Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My friend Rebecca's amazing shortcakes

Quick & Easy Shortcakes
4 oz unsalted butter
2 cups flour
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
Cut the butter into chunks (I slice it into about 20 pieces) and refrigerate them until they're hard again.
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Whisk together your dry ingredients, then rub in the butter. You can use a food processor to do this - you want pea sized chunks.
Stir in the milk until just combined, there will be a few dry patches, but it should be a cohesive mass. Spoon it onto a greased baking sheet (makes 6-8 biggish drop biscuits) and bake for 20 minutes. Or until golden brown and fluffy.


Geoff cruelly forced me to plank two days ago. For three minutes or something. He forced me by pointing out it was good for me, saying he was doing it for fifteen minutes, and then getting down on the ground and looking at me.


I also just looked at the calendar and realized that Nat and Thomas and I will be starting a teeny tiny bit of school in two days. Like, sit with Thomas and make sure he does ten minutes of Starfall, and start copywork and reading and math with Nat. Aaagh. I can do this. I did it last year, we way surpassed all the goals, I can do it this year.

Monday, July 28, 2014

I am actually cold

In July. Not complaining, mind you. Yesterday was a long afternoon at the zoo, in the bright hot sunshine. Today is cool, rainy, bread baking and laundry and meal and homeschool planning. I bought ten pounds of black beans at an amazing Middle Eastern grocery store on Saturday (fresh pita! We watched while it was made!) and those are going to figure in our dinners.

I'm restraining my desire to make my life better and more organized by buying things. I've noticed it doesn't work as well as using things I already have. So, a week of pantry meals and reading aloud books that we already have and playing with toys we already own and ignoring that most of my favourite shirts have developed holes. I'll deal with that next week.,

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Today I stay home, do laundry, entertain the children, and refuse to worry. We will stay home because sometime today Teksavvy is supposed to come and do something or other to the phone or possibly the internet. I am not sure, but I have instructions to stay put.

My parents were not keen on the retirement home we visited yesterday, but I refuse to spend today convulsed with anxiety. We have friends coming over for dinner and I have a quiet day planned, full of the girls in their new play kitchen and the boys running in the back yard. Oh, and trying to figure out what all the stuff in my fridge is. So, busy, but NOT FULL OF WORRY.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I would be more together this morning

If Elizabeth hadn't had two screaming tantrums at three and four a.m. respectively. And I would fear going outside less if it wasn't a high of 37C. By the time we get back from the farmers' market I am going to be dripping and cranky mama.

Tonight I am going to tell my parents that I have found a retirement home close to their house, and that I think they should move in in September. There are all sorts of things to worry about with this- if they'll say yes, how they'll adjust, if Mum will deteriorate more once she's there (the home only takes people who are somewhat able to manage) but if I can get them in a settled and relatively happy it will be a huge weight off my mind having them in a place where a lot of the chores are done and they have more community.

We've (Geoff and I, my aunt, our friend Jocelyn) also discussed moving into their house and paying rent to them to help defray the cost. I profoundly don't want to move- I love our neighbourhood and I love our house. Well, I mostly love our house, except for the terribly designed kitchen and creaky stairs. But if we lived there we could help them financially, and they would have freedom to come visit. So there are pluses, but the idea of leaving our home and moving back into my childhood home (which will need LOTS OF FIXING UP) makes my stomach drop a lot.

To compensate for stress I am re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring, which i haven't read in ten years. Ten years ago I had it all pretty much memorized and gave up on re-reading because I couldn't see the words on the page through my memories of previous reads. This time there are things I've forgotten, and it feels both familiar and new.

Yesterday Nat and I went to his clinic, and Geoff's stepmom came in and then took us out for lunch to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant, in the heart of Chinatown. It was a good clinic visit and a lovely lunch, and all along the street in Chinatown little old ladies and gentlemen had set up a box or a couple of crate and had bunches of mint or cilantro or purslane or amaranth to sell. I want to go back and get pictures. It was so cool. I used to hang out around there all the time, twenty years ago, and it's thrilling to introduce my children to the more interesting parts of our city.
Nat on art

Nat and giant sculpture at the Art Gallery of Ontario
Versus the mango shake

Exotic fruit brought home for the family!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Thomas definitely recognizes some letters and has been playing dumb. I need to sit with him for five minutes a day and guide him through some phonics on Starfall. He recognized a couple of words after he's seen them once or twice. Pattern exposure and computer time for the win!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Seven Quick Takes: dementia and cleaning edition

1. There's a fruit fly infestation in the kitchen right now, which is gross. I should be cleaning it, but the house is quiet, with Nathaniel and Geoff over taking care of our neighbour's cats and three of the kids in bed. So I'm blogging as a way to process.

2. This morning we watched Weird Al's new video Foil and then the Walk Off the Earth version we're familiar with, and since we were off and running I tried to explain what a parody was and I didn't have a lot of success.

We followed it with the kids' favourite Les Mis parody, One Grain More:

For tomorrow, or when Nat gets back from cat visitation, a parody is an imitation of a style of a particular artist, usually with exaggeration for comic effect. So, fine.

3. Today was the first day without my mother-in-law (hi, Marjorie!). She was here for a week to help while I went to many appointments and tried to process what I should do about my parents. Mum had a geriatric psych appointment on Wednesday, I looked at a retirement home and a long term care facility yesterday, and I am reading The Thirty-Six Hour Day about caring for people with Alzheimer's and feeling pretty deep grief. It's hard to make myself do the necessary research because I am so sad about my mother's decline, and so swamped in small children and general demands. So it was marvelous having my mother-in-law here, and it was also marvelous having my step-mother-in-law go with me to the homes and show me what to look for. It's still so very hard to make decisions about what is best for them, because I am terrified of being wrong and hastening their decline, but I am also terrified of them staying home and becoming more and more anxious and isolated.

4. So I tried to take today mostly off, and did some homeschool planning. A little. I also announced to Nathaniel that as of August we're going to do up to half an hour of school a day. Last year it was about ten minutes a day plus the whole Education is an Atmosphere thing. I've been looking at Memoria Press (can't afford) and the Ambleside Online curriculum, and I think Nat is about at a late grade one/early grade two level, so that's what I'm going to plan for. We're going to have a spine of math and reading, maybe add copywork, and then continue with the myth reading, history, and sciences. It's all very loose but I have firm goals for the year that I'm going to visit over and over. I'm pretty confident, since last year we surpassed all the goals and it was pretty much the Worst Winter Ever.For Thomas, I'll see if he can start The Reading Lesson, but if he's not ready I won't push. He's asking about letters and can count to ten, so that's pretty good for four years.

5. Thomas continues to have a deep interior life of mostly planning picnics. He is the most hospitality-minded, physical, caring of our children. He wants to take care of people, and he is going to do it by force-feeding everyone and hugging them into submission. If Nat makes a Lego machine it's a destruct-inator. If Thomas makes a lego machine it's a sandwich-inator. It's so cute and they're so different.

6. I have promised to teach Nat to cook. I haven't told Geoff. Geoff is going to die of stress, but Nat likes making things, and I want him to be independent. He's six and a half and I trust him to use the microwave with supervision and to fetch and carry, so I think he can learn to prep vegetables to steam and set up the crock pot. I think this will be a big win after I've done some teaching.

7. This past week wasn't a bare minimum week because I had my mother-in-law. Right now I feel like I can just about cope with the minimum of food, outside time, video time, lego, drawing, and occasionally reading books aloud. Because trying to make decisions about how to deal with Mum's Alzheimer's and Dad's Parkinson's and agonizing about decisions and the change in relationship and everything makes me want to lie down in a dark room and not be bothered, and then it makes me feel selfish for wanting it. So I am praying and breathing and cuddling my toddlers and talking to Nat about weird physics and managing his blood sugar and breathing. And thinking about the inescapable reality of suffering.

Kids changing

I wish Miriam could pronounce Shrek. She can't say Shr. Or "Eh". So it comes out as a common expletive starting with F. A couple of days ago she said "Donkey Shrek", except not, and Geoff and Marjorie and I all died laughing.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Zoo trip

On Monday, Geoff's Mom (Marjorie) and our neighbour and his daughter and me and all the children went to the zoo. Whew. Marjorie drove the girls, and Kevin and I took the three older kids on the subway. It's an hour trip on transit and only forty minutes by car. Long. We had a fabulous time, there was only one meltdown (by Nat), and we saw thousands of animals and walked for three or four hours. Still lots to see, so another trip is being planned soon.
Kevin and girls at the entrance, ready to go

Nat, Madeleine, and macaques

Metal orangutan


Elizabeth wants to cuddle the tiger

No, Elizabeth

Mim versus rocks

Elizabeth versus rocks

Lunch plus peacock

Thomas and his Ummi


Penguin feeding time!

Thomas ascendent! A climbable zoo truck

Madeleine trying to organize the boys for a picture

The girls are fatter

Miriam has gained 900g and Elizabeth 1.5kg. This is good. They're still about the size of one-year-olds, though, so we keep on with the  all butter and cream and cheese diet for the forseeable future. Yay. More peanut butter on a spoon for everyone. The doctor asked how I kept the boys out of the girls' high-fat snacks, and I said blankly, "I don't." Then I thought about it for a moment and said, "All of my children are really skinny and the boys never ever stop moving. I am not even a little concerned about obesity."