Monday, March 30, 2015

How DO You Do It?!

I get this question all the time. When people realize that I stay home with four kids, two cats and a dog, every single thing I cook is from scratch, I garden, make clothes, and homeschool, they're pretty much in awe. Typically the awe is amazement that I function, horror that I am such a glutton for punishment combined and depriving my children of a normal childhood on top of it all, or admiration that I can get it done. Here's the secret: I don't know how I do it, and usually I don't feel like I'm doing it very well no matter how I amaze people.
   I'm not tooting my own horn. At all. In fact, I'm admitting my constant failure. I make lists
#3 & #4 doing "schoolwork"
But how long will it last?
constantly and have grandiose plans of ideal function and productivity. Every day I will rise at 5am, take the dog out for a quick run around the yard to meet his needs and avoid accidents inside before the kids get up. Then I will go inside, snuggle with said dog and a cup of kombucha while I read the Bible and pray. After my soul is fed, I will exercise and shower, all before the kids get up at 6(their internal clocks are non-negotiable). When my children rise I will greet them with smiles and hugs, and they will spend an hour playing with each other and the puppy while I plan my day. Then I'll make a nutritive-rich breakfast and we'll all eat together, they'll get dressed and take the puppy out so they all get some exercise while I clean up. Once they're back inside we'll start schoolwork, I'll have structured activities to keep the toddler and puppy busy, and incorporate the kindergartner when she's finished her work as well. While they play I will knit and blog while keeping the big kids on-task, and we'll be done with schoolwork by the time I need to start preparing lunch, and they'll go back outside with the puppy to get their wiggles out and work up a real appetite.
If you guessed two minutes, you win a prize
We'll eat another well-prepared, thought-out lunch, clean up, and have quiet activity time until afternoon rest time. During nap time will be when I get to have a blissful hour of sewing time to myself, and I'll work diligently and create beautiful things. After rest time we'll run any errands on the agenda, work in the yard or garden, have a perfectly-created dinner, the kids will do chores then play nicely together after dinner while I do any cleaning or chores left on my list, then we'll have any necessary baths to wash off the dirt of a blissful day lived mostly outside, then reading time with the kids before they're tucked in perfectly on time, the pup goes in his kennel, and I get a little quiet knitting time to myself.
  HAHAHAHAHAHA! There's no way to make that appear like a louder laugh at what a joke the previous paragraph is. I mean, that's legitimately my ideal day. Every day. But it never happens. EVER. Here's reality:
Cooper, our blonde little Aussie
   I wake up whenever the puppy starts yipping to pee, which is usually around 4:45am. I take him outside and stumble around with the flashlight until he manages to find just the right clump of grass to piddle on. We go back inside, I let him go psycho on his toys and play "who can pounce harder" with the cats and hope their ruckus doesn't wake the kids, and I chug as big a jug of water as my stomach can stand because that may be the last time I remember to drink water in a day. After ten minutes I  have to get the dog back outside or he's going to poop in a hiding place somewhere that I'll find later. Back outside, walking around with the flashlight again, hoping he finds just the right clump of grass to doody on sooner than later. Back inside, if I'm lucky I watch TV(whatever's on at 5am) and knit, but the norm is to curl up on the couch with snuggly puppy, and fall back asleep while spooning him like hes my baby, until either he wriggles and gets up(which means I have to wake up because he's a diaperless toddler covered in fur) or the kids come down the stairs and wake me. Then I stumble around while they watch TV while I make some coffee and try to wake up enough to figure out a quick breakfast for them. We eat, I clean, the get dressed and take the dog outside. Well, at least THAT part is kind of on the plan! Eventually we start schoolwork, and the toddler is kept busy either by scribbling in their notebooks or watching Netflix, and the puppy chews on any socks left in his
The first five second of their school day is focused
reach. When my youngest girl finishes her schoolwork, she either joins the Netflix or- if I've REALLY got it together that day- entices her little brother into playing upstairs in the toy room. The two big kids work as long as I am on them to stay focused and constantly checking their progress, which means I accomplish nothing but running from desk to table to dog to play room to make sure no one is dead, no one is endangering their own life with their chosen activity, and eventually the kids get done with schoolwork. Lunch- again, something thrown together unless I was a real over-achiever and put something in the crock pot while I made breakfast. Lunch eaten, now get the dog outside quick before he pees or poops somewhere, and give me a moment of almost-quiet so my brain can figure out what I need to do today while I clean and assess the laundry situation. Errands get run, if I'm lucky, people lay in bed for an hour, if I'm lucky, and I will sit and knit while I watch TV to give my brain a break, or until I fall asleep sitting up and am awakened by the timer going off. Back outside to play and keep the puppy's bladder and bowels in check, pick up the yard if I have the energy, hope that the neighbor boys are in good moods when they get off the bus, otherwise my kids are getting chased with sticks and called 'Poop' over and over, and eventually we come inside so they can wash up and do chores while I make dinner. Eat, clean up, more chores if they're not already done. Play or watch TV, and I watch the clock tick-tock toward an acceptable time to yell, "Alright, everybody upstairs!" Pajamas, brush, floss, nightlights, prayers, kisses, lights off. Then I spend the next hour frantically trying to accomplish everything I didn't do in a day before my
Last night's pajamas(and today's
clothes) = dog-walking
clothes complete with jacket
Yes, I really fell asleep this way,
Flip flops and all.
husband wakes up, or I just say, "Screw it," and sit down to knit and watch TV because my brain just can't focus on productivity. I go to bed well after midnight every night because my husband works nights so the only time I get to spend with him during his work week is the hour he's awake before he leaves, and I'm lucky if I remember to take a quick shower before I collapse into bed more than twice a week.
   That's how I do it! Four, maybe five hours of sleep if I'm lucky, and I just keep going until the day runs out. What I get done gets done. What I don't doesn't. I do what I do because I have no choice- it must be done. I don't begrudge any of it, though. Not one bit. I'll have time to exercise some day. For now I just try to squeeze in kegals, squats, and lunges whenever I think of them, run up and down the stairs on my toes so I feel the burn in my calves, and make myself go as fast as the puppy will go when I take him out, to pretend that's my cardio. I've had people email me and ask for tips on how to 'do it all' like I do. I don't even know how to respond because I don't do it all. I do what has to be done, and the extras that get done are whatever's screaming the loudest when I have a moment. I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams to be able to be home with my kids, to be able to teach them, and to be able to spend with him whatever waking moments my husband has at home. I'm not complaining AT ALL, I'm not boasting in myself, I'm just being real. You're okay, too! WHatever you get done in a day, you did it! Amazing! This is real life. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Cheesy Creamy Cabbage Soup

Don't worry! The burner was still off. My
helper only THINKS he's cooking.
I love soup. All kinds of soup. Unfortunately for me, I am the only one in my family with such an affinity for a big bowl of soup at meal time so I am always trying to find a new recipe or try something different to figure out something that's allergen-free and delicious for all. With this week's soup I had a dual mission: clean out the fridge to boot. We're getting ready to move so we're trying to pare down everything that needs moving, and that includes perishables. So I looked through the fridge and pantry, then took to Pinterest. I found one recipe that used the limited supplies I still have on-hand and that I thought could be modified to meet our allergy needs: Creamy Cabbage and Potato Soup. A couple problems, though. Child #2 has sensory issues so he heaves and chokes on the texture of cabbage and onions, Child #4 is allergic to nightshades, and as a family we avoid processed foods, especially the likes of Velveeta. Considering these necessary modifications, I took the recipe to task and whipped up what turned out to be an incredibly delicious and nutritious soup(plenty for the six of us) that was loved by all. Here's what I did:

1 tablespoon oil(butter, EVOO, beef fat- any will do)
1 medium onion, diced
5 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large turnip
3 cups of homemade stock
1 small(or half of a large) cabbage, chopped
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup shredded good melting cheese(Monterey Jack or a mild white cheddar are good)
1/2 cup shredded hard, salty cheese(Asiago, Romano, or Parmesan are good)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a soup pot, warm the oil then add onion and garlic. Sautee over medium-high heat 3-5 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Add the turnip and stock(I used beef, but chicken and vegetable would work just fine, too), bring to a boil, then simmer for ten minutes.

Add the cabbage then cover and simmer for another 15 minutes until the cabbage is soft.

Remove the soup pot from the heat, take off the cover so it can cool slightly, then in a separate pan make the roux: melt the butter in a skillet. Add flour and whisk until the roux is golden brown.

Add the milk, whisk out any lumps in the roux, and continue to heat over medium-high until the mixture is hot. Turn off the heat and add the cheeses(I used Monterey Jack and Asiago).

While the cheeses melt, pour the contents of the soup pot into a large blender canister and puree until smooth(One of the many amazing uses for my VitaMix- silky smooth soups!). 

Pour the soup back into the large pot. By now the cheeses should have melted in the skillet. Stir lightly, then add the contents of the skillet to the pot. Return the pot to heat, salt and pepper to taste, and warm gently just until it steams.

Voila! Serve with your side of choice. We chose my own garlic-rosemary Italian bread(Yes, I know! You want the recipe! Believe it or not, I've had THAT blog planned for two years now. I'm just SO easily distracted and writing time is so limited.). So much flavor, and so-so-so good! It was healthy and wholesome, it was allergen-free for my delicate guy, and completely sensory-friendly.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Listen to Your Heart

   So often lately people have asked me, "I wish I could take your pain away. Is there anything I can do for you?" Unless I happen to be almost out of toilet paper or really craving chocolate the answer is usually no- and if I DO need TP or chocolate people are always surprised but eager to help in such a simple way. But simplicity is the best way! Maybe it's just my heart and my personality, but practical gifts are the best gifts. They mean some one was thinking of me, that I was on their heart and they wanted to give me a physical symbol of their love and care. That means more than anything. When they give something so practical and heart-felt it means they not only thought of me and wanted to show their love, but they thought about the details of my daily life and that represents relationship.
   But how often do you get that feeling like you want to do something for some one but are inhibited for some reason? Like maybe some one will think you're silly or won't get your intention? I am an introvert by nature so I get that feeling before I say pretty much anything I say or do. I am learning, though, to listen to that instinctual thought the moment it pops up, because every single time it has been meaningful to others, and every single time I've ignored it I've regretted that. We just never know how much something seemingly small and insignificant will mean to some one else.
   Take, for example, a packet of seeds. A friend whom I have not seen in two years sent a card and packet of seeds to me. When I received it in the mail today my heart was so blessed. Not only had she thought about me and cared enough to send me a card to tell me she was thinking of me, but she included this packet of seeds because she knows from my Facebook posts that I'm excited to plant a garden at my new home this spring- She even looked for an organic variety!- and sent me a packet of beautiful flower seeds to plant in memory of my Asher.  She knows me even without talking every day or even every week. She took what she knows of me from our relationship and sent me a packet of seeds. It meant so much to me that I cried. Happy tears of gratefulness for this sweet friend and her simple action that blessed my heart filled my eyes, and met a practical need all at once. Because I've said NOTHING about what I'm planning for my garden anywhere on social media or in a text of any sort, I know she had know idea that this exact variety of this exact flower was on my 'to buy for planting' list. But she listened to her heart, stepped out on a limb, and sent me this packet of seeds that was a beautiful gesture and met a practical need, all while she had no idea. That's why you should listen to your heart when it tells you something. Be soft enough in your spirit that you can hear your heart when it prods, and follow through. It can mean so much more than you can fathom to some one who really needs some love. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

One Month

It's been a month. A month since my baby was born. A month since his birth day. It makes people incredibly uncomfortable for me to say that, because he had to be "surgically removed," and not by c-section. They consider it to be a medical completion of a miscarriage, not a birth. I couldn't pick. I, the eternal all-natural, intervention-free, listen-to-my-body-because-it-knows-what-it's-doing, true-informed-consent-for-all activist, crazy hippy chick who likes to sit in a warm bath and have my babies there in peace and silence with just my husband and midwife had no choices. Instead I was strapped to a table, knocked unconscious, surrounded by strangers, no husband or midwife anywhere in sight, and my baby and the tumor beside him were sucked from my womb in pieces. I had no choice, but it was still his birthday.
   How am I doing? Some people still ask. Most just look at me, gauge my responses, and walk on eggshells. Others are oblivious, acting totally nonchalant even though they know, and act as if it was a 'thing' I had to do in January, akin to a pedicure or trip to the beach. For the most part I'm fine, but when the latter happens I want to verbally punch those people in the face and scream that my baby is dead, that thing that happened on January 29th was his birth, and my husband and I never got to touch or hold him. But we'll keep it civil and I'll throw out a shockingly equally nonchalant, "Yes, we lost our son in the second trimester. He was born January 29th."  
   How am I doing? Most of the time I'm fine. Sometimes random things fly in my face- the most odd, unpredictable things- and shock me with how they make me go from fine to hysterical, gut-wrenching sobs. Like the other night when everyone was in bed asleep, husband was at work, I'd just finished fold laundry and was making the rounds to shut off all lights and lock the doors, and my eyes fell to his ultrasound picture. The one picture of our Asher Joel. I look at it daily because it's the only way I can see him in this life. I kiss my thumb and press it gently against his face every day because it's the only way I can kiss his face the way I kiss the faces of all my children every day. But that one night when my eyes landed on his picture I burst into uncontrollable tears, collapsed on the floor beside the bookshelf in my living room, and sobbed. Like the morning last week when I realized there would be no 29th this month, so no 'one month birthday' for my Asher. Instant tears. Like yesterday in the Starbucks drive-thru when the girl at the window said it was March 1st, then realized her mistake and corrected herself that it was the 28th, but tomorrow would be the 1st. I was instantly fighting tears again, and my husband put his hand on my arm and said, "Meg, it's okay. Meg, you're okay. It's okay." He knew that would trigger me before he even saw the tears. 
   How am I doing? I don't sleep most nights. Since that awful appointment on January 20th when we found out our Asher had died, my brain has been convinced that my husband and all the rest of my children are about to drop dead at any second. I spend most nights frantically cleaning and doing laundry, checking on all my children as they sleep to ensure their windows are locked and they're all still breathing. When my husband leaves for an errand alone I fight literal panic attacks that he will be killed while he's gone. This was compounded when he was on a coffee run last week and a driver at a stop sign apparently didn't see him and T-boned his little Focus with her huge SUV. He's alive, he's not life-threateningly injured, but my brain's anxieties were confirmed, and I am a mess. I can let no one out of my sight without significant anxiety. 
   How am I doing? I am dealing with some anger. With my first three babies, I had severe postpartum depression. With my fourth I used a very alternative form of preventative treatment called placentophagy. Yep, I consumed my placenta. Guess what? It worked. For the first time I did not have a single bit of blues or depression, much less the 6-18 months of debilitating PPD I usually deal with. This time, it was not an option. I feel angry and robbed. I was robbed of my baby, and I was robbed of the one thing that has ever had an impact on postpartum depression for me. Yes, there are technically other options, but they don't work for me. I've tried it all. So I'm treating daily the best I can with nutrition, herbal supplements, and essential oils. They take the edge off, and I am functional. Functional, but still very angry in so many ways that I have to deal with this at all. 
   It's my son's 1 month birthday today, and that's how I'm doing. No cute pictures with the birthday hat or sticker like we've done with all our other babies. Mostly I'm okay and you won't know the difference if you talk to me, but inside I am mostly not. Inside I'm dealing with the layers of this onion, and running this race I was thrown into. I'm desperate to be truly okay, desperate to get back to my boring, normal, stay-at-home, homesteading, homeschooling, loving mama and wife, and leave this angry, weepy, unpredictably emotional version of me behind. Focusing on the good and keep on truckin'. That's how I'm doing.