The Dilovely New Year Questionnaire for 2018

So, my lovelies. Happy New Year or something! It’s only January 16th. It’s a super-reasonable moment to post a 2018 questionnaire completed in time increments of 20 minutes or less over the course of three weeks.

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

Me, Sean: Hiked Niagara Glen Trails in celebration of our 13th anniversary! Also visited some new wineries, had some chocolate icewine shooters, and saw Henry V, WWI trench-style, at the Shaw Festival (first Shakespeare EVER at Shaw! We thought it was well done).

The mighty Niagara River.

Me: Gave my first dose of insulin to my diabetic cat – and a least a couple hundred more since then. Also made vegan cheese. 

Sean: Saw Stephen Fry live! HE WAS AMAZING. Oh, and the diabetic cat thing too.

E, AB: Went to Ripley’s Aquarium, the CN Tower, Storybook Park, the Donkey Sanctuary, and Wild Waterworks. Also, GOT OUR OWN ROOMS!

shark-rippleys-aquarium
At Ripley’s Aquarium.
cn-tower-view
At the CN Tower.

E: Became a Junior – Grade 4, what!

AB: Started Grade 1, and joined Sparks with my BFF!

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

Me: I was not exactly a PARAGON of calm in the mornings. However, I did do better after making the resolution. And when school started up in September, I made good on my threat promise to get the kids up earlier… and crazily enough, IT WORKED. We are way more calm in the mornings, because we are way more likely to be running on time.

Sean: I half-hit it… I am making strides with being more present and less on the internet. That internet never tires of wrestling with me, though. Not to mention pesky Apple vs. Google vs. everyone else.

E: My marks, it turns out, tend to be exemplary.

A: I did not get a horse. This still rankles.

3. What is your resolution this year?

Me: To spend more time in meditative quiet.

Sean: To be under 200 pounds, to pass four Open Ed university courses with at least 70% average, and to keep a neat and tidy house.

E: To beat the Ender Dragon in Survival mode, and eat thirty pounds of Life cereal.

A: To be a very good dancer at the big show, and to become the best student in my class. (I might already be the latter.)

4. Did anyone important to you die?

Me (and all): My sweet grandmother, Wina. She got to strike “turning 100” off her bucket list (if she had one), and died peacefully, with family, on New Year’s Eve. We are happy for her to shed her mortal shell, which was not in the best shape after a century of living… But she leaves a hole in our hearts.

Sean: A wonderful cousin who was gone too soon; and a friend and former coworker who was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met.

Also of note (and important in their ways, though not necessarily more so than the above-mentioned dear folk): Kofi Annan, Charles Aznavour, Sister Wendy Beckett, Arthur Black, Anthony Bourdain, Barbara Bush, George HW Bush, Aretha Franklin, Hubert de Givenchy, Stephen Hawking, Ingvar Kamprad, Margo Kidder, Stan Lee, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, John Mahoney, John McCain, Dolores O’Riordan, Burt Reynolds, Neil Simon, Kate Spade, and Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor.

5. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

Me: More sleep, and subsequently more energy. Actually I guess the thing I need is discipline – for the going to bed at a good time.

Sean: A competent president for the southerly neighbo(u)rs.

E: A Minecraft Lego jungle hideaway, and a dog.

A: A horse! Again. FOR REAL THIS TIME.

6. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Me: Entering two groups of students (one English, one French) in the CBC Music Class Challenge (thanks for the inspiration, Skye!); facilitating birthday slime-making with ten excited Grade 3 boys (plus AB) and coming out unscathed. Also, I was pretty proud of this hedgehog rock I painted for E. (I was his Secret Friend at Camp.)

painted-hedgehog-rock

Sean: Went on the longest bike ride of my life!

E, A: Learning to swim for real, at Camp! No life jackets!

E: Finally beating the hardest level of Horizon Chase, and producing several (ongoing) literary works, including The Sheep (stay tuned for a sample).

A: Reading – and writing – chapter books.

7. What was your biggest failure?

Me: Failure to check the date on our passports. And realizing they’d expired a scant few weeks earlier and we couldn’t go to North Carolina, only a few days from our scheduled trek. (At least we’d planned to drive so there were no plane tickets. Sighhhh.)

Sean: Failure to lose the weight I wanted to lose.

E: Failure to fulfill my responsibilities without complaining bitterly.

A: Failure to come to terms with the fact that yelling as loud as I can does not get me what I want. One of these days, it’s going to work. It has to.

8. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Me: I suffered my cat’s illness by cleaning up innumerable messes of various types (although Sean cleaned up even more of them, home alone while the rest of us were away).

Sean: Broke my left wrist for the third time in my life. Right before Christmas holidays.

E: The usual grievous injuries ALL THE TIME. I’m in pain 40% of my waking hours.

A: I was pretty impervious this year! (As Mummy knocks ALL the wood.)

9. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

MeSean: Trump; Doug Ford; Japan (reintroducing commercial whaling)… And ALWAYS Nestlé.

E: My sister, when she yells at me.

A: My brother, when he kisses my adorable face without permission.

10. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Me: My Grade 5/6 class, for being calm and awesome, even though they always come to me (for French or Music) at the very end of the day.

Sean: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for neatly shutting down every GOP troll who tries to invalidate her accomplishments.

E: Our cat’s, when he finally remembered how to pee in the box.*

A: Mine, when I found my Responsibility Button. On special occasions, I turn it on to “Full Power” and then I cooperate on EVERYTHING!

*{Actually, it was getting rid of the litter that seemed to be the key. You see, diabetic cats have more sugar in their pee and it makes the litter sticky… Then they have to whip their paws around to get the litter out of their claws, and then it sticks to the wall and many other random things. Bad for everyone. So we are using puppy pads instead. Painful amount of garbage, but maybe we won’t have to completely replace our floors.}

11. What did you get really excited about?

Me: Several cherished women I know – including both my sisters – getting together with loving partners! YAY!

Sean: Teaching the kids to swim… and of course seeing Stephen Fry. {insert googly-eyed love face}

E: My cactuses! Tall Joe, Short Joe, and Alfred.

A: That time I had the same tattoo as Mummy! And my birthstone ring for my sixth birthday, which is also a lot like Mummy’s… and our matching leggings for Christmas! (We know that matching Mummy will not be on the agenda for too much longer, so Mummy is relishing it while she can.)

dove tattoo

12. What events from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why:

Me: Humboldt Broncos bus crash tragedy, Tham Luang cave rescue… because obviously. Intense human drama (that has undoubtedly already been optioned).

Sean: Doug Ford’s election, because TRAVESTY.

E, A: Our first Junior Camp, because we did so many fun things!

13. What political issue stirred you the most?

Me, Sean: Federal purchase of TransMountain pipeline, NAFTWO, carbon-tax squabbles… and for posterity, one must mention legal weed!

E, A: The sheer number of signs every time there’s an election. All those names bombarding us (which we feel compelled to read aloud whenever we’re driving somewhere)…

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

Me: Blogging.

Sean: Even more cycling.

E, A: PLAY DATES.

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

Me: Picking up my phone for no good reason.

Sean: Falling off the wagon.

E: Missing ChromeBook time because my class was too noisy.

A: Waiting for play dates.

16. What do you regret?

Me: Please refer to biggest failure.

Sean: Time spent in rabbit holes (except maybe on reddit… those are high-quality rabbit holes).

E: Losing my Lego Minecraft Creeper. Also signing up to be a lunch monitor – those Grade 1 kids are noisy punks, and I don’t even like pizza (which was the reward party for lunch monitors… which might be why I signed up).

A: Not INSISTING upon horse-riding lessons.

17. What decision are you glad you made?

Me: Taking a two-day choral conducting course in the summer. Also, installing an amber lightbulb in E’s reading lamp. It really seems to help him wind down.

Sean: Sticking with The Starch Solution. And the purchase of the Instant Pot – not to mention the Air Fryer!

E: Going to Sherwood Forest day camp with my friends.

A: Getting my hair cut (and donating it).

We were afraid she would regret…
… but she didn’t!

18. How did you spend Christmas?

All: With people we love, all kinds of family. Lots of games, fun drinks, way too many snacks, general cocooning. So very fortunate. (Sean even shared our two weeks off, between shutdown and vacation days! Très exciting.)

19. What song will always remind you of 2018?

Me: Fireflies and The Verge, by Owl City.

Sean: Empire, by Sarah McDougall.

E: ALL the Flood Escape 2 songs, especially Sky Sanctuary.

A: Havana Ooh Na-Na. (By Camila Cabello. AB has never seen this video, BTW. Pretty entertaining! The song actually starts at 2:29.)

20. What was your favorite TV program?

Me: The Good Place, Bojack Horseman, New Girl.

Sean: The Good Place, Bojack Horseman, Voltron.

E: I’m not really into TV. I like to escape floods, build block facilities, and take care of pets and bee swarms on my screen time.

A: Home, Teen Titans Go, Puffin Rock (Mummy’s favourite because those wee British-kid accents are THE BEST).

21. What was the best book you read?

Me: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline, Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese.

Sean: Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari.

E: Wild Robot books by Peter Brown, Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers. 

A: Harry Potter books (which Mummy has been reading to me all year long!) and Fairy Ponies #1 and 2 (by Zanna Davidson) – read between Christmas and New Year’s.

22. What was your favorite film of this year?

Me, Sean: Ant Man & the Wasp was funny and exciting, First Man was gripping and very memorable, Crimes of Grindelwald was gorgeous and entertaining… But honestly, for sheer viewing pleasure, for a movie you’re just glad you went to see… it has to be Paddington 2. 

E, A: Peter Rabbit, Paddington 2.

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

Me: 40, got sung to by the whole school (one of my coworkers broadcast the news at an assembly), had dinner with lots of family at a local vegan restaurant (plus sister-made pie options back at home).

Sean: 41, ate vegan pizza and chocolate cake, received and played “Snake Oil”; hilarity ensued.

E: 9, bounced sheep (aka balloons) around the rec room and made slime with 9 of my friends, got my own logo!

Designed by Auntie Beth. We painted it on our faces.

A: 6, had my friends over for refreshments and Auntie Beth’s magical face-painting, got my first LOL Doll and unicorn-poop slime!

24. What new thing would you like to try in 2019?

Me: Dance for Kindness.

Sean: University! Starting with Anthropology, doing great so far.

E: Indoor soccer, since I’m pretty awesome at outdoor soccer.

A: Horse-riding lessons. (Haven’t you been listening?)

25. Whom did you miss?

Always Sebastian.

26. Who was the best new person you met?

All: Uncle Agates! (It’s Alex, but this is his clan monicker, from which he will never henceforth escape.) (We were stoked to have TWO people we newly call Uncle this year!)

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018:

Me: Leave more time than you think you need to get a large group of children to follow a beat and sing in unison. If you think it’s simple… you’re showing your newbie choir conductor pinfeathers.

Sean: Always corroborate your research, and watch out for spilled coolant.

E: Clothes-putting-away is not nearly as hard when you do it every day.

A: Having your own room (once you get used to it) is awesome, because you can have PRIVACY. More or less. For a few minutes, if you really slam your door.

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

“Ladies all across the world, listen up, we’re looking for recruits / If you with me, let me see your hands, stand up and salute / Get your killer heels, sneakers, pumps or lace up your boots / Representing all the women, salute!” – Little Mix

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14 Holiday Songs That Don’t Mention Christmas

Christmas is here, which means Christmas songs – yay!

winter forest
Photo by Simon Matzinger from Pexels

I look forward to this music all year. I do not listen to it off-season, as I don’t want it to lose potency. If I’m honest, the holiday-themed songs that play at the mall are not usually what makes me feel festive. Although my relationship to Christianity is complicated, to me Christmas music will always be what I was brought up on: sacred music written between 1550 and 1860 (plus a few worthy classics from the 20thcentury). Some of my favourite melodies ever in the world are traditional Christmas carols: Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful, Angels We Have Heard on High. (This is not to say that current musicians aren’t making some great versions of classic Christmas songs, as well as new ones that deserve to be classics… I just don’t often hear those at the mall.)

A few weeks ago, I was shopping with AB for a birthday present for her friend, and we heard singing outside the toy store. There was a women’s choir, spanning at least three generations, singing carols for passersby. AB was really excited and we made the time to listen to a few songs. Being the mush-ball that I am, and especially now, being a music teacher, I got teary-eyed. I never fail to be moved and exhilarated by a group of human voices singing a beautiful song together. It just makes me really happy – and generally speaking, it’s more likely to happen at this time of year than at any other.

Being a teacher in the public school system, I’ve also learned to tread very carefully when it comes to cultural and especially religious traditions. That is partly what inspired this list of “Christmas” songs that don’t contain the word Christmas (or Jesus, or Mary – or even Santa). It’s good to know what the options are, if you need to be secular. It’s also good to know what other traditions have inspired singing around midwinter – since there are lots. Lastly, it’s an interesting exercise to look at songs that are ingrained in the holidays and realize that some are not Christmas – just jolly.

{Side note: I am aware that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” qualifies for this list. I’ve decided not to talk about it at this embattled moment. Not because I usually shy away from hot-button issues, but because I can see both sides of the argument, and that’s boring. Plus, no one’s going to sing this one for an elementary school holiday assembly. Plus, I began writing this post at the beginning of December. Get ‘er done already, Dilovely.}

1) Gloucestershire Wassail (Middle Ages)

Okay, chances are that this isn’t going to be sung at a school assembly either. Songs about wassailing come from the tradition described thus by Wikipedia: “In the middle ages, the wassail was a reciprocal exchange between the feudal lords and their peasants as a form of recipient-initiated charitable giving, to be distinguished from begging.” It’s mostly about drinking and sharing food. There are at least six verses to this song, and one of them does mention Christmas pie – but many recordings leave that one out. My personal point about this song is that it’s simply exuberant and I love it. (In case you’re all “WHAT is this ancient song I’ve never heard of,” my mom was in a Renaissance choir when she was pregnant with me, and for many years of my childhood. I come by my early music fetish honestly.)

2) Deck the Halls (Tune written 16th c., English lyrics 1862)

This is one of those songs that was actually about Yuletide (a 12-day pre-Christian festival beginning on the winter solstice) until someone switched out the word “Yuletide” for “Christmas.” Both versions still seem to be well-known. I relate deeply to celebrating the solstice – the fact that people instinctively gather together, share meals, and burn candles and wood fires to bolster themselves against the darkness and cold.

3) Ding Dong Merrily on High (Tune written 16th c., English lyrics late 19th c.)

Is there anything more thrilling than the beautiful notes of the Gloria section, weaving around each other like dancers? Ach, so great. And this song does mention heav’n and angels, but it doesn’t say what or whom all the hosannas are about. This video was taken in Australia, which is why the audience is outside… IT’S SUMMER.

4) Here We Come a-Wassailing (c. 1850)

More boisterous singing door-to-door in exchange for food/gifts. As above, there is a mention of Christmas in some versions, depending on how many verses you sing – again, asking for Christmas leftovers – “Christmas loaf” along with some “mouldy cheese.” I always wonder – is that the good cheese mould, or is that just whatever crappy cheese is still lying around?

5) Good King Wenceslas (1853)

For the longest time, I thought the “feast of Stephen” was a hill or plain that the good king looked out on, because OBVIOUSLY. That’s where the snow was lying round about. Turns out it’s St. Stephen’s Day, variously mentioned as December 26th or 27th. Good old K-Wen brings flesh and wine to the poor man who lives by Ste. Agnes’ fountain – and, I would think, probably some mouldy cheese or Christmas pie, although that’s not mentioned. The poetry of this song plus the rather swashbuckling tune is a winning combo. Oh, and the message of being kind to those less fortunate (St. Stephen was all about that). That’s great too.

6) Jingle Bells (1857)

Arguably the most iconic holiday song ever EVER. When I ask kids to think about the first “Christmas” song that comes to their minds, the first hand up is for Jingle Bells. People compulsively incorporate bits of it into other songs, it has a proper fully-realized French version, and everyone knows the words to the chorus (which, I’ve recently realized, can be played on a class set of handbells). So joyful, so simple, and it’s always fun to sing a good, hearty “hey!” – not to mention a nice overdone “HA HA HA.” Kinda perfect.

7) Winter Wonderland (1934)

Not only is this song not about Christmas, it’s not even really about snow, in my opinion. It’s about being giddy in love, and the world seeming enchanted as a result. Which is sweet – I know the feeling of being all in a tizzy about a guy (in the winter), and it does feel magical. The “glistening” and the “heaven of diamonds” and all that.

8) Let It Snow (1945)

This may be the story of the same couple, a little later in the relationship, a bit more settled and cozy. It’s got that feeling of a snow day when you’re a kid – you watch the snow coming down and cheer for it to keep coming so you can stay home all day in your pyjamas.

9) Marshmallow World (1949)

This one is whimsical, childlike – though I must say that the lines “Those are marshmallow clouds being friendly / In the arms of the evergreen trees” have a psychedelic poetry to them that seems ahead of its time to me.

10) Sleigh Ride (Instrumental 1948, lyrics 1950)

The instrumental version of this is my favourite, with the vivacious tempo, the clip-clopping woodblocks, and the masterful trumpet whinny at the end. (Probably because I have great memories of playing it with the Concert Band in the main foyer of my high school before Christmas break – ages ago.) But I like the lyrics too. I can’t help but agree with “There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy / When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie.” Having a festive meal with people you love is one of those human things I would really miss if I had to go live among the aliens.

11) Frosty the Snowman (1950)

“Thumpety-thump-thump” is almost as Christmassy as the sound of sleigh bells, no? Well, maybe not. But Rudolph and Frosty go hand-in-hand – at least in my mind – even though one is absolutely Christmas Eve and the other, if we think about it, probably takes place in March. On one of those freaky days when the temperature shoots up and you go tromping through slush in a T-shirt and rubber boots.

12) Jingle Bell Rock  (1957)

I have really liked this song ever since several years ago when a couple of my Grade 2 students accosted me at recess and sang it to me, with actions. Especially “Giddy-up, jingle horse, pick up your feet,” because of the way they bounced around, full of joyful energy.

13) Shall We Gather by the Fire (2010)

This is from an album of the same name, by a Ren-Fest group called Three Quarter Ale. Interestingly, the majority of the songs on it are not about Christmas – some are about Hanukkah, and quite a few are just about life, but relate somehow to the holiday season. This carol ends the album, and is just as cozy a Neo-Renaissance song as you will ever find. I also love “Any Day’s a Holiday” from the same album – it’s just about the exhilaration of conviviality, and dang if it doesn’t make you wanna go dancing in your pantaloons.

14) The Holly and the Ivy

I’ve put this in the last spot because it’s a bit of a mystery. There is some debate about how old its origins are; some say it began as a druidic song, before Christmas was a thing. I came upon a post written by someone who grew up with a secular version of this song and who didn’t know until much later that the most common version is Christian. I was intrigued, because the forest-y imagery is what I love best about this song – the bright plants, “the rising of the sun, and the running of the deer” through a majestic snowy woodland in my mind. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found a truly listenable pagan version, so here’s a very listenable Christian version… and for your reference, two different non-Christmas lyric pages here and here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the list, and are enjoying some togetherness with good people, yummy food, and warm toes. Wait, that kinda sounds like toes are food. No. Dang it, Dilovely, wrap it up.

I just wish you happy glowy times. Love to you and yours!

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NINE YEARS of blogging. WHAT.

Hey, Lovelies,

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.

baby
Gah, he was a cutie. He’s still a cutie, but so big and way more obsessed with farts. Also of note: I took this pic with the super-slow camera of the first-gen iPhone… weird. Hence the blurriness.

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.]

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A Romantic Story… Unfinished

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.

Emi and Uncle Matt holding the bride aloft.

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.

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Butterbeer Recipes to Complete Your Gryffindor Evening

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.

butterbeer
Tempting, despite my terrible foodtography, no?

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.

This is what our common room – er, living room – looked like this time around. SO COZY. Pretty sure that’s a book of spells on the table and Wizard Chess on the shelf below.

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.

How gorgeous is this potion.

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.
  • Enjoy!

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).
  • Enjoy!

*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):


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Related Posts:

Paragon of Calm needs a reboot. Already.

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.

exploding-kittens

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.

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The Dilovely New Year Questionnaire for 2017

Hi, Lovelies! And HAPPY NEW YEAR. Farewell, 2017.

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.

spice-jars
Not Pinterest-worthy, but comforting nonetheless.

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

MeSean: 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!

Cute AND organize-y.

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?

MeSean: 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.

Burning decommissioned outhouse. You probably didn’t know this was a thing. YOU’RE WELCOME.

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.

Sean: Pushups.

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.

E: Homework.

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.

A: Spirit!

21. What was the best book you read?

Me, SeanAll 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.

A: Coco.

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?

Always Sebastian.

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.

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Random Acts of Generosity and other festive things

apple-giving
Photo by Erik Scheel.

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.

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Tragic Follow-Up to a Five-Year-Old’s Birthday

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.)

sea-monkeys-retro-ad
Image via mentalfloss.com

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.)

sea-monkeys-ocean-zoo

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.

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Stress Is Just How We Roll These Days

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?

kid-drawing-happy-sad
This picture AB drew really captures how I’ve been feeling.

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.

*Sigh.*

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.

That’s the plan.

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