Friday, October 31, 2008

Hanging With Kids, Not Hanging Laundry

Food. A neighbour dropped off a bag of sourdough starter batter for Amish Friendship Sweet Bread. I'm now on day 10 of the process, having followed the instructions all the way along, including the rather suspect pouring of a cup of milk into the ziploc bag on day 6--and leaving it sitting on the counter. Seemed wrong, somehow, but I guess that's why the dough is sour. It smells fantastically yeasty. This recipe calls for two boxes of vanilla pudding, which, as a friend said (Nath) doesn't sound all that Amish, but there are loads of alternate recipes online. I have no time to bake today, so I'm freezing the lot--it made five cups of starter. The idea is that you give away a cup to three friends and get them started. Sorry, friends. I'm keeping it all in my freezer. Not because I don't think you're worthy of Amish Friendship Sweet Bread starter, but because it's feels too much like a chain letter. If any friend, upon reading this, is inspired to make Amish Friendship Sweet Bread, please let me know, and I will give you a cup of starter.

Our CSA was pleasantly chard- and kale-free on Tuesday. It was the last box, and it will make Tuesdays easier not to have to do pick-up and then clean and store all that food; but I will miss is sorely, too. Kevin picked a great box: lots of squash, another pumpkin, potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbages. I have been baking squash and mashing it with butter and a bit of salt, and it's divine. Also have been saving some for CJ, who is a fan of tastes beyond barley cereal and breastmilk. He is savouring new textures (homemade bread crusts) and flavours (squash, pumpkin, banana).

It is a gorgeous fall day, sunshine and warming up, but I am NOT hanging laundry outside (or inside) today. I have made it this entire rainy, chilly month without using our drier, but I have three loads that need doing before we leave for the weekend, and I accepted as a smallish revelation the understanding that by not hanging all this laundry I could instead hang out with my kids this morning. And there is already way too much to do. Every once in awhile, economy and environmental considerations are not worth the extra workload. This is one of those times. I am definitely feeling stretched thin ... or flattened, somehow, by all this responsibility. So will take advantage of modern conveniences, while they're still in existence. Does that sound overly apocalyptic?

Aagh, am listening to the "new" CBC Radio Two--and it stinks! Easy listening for the dentist's chair. Gonna switch to Jian Ghomeshi on Radio One ... or try Radio Three. Feel like background music this morning.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Lists

My kids are in love with Eric Traplin. We have one CD called Bubbles and it's pretty much on every time the kids think to push "play" on the CD player. (And they put the CD back in if I've removed it for something I'd prefer to listen to--piano music or the Curious George soundtrack). It's pretty standard kids' music, always on at high volume, guitar, drums, piano, cheery upbeat simple tunes. Everyone's favourite is called "My Superhero," and it tells the story of a vaguely drawn superhero who has goodness in his heart, is brave and kind, and runs down the hallway saving the world before bedtime. I like that A, despite being a "sophisticated" second-grader who says "su-weet" all the time, dances around the living-room singing along with these truly sweet (innocent) songs.

But anyway, I wasn't planning on blogging about Eric Traplin. It just happens that F's turned it on and is dancing around the living-room singing along ... in fact, it's the superhero song.

Preparations. As I said in my previous post, our schedule feels relentless these days, with no time to stop and catch our collective breaths. Or say hello to each other (me and Kevin). And to add to this, we are preparing for a pilgrimage of sorts tomorrow night. Hallowe'en night. Last year, on Hallowe'en, Kevin's dad Jim died of cancer at around 6pm. The kids had just gotten dressed up for trick-or-treating when Kevin's mother called with the news (she'd called about an hour earlier asking Kevin to come home as soon as possible, which we were already preparing for). As soon as the news came that Jim had died, I looked at Kevin and said, "We're all going to go along with you." But first, Kevin took the kids trick-or-treating. We decided not to tell them until afterward. While they were out, I packed for the trip. By the time they were home with their loot, I'd made necessary phone calls and gotten organized. We explained to the kids what was happening, changed them into pajamas, and drove off into the night--about a five-hour journey. It was an oddly and unexpectedly wonderful trip for our whole family. It felt like an adventure, full of significance and mystery and emotion. We were sad and the two older children had questions about death and Grandpa Jim, but it felt positive, not scary. At the time, Kevin and I almost jokingly said we should make that trip every year, as a way of marking Jim's passing--making up our own unique and uniquely meaningful family tradition.

So we're going to try it out. I love the idea, but am feeling overwhelmed by the logistics. Not only is tomorrow Hallowe'en (that would be the point), but the kids also have swim lessons right after school, and Nina's very last buying club of the year (hopefully not forever!) is tomorrow night, and I couldn't resist ordering even though it was, frankly, madness to add that in to the packing and the trick-or-treating and the rest of it.

I found this week that I was having greater than usual difficulty organizing myself, and I started making all these lists. I have a list for every day with all the mundane details written out: meal menus, what veggies in the fridge need to be eaten, and all the weird little odds and ends that dance across my brain ever so briefly and if not immediately attended to slip just as quickly away, probably till some three o'clock in the morning moment when "order cheques" is pretty much an impossibility. The lists made me feel slightly more in control. I haven't put blogging or writing on any list, however. This week I ended up not having any writing day whatsoever. Kevin had a dentist appointment this morning, so I hosted playgroup instead. Then my babysitter cancelled on the afternoon too. Oh well.

Abruptly must end. Kids need their mama.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Snippets

Finding it hard to find time to write this week. The schedule feels relentless. There are so many little odds and ends I want to note and write down in order to remember, but I'm doing it all in my head, never getting my fingers to the keyboard (or a pen to the page of a notebook, for that matter). Baby sleeping poorly, STILL! Last night, we got him down, Kevin left to go back to work late, and I went off to bed--and by 10:30, CJ was awake and screaming and the magic boob had apparently lost all of its magical powers. No go on the nursing; he really wanted nothing, just couldn't settle and sleep. I let him cry for twelve long minutes in his playpen, tried nursing again, nope. This went on. I almost called Kevin to beg him to come home and walk the kid around, but eventually CJ fell back to sleep in our bed, with me patting his back. And there he stayed all night, nursing on multiple occasions. The magic reappeared at around 1AM.

Our last CSA box will be picked up tonight. I'm guessing: beets, chard, beets, chard, beets, chard, a carrot or three, potatoes. In fact, in preparation for this arrival, I am boiling up all the beets to be found still huddling in our fridge. It's my Tuesday clear-the-bottom-drawer boil-up. Except there's still last week's chard. Oh, and kale. Forgot to add kale into the mix. There's bound to be some of that too. I can't possibly eat it all myself, and no one else will, so it sits sadly in the fridge waiting patiently, growing weak and weary and all dried out and shrivelled.

Was supposed to write on Monday morning, but woke up unprepared and decided to run errands instead and go about a regular day. It was fine, but I do miss it. Still, the writing day really only works when I can string more than two or three hours together at a time. It's just exquisite torture otherwise. Just enough time to get into something, never enough time to finish it. In fact, I'd say it takes about two hours to get chugging, like the brain is finally up to speed and connections are being made lightening fast, ideas stringing together, words flowing and dancing, and it's just cruel to cut it off at that point.

Must cut this off at this point, however, because it's F's music class at the Beckett and we are leaving in about ten minutes, and I have to wake the babe and change his diaper and toss everyone into warm clothing. Hopefully CJ will be cheerier today, having had (a portion of) his nap before the class. He's less and less easy to entertain for an hour in a bare hallway, waiting. I think the teacher likes us to stay in case there's an emergency bathroom break, but maybe I could sneak off for part of today's lesson and grab a coffee and a treat from City Cafe bakery just up the street. That would just about make my day.

Sunshine this morning as we walked to school, very very cold, but brilliant and beautiful colours that lifted my spirits. Now we're back to grey. My least favourite colour. My least favourite mood.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Vow of Silence

Wow. Unexpectedly, I have a full fifteen minutes to myself this afternoon. Actually, it was half an hour, but I just wasted half of it surfing the net looking for info on recalled toys and symptoms of lead poisoning, because baby CJ was discovered earlier this afternoon with a blue tongue caused by sucking on a little rubbery fireman figure, provenance unknown, likely a dollar store, definitely made in China, and claims to have once been a Tonka product. The blue dye was what his saliva dissolved off the fireguy's pants. That doesn't seem normal. I've been sitting here seriously considering chucking all made-in-China toys that currently populate our house, along with all toys with small magnets. CJ is so very very mobile all of a sudden, and I cannot keep my eyes glued to him every minute of every day.

But let's move on to cheerier topics, shall we. Tomorrow I'll get down on hands and knees and crawl the house in search of disposable toys, but hey, this aft, I've got a few free minutes and I wanted to write about being mute for a couple of days. It was such a frustrating and simultaneously enlightening experience. On Wednesday I literally couldn't speak. I could whisper, but my actual voice emanated as a high-pitched whistle that a) made me sound like a squeak toy and b) was highly ineffective for virtually any communication. But still having these children to look after, life went on, despite an almost silent Mommy. In fact, life went on really darn peacefully. For example, on Wednesday, the kids and I walked home from school in near silence, just a few comments from them to each other since I could not moderate discussion. We walked through the door and things did not fall apart. On the contrary, big bro A was on best behavior. Supper got made in record time. Peaceable children read stories to each other. Any intervention I made was whispered and therefore calm-sounding, patient. Children started whispering to each other. I swear, it was the best after-school-hour we've had all year.

I'm big on silver linings, and must confess it was really really frustrating not to be able to talk, like having a vow of silence forced upon one, but what I wanted to take away from the (admittedly brief) experience was how powerful a quiet voice can be. Much more powerful than a loud one. And additionally, how children can be moved to pitch in and help when really needed, how adversity raises the behavior bar for everyone. Not that I want to be sick again!

Oh dear. Naptime is abruptly over. The kid has napped a total of forty minutes all day! And it's almost 5pm!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Superhero Cinderella

Today I feel like a superhero, except without the super powers. No, I'm the superhero with the double life, changing in the phone booth, racing from one reality to another in the blink of an eye. Today, we slept in, and the day started with a multi-coordinated dash to get dressed and fed and breast milk expressed and the children out the door in under an hour, in the care of their super-dad. Then my writing day started, except not really, because I still needed a shower. This superhero starts slow. Eventually, the writing portion of my writing day began, and I sat on the blue exercise ball and worked on poems. It was definitely a poetry day. I even wrote a new poem! I worked around the muffins for dictators theme of an earlier blog entry. Sort of a recipe for poetry poem. Somewhere in there, I fed the baby, packed my handsome leather bag (for professional use only), dug my nice boots out of the basement, and brushed my hair. Kissed all goodbye, jumped in the car, and drove off to the symposium on fiction for Chinese and Canadian writers. Apparently, I count as a Canadian writer, which is nice to know. In fact, this was my disguise.

Parked, followed signs, entered typical room in typical university facility, pleasant but furnished on budget and by committee. Hoarsely informed organizer of my temporary disability--though thankfully my voice worked enough that I could make myself understood, which was not the case yesterday. Spent the first fifteen minutes chatting with Alistair MacLeod, whom I'd met once before, a long time ago. He seemed to accept my disguise. I was the representative young local writer. One woman thought I was a university student. Which is a pretty nice compliment at this point in my life.

The Chinese writers, flown in from China for this event (though perhaps for more?), spoke very little English, so we were seated in groups with a translator to facilitate conversation. I found the whole process very interesting. I was seated with Dennis Bock, who coincidentally was our neighbour when we lived in Guelph, and his wife and I had babies at the same time, so that felt most unintimidating. I was only kinda in disguise at that point. At our table was Fe Gei, a writer who was working on a massive trilogy about modern Chinese history; he also writes short stories, one of which I was able to read in translation before meeting him. Few of the writers had the opportunity to read each other's work, since most hadn't been translated. At our table, we talked, with some difficulty, about concepts of economic class in Canada and in China, and about ideology. It felt like we were trying to represent very different worlds to each other, through the voice of the translator, who had moved to Canada sixteen years ago, and had her own opinions on subjects.

Toward the end of the conversation (well after the meal of take-out Chinese food had been consumed), I was able to ask Fe Gei about his story writing, and about his interest in Western writers, and about Raymond Carver, whose stories he greatly admired. He asked what ideas I was trying to convey through my writing, a question that very nearly stumped me, so I simply said that I start with an emotion, that I write about relationships. That I try to get at the essence of what seem like ordinary moments. He seemed quite chuffed about this. I was taken back to China, which I visited as a high school student in 1992, and to those formal, funny gestures of goodwill, of elaborate and heartfelt hospitality that are much greater than we Canadians are accustomed to offering or receiving. How can I get at this? He said it had been an honour to meet me, and that he would tell young Chinese writers he mentors about me and the kind of writing I was doing. I said something in a similar spirit. But I am not sure whether these were empty compliments of the sort we are used to giving and receiving; or whether he meant it with all his heart, which is what it looked and sounded like. I guess I will never know. Lost in translation.

Then I said a quiet goodbye, and slipped away, because my time was up. Come to think of it, it was less superhero, and more Cinderella. The clock struck midnight and I dashed to the car, just Mommy again, and drove home to my baby, who was desperate for a nurse, and my three-year-old, who, in the few moments while I was changing CJ's diaper managed to colour both of her hands with a green marker. She approached me with hands hidden under sweater. "Mommy, I not colour my hands." Huh? "No, Mommy, I not colour my hands." Oh dear. What a sweet confession. So we added scrubbing hands to our to-do tasks before walking up the hill to school to pick up the kids. I took off my boots and put on my sneakers, and that was all it took.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No Hurry, No Rush

I'm so appreciative of our new school schedule this year: last year, we had to race off to get AB to senior kindergarten by 1pm every single day, along with taking A first thing in the morning. This year, both kids are in full days, and I love those morning and afternoon walks and chats with the children. And I love, love, love that unbroken stretch between drop-off and pick-up. It means baby CJ gets more time napping in his own crib, and I can plan special activities for F, and it means we can have days just like this one: with no plans at all. And no hurry, no rush.

It means baby CJ can nap for two straight hours, like he did this morning, while F and I bake muffins together (Healthy ones. If these turn out, I'll post the recipe). It means the two of them can play together in the living-room, as they're doing right now, without me worrying that we need to stuff lunch into everybody and get dressed up in winter clothes for an unwanted outing. The fate of the younger child is to be dragged along on various outings that benefit other people. Yesterday, CJ was in his car seat, or waiting outside F's music class, or in the stroller, for two and a half straight hours. He was going mental by the end, and I didn't blame him. I sent Kevin for the CSA box because I couldn't bear making CJ endure yet one more errand when all he wanted was the freedom to crawl around on the floor and play. The older kids spent an hour after school at a local history club organized by neighbours who are homeschooling. Having dashed from F's music class, then home to walk to school, then walked the big kids to the library, then home again--a full hour of walking--I indulged my impulse to do NOTHING, and F and CJ and I played together in the living-room. I read her some stories. She coloured. CJ and I played the piano. It was as lovely as it sounds.

It felt like winter this morning, without snow, but the sun is gorgeous, and I hung out the laundry. I still have no voice. Laryngitis (sp?) is my Achilles heel (to mix metaphors). I miss speech! It feels very isolating. I've dug out the humidifier to use tonight, and continue to swill hot drinks, including my ginger-garlic brew. It would probably be best if I could manage not to talk for a full day, but that's impossible. I have to squeak at these poor children on occasion. And tomorrow I've been invited to participate in a dialogue between Canadian and Chinese writers at the University of Waterloo. Apparently the Chinese writers don't speak any English so we will be speaking through translators. At least it's not a reading. I am a last-minute fill-in for someone presumably more qualified to attend, because the other Canadian writers are: Wayson Choy, Dennis Bock, and Alistair MacLeod. I was a little bit worried about being such a novice among these other writers, but my greater concern now is that I may not be able to say a word.

CJ is on the move! I just found him standing by the bookshelf. Completely standing! And F would like instructions on how to snap her fingers. Her face is covered with chocolate. The muffins weren't completely healthy. I ad-libbed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Out

Voice getting worse. I can now barely squeak, which is frankly quite a disadvantage with these children to round up and boss around. Heh. It is very frustrating to have to whisper things like, "Please don't play in the leaves on the road!"

Baby CJ is playing with Little People and a pink pretty pony, sitting on the floor behind me, and F is having a playdate here with her best friend, but for some reason there seems to be more conflict between them this morning--and I'm having trouble helping problem solve. They just stare blankly at me as I hoarsely murmur, "You need to share with your guest," and other anodyne suggestions. Last playdate they played for an hour with a couple of raggy Polly Pockets and Polly Pocket debris, alone, without a word of disagreement.

Whoops, I'm losing baby CJ. He is crawling out of the toyroom and toward the stairs. I must figure some way to get him out of our bed at night. Somehow we've gotten into this unbreakable pattern of nighttime nursing, after which CJ refuses to go back to his own bed in the middle of the night, but screams and howls till I give in and return him to our bed, which is cozy and warm and has a permanently open snack-bar, so, really, I don't blame him for wanting to hang out with us. But it's taking a toll. I'm always waking in awkward positions, not to mention I'm always waking. In my experience, things have to get really very bad before I'm ready to make a drastic change, and my resistance and conviction are extremely weak at 3 in the morning. Downright anemic. I wonder what it's going to take.

Kiddo has had it. Must change a diaper and try to get him down for a little nap, so we can make some muffins and hang some laundry.
Back. Baby asleep, girls playing beautifully. They just needed a change of scenery--upstairs an improvement on down.
Two tidbits from recent Globe and Mails struck a chord with me:
One was from Saturday's paper, on cities which have car-free downtown cores (they were all European or Northern European, though apparently Montreal tried it for ten weeks this past summer, and a couple of big American cities are considering it). The planner who initiated this in Norway said that people are happier, more content, when their feet can touch the ground. As someone who has made walking part of our family's lifestyle, that really resonated. Not that I don't like a long-distance roadtrip with the iconography that accompanies that kind of journey. But for short hauls, nothing compares to putting one foot in front of the other. That connection to the earth.
The second item was a blurb in the Life section about the pleasures of hanging clothes to dry. It stated that some people (gasp!) actually prefer hanging their laundry to dry, not just because of the energy savings or because they're eco-freaks, but because the task itself is very satisfying. Yes, yes, yes. Being outdoors, listening to birdcalls, hearing squirrels rustle the leaves, the patient task of shaking and clipping and pushing the line out over the yard ... apparently others find this soothing too. Though I just heard on the radio that a mixture of rain and damp snow is in the forecast for today, so I'll have to make-do with my indoor drying system. Brrr. The walk to school this morning felt a little bit like purgatory, with this chilly wind blowing against us. (Is purgatory cold?) But still preferable to strapping children into car seats, then unstrapping, and still having to run through the bleeding cold wind to achieve the final destination. If you walk everywhere, you're much better prepared for the weather.
Snacktime now. Buttered bread and apples. And for me, more of my garlic-ginger brew, with apologies to all in breathing distance.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Before Storytime

Apparently doubling the recipe changed the proportions for those Ginger Snaps yesterday, and I have to confess, though they weren't a flop, they were not the usual slightly cakey, chewy cookie that recipe usually turns out for me. Instead they should have been called Ginger Thins. Still very tasty (butter, sugar, molasses--which is cane syrup or sugar beet syrup, apparently; thanks, Nath!). But flat. I could have draped them over something, hot out of the oven, and they would have taken on that shape. I could have made Ginger Cups and filled them with daubs of whipped cream for a fancy dessert. But instead, I filled my cookie jar and freezer with loads of paper-thin flat cookies.

It's nice to type. I can't really talk. A cold has been creeping up on me for days and last night I felt it settling in. Do you know that sensation? Sliding down your throat to your lungs, settling in like a damp fog. My voice is particularly vulnerable to colds, and I'm often hoarse for days or weeks--once it was months--at a stretch.

We got to school early this morning. A wanted to play with his friends before the bell. I was able to drop them at the playground and walk home a bit earlier than usual. Today is storytime at the library, but first I'm enjoying a cup of coffee and will hang laundry, change a diaper, nurse the babe, and make a little grocery list because I'm craving orange juice. I also need ginger for my stalwart ginger-garlic tea, which I make whenever I'm sick. Here's the recipe: a good whack of peeled ginger root, the cloves of a bulb of garlic, peeled and crushed, the juice of one lemon. Boil together in about 4-6 cups of water, then drink with lots of honey. You can also add cayenne pepper for a real kick (I don't). Or steep a bag of peppermint tea in the mixture at the end to make it a little more palatable. But the weird thing is, it is very very palatable., even without the peppermint. Could be the honey. Don't breathe on anyone after imbibing, however.

Okay, by my calculations, we have 15 minutes till departure time, and, some mmoments having elapsed since the above was written, I've accomplished hanging the laundry, feeding the baby, and (nearly) drinking the cup of coffee. We also read a story while feeding the baby. Who is obligingly filling his pants now, pre-diaper change, rather than waiting till storytime. Go CJ!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Baking

"Slow as molasses." It's funny trying to explain to the kids some of the phrases I use often, but this one is evident as soon as one has any dealing whatsoever with molasses (by the way, what the heck IS molasses??). I'm making a monster batch of ginger cookies, and getting that 1/2 cup of molasses out of the container took, oh, about five minutes. No exaggeration. Drip, drip, drip. And yet the flow was also relentless and difficult to stop, once started.

This is a really good recipe, and makes the most perfect-looking, sugar-studded cookies. My friend Zoe gave it to me, and I thought I'd post it here. It's been awhile since I posted a recipe. Today, I doubled the recipe below, and plan to freeze about half.

Ginger Snaps

3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar, plus extra for rolling
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon

Cream together sugar and butter, beat in egg, add molasses (Patience, please!). Sift together flour, soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Stir flour mixture into butter base and mix together thoroughly. Make small balls (about one teaspoon) and roll them in sugar. Place on pan, leaving enough room for spreading, and bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes.

It's the most gorgeous fall day and Kevin and kids are outside raking leaves. We didn't do much yesterday and this morning I found myself fantasizing about hiring a cleaning company to come in and scrub my bathrooms ... but instead did a quick clean-up in both, up and down, and left with the girls for Sunday School. The boys stayed home and picked up the living-room (lots of new piles added on top of old ones) and vacuumed downstairs. So the state of the house could be worse. The only task I've really set for myself this afternoon is to bake these cookies and make the kids' lunches for tomorrow. My mom is having us over for supper tonight and I'm very very happy not to have think of what to cook. The thinking of it occupies almost as much time as the making of it.

Oh dear, the smell of freshly baked cookies is being forcibly blown out into the backyard via the stove vent and has attracted the attention of several small people, who are now clamouring and drooling at the door.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Saturday Without Chores

Quick morning post while the kids are occupied with Playmobil and baby CJ is hopping in his gigantic bouncy device. Guess I'll never discover a better term for that thing. Speaking of discovering better terms for things, the kids and I developed a pithy phrase to shout after cars which have nearly run us down at intersections: "Patience, please!!!!" So far, that's not been the first thing out of my mouth in that situation, so I will need to practice.

Today we are discovering what it's like to have one car. So far, I've had the car every time I've needed it (two music lessons per week, basically), so haven't exactly felt the loss of the extra vehicle, but Kevin has to work today (Saturday) in Toronto, so the kids and I really are confined to walking/bus destinations. As we walked to swim lessons yesterday afternoon, we discussed all the activities we could do, and there was a general sense of excitement about not having a car at our disposal. Adventures! We decided to go to the library, partly to pick up another book in the Little House series (actually one I didn't know existed, Laura's diary account of the Wilder family's journey from the Dakotas to Missouri), and partly because the big kids never get to come along on our library excursions, since we usually go while they're in school. Not sure what else we'll do. Taking the bus to the children's museum isn't out of the realm of possibility. Or maybe just invite a friend or two over. Mostly, my focus today is on not doing too much extra stuff. No bathroom cleaning. The barest minimum of laundry. None of the usual Saturday chores. We've already had our groceries delivered. Nina's buying club was on hiatus this week, so for the second week in a row, we needed groceries. Just goes to show how much we've been relying on this local source of food--and how hard it is to purchase and eat consistently local without it.

Okay, baby CJ is not the happiest of souls at present. He's wanting to climb things, now, to pull to a standing position. He can get himself upright on the first step of our back staircase, and has recently made an attempt to climb the stairs. Didn't make it far, I'm relieved to report. Desire does not match ability at this point.

Uh oh, it's getting noisy in those other rooms. Looking forward to a day with nothing extra, I shall sign off here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Writing Day

This writing day is feeling a tad useless ... or perhaps a better descriptive would be non-cathartic. It was interrupted by an appointment mid-morning, and I've spent the better part of what was left filling out grant applications. Not exactly exhilerating.

I had a revelation (apologies for navel-gazing; it could be a writing day theme) a couple of evenings ago when I was feeling quite low, just kind of sitting with this sadness inside of me, and realizing how many other people also sit with a sadness or a loss, and, wondering how to answer that feeling--and it came to me: often, the answer is in the healing power of song or a book or a movie. In other words, ART. Listening to, watching, reading, experiencing. It made this continuing effort to write feel more valuable. I have a hard time justifying my writing to myself, or thinking of it as anything other than purely decadent and self-indulgent, partly because it feels so good to do it (anything that feels this good must be bad!), and partly because it earns our family next to nothing. 

But imagine a world stripped of art's beauty and honesty, without stories outside ourselves that remind us who we are or were or want to be. So that revelation was enough to keep me going--at least for now! Till I forget again and need reminding.

Here's what I found in my journal, written a few days after baby CJ was born this spring. I read it over this morning, thinking about my friend Katie, who is waiting for the birth of her third child, and wanted to share it.

"Feeling immense sadness at this being my last time to experience this. It's been a hard and long pregnancy, yet such a gift, a real gift, the kind we don't deserve and accept knowing we are blessed. I wish you could see this round, perfect, smooth face, open mouth, asleep lying across my chest, skin perfectly coloured, hair indeterminate, his own unique self so new in the world. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I'm so extremely happy, and simultaneously nostalgic for this passing/fleeting moment, that I just want to weep for the temporality of everything. We can pretend for a little while, here and there, that we can make something that will last; but all of life is temporal, fleeting, every stage, the good ones and the bad ones, and there is something about holding this brand-new perfect baby that makes me know for sure how true this is. How I can't hold on. How I can only enjoy, enjoy, take in, love, exist; but not hold on. This doesn't have to be terrible, does it? Just a mortal truth. Can I accept? And if I can, won't I be a happier person? I could have another baby, but at some point it would be my last baby; and it could never again be my first. Life makes us move on, whether we like it or not.

Damned hormones!"

Yes, that was written about the same time my milk came in, which my midwife said usually comes along with tears, too. A general leaking, if you will. I was really struggling with that being my last birth experience. But right now, feel very much at peace with our decision. Four is enough, woman!

I had a difficult recovery after the birth, and found a list I'd made about two weeks on.

"Things I will do when well: Hang laundry. Go for evening walks with baby CJ. Walk the kids to school. Cook from scratch. Bake cookies. Walk uptown and to the library. Maybe even jog, with the kids on their bikes. Write. Fold laundry. Pick up toys. Do storytime for my kids. Play the piano. Go out dancing. Have a drink. Host a party. Go camping. Visit friends. Host friends. Buy new clothes. Clean the bathrooms. Go to book club. Sit outside in the sun. Yoga. Relish health."

I loved coming across that list and realizing how many of those very ordinary things I do regularly now, and in fact, how routine life has become in the six months post-birth. Still haven't gone out dancing, I'm sad to report. But so many of those activities are ones I take for granted--even complain about. (Okay, bathroom cleaning = hard to get excited about). But it's good to be reminded otherwise.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Election Hangover

Oye, yoi, yoi, today I've got election hangover. Our "safe" Liberal seat was lost by 72 votes, and the "safe" Kitchener Centre Liberal seat also went down in flames, both to Conservatives; though in the country overall it's hard to pick any real winners. Conservatives are back with yet another minority (apparently we don't like them quite enough). Liberal support tanked, but is obviously still out there--they finished second overall in seat-strength. The Bloc was strong again in Quebec, proving that the Conservative ploy to buy Quebec votes failed sorely. Dippers made some gains, including taking a seat from a prominent Conservative in Alberta. Greens won nothing. Gloomiest of all, voter turn-out was at an all-time low. Conclusion: Real change ain't a comin' to Canada any time soon.

I think it's time for our government to move to proportional representation, or at the bare minimum to some model of governing that favours real cooperation between parties. The minority parliamentary model we're working with now, with its confidence votes and playing chicken, is really just a big pissing contest. It seems invented to create failure, not success; in other words, we the people are supposed to recognize this "natural" dysfunction and, shaking our collective heads in disgust, vote in a majority next time. Except that's virtually impossible with five legitimate parties scrabbling for our votes. Majority parliaments work because they're based on a two-party system. Canada no longer has a two-party system. I'm tired of people having to worry about splitting the vote if they vote with their hearts.

Can someone give me some good reasons for not going to proportional representation as a governing model? It can't just be because the big parties have too much to lose. I wonder whether there are some ideological uncertainties about it too: does it make the country more fractured, does it entrench regionalism?

I'm writing this in a rare moment of quiet this morning. Woke with supper dishes still unwashed and cluttering the countertop, with supper needing to be made in advance due to Beckett lesson this eve, with diapers in the washer, a pile of dirty clothes on the basement floor, two laundry baskets overflowing with clean, unfolded clothes in the living-room, F with a playdate here this morning to supervise, and baby CJ with a hankering to crawl everywhere, eat everything, then get frustrated and demand to be carried about in a sling. Plus we walked out the door thinking we were late for school (we weren't). I've only conquered a few of these problems so far, but things are temporarily looking up. Laundry's hanging on the line. The girls have played beautifully together all morning. Baby CJ went down for a nap. Dishes got washed. I'm cooking up a black bean and grain stew. Is there any way to fry quesadillas in advance? The 6pm music class is proving hairy to get to, and we're dashing out the door still chewing our food, despite what seems like pretty good advance organizing.

Oh, my squash refused to soften last night. I roasted it for ages, but in the end gave up and discarded it. I've never had this happen before. And our CSA sent us gobs of chard and kale yesterday, and yet more beets, so I need to get organized and cook something out of this stuff before our fridge turns from jungle to swamp.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

While the Dishes Wait

Dilemma: to blog or to finish making supper and start the dishes? Hmm.

Kevin's off fetching our CSA box, almost the last of the season, and the girls are playing "Little House," and just came into the kitchen dressed in aprons and bonnets and mittens, wondering how they could help. Taking them seriously, I suggested cleaning up the living-room. The sounds of things being dumped currently accompany this task, but here's hoping things are being dumped into appropriate containers. Boy, with baby CJ on the move, danger lurks in every wretched Playmobil flower abandoned on the carpet. I came out to the living-room today to discover him under the art table, grabbing up fistfuls of broken crayons with evident delight. Oh, F just returned to the kitchen and I see her Little House outfit includes a baseball cap, and beneath the apron a mermaid costume.

We are having leftover surprise tonight (thanks, Janis, for bestowing that name on a supper made from whatever's discovered in the fridge; makes it sound so cheerful). I put whatever's in the fridge into a big bowl, added a gravy-ish white sauce, and sprinkled cheese on top, then baked it in the oven. We'll see if they eat it; after all, everything is mixed together, and my kids, like many kids, prefer some separation upon the plate.

Also roasting a squash and prepping a salad.

Baby CJ is so incredibly on the move that I simply marvel at his mobility. He crawled from living-room through dining-room to kitchen this afternoon, ending near the fridge. Then he suggested I pick him up and carry him around in the sling; he's spent about three hours in that sling today and my back doth protest. But, really, baby CJ wants to walk. Whenever possible he gets a taller person to help him stand. He can hang on and stand quite ably, and as soon as he masters the getting up part, there will be no stopping him. Apparently, by six months, babies feel big. They don't care to be identified with those blobby infant-types any more.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Brief

Because I blogged about my dad remarrying this weekend, I feel obliged to provide some public follow-up. But the truth is that I can think of nothing to say on the subject that wouldn't hurt someone. That's been one of the most interesting, troubling, revelatory discoveries of this whole experience--I mean, the experience of my parents' marriage breaking up--that sometimes there is no "right." I think I'd always believed that a problem, any problem, if only given enough creative thought and attention, would eventually yield to a solution.

Well, maybe not.

I had great difficulty sleeping last night (of course, Murphy's Law, baby CJ slept like a, well, baby, while I tossed and turned, then woke like a real baby the instant sleep arrived for me).

Will sign off for now.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What We Ate

Yesterday we had a feast. It was all about timing, and I did spend the better part of the day preparing food. Luckily, I realized, in the nick of time, that the pies would need to be baked before the chickens. Kevin's sister helped whenever she passed through the kitchen--mashing potatoes, extracting cooked pumpkin from its shell, et cetera. But as evening approached, I began to panic that the children would, in their hunger and impatience, literally climb the living-room walls, waiting for the chickens to reach optimum cooking temperature. Chickens surpassed expectation, thermometer rose, and we had dinner on the table at six o'clock sharp. Baby CJ got to try mashed pumpkin (a so-so review, I'd say). The chicken was succulent; the stuffing delicious; the brussel sprouts edible (Kevin's mom loved them, but I must say they could have been better--perhaps parboiled or roasted a tad longer); the salad of local bitter greens with honey-balsamic dressing and chopped apples and seeds stunning (am I allowed to say this about food I've prepared myself?), and the smashed potatoes with garlic very yummy indeed. Yams snuck onto the menu all by themselves--they were in amongst the potatoes from our CSA box, and were pale in colour, white when uncooked and a delicate yellow cooked, and I assumed them to be odd-shaped potatoes, overgrown fingerlings, and only upon chopping them realized they must be something else. Good old yams. At the last minute, I scrounged up a bag of frozen cranberries and cooked that down into a quick sauce with sugar and water. So easy, but it added the finishing touch--tang and colour. 

Sitting down before this feast, I realized that my cooking is best described as "rustic" or "plain." The sauces are never smooth. Nothing is perfectly whipped. Food tastes like the simple ingredients from which it is made. The pumpkin pie, for example, was made with pumpkin scraped out of the shell (roasting it whole worked wonderfully), mixed as was with the other ingredients, and poured into the crust to bake. The resulting pies were not pudding-like or pureed in texture, but you could taste pumpkin. You knew you were eating pumpkin. This is also the food I like to eat.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Food, Not For Thought

Today's our Thanksgiving feast. I'm keeping it simple. Right now, I'm roasting a whole smallish pumpkin (CSA) in the oven, because, gosh darnit, my kids want a pie, and I'm going to try. We also have two chickens, six pounds, and seven pounds, respectively, thawing in the fridge, which I plan to stuff with a traditional bread stuffing (chopped apples tossed in for fun), and roast according to my Joy of Cooking recipe. Lots of salt rubbed on the skin, shallow pan, breast up. It's going to smell good in here. Additionally, I'm planning on boiling, then roasting some brussel sprouts, if Kevin finds some good local ones at the market. Boiled, smashed potatoes (CSA) with garlic and butter and mmm. Perhaps a balsamic-honey-dressed green salad, depends on what Kevin finds at the market; apparently "spring" mix is newly seasonal right now.

Am I forgetting something? The squash will be in the pie, assuming that works out.

Baby CJ got his six-month immunizations yesterday and has been ever so fussy. On top of his stuffed nose, he's pretty miserable, poor bab. He spent the night cuddled in our bed, again, nursing off and on. This is beginning to take a toll on my dewy-fresh complexion ... Yes, I'll blame it on that.

Kevin's family has arrived. Everyone is off to market, except for napping baby CJ and me (for some reason, he's happy to nap in his crib during the day; it's only at night that he wakes instantly and screams and hollers upon being extracted from a loving parent's arms).

To offer an update on Nina's buying club: It remains alive, popular, and subversive. Who knows, it may be a catalyst to change local food policy and by-laws in exciting ways in the coming months and years. Meantime, it sounds like we will continue to be able to buy at least some of our food through Nina, though today, for the first time in at least a month, we had our groceries delivered by Grocery Gateway (that sounds decadent, but hear me out: none other than George Monbiot, author of Heat, advocates online shopping and delivery, more efficient than each of us hopping into our individual vehicles and tooling around town picking up one item here, and one item there. The delivery cost is $10). Generally, I wait to make the Grocery Gateway order till some heavy things have piled up on my list, which would be difficult to transport all at once in the jogging stroller (aka my shopping cart/bundle buggy).

Thanks for your support re this weekend's familial turmoil. An update on the subject may or may not be forthcoming, depending on how confessional my mood becomes. Today I'm focussed on cooking and hosting, good and occupying tasks. Just remembered what menu item I'd forgotten: YAMS! They didn't arrive at buying club yesterday, and I neglected to add them to my market list. Too bad. Baby CJ probably could have tasted a smackerel too. Maybe I'll save out a bit of pumpkin to mash and cool and serve to him. So far he's eaten nothing but expressed breastmilk mixed with brown rice cereal. Pumpkin/squash is a pretty safe early food, right? Allergenically-speaking?

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Little Rain

This weekend is Thanksgiving here in Canada. But it's also the weekend my dad is remarrying. My parents separated about a year and a half ago, and Dad got engaged this May, right around the time my parents' settlement was finalized. To be brutally honest, it feels rushed, and I'm having difficulty reconciling my emotions with my dad's desire to have a big happy church wedding with all the hoopla that goes along with that. Grief. Sadness. Loss. Emotions entirely at odds with celebration. I realize this is his wedding, not mine. He is obviously free to do whatever feels right to him. But, then, I should be free too. And that's what I'm having a hard time figuring out. Is there any way to attend this event while remaining true to my real emotions? If I go, is it okay to cry, to express grief? I'm not planning on going, actually. None of my sibs are either. We just can't seem to drag ourselves there, though perhaps we all have different reasons for not being able to. My own planned compromise was to attend the reception afterwards, but last night I broke down absolutely weeping at the thought of going, and having to relate, under the circumstances, to the other guests. I'm not a big weeper. In fact, I have never cried over my parents' dissolved marriage--and you know, it felt really really good. It felt like my body was finally accepting what my head and mouth have been saying for awhile: This is SAD! This is HARD! This is COMPLICATED! And I felt my fear of expressing this sadness, of really feeling it, dissolve as I wept. It didn't turn out to be something to be afraid of, after all. It felt clean, a clean pure emotion, and that was such a great relief. It actually made me feel like I could, after all, go through with the reception, that I could go with confidence, that I could go and be genuinely expressive of what I'm feeling, while there. If someone were to ask (as seems likely): how are you? I could reply with honesty. Surely it's okay to step outside the socially acceptable bounds and admit that life doesn't always fit with the rituals on display. I don't mean I'm planning to turn into a bucket of tears over the hors d'oeuvres or something equally dramatic, I just mean I'll be honest. I'll be honest that my participation in this event is riven with emotions not generally considered appropriate for wedding receptions.

Our family has lost a lot in the past year and a half. I am in the midst of mourning all that has been broken, all that is not reparable. Some things cannot be put back together again. Some brokenness is permanent. Life is deeply deeply sad, sometimes. And it's okay to feel that, to know that, and to express that. I've no interest in wallowing in it. Life goes on. But it feels like the right time to reflect on this sadness. This Thanksgiving I will be giving thanks for the human ability to grieve, to feel, to mourn, and also, as in the last post, to Move.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Writing Day

Dreamed all night about Nina's buying club ... which yesterday hit a snag with the city's by-law officers. I was afraid this might happen, since anything to do with both food and business seems to grab the attention of authorities. But I'm struck by the absurdity of the situation: living in a city and buying local food, as directly from the farmers as possible, though without actually driving to each farm individually, is suddenly a subversive act. Travelling in a third world country, you'll see a great mixture of urban and agriculture; chickens and pigs in back courtyards, for example. But we got so sophisticated in our cities that apparently we no longer wished to have any connection to the food we eat, so we legislated such practices out of existence. How bizarre. If the mass-market system of food production collapses, or at the very least is strained ... what then? There are very few things we actually need for survival, and food is at the top of the list.

There's a meeting tonight at Nina's, and perhaps some creative ideas will be forthcoming. I just want to keep eating the food she's making available to our family! It's hard to imagine going back to the same old, same old.

And now: writing day. Our babysitter has a cold, but hopefully will come anyway. We all have colds too. Baby CJ is now crawling!!!! Yes, moving himself forward across the floor, usually in hot pursuit of a toy or book. He loves books. Yesterday I discovered him gnawing a library book (no, I can't and don't keep my eye on him every second!), but snatched it away before he'd dissolved the cover. Watching him so impressively motivated to Move, I think there's an inborn human restlessness, a desire to be getting somewhere else, reaching a little further, something that compels us toward our futures, and toward accomplishment. It's a kind of optimism, too, that something better awaits, just out of reach. But there's a flipside to that urgency to move; and that's our great difficulty appreciating the present moment, chewing on that toy contentedly, even for a second or two. I know I've visited those moments of inner stillness when I realize later that I wasn't thinking about something else. Those moments exist because I inhabit them wholly, and in an odd way, they exist because I'm not marking their existence.

Sometimes, I get those moments on writing day. Sometimes hanging laundry. Sometimes playing piano with the kids. Sometimes walking outdoors with them too. I am always grateful for them, even while I recognize and celebrate the necessity of that other impulse--to plan, and to Move. Yay for baby CJ!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Thinking Thanksgiving Food

Today may rain. I've got two peacefully playing girls in the living-room (F and a good friend), one baby in gigantic bouncer, and one cup of coffee. My goal for today is to have dinner made before walk-to-school time, and to think ahead for the Thanksgiving meal, which is not going to be elaborate this year (actually, I've never roasted a turkey; maybe next year). We're going to thaw two of Nina's chickens instead, and roast those. Probably for Saturday evening, when Kevin's family will be visiting. I've got loads of potatoes and squash (CSA), and have ordered yams through Nina. We do have pumpkins for pie, but I'm not a great pie-maker. I'm good with the cobblers and crisps, the cakes and cookies. Not so much the pies, which actually runs contrary to my heritage. I associate Mennonites with pies. In any case, it won't take much to turn all of this bounty into a feast. I think the preparation of this Thanksgiving feast takes on more significance when one is trying to eat locally. It seems like a goodbye feast, as well as a feast of gratitude for the harvest. Goodbye to summer's abundance and variety. Welcome in a new season of more solemn, heartier eating.

Okay, girls need puzzle help, and baby needs attention, so this shall be as it is, and no more.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Run, Carrie, Run

The run-on sentence keeps on running. Late start this morning, with everyone sleeping in (baby making up for late-night screaming; parents making up for sleeping with restless, snuffly baby), and I literally ran the children to school. We'd just about made it out the door, already on the fine line between okay and late, when it was discovered that baby CJ had blown out his diaper. Whoo-hoo. By the time that was resolved, we were really and truly late, and so, "Run, children, run!" I encouraged, all the way up the hill, and most of the rest of the way. We walked a block, then ran, then walked, then ran, then just decided to run, and made the playground as the bell was ringing. Then I ran home again, upon meeting up with some mom friends who were going for a real run. I was tempted to keep going--maybe next time!?--but was wearing jeans and a coat and hadn't prepared the kids in the stroller for a long-term outing. Anyway, just had time at home to hang laundry (beautiful sunshiny windy laundry-hanging day) and drink a cup of coffee ("Are you done your cup of coffee yet, Mommy?"), do a puzzle with F, feed and change baby, before we were off again and running to storytime at the library. We arrived as they were singing the greeting song, and F was hysterical to be missing it, yet refused to go in on her own. Fortunately, once in, she was able to sit beside a friend, otherwise storytime was heading toward dead-loss territory. "But I not shy, Mommy." Storytime ran a wee bit short this week. Maybe she was discouraged by the screaming children, though this seemed no worse than usual. Then we walked with friends to the little park and played in this gorgeous sunshine for ages, arriving home quite late for lunch (no watch, and apparently sense of time passing completely out of whack with actual time passing). Lunch with Kevin, hung more laundry, read some stories, got baby to sleep in sling, then started supper while F had quiet time. I'm pleased to note that she herself turned off the quiet time monitor (read TV), and started her own art project, though it's impetus was a TV show, I think (a picture of a toothbrush), and that led to a request for an "ice-lolly." Guess it's a British show. "My name is Squiglette ... I like to drawr." We found on old half-finished Freezie in the freezer and she put on a pair of mittens and ate it at the counter. Yes she did. Meanwhile, I chopped and sauteed veggies for a bean-and-grain-based soup. I had about fifteen minutes between that and needing to leave for school, so F and I folded some laundry and brushed her teeth. I was feeling a cold coming on. Ate a few vitamin Cs too. Didn't need to run to school pick-up, thankfully, and AB had a playdate, so it was a peaceful, cookie-filled walk home again. Supper was a breeze to make, since I needed only to turn the burner on, and make biscuits; but the school lunches remain a thorn in the side of my late afternoon. No matter how I try to simplify and plan ahead, it still takes me a good twenty minutes to throw the darn things together. Fruit sliced up, check. Sandwich, check. Egg peeled, check. Cut-up carrots that no one will eat, check. Something extra, check. A takes dried fruit and seeds, and AB gets cookies because she brushes her teeth at school. It sounds like it should be so easy. Maybe racing back and forth between kitchen and living-room to check that baby CJ hasn't rolled/crawled himself into grabbing position for something small and potentially hazardous slows me down. He's on the move, that baby. He'll be speed-crawling within the month, and the good lord preserve us all then--especially him.

Tomorrow I'm considering introducing him to the joys of Kidsplash at the Rec Centre. If the head cold passes and if I can reconcile myself with getting into a bathing suit again. A couple of big ifs.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tomato P.S.

Have to say that 1/4 bushel of romas, boiled into a sauce, filled four quart jars EXACTLY. I am not exaggerating. Don't even know how that's possible. Not a drop left over, and each jar filled with a 1/2 inch of headspace. (This is lazy woman tomato puree, by the way. I neither seeded nor skinned the tomatoes. Still, canning can't get much more casual than this, and, frankly, it hasn't felt like a hardship to do it, which is my general goal in life.)

With the four quarts of marinara from my neighbour (her husband was up till 3am babysitting the pot; and, it was actually five quarts, but one didn't pop, so we ate it for supper tonight), that will make eight more quarts of tomato-substance on my shelf. Heck, we'd survive till at least Christmas, now, on what I've put up. Maybe.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Couple of Chapters and one Run-on Sentence

Yesterday was a day in chapters; many of my days feel that way, and Friday particularly so.

Chapter One, All-Nighter: Baby CJ, under the weather, would not sleep unless held, so he stayed in the bed with us all night, and nursed off and on, too. Woke feeling drained. Literally.

Chapter Two, Pediatric Dentist: After race-walking AB to school (she is the only child with "good" teeth), Kevin and I hauled F and A, plus fussy baby CJ (no teeth yet, thank God) to the pediatric dentist. Then we waited, and waited. Kids losing minds, though perhaps Kevin moreso. Finally. Dental assistant was capital W wonderful, kids behaved in chair. Then we waited and waited to see actual dentist. F in full-on three-year-old mode saying repeatedly, and sternly, "We go home now!" We were literally there for two and a half fun-filled hours. Dentist seems nice. Of course, we'll get to know each other really well in the coming months. This was just the consulation. Result of consultation: A, eight cavities, needs to come back for four consecutive visits, starting in late November, and F, who only got her teeth a little over a year ago, has five, which thankfully will be taken care of in a one-time special extravaganza. We're going to be selling one of the children in order to pay for this; haven't chosen yet. Stay tuned.

Chapter Three, Home: Race to drop A at school, we wander the halls searching for his class (not in classroom) after being told by the Very Happy and Always Pleasant school secretary that we are Late. Feeling like criminals caught on the lam, we discover A's class in the computer lab, hand in pink late slip. Kevin drops the rest of us at home, dashes to work without eating lunch. F so hungry she consumes two and a half bananas. I eat copious amounts, too, feed baby, change soaking cloth diaper, hang laundry, et cetera. Quiet time. Blessed, blessed quiet time. Except baby CJ refuses to sleep during quiet time, now, so I no longer nap during the day. Which isn't the end of the world. I seem to be surviving just fine. Baby CJ finally goes down for a nap. I start editing a story. Yah, great timing. Can hardly tear myself away in time to feed F a quick snack, pack up gear for swim lessons, wake baby to change and feed before hiking off to school. It's hairy.

Chapter Four, Swim Lessons: Pick up kids from school and walk briskly to Rec Centre--so briskly, kids are jogging. It's a finely timed operation, no room for error or unexpected bathroom stops, but everyone rises to the occasion. We're cheerful, we're conversational, we encourage each other. Push stroller right into Rec Centre, park, throw baby into sling, grab swim gear, head for changeroom, change, use bathroom, out on the deck with time to spare. Kids meet teachers, get wet, I go upstairs and watch with baby CJ, who is not going to be content hanging out in the sling much longer. He wants to get down and move. But yick. That floor. I'm not ready for that. He's not really, quite, either. Children shower and change, everyone still cheerful, downright enthusiastic. Now this is a good Friday afternoon.

Chapter Five, Home again. Happy walk in brisk blue-sky fall afternoon, wet heads protected by woolly hats. Cross at our dangerous intersection, nearly get run over by an older woman in a nice car who sees us and just does not care. She's in too much of a hurry. I shout expletives and wave my fist at her bumper. Expletives sound dumb. Need better expletives. Take suggestions from children--nice pat phrase to shout after cars that nearly run us down (this happens often enough to be worth developing). Come up with nothing quite pithy and scathing enough. Feeling rattled, cart bags and gear into house, along with children. Thankfully Kevin's home not long after, and he takes baby. Quickly chop potatoes (CSA), throw into oven to roast; sausages thawing (Nina's).

Chapter Six, Buying Club: Back out the door, despite disastrous house and unopened bags and swim gear leaking on floor. Three children insist on coming along (fourth offers no opinion). Bags in stroller, children running madly down sidewalk to Nina's buying club. Gather food. Stick bags in stroller. Gather more. Children have come only for the treats. F clings to legs upon seeing a "Dad" she's scared of. This goes on and on and on. F in hysterics. I'm trying to add up numbers, make out cheque, not forget anything (which I do just about every week). Head home, pushing stroller absolutely laden with fresh, local food. Children racing down sidewalk. Haul approximately forty pounds of food into house. "Why are you so stressed, Mommy?" asks AB. Stir potatoes in oven. Nurse baby. Set table. Put fresh local food away, empty school bags, start load of laundry. Supper eaten. Teeth flossed. Dishes washed. It's so very late. But there's still another chapter!

Chapter Seven, Book Club: Didn't think I'd get here. Once arrived, don't think I'll be able to go, as find self dozing while nursing baby one last time. Don't bother to brush hair. Grab cellphone, re-tie running shoes, bid husband goodbye. Run. Run down the block toward book club, but as running realize lungs are opening, muscles are relaxing, feel suddenly loose and energized and delirious with oxygen. Decide to run a little further. Finally, turn back and head into book club, otherwise known as "book club." This month we didn't even have the pretense of a book, though we did have a topic: politics. Lively conversation ensues. This is a good chapter, a fine one to end on.

Now today, Saturday, has been one long run-on sentence. Cleaning, organizing, errands, work. And I'm going to can a 1/4 bushel of tomatoes tonight--the remnants of the romas--which I've already turned into plain sauce. But first, Kevin's taking the kids skating and I'm ignoring the dishes and going for a walk with baby CJ. Mental health moment, here I come.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Writing Morning v. Laundry

Writing morning. So obviously I'm hanging laundry on drying racks indoors instead, wondering whether I've crossed the line from earnest to obsessive. But for this indoor hanging system to work, I have to do a load of laundry every day (in addition to diapers) or else too much piles up and there isn't room to hang it inside. It doesn't look great, either, which is another downside to the system. Dampish underthings on racks about the house, with the overspill hanging off chair-backs, and over railings. Welcome, guests. Make yourselves at home. Dry your socks. Where was I going with this? Oh yes, I actually like the new system. Getting the clothes off the racks and into drawers is much easier than getting clothes out of baskets and into drawers.

I'm determined not to blog after my writing day. If it's been a good writing day, I'm way too interior, and if it's been a bad one, I'm wracked with self-doubt, either of which results in less-than-pleasant belly-button-pondering. I therefore vow to keep navel under wraps.

On late-night-canning with neighbour friends: I am a sad failure. Though I chopped and seeded half a bushel of roma tomatoes in company last night, I was zombie-like in my need of sleep by 10pm, and left said neighbours stirring a giant vat of tomato puree (with garlic, onions, basil, parsley, and grey salt), estimated cook-down time: three more hours. Actually, they sent me home. Not much point in three people standing around observing the evaporation process. Canning was to take place this morning. Apparently, the saints did decide to preserve on my behalf. The fate of that second half-bushel remains undetermined, though at the very least, I can be thankful it is not waiting mournfully upon my kitchen floor. 

Tonight's debate is: which debate to watch? And why would our broadcasters pit the Canadian leaders against Sarah v. Joe? There will be some channel flipping in our house tonight.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rainy Afternoon

Today is all about staying ahead of the curve. Is that the right phrase? That sounds like baseball. Okay, today is all about dashing madly ahead of the giant pursuing wave about to come crashing down on my head. I've ordered a last bushel of tomatoes, may the saints preserve me. Or may they preserve those tomatoes on my behalf. Actually, this could be fun. I'm trying something new, and will attempt to can these tomatoes with a neighbour friend tonight. In fact, it was her idea, and we'll be using her kitchen. I believe we're planning to turn these romas into a pleasant marinara. It will be a scramble getting over there by 8pm, which is my goal. The big kids start their music class at the Beckett tonight, at 6pm, so I'm in the midst of cooking a tomato sauce (yes, more tomatoes) for supper tonight--I'm planning a tortilla lasagne, using leftover black beans, rice, hamburger, this sauce, and piles of cheese. And tortillas as the "noodles." Generally speaking, this meal is a huge hit. And I can slap it together and toss it in the oven as soon as we walk in the door from school, and it will be ready to eat by 5, which is my goal.

Okay, baby CJ has just spent a good half an hour in his gigantic bouncer thing and is starting to sound a little, er, resentful. But the morning's dishes are done, and this sauce is nearly done, and I've gotten to blog, in addition to staring blankly about at various things that need doing. This floor is ... well, it's almost beyond what my (admittedly low) standards can tolerate. And yet, here I am, not scrubbing it. Watch me as I continue to not scrub it for days--weeks?--to come.