Have Courage and Be Kind

cinderella

Okay so I stole my title from the moral tag line in the new Cinderella movie, but if the shoe fits. Ya, I guess I stole that part too. It’s just so happens that at a time when my seven-year old daughter is having some seven-year old girl issue, we went to see this movie and it couldn’t have been better timing. In Cinderella she must deal with her wicked stepmother and step sisters, who, let’s be honest, are as close to a group of seven-year old girls as you are going to get. Cinderella is told by her dying mother to have courage and be kind. For the most part she succeeds, but there is only so far you can push a princess before she starts to push back. So how do you teach your princess to “be kind” without losing that fighting spirit in them that we love so much?

This is not a blog about bullying because I am not picking a side with anybody. Young girls are, well, mean for lack of a better word. And believe me I am including my little darling in that group. One minute they are best friends and the next they are mortal enemies not to be invited to birthday parties. Ever. Strong personalities are emerging, interests are changing and some are maturing faster than others. Why does being seven have to be so hard? And why can’t they listen when we try to help them understand? Is it because their minds just can’t process that what they are saying may be hurtful? Because it seems like we, as parents, say the same thing over and over again and they nod their sweet heads and say “I know” and then they walk out the door and do the exact same thing again. It’s like banging you head against a brick wall. It’s a pretty pink brick wall, but it hurts just the same.

ballerinas pushing

In trying to help them, the natural instinct may be to say something like “you don’t need a friend like that anyway” or “just go play with somebody else” or perhaps “I hope you told her you don’t want to be her friend either”. You know you’ve wanted to. Right? It’s just not that simple though. They really WANT to still be friends with the girl who they are disagreeing with. They are just frustrated and maybe even hurt or angry with them but they perhaps lack the cognitive skill to know how to deal with those feelings in a grown up way. I think it’s pretty safe to say that as an adult woman I have had the exact same feelings. Imagine you are having drinks with the girls one night and a friend interrupts your funny story about what you did on the weekend. You know you should politely wait until she is done with her story and then continue yours but what you really want to do is scream “Don’t interrupt me bitch I’m talking right now”.

So with your little princess do you step in and guide them through the rough patch or do you back off and just let them deal with it in their own way? I know that no matter what I do it is going to happen. At seven and at seventeen. But nobody wants their daughter to be “that girl”. You want them to be the girl who has her own opinions and stands up for herself in a kind and respectful way. Is it just a matter of time? If I keep repeating the “be kind” mantra will it one day sink in and take root or is there more I could and should be doing? Nobody said parenting was easy but crap this is really hard and as a mother and a woman it is hard to take the emotion out and just approach it in a reasonable manner. If anybody out there has any pearls of wisdom to send me please send them my way.

For the most part I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in is. I have friends who have raised confident, mature young adults and friends who are still in the thick of it, like me. We may struggle on a daily basis with the task of teaching our girls to “have courage and be kind” but really, would we have it any other way? My daughter continues to be full of Piss and Vinegar and that is on of The Best Things in Life.

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It’s Just Pastry

lady baking

Yesterday my friend Jane and I made soba noodles. We had been complaining about the price of 100% buckwheat noodles so Jane had the brilliant idea that we could make them. We both had bags of buckwheat flour going unused in our cupboards so why not give it a try. As we mixed our dough and started to knead it into cones (why it needed to be a cone we are still not sure) Jane mentioned that I looked like I knew what I was doing and that I must be a good pasty maker. I laughed because pastry is the one item that I have never been able to master. I’ve had people offer up “no fail” recipes and yet still, I’ve failed. Maybe, June surmised, it’s because you are such a perfectionist. Wow, you know what, she couldn’t be right. Later in the day I was thinking about it and thought. Really? I can’t make pasty? Okay, tomorrow I am not going to be a perfectionist and I am going to make pastry.

So I pull out my somewhat ratty copy of Martha Stewart’s cook book that my dear friends Karen and Geoff gave to me twenty years ago. ( yes, she’s been around that long). Holy cow there are a LOT of different types of pastry. Once I figured out which one to use, I gathered the ingredients. Flour, salt, butter, lard and ice water. Five ingredients. How hard could this be? The instructions mentioned that for best results everything should be cold. Bowl in freezer, ice cubes in water, butter and lard, well chilled. Okay, ready to go. Am I really this nervous about making pastry? Given my past record of doing it, I think I’m just afraid or failing again. Come on. It’s just pastry right?

cookbook

Everything goes as planned. Sift flour and salt together. Cut in lard and butter and crumble together until it resembles a course meal. The next step is typically where things don’t work out for me. My expectation is that I will add the water and the dough will magically come together in my hands and form a lovely smooth ball. As I tip in the ice water I try to remember that it doesn’t need to be perfect and once it forms a ball I should just wrap it up and put it in the fridge. As Martha points out, you shouldn’t overhandle the dough. And then it happened. I felt like Tom Hanks in Castaway except instead of fire, I Had Made Pastry! Okay, so it was still just a ball of dough, but I had never felt this confident before that it actually might make it into the oven as a pie.

crumbleball of dough

I moved on to making the inside of the pie. This, for me, is the easy part. A bit of this and a bit of that. Sauté the onion and garlic, make a rue and pour in the chicken stock. Taste the gravy and throw in the chicken and the veggies. If it isn’t quite right, adjust and taste again. There is room for personalization. The insides can have lots of sage or just a little. Be spicy or slightly sweet. Be chunky or more refined. You get to pick the ingredients and season it to your taste. Lots of room for interpretation. Pastry seems so…..exact. Either it is or it isn’t. Not a lot of wiggle room.

And now the true test. Rolling the dough out and actually making a pie crust. Flour the board and turn the chilled dough out. It starts out a bit wobbly as I think it should be a bit less cracky and I start to knead it smooth. No wait, Martha said not to overhandle it. Let it go, let it be cracky. Let it be imperfect. And as I rolled and turned and flipped and rolled I realized, after all these years, that it really is “just pastry” and that the end product doesn’t need to be perfect ( see right side of top crust) it just needs to be pastry. I made pastry. Imperfect, buttery pastry. Watch out Martha Stewart, I’m on a roll here.  Yummy chicken pot pie for dinner. Not only have I made pastry, but I have made my family dinner.

pie

So, yes I am a perfectionist and over the years it has probably held me back from doing things and driven more than a couple of people (mostly my family) a bit crazy. The Best Thing in Life is that it is just another piece of who I am. A perfectly imperfect person who can now make pastry.

Puttering

School has been out for two months. Add to that the two weeks of teachers strike and you have 75 joyous days my daughter and I have spent together this summer. Don’t get me wrong, she has been in some awesome summer camps that have given me the time to enjoy the incredible summer we have had in Vancouver this year and her some great experiences. When the weather is good I can not stand to be inside and as a result my house tends to get a little out of order (and dirty) during the summer months. So here it is September 2 and it’s raining. My husband and daughter are at the hardware store and I have a couple of hours in the house alone. Will I nap? Watch some tennis? No, I will putter.

Putter (verb) To be active, but not excessively busy, at a task or a series of tasks.

That sum it up for me. I am a putterer. Not sure that is a real word but it works for now. My husband also calls it busy work. Given a Sunday morning (or afternoon for that matter) with nothing really pressing to do, he will chose the sofa, football and, eventually, a nap. I will find something to do. There’s always something to do isn’t there? Dust, sort the art supplies, go through my kids clothes and put away what doesn’t fit them anymore, make a list (this is my favorite), search for a recipe, send an email about having coffee with somebody next week. The list is endless. Laundry is the ultimate task for a putterer because it can be done anytime. There always seems to be laundry to do. And it’s a process, which I love. I am starting to sound a tad crazy aren’t I? Sort, wash, dry, fold and put away. Is there a term for what I have?

There has always been a certain comfort for me being in my home and being able to sort or tidy things up with no deadline or end game. Perhaps tackle something I’ve been putting off. There’s no hurry to do it, but it keeps my mind busy and somewhere down the road I will appreciate the fact that it is done. Even if I do sit down to watch TV I rarely sit through a whole show without getting up to do something else. I have noticed this in my daughter as well. As a child, my son could, and still can, sit motionless for hours watching TV. I have often thought that the house could burn down around him and he still would not move. My daughter, like me, has to be doing something else while she is watching TV. Sorting her beads, making a bracelet, coloring or perhaps dancing.

But I have come to realize over the past thirteen years of living with my husband, that there is a lot to be said for stopping and smelling the roses, so to speak. It really is okay to just let some stuff slide. In fact, it can be quite therapeutic. I think that is why this blog has been good for me. It has forced me to stop “puttering” occasionally and focus on something. Wait, that’s not totally true. If I’m being honest I will admit that I often stop writing and do some small task that really could wait. It’s just not in me to let it go. Since starting this post I have emailed a friend to make plans for a day trip next week, called my husband to see if my darling daughter wants to go for a hike when they get home from the store and unloaded the dishwasher.

A I sit writing this I glance around the room and see half a dozen things I could be doing. I see that the sun is out and think “we should go for a hike”. But after a long hot summer I should be quite happy to just be writing again. And really, as I finish a post I do get a similar feeling as to when I finish a task around the house. Like a nice little present has had the bow stuck on top of it. I am very fortunate that I CAN do this. Having a home to putter in and a kitchen table to write at makes me very happy. Having the still developing ability to just “be” makes me even happier. The Best Things in Life is being a work in progress.