Category: House

Eight kids, two dogs, one woman in charge

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Today was a PD day: kids home from school. A friend and I are exchanging some babysitting this year, and my part of the deal is to take her kids on PD days (she’s a teacher, so she has to go to work). Our kids match up almost perfectly, ages and sexes, so this is a much easier gig than it may appear on first glance.

That said, I’ve been operating full-tilt, work-wise, and was a bit terrified about not getting anywhere near my office all day. To compensate, I put in some extra hours last night. And then I decided to embrace today for what it was: a day when I couldn’t get near my office.

Which is actually kind of awesome, from time to time.

I sipped my morning coffee and chatted with the kids who were feeling chatty. I took my time. No anxiety. No sense that I should really be doing something else. Then I whipped up a batch of bread dough while listening to the radio. Then I made banana bread. Then I made lunch. Then I cleaned up lunch. Then I hung laundry.

Around mid-morning, I was called upon to work out a deal: puzzle-making in exchange for screen-time. But mostly they played on their own. There was a bumped head, a bumped finger, and a skateboarding accident. Some hot chocolate spilled. A loaf and a half of banana bread was speedily consumed.

It was all quite surprisingly peaceful.

But now it’s nearly 5pm. The house is quiet again (Kev’s got our kids at the first skate of the season). And I’m tired. Really tired. I am fantasizing about an end-of-the-week ritual, something involving cozy pjs and bad tv and flopping on the couch and a wee glass of wine. The kids can join in too (not on the wine part). And the dogs. We could make popcorn. It would also be really really nice if I didn’t have to make supper.

(We don’t really have an end-of-the-week ritual — in fact, we’ve often got soccer on Friday nights, though thankfully not tonight. What about you? Do you have a Friday night ritual?)

Look how we’ve grown

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Every September we measure the kids on a wall in the basement. We started the annual ritual not long after moving into this house, which was nine years ago this summer. It’s entertaining to compare, say, AppleApple, who has always been my biggest child, from birth onwards, to Fooey, who has always been my smallest. We discovered this year that Fooey measures almost a year and a half behind AppleApple in height! AppleApple, meantime, would be taller than Albus, if they were exactly the same age. And so far, Albus and CJ measure identically at the same ages.

Trivia. The stuff of life.

This year we measured Kevin and me too. It was the kids’ idea. I’d rather not repeat it every year, because really, all we can hope for is that we haven’t shrunk: that’s our only direction at this stage. Amusingly (for me), I proved taller than expected, and Kevin proved shorter. We’re only separated by about 2.5 inches. So we gave everyone a low five: guess what kids, you’ve been gifted with short genes.

Reflecting on measuring changes, here’s another one. I’m realizing that there may not be quite as much blog-time this fall as I’ve been accustomed to. Please accept in advance my apologies for the absences that may occur.

So much I want to tell you about: work, play, exercise, new activites, a family meeting, canning, running, writing, suppers. So much I want to record and preserve.

But the truth is that I’m not keeping up. I’m not used to not keeping up. Professionally, I’m swamped through October, and on the domestic front, well, it’s back-to-school time, and you all know what that means. So I’m hoping to tread water. That’s all.

Actually, come to think of it, I’m hoping not to shrink …

To everything turn

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This summer, I have yet to can a thing. I’ve frozen a few odds and ends here and there in small batches, usually leftovers from a meal (ie. too much corn on the cob).

I haven’t found the energy for it, and I’m not sure why.

This morning, Fooey and I looked at Soule Mama’s blog together. She loved the photos of children feeding chickens, playing with pigs and sheep, and picking veggies in the garden. “The children have to do a lot of chores,” she observed. I said they were homeschooled, and she said, “Well, of course! Because they have so many chores, they don’t have time for school.” Let me add that she said this with a very positive tone. Not “chores” as in drudgery, but “chores” as interesting activities.

I felt a pang for the seasonally lived life. “It’s lot of work,” I said. “It’s their whole life.”

I know that’s why I read Soule Mama’s blog: to live vicariously, just a tiny bit. To imagine pulling off muffins baked before kids come downstairs and weeding with baby riding on my back and preserving food and painting rooms pretty colours and renovating an old farmhouse and being a homesteader. When I was a young teen, I spent many happy hours imagining life as a homesteader, out in the middle of nowhere, building a self-sustaining life from scratch. I don’t know why it appealed to me, but I know it was a fantasy that hasn’t had much impact on my actual day-to-day life, even though remnants of the fantasy remain, fondly.

Maybe I’m too lazy.

Today, I am thinking with admiration about all those hard-working people who live seasonally. Right now, in Canada, if I were living truly seasonally, I would be canning like crazy. Now is the time! Grab the moment! Preserve summer. Instead, I’m lost in thought before a computer. I’m at a soccer field until dusk. I’m going for a run. I’m vacuuming dog hair.

But I have some angst over not canning. I feel like I should be. And I feel tired too, worn out, a bit, by the continuous nature of living, the daily demands, being unable to catch up or keep up. Laundry, meals, basic family hygiene, household demands. We attempted to get the kids doing regular chores earlier this summer, and we didn’t stick to it. (We should try again, for their sake and for ours.)

Maybe that’s what impresses me most about those people who are growing our food for us, and those people who are living off the land: they stick to it. Nature won’t let them stop, and they don’t. I’m sure they’d like to, sometimes. I’m sure weariness sets in.

I need something similar to attend to, a project larger than myself, more meaningful. (Or is this just August talking–a wistful month, I always find, during which I feel nostalgic for what’s passing even though it’s still right here all around me?)

A quiet little Sunday

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roller blading, before and after

Hot, quiet, humid. That’s our Sunday. Looked like rain. Did not rain. One soccer game still on the menu (mine). Though need bread, have not baked bread; see hot, humid. Can’t bear the thought of turning on the oven.

Today, I’ve spent several hours getting to know my new photo editing software. View experiments above.

Also wrote a new short story this weekend — fiction!!! My first attempt since writing the last of The Juliet Stories (which, a very few of you may be interested in knowing, was “She Will Leave a Mark” from the first section.) It felt like breathing or something. Essential, natural.

Oh, and I have to post a link to this truly amazing review, by a book blogger called Buried in Print. Quite enough to swell the head, methinks, so I’ll only read it once.

Life without air conditioning

before the sunburn

It’s too hot to blog. I’m fairly sure it’s too hot to think clearly, though that would be regrettable given that it is my primary source of income. I find my brain drifting off before reaching the end of a sentence, asking, huh? What was that?

This week I’m doing interviews with several local entrepreneurs. It’s been fascinating so far. Best of all, they work in air conditioned environments. I’m being facetious. Which is probably ill-advised. Blame the heat.

I do not work in an air conditioned environment.

Here’s a little story: on Wednesday, I took the kids to a place called Herrles, which sells local veggies and fruits and baked goods, and is slightly out of town, and therefore requires a bit of a drive. It was rush hour and took longer than usual. But was I grumpy about the situation? I was not. Because with the air conditioning blasting, we’d found ourselves a brief and happy reprieve.

Last fall, we learned that our home’s central air conditioner, which we only used in desperate situations anyway, was broken and not worth repairing. We have not replaced it. And even though I only ever used it with a great deal of guilt and angst, I miss knowing it’s there if the kids can’t sleep (or we can’t sleep).

Maybe we’re all becoming acclimatized, and will therefore perform better at events like roasting hot soccer tournaments and long distance runs. Maybe.

Or maybe my brain has officially lost the will to reason.

Lazy Sunday reflections on having it all

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Lazy Sunday morning.

My two littlest are playing an elaborate imaginary game together. (During yesterday’s game we overheard CJ saying, in a very harrassed-sounding tone: “I have to do the laundry and make the supper and clean the house and I just can’t do it all by myself! You are going to have to help!” “Is he being the mother?” I wondered, but we couldn’t tell, and didn’t want to disturb the game to ask.)

My bigger daughter has given up trying to join in on the game and is practicing the piano instead.

The eldest kid is at his second swimming birthday party of the weekend.

And Kevin is at a soccer game. I’ve got one tonight too. We admitted to each other that we didn’t really feel like playing. I said, “I just don’t want to get injured,” and he laughed, because that was exactly what he’d been thinking. Honestly, after every game I limp home with some injury or another, which heals itself in time for the next game; so does he. I’m pretty sure this a factor of age. AppleApple pooh-poohed my complaints of injury, and said it was just to be expected — something always hurts after a soccer game! But, then, she’s 9, and heals quickly. I’m a good deal older, and appear not to have the same bounce-back abilities.

This was a lazy week, exercise-wise, in part due to a soccer injury. I did something to my hamstring, and couldn’t lift my leg for two days. Awkward for stairs, unhelpful for long distance training. Skipped my Monday morning swim in part because of the injury, but also because I had a deadline and I was worried about being too tired (I’m quite sure I could not exercise as voraciously were I working full-time; positive, in fact). Skipped my Tuesday evening run due to injury, plus insane heat. Ran Wednesday morning as usual, felt twitchy for first kilometre, then fine. Dragged self to spin/kettlebell class, but barely, Thursday morning. Skipped Thursday evening run due to thunder storm. Skipped getting up early on Friday due to meeting friend for breakfast. Finally, yesterday, forced self out for a long run after spending the day cleaning house.

And here is what I can report. I didn’t really feel like a) cleaning the house or b) going for a long run, but I sure felt a hell of a lot better after accomplishing b) than a).

I spent six hours cleaning the house. I do not exaggerate. It was filthy, disorganized, and disastrous. At the end of those six hours, I felt discouraged, grumpy, and accusatory. Cleaning is so pointless. Within minutes of it being scrubbed, someone walked on my kitchen floor! Can you imagine! With feet that had ever so recently been outside! And with predictable results! Also, every cleaned thing had the effect of showing up every thing that still needed cleaning and therefore looked infinitely dirtier as a result of being in proximity to the cleaned thing.

So I went for a run. I made it 15km. It wasn’t easy; in fact, it was a lot harder than the cleaning had been, in many ways. It took at least as much mental fortitude to continue. I wasn’t sure I could keep up the pace I was demanding of myself. But at the end, after I’d finished what I’d set out to accomplish, by golly didn’t I feel amazing. Elated. Content. Cheerily conversational.

Which is why our house is likely to be, for the most part, not that clean. And why I am likely to be, injuries notwithstanding, reasonably fit.

Whenever I get around to cleaning, I think about my Grandma King, whom my mother remembers rising at 5am in order to scrub her kitchen floor (she also worked a full-time job and looked after five children.) Different times, I guess. When a woman was judged on the cleanliness of her kitchen floor. But we’re still judged, aren’t we? Or maybe it’s that we judge ourselves, and harshly, comparing ourselves to models of perfection, to super-women, and inevitably falling short, as Anne-Marie Slaughter points out in her excellent and nerve-striking article in The Atlantic.

I heard myself on the radio yesterday, briefly, talking about The Juliet Stories. I called AppleApple down to listen (she was the only one nearby). I was mashing garlic to make a ranch dressing and listening to myself talk on the radio. The voice on the radio didn’t sound a thing like the voice in my head; in fact, the radio voice sounded much calmer, approachable, resonant, friendly. “Did that really sound like me?” I asked AppleApple afterwards, who looked perplexed. “Of course,” she said. Here’s the thing: I liked the sounds of that woman on the radio. But she didn’t remind me of myself, except only fractionally. Myself was the woman mashing garlic, wearing running gear, feeling irritable, noticing the dirty windows, trying to work up the gumption to get out for a run.

I was experiencing myself as a projection. And in a sense, that’s what this blog is too. A projection. Incomplete. The person I show myself to be rather than the messy much more complex and in all likelihood somewhat disappointingly contradictory person that I really am. I think we women like to compare ourselves to projections. It’s one of the reasons women always want to know, “How do you do it?” We’re imagining that it can be done. We’re looking for the secret formula. We’d apply it, if only it existed. I’m certain it’s not only women who do this, but maybe men do it differently. Maybe men don’t admit as readily to being imperfect or wrong; or maybe they don’t care; maybe they’re better at managing guilt.

These are horrible generalizations. Please, disagree. Tell me what you think.

My lazy Sunday children have now moved into my office; therefore, it’s time for me to move out. It’s lunchtime.

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