The Homestead Weekly

The Homestead Weekly, 26 April 2020

One thing that’s been encouraging in the few weeks since I started doing these is that even though every week FEELS like it’s the same as all the other weeks lately, I can at least see through these little updates that we are, in fact, making progress and learning new things and making good memories together.

And one thing I know for sure about myself is that for my own well-being, it’s important for me to experience, notice, and celebrate progress.

Note: There are affiliate links to the products I mention below, which means I may get a small commission on any purchases made through those links, at no extra cost to you.

In the Kitchen

Well, I had my first real success with gluten-free baking; namely, that I was able to produce a baked good (in this case, banana bread) that was at least as good as the “normal” version, and better than many. The recipe came from my latest cookbook splurge–America’s Test Kitchen’s How Can It Be Gluten-Free? Cookbook–and although it took more effort than typical banana bread recipes (not to mention more bananas–it calls for a whopping FIVE!), it really was quite incredible.

We’re still talking about it days later.

We were so encouraged by the success of the banana bread that we tried the chocolate chip cookie recipe from the same cookbook as well. Another clear winner! While the texture/aftertaste is just *slightly* different than a “normal” chocolate chip cookie, the recipe is a for-sure keeper. This makes me all sorts of hopeful about what gems we’ll find in the rest of the cookbook. One part about going gluten-free that’s so hard is that you start to wonder, “Will I ever be able to eat a delicious ____ again?” And now, with at least a couple of these baked good successes under our belts, there is hope for the future.

It may not look like much, but this banana bread should really be given the nickname “Still Hope!”

I’m still on my Instant Pot kick—now that it’s getting hotter outside and sometimes I feel like we’re *thisclose* to turning on the A/C (already?!), I am starting into my “don’t turn on the oven unless necessary” phase. Enter…more Instant Pot meals! We’re still eating tons of rice (as it’s the cheapest GF option), but I’m now starting to rotate in other “bases” for GF meals, like corn tortillas and potatoes. We do eat GF pasta sometimes, but as it’s expensive, we’ll probably be relying more on these other bases for meals.

When doing meal plans for the week, I’ll often have certain nights be tied to certain “themes” or “bases,” which helps give me some direction when trying to narrow down what to make for the week. My system used to be pretty set (soup + breadsticks on Mondays, breakfast for dinner on Thursdays or Fridays, Mexican one night, pasta one night, etc.), but since Matt’s celiac diagnosis, I feel like the whole system has been thrown for a loop (even though it really shouldn’t be, as there are GF options for all of those), and I haven’t been meal planning very much at all. Now that we’re moving away from soup season, I just need to come up with a new weekly “blueprint” so that I’m not doing the 4:00 dinner scramble every day.

I’ll let you know when I figure that out. Maybe I should add that to my official to-do list for the week.

Note: I will start linking to the recipes mentioned below, if they exist online. Often I’ll just use a recipe as a “blueprint” and then customize it as my own, but I’ll link to those blueprint recipes where I can as well.

On the Menu This Last Week: Chicken Enchilada Casserole, Instant Pot Parmesan Ranch Chicken + Potatoes, Baked Breakfast Casserole, IP Indian Curry Rice w/ Mixed Vegetables + Chicken, Takeout Pizza From Firehouse Pizzeria

In the Yard

The weather finally moved back into warm spring temps again, and since we had a lot of clean-up to do before our realtor friend came over to give us some pointers on selling the house (more on that below), we got a decent amount done. The biggest visible change is that Matt weeded and raked out all the raised garden beds (I’ll have to take a pic of that soon). Even though we’d done some direct sowing in there, it was getting too hard to tell which plants were weeds and which weren’t, so we decided to start over with a clean slate. (Yes, this means that pretty much none of our transplanted seedlings from the first batch made it, and we don’t know about the direct-sowed seeds due to the aforementioned weed problem above.)

I need to do a post on our garden failures soon, because we’re racking up quite an impressive list. Basically I’ve decided that growing plants from seeds is not as easy as I thought it would be, and while I’m super tempted to just never try it again and just go with our tried-and-true method of buying established plants from the local garden nursery, I am determined to figure this seed thing out. We already know many of the reasons behind our recent failures, so we’ve been trying to correct for those with our second batch of seeds, which are sitting on the counter under grow lights as I type this.

Matt made a small shopping trip to the local nursery to pick up some herbs (purple basil, oregano, parsley) and a couple tomato plants while they were such a good price, as well as two geraniums for the front to fill in some bare patches. We normally would never plant tomatoes this early (or most of the herbs either, for that matter), but since it’s looking more likely than not that we’ll be moving in the next 3-5 months, we figured the only way we might get produce this year is by starting earlier and praying that we don’t get a hard (or even soft) frost over the next few weeks.

Blooming this week: Tulips! Lots of them! (The new pink ones we planted last fall, plus several of the red, the red/yellow mix, and a few purple.) Plus the beginning of the blossoms on the peach tree and whatever the perennial above is called (I really should know, as we were the ones who planted it!), and the grape hyacinths and forsythia still.

In the Playroom

At the beginning of the official quarantine period, I was all sorts of motivated to do fun things with the kids and make the time as special as possible. After so many weeks of the same thing, I’d been slipping into “survival” mode many days rather than actively looking for ways to make the most of it. While I understand that sometimes I’m going to have “off” days and that’s okay, I also recognize that letting myself have a ton in a row is terrible for my mental health (kind of a “bad habits beget more bad habits” type thing).

I was confiding my feelings about it all to Matt one night, and he came up with a really good suggestion—since I’m so drawn to make lists, he suggested that each week, I put something on my to-do list to do with each kid at some point throughout the week. That way, I’m not pressured to make every last day super special, but at the same time, I still have things to look forward to and for our kids to look forward to and ways that I can feel like I’m being the best mom I can be under the circumstances.

For this first week, here were my items:

1- Read a book to Hyrum every day, just the two of us. The baby will often be in our laps while we read to the other kids, but it’s rare that I read a book just to him. And man, he might be just barely over four months old, but he was RIVETED. Love for books is in our kids’ blood, man.

2 – Throw and catch a ball with Mathias outside for at least 15-20 minutes. It’s pretty hard to do things with just Thias because his older sister doesn’t take naps and always wants to be part of the fun, but on this day, she was actively engaged in listening to her new audiobook downstairs, so I took advantage and went outside with Mathias, just the two of us. I had high hopes of really working on his throwing and catching techniques, but we only got so far with that before he just wanted to run around and do his thing, which was fine. I could tell he relished having all the attention on just him, though–he proudly pointed and labeled everything he saw, and he gave me lots of hugs and snuggles. (For my own record, he can *kind of* throw things a very short distance, and he can catch a medium-sized beach ball as long as I throw it from a fairly close distance.)

3 – Type and print out a “book” with Raven that she can then illustrate. We did this one together yesterday afternoon while the boys napped, and she loved coming up with the story all by herself (with some subtle directional hints from me to make sure we got person, place, and some plot in there), seeing me type it up, and then printing it out and pasting it into a “book” we’d stapled together from computer paper. Not gonna lie, it melted my heart a bit when she specifically thanked Heavenly Father in our family prayer Sunday night for the opportunity she had to “make my special book with Mommy.”

I love her cow on the left so much, ha ha–it even has spots (AND stripes!)

Honestly, Matt suggesting this was an answer to prayer—it’s made me more intentional about my mothering again, and it’s also given all of us some concrete things to look forward to as well as the “little victories” I need on a semi-regular basis to stay sane.

Other fun things for the week — We went on a mini “hike” in the canyon by our house after doing at-home church on Sunday, and we had a little snack picnic by the stream and let the kids throw rocks into the water for about half an hour. Other than forgetting to bring a burpcloth for the baby (who spit up EVERYWHERE, necessitating that we had to use grass–yes!–to clean him up a bit), it was a resounding success for us all. We also squeezed in a family walk earlier in the week, and I’m hoping we can start doing that on a more regular basis again since it’s so good for all of us to get out of the house together as a family. Most days, the older two kids got outside for decent stretches to play in the sandbox in the backyard, climb on the little plastic slide we have back there, and observe the chickens.

In the Home

On Saturday afternoon, our friend Rob (who’s a realtor) came over to give us pointers on some things we could do to up the curb appeal of our house and tell us what was worth doing (or not) inside the house to help it sell. We got a lot of good ideas, and I was relieved to hear that there isn’t too much painting in our future. At some point, I will likely do a post on things will be doing to prep the house to list (although I’ll probably be doing that on the other blog rather than here, and only when we know for sure that we’re moving).

I should have gotten pics of the house in all her clean glory, but I was too tired by the end of it all 🙂

To prep the house for Rob’s visit, we did a LOT of cleaning and organizing on Saturday morning. Since Rob’s a good friend and we go way back, we knew he wouldn’t judge us for our cluttery ways, but we wanted to make it easier for him to see what really needed to be done to the bones/background of the house, rather than the obvious “clearing up and staging” kind of thing. In addition to just having a clean house to relax in this weekend, the cleaning party was nice too because it allowed me to check some things off my spring cleaning list, which I’d largely started to ignore because of my lack of motivation most days. A few of the things I checked off? Wiping down all the cupboards in the bathroom (surprising and maybe a little disturbing what a difference it made), vacuuming the vents, swapping out the kids’ books in the bookshelf in the front room and getting it back down to a manageable number, and clearing off our mud bench of all the winter gear that’s now unnecessary. Getting some more wins under my belt has hopefully now motivated me again to tackle more of the list, since it was just plain satisfying to see the immediate effects of our hard work.

In the Soul

This week marked some important shifts for me. I think often of the studies I’ve read about, which say that the best way to feel happy in your life is not to chase happiness itself, but rather a sense of purpose and meaning. Since my conversation with Matt about his idea to literally put the kids on the to-do list, I’ve felt a renewed sense of being more intentional in my mothering, which I desperately needed. As any mom knows, this motherhood gig is rarely the kind of thing you get “gold stars” for—many efforts go unacknowledged, you’re repeating yourself endlessly and wondering if anything is getting through, and many days feel very much the same, which can make progress seem elusive. I know that for me, I like “gold stars”–I like being able to cross things off of lists and see measurable progress and hear concrete evidence from others that something–anything–I’m doing is making a difference.

So while I’ll still be endlessly repeating myself with the kids and many of our days will still feel like an eternal repeat of Groundhog Day during these strange times, I’ll at least be able to point to these one-on-one weekly goals with each kid and say, “See? Look! We DID do something intentional and worthwhile and noteworthy this week!”

Another major shift that happened was that mentally, I finally accepted the fact that we’ll likely be moving, and that there’s a decent chance it will be to a small county in Utah that’s kind of in the middle of nowhere. My body and mind have been raging against the notion of moving–especially to somewhere so rural–since I first found out it was a possibility. I liked the life we’ve established here, I liked our proximity to a bigger city with all the amenities (not to mention a big hospital and our favorite doctors), and I liked that things seemed stable here, both financially and support-wise.

My friend Rachel put it this way, in a Facebook comment to me: “Change can be so fun and exciting when you planned for it. When it’s thrust upon you,….not so much.” A thousand times, YES! I often actually inject our life with regular doses of change, just to keep things interesting, but big changes that we didn’t ask for? Not a fan. So, because this is a change we didn’t ask for, I’ve been railing against it–every time I thought about moving, my body tensed with stress, and my mind jumped to frustration and even anger.

Finally, this week I came to acceptance of whatever will be. Any way you look at it, our lives will be changing this year, whether that comes in the form of a new job, a big move, or both. (Unless, of course, the company Matt works for miraculously changes their mind, that is.) And because I came to an acceptance, I also was able to see the benefits—if we end up finding another job, we might be living closer to family, having a better benefits package and/or making more than we are currently, and it would prove a new challenge for Matt with an opportunity to learn new skills and meet new people. If we end up moving, we might have a chance to own more land, save money on our monthly mortgage payment (if we downsize), do some fun house projects as we make a new space our own, and make new friends.

There still will be lots of stress in the meantime as we figure out our new direction, yes. But at least now I’m (mostly) okay with whatever direction that will end up being.

3 Comments on “The Homestead Weekly, 26 April 2020

  1. Wow, I love Matt’s idea too of doing one-on-one activities with each kid! After Holden was born, I took Caleb out a couple of times for ice cream, just the two of us. I should start doing this again, and with Holden too.

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