22 June 2009

Turning one, my baby girl...

As warned, dear readers, I've been absent for a shamefully long period of time. But here in Northern Alberta it is our all-too-brief season of sunshine and warmth, and I cannot bring myself to spend precious sunshine-y hours inside when I could be outside, walking or gardening or playing with BabyA or just being. And so.

Yesterday was summer solstice, the year's longest day and my darling girl's 1st birthday. I can remember this weekend last year, the excitement and fear and pain and relief and joy of it all. After leaking amniotic fluid, waiting a day and a half, being induced and labouring for most of the evening, we had a C-section, and shortly after one in the morning, this beautiful vision appeared.

And yesterday, along with our fabulous families and friends, we celebrated her first birthday.
My heart nearly burst with pride as our girl was passed from one set of arms to the next, from grandma to auntie, to all these people who are helping us raise her. And when she started to get overwhelmed, she reached her arms out to her proud papa, something new-ish for her. As her at-home parent for the last year, I've been the go-to comforter, so it was really wonderful to see her seeking out her daddy for that role.

This last year has been... good lord, I'm not even sure how to describe it. When you have a baby, your world focuses down to this incredibly narrow field of view - you and baby, you and baby and daddy, you and baby and daddy and the house, etc. You know everything else is out there, but it doesn't really register. Your body heals and your hormones fluctuate and you adjust to the fact of a monumental shift in your sense of self. And more than anything, you begin to know this new person around whom your world revolves, their habits, what makes them happy or sad or frustrated or joyful. You watch a body unfold and a personality develop.

Our girl, my Baby A, how do I describe her at her first birthday?

She is a sweet, smiley baby, who will get so excited by nothing more than the joy of living that she scrunches up her entire face into a squinty-eyed grin, lifts her shoulders to her ears, and extends her clenched fists in a whole-body expression of pure joy. She has three teeth, two on the bottom and another on top, and a fourth that just cut through the gum yesterday. Dark blonde wisps of hair frame her face, curling around her ears and blowing wild in the slightest breeze.
She refuses to crawl, instead choosing to toddle around the house grasping the fingers of whatever adult will accommodate her, even marching up the stairs on determined feet. If we are sitting, she will grab our hands and walk as far away as our arms will allow, and then hoot loudly as if to say, "Hey, get up, can't you see I'm trying to walk here?" She pulls herself up on her crib bars, or the coffee table, but she is cautious when trying new objects, preferring to stick with the tried and true. She points imperiously at wall hangings or magnets, or at something on the table that I can only guess at (plate? cup? magazine? plant?).

She is moving away from my baby towards my toddler so quickly that it terrifies me. She grows and changes every week, day, hour, minute, second, so that I am afraid to blink for missing some milestone, precious smile, joyous hug. But I am also overjoyed at her progress, her joy in discovering new things. As always, the fear and pain and joy live altogether in my chest. This is, I think, the truest, most defining element of parenthood, the constant presence of all of these emotions.

Happiest of happy first birthdays, my darling girl. I love you more than you can ever know. MWAAAAHHHHH!!!!

10 May 2009

To the Mothers in my life, on your day...

Letters to all the amazing moms in my life...

To GeekDad's mom:
You are an amazing example of why families come in so many different shapes and sizes, and how they can raise wonderful kids. You raised GeekDad on your own two feet, with the help and love of your fabulous family. You have taught him to embrace responsibility, to have a sense of humor, to love passionately and to share all of himself. I cannot thank you enough for raising him, so that he and I together can raise our little girl. And I also need to thank you for being in my life, for being so supportive and caring and loving. I know exactly how lucky I am to have you for a mother-in-law, lady!

To my Grandma:
You amaze me all the time, Grandma. You have given everything to your children, and then to those of us lucky enough to be your grandchildren. You continue to greet your great-grandchildren with the same brilliant smile and absolute joy that we were blessed with. You have lived through difficult times, and yet you pull it all of with such a sense of poise and grace. Even now, in your twilight years, you simply look forward to whatever milestone is ahead, and enjoy each day as it comes. We, your children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, can never thank you enough for lessons in humility and patience and love which you have taught us. Thank you.

To my little Seester:
I don't know if you know this, but you set a fantastic example of motherhood for me. I see you with your Munchkins, facing each new challenge, braving every obstacle. You take it all in stride, looking for solutions to the problems, rewards for the milestones achieved. You cuddle and play and wrestle and discipline and cherish and love them, and the love that flows back and forth between you and your children is a joy to behold. I am so lucky to be following in your footsteps for once, and to be benefiting from the lessons you have learned and so generously share with me.

To my Mama:
You are the one who taught me what motherhood meant, long before I joined you here. Even as a child, I knew that being a mom, my mom, meant you would do whatever was in your power to... To what? Not just to make things easier, although you did that when you could. Not just to make me a better person, although your example and you unconditional love makes me strive for that. You have taught me to embrace life, both the easy times and the difficult ones. You also taught me that it is OK to make mistakes, so long as you can own up to your mistakes (even to, or maybe especially to, your kids), apologize if necessary, and learn from them. You taught me that respect must be earned, even between parents and children.

I don't know if you remember, but a few weeks after I had BabyA, I asked you if it ever gets easier, this business of loving your child. Because for the first time, I understood just how much heartbreak and worry and fear are a part of this love. Joy is a greater part, certainly, but also the worry that I need to get this right, the fear that something will happen which I cannot control or account for, and that things will go awry. But the lesson you have taught me, which I pray I can pass on to my little girl, is how to take the awry and accept it and allow it to shape her into a stronger, happier, more loving person. If I can be half the mother to her that you have been to me, we will both be fine. Better than fine, really. Excellent, in fact.

And if, like you and I, my daughter and I are one day more than just mother and daughter, but also friends, I will truly have learned the lessons you taught. It's a lot to live up to, but then, I've got a great example to follow.

To all the mothers in my life, thank you for the love and the lessons and the joy. Thanks for welcoming me into your club. BabyA has given me the basic requirements for membership, but I hope I can become gold star members like all of you.

29 April 2009

Sweet Potato Pecan Muffins, and other adventures in baking.

So I posted on Twitter/Facebook the other day that I was making Sweet Potato - Pecan muffins. And suddenly (ok, maybe it took a few hours) I had a flurry (ok, it was two) requests for the recipe. Hey, that's a lot of feedback for me, so excuse me if I got excited. I'm easily excited.

Anyway, the recipe is from my The Joy of Cooking cookbook, which I (and by I, I mean we, GeekDad and I) got for our wedding from our friends Dan and Gail. Actually, they're really friends via the in-laws, but regardless, they are great people. Plus they helped out tons with the wedding, so we would owe them big time, even if they hadn't given me (us) an awesome cookbook. Which it is. The Joy of Cooking is like a how-to guide for almost anything you can imagine. Want step-by-step instructions on making pickles? How to plan a backpacking menu? Brine meat? It's all in there and then some, man.

Anyway, I've been drooling over this cookbook for awhile, but this is the first recipe I've made. And it was all I hoped it would be.

So it starts with a basic muffin recipe. I don't know if the people at Joy of Cooking will care that I am posting their recipe (modified by me). If they do, I figure they can let me know, and I'll take it down. So here goes.

Whisk in one bowl:
2 c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
*1/3 c.sugar (I used white sugar here)
*1 tsp. cinnamon
*1 tsp. ginger

*These are the alterations to the basic recipe, which called for 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. I switched out ground ginger for the nutmeg and increased the amount, but my ginger wasn't very fresh, so it wasn't as prominent as I'd hoped. I think I need fresher ginger for my next batch.

In another smaller bowl, whisk together:
1 c. milk (or cream if you don't care about muffin hips)
2 large eggs
2/3 c. sugar (I used demerara here)
1/3 c. canola oil (You can use whatever oil or butter here, up to half a cup. The cookbook suggests that is you are making them to last more than a couple of days, you should use more oil/butter, to keep them from drying out.)
1 tsp. vanilla
*1 c. mashed sweet potato (In my case, it was a can of sweet potato puree. Because with a baby, I just do not have time to make sweet potatos and then mash them just for muffins. However, if you happened to make sweet potato anyway, and then happened to have leftovers, this would be a fabulous use for them.)

Then you mix the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful NOT to overmix. The batter should still be lumpy. After a couple of swipes, I added about a 1/2 c. of pecan pieces, and then finished mixing.

The muffins were good - moist, not too sweet, and with a bit of crunch.

For my next batch, I might add some crystallised ginger, because I love the chewy bite of it, and because in my mind, you can never have too much ginger. I might also leave in the nutmeg, because I like baking spices. The more the merrier, in my opinion. Also, if you wanted to fancy them up a bit, you could put a crumb topping on them, with a little brown sugar, butter, flour, cinnamon, and maybe some finely chopped pecans.

In case you're wondering about the wrappers, they are Wilton brand silicone cupcake/muffin tines, available from Michaels. They come in other shapes and colours, but the triangle-shaped pink and purple ones were on sale for $4.99, instead of the regular $16.99, which is why I have them. You simply put them on a cookie sheet, fill with batter, and bake.

I was quite impressed with these, actually. They baked up nicely, even though I filled them a bit over the fill line that is marked on the inside. They gave the muffins a nicely browned bottom, as you can see.

And they're reusable, which is cool, ecologically speaking.

These muffins are tasty, and you know what. THEY COUNT AS VEGETABLES. Seriously, how much better can you possibly get??!!!

26 April 2009

Nine bags of leaves and weeds later...

Ok, now you get to see what I've been spending all my time on, instead of blogging. Our yard!!! At least, that was what I've been doing the last couple of weeks. This weekend, our yard looked like this.

And this.

Regardless of today's weather, what I'd like to do is let all of you see the progress of my gardening work as the spring and summer progresses. Because some of you might be interested. And even if nobody cares, at least I'll have a record of my progress for posterity.

As I'm sure I've said here before, our yard this winter was in a state of unkempt laziness. All the beds were overgrown, the lawn was overgrown beyond any excuse, and things were generally horticulturally unhappy. These photos of the back patio bed and the raised garden bed (behind the swingset) should give you an idea of how bad it was.

I emailed the lovely people at Hole's Greenhouse in St. Albert to get some advice on where to start, and they actually got back to me. Which is pretty cool, because I know they must be crazy busy, especially at this time of year. And they gave me advice, which mostly consisted of a hell of a lot of elbow grease, and knee grease, and lower back grease. Which I wasn't especially thrilled to hear, but still, it was really nice of them to get back to me regardless.

Cleaning these out is a HELL of a lot of work, let me tell you. Here are instructions, in case you're interested. What, somebody might be interested?! First, clip down the weeds with shears, and clean that debris out of the bed. Then break up the weedy soil with the garden claw, and and pick out the worst of the crab grass (including roots), dandelions and chickweed out of the the resulting mess. Then break up the soil some more with the garden claw. Then, according to Julie from Hole's you let the soil sit some more, until the weeds start sprouting again, and then you start back at the beginning. And THEN you put in your plants. If you have any energy left.

There is also a raised garden bed in the backyard, which is in an equally bad state. But I'm chipping away at it slowly. I'm also working on a rock garden on the north side of our deck, but it's still in the beginning stages. Really beginning, as you can see.

The front bed was just as bad as the back one, but last week when the weather was nice, I was able to spend some time cleaning up the front yard. After removing nine (!!!!) bags of leaves, weeds, and various other debris, it's looking pretty good.

(The front deck, with 6 of 9 bags of debris)

(The bed in front of the house)

(The caragana bed)

The front bed has, or at least had, irises coming up. During the cleanup I discovered a forgotten roll of chicken wire which we had laid over the bed to keep out the neighbourhood cats which were using it as a litterbox. In retrospect this obviously wasn't such a good idea - I had to tear it out to work up the soil in the bed, and ended up taking up a good portion of the irises with it. Now, a lot of the flowers were dead, probably due at least in part to neglect, but I went though all the debris, pulled out the tubers that were showing signs of life and replanted them. I'm not sure if they'll still bloom this year, but the effort has been made. I'm also planning on transplanting the bleeding heart from the back bed to the front one.

I also have a bunch of pots and planters on the front and back decks.

(Front Deck)

(Back Deck)

I'm planning on growing tomatoes, herbs and peas in the clay planters. The plan for these pots with the beautiful willow baskets

is to buy a couple of clematis from our local greenhouse to plant in there, and then move them out by our garden shed.

I've started a lot of perennials indoors this year. They were only started in the middle of April, so they're pretty small yet, but I'm hoping they'll be hardy enough to put out mid-May, or at the latest on the May long-weekend.

These are (from top right) Coleus, Lavender, Catmint, Sweet Williams, Columbines (which are just now starting to germinate), Campions (also called Maltese Cross), and Delphiniums.

Pinks, Scabiosa Japonica (which look a bit like chives to me), Carpathian Bellflowers, Asters and Hollyhocks.

The big ones are Nastutiums, which have totally taken off, and I may need to transplant to larger pots soon. In the middle are Icelandic Poppies, and the Pansies are on the right.

These are my poor Fragrant Pinks and Snow-in-Summer, which I tried to transplant, as they looked over crowded. I think I may have killed them. If I did, I figure I'll just sow seeds directly into the beds mid-May.

Tomato Plants, and a Hen-and-Chicks, for the rock garden.

While the yard isn't anywhere near where I want it to be yet, it is at the point where we can enjoy it. As evidenced by the wiener roast we had with Seester and her family last weekend. You know, before it started snowing.

This is really the reason I want to get the yard cleaned up.

Because nothing says summer like having a bunch of people over to your yard for a bar-be-que, letting the kids run around in the sun all day, and then wrapping up with a fire as the sun sets. I can't wait, people!!!

19 April 2009

So much to share, and so little time.

For once I have lots to write about, and yet I haven't posted in forever. The weather has been beautiful around these parts. The snow is almost entirely gone, and I've been out in the yard trying to remedy the neglect of the past couple of years. I would apologize for the irregular posting, but the truth is that it's much healthier for me to be out doing stuff than sitting inside. And while my computer is my lifeline, especially during our long dark Northern Alberta winters, once spring hits, I tend to spend waaay less time on it. This isn't an excuse though. I'm beginning to accept the fact that I'm an irregular blog poster. That's just the way it is in my world I guess.

So, in the post I will address Easter, which was almost two weeks ago already. It was busy for us, since we live close to both our families. Friday was at home for Brunch with some of my closest friends,

From For Blog
(with BabyA still in her pj's)

Saturday as at GeekDad's mom and step-dad's,

From For Blog

Sunday was at Seester's with her munchkins.

From For Blog
(Seester, her Hubby, and Munchkin #3)

From For Blog
(Munchkin #2 showing off her Easter dress)

From For Blog

(SeesterHubby, Uncle Tim-MAY, and Munchkin #3)

Also my dad and his wife,

From For Blog
(My dad talking family history with GeekDad)

From For Blog

(Dad'sWife is on the far left)

my grandma (my dad's mom),

From For Blog

and my Uncle George (my mom's brother).

From For Blog

We ate ham until it was coming out our ears. We at rice and potatoes and beans and peas and then we ate Fresh Strawberry Pie and Cake Pops.

The Cake Pops were a bit of an adventure, let me tell you. I read about the idea for Cake Pops on Bakerella's blog. In Bakerella's world, they look like this.

In Seester and mine's world, they look like this.

From For Blog

Ummmm, the similarities are blowing my mind. Really.
The good news is, we had fun making them. The two youngest munchkins helped out by eating sprinkles and candy melts. And also feeding them to BabyA. Then I stayed for supper and the munchkins wacked out a bit from all the candy. It was a blast.

In other news, BabyA is 10 months old in two days. How that happened I have no idea. She has no teeth yet, but her smile is still amazing.

From For Blog

She doesn't crawl, but turns in circles just fine, and pushes herself backwards so that she gets stuck under things like coffee tables and couches and dining room chairs.

She has started mimicking us - coughing like Nana, laughing like Mama, hooting into a glass like Daddy. She no longer wants her food cut into little pieces, but prefers large chunks she can grasp in her chubby little fists and gum into submission. She is a joy and wonder.

05 April 2009

Variations on a Theme: Spring might, maybe, be cometh-ing.

Once again, it's been too long since I've posted here. BabyA has been/is teething, or at least I'm assuming that's the problem, from the drool problem she's developed.

(Note the shiny chin)

She has been waking up every hour to hour and a half, needing soothing and/or nursing. Since she's usually a very sound sleeper, I'm assuming this is being caused by teething, although as yet we lack any concrete evidence. Whatever. All I know for sure is that waking up every hour to hour and a half is wreaking havoc with my sleep schedule. I've been up since 5am, which is wrong on more levels than I can tell you. However, it should give me a chance to catch you up on what's I've been doing.

1) I discovered The Pioneer Woman. She is high-LAR-ious, and obviously ridiculously talented, as she not only has four young kids, but also homeschools them. And blogs about it. And also about cooking, and gardening, and photography, and her enduring romance with her husband. What a show-off. Sheesh. Seriously though, you should totally check out her site, it's the awesome. So is her Chicken Scallopine, which I made this week.

2) I also made Fresh Strawberry Pie, with this recipe from Epicurious.com. It consists of fresh strawberries in a kind of homemade strawberry gelatin base, and a shortbread cookie crust, which is good because I DO NOT make pie crust.

This pie tastes like summer. It's a good thing the snow is finally starting to melt, or it might just make me cry.

3) I am working on quantifying the magic that is my homemade burger.

Seriously, if I am remembered for anything after I die, it will be these burgers, they are that good. But I've never actually measured any of the ingredients - it's more of an 'Add rolled oats until the mixture feels dry enough' sort of thing. But my Bonehead Brother asked for an estimate so he could make them, which inspired me to attempt to create an actual recipe. My Bonehead lives in Calgary, which means they were cooking burgers outdoors about a month ago, the jerks. But since the snow has finally melted enough for us to get to our BBQ, and the weather has been above zero (Celsius), I made enough burgers for 2 or 3 meals. I'm freezing some of them for later.

4) You may have discerned somewhat of a theme from my activities, all centred on the idea that it is finally starting to feel like spring around here. It's still early spring, mind you, because our yard still looks like this.

But that's a hell of a lot better than it was at my last post, and it's a close enough approximation of spring that I can bbq, and make strawberry pie without crying. Which also means, I can start to garden. Not outside, of course, at least for another month or so, but I have started planning our yard for this year, and I'm hoping to get my seeds started indoors this week. Yay!!

Our yard, and especially our flower beds, are going to be alot of work this year, as they've been kind of neglected for the past couple years. Last year was kind of torture for me, as I was teaching all of May, too pregnant in June for much gardening, and then spent the rest of the summer recuperating from my C-section. The only gardens I got to enjoy were my lovely cousins' and the ones in Dunvegan. This year, with a lot of luck and hard work, I'm hoping to get the yard back into shape. I'm starting a bunch of perennials indoors, and hopefully some veggies (especially tomato plants) in my mother in law's greenhouse. I will be soliciting suggestions, so stay tuned for pictures of my beds and yard.

5) And finally, there's this.

Which I'm always working on. Or with. Or whatever. However you say it, this project is the one I can't live without.

25 March 2009

The Nev-er-End-ing-Wiiiii-iiin-ter (sung to the theme from The Never Ending Story).

So I've been bitching alot about the weather lately, I know. In my defense, there are a couple of reasons for this. The first is this. Today is the 25th of March, which is technically spring. Seriously. And this is what our yard looks like today. Never mind the wind chill of oh, minus 20 or so.

This is, I know, the price I pay for living in Northern Canada, and for those incredibly long summer evenings when we are still sitting around the fire pit at 11 pm, drinking a beer and enjoying the smell of poplar smoke. Mmmmm, campfire smoke. But sadly, I digress.

The other reason the weather is grating so badly is that I read blogs, most of which are authored by people who live in other parts of the country, or continent. WHO ARE GARDENING. Or at least preparing to garden. Like the Pioneer Woman, who is getting dirty in Oklahoma. Or Amalah, who planted pansies this weekend in Washington, DC. These are the things that make me jealous, people. Because as you can tell from this picture, we are nowhere near being able to plant things.

But it doesn't stop me from dreaming, let me tell you. Last year was kind of a write-off for our garden/yard. I spent all of May working non-stop at my first teaching gig, so early planting didn't get done. And then on June 21 the beautiful BabyA entered our lives.

(Gratuitous Baby Shot)

Did I mention she entered our lives via C-section? I somehow didn't have even an inkling of how a C-section is major abdominal surgery, and since I wasn't even technically allowed to drive until the middle of August, gardening was not really an option. The truth is that I really don't remember a lot of last summer, and let me tell you, it shows. Our flower beds are overgrown with grass and weeds, as is our raised garden bed. So I'm soliciting suggestions on how to best deal with this mess, and prep my beds for spring. Comment below or email me. Please. Any and all suggestions are welcome.

In the mean time, I'm trying to make the best of this ridiculous, never-ending winter. Last night, I shot this bit of video of the snow falling outside BabyA's bedroom. While I am truly sick of the snow, I can still appreciate the beauty of a good snowfall. These snow flakes were so large that they cast a shadow as they fell between the light of the street lamp and the ground. It looked the the neighbour's driveway looked as though hundreds of tiny shadow creatures were flowing of it. I'm sure this video doesn't do it justice, but it was truly beautiful.

And that's how I know I'm from the North, I guess. As sick as I am of winter, I can still see the beauty in it. Even if at this point, its more of an impatient, let's get on with things kind of beauty.

21 March 2009

On Being Sick and Parenting. Both of Them Badly

I'm posting again, and it hasn't even been one week. I wanted to point this out, so that no one would look at the date and realize this, and then faint in shock. Just so you know.

In other news, the parental guilt machine has kicked into overdrive. Because you know how I was bitching and moaning about BabyA being so cranky and clingy last time? Turns out that bit of a cough was the only visible/audible symptom of a brutally nasty cold that starts out with a sinus headache that makes your eyes feel as though they are bugging out of your head and your cheekbones are bruised and your head is a melon being pounded by a large rubber mallet. It then progresses to a body-wracking chest cough which makes you whole body ache and wakes you up in the night just to remind you that yes, you are still sick. In case you forgot while you were sleeping.

And how do I know this, you might ask? Why, because I am also sick now, of course! So while two sickly people in a house is worse than one, at least I'm no longer being a BAD, UNSYMPATHETIC parent, because I know exactly what BabyA is going through. And it sucks, just in case we weren't clear on that already.

In other news, I would like to state how sick I am (mentally this time) of whinter winter. Wait, is 'whinter' a combination of 'whine' and 'winter'? Because if so, that is exactly it! New word - whinter! I'm often sick of winter by this point in the year, but this year I think it is even worse. This may be because of the new, earlier daylight savings switch. Usually by the time it is light out until 8 pm the snow is mostly gone and some green grass may be peeking around the edges of buildings and fences. But with the new system, it is light at 8pm AND THERE IS TWO FEET OF SNOW ON THE GROUND. Two feet, people. This is seriously enough to make me want to move anywhere south or west of here. Preferably Vancouver or San Diego or L.A. or Texas. Anywhere there is NOT two feet of snow and MORE COMING DOWN RIGHT NOW, DAMMIT!!! Seriously, God, this is not cool anymore. It's just not.

So, anything else I can grouch about? Probably, yes, but instead I will be happy because my mother-in-law is now officially finished working at her old job, and is back to being available for visiting and babysiting on an occasional basis. She's been crazy busy the last couple months, and I've missed her visits. We're working on getting her reacquainted with BabyA to facilitate some babysitting at some point. So, not everything is dark and dire. I just have to remember that. Someday the snow will melt and my yard will be ready for gardening and the colour green will actually exist again. Someday....

09 March 2009

The last tiny shard of patience winks out of existence...

It's officially been two weeks since I've posted anything here, which is disgraceful, I know. These last weeks have been that brand of busy that is peculiar to having a small child, wherein one is simultaneously busy caring for and entertaining one's child and mentally bored out of one's skull. I can only stack a pile of blocks just to watch them be knocked down so many times.

Seester and the three munchkins spent a couple of days with us last week, as the school-age kids were not in school due to Teachers' Conference. I have to say that I am utterly amazed at how quickly a 2 year old and a 5 year old can trash an entire house. BabyA isn't mobile yet, so we have a basket of toys on each level of the house, and those toys tend to stay in the general vicinity of the basket, unless she carries one of them upstairs on the way to a diaper change. But my two little neices managed to completely and utterly destroy that system during their visit, let me tell you. It really is a good thing that we give birth to infants, because if they came out as a toddler, I suspect no one would ever have more than one child.

This week has been the week from hell, really. I believe Baby A is teething, although as yet I have no evidence of such. She is generally cranky and whiny, and moves from being ecstatically happy to monumentally cranky in seconds, and it is driving me nuts. Also, in the past couple of months we had reached a state where I could alternate between playing with BabyA and doing a little housework, getting dinner ready, maybe being online a little. That, my friend, has been thrown out the window. It is now all BabyA, all the time. When I'm not holding her, she is whining to be held, and when I am holding her, she is squirming and whining for a reason which I cannot fathom. As I've already said, I suspect the culprit is teething and the general discomfort that accompanies this process, although she's also developed a bit of a cough in the last couple bdays which may be contributing to the crankiness. And on top of that, BabyA seems to have decided that nobody will do except me. No Daddy, no Nana, just mommy, non-stop. Aaarrgghh!!

Whatever it is, I am going crazy in tiny little guilt ridden segments. As of yesterday I officially lost my patience on the umpteenth time BabyA whined to be picked up, only to whine, arch her back, and squirm out of my arms, and I yelled. At my baby. I yelled, and then saw her eyes go all wide in surprise, and I tried to turn it into a hey look at mommy having fun and making noise,
and she totally seemed fine. But I knew I yelled at her, and that wide-eyed look nearly broke my heart. No matter how frustrated I get, I do not want to yell at my baby. I know this may have been the first time, and probably won't be the last, when I feel like the last tiny shard of patience and sanity I am clinging to disappears out from under me, but I really don't want to be a yeller.

So today, I woke up and decided that I had no expectations for the day. I wasn't going to try to clean, or tidy, or cook, or whatever. I was just going to be there for my baby. And you know what? Today was better. I don't know that BabyA was feeling better, but I just tried to let go of doing other stuff. When she fussed, I picked her up. When she squirmed, I found something new for her to focus onI'm not sure that she was less fussy, but things seemed to go more smoothly. No yelling, no pulling my hair out. I know this won't always work, but I had to remind myself that at least for now, I'm still on mat leave, and it is my job right now to take care of BabyA. The rest of it? All secondary. I will have other crazy crying weepy days, but for now I need to focus on my dearest girl, and hang on to every second before it slips away.

04 March 2009

To Sum Up, Conflicted.

Today has been a long day. Not in any particularly bad day - BabyA is not sick or anything, and neither am I. It was just a long day of meeting the demands of an 8 moth old baby, and kind of being stuck in the house. And when GeekDad got home, he was exhausted, so I got to mind BabyA most of the evening as well. Which kind of sucked.

Don't get me wrong. I adore my girl in ways I cannot express in words. I could rhapsodize about her for days on end. But some days all I want is to be able to do something I want to do without being at the beck and call of my little one. Without having to be the one to feed her and entertain her and teach her and change her. Because even when GeekDad is minding her, I'm still the go-to girl for the unexplained wailing and flailing, and especially, for the boobie juice. And once in a while, just for a little bit, I wish for the untetheredness I used to have.

Days like today I feel very conflicted. Because generally I love being at home with my girl. There is nothing like having a little one erupt in gales of laughter simply because you waggled your eyebrows at them. Or watching her bounce up and down just because I stopped loading the dishwasher to look at her. It really is fabulous.

But on days like today I realize that I look forward to working again. To be teaching, and researching, and helping people, and being an adult in an adult world. I struggle with this, wondering if working at a regular job will make me a better mom, or a worse one. Will I be the mom who comes home rejuvenated from doing something I like, to be enjoy her baby all the more for having been away, or the one who is exhausted from trying to juggle more things than she is capable of and end up doing all of it poorly? I know the answer is likely somewhere in between, and will likely depend on the day. But knowing that in my head does nothing to relieve the conflicted, jittery emotions. Blah.

So, to sum up, today I'm feeling whiny and conflicted. Sorry I've subjected you all to this little rant. Just had to put it out there.

In other, less whiny news.....

(please imagine angelic singing here).

I got the damned breadmaker to work for me, instead of against me. Finally. I ended up googling breadmaker problems, and found this website, which suggested less water and more salt, among other fabulous tips. And you know what? It worked!! I have an actual domed-top loaf, if slightly smallish, loaf of honey whole wheat bread. Yay!!!

Also in less whiny news, there is this. For which I am eternally and unequivocally grateful.

27 February 2009

(Mis)Adventures in Baking Bread, also known as that ^#%#@@!!! Breadmaker.

It has been a bit of a rough week around Casa de la Maison. BabyA has been sick with a cold, and not surprisingly, cranky as all get out. The good news is that she seems to be past the worst of it. There was much less snot and crankiness today, and she seems to be able to nurse again, thank GAWD. I seriously cannot say how thankful I am for a healthy baby.

In other news, my *&(*&%&^$$%^&#$!!!!!!!!!!! breadmaker. My mom purchased us a breadmaker last weekend, and I've have yet to get a normal loaf out of the damn thing. I wish I had taken pictures of each loaf as I went, but that didn't occur to me until it was too late, so this picture of my most recent loaf will have to scar your psyche stimulate your imaginations.

Note the caldera-like crater in the top of the loaf. This is due, I believe, to an overabundance of yeast in the recipe, which causes the bread to over-rise. And by over-rise, I mean rise so much that it pushes up the lid of the breadmaker like a whole-wheat balloon, punctures the loaf, and then collapses back in on itself, all while leaving a rim of bread flopping over the top of the pan which subsequently burns and leaves the top of the loaf a doughy, under-cooked mess. GRRRRRAAAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!

Seriously, I wish I could show you pictures of the first loaf of lovely Cracked Wheat Sandwich Loaf pushing up the lid of the breadmaker and leaking halfway down the sides of the f)(*(&%^$^%%^(^'n machine. (I think a picture of the look on my face when I came downstairs and discovered this state of affairs might afford you a few laughs, but I didn't get one of those either). This was the loaf where I used 1 1/2 x the called-for amount of yeast, on the advice of my mother, who said we live at a higher altitude, and therefore I would likely need more yeast, and her boss had baked a perfect loaf by doubling the amount of yeast called for. So I chalked that one up to too much yeast.

One the second loaf, I followed the recipe perfectly. And the result? Almost exactly the same as the first. Exploding dough? Check. Burnt crust? Check. Undercooked top? Check. Grrrarrrggg? Check.

For my third loaf, I used a whole wheat recipe from the internet, instead of from the instruction booklet. It was a smaller recipe, and used considerably less yeast, so I figured at most I'd have a too-small loaf. But no, I got ANOTHER perfect caldera-loaf.

Try number four was a white-bread loaf from the instruction booklet again. I figured maybe it was the flour I was using or something. I got a very pretty loaf of bread, tasty, nicely browned, AND AS DENSE AND HEAVY AS A GAWDDAMNED POUND CAKE. Seriously.

I know this picture looks all pretty, but my friend T actually gasped when I handed him a piece. It's ridiculous.

So this picture? Is try number five. This time again with the Cracked Wheat recipe from the instruction booklet, but with 1 3/4 tsp. yeast instead of the called-for 4 tsps. I'm talking less than HALF the amount the recipe says. But, as you can see, I've once again achieved a beautifully crusted, heavy as hell, caldera loaf. I think perhaps I purchased some kind of mutant over-achiever yeast or something, which is actually depressing, because by the time I've figured out this recipe, I will be out of yeast and may be right back at the beginning. I'm already running out of flour, powdered milk, and cracked wheat. Seriously.

I'm going to try this recipe one more time, this time with 1 1/2 tsps. of yeast, because I know that the dough only overexpanded close to the end of the cycle this time. I checked it with about 15 minutes left, and the dough was near the top but not touching it. So here goes. If I get a good loaf, I'll jump up and down for joy, have a celebratory drink, Twitter about it to all my followers, and blog about it asap. Come to think of it, I'll probably do the same if it fails again too. Ah, whatever. C'est la vie, or le pain, as the case may be.

24 February 2009

The Authoritative Allocation of a Scare Resource, or Hope Can Still Get Me Choked Up.

Heads up all - I'm about to talk politics here. But I promise to keep it short, if not simple*.

Here's the thing. I was watching President Obama's visit to Canada last week. There was a moment when he arrived on Parliament Hill, greeted PM Harper, and then went back outside and waved at the two thousand or so people who were waiting to see him. I'd been watching the coverage of 'This is where President Obama will land' and 'This is President Obama's motorcade' and 'This is the building where there's a room where President Obama will be meeting with so-and-so,' and was thinking "Geez, we are like 12-year-old girls with a crush on this guy." And then, just for a moment, when he made a point of greeting the people there to see him, I got a little choked up. I, the political cynic, got choked up at an American president waving at people. What is up with that??!!

I've been thinking about it, and I think I have an answer, or at least the beginning of one. Hold on, here comes the theory. One of the first things I learned in pol-sci (political science) class is that politics is all about the allocation of scarce resources - who gets what, and when, and how. It is also about power - who gets to make these decisions about allocation of resources. Now, we usually understand this in a formal way, ie. we vote someone into office, they make up the government, they makes the decisions on our behalf.

But this also happens in a much less formal way, through ideas and influence. For example, people start talking about the how the West kept getting screwed, and the West wanted in, and suddenly the Reform Party had decimated the Progressive Conservative party in Western Canada, the two merged into the Conservative Party, and now the Prime Minister is from Calgary. Trust me on this, ideas matter. But despite all this, people are more cynical than ever about politics and politicians, because whether the West is or is not 'in', things haven't really changed in Ottawa. In fact, there is less cooperation and more bickering and infighting than ever in our capital.

To go back to the idea of allocating resources, we all know that the more scarce a resource, the ore valuable it is. That's why gold is more valuable than say, steel. If you look at that in a political context, one of the most scarce, and therefore valuable resources is hope. We are all so cynical about politics and politicians that we don't even think about it anymore. We don't really expect politicians to keep their election promises, we don't even flinch when they talk about accountability, and we don't even bother watching Question Period, because watching all the posing and posturing just gets tiring. We don't even think anything else is possible anymore.

But Obama has changed this, not only for Americans, but for the rest of the world. His speeches about the audacity of hope made people believe that change in politics is actually possible. And what struck me in watching all the hoopla around his Canadian visit was the respect with which
he treated other people. Not just other politicians, but the press, and the general public. There was none of the usual attitude of 'I'm too important for this shit,' and man, was it refreshing.

Now, I'm not expecting Obama to be perfect. There will be changes and adjustments as he takes office. I would actually be worried if there were no revisions to policies, because, as former PM Mulroney said on The Hour the other night, being in office ain't the same as campaigning for it. Obama and his staff are in the midst of a monumental learning curve, and they have to have room to move. But it really heartened me to see the basic respect with which Obama treated the people around him, and I really think we could use a dose of that in Canadian politics. Respect, hope, and change have been in short supply, but that only makes them more valuable, not less. Here's hoping we can find someone on the Canadian political scene that can harness these scarce resources as well as Obama has, and give us a chance to say it - Yes, We Can. That, my friends, is something to get choked up about.

(*Apparently it's not short either. What can I say, I'm trying to wring every bit out of that mountain of student debt.)

22 February 2009

Not the soundtrack of the Oscars, but the Oscars as soundtrack.

You would think after 8 months with BabyA that I would've learned that one cannot pay close attention to Television Events and parent. Generally these days, I tend to catch bits and pieces of shows, but rarely an entire coherent narrative. So what in the hay-ell, you might ask, possessed me to think that I could watch the Oscars? While caring for sick baby, and making supper, and unpacking a new breadmaker, with the intention of making bread? That, my friends, is a most question.

Here's the thing - I love, love, love watching the Oscars. If I knew enough other people in this town who also loved the Oscars, I would host a party with those tiny little hors d'oeuvres and lots of alcohol and an Oscar pool. I would even host movie nights before the Oscars, just so we could all see the movies that have been nominated. I'm not sure why I love them so much, because I haven't usually seen all, or even most of the nominated movies. I usually end up just cheering for whatever I've seen. But I get a crazy kick of watching people dress up in ridiculously expensive and beautiful outfits and celebrate the wackiness that is Hollywood.

This year, I got to spend the evening with GeekDad who patiently sat through hours of boring entertainment stuff', and even gave me updates of what was happening while I unpacked groceries and made dinner.
"OK, now it's the best soundtrack. OK,. there's two songs from Slumdog, and one from Wall-E. OK, the one from Slumdog won."
All this while entertaining a slightly manic and sickly baby. The man is a gem, I tell you

I really didn't get to watch much of the Oscar broadcast at all - it was more like the they were soundtrack for my evening of doing other stuff. My overall impressions were lots of Hugh Jackman (which is NEVER a bad thing) and musicals (which is slightly more questionable). I think that the Oscar producers were/are trying to get back to an old-school dramatic feel, as opposed to the kind of cynical, self-reflexive comedy that they've gone with in recent years. Unfortunately, I didn't actually see enough of the broadcast to tell you whether or not it was successful. I came in about the time that Kunio Kato ended his acceptance speech for best animated short with "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto," and you know, I think that may have been the high point of the evening. By the time the big awards were on, BabyA had reached her limit, and we were off prepping her for bed.

Which brings me to what was the defining not for my weekend. BabyA's cold has reached that point where she is too stuffed up to breastfeed, and despite our best efforts at nasal hydration and homeopathic remedies, any attempts at feeding result in frustration on both our parts. I find it heart breaking, because I know she feels shitty, and I want nothing more than to comfort her, but everytime I try to cuddle her, she seems to become frustrated that I can't giver her what she wants. GeekDad actually rocked her to sleep for the first time tonight, which I'm ever so grateful for. I just wish it were under less stressful circumstances. All I can say is that I this had better not be a result of teething, because DAMN. This sick baby stuff is rough on all of us.

20 February 2009

How We Got to Here

So BabyA has contracted her first cold, and in addition to the endlessly runny nose and general clinginess, the worst symptom seems to be an inability to sleep at night. She'll go down for anywhere from 20 min to an hour, but then she's up and crying and snuffling and generally feeling miserable. Which leaves me feeling cranky and tired. This is, however, much better than the nasty flu which my nephew and neices have picked up. My youngest neice is two, and has had to visit the emergency room for an rehydration IV since she can't keep anything at all her stomach. I'm hoping BabyA hasn't picked this up, as we've been visiting with Seester and Junebug a fair bit. Fingers crossed.

On to other posting material. I've seen this relationship meme in various incarnations on Facebook and a number of websites, but I'm lifting this one from All & Sundry (Check her out - she rocks!!). I think it's kind of interesting, but I think it will be more interesting to revisit it a few years and see if any of my answers have changed.

What are your middle names?
Mine is Leah, his is Charles (same as his grandpa’s middle name).

How long have you been together?
8 1/2 years since we started dating, and a year and a half since we were married.

How long did you know each other before you started dating?
We met in May of 2000, and started dating in July.

Who asked whom out?
He asked me out, the cheeky kid (he was 18 when we started dating). I was kind of taken aback with how forward he was, but also flattered.

How old are each of you?
He is 27, and I’m 33. I know, I know, but seriously, he was the one chasing me!

Whose siblings do you see the most?
Right now we probably see my Seester and her family the most. My brother lives in Calgary, about 8 hours from us, so we don’t see them as much as I’d like. GeekDad is an only child, but he has a step-siblings, who we see fairly regularly, as they live in GP like us. And his step-sister and her family have just moved here from Atlanta, so I’m really looking forward to meeting them.

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
The period right after I had BabyA was pretty rough, what with me having a C-section, and GeekDad having mysterious chest pains, and neither of us having much in the way of sleep. Things have greatly improved since then, though.

Did you go to the same school?
The only school we’ve both attended is Grande Prairie Regional College. He did his business program there, and I did the first two years of my Bachelor’s degree there.

Are you from the same home town?
GeekDad was born and raised in Grande Prairie. I’ve lived all over Alberta, but insofar as I have a hometown, it would probably be GP. Both my parents live here, my grandparents lived here, and all of my family have lived here for a significant length of time.

Who is smarter?
I’ve got the academic credentials, but I don’t really think I’m any smarter than GeekDad. There isn’t anything I’ve studied that I can’t discuss and debate with him at home.

Who is the most sensitive?
Again, I’m not sure that one of us is more sensitive than the other. I definitely would say I’m the more tempermental one, and that this was magnified exponentially during my pregnancy. My hormones were all over the place, and I’d go from ecstatic to tearful to furious in literally about 3 seconds flat. We called them my MDK (Murder-Death-Kill) moments. It totally drove me crazy to be so out of control with my emotions, but GeekDad was incredibly patient and understanding. He’d just let me have my crying or yelling fit, wait for me to figure out I was acting nuts, and comfort me when I apologized through my tears. I really couldn’t have asked for a more understanding guy.

Where do you eat out most as a couple??
Eat out as a couple??!! BWAAAAHAAAHAAAHAAAA!! Seriously, we have an 8 month old baby. We went out for our first meal as a couple since we had BabyA for Valentines, and it was to the Keg. I think it could have been KFC and it would have been wonderful.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
Vancouver, for our honeymoon. We’ve both been to New York since we’ve been together, but not as a couple. I went for work, and he went for school. We’d like to go together and visit Cindy and Junior and Sebastian, friends who live there.

Who has the craziest exes?
Neither of us, thank god.

Who has the worst temper?
Again, probably me, although in my defense I tend to get mad, yell, and the apologize for yelling and proceed to discussing whatever it is that is bothering me as a sane person.

Who does the cooking?
GeekDad can cook breakfast (bacon & eggs) and make decent sandwiches, but I’m the one who does the actually preparation of meals. The bonus here is that I love cooking. It’s a little bit of an escape for my brain, and there is nothing better than watching someone taste something you’ve cooked and see a look of delight spread across their face.

Who is the neat-freak?
That would definitely be GeekDad. He is the tidy one, the organizer, and I am of the whatever, leave-it-where-it-lies school. However, GeekDad’s neatness doesn’t necessarily translate into him cleaning up after me. Sigh.

Who is more stubborn?
I don’t really think either of us is that stubborn. We’re pretty good at discussing and compromising. However, I admit that once in a while I will get a bee in my bonnet about something, and be a general pain in the ass about it.

Who hogs the bed??
That would be BabyA. Before her, it was our cats. I guess we need to take ownership of our bed back.

Who wakes up earlier?
GeekDad, but mostly just because his work hours have started ealier than mine. On weekends, I’m usually up first. Not early, but first.

Where was your first date??
You know, neither of us can remember. When we got together, I were living 5 hours apart. The first weekend we got together we spent with our friends, and after that it wasn’t so much a date as spending whatever weekends we could together.

Who is more jealous?
I don’t think either of us is jealous. We certainly haven’t had any incidences where jealousy was an issue.

How long did it take to get serious?
Not very long at all. We started dating in July, and moved in together unofficially by December. This was due in large part to my moving back to GP when my father had a nervous breakdown. Not only did GeekDad stick around through that, but he was an incredible support to me and my family. After our relationship survived all of that crap, I knew we could make it really work.

Who eats more?
GeekDad probably eats more at meals, and I tend to be a snacker. Especially late at night. It’s a bad habit, and one that I am working on changing.

Who does the laundry?
Mostly me. I was going to say that this is because I don’t trust GeekDad to do my delicate stuff, but that isn’t really true. GeekDad tends to pull the “I don’t know what I’m doing. Isn’t it easier to just do it yourself?” card here, which is just malarky and he knows it. While I’m at home with BabyA, I’ve taken ownership of the household chores to a greater degree, but I think once I get back to work, we’re going to have to have a chat about this.

Who’s better with the computer?
I spend more time on the computer, and definitely more on the web. I have computer control issues, and watching other people computing drives me crazy. The itch to just do it myself is overwhelming. I think this comes from the same place as my impluse to finish other people’s sentances for them. I know it’s a bad habit, but I seem to have very little control over it. That said, GeekDad is definitely better with design and photoshop programs.

Who drives when you are together?
Normally that would be me – again with the control issues. GeekDad says I get too critical of what he’s doing, and it’s less stressful if I just drive. I am learning to change this, however, because with BabyA’s carseat, we have to move the passenger seat forward in our car, and GeekDad doesn’t fit (he’s 6’4”). And he’s probably the better driver anyway, just less assertive than I would like at times.

18 February 2009

I'm a little late, and a lot anti-valentine...

As everyone knows, this last weekend was Valentine's Day. Now I'm in a happy and healthy relationship, and have been for a number of years, but I'm still more of the school of anti-Valentine's parties and Valentine's sucks cards. One year I made anti-Valentine cookies with a friend - they were cookies decorated with broken and bleeding hearts and messages of hatred and gloom. It was one of my favorite Valentine's Days ever.

However, that sort of thing is less appropriate when one is happily married, so GeekDad and I celebrated our Valentine's with our first dinner out without BabyA. I've written here before about how much work it is to eat out with a Baby, but I really had forgotten how NICE it is to be able to eat an entire meal without handing out crackers and making funny faces and wiping mush from a little face. I love my daughter, but I REALLY enjoyed my meal out. This was the first time in a long time GeekDad and I were able to have a conversation, and not just talk, and I was reminded how lucky I am to be with someone who gets me.

Which brings me to the actual topic of this post. It's been on my mind quite a bit lately, probably because of all the Valentine's hoopla, and also a conversation I heard on CBC radio, and another I had with my Seester. We were talking last week about relationships, and marriage, and babies, and one of the things we discussed was how I found it very frustrating in the churches I attended was this annoying emphasis on finding THE RIGHT ONE. There's this whole movement where you are supposed to pray that God will bring the right person into your life, which I think is really problematic. First, I'm not a believer in the whole idea of soul-mates, which is really what THE RIGHT ONE means. I don't think there is one person with whom you are compatible. There are people with whom you are more compatible, and people with whom you are less so. But relationships, and marriage, if that's for you, is about finding one of those compatible people, and then working your ass off at becoming the RIGHT ONE for them.

Because relationships are work - a lot of work. You start with getting used to co-habitating with someone, with all those things that are fun, but also all those annoying habits, and differences in handling meals, and chores, and even in how you communicate. And then you add in all those stressful life events, like the death of loved ones, and moving to a new house or a new city, and losing a job, and finding a new one. Throw a kid or two into the mix, and things get even tougher. And you start to see how this person handles stress, and whether they remember to keep talking to you, and sometimes you talk to each other, and sometimes you just let each other rest, so you can actually handle talking to each other again. You get angry, you get frustrated, you get sad.

But you also work at finding ways to take care of this person, this partner. You learn when to make them talk, and when to just let them be, to sleep, or think, or get their mind to a different place. You think about ways to show them you love them, whether it's little or big. You find ways to make their family happy, because you know it makes them happy. And you talk and fight and make love and compromise and WORK. And if you're lucky, they do all those things for you too. And somewhere down the road, you discover that you haven't found the right one, you've become the right one, and this person has become your right one, because of all the work and love and talking and fighting and compromise.

I think this is why I'm not such a fan of Valentine's Day, because it seems more about infatuation than love. The gestures of Valentine's Day are nice, but they are peanuts beside all those things that really make a relationship work. And the truth is that you don't find a Valentine, you make one. Don't get me wrong, I totally get that even finding someone with whom you are compatible and who feels the same way about you is hard, and not really fun, and can absolutely suck alot of the time. But I think if people were allowing themselves to look for someone they could work at a relationship with, and not magically have a relationship with, it might be just a little bit easier.

I am so lucky, because my partner in geekdom, my GeekDad, knows from work. He does all of these things, the love and the talking and the work, for me, and inspires me to do these things for him. And I hope that with alot of work and a little luck and just buckets and buckets of love, we will continue to work at being the right one for each other. So I won't wish him or you a happy Vaalentine's Day. I'll say to my GeekDad - I love you, and thank you for everything. And I will wish all of you the joy of a labour of love!