Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Facing Forward

I'm super pumped to be right here, right now, at this very nexus of time: between Summer's infancy and her toddlerhood, between having all babies and all growing school-aged kids, between newlywed and power marathon couple. Right at this specific geographic coordinate on the imaginary plain of my journey. I've been in a bit of survival mode for awhile, learning how to handle twin preemies, then the added bonus of another baby, then moving without a home and living out of suitcases for awhile. We just had to make it. And now, we have. We have made it.

I have spent the last few years cultivating a simple, routine-based home life for our girls and honestly, for myself. I pared down a lot. We set our priorities and learned to get by with what we needed, and a few wants thrown in carefully. When the going got rough, we streamlined our activities, commitments and goals and tried to just be. Well-fed, cuddled, loved, active. The basics. We held onto the basics and have made a very satisfying, enriched existence for ourselves. I know we'll continue to keep it simple around here.


Now I feel like I'm ready to start taking on a bit more. 

As the girls grow, as I stretch my boundaries, I am ready to toss in a few spices of life, so to speak. A few more play dates and outings, because even if it's a little extra work, it's nice to see people, you know? Forge more friendships, expose my kids to other ideas. I am taking on more writing projects, personally and professionally. I am definitely feeling like now is the time to make my mark, establish my voice, and give a little back, creatively speaking.

We've been given so much while we were hunkered down in survival mode: a lot of grace, friendship, support, food, love, hand-me-downs, understanding. I counted those blessings almost every day and now here we are, ready to start returning the favour a little. In whatever ways we can, in whatever ways feel right. Earth Day's coming up, and I'm looking forward to doing a little neighbourhood trash clean-up with Abby. Easter weekend is a few days off, and the girls are getting excited not for egg hunts or chocolate, but for big family dinners, and visiting baby animals on the farm.

Maybe it's the infectious hope of spring, the warm weather calling us out of a very long hibernation, but I feel ready to step out again, and greet the world as a more established version of myself.

Monday, April 14, 2014

New life and nesting

Getting outside again: oh my, how refreshing it feels. Just like the after-rain smell coming into my bedsheets through the open window, my lungs feel like they've been spring cleaned with fresh air. Admittedly, some of that is the deep-cleaning that goes on when I'm heaving desperately, gasping the fresh air as I run. I signed up for a Mother's Day 5K (did I mention that before?), and I'm on week 7 of the Couch to 5K run program I found online. I am building up distance and speed a little more each week, hoping to be ready for May 11th. I am oiling my joints, cleaning out my cobwebs and finding a renewed joy, actually, in the meditation that comes naturally with distance running. 

We're talking a lot about spring and new life, the girls and I. About eggs, and the baby bunnies we see scampering around our neighbourhood. About budding trees and sprouting seeds and what gifts the warm weather and sunshine bring to the land. One of the things that I have felt really drawn to as a mother is introducing my girls to the natural rhythms of the outdoor, wild world. Life cycles, seasons, and their corresponding moods and themes. We began discussing death up North by witnessing hunting, living off the land and farm life.  The girls' natural curiosity and draw towards animals, bugs and plants fascinates me.

So you will understand why we are especially excited that a robin has decided to build her spring nest on our house.

We have been watching her and papa robin collecting grasses, pine needles and other stringy things. I hope they'll decide to stay, in spite of the high-pitched squeals, cries and voices of four little girls. I think it would make me feel very maternal and satisfied to know that while we live here, babies were born. If not in our house, then at least on it. I showed Abby pictures of robin eggs and baby robins, so we can eagerly anticipate their coming together. After I post this, we have plans to go out in the backyard to cut her hair. She needed one anyway, but she is thrilled to think that some of her curly locks might end up in the nest!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Happiness Round Up

Lots to be happy with, not the least of which is the promise of springtime currently being fulfilled: snow has melted, parkas are packed away, windows cracked open. It is here! I'm eating breakfast by myself right now, looking at the birds and squirrels out our front window, peacefully drinking a smoothie while papa bear and the girls watch Frozen. We have a busy weekend, but busy with the good stuff: dance class, birthday drinks downtown, getting outside, family time. So, I'm getting offline and going to get dressed, put my face on, catch the end of Frozen and get going on this jam we call the weekend.

Things that have added to my happiness quotient:

A night spent at Chapters, slowly perusing titles on bookshelf after bookshelf with my good friend Johanna before she returned North.

Catching all four girls playing nicely:

Getting outside for after-dinner walks with my girls. This year, Hailey and Robin (pictured) are big enough to do some of the walking themselves, albeit at a slower, highly distracted pace.

These sunglasses. All of my babies have worn them and they make me laugh every time. I got them to make my girls look like baby Olsen twins, baby Jackie O's, and they slay me!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

You Matter.

I have two toddlers living in my house, and as such, I am reminded more often than most about the pressing needs a two-year-old has for recognition. In their own, mostly non-verbal ways, they are asking me all day long, "Did you see that? Do you hear me? Do you feel me? Mama?" They are learning so fast, in one of the greatest cerebral growth spurts a human experiences. They are easily overwhelmed and frustrated as they learn to handle emotions, learn my expectations, and process their surroundings. I need to remind myself of this more often. After all, they are two. Yelling at them to, "stop whining, seriously!" is about as effective as telling my dog to learn tap dancing. 

This need for recognition, though, this is good stuff to remember with the two-year-old crowd, but also with everyone. Everyone wants recognition. 

In Oprah's final broadcast, one of the nuggets of wisdom she shared in pared-down, clear-cut language reflects this need to be seen. The need to be witnessed is so basic that I can remember my babies as young as four months old making deliberate noises to get a reaction from me. 

I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?…Try it with your children, your husband, your wife, your boss, your friends. Validate them. ‘I see you. I hear you. And what you say matters to me.’
I thought about this idea for a few days, I let it ruminate in my mind's stew. I chewed on it, meditated on it, and imagined the ways it could be applied in my world. I remarked that many of the struggles I have with Abby, (a strong-minded girl who is trying to understand the mechanics of things), could be best dealt with by acknowledging her need to be seen, to be heard. She's been extra sassy lately, and quick to cry when frustrated at another perceived injustice (like having to return a particular baby blanket to her sister when there are 84,756 others in the closet). Maybe she just needs me to hear her, to repeat back her worries and concerns, so she knows I understand. That after three more babies, she still matters to me.

Or Hailey and Robin. Maybe they tug at my pant leg and cry at my feet while I am busy preparing breakfast because what they really need is for me to take a moment, squat down, look into their eyes and see them, hear them. Acknowledge that they want something they can't express for themselves. They aren't old enough to appreciate that I am carefully cutting their toast and washing their raspberries and can't stop everything to get a toy they left upstairs. But I can show them they matter. Always.

Or when I find myself discussing an issue with Rich, one we've circulated many times before, only to find ourselves back again, working it over, hoping for a different outcome, or some clarity. A lot of those types of talk could probably be solved by validating what he's saying. Making him feel listened to, heard. I don't have to agree with him, give in to the toddlers, or let Abby get her way, but I can give them my time, my listening ears, and acknowledge them. At two, and at 31, everyone in my house deserves the respect of being listened to, seen, appreciated. 

Because what happens if I don't? What would become of this big family if no one felt important? Who wants to courageously seek help or confess wrongdoings or offer praise to someone when they don't feel worthwhile? They wouldn't feel loved, that's what.

There will one day be four teenage girls in my house, and I prepare myself for the phases where they don't want to tell me anything, they don't think I know anything. I'm sure those days will come. But they will know, from years of experience that when they talk, I listen, and that when they show me, I see them. What they say and feel and do matters.

It matters. Isn't that something everyone wants to hear? Plain and simple, underneath all the hyperbole, psychology, convoluted arguments and miscommunications? You matter. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Good, good things this weekend. 

Some of them included:
- Going for a run along the Alexandra Bridge downtown, looking at the spot where I got engaged, running part of the route I used to do when I lived in my first apartment.
- Meeting up with my two best friends for an afternoon of shopping. I can't remember the last time I did this, but the throwback to my fashion choices circa 1995 on display at Urban Outfitters helped me wax nostalgic (read: feel old)
- Having friends for brunch both days! Kids running around in princess dresses, old friends we haven't seen since before we moved away, and good talks over food: Que Arricchire! (enriching in Italian)
- Good red wine
- Having a nice roast dinner made for me in my kitchen and ready for me to eat after a day spent out of the house
- SNL with Anna Kendrick

- singing along to Frozen songs in our jammies:

Catching one of the cutest parts of parenting on film: feetie pyjamas.

I am confident in declaring that Spring is here: the robins are out looking for nest-building material, the snowbanks are melting, the sun is shining, we don't need parkas, puddle-jumping toddlers, and I ordered my heirloom seeds for when the ground has thawed. Halleluia!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Two Roads Project: Throwback

Johanna (left): The power of a friendship that goes back some 30 years. This is something that I don't take for granted or lightly. I am blessed to have someone who has known me every step of the way and who has shown me love throughout those years. 
This was taken on an Easter weekend, sometime in the early 80s. Hanging out in the backyard with some rickety old play structure. We are happy to play outside for hours. 

Sarah (left): I had fun looking back through old family photos this week. I have happy memories of a childhood spent bossing my younger siblings around, taking dance classes, being dramatic and forging friendships that continue today. Remembering moments captured on film encourages me to romanticize a little, recalling funny stories, idyllic vacations, picturesque Christmases. Of course, there were sad moments, and we didn't take pictures of those. But remembering the summer I played house league soccer and the dress up games we played in the basement conjures familiar feelings of comfort, happiness and a sense of belonging. Knowing where I came from is such a helpful tool in helping me navigate where I'm going. Here, I am nine years old, posing proudly with my new baby sister and probably right about to roll my eyes at my annoying little brother. This is pre-braces, I was growing my bangs out, and was a tall, lanky thing. We're all in our jammies, as we called our pyjamas. And check out that steel contraption of a baby swing! I keep this particular picture in a stolen frame (from a now defunct Ottawa bar) in my kitchen cabinet, so I can check in on it and smile every once in awhile.

The well-known poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken ends, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."
Two women, who became friends via the magic of the Internet, were both living life on roads less traveled by. Circumstance had them both live in Whitehorse for a short time, where they became best friends. Life's map has them currently in differing geographic locations, but their connection and camaraderie continue as they continue on paths of motherhood, friendship, creativity and discovery. The Two Roads Project is our effort to reconnect with each other and our inner artists on a weekly basis, each Friday. (Or thereabouts. We don't always know which day of the week it is).
Johanna writes here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Happiest

Without fail, one the best ways to pass time and plump up my ego is to invite Hailey and Robin to play mama. I pull out a few of my slippers, scarves, necklaces or lately I let them go through my outdoor drawer and they become mini-me's. They check each other out, run up to me looking for approval and babble, "Mamaaaaa." 

They are two so, naturally, they love getting into something that is otherwise verboten. They love to throw a bag so comically large over their shoulders and bid me farewell as they head toward the doors with sly, impish grins. "Bye-bye!" they call and I sit back with my tea and fantasize for a moment that they do miraculously go out, make some money and come home tired at the end of the day. 

That's not exactly playing mama, though, since I stay home with my girls and keep inviting the money fairy to come visit me whenever she pleases, to compensate me for the long hours and unclaimed benefits I have accrued. Hailey and Robin dance like their big sister, stage tea parties with each other, draw pictures and hide in secret twin clubhouses around the house where they giggle, conspire and destroy things.

Life with those twins is never-ending entertainment. Quite enjoyable, even if I'm the underpaid help required to clean the residual messes and repair broken things. 

Summer is also learning quickly that the best way to capitalize on the bits of crafts left unattended under tiny tables is to scoot towards them and gobble them with quick stealth. The dog dish is a golden trophy to try for every time my back is turned or my attention is required somewhere else. This girl is eight months old and a fast learner, I tell you. 

I must say, all things considered, that I have never been more happy than I am right now. I am totally living the dream. Chasing mischievous babies, sharing meals with family who drop in for dinner, having good talks with friends, keeping date night plans with Rich, starting to run, writing more, and anticipating the glorious unknown of what's to come. 

For everyone playing along in Springwatch 2014, here is my latest update: there is grass. Thin lines of it emerge under receding snowbanks. The sidewalks are flooded and we go through many pairs of socks. We are shedding layers of fleece and starting to think about rain gear instead of wind protection. Alleluia!

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