Category: Kids

The ten-minute post

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We’ve entered end-of-school-year madness. I added to the madness by turning my ankle in Sunday evening’s soccer game, which we won short-handed, and so it was worth it. Right? Priorities, Carrie, priorities. I actually heard my ankle make a snapping sound as I landed on the grass, and so did the woman with whom I’d collided, and she looked at me, lying in the grass, and said, “Um, are you okay?” and I said, “Yeah, I don’t know.” In fact, it didn’t hurt, and still doesn’t, just feels stiff and is swollen. I’m taking a few days off to see how it heals, but so far my body seems to know what it’s doing. I’m icing it, resting it, and I promise not to play on it until it’s healed. Promise. Okay? Because I’d like to play all summer, please.

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Yesterday morning, bum ankle and all, I headed off to Toronto to meet with a new editor. We got to work in a pleasant coffee shop and ran all the way through my new novel. I’ve now got tentative deadlines toward which to work on both of my new book projects. Woot, woot! The first of the picture book revisions are due at the end of this week (this will go back and forth a few more times: a couple hundred words is harder to perfect than you might think), and I’ll be revising the novel over the summer. My older kids have been officially hired to babysit their younger siblings, for a fair whack of cash, and both are treating the project with respect. Hopes are high, all around.

Now I’m between appointments: allergist this morning with my asthmatic athlete, and grade six graduation ceremony in a few minutes, for which I volunteered to stay afterward and clean up (why???). And then I’m praying for a few hours in which to work. Please.

I love to sit and work. And be quiet.

And: go!

:::

I must add a P.S.

No one told me to bring tissues to the graduation ceremony. I mean, it’s just grade six, right? Sure, he’s going to a new school next year, and he’s been here for EIGHT YEARS, and oh, wait, this is a big deal. One of the teachers put together a video that had me wiping away tears from the get-go. The grade six graduates were shown in side by side photos, as kindergartners, and as they are now, young people on the cusp of teenage-hood. Something about witnessing their changes turned me wobbly inside, and it wasn’t even about looking at my own kid, or at kids I’ve known all these years — it was all of them, all of these precious lives blooming in what seems like fast-forward. We don’t get to stay the same. We don’t get to keep these kids, either. How caught we are in time.

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Welcome to Monday

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Sunday at the farm

My Monday contains an early morning yoga class, the coordinating of this week’s many details, a really good bowl of soup for lunch, a finalized book contract to sign and send (details coming, I promise), and eight loads of laundry (no exaggeration).

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family

This past weekend we travelled north of Kingston on Saturday, home again on Sunday, to visit with Kevin’s family, some of whom had come all the way from Scotland.

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cousins

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roommates

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Badminton was the popular sport, with soccer coming a close second.

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cousins

There was even a baby to hold.

:::

Our visit was preceeded by a minor home renovation. On Friday, I realized that our front hall reeked. The smell was distinctly dog, and I don’t know how to describe it other than to say, come smell our carpet, which, trust me, you really don’t want to do. In any case, you can’t. Friday afternoon, tormented by the smell, I abandoned my office to scrub the carpet before leaping to the sudden conclusion that the carpet had to go. Like, now. I vacuumed the rest of the house in an attempt to bring order to the chaos that had become instantly apparent to me, everywhere, not just in the front hall. And on Friday night, after we’d packed and the kids were all in bed, and we should have been too, Kevin and I ripped up the carpet. Lo and behold, the wood floor beneath was pristine, and after a late-night scrubbing, reeked of nothing at all. I find it funny how often Kevin and I make snap decisions, together, that feel absolutely right. It seems to be how we operate.

Let me ask you a question about cleanliness. Would you agree that women are still judged on the cleanliness of their homes, while men (even those who participate fully in household chores) are not? I think it’s true. I would like it not to be. (She says, heading down to the basement to deal with laundry load number 6. Only two more to go!)

All in an evening

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4 pm – Kids home from school. Carrie starts supper. Children snacking.
5 pm – Kev home from work. Supper just barely ready. Complaints about the just barely ready supper. Albus and Kev putting on soccer gear, gobbling food.
5:15 – Kev and Albus leave in truck for soccer practice.
5:30 – Carrie and other children eat supper. Leave on table.
5:45 – Daughters put on soccer gear, Carrie packs picnic supper and snack and water bottles, puts on running gear.
6 pm – Carrie runs with dogs to pick up carshare car, approximately 1km away. Seven-year-old volunteers to take clothes off the line.
6:20 – Carrie home with dogs and car, other children ready to go.
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6:30 – Carrie and other children drive, park, and walk to eldest daughter’s school to see the science fair.
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6:45 – Carrie and other children return to car, drive to eldest daughter’s soccer practice.
6:55 – Carrie realizes that she has driven to the wrong soccer field.
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[Apparently, to the child behind the camera, this evening’s outing is being overseen by a deranged nun. This photo is too unflatteringly amusing not to include.]
6:57 – “Why are you always so stressed out, Mommy?”
6:58 – Consult phone, sift emails, find actual field location. More driving.
7:01 – “That looks like your team! Go! Run! You’re not that late!”
7:13 – Arrive at field for younger daughter’s soccer game. Meet Kevin, also just arriving, hand over a large bag of soccer balls. Everyone heads to the bathroom.
7:20 – Kev and younger daughter on soccer field. Eldest son eating picnic supper nearby. Youngest child playing ball with a friend.
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7:25 – Carrie: “I’m going for a run. I’ll be back in half an hour.” Eldest son, and professional babysitter: “No problem.”
8:10 – Carrie: “I’m back! I went 7km in 35 minutes flat! In the woods!” Son: “Hey.”
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8:11 – Younger daughter scores. Carrie looks up from texting a fraction of a second too late. Debates with eldest son the ethics of saying, “Great goal!” to younger daughter after game, when actual goal not actually witnessed.
8:14 – “Did you see my goal, Mommy?” “Er …” Glances at eldest son who is ready to pounce on any obvious “lie.” “It was an awesome goal!” Carrie hugs daughter, shoots daggers at son.
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8:15 – Carrie leaves three children in care of Kevin, drives carshare car to other soccer field.
8:32 – Two minutes late! And the field is empty. What on earth? What if daughter got dropped at the wrong field an hour and a half ago??? Moderately frantic running.
8:33 – “Hey, there’s my mom!” “What happened? What time does practice end? I’m not that late, am I?” Kind other mother: “Don’t worry, I stayed with the girls. And really, everyone just left a minute ago.”
8:40 – Drop off teammate with whom we do a lot of carpooling.
8:47 – Cell phone rings. Cell phone appears broken. Cannot answer cell phone. Driving anyway, and so should not.
8:49 – Pull into driveway, get cell phone working, daughter dials home phone number. “But it was Dad who was calling! From his cell phone! He’s not at home! We are!”
8:50 – Cell phone ceases responding to button pushing. Home phone receives endless message of Carrie unlocking door, racing into house, dumping bags from carshare car, using home phone to call Kev. Kev: “We don’t have keys. We’re waiting for you at the carshare car parking spot.”
8:55 – Drop carshare car off with minutes to spare. Catch ride home with keyless husband and children.
9 pm – “What’s for bedtime snack?” “Does anyone want any more supper?” “Brush your teeth!” “Stop playing the piano!” “It’s bedtime!” “Oh, for bleep’s sake, there’s still the dishes.” “At least Fooey took the clothes off the line!” “Has anyone walked these dogs?” “Just go to bed! Everyone! Just go to bed!”

Thursday afternoon, 1:21 p.m., I hang laundry outside

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Today.

Quiet in the house. Construction noises loud outside.

Outside, 20 degrees C, sunny, windy. Clothes on the line whipping in the breeze. Small dog settling into dead leaves in raised garden bed, beside newly greening rosemary and thyme.

Thinking of the books I will write.

Seeing their spines in my mind’s eye. Sweet imagination.

Even while pressing down anxiety, clothespin in hand: What’s happening after school? Where do I have to be, when? Which carshare car have I booked? How early does supper need to be on the table?

I think, pasta with the last of the tomatoes.

Small dog stands, alert, to warn me of approaching pedestrians, big diesel trucks, other dogs, a squirrel.

Locating myself in time, to this moment.

Thinking of all the books I will write.

Everyone will get to where they need to be, even if they are a little bit late. Even if we are always, perpetually, just a little bit late. Rush, rush. “Mom, we’re fast-pokes, you and me.” (Fooey, age 7, and always organized and ready to go.)

Thinking a run in the woods. Touring the science fair. Soccer under this swept sky. What good kids I have. I will write them a book.

Clothes flapping to dry under a promising sky.

All the books I will write. All the books I will write.

This post contains more than the recommended daily dose of exclamation points*

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snack on the back porch, with the snails
This weekend’s snow-rain notwithstanding, we’ve been living outdoors again. As of last week, the outdoor soccer season has started, and we’re on the field multiple times a week. I won’t get into the machinations, but a certain son has agreed to babysit a certain other son while the girls practice soccer, so that I can run on my favourite trails two evenings a week. The carshare car is also involved. We all pile home and find the house in disarray: supper abandoned on the table, dirty dishes in the sink, laundry overflowing, bedtime way too late.
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the snails: Ally, Emily, Amy, and Alla (who is very small and hasn’t been seen for a few days, leading me to believe he/she is quite possibly lost somewhere in the house)
Last week, it was warm well into the evening, the light was beautiful, and being outdoors felt like the reward for all the mess. This may feel slightly less rewarding when the weather is rainy/snowy/bloody cold. 
It’s hard to get up early when one is going to bed so late. That I will observe. I’m down to two early mornings for exercise, and hoping these evening additions will keep me sane. Because that’s the reason I exercise, you know. Sanity! Which is ironic, because it’s the kids’ exercise activities that may drive me to insanity!
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carpet of pollen
Our weekend was devoted to sport. Saturday saw Kevin and Albus off to an overnight soccer tournament, and AppleApple and I were out the door even earlier to a swim meet. The meet went late, and it took some frantic messaging to arrange back-up for my other duty of the afternoon: coaching CJ’s soccer team. AppleApple swam her relay (last heat of the last event of the morning!), threw on her clothes, and we drove for the soccer field (only about 90 km away!), arriving 20 minutes late and very grateful to the dad who stepped up to help. My coaching was better this week than last. I’m learning! 
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pollen after rain
AppleApple spent her spare hours working on her science fair project. I indulged the younger ones with movies from the library. We had hot dogs for supper. Kev texted me news about the tournament and the pizza party at the hotel. I fell into bed essentially depleted. Oh, and I didn’t even tell you about the part where I almost burned the house down by absentmindedly leaving a pan on the stove, burner on, while I walked the dogs before supper. Luckily, as smoke filled the house, AppleApple applied the skills learned in her babysitting class, discovered the source, and turned off the burner. The fire alarm was sounding when I arrived home. She didn’t know how to turn that off. It is not in my character to absentmindedly leave burners on and exit the house! This has never happened before! It speaks to my levels of depletion, I think.
Anyway ….
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back porch living
Yesterday, I rose early again to wake AppleApple and prep her for another day at the swim meet. She caught a ride with a teammate, because, really, I couldn’t ask my mom to babysit that early two days in a row (and on Mother’s Day!). I’ve said before how tedious I find the meets: crowded, damp, hot, loud, long. And yet I hated missing it. My Mother’s Day was off to a sad start. I crawled back into bed only to be woken by howling dogs and squabbling children. Besides, we had swim lessons. Breakfast and a dog walk, and we were off again. “Mother’s Day makes me grumpy,” I texted Kevin. But he and Albus were back by the time swim lessons ended, so I jumped in the truck and flew down the highway to the swim meet.

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gorgeous blooms I stopped to smell while walking the dogs on Saturday evening, blithely unaware of the crisis, of which I was the cause, unfolding at home

I arrived with minutes to spare before her second of four races. And what a race! She improved her personal best by 15 seconds in a race that really takes guts: 200 metre breaststroke. “I almost threw up after I touched the wall,” she told me, glowing at her accomplishment. So the stands were jammed and I had to sit on a concrete step and it was hot, loud, and damp–I truly cared not. My kid was glowing. I was glowing. My Mother’s Day was on the mend.
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Mother’s Day feast: four kinds of burgers (lamb, beef, chicken, bison), portobello mushrooms, fried potatoes, enormous green salad
We arrived home to discover the house had been cleaned and Kevin was cooking up a Mother’s Day feast. And then I had the best Mother’s Day gift of all: a long leisurely meal, all of us back together, laughing and talking and telling stories.

:::

* and not the good kind of exclamation point, sorry–these are clearly of the holy-heck-this-is-absurd! variety

All the doors thrown open

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woman watches spring

Writing a book can be a funny thing. Occasionally it feels like control has been unintentionally ceded to some other power: the original vision just doesn’t fit on the page. The character refuses to do what the writer has planned. This doesn’t happen all that often, but it can.

Writing a life, well, do we get to that? Do we get to write our own plotlines, choose who we will become? To some degree I strongly believe that the answer is yes. Right up until it seems to be out of our hands.
I’ve had a strange week. It’s been wild, it’s been wonderful.
What can I say? Well, not everything. Okay, frankly, not much. Hardly anything at all, in fact. And I apologize for being mysterious, and will let you know that the news that I cannot tell is good, and that it is writing-related.
You know that saying, It never rains but it pours?
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soccer coach, in reflection
Throw into the mix: Kevin away in Winnipeg, a mysterious allergic reaction that sent me to the doctor, solo parenting on the weekend, having to coach our youngest’s soccer team, and several more soccer games including my own on Sunday evening, and I’ve got to tell you, it’s been … overwhelming. 
Imagine me walking uptown on Saturday with my brood of children, running errands in the brilliant sunshine. I say, “Kids, I feel ten feet tall.” “But you’re short, Mom. We’re short people.” “I know. But I feel like I’m much taller than I actually am. I feel like I’m floating.”
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I have spent more than twenty years aiming myself toward this moment. More than twenty years working to accumulate the knowledge and skill to write books that people will want to read. More than twenty years of tenacity and, let’s admit it, almost obsessive effort, even against self-doubt and the rejection that comes to every creative person who opens herself to the world. And here I am, more than twenty years on, dropped into the perfect moment in which the universe says: What you wanted? Here it is.
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