sea monkeys

Happy (Chinese) New Year

Hi, folks. Looks like I (completely, by a long shot) missed posting this “new year post” at the official beginning of 2016. But hey – Chinese New Year was only yesterday! Gung hey fat choy! And since we did not manage a proper Christmas card this year, this must serve as our retrospective message. Time to get this year bloggily rolling.

  1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?

Me: Finally got rid of a lot of baby stuff (sigh), made my own Irish Cream on St. Paddy’s, performed with my dance troupe at the Pirate Festival, made Strata for Christmas morning.

Sean: Turned 38, bought a house while the wife was out of town, and sold a house – also while the wife was out of town.

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New house!

E: Turned six; learned to draw a minion and read in French (as well as English); got glasses; moved; got a new couch; lost two teeth!

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A: Saw aerialists performing on Canada Day, got to try silks myself at Family Camp… and have been aerialisting as much as possible since.

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  1. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Me, Sean: Who can remember? And you betcha! They’re epic.

E: Six-year-olds don’t need to resolve things.

A: My parents didn’t know it, but I resolved to ONLY wear things I DEEM CURRENTLY ACCEPTABLE. I kept this resolution as firmly as possible.

  1. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Me: My cousins had a son ON MY BIRTHDAY! Yeah, baby! Also, congrats and love to Lindsay, Eleanor, Catherine, Jaya, Katie, and probably more…

Sean: See above.

E: Well, I did spawn thousands of pigs in Minecraft.

A: No, but I’m the mama of many babies, including Minnie Mouse. And a minion.

  1. Did anyone close to you die?

Me: Jonathan Crombie, a.k.a. Gilbert Blythe (sniff!), and Jurgen Gothe, a.k.a. my fave CBC Radio voice since I was a kid.

Sean: Leonard Nimoy.

E: All those pigs eventually died.

A: My Elsa crown got broken, which is about the same level of tragedy.

  1. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?

Me: Organizational skills, for real this time. And an extra dose of will power.

Sean: Discipline. Other than that, I want for nothing. OFFICIALLY.

E: More pages for my Pokémon cards.

A: A light blue stuffed dog that I can take for indoor walks.

  1. What countries did you visit?

Me: The exotic land of my garage. I cleaned that sh*t up.

Sean: Jakku and Takodana.

E: Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States (in my virtual car-racing schedule).

A: Arendelle. Many times.

  1. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why:

Me, Sean: August 27th – moving day; October 19th – goodbye Harper!; November 13th – terrorist attacks in Paris.

E: Visiting the Science Centre and the African Lion Safari.

A: Visiting the African Lion Safari and the Science Centre.

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Anything can happen at the Ontario Science Centre.
  1. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Me: That one kid-free day in October where I spent the entire day working my tail off and GOT SO MUCH DONE.

Sean: Making the perfect, harmonious configuration of apps on my phone.

Me and Sean: Ten years of marriage!! (Celebrated at Niagara-on-the-Lake.)

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E: Surviving another new school – and liking it. Also my earthworm diorama rocked.

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The earthworms are heading into their burrow. (This is before the addition of turtles, cows, and unicorns to the habitat.)

A: Dancing at Talent Night with my Grammie and my friends.

  1. What was your biggest failure?

Me: Major blog neglect, e.g. NaBloPoMo. Also, not managing to finish unpacking by 2016.

Sean: I did not manage to keep my bonsai tree alive.

E: I did not manage to convince my parents to move back to the old house again.

A: I did not manage to secure the title of Supreme Dictator of the New House. People keep thwarting my plans to be the OVERBOSS.

  1. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Me: Teacher immunity, baby. I just stave it off.

Sean: I get cut all the time at work, but I’m cool. Nobody worries about it but my wife.

E: Chest infection. Two ear infections. Stomach bugs. But worse than all those… The times I bit my tongue.

A: Stomach bugs, to match my brother’s, and a flu or two. (Remember that time we tobogganed at the big hill and I throwed up on the road?)

  1. What was the best thing you bought?

Me, Sean: New house! AND pretty area rug!

E: I earned myself a lot of virtual cars on the iPad – does that count?

A: My Elsa dress, even though *I* didn’t buy it.

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This is the part where she brings back summer.
  1. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Me: Last year’s students. Every damn day.

Sean: Donald Trump.

E: Mommy and Daddy, when they make me wash my hands. Like, ALL THE TIME.

A: Mommy and Daddy, when they don’t let me have and do EXACTLY WHATEVER I WANT.

  1. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Me: This year’s students! (Hurray for 20 kids in a class instead of 29.)

Sean: Trudeau’s, for being just such a nice guy, not to mention bringing everyone to the climate conference and fixing that Cabinet that was all crooked.

E: I got a sticker chart for doing my homework!

A: I got a sticker chart for dry mornings!

  1. Where did most of your money go?

Me, Sean: See #11.

E, A: In my piggy bank!

  1. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Me: Essential oils and diffusers.

Sean: Two words: STAR WARS.

E: My new zebra backpack!

A: Turning three!

  1. What song will always remind you of 2015?

Me:

Sean:

  1. Compared to this time last year, are you: i) happier or sadder?

Me, Sean: Not that simple, but working on happier.

E: Sadder. We can never live in our old house again.

A: Happier, but I wish I could go back to being two. I liked when I was two.

ii) thinner or fatter? Nope.

iii) richer or poorer? Poor in house-debt, rich in automatic dishwashing power.

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

Me: Writing.

Sean: Exercise.

E: Play dates with my best friend from my old school.

A: Wearing tights. Tights are LIFE.

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

Me: Raising my voice.

Sean: Spending money.

E: Putting my clothes away.

A: Wearing pants. Pants are for non-royalty.

  1. How will you be spending did you spend Christmas?

All: We were lucky enough to spend time with all the branches – and we all managed to be not-sick over the whole holiday! A Christmas miracle.

  1. What is your resolution this year?

Me: Go to bed earlier. Also, write 52 blog posts. I was going to aim for 100, and then I looked at this past year’s track record and realized I was setting myself up for failure. This is a one-post-a-week number, and I’m already behind, but tarnation, I’m going to make this one.

Sean: Five words: Joy, Patience, Humility, Discipline, Compassion.

E: Finish authoring a 90-page Pokémon novel.

A: Earn back my Pony tights (confiscated due to my bloodcurdling screaming habit).

  1. Did you fall in love in 2015?

Me: Yes, with a golden beet. So much so that convinced my Hubbibi to base our main-floor paint colours on them.

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Sean: I stayed in love. I think that’s better. (Direct quote! Aww. Points for you, honey.)

E: Not this year. In JK I was gonna marry Bronwen, but now I’m not planning on marrying anyone.

A: Why can’t I marry my big brother?

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  1. How many one-night stands?

If you count standing up at night to help a small someone go pee or feel better after a nightmare… then lots.

  1. What was your favorite TV program?

Me, Sean: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Bojack Horseman.

E: I spend my screen time on Minecraft these days.

A: Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Dinosaur Train.

  1. What new thing(s) did you try in 2015?

Me: Rainbow Loom.

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Sean: Ulysses.

E: A waterslide!

A: Aerialisting.

  1. What was the best book you read?

Me: I’m working on a book post. Please stay tuned! In terms of appropriateness for my life, though, I loved The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo.

Sean: Game of Thrones is pretty exciting so far.

E: We read the whole Great Brain series at bedtime, and it was awesome.

A: My Princess Adventure storybook.

  1. What do you regret?

Me: Not investigating/fixing the sound-proofing in the new house before moving in. (Auntie Beth, unfortunately for her at-home noise level, is our attached neighbour.)

Sean: Several purchases…

E: Putting my tooth under my pillow. I would rather have my tooth than money. (We’re looking into a strategy to attract the tooth fairy back and offer a deal.)

A: Growing out of my favourite purple leggings.

  1. What decision are you glad you made?

Me: To continue working part-time.

Sean: To come home (again) to Apple.

E: Keeping my second tooth.

A: Being Elsa for Halloween.

  1. What was your favorite film of this year?

Me: Far From the Madding Crowd.

Sean: Ant-Man.

E: Minions movie!

A: Please. It’s always Frozen.

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

Me: 37, went to the park with my family.

Sean: 38, cleaned up my daughter’s vomit, but on the bright side, had my favourite cake.

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E: I turned 6, and celebrated with an epic game of balloony-bounce with family.

A: I turned three, and everyone got to come to our new house, and I got pyjamas that match my cousin’s!

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  1. What new thing would you like to try in 2016?

Me: Driving to North Carolina for a family reunion – can’t wait!

Sean: Playing guitar and singing.

E: Wearing a watch (preferably Pokémon). Yes, I can tell analog time!

A: Whatever new food looks good.

  1. New fashion item in 2015?

Me: Barefoot sandals.

Sean: My interchangeable NATO Watch Straps.

E: My glasses are pretty fashionable. The arms have airplanes on them.

A: Do you even have to ask? Elsa + tights = ELSA TIGHTS.

  1. What kept you sane?

Me: Same things that drive me crazy: my kids and my students. Also: my Hubbibi, my co-workers, a week at OELC, and a week at Family Camp.

Sean: My wife and my Cipralex.

E: Well, it definitely wasn’t Horizon Chase.

A: I’m three. I reserve the right to be insane.

  1. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Me: It’s always James. And also James. And I didn’t fail to notice that our new PM is adorable, even though his name is not James.

Sean: Elizabeth Olson as the Scarlet Witch was pretty hot.

E: Bob, Stuart, and Kevin.

A: Elsa, Anna, and Rapunzel.

  1. What political issue stirred you the most?

Me: Syrian refugee controversy.

Sean: Harper government’s muzzling of scientists.

E: Equal access to my parents’ gadgets.

A: Being forced to go to the babysitter’s house.

  1. Whom did you miss?

Always Sebastian. Also, please see #4.

  1. Who was the best new person you met?

Me: New OELC staff and participants.

Sean: Our next-door neighbours, Dolores and Leo, are cool. (They use Nordic walking poles!)

E: My best friends (at my new school) Jesse and Alex.

A: Little Emily (as opposed to Auntie Emily. Not actually a new friend, but newly bonded).

  1. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015:

Me: Music really is the international language – no translation necessary.

Sean: Always keep an edge on your knife, son, always keep an edge on your knife, ‘cuz a good sharp edge is a man’s best hedge against the vague uncertainties of life. (Thanks, Corb Lund.)

E: I’ve (almost) learned to unpack my backpack and bring my lunch bag to the kitchen so the leftovers can go in the fridge.

A: Unwarranted bloodcurdling screams will get me in trouble.

  1. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

Movin’ on up, movin’ on out, movin’ on up… Nothin’ can stop me!

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sea monkeys

An Ode To My Old House, Now That We Have Parted – #NaBloPoMo, Day 8-9

{I’m cheating and calling this blog post two days’ worth (because who’s gonna stop me?): Day 8, I’m grateful for my new house… and Day 9, I’m grateful for my old house.}

Dear Old House,

I know we are done forever. I know you are now spending your time with other people, taking care of them and making a new life with them, and that is as it should be.

But I shall never forget you. Your quirks and flaws and beauties are embedded in my heart. I sound like a sentimental fool, and I am one. I haven’t often displaced myself, so it’s an emotional trial every time.

Our New House is lovely. It is also rather swanky, by our standards, with hardwood floors, butcher-block counters, and Tiffany-style light fixtures. We are already settling into our routines, and feeling mostly happy-homey together. We are looking forward to building real fires in the fireplace. We will finally be able to have friends over and feed them in a gracious dining space. The children will run endlessly around the circuit that is our main floor.

But I will always think of you with a pang.

New House has a shady patio out front, with wicker chairs and space to play… but I still miss your front stoop, burning hot on summer afternoons, where we sat and ate popsicles.

New House has chic window draperies long enough to pool on the floor, which is apparently de rigueur… But they actually drive me a bit bonkers. I just know there will be dust bunnies cuddling in their silky folds.

New House has an expansive wooden deck out back that already hosted many contented summer meals this past season… but it cannot replace your fragrant fruit trees. Especially the apple tree, planted when our first baby was born, that finally bore edible apples just as we left.

New Basement has spotless beige berber carpeting (or at least it was spotless before some little people I live with christened it with neon green Silly Putty). Your 70s-bordello basement carpeting was never our style, and yet a part of me loved it – the personality and history of it.

New Kitchen has one of the best things: a sexy stainless-steel dishwasher named Bosch, who has made our lives a lot easier (because a clean kitchen helps everything). But I’ll tell you a secret: he has a latch issue and needs quite a bit of support in order to finish. As in, we have to prop a toolbox on a step stool and bolster him closed. So there you go.

I love our New Floors, and I enjoy obsessing over potential area rugs, though it all makes me realize more than ever that your wall-to-wall carpeting concealed all manner of crap in its fibres. And yet… sometimes I miss that carpeting like you wouldn’t believe. Its warmth on chilly toes, its softness on a bumped knee, and especially its cozy sound-muffling qualities.

Most of all, I miss your core-deep familiarity. You are where we put down our roots, literally and figuratively. We had wonderful times together. And that’s just hard to detach from.

At this time of year, when suddenly it gets dark too early, and virus season looms large and ugly, and we are still dealing with the pesky, seemingly impenetrable last level of unpacking, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and blue. Sometimes I think of you, and just yearn for that familiarity. We do feel like this is home now, but the kids still talk about you wistfully sometimes, and you still have a gravitational pull for me.

The other day, AB and I actually stopped by your address – partly to pick up a mis-mailed package, but also to see you. Driving the route to Old Street was so weird… my inner gravity got so confused.

Your front door is still bright blue. Your flowering quince still sits by the walk, all prickly. But the new owners have cut down the crabapple tree out front; they have also left dozens of cigarette butts decorating the mulched flowerbeds on either side of the porch. (Seriously? People still do that?)

And when a friendly young woman opened the door for us, we saw that you were not really you. You now have grey laminate floors, and all the glimpsable walls were white – and I know absolutely that your flamboyant basement carpet is long gone. You didn’t look like home at all.

In a way, it’s comforting. You only looked like our home when we were with you. That is as it should be. Thanks for the memories, Old House.

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That crabapple tree was old and tired, but still put on a show in the spring.

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sea monkeys

Four Years Remembering You In This House

Dear Sebastian,

Last week, it was four years since your death and birth. As always, we love you to the heavens and back, and miss you all the time.

We have bought a new house. We will be moving to it at the end of the summer, and we are all really excited about it. Your brother is counting the days. Your sister, when we talk about it, always adds, “But, we’re gonna be in this house for a little bit longer… right?” She is excited, but she loves her familiar house too; it’s the only home they’ve known.

I am looking forward to having a new place to be, a more functional and welcoming space, in a new neighbourhood close to many good friends… but I’m sad sometimes, thinking about leaving our home. It’s the first house Daddy and I bought; it’s a home we shared with people we loved even before having children; it’s the place we brought two of our babies home to, and watched them grow; it’s the place we expected to bring you home to, and the place that sheltered us when we mourned you the most.

Thinking about you gives me the biggest pangs about moving away. After four years, it’s hard to feel close to you, but sometimes, especially on hot and humid summer days, time folds back to that July, and I welcome the sorrow that keeps you near. Somehow, you seem to be here in these walls.

Our bedroom is where I slept curled around you. It’s where I sang lullabies to our two-year-old E that I knew I was singing to you too. It’s where he would touch my round belly, full of you, and say, “That’s my brother.”

Our living room is where I sat combing through the baby book for your name. Weeks later, it’s where I inverted myself on the edge of the couch, in hopes of getting you to turn head-down. I can still feel the ache, when I think of it, of your head pressing against that spot on my side, and how that bump felt under my hand, with – unbeknownst to us – no fluid to cushion you.

Our doorstep is where I knelt, paralyzed with pain, dilating in time-lapse, just minutes before you were born. It is also where our dear friends left beautiful meals for us in the days that followed, with compassion and thoughtfulness that humble me even now.

Our backyard is where our family gathered around us on your birth day, filling the sandbox with sand for E, installing our picnic umbrella (all the things we hadn’t got around to while expecting you), bringing food and so much love.

Our kitchen is where I gingerly filled my bra with cool cabbage leaves for the soreness, and steeped sage tea to dry up the milk I wished I could give you. It’s where I went about daily chores of cooking and dishes, thinking about how our life was suddenly unhooked from its plans. It’s the room that filled with flowers from people sending their sympathy.

And this home is the place where your lullaby coalesced in my head, where I tinkered out the harmonies on my piano, and where I carefully recorded each track so that it would sound as I imagined it.

As much as it hurts to think of all that, I never wish for the pain to be gone. It’s my link to you.

I guess that’s why it feels like you’re here, and why it also kind of feels like leaving you behind.

On Wednesday, your daddy and I marked the four years since your death quietly in our minds, and with some extra-long hugs. It was a mostly normal day – I did dishes, helped and played with your siblings, refilled my spice jars, bought groceries, folded laundry, practiced with my dance sisters. Daddy worked hard making our house and yard look nice for when we sell it.

I’m grateful for all those day-to-day things that make up our life: we are an undeniably fortunate family, in so many ways, not the least of which is our freedom to be normal and do all those things. But normalcy can be hard work when you’re yearning to just curl up and indulge in the luxury of grieving for a day.

A strange thing also happened. We had received a notice to pick up an unexpected package:

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A sample box of formula, addressed to me, with my full name.

I had no idea what to make of it, couldn’t even decide if it was oddly suitable on that day, or wildly inappropriate. After all, I do keep your baby self in my heart, and always will; but the dreams mentioned on the box didn’t work out at all.

That evening, I finally had the chance to sit and remember you, and look at your scrapbook. I got all caught up in examining the perfection of your little nose, captured in the few pictures we have. I wish – so often – that I could see your face in person again, even for a moment.

The next day, your birthday, we spent some time at your Grammie and Papa’s house with your Auntie Beth, and I thankfully got to do some writing, and we went to pick berries at the berry farm. Ever since your first anniversary, when we ended up at the berry farm almost by chance, it has felt like the best thing to do on your birthday. Not quite a celebration… but an appreciation.

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I’ve also realized that, along with writing and berry-picking, certain songs help me at this time of year. I decided to put my favourite healing song to images for you (and for me). I think this song helps because it’s about pain and beauty, and how they are both inevitable.

It felt really good to spend some time looking at these images of our breathtaking planet. It reminded me that I can never leave you behind, because you are actually everywhere.

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P.S. Please stay tuned for photo credits for this video – coming soon.


 

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