Nope, that’s not Apple-Apple striding ahead out in front, in her very first running race ever; there she is, that very small figure most decidedly bringing up the rear. This was at the start of the 2.3 km race, and we had instructed her to pace herself. Which she did. “I was really exhausted because it was the farthest I’ve ever run, but when I saw the finish line I felt so excited that I forgot that my body was so exhausted and I sprinted as fast as I could!” She came in sixth in a field of about twelve seven-year-olds; interestingly, she will run in the same field next year, as she’s still only six. (But there is no six-year-old category). Albus–also pacing himself–also headed out in dead last, then worked his way somewhere closer to mid-pack, at 41st. There was some debate about the size of his field. Suffice it to say, he felt supremely pleased with his performance. And the parents were equally pleased.
This was a Kevin-in-charge event, and I received all reports via texts, as I was on my way to class. It was called a “Fun Run,” and Kevin and the kids were under the misapprehension that it would involve a jog around another school with their running club (or something of the sort), when instead it was a mini-cross-country meet, with loads of kids from other local schools, loud music playing, coaches readying their charges, nervous excitement, wearing your school’s shirt. Kevin said even if he’d known it was a cross-country meet, it wouldn’t have made a difference, because in his experience (rural living), cross country meets only involved, at most, fifty kids total.
Next time, we’ll dress the children in race-appropriate clothing. Apple-Apple was wearing a button-up shirt, for example. This is what happens when we co-parent. But it’s small stuff compared to the overall payoff, which, this fall, has meant that I get to say “yes” to more opportunities.
This past week, I was fortunate enough to doula at another birth, this time a friend’s–in fact, my first friend-birth (the others were people not known to me previously). It was, as it has been on each occasion, a revelatory experience, a true gift, the kind of experience that doesn’t translate easily into words–even for me. I drove home thinking, I must do this again, how can I do this again? I’m focussing my research paper on midwifery, generally, and have been reading a variety of texts, including a manual from 1671 written by a midwife; for some reason, this subject remains deeply interesting to me. I know this isn’t the case with a lot of topics, so it feels like I’ve struck on something that resonates core-deep. If I were to pursue a doctorate now, I suspect it would relate to midwifery in some fundamental way. But I don’t think doctorate is where this interest will take me. I can’t see the destination clearly. Maybe I don’t need one right now; maybe this journey, this process, this research and continuing hands-on experience is enough.
My other great pleasure this fall has been a renewed appreciation for writing. (Though it’s been almost entirely non-fiction. Hmm).
Speaking of writing (though in this case, writing fiction), I’ve just discovered that The New Quarterly has posted a sneak preview
of their upcoming, soon-to-be-available fall edition, featuring my Juliet stories. Take a look! Those are my cows on the beach on the front!
Oh, and here’s the info
on the Oct. 22nd reading related to those stories, though, yikes! As soon as I saw it, my heart started to beat about twice as fast. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a reading …
My photos are loaded onto a different computer. I may add some in later, but will not let lack of illustration get in the way of a small update. With a life packed perhaps slightly too full, there seems no time to blog. And I miss it. It’s like journaling, which was something I used to do every day, by hand (unfortunately–of perhaps fortunately, depending on one’s perspective–those journals are essentially illegible, written in code, due to my “handwriting” which is a cross between cursive and print–an unsuccessful, take-it-behind-the-barn-and-shoot-it cross. Except I can’t because it’s all I’ve got).
Darn. Tangents always seem to happen in Blogland.
Here are some of the things currently filling my days …
Books: I’m writing a review for a former colleague at the Post, who is now publishing a magazine called Lake Simcoe Living; we’re rounding up some books to recommend for holiday giving and reading, and as such, I got to thumb through catalogues (not literally, because everything’s online now), make a shortlist, consult with her, then call publishers for review copies, which was something I used to do almost daily, but haven’t for years. Of course, all the publicists I used to talk to have moved on. But publicists are friendly; it’s their job. I’ve got two beautiful books already sitting at my elbow, waiting to be read and reviewed (that’s on my to-do list for this morning)–one of them I’m especially excited about: it’s called Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm, by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann. The photos are gorgeous and make me want to fondle vegetables, and then cook them.
Mark your calendars: I will be reading at the launch of The New Quarterly’s fall issue on October 22. That’s a Thursday. Which is the same evening that I also happen to have my first midterm. Seriously. Did I mention that I’m taking a women studies class? The professor thinks I’ll be finished in plenty of time. I’m excited about this class because I’m focussing my major paper on midwifery and doula’ing, and have already spoken to her about it. Yes, I’m a keener. Why the heck else would I be taking a class, if not to squeeze all potential learning out of it?
October 22, Art Bar, which is in the Centre in the Square, in Kitchener. I’ll be reading around 8:45pm, but doors open much earlier. Details to follow.
Kevin’s in Toronto running a slate of training classes, and this morning was HAIRY. I was a chicken with its head chopped off. Picture a cartoon Carrie suspended mid-air with legs and arms stretching in four different directions. And her head popping off. But we made it. And I enjoyed a brisk jog too. Which reminds me that I meant to blog about exercise. Am I fitting it into my life? I felt in better shape this summer with all the family biking we were doing. But I do bike to and from campus once a week, at a racing pace (why am I late, no matter where I’m going?). Biking after dark sure gets the heart pumping. I am covered with flashing red lights, but still feel only an invisible obstacle away from mangling myself. I also run home from school a couple of mornings a week. And I walk to school every day to pick up the kids (briskly on the way there, as, yes, I’ve started leaving later and later, because, really, why be early, when you can enjoy the adrenalin rush of not being sure you’ll quite make it in time?).
Does a joking tone translate in Blogland?
Stop typing. Stop typing, now. Time to work!
Here’s what’s on at our house … the crockpot and the oven. And the television. And the computer. And the baby monitor. This morning, I was browning beef at 7:45. Not, perhaps, the ideal odour to send wafting through the house at that hour; the recipe is for sweet and sour beef. It also has chunks of green pepper, onion, and carrot, and I’ve added a block of tofu, just to ensure no one will like it. You know, it wouldn’t feel like supper if someone wasn’t exclaiming, “Ewww!” I’m also baking brown rice. Have cleaned green beans to be cooked up fresh when we burst through the door after 5 o’clock, having run the music marathon: pick up children early from school, plus neighbour friend, burn carbon across town to piano lessons and early childhood music class. Tonight, I’m adding in a quick trip to the shoe store to buy Albus a pair of non-destroyed runners. He and Apple-Apple are participating in running club at school, and after the first session, last week, Apple-Apple was glowing, she loved it, and Albus said, nope, not much fun. Too much running.
Tell me about it, kid.
But here’s the thing, I’m running, but I feel happy. I’m trying to fit perhaps slightly too much into this raggedy suitcase called Life, but I’d rather do that than the opposite. To everything there is a season. I appreciated the summer season a great deal. It was languid and a bit boring, as perhaps it should have been, because I’m filled with renewed energy.
No time to elaborate; but hope to soon. It’s time to wake a sleeping babe …
Kevin cropped these for me: Fooey in her school lineup waiting to go in and start this next chapter in her life. We have now been regaled with stories and memories from that day (yes, it was only yesterday), and she was disappointed not to be heading back with the big kids this morning. “I was happy,” she confided as I hugged her (best hug ever) after that first full day. And I was happy for her! And yet my heart is quietly mourning this passage. Here begins her life apart from us–not a large part of her life, of course, not yet, and oh how proud I am of her confidence, her solid nature; but a part nevertheless. She will survive small struggles all by herself. She will manage. She will test out this larger world. She will discover. She will enjoy. Her mind is so eager to be lit with new experiences, to learn, and she will. I think parenting is renewing this pledge over and over: to let go, to trust our children, and to meet them wherever they are–to be in that present place, for them. At the very moment of her birth, this child occupied her space without me
; even then. It’s just that I still see her at that moment, sometimes; especially when I look at these photos. I still see her as she was.
Do you ever have a day when you feel struck by thankfulness, positively overwhelmed? That was my today. It was ordinary enough, I suppose, but filled with small gifts and reversals of fortune everywhere I turned. For example, after supper, my plans to get together with my siblings fell through so instead I rearranged the girls’ room and the playroom (it all started with an old wooden toy fridge, which we received secondhand years ago, falling over and almost crushing CJ; obviously time to get rid of it, and though it seemed like an insignificant object, its removal precipitated a great upheaval of furniture; CJ was unscathed, I must add). After this satisfying exertion, and having some scheduled “free” mama-away time, I threw on my running shoes and ran and ran and ran and ran around the neighbourhood. It felt transcendent. My breathing was easy, my body removed and full of energy, and my mind calm and meditative; the kind of meditation where you’re not really thinking about anything, your mind feels clear, untroubled. I run so rarely, it hadn’t occurred to me I’d be fit enough to arrive at that place of exercise nirvana. Note to self: get out and do this again! Burst blotchy-faced and sweaty through the door only to discover sibs night was back on and there was still an hour before Kevin was due to leave for hockey. So I got out after all. Cancelled out the run by eating soup, salad AND brie-dripping panini (thanks, sis). Arrived home in time for Kevin to get a ride to the first hockey game of the season with his friends–I literally flagged them down as they were pulling out of our driveway.
Okay, now that I write this all out it doesn’t sound special in the least. Neverthless. I’m glad and grateful and the slow-cooker’s been working well (roasted chicken was fabulous) and Kevin packed the kids’ lunches and and and. Full. I’m too full to sleep.
Or not. Never too anything to sleep.
(Can I confess that I’m almost too superstitious to post this entry; pride goeth before a fall, or, if you always think the worst, you’re more likely to be pleasantly surprised, which is not a real saying. Thankfully.)
“Bocs, bocs, bocs,” says CJ, and his big siblings go to play blocks with him. CJ is showing such excitement about communicating. I think of him as being a late talker, but in fact he does have words, they just aren’t always immediately recognizable. It gives him great joy to snort like a pig, woof like a dog, run to the door to shout “Dada!” and a sound like haaaaa! that means Hi. I remind myself to explain everything to him (this helps slightly with tantrums), because he understands a great deal. The other night I took all four kids to the little park after supper, riding in the wagon, and CJ took along his talking doll (“didi”). He cradled her all the way there, handed her to me when he wanted to go play, and collected her when I said, “Don’t forget your baby doll!”
Yesterday, of necessity because Kevin had our vehicle, I ran while pushing the stroller, with Albus on his bicycle, all the way to Apple-Apple’s daycamp to pick her up (Kevin had dropped her off in the morning with her bicycle so she could ride home). It’s not a small distance, and I was dreading the errand, while talking it up to the kids as an adventure. We currently have no working way to transport small children via bicycle; so I had to run. New running shoes helped, but what surprised me was that I felt pretty fit. I arrived somewhat red-faced at the daycamp site, but much earlier than anticipated. We took the long way home, stopping by our favourite City Cafe Bakery for a treat. I’m thinking we’ll repeat the experience tomorrow (today we’re combining camp pickup with CSA box pickup, since it’s nearby).
The bike stroller … this is a story that keeps brewing. You will recall that our former stroller was stolen off our porch several weeks ago. Much mourned, then we moved on as friends supplied us with a replacement (for which we’ve yet to purchase a bike hookup). Well. End of story? If only. Last week, our neighbour (the one who gave us a little red wagon awhile back) knocked on the door early in the morning. He’d found our stroller, could we come and confirm that it was ours. Kevin went first, came back ages later looking confused. He thought he’d recognize it, but it was so changed, he wasn’t sure. I didn’t really want to go, but of course this stroller was my fifth baby, and I was the one who’d spent all that time strapping children into it … Fooey went with me. I saw immediately what Kevin meant: it was hard to tell. The fabric was already sun-faded, there was green mould on the inside, it had some new rips and tears, had been stripped of many of its parts. Our neighbour flipped it over to show me the squirrel holes (a squirrel ripped through the bottom seat netting last summer to get at some cookie crumbs; pretty distinctive). Yes, they were there. Then I looked inside at the straps. They hadn’t been adjusted, and were set up, as always, for CJ on the left, Fooey on the right. CJ’s strap was always twisted, I could never figure out how to untwist it, and that was the final confirmation. Our neighbour had quite a story about how he’d recovered it, but suffice it to say the stroller was being used to transport beer bottles and other junk.
I brought it home, though I didn’t want to. The smell that now permeates its fabric is astonishing, and despite a concerted effort by Kevin and me involving bleach, scrub brushing, the hose, plain old soap and water, vinegar, et cetera, the scent doesn’t budge. Though at first we’d thought we could still hook it to our bicycle, I can’t imagine putting my children into this stench, and while scrubbing the other afternoon felt almost murderous rage toward the person who had taken our stroller and ruined it. But that emotion is so fruitless and destructive. Who am I, that I’m so privileged I can throw away the thing stolen and then returned? I wonder if I’m a wasteful person. The stroller’s return has made me reflect on how much easier it is to cope with something that is permanently lost to us; it’s almost as if absolute absence invites acceptance. I was at peace with the loss. It didn’t bug me. Seeing that stroller, what had happened to it, how it had been abused and destroyed, now that bugged me. But I’m not entirely sure why. Is it because I feel an emotional obligation to this wrecked object, an obligation which I resent? Makes me admire the father of the prodigal son who welcomed him back with open arms. Or maybe I’m investing too much emotion, value, and meaning into a Thing.
In any case, for now I will be running instead of biking with children, because it seems wasteful to buy a bike hookup for the new stroller when we have a functioning stroller that we could hook up to the bike; that I will, however, refuse to use. How dumb is that? Except the run was so good yesterday, maybe it’s a fine thing. I find it so much easier to exercise, to make the time, when it’s somehow encorporated into my children’s lives and to their direct benefit. This is why I so enjoyed being pregnant: I could take special care of my body and feel I was taking care of someone else, too. If it’s just for my own benefit, it feels … selfish (and, yah, I get that having a mom who is strong physically and emotionally benefits them too, it just doesn’t compute in the same way; but you’re looking at someone who actually feels guilty using the bathroom some days).
Apparently typing this blog doesn’t apply to the guilt factor.
We are having our back porch ripped down and rebuilt right now. CJ is engrossed. “Will they find any rat’s nests?” Albus wonders.
Thanks for the laundry ideas. With a couple of rainy days this week, I hung clothes indoors, and though not right in the kids’ rooms, I put the clothes whose destination was upstairs on a rack in the hallway upstairs, and diapers and downstairs items down. Handy. The sorting takes place while the laundry’s still damp. Need a better laundry rack (or two) as I’m currently using backs of chairs, radiators, and railings in addition to this bulky, flying-machine-design wobbly metal rack upstairs … but Ikea doesn’t encourage online shopping, apparently, at least not for drying devices. They do have a couple of cool ones, for example, one that folds out from the wall, then back in again when not in use. But we’d have to get to Burlington or Vaughn or North York. Or I could just pick up another cheap wooden one like I have and enjoy downstairs. Canadian Tire special, if I’m remembering correctly.
At the library storytime this morning at the WPL. The place was a zoo. Toddlers everywhere. The librarian is doing a good job, seems to like children (this has been a problem with WPL children’s librarians in the past–you’d think they’d have to like children, but apparently it’s not a job requirement). There are fun songs and activities in addition to stories, and F is entranced. Even baby CJ was pretty enthralled, though perhaps as much by the sight of toddlers stealing other toddlers’ stuffed animals and trodding upon each other. You can tell which I was paying more attention to. Storytime isn’t really for the moms. I can put in a few more years. It’s good people-watching, in any case. I like seeing the mothers trying to match up who belongs to whom–the accusing glances–is that your kid wreaking havoc and disaster while you browse the stacks? My kids were angelic, so I could feel all superior and successful–temporarily, of course. Parenting has a way of keeping one humble. See below.
Went for a run yesterday after supper. So so so good for the soul. I’d had a pretty magnificent meltdown mere hours before (see above re staying humble) when I’d tried to lie down on the couch before supper and was instantly swarmed and fought over by my children, which I tolerated for about fifteen minutes before essentially losing my mind, hopping off the couch, and literally running out the front door. On my way out, I accused Kevin of something (he was there–I didn’t leave them alone in the house), can’t quite recall what. Terrific. Fabulosity. As I stormed out the front door wearing crocs and socks, I realized our neighbours were on their front porch across the street, so I tried to look as though I weren’t muttering to myself–as though I weren’t Running Away. Walked with fake calm to the back of the house and stood in the yard for about two minutes. I felt like my children were saying–legitimately–“You don’t give us enough!” And I wondered–maybe I really don’t. I’m out in the kitchen baking for school lunches, cooking supper, washing dishes, and no, not being with them at all. You know, just being, being with them.
Worse, the guilt. Because all I really wanted was to NOT BE with anyone, children included, and NOT DO anything. Two minutes elapsed, I returned inside, still upset, now angry with myself, still tired, with all the afternoon chores still waiting to be done. So I listened to Stephane Dion take phone-in calls on Rex Murphy’s program, while Kevin ferried the children to the basement to paint. (Vote for Stephane!). Supper got made, school lunches too, supper got eaten, then Kevin said, “Why not go out for a walk?” So I threw on my running shoes and went for a run instead. Thought I’d be too tired to enjoy it, but my body didn’t feel tired at all. It felt like it had been needing to run all week. It felt euphoric. I might try it again tonight after supper. Besides, when I returned home, Kevin had done the dishes, AB and baby CJ were in the bath, and A was washing F’s hair in the shower! Yes, they seemed to survive quite nicely without me. Let that be a lesson to me.
But I must sign off on that note. Because baby CJ is up from his nap and F has been entertaining him in his crib for quite long enough.