Category: Chores

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Things I’m liking this week …

morning bike rides
outdoor swim lessons
kids helping to clean up
the sound of the vacuum cleaner running (and me not running it)
quiche
getting caught in a downpour
letting the four-year-old ride her bike, with training wheels, to the grocery store (bonus: more room in the bike stroller for groceries)
corn on the cob from Herrles
catching a cat-nap
ceiling fans
bedtime reading: The Hobbit

Things I’m not liking this week …

feeling more tired, being back with the kids all day
the noise, the noise!
back-talking children
sibling conflict
disorganization
struggling to find time for EVERYTHING
whining
complaints about the service around here

Too tired for anything but blogging …

I want to write about writing, but it may be that I’m just too tired tonight to write about anything at all. Therefore, insert photos! This 365-day project has had the unexpected effect of being like a tutorial in portrait photography (don’t know why it took me till day 150 to figure that out). Last night, Kevin and I watched The Young Victoria (a very pleasant romance, if you’re into Victorian costume drama), and what kept diverting my eyes? The lighting. How is her face lit? It looks like natural lighting, but is it? And if not, what is the director using to give the appearance of natural lighting? Etc.
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It’s nearly July. The big kids have one day of school left in grades two and three. And my Fooey has completed junior kindergarten. (See photo, above, of her getting ready to go to school this morning).
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Last week, I only exercised one day out of seven. Wow. That was not good. And I felt it. I felt tired, which made me feel less like exercising … which made me feel even more tired. So, with great intentions I went to bed at a reasonable hour last night and set my internal alarm for early morning yoga. Slept without stirring for approximately seven hours, and woke when my husband tapped me on the back. Apparently his internal alarm had sounded. Mine, not a peep, not a polite brrrrng-brrrng; nothing. Which meant I woke just as morning yoga class was about to begin; but, being awake and well-rested, I hopped out of bed, ate a banana, and headed for a run. It was surprisingly less tortuous alone than I’d anticipated. I even heard a rooster crow in the park’s zoo. I didn’t think about much, just ran. It wasn’t super-early, so people were out and about, lots of construction workers heading to sites in the area, friendly hellos from other runners and cyclists. And I enjoyed the endorphins, and felt ready for my day in a way I hadn’t all last week.
My goal is to exercise four times a week: two runs, two yoga classes. I will report back. I enjoy setting goals; don’t always meet them, but enjoy setting and re-setting them. Life is flux.
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Photos above include AppleApple on her last day of horse lessons (at least for this round), with Sunman, who was her regular ride. I love how comfortable and affectionate she is with all animals, even ones that are so much larger than her.
We also had some awesome rainstorms this weekend; guess I was over-optimistic about the laundry-hanging on Sunday.

Homemade Yogurt

I’ve decided to blog rather than nap during quiet time this afternoon. Is this wise? Well, I was out with friends till midnight last night, and dragged myself out of bed to make last-minute school lunches this morning, and I hung today’s laundry while it was actually raining (spitting, more accurately), so I’m not sure wisdom is the word of the day. But getting ‘er done is. (Um, that phrase just insisted it had to be used). So, I made it through the morning with two exuberant children and nothing that a cup of coffee couldn’t fix, the big kids left with delicious nutritious meals in their backpacks, and the sun is now shining. This speaks to the luck of whim and of deliberately not making detailed plans.
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So, I know that many of you are already making your own yogurt (and a big thank you to all who have offered tips and instructions!), but for those of you who aren’t, or who are curious to try, I am here to tell you: It is easy! I’ve been making four litres of milk into yogurt (four litres of milk equals four litres of yogurt). This lasts our family about a week and a half. We eat the yogurt for breakfast; we eat it in place of sour cream on beans and rice, etc.; and I’ve been combining it with strawberries to make above-average popsicles.
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Homemade Yogurt

What you’ll need: whole-fat milk; yogurt starter; cooking pot; candy thermometer; insulated container; jars with lids.
Directions: In a large pot, gently bring four litres of whole-fat milk to a simmer (or try a litre if you’re experimenting and nervous about potentially spoiling that much milk). Heat the milk to 180 degrees F, stirring occasionally to spread the heat, and to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. This takes some time, and I have not rushed it yet; and have had good results. For consistent results, I recommend using a candy thermometer affixed to the side of the pot. Meanwhile, “sterilize” several quart canning jars by pouring boiling water into them and letting them sit for a few minutes (I realize this does not actually sterilize them, but it’s as strict as I get in my kitchen; if you do something else, please let me know). The boiling water can be re-used: when you’re done sterilizing the jars, pour the hot water into a large plastic jug (or other container), and place the jug into an insulated cooler (which in this instance will be a heater).
When the milk has reached 180 degrees F, remove it from the stove, and cool. This goes faster if you set the pot into a sinkful of cold water. When the temperature has dropped to 110 degrees F (or more precisely is below 120 degrees, but above 90), stir in the bacterial starter. Translation: stir in some fairly fresh yogurt. You can freeze yogurt in ice cube trays for this purpose. I’ve erred on the side of more is better. I put in about 1/4 cup per litre, or even slightly more.
The Home Creamery is a good reference book on making all things milk-related, and it recommends 1/4 cup of starter per quart of milk.
Now, pour the prepared milk into jars leaving some space at the top, add lids, and place into the warm innards of the heated-up cooler. Don’t lift the lid for seven or eight hours. In the wintertime, you may need to check that the water is hot and the temperature approximately 90 degrees F; right now, not so much.
What you’ll get: And when you do finally peek, it will look like a little miracle has taken place right here in your own kitchen. Yogurt! Firm, sweet, tangy, creamy yogurt.
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It is easy to keep making something that tastes this good, and is as good or better than anything I can buy (my homemade bread falls into this category, too). On the other hand, it is rather less easy to keep making things that are less popular with the children (and with us) than storebought. So, I must confess that I’ve shelved a Green Dream or two, and have not made crackers since the first batch, which seemed to wane in popularity after a day or two; and we bought graham crackers for our firepit cook-out; and I haven’t pursued making pasta or cheese or …. you name it. Much food continues to come into our house packaged in plastic bags and cardboard boxes. SIGH.

Crumb Central

I got tired yesterday. Or, woke tired. Saturday was productive: I made yogurt (4 litres of yogurt!), and baked a batch of bread. I also made almond milk from scratch. But yesterday I felt weary of kitchen work. So I baked a rhubarb crisp for supper (dessert) and left it at that. Our fridge is full of homemade. Our house is in disarray, and thank heavens for my crocs (which I wear as slippers) because the floor is crumb central. (“You don’t have to work all the time, you know,” Kevin told me yesterday, as I was confessing an overwhelming desire to do NOTHING AT ALL.) Yesterday evening, the whole family went into a fugue state: Fooey went off to sleep, CJ puttered with Little People, Albus played piano in order to figure out a song on the guitar with Kevin (and Kevin was amazed by everything Albus knew about music–his ear, his rhythm, his understanding of musical theory; I just knew putting in all those years of early childhood music, and this past year of piano lessons, would be worth it! yay! I truly believe in giving kids the rudiments, so they can take them and develop on them; I’m so excited by Albus’s new enthusiasm); and AppleApple and I worked on her school project (that child has an extremely organized mind!). Time passed. Soon, it was 9:30 and we were like … um, responsible parents, bedtime, sheesh. So, children all put to bed, Kevin and I collapsed in the living-room with a beer, and I said, you won’t believe this, but I swear I spent a lot of time tidying this room today. He said, you won’t believe this, but so did I. It was a puzzle/games disaster, and mixed-up puzzle/game pieces are just endlessly frustrating to sort. The things I found under the couch. But the kids had a fun morning playing restaurant (at least, it was fun till they called me to be their customer, and I showed up and went, AAAAAGHGHG! Mommy has to leave the restaurant right now or she will make you start cleaning all this up!). Anyway, by the time Kevin and I wandered to the kitchen, post-beer, it was past 11. I did not try very hard to set my internal alarm for early morning yoga. And my internal alarm did not go off. Here’s the thing about the early mornings: I love them. But I have to go to bed early. There is no compromising on this. My body makes darn sure of it. So, if I have to choose between quiet early morning and hanging out with my husband, I generally choose the latter. I’ll get a wee bit of exercise right about now (though hardly a zen moment) as I walk to school to pick up the kids.
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PS That photo above is my boys this morning: my biggest and my littlest. One off to work, the other off to nursery school … leaving me alone in a quiet house for a couple of blissful hours.

I Took Notes

Thoughts come to me while I’m hanging laundry. Do yours strike during particular activities?
On an evening out with friends, recently, we came around to talking about chores (we’re all moms or moms-to-be), and one friend mentioned that she genuinely enjoys hanging laundry on the clothesline–she didn’t mean that she finds it a chore she can tolerate, or doesn’t mind doing, but that she genuinely takes pleasure from it. She described hanging the napkins together so they flapped in the wind like a prayer flag. And those of us who regularly hang laundry realized we often do something similar: making patterns, following interior rules about what goes where; in essence, creating something that pleases us aesthetically. Do you have rituals you follow, or patterns you make; or does another chore bring you a similar kind of aesthetic pleasure? I think it points toward the artistic impulse.
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Lately, I’ve been thinking about a particular philosophical dilemma, which is related both to parenting styles and parenthood generally: I think all parents are occupied, whether consciously or otherwise, with finding a balance between individual pursuits and collective responsibility. (This is a societal question, too, and where you land on the scale is probably indicative of your political beliefs).
This balance comes into play in virtually everything I do. Do I push my son to practice piano, or do I hope he will come to develop his own talents? Probably a bit of both, right?
Maybe I need to explain this idea in more concrete terms. I’m thinking about how families work. How very much I would like my children to walk to school together, and to take responsibility not only for themselves, but for each other. However, my eldest wants to walk with his friends: they have made a thoughtful plan for meeting and walking together. I am proud of his initiative, and glad that he has strong connections with friends. But I want him to be a helpful big brother, and I’d planned to have the three kids walk to school together next year. What’s the balance? This one is easy, because we’ve already worked it out. Albus will walk with friends. We have other options for getting his two sisters to school. In this case, we went with the individual, because it did not harm the collective.
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I don’t think the balance between individual and collective is ever perfected. It’s an ongoing challenge. For example, I’ve also been thinking a great deal about how spiritual and artistic practice requires uninterrupted time. There’s no short-cut for this. In order to go deep, you need to enter into yourself while letting yourself go. This isn’t necessarily selfish, but it might appear to be, and certainly can feel selfish, when one is a mother (or father) to small children. Children are notoriously good at pulling you out of wherever you’ve gone–if they need you. And mine seem to need me a lot.
But there’s another issue: If I’ve arranged childcare and freed up time to work, what guilt I feel if the work that ends up getting done is invisible, even to me. If it makes next to nothing. If I sit and stare out the window. Writing a story sometimes appears to be a quick process, but I believe there is a great deal of invisible unknown work going on beneath the surface that makes the story possible.
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One final thought from my laundry-hanging philosophy session. Practice, and consistently doing something, makes that thing easy to do, so that that what appeared impossible or even merely inconvenient proves otherwise. I am thinking of the snack-making. Nothing in the cupboards to pull out, so I whip together cheese and apple slices and raisins, in individual containers, and the kids love it. Nothing in the cupboards, so I pull out the popcorn popper and everyone watches the process, and devours the results.
Yes, it takes more time and effort, but not that much more. The difference is actually inside my own head. Does it feel difficult and hard, or possible and simple?
(I did not get up early most of this week, and I missed it a great deal. So, this morning, I did again, and went to yoga, and appreciated both the effort and the ease).

Monday

Had three minutes of perfection this afternoon: the kids were all playing (mostly outside), the laundry was off the line and folded, the soup was simmering on the stove, and I picked up the front section of today’s paper and read for a few minutes on the back porch. Three minutes. Not bad.
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After supper, the kids styled each others’ hair. I especially enjoyed CJ’s wings, as frothed-up by AppleApple (he, in turn, brushed her hair so that it covered her face), and my heart was touched by Albus fussing with Fooey’s hair: “It looks better when it goes like this,” [fuss, fuss, fuss]. “Don’t worry,” I told Fooey, who said she didn’t like how it scratched her cheeks, “hairdressers always like styling your hair all crazy, and then you can just go home and stick it back behind your ears like usual.” “Okay, I’m home now!”
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CJ is just at such a stage. It’s so emphatic. There’s no mistaking it. He has certain postures, this slump of the shoulders he does when his feelings are hurt, which might just turn into a whirling blithering rage as he stamps across the floor, growling and whacking anything in his way. I enforced a time-out today for throwing. In the midst of his tantrums, he likes to grab any object handy and fling it. Let’s see whether we can break him of that. On the potty front, we’re having some luck with new training pants (thank you, kind lenders of new training pants!). He doesn’t like being wet. The disposable pull-ups are worse than useless since they actually hold more than a cloth diaper. But the training pants don’t hold much. “I want to pee on the pot,” he declared all day, usually arriving to tell me this after the fact; but I appreciated the sentiment. I’m feeling no sense of urgency, and continue to feel encouraged by his progress. He’s getting it, just at his own pace. This morning, his friend of the almost-identical-age was over, and the two of them had a blast in the backyard. They both found hockey sticks and soccer balls and set about playing “Hockeyball!” As they called it. “Hockeyball!” I kicked a soccer ball around, too, and every time I hoofed it into the net (which felt pretty awesome, I must say; stress release? that feeling of being a kid again?), CJ’s friend would throw his hands into the air and shout: “Yay! We win!”
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It was a day of full-on mothering and calm. I can only manage these days because I know there’s more going on later in the week (ie. some hours to work and to be alone); but because Monday is a unique day in a week of busyness and a variety, it’s somehow easier to let myself relax and enjoy the calm, quiet, mothering-ness of it, without wishing I were doing something else, or feeling too bored. All I have to do is make supper, hang laundry, and hang out with small children (oh, and a few other chores along the way). So I get to do things like … kick a soccer ball, meet Kevin and co. for a business lunch, walk to the pick up the kids from school, let CJ walk all the home, read the newspaper for three minutes in the sunshine, play guitar to the boys before bed, sing Fooey a lullaby while stroking her cheek and sensing her drift into sleep …
Just another Monday. Praise be.

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