Thursday, 14 May 2015

The spring harvest of my forty-fourth year

Last night the soccer season started for Deaglan again and as I watched him run for the ball, a blur of long lean limbs, dark hair and determination, I knew somewhere deep inside that there was nowhere else I’d rather be. It’s been one of the nicer aspects of meandering my way through my forties. I’m content to be where I am; my twenties and much of my thirties were not so peaceful. But now that I’m here, the harder times of those younger days are all a blur too. 

I watched the boys on the field and couldn’t believe they were all between 7 and 8. They appeared still small to me, their sweet baby faces breaking out in shy grins when they’d tame the ball and kick it to the intended destination, peering back over their shoulders to see their parents' delight.

It’s been a good spring so far, our first in this house. At least once a day Deaglan shakes his head and says: Mom can you believe there are pink and white trees out my window? Who ever heard of pink and white trees? I agree; it’s like harvest around here. We moved in during the high heat of last summer, when much of the lush green had withered, then tired and surrendered. But from this side, the early days of a highly anticipated spring, well it is such a treat, each of us exalting every flowery bloom and magically germinating branch.  

We’re taking it all in stride though; getting to each thing when we can. There’s a lot to do.
Open the pool.
Dust off the lawn furniture.
Plan a nearly five-year old’s birthday party.
Keep up with homework even though we’ve just about had it with reading logs and spelling tests.
Buy new flip-flops.
Track down the sunscreen.
Read a book in the quiet afternoon sun  - cold glass of Chardonnay nearby. 

I don't know for sure, but I may have a severe case of spring fever.



My friend Shannon gifted me this hibiscus plant over three years ago. Just when I think I've killed it with my awkward gardening ways, it rewards me with a bloom so beautiful I rethink everything.



This magnolia is one of my favourite things about our new front yard.


The pink and white trees out Deaglan's window.


Mother's Day paper flowers from my sweet guys.


I told my FB friends that we went fishing on Mother's Day (what else are you gonna do when you're surrounded by boys?). This was the result: each caught me a trout and Shaune barbecued them on a cedar plank and served with roasted peppers, onions and asparagus.


And this is the harvest of all those early years of parenting: watching one kid read to the other. Sigh.


 And speaking of spring blooms. This guy here will be five in a few short weeks. Five!!


Tuesday, 17 March 2015

A sick day post

I left work just before noon yesterday. 

I was sick all weekend and though I’d willed myself to feel better for Monday, by mid-morning I had a fever and chills and could barely make the short walk from my desk to the printer. I sat there looking at my inbox filling up, work piled all around me and laboured over having to tell the team that I was sick and needed to go home.

It’s not that my colleagues and boss wouldn’t understand or that I’m a martyr.

It's this: For us fulltime working moms of small kids, being sick and taking time off for it is anxiety inducing. What if the kids are sick tomorrow? Since Deaglan was one and in daycare, sick days have been earmarked for working from home and taking care of him, eventually Naveen and as they got older often both of them at the same time.

I got home on the heels of both kids’ dentist appointments. I’d scheduled them specifically for this week – Shaune would be off work; it's March Break here– because both boys needed cavities filled, and also because Naveen had never had a cavity filled, and for days leading up to the appointment, nothing I said, no picture I painted could deter his fear of A NEEDLE?!! I’M GETTING A NEEDLE???!! I have no idea where he got this but I wanted to be nowhere near him when the dentist gave him A NEEDLE (!!) to freeze his mouth.

Shaune said it was worse than either of us could have imagined. Even with a sedative that kicked in in plenty of time, he screamed and struggled the entire procedure.

So there I was, inadvertently home on the wrong day. I have never seen anything like it. Naveen was like an alcoholic who’d gotten hold of a bad batch of crack and a loaded gun. The active ingredient in the sedative had him swinging from one extreme to the other – one minute insisting on snuggling in my arms (and only my arms) and then the next pounding his tiny fists on anything and anyone within his reach.

Shaune did his best to keep the kids away from me so I could rest. But when I could hear Naveen crying for me downstairs, well, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before he stopped crying for me for good. I wondered how long it would be until his limbs and body were too big to fit in the crook of my body. I wondered how long I'd possess this elusive power us Moms seem to have. I grasped these last bits of magic and held him for as long as he would let me until the drug released his small body, until he was back to his sweet and feisty self. 

And I treated myself to another sick day today. I'm happy to say my lap has been free all morning – the only calls I hear from the other parts of the house are to settle the occasional dispute, fulfill a snack request or view the latest progress of the fort they're building. 


Deaglan is under there somewhere. This is every single pillow, blanket, placemat and foam couch we own.

Still chipping away at perfecting my Selfie skills - where can I get my hands on one of those selfie-sticks I keep hearing about???



Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Tell Gramma and Grampa, they love that shit


Whenever I get a few minutes alone with Shaune’s parents I corner them and proceed to shamelessly tell them every wonderful thing the kids have been up to. I tell them about recent accomplishments, share funny anecdotes and give them accounts of something kind or endearing one or both boys have done.

I do it because I want to catch them up. 
I do it because I truly believe they are interested.

I do it because my boys are absolutely, cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs, head-over-heels, madly in love with their grandparents and would want me to fill in the spaces when Gramma and Grampa couldn’t be there to witness their lives first-hand. It’s the only time I feel really comfortable gushing about the kids.

Okay. I’ll stop here to give you a second to lower that eyebrow. Umm, hello? This from the woman with an entire blog dedicated to stories about her kids.

While it’s true most of the content over the years here has been about motherhood, raising kids and family life, I’ve tried consciously to stay on this side of humility. I’ve tried not to write entire posts about how athletic, talented or smart my kids are because a) I know you’d likely want to strangle me and b) some of that stuff is private ir at least should be.

At a dinner recently, one of the parents of the other family at the table announced that the two oldest kids had achieved straight A’s on their report cards. I looked around to see if the other kids, not included in this announcement, had heard this. It was out of the blue and it caught me off guard. I busied myself helping one of the kids with a maze he was working through on the back of a paper menu and hoped that Deaglan hadn’t heard.   

My reaction and concern for Deaglan has nothing to do with how he's doing in school. I worried that this announcement could serve to make him feel inadequate somehow. We looked over his report card when he got it, praised him for working hard and helped him set goals for improving where he needed to. 

We made a medium deal about it - not big and not small. 

Because although grades are important to Shaune and me, we're more concerned with raising people who try their best, are kind to their classmates and friends, and have a willingness to keep going when things get tough. 

We also value modesty.

It's tricky though. We, all of us, love our kids deeply and want them to succeed and when they do succeed, we feel overjoyed and proud and also like we've succeeded. It's hard to resist the urge to announce it to the world or to anyone who will listen or at least to all of our Facebook friends. It's tricky and I totally get it.

I wonder sometimes though if we shouldn't just wait for the grandparents to come over and blab ourselves silly till it's out of our systems.


Here are some pictures from iur Family Day weekend.





Friday, 13 February 2015

Let the real writers write

Always around this time of year I find myself in an emotional rut. 

This is not a euphemism for depression, friends; I know it’s a rut because though I’m not particularly unhappy, I’ve grown very, very weary of the daily grind. Each day seems like something to endure. Mornings are scramblier when you have to locate hats, mittens and snow pants and then tell the owners of those things that they must put them on.

Over and over.
And over.

The walk from parking lot to desk is long and arduous and that each work day begins and ends in darkness, well, it doesn’t help.

Two nights ago, I stopped off to get Valentine’s stuff and after homework we spent the better part of the evening writing out cards for a total of 43 kids. It meant there was a lot of spelling supervision, a lot of repeating to a four year old that these Valentines were not for him. It meant telling him this 37 times.

And during this time of year, when this sort of thing is finally wrapped up and you notice it’s already 30 minutes past the usual bedtime, you must fight the urge to skip all routines and send them straight to bed. But you’re weak (due to aforementioned weariness) and have no fight left, so you promise yourself to have them brush with twice the effort in the morning.

It’s also the time of year when writing preoccupies my every thought but in a way that demoralizes and defeats me so that I actually do very little of it. The internal voices are louder on bleak cold snowy grey days, almost scolding.  You have nothing worthwhile to saylet real writers write.

It’s precisely the time of year a person like me needs to find inspiration anywhere she can. A long run on the treadmill, a few pages from an Anne Lamott book and one from Jon Kabat-Zinn too to help quiet those too-loud voices; a helpful post from an inspiring blogger (oh and this one, and this one and this one too and also this article!), a rich red glass of cabernet and if at all possible, a spicy hearty bowl of something good Shaune has cooked up.  

Sometimes a look back through the archives helps to remind me that I’ve done a good job of documenting the kids’ lives here and should continue to do so, though I don’t dare read any post too closely for fear the critics will provide more proof why me and writing will only ever amount to nothing. 

How about you? Are you feeling it too?

Here are some pictures I found on my phone.




We're spending a lot of time in arenas.




This is happening.


Can someone please point me to a tutorial on taking selfies? What was I doing when you all were perfecting your mad selfie skillz?




Naveen often demands tacos for every meal. Sadly this plate here would never meet his standards. Salad? I didn't say to put salad on them! Nope these were for Shaune.


There's a lot of this happening.

I make this simple salad just about every weekend. Chick peas. Cilantro. Avocado. Juice of two limes. Feta.

I love our kitchen.

Web building.



Our front yard view.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A piece of home or heaven

This morning on the way to school I played Simon and Garfunkel for the kids. I turned the volume up louder than usual and we rode in silence as we listened to The boxer. Midway through the song, I adjusted the rearview mirror to see how they were taking it in. Both boys were looking out the window, watching the cars slide gingerly along the cold snowy terrain.  I turned my attention back to the road, lost myself in the story, musing over  the genius blend of music and poetry.

It filled me with glory despite the dim, blustery January morning.

We poked around a second-hand music store, a relic in today’s uber-tech environment, over the Christmas break and although we were looking for some inexpensive copies of Star Wars - Shaune has been anxiously waiting for the right time to introduce the saga to the kids, I thumbed through the  CDs hoping to find something on the mental checklist I’d been keeping. 

I hit the jackpot when I saw the familiar cover of their Greatest Hits album; I’d owned it almost twenty years ago in university. In the days that followed, I listened to it a handful of times, as a mother and grown woman now, and still it felt like I’d found a piece of home or heaven, just like it did all those years ago.


We didn’t do much else over the break. I spent many early mornings running outside, eight or so kilometers and just as many mornings looking for workouts on the internet, which I did in the basement amid the Lego builder and budding artist who were given plenty of warning about what could happen should they interrupt me for the 45 minutes I needed. 

We also tinkered with our new phones (Loving the LG G3!), met up with family, made it to hockey practices and spent the rest of the time eating curries, when Shaune felt like cooking, and eating salads when I had to, assembling toys, picking up Lego, assessing dozens of new drawings the kids churned out at what felt like break-neck speed, and lounging around the now familiar living spaces in our home, on this very first Christmas here. 

It was a good end to the year.

These guys spent two uninterrupted weeks together. Most of the time they played really well together but if I'm going to be honest there were also many trying moments. Lots of tattling. Lots of fights needing mediation. Lots of tears. Lots of wine.



Deaglan spent a good deal of time building Lego. Cars, spaceships, submarines and even a Woolly Mammoth. And I spent just as much time picking tiny pieces out of the rug, off the kitchen floor, from the bottom of staircases, out of my hair, my teeth...etc.  

And Naveen, well he refused to do anything or go anywhere unless it was in his pajamas. So because we understand that he values comfort above all else, together we gifted him four new pairs this year. 

Here's what we ate on New Year's Eve. Shaune made mussels in a tomato broth and chorizo sausage topped with scallops and lobster. And because our brother-in-law doesn't do seafood, there was also grilled steak, mushrooms, crusty garlic bread and Caesar salad.


We cut the tree out of the house when all was said and done. It was such a nuisance to get into the house that it made things easier to just trim it branch by branch. Here's how it looked after its substantial haircut. 

Speaking of haircuts. 

Naveen's friend Lawson's Mom, Diana is a hairdresser and when we told him she would be cutting his hair he sat still and quiet while she clipped away. It was a first!


I know not to ask these people to smile when I point a camera at them because this is all I ever get, yet I do it all the time. 



I hope the end to your year was just as good.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The wise and ageless you

Dear Deaglan,

Tomorrow you turn seven and I can’t help but think back to when I turned seven. I had short hair like yours and was also missing a few front teeth. But I didn’t own any toys and had never watched TV.  I shared a room with 40 kids and no one ever read us a bedtime story or hugged us goodnight. There were no birthday parties or cakes; no presents. To be honest, I didn’t even know my own birth date. It didn’t matter though; no party or present could give me what I wanted that year.

I turned seven in the orphanage and the only thing I wanted was my mother.

We’ve talked about this a few times.  And on each occasion, your deep self, the wise and ageless you, snapped to attention, listened quietly and searched my face to find the sadness. Tears threatened your big brown eyes and you hugged me tight to let me know I was loved.

A few nights ago you came home from school, excited about your unity cup, a craft you’d done at school. You told me that the class had learned about Kwanzaa and explained how a black lady (whose name you’d forgotten – Rosa Parks I told you) refused to give up her seat to a white person when the “white” seats were full. You had lots of questions when I filled in pieces of the story. Why couldn’t she sit where she wanted? Why did the bus driver tell her to give up her seat? Why couldn’t the other lady stand? Carefully I told you more about slavery and racism. We talked about skin colour. We talked about the hardship that black people have had to endure. You got quiet and sad.

Your bursting heart and endless compassion fill me with hope every day.

We live in a world where just last week, Dad’s colleague told him our house was on the wrong side of town – that maybe someday we’d be able to move to his neighborhood.  People more than ever seem to feel justified in judging each other based on area codes, the tangible shows of overspending and the titles mounted on their office doors. 

I want so much more for you and your brother.
I want to see that generous heart of yours soar;
Give you every chance to feed the compassion that threatens to split you wide open.

I hope someday you do bring "truckloads of food to the starving kids in the world," as you so often tell me you will. I hope this world doesn't change you. 

During the next year while I watch you embrace seven, I’ll be thinking about when I was the same age. Each time I hold you tight, my yearning to hug my own mother will fade a little. When I see you and Naveen love each other, I’ll thank God my sister was with me through those lonely times in the orphanage. When I catch you jumping from couch to couch because you think I’m not looking, I’ll delight that in the best possible way I get to be seven again.

And each time your eyes sparkle with tears at the mention of where I’ve been, I’ll know the journey was all worth it because it brought me to you.

Happy birthday my seven year old love,

Mom.


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.

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