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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Tearing Down the House

While my children have systematically been tearing apart my parents home, I’ve been going a little crazier than usual trying to make sure none of the plywood or plaster falls and hits my youngest toddler in the brain.  I’ve failed miserably 4 out of 10 times.  We can probably kiss our Harvard dreams goodbye at this point but he seems to still be healthy.  Nothing wrong with being a dentist, yeah?  Nice safe occupation.  Not too intellectually challenging.

Ellie has, thankfully, both the athleticism and intelligence to scoot out of the way of falling items.  Benji is still tottering around and yanking said items on top of his head because…baby.

I underestimated the amount of time I’d be chasing him up the stairs, down the stairs, off the TV, (ours is mounted on the wall), holding my hand above his head while he plays underneath the torture device of a coffee table complete with sharp edges and pointy metal legs.

Well what can you do?  Wrap the kid in bubble wrap?  The thought has crossed my mind.  He fell the other day and scraped his head on the edge of the base board in the kitchen.  I mean, how do I anticipate or prevent that?

My parents have a wonderful split level home.  It’s so cozy and warm and homey.  

And full of stairs.  

There’s two sets of stairs bracketing the main set of stairs going all the way up to the third level.  And the set of stairs going to the basement.  We have it all blocked off with gates and boards and plywood craftily formed around the stair banisters.  

Benji reminds me of the raptor in the Jurassic Park movie, steadily testing the perimeter defenses for weaknesses.  

And he’s found them.  

Dad, clearly underestimating both the determination and the mental agility not to mention the physical strength of my youngest merely taped a barrier across the bottom step of the right hand set of stairs leading to the middle level.  

He ripped that apart in about 48 hours.  Dad had to drill it back into place.

The top barrier across the left hand set of stairs leading to the middle level remained intact for an impressive 7 days.  This morning he found the edge and pushed it clear.

I am amazed and horrified and when I get to bedtime and he’s still more or less whole I breathe a sigh of relief and collapse onto the couch, exhausted completely.

And then, teething.  So he’s up at midnight and then 230am for three hours.  I climb back into bed at 5am and wonder how I’m going to get through the next 24 hours.

Poor Ellie.  I don’t see her for hours at a time.  I’m assuming Nana is feeding her occasionally.  And there’s chocolate balls around so, she won’t totally starve.

This morning instead of going to morning service with mom I stayed home so Benji could have his morning nap, because you know, he’s been up all night, kid is tired.

And did I rest?  Of course not.  I piled up some cherry balls (Ellie has eaten all the chocolate balls at this point) and lots of good hot tea and pulled up a movie on Netflix.  I got about a 1/3 of a way through ‘Logan’ when Ellie came crying to the front door.  I’d forgotten her outside!  (Ha, ha).

No, she had gone to church with Nana but they got about three songs in before she wanted to come back home.

So, here I am, drinking coffee as strong as they legally allow in Canada and attempting in fits and starts to finish this blog entry and then like a computer left outside on a day like today, I am going to freeze over and crash in on myself.

But, like my wise little Ellie says, "Mommy, sometimes you have to get through the sad before you can get to the happy."  And, it isn’t even really sad.  It’s just..tired.  I just have to get through the tired before I can get to the rest.

So, from my heart to yours, I wish you all the rest and rejuvenation you can absorb.  And me, too...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Just Between You and Me

I’m thinking the day before Christmas no one is going to be reading this but…it’s Sunday and my little rule for myself is to have my weekly blog done by Sunday night.

Since no one will be reading this but me and you, whoever you are, I can get comfy and talk freely, eh?

Beni is getting his canines in RIGHT NOW and I’m ready to invent a Prozac/Valium cocktail that will get me through the holidays.  

I can’t even be ‘in the moment’.  It’s too painful/annoying.  Can’t I just project myself mentally to a nice sunny beach somewhere with some tropical drink that tastes like antifreeze and pineapples but you don’t care because it’s VACATION and you’re alone and peaceful and happy?  I’m in survival mode right now.  I’m in Hawaii as I write this.  In my head.  It’s so nice here.  So much quieter than my real life.

I digress.

I’m home in Canada for the holidays and once again straddling the line between trying to ensure Ellie sort of believes in the magic of Santa but also not making a big deal out of it, and trying not to outright lie to her.  

There will be two camps on this.  One who says GIVE IT UP, IT’S HARMLESS FUN!  You’re a dweeb.  It’s Santa.  

And one who says…why are we telling our children a magical being watches them all year and then decides if they should get gifts or not?  Like all wonderful traditions that make us feel warm and cozy, it has a cold side.  There are children who do not get gifts at Christmas.  Or who are in broken homes where Santa visits one home with loads of gifts, and was only able to leave highlighters and chewing gum at another.  It’s a wonderful story if your life is blessed with a good income and a stable home.  If you’re not, it’s a harsh shove from childhood. 

Except it’s just me and you reading this so…there’s just my camp (it doesn’t feel right to lie to her) and you.

Anyway, I told her Santa was coming and she was like…”…to THIS house?  Tonight?”

I forgot.  He’s a dude.  She does not like dudes.  Even ones bringing presents.  So I told her she wouldn’t need to meet him at all and he would only come quickly to drop off some presents and leave again while she slept.  So, when my three year old asked directly about Santa…I lied.  So much for all my well intentioned high-ideals about truth and the integrity of our relationship.

Didn’t see THAT coming did you?  Yeah, me neither.  I guess when it comes right down to it, I don’t want to be the one to have that kid.  The sullen, cranky one who doesn’t believe in magic or fairytales or happy endings or true love or all the goopy, awesome stuff that makes my little world go ‘round.

Well, I better go eat those cookies we set out for Santa.  And put the presents down that ‘he’ brought her.  And be all moody and conflicted when she asks me anything directly.  Then feel guilty about the moodiness AND the lying and go eat another round of chocolate balls and apple pie with ice cream.  Mmmmmm eating my feelings is delicious AND fun.

Oh, and have a Merry Christmas, eh!?

Sunday, December 17, 2017


It’s that time again - time for HAVE YOU EVER!?  

What prompted this newest addition to my blog?  I’m trying to save the world that’s all.  My country and my world has felt pretty dark lately.  

So.  Where does one begin to save the world?  By examining myself.  Well, not You examining ME, I mean, we all examine ourselves.  The holidays at the end of the year are the perfect time for some meaningful introspection.

“The unexamined life is a wasted life.”  Aristotle.

There are some things about myself I’m not so proud of.  Maybe you can relate to them?

Have you ever….made fun of yourself or lied about something you were proud of in an effort to make someone else feel more at ease?  

I think we women do this a lot.  Culturally, social harmony is often our first lesson as children, and our first objective as adults.  But when it costs us our self esteem (or paycheck) or dims our personal truth, the cost is too high.  Own it.  I need this tattooed on my fingers.  I do this a lot, even over things that don’t matter and where the person i’m talking to could care less.  

Have you ever…judged someone you liked and felt like a jerk?  

It’s embarrassing to admit but lately I’ve been doing this a lot.  Or, noticing it more.  Judging is a knee-jerk reaction for everyone.  But we don’t have to pay any attention to it.  it’s just a thought or a feeling and it has no bearing on reality.  If you wait it will pass.  

If you can keep your mouth shut long enough to get through it…  Still.  Working.  On.  This. 

Ugh I hate judgey people they suck.  Wait - did I just judge ‘judgey’ people?  Ack will it NEVER END!? 

Have you ever…compared your kids casting one in a non-favorable light when they were within hearing distance?  I am unfortunately guilty of this - Benji is fearless, aggressive without being mean, independent and self-entertaining.  Ellie is abundantly cautious, concerned, fearful of any new situation, or even every infrequent situation.  I am home base to her and she doesn’t like the looks of first base.  She’s keeping an eye on it.  

She reminds me how important these first few years are.  Benji, with his ‘I-love-you-but-I’m-Cool-Without-You’ attitude reminds me not to take this stage too seriously.  My job is to help build their wings not pad my nest with their fallen feathers.  Even if I do love, love, love those clingy cuddles.

Have you ever…realized you were wrong but were too proud to admit it?

I have no issues admitting this to people I barely know.  I’ll shout it from the rooftops!

Admitting it to my spouse, that adorable know-it-all guy who strongly suspects he’s never made a wrong move or thought…ever?  No thanks.  Would it improve our relationship if I ate humble pie and admitted it now and again?  Probably.  But who wants to be perfect right?  Boo-ooring.

Lastly, have you ever…wished the world was calmer, more peaceful, less #metoo and more #wasrespectedandsupported?

Me too.  

This holiday season I’m going to have my whole family together.  (We did this on purpose.  I LIKE my family.  Mostly.)   My focus is going to be on creating a safe, calm, loving, (nonjudgemental) space for my whole family.   I believe that working on making me a better person can help my family, my community and ultimately my country and my world be a better place to live in.  A safer place.  

Without giving anything away, in the immortal words of Kelly Marie Tran aka Rose the Resistance fighter in the latest Star Wars movie…

”We’re going to win not by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love.”  

Sunday, December 10, 2017

When the Shiny Moments Aren't Shiny Enough or, Mom's Emergency Sanity Kit

The holidays are my favorite time of year, a bright spot at the beginning of a dark time both literal and figurative.  It’s a time to gather with friends and family and eat too much, for some drink too much, and for still others a chance to bake too much.  Can one ever have too many generous bakers in their lives?  No.  The answer is no.

Last Christmas Benji was about a month and a half old and I don’t remember much except for the cute little gray outfit with the red bowtie I wrestled him into for the family picture.  I don’t think I left the house by myself for anything for another month or so.  We were blessed to have friends stop by with food, because boiling an egg was taxing my coping skills at the time.

Things are better now.  I can even cook a whole meal, once or twice a week.  If all I have to do is put the frozen dish in the oven to cook.  I’ve baked a pie once or twice.  I even made a Canadian Thanksgiving dinner with help from mom.  Things are getting better.  

But that first year, MAN.  It is so hard.  I don’t recommend doing it without able-bodied family around to help.  I mean, everyone is alive and healthy, mostly clean, but for a long time it was just survival.  Getting through the day.  Which is not a fun way to live because, we’ve only got a short few of those days and I don’t want to waste one of them just ‘making it through’ to bedtime.

I’m learning to rest in the moment.  To gather joy from the far corners of my dusty, messy house and hold it close.  

Raising kids is a lot like Christmas.  You only remember the bright spots, the moments that fill your heart with gratitude.  Or laughter.  Like Benji chasing the dog with a gleeful baby giggle.  The look on that poor dogs face when Benji comes barreling after him like a tiny drunken elf, wavering back and forth on his new walking legs, screaming ‘Ba ba ba ba!’. 

Because everything is Ba right now.  He holds up a ball triumphantly.  “Ba!”  Points to the apples on the counter.  “Ba!”  (No Benji those are apples.)  “Ba!”  (No, apples.)  He looks at me, points again.  “BA!  Ba, ba ba!”  (Ok, yes, they’re balls…I give up.)

Unless its mum-mum-mum.  He never says it just once.  It’s always three times.  Mum-mum-mum!  Emphasis on the last mum like the first two are just warm-ups.  It’s mum-mum-mum when he wants something, or more of something, or sometimes, rarely, even when he wants me.

Da-da is reserved for daddy, or something else equally as exciting like a lit Christmas tree or anything blinking or playing music, or trying to run away from him in terror of his tiny squeezing fingers.  

All the other moments, the literal dark moments of midnight feedings and 4am inconsolable crying, get smushed together like a smudged film roll that whips past too quickly to really see the details.

Those shining moments, those every-day-gives-you-a-chuckle-moments eclipse the darkness easily like a single lit candle in a dark room.  Or, it should.  

Because sometimes it doesn’t.  And sometimes it won’t.

And then you have no choice but to bust out your Mom's Emergency Sanity Kit.  

You need a generous baker friend (or HEB) make you a triple layer chocolate-pecan cake.  

You buy a mini-fridge and install it in a bathroom where you can shut the door and lock it.  A dead-bolt is not going too far.  

Then you steal a pint of someone’s homemade ice-cream (if you don’t know anyone who does this you can put out a Craigs list ad for it like every new-mom should).  

Then you leave the kids with hubby, or babysitter, or neighbor, or the nice girl you met at the cupcake store, and you lock that door and you eat that cake until the world feels happy again.

M’kay my lovies?

Ok then.  

Here’s a quote for you, a little word chocolate-cake:

“If you can’t fly than run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Breathing Through A Rough Week or Facebook Did you Miss Me?

I’ve had a bit of a rough week.  I know this is true both because I’m exhausted and cranky, but also because I’ve only been on Facebook twice.

There was a moment today, when Benji was sleeping and Ellie and Bill were at the grocery store fetching us honey that I was finally able to breathe.

I mean really, fully, deeply, with gratitude, all the way from the bottom of my stomach to the top of my lungs, breathed.  In stillness.  In a deep quiet that only an empty house with healthy, happy babies living there can know.  I felt connected, loved, cared for.  

My neighbor has these huge clumps of grass called Pompas Grass.  They’re tall stalks of thick hay, really, with tops that look like cotton tails if they exploded but stayed intact.  Feathery, white, translucent.  When the sun crawls over the sky in the morning it lights them up so they look like they’re glowing.  That’s what I look at.  Across our lawn and into his, all green with grass and brown with tree trunks and glowing white Pompas Grass tails. 

More mornings than not, during Benji's first nap of the day I take a small pillow, toss it on the floor, sit in front of that window and meditate for a few minutes.  This is where I meet with God, even though God is everywhere, in everything, all the time.  This is where I can shed the shallow distractions of every day life long enough to reach out and touch the deeper side of soul.  Like touching a wall of water of infinite depth, you know your fingers just barely sense the surface, and the ripples fanning out makes you wonder what would happen if you just jumped in totally.

Anyway, it’s all airy-fairy and in the moment and the reality is most of the time it’s done with Toby licking my chin for attention.  Ellie sitting on my lap and grabbing my hands in hers.  

“Are you meditating?” she’ll whisper.
“Yes,” I say.
“Can you get my paints for me?”
“When I’m done.”
“How much longer?”
“5 minutes.”

Silence.  I settle back into my resting pose, eyes closed, usually using a mantra like ‘thank you’, or just ‘in’ and ‘out’ when I breathe.

“Are you done yet?”  She whispers, nose to nose with me.
“Not yet.”
“How many more minutes?”


“I’m going to get my beads.”
“Mommy I’m going to go get my necklace.”
“Mommy are you almost done?”
“How many minutes?”
“Still 4.”

You get the picture.  So today I had a chance to really connect, and I did, you know, for that 20 seconds before your brain goes, whoa, this is really cool.  And then you get pinged out of it and into dull old real life again. 

Anyhoo.  This occasional quiet time is like a healing balm to the rubbed-raw skin of my heart.  

It’s hard work being a nurturer 24/7!  It’s all heart, all the time.  You can’t think your way out of a threenager tantrum.  

“Ellie, you have three balls, you can’t possibly play with all three at one time, please give one to Benji.”
“Ellie you need to share.”
“Ellie you need to share.  Pick one ball you don’t mind sharing with him.”
“Nooooooooooo.”  (Throws herself bodily on the ground, kicking and screaming and crying to the top of her lungs as we forcibly take one ball out of her hands).

You can’t stop right now and analyze and create a pie chart to clearly see where things went off the rails.  All you have in the moment is instinct.  And no matter how awesome you were raised, half the time you’re fighting ingrained patterns of reacting to stress that aren’t very healthy.

You’re trying to be a better person for your little people.  But they test you in every conceivable way.  And they don’t wait until you’re well rested, well fed, and ready for it.  It usually all coincides with a hard night with baby, a lunch they had but you missed, a hectic trip at the grocery store.  

So, how do you put a gap between their craziness and your unproductive snap-reactions?  You’ve got this tense, constrictive moment.  How do you get there, to an open space of gratitude and peace?

What?  You’re asking me?  I’m usually just staring at her slack-jawed saying something ridiculous like “You’re being very difficult.”  Or way over-board like screaming “You’re never getting another ball again!”

I do know if I don’t take the time for self-care, everything is worse.  Meditation, for me, is a way to take care of myself.  It lowers stress, boots immune system, calms my nerves and deepens my connection with a power greater than me, and man oh man, do I need the extra help.  Luckily, we all have access to this.

I’ll leave you with an except from Anne Lamott that really helped me get through some rough tantrums this week:

“Radical self-care is quantum, and radiates out into the atmosphere, like a little fresh air.  It is a huge gift to the world.  When people respond by saying “Well, isn’t she full of herself,” smile obliquely, like Mona Lisa, and make both of you a nice cup of tea.”  Anne Lamott - syndicated from Nov 03, 2017.  (From Daily Good -News that Inspires.