This is what I feel like doing today.
Instead, I am having one of those exquisitely Mondayish days. And Monday is winning. Damn you, Monday! The hours are cruising past while I blither away at apparently endless and infinitely finicky odds and ends that must be done somehow by someone and soon. I’m telling you, spreadsheets are involved.
“This is the most disappointing advent we’ve ever had,” said one of the children this morning.
And I’ll admit, I have not found a good way to fill those little slots with daily seasonal activities, despite having an envelope full of ideas in my office. We had the “candy cane meltdown” last week, wherein a slip of paper promised candy canes we proved not to have. We’ve had way too much hot chocolate for breakfast. The Christmas decorations never got made. The snowflakes for the front window did, but remain as clutter on the dining-room table. And for the past two mornings, the children have found nothing in their advent calendar. Nothing. Serious seasonal fail.
I should at least write on a slip of paper, “Make toast!” or “Pet the dogs!” I think the kids would prefer that over nothing. They might even prefer to imagine that we’re going to do activities that I know in advance we won’t have time for, such as “Bake cookies!” or “Go skating!”
All of which is to say that this Monday finds me quite entirely overwhelmed by the details of the season. Who has bought gifts for whom? What’s our budget? What’s happening when? Can we split childcare over the holidays? Is everyone happy? Will everyone be happy? I know, I do, that it will all come together, and that the time I’ve spent today will help make it so, but oh, this is tedious.
Meanwhile, the novel waits patiently (or maybe not so patiently; I’m pretty sure the novel has the bit in its 210-pages-of-teeth and is begging me to gallop for the finish line. But listen, novel, we’ll just have to go back to the beginning and start the race all over again, so, really, what’s your hurry?). I hear, from a novelist much more experienced than I am, that I should look into Scrivener, a program that helps keep track of all the book’s bits and pieces. Unlike Word, which makes me feel like I’m composing one insanely long drawn-out thought that may have completely gone off the rails way back when and is missing several dozen terribly important pieces but I can’t stop now and must simply forge ahead til I reach the end. Writers out there — thoughts? (Also, it occurs to me that I could really use a Scrivener-like-program to organize my entire life. Talk about bits and pieces.)
CJ’s big problem: He doesn’t want to wear snow pants because they make his pants slide up his leg. And it’s snowing! And we’re late for the bus!
Mama’s quick solution: Tuck pants into socks, and we’re good to go.
But Mama wonders, will the kid figure out how to tuck his pants in again at school? After all, he has to dress himself in snow clothes for two recessess, plus coming home after school.
Apparently, Mama needn’t have worried. He knew what to do! He just wore them tucked in all day long. Like this. Yep. It’s a good look.
Today’s post is all about practicalities. Sorry, folks. I’m going to post my kids’ Christmas wish lists here. If you’re an aunt, uncle, or grandparent, you may find these interesting, even helpful. If you’re anyone else, please accept my apologies, and check back tomorrow instead.
Albus’s Christmas list (spelling uncorrected)
1. cappachino maker (he saw it advertised in a catalogue, and here is what he told us: “I’ll just make decaf cappuchinos … or espressos.” I’m not endorsing his idea, but I had to leave it on the list, because, seriously, what 11-year-old asks for a cappuchino-maker?!)
2. Krave breakfast cereal
3. Crunchie chocolate bar
4. Settelers ‘o’ cantan (I think he means the board game Settlers of Catan, which even I can’t spell)
5. Lego minifigures (stocking stuffers: Santa will take care of this)
6. i-pod nano or i-pod-touch
8. Skylanders Giants figures: Whirlwind, Bash, Prism break, Wrecking ball, chop chop, Hex, fright rider, Stealth elf, Flame, Slinger, Sonic Boom (don’t ask me what all this means)
There is no ninth request, but he wrote the number down, just in case.
AppleApple’s Christmas List (adapted from her birthday list)
-doggy costume (ie. for the dogs)
-snow pants (size 10)
-shakespeare plays (she has Romeo and Juliet already)
Fooey’s Christmas List
– Maplelea doll items: bed, wardrobe, hangers, prima ballerina, Katajjaq Giggles
– Lego friends
– i-pod touch
– snow kitten writing set or snuggle puppy writing set (these may be Scholastic order items)
– Doodle journel
– my perfect puppy (?)
– Skylanders fugeirs like: Ninijni
x-mas list for CJ (transcribed by Albus)
1. Lego Star Wars
2. Playmobiel Pyrates (oh, the spelling, Albus, the spelling!) (pretty sure that means “pirates”)
3. Lego set with Iron man
4. Batman lego “the butcave” (surely Albus mean to write “batcave”)
5. Skylander feguers like: double trouble, trigger happy, bash, hot dog, pop fizz, and zap, thumpback, spyro (again with the Skylander figures! Hats off to those *&%^^ing wii marketers, whoever they may be, for sucking in three out of four of my children.)
I will just add, although not on every list, that books, puzzles, games, crafts, and creative off-the-wall toys are always welcome, and will please the children too. And I’m not just saying that!
Should I make a Christmas/birthday wish list? Ah heck, why not.
– books or gift certificate to WordsWorth
– clothes or gift certificate to Andie’s (my favourite shop uptown)
– exercise clothes or gift certificate to Studio Energi
– there must be more, but I’m blanking. No Skylander figures (or figeuers, or figeirs, or even figrers) for me, please.
Yes, I like checklists. Don’t you? Checklists are a more routine form of the to-do list, of which I am also very fond. And, yes, I like routine too. Let’s hope my family agrees, because this checklist is meant as a guideline for a weekly all-family all-in housecleaning project (or perhaps bi-weekly or tri-weekly; we’ll play it by ear, or by dust, crumbs and debris, as the case may be.) I hope to offer some reward beyond a clean house, lovely though that is, such as Family Housecleaning followed by Family Movie Night. This idea remains, at the writing of this post, a dream yet to be implemented. I will let you know what happens next.
Checklist of chores for Family Housecleaning
1. pick up toys, books and oddments off the floor
2. find homes for toys, books and oddments (on the nearest surface does not count)
5. check windows: do any need to be cleaned?
1. organize toy boxes, book shelves, and the stuff that collects on top of dressers
2. check under the beds
3. change sheets and pillowcases and check blankets (do they need to be laundered, too?)
1. clean toilets
2. scrub shower doors and bathtub
3. clear all counter tops and clean
4. clean sinks
5. clean mirrors
6. check under tub for toys
7. mop floors
8. check: do soap containers need to be refilled? toilet paper restocked?
9. check shelves for clutter and dust, and tidy/clean if necessary
1. clear all counters
2. organize and find homes for everything cleared off of all counters
3. wash counters
4. wash sink
5. wash cupboard doors and backsplash
6. check inside cupboards: any spills? anything need to be cleaned?
7. wash stovetop
8. check oven and fridge: do either need to be cleaned?
9. mop floor
1. clear dining-room table
2. wipe down table and chairs
3. clear buffet surface and wipe clean
4. tidy games-and-puzzle cupboard (optional)
5. mop floor
1. find homes for random piles on homework table and on tv cabinet
2. clean piano
3. water plants
4. tidy toy cupboard and art section
5. mop floor if necessary
1. put away shoes and boots and jackets and mitts
Hallway and stairs
1. vacuum stairs (including basement stairs)
1. mop hallway if necessary
1. to be cleaned and tidied as needed
Question: Anything you’d add to the list?
The wish lists are here! But I already got my wish: a packed weekend pulled off without a hitch. Kevin was working, AppleApple had a dress rehearsal and two shows, there was enough extra coordinating to give even the most organized among us pause, and Kev and I wanted so badly to make it till Saturday night, healthy, hearty, and hale–so that we could get down at the first xmas party of the season, an annual event that I pretty much look forward to as soon as it’s over, which includes enough dancing to last all year (well, almost). And we did!
Unexpectedly, given our late-night rowdiness, we got a tree today; AppleApple said she’d seen trees at the Dairy Queen, and she was right. The decorating begins shortly. Kevin is right now putting lights on a handy bush in our front yard; the first time in eight seasons that we’ve actively decorated the front of our house. Something about this year has made me want to get festive: light the darkness that marks early December as the days squeeze shut. The kids are thrilled. We had a spontaneous Christmas song singalong about an hour ago. I was almost beside myself with contentment: whacking out chords on the piano, everyone gathered around, singing. Sounds cheesy and staged, but it wasn’t: it just happened, and everyone was happy.
The wish lists … I tried to photograph them, but they didn’t turn out. Maybe I broke my camera taking all those photos last night …
So here are the transcribed versions. Please note, we encouraged the kids to dream big (and expect small).
Albus did a rough copy, and a good copy. This is the good copy:
Dear Santa, my name is Albus and I was very nice all year. for x-mas I want lego Star Wars, lego Batman, lego video games, wii, wii games, board games, bey-blade, diary of a wimpy kid #1,2,3,4, movies, Guinness World records 2011, gems, gogos, ice cream, Books, hermet crab, satelite, tv, banana, nerf gun, markers, money, pop, a trip to a special resterant, star wars movies, light saber, a theatre in the basement, more fish, battle set up
love, Albus!! p.s. Merry x-mas x-mas x-pres x-pres x-pres
to x-pres, I don’t have a stamp so just use this!! [arrow points to taped-on loonie]
to the north poal
dear Santa Claus
I will give you a list of what I want for christmas
2. a wand that I get to help make in the north poal
3. coal for making snowmen
4. a camra [camera]
5. an emrald necklace
6. a painting of horses
7. a plain black witch hat
8. a poem book
9. riding lessons
10. a star wars lego video game
[arrow indicating that the list continues on the other side of the page]
11. a hamster or bunny
12. a shelf to attach on the end of my bed
13. pokemon cards
14. harry potter lego
I Have been mostly good this year exept for a few mean things I did to Fooey but I’m sorry.
Fooey drew pictures of what she wants, and Kevin wrote down a list of what she’d drawn:
I have been very good on this year.
Scheduling: it’s a love/hate relationship. I am definitely of an organized mind, and enjoy figuring out how to make things fit together and become orderly and sensical. Which is apparently not a word, but it should be; as in, the opposite of nonsensical. Oh dear. Three sentences in and already off-track. Where was I? Loving to schedule … but resenting having to do it in order to have a life; resenting the ongoing, neverending obligation to schedule. And coming around to acceptance, because that’s a good place to come around to.
Monday morning, I went for a run, then spent the remaining two child-free hours of the day working out the week’s schedule, which I hadn’t had time to do on the weekend, with Kevin working, and just general exhaustion. I like to sketch out an idea for suppers every day of the week, preferably related to the veggies lurking in my fridge and cold cellar the existence of which I’m otherwise likely to forget. This also prevents the panic of not knowing what the heck to make for supper an hour before supper’s due to be eaten by six hungry and opinionated people.
But I also schedule out absolutely everything else, coordinating with Kevin, most closely, and with a variety of other people (the parents of my kids’ friends; music teachers; grandparents; friends; health practitioners; essentially, anyone else we’re planning to see or want to spend time with during the week).
I think of myself as our family’s call centre. Got a problem–emotional, practical, menial, existential? I’m the one you’re going to call, the 9-1-1 operator. I’m also the first responder, the triage nurse, the doctor/psychiatrist/janitor/repair-person/garbage collector. And I do out-patient and follow-up work, too.
I’ve figured out that this means if I’m going to get time to myself, to recuperate, to prevent meltdown (ie. mine), I’ve got to schedule, in advance, off-call time, time alone.
Every day is broken into pockets of time, each with the potential to be used for something. I am often amazed at how much, and what a variety of activities, can fit. However, the advance plan doesn’t always pan out. Sometimes my energy can’t keep up with my appetite.
For example, on Tuesday, I’d maneuvered time off between after-school pickup and Kevin’s late-night hockey, arranging for Kevin to do after-school care, serve supper, do dishes, and bedtime (yes, it’s a lot!), so that I could go to a yoga class and then on to a reading: Annabel Lyon, Alyssa York, and Sandra Birdsell were all in town. But after a full day that included early rising, swim lessons (getting in the pool with CJ), friends over, baking, and cooking, I had just enough energy to drag myself to yoga. Having survived ninety sweaty minutes of exertion, I exited into a damp dark evening, hungry (because I’d gone over supper hour), bone-tired, and feeling chilled … so I went home instead. I knew I’d be up very early the next morning to run with a friend. And there’s only so much of me available for use.
So Tuesday night, post-kids’-bedtime, I went to bed with a pot of tea and watched reality tv on the internet. I won’t even try to explain it. But it works for me. Sometimes better than anything else. (And, no, I hadn’t scheduled it in, nor do I plan to. Some things are best left to impulse, as needed).
I just wasted, er spent, a ridiculous amount of time doing this “25 random things” exercise on Facebook (it is actually pretty fun, which is why I did it). You just write twenty-five completely random things about yourself. Decided to post it here, too. I’ve changed one because in the five minutes since I pushed “publish” a better idea came to me.
1. I’m the eldest of five children and the only one with red hair, which I “got” from my great-grandma Ida Snyder. We almost named CJ after her; except he turned out to be a CJ instead.
2. I play piano, some classical, but mostly by ear. I write exceptionally cheesy songs. They always make use of the same four chords.
3. I have a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies.
4. At one point in my life, I was certain I would do a doctorate, but instead became a “terminal masters”; ie. stopped with an MA in English Lit.
5. I played Anne of Green Gables in high school. I taught drama at summer camp.
6. For several years in my early teens, we lived in the country, and I had ponies.
7. I really can’t ice skate, but loved roller skating as a kid.
8. I take up jogging every few months, but never stick with it.
9. I met my husband before we’d heard of email, and therefore have a collection of fat letters he wrote to me that spring. They smell like patchouli.
10. Before children, Kevin and I used to go off-road cycling on ski trails.
11. I was homeschooled for a year and a half: grade eight and part of grade nine. This coincided with the ponies.
12. If Albus had been a girl, he would have been named Lucia. If Apple-Apple had been a boy, she would have been Teddy. If Fooey had been a boy, she would have been Walter. For CJ, see above.
13. I worked as a copy editor at a newspaper; it was my only “real” job.
14. My first job was baling hay, age twelve, on the neighbour’s farm. And picking stones. He paid us $1.50 an hour, and I was over the moon. Honestly, I would have done it for free.
15. I was born in Hamilton, Ontario. My parents are both American. I have dual citizenship, and feel like I should know more of the history of both countries.
16. I’ve lived in Ontario, Germany, Ohio, and Nicaragua, and have visited Spain, Switzerland, Belgium, China, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, and Trinidad & Tobago. When I was twenty-one, I drove across the continent with my parents and siblings.
17. My friend Katie, my brother Christian, and I tried to spend the night camping on the barn roof in sleeping bags once. Yes, on top of the roof. Fortunately, we couldn’t fall asleep and decided to come inside. Ditto, the time my brothers and I tried to spend the night in the “treehouse” we’d built out of scrap boards.
18. I used to play a lot of card games. Now I can’t remember any of the rules.
19. I was in the room when my sister Edna was born. We are twelve and a half years apart, and no one ever guesses we’re related when we’re side by side.
20. We moved often when I was growing up, and the longest I’ve lived in one place is here, in the house Kevin and I bought a little over five years ago.
21. I like to walk, in almost any weather.
22. I prefer hanging laundry to dry, and washing dishes by hand.
23. I love cooking from scratch, and baking, but I can’t sew or knit, despite having been taught these skills by grandmothers and various other motherly figures at different points in my life.
24. I was more than two weeks overdue, and my mom spent two days being induced before she went into labour. I’m a Capricorn, but sometimes I wonder.
25. I have a knee-jerk resistence to change, but actually thrive on it.