Thursday, July 9, 2015

Everything But The...

       Sometimes I feel I've tried everything but the kitchen sink. Actually, in respect to raising kids and home management, I probably have.  My stick-to-it-iveness is the problem. Or maybe it's that in a very large family no day is like the one before; there are schedules and sports and appointments. For years, there was a new baby every 14-20 months. I wondered when things would return to normal.

       Then I realized that normal for us was the state of flux. I've read so many books on organization. I wrote a blog post about some of them. Each has something very helpful, though it is unrealistic to expect just one to fit our family long term. I still like referring to them. Life just keeps changing. Marie and Susanna have moved into an apartment together, we have no foreign exchange students and so we "only" have 6 children at home. They are all school-aged, which is wonderful. For the first time in literally decades I was home alone some days of the week this past school year.

       The children are on summer break now. In times past we organized home "camp" days but this summer they range in age from almost 13 down to 6 and the older boys aren't excited about "Pirate Day," or "Astronaut Day." We still do a lot of learning serendipitously, though. We've been playing with the animals more, and their chores involve feeding and watering them, moving the ponies from stall to coral, and collecting eggs from the chickens. It used to be that I had to limit television. Now it is limiting computer and X-box time.

       Yesterday they played for hours outside, the weather cool. It was so much fun to see them running around with backpacks and plastic Nerf guns, working as a team. Ben would stop to roll around on the grass with some dog or cat. Max and Gus moved stealthily into the barn to avoid enemy wasps. Thankfully, no stings.

       They also love swimming in the pond (all swim well), paddle-boating and canoe-ing. Red is a great color for the canoe because I can locate them easily on the pond. Gus loves it especially. We have taught them boat safety, and our pond is small.

       There are still days where they claim boredom; those are the days I send them outside. "What do you think children have done all the thousands of years before air conditioning and computers??" "Aw, Mom, that was the olden days--kids do different things now!" Watching them play Army yesterday reminded me of playing with my brothers forty-five years ago. It doesn't have to be so different. Many families have stricter rules and even no computer time or X-Boxes. I respect that.

       Instead of feeling like I've failed at a given tasj, I remind myself to take from it what I can and move on. That's not to say I don't get down about it sometimes.  I tell myself, like Dori from "Finding Nemo" repeated: "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming." Jesus told the disciples that if a town didn't welcome them to kick the dust off their feet, to keep doing what they were meant to do. Disappointment and negativity can render one ineffective and hopeless.

       Not today! Today I had the kids formulate a contract of turns on technology and initial it. They abided. Some broke off to play piano, clarinet and guitar, and the others went to the pond.

       Then we made cookies. A double batch in my giant new Kitchen-Aid mixer. Marie and Susanna are excited to inherit my old tilt one. Over the years they helped mix thousands of cakes and cookies with it. Before they were born I used it to bake wedding cakes and birthday cakes and our family's favorite Dobos Torte. Unless you have a Hobart or a commercial mixer, I think a Kitchen-Aid mixer is the best small appliance. My KSM-90 is still going strong after 28 years. I hope my new larger capacity mixer will, also.

       So here's the recipe. "Everything But The...Kitchen Sink Cookies." If you don't have a Kitchen-Aid, it will be quite the upper body workout. I doubled the recipe, but that won't work in a 4 or 5 qt. bowl. You'd need this baby (or a Hobart--lucky you!):

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies 
Beat together:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
Beat in:
2 eggs
Stir dry ingredients together, and mix in slowly:
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour (I like King Arthur Brand)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Stir in very slowly:
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup organic dried coconut (or whatever you have)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
When well combined, drop by tablespoonful onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake til golden in a 350 degree oven (about 10 minutes). Cool on baking rack.
You can add other ingredients. A basic oatmeal cookie is one cup flour and three cups oats. I have purchased gluten free oats before and ground some to make the 1 cup of flour. I've added crispy rice cereal, granola, different types of chocolate chips and different nuts. You could even add cinnamon or some almond extract. Today I thought dried cherries would be good, but I didn't have any on hand.

       Have fun with the recipe. If I struck a cord with you, if you are also an organizational book junky yet have failed to find just he right system, perhaps we're ok the way we are. Just be sure to take one day at a time and to kick the dust off your feet from the methods that don't work. Keep moving on and doing what you do best.