Friday, November 28, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: Ice Cream and Brain Dump

1. I made ice cream two days ago and tried it yesterday. It was the two-ingredient ice cream you make by whipping two cups of cream and then blending in a can of condensed milk, but before I whipped the cream I made chocolate ganache with two cups of chocolate chips and one of whipping cream. I let it cool down, and then whipped the cream, stirred in the condensed milk and ganache, and froze it overnight.

I don't know if it's the best chocolate ice cream I've ever had, but it is terrific. It's smooth and creamy and very intensely chocolately. Very. So good. I think the chocolate helped keep large ice crustals from forming, and I'm wondering now if I can get a similar result with a jar of dulce de leche.

2. I finished the first hank of yarn, and ran out of wool, so the boys and I went back to Romni. They were out of the fuschia silk but I bought a beautiful kitten-soft grey merino to blend in. 
Finished wool

3. I'm having and reading a series of conversations about domesticity and virtue. Geoff says this is something I've been pondering for a few years. The most recent part springs from a post Calah Alexander did about Millenial mothers and her own difficulties with the domestic skills she wasn't taught. I think it's a complex conversation that's fraught with difficulties on a number of levels. What is the value in traditional domestic skills? To what degree can we pursue virtue through their practice? How much of the new domesticity is a backlash against the feminism that devalued work in the home? What actual value do those skills have- is it spiritual, practical, the pursuit of some kind of pragmatic wisdom? I'm too tired today to write a full post about them, but in short I think the ability to care for your family and to exercise the virtue of hospitality is good, and can take a number of forms. To fetishize specific skills is to assume that all people are meant to have the same talents and use them in the same way. That's wrong.

4. Nat and I are reading Farmer Boy again, and ploughing through fast. Thanks to last week's pioneer village visit I think there's a lot more context. We're particularly enjoying the food, and I think we're having chicken pie a la Wilder family tonight.

5. I made doughnuts. 
Look at me, I am full of virtue

I've never made doughnuts before, but it was pretty easy, if hair-raising (because of the toddlers persistently bumping into me and twining themselves through my legs when I was frying them)(that sounds like I was frying the toddlers). I made a sort of thick cake batter and formed it into rings and fried them. And they were quite good. Thomas was deeply upset because he didn't want homemade doughnuts for lunch. Life is rough, kids.

6. We've finally got the PoA form upheld for my mother's care, and I am back in charge. We're initiating services to go in and help and we have applications at a few nursing homes. And I'm terrified and elated and nervous because our first choice actually has a bed available right now, and if they call next week it will mean packing up my mother and moving her within twenty-four hours. It's what is right, and it's what we want, but I'm still going to pieces thinking about the emotional strain of moving my mother against her will. She's deteriorated quite badly in the last few months, and is no longer really capable of understanding questions or follow conversation. 

She needs care, but there are still parts of me that feel like I'm being cruel for removing her from her home, and other parts that know this is a further letting go of the person she was. I believe she is beloved of God and in His hands, and I know it's a blessing that Geoff and I can care for her, but each time there's another slide it's more grief, because I am losing more of her. I'm listening to and thinking about a sad and sentimental EBM song about losing a father with the lyrics,"I will try to ease your fear as the darkness pulls you under. I know it's kind of soppy, but I'm in a bathos of sentiment and grieving a lot. 

7. We're doing counting and discussions of robotics at home, plus reading aloud a lot of random storybooks. I'm not really the go-to for robotics and machinery, but I'm fascinated by the Antikythera mechanism, so we've been talking about ways to measure, and that's what older computing devices.

Bother blogger. That's what older computers were. So I think we could rabbit trail off into how the Sumerians and Egyptian calculated and stored the data, and maybe I can teach Nat to use an abacus? That would be really cool.

Anyway, time to turn off The Magic School Bus and go try to interest the children in today's read-alouds. Have a lovely day, everyone, and make that ice cream.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Small puppies

I'm sad to say that we seem to have lost Elizabeth. On the plus side we've acquired a small puppy with lots of curls and a highly developed ability to walk on her back legs and say, "Goldfish?" Actually, all our kids are spending a lot of time as puppies. Or kittens. Or some kind of evil puppy/kitten hybrid that's probably worse than both.

Unless they're all robots and superheros. We have a lot of them, too.

I realized I haven't really been chronicling the weird things they're doing, Thomas has moved out of the Land of Eternal Picnic Planning into the Land of Planning to be a Superhero. I keep telling him that he can be Iron Man but he has to make the suit himself. I've given him permission to set up a particle accelerator in the basement. Geoff think it's unwise, and I think I'm encouraging Science. Also Thomas is Nat's puppy, and Thomas is named Ginger. This leads to odd glances when we're out in public and Nat is encouraging Ginger to play fetch.

Nat is still nearly totally focused on robots, unless he is a puppy. But it's generally a robot puppy, so there's convergence.

Miriam is fiercely mothering all the toys in the house, and taking care of her puppy, Elizabeth. Well, unless she's menacing the puppy with a sonic screwdriver or swordfighting or drawing all over the walls (for which she is punished but somehow that doesn't seem to making much of an impression). Right now she's found a cup of water and a paintbrush and is busily painting on her siblings.

Oh, hey, now Elizabeth is meowing and following Miriam around. Miriam is painting on her. I'm sitting at the computer contemplating a shower and being grateful that they're mostly playing peacefully or eating their nutritious breakfast of smoothie and graham crackers, and occasionally doing the day's reading over my shoulder and loudly, through the eternal roar of playing, saying "This is the day's Psalm! Listen, okay!.

And now time to arise and get chocolate milk/oatmeal/do Nat's shots/mop the water they just spilled all over the floor. And... UP.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Birthday Alley

It's nearly Advent. That means, in my not-very-functional head, that it's nearly Christmas. And right after Christmas starts what I call Birthday Alley, which is eight families birthdays in three months. I only have to do a big party for three of them- Geoff's birthday is included in the lineup, but he'd usually rather be shot than do anything for his birthday. Still, one kid party per month, following directly after Christmas and New Year's.

Our schedule is actually, Christmas, our anniversary, New Year's, Geoff's stepmother's birthday, Nat's birthday, my mother's birthday. And then a breather before February.

Time to start hyperventilating while trying to remember that Adevent is a beautiful, peaceful time of anticipation of the birth of our Lord. And right after, Doctor Who and Minecraft and cake. For months.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Big Exciting Trip!

We took a big, exciting, whole-family trip to see friends out of the city, and to go to a living history turn of the century village. It was a splendid day.
Look at their excitement!

Playing with friends

It was a village, with a number of houses, shops, and a little church. We visited a traditional Mennonite home, a Scottish house preparing for Hogmanay, the blacksmith's, the butcher's and a few other places. Oh, the tailor/postmaster's. It was a homeschooling day, so we got in for a grand total of $5.00. 

And the railroad

Using a pump for water. So cool
I was a little saddened by how my kids don't have any real background for knowing about settlers' lives, and I'm trying to remedy that. Geoff and I were talking about it on the way home, how our interests are so different. He thought the village was interesting, but I was fascinated, because I've been fascinated by historical living and technological differences since I was quite small. So I didn't feel as overwhelmed by information. I recognised lots of the old-fashioned tools, and could talk about the way the rise of catalogues overwhelmed local business, or preserving for winter. I'm a history nerd. I was about ready to move in to one of those houses. I wanted to tinker with the stoves.

Ride in a horse drawn wagon! With bells!

Still riding!

The butcher's. They had Heinz ketchup for sale on the shelves, as one of the products.

See? Ketchup.

Scottish cabin

Blacksmith's shop, with a blacksmith working

He was also the farrier

A whole day spent with friends and horses and blacksmiths and snow. A very successful day, and one that's inspiring me to add local history to our overwhelmingly science-and-robots focused home life.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Insomnia till one, sleeping with Elizabeth (who didn't want to sleep so much as tell me stories and pretend to snore and look around and say, "It really DARK, Mommy!" from one till six thirty, PMS.

But today I will do an actual Advent craft and possibly get some of the fifty five loads of laundry put away and I will feed people things and since Geoff has already read at least one story aloud to the kids, we're okay for Focusing On The Kids Time.

I am drinking coffee. I royally hate coffee. A lot.

Pray for me, now and at the hour of my death (i.e. now).

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We survived another trip. I like giant sea scorpions. And mummies!

We made it out for another trip to the Royal Ontario Museum. Nat and I just read about the rise of the New Kingdom of Egypt so I wanted to try and get back to the Egyptian area. We did, and there was only minor complaining. And Geoff came, too!
Frosty morning

Waiting for us to finish the coat check.
 Thomas wanted to know what those big stone things were, so were detoured briefly through the Chinese wing. Geoff says it wasn't ancient China, because the tomb on display was constructed about 1650, but whatever. We read a Chinese fairytale about the zodiac yesterday, and I kept trying to pull it in.

Tomb of a Chinese general

 And then we hauled them all up to Ancient Egypt, where there were lots of volunteers hanging around. One of them asked if we'd like to see their oldest mummy, who is probably a woman, a commoner, buried about six thousand years ago. Not embalmed, and we can tell she's female because she wasn't buried with weapons.

Recreation of a Roman coin hoard, probably buried around AD 70
To get to Egypt you have to pass through Ancient Rome. We didn't really look, because Nat has a Doctor Who driven fear of statues. Next time. Next time maybe we can see Byzantium, too.

Elizabeth and butterflies
And then on to Natural History, where we spend the most time, because it has the children's play area and the most hand-on stuff. Plus more volunteers, who explained the difference between body, wing, and tail feathers, and how birds have hollow bones.

Miriam visits the bees
There's a built-in beehive, with a tube for the bees to enter and exit. They're all sort of hibernating, but we still got to see the,, and Nat found the queen bee.

Matching noises to woodland animals

All the children drawing

 Miriam and her friends the little dinosaurs.
After the kids' section, we had lunch in the cafeteria, and then returned upstairs for a quick run through the dinosaurs and ice age mammals. I didn't take pictures of the giant ground sloth, even though he's my favourite. I have lots of pics of him.

The giant sea scorpion
I'm really grateful that the giant sea scorpions died out hundreds of millions of years ago. We learned about them from a BBC show, Walking with Monsters. It said that they were the first large creatures with real eyes. Six feet long, and the top predators.

Another top predator. Hi, Rexie!

Dunno this one, but similar to a triceratops

The above is a theropod, one of the type of dinosaurs that eventually evolved into birds. It's a model, of course. A really neat-looking model. 

All in all a very satisfying trip, even though we couldn't have pho. There used to be a wonderful cheap Vietnamese restaurant facing the museum, and it was bulldozed to make some of the endless condo buildings going up all over Toronto. Still, the cafeteria isn't bad, and we had a wonderful time, with disturbingly angelic children. I love that we have such an amazing resource only half an hour away from home.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Still not awake

Miriam's had three night running of hour-long night terror and then resettling time. So I'm a little blurry. Today's the first real cold day, and I think we'll stay in. I'm trying to come up with a day full of fun homeschooling activities that are zeros effort or mess, and so far I've got: I Could Make Amaretto Sours and then Drink Them. Probably not a great idea. I also have, Treasure Hunt, Play Dough, and Let's All Clean the Floor Together!

The transition back to inside time is always hard. I'm trying to remember what we did all last winter, but my memory is that what we did was throw up and watch TV, all winter. Somehow Nathaniel still learned to read. Oh, and we did the Greek myths. So we were classical homeschoolers who mostly watch TV.

What I want to do is start endlessly fretting at Christmas- presents, activities, decorating. Not DOING any of it, but starting to plan, because the planning makes it feel under control. And that leads me into worry and guilt about trying to control my life, and not trusting in God, and then I end up curled up in a chair eating chocolate and trying to ignore the children, re-reading a stupid fantasy novel.

In spite of the planning and fretting, I predict: we won't have Advent candles. We will have the Advent calendars, and I will almost always remember every morning to do them. We will get to a carol service. We won't get to midnight Mass. We will do stockings and there will be food. I will have a minor nervous breakdown about how Christmas should be better. It will still be okay, and as long as we skip the ice storm/stomach flu/hospitalizations plus make it to Mass it will be perfectly fine.