Wednesday, 30 May 2012

You were born in the afternoon

Dear Naveen,

Last night after dinner, I was taking a quick facebook break, when you walked up to me and for no reason whatsoever slapped me on the forehead. Surprised, I told you that it hurt and hitting wasn’t nice. You climbed onto my lap, stood until you reached the top of my head, kissed my hair and then peeked back down at my face, one hand still patting my head.

“Feel better Mama?” You asked. (It sounded more like “Fee-oh bettoe Mama?” but I knew what you meant.)

“No,” I said, “I need another kiss.”

I realized that this little exchange of ours was just the right metaphor for how you’ve changed my life. Your advent yanked me out of the romantic lull of motherhood I'd been lingering in, forced me to stretch in ways I didn’t know I could. I’ve become a juggler, an arbiter, a referee, and often the middleman (literally because you and your brother constantly fight to snuggle beside me and oh what a lovely problem that is to have!)

I have become a better mom because of you. You've taught me to ask for help, to accept good-enough some days and most importantly to ease up and chill out.  These days I can watch you pick hardened Cheerios out of the carpet and eat them without saying a word. 

And speaking of the things you do, I'm lamenting your ever rapidly developing language skills. Your Dad and I quite enjoy your version of words. I know he still refers to potato chips as "pips" even though you don't. And I can't remember the last time I picked you up and didn't ask you if you'd like to "come utts". I know you'll likely role your eyes when you read this someday but it's these specks of your almost two-year old self that I'll treasure most.

A few weeks ago the cover of Time pictured a young woman breastfeeding her three year-old son. He wasn’t nestled on her lap but standing on a chair to reach her breast.  I cringed when I saw it, not because I thought it was wrong, but because I knew what people would say.

I’d never dreamed that (what they’re now calling) “extended” breastfeeding could be so controversial and yet a few nights ago on Piers Morgan a female comedian stated simply that it was wrong to breastfeed for so long, that women who do, are raising weak children. It hurt my heart to hear such a definitive stance from a woman and mother, and one so public.

I thought about you and me, how you turn two tomorrow; how every morning and every evening we spend time so intimate, so soothing, so ours. I know this will need to stop soon, I’m feeling ready and I think you could be too. But I want you to know how it was for me.  

When you are a grown man taking care of your own babies, appreciating maybe for the first time what your Dad and I experienced raising you, I want you to know this:  I loved every bloody minute of it. Even when you were sleeping for only forty minute stretches; even when only I could meet your demanding needs. I loved watching you unfold, discovering who you were in all of your quirky glory - your intense love for Mickey Mouse and rapture with vacuum cleaners included.

I want you to know that I did love it all and was lucky enough to know how lucky I was. 

Happy birthday my sweetheart!

Love forever, 


P.S. I promise to stop asking you where random things are just so I can watch you tilt your head and answer, "I no-know way it is, Mama, I no-know."


 This morning before heading out the door...seriously, I don't think I can handle you getting any cuter.

I should note, we don't even have the Disney channel. I don't know how they do it over there at Disney headquarters, but there must be some sort of airwaves infiltrating our atmosphere, because you are CRAZY about Mickey.

We celebrated with Gramma and Grampa.

And we celebrated with Mimi and Papa.

Sunday, 27 May 2012


Lately I’ve been struggling to find equilibrium between my ideal self – you know, organized, calm, proactive, loving – and my real self – reactive, irritated, often irrational bordering on CRAZY. It’s not easy to strike the balance.

I yell at the kids when this was never part of my parenting plan. I send them off to bed too often without cracking a book and yet I’m completely pro-reading. I feed them hot dogs and chicken nuggets but I know eating right is essential to their health.  I let them watch Diego instead of taking them outside at the end of the work day so I can enjoy a glass of wine in peace.

Let’s see, what else?

I don’t forgive people when I should. I bicker with my husband in front of the kids. I choose being right instead of happy. I sometimes overuse the F word when I’m angry and tired. Okay I often overuse the F word when I’m tired and angry.

I know this is not a confessional and you certainly aren’t my priest.

But the more I do this parenting gig, the more I feel obligated to be honest. I refuse to let my friends think I’m something I’m not, so I always correct them when they praise me for being an outstanding mom. I gain nothing by projecting an image that doesn’t properly reflect me.

I got carded at the liquor store today. A small thrill raced through me. My ego almost got carried away.  I should tell you though, the cashier was maybe 19 and this was likely his first day on the job. Plus, this was not a large metropolitan LCBO but the tiny side-of-the road stop-by in a tiny town near Shaune’s parents’ house. And the young guy was shaky and nervous. Also, it was hard to ignore the sign behind his head: “We ID everyone under 25.” Even though the legal drinking age here in Ontario is 19.

And also this:

Last week when Deaglan and I were sitting together watching his new favourite show The Octonaughts, Naveen, a few feet away was repeatedly hitting the on switch to his toy workshop. Deaglan elbowed me in the rib, and asked in confidence:

“Does that fucking thing ever shut off?”

Two things. 
The kid at the liquor store thought I was 25! 
And you have to admit it’s impressive how Deaglan was able to properly express his ire with  a complex use of adjective.

We went camping last week for the long weekend in Port Huron at the KOA. It was a lot of fun. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

On what I've been doing lately

I’ve been listening to this song. It’s haunting and beautiful and draws me in, like a familiar smell or taste from long ago; one I can’t quite place. Old feelings come to mind, from another decade when I spent most of my time pining for relationships that weren’t right. And though I’m glad I no longer go through that kind of pain, this guy has articulated it so dead on that I can’t help but search for it every morning on my way to work. I’d pop a burned version into our CD player except that Raffi’s been stuck in there for ages and we’ve never gotten around to getting it fixed.

I've been reading this book again. It's a keeper. I've had it for close to ten years and bring it out when stress and anxiety threaten to take over. It reminds me to breathe. And that my thoughts are just thoughts, not an agenda. I recommend it.

Naveen’s birthday is coming and I wonder if I will always think of Matthew at the same time. The feeling that I could have done something to change it is no longer with me. I can see that it wasn’t ever up to me but I still ache any time the realization that he’s gone hits me. I still can't accept that his time was up. I treasure the  toys he bought for Deaglan and I’m sad the little outfits will no longer fit either of my boys. 

But I have this in our kitchen. It was his. I told Shaune he could display his cookbooks on it. I think Matt would have liked that. I know he loved Shaune's cooking. 

And can I talk about Naveen for just a minute? How delightful and naughty he is? If you inhaled him you'd get a hint of dirt, but mostly cookies and sun screen. I can rarely have him close without scooping him up and nibbling on those cheeks and that neck. How could he be turning two already? How is it possible that I am almost out of babies??

But there’s also this four year-old who regularly steals my heart. A shiny-faced boy with just the right dimple - a boy who says the best things all the time. Like in the check-out at Costco a few weeks ago, when he pointed to the 20-something, six-foot tall, leggy, gorgeous African-American cashier, and happily exclaimed (I'm certain much to her dismay) that she looked just like me. And yet it was equally lovely last night when he looked fondly at my face and told me I looked just like his best buddy Adam. 

And finally, (with fingers and toes crossed)I think these germ-infested, work-from-home because the kids have contracted yet another locally exotic illness days are coming to a close. Oh please let them be coming to a close because I don’t think I can take any more. 

That's it for now. I hope you are all well and I'll be taking some time soon to see what you've been up to.

You see what I'm saying about delightful but naughty?

Sunday, 6 May 2012

You win

Today on my run, a woman whizzed past me. When she was far enough ahead, I recognized her from the gym at work. We're about the same build and height and once when she was running on the treadmill beside me, I felt something close to kinship because her pace was about as slow as mine.

I broke off our imaginary friendship today because well – that was a bit of a show-offy move if you ask me. She couldn’t let me stay in the lead? She had to whip past me at lightning speed?  (I may be exaggerating because even when she was ahead of me she still appeared to be the slowest runner on the planet – which may be visual enough for you to picture how slow I really am)

You’d think I’d have sped up, sprinted past her. But that’s not my style. And it’s not why you think – I might have been able to take her. I searched for reasons to explain to any passersby I imagined to be wondering why I chose to lag behind. Came up with excuse after excuse. My legs are shorter. She’s (probably) had better training. I’m bigger chested. I can’t be running full speed with my Dolly Parton-esque frame even if I’m wearing 12 bras.

On and on.

Then I shook my head, chuckled because I knew the truth. I’m a slow runner. And also? I’m not competitive. It may be that I’m not competitive because I’m a slow runner. But also true is that I just don’t like competition. And it’s not because it’s against my ethics or goes against my deep moral fiber. I secretly believe that if you think you’re better than me at something – well you might be right.

Because when I feel somebody silently comparing themselves to me, I shut down. I hardly ever feel that I’ve got one up on anyone. Here’s how it works with me: If you think you’re superior, I will likely agree with you.  Your house is bigger, gorgeous? I have no doubt – don’t even need to see it.  Better mother, wife, worker? Hey you don’t have to convince me.

You win.

I don’t know why I’m like this. Maybe part of it comes from never having played on a team sport. We were a large family. Some of us were encouraged to focus on reading – it was cheaper. Maybe some of it comes from having lived in the third world for my formative years – knowing that it doesn’t matter how big your house is because there are millions of kids the same age as yours dreaming about a clean glass of water and one decent meal.

There’s also this: Deep down, I really just want us to get along. Let’s talk about how we’re alike. Let’s show each other our wounds, use our words to heal them. Let’s teach our kids the value of kindness, the meaning of real sharing - train them not to roll their eyes and turn the channel when child sponsorship commercials come on. Because in my very humble opinion? It’s everybody's business

Seeing to it that those beautiful dirty faces eat.

At Gramma and Grampas on Easter. 

Friday, 4 May 2012


Tonight Deaglan was gaining major momentum on the swing in our backyard. I put my foot down a few weeks ago and refused to push him every single time; I reminded him that he knew how to do it himself. Frankly, it was cutting into my Facebook time.

I mean wasn’t it enough that I was out there “watching” him and his brother play?

So there we were, Deaglan swinging, Naveen climbing, and me browsing when out of the blue Deaglan asks if he will go to Heaven when he dies. It doesn’t faze me though - it’s a carryover conversation from last week when I thought the cat wasn’t coming home from his two day stint at the vet. At the time I felt compelled to prep Deaglan for the worst, explain that Crash might die. But the cat ended up pulling through – turns out he had an abscess in his mouth where he’d lost a tooth. The vet rehydrated him, pumped him full of antibiotics and for 600 bucks sent him on his way with a prescription for morphine, more antibiotics and pricey canned food.

So when Deaglan asked me tonight if he’d go to Heaven after he died, I looked up from the Blackberry tablet and answered without skipping a beat:


“But how will I get there?”

“You’ll float.”

“What about my skin, will my skin go to Heaven?”

“No, your body won’t go, that’s the part that gets buried, remember?” He’s flying on that swing now. I notice he really needs a haircut.

“UNDER the ground? Even my feet?” His face is fascination and worry.

“Listen,” I say, “when you die, your body stops working. You don’t walk or talk anymore. You don’t need to eat; you don’t have to go to school.”

“But Mommy, I don’t want to die. What about my PARENTS? I don’t want to leave my PARENTS!”

“You won’t die for a long, long time and besides Mommy and Daddy will die way before you.” Lord help me.

Sharp intake of breath and furrowed brows but still soaring. “YOU'RE going to die?”

“No, no, not for a long, long time. Please, you don’t have to worry honey, just keep swinging.”

Naveen is now tired of going head first down the slide and is swinging from a wooden beam on the playscape. Shaune’s right, this kid’s gonna  keep us on the edge of our seats, show up with a motorcycle when he’s fourteen.

I don’t know what else to say about dying.

I know his four year old mind is trying to sort out the logistics, but I never had a plan for this conversation except that I like the idea of Heaven. I like the idea of God. I really like the idea of this not being all there is.

Once in a while he mentions Uncle Matt, reminds me that my brother died and is in Heaven. I’m always oddly grateful. It’s nice not to be the one to have to bring him up, to share a memory out loud even if it’s with a four year old who barely knew him.

I interrupt our talk so I can devise ways to lure Naveen down. It’s enough, all this talk of dying. Thank goodness Deaglan thinks so too.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Sick days

I had to sneak a run in early this morning before Shaune headed to work at ten to seven. It was beautiful and fresh outside; I had the mild spring morning mostly to myself except for a few commuters. I’m not much of a runner but I love it. And as I ran my course, up small hills, down  to their valleys, I thought how nice it would be when  I didn’t get called out of work regularly because the kids were vomiting or burning with fever. I looked forward to a time when the feelings of conflicting guilt these work-from-home sick days induced – the kids watching too much TV and me not getting enough work done,  a day when this would be a thing of the past.

I ran my slow steady pace, went where each song took me.

I rolled my eyes, smiling when Shaggy’s  Angel came on remembering a different time in our story. Shaune and me in the midst of one of our dramas, broken up but still friends, a day when he came over to my tiny one bedroom apartment, threw the new CD into my player and told me this song reminded him of me:

Girl, you're my angel, you're my darling angel 
Closer than my peeps you are to me, baby 
Shorty, you're my angel, you're my darling angel 
Girl, you're my friend when I'm in need, lady...

Girl, in spite of my behavior, well, you are my savior
(You must be sent from up above)
And you appear to me so tender, well, girl I surrender
(Said thanks for giving me your love)  

I’m not sure I was hip enough to know that shorty was a term of endearment – I likely went with it because well, I’m 5’2”. 

Panting up another hill, the Black Eyed Peas bring me back to the present and I am resenting  all those urban myths of parenting, the things you hear and desperately cling to, even when the evidence to the contrary is laughing in your face. Blatant lies like breastfeeding helps you lose weight or if your first child isn`t a good sleeper, your second child will have a healthy dose of narcolepsy.  And this one, the one that has me trying to pinpoint the fibber who planted this seed in the first place: that once your toddler strengthens his immune system in that first year of daycare by chronically being sick, he`ll never be sick again.

Down around a winding slope Cold Play fills me with hope and I promise myself to make this early morning run a regular thing when the kids don't need me so much. I reach our front door, and I can hear both boys awake. I'm greeted as if I've been gone for a year and I see that Naveen’s Hand-Foot-and- Mouth rash seems a  little less hazardous looking. 

 I honestly don't know why I ask Deaglan to smile for a picture because every single time this is what I get. You can see the rash around Naveen's mouth  - this picture was taken on Sunday. Today the rash makes it look as if he feasted on strawberries and chocolate last week. And we left his face unwashed. And if anyone from the daycare is reading this - we plan on returning Minnie Mouse to you just as soon as we can pry it out of Naveen's iron grip.