family

Stay small a little longer (though I know you won’t)

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As we sit on the eve of my baby turning 10, it’s so easy to wonder where the time went. I remember being ten, desperately wanting to be older and still believing it would be forever before 30 came. I remember cradling a baby boy in my arms sleep deprived and in love, dreaming about all the time I had before he turned ten. It was a blink. I don’t know (just as all parents don’t know) how the baby turned himself into a little boy.

I worry about this one all the time, as I do with his brothers. I hope I am what he needs me to be and I hope that he finds contentment within himself. I strive to make sure he knows he is loved and he is enough.

I try to believe that there is still time, and I know that there is. The days stay with us as the years slip away before we’ve had time to chase them. For now his days are filled with Minecraft strategy, Wizards, books and navigating a new school. He is smart and often solitary and seems comfortable being himself.

My Jack is a special soul and he has big plans for his life. As his mom, I hope to make him feel like his life is always big enough for his plans.

Happy birthday, baby cakes. Mommy loves you.

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CW CHALLENGE: DAY 24

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. — Tolstoy

FAMILY

The family: Comes with no written, stated or implied guarantee. Oh, but I wish there was. I wish it did. I struggle to say that I think there should be. I am more at ease to say that I am wrong.

I think the best we can do is promise to try and do better. We can promise to love without condition, forgive without grudge and choose to always, always see the best. At least see those for who they are, rather than who we want them to be.

The family: these people who are part of us, who made us, who shape us, who damage us and lift us up. These are the expectations placed upon a unit who have been placed together by luck and  biology. Or some divine plan. For some, the luck was bad, the biology formed funny, the plan was flawed. Or it wasn’t. Maybe it was only meant for a while. Maybe the plan was to teach, to [hopefully] learn, to prepare for the next.

The family: Those who will share something – cells, memories, trials, tragedy, love, meaning, hope, pain – with us forever. Our stories are all different. Certainly our unhappy ones are.

My family: Built on a competition we were never going to win. I don’t know who decided upon the rules, but I remember playing.

My family: Torn apart by anger and immaturity, pride and a change come too soon.

My family: Marked now by loss and gaps of time that bring forgetting and remembering and moving on.

My family: Came with love but without a guarantee of receipt without condition. Came with a best before date, a warning of expiry.

It was me who left. It was me who could not stay. It is me who is now lost. In reality, I am not. In metaphor, there are betters to choose. In reality I am here, existing with my past and my experiences and my future. If you say that I am lost, that you have lost me – like a ship at sea? like a missing sock? like a misplaced object from such a time ago? We are not lost. We are trees. separated by a chasm too wide for our branches to reach. We are books that once shared characters, but whose stories have ended. We are windows that have been forced shut by time and weather and paint in neighbouring houses, without people who have the ability to pry them open again.

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Here’s more on the Creative Writing Challenge

Photos of the boys

Oh the trauma of taking pictures of the little people in my life. We didn’t try very hard tonight. None of us were all that into it. They were more interested in soaking each other on the trampoline….in their clothes. I was more interested in – them listening to me. They won.

Here are a couple of salvaged pictures – nothing is edited (minus the one I turned grey). They are getting too big too fast – my normal complaint. Ugh. At least they have clothes on. Those who know us personally will truly know what I mean by that.

Jack – 8 years old (9 in 2 months), Alex – 7 and a half, Charlie – 5 years old.

hug....denied.

hug….denied.

the middle one holds the two ends together.

the middle one holds the two ends together.

Jack, Alex + Charlie

Jack, Alex + Charlie

Charlie of the Corn

Charlie of the Corn

That's my Goph

That’s my Goph

Jack of the Corn

Jack of the Corn

By forever baby

My forever baby

Alex

Alex

Jack

Jack

nope...everyone can NOT look at the same time.

nope…everyone can NOT look at the same time.

tower.

tower.

faces any mother would love.

faces any mother would love.

 

So proud of him

If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing. — Coco Chanel

photoIn a past life, Michael was a chef. He was so good…he still is, but that lifestyle was not one that we really wanted to continue to embrace. Too many hours, a lot of stress, too much missing out on things that kept going on when he wasn’t here. It was fun, it was the atmosphere we met in. And like I said…he is talented. I think part of that was natural talent, and the other part is his insane ability to think about so many things at the same time.

We got older and priorities changed. The family grew and it was more important to be home on weekends and at night.

He went back to school. We were so proud to watch him get his degree last week. I was taking pictures and Jack was clapping, even when he wasn’t supposed to. He gives our boys someone to look up to. And although we do not believe that formal education is the most essential element in a successful life, we do believe that you should aim yourself towards something that interests you, work hard for the things you want to achieve and never let anyone tell you you can’t do it.

As the four of us sat in the drizzle, right up at the front to watch the most important man in our lives walk across the stage for a piece of paper that represented hard work and a journey towards something better, something more fulfilling, something meaningful to him and to us, we were so excited to watch and proud to have just been there.

He has already started with new classes, onto the next goal of a Masters…from Harvard. Yep, that Harvard. Can’t wait for that graduation ceremony!

his idea

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My biggest boy (now eight and a half) is not what I would call a feeling kinda guy. He is rational, fact-based and analytical. Yes, think Sheldon Cooper. Books and math and science and puzzles and building stuff are his thing. People and new stuff and spontaneous actions, not so much.

When Jump Rope for Heart stuff came home, it was Jack who decided that the three boys should pool their efforts and fundraise as a team. These days kids can earn prizes for raising different levels of money. Alex is into the prizes. Jack is into the numbers. The idea was embraced by all three of them. Jump rope is on Thursday at school and so far, going door to door the boys have gathered $425 in pledges. Our social butterfly goes to the door behind his big brother and dares not communicate with the strangers who open the door. Charlie rings the bells or knocks on the door and then loses interest. Jack, my normally reserved boy stands up straight, says his piece about the Heart and Stroke, and has come leaps and bounds towards meeting the target. His dad and I have been so surprised and feel so very proud of our boy, who gives us worry with his lack of interest in social ways for his whole life.

When Jack found out that one of his friends since junior kindergarten had cancer, he was very introspective. We talked about it a lot and I could always see the wheels turning. Every couple of days he would have a new few questions that I would answer as best as I could and he seemed to be satisfied. I knew, however, that he was worried about his friend. He felt her absence in the classroom.

Recently he explained to me that hospitals and doctors have made great advances since the days of Terry Fox. I told him he was right. He told me he was still worried about his friend. I told him that I was too.

Different events and fundraisers have been started to help Grace’s family, so I’m guessing that is what gave Jack reason to keep at developing his own plan. My determined and smart little boy decided that he was going to raise money on his own (he would let his brothers help) for Grace. He is going to sell cotton candy. He has me on making tags, his dad will be on cotton candy making duty and we’ll all be going door to door to see how we can help his friend and her family in this difficult time.

Kids are strange little creatures. Every day comes with new discoveries – about them, about you. Today I’m a proud mom. And as much as I worry about him, I hope the world has good things in store for him because he has such good things to offer the world.

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He’s started a blog. Adventures with Jack. Who knows where he’s going to go with that.

If I Stay

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If I Stay by Gayle Forman

How it begins: Everyone thinks it was because of the snow. And in a way, I suppose that’s true.

Told by a girl in a coma. She is aware that her family is gone and she is all that’s left. There are people who love her that want her to wake up but she spends the story telling the stories of remembrance and young love, that could have, should have and maybe would have been.

It is built on the possibility that everything can change in a second, with a snowfall or a day off or a music selection. It’s all fleeting and the decisions we make – before and after – have consequences and meaningful impacts that reach far and wrench heartstrings.

This was a quick read, and when I was looking for the image of the cover to stick in this post, I discovered that there is a sequel. (I guess you can figure that she stayed…that doesn’t lessen the story at all, I promise). I’ve already downloaded it and I hope it doesn’t keep me up too late tonight!

Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith

Joy is the best makeup. Joy, and good lighting.

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Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

How it begins: There is not much truth being told in the world.

Anne Lamott is my favourite writer, no question. I love everything she writes. Bird by Bird is my favourite book. This collection of essays lent itself to a wonderful novel. There was love and humour and struggle and authenticity in the pages. She tells things as they are and uses the right words to do so. This book read like a conversation and her frustration was clear and humerous, her voice was authentic. I loved every page, every paragraph, every piece of every story.

school is starting (i say with a sigh)

You can drag my body to school but my spirit refuses to go — Bill Watterson (Calvin + Hobbes)

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i don’t know what happened to summer.

although i am fully aware that this is the week i will face an empty house, as all three boys will be in school by friday, it doesn’t yet feel true.

we got scrubbed, fed and mostly packed and somehow had time left before bed. wanting to make the most of our last night of summer holidays, we all grabbed our ipads. it was minecraft time. (the four of us, daddy doesn’t play mine craft). the four of us joined together in a world of jack’s creation. the boys tend to play all unorganized and unruly. more interested in changing the colour of sheep and searching for creepers. mommy takes a very different approach. normally, when i play, i task them with crafting my much-needed supplies, they steal the resources i uncover and i mine, mine, mine.

those pixels sure do make them happy. until the competition starts. tonight, there was excitement and joy bouncing on mommy and daddy’s bed, tied together with a wifi bond. it was a wonderful mommy moment. until it wasn’t. the unorganized chaos of the boys’ gameplay means very little gathering of anything useful. so, when mommy hit iron, the race to find me was on. again, way more interested in just the building of a mine, i don’t care how much iron or gold or diamonds or anything i have, so i left the material where charlie got to it first. within thirty seconds charlie had been assassinated and everyone was wailing. oh, the horror.

the boys know that mommy doesn’t play if we are going to kill each other. so, jack was done. why did he task his little character to cause a necessary re-spawning of charlie’s ninja999? he wanted the iron and couldn’t wait for charlie to share. couldn’t wait for mommy to find more. he didn’t really know what he was going to use the iron for, his need for it just got away from him and the little pixel person controlled by his little brother paid the price.

game over.
boys in bed.
tears. remorse. sadness. ugh.

i was torn between chuckling over the excitement over a little game and feeling bad for the abrupt end. but discipline is nothing without follow through, and they have to learn that if we are going to play together, we are going to follow the rules we all agreed to.

these are the moments i feel time getting away. i hope that we’re doing alright by our boys. i pray for their friendship together and ponder about the number of nights left like this. the simplicity of a big bed, clean and fresh little boys, a mommy who wants to be present and hold on, and a game that helps us forget that school begins again tomorrow.

CW Challenge : Day 13

15-STEP LIST : HOW TO BE [GOOD TO YOUR MOMMY]

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This is written with my 4, 6 and 7 year old boys in mind.

1. Remember that mommy’s job is to love you, to teach you and to keep you safe. There isn’t always room to make you your happiest while fulfilling her duty, but she always tries.

2. Pick one day a week and make a decision to not whine. One day. No whining.

3. When mommy says to get in the car, grab your stuff, put on your shoes, get in the car and buckle up. This is not a time for questions or requests. No excuses. Just get in the car.

4. When your brother talks to you, answer him. Don’t make him keep calling you. If mommy can hear him, you can hear him. Answer him.

5. When mommy hugs you, hug her back. You used to. She is your safe place.

6. Love each other (your siblings). Every day.

7. Between the hours of 9pm and 7am, don’t use the word mommy, mom, mama or anything like it, unless there is an emergency. A real emergency.

8. Go To Sleep.

9. Believe that when mommy is making eye contact with you and is less than 6 feet away, she is watching you. She sees what you are showing her. You don’t have to re-verify that fact every 12 seconds.

10. Stop eating dirt. Stop licking things. Stop tasting rocks. Please.

11. Do what your mother says, at least 75% of the time.

12. Learn from the mistakes your mom made. She is older, wiser and chances are she’s tried it. She’s telling you specifically because she wants to save you from her upset.

13. Eat what she makes you.

14. Tidy up your room. Do a good job. Do it without being asked.

15. Brush your teeth. No crying. No bartering. It’s 2 minutes out of your life. Brush them!

and one more – give mommy a few minutes to do nothing. it doesn’t mean she loves you less when she is not devoting all her attention to you. she needs to remember herself before she was your mommy because she loves being your mommy so much, sometimes she forgets who she was before.

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Here’s more on the Creative Writing Challenge

CW Challenge : Day 9

HANGING OUT IN THE CEMETERY

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep
— excerpt from poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye

it has been one year and one hundred and nine days since i lost hope for me and my mom. i lost her long before that, but when her life ended, so did the hope that i kept hidden away.

my mother blessed me with a few moments before her passing that mean more to me than most of what happened in my adult life between us and i will always appreciate her for them, but that’s another blog at another time.

i find cemeteries fascinating and oh, so peaceful. but i don’t go to hang out. i don’t go to remember. i haven’t been more than three times in the last four hundred and seventy four days. she isn’t there. i won’t find healing there.

when we lowered what was left of her into the ground a few days after her body and soul parted, i refused to add anything to the plot. i wrote her a letter before the flames embraced the shell that once was, and it will be mixed with her bones forever. i stood for a bit, after everyone else had stood long enough, as i just wanted to breathe for a few minutes. i didn’t want anyone with me. i ached for her in that moment. i wish i had stood there longer.

never during my three visits have i found her there. i felt her once. it was in my closet at home. i was picking up her service announcement and a book that once belonged to her, as i had it on the floor in the corner and i was straightening it up and i felt her. the smell of her warmed all around me and i felt overwhelming comfort and love. it was a wonderful moment. and then it passed. nothing like it has come again. but it was mine. and i cherish it. it was about four hundred and seventy days ago.

during my seldom trips to the cemetery i think of the people who are remembered there. i hope more than anything that those now gone have found peace. and those who miss them have found peace as well. as full as they are [the cemeteries], they feel empty to me. i understand they hold markers for spots to gather and mourn, celebrate, remember. i suppose i’ve never needed a spot.

i hope every day that she has found peace. that wherever she is and whomever she’s with, there is happiness. i hope she still watches.

i grieved for the loss of her presence in my life for a long time, a long time ago. i have yet to grieve for the loss of her life and the loss of the hope that went with it. bits and pieces, here and there, but not how i need to grieve. but that peace, for me, isn’t meant to come yet. and it won’t come hanging out in the cemetery because she’s not there. it may take until my body and soul separate to find her again and perhaps i’ll get another moment like before. i still look, i listen i breathe, just not at her beautiful headstone.

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Here’s more on the Creative Writing Challenge