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.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Beach

If ever there was a place to be fully in the present moment (as they say), then this is it. The secret swimming hole. Kids, they are the masters of living in the moment. Robin was all about getting on her floaties so she could swim as far out as possible. Hailey set her sights on watching the bottom, each step in the sand reflected up through clear water. Abby wanted to swim so badly, and coaxed herself to be brave. I heard her telling herself to just do it, even though her body language showed she felt fearful. Swim, she did. And Summer? She had never been to the secret pond, but she waded in wearing her lifejacket, lifted her feet off the floor and swam like a pro. 

I joined my girls, our friends and my mom (you can never have too many adults around open water and young kids) for a morning spent under the sun, in the refreshing water, and on the beach. I didn't think about anything else, which is big for me. I am not a three-year-old, with a conscious state focused solely on what's in front of me. I usually have a mind going a mile-a-minute, planning, reviewing, thinking of dinner ideas, ways to improve the garden, story ideas, who I have to remember to call. Et cetera. 

With four little girls to keep track of (and count off every few minutes, or so) and sunlight to squint through, the detritus of my busy mind floated away. I felt like I was in the place I try to be when I sit with the purpose of meditating and turning off my thought valve. 

Serenity now. No need to compulsively recite the prayer. No chaos, no worries, just beach.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Pausing to be Grateful

We were granted a nice reprieve from long, hot sunny days with one of the cooler, rainy variety. We watched movies inside under blankets. I took a nap with the window open, listening to the sound of rainfall. Abby and I began our summer novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I went for a run in the pouring rain, cleansing myself literally and figuratively (we all have stuff to work out once in awhile, don't we?). It was a nice lull after a rather busy few days of summer break.

I've been enjoying the garden, and have started a little ritual each morning when I go out before getting the kids. I water the plants, check their progress and usually do a quick sun salutation or two to wake my stiff muscles and joints. If but nothing else, when I start my day this way, with a moment to myself, I start my day from a place of gratitude. 

I am learning gratitude is one of life's secret tools 100% guaranteed to ensure a modicum of happiness. Look around you, feel grateful, and then you begin to get rid of shame, guilt, cynicism and the general blahs to which we are all susceptible. I am trying this thing where I aim not to complain, and it's really helping. Complaining is nagging and whining without construct, and they don't do me any good. I never feel better after complaining about something, usually worse. So, I'm working on it. That, and being grateful. Sometimes that means stopping in the middle of making all the sandwiches, pausing amongst the cacophony of kid noises (crying and whining and yelling) to be grateful for something. Anything. It helps.

Lavender blue, dilly dilly.
I am thankful for so many things, so taking a second to rattle off a few usually does the trick. And I'm fortunate it does, because for many people, I am very aware that depression and its ugly cousins usually lurk in corners much too close for comfort.

Right now, I am thankful for having already gone for a run, because it means I can now sit and chill on the couch before bed for an hour or two. Bliss!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Growing Girl

 I mentioned that Abby learned how to swim over the weekend, and I was surprised by how much it affected me. It was like watching her take her first few steps as a chubby-legged baby. I was ridiculously proud, happy for her, and so in love with watching her figure it out on her own.

"Watch me, Mama!" she called, because she still calls me Mama. I watched, I ignored people talking to me, and tracked her little body as it moved from one end of the pool to the other before she grasped the side and looked to me. She saw my smile and I saw hers, beaming. My little girl, swimming. In the deep end.

She goes under water, she jumps in, she treads water. Just like that, she went from huddling on the stairs or clinging a noodle to being free in the water. The last one in the pool, always. My big girl has learned to swim, all on her own.

She also finishes two years of kindergarten this week, compounding my life with more emotional milestones surrounding my oldest girl. I have been so happy and so blessed with her teachers, and her school, whose priorities and goals line up so closely with my own. In addition to provincial curriculum, her teachers love getting the kids out exploring nature, letting them invent their own games, challenging them to ask questions and then spending all day exploring answers. They hug the kids when they need it, and in a world where physical contact between teachers and kids is often discouraged or banned, I love that they recognize when a kid just needs a cuddle. 

I will be sad to say goodbye to her teachers, but I am so excited for her to begin her formal education. That's later. First ... summertime calls. My girl will be home with us again. There will be no rushed mornings or strictly enforced bedtime. 

I might be belabouring the topic, but I must repeat it: I love this pool in our backyard. I was in it three times today! The girls are starting to invent funny pool games, Summer has learned how to jump in and swim to the ladder on her own (in a life jacket), and I have a place to float and read my book in the afternoons. Dreams do come true!

Sunday, June 21, 2015


It's been a wild few days around here. To summarize: Read Between the Wines held our second meeting at Pure Kitchen, I finished an excellent summer read, we celebrated the longest day of the year with our annual Summer Solstice backyard barbecue, Abby learned how to swim, and I flew 10,000 feet in the air and jumped! 

First things first. It was exhilarating, a rush, and an experience unlike any other. I felt like I was flying, which was both really cool and also really unsettling, just like in a dream. I had a chance to sit in quiet on the plane ride up and really observe the kinds of crazy things my mind does to distract myself from fear. I also observed what one thinks while sitting on the edge of the plane before jumping out. (Something like a mix between carpe diem, total surrender and "wait, what?")

Starting the season with our friends in the backyard was also pretty poetic. There was a kid running around playing Jingle Bells on his harmonica, Summer kept sitting on the pool steps in her clothes, the girls kept trying on princess dresses and setting up a clubhouses, the adults laughed and drank under a sunny sky, Abby worked up the courage to swim the whole pool by herself, and the food table was full of delicious noms. My best friend Kaylee kept looking around and laughing, saying, "this is pretty much the best day ever," and I totally agree. 

I am so happy summer is officially here. I am so grateful for the permission it gives to wake up each morning, look at the weather report, assess how we feel and decide from there what we'll do with our day. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


All day, erryday, we are outside. Raining? I hire my girls to hunt for worms to add to our raised garden beds. Cloudy? Then we can go to the park all morning without worrying much about sunburn. Sunny? Let's walk in the woods, where it's shaded and cooler. We'll go for a swim in any weather except thunderstorms. We eat outside, picnic-style or on the backyard table. Something from the garden is used now for at least one meal a day.

So far, only greens have been ready for harvesting (parsley, basil, chives, green onions, sage). Plus! Starting last week, our strawberry plants have given us fresh berries, which we pick each morning before the walk to school.


A relic from our home's past owners is a beautiful peony bush, which has just come into bloom. Abby helped me clip some last night, and this morning our house smelled delicious. I get a cheap thrill from bringing outside elements in, whenever I can.

Then I go back outside, because reading next to my vegetable garden and swimming pool is a daily dream come true. When the girls take their afternoon siesta (or quietly play in their room), I sometimes work, prep dinner or clean. Then some days, I just have to call it a beautiful day and soak it up, work be damned.

An easy way to encourage my girls to follow my love of the outdoors is to promise tasty treats, so today we drove out to Proulx Farm to pick strawberries. Within seconds, those girls discovered the joy of popping a sun-warmed strawberry into their mouths. 

They were hardly productive pickers, but we brought a few home for us to enjoy with breakfast tomorrow. I'd like to return with my grama next week sans enfants, so we can do some serious picking. I'll make a pie or two, then freeze the rest. Pulling a bag of strawberries out of the freezer during winter is a real treat, especially those hand-picked locally and frozen at the peak of their ripeness. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What Me Worry?

I think I might be taking my summertime super-caj vibe a little far. Abby will be going to school tomorrow with near dreads in her hair after daily swims and few baths. The girls have a near permanent grime-moustache, because when we are out at the park, or on a walk, I often don't have anything to wipe their faces post-snack. Laundry is piling up. I think I saw a tumbleweed of dog hair blow by in the basement.

I just can't help myself. I don't know any other answer to the question, "Want to come to my cottage tomorrow?" besides, "Of course, what can I bring?" Even if that question is asked at 9:30 the night before, as I'm getting things closed down for bed. Stop. Hammer time. Make a few sandwiches, a veggie dish to share, pack up the swim stuff, and then surprise the girls in the morning.

"Want to go on an adventure today?" 
They, being my daughters, know only one way to answer.

Summer is a month shy of turning two, but she makes it crystal clear that she is not limited by her age. She ran around the cottage grounds with her little friend and sisters, checking in with me only occasionally. She loved the water, knew just how to explore it to her liking, and couldn't wait to climb on and ride any floating device presented to her.

I loved bringing my girls along for a spontaneous summer adventure. I loved leading them into the water and giggling at the cold. I loved checking on them and seeing a game of "let's make swamp soup" in progress. I loved having the dog clean up every dropped chip or sandwich crust.  I loved looking at my girls' faces the first time a dragonfly landed on one's arm. I loved showing them that it's OK to go to bed with black feet and un-brushed teeth after falling asleep in the van on the drive home. 

Suddenly it's Sunday night, there's a school lunch to prepare, laundry to wash, a dresser to re-paint, protein balls to make for the week, and I really should do something about those dust/hair fluffs all over the floor. How I long to be back in an Adirondack chair with a beer-garita, a lovely cross between a beer and a margarita that my friend's husband created today.

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