Pictorial review

Confession: I don’t often do it this way, but to bring you up to speed on the last few months I’m going to just this once. In brief then, here’s a photographical run-down of our summer.

Let me start with breakfast. When you have half a dozen children, the simple pleasures of life such as waking up in the morning and frying yourself an egg become much more complicated.

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Still a pleasure though. Speaking of food, I had a brief unfortunate experience with kale smoothies. After ten days I decided I adore my greens but would rather be pureed myself than drink them that way anymore.

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We spent a lot of lunchtimes in this kind of paradise.

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We did a little gardening, but not much. Mostly I grew kids and flowers.

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Aarick was my right-hand man. It hurts, how fast he’s growing up. This summer he got good with a BB gun and a swim stroke and a vacuum cleaner.

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And Regan. You know. This kinda thing all summer.

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He is hands down the toughest kid I’ve ever raised but I bet he makes me laugh every single day. When he was bored he got out the dictionary and amused himself by using up every letter on the Scrabble board.

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Kelly learned to comb her hair all by herself (if we’re staying home for the day), and grew zinnias from her own saved seeds, and turned six, and became a fabulous little playmate and babysitter.

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She got a kitten.

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Or maybe Ryan got a kitten. The jury’s still out on that.

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No, Ryan got a haircut. I thought I’d hate him with short hair and instead I found him irresistible. (I hate when that happens.)

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He is a good firefighter. I think of this on 9-11 and am especially proud of his commitment to community life and safety. We liked watching him train.

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Somehow during the summer my baby grew from a sleeping infant to an exploring adventurer. Oh my heart…

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If you ever want to bless a busy mom, send your teenaged daughter or friend to help her out for a few hours. This happened to me. Kaitlyn came once a week all summer, and Annie was hired for several hours by my secret sister from church. This photo shows the day we cleaned the whole house together and drank iced coffee.

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Our two big ideas this summer were family volunteerism and family excursions.

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We got to see the Liberty Bell once (do not pass or stow) and my grandma twice.

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And then this tiny baby… this precious miracle niece whose mother recovered from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and gave birth to a darling… came to see us. She is protesting the camera.


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God is good!

There are many pictures I can’t show you because the twins’ beautiful faces are on them. At the end of summer we packed up their luggage with all their favorite stuff –

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And the three big kids went off to school –

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And life turned a whole new corner. I won’t lie to you: I’m spending a lot of time breathing, and snuggling this baby.

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Tell me a few things you loved this summer.

Herb gardens

Confession: I am obsessed with herbs.

Sage

Sage

Gripped. Infatuated. Besotted with herbs.

Lemon balm

Lemon balm

Last year we dug up a patch along the south side of my house and I started an herb garden, with flat slabs of limestone for edging and paths, and a handful of starts from my aunt and a few friends. Thyme. Sage. Rosemary. Chives.

Cilantro

Cilantro

This year I am somehow, miraculously, close to thirty varieties. Many are gifts from friends, some are pilfered from random parks and things, some are greenhouse finds… one a last-minute gift from a very sweet greenhouse owner at Pampas Creek in exchange for the promise to come back again.

What is it about herbs? They’re so full-bodied–good to smell, good to taste, good to touch. Low and fragrant, vibrant green.

I love the classics—peppermint, parsley, basil, oregano, Echinacea, bee balm.

Second year parsley

Second year parsley

Bee balm

Bee balm

And I love branching out into a few crazies—barbecue oregano, wooly thyme, purple basil, Russian sage and—my newest newbie—stevia.

Stevia

Stevia

Golden oregano

Golden oregano

Everything is small, still, and learning to find its place in the world. Some varieties don’t do well. My dill looks like it thought “yellow and straggly” was hip this year, my rosemary didn’t survive the winter, and my cilantro went to seed too quickly… Oh, and I can’t grow herbs from seeds to save my life. “Starts only!” is my banner from here on out.

Dill. No really. I'm serious. This is my dill. I left the label in the ground beside it so I wouldn't forget.

Dill. No really. I’m serious. This is my dill. I left the label in the ground beside it so I wouldn’t forget.

Basil--somebody tell me how to keep it from getting eaten!

Basil–somebody tell me how to keep it from getting eaten!

Rosemary. This year's version is in a pot so I can bring it inside before winter.

Rosemary. This year’s version is in a pot so I can bring it inside before winter.

I want to learn more about using herbs, in cooking and teas and home remedies. Right now, I fiddle around with them, snipping cilantro into refried beans and using fresh parsley and thyme in my tomato sauces. Mostly I walk through the garden and touch and smell, and taste heaven.

I just gave my oregano a haircut and dried it in my dehydrator. That was fun.

Before...

Before…

...and After

…and After

In a jar, all ready to crumble and use.

In a jar, all ready to crumble and use.

 

What do you love about herbs? How do you use them around the house?

On the naming of cats

together

So much depends upon
the naming of small furry ones.

They will be fundamentally altered
if I call them Muffin and Pudding

or Tiger and Panther

or Solomon and The Queen of Sheba.

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He is small and black, the baby of the litter.
She is feisty and golden, and leads him around.
If only their colors were switched! I would call them Arthur and Morgan le Fay…
but Arthur must be golden and le Fay black.

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Almost I settled on Trotwood and Miss Betsey. I love to name for personality.
But I would have had to explain
so often.

We hovered over Pepper and Saffron

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and settled, at last,
on Goldilocks and Bear
because they belong to children who do not understand Trotwood
and Kelly liked it

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and I enjoy the subtle irony of the personality reversal
or prophecy–
the mild Bear and the pushy Goldilocks.

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So they venture out
where so many braver animals have been decimated
by cars and traps and hawks and things

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I think they have a little fairytale magic of their own
and it is good to snuggle fluff again.

in kelly's skirt

White butter

Today I made my first butter ever. I am absurdly proud of this little pat. I blended and rinsed and squeezed and rinsed.

Well well.

And it tastes not so bad as I thought, after the smell of the ripened cream prepared me for the worst.

But it’s doughy white.

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Like Ma in Little House in the Big Woods, I like everything on my table to be pretty, and white butter is not pretty. Unlike her, I am not prepared to scrub a carrot through a piece of tin poked with nail-holes, and then cook the carrot, and then strain the juice into the cream to color it. Come to think of it, that might be rather fun. I tried more modern methods and (surprisingly) they wouldn’t take. The butter remains stubbornly white.

Help?