I want to tell you about today. I got up early, again. I was home from yoga before 8 0’clock, and said to Kev, “I feel like I already had my first cup of coffee.” (Then I went and had it anyway, because nothing beats that first cup of coffee). The wind is strong today, so is the sun, the sky is swept blue. CJ and his little friend played all morning with our new babysitter, and all was well. And I worked on a story. It is refreshing and sweet and delicious to be working simply for the sake of doing it, not toward a paycheque, though that may sound odd (and working toward a paycheque has its own set of pleasures, I might add). But to write just because of the words … nothing beats that. I’m not romanticizing. I don’t think.
In early afternoon, CJ and I ran errands uptown, then stopped for gelato and coffee, and he read books on the floor in his red sunhat and blue rainboots, and I sat quietly. Thinking. I did not feel distracted. I did not feel restless. I felt at peace. And the words that came to me right then were: I’m already doing what I’m meant to be doing.
Wait, need to edit that last sentence. Who knows what I’m meant to be doing. Not me, that’s for sure. But I’m already doing what I want to be doing.
A new Monday, a new routine. I got up early and went to a yoga class, and was home in time to pluck CJ out of his crib. Which was fortunate timing because he’d just started to howl (and to refuse everyone else’s offer of help) upon being informed by a friendly sister that I was at “hot yoga.”
“Mama, no go a hot yoga!” he yelled at me.
“I’m already back!” I said, not quite believing it myself. Starting today, I shall attempt for two weeks to get up early. Two weeks seems a reasonably ambitious goal for a woman who has been a night owl for the better part of two decades. Even infants and toddlers could not make me like getting up early (though I did what I had to do). Maybe getting up early without infants and toddlers will do the trick.
The oven was on all weekend. Four loaves of ordinary sandwich bread
thrown together on Saturday; plus one secret chocolate cake for my mom’s birthday party yesterday (using up the last of the beets, which imparted to the cake a rootier flavour than usual; not actually that sad to see the last of them after a winter of seasonal eating). Sunday, I whipped up four quiches (with spring asparagus and spinach!) for the birthday lunch; and in a late afternoon session, made granola
, then chocolate chip cookie bars
. My weekend discovery: baking and cooking have become second nature, and no longer require the thinking and planning they once did. I bake bread like I’m reciting the times tables. I peel potatoes and measure spices and gauge what’s lacking in the soup instinctively, which allows me to do it even when I’m exhausted, or less than inspired, or distracted, or engrossed in a radio show. Thank goodness for the radio. CBC radio one
, to be specific. My beloved kitchen companion.
A new week, new routine. CJ will attend an extra morning at nursery school. Our new babysitter will fetch the kids from school on Friday afternoons. I will yoga in the early morning. And soccer will dominate our evenings, and Saturday mornings. I am brainstorming picnic food, consume-in-transit food, make-in-advance food. Tonight’s menu: Wendy’s BIG pasta salad; and roll-up sandwiches on tortillas which the kids will customize to their liking, and bring along to AppleApple’s first soccer practice. (Planned toppings: egg salad, tuna salad, spinach, cheese, peppers and cukes).
One last tidbit: Soccer in the park started on Saturday, and despite the rain–and, worse, the ominous rumblings of thunder in the distance–we had a good turn-out, and a great practice and game. Most fun–and unexpected–was seeing Fooey participate, fling herself into the gang, elbow her way out of a crowd, and kick the ball all the way down the field to the net. Next up, sending CJ out on the field, too. Hey, he’s got a good solid boot on him.
P.S. Photos added after text. The first was taken in our backyard, which is beyond paradise right now. This is its peak flowering season. Be alert for fairies. The second photo is from the party, taken by AppleApple (she took a ton of photos, and many of them were strikingly composed). This is her gift for her grandma: a doll that she sewed herself, inside a bag that she also sewed herself. These projects are entirely of her doing, from inspiration to completion. I don’t even help her thread the needle.
The jump! This is how I’m feeling today. I haven’t even had a cup of coffee, but it’s 10 o’clock in the morning, and the house is emptied of its usual noise. The oven is on, baking up two pans of sticky buns, and I’ve just jumped on my bed, and recorded it for posterity. Looking at that image, I think, not grown woman with four children and major life responsibilities, but girl. Sometimes it seems to me that I’m too in touch with my inner child: silly, goofy, self-involved, jumping on the bed.
Last night, I walked out of our family meeting. I was appalled afterward to think of the poor conflict resolution skills that action demonstrated. Fight or flight? I’m flight.
Oddly, the results of me saying, “That’s it, I’m done with this meeting, and I’m going to do the dishes,” turned out to have a positive effect on what had degenerated into an argument over the Talking Stick and its underling, the Second Talking Stick: which had more power? (CJ had been monopolizing the original talking stick for his own purposes, so Albus had introduced a second). No one could hear anyone talking over the talking stick debate, so when I walked off to do the dishes, everyone else cleared off too, and the kids went to play in the living room. They played together for the next HOUR. All of them. Huh? So, let’s summarize. Family meeting = children arguing so loudly that no one can hear each other. Mama walking out on family meeting = children playing happily together.
A couple of positives that I took from the family meeting: 1. Albus explained to Fooey what family meetings are supposed to be about: “It’s not about the ice cream! It’s about us being together and talking as a family!” 2. We actually did discuss one important topic, though found no resolution. Topic? Extra-curricular activities.
This week, Albus has been particularly unhappy, crying, sad, angry, refusing to get out of the car, etc., at both piano lessons and swim lessons. I just sit quietly and gently and wait for him to change his mind and come with us. But it sort of depresses me, wears me down, makes me sad, too; that I can’t find a way to make him happier in the situation.
Music isn’t an option; to me, it’s a skill as important to learn as reading, but it doesn’t matter what instrument is involved. Albus has expressed interest in guitar, so why not? But he still has to finish this year’s piano lessons. And both AppleApple and Albus were upset about taking the same swim class over and over again (they are on their fourth or fifth round of Swim Kids Five; perhaps a rec centre record?). I get it. It sucks. But only with practice will they get better and better till they pass. They are both close to passing in terms of the skills they’ve acquired. But I watched them yesterday and suspect they have another round of swim kids five before them this summer. (Though CJ did a whole lesson on his own, while I stood at the edge of the pool in my swimsuit prepared to leap in and rescue him, lest he step off into the abyss whilst his sweet swim teacher was otherwise occupied with another toddler in her care. Yikes. I’m not sure I’ll be able to relax in the stands after all, even if he makes the transition to solo lessons.)
Buzzer just went. Sticky buns done! I cannot help myself. I must take a photo and post it right now. They smell THAT GOOD.
Back to the family meeting. How did we resolve the anger and frustration over children not wanting to learn skills that we parents consider to be important? Short answer: we didn’t. But at least we tried to talk about it. We can try again next week. Till I storm off. Joking. That was a joke.
This week’s yoga revelation: sometimes 100% effort yields less than, say, 80% effort. Sometimes the best things are created when we’re not trying quite so hard, when we’re loose, when we let go. You measure what you’ve got, and you give just a little bit less. (This, as a concept, is almost impossible for me to put into action; honestly, I have to grate against my instincts; it’s painful). It’s partly about setting priorities, saving something of yourself for everything that needs doing. And it’s also about letting go of the idea of perfection. Maybe my inner child gets it better than I do. Maybe I should let her jump on the bed more often.
Have you seen him in his Strawberry Shortcake hat? He accessorizes with pink mittens, too. These are his choices, and I support them! The photos of Fooey were taken by her sister; I wanted to show how she’s posing for photos these days, very deliberately. I think it’s an effect of being photographed so often, and also of watching me photograph myself for the 365 day project. I often set up the camera and fool around with various poses and backgrounds … it can take quite awhile, and the kids are used to the beep-beep-beep of the ten-second timer going off, and run to check out the resulting picture. They’ll report, “That’s a good one, Mommy!”
Today, I have some news. It’s not of the good variety, but on the other hand, as I think my way through it, it’s not of the bad variety either. ParentDish, the Canadian version for which I’ve been writing regularly, is going on hiatus while the company retools the American site. That means I am temporarily out of regular writing work. My last column will publish tomorrow. The reason this news is not altogether bad, upon reflection (thank you, hot yoga) … well, a couple of reasons, actually. 1. Over the winter, I have been writing very little other than my columns, and have found it hard to focus, in the few extra hours available, on poetry or short stories. I will enjoy doing that again. 2. I also need to consider whether I would prefer to publish under a pseudonym were I to write a column like this again. Recent posts have gotten a number of comments, some smart and thoughtful, and others a bit hostile and weird. It’s made me go hmmm, if nothing more. I don’t mind having time to reflect on this. 3. There might be a third reason. I can’t remember it. It’s almost time to head to school.
The days go.
But CJ and I had a lunch date with Kevin today, and I thought, walking over in the breezy sunshine, of the great fortune of time that is mine. And I thought of that poem from a few posts back: “This is what the living do.” We get to walk in spring sunshine, and see another spring burst into bloom.
Around the same age, all the children had imaginary friends, or made-up words for which we couldn’t discover definitions. Albus had Bappy and Bumberknock. AppleApple had Amy and Damey. Fooey had a mysterious word that she used with alarming frequency (considering we had no idea what it meant): Teacock. She also called all animals “didi.” (Oddly, CJ did the same thing for a brief time). And, now, CJ has Dindl and Pindl, sometimes pronounced Dinder and Pinder. Dindl and Pindl are constantly up to unknown but dramatic activities that call for a lot of arm-waving and expression. Albus just told me his theory that Dindl and Pindl are CJ’s swear words. This actually sounds plausible.
I used the fast-forward method today, on advice from a friend, and plied CJ with massive amounts of sweet sweet nectar (apple juice, which he never gets to drink) … and therefore sped up the whole potty training process. The only difficulty was turning it off at the far end of the experiment when it was time to go OUT to the kids’ music class. Our big accomplishment of the day was establishing that underwear is different than a diaper: it’s meant to stay dry. We went through about five pairs during the establishment phase, and now he’s been in the same pair since 2pm. Pretty remarkable. A good day’s work.
And now with supper still on the table, lunches to be made, Fooey tormenting Albus, potty trainer on the loose, AppleApple practicing piano loudly, a huge full-house tidy required this evening … I’m escaping to do 90 minutes of yoga in a steaming hot room. Any wonder such an event feels like a holiday? Sadly, this means Kev is left to swim through the disaster … I have no advice to offer him.
In today’s yoga class, which seemed to catch me feeling more tired than usual, I kept thinking: this sucks and it’s hard. Fortunately, the instructor seemed to catch the vibe (which might have been everyone else’s too, who knows), and asked us to take our thoughts elsewhere if something negative was coming up. So, I changed it to: this is challenging, and it might be rewarding. Not quite thoroughly positive, but all I could muster. And it helped.
This week’s classes have brought out a few Big Thoughts. One, that I always have a little more to give. I always do. I don’t think that I do, I can’t imagine it could be possible, but if asked to give a little more, reach a little further, hold a pose a little longer … it’s there. I can. This is a strengthening metaphor for the whole of my life. The only thing holding me from giving more is my own belief that I’m spent, and that I can’t.
That said, my other Big Thought was that pushing toward my potential is a delicate balance of being compassionate while asking more of myself. Compassion isn’t about letting someone off the hook, it’s about recognizing the frailty and vulnerability and strength in another person. Even if that person is oneself. The more I practice yoga, the more open I become to accepting my weaknesses, and the difference in my practice from session to session. It’s humbling. Some days I feel strong and energetic. Other days it is more of a struggle. And pushing through on the days of struggle leave me with a greater sense of accomplishment afterward, while on my strong days the sense of accomplishment is accessible within the practice itself.
In other news … CJ has been peeing on his potty with more consistency–and a lot of pride. The other evening, he timed it with dinner and got a hearty standing ovation from his family. I am almost considering hunting in the attic for some toddler-sized underpants, but I’m not sure how quickly to move with that next step, especially since he gets cared for out of the house and by other people more often than the other children did at the same potty-training point. At this point in the training, once the body awareness is there, it’s a pretty big leap to being consistent all day long. It requires an adult with spidey-senses on the alert. Full-time. For at least a week or two. And when training this early, it also requires spare pants in the diaper bag. If he’s ready, I’m ready. No pushing.
Finally, can I just say … I was pretty disappointed in myself for not enjoying March break more. More precisely, for not enjoying being with my children non-stop during March break more. However, it did make clear that last summer’s writing holiday will not be happening this summer, not unless I crave a nervous breakdown. I’ve become accustomed to having time to pursue my own work. I need it now. Even when it sucks and it’s hard. Because, yes, it is also challenging and potentially rewarding.
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