ALBUS Started yesterday. Grade seven. Junior high. New school, starts earlier, ends earlier. Walking with friends. Returned home excited, likes the idea of moving around from classroom to classroom, subject to subject, having a variety of teachers. Likes his locker’s colour and location. Did not jump on my idea of decorating it. His main worry: that he might be late for class and get detention due to being unable to open his lock. Not reassured by parents telling him this is not, generally speaking, a leading reason students get detention. Practiced piano as soon as he got home. Had no homework.
APPLE-APPLE Started yesterday. Grade six. Same school as last year, same classroom, same teacher, same classmates her age. There are new grade five classmates added to the mix, so that’s the only real difference. One of the new students is a soccer-loving girl! So that’s different too. They played soccer together during recess, and today she took her own ball to school, as the school’s ball is flat. Did her homework as soon as she got home. Also, I brushed her hair in the morning while she was practicing piano. She didn’t object in the least. (But I didn’t have time to brush it again this morning.)
FOOEY Started yesterday. Grade three. Same school, same wake time (7:25!), same exit time. Walking with friends and brother. Returned home satisfied with first day, reporting that she’s in her former kindergarten classroom (there is a new wing of brand-new classrooms for the all-day, every-day kindergartners). Went directly to a friend’s house after school to play. I did not, therefore, get a full and immediate report. But she did play the piano after supper: she didn’t want to practice, just noodle on a particular song that we could play together. That was nice. (And I just had to show her carefully chosen outfit in full!)
CJ Look at this guy! He started this morning. Senior kindergarten. Will get to school using a combination of bus and walking. Gave me lots of hugs and kisses and waves as we waited outside the new kindergarten wing. There were six kindergarten classes going in, a huge crowd. His best friend is with him. He said he was excited. I came home and cried my eyes out. Can I admit that?
Now, here are some out-takes from this morning’s shoot.
I am making them hold hands. Ha!
We’re holding hands, we’re smiling. Are we done yet?
Seriously, Mom. Are we done?
Wait! How did that one look? Let me see, let me see!
And the school year begins again. And here I sit alone (save for my doggie companions, who think this office actually belongs to them), in quiet, if not at peace. Too much happening, too much to prep for, too much I can’t prep for, can only plunge into. The good news is, I’ve been able to get up early-ish to run these past two mornings, and my head doesn’t hurt. The bad news is, even during these happy running moments my mind is turning over and over in restless sifting of must-dos and worries. I think of running as a curative for my restless mind, but sometimes the mind doesn’t want its rest, or refuses to take it. I’m not fighting it because there must some purpose to it, some need it is meeting. I’m not fighting it because life has its rhythm of cycles, of tides, of pull, and rest will come again, I know.
ALBUS Grade seven, new school, French immersion, with lots of clubs and teams to join (looking forward to seeing what he’ll gravitate toward). Rep soccer: tryouts for next season start Sept. 21, with a commitment of 1-2 practices a week, plus skills (Kevin likely to coach). Piano: weekly lessons plus practice time. Passed Rookie Patrol this summer, so he’s free from swim lessons til next summer (that was our deal).
APPLE-APPLE Grade six, enrichment program (lots of homework). Rep soccer: tryouts for next season start Sept. 21, with a commitment of 2-3 practices a week, plus skills, plus games. Swim team: six practices a week, including at 5:30 AM, Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus monthly meets (good thing I’m already comfortable rising early; too bad she’s not!). Piano: weekly lessons plus practice time. Horse riding lessons: what she wants to spend her summer babysitting money on, if she can find the time to squeeze one more thing in!
FOOEY Grade three, French immersion. Will walk to and from school, and be in charge of her brother one way. Beginner gymnastics (her choice). Weekly piano lessons plus practice time (my choice). Swim lessons (maybe). Indoor house league soccer (probably, especially if Kevin coaches). Oodles of time with friends (my prediction).
CJ Senior kindergarten: full days, every day. Plans to walk to school with Fooey and ride the bus home. Early childhood music, weekly. Swim lessons (probably). Indoor soccer (definitely, and Kevin will coach).
COACH KEVIN Soccer, soccer, soccer, and more soccer. Well, what did you expect? Plus work, all day, every day, with occasional weekend training sessions. Oh, and late-night hockey (almost forgot about that!). Making school lunches (bless him) and breakfast smoothies.
CARRIE Teaching Thursday evenings, 6-9. Writing daily, 9-3ish. Early morning exercise: weights, spin, running, swimming, yoga. Napping (often). Cooking supper (in harried fashion). Laundry. Driving children to activities and making carpool and carshare arrangements. Preparing weekly schedules to maintain all-family sanity. Readings (here and there). Indoor soccer (maybe). Poetry book club, monthly.
SUZI AND DJ Walks (twice daily). Naps (in office). Food (twice daily, plus treats).
ALL FAMILY (Couldn’t find a photo that included me, too.) Family skating/hockey, weekly, organized by Kevin. Bedtime reading (chapter books, out loud), as often as possible. Also considering: church (occasionally), supper invitations to friends and family (must make time for this!), and planning a trip together.
the bonfire of the schoolwork
beach bound with dogs, who behave superbly–guess we can take them anywhere!; water’s cold, and wind’s chilly, but you’d never know
hosted by my bro and sis-in-law, we all play “Pit” late at night and mid-morning (no photos); and I lounge half the day reading Agatha Christie (also no photos)
Are summer holidays really only nine weeks long? I just counted, and it seemed short, so I counted again, and it was still only nine weeks.
I walked up to school on Wednesday to pick up CJ for his last day. And then we walked home and I was reminded how un-fun that walk home could be. Tired Kid + Mom = Complaining Every Step of the Way. What, no snacks? Water bottle empty? I can’t go on! Pick me up, or I shall stand here in the middle of the sidewalk and refuse to move, whilst pretending to cry.
And so, I actually carried him part of the way. It’s funny how Tired Kid – Mom = Temporary Prevention of Meltdown (until Mom appears on the scene). (Works the same, in our house, for Dad, too.) Maybe the kids lose a little bit of self-sufficiency when they know they’ve got back-up. They outsource their misery rather than carrying it themselves. I’m okay with that. Most of the time.
But I’m kind of glad he takes the bus most days and the older kids can walk themselves.
I also bought new sandals on Wednesday to replace the broken ones that lasted four years. And I swam at the 50 metre outdoor pool for the first time this summer: bliss! I’ve been biking, spinning, doing weights, and swimming to make up for not running. My ankle is nearly there, almost ready to be tested with a run.
Meanwhile, poor Albus got sick and spent the last few days of school (which happen to be the fun ones) catatonic in bed. I knew he was sick when he wrapped himself in blankets and turned off all fans on Tuesday afternoon: our themostat was reading around 87 degrees upstairs. I dragged him to school to clean out his desk yesterday, and to give his teacher a (hopefully germ-free) gift. I’ve been giving my books, signed, as teacher gifts, and couldn’t remember whether I’d already done that at Christmas … er, awkward. I was pretty sure I hadn’t, but Albus thought I had, and then I couldn’t remember but it was too late as we were already on our way, so we both felt embarassed to hand over the gift bag. And that was the end of grade six, and the end of his time at elementary school. Talk about anticlimactic. He’s off to a new school this fall.
Fooey has filled a bag with schoolwork to burn at our annual Canada Day bonfire. CJ is proving way too sentimental over everything he made this year (and I do mean everything).
AppleApple will be with the same teacher again this fall, but had to say goodbye to friends who are graduating schools, including her walking partner from the neighbourhood.
And that sums up our goodbyes. Very little drama.
Next up: holidays. The big kids will be babysitting the little kids, and they are taking their new responsibilities very seriously (starting today, in fact, and I haven’t been disturbed yet!). We’ve got two weeks of swim lessons, cottage invitations for a couple of kids, plans to get together with family, overnight camps, one week of day camp for the little kids, and a half-day tennis camp for Fooey (who thinks that tennis might be her “special thing.”) I’ve got major book revisions to tackle, and a course to finish planning, but I’d also like to swim as often as possible. And there’s always soccer.
Nine weeks “off,” here we come.
This photo illustrates my feelings about our weekend. Life’s a whirl. The weekend was extended by the fake ice storm on Thursday (deemed a snow day, kids home), followed by the real ice storm on Friday (no electricity til bedtime, camping out our friends’ house). By that point, the laundry was already crawling up the basement stairs.
See, I took a picture.
The ice storm made the trees quite beautiful, but dangerous. A limb crashed down in our yard, and narrowly missed crushing the trampoline.
Despite an odd and dislocated day on Friday, I tried to stay focused on Saturday morning’s task. When I arrived home, around 1:30 in the afternoon, I was drained. The laundry was still crawling up the stairs. Kevin was working in Toronto. The sense of dislocation and uncertainty remained. I went out with friends after the kids were in bed, feeling like a shadow of myself. Also, I was wearing dog-hair-infested yoga pants and a hoodie because it took every ounce of energy just to get out the door, and I couldn’t work myself up into changing first. I knew I had before me another early morning, and long day.
But it would be a day spent with these people, so, really, I have no complaints. I took this photo on Thursday evening, pretty much convinced I was living my dream. Book-reading children on the couch snuggling with dogs, while the piano is being practiced. Plus the house looks really clean here. Oh, that’s right — I spent Thursday cleaning. Let’s just say it doesn’t look that clean anymore.
Kevin was working in Toronto again on Sunday. CJ had a swim lesson, bright and early. I felt comfortable leaving the older children on their own for the hour we were gone. I put on my running gear, and dashed around the park for 21 minutes, exactly, arriving back at the pool one minute late to pick up CJ. Almost perfect timing. Back home, had time to shower and gather up supplies, and we were off again. AppleApple had an afternoon swim meet in Etobicoke. The “little ones” were dropped at Grandma’s house, while the “big ones” came with me.
It was her first long-course meet. This is the warm-up session. Points for locating the blur in a green suit on the left-hand side of the photo. By the time she swam her first race, I’d been waiting in the stands for three hours. Along with this guy.
Oh boy, he’s really feeling that smile. He was briefly happy when I gave him some change and sent him off to find a vending machine. Kevin finished work early, and drove over to join us: the first meet he’s been able to attend. But neither of my companions showed great stamina for the proceedings, and left after watching her second race. Two more to go! It was sauna-sweaty in there. I tried to read my poetry book club’s next choice: Seal up the thunder, by Erin Noteboom. I tried to be patient, and to sit up straight on the backless benches. I tried to be supportive and encouraging when the races, with the exception of one, did not go as she’d hoped.
It was nearly 7:30 by the time we made it home. Kevin had supper waiting for us on the table: fresh take-out Middle Eastern fare.
The laundry was still crawling up the basement stairs. I set my alarm for my early Monday morning exercise class. And this morning, when the alarm went off, and I figured out what that terrible noise was and why it just wouldn’t stop, I got up and got on with the brand-new week.
I’ll admit that I’m feeling off-balance, a bit overwhelmed, out of sorts. In between. Waiting. Struggling to be patient on a variety of fronts. I hope to have news to share, by early May, perhaps, and I hope it will be good. (And here’s an update I should have done ages ago: the bad news always less pleasing to pass along than the good. For those still wondering, no, my friend Tricia and I will not be contestants on The Amazing Race Canada. We did, however, go out for a drink to celebrate our effort. Efforts should always be marked, no matter the outcome!)
Meantime, there is no way to plan toward a particular direction without knowing what that direction will be. Betwixt and between. Betwixt and between.
photo of unrelated cuteness
I’m dying to process my interview experience, but was required to sign a confidentiality agreement about the questions therein, so instead, I will sift through the memorable bits that surrounded my interview experience.
I woke up at 5:30 AM, in part because it’s comforting, now, to wake up early, and in part because I wanted to get to my destination early without stressing over parking or directions. Kevin was also away, so my mom came over to stay with the kids. On the highway, rehearsing for the millionth time “why I want to be a midwife,” I was suddenly overcome with emotion. Yes, I was verklempt. All I kept thinking and saying, from the moment I woke up, was: Wow, this is really happening. I can’t believe I’ve come this far! It felt surreal to be driving to an interview in another city, in hopes of starting a midwifery degree. And I realized how many years I’ve been weighing the possibility, how long I’ve been trying to imagine myself into this possibility, which is, let’s be honest, so very different from the educational and career path I originally chose. So, I got that out of my system. I did not want to burst into tears if asked the question: “Why do you want to be a midwife?”
Then, again, who knows, bursting into tears isn’t the worst thing to happen to a person.
I was so early. I was so in need of a good hard run (hadn’t figured that into my schedule.)
The building seemed like a labyrinth. The only other person waiting at the location was a young man. He’d been sent ahead by a friend to find the location, and was not, more’s the pity, a prospective male midwife (why not have male midwives, I say!). When all of the morning’s candidates were gathered together, we were indeed all women, and I was glad to see I wasn’t the only older prospective student. Nerves were tight. It terrified me slightly to learn that at least four or five of the women were coming back for the second time — they’d applied last year, had interviewed, had not gotten in, and were applying again. (Which is what I imagine I would do, too.) Someone blithely commented, “Oh, that will make it easier for you this time around!” to which one of the women replied, jaws somewhat clenched, “There’s nothing easy about this.”
She was right.
I won’t give you details, but I can assure you that coming two years in a row would offer you very little in the way of advantage. The pace is gruelling. The questions are surprising. It’s like speed-dating, with assessors. There’s hardly time to ask oneself, What the hell was I going on about in there and did it sound as inane as I suspect it may have? Was I actively babbling? So that’s nice. No time to worry, really, just on to the next little room.
My energies flagged about five rooms in, but recovered for the last three or so. There was a palpable sense of relief and celebration as we finished our circuit, and dispersed, walking past the next group of candidates, who were beginning to gather, looking as nervous as we had just a few hours before.
Afterward, feeling drained of all personality, I had coffee with a fellow candidate, who is my age, also a mother of four, and who was a medical doctor in Mexico. I’d give her a spot. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet up again in the fall. And it really does feel like “who knows?” I wish I could say I came out of the process feeling confident that I would gain admission … but in truth, I came out of the process feeling completely unable to assess my own performance. It’s a blur. I did my best, I do know that. I felt, a bit, like a fish out of water, like a novice, I guess. It’s like learning to swim all over again. I’ll admit it was a hard process to go through — trusting myself, and yet recognizing my own limitations. Like the woman said, It doesn’t get easier. Starting something new, being the opposite of expert — well, there’s nothing easy about it, is there? There’s no template you can follow to make the hard things life feel easy.
But it’s like learning how to swim. You have to get wet. You probably flail a bit. You get instruction. You practice and practice and practice. And that’s the only way that someday, you’ll get to the place you imagined you might.
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