Posted by: stacylynn12 | October 24, 2012

Nothing Days

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Well it finally feels like fall here in Seattle. I always look forward to fall so I can make soup. There is something very wrong about soup when it’s warm and sunny. Up until recently it has been more like southern California outside our door than Seattle. And I’m not complaining. Boy has it been good. It’s been like getting an extra month of vacation or a check in the mail you weren’t expecting. The sun just kept coming out every, single day.

On days like that I can’t stand to have our doors closed. I keep them wide open as long as I can. Closing them makes me feel claustrophobic and edgy. My parents were just visiting from Maine and they tend to run a little colder than we do. It brought me straight back to childhood… I’ll quote my dad, with an emphatic tone…“Close the door! What do you live in a barn?”. Except with the endearing Maine accent it would have come out more like “bahn” than barn.

Anyway, it finally rained. All day. And I made soup. When the soup starts simmering on the stove, it becomes ok to close the doors. To turn inward and slow down. Ahhhh…. Slowing down. This is the eternal challenge in our fast paced world. The kids have been craving some down time. The other day Joshua pleaded with us for a “nothing day”. And he meant it. When our neighbor came over to the backyard to play he lost it and melted down into a classic 4 year old tantrum-ing heap. “But you said it could be a nothing day!”

I get it. I like nothing days too. I guess that’s one reason we went traveling for a year. It’s not that we actually did nothing for 365 days, in fact most days were quite full. But there was generally nothing we had to do. We directed the flow of our daily life. Back home we generally do not and this has possibly been the hardest transition.

Randy returned back to work shortly after we arrived in Seattle so he’s been dealing with this for a while but for the kids and I, September hit like a pre-dawn alarm clock on a snuggly Sunday morning. We’d spent the summer doing… well… nothing. We did have swimming lessons for an hour each morning but that was about it. The rest of our days were filled with playing in the backyard. Good old fashion, unstructured, creative play. So when school started and all of a sudden there was an expectation that we be somewhere at a certain time, well it’s been hard. I know… Poor us.

Bodhi goes to school 5 days a week from 9:30 until 3:30. He has tutoring one morning a week before school at the ungodly hour of 7:45. He plays soccer and has practice one night a week and a game on Saturday. And he has homework. Oh how I abore the homework. We don’t get home from school until after 4 pm. The kids go to bed between 7:30 and 8pm. That leaves a precious 3 hours each day to do “nothing” and part of that is taken up with dinner, bedtime routines and now… homework. When it comes right down to it, Bodhi has as little as 1 hour each day to just be. Josh’s schedule is a little lighter… thank goodness. He’s only 4 after all. Randy is gone from the house a minimum of 11 hours each day, including commute, lunch and work time.

So what about all this? I imagine lots of you reading this have similar schedules. There’s nothing special or even interesting about our daily routine.

But it is interesting that we have evolved as a culture to where it is “normal” for families to be away from each other. It’s typical for young adults to go off to college and move somewhere (sometimes far) away from their hometown and family. It’s expected that young children will go to preschool and then on to kindergarten. Parents often work long hours away from the home.

Contrast this to several places we visited during our year of traveling where many families live together under one roof for generations – and by families I mean aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. There may be a family compound so that when one does grow up and move out, it means moving next door rather than across the country. Work is often centered around the home particularly in a subsistence economy. If a person does work outside the home it is usually close by, allowing families to share meals together and of course commute times can be the time it takes to walk the trail into the village. Children may or may not go to school and if they do it’s typically for less time than here in the US. And there certainly aren’t the vast quantities of extracurricular activities.

These are large generalizations, I know.

So again… What about all this?

Well, generally when we see someone for the first time since we’ve returned from our trip they ask us some variation of this question… “So? What’s it like to be back?”

I’ll tell ya. It’s hard being back. Not the kind of hard like, having sick children hard or living in poverty hard. Take this with a grain of salt people. But it is hard hearing the kids talk about how they miss their Dad because he’s gone too long at work. Or hearing Bodhi say he doesn’t want to go to school because it’s too long and he wants to be with his family more. Or hearing Josh beg for a nothing day because he’s plum worn out from the schedule we are keeping.

We have choices of course. We didn’t have to sign up for soccer. We could homeschool if we really wanted to. Unfortunately Randy has to go to work everyday and there’s not a whole lot we can do about that, at least in the short term. We’ve been having lots of fun too though. The kids have enjoyed soccer and both Randy and I value athletics and some degree of extra curricular activities. We’re not quite ready to throw in the towel and homeschool. So what’s a post year of traveling together family to do?

Soccer will be over next week for this fall and we are going to take a break from activities until the new year. We’ll do our best to keep the schedule as clear as possible to allow for lots of nothing days. We will eat soup and continue to ponder how to keep ourselves out of the “rat race” without leaving home for a year to do so.

Got any ideas? If so, write to us and tell us how you do it. We’d love to know.

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And now… A Recipe

Harvest Bisque – quite possibly the best soup in the world.

1 pound butternut squash
5 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 cup half and half
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Peel, seed and cut squash into 1″ cubes. Place in a heavy pot with the chicken stock. Cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 min. If you have an immersion blender, use it to purée the squash and stock. Otherwise, transfer the squash to a blender, mix then transfer back to the pot with the stock.

In another pot, melt the butter then add the flour and curry and stir until smooth. Add to the puréed squash and stir it in until it starts to thicken. Reduce heat and add the half and half. Do not allow the soup to boil after this point. Add lime juice, salt and pepper.

Garnish with a paper thin, sliced lime and serve.

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Notes:

This recipe is adapted from the Simply Classic cookbook put out by the Junior League of Seattle.
To make it gluten free use a GF flour blend… It works great!
If you don’t have white pepper, it’s fine to use black, finely ground.

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Responses

  1. Gotta love the Harvest Bisque, It’s a great recipe. It is hard. Jim and I were just talking about how sad it is that we have a three year-old who already lives for the weekends. He wakes up asking if it’s Friday yet. Having both of us full time workers means that we see Jasper for only about three to four hours a day during the week. It also means that Jasper will never have an un-structured summer. He will always be in daycare. That’s sad and is not the way I wanted to raise a child. I’m happy to hear ideas from others out there.

    • Maria,

      Lots of thoughts! More offline… XO

      • Thanks, all ideas are good to hear.

  2. Thanks for stopping to see us at Tracy’s. Unfortunately the nice Seattle weather had vacated by the time we got there. Ruby and Clyde were relearning the “barn door” move. We have returned to the do nothing lifestyle of retirees. Too bad we had to wait and work so long to be this free. But we are loving it. And it’s warm here in Florida. Come visit.

    • Thanks! It was lovely to see you both too. Rest assured that if we make it to Florida, we will swing by!

  3. There is just something about family card games. Chandler spends all day in school, plays football until 6:00, comes home to eat dinner, shower and do homework. Then he asks to play a family card game before bed so that (in his words) he has something to look forward to at the end of his day. It doesn’t take long, but means the world to both boys. We like hearts. (minus the beer) Miss you guys!

    • We’ve been into games too lately! Josh loves to stack the deck in UNO to assure his victory! Miss you too.

  4. Welcome back Stacy! I hear you. We weren’t even traveling all the time on our 2 years away and it is weird to be back to this life. Your registering for swim lessons made me laugh and also grimace. For the moment we have opted out of that particular nightmare by paying more for lessons at Safe N Sound on Westlake. But I hate driving over there, and before long my guilt about not yet working will probably drive me to different more reasonably priced choices. I do miss working after 2 years, but I’d like to find something less than full time. What’s your game plan? Hope you are well. -Suzanne

    • Thanks Suzanne! I’d heard you were in NZ… Didn’t know you we’re back too! Game plan? Well, I’ve been working on that all year. Some things percolating but nothing certain yet. Right now just trying to remain underwhelmed. :). Welcome back to you too!

  5. Hi Stacie. Laura and I have been having this conversation most nights as kindergarten has been a big (and difficult) transition for us. We really like our school, but it’s still *school* for 6+ hours a day. We did look at a couple of more alternative schools that would have at least been half day (or 9-1) kindergarten and/or had more of a play based philosophy, but for various reasons those didn’t work for us. Now we are wondering if maybe we really should have (maybe still should) seriously consider homeschooling, at least for a couple of years. No decisions yet, but definitely find that our orientation is not totally aligned with the idea of a traditional school/school day, especially for kids who are 5. Would love to talk more with you about this!


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