Category: Sick

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).

A Penny for Your Swears

Can I really take a day off? I’ve been sick for two weeks, and moving at the usual pace required to maintain our family’s happy every day life, and finally asked Kevin last night: Do you think that if I spent a day in bed, it might help me kick this virus? And he said: What are you doing tomorrow? So, CJ and I slept in till 10am!!!! I’m leaving supper up to Kevin (he could pull a soup or stew out of the freezer). And I’m planning to go to hot yoga this afternoon. I skipped my Thursday evening class due to sheer exhaustion.
:::
Kevin and I both operate in similar ways: we both like to improvise. We’ve made many of our major (and minor) life decisions on the fly, on what might seem gut instinct rather than carefully plotted research, though I like to think our quick-strike decisions actually arrive out of a long, quiet and invisible processing period. One small example: the way I’ve chosen the “right” time to move babies out of our bed and into their own–each time different, but each time also quite suddenly arriving at a moment when change seemed imperative, and the answer miraculously appeared.
Long explanation for the penny jars you see above, labelled “Movie Jar” and “Respect Jar” (which could also be called “DisRespect Jar,” but that doesn’t have quite the same positive ring to it). I’d written my previous post on Thursday afternoon, wondering out loud how to educate our family on the larger community and global issues around us, and how to motivate us to act on our values. I appreciate the thoughtful responses that arrived. We’re not alone in thinking about this. Kevin and I briefly discussed holding a family meeting, and I scrawled out a few ideas on a piece of paper.
Thursday afternoon, the kids started swim lessons. On the whole, the solo-mom outing went really well; we were all working together. But on the drive home, my cherished eldest son was using language that was not acceptable (mind you, he doesn’t use swear words; but the words he was using were equally disrespectful: “fat,” “poopy-head,” and my all-time fave “butt-brain.” Yes, my sweet Albus, when in a fit of frustration, particularly likes to pull that one out of his back pocket.) As we walked through the front door, me laden like an over-worked camel with toddler under one arm, diaper bag and swim bag and someone’s snowpants and etc. over the other arm, listening to my half-grown child growl because I’d insisted he carry his own backpack, I said, “We need a swear jar.”
(In fact, to make a long story even longer, I’d lost my patience over said backpack. I’d been standing beside the truck, holding it out to him to carry while he destroyed snowballs instead, till finally I’d tossed it into the snowy driveway with a semi-sarcastic comment, which, I was embarrassed to observe, was overheard by a neighbour walking his dog. Nothing like being confronted by a little “as others see us” perspective. The kid wasn’t the only one in need of a swear jar, in other words).
At supper, I said, Let’s have a family meeting. And then, When could we do it?
How about right now? said AppleApple.
The meeting was informal, which is how our family seems to operate. It was brief. It was to the point. We talked first about Haiti. Everyone but Albus offered ideas about how we could help. Then we talked about finding ways to express our emotions appropriately. Again, Albus was silly rather than receptive. I was feeling rather hopeless. Are we in for a decade of defensive eye-rolling? But fortunately, Kevin picked up the ball and asked Albus what he thought about what we were discussing. After some hedging and more silliness, he slipped closer to seriousness. And that’s when we came up with the penny jar idea. I’m not even sure whose idea it was, in its final rendering. One jar, into which we’d put enough pennies to rent a movie plus buy some candy, the other jar, which would receive a penny every time we used a bad word–but more than that. Every time someone behaved in a way that was not respectful to someone else. It would be a family jar, not an individual jar. We’d have to earn our reward together. Any money in the “respect jar” would be given away.
We’re only on day two, but it’s a good thing this week is a short week–movie night will be on Saturdays. I’ve noticed that I frequently (to myself and under my breath) use words I consider to be disrespectful. Every time, I drop in another penny. This will hopefully begin to take effect on my behavior. Albus is certainly taking it to heart. Respect is a concept we can all grasp. The idea is that we help each other to be more respectful rather than pointing fingers or accusing.
We shall see …
And I liked that family meeting. It was noisy and chaotic, but everyone got a chance to speak. We must make it a regular occurrence.
:::
That photo above is what’s happening RIGHT NOW upstairs. Everyone in the playroom (my office) playing Playmobil, Daddy watching soccer on the internet.

Hot and Sour

It’s been awhile since I posted a recipe, but tonight’s was good. First, AppleApple and I ran errands together, and also got supplies for this weekend’s planned mother-child supper-making. More on that tomorrow, because by the time we got home it was late (I suffered a godawful coughing fit in the camera store, escaped outdoors, stood there on the sidewalk, eyes streaming, barely breathing, and was immediately approached by two Mormons, who offered me a cough candy, which was nice of them, but honestly.) Anyway, long story short, by the time we got home it was nearing suppertime, and our planned menu was much too complicated to start up from scratch at that late hour.
Kevin and I tried out the oil of oregano I’d purchased in desperation/hope at the health food store post-coughing fit. Powerful stuff. I felt pretty good after establishing that it hadn’t killed me.
“I need a bowl of hot-and-sour soup,” said Kevin, and I said, “I think I could do that.”
I’ve never done it before. But my pantry is stocked like January in Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. On weekends, I’ve been making chicken/turkey stock, then freezing it in conveniently sized containers. Makes a great addition to many recipes.
So, the H&S soup took almost no time to whip up, just a bit of prep, because it’s more or less instant once all the ingredients have been assembled. My version is ad-libbed with guidance from the Joy of Cooking. It was good. Nay, delicious. Yet completely unappealing to children, who ate, instead, warmed up macaroni from last night’s meal with ketchup. Yes, ketchup. “Pass that stuff made out of tomatoes,” said Fooey.
Kevin and I blew our noses and devoured the soup over thin rice noodles. And we added extra hot sauce.
:::
Hot and Sour Soup
In a large pot, bring 6-8 cups of chicken stock to a simmer. Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of hot pepper flakes to the stock.
Meanwhile, in 1 and 1/2 cups of hot water, soak a handful of chopped dulse, or other sea vegetable (Joy of Cooking recommends dried mushrooms, but the seaweed substitutes well; use whatever you’ve got). Set aside.
In a second bowl, combine 5 tbsp cider vinegar, 3 tbsp tamari, and 1 tbsp cornstarch. Mix well. To this mixture, add half a block of chopped firm tofu (or 1 cup of shredded chicken or pork), and set aside (I topped the liquid up with boiling water to cover).
In a third bowl, combine 3 tbsp water with 3 tbsp cornstarch and mix well.
Now you’ve prepared all of your little bowls: it’s time to start putting the soup together.
Grind 1 tsp black pepper and add it to the soup.
Add the dulse and its liquid to the broth, and simmer for three minutes.
Add the cornstarch mixture to the simmering soup, and stir constantly until slightly thickened; about three minutes.
Add the tofu (or meat) mixture. Plus a small can of drained bamboo shoot sticks (totally optional; weird that these were in my cupboard; but a nice addition).
Return soup to a simmer, then stir in 1 egg, well beaten.
Remove from heat, add 1 tbsp of sesame oil (optional), and you’re ready to eat.

Something Old and Something New

This is the kid who’s off to preschool. This is the kid who’s home sick. This is the mother (not pictured; possibly wearing frowny face) who is not using her “work” morning to do much more than make peppermint tea with honey for said sick kid while fielding innumerable bored comments as he sits beside me and reads the words I’m typing.
I forgot to bring my camera to the preschool drop-off. Will have to stage the moment next Friday. It was the first time I’ve felt like a commuting, all-working, no-one-staying-at-home family; though in fact the feeling was pretend, because here I am, working from home. But anyway. We all ate breakfast, got packed up, headed out the door together, and drove to the preschool, where we said goodbye to Kevin and CJ, and then I drove the girls to school (Albus stayed in the vehicle and “spied” on people). On a Friday when no one is ill, this schedule will mean that I’ll return home to utter quiet. Today, not so much. Albus is all about the sound effects.
But even that possibility reminds me that once upon a time, Life was very quiet. I frequently returned home to an empty apartment. And while there is much pleasure to be found in quiet contemplation (or the potential thereof), I’m grateful for the noise and chaos and activity that these four extra personalities bring into the house and into my life.
:::
Last night, despite a raging and persistent head cold, I went to hot yoga. This is my winter replacement for school. I’d gotten in the habit of leaving the house on Thursday evenings, as had everyone else, so I figured I’d better keep that habit up. Hot yoga it is. I walk into the room, lie down on the mat, and it’s like being on vacation in the tropics. Yoga is most effective when the mind turns off and empties out. I love it. By the end of class, I feel spiritually renewed. Each time is a little bit different. One time, I was moved to tears, though I couldn’t say why. There is something about emptying oneself out that makes room for more, for change.
However, I did not get to meet with Nina afterward, which was our plan, to discuss our words of the year. I’m looking forward to it. I think my word will be EXPERIENCE. I like the duality of the word, how it both honours the repetition of my mothering life and days, and points toward the new and challenging as well. Experience can only come from practice, and from putting in the time. It requires patience and commitment. But to have an experience can be quite a different undertaking altogether: it requires a leap of faith, openness, willingness, recognition, courage. Experiences drop out of the sky; sometimes you simply find yourself within them, and sometimes you have to look for them and seek them out. (I’m thinking of “experiences” as adventures, of a sort, but more mundane than that, too. Experiences can include anything: finding yourself in conversation with someone you don’t usually talk to, or sitting down to play the piano and finding you want to write a new song, or picking up a book and being unexpectedly touched and moved by a random sentence. ie. my definition is pretty wide open).
:::
And now. I need to get to work. I’ve just pointed my sick son toward the television. I’m going to let him watch YTV, which is usually off-limits due to the wretched advertising. Does my child need to be inundated with the latest and greatest in toys, cereals and movies? No, my child does not. But an hour or two can’t hurt.
In about an hour from now, Kevin will arrive home with our youngest.
“He won’t be able to tell us about his day!” AppleApple pointed out, as we drove away from the preschool. Unfortunately, that’s true. Or mostly true. He likes to mention details about his experiences, but unless we already know and can make the connections, these are hard to piece together into a full picture. For example: Boat! Shoe! Shoe? Shoe! Daddy coming! etc.
:::
In happy self-promotional news, I’ve learned that my story “Rat” has been nominated by The New Quarterly magazine for the National Magazine Awards, and the Journey Prize. These affirmations do the heart good. They really do.

Sick Day Photos

The pink pajama-ed “little” ones. Relaxing post-breakfast, before school. Block building morning: three-stories tall. Food-spilling CJ. This was followed by much vacuuming. And then by more spilling. Eldest now back in bed feeling crummy. He took care to destroy his own creation before CJ could wreck it first.

Plots, Plans and Schemes

This has been a fine day. Gorgeous sunshine in which to run a morning errand. Finally feeling inspired to cook and bake again, after a long spell of ho-hum-ness. Kevin and the little kids spent almost two hours playing in the leaves out back. But our big boy is sick. He spent the day in bed, which would be evidence enough; but he also has a fever. As he’s staying hydrated and has no cough, I’m not worried. If it should spread, however … well, that would throw a wrench into the wheels of this busy approaching week. Kevin and I have plans to celebrate our tenth anniversary, a few months late, in Toronto on Wednesday–attending the Alice Munro/Diana Athill conversation at the International Festival of Authors!!!!! Can I wait? No, I cannot. We decided against spending the night, despite having elaborate babysitting in place, because I have a midterm and my own reading the following day. Too much. Throw in a little H1N1 and …
The best-laid plans, huh.
:::
This was a good day, however. Quiet, sleepy, filled with good food. I baked four loaves of whole wheat bread, a batch of oatmeal/chocolate chip cookies, and cooked up a huge pot of chicken stock, made with the frozen lizardy-gizzardy bits from chickens past. I don’t know whether the savoury garlicky broth will cure what ails anyone, but it can’t hurt. Plus, I made so much, I’ve got four containers frozen for later use (likely in the crockpot).
And with today’s kitchen frenzy, I feel a renewed resolve. Nina’s buying club will be going to a monthly schedule after this coming Friday, and our pantries and cupboards and freezers are full of fall and summer bounty, and of the raw materials for baking and cooking magnificent meals from scratch. So, here is my plan: to eat from our stores. If what we’ve stored runs out, hurrah, I’ll take it as a sign of the experiment’s success. And order some more (lentils? bread flour? potatoes? stewed tomatoes?) from Nina. I don’t mean I’ll bake up crackers (my homemade crackers are lousy), but yes, bread, yes, cookies, yes, granola. Yes, chicken stock.
:::
Okay, the child seen pictured above is clad in a yellow duck towel and stands behind me demanding I pick out her pajamas. Oh, I should say that her headgear belongs to her planned Hallowe’en costume. I’ll leave it to your imagination. You’ll just have to wait and see.
Over and out.

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