Sunday, March 20, 2011

Time is on my side......Or is it?

March is winding down to a close, and I am far from reaching my goal for the year.  One of life's cruelest ironies is that time seems to move ultra slow when you are waiting for it, and when you're not it moves at lightening speed.  It seems like just yesterday that I took on this challenge and already 3 months have passed with my barely even noticing.  One quarter of my self-alotted time is gone.  What do I have to show for it?  Or better yet, what do my kids have to show for it?  I had to sit down this week and take stock.  I needed to evaluate how far we had come and how much further we had to go.  While I was a bit over-whelmed by the monstrous task still ahead of me, I was able to recognize some definate progress.

Abby has a great deal of patience and peacefulness about her, which makes her a good listener.  Her eagerness to learn makes her easy to work with.  She is still a bit intimidated by the long words and small print of the recipes in some of my books, but she bravely forges on and gains more and more confidence with each success.  I've begun to try and teach her meal planning by asking her, "What should we have for dinner on Saturday?"  I try to make a point of asking her on Tuesday or Wednesday so she can get a sense of planning a few days in advance.  I can tell she is really thinking about it because she doesn't just automatically say "Spaghetti!"  She's also asked for tacos.  She's also beginning to understand that certain meals require certain ingredients.  The last time she asked for tacos, I informed her that we did not have any ground beef.  Looking very confused, she took a moment to process this information and then, with hands on hips, said, "So we can't have tacos?"  Her confusion kind of took me by surprise until I was standing in front of the refrigerator staring at some left over pork roast, trying to figure out what to make for dinner.  It hit me that she was probably confused for a couple of reasons: One, I almost never make tacos with ground beef, and two, Saturday was still four days away.  I'm sure she was wondering why we couldn't just go to the store and get the necessary supplies.  Budgeting is a necessary component to living an independent life, and I do plan on teaching my kids the fine art of money management, but probably not this year.  She had no way of knowing that a trip to the store was not in my budget that week.  My time spent with her so far has produced dozens of precious memories.  Some of the rough edges of our relationship have begun to soften and I am sensing a greater calm and ease between us.  When I think of how far she has come in just 3 short months, I know that teaching her the rest will be a joy, if not a breeze.

Elijah loves helping me in the kitchen.  Anytime I am working with him on skills that require control and a little finesse, I know I am watching a natural athlete in the making.  He is not only extraordinarily active, but also extraordinarily agile.  He's not graceful by any means, but his movements are efficient and purposeful.  It took him only one try before he was able to break an egg apart without getting any shell in the mix, and so far he has a perfect record.  He can beat an egg with a fork without spilling and he can measure out a cup of flour and transfer it to the bowl in relatively swift and easy movements.  As he settles into being four instead of three, some of the spastic parts of his personality are also starting to settle.  Among other things, this means there is less of a chance he will toss a cup of flour across the room in frustration.  I cannot accurately express what a relief this is for me.  I've made the mistake of leaving the flour container out on the kitchen table before, and I can tell you I never want to clean up that kind of a mess again!  Eli and I have been working on making scrambled eggs at least two times a week.  He has mastered getting the eggs out of their shells and into a bowl as well as mixing them up with a little salt, pepper and milk.  I think he must be very fascinated with the way the eggs start to firm up as they cook since he tends to stir them just a little in the pan and then stop and stare for a moment.  He'll continue to nudge the eggs a little with the spatula and then watch for a second, and then another little nudge and so on until I remind him that he's got to keep stirring or they will burn.  So far I've had to eventually swoop in and save breakfast, but I have high hopes for future eggs.  Circumstances have put cake making in our path twice in as many months, and he has been my main helper.  I was impressed by how much of the process he remembered from the heart cake project, and how much more he was able to do independently when making the birthday cupcakes.  I plan to make a few more cakes in the near future to see just how far he can go on his own.  I've always known that the more time I spend with him, the less clingy and whiny he gets, but putting that knowledge into practice is a lot harder than you might think.  He requires a disproportionate amount of attention to the other two and seems to have an insatiable appetite for snuggling and being held.  This cooking challenge has really helped me make the extra time for him which, in turn, has made him easier to be around.  I know working with him over the coming months will be exciting and hopefully not too messy.

On the surface it may seem that I have spent very little time working with Jonah.  While his involvement in our individual projects has been minimal to date, he has been very present in our day to day kitchen activities.  For now, he shares a stool with Eli most of the time and is a constant observer.  You may remember he recently learned to crack an egg.  He hasn't quite mastered the technique, but he's no longer creating little egg explosions all over the counter.  Jonah has a quiet confidence about him that makes him less eager for help and instruction than the others.  He just knows that he can do it, even when I know that he can't.  He's still really young and barely has enough coordination to walk straight let alone beat eggs with a fork.  I had thought to get him a little kid-sized whisk, but instead just gave him a bigger bowl.  It looks a little ridiculous putting two eggs in a huge mixing bowl, but he's able to practice without wasting all of my eggs.  Less mess equals less stress!  Judging from our progress so far, taking the whole year to teach him to make just one dish was a wise choice.  I'm pretty sure he will pick up many more skills this year as he loves to be right in the middle of the action.  Being the third in a group of kids that are fairly close in age has made him pretty adept at making his voice heard and his presence known, and closing in on two has brought forth the more demanding and obstinate parts of his personality.  His little body in the kitchen adds an element of chaos that can be hard to deal with at times, but I am enjoying watching the relationships between him and his siblings grow in love and tolerance instead of  frustration and fighting. 

When I first sat down to evaluate our progression and determine what areas need more attention, I felt completely weighted down by the enormity of what was left to teach.  I thought for sure I had bitten off far more than I could chew.  I have felt this way so many times in my life; trying to add one more task, one more responsibility, one more agenda to a plate that already seemed overly full.  Past experience has taught me over and over again, that my plate is never as full as it seems.  Careful planning and prioritizing clear away spots on that plate that are bigger than I would have expected.  Suddenly, without realizing how, I end up with more time than I had before.  I said in the beginning my kids are the center of my world, and they are even more so now than they were three months ago.  Looking back and taking stock has helped me to see that we have accomplished a lot in a short period of time.  My kids are well on their way to independence in the kitchen, but more importantly, our bonds and unity as a family have strengthened tremendously.  It occured to me while writing this post that my kids are learning so much more than how to cook.  They are learning about communication, patience and teamwork along with many other virtues that are helping them to be well rounded, confident individuals.  Our time in the kitchen doesn't always go they way I expect or plan, but I'm always glad that we spent the time together.

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