Category: Kids

Swimming studies, early morning, girl in green

go!
First race, 100 metre breast. Takes 9 seconds off her best time.

girl in green at 25 metres in the 100 m free
Second race. Girl in green approaches 25 m turn in the 100 m free.

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Girl in green opens lead at 75 m turn in the 100 m free.

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Girl in green cruising to win her heat in the 100 m free. Takes 20 seconds off her best time. Mother too excited to hold camera steady.

“I just wish I could swim every night for two hours.” {which she did over the Christmas holidays during her club’s training camp}

Problem solving

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“I woke up early, so I just laid there and did math-es.”

“Oh? What math did you do?”

“I was doing the pluses.”

Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton

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Nothing very exciting is happening here. It’s the last day of freedom before school starts (that is my 11-year-old’s take, anyway). Swim practice was cancelled. Soccer is on (one game in Mississaugua, hers; another in Cambridge, mine). Soft wet snow is falling in quantities voluminous enough for the building of snow forts.

I went for my first long run of the year yesterday — 15km, which is pretty short by long run standards. It felt easy, and I went slow, and I enjoyed it a great deal. I spent a few kilometres sorting out structural details for the new book, and I spent the rest of the kilometres kind of thinking about absolutely nothing, except for running itself. The discipline and routine of an athletic pursuit seems to keep me happy, grounded.

I’ve been reading Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton, utterly fascinated at the glimpse into how a young person can be shaped by the rigour and routine and discipline of participating in competitive sport. This was not part of my growing up experience, although I suspect my personality would have been well-suited to it. It might have made my teenage years easier too — a safe place into which to pour those wild energies and the longing for devotion, purpose, “specialness,” which Shapton writes about. But what happens to the athlete who, despite great discipline and effort, does not achieve her original goals? By the age of nineteen, Shapton knew she would never make Canada’s Olympic team, despite intense devotion to her sport. There are limits that we all have to confront. If you’ve devoted five to six hours a day, six days a week, for most of your teenage years, training for a race you’ll never get to race — what then?

Well, I suppose there could be a sense of aimlessness. Or perhaps, instead, you find ways to transfer your disciplined routine to other aspects of your life. Shapton is a very successful writer, artist, and designer. This is not something that just happened, I am sure of it.

I have more to say on the subject, but will have to leave it here for now. I’m off to a soccer game with a child, aged ten, who seems inclined to pursue competitive sport one way or another, who thrives on disciplined routine, and who can’t wait for school to start tomorrow. I wonder, as I read this book, whether I am reading a story that might in some way be hers, in the years to come. I wonder, as I read this book, how my child will be shaped by her participation in competitve sport, with the demands on her time and energies, and the pressure to perform.

Being here, now

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She actually managed to lose the second of her two front teeth on Christmas day, prompting me to sing the few lyrics I could recall to that joke song from years past. And then we went and lost the damn tooth during the Christmas cleanup. I offered $2 to whomever could locate it, but despite determined looking it was gone. But she had a solution: she wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy. “I loosed my tooth and can’t find it. I think the dog eat it.” Funny thing is, she’d written a note to Santa the night before, and left it in a box along with a gift for Santa: a photo of herself, several years old, taken with Santa himself. Oh, my heart.

Both Santa and the Tooth Fairy wrote back.

angel food cake
Yesterday was my birthday. Somehow these things seem to come around with greater frequency than they used to. I spent some time, the night of December 28th, looking through the journal where I write and reflect every “birthday eve.” This is a strange year for me. In years past, this has been a time to search my heart, to look ahead with wishes and hopes and anxiety, too, anxious to find my way, hoping to identify new projects that will pull me somewhere else. This year, I feel as though I’m confidently walking a path of my own choosing, and that my only hope is to continue along this way.

I have big plans for this coming year, yes, but the plans are simple, straightforward, and already in motion. Nothing new or high-concept here.

* I’ve finished a very rough first draft of a new book and will devote my work time to making it into a book worth reading — and publishing.

* With my friend Tricia, I plan to apply for Canada’s version of The Amazing Race, admittedly a long shot, but hey, what’s life without the occasional crazy gamble.

* I will continue to squeeze in regular exercise, in whatever forms make sense (ie. solo runs or classes with friends or team sports). Reflecting on those birthday eves past, I find it quite possible to believe that finding my physical self has been the change of greatest significance to my life, in ways both obvious and subtle. It’s been a slow and steady process of change that started with a simple yoga class, attended on my birthday three years ago. I truly believe that a well-spring of confidence, energy, and trust bloomed out of that single moment, as I built (and continue to build on) the discovery of my inner athlete:
1. the bliss I felt when I completed races, at distances that had seemed impossible only months before
2. my amazement at my ability to set tough goals and perservere
3. the steadiness of routine that I now rely on to keep my mind open and emptied of clutter
4. the embrace of my competitive spirit — seeing it as positive (ie. motivating, creative) rather than shameful (ie. grasping, self-promoting)

birthday girl
So, yesterday, my birthday, was sweet and lovely and low-key. Instead of going to a yoga class, this year I lingered over breakfast, and stayed home and read Pippi Longstocking to my kids. I walked in the snow. I had lunch with a friend. I shopped for some new clothes (ie. the sweater I’m wearing, above), and managed not to buy anything in black, brown, or grey (almost — there was a little black dress on sale for $11 that I couldn’t resist). I arrived home to discover Kevin baking an angel food cake from scratch — my favourite! The kids sang me happy birthday, I blew out candles, we ate dessert before supper. I drove my daughter to and from swimming.

And then I got dressed up and went out to dinner with Kevin and we splashed out on margaritas, and savoured the loveliness of being right here, right now.

Hello, new year.

A taste of the holidays

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does it ruin the scene to know that this cookie recipe came from the back of a Chipits bag?

My nap-dream this morning: I found a beautiful overnight bag in a child’s closet. It had so many zippered pockets, and every pocket that I opened was full of small items we’d lost over the years. I didn’t want to wake up. It was so satisfying to keep unzipping pockets, reaching in and finding small lost treasures.

In other news, AppleApple has lost her third pair of swim goggles since September.

In other other news, Kevin brushed her hair out this weekend.
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It hadn’t been brushed for ages and was looking a wee bit knotted. Turned out the volume and curls and length had been hiding the severity of the situation. It took Kevin two rounds, adding up to about two hours of careful combing.

*

I feel wrong posting about cheerful everyday things. I just need to confess that.

I am heartened by the news that share prices for gun manufacturers have dropped steeply, and that investors, individual and collective, are investigating what they’ve been supporting, perhaps without the conscious knowledge that they were. We should all do that, you know.

*

Today is the last day to order The Juliet Stories online and receive it before Christmas. But local bookstores, like Waterloo’s own Words Worth, will be open all weekend and on Christmas eve. If you’re in the neighbourhood and want me to sign a copy especially for somebody, give me a shout. Happy to.

*

The house is quiet. Yesterday we had the first taste of Christmas holidays, with the teachers’ one-day-protest keeping the kids home from school. We took in a few extra kids too. Lots of cookies got baked and decorated and eaten. I put the hammer down: no ‘lectronics, period. And look what happened:

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little boys watching big boys play Risk (photo better seen in full on Flickr: just click)

Of course, the house was also rendered a complete disaster zone, the full extent of which was only discovered when I was about to put the kids to bed last night. “I know why you won’t have time to read to us,” said CJ. “Because there are toys all over my bed!” Note to self: organize group cleanup effort before sending friends home. There were bowls of water of one room. Bowls of water, spilling everywhere! This is where creative children will lead you. And I embrace it, if not quite so whole-heartedly at bedtime.

Kevin worked from home yesterday, to help out, but even so, I only managed an hour and a half in front of the computer. But with Scrivener, that hour and a half got used very productively. Why? Because I could pull out an individual scene and work on it. Then I could cross-reference it with another, with ease. I worked on five scenes and finished one. It helps that I have a complete draft in place–not sure how it would feel to start from nothing with this program. Thus endeth today’s Scrivener report.

*

Reflecting on my grouchy mood by day’s end yesterday, must find strategies, over the real holidays, to counteract and mitigate. Here are some initial thoughts on the subject: a) find alone time, b) exercise and get outside, and c) can’t think of a c right now. Listen to beautiful music? Play the piano? Relax with the doggies and Kevin in front of the TV? Bake sticky buns? Hot yoga? Read books?

I found it hard to put CJ on the bus this morning. I was struck with sudden terror as he walked up those steps, his little backpack on his back. But then I made myself step away from the fear.

Love, keep pouring out.

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