Category: Kids

Grateful for choices

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Went to hot yoga yesterday, the first time in months. The focus for the class was “gratitude.” Just what I needed! Talking with a friend yesterday afternoon had already got me thinking about the unhappiness that’s caused by comparing oneself to others (see the lovely Soule Mama). Caught up in wishing I had sheep and five homeschooled children and cupboards of freshly preserved home-grown goodness, I completely ignore and minimize all the goodness in my own life, right here and now.

Comparing lives is foolish, and possibly even worse than that — insidious. Now, that isn’t to say that inspiration can’t be found from investigating with interest the choices other people make. I wonder what the distinction is between comparison and inspiration. Is it my own frame of mind?

Here’s a good reminder as I go about my every day activities: I’m doing things that I’ve chosen to do, that I enjoy doing (mostly), and that, by necessity, cancel out my ability to do other things. There is only so much time and energy in one life (or in one family’s life).

Here are a few choices we’ve made:

We live in the city, a very short walk to the uptown core (because I also dislike driving and relying on cars). Therefore, we don’t live in the country on many rolling acres with paddocks and fields and a truck patch and barn. Nevertheless, we enjoy a lively herb garden, and lots of fresh tomatoes from our patches around the yards, front and back.

I write, and I need quiet time on my own to do it. Therefore, we’ve chosen not to homeschool our children, the responsibility for which would fall on me. Nevertheless, the kids have lots of freedom in the summertime, and also pursue extra-curricular activities they enjoy.

I love exercising: swimming, training to run long distance, taking early morning classes with friends. Therefore, most of my free time, which could otherwise be spent baking muffins before breakfast or canning food or tending a garden, is allotted to exercise instead. Nevertheless, I bake bread fairly often and cook locally sourced meals from scratch.

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A few random footnotes.

Here’s a very funny essay by writer Lauren B. Davis: 10 questions never to ask a writer. I especially liked number 1. Sigh.

As I’ve hinted, I’ve been writing. In fact, I’ve been writing pretty steadily. But I think it’s pre-writing, telling the basic story to myself in order to understand my characters more deeply, so that I can distill their lives into something more meaningful. As with The Juliet Stories, I wrote many early layers of politics, of explication, of developing characters and relationships and plot that did not make it into the book itself. This is necessary writing, but it isn’t the most satisfying. Every time you sit down to write, you want to believe you’re landing on the perfect shape and form. Instantly. But that’s rare, if not impossible. A deep rich work requires deep rich work. The book that deserves to be read will come out of the disheartening and ultimately invisible work underpinning it. I write in hope!

One more tiny thing. If you’re so inclined, CBC Books is inviting readers to nominate books they’d like to see on The Giller Prize list. Here’s an entry from someone who nominated The Juliet Stories. Want to join in?

Camp kids

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saying goodbye to his little brother

Overnight camp was not a huge part of my childhood. But I did work at a wild and beautiful camp the summer I was sixteen (I was the pony girl). And I remember well the feeling of waking early, eating communally, singing around a campfire, and being someplace where the only thing on the agenda, really, is to have fun. To be outdoors as much as possible, and to play.

This week, my biggest kids are away at camp. No ponies at this one, but lots of friends, and already a few years of happy history behind them: this will be their third summer. They know what to expect, and they were looking forward to it when they left yesterday. I could detect not a whiff of anxiety in their goodbye demeanour.

And actually, I feel pretty okay too.

I’ve found babysitting for the week, so I can keep plugging away. Our schedule will be a little lighter without the extra soccer practices to go to. And the two little kids can soak up some time and attention.

Meantime, I’m glad the two big kids get the chance to experience a bit of independence, a bit of freedom, and the beauty of what feels like wilderness (even though, in reality, it’s only a few minutes from the nearest town).

The week will go fast. I’m looking forward to hearing the stories and the songs. To seeing what changes the week has brought (last year, both seemed taller, and more mature, after just one week.) And to doing piles of laundry.

A happy birthday

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taken last night: still six!

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six, plus dogs

It’s funny, but Kevin and I have both been experiencing similar feelings of vague anxiety since the arrival of the doggies on Monday. It reminded me of something — but what? And then I realized. It reminded me of having a baby, and everything that gets stirred up in the aftermath of the birth.

Excitement is one of the emotions, of course.

But as new parents, each time, we wondered how we would cope, would we know what to do, how would our routines need to change, would we be able to meet everyone’s demands, and how could we return our family’s life to equilibrium? (Patience, patience, patience is the answer, of course.)

Seven years ago today, right about now in fact (around 2pm), I gave birth to our second daughter, and third child. She was born in hospital due to complications (our only child born at the hospital), but the birth was much like my other births: quick, once it got going.

If she’d been a boy, we would have named her Walter.

We stayed long enough to eat a meal in hospital, then drove home. All of four blocks. Four blocks of me panicking in the backseat beside my precious brand-new baby girl who looked entirely too small to be strapped into a carseat. We hadn’t had to make that hospital-to-home trip before.

The recovery was relatively easy, in retrospect, without medical complications. She was an easy baby; our easiest, it must be said. Loved to eat. Slept well. Unfussy. Happy in her sling. Big toothless grins, and a beautiful bald head. I remember taking the three kids grocery shopping when she would have been no more than a week and a half old. In other words, we coped. We did just fine. And soon, we were well on our way to being comfortable as a family of five.

But there’s no doubt that Kevin and I both felt overwhelmed in the days following her birth.

And I’m feeling that — in much smaller doses — with the arrival of our two dogs. How will this change our routines? Will they fit in? What are their quirks and unexpected behaviors? How do we all fit together?

As I type, both are napping in my office, looking about as content as a pair of dogs could look. I went for a swim this morning, and was surprised by how happy I was to see them when I got home. (They were happy to see me too, and nothing beats being greeted by living creatures thrilled to mark one’s arrival.)

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now she is seven

Today is a birthday, a special day for our family, and especially for one little (big) newly seven-year-old girl. She started the morning by opening presents. After opening each one, she gave spontaneous heart-felt hugs to her siblings. She requested that her last-night-of-being-six photo include the dogs. She is a loving soul who sometimes gets squeezed by her position in the middle and has to demand attention. We didn’t time the arrival of the dogs to coincide with her birthday, but I think they’re bringing out good things in her: love, and care, and thoughtfulness.

We’re looking forward to a party tonight to celebrate our girl. On the menu (her request): homemade pizzas, and a cake that is being baked and frosted even now with help from a wonderful babysitter.

Kevin and I will figure this out, again. I’m sure.

Happy birthday, Fooster.

Dogs in the house

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Yes, we now have two dogs in the house.

And we watched another heartbreaking soccer game yesterday (see above photo), as the Canadian women lost to the US team following some questionable calls by the ref. It kind of echoed our experiences on Saturday at the tournament. A good ref lets the players play the game. A bad ref gets in the way. We experienced both kinds of refs at the tournament, and I can tell you that losing due to a bad call feels rotten in a way that losing to a better team does not. (I’m not sure whether that applies to winning, however; I suspect winning feels good regardless; you tell yourself your team would have won anyway, and that’s just the way the luck landed.)

In any case … it was a memorable long weekend. Yesterday we got up early (again!) to drive two and a half hours to pick up the girls. We wondered how they’d fit in the truck, but it turns out that they love driving, and found places on laps, or in Suzi’s case standing balanced on the armrest between me and Kevin–like a little doggy surfer.

We’re in a period of adjustment, of course, and we’re learning about their quirks and habits and triggers and behavior, and they’re learning about us too.

They seem to like my office. Both are in here with me now, napping.

One small thing: I’d reconciled myself to the dog hair. But I’d forgotten about the dog smell. Dog owners out there, can you tell me, are there ways to minimize the smell? I kissed my little boy last night and all I could smell was dog. AppleApple told me we’d just get used to it, and not notice it after awhile, and that may in fact be what happens. But I was born with a sensitive nose, and smells do bother me. Here’s hoping I adjust!

Yes I am a soccer mom

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Sometimes I find it hard to watch.

Sometimes I wonder whether I’ll survive the emotions. I can’t explain rationally why I care so much–not whether she wins or loses, but whether she’s out there believing in herself and playing with confidence.

Sometimes I wonder whether it’s helping her in the least to have a pacing anxious mother on the sidelines. After a really tough loss on Saturday afternoon, I went to visit her under the tent where she and her teammates were resting and waiting for another game. She looked despondent. I tried to think of the right things to say: praise, mostly, for another game well-played regardless of outcome. I couldn’t tell whether it helped. Kevin took a turn too, and then I went back again just to hang out, appreciating how the coaches were keeping the atmosphere light, and glad to see that a Freezie had put some colour back in her cheeks. Both Kevin and I know we can’t force our kids to believe in themselves; all we can do is believe in them and let them know that we do. I’ll admit it: I was worried to see her so down.

“Did it help when Daddy and I came over to talk to you yesterday?” I asked her when we were talking after the tournament was over. We were talking about winning and losing and playing with consistency no matter what’s going on around us. I was wondering how to help her cope with the ups and downs that are part of competitive sport.

A warm, appreciative smile, a simple: “Yes.”

(My silent response: relief that our offerings of help are welcome; hard to tell in the moment.)

What amazed me and made me most proud was that by the time her team went onto the field for their next game, Saturday evening, she was ready. She played a big game, making aggressive saves that were audacious and, frankly, heart-stopping. She drew the impressed notice of other coaches. Her team dug out a win.

This season, in these tournaments, she’s been fighting nerves before games. Butterflies. Feeling sick. But as soon as she takes her place on the field, you’d never guess it. She throws herself in time after time. She looks like she loves what she’s doing.

The least I can do is watch.

On the sidelines

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for full view of misery, click on photo

So far, our long weekend has had its share of ups and downs: emotional highs, boredom, excitement, complaints, getting along, and, perhaps just as often, not so much. We’ve been at AppleApple’s third tournament of the summer, and the first for which we brought the whole family along. It’s tough on her siblings, and Kevin and I get it. Being dragged along to an event that is not your own. Sitting on the sidelines watching game after game. Waiting in between games.

Everyone also stayed up late in the hotel last night, and had to be woken before they were ready this morning.

Yesterday was also maybe the hottest, most humid, least windy, sunniest days of the year. This morning, for variety, it poured rain.

Hence the accuracy of the grumpy face above.

But that said, we also had a lot of fun. Swimming, a little holiday away, a kids-eat-free breakfast buffet, our first experience of shopping at a pet store for supplies (!!), not to mention some really inspired soccer playing. More on that soon.