What’s this? you may ask. Why it’s a Quidditch pitch, of course.
And what about this? Ah, this is the breakfast bar disguised as play area, craft area, Lego-building, snack-time, reading, puzzle-making, crap-dumping area. And dimly visible beyond it, the living-room, complete with giant homemade movie-watching fort.
And here are some movie-watching fort-building Quidditch-playing recently eye-examined kids.
This week, the last before school starts, has been a quiet one. I’ve had no writing time. Zero. There seemed little point, having sent the line edits back to my editor at the end of last week (that’s worth a small hurray!), and not having the fortitude to imagine starting a new project in the midst of this. And by this, I point you to the photos above, which capture only a portion of the domestic chaos in our rooms and yard.
The appropriate implement for cleaning our living-room, at this point, would be a snow shovel.
I spent the first day or two of this week making feeble attempts to clean up. I think it was fort day that smacked me in the face with the obvious: there’s no point in cleaning up when the kids are still playing. And what else should they be doing during these last days of summer holiday? Of course they should be building Quidditch pitches out of duct tape and sticks and buckets and hula hoops. Of course they should be setting up gigantic (and sweltering) movie theatres with precariously balanced air mattresses and every pillow in the house, and of course their mother should let them eat popcorn in the living-room just this once, even though it’s sure to spill, just because. So I did. And they spilled. And it wasn’t the end of the world; or the end of anything, really.
I can’t say I’ve enjoyed this week, but it’s nobody’s fault but my own. Where I’m at is caught in my own end of summer turmoil. I find myself performing small (private) feminist rants (while washing the dishes) about a decade wasted in not climbing the corporate ladder (ha! as if that would ever have been me), and erupting in bitterness because Kevin gets to go out the door to work every morning while I stay home and pop popcorn and plan supper and watch the kids stir up enormous messes (er, play creatively). It’s time, as they say, for a change.
Today, Kevin is home from work, and we are getting stuff done. “It feels like it’s fall,” said Fooey this morning as I hung laundry and we listened to a squirrel’s teeth gnawing on a black walnut, and the fallen leaves blew around the porch stairs. “Is it still summer?”
It is. It is! It’s that melancholy late summer that gets me every year. It’s full of promise and hope, somehow, the way endings always are. And restlessness. And a stomach full of butterflies.
We recently cut down some big trees in our yard, to make room for more sunshine and more gardens. We were going to give away the firewood to friends with wood-burning stoves, but when Kevin was moving the stumps and the mulch, he got one of his inspired improvisational ideas. Give the man a pile of stumps, and he’ll build a playground. Apparently, our new stump-jumping-obstacle-course is reminiscent of Kevin’s own childhood schoolyard, which had, as he tells it, no play equipment other than a bunch of stumps and some tires.
We didn’t have any old tires laying around (thankfully). And we’ve painted our stumps bright colours. They’re dug right into the ground so they won’t tip. No, this wasn’t one of the backyard projects we planned to do this summer; but sometimes the most fun projects emerge spontaneously, with no planning at all.
(P.S. Please don’t count heads in the trampoline pictured in the background of that middle photo. Yeah, we’ve already broken the “only two kids” rule. I’m not even sure that rule lasted a single day).
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.
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).
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.
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.