taken last night: still six!
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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.
1. Staying up late. Sleeping in.
Yes, I still get up early two mornings a week to exercise, but early morning exercise isn’t so critical during the summer — I’ve got lots of other opportunities. So on all the other days of the week I sleep in, often until 8! The kids sleep in too. And we’re all up much later than during the school year, out at soccer fields, or just playing in the back yard until it’s dark. And we’ve been letting the kids stay up even later to watch Olympic coverage on TV.
Which I’ve already rhapsodized enough about, but hey. I didn’t skip out on my writing time today, but today has been the exception. Around 11am, you can find me at the pool, swimming lengths, most weekdays so far this summer.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this last luxury. On Monday evenings, Kevin plays soccer and AppleApple has a practice, so I’ve been taking all of the kids to practice, along with snacks and water and a bag of soccer balls, and we’ve been playing on the empty field nearby. Often, I’m practicing skills to try to improve my own soccer game, and the kids are kicking balls at me, or we’re all running up the field doing passes, taking shots on net, pretending to let CJ score on us or save our shots, or whatever we’ve decided to do. Whatever develops.
I’ve noticed that while fathers can often be seen playing with their kids — kicking a ball, coaching, running around, winding up to take shots on net — I rarely see other mothers doing this. I might almost say I’ve never seen another mother doing this. I’ve seen the occasional mother coaching her kid’s soccer team. But I’ve never seen another mother playing pickup soccer with her kids — running hard, getting sweaty, shouting, playing.
Is this your experience too? I’ll admit I do feel self-conscious being the only mom (and often the only parent, period) running around. (My purple soccer cleats make me twice as geeky).
I wonder why I don’t see groups of young women gathering at the park to play pickup soccer. I see lots of groups of young men — probably university students — gathering, and, yes, there is often a young woman or two in their midst; but I’ve never seen a group of young women gather spontaneously like that. I see women in the park doing boot camp together. I also meet friends to go to exercise classes together. But let’s face it, that’s not really playing.
Here’s what I’ve been wondering: Is it taboo to play, as a grown woman?
Honestly, I don’t care if it is because I’ll tell you this — it’s fun. It’s so fun.
Well, what do you think of these girls?
We think they’re awfully sweet, and can imagine them fitting right in with our crew. They’re not ours yet, as there is still an adoption process to go through, and after that a trial period, but we’re hoping to have them here within the next week (or so).
AppleApple was particularly crushed that we couldn’t keep them after their visit yesterday, but they need to be vetted, and we really weren’t entirely prepared. In fact, Kevin is working right now to fix our gates, which have fairly wide openings underneath. The girls have an adventuring streak and they’re really quick tiny.
DJ is a spaniel cross, and Suzi appears to be part Jack Russell terrier and part chihuahua (those ears!). They’re middle-aged, and have been together for a long time, which is why they’re being adopted together. Old friends.
Our other weekend activity is WATCHING THE OLYMPICS! Anyone else out there insatiable Olympics fans? We are! Also enjoyable is hearing the kids imagine which Olympic events they’d like to compete in. Fooey and CJ are keen on gymnastics (although Fooey wasn’t sure she’d like doing it in front of so many people; “I’ll just cheer you on, Mama!”). AppleApple, of course, is planning to play for Canada’s women’s soccer team. (Albus appears not to harbour Olympic ambitions.)
I especially enjoyed seeing the Canadian women’s soccer team in action yesterday against South Africa. Somehow, I was able to write at the same time (whether or not it’s my best work is, however, debatable.) This evening, I’m playing a soccer game, and I found myself irresistably drawn to the commentating voice. “The Kickers are going in as the underdogs in this match and unfortunately they’ll be missing their strongest player today, but if the team can keep their focus and hold it together, they might just hang on and keep their position in the standings.” (Which is, um, last, so that shouldn’t prove too trying a task).
Kevin coached Albus’s team to a fifth place finish (of twelve teams) in their tournament this weekend. This was unexpected given that the team had only won twice all season. They were a bunch of average-skilled kids, with a few who hadn’t played before, and they were hampered by team members who failed to show up all season too, and often had to play games with no subs. (Sometimes, in house league, I suspect parents sign their kids up, but the kids themselves aren’t that interested.) The good news is that the core group really learned how to work as a team. We were very proud of their effort and finish at the end.