Day 17: Phonics and potatoes

Have you ever stumbled across a gem of a sanity-saving idea, happily used it for awhile, and then lost the idea somewhere deep in the cluttered recesses of your mind? (Please say yes– I’d hate to think it is only me who has to learn and relearn things.)

I dusted off one such idea today, and boy, did it help our school day go better. It also resulted in a whole heap of cooking, which suited my family just fine. Despite what many people assume (those who haven’t read my book anyway!), I tend towards impatience. I especially struggle when faced with new readers painfully sounding out multi-syllabic words or kids who repeatedly forget where the decimal belongs when multiplying.

A year or two ago, I discovered that those tough moments are not nearly so silent-scream-inducing if I find something for my hands to do as I listen. Maybe I have a touch of ADD, but it is tremendously calming to be peeling potatoes or kneading bread as a child works through his school next to me. I’m still there to lend a hand, but I have the feeling of being gainfully occupied even if a kid spends a bit of time spinnning his wheels.

Somehow I forgot that trick over this summer. But today as I walked kids through various subjects, I cooked up a storm. It was wonderful how much more relaxed I felt about the fact that school was proceeding at a snail’s child’s pace.


Breakfast: Today was definitely a day of unusual food combinations. I made polenta for breakfast and topped it with this lovely apple cake . (I made the cake at 10:00 last night, because apparently some days I just can’t get enough time in the kitchen!

Lunch: Leftover tortilla soup served alongside the strangest fritatta ever. Along with the normal eggs, onions, garlic, peppers and cheese, this fritatta contained tomatoes, pumpkin blossoms fresh from the garden, and the last of the leftover mac and cheese. Yeah, strange, but way good. All it needed was a tad bit more cheese. BUt I’m down to my last pound of cheese, so I’m being parsimonious with it.

Dinner: This afternoon I had myself a cooking jamboree. I tried out a Wolfgang Puck recipe for pumpkin ravioli. (Majorly time-consuming and only OK tasting– I think it needs a meat sauce, maybe). I made a big pot of beef stew. (Excellent) And I tried a recipe for a cheesy grated zucchini casserole that I am going to tweak a bit and hopefully share later. My family enjoyed it but I was envisioning it more biscuit-like…we’ll see what I come up with.


  1. Don’t forget migas. You usually have all the stuff on hand for that, and with those fresh eggs coming in, it’s an economical way to feed everyone. Plus you can use up some of that garden produce and probably figure out some leftovers to toss into the mix.

  2. I try to remember this same idea when my son has a lego piece in his hand as he reads his world history to me. Somehow keeping his hands occupied, helps his brain focus on what he is doing.

    Along with cooking like you, I find crocheting helpful too.

  3. Hahaha! I loved reading your description of yourself listening to the “child’s pace”. I completely identify!

  4. BRILLIANT. I feel bread coming on . . .

  5. I’ve made pumpkin ravioli and it’s delicious with a brown butter sage sauce. You just let the butter get golden brown (but not burn) and then add in some fresh sage. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it…

  6. Do you have trouble with them being distracted by what you are doing?

  7. Hi Rachel,
    Sure, they occasionally get distracted for a minute, but I am doing it with kids in the 11-14 year old range. They know that their free time doesn’t come until they get their school done, so they are fairly focused…

  8. Note to self: acquire iron skillet.

  9. Oh my goodness God Bless you. I can learn a lot from you. I could use some sanity saving ideas.

  10. I agree! We’ve been knitting hats on those circular looms for a charity our neighbor runs, and I learned that listening to those painfully slow new readers is SO much more pleasant if I knit while they do it. Otherwise I use up all my energy trying not to scream, “CAT! It’s CAT! Just like when you saw it on the LAST page!”

  11. Hi Mary,
    Definitely there are times I need to do something as well, however with two babies that need holding and feeding and changing and playing, my hands are usually glad to get a rest and just listen for a bit.

    Angela Michelle: I just burst out laughing when I read your comment. Glad to know I’m not the only one who has to fight the urge to not throw the book across the room! 🙂


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