Category: Family

The ice storm cometh

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We had an ice storm. These photos are from yesterday, on the way to swim girl’s morning training session.

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We had actually gotten up extra early for a soccer game in Mississauga, but the coach cancelled it. I’d already chipped the car out of the ice, filled up with gas, and acquired coffee and bagels for the road when I got the message, but we were happy to turn around. Back home, I walked the dogs, a more treacherous undertaking than being on the roads.

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When I stepped outside in the dark yesterday morning, the noise stopped me cold. It was dead silent except for the ominous creaking and cracking from the trees overhead, their icy branches shifting in the wind. Branches fell, big chunks of ice fell. We lost power for most of yesterday, and our guests left a bit early, gathering their belongings in a house that seemed dark and gloomy by 3pm. Electricity is nothing to sneeze at, at this time of year.

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Kevin’s family joined us for the past few days. I didn’t get a lot of fabulous photos, but Kevin and I managed to whip up an excellent feast, and hardly even missed the oven. The ham went on the BBQ. The grannies went to the market and brought back pies. Also on the menu: creamed leeks, a vat of mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, stewed cranberries, broccoli, and coleslaw.

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Albus reprised his Santa role, stuffing himself with a pillow and listening to the wishes of the little ones, who decided to be elves, too.

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And it wouldn’t have been Christmas without some soccer. Everyone came along to watch Albus and Kevin’s boys team scrimmage for the first time this season. The littlest fellow couldn’t wait to get on the field himself.

That pretty much catches us up. Gifts, guests, parties (a swim banquet and a solstice party), food, soccer, swimming, writing (I’ve been working on my laptop at every swim practice, and there have been lots), and, thanks to the power outage, an impromptu supper with friends in their warm house, a sleepover, and a full-on friend day today. Ahead: more of the same! (I could do without the power outages; our house was cold).

Stay safe, stay warm, stay close to your favourite people.

At home anywhere

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So there’s a lot going on that isn’t fantabulous*, but I’m still flying high after yesterday’s successful plot to turn any-damn-where into my office.

Look at this. I’m editing my book while at my daughter’s swim lessons, laptop on knees, bathed in the ambient glow of the Coca-Cola machine, with students slumping by in their squeaking wet boots, lost, opening the doors to the squash courts, lost, squeaking past again. The one guy went by four times. I know because he was on crutches, so he emitted a special thumping dragging sound in addition to the wet squeak of his boots.

At the next location, I used ear plugs. These are bright orange and not the least attractive, but made me feel even more at home.

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Here, I’m editing my book while at my daughter’s soccer practice (same daughter, same evening), leaning on her giant backpack for support, in a high-traffic zone, peopled with buff sweaty basketball players and exhausted-looking parents dragging young daughters who were dragging enormous hockey bags. We’ve never entered the Canadian world of ice hockey, but its equipment looks more cumbersome and expensive than that required by soccer or swimming.

The other soccer parents greeted me and graciously left me alone. I worked for the entire evening, conquering one problematic scene, and hurtling partway through another, interrupted only when I looked up to see AppleApple coming toward me, holding her soccer ball. “What’s happening?” I said. “Is practice over already?”

“Already!”

She’d been running around a gym for an hour and a half, so fair enough. It was hardly already to her. But it was to me. And that’s a wonderful thing. Best Christmas present ever!

* list of unfatabulous things: sick CJ (strep throat); oven can’t be fixed; therefore, need to buy new stove; therefore, may need to reno kitchen to add range hood; therefore, it’s doubtful we’ll have a working oven before the new year; therefore, holiday menus need revamping; also, house is a disaster and we’re hosting Kevin’s family Christmas with everyone arriving tonight; and tomorrow is a PD day

Actually, this doesn’t sound so bad, now that I’ve written it out. I’ll run the vacuum, make the beds, scale down the elaborate cooking and baking plans, and use the extra time (not cooking and baking) to write — which can happen anywhere, beside any child’s athletic or musical activity! Because my office is now portable!

Day of the Dead

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I was kind of bummed out about missing my kids’ Halloween on Thursday evening, even though it was a really terrific class (and I read them Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find, which would scare anyone), and the trick-or-treaters and their dad had to endure cold rain and wind. Even so. I missed it. And got no good pics.

But we were invited to a Day of the Dead party last night, so we decided to all dress up. Bring out the camera, Obscure CanLit Mama.

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Why is it so much fun to dress up and be scary? We revelled in the chilly walk over to the party, dressed like this. I can’t explain it even a little bit. Be afraid! And be festive!

We didn’t stay late, in part because a) we were all tired, b) the littlest threw up after devouring two giant cookies and guzzling root beer, and c) well, that last reason is really quite enough to warrant an early departure, let’s face it. Oh, yes, c) we had swimming and running and soccer and more soccer today, that last item all the way down the highway in Mississauga. Which is where we’re headed right about now, as soon as I push publish on this post.

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Jump in, no life jackets

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one of the ways she reminds me of me

One son this morning refused to wear a coat or mittens (it was -1C when he left the house). The other son, even grumpier, declared he didn’t want to go to school today. “You don’t have a choice! Now put your backpack on and get moving!” That wasn’t me speaking, it was my younger daughter, who has developed certain characteristics I find awfully familiar. I felt for them both. Neither one had a choice: she didn’t want to walk him, and he didn’t want to go. It cheered both up when I offered to walk along. Who knows what I’ll manage to get done today anyway. It’s been busy and I’m tired. Good busy, but I’m still tired.

I’m going to catch you up, which may, frankly, be exactly all I manage to get done today. This post will have a lot of photos.

paella night
paella night

Let’s begin with paella night, which was exactly as fun as I knew it would be, and maybe even more tasty. I do have the best siblings around. My brother Christian was the chef. Our version of paella packed in every meat and seafood we could think of. At one point, I realized I was eating a delectable mouthful that included chicken, pancetta, and chorizo, and probably a tiny clam, too. We drank red wine, cuddled a new baby, and quizzed each other hilariously from a Trivial Pursuit game, Canadian version, that appeared to have last been updated in 1996. I don’t think anyone napped or googled.

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Yesterday, Kevin and I were off to Toronto, as soon as the kids left for school. Our new car is so comfortable. It’s so luxurious. It has seat-warmers! I kind of hate how much I love it, but I do. Kevin drove. Traffic was unexpectedly light. I took photos.

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the escarpment, in passing

I met my agent, Hilary, at her office, which I’ve never actually visited, although she’s been my agent for nearly a decade. I signed some important papers.

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very important papers!

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me and Hilary

We posed for a photo. Hilary tried not to make me look short.

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me and Hilary, take two

I told her to go ahead and stand up straight. I am short! Also, she’s very tall and was wearing heels. This photo cracks me up. When Kevin first glanced at it, he thought it was a picture of AppleApple (ie. a child standing beside an adult). This is exactly how I feel sometimes on the soccer field, I must admit.

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Then Kevin dropped me off at the Anansi office, which feels very familiar to me now. Our small party headed off to a restaurant nearby for lunch.

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I was very geeky and hauled out my gigantic camera and lens to take photos. Above, my US editor, Claire Wachtel of HarperCollins, my Canadian editor, Janice Zawerbny of Anansi, my Dutch publisher, Jacqueline Smit of Orlando, and my Canadian publisher, Sarah MacLachlan also of Anansi. Mostly, I just listened, ate a very good turkey sandwich and french fries, and enjoyed a glass of champagne. Mostly, I was just amazed at the places Girl Runner has taken me already, at the connections made.

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angel

More news to report, and another meal to add to the menu: the rights have sold in Sweden! To Albert Bonniers Forlag. I said to Kevin on the drive home that it doesn’t feel like I’ve done anything I can take credit for, in terms of these sales everywhere. I wrote a book. The result is weight lifted, and lightness of heart, but what I really want is to write another, and another, and another. We arrived in Waterloo in time to see our oldest walking our youngest home from the school bus. It was slightly heart-melting.

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stroopwafels

For an after-school snack, and to cheer up one small boy who did not want to go to swim lessons (but who had no choice), I cracked open the tin of “stroopwafels,” which Jacqueline had brought with her from the Netherlands, and which the kids called “waffle cookies.”

And then we went to swim lessons. And even though he had no choice, CJ loved it, and couldn’t stop talking afterwards about how he jumped into the deep end without a life jacket, and treaded water for 15 seconds, by swinging him arms like this, and pretending to ride a bicycle. I didn’t tell him that when I saw him jumping into the deep end without a life jacket, and his teacher not exactly in arm’s reach, I held my breath in genuine fear as he went under, and almost couldn’t believe it when his little goggled head popped up again and he swam to the side and pulled himself out. “I think you actually love swim lessons,” I teased him on our walk this morning, as he continued to regale us with tales from the lesson yesterday. He grinned sheepishly. And then Fooey admitted she feels the same way sometimes: really really really doesn’t want to do something, and then discovers while doing it that she loves doing it. I figure it’s my job to keep reminding them. Just like it’s my job to walk along sometimes: my job, and my fortune.

Catalogue of comfort

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morning at the pool

It’s funny how being up before dawn becomes comforting habit, signalling that all is right in my world. Yesterday, while my swim girl swam before the sun was up, I swam too, covering 2.4 km in an hour, which is exceptional for me. (Though not even close to exceptional for her — plus she swam for an hour and a half, and did drills like 25 yard dolphin kicks underwater, and other things I could only dream of being able to do, as I crawl back and forth, slow and steady, in my lane.)

I’ve been thinking about what comforts me, how there are particular places I visit, stored in my memory, that bring me happiness and calm. I mean actual places that no longer exist. There are specific things that I associate with happiness, with peace and safety, like shag carpet, and barn beams, and a double bathroom sink, that belong only to my own private catalogue of good associations. I wonder what associations my children are absorbing, and where their happy places are.

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new bed

I was thinking about stuff on this morning’s dog walk. How comforted I am by the things that surround me. And yet how frivolous so much of our stuff is. How so much of what we think we need, we don’t, and paradoxically how a certain perfectly placed object can set the mind at ease.

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no good photos were taken on this outing, either

Yesterday, I took the family out to celebrate the German deal. We went to Beertown. Kevin and I drank German beer, and the kids drank root beer. The food wasn’t especially German, though I did order schnitzel, just because. Afterward, stuffed and dozy, we decided that we’re going to have to start cooking some of these celebratory meals at home. I’m not quite ready to make official announcements, but the news from the Frankfurt Book Fair has been exciting, and I can tell you that more internationally-themed meals are forthcoming. To celebrate the UK deal, we’ll do fish and chips out with Kevin’s family this weekend (it seems apt, as his parents arrived in Canada, by boat, from Scotland, just before he was born), and then I’ll get creative in our own kitchen. And then I’ll take pictures and share them with you, no matter the quality of the photography.

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girl runner

We’re all home!

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Camp is over for the season.

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Today, I brought home this tired and braided girl, after a morning campfire and singalong, hugs to counsellors, and a prolonged and eventually successful search for her “rescue” puffer. I did not bother rushing, or trying to rush. On the way home, we stopped for poutine, a hot dog, chicken fingers, and fries. We also had with us one of her friends, who asked me, musingly, of the roadside restaurant, “Carrie, would you call this place a dive?” to which I replied, “Not really, no.” But then couldn’t think of what, exactly, I would call it. I’ll tell you, though — I’m still thirsty.

It was a beautiful day for a drive through landscape that I consider some of the most beautiful anywhere, even though it has no mountains or vistas or oceans: just rolling fields, brick farmhouses, small towns, and the colours of August, all deep greens and straw yellows against blue skies and white clouds.

But I’m glad to be home. I’m glad we’re all home together! I can’t help but feel a little off-balance when one of my kids is gone, which the three eldest have been for at least a week, each, this summer — different weeks, each of them, creating a different home dynamic each time. It gets me to thinking about how quickly the kids are growing and how soon they will be ready to leave us, for longer and longer stretches of time, and how we’ll have to get used to that. As I suppose we will, because that’s just what one does. Even as I think these thoughts, I try not to let melancholy creep into the now. One of the things I’m trying to do these days is avoid being nostalgic for things while they’re happening. Know what I mean? Instead of trying to hold onto a moment, I want to be inside of it, living it, and also letting it be.

Be here now. Where else to be?

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:::

P.S. And completely unrelated: I wonder if the heaviness I felt all summer might have been my book? Having finished the revisions and sent it off, I’m feeling an unexpected lightness of spirit and mind here at the end of summer, despite it being the end of summer, and despite nursing a mild concussion that hasn’t allowed me to do any of the fun endorphin-related stuff I usually do to keep my spirits bouyant.

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