Scenes from the McGaugh House this week:

Earlier this week, Katie helped to make Italian meatballs and our family tomato sauce recipe passed along from my mom.

We had some basil left over from our tomato sauce, so we made a big batch of pesto. I could almost live on basil pesto… And the kiddos both love to snack on toasted pignoli.

Katie is an experienced pasta maker…

…but Eric is still learning, although he has watched many times. He liked best to sit in my lap and turn the crank, where he could reach it.

Although, he also loved to play with the fettuccine as it came out of the machine. There was flour EVERYWHERE after this pasta making session, by the way. Truly everywhere. Well, almost…

We also had an outdoor lunch picnic with the kiddos in the warm, springlike air: we love days that we can spend almost entirely outside, soaking up all that sunshine goodness.

I made risotto for the first time, and it turned out to be straightforward—and super comforting in taste and texture. Our risotto was a pea and parmesan risotto, and we used five cups of our homemade chicken stock, which felt quite efficient. As an added bit of instruction, I had Katie compare and contrast the Arborio rice with our basmati and other rices. We use cooking for just about every kind of lesson (math, science, art, language)—the kitchen is a natural place to learn. We served our risotto with a lemon roasted chicken. I bought this chicken on sale for $4.82 (normally $9.40). I always serve a big meal from our roasted chickens, and then I pick the carcass to death to produce shredded chicken for use in a second meal, sometimes even a third. After the carcass is picked, we make chicken stock—which we then never have to spend money to buy. We use every bit of the chicken, so for $4.82 plus one onion and the lemons from our tiny backyard tree, a roasted chicken is really a way to extend our food budget.

Katie and I spent some time this week playing board games, exploring old school favorites like my childhood Lite-Brite, schoolwork, and reading. She also helped me to clean out several drawers and cupboards during Eric’s naps this week.

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The kiddos and I collaborated to invent a little game—“trash can ball.” Katie had the balls, Eric rolled the clean trash can on its side, and I came up with the idea of kicking or rolling the ball in. We’ve been having fun with it, and all of us can play. Toys are awesome and often educational, but these good old-fashioned, made-with-whatever-we-have games shave a special magic to the.

Eric has had me read this vintage Jean Cushman/Eloise Wilkin book to him every night for the past couple of weeks, and he loved it even before now. In fact, it was one of the first books months ago to capture his interest. First published in 1959,  it tells the story of Martha and Bobby helping their mommy around the house and at the market. I am a huge, huge, huge fan of Eloise Wilkin’s illustrations (I try to collect them, in fact), and the kiddos and I love the way she captures children. She is a magical illustrator, and the children evoke a different, beautiful time. Eric seems to enjoy that there is a brother and sister in this book, and he relates to helping with the housework and laundry and the cooking. Every night at bedtime the three of us sit in his rocking chair, read our books, and sing lullabies. Special time.

Another of Eric’s favorites right now is The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss (illus. Crockett Johnson). Both of the children love how the little boy’s belief in himself proves to be well-founded. Every time I reach the part, “And then, one day…a carrot came up…” and we see the first rumble of dirt around the leaves, Katie gets a sweet grin on her face.

We’ve done better this week at setting a reading routine. It has taken awhile for Eric to connect with the reading process. Katie and I have always read for hours, even when she was in her first year of life. With Eric, it has mostly been a book here and there—and then he’d be off and running again. Believe me when I say, this had me panicked for a little while, especially since I was used to Katie’s way. Then, six months ago, we started reading in Katie’s bed (which is up against a wall). He was able to listen, but still bob around without falling off, and slowly he started connecting to a few books here and there, especially We Help Mommy and Goodnight Moon. We then added a couple of books before bed. Still, though, it was a bit hit and miss with respect to what caught his attention. Now, we’re in a routine, though, and we read nearly every morning after breakfast from many, many more diverse books—and thankfully, the same level of book Katie enjoyed at his age. He also reads at bedtime, so he has two reading sessions a day.

Katie almost always has four major reading sessions a day: Eric’s two, plus one when Eric naps (used partly to work on her own reading skills) and another before her bedtime. I finally feel that we’re where we ought to be with respect to this. It felt like one or both children was getting shortchanged for awhile, but I am loving our new reading routine.

The other “new” interest of Eric’s is to watch taped episodes of The Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) on The Food Network. Sometimes we watch in the morning before breakfast. He fusses and says, “More, more” when she breaks for commercial and before I get to the remote. He seriously loves watching her more than he likes to see Sesame Street. We talk about what tools she uses that we also use, and what recipes look good. Katie likes to watch, also. The poignant thing for me is that, in one of the last conversations I ever had with my Uncle Eric, we talked about how The Barefoot Contessa was one of our mutually favorite shows. He mentioned specifically how much he liked the clinking of her measuring spoons and cups on her countertop—I will never forget that. So to see little Eric loving to watch her is both surreal and beautiful. Obviously, she appeals to a wide audience!

Finally, one day Katie said she wanted to make a grand painting/mixed media project:

Paints, fabric, glitter, paper….

A little while later…

Katie is truly her happiest when she is creating art. She sings and hums contentedly to herself, and is in her own world. Love it.

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