Thursday, 31 May 2018

Birthday letter to a boy who is 8

Dear Naveen,

You are eight today.

I looked for a picture to show the world who you are right now. But I couldn’t find one that captures your kind heart.  Not a single one that hints at your gentle, deep nature. So then I looked for one that would show how big and little you are to me. 

Big because you asked me on Sunday if I feel about you, the way you feel about Myrtle, our dog. “Is that how you love me?” you asked cradling her little body in your arms.
And also because in the Mother’s Day card you called me Rohima. “That’s the name you were born with” you said. This gesture, this simple little detail. Spelled right. So generous. 

I knew right then you saw me.

But little too. Pouting when you can’t sit beside me as if you possess me still - the way you did as an infant.  Or sticking your tongue out at me behind Dad’s back because your mischief landed you in hot water. 

Little because we can't say the word "balls" around you,  without you falling to the floor in hysterics. And little because your lanky, long body still fits in my arms.

When I couldn’t find the picture, I searched for the right words.  

Words that could explain how much you love your brown skin and how proud you are to be "the brownest one in our family". I searched for the words that could do justice to the compassion you model every day. How every single time I apologize for being a flawed, impatient yelly Mom, you are pure charity and forgiveness.

When I couldn't find the words, I searched for a way to linger here just a little longer. 

This place where you still hold my face to see if my freckles are intact. Where you hold my heart because I still have the answers you seek. This place where you still belong to us and not the world.

I searched for a way to hold onto this boy you are right now. But like the picture and the words, it eluded me. 

So I'll just say this: 

Happy birthday my big little boy. You are a blessing to us every single day.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

When you've loved a dog

I watched the Dog Whisperer every day the September we moved into our first house. Sometimes I’d devour two or three episodes in a row without taking a bathroom or snack break for fear of missing something. The way Cesar could calm any dog, get it to walk beside him; I was transfixed. I loved everything about the show: how they presented the problem behaviour, the video demonstration of it and then Cesar teaching the owner how to help the dog be its best self.  It was inspiring.  And I knew I could put Cesar’s teachings to practice.

Only one problem: I didn’t own a dog. I was seven months pregnant and grieving.

I cried every day for the first few months after we put Judge down. But when there were no tears left, I watched Cesar Millan train the problem behaviours right out of all the dogs he met.  It was a welcome distraction, like the baby boy growing inside me. Like the new house with its unfamiliar streets.  

A relief because I could no longer bear those old streets.

They reminded me of the tugging of the leash, the feel of him heavy and sure, next to me as we walked. The old streets ached in me to feel his breath hard on my face when he wanted me to wake; made me weep that he’d never nudge my hand again to force my touch if I dared stop stroking his long back. He was our first baby and the one who gave us a taste of the family we could be.

We loved him desperately for 11 years.

He’s been gone ten years tomorrow. Cancer riddled his sweet gentle body and there was nothing to be done.

The kids feel sure they knew him. They know the stories; the ones Shaune and I tell shaking our heads, laughing and I sometimes hear them retell these to their friends as if they really did know him. And today, the pine box that holds what’s left of him sits on Deaglan’s dresser next to a picture of 22 year old Shaune kneeling beside a big yellow happy dog.

We’ve had other pets since then. Crash the cat, some fish who’s names I don’t remember and most recently two hamsters named Skibby and Stephen. We lost Deaglan’s beloved Stephen a few weeks ago and knew for certain that it was time to add to our family. 

We picked Myrtle, a one year old Jack Russel Schnauzer, up two weeks ago from the farm she was living on. She was making it very hard for the free range chickens to feel free. 

She stole our hearts that first day. My words can't do justice to the the kind of delight she has brought to the boys. They are simply smitten. There's so much goodness on this parenting journey but it's a special kind of joy to watch your kids love an animal. 

Friday, 23 June 2017

I've still got a lot to say

A few months ago, when I could finally watch TV again (I’ll explain later), I saw an episode of Super Soul Sunday that struck me. Jimmy Carter, who’s been married to his wife Rosalynn for 71 years,  offered this tip on how to keep a relationship fresh:  Take up a new hobby together every few years like fly-fishing or downhill skiing.

I liked this advice. It felt doable. 

Not completely unrelated, I have been busy doing. I’ve thought about this space often, and here and there, some of you have asked me when I was coming back here. 

I haven’t not written because I was busy watching Oprah or doing things. Many times I drafted a post and then second and third guessed it and myself,  wondering if you’d want to know the mundane thing I’d written about and also if I should tell you about it in the first place.

Also the kids.

They’re older and wiser now. They know things. They know about Facebook. And posts. And “online”.  Sometimes their friends tell them about a picture I posted the night before – it usually goes like this:
  • Friend-kid peeks over mom’s shoulder while she’s taking a quick (much deserved) social media break.
  • Friend-kid recognizes my kid in the feed and asks mom about it.
  • Friend-kid’s mom chuckles and explains my witty post.
  • Next day friend-kid tells my kid about the post.
  • That night my kid reads me the riot act.

But you’re not here to learn that my kids ate my homework and that they’re the sole reason I haven’t written in this space for almost two years.

So how about this?  Come back here from time-to-time. Look around. I’ll start tinkering.  I’ll post about some things that aren’t just kid-related. I’ll even update the “About me” page eventually, maybe design a new header. 

Schedule a social media break with me because I’ve still got a lot to say. Like how we bought a trailer this spring. And what a good thing it's been.

The trailer goes wherever the van pulls it. Yet we find that the trailer pulls us. It's a place in our hearts now; somewhere we yearn to go. We are our better selves at the trailer. Maybe it's the fresh air. Maybe it's the small space we must share. Maybe it's the sun-filled light that helps us see each other anew.

Life is simpler there:
“Cards or a walk in the woods?”
“Forgot to bring ketchup?  We’ll make do with barbecue sauce.”

There is teamwork:
“You get the fire started, and I’ll make the beds.”

Kinder more gentle voices are heard:
“Go sit down, you deserve to relax.”  

It's not fly-fishing but I think Jimmy Carter knows what he's talking about. You really can find new ways to travel through life together. 

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!!