It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Baking, baking

If you’re upset there’s no post today, you may all blame Hannah, but before you get upset, pop over and check out her new venture.

We were all excited to try out this week’s recipe, but first we had to go to the grocery store for bananas. Then we had to come home and bake, them! Now we are all feeling too fat’n’satisfied to do much of anything except smile at each other and burp gently.

Check it out!

Nom.

Urp.

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Happy Thanksgiving, and Give-Away Info

Hello! The give-away is now closed. No more entries will be accepted. I’m off now to spend time with the in-laws three hours away, and will not be back until Sunday.

I’ll put the names in the hat then, and post the winner on Monday, October 8, our Thanksgiving Day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

October 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I’m not dead! And a question

So sorry for the long absence.

For two weeks, I was on holiday. Aaaahhh… The first week, Wonderful Husband and I went away for a few days. It was a work excursion for him, so I tagged along for a cheap vacation (the only kind we can afford, sigh). He flew me there on points (cheap! not free, still those damned taxes and airport fees, but cheap!), I shared his work-paid-for hotel room (free!), and we even managed to squeak in a few meals for two within the amount work allows for his meals.

So that was nice.

The second week, I had all sorts of projects planned … and didn’t really do any of them. That’s okay!! I sat on my porch in the sun and read. I helped a friend sort her basement. (Mold and spiders and general ick. I am a Good Friend.) I read. I had coffee dates and drink dates. I read. It was a good week.

I thought that when I returned, I’d have my blogging enthusiasm back… and I find that I haven’t, really. So, if there are any of you still reading here, I’m looking for help. I figure enthusiasm and ideas don’t happen in a vacuum. They come by interaction. Books, people, conversation, media. Some of that I do, but what I’m not doing much at all any more is reading blogs. I need to get back in there. I have some I read often — well, three: her, her, and her — obviously, more would be better.

If you’re out there and still reading here, please tell me: What blogs do you read and enjoy?

August 22, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 17 Comments

I’m a fixture

Remember that Sesame Street song? “Who are the people in your neighbourhood?” (Just watched that clip. Goodness, that’s cheesy. Sweet, but cheesy. Is it still part of the show?)

I was walking through our neighbourhood the other day with a woman who doesn’t feel very connected here. She’s lived here a couple of years, but has no friends, she says. She’s quiet, but she has two young children, and that in itself is usually enough to bridge the gap. I’m not sure why this would be the case, but we’re going out for coffee.

I wouldn’t say I’m a friend yet, but I’m open to the idea. I understand what it is to feel disconnected. I have friends, but I’m more introvert than extrovert, so I don’t have an enormous drive to collect friends in great bunches, and, though I’ve broadened the definition over the years, I’m still fairly slow to label a relationship as a friendship. Could this woman ever be a “real” friend, by my admittedly stringent standards? I suspect not, but I like her, she’s lonely, and an hour or two chatting in a coffee shop is a simple, easy way to do a kindness. And who knows? It could end up being a real friendship! So I walk to her house, and from there we walk the few blocks to one of the several coffee shops in range.

Half-block up from her home, a former client stops to chat for a moment. Introductions all round.
A block further on, a fellow from the dog park waves. Introductions all round.
At the next corner, someone stops to ask if I’m the woman who looked after Emily, and then asks if I have spaces, which I don’t. I give her contact info for a different caregiver.
Further down the block, Grace calls from her front porch. Grace’s mother waves. Introductions all round.
A former client is leaving the coffee shop as we enter. Introductions all round.

As we settle into our chairs, my lonely neighbour’s eyes are wide. “You know everyone!”

A funny idea, for me, the friendly enough but not particularly socially inclined ambivert. (Thanks for that term, Carol, for I suspect that’s what I am.) Though in recent years I’ve consciously decided to cultivate more friendships, I don’t need a lot of socializing in my life. I almost never get lonely. I prefer a night at home to a night out.

But, what do you know? I do know people in my neighbourhood. Lots of them. None of the people we met were friends, but I know lots. Even more know me.

They know me because I am one of   ♫♫”the people that you meet, ♫ when you’re walking down the street, ♫ the people that you meet each day.”♫♫♫

I am The Daycare Lady.

You know what?

I kind of like it.

July 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Happy Day-After-Canada-Day!

It’s Canada Day!! Well, yesterday was Canada Day, but as it fell on a Sunday, today is a day off. All the festivities were yesterday, and a nice quiet day today. No tots, and as I heard for days about planned trips to cottages, to grandparents, to play with cousins, I know they’re all having fun.

Me, I walked downtown and back — a smidge over 10k round trip, which I know thanks to this fun little website — to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I am a huge Judi Dench fan, so anything with her in it is worth seeing. My husband had sent me a review some weeks back, and I’d made a mental note. (Which, to my intense surprise, I remembered!!) To his intense surprise, I suggested we go see it.

Why the surprise? I hate going to movies. It’s not that I don’t like movies, but that going to movies depresses me. It’s a daylight thing. You go in the daylight, you come out in the dark — that’s depressing! Hours of daylight lost. Hours. I cannot express how that very thought just sucks the joy right out of my soul. No point in suggesting a go to a late showing, so that I’m going into the theatre in the dark. I’d be asleep before the tedious trailers were done. (Assuming I could handle the volume. Why are theatre volumes set so LOUD? Good lord.)

But this was a holiday Monday! We could go in the middle of the day, so that we went in AND came out in daylight! AND I could see Judi Dench! (And Maggie Smith, another favourite.)

What a great movie. So glad I went. And we walked there and back, one of our favourite couple activities, because the whole time you walk, you talk, right? So an hour’s walk there (it was hot; we were in no hurry!), two hours in the movie, an hour’s walk back. A lovely half-day date for my sweetie and me. You know a movie’s good when you can spend an entire hour’s walk talking about it. And then some. It popped up from time to time over the course of the rest of the afternoon and evening.

I hope you had a good weekend, too.

July 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Why Wouldn’t I?

I consider myself a happy person. I’m an optimist. My glass is half-full, I’m more likely to laugh when something startles me than scowl. I’m a quiet person, mind you. You’re not going to hear me roaring exuberantly around, tossing belly laughs hither and yon. I’m not jolly. But I am, quietly, happy.

Happiness is an interesting subject. Moreover, happiness does ebb and flow. Mine ebbs in the winter. I’m quite sure that, like many of us in the sun-starved northern latitudes, I suffer mildly from the fading of the light. Do I have full-blown SAD? No. But I do use a therapy light every morning, and it does help.

February and March are my lowest-energy months. Everything’s a little harder in March. I don’t feel sad. My life is absolutely worth living. I take pleasure in things each day. But I’m weary. Weary and very impatient for spring, for the end of snow, slush, grit, snow boots, snow pants, snow suits, hats, scarves, mittens, neckwarmers, and scarves, longing for the beginning of warmth, for the return of sunshine and long daylight hours.

Weary and impatient people do not make good caregivers. Now, I don’t take my weariness out on the children, I’m not snapping at them six times an hour, I’m not … but that takes restraint these days, restraint which takes effort, and only adds to my weariness.

I’m not getting a whole lot of fun out of my job these days. That’s not the kids’ fault. It’s all me. I know that.

One of the things that lifts my spirits is to read self-help books. They’re just so full of cheery potential! Even if I never adopt a single one of a book’s suggestions, I just love the potential in each of these books. Recently I bought myself a copy of “The Happiness Project“, the recounting of the author, Gretchen Rubin’s year-long account of her quest to increase her own level of happiness. There I found the idea of coming up with Happiness Resolutions.

Oh, now this resonated with me. I am a total list-and-chart girl. I’ve made charts to organize my thoughts, make decisions, plan projects, and pack for holidays all my life. A chart for resolutions is TOTALLY my thing. I make lists these days because I have no memory. None. Lists for memory, charts for organization. Love it. I can do this! I am excited to do this!!!

Rubin asks four questions to help you determine what your happiness objectives could be. It was her thirds question, “Is there any way in which you don’t feel right about your life? Do you wish you could change jobs, cities, family situation, or other circumstances? Are you living up to your expectations for yourself? Does your life reflect your values?” that really hit home for me.

The middle question about changing things, that didn’t resonate. I like my home, I like my job, I like my family situation. But… “Am I living up to my expectations? Does my life reflect my values?” The best I could say was, “Well. Kinda-sorta.”

Not at home. I’m doing fine with husband and children. I’m doing fine with friends. I am treating myself well, too.

But at work?

There, I was undoubtedly falling short of the mark. Short of my own standards. You all know me well enough to know that I don’t encourage people to have unrealistic standards and goals. I think it’s good mothering to be a bit of a slacker, to indulge in a little benign neglect. I don’t hold myself (or anyone else) to an impossible parenting standard.

Here’s the hard truth: My standards are reasonable, and I am not meeting them.

Oof. It’s hard to look at yourself that clearly.

The children are being lovingly cared for. They are not at risk, they are not being neglected. But I know I am doing the bare minimum these days. I know I am not doing my best. I know it.

So I made for myself a list of seven Work Resolutions. Do I believe these will increase my personal happiness? Yes. If I am performing to my own standard of professionalism, I will be happier. Moreover, if I’m happier myself, I will be better with the children. It’s a virtuous circle.

My professional resolutions are:

1. Get outdoors every day. If someone needs a morning nap, the rest of us can play in the back yard. If it’s raining, my stroller has a rain shield. It’s just not that cold any more. There is no excuse but inertia, and I know that if I get out, I feel happier. Pretty much instantaneously. So. Go outside? Why wouldn’t I? (See? I can do something that is really totally about me, and it’s also good for the children! Again: why wouldn’t I? I think “why wouldn’t I?” will be my mantra for overcoming winter-induced inertia. Why wouldn’t I?)

2. Fifteen minutes of story-time before naps every day. They like hearing them, I like reading. It segues them neatly to naptime. It’s good for their language development. Why wouldn’t I?

3. Crafts, twice a week. I like doing crafts. Most of the children enjoy them, and all the parents do. It’s a way to engage with the children, foster fine motor control, make something pretty. Why wouldn’t I?

4. Sing for 15 minutes after nap/before snow suits every day. I love singing. They love singing. WHY WOULDN’T I???

5. Avoid ‘no’. I am not afraid to give the children a clear and unapologetic ‘no’ as required. But too often, caregivers (and parents!) fall into the knee-jerk no trap. There is no good reason to say no … but we do, anyway. Why? I picked up a terrific quote by Samuel Johnson (via Gretchen Rubin): “All severity that does not tend to increase good, or prevent evil, is idle.” There is a time and place for firmness, even for severity. But it should never be unthinking or habitual.

6. Keep a smile on my face, and in my voice. I’ve said it before, and Ms. Rubin cites the studies too: We often feel the way we act. We tend to think it’s the reverse, that we act the way we feel, but in fact, if we act a certain way, the feelings will follow. So. Smile. And keep that smile not just on my face, but in my voice. I can say the same thing in forbidding or stern tones, or I can say it with a smile. Why wouldn’t I smile?

7. Hug each of the children once an hour. I’ve heard it said we need four hugs a day for survival. I work with little people who would, if I let them, hug me four times a minute. Why wouldn’t I? (Well, because I’d never get anything else done, and could quite feasibly end up peeing on the living room floor. But once an hour, each, seems entirely doable. Which could give me, over the course of my workday, an average of 42 hugs per day. I think I’d be meeting the quota for survival…) 😀 In truth, it sounds entirely delightful! Why wouldn’t I?

I’ve made myself a chart. Because I’m starting mid-month, it goes through the end of April. Each day I’ll evaluate how I did on each of the seven items, and will award myself with either a check (yes! did it!) or an ‘x’, (missed the mark today). Since lists and charts are motivating for me, I know that I’ll be striving for a column of check marks in every category. I know it.

Inertia is a killer. It sucks a lot of the joy from living. As I composed this list and thought about it, my response of “why wouldn’t I?” got more and more insistent, until it now seems to me that to not do any of these things is sheerest perversity.

So yes, winter robs me of energy … but each of these things is so easy, and will bring me happiness, while at the same time improve my work environment, give me job satisfaction and make the kids happier (and thus easier to be around).

Why wouldn’t I?
Why wouldn’t I?

How about you? Anyone care to join me? What would your list be? I’ve had a week or two to think about my list. You want to prepare a list to start April first, and join me? My list is about my job. Your list may be about something different.

If the whole idea of increasing your level of happiness intrigues you, check out Gretchen’s website, look into her Happiness Toolbox, and maybe you’ll want to make yourself an account there.

Who doesn’t want to be happier? Why wouldn’t you?

😀

March 15, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 6 Comments

Southwestern Bean Salad

This is taken from Michael Smith’sThe Best of Chef at Home: Essential Recipes for Today’s Kitchen“. I loooove this book. Love it, love it. There aren’t a lot of recipes in the book (about 120) … which means over the two or three years I’ve owned it, I’ve made just about everything in there, and have loved nearly all of them.

This one is a great favourite, and shows up at least once a month in our home.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon (or more, to taste) hot sauce
one can (398 mL, 14 oz) mixed beans, rinsed well
1 cup corn niblets
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1 basket of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red onion, thinly sliced
handful of green beans, steamed and cut into bite-sized pieces
a bunch of fresh cilantro, rinsed
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard and hot sauce. Add everything else, toss to combine. Serve immediately or let sit a few hours. I prefer it at room temperature, but you can refrigerate it if you like. (Ours rarely lasts for left-overs!)

A few notes:
the original recipe calls for half a cup of oil. In the interests of reducing calories and being heart-smart, I reduced it to a quarter cup and it tastes just fine to me! Any less than that, and while the flavour is still good, the gorgeous creamy texture of the oil-with-canned-beans is compromised. Texture is hugely important to me with my food; if it’s not so important to you, you might try reducing it further.

Cherry tomatoes are quite expensive here in February. I use four or five of the less expensive plum tomatoes, chopped. (In the winter, regular tomatoes, shipped up from California or Mexico, taste and feel like paste in the mouth. They’re just gross. Plum tomatoes retain more texture and flavour, though they’re still not great. Let’s face it: tomatoes are really best eaten seasonally, and local! The toddlers don’t tend to like tomatoes at the best of times (AUGUST!!), so when I’m making it for them, I reduce the number of tomatoes and up the amount of corn, which they love.)

The original recipe also calls for yellow wax beans, but I hate them (a texture thing), so I skip them. (Yes, I make them eat tomatoes, but don’t make myself eat yellow beans. When the toddlers get to the point that they’ll eat everything I serve without complaint (three, usually) they’re allowed the occasional opt-outs, too.)

Red onions come in an enormous range of sizes. Obviously, you put in as much as you want and no more.

February 21, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Menu Monday

A new tradition! Menu Monday. Enough of you have asked me what I feed the kids that I figure there will be some interest in a weekly Menu post. If there’s something that interests you enough to want to try it, let me know and I’ll post the recipe.

You’ll note about half of them are vegetarian. That’s how I like to eat, so that’s how the children eat. My family, too, for that matter, since what the children eat for lunch is generally what my family had for dinner the night before. (Neener, neener, I’m the chef. My kitchen, my rules.) It’s simpler to make extra than to cook twice.

I usually prepare my family’s dinner during nap-time. These days, there is usually at least one child awake during nap-time, but if I didn’t know how to get things done with children around, I’d be a pretty poor excuse for a caregiver, I figure. The child either amuses themselves, or ‘helps’ me.

So. This week, the children will be dining on:

Monday: Meatball soup and rutabaga-beet slaw

Tuesday: Squash-chickpea-apricot stew on rice
(When I serve chickpeas to toddlers, I mash them slightly. I figure they’re just large enough to be a choking hazard, so I err on the side of caution.)

Wednesday: Vegetarian shepherd’s pie, kale salad

Thursday: Roasted chicken salad, Greek potatoes
(Greek potatoes are unpeeled potatoes cut into bite-sized chunks, spiced with mint and dills, and roasted in water and lemon until the water evaporates entirely. Nom.)

Friday: Spinach-chickpea soup, baking powder biscuits
(The original recipe calls for whole chickpeas and my son doesn’t like their texture, so I puree them into the broth, making this a nice, thick soup.)

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Strategizing

I am sorry for the protracted silence. Though I am surrounded by the same cuteness every single day, I find myself utterly unable to compose a single post.

But today! I have a Strategy. I shall keep the compose screen open all day, not so much to guilt myself into it (I’m pretty much impermeable to petty guilt), but so as to a) REMIND myself and b) BE READY when the cuteness happens.

Because, be sure it is. I’m just not sharing. And that is not Good Blogging.

I’ll be back!
(I hope.)

December 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Toys that Play Themselves

Have you heard about The Breast Milk Baby doll yet?

When I heard about it, I snorted a bit.

Not because of that whole ridiculous “sexualizing of children” concern. I’ll write a post on that later.

Not because I have any reservations about kids, girls and boys, practicing breast-feeding. While I believe that each woman has the right to choose how to feed their infant, I give particular encouragement and practical support any and all woman I know who choose to breastfeed.

Why particular support to these women? Because getting started with breastfeeding is more complicated than bottle feeding. It just is. Moreover, these new mothers were mostly bottle-fed as babies, meaning that their mothers can’t offer practical support or advice.

In fact, too many offer discouragement, old wives tales, rumours, and just plain old bad advice. My mother-in-law, who was very supportive of me and my ways, kept offering to give my newborn baby a bottle “to give you a rest”. That’s fine when the baby’s a couple of months old, but it is NOT fine in the first month, when the milk supply is being established. She honestly thought she was being helpful, though, and it was hard to turn her down without feeling ungracious. I did turn her down, and we both thought I was being ungracious. Sigh. But the breast-feeding went REALLY WELL, thanks!!!

Thus breastfeeding mothers have a few more hurdles to overcome at the start — though once everything’s established, it is SO MUCH more convenient than bottle-feeding!

I breastfed my three children for over a year each, and I loved it. Because they saw their siblings breast-fed, my older two “nursed” their dollies. My daughter AND my son. All small children who see younger siblings being nursed will nurse their bolls. ALL of them.

One day, little Adam, then about three years old, sat on the couch with his sister’s beloved Cabbage Patch Baby (known to the children as “Baby Cabbage”) shoved under his shirt, its head nestled well into Adam’s armpit. His daddy entered the room.

“I’m feeding my baby!” Adam announced, very proud.
Dad gives a wry grin. “You’re in for a BIG disappointment, son,” was his only comment, and as children do when adults say inexplicable things, Adam ignored him. A moment or two later, he yoinked baby out, flipped it over his shoulder, burped it, and then shoved it into the other armpit. Because kids, they copy what they see.

And that’s the thing that makes me snort. Both Adam and Haley nursed their dollies. Their rag dolls, their plastic dolls. The most expensive was that Cabbage Patch baby, a Christmas gift from grandparents.

This nursing doll retails for about a hundred dollars. We need to spend a hundred dollars on a doll that will make sucking noises and burp, when a $25 rag doll will do the job just as well, without the internal mechanism? Heck, a plastic baby from the Dollar Store will do the trick. But no, we must purchase an expensive doll (complete with a very silly two-flower bra thingy) so that the doll will make the noises that any child is perfectly capable of imagining?

I’ve always been leery of toys equipped with technology to do what a child’s imagination does just as well. Spend more money on a toy which attempts to replace a child’s imagination?

So, no. I won’t be buying the Breast Milk Baby doll. Which is a shame, because I’d like to, you see. I’d like to support the company which has been so beleaguered by legions of silly, squeamish prudes who kicked up such a fuss about it. I’d like to stick it in the eye of the sex-obsessed prudes, I really would. Too bad I have all these inexpensive (some even home-made!) rag dollies which do the job just as well for so much less.

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 6 Comments