Above: letting the photos tell the story of a Big Moment in her life so far. Her older sister has no interest in ear piercing, so it was a first for me too. We went with her friend and her friend’s mother, so all of us had peer support on the adventure.
But that was only one of many things that happened this weekend! While the two of us were at the mall, Kevin was at our doctor’s weekend clinic, trying to figure out what the heck was wrong with CJ, who was sick and getting sicker by the minute. It turned out to be strep. There’s always something, I tell you. Meanwhile, Fooey and I had arrived home to a weirdly empty house — the two other kids were with friends. We had a few minutes to eat lunch, then realized Kevin and CJ would never make it home in time for us to get AppleApple to her soccer practice. Thank heavens for the carshare! I was able to book a car within fifteen minutes of us needing it, and AppleApple ran home to change, and then we all ran about a kilometre to the available car, zoomed out to practice, zoomed back to the lot, and Fooey and I ran home (Fooey in her new shoes, dragged along, and starting to complain of muscle cramps), just in time to meet my brother, who, at the very moment we were puffing up the sidewalk, was pulling into our driveway to pick me up for my sister’s piano recital. With Kev and CJ still on their strep odyssey, Fooey came along too.
new shoes, her choice
How I enjoyed the hour of peaceful listening, with nothing to do but sit in stillness and absorb music. I thought about how we are fed by ephemeral, transient offerings we don’t fully understand, by the hard work and efforts of others to create and interpret and share beauty.
with her aunt Edna
Fooey went off afterwards with her aunt and her grandma for a sushi treat, while I caught a ride home with Kevin and the rest of the family, reunited post-soccer practice, with meds for the sick lad. I would have enjoyed the sushi treat, too, but there is such a thing as duty, and Kev had done some hard time all morning and most of the afternoon. Instead, I used leftover fish heads to brew up a rich fish stock, which I used as a base for a potato and corn chowder. Supper was served terribly late, and only a few of us would eat the fishy chowder (DELICIOUS!). The rest had grilled cheese instead, made on the waffle iron — Kevin’s handy-dandy innovation. We are teaching the kids how to use it so they can make hot meals for themselves next fall. But as CJ was falling off to sleep, he claimed terrible hunger, and what was he hungry for? “Chicken!!!” We had no chicken in the house, so I promised I would go and get him some right away, and that is what I did, with the two big kids giddily joining me on the late-evening mission to the grocery store. We picked up supplies for the week — of course there was no rotisserie chicken left at 9:30 at night, so we chose a packaged of pre-roasted slices that I would never ordinarily buy. Ever. Except when my sick kid wants chicken, I guess. We came home and gorged on mangoes, Kevin already asleep on the couch.
Through the night, I played nurse to the sick boy, who slept restlessly, but woke somewhat better. At least he was no longer getting worse. Kev was feeling under the weather, so I got the kids going, (chicken for breakfast, anyone?), waking AppleApple with mere minutes to spare before driving her to swim practice, and then it was time to put on my writer’s hat. Or pants, as the case may be.
“Are those new jeans?” Fooey, my fashion-conscious-child, inquired. “Nope, not new, but I only wear them for special occasions.” “What’s happening? What are you doing today?” [said with slight panic in her voice] “I’m going to a reading in Hamilton.” “Why are you dressing up?” “A reading is like a performance. I’m the entertainment, so I’m getting dressed up.” [note: “dressed up” is a term used loosely in our family, and yesterday involved the aforementioned jeans, a short-sleeved blouse and a jacket, with boots, and a necklace made of unpolished stones, plus or minus lipstick]
I drove to Hamilton to take part in GritLit, that city’s spring literary festival. I appeared on the short story panel with Cary Fagan and Miranda Hill, a pair of very entertaining performers, indeed. Questions answered, books signed, hands shaken, I then drove fast and made it to my soccer team’s first playoff game, changing in the bathroom and racing onto the field before the whistle blew. We won! Back at home, Kevin was making supper, the laundry had multiplied into a slightly scary mountain, the older children had played in an exhibition soccer game together, and Grandma had come and gone. The sick boy was still sick. The piano had been fitfully practiced. The dogs needed walking.
two sick boys
Today, I’m home with two sick boys, which has been a bonus, as the elder of the two is not that sick and has sweetly entertained the younger. I’ve achieved only the minutiae among goals, but sometimes that’s the best one can hope for. The laundry mountain has been mined down to a timid hill, the boots I left at the soccer field (oh, my spacey-post-game-brain!) have been retrieved, I’ve swung kettlebells in the early hours, and answered emails, and organized our week on the chalkboard, and I’ve even written this blog post. Hallelujah!
But the whole damn weekend went by too fast, and Monday is going too fast, too. I’m sensing a theme. Life, the fast-forward version.
I would just like to say that today has gone by too fast. This week has gone by too fast.
I would also like to say that I’m not looking forward to my evening run in the still-cold, still-blowing, still-flecked-with-occasional-snowflakes springtime. At least it will be light.
After saying those things, I would like to confess that a pleasure of mine this week has been re-reading blog posts from last winter, when Juliet was being launched, with all of the excitement and busyness that surrounded that time. I note that we had lilacs budding and lettuce growing in March last year! I note also that we were “cooking with the kids” regularly, and that we had guests over much more often. The difference between then and now, aside from the weather, is an uptick in our evening activities. AppleApple swims three evenings a week, and practices soccer three evenings a week (sometimes back-to-back on the same evening), while Albus and Kevin are out two or three evenings a week, too. I can safely say that supper is disrupted five out of five weeknights. AppleApple can go all week without getting a hot meal. (And I haven’t even mentioned the weekend activities.)
Next up, the season of weekend soccer tournaments, with two kids now involved in rep play.
As always, the balance is so imperfect. Forget balance, I think. Live life where you’re at, so long as it’s working for you. So I’m appreciating the dog walks with the little kids in the evenings, and I’m thankful that my mom comes to help out when we’re going in the several different directions all at once.
I’m also happy to be reading almost every night to the kids. We are now into one of my favourite Laura Ingalls Wilder books: On the Banks of Plum Creek. It’s structured in such a quietly dramatic way: the borrowing to build the new house, the debt, the wheat, the hope, the plague of grasshoppers. The kids were solemn as I read last night about the glittering cloud of grasshoppers that descended and ate every green thing there was to eat. “But that’s their food! And they have the debt!” said CJ. I’m not convinced he’s got the concept of debt down, but you never know. He was really worried about it.
We were all solemn, thinking of the enormity of the loss for this family. And yet, the mother responds with gentleness, not grief. “We’ve gotten by before, and we will again.”
It made me feel utterly spoiled for choice. What do I have to complain about?
Oh, but how could Ma be so patient?
“At least they can eat the prairie chickens!”
But that whole garden lost, and the plums on Plum Creek, and the wheat … and the debt. Could I bear to wait and wait in hope as they must?
But I’ve run out of time, completely! Must race to get to the bus stop before CJ gets off.
We went for an off-road run / hike this afternoon, just the two of us.
There was still snow and ice on the trail, and also chilly water, and mud, and slippery leaves. We forgot to bring her puffer, and she had some trouble on the hills. We are still getting used to her having asthma. But we ran for 7 kms, stopping to stare at the whirling water in the rising creek, and to look at Canada geese on this flooded area, and to listen to the cars zooming by on the nearby highway. Urban parkland.
We saw almost no one. We had so much fun. If it had been up to her, we would have stayed for another hour, at least, exploring along every little off-shoot of trail. “Your companion, unfortunately, is a 38-year-old woman,” I said, diverting her from another attempt to run off-off-road. “You should have come with another 10-year-old.” “Oh, If I’d come with a 10-year-old, we’d already be wading in the creek!” she said.
When I saw this photo from yesterday, I thought for a second it was me.
Nope, it’s her. Behind her, wearing her goalie jersey, is her big brother, who was playing in his very first rep game ever yesterday (with Kevin coaching). Nerves, and excitement. I’ve really got to tone it down on the sidelines, however. I’m just shouting encouragement, but apparently it’s embarrassing. “Is this what you sound like at my games?” AppleApple asked (she is not usually on the sidelines). “Um … yes …” “Oh.” [with feeling]
We didn’t make any plans for today. The rarest of days. I baked paska, which is a Russian-Mennonite Easter bread. My family background is Swiss Mennonite rather than Russian Mennonite, a detail of significance to very few, I’m sure, but the thing is that the Russian Mennonites have really yummy food traditions (sorry, Swiss ancestors!), so I’ve borrowed. This is my friend’s Mom’s recipe, which has the instructions: “sticky, not gluey.” It’s somewhat vague on details. I probably added too much flour this year, but last year the dough was sticky AND gluey, and turned out crumbly. This year’s looks good. We’ll be taste-testing it for dessert. Apparently it’s best sliced and covered with a big slather of icing, so I made extra.
Finally, here is what everyone is doing right now: (not pictured, Kevin doing the dishes, me blogging).
(click on photos to see in full)
Among our many activities this weekend, AppleApple performed at Beckettfest yesterday afternoon. Her little sister came along for moral support, making this an all-girl outing. Kev stayed home and cleaned. It takes a team. AppleApple also spent yesterday morning swimming 5,000 metres (yup, that’s 5 kilometres) in a swim-a-thon to raise money for her swim team. I think she earned her donations. Good grief. I’ve never swum that far, nor that long–have you? She did most of the swim in back crawl, which is her favourite stroke.
In other news, I spent most of yesterday groaning every time I bent down to pick something up. That just meant kundalini class on Friday night was a success.
Also in other news, we were treated to a tacofest supper with friends yesterday evening, who, I’m grateful to report are quite loud themselves and were therefore not overwhelmed by the noise and energy our family generates in these situations. We don’t get a lot of bring-the-whole-family dinner invitations. Just sayin’. So kudos to those brave enough to invite us in. (Come to think of it, Kevin and I used to be more deliberate about inviting friends / family for meals, and that’s fallen off in the past while; I should do something about that. Sharing meals with friends is such a good way to spend an evening).
I capped off the night with poetry book club where a peaty Irish whisky was served and we all laughed a lot. The big kids even got a babysitting gig out of the event.
This morning, Kev took AppleApple to her out-of-town soccer game — the last of the winter season!
I stayed home and did: dishes, laundry, vacuuming, got yogurt going (that’s what’s in the towel-covered cooler in the photo above), and started bread (that’s what’s in the towel-covered bowl on the counter). I did not attempt to clear the breakfast bar, also pictured above. And in the foreground, we see a child holding a dog which has been dressed in a bikini, with several dog-babies stuffed in. So, you know, just the usual morning.
I have a soccer game in an hour. And plots and plans bubbling in my brain. And a book on the history of midwifery in Ontario to read in my spare minutes.
And dust mites to battle. (That’s one to your left. Looks out of this world, doesn’t it? It has recently been discovered that AppleApple suffers from an allergy to said mites. It has also been discovered that she almost certainly has asthma. We’re pretty sad about that. The good news is that she doesn’t appear to be allergic to the dogs. The other good news is that vacuuming apparently has no effect on the presence of dust mites, so I don’t have to feel guilty about how infrequently we manage the task. Even with a team effort).
(click on photos to see in full)
Last night the whole family watched Kevin and AppleApple’s indoor house league team compete in the Cup final. It was the first game I’ve seen all season, usually being at home putting children to bed. It was past bedtime for a few of the fans, whose enthusiasm shines through in the photo above. I neglected to bring snacks. Thankfully, the sister took the little bro to the water fountain numerous times, for the purposes of distraction. I was too busy standing on the sidelines, shouting with excitement and doing a play-by-play narration of the game. I can’t seem to help myself.
“You’re saying things kind of loud, Mom.”
The final score was 2-1 in favour of the Gold Strikers! AppleApple played her heart out, scoring the opening goal on a beauty of a penalty kick (see, there’s the play-by-play narration), and the whole team displayed calm under pressure, whilst overcoming adversity, too.
One of the team’s top players, and their star goalie, broke her arm before the game, but came out to cheer. The player who subbed in as goalie in the first half was playing her first season of soccer. (In fact, two team members had never played soccer before this season). Another player had to walk to the field because her mom’s car had broken down — she arrived in time for the second half, and scored the second goal on an assist by AppleApple.
What I liked best was seeing how proud Kevin was of all the players, whose skills advanced greatly over the course of the season. They didn’t look like a powerhouse team, but they knew exactly how to manage the kick-ins, the corner kicks, and where to be on the field. All players got equal playing time regardless of skill level and despite the high pressure stakes (trust me, this does not always happen, even on house league teams, and even though it should). It was exciting to see everyone succeed as individuals and as a team.
Achievement yesterday: wrote all planned scenes in new book.
(Child: “Did you write THE END?” Me: “No, I don’t usually put that in.” Child: “You should!”)
Word total: 83,759.
I note this high water mark only to forget it.
Reality check today: back to the beginning, baby.
From here on in, word count is expected to reverse as I tighten, slash and burn, and sacrifice all of my favourite (aka: indulgent) sentences, paragraphs, and yes, even entire scenes.
Now it gets gritty.
When the kids arrived home from school yesterday, I said, “I finished my book!”
Cool. What’s for snack?
“Now I need to polish it. Then I’ll send it to my agent. She might want me to make some changes. I’ll make those changes. Then I’ll send it back to my agent. Maybe she’ll think it’s ready to go to the publisher. Maybe the publisher will like it. Or maybe they’ll want me to make some changes before offering me a contract. Then I’ll make more changes. Then maybe they’ll want me to sign a contract. Then I’ll start working with an editor. Then I’ll make a bunch more changes …” [note: children no longer listening]
Well. That kind of takes the fun out of celebrating a milestone, doesn’t it!
I should have poured myself a glass of wine instead.
But I had a lot of driving to do last night: older girl to swim practice followed by younger girl to soccer skills (sudden snow squall + commuter traffic = extra-long drive and extra-special driving swear words); home to shovel down supper; back to pick up swim girl, feed her en route, drop her at soccer practice; pick up younger girl and a friend, listen to amusing conversations between daughter and friend (“Watch out — my mom says bad words sometimes when she’s driving! Today she said, mm-hmm mm-hmmm!” [no translation, thankfully] “That’s okay. My mom and dad do that sometimes too.”); send Kevin out for final pickup while putting little kids to bed.
So I didn’t celebrate with a glass of wine.
Instead, after all was said and done, I left the dishes, and sipped a cup of tea, made with mint leaves harvested from our own backyard, and sat on the couch with Kevin and the dogs. It was Kevin’s Valentine’s wish for us. Isn’t he the best?
Today, I renew my commitment to this book.
The Girl Runner!
Long may she run. And may I have the grit, energy, and determination to bring her story into book-shaped form.
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