Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Being picked last......

On Masterchef a few times this season we have witnessed the picking of teams by a team captain.

And as is often the case in our house it started a family discussion.

This time it was a discussion of what it feels like to be picked last for sport teams.  

If you have watched Masterchef you would have witnessed how it doesn't hurt any less as an adult as it did as a child to be standing there last when you are automatically delegated to the remaining side.  It's a kick in the guts- no two ways about it!

Do you remember your school days and how it was always the same kids who endured this awful humiliation time and time again?   Cringe inducing......

Why do teachers still put children through this ordeal?  I would have hoped that we have progressed enough in our emotional awareness to realise that NO good comes out of this exercise.   We sat at the table and invented all sorts of other ways to delegate teams without the humiliation.  The kids had lots of great ideas.

In our house of 5 young boys we have a mixture of talents.  We have children with differing passions and very different talents.  Thank goodness for variety.  I love it!!

It is a valuable reminder that gender does not determine much. And that as parents I reckon it is our job to make our precious lovelies feel proud of what they love and what they are good at regardless of whether it fits the stereotype.

But the pressures are very strong.  And the schoolyard does not help children who are a little outside the fit.

I get comments all the time about how much sport must be played in our house.  There are also the inevitable comments about the untamed physical energy.  And the noise............people assume that our house is sooooo noisy.

I guess it is sometimes but only so much as the mama is blasting out loud music- again! Yep I put my hand up for that- I am most likely the noisiest of the lot of us....ah well!  I love my music. GUILTY your honour!

The kids are noisy I suppose,  but it is lovely noise- the noise of kids.  I will miss it when I don't hear it anymore.  That is the kind of noise that fills the soul and we oh so often forget to remember that. 

 Mostly I answer "no" to the comments about sport and how all the boys must be "so" into it..........because on the whole my lads aren't like that.

They are not the same- they are all very different both in character and looks.

Mr.1 & 3 are too young to know yet whether they are interested in sport.

Mr.11  plays footy for our local club but he doesn't really have a passion for it.  He has a passion for music and plays the drums and particularly Jazz drumming.  And I don't really find the drums loud- it's music!  (can you tell yet that I have a passion for music????)
Mr. 9 is probably the only one who loves sport and loves all things footy including playing for his local club and would be very happy kicking the ball non stop outside or inside for that matter! But he is not a 'boofy' boy.  He is extremely kind, generous and sensitive.  Yep he enjoys his sport but it is not what defines his success.

And Mr. 7 has no interest and no idea- I don't mean anything bad by this AT ALL!  Believe me I am very proud of him and his ability to stay true to himself.  He has a passion for art and has said since he was 3 that "When I grow up I am going to be an artist.  Actually.... I already am one!"  (He is my child responsible for all manner of magnificent philosophical statements as mentioned on an earlier post.)

Check out Mr.7 proudly dressed up in an outfit for his kinder concert that I had sewn for Mr.11 when he was 4 and was invited to a girl's dress up disco party.  His request was for "Elvis in the Vegas years".  I was so proud that my son knew who Elvis in the Vegas years was let alone wanting to dress up as him! I had a lot of fun sewing that outfit but not as much fun as seeing them both lovin' it!

How fantastic to have such inner self confidence and conviction.  I can only hope as his mama that he can maintain it till adulthood despite all the social pressures.

After all we all just want to be loved and feel like we are good at something.   All too often it is the desire to 'fit in' that is what makes children give up what they believe in.   Peer pressure is strong.  So sad isn't it.......

So the discussion re Masterchef teams began as Mr.7 said in response to one of the adult contestants talking of how horrible it was to be picked last.  "I always get picked last for teams at school" he said.  I felt AWFUL for him....those that know him well know that at this point his drooping shoulders were touching the floor.  It is just too horrible to think of the awful sadness he must feel every time.  I wanted to scoop him up in my arms and make it all go away and never happen again.

And if given the choice as team Captain would you choose someone who isn't really that good?  Tough choice huh!

Long may Mr.7's individuality last- you only need to take a look at the pic at the top of the post of his self selected outfit on Sunday to get an idea of his individuality in action- we weren't going anywhere, it was just his 'formal hangin' out at home' outfit- MAGNIFICENT!   So maybe he's not that great at sport but he's darn good at being a beautiful person and for that I would pick him on my team every time! 

 Reeking of favouritism I hear you say.....ppphhhhht to that I say!  Here's a big hooray to individuality!!

UPDATE: The lovely MATT PRESTON himself read my blog yesterday and sent a message to me saying "What a stylish lad!"- so Mr.7 is now walking shoulders held so high they touch the moon and couldn't wait to go to school to tell everyone!  And I'm just a little bit over the moon too!!!! (read JUMPING UP & DOWN IN HYSTERIA!!!!).

And on the table this week is another of our family favourites -RICOTTA CHOOK -via my dearest friend who is a fantastic cook (you know the same one who is always rescuing me from disasters!)

  • 1 whole chook ( FREE RANGE or ORGANIC)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 fresh red chilli (go for long ones not short as you want it for flavour not heat)
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • l lemon (we'll be using rind and juice)
  • 10 sage leaves
  • thyme
  • extra virgin olive oil 
  • 500g ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 180C.

Using a mortar & pestle grind the garlic with a little sea salt and then add chilli, sage leaves and thyme.  (Note that you can use as many or as few herbs as you like here- my herbs change depending on what I have.)  Grind to a paste.  Then add the rind of the lemon and juice and the fennel seeds.  Then add the ricotta and about a tablespoon of olive oil and stir through.  I like to add white pepper as well.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  And of course you can change any or ALL of these ingredients to whatever you like- no rules here!

Now you want to get your hands under the skin of the chook!  Don't be shy here.....just separate a little of the skin at the neck of the bird and manipulate your hand all the way around to separate the skin away from the flesh.  We don't want to take the skin off we are just making a cavity to put the ricotta mix into.  But don't be too concerned about holes etc.....I am so not about perfection!

Once you have the skin sorted.  Use a spoon to guide the ricotta mix all the way around the chook (under it's skin).  Be generous!  This takes a bit of practice but it doesn't matter how messy you are.

Whatever I have left over I out in the cavity of the chook.

My kids love the drumsticks so I often buy extra drumsticks and stuff them too.

Then drizzle a little more olive oil over chook and some salt.

Place on an oven proof dish and cook for about an hour an a half- it will be delish and golden.

I like to cook roast cauliflower (cut into generous florets)in the same dish to take advantage of the cooking juices.  The cauliflower caramelises and is so UNBELIEVABLY delicious.  Squeeze loads of lemon juice and roughly cut Italian parsley all over.  I dare you cauliflower sceptics not to LOVE it!!!

And listening pleasure this week is the magnificent Cat Power singing 'the Greatest'.....what a voice!

Join me on my journey........

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Sick bubba, tired and emotionally wrung out!

I haven't been able to write anything this week until now.

One sick child.....

It's all it takes isn't it to throw you totally out of whack!

We are on to day five of high fevers now and I am hangin' out for the immune system to kick in- like NOW! It's not a nice thing to watch your littlies suffering so.

I remember that feeling of being a sick kid in the early hours of the morning,  woken by fever and feeling as if your world was ending as you knew it and that all you wanted was for your mumma to hug you till it all went away and life returned once again to normal.

For me this week Mr.9's illness has reminded me that my life as a parent of 5 is always running on a finely tuned wheel and it only takes the tuning to be out by millimetres for it all to run off kilter......

This week it's soooooooo out of tune the wheels have fallen off!

I am so aware that I am totally over committed and that when everything is going ok I have got things generally running well.  Well enough that most of the time being in our house is pretty fun for me and for the kids.  But it doesn't take much for that to all go to mush!

This week I can't wait for bed time to come along for all the kids (sick or not) to go to bed, so I can take my first deep breath of the day.  What is that I hear you say?- a 5.30 bedtime is unreasonable for Mr.11, Mr. 7 & Mr.3.  Well  Mr. 1 goes to bed then anyway so it's not like I am punishing him. Bonus!

Well let me tell you it isn't unreasonable when otherwise they will be faced by a totally dysfunctional, overtired, emotionally wrung out mumma! And anyway you can get a lot of quality reading done when you go to bed early!

Jeez,  I certainly wish at the moment it was me going to bed at 5.30!

Yesterday I had to call in a friend to rescue me- rescue me by coming to sit with the little kids while I made my 4th trip to the Doctor this week and to the supermarket.

The fridge was bare and I NEEDED to be cooking restorative soups!  I normally take the kids shopping with me but I just couldn't face doing that this week.  So my beautiful friend (to whom I am eternally grateful for EVER & EVER for always rescuing me when I need it most!) came so I could go out alone!

Came back and cooked about 4 soups all at once so I could just sit down with Mr.9 and cuddle him.  I have told you before how being in the kitchen gives me respite- so I felt better after being able to do some cooking. I am trying to remember that going forward I need to stop over committing myself.  Managing my family is huge and sometimes it all falls apart.

So there is no recipe on today's post- just a reminder that we don't have to "do it all" to be doing a good job.

But I will post a song that I've been playing this morning.....

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Little Dumplings

Yesterdays post got me thinking.......

It got me thinking about my Green Grass- metaphorically speaking. 

As you know I am the mother of 5 young boys.  Alot of the time it's a pretty full on gig.  But on the whole I am very very happy with my job. Corny as it sounds- I am doing exactly what I envisaged myself doing right about now.  I studied Fine art and early childhood teaching but really what I wanted was just to be at home with my own kids doing finger painting!

 And although my only critics are my 5 boys who perhaps aren't the best judges (unconditional love and all that) I would like to think that I do alright at fulfilling my job description. 

My life is essentially being the old fashioned stay at home mama.  My three big'uns go off to school everyday and I am home with the two yung'uns.

I feel lucky to be able to be around while I watch them go through all their milestones.  I totally get that this gig is not for all mama's but for me - it works.  

There are plenty of times I feel overwhelmed by my job.  The days when the kids are still not dressed and ready for school when they need to be and I turn into that awful alter ego- "shouting mama"- who I swore I would never be but just couldn't seem to shake come the arrival of child number 2!  (on this note- a very good friend of mine (also mum of 5) said to me when I felt like a failure at becoming a shouting mama of 2 : "Yep welcome to the world of being a mother of more than one child, get used to it and get over feeling guilty about it!" - BEST ADVICE EVER!!!)

In December last year our precious littlest Dumpling had a fit that he did not wake from.  We were rushed to the Royal Children's and he was sedated heavily and we spent the next week in intensive care not knowing whether he would wake up.  It was easily the most horrific time in my life.  I don't find it easy to think about- still.  I have tears as I write this.  I'm not sure that I will ever really recover in some ways.

Our family spent Xmas day in hospital- not really what you dream of as a "perfect family Xmas day". 

Our baby eventually recovered and to anyone who saw him today you would have no clue.  There are no lasting effects. Thankfully.

No words can explain the feeling I felt when I held my baby in my arms when he finally woke up. 

What did happen in this time though was nothing less than extra-ordinary.  My best friend in Melbourne was waiting at our door so that Hubby G could follow me to hospital straight away. She spent the next 3 days doing the day shift.  Another beautiful friend came in the late afternoon so my other friend could go home to her 3 children. We weren't allowed to stay overnight so we came home and had no sleep at home instead. 

Then one of my dearest friends in Sydney left her family of four boys with her mum so she could come and have mine!  Work out how genuinely amazing that swap is- "yeah no worries I'll leave my entire family in Sydney so I can fly down and have yours in a crisis!" (Medal is in the post!) . And then my sister spent the ENTIRE Xmas day driving over from Adelaide with her family to rescue mine.  I wasn't the only one who didn't have a great Xmas.  And the beautiful nurses in Intensive care who are just the mostest amazingest people you will ever meet. Big love to you guys! 

These people will never really understand just how much their love helped us through this time.  It's what friends do- but it's sooooooo much more than that in reality and words will never be able to make this clear.

Looking back at this- as I do pretty often- I am sooooo blessed with such special people in my life who do such amazing things for me.  I really am very lucky.

I'm thinking about this because I have become ever so aware since this episode that things in your life can change so dramatically out of the blue and that we forget to stop sometimes and be thankful for what good things we have in amongst the daily crapola.

It was a horrible time make no mistake but on reflection there were amazing things that took place too.  It really forced Hubby G and I to think very very hard about the things in our life that matter.  It's a one word answer folks-PEOPLE!

We cancelled our to-do list on the house and tried ever so hard to just savour every moment of being home with all of our family.  Everything except our family seemed trivial.  We really wondered if we could ever go back to feeling normal ever again.  Time has passed and on the whole life has returned to normal.  I  hid in my cave for about 2 months but I am peeping out ever so slowly!

On our return from hospital our kids asked for a re-run of Xmas on New Years day- the term "NEW-MAS" (combining New Years Day and Xmas)  was coined and it may well become a new family tradition. 

So thinking about my Green Grass today I am thankful that I have all my little Dumplings around me,  especially my littlest who I am ever so thankful for..........
SO on today's menu is of course.....DUMPLINGS which all my real life dumplings LOVE.  (click here for a link on how to make them).

And I will be listening to :

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Is the Grass Greener?

On Monday night as our family was sitting watching Masterchef together an interesting discussion took place.   And if were weren't watching tv together it may never have happened.

Now you all know I am a Masterchef tragic! And Monday night was a great example of why I love it. Magic family moments happen.

I am a mama guilty by today's standards of sheltering my children in terms of what television they watch.  I am puzzled by how other families allow their very young children to watch shows like CSI (add every letter of the alphabet in this space) in all of it's many permutations and well actually most shows on TV at early evening.  Kids are expected to grow up so fast- I am all for bringing back "slow" childhood- much like there is a revival for "slow" cooking.  There is plenty of time ahead for them to be grown ups.

have to add here that I LOVE the Simpsons.  How refreshing to see a family with all of it's natural dysfunction laid bare- it is charming and funny because at it's core is a family who love each other deeply flaws and all.  Imperfection is sooooo healthy! Most families portrayed on TV are so white bread perfect and so sickeningly sweet a la fairy floss it makes me gag! 

Anyway....I have said before (but I'm going to say it again) that I love Masterchef because it has finally brought to early evening TV a show I can watch with all my children snuggled in (read packed in like sardines) on the couch (although there is a mad flurry to hit the mute button when the ad breaks come on as we are bombarded with ads for all the TV shows we loathe!).  What a precious time- time to take it slow together.

Now on Monday as we watched my children began commenting on the notion that most of these people were making major life changes and wanting to change career or follow through with a dream they have had but not brought to reality.  They commented on the idea that perhaps some of them didn't realise that working in a commercial kitchen might not be quite the dream they envisioned.  That all the chefs talk about how hard it is.  It's not like serving a up a nice sedate meal to your best friends who comment positively to you on your lovely meal.  It's chaotic and stressful and most of the time doesn't come with adulation but pretty harsh criticism.

Hubby G asked the kids if they have ever heard the term "The Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence".  Mr. Eleven and Mr. Nine had but our divine and very emotionally intuitive Mr. Seven hadn't.

But as so often is the case it was Mr. Seven who came out with the most MAGNIFICENT philosophical statement of all time (well until his next one that is!).  Here it is......"Yeah but you always step in dog poo and kill bugs and worms every time you take a step".

Well how true.........very often "the other side" doesn't really turn out to be the paradise we were hoping it would be.

So now on the days when I am struggling and wishing that maybe my life could be somehow greener somewhere and someway else I am now going to remember what Mr. Seven said.  Beware of the dog poo!

Children are so good at reminding us of what is important.  They are great at being able to enjoy the moment.  Sometimes they can be such good teachers.

So today I am going to enjoy what is and not think too much about what is not.  And enjoy my side of the fence! It's not that bad......

I will spend some time sitting in the sun out in the front yard on my couch in the front garden so I can say hello to the people that pass by.

And on the dinner table will be a simple Eggy dinner with some eggs laid by "The ladies" - as the boys collectively call our chooks- although they do have individual names-  Henny, Jasmine, Gomez, Fluffy, Peckers, Peepers, Lucy, Moog & Dotty.
I love this track sooooooo much and it is seems the right choice (sorry it's only audio).......enjoy.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Monday Motivation issues

Woke up this morning in Melbourne to a chilly 9 degree start.  Days like this I just wish I was my dog Polly Jean -named after my rock goddess Polly Jean Harvey.  I'm not sure that PJ Harvey would get the compliment of a Basset Hound being named after her but whatever!  Hubby G is keen on getting a male companion and the kids have already decided that he will be called Elvis.....well who could argue!
She just gets cuddled, adored, played with when she feels like it and fed. She is not supposed to be on the couch but we can't resist and she of course indulges herself happily.

Sounds great doesn't it......

I am not really feeling much like doing my job today.  I am having one of those crises of "too much to do" and I am frozen with indecision about where to start.

I am on to bowl of coffee number 3 hoping that when I reach the bottom I will be magicly transformed into the perfect housewife who takes great pride in having a show home with perfectly dusted bookcases and glistening floors.

Oh wait I just remembered- that ain't EVER going to be me!  I would be scared if I turned into that lady and even though Hubby G would probably like a little more order in  our house he would panic if I turned into that lady too!  And he openly admits that he loves it when people comment on our homely, welcoming home.

I pride myself on being a mama who has a HOME and not a showpiece.  I want people to come and escape here and join me in living life.  Our home is messy and lived in.  The washing piles are ridicilous- ALWAYS!!!  I never get to celebrate "getting on top of the washing".  It has never happened yet and with 7 people to wash for I can't see that changing anytime soon.  The dishwasher is always full and needing to be emptied so that we can put the dishes that are filling the sink into it.  Mostly the beds are unmade.  Although sometimes I am guilty of hiding the mess by pulling the quilts up over everything (genius move I say!).

But.....the coffee machine is always on and ready to deliver and I am more than happy to sit at the table with my "droppers in" and waste some time chatting over another bowl of coffee!

And you know what- today I just had a beautiful friend of mine drop over to do just that.  We haven't seen each other in way too long and it was so lovely to reconnect.  It was karma I reckon- as I had already started today's post when she arrived at the door to remind me that being able to NOT stick to a schedule of housework is a good thing.

Given my mood today the menu tonight needs to reflect my "I can't be fagged" mood.......

One pot wonders are a known speciality of tonight's dinner will be my all in the pot Chicken soup.

What you need for Gourmet Girlfriends All in the Pot Chook soup:
  • one whole chook (I haven't mentioned before but I ALWAYS use free range chook- if I can't get them I cook something else)
  • an onion
  • garlic
  • celery
  • bunch of parsley
  • bay leaf
  • potatoes
  • carrots
  • any other veg of choice
  • water
Chop onion, garlic, celery, carrots.  Fry these in a little olive oil.

Chop other veg into size you like to eat in soup- my kids like it pretty small.

Once onion and garlic is translucent I add the chook whole (I skin mine but you don't have to). And the finely chopped parsley and bay.  Season (adjust once all cooked)

Add water to cover and simmer for about an hour.  By this time the chook will be falling off the bone.
take the chook out of the broth and pull all meat off the bone.  Shred it, put back into the pot and season.

Sometimes I add noodles (cooked separately and added to each bowl before serving) or pearl barley (put into soup and cooked till ready).

Serve with good bread.

To cook well you need a little soul....try this turned up loud!

The washing can wait...... it's time to turn up the music to loud and dance in the kitchen!  Join me on my journey.