Tuesday, 17 December 2013

You're probably not as inadequate as you think you are...

Every month or so my Facebook goes a bit crazy with reposts of articles aimed at making mothers feel better for not being able to do it all. They usually make me feel a bit better about life, because even tho I don’t think I suffer too much from feeling inadequate compared to other mothers, I do like knowing that other people are going through the exact same struggles (or worse!).

I try not to waste much time on feeling inadequate, so after the last plethora of “feel good, Mum!” posts I sat around thinking of the activities I do with the children that make me look like a super mum or could at least make other mums feel like they’re not quite keeping up with the Porters. The main thing I got from this little exercise was that all the things that I manage to do with the kids, or in spite of the kids, are things that I am really passionate about. For example:

- there’s a lot of home cooking going on
- we go for many a nature walk
- lots of trips to festivals, museums, other points of interest (Tesco!)
- I’m as on top of the laundry as someone with no dryer & only one air rack can be
- I still do my embroidery (although not quite as much as before)
- I read a lot

Everything on this list is something I love to do. These are activities that in one way or another relax me. And, because they are things that I’m passionate about, they tend to get prioritised and they tend to work out to my satisfaction.

I could just as easily put together a list of all the things I cannot do as well as other mothers. I may be a good cook, but when it comes to turning out beautiful baked products please look elsewhere. I suck at keeping up with the housecleaning, aside from laundry, and the house is always in an organised state of clutter (worse right now due to the complete absence of storage BECAUSE APPARENTLY CLOSETS ARE TOO MUCH TO HOPE FOR). There’s not a lot of structured learning playtime around here, and if Emily has ever had some actual “tummy time” it’s because she’s lurched onto it from her pillow nest when my back is turned.

The thing is, when you start comparing yourself to others you need to be fair and focus on where your strengths & passions lie. Rather than being depressed that my cookies look like dog biscuits or my house never reaches that level of all rooms sparkling at once, I speak to myself honestly and admit that those are just not my strengths and, more importantly, that they don’t really bother me enough to make them into strengths. I mean, why would I want to waste time learning to decorate beautiful cookies when I could be reading a book or cooking something tasty for dinner?

I also find that it’s important to set goals rather than make plans. Every parent knows that the path to happiness lies in being flexible when possible. One of my goals is to embrace my vocation by trying to clean the house every week. It rarely works out, and that’s why it’s a goal to aim for rather than a plan to stick to. I’ve found that it pays off for my mood, and thus the mood of everyone in the house, if things are clean & less cluttered. But if I’m forcing myself to do those things on days when I’m exhausted because the baby hasn’t slept well or I’ve been running errands or doing other important things, it becomes too much and only makes the situation worse. So I follow my goal-plan for the week on an hour by hour basis each day, so that I can adjust it with the flow of life.

Getting married and, if so blessed, adding children to that mix is about embracing life. And life is alive – so why spend time looking at one perfectly captured moment on facebook/pinterest/a blog. It’s not the whole story, but a brief second in time. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Menu Plan Monday: 14/12 - 20/12

Linking up with Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com

Saturday: Quesadilla night – beef. And hopefully corn on the cob. And really hopefully—watching an old timey Christmas movie with dinner. And mince pies & cocoa for dessert.

Sunday: The other day I was in a book/convenience store and noticed that they already had the Easter candy out for sale. Fitting with that spirit, Tesco has already been marking down its “Christmas roast” joints of pork to half price. So we’re having a pre-stuffed crackling pork roast, with potatoes & brussel sprouts.

Monday: Going the easy route with leftover mussel & fennel bisque. To make it super easy, and because I’m sick of homemade biscuits (damn do I miss cornmeal – it’s so hard to find here) I’m going to heat up the last of the white bread rolls that are currently chillin’ in the freezer.

Tuesday: I’m going into Cambridge for the day, so supper needs to be really easy as we likely won’t be home until 4 or 5. Leftover cottage pie, with yorkshire pudding, should do the ticket as I make pudding so frequently that I can do it in my sleep.

Wednesday: Time to start using up my bags of dried beans. I’m going to make Rose Elliot's bean & winter vegetable gratin, which I’ll serve with rice. The real question is whether or not I’ll remember to soak the beans the night before.

Thursday: The bolognese sauce recipe from last week’s lasagne made enough for a few meals, so we’ll have spaghetti bolognese this evening and the last of the parmesan.

Friday: Pizza Night!

Now a look at last week’s plan in practice:

On Saturday, David suggested that I give myself a break and we order Thai. But I held fast to my resolution of not spending any money that day and so we had our quesadillas. And they were delicious and totally worth staying in for. We watched Meet Me in St Louis and finished our evening off with mince pies, roast chestnuts, and cocoa.

Sunday Roast was a sacrifice this week as I was not in the mood to cook a big dinner. But I did, and it was tasty, and there are enough leftovers for two more meals. We put our Christmas tree so ended the night with the tradition of Christmas goodies & chocolat chaud (laced with brandy).

Monday’s French-inspired menu was only so-so. British smoked bacon tends to be super salty, and the onions on the tart never really caramelized, and the salad, although tasty, seemed to be missing some ingredients (supposed to serve four and we could barely stretch it to two. Worth a try, but not worth trying again.

On Tuesday, I reheated the stuffed marrow I’d made a couple of weeks ago. As I expected, it wasn’t great for freezing, because the thaw made it rather soggy, but a little careful reheating in the oven helped. I made cheese sauce, instead of parsley, and it was perfect to accompany.

Wednesday’s Cottage Pie was to die for. I tweaked the recipe a little – I left the salt out of the mashed potatoes, only seasoning with cheese & sour cream. Instead of regular salt, I used garlic salt to season the beef mixture. And since I never have the required “three cups diced beef”, I bulked up a bit with extra veg. With a nice eggy Yorkshire pudding it was perfect.

Thursday’s chicken wellington was just the easy meal I needed after a trying day with the kids. I love having all these frozen leftovers to help make the week easier.

Friday was a very trying day. It was so nice to relax with hot, delicious pizza at the end of it. We watched Go, which is a very alternative Christmas-timed movie. If you like Super Troopers and Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas you’ll probably like Go, although it was rather disconcerting for this Road to Avonlea fan to see Sarah Polley in a much more adult role.

Friday, 13 December 2013

7 Quick Takes - Vol. 19

--- 1 ---

Last year, when we moved out of our college accommodation, we donated/gave away a lot of our things, including all of our generic Christmas decorations. Now we’re in the position of having Christmas away from our families, so I’m trying to jolly up the house (and our moods) by making things here as nice as possible, without wanting to spend the cash we don’t have on replacing all the generic stuff we don’t want to keep. Solution – diy Christmas decor using things commonly found in the house (or: Kindergarten craft time). So far I’ve made 31 paper snowflakes to decorate the windows with and two popcorn strings for the tree. Making the popcorn strings, with Walter’s help, was the best. He kept raiding the bowl of popcorn, taking one piece, and going “mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm” very loudly as he ran away.

--- 2 ---

I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much I dislike baking. So much about it bothers me – the mess, the finickyness, the patience required... of course I still bake things, but my preferred recipes are of the no fuss, little effort variety. Thus I thought I’d tackle Christmas baking this year as part of my regular weekly lot. In England people are more likely to have mince pies or Christmas pudding for company, and we haven’t many plans with friends over the season, so I don’t need a huge batch of dainties like I would back home. I picked three tried & tested recipes from my recipe folder. I’ve been baking one each week for the last three weeks, freezing half to make part of our Christmas stash (which we really only need for Tree Decorating Night and Christmas Eve). The choices? Lemon Snow Bars (because LEMON!!!), Boderkoek (a Mennonite Christmas tradition) & Chocolate Torte (in lieu of brownies. Chocolate overdose!).

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When I complain about baking, my best friend reminds me that she enjoys it but dislikes cooking, which I love. We work as a good team in the kitchen and whenever I bake with her it turns into an enjoyable experience. She even helped me make baklava one year and everyone survived! And it was delicious! And I didn’t explode from rage! She suggested that we try living in the same city again so that I can do the cooking and she can do the baking and, as I pointed out, our husbands can get very fat.

--- 4 ---

Now that Emily’s three month’s old, she’s showing that her newborn sleepiness is wearing off and a pseudo-sleep-schedule is emerging. She’s a pretty good sleeper, at least compared to Walter, but there are a few evenings each week where she needs some aid to get sleepy. Those are exhausting evenings, because I usually don’t need to step in unless it’s past ten pm and she’s still awake, but at the same time they are what beautiful memories are made of. I’m loving being able to rock and sing to her for such a long time.

--- 5 ---

It’s been a depressing few weeks, with bad weather and a sick family. To cheer us all up, among other reasons, David entered a contest on the Catholic Herald for the best English translation of an article they published in Latin. We were all thrilled to find out that he won! They sent him a book as a prize. It was a really nice bit of cheer and excitement to drive away the winter blues.

--- 6 ---

This is the first Advent in two years when I haven’t been in the early stages of pregnancy. It is soooooooooooo nice.

--- 7 ---

I was all set to write velvety happy nonsense feelings about babies and family size but then the children stopped acting like society’s view of the Well Brought-up Child and started acting like normal children (ie that moment when you glance at the clock and realise it’s 5am and you really have been up since before 3 mothering one after the other and why on earth does Walter have to go through yet another phase of screaming constantly all day long if he wants attention or is told “no” and is Emily’s colic returning andandand)... and I’m exhausted. But at least they’ve been compensating with lots of Emily smiles and Walter kiss-hug-attacks.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!