Friday, September 28, 2012

lilies of the field

I'm in the middle of the Great Autumn Clothes Change Over of 2012. Its not that cold out but our school room has an arctic air permeating it every morning now and there's been whining about the lack of sweaters and long trousers. So, of course, when Elphine came in just now wearing what appears to be a mini-skirt, I was able to react on the grounds that her knees would be cold and not to the fact that she looked like...well, there's no good way to end that sentence.

She and her brother are locked in an ongoing angry competition of who can get their school work done first every day, goaded along by their insolent siblings who say things like, "Well, you have to make your bed first," in a seriously nasty tone. Elphine is guaranteed a win today because Alouicious goes to Man's Bible Study (that's what he calls it) on Fridays, kindle and money for soda in hand. He gets up, has his cup of coffee, pretends to read the passage, forgets to get dressed until its almost too late, and then flings everyone into a three minute panic while he tries to catch up and leave for church at the same time as his father. He comes home two hours later smug and stuffed with bacon and tater-tots to finish the whole experience off with whatever we're having for breakfast, usually bread and jam.

What was I talking about? Oh yes, Clothes Change Over of 2012 (cue war music). Even though I got rid of 7 bags of clothes in the Great Spring Clothes Change Over of 2012 it seems that I am wrestling with Leviathan down there. Marigold, for example, is emotionally attached to all the clothes she wore last year but which, tragically, do not fit her at all. "That's my shirt" shrieks the girl who six months ago wouldn't say anything as I dress Fatty Lumpkin. "I want my shirt!"

And Gladys knelt worshipfully next to her drawer nearly all afternoon, waiting to see what I would put in it. Unhappily for her, Elphine went to kindergarten when she was five and had to wear a 'uniform' of khakis and different colored polo shirts, plus one pair of jeans for play. She picked the jeans out of her drawer gingerly, with real tears in her eyes and said, "I don't think these fit me."
"Sure they do," I said blithely, missing the point, "they're exactly right."
"No," she wept, "they don't fit at all, and they're very very ugly" and sobbed louder, flinging them in the pile of stuff to never be seen again. She resumed her kneeling posture ever more vigilant. I had to wait nearly a whole hour for her to be called away to put the khakis in. Pretty sure I'll find them flung all over the floor when I go down there this morning.

Even Romulus and Alouicious got in tussles with me about letting go of things that are really really really small. Romulus has two kinds of shirts in his drawer as a result, things to wear at home because they're full of holes and come up to the middle of his arm, and things to wear out because they won't let all the cold air in. "I just really need the shirt with the frog on it" he let me know after checking things over.

And then, to top things off, Matt stuck his stupid oar in. "Just throw away all the baby boy stuff" he postulated callously. I threw a book at him and gave it all up for the day. Stupid children, growing up, stupid husband, suggesting we ever get rid of the tiny baby sweater with the little cowboy and the horse and the little button shirt that goes under it, and the little tiny tie shoes. I'm going to give up my stupid diet and eat a piece of actual bread with actual jam.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

a novel idea i had that i thought i'd share

Every year, the instant I've clicked the last 'purchase' button or 'pay now' or whatever, and laboriously entered all my payment information into all the little lines, and double checked everything and basically and finally committed to all my curricuculum choices for the year
that very moment
without fail
it seems my inbox is suddenly flooded with new and amazing materials I'd never thought nor heard of before. And then morning by morning, week by week, I continue to get new curriculum updates, or happen to read of wonders on other people's blogs.

I mean, I thought I'd carefully researched and planned my year, down to each week's plan, and even (gasp) prayed a bit about what the Lord would have me do (I know, prayer, sometimes we get desperate enough for it), but then some helpful nut on email shows me, without a shadow of doubting or wondering, that I, I and I alone, made the wrong choice.

So then yesterday, when it seemed we'd finally fallen, after a mere six or eight weeks, into a reasonable groove and rhythm--as in, I finally got my technology to let us make use of the Latin I happened to have picked, and Elphine stopped speaking English during our twenty minutes of Mandarin, and Alouicious figured out that he had to open the book in order to do geography, and I switched a few things around so they would work a little better--it occurred to me that I might delete all those emails, without worrying about what wonders I would be missing. And that when I happen upon someone else's glorious review, I might just say to myself 'how nice for them' and then not send myself into a panic of indecision and woe about my stupidity of not having known about that material sooner nor having not had the wisdom to buy it.

Perhaps this might carry over to other realms of life. I can't imagine, just at the moment, how it could, but maybe all of you can.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

pie or cobbler or whatever

I started out thinking I'd make apple dumplings but as I went on I got lazier and more pressed for time. After peeling and coring three apples, when they wouldn't fit nicely in my pan I lost my temper and sliced them up. By which point it was supper time and my dessert making moment had essentially vanished so I pivoted towards a pie crust (2 cups flour, 2 sticks butter crumbled together) using milk instead of water for binding, instead of making that complicated dumpling dough I can't even remember how to do. And then it really was supper time so I piled all the dough all over the apples and mushed it down in a heavy-handed and fraught way (normally I'm pretty careful about rolling out pie dough--confidence but not thuggery or it comes out too tough). And then I baked it at 350 while we ate lentils and rice, the children carefully trying to eat around the lentils and Matt and I gazing across the table at each other in boredom and anguish as the baby poured glass after glass of water on the floor and more and more rice was pushed over the side of each plate. The pie/cobbler/whatever came out golden and gorgeous. I should probably also mention that before mashing the dough in over the apples I happened to pour half a cup of Manzanilla along with a whole lot of brown sugar all over them. This, perhaps, is the key to the whole experience. The pie was tart and sweet but not too sweet. I fed it to the children in little prep bowls--first, seconds and then thirds--and stood furtively in the kitchen eating it quietly myself with a large serving spoon.

Monday, September 24, 2012

give me an award, i'm awesome

Having been foolish enough to watch the Emmys last night (because, you know, I thought, how can I just throw away a couple of hours, down into the pit of time that can never be gotten back, ever ever) I am rather struck by the contrast in the clear light of day between an exhausting evening of narcissistic self-adulation arrayed splendifoursly in a room of expensively dressed muddleheaded actors and actresses against the violent crowds of American hating rioters flung far and wide around the globe. The crowd's muddleheadedness is easy to see with all the screaming and blood and flag burning but at least it is turned out. (Boy they really hate America.) The insipidity of the Emmys, turned inward, (Boy, they really love themselves) is just exasperating. Over dressed Americans peacock and poise on a vast stage in hues of neon, chartreuse and ugly while tee-shirted and jean-ed young men wave their fists and die of smoke inhalation. And I, I watch it all, the preeminent fool, and go to bed with a profound headache and fits of anxiety about how idiotic it all is, on every side.

Friday, September 21, 2012

a week gone quickly by

Besides the obvious reason of being too busy to carry on with a blog, the real reason I haven't been posting that much is because I've been watching and reading the news with horrified addiction. Not only is the situation in Mali not terribly awesome, but the insanity of whatever 'foreign policy' emanating from this administration is riveting, in a terrifying sort of way. Spent ten minutes in the back yard this week trying to mentally calculate how many potatoes we could grow if we had to, even though we don't really eat potatoes, but the math eventually proved to be too much for me.
But we took a break from school and world affairs yesterday to go see the local opera's production of Jack and the Beanstalk. They go round to all the schools and then offer a free showing to homeschoolers. How lovely is that? My own children were philistine in their response, "Are we getting ice cream?" when it was all over. (Ice Cream? What am I? The Easter Bunny? No there's no Ice Cream.) I had a good time, though, so nobody need worry.
And then on the way home my very good friend enabled me to buy a desk sitting by the side of the road by walking all the children to a park so that I would be able to shove the desk into my car before someone else came and tried to take it.
"How much did you pay?" inquired Matt with arched eyebrows as he helped me muscle it into the garage.
"Not very much, and look! Its so beautiful!"
"Its not that beautiful. It needs to be glued."
"Just a little glue and then it will be perfect!"
"Whatever," he said, hoping I would go away so he could keep working.
So I rushed off to collect the children from my friend who was much taken aback by Glady's rendition of a small psychotically demented pony.
"Watch" she said pushing Gladys higher and higher, "she does this weird thing."
"Oh that," I said when she finally did it again, "that sound can really cut through the back of your skull."
So I gathered them away and spent the afternoon cooking for Shepherd's Bowl at church. I realize, of course, that by blogging about it, I'm loosing any merit I might have accrued in engaging in such a selfless act, but who are we really kidding? My martyr and piety points are always completely eviscerated every evening when I tell Matt what I really thought about everything.
I made a vast pot of potato curry stew with chicken, broccoli, carrots, corn and peas. And I had a very good time doing it. The stove at church is so fine--squat and black and smoldering--and there's a sharp sharp knife which makes all the difference.
Oh, and I shouldn't go much farther without exclaiming over the half of a pig we've come into. Half a fat fat pig with fat all over. And in another month arrives the bacon and hams. Another very good friend's eyes became misty as she surveyed the arrival of this pig (brought over by other very good friends--can I just say, the number of friends busting out of this place is a surprise to me, given, as I always am, to muttering to myself "Can anything good come out of Binghamton?" And now, if that other very good friend who's thinking about leaving Binghamton would think just a little harder and decide not to do it, my happiness would be complete.) "Where can I get a pig like this?" she wanted to know. Which led necessarily to talk of eventually procuring a cow and all that sort of thing.
Gladys is really internalizing Morning Prayer. She walks around singing all the time now, "Let the hope of the poor be taken away! Let the hope of the poor be taken away! Let the hope of the poor be taken away! Hey!"

Have a lovely weekend and go check out Jen!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

goodnight all

And so we come to the end of another extremely long day. While the children idled away their time in indolence and ignorance, I baked a bunch of stuff--cinnamon rolls, cheese and pepperoni rolls, muffins--and then made realio trulio cheeseburgers. Well, Matt cooked them, but I mushed the ground beef together for a long time, muttering curses at the state of the world and the fact that by 4:30 this afternoon, Elphine and Alouicious had not completed the absurdly simple number of tasks on their wretched laminated lists.

So, being that it is still depressingly pouring rain and I ought to be going to sleep anyway, I thought I would end this wreck of a day with some Jeeves and the Old School Chum.

"'Abandon the idea, Jeeves,' I said. 'I fear you have not studied the sex as i have. Missing her lunch means little or nothing to the female of the species. The feminine attitude towards lunch is notoriously airy and casual. Where you have made your bloomer is in confusing lunch with tea. Hell, it is well known, has no fury like a woman who wants her tea and can't get it. At such times the most amiable of the sex become mere bombs which a spark may ignite. But lunch, Jeeves, no. I should have thought you would have known that--a bird of your established intelligence."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

when's the eating

I'd been really wanting to cook a lot of little things from a Spanish Tapas book I have sitting around and so after church one Sunday in August, Matt roasted a large piece of pig and I fussed around a lot of little dishes. First up are these egg stuffed tomatoes. Each tomato has an egg, heavy cream and Manchego cheese mellowing in its interior and was baked for a while until the egg was creamy and gorgeous. The end pictures weren't remarkable at all but over all...what an amazing way to eat egg and tomato. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and remember it.

Then, it turns out, you can deep fry sweet peppers without any kind of batter. I dropped these into hot hot oil for a bit and waited for them to turn a stark beautiful green.

Oops, turns out they actually turned brown and wrinkly. However, when I cut into the first one and tasted it, I thought perhaps I would cry, but then I thought, how stupid to cry when you can just have another bite and another and another. 
I lathered these all over everything I ate that day and the day after.

I should also say, these were grown locally by a couple who who belong to COGS.  Every Sunday, as the summer rolls gently by, a table in the Parish Hall is laden with the contents of their garden and with glorious eggs from their chickens. You walk in to see people hovering prayerfully over all the beautiful vegetables and praising God.

This wasn't in the cookbook but the combination of butter, mushroom and Manchego was not to be resisted by me. I kept adding butter as the mushrooms absorbed them...I wouldn't be able to tell you how much butter because I lost track after a while.

When it came time to sit down together for dinner, Matt told all the children that these mushrooms were so disgusting that we were doing them a great favor by not making them eat them. They seemed dubious but there was so much pork and bread mounded on their plates some of them eventually forgot. This, along with a whole avocado, we managed to eat silently and completely. Its so difficult, having to share food with children or other people.
And then I roasted some baby tomatoes from my garden with thyme, garlic and olive oil.

Matt also took the innerds of the egg stuffed tomatoes and mushed it around with some fresh herbs and poured cream all over it. And then we just stood there and ate it with spoons, again, very quietly, because the stupid baby loves tomato and squawks like an out of control raging duck when she sees one. I tried to photograph it but it came out badly every time.

So here is the long wait before dinner. Marigold and The Fat Baby of Binghamton sat for something like 45 minutes hoping for food.

And here is Elphine photographing the food along with me. Not sure what she planned to do with the pictures but she made a little news report later on the same camera.
Another waiting child.
And a child who wasn't that hungry because he ate a lot of cake at church and wishes he was playing on his kindle or something but is making the best of a bad situation by taking quiet mental inventory of all the wrongs and injustices done to him since very early that morning.
And what am I doing photographing during prayer? Doesn't he look pious? Don't be deceived. The second the prayer was over he asked if he was going to have to eat everything. "Oh no no," I said, "You get to eat pork and bread. Everything else tastes funny and is bad for you."
"Oh," he sighed heavily, relieved.
Elphine narrowed her eyes at me and insisted that she loves mushrooms. Irritating child.
I've been trying to get this post up every day for the past week. IN FACT, I had promised myself I would blog every day, without fail. But instead of blogging I recalibrated our homeschool day and plan and continued trying to get ready for the start of Sunday School, which is tomorrow. Just as soon as Sunday School is humming nicely along I can face the Great Autumn Clothes Change Over of 2012. It is at these moments that I long to live in a temperate one temperature climate. And now, I will arise, and have another go at those Sunday School Rooms because those little sheep are not going to dust and arrange themselves. Have a lovely weekend and Go To Church!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

the season

Sitting here with a profound cold in the head trying to watch the Democratic Convention. And again I ask, Why does it all have to be So Late? Elphine has made brownies at this advanced hour to avert the coming apocalypse ("If I don't make brownies today, I'll DIE.")

Ooop, not the convention, football. And so begins a long season of depression as the Cowboys lose a bunch. But we're rooting for 'em anyway.
Much woe on the part of the boys, though, that they're not allowed to favor the Giants when the Cowboys are playing. "I hope they both win" says Elphine, ever the moderate. All she needs is a little bit of plastic surgery and a whole lot of lipstick and the gleam in her eye will take her all the way to the top.

She is developing a gratifying combination of deadpan commentary and timing. Yesterday, as I was struggling along not speaking Mandarin she turned up her nose and at every prompt, responded in English instead of Mandarin.
Pimsleur: Say, I speak a little English.
Elphine: I speak a little English.
Everyone giggles.
Pimsleur: Excuse me, can I ask, do you speak English?
Elphine: Excuse me, can I ask? Do you speak English?
Me: Say it in Mandarin!
Amazingly, though, she stopped when it was no longer funny. What a gift!

Anyway, what was I blogging about? The Convention? Can't remember. Going to bed. Tomorrow I'll discover that the Cowboys really did lose and the Democrats really really really really really really love women.

Monday, September 03, 2012


As quickly as the four oldest children are putting away blocks, the two little ones are flinging them out. They are screaming at a fever pitch and running and, now, finally, throwing the blocks across the room.One considers getting up and waving the arms and trying to reverse the inevitable path of destruction and woe, but then one's blood pressure would rise and one might have a stroke or something.

I've recently been readings Proverbs and Ecclesiastes and wondering why God's present will allows the running out of things and their constant replenishment. The jar of oil starts out full but runs empty and you have to take the trouble to get more oil to put in the jar so that eventually it can run out and you can do it again...and again...and again. The circle of emptiness and fullness is built in to our lives firmly, fixedly. I'm going to get new paper and markers for the Sunday School rooms, and stickers and folders and new beans for pouring so that they can all be used up and ruined and thrown away.

Many days this irritates me. I just swept the floor. I don't want to do it again so soon. The children just put the school room in order. Now they are having to do it again because of their tyrannical and grimy siblings. We just bought oil last week. And rice. Didn't want to have to buy it again so soon.

And so it is, under the sun.
So much so that its hard to imagine things going on forever and not getting ruined. Imagine creation not in a cycle of death but in no cycle at all, just in worship. Frankly, I have no idea what that will look like. Will the pleasure of getting something put right still be there if it is never broken and needing to be fixed? Without the emptiness, we don't know the pleasure of filling the jar. Irritation on one hand, pleasure on the other. It doesn't say, at your right hand are first irritation and then pleasures forever more, just the pleasures forevermore and also the fullness of joy.

But then also, it doesn't say much about circles in scripture. Sure, we see them everywhere, even in the relationship of God and his people, it seems like an endless circle of sin and forgiveness. But the writers of scripture more often talk about paths, or roads. "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." A path goes somewhere. The jar empties and is filled along the way, but the path itself doesn't circle. We either go towards God and his pleasures or away from him. I imagine the circle gets tighter and more frustrating the farther we go from God. Well, when I'm bent on a path of destruction, not wanting to look God in the face, for whatever reason, my own steps generally become more circular and futile. Then God comes and breaks the circular motion and "makes me know the path of life." Just as I, now, will go break in on these two babies and put them to bed. Let the circle be broken, as some might say.