celebrating a birthday
Sometimes it’s best to measure a day’s success by values other than productivity. Sometimes, rather than thinking about what I’ve accomplished, I notice: I’ve connected with friends and family today.
I appreciate that on most mornings, when I get up early, I’m meeting a friend. A surprising amount of ground can get covered during this sleepy, short time together.
I appreciate the drives to and from swimming and soccer and piano. I especially love finding myself one-on-one with a child. We don’t have to talk about anything big or exciting. We’re just happy to be together. There’s a sense of purpose as we head toward our destination, but there’s no sense of hurry.
I appreciate saying yes to crazy projects/events with friends. Yesterday morning, I was running through a snow-covered farmer’s field with a friend. Yesterday evening, I was eating smores beside a campfire under a dark and starry sky. In between, I had lunch with a friend, ferried children to piano lessons, ran fast at an indoor track, hung laundry, washed dishes. I also got zero new writing done. How to measure yesterday’s weight and meaning and worth?
On Tuesday night, instead of reading in bed, I stayed up to listen to my eleven-year-old enthuse about a school project (who knew he could be enthusiastic about school?).
Sometimes I text a friend (or my sister) whom I miss, but don’t have time to meet face-to-face. These disjointed abbreviated back-and-forths feel oddly conversational, like we’ve been with each other during that time.
I am often rushing from task to task, moment to moment, place to place. But in between, sometimes even amidst the rushing, I recognize that I feel quiet, stilled, present, at ease. I feel connected, strongly, to the ones I love. I feel solidly, persistently myself.
I’m not necessarily being productive by worldly measures. I’m not making anything. I’m not earning anything. I’m not going anywhere. I have nothing visible to show for my day’s labours. So it might be asked, why bother throwing yourself in deep, whole-heartedly, if there is no apparent goal being forwarded or accomplished?
Ah, but you know exactly why, I’m sure: because. Just because. This is life.
Christmas eve elves
AppleApple discovers something else she’d like to do: learn how to play the cello!
Settlers of Catan and butter beer
Santa, with pillow-enchanced profile
er, too much butter beer?
Tomorrow is my birthday. I usually get all philosophical right about now. But today I don’t feel philosophical. I feel busy. Tired. Happy. Surprised, though I shouldn’t be, by the ongoingness of laundry and dishes. And these people I live with keep needing to eat.
We enjoyed four consecutive days of Christmas celebrations with various parts of our extended family, and some friends, too, although my camera didn’t make it to every event.
For the record, that’s four consecutive Christmas dinners: ham, ham, paella, and turkey.
I embraced the excess, then wondered why I felt so sluggish on yesterday morning’s run. Especially because I took Boxing Day morning and did not get out of bed til noon, reading and finishing Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, in one big gulp.
So many late nights. So many second glasses of wine. So much wheat and butter. Why so sluggish?
Yes, really, Carrie, why.
This morning Kevin rented a full indoor soccer field (huge!) so his U12 boys team could practice. AppleApple and I got kitted out in soccer gear and came along. It was 90 minutes of blissful scrimmaging, the boys’ team against everyone else — adults, friends, siblings. AppleApple was the only girl, and I was the only woman, and I’ll admit I felt a little intimidated going in. I’m thankful to have joined that team last spring, because all I can say is: soccer … so fun! It would totally be bragging to mention that I scored the sweetest replay-worthy goal (yes, against 11-year-old boys), but I can’t help myself. If only I could score goals like that for my current team. Sadly, we don’t play against 11-year-old boys, which is not to malign the skills of the boys, who are actually very good, and made us play hard.
Now Kevin is trying to snag more field time. And I think it would be fun to play on a co-ed team together — taking our marriage to new places, whilst our knees and hamstrings are still in working order. See, this isn’t a dream that can really wait for retirement.
“I wish we could play every day,” Kev said, and I had to agree. So that’s what we’ll do if we ever strike it rich.
I have the best husband with whom to co-host birthday parties for children. Give him an idea (say, an Olympics theme) and the next thing you know odds and ends from the garage, basement and attic appear in the back yard, arranged into an obstacle course, or high jump (with bouncy landing pad), or relay track.
This was a three hour party. At least two hours were spent on the Olympic events in the back yard. For a full hour, kid you not, the mostly-seven-year-old crowd lined up and took turns jumping over a pool noodle onto a mattress to great cheers and applause.
As you can see for yourself.
All week, every day, I’ve gotten to do something seasonal: swim laps in an outdoor pool. Slathered in sunscreen, I’ve slipped into clear chlorinated water, and front-crawled back and forth along the 50m lanes for an hour. Swimming at noonish, I can see my shadow on the shimmering pool bottom, my arms reaching out overhead. The light on the bottom of the pool is beautiful to watch. It almost feels like I could swim forever.
With luck, I’ll get to swim most days for the next two weeks, while all the kids are taking lessons; I’ll be limited to half hour swims, due to scheduling, but half an hour a day is better than not swimming at all. Like Kevin said, lane swimming outdoors feels kind of like eating strawberries and asparagus in season — you have to get it while you can, and get as much as you can.
AppleApple expressed happiness about her relatively unstructured summer. I know there’s debate about sending kids to school year-round, but here in Canada, that makes no sense to me. Summer is barely here before it’s gone. Imagine kids being in school right now — indoors! — while there are raspberries to pick, and outdoor pools to swim in, and long late evenings to stay outside kicking a soccer ball around. For them, and for us, we need to grab what we can of summer, soak it up, go all out.
It’s like storing solar energy — heat for the long dark winter.
Here’s what the kids do when they’re not being closely supervised.
Giant mudpools in the sandbox?! I don’t recall authorizing the use of the hose. Um, Kevin? You? No?
Here’s what the parents do when they’re not being closely supervised.
At least, it’s how we polished off the remains of a Saturday night without children (who were once again sleeping over at Grandma’s … we could get used to this). Except it occurs to me that we shouldn’t get too used to it. I am not my discplined self without the children around. In fact, it got me wondering whether the children have made me who I am. I think they stake some major claim.
Yes, it’s fun to play without supervision. But a little oversight may not be an altogether bad thing.
This has been a weekend and a half. If only every weekend could be like this … but then nothing would get done … but then I might not care that nothing is getting done …
It all started on Wednesday with the first birthday event, chronicled in a post below. Thursday we threw together a slumber party. Albus’s version last spring had been so easy, I had no qualms. Turns out, five girls make a lot of noise. There were moments when I was standing in the kitchen going I can’t stand the squealing. Will they just stop giggling? Kevin found my response very amusing: You’re not much of a girlie girl, are you? The pillow fight first thing in the morning just about did me in. But in the end, I could stand back and laugh and appreciate their energy and excitement.
The irony of it all was that I spent Friday night at my own version of a (non-sleepover) slumber party when my darling little book club got together in a hot tub. Yes, you read that correctly. Let’s just say it was a book club for the ages. It’s not often I’m still awake at 3:30 in the morning. Though I suspect the neighbours might have been having their own moments of will they just stop giggling already?
Friday was also AppleApple’s actual birthday. She celebrated with three hours of soccer. But we also had a surprise for her: her own writing desk for her new room. Thanks once again to kijiji. We’d been storing it in the basement, and post-slumber-party Kevin hauled it upstairs and set it up in her room (all while the birthday girl herself was sitting at the counter, completely oblivious, absorbed in a new book). We then coaxed her up: “Let me get a photo of you in your new room.” The first attempt was a bust. She went into the room, posed, and walked out. Kevin and I just about died laughing. This pretty much sums up our AppleApple: she lives deep inside her head. So we coaxed her back up a second time, she sat down in her reading chair, looked across the room and — at last! — spotted the writing desk. Reaction above. Sweet.
Now, just to put the icing on a truly terrific weekend, last night also featured our turn in a babysitting exchange. Have you heard of the overnight babysitting exchange? If not, may I highly recommend such a venture to you. First, find a willing family of equal size. Second, set two dates. Third, drop your kids off with their sleeping gear. Fourth, thank me later. (And thanks to Tricia for introducing the idea to us.) I didn’t mention step 2.5, in which the other family’s children are dropped off at your house with their sleeping gear. Yes, in our case, it means having eight children in the house (we took our turn last month.) But let me just shout: Totally worth it! Completely. Absolutely. I say we book dates on a quarterly basis. Seriously. Just for example, we spent on dinner what we usually spend on babysitting. And we went out for brunch this morning. Brunch!
Ergo, on this Sunday noon, I am so ridiculously relaxed I can’t remember all those things I should be doing. I’m going with it. Everyone needs to let down the hair from time to time. Forget serious. Get silly. Empty the mind. Inhabit the goofy happy happening. It’s good for the soul.
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