Category: Kids

Look, we have new neighbours

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the house next door

“Mom, you have to come and take a picture!”

“No, really, Carrie, you should come right now!”

“Maybe you can write a blog post that says ‘Look, we have new neighbours!'”

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look, we have new neighbours

The house next door. What can I say? If you live in our neighbourhood, you have probably expressed curiosity about it at one time or another. If your curiosity got the better of you, you might even have called to ask me if the house next door is for sale (this happens), or knocked on my door sheepishly, as if you might be the first person ever to think of doing it: “Sorry, I know this is weird, but I walk by here every day and I’m just wondering ….”

It has been exactly a decade since we bought our house and moved in. The mysterious house next door has been unoccupied for at least that long. It is a beautiful structure — good bones — and the property is maintained, but it is empty. Except for the wildlife. Living next door to a beautiful empty house is a worry, of course, for a number of reasons, and I keep a sharp eye on the place.

To lighten the worry, a few years back, I began riffing with the kids about the animal families who live next door. We didn’t make up whole stories, but it was funny to think about the characters who might populate stories in the house next door. Our neighbours, so to speak.

This is the first I’ve actually gotten photos.

Exaltation v. exultation

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I’ve spent the last hour reading a book. For pleasure. While sipping a cup of coffee, curled in my great-aunt Alice’s rocking chair, the sound of spring birds and morning traffic out my office window. That sounds indulgent, and it is. I’m a bit under the weather, in fact, and skipped out on soccer last night to crash early.

To qualify, however, the early crash was preceded by five hours of domestic labour that included preparing supper (tacos: fresh-cooked beans and rice, hamburger, avocado and tomato salad, sauteed spinach with garlic, grated cheese, etc.), driving a kid to swimming, hanging two loads of laundry and folding two more, feeding children supper, discussing with younger daughter why she can’t get a kitten right now, cleaning up from supper, supervising bathtime, supervising piano practice, brushing children’s cavity-laden teeth, bedtime rituals, and two extra trips upstairs post-lights-out to fetch water bottles and debate with youngest whether or not his stuffed tiger needed emergency surgery (no, the doctor, aka mama, ruled). If you are wondering where Kevin was in all of this, he arrived home with supplies for supper, we said hello, I left with the swim kid, and he was waiting on the porch when I returned, ready to race off to the U12C boys’ soccer practice with Albus. He arrived home with the two eldest children around 8pm, just in time to put on his own soccer gear and sprint to his own soccer practice. To which I was invited. And simply had not the energy or health to go.

Instead, I took a bath, read a book, crashed early.

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I haven’t got a handle on balance, these days. Don’t come to me for advice. I’m tired of waiting for news, but I’ve decided to look on these quiet days — quiet, anyway, while the children are at school — as fortunate. Why waste the quiet with interior storm? I am in need of rest and comfort.

Chicken stock. Tea. A rocking chair. A good book.

It’s in my head, always, like a current pulling out to sea, that I need to get out and run. But maybe I need to curl up sometimes, too. One can’t be constantly pouring oneself out without replenishment.

I worry about being this poem, “First Fig,” by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends — 
It gives a lovely light.

Speaking of poems, a friend from poetry book club sent me this one, “Glory, in the dictionary,” by Erin Bow, in response to Friday’s “How are you?” post.

Glory, in the dictionary: the open mouth
of the glass furnace. A radiant shadow
cast onto mist. Think of Icarus:
his shadow huge and haloed
on the backs of the clouds.
The higher he went, the larger
it loomed. To go into glory, then,
is to walk into fire.
And the angels begin as they always do:
Don’t be afraid.

I’m not sure what I think about this. Glory. Exaltation; or do I mean exultation? The shadow cast. But I love the angels, who begin as they always do: Don’t be afraid. I want those angels to be my angels.

Exaltation, in the dictionary: a feeling of intense, often excessive exhileration; a flight of larks
Exultation, in the dictionary: the act or condition of rejoicing greatly

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A few links:

My updated reading list, 2013, now including April. Having not, prior to this year, strictly kept track of books read, a few trends surprise me: I’m reading more male authors than I expected, also less Canadian content, and more non-fiction. Hm. But there is quite a variety. I think of myself as a democratic or catholic reader: I like almost everything. Unless it’s boring. I do, however, have an inner critic that edits for content and structure as I read, and that can be really annoying and next to impossible to turn off.

I wrote a piece for Today’s Parent on Mother’s Day, which happens to be one of my least favourite holidays. I didn’t write about that, however. I aimed for moderately sappy truth. The piece appears in the latest issue of the magazine, but it’s also online. (To put in a plug for the hard copy, the layout in the magazine is inspired.)

:::

One more thing. That kitten that Fooey really wants? Why do I secretly want it, too? Don’t tell her. It’s worse than impractical. But I got the image this morning of a messy open house, where it’s mostly chaos, and all creatures great and small are welcome. Not sure where I am in that picture. Doing the dishes and hanging the laundry and getting a kick out of forever and impossibly trying to maintain order? Or could I be curled in the rocking chair reading a book, covered in cat hair? Or racing in the door from a run? But who’s cooking supper? Who’s making sure the soccer socks are clean? Who’s cleaning the kitty litter box?

The end of April, and at last

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This.

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This.

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This.

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And a bit of this, too.

“You love when the house is full of children, don’t you,” Kevin observed yesterday.

I do! I love when children spontaneously drop by on scooters, come in and join a cake baking project, stay for lunch, and fill the house and yard with play and chatter. I love hanging laundry while watching children play soccer and make up games on the trampoline. I love the connections that come from being outside.

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Bring on spring.

How are you?

where are you going, where have you been?

How are you?

I always reply, as expected, I am fine. Most of us do, right? It’s a polite greeting, back and forth, not meant as a deeply searching opening.

But, how are you? No, really, you can tell me.

And then I’ll tell you.

I’ll tell you, in truth, that I am struggling. Fold down the corner on this page. It’s only one page in a whole book. Mark it off. This too shall slip into the past. There is nothing specific to attach my struggle to, and perhaps that is why I am struggling. There is no news. I wait for news, knowing I can’t control when it arrives, nor what message it will bring. If I could learn how to live within this, what a gift it would be. I could learn real peace of mind. But so far, I am struggling.

In my dreams last night I signed a book contract only to discover that there was no editor to help me edit the book, and I would need to go it alone based on a few scribbled notes that included instructions to write “a wedding scene.” My book has no wedding scene, nor any obvious place to include a wedding scene, given that the main character never marries. Also, I wouldn’t get paid until the edits were complete. On the plus side, assuming I could complete the edits, I would earn a healthy sum. On the minus side, my personality in the dream could be summed up as: socially awkward. It’s my second socially awkward dream this week.

What can it mean?

This dream melded with another in which my entire family was riding in a helicopter while I ran in a field underneath them, watching the helicopter tilt and crash-land. But everyone was okay. We went into a nearby house and I realized we’d forgotten to bring the piano books. Crisis in dreamland! How would the children practice the piano?

So, how are you?

Me, I’m flat as day-old soda pop.

But this morning is clear and sun-filled. All of my kids still love to be hugged tight. Tonight is poetry book club. There is the possibility, always, that peace of mind is within, waiting for me to alight upon it. So, just now, I’m going outside, friends. I’m leaving this desk for a little while. I’m going outside.

Will the fish eat the bug, or the bug eat the fish?

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Yesterday, the day after Earth Day, I had Fooey to thank for strong-arming me into volunteering for her class’s field trip to a nearby nature centre, which we’ve never visited before. And so I was outside on a warm and windy April afternoon, fully appreciating this beautiful planet we live on. My favourite part was netting a small fish and a water-bug in the swampy pond, and examining their interactions inside our group’s glass jar. It looked like the fish might eat the bug, but then the bug climbed onto the fish’s back for a ride. “Maybe the bug is going to eat the fish!” That was about as scientific as our little group got, which was, admittedly, not very, but the sun was warm and there was mud on our hands.

This morning on the walk to the school bus, CJ and I discovered the wet ground was absolutely crawling with snails in their shells (slugs?). You had to look to see them, and then you couldn’t stop seeing them. How quickly we turned into explorers, examining how the snails moved, the different colours of the shells, how tiny some were. We moved some off the sidewalk, out of the way of crunching feet.

This has been a slow month, quiet, the drip, drip, drip of waiting. I am not, as you probably already know, the most patient person on the planet. I do not fall easily into relaxation. I feel compelled to busy myself. I tend to measure a day’s success in the variety of tasks accomplished, words written, miles run. I’m a lucky woman to have my children to pull me closer to the ground, out into the woods, fishing creatures from a swampy pond, getting my hands dirty, dragging me away from the idea of accomplishment and into the messiness of wonder. And I see that the world is full of stories unfolding, each in its own time and rhythm. What am I here for, after all? It can’t be all about the accomplishments and goals.

Playing with the boys

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brothers
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patterns of play
patterns of play

Last night I played with the boys. Not these boys, above, but with Kevin’s men’s soccer team. I scrimmaged with his team two weeks ago, and came home feeling too down on myself to try the following week. It wasn’t that I’d played badly. It was that I wasn’t comfortable with the dynamic of being the only girl. I felt like I had to prove myself. I’m a small woman. I’ve played soccer for less than a year. None of my shots on net went in. That’s what I kept telling myself, remembering all of the errors.

Kevin, being the awesome coach that he is, focused instead on all the things I’d done right. He was disappointed when I skipped.

So I came back to play again. I came back despite playing a game of unfulfilled potential on Sunday afternoon with my women’s team. I’ve learned how to get myself into good space, into the clear. I get lots of chances to run onto the net with the ball. And the damn ball just doesn’t go in. Albus tagged along to my Sunday afternoon game, and had a few tips afterward: “You need to learn how to shoot, Mom. You’re not doing it right. It sounds like you’re kicking it with your toe.” I also need to learn how to receive the ball in the air, and how to head the ball, and, oh, a few other things too. I was proud of my kid for being so knowledgeable — he’s playing rep soccer for the first time this season and he’s worked very hard to improve his skills, and I love that he knows what he’s talking about. But …

Me: “I’m going to need some positive feedback, too, lest my spirit be crushed.” Him: “Oh … yeah … um …” Long pause. Me: “Seriously? Nothing good?” Him: “I’m thinking. It’s hard! Oh, yeah, there was that time you ran really fast and kept the ball in. I thought it was going out.” Long pause. “Me: “That’s it?” Him: “Um … ”

My spirit was a wee bit crushed, my initial reaction being, Oh, God, I’m too old to improve. But then I thought, hey these are technical skills I’m lacking, and I’ve got the other stuff that belies my age, the speed, the strength, the grit. And there’s only one way to improve my technical skills, and that’s to keep practicing. Plus, it’s fun. I love playing.

So I laced up again last night, and went back to scrimmage with the boys. When I heard my inner voice saying, I’m not good enough to be here, I countered with, it’s up to me to decide whether or not I belong, whether or not I’m good enough. So I played like I belonged — or tried to. And I felt a subtle difference by the end of the game. Yes, I made lots of mistakes. But I also set up plays, used space well, challenged for the ball and won sometimes. I even used a couple of turns I’ve never tried before. The boys were passing me the ball. They knew my name. I got some high fives.

I grew up with three younger brothers. As a child, I always played with the boys, though it was usually baseball. My brother Christian taught me how to throw. Then, as now, I was quick and strong, small but wiry. I’ll admit that I often felt more comfortable playing with boys than girls, and it was hard, during my teen years, to understand that boys were no longer looking at me as being one of them, but as being different. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be a girl: I just wanted to be a girl who knew a lot about sports (I learned by osmosis), who could play as hard as the boys. But somehow my sex got mixed up in it. My prettiness became a power I didn’t know how to manage. It made me feel vulnerable. Subject rather than participant. I stopped talking sports sometime in my early teens, stopped trying to perfect my overhand throw, stopped playing with the boys.

I haven’t played with them since. Until now. It makes me realize that I’ve kind of missed doing that. I think it’s a desire to transcend the assumptions that go along with my female body. It’s a desire to play, pure and simple, no matter who’s on the field.