I really, really love the windows in my house. Right now, I’m sitting at my kitchen table with a bank of windows to my left overlooking a tree-lined field, and in front of me, another wall of windows offers views of the far-off Adirondacks. The grass is as green as ever, the trees are muted golds and coppers and reds, and the sky is gray. Autumn is an indescribable show of beauty, and these windows allow me a front row seat. I’m thankful.

Last week we did the Great Clothing Exchange. I actually didn’t mind, since I was getting very itchy to go through the bins and get rid of extra clothing that didn’t get worn much. The part I did mind, more than usual, was the sadness of packing away yet another year of growth and childhood. William is proudly wearing size 4’s now — the clothes Jameson wore our last fall and winter in California. But Jameson was a big boy then, and William is still just little — isn’t he? Is he actually this tall, this thin, this lacking in any baby fat? I see him wearing these clothes, and I still just can’t believe that he’s not really a baby at all. Sweet William. Little man Jameson. Beatrice, toddling around. So big.

We’ve had several regular days of school and chores and being home in the last few weeks. Often, the boys and I have cleaned up from dinner, lit a candle, and pulled out a few games to play around the table. The games are fun, but being with them on a quiet evening, in the warmth of our house? Priceless.

Last Friday, we read the very last chapter of the Little House series. I didn’t anticipate how sad that would be for me, either. But it was. I closed the book, and my eyes filled with tears. Not because I’ll miss the saga of Laura and her family, but because a whole chunk of Jameson and William’s childhood is behind us. I don’t even know when we began reading those books, but most likely, I’ll never read those books again to little Jameson and William at naptime.

I know. Sentimental much? Yeah, a little.

So today we started All-of-a-kind Family — the story of an early-1900s family with five girls in New York City. Oh, I love those books so much! I can’t wait to read them and have the boys love them, too. Of course, today they were a little stand-off-ish. They really love Laura and Ma and Pa, and aren’t too sure about all of these new names and characters. But they quietly listened along, slowly figuring out who’s who. About halfway through the first chapter, William raised his little hand and, in his adorable quizzical way, asked, “So, Mama, is Henny not a chicken?” Ha! Oh, these kids. Their little minds are just the funniest, most amazing things.

Tonight, soup made from leftover pot roast. On a day like today, there simply must be something simmering in a pot on the stove. Or, at least, it certainly aids in coziness.

lemon, honey, and an awesome little family

This is supposed to be day two of our trip to Maine. And maybe it will be later tonight. But for now, I’m just plain ol’ sick. Ridiculously sore glands resulting in sore throat, tender ears, topped off with a good fever and case of chills/aches. I knew it was there, that Virus, when I woke up yesterday morning, though I did my best to persevere a bit. By last night, there was no denying it: I am down for the count.

Today, therefore, was a planned pj day / don’t bother Mama too much day. Does anyone else get a little scared when you embark on those days? I mean, it could go really, really wrong. My kids are sweet and all, but they’re not angels, they make messes, and my house isn’t self-cleaning. I get nervous.

So, since I went into this sick day with such a remarkable heap of faith, I thought I should stop, pause, and say how blessed I have been.

Jameson, on his way to bed last night: “Mama, would you like me to pray for you?” (followed by the sweetest, most thorough and sincere prayer. Like, he really cared!)

This morning he announced, as soon as we were all up (at a very early hour), “Don’t worry, Dad, I’ll take care of William and Beatrice and even Mama!”

He and William then proceeded to get milk, syrup, juice, and dishes onto the table without me even asking.

He even offered to try his hand at pb&j. Really, he would!

(Aside: he’s just discovered that he’s been failing at his “L” sound, and so now is flipping his little tongue with such gusto every time he says one! I haven’t heard an L pronounced so distinctly since I was an accompanist in diction classes! It’s so, so cute.)

William came in and stood by the couch, took my hand, and asked quietly if I would sing a little ABC with him, please? (He, however, doesn’t even attempt L’s, so actually, he asked to sing a widow ABT. He doesn’t do real well with S yet, either.) We sang together, and his eyes just sparkled.

Jameson heard me turning on the TV and requested that we watch some “Tessa” together. That would be Ina Garten, and she has been our very favorite since he was about 18 months old.

Later I heard he and William in the kitchen, up to something. When I asked about their activity, Jameson said, “Oh, I’m just making a chore chart for my day. How do you spell, ‘Pick up for Mama’?” ARE YOU KIDDING?

(Should I be sick more often?)

And lastly, a cute William anecdote that I just can’t forget. I was reading The Long Winter yesterday at naptime. We were reading about Laura and Carrie’s harrowing journey from their schoolhouse to Pa’s store through a terrible blizzard. They couldn’t see the adults they were supposed to be following, but at one point, “Laura suddenly felt Miss Garland’s coat.” William’s eyes were HUGE with intensity and concern, and he blurted out, “But Mama! Was Miss Garland in her coat?” I forget how very literal, and yet how very magical, the world is to a three year old.

Speaking of magical, our next book came from the library. Roxaboxen is the biggest hit we’ve had in awhile, I think. One read through, and the boys were hooked. It’s their world, after all.

P.S. And Ryan brought home the very cutest card for me. Yes, I am very loved.

reading to my kids

One of our very favorite story books is this, Patsy Scarry’s Big Bedtime Storybook. It’s out of print, but the good news is that you can buy it for about a dollar! My dad would read these charming little stories to us at bedtime, and now the boys ask for them all the time. The illustrations are charming, the characters endearing, and the individual stories only a few short minutes long — but each very captivating. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

I really enjoy reading to my kids. Books increase their vocabulary, their listening and comprehension ability, and their attention spans — not to mention their imaginations and their world! It’s so much fun to see the little wheels turning, or watch them burst out laughing at some silly antic.

Having them enjoy being read to has been very important to me, and I’ve done a few things to make reading a highlight of our day:

— When we sit to read a book, only Mama touches the pages. I have an eager beaver who’s always antsy about what’s next, but this rule has helped focus and saved us from torn pages.

— For the most part, we don’t ask questions during stories. Obviously I make exceptions, but questions seem to often derail storytime. Silliness is always there lurking beneath the surface!

— I read books that I think are fun, beautiful, educational, or otherwise endearing. How can I expect them to like reading if I make them sit still only to hear some drivel with awful illustrations? I can’t! Also, I can emote excitement about what we’re reading when I’m actually excited. That matters! I’ve kept a running book list of titles to either purchase or get from the library, and that is very helpful.

— Books are special. They get a book for Easter, books as gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and new books through the year are a big deal. I try to rotate a basket of seasonal or holiday-themed books so that even old titles get a fresh appeal regularly.

— We read chapter books at naptime, and I’m constantly surprised by how much even William learns from just listening quietly, with very little explanation. It’s a great way to unwind, as well as expand their little worlds in a way story books don’t. We’re well on our way through the Little House books, and Jameson just said this morning, “Oh, I thought for a minute we were eating lunch, but it’s breakfast! I wish it was lunch so we could hurry up and read The Long Winter!” And William is in love with Almanzo and his moccasins. Whatever floats your boat, kid!

None of those things are revolutionary, I know, but I thought I’d pass along the basic things that have helped thus far!

two books, and a recipe

Remember when I used to post links to books that we’ve really enjoyed? Maybe you don’t, but I do. I also used to clean my bathroom before it got totally gross. Boy. There are a lot of things I used to do. Ha!

For the mamas:

If you’re friends with me on facebook (or friends with someone I’m friends with on facebook), you probably already saw me or someone raving about this book.

Loving The Little Years — Motherhood in the Trenches by Rachel Jankovic

This book kept popping up in the “If you like that, you’ll like this” suggestions from Amazon, and finally, I just bought it.

You should, too.

It’s easy to read. The chapters are only a few pages long. You just may love it. There are some great ideas, perhaps some new thoughts, but most of all, it’s the attitude check and kick in the pants and “go, girl, go!” that you need. (Every single morning, if you’re like me.) It’s not fluffy. It is edifying.

I’m going to read it again, soon.

And for the kiddos:

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers

This was our first special winter book purchase when we moved back to northern New York, and the magic of both words and illustrations delight me every time we read it — which is every time I ask William to pick a book! The dust jacket is vellum, and the beautiful cover illustration, which is perfectly lovely on its own, is transformed into a winter blizzard when viewed through the vellum. The boys love it! (And I love looking out my window and seeing the inspiration for such illustrations in our fields and woods. What a Master Artist!)

And for the tummies:

I threw dinner together a few nights ago, and it turned out to be such a yummy meal that I thought I’d record it here for my future reference. I sort of pictured a Whole Foods salad we used to buy, and headed in that direction.

Kale, Butternut Squash, and Quinoa
Serves 4 as a main dish

For the squash:
Peel and dice one large butternut squash. Toss on foil-lined rimmed pan with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Roast at 425 for about 40 minutes or until camelized, tossing every 15 minutes. Drizzle with a bit of maple syrup, and set aside.

For the quinoa:
While squash is roasting, bring 1 cup of quinoa, 2 cups of water, and 1 tsp of salt, and 1/2 tsp of thyme to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

For the kale:
In large pan, saute one chopped onion in olive oil until soft (or beginning to brown, if you’re like me and lose track of things like onions.) Add 4 cloves of minced garlic and 1 tsp of thyme; saute till fragrant. Add one bunch of kale — stems removed and chopped. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp of salt, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and a splash of water. Stir, then cover over medium-low heat, till kale is cooked.

Stir squash, quinoa, and 1/2 cup of dried cranberries into the kale mixture. Squeeze half a lemon over the whole thing, and ta-da! A meal fit for an Whole Foods fan.