I’ve given in to the general desire to do next to nothing. Everyone’s happy. Let boredom reign.
Last week, I enjoyed mornings on my own in a quiet house. It couldn’t last. The big kids were at overnight camp and the little kids were at a dance camp, and I knew it would be the only week in July that would provide me with that kind of alone time. I enjoyed having time to blog regularly and to think and plan out loud.
Alone time is a luxury to which I’ve grown accustomed, thanks to the coming-together of a variety of factors: kids in full-time school and part-time nursery school; babysitting; grant money.
Some of which evaporate during the summer months.
So, I could tear my hair out with frustration (and I may), or I could embrace the off-time as best as possible, and go with the flow. I’m trying to do the latter. It is Tuesday of the first week that I’m trying to do this. Let’s say it’s going well, but I haven’t really been tested.
Yesterday, with three out of four children around all day (AppleApple is going to a horse day-camp this week), we ran some fairly leisurely errands: library, grocery store, dr’s appointment. CJ rode his balance bike around town; Fooey begged to ride in the stroller (mostly, I made her walk); Albus was surprisingly compliant in our company. I didn’t have the energy to make supper before heading out for my swim lessons, so I whipped up a fresh tomato/zucchini/cilantro/onion/lemon salad, and left Kevin with instructions to top pitas with the salad and some cheese, grill them, and call it “pizza.” I think it worked. Hurray for fresh, simple summer suppers.
I’m tending to exercise more in the evening than the early morning. Early mornings work when there is time to nap, and there isn’t; I don’t want to be zombie-like with everyone around.
This morning, we are having difficulty reaching consensus. I would like to go swimming. Albus agrees. Fooey and CJ are resistant to the idea. CJ is developing a quick temper that he applies as leverage. Fooey has a lot of rules and regulations, of her own devising, to which she expects everyone to adhere. Albus tends toward severe boredom when left to his own devices. And I miss my alone time.
These activities have made the short-list for today: swimming; back yard splashing; gardening; walking uptown to buy seeds, sticker books, and to visit the pharmacy for advice on what appears to be seasonal allergies (Albus); having a friend over (Albus); clearing out the playroom/office to paint it (probably too massive a project to survive the fantasy stage); cutting CJ’s hair (couldn’t bring myself to do so yesterday); cleaning out drawers and cupboards and hidden areas of the house that get ignored all year long.
I also have as a goal to preserve a vegetable or fruit every week: we’ll call it Preservation By Theme. Last week the theme was strawberries. This week … well, what’s in season? Suggestions?
This is my girl. This is where she plays, most of the time, and she plays like it’s right where she belongs. I was, frankly, kind of petrified of having my kid play in net, but as the season has progressed, I’ve come to have confidence in her. It makes standing on the sidelines so much easier. She’s not going to be perfect on every play, but she’s going to be tough and engaged and focused. And aggressive. She jumps on the ball, no matter how many feet are coming at her. She’s learning how to kick it out solidly (practice with her goalie uncle on Canada Day weekend helped).
Today, her team made it to the semi-finals of a tournament. They played against the other Waterloo team in a match that was equal and well-fought. It went to penalty kicks. This is her, right before she stopped the first kick. I stood behind the camera as a way to control my emotions: pride, really. It was all pride. But my girl’s team did not win. They ran along the sidelines at the end, for the ritual high-fives from all the parents, looking heart-broken. My girl was at the front, positively bereft.
But she’s recovering. Heart-broken is good, in a way. It means she cares a lot about how she plays, and wants to play better. It’s good if it doesn’t defeat a person. And I don’t think it’s going to defeat her. I tell you what makes me most proud: it’s seeing her play her heart out, no matter the final tally. It’s seeing her work hard and never give up. That’s the best gift a parent could ask for. So, so proud, that was all I could tell her when it was over.
My girl takes after me. I like to write my ideas down. I have to write my ideas down, more precisely. It’s my version of “thinking out loud,” and I recommend it to my older children when they are having trouble with anything: mean siblings, unfair situations, anger management, you name it.
Yesterday, I took my own advice. The big kids are at overnight camp, and the little kids are at a dance camp during the mornings, just for this week; and I have no projects on the go. I’ve completed the triathlon, and the related Chatelaine.com blog. I am waiting for line edits on The Juliet Stories. I seem unwilling to commit to a new character and a new story, just yet. I am at the crux of something. Restless. Curious. So I spent the morning talking to myself in terrible printing (barely legible, even to me) inside the pages of a handy notebook.
Did anything come of it? But of course! If not exactly peace of mind, then peace of purpose.
My mother has a phrase she uses often: She likes to “stay open to the possibilities.” And while there’s plenty to recommend the idea, I’ve decided that rather than staying open to the possibilities, I prefer to pursue, invite, and seek out possibilities–and when the time is right, to choose and to commit, which is kind of the opposite of staying open to more and more and more. Commitment means closing off possibilities–at least, some of them. But it also means believing in the possibilities before you and available to you, and not forever hoping that something better may be waiting around the corner. It’s kind of like getting married. When I commit, I like to get it right. That comes with a certain amount (okay, a giant unreasonable amount) of agonizing and analyzing.
But I’m seeing that commitment can be lighter than that, too. I have before me a flexible year. Certain elements are inflexible: my youngest is still a preschooler for whom I am the primary caregiver. But depending on my income generation, there are childcare options to supplement my responsibilities. And I am at home. I can juggle. I’m not tied to the structured hours of a 9-5 job.
One thing became very clear during yesterday’s brainstorming: I am finding more satisfaction from expanding my working life–my public life, essentially. To connect, to be engaged with the world–it’s what I want.
Something clear to me at this exact moment, as my littlest leans his face onto my leg and says, “I’m bored!” is that I’m not a great mother when I’m typing on the computer or trying to think. The balance … is so imperfect.
… of school, of course!
This is the latest that I remember the kids having to go: right until the last day of June. No wonder AppleApple threw her backpack aside and her arms in the air with a whoop of joy!
We said goodbye. Fooey has had the same teacher for her two kindergarten years, and what a loving and caring teacher she has been for my girl, watching her grow and nurturing her all the way along. “She’s half mine, you know,” her teacher said to me, as we said goodbye. AppleApple has also had the same teacher for two years. She wondered, a little bit teary-eyed: “Why is it so much harder saying goodbye to a wonderful teacher after two years than after just one?”
Well, then. Let’s get this summer started. As Albus would say (in truly the sweetest way possible, every morning to me): “Smell ya later, school!”
Yesterday, I got a taste of summer. A whiff. A tingle of this is summer. (See above).
Today, I am getting prepared. There are four more days of school, and then we shall hurtle headlong into the beach, overnight camp, strawberry picking, food preservation, swimming, and a multitude of mini-adventures … such is the hope.
So, I started today in the kitchen (can I return happily to the kitchen after losing all interest this past month? Well, I can try). I baked a batch of bread; didn’t take long, actually. I did dishes. The living-room is moderately tidy. Piles of papers have been sorted and recycled (more remain; and more are on their way home from school, no doubt).
AppleApple helped me make a giant (messy) poster of ideas for summer activities: our categories are Plans (dates for things we’ve already signed up for); Away (ie. zoo, beach, Children’s Museum); and At Home (ie. canning and freezing, making magazines/comics, playing with friends).
Kevin is in the middle of painting us a chalkboard wall: for messages, reminders, planning, and scribbles. Photos to come. (Inspired by this friend).
I am defrosting the freezers. One down, two to go.
And the kids have spent hours together in the backyard, even though it isn’t particularly warm or sunny out. The sidewalk is being chalked. A rung on the climber has been broken. The potatoes are thriving. Wouldn’t it be great to have a treehouse? A trampoline? Another tier of garden beds? Chickens? A dog? I’m looking around and seeing lots of potential.