Monday, February 28, 2011

Three

Every Sunday evening, in preparation for the next morning, I lay out three sets of clothing.

I set three bowls and three spoons on the table, ready for the morning's oatmeal.

I dig through the storage baskets for three pairs of mittens, three hats, and three scarves, and lay them out with three snowsuits.

In the morning, I'll hear one little voice singing, "Happy burday!", "Baa baa baa" (to the tune of Baa Baa Blacksheep), and "Jude! Juuuude!" Soon, two other little voices will join, creating a trio of music that brings me to full consciousness. Their door opens, and I listen to their sweet interactions; Violet encourages Margot to take her hand as they set off in search of mommy, Jude telling them to wait while he goes pee.

It was a bit of a surprise when we found out about this bonus third child. Three tips the balance; you're officially outnumbered. As a friend of mine (and mother of five) said when I told her we were unexpectedly expecting again, "In parenting math, three is twice as many as two". Wise words, indeed, from one who knows.

I'm busy. These mornings of getting three kids in snowsuits out the door are sometimes harrowing, but increasingly rhythmic and peaceful. Two are dropped off at the daycare, one comes with me to school. For a few days a week, they are 2+1. But two plus one always equals three, and to me, three is a blessed number.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

I Might Have Taken a Picture of...

If I had a camera, I might have photographed:

::my children's excitement as they examined the many critter tracks we saw in the woods this morning
::Jude up in the sturdy embrace of an old cedar tree, climbing higher than ever before
::the wonder on Violet's face as she reached up to hand Jude a "magic wand"
::rosy cheeks on this cold, sunny February day
::a fire built on the snow, using birch bark and apple branches scavenged from behind the smokehouse
::Violet helping me mark out the outlines of the Spring's raised beds, with her little rake
::Margot, in her last week of being one, crying in her red snowsuit

Yes, you read it right. If I had a camera. Last summer, our camera was left in a beach bag. Yes, I'm using the passive tense to describe that event so I don't assign blame on whoever should have taken it out of the bag so that the damp towels wouldn't destroy it. After a time with no camera, a dear friend told me I could use her point-and-shoot until I got a new one.

I can't afford a camera. It's kind of the last thing we can afford these days. We're always behind on some kind of bill (who isn't?) so it's hard to justify spending anything on a HOBBY.

On the evening that I was bringing my friend's camera to return it to her (as her good one was going into the shop for repairs), my children found it and dropped it on its lens. Cameras don't like that. I had a royal tantrum, worthy of any three-year-old. My husband walked into the house to find me bawling with frustration, humiliation, and yes, a healthy dose of self-pity. I have to hand it to myself: I DIDN'T strangle my kids in the aftermath, and didn't even make them feel badly about it, because really, they're just little kids. There's no sense in reprimanding kids when they break stuff that you probably should have stored more safely, right?

That said, I am itching, daily, to chronicle our lives (like the moment the other day when Margot, in a blue princess dress, had her first dance while standing on daddy's feet, or when she stood in the bathroom, naked, blow drying her hair with one hip jutted out), and trying to process my sadness when moments come and go that may never come again. I know there are much worse things I could be experiencing right now.

Just wanted to update you on why I'm so silent these days. Call it Technical Difficulties. Or just another addition to the book, "Sh*t My Kids Ruined"...but wait, I would have needed to take a picture of what they ruined, and...right. You can see my difficulty here. Sigh.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

On this late winter afternoon, I am:

.:getting out my seed catalogues and planning this summer's garden
.:finishing up a knitted bit of this and that
.:reading some amazing new books with the kids
.:kindling love and passion in my relationship
.:feeling grateful for my intuition
and
.:taking a wee break from this space.

Other projects and people need my energy and attention right now.
See you when I see you!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

GratiTuesday: The Valentine's Edition

I've become quite fond of this weekly perusal through the moments of my life. There is so very much to laugh about, and feel grateful for, even in the depths of February. Here are a few moments that have made me giggle this week.



Planning the next set of stripes on Jude's Scrap Cardigan.

A man who can carry his three kids up the stairs to bed.

Dreaming of tea parties in the potting shed in Spring.

Those toes, that dress, this girl.

Silly sisters in the clothes dryer.

Having help to blow out the candles!

A quiet live concert on a winter's evening in the comfort of our kitchen.

Violet learning to print her name!

Jude's Egg Math: evidence of sorting, counting, comparing.

This bedtime ritual.

Jude's first Lift-the-Flap book: Monsters, and Numbers, and the word "the".

Do share your moments of gratitude in your comment, or a link to your own GratiTuesday post!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Today is a day for being. Be with those you love, be kind to yourself. Be quiet and call forth the dream you buried long ago. The ember is still glowing in your soul. See it in your mind, hold it tenderly in your heart. "The dream was always running ahead of one", Anais Nin confessed. "To catch up, to live for a moment in union with it, that was the miracle."
~Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance

Love and blessings to all on St. Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Today I Am Thirty Seven

Today I think of my mother, getting through a winter pregnancy with a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old...the snowsuits, the boots, the deep snow. I wonder who cared for my sisters while she laboured to birth me. I think of her, the woman who carried and gave birth to me. Dad wasn't allowed into the delivery room when my sisters were born, so mine was the first birth he had ever witnessed.

I was named Stephanie Rose ("with the little pink toes"). I think of the photos I've seen of my mom holding me, gazing into my tiny face with that mysterious mother-love, that boundless force that just grows larger with each new child.

I think of a photo of me as a newborn, nestled in my sister Lana's arms, with my sister Julie looking down at my little face. My relationship with them has been a stabilizing force in my life, and I love to look at this picture of our first meeting. Little did we know that we'd be gifted with a sweet little brother in a few years.

My kids always think they're looking at pictures of Margot when they see me as a baby.

Age 4 or so, with my daddy (and his groovy glasses).

Age 9 or so at my dear Nanny's house in Quebec.

10 years ago: age 27, with the sweet man I met that year.

Tonight my husband and I will spend a night in the Byward Market in Ottawa. We thought of planning our time by looking online for things to see and do. But I decided that we should wander as if we've never been to Ottawa and don't have favourite places. I'm secretly hoping that we'll stumble on some subtle little club where we can hear some live music. I'm secretly hoping we'll eat in a dimly lit, quirky restaurant where the staff won't realise we're the exhausted parents of three little ones, and they'll think we've just recently fallen in love (picture us being serenaded by a mariachi band...)

But what life has taught me so far is that the best way to live is to enter into it with no expectations.

 Follow your feet where they lead you. Find a reason to love the place you're in. Find the beauty in the people you meet. Say yes.

Thirty seven is looking pretty good from where I stand. I thought when I was 21 that I'd have things all figured out at 37. Turns out I was wrong. But the journey is long enough, and maybe I don't have to figure things out. Maybe it's just this, living (and laughing) out loud, loving deeply, listening closely, and always learning.




Friday, February 11, 2011

Creative Friday: February Fun

February brings all kinds of creative possibilities:

::That sweater that I just might finish before winter's end.

::Ice mandalas, gifts from the faeries to remind us that Spring, indeed, will come.

::A bevy of handmade Valentine cards for my Kindersurprises.

::A tiny knitted that I just can't part with...it will become wall art when I find the perfect branch.

Thanks to Ravelry, and my friends Shanti and Wabi Sabi for shared ideas!

Be sure to visit Linda at Natural Suburbia for more creative inspiration!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Enjoy the Show

When the winter days get too long, and the temperature drops too low, mamas have to delve into their creative bags of tricks (or sewing baskets) to help pass the time. On one such day last week, we made sock puppets. Each of my children chose what they wanted, and got to help out with a few stitches.

Margot got a doggie (note my hand-clamp on her wrist to keep the thing still for a photo!)

Jude wanted a monster (complete with purple horns and craaaazy eyes),

and Violet chose a duck (hand-clamp again...that duck just didn't want to keep still!)

By some stroke of luck, I happened to have a yellow sock in my drawer.

The real fun began when the puppet show was performed, a plotless, convoluted thing that involved lots of squeaky voices and puppets biting each other. I imagine that as our puppet supply increases, we'll attempt performing actual stories. Or maybe tomorrow's pass-the-time activity will be writing a story about a duck, a dog, a monster, and the mother who loves them.

No tutorial here. Just get any old sock. Pull in the toe and secure with a stitch to create the mouth. Cut out ears/teeth/tongues/appendages from felt; sew on. Sew on buttons for eyes. Your child does not care how unprofessional your sewing is. She'll stick her hand in a marvel at how moving her hand causes the puppet to talk. She'll talk back to her new friend. Feel proud of yourself.

Then sit back and enjoy the show.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Everywoman: She Who Wants to Do It All

I need a new mantra. I need to look at the faces of my husband and kids and remember that they're enough, that I don't have to fill my life up with time-clutter.

Here's what my weekend looks like:

We're participating in Eganville's first (hopefully annual) "Celebrating Our Game Day", an event that hopes to bring together lovers of both hockey and the arts. All day long, there will be hockey played by all ages and abilities at the local arena, while live music is enjoyed upstairs. My husband will be involved as both a hockey player and a musician. I will also be performing. So I am in my bedroom at the moment, guitar sitting beside me, blogging instead of coming up with a set list. I'm anxious about it. Margot will not take well to me being front and centre, without being able to climb onto my lap. This has been an ongoing issue since I had kids. It's only a half hour, but still...


My husband plays at 6 p.m., and since he's new to the sport, he'd really like us all to watch. I WANT to watch. But I got a call this week that a Mass will be said in memory of my Grandma, TODAY at 5:30. You can see the problem. I want to represent our family at the Mass. The idea of dragging three tired kids and keeping them quiet for 45 minutes or so is not so tempting.

I'll bring them home, get them to bed, pick up the babysitter, then head out to tonight's "Hootenanny" (where the hockey players will play music at a local restaurant)...

Did I mention that I'm a Kindergarten teacher? And that my report cards are due next Wednesday? It took me two full days just to finish the reports for my Junior Kindergartens. Now I'm trying to figure out...when to do the Seniors' reports?


Oh, did I mention that I'm hosting a knitting gathering here tomorrow, to teach some friends how to get started on a Scrap Cardigan?

This morning I felt frustrated because Margot is clingy and cranky. She has a cough and might be teething, and had two days in daycare this past week. She's likely overtired. I'm overtired. And I was frustrated with her because I wanted to: write a blogpost, practise my music, read this terrific book I'm into, work on my report cards, get a handle on Mount Washmore (my laundry pile). I couldn't get away from her. When I get frustrated like this, my husband gets anxious and starts offering to withdraw from the things he'd planned to do today.

Until I finally acknowledged the truth. I want to do too much.

Declutter. Lose weight. Exercise. Write. Blog. Perform. Craft. Be an amazing mother. Pour my heart into my classroom and students. Farm. Knit. Read. Plan my garden. Keep in touch with friends.


And then I'm upset with myself when I can't pull it all together. And on top of that, I beat myself up for the fact that I'm looking tired, a little rumpled in the face (I am approaching my 37th birthday after all), and am starting to go grey at the temples.

Enough!

The new mantra might sound something like this:

I don't have to be everything, all the time, to everyone. I don't have to always do all the things I'm good at. It's okay to sit on the couch reading nursery rhymes for hours. It's okay to say no to requests for performances.

I could pare it down a bit. I'll work on that...maybe add it to my to-do list.

Sometimes I need a little reality check. This morning was it. I need these regular reminders to say no sometimes. So after this crazy weekend is done, I'm going to make a new list:


1. Say YES to playtime with my kids.
2. Hug my husband at least 4 times a day.
3. Get more sleep.
4. Exercise.
5. Say NO to anything unrelated to my family or my job.
6. Read and knit if time allows.

Blogging can wait. The laundry isn't going anywhere. I'll see you here when I see you.

Friday, February 4, 2011

This Moment

::as per Soulemama...one photo of one moment of this week, no words, just the joy of remembering and the desire to cherish and savour...


Have a wonderfully wintry weekend!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Art Matters, Part 2

This past month, I spent a weekend at an artistic retreat for women. It was a powerful and empowering experience. There were many moments of bliss, communion, hilarity and discovery. There were a few moments of sadness and grief.

After my grandmother's death and the days that followed, I have found few opportunities to really feel what it means to be without her. My life is busy, as are most women's, and it's hard to schedule in grief because it doesn't always announce itself until the tears are spilling down your cheeks. I found this happening at unusual moments over the weekend, but felt that it was a safe place to just let the tears flow.

Early on the last morning, I dreamt of my grandma. I knew I was dreaming, and knew that I was being given one last opportunity to hug her and smell her familiar scent. I let the hug linger as long as I could, and felt thankful that I could see her this way again. Later in the dream, she appeared to me again, with a smile that carried a message for me: that she wasn't gone, and that I would get to visit with her like this throughout my life.

I woke up with a big smile on my face, and felt peace trickle in to the space where before I'd held only sadness.

Later that morning, I attended a workshop where we created "soul cards", collages of images and words that whispered to us for sometimes unknown reasons. I didn't have a goal in mind when I began, but when I came across a tiny picture of pink nail polish, and one of a bowl containing a string of pearls, I knew that my soul wanted to remember my grandma, Pearl. Meaningful images were plentiful: an apple tree (Violet thinks there are apple trees in heaven), a picture of a house with wings (my parents' house, where grandma spent so many happy moments, and ultimately, her final moments on earth), a tiny playing card, a clip-on earring, a butterfly (representing transformation), and my favourite: an avenue of trees with the sun shining at its end.
This was an incredibly healing exercise for me, and allowed me to record in images and simple words what has been difficult to describe. It is a physical manifestation of my dream, and a daily reminder of the love I held for this woman; the love I HOLD for this woman. I know I will see her again.

You can start by gathering magazines, scissors, and glue, and anything else you think you might use: ribbon, stamps, gemstones, fabric, old jewellery, etc. Use a piece of paper or a Dollar Store canvas as your background. Spend a few moments in quiet thought, then begin. It is meditative just to flip through the magazines, clipping out any images or words that speak to you. It may make no sense to begin with, but eventually you may see a theme emerging. Your soul wants to talk to you! It wants to create. Just go with it, and don't worry about the final results. It is very freeing!

I've started clipping pictures that I think would appeal to my children: aliens, Kermit the Frog, ballerinas, robots, puppies and kittens, hockey players. Once I have a good stack of images, I intend to set them free on a collaging adventure. I'll share the results when I have them!

Resist the urge to overthink the finished product. Enjoy the process!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Yarn Along!

I am not organised enough, generally, to participate in any blog-hop type things...I always think of it the day after, then remind myself to do it the next week, then I forget...my blogging habits are sporadic, at best. But this week I'm doing it! I'm joining in on the Yarn Along (visit Small Things!)...I know I did more than the indicated one photo. But I just had to give y'all a closer look at my Scrap Cardigan.

I must say I am absolutely delighted with how it is coming along; I started it less than a week ago and am already at the point where I'll set the sleeve stitches on some waste yarn in order to work on the body. It's quick and stimulating (all those changes in colour, texture, and stitch patterns!), and quite easy, actually. I'm using bits from my stash: Studio Donegal, Tahki's Donegal Tweed, Briggs and Little, and lots of unnamed stuff that has collected over the years! This sweater is a great stash-buster...you can find the pattern on Ravelry.


If you haven't read "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley, get thee to a bookstore! I've just finished the sequel, "The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag", and Flavia DeLuce is among my top 10 favourite book characters of all time. I've just started "The Outlander" by Gil Adamson (not to be confused with Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander", which I've read several times!)...it kept me up later than usual last night, and I only put it down when I realised I'd read a whole page with well....my eyes closed. Ahem.

We're reading lots of winter-inspired stories with the kids; two of our favourites, being Canadian and all, are "The Hockey Sweater" by Roch Carrier, and "The Lonely Inukshuk" which was written by the students at Inuglak School. My wee ones love learning the Inuktittut names of the animals in the story! Of course, "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats is getting lots of read-time these days, too...

What better way to pass the winter, than by knitting and reading?

GratiTuesday

When the temperature drops to -20 degrees Celsius (that is just ridiculously cold), I find myself feeling grateful for all kinds of things.


::the joy of indoor cats

::the joy of outdoor cats

::after a day apart, siblings cuddling under a mama-made quilt

::the promise of a bag of yarn, and a new project on the needles

::endless cups of tea, and my shiny, whistly kettle

::the games of Hollywood Rummy with my husband that help pass the evenings

::the little love tokens my husband leaves: kindling, bundled newspaper, and wood

::and the fire I can create so quickly and effortlessly when I get home from work

::the signs of indoor play when the risk of frostbite is too great

::Jude's first taste of ice cream in years (this one is made from coconut milk!)

::and the promise of another sunny day in the snow with my chicklets.

My time on the computer is severely curtailed by the ever-presence of my children; the toddler who slams the laptop shut as I work, the preschooler who clambers up and kicks the internet stick out of the computer, the son who needs a drink, the husband who masks his irritation that I'm trying to blog now?

I'm trying to figure out how to add a Magical Widgety thingy. It's not going well. I just don't have time to fiddle around with the fancy stuff, as much as I'd like to and admire everyone else's ability to do so.

So, please share a link in your comment, or just a few words about what you're feeling grateful about today! GratiTuesday! Love it!