Saturday, January 31, 2009

a sleepy winter day

This week, we had a snow day.

I can't begin to tell you my relief that morning - to be fair, I had my ears buried in the pillow, wishing that some inexplicable tiny pteranodon would swoop in and snack on the alarm clock. But I was perfectly willing to take snow, instead. Downstairs, the boys were playing with a reasonable modicum of chaos. I snuggled up to my pillow, and I'm tired. I'm going to bed now, said a small voice.

That day, the Toddles' cold flared into fever, his energy dropped sharply, and he spent the day sleeping or reading stories.

While his brother slept, the Eldest found himself waiting. First, I did laundry. Then, I washed dishes. Then, we made and canned rhubarb applesauce. We folded laundry. I went through some insurance papers, made a couple of calls. I answered a pathetic few emails, edited a document or two, put on more laundry, and eventually realized that I was hungry, the Eldest had finished his book, and perhaps could we have some lunch? Oh. Yes.

Over lunch, the Eldest and I got to talking. Somewhere in the midst of the past few months' rush and harry, the Eldest had gotten a little lost. He turned 7, we had a birthday dinner, and I scrambled to make a birthday celebration at his class. Buried under the weight of Part 4, the Eldest's birthday post sighed and melted into a regret. The poor kid had been asked to sit down, to be quiet, to give his mother space to think or do or cook because, oh, the drumbeat of Things To Do did not slow when the Toddles' school failed.

But here was a quiet day, and here was a busy mama, finally sitting down to lunch with her Eldest. Over a bowl of something hot, we talked. And the Eldest's thoughts turned to the divine.

This is just my view, he informed me earnestly. God is us. God made us, out of Him. And that's just my suspicion.

From a pile of blankets, the Toddles piped up. God made us and turned us into a boy! The Eldest turned an approving smile upon his brother. Yes, saith he. God made us and turned us into a boy, woman (nod to me) or girl. We are special, said the Eldest, glowing with pleasure. He leaned forward, seriously. I also think that God interpreted the dream from Pharoah, instead of Joseph. I think also that God was the one who saved us in the battle with the Greeks.

I gaped slightly, wondering if I should upgrade my plans from hot cocoa to my old Intro to Philosophy textbooks. The Eldest smiled gently at me. I have many more ideas about God - would you like to discuss them now?

At that deeply philosophical moment, however, the phone rang. I turned the young theologian over to his grandmother and went to blow the Toddles' nose.
The practical, every day effects of the Toddles' preschool drama have been impressive. With the Toddles at home, all day, every day, I've relearned how few errands a three year old is willing to run, how little interest he has in a mother who wants to sit and mutter at her computer, and how much interest he has in helping his mum press the pesky keys on her keyboard. Especially the ESC, DEL and oh, perhaps one or two others.

I shunted much of my writing to the evenings, which grew longer and longer, even as my inbox got fatter and fatter. 1 am became a standard bedtime, then 2 am. The Man had long ago become a veteran of the late night and early morning, claiming that he needs less sleep than I do. I've come to believe that this is true, and yet.

Tonight, we took a pledge. This week, no matter what we leave undone, we will go to bed at midnight. I am now a month behind in writing, editing and emails - it cannot matter. The Man is perennially under seige from work - it must not matter. We're now long past the time when sleep was something we talked about nostalgically. Now, I stare at my To Do list, too numbly tired to work, too mentally rubbery to call it a day. Thus, the pledge.

One week, 6-6.5 hours of sleep per night. I will if you will, one of us said. The other one said nothing, skeptically. Finally,
With sleep in short supply and time even scarcer, I've turned to fast dinners, preferably one-pot meals, or one pot plus leftover rice/veg/toasted bread. I took a little time to experiment last week, and adapted this from By the Bay:

Moroccan Chicken and Cauli
(adapted from By the Bay, who'd adapted it from Kendall Conrad's Eat Well, Feel Well.)
serves 4

1 cauliflower, stem removed
1 onion
4 Tb olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/5 tsp tumeric
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 inch peeled ginger root, cut into matchsticks
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
1 tsp salt (I used medium grain sea salt - partly because I like the size of the grains, and partly because it was at the front of the pantry shelf)
1 tsp freshly ground (or coarsely ground) black pepper
juice of 1 lemon
a handful of chopped parsley
1 package boneless chicken breasts, sliced into strips or chunks
optional: a handful of currants, raisins, sunflower seeds (okay, sliced almonds)

Put the cauliflower in a bowl, stem-side down. Pour water into the bowl, cover (I used a dinner plate) and steam until tender. I stuck it in the microwave for 10 minutes - it was beyond tender, and that was fine.

In a skillet or large, deep frying pan, saute the onion, garlic and ginger in olive oil. As the onion starts browning, add spices. Add chicken, and saute on medium-high heat until the outsides are browned and insides are just cooked through. (Note: by happy coincidence, my chicken breasts were somewhat frozen inside. This meant that I ended up with crisp outsides and meltingly tender insides - and that I probably won't be able to repeat the feat on purpose. But good luck to you on that!)

If you are going to add currants, now is the time to do it. Otherwise, add the lemon juice and cauliflower, which should break to soft pieces in your pan. Stir gently, sprinkle parsley on top. Serve. Mop up sauce with some leftover rice.

(because you've got some leftover rice sitting in your fridge, right? right.)


Anonymous said...

Eldest continues to impress.

Also, perhaps an old keyboard of his own for Toddles?

Anonymous said...

Eldest is very smart.... Future Rabbi perhaps?

Hubby got a new work project in near you. Chances are we'll be making a temporary relocation to up there in the spring.

Magid, fabu suggestion on the old keyboard....

Anonymous said...


This area is lovely in the spring (read: after all this ice melts!). If there's anything another local can help with, let me know (I'm in the same municipality as Miryam; she also has contact info for me).


Rachel said...

I love the Eldest's God talk. D has been asking about God a lot lately...I'm sure she would gain a lot from his insights. And hurrah for being able to take some time to sit down and enjoy your child. So hard to do sometimes in the midst of everything.
As for sleep...Good luck and stick to it!
The chicken dish looks delicious. I can't wait to try it.
I hope the sleep pledge does not interfere with an evening coffee shop trip sometime soon. :-)

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

magid, heck no - the keyboard is the Toddles'! The Eldest merely borrows it for moments of deep insight. Or something.

Lois, no kidding? Keep me posted...

Rachel, promise. Coffee & work trip coming our way soon. (I'm thinking Sat night, FYI) And as for sitting down, well, I wish I were better at it. But at least I can take a cue - 6-8 inches of snow + virus = how could I possibly miss it?

joy said...

6-6.5? Um, my dear, that's a minimum, not a maximum. Believe me, I feel the crush of the To-Do lists, but...

Sleep is so underrated!

Perhaps I am simply one of those who simply can't function on less than a certain amount. A flaw I easily admit to.