Friday, November 30, 2012

Chores: the Game

Ivory is four.  

She is somewhere in the nebulous realm of  needing an afternoon nap and stubbornly staying awake.  By four thirty or five in the afternoon, she acts like a monster.  She is a block throwing, screaming, crying, supper tired child which no reasonable speaking, pleading, bargaining, or threatening seams curtail.  And then I act like a monster.  Night time books are taken away, toys are confiscated and, yes, I find myself screaming.  We both hit a wall and the only place to go is to bed, but we still have to make it through dinner and picking up toys and getting ready for bed before that can be realized.

So in the footsteps of my mother (who made beautiful water color and pen and ink chore charts for my siblings and I)  and many other mothers I have created my version of a chore chart.  Here is my attempt at a solution:  

Chores: The Game

Please excuse the slightly blurry image of our cookie pan game board, but reflective surfaces are a little tricky to photograph and after many frustrating attempts this is as good as it gets.

The idea is this:  Ivory (and Sylvan) both have a visual representation of a list of things that I expect of them during the day.  They can look at it in the morning (when everyone is still well rested and chipper) and throughout the day, as they complete those tasks, they move from the game pieces from the To Do column to the Done column.

Ivory's chores are: 
     make her bed and put up pjs
     brush her hair
     feed the chickens
     pick of dirty clothes (put away clean ones)
     help set the table
     pick up toys
     brush teeth
     be kind

Today, she has already made her bed, brushed her hair, fed the chickens, and been kind (this is a game piece that can be put back in the To Do column, if she starting being unkind to, well, especially her little brother).

Sylvan's chores are:
     make bed and put up pjs
     feed the dogs
     pick up toys
     brush teeth
     be kind

Today, he has already made the bed, fed the dogs and been kind.

At he end of the day, if all of the game pieces are in the DONE column the little girl tile (Ivory) and the little boy tile (Sylvan) are allowed to move forward one space on the game board.  After successfully completing their chores for 30 days (which might as well be forever in their world) we are going to go on an outing to Big Dipper to get ICE CREAM!!! (Ivory's favorite flavor is Licorice, which is this dark purple color, hence a purple ice cream cone as the final destination.)

The cost: < $3.00
I bought the cookie sheet for $2 at Goodwill, as well as the two tiles ($.69) that have the faces painted on them.  I had acrylic enamel sitting around the house from a college art project as well as a multitude of weak magnets left over from some other project.  The chore game pieces are stiff cardboard that I pulled out of the recycling and painted with the acrylic enamel.  They turned out much nicer than I had anticipated.  And of course, time.  This took me about three hours, but I hope that it will be worth it.

What I hope to gain:
I hope that this game board can function as a tool to communicate my expectation to the kids in a visual and tactile manner while it also enables me to keep my cool when things get tough.  I hope in the process we can learn some good habits, a little responsibility and eat some delicious ice cream. I don't expect this to work forever. Ivory is four.  And this will work for now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Our First Thanksgiving Alone.... a cabin, a wood stove and a chicken

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  
It is even better than Christmas. 
Well, it has all those things I love about Christmas (good food and family) and none of the things that makes Christmas stressful (the shopping and gift giving). 
Thanksgiving has always been this big family event where we bustled around in the kitchen for days rolling and stirring and baking and then all this food is brought fourth and set onto a beautifully decorated table (or two).  People could be counted on for certain dishes.  I would make sweet potato casserole, my mom cardamon bread, Linda and Gigi would bring this cranberry salad I yearn for, my grandmother her Swedish fruit compote, etc...   and then we would all sit together and eat and laugh and go on a walk through the neighborhood and start all over again.  
The last few years, we have spent Thanksgiving with friends and neighbors, sharing food and laughs and listening to a few folks jam while the children played.  
This year however, I just felt like I needed a time out - a breather - and for weeks I have been suggesting that we just get in our car drive a few hours and spend a few days nested in the Swan Valley away from everything in a cabin with no running water (yes, it has an outhouse, but the view is amazing while you use the facility), no electricity and barely a phone signal.  And that is just what we did.

It rained.  
I can't think of anyone else I would rather be rained in with.  
We also didn't stay in the whole time.  
Ivory and Sylvan took a short ride in the old truck.  The truck took them half way to our destination: the creek. 

The big task of day number one was to walk down to the creek and fill up our jugs with water.  The wheelbarrow took them the rest of the way.

Ivory ground our coffee beans.

Our Stew simmered away on the wood stove...  as our clothes from our earlier adventure dried.

We brought blocks, crayons, paper a few books and stuffed animals and the kids were entertained the entire time.  (Most of the time playing with a set of flowerpots and a bottle they found at the cabin.)  I read an entire book, curled up in an armchair by the fire, while the kids jut played! AMAZING!

Thanksgiving morning a slight dusting of snow was on the ground.  Adam snuck out early to try his luck at tracking elk and while he was away we explored the woods.

 I started cooking while Sylvan napped and Ivory and Adam took turns shooting a .22 at a target in the clearing bellow the cabin. She walked in, waving the target excitedly. "Look Mama, I am practicing to shoot deer", she pointed to her shot that had hit the large orange circle.  (This is definitely something I never imagined my little girl doing or saying, but hey, she is growing up in Montana.) I had planned on keeping our dinner simple.  A turkey wouldn't fit into the propane stove, so we had a chicken baked with carrots, potatoes and celery. I steamed broccoli and made some gravy.  "What else are we eating?" Ivory asked. We all stared at the table in silence for a moment. "I forgot the stuffing." I got up to grab it off of the wood stove where it had been staying warm...  and the macaroni and cheese and suddenly our little table was crowded.  In spite of my effort to keep the dinner simple it turned out to be excessive and we were all holding our bellies even before the apple and pumpkin pie were brought to the table.

The evening was spent just as the ones before: huddled up in front of the stove reading a book.

I miss sharing Thanksgiving with family.
I am going to have to make myself that cranberry salad sometime soon (and eat it all myself - no one else in my house likes it).   Between now and Christmas I will bake Cardamon bread, and make sweet potato casserole and serve fruit compote.  Little tastes to celebrate the people we love while we give thanks for all those little things that make our lives, well, our lives.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Soda Fire!!!!

In the wake of the great sickness, I frantically glazed all of my plates, cups, and bowls.  Each item was then carefully wadded onto it's spot on the kiln shelf.

Each shelf carefully balanced on the one before. 

By the time we lined up the rows up bricks to close up the door and spackled shut all of the cracks our hands were freezing and it was close to one in the morning. Many hours later we noted with pride no flames escaping from the top of the arch.  Our firing was consistent and even.  

Firing Shedule

12:45 am
mudded door and started candling, with peeps and damper open

8:00 am 
closed peeps, shut damper half way and turned up gas a bump (1/8th of an inch or so) and adjusted the blowers
11:00 am
checked on kiln
11:35 am
turned up gas slightly and closed damper to 2"
1:00 pm
cone 012 down, strong reduction, turned up W burner slightly 
2:45 pm
turned up gas a bump, damper mostly open, cone 012 completely molten cone 4 glowing at the top
3:45 pm same
4:45 pm
second cone 4 down on top, soft on bottom
6:00 pm 
second cone 4 down on bottom 
7:00 pm same
8:00 pm 
opened damper almost all the way
9:00 pm
cone 5 starting to go 
11:00 pm 
cone 5 down on bottom, soft on top, closed damper 1/2"
1:35 am 
cone 5 down on top, cone 7 soft on bottom
3:00 am
cone 7 down and 8 soft on bottom
7 soft on top
4:00 am
cone 8 down on bottom and 9 soft
8 soft (45 degree angle) and 9 just starting to bend on the top
4:30 am
cone 9 down on bottom 
cone 9 down on top
SODA from 4:30 to 4:50 (4lbs of baking soda)
6:00 am 
no change on cones
opened damper all of the way and turned gas down just a touch
7:00 am
bottom cone  10 starting to bed on top and bottom 
8:00 am 
bottom cone 10 at 45 degrees
(top cone 10 not visible)
bottom cone 10 down (top cone 10 not visible)
bottom cone 10 down, 11 bending
shut off kiln. covered blowers with kaol-wool.

These records are primarily for my own reference (or anyone else who is going to fire the soda kiln at The Missoula Clay Studio).  The overall gist is - it takes a LONG time.  It took us just over 24 hours.  In the future I think I would time the whole thing a little better and go home and sleep a few hours.  

Adam and the kids came and brought me breakfast and we all went home.  I took a shower and started cooking in preparation for our great getaway.  A few hours later I crashed on the couch while nursing Sylvan.  While I was unresponsive to the activity in our house Adam loaded the car and as soon as I opened my eyes we left the bricked up cooling kiln, our house and all media behind and drove off into the mountains. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Sickness

Time has been getting away from me.  The days jam packed with little happenings that it seems like I have hardly had a moment to collect my thoughts, much less, to put them into writing.
So I will back track a few weeks.

HUNTING - a success.  Adam brought home a deer.

and then THE SICKNESS - we ALL got sick.

Almost two weeks ago, Sylvan climbed into bed next to me, whimpered tucked his hands into my shirt, fell asleep and then proceeded to puke all over me... changed sheets..  and again..  changed sheets...  and -  then he and I got up.  We only have three sets of sheets for our bed.  So, at four in the morning, he and I started a load of laundry and curled up on the sofa to wait for the rest of the family to get up.  I wrapped my body around his, frustrated by my inability to make him feel better.  The one thing that I can always count on to make him feel better, nursing, made him violently ill and my refusal to do so made him very sad.  So instead we cuddled, sipped water and tea and just waited...  And then Adam got sick - and Ivory - and before noon I was five loads of laundry into the day with no end in sight.  I felt great.  While the rest of the family watched movies, dutifully sipped broth and munched on dry cheerios, I planned the next three weeks of meals, made grocery lists and sorted through little piles of stuff that I had been meaning to get through for ages.  The next day, I left my still somewhat under the weather family at home, while I breathed my way through a yoga class.  I felt great.  A recovered Adam and I wandered around town, two sleeping kids in the stroller, holding hands - as close to a date as we get these days.  I started cleaning the kitchen and Adam started frying bacon for dinner and that was the end of my cleaning.   The next twenty four hours were the most curled up in a ball, impossible to focus on anything, with mad dashes to the bathroom while leaping over now well and playing children in my path, hugging the toilet and cursing my procrastination of said toilet's cleaning, that I have experienced in a long, long, LONG time.  (I actually had to call and cancel my coop shift. I debated:  I could just go in.. I don't sound sick..  she will never believe that I'm sick.. I can do it!.. no... no. I can't.)

back to HUNTING - so once all of our stomachs were settled, Adam began (the stomach turning - to some) chore of butchering the animal suspended from the garage ceiling and we FINALLY got to all sit down for an actual meal.  (and yes, I am putting a picture of food in a post that primarily is dealing with, well, the purging of food.. the inappropriateness of this is entirely apparent to me, but it was yummy and pretty and I was excited to eat an actual meal.)  So here it is: Pan fried Venison back strap with a butter head salad topped with honey caramelized walnuts, onions and mandarin oranges. Yum.

The celebratory meal (celebrating both the successful hunt and the passing of the sickness) was of course followed by:

The Mad Scramble to Catch up from THE SICKNESS: more to come on that later.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Great Pumpkin comes once a year!


Please leave me some candy. (heart) Ivory

Thank you for the candy and I hope you like what I left for you and your brother.  I got your note and I left you some extra pieces for when you're extra good.
See you next year, 
                        (pumpkin head)

In our house there is no Santa Clause, no Easter Bunny, and as of now, no Tooth Fairy visits...  I have a general dislike of lying to children, but in spite of our attempt at honesty there is the Great Pumpkin that comes around once a year. Never heard of the Great Pumpkin?  Well, I borrowed the idea of him from a friend who enlightened me to the existence of such a being last year.  The Great Pumpkin visits children's houses after Halloween and trades all (or most of) that candy for a useful item or a toy.  

When the children get older, I hope that we can simply give them the option: You can 1) keep all of the candy (short term satisfaction) or 2) trade most of your candy for a toy (that provides long term satisfaction).  

Last year, the Great Pumpkin brought Ivory a jump rope.
This year he brought her a ridiculous pink head band and two card games (old maid and go fish).  Sylvan got a bright blue bumpy ball.  
They were both delighted.
(As was Adam, who promptly devoured the majority of the candy.)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hunting Season

Ivory practically jumped into bed last night.  Gone were the tears that had been running down her face, and the numbing ear drops I carefully dripped into her ears after dinner must have been working.  Slipping smoothly under the covers of my bed she grinned at me singing: "Sleep over, Sleep over, it's like a sleep over.  But it's not a sleep over.  It is just laying down in Mama's bed."
Adam had driven off just a few minutes earlier to spend the night with his rifle, in spite the icy Montana air, on the side of a mountain alone in a wall tent.
I had moved two giant pots filled with forty pounds of halved and cooked apples into our unheated back room to become apple sauce in the morning and decided to cuddle up with Sylvan and Ivory and call it a night.  When Sylvan nudged me awake to nurse I glanced at the clock - almost six in the morning - I don't remember a time that I have slept for that long with out interruption   "Seven thirty three", I thought to myself, "is shooting light.  That is an hour and a half away."
Since breakfast I have been in the kitchen. First turning the handle of my little food mill - separating the skin and seeds from the soft flesh - and a pink sauce flows into a big bowl, then ladling hot food into jars.  The kids have been building boats and castles from the wooden building blocks that are now scattered throughout the house.  Sylvan naps and Ivory colors the afternoon away.

Our house is infused with the scent of simmering apples, cinnamon and cloves.  Six quart jars and sixteen pint jars are standing in neat lines on our kitchen table.  Apple butter is cooking away on the stove and a third of my giant pot is still filled with sauce.  I am completely out of jars.

The afternoon light is fading and I try to recall what the time was that marked the end of shooting light.
I wonder when to put on a pot of coffee.
I wonder if Adam will be driving home soon with a carcass of a deer crammed into the back end of our tiny car.  He is sure to be tired and cold and hungry.
I marvel at the rituals we go through to bring food to our family table.

The kids are tucked into their own beds tonight.
Adam is home, stringing up a deer in the garage.
I wipe down kitchen counters.