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Sending you actual love, right now.

Free image via pexels.com cabin forest winter night

Hi, Lovelies.

It’s been a busy month for most of us. And cold and snowy for many of us, at least in our area of Ontario.

I also know it’s a really hard month for people. Even for those who celebrate and love the holiday season, it’s hard. Keeping spirits up when there’s so much to do, when expectations are high (especially our own), through the emotional ups and downs of social occasions, anticipation and letdown, hopes and dreads.

I love this time of year, and I find it hard too. I love the music and the food and the family and friends. Gifts are fun too, especially when you get to give gifts to children.

But I still fight depressing thoughts. I worry that materialism and greed will take over my kids, despite our best efforts. I worry about the germs that spread scarily fast in winter. Especially when it’s really cold out, I worry about the people who don’t have someplace warm to be. I feel the emptiness when Christmas ends. And I struggle with the darkness. It makes me dwell on the things that are wrong in the world. It makes them seem overwhelming.

This has always been somewhat true for me. I remember the way it would feel on winter evenings when I was young… I would consciously turn on my warm yellow desk lamp and read an L.M. Montgomery book, to fend off the creeping knowledge that the world is dangerous and violent and dark and cold. I had to deliberately keep these thoughts at bay, even though I had very little actual experience with suffering. I can only imagine how hard it must be for people who don’t have loving families, who don’t feel safe, who spend their days hungry or in pain.

Right now, I’m hoping that you are okay, and have found some beauty in this month.

I hope you have spent time with people you love.

I hope you have also spent at least a little time just for you, doing what you love most.

I hope you felt awe in Nature, despite the darkness – a sunbeam when you really needed it, a bright star, a pink sunrise, the deep hush of a snowfall in progress.

I hope the shortening of nights has been a comfort, even though it’s hard to see.

I hope that if you were grieving, you did not feel alone.

I hope you deeply felt the support, purpose, creativity, and unity you needed.

I hope you’ve had a really good laugh.

I hope you saw – or were part of – generosity in action.

I hope your home was warm, and your candles burned bright.

I hope you’ve felt some true wonder lately.

And some joy.

Today is a beautiful snowy day. (And it’s packing snow, miracle of miracles!) Our tree is still up and smells sweet. Our kids are not completely healthy right now, but healthy enough to play. We have been blessed to visit with all family branches this month. There’s been singing, which is important to me. Also family games and jigsaw puzzles, which I love. Sean has actually had significant time off, which is a treat for all of us. I’m very grateful for all these things.

2016 has been a rough and upsetting year in many ways, but it’s almost done. We in this house are choosing to be optimistic about 2017.

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Dear Kids: For the record, you adore each other.

Our kids are like most siblings: they play together, and they fight together. Sometimes, the screaming is pretty horrifying. And then there are those moments – and those little games and traditions they invent – that warm you right down through to the sub-cockle area of your heart.

{For example, there’s this one funny procedure whenever I give them their vitamins. They have fish-shaped ones and Disney-character-shaped ones – please don’t judge us – and they MUST discuss them every time. They announce the colours they received, and what characters, and what order they eat them in. And then they put up their thumbs in different positions depending on whether their vitamins match or not. I don’t know why or how this came about, but they’re both VERY attached to the ritual.}

Last evening, there was a lot more good and happy play than screaming. (Which I really needed, after three weeks in a row of my Hubbibi on evening shifts.) At one point, they were sitting amicably together in the guest room, having constructed a barrier so each could not see what the other was drawing.

Turns out E was making a present for AB. The next morning there was a note in the advent calendar pocket, which completely turned around a morning that had promised to be very grumpy on her part:

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look in the guest room and you will find a present there

And it led her to this lovely festive drawing…

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Bells are ringing!

And THIS was on the other side.

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I can’t even.

I got a bit teary-eyed and all squeezy and kissy with that boy when he showed me. (Which he doesn’t mind as he is a squeezy, kissy type himself. They’re both very affectionate, even with each other, to the point that staff members at their school stop to watch their sweet little goodbyes in the mornings as a pick-me-up.)

And since we’re looking a wee masterpieces, here’s what AB was drawing at the same time.

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Sort of looks like an underwater scene… But it’s a holiday scene!

The spidery things are suns, and the phallic green-and-brown thing is a Christmas tree (obvs), and the little brown guy is a reindeer, and the swoopy line is a sleigh, and the black dots are buttons on a (non-visible) snowman, and there are also a few flowers and stars sprinkled in there.

So, kids, if you’re reading this and you’ve reached that phase of your lives (because we have to assume it will arrive eventually) where each of you annoys the other ALL THE TIME, please just know that you truly love one another deep down, and you’re a sublime little team when you need to be. We love you kajillions.

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Failure and Gratitude and Christmas Spirit

Hey, lovely Di-hards. And hi, li’l blog. I’ve missed you all.

It’s hard to believe that not only has half of November come and gone since I last wrote, but Christmas has too. There are many who would tell me not to beat myself up about absolutely crashing and burning in the middle of NaBloPoMo, and while I would, in essence, agree, I also count it as a failure on my part. I deliberately set my expectations on the low side, and still didn’t meet them.

Since then, many blog posts have been pondered – and some started – and none finished. Damn inertia, and damn the unexplainable standards I set for myself, and the guilt I always feel on my own behalf.

I’m hoping it’s the stage of life that I’m at. Since having kids, I have handily and necessarily learned how to let certain things fall by the wayside, but now I think I may be a little TOO good at it. I have always had real trouble quitting  or even backing away from things, as a kid and as a young adult, and in my soul I’m still not comfortable with it.

I also don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t feel gratitude during the latter half of November. I thought about it every day, and wanted to tell you about it.

Of course, looking back at November, and even much of December, I can see that there were obstructive factors (read: excuses). They tended to be of a distinctly non-festive, non-literary, laundry-intensive, medical-but-humdrum nature that made me say, “I could blog about this… but who wants to read about the minutiae of cleaning up cat diarrhea or accidentally spraying clarithromycin across the room or doing kid-puke laundry at 1 a.m.?”

I was also acutely aware, as Christmas got closer, of how all those problems, while tiring and time-consuming, were small potatoes. I couldn’t help thinking, very often, of the Neville-Lake family and the Bott family, each of whom lost three children in tragic accidents this fall, here in Canada. Awful as it is to imagine the pain of these families, it makes a parent grateful even for the tantrums and the nighttime wakeups and unending messes – things that, as Sean put it, those parents would give anything to have back.

And, of course, there are the refugees. On December 23rd, I was reading about people working tirelessly to gather desperate Syrians from the seas off the edge of Greece, to make them warm and feed them something. Tears rolled down my face as I read. I felt grateful, not just for my extremely safe and easy life, but also for the amazing work of humans who care about other humans.

I also felt enormously grateful to live in a country that has opened its doors, where folks are excited to be welcoming these people who so urgently need our hospitality. We Canadians, freed from the oppressively bad attitude of our former government, are remembering our long-held tradition of making sure there’s room at the inn for people fleeing persecution. Remembering what real kindness looks like. That is downright Christmasy.

Now, Christmas is past, and the southern U.S. is being battered with scary, deadly weather, and Ontario is bracing for our own storms. I’m so thankful that the Southerners I love are safe and well right now.

It should be mentioned, of course, that in spite of the odds, we have spent happy, fun time during the Christmas season with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins from each of our family branches, as well as many good friends – and, miraculously, none of us was hacking up a lung/crying with earache/vomiting during ANY of those times! (And once again, props and gratitude to my own teacher immunities for helping me stave off icky things, over and over.)

And finally, many thanks to Auntie Emi, who ensured me this block of time to write today by making sure my children were occupied. xoxoxo. I had been feeling sad when thinking of my blog, like it’s an old friend I just don’t see or really know anymore… And now I feel better.

Love to all of you and your beloved people this season.

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(Photo credit: Ina Fassbender/Reuters)

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100 Happy Days – Day 37: Christmas Tree!

 

 

I wish you could have seen how excited the kids were to decorate our Christmas tree. Especially AB – she kept saying things like, “I’m DECORATING THE TREE!” and “Look at this one! It’s so cool.”

Like last year, we got a pre-cut tree from the local Y, which helps to support their Youth programs. And boy, does it smell like beautiful Christmas.

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Happy.
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Focused little decorator.
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As usual, certain lower branches are more thoroughly laden than others.
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Yay!

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100 Happy Days – Day 34: Advent Calendars

This year, we are marking the days of advent LIKE A BOSS. Like a whole FAMILY O’ BOSSES.

That is to say, E still has Auntie Beth’s gorgeous creation which we fill day by day with tiny nifty things. (Except for yesterday, when I broke E’s heart by not having it secretly filled by the instant he woke up, and he cried and insisted, “It gets filled at night! Now it’ll never work again!!!” But then, it magically did work, while he was at school.)

Then, Grandma J got the kids each a classic Santa Claus advent calendar with teeny stamped chocolates for each day – because who doesn’t love a teeny chocolate first thing in the morning? Sean gets all nostalgic about his own advent-chocolate exploits of childhood. And AB was pretty screechy-happy when she found out what was behind those windows.

And this year, I finally ordered “traditional” advent calendars for E and AB – the kind with little pictures behind each window, like I had when I was a kid. Because I love-love-loved my own advent calendar and wanted them to have something similar.

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AB got woodland creatures.
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E got the one with the cars (Norman Rockwell).

And then Grammie sent animated virtual advent calendars from (by Jacquie Lawson), and they are very spiffy. Games and puzzles and tree-decorating and pets that follow you around, and new things to explore each day. (My favourite thing so far is the snowflake designing tool, where the six-way symmetry turns whatever you make into a gorgeous snowflake.)

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This is the opening scene of the Edwardian one…
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And this is the Christmas Market one.

To sum up: with this much counting down, there’s no excuse for not being absolutely ready for Christmas this year! Unless the excuse is that we were having too much fun with our advent calendars to do anything else.

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100 Happy Days – Day 23: Party at the Farm

Sunday, November 23rd: Festive Fun at Springridge Farm!

We have a group of friends that do two Christmas parties per year – one for the kids and one for the adults. Our friend K organized this epic outing this year:

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A funny, bumpy tractor-drawn wagon ride…
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Some cookie-decorating…
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With gingerbread people and chocolate candies (AB ended up with just those two questionably-placed candies on hers)…
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(And E was, unsurprisingly, very particular and precise about his…)
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We saw animals (chickens, turkeys, peacocks, goats, bunnies…)
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Got lots of fresh air…
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And climbed and jumped and ran on hay…
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And found mud puddles…
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(to sit in – thank goodness for splash pants…)
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Climbed a big awesome hill…
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And there was general joy for all, including li’l G (whose mama couldn’t be there so the rest of us doted on/photographed him)…
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And tractor riding (E’s favourite)!…
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On designer tractors, no less…
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And there was even some sliding.

It was very fast-paced. There were also mini-pizzas, cupcakes, juice boxes, mural-colouring, and even a wee bit of chatting amongst the parents, when possible.

GOOD TIMES.

Thank you, K!!

P.S. All the photos that look great in this post are by Daddy. The ones that look mediocre are mine.

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100 Happy Days – Day 22: Singing Children

When your kids sing, it makes all the hard stuff worthwhile.

AB wandering around the house, singing a bittersweet, evocative song to the “friends” she’s carrying with her.

And E heartily singing at the breakfast table: “Oh, tidings are covered in joy, covered in joy!”

I just melt.

He sang this refrain yesterday in he car, too, and asked me, “Mummy, are you covered in joy?” I told him there were definitely times when I am. Like that moment.

(I’m afraid I don’t have photos of this, since you have to just love the moment and a pic wouldn’t do it justice anyway… so I’m cheating on the photo-every-day thing. I’ll see what I can do about a singing montage sometime soon, to make up for it.)

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