wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

Underfoot or Out of Sight?

I sighed a private little gust of weariness when I saw those bags of apples on the front porch, still sitting there, getting riper and sweeter by the day. I mean, I don’t even like applesauce myself. Except maybe frozen/chunky/with cinnamon, and then only when I have pizza or casserole. I ate so much applesauce as a child, I completely filled my life-quota before I turned 16.

But my children love them some applesauce and it is about as cheap and easy a side dish as you can imagine. Not to mention “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and all that.

So there I was, walking past those apples every day and pushing them to the back of my mind because we needed to do school or we had to fold laundry or it was raining or the leaves needed raked or the seasonal clothes swap was more important or the canner was full of tomato chunks in the freezer.

This year, for the first time ever, I needed to do 3 bushels, because we had been out of applesauce for months, except for occasional batches of chunky stuff we made fresh. So yesterday I was out of stalling material, except that two of the children were mopey with sore throats and headaches. We decided to just get ‘er done anyway.

Friends, we cranked out 60 quarts in less than 5 hours. That included washing the dishes, even the nasty, sticky food mill and the canners. Just me and the kiddos. I couldn’t quite believe we were done at 3:30, but there it was. And I had flashbacks to about 10 years ago when I only did 2 bags of apples and had a 1 year old and a 3 year old who were constantly pushing chairs across the kitchen and taking bites out of random apples and sticking their fingers into the sugar. I remembered how I would be cleaning up the mess at supper time and feeling as exhausted as if I had been attempting to employ a lively flock of gophers all day.

I also recalled how tempting it was to shoo them away, the little ones who pushed chairs around me, everywhere I went for at least ten years. There were just always these chairs to trip over. The floor in front of the sink became a lake by the time the apples were washed. They wanted knives to chop and I had a special set of really dull ones with bright handles for them. They wanted cutting boards. They dropped apple snitzes on the linoleum with such regularity that I quit picking them up until we were all done and then just salvaged the whole lot of them. They insisted that they were big enough to crank the food mill, then strained and panted as they slowly turned the handle and watched, fascinated, as the applesauce squished out.

It just took really long back in those days. I am not going to pretend that I was always sweet about that. We all know better. It is a special sort of therapy for adults with an agenda to include little children in their work. If you have ever tried it, you know how all the squirminess inside you has to simply slow down and just chill, you know, because it will be all right and we have plenty of towels to sop up the mess.

Here is the thing I can’t quite get over. It only took a few years and now they can actually really help. If I had sent my oldest son out to play or sat him down with a movie every time I did a project, then yesterday he would not have known how to assemble the food mill and exactly which picnic table bench we always use to attach it to and why we do it. If I had never bought those brightly colored dull knives for them, my middle boy may never have graduated to whacking skillfully with my chef’s knife like he did yesterday. If I had never let anybody mess with water, then my girls could not have washed those apples like a boss (sorry, I just like that phrase) yesterday,  and without even needing to change clothes when they were done! I shouldn’t forget to mention that they hauled all 60 empty jars upstairs. Divided by 5, it’s not so bad!

This is an aspect that I didn’t really consider back when it was a trial to let the children help. I think I mainly involved them in what I was doing because then I could be sure they weren’t getting into trouble somewhere else. Honestly, I had no lofty goals about teaching my 3 year-old life skills. But that is how it works, and when I think back, I know that is how my mom taught me things. I have known how to make applesauce ever since I can remember because… we all had age-appropriate jobs when we made applesauce. The chicken butchering didn’t quite catch hold in the same way, no matter how much Mom said every girl should know how to butcher one before she gets married. :/

All this is just to say, you young mamas with your hands full and your long chore lists that you have to accomplish single-handedly and your small fry hovering around and breathing your air… Do you wanna work yourself out of a job? Don’t just hand them a device all the time and tell them to bug off. Let them “help”. Let them feel the importance of making a contribution in the household effort. One day you will pinch yourself when you realize that they are, indeed, making your life a lot easier and there is no need to dread applesauce day anymore.

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(Love, love The Family Circus)

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What Have I Been Doing?

I looked at the calendar recently and thought, “What have I been doing?” I can tell you what I haven’t been doing pretty easily. I haven’t been sitting around reading a lot and I haven’t been writing. I can honestly say that I missed the writing bit pretty much every day. One sentence in a diary doesn’t scratch the itch at all. I sat around just enough so that I wouldn’t miss it too severly. Haha.

We had days and days and days of rain in late September. It was cold and the dog stank and there was mud in our classroom every day. I started burning candles and plugged in air fresheners.

During the long wet I sewed dresses for the little girls so that we could coordinate somewhat for a family photo shoot. Then I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out what I would wear to coordinate with everybody else. Shall I just admit that I got three sweaters at Boscov’s so that Gabe could help me figure out which one to wear because I really just don’t have a good sense for that sort of thing? And that, of course, I wore the simplest, most unassuming one and took the other two back? At the last minute I decided not to wear the charcoal skirt after all, but the grey dress. Why was that decision so hard to make in the store? I did not consult Pinterest, which is what other people do when they can’t figure out what to wear, because I don’t get along well on Pinterest. ‘Nough said.

We had an anniversary, our 14th, and it was the first sunny day after all that drear. I dug out our love letters and we read a bunch of them, laughing a bit at ourselves, reminiscing and agreeing that 14 years has taught us a few things about loving each other, even though sometimes we lose track and forget to appreciate the one we love. Which is why we took a day off and went biking Rails to Trails without the children. No eavesdroppers in the vehicle! And just for a day it was nice not to have to settle any fights or wait for the slow ones. We ended the day with dressing up for a fancy meal out, then descended gratefully back into normal life. After all, back in the day when we had dates every weekend, we yearned to live normal life together, more than anything. And here we are, doing it!

Gabe has lived with me long enough to know the kinds of books I love. For our anniversary he got me blink (you have no idea how hard it is for me to write a book title with a lower case letter) by Malcolm Gladwell, subtitled “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”. It is packed with insights into what makes people decide things: those split second impressions that affect our choices. For the first week or so after he gave me the book I only had time to stroke the cover, but by now I have read enough to know it is just as interesting as The Tipping Point, which I discovered a few years ago.

Once the weather turned clement (is that right? the opposite of inclement?) our friend Michelle Fisher took the photos. I knew she had lots of experience in posing children because she has nine of them and they always end up with really sweet family pictures. Want to see a few? I think you will agree that she did a good job on them. When these were taken, the children were 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4. This only lasted for one month, but it was kind of fun to say. 🙂 The 10 turned 11 yesterday.

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My friend Caroline and I spent a forenoon together, picking up a large meat order about an hour’s drive away. Either one of us could have gone alone, but it just so worked out that we could team up. I was supposed to be the navigator, since we didn’t have GPS. Even with a Google Maps printout, I stink at navigating. Let’s just say we saw a lot of beautiful countryside and enjoyed our extra time to visit. It was nice to be with someone who didn’t get uptight about the unmarked roads and was game to try routes that appeared to go in the right direction. Not to mention someone who didn’t run out of interesting topics of conversation, especially with no eavesdroppers in the van. 😀

The next day I texted her that I had just been running some errands in a nearby town and had to turn around three times, so I think I do need a GPS because of all the stuff in my head that isn’t down on the earth. She replied, “Well, I just read, ‘Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.’ With that mindset you might lose your way driving every now and then.” She is witty like that. The thing is, I am pretty sure I was thinking about that meat we hauled home and how it needed to be canned, as well as these apples I am picking up and how they also need to be canned.

I have 2 1/2 bushels of apples still sitting on the front porch and some frozen tomatoes that I have to process and after that I put my foot down. No more! Today I tilled the gardens one final time and sowed a cover crop of rye. I love summer so much, but at this point it is only sensible to move on, wouldn’t you say? For the first time we put in a bed of garlic. Some bulbs in and some bulbs, like the dahlias, out. Gardening is endlessly fascinating. And time consuming. I hope to have more time to write now that the outside stuff is getting wrapped up.

Last, but not least, I have been industriously starting a small book selling business. I signed up to become an Usborne consultant and am still learning the ropes. So far the most rewarding thing has been to be able to send really nice books to refugee children in Iraq. I also was thrilled to get our church school a lot of free merchandise through a book show.  I genuinely like connecting anybody to a source of educational books like these. Someday I will do a whole post on this topic. I have been having a blast with this, especially when the boxes of books come and I can sort out orders and stroke the covers (I know. I have a problem. But it isn’t a bad problem.) But there. The final and biggest reason why I have not been writing. I am still figuring out how to fit this business, not into every crack of spare time, but into reasonable hours. My children don’t mind. They drool over the catalog and revel in all the new books! I am systematically turning them all into bibliophiles (That’s not a bad thing either. After the dishes are done.).

Gabe is back on an evening schedule, which means he will be home around midnight. It has been a pleasure chatting with you kind folks while I wait up for him.

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