Saturday 4 November 2023

October in the rear view mirror

My one wish for November (so far) is that it is quiet and boring.

October was not boring. The notable events:

Last summer AJ expressed a wish for a combined Halloween / birthday party. She felt very passionately about this so we agreed to embrace the project. It finally came to fruition the last weekend in October. We had Gothic lace, a big hairy spider with a strong resemblance to Dani, mini pumpkin painting, and an escape room in the basement with puzzles designed by Mr. Turtle.

Spiderweb lace:

How things looked before guests arrived:

How things looked after the party:

It was a great success. AJ said it was her best birthday ever and her friends enjoyed all the activities. The kids were great at socializing and nobody was left out. Some new friendships even appeared to form between guests. Having hosted parties at other locations and parties at home, I have to say there is something more friendly about home parties. You share something of yourself with your guests when they come to your home that you don’t share in other places. It was also exhausting. I’m not sure exactly when we will finish cleaning up, but maybe next week when we have some extra days off.

Also at the end of October: the new car was delivered. In the big picture of things, of course I was happy we could buy a new, reliable car, as my second hand 2006 car was coming apart bit by bit.  But I still wished I could have become the old lady driving her 40 year old car. I’m just not excited about change and leaving my comfort zone when it comes to cars.

But, though the first few drives were tense, I am (fingers crossed) adjusting to the new vehicle (a small SUV) and even liking it. It’s a cyborg car, which I’m not used to, but all the new features don’t seem too bad. I like the funny dramatic music it plays at the beginning and end of every drive. The lane assist and blind spot alarms make me feel like I’m driving with a nervous robot, but I’m a nervous person so we get along. My car is now in a relationship with my smartphone, which I don’t really see the point of, but humans are not consulted about these things. The most amusing feature is the  dashboard notification “The leading vehicle is driving away” which pops up if I don’t accelerate within a couple of seconds of the car in front. I laugh but we all know why this feature was invented, although I don’t text and drive.

Other events:
  • AJ passed another swim level
  • Dance and music classes continued. Girls appear to be enjoying themselves and so am I, mostly.  So far I’ve only missed 2 stepdance classes due to my illness or other people’s. I have a good time at my classes once I get there. But I sometimes dread the commuting.
  • At school, things have settled into a routine and the start-up work is completed. I’m very happy with my team and we are very organized and responsive to our group of learners. Students and teachers are learning and enjoying themselves, most of the time. What a difference from last year, when I had completely given up on collaboration and was reduced to asking for a work divorce. It makes a huge difference when the right people are in the right jobs.
  • The aches and pains I had during the summer finally seem to have gone away, and I feel pretty good in my body. Yoga might have helped. Exceptions: another bout of bronchitis, which has become annoyingly common (last one was beginning of the summer). Also, the darkening days of November make me want to find a warm hole to crawl into with a pile of snacks and just sleep.
  • Books/reading: I’m re-reading and enjoying Jennifer Homans’ history of ballet, Apollo’s Angels. This had to have been a very challenging project for her as it's not like there are recordings of ballets from centuries past, so she has to do a sort of combined social/political/artistic history and look at many facets of life and culture. But as a lifelong amateur dancer I relate to her writing: could easily be a whole other blog entry.
  • Media: I read several bloggers regularly, the most interesting of which avoid easy categorization. While not a blog, this recent article is an engaging analysis of the sort of topics that I typically read about, and goes some way toward explaining decisions I make in my own and my family's life. That is, in so far as such things are explainable (I think one should never over-estimate one's own or other people's power to explain anything).
  •  I’m also listening to my regular podcasts, but my most regular listening these days is the verse by verse reading of the Bible on The Whole Counsel of God. I have not had much success reading the Bible on my own but I really like the reading and commentary together in Fr. De Young’s enthusiastic, nerdy style.
  • It snowed a couple weeks ago and my streak of  getting the kids to school on time was broken. I will try to get back on top of it next week; between the party and the new car and coping with each day I had no extra energy and I was not giving up my ten minutes on the couch with a cup of coffee for love or money.
So, basically, it’s all good, but I’m going to aim to be under scheduled most weekends in November. Less plans, more spontaneity, just less in general. If that continues into December, I think I’m good with that too.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

And now it is October: ‘23

Autumn is so dazzlingly beautiful. We have been ignoring the yard work and enjoying the mellow weather and glorious colours.

AJ asked me: “Is there anything you don’t like about fall?” and all I could say is, It’s always too short.

Everything will be fading soon. Maybe it is already. But we are decorating for Halloween. And the day after the Halloween decorations go down, the Christmas lights will go up.

(By unspoken majority agreement on our street, there is no waiting to decorate for any holiday. Delayed gratification is not a thing. All the pumpkins, all the sparkle, all the ways to light the darkness.)

Friday 29 September 2023

That was September: short version

Well, we are back into the regular routine of things and maybe getting a hunch of how the rest of the year might shape up, whether you count that as the 3 months left of 2023 or the 9 months left of the academic year.

Seems like I’m often sick when I write in my blog, because that’s when I have the time and inclination to sit around writing. And this time is no exception. I think we had about a week of school before people started saying: “I / my child / my spouse / my students seem to have a scratchy throat/runny nose/headache.” Everybody made a heroic effort at denial and taking their Vitamin C. Well, I never got around to buying Vitamin C so I just doubled down on the denial.

But finally I took Thursday off and spent the day sleeping and watching Lord of the Rings. Today however Mr Turtle is also sick and it is a holiday (newly invented in Canada) so the girls are home. I’m doing a few chores, drinking large amounts of coffee and black tea to stay awake, and making a cursory effort to discourage the girls from taking the house apart. 

But other than the recent illness I think our first month of school went ok. The students who don’t have a ton of complicated and disruptive stuff in their lives have settled in. The ones that do have complicated disruptive stuff are of course less settled, and we are trying to figure out how to accommodate/support them. I’d say the biggest challenges this year are attendance, mental health, and low adaptive skills. Basically all the stuff that has no quick or easy fix. It’s early days though, and we have a very good team this year, so I’m reasonably optimistic.

Our family schedule appears manageable, and so far I have even gotten the kids to school on time every single day!  Our evening activities have been enjoyable. But it’s been very busy.

I wrote out in detail what our week is like and then decided I don’t want to publish it on the blog. In summary, the kids have two weekday evenings  of activities, and I have two weekday evenings of activities, and there’s a lot of moving parts to make it all happen.  I’m hoping that it all is relationship-, skill- and reality- enhancing. I’m still worried it could just be exhausting.

We also had out of town in laws visit for two weekends. And I have a few friends dealing with some major stuff in their lives, which challenges me to think of how to support them. 

We also bought a car, after a day of test driving where I pretended to be brave. Of course these days you don’t just drive a car off a lot. It should arrive early next month. Meantime fingers crossed my car holds out till the new one is here. The check engine light came on shortly after we chose the new car, so Mr Turtle and I exchanged cars. He doesn’t drive the kids around the city during the week so he can cope with a car that might break down any minute; I cannot/will not. But so far so good.

The weather has been very pleasant, if dry, and the fall colours are glowing. Halloween plans start soon. And we will try to scrape together the energy this weekend to keep making the story of our lives an interesting one.

Wednesday 30 August 2023


Slowly we transition back into school life and activities (not too busy yet, hurrah).

This photo is emblematic of the fact that all of us really love our morning routine, and me and the girls especially detest being rushed (which sometimes causes problems when we are trying to be on time for something.)

You just gotta have that time, you know?

Sunday 27 August 2023

Summer collage

It’s the last evening of summer (for me) and we are currently at our local rec centre waiting for the movie in the park to begin. Friends haven’t shown up yet and I forgot to bring my crochet, so….blog entry!

It’s been a good summer, although I’m also excited for the autumn and ready for the next thing….mostly, anyway.

Nothing particularly profound is coming to mind so here are a few bullet points. May add photos later.

What we’ve been up to:

Around the house:
  • Everybody has been hearing me brag about this all summer, and I make no apologies. I bought a tomato plant and a pepper plant from a fundraiser this spring, on impulse. They lived and grew real fruit! We have harvested/eaten three of the tomatoes and three more are on the plant. The pepper plant has a total of one pepper (I think the one bad hailstorm damaged its other flowers) but it’s still fun to see it grow.
  • We finally did some major decluttering, hiring a truck to haul away old broken things. We have a much a cleaner garage and storage room, and I am delighted….once I got over the strange anxiety that I experienced from finally doing this thing I wanted to do for so long.
  • I have been crocheting so many things this summer. Gothic lace for me and AJ, for Halloween. Navy and purple ponchos for the girls. A black lace ballet shawl for me, to wrap around my hips during my dance classes. I took a ballet class this summer and the teacher wore a shawl like that and I have to try out her style. Photos when projects finished/blocked.
  • I had an idea for a collage of the girls’ art, using big pieces of recycled cardboard. But I haven’t got around to it yet.
  • As mentioned above, I took an adult ballet class this summer which was great. I wanted to do something to be in shape for the start of fall dance season, but really I don’t need an excuse to take ballet. I deeply appreciated that it was within walking distance of my house so I usually walked there and back on the lovely summer evenings.
  • I also took a barre fitness class at the gym where we bought a family membership in the spring. Good for strength and getting my heart rate up! I think I can hold a plank for longer than I used to.
  • We did a lot of pool visits as a family. The girls are both getting confident in the water and AJ can swim independently, albeit she has more to work on for technique and stamina.
  • We returned to a favourite hiking spot.
  • The girls finally got back on their bikes. AJ was really reluctant. Last summer was difficult for me as we were transitioning my mom to assisted living and we never got out on our bikes at all. I just sort of forgot about it. So this year AJ had to learn to balance all over again and she kept saying she didn’t want to learn. I had to insist that she stick with it. It’s the less warm and fuzzy part of parenting. But she finally did and of course she figured it out and is enjoying it. Cycling is wonderful, so inexpensive and freeing so I want the girls to have that opportunity.
  • I gave myself a few aches and pains from weeding and working in our gnarly yard, and maybe also from enthusiastic participation in barre class. I recovered stronger though.
  • I got a nasty bug bite last weekend that got infected, but luckily it responded to medication.
  • Mr Turtle has been in much better health and has some decisions to make re: medications (as in maybe he can stop them or at least cut back on them.)
  • Sadly the health news from friends has not been so good. My former co-teacher, with whom I worked closely up till last year, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is a strong advocate for herself and is getting good care, as far as I know. But it is upsetting as she is younger than me (just turned 40 and got married last year) and her mother died of cancer in 2020.
  • At the beginning of the summer, I received deeply disturbing news from an old friend. She had moved away with her husband in 2017, so our conversations are sporadic, though we are still in touch. But she shared the news that her husband, after some months of “breathing problems,” was in the ICU, in an induced coma, on a respirator….with an illness that had no diagnosis or explanation.  The good news is, he did get incrementally better and they are now back home.
  • I know I’m not super young anymore and maybe getting news like this goes with the territory, but I don’t know….it’s hard to wrap my mind around.  I still want the acceptance of mortality to be strictly theoretical, not applied and lived.
Family and friends:
  • The girls have had a good summer. We spent a lot of time just hanging out, and they also did two day camp programs, for a total of two weeks. (Sailing camp for AJ, a variety camp for Dani, and then music camp for both of them together.) They are both very excited for the start of school! And it’s such a good school, hurrah.
  • I used my kid-free hours to connect with friends, which was lovely (walking, talking, random shopping) and to work with Mr Turtle on our clean up project. We had a list of about 5 projects we could do and we had time and energy for one of them. We also ate at all our favourite brunch restaurants and went for long walks every day.
  • We saw a fair bit of extended family: family reunion in July, a week long visit from my mother in law, and a weekend trip North-ish in the province for an aunt’s birthday party where the girls got to meet two of their second cousins, who happen to be boys (most of the children in their generation are girls!). They got along awesomely.
  • I've been doing pretty good with reading this summer and actually finished 4 non fiction books. I may write about later on my other blog. There is a fiction book I want to read, so I may buy it for myself as a reward. 
I think that mostly covers it. Alas, I feel this entry is very scattered and probably doesn’t do justice to any of the things I mentioned, which are all very interesting or provoking to me in and of themselves. But anyway, I’ve marked time, which is moving on. Back to work tomorrow, which I feel pretty good about: compared to this time last year, I feel like I have less to worry and wonder about.

I am super excited for our dance season especially my new Ukrainian dance class. Both the girls are also joining new levels.  We are going to be very busy and active, but it’s good, for health and socially, I think. Plus, dance is magical.

The will and effort to find a new car continues, and the goal is to have one before it gets dark and cold and snowy. Driving has been a challenge for me lately, as in I have so much anxiety, though no more breakdowns or issues. It also feels like people are just awfully antsy and prone to do stupid things on the road: when I am frequently seeing accidents, even though not involved in them, it’s not doing much for my confidence.

Still, overall, stepping into autumn and the new school year with a reasonable amount of optimism and energy. Onward!

Wednesday 12 July 2023

New Era

Summer has bloomed, and we’ve begun it with visits and connections and tidying and delightful leisure opportunities. And there are a few rents in the fabric that lead to darker places, because that is inevitable. But, all that can wait for another post or posts.

Meanwhile I wanted to note the end of one era and the beginning of another.

Back in August 2015 I noted with a lot of relief that we had found 9 month old AJ a childcare spot. I was returning to teaching in September. I got the call while sitting on an airplane (AJ’s first flight) en route to visit my parents at their summer home (the only time we would ever go there with my dad, though we didn’t know that at the time).

A little over 3 years later, in December of 2018, I withdrew AJ from BrightPath. She was 4 years old, Dani was a baby and I was on maternity leave. I was surprisingly sad to leave behind her daycare community. 
As I wrote at length here, it was like leaving part of our village behind. But there was a hope of a continued connection in that Dani might attend the same daycare. 

Well. As it turned out, Dani did attend Brightpath. And she followed in her sister’s footsteps by thriving there. No words can ever fully express how much it means to have a place where I knew my children would not just get basic supervision but a stimulating, affectionate environment. Our trust never felt misplaced.

Because time does not stand still, it was time for another goodbye at the end of June. Dani goes to kindergarten in the fall. I remember what a big deal it seemed for AJ to go to kindergarten. This time around it feels more like known territory. But her preschool years are over forever.

Dani got to have a preschool graduation, which was adorable. And she was one of two students who led the group singing O Canada. That was probably my favourite moment, in addition to the other song number all the children performed. I didn’t know anything about preschool graduation when AJ was the same age, so AJ never got to do her ceremony (she left in December).

Before becoming a mom, I would have rolled my eyes at the idea of a preschool graduation. But I am very glad that the daycare held this event. It’s so important to mark time. Sometimes you don’t have a
choice about the way in which things end and others begin, but when you do it’s important to be mindful of it. My childhood was without most of these ceremonial markers. It’s very important to me that my children have a richer social experience.

As I described in my my earlier emtry, I have a copy of Dr Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go for AJ and I ask her teachers to sign and leave a message in the book at end of every year. The idea is that it will be a graduation gift at the end of grade 12. I also bought one for Dani this year and inaugurated it last month. Smile and sigh. (I also made the decision last year to not keep the books a secret from the girls as I want them to read the messages their teachers write as they grow up.)

On the second last day of June Dani and I took doughnuts, lemonade and a card to the staff. I think I needed to do that for myself as much as for anyone else. I couldn’t just walk away. We promised to visit. I think we really will try; after all the daycare is in our community and on our regular paths. But those paths are getting broader and busier as the girls grow up. 

It’s exciting. I love being the parent of older kids. There’s so much we can do and learn! They have so many questions and observations and they are getting really, really good at so many things! I also see their young years in an evolving way as they grow. It becomes more obvious how important it is for both parents and tiny tots to have support as new beings. Going back even to pregnancy and birth. I hired a doula for both births and I am so glad I did, because I believe she profoundly affected how I experienced each event and the beliefs and feelings I carry forward about them. Both girls’ births were challenging for different reasons but I don’t experience them as traumatic or even as a means to an end, but as a triumph.

My use of the present tense is deliberate. We are always experiencing and re-creating our memories; they are not static. Every day is like a piece of a story; and the beginning of the story doesn’t matter less as the plot progresses.

Anyway. I treasure the preschool memories and experiences and I think the girls will remember with appreciation all the people who helped them flourish. 

Wednesday 21 June 2023

More rain, more sunshine

I'm enjoying this writing theme, where I live my life inside of the pathetic fallacy, projecting experiences and emotions onto the weather and season.

Today is the first day of summer, and the sun is out again in a blue sky, after a very cold and rainy final day of spring. Here is the stuff of my life, in the rough order of Least Enjoyable to More Enjoyable.

Continued....Car Drama!!

  • Last Friday I took the day off, and had a Highly Organized Day where among other things, I finally switched my winter tires to the all-seasons. (The previously scheduled day, more than a month ago, was canceled because the car was broken down in another city.)
  • On Monday, another cheerfully sunny day, I loaded up the kids as usual for school and drove off. I noticed the car seemed to be handling a bit differently. Was it vibrating? I wondered if the tires were coming loose. Had I left getting my lug nuts tightened for too late?! Still, it took a few minutes of my short commute to convince myself I wasn't imagining things. But the vibrating was getting worse and I finally pulled over. Whereupon I saw that one tire was very, very flat!
  • Ugh! Luckily we were close to my school and the girls' schools. I walked them both to school/daycare then called the AMA, for the second time in the space of a month. Within the hour the technician had my tire changed to the spare, and I drove to the tire shop to have the flat tire repaired, which is fully covered by my insurance.
  • ....Except, the tire was too badly damaged to be repaired. So, I would have to pay for a replacement, which would also have to be shipped from another city, meaning it would take a day to arrive. Ugh! I was down on myself for a while, feeling like this was partly my fault. I usually am rather obsessive about my tires, checking them for low pressure, taking the car to the garage to have them checked every few weeks. The ONE time (it felt) that I didn't do that, the dang tire went flat and I didn't notice in time!
  • Tuesday was cold and rainy, and we cancelled our class picnic in the park. Which I was not overly sad about, since we had already gone on two other very fun and successful field trips this month. Still, it's kinda funny that despite a hot, dry spring overall, the days that we plan outdoor activities seem to turn out cold!
  • I then get a call from the garage telling me that, surprise! The tire they ordered is a) the wrong one, and b) the tire I need is discontinued, so c) I actually have to pay to replace all the tires.
  • Ugh, NO! I have already paid significant amounts of money this year to keep my older car functioning and safe, and we have agreed nominally to replace it this summer (not that I'm looking forward to that process, AT ALL.) So, instead I schedule an appointment to just put the winter tires back on again the next day.
  • Poor Mr. Turtle, after a period of improved health, is again sick with a bad cold bug (at least no IV antibiotics this time). He cannot help me with any of this tire foolishness. But it's fine. I drive home and load the winter tires back in the car. Whereupon, my phone rings. It's the tire shop. Surprise! They found the tire I need in their store display, where they had forgotten all about it. Can I bring the car back and they will replace it forthwith?
  • Yes! Side note, it's revelatory to see how quickly one's perspective can change. Before I knew the tire was discontinued, I was quite grumpy about having to pay to replace it. Like yes, please, take my money! I was just going to burn it anyway; I had no other plans. However, after hearing that my choices were down to paying $1000 for new tires, or using my winter tires through the summer and risking damage to them, paying the $250 for the suddenly discovered new tire felt like a wonderful stroke of luck to be grateful for.
  • I unloaded the winter tires and drove to the tire shop without incident (I was grateful for this too). The manager did a real life facepalm when I saw him. But they had my new tire on within 10 minutes and off I went to pick up the kids and arrived home without incident. Yes!
  • The conclusion (I assume and hope) to my Tire Drama AND the fact that one of my students gifted me a bottle of wine, caused me to assess my day as a Resounding Success, despite a sick husband and a sick Dani, who was sleepy and running a fever when I picked her up from daycare. But the evening was quiet and I peacefully made a chicken pot pie out of some left over drumsticks, feeling competently domestic as a bonus. And I ended my day in bed with a glass of wine! Yes!
  • I'm taking today off, hence the time to write in my blog. Dani is recovering, Mr. Turtle is recovering, and AJ decided she was sick too and wanted to stay home. She probably isn't, but ask me how motivated I am to drive her to school and back today. Right.
My body and my soul are both fully me....
  • I have written a lot about dance on this blog, because it is a central and happy part of our lives. I think that the fact that I have danced my whole life has greatly influenced who I am and how I see myself. I am, perhaps unusually for our culture, non-dualist in how I see myself. Obviously my brain and its electrical activity, i.e. "mind", is part of my identity. But I have been aware, for most of my life, that my thoughts are limited and are just as likely to be ridiculous and wrong as Real, Morally Right and Deeply Insightful. Here's a fun experiment to try: For a week, keep track of how many things, serious and trivial, that you are WRONG about, based on your own criteria. You will likely be shocked (and maybe amused).
  • My awareness of my flawed mind has almost always been paired with an awareness of my body and its abilities and basic goodness. When my body is active and healthy, I notice my mind is also more healthy. I have avoided, for the most part, mistreating or blaming my body because of some stupid idea that exists in my mind. There are some exceptions. Anxiety is bad for my body. Pregnancy was a hot terrifying mess, as well as the most amazing thing my body has ever done. (But pregnancy is not like anything else, in my experience.) 
  • I believe that lifelong dancing is responsible for my non-duality. Dancing requires the body and mind to work together in awareness of each other. It puts the body on display in a social setting and obliges the mind to deal with that vulnerability. Dancing also makes people beautiful. It doesn't matter how old or young they are or how they look, or their relative skills level, people are beautiful when they dance. I will defend this statement as a Universal Truth.  I know not everyone believes this about themselves, and that makes me sad, but I still think I'm right.
  • Dancing is Body, and Mind, and Culture, and when they come together, something divine happens, that is all of that, and more. As my one-time teacher Frank said, either a long time ago or a short time ago, Dancing is way bigger than us mere mortals. 
  • Now Dance News: My daughters have finished off their season with successful festival performances. As a board member in their non-profit organization, I have worked on building friendships and community. It takes me a while to warm up socially so this is an ongoing process. But I feel pretty good about it. And....
  • I made the decision this year to join the adult Ukrainian group! So I will be a participant as well as a dance mom.
  • I also intend to keep up my stepdancing with my other long-term dance buddies. So I am going to be in very awesome shape. I hope.
  • As part of my Highly Organized Day on Friday, I went shopping for new dance gear. This makes me extremely happy. I also plan to take a few barre classes this summer.
  • At least, that's the plan. I've wondered a bit lately if in addition to my car's functionality, I should be questioning my body's functionality. I did something (not sure what) that threw out my shoulder a few weeks ago. Rotating it causes pain. It almost heals, then I do something like, ahem, hauling tires in and out of my car, and the pain is back. I also did some gardening on the weekend, which I enjoyed, but which has caused a lot of soreness. So while I'm not sick like the rest of the family, I'm moseying about today with aches and pains. Oof. 
  • I'm still optimistic. The fitness centre I joined has a hot tub after all.
Well, that will be my life round-up for the day. The material, the spiritual, the insightful and the clueless all in one big pile. As always, I remain grateful for all of it and these hours I sometimes get to reflect and write. You may not get happier or richer, but you probably can always get wiser (a saying I came up with in my 20s to encourage myself. Still mostly true with the caveat that I've probably lost some brain cells along the way. It was worth it.)