Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter roundup

Just listen to this while you read the rest of this post. It'll make you smile. 

We don't have a lot of cute Easter pictures, because our Easter wasn't super cute. No vignettes of ceramic bunnies, no egg dyeing, I didn't even get the girls to pose in their Easter dresses. Hailey, Robin, Summer and I were all sick, and so we kind of coasted through the long weekend. It all seems like a blur to me, and I felt like I was in a haze through most of it. It's a wonder we were even organized enough to get an egg hunt set up for Sunday morning.

Hailey putting an egg into Robin's bag, how cute is that? Yes, our Easter baskets are also our grocery bags.

My mom and I took Hailey and Robin to the agriculture museum Friday for our celebration of new life: baby animals were on display, and the girls loved it all. They were indiscriminate in their love for both the gulls flying around, and the magnificent Clydesdale horses, just the same. I think they liked the pigs the best, though. And snack time.

So, that's kind of it. A big blur of plastic eggs, cellophane-wrapped chocolate bunnies, farm scenes and a lot of blankets and pillows on couches. Like, a lot. But that's what happens when almost everyone is sick and wants to rest. 

You know what else happened this weekend, though? Our village totally rose to the occasion. Nobody chastised us for forgetting cards at Easter dinner, or only staying for an hour and a half, or for our lack of visible enthusiasm over, well, anything. Instead, people came and helped us. Helped play with Abby when she felt better but no one else did, helped bring food, helped make tea, tuck me in, and let me sleep while household tasks were attended to. I almost felt guilty. Because, if we were up North, our northern family would help us out too and we would have done the same for them, but I would have felt guilty accepting help. But this is home, and this is our family. Of course they help us. They are most definitely the village required for raising a big family.

Happy Earth Day to you! I thought of compiling a list of ways we try to be green, reduce waste, etc. But I don't know, it felt a little, brag-y and presumptuous. We do our best, and we do what's easiest in most cases. Let's leave it at that!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Two Roads Project: 10 Things

Sarah (left): 
1- I try to heal most ailments myself: Case in point, I am currently fighting a flu bug. I am treating myself with magnesium detox baths, immunity-boosting smoothies (lemons, ginger, carrot juice, honey), sleep, liquids and Advil for when the fever symptoms take over. My kids get a spoonful of honey as cough syrup and would have to be pretty sick to be taken to the doctor. I just like at-home remedies more than I like the cesspool of infection in doctor waiting rooms.
2- I have gone scuba diving with sharks. 
3- I have seen a positive pregnancy test six times.
4- I met Rich at a new year's keg party in high school. We have never broken up, nor had relationships with anyone else. 
5- Grilled cheese is probably my favourite food ever. I remember the thrill of ordering it in restaurants as a child, eager to see how it would come out. Still do, really.
6- I followed the Yukon Quest sled-dog race as a reporter my first winter up North. It changed my view of the Yukon, and shaped my time there.
7- I am snarky and sarcastic when defensive.
8- I have a hard time making new friends. But when I do, you're in for life.
9- I wake up early almost every morning to write freehand, stream-of-consciousness style. It helps clear my head, figure out what I really feel about issues in my life, and start the day with some creative me time.
10- I've met celebrities Sam Roberts and Elizabeth Gilbert.

Johanna (right): 
1. Growing up, my mother told me that we had gypsy blood in us, I think this is why I like adventure, road trips and to travel. If I don't keep moving, I feel trapped. 
2. I am a complete political junkie. I grew up in the nation's capital and enjoy following politics, just as some might enjoy following celebrities.
3. I am happiest when I am near the ocean.
4. I've lived in 5 provinces/territories in Canada. I've travelled to 9 of them. 
5. I'm so not a morning person.
6. I am part extrovert and part introvert and need both types of socialization equally. 
7. I like movies and books that make me happy. Not ones that leave me depressed or scared or with nightmares. You've Got Mail is still one of my favourite flicks.
8. Coffee in the morning. Tea in the afternoon. Wine in the evening.
9. I go to church. I have many questions about faith in general and am not sure where I stand on the religion scale, but I love the peace and clarity that I get from quieting my mind and from being around like minded individuals.
10. I chose out my baby names when I was 16. Yes, I am that kind of person. I still have a few more names chosen, just in case we need them ;) 

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 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!

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