Inspired by Katie’s comment on the previous blog entry, and the website she suggested, I made a set of index cards with daily chores and weekly chores, and introduced the concept of an allowance to the kids. The oldest were ridiculously enthusiastic. Chore categories so far:
Daily: Wash dishes. Dry and put away dishes. Fold laundry. Set and clear table. Pack lunches.
Weekly: Vaccuum. Clean your room. Clean bathrooms.
Additionally, an all-family daily task: the 10-minute tidy!
The children are already saving their allowance toward a Bone book. And I already felt a weight lifted last night, the feeling that we were all working together toward the collective goal of a liveable house, not one person martyring herself to the domestic cause.
Local food, family, writing, balance.
That’s been this blog’s focus, and I will stick with it. But. The question is a little bit larger than that: What is the tone underlying? Why do this? Looking back, what I most appreciate about these blog entries are the beautiful reminders of day-to-day life, the moments that transcend the ordinary while living within it. On some days, those moments can be hard to find, but even the process of looking for them feels helpful, feels like it’s building something good, and strengthening. And so easily forgotten, too. The photographs, too, have been an unexpectedly happy addition, and pleasurable challenge.
I have bigger blog ambitions, but can’t promise these will come to fruition. Daily themes: Recipes. Parenting ideas/questions. Writing. Doula-ing. Or today’s: housekeeping.
I’ve been reflecting on the public nature of blogging, and wondering whether it’s healthy to spill the ups and downs of my daily life live-to-air, so to speak; or, even more importantly, the lives of four children who have no say in the process. Ethics. Not sure. What do fellow bloggers think about this?
I’ve also figured out that my perpetually cranky mood relates to having too much to do, and not being able to do it to satisfaction; cursed perfectionism. Kevin sent me out for a solo walk yesterday afternoon, and while I was gone he organized the kids to fold laundry. That’s the pic above. I’m beginning to grasp that my future sanity is going to hinge on designating household responsibility, farming out some tasks, scaling back expectations, doing some ruthless prioritizing. Get a slow-cooker? Hire someone to clean weekly? Seriously. I need to entertain some alternatives. Suggestions welcome.
Writing day, but this is the first I’ve gotten to the computer this morning. Fooey had her major dental appointment this morning, so that took priority. She was fully conscious during the surgery, but on nitrous oxide (“magic nose” as the dentist calls it) and additionally on a drug that kinda makes her look and act a bit drunk. Amazingly, the dentist (Super Dentist, as I shall forevermore call him) drilled and filled three cavities, including between her two front teeth, and shaved off an additional three more cavities, all in one go. So she’s taken care of. For now. Heaven knows, we are flossing and brushing and treating juice like a rare treat these days (“Juice!!!” the kids squeal with delight when it is offered at a birthday party; the way other children might scream, “Candy!” or “Cake!”), but there are hard teeth and there are soft teeth, and it’s looking like my babies have the soft ones. Something tells me this won’t be Fooey’s last”magic nose” experience. It was quite trippy trying to imagine the experience through her eyes, lying in that chair, breathing nitrous oxide into her innocent lungs, sunglasses on, in a dental office that looks like it’s perfectly preserved from the 1960s, while Super Dentist and his assistant spoke soothingly of “pink and yellow sugar bugs” being “washed away.” (Drilled away). I was starting to see pink and yellow sugar bugs. It wasn’t a bad sensation, actually.
I’ve been meaning to blog all weekend and it’s already Monday. These were some of the topics in mind. Carrot cookies: really good. Taking four children ages three to seven to the musical theatre (Annie) for a 7pm show: surprisingly fun. Midwifery: lots of Big Thoughts. In fact, that’s where I’d like to go in today’s blog.
On Friday evening, I attended the Eby Lecture at Conrad Grebel College, which this year was given by Marlene Epp, a Mennonite historian. The place was packed out with the local Mennonite crowd. It is impossible to show up at something like this and not a) recognize 99% of the audience, b) be known by name by at least 33% whose names you do not, in turn, remember, and c) actually turn out to be related to 5% of those in attendance. (Note: All figures are wild estimates). The subject was Canadian Mennonite women who were midwives/healers. I love this kind of history, largely story-telling, using oral sources, diaries, notes. I loved how she integrated and contextualized the Mennonite story into and within the larger story of immigrant Canada. Proof that I would make a lousy historian, what jumped out at me instantly was the source of great fiction this history could make.
Some of you may know that I harbour distant fantasies about becoming a midwife myself. Likely from the moment I saw my own sister born at home (I was twelve and a half), the profession has seemed to me almost magical, and certainly powerful: guiding a woman through gestation to delivery, being present and receiving new life. It’s the only alternate career path I’ve been able to imagine for myself; yet I’m excruciatingly aware that my interest in midwifery is more idealistic than practical. It seems like the kind of profession one should feel “called” to (though that may be more of my idealism talking). Children and grandchildren of these midwives recalled holiday celebrations broken by the mother or grandmother grabbing up her brown bag and heading out on a mission of mercy. Midwives also acted, in some cases, as naturopaths, chiropractors, bone-setters, healers, and undertakers. Because, of course, tied up so closely with birth is death; at least, it was for most of human history, and still is in many places on earth. The responsibility seems vast. I feel myself torn between wanting to discover whether my own hands and mind could care for women and babies in this way; and being pretty darn sure that pursuing that course would bury my ambitions to continue writing fiction. Not to mention limit my time with these four small children I’ve produced who still need constant care.
I figure on four years of grace till CJ starts kindergarden. In some ways, it doesn’t seem like much time, yet when thinking over the changes in our lives these past four years there are almost too many to integrate and understand. We just are where we are. I like planning ahead. But I like staying flexible and open.
Four years ago, I was just about to get pregnant with our third child. Four years ago, Kevin was travelling long distances, regularly, and working for someone else’s company. Four years ago, my parents were living in the same house they’d lived in since 1991. They were still married to each other. Kevin’s dad was still alive. Four years ago, our kids had two sets of intact grandparents. Though we could hope for more kids, and hope for Kevin to change his job, we really couldn’t predict or control many of the events that occurred alongside those others. So it is. I just finished reading Elizabeth Hay’s Late Nights on Air, and there’s a line that’s stuck in my mind. (I’m paraphrasing). One character says that some people believe everything is all about timing; some people believe everything is all about luck; and she believes everything is fragile. Life is fragile.
I believe that, yes, everything is fragile, connections and relationships are fragile; in some ways. In other ways, everything is damned tenacious. Connections and relationships stick and tangle and surprise us and hold us and remain. Even if only in memory.
Life is fascinating, isn’t it? And that’s why I can’t figure out whether I want to be catching it, literally, or catching it in this other way: on the page.
Want to note that CJ has been sleeping much better (at night) in the past couple of weeks. This is the sort of news I hardly want to mention, for entirely superstitious reasons, of course. So touch wood. And rejoice. What happened was that after we returned from our Halloween weekend at Kevin’s mom’s, CJ had gotten pretty comfortable spending all night in our bed, and was waking soon after being put to bed at night, just so he could come and cuddle with his mama. I have only a vague sleep-deprived memory of the magic moment, but what I recall is going to bed early (because he’d woken and wouldn’t go back to sleep otherwise), nursing him off and on till sometime after midnight, CJ remaining fussy and restless and miserable, and finally turning to Kevin and saying: “My tank is on empty. I’m going to let him cry.” So I laid him back into his playpen, tucked him in, and let him cry. I patted him a couple of times, and he cried for a full fifteen minutes, but that was it. Fifteen minutes of suffering and he fell asleep. All by himself. And it’s been much easier getting him into his playpen since then, and he sleeps longer when he’s initially put to bed, too.
But he is right now downright miserable in his giant bouncy device, probably hungry, and the living-room is filled with children playing Playmobil (playdate). So I should really, er, get off this electronic device and attend to some non-virtual needs.
Oh, and I had the kids wear the Mennonite Central Committee Remembrance Day button to school today, a red button with the words “To remember is to work for peace.” We had a fairly long talk about it before school this morning, and at the end, Albus said, “I think it would be easier to just wear the poppy.” I told them they could also wear a poppy. I hope I wasn’t overstepping parental bounds by asking them to wear this pin, too, especially because I wasn’t entirely convinced they “got’ it. But I have deeply ambivalent emotions around Remembrance Day, having been raised a pacifist. To me, wearing the button isn’t about standing against people who offer their lives to serve our country, but about being aware of the effects of war, and imagining more peaceful solutions … but I’m typing one-handed … and my children are behaving most unpacifistically all of sudden.
Oh my goodness, my friend Katie has posted pics of her brand-new baby boy, Quinn, on her blog, and I am so in love!!! I don’t know how this is possible under the circumstances, but those pics make my ovaries ache … and technically I still have a baby. Good grief. However, we tried to fit the whole family into a photo booth at the Steam Whistle gallery at my bro’s art show in Toronto, Wednesday night, and we were really ridiculously crammed in there. A’s head appeared giant (the ‘fro) as he was clumped near the front, and the rest of us were squeezed shadowy fragments of face behind the ‘fro, and Kevin and I both said, “No more kids.” Maybe that’s not a good measure (too many kids to fit into a photo booth??), but it seemed as good as any.
The kids have the day off school today, and we spent the morning having a lovely family playdate with another family, quite peaceful, mostly conflict-free, plus the other family brought snacks–cake with canned peaches. That was a lucky thing because without my CSA box and Nina’s buying club, and because I’ve gotten out of the habit of going to grocery stores regularly, our cupboards are truly bare. And our fridge. Our root cellar is nice and full, but sweet potatoes, onions and garlic are not big hits at snacktime. Unless one is feeding bunnies.
I have been thinking about giving my kids nicknames for the sake of this blog. I hope it won’t sound too twee, but calling them by a letter seems terribly uninspired. So here’s my plan: A will now be identified as Albus (yes, after the Dumbledore variety); AB will be Apple-Apple, which is what she wanted to name her little sister when she was born; F, aforementioned little sis, will be Fooey, which was what she called herself awhile back (I miss those days!); and baby CJ will stay as is, because in his case, the initials work. Though we never actually call him that.
Well, it’s nearly time for another playdate (Albus is having a friend over), then it’s swim lessons. I am drinking the entire carafe of coffee by myself today because Kevin has gone to Toronto to run a training class. I’ve boiled up a lovely chicken stock with which to make noodle soup for supper, along with cornbread. I’ll be counting on the kids to help. Do you hear that, kids? I’m counting on ya! They’ve been playing outside for the last half hour because rain is on its way, but it’s still beautiful right now. And we haven’t reached hibernation mode yet.
Okay, OCMama, slug back this extra cup of coffee and rouse yourself, because it’s time to be “on” again. This is why I like blogging. It’s a wee bit of time off. I need some moments inside my own head every day. If I don’t blog, I just stare blankly off into the distance, or something similarly unproductive (I’m convinced the brain needs this “blank” time in order to recharge), such as surfing the net, or clicking on the “next blog” feature at the top of this screen. Have you tried that? You’ll go to all kinds of places all over the world and see photos of strangers and read oddly similar but intimate details about their lives–or more likely, the lives of their children. Just like here. Oh dear, just saw someone walking by on the sidewalk glance with concern toward our backyard from wherein emerged a blood-curdling sound effect courtesy young sir Albus.
So this is it. Publishing as I type.
I haven’t yet decided on a focus for this blog, and that seems to be what makes good blogs great. Should I write about my children? My personal life? People do. I’m so much better at fiction, that I wonder whether this blog will just shrivel and die before it has the chance to develop into anything. There is a distinct possibility that will happen. When I write, on these writing mornings, I’m honing very particular material into a very particular shape, and this feels oddly shapeless. Even the word “blog” sounds flabby and indistinct. Blah blah blog.
I’m defrosting my second freezer today. That’s my adventure in local food for today. Starting my writing morning by packing the first (now defrosted and cleaned) freezer full to the brim with packets of beans and strawberries and rhubarb, so that I can unplug the second before I need to fill it with the rest of this summer’s offerings. No tomatoes yet, and I like to put up a lot of tomatoes.