Category: Cooking

Being Human

Topics I’ve been meaning to cover …

The way our neighbours and friends are bringing us food regularly, and what an amazing mental boost that has been (not to mention being good practical help, too). I meant to photograph us enjoying each meal, but my good intentions got lost in the whirr activity–the thought seems only to occur to me to AFTER supper. Dirty dishes = not a compelling, or (sadly) original, subject.

The way I always need to learn things the hard way–why is that? The easy way would be so much … easier.

The way, immediately following a moment of self-congratulation, I do something that reminds me how ridiculously human I am. Fallible, weak, BITCHY. Pardon the swear, but no other word quite sums up my Being today. I am so growly, so irritable, so lacking in patience, I’m even getting on my own nerves. Heh. Thankfully, the weather turned sunny again today, and after hauling three children to the grocery store, I arrived home and observed to my husband that the day was gorgeous and that my children, lovely as they are, were driving me insane, and he kindly suggested that he could take them all out to the backyard to play. CJ loves being outdoors. He would live out there full-time if we’d let him. The others agreed to give the great outdoors a shot, too, and that’s where they’ve spent the last few hours. I stayed inside and cooked; which is almost a novelty, thanks to our kind friends and neighbours; and seems to have improved my humour.

Kevin’s leg continues to heal incrementally. He gets around on it amazingly well. On April 20th, he’ll go back for more xrays, and will possibly get the splint off at that point, and begin rehab–if the bone’s all healed. He is definitely much more tired at the end of the day than we are used to. But that’s one of the things I’ve gotten to learn the hard way in the past month–I can get up early! Not only that, I actually like being the first person puttering around the house, and it’s given me a few minutes of quiet and calm to start my day.

Life. Difficulty = richness = damn hard = good. (If this doesn’t seem to add up, forgive me; math was never my strongest subject).

Brought to you by the letter “P”

Emergency cup of hot tea. Quiet time. Blessed quiet time.

There may have been a time when food did not occupy the better part of my day, but that was when I was singular rather than plural. I still startle when hearing us referred to as a “family of six,” but that is what we are, and families of six eat lots, and have multiple preferences and dislikes and needs. I need tofu fried with mushrooms, for example. (Okay, need may be too strong a word, but sometimes it feels that way). Several of us require muffins or other lunch-box-friendly items. One of us has no teeth, another loathes potatoes in any form but mashed. Et cetera, et cetera. I also cook almost everything from scratch, and work in principle around a local food diet. So it turns out that designing a daily/weekly/monthly menu based on these variables requires at least one member of the family to be pondering and planning virtually non-stop. Even in the middle of the night. I exaggerate, but only slightly.

On Sunday, we were unexpectedly and generously gifted a pile of organic, purple carrots, which instantly became this week’s local food theme. This morning, whilst grating several pounds thereof toward turning them into almost-assuredly-delicious soups and casseroles, I questioned my philosophical rejection of The Food Processor. Which is dimly related to another appliance rejected on philosophical grounds: The Microwave. Oh, and also: The Dishwasher. I’ve also nearly, but not quite, rid us of our reliance on: The Drier. I claim no moral highground for any of these rejections, but do claim these purple-stained palms.

Part of all this meal planning has to do with a simple goal: I enjoy getting out, on my own, on occasion. And sometimes more than just on occasion. So a walk with a friend after supper becomes a goal toward which an entire day is aimed with precision (not to say that the rest of the day doesn’t offer many pleasures and interludes, just that this goal would never be achieved were it not for all the thinking about … food!). Yes. Food. The hour between arrival home from school and suppertime is the most critical of the day. In that hour, I prepare tomorrow’s lunches, and supper. Usually while nursing, supervising homework and playdates, feeding starving children snacks (and myself, too; that sneakily devoured piece of bitter chocolate), listening to the radio, and generally putting every last scrap of multi-tasking talent to the test. The success of that hour is brought to you by the letter P. Prepwork. Planning.

Trying to think of more p-words. No not that one, thank you Albus. No, not that one either. Please.

This happy cup of tea and blog-session has preceded my least favourite hour of the week, upon which I shall now embark with improved spirits and renewed optimism: the hour during which I entertain an eleven-month-old freshly woken from his nap in an empty hallway outside his sister’s music class. Happy Tuesday!

Least Favourite Hour

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

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

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

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

Laundry, and Other Random Meditations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, Bloody Monday

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

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

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

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

And baby CJ is getting louder by the minute.

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