


Is it sad how excited I was for these to arrive?

The children have been having plenty of sweet treats.




And I whipped up a cute little pillow for the living room.


The kids are in charge of all Halloween decorations this year.  My middle daughter saw a picture in a magazine of a “haunted porch” and is determined to recreate it.  They are slowly haunting up the place.




I have only set out mums and pumpkins on the porch…



And changed out the placemats for fall colored ones…  And left the rest of the decorating to the kids.

DSC01785 (2).jpg

I have been busy enjoying the company of a little friend.


In a cozy spot for just the two us.


Enjoying the fresh air while we can.


A present before dying

I have a half brother who is dying of melanoma, who has been for years and years, and is in the final stages.  His organs are failing and his body is swelling.  He sent my father an email, the most bleak thing you have ever read, describing how he cant eat or drink without vomiting, can’t move his toes because they are so swollen, and is so exhausted he can only move a few steps at a time.  He is in the hospital now, getting a catheter to relieve the swelling, and then hopefully will go home to be comfortable.

I’ve been reading Anthony Esolen’s Out of the Ashes, which bemoans the current state of America.  It cries out against cohabitation, childlessness, materialism, so much of what young people are today.  And while I read it I was nodding and feeling smug, a housewife with three children, preserving the “traditional” ways.  And now, knowing that my poor brother is one of those people, it just seems so full of hate.  He was not  raised to be religious, he is married but chose not to have children, and always enjoyed traveling, going out to eat, going out to bars, etc.  He is one of the friendliest, most generous people you could ever know.

His parents divorced when he was ten and his father married my mother.  We did not grow up together, so he is more like a cousin than a brother to me, and we were never that close.  He lives far away, there was a big age difference, we have nothing in common.  We have visited each other occasionally, and he has always been very nice to me.  He met my first child but none of the others, and we have not seen each other in five years.

So.  How to handle the fact that he will be gone soon?  Do I visit him?  Arrive on his doorstep with my three little kids and say “Hi, heard you are dying, we are here to visit you?”  Seems fake, and morbid, and insensitive.  But to not visit?  Is that worse?  I wish he lived closer so I could come clean his house from top to bottom, come by once a week to do his laundry and bring fresh flowers, cook whatever he thought he could eat that day.  And if he lived closer, we would not have such a distant relationship.  But if we lived in a society more attached to home, maybe his parents would still be married, and he never would have bought a boat and been out in the sun so much he got melanoma, and I would never have been born at all.

I am thinking I will send him a gift, so he knows I am thinking of him.  Slippers I think, or a blanket.  I wanted to do a teddy bear but I think that might be weird.  I wonder if it would be nice to include something religious.  As far as I know he is not a believer.  I would love to send a copy of Mere Christianity, but I doubt it he would read it.  I don’t want to be pushy.  I believe that there is a path to heaven for non believers.  But I wonder if faith, or stronger faith if he has some already, would comfort him.  I am a convert, and I feel like if someone sent me Bible verses before I was a believer I would find it annoying and absurd, like a nosy person telling me they will pray for me.  But C.S. Lewis… so intelligent, so convincing.   It might work.  It is not really my place, and then again it is.

Do you reach a point before dying where you are in such physical pain that you almost don’t mind?  Are you on painkillers and sleeping medications so much that you don’t fully grasp what is happening?  Maybe some of the time, but I imagine that there are long nights where you are alone with your thoughts, wondering what is next for you.  Would you be comforted to know that there is a God who made you and loves you, who is desperate for you to turn to him in your final days?  Would you want to be convinced of that in some way so you could have it to hold on to?  Or are you mad at God for allowing you to die young, for never being able to be a retired man on a cruise ship or a golf course, mad that you never had children and your old friends from restaurants and bars forgot you long ago?

I don’t know.  I am sending something on Monday.  Maybe I will look for passages in the book that I could highlight and mark with sticky notes.  And I will at least send the slippers.  And I will not tell him I will pray for him.  But I will still pray.

Planning a vegetable garden that makes sense

For years, and I mean years, I planted vegetable gardens that were complete nonsense.  I would look through seed catalogs, choose far too many plants, plant them too close together, and have tiny harvests of a million different vegetables.  Also I lived in the suburbs where there was too much shade and no bees.  Also I had my husband build raised beds, purchase soil, and generally spend so much on my hobby that there was no way I could come out ahead, even had I planned my garden well.

So it is now fall, the ending of gardening season, with nothing to dream of but next year.  I have improved in my planning a lot, but still find that this time of year is the best for planning.  What did I need more of? What was timed poorly?  How was my spacing and my aisle widths?  What did I end up giving away because there was too much?  And what varieties have earned a spot for next year?

So in the spirit of planning, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1.  Look at your grocery lists, not the seed catalog.

Plant what you eat.  Sounds obvious.  It is not.  Why are are there so many sample plans with rows of turnips and rutabagas? Why?  I am proud if you if you really eat these things, but if you don’t, please do not plant them.  I am tempted every year by beautiful summer squash, but… I think it is gross.  So does my family.  Same goes for Lima beans and sweet potatoes.  I remember once reading a book where a character makes a salad with beets on top and all the other characters like it.  I planted beets, we ate one, it was okay.  The others languished.  Look at what you pay for at the store! (For us this means lettuce, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, tomatoes, extra tomatoes for canning, bell peppers, jalapeños, extra peppers for canning, sugar snap beans, green beans, corn, cucumbers, extra cucumber for pickles, spinach, cilantro, basil, and a lot of watermelon.  We buy our potatoes because they do not do well in our humidity and I have nowhere suitable to store a years supply.)



     2. Plant enough of one thing to be self sufficient in it for the season.

This might means reducing the number of varieties in order to get a usable amount of one thing.  What will you do with twenty green beans a week?  Nothing.  Plant enough so that you do not buy any green beans for the season and you eat them as a side dish regularly.  For us this means a thirty foot row, half planted late April and half planted late June.   If you just want tomatoes for fresh eating, two or three plants should be plenty.   Some things will need to be planted in succession to avoid being unusable.  In the spring and fall, I plant small amounts of lettuce and spinach in trays every week.  They are something that I want a little of, bit by bit.  What would I do with thirty heads of romaine, all ready to eat in one day?  Pay careful attention to how much, and when, each plant will produce.  Plant enough so that you aren’t buying it at all; plant at the right time so you are actually eating it.



3. Obey the seed packet

It truly tells you all you need to know.  Most gardening books have a first half of generic advice that boils down to “fertilize and weed your garden”, and then a second half with information of specific varieties.  The second half reads like pages of seed packets.  There  is so much information on those little envelopes, and you really should listen to it!  The most important thing is how far apart to plant your seeds and how to thin so that they have enough room to reach their full potential.  Planting things too close does NOT result in more to harvest.  EVER.  If the seed company, whose motivation is to have you use a lot of seeds, wants to you to space them 12 inches apart, trust me that 12 inches is the absolute minimum distance they should be.  Too much competition for water and nutrients will hurt all of them and you will wonder why nothing is turning out.  Take a ruler with you to the garden.  Also do not plant them 12 inches apart to start with, thinking you can skip thinning.  No.  Part of thinning is that you are selecting the strongest plants.  Just do what the packet says!

4.  Work in the garden every day

Water and plant in the mornings.  Weed and harvest in the afternoons.  Don’t touch it when it’s wet with dew or rain.  Just stay out of it.  If something is growing too slowly, feed it with some granular fertilizer worked in around the plant and then watered in.  Set yourself a schedule for weeding, one row every three days, or 100 weeds a day, or whatever you can see yourself sticking to.  It needs constant attention, but only a few minutes a day.  Take your older children to help you.  They can snack as they go.  Just get out there and keep an eye on things.



5.  Make it beautiful

Keep things in nice tidy rows with wide and comfortable aisles.  Make it so that it were visible from the road, you would slow down and gaze at it in longing.  Plant flowers that will beautify your home and the garden itself.  If there is room for beautiful pumpkins, plant them.  (Keep your herbs out of there, by the way, and put them in containers or a separate herb garden.  Their variety makes things look messy, and it is nice to have them somewhere else, right outside your door.) Let your garden be a source of pride.  It will draw you to it by being pretty and you will love keeping it up.  Keep it as weed free as you can so that you feel accomplished, not defeated, when you see it.