Meals My Family Loves, Volume I: Chicken and Salsa

Usually the dinners I cook are greeted with something between indifference and disgust by my children, but occasionally I put something on the table which is greeted with delight and devoured with gusto. Yesterday was one of those days; this is what I served:

  • crockpot chicken and salsa (throw boneless skinless chicken thighs in the crockpot with a jar of salsa, cook until done)
  • brown rice (I use Dainty Time-Wise (tm) brown rice which only takes 15 minutes to cook)
  • avocado mashed with lime juice and salt and pepper
  • Ace Bakery ciabatta (aka "the world's best bread" according to Delphine) and butter
  • cherry tomatoes from this summer's backyard harvest

Everyone had seconds. Some of us might have had thirds.

Time Is On My Side – No It Ain't

I know I've beaten this horse before, but it ain't dead yet. I know because it's always trotting around my head.

Here's the thing. About a year ago I decided to add a bunch of stuff to my plate and see what happened. I managed to keep my shit together until this September, when I added work to the teetering pile and it started to collapse.

So I made a list. It's what I do. I made a list of the stuff I do, sorted by funness and importance:

Stuff I Do Funness Importance  
friends 9 9 Seeing friends is not only fun but essential to good physical and mental health, so this is the top of my list.
family time 8 9 Obviously hanging out with the kids is the most important thing I do, and it's almost as much fun as hanging out with friends, so this is an easy second.
sleep 7 9 I love and need sleep. If I don't get enough sleep not only do I become short-tempered and unpleasant, I also get stupid and sick. Seven hours a night, minimum.
exercise 4 9 As you can see, exercise gets the lowest fun rating so far at a disappointing 4, but it's pretty important. Since I spend so much time sleeping I'd like to recoup that investment by living for a long time, and to do that I need to stay fit. (As fit as possible under the circumstances.) This is one of the things I'd like to do more.
cook 8 8 I cook and bake a lot. I enjoy it and the value that cooking (and baking) brings to the family is worth the time I spend doing it.
work 7 8 Work is not only fun but satisfying and profitable, but it's one of the things I'm having trouble levering in. I am very easily distracted both online and off. I'm getting better at ignoring the outside world and buckling down. It's a process.
laundry 6 8 I spend a lot of time doing laundry. Especially folding. I've started listening to the CBC while I fold, which is at least sometimes educational or thought-provoking.
kid management 6 8 This is stuff like planning activities, sorting out clothes and toys, picking people up, and so on. It takes as long as it takes and I don't mind doing it.
housework 3 8 Hate housework. Hate dirty house. Can't afford housekeeper.
reading 9 7 Reading is one of the things I'm starting to panic about. I have hardly read anything since the read-a-thon and I feel like I'm getting behind. I have a list of interesting non-fiction books I want to read and I feel underinformed because I haven't read them yet. I must know things!
choir 9 7  
blake time 9 7  
local politics 8 7 This is a new one for me, and not actually anything I technically spend much time on, apart from reading the news, but it's an area of interest I'd like to explore further.
school choir and volunteering in the classroom 8 6 I do a lot of volunteering for the school, but choir is most fun, followed closely by working in the classroom.
blog/writing 8 6 Now that Uncle Hershey has passed (may he rest in peace) there are exactly two people in the world who want me to blog more, but I really should write more if I ever want to not suck at it.
farting around 7 6 This seems like an odd thing to include in a post about being awesome and getting things done and organizing myself, but I'm a delicate person and I need my down time. It's not that I need to fart around, per se, but I need some wiggle room in my day: I want to read news online and watch the birds out the back window and hang out with other moms on the schoolyard without feeling guilty and harried.
eco-chair 6 5 Being chair of the Parent Council Eco-Committee is my least favourite school volunteer job. I spend a lot of time dealing with TDSB bureaucracy, and most of the rest of the time trying to convince disinterested parents to think about things they'd rather not think about. It's disheartening and unsatisfying. This is the one thing on this list I'm planning to walk away from as soon as I can.

What I've learned from this exercise is that I probably prioritise activities a little differently than most high-achieving busy people (not to overgeneralize – of course there are HABP who make time for all of these things): I place a high value on reading, sleeping, cooking, and hanging out with friends, all of which tend to elbow out useful things like having meetings and writing proposals and whatever other useful things useful people do. So there's a good chance that I'll never be terribly useful, but at least now I know what I'm working with, what I'm willing to give up and what I insist on keeping, and with that knowledge I can try and spend the limited time I have on things which are really important.

Cordelia is Five

Actually Cordelia turned five exactly a month ago, but I haven't had time to blog about it until now. (I want to blog about that, too. Who knows if I will find the time…)

We had a little birthday party for her – her first real party with friends. She invited Ursa and Otis, Scarlett, Anna, and Zoey. And Amelia kind of crashed – Delphine invited her. The kids decorated loot bags, played freeze dance and What Time Is It Mr. Wolf?, and some other games. (Big thanks to Tanya for playing games with everyone. I hate games.) We ordered pizza, which is so lame but I didn't feel like prepping a bunch of stuff, and then we had cake. Cordelia requested a rainbow cake with plain icing (I upsold her to chocolate icing) and Smarties, and that's what she got. Pictures to come.

Cordelia loves home. She would love to be home all the time, or failing that, wherever I am. She has announced her intention to marry Otis, live in my house and have babies, which I will take care of for her.

I don't know how much Cordelia loves school. I think she's pretty happy, but it's not her element the way it is Delphine's. I'm not sure what she's good at – she doesn't talk much about lessons or class activities – and I don't know what she enjoys. I'm looking forward to our first parent-teacher interview to find out how she's getting along.

Cordelia's still our baby. She doesn't like to do things for herself – she asks us to spread her butter, zip her jacket, carry her backpack... I try to get her to do things, but I think I'm doing more for her than I did for Delphine at five, simply because this time I don't have a three-year-old to look after. Also Delphine's always been very independent, and Cordelia's... not. But she'll grow up when she gets around to it. We can wait.

My First Entry

My name is Delphine. There’s another Delphine in the school I go to. I go to a K-6 school in Toronto. My friend at my school’s name is Darina. She really likes bugs. She’s going to dress up as a moth for Halloween. I’m dressing up as an elf.

Yesterday, me and my dad cooked dinner. We had sandwiches, soup, and mini pizzas. It was fun to make dinner with Dad. I liked making the sandwiches. I made five sandwiches. They were tomato, mayonnaise and cheese sandwiches. Dad made the soup, and it was very good. The mini pizzas were kind of hard to make, because they took a long time.

My friend Ursa has gone to Winnipeg. We feed her cats. Her cats’ names are Hebi-Chan and Columbus. Here’s a joke: What do you call a locomotive with a cold? An achoo-choo train! One more: Where would you weigh a whale? At the whale-weigh station!

Tomorrow is Monday. I’m going to go to school. I like art. I do not like math. The end.

My Time Management Clues For Today

Just because I can (i.e., am technically competent to) do something doesn't mean I can (i.e., have time to) do it.

Just because something should be done doesn't mean it should be me who does it.

Just because something would be fun doesn't mean I have time for it.

Some thoughts on Messaging.

This morning a friend mine tweeted that even with a bunch of high-quality newspapers around him, he was ignoring them in favour of reading twitter.

Earlier this month, I was reading Clay Shirky’s “Cognitive Surplus”. One his assertions is that it was largely a historical accident that people used to passively consume media, and now that people can produce things just as easily, we’re going to see an explosion of “participatory culture”, as they use those products to socialize with each other.

For some reason, this morning those two ideas really came together in my mind, and it hit me that messaging on the internet is going to be huge. Like, really, really huge. Even bigger than you think. And I believe that it will end up going one of two ways.1

One of the two futures I can imagine is full of places like Facebook, where you can only communicate with people who are on the same service as you, and every service is trying to own your online identity. I’ve lived in that environment with instant messaging clients, and I’m not a huge fan. Having to check five or ten different websites is almost as much of a pain as having to run five or ten different instant messenger programs. (Or having the one multi-protocol client frequently lose service on one or more of the networks when the provider decides to cut them off.)

The other is one where all the services can interoperate, and you can communicate with all your friends, relatives, and co-workers from a single program which will go out and get the messgages, sort them, collate them, maybe even rank them in terms of importance, or do a million other things that I can’t even think of. A world where if one messaging service provider decides to cancel your account for some reason, you’re not cut off from the people you knew there, and you still have all the images you uploaded, and messages you posted, and can send them all to a new provider, without losing anything.

That second world is the one I want to help make happen, and I’m very fortunate that people are paying me to do just that. I’ll stop talking now, but only after saying that you can help, too.

  1. Well, to be honest I think it’s far more likely to be some combination of those two futures, and perhaps some other things that I can’t predict. Stuff rarely ends up as just one thing or another. 

8:25 a.m.

After my last post, I headed upstairs and curled up in bed with a booklight and Holes by Louis Sachar. I think I read until about 2:30 am, then slept until 5:30 when I woke up with a stomach-ache. Whether from the junk I ate yesterday or the coffee or just lack of sleep, I don't know, but since I was up anyway I read some more. I finished the book at around 7:30. So altogether I think I read for nineteen or twenty hours out of twenty-four, which is frankly more than I expected to.

So I read:

  • the end of Moses in Egypt by Lynne Reid Banks
  • On Writing by Stephen King
  • Raincloud by Richard S. Todd
  • Holes by Louis Sachar

I raised $210 for Books For Africa. (I really recommend FirstGiving – the page was super-easy to set up and they have been really helpful and supportive, even posting about my fundraising on Twitter.

And now I am all distracted because there are girlies climbing on me demanding a hot breakfast. I will come back to bed after breakfast.

1:21 a.m.

It's late. Not quite late enough to be early, but later than I usually stay up when there isn't karaoke involved.

I finished Raincloud by Richard S. Todd (and a pot of coffee) and the book was good (the coffee was good too). There were a few things I would have changed – characters knowing stuff they shouldn't have known, weird word choices, and so on, but generally it was good. The problems would have been caught by a good editor, and after some investigation I see why they weren't: I took a closer look at the "publisher" after I finished the book and it's iUniverse, which is a self-publisher. For a self-published book this is actually really good, and I'm not sure why the author didn't shop it around to a proper publisher.

Now I'm in that half-tired twilight you get when you're up late under the influence of coffee. I'm going to head to bed with another book and my itty bitty book light, and read until I fall asleep. The alarm goes off at 7, so I'll try and wake up then and read a little bit more before it all ends at 8 am.

Mid-Event Survey

Hey, check it out, I'm being a team player and doing one of the activities on the Read-a-thon website. (Mostly I'm having too much fun reading to want to do anything else!)

It's a survey:

1. What are you reading right now? I'm in the middle of Raincloud by Richard S. Todd.

2. How many books have you read so far? One whole book, and two half-books. Well, two whole books if you count Oh, The Places You'll Go which I read out loud to my five-year-old.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I'm looking forward to Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan, mainly because it's a YA so I hope it will go down nice and smooth. I hope it's not too harrowing. I was going to read Heat by George Monbiot but I fear I have squandered my most wide-awake hours on easier books. I don't think I have the brain power to get through it.

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? All I had to do was plan ahead for lunch (which we usually improvise on Saturdays) and get my husband to order in dinner. He's been great at keeping everything running smoothly in my (functional) absence.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Not particularly, apart from that I live with a seven-year-old and a five-year-old. Seven was away at a friend's most of the day, and Five has been very agreeable. I did take a break this afternoon to set up a science-y activity for her to do, but then she was quietly engaged for about an hour.

I did have short conversations with a couple of people this morning.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How not at all tired I am of reading. I'm tired, but not of reading, just of, you know, being awake.

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? For me, or in general? For me, I might put together a pile of less-challenging or more exciting books. I didn't plan ahead enough to collect a set of books I was really excited to read. As it is I'm cleaning up a few books from my TBR pile which have been hanging around for a while, so that's valuable, but it would be easier (especially tonight as I get tireder) to have books I was really thrilled about reading.

In general, I'm pretty happy with how it's being run. It's a nice low-key event.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Oh hey, I already answered that because I didn't look at all the questions on the test before starting. :)

9. Are you getting tired yet? A little bit. I'm actually less tired than I usually am at this time of day, probably because I usually do more strenuous things than sit around reading all day. I expect I will run into trouble in an hour or so. I might even have coffee. (I never have coffee!)

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Nope, unless having an awesome supportive family counts as a tip!

Actually I've really liked the fact that I'm raising money for charity at the same time (here's my page – it was very easy to set up). I love reading but I would feel so guilty slacking off on all my usual responsibilities if I hadn't found a way to help benefit others with the read-a-thon.

8:18 p.m.

I just finished reading the girls their bedtime books: Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr Suess for Cordelia and almost a chapter (the one where he gets the Bootle-Bumtrinket) of My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell to Delphine.

Pen drawing of me reading

Tanya brought her kids over to play with my kids, and while she was here she documented the read-a-thon in pen and ink. Blake is in the background cuddled up under a blanket because we were sitting in the backyard and the sun was going down.

I'm almost halfway through Raincloud by Richard S. Todd, which is better than I expected it to be. It's a mystery set in a small town near a First Nations reserve: a series of Native people have been found beaten and left for dead. It shouldn't be too hard to finish.

But we're approaching the challenging part of the read-a-thon for me: staying awake. I love sleep. Specifically I love eight hours of sleep, and I haven't pulled an all-nighter since university. I don't expect to pull an all-nighter tonight, but I'm worried that if I time it wrong I will go to sleep and not wake up until after 8 tomorrow, thus missing the end of the 'thon. My plan is to stay up late – maybe midnight or one (shut up, that is so late) and then sleep on the couch for a couple of hours. Then I'll grab a coffee or a Coke and read until 8 am, then try (probably in vain) to sleep for a little while before resuming my regularly scheduled Sunday.

We'll see how it turns out.