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Archive for December, 2006

Maya’s mitzvah

Up here, all the kids sleep in one room – it has two bunk beds against the walls, with the heads up against each other. Last night, we also had the neighbour’s kid sleep over, so all the beds were full. Putting kids with different bedtimes to bed in the same room can be a challenge. I try to get Boo asleep before sending the rest to bed, but the older ones cannot help but be noisy and that makes it difficult for her to settle.

Despite Boo’s belief that I would like to get out of lullabies, I actually really enjoy putting her to bed. We have a cuddle before she gets into bed and she tells me about her day. We have a variety of silly games we play too, but the latest favourite is ‘the kiss game,’ in which she attempts to kiss me while I stop her and I attempt to kiss her with her preventing me at the same time. It is so much fun that she tricks me into it even when it is late and I order her not to play. How can you resist a kid kissing you that much?

I don’t remember playing games like this with the other two, probably because by the time they were her age, I was already dealing with a small baby at the same time. They always got the stories and cuddles and singing, but they didn’t get the time to make up silly games and just hang out, as I was always trying to balance the needs of them and the younger one(s). I think the last child has it best, at least Boo does. Not only does she get lots of her parents attention, but she is spoiled silly by her older siblings as well. Don’t let anyone tell you the youngest child gets the least attention. That’s crap. They have it good.

Anyway, last night there was clearly no way I was going to get her to sleep alone, and gave up and ordered the others to go to bed too. I knew they’d talk and might keep Boo awake, but I was hoping she’d find it boring and fall asleep anyway.

When I left, Boo and Maya were in the bottom bunk, Asher was in his bed above Maya and our guest, F, was in the spare one above Boo. As I closed the door, I heard Maya start to try to talk Asher out of his bed. She wanted to be beside F. She pulled this last year too, making Asher feel excluded. She wanted the bottom beside Boo until someone more interesting showed up. I gave her the look, ordering her not to cause trouble, and shut the door.

Ten minutes later, Boo showed up and said, “I’m not tired. Can I go up on the top bunk and talk with Maya and F?” “No.” “Awww, but Maya said that if I told you I’m not tired, I could go up with them.” “Why is Maya up there?” “Oh, she did something sooo nice. I think maybe it was even a mitzvah*. She let Asher sleep in her bed tonight. Isn’t that nice of her?”

Yes, isn’t it. Sneaky little shit. At least she managed to successfully spin it so that Asher thought he was getting something good out of the deal.

*mitzvah: Hebrew for a ‘good deed’. It can range from saving a life to clearing the dishes from the table.

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We are actually getting more snow today. J took the older two skiing and I braced myself and took Boo tobogganing. It turned out to be easy because she insists on going down the hill herself, and dragging her sled back up herself too. When did she grow up? My job was reduced to aiming and pushing her down the hill and then standing and the top and cheering her on. I got a little chilled, but no more bruises.

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WordPress has a convenient tool, where you can categorize your posts by topic, only for some bizarre reason, it refuses to let me add the catergory of ‘knitting.’ You can add pretty much anything you want, but it hates knitting. Why? I even tried deleting some less relevant ones, like ‘baking,’ but while the programs warns me of the changes it is making, it refuses to actually change anything. Maybe when I get home on my real computer, it’ll work.

Yogamum asked me about thrumming. I wrote a post on the thrummed slippers I knit here. Basically, it involves knitting in bits of soft wool so you have a nice warm layer inside whatever you knit. I cannot recommend this highly enough for those cold of feet or hands. When Boo and I went sledding today, we were both wearing our thrummed mittens and even though they were covered with snow, our hands stayed toasty warm and dry inside. Yogamum, given the amount of snow you have there, I think it is time you moved on to thrumming.

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holiday bits

We have an artesian well up here (that means it is really, really deep), but it turns out it was no match for 12 people and a defective toilet. The well ran dry. It took a day to return, so now my father-in-law is nervous about the water supply. This means that this morning we got to introduce the kids to another new experience – doing laundry at a laundry mat. Despite the fact that we have a front-loader at home, they found watching the clothes spin amusing.

We then walked over to the little general store here to let them each pick out a treat. What is a general store for, if not to check out the various and obscene methods of sugar delivery into a child’s system? Both Maya and Asher have lost a tooth up here, so they both spent some of their tooth fairy money on some hunk of sugar, which I found ironic. Allowing them this indulgence earned me a brief lecture from my mother-in-law for letting them eat sugar. I thought it was supposed to be the other way around – grandmothers handing out the sugar and parents objecting. Anyway, I refused to rise to the bait.

It is actually legitimately cold up here and really feels like winter. J took the kids tobogganing. I bowed out to make Shabbat dinner, and also because my bruised leg hurts and I don’t relish more hurtling down slippery hills.

Just as I settled down here, having up the chicken and potatoes in the oven, Asher returned with freezing hands. The dopey boy had gone out with just the lightest pair of gloves on and his hands were freezing. I took the damp gloves off and warmed his hands the fastest way I know how – I put them against my sides, under my shirt. I still feel the painful imprint of his hands, but it warmed him up in no time.

It reminded me of the time that we went skating on the Rideau Canal when Asher was about 4 years old. Distracted with getting the infant Boo bundled up warmly enough, we missed that Asher was only wearing a light cotton shirt under his snowsuit. He skated for a few moments, then switched to being pulled along by J. After we reached the other end of the Canal, sweating from our exertion, we discovered that Asher was a little popsicle boy, as he had being sitting in the sled without moving, being blown by the icy wind and not dressed properly. While J skated back to get the car, I brought the kids into a little change hut and, in what has probably been the greatest act of motherly love I have ever demonstrated, I unzipped my own ski jacket and sweater, and cuddled him into my body, getting him to put his arms around my body under my shirt. I can still remember how cold his arms were and face, as he smushed it into my neck.

For those who don’t know me, I should clarify something: I hate being cold. Hate, hate, hate it. I know it might not seem it, given my recent whinings about the absence of winter, but let’s face it, almost zero weather and raining is also damn cold, and not nearly as pretty as snow. It is 10 degrees colder now, but the sun is shining in the big windows, so I am warm. (Except for the two chilled imprints of my boy’s hands on my ribs, of course. He still doesn’t dress warmly enough and we still don’t watch him closely enough.)

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Besides reading a lot of my in-laws’ New Yorkers and playing a lot of games with the kids, I’ve been doing a lot of knitting up here. Actually, I knit while playing the games and reading the New Yorkers. And while waiting for dinner to show up at the restaurant, and in the car and while singing lullabies and watching videos and waiting for the movie to start. I had big carpal tunnel problems with both wrists the past couple of years and had surgery on both hands. The second hand was done in October, and so I’ve just managed to get back into knitting again recently. I have always been a knitting fiend and I’m so glad to be back at it. I knitting Boo a pair of thrummed mitts to keep her little hands nice and warm. Now I’m working on a sweater for Asher. Lots of cabling. I got about 4 inches up the back while up here, and then decided a couple of days ago that I’d gone a bit too small. It might have been okay, but maybe not and I didn’t want to take a chance, so I pulled it out and started again. My eldest nephew, M, has started to knit – he’s done two scarves, I think – and was utterly horrified to see what I was doing. It is pinful to pull something out, but more painful to finish the thing and have it not fit. Truth is, I knit so fast that it wasn’t that painful. It used to be much worse.

Okay, time to go check the chicken.

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Ouch

If it occurs to anyone out there to go snowshoeing when there is only an inch or so of snow on the ground just as an adventuresome why to go for a winter walk in the woods … don’t. The whole inexperienced gang went out, but I put my shoes on last and the rest didn’t wait for me. They then charged into the woods off trail. Turns out that clumping up and down hills in snowshoes without snow is pretty darn dangerous – the metal teeth at the front of the shoes can’t dig in, and neither do the poles.

I caught up with them when one of my nephews fell trying to get down the side of a small cliff. Unfortunately, he also blocked the best way down as he lay there in agony, so those who hadn’t already made it down faced a steeper descent. Maya was smart enough to figure out sliding down and even kindly warned me about the tree at the bottom. Really, I should have gone back, but it was so far. I took off my snowshoes, at least, and slid down, but I didn’t manage to miss the tree. Of course, after some ice on his knee for half an hour, my 10-year-old nephew was ready to roll. I’m still hobbling thanks to the large bruise down the inside of my leg, courtesy of the tree.

Today we went to see Night at the Museum, which was far safer, although at times Boo was not convinced. Once she got past the dinosaur skeleton chasing the hero, she had a good time too. The movie was a lot of fun.

We also hung out at a mall for a bit – filled to breaking point with people who were spending a lot of money. I know it has been said before, but I really don’t get why people spent all of December buying stuff for Christmas and then just ratchet it up a notch the week after. We didn’t buy anything. We did amuse ourselves trying out all the beds for a bit. Boo really got into that and begged us to get a new bed. How many 4-year-olds beg their parents to buy a bed? She had decided that she needed a queen-sized bed in her room so her siblings would sleep in there with her and she wouldn’t be alone. She got completely hung on this and came up to me with a pathetically sad look on her face and said, barely holding back tears, “If you – sob – get a big bed so my brother and sister can sleep – sob – in the same room with me – sob, sob – I won’t make you stay and sing me lullabies any more.” Total breakdown. Poor little thing, she wanted her siblings with her so badly she was willing to bargain with me and give up lullabies, which she loves. Sadder still, she thought I don’t like singing to her and would take that deal. I love the lullabies. I just hate it the occasional time she stays awake for 20 minutes, insisting I sing the entire time. I explained that to her and managed to distract her from the bed thing at the same time, but I have to confess, she currently believes that when we get back home, she’s getting a queen-sized bed and Maya and Asher in her room.

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This dial-up service lets me take a brief look at my email and cut and paste a post on the blog, but it is so slow that looking at anyone else’s blog – especially if they have photos up – takes forever. I feel all cut-off. I’m getting lots of knitting done, though.

 

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Snowy happiness!

Snow! It snowed. Just like Mary said happened last time, it snowed on Boxing Day. I’m sitting, looking out the big front windows at piles of fluffy snow everywhere, just like in the pictures below of the road. We had a great pile of ski-crazy children wake up happy this morning.

I am now sitting in peace and quiet, with just Boo and my sister-in-law, R. J, his brother and parents, Maya, Asher and my three nephews have just piled into two minivans and headed for the ski hills. Yay for all of us!

It wasn’t pretty, mind you. We found out we forgot J’s ski suit, Asher’s hat for under his helmet and his poles and Maya’s grade five ski pass (the Canadian ski council gives them out for free for 10-year-olds). Most of the kids’ mitts from yesterday were still wet, since the parents very foolishly thought that saying, “Put wet mitts in front of the fire to dry,” 300 times would actually cause the kids to put their wet mitts in front of the fire. Ha! They thought we said, 300 times, leave your wet mitts in a heap by the door, preferably in a puddle. We have back-ups, but not that many.

But now they are all gone and we have relative quiet (still got Boo) for a few hours.

Yesterday turned out well too.

In fact, it was amazing. Really, really good. Every Christmas, we take the kids tubing near here. I can barely find words to describe how much fun it is. First, unlike skiing, the whole family can go, even Boo. And when you slide down the hill, you can link up the tube by holding onto each other’s ropes and go down in a big group, thereby adding speed and fun to the slide. On Christmas, there are no line-ups at all, so we just pop up and down. More than once, my kids have said that even if they celebrated Christmas, this is the way they’d want to spend it, because it is just such an enjoyable family experience.

This year was the best yet. There was actually enough snow to go sliding, because you need very little to get going on an inner tube, it was just cold enough but not very cold, and very few other people had thought the conditions would be good, because we’ve never seen it so empty. Also, not only where the cousins here too, but three other families joined us on the hill, making us a group of 26 people. We had 10 children between the ages of 6 and 10, with a smattering of others too. But with the hill so quiet and so many kids, both adults and children enjoyed the kids’ unprecedented freedom and independence.

We stayed for hours. The kids would have happily stayed longer, but the adults were wiped. I went to bed at 9 pm.

It is the great white north after all! I hope everyone else’s Christmas went as well as ours did.

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I’m sneaking in a moment or two to write while getting ready to go up north. ‘Up north’ is what we call my in-law’s cottage in the Laurentians. We go there pretty much every summer and winter holiday. It is idyllic, with a little private beach one minute’s walk away that is perfect for swimming in the summer and sledding in the winter. We also snowshoe, and everyone else skis, leaving me in peace by the roaring fire.

This year is promising to suck, because even ‘up north’ has no snow. Okay, it won’t be all bad, because my brother-in-law and family will be up as well for a couple of days, so the cousins will all get to hang out. They haven’t seen each other since the summer and get along beautifully, so that is all good. And we’ll see other friends up there we haven’t seen since summer. And no doubt the ski hills are frantically making snow, so maybe they’ll keep ahead of the rain and everyone will be able to go skiing. But I don’t think it’ll be so easy to toboggan on sand.

Normally, the Laurentians are postcard beautiful over the Christmas holidays, with everything covered in sparkling white snow. Words don’t do it justice – I think I’ll try to upload some photographs (the way my connection is acting up, I’ll be lucky to even manage to post this, though.)

Hey, it worked! This is the cottage, which sleeps my parents in-law, our family of five and J’s brother’s family of five comfortably. There’s Boo, clearing the driveway all by herself. Last year.

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The view down the street:

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The kids enjoying all the snow and huge icicles, last year:

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Sledding on the beach last year:

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Doesn’t get more Norman Rockwell than this, does it? Sigh.

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I tried to post this yesterday, but my computer was acting up. It is only a hint of what I’m going to be going through in the next couple of weeks using the dreaded dial-up while at the cottage.

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My kids’ lastest obsession are Webk*nz. It is a smart idea – a stuffed animal that comes with a code to register at a web site. Once registered, your animal appears on the screen in it’s home. You can then play games and earn ‘money’ to buy clothes and food, outfit the animal and room, etc. You interact with it and can also interact with other webk*nz. Maya expressed interest in one a while ago and it seemed like a cute little idea, so I got one for each kid. I was pleased with myself when Asher then also commented on how “everyone I know” has one and he wanted one too.

I gave them the little stuffies two days ago – a big unicorn for Maya, a little one for Boo and a monkey for Asher. When I bought the things (only about 6 weeks ago), Boo wasn’t as internet literate as she now is. But she totally got the point right away and I was immediately faced with was three children yelling, “I want to log on first!”

Oops.

We are cleary out growing this one-computer thing. Especially as it is mine. Mine, mine, mine. Mine.

We negotiated. Because Maya was going out, she got first kick at it. Asher was next, with Boo avidly watching. It was around this point that I was starting to feel deeply fatigued. It frequently hits at around 4 pm and my entire body was telling me that I needed to just go lie down. I ached to be horizontal. I’d already put the rice on for dinner, which was to be stir fry. So I set Asher up to play and went upstairs to lie down for a bit.

The moment I lay down, Boo yelled up that she was hungry and wanted a snack. I pretended not to hear her, hoping she’d deal with it herself. No such luck. The yelling continued. Bad mother, I told myself, and dragged myself up, clumped downstairs and got her a snack. I headed back up. With the impecable timing only a child can have, she bellowed a request for water as soon as I reached my bed. I ignored her again. This time, she solved the problem herself.

The muscles started to relax. The heat of my heating pad began to sink into the painful spots below my shoulder blades. Which, of course, is when I heard Asher’s bellow of outrage: “Argh! Stupid thing won’t work!” (Please figure it out, please figure it out…) “Mommy! I need help!”

The guilt was kicking in about now, I want you to know. I’d just given them these cool toys and then went to lie down instead of helping them navigate the new web site. But I was so very tired.

Here’s my real bad-mother admission: The next sound I heard was the distinctive sound of a keyboard being wacked in frustration and my first thought wasn’t, oh crap, he’s damaging the computer, but oh yay, now I have an excuse to ban him from playing rather than drag my sorry ass down there to fix the problem.

I yelled down for him to come up and he stomped up and wailed, before even reaching my room, “Stupid computer! Every time I click on a game, it says, ‘password is incorrupt’ or some stupid thing!” Oo, and easy problem to solve! I told him to try logging on again, making sure he typed it in carefully, and no more hitting the keyboard or I’d ban him for a week.

Then I feel asleep until J got home at 6 pm, greeted by rice for dinner and his children having been glued to the computer for an hour.

Asher thinks I’m the greatest mom ever for letting him play that long (since normally they aren’t allowed on the computer at all during the week, unless it is for school), but of course my mommy-guilt kicked in for that and worse, because Boo just sat and watched him for that hour. I’m sure brain cells died from lack of use the entire time.

Must stop reading parenting books.

Yesterday, when Boo came home she wanted to play the Webk*nz thing and I agreed to sit with her for a bit and play, only we discovered that the website was down, overwhelmed by all the children getting Webk*nz for Hanukkah, I guess (it can’t be Christmas, can it, because they haven’t gotten them yet).

Here’s my final bad-mom admission. Instead of closing the window on the webk*nz site, with it’s ‘Sorry, we aren’t working’ sign, I just minimized it. When I picked up the older kids and they all immediately began to negotiate computer time, I warned them it was down. They were all in good moods and I didn’t want them just sucked into the computer. Instead of being the bad guy myself, I let the webk*nz people take the heat. We kept checking to see if the site was up by simply maximizing the screen, but not refreshing, so we saw the same old sign and the kids went off to play again. They played beautifully with each other and their new stuffed toys, making homes upstairs for them, and feeding them dinner. Much nicer than staring at a computer screen instead.

So there you go – I gave them a computer game, felt guilty for letting Asher and Boo playing it too long, and then used suberfuge the next day to stop them from playing the very game I’d just given them. I may not be a bad mom, but I sure am a confused one.

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Isn’t she cute? She’s driving me nuts. She won’t stop talking. I wouldn’t care if she didn’t require a response, but she does. Every comment – “I’m drawing a pink flower now,” or “I like this blue marker better than this one” – gets repeated until I respond. She’s just like her big sister, who hasn’t stopped the behaviour, either. Maya will follow me around the house talking constantly. If I retreat to the bathroom to escape, she’ll stand outside the bathroom door and keep talking. The sad thing is, I know I did this to my mother, so I supposed I am getting my just desserts, but times two. Is that fair?

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Parenting, I realized some time ago, is all about restraint. Once, when Asher was little, I had a coffee date (I don’t drink coffee, but whatever) with a friend who has a son the same age. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and we eager to catch up. The moment we got there Asher, who must have been about 3, announced he had to poop. So off I took him to the cramped little bathroom where I stood outside the stall while he went. He took his time. He commented on every aspect of the process – what was emerging, how much more was waiting to emerge, what a good boy he was to wait until it all emerged. So I stood and stood and stood in this tiny, smelly bathroom thinking of how brief a time I had and how rarely my friend and I got to see each other, all the time resisting the almost-overwhelming urge to shout, “Will you just SHUT UP and get it over with already!!?”

When we finally returned and I gave my friend a bit of a description of the experience, because it was funny really, she said, “You have such patience.” And I realized it wasn’t patience at all. I wanted to scream. If I were patient, I wouldn’t want to scream. It was merely restraint.

Here’s an example of why I’m going to need such restraint as Maya heads into adolesence:

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Here’s a nicer one, with baby Theo:

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Yesterday, I made the easiest and most delicious squares in existance. I’ve been avoiding doing any baking (except for the required sugar cookies which are safe because I hate to eat sprinkles) because then I just eat the stuff. But my stomach has been bothering me for days, making it difficult to eat anything, so I thought I was safe. So of course, my stomach feels much better now and I’ve been scarfing them down all day. Turns out they are great frozen, too. They are so very easy I simply must share:

Take a big cookie sheet, line it with tin-foil and cover with either matzah or soda crackers, depending on what you have handy. Take a cup of brown sugar and a cup of butter and heat them in a pot until the mixture boils. While waiting for it to boil, preheat oven to 400. Pour the boiled mixture evenly over the crackers, then put it in the oven for a few minutes, until the mixture is bubbling and has soaked into the crackers. Take it out and pour a cup (or so, depending on how much you like chocolate) of chocolate chips over the whole thing, wait a minute for the heat to melt the chocolate, then use a spatula to smear the melted chocolate everywhere. Sprinkle toasted almond slivers on top if you want.

That’s it! Stick it in the freezer for a bit, then break the bits up and put them in a bag or container or whatever and keep them in the fridge or freezer. Doesn’t matter – they won’t last long.

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