Category: Kids

Not Here

Wish I were sleeping like that right now …

Sunday. I don’t get on the computer with the new Sunday day of rest plan. Or not quite so much. In any case, certainly not enough to blog. Yesterday, we went to my mom’s church and I groused about being stuck in the nursery the entire time, though at least the service is piped in and CJ gets a kick out of the toys. That sums up my church-going experience for the past nine years. Everyone is very friendly and child-positive at the church, but, really, do you want your kids screaming at each other in the pew over a bag of crayons?

I also read at Word on the Street, and that was lovely. We didn’t get home till about 3:30. Then it was time to do homework with Albus in the office. Give him a piece of gum, and he’s good for an hour of hard work. I’ve been impressed by his dedication. It helped to offer computer time on the far end of the study session. Yesterday morning, he declared that this was “the worst day ever!” (He was especially peeved about having to go to my stupid “art” thing; though once there he was easily won over by all the free swag and treats). By yesterday evening, we heard him proclaiming it “the best day ever!” No kidding. Free candy, gum for study time, and computer play. We even practiced piano together. (Okay, that was fun for me, anyway).

Fooey cooked supper with Kevin, and she really stuck it out over the long haul. She chose from a Mexican cookbook, and the menu was completely her own. We dined on: roasted corn soup (with onions and red peppers, pureed); corn on the cob; potato/lima bean/cheese patties fried in oil (YUM!); lettuce salad with tropical fruit and lemon dressing; and for dessert, orange slices with cinnamon and chocolate sprinkles, and hot chocolate made with real chocolate. Not cooking on Sundays feels like a genuine rest for me.

And going to church changes the shape of the entire day, or perhaps more importantly changes my mental map of the day. It forces me not to plan or do much of anything. And if I were at home all morning, I would find plenty that needs doing and therefore need to do it.

Get Your Hands Dirty


We need some photos up here, a snapshot of our past week, a sampling of all the family activities we’re burning through on a regular basis. Above, what remained after the neighbourhood street party last weekend: face painting and tattoos.

This year, Albus and AppleApple are both continuing with conventional piano lessons (ie. reading music, music theory); but both are also being taught by my brother Karl, who is a professional musician (sample my siblings’ band’s music; they’re called Kidstreet)–Albus is learning guitar, and AppleApple is learning the drums. Karl is teaching them by ear rather than by sight, and Albus has started learning “power chords,” and is playing along with songs, while AppleApple is learning the basic drum riffs (the child is a drum machine; her foot on the bass sounds a thump that would reverberate in a dance club). CJ really really really wanted to play both drums and guitar; above, his big bro is letting him practice strumming.

Oh, and we had friends over for supper the other night, and it ended in a mud bath in the backyard (sorry, parents of friends). Of course, the kids were having the most fun ever, going primal and painting themselves and throwing mud balls. It all ended in the bath, but there were no tears.

The Colour Purple

On the beet theme, for this week’s school lunches I’ve made secret chocolate muffins, which are made with 2 cups of cooked beet puree. That recipe can be found in Simply in Season (as Secret Chocolate Cake).

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I am happy to report that we’ve started “cooking with kids” again: today’s child in charge is Albus, with Kevin in charge of him, and the menu features German fare: spaetzle (a boiled homemade egg noodle), sausage hotpot, with cinnamon apple pancakes for dessert. No beets involved.

Cheering

She started senior kindergarten today. She is returning to the same classroom with the same teacher as last year, and we could not be more thrilled. We walked to school together, just the two of us, and it felt very special. She is filled with pride about being one of the big kids in the class (last year she was one of the little kids; it’s a split class). All three children are in split classes this year, and all of them get to be the big kids in their classrooms, and I’m pleased with the potential for them in that equation: being more experienced, perhaps given more responsibility, and a sense of mentorship. (I don’t know whether that’s pie-in-the-sky fantasizing on my part, but it seems like a possibility).

One new thing for Fooey this year will be riding the bus. She starts that new routine on Monday, and every time a bus goes by our window, she gets very excited: could that be her school bus? The ride will take about six minutes, but will save me approximately forty. I will still pick them all up after school, on foot.

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Speaking of on foot, I must report that my trail run last night was so fun! I did not sign up thinking it would be fun, so it was an unexpected surprise and a gift to feel such joy as I ran along the beautiful trail at twilight feeling confident and strong within my body. As I was falling off to sleep last night, I thought of how much I’ve changed in the past year–and how that has changed how our family operates, too. The change has everything to do with being post-pregnancy-and-infant-parenting. Here I thought it would be a time of mourning, of missing those joys that I experienced so fully and keenly: nursing my babies, pregnancy itself, the lull and focus of caring for small children. And while I may feel a twinge every now and again, what’s come of this after-time has been a bubbling of energy and creativity, with a very strong focus on achieving specific goals. I had no idea this was waiting for me on the other side. I just would never have guessed. It was hard, at first, to claim time for myself again, to stake it out and to remind my family that I could take time away from them to pursue my own interests. But we’ve adjusted. And the changes have been so worthwhile. Kevin spends more time with the children. The children themselves are more independent. I don’t feel guilty, and I don’t sense resentment from my family. We’re all moving into this new phase gently and naturally, staying flexible, tinkering with what’s working and what’s not. And my kids get to cheer on their mom as she runs toward the finish line. (And I get to hear them cheering).

Mama’s Hair Salon

Before and after. I didn’t think she needed a haircut, but she was adamant (everyone else was getting one, you see).
On the other hand, Mama’s hair salon was inspired by these locks, above.After! Now he can see and breathe during swim lessons (that is the hope, anyway.)
No real before/after for AppleApple, because I simply trimmed her ends. And we worked through those dreadlocks that had formed on holiday, due to complete lack of hair-care. This girl is a wild child (for which I love her dearly, though it is my motherly duty to tame her just a wee bit). We were eating out at a restaurant yesterday evening, a stop on the drive home, and in horror Kevin and I watched her devouring clumps of rice with her fingers and sucking soup down the wrong end of the spoon, with hair that suggested we’d captured her in the wild and that our attempts at civilizing her had not been promising.
Before. As if this needs improvement! Yowy.
Well, he can see better after a tiny front trim. But I took one look at those long long long goldilocks curls down his back, and went, nope. Can’t cut those off, can’t even come near them with the scissors.

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Yup, we are home from cottaging. Walked through the door and thought, wow, we should go away more often because this place looks GREAT! Totally forgot we’d gotten the place cleaned during our absence, and that it wasn’t by magic that the counters shone and there were no crumbs anywhere.The holiday lethargy never really abated. Kevin felt it too. We rode right into holiday mode and one outing a day was enough to attempt. Which was awesome.
Coming home means looking around with fresh eyes and making to-do lists and discovering energy anew for new projects and familiar routines. Top to-do list is: things we must do before summer’s out! (One thing I can now cross off: cut the kids’ hair).
Three weeks of summer vacation remain. Three sweet weeks.
One thing on our future hopes and plans list is hiking together, now that everyone can do it independently. (Biking together, with everyone on his or her own bicycle is still a few years away, but we’re looking forward to that, too).
We went for a hike around Jones’ Falls locks, on the Rideau Canal, which is very near where Kevin’s family lives. And now we’re considering hiking the Bruce Trail, bit by bit, as a family activity on weekends.While at the cottage, the kids organized and performed a concert, now a tradition in its third (or even fourth??) year. Each year they’ve become more independent, culminating this year in complete artistic autonomy, no adult input whatsoever.
“My name is Albus, and I am the piano artist. My name is AppleApple and I am the singer. My name is Fooey, and I am the dancer. CJ is a dancer too.”
They opened with a solo by AppleApple, Kevin accompanying on the guitar, of “Whisky in the Jar.” Albus played “Axel F” on the portable piano, plus “Wavin’ Flag” (beautifully sung by AppleApple), plus a too-brief invention to which Fooey danced like a dolphin. Then Fooey danced “freestyle” accompanied by a boomboxing Albus (and the rest of us were invited to sing along with any song we’d like). They finished with “Down by the Bay,” a perennial favourite, calling for audience participation. The photos which included all of them were blurred in one way or another: it’s rare that I can capture all of them holding perfectly still at the same time.I had a moment yesterday, walking with them all, when I felt overwhelmed by fortune: look at these children, aren’t we fortunate? I said to Kevin. I can think of nothing I’ve done to deserve such riches, and appreciation seems the least that I can do in acknowledgment and gratitude. Yes, we are often overwhelmed by things other than fortune, such as noise and chaos and mess and complaints and fighting; but heaven help me if I whine too loudly about those incidentals, and lose sight of the beauty and creative energy that surrounds me RIGHT NOW.

Dial-Up Carrie

Why do I feel so slothful while on holiday? Is slothful even a word? My holiday brain cannot compute. Slowly, surely, holiday drains away my ambitions and intentions. I have to work to remind myself that rolling out of bed in the morning isn’t THAT hard.
Cottaging seems to strip me down to a more basic Carrie, a more primitive version of the 3.5 Carrie I currently enjoy. This is dial-up Carrie. This is Carrie attempting to cook delicious meals for nine on two wonky burners in three cottage pans (why do cottage kitchens supply such an eccentric selection of cookware and devices? and could we please ban the production and sale of all non-stick pots and pans? though I did read somewhere–in a study no doubt commissioned by non-stick purveyors–that Teflon is not absorbed by the human body, but passes right through; phew).
So, what are the subtle and not-so-subtle differences between 3.5 Carrie and the dial-up version? The dial-up version washes dishes, folds laundry, sweeps the crumbs and cleans the bathroom, and tries to get the kids to sleep at a reasonable hour. But the routine is off-kilter. This Carrie also drinks a shandy after lunch and sits in removed fashion reading a book (“Okay, Mommy, are you listening for real now?”).
Having worked so hard to develop 3.5 Carrie, I find it jarring, almost troubling, to revert to this more basic version; she has no interest in taking creative photographs (this will be a low spot in the 365 project); she has very little creative interest whatsoever; she slows to a crawl, scarcely able to force herself to keep up some reduced version of exercise. Maybe this is what a holiday is for? To vegetate and sink into words and thoughts, or float amidst them without thinking at all, to check out, to retreat.

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Of course, one must also observe that “holiday with kids” is not precisely the same as “holiday.” Last night we resorted to turning out every light in the cottage in order to impress upon CJ that we were indeed all going to sleep, RIGHT NOW. It was nearly 10pm. He was wired. He’s taken to saying, “I tell you a story,” and then launching into long detailed dramatic inventions about elephants and little lions and turtles who eat persons and wear pants. He had us spellbound after supper the other night (I’ll post video footage). But well after dark, being regaled by the tales of a two-year-old is not on the holiday agenda. No. On the holiday agenda is eating some freaking amazing cheese, a ripened sheep’s milk pebbled with blue purchased at Wendy’s Wigwam, reading a book, and drinking a beer. In adult company only.

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Two book recommendations: Truth and Beauty, by Ann Patchett, a memoir by a writer about her friendship with another writer, Lucy Grealy–if a relationship so intense can be pinned down by the word friendship. I’ve never been in a friendship like that. I am not sure whether I envy the author, or feel grateful to have been spared such a friendship. It’s also a fascinating portrait of writers in their developing pre-fame years (because, yes, both women became successful writers). Kevin’s reading the book now, or I’d look up some quotes. I particularly liked one from Lucy’s letters, in which she says that at least, as a writer, there is some measure of glamour to be gleaned from the drudgery and poverty of the occupation. I need to look into that.
The other book, which I’ve not yet finished, is a series of excellent short stories disguised by the publisher as a novel: The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman. It’s set in a newspaper, so it has the additional appeal of taking me back to my brief fling with the industry; and it’s currently on bestseller lists. But I’ll bet it wouldn’t have made it there if the publisher hadn’t cleverly marketed it as a novel rather than as what it is: a collection of linked stories. If I feel a touch of bitterness over this necessity, yes, it’s personal. The book I am currently finishing is a collection of linked stories. Maybe my agent will find a publisher who will pretend it is a novel, and we’ll find success together. But I (selfishly) wish more people would embrace the short story (and in particular, linked stories) as a legitimate and complex and pleasurable form.
Now, for the glamour. I must pour myself a shandy or something.