O Canada, we stand on God for thee, true save our land, glorious and free, from far and wide, O Canada, we stand on God for thee, God feed our land, glorious and free, O Canada, we stand on God for thee, true save our land, got fee-ba laaah, glorious and free, O Canada, we stand on God for zeeee!
Chili in crockpot. Children off. House quiet. This is my morning. I sometimes think it is my favourite three hours in the whole week, but these hours couldn’t exist as my favourite if it weren’t for all the other hours filled with noise and choas and needs to be met.
A few mundane updates … (Now there’s a sales pitch. Readers read on!)
1. Swim lessons. Latest term completed. Fooey passed, again. She’s now passed this class twice. It’s called Sunfish. She has an aversion to the next level which is called Crocodile. If it were up to her, she’d do Sunfish again. I might just let her, till she’s five, and can take other classes not named after aquatic animals, but placed in sensible numerical order. Neither of the older kids passed, again. They are pursuing their Master’s in Swim Kids Five. Albus was sure that he would pass, but wasn’t perturbed to discover that he hadn’t. I said I’d eat my hat if he passed. Maybe that’s not a kind encouraging motherly thing to say. But they thought it was funny. I’ve watched them swim. AppleApple looked decent. Albus looked like he’d regressed; though yesterday he seemed to have improved. There were a couple of kids in the class who could actually swim (this is not usually the case), and I think this is the level where they really try to make sure the children have the technical skills before passing them on. The comments are always unintelligible to me, a non-swimmer. Whip kicks, and arm and hand position, and etc. And as a non-swimmer, I aspire to have children who can actually swim. I love the way real swimmers look, cutting through the water.
2. Family meeting. It was a good one. We passed the “talking necklace” this time. Basically I just grab a smallish nearby object that can be thrown across the countertop. Strawberry cheesecake gelato. Good discussion of a wide variety of topics, including piano lessons, and setting goals. Both older children agreed, in theory, to continue with piano lessons next year. I would like them to reach a level of proficiency before they can decide to quit, but haven’t figured out what–Grade 3 conservatory? Grade 6? We have figured out a way to convince them to practice. It’s not (quite) bribery. Every day that they complete a practice session–ie. play every song assigned to them for the week, and practice for about ten minutes–they mark it on the calendar. We add it all up and when they’ve reached 60 days of practice, each one gets a reward. For Albus, it’ s a Star Wars Lego ship (an inexpensive one). For AppleApple, it’s her horse lessons (never inexpensive, unfortunately, but of equal value emotionally). Albus skipped yesterday, but has otherwise been very faithful. AppleApple has been additionally motivated because she passed to the next level of piano books, and the songs are “more meaningful,” to her, as she told us last night at the meeting.
Good grief. I should have a 3. to complete this list, but feel I’ve gone on long enough. And the house is quiet! And I have work to do within this quiet! Other than blogging. Which isn’t work. At all.
Wait–I have to do a 3. It’s CJ. The photo above is from one of our afternoons this week, when he didn’t want to wear a diaper for awhile. And he had toileting success (followed 45 minutes later by a suspicious puddle on the kitchen floor which he pointed at with some excitement: “Water! Water, Mama!”). Best of all, diaperless, he wanted to wear the purple princess dress that is too small for anyone else in the family.
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.
Wish I had time to blog. That’s on today’s wish list.
If I had more time, I’d write all about Sunday, which was just the best day ever. It shouldn’t have been–Kevin and I were out Saturday night, till late, and should have been punished with hang-overs and early-rising rowdy children, but instead, everyone slept in. Everyone! We lazed around and dozed till late, then rose and decided to get on with our day’s plans. I’d planned a baking day. So I baked: a batch of bread and granola. Also worked on some Christmas presents. Kevin took the kids–all of them!–snowboarding in what became a drizzling rain, after which they went through the McDonald’s drive-through and ordered up some Happy Meals. This happens less than annually in our family, so Kevin and I thought it would be a treat, but the funny thing was, the kids didn’t love the food. It felt like a treat because it was unusual, and because everyone got a toy, but Albus was famished AFTER eating his burger and fries and choc milk, and was forced to scavenge a second meal from our fridge. I felt the same way, and so did Kevin; almost as if we’d eaten nothing, or worse, that we were hungrier than when we began. Our innards are spoiled by all the legumes and fibre and veggies and whole grains we consume every day. But, still, I got a kind of lazy pleasure from the meal.
After lunch, we did … what? I can’t recall in detail, just remember that we spent the whole day together, and happily. The two eldest played Bananagrams. Fooey and CJ played together, too. Happy together.
Yesterday, CJ and I spent the morning together, just the two of us, spewing our fair share of carbon as we zoomed around town running errands, snacking on gummies, swimming at kidsplash, visiting the library, efficient as all get-out. These are the days when I despair for humanity’s ability to do anything productive on climate change. It is so much easier to enjoy life when I’m selfishly transporting myself and my offspring in our personal oil-burning pod. What occurs to me often, and kind of hangs over my head like a cloud, is my belief that the only way to truly effect carbon change is to live a life greatly scaled back: no waste, ever–no wasted drop of water or food (the people who live like this generally do not choose to, but do so because they have to); walking not driving, no matter the blowing sleet and howling babe; skipping kidsplash and library time because it’s too hard to get there, because there’s not quite enough time; all chores that must be done by hand still expend energy, it’s just human energy (mine), not a machine’s. And that takes time. Lots of it. Don’t get me wrong, I truly and sincerely want to live a less wasteful lifestyle, and strive to do so, but on days like yesterday, I sigh inside myself, and secretly feel greedy and grateful for the advantages and undeserved privileges of this crazy, unsustainable North American lifestyle I’m living.
Um, that was a tangent. What I meant to say was: hurray for a day with CJ! Together.
Now I’m all caught up. Now I’ve reached today, and today has been another story. Today I have labelled a “fail” day, though perhaps unfairly. Today it felt like every good intention was thwarted by circumstance. Let me give you an example. I grabbed ten minutes to whip together fresh pumpkin muffins for the kids’ after-school-pre-music-lesson snack. It was after one o’clock and I’d just put CJ into his crib for a nap. Did he fall asleep, like he does every other afternoon at this hour? He did not. Instead, he screamed incessantly, while I madly poured and sifted ingredients. I knew the project would never get done if I brought him downstairs, so I just mixed as quickly as was humanly possible. And then I went to get the pumpkin, roasted last week and stored in the fridge. It was covered in mold. No kidding. That was the kind of day this it was. (Though the reason it’s unfair to label this chain of events a complete fail is that in a blink I substituted applesauce, and the muffins turned out beautifully, quite possibly superior to the pumpkin variety). And no, CJ never went back to sleep. Instead, he got up and hung out all afternoon without sleep. He’s still going strong, leaping up and down in his crib as I type. Though the lack of sleep may have contributed to the rather bad decision (example number two) he made to set up the art-table chairs in front of the couch, and then count, “One, two, three, JUMP!” before leaping off the couch, landing on a chair, crashing it down, and smushing his finger. Seriously. You might ask, why, Perfect Mother, did you not prevent this catastrophe from occurring? (What is that sign on the pool wall? “If you’re out of arm’s reach, you’ve gone too far!”). And I might reply that we needed to leave in two minutes to pick up the big kids for piano, and I was industriously gathering entertainment and snack items in preparation for an anticipated hellish hour of waiting in an empty hallway while entertaining three out of four children. That’s why. Totally not in a defensive tone of voice.
Yes, we were late.
But hey, I did just get my wish. And I feel much much better. Today is looking a whole lot brighter on this side of things. Can I add that I laughed quite a lot (if sometimes in despair), and that the kids enjoyed my comical descriptions of all the day’s tiny calamities as we burned across town, packed into our personal transportation pod, and the snow fell gently, and the roads turned to skating rinks, and we did not get into even the tiniest of fenders bender. So, it wasn’t really that kind of day, after all.
From fail to fine in one little blog post.
Winter wish list: check! We are all be-mittened and be-hatted thanks to Kevin heading out solo yesterday morning to do his capitalist duty in this season of exuberant consumerism, while I hauled the children to my mom’s where she tossed together a delicious lunch of sloppy joes on very short notice. We arrived in time for Fooey to help stir the sugar cookie dough, a good start to her day of cooking; actually, perhaps her best moment. CJ participated by eating dough off the wooden spoon, while everyone else gleefully cut out shapes, then iced the baked results, and ate them on the spot.
We arrived home with a sleeping toddler, several bags of cookies, and no house keys because I was wearing my weekend pants, and weekend pants have no pockets for keys. Of course. Lucky for us, Kevin had blown through an errand list the length of his arm and was on his last stop, nearby in uptown.
Late afternoon, and it was Fooey’s turn to cook supper with Mama. Her menu: chicken noodle soup, with extra noodles on the side. And meatballs. And fried potatoes. And beans and rice. And pumpkin muffins except baked as cake. And. Whoa, whoa, whoa, stop!
In retrospect, I made several tactical errors, most critically when I failed to account for the fact that cooking with an enthusiastic four-year-old would not be the same as cooking with her older brother and sister. Who, first off, can both read. Literacy is a real help to these cooking projects. It helps with the menu planning. Reading the cookbooks. Figuring out, independently, whether ingredients are on hand. Reading the recipes out loud during the cooking process. Finding measuring spoons and cups and reading amounts, and measuring them accurately. Second of all, four-year-olds can’t use sharp knives. They might think that they can, but they can’t. Don’t let them. Thirdly, and most crucially, four-year-olds lack endurance. Excitement meets reality and wanes sharply. I knew we were in trouble when she complained–first task of the afternoon–that washing the potatoes was “really hard, Mommy.” Crumbling a quarter slice of bread into crumbs rendered her weary beyond expression. Fetching ketchup from the fridge: “I have all these things I have to keep doing!” Squishing the hamburger into meatballs and placing them on the cookie sheet was perhaps the most successful of our cooperative ventures, but even this carried certain pitfalls. “Um, did you just lick your fingers?” “No.” “Let’s not lick raw hamburger from our fingers, okay, please?” (Yup, error number four: four-year-old handling raw meat.)
Next time, I’m thinking we’ll retool the four-year-old’s cooking date. I might direct the menu just a tad more (I did nix the beans and rice, and the pumpkin muffin-cake; still, we ended up with a genuinely eccentric selection of edibles upon the tabletop. Poultry, beef, and pork, if you count the bacon fat in which the potatoes were fried).
Next time, I will lower my expectations a great deal.
Still, she was proud of the end results (I think; mostly, anyway), with the meatballs coming in as her favourite. I’m hoping the ongoing experiment will broaden her palette ever so slightly, as she’s currently our pickiest eater. And stubborn as heck. And taken to screeching in disgust at the sight of any objectionable new dish. The good news is that this role used to be filled by AppleApple, who is now willing to try anything. I live in hope.
If this weren’t already a veritable epic, and if my children were not becoming restless and desperate for attention, I might add something about last night’s fabulous debauch at our friends’ third annual Hi-Fi Christmas bash … something other than the cryptic words whiskey sour, dance fever, barefoot, cognac … forget it, those aren’t cryptic in the least. I’m already looking forward to next year. We’ll ship the kids somewhere for the whole weekend, and dance till they kick us out.