Tuesday morning, 9:30AM
Well that was short-lived. I am very definitely, completely, assuredly, hopelessly not alone in the house this morning. The day Albus has been praying for has arrived: Snow Day! School’s cancelled. Although I think it should more accurately be called Really Cold Day, because that seems to be why they cancelled it.
And it is really cold. I can’t deny it.
Behind me comes the persistent wail of the five-year-old: Mom, no one will play with me! Mom, no one will play with me! Mom, no one will play with me!
His sister suggests: If you had an imaginary friend, you’d always have someone to play with.
But imaginary friends can’t win!
Yes, says his sister, it can be arranged that imaginary friends can win. You just have to know how to do it.
Random parenting tip: I find that if you answer in soothingly vague understanding tones, yet don’t follow up with any action, children will go off and find something to do. Case in point: five-year-old has retired to exploding little go-go figures in the living-room. Happily.
Does our living room look really empty? It is. It’s the perfect play area for indoor soccer matches and floor puzzles and exploding go-go guys that you’ve arranged across the barren floor. It’s ugly as all get-out, of course, but that doesn’t diminish its value as a play area.
Kevin and I are currently brainstorming. This is sometimes a good thing and sometimes not. For example, we do have two dogs (unrepentant early morning whiners and poopers on porches in cold weather) due to impulsive brainstorming. But we all know how hard it is to change one’s habits. And Kevin and I maintain a perverse fondness for impulsively brainstormed decisions. Right now what we’re impulsively brainstorming is getting a gas fireplace. Maybe where the sofa is (see above). We can only do this if we don’t get a new stove and range hood. But, we brainstorm impulsively, maybe the stove will prove fixable. (This has not been adequately determined, nor do we know how much it will cost, to keep fixing a stove that has frequently gone on the fritz ever since its costly purchase six years ago. It’s like that car you keep repairing because you own it and you’ve committed so much to it already. “Throwing good money after bad.” That’s the phrase. But then again, there must be a handy counter-phrase, such as “Waste not, want not,” and “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”)
I’ve lost my train of thought. So have you. This is my brain on Snow Day.
I am currently reading Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, an entertaining guide to punctuation, which I fully intend to inflict on future creative writing students, should I ever teach again. Yesterday I haggled over a comma. Today, I’m writing dreadfully long parenthetical asides while my children lie about the house. Tomorrow they will be back in school. Won’t they? Are swim lessons cancelled, too? And soccer practice? Is the entire day a clean slate? If I hide out in my office drinking coffee will they notice? Can I keep them from the siren’s call of ‘lectronics, as my youngest puts it? Should a question mark have been placed at the end of that last sentence?
It’s beautiful out there. And frozen. I’m leaving the office to go for groceries now, actually, because we’re low on everything and this is the kind of weather that screams: STOCK UP OR PERISH!
Although apparently we can expect a light rain by Saturday. (Really, weather?) Sometimes I suspect we’re just lobsters in a pot, happily swimming around without a clue to our fates. Except it’s worse than that. That analogy only works if the lobsters have filled the pot, lit the gas flame, and jumped in voluntarily, while their leaders systematically burn and bury all the scientific evidence that jumping into pots on stoves is certain to cause cooking in lobsters. And strains in analogies. Perhaps I’ve taken this too far.
It’s 2014. I wonder why I thought it would be different from 2013.
1. Family photo out-takes
We didn’t make a Christmas letter this year. Maybe I will get it done over the holidays (think of this statement as speculation rather than a plan). Nevertheless, as a first step toward creating a Christmas letter, yesterday, I attempted to take our annual family-photo-with-Christmas-PJs. CJ wasn’t very happy about leaving his new Christmas present to join the shot (new present = Game Boy, old school, bought used).
when is this going to be over?
help me pick up the dog, Dad!
please, smile, CJ? please?
he’s smiling! Now, what’s in your mouth, Foo? “Nothing.” Um, can you take it out, please?
could we get just one good photo, here? just one?
this is as good as it gets (click on photos to see in full)
lots and lots of candy; thanks, Santa
This wasn’t on my wish list, but it was the perfect gift. A radio that turns on when you turn it on. Radical concept! No need to download or refresh or mess around with speaker connections. I opened the box, plugged it in, turned it on, tuned it to CBC Radio One, and the rest of the day was perfection. Music all day long. The Messiah in the morning, and cheesy seasonal songs the rest of the day. It’s the one day of the year that I can listen to cheesy seasonal songs with appreciation. Even the Queen’s address sounded good.
I’m embarrassed to say we gave in to his relentless campaign for another of-the-moment electronic device
“Coconut” the giant-eyed monkey (she has a weakness of stuffies with giant eyes)
the “new” Game Boy
3. Do nothing all day
how I spent my Christmas day: my job is done here
This third is a new tradition, only conceived of this very year, in fact, only thought of late on Christmas eve when Santa was packing the stockings. Kevin and I were feeling very full indeed after three consecutive days of Christmas meals (ham; turkey; paella + grazing). Our counters were blessed with pans of sticky buns given us by generous neighbours and family, and we looked at each other and said, “Who needs a big Christmas dinner?” So we decided to skip that part.
We skipped everything, really — all obligations, all work, all chores.
The kids let us sleep in till 9. I kid you not. We stayed in our PJs all day. I did no laundry. We did no meal prep. We did no dishes. I sat and drank coffee and tea and worked on a puzzle and listened to my new radio all day long. The house was thrillingly disastrous, so much so that the 12-year-old looked around last night and said, “This place is a mess.” HAHAHA! This is what it would always be like if Daddy and I took every day off! Then we watched a movie together (Parent Trap, the one with Haley Mills, still as funny as I remembered it from childhood). We ate sticky buns, basically. The kids added sugary cereal to the menu. There were the oranges from the stockings. We did not go hungry. It was exactly what we all wanted — to be together, and nothing more. It was the most peaceful, blissful Christmas I can remember.
These are my favourite people. We almost never get to spend unadulterated time together. What could be more special, more celebratory, more holiday-making?
4. Boxing Day turkey dinner?
Today we’re being healthy and eating fruit and doing laundry and yoga and cleaning up the dishes. Our neighbour has loaned us her electric turkey roaster (there it is behind AppleApple), and we’re going to roast up our turkey today, and make the trimmings, too. I’m feeling ready for it again.
Need a back rub? Consider this simple and inexpensive way to ease sore muscles. It’s all in the toes, apparently.
Your siblings will fight for a turn. You might even get some extra help from the dogs, whether you want it or not.
Want the latest in video gaming technology? Try researching it obsessively, reporting in minute detail to your parents (who don’t always appear to be paying attention), conversing for weeks about nothing else, and, if all else fails, purchasing it for yourself with your summer babysitting money.
Enjoy the fruits of your labours. (I know I do: evidence, above.)
* Family; cousins; new cousin: hosting (I love to host!)
* Being fed ham & scalloped potatoes for our first Thanksgiving dinner, and relaxing into the weekend
* Playing soccer in mid-October warmth with Kev, kids, and brother-in-law, and not getting concussion symptoms afterward (just aching muscles)
* Celebrating the UK deal with really good fish & chips
* Long morning dog walks, visiting with sister-in-law
* Listening to Alice Munro being interviewed on Writers and Company, Sunday afternoon, while peeling potatoes and grating beets for our Thanksgiving supper
* Feeding my family a feast: a roasted 20-pound turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, grated sweet-and-sour beets, fresh cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and baked apples
* Inviting the new parents to join us — and the new parents coming over!
this is how our family walks uptown
Yesterday evening, we celebrated my US deal. I took the family out for hamburgers, in part because that seems like quintessential American food, and in part because Albus has been dying to go to this place called The Works uptown, which exclusively serves burgers.
no good photos were taken on this outing
I tried to impress on everyone the hugeness of this celebration, and even attempted a little speech (no one noticed), but the milkshakes, extensive topping options, and general excitement of eating out was far too distracting. So I sat back and enjoyed the whirling conversation. Afterward, we popped into Words Worth Books to browse and splurge. (I picked up Erin Bow’s brand-new, just out YA novel, Sorrow’s Knot, which looks as deliciously darkly scary as her first.) And then we wandered home and everyone was so thoroughly stuffed and wiped out we just went straight to bed.
Everything about this outing was a delight.
Here’s the most delightful part. We’ll get to do it again — only next time, we’re going out for fish and chips and mushy peas. (!!!!) Can you guess? Unbelievably, amazingly, overwhelmingly, I have more news to share.
The rights to Girl Runner have been sold in the UK (and Australia) to another terrific editor: Lisa Highton, who is the publisher of Two Roads, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton. Yup. I’m over the moon, and have been re-reading somewhat compulsively the press release Lisa prepared yesterday to announce the acquisition, which says, in part: “GIRL RUNNER is a brilliantly evocative story of time and place with an unforgettable heroine.”
Kevin and kids are already plotting to hitchhike along on any future tours to the UK.
So here are the pub dates, for those who are wondering:
September, 2014: Canada (and Australia, I think)
Spring 2015 (tentative): US and UK
I don’t know why, but wandering through the bookstore last night I felt enormous excitement to imagine my new book on the shelf, wondering what its cover would look like (a different cover in each country?), wanting to pick it up and feel its weight in my hands. I think my party planners and I are going to have to out-do ourselves for the launch this time around (and that’s saying something). The fun of bringing this book to life is still ahead of me. And a footnote in all of this is that I’m getting to work with these amazing, accomplished women — Janice Zawerbny and Sarah MacLachlan at Anansi, Claire Wachtel at HarperCollins, and Lisa Highton at Two Roads, plus my agent Hilary McMahon who’s been with me now for nearly a decade. It’s pretty darn wonderful.
In other news, undeterred, and inspired by a post I found on the ever-reliable internet called “The Crisper Whisperer: How to Handle Eggplant Overload,” I ordered the half-bushel of eggplant, and half-bushel of tomatoes. Because a) I have masochistic tendencies, b) there’s room in the freezer and c) you’ve got to take your chances when they come.
We’ve been away on holiday, a fact I choose never to announce on social media, including this blog, perhaps out of paranoia, but it gives me a sense of security. So anyway, you didn’t know we were gone, but, hey, we’re back!
Right before we left, I took the kids on our annual back-to-school shopping trip. I hate shopping, they hate shopping, we all hate shopping, so we only do it once a year: a visit to the mall that always includes the food court.
Also before leaving, we ditched our couch upon finding a bed bug associated with it. One bug. God knows if it came from the couch, as we couldn’t find any signs of any others, but we’d had the couch for thirteen years, and I’d disliked it strongly for the last three, at least. I was almost afraid of myself — how easy it was to get rid of the couch, after years of indecision. What else might I suddenly admit dislike to and get rid of? A neighbour took it home — the couch, I mean. Albus tried to stop him, citing the bed bug, the broken springs, the etc. etc., but the neighbour insisted. He identified himself as an “unpublished writer,” who was working on screenplays for the CBC. You never know who’s living up the street, do you? But now we know what he’s sitting on.
On our holiday, I read J.K. Rowling’s new mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling, (being a sucker for mysteries), which rendered me completely useless to my family for an entire day and part of the night, too. I also finished Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, which I loved, though it did take me four months to get from one end to the other. I also read through my dad’s collection of last year’s New Yorkers (so did the older kids, unexpectedly). We swam in the cool lake, kayaked, took the dogs for a row boat ride (a mistake, as apparently both suffer from seasickness), played outside all day long. We went skinny-dipping one night — all six of us, including our five-year-old who spent the entire time announcing delightedly what we were up to at loudspeaker volume. He LOVED it. I hope the neighbours didn’t hear, however. My favourite part of that experience was when we were all standing on the dock, towels dropped, shivering — that awkward moment while we worked up the nerve to jump into the freezing cold. (No photos of that!) There were starry skies, several seriously hot perfect summer days when we didn’t even need a towel to dry off after a cooling swim, a day of rain, three successful water skiers, and lots of junk food and fancy drinks.
(That’s AppleApple, Albus, and Fooey, twice, respectively.)
No electronics were mentioned, though we did watch movies on the rainy day. Work and home started to interrupt a few days in (for me and for Kev), and it was hard to stay in relaxation mode knowing what was waiting for us back here.
Kev and AppleApple worked on a project inspired by a curiously water-carved log that turned up on the beach this past spring — my dad thought it would make a totem pole, and Kevin ran with the idea. He spent the holiday happily working on this project.
(“I really like what you’re doing on the smaller totem pole.”
“You mean, the one with the towel on it?”
“Oh. Uh. Is that a towel?”
Being Kevin, he did not take this as criticism, but ran with it. Towel as inspiration.)
He also brushed AppleApple’s hair. Wow.
I felt a bit starved for creative expression, myself, and found myself missing my desk and computer. I call writing “work” but it isn’t, really. It’s life, for me. I took a lot of photos instead. Way too many. So many sunsets! I include some here.
What else happened? Well, the dogs went swimming:
Oh, and I did something I’ve never done before: I drove a boat. I’ve never driven a boat before, but the cottage is boat-accessible only, and my dad thought I should learn. I might have been sixteen again. AppleApple came along to help, because we had to make the return trip on our own (just me and her), and she took some photos. It might look like I’m relaxed and smiling, but check out that grip on the steering wheel — my knuckles are literally white.
On another and not entirely unrelated note: I feel old! I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my hair. We were comparing hair colour, the kids and I, our different shades of red, and one of them told me my colour was “red-grey.” Really? Okay, maybe it’s not that I feel old, it’s that I look older than I feel. I may never resolve this problem.
School starts tomorrow. I’m working through a mountain of cottage laundry. Kev’s got vertigo from swimming in the cold lake (he gets it every year and forgets every year, and goes swimming). I haven’t been for a run in nearly two weeks, rendering my training plan for the Toad pretty much back to square one, but my mildly concussed head is appreciative, and I haven’t had any symptoms for over a week. There won’t be time to get into proper shape before the race. I’m trying to be at peace with this, and be happy about all those sunsets we got to see. And the sound of loons. And watching my children enjoy each other’s company.
We’re privileged, and I know it, to have a week like this in our summer, and to share it together, no matter the blips and bugs and breaks along the way.
Onward. Keep breathing. Keep hoping.