diet recovery · Kids · what's cookin'

Day 570: Too Sweet

Yesterday I woke up with that leaden feeling in my limbs. My brain was fuzzy too.

“Are you okay?” Mr. December wanted to know. “This has been happening a lot lately.”

He was right—I have been feeling fatigued a lot lately. Thinking back over the last few weeks, two major things stood out for me:

  1. We’ve been going to sleep later than we used to.
  2. We’ve had a lot of sweet treats in the last little while.

There’s no good reason for number one; we haven’t prioritized sleep enough, although we talk about it all the time. We just need to accept that none of the things that we do late at night are so urgent that they can’t wait ’til morning. We also have to stop being the kind of people who say things like, “Just as soon as I’m done this chapter, sweetheart, you can turn out the light,” and then surreptitiously flip into the next chapter and keep reading. “Yes, it is a really long chapter. Sorry about that… but I really want to get to the end of it!”

With all the Jewish holidays, N’s very-belated birthday party, and R’s upcoming birthday, there have been plenty of sugary treats around here. It seems like every day involves a “special” treat, and because I’m currently in diet recovery, I’m deliberately not restricting my eating. I don’t know for sure that the sugar is making me feel icky, but if true it would certainly explain all those times I crashed on a Saturday (i.e. the day after Shabbat dinner with all its sweet challah, kugel, and dessert.)

By the time I was upright and dressed yesterday, I’d decided to avoid sugar for a while and see how I feel. That lasted until about 2:00 p.m., when K made a lemon cake for no particular reason and we all sat down to have some. One small piece of cake in an otherwise no-added-sugar day isn’t a big deal, I suppose, but it underscored just how impossible it is to turn around in this house without confronting another delicious source of added sugar.

I’ve often been resistant to elimination diets because I like food and can’t stand the thought of eating nothing but salmon, rice, and almonds (or, as a friend recently quipped to me, “I don’t want to live in a world without bread.”) Once or twice I’ve been desperate enough to try eliminating certain foods, though; Seven years ago, I gave up dairy in hopes that my asthma would improve as a result. My asthma was the same as ever, but one thing did change—I got pregnant (with E.) I’m not jumping to any conclusions, but the only thing that differentiated that month from the eighteen that preceded it was the lack of dairy. It kinda makes me wonder… but I digress (surprise, surprise.)

I explained to the kids that I’ve been feeling groggy and I think sugar might be the culprit. I hope I chose the right words to use: it’s very important to me that we not make any foods “bad” or “forbidden.” At the same time, I want them to learn to be mindful of the fact that food does affect their bodies, for better or worse, and to adapt their eating accordingly. I’m ignoring all the various studies (some of which contradict each other) about healthy eating; from now on, in this house, healthy food is whatever food makes you feel healthy.

With that said, let’s see how I feel this week before jumping to any conclusions.

Kids · parenting · waxing philosophical · what's cookin'

Day 552: I’m Obsolete.

It’s been said that as parents, our job is to bring about our own obsolescence. In other words, we need to raise our kids so that they no longer need constant support and guidance from us. If you’ve been reading this blog for more than three weeks, you already know that I heartily agree with this statement. Why, then, am I slightly miffed that I’m becoming obsolete more quickly than I expected?

I always assumed that I’d become obsolete (as a parent) because my children had learned to take care of themselves. It never occurred to me that they’d begin to take care of each other so well as to make me feel superfluous; and yet, that day has come.

I made muffins with E tonight. After sliding the pan into the oven, I turned to E and told her to go take a bath. She went; I stayed in the kitchen to finish cleaning up.

Fast forward twenty minutes: R walked into the kitchen and said (in that uber-mature way she has,) “I taught E how to bathe herself. She didn’t know how, but I think it’s time she knew how to do it. Today I showed her how, so next time she takes a bath I’ll be there. Not to do it for her, but so she can ask me for help if she still needs it.”

Wow. Okay. I high-fived R and said, “That’s some serious initiative you’ve taken. Good on you.”

Freshly washed, with hair braided, dressed in clean pyjamas, E walked into the kitchen to check on the status of our muffins.

“Wow,” I said to R. “Did you braid E’s hair, too?”

She nodded. “Yup! I told her she has to sleep with her hair braided from now on so it doesn’t get all tangled at night. Either that or she should just cut it so it’s easier to keep untangled.”

(Readers, I have told E the very same thing on many occasions. Never has she nodded and agreed the way she did with R.)

After our muffin break, I nudged E and said, “Go brush your teeth, and I’ll come and tuck you in.”

“Actually,” she said, “R is going to read me a story and tuck me in.”

R looked straight at me and said, “I’m replacing you.”

“Really?” I exclaimed, wide-eyed, “Are you going to organize all her doctor and dentist appointments? Go to her speech therapy sessions and help her practice? Make sure she has clothes and shoes that fit her?”

“Um… no.” R said. “But all of the other mom stuff, yeah.”

I’m not sure how to feel about this. Is R jumping into what social workers would call a “parentified role” because she thinks I’m doing a crappy job? I’m mature enough to know that not everything is about me, but how can I not wonder if it’s about me?

You’ve likely heard someone say, “In big families, the older kids raise the younger ones.” Usually this is said in a highly critical tone, as though it’s terrible for the parents to foist that responsibility on their children. Is it really a bad thing, though? Is it bad for kids to care for others around them? To understand that all humans take a role in raising the tribe’s young? How exactly is R harmed by being allowed to voluntarily take care of her younger sister—who would much rather take hygiene advice from her sister than from her parents, don’t you know?

When R announced herself as my replacement tonight, I saw learning and growth in action. She obviously understands, for example, the steps required to teach someone a skill (first, explain while you demonstrate, then be present but step back and let the learner try on their own.) She took pride in her ability to take care of E; E enjoyed being the focus of her big sister’s attention; and their bond got incrementally stronger from the encounter. I think it’s safe for me to silence my inner judgy voice that accuses me of abdicating responsibility, and instead pat myself on the back for raising a kid who is a leader, willing to step up and help wherever she sees a need.

DIY · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids · what's cookin'

Day 549: At the Last Minute

Not sure who planned the timing on our (amazing, fabulous) weekend away (oh, wait, it might have been me,) but we got back home today at noon, which was about 7 hours before sundown marked the beginning of Sukkot.

No big deal, I thought to myself. I labelled everything so carefully when I took the sukkah apart last year—it should go up in an hour or two.

An hour or two? Ha! It took me around 6, start to finish. I haven’t figured out how it happened, but half of my carefully written-in-Sharpie labels were wiped clean, forcing me to guess which parts belonged where. I guess I’ll have to find something more permanent than Sharpie… maybe engraving with a Dremel?

Around 3:00 I realized that I was not going to have time to make dinner; I informed Mr. December, who went and told K and R that tonight’s dinner was their responsibility.

“Can’t we just order pizza?” They whined.

“Sure, if you’re paying with your own money,” Mr. December countered.

We didn’t order pizza.

K made Alfredo sauce from scratch and boiled an entire (big) package of fettuccine; N braided the challah dough that I’d had the presence of mind to take out of the freezer earlier; R made rice; then K made a “salad” of Multigrain Cheerios, dried cranberries, and almonds… with chocolate “salad dressing.” It wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to eat, but rules is rules, as they say, so I ate what I was given. The Alfredo sauce was very good—just the right amount of pepper and enough garlic to fell a 250-pound vampire.

So… a slightly under-decorated sukkah and a last-minute dinner by two child chefs. Not bad for the first night of Sukkot.

Stick around for a few days—I have so much to tell you. Right now, though, I need sleep desperately. I’m going to sneak upstairs before Mr. December and the kids notice I’m gone.

DIY · gardening · what's cookin'

Day 506: On the Counter

Under normal circumstances, if you see weird equipment or supplies lying around the house, they’re for whatever harebrained scheme I’m working on this week. Mr. December is the type to clean up after himself every day, so anything that’s been left out is almost certainly not his.

Except for this time.

I’ve been sick, you know, so I haven’t been keeping tabs on when and where people leave the house; I guess that’s why I was very surprised to walk into the kitchen and see this:

Image description: a giant (two-foot high) white pail with a handle, a lid, and a clear plastic device sticking out of the top. The whole thing is sitting on the kitchen counter.

I was baffled. But the plot thickened: I noticed that the enormous tub of plums we’d picked was gone, and only a small bowlful remained. It seemed reasonable to assume that the plums were now in the bucket.

And then, a Nyquil-fogged memory came to me:

“Honey?” Mr. December appeared in the doorway, holding the car key, K peering at me from behind him. “Where’s that place where we bought the malic acid for chemistry class?”

“The home brewery store?” I croaked. “Same plaza as the trampoline place.”

Oh. Of course.

I don’t know whether he’s trying to make wine, brandy, or beer. I haven’t seen what’s inside the bucket, but I’ve been warned that three pounds of sugar will go missing from my pantry tomorrow.

I don’t care about the three pounds of sugar (little yeasties have to eat something to make alcohol, right?) What I do care about is how long it’ll take for this concoction to be drinkable. And does it have to take up all that valuable counter space?

education · Independence · Kids · what's cookin'

Day 504: Well, SOMEONE has to be quiet…

The thing about colds is that they have this progression: sore throat right at the back of the nose, then headache and nasal congestion, then chest congestion, and then today… the “I-can’t-say-more-than-three-words-at-once-or-I’ll-start-coughing” stage. It’s an awkward stage, if you’re a talker like me.

I was hoping that my quiet presence, all gracious nods and regal waving of hands, would inspire the kids to enjoy the quiet too. It didn’t. Instead they were inspired to fill the silence—that’s one of their superpowers, it seems, but they have others as well.

I once spent a few days reading a website by Tom Hodgkinson, author of The Idle Parent. The phrase that stuck out for me was: “The less you do for your kids, the more they do for you.”

Now, before anybody jumps on this as an endorsement of parental neglect, please remember whose blog this is: I’m the one who calls out, “Child labour force to the front door!” whenever there’s a delivery of groceries, so that the kids come and do all the lifting, carrying, and putting away. I believe in raising contributing members of society, and it has to start young.

My particular child labour force is quite adept at filling in the gaps when I’m unwell. Today R and K made the challah completely on their own; denser than mine, but everyone develops their own challah style with time. R also made peach crumble for dessert. And tonight, since I’m trying really hard not to give E the camp cold, N and R tucked her in with hugs and kisses in my stead.

And all of this was done with an absolute minimum of verbal direction from me. No, I wasn’t clapping my hands and cocking my head in the direction I wanted them to look; I just quietly stated what I couldn’t do, and they sorted out who would do it. Remind me of this when they start clawing at each other over screen time, yes?

family fun · gardening · what's cookin'

Day 501: Bumper Crop!

Five months ago, we were sure we’d have to cut down the fruit trees in the front yard. It had been well over five years since we’d had any fruit from any of them, and we decided we should just do away with them and start over.

Tonight I picked a giant bowl of yellow plums. I suspect there’s probably five times as many still on the tree. The branches are still heavy with fruit (a feature, not a bug, when you’re short) and highest branches are tantalizing us with red plums (it’s a grafted five-in-one tree) that are slowly ripening.

The plums are excellent—juicy, sweet, locally and organically grown (of course.) I think we’ll make plum crumble for dessert tomorrow. And the next day. And maybe a breakfast plum crumble for the weekend. Oh, and plum brandy, plum jam… we’ll keep going til I’m plum out of ideas.

DIY · family fun · what's cookin'

Day 394: Sweet

Hey, look what we made! From scratch!

Image description: a small glass bowl being held in someone’s hand. The bowl has a small amount of brown liquid in it. Wooden countertop in background.

Yup, that’s maple syrup. Remember when we tapped a maple tree in my parents’ backyard? We ended up collecting about 500mL (roughly 2 cups) of sap. Yesterday we put it into our makeshift double-boiler (metal mixing bowl resting on top of a pot of boiling water) and let it evaporate for most of the afternoon. We could see by the residue on the sides of the bowl just how much water had already evaporated.

We ended up with maybe 20 mL of maple syrup… but it looks and tastes like real maple syrup. Even though we knew this was how it was made, it still feels a bit magical and unreal to have made it ourselves from start to finish.

Now the question remains: who gets the privilege of using this syrup on their pancakes?

family fun · Fibro Flares · Jewy goodness · what's cookin'

Day 391: I’ll pay for this tomorrow…

Today was Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. We celebrated in a low-key kind of way. Instead of our usual workout, I taught everyone some Israeli folk dances; we made fresh pita, Israeli salad, and schnitzel with chips for dinner; and we ended the day with more dancing followed by blue-and-white-iced cupcakes.

All of which means that I was on my feet more than usual, what with double dancing sessions and baking pita and cupcakes. Sadly, I suspect that I’ll be paying for it tomorrow. I feel like this flare is better than it was last week, but maybe I’m just getting inured to the constant ache. Anyhow, I think I’d better lay low tomorrow and over the weekend.

Just for the record, though, it was worth it to see Mr. December dancing.

crafty · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · what's cookin'

Day 374: If a picture says a thousand words…

Look, if it’s true what they say about pictures saying a thousand words, you won’t mind if I just post a bunch of photos from last night’s seder and leave it at that. Right?

Oh, fine. I’ll give you my summary. Then I’ll post a bunch of photos.

Last night’s seder was very satisfying. The food was good, the kids participated, the puzzle clues for the afikoman were mostly fun, and we did the whole thing. They key to seder success (defined as doing both halves instead of petering out after dinner) is to withhold dessert until the very end, it seems.

I had fun making the table look pretty and laying out the food; I took enough photos of the food to create my own catering brochure. I used tiny little plates and bowls to create an individual seder plate for each person, and as we all know, anything in a teeny tiny plate looks fancy.

(In case you’re looking at the individual plates wondering why there’s melted chocolate and a strawberry on each one: Karpas doesn’t actually have to be a green vegetable. Apparently anything over which we say the blessing “borei p’ri ha’adama” (creator of the fruits of the earth) counts. And wouldn’t you know, we say “borei p’ri ha’adama” over strawberries! Of course Karpas has to be dipped, so I added some melted chocolate to fulfil that requirement.)

Today I was tired. I’m still tired. I wanted to take tomorrow as a day off, but we’re building a sample river table with epoxy to see how it holds up to heat and scratching; we want to do the epoxy work outside and tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny, so I can’t put it off. I guess I’ll rest later, like maybe in 2023.

Photo descriptions, from top left: a stone serving tray with an array of lemon-filled meringue nests topped with blueberries, and brownies in paper muffin cups; miniature square bowls of chopped liver with a mini fork sticking out of each one; a corner where two runs of countertop meet, with the dessert tray, a casserole dish with marshmallows on top, and small round plates with an assortment of items visible; a large oval table set with a turquoise silk tablecloth, plates with black and gold rims, stemless wine glasses, and three bottles of wine; a close-up of dessert-sized plates with black and gold rims, each with a hard-boiled egg in a tiny square bowl, some melted chocolate on a tiny square plate, a scoop of something brown (charoset) on a tiny square plate, and a strawberry, a sprig of parsley, and three small strips of horseradish.

DIY · family fun · Holidays Jewish and holidays not. · Jewy goodness · Kids · what's cookin'

Day 372: Everybody helps

One of my favourite memories of Passover as a child is actually a composite of pretty much every Passover until I left my parents’ house. What I remember most isn’t the seder itself, or the food we made; it’s that everybody was involved in making it together.

Mum and Dad have always hosted at least one seder (and usually both,) and the last couple of days leading up to Passover (as well as the day of Passover itself) were spent in the kitchen, all of us rotating in or out, with Mum and sometimes an Aunty giving instructions. Kids were put to work peeling boiled eggs, making charoset, chopping horseradish for maror, setting the table, and sticking our little thumbs into balls of cookie dough so we could fill the indentations with jam. Dad would usually be busy running to the store for last-minute ingredients or bringing folding tables and chairs up from the basement to accommodate the twenty-or-so people who were invited to the seder.

I want my kids to look back at Passover and feel the same warm fuzzy feeling I do when they think of the preparation. So I give them jobs to do, even when those jobs take them twice as long and leave twice as much mess than if I’d done it myself.

Today K grated apples for charoset and then passed them off to E, who mixed in all the other ingredients before spooning it onto tiny individual appetizer plates. N made a batch of flourless brownies (although I did have to get involved quite a bit at the end.) And Mr. December did his part to keep things moving smoothly by taking apart our kettle.

Yeah, you read that right. Our kettle stopped working two days ago, and Mr. December ordered a set of special screwdrivers so he could take it apart and see if maybe he could fix it. Turns out he couldn’t fix it, but at least the kids got to see how a kettle is made.

Chag Sameach to all my family, friends, and readers. May you have a meaningful seder, and may your matzah never be soggy.