Category: Play

The Hole

No, “The Hole” is not a metaphor for something. It is a hole. Well, it was. It started as an idea: shovels in the ground, impressive early depth, everyone pitching in to help. It got bigger and bigger, and more ambitious. Over the weekend it was worked upon by a number of neighbourhood children (whose parents, perhaps, were happy that the hole was not in their backyard). When I discovered it on Monday morning, in inclement weather, accompanied by two eager two-year-olds, the hole had become a hazard. More strip mine or open pit. It was clear: the hole needed to be filled in, lest I lose a small child down there. Breaking this news to Albus resulted in a long walk home from school filled with grief and accusations: “meanest Mommy ever.” He had planned to find diamonds and sell them for money! He had planned to build a huge fort and the hole would be the basement! But with assurances that he could start a new project upon filling in the hole (searching the attic for toys to sell–as inspired by a friend’s recent sale), and possibly building a real fort, the family got to work after supper and filled it in. Unfortunately, that area of the sandbox is now entirely dirt. And dirt is dirtier than sand. But it’s safe to play again. I loved giving the kids the chance to play freely and make a huge mess. Right up until I was done with the mess. Onto the next one.
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At the risk of jinxing this news, I must report that CJ is potty trained. He can even get his own pants up and down. He refuses to wear pull-ups and is not pleased to have to put on his overnight diaper, though he still needs it, as he proved last night when Kevin forgot to put a diaper on him. Now that’s a great 3 o’clock in the morning discovery. What worked? There was that week post-flu and returning to routine when I was quite prepared to go back to diapers, if need be. But then I realized that he was still willing to use his potty, just on his own terms, so I relaxed my expectations, and suddenly, he raised his. One day, he simply refused to wear pull-ups or diapers. It was messy for a few days, and then it wasn’t. Yesterday he wore the same pants all day. We were out and about and busy, and I didn’t worry (though we did have to make a pit-stop en route to music, in a random parking lot, at his request). That’s the wonderful change: he knows when he needs to go, and can tell us, and then hold on till we find an appropriate place to go. We’re there. No more diapers for me!
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Spent the morning making a spring schedule for our family. Feel good about the results. Have decided to spend my hours of work time (hopefully about 12 hours/week) on anything creative, writing or otherwise; and on developing relationships with other writers. Very very very excited.

Photo Day

It was 70s day at school on Thursday. We struggled to think of what to advise the kids to wear. Albus went with tie-dye and jean shorts. AppleApple wore beads in her hair and a long skirt. (Fooey is still wearing her pjs because she doesn’t go to school on Thursdays. But she loves a good photo op.) The kids wondered what was going on in the 70s, and the only thing I could come up with was the oil shortage and lineups at gas stations, which is why Albus has a sad face. He’s sad about the high gas prices. I suck. What exactly happened in the 70s? All of my instincts seemed to suggest more 60s-style symbols: beads, peace signs, protests, drugs (didn’t mention those, of course), um, Led Zeppelin, they were 70s, right? Bell bottoms. Fondue. Help me out here.
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Yesterday it was so warm here. After supper we migrated outside and played till bedtime. I don’t usually indulge in nature photos, but could not resist. The colours are such a relief to the winterized eyeballs. Such pleasure to discover Yellow and Blue and Orange in our own backyard. The play went on and on. Kevin kicked a soccer ball. Hammocks. Scooters. Push-toys. Balls. Balancing acts.
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Today it cooled off again, but we had a picnic on the front porch anyway. The kids had the day off school. We shopped for picnic supplies while starving, never a good call, and bought quite a lot of packaged food. AppleApple was particularly disturbed by our choices. We bought kiwis from Italy in a large plastic container, for example. Fooey and CJ had never even seen a kiwi before, because I hadn’t bought them for years. We bought those little over-packaged Baby Bell cheeses. We bought yogurt drinks in single containers. The garbage! The waste! I have become so unused to it that it felt … obscene, actually.
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I can’t bake bread or cookies this weekend. Our oven is on the fritz and won’t be repaired till Monday at the earliest. I upheld the stereotype of the ignorant little woman today while on the phone with the repair company. I could not, for the life of me, find the model and serial numbers anywhere on the stove. I essentially took the stove apart searching for it, while the fellow on the other end gave directions, and Albus helpfully rolled on the floor and begged for a snack. It was all for naught. I never did find the apparently quite obviously placed sticker with that info. Turned out I didn’t need to anyway, as the stove is under warranty and they already have the information on file. At one point, I actually said, “Well, my husband is out of town right now and …” “And when’s hubby coming home?” he asked. I was in a pretty bad mood by the time I hung up. I might have snapped at Albus: “Open your own bleeping banana,” or something in that vein. But the truth is, I know virtually nothing about the stove or about how it works or even where we keep the manual. So the stereotype is sadly accurate. I just don’t want it to be. But then again, I’m not that interested in stoves. So, there’s that. Before I started talking to the repair fellow, I’d been feeling pretty chuffed that I’d found the brand-name on the front …

Notes from Quarantine

Note to self: Never announce that one is mending. One will instantly be swatted back to germworld by the Powers that be. (What are these Powers? Dare I ask?) Mending, say you? Hacking and coughing, say we. Oh, and for good measure, let’s send that stomach flu spiralling through the rest of the family, shall we?
Some pictures from our week …
Fooey and CJ home with me on Monday, posing for a sibling portrait.
Also on Monday, a day of reading and puzzling together: CJ posing with the first puzzle he ever put together–for real! he stopped and held still in this position, thumb tucked into palm, till the shutter clicked! (I helped with the puzzle; but he did a lot–a lot more than I realized that he possibly could).
Yesterday, all four children were at home, giving us a prelude of what’s to come on next week’s March Break. They spent all afternoon organizing themselves to play school (ironic, huh). I peeked into the living-room at various points to discover: a beautiful craft being made that turned pencils into flowers; four children at four “desks” working in math books (apparently we have a lot of these, usually neglected, on our colouring book shelf); four children arriving at the counter for “nutrition break” (a chocolate bunny split into four equalish pieces that we bought from a child selling them door-to-door for his school; I do not want my own children to have to do that, ever); and four children putting on rain boots and sweaters to run outside and play in the slush for recess. And I recorded none of it. The best I can come up with is this out-take photo from my portrait project, which shows yesterday’s post-school littered living-room, and the self-adorned CJ.
[Note: The portrait project can be found by scanning down the right-hand side of the page, but be warned, it’s all about me. 365 days of self-portraiture. What’s the worst that could happen? No, Powers, I’m not asking. Really. That was just a joke.]
And, finally, today … two brothers watching a movie together in the basement. My boys! The younger of the two has just fallen asleep for a rare afternoon nap. So rare, I thought they were extinct. I should go grab a photo of it while I still have the chance, before it flies into the deepest darkest forest known to humankind. (That feels like I’ve written a riddle, the answer to which is: the past).

Mending

How I can tell I’m on the mend: 1. I wanted to drink a cup of coffee this morning. 2. I’m spending my Sunday baking!
In honour of that, a few recipes …
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Nath’s Bread
(From Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day; this cookbook is on loan from Nath)
Nath brought us supper last night, and she brought a loaf of this bread. Though I wasn’t feeling well enough to partake, Kevin mentioned that it was terrific. I don’t have the interest in baking a fresh batch of conventional bread today, so I thought instead I’d whip up a giant batch of dough to keep in the fridge, enough to make eight small loaves, which I can bake up at my convenience during the next two weeks. I’d already bought a giant plastic container in which to keep the dough, but hadn’t gotten around to making it since borrowing the cookbook, oh, way too long ago. Here’s the simple mnemonic: 6-3-3-13. That’s six cups of lukewarm water, 3 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp yeast, and 13 cups of flour. I must ask Nath whether she uses that much salt; it looked like a lot to me. [NOTE: When consulted, Nath confirms that is too much salt. She uses half that, and she also uses coarse salt, to in future, I plan to put in approximately 1 tbsp, or even slightly less]. I’ve mixed up the lot and it is now sitting on my counter to rise for two or so hours. After which, I will pop it in the fridge and pull sections off whenever I feel the urge to add fresh bread to our supper meal.
To bake: cut a grapefruit-sized ball out of the dough, and shape it into a load. Let it rest, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Twenty minutes before baking, turn on the oven at 450 (if you’re using a baking stone, pop it in at this time; if you’re using a covered pot, like I plan to, also pop it in). Just before baking, dust the load with cornmeal or bran, and slash the top of the dough several times to make it look pretty (this step is not mandatory, especially if you’re baking in a pot, in which case, you’re going to be dumping it in anyway). Bake the loaf for 30 minutes, approximately. If you’re using a baking stone, slip a pan of hot water into your oven on a lower rack; that will add some steam and improve the texture of the crust. If you’re using a covered pot, the dough will steam itself. If you’re using the pot, you can remove the lid for five to ten minutes of the baking time, to brown the crust.
Note: this makes a smallish loaf. If your family is large, or if you just love bread, double the size of the loaf; I can vouch for this working in the pot, but have never tried it on the stone. In the pot, the baking time for this size is approximately 30 minutes covered, and an additional 10 minutes uncovered. Let cool on a rack. Devour!
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Old-Fashioned Cookie Bars
(adapted from Hollyhocks and Radishes; thanks to Bobbie Chappell for introducing our family to this cookbook, which hails from Northern Michigan)
Cream together 1 cup of softened butter, 1 cup of brown sugar, and 1/2 cup of white sugar. Beat in three eggs. Beat in 1 tbsp of vanilla, and another tbsp or two or three of maple syrup (optional). In a separate bowl, mash one banana, and add it to the wet mixture. In a third bowl, sift together 2 cups of whole wheat flour, 2 cups of white flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1 tsp salt. Add the sifted dry mixture to the wet mixture in about three batches. As it gets more difficult to incorporate, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk. Stir in 1 cup of oats, 1 cup of sunflower seeds, and 1 cup of chocolate chips.
Spread on a buttered cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350, or until browned around the edges, and not as well-done in the middle. While still hot, cut into squares, and allow the cookie sheet to rest on a rack till completely cooled. Remove from the tray and store.
Note: Baking times vary. When baking bars, be sure to check early rather than late, and don’t wait to remove the tray till everything is toasty brown, or you may find the bottom is burnt: get it out while the middle is still a bit underdone. The bars will firm up while cooling.
Also note: This is a very flexible recipe. My first attempt, today, made a crumblier, cakier bar than my previous two bar recipes. Next time, my plan is to eliminate the milk altogether. While I can’t recommend this version for lunch-boxes, due to the crumbly/cakey consistency, it is awesomely delicious. Kevin agrees re the taste, and after a quick brainstorm on how to make these bars transportable to school, Kevin is going to try wrapping them individually and freezing them. (Have I mentioned how much I love that he is making the kids’ school lunches? He’s been doing this for the past couple of weeks while I wash the supper dishes; a companionable time for chatting, too, while the kids tear apart the house post-supper).
Note#2, edited in several days post-posting: Kevin would like the world to know that the frozen bars taste delicious–he ate two when he was home for lunch today, straight out of the freezer. Apparently, they don’t freeze into a solid block, but take on a texture much like convenience store freezer treats (in a good way). Frozen into convenient two-piece bundles, they’ve been excellent additions to the lunch boxes (the few that have gone out the door this week). Maybe I’ll make a pan for playgroup this coming week.
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I’d post the Sunday waffle recipe, but my guess is most people already have a favourite waffle recipe in their roster. Mine comes from the Simply In Season cookbook: Whole Wheat Waffles, which I double, and make with a combination of yogurt, and milk soured with vinegar (never having buttermilk on hand, more’s the pity).
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It’s such a beautiful day. The children have been playing together–all four of them!–virtually non-stop since daybreak. Kevin is playing guitar right now in the living-room, and got out for a jog around the neighbourhood in the brilliant sunshine. I got to listen to CBC Radio One while baking, and was treated to the Sunday Edition‘s three-hour special honouring International Women’s Day, AND THEN, to Tapestry‘s illumination of the Celtic goddess/saint Brigid (if you’re interested, both shows have podcasts). And now I’m blogging. And I can eat again. Have I mentioned that coffee tastes good, too? It’s such a perfect day.

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.

Open

Okay. So, the reading. It was such a gift to speak those words out loud, to share them. It made me want to finish the Juliet Stories, and share the rest, too, collected altogether into something coherent and complete. The more I’ve reflected on memoir versus fiction, the less it seems that one needs to eclipse the other. Both can exist. Each would be a different creation, and there’s enough material to go around. I’ll barely touch it in one, or the other. Because the stories are so near completion, my plan is to return there first, and finish those. Any publishers out there short on beautiful story collections? Call me. Heh. Pretty sure I know the answer to that. But, the reading reminded me that these are strong stories, worthy of being published.
Open. That’s my state of being these days. Open, not closed. Look at those kids playing in our backyard. They ran outside after school yesterday, despite the chill, and imagined themselves a thousand different places and things. You couldn’t be more open than that.
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Oh, and a late edit addition: just discovered this post on the reading by the musician who played for us that evening. His name is Alex James, and he played us an evening’s worth of sweet homegrown tunes. When we clapped, he said, no, please, I’m just the background music! Well, background or foreground … he gave us the perfect soundtrack to a really fine evening.

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