Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Too Much Running?

Here's what's on at our house ... the crockpot and the oven. And the television. And the computer. And the baby monitor. This morning, I was browning beef at 7:45. Not, perhaps, the ideal odour to send wafting through the house at that hour; the recipe is for sweet and sour beef. It also has chunks of green pepper, onion, and carrot, and I've added a block of tofu, just to ensure no one will like it. You know, it wouldn't feel like supper if someone wasn't exclaiming, "Ewww!" I'm also baking brown rice. Have cleaned green beans to be cooked up fresh when we burst through the door after 5 o'clock, having run the music marathon: pick up children early from school, plus neighbour friend, burn carbon across town to piano lessons and early childhood music class. Tonight, I'm adding in a quick trip to the shoe store to buy Albus a pair of non-destroyed runners. He and Apple-Apple are participating in running club at school, and after the first session, last week, Apple-Apple was glowing, she loved it, and Albus said, nope, not much fun. Too much running.
:::
Tell me about it, kid.
But here's the thing, I'm running, but I feel happy. I'm trying to fit perhaps slightly too much into this raggedy suitcase called Life, but I'd rather do that than the opposite. To everything there is a season. I appreciated the summer season a great deal. It was languid and a bit boring, as perhaps it should have been, because I'm filled with renewed energy.
No time to elaborate; but hope to soon. It's time to wake a sleeping babe ...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"I'm Going to Harry Potter World"

I'm writing again. And that means that most spare scraps of the day are poured into that work ... and not into, say, doing the dishes, prepping supper, photographing my adorable children, or blogging. Gee, I still dislike that term. But can't think of a better one.
Saturday, so we arose late, hoping CJ would sleep in (he did, a bit, following a just-before-seven nurse), and that the other children would go downstairs and play together (they did), and that they would FEED themselves. They didn't. Inevitably, hunger arrived, wasn't addressed, and led to an argument between Fooey (age four) and Albus (age eight). Over Duplo. Apple-Apple, meantime, has been in the position pictured above since waking this morning, save for a brief breakfast out of bed. It is now almost eleven. She's reading the Harry Potter series at a rate of about a book per week, and is already on book three. Surely there is poetic justice in me having a daughter who cannot remove herself from a book--I get to understand first-hand how difficult that can be to watch. I fight the urge to jump up and down waving my arms while telling her: look at this wonderful world; don't you want to go play road hockey with your brother?; wouldn't you like to chat or something? But she's lost in this other place. She doesn't even blink.
"When you're reading, it's like you're almost in another world, isn't it, Mom? It's almost like you're a character in the book. And then when you close the book, the world disappears."
Yup, like magic. I get it. I hope I'll get there again, myself. I read all day long, but not in the same way. I skim the newspaper, dash through emails, scan other people's blogs, troll through recipe books, I read aloud to the kids, process the endless stream of info that arrives in backpacks from school, lie in bed and savour a chapter or two in a personally chosen book before sleep arrives. Much of life revolves around text. Reading isn't dead. But falling so deeply inside a book ... that feels beyond my capacity to manage right now. There isn't enough room, enough space in the day.
:::
This morning began like most Saturday mornings. I didn't get downstairs till almost 10, though I'd been up for several hours. I changed the sheets on four out of five beds (couldn't budge Apple-Apple), put away bales of laundry, tidied. Experience tells me that, when working on a project, it is unwise to move to another section of the house, even for a brief errand, because another project/child/need will suck me in. Last night, Kevin and I spent about two hours, post-supper and post-dishwashing PUTTING AWAY TOYS. We worked in tandem, sorting, organizing, throwing away, moving methodically through drawers and bins and across swathes of strewn carpet. Maybe we have too many toys. Or too many toys with tiny bits. Because we have places to put everything; that's not the problem. It's just that everything seems to migrate, up and down, piled into baby buggies and baskets, dumped and dragged, carted and reorganized for the sake of some marvelous imaginary game that it would seem cruel and foolish not to allow. Their methods of cleaning up, though sometimes quite enthusiastically practiced, don't match up with mine. Albus, for example, would happily organize his room according to his own ideas, and it would look "perfect" to him: there would be multiple piles stacked on dresser tops and in the middle of the floor; there would be a forest of containers, each with three or four items rattling about within. "But I like it this way, Mom!"
:::
Made it downstairs. Have now breakfasted and self-caffeinated. Laundry is on the list, as is vacuuming. Unless I get called to doula at a birth! My friend is due--was due--this Thursday past. Every time the phone rings, Kevin looks at me and I look at him--is this it?
:::
Do any of you have Sigg water bottles? If so, the company is doing a voluntary recall due to tests that showed their old liners were leaching a nasty chemical. This week, we replaced a family's worth of rather battered bottles for pretty new ones, which have a different liner. Which will leach heaven knows what, but hey. Better than disposable. Blue Skies Yoga and Eco-Store will exchange your bottles, no questions asked. That's Apple-Apple's brand-new ladybug bottle behind her in bed. Always hydrate while reading.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Swimmingly

I'm better; have I mentioned that? Garlic-ginger-lemon stew worked its earth-mother magic.
There's rather too much to do, but Fooey and I have a favourite line we like to sing, from Finding Nemo: "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming." I'm not sure why she latched onto it, but I love it. Just about sums it up, right there, my whole operational philosophy.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ginger-Garlic Cold-Fighting Brew

Re Michelle's request, inspired by the post below from earlier this morning, here's the recipe for my (not at all disgusting, I assure you!) ginger-garlic-lemon drinkable stew. I swear by it.
Combine in a medium-sized saucepan: the juice of one lemon, a good two inches of peeled ginger root, five to ten peeled and crushed cloves of garlic. Cover with water, anywhere between four to eight cups, and simmer for awhile. Pour into a mug with lots of honey, and sip while hot. A sprinkling of cayenne pepper is optional in the original stew. A peppermint tea bag is also optional in your mug. I keep adding water and stewing and sipping all day.
Wishing you health!

Rainy Days

Ah, fluctuation.
From model of efficiency to nasty head cold; though it may not be rational to assume that one caused the other. We've been getting very little sleep. First, CJ was teething, then he got the head cold. The cure for both is, apparently (ask him), all-night non-stop nursing. I kept the ball rolling on Saturday, ferrying children to birthday parties, vaccuuming our disgusting living quarters, mopping the kitchen floor (Apple-Apple helped), squeezing in a hair cut (skipped the blow dry, but not the head massage), putting up a bushel of tomatoes, then dashing off to a street party. Sometime that night, during the feeding frenzy, I thought to myself, ugh, sore throat. Yup, by morning, I wasn't feeling fabulous. Yesterday the gears shifted to low, sputtering. But colds are colds, liveable, doable, managable. There's no urgent need to put myself to be bed. I'm going to spend a sleepy rainy day with my boys--Albus is also here with us, due to a hacking germ-spreading cough--and I'm thankful I don't feel worse.
Had a list of smallish bloggish blurbish items I've been meaning to cover, but can't recall them now (of course). Especially because I'm listening to Q on CBC at the same time as I'm typing this, at the same time as CJ is pulling on me yelling, "Hand! Hand!" which means, gimme your hand, mama, I've got plans for us. Other vocab he's come out with in the last day or two: "Wagon," "bunny," "rain," "backpack," "hot dog," "wind," "sit." And more. We interrupt this post for an extended interlude of puzzle-doing. And the sipping of my home-stewed honey-garlic-ginger-lemon cure-all brew.
Above, a few pics from the kids' first skate of the season. Kevin has organized an informal neighbourhood skating/hockey time similar to our soccer-in-the-park model. CJ and I skipped out as neither of us have skates. Maybe next time? I want to see this in person.
:::
Oh, just remembered: local food and preparing for winter, that was another item on my list. It feels like we haven't concentrated on putting food away with the same zeal as last year, and yet I'm pleased with what's hanging out in our cold cellar, on our shelves, and in our freezers, waiting to cheer us this winter. Last year, we had success storing garlic and potatoes in our cold cellar. We store the potatoes in smallish amounts in paper bags, thoroughly dry, and carefully checked over for any signs of rot. The garlic we store loose on wire shelves. Last year's onions were a spectacular fail; so never mind this year. I feel like I'm really just experimenting, just dabbling in maintaining a minimum of survival skills as I go about collecting food for winter.
Other bits and bobs we've put away recently: roasted red peppers yesterday. Two bushels of tomatoes, frozen or canned, over the past two weekends; likely not enough, but also likely all I'm going to get to. Shredded zucchini for baking.
Thankfully we have a global food system into which to tap. Should it grind to a shuddering halt, good luck to us.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Not Wasting, Not Wanting

The littlest of my daughters has been at school all day today, and I miss her. (I guess I've gotten accustomed to the two biggest children being gone all day, every day, which is perhaps a bit sad, too). But I had a writing morning, and it felt good. The work feels once again productive. It helps to have actual assignments with money attached, and deadlines. Earlier this week, I received page proofs for the stories in The New Quarterly, and perhaps just as exciting, saw the mockup for the proposed cover--for which, drum roll please, I'm also the photographer!! Cows on the beach. You can see it, too, in less than a month. Makes me want to go looking for a better quality camera, and acquire some actual post-production skills. If you want to see inspiring photos, take a look at a blog written by an old friend with an amazing eye for beauty; it's called This Is Glamourous and these photos of Chicago are her own. Tangent. Where was I? Oh yes, scanning page proofs late at night. I've also been picking away at an opening chapter for the proposed memoir. My operational goal this fall is to squeeze it all in. The happiest days in recent memory have been filled almost to bursting; yet instead of feeling stressed or worn by the exacting organization, the necessary running from place to place (literally; I wear running shoes for this exact purpose), the occasional laspses (lost my wallet yesterday, only to find it ten frantic minutes later exactly where I'd been looking for it in the first place), I feel energized, enthusiastic. I feel like something valuable can be found in every moment, every interaction, even the ones that appear on the surface entirely unpromising. Waste not, want not. Despite all the hurrying, I am relishing a newfound (rediscovered) patience. Taking time to kneel in the grass with CJ and track the progress of a ladybug. Taking time to feel my feet grounded to this earth.
And now, a little more writing while naptime holds.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"I Was Happy"

Kevin cropped these for me: Fooey in her school lineup waiting to go in and start this next chapter in her life. We have now been regaled with stories and memories from that day (yes, it was only yesterday), and she was disappointed not to be heading back with the big kids this morning. "I was happy," she confided as I hugged her (best hug ever) after that first full day. And I was happy for her! And yet my heart is quietly mourning this passage. Here begins her life apart from us--not a large part of her life, of course, not yet, and oh how proud I am of her confidence, her solid nature; but a part nevertheless. She will survive small struggles all by herself. She will manage. She will test out this larger world. She will discover. She will enjoy. Her mind is so eager to be lit with new experiences, to learn, and she will. I think parenting is renewing this pledge over and over: to let go, to trust our children, and to meet them wherever they are--to be in that present place, for them. At the very moment of her birth, this child occupied her space without me; even then. It's just that I still see her at that moment, sometimes; especially when I look at these photos. I still see her as she was.
Do you ever have a day when you feel struck by thankfulness, positively overwhelmed? That was my today. It was ordinary enough, I suppose, but filled with small gifts and reversals of fortune everywhere I turned. For example, after supper, my plans to get together with my siblings fell through so instead I rearranged the girls' room and the playroom (it all started with an old wooden toy fridge, which we received secondhand years ago, falling over and almost crushing CJ; obviously time to get rid of it, and though it seemed like an insignificant object, its removal precipitated a great upheaval of furniture; CJ was unscathed, I must add). After this satisfying exertion, and having some scheduled "free" mama-away time, I threw on my running shoes and ran and ran and ran and ran around the neighbourhood. It felt transcendent. My breathing was easy, my body removed and full of energy, and my mind calm and meditative; the kind of meditation where you're not really thinking about anything, your mind feels clear, untroubled. I run so rarely, it hadn't occurred to me I'd be fit enough to arrive at that place of exercise nirvana. Note to self: get out and do this again! Burst blotchy-faced and sweaty through the door only to discover sibs night was back on and there was still an hour before Kevin was due to leave for hockey. So I got out after all. Cancelled out the run by eating soup, salad AND brie-dripping panini (thanks, sis). Arrived home in time for Kevin to get a ride to the first hockey game of the season with his friends--I literally flagged them down as they were pulling out of our driveway.
Okay, now that I write this all out it doesn't sound special in the least. Neverthless. I'm glad and grateful and the slow-cooker's been working well (roasted chicken was fabulous) and Kevin packed the kids' lunches and and and. Full. I'm too full to sleep.
Or not. Never too anything to sleep.
(Can I confess that I'm almost too superstitious to post this entry; pride goeth before a fall, or, if you always think the worst, you're more likely to be pleasantly surprised, which is not a real saying. Thankfully.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pieces of a Blog

Recently, while playing wedding (Chach and B, we have you to thank for this alarming new trend), Fooey said, "And here's where I'll put the wedding cheese." That caught the ear of her mother, passing by. "Umm, the wedding what?" "The wedding cheese." "Oh?" Fooey looked a bit disappointed in me: "You know the wedding cheese. With the little people in it." Then I realized that my brother had displayed just such a cheese (standing in for their cake) at his wedding. Ha! This is how traditions are started.

Well, she went into the school today looking very small, and very excited. "Hand on your hips, and finger on your lips," said the teacher, and Fooey looked pretty darn pleased to oblige. I am thinking of her now, as quiet time approaches. So many small hopes I have for her day: hope she enjoyed her food. Hope there was enough. Hope she'll have a rest. Hope she finds a friend to play with on the playground. Hope her big sister or brother visit at recess. And on and on.
I spent the morning alone with a little guy who could hardly believe his luck. We baked muffins together, matching aprons. Built block towers. Read books. Put teddies onto riding toys. Sounds pretty lowkey, doesn't it? Then why am I twice as tired as usual? Here's hoping I can head upstairs and get an hour to write. Cup of tea in hand.

Oh, I cooked a frozen chicken overnight in the crockpot. It was done by morning, whereupon I added potatoes and carrots and they were done within two hours. I set it to low the whole time, so maybe my pot runs hot? I removed the finished stew to the fridge, because it didn't seem like it needed more time on the counter. The scent of roasting chicken invaded my dreams. I woke with this strong sense of purpose: to go downstairs, core one tomato, stuff said tomato with one peeled clove of garlic, and add this to the pot. The idea may have come to me in a dream, but that's exactly the first thing I did this morning after brushing my teeth.
Yesterday's crockpot meal was a perfectly acceptable (read between those lines) use of leftover brown rice, but not something I'd willingly serve to guests. Four out of six of us agreed; two said major blech and ate buns and cheese instead. Then we went to the family swim at the Rec Centre and had a blast. A perfect activity for Family Fun Night, as the kids like to call anything we do together that's ever so slightly out of the ordinary. Way cheaper than going to the movies.

Shoot, was just prepping photos to post, and realized the ones of Fooey in her class lineup all involve other children whose parents I don't know. It looked like a class of mostly boys. Sure hope they let her boss them around.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Food Food Food Food Food

Food food food food food ... it's on my brain. The need to prepare and serve it in a variety of ways feels suddenly more constant, more pressing, more always. And more difficult. It can't be that there are more meals to make. It must be that there's less time in which to make them.

Yesterday, I spent the better part of the afternoon converting two baskets of market tomatoes to 14 jars and 7 freezer bags of the processed variety. (Plus one tomato from our front-yard garden: Albus's! He insisted it go into the sauce so that he could imagine he was eating "his" tomato all winter). As a guide, I used last year's blog entry on the subject of canning tomatoes. (Note: I forgot to mention, in that entry, that after placing the skinned tomato pieces into the jars, you fill the jars with hot water to a half-inch head). The work wasn't hard to do, but it was time-consuming, and in the end felt anti-climactic as this won't come close to filling our pantry. If I have the heart for it, I'll repeat the exercise again next weekend. (It would be easier to do, and I recognize this, if there weren't a thousand interruptions. I suspect it might even be something I'd enjoy doing: simple and productive handwork while the mind wanders. But right now, it feels like a chore among others.)
It's Sunday, so I'm trying out my crockpot for the first time in years; that way, if the meal flops, we can order last-minute takeout and it won't cramp our no-room-for-error weekday style. Are there some foods that actually taste better cooked in a crockpot? My experience, though limited, has been discouraging, so I would appreciate hearing some hurrahs for the crockpot. For tonight's meal, I made up a recipe loosely based on a bunch of recipes in Fix It and Forget It, a cookbook which seems to rely heavily upon cans of cream of mushroom soup. No cans in my cooking. In fact, that may be why the crockpot has seemed so unappealing: because I'm used to eating food cooked up from scratch before mealtime, using the freshest ingredients. Can a crockpot really compete?

Here's this week's menu, at a glance:

Sunday: Crockpot brown rice casserole with hamburger, spinach, cheese and tomatoes. Roasted veggies on the side.

Monday: Chicken roasted (steamed?) in crockpot with root veggies. Buttered noodles on the side.

Tuesday: Mac and cheese with ham in crockpot. No time for sides.

Wednesday: BBQ at meet-the-teacher night.

Thursday: Beans or lentils, possibly in crockpot. Possibly not.

Friday: Leftovers. Plus some fresh items picked up from Nina's buying club.

Of course, in addition to supper, there's also lunch, and tonight I will be making THREE lunches to send for school tomorrow. Fooey is thrilled. But I am suffering school-lunch anxiety: her teacher has requested that I split the lunch into two well-marked portions (the children's school has two nutrition breaks per day, but the older children simply choose what they want to eat out of whatever I send). Fooey's teacher recommends that the first portion of lunch be the more substantial: sandwich. The second should be more snack-ish: fruit, veg. I've almost paralyzed my thinking on this subject with over-complication.

Ah, cup of coffee. That's what I'm enjoying right now. Soon it will be lunchtime ... scrambled egg and bean burritos. It never ends. Well, it never ends right now. And I'll miss it when it does. But perhaps that will be because I've romanticized these days and forgotten how little time there was to sit and think. I miss sitting and thinking. There's much to be said for it, even if what it produces is invisible to the eye.

:::
Random bits. Yesterday, CJ took my hand and led me to the rocking chair in our backyard. "Sit" he said, and I sat. He wanted an audience for his sandbox play. Or maybe he just wanted his mother to sit and think ...

The children have been practicing piano, ten minutes apiece, in a the mornings before school. I love this more than I seem capable of expressing. It's a bit like love. There's no way to describe love without diminishing it. Hearing them play (or attempt to play) these simple songs on the piano is both ordinary and deeply affecting. It's comforting. It's beautiful. It returns me to my own childhood. It is such a wonderful way to start our day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Conscious Discipline

Conscious discipline. It is something I think about and struggle with daily, while trying to meet the needs of four very different children--and my husband's, and my own. So it was like wandering through a cool, nourishing summer rainstorm to discover these ten simple principles of conscious discipline on my friend Kristin's blog. (You will have to scroll down past the beautiful black and white photographs to find the link within the text). Kristin is the director of a preschool to which I long to send my children; except that we're separated by several time zones. In fact, to my knowledge we've met only once in our lives, as children, and reuinted these many years later via the wonders of Facebook and Blogland.
I've tried to distill these ten rules of conscious discipline even further for my own purposes, and fit them all onto one handy reminder sheet which I intend to study whenever perplexed or frustrated. Here they are, for you.

1. Tell your children what to do. Rather than what not to do.
Principle: You get what you focus on.

2. When you're upset, you need to give your children information they can use.
Not: "Why would you do that?" (Seriously, could you answer that? I know I couldn't. Yet, it's an oddly tempting opening line when upset).
Instead: "Let's start by doing this ..." "Let's think about this ..."

3. The only person you can change is yourself.
Therefore, you need to ask yourself questions that will bring about creative, cooperative solutions.
Not: "How can I make my child stay in bed?" (manipulation or coercion)
Instead: "How can I help my child be more likely to choose to stay in bed?"

4. Two heads are better than one.
Ask your children to work with you to solve their problems.

5. Spend time with your children. Establish family rituals. Be in relationship.
"I don't care" = I don't feel cared for.

6. Encouragement empowers.
Always.
In wonderful times. In tough times.
"I believe in you."

7. Take back your power.
Not: "You're driving me nuts." (Who's in charge of your feelings?)
Instead: "I'm going to take a deep breath and calm myself down. Then I will talk to you."

8. Become the person you want your children to be.
Smile
Take a deep breath
And
Relax

9. Do not save your children from the consequences of their actions.
Principle: Psychological pain is a signal to make changes in your life.
Don't lecture: "I told you so ..."
Empathize. "I know that was really important to you ..."

10. Conflict is an opportunity to teach.
Don't punish children for not knowing how to resolve conflict.
Teach them: assertiveness.
"I don't like it when you ..."
(I would like to add that "taking a deep breath" is a really fabulous skill to teach your children. In fact, Albus uses this technique, and the other day was teaching it to his younger sister, who was in the midst of a tantrum. Breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, taking your time; repeat for at least ten breaths. You can do this facing your child, showing them how to breathe, too. Albus does it the other way round--in through his mouth and out through his nose; whatever works!)

:::

A couple more images from our today: Pie for breakfast! Now that's a happy-making prospect. Thanks to Nina and Matthew, friends and neighbours, for giving us this delicious gift. I'm thinking ... hmmm, pie for supper, too?
And talk about how a parent can help her child choose to stay in bed ... well, late-night sewing projects are not a means to that end. Last night, after brushing her teeth and putting on her pajamas, Apple-Apple felt inspired to work on a dressing gown for the girls' doll. This meant she did not get as much reading-in-bed time; she did not cope well with the consequences of this lesson in time-management. But she did wake extra early to continue working on the project, till done.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Memoir Research

I've been reading memoirs.
First, I re-read an old favourite: James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small, which is not, strictly speaking, a memoir, but a fictionalized account of the author's experiences as a country vet in the Yorkshire Dales before World War Two. I've loved Herriot's books since childhood; they're funny, poignant, a bit sentimental, and the writing is what I'd call hard-working. It does the job. Sometimes that's really all that's required, and anything more would seem out of place.
Next, I read The Way of a Boy, by Ernest Hillen, a memoir about the three years he spent as a child in a Japanese work camp in Dutch Indonesia, during World War Two. This is an entirely and remarkably unsentimental memoir; it seems like the author re-entered his boy self in order to tell this very pure and moving story. Inherent in his telling is complete trust in the reader. I liked this book a great deal. There were many loose threads, as the boy and his brother and mother were moved from camp to camp, losing contact along the way with many of the characters, and there was no attempt to tie up these threads; true to life. The portrayal of the author's mother was humbling: she was unselfish, stoical, expressed and seemed to feel no pity for herself and their situation. She was also strong, brave, loving, and most impressively, eschewed martyrdom--rather than giving her share of food to her children, as other mothers did, she unapologetically ate it in order to stay strong for her family; she stayed up late reading, if books and light were available; and on occasion, she swore like a sailor. Ernest Hillen came to Canada after his family was released from the camps (he was then about ten or eleven), and grew up to work as an editor. According to the foreword, by Charlotte Gray, he never spoke of his experiences in the camps or even thought much about them until he began work on the memoir, some forty years later. Remarkable is the detail he was able to bring to the surface.
Finally, I'm thoroughly enjoying another memoir recommended to me by a friend: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, written by Alexandra Fuller, who grew up in Africa as the daughter of white African farmers. This story is skillfully told within a non-linear frame, and is so far extremely entertaining. The character of the mother is (again) drawn with particular brilliance (what is it about us mothers??), though in this case much less flatteringly.
All of this is "research." Pleasant, easy research, I must add. Next week marks the return to some regular writing hours. My sense is that I'm going to dive into my own attempt at memoir; with a couple of caveats. Should the work seem like a slog, should it not come naturally, I'm not going to push it. And I really only have to write a chapter or two and an outline before running it by my agent, who will take it further, if that seems the right direction.
Those stories, on the same subject, still feel very present and vital. There may even be more of them yet to write.
An acquaintance who reads this blog emailed to remind me of the value of fiction (that wasn't necessarily what she was trying to do, but that's where I went with her thoughts): that as human beings we need--we long for--the purpose and order created by the artistic act of reimagining the human experience. Fiction isn't made-up life, it's life re-made.
What's memoir? I'm not sure I know. But at this point, it feels possible to frame this story I'd like to tell in two vastly different ways. I'm going to try, anyway.
:::
For those of you interested in reading a couple of the aforementioned stories, I will let you know when they become available in the fall edition of The New Quarterly.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yes!

"This is my first day of school in my whole life!"
She has, in fact, been dragged back and forth to school since she was five weeks old, but finally finally her own time has come. This morning, she met her teacher and explored her classroom. She looked confident and prepared, identified the "F" in her name (afterward she confided rather dismissively, "That was easy!"), and she and her little brother played together contentedly while the proud parents discussed the ins and outs of full-day kindergarten with her teacher. (I love how in kindergarten the grownups are required to squat on teeny-tiny chairs around teeny-tiny tables). She will attend her first full day on Monday. Her inside shoes are already there, waiting for her in her shoe cubby (there is also a bin with her name on it, a hook for coat and backpack, and a lunchbox cubby; all labelled and waiting to welcome her).
:::
Yesterday we tried out racing from school to piano lessons to City Cafe Bakery for take-out pizza to home again, all the while thinking: next week we'll add choir in, too, after supper. Well, maybe not. Choir might just have to take one for the team, because the kids were in states of fine fury and exhaustion by 6pm. Albus kept stalking around glaring at everyone and saying, "I'm so angry!" "Why are you so angry?" "Because you're not ... because Fooey is ... because !!!! roar!" Clearly, he was in the frame of mind that in adulthood calls for swear words mumbled under breath, or a nice restorative after-dinner beverage on the porch. We figured he was angry because he was exhausted beyond all repair, and we let the children veg after supper with a movie, then brush teeth, and fall into bed. But Apple-Apple in particular was too wired to relax, and had fits in her bunk, insisting that she must read herself off to sleep. This argument proved particularly effective on her mother, who feels exactly the same way most nights.
:::
Want to make note somewhere (baby book not available): CJ is speaking words! Putting them together in twos! "Dada ball," he told me last night, coming inside after kicking a soccer ball around the back yard with his dad. Seriously, he did! He also announced, clear as a bell, and at exactly the right moment: "Nap." Yup, it was naptime. What was that you say? Naptime. Oh, "naptime, naptime!" "Didi" continues to stand in for animals of all kinds. If he's not kissing his favourite "didis" (animal crackers included), he's having them kiss each other, or demanding we kiss them. And he's got a great big head nod he uses to indicate "yes." I like when a kid says yes rather than no. Shows a positive outlook in life, doesn't it?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Day of School

Meant to get in one more post before school started, to commemorate our last summer adventure; but too late. School started this morning. First day of school photos duly taken. The big kids found their lines and classrooms without difficulty this morning, and it certainly didn't hold the drama of years past. Albus suffered a goodbye kiss (barely); Apple-Apple waited patiently in her line saying not a word. CJ ran wild, climbed the kindergarten play equipment and soaked his pants coming down the slide. Otherwise, the trip to and from school was uneventful. It is Albus's FIFTH year in school, so we're pretty accustomed to it now; he's been in school now longer than not. Weird. Those quiet, blurry, half-asleep preschool years have become ancient history.
I am currently babysitting an extra little guy (apologies to his parents; but rest assured, he is within sight as I type this, eating a snack at the counter with his fellow snacking companions; all were famished after a morning of difficult "instruction" work. Wish I'd gotten pictures of that).
What-ho, here we are. A return to routines not invented by me. A return to a more rigid flow of hours and days, with, one hopes and imagines, the increased productivity routine creates.
We're headed outside, now. Snacktime has come to an abrupt end.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Real New Year

As a friend recently commented, the start-up of the school year always feels like the real New Year. Here at our house, we're going out of our way to prove this to be true. We've got a tentative weekly schedule mapped out on pink construction paper and filled almost to bursting (with room made, it must be said, for each of the parents to pursue extracurricular interests, aka sanity; Kev's got hockey and soccer; I've got sibs night, girls' night, and an evening class). We've also spent several of Kevin's holiday days rearranging the house. Top photo: the boys' room. Note crib nuzzling bunk bed. The next two photos depict CJ's former bedroom / my office / playroom. It is now excessively, almost disturbingly, clean and empty-feeling. The plan is to expand the purposes of said room over time: it will remain a playroom, and my office (yay! I can now work after the kids go to bed!), and we're also calling it the study, where children seeking quiet can sit and read or work at the disturbingly empty table that currently has no chairs. It's a start. Eventually, I'm envisioning several tall bookshelves and another communal computer. I love imagining our house evolving as our children grow and change. Which child will mine out a room in the basement? Or perhaps the attic?
While I reorganized the office, Kevin flipped piles of blueberry pancakes. By the time I'd ventured downstairs, none remained. See that last one? CJ did. He wanted it. He is now sleeping the sleep of the contented blueberry belly.