Wednesday, 29 May 2013

They are the very best kinds of people

Dear Naveen,
If I could have one wish for you when you are grown and living your own life it’s this: I hope you come across a three year old or two in your time. I say this because in my opinion, three year olds are the very best kinds of people. And if you are lucky enough to know one intimately, I hope he or she steals your heart.
The way you’ve stolen mine.
You slay me everyday with what you say and how you say it:
“It’s freezing hot Mama! The water is freezing hot!”  Immediately, I know to add a little cold water to your bath.
“Gramma! I have a penis!” This type of thing is said very loudly, usually in public places. Your sweet, gentle (and very modest!) Gramma took this in stride a few weeks ago while we were at the beach in Bayfield.
“Hey you pipsqueak, get back here, you!”  or "Hey you Meatballdoggie!" I almost always cringe at this hoping you won’t get punched in the nose, because you almost exclusively taunt older children you encounter at the park or who are walking innocently by our house with these instigations.
“Mommy look at that tiny little baby!” Usually you are pointing to a fellow toddler, often while you have a pacifier in your mouth.
I'm in awe of how much you love me. I was carrying you across the lawn on the weekend. Your little legs were wrapped around my body while you tenderly swept the hair away from my face you said, “I want to see your face Mama.” It was such a moment. 

I could have wept.
Your tenure here has been short, but you are as particular as an old granny when it comes to how you want things done. 
Like at Costco a few weeks ago. I made the mistake of taking your hotdog out of its bun because I knew that’s how you liked to eat it (“Bun sandwich” you call it). Evidently you wanted to do this yourself. You slammed your fist on the table, dropped to the very dirty floor of the crowded eating area, kicked your feet and howled at all the ways I’d wronged you. 

Nothing I could say (or threaten) would make you sit up and start over. Your Dad, Brother and I continued to eat, shrugging off the stares of onlookers and waiting out your tantrum. I was reminded that people are right. Three is the new Two.

“Take someone who doesn't keep score, who's not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing,
who has not the slightest interest even in his own personality: he's free.”  Rumi

I took my time writing this post because I wanted to get it right. Get you right.You are so much more than my simple words though. 

When you are enjoying something you say, "Mmmm, Mommy this chocolate tastes just like chocolate! I WUB chocolate!" At times like these, I look for a jar and wish I had the ability to save that instance for a rainy day. 

Within minutes of arriving anywhere, you know exactly where all lawn mowers and other relevant lawn maintenance equipment is located. You inquire every morning about our real vacuum (which you are terrified of) and discuss daily your toy vacuum and the toy vacuums of people you know ( a topic that after all this time still satisfies you enormously). 

All of this is to say, I love you at three my sweetheart. 

All of you. 

Every single, sticky, feisty, sweet, naughty, quirky and tender part of you. Thank you for filling my days up with such easy joy. Thank you for relieving them of boredom. 
Happy, happy birthday!

Love Mom.

 You're also crazy daring.
 And non-cooperative

 And the best cuddler ever.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dinner conversation

Last night at dinner Deaglan told us a story about a new kid in his class. The kid had the same name as another kid. I asked him if he meant that kid – thought maybe he was still referring to him in this way because he was a junior kindergartner while he himself was a senior kindergartner this year. 
"No." he explained. This new kid was not the one  I was referring to. This new kid had “brown all over himself.”
Shaune and I looked up from our plates.
We have never had any lengthy discussions about race in our house, mostly because the kids are young. But also because a conversation about race these days is made considerably more complicated by the fact that a noticeable number of the kids our kids' ages are of mixed ethnicity just like our boys.
One time before this, when we’d landed on a channel airing The Karate Kid movie (the new version with Will Smith’s son), during a fight scene between a group of Chinese boys and the Karate Kid, Deaglan jumped up and exclaimed very excitedly, “Mom, those are Shilo’s brothers!”
This was at the beginning of the year when we still hadn’t put names to faces of his new class mates. When he kept bringing Shilo (pronounced Shee-lo) up I’d thought maybe it was an Arabic name. 
“Oh, does Shilo look like those boys honey?” I asked.
“Yes! I think those might be his brothers. They even have the same hair!”
So when he described the new Nathan and clarified the difference between the old Nathan by telling us that he was "brown all over himself", Shaune and I were amused. The Nathan I was referring to, the son of a work colleague is of African-American descent. Although he is biracial.
“Is he brown all over himself like Mommy and Naveen?” Shaune asked.
“No, he’s dark brown with balding hair.”
I bit my cheek to stay very serious. "Like Daddy's hair?"
“What colour am I?” I asked, trying to get a better sense of Nathan’s background.
“You’re light brown.”
Delighted by the way he saw us, I probed further.  “What colour are you?”
 Light brown

Balding hair:)

Thursday, 16 May 2013

He was my brother

The strange thing about losing someone is that eventually you get back to your normal life.  At some point in the grieving process, when you think about them you understand, even though you hate understanding it, that they are no longer here.

It’s an uncomfortable acceptance.

On the one hand because you are no longer gripped by the ignorance of shock, like we were with Matthew’s sudden passing, you realize that it’s true, he really is gone. But because it is a cold and horrific truth, you exhale slowly through the reality of it each time it hits you, because ultimately you hate that it’s true.

A flash of Matthew at age five still instantly projects itself on the white screen of my mind whenever I’m in another room and I can hear Deaglan laughing. It’s a strange phenomenon, because they aren’t related by blood. Matthew was my adoptive brother after all; which hurts me to have to clarify because in so many of the most important ways we were true siblings.

He was my brother.

When you lose someone significant, even when you’ve accepted that they’re gone from here, you never stop noticing the hole their absence has left. If you’re like me, you find yourself sometimes desperately trying to fill that hole. There’s a guy at work I’m constantly trying to win favour with. He’s charismatic, funny, smart.

And he’s gay.

I find myself longing for his friendship. I try to be my most entertaining, cool self when he’s around, save some of my best material for those times when we happen to be leaving work together. He’s likeable in general but I also feel oddly envious of his life. He is in his mid forties and lives with his long-time partner, who is equally lovely.

He’s comfortable in his skin, I can tell.

They live in a quiet little town outside of the city with their two dogs. They have a pool and go on vacation twice a year. And for an openly gay couple they are extremely well received in our work community. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like and respect them.

It’s the kind of life I always wanted for my brother. 

I’ve been thinking about Matthew so much lately. He’ll be gone for three years as of next Tuesday, May 21. 
His friend Libby has set up a charity run in his honor. She chose World Vision because up until his death Matthew was sponsoring a little girl from Bangladesh. She and some of her family and friends are going to run a half marathon to let the world know that Matt lives on in their memories. You can read her tribute here.

This past Saturday I pushed myself to run an extra five kilometres as a first step to get myself ready to join them. 

I think he'd like us raising money to help children in need. He never experienced poverty like that; he grew up in a middle class family here in Canada. And he often told me that he loved nice things. I can attest to this - he always looked and smelled wonderful. But I know in his heart he understood that this was not all there was. 

He really got it. 

And it had more to do with the fact that he had three adopted sisters and one adopted brother who had first-hand experience with the wretched poverty of the third world, although I'm sure this helped shape who he was.


I think he was born with that kind of heart. The kind that felt things just a little more than the rest of us. The kind of heart that understood pain he wasn't living himself. It's one of the reasons I connected so well with him. 

It's one of the things I miss the most.

 These photos, these precious few that I have of him with Deaglan, well they are my absolute favourite.

 Here he is at our wedding, with my niece Kelly. God he was gorgeous.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

On a Saturday night

On Saturday we visited Aunt Tanis (the oldest of Shaune's three sisters) and Uncle Shawn. We knew Gramma was going to be there. It seemed like a perfect way to spend Mother's Day Eve.

Tanis was away on business around my birthday and so brought out this cake to let me know she hadn't forgotten. She also hosted a lovely dinner and treated us to some delicious wines.

Uncle Shawn - that's his hand with the lighter there - had to relight the candles three times to give everyone a turn. The front part of the cake, the side closest to me, was rendered inedible by the fourth blowing. I might have been hit with some of the "air" Naveen was using to blow out the candles.

Gramma, Aunt Chrissy and Aunt Tanis.

Shaune made this chocolate mousse cake. Gramma had made it a few years ago for my 40th birthday and he stole the recipe and has made it a few times since. It's gorgeous. He posted the recipe to his blog here.
Naveen was captivated by some of Uncle Shawn's wood carving collection, especially this guy who he referred to as the "Chweif" (Chief). He told us that the Chweif didn't look too happy. All throughout the evening, the Chweif preoccupied his thoughts so that nobody thought it right to leave without getting some photos of the two of them.

Uncle Shawn promised that in his will, the Chweif would be left to Naveen.

Friday, 10 May 2013

It's all enough

In a few short weeks my sweet little Naveen will turn three. He is not potty trained nor does he like to function without his pacifier. He hates sharing my lap with his brother and just the other day when I was comforting Deaglan after a bad fall, he pinched his own forehead so that I’d be forced to comfort him as well.

Every evening he lays in our bed, proprietarily snuggled in close to me until he is fast asleep. Then I carry him, limp and sweaty, to his bed, that bottom bunk in the room across the hall. I kiss that sweaty little face and on my way back to my own bed, lament that he is too much my baby still, to be turning three.

It must seem like I’m not doing a very good job of fostering his independence.

I was self-sufficient far too early in life. I’ve told you my story in bits and pieces over the years about how my mother was forced to live on the streets, away from me, when I was still very small and in dire need of her warm, safe arms. I told you that I lived in an orphanage in Bangladesh with dozens of other kids until I was adopted into my family here in Canada. I’ve written some about how it felt to be seven and new to a country and a language and a culture.

I look back at those first twenty years and feel exhausted for that girl I used to be. She had to endure so much. It’s no wonder she waited until her mid-thirties to have kids. She needed 15 years of psychic head space just to process it all.

As a result, I rarely rush my kids through the phases of their development. I watch in awe how they own their little lives, how relaxed they are when they’re home, how connected they become with their immediate environment.

Deaglan takes his socks, pants and often his shirt off as soon as we get in the front door most days. He finds the toys he’s interested in at the moment, goes to the fridge to survey it for a snack and asks us for whatever else he needs to make himself comfortable and happy. For Naveen this usually means finding his pacifier and my lap and snuggling until we move onto dinner or outside.

I watch this kind of thing with fascination and learn how to get what I need.

The simplicity of what makes them happy – a few pushes on the swing, a popsicle, a favourite show - makes me want to pare down my desires too. It forces me in the best way possible to look around and realize that my backyard is big enough,the grass there, green enough, that I am thin enough, that my husband loves me enough, the sky is sunny enough.

It’s all enough. 


Monday, 6 May 2013

I've practically forgotten about winter

 In the spring especially, this little space behind our house becomes an extension of our living room. We can rarely find any good reason to leave it.

I took these photos while Shaune was calling the kids to dinner this evening. They were allowed to eat up in their tree fort. Home made chicken nuggets, fruit salad and rice.

Naveen  had to be called (ahem, threatened) a few times before he finally made it up to his meal.

 Shaune made us grilled chicken, roasted tomatoes and beets on top of sautéed peppers, onions, and mushrooms. In my wild fantasies, the kids would be eating this too.

 Ten minutes after this picture, Deaglan fell while swinging from this wooden beam Naveen is hanging from, bringing himself and the beam crashing to the ground. He's now laying on the couch with an ice pack to the back of his head. Huge goose egg.
 Naveen helped mow the lawn yesterday morning. Lawnmowers, like vacuum cleaners hold a very special place in this guy's heart.
Deaglan's favourite kind of smile these days - the creepy smile. He sees through my cheap attempts at reverse psychology when I shout "Don't smile!" from behind the camera. For a while it got me the perfect dimply smile. Now I just get this.
 Grampa and Gramma came for a visit yesterday. Shaune barbecued sliders and put out avocadoes, pickles, spicy mayo, and all sorts of other toppings for our mini burgers.
 This baby cardinal fell out of its nest and luckily the mother nurtured it back to health.
I've practically forgotten about winter.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A new way to fly

This morning we broke routine and took separate vehicles.

Shaune has been driving us to our individual places and then picking us up at the end of each day, which, considering the demented weather up until a few days ago has been a wonderful thing for me. I’ve been caught without proper weather gear too many times this spring to not appreciate the full value of this door-to-door service.

Deaglan was very upset when he realized I’d be taking only Naveen in the van – the daycare is a few short blocks from my work -  while he’d be riding the seconds to his school with Shaune. He began crying and it caught me off guard. I stooped down to his height and reminded him that I loved him and would see him right after school. We see this from him a few times a week. His love for one of us overwhelms him and though we may be in the same room, he misses us just the same.

I kissed him and drove off with a heavy heart.

I never underestimate what I mean – what Shaune and I mean – to these boys of ours. I never take it for granted.

It gives me such joy and value to be their mother. It satisfies me somewhere deep within myself. It is a quiet joy that rarely has me longing for anything else. Almost daily I spend chunks of the time we have together, just drinking them in, kissing their faces, and smelling their sweet boy skin.

They are by far the most beautiful sight I lay my eyes on each day. 

And I constantly scrutinize my interaction with them. Most of the time I’m proud of the mother I am; it's easy to please them at these ages let me tell you. But I also spend a few minutes every day asking God to make me a better, more understanding, more patient person for their sake. 
Because of them, I am inspired all the time to be my best possible self. For them. Yet what I know to be true is this: they love me just the way I am.

I rarely feel like I’m missing out on other aspects of life. I don't often yearn to be places without them. When I do, I go. I love to be around them when I’m not at work. I feel no shame in admitting this. Of course our time together is not always perfect.  I know there will be a day when they will have their own lives but while I am the centre of their universe, I want to be what they need. 
In this I don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything. I know it's my right path, my purpose right now.

Deaglan finally found the courage to try out his big-guy bike this past weekend. Once he understood how it was done and tasted that first sweet bit of freedom, he was completely hooked. Every evening after dinner he rides our short block, completely enthralled, the wind blowing through his T-shirt. 

I watch his face and see the exhilaration that comes with learning a new way to fly.

Naveen all the while takes pleasure in pushing his beloved vacuum down the sidewalk. And when he tires of that, he gets down to work with his lawnmower.