Monthly Archives: February 2010

10 things i am grateful for.

After a night dealing with a puking baby who also has a hacking cough that sounds like it could only belong to an 80 year old man, dealing with a bleeding nose and phlegmy coughs from my toddler this morning and an overall nasty disposition towards life in general, I am running around the house trying to tidy up for a morning playdate.  My neighbour who has two young girls has a coughing toddler too and doesn’t mind if they just cough in each other’s faces the entire time.  We needed adult conversation after being cooped up in our homes with sick children.  As I finish vacuuming the basement, I hear, “Mom, I threw up!!! And the baby is crying!!!”  I take a deep breath and go upstairs.  #3 is sitting on the couch covered in the tomato soup that she just ate for breakfast (don’t ask).  #4 is sitting by the window on the other side of the sofa with her head down on the sill coughing up a lung.  And as I approach them, I don’t hear the baby crying.  I get closer to where the baby is lying down and all I see is his mouth open, tears streaming down his face, but no sound coming out because he has lost his voice.

I definitely need a grateful list this morning.

  1. I am grateful first and foremost for great neighbours.  As I try to figure out who to attend to first, I decide to call my neighbour to postpone the playdate.  She tells me that her sister is visiting and can look after her kids while she (my neighbour) can come over and look after #4 and #5 while I clean up #3.  I hesitate to accept her offer because I don’t want to pass what look’s like a stomach flu germ to her and possibly to her own kids but she insists.  I retired my martyr persona a long time ago so I admit that I need help and she rushes over.  As I whisk #3 away to the bath, wipe the floors and scrub the couch, my Wonderful Neighbour (which is how she will be named henceforth) rocks #5 in her arms and makes small talk with #4 telling her how her own daughter doesn’t feel so hot too.  After #3 is all cleaned up, I thank Wonderful Neighbour profusely and she lets me know that I can give her a call any time today even if I just need 10 minutes to regroup.  I may take her up on that before the day is over…
  2. I am grateful that #1 and #2 are better.  They both had a mild fever and nasty cough earlier in the week but with a lot of sleep and time at home to just relax, and a humidifier, they are feeling almost 100%.
  3. I am grateful for the endless cuddles #4 gives me when she is sick.  She never wants to get out of bed and is open to napping when she is under the weather.  Her only condition is that she has to have my bare arm to squeeze and fall asleep on.  I can live with that.
  4. I am grateful for the snowfall today.  I leave the kids in the basement on the couch cuddled together, #5 lying on a blanket playing on the floor, I steal a moment to myself and boil water in the kitchen for a tea which I will probably forget to drink and look out the window.  The quiet that accompanies a snowfall reminds me to find peace whenever and wherever I can.
  5. I am grateful that I cleaned the kitchen last night.  With the chaos from this morning, having clean counter tops gave me a small sense of relief that I desperately needed.
  6. I am grateful for our meatless month.  This month turned out better than we could have expected.  Some highlights:  #1 had the roughest time – it was a more of a mental challenge for her.  The other little ones embraced the endeavour with a sense of adventure, telling everyone we met that they were vegetarians because they wanted to be “nice to animals and not eat them.”  At the beginning of the month, we had to “gently” encourage the kids to eat the vegetables in front of them.  This was made easier when we involved the kids in the meal prep and they were able to touch, smell, taste the veggie in its raw form and watch it transform into a completely other food when it’s cooked.  The way they looked at food changed and I pinpointed that exact moment during the “Swiss Chard Incident.”  I found a great hearty soup recipe that used beans, swiss chard, kamut pasta, and some parmesan.   I left the swiss chard on the dining room table and the kids thought it was for a winter bouquet I was going to assemble in a vase for display.  They couldn’t believe that they were actually going to eat it.  Like scientists discovering a new lifeform, they passed it around the table, marveling at its intricate veins, “wavy leaves,” and deep colour.  They tried it raw and weren’t impressed and expressed their dismay that this was part of their dinner.  When we cooked it in the soup, the leaves wilted and the kids were amazed that the swiss chard didn’t taste bitter anymore:  “It just tastes like the soup Mom!”  After that, the kids were open to trying anything including eggplant, rutabaga, squash, parsnip, rapini, portobello mushrooms, lentils and every bean we could think of.  They also were more willing to revisit their old friends: broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peas, sweet potato, and carrots.  Just last night we had broccoli out on the table and the kids all automatically reached out and grabbed a few florets for their plates.  Ever-patient and I didn’t need to encourage or remind anymore.  We are still calculating our food expenses this month to see if we saved money but we do know that we ate out only twice – ordered cheese and veggie pizza on a couple of occasions.  My biggest anxiety was if the kids were getting enough protein so hummus was always on the table and I even added chick peas to their chocolate chip cookies using the recipe from this book.  In the end, we’ve decided to go back to eating meat in March but definitely lessen the amount of meat we eat and eat mostly plants.  The best story of the month:  #3 was watching the movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” on my laptop when #4 screamed at her, “Noooooooo!  No watch that!  We vegetarian!”
  7. I am grateful for the Olympics.  The kids have been fascinated by the Olympics and the various sports that they aren’t normally exposed to.  For example, ask #3 what her new favourite sport is and she’ll say definitively, “Curling and the fast skating.”  You ask her why and she says, “I love curling because I love it when they slide on their bellies because I want to slide on my belly too and I love the fast skating because Canada skates the fastest!”  #2 learned about the concept of time as she watched how different sports were timed – she had a better idea of what 30 seconds, 1 minute, 10 minutes meant in relation to each other.  The kids loved to see the different flags and country names.  #1 appreciated the dedication and hard work from the female athletes in particular.  She could relate to them on some level.  For example, at a recent elementary school volleyball game, her team was told by the teacher-coaches to not do their best so they wouldn’t run up the score and make the other team feel bad.  (By the way, this is not her club team that is coached by Ever-Patient who would never tell her anything ridiculous like that.)  Then she watched how the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team outscored an opponent by a huge amount and were unapologetic about it, saying that it would be a disservice to themselves and the spirit of sport if they held back – they trained hard and were never going to compromise themselves.  The Olympics gave us as parents metaphors for life and illustrated dichotomies that the kids could understand:  success/failure, win/loss, relief/disappointment, resilience/frailty, individual/team, person/country.
  8. I am grateful for smoothies.  Ever-Patient makes smoothies for the kids every morning – he puts spinach, flax seed, and a variety of fruits in them.  There was a leftover pitcher of it in the fridge and it has been the only thing I’ve had time to consume today.
  9. I am grateful for concerned friends. In particular, one who homeschools her two young daughters who made us a pot of mushroom soup this week to help me as I have been surrounded by sick children and another friend who gave me a call to check up on the kids and we ended up having a great discussion on school, life, etc.. They are both definitely inspirations and making me re-evaluate and analyze my beliefs and assumptions about school.
  10. I am grateful that it’s Friday.

In case you were wondering, I’ve been typing this post while holding a sleeping baby and while the other 2 are cozy on the couch watching the
Olympics (curling is on so #3 is riveted and #4 is just too weak from coughing to argue).

Have a healthy weekend!

(By the way, when there is a lull in posts, it is because there is more than one sick child in the house…guaranteed.)

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sick days.

There is only ONE thing I miss about having a 9 to 5 job: taking sick days.

For all you stay-at-home parents out there, you know what I mean.  There are no sick days.  No mental health days.  No “I’m-going-to-call-in-sick-but-actually-go-shopping-or meet-a-friend-for-lunch” sick day.  You have a killer migraine?  You keep going.  You are so congested that everyone can hear you breathe even if you’re on another floor?  You keep working.  You tear all your ligaments in your left ankle?  You put on a happy face.  You recover from getting a gall bladder removed?  You still change diapers, feed your kids, and try to get them to understand why you can’t carry them.  (By the way, I didn’t have my gall bladder removed but my cousin did who stays at home with two children under the age of 2!)  The kids don’t care how much sleep you haven’t gotten or whether your head feels like someone is taking a hammer to it whenever there is a sound that is louder than a pin dropping.

Around our house, a “sick day” is when one (or more than one) child is sick.  We have a lot of those during this time of year.  In fact, 2 of them are not feeling their best.  #4 and #5 have just come down with something.  I took the kids to the zoo on Tuesday.   I knew something was brewing with #4 by the afternoon.  Her nose was runny and she transformed into Whiny Whinerson asking to be carried while we were in the middle of a trail at the zoo.  I am already sweating bullets from carrying #5 in a wrap and pulling up a wagon with a 25lb weight in it up steep inclines all afternoon saying, “I think I can….I think I can…” in my head all the way up.  So I take a deep breath and tell myself that it will be a good work out and carry her for a little bit while #2 is assigned wagon-pulling duty.

Needless to say, #4 is a wreck in the day and #5 is a wreck at night.  Perfect.  The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that these bouts of the common cold will pass and to remember that all I can do is give lots of hugs and fluids.  My kids are relatively healthy and I am grateful that runny noses, phlegmy coughs, and sleepless nights are the only inconveniences that must be dealt with.

After having children, I have quickly realized how much stronger I am mentally and physically.  I think back to my old working life and when I used to take sick days for a bad cold or headache.  What a wuss.  I’ve learned a lot from my kids.  They all approach being sick differently.  #1 confines herself to her bed and adopts the “woe is me” attitude which irritates me.  #2 suffers in silence and needs nothing and in fact, hates to be doted on.  #3 vomits with a smile on her face.  #4 needs lots of lap time and cuddles.  Guess who heals the fastest?  The one who smiles despite the fever, the aches, and the vomit.  One day she was sick in bed and she came downstairs very groggy and disoriented and I said to her, “You don’t feel very sparkly today, do you?” To which she replied, “No, but I am wearing a dress!”  And she did a lack-lustre twirl and a curtsy for me right before passing out on the couch.

Sick day.  Schmick day.  Thanks for the lesson #3.

“No matter how much madder it may make you, get out of bed forcing a smile. You may not smile because you are cheerful; but if you will force yourself to smile, you’ll end up laughing. You will be cheerful because you smile. Repeated experiments prove that when we assume the facial expressions of a given mental mood –  any given mood – then that mental mood itself will follow.”
Kenneth Goode

10 things i love about my family.

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are 10 things I love about my family…

  1. I love how our family is divided into two camps: the morning people vs. the definitely-not-morning people.  #1, #3, and Ever-Patient are the Tiggers of the household – bouncing out of bed, waking up singing and cracking jokes.  #2, #4, and I are the Eeyores who need quiet and do not like to talk or engage until we are fully awake and have come to terms with a new day. We don’t bounce out of bed, you can find us under the covers until we are forced out.  (Not sure what #5 is yet…but he does wake up squealing…)  Silently and with a deadpan look, #2 passed #3 the following handwritten notes this morning as they were eating breakfast:

    "Thats not funee you"

    "Stop Lafing you"

    "Choo with your mouth close"

    #3 replied with the following look, bedhead and all:

    A total Tigger...she even bounces from point A to point B.

  2. We support each other.  #4 was hesitant about taking ballet classes because it would be the first time she was going to do something on her own.  Her big sis explained to her what the class was like and held her hand as she entered the class.  As #4 ventured into the class by herself, #3 looked down at her and said, “I’ll be right here baby.  I used to do this last year but now I’m in the big girl class.  I’ll see you after.”
  3. We love sports and most of us love to exercise.  From playing to watching, the kids are always surrounded by some form of physical activity.  As soon as they see me take the yoga mat out to do some floor exercises, they take their positions next to me and are ready to “out-plank” me or each other.  For the past 5 years, we’ve traveled around the city and the province watching #1 play sports.  When Ever-Patient and I need time to rejuvenate or choose to do something for ourselves, we often engage in team sports with our friends.

    #1's recent volleyball tournament with her middle school team. (They won the tourney...she's on the far left.)

    #4 dying to play volleyball on the sidelines...the kids grow up with balls all over the house.

  4. We love having dinner together.  There is rarely a night when we aren’t all prepping dinner and sitting at the table as a family.  This is the time when our family identity is most present.  We laugh, discuss, remember, and make decisions as a group.
  5. We love to read.  There are piles of books everywhere in our household.  They inspire creative ideas, stimulate curiosity, and above all, they allow us to continue to learn.  (A more in-depth post on this is in the works.)

    #4 reading to #5.

  6. We laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh…Humour is huge in our house.  Playing practical jokes and light tomfoolery are everyday occurrences in our house.  We laughed at the time #3 stood in front of the mirror and said as she stepped forward, “Liesel.  I am 17 and I don’t need a governess.”  We laughed when Daddy fell asleep and the kids painted his toenails in the summer and went out in flip flops unaware of his pink toes. Even #5 is getting in on the action:
  7. We love adventures.  This includes challenging ourselves to go vegetarian or do anything out of our comfort zone, road trips with no specific itinerary in mind, visiting parts of the city we’ve never been, and even just trying to see things with a different perspective.
  8. I love making family traditions.  From our countdown to Christmas to playing board games or watching a movie on family night, the kids enjoy looking forward to these rituals.  In the summer, we are going to try to return to a tradition that was in place before the birth of #2, #3, #4, and #5 – going to the beach every Saturday morning.
  9. I love how sometimes I will find the kids (with the exception of #5 at the moment) all sleeping together in one room.  Sometimes I just listen to their conversations before they fall asleep – sharing their dreams, fears; asking each other questions; consoling and reassuring each other; and then finally, saying their “i love you’s.”
  10. I love how there is never a dull moment in our house.  It is full of noise, chaos, singing, dancing, crying, crazy moments, silly bathtub conversations, sleepless nights, random cuddles, and lots and lots of drama.  But most importantly, it is full of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

valentines.

63 valentines. 48 hours.

Last year, we bit the bullet and bought those pre-made commercial valentine cards from the drug store.  I was very nauseated due to pregnancy (or from the shock of being pregnant again, who knows?).  It was the day before the big Valentine’s Day Card Exchange at #1 and #2’s school.  As I stood in front of my expansive shelf of craft goodness, I just did not have the energy or the “heart” (pardon my pun) to plug through 50 valentines in 24 hours.  I sent the kids out with their father to go buy some from the store.  I will never forget their puzzled and almost disappointed looks pleading me to bust out the paint and glitter.  I remember feeling guilty that I didn’t feel guilty. I shrugged and said to them , “Get over it.”  And they did.

This year, I’m happy to say that I’ve discovered my love of crafting again.  I’ve given myself ample time to help the kids with their valentines and have set some realistic conditions: the majority of the work must be done by the child and the child also has to address all of them.

#1 and #2 have made felt fortune cookies for their classmates.  It is a Martha Stewart project which you can find here (we made ours a little smaller).  Inside, there is a single candy and little “fortune” which basically says who it’s for and who it’s from.  #2 stayed home yesterday with a “headache” which magically disappeared when I suggested we start working on these felt goodies.  She immediately scrounged for felt and as she planned it out, the whole thing became a math lesson:

#2:  “Ok Mom.  I’ve cut out 8 felt circles.  We need to buy more felt.”

Me:  “How many more do you need to make?  How many kids are in your class?”

#2: “There are 19 kids in my class. So…”

She does an amazingly quick mental calculation and like a light bulb going off, screams:  “11!”

Me:  “Ok.  So how much felt do we need to buy?”

She picks up a scrap piece of felt and holds it up.  She counts the holes that are left in it from cutting out the circles.  There’s 6 that has been cut out.

#2:  “Each felt can make 6 cookies.”

I am getting excited just watching this unfold.

Me:  “Take a guess.”

#2:  “Maybe 3 sheets.”

Me:  “How can we check to see if you’re right?”

#2:  “I know.  I can draw out 3 pieces of felt on a piece of paper and draw 6 cookies on each and count them to see if we’ll have enough to make 11.”

Me:  “Go for it.”

She draws it out and by the time she has finished counting up to 12 on the second rectangle of felt she has drawn, she realizes that she’ll only need 2 pieces of felt.  I find more scrap pieces of felt and she makes a few more and we go through the process again.  How many more does she need to make?  Do we still need the 2 pieces of felt?  We find enough scraps to make 14 and end up needing to only buy one piece of felt (which she figured out on her own).

#2:  We’ll have one extra for my teacher!

I wonder if I can go further with this little math lesson.

Me:  “How can we figure out how much ribbon and wire we need for each cookie?”

She measures the diameter of the circle with her thumb and index finger and shows me how much we need.

Me:  “That’s right but when we go to the store, we can’t unroll the ribbon or wire because there are measurements on the package that tell me how long it is.”

She runs and gets me a ruler.  We measure and it’s about 8 cm.

Me:  “So how much do we need if each cookie needs 8cm of wire and ribbon?”

#2:  “20 pieces of 8cm wire and ribbon.”

Me:  “How much is that?”

#2:  “Mom, I can’t add 8  20 times.  That’s too long.”

And we stop there, I’m beside myself that in this little lesson, she has learned the actual constructs of subtraction, addition, multiplication, and division without getting lost in a formulaic operation or getting caught up in giving me a right answer.

(During this whole time, #5 was nursing and falling asleep and #4 was leaping off the back of the couch onto my back over and over again shouting, “Canon ball!!!”)

The kids assembled them all. The only thing I did was cut the wire inside to fit the cookie.

They loved this idea because the kids could reuse the fortune cookies for secret notes or to keep small things inside.

#2 couldn't resist addressing one to herself.

So cute. I'm making extra for us at home to use in scavenger hunts.

This is the first year that #3 will be getting and giving out valentines.  She opted for an easier craft.  I gave her a bunch of different paints: red, orange, white, glitter gold.  She mixed the paints and created various shades of pinks and peaches and painted about 4 sheets of cardstock.  She covered the entire thing in paint, let it dry and I helped her cut out hearts and add ribbon:

A handmade heart.

Sorry it's blurry. She has been addressing them herself...

…since last night.  I’m hoping she can finish them by tomorrow afternoon.  She needs to take a break after writing one so it’s going to be a LONG process.

God bless her.

a conversation and a mystery.

In our house, with the exception of Ever-Patient, no one is left alone in the washroom.  This is a conversation I overheard between #2 and #3 in the washroom.  This is what you get when you are being raised by a health-conscious dad and a neurotic mom who decide to go vegetarian for a month.

#3 finishes peeing, wipes herself and jumps off the toilet.

#2 who is also in the bathroom, has just finished brushing her teeth, and looks into the toilet:  “Wow!  Your pee is clear!  You must be drinking lots of water.”

#3 who swells up her chest with pride:  “I know!  And my poo has been fantastic four days in a row too!”

(Only #1 is grossed out by our daily BM update/analysis discussions.)

****

#5 was in a good mood and was flashing me smiles left, right, and centre.  Like a good exploitative mother, I ran for the camera.  I started taking pictures of #5, clicking away as fast as I could without really focusing in on him.  I just wanted to capture the moment before it ended.  Within seconds of taking pictures of him, he began to wail.  Only when I looked at the series of pics I had just taken did I solve the mystery and uncover the cause of his sudden hysteria…

Direct your attention to the top right hand corner of the photo. Notice anything?

Tap, tap, tap...wonder who that is???

Look who can't let her brother have any solo shots.

Happy Monday.

(By the way, I’m keeping my kids home today.  Why? Because I want to.  Sometimes I just know when we need to spend a little bit more time as a family just hanging out at home.)

the (extra)ordinary.

This post is dedicated to my parents, my grandparents, and the family members who played important parts in my childhood.

In previous posts, I have touched on the importance on everyday life moments as opposed to the “milestone” moments because they compose a larger percentage of what makes up our life.  Sometimes in this stage of parenthood, I get preoccupied and overwhelmed with taking care of the immediate physical needs of young children.  It’s easy to forget about celebrating the ordinary days when you are sleep-deprived and are facing a mountain of laundry.  So I am extremely grateful for times when I come across reminders like the video below which I found on this blog (if you are a parent to a newborn, adolescent, teen or even a grown adult, you will definitely appreciate this):

When I think back to my own childhood and try to discern life defining moments, I come back to memories that may seem insignificant to the eye of an outsider.  It wasn’t the big events that shaped my life like the divorce of my parents or any other type of monumental occasion, it was the little lessons I was taught along the way.  It was all those ordinary days that I remember most.

I remember sitting in church and holding my mother’s hand, not listening to a word the priest was saying but tracing my fingers along hers and touching her monogrammed ring, wondering if one day my fingers will look just like hers and if one day my finger will fit that ring.  I remember watching my mom make marble cake and feel as though she were performing magic as all the ingredients came together and as she drizzled the chocolate with such an elegance that can only be compared to an artist finishing a masterpiece, I knew that someday I wanted to bake.  I remember that our dining table was always covered with papers as she was always doing homework or taking work home and I would sometimes sit on her lap and play with her calculator – never saying much but being together.  Out of all the new year’s eve spent with family as a child, the one I cherish most is the one where it was just my mom and I in our pajamas watching the ball drop.  I remember the day my dad taught me how to ride a bike in Sunnybrook park.  I remember the car rides to ballet class and the fries and gravy we would have at the restaurant in a busy department store.  I remember the tennis matches, the ice skating and the bowling days and my dad teaching me how to throw a ball.

I remember my grandmother teaching me how to pray, how to sew, how to speak Spanish.  I remember watching soap operas with her and talking about the characters as if they played leading roles in her own life.  I remember how we picked tomatoes from her tiny little pots on her apartment patio.  I remember how she was the one person in the entire world that I never wanted to disappoint.  I remember her wiping down all the utensils, bowls, and cups when we went for dim sum.  I remember how she taught me how to fry an egg.  I remember her washing the clothes by hand although a washing machine was just down the hall.  I remember her waiting for me at the end of her apartment hallway in her duster and slippers, her hair tied back, hands clasped together, smiling at me.

I remember my grandfather (Lolo Harv) straightening his utensils, his plate and cup at restaurants.  I remember trying to copy his handwriting.  I remember sitting on a case of beer in the back of his old Nova while we drove around the community I now call home.  I remember how he always put lotion on the back of his hands before he would spread it instead of squirting it in the palm of his hands.  I remember the smell of his pomade and his lavendar soap.  I remember him always letting me ride the horse at Food City.  I remember the taste of his homemade hot chocolate.

I remember how all my aunts have participated in my upbringing.  I remember how one would french braid my hair and give me chewy cookies in a bowl of milk for breakfast.  I remember how another would sing Paul Young’s “Every time You Go Away” and Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love for You” with me and her game of asking me, “Who do you like better, insert name here or the ghost?” – you had to be there!  I remember the chocolate cookie squares that another aunt would bake and how fun car rides were in the back of her two-seater Mazda.  I would also sit at her make-up vanity thing with the miniature chair/stool.  I remember playing dress-up with another aunt when my mom and I used to live in her living room and having hours of fun jumping on her water bed and hoping that some day I too could rock out in jogging pants and a fur coat, while smoking a cigarette (though now I’ve lost the desire to ever try to smoke).  I remember one of my aunts crimping my hair and thinking this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.

I remember days filled with my cousins – playing school, playing cards (Capes, Bloody Knuckles, Crazy Eights, Pekwa), haunted houses, board games, video games, obstacle courses, plays, shows, clubs, dance routines (Jodi Watley Sep-Ball-Change is all I can say), and of course, wetting toilet paper, rolling it into wads, and throwing it up to stick to the ceiling in the apartment hallway.  I remember Tang and french toast, slip ‘n’ slide, hide and seek by the cemetery, and a girl wanting to be called Apollonia.

These are all snippets of the ordinary that filled my childhood.  These are the seemingly insignificant details that make up some of the happiest times.  Birthdays are a blur of picnics and cake (except that one time my absentee godfather paid a guy dressed up as a scary gorilla to give me a bunch of balloons) and holidays are mainly filled with memories of bad hairstyles and what-was-my-mother-thinking outfits.  Looking back, I am thankful for the almost unnoticeable moments that I happened to pay attention to and the people who were a part of them.

This morning I woke up dwelling on the disaster which I call home but then I watched the video above and realized how fast the time will go by. When I am out with the kids, I often hear older ladies say to me, “Enjoy every minute of this, it flies by!” or “I miss that age, mine are all grown now!” and I wouldn’t pay much attention to them.  But when I look at my own life, I can clearly remember being a child and thinking how the concept of having my own family was so far from my reality and only a silly little dream.  Now instead of constantly focusing on getting to the next stage with my children, I remind myself to enjoy every blessed second and to take the time to look into their eyes, hold their little hands (or big hands), and tell them how much I love them.

I think of how my oldest already closes her bedroom door which really is a metaphor for her transition into young adulthood.  Looking at her, I feel a jolt of reality, that the years of me attending to her physical needs are at an end and all I want for just one moment is to get them back.  It’s funny how in the blink of an eye it can change.  One day, they are hugging me so tight until I finally have to pull away and let go and then the next you are hugging them so tight that they are now the first to pull away and let go.

So tonight, instead of running to do the laundry, I sit and watch and savor.  I see #3 picking up my copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and pretending to read a fairytale to #4 who is wearing #5’s leather jacket.  I see #2 sew a pair of felt mittens for herself.  #5 is lying down beside listening to the fairytale about the princess, the frog, Goldilocks and the three pigs.  And I wait for #1 to get home from volleyball practice so I can just hug her for no reason other than because I can.

hello february.

Our family word this year is ADVENTURE.

Each month we are going to embark on some sort of adventure as a family, essentially leaving our comfort zone in some way.  We realize that being a family of 7 is an adventure in and of itself but a family challenge that we all can participate in will open up discussion and reinforce a feeling of unity as we experience it together.

This month we are going vegetarian.

(At first we contemplated about going vegan which means eliminating meat and all animal by-products like dairy but we thought we should ease into this new eating habit first…we don’t want the natives – the kids- to get too restless and mutiny too soon.)

After seeing this movie and reading this, this, and this, Ever-Patient and I are looking closer at the kinds of food we eat and why we eat them.  It’s not as if I have suddenly become a PETA activist and want to save all the animals.  I do enjoy a good grass-fed piece of steak.  The decision to go veg is a way for us to experiment, to eat more consciously, and to seriously challenge our eating habits.  Culturally speaking, meat has always been in the forefront of our diet and because of this, it has become a focus on our children’s plates which in the end, results in less room on the plate for veggies.

For the last two days, my family has been conscious of everything we put in our mouths.  Not only have we excluded meat from our diet, we are also eating organic produce, sprouted grains, quinoa, kamut, millet, spelt, and every green known to man.  By dinner time, greens are taking up more than half of the kids’ plates now and they are eating every last morsel.  It has opened up conversation about food.  #2 is curious about where food comes from, frequently quizzing me if an item is plant or animal.  At one point, I told #1 to forget about her homework because our little discussion on knowing what exactly we are putting into our bodies was more important for her to participate in.

#2 is allergic/anaphylactic to peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish.  Eating a peanut could kill her.  I am vigilant about monitoring what she eats wherever we go and the kind of food we have in our own pantry.  Then after seeing a movie like Food Inc. and reading about the health hazards of processed food and food that comes from factory farms, why would I let my children ingest these foods knowing the effect it could have on their health?  Not to sound melodramatic but even feeding this food to my kids (which in the end teaches them that it is ok to continue eating this food in adulthood) is just like giving #2 a peanut butter sandwich.

Since this is new to us, we are now experimenting with new foods and recipes.  We are involving the kids in the entire process – meal selection, preparation, and an evaluation of the meal after we’ve eaten it.  For yesterday’s dinner, potato and mozzarella croquettes with sauteed string bean and black beans, we made everything together – the kids took ownership of the food and in the end, enjoyed eating the fruits of their labour.  We plan to take them on excursions to a few local vegan/vegetarian restaurants.

For Ever-Patient and I, we are most interested in seeing the effect that going veg has on our wallets and our health by the end of the month.  Is it cost-effective for our family of 7 to go vegetarian?  Will we notice a markedly different feeling health-wise?  Will we notice a difference in the well-being of our children?

The key with this challenge is that this is an adventure for our family.  We are cooking and eating dinner together.  We are talking and researching and inquiring.  We are becoming active participants in our lives, choosing to live just a little bit more consciously.  By going on these adventures, we can remove ourselves from the daily grind of life and grasp these opportunities to make life more exciting and to expose our children to unconventional ideas.  Our hope is not that they become lifelong vegetarians but lifelong learners that will never stop questioning and having the courage to step out of the box.

I asked #3 the other day if she understood why we are going vegetarian.  She said, “Because chickens have families.”  Then she picked up her broccoli and took a big bite out of it and said, “But broccoli doesn’t!”  Chomp.