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Becoming a Canadian

Pictures of Jane on ice, her first time on Christmas Day, 2012, and then about six weeks later (having skated maybe 10 times).


Christmas Day 2012, Jane’s first time skating


On her own 6 weeks later

Playing ice hockey with a friend

Playing ice hockey with a friend

Catching Up Post V

12/8/10: “One more time” really means “don’t ever stop.”

Playing with knives while happily saying “I don’t play with knives.”

 12/29/10: Somehow, a small stuffed tiger wound up in the washcloth basket. Jane took all the cloths but one and set them out to make a mattress, laid the tiger on the mattress and put the last cloth on top like a blanket so the tiger could take a nap.

Fortunately, It Was Just a Phase

But the girl did have style.

Grand New Things

When Jane was 6 months old, we sat her down for her first meal. She’d been getting ready for weeks, watching us eat, practicing chewing on nothing, playing with a spoon. Her first meal was rice flakes in breast milk and she was pleased as punch.

The first night after we removed the bars from her crib, converting it into a toddler bed, she was beside herself with excitement. She couldn’t believe what she was looking at.

She’d throw all her stuffed animals on the ground, a situation that was a disaster for all involved on many a previous night. But this time, instead of rattling the bars and screaming until somebody came and put her toys back in, she’d get out and get them herself. Again. And again.

We’d hear the door open, pad pad pad, little feet at the top of the stairs, slowly creeping down, looking between the bannisters at mommy and daddy trying to enjoy their short window of freedom. Gasp! Dawning horror. We had no way to control her! She could get out of bed any time she wanted and there was nothing we could do about it!

I went upstairs and sat with her in a chair at the head of the bed, behind her dresser, where she couldn’t see me but she knew I was there and ideally took comfort from that and would settle down.

She quickly developed a game—she’d lie down and stick her head out the side to look up at me from around the dresser, giggle, then pull back. Stand up to look down at me from over the top of the dresser and giggle. Repeat, repeat, repeat as only a toddler can.

She couldn’t settle down, couldn’t sleep, like a kid on Christmas eve. But no—she got her present, then got excited and couldn’t sleep. Like a kid on Christmas morning living backwards. Like if the guy in Memento were played by Benjamin Button.

I sometimes think with sadness to the day when we run out of grand new things. That moment of stunned happiness as her world gets bigger in some simple way, not just new or even unexpected, but completely unimagined.

Walking, facing forward in the car, riding a pony, sleeping without bars. At some point, it’s all doomed to become normal. The “mind blowing new thing” as a concept will be over.


Jane’s old crib had an attached dresser on the side, its top serving as a shelf over her bed. When she got big enough to reach the top, we began leaving a cup of milk there when we put her down so if she got thirsty during the night she could take care of herself and we wouldn’t’ have to get up.

To keep her from drinking the milk the next morning, I’d announce that this was the “old milk” and that I needed to get her “new milk,” with emphasis on the old and the new. I’d repeat it several more times as I heated up the morning’s milk. “The new milk is almost ready!”

She got the message quickly: old = bad, new = good.

We’ve created a monster.

Since she has no real sense of time, or spoilage, things can become old very quickly and if something (anything really, if it’s the same) is newer, the older is old and unacceptable.

Milk can be old, socks can be old, if I put something back in the refrigerator because she’s had only a bite or two and try to give it to her later, uh huh, it’s old.

She will periodically decide her diaper is old and demand a new one even though it’s clean and dry.

Just a Picture I Like

Catching Up Post IV

7/4/10 “What Does a Baby Know?” is a recurring theme of this blog. A baby’s communication skills are so limited it’s hard to tell, so sometimes we think “a lot.” Other times, not so much.

When at nine months Jane first started to walk with assistance, I thought, “now I’ll see where she wants to go, where she’ll go when it’s up to her,” and it turns out she wants to walk from one end of the room to the other and back again. There is no “where to”.  Walking was an end in itself. No destination needed.

–Like an animal, there is no why, there just is or is not.

When Jane started babbling, there was a remarkable sensation when you listened casually, inattentively, that she was speaking English. But if you tuned in and listened for real, it was just babble. She babbled in English.

The nanny said, “she knows what she’s saying.” The daycare workers said, “Oh yeah, she’s talking, she just can’t form the words properly.” But when she finally started to use real words, the rich and fluent babble-speak became “dog, ball; ball, dog.”

So a heavily accented “well, most assuredly, if you accept the Platonic view that the pink pony I want from Santa is merely my individual conception of an ideal pony that already exists in the ether” is now “ball, dog” simply because balls and dogs are more interesting than ponies today?

I have my doubts.

Reliable Simple Homemade Yoghurt

In the last couple years, H and I have gotten interested in trying to incorporate homesteading activities into our lives wherever possible. As part of that, I’ve been making my own yoghurt (or yogurt, if you prefer). To get started, I did a bit of googling but the blogs I found that talk about yoghurt make it sound very hard, using a lot of specialized equipment in a process that is fickle at best and often yields milky goo.

After some experimenting, I’ve come up with a system that is simple, uses no special equipment and makes some of the best yoghurt I’ve ever had. Every time.

When I say simple, I don’t mean quick. There are a lot of steps and you have to enjoy the process or it’s not worth it. I mean simple because nothing is carefully measured, carefully set, or carefully timed. I don’t even have a food thermometer. Every instruction here is approximate but the recipe has never failed.


1 quart + 2 tbs milk. I use whole milk because I doubt there’s much benefit to low-fat and  if you’re going to the trouble of making your own yoghurt, you may as well make the best you can.

2 tbs plain yoghurt with live culture. Whatever brand you like best—my source yoghurt (probably 10 generations ago) was Fage, a Greek yoghurt. It’s expensive, but that just adds to the satisfaction–I make great yoghurt for one-third the price of store bought.

Equipment you might not already have around the kitchen:

  1. Glass jar with a top, at least 1 quart size (larger would be better).
  2. Warming pad. We had one in the closet from when H threw her back out. I set it on medium, you may have to experiment to find the right setting on yours. It should be comfortably warm to the touch.
  3. A cooler. Big enough to close with the glass jar and warming pad inside.
  4. Cheesecloth.


Cliff’s Notes (to visualize the process):

  1. Sterilize the milk
  2. Let it cool and mix with small amount of yoghurt
  3. Incubate overnight
  4. Strain out the whey

Full Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 quart of milk on the stove to somewhere just short of boiling.
  2. While the milk is heating, pre-heat the oven to 170-180 degrees (as hot as you can get while being certain the milk will not boil, leaving a safety margin to allow for oven imprecision).
  3. When the milk is steaming but not boiling, transfer it from the burner to the oven and leave it there for 30 minutes.  I use an all metal pot so I can just move it directly without the trouble of pouring it or  dirtying another utensil.
  4. After 30 minutes, remove the milk and transfer it to the glass jar, skin and all.
  5. Cool the milk down until the sides of the jar are comfortably warm to the touch (no more than 110 degrees or so). Since this step can take hours without assistance, I place the jar in a large bowl of ice water. If you use the ice water method, keep in mind when you test it that the outside may be a lot cooler than the middle, so let it sit on the counter a bit or swirl it around to try and equalize the temperature before testing. If in doubt, err on the side of too cool because it can heat up again during the incubation period with no harm done, whereas if it is too hot, it will kill the bacteria and the yoghurt will not form.
  6. While this milk is cooling, mix the additional 2 tbs of milk (from the fridge, not from the hot milk in the jar) with 2 tbs of your source yoghurt in a cup. Stir and set aside.
  7. Plug in the heating pad and place it inside the cooler with the top on to pre-heat while the milk is still cooling. (Again, I set mine to medium, your pad may be different—shoot for comfortably warm).
  8. When the milk has cooled, add the milk/yoghurt mix, close the top of the jar and place it in the cooler. To avoid a too-hot spot, try to keep the heating pad from directly touching the jar. I place a dishtowel between them. With most coolers, you can close the top with the power cord for the heating pad sticking out.
  9. Wait 10-12 hours. Much less and the yoghurt won’t be finished forming, much more and it will start turn sour.
  10. Remove the jar from the cooler. You can call it done right now, but I prefer to strain out the whey to make a nice thick better-tasting yoghurt.
  11. To strain the whey, get a largish bowl and place a colander on top. Line the colander with the cheesecloth. You want the cheesecloth folded so it is at least 2 layers thick, but 4 or more layers is better because less yoghurt will push through and you will end up with purer whey.
  12. Pour the yoghurt in and scoop out whatever sticks to the bottom of the jar.
  13. Place the contraption in the refrigerator. The longer you leave it, the more whey will drain off and the thicker the yoghurt will get. I leave it about four hours, but you will get most of the benefit in the first hour.
  14. Whey is a clear viscous liquid that is a good source of protein and can be a partial substitute for water in pancakes, biscuits, etc., but since I make a lot more than I use, I throw most of it away.


I have a voice that I generally use to talk to Jane, my Jane voice. I have a different voice I generally use to talk to Maggie the Dog, my Maggie voice. But sometimes I use my Jane voice to talk to Maggie or my Maggie voice to talk to Jane.

No big deal, neither one insists on exclusive rights to the voice.

But how about this? When I talk to Jane in the Maggie voice, I often slip up and call her Maggie. It works the other way too, I call Maggie Jane when talking to her in my Jane voice.

Maybe someday I will have a neuroscientist reader and he can explain this.

A couple times I’ve called Jane “Frank”, which is my little brother’s name. I probably need a psychiatrist to explain that one.

Catching Up Post III

H and I were once laughing about memory and how mistaken we can be about what sticks and what doesn’t. When Jane was about 6 months old, we took her to visit her grandparents. And of course lots of notes were compared, Jane’s babyhood versus H’s.

 We couldn’t believe the things Jane’s grandmother couldn’t remember about raising her own babies, we’d never forget these magic moments. They are seared SEARED into our memories. At least I think they were, I can’t remember the specifics.

Looking through old notes to make these catch up posts, I see extended periods where I didn’t record much, which I expect means the things I recorded were important at the time. So what am I to do with this?

 7/17/10 Very intense baby, observant. Remember where she was when Kennedy was shot—the lettuce was slightly wilted.

I even remember the observation and thinking there was something quite clever about it. No, I wasn’t stoned.

This one seems more straightforward.

7/4/10 TV and cookies is all she says. Speech isn’t always better, sometimes crying impotently is preferable.

I can easily picture her “Want TV!’ “Want cookies!” How many times can you say that? She can say it more. At least when she couldn’t talk, everything was supposed to sound the same. Now it sounds the same because it is.

Here’s some undated stuff that looks quite old:

Her teeth are coming in, one at a time with no concern for artistic balance or aesthetics, her smile leaves her looking like a retarded Dracula.

And then, apparently three months later:

She’ll sit and grind her teeth as a hobby, not absentmindedly, but consciously, determinedly, with satisfaction. Like she’s still pleased to have teeth at all.