Monday, March 5, 2012

And with that, birthday season is a wrap!

"Boys are sons until they're married, girls are daughters until they're buried, ."

I take exception to that. As close as I am to my precious, wonderful daughters, I must admit I have a different kind of bond with my son.

Perhaps its because he is my only one; perhaps its because his size allowed me to pick him up and hold him on my hip much longer than I was able to with my girls. Maybe it was because he let me do just that and they didn't. I don't know. But I will say that of all three of them, he is the most like me. Of course our different genders give us some very different looks and personality traits, but of them all, he is the one I see myself in. From his soft heart, to his perceptiveness of situations and other people's reactions, his need to plan things out and be secure in his surroundings before he is comfortable; we come at the world in a very different way, but react to it much the same.

Now my baby boy is eleven years old.

In case you're wondering, no I didn't forget to blog on Owen's birthday.

The truth is: we were busy. Not "I had to work" busy, not "the laundry had to be done" busy, but honestly, truly busy - spending time with our birthday boy. He is at an age where conversation is interesting rather than an excercise in manners and word correction and his humor keeps me cracking up all day. It was a Saturday and it was a day spent entirely with him. It was so nice to watch him show genuine gratitude for the gifts he was given and to realize how fortunate he is to have some great friends around him.

Even his party was relatively stress free compared to years past. Gone are the days of a dozen kids climbing the walls, wrecking the house and leaving me cleaning up their trail for days. Gone are the expensive and pointless loot bags I always dreaded having to be creative enough to make and the opening of countless spiderman toys (not that they weren't all appreciated at the time!) Now we can enjoy watching him and his buds being pals, chasing eachother with nerf guns and taking turns on his newest video game. We order a pizza, cut the cake, open gifts, and send them down stairs. Done!

I say this every year, but it never loses its truth: I am so shocked another year has passed. As I watch all my kids grow, I am incredibly proud of the great people they are becoming and so absolutely, positively, grateful they are mine :)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

30 something...

Today marks another year of life. Another chance to accomplish my goals, to enjoy the ones I love and to try and leave my mark on the world.

Today I am officially in my mid 30's.

I'm not someone who gets hung up on age. I have many friends of all ages and seem to fit in just fine. My health has not been the greatest since turning the big 3-0, but I don't necessarily blame it on age.

So I went into today excited to be with great friends who had come to visit, and secure in the knowledge that I would be spoiled by my family and maybe get a little extra attention from a few friends. What I didn't expect was the onslaught of messages, the veritable outpouring of love and good wishes from the vast majority of my several hundred Facebook friends.

I heard from new friends, old friends, local friends and those very far away. I heard from people I have known for almost my entire life and from those who only come out of the woodwork once in a blue moon. I got love from all corners of the world and from people I never imagined I meant anything to. And not just the simple greetings either. I got beautiful, sincere, heartwarming messages from so many.

And my heart was indeed warmed.

As the messages filled my Facebook wall, my email, my phone from texts and calls, I realized that this is my mark on life. This is one thing I know I'm good at, that I treasure above all else - that I am nothing without: friendship.

No words can describe how loved I felt today. On top of a wonderful day spent with my truly wonderful family, the best present I received was in knowing that I was surrounded by so many well wishes and words of friendship. Each memory recalled was a gift. Each person, someone who meant a great deal to me in some way. I sincerely hope they all know just what today meant to me; something tells me that they do.

With that thought in mind, I just may get through the next 35 years!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Confessions of a busy mom

I'm drowning in a river of guilt.

After a busy start to the week, we got up this morning and realized that both Rhian and Owen had skating with their classes today at the community center. Not only did I not have their skates and helmets unearthed from last year's skating trips, but I was totally unprepared for Rhian to burst out with, "So are you coming Mommy?"

True, I was off today. True, I didn't really have solid plans. But when I have one day off in a week, thats a full day. Between groceries, laundry, dishes all over the kitchen, floors to wash and several errands to run - I had a full day.

But didn't I have one hour to spare?

Of course I did. But I didn't really have another one later on in the day to go with Owen's class (and I'm very careful to do for one what I do for another), then come home to make supper before making sure all homework is done and then rush out the door by 5:30 for dance and cadet drop off, only to run home for cubs pickup. Geesh, when did life get so busy?

So I didn't go. I thought about her at 10:45 when I knew she'd be getting her skates on. I tried to forget her telling me not to worry about how she'd get them on since another one of the moms she KNEW would be there would help her. Yeah, that one hurt.

But during that hour I was at the store getting the cereal they asked me for and replacing the bananas they told me were gone. I came home to wash the skinny jeans she asked me to clean and to make the cookies I know she will be very happy to discover after school.

So I can't do it all. I guess I'm going to have to accept that. In the meantime I will meet the kids at the door when they arrive and ask about their day over warm cookies. I will listen to the stories about skating and hope they don't hold it against me that I wasn't there.

There truly is nothing like a mother's guilt.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Only the Good Die Young

Death is not something I'm good at.

Some may think that's a good thing. I for one, think its pretty scary. I am about to go into my 36th year and have never lost anyone close to me. There was my grandmother, 5 years ago, but even we had not been close for many years. I remember flying to Toronto for her funeral, something I felt strongly I had to experience, having no idea how hard that was going to be. Then panic struck me: what in the world would it be like to lose someone I had actually known and shared happy memories with? I've been to funerals before of course, but always for people I had barely known.

All of a sudden I began to feel like I was "waiting for the sword to drop", so to speak. My parents are in their 70's and have a myriad of health problems, all our family is now far from us, and lets not forget we watched my mother in law battle lung cancer a few years ago. Surely it will be my turn to experience a loss sometime. I'm not certain anyone is ever really prepared to deal with death, but what to feel when its never really touched your life?

Today we received news that a friend from back home in Greenwood passed away very suddenly yesterday, following a tragic skiing accident. This was a man we spent a lot of time with, who has coached my kids, who played Masters soccer with my husband, who was the President of our small soccer committee on which Steven and I both served for years. He was a fixture in our lives for a long time and I am having trouble understanding how he can be gone. I can't get my head around the fact that he has passed, never mind how his wife and two young sons will pick up their lives and live with this.

I've learned a lot in the past year about losing a loved one from a very strong friend of mine who lost her husband 5 years ago in Afghanistan. She is possibly the most solid, grounded person I know and through her I am pleased to know that hearts do heal and although one never forgets, one can continue living a very fulfilling life.

That is what I wish for our friend's wife and sons. I wish them peace, serenity, much love and support to get through the next months. I wish strength also for those of us who had the privilege of knowing such a funny, life-loving and giving man, and who will always feel his loss. He was a well known figure in the community; a person would be hard pressed to find a resident of Kingston/Greenwood whose life wasn't touched in some way by him. I, for one, feel very lucky to have known him.

For the record, I no longer feel that dealing with death gets easier as you experience it.

RIP Dave Morse.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

King of the Castle

Owen had a bad day yesterday.

He walked through the door full of tales about the intricate system of snow forts in their school yard, who controls the various pieces of real estate and how a mean spirited group were systematically taking them over.

Gee, that sounds familiar.

Not only is this a story straight out of my childhood elementary school, but a very simplistic example of the "real world".

There was ranting, some very real frustration...and then a plan was made. No way was my son being pushed out of a fort he'd worked hard on, nor was he allowing it to be destroyed. I felt like I was watching a disgruntled employee formulating a plan to secure his much valued job...or possibly planning a takeover! At the very least, he would defend his territory at all costs.

Today he came home from school smiling. The first thing I asked was, "How go the snow fort wars?" He beamed and told me, "Great, we joined the group that destroyed ours....then when the bell rang we kicked it in!"


My first reaction was to berate him for stooping to their level. Then he went on to describe the new set of rules the VP had devised. New laws, of you will. Seems there were far too many territorial squirmishes going on and they felt the need to regulate things a bit. This idea amused me and I will admit, impressed me more than a little. Owen wasn't nearly as impressed. But after a good discussions on the need for rules and the parallels between this childhood angst and real life situations, he conceded to the necessity.

So in the end we turned it into a teachable moment, and I was secretly proud that my kid came out on top. Is that the right approach as a parent? Who knows. But for today all is right in the world, or the playground I suppose, and here in the real world we know that sometimes that's all we can ask for!

I'm the king of the castle, and you're the.....well, you get it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tales of a Birthday Girl

There's a teenager in my house.

I remember a time, not so long ago, when I had a little girl with pigtails and brightly colored fingernails dancing through the living room on her way to change her outfit for the 10th time that day. I recall birthday parties with 14 classmates dressed in full princess garb descending upon us for a tea party fit for a queen. Years of makeovers, princess cakes, movie-themed sleepovers and marble cake. Always marble cake.

This morning I woke up on January 11th, and as I do every year, watched my little girl eat her birthday pancakes and tried to see her through someone else's eyes. While she will always be that tiny girl in ringlets, holding my hand and singing a song, its important I remember she's growing up and becoming a person in her own right. What I saw made me smile.

Today the little syrup-smeared birthday girl of the past was replaced by a young lady who neatly cut her pancakes with a knife. She carefully blew out her candle and cleaned it before setting it on the table. She laughed at something her little sister said with incredible patience and reminded her brother to sit up so as not to get syrup on his sleeve. She smiled at me like an adult when I sat down to eat with them and talked excitably about the day to come. She began receiving birthday wishes via text before her feet hit the floor and expressed genuine gratitude for all the messages on both our facebook pages. After a careful outfit selection and meticulously applied layer of makeup, she was ready for her big day. I was happy to see there were pigtails in her hair today; some things never change.

She headed out the door then with two of her friends, bursting with excitement....but not before she stopped to give me a huge hug and a big sloppy kiss. She may be my height and headed into her teens, but we both know she will always be my baby girl.

And now the fun begins.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Less is More

So a new year has begun.

I am not going to launch into an apologetic diatribe about how much time has passed since my last post, or begin spewing promises to be more attentive to my blogger buddies in the new year. I do not believe in resolutions nor do I ever make them, for one simple reason: I never keep them.

I will however, resolve to revamp my previous blogging philosophies in hopes that I may find more time - and, lets face it - interest, in writing more often.

In the past I have used this site to rant and rave on a specific topic, express my feelings of the moment or to merely to update anyone who may be interested in the never ending chaos we call life. That all sounds fine here in type, but I so often found my posts becoming longer and longer and thus needing more and more time and concentration to get it all out. I eventually found myself writing in my head - as I have done all my life, as my way of sorting through things - and then feeling too tired or overwhelmed to sit and write it down. And taking my readers into account, I also realized that not everyone has the time to read such lengthy, detailed accounts of inconsequential events every day. I myself follow several blogs, and understand the need for short, concise, to-the-point posts.

So no more. From now on my intention is to write more often, but write less. I find getting my thoughts down on "paper", as it were, is my way of processing and discovering all angles of any given situation. Its how I express myself and how I think. I truly miss the time I used to devote to this stress-reliever and am hoping this year will bring simplicity to all areas of my life, most especially my writing.

Who knows, perhaps this will be the year I open my blog up to the public.

Nahhh, probably not!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just Plain Mom

My tv has been bombarded lately by advertisements for a new movie called, "I don't know how she does it." There are clips from the movie, interviews by the actors and actresses and countless discussions on how busy a life the main character leads as a working mother and what a superior being she must be.

The whole thing makes me sick.

First of all I must admit I have never seen the movie, although I have seen enough clips and "teasers" to know I likely never will. I realize it is meant to be a celebration of a woman's strength, an example of all we as working mothers go through every day and the sheer amount of things we are able to accomplish. But to me, its just another example of the often unrealistic demands that are expected of us daily.

Yes, I have been called a Super Mom. But I don't feel super. In fact, I detest that term. It implies that if I don't perform feats of heroism and go far beyond what is expected than I am just simply "mom" and no longer worthy of the title.

I am a mother of three beautiful children. That means I have three separate personalities to raise and nurture, three people to ensure receive an equal amount of attention and love. Three mouths to feed three times a day, three children to clothe and prepare for every changing season. Three dentist/doctor/optometrist/you name it appointments to organize and drive them to, not to mention seeing to the specific needs of each child; one needs glasses, one needs braces, one wants more attention because the other two seem to be getting it for various reasons. There is laundry for three kids, cleaning up after three kids, dealing with a house full of friends of three kids....and on top of all that I work outside the home as well.

I'm not complaining, in fact I love my life. And I do have a lot of help. I am fortunate that my husband is a wonderful father and a huge help with the household, when he is home. Being a military family, however, means that often I can be "solo-parenting" for long periods of time. So life gets busy, sometimes overwhelmingly so, and to be told in the height of such activity that I must be a "supermom" to pull it all off, makes me wonder what I am in the slow times.

Perhaps I am being petty and ungrateful - it certainly sounds that way as I write it out. So I will offer an example: just the other day my husband and I drove our son into the city, which is two hours away from our town, to see an endocrinologist at the children's hospital. The appointment had been made months ago, both our schedules cleared so we could both attend, so off we went. Only to arrive and realize the appointment was in fact for three days later. My blood turned cold, my heart sank to my feet and I felt like a total idiot. There was a lot of waving away of apologies and comforting words from both the nurses and my husband ("Don't worry about it, you're a busy woman") but the truth is, I wrote it down wrong, the fault was mine and mine alone. Being busy doesn't excuse being wrong and still left the hospital staff scrambling. In the end they were able to accommodate us and we did see the doctor (who thankfully was on call and on the premises) but I am still to this day left wondering how I could have made such a mistake.

Upon telling this story to a friend later that day, it was said, "But hey, you worked it out didn't you? That's what us moms do!" But no, I didn't work it out. They did. I wanted to shout, "Don't make me look like the supermom here, I was the dumbass who wrote it down wrong and they were the ones who were nice enough to take us anyway!" Yes I am busy, yes I have a lot on my plate, but isn't it my job to keep everything organized? To always know where we are going and when?

But you see that's the trap. The "supermom trap". By giving me that label I feel I have to live up to that standard and never, ever falter. It gives me the impression that as long as I stay on top of all the laundry, the homework, the school council meetings, the multitude of appointments, than I am doing my job and therefor deserve the "super". But the reality is that I do make mistakes. I sometimes don't get to the mountain of laundry for a week and have my son complain he has no clean underwear. I have work weeks so busy that I forget to sign all three school agendas and don't realize when one isn't completing homework regularly or another has a project on the go or needs a permission slip signed. I have forgotten about birthday parties, missed class trips and realized on the first snow day that one or more of my kids didn't have winter boots that fit them because I simply hadn't found the time to go buy them. I've made my daughter late for dance class, I still haven't sewed all my son's cubs badges on his sash, and if you show up randomly at my house (which is always encouraged) you may very well find it in shambles.

But I have lots of good days too. I am very honest with work and refuse to work a full week. I am open about the fact that working full time takes too much away from my family and I simply cannot keep up. People wave that away and think I'm being modest, but its true. I need a day or two a week to catch up on my housework, my grocery shopping and just being a mom. By being honest like that I am able to have that tea party with my youngest daughter after supper and help my son with his math homework as if I have all the time in the world. I am able to have those all important conversations with my "almost teenager" about who is doing what and who likes who. Mostly I just listen, but the point is, if I'm there she talks to me and at this age, that is golden. I also make it a point to carve out some time for myself, even when it seems impossible (and admittedly its easier now that my kids are getting older and all in school) and I have learned to ask for help when I need it. That was a big lesson that was a long time coming.

During one of those daytime tv interviews regarding this new movie, the co host of the program, also a working mother of 3, said, "My goal is at the end of the day to have only disappointed everyone just a little, because I know I can't do everything right and please absolutely everyone." Well said. I do what I can and when I make a mistake, it only makes me human. I don't need the specter of some over achieving, always perfect, never unwavering...supermom to make me feel less than what I am: a good mother doing the best I can in a busy life.

What ever will I do with myself when they're all raised and gone?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fighting Back

When Morgan came to me a couple of months ago and said she wanted to form a team of her friends for the Relay for Life here in Petawawa, my first thought was: I don't have time for that.

It shames me now, to remember how I considered all the things I had on my plate - three kids, hubby away, full work schedule, dance/cubs/soccer, all the things of our hectic life - and decided I didn't have time to take on anything else. Then I looked at her. I mean really looked at her face and into her eyes, and saw excitement, passion and a whole lot of hope. She was standing there asking me to help her continue this journey she started last year, to help raise not only money for a cause we care very deeply about but also awareness among her young friends as to how they too can help. The details of life don't occupy her mind, only the joy of the moment and the enthousiasm she is known for. So my answer was a simple, "Of course sweetheart."

What ensued was two months of awe inspiring behavior. Amid the daily chores and struggles we all contend with, I watched 9 young women learn what it is to give back to the world that has given them so much. I watched them swallow their fear and march up to the doors of perfect strangers to announce their participation in the Relay and ask for their support. I listened to them talk about the people in their lives that they have either supported through or lost to cancer, sad that they have had to cope with such things at this tender age. I have been witness to their hard work on behalf of this team, their determination and above all a level of enthousiasm the likes of which I have never seen...all for the sole purpose of fighting back against this terrible disease that none of us can escape entirely.

The culmination of all our efforts came together two days ago, when relay day finally arrived. I woke up to Morgan's resounding cheer of , "ITS RELAY DAY!!" and I'm happy to say the excitement never waned. The kids hit the field after school, donned their matching shirts and came together in an impressive fashion to show cancer that they are fighting back. We were lucky enough to have Morgan's nanny - my wonderful, beloved mother-in-law - with us as our own, personal cancer survivor. The father of one of our girls is also a survivor, and I will say that having those yellow shirts walking among us certainly put things into perspective.

There are many moments I will never forget, but a few stand out.

While gathered at the stage for the opening ceremonies I glanced over a saw a young boy of about 9 or 10 - much like my own son - swinging from a sign post and giggling. I smiled and was about to look away when he turned and I saw he was wearing a survivor's shirt. My blood froze, tears immediatly sprung to my eyes, and my heart ached for all the things that child has had to endure while my son has led such a happy, normal life. I then looked beside me at my husband's mother, also in her survivor's shirt, laughing with her sister who surprised her and made the trip to our town to see her. She alone has touched so many lives, enriched them greatly and continues to inspire us so much - it terrifed me to realize we could have lost her. I chose this year to run for Steven's little cousin Jaymee as well, who at a very young age began the battle for her life against this monster. I am so pleased to say she is now doing very well and living the beautiful life of a happy 9 year old child.

Later in the night I lit a luminary for a friend back home, who very sadly lost her father to cancer and who still misses him every day. I had a tear in my eye as I did so, thinking how unfair it is that she should be without him. I sent out a silent prayer for him that he might know how much he is loved and missed to this day. Once all the luminaries were lit and we had made our laps to see them, take pictures of how they spelled out HOPE, and commented how beautifully they lit up the whole track, I realized the scope of just how many people have been given that terrible diagnosis in our community alone. It spurred me on, gave me the boost I needed to keep up the walk, continue the fight and to never stop striving for the cure we so desperatly need.

The night was filled with laughter, tears, excitement, fear, love and friendship - but most of all it was filled with hope. There is hope in what we are doing, we can change the world one research dollar at a time, and I for one, will never stop.

I can hardly wait for next year's relay :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Why can't we all just get along?"

When I was much younger - as in before the kids - I can remember assuming the hardest part of becoming a parent was getting used to caring for another human being. Trying to figure out how to rearrange my life to accomodate the baby, trying to wrap my head around the very idea of a baby, and of course the most infamous issue of all: lack of sleep. Of course all those things are legitimate hurdles, but as most of us do, I forgot that they are only babies for such a precious short time.

The other day I found myself comparing parenthood to that of getting a new puppy; in the beginning the puppy is little, cute and oh so lovable...and then they grow up. It sounded better than it looks here in writing, but my point is that once the baby is a baby no longer, what remains is a real person with real people problems. We are now way past the baby stage for all three kids. No more diaper changes, midnight feedings, teething pains or baby food. Gone are the cribs, the play pens, car seats and baby swings. How silly of me to assume this was the stage we could "sit back, relax, and raise the children." Haha, yes, I actually said those words once.

As the children grow and develop, I am continually amazed at what wonderful people in their own right they are becoming. I am thrilled to find that Morgan, who's personality has closely resembled her father's for so long, is a writer much like me! In fact, although she has never read any of my writing beyond my ever changing facebook statuses, her writing style is extremely similar to mine. Likewise, I never realized how funny Owen is. Of course every child is amusing and makes his parents laugh from an early age, but I'm talking about real comedic skill. That child is beginning to come out with lines with perfect delivery and timing that puts any comedian to shame. Life at the moment is a constant flow of preteen jargon, an ever changing line up of "best friends", daily accounts of playground shenanigans as told by the instigator himself, and random bursts of energy and song added by Rhian who refuses to be left out but is still living the pure, simple life of a happy 6 year old.

And so it was when this past week an innocent comment made by a curious and caring family friend sparked a conversation that changed a 12 year old girl's outlook on friendship for life. To make a long story short, she had been getting really close really quickly with one of the girls in her larger group of friends and it was slowly beginning to exclude the others. At this age girls, especially social girls like Morgan, tend to herd themselves into large groups, but pair into smaller ones of 2 or 3 from time to time. It may have to do with a project they are assigned in specific groups, the kids who happen to live nearby and are handy to hang out with over a weekend or holiday, or just the way a day happens to progress. But while birthday parties and dances bring out the group as a whole, sleepovers and after school phone conversations (or should I say skype conversations!) are usually done in small, select groups. I was just beginning to notice that everything seemed to be centred around this one girl all the time and never the others anymore, when I learned that she was telling the other girls to leave Morgan alone, that she was "her friend." I was appalled by this and upon bringing it up with Morgan, stunned to find out that not only has she been doing this for some time,trying to control everything Morgan did and said, she had also decided the day before that she was tired of Morgan now, and was moving on to someone else. Thus, a "Fairweather Friend."

It broke my heart to see Morgan's tears, to hear her wonder what she did wrong and then to have her ask, after I explained the concept of the fairweather friend to her, "but that's just not nice!" But you know, these are the lessons of life. As much as we want it to be so, not everyone will be nice to our kids all the time. She is the center of our world, but to the other kids on the school grounds she is but another kid to accept or discard at will. At 12, Morgan needs to learn to spot these kinds of friendships, to be strong enough to know that she is not at fault when someone else is dealing with their own issues, and that you cannot be friends with everybody. We talked about different kinds of friendships, from the acquaintances that come and go in life, to the ones that stay with you through thick and thin. The kind of friendships that can be sustained through all manner of changes, re locations, and through time itself are rare but the most precious of all. She has experienced this, knows its value and is happy to have it to lean on during times like these. After all, at this tender age, the world feels like its has come to a standstill and turned upside down!

As much as I enjoyed rocking my babies to sleep and holding their tiny hands while they learned to walk, I am now over joyed to be experiencing life through the eyes of my growing children. They are all unique, the lessons I have long since forgotten are new again, and I am thoroughly impressed at the people they are becoming.

Lets hope I can still say that in a few years when they are officially teenagers.