Monday, October 31, 2011

A before and after story

There was a woman in the school district where I grew up who subbed in my classes occasionally, Mrs. Hocking-Grant.  She had crazy long hair.  Like past her bum.  She often wore it in a long braid down her back that swished and flicked and made me think of a horse's tail when she walked up and down the rows of desks.  Sometimes she wore it down and when she'd bend over to help a student at their desk a curtain of thick blonde hair would swing to one side and fall in rippling waves over her shoulder till it was almost touching the floor.  My 13 year old self found it repellant, gross even, that a grown woman could have hair that long.  In the 90's long hair hair was the providence of the young.  (And to 13, 30 is positively decrepit.)  None of the adult women I knew had hair past their shoulders, nevermind past their bum.  Adding to my disgust was the fact the last few feet of her hair was completely dead and hung in lifeless, uneven, wispy scraggles.  Even now I shudder remembering the look of those multiple feet of dead hair.  Whenever she was in my class I alternated between watching her hair in fascination and watching it in a sort of sick horror.  I remember being especially afraid that it would touch me as she walked by.

What does this have to do with anything?  Well about a month ago I blow-dried my hair for the first time since before last summer.  

I opened my little compact mirror and turned so I could see the back of my head to make sure it had all been blown in the same direction.  My stomach turned in revulsion.  All I could think was "Mrs. Hocking-Grant! Mrs. Hocking-Grant! Mrs. Hocking-Grant!" I had no idea my hair had gotten that long at the back.  I'd never looked!  It literally grossed me out.

So last Thursday night I cut it.

And I don't miss it at all!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Part 2: A tale of high finances, high stakes, sister adventures and kitchen appliances

It’s still surreal to me that I even have a Vita-mix to experiment with while my whole food, natural-everything-eating, domestic goddess of a sister returned hers.  Jane made a shift to cleaner eating about five years ago and has been a huge source of inspiration for me as I’ve started making the same shift.  It seems wrong to me that she doesn’t have this miracle of green goodness machine and I do.  But have it I do, at least for now, so let me tell you about my Monday Prep Day/Vita-mix Experiment Day.

For breakfast I made the kids a piece of toast (not in my Vita-mix) and a smoothie (in my Vita-mix).  The smoothie had hemp protein, spinach, greek yoghurt, banana and frozen berries.  It was delish!  The kids loved it.  Well, Sebastian loved it until he found out there was a vegetable in it because Tristan asked me point blank and I didn’t want to lie.  On hearing the word vegetable Sebastian suddenly decided the smoothie was gross and he wouldn’t drink another sip even though it basically tasted like blueberries.  So I told him the same thing I tell him every night at dinner while he’s gagging on (and sometimes puking up) his veggies, “It’s all in your head!  Mind over matter kid!”

The smoothie was yummy but I was still chewing on berry seeds which did not happen for Vita-mix demo guy who assured me, and proved to me, that the Vita-mix pulverizes the berry seeds down to nothing.  I can chew on berry seeds from my own blender thank you very much!  Check in the “take it back, not worth the money” column.

I drove the kids to school and then came home to really get my Vita-mix on!  To get it ready for the next usage I cleaned out the dried smoothie gunk by adding a drop of dish soap, filling it with warm water and blending it on high for about 30 seconds.  Rinse away the suds and presto super cleano!  Check in the “keep! keep! keep! this thing is awesome” column.

Now that my container was clean I was ready to get started on a recipe I found a while ago but couldn’t use because I didn’t have a food processor or equivalent.  These Autumn Cookies are made with the teensiest bit of flour, no sugar, no dairy, no eggs, no oils.  First I had to mix two grated carrots, one grated apple and one mashed banana with 1/2 cup of brown rice flour, a tsp of baking powder, a heaping tsp of cinnamon and a 1/2 tsp of ginger.  I threw 1/2 cup of regular old brown rice into my dry blend container and watched the little grains become soft powdery flour.  It was beautiful!  Another check for the “keep! keep! keep! this thing is awesome” column. 

Into that lovely fruit and veggie mash I needed to add a walnut paste.  Into my wet mix container went 1 cup of walnuts, 1 combo cup of raisins and dried cranberries, 1 cup of oatmeal and 1/4 cup of water.  Blend, blend, blend.  This was more difficult.  There wasn’t really much in the way of liquid and the Vita-mix likes a bit more liquid to work optimally.  I did finally get it into a smooth paste but it had been heated to the point of warm by the time I was done.  (Remember this thing can make soup too!)  The paste was delicious but very sticky and trying to get it out from underneath the blades was an exercise in patience.  I couldn’t help thinking that making that paste in a food processor would have been much easier.  Also it was really, really hard to clean out.  The dish soap and water trick didn’t work entirely for the gunk stuck under the blades.  I tried getting a toothpick down there but it just broke.  One of the selling features of the Vita-mix is that it’s all one container, you don’t remove the blades so you don’t have to wash a ton of little pieces.  I wished I could remove the blades to get at the that gunk.  Another check for the “take it back, not worth the money” column.

Once I combined the paste with the mash I rolled the wet dough into balls and baked them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 25 minutes at 350.  Also into the oven I threw two foil-wrapped potatoes so I could try making soup in the Vita-mix at lunch (recipe from the Vita-mix cookbook you get with the machine).  An hour later all the dough had been turned into cookies (which were delish by the way) and my potatoes were baked and it was lunch time.
At this point Sebastian started crying and asking for a nap.  Itty-bitty, underweight child of mine, no lunch for you is not an option.  “But Moooooooom, I’m so tiiiiiiiiiired.  I just need a naaaaaaap.”  Give me five minutes darling boy.  I quickly threw chicken stock, white wine, a celery rib cut in two pieces, 2 whole apples (not chopped, cores, seeds, stems), my two baked potatoes, nutmeg and thyme into the Vita-mix (it was full to the very top) and turned it on and blended away.  It demolished the ingredients and literally five minutes later the vented lid was letting off heavy steam.  I turned the speed down, took out the center plastic thingy, and dropped in a large handful of grated cheddar and continued to blend for maybe 20 more seconds.  I’m not sure which column gets a check for this adventure.
Pluses: 1) Hot, homemade soup ready in a short amount of time with hardly any effort.  2) It made a ton.  I could have easily fed my whole family. 3) The soup was pureed to perfection.  It was smooth as silk.  4) It got rid of the last little bit of walnut paste under the blades without affecting the taste of the soup.
Minuses: It tasted AWFUL!!!!!  I used two Honeycrisp apples instead of the recommended Granny Smiths because that’s what I had on hand.  Honeycrisps are so much sweeter that the soup basically ended up tasting like rotten apples.  I found it completely inedible.  PB and honey it was!  Sebastian instantly stopped crying.  Funny how that works...

Since the soup was inedible and I’m not much for PB and honey I made myself a greenish smoothie for lunch.  Cranberry juice, carrot, celery, spinach, banana, frozen strawberries and hemp protein.  This time I processed it a bit longer in the blender and it came out smooth and lovely and exactly as demo-man promised me it would.  Check in the “keep! keep! keep! this thing is awesome” column. 

Dish, soap, water, zip, zip and I was ready for some more Vita-mix action.  This time I threw in 1/2 cup of raw almonds, 1 1/2 cups of water and a squirt of honey and blended on high for about a minute and made my very own almond milk.  Hello!  It was awesome!  And I didn’t have to soak the almonds overnight like you have to for a food processor.  You want almond milk on a whim?  I can make it for you!  Check for the “keep! keep! keep! this thing is awesome” column.

 I used the almond milk in a cherry almond muffin recipe.  For that recipe I also used my dry blade Vita-mix container to grind my own brown rice and quinoa into flour which I  combined with my whole wheat flour.  I have discovered I LOVE being able to grind my own flours.  Definite check in the “keep! keep! keep! this thing is awesome” column.  Later that evening I used the rest of the almond milk to make a cold cook oatmeal for Hugh and I to have for breakfast the next morning.  You put some oatmeal in a bowl cover it with milk of your choice, mash a banana into it and then I added a bit of vanilla extract (I ran out of almond extract making the muffins), a small spoonful of unsweetened cocoa and some rinsed cherries from my stash of frozen Okanagan cherries from this past summer.  Stir, cover, refrigerate overnight.  ENJOY!!!  The possibilities of variations are endless.
My next Vita-mix foray was going to be into the world of nut butters but there I ran into a snag.  The Vita-mix recipe book calls for oil to be added to the roasted almonds before you process it.  Uh... that sort of defeats the purpose in my opinion.  I googled it.  Turns out in general nut butters are extremely difficult to make in the Vita-mix - that whole needing liquid to work optimally thing.  A food processor works so much better and you have the option of making raw and roasted nut butters.  Check in the “take it back, not worth the money” column. 

So where did my columns stand at the end of the day? If I counted correctly I ended up at 5 to 3 for the “keep, keep, keep! this thing is awesome” column.  However, that being said, I’m still not totally convinced.  I don’t think I would make pestos and hummus and paste-y things like that in my Vita-mix.  I think a food processor would work better and it would be easier to get the stuff out of the bowl.  Although I can make Almond milk in my Vita-mix on a whim I can technically make it in a food processor too.  It just takes some advance thought.  Is not having to think about it in advance worth $600?  I don’t know.  The food processor I was eyeing up before the Vita-mix came into my world is 50% off on until Monday. 

Besides being a super-duper-rocket-booster blender the thing I love most about the Vita-mix is the ability to grind my own grains.  It’s so much healthier to grind your own and so so easy in the Vita-mix.  However, it would be equally easy to grind them in a good grain mill which you can get for about $250.  At the end of yesterday, after obsessively googling food processor vs. Vita-mix all evening, I had all but decided to take back the Vita-mix and get a food processor and grain mill instead.  But then today when I made a smoothie with spinach and hemp protein and berries - in seconds - that my kids slurped up for their afterschool snack and which prevented Ava’s usual afterschool crash, and which was a snap to clean up, I felt like I was back to square one.  I really, really, really like this blender.  Adding it’s two cents into my “Vita-mix or not to Vita-mix” debate was a homemade butterscotch pudding recipe I came across today that blended a can of butternut squash, a splash of almond milk and a melted banana in the Vita-mix until warm and thick and wonderful.  Ummm... yes please!

Final verdict?  I DON’T KNOW!!!!!!!  I don’t have one.  I don’t want it to be food processor OR Vita-mix.  I want to employ the genius of the and.  I just don’t know how wise that would be on the old pocketbook. You know?  I’m in indecisive hell right now.  What would you do?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A tale of high finances, high stakes, sister adventures and kitchen appliances. Part 1.

My sister Jane and my nephew Felix came to visit last week.
 Isn’t that the sweetest little face you have EVER seen????  I die a little every time I look at him.  His cuteness is killing me!

Anyway, one of the many adventures my sister and I had was at Costco.  Jane was looking for a specific carseat, Sebastian was looking for samples and Felix was looking for kisses from Sebastian.  I was just along for the ride.  And ohhhhh what a ride!  The first sample we came across happened to be at the Vitamix Blender demo booth.  While Jane and I were firmly becoming convinced the Vitamix would be the answer to a brand-new lifestyle Sebastian was getting more veggies in all the Vitamix samples - juice, smoothie, ice cream, and hot soup  - than he has had in the entire last year of his life.  (Seriously, the kid would eat peanut butter for every single meal if I let him.  Dinner time is F-U-N!)  Seeing Sebastian down all those hidden veggies was enough to convince me.  Nevermind watching demo-man make all those things in under 15 minutes.  By the time he was turning rice into flour I was SOLD.  Until I looked at the very hefty price tag.

Jane and her husband, Nathan, had been talking about getting a Vitamix for a while so she seized the opportunity and bought one.  And then after sleeping on it she returned it the next day unable to justify the price no matter how amazing the blender is.  I didn’t even entertain the idea of getting one.  Until I described it all to Hugh and he said we should get one if I wanted one, if it would help me on my quest to get our family to eat better, healthier, cleaner.  When I got back off the floor I had to ask him to repeat himself because I was in such stunned disbelief.  Since who has an extra $600 on hand for a blender we decided it would have to be bought under "investments in the health of our family”.  Even with Hugh’s green light I didn’t want to buy it.  $600 for a blender on steroids just seemed ridiculous.  And then suddenly, two days later, on the last day the Vitamix was going to be in Costco at a price cheaper than the Vitamix website, it didn’t seem so ridiculous.  I made it to Costco with minutes to spare, and came home the proud new owner of a miracle machine.  I mean how do you put a price on your family’s health?  (I said that very sarcastically in my head.  Did I really just spend $600 on a blender?)

Once I got home I did some happy jumps in my kitchen (literally) and then prepared to awe and amaze my family with homemade coconut ice cream.  No recipe?  No problem!  How hard could it be?  I watched the demo guy throw a carrot, a stick of celery, a whole apple - seeds, stem and core included, and frozen berries into his ice cream concoction.  It was amazing!  (The Vitamix even pulverizes berry seeds so your blends are smooooooooth.)  My concoction of coconut milk, shredded coconut and ice was horrible.  Didn’t work at all.  Didn’t blend properly and we ended up dumping the whole thing.  Fine, I thought.  I’m a Vitamix newbie.  I don’t know the machine well enough yet to be able to make things up as I go along.  I’ll follow a recipe.  I followed Vitamix’ recipe for vanilla ice cream to the letter.  Total bust.  It froze and formed itself properly but was full of ice chunks.  I wanted to take it back right then and there.  Which I actually can do according to Vitamix’ 30 day trial guarantee.  I didn’t take it back though. Costco was already closed.  And Monday Prep Day was coming up and I wanted to test it out.

And that is my really long intro into Monday Prep Day.  More details to come!

Here's a bit more gratuitous cuteness to leave you with.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend in Pictures

I wish I had pictures of our actual dinner but after 6 hours of cooking it only took 10 minutes to devour so... there wasn't really a whole lot of time to take pictures!

Thanksgiving Monday was a glorious day.  I grabbed my camera and we picked up coffee and took Wayne and Laura for a walk in Strathcona Park along the river.  It was a glorious Fall day. 

Wayne & Laura.  You'll notice Laura is holding a Tim Horton's cup.  We love her anyway.

Wayne and Hugh: Don't you like Hugh's bike?

 The last day of Ava's cast.  She got it off yesterday.  Those 5 weeks flew by! (At least for me, Ava thinks differently.)

Boys, sticks, rocks, and river.  Can you say dream day?

Laura and me:

Lesson 1: Find a smooth flat rock...

The girls:

Hoods are a handy handle when you're going down your first hill on your first bike.

I hope you all had a great weekend.  We sure did!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Desperate times...

These last few weeks have been hectic.  I have often felt like I’m on the edge of spinning out of control as I navigate school and preschool drop-offs and newsletters, home reading, spelling words, Ava’s cast appointments and the myriad other things that make up my life right now.  In fact I just got a note home saying we missed Tristan’s sharing conference at school on Tuesday night.  How?  How, did I miss that?  It was on my calendar!  A few weeks ago, in desperation, I asked my highly organized, scarily efficient best friend, Michelle some of her secrets. 

Thanks to the conversation I had with her I have now implemented a “Monday Prep Day”. This is now the day I do any baking that needs to be done and as much advance cooking or prep as I can do for dinners for the rest of the week.  I started two weeks ago.  How’s it been going you ask?  Remember how in my last post I said if everything always went according to plan I wouldn’t have anything to write about?  We-eee-lllll, let’s just say after two weeks the kinks are not entirely worked out.

Week 1: I woke up in the morning with my game face on ready to tackle my kitchen and bring a whole new level of peace into my life.  I made a pot of tea, I cleared off counters, I got out recipe books, I started lining my island with ingredients.... and realized I had left all my meat in the freezer.  So I made a batch of clean eating Pumpkin Applesauce Muffins and called it a day.  I spent the next few hours drinking tea on my deck, reading and talking to my sister. 

Actually now that I think about it.  It was kind of an awesome day.  Except I still had to make every part of dinner every night that week.

Week 2: This past Monday I woke up at 6:00am so excited about having a day to putter in my kitchen I couldn’t fall back to sleep.  I decided then was as good a time as any to do a workout video so I actually got up and did one.  I’m still in shock.  After I dropped the kids off at school I made a pot of tea, cleared off counters, got out recipe books and lined my island with ingredients and cranked Harry Chapin Live.  The meat was even defrosted in my fridge! I was all set.  I was ready to OWN Monday Prep Day.  I got my bread machine going to make dough which I was later going to turn into Cheddar Dill Onion Buns.  I mixed up a double batch of Ginger Molasses Cookies and rolled them all into balls and then rolled the balls in sugar.  While the first tray of cookies were baking I mixed the batter for some healthy Cherry Almond Muffins.  (Which psychologically counteracts the unhealthy cookies.) As I opened a new box of baking soda to use in the muffin batter I was thinking about the cookies.  They always bake consistently for 9 minutes in my oven - just until the tops crackle.  20 minutes in they still hadn't crackled.  I took them out anyway because 20 minutes is a ridiculously long time to bake any cookie, but I was perplexed.  I make these cookies so often throughout the fall and winter months I almost have the recipe memorized.  They always turn out. What on earth had I done?  It was as I glanced back over the recipe it registered. If I had had to open a box of baking soda for the muffins I certainly hadn’t used 2 tsp of it in the cookies!  Ergo, really, really nice-smelling hockey pucks.  Yeah... So... That was a do-over.

The other thing that didn’t go quite right was the Cheddar Dill Onion Buns.  I made these all last winter with soups and stews but I hadn’t made them yet this year so when I pulled the lovely, yeasty, onion-y smelling dough out of my bread machine I couldn’t for the life of me remember whether I used my 9x11 or my 9x13 last year.  You wouldn’t think those two inches could make so much of a difference.  The first batch I made was to go into the freezer to be pulled out over this Thanksgiving weekend along with some Sausage Lentil  Soup which I made and froze Monday afternoon.  I closed and my eyes and picked my 9x11.  I rolled my lump of dough into 6 balls and let them rise.   The buns ended up enormous.  Like elephantitisly (if I can make up a word) enormous.  Seriously.  I almost could have hollowed them out and used them as soup bowls.  I was making two batches anyway so we could also have buns with our chilli Monday night. I decided batch #1 would be for dinner and batch #2 would be made with significantly smaller balls in my bigger baking dish and be saved for my Thanksgiving company.  Batch #2 turned out fantastic.  I took ten beautifully golden, perfectly-sized buns out of the oven and turned it off.  I set them on the stove to admire them. They were perfect. 


The chili suddenly started to bubble over while I was trying to spice it up and I totally forgot about the buns.  By the time I remembered them, the golden crusty tops had started sinking into the now-spongy bottoms.  I immediately took them out of the pan and put them on a cooling rack to try to salvage them.  And then I cried a little and seriously considered making a third batch after the kids went to bed. Because I’m really a perfectionist at heart.  Though you wouldn’t know it by Monday’s little shenanigans (or the state of my kitchen floors on any given day)!  I didn't end up making a third batch.  It was already 5:00 and I was exhausted.  I had been in the kitchen since 8:45am.

On the plus side, it was so great to have chili made and then have leftovers and so nice to have all my veggies chopped and my peanut sauce already made for my stirfry.  I think I’m going to love this system once I get all the kinks worked out.  So, last week I learned to take the meat out the night before.  This week I learned to read recipes thoroughly and take myself a little less seriously.  Those shrunken buns may not look quite as picture perfect as usual but they won’t taste any different.  And when we’re sitting around the table this Thanksgiving weekend with our good friends Wayne and Laura, who we rarely get to see, dunking those buns into steaming hot soup, I really don’t think it'll be the shape of the buns we’ll be focusing on.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Happy visiting, happy prepping and happy decorating (if you do that kind of thing). I have a handmade cornucopia on my table from Ava and that will be the extent of my decor.  Did I mention it’s Sebastian’s birthday tomorrow and the kids don’t have school we’re having his birthday party tomorrow night?  What was it I was saying before... oh yes, “I am slowly going crazy 1-2-3-4-5-6 switch.”

Monday, October 3, 2011

What's your problem?

So I wrote a blog a few weeks ago.  Three to be exact.  All I needed to do to post it was send the picture via bluetooth from my phone to my computer.  But I couldn't remember how and I kept forgetting to ask Hugh about it.  And then I lost the post on my computer.  It just disappeared from the desktop.  After searching all my folders and not finding it and finally googling how to find lost documents I found it in one of Hugh's folders.  His sheet music folder actually.  I just reread that last sentence.  If you could see me right now I'm shaking my head, holding my hands palms up above my keyboard and making an "I don't know" sound without using actual words.  Some things are beyond my understanding.

However, the good news is I found it.  And since I found it I'm going to post it.  But since I'm also lazy I'm not going to go back in and change all the tense's and yesterday's and things like that to make it chronologically make sense.  Just know that when I say the first "Last Tuesday" I'm actually referring to the Tuesday after Labour Day. 

And now without further ado I give you... A NEW BLOG!  Finally!  (Sort of...)  Anyway, here it is in all it's unvarnished glory:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
If life always went according to plan I really wouldn't have much to write about.  Good thing it doesn't then, right!  Right?

Last Tuesday after lunch I put Sebastian down for a nap and tidied the kitchen so I could spend a lovely quiet afternoon in the sunshine with my book, guilt-free.  I had just filled my water glass and picked up my book when the phone rang.  It was Ava’s teacher saying she had fallen off the monkey bars at lunch and could I come down to the school and take a look at her arm.  I woke Sebastian up went to the school and sure enough Ava’s wrist was oddly swollen and definitely needed an xray.

After a return trip home, (to get my phone which I’d forgotten and some snacks and books to survive the long hospital wait) several phone calls (one to Hugh and one to a friend), a return trip back to school to drop off Tristan’s booster seat (so said friend could pick him up after school) I finally headed to emerg with Ava and Sebastian. 

Three hours later Ava’s arm was being wrapped in hot pink cast material which we were told would need to stay on for at least six weeks while Ava kept saying to me, “Why? Why? Why did this happen?  Why did I do those monkey bars?” 

There is a a Bible verse that says, “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” I truly believe that the trouble that comes into our lives builds our character in ways that it’s not possible for us to grow in when everything is going according to plan.  In what other circumstances can you really learn to appreciate as truth what the great Chuck Swindoll says about attitude? Life is only 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

I’ve had many many conversations with Ava since last Tuesday about attitude and perspective.  We’ve been talking about focusing on all the things she still can do (colour, play toys, go to school, cuddle with mom and dad) instead of what she can’t do (run, ride bikes, do the monkey bars).  “I know Mom,” she’d say.  “It’s just that I wish it had never happened!”  Don’t we all wish that when life gets derailed? But that statement has opened up opportunities for conversations about how when we change our words we change our world.  What we think and what we hear ourselves say has direct power over our feelings.  Our feelings then dictate our attitude.  If we actively change what we’re thinking or saying we can completely transform the level of joy we live out of - no matter what our physical circumstances are.  I’ve been encouraging Ava to look on the bright side and speak out loud the still-innumerable blessings in her life whenever she’s feeling down about her situation.  And I’ve seen a shift in her. 

I can honestly say that I have seen such tremendous personal growth in Ava over the last week that I wouldn’t trade this experience.  If she can learn to shift her attitude and see the blessings in the middle of hard times now as a child she will have the tools to thrive as an adult when faced with much more difficult challenges.

And now I need to tell you about the other thing that did not go quite as planned last week.  Ava’s birthday present from us (Tristan and Ava turned 7 last Friday which I canNOT believe) was to get her ears pierced.  She’s been asking to do it for almost a year so we thought it would be the perfect birthday gift.  Hugh got off work just after school let out so the kids opened their presents and then we piled in the van and headed to the Mall for Ava’s appointment.  I figured the best thing was to get it over with before she had too much time to think about the potential pain.  I learned this is not a good approach with Ava.  She needs time to process.  She got to Merle Norman, picked the studs she wanted and then chickened out.  So we went to the pharmacy got some numbing cream, waited 40 minutes for it to kick in and went back.  She was so thrilled after it was done saying over and over, “This is the best birthday present ever!” and stopping to look at her ears in every store window we passed.  The only thing she was worried about was whether or not the studs would poke into her and hurt her when she laid her head down on her pillow later that night. 

It was during our birthday celebration dinner at a restaurant near the Mall when Hugh and I both noticed that one earring was significantly higher than the other.  When we pushed the studs forward we could see that the girl who did the right ear had done it exactly through the mark and the girl who had done the left had completely missed it, going entirely above it.  With dread in our hearts we told her we had to take her back to get it re-pierced.

That was my turn to say, “Why? Why? Why did that happen?  Why did they get it wrong?”  First the cast and now this????  Are you kidding me?  She absolutely did NOT want to get it redone.  And though it went against every parenting instinct we have to protect our children and shield them from pain Hugh and I insisted she get it done.  Hugh has a small bald spot low on the back of his head from when his brother threw something at him when they were kids.  It needed stitches but Hugh was scared and threw such a fit his mom let him have his way.  He has regretted not getting those stitches all his adult life.  I knew this would be one of those things, that it was momentary pain and then it would be done and fixed and that later on she’d be so glad she did it.  But I actually couldn’t go in with her.  After already doing the broken arm thing with her earlier that week I just couldn’t stand to see her in any more pain. So I chickened out and Hugh took her in while I waited in the van with the boys.  She came back out 30 minutes later with red-rimmed eyes, a red left ear sporting a new - and different - stud because they didn’t have another pair of the flowers she’d originally picked, and a Strawberry Shortcake doll.  “Because,” Hugh said, “her birthday present was supposed to be fun and that was torture!”  He’d ended up having to literally hold her down so they could re-pierce the ear.

After hugging her and kissing her and oooohing and ahhhhing over her new doll I asked her rather tentatively how she was feeling about the whole thing.  “Well, Mom,” Ava said to me.  “The good news is at least it’s the ear that’s on the same side as my cast so I won’t have to lie on it tonight when I go to bed!  And now I get to have two pairs of earrings instead of just one!”  

Life really isn't about the 10%.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life...

There is a line.  On one side of the line is the way things were.  On the other side of the line is the way things are now.  Sometimes we can see the line a long ways off and we eagerly anticipate it - the moment we get to throw our caps in the air, the moment we get to say I do, the moment we get to here it’s a ....!  Other times we don’t see the line coming at all, slipping from one unchanged moment to the next, until suddenly there it is and we’re caught with our arms wind-milling, teetering precariously between what was and what is. Sometimes the “lasts” come and we don’t realize it was the last until it’s too late to mark it, too late to make it significant and meaningful. 

Tristan and Ava started Grade 1 yesterday and today I bought myself my own alarm clock.  I feel both like I’m teetering between what was and now is, and a kind of grief for the lasts I didn’t notice.  Monday was the last weekday morning Sebastian would crawl into bed with me and the last time I didn’t have to set a regular alarm.  And I didn’t even realize it.  I knew school was coming.  I knew the kids would be going everyday but for some reason that fact didn’t hit me until this morning when I woke up to Hugh’s alarm for the second day in a row and then reset it for tomorrow morning.  For 7 years - since I went on maternity leave with Tristan and Ava - I have woken up to my kids and not an alarm.  This morning after resetting Hugh’s alarm I realized with somewhat of a shock that I have forever left behind that world of babies and slow days and weekday morning snuggles and staying in my pj’s for as long as possible.  Just that quickly I am entrenched in a new phase in our family’s life.  School. 

This year at school has brought another separation besides just mine from the majority of the kids waking hours - which feels huge enough.  This year Tristan and Ava decided they wanted to have their own stories to tell at the end of the day and chose to be in separate Grade 1 classes.  It was so strange dropping them off in different rooms.  Tristan walked in as confident as anything but Ava walked in to her class and there were no girls from her Kindergarten class last year.  She had a white knuckle grip on my hands as I walked her over to a table of girls and introduced her.  Her good-bye hug was desperately fierce and her little face as I turned for a last look just about broke my heart.  Even as I walked away fighting tears I knew Ava would be okay.  I knew she would make new friends in this class.  I knew God’s perfect plan for her was being worked out in this strange new situation she found herself in.  But she wasn’t okay when I left her so I wasn’t okay.  And I knew I wouldn’t be okay until I could hear from her that she was okay.  Sure enough when I picked up the kids at the end of the day Ava was bubbling over with information about her new friends and her new class and her new teacher.  Just like that she was walking confidently on the other side of the line she had been teetering over only that morning.

As for me I’m still teetering trying to navigate my way through agendas, homework, class notes, reading programs, making lunches every single day without peanut butter.  I’m sure by the end of the week I will be firmly and confidently in “what is” but today I can’t help missing what was.   Oh what I would give right this minute while I’m trying to find my balance on that line for one more Wednesday morning snuggle in my bed, one more moment of being able to make it all better with a kiss.  And yet, I think I lived those moments of babyhood, toddlerhood and early kidhood as fully as possible.  I can honestly say I have no major regrets about the last six years.  Minor ones like why didn’t I let Ava cut her hair sooner?  Or why did I waste so much energy being frustrated with pee accidents?  But those are all par for the motherhood course.  That thing they say about hindsight is so true.  Do I wonder if I’ve done enough?  Absolutely.  I don’t think you can help wondering that as you send your kids off into the next phase of their life  equipped with only a backpack, a Hello Kitty or Spiderman water bottle and a pair of indoor shoes.  But, as Hugh said to me last night, it’s not about parenting so that your kids don’t make mistakes or never get hurt.  It’s about teaching them what to do, how to handle it, when they do make them or it does happen.

Wise words.  Freeing words.  Words I totally agree with and will live by as soon as I get sorted who needs what for which class, where the kids are supposed to put their indoor shoes since they don’t have cubbies  like Kindergarten, and what exactly I’m supposed to be writing or signing in each agenda.