Monday, 15 December 2014

The usual December

We went to Sloan Christmas tree farm again. As usual there was a lot of Christmas cheer and music. People wore their Christmas smiles and there were far too many families wearing matching Christmas hats and sweaters. Many hot dogs were roasted and this year Gramma brought hot chocolate. 

It was hard not to love it.

I'm not sure I needed the hat, the overkill parka and the boots. But you know how we Canadians are at the beginning of the season. P.R.E.P.A.R.E.D.

I love these two. They were born 10 months apart and this year they've totally cemented their Cousin Love for each other.

 I insisted on the biggest, fattest tree on the lot this year. 

It set several questionable events into motion. Right after this picture, Deaglan smacked into that yellow contraption (the one on the right with wheels), bit through his tongue so that blood was spurting out of his mouth like it had released a small bubbling brook. Shaune and I sprang to action like any good parents, holding our foreheads, screaming in horror.

Thank goodness for Gramma Fran, the retired nurse. She (spiritually) smacked some sense into us, tended to our injured boy and set us back onto the right path.

When we got home the tree fell over twice, once almost on  top of little Naveen and broke most of the ornaments we were hanging onto from our first Christmases together over 15 years ago. 

We finally got it to stay up and upright by tying it to the railing.

Needless to say, I've had to confirm several dozen times since, what a good choice I still believe it is, praising it's majestic breadth and size.

And as usual, we threw a birthday party for this  Christmas Eve baby in early December. 

Same place as last year, a few different kids. A lot more action.

 Angry Bird eyebrows and mustaches.

 The birthday boy. Too much adrenaline. Too much energy. Too much cake.

 Cousin Leo. Not ready for the spotlight just yet.

  Calm and steady Gramma Fran.   

 And like we always do, we celebrated Grampa's birthday. 

 It's been the usual, predictable, fun and wonderful December made all better by this little guy - Cousin Leo.

Monday, 24 November 2014

His ordinary days

I really like Deaglan’s teacher this year.  I like her quite a bit. I wasn’t sure at first but after a few encounters I realized she was the perfect teacher for  him to have this first year at a new school.

A few weeks ago, on a Sunday evening, Deaglan lay between Shaune and me on our bed and cried. He was dreading school the next morning and didn’t understand why he couldn’t just go back to his old school. We explained again about zoning and reminded him that three of his best friends had also moved schools this year and were feeling the exact same way – something I was sure of because I’d texted back and forth with all of their moms.

He was dreading Monday morning because sometimes at recess he found he had no one to play with. Closer to the beginning of the year, when he was in a similar predicament, he’d make his way to the Kindergarten playground, and while away the time, chatting with his brother, separated only by a fence. They’d even invented their own sport where they threw a hat or sweatshirt back and forth over the fence, a makeshift game of catch. But lately, he explained, Naveen is always busy playing with his own friends.  

We told him that this was all a part of the experience of being a new kid – he was having a harder time establishing a set group of friends because most of his classmates had been friends since Junior Kindergarten but because  everybody in Naveen’s class was in the same boat - they were all new, it hadn’t taken as long.  We tried to assure him that by the end of the year, he’d feel like he belonged and always have a gang of guys to hang out with. In the meantime we promised to continue to have friends over as often as possible to help him develop these relationships.

He cried for a long time.

Our hearts ached. 

Up until now his life had been one fluid ride surrounded by friends, family and familiar places. He loved the old house and was blissfully unaware of its shortcomings. To him, it was the perfect size, filled with the perfect people situated on the perfect street. He didn’t notice the graffiti piling up on the neighbor’s fence or worry about the endless sea of unsavory characters coming in and out of the house across the street.  He didn’t care that we were tripping over each other all winter long, stuck together in one small living space.

Several days ago, I had to pick him up in the middle of the day – he had a temperature and upset stomach. I had a few minutes alone with his teacher in the office before collecting him so I told her about the Sunday night. Tears sprang to her eyes and she vowed to help out. I told her that although we tried to teach our kids the importance of all experiences, that each feeling played an important part in who they were,  we felt completely helpless watching our guy go through this transition.

The next night when we were doing homework, Deaglan told me that he’d felt really special at school that day. Not only had his teacher moved him beside one of his friends (a kid we’d had over to our house twice already) but she'd also told him that everybody missed him when he went home sick the day before. 

At parent-teacher interviews this past Thursday, I had a chance to connect with her again about it. After we discussed his academic progress, we chatted about other potential friendships she saw developing. We talked about our childhoods a bit, how sweet six and seven year olds are in general , and how important their friendships are at this age.  

I left feeling overwhelming gratitude that my son was spending his days being guided by this special person. 

We built gingerbread houses to welcome the Christmas season. Deaglan was meticulous with his, taking the time to carefully place jube-jube shutters and M&M doorknobs. 

Naveen looked like this the entire time. 

He cared very little about shingles and doorknobs. He wanted us to cut to the chase. "When can I eat my house????"

Which is all to say (as you can see from this picture - thanks Honey!) that I could have used a good stiff Christmas toddy to relax my jaw muscles after insisting over and over the Christmas house was supposed to be a decoration. Oh what fun!

When we looked at Naveen's gingerbread house this morning, it was no longer on the tray. The candy and icing were cleaned (read licked) off and there were several bites out of the roof.

Sunday, 19 October 2014


When I get home from work every afternoon, Naveen shouts out from wherever he is in the house, “Mommy?!! Is that you?!!” And when I confirm that yes it is, he lets out a whoop, and in his loudest most joyful voice he lets Deaglan and Shaune know that I’m home. 

This announcement is made despite the fact that usually both are in my plain sight and can see clearly that I am indeed home. And once my arrival is confirmed and properly celebrated, he wraps his arms around my legs, looks up into my face and asks in his most sober - finally I can relax voice if he can have a piece of gum and get into his Batman pajamas.  

He then tells me about his day, each event, a 28 minute long story, in the middle of which, if he senses he’s not getting my complete and undivided attention, scolds me for not listening and starts the story again from the very beginning.

After dinner, while Deaglan and I sit together to do reading homework, he stands behind me against the back of the couch, arms around my neck, chin on one shoulder listening to his brother’s slow and steady telling of each story.

And on my luckiest nights, a few times throughout the evening, he either asks to be picked up or if I’m sitting, plops down on my lap so that he can plant a dozen or so kisses on my face. His small hands cup my face and he tells me over and over that he loves me.

Oh, we have plenty of other moments too.

I tell him he has to take a bite of broccoli.
He tells me I’m no longer his friend.  
I tell him for the fourth time to put his shoes in the closet.
He accuses me of bad mothering (he really does!).
I side with Deaglan in one of their arguments.
He promises to cut me off from all affection for good.

But it occurs to me, in the hustle and bustle of school, extra-curriculars and work where structure and routine must necessarily rule, these moments glisten like flecks of gold in the monotonous terrain of our everydays.

He got new pajamas today.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The loud and gentle voices

Last winter I gained something like 7 pounds.

On my small, apple (not pear) shaped, child-birth-ravaged, could-actually-stand-to-lose-15-pounds frame, that’s a lot of extra weight. To be honest I was in complete denial (even though my skirts had been screaming Uncle every time I zipped them up) until a very truthful colleague at work pointed it out. We only see each other every few months, so when she visited from the Toronto office last spring she asked me flat out.

She is soft spoken with a very thick accent and was smiling while pointing to my mid section; naturally I assumed she was paying me a compliment. She must be, I remember thinking, for there can be no other good reason to so intentionally spotlight a middle aged woman’s most vulnerable parts.

In response to what I thought I heard, I told her no, I hadn’t. She insisted that I had and then, to prove it, she pointed to my face. She was gesturing that it had gotten fuller.

Then light-headedness.
Was I dreaming? Was this woman really telling me that I’d gained weight?

Yes, I do still speak to her.

But it did hurt to know that the long wretched winter we had last year had left its mark on me. I can’t say for sure but it might likely have been the many Saturday afternoons I spent snuggling up with Dexter and Ms. Vickie.

A deadly threesome.

I’ve been a regular exerciser most of my adult life but it was clear that I could no longer afford to eat like I did even five years ago. This broke my heart.

Sorrowfully, I unfriended Ms. Vickie.
Dexter and I became exclusive.

I started adding in a sixth workout when I could and played soccer with the kids most nights after dinner throughout the summer. The weight did not budge. I read about perimenopause and how hard it could be to lose weight in the years leading up to menopause but didn’t want to believe it was impossible. Finally, I took a good hard look at how I was eating and accepted that while most of the time I did make good choices, I was still eating too much.

That’s when I turned inward.

I started listening to the voices in my head before each meal and noticed that just before lunch and dinner there was one particularly loud voice that told me there was not going to be enough food. Eat as much as you can, it insisted, before it’s all gone. And eat fast!

Obviously, those first seven years in Bangladesh when full meals were rare and the subsequent years as part of a large family where you had to act fast at the dinner table, had done a number on my relationship with food.

I started a dialogue.

How about we eat this much and if we’re still hungry in a half hour we’ll grab something else?  I asked gently at every meal. The voice began to listen and eventually quiet down. That was three weeks ago. I’m happy to tell you that I’ve shed six pounds.

That’s like an average sized newborn.
An uncarved pumpkin.
A small turkey. I’ve lost a small turkey!

The voice (along with so many others) is still with me but we’re learning to co-exist. And I still think about Ms. Vickie at least a few times every month but so far have not renewed our friendship. But Dexter and I? 

We’ve still got some unfinished business - Season 8 is finally on Netflix (!).

Here's Naveen yesterday morning in his favorite outfit - the one I mentioned in my last post. He insisted on wearing it again this morning. Oh how I love to do  laundry at 6 am on a weekday!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

My spiritual guides

Last night when I told Deaglan it was time to turn his TV off, he lost his mind. He wasn’t tired, he insisted and besides his friends at school had been discussing this very thing earlier in the day and they all get to stay up later than him.

I asked for specific examples.

“Brandon gets to stay up like really, really late,” he said.
“How late?”
“12 hundred o’clock.”

He was completely serious. I bit my cheek and added telling time to my mental checklist of things I needed to teach this kid.

“I’m sorry buddy, but you have a hard time getting up in the morning and your body needs a good amount of sleep to be healthy.”

“I hate you!” he said, “I’m not going to fall asleep. I’ll stay awake all night in the dark.”

“Listen, I get it. I remember how much I used to hate having to go to bed when I was a kid. It did seem unfair. I especially hated it when I was in the middle of doing something. (I figured this was not the time to tell him I didn't have a TV in my room until third year university) But I’m the Mom and it’s my job to take care of you.”

“But I’m not tired!!!” he yelled.

“You will be once you lay your head on the pillow, I promise. It's time.”

I left the room then.
He was forlorn. He cried out of sheer frustration. He was a kid with very little control over this circumstance. I sat in my room and wondered if I’d done the right thing.

Five minutes later he was sound asleep, snoring softly, long limbs askew. Relieved, I patted myself on the back for handling it the way I did. I didn't raise my voice. I  didn’t react to his anger the way I typically might. I’d taken a deep breath and found a way to connect with him.

I’ve been practicing.

In the Conscious Parent  Shefali Tsabary says there is a way to be firm with our kids without getting caught up in the drama of the situation. “As much as conscious parenting is about listening to our children, honoring their essence, and being fully present with them, it’s also about boundaries and discipline.”

It’s a beautiful book.

There’s such goodness and wisdom on every page. I’ve underlined and asterisked something in just about every chapter. I’ve wanted to call each and every single one of you with kids in your lives to say OMG, you have to read this book.

It’s that good.

One of my favourite things she says is that although we believe as parents that we hold the power to raise our kids, the reality is that our kids hold the power to raise us into the parents they need us to become.

I find this profound.

For me, parenthood has been deeply satisfying. It’s been hard at times but so, so fulfilling. I do believe what she says in her book that our children are spiritual guides put into our lives to teach us to become our best selves.  

This morning my little guides were doing a lot of teaching but I was in no mood to learn a thing.
We all slept in. I made the lunches and fed the kids breakfast to help Shaune get out the door sooner. He was grateful and asked if there was something he could do to help before leaving. 

"Dress Naveen" I said without hesitation. 

It's the part I dread the most every morning. He's very particular about what he will wear. His most favourite outfit is a vivid green ninja hoodie paired with a pair of Disney-blue sweatpants, a hand-me-down we received for Deaglan several years ago from a co-worker of Shaune's a few jobs ago.

They have the word DINO written down one leg. 

I've let him wear this get-up at least three times each week since school began but have had to put my foot down the other days simply because it was filthy and I hadn't had a chance to do laundry. He refuses to wear most of the new clothes we bought him for school.

Shaune wasn't successful with the first or second outfit he suggested. I could tell he had to go so I offered to  take over. 

A lot of crying and angry words ensued. We finally settled on some old worn shorts (I thought I'd gotten rid of these ages ago!) and a hand-me-down red Lightening McQueen hoodie. He let me know a few times that he really dug this outfit. 

Great, I thought, your teachers can continue to think I found your clothes in a dumpster.

I know there is a spiritual lesson in these morning struggles somewhere but as a fashion-conscious soul, I am very resistant to learning it.

When I got home, he'd ditched the T shirt underneath and was just Marky Mark-ing it. I'm definitely getting him some white Calvins.

The move and all it entailed did Shaune and me in this spring and summer. I've taken no pictures to show you the new house. I wrote no posts to tell you how we're settling in. A sad state of affairs!

Here's a few pictures I found on our camera. The kids love the pool and despite the crummy weather we had all summer, they used it all the time.

By the end of the summer, Deaglan was swimming without the floatie. Swimming lessons courtesy of Dad.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Will you know my name?

I rarely struggle with my faith anymore.

I feel certain that God is okay with my buffet approach to His Kingdom. I pick what I like from each religion I encounter and add it to my plate. I hardly ever feel the need to justify the various snack sized portions I choose to take in. 

After all, I was born on the other side of the world to devout Muslims and less than a decade later was learning about Jesus at Catholic school in Canada. The change in exposure did nothing to change who I really am.  This truth has always quieted me in the face of religious debate. I feel a deep connection to God and sense that He doesn’t care how I label it.

Recently, however, my smorgasbord belief system was tested.

Halfway through Heaven is for real one evening, Deaglan came into the family room.  I explained what I was watching and told him he should watch too. As always, he had 57 questions. He doesn’t quite understand the concept of non-animated television.

“Is this happening somewhere right now?”  “Are these people real?” “Did that guy just say the F word??”

I explained again that TV is mostly a person with a camera filming people who are pretending...someone has a story idea and asks people to act out that story in front of a video camera. 

It gets trickier when the movie is based on true events.  Our conversation about this particular movie went something like this:

Did that boy really go to heaven?

Well, yes, from what he says, it sounds like that’s where he went.

So this movie happened in real life?

Ummm, yes.

That boy right there went to heaven?

Well, not him, but someone like him.

More complicated than explaining the difference between the movie and real life versions though, was knowing how to respond to my son’s pointed questions about my faith.

Mom, do you believe Heaven looks like that, the way the boy says it does?

Ummm...yup, I think so.

Should I believe it too?

If you like that idea. Do you like that idea?

I think I do. Does everybody go to Heaven?

Well...if they believe in it, I guess.

I felt Shaune's eyebrow shoot up from across the room.  I shot back a look that I hoped said obviously I mean that if the concept of Heaven is not real for you then you might not care about going there after you die!

Okay then, I want to believe it too...Will I see Great Gramma Mac and Judge and Crash in Heaven?


But what about you and Dad? Will I see you there?  

My son’s voice was no longer inquisitive. It had taken on something close to desperation.

Yes of course you will!

But if you look different in heaven (the boy in the movie saw his grandfather not as the old man he was before he died, but as a young man), how will I find you?

His heart broke open then. He cried heavy hot tears into my chest; hugged me tightly.

I won’t be able to find you! How will we find each other in Heaven?!?

Hey,’s okay. You won’t have to look for me, sweetheart. Daddy and I will be waiting for you. As soon as we know you’re coming, we’ll be standing waiting for you!

Speaking of Heaven, here are some pictures from Naveen's birthday and some from our trip to KOA.


Thursday, 10 July 2014

The promise of each new spring

We’re moving to a new house next week and every time I ask the kids how they’re feeling about it, Deaglan says the same thing: I can’t wait because Dad says we’re getting those diving rockets Shannon has at her house! 

And Naveen answers me with a question to make sure we’re talking about the same thing. You mean that house with the pool that we saw last year ago?  

It was the end of May but I remember how time felt as a kid.

Truth is, I’ve been walking around in a daze, reliving our time here; watching the past seven years in flashes on the projector of my mind. In the spare room, I only see the nursery it used to be. The sound of lullabies tinkling in the background as I nurse my babies to sleep night after night. 

I walk by walls and finger the grooves left by baby gates, freshly painted over, but the scars still there. I see each of the boys crawling and eventually walking up and down the well-worn stair case; stare a little longer at the framed pictures along the rail,  when they were just babies.

Downstairs I sit bemused on the recliner, gaze out the front window, as neighbors walk by with their dogs, pass the tree I’ve come to love. The one I eyed up suspiciously that first summer but who has become my loyal and constant companion in watching these boys grow. 

I thank it, not for the first time, for allowing our babies to swing from its branches, for being the touch point for all their games, for patiently indulging them summer after summer as they struggle to scale its trunk. I thank it for its breezy shade in the hot summer months and for the way it stands proudly through the cold winter, bare for all to see, clinging to the promise of each new spring.

I hope the new owners will treasure you old friend.

In the evenings, we kick the ball around or I just sit back to watch the kids play in the backyard. My mind takes me back to other moments we’ve had here. I watch myself walk down the aisle, in a pretty white dress, past the handful of family and friends, a baby on my hip and six white roses in my hand; I make my way toward my sweet love to say I do.

It felt so right to do it here! 
This place that made us a family, settled us into our best selves.

And when I ask Shaune how he’s feeling about it - he’s the more sentimental one of us – he hesitates. I have to remind him it’s time to move on. We really did make the right decision.

It wasn’t the plan to stay here forever





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