Category: Sleep

Birthday Sleepover Extravaganza

This was one well-planned party. I didn’t plan it, and neither did Kevin. It was planned in detail by the birthday boy, with some initial consultation (to whittle away at the more elaborate and impossible ideas). You can read the plan, on the right. In the end, the party went pretty much exactly like that (minus the 4am wake-up time).

Eight boys walked home from school together. They had a snack. They went to the comic book shop uptown and read comic books on benches (with supervision, I should add). They came back to a pizza supper, and made their sleeping arrangements in the basement. Outside to play baseball.

Ice cream cake served outside (the woman at the shop did not manage to put a “lego block” on the cake, as requested, but she may have been afraid of being featured on Cake Wrecks).

Then some boys played wii in the basement while others played outside til dark. Toothbrushing and pajamas. Reading in the basement (Albus provided a stack of graphic novels). Finally, lights out, a bit after 10pm. We expected talk, and there was some, but by 10:45 all was quiet. Though they woke early, they followed our rule: no getting up before 6. We provided a clock so they’d know for sure. They quietly got a movie started and had been watching for over an hour before we got up.

Kevin made pancakes and I made breakfast smoothies.

There was just time to open cards and gifts from siblings and parents before home-time. Kevin and I agree: this was in many ways easier and less-stressful than the intense two-hour friend party. The boys were very self-sufficient, and all such good kids. It felt almost leisurely. He’s spent the rest of his birthday, so far, playing with a new wii game, and putting together a Lego set he got to pick out himself this afternoon.

We also plan to have all-you-can-eat sushi for supper, and the older kids will get to go to a movie with their dad. And then Kevin and I will sleep and sleep and sleep. Thankfully, the weather was beautiful. I think that’s what made the party so successful. We were able to spend a lot of it outside.

Happy spring!

And happy birthday, ten-year-old boy!

Almost Ten

I’ve been neglecting to link to my twice-weekly triathlon blogs on, but here’s today’s: an ode to yoga, and to cross-training generally.


In other news, my eldest turns 10 tomorrow, and to celebrate, we’re going all out. He’s invited eight friends for a sleepover party. Already, overnight bags are collecting in our front hall. I’ll be heading up to school soon to supervise the walk home (but from a distance, it’s been requested). Albus has spent a lot of time thinking about this party. He wrote out a draft version of his itinerary, and then a good copy (if you know Albus, you know how unusual this is). The itinerary includes a walk to the comic book store uptown. The boys will then read their comics “on a bench or on the curb.” That’s my favourite part.

I’m not expecting much sleep tonight.

But I hope to rest a little bit this weekend in advance of the duathlon on Monday. My next big challenge. I’ve never raced on a bicycle before. But I did learn how to change a tire yesterday (hands on), thanks to this super-woman. In the words of a favourite children’s story: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can! The race is 4km run, 30km bike ride, 4km run. The bike course is described as “challenging,” and having biked part of it on Tuesday morning, I know why: hills and headwinds. It’s also supposed to be raining on Monday. My goal is simple completion. If I don’t chicken out, if I actually show up and do this, I will be a proud.

And now I see it’s time to switch gears and sign off. Writing day done. Full-on-mama again.


Two topics for this bright and sunny Sunday afternoon (yes, there’s snow, but the sun is also here declaring itself).

First topic: naps! Saturday’s Globe and Mail newspaper had a cheery brief on the benefits of napping. Studies show that a 45-minute nap improves both cardiovascular health and mental agility. Agility is not quite the word I’m looking for, but you know what I mean. Nap yourself to intelligence! Should have napped longer today, I guess.

I am napping regularly these days. It is part of my early rising routine. Every day that involves getting up early, includes time for a nap. I nap up to an hour, but rarely longer, and often shorter. Napping has all kind of negative associations, and I had to overcome those by being really really super-tired in order to test out the benefits. No, it isn’t lazy. And no, it’s not a waste of time. On writing days, I’ve gotten in the habit of napping as soon as the kids are out of the house. Within an hour, I’m up and productively at my desk. Without the nap, I’d be up and unproductively at my desk. (I’ve tested both methods). I love rising early. I’m up to four early mornings a week, at least for now, and I love the quiet, the energy, seeing the morning light arrive, and starting my day with focus. I’ve fed myself–metaphorically, anyway–before the demands of the day kick in. It’s a very different way to start the day. Though I look forward to Thursday mornings, when Kevin gets up early instead, that extra hour and a half of sleep is instantly erased by the immediacy of what the day wants from me; often, I’m not even out of bed before the demands arrive, in the form of children needing things. And that’s what I’m here for! But it’s so much easier and more pleasant to give, when one has already received.

Second topic: poetry club! Just a quick summing up of last night’s poetry club, for which we read Billy Collins’ Sailing Alone Around the Room. Kevin read the book too, as I was hosting and he was looking forward to participating–and seeing what the club was all about. I can highly recommend the Montforte Dairy’s Elsie goat cheese pesto spread (which I got from Bailey’s). And I can fairly highly recommend the poems too, though I went to bed wondering … are they too accessible? Is that a fault, in poetry? Collins is a funny funny poet, but it can feel at times that a deeper moment is being sacrificed to a good punchline. Still, there were poems that stabbed into me with a shock of emotion. We talked a fair bit about why we were drawn to particular poems–and because most of us had different “favourites,” we asked how poems could be judged objectively. How do you know that the poem is “good”?

I really enjoyed the many poems about writing. His world felt very domestic and contained, to me, and it revolved around quiet interior days of writing and work, and walking around the house, thinking about writing. What I enjoyed most about these poems was their lack of angst or questioning. He writes with full acceptance that he is a writer. There is no hint of self-justification, nor does he question his own abilities, or the worth of his work, he’s just being who he is. Very refreshing. I would like to arrive there. Certainly, I’m closer than I was a few years ago; even, perhaps, a year ago.


Speaking of a year ago … Kevin keeps marvelling at how easily our family has accommodated my triathlon training schedule. It is fairly remarkable. This past week, for example, I spent 12.5 hours training. That’s 12.5 hours, out of the house, not looking after the kids. If you’re wondering how we manage it, I would say it’s been a long slow and steady change, adjusting everyone to me being out of the house more frequently–which was an adjustment to the way I thought about my role, too, as much as anything. When I started this blog, two and a half years ago, my youngest was four months old. I was breastfeeding constantly, and up often during the night. That is no longer my reality, with my baby on the cusp of turning three. As he’s grown, and I have said goodbye to pregnancy and lactation, I’ve also grown accustomed to expressing myself as someone other than “mom.” I leave the house as often as four or five evenings a week–only for a couple of hours at a time, mind you–but that’s a massive change from my early years of motherhood, oh, eight or so years, when leaving the house by myself in the evening was an enormous production, and happened so rarely it might not have been more than once a month. And sometimes less.


Apple-Apple’s supper menu for tonight (Sunday supper, cooking with kids): baked potatoes with cheese sauce, broccoli and cauliflower on the side, and scones and hot chocolate for dessert. I can smell it cooking as I type.


Stepping into the green dream confessional. Ahem.

Working more makes me lazier on the ecologically sound homefront.

I am not taking time to hang laundry very often; instead, tossing everything into the “home sterilizer unit” aka the drier. (This decision is also based on several lice notices from children’s classrooms, and not wanting to risk an invasion; but when will I stop? I haven’t gone back to the clothes rack yet). I am also choosing to drive on occasions when I could walk. Yesterday, I drove to swim lessons, a walk of no more than fifteen minutes one way. But with the vehicle, I could toss the kids in the car last-minute, endure thirty minutes in the pool with CJ, shower, dry off, dress, and return home in exactly one hour. Which shaved time and stress off of my day’s beginning, and allowed me to invite friends over for a morning play. And then I drove to school yesterday afternoon because doing so allowed me to nap for an extra ten minutes (I’d already napped for ten when the buzzer alerted me to walk-to-school time). I hopped up, added another ten minutes to the timer, and fell back to sleep instantly. I can fall asleep in two shakes, and nap virtually anywhere, including my favourite spot: flat on my back on the the living-room floor. Wouldn’t want to get too comfortable.

(Side question: is my instant-sleep ability a talent, or a symptom of sleep-deprivation?).


Have you read The Road? I ploughed through it almost against my will two nights ago, and it shook me to the core. I can’t recommend it–it terrified me utterly–but it is without a doubt a fabulously imagined creation. I won’t spoil the plot, promise; if you haven’t read the book and want to, you can safely read on. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it seemed to ask me: could you live without hope? And I’m not sure that I could. Is all of my spirit-searching a meaningless enterprise? Would I have the inner resources to cope with extremity? Are inner resources something that can be built or honed, a skill-set like any other? Of course, the nightmare world imagined in the book is extreme, but as an extended metaphor could stand in for any difficult experience that any of us might face (and most of us will face something–how could we not? We are alive and human, and our world is unpredictable, our fates perhaps unwritten, and certainly unknown to us). Most particularly, the book explores a parent’s love for his child, which might be the spark that keeps him hoping and alive. But the love is explicitly terrifying, because he cannot protect his child absolutely. None of us can. But somehow I let myself believe that everything will be okay, that we will all be strong enough to get through anything we need to, that my children will experience love and joy and comfort. I am almost incapable of contemplating the reverse. That is why the book terrified me. It made me contemplate the reverse, and question my inner strength, my resources. There is no way of knowing how–what? who?–we will be until the moment is upon us, and we are required to respond. This applies to everything we do. I am fascinated by the improvisational nature of living. Yet I also want to keep working–not to memorize my lines, but to trust in my responses, to trust in some inner core of calm and strength.

Pass the Unity Cup, Please

Today has been a kitchen day. I like kitchen days. I feel, mostly, competent in the kitchen. I feel free to experiment, to explore, to attempt. And I’ve got some devoted helpers, suddenly, too. Fooey’s been all over the kitchen ever since last weekend’s supper extravaganza. And I’ve been letting her help more, too. There’s more mess, but so be it. She helped last night making Christmas cookies, unwrapping candy canes and smashing them with a rolling pin, then sprinkling them into our stained-glass cookies. And she helped again this morning, following along with a children’s recipe, and reminding me at various points: “I can do this, because the little boy in the picture is doing it!” And she can.
It was Albus’s turn to plan and make supper. He chose lasagna, and was agreeable about what went inside. “Meat and cheese,” he wanted, and agreed to chicken and roasted red peppers (both of which we had frozen in the freezer), and even though he’d never heard of ricotta, he went along with the suggestion. He set up “stations” at the counter. One station for resting and drinking water. Another for grating cheese. A third without a stool. He also spent a long time chopping veggies for a raw veggie platter, which I’ve served with great success on a couple of recent occasions. But only because I’ve been cheating and buying non-local sweet peppers and cucumbers which might be grown in greenhouses in Ontario, but are probably harvested by exploited migrant labour.
Supper was dominated by Fooey and her kikombe cup, which she made at school and brought home with chocolates inside to share. This is what the label said, for those not familiar with the Kwanzaa celebration (like me): “This cup represents a kikombe – a unity cup used in the celebration of Kwanzaa. There is a wrapped goody for each family member in the cup. Pass the cup during the holiday celebration to symbolize your family’s unity.” We passed the cup as soon as Kevin got home from work on Wednesday (Fooey’s last day of school before the holiday). She’d barely managed to wait for him to get home, she was so excited about it. So, the cup obviously means something special to her, and it’s not just about the chocolate. Tonight, she asked me whether we could pass the cup and put chocolates in it. I said we could pass the cup and put cucumbers in it, as we were in the middle of supper. She thought that would make the cup messy (she was right), so she agreed to pass it with imaginary chocolates for everyone. But we didn’t follow her rules properly, and so every attempt to pass the cup was prematurely halted by a Fooey screech: “Nooooooo!!! Now we have to start again!” “Mmmm, my favourite chocolate candy,” was a verboten phrase, for example. This went on and on to the point of intense comedy, until we were all in stitches, even Fooey, who apparently could at least dimly grasp the absurdity of her demands. I’m not sure we ever successfully passed the cup. (Kevin and I both told the kids that neither of us had learned anything about the celebrations of other cultures and religions, when we’d gone to school. The kids were genuinely puzzled. “Hannukhah can be spelled at least seven different ways,” AppleApple informed us.)
And there she is, moments ago, fallen asleep in our bed, where we let her read till Fooey falls asleep (they disagree about whether the door should be open or closed when falling off to sleep; plus AA likes to read at length before bed–where did she get that from?).
And if you haven’t guessed, yes, you are looking at a genuine Fooey-made replica of a kikombe, above.

I Don’t Want a Blow-Drier

The itch to write exists. But our week is dull and commonplace. No, that’s not being fair to this fine and worthy week among many. In fact, when I think about it, lots is happening that is good and blog-worthy.

Such as: new haircut! AppleApple’s been taking photos in the evening, which we let her do with the caveat that we may erase all/any–so I’ll have to check out her most recent batch to see whether there’s one of Mama-Carrie-post-haircut-and-pre-last-night’s-sleep, because sadly, I can never replicate my hairdresser’s blow-dried look. It would help to have a blow-drier, I do realize that. But I don’t want one. So I’ll be satisfied with the bed-head version and reminisce till the next cut about what was, oh so briefly, my swingy fresh new “Mom” hair. (Note: Have found and duly posted pic, above, but wonder where she found that chin I’m wearing.)
Which reminds me–Fooey has started addressing her parents on a first-name basis. Such as, “Good morning, Carrie!” Um. And good morning to you, too, daughterly acquaintance.
Also blog-worthy: I have not nursed CJ these past two nights. He’s woken and requested the service, but in my overwhelming weariness and desire to sleep more than two hours at a stretch, I have declined. The first night, Kev was still as hockey, so I went in solo, picked up the lad, explained that we would not be nursing till morning, and that it was sleeptime, and then spent approximately twenty minutes gently laying him back down, and waiting beside his crib (we have a method–he knows the method, and he understood the futility of debating at length). He woke at 7, and I brought him into bed to nurse and snuggle before getting up to start our day. Last night, I sent Kevin in. This was rather more painful because CJ kept yelling for me, and because he woke up poor Albus, who shares his room, and also woke up AppleApple who woke up Fooey. Hello, 1:30 in the morning. But within half an hour, everyone was back to sleep, parents included. And CJ slept till 7, again. With a few extra consecutive hours of sleep caressing my brain-cells, I definitely wake with a greater desire to get out of bed in the morning.
But … must get back to work. Make hay while the sun shines. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Out my window it’s a damp grey. Permanently everlastingly grey. Tonight’s my last class. I’ll miss the outing, but perhaps not the preparation required to make it happen. And … what next? Honestly, I haven’t a clue beyond Christmas.
Just remembered that Nina and I each chose a word of the year last January. I’m pretty sure mine was Imagine. I wonder whether that’s been put into use this year, at all. In some ways, I think, yes, it has. I’ve imagined myself doing different things, and have tried out doing them. But much of what I’ve ended up doing seems to fall from the sky in the form of luck and happenstance. And could just as easily drift away. There’s no anticipating this stuff, and no grabbing it either.
Finally, if you scan down the right-hand side of this page, I’ve added a link to my review of Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean. Through a connection from my long-ago job at the National Post, I’ve gotten work reviewing a couple of books every month for a magazine called Lake Simcoe Living. More reviews coming soon.