The Essence

Living and growing a family in the North awards you with a real and tangible connection to the land. As a mother of 5 and as a home baker and wannabe chef, it is this connection that seeps into everything - motherhood, food, harvesting, and experiencing the very heartbeat of the bit of earth that sustains us.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Six once more

I can't help but feeling a small bit triumphant today, as I pack suitcases and dog food and coolers and plastic totes into the van to head to Whitehorse. T.J flies home on Saturday afternoon, and even though it's a huge job to get everything packed and it's a long, lonely ride in the dark, it will be worth it when he emerges from the plane and his children run into his arms. We had a pretty good time on our own for a couple weeks, me and the kids kept the decks and the driveway clear of snow, we ate suppers in the living room watching movies, we had hot tubs and sleepovers with their friends. We kicked off the hockey season at the rink and went to sports night and storytime and tai chi and playgroup and soccer. We had french toast for dinner. My friend Kara even "payed it forward" and knocked on the door with cake and something she called "crap in a pan." I had Dustin and Emily call it "Bleep" in a pan, so we didn't have Lydia and June running around saying "crap!" There were times when I wanted to scream, like when Dustin forgot to close the gate upstairs before leaving for floor hockey and the dog came upstairs and peed all over June's potty. Or when Emily and Liddie were playing tag around the island in the kitchen and Emily knocked my great grandmother's cuckoo clock off the wall. Or when June decided it was great fun to wash her hair with her food, in one day she had cheerios, applesauce, macaroni and spaghetti in there all at once. Her hair stood straight up stiff from her head. There were times I had to seek the quiet of my room for a moment, to close my eyes and count my blessings, instead of roaring, "YOU STUPID KIDS, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?" We are on our way to the big city, to play in the pool and go to the movies and stock up on groceries and ingredients for Christmas baking. Our trips are always action packed and we never get everything done on the list, but by the time we leave to travel the 4 hours home, the van is stuffed to the roof. There are usually things tied on top of the roof, too. We are happy and mommy is relieved that we will walk in our door Saturday night as 6.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Once a wee boy

I want to use this space once in a while to record special memories. Today is little Dustin's turn. My first born is an inconceivable 13 years old, but once he was a sweet little guy who could melt his mommy's heart. Dustin was a super easy baby, he was quiet and cuddly and happy to go along with most any situation. He was never a fighter, never took to wrestling or armpit farts or getting filthy in the mud puddles. We were over at a friends house one day and Dustin was playing with her little boy in the living room while we visited in the kitchen. While our conversation paused we overheard the boys cooking up plans to re-enact a WWF match that was on the television. My friends kid was right into WWF and watched it with his father religiously. Dustin was innocently going along and followed his friends instructions to lay down on the floor and pretend he was knocked out. I jumped up and ran into the room just as his friend leaped off the arm of the couch yelling, "BODY SLAM!" TJ came home from work that evening and gave Dustin a wrestling lesson. Our little boy was a lover, not a fighter. Things changed a little when his sister Emily made her appearance when Dustin was 3. One day about a week after bringing Emily home I was changing her on our bed and just happened to glance out the front window. There was Dustin, running down the driveway with his PJ's on in his daddy's boots. He had a backpack on that was stuffed to the brim with apples, and they were falling out as he was making his getaway. I yelled out the door, "Dustin, come back here, where are you going?" and he hollered back, "I'm moving to Grammas!" Another day shortly after we had company for dinner. Dustin went through a (short lived) phase when he was stoked about setting the table for meal times. He was running back and forth between the kitchen and dining room with dishes, salt and pepper, napkins and the butter dish and when he was done he stood back to examine his handiwork. All of a sudden his eyes lit up and he ran back into the kitchen to retrieve whatever he'd forgotten. He walked proudly out holding 2 hotpads, and exclaimed, "Look, Mommy, I forgot the breast pads!" TJ was horrified and scolded me for using those "kinds of words" in front of his kid. I don't remember Dustin being disobedient on purpose until he was at least 7 or 8. He crumpled if I looked at him with a frown, he was innocently naughty. Like the time at the swimming pool when he was around 2 years old. TJ has only been swimming with us a handful of times, and this was one of them. We were on holidays and after much nagging and laying the guilt on about how much it would mean to little Dustin for his Daddy to see him practice all the things he learned in swimming lessons, TJ gave in and came with us. Only because we were on holidays and the chance of him running into someone he knew with his shorts on were slim to none. Dustin followed his Daddy into the men's changeroom for the first time. After swimming, we went to get changed and when I got out to the lobby red-faced TJ gave me one hot look and I knew we weren't going to head to the "Shark Shack" for onion rings and icecream. Once we were safe out in the car, he came unglued and I laughed so hard tears rolled and my stomach hurt. TJ had plunked Dustin down on the bench in the changeroom while he retrieved the towels from his locker. A big naked fat guy emerged from the shower, his locker was on the bottom row right beside where Dustin was sitting. He bent right over to get his things, and out of the corner of TJ's eye, he saw Dustin poke his finger right into the guy's butt hole! I guess TJ shoved his head right inside his locker and hid there until he thought it safe, then he got the hell out of there as quick as he could. A very long time passed before TJ got back into the pool with us, and when he did, I had to take the kids with me. Dustin is not so innocently naughty these days, but he is still a pretty quiet soul, content to be himself and not too worried about whatever is "cool" on any given day. He is passionate about planes and flight and we won't be surprised at all if his plans to be a pilot are realized during the next few years. He is still a lover, and TJ and I swell with pride as we witness him growing into the honorable, kind man we know he will be.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sweet Satisfaction

Sometimes I have pretty unproductive days, not the laying on the couch all day channel surfing days of my adolescence, those are long gone, but the kind of days where I go round and round with no real enthusiasm for the monotony of housewife life. Then there are days like today, when I finally have a chance to sit down and breathe while I listen to June sing herself to sleep, I marvel at all the things I got done. It probably had something to do with the good sleep I had last night, as June only woke up once and was back asleep with a quick "shhhhhhhhhh", Lydia did not wake up screaming that someone ate all the yogurt, and Emily didn't have a tummy ache. (Or an eye ache or knee ache or neck ache, Emily seems to like to ache these days.) This morning when the alarm went off I was up out of bed, I didn't hit the sleep button even once. I made myself some coffee, turned on Alan Jackson and made french toast and eggs and smoothies for breakfast. I got the kids off to school on time and welcomed the 3 preschoolers I care for all by the stroke of 9. We made playdoh and played playdoh, put together a snack for playgroup at the Recreation Center, and I got everyone's coats, hats, mitts and boots on and everyone into their carseats by 10:30. I then swung by my friends house to pick up her kid, because as I was sipping my morning coffee I read her blog that she posted at 4 in the morning while up with her crazy wide awake-way-too-early children, and I could literally see the tears rolling down the screen of my computer. I thought to myself, "what could be the difference between 5 and 6?, besides, now she owes ME a favor!" After playgroup we cruised by the school (actually I just had to back up the van and move it about 3 meters into the school parking lot) to pick up Dustin and Emily, the former of who had to ride in the back hatch as there were no more seats left. After dropping the friends kid off, we headed home for soup and sandwiches. I organize a program in Faro I've dubbed Friendship Feasts, kind of lame but totally awesome. It's kind of like a meals on wheels. After lunch as I was reading "If you give a pig a party" for the upteemth time, I realized that it was my day to cook 2 families meals. Instead of letting things unravel, as they so easily could have, I ran down to the freezer and grabbed a few packs of ground moose meat. I put down my sleepers for their naps, which left me 3, and I explained to them that today for craft we were making Shepherds Pie. They seemed O.K with that and we got started peeling potatoes and chopping carrots and onions. Lydia eyes even watered, and she laughed like crazy when I teased her, "Liddie, STOP crying!" They really liked whipping the potatoes with the Kitchen Aid, especially on the highest speed so potatoes splattered all over the wall. I got out the casseroles, everyone of course wanted their own, so that made four. Two for Friendship Feasts, one for us and one for my friend who is struggling with "my kids are turning me into a zombie" syndrome. The kids were a little irked at me when I told them they couldn't take their Shepherd's Pie's home to their mommies, but when I told them they could lick the potato bowl, strangely it made it all better. After a couple dreaded runs down the sledding hill again, everyone got picked up at 5, Lydia and Dustin headed out on the snowmobile and June and I loaded the van and started deliveries. This was the best part of the day, seeing everyone's grateful smiles as they cradled their warm casserole dishes, and the sweet satisfaction of knowing that today I made a difference. We went home to the quiet, June played while I cleaned the potato off the wall, we had a delicious supper and I started to get ready for aerobics class. Then exhaustion started to set in, and I totally caved to the call of my hot tub on my back deck. Oh well, I'll get fit on Thursday.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pink and Blue

In our house, jobs are categorized into two colors, blue and pink. TJ would argue that pink doesn't really exist, he would say he gets stuck doing all jobs, but I can prove that isn't the case. Take breast feeding, for example, there is no way he is ever up at 4 in the morning with someone attached to HIS nipple. Or giving birth, he never had to endure that. Or packing kids suitcases for a trip to town, I take care of this or no one would have any underwear or toothbrushes. Most of the time the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning of toilets and the grocery shopping (no easy task for a family of 6 when you are only loading up every 6 weeks or so) falls under the pink category. I do these jobs day after day, usually with a minimal amount of moaning, because taking care of my family fills me with joy and deep satisfaction, especially because T.J is around to do the blue jobs. Today T.J left us for a couple of weeks, Alberta bound for work - and a little deer hunting on the side. Blue jobs suck. Especially when you have to do all the pink jobs on top of all the blue jobs. These occasions when I am left to manage our house on my own, I find new appreciation for my husband. I miss him when I have to be the first one up in the morning to make my own cup of coffee. I miss him when I find it snowed 3 feet overnight (OK, exaggerating a little) and I have to go outside in the dark to shovel off the front porch so we can open the door and I have to shovel a path off the back porch so the dog can get out for her morning pee. Note to self : never again in my housecoat. I miss him when I have to take the garbage out and as I scrape the ice off the windshield of the van. I miss him when one of the kids decides they need to use a whole roll of toilet paper after taking the biggest dump ever and they plug the toilet. I miss him when the gas light comes on and I have to heave the jerry can up on my shoulder to fill the tank and I miss and spill gasoline all over myself. I miss him when I find a mouse in the trap in the garage, and when a fox scares the crap out of me with his nose pressed up against our back window. I miss him when June decides that sleep is not actually necessary, as I pull the pillow over my ears to block out her hollering. I miss him when I burn the supper because I'm trying to do too many things at once, when he would save the day with scrambled eggs and grilled cheese. I miss him when I find the dog thinks its amusing to piss all over the toboggans outside, as I clean it off in the bathroom tub. Blue jobs are gross. I would take my pink jobs over the blue ones any day. Hurry home to me, husband, it's only day one and I've already had enough. Hats off to all the single moms out there, you are strong and inspiring and you encourage me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sledding Joys

Isn't it sad how everything that is fun and exciting and hilarious as a child changes when you grow up? Like sledding. When we were kids, I loved getting all bundled up and fighting my way through the snow to the top of the hill behind our house. We used to build jumps, we used the big boulder planted in the middle of the hill and just piled and packed snow over it so we would hit it with the sled and sail through the air. Whoever got the most air won. Whoever got the most snow down the front of their snowsuit got extra points. Usually, if the snow was right, we would whiz down that hill at about 50km an hour and end up in the willows and the rose bushes at the end. Sometimes we would see how many of us could pile up in a single toboggan and how many of us would still be in it after hurling over the boulder. We would squeal in delight when we would land head first in the snow bank to emerge with only our eyes showing. The best part was getting home to the warmth of the kitchen, peeling off our soaking coats and snowpants to sip hot chocolate and marshmallows in front of the woodstove. Today I was feeling adventurous, I was feeling brave and I took the kids, Lydia and 3 preschoolers I take care of, sledding on the hill beside our house. After explaining to them that they had to bail off the sled before they hit the metal garbage can at the end of the hill, we headed up. At first they piled in the sled and joyously shouted, "MUSH!" at me as I lugged it up, but then I came to my senses and kicked them out. At the top we piled in and away we went. At 32, snow down the coat and snow down the snowpants and snow on my face so the only thing you can see are my eyes is just not the same. The kids thought it was the funniest sight ever. "Again, again!" they screamed as they ran back up the hillside. After several more runs, one of which we hit the neighbors fence and one of which we hit the willows and rose bushes and one of which we narrowly missed the garbage can, I declared our fun over and lured the kids back in the house with the promise of hot chocolate and marshmallows. At least this will never change, the warmth of my kitchen and the sounds of the children still laughing at the sight of me with my head in the snow, and the smell of hot chocolate on the stove are still the best parts. Even though my bones and my head and my butt are aching.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Only 44 more shopping days till Christmas.....

The Christmas crazyness has begun. We were in Whitehorse on our grocery/fuel run this past weekend and I found myself in the midst of decorations, twinkling Christmas trees, toffifee and Frosty the Snowman blaring out of the PA system. As I watched Lydia run from aisle to aisle checking out this year's toy selection, as Dustin checked out laptops and Emily played with the latest ipod, I felt a little disgusted at the annual spending spree for either a gift that costs so much you need to make payments on it or a gift that is played with for a day and then lies under a bed or at the back of a closet the rest of the year. So I came up with something different for the Grantham Christmas this year. We drew names. The gift has to be homemade. And no, my sweet children, it doesn't HAVE to suck. I overheard the kids wishing out loud that they hoped June didn't draw their name. I wonder what I got myself into. In my effort to avoid the chaos, did I just create more? Now I'm going to have to spend the next six weeks making, sorry, "helping" 4 kids make gifts. I'm also going to have to nag T.J everyday about his gift until he panics on Christmas Eve and spends all night in the garage, conjuring up something. So I will have to have a back-up gift just in case his doesn't "work out." And I'm going to have to make my own gift. So now I have to make 6 gifts. This better be worth it. It better be meaningful, we better remember how great the homemade Christmas was for years to come. Maybe I will finally learn how to knit.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The power of a girl

This morning I woke up to the sound of the shower running. I knew it wasn't TJ, because he jumped out of bed hours earlier (4am actually) to drive 21/2 hours to the "exclusion zone" to try to tag one of the ultimate trophy's according to him - a Yukon Elk. It was 7:35, just after my alarm went off and I heard the water come on somewhere in the depths of our house. I lay there wondering if someone forgot to jiggle the toilet handle again, or if it was the sound of the bleeder that was recently turned on, because, yes, winter is here to stay. But no, I also heard some faint humming or music, maybe it was Dustin's radio downstairs? I dragged myself from the cozy layers of my bed and stumbled down the hallway to investigate. Holy crap, it was Dustin in the shower! This is a first, people, the first time ever Dustin has without nagging or yelling or holding our noses as we pass by him to give him the hint, that he has on his own had the urge to get clean. He was singing a tune, enjoying himself even! Then later, as I was sitting in the dining room cradling my cup of coffee, something even crazier happened. There was a smell. It was wafting up the stairs, the delicious scent of TJ's AXE colonge. The kind on the commercials where all the girls attack the guy wearing it, because he smells so good they can't help themselves. I'm sure that's why my husband bought that brand, because he thinks there could be a chance of a hundred girls running towards him to give him a smell. My son had somehow got hold of it and had put it on. Not a little dab, either, I think he might of washed himself in it. Crazy things kept happening today with Dustin, he came home at lunch and reapplied, then he came home after school and did his laundry. Then he went outside and shovelled the deck. I am so not prepared for a teenager. It must be a girl. But who? There are only like 4 in Faro that it could be. Some girl has possesed my son into a showering, cologne wearing, laundry doing, snow shovelling, get his homework done early so he can go to sports night lunatic. The girl must be at sports night, I'm going down to pick him up and I will be sure to check her out.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I remember Halloween being my favorite holiday, maybe even surpassing Christmas. The goal was to get the ultimate load, running from house to house, block to block, making absolute sure that you accumulated more loot than your siblings. Now Halloween is greeted by me with a groan, as I battle pumpkin guts and stuff plastic ghost bags with newspaper to hang from the trees. This halloween, I did the holiday proud. We made ghost candles and egg carton spiders, we took off our socks to stamp white footprint ghosts on black paper, we learned halloween songs, fingerplays and poems, we told ghost stories. We bought 6 pumpkins (never again) and carved all of them, not just a typical triangle face, either, we had a puking pumpkin guts one and a pumpkin eating a child's leg one. Dustin won a bowling ball sized Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory pumpkin at the pumpkin carving contest. We sprinkled red food coloring and ketchup on the snow for blood. We played scary music. Lydia got up at 6 am asking if it was time yet to go trick or treating, and I when I explained to her our rule about waiting until until it was dark outside, she said, " But Mommy, it IS dark outside!" We got up and make witch finger cookies for the Halloween party. At the party there was a goblin dance, a red jello eating contest, a pumpkin pinata and a costume contest. June won "funniest costume" for her depiction of a chicken. After staring out the window for an hour and a half, Lydia declared it dark and we put her in her snowsuit and stuffed her into her puppy dog costume. Emily and Dustin are now too cool to trick or treat with us, and they joined up with friends to tear around house to house just as I did. June went to one house, got her treat and was done. She saw the little bag full of treats in her bucket and all she could focus on was to get them into her mouth, wrappers and all. We took her home to daddy and carried on. Lydia ran house to house, I got to stand at the end of the driveways this year and wave. She ran out of steam at about house number 17 and plunked herself into the sled, eyes wide at the pillowcase full of junk. She was ready to go home and dump it on the floor. We all met back at our house and I warmed up the truck to take Dustin and Emily to the dance. I chaperoned till 11:30 when the kids declared it "lame" and wanted to get home to their candy. I fell asleep on the couch. Today T.J let me sleep in till 9:30, when I woke up and discovered it was only 8:30. I love fall back! Now I have an extra hour in the day to scrape the pumpkin guts off the deck, take down all the decorations and referee 4 kids on a sugar high. The dog already ate the ketchup off the snow.