Slowly we shuffle on…

(… And sometimes we forget to hit the post button for a few days. This post was supposed to be sent out on the 13th, so here we are.) I can hardly believe we’re halfway through this month already. I don’t know how in the world I managed to post every day in February for the last few years. I suppose I have added a few things into my life since then, like a pottery business and piano lessons for the girls and all the assorted responsibilities that come with having teen and pre-teen children and being their teacher, etc. Our school is going well, but I don’t really find it less time consuming with three people in classes that still need me to oversee them a lot. Sometimes I wonder if we should do spelling all day every day for a while. Or maybe just parts of speech, or math facts. Mercy. My high schoolers are very self-directed, thank the Lord!

We seem to eat a lot of food these days. I will make a huge pot of soup or an enormous casserole and think, “Well that’s a few meals dusted and done,” but if they’re cheesy and delicious, as meals need to be in midwinter, we’re fortunate to have enough left for the next day’s lunch. I’ve started making 9 loaves of sourdough bread when I bake, and we easily go through a loaf a day. I’m pulling in the children on meal prep, since they enjoy eating and growing so much. It’s good for me and it’s good for them, to work together. For some reason I think I included my toddlers more with meal prep then I do my middle schoolers, likely because they got into trouble unless they were right beside me and the middle schoolers are happy to work on a project or practice piano while I’m making supper. Some of them have an uncanny ability to become very scarce when they sense work looming.

We made applesauce on the first Monday in February. It was such a warm day that we did all the work on the deck, odd as it was to do this in winter. They were the sweetest yellow delicious apples I have ever turned into sauce, having been stored in optimum conditions at the orchard since September. I should say that the children made applesauce. I coached them along but they did all the quartering and stirred the cooking pots and cranked it through the strainer and just like that my life got really easy. I did the cold packing of course, but they washed off the jars and hauled them to the basement and took the slop to the pigs and washed off the deck. It’s kind of weird to be in this stage of life, but I really like it.

When we were all done, they set up the trampoline and had a jolly time. Since that day we’ve had about one other sunshiny day. As I write this, I hear the rain sloshing down outside. The weather forecast has been really boring for pretty much the whole year. I bought a full spectrum lamp on Amazon one day after I checked the ten-day forecast, because I wasn’t sure I would live through all that cloudiness. I wanted to know if it actually helps with that draggy feeling that we get in winter. I have to say it cheers me up just to sit in that bright light, but my children unabashedly make fun of me. “Don’t you have enough things to make you happy?” they say and I reply, “Yes, you make me happy. Just stand still for a half hour so I can look at you. Now shine very brightly,” and they go off shaking their heads. I am a firm believer in keeping my children wondering…

I also bought some small twinkling light strings on Amazon to replace the Edison bulbs that weren’t working anymore in the dark corner of our living room. As it turned out these lights came with remote and eight different settings for blinking, dimming, and otherwise adjusting the mood of the room. It all depends on who gets their hands on the remote as to what the aura is in the living room these days.

I showed the girls some projects on Pinterest and they took off with coffee filters that we dyed pink in food coloring, then twisted into florals.

We sewed the filter flowers and paper leaves onto a green ribbon, then fluffed the filters into flowers.

When it was time to cut leaves, I got out our Cricut from Gabe’s school teaching days. I had never let them play with it, and had sort of forgotten that we own one. You’d think I handed them the moon on a stack of pretty paper. The snibbling party was delightful, with a steady stream of cutesy cards resulting. I told them I see no reason why I should ever buy stationery again.

I’m trying to keep my brain out of its habitual midwinter slogging, so I’m reading a lot of books on my wishlist and spending long hours reading aloud to the children. Last night we were so close to the end of our book and I kept falling asleep so I handed it off to Gregory to finish the chapter. I regret to say I totally missed the ending of the book but Addy filled me in.

I can tell I’m not thinking very sharply in the pottery shed. It is wonderful therapy for me to go out and throw a bunch of mugs. The only problem is that I need to think of what could all go wrong and be proactive. This is where apprenticing would be helpful, because I could learn from the mistakes of others, but as it is, I am learning things for myself one mess-up at a time. I had a fiasco kiln load of pieces that blistered because I had 3 switches on and only 1 off to start it, instead of 1-on-3-off, and blitzed it too fast and didn’t even think to check on it. Tsk tsk. That’s one way to see how low you can go. Last week I threw a bunch of beautiful baking dishes, and completely disregarded the low humidity and how fast things dry out in the winter time. The easy solution would have been to cover them in plastic so they take a long time to dry but I didn’t do that and a third of them developed huge cracks from drying too fast. Just off the wall stuff like that. Maybe I won’t ever do that again? I also spent a few weeks stressing over a proposed order, until my husband said, “Well you know you don’t have to do it,” and just like that my brain caught up and I said, “I’m sorry, but could you please find someone else to make that for you?” And they said, “Sure.” Shew, that was easier than I thought.

I have commissioned a bunch of bluebird sculptures from my resident sculptor, just to set on the windowsills this spring. Gregory hums and pats the clay and scratches around with a tool and out comes a bluebird. It’s totally fascinating to me to watch him because he doesn’t have to practice. The things I make come with much trial-and-error, smash ups, and literally months of hard discipline. This is why I don’t feel like a creative artist. I’m more the sort that’s determined enough to learn a thing that I’ll just keep trying.

We are doing other projects of absorbing interest, their chief value serving as a way forward through the long dark winter. We have been doing puzzles and playing Ticket to Ride or the deluxe Monopoly game that Greg found at Goodwill. The girls do not like Monopoly for the same reasons I don’t: It’s sordidly money-grubbing. Gregory has to beg and wheedle before they agree to a game. They’ll trade a Dutch Blitz round for a Monopoly round occasionally. This winter Olivia got an overwhelming desire to crochet a shawl and in typical fashion she crocheted with gusto until she ran out of yarn. We must hit the store for more. They have also been making new wigs for their dolls out of yarn and outfitting them with fresh clothes. I taught Olivia how to put in a zipper and make buttonholes, a process that had both of us a little on edge. She said, “I’m not promising that I’ll remember how to do this the next time.”

Today Rita sewed her first play-all-day dress. She zipped up the long seams with little regard for the finer details, then I did all the finishing touches and she found green buttons to embellish the front. Her sisters tell her she looks like a picnic tablecloth and she doesn’t even care. I have to say, she moves in a cheerful little cloud of promise of summer when she wears this dress. If I were an ant, I’d crawl right up and feel at home.

I haven’t needed the writing therapy this February. I’m over here, looking over shoulders, cheering on those who lag, doling out endless spelling power lessons, enabling creative brainstorms, and when the PRODIGIOUS MESSES get me a little crabby, I go sit with my happy lamp. (I jest. I’m never crabby.)

(Do you know how sanctifying messes can be? )