Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

After the success of last week's Chocolate Sunflower Granola Bars, which lasted most of the week and worked well for kids' lunches and take-along snacks, I thought I'd try adapting another cookie recipe to the one-tray bar version (we all need variety, even in cookies). This bar is a little more chewy and cookie-like, and a little less seedy and granola-y. It's adapted from the chocolate chip cookie recipe found in Mrs. Restino's Country Kitchen.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Cream together 1 cup of softened butter with 1 cup of brown sugar, and 1/2 cup white sugar.
Next, add the following ingredients to the creamed mixture, and mix them in with a spoon till incorporated: 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use canola), 2 eggs, and 2 tsp. vanilla.
In a separate bowl, sift together the following: 2 cups unbleached flour, 2 cups whole wheat flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, and 1 tsp. salt. Add to the wet mixture in two additions, and mix till it comes together.
As usual, I kept my recipe nut-free (otherwise, I can't send the end results in the kids' school lunches, which totally defeats the purpose). In place of nuts, I substituted: 1 cup of oats. Stir those in, along with 1/2 cup of wheat germ, and 1 cup of chocolate chips.
Spread the dough on a greased cookie sheet, and bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 25 minutes. Cut into squares as soon as the giant cookie comes out of the oven. Let the tray rest, with the cut squares, on a rack till cool.
Kevin thought he liked last week's squares best (more roughage to chew on), and Fooey thought these were the best. I give a gold medal to the baking method. I've been avoiding cookie-baking for awhile due to how time-consuming it is to drop the dough onto the tray in individual lumps, and then hang around the kitchen while baking tray after tray after tray. Both of these recipes make a substantial amount of bars that last the better part of the week. Bulk baking, baby.
Yoga day was wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. I am finding in this seemingly individual physical experience a collective joy that it wouldn't be possible to find alone. I continue to reflect on the nature of awe, wonder, the body, and the spirit. I am glad. Plus, I baked four loaves of bread before leaving the house yesterday, so added to these cookie bars, and the waffles made fresh this morning and frozen for three breakfasts this coming week, it was a productive kitchen weekend. Kevin and Albus are working on supper together, while we are all glued to the hockey game. Albus's menu: caesar salad with homemade dressing and homemade croutons, pasta with homemade pesto, and devilled eggs--for protein. Tonight we'll be enjoying dessert, too: ice cream. Or, possibly, banana splits.
And Canada just scored the first goal of the game. I'm going to miss the Olympics.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Monster Family Meeting

Thursday is family meeting night. This past Thursday, Albus had evening social plans, so I assumed we'd find another night instead; but plans got cancelled, so I said to the kids on the way home from swim lessons that we could have our family meeting as usual. But it turned out that the evening unfolded slowly. We walked through the door with swim gear, school gear, snow pants, and the noisy unhappiness that seems to arise during every transition. I had to throw supper together (pasta, red sauce from the freezer with hamburger, also from the freezer, neither completely thawed; plus salad and dressing). Kevin worked later than usual (software development in its final stages--we hope). And then we had a lovely surprise just as we were sitting down to our late supper (late for us is 6pm): Nina happened by with the gift of a banana cake with peanut butter frosting! Over supper, we had a funny conversation about dessert: how some families eat dessert virtually every night (does yours, out of curiosity?). We rarely eat dessert, and if we do, it becomes bedtime snack. Dessert is for birthdays, company, and, now, family meetings. I took a poll: who would like to have dessert right after supper tonight? Uh, everyone, obviously. So we all licked our forks, cleared our plates, and I served up six gigantic slices of banana cake. It was very jolly indeed. So jolly that I briefly contemplated making and serving dessert every night after supper (don't tell the kids). But by the time we'd gotten the dishes done, the school lunches made, and a few baths taken, it was very very very late--bedtime, in fact. CJ was beside himself, having scorned all opportunities to nap. The older children were also in full-on meltdown mode. Being asked to brush their teeth sent several of them into screaming fits. Kevin and I looked at each other: it's too late--no family meeting tonight.
No family meeting????? The screams and howls rose to fever pitch.
I thought they just wanted the ice cream. But it turned out, when I was able to calm them enough to put the question to them, that it was the meeting they wanted. They would forgo the ice cream as long as we had the FAMILY MEETING. How could we turn them down? (Don't ask Kevin--he would have found a way. The Canadian women were in the middle of playing in the gold medal hockey game against the United States, and he suffered greatly through the meeting that followed). We gathered on the couch in the living-room so that I could nurse CJ and snuggle Fooey, who was exhausted. The two older children took the lead. Albus was chairperson, and AppleApple was secretary. The entire meeting followed an agenda proposed by them. We discussed cooking this weekend, and other weekend plans. We discussed the kids' plan to sleep in the basement together on Saturday night (ie. tonight--wish us luck!) and who would sleep where (CJ in the playpen, and AppleApple will carry him up to Mommy if he wakes up in the night and needs a nurse--AppleApple's plan). We discussed Albus's recital on Sunday, to which he has been instructed not to wear jeans or sweat pants--horrors! (He suggested wearing sports pants--you know, the super tight, shiny athletic pants that I can just see his piano teacher staring at in askance; when that option was rejected by his mother, he said, okay, then, pajama pants. His teacher hadn't said anything specifically against pajama pants. Oooooookaaaaay. Deep breath). At this point in the meeting, Kevin looked like he was about to run out of the room--in fact, I'm pretty sure he did manage to slip out to check the score on the screen in the kitchen.
As a final item, AppleApple introduced the topic of: Summer! What camps might they go to, what plans are we making, et cetera. She and Albus were utterly serious and concentrated, but quite honestly, Kevin and I were almost beside ourselves with impatience, which makes me laugh now. Even at the time, I was laughing on the inside, proud of them, and rolling my eyes at myself. I've created a monster! But a good monster. A monster that insists on talking things through no matter the circumstances. Still, I had to get the two youngest kids off to bed before they imploded on my lap. So I asked Kevin to introduce a motion to end the meeting.
"Meeting's over!" he said.
"That's not how you introduce a motion."
A vote was taken, and four of us raised our hands to close the meeting. The two older children were moderately accepting, but thought we should have talked longer.
Honestly, these Olympics. I love them, but I need more sleep. I've been up till about midnight every night for the past two weeks in order to witness can't-miss moments--so many of which were worthwhile witnessing, and I'm grateful for the inspiration, the excitement, the displays of athleticism and courage. But I'm looking forward to an early bedtime. Starting Monday.
Today is an unusual day for me. Starting at 3pm, I'm heading into a yoga marathon, of sorts. First, I'm trying out a "hip-hop" yoga class with several friends. It's a two hour class and I hope it doesn't destroy me physically, because later tonight I'm also going to Kasia's kundalini yoga, in her beautiful, warm--and tonight, likely, crowded--studio. Last month's class was mind-blowing, physically challenging and rewarding. I'm praying that I'm up for it. Here's hoping for some Olympic strength by osmosis. (Though, frankly, curled on the couch in a state of sleep deprivation may not be the best method of physically conditioning oneself for feats of strength).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A+ Mama Moment

The scene: two youngest children are playing "dentist" with the little guy I babysit on Tuesdays. They are getting along well, taking turns sitting in Fooey's high chair, and I'm in the kitchen nearby not really paying attention. As becomes obvious when Z turns up to pick up her child and glances askance at Fooey, who is performing some sort of dental surgery--with part of a wooden train--on CJ, who sits passively and sweetly, mouth open. Meanwhile, Z's son approaches the dentist chair with the play broom.
Z: "It's time to go."
"Wait, I just need to check his mouth with this again."
Z and I turn to each other: "Did he just say 'again'?"
"Yup, pretty sure that's what he said."
The scene still cracks me up every time I think of it.
Above, all three are managing to share a tent in the living room. Only a few tears preceded this relatively peaceful picture.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Food, Glorious Food

Here's a new twist: Kevin cooking with the kids. Today, it was Fooey's turn and I needed a break. So the two of them thought up the menu and made: wonton soup, and shrimp crepes with mint, lettuce and bean sprouts (from Vietnam in the global food cookbook). For dessert, which we're eating right now: bananas fried in butter and brown sugar with mango sorbet. Good, good, and good!
Next week's menu is already being discussed. It will be Albus's turn. Kevin is pleased to participate in the cooking, and I am happy to pass the torch.
With my spare cooking time this weekend, I made a chicken stock to freeze (and to use as a base for the wonton soup). I've been doing this regularly, every few weekends, making enough to freeze for adding to soups and other recipes during the week. Here's my extremely basic recipe for chicken stock: I use the bones, skin, and gizzardy bits leftover from roasting a scrumptious Nina chicken, adding whole onions, garlic, carrots, celery, sometimes a potato or turnip, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaves, and a few tbsp of apple cider vinegar; and of course litres of water, often coming close to filling my gigantic stock pot. After simmering for an hour or two, I let it cool, then strain everything out. The taste of this stock cannot be beat; except perhaps by the smell while it's cooking. Which is why I keep making it.
I also made whole wheat waffles, doubling the batch, and making enough to store several breakfasts' worth for later in the week. Weekend waffle-making has become an excellent habit this winter.
My final recipe success today: Chocolate Sunflower Granola Bars. This is adapted from Simply In Season's Oatmeal Fruit Cookies, and was inspired by two different friends describing how they make cookie baking faster: by spreading the dough onto a sheet and cutting it into squares after baking. I had about 45 minutes in which to make these bars if we were going to make it to the planned afternoon family yoga outing. Plenty of time! Here's my recipe:

Chocolate Sunflower Granola Bars
Cream together 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup oil, 1 cup sugar, and 2 tbsp honey. Scrape the bowl and beat till light and fluffy. Beat in 1 egg and 2 tsp vanilla.
In a separate bowl, combine 3 and 1/2 cups of oats, 2 cups of whole wheat flour, 1 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips, 1 cup sunflower seeds, and 1 teaspoon baking soda.
Add the dry to the wet, stirring just till mixed. You can add another sprinkling of flour if the mixture seems wet.
Spread the dough on a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
Cut into squares while the giant cookie is still hot.
(I left the cut, hot squares untouched in the cookie sheet and resting on the cooling rack for a couple of hours while Albus and Fooey and I went on a family yoga outing together, and the squares were lovely and cool and transferred nicely to the cookie container upon return. Not even crumbly!).

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Look After Each Other!"

That's what I shout at the two big kids as they head off for school on their own. There's a kind of yah, whatever response to that phrase, but I know that they hear me, and that they do ... look after each other. The time they spend together belongs only to them, and though they don't know it yet, it's going to matter forever. I love my own siblings. It's a unique bond. In childhood the love and pride for each other is torn by primitive and primal feelings of jealousy and competition, and then, if we're lucky, we grow up and out of that into a closeness that comes from having shared the same experiences, the same family, the same parental quirks. A lot of the same story. And who knows what troubles they will need to help each other through.
So I keep saying it: "Look after each other!"
Hey, yesterday CJ peed on the potty. He really really did, and of his own initiative. I think it freaked him out just a little bit, but he was proud. We called Kevin so CJ could tell him himself. But he's a long way from potty training proper ... as we discovered last night during a post-bath, pre-pajama spell of random spot-peeing, which seemed always to take him by great surprise. Somehow, those important bodily signals are not translating yet. Nevertheless, I'm super-proud of him.
On the siblings. One of the things I love about my children is that they take genuine joy and pride in CJ's accomplishments (and, occasionally, in each other's). But there's something about that littlest that brings out the best in everyone. He can be a lot of extra work and trouble--but they all try to include him. Yesterday, Albus hurt CJ's feelings, and was immediately filled with genuine remorse. "I'm sorry!" Big hug. "You can come and play with us, wittle bittle." Or some baby-talk name along those lines. I'm a big baby-talker, so naturally the kids do it too. CJ has a funny thing he says often now: "Hey, ding-dong!" He also brought home the cutest craft from nursery school last week--a tiny owl, which he appears to have named "Bubbles," and whose home is under the bathroom sink. That's where CJ is right now--not under the bathroom sink; I mean at nursery school. I should be yoga-ing, or revelling, or even just napping. Nope. Typing. Okay, that works too. But oh the time goes by so fast.
Family meeting last night was not super-exciting, but we did it. And it worked, mostly. The two youngest family members were too tired, as were the parents, but AppleApple kept things flowing. She ended by introducing a motion to have us choose special colours of clothing to wear on family meeting days (inspired by school spirit days, I think). We settled on "blue, black, red, white," with the combination being at the discretion of the clothes wearer. She wrote it on the calendar so we won't forget next Thursday. The other important items on the agenda: Kevin suggested using a reusable container to fetch our gelato in. And everyone agreed to keep trying to resolve conflicts using the two rules: everyone has to talk, and no yelling. AppleApple requested more parent involvement, specifically helping both parties figure out what they should say. Albus and Fooey had a genuine conflict that was genuinely resolved by compromise while the three of us were on our way home from the children's museum on Sunday. I stopped the car and parked till they worked it out. It took some time. But it was revelatory for me too, to help them get to the root of their conflict, together. Like a lot of conflicts, each saw the problem differently. Fooey wanted to lean her head over so she could see the dials on the front dash. Albus felt that she was in his personal space. She didn't understand the concept of personal space. So it took a lot of work. And I'm not sure either was super-happy with the solution (essentially, both had to compromise--Fooey had to lean less, and Albus had to give up a bit of personal space). But I didn't start the car again till I was sure the fighting was over. (I should add that though that was a success story, we've had far more half-finished, unresolved, problematic attempts at conflict resolution all week ... so I don't want to paint an idealized portrait here).
Look after each other!

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's a Good Thing He's So Freaking Cute

Should write a new post. Too weary for much. This family day just about did me in. More accurately, it was the attempt to go to a movie this afternoon--Where the Wild Things Are--en famille. As we were gathering our debris and getting everyone into snow clothes afterward, Fooey declared, "That was the best family day ever!" Kevin and I just looked at each other in amused disbelief. Down in the lobby, I said, "Hey, how about we go out to a nice restaurant now and torment some more paying customers," and we both got the giggles. So did a pleasant-looking couple who was happening by. I think perhaps my worst moment during the movie was when CJ spilled a bag of cookies and then crawled around eating them off the floor AND THEN discovered that he could fit under the seats and headed off to the row behind us--and made it. Oh, there was some shushing going on all around us. That was when I gave up and headed for the bathroom, which is where we spent the rest of the movie. Was there a movie? Was it good? Fooey summed up the best parts for me over leftovers at home (we declined to hit up a restaurant on the way home). Now I can't recall what she said, but it was funny. "He left because he wasn't the king. Nobody was!" Oh, yes. I'm recalling it now. Apparently one of the monsters gets his arms ripped off (that happened while I was in the bathroom; sounded traumatic, but no one seemed perturbed). "And it was his favourite arm!" said Fooey. "Why would he have a favourite arm?" And then she tried to pick which of hers was the favourite; but she couldn't.
And now I need a nice glass of red wine to recover my sanity. The holiday is definitely over. And these Olympics are inflicting serious sleep deprivation upon me. I keep staying up late so as not to miss any must-not-miss moments. Boy. Was I glad I stayed up last night for the gold medal run.
Another blog has posted a review of Hair Hat. Pretty fine. I'm amazed and gratified to find that this dear little book of mine has found new life, six years on. Six years? Yes. It's really been that long.
And here's the other thing we did today: we made a music video in honour of Canada's first gold medal. The homemade music is a bit lacking, but you would not believe the chaos in which it was recorded. Oh, wait. You just read my account of the movie above. So you'd believe it. Anyway. We tried. And it was a genuine all-family-project, just like Kevin and I had hoped to accomplish today. Phew.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Break-Through Family Meeting!

Wow, that was pretty awesome. Must blog while it's fresh, even though I have swimsuits to rinse and laundry to start and toys to tidy. Because tonight's family meeting was something else. On a small scale, you understand. But something else nevertheless.
It started off with the kids asking when the meeting could start (hint, hint: ice cream snack!). But their enthusiasm went deeper than that. Once we'd established who would be secretary (AppleApple), and that everyone else who wanted to could draw pictures during the meeting (Fooey was disappointed that her inability to write prevented her from being the secretary), the kids leapt right in: Why were we writing things down and then not really talking about them?
So. First item on the minutes: family meetings.
As the kids started talking over each other, I suddenly saw the point of the talking stick. I grabbed a crayon. "This can be our talking stick." The kids LOVED it. No, seriously. They loved it. Whoever held the talking crayon was listened to with complete seriousness. And there was something about holding the talking crayon that made people think more about what they wanted to say.
AppleApple held the crayon and said she thought we should spend at least one minute on every item. Albus agreed, and added that everyone should get a chance to talk about it.
Huh. I guess as chairperson I'd been doing a lot of talking and whipping through items. So we passed the crayon, and everyone had a chance to say something, and then I decided to go all out. Have I mentioned that I'm not a committee person? Well, I've reformed. I asked for a show of hands to pass the item. It was unanimous. Apparently all they wanted was an equal voice for everyone, and ample discussion time.
For the next item, we opened the floor, and Albus took the crayon. "Lego!" he announced. AppleApple wrote it down, and we passed the crayon. No one had much to say, though Albus got the chance to tell us a fact about a Star Wars Lego ship. Item passed.
Next item was my baby. This came about following Monday's yoga distress. I was suddenly completely done with stepping in and solving my children's conflicts for them. It occurred to me like a whack to the head that this was just another form of triangulation; I really don't want to use it as a form of communication in my adult relationships, and try not to--and yet here I was doing it every single day--not every single time that a conflict arose, but definitely anytime someone shrieked loudly enough (usually the smaller of the two children involved).
How to throw such a turnaround at the children? Well, I started by just trying it out on Tuesday morning. With mixed results. And a fair bit of resistance. And a lot of: "It's not fair!"
So my item was: conflict resolution. Started by defining "conflict," and "resolution." Then I put it to them: "When you are having an argument with someone else, I want you to work to resolve it yourselves."
Albus took the crayon, and pointed out that when we'd tried this yesterday morning, Fooey had refused to answer him and then he had to leave for school--and he felt that she'd "won" and that it wasn't fair. Well, it wasn't fair, was it? So I said, "Maybe we need some rules for this to work." Everyone agreed. AppleApple took the floor. Rule number one, she suggested, would be that everyone had to answer each other. This was generally agreed upon, but then Albus asked for the talking crayon. "I think the person shouldn't always have to ..." and then he trailed off as his idea sank in for him. "No," he said. "I changed my mind. The person should always have to answer."
So rule number one had unanimous agreement, even from Fooey (who I must remind myself is only four, and who will be more challenged by this experiment than the older kids, I think). Kevin added the rule that there be no yelling. And I said that if they needed help, Kevin and I would be happy to make suggestions about what they could say to or ask each other to work toward a solution. "That actually makes sense," Albus said, sounding slightly surprised by the fact that he kind of liked the idea. We passed this item with an agreement to revisit it next week and talk about how it had worked and what we might want to change or add.
This sounds almost like a family utopia as I write it down, but I swear, I'm not making this up, this really happened! I should add that this was our fourth meeting. The first was quite informal, during supper. We started with minutes and ice cream at our second meeting. Talking stick by the fourth. So we're evolving.
Next item was Kevin's suggestion: ice cream flavour suggestions for the next meeting. By this point, Fooey was willingly taking the talking crayon and adding her two cents. Which was adding up to about five or six cents.
Last item: Family Day. Brainstorming possible ideas for activities. The three oldest kids wanted to go to the Children's Museum "because they have a dead body there." I think this is actually true--one (or more) of those preserved bodies that show the human muscular system, internal organs, and etc.
At this point, Fooey got hold of the crayon and started making points about what she'd like to do for her birthday (a favourite subject all day today--her birthday is in August--and she was especially keen to "sleep in," and "eat breakfast in bed"). That was the point at which I reminded myself that Fooey is only four. Albus got the talking crayon back and said he could see the point of keeping the meetings short.
Kevin and I exchanged a grin.
(And if need be, we could put a time limit on how long any one person can hold the talking crayon; though I hope not to have to.) We finished with an evaluation of the penny jars, and handed out allowances. By that point, everyone was happy to put the meeting to bed, and it felt like we'd really accomplished something. It really did.

Getting Dressed

This week, I did something I haven't done before. I removed two blog posts. They were public for about 24 hours, and then I took them down. I'm still not sure whether it was the right decision.
I love this blog. I love recording bits and pieces of our life. I've also loved talking more about my writing life; that's been really good for my psyche, I think, and has allowed me to "come out" as a writer--to myself, as much as to anyone else. Writing about it, not in a journal, but online, somehow changed how I saw my own identity. I used to hate to identify as a writer (and I'm talking about AFTER I published a book, not before). I never knew what to say when someone complimented me or wanted to talk about writing. If I'm to analyze it (and how could I possibly stop myself from doing that!), I would say that I was afraid. I was afraid of public failure, as much as anything, because the writing life is nothing if not loaded with criticism, judgement, and rejection. Which feeds doubt. And any success was never quite enough to counter that. I felt like I was the embodiment of an elaborate ruse, or dressed in someone else's clothes, or wearing a mask. I don't feel like that anymore. You know .... so be it. I'm a writer. It's not a big deal. It's just what I do. And I honestly think that blogging about it helped get me to that point--over the mountain of fear, into a pleasant valley of normalcy. If you give me a compliment now, I'll just say "Thank you."
Which brings me to the blog posts that I removed. Both were confessions, of a sort. Confessions of failure and doubt. Something about them--their confessional nature? their tone? their introspection? (yes, more than usual)--made me feel naked. Not naked in body, but naked in spirit. I do question, like a lot of bloggers do, why I am doing this. Why not a journal beside my bed? I'm very comfortable, now, thinking of my blog as a family scrapbook, as a record of our mundane ordinary every days which would otherwise blur together and be lost in memory. I'm even comfortable thinking of my blog in a professional sense as an extension of my work, and a place where I can talk about my writing life. But am I comfortable getting spiritually naked online? Does it serve any purpose? What am I looking for?
I question my motivation. And I question it enough to remove those posts permanently. There are a (very) few people in my life with whom I'm most intimate, and with whom I might naturally share the progressions and failures of my spiritual life. Does sharing it in a somewhat anonymous way online bring me closer to people I might not otherwise connect with or get to know? I consider that. But it's (mostly) a one-sided relationship, online. It's like undressing in front of a window at night; seeing your own reflection and not seeing who might be walking by the street below. You can see how my thinking loops round and round on this point. I don't think I've nailed the right answer, it's more that I don't want to do something that makes me feel this uncomfortable.
So, for now. I'm staying (mostly) clothed. In spirit. You know what I mean.
Yesterday's yoga class was wonderful. Following the difficult class on Monday, it was also a relief. My brilliant thought-of-yesterday's-class was: My body is my emotional barometer. It's taken me 35 years to figure that out. And yoga is like taking a stress-test. It's an instant read thermometer. I know almost immediately whether my mind is calm or stirred, whether I am comfortable with the choices I've made that day, or whether I have some work to do. And sometimes the work gets done right there in class, and I emerge at the end with an unexpected thought or perspective, more open to the world. And that's when I'm most likely to come home and write a blog that the next day makes me ask: should I close the curtains?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hair Hat Reviews

Too many blog entries today, but I can't help it, here's another: I just discovered a moving (for me) review of my first-born book. I cannot believe how accurately the reviewer (Kerry Clare) got in touch with what I was attempting to achieve. I'm amazed. And touched. And then, another new review, too.

Family Meeting

AppleApple took photos. We've chosen Thursday evenings as our regular meeting time. Ice cream has been incorporated into the event.
But Kevin and I are not committee people. That's an understatement. Our impatience with committees knows no bounds. Nevertheless, we've named our family meetings: The S-C Family Committee Meeting.
Albus volunteered to be secretary for this last one. This is quite extraordinary, as he greatly dislikes any task that requires writing. He perfected his short-form. We went over the minutes from last week's meeting, and added some new items to this week's minutes. I think the children were a bit disappointed by what happens (ie. very little) at the meetings. We introduce a subject, briefly discuss it, then move on to another one. The two older children kept reading and re-reading the minutes. "But we haven't really DONE Dad's friend party," they would say. And we would say, "Well, is there something you'd like to add to what we've already talked about?" And they'd say, "No, but we haven't really DONE it!"
Proposed item for next meeting: figuring out what it would take for any item to be DONE.
Kevin and I are so far mostly chairing the meetings ourselves, though I can actually imagine one of the older children taking over down the road. We are not using a "talking stick," or other very formal organizational devices, but already found the children more responsive to the phrase: "Let's let [insert sibling's name] take a turn to talk, and then you can have your turn." It's definitely been a fun addition to the week. So far, everyone seems to look forward to it.
My most difficult task is clearing time and space for the meeting. There can be no multi-tasking. I can't be doing the dishes or making tomorrow's lunches while participating in the meeting. But we can all eat ice cream.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

We Got Silkworm Spinning / We Got Birthday Singing ...

Want to write, if hurriedly, about our party last night to celebrate Kevin's fortieth birthday--his "friend party," as we explained to the kids, who had their own ideas about who should be invited (ie. their friends). It wasn't till the kids were in bed that the party really started for me--the eddying and flowing, whirling and skirling of shallow waters and deeps that makes for a really fine gathering. I took no photographs. Not one. It felt like the camera would remove me from what was happening, and I really just wanted to sink right in and enjoy.
Highlights include the late-night tidying insisted upon by the Three Vodkateers (ever may they outwit, outplay, and outlast).
I also cannot fail to mention Ryan's can of conversational magic, aka edible silkworm pupa, which guests braver than I threw back and managed to keep down (Survivor comes to Uptown; no prizes for this one, but aren't you glad to be alive?); there were few takers for seconds. The children put the leftovers into jars this morning and by evening I'd collected and spun our first silk scarf, which seems entirely improbable, nay, downright incredible, given the infamously finicky nature of the silkworm and that the little slugs had been marinating, potentially for months, in monosodium glutomate. Guess we just got lucky. Ryan, that was a well-invested $1.50.
But seriously. The best moment of the evening? A full house singing lyrics especially written for Kevin's birthday by Chris L., with Sean on wailing acoustic guitar. Was I dry of eye? I was not. Later, a friend told me that they'd been mulling what to get Kevin for his birthday, and suddenly someone said: We shouldn't get him something--we should DO something! Thus, the surprise song. A better gift for a man of action, there could not be. Thanks to everyone.
And suddenly it was three thirty in the morning, and the house was quiet. And then it was seven, and the house was not.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

CJ in the House, Woot Woot

Man, I love this kid. He's a clown. He's a peacock. He found this hat (Kevin's) and put it on himself. He's got the swagger, the moves, the drama. He's a talker, too. Loves making up words, trying out words, putting words together. Reading me stories from books. Loves an audience. Sometimes, these days, I'm all he's got.
Tonight I made it to yoga class. Finally. It had been a week and one day since the last class. I haven't had the energy recently to get out at night. I've chosen pjs and bed over sweating and exertion. But tonight's class reminded me--as all the classes do--why it's worth it to go. Because it damn near kills me, sometimes, and those times turn out to be the best. Tonight I was able to manage the physical distress as long as I continued with the poses; I'm finding it more natural for my mind to enter a space where it can cope calmly and concentrate. But when I reached final resting pose, I was fairly certain that I'd pushed myself too hard and had gone too far. Lying still. It felt almost impossible. It took ever fibre of self-control to continue resting there (and for those of you who practice yoga, you know this pose is often the most pleasurable, a place of relief and accomplishment and general good vibes). I was the last person to get up and leave the room, but I stayed till I'd gotten myself back. It took a lot of concentrated breathing. I also kept repeating a mantra given to me by my kundalini teacher and friend, Kasia.
And as I walked out of the room, I realized that I was GRINNING. I felt amazing. Not at all like throwing up. Fabulous. Beyond fabulous.
Very trippy.
The yoga practice works as a metaphor, for me. It is like going on a journey, in miniature. A difficult journey. There are moments when you think you cannot endure. You want to give up. You get past that moment, and you're confronted by another. And another. But if you keep going and stay focussed on something clear and necessary--your own breath entering and exiting your body--you discover reserves of courage and strength. You get beyond. To somewhere you couldn't have imagined when you started out. To something ... not necessarily better, because who's to judge. Just ... to a place that has depth and meaning, and to which you bring the courage that got you there.
I'd title this entry "Flake Out With Obscure CanLit Mama," but that doesn't go with the photos.

Monday, February 1, 2010

And Then He Was ...

Kevin had a birthday on Saturday. One of those BIG birthdays that, rumour has it, comes paired with crisis and denial. Thirty-nine again? Not my husband. Here he is the night before, still thirty-nine, and then the next morning, forty. (Since I've been doing this before/after documentation for the kids, why not for him? Except please don't comment to say that he looks older in the morning).
On his birthday, he slept in, ate waffles, watched the Celtics play live on the internet, received a surprise delivery of a birthday gift worthy of the changing of the decades (a new guitar!), was serenaded at a specially prepared birthday concert starring his children, went out for a family sushi lunch, spent the afternoon playing guitar and watching a movie with the kids, and went out for dinner with me.
But the cake had to wait one more day because I hadn't read the recipe thoroughly enough to discover that it required chilling in the fridge for a minimum of six hours post-baking. (It was a somewhat laborious-to-make New York Cheesecake; my first ever attempt). So we blew out candles (four plus zero) last night instead.
The wish still counts, I'm sure of it.