Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Blooming


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. 


Monday, April 27, 2015

Mislabelled

Around the time my friends and I started filling out personality quizzes in teen magazines, I began to feel a sense of comfort in labels. I was outgoing, book smart, a little weird, pretty, an artist. These things helped me place myself in the world, and gave me concrete descriptors to identify myself as I continued on a journey to find out, indeed, who I was.

I wondered recently if all those quizzes in magazines, or Grade Ten career class and online may have been wrong. Or, perhaps, maybe I just skewed my answers to get the result I thought fit best. I always thought myself quite extroverted: I love to talk (sometimes, to excess), I am a storyteller, I like to be the centre of attention and I enjoy having friends around. The more I grow into my skin, however, the more I think that underneath it all I might be an introvert. I recharge by having time to myself, I work best independently, I need to have quiet solo time throughout my day to feel grounded, and prefer to spend evenings quietly at home, most of the time. 

Robin curled up nicely with Peter Rabbit.

I was reading a Sue Monk Kidd book, wherein she describes signing up for a retreat of that would require silence, introspection, and quiet time to write. I thought that sounded marvellous. Her next thoughts echoed my own. She felt guilt, and doubted that she deserved time on a retreat by herself, especially when it cost money and took her away from her family. I would, too. I hear that a lot from mothers with young kids. Do I crave quiet time, alone, because I have young kids, or because my soul leans more toward the introvert side of the spectrum?

I am learning to do what pleases me more than what I think I should enjoy, and this has led me to a lot more quiet, solo and outside time. Who knows, maybe a midlife crisis will see me singing show tunes while I hang from chandeliers at parties with young, hip people. For now, I will continue to embrace my need for quiet, and offer it to my girls when they need the same.




Thursday, April 23, 2015

Raising a Mother

I'm a balancer. I can sense very early on when things are leaning too far one way or the other, and this sense has served me well. I don't always heed these little warnings, though, so when the scales tip, I can be hard on myself for having not saved things sooner. Indeed, I can be hard on myself for no good reason but an ingrained sense of not being enough. When the mood around here begins to shift, I look to what needs fixing before the whole mess turns upside down. I am learning that, more often than not, what needs fixing is me.

I don't say this to solicit assurances or to be self-deprecating. I have found it very empowering, as a control-minded Type A, to know I hold the reigns on both my happiness and my family's moods. When I get cranky that things aren't going my way, it's no one's fault. When I feel guilt that I am not living up to being the mother I want to be, I ask what that ideal is, and from where it came. I feel my jaw tighten when the breakfast routine deviates from my plan, and remember that my reactions make or break how everyone feels in the next few moments. This is great power and great responsibility, as they say.

Honey in my tea cures most of my crazy moments.
I have been doing a few things to help me focus on letting go of both my controlling tendencies and an inner dialogue that was growing unforgiving and punitive when I feel not good enough. (Because everyone feels not good enough sometimes, right?) 

I am remembering:
- The only way to raise happy children is to raise a happy mama. 
- I deserve the kindness from myself that I give to others. 
- When the pimp's in the crib ma, drop it like it's hot (sorry, had that song in my head)
- Thich Nhat Hanh's instructions for a simple life: "Smile, breathe, go slow."
- To make time to sit and meditate. I am noticing now when I haven't done this, I get more snappy, reactive and my brain feels easily overwhelmed.
- Not to read articles/posts about parenting. Some are helpful, but lately I am taking a hiatus because I would read something meant to be inspiring or unifying and instead feel like my style of parenting didn't measure up. And I am not making room anymore for guilt or doubt.
- To tell Rich what I'm trying to do, so he can support me in my efforts and recognize when I am trying not to let myself derail.
- To remain quiet and really listen. Why is this so hard? 

I stand against the wind in setting these intentions some days. Other days,  I recall these instructions and feel much more equipped to react with grace. Raising a mother is hard work, but it makes raising children so much more organic. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Friends

It was my best friend's 30th birthday, but I felt like I received some great gifts: most of my best friends together in my house, windows open, sun shining, an impromptu brunch, good food, coffee and tea, everyone's babies, and some very special guests flown in all the way from Australia. 


Sweet baby Marissa was born three months ago, and my friend felt so far away in Oz. I missed Cat so much more than ever before, and I just cried at the distance, at missing my friend, at wanting so badly to watch her be a mama to her little girl. Wish granted ... she flew home! And this baby girl, she is just gorgeous. A good sleeper, makes sweet little noises, and is so patient with everyone as we all passed her around. 


And Cat, she is such a natural. She just loves on that baby girl like she was born to do this. They are two peas in a pod, those little buddies. I mean, just look at her. You can see how she loves that baby with every cell, with all her soul.


Back to the birthday girl. We celebrated Saturday night with an intense karaoke party in Chinatown, and we were all blown away (as usual!) by Andrea's rendition of I Will Always Love You. The rest of us spent the night yell-singing into the microphone, such classics as You're So Vain and This Is How We Do It. Her real birthday came a couple days later, so we threw together a brunch at my place, and almost everyone had work off. We passed around babies, my girls worked their way into our conversations and nommed down on brunch treats. We gave the birthday girl her cards and gifts, and took a nice sunshine-y walk. 


Andrea is such a special person to me. She's known me since we were in Grade 3! With that comes a foundation of pretty unconditional acceptance, support, grounding and silliness. She can still make me feel like I'm going to almost pee my pants laughing. My life is enriched so much by having her as my best friend. She's loyal, honest, creative and makes every event the best it can be. Celebrating 30 years of her was easy, there's so much good in that woman! 

Baby Rosemary, and Andrea: baby whisperer.
I have some pretty amazing friends. Not just one or two good ones, either, but a whole circle of solid, smart ladies. I love watching them with my girls. I love laughing with them. I love hearing them call me on the phone just to catch up. We even started a book club just to give ourselves another excuse to hang out at restaurants on a semi-regular basis! They are such a garden of beautiful, unique flowers.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

At Long Last

The widows are open, my bare skin has been kissed by the sun. The kids have been biking up and down the street, the grass needs a good raking. The birds sing happy songs, the chipmunks and squirrels reappear. The fresh air gives us all an excited feeling, and we are colouring chalk doodles all up the walkway instead of watching another movie. Spring is here!


Spring makes me want to get poetic. There is so much beauty and bursting colour concentrated in one quick transition after such a long, dark, cold wait. Here is one of my favourite poems to celebrate to winder of the season.

A Light Exists in Spring
By Emily Dickinson

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss

Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.




Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ode to Summer

I learn so much from sitting near Summer. Everything is new to her. It's all exciting, thrilling, vivacious. Everything that feels extraordinary to her needs to be shared, and so she calls me, with great fervour. "Mama! Mama!"  The geese migrating home, a moving V-shape across the great sky. The puddle at the end of our driveway, ready to receive her jubilant hop. The cardinal, a flash of red in the bare black branches of our neighbour's tree, calling its morning song. Her eyes are always moving, but as soon as they see something interesting, they always look to mine. She wants to see if I see it, too. Isn't this fun, Mama? isn't this so amazing?


And lately, I do share her effervescent joy. I find it on my own when walking through a thin layer of ice, cracking it under my boot on our morning walk. I squat down to her eye level to squint at an airplane flying overhead. Do you see it, Mama? Do you hear it? It flies! Amazing. 

Though her morning cup of milk is routine, she uses this predictability to build anticipation, dancing on the spot, hands shaking, little voice shrieking in excitement as I hand the sippy cup to her outreached hands. I can't help but smile and let myself be invited into her joie de vivre. 

Even though it's cold out, even though there's snow, even though her sister's crying, even though the toast has burnt, Summer is thrilled to be a part of it all. Lucky me. If the morning's going rough, if I'm feeling a little down, all I need to do is watch Summer move about the room and I am lifted up by her joyful, quick little steps as she races across the kitchen. 





Monday, April 6, 2015

The Easter Conundrum

Easter can feel like a conflicting holiday for me. I feel pulled between celebrations of the Easter Bunny with the Catholic traditions, and a general recognition of spring and new life. Knowing that I am not autonomous puts the pressure on: with four little sets of eyes looking to me for guidance, how will our family celebrate? 


I answer this question like I do many others: with my conscience. I listen to that still, small voice. Abby comes home from Catholic school and shares her understanding of Jesus at the dinner table, and we all discuss what it means for us. The younger girls see chocolate eggs hidden Easter morning and are enraptured with the idea of tasty treats. I brought the girls to a farm and a local Easter-Spring hybrid celebration, using both as opportunities to celebrate the end of winter, new life, and renewed hope that warmer days are coming. 

I like this all-encompassing metaphor: the dark days are behind us, and will come again, but in the meantime we celebrate the hope of warmer, brighter days by giving thanks for what we have in front of us. The message of all celebrations this time of year is one of renewed faith, of promises delivered.


We can use this time to fill our tanks. We live out loud, share our selves and greet our neighbours after a winter hibernating with our family. We know winter will return, and we know hard times will come again. In these brighter, vibrant, happy days, we can celebrate what is here and now. We can take in the miraculous wonder of new life, in all its forms.


Concretely, this time of year is about opening our windows, spring cleaning, buying myself a spring dress online after yet another day of snow, replacing winter boots with rain boots, and planting our seeds in the kitchen. I get excited for days spent outdoors under warm summer sun, I plan road trips and adventures, I start running again, I talk to my girls about faith, and I answer their questions as they come up organically. 


Finding a way to guide my girls through their own developing spirituality while I continue to work on my own is intimidating. Motherhood and guardianship require such guidance, so I will keep trying my best. I will keep leading our family's practices and faith discussions based on what feels right for us, where we are now. I will work from a place of openness, curiosity and following what my own relationship with God directs me to impart on my girls. Above all else, I recognize that I am tasked with giving these girls a foundation that will lift them up, give them comfort, offer direction, and leave lots of room for their own discovery as they grow.  


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