Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Ontario Water Buffalo Company

Co-owner Lori Smith
   It was one beautiful day!  The sun was shining, and it was gloriously warm, not too warm, just right.  We loaded up the kids and Grace's friend Taylor and headed out to see the farms that were taking place in this week-end's "Get To Know Your Farmer", sponsored by Harvest Hastings.  The drive to the Stirling area was beautiful.  The tips of the leaves are beginning to turn those beautiful fall shades.  The kids were all in the back of the van happily chatting.  The world was a good place to be in!

        Back in June we attended the Great Canadian Cheese Festival.  The festival was AMAZING!  There was a children's area. At the children's area was penned water buffalo and a baby or two.  I discovered that the water buffalo farm was in Stirling.  I wanted to visit this farm.  This desire to visit the water buffalo farm became more intense when I drove past the farm and saw a school bus in their driveway.  This told me they gave tours.  You can well imagine how excited I was when I saw them listed on Harvest Hastings "Get To Know Your Farmer".

Riley found a new friend
    We pulled up the driveway and saw this lady riding on her lawn mower, wearing a big smile, and giving us a friendly wave.  We poured out of the van, unsure how much we would have time to see. The "Get To Know Your Farmer" listed the tours for this farm from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  We arrived at 11:45 (why you may ask if you really wanted to visit this farm would you leave your house at 11:00?  The answer to that question is easy, Grace and Taylor.  Two tween girls were up until the wee hours, giggling and watching movies.  These same tween girls were reluctant to wake up in the morning.  After they had awoken and eaten, they really needed to primp.  After much yelling and threatening I got all 5 kids loaded into the van).   Shortly after we all spilled out of the van, the friendly lady came up to us and told us that we were not too late, she would give us a tour.  That friendly, and now I know, really nice lady was Lori Smith.  Lori reassured us that it was alright that we were late, she would still give us a tour... yeah!

    Lori took us into the barn and showed us the babies.  One of the babies was only three days old, and HUGE.  I expected this wobbly little creature, and saw this sturdy big creature.  We asked if we could pat the babies (it's always important to ask).  She said that we could, and within a heartbeat we descended upon the babies.  I was expecting them to feel like velvet, but they didn't.  Their coat felt more wiry.  I was also surprised how docile the babies were.  The little one really was leaning into Lori wanting loved.  It was really neat to see.  In the barn also was this adorable little kitten.  Riley (our animal person) fell in love.  After being given permission by Lori, Riley clutched that baby into her, cooing at it.  "I sure wish that I could have a baby kitten like this one" she begged.  I assured her that that would not be happening, so she could keep her wish.

    After we had seen the babies, Lori took us out to see the Mamas, a.k.a the milkers, a.k.a. their bread and butter .  The adult water buffalo look like exotic cows.  They also make a funny honk noise.  It was almost like a ventriloquist show, where I was expecting a "moo", but was taken aback by the honk.  Lori and her partner, Martin Littkemann have 200 head of water buffalo (I think you would call water buffalo "head").  They ship their milk to Toronto where the Bella Casara label make it into mozzarella cheese.
    Water Buffalo are native to South Asia.  It seems funny to discover that Water Buffalo mozzarella is much prized in Italy, and that the best milk producing water buffalo have been specifically bred in Italy.  So how was an animal from South Asia, introduced to Italy?  My first thoughts were the nature of the Romans.  The Roman's took plunder in the form of treasure, animals and people, from all of the places that they conquered, and there were a lot of places that they conquered.  There is a legend that claims the water buffalo were brought to Italy by Hannibal (who lived in 249 - 219 BCE).  Some say that Cleopatra introduced Marc Anthony to water buffalo mozzarella, and he in turn wanting to impress his friend Caesar sent both water buffalo and the recipe for the cheese to Rome.  What we do know is that there are recorded writings of Italians eating water buffalo mozzarella in the 12 the century.  However they made their way to Italy, the fact is that the Italians LOVE their water buffalo mozzarella, and the Italian bred water buffalo are the prized breed.  There are actually, and this surprised me over 30 different types of water buffalo, who knew?  The Italian water buffalo yields the most milk over all other types, but not as much as a Holstein cow.
    Martin and Lori are the first Water Buffalo farm in Ontario.  There are a few in the U.S. and in British Columbia.  Their animals looked well loved and well cared for, which is a nice thing to see.  What was neat was the site of a few of the water buffalo bathing in a big water hole.  When Lori caught my gaze she laughingly told me that that watering hole was not there before the water buffalo.  The water buffalo dug the hole themselves.  I told her that she could have made a real killing this summer if she had rented them out to other farmers (this year in our part of Ontario we had a drought).

    Just before we left, Lori asked what the kids names were.  We told her, and she told us that they had a "Taylor", and a "Grace" and a "Chris" and an "Elisha" water buffalo.  This tickled all of our funny bones.  Before we left we went and got a picture with Elisha the 3 year old girl and Elisha the 3 week old water buffalo.  Elly thought it was pretty neat, as you can see by her face.

    We had a great time at The Ontario Water Buffalo Company.  Lori could not have been nicer if she'd tried.  Before we left we purchased some water buffalo beef jerky, some water buffalo pepperettes, and some water buffalo smoked cheddar cheese.  Lori cut of some of the regular water buffalo cheddar cheese and the smoked cheddar for us to try.  Both were delicious!  The cheddar did not taste like your traditional cheddar cheese.  It was different, and yet so tasty.  It was by unanimous decision that we purchase some of the smoked cheddar.  Christopher said that to him the smoked cheddar tasted like a cheese that had been wrapped in beef jerky, a delicious combination!  Thank you Lori for taking the time to show us around, we REALLY enjoyed it.

    If you want to find out more about The Ontario Water Buffalo Company click the link below. 

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Friday, 28 September 2012

What Do You Blog About?

    Recently I was talking to a lady I know.  I mentioned in passing that I was now writing a blog.  Her face lit up with interest, I had her in the palm of my hand.  "What do you blog about?" the look on her face said that she thought maybe I blogged about the cure for cancer that I had found, or some dinosaur bones I had extricated from the back yard.  "I blog about my daily life." I told her.
It was at this point that the interest left her face, "But aren't you a stay at home mom?".  Now she was hurting my feelings, but I trained my face to look indifferent (at least I hope that's what it looked like, it may have looked like I was constipated, I didn't have a mirror), "Yes", I said, trying to remove the injury not only from my face, but from my voice.  "And people read it?" she asked, with her face all screwed up. I don't think she was trying to be mean spirited, just perhaps lacking in tact.  It was at this point that I may have exaggerated the truth, maybe just a little.  I told her that I had hundreds of followers (in reality I only have 11).  "Oh I don't know why anyone would want to read it, but they sure do!"  I then made some excuse why I had to leave her company.
    I emotionally limped away from that conversation, proverbial tail between my legs.  Now an emotionally strong person would just slough this off, but as you may know, I am not emotionally strong, at least not in that way.  The old bully that lives in the back part of my brain came out for a visit.
"You know she's right, why would anyone want to hear what you have to say?  Who do you really think you are?"  Sometimes that bully can be pretty mean spirited.  I was acknowledging the bully's words, when my inner fighter came out.  "Oh my life is anything but boring." I truthfully reassured myself (if you are wondering if I am insane at this point, you may be correct.  Do you mean that you do not conduct inner dialogues in your brain?).  No I am not finding the cure for cancer, but I am raising little human beings who may.  I am molding and shaping our future.  That sounds very high handed with the praise, but it is the truth.
    I have often looked at Christopher and wondered aloud how we have ever been able to get through our lives as emotionally intact as we have.  I truly have a wealth of knowledge to share with the world. My life has been anything BUT boring, boring would be a big improvement over most of what I have lived through.  I married my university sweetheart, only to discover that we were not emotionally mature enough to be married.  This discovery happened after the birth of our first born son.  I was a single mother at age 24.  I worked hard to make a better life for Gabriel and I.  After being separated for 5 years, (and not dating in between because I did not feel it was fair to Gabriel), I rediscovered love with my now matured first husband.  I suffered a miscarriage that nearly killed me (emotionally), and naively at that time thought was the worst pain imaginable.  I conceived and then gave birth to a beautiful little girl.  My husband and I became foster parents to two children, a brother an a sister, and made a difference in their lives.  I had to sit idly back and watch these two children returned to their mentally unstable mother, a mother who had starved them, and left them to raise themselves.  I had two more miscarriages.  I discovered that I was expecting twins (months after the ultrasound in which the ultrasound technician had told me it was a single pregnancy).  I carried my twins nearly to term (36 weeks) and gave birth to a 6 pound 12 oz boy and a 6 pound 4 oz girl, both huge by twin standards.  When my twins were only 5 months old, my two oldest children and I were in a catastrophic accident.  I was half an hour away from bleeding to death in a hospital bed (the hospital was ill-equipped to handle an accident such as ours, and because I was not making a lot of noise they forgot about me).  I stood in the freezing cold darkness, waiting for an ambulance (that had gotten lost) all the while trying to wake my unconscious child, and calm my three year old who had a car seat wedged into her leg, breaking the bone.  We waited for hours for help to come.  I prayed and lived in hope that my child would recover from his brain injury, all the while I received blood transfusions and pain medication.  I held my 9 year old first born son while he died on Christmas Eve.  I was released from hospital before I should have been because I had to plan a funeral for my 9 year old son.  I have had to care for infant twins, and a physically and emotionally damaged 3 year old who suffered from night terrors and was terrified of policemen, firefighters, and ambulance sirens, and terrified of the darkness.  I have nursed that damaged 3 year old through 5 surgeries in 7 years.  I have had lived through chronic pain because of injuries in the car accident, and many surgeries of my own.  I became pregnant at age 36 with a child, not to replace my lost child, but to fill the gap he left in our home and in our hearts.  I spent a month of my life in hospital because of complications in my pregnancy.  Throughout all of this I have run a children's charity that supplies winter clothing for local children at no cost to them.  I have done this for the last 15 years.  I volunteer at my children's schools.  I sat on the parent council for our school, and last year became the chair.  I do all of this and have come through all of this still with the mindset that I am a mother before everything else.  I would lay down my life for my children, and nearly did.  Yes I am a stay at home mother, but my life has been anything but boring!
    Here's the thing, we all have gifts.  Who among us has not felt like they were the only one going through an ordeal, be it big or small?  Who has not wished that they had someone to talk to, someone to assure them that what they are going through is normal.  Who has not wished for someone to hold their hand in their darkest hour and reassure them that life will be o.k. in the end?  I would like to be that hand.  I feel like by sharing my life experience, I might help another person through their ordeal.  If I can still have a sense of humour about my life, after I have walked through Hell and back, maybe you can too.
    What do I blog about?  I blog about my life.  I blog about my everyday life.  My life is never boring, even though I sometimes wish that is was.  I blog about the life that I am making for my children, and for myself.  I blog about our adventures, and those adventures are important.  I blog about how I am making memories, both good and bad for children.  I blog therefore I am.

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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Family Harvest Fun This Week-end

    I am extremely lucky to live where I do.  I live in rural Ontario.  I am very fortunate to be able to visit local farmers and purchase my food.  There is something to be said for knowing where your food comes from.  I know that I sound like a broken record on this one, but my local farmers eat the same food that I buy from them.  If they would not serve it to their children, then I should not serve it to mine.  Right now my children's bodies are still being made, shouldn't I give them the best to help them to grow?  Besides, fresh food tastes the best!  It tastes so much different than the food that you buy at the grocery store that has been shipped in from God knows where, and sat for who knows how long.
    This week-end (September 29-30) there are some really exciting things going on in my area (and possibly your own).  It's harvest time!  To celebrate the bounty, many local farmers are opening their doors to the public.  That means that I can take my kids from farm to farm.  The kids will get the amazing opportunity to see where their food comes from, and I get the opportunity to purchase beautiful fresh foods from my local farmers.  Next week-end is Thanksgiving, so I might just see how many fresh ingredients that I can get for our big feast.  I have never heard of this Harvest week-end before, but I am pretty excited to take part!

I sure hope that Harvest Hastings don't mind that I stole their poster.

    The really exciting thing about this week-end is on Sunday night.  On Sunday night, local chief, Matt Riga from Port Bistro Pub will be cooking up a locally grown feast at the Tweed Pavilion.  Tweed is the home of one of the last remaining dance pavilions.  It was lovingly restored a few years back by our local Kinsman Club.  The Harvest Supper will take place on Sunday, September 30 from 4 - 8.  Chief Matt will be preparing butternut soup, salad with mixd greens, beets, feta and local apples to begin the feast.  The main coarse will be beef stew.  For dessert home made ice-cream.  There will be hand crafted bread made with local Red Fife wheat flour, topped with Stirling Creamery butter.  To drink, fresh apple cidar, herbal teas from Porcupine Creek Farms, and Keep it Simple Coffee roasted in Stirling.  The meal will be prepared using local ingredients.  The tickets are $25 for adults, kids 12 and under are $5, and ages 5 and under are free.  If you want to come, get your tickets quick call 6132-395-4388, or  It sounds like a really fun evening.  It will be nice to feel the crisp air, while surrounded by family, friends and neighbours, all the while eating a delicious feast with local ingredients, I can't wait!

    As well as the farm tours and harvest supper, there are "farmer to farmer" workshops going on around Hastings County.  On Saturday, September 29 Karyn Wright will be leading a workshop on seed saving.  This is one that my Mom will really want to attend.  Every fall my Mom has paper towels filled with her seeds scattered all over the house.  She tries to select her plants that did the best that season, and save them for next season.  The seed saving workshop will be September 29 at The Village Green, 525 Ashley Street, in Foxboro, Ontario from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00.

    On Sunday, September 30 Diane McPherson will be at Grills Orchards leading a workshop on storing fruits and vegetables for the winter.  This will take place at Grills Orchards 886 Grills Road, Belleville.  Just imagine being able to purchase the beautiful local fruits and vegetables from our local farmers, and being able to use them all winter.  It would be nice to be able to do that.  If you are interested in this workshop, call 6132-968-6757.

    I am pretty excited about all of the fun and interesting  things that are taking place.  It's hard to decide which ones to go to.  Off the top of my head I'm thinking we will definitely be visiting the Water Buffalo farm and the Alpaca farm, and of coarse the Harvest Supper (all of this providing that Elly recovers from her scarlet fever).  The rest will be a fun adventure.  Even if you don't live around here, I'm sure that your local farmers will be selling their wares, and maybe even having an open house.  If you live in the city, this is a great opportunity to show your kids where their food comes from, and take a fun trip to the country.  Hope you have a fun, adventure filled week-end ... get planning!

    Don't forget, I'm in a contest for Canada's Top Mom Bloggers, and I need your vote!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Gracie's Class Project - The Tyendinaga Mohawk People

    I love when the kids have class projects.  I know from speaking to other parents that I am in the minority. To me it is an excellent opportunity for them to learn and for us to spend time together.  I am really a big nerd, and I love to learn new things, especially history.  All of our family vacations involve an educational aspect... because I'm a nerd.  I want to pass along my love of learning to the kids. 
    This year Grace has to do a research project about a Canadian Native Peoples.  She could easily go to the library and look at books, or she could go on the internet and research.  She could do this, but would it be factual?  History is recorded by the people who are in power, and it is from their perspective.  History is not always fact, it is scud by the person or group writing it.  Would it not be better to take your information from a reliable source?  
    We are very fortunate to have the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and the Alderville First  Nation so close by.  The Tyendinaga Mohawk, are part of the Iroquois / Six Nations Confederacy and the Alderville First Nation are a band of Mississaugas, a sub-nation of the Ojibwas.  I suggested to Grace that she ask her teacher if she could select one of these tribes to write her report on.  We would be able to ask someone if they could take some time and speak to us about their tribe.  Grace selected the Mohawk people.
    I got into contact with the Tyendinaga Mohawk Council and asked if they might be able to suggest someone that Grace might speak to.  We were referred to Lisa Maracle, and given her phone number and email address.  Through email conversations we were able to arrange a time to meet.  This was an amazing opportunity for Grace.
    I have to admit to being a little nervous about speaking to this lady.  It was so kind of her to set aside time, but I was nervous that I may say something insensitive.  The European people came to North America and took everything that they wanted with no regard for the land itself, or the people who already lived here.  They took what was not theirs to take, and doled out the leftovers to the rightful owners and expected them to be grateful.  This is not an ancient history, in terms of time, it is just a short time ago.  It was for this reason that it took me so long to attend a Pow Wow.  I had wanted to take the kids for a long time, but I did not want to be an interloper.  I was nervous, and yet when I went I was made to feel welcome, and we had a wonderful time!
    It turns out that I had no reason to be the least bit nervous, Lisa Maracle was lovely and gracious, and very, very helpful.  She answered all of Grace's questions and my own questions ( questions that had little to do with Grace's project, but were very interesting to me).  She gave us a brief history of how the Mohawk's came to live in the Bay of Quinte region.  She told us about how the Mohawk people had once lived in New York.  They had decided to remain observers in the American Revolution.  Eventually the Mohawk people sided with the British in that war.  When the war was over, they did not feel comfortable or welcome in their own homeland.  They made arrangements with the British to re-establish themselves in their fishing grounds of the Bay of Quinte.  Some of the tribe made arrangements to settle in the now Brantford, Ontario.  I sat there fascinated.  I kept thinking about what she was telling us about her people, and then thinking about what I knew of Canadian history.  I felt like I was really connecting the dots.
    Grace and I had a wonderful afternoon, speaking to a really nice and helpful woman.  I walked away with a better understanding of our neighbours, and Grace left with valuable information for her school project.  Lisa gave us an hour and a half of her time, her very valuable time.  Thank you Lisa.  Thank you for your time, thank you for putting us at ease, thank you for sharing your culture.

Getting Ready For Winter

   Sunday afternoon Rowan went over to a friend's house, and Riley had a friend over, Elly went for a visit and Nana and Popa's house, Grace, well Grace slept away most of the afternoon (she thinks she's a teenager).  That left me some free time.  I have been in itching to make pies since we picked 20 pounds of Empire and McIntosh apples, but just could not find the time.  This was my chance!
    The days are getting shorter, and noticeably cooler, which means that winter is just around the corner ( I hate winter, imagine that last statement with a childish stamp of my foot for effect).  It's funny in most ways I resemble my mother's family.  When I was little I would look in the mirror of ages trying to distinguish something of my father.  The eye colour looking back at me was his foot hold.  What I have discovered is that although I do not so much physically look like him, I have a lot of his traits (some not so awesome ones too).  My father comes from a long line of pioneers.  People who worked this hard land, and survived.  To them if they did not lay down stores for winter, they did not survive!  For me, I can just go to the grocery store in the winter, and yet there is that involuntary genetic throw back that demands that I make winter preparations.
    I am not sure how making and freezing pie will see us through our harsh winter, but hey, it is laying down stores of a sort.  All afternoon I worked.  I made my dough, cut my apples, mixed my toppings.  I  also made two big apple brown bettys for dessert.  The house smelled amazing!  In the end I had four beautiful pies, two traditional and two dutch (apple brown betty topping on the top instead of pastry).  The trick came when it was time to put them into freezer bags and then into the freezer.  Apparently "large"freezer bags are big enough to cover them, but not big enough to tie them.  The store did not have "extra large" bags, so I had to get creative.  I used scotch tape to fasten them shut.  I'm pretty sure that they will get freezer burn, but then again that is using the notion that they will be down there long enough to "get freezer burn".  Around here baked goods generally do not last very long.
   Those four pies should really see us through the harsh winter that lies ahead... well maybe not.  Turns out I would not have been a very smart pioneer.  I would be smugly surrounded by pies while my fellow pioneers would have been salting meat, and doing preserves.  They might survive the winter, but we would have dessert for every meal, meals that were made up of ... dessert, until it all went bad that is.  So maybe the pioneer gene only went so far as storing for the winter, not being smart about it.

Here's another contest.  It sure would be mighty nice of you to take a second to vote for me.
(do you like how I asked that in pioneer talk?)

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Unknown Rash and the Crabby Girl

This picture does not really capture the rash.

    There are times that I feel like Sherlock Homes (without the aid of Watson), o.k. most times I feel like Sherlock Homes.  At our house it seems like there is always some mystery to solve (maybe I should paint up the van to look like the Mystery Machine).  I do not like the unknown.  The unknown has been known to keep up all night.  I have to figure it out, even if it kills me, and everyone else around me.  I am a person that needs to know the answers.
    Today's mystery is Elly's rash.  She had a cold with a sore throat and cough last week, all the kids did.  Friday she started to complain about her ear hurting.  We should probably have a share in Amoxicillin, because my girls survive the winter on the stuff because of ear infections.  She's also been complaining when we pick her up under her arms.  I figured that she has glands up.  She was running a low fever for the past few days.  It was on Saturday that we noticed the weird raised red shadows under her eyes.  Saturday afternoon Christopher took her into the walk in clinic while I had Rowan and Riley at tumbling.  The doctor at the clinic did not notice her eyes, and said her ear was just pink, not antibiotic worthy. By Saturday night she looked like a football player who had gone for red grease paint instead of black.  Sunday morning the raised red rash under her eyes had become bigger. By Sunday afternoon the rash nearly covered her face, and was now on her underarms and trunk of her body.  Did I mention that through all of it she was extremely crabby?
    Now it was mystery time.  It did not look like Fifths Disease (also known as slap face), at least it didn't look like when the big kids all had it.  My Mom saw it and keeps saying that she would swear that it was measles.  Elly has been vaccinated against measles, but stranger things have happened.  I went to the computer and put "rash" into the search engine, nothing helpful came up.  If only Doctor House was here!  I was at a loss.  I kept repeating to myself what I did know... she had been sick, she had had a fever, and then the rash.  Most viruses that involve rashes (chicken pox, Roseola, Fifth Disease) that I know of seem to follow the same M.O., fever, then rash.
    This morning Elly woke up with even more rash.  Her little eyes were now swollen, and the eyelids purple.  She was miserable, and crying because she itched so much.  Since the rash started I have been giving her Benadryl, but it has made no difference.  Last night I gave her an oatmeal bath, it really did not help.  I called the school to let them know that she would not be in today, and asked the secretary if she knew of any rash bugs going around.  She sounded surprised and said that she did not.  Now I had to go for the big guns... I called my family doctor.
    Unfortunately my family doctor, although nice, did not have any answers for me.  He said that it looked like an allergic reaction.  I told him that she had not had any new foods, or been exposed to anything new, and that Benadryl had not helped.  Casually he told me that Benadryl does not really work for kids (then why do they sell it).  Maybe she's allergic to the virus.  Doesn't he know that
I NEED TO KNOW WHAT THIS IS CALLED!!!!  I am away home knowing pretty much what I knew when I left the house.  I know what it's not.  Its' not measles and it's not Fifths Disease. Oh the joys of motherhood.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Tales of A Not So Talented Domestic Goddess.

    You may notice that I never refer to myself as a "housewife".  There is a reason for that, I'm honest.  I am a terrible housekeeper (just ask anyone who has ever been to my house).  It goes beyond messy.  I like to watch "Hoarders" because it makes me feel better about my housekeeping skills, or lack there of.  I have a list of excuses the length of my arm for reasons that I "can't" clean.  Some of them are really good, and the odd one is actually believable!
    I hate that panicked feeling when someone calls to say that they are dropping over.  It is at that point that I see the house the way it truly looks.  Ordinarily I will look around and see it as "messy", I become immune to the actuality of it.  The waves of dirty panic come over me when I "have" to clean.  Cold sweat, dripping down my back, my eyes huge and crazed, oh it's not good.  I begin frantically grabbing items and throwing them into my bedroom.  God help the kids if they get in my way.  By the time I am done my bedroom is more like a hazardous waste site, and opening the door comes at a risk.  I begin pacing like a wild animal, trying to see the house the way others might see it.  I then realize that I am playing a loosing game.  As I am cleaning (well cleaning is not really the word I would use, it's more like re-distributing) I am coming up with my lists of reasons why the house looks like it does.  I can get pretty creative.
    I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person (some might argue with me about this one).  If every time you opened your front door you got hit in the face with a mallet, might you not start using your back door?  Not me, every time I would be surprised that I got hit in face with the mallet.  I make myself a promise that I will never be so humiliated again, I will be proactive and keep the house clean.  I concoct elaborate plans as to how I will achieve that.  I put more time into my elaborate plans than I do into the cleaning, and ...humiliation!
    Do you think that a club exists for dirty pigs?  If not, maybe I could put one together, I could plan meetings and make fancy badges, come up with a cool hand shake... all the while putting off doing my housework, yes this could work.

Friday, 21 September 2012

All Day Every Day Kindergarden... Yuck!

    This year is Elly's first year of school, it is also our school's first year of "all day everyday kindergarden".  I was not impressed with this concept.  These are 3 and 4 year olds for goodness sakes.  I wrestled with my own feelings.  I did not think that Elly was up for all day everyday. I did not want my last baby to be away from me everyday.  I felt like I was giving away valuable time that I had with my last baby.  I made a lot of "I" statements, and then it dawned on me... "I" wasn't ready, but maybe she was.  Begrudgingly I sent her.
   Elly loved her first day of school.  She did not understand the concept of going to school "every day".      When I told her that she had to go on Wednesday, her reply was "No, I just go Tuesdays."  We only sent her to nursery school one morning a week.  She thought that junior kindergarden would be the same, even though we had repeatedly told her she would go everyday.
    The second week of school she decided that she did not like school, and did not want to go anymore.  We went through the list of reasons why she liked school.  She liked her teacher?  She Mrs. Eady is really nice.  She liked her helpers?  Yes they were really nice.  After much questioning she came to tell us that one of the little girls in her class kicked her.  What is funny about this, is that at our house Elly is a little too ready with her little hands to settle arguments with the big kids (even though we have a pretty strict hands off policy in our house).  I then asked all the other questions, does she hurt you everyday?  No, that little girl did not hurt her everyday, just the once.  Just once was too much for Elly.
    We have reached a decision about all day everyday kindergarden.  It's too much for our little girl.  I am missing special time with her.  The big kids all went every other day for kindergarden.  We had some amazing times on the days that they did not go to school.  I made an extra effort, because I knew "our" time was coming to close.  That sounds very overly dramatic, but it's true.  Until age 4 their father and I were the main people in their lives.  I spent 12 waking hours a day with them.  I helped to shape them.  At age 4 I handed them over to strangers.  I was now only spending 5 hours a day with them.  I was no longer the only person who shaped them (control freak me, oh never).  I was giving away valuable time with Elly, time that I can never have back.
    After some serious thought, and a lot of discussion (Christopher may be inclined to tell you way too much discussion), we decided to keep Elly home on Fridays.  She doesn't turn 4 until the middle of October.  Four days a week are plenty, and keeping her home Fridays gives her special Mommy Elly time.  It seems like a good compromise to me.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Tell Me Again Why I Thought A Puppy Was A Good Idea?

    Here is what I forgot about having a puppy, it's a lot like having a toddler, and I HATE that stage!  Nothing is safe!  If they can reach it, they think it's theirs, oh no, I do not like this stage, I do not like it Sam I Am.  This is not my favourite stage at all.

    It is hard to believe that the scared little puppy I adopted from the Humane Society is the same Dog that is currently so worn out from destroying everything that he can get his dirty little teeth into, he is passed out on the couch (oh, he's not supposed to be on the couch).  He is like a cute rein of terror, roaming our house.  I kind of miss that scared little dog who was too afraid to move from his blanket (notice I said "his" blanket and not the couch).  
    It has been 15 years since I have had a puppy.  Prior to Maggie, I had never had my own dog.  I forgot how much work it was.  It's akin to wanting a baby after your first one is older.  You only think about how nice it will be to have a baby, and then the farther along in the pregnancy you get, the more the self imposed pain- amnesia comes back.  It peaks the hysteria meter when that first labour pain comes on and you realize that this may have been a bad idea, and why was no one hitting you in the head with a hammer to take away this pain?  Having a puppy is a little like that.
    I came home yesterday after only being gone for a few hours (Rowan had an eye appointment) to discover that a tornado had ripped through my home, a tornado named FERGUS.  The pee pads I had laid in two parts of the house to help him learn to go to the bathroom outside, had been torn and strewn around the whole freaking house (my smart assed husband upon seeing this sarcastically told me he was glad I had spent money on them, they really helped). He greeted me at the door with the toilet scrubber hanging out of his mouth like a very large cigar.  Can dogs be hoarders?  Maybe I should shop that one out to Animal Planet "Puppy Hoarders".  Fergus likes to take his contraband and put it into a pile.  The pile usually consists of one of everyone in the house's shoes, and the dust pan which not all of that long ago he was deathly afraid of.
    Here is what saves that little dogs life... he's really, really cute.  At night when the kids are asleep, and it's relaxing time (you know that half hour), he either cries at my feet, or now has become a little more bold and jumps on my lap.  He likes it when I hold him like a baby (on his back, with his head in the crook of my arm).  It is that "cute" that saves his little black and white hide.  The other night I came into the living room only to find Fergus on Christopher's lap (you know that man that put his foot down and declared that we would not have any more pets).  "You're right, this is really relaxing".  I smiled.  I guess although Fergus is a holy terror, so are the kids, maybe we're used to it.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

"Playing House"

    I stood in the laundry room, folding laundry.  I had the back door open to let in some fresh air.  I stood there listening to the kids play on the deck.  I love to listen to them play (when they are not fighting).  On this day day they had decided to play "House".  "House" is their new favourite game to play.  They rush home from school to play house, on the week-ends the day is spent "playing house".

    Their version of house is not your ordinary game of "house".  Grace takes on the role of boss of the game, and script writer.  She is the oldest and feels that she knows the best.  Riley is not one to take orders from anyone (that apple may not fall far from the tree).  She plays along if it suits her.  Rowan is easy going and does not seem to mind being bossed around, as long as he has a little say.  Elly, well she's Elly.

    Before the game begins each person must know their character.  A rough plot has been sketched.   It had been decided that Grace and Riley were Mothers.  They were both mothers and were also sisters.  Grace played much of the game with three baby dolls stuffed down her shirt, because she was pregnant with triplets, but didn't know it... yet.  Riley just had the one baby which she carried around in an old baby carrier.  Rowan is always "the dad", being the only boy.  Today there was no fighting over who's husband he would be, he was Riley's husband (he usually is).  Apparently this husband smoked sticks.  I'm not sure why he decided that the husband should smoke, as he does not even know anyone who smokes, but apparently his character smoked... sticks.  Elly was Grace's little girl, and spent much of the game just saying "moma".  Fergus would be Riley and Rowan's dog. The plot was someone complex, and akin to something from a soap opera.  I stood there spell struck, fighting back laughter.  Grace's babies kept kicking her something terrible.  Apparently Rowan did not have a name, he was always "honey".  He spoke with a deep voice (must be from smoking all of those sticks).  Throughout the game, the game would have to paused while one of them would shout out "and how bout my person does ...., or my person says......"
    I just stood there, well after all of the clothes had been folded, listening to them.  I knew that this was a special moment.   I love it when they play together, I love it when they get along.  That is what is so beautiful about our large family, there are always playmates.  They played all afternoon.  It was one of those everything is right with the world days, and Lord knows I need to cling to those when they come along.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Apple Brown Betty For Lunch

    You may recall me mentioning the fact that my family just went apple picking on Sunday.  We picked 20 pounds of beautiful red Mcintosh and Empire apples.  It is tradition that on the evening we pick apples I make a brown betty.  History has taught me that one brown betty is never enough.  I made two big apple brown bettys and a batch of homemade vanilla ice-cream to go with it.  

    While I was making my brown betty I thought that I should pack the kids a bit of brown betty for their lunch dessert.  The problem is that it always looks so pretty in the casserole dish, but loses that pretty when it's dished out in a bowl, or lunch container.  I wondered how I could pack the kid's brown betty, but keep as much of the sweet, crusty top intact.  That was when I had my big idea.  I don't want to sound too full of myself, but I feel safe in calling myself a genius on this one.  O.K., genius may be stretching, but I have to say it's pretty clever.  I made apple brown betty in my muffin tins.  They are the perfect size for my new favourite ziploc lunch storage containers.

    It only took two apples to make 6 mini apple brown bettys.  I cut them extra small to fit them into the cupcake papers.  

    I then topped the sliced apples with my brown betty mix (1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 tsp of salt).  I baked them for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. 

Oh they looked pretty and smelled even prettier after they were finished.

    It's funny when I cracked open my cookbook.  You can easily tell my family's favourite recipes without even having to ask.  Just look through my cookbooks.  The pages that are pristine, are not our favourites.  It's the ones that are barely legible, covered in grease marks, and food splatter.  

    At the end of the night I had packed 4 lunches.  The brown bettys were the perfect size for the compartment, easy peasy.

Campbell's Orchards / Apple Picking

    Tradition.  For our family tradition is extremely important.  It connects our past to our present and to our future.  It gives us something to look forward to and then beautiful memories.  One of our favourite family traditions is Campbell's Orchards.  For the last 15 years we have been been taking our kids to Campbell's.  It means the beauty of fall, the beauty of family, and Christopher gorging himself on apples (then complaining because he feels sick because he has gorged himself on apples).

Wilbur the Pig is one of Rowan's favourite
parts of visiting Campbell's.
    Our family has been coming to pick apples at Campbell's for the last 15 years.  We began coming when Gabe was just 2 and a half.  It was his first year in nursery school, and the nursery school went for a class trip.  I had never been before that.  Over those 15 years things have only really changed a little, and I like that, I do not like change.  Every year we go and pick apples as a family affair.  My parents meet us there every year.  Every Christopher and I pick our apples in our designated rows, while my Mom runs all through the rows looking for the "biggest, and best apples".

    To me picking apples is quasi religious.  I feel so close to the earth, to the past when I pick apples.  There is that amazing fresh sweet smell, that is only found in apple orchards.  As we pick our apples, we can only pick with one hand, because the other hand contains an apple.  There is no taste quite as good or as fresh as  the apple just picked from the tree.  It is the same as anything, as soon as it is off the tree, it begins to loose it's flavour.  The warm juice runs down your arm, often spraying the person beside you.  It is glorious!  For me apple picking is the beginning of fall, the beginning of my mother earth stage.  I make apple crisp as soon as we get home, and then start making homemade bread and rolls and soups.  I become that mother that I want to be all year, but eventually run out of steam.

   This year we saw a fresh new face.  The young man above was an absolute pleasure.  He was funny and energetic.  He showed us the rows the we were "supposed to pick".  I warned him about my mother's trick of jumping rows.  There are times that I have caught her up ladders.  We loose site of her as she wanders looking for the best apples.  To Mom the rule breaking is part of the fun (I'm sure that she would deny this and say that she just likes the best apples).  He was so funny, as he walked away he turned quickly and gave Mom the old "I've got my eyes on you", fingers to eyes gesture.  That caused peels of laughter from all of us.  If the Campbell's are smart, they will keep this employee around and happy for a long time.  It is because of amazing service, as well as tradition that keeps us coming back.

   The other important part of our Campbell's tradition is our hay ride.  They offer hay rides on Sundays.  I LOVE hay rides!  The rhythm of the wagon is so relaxing.  The joy I feel when I look at my kids sitting on those bales of hay, with big contented grins on their faces is priceless.  I get that all is right with the world feeling on a hay ride.  For the last number of years we have had the same tracker driver (the man in the picture above).  He is that welcome face of familiarity.  The tractor drives us around the farm.  It is amazing to see the size and great beauty of the farm.  One of our favourite parts of the wagon ride, other that the ride itself is when the driver stops the tractor and we jump off to pick an apple.  The funny thing is that we have already gorged ourselves on apples when were picking, but somehow this apple always tastes better.  After we have picked our apple we scramble back onto the wagon.  It's the best!

    We had an amazing day on Sunday.  The weather was beautiful.  We were all together.  The world just felt right.  As we drove home Christopher let out a big sigh.  "That was great day".  He had this contented smile on his face.  "I wish that everyday could be that simple."  I have to agree with my husband on that one,  I also wish that every day could be that simple, that content.  That is what I like about our tradition, you always know what to expect.  You always know that you will leave with a huge bag of apples, and amazing family memories.