Yesterday, my baby girl turned six.
She decided not to have breakfast in bed. But we did follow the tradition of opening presents pretty much immediately upon waking.
Birthday cake, as decorated by a six-year-old and a three-year-old. Rules of hygiene not exactly rigidly adhered-to.
At her friend party. This is cake number two (cake number one was eaten the night before, at a small family party).
Six is the age at which we let the kids start having friend parties to celebrate their birthdays. Fooey sent out invitations way back in June, because she wanted to invite friends from her class at school, some of whom our family doesn’t know. Who would show up was kind of a mystery. In the end, six girls came. It was fun, and it felt easy: craft, outdoor play, a pretend treasure hunt for the supposedly missing cake, the opening of cards, and jumping through the sprinkler. All planned by the birthday girl herself.
For supper, not pictured here, the kids and I went out for all-you-can-eat sushi, also planned by Fooey. She didn’t care that her dad couldn’t come along (he had a soccer game over the supper hour): the meal had to happen on her birthday. And I’ll tell you, it was crazy fun. Yes, I spent a fair bit of time accompanying smaller children to the bathroom, but otherwise, I felt like I was out for dinner with four really entertaining personalities. We ordered surprises off the menu like “banana” (which turned out to be battered banana fried and served with chocolate sauce) and “golden bag” (which was not the hoped-for dessert item the orderer had guessed it to be; she ate it anyway). And I let them eat as many bowls of ice cream as they wanted.
There are times, it must be said, when being the mother of a pile of kids is just plain fun.
Happy birthday, my little Foo.
This was an all-family project. At the start of the summer, we talked about getting a trampoline for the back yard. The kids seem to keep growing. And the old swing set looks kind of destructible with several ten-year-old boys playing on it. But trampolines are expensive. So, we started saving for it. In the end, the kids emptied their piggy banks (literally), we wrapped coins (a project still underway), used the money from the long-ago “reward jar,” found a whack of Canadian Tire money, and, after a lot of online research, chose a trampoline. It’s supposed to be the safest one around. Fingers and toes are crossed.
The trampoline came home from the store in three boxes. Putting it together was a two woman/man job requiring a lot of physical strength, and some smarts, too. Albus and AppleApple were both very helpful with the smarts.
We were hosting a double sleepover yesterday evening, so we had some extra help. After many hours of labour, the whole thing was finally built before it got dark.
The boys thought it would be funny to show this.
Followed by this. (I hope the trampoline doesn’t laugh last.)
We do have rules. Our rules are: no shoes, zipper closed, and only two kids at a time (kids of similar weight).
Oh, and it’s not just for kids.
My editor has returned my book, with the line edits. The treatment is fairly light, except for two stories, one brand-new, which is admittedly underwritten, and the other, which has been a nemesis for years now; both need more work, and quiet thought. Every time I look at her message, a faint wave of fear washes over me. Because it’s summertime. Because my babysitter has extended her stay in Germany through mid-August. Because I may need to spend our week of family holiday, when Kevin has time off, holed up and working, rather than hanging out with my family. There may be — must be — alternatives, but my brain has yet to plot these out. Basically, I need to schedule time away from the children. Quite a lot of time.
July is coming to a close. In my mind, August magically turns into a month of productivity. But what are the children doing, exactly, while I’m confined at my desk, deep in concentration? Imagine us stepping into a parallel universe, one I believed existed pre-motherhood. The children play quietly at my feet; the older ones fetch snacks for the younger ones; no one poops; no one makes up songs with lyrics offensive to anyone else, and sure to draw ire; birds chirp and soft breezes soothe through open windows; words flow from my fingertips; we all wear crisply ironed linens — why not?; their hair is brushed and their nails are clipped and supper will be a picnic already prepared and waiting for us in a basket. As soon as I’ve solved this tricky handling of plot and character — no, it won’t take long — we will dance merrily outside to the bug-free, itch-free grass to eat it.
Alternatively, I need to find some childcare options, and mark out on the calendar a bank of whole days and weeks, and get this done. Yikes. Here comes August.
This past week’s lack of posts does not indicate a lack of activity, but the opposite: too much on the go, and no time to sit and create captions for photos. Or, in many cases, even to take photos.
So, here, instead, are sketches of all the blogs I meant to write.
The children migrating to the basement blog
This week it got hot. We chose not to run our air conditioning, which requires shutting up the house. Instead, we toughed it out (still toughing it out, in fact; still hot). On the hottest day (37 degrees C), which was Thursday, it was also oppressively humid. That night, the kids slept in the basement. They’d been migrating there all week anyway, seeking the coolest space in the house. One morning, before swim lessons, they made a band (Fooey, who is really and truly a loud child, did an excellent impression of a punk rock singer; the song went “Ya, ya, ya, I love penguins …”). And I thought to myself: man, I love these kids. (Tiny related observation that could have been its own blog: how awesome to have older kids organizing the younger ones into activities like making a band and putting on plays, which they also did this week; I spent a lot of time on musical marches around the house and homemade plays when the older kids were little; how awesome to see that investment paying off).
The choosing the activities I really like to do blog
(No, the photo is not related.) For two weeks, we’re doing a summer activity I really look forward to: every morning, we bike to an outdoor pool a couple of kms away, the kids have swim lessons, and due to fortuitous scheduling I get a half-hour lane swim, too. Then we shower, snack, and bike home again. Sometimes we stop along the way at the library or grocery store. It’s been hot. I realize this activity, with four children in tow, might sound positively torturous to some; but I really love it. The rhythm is relaxed. We’re getting good exercise together. It’s a mini-adventure, but its daily repetition requires of me little thought or extra planning.
The day of crazy chapters blog
Some days are mere phrases, a sentence at most; some have chapters. Friday had chapters. Chapter one was not good: worn out from a week with the children, breakfast damn near did me in. The complaints. The whining. The stream of criticism. I’m talking about you, offspring. Nevertheless, I chose not to quit my job (ie. of mother). Chapter two: We biked to the pool. We swam. We snacked. We biked home. We lunched. Chapter three: I gathered props and drove to a photo shoot (Kev spelled me off). Yes, you read that right. A photo shoot. I’ll explain later. Chapter four: Home again to pick up local food order from Bailey’s, with three-year-old in tow. Unpacked food. Made supper. Welcomed babysitter. Added necklace to my outfit. Chapter five: Drove away with Kevin to Hillside Festival. Just the two of us. Blissful outdoor evening of dancing, eating delicious food without interruption, drinking beer, washed in music.
The comparison between evenings blog
A little too blissful: Friday evening. Because Saturday, oh Saturday … soccer game in Orangeville, driving in the heat, sitting on the sidelines in the heat, wrangling offspring in the heat, endless trips to porta-potties, ditches, community centre bathrooms in the heat … and then, finally, supper, back home, prepared with care: freshly made gazpacho, steak sandwiches, grilled zucchini and cauliflower, completely rejected by two out of four children. More whining: “I want pearsauce! I want pearsauce! I want pearsauce!” More demands: “Why aren’t you getting my water that I asked for when I asked for it!” More dirty dishes. Kevin and I looking at each other across the table, wishing we were back at Hillside. Just the two of us.
The Mary Oliver blog
All week I’ve been reading a collection of essays, prose poems, and poems by Mary Oliver, called Winter Hours. Enticing title in this heat. There’s a longer blog here on the subject of poetry — writing it and reading it — but I haven’t got the mental space to pull it all together. This is a book I will read again. Every evening, before sleep, it’s been like cool water pouring over me. There is a chapter on her poem The Swan in which she effortlessly tells me everything I’d need to know to write and read poetry with more depth and insight. Count me a convert.
Yesterday: five boys in the back yard, already semi-bored from summer holidaying, looking for fun, finding it spontaneously. Four ten-year-olds welcoming the three-year-old into the group. After the splashing and the snacking, they retreat to the basement. The three-year-old emerges, flushed and sweaty, requesting his shirt off, and races back down again, shouting, “I’m a bad guy now, too!” “Um, what are you doing down there?” “Playing a battling game.” “Okaaaaay …” (As long as no one gets hurt.) (No one gets hurt.) From basement battling to board game in the living-room: Mama eavesdropping on the goofy, happy conversation. Finally, Mama needs to leave to pick up the girls, one at a play date and the other at horse camp. “We can stay home alone.” “Yah, I’ve stayed home alone a lot.” “Me, too.” “It’s okay.” “Right, well. No. Not gonna happen. You’ll have to find another plan.” So, five boys walk down the sidewalk and around the corner — even the three-year-old, who refuses to be left behind — to someone else’s house, to keep on playing. (Mama retrieves the pleased-as-punch three-year-old once they’ve reached their destination; and drives off to horse camp thinking of boys at a not-quite-in-between-age in damp swim suits on a front porch, playing Apples to Apples; and one of those boys is hers).
There was only one prince at the princess-themed dance camp. “Well, you did sign him up for a girls’ camp,” said Kevin, to which I took great offense–boys can dance, don’t stereotype by sex, all the rest of it, as if I hadn’t signed him up purely because it was a camp that his sister would agree to go to AND that would accept three-year-olds (ie. a total marriage of convenience). Then I went to the recital. And I thought to myself: alright, I’ll admit it, I signed him up for a girls’ camp. He wore an expression on his face, throughout, of toleration. As in: I’m showing up, I’m wearing the knight outfit and carrying a sword, and I’ll bow when you make me, but we must never speak of this princess crown again. Whereas his sister looked blissfully happy.