Monday, 30 June 2014

Starting summer

Summer is here.  I am excited for outdoor play but terrified of four children tripping over each other inside.  Our basement is unfinished and for storage, and no one uses the upstairs for anything other than sleeping (the bedrooms are tiny and are crammed with beds.)  This means that the five of us have the square of a downstairs to spend all our time in, all day, all summer.  It's great in that I always know what is going on.  There are no secret projects that might jeopardize the carpets or a game that lands a little one stuck in or under furniture.  It's hard in that the "noise, noise, noise, noise!" (like the Grinch) is loud and incessant.

I sure am glad my two older children are readers, because every now and then they will quiet down to curl up with a book.  The rest of the time I have no fewer than two "Mommy!" calls and three requests at any one time.  That is no exaggeration.  Today I did not get lunch until 3pm because there was always another little thing to attend to.  So while today was a lot of fun, it was also mentally exhausting.  I am an independent introvert who needs quiet to concentrate.  So having four dependant children who all have a constant stream of sound escaping their lips and who want me involved in everything they think, say or do, is a little hard for me.

That being said, I hope I have organized the summer in a way to accentuate the positive aspects of my kids being home and limit the negative moments.  We have week long camping trips planned, one in July and one in August.  The kids have swim lessons every Friday morning and soccer every Wednesday night.  All three kids have one week of day camp through a local town, and the two older boys have one week of soccer camp in the morning.  We also have a weekly open invite to a friend's home, who has children who match up with mine, and has a big country property and a swimming pond full of frogs.  I hope she doesn't tire of me being there week after week.

Mornings are for being out.  If we are "home" (we have no engagement somewhere else) then we will be at the park.  We have so many good parks around town we can do a different one each day and that would last more than a week.  My kids are bundles of energy and need a really high activity level every day so that there's an iota of hope that they will crash at a reasonable hour.

While Juliette naps in the afternoon, we have a mini summer school program set up.  I want the boys to keep up a little of what they have learned this past year.  The boys will do 20 minutes of math, 20 minutes of reading (French and English) and then 20 minutes of writing (stories or journal.)  We all set up at the kitchen table and I have my own work also: a time to hopefully hunker down and do some writing.  We started today with great success.  Although my talkative, extroverted children had a hard time working independently, which meant that my own writing was meagre and weak.  I have discovered that they just love to share.  Everything that crosses their eyesight inspires a question, and when they are out of questions they just open their mouths to share the stream of consciousness rolling around in their thoughts.  For someone who can't even have music on while I work, it makes me wonder at the different learning and work styles out there.

Juliette is an early napper, so there is still a good chunk of the day left when she wakes up.  Today we went to another park with our new tennis rackets and a wrench to take of Benjamin's training wheels (who apparently knows by natural instinct how to ride a two-wheeler, because he just got on and rode.)  This all meant that dinner was late, but since the kids were home all day they were snacking all day, so no one complained.

Well, that's where we are, day two of summer vacation.  If these first days are any indication then we will all use every ounce of energy and strength we have, collapsing into bed while the sun still shines.  But it's a good busy, a healthy busy.


At church on Sunday (being the Sunday before Canada Day) we stood as a congregation to sing "O Canada."  My children sang with gusto, having had lots of practice both at school, before Maple Leaf Games on Hockey Night in Canada, and before playing ball hockey or mini-sticks at home.  Even Juliette is familiar with the words to give a good "CA-NA-DA!" when she here's it, and hitting the last word in every phrase loudly and clearly.

When the last notes of the organ died away and everyone sat down (luckily making a good amount of shuffling noise) Juliette asked loudly "Hockey game now?"

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Rep Sports

I love sports.  I come from a family that aren't really athletes.  My own interest developed when I was a child and grew greater and greater each year.  I played on school teams, city teams, and then in house league teams as an adult.  I played baseball and soccer and field hockey and volleyball.  If there's a game on, you can bet I'm in.

My children have developed that same love, and it excites me.  I have always loved the idea of a family getting together to play a game of this or that.  Touch football at Thanksgiving or volleyball at the beach or soccer at the cottage...those pickup games that go on until everyone collapses in exhaustion and partakes in a big meal.

I have never loved the idea of "rep" sports.  These are usually la crème de la crème of young players.  The fees are big, the schedule is overwhelming, and the travel can be exhausting and expensive.  Usually one child in the family makes the team and the rest are left being lugged along.  "No child of mine will ever play rep sports."

Well, you should know that the first rule of parenting is "never say never."  Because once you set your foot down on something you will be faced with exactly that dilemma.

Up until this year, we have had the boys in baseball leagues in the summer.  But over the school year this year, both Colin and Caleb have played so many soccer games at recess and lunch I've lost count.  In fact, I could probably count on two hands the number of recesses they didn't play soccer.  And in a small school, it meant they were playing with and learning from the older kids, which pushed their natural talent and developed into real skills.

I just never realized how far they had come.  Last month Colin was at a birthday party of a good friend whose parents we know well.  The birthday boy's father (a good friend of James') approached James at the end of the party and asked if he could submit Colin's name for the town's rep soccer team.  It took James by surprise, but this Dad, whose kids are really into the soccer scene, insisted that Colin was good.  Really, really good.

The conversation was compassionate, but short.  We explained the fees were too high and the schedule too time-consuming.  Colin was sad but we agreed to look into switching him to a more competitive league next year.  (This year all three boys are playing in a very casual, fun league, with parent volunteers for coaching.  It's more of a chance to play than an opportunity to learn any real skills.)

This week, however, my mind started shifting.  At our Wednesday night soccer league, I was cheering as Caleb scored a goal on his team.  His age division is ages 6-8, so he is probably the very youngest person in his whole league.  But he owned the field.  I was really surprised to see the skill with which he handled the ball.  Of the 5 goals his team scored, he got 4.  The other team scored 1.  I cheered wildly at his goal, and then was approached by a dad of a girl on our team.  "Are you Caleb's mom?" he asked.  I nodded, and he looked at me quite seriously.  I imaged I was going to be chastised for letting my son be a ball hog.  I had been worrying about it as I watched, but it wasn't that Caleb was barrelling in and stealing the ball from everyone, it was just that he could actually carry it down the field.  "He's good.  He's really, really good."  Those same words I heard about Colin echoed again.  I nodded dumbly.  But that wasn't the end.  "I grew up in England and played football (soccer) in some pretty big leagues.  Some of my teammates are now playing in the world cup.  Your son is really good, and if you can get him in a rep league, he will go far."

I don't think I visibly shuddered at the words "rep league" this time.  The dad left me in my stupor, and dribbled his soccer ball farther down the sidelines.  I saw him later doing a bunch of tricks with the ball that were frankly amazing.  He clearly knew what he was talking about.

All of a sudden I'm on the other side of the fence.  Before I would peer over and look down upon the idea of such a thing, but I never thought my children would have the kind of skill necessary to try out.  Not that I don't expect my kids to excel, but it is a very elite kind of natural ability you need to ever start the hard work necessary to join the team.  But here I am.

What do I do?  This is obviously not about my kids becoming professionals.  That is a whole other kettle of fish in terms of talent, and not a world I want my kids to becoming embroiled in.  But what happens when a child of your shows an unusual level of talent in something?  If it was music, would I have such a hard time committing to recitals and practicing and expensive lessons?  What if it was academic?  Space camp or extra tutoring?  Do I have a prejudice against time and money or against sports specifically?  I have always been an advocate of childhood being about learning and exploration and fun.  But if my child has the desire, drive and ability to do something more, something specific, how do you deal with it?

For now, we've told the boys that next year we will move them to a more competitive league, and see what happens.  If they have friends in rep, if they could be on the same team, if we could use gift money or fundraising, if we could somehow create a balanced it possibly in our future?

(Never say never.)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A little vacation

James and I just returned from two and a half weeks in France.  So much to write, and yet there is something about trying to capture it all after the fact that seems inadequate.  And so I might get to some of these thoughts over the next little bit, but then again, perhaps it will all stay tucked away in my own personal memory box.

Either way, I'm back and my mind is bursting with new ideas, new roles, new books, and new directions.  Summer is here, and it's sort of like another new beginning mid year.  New beginnings are so inspiring and I'm filled to the brim and bursting with the newness.  Love it!

Monday, 2 June 2014

Fighting the man

Last month we had a very scary, very close call with the bus.  Our afternoon bus stop is on the far side of a busy street, and necessitates us crossing said street to get home.  While the bus has it's lights flashing and stop sign open, cars regularly run straight through it.  Whether it's the slight hill before the stop, or distracted drivers, or drivers simply feeling they are in too much of a hurry if there aren't kids directly in the middle of the street, we constantly have our eyes peeled for danger.  Two years ago we had a close call, after which I stopped having the kids take the bus while I went through the "bus stop" appeal process.  The stop was changed for a month, and then reset in September back across the street.  I've been fighting it ever since, but the review kept coming back that there was "no problem with the stop."

So last month a car came speeding right through and was only two or three feet from where Benjamin was crossing.  We were all right behind him.  Enough was enough.  I pulled them again from the bus and this time was not going to take "no" for an answer.

I got the run around at every corner.  The bus company said they need a report for the bus driver.  The bus driver said her supervisor told her not to open her mouth about it.  The school said they don't control the busses.  The bus company said that a "50km/h, two lane road that dead ends in 500 feet shouldn't be a problem stop."  Oh, and they said that they can't control drivers.

Well, they can control where the stop is.  I sent a letter to the school saying that as of June 2nd my children would no longer be attending school, as it is too dangerous for them to get to and from school. The principal jumped on the phone and said she would talk with the board and the bus company.

Two weeks passed, and this morning, June 2nd, arrived.  I sent a short email stating that the kids would not be at school.  But I was feeling pinched because James and I leave on vacation this week, and my mother, who will be watching the kids, needs them to go to school and take the bus.  If I was going to be here I was going to keep them out of school as long as it took.  As it is, I only had three days.

As it turns out, we only needed 30 minutes.  By 9:30 this morning I had an email and a message from our school that the bus would now drop the kids off on our street, well away from the major artery.  (Bonus, it's actually right in front of our house!)  I can't express how relieved I am.  We will have kids at this school for the next 13 years, and as long as we live here they will be taking the bus.  I just hope I don't have to fight this again come September, or that I didn't have to go to the media about it.  But let me tell you, I will!