Monday, 30 June 2014

What I learned in June

Back in May, I tried my hand at sharing what I learned that month, linking up with many a similar musing via Emily at Chatting at the Sky. It was such a nice way to wrap up the month that I thought I'd give it a go again. Then I actually popped over to her site and learned that she's taking a break. I suppose I can link-up later if she decides to go through with her "What I learned this Summer" idea. Note to self: check out link-up is happening first, then write post. (Update: she did! So I'm linking up from the past here. July's learning will have to roll into an August post because we're still on vacation.)

Since I've written it out anyways, here's what (else) I learned this June:

Booking a hotel room in your own home town is still a treat, even if baby tags along. Over the last couple years, my husband and I have made two kid-free trips out to a lovely B-&-B just under two hours away, first for a night and then two. We were overdue for another minibreak, but leaving a nursing infant overnight with her grandparents is bit much to ask, so we settled for a belated anniversary celebration in town instead. We dropped off all three kiddos off at their grandparents' in the late afternoon, drove ten minutes to check in at our jacuzzi suite, got settled, and headed downstairs for supper in the hotel's dining room before picking up the babe for the rest of our stay. I wasn't sure if such a stunt would really feel like enough of a vacation to take it out of the holiday fund, but turned out to be a wonderful little break from every day life, just down the street from home. It was lovely to be able to get gussied up for a restaurant date without children underfoot, to exist in a space I wouldn't have to clean, and to let my eyes wander the room without running into the housework, yardwork, and home maintenance projects that forever clutter our to-do lists at home. We probably would have made more use of the jacuzzi without our third wheel, and there's no telling a 5 month old that vacation means no midnight feedings, but it was delightful all the same. I drive by that hotel all the time, and now the sight of it alone makes me smile.

A structured summer can feel secure, not confining. A lot of my brain space this month was spent organizing our summer vacation. July and August will be my longest stint yet of mothering all three children all day long, so I wanted a few cards up my sleeve to keep us all (at least somewhat) sane. While I usually look forward to summer as a time to laze around, a full two months of sleeping 'til noon, reading, and snacking sounds like a recipe for afternoons spent in a grumpy fog, a pile-up of chores, and plenty of low-blood-sugar-enhanced bickering to boot. Our summer isn't set to be packed, but I'm looking forward to our weeks of swimming lessons with cousins, road trips to the mountains as well as the prairies, visits with friends and family, and a week of day-camps, just to give us all a break from each other. There'll still be lazy days, I'm sure, and hopefully some playdates and late-minute adventures, but the scaffolding's in place and it feels good to have a plan.

An actual sore thumb sticks out just as much as the proverbial one. Early last week, I sliced the end of my right thumb, right down to the dermis. Thankfully, nothing's gone that won't grow back, but the wound is super sensitive, even through my band-aid/masking tape splint. I've been favouring it ever since, and still manage bonk it several times an hour. Holding it out of harm's way puts it out of my spatial recognition of where a thumb should be, so I'm forever jamming it against edges my hand would usually clear, and my babe is sure it's sticking out purely for her own exploratory banging. Strangely enough, I can still type, knit, and (sort of) text, but holding a glass or mug in my right fist is painful and changing a happy, kicking, flapping baby is a bit like running the gauntlet. I doubt I'll see that old proverb in the same light ever again. 

Happy summer, friends.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Rut release

Five minute Friday on a Saturday again. This week's word: "release".

I spilled 3/4 of a bag of trail mix on Wednesday. 3/4 of a kilogram, tumbling down between my camp chair and little garden table onto the one spot on the lawn where I'd neglected to scoop up the remains of late spring rakings. It took ages to clean up one minute's worth of open-bag distraction - yet, the usual round of "clumsy me/wasted time" mental rambles kept getting interrupted. Rather than berating myself, my self kept admiring how pretty the m & m s were against the dead grass clippings and old snow dust. Such a bright rainbow of happy scattered across the bald spot on the back lawn.

Brain rut, interrupted. The inner nag silenced by beauty.

At the end of every Liturgy we pray: "release me from the slavery of my own reasonings". I've often wondered just how that would play out. I think I know one way now: my reasonings may be on autopilot to berate me, but beauty can intervene.

Joining, as always, with Lisa-Jo. Do follow the link to check out other belated (and prompt) Friday writers.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Twitterature, June 2014

Another month has gone by, filled with sun, rain, and explosive growth. I've been living through eras of blossoms; the epoch of apples has been surpassed by the empire of lilacs, and the dandelion resistance shows no sign of waning. Between the pages, however, I've been travelling through many a season, from a wet Irish winter, to the blaze of New Mexican summer, the damp of subterranean Paris, and over two years worth of cycles in good old P.E.I. 

It's Twitterature time again, and my inner bibliophile is recovering nicely. Here's what I've read this month:

A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy
Despite the title, this was a lovely read for spring. It's such a comfort to settle into Binchy's classic style, with a collection of short stories focussing on each character all weaving into a larger narrative that effects them all. I was sorry to discover that this was her last book. I'll miss her relatable characters and gentle realism. Way to go out on a strong note, Maeve!

The Book of Illusions, by Paul Auster
After a few years of being intrigued by most every book off my brother's Christmas and birthday wish lists, I asked him to pick one out for me. I finally got around to reading it, and I'm glad I did. It's a gritty exploration of self-inflicted penance, surviving grief, and art for art's sake, revolving around a lost silent film star. Don't give it to your grandmother, though; there's a chapter in the middle that's bound to offend her sensibilities.

Because I Have Loved and Hidden It, by Elise Moser
Speaking of offended sensibilities, this month marked my first library-roulette dud. Within the first ten pages, this novel took me from a forbidden bedroom to a detailed description of the contents of a casket to the humidity inside middle-aged undergarments. At this point, I put the book down, for the sake of my stomach. I should have taken the critical acclaim of "daring sensuality on every page" as a warning. TMI for my taste. Do not mix with breakfast.

Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
I have devoured this series more times than I can count, and always find something new - or forgotten - to enjoy along the way. This is my first time, however, reading the work that started it all aloud. I have been reading to my seven-year-old a chapter or two a night, and am discovering yet more details I hadn't noticed before. Reading slowly to an inquisitive young listener made me notice the length (short) and number (many) of chapters, the casual xenophobia, the random acts of knitting, the glorious nature descriptions, and the frequency of the fabled "big words." Montgomery is just a guilty of using them in her narration as Anne is in her monologues; I tripped over a four-syllable adjective every other paragraph, thankfully without comment from the peanut gallery. She mostly saved her interruptions to ask whether the chapter subject was happening yet - setting the scene is pretty foreign to the world of picture books. The impatience can't trouble her too much, however, for she's sure to remind me of our reading appointment and always keen to negotiate an extra chapter. We're both looking forward to Anne of Avonlea.

The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux
Once again, I've stumbled on a classic on the intent of ploughing through only to find it nigh impossible to put down. Leroux's descriptions are fascinating and vivid, the English translation wonderfully readable (though strangely anonymous - unless the Modern Library Editorial Board made a group project of the work). The plot is twisted, comic, tragic, and ultimately dramatically satisfying. Now I'm really going to have to see the musical - and add exploring the Paris Opera House to my bucket list. 

That's it from this month's book stack. What have you been reading?

Saturday, 7 June 2014

"and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands"

My church camp growing up sat nestled in the Fort Qu'Appelle Valley of Southern Saskatchewan. The dormitory stood on a hill top, with tree lining either side like sentinels. They were either aspens or poplars, whichever one is the classic prairie windbreak, complete with wide, heart-shaped leaves that whispered, rustled, or roared, as the wind moved between them. I stood in the chapel, up on the second floor, surrounded by those trees, their rustling, whispers, and roars coming through the screens that filled half the walls on either side of the iconostas. I listened, and thought back to Christ's words comparing the wind in the trees to the work of God: you can't see it, but you see what it does. Hearing it is the word of God to me, the celebration of his creation.

Those trees are in the church tonight, icon stands and doorways decked in boughs of heart-shaped green. All in celebration of Holy Pentecost, the birth of the Church, and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The green is to symbolize the spirit, I doubt the species of tree remains the same around the globe. But I'm thankful for my prairie windbreaks coming indoors for the occasion; they remind me not only of the green life of the Spirit, but the rush of wind that preceded the tongues of fire. The trees are indoors today, just like that roaring wind. 

As Isaiah foretold, the tree of the field clap their hands.

Joining - late again - with Lisa-Jo for Five Minute Friday.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

What I learned in May

At the end of every month, a collection of lovely writers link up with Emily from Chatting at the Sky to share what they learned over the past thirty-odd days, be it frivolous or profound, and invite their readers to do the same. After stopping myself twice from writing a treatise in the comment section on a couple of such posts, I figured I ought to share what I've learned from my own space. We'll see if June proves equally educational.

Here's what I learned this May:

Fuzzibunz are amazing (not that they're paying me to say so).  May marked our first billing cycle without a diaper service, and thus the first trial of the second-hand cloth diapers generously passed on from a friend. I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy they are to clean - and how little odour they retain. I keep the soiled ones stacked on top of the diaper pail, rather than sealing them in, and haven't noticed any smell between daily washings. We'll see if that system remains tenable once summer and solids set in, but I sure haven't missed trying to empty our 3-foot high diaper-pail into our front loader.

I am officially addicted to knitting. I catch myself saying "just one more row, and then I'll go to bed," much as my younger self used to say "just one more chapter." I can handle being between projects, but only if I have the yarn on hand for when I do begin. Like a smoker finding peace in a spare pack of cigarettes, but without the cancer risk.

Post-partum elation is a thing, and it's wearing off now. This was the first pregnancy that I really worried about developing post-partum depression. Both my husband and I experience mild SAD symptoms, so having a baby just after the solstice - when there are twice as many hours of darkness than daylight in our part of the world - on top of Christmas, work deadlines, and the unfinished business of our basement flood, sounded like a recipe for bringing the number of functional adults in our house from two down to zero. Blessedly, none of that came to pass. Thanks to an abundance of help from friends and family alike, a new dishwasher, and an extended work holiday, my husband soldiered on; he was more than somewhat bleary-eyed, but a far cry from the catatonic fate I had feared awaited him. I was tired too, but emotionally buoyant. For months after the birth, the foibles of life with small children and an aging home didn't faze me as much as usual; my highs were very high, but my lows barely dipped below neutral and were fewer and farther between. It was like clinical depression in reverse. It seems ironic that the one birth that went the least according to plan, with the only labour in which "I can't do this" actually crossed my lips, was followed by the calmest fourth trimester, where I truly felt I could this newborn thing - even with two older children underfoot - each and every day. Part of it was certainly thanks to our amazing support, but hormones smoothed the way of learning to mother all three. Now that everyday stumbles have regained their power of irritation, I'm coming to grips with how good my mood had been. I'm back to the normal work of trying to be a decent human being, but thankful for the stint where my hormones acted as a muffler on my negative emotions, rather than a megaphone.

Full sun will burn my skin in less than an hour. Actually, I've re-learned this one every year I've been responsible for my own sunscreen. And yet that first dose of warm sunshine proved irresistible once again. Maybe I should get that full-shade symbol from my seed packets tattooed on my arm.

I am more of an extrovert than I think I am. Due to a combination of factors, I ended up doing about four times more my usual rate of socialization this past month, mostly over the course of the last week and a half. Over that same period, I had a terrible cold and heavy overcast skies (re: SAD trigger), yet my energy never lagged. Actually, most nights I was still so buzzed from gatherings of two or three that I had trouble falling asleep. Usually that only happens if I've spent the entire evening reading, or have had too much caffeine. I'm still blissfully refreshed by going out for coffee alone and am drained by bigger crowds, but visits with small groups recharge my batteries in a way nothing else does. I'm going to have to make more of an effort to get together with friends in the future. It's not as scary as I think.

If you add ice-cold banana mash to coconut oil creamed with sugar, the resulting muffin batter will clump up alarmingly. And if you go ahead and bake it anyways, those last little lumps that wouldn't smooth out will create little pockets of coconut caramel throughout the finished muffins. I love it when mistakes are delicious. Next time I make banana orange cardamom muffins, I'll do it on purpose. I should also mention that I added a tablespoon of vanilla, pulled twice the required bananas from my freezer, used half whole-wheat flour, half white, and coconut palm sugar instead of brown. Results may vary.