Sunday, March 29, 2015

Creating Again

I might have taught Abby to gently curse last week. We were walking to school in the snow, in -18, a day after putting our winter pants and boots away. "Surely," I thought, "that is the end of winter this time." We all felt so frustrated that there was only one thing we felt like doing: slamming the forces responsible. "Friggin Mother Nature!" Abby and I called out on our walk to school. "Yeah, why are you making it winter after spring was supposed to start?" she asked. We smiled, having aired our grievances, made the best of it, and walked to school united in our disdain for this prolonged winter.

Go fish, mama.
I heard someone say recently (OK, it was Liz Gilbert, I've been binge-watching her YouTube clips again) that if a creative mind is not actively creating, it is probably destroying something. Food for thought, I chewed on that. It's subtle, but true, for me. I haven't been doing much creating lately, and left idle, my mind began to find other ways to keep occupied. I was on FB way too much looking at linked articles I really didn't need to read, I got kind of cranky with those around me, I destroyed my creating side with my consuming, destructive side. Thankfully, I recognized this. Back to creating: spring cleaning, a painting, short story pieces, and our edible garden.

Last year's go at growing our own herbs and tomatoes was fun, fruitful and frugal. (Boo-ya for alliteration on that one!) This year, we have plans to put in a raised bed (our tomato plants in containers kept blowing over on windy days last year), and use our tall planters for potatoes and yams. The potatoes and yams have sprouted legs already, so hopefully we'll have some good shoots to work with when it's warm enough to plant them outside. This is super easy, by the way-- I highly encourage trying it! Each potato should yield me about 25-30 potatoes come fall, based on the height of my planters.

I used a Pinterest-provided tutorial to make my own seed planters out of newspapers. When it's time to harden my seedlings off and plants them in beds, I can keep the roots undisturbed by planting right into the wet soil, as the newspaper will decompose. 

As with last year, we bought our heirloom seeds from a local seed catalog. We have now planted seeds for two kind of tomatoes that date back to the early days of the Experimental Farm (Rideau and Carlton tomatoes), King of the North bell peppers (that lend themselves to our climate), broccoli, marigolds (to keep pests away from the tomatoes, and they are pretty!), white sage and Italian basil. We also planted zucchini, but those seeds aren't heirloom.  

We planted a raspberry bush in the fall from cuttings in my mom's backyard, and I keep dropping hints that I'd love a blueberry bush for Mother's Day. I have also hit up our local Second Cup coffee shop with empty coffee tins they generously filled with used coffee grinds, which I will work into the soil come spring (they're in the freezer, for now). Between all of those efforts, I am sure we'll have a ton of homegrown produce to eat and share. The cost of seeds, starter soil and trays has been under $30. This year, we'll be spending money to have the raised beds built and filled with soil, but from here on out, I hope to have a relatively low-cost operation for edible gardening each year. Mama like.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Our resident superhero has returned to shift work, and that means we are adjusting to a new balance in our house. It's been almost eight years of different kinds of dayshift/nightshift schedules, but it's still tricky to get used to again. We know he needs a good seven or eight hours to sleep, so he can be alert when he goes back out the next night. Giving him a quiet house is tough, because it's full of three crazy young kids (four on weekends), a dog, a cat, a ringing phone and the occasional doorbell. 

Our schedules again become less about days of the week and more about days on/days off, night shifts, swing shifts and early shifts. On the plus side, he's home with us more between work blocks, and I am free to schedule appointments during weekdays again without relying on a babysitter, yay! On the down side, he sometimes doesn't see Abby for days, missing her in the morning when he sleeps and returning to work before she comes home from school. That's been hard for her. I've found her in the morning watching out the window for his truck to return to our driveway, and she's upset when I tell her he's already home, but asleep, so shhhh. 

We have Summer's white noise machine moved to ours to muffle the sounds of our mornings and days. I try to plan activities out of the house to grant him some peace and quiet while he sleeps off a night shifts. I try to remember to give him space after a long day shift leaves his body and mind feeling like mush. Then those four or five days off in a row, there are two parents in this house and it feels amazing, like a little vacation. 

It sometimes feels like our whole family life revolves around his work, and sometimes that's a pain. Christmases have been missed, holidays, birthdays or get-togethers by myself. Asking family for help when I'm on my own for five days, planning days based on his sleep needs, and arranging my writing projects around his days off. But then I remember to put my ego aside, and keep in mind that he is working really hard, in 12-hour shifts (or longer), in sometimes dangerous circumstances, with short breaks, with paperwork to catch up on, and cold meals eaten from Tupperware containers in a car.

Those nights he's working, and I go to sleep alone, it is such a comfort to be woken by his footsteps climbing the stairs. It means he is home, and safe. 

I took some time to stop and notice the beauty of three-year-old girl ringlets topped by a braid. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Staycation with Abby

This Sunday evening is among my least favourite of the year. March break is over and with that comes the end of my uninterrupted days with Abby. Of course, she loves school. I love her school, programming and her teachers. The alternative of keeping her out of school or homeschooling is not for me, and I know that. I've had such a nice time on vacation with my biggest girl, the one who made me a mama. Watching her grow brings so much excitement. Each milestone is new and surprising, so I soak it in and learn as I go, as it is with oldest children. 

This week we found lots of chances for mama-Abby time, and each day of our spring staycation was made special. Our family: went out for (free!) ice cream cones, chose books at the library, had friends visit for play dates, ate at special restaurants, baked together, watched movies, went to the sugar bush with my best friend, went for walks, made crafts, ate dessert after almost every meal, and indulged in not having time limits on anything. Letting sisters keep playing into nap time, ignoring the clock, answering to hunger cues and deciding to stop everything and make peanut butter jelly pizza for lunch made March break special.

I sat with Abby to work on art projects while she sang made-up songs, and then we'd talk about her name story(she is middle-named after our cousin, Laura). We practiced some kid-friendly guided meditations, and integrated those lessons into times of conflict, worry and disappointment. I listened to her read, and watched her make pizza dough all by herself, start to finish. I saw just how quickly she is growing up, and heard her tell me, in her own words, what she makes of her surroundings. I saw her express herself so clearly and accurately. Watching confidence bloom is pretty amazing (and makes me cry happy tears).

The free play dynamics were made so much more rich by big sister's involvement and direction. Hours, every day, these girls played together, mostly in harmony. I know we'll miss her as she returns to full days of school this week. Maybe I'll have to play hooky, have her stay home so we can soak her in a bit more. She was so patient with her sisters and, honestly, after a whole week of cold weather and mostly indoor play, these girls aren't at all sick of each other. (We took turns cursing out Mother Nature for her false promises of spring. My favourite was when Abby yelled, "spring is for sunshine and green grass, not ugly brown snow!") 

What? You don't reach out your window for icicles to serve for afternoon snack?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ten Years Time

For the first time in my life, I am approaching a decade birthday where I can recognize pieces of myself forming 10 years ago. The difference between being 10 years old and 20 is developmentally huge. I suppose the same could be said for the 20 to 30 leap, but I was afforded the rights of an adult a decade ago, and have taken steps to earn the esteem of adulthood. I am able to look back 10 years and mostly laugh at what I thought about my life and the world. Which leads me to take myself less seriously today. Just imagine what 40-year-old Sarah will think of what I'm up to these days! 

Ten years ago: showing off

At 20 years old, I was living on my own for the first time, in a teeny tiny apartment in the By Ward market with my friend Cat. We spent all our money each pay period, worked on top of full-time class loads, partied really hard, and laughed our days away. I began running, played underwater hockey, worked as an editor, was attending journalism school, and became engaged to marry Rich. I took the bus everywhere, I rationed my money between rent, groceries and beer money, and have no idea how I managed to still go to movies, buy new clothes once in awhile, and eat out. I have kept my writing, so I can look back at my poems and journaling to see that I was really quite set in my opinions! 

I thought I had things figured out. I had plans, direction, ambition, education and the freedom to explore any future I wanted (limited to what I could afford). I know if I met that girl today, I would be kind, supportive, forgiving and patient, but I would not offer advice. That girl had a lot to learn, and so much growth was in the learning. In 10 years I have married Rich, moved to the Yukon, had four babies, written professionally, travelled, and learned a lot of hard lessons. I think, more than anything, this last decade has shown me what I'm made of when the chips fall, and how to stand on my own two feet. Rich and I have grown a great partnership, but personally, I have developed a great confidence in my abilities. 

With this perspective, I smile to think that the things I worry about today, and put effort into, may seem so misdirected in another 10 years. 

I get that turning 30 can prompt some to feel anxiety, that deadlines are looming, that expectations have not been met. There might be fear of aging, that time is passing too quick. I feel those things sometimes, too. For the most part, I feel excited for this passing from one decade to another. I feel like I will enter a new awareness, a new level of wisdom, a graduation from the natural self-centredness of my twenties to the autonomy of 30 plus. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Spring Break

If March break is a jigsaw puzzle to be assembled, the pieces look like this: bread to bake, recipes to try, play dates on the calendar, baby animals in a barn, maple tapping, smoothies, reptiles, tea parties, nail polish, walks, the Garlic King, and maybe some random corner pieces with glitter on them. We'll figure out where they go along the way. It's really more about time spent together than it is about the final picture, right? We're starting off with good intentions.

Hailey and Robin are working towards becoming accredited babysitters one day. They can hold a baby's soother in, make him giggle, pat his head gently and alert the authorities when he cries. In all seriousness, it is so heart-warming to see them act so maternally and gently with baby W. They transform from tornado-ing balls of high-kicking energy to baby whisperers. True, they have a little sister, but she is more of an up-and-coming prospect in this game. The baby? He poses no threat, and so Hailey and Robin are lured in by his cuteness.

The weather is playing games with my heart (hey-o BSB reference), as it usually does in March: It warms up, I dream of gardening, and then a snowfall. I put the girls in rain boots to allow for prime splashing, then deal with soaking wet snow pants afterwards. That just means we get to really fly by the seat of our pants and plan our days according to what the weather forecast reads that day. 

Enjoy spring break-- I am totally going to soak it up, literally and figuratively. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


We're about a week away from opening the screen-less windows and letting the fresh air in. The snow is melting into that gross, slushy brown stuff, everything comes inside soaking wet and dirty, I'm never sure whether to use rubber boots or keep up with the winter ones. Spring is coming. Mother Nature might actually make good on her promise to be here for the equinox. I have started doing nerdy things like making a spring cleaning list, buying consignment rain gear, and re-arranging furniture after a long winter spent indoors. Hailey and Robin's bedroom got an upgrade with the addition of my old bookshelf from my mom's house, and I am happy to report it is so far not a hazard to their safety during afternoon quiet time (which is about where my expectations lie).

We're also continuing to get more greens and healthy stuff into us. After a week's worth of delicious dinners were mostly turned away by snooty children, I made plans to be more covert. I am now sneaking anything orange into pasta sauce, (like grated carrots, pureed bell peppers or pumpkin), making green smoothies (parsley, spinach) taste good with honey and frozen mangoes, and sneaking ground flax into everything else. 

I used one of Angela Liddon's recipes for chocolate pudding with hidden avocados and it went over very, very well.

The longer daylight hours and warmer temps also mean it's time for me to call an end to my winter hiatus from running. I admit, I am seasonal. The serious runners may scoff at me come springtime for not being hardcore. I can cop to that. I am not hardcore. I detest gearing up in skin-covering layers to run on ice-covered sidewalks in -30. They can keep their claims to bad-assery. It means this time of year, though, I am a gasping, red-faced hot mess moving down my local sidewalks and trails at a faster pace that is a mix between a nice runner's gait and a hunchback hobble.

We have planted a few seeds indoors, spotted the squirrel running up and down our fence with nest-building materials, spotted the cardinals out singing and splashed in the first puddles of the season. I am so ready to get back to outdoor living again!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Little Women

I don't reflect often enough, I don't think, about just what it means to be raising girls. I don't have time for a lot of things, because I am occupied with raising them and life and stuff, but it's worth taking a moment today on International Women's Day to think about what that means. Glass ceilings, birth control, suffragettes, housewives, pant suits, sermons about, "you can be anything!" There is a history  of which we are a part. 

I like to imagine my daughters as limitless. They can be CEOs, power houses, badass mamma mammas who don't take no for an answer. To me, though, feminism in 2015 looks a little different than Sheryl Sandberg high-fiving Hilary Clinton. To me, it is about choices. 

I stay home with my girls. I am a housewife, or a 'homemaker' as I clarify on my income tax forms. I bake bread from scratch, have a hot meal ready for my husband when he comes home from work. I keep my body healthy and in shape. I have a professional degree, but I don't use it on a M-F 9-5 basis. It all sounds very 1950. But this is 2015. I chose this. 

I chose to forgo an immediate jump into a career, because I had a choice to start a marriage and family. I chose to stay home and raise these girls because my husband's job supports this lifestyle, and we make it work where sacrifices are necessary. My female ancestors worked hard so that I may be free to make these choices. Rich and I get to negotiate what's important and then make those things real.

My girls have what it takes to do anything they want. This includes the freedom to assert what they want, to explore and discover what they want. My girls are free to grow into women who do what satisfies their search for purpose and meaning. I teach them this by showing them how.

I bought my girls a bouquet of roses today at the grocery store. They took turns smelling the blooms, and we all marvelled at their colour while we ate at the table, surrounding the vase in the centre. I told them I loved them, that they made me so happy, and that they are all so special. Worthy of a surprise bouquet of roses. 

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