It’s my blogiversary this weekend! Technically yesterday – November 3rd – it was nine whole years since my first blog post ever. About which I said nothing to anyone. I barely knew what a blog was, but I was inspired by my sister blogging about her experiences in Europe, and had also read some blog posts by another friend who wrote about random things, very briefly, and made blogging seem so… feasible.
Man, things were really different back then. Sean’s and my marriage was only four years old, and my teaching career barely older. I had one wee babe. We had a little house on the opposite side of town (and had barely even thought about school catchment areas). Emi and our friend K still lived with us. My whole world was my baby and family at that point. And it was such a joy to spend basically all of my time and brain power on one tiny, squishy-cheeked human that I loved unimaginably – who also happened to be a pretty easy customer.
I remember how much I wanted to get parenting right (LOL!), and how everything my son did was special and amazing. I also remember that my first several blog posts were written sitting in the glider in E’s room, just being near him as he slept.
I had no inkling, while writing those first blog posts, that this blog would still be alive nine years later – because of you. If you hadn’t been reading, imparting legitimacy to my words, it would have been hard to justify this therapeutic but self-indulgent hobby all this time. Thank goodness you were there. I could not have predicted that blogging, through your compassionate readership, would become a lifeline of solace when Sebastian died. Nor did I imagine that I would one day write a post that would be viewed over 50,000 times in a week, or that I would have readers who would insist to me that my blog was important – to folks other than me.
These days, I sometimes wrestle with myself about what to write. Not for a lack of ideas, but for a lack of clarity. Part of me feels that I should go back to my origins of writing whatever I feel like, whenever, even if it’s insignificant and random… Because that’s how this all started – as an excuse to write stuff. “Just write… and see what happens.” The other part of me feels like I should only write when I have something truly meaningful to say, and time to polish it properly, out of respect for you. I mean, what right have I to assume that you want to read my arbitrary woolgathering? There are already plenty of bloggers – and commenters, and tweeters, and Facebookers, etc. – out there who blather.
The truth is that this blog’s steady readership of lovelies is not large. It’s not like I’m proclaiming to the masses. I would love to know what you feel is worth reading in an age of overwhelming internet noise. So if you’re reading right now, please feel free to weigh in about… well, anything you want. (Requests?… Pet peeves?… Guest posts??) I am very, very grateful to you for reading, and it seems only fair that you should have some input. If you want it. I’ll accommodate it as best I can (in my inconsistent fashion).
Anyway. Thank you, as always, for being here. Thanks for reading, and nudging, and commenting, and sharing, and being part of this li’l community with me. I will always be grateful for you. [Insert whole rainbow of heart emojis.]
Did you know that my daughter has been married for almost two months? She’s a romantic, but she needs no extravagant proposal. In fact, she doesn’t even need a groom.
Back at the end of the summer, she drew the above picture on our white board, with great attention to details like rings and gloves and such. She told us that she would be marrying a boy she likes from her school (Lorenzo – he couldn’t’ve had a more romantic name if she’d made him up). She added “Wedding Today” on a Sunday at the end of summer, and got dressed up fancy.
She was really happy and excited. She did ask at one point, “Could we go pick up Lorenzo?” but I’ve never seen this kid, much less met his parents/gotten his number/found out his address. Fortunately, she didn’t seem that perturbed that he wouldn’t be there for the wedding. There wasn’t even really a ceremony (which would only have served to make the groom’s absence more noticeable – who needs it?). She liked wearing her sparkly shoes and Tinkerbell dress and feeling special for the day. She was celebrated and congratulated heartily by all who were present.
Ah, the glory of it all.
Soon afterward, she began work on her first book. It wastes no time with preamble (or writing word order, at least on the first page).
“One day two lonely people crashed in the night. It was love at first sight.” And the rest is history (and more legible).
[It seems worth mentioning that both my kids write on much more mature themes than I did as a child. As you may know, my masterwork Rainy Day Cindy had no romance in it whatsoever (although there were some decent present-giving moments). Nor did it have the kinds of heisty hijinks E likes to write about (superheroes with animal sidekicks fighting evil scientists – more on that later). Mini-Di just followed Gilbert Blythe’s advice and wrote what she knew. More or less.]
I’m pretty sure that this manuscript is not done. I, for one, have many questions and will need some more instalments. I feel like Lorenzo’s behaviour in this book could take a dark turn, as it seems a little stalker-y; but then, maybe he’s just showing perseverance to be rewarded. In the meantime, I’m pretty proud of my kid’s word choices and indomitable spelling.
Here’s one way to spice up a chilly, post-holiday evening in January that might otherwise be a bit melancholy: BUTTERBEER. It’s all part of this complete Gryffindor Evening that you, too, can have for just one monthly instalment of candles and squashy pillows. Let your Harry Potter geek flag fly.
I’m not trying to make you jealous. I did not realize how epic our Gryffindor Evening was going to be this year until it was already in progress. Last year, Auntie Beth and our friend Matt came over one night, and I made soup and biscuits, and we built a fire in our fireplace in case someone needed to call on us using Floo powder, we pillowed up the place like a Gryffindor common room, and Beth made some hardcore Butterbeer (and I think there may have been some excellent Muggle beer as well). That was pretty great.
But THIS year, Beth and Matt took things to a whole new level. I made soup – it was taco soup, which was fun because of all the toppings, but not at all topical. (Harry and the gang literally NEVER eat taco soup for some reason. Whatever, it’s delicious, we’ll call it a substitute for steak-and-kidney pie.) Little did I know Beth was going to bring draperies to festoon the living room – she actually hung golden curtains from the rods – not to mention custom lighting… And this all in addition to the cozy blankets, requisite squashy pillows, and Butterbeer.
And Matt outdid himself as well. After dinner, wearing his “Books turn Muggles into Wizards” T-shirt, he gave the kids Hogwarts-themed word search and crossword pages, and hosted Harry Potter trivia (some of which was quite challenging!). But the most amazing part was the multicoloured potion shots (some kid-friendly, some firmly adult) that he lit on fire and made all sparkly-crackly, using the magic of overproof alcohol and powdered cinnamon. BLIMEY.
So now, it is my privilege to bring to you TWO very different recipes for Butterbeer. You’ll know which one you want to try when you read them – though I can attest that they are both scrumptious. (Unfortunately, my own Butterbeer recipe – cold version – has been lost to the vagaries of parent-brain.)
Auntie Beth’s Zesty Butterbeer:
Put a shot of caramel sauce in the bottom of a large mug. (If you want extra wow-factor, make your own caramel sauce like my wholehearted sister – see recipe below.)
Add a couple of shots’ worth of REAL ginger beer – you know, the spicy kind.
Add a shot (or two) of your favourite whiskey. (Canada makes a lot of good ones, just sayin’.)
Fill the rest of the mug with hot apple cider.
Top with real, barely-sweetened whipped cream.
If you’re going to take a picture of it, add a cinnamon stick in the hopes that it will distract from the fact that you haven’t finished clearing the table are a stickler for the gritty reality of life in photography.
Skye’s* Velvety Butterbeer:
Melt 2 teaspoons of honey and 1 tablespoon of butter together.
Add 1.5 cups of milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Heat in microwave or on stovetop until hot enough for you.
Mix in 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or to taste), 2 teaspoons hot chocolate powder, and 1 ounce of butterscotch schnapps (or Irish cream if you want, or butterscotch syrup for the virgin version).
*It bears mentioning that Skye is a woman who knows how to host a Harry Potter-themed event. Pre-motherhood, she once hosted an all-day HP movie blitz, with her own chocolate frogs and other amazing HP snacks of which I wish I had pictures. (I think there were only 5 HP movies out at the time… A similar event would need a whole weekend at this point.)
And there you have it! Even if you aren’t technically a Gryffindor, ANYONE can enjoy a Gryffindor Evening based on delicious beverages.
P.S. In case you were wondering, though, SINCE my Pottermore fall from Hufflepuff to Slytherin (and ensuing drama), I attended a Hogwarts science event last year in which an ACTUAL SORTING HAT actually sorted me into Gryffindor. I’ve decided I’m just gonna be a quadruple-agent.
P.P.S. Oops, here’s the homemade caramel recipe (you can use cinnamon instead of almond if you prefer):
In my last post, you may remember that I have made it my mission to be calm in the mornings with my kids. I’d like to tell you proudly that I made it through the week with exemplary calm! But I didn’t. Not quite.
I think it comes down to a sleep problem – one I don’t know how to solve.
There exist those families whose kids go to bed and conk out right away. (My sister-in-law’s son actually ASKS to go to bed when he’s tired. WHAT.) Similarly, there exist those families whose kids pop out of bed super-early on their own and are ready to go.
Not our family. I know that’s a blessing in many ways. My kids don’t get grumpy or whiny at bedtime – instead, they tend to be at their most hilarious (to each other) in that post-dinner period. And they usually sleep in like champs while on vacation. Natural night owls, it seems.
The night-owl thing is tricky, though. Trust me, we do all the things. We have a consistent bedtime routine. We do settling-down activities like reading, all in the same order. We dim the lights beforehand. We use the kid-safe calming essential oils. We give the hugs and kisses and love. They just… take forever to fall asleep. Especially E. We’ve tried all kinds of bedtimes for him in the hopes that we’d find the perfect one, but he still seems to spend ages awake most of the time. His brain apparently revs high when he’s in bed. I have to remind him to close his eyes and whisper inside his head instead of out loud.
But this fact makes school mornings hard, especially now that their morning bell is fifteen minutes earlier than it was last year.
Please know I’m no morning star myself. (Hence that failed snooze-button resolution.) Once I’m out of bed, I start by opening the blinds in the kids’ room (which doesn’t help at this veil-of-darkness time of year) or putting the small lamp on. Then I’ll cue up some music or a meditation right by E’s head where it will (I hope) gently awaken him.
AB usually wakes up at this point, and betakes herself to my bed for our non-negotiable snuggle. [It has taken us a long time to get this part right. There have been countless times – and they still feel perilously probable – that she has begun the day with a sweet li’l temper tantrum because I happened to be in the bathroom when she came to my bed, or it took me too long to find E’s music, or I said the wrong word to her, or whatever other tiny random glitch she decides is insufferable that day.] She proceeds, almost always, to fall right back to sleep whilst somehow taking up almost all of my bed space.
So then there’s more waking up. E has been known in the past to wake up gently, as intended, but for the past month or so, the auditory stimulation hasn’t worked. I go in, talk to him, scratch his back, literally pick out his clothes for him and put them on his bunk so it’s easier for him… For AB I also scratch her back, kiss her cheek, carry her to the bathroom…
Ach. Written out like this, all the tender enablement is a bit nauseating. I can understand if at this point you’re like, Just rip their covers off already!! Or maybe just sneak headphones onto their ears and blast Van Halen without warning.
This kindly moderation would all be worth it if they then got up, sunny-faced, and put their clothes on with something resembling promptness. Instead, this is the part where they sit there like tiny stoned college kids: AB will open a drawer and just stare into it. E will sit there indefinitely with his shirt off and his splendid bedhead belying his torpor.
In the old days of 2017, this would be the point where I would start to get agitated and my voice would begin to sound stressed. For E, the second he detects annoyance in my voice, he feels entitled to go, “OHKAYEEEE!!” like I screamed at him. Which does nothing to lessen my annoyance, obvs. By the time we would get downstairs, I’d be fully frustrated, so when the kids would start to bicker at the breakfast bar I’d just be like “NO WE ARE NOT DOING THIS.” And when breakfast was done and the slo-mo would start all over for getting backpacks and snow gear on… Blahhh. You can imagine the tears, the stomping, etc.
The kicker is, I know that when I get mad, I escalate the kids. I’m the adult. I should be able to fix this. Reflecting on the whole situation over the holidays, I said to myself, This is why I’m part-time. I am voluntarily making less money so that I have time to do things like take my children to school. If we’re late, so what? We’re late. It’s fine. Worth it to have a calm morning.
And it TOTALLY IS. The first four mornings of last week, I would say, just once, “Okay. Well, I need you to get those clothes on if you’d like to be on time.” And if I saw our window of punctuality closing, I’d just be like, “We’ll be a little late, okay?” And if I kept calm, the kids kept calm, in almost every case. This is in spite of it being the first week back after winter break, and the kids being overall quite tired. We were late twice out of four days, but whatevs!
Honestly, the rest of my life was better for it. I was calmer with my students, so they were calmer with me, and I had more energy after school to be nice to my family. I enjoyed them all way more.
Sadly, on Friday my calm ran out. Tiredness of kids + not a great sleep on my part + not a great time of the month for me + the voice in the back of my head saying We’ve been late twice already this week = I started to sound like my bad old self. So E started to sound like his bad old self. Suddenly AB was getting tearful about something too. How quickly it all unravels. It wasn’t disastrous… I was just thoroughly disappointed in myself. And sure enough, we were late again.
We’ve had a nice weekend. Our Friday night was Gryffindor Night, which was awesome and I’ll tell you about that later. We have also cleaned house – all of us – and played lots of Exploding Kittens as a family this weekend, which feels very apropos in terms of the kinds of tempers we have and the abruptness with which they detonate, AND is very fun as a silly game we can all play and not stress about losing.
So tomorrow morning, Paragon of Calm will make a comeback. Now with even more panache.
Off to a cold, cold start in which I have not gotten enough fresh air because I did’t want my skin to fall off… But as of Saturday night, thanks to some quality time spent with my sis and a friend and many little jars and baggies, my spice drawer is looking unusually spiffy. And milder temps started TODAY… We all got through our first day back with a minimum of trauma… So on balance, 2018 is looking good.
1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
Me, Sean: Adult Adventure Week at Wilderness Tours on the Ottawa River! Not as risqué as it sounds… or maybe it is! If you consider whitewater risqué. (Two days of rafting, one day of cycling, and one day of sea kayaking… ’twas amazing. That we were still alive at the end.)
E: Saw whale poop at the Royal Ontario Museum, rode on an elephant at the African Lion Safari.
AB: Saw the longest worm in the world at the ROM, rode on a pony at the Safari.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions?
Me: I did not manage to stop using the snooze button. I did, however, use my massage benefits several times, and it was awesome. (It’s been several months now since my last appointment, and my neck is wondering sadly what happened.) Also, I did Bullet Journal like a BOSS (more on that later).
Sean: Yes, lost 20 pounds and still going! Lots of reading (not sure if it was MORE)… and shall be rebroadcasting the screen time resolution in 2018.
E: I did get my green belt!
A: I do go to a creative dance class!
3. What is your resolution this year?
Me: Be a paragon of calm in the mornings. Or at least some reasonable example of calm. I can do this. I know it makes a huge difference to the kids when I manage it – and this morning I did! (The kids were late to school, but… Worth It.)
Sean: Reach goal weight, live life more in the present (and less on the internet).
E: Get better marks than in Grade 2.
A: Get a horse. It can live in our yard, or maybe on the patio.
4. Did anyone important to you die?
A dear family friend and former member of our Friends’ Meeting. Also Malcolm Young, Fats Domino, Tom Petty, Adam West, Chuck Berry, Bill Paxton, and especially Gord Downie.
5. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
Me: A family planner/calendar – and we have it! It’s going to solve everything.
Sean: Really good health.
E: More time making pizza in Roblox world.
A: A horse like Spirit!
6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Me: Teaching at OELC Intermediate Arts twice in one season; persisting through all four rounds of my first sweat lodge; cycling 35 km in one day – and not getting off to walk ONCE.
Sean: Losing 20 pounds – and sticking to my new eating lifestyle!
E: Getting into the Black Belt Club at Tae Kwon Do.
A: Learning all of “Bonjour l’hiver” at school.
7. What was your biggest failure?
Me, Sean: You could say that we’ve finally unpacked… but we still haven’t put most of our art up on the walls.
E: I failed to go back to Tae Kwon Do this fall, because the studio is not offering classes anymore. 🙁
A: I failed to get to school with any seconds to spare, basically every day. Sometimes this was because my socks were failing to sit perfectly on my feet, or my pants were failing to come to exactly the right position at my ankles.
8. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Me (E, A): The two-month cough seems to be finally winding down, knock wood.
Sean: The Diabetus, Type 2. But it’s okay, I’m in the process of kicking its ass.
E: The usual grievous injuries about five times a day.
A: I slipped off the rock into the water at Camp and got bleeding cuts (but I was very brave).
9. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Me, Sean: Trump; extremists/racists/misogynists/mass shooters; Harvey Weinstein et al.
E: Mummy and Daddy, when they make me do chores.
A: Mummy and Daddy, when they don’t do my bidding.
10. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Me: TransCanada putting an end to the Energy East pipeline, attendees at the Women’s March in Washington.
Sean: Those who spoke up in the #metoo movement; Colin Kaepernick taking a knee.
E: Mine, when I committed my TKD Forms to muscle memory.
A: Mine, for the mornings that I woke up as Sweet Daughter (not Screechy Savage Daughter. Those mornings don’t bear writing about).
11. What did you get really excited about?
Me: My new Grade 1-6 Dance/Music teaching job! (Yes, I still do Core French. I will probably do Core French for eternity. It’s fun too.)
Sean: Rafting trip!
E: Going back to North Carolina!
A: Being a vampire for Halloween! I JUST LOVE HALLOWEEN! (Picture this last said with a plastic-fang-induced lisp, skipping along dark evening sidewalks, with fake blood dripping from a joyful smile.)
12. What events from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory, and why:
Me, Sean: Solar eclipse, apocalyptic flooding of so many places.
E, A: The burning of the outhouse at Camp.
All: Getting to know and love Uncle Dave on his visit from up north.
13. What political issue stirred you the most?
Me: Canada 150 controversy, Rohingya refugees. National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
Sean: Alabama’s special election, Jagmeet Singh becoming the first Sikh federal party leader.
E, A: The elimination of screen time on school nights.
14. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Me: PARAGON OF CALM.
E, A: That thing I’m doing when you tell me it’s bedtime.
15. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Me: Procrastinating on going to bed.
Sean: Making excuses.
A: Putting my clothes away.
16. What do you regret?
Me: Not getting regular massages for the last decade.
Sean: All the wasted hours on the internet.
E: Every mistake I every make with a pen. Deeply, excruciatingly.
A: When I’m mean to Mummy and Daddy. But then I forget and do it again.
17. What decision are you glad you made?
Me: To accept the Music/Dance job at my school. SO. MUCH. FUN.
Sean: To go off the recommended ketogenic diet, and to read and follow The Starch Solution by John McDougall.
E: I hardly ever get to decide anything. I just wish I were a grownup so I could do whatever I wanted!!
A: Changing my mind at the last minute to be a vampire for Halloween instead of ANY OTHER THING.
18. How did you spend Christmas?
All: With people we love, all kinds of family. So very fortunate. (Sean even shared our two weeks off due to shutdown! Very exciting.)
19. What song will always remind you of 2017?
Me:Scars to Your Beautiful by Alessia Cara, Believer by Imagine Dragons, We Are Giants by Take That, The Greatest by Sia, Asa by Bry Webb.
Sean, E, A: The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota by Weird Al. (Not a new song, I know. Sean played it for the kids one time and they quickly became obsessed.)
20. What was your favorite TV program?
Me: North & South, Downton Abbey, The Blacklist, Ripper Street, The Crown.
Sean: Stranger Things, Mindhunter, The Crown.
E: I’m not really into TV. I like to race sea-doos, build block homes, and make pizzas on my screen time.
21. What was the best book you read?
Me, Sean: All The Light We Cannot See. Hands down.
E: All my series: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Man, and Captain Underpants.
A: I loved having Beverly Cleary read to me (Ramona books and Emily’s Runaway Imagination).
22. What was your favorite film of this year?
Me: Coco. And Spiderman Homecoming a close second.
Sean: Thor Ragnarok, Spiderman Homecoming.
E: Lego Batman.
23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Me: 39, had delicious dinner made by my sisters, hung out with friends and family. And got to go on the 40th Birthday Rafting Trip even though I’m too young!
Sean: 40, stayed home from work to take care of my sick daughter. And the rafting thing (five months later)!
E: 8, had my friends over to my house, played some crazy games with my friends at the park.
A: 5, had my first party with school friends, got our faces painted, and dipped ALL THE THINGS in hummus – even the popcorn.
24. What new thing would you like to try in 2018?
Me: PARAGON OF CALM. (If I say it enough times, it will surely come true.)
Sean: Four new songs on my guitar.
E: Proper swimming lessons. (Not completely new, but haven’t had them since toddlerhood.)
A: Proper swimming lessons. We both start on Wednesday!
25. Whom did you miss?
26. Who was the best new person you met?
All: Our awesome new child care person and her family.
Me: The whole Summer iArts crew.
E, A: Uncle Dave!
27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016:
Me: Don’t underestimate the difference a seemingly small gesture (or the lack of one) can make to a person going through a rough time.
Sean: Make sure you’re well-hydrated on a long, unaccustomed bike ride. Also, don’t feel guilty if you shun social media.
E: I don’t actually have to freak out about EVERY SINGLE chore I’m asked to do. Just sometimes, to keep ’em on their toes.
A: My friend Isabelle got diabetes. She got them in Florida, where there are lots of diabetes. Also, my dad got his diabetes from eating HP sauce.*
28. 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’…
This is last year’s song lyric, but I think it still applies. And if you are looking back and going, YIKES, 2017, weren’t you supposed to be better than 2016? then go read this list. It helps.
*AB schooled us once at the dinner table when we were talking about diabetes. We said there was no Type 3, and she said “Yes there is! The kind you get when you’re pregnant!” *jawdrop* [Of course!!] The HP sauce thing is because Sean avoided it while on keto, due to sugar content. Those associations get made so firmly, based on so little.
Last Friday morning, I walked home from the grocery store with tears running down my face. It had promised to be a very ordinary day: drop off the kids at school, pick up a few things from the supermarket, get some laundry done and some emails answered before teaching at noon. I’d be thinking about what needed to be prepared for a busy weekend, what Christmas shopping is left, what assessments I need to cover with my students before winter break.
Instead, I got out my wallet to pay at the checkout, and heard the man standing there say, “I’ll take it.” He was short, with glasses, a navy blue jacket, salt-and-pepper hair, and a big smile. He said, “Merry Christmas.” The cashier twinkled at me – this person had just paid the bill for at least one person ahead of me too, including the $120 coat in the cart. (I had caught the end of that conversation but not understood what it was about.)
I admit to having been stunned at that moment. Immediately my eyes filled with tears. Not because I am in need of this generosity; just because it was beautiful. It did not enter my mind to refuse, even as I was wishing the gift had landed on someone for whom it would make a bigger financial difference. I did not wonder at the motivation – this man was obviously just getting a great kick out of nonchalant supermarket generosity at 9 a.m. on a Friday. I waited until he had paid, then I shook his hand and wished him a Merry Christmas, meeting his eyes so he could see that I’d been moved.
My eyes are getting teary all over again as I write this. I can’t even fully explain why.
I know that generosity is all around me. As an elementary school teacher in a very supportive community, I see generosity in big and little ways all the time, from kids and parents and staff. The same is true at my children’s school. These are “have” communities, good at sharing.
I am lucky to live in a place where, as another example, one lovely (artist and blogger) friend of mine was able to rally a large group of women to give their time and money, creating enormous holiday baskets, full of items both crucial and fun, for our local women’s shelter.
Maybe my reaction comes from the fact that self-gratification, overconsumption, and narcissism are writ so large in the world right now. They wear us down, both individually and as a species. Sometimes, a person just needs to be thoroughly surprised by another human’s ability to defy social norms in the name of giving. I can tell you, I appreciated that shock.
Now, I get to benefit twice. My plan is to pay forward this gesture in my own ways, thus also enjoying surprising some folks with something nice, whether they need it or not… But also, it’s my good fortune to keep that moment I’ll never forget, a reason to weep happily over twenty-seven dollars and change.
For Christmas, I wish for you to witness a kindness that puts tears in your eyes.
You know how everything old is new again? How marketers realized that all the kids of the 80s are having their own kids and will pay good money for things that make them go Aw man, I used to have one of those!!
Well, I didn’t, as it happens, have any of these particular items, although I wished I did. (And I think they’re from much earlier than the 80s, given the age of some of the Archie comics we had at home that contained this very ad.)
AB was given a Sea Monkey aquarium, along with a little sachet of eggs, some water purifier, and some powdery sea monkey food, for her birthday. It was just like this one, except blue. (Notice that the sea monkey family portrait has not changed.)
Both kids were pretty excited. We followed all the instructions to the letter, and sure enough, a few days after we’d put the eggs in, there were super-tiny creatures propelling themselves around the aquarium! So cute! They did not have head-crown-thingies that we could discern, and they were nowhere near as nonchalant as the ones in the ad, but still… Cool stuff!!
The big problem was that the instructions don’t go past the first feeding. You’re supposed to wait five days after you put the eggs in there before you feed them, and the instructions make it clear that if you overfeed them THEY WILL SUFFOCATE. But does that mean you feed them every five days subsequently? Or does the schedule change? I turned to the internet for advice, and determined that we should wait at least a few days between feedings. We did our best.
I don’t know what went wrong. Within a week or so, there were only a couple of moving sea monkeys we could find… and then, only one. And then… a still, still tank. There were pathetic moments like when the kids stirred them (like you’re supposed to) and said, “Look, they’re moving around!” or when there was absolutely no movement and she figured, “Let’s just feed them anyway in case they’re only sleeping.”
We were sad that they were dead. Eventually, AB reached the Acceptance stage. This is what she wrote, in tribute.
[That’s pronounced “Sea Monkey-zuh” like when you REALLY want someone to know that it’s plural.]
It was right around Halloween, hence the gravestone savvy. (Actually, there was a rough draft of this picture that had “RCR” on the gravestone – she couldn’t remember what it was supposed to say, and that was her best guess.)
This reads (in the intended order): “To Sea Monkeys. I love you. You died and I did a surprise.”
This picture itself is the “spris”. Surely the sea monkeys are somewhere in the heavenly ether, smiling at their happy likeness.
On a lighter note, you can see that AB has finally reached that stage where she wants to write stuff and isn’t afraid to spell words any which way. Which is AWESOME; I adore this stage. It’s like seeing them learn to talk all over again.
P.S.: I meant to add this to the birthday post, but it segues nicely from sea monkeys. Ever since last spring, AB has been obsessed with the monkey bars. We are lucky at the school because they have lots of bars to climb on at different heights – the kind of structures that have been removed from most playgrounds for some reason. AB does all kinds of tricks on a set of parallel bars and I can just see her little muscles working hard.
And when she crosses the ladder-style monkey bars, which she finally learned to do near the end of JK, her determination is palpable. Her eyes get all steely with focus. And her hands, which are still sweet li’l five-year-old hands with dimply knuckles, have gotten all callused on the palms, as if she were moonlighting as a construction worker. It’s pretty awesome altogether.
Doesn’t it seem like stress has been trending for too long? Like it’s a bit ridiculous that feeling hassled is not reserved for crunch times – that instead it’s just a way of life?
Last week a colleague, who also happens to be my friend and neighbour, asked me, “Do you ever feel like you’re just barely scraping by?”
Fervently, I replied, “Ohmigosh, of course. ALL THE TIME.”
This friend of mine is one of the nicest people you can imagine, smart and hardworking and very compassionate. I’ve never seen her seem anything but serene, even when we’re talking about stress.
We were discussing the ever-tricky work/life balance. She told me about a recent incident in which she’d felt unreliable because she couldn’t remember whether or not she’d completed a particular task. This is something I can definitely relate to. The not-so-shining moments of things falling through cracks because… there’s JUST TOO MUCH.
It was, I think, surprising and comforting to both of us that we feel the same about this. I guess we’re both good at seeming fine when we’re not actually that fine.
The truth was, the previous week had been one in which my undulating perspective was rather more vertiginous than usual. My 39th birthday was on the Thursday, followed by Mother’s Day on the Sunday. My birthday was great – I felt loved and celebrated and worthy.
Things fell abruptly into focus for me on Mother’s Day. It was a lovely morning, with pancakes made by my Hubbibi and sweet little cards from my kids. In spite of this, a few hours later I was grouchy and yelly with those same kids. The little darlings had not taken the bait when I told them my dearest Mother’s Day wish was for them to clean their room and/or the playroom. In fact, both kids have arrived at a stage where they feel entitled to A) not do what I ask, like AT ALL, and B) give me attitude about it. And I just felt bitter.
We did clean up, but I basically had to threaten them. Great mothering right there. (And great childing too.)
The day got better later on, and everything was fine. It’s just that it happens more than I’d like that I get grumpy and raise my voice – and I hate that. I feel myself using guilt as leverage, and I hate that too. But why don’t they see how much work it is to parent them? Why don’t they want to help out? DON’T THEY LOVE ME??
That’s when I start to fret. Are my kids just lazy and selfish? Is it permanent? And if they are, isn’t it muchly my fault, as their mother?
Sean says I worry too much, and I’m sure he’s right. He generally doesn’t worry – but I have no idea how such non-worrying is accomplished. Case in point…
Examples of Things I Worry About
My kids are spoiled beyond all help
My house will never be clean or even properly tidy for more than 17 minutes
I’m not a good mom
I’m not a properly nice person anymore either – I’ve just got people fooled
Teaching is not my true calling
My “undulating perspective” is actually something wrong with my brain
My energy oscillation is actually some weird disease
The frequent headaches I get are actually cancer
E’s melodrama is actually depression
AB will grow up to be a Mean Girl
My husband will die young and I’ll be a single mom
My mind is disorganized because of all the thoughts that want to much to be written down but can’t be because NO TIME
Work/life balance is a pipe dream. Period.
I swear I’ve never been a pessimist or a hypochondriac. I never used to stress out about little things, and it used to take a lot more for me to lose my temper. If I remember correctly, I did not used to be bitchy.
When I think about it at this moment, with the kids asleep in bed (no doubt looking like gorgeous innocent cherubs), I can convince myself that it’s probably not that they’re inherently or permanently lazy/selfish/evil. It’s probably just that they’re four and almost-eight, and they’re figuring out what they can get away with.
And maybe I’m not done for, either. I often have those moments where I look at my healthy children, my brick of a husband, my incredibly comfortable bed, my pretty house, my friendly neighbourhood filled with trees… And I’m completely dazzled by my good fortune. I can hardly believe I get to live this life.
As long as I keep coming back to some semblance of equanimity once in a while, I’m sure I’ll be fine. And get some fracking sleep, for crying out loud. (Or for not crying out loud. One would hope.)
Tomorrow I leave for OELC for a week. Experience tells me it will be one of the busiest and most exciting weeks of my year. It does include stress – but it’s all temporary, and all focused in one place. It’s a place to get centred and come back tired but refreshed. And by then it’s June! So EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE PEACHY.
Yay, it’s spring! Somehow, I’m even more excited about it this year than usual. I’m glad there’s been plenty of rain, like there’s supposed to be. I’m glad there’s been nice sweater-weather – some years it seems we go straight from winter to summer.
A few weeks ago, I had a dream weekend (for the likes of me). I got to perform with my dance sisters at two different events, and train at two workshops with the amazing Audra Simmons. On Sunday, I had an afternoon date with my Hubbibi in which we had a great meal uninterrupted and then wandered around together conversing uninterrupted in the beautiful spring weather. To top it all off, we went to my parents’ to pick up our children, and I had the chance to go out to the marsh and surround myself with this sound:
It just makes me happy.
And now, the flowers are here! Which makes me even gladder. It seems the flowers are just as affecting for AB. We both got in a tizzy about the sweet, fragrant violets when they popped up.
And we were thrilled about these little irises.
AB was so taken with them, she decided on the spot that she would change her name to Iris. Thenceforth, her name would be Iris Olivia P. (Olivia P. is her best friend’s name). Her own actual name was third in line. That evening, I tried to remember to call her Iris a few times. Luckily, this kind of pretending is usually short-lived. She practiced writing her new name a bunch, but hasn’t made us use it.
A week later, I got a note from her JK teacher asking if there was real significance to the name Iris, since AB had been insisting it was actually her name. She had reportedly gotten upset in line at spring picture day because the silly photographers were outrageously USING HER OLD NAME. The poor supply teacher who was with the class that day didn’t know what to do.
Yesterday when I picked AB up at the end of the day, her teacher looked a little unsure and said, “I hope you’ll find this funny…” and handed me the school photo proofs.
I didn’t just laugh, I practically guffawed. Sean did the same when he saw them. Now THAT is a picture of a girl who is pleased with herself. We may actually order some, for the first time.
Our darling children also insisted on a sibling picture, even though we hadn’t requested one. Doesn’t it look like they love each other?
Here’s one more picture, from today, because I was so excited. It’s the wee cherry tree we planted last year. We didn’t know whether to expect anything but leaves… but yippee! Cherry blossoms!
Minnie could never have guessed that being lost at sea would result in a very special connection with a misunderstood sea “monster”. After all, he’s really just a creature looking for love, like you and me (but more scaly).
Sometimes, if an orphaned mini counting-bear comes along at the right point in a mama Bakugan-dragon’s life, she will take the cub and raise it as her own. This mother is seen grooming her cub as if he were her own Baku-spawn.
The green aliens came to Earth for a reason. It really is just a darn lovable place. Makes you want to give it a big smooch. (Canada especially.)