Friday, April 20, 2007


One of the things I love most about homeschooling is time. As busy and sometimes harried as my days may be...or at least feel to me...we still have so much time.

Since we don't have to get up and go anywhere on a daily basis, we have time in the mornings. Time to let a baby sleep in without invading her warm, cuddly space and pull her out to brace against New England winter mornings. Time to let a highly distractable pre-schooler develop executive functioning skills without the daily harassment of getting badgered into shoes in less than 20 minutes. Time to answer half of the twenty million questions that a deep-thinking adult in little boy skin has to ask. And to have an extra cup of coffee.

Most of the time, my days are unbelievably busy. Even my mother-in-law says so. But she's always been the best of mother-in-laws, has never criticized a single thing I've ever done, and has been unfailingly supportive. I want to be my mother-in-law when I'm a mother-in-law. So she might not be the best person to critically analyse my sense of the industrially hygenic. And even though I get a lot done with a lot left undone, there's still time.

There's time to have conversations with Dog, the oldest, about which came first...iconic characters such as the Eastern cultures use and the Egyptians left for us to see or phonetic-based alphabets and how the age of global networking affects languages that are still character-based, if any. Or to analyze the exploitative motives and techniques of any given commercial hawking the latest groove that is absolutely essential to happiness. Or discuss Smeagol's motivations in the beginning, middle, and end of the journey. Or theorize exactly how many times a sword can be folded in crafting as the Samauri did. Or just listen to him wax enthusiastic about an outstanding sequence in TMNT. Some things you don't have to share an absolute appreciation for. Just nod.

There's time to make an apron for Bug, who is starting to end up in the kitchen, wanting to wash dishes and help cook. Time to discuss the compatibility of being an artist and a chemist at the same time. To analyze the chemistry of baking, of seeds sprouting, of fermented foods. When I said to the van occupants in general, "Remind me to buy some salt and nutmeg out of the co-op cabinet when we get to church today," it was Bug who answered, "Oh, so you can make muffins, right?" Six years old and he has my recipes down.

Yep. There's still time. Time to find that narding control to my pressure cooker that lay nestled at the bottom of the snow drift. Don't ask. I don't want to talk about it.

There's still time to discuss the comparative merits of pink and purple with Princess, my youngest, who is starting to also express profound thoughts of her own that have nothing to do with regency matters or color coordination. Time to help her swaddle her babies and tuck them into her sling so she can get on with the business of her day while nursing her babies. Or set her up with water colors and let her imagination run wild.

All of these things happen while my hands are busy. Busy cleaning. Busy cooking. Busy prepping. Busy redirecting conflicting personalities, highly convinced that their view of the situation is The Only Way it can be resolved. But there's still time.

And I'm always looking for time-savers. Fast Food is out for us, so I'm always looking for ways to make "fast food" versions of scratch food. Fried chicken fingers/nuggets are probably the quintessential fast food and my little philistines have no less love for them than other kids their ages. There are some things that I make that I never worry about appealing to anyone outside of my family and my "chicken sticks" are one of those things.

Chicken Sticks

Chicken breasts
1-2 cups tapioca starch flour
1-2 tablespoons seasoned salt
plastic bag
squirt bottle of water
1 lb lard or palm shortening

In plastic bag, mix up starch flour and seasoned salt. Slice breasts into medium thin fingers. Dump the fingers into plastic bag and shake until well coated. Remove and lay out on large platter or baking tray. Spritz with water bottle until the surface of the flour is damp and pasty. Refrigerate strips for a few hours or overnight; overnight is better since the final product will be crispier and less soggy.

Heat oil to frying temperature and deep fry strips for 3-4 minutes, depending on crisp preferences. Ready for Hobbits of all sizes to enjoy. No one misses trips to the Golden Arches, unless it is to rhapsodize about the playscapes.

The beauty of this recipe is that chicken breasts can be pre-sliced and frozen in meal-sized proportions and defrosted as needed. They can be prepped ahead of time to be pulled out later in the day and a meal is ready in five minutes. My version of fast food and time-saving cooking.

That leaves more time in my day. Time enough to instill what we believe and what we value into our children. These days, Dog does things like pick up someone else's mess or give his brother a dollar out of his own wallet for spending while Bug is having some quality time out with Dad. Or voluntarily owning up to a wrong-doing. Bug gives me hugs when things get too much and I sit down and cry. And Princess remembers to ask for prayer in Sunday School for her uncles with terminal cancer. That's when I'm really thankful for the time we have.

Time enough to bop through the house, plugged into my CD player, and polishing my ASL interpretation of Chris Rice's "Nonny, Nonny" while thrilling to the idea of this life being just the first sentence of eternity.

Bug was exploring the dynamics of magnets the other day. Holding his huge horseshoe magnet in his hand, he sucked up all of the widgey bits into mid-air. He turned to me and said, "When Jesus comes back to get us, He's going to use a magnet just like this."

That's exactly right, Sweetie.

I'm acutely aware of it washing away from me, this time thing, but I'm glad I still have so much more of it to look forward to.

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