Caution – Kids at work

We hired the girls to paint all the exterior trim and woodwork on the house this summer, as well as the storm windows (which are new).  We’ve offered a substantial sum to each upon completion of their section of house, and they seem pretty motivated.  We had very uncooperative weather for painting for the first few weeks of the summer holidays, so the project only got underway this week.

Younger daughter adding another coat to the storms

This is an older house (the main part was built in 1925), 1 1/2 storeys, so there’s a fair bit of ladder work.  Good thing the girls chosen sports give them such great upper body strength – one fences (as in swords, not wire, sadly), the other is a wall climber (NOT as in “she’s so bored, she’s climbing the walls”, the other kind, with ropes and harnesses and grips on the wall).

older daughter washing down and scraping the woodwork on the east side

Both kids have other jobs on the go, and older daughter is still living at her house sitting job a couple of kilometres away.  Fortunately her summer job is just down the road from here, so she has been coming here for dinner and doing her painting stuff in the evenings.  The younger child has more time on her hands, but needs a little more guidance as well, so she’s been working when one of us is home; in addition she is hacking blackberries with me and has all her older sister’s household work while she’s away.  Such is the lot of the youngest kid!

Today got up to about 32 degrees (I think that’s around 90 F), so the pool got a workout before dinner when those hot sweaty painters jumped in to cool off.

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Life Lesson

“How’s it going?’ I asked my older daughter the other day.  We were standing in the kitchen where she is house sitting.

She moved in there a week ago, excited and happy to be able to prove how capable and ready she is to cope in the real world.  In addition to keeping the house standing and intact, she is responsible for an anti-social cat with anxiety issues and a 5 year old German Pointer with very high energy and a low boredom threshold.  Perks include a wall of DVDs in the TV room for her to work her way through, and an above ground pool in the backyard.  She could sense freedom.

There is a slight flaw in this otherwise close to perfect situation: she has a summer job very close to our home, not so close to where she is house sitting.  The bus goes almost once an hour, and takes 45 minutes to wend it’s way through the back roads, whereas the direct route is not quite 10 minutes by car.  Our daughter does not have her driver’s license yet, so her options are the slow bus, walking (slower still) or riding a bike.  Not her bike, which she outgrew about 5 years ago, and which she didn’t want replaced because she didn’t like biking.

From our point of view, we thought this would be a good experience for her.  She’s graduating next year, and has been coping with cooking and chores at home for years, so we didn’t doubt she could survive in that regard.  Because the house is only 10 minutes from us, we can be there quickly if she needs us.  We saw the transportation issue as a good lesson in problem solving, and we figured things like grocery shopping, meal planning, time management (like getting up without me yelling) were all part of the experience, so we said go for it.  And she did.  She’s really coping very well, and we’re immensely proud.

We were standing in her kitchen about 5 days after she moved there.  She’d invited us over for dinner (could you bring it with you?  I don’t have enough food for 4 people), and a swim in her pool.  We accepted, gladly.  Younger daughter and I cooked, while my husband did the dog walk with the older daughter and the pointer.  Over dinner, she told funny stories about the dog, the nice garbage men who came and got the garbage can from the garage because she didn’t know it was garbage day, how early the cat woke her up, how many hills there were for biking (she borrowed a bike in the end) between there and work.  She showed off the stereo and huge TV, and  the garden she was taking good care of.  We all jumped in the pool later and froze within 5 minutes (we’ve had good weather for about a week, unlike the Midwest, so the water wasn’t terribly warm).  Back in the house, kitchen clean, our swim stuff packed, we were ready to go, back to chicken chores and our own dog.  Did we want a cup of tea first?  Maybe watch a movie?  We sensed loneliness…and stayed.

While my husband and younger daughter went down and chose a movie, I helped our older daughter with tea making, and asked my question.

Arms wrapped tightly around me, my grown up 17 year old whispered, “Oh, Mum, this is so hard”.

Yes, my honey, it is.

Little Chicks Growing up

I’m knee deep in chicks these days – broilers and layers a week apart. I find myself comparing how differently they grow. The broilers will be fully grown and in the freezer two months from now, averaging 5 lbs. In two months the layers will be looking like teenagers – gangly, wings that don’t work yet, etc. In another two months after that, probably in October, they will be adults, laying their first eggs. I’ve seen all this in chicks many times, and while I marvel at the rate of change, it no longer catches me by surprise.

Last night our younger daughter got ready for her grade 8 farewell dinner/dance. She normally appears in black jeans, a baggy hoody and scuffed running shoes, using her thick long hair to hide as much face as possible. So last night came as a shock – she looked casual yet elegant in a summer dress of black with a floral pattern, with flats to match. The hair was brushed smooth and thrown back out of her face. She looked faintly embarrassed to be not her usual self, but defiantly proud at the same time.  When I dropped her off at the school, I suddenly ached to hop out too, to go hang at the gym door and watch all these fledglings test their newly feathered wings.  I had not fully stopped the car, when the door was thrown open, and “omygoshthereshilarygottagoloveyou” came back on the breeze left swirling as she jumped out and raced to catch up to a tall vision of beauty (THAT was Hilary? Who I saw last week in flip flops and sweats?)  And they were gone.

I’m comforted, a little. Today she’s in her black jeans again. The dress is probably in a puddle on the floor upstairs (I haven’t looked, why spoil the day before it’s even started). The braces on her teeth remind me that she’s still my little girl for a while longer.

Random photographer writes her final French Immersion exam today. She has arranged an appointment with a counsellor regarding her options after she graduates next year. She’s doing this stuff without me.  Beauty radiates out of her generous soul.  She has developed grace since her grade 8 farewell days.  She is so self sufficient.  I trust her judgement in so many things, respect her wisdom.  Yet she’s still my little girl too.

We have been working all these years to help them grow up, so why am I not ready for this?