Tuesday, August 30, 2011

GratiTuesday: Abundance

I don’t watch the news. I haven’t intentionally buried my head in the sand; we just don’t have television. I do listen to CBC radio, and have an occasional glance at the newspaper when I visit my parents.

Violet planted these cosmos in May, from seeds she received as a birthday gift.
My decision to minimize my exposure to the news started when Jude was born, just before Hurricane Katrina. One night, while visiting my parents, I saw some footage of that horrible stadium, of rooftops, or diry water and helpless people.

I was almost paralyzed by a weird mix of emotions. I felt grateful that I was holding my newborn son in a clean blanket in a safe house. On the other hand was the intense guilt I experienced when I heard of women desperately seeking clean water with which to mix their babies’ formula. I was conscious of every drop I used to make sure my baby had a warm bath before bedtime, or that his clothes were clean.

I eventually had to stop listening to the radio, because every tragedy fell on my new-mother ears and all I could think about was the mothers out there who had lost their children violently, or helplessly watched them die for want of food or water.

I have spoken to other mothers who have experienced this intensified empathy upon having their own children. Motherhood connects us to the people on this small planet, and encourages us to see, above everything, the humanity of all humans who suffer.

I spoke about this with a friend the other night (I’ve been feeling those mixed emotions about the abundance of fresh food available to my children right now, in the midst of drought and famine in Africa) and she wisely stated that the key is recognising that I am blessed, and being aware of the many blessings bestowed upon my children. I thought of those faraway mothers every time my children splashed in a lake, drank water from the hose, and blew bubbles this summer.

I can’t make sense of why some of us have so much while so many have so little.

Violet and Margot call them bikinis...this is a bikini fight.

So all I can do, today, is be grateful. For the apples and plums we pull from our trees, the zucchinis that reach impossible proportions, the flowers that thrive in our rich soil, and the water that sustains all this abundant life.

What are you grateful for today?

Monday, August 29, 2011

School Angst

I just wrote, then deleted a whole post about my happy weekend.


Because I wasn't writing about what I need to write about, but am avoiding.

Jude starts school next week. Grade One. Full time.

I'm having a hard time with this. Don't get me wrong. The school is small, safe, supportive. His teacher is young, enthusiastic, and sweet. He knows the children in his class. I'll be there on alternate days.

I trust his ability to cope and thrive with this change in his life.

But that didn't stop me from waking up at four in the morning, unable to fall back to sleep.

It's kind of putting me into a panic, actually. Thinking about him sitting inside through the beautiful fall weather. Thinking about the past six years with him, the closure of the chapter of his life where HOME was where he was most of all.

It all just feels...wrong. Call it my intuition. A child's place is at home, with his or her mother. I know this.

I also know that children all across the world go to school. Parents all around the world deal with it. It becomes part of the routine, for children to be awakened early, rushed through breakfast, dropped off, picked up...then starting it all over again the next morning.

I need to have a big cry. Because this feels like grief. It feels like a forcible ending to his childhood. While I look forward to my days at home with just the girls, I know I'll keenly feel his absence every day: his drawings, his funny stories, his requests for his favourite songs. And I know that gradually, he'll forget what it was like to be here "most of the time".

I'm not in the habit of ignoring my gut. Robin and I have agreed that if he does not seem to be thriving, we'll make arrangements any way we can to home school him. I'm trying to reassure myself that he will be fine, that he'll love school and look forward to seeing his friends each day. I'm trying to be positive (and am putting on a brave face to reassure Jude that it's going to be great). But I kind of feel like my heart is breaking a bit.

Any words of comfort or advice out there?

Friday, August 26, 2011

::this moment::

One moment this week that I want to cherish and savour.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

something in the air

Can you feel it?

There's a chill in the air that has me wearing socks in the evening, and snuggling up closer to my husband at night. It has me wearing a sweater out to the chicken coop in the early morning, and craving the tastes of autumn.

I know. It's still summer. Technically. But the temperature in the evening is just a few degrees shy of woodstove-weather, and I find myself leaning eagerly towards those cozy fall evenings of reading and knitting in the kitchen.

For now, I will settle for a taste of something I don't make in the heat of summer:


Today is our CSA pickup day, which means I have to use up last week's produce to make way for fresher fare. Three chairs pushed up to the island, three little paring knives, and at least three admonitions to be careful!
Celery is an easy thing for small hands to slice.

Mama cuts the onions to save little eyes from more tears than usual.


and zucchini are all added to the pot, sauted in coconut oil, with salt, pepper, and basil, till tender. Add six cups of stock, 3/4 cups yellow split peas, and 1/2 cup of rice. Simmer for 45 minutes, then whiz up till smooth. I have a feeling my children will proudly eat this soup without complaint, since they had a hand in its creation.

Their cooking zeal was not quite quenched, so out Jude went to gather apples from our old tree. With much paring and carving out of brown spots, we had enough to create a crisp topped with flour, brown sugar, rolled oats, cinnamon, and butter.

When the older two headed out to gift the chickens with all our seeds, peels, carrot ends and onion tops, someone was left behind to ensure that the apple crisp spoon was not neglected. Let no spoon go unlicked is her motto in the kitchen.

Lest you think, "Oh, her life is so idyllic! Her children are so responsible! She always says yes when her kids ask to help!", let me just add that Violet cut herself while slicing an apple, and wept, "I can see my skeleton! I can see the inside of my body!" (it wasn't quite THAT deep, but this girl does have a flair for the dramatic), and Jude protested mightily (for over an hour) when I confiscated his knife after I caught him wielding it, machete-like, over an innocent apple). We talked again about safety, and he announced that I am the meanest mother in the world for NOT letting him cook.

Still, the mouth-watering scent of apple crisp cooking on this cool evening more than makes up for the tears and the mess and the patience  required when cooking with children.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We'll Sit and Watch Our Children Play

I met Gillian when we were both 16; we were both preparing to participate in an exchange with students from France. Over the years, we've called each other Anne and Diana (bosom friends that we are), and Country Mouse and City Mouse. We've had adventures and mishaps, moments of uproarious laughter seasoned with our share of heartbreak and tears. One famous night we got into the raspberry cordial and stayed out all night, much to the horror of her parents.

This is a friendship that has weathered 20 years of change; we had a period in our early twenties when our relationship was strained, and we keenly felt the absence of the other.

Now we live on opposite sides of the country. I teach the ABC's to Kindergarten children, she teaches writing to University students. She lives in Vancouver, I live on an Ontario farm. But now and then she comes home to visit her parents, and that's when we join together for wine and late-night sessions of catching up.

This woman's face is so familiar to me. We both have our share of grey hairs now, and our eyes are lined with the tears, sleepless nights, and years that have lined our friendship. But I know that when I am ready to say goodbye to this world, her name will count among the most precious in my life.

We spent a few days together a couple of weeks ago, and watched a friendship blossom between our two four-year girls. Gillian loved Jude's pictures, I loved giving her older daughter cooking tips.

A song came into my mind, one I wrote out in a letter to her during that long ago time when words didn't come easy to us; I was living in Ireland, and the lyrics said more than I could.

"I would bring you Ireland, the cool sweet of the diamond rain
If you will keep my heart for me in the quiet of your Texas plains,
Oh my old friend, will you shelter me from pain? Then I would bring you Ireland.

And I'll reclaim my heart one day; we'll sit and watch our children play,
And I will sing you lullabies from the Emerald Isle for back porch days,
Oh, my old friend; we will always meet again, and I would bring you Ireland".

Gillian's presence in my life is one of those gifts I sometimes take for granted, because it's just always been there. She's the woman who knows about the jerks I shouldn't have dated, the princes I shouldn't have let go, the moments of vulnerability and awkwardness, my imperfections and secret beauties. She knew me before I was a woman, and loved me then as she loves me now. Her friendship is one of those blessings with which my life overflows: the gift of someone who sees me, and loves me all the same.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fair Time

Things change slowly in a small town. Traditions get passed down year by year, so that when I attend annual events with my children, things don't seem too different from when I myself attended as a child.
The Cobden Fair will take place over the weekend of August 26-28. I know who will work the gates; the man who wraps the plastic bracelet around my wrist did it when I was 14. The kiosks selling airbrushed unicorn t-shirts and coloured feather roach clips will be set up beside the stage where step dancers and country singers will perform all weekend.

The Searson sisters, who went to high school with my husband!

The Centennial Hall will boast a farmers'/crafters' market, and we'll stop by for an ice cream at some point. The Curling Rink will hold the exhibits of garden flowers and vegetables, quilts, preserves, knitting, photography, and so on. We'll seek out the blue ribbons since we're entering some of the categories this year.

The ice surface at the rink will be transformed into a show ring; little boys and girls in white clothes and paper headbands will proudly display their calves and lambs, and we'll walk back to the barn behind the arena to see the young farmers grooming their animals for the next competition. Instead of video games, these kids' hands will hold blow dryers, brushes, clippers, and shovels to make sure their wards stay pristine for the judges. My kids will pet the lambs and their eyes will widen at the size of the cows.

Then we'll walk around the outdoor track where horses pull wagons and carts, to the horse barn. This has always been my favourite stop at the Fair. Percherons and Belgians stand quietly like tamed giants, stamping their plate-sized hooves, their tails and manes braided up prettier than Rapunzel's. I'll talk to the boys, now men, that went to school with me years ago, and lift my kids up to gaze into those horse's long-lashed eyes.

The midway is what the kids come for: the smells of dust, cotton candy, popcorn, and French fries, with a bit of grease thrown in. The young men running the rides look as bored and shady as they did when I was a girl, and I'll wonder again (as teachers do) if they've finished high school. Soon, heat and hunger will drive us to a concession stand to fill up on some greasy, sweet, nutritionally deficient snack.

Ah, the Cobden Fair. It's one of the best of its kind, if you ask this small-town girl. In a world that sometimes changes too fast for my taste, I can always count on the Cobden Fair to bring me back to a time when making good pies and preserves mattered, and a man was judged not on how much money he earned, but on how well he'd trained his team of horses. Maybe we'll see you there!

For information, call the Cobden Agricultural Society at 613-646-2426.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

i do

August 21, 2004

Seven years later...

Sometimes love blooms in the springtime, then like leaves in the summer it will grow,
Then fade away in the winter when the cold winds begin to blow.
But when it's evergreen, evergreen, it will last through the summer and winter, too,
When love is evergreen, evergreen like my love for you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

::this moment::

It took minutes to teach her three simple chords. For the rest of the camping trip, we listened to her practising, then watched her write her own song and put it to music. For her musically-inclined aunt and uncle, this was indeed a moment to cherish and celebrate.

Visit Soulemama to share your own moment, and read about the moments of others.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

scenes from the woods

:: dirty feet :: textures in green and brown :: the ziiiip of a tent zipper :: a roof of moonshadows :: staying up way past your bedtime :: naps here and there, whenever you feel tired :: feeding the "wild" life :: a first canoe ride with daddy :: teaching my son to roast the "perfect" marshmallow :: the kids being too busy to fight :: sleeping through a thunderstorm :: the cold baptism of lake water :: the fun of wrestling with your cousins :: wolves howling in the late-night darkness :: the simplicity of all I hold dear in one little tent :: making do :: a smoky cup of Earl Grey tea :: reducing your wardrobe to a bathing suit and a towel :: clearing my schedule of all but walks to the beach, knitting, and reading :: having time and the presence of mind to be present with my children :: thinking of only the moment I'm in ::

There's nothing like camping to give you perspective on what you really need,
and what clutters up your home, your head, and your time. My children learned so much from
this week in the woods. Seeing them blossom under my undivided attention
taught me a lot, too, about how I chronically overbook myself and my time.

Thank you, trees and sunshine, leaves and sky, for reminding me of something I
all too often forget: that THIS is life. Feeding my children, playing with them, putting them to bed when they're tired IS life. All the other stuff is just...stuff.

There's nothing like a week in the woods to remind you of what you already knew.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Camping is fun. Packing for camping is not.

Back in my late teens and twenties, it was almost a competition amongst outdoorsy types, to see how little you could take with you for a week long canoe trip. A Thermarest, a sleeping bag that stuffed into a sack the size of  a loaf of bread, a little Primus stove, and a pack of matches...that was about it.

I'm five days into packing for a family of five's five-day camping trip. I've created framework organisers to keep track of every-weather clothing for all of us, packed and unpacked the kids' suitcase, and have anticipated every possible ailment that might occur. I'm ready for days of rain, with a bin full of playdough, craft materials, books (fiction and non-fiction!), and games. I have fishing rods, boogie boards, snorkels, goggles, and bikes.

All this packing had me exhausted before we've even leave home, and wondering if it's all worth it.

Then I remembered days at my cousins' cottage, when I was a child. There was always a dry towel wrapped lovingly around me when I finally emerged from the cold, northern lake. As the evening chill came on and the fire was lit, there was always a warm sweatshirt and a pair of track pants ready for me. We never thought about food; our mothers just set out cereal, peanut butter sandwiches, and copious amounts of Koolaid to get us through the day.

One of the many gifts our mother gave us was a carefree childhood. Of course we didn't think about bring rubber boots or bug repellent...kids shouldn't have to think about those things. Everything we needed was just there, as if by magic.

And now, all this packing feels like a privilege; I can now offer my children the same thing my mother gave me: warm pyjamas, plentiful snacks, dry clothes after a swim, and little flashlights to play with in the tent.

Of course, I've packed a basket of goodies for myself, just in case I find a moment to relax, after all this packing.

Here's to all the mothers out there, who work behind the scenes (birthdays, Christmas, trips, holidays) to make sure that their children's lives are fun, stimulating, safe, and most of all, carefree.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Bit of Silly

With visitors galore in the past few weeks, we've all gotten a bit silly at the Knitty Gritty Homestead.

Ah, the uproarious, giggle-inducing fun of silly faces, captured for future enjoyment!

We're off camping so will be absent from this space while I sink into presence in an outdoor space.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

::this moment::

::one moment from a beautiful summer's week; one moment I'd like to savour and cherish

Visit Soulemama to share a link to your own moment, and to visit the moments of others!