Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Muffins for Dictators

Was going to post muffin recipes, since that's become a Tuesday tradition with me and F--drop the big kids at school and race home to bake (and eat) muffins. Except today's muffins turned out just a tad too healthy for my taste. The kids do seem to like them, but I think they're overtly healthy, even for muffins. A cup of flax meal, for starters. Two cups of grated carrots. F fought heartily against the carrots. She was positively dictatorial in her rejection of them, even though I assured her she would never notice, had eaten beets in cake very recently, and would appreciate the added moistness. I must have said, "But they'll be so moist, with the carrots!" about twenty times, to which F said, in so many words, "I'm not buying it." In the end, the carrots went in. And the muffins weren't especially moist. So we both won, sort of.

It was a dictatorial three-year-old morning, frankly. Today, she started "school," her school, that is, which is the Beckett school's early childhood music programme, a 50 minute, once-per-week extravaganza of drumming and singing and learning quite an impressive amount of music theory (the big kids are graduates). Upon arriving back home this morning, after dropping the big kids off, she raced inside and packed her backpack for "school." She then went to the door, and demanded we leave NOW. I explained that class started at 2pm. "When we go?" she asked. "Around 1:45," I said. She heard me say, "Now. We leave now." "We go now?" "Not for about [check imaginary watch] four and a half more hours." "We leave now, Mommy." [Stern tone.] This went on. This went on and on. Distractions were only semi-useful. It always came back to: "Now we leave, Mommy!" Not a question. Time, to three-year-olds, is clearly of little conceptual interest.

I'm just back from two hours "off." What am I saying? No quotation marks necessary. Two hours off. Two hours out of the house, with sibs, no children in sight. But the frantic effort that precedes those two hours must be seen to be believed. I was over-seeing home reading, facilitating a playdate, cooking supper, preparing lunches, breastfeeding, shoving essentials into backpacks, storing CSA food, all while listening to the radio and doing the day's dishes (so as not to leave Kevin with too many). I cleared the supper table before Kevin was done eating (sorry, hon). And then, suddenly it was 7pm, my bro Karl arrived, and we walked out the door to ... quiet, to no one requesting, suggesting, demanding or tattling upon. Ahhh. I enjoyed those two hours. But here's the thing. I enjoy just as much getting back home, and being Mama again. Okay, maybe I'm especially enjoying this because Kevin got everyone to bed, and the house is perfectly silent now, just the sound of peaceful, breathing children, and my own fingers typing.

Shoot--that title is now better than this post. My apologies. If I ever make a really good muffin, I'll let you know. Or let me know if you've already cracked that particular code. Wanted: Muffins for (small) dictators, please.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Running Away from Home

Thanks for the laundry ideas. With a couple of rainy days this week, I hung clothes indoors, and though not right in the kids' rooms, I put the clothes whose destination was upstairs on a rack in the hallway upstairs, and diapers and downstairs items down. Handy. The sorting takes place while the laundry's still damp. Need a better laundry rack (or two) as I'm currently using backs of chairs, radiators, and railings in addition to this bulky, flying-machine-design wobbly metal rack upstairs ... but Ikea doesn't encourage online shopping, apparently, at least not for drying devices. They do have a couple of cool ones, for example, one that folds out from the wall, then back in again when not in use. But we'd have to get to Burlington or Vaughn or North York. Or I could just pick up another cheap wooden one like I have and enjoy downstairs. Canadian Tire special, if I'm remembering correctly.

Ah, laundry.

At the library storytime this morning at the WPL. The place was a zoo. Toddlers everywhere. The librarian is doing a good job, seems to like children (this has been a problem with WPL children's librarians in the past--you'd think they'd have to like children, but apparently it's not a job requirement). There are fun songs and activities in addition to stories, and F is entranced. Even baby CJ was pretty enthralled, though perhaps as much by the sight of toddlers stealing other toddlers' stuffed animals and trodding upon each other. You can tell which I was paying more attention to. Storytime isn't really for the moms. I can put in a few more years. It's good people-watching, in any case. I like seeing the mothers trying to match up who belongs to whom--the accusing glances--is that your kid wreaking havoc and disaster while you browse the stacks? My kids were angelic, so I could feel all superior and successful--temporarily, of course. Parenting has a way of keeping one humble. See below.

Went for a run yesterday after supper. So so so good for the soul. I'd had a pretty magnificent meltdown mere hours before (see above re staying humble) when I'd tried to lie down on the couch before supper and was instantly swarmed and fought over by my children, which I tolerated for about fifteen minutes before essentially losing my mind, hopping off the couch, and literally running out the front door. On my way out, I accused Kevin of something (he was there--I didn't leave them alone in the house), can't quite recall what. Terrific. Fabulosity. As I stormed out the front door wearing crocs and socks, I realized our neighbours were on their front porch across the street, so I tried to look as though I weren't muttering to myself--as though I weren't Running Away. Walked with fake calm to the back of the house and stood in the yard for about two minutes. I felt like my children were saying--legitimately--"You don't give us enough!" And I wondered--maybe I really don't. I'm out in the kitchen baking for school lunches, cooking supper, washing dishes, and no, not being with them at all. You know, just being, being with them. 

Worse, the guilt. Because all I really wanted was to NOT BE with anyone, children included, and NOT DO anything. Two minutes elapsed, I returned inside, still upset, now angry with myself, still tired, with all the afternoon chores still waiting to be done. So I listened to Stephane Dion take phone-in calls on Rex Murphy's program, while Kevin ferried the children to the basement to paint. (Vote for Stephane!). Supper got made, school lunches too, supper got eaten, then Kevin said, "Why not go out for a walk?" So I threw on my running shoes and went for a run instead. Thought I'd be too tired to enjoy it, but my body didn't feel tired at all. It felt like it had been needing to run all week. It felt euphoric. I might try it again tonight after supper. Besides, when I returned home, Kevin had done the dishes, AB and baby CJ were in the bath, and A was washing F's hair in the shower! Yes, they seemed to survive quite nicely without me. Let that be a lesson to me.

But I must sign off on that note. Because baby CJ is up from his nap and F has been entertaining him in his crib for quite long enough.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Inaugural Car Ride: A Portrait

Supper eaten. Table cleared. Dishes washed. Sun going down. Kids in basement with Kevin, going squirrelly. "When can we go for a ride?" How about now? Children racing back and forth between porch and driveway. "Open the car! Open the car!" Right. Car seats. Children dragging car seats off the porch and toward the car. Children scrambling over each other's heads to be the first into the new car. Children shouting. Driveway littered with car seats. Kevin sticking car seats into position, Mama changing her mind about who will sit where, Kevin rearranging car seats. Mama incredibly grumpy. Not helping. Finally, seats in position. Mama straps baby in. Baby instantly stops chewing odd-looking odd-textured stuffed duck (where did it come from? why is it suddenly a favourite chew toy, when he's drowning in options?). Begins screaming. Mama struggles in half-light to fasten straps. Baby screams, with conviction. Children cheer as lowered DVD screen comes to life. Cheer subsides when no movie is instantly forthcoming. Mama snaps final buckle. "Are you going to sit back there?" "I guess so. He's really upset." Mama straps self in. Proof that three can sit comfortably in the middle row. Plenty of leg-room. No time to appreciate, as Kevin backs out of driveway, and new uproar arises. DVD has started up, but won't play. Baby howls. Mama fiddles blindly with controls. "You have it!" But she doesn't. "I think that's the right one, Mommy!" But it isn't. "Try over there!" But she has. Kevin jeopardizes safety to paw around for the remote. The new car has a remote? Baby turning purple with rage. Another cheer erupts. Mama has inadvertently landed on the right button. Paddington Bear begins to play. "I can't hear it! Turn up the volume!" Mama spoils success by poking more buttons. Apparently volume can't be controlled in the rear. Kevin fixes volume, nearly runs red light. Baby shrieks. "Why isn't the movie playing?" Mama lands on correct button again. Kevin hands back remote, pulls into parking lot. "Why are we going here?" Here is Kevin's office. He's dropping off supplies for scotch club. We've travelled about five city blocks. "I'll just leave the car running, then? And be right back?" Yes, please come back. Mama plays peekaboo with baby. Moods improve. Eldest son plays with overhead light. Immensely pleased. Baby laughing. Peekaboo a riot. Mama fiddles with remote. Is promptly scolded by children, and tucks device into side pocket where it is likely to be forgotten. Kevin returns. "Well." "Well." "Should we just go home?" Drive back five blocks. Mama plays peekaboo with increasingly hysterical baby. Kevin shows off nifty high-tech features, such as rearview camera that kicks in when the vehicle is in reverse. It looks potentially confusing. Isn't that what mirrors are for? GPS shows car travelling down familiar streets. Kevin risks life and limb to demonstrate how map on screen can zoom in, and then out. Mama wonders whether screen can be turned off. Kevin fiddles around. Then decides no. Vehicle pulls into driveway, parks. Uproar erupts. "Can't we keep watching the movie?" Children have seen movie approximately five billion times previously. Theme song of Paddington Bear so embedded in Mama's brain, she finds herself humming it on odd occasions. Too darn catchy. The answer is no. The answer is no! The answer is: it's time to floss those cavity-laden teeth and go to bed! The answer satisfies few in the audience. Baby begins howling afresh. Children stumble lacklustrely out of new car. Mama and Kevin exchange heartfelt sighs. Family enters home.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Later

Apologies for the naval-gazing in previous post. Usually Kevin gets to suffer those thoughts; and trust me, those are thoughts I go round and round ad naseum, in some form or another, like, sigh, all the time. Years go by and I'm still going round them.

Or they're going round me.

We have a new car! We are now a one-car family! But we upgraded. This vehicle actually seats seven normal-sized humans, with car seats too, which the minivan only pretended it was able to do. It sat six humans and one Gumby.

Whoops, my hamburger is cooking up faster than expected. Friday! We made it! And I've reached my exclamation point quota! My computer will shut me down if I use even one more!

Writing Day

Or writing morning and half an afternoon, to be more precise. It's come to a natural end. My babysitter is about to leave, and I finished working on the story, so it's blah blah blog time. This story is three years old. Amazing, but I wrote it the fall after F was born, and have tinkered with it unsuccessfully ever since. Think I solved the major problems today. This is a reminder of how incredibly patient the writing life requires one to be. It has to be, far and away, the toughest lesson to learn and to keep in mind when struggling to "be" a writer. Virtually nothing is immediate. That's why writing this blog feels like cheating, somehow, way too easy.

I still put myself in quotation marks when it comes to the "writer" facet of my identity. I'm not sure what qualifies one, exactly, to claim to be a writer. Yah, I write things. I make things up and write them down. I've published a little bit, here and there, though not regularly. Does publishing make one a writer? Readers? Or can it be a pure pursuit of craft? Stephen Harper would likely see that as sinfully futile, pursuing something with absolutely no monetary or worldly value; but I can't just throw blame on our prime minister, 'cause I feel that way sometimes too. Sometimes I wonder--if I were to write just one truly wonderful story in my entire lifetime of writing, would that satisfy me? Because, quite honestly, even one truly wonderful story would be a lot of ask for. But I'm not sure. Maybe being satisfied is the opposite of what I'm pursuing. Maybe satisfaction would kill the desire to try.

I spill words. I want to. They tumble out of me. I love putting them on the page and moving them around, playing with syntax, tense; it feels like play. The act of writing itself can occasionally be frustrating, but mostly, almost always, it's happy time. I am taken out of myself. So maybe the end result is immaterial? Could that be true? I'm thinking in comforting cliches about the journey versus the destination.

But truthfully, that destination matters to me, too. Yes, I do want to write really wonderful stories. It's almost terrifying to admit, and feels both arrogant and ridiculous all at once. Gives me the same feeling as those dreams where I'm wandering around naked (somewhere like a mall or downtown), not noticing until far too late.

Okay, wake up Carrie! Must, must, must get back into myself--and in time to organize for the school run. Tonight we're also going to walk to the Rec Centre to get an idea how long this will take, because swim lessons start next Friday after school. After the Rec Centre run, I need to get to Nina's buying club. And then make a fine plain supper out of frozen hamburger (Nina's), leftover fresh tomato sauce (CSA), and ww macaronis (leftover from last night's supper; not local).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Least Favourite Hour, Take Two

Wanted to write an update on today's Least Favourite Hour, because it really wasn't so bad. We had a pleasant walk home (always one of the best parts of the day), chatting about Safety Village and forts and French (AB was apparently cheered this morning when I assured her that other children in her class were also not fluent in French, and in fact, that if she already knew French, she wouldn't need school to teach her. Poor kid. She's a bit of a perfectionist. Wonder where she gets that from).

When we walked in the door, A was very excited about opening and displaying the contents of his backpack--which turned out to be all kinds of thrilling material about fire safety (field trip to a pretend burning building, apparently). A was insistent that we immediately check all fire alarms, and forevermore test them weekly; and that we make a family escape plan. All wonderful advice, I am sure, which I recall fretting over, oh, about twenty-five years ago: My bedroom has no handy rope ladder for escape! My family refuses to sit down and make an escape plan! Our house is a certain fire trap! We're doomed!

First, I assured the kids that our fire alarms are in good working order--in fact, they go off regularly over cooking incidents.

And then, instead of heading toward the kitchen for the lunch-/supper-making quest, we ran some fun pretend fire drills in the living room, acting out potential scenarios (besides, baby CJ was starving and I needed to sit down to nurse him; many things I can do, but nursing while cooking is not one of them). A rolled on the floor to demonstrate precisely how he would extinguish the flames, were he on fire ("strangling" the fire, according to AB). His escape plan goes something like this: "First, I put the back of my hand to the door, and if it's hot, I open my window and kick out my screen--" (here is where he was interrupted by his mother, "Whatever you do, don't jump out that window!" [his window is two-and-a-half storeys above flat concrete]. "No, I'll grab a big blanket and wave it. And scream." "You can yell for someone to call 911," I suggested. "I can cry really loud, too," says A. "Maybe as loud as I can yell."

AB also had a fun surprise waiting in her bag. "I have a pink piece of paper, Mom," she says.

"Oh great," sayeth I. "I'll bet it's a lice notice."

Yup. Lice in her classroom. Last year we got about one of these pink pieces of paper every other week for months at a time. You have to sign and send back confirming that you've gone through your child's hair. So we got out a pick, and went through the hair, A's too. If you're familiar with my kids, you will know that they have a lot of hair, and it's tangly too. It took forever. And was oddly entertaining. While I didn't find lice, I did find a few odd things that I otherwise would not have. Like what looked like sparkly blue pencil shavings in both kids' heads. Weird, huh.

Anyway, by this time a good half hour had escaped, (who knew--fire safety and lice notices equal good times), and the kids ran happily to the backyard (oh fleeting summery weather, how I will miss you), and baby CJ hung out in his gigantic bouncy device, and I whipped up some new lunches (by Friday, my inspiration is running thin; but hey, hummus and pita is a healthy option), and made supper.

Which my family is clamouring for this very instant.

Least Favourite Hour

I've become frantically reaquainted with my least favourite time of day this past week; that being, the hour or so between arriving home from school and suppertime. Kevin isn't home, the big kids are wound up from their days away, F has been craving her siblings' attention all day, and baby CJ becomes a little monkey child and desires utter attachment to his mama. We walk through that front door, and it's a shambles of work and chaos for the next hour or more, till Kevin arrives and I drag baby CJ out of the sling and pass him off. I use that hour to go through school bags for forms to be filled out (and money requested; I picture School like a giant maw, always hungry); to empty lunch boxes; to make the next day's lunch; and to start supper. Of course, in the midst of that work, I'm also trying to organize happy play (outside! go outside!), reprimand bad talk (why do they come home with the desire to say mean things to each other??), discover tidbits about the day (why a particular lunch item is untouched), and on and on.

Yesterday was this gorgeous warm afternoon, and all I really wanted was to go outside and lie on a blanket with baby CJ, who loves the outdoors, and watch the kids run around and play. They did go swing in their hammocks happily; but I couldn't lose that hour. The work needed to be done. Supper has to be eaten. Lunches have to be made. After-supper chores await. And if I don't get into those bags as soon as we walk through the door, I lose track of the forms, the library books, the squashed sandwiches; quite frankly, I forget otherwise, the contents of those bags disappears from my consciousness, and then I'm confronted with surprises early the next morning, which is not a time of day when I'm good with surprises.

I'm a pretty organized person. Maybe I just need to get my head around re-organizing that hour, structuring my time differently, so that I can spend that hour really with the kids, not shouting from the sidelines. Or maybe I just need to accept that thus it shall be ...

But playgroup this morning was really really fun!!! I have been missing that weekly dose of adult conversation. It feels more relaxed without having to race off for half-day kindergarden, too. And I'm very well-caffeinated.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Penance

Obscure Canlit Mama sits before her computer on giant blue ball (instead of chair; supposed to be more comfortable, improve core strength; maybe does), with chattering baby underfoot (literally) and chattering toddler imagining with Little People (behind). Office doubles (triples?) as baby's changeroom, and toyroom. Computer and writing life is an afterthought. Ball takes up way less room than proper chair would. Plus core strength, abs, et cetera.

Obscure Canlit Mama has virtually no brain power this afternoon due to a collision of experiences, main one giving birth almost six months ago, and several other times previously in the past seven years, compounded more immediately by enjoying two hours out with sibs last night, way too much fun, such that OCMama returned home feeling invincible, and therefore slept poorly. Invincible perhaps wrong word choice. Maybe there's not a word for it. That feeling that comes from conversing with fellow adults for two whole hours without interruption. That feeling of being reminded that one can parry conversationally, with humour! with what passes for wit!, and that the topic of choice is politics and not people's heads being eaten up (a favourite with AB for reasons unknown and quite possibly unknowable, though perhaps psychologically interesting).

F is hungry and so OCMama will drag herself downstairs to seek sustenance and nurse baby who is now in arms and hammering upon wrist with small plastic figure.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Laundry, and Other Random Meditations

Morning meditation while hanging out laundry. There's something in this near-daily (seasonal) experience that I find soothing. It's certainly not laborious, just kind of rhythmical, picking out the pins, shaking out the fabric, hanging, repeat. I stand on the back porch and our clothesline is on a pulley, and the clothes swing out into the yard, under the trees. The air this morning was cool, birds were singing, behind me on the porch baby CJ was talking happily to himself in his gigantic plastic bouncy device (we haul this out of the basement for every baby; it's ugly and bulky and suitable for only a few months in a baby's life, but was already used when we got it for baby A, so has served its purpose well).

I'm looking ahead and wondering whether there will be some way to hang laundry indoors when the weather turns. Partly for energy-savings, partly to add moisture to our upstairs rooms, and partly because there's something that seems particularly wasteful about using a drier to do a job that the air will do naturally, given the opportunity.

Darn, I have a very fussy baby strapped to me in a sling as I type. As usual, thought I'd picked a good "Mommy time" moment, and as usual, Mommy time is, by definition, interrupted time. I should call it something else. Not-Mommy-time, maybe.

Okay, brief pause and she's back ... baby CJ is now sleeping in his playpen; all he needed was a quick nurse to put him over the edge. My thoughts feel very random today and unfocussed, but to add to the laundry meditation, I wonder whether it is actually being outdoors that makes that experience so soothing. Last winter, when I was very pregnant, I went for a long walk every evening around our neighbourhood, (by the end, when I was somewhat-less-than-dainty, I called it my nightly trudge) and it was the first winter that I felt connected to that season in a really positive way. Winter has always been dark, cold, interior; not unpleasant, but more hibernation than actual interaction with the season itself.

Seasons. We've entered autumn. I feel my own life on the edge of a seasonal change, from a time of intense focus on babies and toddlers, to something, not quite sure what, else. There's a Last Time sensation to many of the things I do with baby CJ. This time, the infant clothes have gone into a bag to give away, not back into the labelled boxes I keep in our attic for our babies-to-come. I have that simultaneous tug, forward and back; I'm excited and almost impatient to reach a new stage as a family (and an individual); and I'm nostalgic for what is passing right before me.

Oh, have to mention that my curries turned out fabulously yesterday, despite the spice mix-up (or, indeed, perhaps because of it!). We sat around the table extra-long, savouring the flavours, something for everyone to enjoy. These more formal evening meals have become very important to me, even though it requires more work. We sit longer, we talk, we relax in each other's company, we eat good food. Not sure what I'll have on offer tonight. I'm planning a pasta, with topping/sauce uncertain as of yet. I might stir-fry some tofu and whatever veggies arrive in our CSA. It needs to be simple and fast because I'll be trying to get out the door afterward for some real "not-Mommy-time" with my sibs.

One more random story from yesterday's truly Monday Monday. F's Chirp magazine arrived in the mail, so I suggested she read it on the way to pick the big kids up from school (anything to make that stroller ride more appealing). It came with some advertising, including a toy catalogue, apparently more exciting than the magazine itself, so F said baby CJ could "read" Chirp instead. Mama Fuzzy-Brain said, oh lovely, and marched gaily up the hill, meeting up with a friend and fellow parent on the way, and chatting merrily along. It wasn't till we'd reached the school grounds and I saw a dad glance into the stroller with an odd expression on his face that I thought to check on my babes. Oops. F was sound asleep, and baby CJ had eaten a large portion of Chirp magazine. A few damp papery flecks decorated his cheeks, but I could discover no wad in his mouth. Yup. He literally ate it.

But as with all of yesterday's Monday-ness, it seemed to do him no harm, and we all came out happy in the end.

And now I need to turn my attention to F and our Tuesday morning ritual of baking muffins together from her very own Toddler Cookbook.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday, Bloody Monday

I need more sleep. This was such a Monday morning. It seemed like others at the school drop-off were feeling the same way--Monday! Not ready! And that feeling of resignation, of oh yah, this school-thing is every weekday for many more months to come, that feeling of the novelty wearing off, was also in the air. I must start drinking my cup of coffee BEFORE heading out the door to school.

Uh oh. Thought I'd settled on a good time to write, but the monitor is flaring red with waking baby noises. That was a short nap.

After lunch I prepped for supper. Inspired by some pretty decent-looking naan bread in the grocery store (President's Choice), I decided to make curries. I'm soaking red lentils for dahl, and have chopped onions, garlic, added spices to the pots waiting on the stove for after school cooking. I'm also make a potato, eggplant, and leek curry (you've guessed it--those are the veggies left from last week's CSA), and those are chopped and ready to go too.

Oh good grief--just realized I've mixed up my two pots on the stove and put all the spices in backward!!! Talk about a Monday. The whole day feels like this. So I guess we'll be having a dahl flavoured like the veggie curry and the veggie curry flavoured like dahl. It's kinda close to the same spices, except not.

And baby CJ is getting louder by the minute.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Squeezed

Everything feels squeezed today--squeezed into our one day in this week as a full-together family, one day for rest and work, and not nearly enough time for either. Woke up to the dishes that hadn't gotten done all day yesterday. Clearing the kitchen took about an hour of pure old-fashioned work. Kinda regretted not having a dishwasher simply to solve that situation; but I sought comfort from the radio. CBC's Sunday Edition ran a piece on activists, which felt almost like research, as the book I'm working on is about activism (at least in part). I'm queen of the multi-task, and to be feeding my mind while working on a necessary task is divine conflation.

Now I'm baking cookies for school lunches and this week's playgroup, while blogging. I was also listening to Tapestry on CBC, but that seemed like one task too many for my brain. As soon as this first round of cookies comes out of the oven, I'll be nursing the baby. Cookie dough prep time was also bonding-with-three-year-old time; if, that is, it can be considered bonding time to participate in some version of the following conversation for a full twenty minutes: "Mommy, can I lick that bowl?" "After we're done making the cookies, yes you can." "Mommy, can I lick the spoon?" "In a minute." Zero pause. "Mommy, can I lick the spoon?" "Hang on." "Mommy can I lick that bowl?"

Just realized I also have to get something together to take to the Euclid Street party, which has already started. And AB needs to be picked up from a birthday party. And so I will cut this post short as I turn the radio back on and chop some veggies while slapping cookie dough onto trays.

But here is what I'm thinking about today, as a general ongoing topic: I'm thinking about how to feed myself; not in an indulgent way, but in a deep and spiritual way, and I'm thinking about how to do that while still doing this full-time parenting job, which leaves very little time on the side for self. It's hard to find time even to notice what's missing when I'm folding laundry at 10pm (as I was last night) with a kitchen full of dishes waiting upon waking.

Here's a small wishlist to start: Jogging. Yoga. Meditation. Walking. Movies. Books. Libraries. Spanish lessons.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday Morning, Pre-Coffee

Baby CJ is sitting up! This is an improvement on his rolling-around-the-room moves because at least when he's upright, he stays in one place.

Last night I went to bed at nine o'clock. I don't just mean I was upstairs in my pajamas reading a book. I mean I went to bed and fell asleep at nine o'clock, and slept undisturbed (baby CJ went to bed at the exact same time) till 2am. That's a grand total of five hours uninterrupted sleep, the most I can remember getting at a stretch for ... well, apparently sleep deprivation affects memory, and, frankly, I can't remember since when. Let's safely say it's been at least 5 and 1/2 months. Then, of course, I felt so refreshed at 2am, I thought I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep. No worries. Sleep returned quickly. Along with some really disturbing dreams. I had to keep waking up to analyze them for peace of mind.

This afternoon is Nina's potluck for buying club. On the advice of my children, I'll be making baked beans (using honey and maple syrup from the buying club). Unfortunately, we have to walk uptown to the get the beans before they can be made. That's on my morning to-do list, which is shorter than the usual Saturday's, as I'm on my own today. Saturdays are generally catch-up days, folding laundry, changing sheets, vacuuming, bathrooms, et cetera; and today I will forego most of those chores in order to spend time with the kids. Which sounds pretty pleasant when I put it that way.

Breakfast crumbs ... you've been given a reprieve. You're living on borrowed time, so enjoy the floor while you can.

Oh, have to add a post-coffee update. Baby CJ went for a nap and whilst I was hanging laundry on the line (I should add that I really enjoy hanging laundry; or maybe you've already noticed that), and enjoying my first cup of coffee, the kids started an art project in the living room that I've only just now cleaned up. Actually, what I've just finished cleaning up was in fact their clean-up ... props for effort, but sigh. The art project involved large paint brushes, newspaper, yogurt containers of water, water colours, homemade paste, and tissue paper. Dunno what the end result was intended to be, but I'm guessing the damp raggedy clumps of decomposed newsprint soaking into the carpet wasn't in the original plan. Kid cleaning instinct then suggested this should be swabbed up using sopping wet cloths.

I'm positive this is karmic payment for my own childhood, and only wish I were of the temperament to revel in creative disaster. I'm not saying my house is neat, because it's not; but in my head, it's supposed to be. I think often of my grandmothers, both of whom kept/keep such spick-and-span homes. My mother has a story about her mother, who worked, rising at 5 in the morning to scrub their kitchen floor on her hands and knees. Sometimes when I'm pawing around swiping cupboard fronts with random dishtowels or sweeping handfuls of cut-up construction paper into the palm of my hand, I think of my grandma rising extra-early to scrub the kitchen floor, and how far, in a mere two generations, the standards of cleanliness have fallen. (Or maybe some of my friends are secretly rising at dawn ...??).

So the art project has been cleaned up. But to offer a minute-by-minute update on the breakfast crumbs' itenerary: they're still insolently lolling about beneath the kids' stools.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Writing Morning

It's writing morning, and the blog doesn't count. But maybe it will warm up these fingers. It's chilly out there.

This (Canadian) election marks a change for me. This time around I'm declaring support for Stephane Dion and have even, gasp, put up a red Liberal sign in our front yard. It's not a very big sign, but still. Every time I see it I feel so conventional, so Big Party. I'm thinking of putting up a Green sign just to balance it out. Unfortunately for Stephane Dion and Elizabeth May, my vote is a pretty accurate bellwether for political popularity; or unpopularity, as it were. (My apologies to Barack Obama, who will also be receiving the Carrie-vote-of-doom in November). I've voted dutifully--nay, passionately!--in every federal, provincial, and municipal election since turning eighteen, and in two American elections (once I realized I was eligible), and have voted for ONE winner. In Toronto. About a decade ago. That was thrilling, but it was clearly the exception proving the rule. Which is that my political instincts do not swing toward the majority.

So best of luck Green Shift. (A name way too open to mockery. I'm for it, and can't help seeing the pejorative alternatives ...).

Democracy isn't all about winning, right? Still, seems it should be about proportionality, or at minimum one vote worth one vote worth one vote.

Writing day, writing day ... right.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The grumps

Apparently, I ordered a 1/2 bushel of red peppers from our CSA last spring, because they arrived yesterday evening. I kept saying, "Did I really order these? Are you sure these are ours?" I was in such a state of denial, I even went so far as to call my bro, who also gets the same CSA box, to find out whether these might be their peppers instead (same last name, you know). But nope. My sister-in-law-to-be assured me the peppers were mine.

So I dealt with them. I think I'm done dealing with food for the summer. I feel just so very very done. I did not roast these peppers, as probably would have been the ideal storage solution; I just seeded them and chopped them and chucked them into freezer bags and old yogurt containers. Guess I'll be looking up recipes for red pepper soup this winter. I've heard you can actually eat these peppers raw, upon thawing, so we shall see. That would be a fine mid-winter treat. But perhaps you can sense my flagging enthusiasm. Oh, it's half-mast, for sure.

Kevin says yesterday evening: "You seem really grumpy. Are you feeling grumpy?"

Uh yah. The kids are still up and going into hysterics because it's past bedtime (letting them play outside till dark, to savour what's left of this summer season). Everyone wants a snack. AB refuses to get out of the shower till the bathroom is sufficiently fogged up. I'm halfway done washing vats of dirty dishes. There's still laundry on the line. Baby CJ is fussy with a stuffed-up nose. And I have a half-bushel of red peppers to deal with sitting on my counter.

Oh, and it's hockey night.

So yah. I had the grumps. But I cleared away those peppers in record time, dishes got done, kids fed and read to and teeth flossed and brushed, the laundry abandoned to the basket for another day, et cetera. I even had a few minutes to read in bed before nursing fussy baby off to sleep. I'd cheered up by that point. I'm not against momentary grumpiness, but it seems an emotion unwise to indulge in for any sustained period (more than fifteen minutes? half an hour?), lest one weary the patience of those forced to share accomodation with one. Besides, I ordered those peppers. It must have been me. So I can blame no one but myself. And I don't like indulging in self-grumping either.

But I should add, in all fairness to my husband, that the only reason he asked me whether I was grumpy was because I had accused him of it in the first place. Ah, projection. I'm in a bad mood, so I'll turn to Kevin and say, "You're in a bad mood." He's been around long enough not to take this personally. And I've been around long enough to appreciate (if grumpily) having it pointed out that the mood is all mine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Theories Advancing, Retreating

The well runneth dry. Clearly this is the case, because I have in mind that I would like to write a blog about cleaning; but how boring would that be? I have theories about cleaning (these are highly mutable and vary wildly), but, honestly, do these need to be shared? Yet I find myself mentally blogging on and on about cleaning. Likely because it's something I spend way too much time doing.

Or laundry. Every time I hang the clothes out to dry, I think, I should blog about this. Heh. Blog about what exactly? About how often I've managed to line-dry laundry even though it's been such a rainy summer and I've got a new baby and ... As my son A would say, "Mommy, are you bragging?" Pause. "Uh, yes, maybe I am." "Why are you bragging?" "Uh, hmmm, good question little analyst, and now I'll stop." "Mommy, I think you're doing it again." "Oh dear heavens, you're right, I am!"

The above is a (mostly) accurate exchange that occurred over puzzle-making together.

Anyway, my cleaning theories go something like this: Get used to the mess and you'll be a happier person. It's just going to happen. Let it happen. Make the kids clean up their own rooms.
And then morph into this: Good grief, this place is a freaking disaster zone. I can't stand looking at those breakfast crumbs even one minute longer. At which point I drop everything in order to clean said floor. And the kids "organize" the games cupboard.
So theory number one is clearly hypocritical.

Another good theory: It's possible to clean whilst doing other things. Such as, scrubbing the toilet while the children take a bath. Not the baby, though. That would be going just slightly too far for the sake of cleanliness. Don't use theory if drowning is a risk. I do put this theory into practice quite often, though. Whilst removing dirty towel from bathroom floor, simultaneously use towel to clean the floor and cupboard faces. For example. But my life is a series of boxes opening inside other boxes, so that when one enters a room to do something particular, one is faced by a second and often more pressing problem, the solution for which leads into a third even more urgent disaster, and on and on till the original item of duty is utterly lost. Not to worry; one will stumble over it later.

And that is a brief overview of Carrie's cleaning theories. Are they even theories? They're probably more like administrative memoes for the homemaking pataphysician. "Uh, Mommy ..."
Yah, yah, I hear ya kid. Must. Stop.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Just Want to Lie on the Couch and Read a Good Book

Hurricane rains, and it's ridiculously steamy here in Southern Ontario considering the autumn leaves already rotting on our sidewalk. It feels like we're living in the middle of a tropical jungle, not waiting for that nice killing frost that will put a happy and natural end to my food gathering and preserving efforts.

I feel tired today and not ready to start up a brand new week. That dreaded Sunday evening feeling. Spent most of the afternoon preparing food, including a superb grape/rhubarb cobbler using the cooked grape pulp leftover after the juice was strained for the jelly-making. This has to be one of the simplest desserts to bake, with the basic cobbler topping coming from my Joy of Cooking: 1 and 1/3 cups flour, 2 tbls sugar, 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, mix together, then cut in 5 tbls butter (approximately) and add 1/2 cup of milk. This makes a biscuit dough that you can cut or shape to lay over the sugared fruit of your choice in the 8x8 greased pan. I used the grape pulp, plus some frozen rhubarb, added 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tbsp flour. The biscuit dough needed a bit more flour to make it easy to work with. Bake at 375 for 45 mins. Eat plain or with milk over top.

So don't throw out your grape pulp! Except this only worked because the grapes I used were next thing to seedless. Too many seeds would have made the pulp inedible.

I also baked cookies for school lunches, and made supper. And did piles of dishes. And spent 45 blissful minutes on the couch reading Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which I recommend highly. I keep picking it up at bedtime and then being unable to stop reading and as a result getting to sleep way too late. The kids didn't know what to make of mommy reading on the couch. F was sure I was reading the hymnal and kept wondering why I wasn't singing the book.

To update on the grape jelly: it appears to be jellying! Thanks to Nath for commenting on the last entry and letting me know her saskatoon berry jelly took two months to turn to jelly. I was certain I'd failed and would be using the pretty purple liquid as grape syrup for pancakes, or something, when I happened to pick up the jar I'd stuck in the fridge (half-full; I ended up filling 5 and 1/2 half-pint jars) and saw that the liquid was gelling. I literally ran up the stairs calling, "The jelly is jellying!" This qualifies for high entertainment in our house, I guess, because the kids and Kevin were just about as excited as I was. They should really inform you of this timelapse jelling effect somewhere in the recipe. I had the candy thermometer out, to ensure I'd reached prime jelling temperature (220 degrees, in case you're interested; hmmm, I guess that's Celsius), and kept lifting the wooden spoon staring at it with faint hope of seeing some "sheeting" action. Kevin was hauled in to evaluate: "This looks like dripping to me--does it look like dripping to you?" "Yes, it looks like dripping." Finally, thinking I'd misunderstood the instructions, I just gave up and poured the hot syrup into the jars.

Long story, not short, I'm afraid.

I write these posts in the kitchen, and am beginning to suspect that's skewing the content. I should be running a kitchen show. A kitchen show for people who want to learn how to cook from someone who doesn't know what she's doing.

That's my time. Baby CJ's livid in the living-room, and the kids are still upstairs pattering about on not-so-innocent little pittering feet.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Casual Canning

Alright, so I'm trying out the casual canning thing, putting to use those just-in-case lids. Last night I spent about two and a half hours making two canners of grape juice--14 quart jars. Grape juice should be put into larger jars, but I'm working with what's kicking around the basement, and we can dilute it later. This necessary canning was put into motion by Nina's spray-free local grape offer, and her suggestion that canning grape juice is particularly easy (which it is, in the realm of things canned). You wash the grapes, scald the jars, drop a cup or so of washed grapes into said jars, add a bit of sugar (1/3 cup, in my case; I would have preferred to go sugar-free, but couldn't find a google or Ball Book answer on whether the sugar brings important preservative qualities to the mix). Pour boiling water over grapes and sugar, leave 1/4 inch space, screw on lids, process for 10 minutes. Repeat. Till jars run out or weariness overtakes you. It was the latter last night. I couldn't believe how many grapes were still left by midnight.

Woke this morning, having dreamed of jars and grapes all night, resolved to fill the rest of the quart jars in the basement; but even after achieving this, the grape piles had scarcely abated. So I looked up some grape jelly recipes; I've got loads of half-pint jam jars. It looks easy ... Take three-and-a-half pounds of grapes, wash, remove stems, toss into pot with 1/2 cup water, crush, simmer for 10 minutes, strain out juice. That's how far I've gotten this morning. My Ball Book recipe calls for clarifying the juice over a 24-hour period, but I'm skipping that step. Next up, I'm going to boil the juice (about 4 cups) with 3 cups of sugar (!!!) till it gels, then pour into the hot, sterilized jars, and process for 5 minutes. Makes about 4 jars, apparently. But how will I know when it gels?

Ah, when it "sheets" off the spoon. All is made clear.

Dubious gelling intelligence aside, when this stage of the project is complete, at least I'll have cleared the counter and fridge of grapes. And anything with that much sugar will appeal to small children regardless of texture. And the grape juice jars look particularly pretty, all jeweled fruit and rich-coloured juice. But I still have the Saturday chores to get to ... the vacuuming, the bathrooms, the general pick-up, the odds and ends Kevin wants a chance to get to. Nothing pressing, however.

Except maybe a cup of coffee. Yes, be it resolved: while the jam gels, and the baby naps, and Kevin and the kids "clean" the basement, Carrie shall enjoy a cup of coffee.

I must also report that canning definitely feels more casual this second time around. I've got the tools, I know the timeframe. I'm realizing it would have been almost as easy to have canned my homemade ketchup and saved some room in the freezer. One person could can a heck of a lot just by setting aside two to three hours every evening during the peak harvest season. I'm not saying it would be fun or anything, and let's not bother to calculate the time-cost, but a lot could get stuck into jars quite efficiently during those 2-3 hours ... if one had the inclination and the fortitude and one's children were not early-risers and one didn't have a baby waking to nurse all night long. I'm a night owl anyway, so I foresee this as a future occupation. Late-night canning.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Covetous

I'm beginning to suspect that having babies has become a cool enterprise. Seven years ago, when A was an infant, there wasn't all of this positively delectable (and useful) baby gear. Now I feel covetous, though it seems impractical to invest in a Swedish-built gorgeous high chair that converts to an ergonomic chair as the child grows (oh, but doesn't that sound practical? baby CJ could use it till he leaves home). Not cheap, I must add. The baby carriers, the slings, the wooden toys, the darling leather bibs (okay, I just got that one, today, in fact; it attaches around the baby's neck with magnets, can be wiped after every use, and hangs on the fridge between meals).

I know a lot of it seems excessive. Babies outgrow things quickly, and don't care whether they're chewing on a fabulous handmade sock puppet or a dog toy from Zellers; but in all of this excess, I sense a growing movement away from disposable and cheap and breakable, to the well-designed and durable--not to mention tactilely and visually appealing. Today's selection in cloth diapers and accessories seems indicative of the fringe becoming mainstream, in a good way.

Which is how I'm justifying my covetousness ... see, this stuff will really last! (Note to self: that justification only makes sense if one actually needs said "stuff" in the first place. Sigh. Thanks for the reminder, self).

Okay, F just ate one and a half pita pizzas for lunch and baby CJ tucked gratefully into his bowl of rice cereal, and we're heading toward puzzle time and naptime. Baby's not sleeping much at night (without simultaneously nursing), and I'm wondering how long it will be till we make a big change in our sleeping arrangements. Could be awhile yet. I'm surviving quite handily on cups of coffee and long moments of staring idly at things, and still seem to have the requisite amount of parenting patience; and it usually takes a drastic downturn to push me to make a big transition like this would require.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Writing Day

Always leaves me foggy. Today I was pleased by what got written, but almost felt distressed when I was done--not by the fact that my time was up, but because I hadn't spent that "lost" time with the kids instead. It almost seems like a waste to spend these hours in an imaginary world when my actual family is actually doing and being and experiencing their youngest years. It's funny, but the story I like best that I wrote this spring is about the passage of time. Sometimes it feels like that's all I'm really writing about. About time past, and passing, hurrying us along and away from where we are this moment. And here I am, missing out on what's hurrying past because I'm so busy writing about it.

And now I'm writing more, instead of responding to the game the kids have started playing spontaneously: something to do with cleaning the house??? Is this possible? AB: "Whoa, your house is really dirty!"

Then again, by writing about it, I also get to keep it, at least a few shreds ...

AB to her brother: "Do you think this is the dirtiest house we've gone through?"
Good grief--I know it's messy in here, but has it gotten that bad?

The problem is that once I get going writing, it's so hard to turn it off. I need a little switch in my brain that can be flipped ... ok, done thinking, now just BE. Writing is intensely private and requires such interior concentration that it takes time, maybe even hours, to crawl back out again and be properly engaged with this house and the needs of these little people populating it.

Will now turn away from the glowing screen and attempt re-entrance into the afternoon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First Solid Meal

Baby CJ's been studying us as we eat for the past couple of weeks. Because he's often strapped onto our torso with the sling, it's almost as if he's an extra body part, and he's awfully close to the food as it's lifted from plate to mouth. His little head swings and his eyes grow wide, and his mouth opens as the food enters--someone else's mouth. I may be projecting, but he looks kinda ... hungry. Or at any rate fascinated. I had planned to wait till he was a full six months to introduce any kind of solid food, but after observing this hungry baby phenomenon for the past couple of weeks, I decided to give feeding a try. It is an awful lot of extra work. Breastfeeding is so simple, basic, fast, and by this point, not at all messy. We're old pros now. (Breastfeeding at earlier stages in a baby's life can sometimes be none of the above). It seems like whenever we get the hang of something, life invents another challenge.

So F and I headed uptown after school drop-off this morning, and bought a box of organic rice cereal. We came home and I pumped some milk while baby CJ worked the other side, and then we dug the high chair out of the attic, and mixed up a tablespoon of cereal with some breastmilk, broke out a bib, strapped him in, and proferred the spoon. I've done this a few times before, and the result is often disappointing, as I warned F (who was extremely excited, and imagined herself wielding the spoon). The tongue comes out, the facial expression says "disgusting" and the bowl's contents eventually work their way onto every surface surrounding baby, including baby's outside; with absolutely nothing swallowed. Both A and F refused solids till seven or eight months. But somehow, they didn't look quite so hungry.

To F's delight, baby CJ had no qualms at his first taste. He's still working out the tongue and the swallowing, but he took in a lot more than expected. He cleaned the bowl, and then sucked the tray. Most went in. I'm proud of him, and glad that I tried feeding, since he's clearly ready, but also know this will complicate life. The baby food grinder is out of storage once more, there will be extra bowls and spoons and bibs to wash, and a careful menu to introduce over time, as we watch for potential allergies. But he wants to be one of the gang, and he's working so hard to get there. Babies. Their instinct is to grow up! No wonder people are always delighted to catch sight of an infant--they're rare. We spend a vast proportion of our lives large and unportable and complicated--and, let's face it, not nearly so cute.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cooking Ahead

Overheard: F with Kevin and baby CJ in the living-room: "It okay, daddy, baby be happy. You can go to work now. You can go your office and sleep."

This afternoon I spent cooking. Chopping veggies endlessly, using up the bits and bobs in the fridge, the wilting clumps of CSA parsley, the bag of collected beets and beet greens, fretful-looking cabbages, and on and on. I made borscht, an obvious choice given what was lurking in our fridge, a positively giant pot, though not with a typically meaty broth, just added a frozen steak bone to the brew; fresh dill from Nina's, bought specifically for this meal. Meanwhile, I prepared a second giant pot, this one of fresh tomato sauce, using tomatoes from Nina's, garlic, onions, celery, and a couple of despondent eggplants from the bottom drawer. I was going to toss in some green pepper, but luckily tasted first; they were CSA and an odd shape, and turned out to be hot peppers. So I chopped and froze those for later, a theoretical later because cooking for kids means leaving out the spicy-hot. Kevin and I douse our food at the table with a variety of hot sauces to satisfy our tastebuds. Maybe I'll make a spicy salsa someday this winter??

The above paragraph doesn't sound like it should have taken two hours of my day ... but it did. In fact, it was probably more like three hours when all was said and done, and I'd placed supper on the table--the borscht is what we ate tonight. We also ate a small bowl of oven-roasted teeny-tiny potatoes, a whimsical mixture of varieties. These particular potatoes represented a joint family effort. I discovered a handful of forgotten potatoes this past spring, sprouting in a paper bag in our cold cellar. I'd just read somewhere that potatoes are easy to grow, so I suggested we cut them up and stick them in the ground. Kevin and A planted them out back along our fenceline, which gets a bit more sunshine than it used to. And lo and behold, the potatoes grew. A and AB dug them up yesterday. Okay, it amounted to a couple of generous handfuls, but they were beautiful and wholly ours. That was our first course for supper: our summer's crop of potatoes, roasted with salt. We're totally biased, but man, they tasted good.

Fortunately, we don't have to live off them all winter long ...

The other food, and indeed, the leftover borscht, is for meals later on this week. I'm finding the post-school-scramble to be unfavourable to cooking (it's madness, actually, to be preparing meals from scratch amidst the melee), so this week I've planned and cooked ahead. This will only get more crucial as we add in music lessons and swim lessons, both after school, along with our other commitments, both pleasurable and necessary, adult and kid.

I also boiled eggs for the kids' lunches (one egg per kid, per day), and made the kids' school lunches for tomorrow. I always make the lunches the evening before, usually while preparing supper (I'm not a morning person at the best of times; it's wise not to overload my dawn duties). This year I've been sending a container of cut-up fruit (peaches and plums and pears right now), a simple sandwich of Nina's ham and a bun/bread with either mustard or butter, a baggie of cut-up veggies (carrots, celery, green pepper--actual green pepper, that is), a container of dried fruit and seeds (apricots, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds), the egg, and usually a little something extra too. AB gets a cookie because she's been brushing faithfully after her meals at school; A still needs to prove himself, but I did send each of them a little container of sesame snacks for tomorrow.

Alright, this has been a stolen moment (or three) and things have gotten positively out of hand behind me ... meaning, it's time for mama to cease the ceaseless typing and read a bedtime story. We're nearing the end of Little Town on the Prairie, and Laura is already 15 years old. I'm admiring how her parents trust her as they encourage and watch her develop a social life in this brand-new frontier town. The next book (These Happy Golden Years) was always my favourite, but that was when I was a teen and I'm recalling there's some pleasantly romantic stuff, which may not fly with the seven- and five-year-old crowd. We shall see ...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Saturday Morning

Saturday morning and it's time to clean up. The more children you add to a household, the more opportunities for instant disasters and chronic mess. This morning, for example, I came downstairs to discover the kids were "cleaning" the puzzle and games cupboard; translation: they were taking out every single puzzle and game and opening the boxes to inspect for missing or broken pieces and parts, and dumping some into plastic baggies, and ... well, you can imagine this was not the kind of cleaning project I had planned for the morning.

To their credit, everything got stuffed back into the cupboard.

I am now sipping a cup of coffee and pondering all the things that need doing ... and feeling weak and wishing I could instead read the paper. But the truth is that I like a clean and tidy house. I like to walk into rooms that are organized and free of spilt crumbs and feel airy and uncluttered. A place for everything and everything in its place, is something that runs through my mind on these mornings. Which is not the scene right now. I'm wading through diapers that need folding and laundry that needs doing and a dining-room table still plagued with loose garlic bulbs, not to mention a multitude of other neglected areas (toilets, anyone?). During the week there isn't time to do this work, just barely time to keep head above water and say hello to Kevin.

I did have a writing morning yesterday, and in fact used it to write. I started another story in the Nicaragua collection. It's slow going and feels personal rather than political. This project has changed so much over time, and undergone such a variety of incarnations that I no longer believe automatically that I've landed on the shape in which this story belongs; but I'm comfortable with this form and take great pleasure from it: stories rather than chapters. Whether or not it's the form this story belongs in, it is the form that I most enjoy exploring--to read, and to write.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Good and the Trying

The good first, shall we. Kevin's at soccer tonight, which means he rushes out the door after inhaling the supper I've thrown on the table early in order that he can inhale it and rush out the door. Phew. My attitude about this has improved greatly over several seasons, and I'm being honest here (I think) when I say that I don't begrudge him time to run around a field attempting to boot a ball into a net and occasionally coming home wounded (giant egg on head so far this summer, which turned into the most gorgeous purple black eye, like he was a performer in the Rocky Horror Picture Show). Where was I? Oh yes, my non-begrudging-ness ...

Ahem.

The good. After Kevin leaves, I often feel at loose ends. I don't know why it should be different to be left alone with the kids in the evening as opposed to in the morning, but it is. I feel less capable, less sturdy, less resolved. So tonight I drifted into the living-room, laid baby CJ on the floor (he's happier rolling around than being held these days), and started playing the piano. I almost never play the piano anymore. When I do, it turns into someone on my lap hammering the keys and demanding Old MacDonald. Completely out the blue, and without the least premeditation, I sat at the bench and started playing the little riff from the Rolling Stones' song that goes "You can't always get what you wa-ant ..." It's a bluesy little riff, repetetive, and though I never figured out the exact chording and timing for the next bit--"You just might find, you get what you ne-eed"--it didn't really matter, I just kept playing it over and over. (Is that even the right line? I'm really not sure where it came from or why it entered my head). The kids seemed lulled by the music, and interested. How did I know that song? What was that song? Get out the drums, I suggested, and a mini-jam-session erupted, dancing and drumming. I played a couple of other old songs, and then caved and played out of a kids' songbook (A's request). But it was soooo good. Our evening progressed so much better because of it, I am sure.

Ah, but how's this for trying: realizing post-snack that their teeth still needed flossing (Kevin's job, and I don't know his method, but it sure as heck looks better than mine). Baby CJ was so fussy by this point that he was only happy in his sling, so I took each child in turn on the couch with the floss and CJ fussing and stuck to me and half-blocking the view of the teeth, my fingers occasionally getting chomped; the whole scene struck me as impossibly comical. But still trying. Also trying are AB's bedtime requests. Despite supper and a snack, she regularly discovers that she is So Hungry as soon as the light goes out. Or better yet, as soon as Mommy or Daddy has made it all the way downstairs. "Mama or Dadda?" she will call coaxingly, then quickly the 'plaint grows louder. Tonight I couldn't turn to Kevin and say, "Your turn." But you know what--cookies and the removal of them from the lunchbox turned out to be an effective motivator.

So here I sit, F just re-deposited in her bed (she's having a hard time falling asleep this week, due to napping in the stroller on the way to pick the kids up from school), blogging instead of doing the dishes. We had a simple and popular supper tonight: whole wheat rotini, a sauce made from completely local garlic, onion, green pepper, and tomatoes (tomatoes and pepper thanks to a neighbour's front-yard-garden! oh--and yes, I got permission before picking!), the whole lot mixed together with sliced nitrate-free local hot dogs (Nina). Hmm, does that count as a recipe?

Oh, our onions are off the table. They've been replaced by garlic bulbs. But the onions are now hanging rather attractively in my cast-off pantyhose down in our basement. Kevin sorted out that project. We also have a bunch of potatoes stored in paper bags in the cold cellar. Online research leads me to believe we can't store the potatoes and the onions near each other--but I couldn't find any answer to the question: how near? Like, in the same cold cellar? Or, side by side in the same cold cellar? If anyone knows, please comment.

The dishes are calling. In voices tiny, but persistent. Hello over there basking in the glow of a computer screen. You will sleep better if you wash us right now. (But will I?). Enter Kevin. He's home. "Are you blogging?" Uh, yah. And do you want to do the dishes?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

After School Transition

How wonderful to have my second-grader race across the schoolyard to shout, "I had a great day, Mom!" The newly-minted first-grader, though not as ecstatic, seemed to concur; she had lots of good, insightful stories to share. We sat in the shade before walking home so that I could nurse baby CJ. Our walks home from school are just about the best times in my day, eating a snack, listening to them relate random events that happened, asking questions, re-connecting. But the instant we walk through the front door, the happy mood disintegrates, usually in dramatic form. I'd forgotten about that. Considering that this is my fourth year of walking through that front door, you'd think I'd have some solid plan in place to counteract what is obviously just plain difficulty making the transition from school to home. But apparently I don't; or if I did, I've forgotten it.

Suggestions welcome.

As soon as we were through that door, AB showed no signs of being worn out by her day, but A seemed utterly spent, his inner resources exhausted, unable to cope with the smallest problem (being offered the "wrong" flavour of popsicle fell just a hair shy of the end of the world). Tantrums at age seven? Not so attractive.

Why oh why are transitions, large and small, so hard?

This morning I asked AB if she'd seen her brother at recess (a new phenomenon this year), and she said yes, but that every time she'd gotten close to him, he would run away. She was very matter-of-fact about this and said she thought it was probably because he was embarrassed. She added that recess was a little scary at first (darn right it is--my stomach churns even now to think of being loosed into the anarchy of several hundred kids racing virtually unsupervised around the huge schoolyard), but said she'd soon made a new friend to play with and then she felt better.

Missed my quiet time today, and hope I've got the constitution to hang out with my sibs this eve. I'm only 17 months older than the next in line (there are five of us total), but at times feel positively elderly attempting to keep up at the Bond. Actually, I don't even attempt to keep up, just try not to drift too far behind, stumping after them with my walker and chirruping on deafly while proferring photos of the grandkids ... er, okay, I'm jumping ahead a couple of decades, but you get the picture.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First Day of School

It's almost time to walk and pick the "big" kids up from school; and it feels like a surprisingly short day, easily filled by F and baby CJ and me. Back to school means back to a schedule. Part of me relishes a schedule, and part resents it. But I think this year the schedule, with the long time between drop-off and pick-up (a little over six hours; whereas these past three years, with someone always in kindergarden, it was a little over two hours in the afternoon), will leave plenty of space for improvisation.

The whole family trotted up the hill together, at a quick-step because we'd started a touch late (sigh; not a promising start to the year), and when we got to the school, Kevin went with A to the second grade drop-off, and the rest of us went with AB to the gym. (We weren't late; the funny thing is that we rarely are. We always leave the house just a touch late and then have to hurry to be there when the bell rings; I guess another way to put it would be that we're always perfectly on time). I had no mixed emotions about sending the children this year. Last year it was difficult to imagine our first-born in school all day long, but this year, he was just excited to be meeting his friends and new teachers, and AB was just excited to be getting to work. AB looked awfully pale standing in her class line-up, but she didn't look back once (a couple of children turned around to shout "bye, Mom!"; not mine). I had no tears. I knew she was ready and I knew, also, that the experience would hold so many great daily adventures for her.

We shall see in about forty-five minutes when their first day is done.

What amazes me just now is that that day is already almost over! I felt (to be frank) positively elated when we left the schoolgrounds and I had only two children in my charge. Morning errands were easier; though there are always complications with extras in tow. The necessary diaper change outside the library. Followed by the necessary nurse, which was complicated by the one-handed necessary search through the stroller for a snack (F's), and, later on, the (un)necessary (minor) tantrum thrown by the three-year-old who is old enough to walk but prefers to ride--unless, of course, it would be convenient/safer to ride, and then she prefers to walk. Contrary-rary.

Now must wake baby CJ, who fell asleep on his own for this nap. Just like he did last night at bedtime. Kevin says we just need to train him to crawl upstairs and demand to be put into his crib, like A used to do as a baby! I'm still too superstitious to believe this is a repeatable pattern; but hope springs eternal.

And I just checked the clock and it looks like we're going to be just in time to be in a hurry for our walk back up the hill ....