Me, back at the volunteering

I am sitting with my feet up, enjoying the quiet after a looooong day of volunteering at a fundraising barbecue for the local skating club as part of the town’s Canada Day celebrations. 

   
   
It was a good day, even though most of it was cool and drizzly. And my feet were cold and wet. As was my nose. 

I was the first person to use one of the Port-a-Potties. Have you ever sat in a fresh Port-a-Potty?

Glorious.

I kept busy from 9 am to 8 pm, helping with the set-up and take-down, and spending the majority of the day prepping burger and hot dog buns with napkins. It was actually rather . . . Zen. A simple job, part of a chain of tasks, and although my back did feel some strain after a while, it was flexible enough that I was able to do it while occasionally sitting down.

Hours of no other demands than opening a bag, wrapping a bun with napkin, and making sure each bun opens cleanly. Handing buns to the runners. And pleasant conversation, to boot. Recognizing friends and former students. 

Lovely.

Once in a while, Bridget (who had come with in absence of a babysitter, as her dad had gone to an event in another town for the morning as part of his Shriner’s stuff) would come back from running around the inflatable bouncy houses to eat or check in with me (I only had to track her down once). By the time Hubby came after his Shriner fun, she was ready for a nap although she left in protest. She was back a few hours later, and eventually helped us with the cleanup as best she could (as she’d helped with set-up).

That was something else that was lovely: the Canada Day celebration was only a few blocks from our house this year. If I hadn’t needed the car to transport supplies, we could have walked it. And as I write this, listening to the fireworks (visible from my back windows), she’s there, with her brother, having walked back down for the fun.

   

    
  
That’s another awesome part of today: Jack taking on more responsibilities. He took his sister to the fireworks, not only because he wanted to see them too, but because he knew I was too tired after the long day to take them. He stepped up. And that was after being at the barbecue all day himself, too — he was there from start to finish along with me, getting going on his 40 hours of required volunteer service (part of the Ontario Secondary School Diploma). He did such a great job handling meal tickets, food, and occasionally money, alongside his peers, and he was complimented on his manner by the both the fundraising and event coordinators. All of the kids who were there did a great job, but hey — proud mama, here. 

So it’s the end of the day, and I can hear the traffic as the fireworks have come to an end. My children will be home shortly. And hubby is starting his new job tomorrow, so he’s already gone to bed for his 4 am start. I shall sleep well tonight, I think.

Opening Night & the Adventuring Teen Returns Triumphant 

Good day. 

I made a fair dent in my end-of-year marking, working productively through the  day before heading home to rest before our first official showing of The Comedy of Errors

We had a nice crowd who laughed in all the right places and donated generously afterward. Nobody noticed when I messed up my lines, or that I was so cold that my teeth were chattering. We did have a great time, though!

   
                     

(The bug spray I borrowed was effective, but it also stripped the blue paint off the beads I’m wearing, dying the skin on my neck blue!)

Right after getting out of costume, I ran up to the school to meet our boy. Well, technically I walked. Hubby had the car and was already there. I was almost at the school when the bus arrived, so I was able to wave at them as they pulled up. 

Sadly, my phone was out of juice so I don’t have a pic of my son coming off the bus with this awesome fluorescent green squid hat on, clutching a small Chibi Flash doll and smiling tiredly, his face a mix of relief at being home and sadness that his fun adventure was over. He had an amazing time, a trip he will never forget, overcoming some fears and building friendships and trying new things. I’m sure he grew another few inches while he was gone, too. 

The whole house feels more settled, now that he’s home again. 

And the earth turns on. Tomorrow I have to go back into the school to keep marking, we have to start cleaning for visitors next week (I’d actually love to have the cast and crew for a campfire on Sunday if I’m able to get the house presentable by then), and the second show is tomorrow night. No sooner does one thing get done that the next needs doing. 

Slow down, Earth. Just for a bit.

 Addendum: the Squid Boy!

  

Late winter / early spring skiing: animal tracks and animated moods

The snow was sticky today.

It was a balmy -1C when my son and I finally got back out to the ski hill, with a wind chill of -5. Perfect blue sky with the half-moon faintly hanging above. Glorious. There were only four other kids skiing and snowboarding, so we essentially had the slopes to ourselves. I think I would have enjoyed myself more with colder temperatures, though, as crazy as that sounds after our long and bitter winter.

You see, sticky snow is a hazard. It catches up the skis, snagging them in unexpected places and tripping me up when I least expected it. I nearly wiped out (peed myself a little in the process, too) a couple of times, just managing to save myself from what would have been violent tumbles. I’ve never yet broken an arm or a leg but I’m pretty certain that today would have been the day — glad to have dodged that bullet! Although I should have remembered to wear the bladder protection padding . . .

But it was still gorgeous up on that hill, perfect views all around and the added delight of more animal tracks! I saw squirrel, rabbit, and I later learned, fox and lynx.

Jack had a great time also, taking enormous pleasure in following me directly down three or four runs and irritating the heck out of me. I told him, “It’s not that I don’t trust YOU, it’s that if I get caught up and fall you’ll end up running me over and maybe getting hurt yourself!” Silly boy.

Jack had a great time also, taking enormous pleasure in following me directly down three or four runs and irritating the heck out of me. I told him, “It’s not that I don’t trust YOU, it’s that if I get caught up and fall you’ll end up running me over and maybe getting hurt yourself!” Silly boy.

And of course, shortly after getting home, I had a lovely nap. Bridget went to a birthday party later on, her dad taking her so I could sleep, and had some fun bowling, and then Jack went out again to the local Twoonie Skate so he could practice his hard-stops, cross-overs, and spins.

The other day, one of my colleagues commented to me, approvingly and with some surprise, how active I’ve become with my kids. I said, I’ve been trying, for sure. It’s not only good for them (and I do feel like I’ve been playing a bit of catch-up to compensate for the years where we didn’t do much of anything — that refrain “The years before five last the rest of their lives” repeating through my head), but it’s good for me, too. I’m still twenty pounds over the limit of my dress pants’ waistband, and we’re not active every day, but it’s been on a steady increase. And I think we’re seeing benefits in both my son’s and my mental health as well — he’s experienced far less incidents of anxiety, or been better able to cope. I still take my pills, of course (mental note: replenish stock this week), but it’s absolutely true that getting out into the fresh air and sunshine fires bullets at my depression when it rises.

So why was it that I kept yawning on the way up the ski lift?

An absent computer cord, an evening of skating, and a helping of parental guilt.

Left my computer cord at work, so this post is being composed on my iPhone.

I’d rather be typing on a keyboard. Oh, well. 

Had a small attack of the guilts tonight while watching our daughter in her skating show. I was sitting next to our teenager, who expressed a bit of jealousy and a wish that he had gotten involved in skating lessons this winter when I had first offered. So now he wants to try a month in the spring session, which I’m happy to provide. 

The guilt comes from not insisting that he continue the skating after his one year of lessons, when he was 7 or 8, or that I didn’t decide for him that he should be in lessons this winter. I think he would have enjoyed it. At the same time, Jack has karate twice a week and archery on Fridays, so his concern that he might end up doing too much — especially when we added skiing to the mix — was likely valid. On the other hand, he’s a very creative and highly expressive individual. He’s also waffled over going back into dance. 

Guilt, guilt, guilt . . . I don’t want him to be overwhelmed either, yet I want him to get involved with physical activities that he’ll enjoy and will add to his skill set. Bridget, too. But there were a few years when they were both small where I was barely keeping it together, let alone having enough energy to do activities. So I didn’t insist that he keep going in skating, or guitar lessons, and maybe I should have. 

I told him tonight, though, that it’s not too late to start. So hopefully he’ll give it another shot next month, and he says if he likes it, he’ll do skating next year. 

Or dance. 

I’m so tired . . . 

Meanwhile Bridget did very well. She’s made progress in leaps and bounds (mostly figuratively), and even helped the younger ones. So proud of her! 

I’ll try to post some video tomorrow, once I retrieve my damned computer cord.

A long Saturday and Saturnight

Mixed bag today. Stayed up late again last night in an admittedly low-energy, low-yield effort to clean, then fought to wake up this morning to continue before my parents came. Darling hubby got up and took charge of it so I could rest a little longer. Lovely visit with my mom and dad, who brought nice gifts for the birthday boy-to-be, and also took Bridget for her skating lesson to help free us up for cleaning and whatnot. Was able to get a present that he wanted, loot bag stuff, and pick up fruit and meat trays for an early lunch. So a good morning all in all.

Then we went skiing. The air was bitter cold on the first run down the hill, but it improved after that, and the blue sky and sunshine was heartening. I had my music playing so I could swish and glide to the beat, enjoying the way my blades cut through and over the snow. The hour passed too quickly, but in it, I saw Bridget making excellent progress on her own ability to “pizza” down the hill.

Got home and my in-laws had called to say they were in town, checking in at their hotel. I had just enough time for a shower — well, actually, they arrived just as I was finishing up. Thankfully I’d thought to bring up clothing so I didn’t have to parade past them in a towel! What I didn’t manage — and rather wished I had — was a nap.

I rely on my naps to recharge myself in the afternoon. I am an advocate of the daily siesta in order to rejuvenate and be able to attack the world anew. I will admit to having used naps as a means of escape, and sometimes they’re connected to my depression. But when I’m mentally healthy, sometimes I just need that 20 minutes to an hour so I can function again, especially after a stressful week with late nights like this has been. I used to tell my children when they were younger, “Let mummy close her eyes for half an hour so I can be a better mommy for you.”

I didn’t get my post-ski nap. As a consequence, I could feel myself getting a bit snappish when I didn’t mean to be, although my mother-in-law either didn’t notice or understood that I was tired. Sneaking a shot of Bailey’s in the kitchen didn’t help either, but it was sufficiently naughty enough to get my adrenaline pumping a little and help me to smile for another forty minutes. My mother-in-law and her husband are very sweet and generous, but after this long week of exam marking and new courses and party planning (one boy out of the three party guests has stayed for overnight gaming and snacking), and after the rush of endorphins from skiing, I didn’t have my usual patience. I had to be reminded by a dear friend to breathe.

This is actually one of the reasons why I used to be afraid to exercise. I worried about feeling tired afterward and not being able to cope. I sometimes feel like I have too much body to haul around, that I’m too much for gravity and it’s too much effort to try. That’s mostly a skewed viewpoint coming from not enough rest, though, and not enough rest is one of my triggers. Is getting exercise helping me or not? If it leaves me tired and I don’t get sufficient sleep, I’m not sure.

Tomorrow the visiting continues, and there’s an extra ski lesson in the afternoon. We’ll bring Hubby’s mother and her husband to the ski chalet with us, where they can sit by a comfortable wood stove and maybe meet some other people, while the kids and I hit the slopes for an hour. Not sure what we’ll do after that — maybe a board game or two. I may have to excuse myself for that much-needed nap so I feel rested enough for work on Monday, though I hate doing that when guests are here.

Party prep (again) — where’s my planner???

Our boy Jack is turning 14 on Sunday. We don’t have a big do planned for him — he invited three or four friends for a sleepover tomorrow night but only one or two have confirmed that they’re coming. One is sick, and another says he just doesn’t feel like it. He asked another friend but the response was that he was going snowboarding. I guess I should have just told him we could do a day with a friend at Mont Kanasuta, but we’ve typically had trouble with his birthday at this time of year. When he was younger and we wanted to give him big parties at the pool, bowling alley, or what-have-you, often he would lose guests to hockey practices. And it’s often too cold in this region at this point of the winter to go sledding at night. We’ve had to be creative with trying different things, done the sleepover a couple of times — it’s easier now that he’s got an X-Box, too.

Jack said to me the other day that he feels like girls are more likely to have big parties. I don’t know how true that is, or whether kids continue having big parties as they get older, except for the milestones. My childhood birthdays tended to be small, with a handful of guests, particularly if we were moving to a new town at the time. We gave him a big Winnie-the-Pooh party when he turned 3 — it was really more therapeutic for me, having lost a pregnancy a few months earlier — and a Wizard party the next year, for which I recruited high schoolers to help as volunteers. Was it last year that we did laser tag? Most of the time, we also try to avoid having parties in the house when possible because we just don’t have the space, but given that it’s only once a year, sometimes it’s worth the noise and the mess and the crowding and the cleaning.

I do wish, right now, that I could afford a party planner or that I had thought ahead to at least get a quote. After two weeks of exams and exam marking and report cards and new classes, the time and energy I’d believed would be available have slipped away like the heat from my coffee if I leave it in the car. Add to that the stress of grandparents coming tomorrow, neither myself nor Hubby feeling quite well from lack of sleep, and the pressure of the next project I said I’d do, and it’s an unholy knot forming between my shoulders. Plus I wasn’t able to get his birthday wish (beanbag chair).

But solutions are forming. I’ve decided that anything that doesn’t directly belong in the living room is going to be stuck in a basket and put upstairs in a relatively out-of-the-way place. If he only has one or two friends coming, that makes picking up loot bag stuff easy! I’ve already picked up party refreshments — Sunny-D and three kinds of chips — and they can always walk to the corner store to pick out candy. I also have a back-up gift I can get him, in lieu of the chair: he really wants a fancy Turtle Beach headset for gaming. I told him he would earn it by completing keyboarding exercises but we can switch it up to something else he’d like to have. His sister also needs to pick something out for her big brother, so I’ll have to bring her out with me to choose a gift. (sigh) And here I had anticipated taking care of all of this during the after-Christmas sales. Oh, well.

One thing I’m finding, though, is that having a child of my own about to enter high school and at the same age / maturity level of some of my current students is making it easier for me to have patience with my grade 9s. There is a benefit to being the mother of a teenager while teaching teenagers! And soon, he’ll be choosing his courses for next year.

Meanwhile, his slightly-jealous, highly ambitious little sister has been planning her own next birthday party, 10 months from now, almost since the night after her 9th birthday passed. (additional sigh)

Another positive point: since the kids have their skiing tomorrow afternoon, that’s one way to help keep the house clean (if and when I get this stuff done). Oh, no . . . if I also go skiing, I’m bound to crash for a couple of hours right when in-laws are descending and kids are coming. I may have to forgo my weekly hour on the slopes! Nooooo!!!

Dropped my sugar cube in the toaster.

Yeah.

I unplugged the machine and tried to fish the sugar cube out but the little bastard dropped further down into the guts where I cannot access it. I pulled the tray out of the bottom and tried poking it into pieces with a knife but tilting the toaster back only made it slide out of reach. Now there are crumbs all over my counter. I have also come to realize that the last few times Hubby made whatever in the frying pan it spattered grease on the toaster’s side and never got cleaned up.

This is one of those times when I just want to buy a whole new doggarned toaster. Too many other things to deal with.

Had a good first day of classes. Lessons went well. No major problems. Still not done my exams and found no time in the day to work on them. Brought them home and rapidly ran out of energy; laid down for a short nap (hah!) after supper and the only thing that got me up again was to do this blog.

You, dear reader, pulled me out of my nest of warmth and coziness to tend to business.

I really don’t want to pull an all-nighter. Exhaustion is already making my head buzz again and I just feel off. I wish I could sleep for two days, without any stressors to interrupt or make me start out of slumber.

In the midst of starting classes and wrapping up the semester with exam marking, I still have to thoroughly clean our home for the birthday sleepover around the corner — including in-laws descending — and prepare the 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge that I said I would do in a few weeks. It’s February 20-21. As soon as my exams etc. are done and the birthday is over, I have to get on the advertising and organizational details. I’m looking forward to that, if only I can power through the marking.

The lure of staying up super-late to get through all of the lingering work is strong, because then I’d face the dawn with a clean-ish slate. (I can’t put the final marks in until I feed the exam and course culminating results into MarkBook at school.) And since I did have that long nap, it’s possible I could do it once the kids are in bed. And Hubby. It’s to my advantage, also, that he’s got the day off tomorrow — I won’t be facing the task of getting the kids out of the house on my own.

Speaking of . . . Hubby is now on the task of the sugar cube, and he made sure that the 9 year old got her homework done. The teenager has done his laundry. The animals have been cared for — Elizabeth made a break for “freedom” earlier this evening when I attempted to give her a leash made of ribbon and she wiggled out of it, but she ran for the space in the TV stand where the photo albums are (for once I am grateful that our living room is kind of an obstacle course around the edges! She couldn’t reach the really good hiding spot underneath the stand). I either need to make time to fashion a proper lizard harness from instructions I found online, or order the one I saw on Amazon. Oh, Amazon . . . with your legions of underpaid minions running through warehouses. I feel guilty every time I order on Amazon. Skittles hasn’t had her walk, but she’s had cuddles and treats. And the excitement of watching Elizabeth scurry across the floor.

The sugar cube is free. He used olive tongs to fish it out. Sometimes, it’s just better to leave some problems to the spouse.

———

Ooh, funny/good moments today, though:

  • when a grade 9 student mentioned, through her giggles, that she’d heard I do an awesome witch’s cackle, so I did it and scared (or scarred) a few of them at the end of class
  • when Elizabeth jumped from my knee to Skittles’ head, and then jumped to the coffee table — the poor dog didn’t know what to think but didn’t freak out, to her credit
  • Hubby’s delicious meatloaf and mashed potatoes — I wish I could have eaten more of it, or eaten it more slowly, it was that good

Just an ordinary day

So my day went completely differently than I’d expected: no classes! The buses were cancelled due to the weather conditions — in our case, the extreme cold. I was fortunate that my car started on the second try. This isn’t unusual for the time of year, but it’s a pain in the neck.

I have decided to keep the heat in our little house at 67 F at night at this point, because if I turn it down to 65 it just takes way too long to warm up the main rooms. When it’s -30 or lower, it’s a real struggle to keep that cold at bay. I’m really hoping that we can retrofit with good insulation and siding this summer. Anyway, when I woke up at 6 am, first I heard the news about the cold day and then I wondered whether our Beard was all right. I went to check on her and the thermometer in her vivarium was barely registering. I got her out right away and held her in my pyjamas while I put her heaters on full blast, and ended up taking her back to my bed for a bit to cuddle. The good news is that she’s fine and her tank warmed up nicely with her basking light and the extra space heater we have available. The bad news is that the front wall of the tank sustained a low-sitting chip when it was moved to our house, and now a fresh crack has grown vertically and horizontally across the main glass wall of her home.

(What I really want to do — shifty-eyed look at hubby — is up-cycle our big vintage glass-front cabinet. With the addition of lighting (drill holes for basking light and UV), it would be easy to convert even one of the shelf spaces into a new vivarium for her. It would be even more epic to convert the whole thing into a three-level Beardie paradise! The struggle is figuring out what to do with his collection of knick knacks and pictures and whatnot that’s currently in there . . . )

So with Elizabeth warmed and provided with food, I continued my morning with my own breakfast and making sure the kids were fed also. Lucky brats didn’t have to go out into the cold at all! Gave the car a good half-hour to warm up before I attempted to drive it, picked up my coffee, and got to work on time. It was a productive day, for the most part. Dare I say that it would have been more productive without the addition of meetings? Hmmm . . . At the end of the day, I had a few more exams marked, two posters made and put up in my room (updated Classroom Procedures and Restorative Questions), and notices posted on my class website about late penalties and rules about tardiness to class. It was tempting to stay longer and try to get more done, but I was wilting even after a second coffee. Got home and crashed for two hours. Since rousing myself from my comfy bed, I’ve given my nearly-14-year-old a heat start on his room by stacking his bed with the stuff that was on his floor so he can have a clear path to putting his clothes away, and given Elizabeth a bath, and given Skittles some lovings (she did NOT like having to pee in -50 C windchill this morning!). Now I’m enjoying lizard snuggles while encouraging the teenager to keep going in his room; the 9-year-old is singing to herself while she plays with her dollhouse upstairs, having brought down her own laundry after much nagging, and I’m writing this blog.

I honestly wish that I didn’t have to sleep or eat, sometimes. As much as I enjoy dreaming about stuff like space zombies chasing me from planet to planet, I could get so much more done if I didn’t have to stop to rest. And it seems as though life revolves around food: the obtaining, preparing, consuming, and cleaning up of food. I feel like our house — or, at least, our family room — should have the kitchen at the centre because it would be easier to keep it tidy and clean without having to leave the presence of the kids, who seem to want attention the moment I leave their sides or have to answer the phone. There is nothing more irritating than doing dishes with a child hovering by one’s legs or elbows, especially if they refuse to help with cleaning while they’re standing there . . .

On the other hand, sometimes (when I’m not tired), working alone in the kitchen can be a bit relaxing or therapeutic. I put my music on (and then child or spouse appears and I have to turn it down so I can hear what they want to tell me), light some candles or scented melting wax (child or spouse reappears and comments on the smell — usually negatively), make progress on clearing counters and laundry space (it’s amazing how tired one’s arms and upper back becomes when folding laundry) . . . If I could be let alone to putter, I think I could get a lot done. But that’s a big “if”. And I can’t stand the hurt in a loved one’s eyes if I have to tell them, even nicely, to back off and leave me in peace for a bit.

But, still, it’s progress from the days when my daughter used to stand at my knees and wail at me to pick her up while I washed dishes. She still likes to jump onto a pile of freshly folded and sorted laundry. Every little step is a victory, right?

So tomorrow will be the start of Second Semester, Take II. Should be good.

Wanted: Mary Poppins and a House Elf

Preparation for second semester continued today. I’m not done my exam marking, so I brought the remainder of the exams home with me in the hopes of getting them done. I did manage to get ahead on a few things for Monday, though:

  • Revised and copied course outlines for my three classes
  • Rearranged my classroom, organizing the desks into groupings of 5 (with one grouping of 3), borrowing an idea from Ally, a friend and colleague who tried it last semester
  • Adopting old couches and easy chairs from my department head, who no longer needs/wants them, creating a comfy reading lounge / writer’s den in my classroom — something I wanted to do a decade ago but lacked the necessary resources (a truck) or energy to make happen on my own
  • Cleaned off my desk
  • Marked one set of exams
  • Copied readings for Professional Learning Team’s in-class project on literacy
  • Took down old posters of student work from last semester

Here’s my to-do list, for work anyway:

  • Lesson materials and handouts on active listening, mindfulness, note-taking, annotations (content for first few weeks)
  • Revise my poster on classroom expectations
  • Make a poster with Restorative Questions
  • Construct prompt cards for desk groupings — I want to have reminders on MLA, brainstorming techniques, the writing process, and note-taking on each set of desks
  • Bring up novels for grade 9s (Cue for Treason) — we’re waiting on the shipment of the novels for grade 11 (Yes Man)
  • Sketch a loose outline of lessons for the first two weeks. I have learned through bitter experience that it’s better to overplan but also to be prepared for the students’ needs to be vastly different than expected.

As my friend and fellow teacher Kim pointed out, it’s like this every year. We always think or hope we’ll have enough time for the turnaround but it’s never sufficient. I try to power through but without frequent breaks I lose focus. And yet with frequent breaks I feel like I’m churning my wheels in a rut of loose, chewed-up snow, getting inches forward and then having to slide back in order to find momentum to get moving. Among the pressures and anxieties of having things ready to go on Monday morning, starting off the new classes with an effective tone and set of expectations, I know I’ll be deluged by grade 12 students who want to know how they did overall, whether they passed or failed, and in either case, what their final marks are.

Meanwhile, life continues at home, too. My daughter’s skating lesson is cancelled tomorrow due to competitions, so there’s a bit of a break at least, and then there’s skiing lesson in the afternoon. It’s going to be cold tomorrow, too. Well, as cold as it was today, which was substantially colder than yesterday — positively balmy, it was, at only -8 C. I want to step up the family’s cleaning efforts by adding a visible allowance to motivate the 9 year old. I calculated today that if I give her $0.25 per chore — daily and weekly — she could earn up to $10 a week. I am thinking of getting it in quarters and putting it in a clear jar so she can see it. Then, every time she is scheduled to do a chore but doesn’t do it, she loses a quarter. I take it away while she watches. At the end of the week, she gets to keep — and spend — whatever is left over. I got the idea from a Berenstein Bears story, in which Sister Bear is given a handful of dimes as incentive to avoid chewing her nails: every time Sister chews, she loses a dime for that week.

So there’s that. In addition to trying to jumpstart collaborative cleaning and going skiing, marking exams and setting up my lessons for the first week, I’ve got a board meeting for the local theatre’s revitalization project on Sunday afternoon, Elizabeth needs to be bathed, the dog needs walking, laundry (no, wait, those last two things are chores I need to delegate to the kids), and we need to start prepping for the teenager’s birthday party and sleepover next weekend.

And then sleeping. I would like a nice, long, uninterrupted sleep without weird dreams, if possible. Last night I dreamed I was performing in A Midsummer Night’s Dream but I was Falstaff, and I had taken the role very last minute so I was struggling with the lines and I was worried about making a bad impression and never being cast again, but having a good time nonetheless. We were onstage in the old theatre, and suddenly there was a flood of people walking through, carrying chairs and tables and filing boxes and things — as though their work day had ended and they had no other choice but to interrupt the performance to get all of their stuff put away. They seemed apologetic about it. I was torn between trying to sneak peeks at the script on my smart phone and looking at the book in my hand. There was a difference, too, in the interpretation of the character: on the one hand, he was supposed to be a clown, the comic relief, and he (I) was using a sock puppet as a foil. On the other, the stage directions in the book I’d found indicated a much more painful back story — each line he spoke was layered in subtext about loss, heartbreak, frustration, and misunderstanding. I wanted to perform the part with the second interpretation, but how to change up the direction in the middle of the show?

Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to deal with all of this if we had relatives closer than an hour and a half away. But then again my mum and dad managed with my brother and I, and we never lived in the same town or city as our relations — I think the closest we ever lived to an aunt and uncle or grandparent was 45 minutes. But then again, it is much, much easier than when the kids were younger. And I’m grateful that they’re healthy and intelligent, that we have easy access to clean water and food in our cupboards, heat and light, that we can walk about without fear of landmines or being questioned about our papers. In the big picture, I have nothing to complain about, really, so I shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

But I feel what I feel. I do good work at school, but I’m constantly aggrieved by the state of my house and my inability to get my kids to participate in the housecleaning. It’s at the point where if I start to clean, my daughter asks, “Who’s coming over?”, and that’s not right. We’re back to that question of how to get a stubborn 9 year old to do what you need her to do, particularly when one’s own energy levels are low after a day of getting stubborn teenagers to do what they need to do.

The Value — and Comfort — of Silence

There are some days when so much talking has been done — so much hectic running, problem-solving, bargaining, sympathy, storytelling, explaining, restating, revising, assessing, interpreting, guiding, restraining, smiling, frowning — so much of everything that the only remedy for the knots of stress drawing shoulders together and creasing the brow is a good long space of silence. preview Doesn’t have to be absolutely quiet, although that’s nice for a while. Music in the background works nicely, too. Tonight, though, would have been a good night for a long walk with the dog with only the hush of wind sweeping over the snowy hillocks and houses. I, however, was extremely tired when I got home and opted for a lovely short nap instead. I think I ought to have gone for the walk after supper, maybe. Debating now whether it’s too late, or too cold. There is a comfort in being alone with one’s own thoughts. When you have kids, sometimes that quiet is dangerous. Children who are quiet are either asleep or up to something. Tonight, they are neither — since I was sick for those three days, they’re making up for lost time. It’s just frustrating to feel so  . . . drained. It’s not that I’m not appreciative of the bond we have, or that I have the luxury of time and space in which to spend time with my children. But as I recently read in another person’s blog, sometimes it’s hard to enjoy the moments with the family when exhaustion is in charge. It’s a different kind of exhaustion from the work of babies and toddlers and preschoolers, but it’s still there. And January doesn’t help either. Bloody long and cold month, with one more to go (albeit a few days shorter) before the hope of warmth returns. This is when people who can afford it start planning their spring break vacations away, in places hot and sunny with sandy beaches and lapping waters. Several of my students are paying into something called an S-Trip, which is a young-person-only, supervised holiday at a tropical resort, sans parents or teachers. I would enjoy planning a getaway with our children, taking them to Florida (the great Canadian rite of passage: March Break in Disneyworld!), but that prize remains out of reach as long as student debts remain. The other side of it is that I have done a tame version of Spring Break in Florida, and I found that coming back to dirty snow and damp cold was almost worse than not having left it at all.

IMG_5194When I was in university, my mother took myself and her mum to Marco Island for a week. I was grumpy, missing my husband of only few years, struggling with undiagnosed mental health issues as well as feeling hormonal, a bit bored at staying off the beaten path so we wouldn’t tire out my 80 year old Gran, and frustrated at having still another two years of school until I could graduate. I forgot to value the silence. And given our collective personality similarities and differences, there was a tension that built until my Gran got upset and stated that she would be happier at a hotel. We had a sit down and discussion, worked it out, got through, and it really was a nice holiday after all of that, but it’s always going to be one of those, “if I knew then what I know now” kind of deals. I ended up giving my Gran a pedicure, I remember that, and having lovely walks along the beaches as well as visiting family friends.

IMG_5196But it was over all too quickly, and flying away from the warmth, colour, palm trees and sunshine back to grey roads and frozen car doors was horrible. No wonder Snow Birds leave before the first snow and don’t come back until it’s all gone away. Still, I am grateful that my kids have learned to respect when I need quiet, for the most part. And hubby helps as well. Increasingly, they’re valuing time to themselves also, retreating to their own rooms to play without being a bother or making a worse mess than what already exists. Family patterns and behaviours are necessarily dynamic, shifting as we all age and move into different stages of our lives; perhaps we’ve entered a place where we’re all now capable and prone to introspection, even Bridget. Certainly the children have learned to value the fact that their rooms are valuable for activities that would be too noisy or crowded for the living room, and how to negotiate taking over our common space when they want more than one friend to stay overnight.

There are still some nights when I wish I had Holly Golightly’s pretty earplugs, but they’re getting fewer and farther in between.

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