Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Mealtime madness

Sometimes I think I’m not cut out for a life of responsibility and routine. I shouldn’t be in charge of sustaining people even if they are under three feet tall. Between five and seven most nights, I re-think this whole gig. I block out people with real problems and get a little pity party going for myself. I wonder why every little thing has to be so hard.

Mostly I resist the urge to think long on darker realms like vengeance and karma, but on occasion I do find myself fantasizing about a day when Deaglan will have a picky eater for a child. I try to visualize his face when after he toils over French toast or pancakes, lovingly adding cinnamon and strawberries; his little cherub screeches inconsolably that he hates French toast.

I smile with a little satisfaction knowing karma could kick in, gift him with a finicky little buzz-kill who only eats chicken nuggets and hot dogs. I imagine his sense of panic every night trying to come up with nutritious lunch box ideas because his kid gags at the thought of sandwiches, chicken, vegetables, egg salad. Hamburgers. Steak.

Conversely around six o clock those same nights, watching Naveen gobble down whatever I put in front of him, I have two thoughts: He’s officially my favourite again.

And how will we ever afford our mortgage and groceries when this kid comes of age?

Do you have a picky eater where you live?

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The kind of day that only a pedicure could have topped

There's been very little sleep going on around here.

Naveen is suffering from something called Hey listen, I'm entering toddlerhood, getting a mouthfull of teeth, and possibly having a growth spurt - so how fair would it be if you weren't miserable too? And Deaglan's been sleeping in our bed since he started school; let me tell you, he is not a cooperative bedfellow. All night long I'm fending off elbows and feet, not to mention scrounging for even a tiny scrap of sheet or blanket to cover myself with.

So it was with great mercy that my husband let me sleep in this morning. He tiptoed the kids downstairs, fed and dressed them and headed out to the apple orchard.
 I hesitate to continue this little story, for fear you will shake your head with disgust. But I will go on because I feel it's my duty to illuminate how kind my husband has been today. 

When they returned from the orchard, Shaune headed outside with Deaglan to cut the lawn, while I put the baby down for a nap and showered.
I quickly got dressed  and drove to Winner's so I could find some fall clothes. And it just so happened to be one of those marvellous change rooms that didn't make me want to consider major reconstructive surgery so I bought a few things!

And then Shaune made a wonderful meal of grilled pork chops with fresh apple chutney, roasted potatoes and salad. Now friends, before you roll your eyes, and click on out of here, I must tell you, he baked tonight too and because I feel downright selfish for having had this kind of a day, I wanted to share his easy apple turnover recipe with you.

And just think, at least you can go away knowing that after I ate all of this, I likely don't fit into any of those tops I bought today anyway. 

 Shaune's easy apple turnovers

12 apples (cooking apples - he used Spartan)
Half teaspoon of cloves
Half teaspoon of nutmeg
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
Three quarters of cup brown sugar
One third cup of white sugar
1 tablespoon of butter
1 lemon juiced
1.5 tablespoons of flour
1 package of store bought puff pastry


-Mix together all ingredients and sprinkle ontop of apples after the next step
-Core, chop and simmer apples (with above mixture) for 35 minutes
-Cover apple mixture while simmering
-Let mixture cool completely before assembling turnovers
-Cut frozen puff pastry in half (from grocery store) and refrigerate until use
-Prepare an egg wash and small bowl of sugar
-Have pastry brush on hand for egg wash
-Spoon on a mound of apple filling onto puff pastry (see collage below) leaving an inch around edges for folding. Refrigerate again until ready for the oven.
-Once turnovers are sealed, brush with eggwash and sprinkle with sugar.
-Bake for 25 minutes on a baking sheet at 400 (but tell your three year olds, it will be at least an hour although they may still ask if it's done every five seconds)

If you're not watching your figure, which I'm clearly not, enjoy with some decent vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Meet the teacher

Deaglan's teachers are like an old married couple.

You know how there's always the husband who doesn't say much, sort of nods, smiles, shifts uncomfortably? And the wife who apologetically makes up for the husband's one word answers by offering beautiful flowing sentences full of information, even if you didn't ask?

Or is that just me and Shaune?

At Meet the Teacher Night a few hours ago, the gushing lovely wife told me that our son was sweet, agreeable and the youngest one in their class. (He was born Christmas Eve) He gets tired in the afternoons she said, picks an activity that requires low energy. Today he built a birdhouse with blocks.

Then she explained with great detail how they'd constructed the reading cubby, how she had remnants leftover from when they got new carpet last year, but then a few months ago at Dollarama, the one on Wellington, she noticed that they had peel-and-stick carpet tiles, so she replaced them with those, but did I notice how the edges were coming undone?

And the reserved brief husband-ish one, well, she smiled and nodded, stood close to an exit.

Naveen plowed through the room tiny-tornado-like, stopping to throw down yogurt containers full of crayons,  empty out baskets of doo-dads, rip pictures the kids had drawn off the walls when he could reach them.

And I was overdressed and sweating, still in my work clothes, a scarf accessorizing my dress; carrying my oversized bag, Deaglan's backpack, the kid's jackets and a family pack of pre-ordered Swiss Chalet meals that none of us had had time to eat.

Shaune just walked in a minute ago and asked hopefully if it had gone okay even without him. He works late a few nights a week and had forgotten to book the night off for Meet the Teacher.

I'd get all chatty and wife-ish but I'm beat.

I'm not going to bother explaining to him that while we were in the lunch room with all the other families, me overdressed and melting, opening our dinners, Naveen was running around all wild, grabbing what he could from other families' dinner tables, dipping his grubby (yet adorable) little fingers into their Chalet sauces within his reach.

I don't have it in me to tell him how after we'd waited in line almost twenty minutes to get our pre-ordered Swiss Chalet, found a seat, and were just about ready to eat, Deaglan suddenly had to pee.  And then when we finally made our way back from the other end of the school, having left my purse, the food, and even my scarf with  a room full of strangers, after I'd set out each kid's food, Deaglan announced quite proudly that now he had to poop!

I won't explain to him that I'd been operating all day from the strong belief  it was Thursday.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

An apology to my body

In grade 12 my friend Lesley and I tried to go without food for two weeks. We wanted to shed a few pounds. A few years later in first year university, I limited myself to two small bowls of clear broth a day and plenty of exercise. We were all trying to look like Kate Moss back then.

And I didn’t even have an eating disorder.

This was typical stuff most of us young women were doing. Waifishness, protruding hip bones and concave tummies were all the rage. We sighed enviously at anyone who could go long periods without nourishment. Most of us hated our bodies and were quick to point out our problem areas without provocation.

I’ve smartened up, made friends with myself. I’ve realized finally that I am not this body, cannot be defined by my soft convex stomach. My tired and disobedient breasts don’t have the power to change the world.

I am not this body but this body is all I have.

These days, I speak soothingly to my flabby arms; thank them for holding my babies even when they are exhausted. I send admiring thoughts to my uterus for the miracle work it performed. I am in awe of this imperfect, disproportionate frame that holds me, like a sweet loyal dog, never failing me even when I sullied it with my thoughts, relegated it to the back of the line, poked fun of it in public.

I am ashamed of how I’ve repaid it for its devotion; cringing every time I passed a mirror, heartsick if it gained even one pound, denying it when all it wanted was one measly hot fudge sundae.

I am not this body but I was put in charge of it. And I am on a mission to take that responsibility seriously.

I'm pictured here wearing the necklace Deaglan toiled over for several days at daycare. For a few days I wore it to and from the daycare and without fail every single time he asked me if I LOVED my new necklace.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Everything I don't know

Deaglan likes to jump. And climb. And wrestle his brother to the ground.

All the time.

He’s crazy about trains and motor vehicles and he often builds odd contraptions. He somehow manages to find lengths of ribbon, yarn or string with which he ties things (our kitchen chairs for example) together. Sometimes these are elaborate “orange squeezers” or spaceships. I don’t often get it but I’m trying real hard.

On the weekend, he drew me a picture of two mustachioed skeletons on violet construction paper with his new washable Crayola markers. He told me that it was my reward for “being a good citizen.”

Finally, someone notices, I thought.

And today after his second day at Big School, when I asked him what his teacher was like, he told me quietly that he didn’t like her much because “Mommy she doesn’t talk like you.” I resisted the urge to ask “You mean she doesn’t scream like a banshee because you refuse to listen unless something’s been repeated 57 times?” I searched for a scrap of paper instead, to write it down, just the way he’d said it. Sometimes in my rare, better parenting moments, I let my instincts guide me. I do the thing that seems counterintuitive.

I listen.

When I asked him what he meant, he said that his teacher got mad (a lot) at the kids because they were being silly. I pictured this poor woman, frazzled, demanding some order; 25 four and five year olds in her charge, some who’d never before been in a structured setting, freshly released from their mothers’ arms.

“Were you being silly?” I asked.

“No Mommy, I was waiting in line to go outside. That’s what we were supposed to do!”

Geez, who is this magician of a teacher? I wanted to ask.

I don’t always know what's called for in a situation, how to handle each new thing that comes up. At those times, I mostly stay quiet till I figure it out.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Deaglan's first day of school

I’m a mess.

I forgot to tell him that I slipped his (sun) hat into the bag with his extra clothes. And also? I’m sick inside that he might eat some of his lunch at recess, not think it through, get to lunch hour and only have grapes and a granola bar left. We should have practiced one more time.

That’s what we did last night. I drilled Deaglan - picture Lou Gossett Jr. In Private Benjamin (with less facial hair), whistle around my neck, stop watch in hand.

“Okay, let’s see you open your lunch box, Go!”

“But Mommy, I already showed you how I can do it.”

“Alright, alright. Tell me what you’re gonna eat when the teacher tells you it’s snack time.”

Rolling his eyes. “The grapes or the strawberries.”

“Good, good. What about if you have an accident? If you have a pee-pee in your pants, where are your extra clothes?”

“Mommy, I’m not going to have an accident though.”

“I know honey but if you did that would be okay, okay?”

At this point Shaune breezes through, cool as a cucumber. “They’re not just gonna throw them to the wolves on the first day you know. There will be people around to help him.”

Oh he’s such an expert on the first day of school? Unfazed?

Well it was a different story this morning. After we left Deaglan with his Before School Group, my husband anxiously asked a dozen questions.

“Don’t you think we should have stayed a little longer?”


“How could they think working them in throughout the week was a good idea? The kids who came earlier already have friends!”


“Do you think he’s okay?”

No I don’t think he’s okay. He's likely scared and lonely and missing his normal. But I know he will be. I read somewhere that we humans are born hardwired to suffer. That when we try to buffer our kids from going through the hard stuff, we’re not doing them any favours.

Yep, I am a mess, disjointed, disconnected, like parts of me are scattered all over this city. Even now, I'm tempted to scurry the two blocks to the school, hide behind a shadowy maple, see that he's okay.

But I won't.

"It's good to do uncomfortable things. It's weight training for life." Anne Lamott

"I don't remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don't even know exist until you love a child."  Anne Lamott

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

My friend Sue

At Wal-Mart yesterday, Doris the associate checking me out, gave me some tips for hanging my slacks using children’s hangers. While she scanned the jeans I’d bought for Deaglan we had a fun little chat. Then at the Dollarama a few hours later, Iris who was ringing me through admired my choice in gift bags and together we marvelled over all the great stuff you could get for a buck these days.

It brought to mind Sue, my neighbour-friend down the street. She’s just itching to have grandbabies, I can tell. Last month when we gratefully accepted her invitation to come for a swim, she had all sorts of toys laid out for Deaglan and Naveen. Her twin girls, who she raised mostly on her own, are 21 and nowhere near having children.

She’s always walking her little white dogs, Becky and Chase, sometimes with 92 year old Dot and her little white dogs in tow. Dot recently moved in with her daughter because her vision had begun failing. Regularly Sue picks Dot up, brings her back to our neighbourhood where she’d lived for the last 20 years, and they have doggie spa days where the younger woman bathes and grooms the older woman’s dogs. They drink tea and have fresh baked cookies, catch up on each other, gossip about what’s been going on in the neighbourhood.

I can’t tell you how many times Sue offered to take Deaglan for a few hours here and there last year when I was bone tired and navigating the rough new waters of being mother of two.

She retired a year and a half ago, after pledging 32 years at a large communications firm. And although she earned a pension, a tight little income, she found a job as a cashier at a local grocery chain. She asked for only a few shifts a week so as not to cut into her retirement income.

I asked Sue a few times in passing how the new job was going. At first she bubbled with stories of darling old couples who routinely shopped on specific days, waited patiently in her line just so she could scan their groceries.

It didn’t surprise me. Sue has a way about her that makes you want to beg her to invite you for a sleepover.

But a few weeks ago Sue was fired. Well, she wasn’t fired – exactly, but the Big Boss told her that her IPM (items {scanned} per minute) was really low, lower than anybody else’s in the store. The acceptable number of items scanned per minute was 25 and Sue was lagging behind at just 18.  He told her she was doing a great job in every other way. However, Sue's shifts got cut back. And she was given a “partner” during her busy times, a young student who could scan up to 30 items per minute.

Having this prodigy work beside her made my friend nervous. She couldn’t take the time to talk with her regulars, get to know the customers the way she usually did. And the IPM genius treated her as if she didn’t know anything about the job. Sue reminded the kid that she was a bit slow scanning, not stupid. But the kid reported back to the Big Boss that Sue was difficult to work with.

Tired and defeated, my friend gave her resignation. I choked back tears (and the burning desire to hunt the kid and Big Boss down) when she told me this. I thought about how wonderful it is to go into a store and get treated like an old friend. How something like that can pick up your mood and have you humming for the rest of the day.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Not in the mood-osophy

I'm going through that thing. You know what I'm talking about if you've been blogging for any amount of time.

Lack of ideas-ology.
Don't feel like it-itis.

If I could, I'd lay on the couch for four days and watch TV on my terms.
No Disney Junior.
No Die Hard 18 or Terminator 10.

Or prop myself up in bed with the airconditioner on and read without interruption. Indefinitely.

It would help if it was raining too. I don't need lovely weather reproaching me.

Thank the Lord it's Labour Day. Shaune took the kids to Fall Fest. It's almost three pm and I'm still in my pyjamas.

I ate a brownie for breakfast. I don't even have a snappy closing.


Here're some pictures from last weekend.