This past week’s lack of posts does not indicate a lack of activity, but the opposite: too much on the go, and no time to sit and create captions for photos. Or, in many cases, even to take photos.
So, here, instead, are sketches of all the blogs I meant to write.
The children migrating to the basement blog
This week it got hot. We chose not to run our air conditioning, which requires shutting up the house. Instead, we toughed it out (still toughing it out, in fact; still hot). On the hottest day (37 degrees C), which was Thursday, it was also oppressively humid. That night, the kids slept in the basement. They’d been migrating there all week anyway, seeking the coolest space in the house. One morning, before swim lessons, they made a band (Fooey, who is really and truly a loud child, did an excellent impression of a punk rock singer; the song went “Ya, ya, ya, I love penguins …”). And I thought to myself: man, I love these kids. (Tiny related observation that could have been its own blog: how awesome to have older kids organizing the younger ones into activities like making a band and putting on plays, which they also did this week; I spent a lot of time on musical marches around the house and homemade plays when the older kids were little; how awesome to see that investment paying off).
The choosing the activities I really like to do blog
(No, the photo is not related.) For two weeks, we’re doing a summer activity I really look forward to: every morning, we bike to an outdoor pool a couple of kms away, the kids have swim lessons, and due to fortuitous scheduling I get a half-hour lane swim, too. Then we shower, snack, and bike home again. Sometimes we stop along the way at the library or grocery store. It’s been hot. I realize this activity, with four children in tow, might sound positively torturous to some; but I really love it. The rhythm is relaxed. We’re getting good exercise together. It’s a mini-adventure, but its daily repetition requires of me little thought or extra planning.
The day of crazy chapters blog
Some days are mere phrases, a sentence at most; some have chapters. Friday had chapters. Chapter one was not good: worn out from a week with the children, breakfast damn near did me in. The complaints. The whining. The stream of criticism. I’m talking about you, offspring. Nevertheless, I chose not to quit my job (ie. of mother). Chapter two: We biked to the pool. We swam. We snacked. We biked home. We lunched. Chapter three: I gathered props and drove to a photo shoot (Kev spelled me off). Yes, you read that right. A photo shoot. I’ll explain later. Chapter four: Home again to pick up local food order from Bailey’s, with three-year-old in tow. Unpacked food. Made supper. Welcomed babysitter. Added necklace to my outfit. Chapter five: Drove away with Kevin to Hillside Festival. Just the two of us. Blissful outdoor evening of dancing, eating delicious food without interruption, drinking beer, washed in music.
The comparison between evenings blog
A little too blissful: Friday evening. Because Saturday, oh Saturday … soccer game in Orangeville, driving in the heat, sitting on the sidelines in the heat, wrangling offspring in the heat, endless trips to porta-potties, ditches, community centre bathrooms in the heat … and then, finally, supper, back home, prepared with care: freshly made gazpacho, steak sandwiches, grilled zucchini and cauliflower, completely rejected by two out of four children. More whining: “I want pearsauce! I want pearsauce! I want pearsauce!” More demands: “Why aren’t you getting my water that I asked for when I asked for it!” More dirty dishes. Kevin and I looking at each other across the table, wishing we were back at Hillside. Just the two of us.
The Mary Oliver blog
All week I’ve been reading a collection of essays, prose poems, and poems by Mary Oliver, called Winter Hours. Enticing title in this heat. There’s a longer blog here on the subject of poetry — writing it and reading it — but I haven’t got the mental space to pull it all together. This is a book I will read again. Every evening, before sleep, it’s been like cool water pouring over me. There is a chapter on her poem The Swan in which she effortlessly tells me everything I’d need to know to write and read poetry with more depth and insight. Count me a convert.
If we’re not available, think soccer. If you call, and we’re out, think soccer. If you wonder what we’ve been up to all weekend … yup, soccer.
Soccer has always been important to Kevin, but over the past number of years it’s also become increasingly important to other family members, too. For five years, Kevin coached a group of neighbourhood kids in the park, once a week, spring and summer, weather permitting. Then, last year, a change: the big kids decided to play house league soccer, too; Kevin continued to coach soccer in the park, but the little kids showed minimal interest in participating (which was one of the reasons we’d decided to continue). So, soccer in the park came to its natural end.
Only to be replaced by soccer year-round, apparently.
In the fall, both big kids did soccer skills once a week, and Kevin played on his indoor team. In the winter, AppleApple also went to a goalie skills camp once a week; she hoped to make the U9 rep team as a goalie, which she did, this spring, and that’s when her thrice-weekly practices began. Kevin signed on to coach Albus’s house league team. And the weeks of non-stop soccer continued: often, we’d have only one soccer-free evening.
On Saturday, under a withering sun, Kevin and Albus’s shared season ended, with some disappointment; due to a wet spring, they’d really just started going full tilt. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of soccer to be had … and imagine our scheduling acrobatics as the little kids show increasing interest in the sport.
*I’m even considering joining a co-ed team with Kevin this winter to get in on the action.*
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.
Monday supper. It was my mom’s birthday, and we decided on a Spanish theme. My brother and his wife hosted. On the menu: refried beans, rice, two kinds of Latin American cheese, plus crema, tortillas, guacamole, salsa and chips, a big salad, and a fruit crisp with ice cream for dessert. Oh, and a pinata! This was voting day in Canada, too, though election results were disappointing (in our household): we now have a Conservative majority, voted in with 39.5 percent of the vote. Yes, that’s how our multi-party, first-past-the-post system works. But enough on that. I started the morning with a swim and a run, and it was on the track that I heard the news about Osama Bin-Laden; two men were discussing it as I ran by. Which oddly means that two out of three news-worthy events last week are connected in my mind with the Rec Centre: a wedding and a death. It was a writing day. Kevin and I voted together after lunch. The kids had swim lessons after school, and CJ survived without me, again. Next lesson, I’m supposed to come sans swimsuit. And he’s supposed to not cry.
Tuesday supper. It was my dad’s retirement dinner. We were fed by the kind cooks at Conrad Grebel College; because I worked one year during university in that same kitchen, all the cooks came out to say hello. Considering eighteen years had elapsed in the meantime, very little had changed — they were all still there! On the menu: a variety of salads, Swedish potatoes (think butter), and beef roulade (chosen by my dad; I’d never heard of it: beef pounded flat and wrapped around bacon which is wrapped around a pickle!). Kevin brought the two eldest kids, but left with them after dessert as it was already past their bedtime. They missed hearing my siblings and me sing two songs with Dad as our retirement gift to him. Don’t ask us to do speeches, but we can sing and play. I started the day with a freezing bike ride, 20km, and my hands were numb by the end. It was a pleasant, at-home day otherwise; and Kev got home early so I could race to the library and bookstore before going to CGC early to practice. I left the little kids with buttered noodles for their supper, and CJ was won over by the babysitter. A good day all around, but a late night for this early riser.
Wednesday supper. This is not a photo of Wednesday’s supper, but is representative of the early part of the week: rain, rain, rain. I forgot to take a photo. I went with an easy crockpot lentil soup, mild curry flavours, and baked rice. I was up early to run with a friend, and it was a full writing day. I’ve added an extra afternoon of babysitting to my week, and I’m grateful for three full writing days each week (meaning 9-3:30, essentially). Kevin took the kids to music lessons after school, and I went to a yoga class instead. I also accompanied Albus to his piano lesson and speed-read poems for my poetry book club. Wednesday is our new date night, but it’s a temporary hacked-together shelter of a date night. We have no free Saturdays this month and Kevin plays soccer every Friday, making this our only unoccupied evening in the whole week. But we aren’t even bothering with babysitting. We’re aiming low: it would be nice to meet on the couch and talk.
Thursday supper. This is not a photo of Thursday’s supper. This is a photo from snacktime, Thursday night, when I realized there was no supper photo. Today, I baked bread. For supper there was pasta, leftover red sauce, steamed broccoli, and marinated tofu which Kevin grilled on the BBQ. I left him in charge and went to a vinyasa yoga class. He managed to save me three pieces of tofu: the little kids LOVED it. This was my morning off, and Kevin went to an early yoga class instead. We enjoyed playing at a friend’s house all morning, and the sun decided to shine, at last, too. In a few days, we’ll have leaves on the trees. On the way home from yoga, I stopped in to offer my opinion about our region’s proposed Light Rail Transit line. The elderly woman behind me only wanted to complain about the likely cost, but I’d rather invest in infrastructure that offers alternatives to the car than invest in more roads. (I did not turn to her and say: Think of your grandchildren!! Maybe I should have?). AppleApple headed to soccer practice as soon as I got home, and we failed to coordinate carpooling, which wasn’t very alternative of us.
Friday supper. Finally a photo of supper: this was a noodle salad with peanut dressing (made with leftover noodles). I also fired up the BBQ for the first time in my life, and grilled sausages. Um, that was easy. I started the morning with an early swim, and enjoyed a writing day. Kevin, who is in charge of the “dentist portfolio,” took ALL FOUR KIDS to the dentist for their checkup. Only one poor soul, who shall remain nameless, had cavities: four. More dentist visits in the weeks to come. After Kev dropped everyone off at home, most went outside to play and blow bubbles. It was pretty idyllic. Kevin had soccer, so we arranged for a babysitter to come, so that I could go to a craft night at a friend’s house. Except I was lame and didn’t craft a thing, not even one felted ball. I just chatted ’til I was too sleepy, and it was time to head home.
Saturday supper. I wasn’t in the mood to cook, and the kids were desperate to go out to eat, but we decided to be thrifty (new porch and all), plus the fridge was overflowing with leftovers. I heated up the peanut noodles, which were delicious, and made miso soup, which is basically instant contentment in a bowl, and we had noodles on the side for those who prefer their noodles plain. There were a few leftover sausages, too. Plenty of food. It was a busy day, with Fooey starting soccer, and AppleApple’s theatre rehearsal, and a playdate for Albus, and a bike ride/run combo in the afternoon for me, and a real soccer game for AppleApple in a nearby town (to which Kevin took the two youngest). After all that, the kids and I flopped on the couch and watched two episodes of The Amazing Race (we haven’t seen the finale yet). I like watching TV with them. CJ hops on me, Fooey snuggles in close, and everyone talks the whole time. Then we had bath night, and got the little kids to bed. I went to my poetry book club where we had a lively discussion that lasted far later than it seemed; and with the return of the babysitter, Kevin went out and saw friends playing in a punk rock cover band.
Sunday supper. It was AppleApple’s turn to cook, and she devised a scrumptious menu: homemade hummus with pita and veggies; French onion soup ladled over toasted bread with cheese; Mexican Christmas salad, which was lettuce-based with tons of fruit and a lime dressing; and cheesecake for dessert (bought). We shared supper with my mom: Mother’s Day! And I had the best day. I slept until I felt rested and ready to wake up (9:30!!!!). AppleApple made me an egg to order: sunny-side up. Kevin took all the kids grocery shopping while I read the paper and played piano. I took AppleApple to her soccer practice and went for a long beautiful run along trails that follow the Grand River. And I didn’t have to cook supper! I tidied up toys, Kevin vacuumed, and I did dishes for approximately forever, and after bedtime we met on the couch to peruse the coming week. And from the looks of it, it’s only getting busier.
Monday supper. Grilled sausages (breakfast, because that’s all we had left in the freezer). Mashed potato casserole (lots of cheese). Squash and beets cooked whole in the crockpot. Swim lessons were cancelled, so I had more time than expected after school to prepare supper. Not that it mattered. I’d made the casserole the night before and popped it into the fridge. It needed about twenty minutes in the oven. Most of us liked it. I would make it again, as a way of using up leftover mashed potatoes. Anyone out there have ideas for leftover potatoes? I’m stuck in a cottage pie/shepherd’s pie/casserole groove. I mashed the squash with a touch of maple syrup, and butter; always good. That was the last “keeper” squash and it was a bit soft at the top. The beets were so far gone I wasn’t sure they could be ressurected, but they steamed up nicely, and despite a slight overall rubberiness, when sliced and salted, they were sweet and tasty. But I’m tired of beets. And no one else will eat them. Kevin had soccer. I swam in the morning. In between, the kids had school, and CJ stayed for the “lunch bunch” at his nursery school, giving me an extra half hour to work. Or to nap, as the case may be. Then we went shoe shopping (for him) and clothes shopping (for me). It felt very car-based and suburban. Especially when I filled up the truck with gas. Good grief!
Tuesday supper. Curried carrot soup. Quinoa. Squash and egg casserole (big-time 70s recipe). On the soup, which should have been good: the curry flavours needed to be stronger. A friend sent the suggestion when I complained about the blandness of last batch of carrot soup (thank God, this batch marked the end of our carrot invasion). She suggested grating in fresh ginger at the very end to add an extra pop. But I cooked everything together and was far too conservative with my spice amounts. I froze the leftovers for a quick meal another time: will bump up the spices upon reheating. I would call this meal not a flop, exactly, but tinged with disappointment; nobody but Kevin and me ate the squash casserole, which was almost dessert-like and delicious, but decidedly unattractive. I napped early, almost immediately after getting home from spin class, and had lots of energy all day, enough to make it to yoga before supper. AppleApple had an outdoor soccer practice, so Kevin had the unenviable job of packing up CJ, and driving to pick up Fooey (on a playdate), then AppleApple (on a playdate), then Albus (on a playdate), and then racing to the soccer field. We ended up eating supper together, minus AppleApple, whom I picked up after supper. She’d eaten a bunch of snacks on the way there, but was famished enough to have a helping of squash casserole. CJ insisted on riding along to the soccer field, but I made him promise to listen to the federal leaders’ debate on the way. It put him to sleep (gah!), but somehow we managed to transfer him from truck to bed, and then to fool him into thinking it was very very late at night when he woke restlessly around 8pm. He must have been tired. He slept for a full 12 hours. The rest of the family stayed up watching the whole debate, and talking about what we’d heard. Then Kevin went to hockey.
Wednesday supper. Crockpot lentil soup: the harira recipe on this blog, over rice. Nice. Could have used a side veg, but I had nothing convenient on hand. This was an oddball day. CJ stayed for lunch bunch again, and my friend J picked him up, and I got to go for a massage instead! Woot! It was my gift to myself post-race. I also met with my brother in the morning to talk about cookbooks. I was floating the idea–the underdeveloped notion, more like it–of making a cookbook loosely based on this “week in suppers” theme. Talking to him (he works for a company that publishes a lot of cookbooks) put it into perspective. The work involved would be staggering. It might not be the best use of my time. Unless I do it slowly, over time, gradually gathering recipes and photos until I have enough material to justify putting a book together–and then arranging for recipe testing, etc. Fiction-writing is a better use of my time: that’s what it confirmed for me. Other nice things happened today: I went for a morning run with my friend N; I ran a quick errand uptown all by myself; I ate a spinach and feta pastry for lunch; my friend M took the little girls to their music class so I didn’t have to leave the house; and Kevin came home early so I could go to yoga. I took Albus to his piano lesson and read Annabel, by Kathleen Winter, a book I liked so much–loved might be the word for it–that I think I will blog about it soon.
Thursday supper. Beans and rice, with quesedillas and red cabbage salad. This entire week had flop written all over it. I don’t know how I managed it, since beans are my specialty, but somehow, when suppertime arrived, these were still hard in the pot and required a full hour of extra cooking time. So I fired up the cast-iron skillet and made a pile of quesedillas using corn tortillas (like a Latin American grilled cheese sandwich). Albus ate about six. AppleApple was at a birthday party, from which Kevin picked her up early to go to another soccer practice. The little kids played outside, and no one complained (too much) about being hungry. We ate late, when the beans finally softened. I forgot to take a photo. Instead, here’s AppleApple from another afternoon this week: yay! We have new space to play, now: it’s called Outside! (Or we did last week, before it decided to snow again). And we have big plans for backyard improvements (though I think we’ll pass on the water slide from Albus’s bedroom window down to a trampoline, as was brainstormed during Saturday night’s supper). Kevin and I had kundalini yoga, and then I put on my dancing shoes, and drove to nearby Guelph with two friends to go dancing. My siblings’ band was playing a show. Here’s a link to their latest video. If you ever get a chance to see Kidstreet play live, go go go! They throw down an instant dance party. That was a late night, especially considering my day had started at 5:15–to go swimming. But that’s okay. I told Kevin just before I ran the half that this coming week would be my party week.
Friday supper. Finally, success!!! I made miso soup and pad thai. Both were fabulous. The pad thai recipe was different from the usual ones involving ketchup: the sauce was 1/4 cup of fish sauce, 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, and a whole lot of sugar. I had some frozen cilantro that I added to the mix. The miso soup is so good and so simple that I made it again for the kids’ lunch the next day: it’s basically instant soup, if you have the ingredients on hand (miso paste, seaweed, and tofu). I was thrilled to have made a meal that everyone loved. AppleApple was at a playdate after school and arrived home toward the end of the meal. My late night/early morning combo (plus a morning run) caught up with me around 7pm, so Kevin did the dishes while I crashed out on the couch for about an hour and a half (!!!). Woke in time to tuck kids in, then we flopped and watched tv: Parks and Rec, and 30 Rock, and we tried out Modern Family, which I liked more than I’d expected to. Albus tried to stay up too. “What are you up to?” I asked him, when I discovered him hanging around the kitchen past his bedtime. “I’m observing,” he said.
Saturday supper. Take-out Indian from our favourite spot in town: Masala Bay! Kevin worked today, and I was tired. I managed to bake bread and granola, and to take the kids to the little park in a rainstorm, and to arrange transport for AppleApple, who has both Singer’s Theatre in the morning, and soccer practice in the afternoon (I asked her yesterday, picking her up from her FOURTH practice of the week, whether she feels she’s doing too much, to which she replied, “No!!!” She loves soccer. She likes being busy. She had difficulty imagining that a parent could push a child to do something the child wouldn’t want to do, anyway.) I had zero inspiration for supper. What a treat to order food that would have taken me an inordinate amount of effort to prepare. Samosas, pakoras, nan, black lentils in cream and butter, a fiery eggplant dish, butter chicken, chicken in chili and coriander. We feasted. We stayed at the table for over an hour, talking and laughing. CJ is still a bit young to participate fully, and he does end up interrupting and yelling sometimes, or dropping his fork to get attention, but I am otherwise relishing the stage that our family is at, and how much pleasure we get just from spending time together around the table. That evening Kevin and I got to party some more, to celebrate my friend J’s graduation from midwifery school. More dancing, and free drinks. Another late night.
Sunday supper. Leftovers and scrambled eggs. There were enough Indian leftovers for an entire second supper, to which AppleApple added scrambled eggs made-to-order. I’ve been giving the older kids more freedom in the kitchen, and they spent a lot of time last week making tea (after getting permission to use the stove). AppleApple was keen to learn how to make scrambled eggs, envisioning herself rising early to cook herself breakfast (which would be, frankly, awesome). It was a fairly tricky process, but by the end, she made a batch without anyone watching over her shoulder. The gas stove makes it feel more dangerous, but it’s time for the kids to find real independence in the kitchen. And it’s time for me to ease up and let them. (On a side note: CJ agreed to be three this week: because he wanted to take a turn at cooking, and I told him that it starts when you turn four. “And you’re still two, so that’s a long way to go.” He considered his options briefly, and told me, “I’m three now.”) We’ve noticed some improvements in responsibility, and I think it’s more to do with my own expectations than with their initiative (or lack thereof). Tidying the house yesterday was so much easier with everyone responsible for their own spaces, and helping out overall: they helped because they were expected to help, and they got that. But I’m a bit of a control freak in the kitchen (just ask Kevin), so I’m reminding myself to back off and make space for everyone else to help out here, too. No exercise yesterday or today. Yup, it was a party week. We ended the day with homework completed, piano practiced, and a planning meeting over a pot of tea: always a good entry into the new week ahead.
So, the soccer season is over. Albus’s team played hard and performed better than anticipated, but it wasn’t quite enough to send them on to the semi-finals tomorrow. Watching from the sidelines kept me happy; Albus is not the strongest player, and I felt less of a sense of responsibility and investment, and could enjoy the ebb and flow of the game more as a result. I was relieved that his performance wouldn’t make or break the outcome of the game. No one was counting on him for big goals. Kevin experienced an opposite effect, finding Albus’s games harder to watch than AppleApple’s, seeing all the missed opportunities that a bolder player would have taken. Maybe I should go to Albus’s games, and Kev should go to AppleApple’s, and we’ll all live happily ever after.
I see more soccer sidelines in our future. The grass is fine, there’s a big sky, and the non-playing kids entertain themselves with snacks and play. I’m almost–okay, not even almost, but actually–looking forward to next season.
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