Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Inside

We've been having more bath times in the backyard pool than the tub, and more lunches on the picnic blanket than at the table, but this heat has called us indoors for a summertime reprieve. We have had record-breaking hot temperatures; the weatherman tells us both the actual temperature and the 'feels like' temperature in the forecast, taking the humidity into account. 




So, sometimes we stay inside to break out the finger paints rather than exhaust ourselves in midday full sun heat. Heat can make the best of us get a little cranky. Or, in our case, heat can make five girls who spend almost every waking hour together a little irritable. We've got the air conditioning on, the reggae tunes playing, and the craft bin spread across the table.


Our inside activities have included: picture charades, hide and go seek, baking, colouring, watching movies, painting faces, taking siestas and reading library books. I write this list for myself, so that when someone asks me what I've been up to lately, I won't draw a complete blank when reviewing the last week or so's goings-on. Our days have been blending together, breaking up mornings with a cooling-off swim and deciding which meals to eat al fresco. It's all a kind of wonderful summer vacation monotony, and one I wouldn't trade (especially not for winter deep freezes, yuck!)

Our harvest this week

It is supposed to stay hot, but you know what? The living here's easy. I still have some popsicle recipes up my sleeve, some movies we haven't seen (working our way through the Shrek movies), some friends coming over to beat the heat in the pool and a pallet of face paints remaining, (even after Summer spent 45 minutes painting her own face today).
 



Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summer's Second

Last night, as I hung balloons and set out cards, I remembered a phone call I had meant to make. I dialed the number, asked for Emilie, and waited. I was kept on hold for a while, so I continued hanging the birthday banner and filling loot bags until she picked up.

I told her this might be strange, and a little unusual, but I explained how we had met. I told her I was looking at a picture of her holding newborn Summer, and that I wanted to thank her for all she did for us in the middle of the night two years ago.

"Let's give a little practice push and see if we can't speed this along," she had said. I obliged, bearing down and pushing as best as I could. I was scared. We hadn't made progress in hours and I feared I'd end up in an operating room when all my instincts told me the baby was fine. 
"You can stop pushing now, okay, no, stop. Oh! This is happening," she said. "Here she is!"And that is how we met Summer, our youngest, fastest, funniest little lady zoomed into this world via the quick hands of our attending nurse, Emilie.


Emilie told me she remembered our family, and told our story often. It's not every day that a nurse gets to deliver a baby. I was so touched she remembered, so I made plans to bring Summer back to the hospital to meet the first hands to hold her.

In the meantime, we celebrated Summer's second birthday just the way she likes it: with cake, swimming, balloons and people who love her very much.


It took some cajoling and some magic from my step-mom to get Summer into her party dress. Two-year-olds do not like to be told what to wear, but they can be persuaded with open access to the fruit platter, (so long as they can sit atop the table).


She's the fourth baby, so she had sweets well before her first birthday (in fact, I think her first food might have been whipped cream). She has since developed a fierce sweet tooth. Her eyes light right up when I mention the words: cake, dessert, ice cream, cookie and treat. I mean, check out her face as I present her cake:


She got right to work on those two candles.


She very clearly understood the celebrations were for her, and that is what warmed my heart most today. She smiled big and bright every time someone wished her a happy birthday, or told her she looked beautiful in her dress. 

Kid birthdays are such a great medium to view unadulterated joy and self-love. Indulging in cake, hearing everyone say they love you, opening gifts and bringing them to your room afterwards, one last happy birthday sung as a lullaby at day's end. My girl felt the love, and I was so happy to have occasion to gather those who love her most. 

Thank you to everyone who has lifted her up with love, from nurse Emilie's first catch to those with her today, and sending love from away. Thank you.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summertime Living

I feel a little like a Californian this week. I planned our meals around what we can now harvest from the garden ... and it is glorious. And yummy. We had Mediterranean quesadillas with tomatoes and basil for dinner (with our friendly farm chicken tossed balsamic, dee-lish!) this other night, and have plans for a nice tomato-sage-butternut squash casserole later this week.


Marigolds keep the tomato pests away
We're still waiting on the zucchinis to grow to their full size, and the jury's still out on our bell peppers and broccoli, but I have hope!  Regardless, our garden adventures continue.


We've also been adventuring with outdoor murals, a ridonculous amount of swimming, and visits with friends. The most notable of recent was with friends from the Yukon who have driven across the country, just to see us! No, I'm kidding, they are on a cross-Canada summer adventure and made an Ottawa stop here, lucky us! We had a sleepover with six girls (plus us two lady-girl mamas!) and caught up on each other's happenings since we last visited on my February trip North. 


Summertime is also marked by my addictive reading habit. It keeps me up way past my bedtime, and is the culprit for a lot of house cleaning not being accomplished. I have lost count of how many books I've read so far, but none have I begun with as much anticipation as Go Set a Watchman. I am a big-time To Kill a Mockingbird fan, and collect old editions. I re-read it every odd year (or so) and fall more in love each time. A book touted as the sequel was snatched out my mailbox, brought into my bedroom and begun with relish. 


No spoilers here, but I will say this: It is not a sequel. It is, very clearly, a first draft. It sets a foundation for what became TKAM, but it is not a sequel. When Harper Lee submitted this novel, it was rejected, as the editors suggested she write from Scout's point of view, change a few key plot points and tidy it up. What I am reading now is a sub-par story, and I almost wish I hadn't started it, as it just doesn't jive with the characters and story I know from TKAM. It's interesting to look at it as a predecessor to a story I love, but nothing more. So, there is my review thus far. 

Post-swimming humidity-induced ringlets

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Road Trip

Alyssa and I dreamed ahead to summertime before the snow had finished melting, and agreed we needed to do more road trips this year. It's not summertime until you pack all the kids and the beach stuff in the car, load up on Timbits and coffee, and head out to a new beach a long drive away. We made a list of ones we could tap, and our inaugural summer road trip to the beach was epic. We brought along our friend Simone, followed the directions to Gananoque, and hit up a beach my mom had found for us earlier this year on a road trip of her own. 


The beach is along the St. Lawrence seaway, adjacent to a marina full of impressive sailboats, and comes fully loaded with a splash pad, park with pirate-boat climber and sandy beach. We laid out our beach blankets under the shade of what we think was a cherry tree, opened the coolers for the kids, and sat back. We really did, we sat. And watched the kids play. And talked. Allllllll day. It was glorious.


The kids built sand castles, hustled other kids for their trucks, chased seagulls, ran through the splash pad and swam in the water (nice and shallow, and roped off before it got too deep). I don't know if the stars aligned a certain way today, or if the travel gods just felt inclined to smile upon us, but uncharacteristic to every other outing with the kids, we were treated to a day of sitting back and relaxing together. 

Oh, hey geese.


I don't remember there being any tears, any fights, any injuries or any whining. I do, however, remember Abby's sweet invitations to come swim with her (that I couldn't possibly pass up), watching Hailey do headstands for crowds of adoring tourists along the boardwalk, Summer's joy at chasing seagulls and Robin's sweet cuddles under the towel, drying off after a cold dip.


I have a few friends and loved ones going through some really heavy, really hard stuff right now. I wondered if I shouldn't go dark here on the blog for a bit, out of respect for their difficulties. I came home today on such a life high, touched in a very real way by the goodness and abundance in my life, that I instead felt called to celebrate. Because for every dark day I have endured, I have been lifted by the joy of others, and delivered the promise of a brighter tomorrow. I will send my love and prayers to those going through rough times, and be there for them in any capacity I can think of.  I am happy and blessed in my own life, and that allows me to be there for them in their times of need. 


After all, life is only made as complicatedly beautiful as it is by its extremes. It can send us to sorrowful lows, where we grasp at faith, family, anything to keep us afloat when we feel like drowning. But it can also send us to the beach, on a sunny day, with our friends and children to bask under the shade of a cherry tree.



Monday, July 13, 2015

In the Garden

The things that keep me awake these summer nights have been few, but one of those has been the garden. It has become a point of fixation for me. I now leave my garden journal beside my bed, because I so often fall asleep thinking of a great idea, or thing to remember, so I sit up, turn on the light, and write it out quickly before letting my brain succumb to sleep at the end of a long day. 

I have centred my morning ritual around watering the plants. I love the slow process and checking in to see how my ripening vegetables are coming along. This week, I have delighted in gathering blueberries off my mother's day bush to sprinkle on our cereal. The strawberries are done, the tomatoes are just beginning to turn colour, and the jury's still out on the broccoli after a caterpillar infestation.


I thought it would be really cute to include the girls in the garden, and I do, but I have really come to regard the garden as a personal project, because it gives me so much joy. I diligently added nutrients to the soil when the tomato leaves showed signs of yellowing, sprinkling bone meal and topping it with fresh soil and water. I continue to find caterpillars and pluck them off one by one, hoping the remaining leaves will sufficiently photosynthesize and we will eat home-grown broccoli. I make plans and pin recipes for all the tomatoes and zucchinis I hope to harvest. I have hung lavender to dry, and arranged fresh flowers on our table each day. 


I am pleased that my girls will eat greens that come from the garden, if only because they cut and washed them on their own. I feel so rewarded when I see that a little extra water is making all the difference with my fledgling rhubarb plant. The rewards of gardening are all very tacit metaphors for life. You reap what you sow. Hard work yields results. The best laid plans are subject to the fates. 

I have made some big-time errors in gardening this year, like not drilling holes into containers and planting too many seeds too close together. I have also turned those boo-boos into great plans for nourishing the soil this fall and and how to plant crops next year. Having a garden makes this house feel like more of a home. It aligns me more closely with the forecast and, in turn, nature. It teaches me patience and to laugh when things go wrong. It inspires me to find more home-made solutions to problems and wants before turning to the stores or hiring help.

I have learned what I know so far from trial and error, Mother Earth Living magazine's tips, and asking neighbours what has worked for them. I now know I prefer heirloom seeds, I know how big a crop my containers can sustain, I know I want many more basil plants next year to support my pesto habit, I know the chives should come back, but the sage won't, unless I bring it indoors. I know soil needs food too, and I have collected worms on rainy days with the girls to add to our raised beds-- they are nature's best composters! There is a lot I don't know, too, and that's what keeps it interesting.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Go Ahead and Lose It

I know that I am following the right path for me when going to work means interviewing incredibly diverse, insightful people that leave me buzzing with energy after a good interview. I feel so blessed when I step back and realize people pay me to ask questions, research interesting topics, and then write reports. Recently, I struck the serendipity jackpot again when I was interviewing a child psychologist for an upcoming story on mindfulness. I'll save the good stuff for the article itself, but the whole conversation was super juicy, valuable teachings that I plan to revisit again and again in my parenting career. I have it recorded and took fastidious notes, but the big take-away, for me, was this:

She said it was not just okay, but beneficial, to lose it once in awhile in front of your kids. 
Wait, what?



I spend a lot of energy working on harnessing my reactions, being an even-tempered presence, and getting my Zen on in a regularly chaotic gig. I fight the urge to lose it, but I do, and I am usually washed over with guilt. Succumbing to the urge to yell, or stomp around, or growl makes me feel like a temporary failure. This psychologist, who specializes in mindfulness training, said that, actually, it would serve my daughters well to see me experience a range of emotions, rather than being some stoned-looking earth mama (my words, not hers!). 


The key is to follow very human outbursts with a very self-controlled reaction. Model how to deal with frustration, so they can see for themselves how it looks to take deep, cleansing breaths and chill out. Show them what anger looks like, then demonstrate the importance of taking a moment to collect myself and apologize for my behaviour. You know, the very things I ask them to do.


Huh. Writing this out, it all sounds so simple. I can see, though, how clear the connection is between the behaviour and words I model and my girls' reactions. They reflect back to me what they see. Sometimes that means I hear Abby yell, "Goddammit!" when she ruins her watercolour painting with a black blob, but it also means I see Hailey solve her arguments by offering a hug when using her words to apologize is too difficult for her.




Monday, July 6, 2015

A Great Many Things

There have been a great many things going on around here. They are the small treasure kind of things, things others may not notice or see as special. To us, they are the things we go to bed smiling about. Reading books on the back step at sunrise, just me and my oldest girl (who felt called to wake up). Pasta with a sauce made mostly of greens from our garden, delicious! Homemade hibiscus iced tea. Fresh picked strawberries. Front porch haircuts. Rescuing Dora figures from the bottom of the pool. Backyard barbecue parties. Murals made of glitter paint.


Haircuts: Hailey and Robin look different now, which I think will go a long way in helping them grow as single beings. I see the resignation and sighs they make when someone confuses them for the other twin, and it breaks my heart a little. I gave Hailey, with her impish grin and silly nature, a cute little Meg Ryan haircut. Robin's is more Lauren Bacall, to let her lovely ringlets flow. Abby wanted one too, so I attempted layers to accommodate her thick, wavy hair. She loved it, and I love that her waves hide my imperfect cut job.


Our very Niman summertime carries on: Eating out back, ice cream all over faces, blowing bubbles, picking our own blueberries in the garden, and working on our pool entrances.



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