Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Grapefruit with Roasted Seeds and Cinnamon

grapefruit
My apologies for the blurry picture... I ate it before I noticed the blur.

Our house has been sick a lot the last couple weeks.  Layer that with a very important birthday (i.e. my baby isn't a baby anymore), my return to work, and lack of sleep, and it leaves me feeling a little melancholy.  Even the drizzly, foggy weather reflects my mood.

Ruth Reichl published a memoir this year that a few people I follow are listing as one of their favourite reads of the year.  Truthfully, I probably won't read it, even though I want to.  Its about food, simple food, being therapeutic and how it not only comforts, but also helps you recognize joy in the mundane.

I'm feeling melancholy and I'm sick and this grapefruit is exactly what I need.  It embodies Ms. Reichl's ideas.  The cinnamon and roasted nuts give it this warm, earthy, I-need-a-hug vibe, but then the grapefruit is bright and hopeful and says, "Don't get too low, there's something coming your way."

Grapefruit with Roasted Seeds and Cinnamon
1 grapefruit
Handful of nuts or seeds*
Sprinkle of cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350*.  Put the seeds or nuts on a baking sheet and roast them for 10-15 minutes.  Don't bother waiting for the oven to heat up, just put them in.  Meanwhile, peel and dice the grapefruit.  When the nuts or seeds are dark and toasty, toss them with the grapefruit and cinnamon.
*The first time, I used pepitas (inner pumpkin seeds).  The second morning, I used walnuts.  Both were good, but I liked the pepitas a little better.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Warning: CO Detectors Expire

A couple nights ago, we woke up in the night to beeping.  Shawn sprung up out of bed, ready to save the family from whatever perils awaited us.  I stretched and said I'd be there in a minute.  The beeping was at a lazy cadence and didn't seem too urgent.  Turns out it was the CO detector.

A quick google search taught us that our brand of CO detector expires after 7 years.  Who knew?  When the internal clock says it has been around long enough, it lets out one beep every 30 seconds until it is unplugged.  But herein lies a tricky problem: we know, from having toddlers around pulling things out of walls, that when you unplug the CO detector it goes off like a banshee.

Also: our detector decided to enact its 7-year-itch at 3:13am.  We did NOT want to wake up the children.

After about 10 minutes of brainstorming (and an unhealthy increase in blood pressure), Shawn looked at me like a man about to jump on a grenade and said "I'm just going to do it."  We braced ourselves.  He unplugged the detector.  And nothing.

Whomever invented CO detectors is brilliant: they created a way to prevent my family from dying a slow, quiet death.  Pure genius.  But it was a pretty foolish to design a product that beeps after seven years, build in a mechanism that prevents said product from screaming in said circumstance and then WRITE THAT ON THE BACK OF THE PRODUCT.  FYI, engineers, no one can read the calm "don't worry about it" message on the side that faces the wall when they are debating whether or not unplug the thing at 3:23am.  Poor, poor design.

I suppose all is well that ends well, since none of the children woke up.  And so this is the end of that story, but Malcolm did wake did wake up, all on his own, two minutes after we climbed back into bed.  That's my life.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Monday, 14 December 2015

Our New Night Light

nightlight
The kids have been getting ornaments, and as much as I have toned down my need to take control of every situation, I felt it was time the kids embraced unbridled kitsch without messing with my calm, monochromatic, heirloom-laced tree.

We went into our basement and dug out the artificial tree that Shawn says I stole from a 7-year-old at a yard sale our first Christmas together.  In my defence, I offered the kid $2, he was thrilled, and I left before his mom came back out.  As of yesterday, the legitimately procured tree sits beside Nevin and Scarlett's bedroom door and is strung with rainbow coloured lights. To decorate it, they made paper chains, found old Christmas crafts and included their growing collection of commercialized and trademarked ornaments.  It is the best night light ever.

Nevin was thrilled when he found an old scrapbooking sticker leftover from a gift when he was born and stuck it on the tree.  It says in bold blue letters "IT'S A BOY!" which I find hilariously apropos.

In the middle of the night, when Scarlett got up to use the washroom, she stared at the tree in awe and said in hushed tones "Daddy, its beautiful."  This makes me swell with love for two reasons: a) child wonderment is beautiful and b) she called out to her father, not to me, when she was having a moment of joy, which is a testament to his involvement in our kids lives.

So I guess the point to this entry is this: we have a night light that is awesome.  By the way, we are awesome, too.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

A Sprint to the Bus Stop

This is a re-enactment.
I am upstairs grabbing Malcolm's clothes for the day when Scarlett calls out to me, "Mom!  Come down quick!"  Of course someone is freaking out.  I left three kids and a dog on the same floor for a minute and a half.  I'm almost surprized it took this long.

"Hurry, Mom!  He's going to touch me!"  She's freaking out because the baby is going to touch her?  Really?  Being a mother is exhausting.  In her defence, she spent four hours in the ER last night because she had welts on her legs and her feet were too swollen to walk on, and she is currently eating her breakfast with her legs up on ice, but a baby touching her does not seem to warrant the level of fear with which she is screaming.  I sigh.  No doubt, Malcolm crawled under the table and is trying to reach up for her feet.

I start down the stairs.  And then I smell it.

I was right about Malcolm crawling under the table and trying to get at her feet, but along the way he got distracted by his diaper.  So, just for fun, he pulled it off.  Then he pooped.  Then he played in it.

So when I round the corner, this is what I see.  The baby is covered in poop, reaching up, smearing poop on the chair, smiling, trying to show his sister.  The sister is shrieking.

And the dog is eating it.

Nevin is over on the couch flipping through a Lego book humming the chorus to Jingle Bells on repeat.

And its approximately 21 minutes until the bus arrives.

A bath.  The baby needs a bath.  I whisk him up and jog up to the bath tub, holding him straight out in front.  Him, furious that I won't cuddle.  Me, to focussed on the bus stop to gag.  I plop him in and start the water.  He calms right down, until I forget to turn the cold water on and scald him.  Its just not our morning.

I bring the clean, clothed baby downstairs.  13 minutes until bus stop time.  I tell Nevin to get moving.  After my second bark, he stops humming Jingle Bells, slowly gets up from the couch and starts walking towards the mudroom.  He asks me, "Why's it smell so bad in here?"  You're kidding, right?

I carry Malcolm to the mudroom and suit him up.  I carry Scarlett down and help her until we get to the boots part and she balks.  I sprint back upstairs to find the softest, warmest pair of socks I have in my sock drawer.  We make it work.  I am sweating.  8 minutes until bus stop.

I look up at Nevin, my analytical boy, who is normally so focussed and ready to follow orders, and he is playing with a belt on the counter.  He is not ready - he doesn't even have shoes on yet.  I muster all the intensity I can manage (which was quite a lot in that moment), and give him the same kind of speech that is recited on every Hollywood battlefield and spaceship and ghetto, just after the secondary character has been shot: "Buddy, I need to stay focussed.  Just look at me and stay with me.  You can do this.  Get. Your.  Shoes.  On."  And that boy, you know what he says to me?  He says: "Mommy, why does 'phone' start with the letter 'p'?"

Shawn referred to one of them as crack monkeys last night.  I don't know what that means, but I think he is right.

5 minutes.  Two blocks.  One able-bodied child.  No back-up plan.  We make it with just enough time for Nevin to brag to his disgusted buddies about the baby pooping and the dog eating it.  And then he is on the bus.

The rest of us don't go home.  Our house is crappy and I need some fresh air.


Monday, 30 November 2015

Big Month Moment: November 2015

Gatineau Ruins

"Someone once told me that women should do two things everyday they love, one thing every week that they treasure, and one bigger thing every month they will never forget." ~ commenter on Modern Mrs. Darcy
I love this idea, and since I only vividly remember the moments chronicled in this log, I am writing down those big things monthly.

Shawn decided to surprise me and take me away for a mini-vacation in Ottawa.  Well, by surprise, I mean he had to tell me on the Tuesday that we were doing something special on Saturday.  That was thanks to the neighbours, who he had arranged to watch the dog, came 'round all dodgey looking for him to talk "about nothing."  And then on Friday he had to tell me that it was an overnighter because my mother-in-law emailed me to ask me what kinds of breakfast foods she should stock up on "for when they come over."  But the fact remains, I had to cancel a trip I had been looking forward to, and was a little bummed about it, and he wanted to do something special for me.

It was so much fun.  He worked within a tight budget (the cost of a very, very cheap cancelled flight),  but we did things I had never done before.  Like go on a hike to the Ruins in Gatineau Park.  He's been there many, many times, and he knows how much I love decaying buildings.

On Sunday morning, we thought about going Christmas shopping, but instead we did something way cooler: the Parliament tour.  It was a edifying, geeky and beautiful thing.  My favourite anecdote was that when Sir John A. MacDonald found out mid-speech that his best friend had died, he paused, hung his head, and cried in front of the House of Commons.  Its such a humanizing story for a very regal place.

After eating light the last two meals, an early morning walk around downtown and the tour, we were ready for a very indulgent lunch.  As in: "What?  They have poutine with bacon, pulled pork, an over easy egg and Hollandaise sauce on top?  Sign me up.  Wait... what?  They have all that with tomatoes, lettuce and pickles on a burger?  Well, I suppose every well-rounded meal needs some veggies... better get that, too."  It was intense and ridiculous, but we split it.  Lady and the Tramp had nothing on us.

So there you have it.  November memories logged.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Malcolm at 11 months

malcolmcrib


Its been a tough couple weeks.  Malcolm is on the move and we are all adjusting.  If I could go back in time, I would tell myself three things:

Dear Sasha-of-three-weeks ago,

You are doing a pretty good job keeping the house baby-proofed and preventing the him from electrocuting himself or choking on Lego, but there are a few things that you may not have considered that I'd like to remind you about.

First, if you are out and use your little travel-sized highchair, remember that since it doesn't have a tray, it gives the baby a lot more room for movement with his legs.  If he is too close to the table, he can kick his feet up, push his legs off the table and swing the chair backwards.  Glancing his head off of a radiator and the floor as a result is terrifying for both you and him.

Second, in the event that one of your older children stays home from school sick, do not leave the baby alone with said child when you call the school to report the absence.  The child might decide to go into basement to play with his/her toys and forget to close the door behind him/her.  Malcolm will follow the child and fall down the stairs.

Finally, if these events were to happen within days of each other, and the baby were to start getting up crying five (or so) times in the night, take him to the chiropractor.  It will help.  It took me a week and half before it dawned on me that just because he didn't break anything didn't mean he wasn't broken.  

If you value your child or your sleep, take heed.

Signed,
Present Sasha

p.s. I'll write again in a few days to let you know how else you've screwed up.

November Attire

iphonebear

Finally!  A moody, rainy November day to get us into the season.  Some people like to get home after a long day at school or work and put on cozy pyjamas.  Others prefer giant stuffed teddy bear costumes.  And when its time for the family to go to Home Hardware, the latter like to curl up in the shopping cart and pretend to hibernate.  If my life was a sportscast, this was the Highlight of the Week.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Baby Meditations

malcolmbacklit

Aside from shavasana, I am a meditation virgin.  That is, I thought I was until yesterday.

Recently, I have wanted to give it a go.  People talk about the benefits of meditation and how good you feel afterwards, and I thought, "I need a little of that in my life."  So I've dabbled in some meditation-themed podcast listening, thought about it, told myself I was going to get up 20 minutes earlier tomorrow, and subsequently never followed through.

I listened to a podcast yesterday about a woman, a really interesting antithesis-of-hippy metropolitan lady, talk about how meditation has saved her from anxiety.  She said - as I've heard before - just start by sitting somewhere and breathing.  

Last night as I was rocking Malcolm to sleep as I always do, I was savouring the moment as I have come to do.  I am acutely aware of the weight of his bottom on my thigh and his head in the crook of my elbow and I just rock with him.  He is most at peace when I breathe calmly, so I tend to just try to live in that moment and think about nothing but our presence together and my breath.  And then it occurred to me: I'm just thinking about my breath and sitting in the present moment ... I'M MEDITATING!  

Of course, that's when I got all excited, and started writing this blog post in my head, and thought about getting up to tell Shawn, and worried that I would fidget, and stopped thinking about breathing, and my meditation session effectively ended in irony.  Nonetheless, I had meditated.

Which has me thinking: what other times can I sit in the moment and just breathe?  I think I am on to something here (although I'll have to not think about it to be sure).

Monday, 23 November 2015

Bath Time

scarlettsmile

Warner residence, post-bath time.

Scarlett, whilst brushing her hair: Daddy, if you were a girl, you would love brushing your hair with this brush.  It feels like its scratching your brain.
Shawn: You like that feeling?
Scarlett: Yeah.


bathtimefun

Monday, 9 November 2015

Borders

artwall_003

"Mom, I've made a border out of lego in my room!" Nevin said.

A border out of Lego? I thought.  All the way around his room?  It was a bizarre project to take on, but it says something about his personality that I didn't think that this was entirely out of the ordinary.  I forgot all about it in about eight seconds.

It wasn't until two nights ago that I came into their room to read stories and Nevin said, "Look at my border!  Isn't it good?" that I thought Ohhhh, we've done it again.

***

Hanging on our wall, we have fantastic art.  The kids made two canvases last summer and the paintings speak volumes about who they are.  Scarlett's painting is full of colour, abstract and, for the work of a three-year-old, it is really pleasing to look at.  Nevin painted a police SUV driving on a road.  It is an imaginative object rendered literal and specific.  Trying to get him to expand his horizons a little (and to add a little colour to the very-white-not-a-part-of-the-police-SUV edges of the canvas), I suggested "why don't you draw a border around it?"

"Great idea Mom!" he said and he proceeded to draw a giant navy blob on top of the SUV with a too-small navy rectangle above it.  Weird kid thing, I thought.

It took me until October to figure it out: he literally drew a USA-Canada customs border gate.

***

So, in Nevin's room there is currently a large USA-Canada customs office with a gate for Lego cars and trucks to pass through; NOT a row of Lego encircling his room.  And it only took me a week to understand.

Monday, 2 November 2015

The fear of what might happen

woods
"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself."
~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I have a little over 6 weeks until I return to work.  This has been the a second chances kind of year.  I have had the opportunity to enjoy an infancy one last time, an opportunity that I wasn't sure I would get.  I have savoured it.  I feel centered and like I've fulfilled what was meant to be.

But Work is coming.  As centered as I feel right now, the realities of running a household and working full time can be crushing.  I feel the pending doom.  The loss of quiet moments, the shift of chores from day to evening, rushing through supper preparations... I know what is coming and I am discouraged by it.

To deal with these emotions, I am trying something new and it seems to be helping.  I am imagining the very worst, most busy week, accepting it, and moving forward.  When I start to feel the dread of what is to come, I let it play out in my mind, ask myself "whats the worst that can happen?", imagine the consequences of those secondary events, and then I move on.  In my head I have yet to dream up a scenario in which dirty laundry, uncooked meals, or lackluster lesson plans lead to a child dying.  Most days it helps.

I first read about this strategy on A Blog About Love, and then read a passage that reiterated it in The Alchemist.  The former focusses on putting relationships first in your life and recognizing that in every moment there is greatness.  The author is a living example of following your dreams, while remaining rooted in the beauty of the present moment.  The latter has the universal theme of following your dreams, but also points out that the journey is as important as the destination.  They compliment each other well and for this girl, who struggles to focus on people instead of tasks, they are insightful gifts.

So I am going back to work in a little over six weeks and things are going to be challenging.  But its not my job to make everything perfect; I only have to tend to people and deal with the tasks as they come.  Phewph.  I might have to make this post my homepage.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Flexing Muscles at the Dinner Table

sneakykitchenscarlett

At the dinner table the other night, we started talking about protein and that it makes your muscles big and strong.  Scarlett, our self-described "Meat Monster", pointed out that she loved meat and therefore had big muscles.  To illustrate, she flexed her arms as hard as she could - in a red-faced, teeth clenched, whole-body-shaking, four-year-old kind of way.

This is where our sketch begins.

I point out the obvious.  "Watch out: you'll poop your pants."

The family giggles.  And giggles.  Until Scarlett catches her breath and says, "Remember Mom, we don't talk like that at the table."

I had broken the cardinal rule: No potty talk at the table.  "You're right.  I'm sorry."

And then she drives her point home: "I think that just made Jesus sad."

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Malcolm at 10 Months

Malcolm at 10 mo.

He has changed.  A lot.  He laughs at my jokes.  Hide and go seek is still his favourite thing to play, but now he owns it.  He grabs my scarf in both hands and stretches his arms straight over his head trying to hide (which is funny in its own right because his massive head gets in the the way of his relatively stubby uncoordinated arms).  There is nothing more fun that passing a piece of Mega Bloks back and forth while Mommy signs "Thank you."

Walking?  He thinks its for losers.  In fact, standing is for kids who don't know how to scam the game.  Why move when you've got older siblings to get everything for you?  He has taken a little bit of initiative and finally decided some things are worth getting up off his bottom to explore.  His preferred mode is the army crawl, which really seems like the most difficult method of self transportation out there.  His choice.

At his nine month check up, an interesting thing happened: Baby Nevin officially caught up with Baby Malcolm.  Malcolm was 31.5 inches and 23.5 lbs.  When I back-checked (or fact-checked?) Nevin's baby book for his stats, I discovered that they also look identical.  They are my little male matryoshka dolls.

p.s. He loves wiping food in his hair.  I love how his hair looks after I wipe it out of his hair (refer to picture above).

Friday, 16 October 2015

A Canadian Thanksgiving. In Vermont?

Dog Mountain

Our Canadian Thanksgiving in Vermont,  also know as the best Thanksgiving I have ever celebrated, had none of the traditions, but all of the important stuff that Thanksgiving should have.

Food?  Forget about turkey.  We ate waffles and bacon.  And burgers and pancakes and hotdogs and fries from the the diner that all the locals go to.  But our actual Thanksgiving dinner was pizza.  Yes, pizza.  From the best little hidden pizza place ever.  Its the kind of place that is packed, even though you are certain that you are lost right up until the moment you see the tables, since its in the middle of nowhere and you have to walk through a general store to get to it.

And don't feel bad for us about not having the bread and roasted vegetables and oven-warming-the-house-up stuff that makes Thanksgiving weekend special.  We did that, too: lunch every day was roasted veggies and crusty bread from the farmer's market.

That's just the food.  There was a corn maze at the end of our dirt road with "farm yard minigolf," "gopher holes for kids," barnyard animals, and a mini town for kids.
And our rental home was on an 800 acre farm with trails.
And we picked apple trees on the hill behind our house for snacks.
And we went to the Dog Chapel and took in the dog-themed stain glass and dog angel statues and the fire hydrant at the top of Dog Mountain.
And the boys went mountain biking at Kingdom Trails.
And Shawn and I sat in recliners reading together, eating snacks and cheese and drinking beer every night.
And the kids learned how to play checkers and Candyland.

It was quiet, beautiful and completely soul satisfying.  It was a live-in-the-moment and savour the little things weekend.  Looking back, it almost doesn't feel real.  Of course it was real, and because it was all about family and being who we are where we are, when Scarlett woke up sick we abandoned plans to take the scenic route home, drugged our fevered girl and took the most direct route back to Ontario.  Perfection isn't attainable, but contentment is.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Things Scarlett Says

scarlettsmile


On starting school late in the week compared to everyone else, to her cousin:
"You'll have to call me, because I'm the only one available."

On allergies: 
"I think that when the bees are carrying their baskets with the honey in it then it tips a little bit and some falls into the air and swirls around (insert exaggerated hand motions here) and a little bit comes through our window and into mommy's nose." 

On wall goo for sticking up posters: 
[Me: What is that?] 
"It the stuff that looks like gum but doesn't taste like gum."

On time:
"Is it 9 o'clock yet?"
[Shawn: No, it's 8:22.]
"You are going to have to tell me when it is because I don't know numbers like that.  I only know numbers like googolplex and other numbers with 3 in it."



Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Things I've learned: Red Pepper Edition

This weekend I learned the following:

1.  Hot peppers and mundane lunchbox peppers in our CSA box look identical.
2.  When your four-year-old tastes the end of a hot pepper and says "its not spicy," she has no idea what she is talking about.
3.  Never pop a giant piece of pepper in your mouth unless you are certain it is not a hot pepper.  This is especially important if that piece has the white part and a seed on it.
4.  A glass of milk, yogurt, half of a banana, or a second glass of milk are only temporary fixes for an intense problem.  Shoving your entire face under the kitchen tap and leaving it there until your nervous system realizes that you are not dying seems to be the best approach.
5.  If, in all the confusion, the juice from a hot pepper gets in the nail bed of your thumb, it will burn off and on for approximately two days.  This is irksome, but it will pass.
6.  I do not like hot peppers.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Malcolm's Baptism

bwbaptism

Malcolm's baptism.  Also known as the time Sasha's blood pressure reached record heights.

I was lovely, it was fantastic, but it was not what I had expected.  We've always done our baptisms after mass.  Through a series of unexpected -- some might call sneaky -- events, we ended up doing this one during mass.  It was the Warner hour at church that morning and everyone tuned in.  It started with us, it ended with us and there was a lot of US in the middle.

I've been trying so, so hard to stay in the moment, forgive myself of my shortcomings and do anything else Brené Brown might suggest, but it is so, so hard when you are stuffed in the front two pews of the church with your closest relatives and six children under the age of 6, all of whom prefer the Great Outdoors to the oak confines of a narrow church pew.

My mom came armed with crackers.  And Oreos if things got desperate near the end.  I was armed with a breast full of milk, just in case the man of the hour -- literally the whole hour -- decided to voice his concerns about his baptism's scheduling conflict with The Morning Nap.  By the end, our rations were depleted.

"Highlights?" you ask.  Besides the obvious usual baptismal moments, these are my two favourites:

1. You know all those quiet moments of reflection that happen during mass?  One of those times my niece, who is three, announced "Daddy, let's go.  I don't see Jesus here."

2. My nephew spent most of the water pouring and blessing part chilling on the base of the baptismal font.  Eating goldfish crackers.  Plotting.  I'm not sure what he was plotting, but man, he has an adorable mischievous face.

I think it all went well.  No one died or anything, but it did take me about two hours and four post-baptismal cinnamon buns to calm down and stop blushing.  I am so glad it happened, but I am really happy it is over.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Scarlett's first week of school

bus

Things have been a little sideways here at the Warner household.

We are struggling to get everyone into the regular school routine.  For Perth's newest Junior Kindergartener, it has been especially burdensome.  There have been highlights, but for the most part, it is really, really difficult.

She started on Friday.  Saying good bye was hard, but she had a good day.  On Sunday night, I told the kids they had to get to bed early because school was the next morning.  Upon realizing that school isn't a one time deal and she had to go back tomorrow, she said (through tears):
"Mom, I'd like you to retire me."

I told her that no one can retire until they have lived a long time and had grey hair.  Sensing a Monday morning disaster, we decided bribery was the best plan: she woke up to a sticker chart.  She marched on the bus without incident.  According to Nevin, who will get a sticker for saying hi to her at recess (it was the best we could think of, all things being equal), she cried as he dropped her off and cried the entire recess after he said hi as he stood with her on the other side of the fence.  Put on your motherhood shoes for a moment and dwell on that visual: two children separated by a chain link fence, one being strong and the other devastated.  Man, I need yoga, wine and a tissue.

The next day I had to carry her, sobbing, to the bus stop.  As I held her, she told me:
"I wish we could go on a ginormous vacation, even longer than summer vacation, and not come back until my hair is grey."

Bribery was no longer effective.  I had to carry her on the bus and peel her off of me.  By the way, our bus stop is on one of the busiest streets in Perth, so half the town had the pleasure of witnessing this tragedy.  (Granted, there are only two streets that go north-south but that just furthers my case that literally half the townsfolk are watching.)

This morning, she didn't scream as the bus rounded the corner (small victory!), but she cried as I held her.  Between sobs, she said:
"Mommy, I'm trying so hard to be brave."

So, here we are.  My daughter is heartbroken over leaving the nest and her straightforward honesty breaks my heart every morning.

But here's where things get redemptive.  This post isn't entirely about the trials of starting school or the adorable things my daughter says.  It is also about community.  Because while we are living these hard moments in the busiest-street-in-Perth fishbowl, people are rallying around us.  Her teacher has emailed me unsolicited reassuring pictures of Scarlett making friends.  Her bus driver stopped by her classroom at lunch to say hi in a more neutral location.  And called me after the first peel-my-child-off-of-me incident to say that Scarlett had calmed down right away and it was okay.  And got Scarlett a little dollar store present for being brave.  My friends who have asked me about the transition have listened with sincerity when I've unloaded my truths.  I went to the local hardware store, and one of the salesmen stopped me, introduced himself, and said in the kindest way that he sees us on his commute every day and was wondering how we were doing.

Yes, this is a hard moment, but we are not in it alone.


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Motherhood (a.k.a. highlights and realities from the last two weeks)

sofabw

Motherhood is allowing your son to put on his life jacket to swim in a three foot deep pool, even though you know he doesn't need it.
Motherhood is keeping a straight face after your daughter hands you a small stringy gob of clay in a puddle of spit and in response to you saying "what is that?"she responds "its the the stuff that looks like gum but doesn't taste like it."
Motherhood is dance parties in your rearview mirror.
Motherhood is losing your patience, sentencing your children to the couch, and then after a couple of minutes of silence, being asked "are you starting to find your patience again?"
Motherhood is crying with your daughter during the sad parts at the drive-in theatre.
Motherhood is swelling with pride over weird little things like finding your little monkey halfway up the door jam for the first time.
It's being the baby's favourite.
It's talking your kids through sharing, and being proud when they actually do it.
Motherhood is wondering why they don't all get up to pee at the same time in the night and thinking maybe they have conspired and calculated a mathematical equation to minimize your sleep.
Motherhood is five loads of laundry, fresh dinner and lots of dishes.
It's changing sheets after an accident on sleepover night.  And feeling a trickle on your knee, as you realize -- too late -- that there was a puddle on that sleeping bag and, oh yes, you are covered in someone else's child's pee.
It's dreaming of date nights with Daddy.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Mothering: the first versus the third

nevingroup

When I had Nevin, they said "you're a first time Mom, things will change" and I didn't believe them.  Of course, I was totally wrong.

There are some things that are consistent and that I have not changed at all.  For example, I have always picked up my crying infants.  Hearing a little tiny Warner cry is like shoving cotton balls down my throat, while putting my head in a vice grip and dancing on hot coals.  Another example is that I have waited until 6 months to feed solid food all of them.  Although, with the first child my motivation was "because the dietitian said so", and with the last it was mostly because breastfeeding is just so much cleaner and I have gotten lazy (or if I'm being positive about it, I'm more aware of my limited energy stores).

BUT, almost everything else has changed.

When I had my first born, I put him in little man clothes everyday.  When we left the house, we were put together.  We looked good and it highlighted what a terrific mother I was.  After our second child was born, I thought I figured out the whole mothering thing when I realized that experienced moms don't care if their infant is dressed up every day.  Besides, sleepers are so much more comfy than miniaturized adult clothes.  Surely, this meant I was a good mother.  By the third child, I realized that the difference between the first and third child was whether I made it out of my pyjamas.  Sure I'd wear the same thing for three days straight, but man oh man, let's celebrate the fact I made it to the grocery store and no one developed rickets.  I was survivor mom, and I was good at it.

The other day, Malcolm had ice cream.  Nevin, the first, didn't have desserts until he was probably around two.  He didn't know about them, and we didn't tell him.  He didn't learn about maple syrup until he was almost 4 years old.  Yet, at 7 months Malcolm has already had ice cream.  We were sitting at an ice cream parlour, it was 35 degrees celsius outside, and on a whim I stuck my whittled cone in front of him.  His reaction was hilarious - it was cold but it was sweet and creamy, and his face morphed between confusion, indignation, and joy as he tried to process what was going on in his mouth.  Maybe I've set him up for a lifetime of sugar addiction, but I'm pretty sure I watched his neural connections explode.  If he is the smartest child, I think I've got that ice cream cone to thank.

And of course, there is the Truth of the Gloified Purse: early on, as I ran around with the others, I gave Malcolm about as much attention as one might give a large tote.  With my first, my life changed so much that I couldn't help but be constantly aware of his needs.  By the time baby three arrived, the children's needs had melted into our everyday lives and Malcolm just fit into the routines that had already long been established.  If he wasn't eating, i.e. attached directly to me, I would forget that I even had a third child.

So, I'm a different mother, but humour me while a use an analogy to explain how I feel about this.  Some people describe parenthood as a marathon, because it is so long and how good you feel changes with the shifts in terrain on the course.  I think of it as more of a decathlon.  Each age and stage is so different, that you have to use totally different skill sets to be successful.  Decathletes all train a little bit differently -- which is a function of their natural strengths and weaknesses -- but in the end it is the sum of their events that determines their success, and two entirely different athletes can be equally successful provided they put the effort into their different training regiments.  Isn't parenting the same?  As long as I put the effort in and hold true to the basic underpinnings of successful parenting, the variation in their upbringing doesn't matter.  They will be different, but the sum of their qualities will result in equally remarkable people.

stewartparkcollage

scarlettground

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Chocolate Protein Cookies (a.k.a. The Healthiest Cookies Anyone Has Ever Made)

Chocolatecookies

So Shawn and I are trying to eat healthier.  It seems the whole world thinks we should cut back on sugar and wheat.  Shawn is doing quite well with this, but I am a miserable sugar addict.  I am working on it, and while I do these cookies are a huge help.  They are low on sugar, diary-free, gluten-free, and high in protein.  They are healthy enough that you could probably eat them for breakfast with little guilt.  Translated: I've eaten them for breakfast without too much guilt.

The Healthiest Cookies Anyone Has Ever Made 
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp milk or water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup assorted nuts or seeds

1. In a food processor fitted with the S blade, combine the first three ingredients on high until smooth.  There may still be some small chunks of black bean skin and that is okay.
2. In a large bowl, mix the brown sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Add the ingredients from the food processor into the bowl and stir to combine.  Add the nuts or seeds.
3. Bake at 350*F for about 20 minutes.


Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Malcolm at 8 months

malcolmteeth

The other night I swaddled Malcolm, cuddled him in my arms and nursed him to sleep.  Except he didn't fall asleep.  When he'd had his share, he laid in my arms and studied my face.  After a while he looked past my face and gazed out the window behind me.  He didn't wiggle or coo, he just quietly took it in.  We sat like that for twenty five minutes, him in nestled into the crook of my elbow, me breathing with him, feeling him, trying to stay in the moment, until eventually his eyes got heavy and he fell asleep.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A tour of Wolfe Island

Scarlettcornmaze

When people have adversity, they bond over it.  In my own life, the only time I've really, really been close with a larger group of people is when we had to overcome longterm stress together.  Whether it be poverty, or farming, or some other communal challenge, I've noticed most close knit families  have a common history of adversity.  I admire those people.  My family doesn't have that: my kids have it easy and sometimes it worries me.  So we try to build in moments of struggle and opportunities to work things out as a family.  Its not the same as the longterm challenges that people face, but I hope it builds a family narrative that is strong enough that it creates solid bonds.

With that in mind, we went for a surprize road trip on Sunday afternoon.  We drove an hour to Kingston and caught the free 20 minute ferry across to Wolfe Island.  We'd never been there before, but as far as I can tell, the only attractions are a beach, a corn maze and the small island quaintness.  What better way to build a little family resilience than a midsummer jaunt through a corn maze?

We definitely got our $10 worth in that maze.  At first we used 6-year-old logic: always choose the path that is pointed in the direction of where you want to go.  That was a really bad idea.  Then we tried Mommy's hunches: never choose a path with a lot of weeds growing in it.  Also poor reasoning.  We tried Daddy's idea, building from past experiences: choose paths pointing away from where you want to go.  But by then, I think we were closer to the center, so it was hit or miss.  Finally, we tried the everyone-take-a-turn-choosing-which-way-to-go method.  Progress was tedious, but it was the most fun.  If there were three paths, we were sure to choose the right one last.  And if there were four paths, we were likely to choose the fifth option - as in, the direction we came from - before we chose the right one.  No hyperbole here; we actually did that.  I was hot, but we had water, a stroller and two very big parental mules at our disposal.  In the end, we took the emergency exit about two thirds of the way through, which is how far Shawn and I had hoped to make it.  There is a fine line between pushing the kids a little and cultivating a hatred of corn mazes.  When given the choice, we chose to err on the side of the former.

You would think that being lost in a maze in the midday heat, with forty pounds on your back would be the peak of team building epic journeys, but it was not.  The real journey -- the real test of patience that was of reality TV proportions -- was getting back to Kingston on the ferry.  We showed up at 4:18pm, knowing we wouldn't make the 4:30pm boat (there is one boat per hour on the 30).  We were about the 98th in line for a boat that carries about thirty cars per passage.  We knew this because the 12 year olds sword fighting with pool noodles a couple cars up told us so.  We were in for a long, hot wait with three tired, hot kids.  But, I can tell you (perhaps as a consequence of our newly acquired fantastic corn maze communication skills) that we took it like an adventure.  The ferry line up is on the side of a country road, surrounded by hay fields.  The only food was ice cream and lemonade from and entrepreneurial local who set up a little roadside stand.  So, we had ice cream for dinner.  We dipped our toes in Lake Ontario.  We watched the ferry come and go, scheming about how to get the best seats on upper deck.  Shawn tried to teach me how to throw rocks.  It was an adventure, and we sailed through it.  Pun intended. 

Near the end of our wait, we watched a cigarette boat blast by and Shawn commented "Wouldn't it be great if we could use one of those?  We'd get there really fast."  Nevin looked up at him and said, "But this boat is better because it is slow."  That is what the day was all about.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Malcolm at 7 months

malcolmtoothsmile

Nobody loves Peek-A-Boo as much as Malcolm Warner.

One night, while Scarlett is tucking herself into bed, we scheme about how to scare Daddy when he comes up for his good-night kiss.  We plan it all out in the twilight of her room.  When we get to the end, we say "Boo!"

Malcolm is on my hip, in the dark, listening to us.  After we say "Boo," there is a giggle -- or, more accurately, a guttural "Haaaaaaaaaaaah.  Pause.  Haaaaaaaaaaaah.  Pause.  Haaaaaaaaaaaah."  We practice the "Boo" again, and again the laugh.

In Malcolm's mind, Boo means only one thing, and he thinks it is hilarious.  We think he is hilarious, so instead of scaring Daddy, we all pretend to play Peek-A-Boo in the dark and giggle at each other and 7-month old jokes.

Friday, 17 July 2015

The Killman Zoo

Runningsafety
Killman Zoo.  Killman Zoo.  The foreshadowing didn't elude me.  If I ever write a short story about lions or tigers or bears attacking people, it will be set in a place called Killman Zoo.

So there we were, unpacking the kids in a gravel parking lot beside a quiet country road.  "Just wait until you see it," my brother had said. "You don't really understand how big a tiger is until you are standing beside one."  I hadn't taken him too seriously until that moment, standing on the gravel, when I looked to my right and found a lion lazily looking back at me, three feet from the path.  This was going to be death defying.

There is a certain thrill that comes with touring through predators that are fenced in with glorified chicken wire.  It's kind of like skydiving: you've got an insurance policy, but it seems a little flimsy.

The kids thought the giant cats were great.  It was the emus that freaked them out.  The big birds with tiny little heads and long necks, perfectly evolved to fit through chain link fences and beg for peanuts from children.  The owner of the zoo must have a dark sense of humour because he put them on both sides of the four-foot-wide pathway.  If you don't have peanuts in your hand, its kind of funny.  If you do, its a gauntlet.  And did you know Emus make dinosaur-like clucking noises?  They do.  You look into their ugly little faces, listen to them purr, and start to imagine what it is like to be in Jurassic Park.  Its thrilling.

Shawn's favourite part was the cougar.  Entirely because an unsuspecting wild rabbit with a death wish slowly bounced towards its cage.  It was a wildlife documentary happening in real time.  All that was missing was the slow motion and the Sir David Attenborough narration.  When the rabbit bounced in the cage, we knew we should probably shield the children, but we couldn't take our eyes off the scene.  The rabbit narrowly escaped.  We decided that we would never walk alone in a forest again.

Killman Zoo.  Perhaps the most fun you can have without actually risking your life.
Killmanzoocollage

Monday, 6 July 2015

Camping with a baby

retrohorse

We went camping this weekend.

Let me give you the punch line first: Malcolm woke up with a tooth on Saturday morning.

Now I'm not sure I need to tell you the story, but I'll list a few eternal truths so that this might serve as a cautionary tale for all those ambitious young camping parents in the crowd:
1. Rocking/swaying a crying baby to sleep is not easy when you are hunched over and your head is crooked to accommodate the low ceiling height of a tent.
2. Infants do not like the sound of zippers.
3. Nursing in the pitch black on the ground is not easy.
4. You can not move if you have a baby "sleeping" with you on an air mattress.  The baby is not actually sleeping.  It is just pretending, and when you shift it stops pretending.  This is especially bothersome if you forget your pillow at home.
5. At family friendly campgrounds, there is often more than one child under the age of 2.  Sometimes they wake each other up.  Kind of like bullfrogs, only the opposite.

For those of you that are keeping track, yes, this is the second camping failure of epic proportions.

On the plus side, we had a blast with the older kids.  We went to a water park, shared campfire laughs with neighbours, ate marshmallows and happily cut our loses at 9pm the second night to head home to our own beds.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

I spy with my little eye

Canadadaybaby

Canada Day.  Warner family van, on a back road somewhere outside of Gananoque.  3:13pm.

Scarlett: I spy with my little eye something that is black.
Nevin: The road?
Scarlett: No.  Its on Daddy's phone.
Nevin: Daddy's phone?
Scarlett: YES!  Good job, Nev!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Malcolm at 6 months

malcolmbelly5mo

Alternative post title: How I know I'm Done Having Babies.

1. He turned 6 months last week, and we meant to feed him solids.  Really, we did.  But every day, we were busy and we said "lets just do it tomorrow."  We still haven't.  I think it will happen tonight.  Maybe.

2.  He is teething.  He usually sleeps reasonably well, but two nights ago he slept for 45 minutes at a time.  The entire night.  I am not exaggerating.  When I woke up for the last time in the morning, I could barely move my neck from holding him so much (with a clenched jaw).  And I had a sore throat.  I'm not sure if its related.

3.  I have not bathed him in close to a week.  The Bad Night, two of the times he woke up, the main part of his ear was folded over and suction cupped to the front part.  I'm not sure if the adhesive was ear wax or dried spit-up.  Or maybe a combination of both?  Either way, I still haven't bathed him.  (Although, in truth, the issue seems to have resolved itself.  Or maybe the dog licked it clean.)

The sum of the evidence shows that our life is full.  Don't misconstrue the message here: He is an adorable, easy going baby, we are completely in love and he cracks us up all the time.  His needs are being met, and truthfully, I think our laid back attitude has contributed to his calm disposition.  But we know our limits, and we are approaching them.  We are about one dependant goldfish away from tipping over the edge, and so it is with great clarity that we can rejoice both at Malcolm's existence and at leaving this stage in our life.

p.s. We had our 6 month check-up today.  Totally healthy, huge, and perfect.  30" tall and 22 pounds.

Nicknames

princessmask

Setting the stage: One of Scarlett's favourite stuffed animals is a Tweety Bird, but she misheard his name when they were introduced, so he will forever be known as Chicky Bird.

Warner House.  7:06 am.

Scarlett: Dad, my stuffies are going to have nicknames now.  Because sometimes, people just shorten their name and its a nickname.
Shawn: Oh yeah?
Scarlett: Yep.  Now Chicky Bird is sometimes just Chick.  And Giraffe has one too.
Shawn:  Okay.  Whats Giraffe's nickname?
Scarlett: Debbie.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Birthday Reflections

glentaytrails
(Photo from the last time we brought our camera to the trails)

In the days leading up to and including my birthday, three things happened:
  1. An old friend died of cancer.  The friendship was old, not the friend.  She was 33.
  2. I ran into two three-year-olds at the park, separately, who said "its my birthday!"  It was mine, too, I told them.
  3. A middle aged couple died in a motorcycle accident just outside of town.
On their own, each event might have given me pause, but combined together surrounding a my birthday -- a natural time for reflection -- they have me in a huge bucket of life-contemplation.

The friend was young, she minded her health and did everything right.  She was a mom of two kindergarteners.  Yet, a couple months after her last marathon, she was told she had terminal cancer.  It makes me think about my own mortality, and the defining moments of my motherhood.  If I died yesterday, what would I have left for my children?

The two children weren't twins.  They didn't even know each other.  And there definitely was not 600 people at the park, to make it more statistically expected.  It was random.  Two three-year-olds jubilantly ran into my life on our special day to remind me about how great it is to be alive.  Or, if they were typing this they would probably say HOW GREAT IT IS TO BE ALIVE!  LOOK THERE'S A CATERPILLAR THIS IS AWESOME!  I can't say I'm right there with them all the time and I wonder: how do I bring a little more of that into my life?

The couple owned 100 acres just outside of town.  They built trails all through it, and where their trails met the creek, they even created a couple of raft ferries that operated on a manual pulley system.  Though the woods, they made whimsical little sculptures out of scrap metal.  My kids love that place.  Here and now, in a time when it seems everyone is worried about getting sued, they said anyone could go there - this secret little gem that all the locals know about.  It actually, tangibly made a difference in our family's life.  We have good memories, thanks to these people.  They took what they had and shared it.  And of course, this brings us to the biggest questions of all: am I using my gifts to help others?  Am I making a difference?

Somber thoughts for a rainy day.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Importance of Asking "Why?"

littlecrazyinthesmile
"Sometimes the person who is most logical is the person whom we call insane."
- Kevin Spacey

In conversation with Nevin, I asked him if he wanted me to come with him to supervise his class field trip.  His quick, confident response was "NO."  No?  Has my son already got to the stage where he's embarrassed of his mom around his friends?  He wants to pass up an opportunity to have an exciting day with mom?  I was so disappointed.  And then after all these assumptions and more, I breathed deep, braced myself, and calmly asked "why?"  (The calmly partook about 3 minutes and half of a Dairy Queen blizzard flavoured with self-pity).  You know what his response was?

"At the end, I will be too sad when you have to go."

He hates having to say goodbye to me, so his most logical solution was for me to never say hello.  The problem was so different than I had thought -- in fact, the exact opposite -- and it made all the difference knowing that.

Flash forward a couple weeks.  Scarlett and I are driving in the car.  Scarlett says to me, "I don't like that my name is Scarlett, I wish you named me something else."  What?  Listen hear kid: I grew you, threw up for you, birthed you, lost a lot of sleep for you, bathed you, cuddled you, and all you have to say is that you hate your name?  The very core of the identity that I've worked so hard to help you build?  Um, I'm feeling just a wee bit offended, kiddo.  After my mental tirade, I paused, promised myself I'd have an open conversation about HER feelings and asked "why?"

"Because I love that name, and I wanted to name my daughter that."

So, I don't understand my children.  I've been watching the older families around me and I don't think its going to get better.  However when I remember to remove my own assumptions from the conversation, I get to have a little peak into their world and it might not be quite as crazy as it seems.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Story Telling

crayonprincess

We have this fantastic oral story that we invented.  Its similar to Robert Munsch classics in that it is repetitive and silly.  Scarlett loves it, and I do too.  A couple months ago, it saved us from an epic meltdown in the middle of the Service Canada offices - its that good.

I'll let you fill in the blanks, but it goes something like this:  

There is a family that lives in a castle that includes Queen Mommy, Prince Nevin, Prince Malcolm and Princess Scarlett.  One day a surly dragon moves into The Kingdom and the worried, hostile Queen demands that it is slayed.  Each child goes out, tells the dragon they are going to slay him, runs around and around and around the dragon and kicks him in the shin.  Of course, there is always an argument involving a lot of Munsch-esque Noooooo's and Yeeeeeees's and each time the number of circles gets more ridiculous.  Shocker: the dragon is not slayed.  Princess Scarlett, being the final protagonist, runs around him so many times that she gets dizzy.  She falls on her bum, and a marshmallow that she had forgotten in her pocket falls out.  The dragon inquires, she educates, an idea forms, yada, yada, yada, the dragon is named the Official Marshmallow Roaster of The Kingdom and everyone lives happily ever after.

Scarlett tried her hand at story telling - the kind with a beginning, middle, and end - for the first time yesterday.  It went like this:

"Once upon a time there was a beeeeeautiful princess.  There was a bad guy, too.  He stole the princess and he tied up her hands,
and he locked her up,
and he tore her dress,
and he made her hair messy,
and he took away her toys,
and he took away her bandaids,
and she had to sleep on the floor with no pillow,
.... (continue for a couple minutes, during which time I lost track of the atrocities)
And then princess found the key in the lock and escaped!  And she fixed her hair and her dress and gave her mom a big hug.  Is that a good ending, Mom?"
(I say yes.)
Pause.  "And then she had a baby."

So now I know what the most important things are to her in the world, and bandaids are in the top ten.  The baby got a mention, too, so I guess he is safe for now.  As for me, now you know how I feel about roasted marshmallows.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Rhubarb Poppyseed Muffins

RhubarbPoppyseedMuffins

Yesterday, Scarlett and I went to the park for a play and a picnic.  Summer has arrived and its time to get outside - its the second time we've done it this week.

A neighbour showed up, looking for someone just as we were sitting down to eat.  She couldn't find her friend, but decided to pick up lunch at the bakery around the corner and join us for lunch.  This neighbour is not someone we know well -- we've had a wave-and-"hello" kind of relationship for years -- but I suppose this is how community builds.  I was impressed by her willingness to pause and make a human connection with us, the people she drives by everyday.  She even brought back muffins from the bakery for Scarlett and I.  Of course, as is always the way in a small town, we learned that she went to school with some of my aunts and uncles, and a couple of our relatives are married.  When we parted ways, she referred to my extended family and said something that struck me: "Now I know who you are."

I moved back to my hometown for these moments.  At times, I do not want to be defined by my family names, but for the most part it is really comforting to have deep roots.  It helps me be the best I can be when I know that my actions not only reflect back on my family and community, but also build it.

In case you decide to share the love too, here is the best muffin recipe I've made in a long time.

Rhubarb Poppyseed Muffins
(Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook)

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup plain thick yogurt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1 cm pieces

1. Preheat oven to 375*.  Butter or line 12 muffin cups.
2. Whisk the egg and sugars together in a large bowl.  Stir in the butter and yogurt.
3.  In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (except the rhubarb).  Then stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, until just combined and lumpy.  It will be a thick batter - that is good.  Fold in the rhubarb.
4. Divide the batter into the muffin cups.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the tops are golden.  Cool the muffins in the pan for two minutes and then remove them from the tin to cool completely.

(The author, Deb Perelman, had some great advice for making healthy muffins.  Load up on the fruit: the more you can shove into the batter, the less you miss the refined sugar (she used plums, and I have a feeling this recipe will sing with almost any fruit flavour).  Butter is better than oil, for flavour.  You can reduce the sugar even further and keep deliciousness by sprinkling a little icing sugar on the cooled muffins.  She says using sour cream instead will change your life, but I'm a fan of homemade yogurt.)

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Leggings

This reflection is about more than just my legs.

While at a leggings party, I looked in the mirror and said, "this is an awesome mirror - it makes my legs look great!"  My friend looked at me and said, "You kind of just have great legs all the time."  I was genuinely surprised:  I had thought it was a a trick of the glass.

But then I realized I don't have a single full length mirror in my home.  I can't see past my waist (or, on a particularly adventurous day when I go on my tiptoes, two inches below my waist).  When I look in the mirror I see my tired face, my chest that is not my own thanks to breastfeeding,  and I can't miss the mid section that is healing so, so slowly with physiotherapy.  I see what is close and messy.

And I thought: isn't this a metaphor for my life?  I look around my house and see the mess of Lego, the dirty dishes and laundry, the crooked doormat and I think I'm falling apart.  If only I would stop, scan out a little and look at the big picture, I might realize that things are actually going pretty well.  We have jobs, the kids are healthy, and we get to see our extended family regularly.  I am so mindful of these good things, but if I succeed in framing it long and wide 100 times a day, than I fail 101 times.

So what do I do?  I'll just keep wearing leggings and invest in a full length mirror.  And hope that my I legs look so good that I don't notice the smudged little finger prints.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Mother's Day 2015

My mother's day presents were better than yours.  Well, probably not to you, but to me, they were wicked awesome amazeballs.

First, Shawn said "I think we should do a family photoshoot."  Let's be honest here and admit that since the kids had camped out in the yard the night before, they were not feeling cooperative.  And the skies were promising drizzle.  And we have a baby who likes to mix his schedule up, just to keep us on our toes.

But we had an unscheduled afternoon and we had the library.  We did not get a lot of pictures, but we got a few, and that really pleases me.  Score one for the family.

canalfam
canalms
For supper, because I'm more of a dessert kind of person than a brunch lady, we had pie.  Of course, I made it, but I like making pie.  I love baking with the kids, but baking by myself is borderline therapeutic for me.  So when Shawn asked if I wanted him take care of the kids while I do "that" gesturing to supper (which I realize on paper sounds like a jerk thing to say but in the kitchen, on that day, while the three uncooperative kids did what uncooperative kids do, it was said with such sincerity that it was really quite sweet), I was glad.  Mother's Day present #2: success.

Then finally after dinner, Nevin had a carefully crafted treasure hunt for me with number clues.  He forgot to draw pictures to hint at the next clue's location, so he would run ahead and then with pointed fingers and broad, swooping arm gestures say, "its sooooomewhere around heeeeeere."  My treasure was a sign that said, "HAPPY MOTHRDAY, complete with a backwards "r" and "d".

It was a great day.

librarycollage1
librarycollage2
malcolmbooks
librarycollage3

Friday, 24 April 2015

A Sleeping Baby

Malcolmsleeping

Tonight while I hold Malcolm in my arms, my heart breaks a little.  He has just fallen asleep, with a peaceful look on his face and a dribble of milk on his chin.  He looks content, calm and oh so sweet.

I look at him and I think, "you trust me."  You trust me and you are safe and you are healthy and I don't want this moment to end.  This is when my heart breaks.  Someday, he will get sick, he will be mistreated, his heart will get broken, he will lose his job, he will break his arm, he will feel lonely and he will make mistakes.  Right now, he is heavy in my arms and he is safe.

Every criminal, every lawyer, every cancer patient, every overworked doctor, every CEO, every slave has lived this moment.  Someone has held them with hopes and dreams and fears, recognizing the moment of innocence.

And then the moment passed.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Best Laid Plans

ScarlettSashaKingston
Scarlett and I in Kingston.  Enjoying a fleeting moment of having everything all tidily planned out.

You know those moments when you think you've got life all planned out?  That was last Friday afternoon for me.  And you know those days when the best laid plans unravel?  That was last Saturday.

Friday was a family day.  We hung out in Kingston together, enjoying the moment more than usual because we had carefully planned out a date day on Saturday.  Mid-morning chat, lunch out, dinner at Scarlett's school fundraiser.  We even scheduled in a nap.  It was going to be awesome.

On our way home from Kingston, we got a text.  Our babysitter bailed on us.  No biggy, we thought, we can find a babysitter in the morning.  

In the morning, Shawn woke up with a wicked cold.  No problemo, we thought, cross out the nap, we can still go to dinner.

Dayquil wasn't really fixing the cold situation.  Okay, so not so much a date night as a "Shawn stay home and sleep while Sasha takes out a friend for a girls night" with Malcolm in tow.

Plans were made.  Pick up my friend at 6:15pm to arrive at 6:35pm, a fashionable five minutes late for the 6:30pm start time published on the ticket.  Except I didn't look carefully at the tickets until I grabbed them on my way out the door.  At 6:10pm, I discovered that the fundraiser started at 5:30pm.  Woops.  Sigh.  Gah!

But this is when this tragedy shifts into a joy.  My friend was so happy to be out of the house, she laughed when I told her there might not be any food.  Lets go on the adventure, we decided.  We arrived, and everyone was just sitting down to eat.  We even snagged carseat-friendly end-of-the-table chairs.  Of course, it turns out that we had inadvertently stole them from someone else, but at this point, we had the pity of the crowd.

The evening was great: good food, live music, and I won a prize.  There was that one awkward moment when the waitress tripped on the car seat and her tray of of beer and wine landed in it, but the baby wasn't there at the time, and really, what says I'm a mother of three (and in over my head) better that carrying around a car seat that emanates the odour of sour red wine? 

So all in all, it was a success.  The best part is that my prize is a gift certificate to a really nice restaurant in town, so whenever we've recovered and the smell has worn off, Shawn and I can plan another date night and do it all over again.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Nevin: The rulemaker

Nevin loves rules.  Give him a reason to follow a rule and he'll tell the world about it.  His new thing is making signs so that he can tell the world about the expectations even if he's not in the room.  In a typical week you might find two or three laying around the living room.  I've included this week's cache for historical documentation of the Era of Signs.

Sometimes, they are mundane and straightforward, like this one he made in the bathroom:
NoTrucks
"No trucks."

Sometimes they are very specific.
NoBumbo
"No touching Malcolm when he is sitting in the Bumbo on the kitchen table."  (The circles with five sticks are hands.)

And sometimes they are ornery.
NoRailway
"Scarlett is not allowed to touch my train set.  Ever."


p.s.  Nevin saw me putting together this post.  What did have to say about it?  "Mom, I know how to make signs out of Lego, too."

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Super Easter Stories

supergirl

Story #1:

Wednesday after school the kids made an Easter egg hunt for Shawn and I.  Nothing makes you love parenthood more the a series of picto clues leading you around your house that end with a note that says "HAPPY EStER" in the toy car bin.


Story #2:

We made it to church with two minutes to spare.  All went relatively well, considering how tired the kids were (the post Easter Bunny crash can be a real doozy).  Children's liturgy let out early so the children could renew their Baptismal Promises with the rest of the congregation, which looks a lot like kids just standing bewildered at the front of the church occasionally saying "I do" on a three second time delay.

We got back to our pew and I realized that in the rush, I had left the diaper bag in the sacristy.  This was right around the same time I realized Malcolm was getting fussy because his diaper was leaking through his clothes.  I should probably mention that the sacristy only has two entrances: one from the outside and the other about 10 feet to the right of the altar.  No big deal, I thought, I'll just brave the cold and break into the sacristy through the unlocked outer door.  I mean it is Easter after all, what better way to celebrate Christ's forgiveness than to ask for it after breaking into your church?  Well, turns out the door was locked, and I think vandalizing your church door might be asking for too much forgiveness.  Luckily, I ran into another mom at the back of the church - a good, kind, Catholic mom with a lot of kids - who told me she would take care of it.  And didn't she just march straight up past the altar as the whole congregation looked on, and get me some life saving diapers.

I wanted to tell her the if she died right then and there, she was surely going straight to heaven.  Then my filter kicked in (usually its broken) and I realized that suggesting someone's imminent death might not be the best expression of gratitude.  But I'm telling you: she'd need to commit a weeks worth of murders to loose her ticket.  I am so grateful for her.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Lost Tooth

firsttooth

Today was a big day in the Warner household.  Nevin lost his first tooth.  I have horrible memories of my mother yanking my teeth out while I cried, so we went the opposite way: it was so loose, that when Nevin pushed his tongue on in after school to show me how wiggly it was, it fell out.  It was during a break in the kids' road hockey game.  Loosing a tooth in a hockey game?  Very Canadian of him.

Nevin was beside himself he was so excited.  He ran up to all the neighbours who were outside: "Look!  Whats different?  Look at my smile!  Notice anything about my teeth?!"

When he told Scarlett, she cocked her head to the side, scrunched her shoulders up, clasped her hands by her chest and proclaimed, "Oh Nevin, this is so exciting.  It means your big person teeth are ready to grow" in the same way old ladies in movies from the 1950's might greet lambs or newborns.  To borrow a term from that generation: it was absolutely precious.

Daddy was away tonight, so he doesn't get to see it.  Our little accountant is anxious to get what's coming his way and although rumour has it that the tooth fairy will wait to pick up teeth until all parents have seen said tooth, he insisted that the exchange must be made TONIGHT.  When I asked him what he thought the going rate for teeth is these days, he thought $20 would suffice.  I explained to him that the teeth recycling business hit rock bottom in the last recession and hasn't fully recovered.  Perhaps one to two dollars would be more reasonable.  He thought $2 wasn't so bad either, considering the economic conditions.

We celebrated by having wraps for dinner ("Look!  It fits right through!"), brushing our teeth ("Look!  It fits right through!"), and reading Stuart Little until Malcolm was bored to tears.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Strengths

lovingflower

Once a week, I have been trekking Scarlett and Malcolm out to the Ontario Early Years Centre for a parent education workshop on Resiliency.  Free child care, food and parenting advice?  Sign us up.  It is nice to sit in a room with adults and learn about education's newest buzz word, but the best part has been the homework assignments.  Malcolm is usually eating at the end of the session, so I grab the supplies and take the activity home to do with Scarlett later in the day.

The first weeks' assignment was to make a flower and it was the most soul satisfying thing I have done with my child all year.  Both of us felt that way.  On each petal, you write one strength of the person you are making the flower for (we were provided a long list of strengths to choose from).  She felt so empowered by all the nice things I said about her and insisted that we tape it to the front window for all the neighbourhood to see.  We made one together for Nevin and finished by making one for me.  Here is what she said:

Loving: "Because you love Nevin and me."
Calm: [Me: Do you even know what calm means?] "Yes.  Like 'Calm Down!' You're good at that."
Different: "Because you like matching clothes and like unmatching clothes.  We're different.  I like that."
Strong: "Yeah!  You have big, strong muscles!"
Planner: "Because you like to plan things."

Different?  Planner?  She nailed it.

p.s. Last week, our homework was to blow bubbles to practice deep breathing with our kids.  We were supposed to practice when life was calm, so we'd be ready to use it when Scarlett refuses to put on her jacket and the baby is screaming in the carseat and Nevin is freaking that he is going to miss the bus our child's age appropriate decisions cause us tension (refer to descriptive word #2 above - clearly this mom gets worked up often).  Blowing bubbles indoors takes the cake when you are 4 years old.
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