This seeded sourdough, soft and nutty with thick slabs of butter, and a mug of steaming maple milk or hot coffee respectively, after a long walk in the freezing temperatures is a mini version of heaven for each of us. I am tempted to say this here is the very best loaf I have ever had the pleasure to create. I feel that I finally can form a loaf just so- in order to slash a better score, I understand when to feed the starter and when to make the bread, and I think the steaming system that works for my oven is finally as close to perfection as a home baker can create. Oh my, I am knuckle deep in dough these days and I think we are all okay with it.
Now if only Lee could get a move on that bread oven. You can see its beginnings in the front of the house near the garage. This spring can’t come fast enough and the weather will be right for laying bricks again. And with that I believe he is currently signing the paperwork for a helper in which to make the work go quicker. Yes, not to steal the thunder of these two adorably crusty loaves, but we are almost the proud owners of a tractor! Look out springtime, the six of us have work to do. But for now, our days can stay slow and our bellies full of warm bread.
Being a homeschooling family we take zero tests, and have little need for formal assessment. While the trained teacher in me occasionally feels the pull towards the little blank bubbles and number two pencils, I have withheld on the account that I clearly have a better opportunity for real evaluation without any coercion whatsoever. With careful listening, and lots of patience I can observe regular, authentic learning within simple, basic play. Ample freedom gives me the chance to see what needs my attention.
I’ll set the stage for this mornings unstandardized test: The boys have chosen “Chasing Monsters” as their movie on movie night the last two Fridays and it turns out this show is absolutely chock full of information my children are eagerly soaking up. All the couch cushions are removed, the trampoline is a boat, the four of them (with an age span of 7 year between them all) are playing together, maybe not with the same level of involvement, but in their minds they are each an integral part of the adventure.
I hear Rowan say, “Okay guys, I am just going to go over here and do some invasive species removal and take some samples of the water and stuff like that, okay?”
An argument breaks out between Rowan and Jasper, and between the tugging and grunting of Miles hoisting up a large fish I hear Miles calm them with the explanation that, “Rowan knows more about fish, but Jasper can be stronger,” and like magic the problem is gone. They are busy tieing pretend lines and setting pretend hooks. There are constant checks and balances of who is in charge, of who isn’t participating enough. There is screaming, which is resolved without adult interference. There are facts about whale sharks, their size, their diet, their whereabouts being argued. They want to look up more information about the sharks, which I help them with, then they get back to work. The play goes on until lunch time clearly demonstrating their ability to stay on task, work together, conflict resolution skills and my gosh if I knew the standards better I am SURE a slew of others as well.
School is in session and they are learning leaps and bounds, and so am I.
Keeping up the fire, properly washing hands, putting warm socks on little feet, and providing ample provisions are the only necessary tasks to keep our day running smooth. A presence of mind and body is really what it takes. This in itself is exhausting and at once worthwhile without a doubt. The standard for a great day is low and simple here and I am grateful for perspective and time to be able to see this. I don’t fail to notice the luxury of a warm house, and the ability to fill my cupboard. Ice on the insides of our windowpanes, and car doors that freeze closed make it easy to remember that it is safe and warm inside, and for that we are lucky.
It is too cold to go outside, or maybe a more ambitious me would disagree, but so be it. I am in, and my back is warming by the fire as I type this. My daughter painted her first person, “It is Row-ey,” she announced proudly, her nickname for our sweetie Rowan. My big boys are braving the temperatures and drove off over the crunchy driveway with our neighbor to the ski hill. And Jasper is kneeling by the fire with his best friend, cuddled on a sheepskin drawing race cars and playing make believe with markers. A snapshot in a simple day that is not a failure and is not a waste of time. Nothing in particular was accomplished in the view of the wide world, not a load of laundry done, not a bill paid, not a lesson administered. But we ate dozens of peanut butter oatmeal balls, and drank our weight in maple steamy’s. Our bar is low, and my goddess it feels good.
Oh holidays why I do believe you did us right this year. I can’t place a finger on where the ease came from. There was the obvious factor in which we were all healthy and well for its duration, there was sweet family, tradition, sunshine, and lots of extra adults on hand to divide and conquer all the little ones. Oh, there was fighting, so much fighting, but the moments of exasperation were thankfully always followed by a partner who can take over when the going got tough. It was so nice to have a long break with all six of us here. Sledding and hikes, projects and movies… it was just what we needed.
On another note, we just discovered Rowan quite clearly has a photographic memory! He can “see” baseball cards in his mind and relays every, single statistic with precision. Strange but true… Does anyone have any experience with such a thing?
The crafting around here is alive and well. It’s actually quite astonishing. Between my kids, the holidays and my recent surge of inspiration, the projects are nonstop. There is needle felting, paper cutting and folding, sewing, knitting and spinning projects in the works as we speak! That is a type of overwhelm I can handle, because I just love it! A few weeks ago I got to meet knit collage from my Instagram feed and making art batts and spinning bulky yarn has been high on my list of projects to work on to match the stocking I made from one of her kits. So of course with all that yarn I have been carting around I had to make a forager vest last night to ease the project toting (those pockets!!). There have been a few pebble vests for willow thrown in for good measure and lots of swatching for the birkin sweater I am beginning. whew!
And the holiday season is off with a start! I am so far not feeling at all under the gun about any of it, which is lovely as it seems the last 3 years I have spent the days after the holiday recovering from serious bouts of stomach bugs (and one first trimester too), so I am determined to keep my immune system high and my stress level low. Which brings me to a bit of a witches brew I have been drinking nightly that I though I ought to share- tulsi tea with macerated ginger and turmeric, a few drops of oregano oil, a bit of cayenne, and a scoop of raw CBD honey- lets hope it works!
The weather has been nothing short of beautiful but extremely cold for so early in the season. We have had a few snow storms and lots of freezing weather, sometimes dipping down the to the single digits. It has not encouraged lots of outside play, though we get out everyday. It has, on the other hand, been just right for crafty-dreams to come to life.
More pictures of the crafty goodness to come!