Category: Holidays

Spring cleaning

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New games room/study/parent-free zone.

I think my body needed a holiday. From Wednesday, March 11 until Sunday, March 22, I slept in every morning. And with the exception of a very fun welcome-back-to-health family soccer game on Friday afternoon, I did not exercise. This morning, I’m back to the usual schedule, up early, etc. I was happy to be back this morning, but also happy to have taken time off. (Although next time, I should just take a holiday and skip the getting sick part.)

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Games room. Kevin even painted! No more stripes.

My energy returned with a roar over the past few days, and we did a massive spring cleaning, rearranged rooms, and opened up new space for the kids to make their own. We’ve got six people in a four-bedroom house. Not everyone can have his or her own room. Them’s the facts. We also don’t have the money or the desire to renovate in order to add more space. People have to share. If we weren’t living a life of ridiculous North American privilege, we wouldn’t even question the sharing of the rooms. You suspect that you’re hearing a version of my lecture to the kids right now, aren’t you. Why, yes, yes you are.

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Boys’ room. This is as tidy as it’s ever gonna get.

The main problem is that three of the four kids strongly want(ed) their own room. The fourth kid was like a refugee being moved from fiefdom to fiefdom, grudgingly granted space to pitch his tent, but essentially unwanted. But we’re not a household of kingdoms or mini-nations, we’re more like a socialist democracy. Okay, without the elections. Basically, we have to share the resources in a way that benefits everyone, and privileges no one.

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Girls’ room. With bed sheet divider.

So the dictator’s solution (yeah, that’s me), was to make everyone share, and free up one bedroom as a communal games area/study/parent-free zone. Although I’d really prefer if they didn’t eat chips in there. Unless they want to clean it themselves. In that case, eat all the chips you want, kids. I’m not an unreasonable dictator.

Yeah, so I had to get back to my regular schedule, lest in my renewed energetic state, I move us right across the country or something. I’ve got the spring itch for adventure and change. This morning, I heard myself saying (mostly to myself), “Hey, a year ago at this time I was getting ready to go to London. I miss London! How can I miss London when I was only there for a week? Maybe I should go there again this spring! What’s stopping me? Nothing’s stopping me! I’ll go spend a week at the British Library …”

“Why would you want to go to a library, Mom?” (Okay, CJ was listening.)

Anyway. What’s stopping me?

I’m not sure. Maybe it’ll be the early mornings.

xo, Carrie

On hibernating

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picnic table sled run

Holiday yesterday in Ontario: Family Day. We celebrated by having a really fun weekend together, not doing anything much out of the ordinary. There were five soccer games, four of which were coached by us (Kevin, mainly). The truck stopped working in the extreme cold; thankfully, we belong to a carshare, and have friends whose cars still turned on, so we got around where we needed to go–and went nowhere else.

I was running this morning with a friend (yes, running! slowly, but without pain). She mentioned that in just six weeks or so we’d be leaving our state of hibernation. Can I admit something? I’ve really been enjoying the cold and the dark this winter. There’s a peacefulness to hibernating, to inhabiting the season. I can feel it settling all around me. Permission to sit in front of the fire and read.

Or to listen to podcasts. This holiday weekend, I spent a lot of time folding laundry, cooking, and washing dishes — far more than I needed to, but I need to do something other than snack while listening to podcasts. First, I tuned in to one recommended by a blog reader: On Being with Krista Tippett. I wanted to hear Mary Oliver’s voice. Listen, if you’ve got time. It’s totally worth it. And then, having discovered that it was possible to listen to podcasts whilst doing dull tasks around the house, I recklessly started listening to Serial, which I’ve been meaning to do for ages — just couldn’t figure out where “listening to podcasts” might fit into my schedule. I’m probably the last person on the planet to discover this show, but I can’t stop listening. Can’t stop! I need to bake some bread or something today …

Other hibernation-season activities ongoing …

daily meditation; writing; story-reading; playing ukulele while the 9-year-old practices her violin (at her request, I must add); reading with six-year-old and listening to his philosophical observations about life (especially while reading Calvin and Hobbes together); watching old episodes of Friends while doing physio exercises; spontaneously making plans with friends–yes, socializing!; and cross-country skiing, which I was lucky enough to do with a friend in the cold and the dark one evening last week while a kid was at soccer practice, an hour of genuine bliss

This sounds like a Grade One writing topic, but hey, I want to know: what are your favourite things to do in the winter? Do you like hibernating? Or are you longing for light and mud and spring?

xo, Carrie

Goodnight, and welcome

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Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. —Leonard Cohen

Goodnight, year past. Welcome, another circle of seasons. All I want to say is: keep letting the light in, no matter where it’s coming from. But also, let the light out, let the light shine through. It’s in you.

xo, Carrie

The invention of a winter solstice celebration

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Yesterday our family celebrated the winter solstice. My made-up ritual went like this:

〉 bake brownies with Fooey

〉 tell everyone we would eat brownies as part of an after-supper solstice celebration

〉 then tell everyone they would have to recite a poem at said celebration

〉 light all available candles and arrange on dining-room table

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〉 turn off all other lights

〉 gather (that took awhile)

〉 enjoy the scene

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〉 recitation by CJ: presentation in French, which he wrote and performed at school, on his stuffed tiger

〉 reading by Fooey: a dramatic performance of excerpts from Geronimo Stilton

〉 recitation by AppleApple: a dramatic performance of “The raven himself is hoarse,” Lady Macbeth soliloquy

〉 reading by Albus: from Diary of a Wimpy Kid

〉 recitation by me: of “First Fig” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

〉 reading by Kevin: poem from Ken Babstock’s collection Mean

〉 (with occasional interruptions: moans from CJ, who is suffering a terrible toothache that comes and goes, and will be investigated further by a dentist this afternoon)

〉 the eating of the brownies (probably not helpful to the toothache…)

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I know our solstice celebration was just hacked together, like a fort made of blankets or a book made of folded-up construction paper. But it was a really fun thing to do. (Fun = entertaining, creatively delightful, collective and personal.) Even though I love the winter solstice because it means the light is coming back, gathering in the early dark made me appreciate the early dark, too. It lowers around us and encloses us, safe inside our house, and, if all is well, it brings a stronger sense of warmth and togetherness. All is well. It’s never far from my mind how fortunate, how easily disrupted, “normal” is.

Today: kids enjoying first official day of no school. They are currently — all of them — barricaded in an upstairs bedroom, dressed in costumes, making a movie using our little digital camera based on a book everyone finds funny: “Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores.”

Which leaves me free to write this blog post, process photos, and start wrapping presents. Before dentist-time.

xo, Carrie

Happy Halloween

IMG_20141031_182446.jpgThree of the six of us dressed up. Two of the six of us collected candy. Our haul this year looks almost reasonable. Which seems unreasonable, but is actually very very good. Plus the kids who hauled in the candy shared it with not a shred of proprietary greediness in evidence. (Surprising but pleasant parenting moment.)

IMG_20141031_182500.jpg“I’m going to eat one last thing. One last thing. I’m going to tell myself that this is the very last thing and if I can’t listen to myself …”

“Then what?”

“I don’t know.” Faint panic in sugar-shocked eyeballs.

“How about you brush your teeth after your one last thing?”

“Can you open this for me?” Rapid-fire words. Hands mother small package of Reeses Pieces.

“Are you sure you should eat this? Absolutely sure? You’re not feeling sick?”

Genuine hesitation. Internal dilemma and debate. Furrowing of brow. Desperation in eyes. “Yes.”

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“Yes?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, then.”

I’m going away again, in the morning. I’m not going to say no.

xo, Carrie

Photographs never taken

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Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. We ate our Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, a feast that always gives me enormous pleasure to prepare. A day of cooking is a really good day, especially when it ends with pie. But with all the cooking and eating and pie, I never got out my camera. Family visiting, cousins playing, dogs underfoot and whining at the door, a table loaded with bounty, an impromptu evening concert, babies and grandmas and wine and dishes being washed up in the kitchen by hand.

Photographs never taken.

It’s a bit ironic that I’ve gotten this fancy new blog location, on which to display my photographs, just when I find myself taking fewer and fewer. Less time to process them. More in the moment moments, forgetting to pull myself out and act as official recorder. This fall is passing in a blur. I may keep little of it, only fragments, perhaps jotted down here.

Today, our chalkboard became a mess of scheduling, as Kevin and I planned for the coming weeks month. I’m leaving on Thursday for Calgary, Banff, and Vancouver. When I get home, I’ll be off to Burlington, Toronto (several times), Hamilton, Uxbridge, zooming and darting like a bird searching for a landing spot, an anxious flitting creature unable to settle, quite.

When I’m out west, and missing my family like crazy, I’m going to think of last night, after the dishes were done and the pie eaten, and some of us were singing old songs while strumming on ukuleles, sunk into soft cushions, reclining, unwilling to say goodnight, not quite, not yet, as our eyes grew heavy. We were sleepy, tired out from a day lived fully, but we didn’t want to stop playing and singing. Not yet. Not yet. Not quite yet.

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