Monday, 31 December 2012

A few last things

The last couple of days, after the rounds of Christmas parties (we hosted three this year!), Christmas itself – with endless piles of new toys for the kids (where will we put them all?!) have been warm and comforting in our pyjamas all day if we want, nothing to do but eat, watch TV, and play Candy Land.

I baked with the kids yesterday, the kind of baking I can really rally behind – add softened butter, contents of package, water and stir; today I’ve thrown almost all caution to the wind, Deaglan has helped himself to at least five  palm-sized chocolate chip cookies before even 10 am without even a teeny lecture from me.  Naveen has watched episode after episode of Toopy and Binoo on my tablet, navigating the way with his fingertips. A two year old who knows his way around such complex gadgets. It’s the way of the world, I know, yet I’m still constantly amazed. Me, who earned an honours degree in university with just my typewriter.

Shaune and I have been sick for the last week; sinus issues and chest trouble. We’re trying to figure the most strategic way to get the kids sick and healthy before we go back to work next week. I’ve been kissing them full on the lips, breathing on them every chance I get. Wouldn’t you know it they are healthy as cats for a change.

Last night Deaglan and I watched the Chronicles of Narnia – he for the first time. I explained that I’d watched the animated version every year as a kid and then read the books when I was about nine or so. He asked me at least 435 questions and as mildly irritating as it was I was reminded of Matthew. He’d fire question after question during any show we’d be watching so that all of us older kids had to take turns of telling him to shut up and watch what happens next.

The memory of it was so clear that I grabbed at patches of patience when I could and answered Deaglan’s questions. Ma, what’s a half man half horse called? Let me Google it because I think it’s albatross but I think I’m wrong – yep here it is Centaur. (Resist urge to explain to five year old how remarkable today’s technology is because in my day we’d have to take a stab at looking it up in the dictionary – a big heavy book made of paper). 

Is the witch afraid of Aslan? 
Yes and No. 
Why does the witch ride around in a sled? 
She just does. 
Is Aslan really dead? 
Just wait and watch! 
And on and on.

Also, I’ve been thinking some on how I hate that Naveen will be three in 2013, technically not a baby anymore. And I wish I could bottle up the way he says Dora the Explorer– Doe-ah tha Expo-ah, and how he periodically tells me he wants to pretend he is a baby so that I have to hold him like I used to when he was an infant, cradled in my arms while he says “ga-ga, goo-goo” because that’s how babies talk.

And I have been wishing that I’d thought to include some other things in Deaglan’s birthday letter things like:
  • He’s one of my favourite people to hang with – maybe stating the obvious I know but still
  • I hate that he realized the correct term was speed limit not speed lemon as he’d previously thought for a long time
  • If you ask him what his favourite thing about Christmas is he’ll say it’s spending time with his family – originally he’d said the presents were his favourite part but changed his mind after I told him the right answer. Oh the power of parenting the very, very young.
This evening I’m going to run my first 10K race.  I wish it was a morning run but it starts at five. Then we’ll celebrate New Year’s Eve with some lobster, scallops and champagne. We’re sick and will likely be in bed by ten the latest. We got hats and blowers for the kids. It promises to be a real party. I’ll let you know how my run goes.  

Oh and Happy New Year!

We celebrated Deaglan's birthday (for the 48th time this month) with Shaune's family.

I had to include this shot of me because it's a pretty accurate portrayal of my reaction when Shaune breaks out the camera. I think this might have been Christmas Eve night when I realized I wasn't feeling well and there were a hundred things to do (assemble toys, fill stockings etc) before I could go to bed.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

You were born five years ago

Dear Deaglan,

A few weeks ago your Dad broke out some old video footage of you around your first Christmas – well actually on your first Christmas you were fresh, new and only a day old; I’m talking about that year you were turning one with your shaggy brown hair and those big shining eyes just like your brother’s. 

I’d never seen the video before and it took my breath away.

You were holding an ornament, weaving in and around the Christmas tree singing “REEEEE-COHHHH-LAAAA.” And your Dad and I looked at each other thinking the same thing. “I don’t remember this, do you?” Two feelings shot through me just then. First, a mild sense of shame at how much TV you must have been exposed to in order to be singing a cough drop jingle acapella and also how naive I must be to think I will remember it all. 

So tonight on the eve of your fifth birthday, it seemed right that I record some of the things I want to remember. Things about you this past year that made me stop. Like your reason for wanting to become a policeman when you grow up – “because they can drive all by themselves.”

Or your loyalty which sometimes stirs in me some of the most complicated emotions I’ve ever experienced.  Like last night while your Dad was out getting some last minute stuff for the party tomorrow, you explained to me that even though you loved me, I should understand that you love your Dad just as much. I searched back for a time I might have made you feel you should love me more than Dad but couldn’t find one. I hugged you and accepted the beginnings of an ache.

The ache of watching you grow independent of me.

This year at school you shed your shyness – transferred your big brothering skills to your classmates. On several occasions the parents of the junior kindergartners told me that their little boys claimed you were their best friend. I attributed this to your fierce love and caring for Naveen. After the Christmas concert in your class a few days ago I heard you introduce him to your friends exclaiming proudly “this is my brother Naveen and he can even talk!”

You are wise, loving and often condescending when it comes to your younger brother.

Yesterday I heard you say:

“Nav, listen, when you’re a bit older, I’m going to teach you how to use this stuff,” pointing to your new fireman’s hat, badge, axe and walkie-talkie. You’d just received them at the family Christmas party we’d attended and sharing so soon after taking ownership – well it didn’t strike you as fair. So instead of just flat out refusing to share,  you explained that maybe a few years from now when he was mature enough, you’d give him a quick lesson in how to pretend to be a firefighter. Your intended generosity, the sense that you felt you were being magnanimous shone through and I could only shake my head and smile.

You gave me many parenting opportunities too.

I chose my words carefully when you told me that the new kid in your class was annoying and because of this you and your friends refused to let him play with you. I swallowed my panic and tread lightly. I asked you some questions in an attempt to uncover your empathy.

How would it feel to be the new guy and not have any friends? How is someone new supposed to make friends? Was it nice to not include him? Could his annoying behaviour be his way of trying to be friendly? How would you feel if you were left out?

I struggled because I could think of dozens of people in my adult life I’d steered clear of because of their irritating personalities.

I exhaled relief when I saw that you understood how running from the new kid when all he wanted was to be included was unkind.  I was grateful for this red flag, the chance to put this lesson in the forefront so that from time to time I could ask you about Omar and remind you of the importance of being kind.

You gave me a few scares too; instances I’d rather forget but the lessons of which I hope you remember:

  •         Putting a bobby pin into a plugged-in extension cord (just because you wanted to see what would happen) will only get you electrocuted. So please, please don’t do it again!
  •        Letting your little brother turn on the ceiling fan while he is on the top bunk – well that’s the reason I didn’t want you playing up there unsupervised in the first place! Luckily his black eye went down before Dad took the Christmas card pictures.
  •         Burping in your teacher’s face (even if both you and she insist it was an accident) is rude. And I was beyond embarrassed.

But once again my sweetheart, I see for certain how lucky I am to have you in my life. I know these days are fleeting so I embrace them when I can, write them down here for you to read someday and whisper selfish little prayers of thanks that you still tell me, unwaveringly, that you plan never to leave me, even when you are a grown man.

Happy birthday my big boy. We love you up to the moon and back!

After attending your friend Denver's birthday party last year you were set on the idea of having your party at McDonald's this year. 

After we treated your electrocution burns from your bobby pin experiment, you were dead tired and slept for about 40 minutes mid Christmas party.

Your firefighting gear. 

I hope you always keep us laughing the way you do now. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

With a little help from my friends

This morning on our way out the door Naveen asked for cookies. If he was already dressed in his outside gear I would have likely said “no, sugar in the morning is not good for a kid’s brain.” 

Except I was running late and the thought of chasing him down to get his coat and hat on was exhausting. So I grabbed a mini bag of Chips Ahoy and used it to buy his cooperation. After that I realized Shaune had Deaglan’s backpack and lunch box in his car. He was already gone to work while Deaglan’s unpacked lunch sat on the counter.

I could have cried.

On the way to Deaglan’s school I apologized to both kids for yelling. “Mornings are hard on Mommies,” I explained. It’s become something of a ritual, my contrition. I am rarely my best mothering self weekday mornings. I told them, like I try to do every morning on our drive, that they are good kids.

And if it’s been a particularly bad morning, then I find a sympathetic friend at work to help assuage my guilt. I tell them what an awful parent I am; admit how crazy I acted. I welcome any number of compassionate responses: A childless friend could say something like, “I don’t know how you do so much before even getting here in the morning!”  

And just like that I am restored.

Someone with older kids might admit to having had many similar mornings herself - that it’s all just normal and par for the course. If I don’t believe that she would act as nutty as I did that morning, I might nudge her a little for an example – a time when she lost her cool, mixed profanity with religion because sometimes saying “Oh my f%#@*ing god” seems like the only justified response to a five year old refusing to put his shoes on even though he’s been asked 50 times. 

A good friend will search her memory for a similar story - even tarnish an innocuous instance if she can't think of anything,  just to make me feel better. 

Monday, 17 December 2012


Tonight as I tucked my small boys into bed my mind wandered to those broken parents in Connecticut.


I prayed for God to carry them, these sickening relentless days. I have no words of comfort. Nothing to offer.

When Matthew passed away my mother said it was the worst day of her life, nothing more wretched could happen. My own mother heart knows that's true.

There is no sense to make of this, no corner to round that makes it bearable. I can't help but ache for all of you who have lost your babies. I hold you in my prayers. May you find your way through this.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

No apologies

The other day at pick-up time, Naveen’s preschool teacher asked me if he’d ratted her out yet. When I looked confused she explained that on a few occasions during disciplinary moments, he’d looked saucily into her eyes and said “You (are) mean Jennathea. I’m gonna tell my mommy on you!”

We had a good laugh and I made sure she knew that I fully expected her to correct him in whatever way they espoused at the daycare and also that he did nothing but rave about how much he loved her to all of us at home.

I have to tell you though, as worrisome as it might seem that my two year old has little to no respect for  authority, I was secretly delighted that he’d stood up to her when he felt he’d been wronged.

Maybe it had something to do with spending most of my childhood afraid of the grown-ups around me.

And Thursday after work when I was finally in comfy pants, a glass of wine in hand, I flat-out refused to play with Deaglan. I told him I’d had a long day and needed to sit and enjoy my drink.  I suggested he either watch TV or play with his brother.

I felt no guilt whatsoever.

Before you go patting me on the back don’t forget that my almost five year old still sleeps in our bed and my preschooler almost always has his hands in my shirt, the aftermath of nursing him until his second birthday. Last week when we had some neighbors over for a Christmas drink, when the wine had loosened us all up a bit, one of the ladies asked in the kindest way possible if Naveen was pinching my chest.

“Yes,” I shrugged. “After I stopped nursing Deaglan, he took to putting one of his hands into my armpit for comfort. In fact he still does it sometimes. This guy,” I pulled Naveen’s hand out of my blouse for the hundredth time, “seems to prefer my bosom.” We all laughed.

What can you do?

Yesterday Shaune transformed our kitchen into a photo studio to get some shots for our Christmas card.  As the photographer's assistant  it was my job to get these two knuckleheads to stand still. 
To stand against the back-drop. 
To stand together. 
To smile.

I hate being the photographer's assistant!

I started out with some idle threats. "If you guys don't stand still and smile, there will be no dessert after dinner!" Their non-cooperation told me that promising something so far into the future (it was only noon) was doing me no good. 

 I smartened up, took some candy out of the freezer and dangled it in front of them. "You can each have some of this if you smile and stand still, I promised.

They perked up a bit.

The smiles weren't what I wanted so I used the one trick I knew would work like a charm. I hated to encourage it but I was desperate. "Naveen," I sniffed the air, "did Deaglan toot?

And just like that I got all these beautiful smiles. 

Of course Naveen felt the need to demonstrate the tooting.

And Deaglan ruined at least a hundred great shots with this creepy little smile. 

Sweet reindeer sweaters courtesy of Aunt Laura last Christmas.