what I learned about simplicity in an apartment with one spatula

Jeanne here.

We spent most of February in a small furnished apartment in Vancouver, Canada, visiting our dear Cowboy while he works on a movie for Paramount Pictures.

And what became more evident than ever during our time there is: we have too much stuff.

Not in Vancouver. But at home.

We spent three weeks and each little had one small box of toys (both boxes fit between their carseats for the road trip and they packed the boxes themselves), five books, a shopping bag of craft supplies (markers, paper, scissors, tape, paper bags), one notebook each with a special pen included, and enough clothes to last 5 days. And while they missed a few of their favorite toys (like the dollhouse and barn), neither ever asked for more or whined about not having enough. There were very few fights. We stayed busy and entertained, and the only TV they watched was the local PBS station while I made dinner.

It was awesome.

So of course I came home and removed SEVEN FULL BOXES OF TOYS from their school/play room.

simple toys

(I haven’t yet brought the boxes to our local Good Will, but if we can make it a month without them asking for these toys, they’ll make their way to a new home.)

But the lesson goes beyond reducing the clutter for the kids.

Because I made breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner nearly every day we were there … in a small kitchen equipped with one spatula, a whisk, one frying pan, a sauce pan, a medium sized pot, one baking dish, a set of three nesting mixing bowls, one really good knife (which the Cowboy brought with him) and a Vitamix.

Baked chicken. Meatballs. Soups. Salads. Smoothies. Pasta. Poached eggs. Pancakes. Bacon. Fried eggs. Burgers. Soaked oatmeal. Steak. Sautéed veggies. Rice.

The meals were simple (we had a very limited supply of spices and herbs to choose from), but there wasn’t one that didn’t satisfy. And I did it all with one spatula!

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Not only was cooking everything that we needed possible, but clean-up was a BREEZE. I cleaned while I cooked. I used fewer prep dishes. Fewer prep dishes means fewer dishes to wash. Fewer dishes to clean means a happier mama as doing dishes is one of my LEAST favorite chores. And fewer dishes also translated into cleaner kitchen.

Lesson learned.

My first step was to realize that we don’t need FIVE whisks. Seriously. That’s how many whisks we’ve got in our utensil canister. And FOUR spatulas. And too many wooden spoons to count. See?

not simple utensils

So I’ve removed more than half of the utensils. And two thirds of our pots and pans.

simple utensils

Like the toys, I put them in boxes and set them aside. They are there if I need ’em.

But if I make it a few months without reaching for the boxes, we might be having a garage sale. Anyone want some wooden kitchen toys?

#simplifylife

garden 2014 … step one: DREAM

… I had a dream last night that the strawberry patch I planted last year grew baseball sized purple strawberries.  So cool.

But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about.

As our mailbox fills up with seed catalogs, my brain inevitably fills with incredible dreams of the possibilities for this year’s garden.  And the more I think about it, the more I realize how important it is (today) to spend some time dreaming and reflecting.  Reflecting on past years’ gardens, dreaming of tomorrow …

NOTE: See that picture of Abby’s greenhouse?  I’m also dreaming of her garden … I can’t help it.  She’s got a killer greenhouse and I look forward to the day when she can help me figure out how to build mine.  (Put that on your to-do list, Ab.  I’m gonna need lotsa help.)

I’ve been dreaming of all the roasted vegetable salsa, pizza sauce, pesto, broccoli salad, roasted beet salads, bone broth, tomato sandwiches, kale salads, kale crisps, green smoothies, roasted cabbage salads, fermented veggies, stir fries and grilled veggie sandwiches … the list is really too long, but oh so fun to let my mind wander …

And then I REFLECT on what was growing last year …

I didn’t plant enough garlic (which plants in the fall, so I took care of this by planting 40 more bulbs this year, devoting a 10ft x 2 ft bed entirely to garlic).  I didn’t plan enough kale.  I planted too many golden nugget squash.  Too many zucchini.  I always want more tomatoes.  And I’m devoting an entire bed to herbs this year (in part because we’re getting chickens and I keep reading how beneficial herbs are to raising organic, unmedicated chickens who lay beautiful and healthy eggs!)

And then I do a REALITY CHECK

Because as much as I love eggplant parmesan and I think roasted peppers are on my list of favorite veggie bits ever … my experience growing eggplant in Montana’s short summers has not been super productive.  And my attempt at growing peppers?

lone pepper

Not so successful.

Unless (like Abby) you’ve got a greenhouse or a wicked cold frame, growing warm, Mediterranean deliciousness can be a challenge in Zone 4.  I’m not saying you can’t succeed growing eggplant and peppers.  My friend Chris is the KING of Montana eggplant.  He gave me a start two years ago and it’s the only time I’ve ever successfully grown an eggplant in Montana.  But I’ll be honest and tell you I kept that plant inside until July and then never moved it into the garden but let it grow in a pot on our back porch.  I brought it inside if the temps were dropping below 45-50 degrees (more nights in the summer than I like to admit).  And the yield from this Herculean effort?  One.  Small (4 inches, maybe).  Beautiful.  Eggplant.  (That I did not photograph?!?!?)

Okay, so … reality check.  Figure out what will grow where you live.  (Don’t know your zone?  Or why it matters?  Click here to find out.)

And then think about your space … Where is your garden?  How much room do you have?  And what are you looking to accomplish?

We have limited garden space (10 raised beds of varying size in the backyard, a more freewheeling in-ground garden in the front yard (chives, mint, rhubarb, roses, tulips, a few ornamental bushes), and two garden boxes alongside our front porch which are already planted with strawberries and mint.

But I want to grow enough food to avoid the grocery store’s vegetables for at least a few months of the year.  Not that I won’t buy avocados or ginger from the Coop because I can’t grow them in my backyard … I just like being able to walk outside or, once fall arrives, go to our cold storage and pluck out the food we’ll need for dinner.  It makes meal-planning a lot easier when the choices are all right in front of me.  So I’ve got to dream about all the foods we like to eat and then figure out how much of each thing we need to grow.

Which brings me to STEP TWO: PLAN (and order your seeds/starts)

And then on to STEP THREE:  PLANT

STEP FOUR:  TRANSPLANT (getting things in the garden)

And finally … the best step … STEP FIVE:  HARVEST (and see your dreams come true!)

What are your garden dreams for 2014?

Want to know what goes in to planning a garden to feed a family of four for 6-8 months?  More on that next week.

 

pantry basic – the sourdough starter

Someone was bragging to me once about the sourdough starter he and his wife had gotten from his maternal grandmother that was almost 100 years old, and they’d been using it for bread for years.

That’s cool.

But guess what … whether your starter is 5 days old, 5 months, 5 years or 500 … it’s all sourdough starter.  We make a lot of sourdough stuff: Sourdough breadSourdough pancakesFrench Toast.  Crackers. We make sourdough English muffins and sourdough cinnamon rolls (for special occasions).  There’s always some dough rising.  Or sourdough fermenting.  Somewhere in our kitchen.

And I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

Our starter was 6 years old, until I forgot to feed it for 3 weeks (left it on the counter when we went out of town and forgot to tell the house sitter about it).  So now, our start is about 6 months old.  And I started a new one a few days ago so I could show you how easy it is.

Here’s the kicker … MAKING A SOURDOUGH STARTER IS EASY!  (And maintaining it is even easier.)

And to tell you the truth … if it was difficult, I probably wouldn’t do it.  Life can be challenging enough.  I don’t really want my pancakes to be hard.

🙂

But on this real food journey, I’m learning more about more about why fermenting the flour … making it “sour” … actually makes it more digestible and easy on our bellies to process and absorb all the goodness in the wheat (or spelt or rye or fill in the blank with whatever grain floats your boat).

And up to this point, I’ve found sourdough easier to manage than sprouting grains.  (Sprouting can take a few days … souring takes a few hours … and I can wrap my head around planning a few hours ahead, but still struggle with planning meals more than a few days ahead. I’m working on it, bt that’s where I am today.)

Here’s what you need for a sourdough starter:

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  • All purpose flour.
  • Filtered water.
  • Glass jar with a lid. (At least one and a half pints, but preferably a quart.)

That’s it.

Oh … and you need about five days.

It takes about five days to get things grooving and growing and ready for your first stack of sourdough pancakes.  But if you start this today, you’ll be loving life (and impressing your loved ones) on Sunday with a fresh batch of yum.

I’ve read somewhere that you need to use whole wheat flour to start the process.  I haven’t had that experience.  Organic all purpose flour works just fine.

So …

You ready for this?

DAY ONE:

In a glass bowl, combine 1/2 cup of flour with a little less than 1/2 cup of filtered water until all of the dry flour is absorbed and you’re left with a thick sticky dough.  Pour the contents into your glass jar (scrape the bowl and get all the last remnants).  Cover the container and put it in a place in your kitchen where the temperature is consistent and maybe even a little warm.

DAY TWO:

You will likely see a few bubbles starting to form.  And maybe it smells a little “sour?”  The things are good.  It means that wild yeast from the air has taken residence in your mixture and good things are starting to happen.

Add 1/4 cup of flour with a little less than 1/4 cup of water to your container and whisk it up.  Again, you want the new flour to be incorporated fully into the mix.

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DAY THREE:

This is when things go from good to better.  Your starter will be nice and bubbly.  It will be thick.  It will smell good and sour-y.  And it will have “grown” (maybe even as much as doubled in size).  Very exciting stuff is happening.

We’re on REPEAT:  add 1/4 cup of flour and a tiny bit less than 1/4 cup of filtered water to your container.  Again, whisk it up.  It won’t be easy to whisk (you can also use a fork).  But get all that flour and water super incorporated.  Cover again.  And set aside until …

DAY FOUR:

REPEAT day three’s activity.  1/4 cup of flour.  1/4 cup of filtered water.  Whisk.  Cover.  Wait 24 hours.

DAY FIVE:

You’ve got bubbliciously fermented sourdough starter begging to be made into something.

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So now it’s up to you … use it!

But after you use it, replenish it with equal parts flour and water (I prefer the consistency of starter that has just a tiny bit less water than flour, but this is a personal choice.)

And keep it alive, because if you are good it your starter, it will be good to you in return.

TO MAINTAIN YOUR STARTER:

Every other day (or every three days), add a 1/4 flour and 1/4 filtered water.  Whisk.  Cover.  And set in the sourdough starter home in your kitchen.

Here’s ours … the old and the new … souring together.

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Just waiting for me to start a new batch of sunny sourdough crackers (with cheese  and truffle salt this time … because they’re for grown-ups :).

By the way, Remember how I told you a few paragraphs ago how I let our starter die and had to start a new one?  Well, these starters are really very hardy.  And if I had just put the starter in the fridge while we were gone, I would have come home to starter ready to be fed again and after just a day or two be ready for bread.

I should tell you that after two or three days, a clear liquid may form on the top of your start.  That’s okay.  In fact, it’s just the natural alcohol separating from the wild yeast.  Clear liquid is fine.  Just stir it back into the starter and keep on doing a great job.

IF, however, that clear liquid is not clear, but cloudy or pinkish … throw it out … your starter has spoiled and you must start again.

Let us know how your sourdough adventures go … and have fun starting experiments in your kitchen!

 

 

it’s September and we’re freezing in Montana … and pickling, too.

I hope you’re having as much fun as we are in the garden this year.  It’s been a bumper crop so far.

We’ve already eaten every last of our carrots.  (We’re going to have to plant more next year.)

And broccoli. (Another crop we’ll need to expand next year … good thing we just added two more raised beds!)

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We have too much zucchini that ripened all at the same time (and just as many left on the vine to ripen in the next week).

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A lot of tomatoes …

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 … and again, even more on the vine waiting to ripen.

A few pounds of cucumbers.

More than a few heads of garlic.

A good amount of basil.

And not enough peppers (It’s not easy to grow peppers in a raised bed in Montana … the nights are too cold and the season too short).  But we were able to grow ONE (out of  8 plants).

lone pepper

I’m re-thinking the strategy on peppers for next year.  Does anyone have an easy how-to build a cold frame they’d like to share using old storm windows?

So now that we’ve harvested so much of our bounty, my brain is turning to food storage.  Because we want to take advantage of all this goodness, but know we can’t eat it all before it goes bad and as much as I appreciate our compost bin, I don’t want to see this goodness wind up there.  So what to do to preserve and store?

ZUCCHINI

My hope is to preserve as much of the “freshness” as we can with zucchini.  We’re blanching an freezing most of the what we’ve plucked from the garden this year for use in stews and soups as the weather turns colder.

But blanching veggies that you’re  going to freeze is a little different from blanching veggies you’re going to eat right away. When you’re blanching to freeze, do NOT salt the water.  Salt will break down the cell walls and you’ll end up with mushy vegetables.  And that’s not what we want.  We want a bit of crisp fresh goodness in the midst of our winter.  At least, that’s what want.  Maybe you like mushy zucchini?

Here’s how we’re doing it:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, half-fill a large bowl with cold water and some ice to use as an ice bath.  While the water comes to a boil, chop the zucchini into similar-sized pieces (rounds, squares, wedges … whatever shape you’re hoping to use in the coming months).  For this batch (which is a soup-batch) I chose to chop them into 1-inch bits.  Regardless of their shape, keep the size roughly the same.  It will help ensure even cooking time when you go to use them.

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Once the pot of water is at a rolling boil, carefully add cubed or sliced zucchini (in batches if necessary).  As soon as the skin turns “bright green” and the zucchini is a nice firm al dente texture (just about a minute for smaller bits, one to two minutes for larger chunks) use a slotted spoon to remove and add to the ice bath to stop the cooking.

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From the ice bath, I move the zucchini to tray lined either with paper towel or a flour-sack towel and let drain for just a few minutes before I put them in Ziploc freezer bags that I lay flat to freeze.

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IMG_1022 (NOTE:  I feel funny using plastic for this food storage, but I haven’t found an alternative yet that works for freezing.  And I don’t love what happens to summer squash in canning.  If you have a suggestion, I would LOVE to hear it!)

TOMATO 

Unlike my sister Teri, who gagged when I sent her the photo from above of our tomato-bounty :), I love tomatoes.  (In her defense, she had a tomato soup incident as a 4-year-old that pretty much sealed her never-eat-a-tomato-even-ketcheup fate.  I don’t want to tell you about it because it was gross. Needless to say … she doesn’t eat tomatoes.)

But as I said, I love tomatoes. Fresh, they are bright and sweet and perfect.  Heated, they get even sweeter and warmer and

Our littles love tomatoes.  But even so … there are just too many in the garden this year to be able to eat them all fresh.  I can only eat so many tomato sandwiches, caprese salads and ratatouille in one day.  So what we can’t eat fresh, I’ve decided to turn into three staples we need in the kitchen all year long and then freeze.

I’ve already made 1 1/2 gallons of this Tomato Sauce (which I will use for pizza, pasta, meatballs, soup, etc).  I’ve got enough tomatoes in the kitchen this morning to make another half gallon.  When all is said and done, I’ll have up with three gallons in the freezer.

Taco Sauce.  After we’ve got the tomato sauce stored, I’ll turn to taco sauce and do the same process.  My goal is to have at least half a gallon of taco sauce in pint jars for easy use.

And then Tomato Paste … a recipe I’ll share when I have a chance to get some photos of the process.  I just don’t love that most tomato paste comes in BPA-lined little cans.  Tomatoes are so acidic.  And often, recipes call for just a tablespoon or two of this burst of brightness so then you end up using just a little of the 2 oz can and the rest goes to waste.  SOOOOO … I’m off to Owenhouse Ace Hardware for a 12-pack of 4 oz ball jars to prep for the tomato paste adventure.

CUCUMBER

We used This Recipe to make garlic dill pickles.

BASIL and GARLIC

I’m going to have to plant even more garlic this year because I’m using so much what we harvested right now.  I’ve used several head in the tomato sauce.  I’ll use more in the taco sauce.  I’ve been on a bit of a hummus-jag these days.  And whatever’s left of the garlic will end up combined with whatever’s left of the basil in a pesto.

All this food-stuff … it gets me so excited for next year’s garden!  I’m already making lists and plans.  And we’re only about a month away from having to plant the garlic!

I need to make a seed order … STAT!

xo,

Jeanne

what to do with an old door DIY

 

We have a few old doors in our garage the Cowboy found at a local art school garage sale/giveaway.  And I’m not entirely sure, but I believe he had visions of tables and future homes and neat things in those old doors.

We’ve been storing them in the garage on a steel shelf above the freezer … a shelf that is doing yeoman’s work by holding up these super-heavy-fire-door-like wooden slabs. (To say it makes me nervous every time I go out to the chest freezer might be an exaggeration.)

And before he left for his job, I asked my stronger half to help me get one down because I had this idea to turn one into an outdoor chalkboard.  We spend a lot of time outdoors.  And the kiddos LOVE sidewalk chalk.  They love playing “school” and I was thinking it would give us an opportunity to use  a new space in the backyard a little differently.

We picked up the only two colors of chalkboard paint carried at our local Paint Pot that weren’t black (which turned out to be green and purple).

And I started sanding (just to get the big scratches out).

Then, I followed the instructions on the paint containers and got busy (with a little help from two sets of small hands).

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We let it “cure” for 3 days (in the shade).

And then followed more instructions:  As a gang-of-three, we “chalked it up.”

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IMG_0208 And then our 4 year-old wiped it clean with a clean damp cloth.

IMG_0212 I think it needs another wipe.

I’ll say this … The chalkboard paint would have worked a little better had it been more evenly applied.  But for a 4 year-old, a 2 year-old, and mom who wanted to have an activity to do together, I think it’s gonna work out just fine.

Now, can I please borrow someone’s husband for 20 minutes to get this thing hung up on the fence so the kids can use it?

xo,

Jeanne

 

 

keeping things civilized

It’s Jeanne again.

I had a few quiet moments this morning and I’ve been thinking back on the last 18 months and realizing that regardless of the trials we’ve been handed (my mother-in-law’s broken back a week before our wedding, the sale of our house falling through, the purchase of a new house falling through, the Cowboy’s beautiful mother’s stroke and subsequent passing, multiple job offers falling apart at the last minute, etc), we were given the great gift of having the Cowboy home with us.

funeral

You see, the Cowboy still works in the movie business (which is how we met).   And his work generally takes him on the road for six or seven months at a time.  Often times to my old stomping grounds of Los Angeles.  Sometimes New Mexico (which is where we met).  Sometimes Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, Vermont, etc. (to name a few of the places he’s worked).

But for 18 months (since he wrapped work on The Dark Knight Rises), he’s been home with us.  And no matter what else was happening, I felt blessed to wake up every day and know he was there.

So last week, when he got a call from one of my old coworkers and asked to come work on a new movie we both took a great big inhale.  Because honestly, not having an income for 18 months can be a challenge.  So the work is welcome.  But he got the initial call on a Saturday.  By Monday the job was his and less than a week later he was on the road.  And I woke up Monday morning to a house that was a lot quieter than it was the day before.

And it’s the closest thing to single-parenthood that I would like to experience.

Because after just five days it’s pretty obvious that this raising of children thing … it’s way easier with two parents.

But I’ve been keeping it together.

For the most part.

Because that’s my job.

To spend the next nine months (this is a long job that will likely take him out of the country for a few months) raising our littles with him in mind.

patriotic family
it wasn’t his idea for all of us to be in patriotic garb 🙂

With our intentions.  Not just my own.

So this week has been about keeping things “normal.”

Having good breakfasts.

Riding lessons.

Playdates.

Grocery shopping.

And sitting down to dinner.

civilized

civilized 3  In case you’re curious, we had a bacon caprese salad …

bacon caprese
(4 pieces of bacon, rough chopped and sprinkled over a bed of mixed greens, a few sprigs of fresh basil, a cup of cherry tomatoes and some fresh mozzarella drizzled with good quality olive oil and balsamic … and some good crusty sourdough bread)

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 And it was a huge hit …

Keeping things “normal” is going a long way toward keeping us all “sane.”

What do you do to “keep it together” when life throws you for a loop?

 

 

sour cherry tart

Jeanne here.

Every summer there is a bounty of beautiful bright red super sour cherries bursting from a tree in our front yard.

cherries

 And every year, we harvest them and wonder … now what?

Three years ago, I harvested them.  Then waited to long and didn’t do anything with them. (AAAARRRrgh!  Procrastination wins again!)

Last year I tried dehydrating them.  (I wish I had a photo of the sad little not dried, but burnt to a crisp little cherry bombs … it was an EPIC fail.)

This year … I’ve learned a few tricks about dehydrating in our oven that doesn’t have a temperature setting below 170 degrees.  But I totally chickened out.  I just couldn’t risk the loss of time it took to harvest these little beauties (which is basically quadrupled when you’re doing it with a 4 year-old and a 21 month-old).  Plus … they were so pretty and plump.  I wanted to celebrate their jubilant perfect sweet-tartness!

Now I’m going to warn you … this tart may not be pretty.

cherry tart

But if you’re looking for a dessert to pair with savory summer dinner?

This might just be the ticket.

cherry tart a la mode

 SOUR CHERRY TART

INGREDIENTS:

For the Filling:

  • 2-3 cups of pitted SOUR cherries (Bing cherries will change this tart dramatically … this is really about SOUR cherries.  But if you use Bing cherries, reduce the amount of maple syrup and add the juice of 1 lemon to the water)
  • 1/2 cup of grade B maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water.
  • 2 tablespoons tapioca pearls

For the crumble topping:

  • 3/4 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup cold pastured butter

In a medium non-reactive bowl, combine the cherries, maple syrup, water and tapioca pearls.  Cover and set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

When you’re ready to start making the tart, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour the macerated cherries into your tart pan.

Combine the sugar, flour and chia seeds until well-mixed.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in the cold pastured butter until it’s crumbly.  (I used salted butter because it’s what I had on hand.  If you are using unsalted butter, you’ll have to add a little salt to the mixture.)

Spread the topping over the cherries and bake for about 30-35 minutes (until the cherries and juice are bubbling up through the topping).  NOTE:  I generally put a pan in the oven on the rack below the tart because undoubtedly the juice bubbles over and I’m not looking for excuses in the summer to turn on the self-cleaning-oven option.

This tart is GREATLY complimented by a dollop of vanilla ice cream.  Perfect summer-evening-dessert-on-the-patio crazy day topper.

Do you have fruit trees in your yard?  How do you use the yield?

Shared at:
Kelly the Kitchen Kop
This Chick Cooks
The Nourishing Gourmet

putting kids to work

Abby here.

Not only do I love her whit, her down-to-earthness, her compassion and her humor… my very favorite thing about The Pioneer Woman is how her kids work.

They run a rather large cow/calf operation on their ranch, and it appears that their children are a vital part of the process.

I just love it.

And while we don’t have thousands of acres and thousands of cows, I try my best to put my kids to “work” when possible.

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They love having a task to do and being involved… even if it is help Mom make sense of the greenhouse in late March when it’s been neglected for 5 months.
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(Happy to report that section looks way better now!)

And it is true (especially with the youngest), having them help requires much more work on my part.  But I have a good feeling the pay off will be worth it.

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This is the first year where my 4 year old can actually help water the greenhouse.  Who would have thought it’d be so helpful?  Now if only he could decipher which weeds need to be picked!

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Outside of the greenhouse, they love to help mow and pick up branches.  Indoors, we’re (self included!) working on keeping the house more tidy and cleaning up more during the day to lesson the chaos!

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My kids are still young, so most of the jobs are still fun to them.  On days when the weathers bad or they’d rather stay inside, I love having them come “work” the greenhouse with me… teaching him that sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do!

All-in-all, I just want my boys to grow up being good hard-working men.  In an age where kids have it pretty cush with technology at their fingertips and activities galore, I don’t think they’re ever too young to start learning how to work. 🙂

What “jobs” do your kids do?

discipline doesn’t have to be a dirty word

Two weeks ago, I attended a course on early childhood development at The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (which is kind of an intense name of an organization, don’t you think?)

The thing is … the folks at the IAHP spend most of their year working with brain-injured children and have incredible success rates in changing the course of the lives of littles who suffered seizures as infants, who live with autism, who are born with cerebral palsy, who suffer brain injury from accidents, who have behavioral problems due to undiagnosed ailments and injuries, and the list goes on.

They are an incredible group of individuals.

And a few times a year, they open their doors to the parents of “well-children” in the hopes of giving us a better understanding of how the human brain develops, how we learn, and how we can create an environment for our children to embrace their innate love of learning.  And since I’m in the midst of exploring a lot of different homeschooling curriculum, it just seemed like a good idea for me to attend this course.

Actually, this is the second course I’ve taken at the Institutes.  I took the first one a few years ago, when our oldest was just 2 years old.

Now, at 4, she’s reading a little, and writing more, and starting simple math, but I felt like I needed a boost … like I needed to be reminded of everything I learned the first time.  This “graduate” course seemed like exactly the right thing.

And now that I’m home, I’m only a little overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed with how much I can still be doing.

How much I haven’t done exactly right (although exactly doesn’t matter much … it’s just about the doing.)

It’s an incredible program … and if I can share one tidbit from this week that has already had a transforming effect on our home:  One whole day of the program was about Social Growth, the Law and the Policies that govern one’s home and how they impact childhood development.  Incredible.  So simple.  Basic.  Obvious.  And a common sense approach to creating a “sane” environment at home.

Have you ever read Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham from ahaparenting.com?

Or ever seen those “rule boards” on Pinterest?

the rules

They all teach the same thing … discipline (or setting boundaries, or establishing the law, or defining the parameters we live by … depends on who is sharing the information about how it’s worded) is good for kids.  Not: “hitting is good for kids.”  “DISCIPLINE” is good for kids.  But discipline doesn’t work if we don’t let our kids know the rules.  (How can we expect them to know the rules if we don’t tell them what they are?)

So we took the advice from all these places pretty literally.

We had a family meeting.

Announced “The Law.”

Posted it on our front door.

the law

Designated our time-out spot.

time out

And here we are.

hugging
yes, they’re posing … but it’s not something they don’t do several times a day now so I didn’t feel so bad asking them to show a little love 🙂

One week and one law down … next … “pinching” … good thing we have the rest of their lives to get it right 🙂

NOTE: it doesn’t work if we’re not consistent … which is the most challenging part of this whole endeavor.  But in just one week our house has become a much more sane environment.  It’s not perfect.  But we’re moving in the right direction and that feels good.

How do you deal with discipline in your house?

xo,

Jeanne

 


 

sometimes, the only option is to wash the day away

You know those days that start out loud and crazy?

The days that it’s impossible to get a load of laundry done?

Or the dishes?

Or the vacuuming?

Not because you don’t want to get those things done.

But because …

bathday2

well …

bathday

… it’s just impossible.

Because some days just get messier and more out of focus as the hours pass.

bathday4 (Even the photos get out of focus)

Sometimes, I’m just thankful to get the littles fed and clothed.

And if you’re anything like me … I struggle on those days not to judge my inability to keep life in balance.

I wonder how other moms keep it together and get it all done without losing their minds.

I compare myself to my super-Mom (and all the super-Moms I know) and thank goodness she isn’t here to see the living room carpet.

And then I take a few deep breaths and let it go because I remember that it’s just one day.

Plus, I learned a long time ago that beating myself up for being human doesn’t do anyone any good.

That’s when I start to run the bath water.

And then I add lavender (by way of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Pure-Castile Soap)

41eJBrtASJL._SL210_

This all started because I read somewhere that Lavender Essential Oil is good for reducing anxiety.

That it can calm emotionally charged situations.

It’s used to calm restlessness and bring clarity to a cluttered mind.

And it’s said to induce sleep.

The one thing Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap won’t do is add crazy bubbles to the bath …

bathday3

(One day, our little are probably going to see those photos of bathtime at Abby’s and never forgive me for their lame-milky-sweet-scented baths).

Now I know I only have anecdotal proof that adding lavender makes a difference in the tenor of our home.

But I’m not kidding when I say that after a lavender bath everything changes.

The crazies go out the window.

Peace is restored.

Ahhhhhh …

NOTE: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap folks have no idea we exist over here at O’Mamas.  This is not a paid or sponsored post.  I just really like the lavender soap and use it for our littles and for me.  Also, if we run out of the magic soap, I’ve been known to add some lavender essential oils to the bath.  It has much the same effect. 

What helps you (or your family members) relax after a crazy day?