Happy Birthday, Three-Year-Old!

Dear Baby AB,

It has already been two weeks since your birthday! I know you’re not a baby. You are THREE. That is BIG. But of course, you’ll always be my baby, so I reserve the right to call you that.

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I just want you to know, belated or not, that we’re all besotted by you, despite your status as one of the most sporadically aggravating humans on the planet.

Right now, as you turn three, you are the driver of an emotional rollercoaster your whole family rides on. You feel entitled to fly into a fury if someone helps you with something you’ve decided you must do yourself. (And your fury often includes kicking and hitting along with the screaming, even though those things never get you what you want.) You will randomly make up rules on the spot and vehemently scold the person unwittingly breaking them. You utterly refuse to be hurried when it comes to choosing your wardrobe for the day. You seem to get a kick out of insisting that you DON’T NEED TO PEE until the last possible second (or sometimes, unfortunately, later). You will cut right into someone else’s conversation and then get all mad that they’re interrupting you, shouting, “SHUSHH!!!

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During the first few weeks of school, you decided you no longer liked our daycare provider, who has been taking care of you and your brother since the beginning. You said she was mean to you, and you even tried to convince us that she punched you. (Someday you’ll understand how funny that sounded.) [Lovely di-hards, in case you’re worried, we would consider the possible veracity of these allegations if we had any doubt at all that they’re false. But we don’t.] You told poor M that you didn’t like her and didn’t want to be there, right to her face. There was clinging and sobbing at drop-off time. Poor M was wondering if you might actually need a new daycare provider. (We are gradually getting past this, though, with a bribe-y sticker chart and lots of reminders that we love you SO MUCH, even when we are apart, and that M loves you too.)

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On the morning you turned three, I asked you if you felt different, and you said yes – you felt three. Then, when Auntie Beth came up to wish you a happy birthday, you told her that “three is cooperating.” There was, according to you, going to be a whole new level of cooperation going on in your three-year-old world.

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This has not really panned out. That very evening, you were violently uncooperative about bedtime, and it was actually rather awful. We are still trying to figure out the best ways to deal with these moments.

But then. You’re also the most adorable sweetness-pie in the world. When you’re not angry, you’re wonderful.

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You dance like a princess and a rocker and a belly dancer – all with equal fervency. You love to do gymnastic poses, inspired by the aerialists you saw last summer. You read new improved versions of our storybooks to yourself for long periods of time (even the names are changed – you are great at making up names. Your current favourite is Golla). You sing often, in your own language, whether or not you have an audience. You are full of ideas, brimming with imagination and leadership, and you’d be boss of the whole world, if the world would let you.

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You and your brother have lots of arguments that involve the above-mentioned fury… but then again, your relationship is also full of sweetness. You make up games no adult could possibly invent, and play them happily. E is often content to acquiesce to your imperious commands, with an affectionate chuckle at how cute you can be when you’re ordering people around. When you’re peaceful together, it’s a blessing to watch and listen.

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And you’re full of love. You give amazing big squeezy hugs, and tell your people that you love them on a regular basis. There is nothing in life as awesome as feeling your little arms around my neck and hearing, “I love you, Mama.” And then there was that time the other week, when I was about to leave for dance class, and you grabbed my hand in both your little ones, and held it to your soft baby cheek, looked at me with your big oceanic eyes, and said, “I love you the whole time you’re gone, okay?” My heart almost burst.

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Sometimes, you’re so beautiful in your you-ness, I can hardly stand it.

Here’s a little video I started making many days ago, to celebrate your third year. I love you always, the whole time, and I hope I always remember exactly how saucy, smart, tender, fiery, and special you are at this moment.

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A Very Special One-Year-Old and His Mom

One year ago yesterday, a cherished and unusual little person named Kieran was born.

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His mom, my friend Skye, already knew he would be born with a cleft lip and palate. It was a tough time when she found out about it, because there are a lot of challenges that go with having a cleft – for the child and the parents. And although she is a brave, dedicated, smart, and pragmatic mom, she is also a single one, and she already had a toddler at home.

So she researched the heck out of cleft lip and palate issues, and prepared herself as best she could. She went on lots of forums to read about real people’s experiences. She knew she would need special bottles for him, and a breast pump – because as much as she would have loved to nurse Kieran as she had her first son Grayson, she had found out in her research that the attempts of a cleft-palate baby to breastfeed often actually use up more energy than they provide.

She also knew he would need multiples surgeries, two of them within the first year.

Skye gave birth to Kieran the hard way; she had been given an epidural that came unseated, and you can’t get always get a visit from the anesthesiologist when you need one. (The nurse didn’t figure out the problem until afterwards – and even if she had, she’s not allowed to replace the needle.) I had the privilege of being present for the birth, and I wish I’d had the confidence to go harass somebody about it.

In spite of the severe pain, however, things did go well. Skye was a trouper. Kieran was born healthy and precious, and was immediately cuddled by his smitten mama. Thanks to her thorough preparation, they had everything they needed ready to go.

Skye and Kieran had lots of visits to McMaster Children’s Hospital throughout his first year, with a team of professionals (a plastic surgeon, an ENT doctor, a pediatric dentist, and a developmental pediatrician, to start with) checking on him and getting him ready for his operations. When I would visit them in those newborn days, he wore tape on his lip and a hook in one nostril, to stretch his face gradually to the shape it would take after surgery.

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He would drink from his special bottles and burp like a teenage boy. It took him a while to gain weight, but it wasn’t long before he learned to smile and interact, and although he did not look like a typical infant, he was incredibly cute.

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During Cleft Awareness Week (in May), Skye shared these thoughts:

When I first saw pictures of babies with a cleft lip, it was hard to look. Before Kieran came, I didn’t know what to expect with respect to his appearance. But really, who knows what to expect! 

I have since read some things online about parents who are nervous to put their child’s picture online (or even take a picture) or even take their child in public, for fear of reactions. My heart breaks for those parents, and those children. It never crossed my mind to hide Kieran, only to show him off. Looking back, maybe he has helped someone else be more comfortable with some kind of difference, but that is not why I did it. I did it because how could I not? He is (and was) adorable!

I never had one, even slightly, negative reaction to the way Kieran looks. I feel like the world proved its kindness, which I usually believe in anyway.

The first two weeks following the three-month lip surgery would test the mettle of any parent. Suddenly Kieran could not use his soother, had a little cone (“trumpet”) in his nose to shape it, had splints (called “no-nos”) on his arms to prevent him from touching his stitches, and was dealing with painkillers – and a mouth that was whole new shape. As you can imagine, there was a lot of crying and soothing and difficulty sleeping during that time. Skye had wisely pre-arranged for Grayson to spend big chunks of that time with grandparents and friends to ease the situation.

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As mentioned, though, Skye is brave and dedicated – and, as you’ve no doubt gathered, really tough. The rest of us were not surprised, but definitely awed, at how graciously she managed – and how she always seems to manage in general, despite how hard things can get.

As Kieran’s face healed, I missed his wide-open smile, but it was amazing to see how suddenly obvious was his resemblance to his brother Grayson.

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The surgery on the palate itself is supposed to happen around the one-year mark for babies with clefts. Thankfully, Kieran got his about seven weeks before that, so they had some recovery time before his birthday, and before September when Skye goes back to work.

For Skye, the two weeks after the second surgery were both harder and easier than the first time: Kieran still had to wear no-nos, could only have pureed food, and was unfortunately adamant about not drinking from a cup (and therefore not drinking at all – stressful for mama!). He was more distractable, but less soothable. She went on lots of walks with him, because it seemed to help.

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Since his palate has healed, he has finally learned to suck normally for the first time. It’s frankly amazing what the specialists – and a caring family – can accomplish.

Now, somehow, Kieran is one whole year old. He is very charming and handsome, and very strong-willed (some might say stubborn); he feeds himself enthusiastically, and recently started crawling; he smiles a lot and shows off his three teeth; and he is loved by a whole lot of people. He will probably need help with learning to speak, and he may need more surgeries later in life. He will get to some of his milestones in different ways and at different times from other kids.

He, and his family, are really special and awesome.

From the grit he is already showing, I have a feeling Kieran is going to be just as tough and brave as his mama, so I know they will get through it all together.

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There’s lots of information on cleft lip and palate at Cleftsmile.org.

A site specifically for moms of babies with cleft lip and palate is Cleftopedia.com.

To donate to surgeries for babies with cleft lip and palate worldwide, please visit Operation Smile.

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One Decade of Marriage

Dear Sean,

It’s hard to believe that it has been ten whole years since the day we pledged ourselves to each other as husband and wife. A decade sounds long, but feels short these days.

On the other hand, ten years is short, in a way, since our story began long before that.

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It has been almost twenty-four years since we shared a Grade 9 Enhanced Math class, in which you were gregarious and funny and cocky, and I was quiet and cerebral and nerdy, and you volunteered to run our Christmas gift drive, and I noticed when you were writing on the blackboard that you had a cute butt.

It has been twenty-two years, give or take, since we spent enough time in our mutual group of friends for me to know that, in addition to your class-clown side, you also had a quiet, cerebral, nerdy side, and a philosophical, argumentative side. It was a mysterious and interesting combination.

It has been nineteen years since the high-school graduation breakfast where you made everyone at our very long restaurant table laugh so hard we practically choked on our pancakes.

It has been close to fifteen years since we both prepared to leave our hometown on long-term journeys, and you suggested unexpectedly that we should write letters to each other – letters that would become highlights of my challenging, exciting, homesick, turbulent, emotional, unforgettable European odyssey.

It has been thirteen-and-a-half years since the Christmas when you thought you’d lost your chance, and wrote me a story to win me over – not realizing I was already yours.

It has been twelve years since we euphorically painted the walls of our first shared apartment in our new city, so broke we could only afford to rent kids’ movies at the video store a block away.

It has been almost eleven years since the Tuesday night in October when you proposed to me, in our bedroom, with me in pjs and my hair a mess – partly to cheer me up after a bad day, and partly because you simply couldn’t wait for the weekend and the official proposal plan. I was struck speechless by the beautiful ring you had chosen. (To this day, you can’t sit on a secret gift very long.)

On that beautiful wedding day ten years ago, I promised that for the rest of our lives, I would laugh with you, play with you, challenge you and protect you; that I would not hide from you, but would confide in you and be true to both of us; that I would be your comfort, your friend, your lover, and your partner in times of joy and of pain; and that above all, I would love you. And of course, you promised the same to me.

We’ve done, and still do, all of those things. In these ten years, we’ve had the joy and the pain. We’ve both changed workplaces more than once. We bought our first house. We conceived four children, birthed three, and were blessed to keep two.

We have struggled with work and stress, sleep and health, time and money, and finding those often-delicate lines of communication between openness and injury. We have been stretched by the delights and demands of parenting our dazzling, frustrating, wonderful kids.

Despite three very close calls that almost ended our relationship in the first two years, and many experiences to test us since then… I’ve never doubted the strength of our promises. We are a great team, and I feel so lucky to know it.

I love parenting with you, knowing we have each other’s backs, and knowing that if I’m not at my best on a particular day, you will summon your extra patience and balance things out.

I love that we laugh at the same things and enjoy the same forms of entertainment, especially the games we geek out on (Settlers, Yahtzee, Cribbage, Gin, all forms of Trivia…).

I love that we can have a difficult argument but still manage to listen to each other; that we can make our way through thorny topics, and still hug at the end – and mean it.

I love that I’ve lost count of the number of times you’ve rescued me, in both big and small ways, and always without complaint.

I love it when I make you laugh unexpectedly, and you hug me and say, “I knew I married you for a reason!”

And I love the moments when the reasons I married you are so clear, too. When we’re snuggling – still one of my favourite activities in the world – and we get the giggles, and then the kids pile on top, and there’s tickling and limbs in faces, and it’s the best.

When you’re telling me about something you’ve been learning about, and your curiosity and passion remind me of the importance of wonder in life.

When I’m fretting for some reason, and you make the kind of frank-but-insightful comment that cuts through my overthinking, and brings the issue down to its essence.

When our children do something cute or astonishing or both, and we look at each other incredulously: how did we ever make those??

When we suddenly find ourselves in a moment too steamy to blog about.

When you know the answer to that question I’ve been wondering about, or know how to fix that thing that’s not working right.

When you squeeze my hand because you know we’re thinking the same thing.

When I can hear you reading stories to the kids, and you’re so tender and great with them.

When we’re singing together in the kitchen or in the car.

When we make a new plan for our life together, and I am buoyed by your optimism.

In just a few weeks, we will move to the next chapter of our lives, in our new house. I can hardly wait to see what the next decade will bring to the little family we’ve made.

Love you jillions, for always,

Di

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Anti-Rape Training Begins at Birth

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My firstborn son E is an extremely cuddly kid. He has always wanted snuggles and hugs and kisses, in good times and in bad. It’s great for me, as his mom, to know I can calm him by taking him in my arms, even now that he’s five; and honestly, I’ll be heartbroken when he decides he’s too big to snuggle.

When E’s baby sister was born, he fell in love with her almost instantaneously. Naturally, he wanted to kiss her silky cheeks, put his face right next to hers, and get his arms right around her warm wriggly little body. ALL THE TIME.

My daughter is a snuggly one too, but in a very different way. She wants hugs and kisses – but only on her terms. Even as a tiny infant, if she decided she was getting over-nuzzled, she’d screech and flail her arms in self-defense.

Right away, we had to start coaching E: “That’s how she says ‘No.’ She’s telling you that she needs some space.”

These instructions got more and more specific:

  • If she screams, it means No.
  • If she pushes you, it means No.
  • If she hits you, it means No.
  • If she thrashes around – as far as you’re concerned – it means No.

Often, he really didn’t want to take that No for an answer. “But… I wanna kiss her!”

So, at three-and-a-half, he was being told, “It’s not about you. That’s her body. It doesn’t matter what you want: she gets to say what happens to it.”

These words, as you can imagine, have a tendency to make my brain jump ahead a decade or so, when they will be even more relevant… which is a little scary.

The teaching is not just for him. I also want her to feel confident that the boundaries she sets for herself are valid.

It was really hard, when she was a newborn, to moderate my own instinct to cuddle her every time she needed soothing; sometimes it was what she wanted, but sometimes it would make her extra-furious. Her cues were actually very clear, but it still took me a long time to get used to following them, after the habits I’d formed with E.

Now that she’s two-and-a-third, if she gets really angry about something, we all know that she needs her space. She will tell us when she’s ready for physical comforting. She’ll rage around on the floor (or wherever), and eventually she’ll say, “Can I have a hug?” or, heartbreakingly, “Can you make me happy?”, which we’ve learned also means she’d like to be snuggled.

And E knows that he is expected to ask permission to give her kisses and hugs. He often does say, “Can I please have a kiss?” Nonetheless, he’ll sneak ’em in without consent as often as he can get away with it. And we know this because if he tries it and she’s not in the mood, she’ll shriek and whack him one.

E will cry, “She hit me!” and I’ll say, “Were you in her space without asking?” If the answer’s yes, then we’re in the grey area of our “No hitting” policy.

Here, my imagination jumps again to the teenage versions of my kids (not that I’m ready for that world… but it’s gonna happen). Yes, we are teaching our children that hitting each other is not the way to solve conflicts, but if there were a boy touching my sixteen-year-old AB in some unwanted way, I hope to God she would have the conviction to make her boundaries clear. If she someday feels she has to scream or scratch or hit someone who’s not taking No for an answer, then I absolutely want her to do it.

{Side note: Reason #297 Why I Love “Frozen”: Boy actually asks girl permission to kiss her. Groundbreaking in its genre.}

Especially since having a daughter, I’ve often recalled an anecdote from a friend about her little girl and how she and her husband bribed her to give her uncle a goodbye hug. It was kind of a joke, in which the daughter was happy to score a jujube, but they later decided to stop the practice. If she was getting a “no” feeling from an encounter, she should have the right to decline hugs.

I now find myself thinking along these lines in situations I never considered before. For instance, when you ask a toddler for a hug and get refused, it’s almost automatic to pull an exaggerated sad face so that the benevolent child will take pity on you and give you a hug. And to be honest, AB loves that game – she likes to deny her Daddy kisses, and then grin and say, “Can you cry?”

But dammit, you know there are teenage boys out there pulling sad faces and hackneyed “it-hurts-if-we-don’t-go-all-the-way” bullsh*t on inexperienced girls – and it works often enough. Guilt is a powerful tool, if not a legitimate one.

I even sometimes get touchy about those moments when there’s a crazy tickle-fest and I hear an uproarious “No! No! Heeheeheeheeheeheehee!! No!” Yes, I KNOW sometimes No kind of means Yes. I trust my husband to know the difference between happy screams and had-enough, when it comes to our kids.

But part of me feels like ANY physical contact should immediately cease the moment the words “No” or “Stop” come into play. Because those words mean what they mean, for good reason; is it really up to someone else to interpret if that’s a “real” No? That’s a dangerous road. Furthermore, if you don’t actually mean No when you say it, you’re diluting its purpose.

I don’t want to risk subtleties and implications being lost on my wee kids. We need to use the words we mean, and mean the words we use.

I probably sound a bit paranoid. Or maybe a lot. It’s not that I want my daughter to freak out whenever someone touches her, or my son to worry about every gesture of affection he wants to give. But if the Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby fiascoes have taught us anything, it’s that some people have very warped ideas about consent – what it looks like, and whether it’s necessary. And it’s also been made clear that rape culture is alive and well in North America in 2015.

Yesterday I was reading about a petition launched by two Grade 8 girls in Ontario, advocating for the provincial Health curriculum to include lessons on consent (above and beyond the “Feeling Yes, Feeling No” stuff in the primary grades). Apparently, there was outcry by certain conservative parent groups when expectations around consent were proposed by the government in 2010 – as is the case whenever the Ministry of Education proposes talking about sexuality as if it’s real and relevant to kids.

Any time there’s pushback from parents about sex ed, it confirms for me that it’s still absolutely necessary – and in this case, that more is needed. The topic of consent is crucial.

What an amazing thing, for two young girls to take this initiative and understand its importance. Better yet, it worked. Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the changes to the curriculum earlier this month. (To those who are outraged that their objections – the ones that made McGuinty back down – didn’t work on Wynne, I say: suck it up. Your kids will know about this stuff one way or another. Times are changing.)

As for my household, I want to be clear: it’s full of hugs, kisses, snuggles, and general cuddliness. That aspect of our lives is really important to both my kids: they are both very attached to their goodnight and goodbye hugs and kisses, with each other as well as with us. (And AB is only content with proper hugs, no half-hugs: “I need my arms around his back!” It’s adorable.) I’m optimistic that both my children will find themselves in physically and emotionally safe, affectionate, and satisfying relationships (MANY years from now).

And until then (please, please), may their awareness of personal boundaries protect them both from harm, and from harming.

*To read about the curriculum changes, please click here.*

*If you are interested in signing the petition to reinforce the support, please click here.*

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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)…
tractor riding
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 21: Uncomplicated Indoor Fun

Is it awful that I took the kids out for sledding today and kinda sorta hated it?

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Snow trompin’.

It was a sunny day but our park has no shelter and is very windy. We were all cold, especially AB because, against the odds, she had snow up her snow pants right away; E had to groom the sledding hill himself because it had not been broken in by other sledders (which meant he alternated between pure joy and abject frustration); AB furiously insisted on going on the swings, right after saying she had to pee, so… STRESS. There was plenty of screeching, for various reasons. I’m all for fresh air and tromping around in snow… and yet, it’s not always as fun as you think it should be.

So! Here’s to playing INDOORS! Yay.

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It’s the CN tower!! (Right?) I totally love Play Doh IN the containers. Perfect.
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E made this multimedia palace with his Auntie Em this morning (PA day). It’s intricate – but I still classify it Uncomplicated Fun.

Ahh. Good times.

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100 Happy Days – Day 4: Silence

There are two kinds of silence that made me happy on Day 4.

One was in my 5/6 Core French class. They are a class that is, as a group, not great at self-regulation. Many of them have great difficulty stopping themselves from saying whatever they feel like saying, whenever they feel like saying it, in whatever language (i.e. English, not French). And some, it seems, just… never learned basic courtesy. Makes for a sub-optimal classroom environment.

I’ve had a whole system in place designed to curb this kind of noise and distraction, but in spite of having spent a lot of lunch breaks in discussion with certain students, overall behaviour hasn’t improved the way it needs to. It occurred to me that by telling them I will warn them (by name) when I see the kind of behaviour that will get them in trouble, I’m allowing them to relinquish ownership of their conduct.

So I gave them a frank lecture. Since these are 10-and-11-year-olds who do know what’s expected, I said I would take notes on the behaviour I was seeing, without wasting class time to talk about it. At the end of 50 minutes (which is actually ALWAYS less, by the time the kids get to me), if a student has a list of actions that need further discussion, we can take recess time to write out a “good copy” of what happened, for their parents. (Honestly, some kids’ lists would look like this on a bad day, if they were permitted to follow their instincts: “Today I forgot to take my hat off at the beginning of class, talked out when it wasn’t my turn twelve times, tried to argue with classmates/teacher three times, fell out of my chair once, insulted my classmate three times, sprawled on learning carpet as if it were my couch twice, stole my neighbour’s {whatever} twice, and left the classroom before I was dismissed.”)

Anyway. Point is, as I told them my new strategy, you could have heard a pin drop. TOTAL QUIET. Ahh, it was so lovely. Like watching a rare orchid bloom. Balm for my ears.

And THEN. One of my students raised his hand, while his classmate was writing the date on the board, and asked a legitimate question about the word “novembre” (we talk a lot about loanwords and root words in our class) and I answered it, which included me writing the numbers from 1 to 10 in Latin on the board. In case you don’t know, the word for six in Latin is “sex.”

I actually wrote “sex” on the board in front of 29 pre-teens – and they stayed quietThat’s how well my li’l talk worked. It was AMAZING, y’all. (Even if it only lasted for 1.5 periods.)

The other kind of silence is one that makes me happy almost every evening. We are a family with a birthright Quaker (me) as a mama, and although we attend Quaker meeting only sporadically, we do keep the tradition of silent grace before family meals. We hold hands in a circle, and sometimes we close our eyes, and think about the good fortune we have to be together for a good meal… and then we squeeze hands and it’s done.

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This is a dramatization. E is not usually smiling beneficently during silence. AB does do squeeze-shut-eyes like this, though.

AB has enjoyed the hand-holding ever since she was a baby. When she got old enough to say words, she used to order us: “Close de eyes.” And I don’t remember who started the tradition of saying, “I love you, family,” at the end of silence, but now we all say it every time – and my kids are usually the first to pipe up. I know this ritual means a lot to both of them. If they miss it for some reason, they want us to do it again.

It’s pretty much the most cheesily, heartwarmingly wonderful thing ever.

Oh, and speaking of silence… I may put this whole thing on hiatus until my blog is back to being healthy. My IT peeps and I are still working through issues that make blogging extremely annoying and slow, and although I am definitely noticing and enjoying happy things every day, trying to post about them under the circumstances saps that positivity with alarming speed. So… there may be a form of blog silence happening for a while. I hope not, but we’ll see.

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Please Don’t Wish Me “Happy Turkey Day”

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Turkey appears courtesy of my son.

Don’t worry: this is not an angry rant or even a grumpy one. A little persnickety, perhaps. It might not even qualify as a rant.

I would just like to ask that you wish me Happy Thanksgiving this year, instead of Happy Turkey Day.

I know y’all are excited about your turkey. Some of you look forward to your roasted bird all year long, and it’s your very favourite thing. That’s great! The more you relish the foods you love, the more they are worth eating.

But Thanksgiving does not deserve to be renamed “Turkey Day.”

{OMG. Is it me, or is the word “turkey” starting to look totally bizarre?}

It’s not just that I’m a vegetarian and haven’t eaten turkey since I was thirteen. I mean, sure, that does factor in; folks write about Turkey Day on their Facebook walls and I’m all, Don’t suppose you’d like to wish ME a Happy Lentil Pie Day? Because trust me, Lentil Pie is a very happy-making food. (By the way, if you are one of those FB “Turkey Day” rhapsodizers, no hard feelings. I still love you.)

It’s not that I wish we could talk more about Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower, or Puritans and Native peoples eating together (they probably ate at least as much venison as turkey anyway).

Mostly, I wish to be wished a Happy Thanksgiving because of the thanks-giving part.

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Appreciating simple gifts.

Let’s be honest: most of our mainstream holidays reek of commercialism at this point. Valentine’s Day is about chocolate, Easter is about chocolate, Victoria Day is about fireworks and drinking, Christmas is about shopping, Boxing Day is about shopping, and, in the U.S., Thanksgiving is about shopping too. Well, that and football.

I’m not saying we must all devoutly return to the religious and/or patriarchal and/or monarchist roots of each holiday. But, at the risk of sounding sanctimonious, could we just keep this one holiday, at least in Canada, for thankfulness?

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Autumn colours are good for the brain.

Yes, it’s undeniable that Thanksgiving is revolves around a certain amount of consumption. But ideally, it’s the simpler side of consumption – and one time when we all consume with reverence. When we think of words like harvest and plenty and gratitude, and really feel their meanings deep in our souls.

These days, most of us don’t do things like get our hands in the soil, or pray for rain, or reap the literal fruits of our labour. Despite this – or perhaps because of this – we need to keep in mind that being nourished is a profound blessing. It’s important to think of what it took for that food to be on our table.

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Seriously magnificent food.

I look forward to Thanksgiving because of those beautiful moments where gratitude is almost tangible. Walking in chilly autumn sun. Catching a glimpse of bright trees against sky that renders me speechless. Coming inside and having my glasses fog up in the sudden coziness. Smelling delicious things cooking (even the ones I’m not going to eat). Looking past candle flames at a feast of colourful foods, and a circle of people I love.

It’s good for our souls to not just notice, but cherish, our good fortune. Especially the simple gifts.

Thanksgiving is the point.

***


 

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Happy Second Birthday, Rainbow Baby

AB's second birthday

Dear Delicious Little Girl,

Two years ago yesterday, you came peacefully into the world, and immediately began howling. It was a day joyous beyond description for the people who love you.

Since then, we’ve learned a lot about you. Some things we learned right away:

  • You like to be snuggled – but not every second.
  • You are unafraid to use your voice to express yourself and your needs.
  • You have a strong set of pipes.
  • Your beautiful eyes can break hearts.

Other things it has been our privilege to watch developing:

  • You love music and dancing.
  • Your smile and your excitement are infectious.
  • You are really into books and stories.
  • You learn fast – when it comes to things you care about.
  • Your verbal skills are, quite literally, off the charts.
  • Your dramatic skills are also pretty stellar, especially the trembling pouty lip + tragic wilting combo.
  • You know exactly what you want (even if it’s the opposite of what you wanted three seconds ago), and you will furiously stand up for it.
  • You will try any new food that’s going – in fact, you insist upon it.
  • You are independent such that if we weren’t watching, you would just wander right off without us.
  • You are determined, and you really, really, really want to do it yourself.
  • You are very observant of people, and somehow, you already understand how to be compassionate.
  • You adore your big brother and want to do everything he does.
  • Your cheeks are so kissable, we can hardly stand it.
  • You give wonderful hugs.

There are many moments every day when I just marvel at the fact that we are the family who gets to take care of you.

Here is a little video to celebrate you. It includes many of the people who love you – but I wish it could show all of us who know the heartrending gratification of loving your adorable little self, and watching you grow. So fast.

Happy birthday, Sweetie. You’re the best.

***


 

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I am a square. (And such a fortunate one.)

This past Sunday, as you know, was Mother’s Day, and also my thirty-sixth birthday. It was pretty much as lovely as I could have wished for.

You also could say it started on Saturday, when I got to (1) take an impromptu nap on the reclining couch upon arrival at my parents’ house, while members of my family took my children outside to play, and (2) travel to Toronto, footloose and fancy(/kid)-free, get treated to dinner with my brother and sisters and Uncle D, and get treated to see Auntie Beth perform in a choir concert with Singing OUT.

Baby AB gave me my first Mother’s Day gift on Sunday by sleeping in until EIGHT a.m. before asking for mama-snacks. First time! WOOT!!

My children also gave me a new snazzy purple lunch bag as a gift (not at all orchestrated by my Hubbibi, who was offended by my old lunch bag which was slightly on the dingy side).

The rest of my birthday included:

  • both of my immediate families, in full, plus one of my cousins and two of my aunts;
  • the best weather we’ve had so far this year;
  • lots of Facebook-friend love, and a call from my mom-in-law;
  • brunch – is there anything better than brunch?? – and on the DECK, no less;
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Finally!! Outdoor eating!
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Cranberry-lemon coffee cake by Emi, fruit and yogurt, chips (instead of home fries) and Reese’s Pieces (since I don’t eat bacon, of course). CUZ IT’S MY BIRTHDAY. And I’m pretty sure the food groups are covered.
  • a nap in the hammock;
  • treats all day long;
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Smartfood and homemade strawberry spritzer by Beth. Brought to me like I was a princess or something. 🙂
  • getting to fix one of my costumes with hardly any interruption;
  • stories and playing and hugs and kisses with my living kids;

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  • quiet time to reflect on and remember the one I can’t hug;
  • a family walk along the trail to the boardwalk (during which we thrillingly saw dogs, birds, frogs, bugs, snakes, AND a surprise geocache!)
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A mama, two uncles, a wee hiker, and an auntie (photo by Luc).
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We like peering into the fascinating world of the marsh (photo by Luc).
  • attractive gifts with which to adorn myself;
  • a free massage from D (who is studying to be a naturopathic doctor and managed to give me more neck mobility than I’ve had in weeks);
  • barbecued Portobello-Swiss burgers with tomato and avocado, followed by peanut butter cup ice cream;
  • coming home to a very clean house, thanks to my Hubbibi.

It did not include:

  • dishwashing (by me);
  • meal preparation (by me);
  • housework of any kind (by me);
  • or a single diaper change (by me).

IT WAS AWESOME. I couldn’t ask for any more. Thank you, sweet family.

***


 

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