Saturday, June 14, 2014

joy rides

Ooh boy. I know it's been awhile. There has been much to juggle in this little world of ours - some extraordinary, others just the usual hustle of family life.

But somehow in the middle of all the things, the wife got her driver's license. And our lives are forever changed.

For all the years the wife and I have shared together, neither one of us has had a driver's license. We never owned a vehicle. We didn't feel we were missing all that much of the world. We loved to walk. We didn't mind commuting. We occasionally relied on the kindness of our friends and family.

With the babes in our lives, we were finding it more and more necessary to pursue getting car-mobile. The time for us to shuttle them around to their various social, academic, and extracurricular engagements is just beginning and we've had enough with all the cab rides already. We happened to get a deal on a teenaged van ("Leroyd MilF" is his name. The boy named him Leroyd and I like to think of him as our Millennium Falcon - a little old, a little clunky, but reliable, road-worthy); and the wife, with all her tenacity and commitment -  on top of home life and work responsibilities - got the thumbs up to drive. us. places. As in, ANYWHERE we could possibly want to go.

I understand that this isn't a novel idea for the lot of you who've driven since your teen years. The wife and I have been together since our late teens and we only just had our very first car date a MONTH ago. Imagine that. It is all very weird.

And amazing. I think we went to the ocean, like, 8 times in the last month - unheard of without our parade float on a bus, in a cab, or with an exasperated friend or family member.

Of course the kids are loving this new chapter in our lives. They're both so proud of their mom, which is lovely to see. They're napping IN THE CAR instead of whining about how tired they are.

It's a bit guilt-making, this kind of luxury.

My home is so messy. Blogging has fallen off the priority list. Laundry is so perpetually behind that when it becomes the grand project of the week (12 loads this week, for example), I want to throw a reunion party for us and all of the clothes we forgot we had. And it gets very tense getting in and out of the car for all the appointments we never would have scheduled on the SAME DAY just because Leroyd could get us there. You know?

Don't get me wrong - I am very grateful to be car-mobile. I just feel like we have to find a way to balance the impulsiveness that comes with novelty of being car-mobile like everything else, with measured mindfulness.

We leave for Toronto tomorrow. I have a sneaking suspicion we'll be leaving what looks like a frat party aftermath behind. But this is a very very much needed vacation away from our every day, time we've carved out to visit with beloved family and friends and to enjoy the sights and sounds of our hometown.

Gotta go! I have ambitions of bringing rhubarb custard pie for our plane picnic.

I won't promise post cards but I will most certainly try to pop in and say hi.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

on the ground, sweet sound

For weeks now, the weather forecasts threatened rain. Almost each and every day the sun answered with warming glory amidst cloud gatherings and soft blue skies. We've been spending so much time outside, I don't even want to talk about the mountains of laundry we've made or the condition of my floors. Because it's far more fun to remember what it was like at the river beach just over a week ago, when we played on it's carpet, lush and green with its flowery flecks.

I am always amazed - and proud - at how much the babes' love being outside. 

They are only 3 and 5.  They're only starting to distinguish between the seasons with their whole bodies. 

Their wonder and awe at everything they see, touch, and smell is so potent. Excitable. Joyful. Spontaneous. Inspired. Celebratory. Comfortable. Free.

Their comfort is what enchants and I daresay, heals me most. Our days are so much more often filled with arguments and disagreements. As the kids get comfortable in their own skin, I am ever on a learning curve and react with hot-headed reflexes.  Even when my decision-making is sound, even when it seems that peace has been achieved in some way, I feel like the destroyer of all the harmony in the world.

With these photos I bring inside evidence of sweet sound: our laughter, rustling grass, dogs barking, bat connecting with a baseball for the very first time at the hand of the boy, the wife's coaching, the wife's cheers, the girl's pencil scratching in her notebook, the wind magnifying in aching silence the moments at which we are at the same time preoccupying ourselves with our surroundings. 

I hope these photos and this entry will help me remember what all this goodness sounds like, especially when all my memory hears the harsh in my tone, the arguments I instigate, and the increasing complexity of the dissent I must face. I need to be reminded that on many blessed occassions, I hear happiness too. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

time and bloom

"And the day came when the risk to remain in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom." - Anais Nin

We've been on poppy watch for weeks now.

Finally the buds loosened their hold.

The blooms are unfurling one by one and the entry way to our home is feeling a bit like Wonderland. 

The petals, now free, give sway in the light and shy away in the shade as they are wont to do.

 These pink beauties are the size of my hand. 

The colours within are ludicrous against their showy frills.

The babes call me over, always excited to tell me that more poppies have bloomed. I love that they stop their zoom on bike or scooter just to marvel at the poppies with me. It's the best, makes me feel like I'm doing something right.

I have wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember. Whether or not I am any good at the gig now is for my children to evaluate. I am my own worst critic, as it is. All I know is that I adore my babes to distraction. 

And I can feel time accelerating on these fleeting toddler days. I catch myself staring at my children, taking mental photographs to commemorate the joy in my heart. Or wishing very hard for a do-over. I welcome (nearly) every opportunity to cook with them. I read to the boy a little longer.  I hold the girl a little tighter. I kiss them both incessantly, tell them I love them every time I think it. 

But on Mother's Day, the wife and I took a good chunk of the day off to reset and reconnect with each other. Because while mothering is an honour I do not take for granted, dividing awareness between children, the family's collective needs, and the-work-that-pays can be a serious a strain -even on a relationship that is 19 years strong. 

So we gave ourselves a break: time away from from Wonderland, just the two of us. We didn't have a destination in mind. We took a couple of buses and meandered through an aimless adventure that started at a yarn store, was followed by a meal at our new favourite Japanese tapas place, and ended at a bookstore. The time we stole was just what we needed to set our restraints aside and move forward together: mothers, partners, spouses, best friends. Such a great Mother's Day gift to each other. 

A belated happy Mother's Day to all my fellow mothers! Whether your title is mother or mothering is part of what you do, I wish you time to take care of yourself and stay connected to those you love so you can return to your Wonderland rejuvenated in all the ways you need. Then hug every single one of your charges. Hold each other tight, then set yourselves free.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

stolen moment

Why yes, there is a direct correlation between my absence here and the flurry of often triple booked activities we've got going on. Amidst our regularly scheduled programming: there's swimming for both kids on top of the girl's ballet lessons; the wife's predictably unpredictable schedule that we often have to work around; the lingering spring sun beckoning for all of us to be outdoors come hell or 9 loads of unwashed laundry later; the actual work I have to do for the job that pays which translates to a heck of a lot of writing, very early mornings, very late nights, remote relationship building, and the epitome of corporate; there's some pretty firm and fiery mothering that has to go on becausebecausebecause I now have a child as well as a toddler in the home, also play dates in between, the combination of which requires concrete boundaries for more reasons than I care to type; not to mention being mindful about staying connected to the wife and being consciously aware of my own needs. 

Without getting into all the other encompassing events that touch our lives on an ongoing basis (oh yes, there's more), I'm just going to say it, April has transpired in flashes of joy, sadness, worry, frustration, friendship, satisfaction, and blaaarrgh!

Thank goodness for Alicia, Danaerys, and Mindy for all the good TV they bring. And the knitting. I'm very grateful for all the knitting that accompanies the TV watching.

As you can see, I've amassed a small pile of accessories that make me feel productive - and dare I say it, whole - like a distinct person unto myself. I had planned to share some of these knits with you today but I'm not happy with any of the photos I've taken so I'll have to do that another time. I'm just happy I stole this moment to pop by and say hello. 

So... what have your days been like? 

(Did I mention our home is getting treated for carpenter ants so we have to bag up all of our belongings to prevent our children from being more exposed to bug spray than they're going to be anyway? Yup, that's my night tonight. Send caffeine intravenous please. And enjoy sleeping for me.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

centre stage

I don't know where she got the idea but the girl has been asking to go to ballet class since the New Year. 

Maybe it was the hand-me-down tutu she received from dear neighbours. Maybe it was from a book we read or a show she happened to watch while the sitter was on duty. But she asked about going to ballet class every day until I finally told that her I signed her up. The whole month we waited for the Spring class to start, she asked when she would be going to ballet class. Then at long last, she finally got to go.

She's been to 2 classes so far and she just LOVES it! 

photo by the wife

At her first class, I would be the mama with the camera face, snorting and bawling, shuffling in all corners of the room to record this milestone. She looked so HAPPY and FOCUSED just being there. 

photo by the wife

I loved ballet as a little girl. I think my parents signed me up for a few classes but then very quickly took me out. In their defence, I did't know my left from my right and I could never be described as graceful even in my toddling days. 

But this girl - even in this class that's all about the fun in the fundamentals, she's darling.

It's only just the beginning. I don't know if her interest in ballet will take us to the world of rigour and recitals. But it has been so lovely to see her embrace her time in the community centre dance studio so completely. 

For now - and pretty much her whole life, we're going to absolutely let her take the lead.

We're only too happy to follow in the wake of her changements. Especially if it means her happiness, too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

hunting tradition

We tell them the Easter Bunny (E.B.) comes to our house to steal the eggs we decorate so he can hide them and we can hunt for them. The eggs disappear from the bowl we prepare and E.B. leaves the kids a note complimenting their eggs. This year, the word "dope" was used in the note - utterly confusing to toddlers, I realize now (well done, wife). 

The boy woke up at 02:45 very early on Easter morning, and of course, upon discovering the missing eggs and E.B.'s note, proceeded to carry on like it was time to wake up and make breakfast. We tell him to go back to sleep.

After being kicked awake by an over-excited boy, and then pacified by a giant latte (thank you, wife), we tell them (repeatedly, though not quite exasperatedly) that E.B. will text us the time and location of their hunt. We tell them that E.B. likes to play these games around the world with many families, all a little differently. Our hunt will happen when it happens. We tell them again. And again.

Finally, the text comes shortly after the wife is "called to work." She tells them that she is following a map sent to her by E.B (nice one, wife). 

I really was hoping for another hunt at the beach but the weather report called for rain all weekend and we just didn't want to risk getting soppy, being that we're all still recovering from our fourth bout of colds this year. So the train tracks served as our venue once again.

It went quicker this time. It will get quicker every time as these guys get older and wiser, which means that we will get all the more predictable. 

Not long from now our tradition will evolve into already-assembled Easter baskets - but not before this ruse of ours becomes more elaborate. The wife and I are already talking about actual maps they'll be able to read, perhaps a buried treasure, And actual bunny foot steps. We can even arrange for real bunnies if we wanted to really mess with them.

But for now, stumbling upon the eggs we decorated together and the candy eggs that are always a surprise in familiar stomping grounds - it's all a wonderful adventure for them both. They're still talking about it. 

I hope you had a lovely Easter weekend and a great start to the week!

Monday, April 14, 2014

for the boy's 5th birthday

It's been 2 weeks since your birthday, son, and you haven't yet received your birthday blog letter. 

Between your actual birthday festivities, your birthday party, rearranging our entire home so you can have your own room, and the daily grind (which now includes regular after-school play dates in which your mom and I find ourselves cheerfully providing food, drinks, and our home as a general venue), I haven't found the time to reflect on what I wanted to share with you here. 

I've been giving it a ton of thought though, and so here goes.

For the last 4 years, as your birthday approaches, I inevitably think about carrying you, how much I loved every second of being pregnant. I think about the moment I realized that my water broke at the stroke of midnight and waking your mom so we can prepare to meet you. I try to remember how it felt to be in labour, how it was that I was able to reach in through time and space with my voice, seizing every contraction as an opportunity to open up an entire universe that would suddenly include you. I close my eyes and make myself remember the moment you were on my chest for the first time. This is the way my psyche usually prepares for your yearly milestone. 

This year was a little different.

This year, I did make myself go through a play-by-play of your birth day. But mostly, I found myself in a planet of regret. I was beating myself up for all the things I should've been but wasn't. None of which has anything to do with you. It's just that you're 5 now - a whole hand to represent your life - no longer a toddler, a milestone for you - performance review time for me. And if I were to give myself a self-assessement at this point in my motherhood: I met most of my expectations but I feel like I failed you - and myself, rather miserably, on several counts. I'm afraid I yelled much of your most impressionable years away. I'm afraid I let you watch too much TV. 

What you need to know now is that my regret served as potent alarm: a wake up call to change the patterns in my behaviour - and in doing so, influencing yours in kinder, gentler, more mindful ways. I began this shift earlier this year and I feel like it's already made a difference for us both.

For me, your turning 5 marks the beginning of a great transition. You're ready to open up to this brave new world of inviting friends and all sorts of other influences into your life. (It's already happening. You're already asking our neighbours to come over to have a snack - without checking in with me first.) And while your mom and I are gearing up to welcome the flood of new folks and experiences, I know we're never going to actually be ready. I'm excited for you but I'm also scared, because the bonds we have worked so hard to forge over the first 5 years of your life are about to be tested - and kindergarten is just the very, very beginning. 

So after giving into regret, and instead of dwelling in the sweet cozy memories of your babyhood past - all the while refusing to give into my motherly fears, in the weeks leading up to your birthday, I chose to marvel.  I marvelled at your lanky limbs and newly-formed angles. I marvelled at your willingness to help others. 

I have seen you lead. I have seen you follow. I have seen you recede into the background quietly and respectfully, when you are out of your comfort zone. I have seen you take ownership of your mistakes. I have seen you clean up your mess.  And although you rarely spare a kind word to your sister, I have watched you kiss her goodnight, shield her from danger, and buy her gifts with money you earned from doing your chores- all without our prompting. 

You can cook an egg 3 different ways from start to finish. You can write your name. You like listening to chapter books. You let me cry in your arms last week because I was worried for your great grandmother. You empathize like nobody's business.  You stand your ground. You love a good laugh. You still need your daily snuggles. 

You are a good kid. And this is the year that I have to start choosing to let go (a teeny bit, just for now - you're still a kid after all) and just have faith in you, in us, and in our family. It's a giant leap that I never expected to have to make so early in your life,  but I think that's the point because I suspect we're both going to be playing tug of war with your independence well into your adulthood. 

For now, let me just say: in those darkest hours when I am everything that is in the way of you and your happiness (which these days amounts to gum, chocolate, TV, angry birds, and everything your sister happens to have in her hand), it's because I love you that I think lessons in kindness, consideration, and moderation are too important not to land. There is nothing in this world your mom and I wouldn't do for you. I am whelmed well beyond the point at which the cup runneth over because I am your momma. Thank you for being you.


I'm super stoked you loved your birthday cake and incredibly glad that you like wearing your birthday sweater. I promise to work on making your sleeves longer as soon as possible. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

happy place

I always know we're long over due for a walk to the river when:

  • Our 3-bedroom apartment that felt palatial upon move-in feels like the toddlers are multiplying and launching themselves off of every surface in every direction (and mostly onto me)
  • Every corner of our home looks like it's been ransacked by thieves and trampled upon by herds of elephants who invited their friends, the fraggles,  to the food in our fridge 
  • The wife and I haven't made real eye contact in days
  • There's screeching, there's fighting, there's constant whining, and even the cat is twitchy from overexposure to her younger human siblings. 
And March break for my preschoolers has only just begun. 

It gets ugly, people. It really does - and only being out in a wide open space can help it most days.

Thankfully, blessedly, yesterday felt just like spring should and to the river we went. 

And we were all happy.

(Until bedtime. And then all over-tiredness broke loose and house war 246 erupted over teeth-brushing and taking too long on the potty. But we take what we can get. Especially because the wife took all of it. I was already in bed, knitting.)

The end.


This post is dedicated to single parents, parents with larger families than mine, all families who live in spaces under 1000 square feet. I salute you.