I’ve been quiet here. Blame summer. Our days are feeling lazy and hazy and kind of effortless, even though it’s also busy. Swim lessons have occupied our mornings for these past two weeks. Tomorrow’s the last day, which feels bittersweet. The kids will be happy to be done, but I’ll miss the routine, and the feeling that we’re soaking up summer.
In other news, I almost hesitate to say it, in case it falls through, but we may soon have a real family pet (and not just an ant farm–which the children made yesterday with their very creative babysitter). I won’t say more … yet. But excitement is high, and I include the parents in that too.
On yet another note, one small soccer observation. I’ve figured out that there’s one really simple way to be part of a team: show up. I’ve noticed that as the season has gone on, I’ve gained affection for those teammates who arrive every week, ready to try their hardest, regardless of skill level. That said, I’m hoping to continue to improve my skills, even while I recognize more and more what my weaknesses are (that’s a good thing, right? I mean recognizing weaknesses?). I’m considering looking to play indoor this winter. I hate getting beat up on the field, but I actually love the game itself; so the game is winning out, at least so far. I want to play it, I enjoy playing it, I enjoy talking strategy after the game, and I enjoy visualizing how I can get better at it.
Finally, I participated in a project this week called For the Love of It. I’ll let you know when it’s up, with more behind-the-scenes info then. (I’ve gotten used to being on the other side of the camera/questions, so this felt a little strange.)
And now, I’m off to write — fiction. Which you know I’m doing for the love of it. And that’s a pretty awesome reason to do anything (see all of the above).
This was our project yesterday.
Problem is, he’s very attached to this bike, the balance bike that was supposed to make the transition to big-boy bike painless and training-wheel-free. (I know it’s worked for many others.) So far, it hasn’t worked for us.
Just getting CJ to try his new big-boy bike (yes, it’s a hand-me-down from his sisters) took a lot of creative effort on the part of the other kids. Here was one attempt by Albus: look, how fast you’ll be able to go!
CJ’s response. But we coaxed him on. He’s now working the pedals, but isn’t keen on us letting go. It’s a slow process.
And he loves this old balance bike … Gotta admit, it looks pretty cool.
All week, every day, I’ve gotten to do something seasonal: swim laps in an outdoor pool. Slathered in sunscreen, I’ve slipped into clear chlorinated water, and front-crawled back and forth along the 50m lanes for an hour. Swimming at noonish, I can see my shadow on the shimmering pool bottom, my arms reaching out overhead. The light on the bottom of the pool is beautiful to watch. It almost feels like I could swim forever.
With luck, I’ll get to swim most days for the next two weeks, while all the kids are taking lessons; I’ll be limited to half hour swims, due to scheduling, but half an hour a day is better than not swimming at all. Like Kevin said, lane swimming outdoors feels kind of like eating strawberries and asparagus in season — you have to get it while you can, and get as much as you can.
AppleApple expressed happiness about her relatively unstructured summer. I know there’s debate about sending kids to school year-round, but here in Canada, that makes no sense to me. Summer is barely here before it’s gone. Imagine kids being in school right now — indoors! — while there are raspberries to pick, and outdoor pools to swim in, and long late evenings to stay outside kicking a soccer ball around. For them, and for us, we need to grab what we can of summer, soak it up, go all out.
It’s like storing solar energy — heat for the long dark winter.
this is not a picture of me in my bikini
Agh! I want to blog! But I have about six minutes remaining in my work day. I can’t quite describe how busy it’s been, nor how lovely, too. We’re a week and a half into summer holidays, and we’ve hit a nice groove this week. I’ve got great daytime babysitting arranged. The kids are getting outside often, and doing fun projects with their sitters like cooking and making paper airplanes and blowing bubbles. Today, Albus went swimming in a friend’s backyard. AppleApple’s been going to daily swim lessons at a beautiful outdoor 50m pool, and I’ve gotten to bike her there all week — and then lane swim during her lesson.
Which leads me to the bikini. Today, I went for my lane swim in a new sporty bikini. It’s small. It exposes my mother-of-four stomach. And I love wearing it. Why? It expresses confidence. It’s a semiotic for where I’m at. I exercise regularly, not because I want to look good, but because it makes me feel good. And I do feel good in this body. Wrinkles, stretch marks — yup. Got ’em. Muscles — yup. Got ’em too. So be it. I am thirty-seven years old.
Occasionally, I find myself regretting that I didn’t discover my latent athletic self earlier. But you know, mostly I’m simply grateful to have discovered that part of myself, period. Regret of this sort is foolish. So I didn’t play soccer as a kid. I’m playing it now and learning new skills. So it took me thirty-five years before I learned how to swim. I learned and I love swimming! That’s the point, not that I’ve missed opportunities along the way.
I’ve decided that this is my opportunity to wear a bikini. Never thought it would happen again. Glad the moment has come.
If there’s something you want to do, or wish you’d done years ago, can you do it now? Maybe. Just maybe. Consider it.
still lots of time for play
The house smells wonderful right now, and the cause is not my cooking — it’s AppleApple’s! She is making Italian-style tomato sauce to serve over pasta for supper tonight. Why? I think there are a few factors at play here.
1. I’m giving the kids more room to experiment, and more responsibility with chores around the house. I have a controlling type-A personality. I like my laundry hung just so. I like my cooking done just so. And my kitchen has been my kitchen up til now. You know what I mean. But the kids are getting plenty old enough to learn how to cook for themselves, and care for themselves. I need to let them do that.
2. The kids are at home for the summer. They are on hand. They are looking for things to do. And when they’re asking can I make lunch? I’m saying, yes, please go ahead. Yesterday, Fooey made mini-pizzas for everyone. She looked up a recipe, she grated cheese, sliced tomatoes and green peppers, she worked super-hard, and the only part I had to do was supervise the oven. AppleApple is a few years older and knows how to use the gas stove. She’s being supervised, at some distance, by today’s babysitter. And by my nose.
3. I’m in my office not having to see what’s going on, and therefore not getting fussed about the potential mess. I’m prioritizing career work over domestic work. I’m seeing that the kids can genuinely help out — and they’re seeing that too. I’m starting to believe that a household shouldn’t be one person’s responsibility, but the entire family’s. Yes, someone needs to be organizing everyone to make sure everything’s getting done that needs doing. But everyone is capable of pitching in and keeping the enterprise going. It’s not always my job. In fact, we’re all going to learn from letting each other help out.
4. I’m prioritizing working together. I’ve started to see our family differently since I added earning money to my priority list. Before, it was nice to earn a bit extra; now, as we’ve started budgeting more consciously, we realize that to do everything we want to do, our family actually needs that extra. That is a relatively recent development — really just a few months old. It’s shifting the way I see our household working, and the way I view domestic labour. Domestic labour is every bit as important and valuable as paid employment, but that doesn’t mean only one of us has to do it. We’re not boxed into either/or categories.
5. Further to that thought: I’m coming around to the (perhaps painfully obvious) belief that parents aren’t supposed to be slaves or servants. It’s not good for the parents, and it’s not good for the kids either. Obviously, very young children can’t be expected to do major chores, but children the ages of mine are capable of being genuinely helpful. They need to know that too! They need to know they can contribute to the family’s welfare and sustainability. Their work and effort and ideas are valued too. We’re in this together. Chores aren’t really fun. But when we’re all working together, there are excellent and immediate rewards — more time to spend doing something fun together (for us, this summer, that’s watching a few episodes of Modern Family before bed). It also teaches the kids the value of time — their time, and ours. And they’re gaining a more sophisticated understanding of household economics.
There’s a p.s. to this post.
That wonderful smell in the house? About mid-way through writing this, I realized it had gone from wonderful to slightly burnt. Sure enough, when I checked, some of the sauce had started sticking to the bottom of the pot. She was following the recipe to the word, but was using a timer rather than checking to see how things were progressing. Live and learn, we agreed, and were happy to see that the rest of the sauce was still salvageable. And next time, she’ll know to peek and stir more frequently! I’d put this experiment in the win column. (I’d probably have put it in the win column even if the sauce had been inedible, frankly. Because it’s only by experience that we learn how to do things independently.)
We’re dogsitting for my brother and sister-in-law’s sweet old fella. I’m not sure how we’ll ever hope to find a dog as easy-going as Winston, but he’s been an effortless addition to the household. Likes an easy ten-minute walk morning and night. Enjoys exploring and sleeping in the backyard. Slept in our room last night and got up to check on things whenever a kid went to the bathroom. I liked that. It felt kind of comforting.
Plus the kids love him. There’s something about having an animal around that brings out good things in people. But if we do get a dog it’s going to be a spur of the moment decision, I suspect, because there’s no rationalizing adding to the household workload, expenses, or complications. Like I said to Kevin, it’s a bit like deciding to have another baby — it’s never a choice that works on a rational, this-will-fit-with-our-lives way. You have another baby despite knowing it will cause disruption to your current situation.
In other news, we started the kids on chores this weekend. Everyone has been assigned different jobs (laundry, front hall tidying, dish-putting-away, toy-picking-up), and it’s not for payment, it’s for being helpful. So far, so good; but it’s early going. But I will say that the kids seem pretty happy about having new responsibilities. And I’m happy because yesterday morning, instead of cleaning the house, I worked on a story while the kids picked up and vacuumed (with help from Kevin).