This morning I walked my littlest to nursery school. He desperately wanted to walk, not catch a ride with Kevin. The walk seems to be a critical feature of his transition from home to school. I walk him to the bus every other day, and Kevin usually walks him to nursery school (today he was off to Toronto for work, and couldn’t spare the time). I could see how important it was to CJ that he walk, not drive.
So I said, hey, I’ll walk you to nursery school today.
On our walks, we play a game that CJ makes up on the fly. Today we were making juice out of foods of a certain colour, say, red, or blue. “Blueberry juice! What else is blue?” I’m pretty sure the juice gave us special crocodile-fighting powers. Or maybe it was leaf-fighting powers. Fallen leaves feature pretty regularly in these games as objects that must be avoided or danced over (he has a special sideways zig-zag to defeat the leaf powers).
This morning I was glad to feel willing to relax into the moment. To walk my son to nursery school.
Yesterday, by contrast, I was completely miserably resistant to the demands of the day. It felt like a day designed to thwart any sense of autonomy and independence. A long list of must-does barked at me all day long, and I raced to keep up, and barely managed. Dentist appointment, groceries, bank, voting, piano lessons, cooking, laundry, dishes, cleaning, dog walking, putting children to bed. I didn’t have a moment to spare in front of this computer. I resented it.
I wonder: is it okay to resent days that are clearly brimming with privilege and wealth and health and opportunity? Is it okay to resent being able to care for my family and my teeth and my house? When such a day is evidence of a full life rich with fortunate responsibilities? I don’t know whether or not it’s okay. Maybe it’s pointless to judge an emotion.
I guess it just means I’m human.
But the day did improve post-dentist. And by the time I was walking our yappy dogs around the block with two chatty children in tow, I was pretty much okay with it all. The house was clean. There was still time to read to them before bed. We’ve finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and are moving on to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, one of my personal favourites.
(During this reading, I’ve been trying to figure out why Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has had such success and longevity. It’s quite awkwardly written in parts, and has these long rather boring songs, and Willy Wonka is a strange and scary man with peculiar prejudices against things like gum-chewing, and the way he stole the Oompa-Loompas from their own land and brought them to work in his factory makes me deeply uncomfortable. And yet. My theory is that it’s the unromantic sympathy and clarity of the opening chapters, and Charlie himself, which save the book.)
I’m going to write for the rest of the day: the quiet hours that belong just to me. I’m not going to worry about writing a perfect book. No books are perfect. I’m going to follow my own advice and write in order to discover what I’m writing.
And then I’ve got supper, laundry, a kid with swim training, another with soccer skills, a visit to a book club, and a party in Toronto: Anansi’s 45th birthday bash. Wow, hey. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming …
(click on the photos to see them in full)
Marking a momentous occasion in our family’s life: we have signed the papers and are now officially the owners of our two dogs, who came to us through a rescue agency. We’ll never know their full story. All we know for sure is that about a year and a half ago they were found together, wandering the streets in cold weather wearing matching pink sweaters. And no one came to claim them at the crowded shelter.
We’re pretty sure someone loved them, though. Someone definitely fed them from the table (we don’t do that, but Suzi’s probably never going to give up hoping that we might just, someday.)
While there are difficulties in not knowing their history, and in adopting older dogs, and while I’d be lying if I said the transition has been entirely hiccup-free, we’re truly happy that they came our way. I’m developing the theory that all it takes to become a dog person is to get some dogs (or, hey, even just one — we weren’t actually looking for two dogs, it just happened that these two came together, and needed a home). I wasn’t sure I was really a dog person, and was afraid that it would be hard to get used to the hair and the extra work, but it hasn’t been. I just lowered my domestic standards a teensy bit more to make room for the hair.
Because I really just love these loving furry little creatures.
I’ve even got funny voices for them. Suzi’s goes like this: “What’s happening? What’s happening? What’s going on? Something’s going on! I just know it! Exciting! What’s happening? What’s happening?” all in a very fast high-pitched tone. In a much suaver tone, DJ murmurs, as if talking to herself on a hidden recorder: “Secret agent DJ, on the job. I’ve sent the little one off to scout out the scene while I hang back and eat her treat, which I hid earlier. It’s all good.”
We signed the papers on Saturday, and these are some of the photos taken immediately afterward. Everyone was very excited. Well — and happy. Just plain happy.
As you can see for yourself.
There will be a brief pause in services on this blog, unless I figure out a way to post remotely: I’m bound for Winnipeg tomorrow, not home til Tuesday, very late. Bags are packed, schedules organized (here at home, I mean), Kev will be in charge.
We can do this, right?
Sunday, day one. Pack up post-successful-soccer tournament and drive east 281 km to spend night in hotel, booked in advance. Eat pizza in truck. Feed dogs by roadside. Arrive after dark only to discover hotel has no adjoining rooms. And the gym is already closed. Split up into two rooms, boys and girls (with dogs in boys’).
Monday, day two. Take dogs to vet (it’s a complicated story). Spend morning at hotel, swimming, running on nearby lakeside trail. Pick up dogs mid-afternoon and drive east 111 km to visit new nephew/cousin. He’s only five days old!
Tuesday, day three. Visiting with family, swimming in the basin of a nearby lock, running/hiking on a beautiful wooded trail, playing badminton and soccer, walking dogs on rocks, staying up late to watch silly tv (everyone) … oh, and doing that 11-year-old specialty: the I’m-bored flop.
Wednesday, day four. Brunch with grandma, aunt, uncle, cousins; say goodbye. Pack up and drive west and north 423 km. Threaten at various points during the journey to pack it in and just go home (arguing children, restless dogs, exhausted parents). Instead, surge ever onward. Until we get here.
Thursday, day five. Dogs cry all night; luckily only Kevin and I can hear them; unluckily, we are running dangerously low on sleep. Luckily, I find on the cottage shelves a light and fluffy book into which to disappear for the better part of the day: The Nanny Diaries. And the children play. And we swim. And we walk the dogs around the rocks and woods. And we celebrate Fooey’s birthday (again!), this time on a boat in the middle of the lake.
Friday, day six. Dogs sleep better. Kevin and I sleep better. Motorboat and water skiis tested out. More swimming. I disappear into past issues of The New Yorker, discover the journals of Mavis Gallant from Spain, early 1950s. As the writers of The Nanny Diaries would say: “Swoon.” (Only they’d say it about the hunky guy upstairs.)
Saturday, day seven. More water-skiing and boating. A long swim out to “Poop Island,” accompanied by kids and Kevin and my dad in canoe and kayaks. More long-form essays in The New Yorker devoured. More food eaten. Dogs happy in shade. Ahhhhhh.
Sunday, day eight. More swimming, skiing, boating, eating, reading, all crammed in before a late lunch. Pack up. Boat out. Drive west and south 302 km, with interlude by the side of the road due to vehicle trouble. (Should have gotten a photo of that for posterity.) Four kids, two dogs, two parents, seventeen bags of dirty laundry, and by golly, we make it home. CJ: “This doesn’t feel like my bed! It feels different.”
‘Til next summer, then.
A brief addendum, applicable only today. I’m signing books this evening at Chapters in Waterloo from 6-8. Stop by if you’ve got a few minutes. We can chat about The Juliet Stories. Or swap summer holiday stories.
Yup. I think I’m getting used to having these four-legged critters around.
We kicked off the first of several birthday celebrations yesterday. (Friend party still to come.)
“Your homemade pizza” was requested. I was flattered. I thought all the kids preferred bought. Albus and I went shopping for supplies and taste-tested several types of pepperoni. He attempted to keep me focused and on-budget. “I think you’re buying too much cheese, Mom.” Yes, we were at Vincenzo’s, and yes, I bought several small and expensive creamy stinky cheeses that had nothing to do with pizza making.
I topped one pizza with a mixture of onions, grated zucchini, cream, thyme, salt and pepper. That was my favourite. I topped another with seasoned oil, green pepper, mushroom, and ribbons of mild thinly-sliced salami (the meat we’d decided tasted best). That was for my lactose-intolerant brother, and it looked pretty good for a cheeseless pizza. The rest of the pizzas had some combination of salami, green pepper, mushroom, romano, parmesan, mozzarella, on a tomato base. I made five pizzas. There was not a lot leftover.
I also turned the extra onion/zucchini/cream mixture into a base for a salad. Added more grated zucchini, chopped cabbage, salt and pepper. It was pretty oniony, it must be said. But I made a new discovery: cream is an oddly delicious salad dressing. Just cream.
The cake was yesterday’s project for the kids. Their babysitter Emma planned it all out, with input from the birthday girl, and it was pretty spectacular. We had to invite Emma and her family over to help us eat it all! Four layers! Marzipan! A beach scene! Edible letters!
The dogs were introduced to their sweet dog cousin Winston, with predictable results. Frenzied violent barking from Suzi. Some backing-up-my-sis barking from DJ, who quickly mellowed and made friends. Continued frenzy from Suzi. We are trying to reward good behavior with treats, so when she stopped, she got rewards. Within about fifteen minutes all three dogs were loose in the yard, though it still felt like an unpredictable situation. We would love to take the dogs out and about (say, to hang out on the soccer sidelines), but we will need to solve the frenzy before we’re comfortable doing that.
And I’m back to talking about the dogs again, I see. I’m becoming a bore!
But there wasn’t much left to tell re birthday celebrations. Gifts. Happy Birthday singing (CJ has a surprisingly powerful, and in-tune, voice!). Candle blowing. Cake-eating. Sugar-induced bedtime meltdowns. The day was done. And now my baby girl is seven.
taken last night: still six!
six, plus dogs
It’s funny, but Kevin and I have both been experiencing similar feelings of vague anxiety since the arrival of the doggies on Monday. It reminded me of something — but what? And then I realized. It reminded me of having a baby, and everything that gets stirred up in the aftermath of the birth.
Excitement is one of the emotions, of course.
But as new parents, each time, we wondered how we would cope, would we know what to do, how would our routines need to change, would we be able to meet everyone’s demands, and how could we return our family’s life to equilibrium? (Patience, patience, patience is the answer, of course.)
Seven years ago today, right about now in fact (around 2pm), I gave birth to our second daughter, and third child. She was born in hospital due to complications (our only child born at the hospital), but the birth was much like my other births: quick, once it got going.
If she’d been a boy, we would have named her Walter.
We stayed long enough to eat a meal in hospital, then drove home. All of four blocks. Four blocks of me panicking in the backseat beside my precious brand-new baby girl who looked entirely too small to be strapped into a carseat. We hadn’t had to make that hospital-to-home trip before.
The recovery was relatively easy, in retrospect, without medical complications. She was an easy baby; our easiest, it must be said. Loved to eat. Slept well. Unfussy. Happy in her sling. Big toothless grins, and a beautiful bald head. I remember taking the three kids grocery shopping when she would have been no more than a week and a half old. In other words, we coped. We did just fine. And soon, we were well on our way to being comfortable as a family of five.
But there’s no doubt that Kevin and I both felt overwhelmed in the days following her birth.
And I’m feeling that — in much smaller doses — with the arrival of our two dogs. How will this change our routines? Will they fit in? What are their quirks and unexpected behaviors? How do we all fit together?
As I type, both are napping in my office, looking about as content as a pair of dogs could look. I went for a swim this morning, and was surprised by how happy I was to see them when I got home. (They were happy to see me too, and nothing beats being greeted by living creatures thrilled to mark one’s arrival.)
now she is seven
Today is a birthday, a special day for our family, and especially for one little (big) newly seven-year-old girl. She started the morning by opening presents. After opening each one, she gave spontaneous heart-felt hugs to her siblings. She requested that her last-night-of-being-six photo include the dogs. She is a loving soul who sometimes gets squeezed by her position in the middle and has to demand attention. We didn’t time the arrival of the dogs to coincide with her birthday, but I think they’re bringing out good things in her: love, and care, and thoughtfulness.
We’re looking forward to a party tonight to celebrate our girl. On the menu (her request): homemade pizzas, and a cake that is being baked and frosted even now with help from a wonderful babysitter.
Kevin and I will figure this out, again. I’m sure.
Happy birthday, Fooster.
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