Saturday, February 28, 2009

A little soul-soothing...

Just because I really needed to hear this today.

"Ubi Caritas", performed by The Cambridge Singers and arranged by John Rutter.

Back soon.

I promise.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Come Hither, Boys...

This Valentine's Day would not be complete without a tribute to the men I love... The men who make a difference in my life almost EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Selfless and considerate, they never ask for anything in return. And yet, I'd be their love-slave any day.

Thanks, Boys... this one's for you.

(cue the music)

The one, the only, Mister Clean. Ooh, Baldie-- SCRUB. MY. TOILETS!! Yes! YES!! YESSSSSS!!!!

Ben and Jerry. Two men, AND ice cream. Need I say more?

Mister Rooter. No comment, no matter how tempting it may be. This is a "family" blog. (Or, at least, it WAS, till your filthy minds kicked in just now... Of course, the lewd wink doesn't help...)

The Man from Glad. He can take my trash to the curb anytime.

Mr Christie. Mmmmm... cookies.

Chef Boyardee.

and Earl Grey. A couple of "hot" older men...

And with the past year having been the way it was, I would be truly remiss if I didn't give an honourable mention, and pledge my undying love to:




and The Captain (I've always had a bit of a THING for pirates)

I've saved one of the very best for last, however... And my deepest sympathies to those of you non-Canadians who have never experienced THIS gentleman:

Tim, I couldn't live without you-- you make my world turn.


I think I need a cigarette...

Don't worry, I don't smoke.

Not even Joe Camel is attractive enough to make me try THAT.


To My Valentine: Why do I put up with you?

Oh, yeah...
Because YOU put up with ME.

"Everything I've Got", sung by the exquisite Blossom Dearie

Friday, February 13, 2009

Damn Cupid...

This morning's grand exit was extra-cacophonous around here, complicated by all manners of Valentine paraphernalia.

There were the 70-some-odd Valentine cards, paintstakingly written and folded and sealed with tiny sparkly stickers... Little foil-covered chocolates attached, and pencils-and-decorative-erasers for the older, "cooler" crowd. There were the treats, in the form of trays of freshly baked cupcakes, adorned with sticky icing and a confetti of coloured sprinkles.

To top it off, I was in the classroom again today, and was dragging my own bag full of supplies, including a hastily assembled arsenal of Valentine-themed story books. (Quite honestly, I don't know WHAT I was thinking at ten o'clock last night when I pulled them all off the shelves... Little brains and bodies hopped up on **SUGAR!!** cannot be calmed by even the most brilliant and entertaining authors, as it turns out...)

Contrary to the theme of the day, there was a considerable amount of shouting and screeching and name-calling as the females of the household attempted to bolt out our back door in time for the bell. Such was the stress of the moment. But somehow, we managed to get all the right stuff in all the right backpacks, and everyone dressed in the full winter uniform of coats-boots-hats-mitts-and-YES-you-HAVE-to-wear-your-scarf...

I was about to pull the door shut when my husband caught me by the arm, and waggled his eyebrows.

Him: Have a good VALENTINE'S DAY! I'll see you tonight!

Me: (fretting, and in a hurry) Yep. If I live that long...

Him: You'd better. I'll be waiting for you!

Me: (eyeing him suspiciously) Hah. You're just afraid I'll leave you alone with three kids to look after...

Him: No, seriously. It's Valentine's weekend!

Me: (rolling eyes and sighing) Dear man, we've been THROUGH THIS. There's a recession going on! And we've been manacled together for nearly twenty years, now, in a bond so tight we couldn't escape one another if we TRIED. We agreed! Low-key Valentines this year. No shopping!! NO SPENDING.

Him: (gleefully) Oh... come on! I never agreed to that.

Me: Yes, you did, as a matter of fact. And you'd better stick to it. I haven't done anything for you except buy you a card, and if you do any more, you'll make me feel guilty.

Him: (swaggering off) Babe, THAT'S what Valentine's Day is all about.


I wonder if it's too late to start knitting...

Never underestimate...

...the Importance of raising the next generation.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Questions? And Answers.

The lovely and talented Multi-Tasking Mommy, of "Circle of Life", recently sent me five questions to answer. Here, at long last, are my answers, MTM-- hope everyone at your house is feeling better soon.

And if anyone else has more for me, feel free to ask...
My life isn't quite an "open book", but I'll do my best!

1) If you had unlimited resources, where would you travel to and why?

Oh, my... child-less, or with children??

Child-less, I would tour France and Italy. Because, let's face it, they have it ALL: art, food, fashion, and WINE. This is a trip that I would like to do alone, because I would love the opportunity to comb through every. square. inch. of the museums... to savour every. single. flavour. of the restaurants and wineries... to peruse the fashion houses (and drive the shop-keepers MENTAL by turning the garments inside-out to examine how they're made!!) without worrying about anyone else's bliss BUT MY OWN.



But it would be ABOUT TIME.

And, with my children?

I would go back to The Beach... THIS BEACH. I have never been to such a blissful, relaxing, and beautiful place. This family holiday is perfection.

2) You have to give away all of your material possessions, not including the roof over your head, but you can keep three things. What are they?

Of course, the maternal impulse is to say that I would let each of the girlies choose one thing... I can live without any of my material possessions, so long as I have the three of them.

But, if I HAD to choose, it would be my desk-top computer (it has all of my music and photo files on it, and there's NO WAY I could live without email), my make-up kit (how shallow is that??! But seriously, NO ONE should have to see me without my "personal armour"), and my Scottish grandmother's beautiful star-shaped pearl brooch, which was bequeathed to me when she died. That brooch is a story unto itself-- it has been lost countless times, and even stolen by burglars once... but amazingly, it has always been returned to whomever in the family has been in possession of it. It has a very special place in our family lore, and I am honoured to be its' keeper, for this generation. I'm guarding it with my life!

3) How has your parenting style changed from having your first to your third child?

It has changed in nearly every way imaginable... except for the fact that I have always approached parenting with as much light-heartedness and humour as I possibly could. When I die, I want my kids to always remember the laughter, the fun, and the FUNNY we had together.

That said, I remember how completely paralyzed and terrified I felt as a first-time mother. My eldest child and I are survivors of post-partum depression, and I now try very hard to reach out and support as many new mothers as I possibly can. Becoming a mother is an incredibly overwhelming experience, and it takes time to "unclench" and relax into the role. I remember the days of endless worry, of sterilizing and laundering everything the baby touched, of obsessing about food-intake and poop-output... Of thinking that everything had to be perfect for my child-- especially ME.

But now, two more children later, I understand that there is truth in the saying "If Mama ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy!!!" The mother sets the tone for the household. And "perfect" simply isn't within the realm of anyone's ability.

The ideal of the Perfect Mother is a myth. A myth most likely created by certain Victorian men, in an attempt to control women. (And don't challenge me on this theory, I have studied the history of the family ENDLESSLY during my academic career, and am prepared to defend my argument to the death if necessary...)

The FACT of the matter is: the mothers who make a real effort to be good parents, and who do the very best that they can for their children, are perfect in their children's eyes. And let's face it, no one else's opinion matters beyond that.

I am absolutely secure in the fact that my girlies love me. I adore them, and I do the best I can for them. My personal best varies from day-to-day, and I am far from perfect (believe it or not-- I know you're all reeling from THAT little confession...) But after thirteen years, and seeing the happy, bright, relatively well-adjusted fruits of my labours, I am pretty confident that my best IS good enough.

4) What is your favourite activity to do with your family/kids?

Thankfully, my girlies enjoy doing a lot of the same things I like doing. I love being able to share my interests with them, and they are very creative little souls. We love going to the theatre, and watching movies together. I have taught them to sew and to knit... We often combine a few activities, and knit while watching an old musical on TV!

We also enjoy gardening together-- we comb the nurseries every spring, and each choose plants that we would like to grow.

The girlies and I also love to cook together-- mostly baking, or sweets and candy! They have inherited my sweet-tooth (much to our dentist's chagrin).

5) Name your top 5 favourite children's books and/or authors.

"Lucy Brown and Mister Grimes", by Edward Ardizzone. Long out of print, but one of the most-loved tales from my childhood. It is a simply beautiful story of a lonely little orphan girl, who is adopted by an elderly "grandfather". The trust, respect and friendship that develops between the child and the elderly gentleman is so beautiful, and so heart-warming.

"Milly-Molly-Mandy", by Joyce Lancaster Brisley. Another book that my parents read to me, and I have passed on to my children. It is a collection of tales (there are actually three books combined into my "Omnibus") about a little girl who lives in rural England, early in the last century. The stories are delightfully short, simple and absolutely charming.

"The Wind in the Willows", by Kenneth Grahame and illustrations by E. H. Shepard (no other illustrations will do. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is.) My paternal grandfather died the same year I was born, but the way in which I have been able to come to know him has been by listening to the hours and hours of reel-to-reel audio tapes he made during his lifetime. He faithfully recorded weeks of installments of a radio-drama version of this book, made for the BBC in the 1950's. The performance is so completely perfect, it defies description. My family has listened to it from start-to-finish, every Christmas, for as long as I can remember... It is the reason why I know so much of the book by heart. A few years ago, my father made copies of the recording for all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren... I do hope that my grand-dad somehow "knows" that he has given us all such a gift-- such incredible pleasure-- over fifty years after he made the original recording.

"Weaving the Rainbow" by George Ella Lyon, illustrated by Stephanie Anderson. This book is a story about a woman who raises sheep, and not only spins and dyes wool, but then weaves it into beautiful tapestries depicting her sheep in the glorious Kentucky countryside. This story is a feast for the eyes, as well as being an homage to the creative spirit.

"Library Lion" by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. The story of a lion whose passion for literacy leads to a "job" at the local library. Everyone learns that sometimes "rules" are made to be bent, if not broken! A lovely and light-hearted read.

Would you like me to send you some questions to answer on your blog? Here's how it works:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Friday, February 6, 2009

There's one in every class...

This morning, I "held court" in Wee Three's junior kindergarten class. The children had all been remarkably well-behaved, and I had managed to maneuver everyone through their various tasks smoothly enough.

We settled into "carpet time" and twenty-four little people looked up at me delightedly as I announced show-and-tell. I consulted the class list, and asked the five children who were "on" to go to their backpacks, and bring out their treasures for all to see.

There were battered toy cars. And beloved stuffed animals. Even a music box that played a beautiful waltz while a carousel horse spun around on the top.

When my five-year-old friend Calvin swaggered to the front of the room, however, I noted that he was uncharacteristically empty-handed.

"Forgot my show-'n-tell," he declared, as he beamed at his audience.

"BUT... I DO HAVE... THIS!!!" he chortled, as he whipped up the front of his shirt, unveiling his belly button with pride.

For precisely one nano-second, I was unsure of how to proceed. And then I remembered a wonderful day, several years ago, when I was observing a seasoned veteran of the kindergarten teaching profession conduct a show-and-tell session. Her grace, empathy and STRAIGHT FACE when a little boy named James whipped a large baking potato out of his backpack, was a marvel to behold. No doubt, she was thinking that poor James' exhausted, post-partum mother hadn't had the energy to check the contents of her eldest son's school bag that morning.

"Well, James, that is interesting..." the sainted woman remarked, putting her arm around the little boy.

"Tell us, dear. WHY did you choose THIS to show us today?"

"Because," wee James replied enthusiastically, rotating the potato for his classmates to see, "Because it's SHAPED LIKE A BUM!!"

The crowd roared appreciatively, and the potato was passed hand-to-hand for all to admire.

To her great credit, the teacher RESISTED the enormous temptation to drop to the floor in hysterics. She took the entire situation ab-so-lute-ly SERIOUSLY, praised James' evident powers of observation, and allowed him to feel proud.

Yes, Calvin showed off his perfect little "inny" bellybutton at our show-and-tell today. He briefly discussed the pitfalls of having an "inny", rather than an "outie"-- lint from his pj's and fuzzy sweatshirts can often be a problem, apparently... Though the variety of colours it comes in are endlessly fascinating. Luckily, we didn't go much further into the subject during the question-and-answer session, other than to mention that babies "eat" through their belly-buttons before they're born, when they're still in their mummies' tummies. I wrapped things up pretty tidily after that, preferring that OTHER mummies take on the task of explaining the intricacies of THAT subject. No doubt over lunch or dinner tonight...

As we were driving home from school at noon, Child Number Three declared the morning to have been an overwhelming success, which warmed my heart.

"BUT," she added thoughtfully, "Dat belly button was YUKKY."

To be frank?

Ever since that brief nano-second of hesitation I felt this morning...

I've just been thanking Almighty God that Calvin chose to hike up his shirt, rather than dropping his pants, instead.

Reason number eight hundred, nineteen billion-and-one why I love this man...

In the news this morning:

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — A fired-up Barack Obama ditched his TelePrompter to rally House Democrats and rip Republican opponents of his recovery package Thursday night – at one point openly mocking the GOP for failing to follow through on promises of bipartisanship.

In what was the most pointedly partisan speech of his young presidency, Obama rejected Republican arguments that massive spending in the $819 billion stimulus bill that passed the House should be replaced by a new round of massive tax cuts.

“I welcome this debate, but we are not going to get relief by turning back to the same policies that for the last eight years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin,” said President Obama – sounding more like Candidate Obama than at any time since he took the oath of office less than a month ago.

Obama, speaking to about 200 House Democrats at their annual retreat at the Kingsmill Resort and Spa, dismissed Republican attacks against the massive spending in the stimulus.

"What do you think a stimulus is?" Obama asked incredulously. "It’s spending — that's the whole point! Seriously.”

Stabbing hard at Republicans who once aligned themselves with his predecessor, Obama made it clear that the problems he seeks to address with his recovery plan weren’t ones of his making.

“When you start hearing arguments, on the cable chatter, just understand a couple of things,” he said. “No. 1, when they say, ‘Well, why are we spending $800 billion [when] we’ve got this huge deficit?’ – first of all, I found this deficit when I showed up, No. 1.

“I found this national debt, doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office.”

After his remarks, Obama, clearly caught up in the moment, made the party get-together feel even more like a campaign rally with his signature call-and-response chant.

“Fired up?” he asked the Democratic lawmakers. “Ready to go!” a group of them shouted back.

“If you’re headed for a cliff, you’ve got to change direction,” Obama said. “That’s what the American people called for in November, and that’s what we intend to deliver.”

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

And we're back... Brrrrrrrr...

Suddenly, it's February again.

I'm not exactly sure how this happened, but time just keeps marching on. And much faster than I would like, let me tell you.

Christmas was a bit of a blur, truth be told, and now feels like a distant memory. January was spent alongside my husband, frantically poring over end-of-year numbers and worrying about whether our small business will survive the current economic apocalypse.

Stress? No thanks, I just had some.


The next thing I knew, Child Number Two was bouncing at my elbow, telling me that some Dratted Rodent had seen his shadow, and we were in for six more long weeks of winter.


Apparently so.

It's snowing again up here in the Great White North (what else is new), and a "cold weather warning" is in effect for the next few days. I've hauled in some fire logs to supplement the furnace, which is faithfully chugging away down in the basement, and will be socking hot water bottles into the girlies' beds while they're brushing their teeth tonight.

A hot bath will feel good. And so will my softest, silliest flannelette pajamas, paired with the enormous fluffy slippers that reach right up to my knees.

I'm currently knitting blankets out of a rainbow of cosy, chunky yarn for a reason-- there's nothing like a project that you can wear while you're working on it!

It's true that the simplest things in life can make us remember how truly blessed we are.

It is a cold world we live in these days. And yet, my family and I are warm.

For dinner tonight?

A smooth, silky soup that is filling, nourishing, and makes the whole house smell wonderful. While it's simmering, I'll be whipping up a quick loaf of Irish Soda Bread-- the perfect accompaniment, whether it's slathered with butter, or dipped right in the soup bowl!


February, you say?

Bring it on.

Potage au Poireau
(just a high fallootin' way of saying Leek and Potato Soup)

1/4 c butter
4 c sliced leeks (which works out to be about 6 or 8 leeks, approximately)
1 small onion, chopped
5 c chicken stock (low sodium is best, or make your own!)
3 c finely chopped, peeled potatoes (Yukon Golds are lovely)
1/2 c light cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

Trim the leeks, leaving about 2 inches of green. Halve them lengthwise, and rinse them thoroughly under cold running water. They are sandy buggers, so make sure you've washed them well!

In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and onion; cover and cook until softened and not browned-- about 10 minutes. Stir them often! Add the stock and potatoes, cover and cook until the potatoes are tender-- about 20 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a food processor or blender, and puree it until it is smooth. Return it to the saucepan, and add the cream while warming the mixture through. Season to taste.

Makes about 6-8 servings
(for "normal" people... my family of five just slurp it all up in one sitting!)

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