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




Friday, 30 May 2014

We laugh, we sigh, and we shake our heads

Dear Naveen,

A few weeks ago on our way to Daycare, a ten minute drive after we drop Deaglan off, a motorcycle passed us. “Momma,” you said, “I wish I was a moto-cycle dwiver.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked, “how come?”
“Because they’re weally, weally cool.”

Several hours later, that same day, on our way home, you told me that 
Adam*, a boy in your preschool room, had slapped you in the face.

“Did you tell Ms. Katie or Sarah?” I asked.
“No, but I wish I could have @*#$ him.”  You replied.
“NA-VEEEEN,” I said, “when someone hurts you, you need to tell a teacher.You don’t wish ____”

That night when I had a few minutes alone with your Dad, I told him the two stories.  His response and I hope you’re reading this as a grown man, sitting behind a mahogany desk, taking a well deserved break from the stacks of blueprints for your next skyscraper, or relaxing after deposing a very rich client’s husband, was to put into words what I’d feared all along:

“I told you” he said, “that kid’s gonna be a Hell’s Angel one day.”

Here’s the thing.

Your brother ruined “normal” for you.  He was a pretty predictable as three year olds go. He had the odd tantrum but on the whole was generally good natured and went with the flow. I feel often that this has not been the case with you.  

I mean this in the most loving-but-I’m–your-mom-so-I-can-say-this kind of way.

For instance you hate mornings. I think you would like them if you weren’t expected to eat breakfast or get dressed. You hate eggs and socks.  And most styles of pants.

You also hate public declarations of love.

From the time he learned to speak, your brother has told me at least a dozen times every day that he loves me. You however, could care less about my desperate need for validation.

On the drive home from school, if I adjust the rear-view mirror to see your little face, you scowl and tell me to stop looking at you. If I bump into you on the way to the kitchen, you accuse me of hitting you on purpose.  And lately, when you feel put out by one of my demands you’ve added the phrase “stinkin’ old” to whatever it is you’re protesting:

“I don’t want to lift the stinkin’ old toilet seat, Momma!”
“I hate stinkin’ old fish. I’m not eating!”
“I’m not wearing stinkin’ old shorts to school. I don’t care if it’s hot!”

You’re a grumpy old curmudgeon in a Preschooler’s body.  

And yet.

You're never far from me.  If we’re in the same room, you need to be in my arms or on my lap. If I’m in the basement doing laundry, you’re waiting for me at the top of the stairs. If I’m inside while you’re playing out back, you come in every few minutes and demand a hug.

“Let’s pretend I’m a baby,” you often say and insist we talk about the old days when you used to nurse. You ask me again and again what you used to call breast milk and are convinced that if I just tried, I could produce it for you even now. You have no intention of growing older you tell me all the time.

You adore your brother. When you draw pictures at school, they’re mostly for Deaglan. You mimic his speech, want the same toys and tell me secretly that your favorite colour is blue “just like Dekwen’s.” This past Saturday morning, I came downstairs to find the two of you sitting on the couch, his arm around you, watching cartoons.

I had no words.

You’ll be four tomorrow and I can’t help but mourn a little. Your chubby toddler legs have gotten lean and strong.  Your smooth little forehead is no longer adorably disproportioned to the rest of your face. You’ve grown into those gloriously abundant ears and you only sometimes sound like a native Bostonian – sadly, you’re learning to say your R’s.

This year you developed a fondness for video games, swear words and grilled salmon. The first two made me uneasy and anxious while the third was bittersweet because it was short-lived. Lately you sustain yourself on anything sugary and anything that resembles a pork chop. You hardly ever mention the vacuum cleaner anymore but you often wish out loud that you could drive a real car.

Don't worry, much to my dismay, that time will come soon enough my sweetheart. But for now, I want you to know that your Dad and I wouldn’t change a single thing about you; we laugh, we sigh, and we shake our heads daily, watching you unfold. I hope you’ll always be your own quirky, delightful, weird and wonderful self.

Unapologetic. Unconventional. Unpredictable.

And if you do end up joining a biker gang when you're older, then I hope you always stay Under the radar

Happy Birthday my sweet baby!

Love always,

Your old lady.

*The names and events in this scenario were changed to protect you from implication in any future crimes.

Some pictures of you from this past year.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Before the deep sadness

Last night I had a dream about Matthew.

I was at a crowded bar when I bumped into him. My heart leapt. He smiled and asked me if I was sticking around. He said he’d be hitting the stage around 7 and I should stick around. I was so glad to see him that I didn’t think to ask questions.

Of course, I said. He told me to make sure I stayed late because the fun stuff didn’t start happening till after 11. 

He looked 19: skinny as a pole, shy smile, a dusting of brown freckles sprinkled across his nose. Handsome as ever. After I promised to stick around he tapped me lightly on the back and walked away. When I looked again, he’d been swallowed  up by the crowd. 

I woke up then. And missed him like crazy. I realized it had been a dream.
I walked to the kids’ room where they were sound asleep and watched them for a few minutes. Sometimes when I miss my brother it helps me to be near my kids.

Even though they’re not related by blood, Deaglan reminds me of Matthew. I think it’s because my favourite memories of my brother, the parts I hold nearest to me, are the memories of him as a small boy. He had a great laugh and I hear it every time Deaglan laughs. Back then he was pure, honest and in awe of life, the way Deaglan is these days.
It was before he felt the deep sadness.

Eckhart Tolle says this of suffering: Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could spare them [your children] from all suffering? No, it wouldn't. They would not evolve as human beings and would remain shallow, identified with the external form of things. Suffering drives you deeper.

I find this prospect of parenting the hardest to accept. 

I forgot about the dream when I woke up this morning. I shuffled downstairs, made coffee, got lunch stuff together, watched the news, showered, dressed and got us all out the door.  On the way to the Daycare, Tom Power played this and the dream came flooding back.

That song always stops me dead in my tracks.

I don't know what the dream was about. Next Wednesday will mark four years that Matthew's been gone. Maybe he just wanted to say hi. Tell me he's happy.

Whatever it was, it feels good to know he's on stage somewhere.

This was the last picture of us together. I was six months pregnant with Naveen. I'll always be sad that they missed each other by ten days.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Grade one reading: a job aide

A few years ago if you asked me what the hardest part of motherhood was I’d answer without hesitation, “the lack of sleep.” These days I’d like to say I’d take no sleep over teaching a six-year old boy to read but that wouldn’t be completely true either; well, because nothing would be worse than having to teach a six-year old boy to read on no sleep.

It’s likely not a very parenty thing to say, right? Grade one reading? What’s so hard about that?

Well first there’s the tiresome negotiation that must ensue to get said six-year old boy to the kitchen table after your long day at work when the only thing you'd rather be doing is sipping wine while scrolling through Pinterest.
Often this means prying whatever toys he’s holding out of his death grip, swearing an oath on anything resembling a bible to give them back once the homework is done. It also means telling that six year old boy to sit still  a total of 57 times.

“On your bum, please.”


“Please, on your bum.”


“Sit still.”




Then 38 reminders to put his finger under the words he’s reading. And just as many times bringing him back to the right sentence. When suddenly you are forced to focus on the noise in the periphery and find it’s the six year old’s younger brother in your armpit literally diverting your attention, small hand on your face, “Momma, you ahn’t   listening, can I watch anothoe show?”

This is when you are forced to say very loudly in hopes your husband, who actually is in the living room in plain view of the TV tapping away the next day’s lesson plans without a care in the world, will hear you: “YOU NEED TO ASK DADDY TO PUT ANOTHER SHOW ON.” Often this must be said loudly one or two more times with the addition, “BECAUSE MOMMY’S DOING HOMEWORK WITH YOUR BROTHER” to get its intended effect.

And all the while you are holding back the urge to say: “You just read that word 25 times!!! Why the hell are you acting like you don’t know what it says???” This is about the same time you realize you just aren't cut out for this parenting gig.

But then you remember to practice deep breathing and remind yourself that he’s just learning. You must remember this every time he pronounces the word “like” as “lik” even though you know with certainty you’ve explained the function of e at the end of a sentence something like two hundred times.

You pat yourself on the back each time you bite your tongue recalling how far you’ve come. You can’t remember the last time you put words to the near rage that “said” is not pronounced “sss-ahhh-iii-duh” even though it’s a sight word we’ve been memorizing for the better part of two years.


How hard is that?

Instead you cheer him for every small victory. You give him a bear hug after every book and tell him how proud you are. Because you are fairly sure he will eventually get it. You convince yourself of this by remembering that most adults you know can read. To be sure you mentally list all the people you know and try to remember if you'd ever heard them read out loud.

Then you get to that glass of wine that’s been practically begging you to drink it while Googling Google because you'd heard somewhere that most of their meetings are done while their workers are walking around. You take a few sips of the wine and relax, imagining your fidgety son with a perfectly successful career at a place where everyone can read and hardly any meetings require a person to sit still.

This year the kids got new bikes for Easter. I know, I know, gifts at Easter now???

Also, my birthday fell on Easter Sunday. I try not to get too worried that the sidewalk message below says: Happy birthday Mom.

 As always, there was an awesome Easter egg hunt at Gramma and Grampas. This year I had to gently remind Deaglan that he was not to plow past the younger kids and find all the eggs himself.

And I had to encourage Naveen several dozen times to keep looking for more eggs even though he was content with the first one he found.

 Good times with Grampa.



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