Sunday, 6 September 2015

The best kinds of summer camp

The living room is my favorite room in this house. I have my best 30 minutes each morning, reading in the quiet of the sun rising, while my people snore softly elsewhere. It’s where I fill myself up for the day. A few pages from whichever book I’m reading, hot black coffee, and releasing each nagging thought that arises – must lose ten pounds, should have played Monopoly with them, front hall closet is a disaster, on and on.

Just two more days until this summer comes to an official end.

The kids spent most of their time fishing in the creeks around here with Shaune. An intense summer camp of baiting hooks and cultivating patience, while the sun kissed their necks a toastier brown. I witnessed the increased learning each evening over dinner – Mom! I had a real lunker on the pole today – Dad said it was huge! Or We tried Dingman’s Creek because it’s supposed to be good for perch but we got skunked!

That they spent entire afternoons away from the TV and Tablet nurturing a love for outside fun that didn’t cost a thing, communing with their Dad and nature – well I don’t know of a single thing more I’d wish for them.

As for me, I didn’t get much blogging done because when I wasn’t up to my neck in work, I got busy trying to connect with the boys in my own, squeamish-about-touching-worms way. I played a lot of soccer with 4, 5 & 6 year olds (I coached Naveen’s team this year), watched my favorite 7 year- old discover a love for the sport (Finally. Man can this kid run!) and chuckled to myself as  Shaune, with one arm in a sling, ran drills with Deaglan’s team, (he broke his elbow at the beginning of July).

It’s been a good summer but I’m feeling the usual itch and anxiety to get back into the swing of things. You know what I mean? The things that evoke both dread and adrenaline. Early bedtimes. Rushed mornings. The search for socks and reading logs. Packing lunches.

God help me: packing lunches. 

My favorite room in the house.

Lots and lots of small fish caught and released. We didn't actually keep a single one.

A photo shoot with the whole family. 

This is the face of Grade 3.

Monday, 15 June 2015

The 98 things before Summer

There is nothing more disheartening than making the kids’ lunches and finding out shortly thereafter that it’s Pizza Day. And that I thought to write an entire post on it, well it might be an indication that I am ready for this school year to end.


In the last few weeks I’ve had to remember no fewer than 98 extra things each morning:
  • $4.00 for chrysalises and tadpoles.
  • Interesting but EDUCATIONAL show-and-share items (Not the Droid Gun Ship you got from Gramma and Grampa)
  • Reading Log.
  • Shoe box to transform into a rock family’s habitat.
  • 40 mild chicken wings for the class potluck. (You know you’re raising boys when)
  • Doing the reading for the bloody Reading Log.
  • Birthday lollipops for the entire class.
  • Birthday pin for the birthday boy’s shirt so the class knows it's his birthday on the weekend.
  • Signed and dated math quiz.
  • Where the hell is that reading log?
  • Shin high white socks for tie dying.
  • $13.00 for Naveen’s end of the year trip. (Really? $13?  Not say, a nice round number like $10 or $20?)
  • $15.00 for Deaglan’s end of the year trip.
  • Library books (Every single time the late notice comes, I scratch my head thinking I have never seen this book in this house)

And although I want to weep around this time, each year because it is excruciatingly clear to me that I did not end up with a career that gives me the entire summer off but my husband did, I’ll be glad when I can stop having to remember 98 extra things every morning.

I won’t have to keep up this charade with Naveen (let’s see, what can I put into his lunch today that he won’t eat  because, Mommmmmy, I told you, I HATE pizza with sauce on it!)
I won’t have to ask Deaglan WHY? WHY DID YOU WEAR YOUR INSIDE SHOES HOME? WHY????
I won’t have to apologize for above question because I asked it in YELLING.

Instead I can sneak away extra early to work out.
Or sleep in because NO LUNCHES.
I can put all wardrobe negotiations on hold. Those are pajama pants. You have to wear regular pants.
And beat myself up a little less on the drive to work for the YELLING.
I can expect to come home to a house that doesn’t look like it’s been robbed and ransacked because well, LOOKING FOR THE BLOODY READING LOG.

Instead I can come home to three sun-kissed, shaggy haired guys wearing swim trunks and mismatched shirts who are very glad to see me. 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Dear Naveen

A few nights ago as I was changing out of my work clothes, you sat on the bed and told me about your day. “Mommy, did you know that girls can marry girls and boys can marry boys if they want?” You actually said “Mommy, did you know that goals can may-wee goals” and I don’t mind telling you, the way you stumble on those R’s? FAVE.
I said, “Yes, I did know that. Are you going to marry a girl or a boy?”

“I’m going to marry a girl.” When asked why, you said “because boys smell like donkeys.”

And because it was just the two of us having a serious conversation and given your experience of boys (exhibit DEAGLAN and DAD), I  shrugged and agreed that it was likely a good thing to marry a girl because in general they do smell pretty good. You went on to tell me (for the third time this week) that you would have three sons named Leo (you ADORE this name!), Nathan and Mantartica (Yes Mantartica!) and all of them would also be named Matthew like you.

Your fourth year has been full of me and you moments like these. Me folding laundry, or perusing Pinterest. You hovering close by telling me your stories.
Things you learned at school.
Fun times you had with friends.
Injustices you have suffered at my hands (You gave him a bigger piece! You always cuddle with him longer! )
Hopes and dreams for the weekend.
And also the big plans for when you are a grown man (You, all three of your sons and the “goal you may-wee” will live with Dad and me. Forever!).

A funny thing happens to parents when they realize their last baby is no longer a baby. They start stalling, holding on for dear life. Their perceptions become impaired. Where others see a growing boy, fully self sufficient, these desperados are still dreaming of his once chubby thighs. 
They ask for things to be repeated just to hear the mispronunciation of a word. I said we read a polem (poemJ) Mommy, didn’t you hear me? A POLEM!!  
They smile at a potato chip remembering when it used to be a “pip”. 
They tell the same story over and over at the same gathering, laughing just as hard with each telling, blissfully unaware that the listener could recite it word-for-word from having heard it already on the other side of the room. Three times.

It has been like this for me.

I am smitten with you. Crazy in love.  And also on the brink of insanity every single day. You swoop onto my lap or into my arms with a fierce propriety any chance you get, but you also refuse to put on pants. EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING. YOU. JUST. REFUSE.

Your foray into school has been a complete success though...except see PANTS. You love the teachers, the required change in footgear at recess and adore your two best friends, Logan and Lawson.  

Which is all to say, four has been a good year. I was thinking about this yesterday.

At drop-off I whispered that I loved you a zillion billion times around the moon, the world and all the planets. In return, you gave me a pitiable smile, pecked me dutifully on the cheek and muttered,  I love you too.  And as an afterthought: Around our town and up the chimney, Then you demanded I roll up your pant cuffs and went off in search of your friends. 

I smiled all the way to work.  

Happy birthday my sweet, sweet heart. I am so blessed to be your Mom.

Your first ever school picture. Seriously. I can't even.

On the rock in the front yard yesterday morning. You're all about a good cuff on your jeans.

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.