Ballet

The fall season of extracurricular activities has just begun. Sparky casually mentioned he’d like to maybe try guitar, so we looked into that, but we just couldn’t afford it right now. He’s happy to continue with his art classes.

Owlet has been waiting to turn five, because now she is old enough to register for ballet at the arts centre where she previously did art and intro to music. She and her friend Audrey have both registered, and we took them to buy their ballet shoes a week and a half ago. Owlet is extremely thrilled with them and wears them any time she remembers they exist… like when it’s time to climb into bed for bedtime stories.

The first day was exciting. She naturally wanted to wear a dress, but I managed to get her to agree to wear black leggings and a tunic shirt instead. There are fifteen kids in the class (fifteen!) and the teacher is terrific with them. Her choice of music is admirable, too; the way to get me to appreciate your commitment to teaching is to have both a track from Michael Nyman’s score for The Piano and a prelude from a Bach solo cello suite playing in the first ten minutes. (Also, wow; you can make a playlist on a phone or mp3 player and just plug it into an amplifier in this day and age. When I took ballet classes, there was a live accompanist, because it was that or a portable record player.)

So far, so good. There was a hesitation halfway through the class when she didn’t want to keep going, but after watching the other girls learn how to do “cat jumps” she threw herself back in with enthusiasm, because who doesn’t want to learn how to jump like a cat, right? And we committed the faux pas of not bringing water bottles with which the girls could hydrate at half time, the way all the other girls (who had obviously all done this before) had done. A note has been made for next time.

Sparky came home from his first art class that afternoon with spots of paint all over him, so that’s going as well as it usually does!

Cottaging

Things have been pretty stressful around here for a variety of reasons. So when our friends Megan and Jason invited us to spend a day at their family cottage an hour north of the city, we said yes.

It was one of those transitional days we get at the end of summer, where the sun is shining but there’s a breeze and a chill to the air, especially outside the city. It was the kind of weather where you’re happy to be able to pull out a sweater.

I got about an inch knit on my sweater for Rhinebeck. The kids tromped around and found sticks, poked them into the water, pretended to fish, and played happily in the sand pit. The adults managed to play a game of Settlers of Catan without being significantly interrupted, which was a major achievement. And at the end of the day, a small fire was built and we taught the kids how to roast marshmallows.

It was a wonderful day, and we all really needed it.

Rites of Passage, Including Kindergarten and Grade Six

Rites of passage are something that I consider important. Not big splashy ones; just marking milestones. And there have been a few of them lately, this last week of August and the first weekend of September.

Owlet had her intro to kindergarten the last week of August. On Tuesday we went in for an hour-long session in her class, listening to her teacher talk through the structure, the subjects, and the schedule. After that there was a barbecue in the schoolyard, which she partly like because of hot dogs and being able to play with her friends for daycare who had also advanced to kindergarten, and partly disliked because the music was too loud. The next day she went in with half the class for a morning of kindergarten. Despite being told over and over, she didn’t fully understand that I wasn’t coming in with her again for that session, and there were almost tears; she and her buddy from daycare held hands for support as they followed the teacher inside. Then she had a day off, and then Friday was her first official full day of school. Again tears threatened, but her teacher introduced her to another girl in the schoolyard while I slipped away. At the end of the day the teacher brought out the non-bus and non-daycare kids, but Owlet wasn’t among them, even though she had been when they left the classroom. It turned out that she had split off from the group to follow a new friend to the daycare programme; her teacher found her sitting with the daycare kids, happily munching a daycare granola bar.

Her daycare educator e-mailed to see how the first days had gone, and I was glad to be able to tell her that things were fine. Owlet finally gets to use her Star Wars lunchbox, and get a juice box in it — a treat that was withheld from her until she started kindergarten. She is excited about the great playground equipment (restricted to the younger grades), about learning computers (two in her classroom, an entire computer lab next door), having new markers and coloured pencils. She coloured a picture for her new teacher on Friday morning, hugged her leg before leaving on Friday afternoon, and has been practicing her teacher’s name and saying “bonjour” and “au revoir” (the latter with a truly adorable rolled ‘r’). The one thing I’m not thrilled about is the fact that she’s in the only kindergarten class in the basement; the three others are on the main floor with large windows. But her teacher has made it colourful, and the music room is right across the hall. She hasn’t said anything specific about being frustrated or sad about not understanding what her teacher says — she is very good at using gestures to illustrate what she is saying, and I’m certain it will only take a couple of weeks before Owlet starts nattering in French.

Sparky’s first day was a breeze. The schoolyard was packed with hundreds of kids and parents looking for their class lists, saying hello after the summer, and generally goofing around. Once he found his friends, there was no point to me staying, so Owlet and I walked to the park behind the schoolyard and hung out there until the classes started being called inside. The grade sixes were last, of course, and the teachers gathered all four grade six classes on the field to take mass photos before they went in. They’re the top of the heap this year, the last before high school. The night before the school held an info session for parents, and I got to meet his teachers and hear about their policies, their units of inquiry, and the planned field trips. There’s a lot of science and focus on renewable energy, which is going to be exciting for Sparky. Math will be focusing on stabilizing and reviewing the material they’ve already learned, much to my relief. He’ll have a new math resource teacher, as his past one (who, incidentally, has also been his math tutor this past summer) has her own class in another school this year. His homeroom teacher happens to be the same teacher who taught him French In kindergarten at his first school, which he finds amusing.

The day before school started, we went out to brunch, which is a nice new tradition, I think. Megan and Audrey came with us, as Audrey was starting kindergarten the same day Owlet did.

The other recent rite of passage was baby Ivy’s blessing. HRH and I were honoured to be asked to lead the ritual by Ivy’s parents, who are friends of ours. It was the first real ritual Owlet had observed; she had been very interested in the whole idea of a baby blessing leading up to the event. (What is a blessing? Why do we ask the gods to protect her? Will the gods sit or stand? If they’re not there, will the gods hear us even if we don’t shout?) The wish Sparky made for the baby was for a long life, and Owlet (even though she hid behind me and was too shy to say it) had prepared a wish that the baby always feel comfortable enough to be herself. (I said it for her. It was a really good wish, and I was very proud of her for coming up with it.)

Of all the formal rites of passage I am privileged to perform for my spiritual community, baby blessings are my favourite. I only wish we’d been in a better state to stay afterwards and enjoy food, drink, and company, but I was exhausted and rapidly going downhill (fibro has been particularly difficult lately), Sparky was fighting a cold, and Owlet was having that kind of weekend where she needed to get home to have a quiet supper and regular bedtime.

It’s been a busy week.

Retreat

Every five years or so, the people of my spiritual path gather together in southern Pennsylvania for a long weekend of reflection, worship, fellowship, and meetings. Between these major retreats, there is a weekend for the leaders within the tradition; a sort of leadership conference where decision-making happens, policy is discussed, and techniques are shared.

This past weekend, HRH and I attended one of the latter retreats. It was the first event I’d been able to attend in seven or eight years, thanks to a variety of instances that prevented me from getting to the others (financial crisis the day before I was to leave, health crises associated with scheduled childcare so I stayed with the kids while HRH went alone) so this weekend fed my soul in a very particular way. I saw people I hadn’t seen in person for almost a decade. I participated in seminars and worship services that I didn’t lead — a rarity for me. Not having to facilitate anyone else’s experience allowed me to actually look to my own, a luxury I am rarely allowed.

The weather was stifling, and the ten-hour drive down and back was not fun. Travel steals a lot of the energy I need to function on a daily basis (thanks so much, fibro), as does dealing with heat and humidity. The metal folding chairs were murder on my back. But I am so very grateful that the universe made sure I could go this time. What I got out of it was immensely valuable to me. I reconnected with other people who practice our tradition. I reconnected with the source of our path. I did some soul searching, and had a couple of revelations that I need to meditate on some more.

We stayed at an absolutely wonderful B&B in Harrisburg, the City House, and after the day’s activities we returned there and walked to pubs or bistros for light evening meals. Our last dinner was at a locally famous steakhouse with nine other conference attendees, and it was good to be with them.

Grandma came to stay with the kids, and they had a fabulous time with her and their grandfather, who came over during the days as well. We are very grateful to them. I missed the kids, but a couple of days without them went a long way to recharging my parenting batteries, too.

Owlet: 59 Months!

Crazy full-time work project happened, other writing died. Sigh. This week I want to go back and at least put together a picture post or two for April and May.

This morning I was buckling Owlet into her car seat, and she said, “Oh no, Mummy, I forgot to make my bed! I’m sorry. I’ll do it as soon as I get home, I promise.” I blinked, and said, “Okay, thanks, honey,” wondering why it had come up. She usually doesn’t remember to do it (or rather, someone else gets there first), but today, for some reason, she remembered an hour after she got up, after she had left the house. And then promised she’d do it later. I’ll be interested to see if she does remember.

I haven’t been noting down the amusing or interesting things she’s been doing. On one hand I gave myself permission to forget (I only have so much brain), but on the other… the idea with both kids was to keep track of the little things because it all changes so subtly over time.

She’s so much better in the pool and with water in general this summer. She got a pair of goggles along with some outgrown swimwear from the Preston-Leblancs, and she puts them on, holds her breath, and bends over to stick her face in the water. “Did you see me? Did I disappear?” she says breathlessly when she stands up again. She and Sparky play like otters in the tiny pool, making the most of the space they have. And she is okay with sprinklers this year, too, which is new!

Music class ended at the beginning of June. She hasn’t shown particular interest in anything she played, but it has taught her to be enthusiastic about any instrument she meets, reaching for with while exclaiming, “Can I try it?” Which is good, I guess. (Sparky is taking violin for two weeks this summer at camp, and he is showing us what he learns every day on our adult-sized viola at home. I may need to add a violin to the bash-about instruments on hand, because Owlet wants to do it too, and the viola is what she uses as a cello, so holding it on her shoulder is really not possible.) She’s determined to do ballet this fall, and she’ll be old enough for the 5+ age group, so that’s a go. And next summer she can go to Sparky’s day camp as well, albeit in the junior division.

She currently very into Mia & Me, which I am fine with because it isn’t a heavily licensed show, thank goodness. Speaking of licensing, she got her first Lego set this month and spent an hour and a half putting it together; Lego is now on her birthday list. (Here we go.)

She plays with Sparky more intricately all the time (he is sucking her into Pokemon, which is problematic only in that Pokemon asks the player to read a lot, and she’s not there yet), and it’s great to listen to them playing. They do get frustrated with each other when someone doesn’t follow the script inside someone else’s head, and there are times when I have to separate them. But in general? They’re great together, and I’m so thankful for that.

Everyone is still very into Hamilton, and the two of them can go through entire songs trading lines back and forth.

Big news this past month was going to the cinema for her first movie on the big screen! We saw Finding Dory, and it was a terrific experience. We taught her how to stay to the end of the credits in case there was a post-credit sequence and were rewarded. Then she turned to me and her face crumpled, and she said, “But it was special, and I don’t want it to be over!” I cuddled her and promised we could go see other movies because she was old enough now; she just cried and said, “But what if I don’t like them? I liked this movie!”

There will be other movies, and they will be as enjoyable. Promise.

And now we’re into a thirty-one day countdown to five years old. It doesn’t seem possible, does it?

Tour de Fleece 2016: Day 1!

They ride bikes, we spin yarn. It’s all wheels, right?

I wanted to have my wheel clear for the first day of the Tour, but yeah, that didn’t happen. I handed the manuscript of the book in Thursday evening, and Friday was a blur, really. I slept horribly and so I was having trouble staying awake in the afternoon. And then there was that concert thing Friday night, it being Canada Day and all. (It was excellent. Really great. And our replacement principal cellist asked if we’d be interested in a cello club, a monthly get-together for playing stuff. Um, yes? Sign me up. I love group classes and cello choirs.)

So Day 1 of the Tour had me plying the last 3/4 of my FatCatKnits BFL in the London Fog colourway in order to clear bobbins.

It went from this:



To this:

Before a wash to finish the yarn, it’s 466.5 yards, 20 wpi. I loved the experience and the feel of the finished yarn, but I’m not thrilled with the colour. The three-ply barberpoling from a randomly applied colourway… I’ve got a greenish pinkish greyish yarn. If I do this colourway again — and I probably will, because I loved the original braid and it was on my wish list for over three years — I’m going to either split it lengthwise so the plies match up, or spin end to end and then chain ply it.

Whatever. It will make a nice shawlette to tuck into the neck of my velveteen fall coats. I was hoping for socks, but I think it’s too soft. Even though I plied it super tight.