What did I learn this week?

Yogurt making 101

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I make my yogurt.  It is REALLY easy, but it is one of those “recipes” that most people seem to have forgotten about.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I am posting my favourite how to make yogurt link instead.  The only thing I do different is that instead of using a cooler, I use the “dehydrate” function on my fancy KitchenAid range, which allows you to set the temperature sufficiently low to keep the culture going.

At some point I will also post my cottage cheese making recipe too – believe it or not it is just as easy as making yogurt.

Here come the holidays…

So, the holiday season is upon us, and Solstice and Christmas will be here before you know it. C is enjoying watching the original animated version of the Grinch twice each evening. If you are wondering why that cartoon still looks good, its because Dr. Suess wrote the screenplay, and was intimately involved with the production, thereby ensuring that the original Grinchiness was preserved. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to hear C telling people, “You know, Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Christmas means a little bit more.” I guess a little TV is not a bad thing after all. Notably, she has not asked for a single thing this year – except candy from the advent calendar I made for her.

Christmas is so much more complicated than it used to be. On the Santa issue alone there are two sharply divided camps – yes to Santa, and no to Santa. I have tried to carefully walk the middle here. C very matter of factly points out that the Santas we see around town or on TV “are not actually Santa, only people dressed up like Santa.” I’m not exactly sure if she believes Santa is a real person, or just a story, just as I’m not exactly sure if she believes that there really are fairies or not. I think she enjoys the idea of mystery and magic, and so I try to support that. I don’t say anything definitive, I mostly let her lead the way.

Of course, there are a lot of parents now who really do not want their kids believing in anything that isn’t real, and so have chosen to explain to them right from the start that there is no Santa, fairies, or the like. This is fine for them, but for me, I prefer to just let C’s imagination take her to the places that children like to go. I was a child who lived deeply in my imagination, and I want her to be able to develop and explore her own power of imagination too. Imaginativeness is a skill like any other, that children need time and space to develop.

What do I do when she asks me point blank, as she did last night, whether there really are mermaids living in the sea? I just tell her that I think that mermaids live in the sea in our imagination, which is a great thing. Her answer? “Oh, mummy! I think that in my imagination there are african mermaids too!” So, I guess it is working for her.

Where does the time go? And when does it come back?

Now there’s a question all parents must ask themselves. But seriously, how do people ever have time to do anything when they have children? I am constantly in amazement when I hear people rattle off the activities they are planning for the weekend – playdates, birthday parties, swimming lessons, dinner with friends – sometimes all in one day! I can’t plan more than ONE activity per day that involves taking my children somewhere and being with other kids. It is just too much for them. Actually, even one activity per day is sometimes too much.

Both C and W are intense personalities, who sometimes get overstimulated and, since neither will take a nap (or even a rest) then, the inevitable happens, a breakdown of some kind. Now that C is 4 she is better at just coming up to me and saying, “OK, I’m done here, let’s go home.” And she means it. And she means right away. Generally, though, I just try not to pack too many activities into each week.

This is not to say that these kids are not busy. Far from it. They never stop. Even though we are at home – or, out by ourselves – they are intensely involved in everything. I think this is great, and the fact that my mom and dad are around most days really helps me accommodate the demands the kids have for attentiveness from an adult, but it sure is tiring, and doesn’t leave much time for me do some of the things I would like to do. For example, I am pretty much resigned to the fact that my sewing machine is not going to get much use in the very near future. However, I have hopes for a turnaround in the medium term.

What about knitting? Well, I’m trying, and I have had some success there in that I have managed to make 3 hats in the last couple of months. Hey, that is pretty good considering! But, I have to say I get a bit crestfallen sometimes when I read Amanda Soule’s blog. The woman is amazing and I completely love and admire her. She has time to knit, sew, write crafting books, maintain her blog (with photos!), make bread, all while raising AND homeschooling four kids (including a 1 year old). Trust me, she is awesome. I did read on her blog that she wants everyone to rest assured that she doesn’t really “do it all”, she has just made choices. For example, she works on her projects when her kids are asleep; she doesn’t believe in spending time keeping her house super-clean; and she chooses to work on her projects rather than do other things like watch TV.

OK, here’s me:

Kids sleeping time – daytime N/A; nighttime, W wakes up every 2-3 hours, both kids like to get up REAL early, as in anytime between 4am and 6am. So, “kids sleeping time” really needs to be mummy’s sleeping time too seeing as kids are quite uncooperative on this front.

Time wasted by attempts to keep super-clean house – also N/A. My house is not super-clean. I think the house in Peepo! is cleaner (mummy is washing the windows – on the outside no less), although I would venture to say my house is somewhat tidier, only because I pick up toys off the floor in order to remove tripping hazards.

Time spent watching TV – OK, I do watch some TV at night, but I almost always try to do something else at the same time. However, I have found it hard to read or knit and watch So You Think You Can Dance at the same time, although I have indeed tried. But, it is kind of a watching show rather than a listening show.

Hmmm, OK, so I guess I’ll have to keep looking for my missing time. I’m sure it will eventually turn up. Hopefully I won’t be so tired that I can’t use it by the time I find it. In the meantime, at least I have Amanda to be inspired by!

My book would be REALLY complicated

C just finished her bath upstairs with Daddy and W.  I can hear her talking to Daddy about what she did today, and a few other things:

“Well, Daddy, I could write a book, but my book would be REALLY complicated to understand because it would be written in Japanese.”

“Oh, you can write in Japanese?”

“Yes, Daddy, in Japanese character letters.  I also speak in Chinese.”

“How did you learn that? From Katy Chan?”

“No Daddy, I read the Chinese characters on the inside label of my backpack.”

Learning the language

I just love how children use language!  You hear people getting so excited about the new and different ways that this or that writer is using language, but there really is nothing to compare to the way kids use words when they are still learning the language.

For example, yesterday C told me that the Peter Rabbit lamp in the spare bedroom is really a garden where she is growing her vegetables for winter.  The lamp has little wooden carrot tops sticking out in rows, so it really does look like a little vegetable patch.  This morning she says to me,

“Mummy, today I am going to undig my garden so we can eat the carrots.”

Undig.  Now that is a great word.  Kind of like the word “debark” – which means to disembark, not to get the surgery that stops your dog from barking.  Of course, sometimes the language isn’t so fit for all company.  My mom told me that the other day C was trying to decide what to name the little toy bat she was carrying around.  Apparently it was a toss up between “Mr. Sweetums” and “Little Bastard.”

Thankfully the former won out over the latter.

We now resume our regular programming…

Ok, so I have been on a bit of a hiatus from blogging since we went on our road trip to California. No need to say anything about that since Corey has thoroughly documented the whole trip!

I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed lately and unable to get anything done that takes more than a couple minutes away from the kids. Even nights are dicey, since W still has to be put to sleep downstairs on my lap (and sometimes doesn’t leave it until we go to bed). Oh, and did I mention that my computer is closing in on 10 years old and so is sometimes a complete chore to blog on?  Regardless, I am going to try to get back into my routine of weekly posts (at least), and not leave my site to languish in even greater depths of obscurity.

I had an interesting conversation with another stay at home mom today. She is upset because she feels that her mother gives her sister more attention and help with her children because the sister is a working professional as opposed to a stay at home mom. Her view is that her mom doesn’t seem to think that a stay at home mom needs any help. I have no idea if that is what her mom actually thinks, but I understand what she was getting at. Basically, it comes down again to that same old notion that raising children isn’t work, it’s life, and so you don’t need help, you just need to do it and not complain about it.

Of course, I think everyone would understand that even a mother who has chosen to stay at home needs support, but at the same time, there is less sympathy for her because she made that choice to stay at home and raise her children. It’s an interesting dilemma, and I can’t say that I know what the answer is except to say that everyone needs help and support to to a really good job of what they want to do, whether that is raising children or working outside the home. No one has it all, or has it easy all the time, no matter how it may look to others. Sometimes it is hard to remember that, especially when we are experiencing other negative emotions like envy, jealousy, or anger – which we all feel from time to time whether we acknowledge those emotions or not.

Well, enough of this for tonight, but if you find yourself in the painful grip of negative emotions, try saying this to yourself instead of getting upset:

“breathe in smiles; breathe out happiness; think about this moment, and know that it is wonderful.”

Not back to school…or preschool

I read this post on the whole back-to-school mindset which has become part of our culture…I think she has it pretty spot on. Even though C isn’t old enough for grade school, we are already getting hit with it from parents who are putting their kids in preschool. For some reason, I get looked at very suspiciously when I say “No, actually, C is not going to preschool.” I wonder what they think is going on in my house with my non-preschool attending child?

Well, it IS pretty interesting, I will give them that!

Goodbye Mountain Buggy; hello Joovy

A couple weeks back I decided that it was sadly time to part with my beloved red Mountain Buggy stroller. I bought this stroller before C was born and it was my one really exspensive spluge item. Although C didn’t think much of it at first, she eventually warmed up to it – at about 18 months of age.

Since W was born, he has been riding in the Mountain Buggy, but C suddenly took a renewed interest in strollering and so would constantly insist on perching on the front wheel. Needless to say, this caused some problems. Firstly, it made the stroller a bit hard to steer. Secondly, W constantly grabbed and pulled C’s hair, which, as you can imagine, did NOT go over well with Herself.

In any event, I decided that I would sell my beloved Mountain Buggy and buy a more practical tandem stroller instead. After a bit of thought and internet research, it appeared that the Joovy Ultralight Caboose would be just the ticket. My friend Melaina had used hers for a year now, and seemed happy with it.

Not one to waste time once my mind was made up, I posted the Mountain Buggy online and sold it within 2 days. I must admit to some tightness in the chest as it was happily wheeled out of my front yard by its new, pregnant, owner. Corey was also quite distressed. “What are we going to do now?” he says a bit frantically as we go inside. “Oh don’t worry so much.” I say. Eek, is what I’m actually thinking, I don’t want to be stuck with NO stroller at all. That kind of defeats the purpose of this exercise.

The next day I rushed down to TJ’s to find a replacement. Both kids fell asleep in the van on the way, so Lance kept watch while my mom and I went in. I was a tough customer but I got what I wanted. The sale went something like this:

Me: “Hello. Do you have any Joovy Ultralights in stock?”

Salesperson: “Yes. What colour did you want?”

Me: “Anything but black.” (Corey’s request.)

Salesperson: “We have all colours. Orange is on sale.”

Here is where my keen bargaining skills came into play.

Me: “Great. I love orange. Ring it up for me.”

So, that is how I got my orange stroller (which I actually do like the colour of). The best part? After selling my 4 year old Mountain Buggy and buying this new stroller on sale, I still had $75 left over.

After using the Joovy now for a few weeks, I’d have to say that it was definitely the right move, and I have (almost) completely got over the loss, er…sale of my previous stroller.

Define this

C is constantly asking what certain words and phrases. Sometimes it is challenging to explain definitions in a way that actually makes sense to a child of 3. Here’s the latest example…

“Mummy, what does ‘swashbuckle’ mean?”

“Hmmm…swashbuckle…er…well, a swashbuckler is someone who wears puffy shirts and carries a sword and generally does heroic acts and steals from the rich and gives to the poor.”

OK, give me a break, this is the end of the day during storytime, and I am tired. But really, how DO you explain swashbuckle? Here is the wikipedia definition:

“The word “swashbuckler”, in the modern sense, generally describes a fearless romantic archetype, a fictitious, adventurous, sword-wielding, male character who seeks to win the heart of a beautiful lady while rescuing society from the clutches of a dastardly villain. A classic swashbuckler exhibits exceptional courage and swordfighting skill, a strong sense of honor and justice, a chivalric romantic sense, and the capacity for wit, style, and resourcefulness under pressure.”

Sooooo, I’d say my lame attempt at defining swashbuckle wasn’t actually so bad!

One again!

Hard to believe that we have yet another baby who has passed the one year mark. The first year with C really seemed like a year. The first year with W has flown by incredibly fast. I think probably because I have been so much busier looking after two rather than just one.

It is interesting because I know there are a lot of people who think that since my mom and dad live with us, that things must be so much easier. Some things most certainly are. Cooking for one. Dinner gets made by my mom during the week, which is absolutely the greatest thing. But other things are just as hard. I still feel like I am not giving enough to either of my kids, because I still only have 100% to give, and it gets divided accordingly.

Just as when C turned one, W still seems like a baby to me. I didn’t really stop thinking of C as a baby until she was past two, and I’m sure I will feel the same about W. I know that I am not supposed to say this, but I honestly do not understand how people manage to put children this age into full time daycare. I know that everyone does what they feel they have to do, but for me, the thought of it is so far outside what I would feel comfortable with as a mother that I just cannot even imagine doing it. Then again, I don’t think it is just his age, because even with C, who is closing in on four, I cannot imagine not being with her every day — although a break now and then wouldn’t be totally unwelcome!

Maybe in a few more years?