Sorry, folks. I have not got back into doing my “week in suppers” feature. With soccer almost every night, we’re eating early, and that means a rushed and thrown-together meal. Quick sides, lately, include asparagus oven-roasted with salt and olive oil, and spinach salads with homemade dressings. Seasonal happiness. But nothing very special.
However, Kevin and I had an at-home date on Saturday. He sourced the ingredients, and I was the chef. And it was really good. Seared tuna steaks served atop smashed, roasted potatoes, topped with a reduced red wine sauce with capers and scallions. Plus the stand-by of the asparagus mentioned above, also roasted with portobello mushrooms.
Seriously yummy. Kevin made us a couple of martinis. And we watched a funny/sweet movie, completely chosen at random, called Adventureland. I’d recommend it.
Yesterday I ate a banana for supper. Not recommended. I played a soccer game from 4-5:30, then raced home to shower and wash the blood off my knee (seriously; I was playing against a rough defender), and pretty myself up in order to bike to another reading. The banana was all I had time for until arriving home, nearly 10pm, when I devoured Saturday night’s leftovers. I love leftovers.
I also managed to bake four loaves of bread yesterday, and make and freeze six meal’s worth of turkey stock. Productive! Which is good because Saturday was most unproductive. I felt myself melting into a anxious stasis. General exhaustion. On Friday afternoon, racing to squeeze in one last errand, I found myself fantasizing about just stopping. Standing still, refusing to go on with the tasks before me. Of course, that wasn’t an option. Instead, I kept up the momentum, and biked off to pick up the kids from school for swim lessons.
Worst outing ever. (Maybe I should have just stopped everything …)
It was so hot! Everyone was so grumpy! The complaining! The epic whining! And to top it off, we had one kid bleeding from a pedal injury before we’d even reached our destination. And I hadn’t brought bandages. Let’s just sum up this adventure by stating for the record: Everyone survived!
Parenthood is not the most romantic occupation. If anyone’s trying to tell you otherwise.
On the plate for this week …
:: I’m in Burlington tomorrow morning at Books & Brunch. Readings start at 9:30am.
:: Wednesday evening, I’m looking forward to hearing my former boss, Noah Richler, talk about his new book What We Talk About When We Talk About War. Here’s the invite on Facebook. Join me? Starts at 7pm, at the Laurier Centre for Military and Strategic Disarmament Studies (now that’s a mouthful).
One last thing to note. Another lovely blog review of The Juliet Stories, this time from a fellow red-headed mama. Read on.
My thoughts are all over the place on this Monday morning. I’m wondering: should I blog our week in suppers? Skip over that and write about my weekend of solo parenting? Share news about upcoming events and unexpected Juliet feedback?
Last night, I set my alarm for swimming. I woke at 2am. I’d been dreaming about sleeping (again!). I decided to turn off the alarm and really sleep. I have three early mornings planned this week; given that I also have two evening readings, self-preservation starts to come into play. It was a little easier to turn off the alarm given that yesterday, late afternoon, I ran 12 pain-free kilometres, keeping up a good pace and plotting my return to distance running. That counts as my first real distance run since my injury in January. It’s short, as far as distance runs go, but it was a blast. Next week … 14 km??
Uh. Where was I? Oh yes, self-preserving.
Tonight, I’m ferrying children from dance to soccer practice while Kevin has an early soccer game. Tomorrow, I’m at the Starlight in Waterloo (come, too!), from 7pm onward. Readings start at 7:45. And on Wednesday I’m headed to Toronto for an event at Type Books called the “Short Story Shindig” with Heather Birrell and Daniel Griffin, and hosted by Kerry Clare; 7pm (come, too!). This is all very exciting, but doesn’t go terrifically well with excessive early morning exercise.
As I said to Kevin this morning, “This isn’t the year of the triathlon. This is the year of The Juliet Stories.” (Which may be the first time I’ve admitted that, even to myself. I really really liked the year of the triathlon. I felt so hard-core. Sharing my book feels less focused, less goal-oriented. Maybe I need to start thinking of readings as races. They definitely affect me in similar ways — I’m nervous before, wired and happy during, and it takes me a little while to come down afterward.)
So. Slightly less focus on exercise, slightly more focus on evening events.
Now. Let me tell you all about my weekend with my kids. We had so much fun! Why can’t we have this much fun all the time? Is it because I’m usually trying to get too many other things accomplished? That can’t be entirely it, because we seemed to accomplish quite a lot, even while finding time to relax. Our weekend included …
:: watching Modern Family on Friday night while sharing an entire bag of Cheetos (which were utterly disgusting, may I just add)
:: trampoline ninja jumping (everyone!)
:: a bike trip to the grocery store for picnic and party supplies, followed by a picnic in the park
:: reading outside while two girls rode giggling past me on scooters and bikes too small for them
:: hanging laundry on the line, baking bread
:: playing on electronic devices; taking lots of photos
personal pizzas for party night (the one with the olives, asparagus, and eggplant? yes, that’s mine)
:: “Party Night,” wherein we had homemade personal pizzas and punch with ginger ale while watching a movie, then gorged on episodes of Modern Family while simultaneously gorging on boxed cereal and utterly disgusting candy; the rules for Party Night go like this: everyone gets to choose one treat from the grocery store (under $4), and we stay up as late as we want; oddly, three of four children chose boxed cereal (Corn Pops, Frosted Flakes, and Froot Loops, for the record). We have never felt so collectively gross. I blame the milk. Maybe the sugar too. It was surprisingly easy to herd the children off to bed at a not entirely unreasonable hour (9:30ish) …
:: … though AppleApple and I got distracted searching for my old Grade One piano book in the basement, which we never found, but we did find one of my old and relatively simple classical piano books, and ended up staying up for another hour playing songs. The Wild Horseman. The Happy Farmer. One of Muzio Clemente’s simple Sonatinas (she’s learning it!). Minuets from the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook). Bliss!
:: sleeping in
:: making and delivering, on bicycle, invitations for an 11th birthday party (a week from today!)
:: more bike riding and trampolining and laundry hanging; hey, whatever makes us happy
Mother’s day was capped off by the return of Dad, and supper out at all-you-can-eat sushi with my mom, too.
And that is plenty for one blog post. Never got to the unexpected and lovely Juliet feedback. Well. More tomorrow.
The crowd of competitors on the beach, just before the race starts. I’m at the back. With my jaw dropping. It was a beautiful sight. So overwhelming that I kind of got lost in it, and forgot to put on my goggles. Remembered after I’d swum about 100 metres. Gee, I can see really well, but I have to keep closing my eyes underwater.
Again, it was just awe-inspiring to see the churning arms and bobbing heads, and all the waves. Weirdly, I felt no hesitation or fear running after the pack into the water. I said to a woman nearby, “Isn’t this beautiful?”
Totally geeky photo, but I guess this is what I look like in goggles. Now you know. The pink cap indicates that I estimated my swim time to be between 33-35 minutes, which was the second slowest group. Should have taken that white cap, because what with the wind and the waves, I actually got lost at one point and swam for the wrong buoy. Lost a few minutes. The 1500m swim took me 38:41, but I think that includes the arduous run up the hill to the transition zone. Hardest run of the day. I felt absolutely exhausted and couldn’t catch my breath.
Until I hopped on the bike, that is! I love cycling! I was so emotional here, at the start of the bike race. I almost wept. I’d finished the swim!
Finished the bike race on a high. Forty km in 1:18. I felt so powerful. My knack for climbing hills came in handy, and the weird thing was that I got faster and faster as the race went on (or else the people in front of me were getting slower). If it hadn’t been for the strange ticking noise my bike started to make with about 15km left, the whole ride would have been pure pleasure. I was thankful to have no mechanical issues in the end. I really felt I like I could have kept going and going and going.
Which is a good thing, because I still had some race left to complete. I do run 10km regularly in training, but it must be said that it’s very different to run it post-bike-ride. But the “brick” runs came in handy (training runs immediately following bike rides), and my legs made the transition without much complaint. By two kilometres, they were ticking like normal, and I thought to myself, Hey, I know how to run! That’s when I picked up my pace. I pushed as hard as I could, though the last couple of kilometres were, well, gruelling. I used every mental trick available: feeling gratitude for the hours put in, picturing my children, and, finally, just running like I was doing a solo run–I always run hard on those.
The race organizers kindly arranged for the final couple hundred metres to be oriented downhill. I could hear my friend Tricia and her husband Jeff (who took some of these photos) and then my own family (including my mom!) calling out my name, and I just sprinted as hard as I could. The time on the clock was 2:53:17, under three hours, like I’d hoped. 10km run in 51:23 (not sure whether that includes transition time after hopping off bike, but if so, it’s close to my PB).
Packing up afterward in the transition zone. Note the bike gloves. I couldn’t rip them off fast enough after the cycling, and then I forgot they were there. Ah, the face of a happy woman. Holy bleep, people, I actually did it!
Finishing the first leg, heading for the transition area. Both feet off the ground. Looking and feeling strong. Plus, the sun is shining!
Getting out on my bike. Right at the start. My form isn’t great here and I haven’t settled in (and down), but I look so darn happy. I like that. Let’s get this baby moving, uphill preferably!
Heading out for the final leg, post-bike ride. Discovering my leg muscles no longer know how to function. Fittingly, it had started to rain. Thinking: I can do this. Right? Well, I’m gonna.
The homestretch. The finish line is before me. I did have a moment of emotion here, realizing I was going to make it. That final leg was one of the harder things I’ve done in my life. It was like running on legs of water. I tried and tried, but throughout the four km, I just couldn’t pick up the pace.
Me and my friend Tricia! I am so glad she was with me. All of the planning and logistics, plus the ride there, set-up, the wait: I needed someone with me. It would have been awfully lonely and intimidating on my own. She went out of the first transition ahead of me and I never caught up, but it made me glad to see her jersey in front of me. She is an Ironwoman! This picture makes me teary. We’ve trained together over the winter, shared some early mornings, and today, we worked so hard and we made it across the finish line! (And thanks also to her husband who took these fantastic photos. My family didn’t quite make it to see me finish, though we all got to eat pork on a bun together afterward).
I’ll write more in-depth about the experience on my Swim/Bike/Run Mama blog. And now I can offically call myself Bike/Run Mama. That’s something.
A few weeks ago: note the child’s expression of concentration and concern (it was visible in all the photos I took).
Earlier this afternoon: practice at the empty lot across the street. CJ’s birthday gift: a balance bike!
Right now: she can ride her two-wheeler! She just showed me her “trick,” which was to cycle independently all the way around the apartment building next door (which Kevin running along beside, just in case).
In other news, CJ got to blow out more candles last night when we celebrated his birthday along with his best friend’s birthday (they are about two weeks apart in age). But even an excess of candle-blowing and cake cannot change our boy’s mind: “I’m still two.”
Green Dream # 6 Front yard veggie patch.
Green Dream # 7 Re-purpose household items (ie. found this old curtain from our last house, hiding in the bottom of the linen closet, and it fits our front door; better yet, it replaces the lace curtain that has been there since we moved in SEVEN YEARS ago, which never ever felt like ours.)
Green Dream # 8 Wash, dry and re-use plastic bags. We haven’t bought new for years. When these run out, I am considering making/buying cloth bags instead. One question: for freezing food, especially liquid food, what would replace the plastic bag?
Green Dream # 9 Reusable mugs and water bottles. Milk in glass containers.
Green Dream # 10 Cloth wipes. We haven’t gone the no-toilet-paper route, however (as per No Impact Man). The used cloths are stored in a diaper stuff sack, (a welcome re-purposing that marks the end of our cloth diapering days). I launder them every other day.
Green Dream # 11 I just wanna ride my bicycle.
This morning the house is Friday Quiet. Ah. I actually sighed while typing that last sentence–a good sigh, a cleansing sigh, as one might put it in yoga practice. I am drinking my ginger-garlic cold fighting brew, because apparently spring ain’t sprung without a touch of the ague. CJ caught it first, and I coughed all night long. Would I choose to set my internal alarm clock for 5:40am, or would I skip early morning yoga? My alarm went off (it’s inside my head; I set it when I’m falling off to sleep by picturing the numbers on the clock–the time at which I’d like to wake; and it almost never fails me). Turns out, I wanted that time for myself; how could I sleep through it? I couldn’t. I leapt out of bed.
Guess what? I’ve been biking to morning yoga. It takes less time than travelling by car, at least on the way there, because it’s downhill and there’s little traffic. Coming home takes more effort and attention (focus, blissed-out yoga brain, focus!), but I don’t lose more than a few minutes in the commute. I am riding Kevin’s old mountain bike, and the front-riding baby seat is perfect for stowing my bag; but I’m coveting a more upright ride that would fit my body better. Add it to the (short) list of Things I Covet.
(Also add: fire pit for the backyard).
As I tinker with a slight re-design for this blog, I’ve changed “Eco-Attempts” to the friendlier and more optimistic “Green Dreams.” Riding bike is going on the list. I fully intend for that to be our family’s main summer transportation. My only concern is that the roads are not terribly safe for cyclists. Apparently a bike trailer was recently struck in the north part of the city, resulting in a broken arm for a small child; and the driver fled the scene.
Our cities are designed around cars. As Michael Enright put it, in a recent editorial on The Sunday Edition (a three-hour radio show that airs on CBC Radio One): There is no war on cars; the war was won ages ago, and we already know the victor: the car. The Walrus recently ran a fascinating article on green cities in Europe (Chris Turner’s “The New Grand Tour”), and the author’s description of cycling around Copenhagen on rented bicycles, one of which included a double seat on the front into which two children could be strapped … well, count this reader as pretty darn envious. He and his family cycled the city on lanes exclusively designated for bike traffic; they never felt safer.
In our city, we have a few paths on which only cyclists and pedestrians can travel, but the paths are broken by busy streets, across which one must dash without any marked crossing or traffic signals. I frequently let the kids bike on the sidewalk, and wrestle with biking on the sidewalk myself, considering that I’m pulling two vulnerable children behind me in a carrier.
I spend a lot of time coaching my children on how to be smart and safe pedestrians: no, it’s not fair, but even if a car is doing the wrong thing (ie. running a stop sign, or not giving the right-of-way to the pedestrian at a crossing, or swooping around a right-hand turn without checking for pedestrian traffic), the walker has to let the car do what it’s doing. Because in human versus car, car wins, human loses.
I wonder whether that’s an apt description of the peculiar lives we’ve built on the altar of car. Car wins, humans lose. Think of everything we sacrifice in order to propel ourselves inside our own individual motorized compartments. Think of the oil gushing out into the Gulf of Mexico, right now. Consider the air we breathe. Remember what it feels like to walk and talk, to exercise, and meet our neighbours, and take time. Cars give us convenience, without question. There are jobs that could not be done without cars (ie. midwife). But a lot of us don’t really need to use cars, not as often as we do, or think we do.
In thinking about my Green Dreams, I recognize that many of these choices and changes demand time. Hanging laundry to dry every day does take more time than throwing it into the drier–not a great deal more, but a bit. So does washing the dishes by hand. Baking my own bread. I’m still trying to figure out how to make snacks more convenient without falling prey to the ease of the prepackaged treat, grabbed as I dash a pack of hungry grumpy children to piano lessons. All of this extra labour would cut into my productivity, if I were employed at a regular job. But part of where I’m headed, I think, is viewing this home-based production as valuable on a number of levels. It doesn’t fit into the stock market. It doesn’t work comfortably with capitalism, but I’ve got a few problems with capitalism anyway; nothing in nature grows indefinitely, and it seems like madness to base a businesses’ success on eternal growth: it’s a recipe for corruption.
This work is valuable because it keeps me humble. It’s valuable because it’s my offering to the earth. It’s a small and humble offering, but so be it. I would like to offer my time–because I have it, and I’m grateful for that gift–to living creatively. Anyone who’s ever made anything knows that there is a great deal of invisible work behind what’s created. There is the original vision, changed and altered and made deeper by reflection and time, there is work, there is error and recognition of error, and incorporation of error, too, and there is luck, happenstance, improvisation. There are bursts of production and activity, and lulls of wondering, daydreaming, even doubt. There is sacrifice. You have to figure out if it’s worth it to you–figure out what you’re sacrificing, and why you want to.
Mostly, though, you just do it: you do the work you’ve chosen to do.