Thursday, May 21, 2015

Morning with the Too-Toos

The pool is open and we have been enjoying morning trips to the park, but in order for summertime to begin feeling authentic, we like to make trips to Petrie Island. We throw rocks into the river, climb on the wooden train, and take walks along the turtle path. This time of year, the handful of turtle species local to the island like to bask in the sun. Lucky us, they were out chillaxing on some fallen trees today when we visited with our friends Alyssa, Henry and baby Rosemary.

They were easy to spot and the kiddos didn't have to strain or climb very high before they began stretching out their pointed fingers. "See them! The turtles!" Summer calls them too-toos, and was most enthusiastic of all. I was not immune to the splendour of seeing so many turtles either. I mean, it's pretty awesome, right?

I love our special little place. We share it with other people, but most of the time it isn't very busy. When we set up shop to eat a snack, or run back and forth along the riverside trails, it feels like it becomes our own corner of the world. Our natural home away from home.

Hailey contemplates.

These two.

Monday, May 18, 2015


I made this haiku my Facebook status yesterday: 

Backyard pool splashes
Water droplet eyelashes
Long weekend done right.

I mean, right? Long weekend, baby.

We did a lot of swimming, snacking, sun-basking, garden watering, mouth watering and chalk drawing.

I don't know if memories were made, or if any of us will remember much about this weekend in the big scheme of things. Nothing extraordinary occurred. But in the ordinary, we celebrated the beautiful weather, the joy of having a backyard pool, of fresh produce on the table and being together.  

Cuddling wet, slippery bodies up to mine in the shallow end felt right. Holding outstretched hands for first jumps into the deep end felt victorious. Falling in love with my four little swimmers, daring in each her own way made me feel proud.

The house is a mess because the May long weekend is about being outside, and collapsing of exhaustion at the end of the day before you can even get to the sweeping. The new plants are settled into the garden well and being carefully tended by myself and my four eager apprentices. 

The sangria has been poured into plastic patio wine glasses, and re-filled. And re-filled.

Whatever the point of the Victoria Day weekend is meant to be, we must have aced it. I know this because our water-logged bodies and tightly curled pool hair fall heavy onto our beds at day's end.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

That Fickle Mother Nature

I made a rookie mistake. I was so enthusiastic about our recent warmer temperatures that I took for granted it is still the month of May in Canada-- anything can happen. It didn't even cross my mind to hold out on planting our heirloom seedlings outside in our new raised bed. I had excitedly stained it, filled it, mixed in some tomato-friendly fertilizer and had Abby help me plant our two kinds of tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli and herbs last weekend. Then, yesterday, the air cooled to zero at night. I ran out to cover my struggling plants with baby blankets, but I was no match for Mother Nature. Most of the plants have shrivelled, wilted and kicked the bucket. Oops!

Lesson learned: never, ever, no matter what, don't even think about planting my hard-fought-for seedlings outside until the May long weekend. Thankfully, I still have enough seeds for next year's garden (which I have learned to delay starting until April). This year, I'll have to swallow my pride and head to the nursery for some new plants that a far more seasoned gardener has started for me. Our perennials have toughed it out and seem to be well on their way to becoming bountiful blueberry, raspberry and rhubarb plants. The girls and I took one nibble each from our first strawberry, and it was delicious.

You know what wasn't delicious? The lunch I put in front of Miss Hailey yesterday. Homemade mac'n'cheese with cut up kiwi and a handful of cashews warranted this sassy little face. The only way to crack her committed pout was to take a picture and show her in the viewfinder. That elicited a  small grin before she resumed her post. Oh well, you get two choices in my restaurant: take it or leave it.

We are so excited for the long weekend, we decided to start early. Abby will play hooky and join us tomorrow for a walk in the woods with our good friends, then lunch at Grama's with my brother and sister-in-law who are visiting from out of town, and then ... the main event ... our inaugural swim in the pool! I've been vacuuming, salting, pH-rising and heating our backyard oasis in preparation for some may-jah long weekend frolicking. The smell of lilacs in the evening, sunscreen in the morning barbecues around the neighbourhood firing up at suppertime evoke a very "right here, right now" vibe.

The lawn care sales people have been busy drumming up business, but when they knocked on our door, we happily told them that we loved our field of dandelions. I receive hand-picked bouquets nearly every day, and those bright yellow sunshine-looking blooms feed the bees before most other flowers have blossomed.  We'll keep 'em, thankyouverymuch. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Get Set Go!

Rather than sleep in and wait for breakfast in bed on my special day, I tiptoed out of my room quietly to wake Abby. Her sisters joined us for an early breakfast of milk, toast, yogurt, and melons before we welcomed our morning babysitter. Papa bear was sleeping off a night shift, but he remembered to leave me a beautiful blueberry bush and some cards for me on our table! Abby and I waved a quick goodbye and headed out the door in our runners.

We have been practicing together the past month. I have been working up to my first 10k since I graduated university. Abby was working up to her first 1k since she sat in a stroller as a baby and we did a 5k. The Run for Women had a kid's category, so we arrived with my mom and began to let our excitement build.  Abby was visibly jazzed, bouncing all around, smiling, taking in the pre-race scene of costumes, bass-heavy music and cheering.

We went over our plan to pace ourselves, and I reminded her how proud I was of all our hard work training. The 1k race began and she was first out the chute rocketing away, so we scaled it back and kept our jog slow, knowing we had a ways to go. She told me it felt very far, and about three quarters of the way through, she said she was feeling tired.

"Yes, this is the tough part," I said.
"But I am tough," she responded, and kept going anyway.

As we approached the finish line, we started to sprint together, side by side:

The crowd cheered us in, and I am not too shy to say I had warm tears streaming down my face as we crossed the finish line of our first race together. We were both smiling so big; her face lit up like I've never seen before. 

"I won, I won!" she said, receiving hr medal. She held it up, showing everyone. My mom took our picture, both of us crying happy tears, and Abby so proud of herself. 

That was the start to my best Mother's Day yet. We came home and had all the moms and family over for brunch (my brother FaceTimed in, too!), opened cards, ate cake, and cleaned up the kitchen together. I went for a good, long training run on my own, still on a high from my morning with Abby. My girls came outside with me later to help plant the blueberry bush in a nice sunny spot, and then we all cuddled up for a movie as they rain started in. I tucked them all in tonight feeling like the richest woman on earth. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sunny Days

"Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away. On my way to where the air is sweet." I would sing those words to babies as they resisted sleep, coaxing them into slumber with my rhythmic theme song and bouncing. Today, it is our call to action. It's nice outside! The sky is clear! Let's get outside!

There has been no easing into summer weather, it has arrived and tested our wishes for the end of winter with weeks of 25-30 degree (Celsius!) weather. I am not complaining. Everyone's gardens are blooming, the ravines and forests are drying up from the leftover melt, and the trees are beginning to burst forth with foliage to offer shade on these sunny days.

I am referencing my "happy life" reminder file a lot less, as time outside triggers a nice calm reserve of patience to deal with the frustrations of young children. I take in the sweetness of a good breeze, the cardinals' song, the tulips, my little girls in sun dresses and rompers, icy drinks, and then wouldn't you know it? Life is good. 

Windswept sun-bleached baby fine hair atop two matching heads, their cornflower blue eyes looking to me asking, "what's next, mama?" Water sprayed from the hose on their feet, they giggle and scurry away. Running over to my outstretched hand holding a full water bottle, as though a few sips is the best thing they've ever tasted. Walking through the woods, we have time to feel bark on "mama trees", and bend the malleable trunks of "baby trees." Collecting dandelions in small hands, dropping them into my lap as offerings of beauty (as seen through their discerning lenses).

Skylar dug up the rhubarb plant, so she was in my bad books. The sun hit her so nicely this morning, and she frolicked so happily through the woods that I couldn't help but fall in love with her again. 

The girls are asleep now after a morning in fresh air under sunny skies, so I will retreat to the backyard for some mama time. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Time Outside

Sorry not sorry I haven't sat to write here, we've been OUTSIDE! And it's been glorious! Toes unshackled by the confines of shoes, free in sandals. Skin untouched by the sun's rays, finally unleashed under her warm goodness (with a good dose of sunscreen). Our first outdoor swim and barbecue. A weekend hike to our fave green place, spotting wildlife we haven't seen since the last warm season. 

I have been doing a lot of back-to-basics thinking about my priorities. When things started feeling wound up and tense a few weeks ago, I knew I needed to check in with my priorities. I sit with clarity now having reviewed my priorities: good food, proper sleep, slowing down and time together. That list also includes unstructured time outside. That may seem pretty fundamental to anyone else, but I need these concrete reminders. I don't need or want to be shuttling girls from activity to activity. A morning spent at the park or in the garden is so good, for all of us.

Our garden is well on its way, and is quickly becoming a fabulous metaphor for living with intention. Our front garden last year consisted of what the previous owners planted. I took stock, removed what didn't suit us, and am following through on plans for more edibles. We have a raspberry and a rhubarb bush now, along with our perennial plants and flowers for the bees. The girls are helping me weed, and we're watching for the tulips we planted last fall. 

I also found hanging strawberry baskets this weekend! Rather than shelling out $20 for flower baskets that inevitably dry up and die because I forget to care for them, strawberry plants flower beautifully and provide yummy snacks, ergo I am encouraged to water them. Our backyard raised beds are almost ready, and then we'll transplant all the seedlings from our kitchen counters, which are quickly running out of space. Man, I love eating good food. We're just finishing up our jars of salsa from last year's garden and I am super excited to see how this year's tomato varieties grow. 

I know, rock star 15-year-old Sarah just died a little. But hey, no apologies from me. Growth is progress.

Abby has her first big race this weekend, and started coughing last night. I worried after all her hard work, she might miss it. I usually feel helpless when the kids get coughs, because there's not a lot I can do: massage their chests with some eucalyptus or mint-based rub, run the humidifier, and offer water often. Then I remembered a recipe I pinned for homemade cough syrup, so I prepared some of that before bed last night, and it was ready this morning. Abby said it helped, but she would probably say anything for spoonfuls of honey. I mixed the syrup into cold water for her breakfast, and gave a spoonful of it straight before we headed out the door for school. 

I'm going to keep some of this in the fridge from now on. Mix into a mug of hot water for a soothing tea when sick, or take a spoon for an ayurvedic boost. Yes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


I feel a little like a sick person recovered from a long illness, but my enthusiasm will not wane: Alleluia, it's WARM outside!

In an effort to make up for long days of winter (movies, indoor play, Netflix that repeats episodes of Paw Patrol without my even being in the room, early bedtimes and cabin fever), I am opening the door in the morning and hollering the kids in at dinnertime. Between then, we might come in to use the washroom, have afternoon naps and eat meals at our table. Our morning and afternoon walks to school and a good run every other day keeps me feeling alive and connected to my outside world. The girls, though, they are flourishing in these whole days spent outside.

They play independent of my instruction or involvement for hours. I set them up, referee as needed, and they are happily occupied with the outside world. It makes me so happy to see these scenes, and then, curses, I second-guess if I was doing something wrong all winter by not making enough effort to play outside. But, no. I wasn't. It was just cold and forbidding and we hibernated. The yang to that yin is just the way things are, at least in this climate. As Montell Jordan tells me from my speakers, This Is How We Do It.

I took the girls to a great park tucked away in my Grama's neighbourhood that, as kids, we called Goldilocks Park. The trees are beginning to bud, so the warm sun had a chance to poke through sparse branches and warm our pale skin. We came without snacks or toys, and those girls happily played all morning long. Should we move to California, and have parks and al fresco art days all year long? I wonder.

I'm all about gardening and metaphors inspired by plants these days, so how about: Bloom where you are planted. Forget the winter that has passed, don't think about how these warm days are impermanent, just bloom, right here, under the sunny skies of spring. Dream of popsicles, pool parties, barbecuing, hikes, flowers, vine-fresh tomatoes, sunscreen smell and adventure. 

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