Monday, 29 August 2011

Remembering out loud

Last week I was chatting with Deaglan’s friend’s Dad about what a great age our kids are at. His daughter Olivia and my son have been friends since they began daycare almost three years ago, and we were wistful in our hope that they might remain close throughout their lives.

Mid conversation I had an overwhelming need to incorporate Matthew. The feeling was not unlike the urge I had that last time I drank gin at the Keg Restaurant across from the Pen Centre in St. Catharines in 1992. After several gin and tonics, the push to vomit mid-sentence stood me up, forced me to zigzag to the lady’s room, tasting gin for the last time.

I say it was a similar sensation only because it came out of nowhere and I had no power to stop it. Suddenly the missing of Matthew was too much to bear alone. Reflecting on our preschoolers’ friendship reminded me of Matthew and Libby. They’d been friends since they were toddlers and were bonded in closeness throughout their lives. He stood up as groomsman in her wedding and later held her newborn baby only a week before he died. I’d been thinking about their relationship lately and wanted that for Deaglan and Olivia, reasoning that if I was closer to it this time around, it would reconcile the loss of my brother a little.

And I also wanted an excuse to remember him out loud. It’s the thing about losing someone I’ve noticed most. It’s tough to talk about and nobody ever brings it up. It’s like people think asking you – hey how are you doing with all of that? – will crumple you into a heap, spilling out all of your grief at their feet, leaving them speechless and at a loss.

Bereavement on this scale scares people silent.

These days when I think about him I remember some of the best stuff. Like how much fun we had laughing at nonsense. Machine-gun laughter, interjected by one of us upping the ante with something even more absurd, both of us throwing back our heads; bursting peals of giggles.

I think about how he enabled me to see with my soul, that even though I was the visible minority, it was from his life that I learned the most. He stretched my arms out to embrace the gay community, understand what a difficult time it could be to live your truth. His presence made certain the fact that God adores every single one of his children equally.

It broke my heart that Matthew often thought otherwise of himself.

And I am so grateful that still, every few nights, in my dreams, his little boy face is on my son’s body, so that I have the pleasure of seeing him again, in all of his childlike glory. How when I wake,I am bathed in the knowing that he is never far from my heart, watching over us from Heaven like the bright star he’d been to me in this life.

It made me want to list some of the other things I was grateful for:

11. the chill in the air
12. Watching little boys eat ice cream
13. Clearance rack deals
14. Talking to my Dad
15. Bloggy friends from all over this world
16. Deaglan's reasoning last night for wanting to sleep in our bed "my bed is old and boring Mommy!"
17. Coffee on Monday mornings
18. Shaune for making dinner ahead of time so that all I have to do is warm it up
19. That I swoon every time I look at Naveen with his new haircut
20. That even though Matthew didn't meet Naveen, he touched my belly when I was really, really pregnant
21. That when I pretend to be cross at Naveen, I get to call him by that sweet name he inherited Naveen Matthew

Saturday, 27 August 2011

What we did today

When I was a kid I wasn't adventurous. Or fearless. It always irritated me when an adult insisted I try something just because everybody else was doing it. I was bookish, quiet, and continually trying to perfect the art of blending into the background. And even in my pre-kid adult life, I found it maddening when anyone demand that I join in  on something - waterskiing say - when it was the last thing I wanted to do.

And yet there I was today, bribing, cajoling and finally sweet-talking Deaglan into running through the water at the splashpad. Parenting comes with it the need to make sure your child is having fun at all costs. Even if they don't think it's fun.

We were at the park for an hour, climbing the jungle gym, swinging and spinning, all the while I was pointing to the splashpad side, directing Deaglan's attention to the fun, the wet-squealing kids were having.

"I don't want to get wet Mommy." he said bluntly.

"But it's so hot out here, c'mon, I'll even get wet."

"Nope. Can you push me on the swing now?"

"Okay, I guess Naveen and I will go over and have fun then."

It went like this for another forty minutes and finally he agreed to see what all the fuss was about.

 See? I told him he'd have fun...maybe I need to make some phone calls to some of those adults who kept insisting I try stuff...

 And this guy went for his first haircut today. For Deaglan's first few haircuts we took him to the fancy kid salon (read overpriced so the kid could sit in a helicopter and watch Dora while they snipped). I figured since soon enough they'll both join their Dad and the rest of the male population at First Choice, I might as well make the introductions now.

 I forgot about those ears.

And could you not just nibble that neck right now?

I love Saturdays.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Parenting 101 - letting them go

Naveen will be 14 months in less than two weeks. We still have our most special times when he’s nursing. Unlike with Deaglan who still clings to me every chance he gets, I sense this kid will tell me when it’s time to stop.

I have to be honest. I'm not ready.

He’s made tiny steps toward big-boyhood already. Last week two mornings in a row, when I set him down on the floor at the daycare, he looked up at Ms. Debbie, waddled over and grabbed her pant legs to let her know he was ready to be picked up.

Just like that. No thought to me, his own Mama, standing there, crumbling inside.

She peered at me apologetic while I staged bravado. I smiled through tears, and chirped about how grateful I was that he had somebody special he was connected to. The mother of two grown boys, a pioneer in letting go, she pushed him toward me, asked him to give me kisses.

And you know what he did?

He turned his little face away. As if my shift was over.
Punched out.
Not relevant. 

I laughed it off, hugged Deaglan and marched out of there. In the van I slumped into the seat. Felt carved out. Emptier than I’d been in some time. I chatted myself out of sobbing, reasoning that this is what I wanted all along, for him to be okay at the daycare. Worry-free days at work. 

But I knew better than to believe it. I quietly sat at my desk those mornings. I thought about the forever it seemed to take me to get my degree in university, find a decent job, build a life. The millennium each work week felt to reach the weekend.

And yet when it came to these boys, time was elusive and cunning, slipping through my fingers.

Shrewd. Merciless.

I'm pouring my heart out with Shell.

Monday, 22 August 2011

How to turn a Monday around

On our way to a doctor’s appointment today, I caught a pensive faraway look on Deaglan’s face in the rearview mirror.

“What are you thinking about honey?” I asked.

“I’m thinking about Olivia and Thomas, Mommy.”

“Oh yeah? What about them?”

“I was thinking about how much I love them.”

It quieted me; took my breath away, this simple answer.

For the hundredth time since Deaglan has been old enough to utter such magic, I am astounded that we could all be this dreamy, this awesome at the beginning. And wonder that we end up resentful, anxious, I'll be happy when x happens.

Olivia and Thomas are his friends from daycare. He will be leaving them to go to junior kindergarten in a few short weeks. On the way home every afternoon, after he’s told me about his day, what he had for lunch, who he played with out in the yard, I remind him that soon he will go to the Big School. Gently, I explain again that he will have to leave his friends from this “school” and meet new ones.

I remind him out of my fear that it will sneak up on him. I remind him because it hurts me to think about him missing his friends. I remind him to try and manage this big change coming.

It was Monday, not yet noon and I was already weary. Grudges replaying in my head, old resentments, too much to do, self-loathing for what I’d eaten on the weekend.

On and on.

His simple expression of love though, straightened my back at the wheel. I glanced admiringly at him, behind me, unfazed by my impromptu pick-up in the middle of his morning – my failure to note the appointment on our home calendar. Peace-filled and happy when only a week ago, I’d pulled another carpet out from under him – the ending of the soother.

I decided again, right there to try and live differently. So I’m joining Ann and listing my gifts:

1. Healthy children
2. Shaune's work ethic, his lightheartedness, his family
3. My work life
4. Easy-to-make dinners on a Monday
5. Naveen's squeals
6. Flat sandals after a day in heels
7. Three year old comedy...
8. Comfy pants and t-shirts
9. My willingness to change
10. My desire to write it all down

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

For Shaune

I was thinking about how since the kids came along we’ve had about two hours alone. For one of those hours we took turns picking lice out of each other’s hair, remember?

I was thinking about how no matter what, the kids come first now. How before they took over, I used to iron your shirts for work every morning. Back then, we wouldn’t dream of sitting on separate couches to watch a show on TV.

I was thinking about all those apartments we shared; just me, you and the dog. How we used to sleep in on Sundays and always went out for breakfast. How you used to be the only person I worried about back then.

I was thinking about all those dinners in restaurants, some fancy, some not. How we ate slower, talked about stuff, drank wine. I was thinking about how we never discussed getting married all those years. That we sort of rolled along, best friends, partners with ups and downs.

And I was thinking about our no-frills backyard wedding. Wondering if I would do it differently if I had the chance. How nice it was that when it was over, it was over. No debt, no fuss. I was thinking about how we saw eye-to-eye on it. No squabbling. One of those important things we quietly agreed on.

I like that about us, you know.

We’re not the same as we used to be. In some ways we’re better. This family we’ve created is everything to me.

I was thinking about how odd it is to tell people we're celebrating our third wedding anniversary. When we’ve been working on this for 14 years.

I was thinking about us and all of this today.

And I wanted to say happy anniversary.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Parks, port-a-potties, non- pro photography and post-partum staging

Last week a friend told me about a good park in her town. Her description of  a new-fangled surface underneath the play equipment and a sandbox outfitted with manual-operating diggers sold me. That there was a little train you could ride, was the blue buttercream frosting on this cupcake. 

We drove there yesterday after Plan A fell through. Overcast and soggy, the beach held little sparkle, so we loaded up some snacks and drove the half hour.

The train wasn't operating but our two park-enthusiasts didn't care. There was plenty of swinging, sliding, ramp-walking and digging.

We stayed long enough that Shaune even got to use a port-a-potty. See, that's one of the biggies we differ on. Me? I would hold my bladder if it meant crossing province lines to avoid using a port-a-potty. If you're easy going about things like that - like Shaune is, having a wife like me is deep-sigh -awww c'mon, you're kidding-type of frustration.

The drizzly sun-less day made it perfect picture-taking weather. Did I ever mention that because we have this nice camera -I'd have to ask Shaune what it's called but he's not here- that we've only been to a photo studio once? That was when Deaglan was six weeks old and he peed on the photographer's hand. Yup, that was the last time. We just take our chances with our own handi-work and sometimes come up with gems like these. Shaune even put on the auto-set thingy and got a few family shots.

And I know I go on and on about what my kids mean to me and how cuckoo I am for them. But have I told you how practical they are? Forget wearing baggy clothes to hide your post-partum body.

I just strategically place a kid in front of me.

Go ahead and look back. I know you want to. You'll see a a cute little boy hiding my problem spots in every post I'm pictured.

Saturday, 13 August 2011


Deaglan and I had a lunch date yesterday. It was just like old times, before you-know-who showed up. We went to his fave joint, sat in the Playplace, side-by-side in a booth and dipped our fries into little buckets of ketchup. It wasn’t for nothing but it sure was fun.

He had his very first dentist appointment afterward.

I wondered if someday I’d tell him about the time my dentist slapped me when I was seven. It’s one of those stories I have in my bag; sort of fits into the “when I was your age I walked ten miles up hill in snow to get to school…”. You know? Eye-roll inducing, disbelief.

The thing is, before coming to Canada at age seven, I’d been treated only by third world medicine. My one time at a hospital, I was laid on a wood slab, held down by a couple of pokerfaced men, while a third equally vacant one, cut an infected growth off my arm. No freezing. No sedation. A small block of wood to bite down on and a stick of pink gum in foil wrapper when it was over. Even now, I finger the half-inch jagged scar on the inside crook of my right arm and smell urine and rubbing alcohol.

I was six that year.

The dentist who slapped me likely needed the hysterical crying and flailing to stop so he could do his work. He couldn’t have known that I’d spent four and five begging on the streets of my village with my older sister; that half of five and all of six were spent living in an orphanage far, far away from my mother. Probably no one explained to him that right after seven I moved to his side of the world, met a new family and culture, and had a new name .

Maybe if my file had included that, he would have resisted the itch to slap me across the face.

Or maybe he was just a shithead.

Yes, I chewed on this as I studied my biggest boy at his first visit. I watched him toggle between fear and fascination as the hygienist introduced each new tool. I watched hungrily, my cavernous need to celebrate every milestone, exalting that his life has been blessed with so much simple abundance. Seamless and smooth, blurring together.

And I took pictures.

In front of the daycare - I snatched him out of the line-up. The preschoolers were walking back from the library.
In the waiting room.
Loving the chair that moves up and down.

To my mild embarrassment, before the hygienist had even begun, Deaglan asked can I have a toy now?When he finally was presented with this treasure chest, the relief on his face said that this had all been worth it.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

What would it take to reach us?

When I was little I lived in a mud hut in a village in a very poor third world country. Eating was not a regular thing. Neither was indoor or outdoor plumbing. Or clothes. Now I live in a modest little three bedroom and drive a minivan. I have over twenty pairs of shoes. And I eat very well several times a day.

I struggle constantly to reconcile what my life was then and what it is now. Too often, too easily, I take the now for granted. But there is a voice, sometimes just a slip of a whisper, reminding me that I know better. Stop and acknowledge it murmurs.

I’ve been watching footage of the famine in Somalia with a mother’s heart. I’ve been watching it having once known the terror of hunger. I look at those children and see my boys in their faces. I wonder like so many, how this could be happening over there when my biggest problem is that Law & Order SVU is a rerun.

I wonder too if it’s true what Matthew Paul Turner writes in this post. Are we just over it?

Comments off.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Confessions of a breastfeeder over at Yummy Mummy

In honour of  World Breastfeeding Week I was delighted that Yummy Mummy published my post Confessions of a breastfeeder -the sequel on their site. If you get a chance, I'd love for you to say hi over there.

This is the last time I'll post twice in one day...I promise:)

Inspiration for a Sunday

I heard about her a year ago. This woman of faith who was inspiring a lot of the Christian bloggers I liked to visit. I'd click the link to her site once in a while, look for the source of all the fuss. Sometimes I'd stay and read but other times I'd quickly get back to safer more familiar territory. It scared me, all this quoting of scripture, this intense commitment to God.

Probably from the deep south, I dismissed. I imagined her southern accent, living near the ocean, maybe South Carolina, far, far away from what I knew. It went like this for several months. Someone would refer to her, I'd follow the link for a brief visit.

A few weeks ago though, a favourite blogger mentioned that this woman, the one I'd dismissed as unlikely for me, was a keynote speaker at She Speaks and wrote a post about how this woman's words had undone her. Again I tapped the key to the link. This time I stayed awhile. I read post after post. She's been writing them for six years. An eternity in the blogosphere. Five and a half of those years? With comments turned off! 

Her writing is exquisite. 

I googled her and watched a few Youtube videos. She is beautiful, so, so warm. And I like her hair. She's definitely younger than me. Six kids. Farmwife. Homeschooler.

So I went back to her site and read some more. Canadian???

 Probably from somewhere remote, I thought. I googled again. Ontario??  Near Listowell? That's like only 150 kilometres from here. She lives the Canadian winters of my life? Likely went to school in the system I know?

And her book. A New York Times Bestseller. I remembered seeing it at Costco. And Chapters. My heart began racing. I needed to get this book. It was on hold almost indefinitely at the library. I headed to Costco in a rare few minutes to myself. I'd buy the book and grab myself a hotdog, read while blissfully alone. Costco didn't have it. Shopper's Drug Mart? Nope.

Finally at Chapters the next day, the kids in tow. In line, the woman ahead turned to me.

"Would you like to go first? I'll bet those kids keep you busy." I thanked her for the kind offer and declined. Still lovely she asked,

"What book are you buying." I fought through my urge to be vague. I showed it to her, told her a little bit about the author. It was such an oddly rare encounter.

I knew I had to write about it here because her and her words are all I can think about. Feel free to let her inspire you.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Free gifts

Naveen screeched, a long shrieking, at the sight of me when I picked him up from daycare today. The Educator holding him laughed.

"I've never heard that come out of him before."

It was a heady mix of yearning and impatience. Come closer, the scream demanded, solve everything for me. Right now. I buried my face into his chubby warm neck. Snuggled into it. Heavenly joy of baby.

Already there are hints of a burgeoning toddler. He howls differently if a toy is out of reach, slams his tiny fists when the phone is taken away. And the few times I've said a firm NO, his lip quivered, the prelude to a cry so endearing, so delightful, I'd chance saying it again. 

Who will I be without a baby on my hip? How could these last four-ish years have the power to define me this succinctly, when I lived a lifetime of days before?

And yesterday I attended the final orientation for the upcoming schoolyear. I sat anxious, my stomach tight, diligently noting all that would need to be done.
  • Buy a proper lunchbox
  • Get a coat he can zip up himself
  • Stop allowing the soother!!
  • Teach him how to wipe himself on the toilet
  • And for God's sake teach him to write his name
I'm not the mother I thought I'd be. In some ways I've exceeded a few of my expectations. But I have had many failings. Everyday I remember to begin again. Because everyday is messy. I yell. I cut corners. I tune out. Remember that I can begin again.

Clean the kitchen again.

I listen to Deaglan's crackling-voiced lispy stories. Like when he told me last night that his head hurt.

"Mommy, I think there is pickle juice in there."

"Oh yeah? Is pickle juice good?"

"No Mommy, pickle juice goes through you and gives you a headache."

Huh. Similar to Shiraz?

And today, while he watched movies as I worked from home and kept the thermometer and Tylenol close by he gazed over at me and said,

"Mommy I sure do like your pretty shirt." And I looked down at my popsicle stained dingy oversized old tank top, smiled at this child, a gift I can't remember earning, and said,

"I love you too sweetheart."

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Deaglan and Naveen had some one-on-one time with their cousins this past weekend. There were cupcakes and swimming, hotdogs and trampoline jumping. The older ones took turns holding Naveen. And even though he looks miserable here, he loved every minute of attention.

I love every one of these beautiful faces.