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The 2016 Review + New Year Questionnaire

Happy New Year! Isn’t it nice to have a new start, after the year we’ve had?

Time for the semi-traditional New Year’s Questionnaire. This year, I’ve decided to take some liberties with it. That is to say, I deleted or modified the questions that were annoying me or seemed repetitive. No time for baloney in 2017!

  1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

Me: Visited North Carolina, taught English, tried an Escape Room (with a team of smart/more experienced people) – and escaped!

Sean: Bought a minivan, subsequently inaugurated it by taking 15 hours in one day to drive two kids and four adults to North Carolina. And then 15 more hours to drive back a week later.

E: Went to the Hogwarts classes and Quidditch practice at the University, licked my own elbow, started Tae Kwon Do classes.

AB: Started school, said lots of French things, learned some Tae Kwon Do moves from my brother.

  1. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions?

Me: No. I did not at all get my 52 blog posts done, despite the scaled-down nature of the resolution. (I got to 32.) Sigh. I am disappointed. I also didn’t achieve what I set out to with my delayed NaBloPoMo strategy. Life is just too hectic, and although I know that writing is important for my brain and my spirit, so is getting sleep. And so is planning lessons and marking stuff. And so is reading stories to my kids. Et cetera. There are not enough hours to do ALL THE THINGS.

Sean: Not exactly. See Question #17.

E, A: We’re kids. We live in the moment.

3. Did anyone close to you die?

Me: A very dear family friend and member of our Friends’ Meeting.

Sean: Two wonderful step-grandparents.

E: So many of my baby teeth.

A: The loops on my rubber boots.

4. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

Me: My report cards done early.

Sean: Really good sleep.

E: A wooden sword. I might make one with all the boards I’ve been breaking in Tae Kwon Do.

A: I would like a unicorn that a princess can ride on!

5. What events from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why:

Me, Sean: Fires in Fort MacMurray, US Election results, deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Anton Yelchin, Gene Wilder, Charmian Carr, Leonard Cohen, Alan Thicke, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds.

E: North Carolina, and my birthday!

A: North Carolina, and the first day of school!

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Me: Being part of Mosaic.

Sean: Becoming a supervisor and initiating the overhaul of the tooling system at work.

E: Earning my yellow and orange belts in Tae Kwon Do and participating in my first tournament. And I really developed the skill of soccer this year.

A: Singing many songs in French, especially the one we did at the school concert (“La neige tombe”).

7. What was your biggest failure?

Me: Still not managing to finish unpacking by 2017. (Sadly, this is not a joke.)

Sean: Not losing weight.

E: I get mad at myself when I do things imperfectly.

A: I have no failings.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Me: I suspect I’ve been suffering from plantar faciitis…

Sean: Toe broken by karma as I ran up the stairs chasing the kids, having just told them not to run up the stairs. And then there was that tiny metal chip that had to be surgically removed from my eyeball.

E: The usual viruses, and the usual grievous injuries about five times a day.

A: The time my brother scratched my hand that had already been scratched!

9. What was the best thing you bought?

Me: Poo-Pourri. Especially Vanilla Mint. Highly recommend. (And thanks for the tip, JP!)

Sean: OluKai flip flops.

E: I bought my smelly markers with my own money! I went to Staples with the six dollars plus tax in coins in a green container with a lid, and when we checked out I put it on the counter, and that’s how I proudly paid for my own markers. (This is Mummy’s description. Gosh, it was cute.)

A: I got five dollars from my Uncle Barry in North Carolina and I helped pay for my very own pink Automoblox.

10. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

MeSean: Trump + supporters, ISIL, other terrorists and corrupt individuals… the usual.

E: Mummy and Daddy, when they make me do my homework.

A: Mummy and Daddy, when they make me use words and manners instead of just reading my mind.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Me: The peaceful Standing Rock protesters, and the two thousand veterans who joined them.

Sean: Pope Francis’s, for his work with the poor and refusal to buy into the pomp of popehood.

E: Mine, when I broke my first board! (And then a whole bunch more.)

A: Mine, for many diaper-free dry nights!

12. What did you get really excited about?

Me: A beautiful white Christmas.

Sean: The US election – good excited… and then bad excited.

E: Pokémon endless cards!

A: My sparkly silver purse!

13. What song will always remind you of 2016?

Me:

Sean:

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Me: Keeping my patience.

Sean: Exercise.

E: Screen time. There’s a lot less of it now that I’m in Grade 2.

A: I’m four. I have no need to examine my own behaviour.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Me: Stressing out.

Sean: Eating out.

E: Homework.

A: Walking to school. It’s such a long way. I think I still deserve my stroller.

16. How did you spend Christmas?

All: With people we love, all kinds of family. So very fortunate.

17. What is your resolution this year?

Me: Learn not to use the snooze button; use my massage benefits.

Sean: Be fit and productive.

Me, Sean: This year, we are keeping Bullet Journals! We shall thus become organized and effective, beyond all previous experience or expectations. (Sort of like a resolution.) We’ve already started. We are already getting a bit compulsive. I’m sure the Bullet Journal will get its own blog post one of these times.

E: Get my green belt; learn to skate. My mom would like me to resolve to whine less about my responsibilities. We’ll see about that.

A: Try a new dance class or maybe Tae Kwon Do. My mom would like me to resolve to cooperate in the mornings. We’ll see about that.

18. What was your favorite TV program?

Me: The Crown.

Sean: Luke Cage, Daredevil Season 2, The Crown.

E: Lego Ninjago.

A: Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig.

19. What was the best book you read?

MeThe Girl on the Train was basically un-put-down-able.

Sean: A Brief History of the Future and The Harrows of Spring.

E, A: We had the rest of the Harry Potter series read to us, and then all of Narnia, and now we’re on to Roald Dahl. We love them all!

20. What do you regret?

Me: Not being better organized, especially during April through June.

Sean: Spending money on junk food.

E: That time I missed most of gym period because I forgot my indoor shoes at home.

A: All the clothes that are too small for me.

21. What decision are you glad you made?

Me: To buy a mini-van.

Sean: To accept the supervisor position.

E: To ask for Diary of a Wimpy Kid for Christmas. (He has been devouring the series and was almost done book 7 as of Sunday night).

A: Changing my mind at the last minute to be Minnie Mouse for Halloween instead of Elsa again.

22. What was your favorite film of this year?

Me: Moana.

Sean: Captain America – Civil War.

E: Zootopia.

A: Moana.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Me: 38, got surprised by my family coming to dinner and doing beautiful birthday things.

Sean: 39, celebrated the weekend before at an indoor water park in Niagara Falls with family and friends.

E: 7, had my friends over to my house.

A: 4, attended several dinners in my honour.

24. What new thing would you like to try in 2017?

Me: I’m considering an Ugi ball.

Sean: Minimalism.

E: I’ve tried skating, but only a couple times. I’d like to learn for real.

A: I’m considering a haircut.

25. What political issue stirred you the most?

Me: Nestlé’s mercenariness, pipelines.

Sean: US Election.

E: Kids in my class saying I have a crush on someone when I don’t.

A: My right to snuggles EVERY MORNING for as long as I want.

26. Whom did you miss?

Always Sebastian. Also, please see #3.

27. Who was the best new person you met?

All: Two new friends! We have all been really glad to get to know Danielle, and also Matt.

E: It was my first year getting to attend the same school as last year, so it was nice NOT to meet as many new people.

A: My best friend is Olivia P!

28. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016:

Me: Every vote really does matter.

Sean: Replacing the filter on your CPAP machine makes a huge difference to sleep quality.

E: Practice really does make you better at things.

A: W goes down-up-down-up, and N goes up-down-up.

29, Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

Throw a little love till the world stops hurting… Keep on, keep on, keep on truckin’…

lucky family

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5-Day Artist Challenge, Day 3: Visual Art

It’s Visual Art for Day 3 of the Artist Challenge!

I’m going to bend the art-as-bread metaphor a bit, and say that visual art… is a sandwich. Because it has to be. You take your deliciously blank bread/canvas/hunk of rock, add your ideas and effort, colour and texture, and make it something totally new that’s your own. It might be savoury or sweet, hot or cold, crunchy or sloppy, humble or huge, traditional or bizarre. It might be multimedia. The result might cause observers to say, “Ooh! Yum!” or perhaps “WTF is that??”

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Artistic Vegetarian Sandwich via amuse-your-bouche.com.

I love visual art. (You might be thinking: Um, Dilovely, you also said you loved the first two strands of art. Are you ever gonna spice things up and NOT love one? The answer is no. Nope, I love them all. I’m allowed to be wholeheartedly predictable if I want.) Especially since university, when I got a wee bit obsessed with Impressionists – as many French majors do – I have loved to contemplate art. I visited all the museums I could while in Europe – and Barcelona blew my mind. I love letting a painting or sculpture sink into my eyes and take over my brain.

I also love, when possible, watching people make art. Since we’re talking about art AND sandwiches, I’m going to confess that a person with knee-jerk shyness (such as me) might, instead of choosing to have lunch with any famous person in history, want to go back in time and just watch Monet or Seurat paint.

I am in awe of visual artists, including the many I know personally and/or am related to. I’m amazed by the ability to shed reality, see things in new ways, envision things that never were, grab your tools and just… make new beauty. This is how I know I am not a true visual artist: I’m not enough of a risk-taker. Or a reality-shedder.

Here’s my art sandwich:

peanut butter and jam sandwich whole wheat 5-day artist challenge
Conventional PB&J via livestrong.com.

It might be decently executed, it’s appealing enough, but it’s entirely unoriginal.

When I was a kid, I drew lots of pictures. Usually ladies in pretty dresses. Other kids often said I was a “good draw-er.” (I was also the queen of colouring contests.) I figured this was normal. My mom was such a good draw-er that she could just whip up a drawing for me to colour, upon request. (Mostly ballerinas.) My dad could create graphic-art fonts by hand as if he’d trained his whole life. I just assumed all grown-ups could do art.

I enjoyed art class in Grade 9, and was proud of some of what I came up with, especially my big still-life project. However, I was beginning to understand that I didn’t have the innovative soul of a true visual artist, and I took instrumental music instead, thereafter.

Around the time I graduated from university, I took up drawing again for a bit, having remembered what I’m good at, namely: copying. I can draw from a photograph pretty accurately.

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Here’s Marilyn, with only a slightly wonky nose.
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Here’s Anne Frank, with whom I was also obsessed for several years.
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Here’s a woman from a Midol ad. I related to her posture at the time I drew her.

This was my most in-depth drawing, rendered from a photo I found in the book The Family of Man (from the MOMA). I was happy I’d managed to retain that which moved me about the original – the tenderness, the light. But the real beauty, the real art, was in the photo itself.

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For a brief moment as I prepared to leave for France, I imagined reinventing myself on a foreign continent as An Artist. But it didn’t last, because I knew I didn’t have the true artist’s soul. I wasn’t risky or imaginative or experimental. I liked to be safe. Even as a kid, I didn’t take paint and just go “Sploosh!” to see what happened. I didn’t try new things much, or let art take shape on its own. I wanted things to be just so. That’s why I so loved my coloured pencils: the colour went only exactly where I put it. Even now, paint scares me in its uncontrollableness.

Most of the drawing I do nowadays is on the blackboard (or whiteboard) at school. The kids love it when I draw things to illustrate a point, especially when they turn out terrible. They still sometimes tell me I’m a good draw-er, which makes me smile. And I enjoy watching my own children do art, with their natural creativity.

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These are a few of E’s homemade Pokémon. He makes up their names and powers.
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And here is a mixed-media piece AB made with, paper, wood, glitter, stickers, re-directed mail, plastic packaging, and utmost confidence.

For those readers with the visual art gift: could I come watch you make art sometime?

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P.S. If you noticed that Day 3 didn’t occur on the third day, here’s an oh-so-artistic meme I created to represent my feelings just prior to midnight last night:

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5-Day Artist Challenge, Day 1: Writing

Okay, 5-Day Artist Challenge, here we go! In true OELC iArts fashion, I shall dedicate each of the five days to a different strand of art, and I decree that writing shall be first. Because obviously.

5-day artist challenge journal writing fountain pen

If art is bread for the soul, writing is… let’s say sourdough. You get a starter of an idea, you let it ferment a bit. You feed it some nice floury research, wait some more, and eventually you’re ready to knead and craft something interesting out of it. Or occasionally you might get a starter that’s all ready and you just have to go for it. Sometimes it will flop, sometimes it will have a respectable grain. Not everyone will like the result, but some people will think it’s delicious.

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Image via bbc.co.uk

{My sister is the actual sourdough disciple. Through her, I have become acquainted with some different versions of her starter, Don Juan. Beth, do I sound convincing at all?}

Ahem. Yes. WRITING.

Writing is something I’ve done on a regular basis since my first diary was given to me on my seventh birthday. I really got going with the journaling in my pre-teen years, and was prolific throughout my teens and even university (as time permitted). I wrote compulsively about events I wanted to cherish, and even more compulsively about heartbreaking or awful or turbulent things I needed to process. Some hopes and philosophies, lots about friendships, and even more about boys.

During my grade-school years, I dreamed of being a professional writer one day (like my authorly heroines – Anne Shirley, Anne Frank, That Scatterbrain Booky). I was also homeschooled by my mom, who is herself a writer of poetry, stories, and historical novels. Her encouragement/bias is evidenced by the many stories and poems and not-at-all-historical novels I wrote during that time. (Her novels tended to treat actual elements of the British monarchy, and mine were about contemporary pre-teen girls with first-world problems. Amy the Dreamer; Remember Me? I’m Your Daughter; and My Friend Christie. They were twelve chapters each, written by hand on lined paper in duo-tangs. Full of my youthful feels, if not actual ingenuity. The Magic Chestnut was never finished.)

I remember submitting the painstakingly typed (and dot-matrix printed) Amy the Dreamer to Nelson Canada (it was kind of a homeschooling project, with a business letter and everything) and receiving a very nice rejection letter for it. I’m pretty sure I once had a poem published in Cricket magazine, and I won a few awards at my high school’s Literary Festival. My real accomplishment, though, was “Rainy Day Cindy,” my first (and only) fully author-illustrated short story – which you can view in its entirety on this very blog!

Then, in university, I wrote a buttload of essays, culminating in my 75-page mémoire (similar to a thesis) for my Masters in French lit. And that was enough of that.

My journaling, and actually my writing in all forms, dramatically tapered off when Sean and I settled down together. Naturally, peaceful love life = less fodder; real job = less time. It wasn’t until I started blogging that I realized how much I’d missed having that outlet.

I don’t really write fiction anymore. As a kid, I had no end of ideas, and felt absolutely entitled to write the heck out of them. Nowadays, I feel unqualified to make up stories, intimidated by the incredibly gorgeous and heartrending novels I’ve read. There’s a part of me that still wants to write a novel, or lots of novels. The trouble is, I don’t want to do so without a character who could steal your heart, preferably within a story that could blow your mind. I’m not confident that my imagination is up to the task.

But I do love blogging. I’ve heard folks paraphrase Dorothy Parker on more than one occasion: “I hate writing, I love having written.” For me, this is not the case. I relish the writing process, love finding and puzzling together the words to say what I mean. I even sort of liked writing essays, for the brain challenge. Writing soothes the itchy parts of my mind.

Thank goodness for you, lovely Di-hards. Just by reading, you validate my act of writing things. You motivate me just by your presence. You make it okay for me to keep this frivolous habit of committing my thoughts to words. I’m profoundly grateful to you.

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#NaBloPoMo, Day 12: Teachers

I am what they call a “planning teacher,” which means I am always teaching the students from other people’s homerooms, when their regular classroom teacher is doing his or her planning. At the moment, I work with four different groups of students in Grades 4 to 6.

This job means that I get a unique perspective, and work closely with several different teachers at a time, who inevitably have different styles. I’ve learned a lot from my co-teachers over the years.

Today I’m feeling grateful for them. For all the teachers I’ve worked with who are hardworking, innovative, caring, and constantly learning – and believe me, that is the vast majority of them in my experience (no matter what the fabrications written by “journalists” at the National Post might say).

It is a privilege to be able to work with people who inspire me every day. I am always looking for ways to improve my teaching, because that is what the professionals around me are doing, and they are doing it no matter how tough things get.

And they do get tough. This is for a whole other blog post, but suffice it to say that, even in just the decade I’ve been a teacher, I’ve noticed a difference in the level of difficulty – not so much in the curriculum (although that is a factor), but in the needs of the kids. On the whole, at least at our school, we are teaching kids who have shorter attention spans, higher levels of anxiety, weaker coping skills, more learning disabilities, and lower capacities for self-regulation. Managing behaviour has become a primary focus of teachers across the board, and Educational Assistants are widely overworked.

It does bother us to see this, and to have so much of our time and stamina used for the explicit teaching of appropriate behaviour when we’d so much rather be teaching our subject matter. Sometimes it drives us bananas. Sometimes I resent spending so much emotional energy and patience on other people’s children, leaving me less for my own children. Sometimes I am discouraged because, no matter now good I am at my subject or the act of teaching, the disciplinarian role does not come naturally to me and requires inordinate effort – and what’s the point in that?

But then I look around, I see the strength and talent of my colleagues, and it makes me want to try harder. I see their classrooms, full of neat ideas. I hear their stories of how they’ve dealt with the hard situations and kept at it. When things aren’t going well, I see them create new strategies, overhaul lessons and units, research best practices, pick each other’s brains, brainstorm new angles, and muster their determination to get results.

I also see them constantly doing things to improve school life for the kids. Assemblies (like yesterday’s), clubs, teams, field trips, special projects, enrichment activities, and on and on.

Yes, they also vent their frustrations, behind closed doors. (If we didn’t do this, we’d all implode.) But even in the midst of conversations about the most difficult students to teach, there is caring and compassion and actual love. That’s what drives the practice. We are all very aware that the more a child drives you crazy, the more likely it is that s/he’s got a story that would break your heart.

I’m grateful every day, but especially on the really hard days, for the many teachers who have motivated and uplifted me with their amazing work since I came into this profession. Makes me wish I could go back in time and be a student in their classes.

And since we’re on the subject, please take a look at this article about one of my extraordinary colleagues, who is being awarded for her teaching – and I can say in all honesty, nobody deserves it more. She simply rocks the classroom.

And while we’re at it, here is one more article about another wonderful teacher I’ve had the privilege to work with. Again, honour thoroughly deserved.

Teachers: love you.

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An Open Letter to Justin Trudeau

Canadian Flag Election 2015

Dear Justin Trudeau,

Congratulations on sweeping the country. I can’t deny that it was pretty exciting to witness something new, and rather surprising, happening on Monday night.

It’s hard to describe what a relief it is to be rid of Stephen Harper’s government, but I think you already get it. You know – and successfully campaigned on the fact – that large numbers of Canadians (even certain Conservatives) have felt demoralized, betrayed, beleaguered, and in some cases personally attacked by Harper’s actions over the last ten years. You say we are tired of cynicism and negativity, and speaking for myself, I can say you’re right. I am. I’m also tired of alienation, corruption, disdain, underhandedness, suppression, discrimination, degradation, secrecy, and embarrassment.

The problem is, we’ve gotten so used to it all. You can see it in the post-election journalism, as well as social media: even now, with Harper gone, many Canadians seem unable to comment with true optimism. There’s this knee-jerk tone of condescension in the discussions of your “hopey-changey” promises – people would rather speak sardonically from a place of disillusionment than be so gullible as to believe the promises of a politician.

I do not vote automatically for a particular party. I do my best to know what the platforms are and what the leaders have to say, looking for progressive and holistic ideas, knowing that party positions on issues can change with the times.

During the last few months, I received campaign emails from Liberal, NDP, and Green parties, and I’ll be honest: your team was the one asking for the most input. Over and over, you said, “Tell me what matters to you.” You made it very easy for voters to express their wishes and needs.

And ultimately, you became the rallying point for the anti-Harper movement. I think it was relatively easy for people to rally around you, for many reasons. I remember talking with my husband about you when you first became leader of the party, and how you had the je ne sais quoi of the Trudeau factor. Although you have not banked on your father’s legacy, there is something kinda epic about electing the son of one of the most famous and controversial Prime Ministers – and Canadians – in history. (As much as we don’t want to be caught getting excited here, people do love a dash of the epic in life.)

Also – and I mean this positively – you’re brand-new. Despite the implications of your name, you are young enough to have been legitimately uninvolved in the scandals that plagued the last Liberal government when it went down.

I also think Harper did the opposite of what he intended when he kept saying, “He’s just not ready.” Young people heard that patronizing tone, no doubt familiar to them, said, “Too young? HA,” and went out to vote in record numbers. I can’t deny that you have a lot of relatable traits for a voter like me, and your youth is one of them.

Justin, here’s the thing. I like a great many of the things you’ve said.

I like the way you talk about investing in clean energy, and finally getting us on the international bandwagon regarding climate change.

I like the respect and compassion you use when speaking to and about all Canadians, including Indigenous peoples, franco-Canadians, Muslims, women, low-income families, new Canadians, and many others who have been maligned and/or marginalized for the last decade – or longer.

I like that you seem determined to prioritize communication, cooperation, and transparency for and between all levels of government.

I like that you realize there are many Canadians who care about more than budgets and taxes. (Seriously, I tried listening to Harper’s concession speech, and I couldn’t even finish; I’m so damn sick of hearing him talk about money, to the exclusion of everything that makes Canada what it is.)

I like what you have to say about the importance and power of Canada’s arts community.

I like your support toward CBC/Radio-Canada.

I really, really like that you promise electoral reform. Wouldn’t it be great if you were the Prime Minister who finally made every vote actually count?

But I do also worry. Your task, when I look at it, seems insurmountable. It’s well-known that you can’t please everyone, but politicians have fallen down trying in the past. Your goals in particular, given the mess you’ve inherited, sound very lofty. It’s hard to move past years of citizens and sectors being pitted against each other.

And I worry a bit about your status. Obviously, you know that many Liberal votes came from the anti-Harper camp, meaning that people are counting on you to be Not Harper. When I think about Bill C-51, the Keystone XL Pipeline, the TPP, and Big Oil lobbying, it makes me worry that you might be A Little Bit Harper. And you have a majority, so if you were at all Harperish, you could run with it. (And then all the people who say “Liberals are just Conservatives in disguise” would have a valid point.)

See? I’m doing it too. A habit of jadedness. I hope I’m wrong about all of that. You did say REAL CHANGE. Canadians have agreed with your mandate, and they’ve sent you in to fix things.

After such a long slog, I just want to be excited and hopeful about Canada. I want to be proud of my country, and inspired by its leader. Therefore, I have decided to believe you. I hereby believe that you really have been, and will be, listening to Canadians, that you sincerely want to make the changes you say, and that your earnest talk of hope and togetherness and caring and diversity and beauty and progress is for real.

Because in all honesty… I love that stuff. Those are the words and ideas that make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and that make me teary-eyed when I see them in action, especially in my children and students. If this is naïveté, I’m going to embrace it. Pessimism never did get much done. Underneath the disenfranchisement, I am an optimist, and I know Canada is special. It’s an amazing place filled with great people who do great and amazing things. You can enable us to do more of those things. We can be a thrilling example of a wide, sprawling nation, characterized by multiplicity at every level, that not only functions peacefully but leads.

Good luck, Justin. It won’t be easy, and we can’t expect sweeping political changes to go smoothly. Canada isn’t perfect, but it’s awesome. As you say: better is always possible.

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How do you know if you’re done having kids?

baby toes

It seems silly, sometimes, to wrestle with this question. Should we have another child?

I know it’s a luxury even to be able to ask this. There are lots of people for whom having kids is not a true choice – either the opportunity or ability is not there, or, in some cases, the option not to have more children is unavailable.

Still, I know I’m not the only mama fortunate enough to struggle with this “dilemma.” Every time someone asks “So… do you think you’ll have any more?”, indecision rears its adorable, baby-faced head. I envy the parents who seem peaceful and sure when they say, “Yep, we’re done.”

It’s weird. Some days I’m SO SURE we’re done, and some days I think… How can we possibly be done?

We presently have an almost six-year-old son E, and a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter AB. They are both healthy and smart and cute and normal. (If you can ever call a kid normal.) We also have our sweet salmon-spirit boy, stillborn Sebastian, in our hearts. We are incredibly blessed, overall.

I don’t need more children. But sometimes I think I want them. And even though my Hubbibi was all “I’m gettin’ snipped!” after our daughter was born, I know he sometimes has similar wavering feelings. Sometimes.

Initially, in arguing with myself about children, I tried to be methodical and logical about it.

  • Glowing pregnancy and sweet baby kicks VS. tiredness and nausea.
  • Adorable maternity tops VS. maternity pants that don’t stay up.
  • Visiting with my midwives VS. all that anxiety again.
  • That wonderful, perfect birth VS. … you have no idea how the birth will actually go.
  • Those priceless infant-breastfeeding moments VS. starting all over with the Great Sleep Challenge.
  • Gorgeous baby cheeks, hands, toes, bums… VS. DIAPERS.
  • Precious baby clothes VS. unthinkable amounts of laundry.
  • Snuggly newborn VS. screaming newborn (since you never know which one you’ll get).
  • Leaving the house with one bag VS. leaving the house with ALL THE THINGS.
  • Peaceful naptimes VS. stressing about whether the naps are happening…

And so on. You get the idea.

But I’ve realized that this method is useless in this context. The things that make me want to have another child are not subject to rationality or quantitative comparison to disadvantages. They’re things like:

can’t believe how fast my babies weren’t babies anymore. AB is just passing the age that E was when we conceived her. She is a big girl, running around and chattering and putting on her own pants and shoes. Not a baby at all. Where are my babies??

Anticipating a new baby is the most exciting thing on earth, like Christmas and birthday rolled up together, times a billion, with a little dash of terror to spice it up. Visiting my midwives, seeing my wiggly bean on the ultrasound screen, waiting to greet a whole new person… indescribable. As Sean once said, while we talked about our children with parental awe, “I just wonder – what else can we make??”

And when my kids say, “Can we have a new baby?”… There are no actual words to depict the yearning that squeezes my heart for them, wishing to witness their anticipation and joy. Especially the time E said, “Can we have another Sebastian?” He knows he was supposed to have a brother, and as much as he loves his sister – she is not one.

I remember talking about babies with Sean shortly after Sebastian died, and realizing that we had a simultaneous, identical urge to have a whole houseful of kids. Of course, that was partly grief talking – but that feeling has never fully gone away. We both grew up in larger families, and that big-crew feeling runs deep.

There are also, I have come to grasp, societal forces that glorify the concept of having more children. I’ve read bloggers who designate people deciding not to have children as selfish, because they don’t make the sacrifices associated with parenthood. Sure, parenting requires sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean it’s a noble thing to do. There are lots of selfish reasons to have children, and many selfless reasons not to.

To be clear, I certainly admire the stamina and gumption of the parents who make life work with more children than we have. And there is a semi-conscious part of me that thinks stopping at two = copping out. Surely we’re tough enough for more. But intellectually, I know that’s ridiculous. It’s not a competition, it’s not a charitable act, and we haven’t been charged with re-populating the earth. (Some would argue it’s the opposite.)

It’s been valuable for me to recognize that insidious, illogical pro-child inclination, so that I can remind myself to discount it.

There’s another realization that has helped me too.

A while ago, I was visiting a friend with three children. Her youngest was still a baby – one whose conception had been a surprise. I asked her about the three-child dynamic. She admitted it had been hard, but added a statement that crystallized things for me: “She completes our family.”

That’s it, right there. I know that’s what I’m looking for. I also know it’s unattainable for me. I could have twelve children and still not complete my family, because one will always be missing. And in a way, it’s a relief to realize it. I have no choice but to let go of that idea.

With that in mind, I’m more able to grasp the arguments that have to do with reality.

I can remember saying aloud, during my last pregnancy, “Note to self: DON’T DO THIS AGAIN.” Three pregnancies in a row, close together, were increasingly hard. I feel sorry and wistful, remembering how much of E’s toddlerhood I spent exhaustedly pregnant, then grieving, then pregnant again – with extra anxiety and double the number of appointments. I was not as present as I wish I had been during that unbearably cute phase of his life. I want to be truly here, enjoying the children I’m so fortunate to have, right now. If I think time is going fast right now – I’m pretty sure it redoubles in speed with every child.

The other thing I need to admit to myself is that I’m not super-human. (*shocked gasp.*) Sweet and lovely as those baby moments are, later ones are never as enchanted as the first-born ones, where everything is new and you can stare endlessly at your baby… because there’s at least one other little human to (rightfully) demand attention. And I have had enough hard mothering moments – the ones that put my weaknesses as a parent into ugly relief – to know that three or more children is unlikely to be less stressful. I don’t want to be the overtaxed mom, the one who raises her voice and reacts with grumpiness, any more often than I already am. I don’t want to do this if I’m going to do a bad – or even mediocre – job of it. I’m sure my kids wouldn’t want that either.

Since all these thoughts fell into place, it’s been easier to be swayed by the other practical arguments: fewer children are more affordable, more transportable, easier to house, more manageable when sick (in March when they both got a stomach bug, I couldn’t help thinking, Thank goodness there are only two!), and so on. And it’s good knowing I have a holding-hand for each child.

We do have a certain beautiful balance the way things are. Seeing my kids play together (even though it’s often punctuated by screaming) is something I’ll never tire of. We have all types of toys – the cars and the dolls, the tea sets and the Lego – and both of them play with everything. They have each other, and there’s no-one to be left out.

And I hope that someday, the thought of Sebastian will be a comfort to them, at least in some ways – a presence of love in their hearts that is part of their sense of family.

We are finally beginning to get rid of baby things in our house. It’s hard and it makes me all emotional. Looking at baby clothes makes me want to abandon all my good arguments… but so far, I haven’t. Every time I say to someone, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure we’re done,” it’s more true, and gradually, it becomes less painful to say.

I know I’ll always feel pangs around infants, as lots of people do… and there will always be an ache in my arms for Sebastian. But I can live with those things. My family is wonderful as it is, and that’s the bottom line.

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6 Headlines You Won’t See at the Supermarket Checkout

In case you’re wondering, the title of this post is a bit ironic. If you hang around the Interwebs, you may have noticed that it’s real trendy or whatever to write articles and posts that start with a number. Somehow it makes the content more attractive and edible if you enumerate stuff.

Far be it from me to deprive you guys of those delicious, crunchy numbers. I want to honour your readership. So… Bon appétit!

TEACHER PREPARES FOR TRANSFORMATIVE EVENT

A week ago Thursday, I found out that I get to be staff at a week-long camp program in June that blends Leadership and Arts for Grade 7 and 8 students… and I get to be a teacher facilitator for Dance. 🙂 🙂 🙂 All descriptions of the program indicate that it’s the most profound, life-changing teaching/learning experience possible. I cannot describe how STOKED I am. (Merci beaucoup to Mr. A, who is responsible for me getting the position at all.)

On the same topic, I need to get on with whipping my own buns into shape. I still dance on a regular basis, but my fitness and flexibility levels are not where I’d like them to be for sharing dance space with 13- and 14-year-olds. Young teenage dancers tend to be seriously strong and bendy. (I was one, once upon a time, so I know.) Excellent motivation.

Mentally, I will also be whipping myself (into shape, or perhaps into a mess), by attempting to finish report cards and yearbook production before I go. I shall become the Duchess of Organization. It’s gonna happen. Grrr.

And lastly on this topic, I am girding myself psychologically to be away from my own munchkins for a whole week. One night + two days is still the longest I’ve been apart from E, and one day is the longest since AB was born. (Sean is gracious about this opportunity for me, which will also be a considerable challenge for him, parenting-wise; we are already arranging help for while I’m gone.) Luckily, there will be exciting things distracting me from the lack of baby kisses and endearing quotables… but still. There will be some withdrawal.

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WOMAN OVERDOSES ON CONTEMPORARY DANCE, SUFFERS NO ILL EFFECTS

Last weekend, I went to TWO dance shows in as many days. (Which is totally crazy, considering my normal rate of spectacles per decade, if you don’t count the ones I’m in.) On Friday night, Sean took me to see RUBBERBANDance Group as an early birthday present. It wowed us such that, over dessert after the show, the two of us had a real conversation about dance … which has never happened. Despite me being a dance performer, I honestly don’t think we’ve ever discussed the art form at any length before.

So yeah, minds were blown. Talk about strong and bendy. And seamlessly interactive in a way that looks effortless but has to be incredibly hard. Watch the promo, you’ll see what I mean.

Then, on Saturday evening, I was lucky enough to go with a group of dancer friends to see a live music/dance presentation called “Dichterliebe: The Poet’s Love,” by Coleman Lemieux & Compagnie. Again, it was fascinating and beautiful, though totally different from the other show. You can actually watch the whole thing in this video – except that in the show we saw, this same baritone – Alexander Dobson – had full facial hair and luscious shoulder-length locks. (The dancing starts about halfway through.) If you like poetry, it is worth checking out the words – they are rather extraordinary.

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TODDLER TURNS 18 MONTHS AND ENTERS ADOLESCENCE

On Sunday, Baby AB was officially 18 months old. She’s still very short, with diapers and a round baby-belly, but in many ways we feel like we have a teenage cliché in the house. (Two, actually, but that’s another post.) As our daycare provider put it the other day, “How can she be so small and so cute – and so willful at the same time?”

Teenager or Toddler? You be the judge.

  • She talks almost nonstop;
  • She often deliberately shows her belly button;
  • She experiments with kissing;
  • She loves accessories and bling;
  • She wants to choose her own clothes;
  • Unacceptable clothes are offensive to her;
  • She likes to hold hands;
  • She flies into rages with very little provocation;
  • Reasons for her anger are not always clear;
  • She alternates between needing help and being insulted by help;
  • Her moods possess a quality of epic drama;
  • You cannot convince her she’s wrong, ever;
  • She frequently bugs her brother on purpose;
  • She is learning and growing at a scarily fast pace;
  • It is amazing watching her discover her potential.
You think she'd take no for an answer? Of course not.
You think she’d take no for an answer? Of course not.

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BLOGGER INADVERTENTLY WINS RAD BEVERAGE CONTEST

Also on Sunday, I had the pleasure of brunching with the lovely ladies behind bear & lion, Heather in Heels, Friends in my Closet, Eightyink, Rustric Retrievals, and Heart, Heather. We ate at State & Main, a restaurant chain which is still new to Ontario, and we were treated very well indeed.

When I arrived (typically late), most of the group was already there and had ordered Caesars, because apparently they’re brunchy. I did not order a Caesar (because CLAM BROTH), and there was no Mimosa on the menu, so I went with something that sounded good: a Mexican Bulldog. Little did I know it would be approximately the size of my daughter’s head, and look like this:

The Mexican Bulldog. If you're alarmed, please note that's a Coronita, not a Corona. Ahem.
The Mexican Bulldog. If you’re alarmed, please note – that’s a Coronita, not a full-sized Corona. Ahem.

The ladies agreed that my beverage took the proverbial cake. And it was quite tasty and refreshing. And it was almost noon by then, so. Yeah.

Conversation was really fun, as usual, and the food was great. I had veggie eggs benedict, and it was delicious, but next time I’m having the Baileys banana-bread French toast.

Signs you might be surrounded by bloggers, #278: everyone immediately instagrams her meal.
Signs you might be surrounded by bloggers, #278: everyone immediately instagrams her meal. Except Dilovely, who is afraid of Instagram.

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COUPLE TRIUMPHS BY WATCHING 40 SITCOM EPISODES IN NINE DAYS

Naw. That’s just too outlandish.

Sean and I wanted to triumph: I’d found out that How I Met Your Mother would ending forever on March 31st, and we had nine days to go. I figured out how many episodes we had left to watch (about 1.5 seasons) and I felt the fizz of determination. We got one evening in – I think we logged a solid six episodes… and then failed thereafter. Sean was working evenings and, well, it’s one of those shows we must watch together. The weekends were hectic and blah blah blah. We still haven’t even started the final season.

Fortunately, Skye was watching, and like a true friend, she sent me real-time non-spoiler updates, such as “I can’t believe that happened!!!” and “Now some tears…” so I could feel like I was participating. 😛

Oh, how I'll miss you all. On the bright side, it may be years before we finish season 9!
Oh, how I’ll miss you all. On the bright side, it may be years before we finish season 9.

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