Category: Music

Breaking Plans

Yesterday, I did not go to my planned yoga class. Instead, I cooked a risotto that reminded me of an evening out last month, rich with reduced wine, garlic, butter, parmesan, and I stayed home over the supper hour and savoured the food with my family. In order to exercise more, I have to skip something: which ends up being supper, most often. And I miss supper with my family. When I’m home, more things happen. Good food is prepared. Homework gets completed. Musical instruments get practiced. Real talk is exchanged.

What is the mysterious balance? Everything I choose to do weighs against everything that therefore will not happen.

Yesterday afternoon,  on the most beautiful fall day imaginable, I took the little ones to the little park and we played. I must have pushed them on the platter swing for half an hour, singing songs, and reminiscing: in the blink of an eye, my babies have grown. Only a minute ago, I was pushing the older two in the same swing, singing the same songs. It was so peaceful, I did not want to rush home and make supper so that I could rush out the door to do something by myself. I wanted to let them lie on their backs and look at the rare cloud passing by, and be soothed. I wanted to sing. Impossible, when in a rush. Impossible, when hewing to a pre-arranged schedule.

Still, I love my schedule. I love to get out by myself.

But here’s a toast to being flexible. To breaking plans. To changing my mind.

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.

Crumb Central

I got tired yesterday. Or, woke tired. Saturday was productive: I made yogurt (4 litres of yogurt!), and baked a batch of bread. I also made almond milk from scratch. But yesterday I felt weary of kitchen work. So I baked a rhubarb crisp for supper (dessert) and left it at that. Our fridge is full of homemade. Our house is in disarray, and thank heavens for my crocs (which I wear as slippers) because the floor is crumb central. (“You don’t have to work all the time, you know,” Kevin told me yesterday, as I was confessing an overwhelming desire to do NOTHING AT ALL.) Yesterday evening, the whole family went into a fugue state: Fooey went off to sleep, CJ puttered with Little People, Albus played piano in order to figure out a song on the guitar with Kevin (and Kevin was amazed by everything Albus knew about music–his ear, his rhythm, his understanding of musical theory; I just knew putting in all those years of early childhood music, and this past year of piano lessons, would be worth it! yay! I truly believe in giving kids the rudiments, so they can take them and develop on them; I’m so excited by Albus’s new enthusiasm); and AppleApple and I worked on her school project (that child has an extremely organized mind!). Time passed. Soon, it was 9:30 and we were like … um, responsible parents, bedtime, sheesh. So, children all put to bed, Kevin and I collapsed in the living-room with a beer, and I said, you won’t believe this, but I swear I spent a lot of time tidying this room today. He said, you won’t believe this, but so did I. It was a puzzle/games disaster, and mixed-up puzzle/game pieces are just endlessly frustrating to sort. The things I found under the couch. But the kids had a fun morning playing restaurant (at least, it was fun till they called me to be their customer, and I showed up and went, AAAAAGHGHG! Mommy has to leave the restaurant right now or she will make you start cleaning all this up!). Anyway, by the time Kevin and I wandered to the kitchen, post-beer, it was past 11. I did not try very hard to set my internal alarm for early morning yoga. And my internal alarm did not go off. Here’s the thing about the early mornings: I love them. But I have to go to bed early. There is no compromising on this. My body makes darn sure of it. So, if I have to choose between quiet early morning and hanging out with my husband, I generally choose the latter. I’ll get a wee bit of exercise right about now (though hardly a zen moment) as I walk to school to pick up the kids.
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PS That photo above is my boys this morning: my biggest and my littlest. One off to work, the other off to nursery school … leaving me alone in a quiet house for a couple of blissful hours.

Jump!

The jump! This is how I’m feeling today. I haven’t even had a cup of coffee, but it’s 10 o’clock in the morning, and the house is emptied of its usual noise. The oven is on, baking up two pans of sticky buns, and I’ve just jumped on my bed, and recorded it for posterity. Looking at that image, I think, not grown woman with four children and major life responsibilities, but girl. Sometimes it seems to me that I’m too in touch with my inner child: silly, goofy, self-involved, jumping on the bed.
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Last night, I walked out of our family meeting. I was appalled afterward to think of the poor conflict resolution skills that action demonstrated. Fight or flight? I’m flight.
Oddly, the results of me saying, “That’s it, I’m done with this meeting, and I’m going to do the dishes,” turned out to have a positive effect on what had degenerated into an argument over the Talking Stick and its underling, the Second Talking Stick: which had more power? (CJ had been monopolizing the original talking stick for his own purposes, so Albus had introduced a second). No one could hear anyone talking over the talking stick debate, so when I walked off to do the dishes, everyone else cleared off too, and the kids went to play in the living room. They played together for the next HOUR. All of them. Huh? So, let’s summarize. Family meeting = children arguing so loudly that no one can hear each other. Mama walking out on family meeting = children playing happily together.
A couple of positives that I took from the family meeting: 1. Albus explained to Fooey what family meetings are supposed to be about: “It’s not about the ice cream! It’s about us being together and talking as a family!” 2. We actually did discuss one important topic, though found no resolution. Topic? Extra-curricular activities.
This week, Albus has been particularly unhappy, crying, sad, angry, refusing to get out of the car, etc., at both piano lessons and swim lessons. I just sit quietly and gently and wait for him to change his mind and come with us. But it sort of depresses me, wears me down, makes me sad, too; that I can’t find a way to make him happier in the situation.
Music isn’t an option; to me, it’s a skill as important to learn as reading, but it doesn’t matter what instrument is involved. Albus has expressed interest in guitar, so why not? But he still has to finish this year’s piano lessons. And both AppleApple and Albus were upset about taking the same swim class over and over again (they are on their fourth or fifth round of Swim Kids Five; perhaps a rec centre record?). I get it. It sucks. But only with practice will they get better and better till they pass. They are both close to passing in terms of the skills they’ve acquired. But I watched them yesterday and suspect they have another round of swim kids five before them this summer. (Though CJ did a whole lesson on his own, while I stood at the edge of the pool in my swimsuit prepared to leap in and rescue him, lest he step off into the abyss whilst his sweet swim teacher was otherwise occupied with another toddler in her care. Yikes. I’m not sure I’ll be able to relax in the stands after all, even if he makes the transition to solo lessons.)
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Buzzer just went. Sticky buns done! I cannot help myself. I must take a photo and post it right now. They smell THAT GOOD.
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Back to the family meeting. How did we resolve the anger and frustration over children not wanting to learn skills that we parents consider to be important? Short answer: we didn’t. But at least we tried to talk about it. We can try again next week. Till I storm off. Joking. That was a joke.
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This week’s yoga revelation: sometimes 100% effort yields less than, say, 80% effort. Sometimes the best things are created when we’re not trying quite so hard, when we’re loose, when we let go. You measure what you’ve got, and you give just a little bit less. (This, as a concept, is almost impossible for me to put into action; honestly, I have to grate against my instincts; it’s painful). It’s partly about setting priorities, saving something of yourself for everything that needs doing. And it’s also about letting go of the idea of perfection. Maybe my inner child gets it better than I do. Maybe I should let her jump on the bed more often.

Itchy Scratchy

Outside. Boy did we have fun yesterday. More fun than the last photo suggests. I was trying to take yesterday’s photo for the portrait project when the kids I was babysitting booked it for the frame. They literally saw the camera, heard the beep, and booted it across the yard. And posed solemnly. My boys joined in, too. Though the girls were outside, too, only the boys were attracted to the camera. Hm.
I’m babysitting again today. I’m sure we’ll spend a portion of the day outdoors given the gorgeous sunshine. I cannot believe how weary I am at the end of these days. It makes me appreciate how much easier it is to split my day between writing and childcare; and how much easier it is to look after only one child or two children on any given day (thank heavens for public schools, say I!). I stayed up till after midnight last night, despite exhaustion, to play the piano after the kids were in bed. I find myself craving creative outlets in a way that I don’t ordinarily. Maybe it’s a good thing to crave creativity. Or, maybe it’s a good thing to satisfy those creative urges most of the time. Though I sometimes wonder whether I’m dulling the urge to write fiction/poetry/new songs by writing this blog. And the portrait project seems to scratch a connected itch, too, though it’s visual creativity rather than the rhythm of words. It’s almost like there’s a balance within my body, something I feel physically, that is sensitive both to lack or over-indulgence. I need to go inward and bring something out. But the more I’m thinking on this, I’m thinking: rarely do I get to too much. Rarely do I feel totally satiated and done for the day. That’s probably one of the gifts of my main occupation (mothering)–it keeps me wanting, needing, searching for more.
Must get focused on today’s requirements, none of which revolve around singing, playing piano, writing, or taking photos. Can I just admit … I don’t want to?
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CJ talked to me about his nursing experience last night. If you fear exposure to too much information on the subject, avert your eyes now. He told me that “baby nursing on a mama … baby holding a mama … mama holding a baby … baby sucking on a mama.” He also told me, when asked, that he was not a baby. He laughed and chatted, and said thoughtfully, “warm and soft.” Then he started to babble excitedly and lost track of his thoughts … “can’t remember,” he finally said, and sighed. And started directly in on a diatribe on snowpants, coat, hats, boots, and mittens. “Mittens come last,” he told me. Fooey taught him that (she learned in JK). And that was the end of the nursing chat.

Our Entry for Alternate Lyrics to O Canada

By Fooey. Sing repeatedly round and round and round, with great feeling. Don’t let your mother sing along. She will only irritate you.

O Canada
O Canada, we stand on God for thee, true save our land, glorious and free, from far and wide, O Canada, we stand on God for thee, God feed our land, glorious and free, O Canada, we stand on God for thee, true save our land, got fee-ba laaah, glorious and free, O Canada, we stand on God for zeeee!

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