You would think I would know how to organize a full-on advent season in the midst of a busy fall and winter by now. But I haven't. ...
Today is the beginning of a small, daily life sort of project. It begins with a cake recipe.
Small kindnesses live here.
Today, I am, with my sister and good friends, giving a concert for a dying woman.
Lately, I've noticed life brings us choices. And the choice becomes this pull between the easy and the hard. The hard will very often require I settle in for what can be dogged persistence and commitment, doing something because it is worth doing rather than doing something because it’s easy. The end goal outshines the grit, commitment and determination required during the process. What am I talking about?? A few things come to mind, bread making and playing around with starters is one, preserves are another and finally, the biggies, marriage and parenting.
Marriage is a huge. Overlooking my own peculiar sensitivities, my emotions, what I happen to be wanting on a particular day for the betterment of another person, who may be continuing to leave his clothes behind the bathroom door despite all my encouragement to place them in the laundry and all other manner of irritants, is difficult. Not saying anything when you feel a bit off, or wrapped up in a very unnice emotion, and you just want to snap off some smart remark, indulge yourself in witty sarcasm, can require everything I’ve got. It requires discipline, a commitment to look beyond the process, as gritty and dirty as it can be in the day to day, to the final outcome. I am fortunate to have a partner who does the same for me, choosing to help me even if he’s busy with his own thing because it makes my life easier a little bit easier in that moment.
For me, staying at home with my children was another one of those choices. There is nothing glamorous or easy in cleaning up crumbs after every meal, wiping faces and little hands that crave every possible tactile experience, or in helping little ones negotiate sibling conflicts.
If those first five years of childhood were only a month long, perhaps there would be someway I could have made it constantly and immediately obvious in its beauty. But five years, per child, is five years. And with the children we had, and their spacings, this time at home for me was ten years. There was no way to create a shining, pure example of gleaming motherhood in action for every moment of ten years.
Instead, our time together often looked harried, fraught with a thousand worries about what implications my daily actions were going to have on them in twenty years.
If I let them have the purple cup this time, even after the table has already been set, because it would cause the shrill screaming happening in a puddle on my kitchen floor to stop, would the trade off be I've raised an adult who lacks resilience, who needs every preference accommodated, who feels the need for a life that is constantly fair, fun and there to fulfill their immediate demands? Too many tantrums over purple cups and I'd be re-evaluating our entire schedule, my approach, switching it up a bit, creating room for choices and control in safe places, letting the consequences of those choices fall as they may and helping the kids through those consequences.
I tried desparately to keep my eyes on the long game, to look up from the piles of laundry and wooden blocks to see what the gifts of discipline, love and security would be in fifteen years as those same children ventured out my door to continue their lives away from me. It wasn’t easy, and it is still not easy. But now, even here in the thick of it, at the midway point, we can see the progress, kids who, generally, are considerate, get their chores done, think deeply, and contribute to their communities.
This is not a discussion about stay at home mumming versus working mumming. It's only a perspective from me and what our choices meant for me. For me, to stay at home was never something I really wanted to do. I love accomplishment, the feeling of getting a job done and moving on, all of those lovely things a career and job give you. Coming back to the same job of feeding someone three times a day, tidying toys to have them all over the place again an hour later or never getting to the end of the laundry pile, was not part of my strong skill set. I found it wearing, a lesson in learning perseverance and patience that I didn't think was possible.
Staying at home was the hard choice. It meant losing myself at times, dealing with a loss of identity, surrendering with a certain amount of self-sacrifice, never feeling as though I were my own person for years. After all, the kids needed to be fed and changed, floors swept, legos picked up, the chickens or cats or dog or cows or horses or pigs need to be fed or given bedding, apples needed to be picked, eggs picked, the lawn mowed, garden weeded, floors washed, laundry folded and put away, grocery shopping, bills paid, and on and on and on. It all takes time, huge amounts of time, often sixteen hours as day, which has left very few moments to sit, think, write, or create. Every moment was stacked with to-do lists from people and things other than myself. And now, here I am, in the thick of adjustment. As some of my time has been given back to me, I'm trying to figure out where I want to be, what I can do, where I should be putting my efforts.
Despite it all, I am thankful I chose the hard path. I feel, even in the midst of not having a clear idea of what my future is, stronger, more resilient, able and immensely grateful I was there with my children in the day to day. Strange, as they were anything but easy, but I wouldn't give up the those years for anything.
Fortunately, there are easier choices to navigate without so many existential issues going on! And this recipe is one, thank goodness! It’s become a pantry staple. I love it for its flexibility. A convenience food that is a whole food. It’s simply a mix of oats, coconut, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, buckwheat, chia, and cinnamon. Depending on my pantry, it may have dried apples, raisins, cranberries or, if I'm not feeling the added sweetness, there might not be any fruit.
If morning calls from my youngest daughter require hot cereal, I cook it up in a ratio of 2:1 water to cereal.
If school lunches are needing snacks and the store is closed, I toast it in the oven, swirl together some honey, brown sugar and butter and make granola bars. I like to adapt this recipe.
Looking to make a breakfast smoothie? Done! Shake some into your blueberries, ginger, greens and turmeric.
In a pinch, it is muesli. With butter, brown sugar and some flour, it becomes crisp topping. All there, always waiting on the shelf, sitting in between the flour and favourite cookbooks.
I’m a little hesitant to offer up a recipe as it’s one of those things that shifts depending on tastes and what’s in the pantry. For me, having something flexible and nutritious, ready on the shelf, makes it a keeper in my books.
This is not so much about the recipe but the idea of having a quick go-to staple at the ready for whatever you might need. But, here goes, just in case you want it.….
5 cups of quick oats
3/4 cup raw, shelled sunflower seeds
3/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup toasted buckwheat
1/4 cup chia
1/4 cup hemp hearts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup dried diced apples.
Scoop each ingredient into a container. I really like the one gallon glass jars so I can see how much is left. Give it a few, good, honest shakes to mix everything around and done. Enjoy and use as you need.
Is it fall? Maybe. It certainly is fall in calendar months. I’m especially....