D wants to stop eating meat

Today, we got sick of Blippi. And I felt like I couldn’t stand more Octonauts (are there eight of them? I can’t keep track. But if not, why “Oct”??). And Jake and the Neverland Pirates are so annoying with their snub noses and the bizarre and grating live action songs at the end (and I don’t get it, is Hook a baddie or not?). Netflix recommended the live action Charlotte’s Web, and we started watching it.

My memory of Charlotte’s Web: a heartwarming story of cross species friendship.

The reality of Charlotte’s Web: a harrowing introduction to the concept that meat is animals and everything is mortal.

All evening, D asked “why were they going to eat Wilbur for Christmas?”, all evening, and going to bed he wanted to unpack it in more depth.

“I think maybe I should stop eating animals and when daddy cooks animals like lamb I’ll just say, no thanks daddy, because it’s sad to me that we make them die and it’s sad for them too”

“Yeah, that’s fine darling, that’s your decision”

“Yes, but I will still eat fish”

“Ok”

“Actually, I changed my mind, because I saw a video one time and someone caught a fish in that video and they chopped the fish head off and it bleeded and that looked pretty bad mummy so I think also I won’t eat fish”

“Ok, you’re going to need to eat baked beans and hummus even though they’re not your favourites, because if you’re not eating meat we need to find other things to eat that give your body the nutrition it needs to grow”

“I think I can do that mummy. Is peanut butter an animal?”

“No, peanut butter comes from peanuts. You remember cracking peanuts? They grow in the ground.”

“Ok. I’ll just eat so much peanut butter every day!”

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On mums going away for a weekend

I have two weekends away without the family coming up next year. In February, shortly after D turns four, I’m having a weekend away with a close friend who lives in a different city. In March, shortly before B turns two, I’m going to a weekend yoga retreat. These are the only two weekends away from family and husband that I’ll have had since the kids were born.

A mother leaving her family overnight is still looked at sideways by many. Especially a mother who is in paid work (“don’t you want to see them?”, etc). But I think it’s a great thing to do, for a whole heap of reasons. It’s weird that a post setting out those reasons is still necessary in this day and age but hey ho, seems to be so, here we go.

Firstly, for me – it will be a proper break from family responsibilities. A chance for real recuperation that you simply can’t get when kids are around. I’m looking forward to the chance to do even basic things like reading, sleeping, being alone with my thoughts, exercise, and eating without preparing food for two small kids and cleaning up their mess.

I also expect it will be a chance to reflect on my work, my kids, and my husband and appreciate the life we have a bit more – usually a nice spinoff effect of a holiday away from loved ones. I think it’ll be good having a bit of distance from the kids for a change, kids grow so quickly, and when you’re caught up in the day to day it’s often hard to really see them as they are right now, not as they were a month ago.

I’m looking forward to being able to connect with other people without the distractions of the kids, or the pressures of knowing that the socialising time is brief and there are other commitments to get on with.

Finally, I see it as an opportunity to reconnect with the sense of who I was before the kids. Back then, I’d have thought nothing of going away for a weekend without my husband. That person has been put on hold for four years. At times, I’ve felt envious of friends who have had breaks from their kids sooner. I haven’t done that yet because B is still breastfed, and it’s felt like it wouldn’t be worth the stress of weaning him when we’re not really ready. That limitation is fast evaporating, he’s out of babyhood now. For the rest of my parenting life, they’re going to continue to get more independent, which is a strange jolt to my current identity. I think it will suit me more – but it’s a shift that also comes with some sadness. It’ll be nice to get more of a sense of who I am as my own person when I’m not at my desk at work, or with the kids. And then I can bring that person back to the kids, and be more myself as a parent.

Second, for my husband and kids – it will be great for their relationship to see their dad as the main caregiver, even briefly. When we’re both around the kids often prefer me. This kinda sucks for my husband. The kids are too young to realise that he feels slighted when they reach for me or say “no I want MUMMY to put me to bed”, etc. But the preference is clear, and it means the primary caregiver role becomes further entrenched. Just by being here, I feel I get in the way of my husband’s involvement in parenting – even when I want to be sitting on the couch with a book and he wants to be playing with the kids, they drift back to me like I’m a magnet and they’re iron filings. A couple of weekends away will be a good reset of the family dynamic.

It will also be good to have a brief window where my husband sees what it’s like being the household organiser and sole charge adult. On weekends we’re both around, but on Wednesdays and for a while each weeknight I’m sole charge, whereas he almost never gets a big dose of being sole charge with both kids while juggling CEO of chores and life admin. A glimpse of that is better than a million earnest conversations about division of labour and motherhood burnout.

Incredibly easy vegan fruit cake

When I was a child, my dad brought a recipe book back from a golf tournament. A fundraiser recipe book, with a yellow cover, small and very modest. In the book was a recipe for fruitcake, and that recipe became my signature cake as a young eager baker. It called for a kilo of fruit mix and a tin of sweetened condensed milk. I made it on every occasion. But most of all, we ate it when we went camping. Any leftovers after Christmas were wrapped in tin foil and taken with us, and I’ll always associate fruitcake not with huddling inside while it’s miserable out, but with a dry hot summer sitting under a shady tree near a tent. Some might call it Christmas Cake, but I think of it as Camping Cake.

Several months ago, I saw a tin of sweetened condensed coconut milk in Moore Wilsons. I’ve seen the same brand in several other shops since then, and the link above takes you to an online shop. It’s easy to come by – and it means that the fruitcake I’ve been making for over twenty years can now be your latest dairy-free / vegan baking addition to a festive occasion.

The amazing thing about this cake is that it doesn’t need to age. It’s quick to make and you can make it the day before it needs to be eaten. Nonetheless it keeps well, being a fruitcake.

The recipe is very simple but it’s a slightly unusual method so I suggest reading all the way through before you start.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp vinegar (apple cider is best but any is fine)
  • 1 cup water (plus slightly more if the fruit mix is very dry)
  • 1 kg fruit mix
  • 2 tsp preferred spices (mixed spice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamon, etc)
  • 1 tin (320g) sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 Tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp whiskey or brandy
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt

Meathod

  1. Line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper and preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (150 degrees if using fan bake)
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and reserve. (NOT the baking soda)
  3. Put the vinegar, water, fruit mix, and spices together in your largest pot. Stir well to combine and gently bring to a simmer on a very low heat.
  4. Once simmering, add the condensed coconut milk, vanilla essence, golden syrup, and whiskey. Stir until it’s all melted and well-mixed, and turn the heat off. The mixture can be left at this stage for a few minutes to cool slightly, but the next steps need to be done rapidly.
  5. Add the baking soda to the mixture and stir quickly. The mixture will bubble up like a potion (kids love this step!), then the bubbles will start to recede. The soda needs to be completely mixed in so there are no horrible little soda lumps when you eat the cake. It helps to sift the soda across the whole mixture, and then quickly stir it through and let the bubbles do part of the mixing job.
  6. As soon as the bubbles from the soda abate, add the pre-sifted flour. The flour needs to be stirred through quickly and thoroughly as well, with a big wooden spoon or a spatula. It will be a fairly think mixture.
  7. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Wet your hands and smooth the top over, compressing it slightly in the middle to allow for rising.
  8. Bake for 2 hours, turning half way through. Check with a skewer before removing from the oven – the skewer should be clean.
  9. Allow to cool completely, then wrap it in a teatowel that has been soaked in whiskey, and store in a cake tin until you’re ready to eat it!

I’ve experimented with many other fruitcakes because I love fruitcakes, but I always come back to this cake for everyday occasions because it’s 100% reliable.

Enjoy!

 

When the wind stole the hat

I was walking with the kids down Customhouse Quay on our way to Capital E. It was a windy day, and the wind caught B’s hat. It flew out into the middle of the very busy four lane road. I couldn’t possibly go and get it. But D was really upset – it wasn’t even his hat, but he was really stressed that the hat had blown away, wanted me to go and get it straight away, etc. I explained that looking after our bodies was more important than getting the hat and the traffic was too busy, but he wasn’t buying it, so I said we’d cross at the crossing and see if we could see it – never know, it might blow all the way across by then. We went to the crossing, and walked back along the other side until we spotted it. It was still too far away. We called to the wind to blow it back to us. We followed it as it went further south but no closer to us. D was very anxious this whole time, and railing against the injustice of it all (“oh no, Tāwhirimātea is never going to give it back to us! Naughty Tāwhirimātea! I don’t like you any more!”). The footpath ran out and the hat was not coming towards us. We stood under the pedestrian overbridge, the last viable spot to stand. The hat was only a few metres away and if I hadn’t had the kids with me I could have nipped out when the lights changed – but not with the kids. I was still hoping it might blow back to us, or at least that we’d wait until D came to accept the futility of the mission in his own time. Then this young guy saw us from the bridge, saw the hat, and quickly went and rescued it for us, delivering it back somewhat dustier than it left us but more or less unharmed. We thanked him and continued on to Capital E. As we were walking, I took the opportunity to spin this story as a positive tale of a stranger helping us out. D pipes up “yes, and that’s called tikkun olam, he tikkuned olamed for us when he rescued my brother’s hat!”

 

 

There will come a day

Thinking back on the first year of motherhood I often wonder… if I’d known, would it have been easier? Or less lonely? But I find myself not wanting to burst the bubbles of any of my friends. The anticipation of the first pregnancy is so special and exciting, no-one wants to be the person to take that away.

But maybe one day you’ll be going spare at a baby who is wide awake at 3am and you’ll think why did no-one warn me?! Maybe you’ll be in a maternity ward all alone after visiting hours have ended, your baby asleep in a perspex box, bruised and bloodied and stitched up and and reeling, and have a sudden lurching feeling that you jumped into this without looking too carefully. Maybe you’ll be home alone all week when the baby is sick and the rain is relentless and you’ll be desperate with boredom and loneliness. Maybe you’ll be back at work with kids in childcare constantly getting sick and you’ll wonder when will this ever let up, and you’ll feel a crushing weight of several years of your unmet needs as you start to fray further and further.

That’s when you’ll need to know that other people felt that too.

Oh hun. It can be so so hard.

Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job. It just is hard. You could be doing the best damn job anyone has ever done and you might still find yourself missing the life you had before kids.

It gets easier. 

Most parenting advice is snake oil that tells you it’s hard because you’re doing it wrong. That’s not true. It’s hard because you’ve never raised a baby before, and it’s an intense time of life. Of course it’s hard. Trust in the parent you are becoming, trust in the children who you are pouring your love into.

And trust that there will come a day, when you wake up, and it will feel like your proper life.

Looking forward, it could feel far away, looking back it will feel short.

Today was the creche end of year family picnic. It was in a park we visited a lot when my older one was small. One of my first really good days was in that park. It was a sunny day, like today was, and my cheeky talkative big kid was only about eight months old. I took him down to the park to hang out. He had recently started trying to crawl, and that day I sat under a tree and watched him figure out crawling properly. He crawled away from me – twenty metres at least, and it was incredible. My baby could move. My baby could explore.

Today, he went on the epic flying fox by himself. He knows how to hold on tight with his hands and cross his feet at the ankles, he knows to wait at the end for someone to help him off.

Tonight, my younger one pointed at his cot and said “bed” when the milk started running dry, and then lay himself down as I left the room and went to sleep by himself.

This morning, both the children slept in their room past 6.30am.

Today my husband made a frittata with silverbeet from our garden and brought me dinner on the couch.

It’s been a long, hard, winter. Today really was the first day of summer.

There will come a day when you look around at your life and think, yes, this is one I can live in forever.