Sunday, 16 July 2017

Finding Islands in Plain Sight

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My home town is bisected by a river and in the very centre of town, the river splits into three to make two islands.  On the first island is most of the down town shops, the town hall, the band stand and part our gem, Stewart Park.  The other island has the rest of Stewart Park, a play ground and three very expensive houses.

The part of the river that splits the park is everyone's favourite.  In mid-July when our town hosts its music festival in the park, anyone brave enough to ignore the high bacterial count warnings (thanks to the farms up river) splashes and floats down the river to cool off while listening to the folksy rhythms.  In the middle of this section there is another island, a small island, that is a granite outcropping about the size and girth of a transport trailer with one brave willow and few bushes struggling, straggling, to make a living.

For years there has been a dam that has been failing, making the river too high and too swift to cross to get to the granite outcropping.  Last year, the dam was replaced by a natural rock gateway, and the river has been quieted.  So it came to be that my son, whose lived here his whole life, and his cousin, who has been here three days, had a new island to conquer together.  

The park was filled with hundreds of people with lawn chairs or blankets, and a few with dancing shoes and hippy moves.  Breastfeeding mothers,  carefree retirees, picnicking families, city folk and locals, all crammed into our little park.  So of course, these two quiet gentle boys saw space and adventure on that island.  I saw friendship.

One was afraid of wasps near the shore and the other coaxed him past.  They hugged each other for balance as they navigated the slippery rocks and little current.  The other slipped and got his shorts wet and they laughed and said "That's okay!" forgetting about their mothers a whole universe away.

And so they arrived on their island, and they tried to catch a frog, and they stole an old mussel shell from the river, and giggled about things I couldn't hear.  They conquered their island, found joy in the day.  And that is how two boys, almost strangers three days earlier, become fast friends.

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Monday, 3 July 2017

Birthday mornings

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The first hour of my day is usually the best part of my day, which is to say that I am an introvert and set my alarm at least an hour before anyone else in my house gets up so that I can be completely alone and selfish.

On my birthday, I did something a little different: I set my alarm a little later, though still early enough that I didn't have to talk to anyone, and went to a yoga class.  Not only was my favourite yoga teacher subbing (don't take that statement too seriously - I've only been to half a dozen yoga classes in the last year), but no one else showed up.  It was just me.  The world was working in my favour.

I started my day with a tiny bit a sweat and bliss: my favourite.  And then I had to go home and merge with reality.  Did anyone make dinner for me?  No.  What about a cake?  Nope.  Breakfast?  No.  Who had to put sunscreen on the screaming toddler?  Me.  But that's all part of the life I've chosen.  Even on your birthday, its still just a day.

And do you know what's on the flip side of the proverbial coin of motherhood?  Coming home from yoga to find water waiting for me in a wine glass, because Nevin knows I like drinking from that special glass.  Handmade birthday cards.  "Happy birthday, Mama!"'s expressed with glee.  Nostalgia from the six-year-old.  When the greetings were done and the water drank, Scarlett looked to imaginary stage left and said, wistfully, "Oh, where do the years go?"

Honestly, I don't really know where the years go or how I ended up in my mid-thirties with all the bells, whistles and kids.  A series of decisions lead me here, but it is the decisions I make first thing in the morning that keep me moving forward with intention.


Sunday, 28 May 2017

An Ode to Two-Year-Olds

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Two-year-olds get a bad rap.

Sure, they react to mundane tasks with a disproportionate level of disgust and their reactivity does not distinguish phrases like "Please put on your shoes" from  "Please chop your foot off."  They scream, they yell "no!" a lot, and they flail on the ground.

However, there are a lot of amazing things that two-year-olds do that people forget to talk about.  Like when they say "tank you" for giving them medicine they hate, just because its over.  Or when they giggle when you say "I'mmmm going to get yooooou."  Or when they notice someone is crying and immediately offer hugs.

They are just so honest and sweet.  The other day Malcolm told me I was his best friend* and he melted my heart.  By the end of conversation, he decided Nevin was his best friend and I was downgraded to his birthday cake maker, but I still took it as a compliment.  Two year old love cake more than people.

They also do all sorts of weird and random things.  Today he closed the toilet seat, used it as a table, sat his almost naked bum on the floor, said "me read to you Mommy", and started doing his very best recitation of Eric Carle's Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?  It was fantastic and hilarious.

Two year olds have their ups and downs, but I think overall its an up situation.  Its just a temporary state of mind, a phase, a rough patch at worst.  After all, all my favourite people have been two at one point or another, and they are currently living in the "Awesome" column on my imaginary chart of People I Know.  So stop painting the twos with such broad negative brushstrokes, and pause next time you see a two year old being honest or hilarious.

*Only it sounded exactly like this: "Mommy my bess fenn," which is even better.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Fridays Nights, Working Late and Toilet Paper

A few weeks ago, I was working late on a Friday night.  I find lesson planning is more efficient when I can work on a series of lessons for a few hours at a time without distractions, so in that way, I love working late.

But on this day, Scarlett cried as she said goodbye to me and it was Friday, so things felt a little upside down.  I got a ton of work done but, of course, its never enough and as the minutes ticked closer to the pre-arranged time that my friend was supposed to pick me up I became more and more frustrated.  Why am I not home with my family?  Why can't I get things done faster?  Why, almost half way through my career, do I still have so much to figure out?

When my work time was up, I shut down the computer, stood up and cursed myself for not having stopped sooner to leave time for a bathroom break.  Now I'm going to be late, I thought.  I threw my stuff together, and having left now room to spare, realized that I was going to have to use the student washroom across from my office instead of the staff room.  The filthy room undoubtedly would be covered in graffiti about all the things I don't want to know about their lives.

I rushed into the dingy unknown with a sigh of frustration.

Except it wasn't dingy at all.  I was bright white with sparkling faucets and fully stocked soap dispensers.  There were no crude messages scrawled to loopy teenage script.  As I went to grab some toilet paper, I found the only little piece of graffiti in the whole place scratched into the plastic toilet paper holder:

Remember to breathe.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Glasses, Door Knobs and Other Random Things

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A few weeks ago Nevin got glasses.  He had requested the check-up, so it came as no surprise and he met the news with relief and cheer.  Two mornings later, Scarlett sprang down the stairs and gleefully announced that they hadn't fought at all and she "stood at the doorway" while Nevin watched the clock turn to 6am.  You would have to live here, and then chat with them after this incident, to understand that they have been tag-teaming for months to maximize the efficiency of getting out of their room at 6am (the time at which the Stay-In-Your-Bed Rule dissolves).  Apparently, one would stand by the door knob and the other would be by the clock across the room.  Since Nevin's bed is next to the clock, he would elect to be the clock-watcher, so he could monitor it from bed.  Up until he got glasses, this caused animosity because he couldn't actually read the clock and so Scarlett would end up doing both jobs.  Through the miracle of modern optometry, their problem was solved.

This is a very long winded story to get to my point: my kids are growing up.  I had no idea that this had been going on for weeks, or maybe months.  I knew they were watching the clock because they come downstairs at 6am everyday, but the strategies, the teamwork, the fights were are all news to me.  They have entered a new phase of childhood, where they don't need me for everything and I don't know everything.   I have officially entered that part of parenthood that has a treasure trove of secrets between siblings that don't come out until a couple of bottles of wine have been consumed around the Christmas dinner table twenty years later.

What's more?  Yesterday for April Fools, Nevin played a trick on Scarlett.  He remembered that it was April Fools when the rest of us had forgotten, and when we looked at him like he was crazy, he shouted "April Fools!" and started laughing his head off.  And I thought, "that is such an eight-year-old boy thing to do."  It was.  And it reminded me again that he is growing up.

This might be my favourite part of parenting yet.  We've discovered a mutual love of literature and after the younger two have gone to bed we snuggle up and I read to him.  Some books are my all-time favourites like Harry Potter, and others are ones that I've never read, like the Chronicles of Narnia.  I'll say its time for bed, he'll beg me for just one more page and we'll read for another 15 minutes.  He knows a good story is my kryptonite and is learning that I'm a real person with weaknesses that can be exploited, but he's not old enough to resent my humanness yet.  He still sees me as royalty.

Its a fine and fickle stage to be in, this in between part, but mostly its just sweet.  I don't know when the little boy stage ended, and I'll probably won't realize that this part is leaving until it is long gone, but for now futilely I'll hope that it'll last forever.

Rabbit Poop

Rabbit Fear

Warner Family Van, 11:57am
(On the way home after visiting a farm at which Scarlett had held a pet rabbit.)

Scarlett: Do you know why I didn't want to hold the bunny anymore?  You know how I was holding it on its bum?  I was worried that it would poop on me.
Shawn: Luckily, rabbit poop is like blueberries.
Scarlett: Or kind of like chocolate chips.
Shawn: Yes.
Nevin: Or like wild Canadian blueberries.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Big Month Moment: March 2017

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"Someone once told me that women should do two things everyday they love, one thing every week that they treasure, and one bigger thing every month they will never forget." ~ commenter on Modern Mrs. Darcy
I love this idea, and since I only vividly remember the moments chronicled in this log, I am writing down those big things monthly.

I kind of forgot, but it turns out I'm dating my husband.

And that swell guy did something pretty awesome this week.  He surprised me by taking me to a concert that I have been lusting after for months.  As the kids these days say: Best. Date. Ever.

He snagged pit tickets released at the last minute, strategized how to get through security first and down on the floor before anyone else, and his efforts landed us in the first row at centre stage.  Since we had three hours until the headliners hit the stage, we sat on the floor and had a picnic of sorts with some 18-year-olds in mom jeans (Side note: Is that ironic?  That only people without children wear mom jeans?).

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There were two opening acts so the time passed quickly.  Turns out the 18-year-olds were there to see the second of the opening acts: Kaleo.  Behind the gravelly voice is the cutest 27-year-old face that, for added bonus points, is from Iceland.  They were great.  And was really adorable to watch first-hand while teenagers were brought to tears by handsome man.

And then came The Lumineers.  They are the people I put on repeat on the saddest day of my life, the people who I saw at my first "real" big concert last summer, and the people who I hope I get to watch many more times in my life.  Before I went to this concert, I didn't understand why people would go to see a band live more than once or why anyone would go to a concert in a sports stadium.  While I am still unconvinced that I would want tickets in the comfy seats way back in the stadium seating, I totally get the rest of it.  I've gone twice in the same tour and I am completely enamoured by their live performance.  They were so close, they could step on my fingers.  And they played up the crowd.  And Wesley Schultz jumped into the crowd, and they showered us with confetti. and the tapping of his feet was mesmerizing, and singing the lyrics of all the songs that are written to be sung in chorus was so, so, so good, and I could go on and on and on.  I am so totally in love with them and the guy who got me there.  I don't know which was my favourite part, but I know the most touching part.  Wesley Schultz came out to start the encore on his own and he sang a song about his father dying of cancer.  The stadium was silent.  He was emotional.  It was moving.  At the end he dropped his pick and rejoined his bandmates for some more feel good songs.  He was singing two feet away from us, so I picked up the pick.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to frame it, like any fan should.

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When we were dating and first married, we had a sedan.  Shawn would reach across the console and rest his hand on my knee.  Then we made some kids, bought a behemoth van and I forgot all about that old habit.  While we here idling in line to get out of the parking lot, Shawn reached across and put his hand on my knee.  We smiled.
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