**Monday’s menu: Pad thai (pictured above). Broiled shrimp and tofu. Daikon salad. Stir-fried rainbow chard.
**Original plan: Pad thai with hot and sour soup. But both things require tons of pre-prep organizing and stirring up multiple bowls of things, so I decided to simplify.
**In the kitchen: Whipped up after school. The pad thai is a version without ketchup; it’s made with fish sauce and lemon juice and piles of cilantro (not vegetarian, no).
**The reviews: Eaten too hurriedly for reviews, but everyone seemed happy.
**The verdict: Excellent.
**Bonus recipe: Radish salad was made by slicing the daikon super-thin, then mixing up a dressing of fresh lime juice and maple syrup, plus salt. Sprinkle on some hot pepper flakes. Divine. (My invention).
**Tuesday’s menu: Honey-baked lentils. Steamed rice.
**Original plan: Yup. This one was by request. It needs a vegetable, I know. I’m not awake enough to think of one.
**In the kitchen: Easy work, completed after waking from a killer morning nap, following my night of doula’ing in Toronto. Turn oven off, leave until suppertime. Eaten post-swim lessons.
**The reviews: I didn’t get to hear the full reviews, due to racing off to a soccer coaching clinic with AppleApple. She ate a sandwich instead. But when we left, CJ was in the throes of an impressive tantrum because he couldn’t SEE the honey in the lentils. A reliable source tells me he became so incensed that he bit the table, at which point everyone started laughing, even him. But he didn’t eat the lentils. Everyone else did, however, and within 24 hours, it was gone.
**The verdict: Good meal to make in advance. And yum.
**Wednesday’s menu: Leek and potato soup (crockpot). Bread, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, sliced tomatoes.
**In the kitchen: Early morning chopping and sauteeing, but it paid off. I pureed it in the pot, and called it “Mashed Potato Soup.” (Ever-popular.)
**The reviews: “It looks different, but it tastes the same. Like, no offense, Mom, but when I saw you with that big bowl of vegetables this morning …” -Albus (I did use lots of leeks; and the soup had a greenish yellow tinge that was slightly unappetizing, or, in Albus’s words, “kind of looks like barf.”) Unfortunately for us, right about then, CJ gagged on his egg yolk and threw up an entire egg right onto his plate. I would characterize the moment as matter-of-fact rather than dramatic. Thus endeth supper. You’re all racing to make leek and potato soup right now, I can tell. I was solo parenting because Kevin was in Toronto.
**The verdict: Actually a really good meal, both food and chat.
**Thursday’s menu: Curried lentil soup (crockpot). Saag paneer. Baked brown rice. Plus leftover white rice.
**Original plan: For some reason, when I made the menus on Sunday evening, I was hankering for risotto and had written that down in place of regular rice. Who has time to stir the risotto? Not I, at least, not yesterday. So I threw a lentil soup in the crockpot and made brown rice instead.
**In the kitchen: Was chopping onions for soup when the electrician knocked on the door to go over the outlets and light fixtures and other things requiring thought and decision-making; but that wasn’t all. The kids were finishing breakfast and getting packed for school. Kevin was in Toronto (yes, again). Another parent was telephoning to tell me about a last-minute change to school-walking plans. Albus was refusing to walk his little sister. “Where is the electrical box, can you show me?” “You’re so mean! I never get a chance to talk to my friends! And now you’re going to make me walk her!” Chop, chop, chop onions. The thought crossed my mind: I can’t hold this together. But then I did. On with the day.
**The reviews: Most chose the brown rice and we talked about how nutritious it is. Does it taste different from white rice? We debated. Fooey gobbled the spinach and paneer and requested leftovers for her lunch box. Lentil soup was eaten. It was just me and the kids, and we enjoyed each other’s company. And they all ate lentils and brown rice and, at the very least, sampled spinach and paneer! An I-love-these-kids moment.
**The verdict: Good food.
**Friday’s menu: Bailey’s pickup supper. Plus picnic for soccer girl. Plus dinner out with girlfriends for me.
**In the kitchen: Managed pickup and food storing in under an hour. Additionally, packed picnic, soccer bag, running gear, and ran out the door to pick up a car from the Grand River Carshare, which we just joined earlier in the week, in order to meet Kevin and kids at skating.
**The reviews: I wasn’t home to hear those reviews, but AppleApple and I enjoyed the picnic (apples, red peppers, cheese, bread sticks and pretzels, and a pumpkin muffin) after she’d changed into her goalie gear, and I’d changed into my running gear. Then she went to her goalie clinic, and I went for a run. An hour and a half later, we zipped down to another indoor field for AppleApple’s second soccer session of the evening. I’d arranged carpooling for her, so I dropped off the Co-op car and walked to meet my friends for dinner and a drink. (Kevin was at his own soccer game; Albus was at a sleepover; and the others were home with a sitter.)
**The verdict: All I can say is PHEW. We made it all happen. This scheduling stuff gets easier with time and experience.
Weekend kitchen accomplishments: Four loaves of bread. Double-batch of waffles (three bags frozen for later). Pan of roasted tomatoes turned into sauce. Two jars of applesauce made from apples picked at Kevin’s family’s farm. Banana bran muffins.
Note: All of this accomplished on Thanksgiving Monday. We spent the weekend with Kevin’s family. Good grief but it’s a hot day to have the oven on. I can’t believe I’m saying that about October 10th.
**This is CJ’s drawing of the two of us. Yes, we’re upside-down. He’s the one standing on my head.
Today, I am feeling the effects of less sleep; it seems like there’s always a grace period after sleep-deprivation, followed by a crash. I’m in crash mode today, and hoping for recovery by tomorrow.
Yesterday, during the grace period, I burned through a crazy variety of activities while still flush from the after-effects of witnessing a birth. I napped in a dark room for two hours. I spent the afternoon with CJ. I made supper and vacuumed the house because the floor was nothing but crumbs. I packed a picnic for my soccer girl. I got ready for swim lessons, got kids snacked, changed, and to the pool, and then went for a much-needed run in the park across from the pool. It was gorgeous and sunny and I would have run and run and run had the kids not been waiting for me. I got back to the pool just in time, got kids showered and changed, raced home to put supper on the table, grab a bite to eat myself, and feed soccer girl.
We had less than half an hour to transition to the next activity: a soccer coaching clinic. Turns out Kevin and I are coaching all three of our kids’ indoor soccer teams (CJ isn’t old enough to be on a team, or no doubt we’d have managed to sign ourselves up to coach four). We’re not even sure how it happened. But Kevin is working quite a few Saturdays, which means that I will need to be there if he isn’t (with extra kids in tow? we haven’t worked out the finer details), so off AppleApple and I went to the coaching clinic. The coach leading the clinic is also coaching the U-10 rep girls team, so he had the girls come out to demonstrate. It was a pleasant stroke of luck that as part of the coaching clinic I also got to watch my soccer girl in action.
We spent three full hours at the indoor field, the last hour of which was just a great big game. The girls played, the rep coaches played, and the parent volunteers who had signed up to coach their children’s teams were invited to play, too. Only a few dads jumped in. I was one of two or three moms volunteering to coach, and we all passed.
I was invited to join the game! And I stood on the sidelines instead.
I was tired, yes, but that wasn’t why I didn’t play. I was chatting with a friend, but that wasn’t why I didn’t play either. It also wasn’t because I didn’t want to play; I actually kind of sort of really really did want to. Nope; I didn’t play because I felt intimidated. I haven’t played on a soccer team since the age of eleven. I’ve never practiced any of the skills and techniques the head coach was showing us last night. (Excuses, excuses.) All I had to offer, therefore, was fitness and a willingness to try. Except last night, I lacked the willingness to try. Why? On the drive home, AppleApple wondered why I hadn’t played, and when I confessed to feeling too nervous and not being skilled enough, she kind of huffed and said, of course you’d be good enough!
And she’s right. Because any willing participant would have been good enough. It wasn’t a test of my skills or abilities. It wasn’t about me at all. It was about running around, kicking a ball, and having fun. And those kids were having fun (so were the dads). Just look at my very own small and tough AppleApple who elbowed her way into the mix and stole the ball from the coaches and ran her heart out without once doubting that she should be there, doing that.
And so, regrets? I like to think of myself as a generally unregretful person. But it turns out I have a few. Many (most?) boil down to those moments when I let pride dictate in(action). When I don’t try. When I don’t take the risk, and join the game.
What got done this weekend?
Kitchen drudgery: baked four loaves of bread; transformed shrivelled plums into a sauce; whirled and froze five meals’ worth of pesto; roasted and pureed tomatoes as a base for tomato soup and lasagna later this week; baked cookie squares with new baking soda (going on the theory that bad soda caused my treat fail last weekend).
Plus laundry. That’s what comes of having four children and a family involved in multiple sports activities. Also, I’m mildly obsessive compulsive about hanging it to dry.
Soccer tryouts for this child, Saturday and Sunday morning. Lucky me, I got to take her and start both days with a long run on a beautiful autumn trail beside a river.
Vegging and movie-watching. These kids, both afternoons, the same (fairly awful) movie: Cats and Dogs. Plus Kevin and I got out on our own last night and saw a (fairly good) movie: Crazy Stupid Love.
Work on the new garden beds for next spring.
Which leads us to the question: What didn’t get done this weekend?
Harvesting and drying herbs.
Taking the kids to the Harry Potter matinee uptown today.
Signing up for a marathon in November. But I’ve got the registration window open on my browser, so maybe I’ll get up the guts to do it before the day is over.
Sleep. Two late nights + two early mornings = happy social life (and I need a nap.)
Cleaning and tidying. As you can see. (Are those MY socks on the table???? Oh crumbs, they are. Guess I can’t blame the kids for everything).
I’ve been wanting to blog all weekend, and have been too busy with food preparation (recipes to come), canning, and parties (tough life, I know). Hurray for a quiet house on a beautiful Monday morning!
For four out of six of us, this morning began swimmingly. Let me explain. We keep aiming to make room for plenty of physical activity, individually and as a family. Kevin has soccer and hockey. I swim, run, bike, and yoga. And we’d like the kids to enjoy the benefits of burning off steam, playing, and being fit.
(Side note # 1: I just found last year’s fall calendar in a drawer, and saw that I’d scheduled “hiking” as a possible family weekend activity. Sadly, that happened precisely never. Given that we had, last fall, a two-year-old, I can see how it fell off the priority list.)
This fall, we’re continuing with activities that have proven easy to maintain, such as the kids walking to and from school every day. We live 1.4km from school, so that’s nothing to sneeze at. Even CJ walks every morning to his nursery school, with his dad. AppleApple will likely continue with rep soccer, and the three oldest kids will play indoor soccer this fall/winter. It’s inexpensive, once-weekly, and will be Fooey’s first experience with organized sports. CJ joins in on weekly swim lessons for all, coordinated so that all kids will be in the water at the exact same time.
(Side note # 2: When examining our budget last month, I discovered that our biggest expense, aside from food and shelter is extracurricular/sports activities. There’s a desire to want to accomodate every interest, but we need to be more creative sometimes. For example, instead of the kids doing hockey, we rent ice time and skate/play hockey a couple of times a month with a bunch of neighbourhood families.)
Earlier this summer, AppleApple mentioned she’d like to swim more often, so she tried out for a swim club … but when I investigated cost and schedule, we realized it was a) crazy expensive, and b) would conflict with other activities. Plus Albus expressed interest in swimming more often, too, and there was no way we could put two kids into this club.
Long story short: it occurred to me that the older kids swim well enough to participate in lane swims, which are quite affordable with a pool pass. Plus, Kevin is learning to swim and would like the chance to practice, too. On Monday mornings, I swim very early, and can do an hour in the pool, shower, and be home before 7am. When I arrived home this morning, Kevin and kids were waiting in the front hall, a bit groggy, in swimsuits, ready for the lane-swim experiment. (And how proud I am at their willingness to give this a try).
An hour later, they burst through the door, glowing. Thumbs up. They’d consulted with a lifeguard, swam with the “oldsters,” and practiced their strokes up and down the lanes. Albus was musing about going more often, on “bad” days (ie. days when he has subjects at school that don’t interest him).
When I start the morning with a run or a swim, I notice an immediate boost in mood; why wouldn’t it be just the same for kids, too?
The energy at breakfast was upbeat and positive. Porridge, toast, boiled eggs. And we still had plenty of time to chat and prepare for the day before saying goodbye.
(Side note # 3: Not everyone needs to schedule time for exercise. The little kids, who won’t get extra swimming time, more than make up for it racing their bikes around the house on the loop of driveway, patio, walkway, and sidewalk. Not to mention much trampolining. CJ: “Look how high I can jump, Mom! You have to come and see me!”)
It looks like such a lonely position to play. But she’s grown into it over this past season — her first season ever playing goalie, in fact, which seems remarkable. On Saturday, her team played in a tournament against the other teams in her league. In each game, a loss meant elimination. The girls played with great heart, and never gave up, even when they were down by a goal with a minute left (as in the final game). They tied that game up, and went on to win in overtime by four goals. They also won a game on penalty kicks.
Penalty kicks are what the parents of the goalie pray never ever happen. But this was her second penalty kick experience, and she’d learned the hard way what to expect — all of the girls had. The first time, she thought it was her job as goalie to stop every ball, and was devastated when she couldn’t; we had to explain afterward that penalty kicks give the advantage to the kicker, not the goalie, and no goalie is ever expected to stop them all. This time, the first two balls went in, but she wasn’t rattled by it. Her team was behind by one shot, but she stayed cool as a cucumber. She stopped the next shots cold, her teammates landed theirs, and that was it. Game over.
Tears and hugs on the sidelines, and a mad rush to congratulate the goalie.
It’s a lonely position, but also a very visible position. What seems so remarkable to me is that she isn’t bothered by either factor. She isn’t fazed by failure, or success. When I complimented her on keeping her calm even after a goal had been scored on her, she said, “Well, I wouldn’t be a very good goalie if I got bothered when a goal was scored.”
It’s also a dangerous position. Making one stop, she was run over by a girl on another team (no call made by the ref), and knocked in the head by the girl’s foot. Her comment? “I think that girl needs to work on her jumping.” But there she was, fearless among the feet, grabbing the ball. Amazing focus, and amazing instinct — to dive toward danger rather than flinch away.
Her parents on the sidelines were playing a very different part in the story. It’s so hard to watch, and to care so deeply, and to be unable to act. I’ve started to understand that my only role, on the sidelines, is to believe in her. She obviously believes in herself.
When the day was done, Kevin and I felt drained. The team was elated: they’d made it to the final, which they’ll play in a couple of weeks. “Was that fun?” I asked Kevin. We couldn’t decide. It was an experience. There are dimensions to parenthood that never entered my imagination when I was gestating my babies: the way your children will lead you to places and through experiences and emotions you never knew you’d be obliged to go — and privileged to go, too.
This past week’s lack of posts does not indicate a lack of activity, but the opposite: too much on the go, and no time to sit and create captions for photos. Or, in many cases, even to take photos.
So, here, instead, are sketches of all the blogs I meant to write.
The children migrating to the basement blog
This week it got hot. We chose not to run our air conditioning, which requires shutting up the house. Instead, we toughed it out (still toughing it out, in fact; still hot). On the hottest day (37 degrees C), which was Thursday, it was also oppressively humid. That night, the kids slept in the basement. They’d been migrating there all week anyway, seeking the coolest space in the house. One morning, before swim lessons, they made a band (Fooey, who is really and truly a loud child, did an excellent impression of a punk rock singer; the song went “Ya, ya, ya, I love penguins …”). And I thought to myself: man, I love these kids. (Tiny related observation that could have been its own blog: how awesome to have older kids organizing the younger ones into activities like making a band and putting on plays, which they also did this week; I spent a lot of time on musical marches around the house and homemade plays when the older kids were little; how awesome to see that investment paying off).
The choosing the activities I really like to do blog
(No, the photo is not related.) For two weeks, we’re doing a summer activity I really look forward to: every morning, we bike to an outdoor pool a couple of kms away, the kids have swim lessons, and due to fortuitous scheduling I get a half-hour lane swim, too. Then we shower, snack, and bike home again. Sometimes we stop along the way at the library or grocery store. It’s been hot. I realize this activity, with four children in tow, might sound positively torturous to some; but I really love it. The rhythm is relaxed. We’re getting good exercise together. It’s a mini-adventure, but its daily repetition requires of me little thought or extra planning.
The day of crazy chapters blog
Some days are mere phrases, a sentence at most; some have chapters. Friday had chapters. Chapter one was not good: worn out from a week with the children, breakfast damn near did me in. The complaints. The whining. The stream of criticism. I’m talking about you, offspring. Nevertheless, I chose not to quit my job (ie. of mother). Chapter two: We biked to the pool. We swam. We snacked. We biked home. We lunched. Chapter three: I gathered props and drove to a photo shoot (Kev spelled me off). Yes, you read that right. A photo shoot. I’ll explain later. Chapter four: Home again to pick up local food order from Bailey’s, with three-year-old in tow. Unpacked food. Made supper. Welcomed babysitter. Added necklace to my outfit. Chapter five: Drove away with Kevin to Hillside Festival. Just the two of us. Blissful outdoor evening of dancing, eating delicious food without interruption, drinking beer, washed in music.
The comparison between evenings blog
A little too blissful: Friday evening. Because Saturday, oh Saturday … soccer game in Orangeville, driving in the heat, sitting on the sidelines in the heat, wrangling offspring in the heat, endless trips to porta-potties, ditches, community centre bathrooms in the heat … and then, finally, supper, back home, prepared with care: freshly made gazpacho, steak sandwiches, grilled zucchini and cauliflower, completely rejected by two out of four children. More whining: “I want pearsauce! I want pearsauce! I want pearsauce!” More demands: “Why aren’t you getting my water that I asked for when I asked for it!” More dirty dishes. Kevin and I looking at each other across the table, wishing we were back at Hillside. Just the two of us.
The Mary Oliver blog
All week I’ve been reading a collection of essays, prose poems, and poems by Mary Oliver, called Winter Hours. Enticing title in this heat. There’s a longer blog here on the subject of poetry — writing it and reading it — but I haven’t got the mental space to pull it all together. This is a book I will read again. Every evening, before sleep, it’s been like cool water pouring over me. There is a chapter on her poem The Swan in which she effortlessly tells me everything I’d need to know to write and read poetry with more depth and insight. Count me a convert.