Friday, October 28, 2011

::this moment::

An autumn moment, one I want to pause, savour, and remember when the snows cover up the last of the dandelions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Her Sense of Self

Because she's my third child, I sometimes need to remind myself to marvel at the new things she can do. Her brother, my first, has a box full of early scribbles and paintings, each one dated and tucked away by his proud mama. By the time the third arrived, I was inundated with artistic renderings, shoved in a basket. I regret to admit that I look at some of those "Humpty Dumpty" drawings (round body, arms and legs stuck out at angles) and wonder...which of my children drew this?

But then, she developed an artistic style all her own. She draws her people upside down.

 Always start with the head, as this is where a toddler's consciousness is focussed: the place where information is gathered and processed with eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. . A nose that wrinkles up, and ears that can differentiate between the voices of those that love her.
A mouth that shouts and laughs and sings and murmurs and cries, and eyes that widen in surprise and tear up in an instant of frustration.
 Hair, and cheeks (her latest addition to these people drawings), and nice long legs; she is grounded by those sturdy, useful feet.
 Some longer hair indicates that this is a self-portrait. Arms are long for hugging, and fingers are many to reflect the many wonderful things her little hands can do now.
She looks with pride on her (upside down) creation, and I get a sense that this kid's sense of self is just as it should be.

The kindergarten teacher in me can't resist drawing attention to how she grips her marker; some children do this "tripod" grasp naturally (thumb and forefinger grasping the pencil, with the pencil leaning against that "web" between, supported by the middle finger), and it is considered the best grip for early printing skills. If your toddler grasps the pencil with the whole fist, "scissors" it between the fore-and middle fingers, or seems to have a "strange" way of gripping the pencil, please begin gently correcting their pencil grasp with lots of positive reinforcement; this will greatly benefit them when they are asked to do more than scribble. Thank you, from your child's future teachers!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Felt Nesting Dolls

It's that time of year, just before Halloween, when one starts to think about Christmas. At least I do. I imagine most mothers are like the days get shorter, our hands start to itch with wanting to make stuff. Usually, this time of year sees me busily crafting five times five little items to share with other mama friends, to create our beautiful Advent Sticks. This has been a beloved tradition for the past four years.

This year, we collectively decided that we're busy enough with work, housekeeping, the various animals in our care (dogs, cats, chickens, bees, horses, etc.), and our children's extra curriculars (hockey, stepdancing, piano, singing, etc.), and that maybe this year we could...well...ease off a bit.

This led us to decide that we'll each craft five items only, to share with one another at a gathering sometime before Christmas. We'll add in a bottle of wine (or three) to the gathering, and all will be merry!

I had already begun these little felt Russian Nesting Dolls (they don't really nest!), and have decided that these will be my gift to my dear friends in crafting, mothering, and everyday life. Traditionally, these dolls come in all varieties; I've seen nesting angels, and a nesting Farmer in the Dell set.

There's something so sweet and charming about the Peasant Mother style of Matryoshka, though, isn't there? Even the name sounds maternal. Our little circle of mamas is not comprised of blondes in kerchiefs, but the sentiment is the same.

The serene face, the healthy figure, the roses in the cheeks: these are mamas that have found their wisdom and peace in their roles.

They embrace the busyness of their lives, and know when to take a moment to rest.

They also have great fashion sense, and looked so sweet near this red bowl of eggs that I couldn't resist adding it as a prop to this photo shoot!

The pattern came from Better Homes and Garden's Holiday Crafts magazine, which I buy every year at the grocery store. It's well worth the cost; this year's edition contains many lovely felt projects, with wonderful patterns. I have a few others on the go and will share as I complete them.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Musings

I'm joining Nadja over at Patch 'O' Dirt Farm with some Monday Musings. Join in, and make sure to link back to her space!

Right now...oatmeal cooking, coffee on, kittens tumbling around, husband in the bathtub, me summoning the energy to rouse my three little ones to start the day.

This weekend...we revelled in a night IN. We watched "Hanna" was action-packed, and lots of fun! Saturday we visited with a friend who lives down the road, and took a long meander through her fields and woods to a pond where the kids got muddy and threw stuff into the water. My husband and I had a date...we went to Ottawa to a beautiful Italian restaurant to celebrate the 80th birthday of a dear friend. Wine, bread, pasta, cream sauce, spumoni, Dean Martin singing "That's Amore" couldn't have been better! We so rarely eat out, so it was a real treat. Sunday I did groceries, had two new babysitters visit to get acquainted with the kids, and visited with women friends in the afternoon/evening. Our lives are blessed with busyness!

Some plans for the week: chiropractic appointment, hair appointment, chilling out with my girls, preparing for our gig next weekend!

If I find some time for myself, I'd like to...I don't even know! Knit! I'm on the last rounds of the collar of Jude's Waterhorse (hope to share it on Wednesday's Yarn Along!), and want to start making Christmas gifts.

I am grateful for the community of courageous, beautiful women that surrounds me, and for my chiropractor.
Some special prayer intentions for the week: for those in chronic pain (last week's hip pain reminds me to be mindful of my body, and grateful for when it's feeling well!), and those facing cancer treatments.

Something that makes me smile: Knock-knock jokes that make no sense. Kittens climbing into rubber boots. Outrageous talk between women by candlelight. Singing "The Oldest Swinger in Town" to my 80 year old friend.

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, October 21, 2011

::this moment::

One photo, no moment I'd like to pause and savour, and cherish in years to come.
Visit Amanda's blog to view more moments, or to share a link to yours!

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

This Beautiful, Beautiful Child

Think of your son. Think of the surprise and delight when you first saw his little face, when you dubbed him, "A BOY!", and the dreams you had for him before he was even an hour old. I imagined my little boy growing tall like his father, awkward in his early teens, having smelly feet and a messy room, and becoming a man I'd be proud of. Think of Robert Munsch's book "I'll Love You Forever". That's kind of what I pictured when I learned that my firstborn child was a boy.

Now imagine your grief if your beloved son was judged as "wrong" by his peers, the very people whose opinions matter most to him. He is judged because he chooses figure skating over hockey in a hockey-obsessed culture. He is tormented on the bus, and is eventually held down so that his peers can shove batteries down his throat. Imagine the terror he experiences, and his confusion that people could be so mean, when all he wants is to be loved and accepted. It doesn't seem like much to ask.

Your son tells you he thinks he is gay. You tell him that you love him, and that you want him to be healthy and happy.You know that this world seems more and more "okay" with homosexuality, that he will be able to get married someday to a person he loves, and that he will enjoy the same rights as all Canadians.

But then your son is fifteen, and he is depressed. He is different, and his peers see it, and they torture him with words and actions. Your talented, sweet son, the one you took care of when he was a baby and through all the years of childhood and early adolescence,  becomes sad and withdrawn. He gives up figure skating, even though he was ranked amongst the top ten for his age group in Ontario, and you know he loved it.

And then one day, you learn that he is gone.

Your son has taken his own life. The son that you taught to give to his community, that smiled in photographs, that delighted you with his personality and red hair, couldn't take the pain of not being accepted any longer.

James Hubley was an Ottawa teen who killed himself this past weekend after unimaginable torment at the hands of other kids. What I will never forget is the sound of his father's voice on the radio as he talked about his son, telling his story, and the helplessness and bewilderment he expressed that his darling, "this beautiful, beautiful child" was taken from him.

No matter what your religious beliefs are, please take a moment to whisper a prayer for the family and friends of this beautiful child whose death came too soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Body's Wisdom

I often boast that I never get sick. I think my proximity to little kids who slobber on their containers before asking me to open them, who often have boogers/saliva on their hands when they touch mine, and who cough with abandon have made my immune system stronger than many. When a stomach flu goes through the house, I never get it. I tend to the patients, change pyjamas, and only feel nauseous when there's cold barf on my leg or foot.

Some women fantasize about a tropical vacation. Not me. I dream of getting sick...nothing too serious, but enough to demand that I spend a few days in bed while someone else tends to my children. My only stipulations are that I can knit/write/read until I feel better.

At the same time, I don't like being dependent on others. While I'm perfectly happy to take care of my family, I'm uncomfortable with being a burden on my husband, and insist that I'm FINE when really, I'm not (e.g. when menstrual cramps get the better of me).

I have a hectic life. From the minute I wake up between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m., I'm a go. I consider it a triumph if I make it to 8:30 without raising my voice, because those are the hours I spend getting everyone fed, dressed, and organised to make it out the door. Three sets of clothes, three heads combed, three pairs of shoes/mitts. Work, pick up Margot, drive home, make dinner, do homework, have baths, read stories, settle kids into bed. Make lunches, do laundry, make a list for tomorrow's tasks...fall into bed, and have it begin again tomorrow.

I'm Everymother, at least every mother that has to work outside the home.

Sometimes, though, my body digs its heels in, after months of whispering at me to slow down. My body begins to shout. I had some slight pain in my left hip flexor a few days ago; this is an ailment I've experienced off and on since going through pregnancy three times in four years. It is inconvenient, causing me to trip up the stairs because I haven't lifted my foot high enough. But I generally push my way through it, because I have to.

Yesterday I stripped wallpaper, scrubbed the floor and walls, and took down coathooks in one corner of my kitchen. I sorted and tidied. I was on my feet all day, ignoring the voice of my body, that was getting louder and louder with each step.

Then, after tossing and turning and trying to find some comfortable position, my body roared and woke me up at 2 a.m. I was in tears with pain. I got my husband up to get some painkillers and ice for me. I had a hot bath at 3 a.m. I finally passed out, then was up at 6:30 to start the day again.

I've been staggering around like Igor all day, dragging the offending leg behind me. I am unable to lift my knee without nauseating pain. I barely made it through a half-day at school, then had a visit with the chiropractor who informed me that my pelvis is all messed up, my legs different lengths, my left side compensating for weakness on the right side.


I got my wish. I have to rest and stay in bed. I'm in considerable pain, however, which makes the idea of blissful napping and lounging a bit of a joke.

I don't like to slow down. I don't like to be taken care of. I don't like to be dependent.

But, this evening, I passed the evening routine of bath/stories/bed to my husband, then asked him to put some socks on my feet because the ice pack on my ass was chilling what should have been the warm nest of my bed.

It was humbling. But my body is forcing me to slow down, to stop and rest. I'm compelled to say "Yes" to this demand.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GratiTuesday: This Kid

I'm grateful for this little guy that I get to call my son

(When I took this photo, he told me he'd make his "nice smile". This is it).

With his freckles, his incredible sense of style (today he went to school in a coonskin cap), his endless creativity, messy inventions, profound question (what's out there PAST space? who made the earth? what did the first owl look like?), and his courageous little heart, he brings light to my days.

I wish I could always keep him like this, innocent and sweet, blissfully unaware of the troubles of the world. I wish I believed that kids will embrace his quirkiness instead of making him feel like it's wrong to be different.

I know his unique spirit will thrive in this world of sameness, and I embrace all the things that mean he's a square peg sometimes.

He's perfect to me, in all his bad-temper, soft-hugs, jokes-that-don't-make-sense-but-crack-him-up-anyway, potion-making, creative ways.

I'm so grateful that he's mine, at least for this small part of his life.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Musings

I'm joining Nadja over at Patch 'O' Dirt Farm with some Monday Musings. Join in, and make sure to link back to her space!

Right now...I'm gearing up for the busiest morning of my week: getting the three kids out the door (Margot to daycare, the older two to school) with lunches, weather-appropriate footwear, brushed teeth, and combed hair! Coffee is on, lunches are made, cats and chickens are fed and watered. Some people consider Wednesday "Hump Day" (an expression which always makes me giggle), but for me, it's Monday. It's all smooth sailing from here.

This weekend...Friday night, I saw a great live music show in a nearby village. Joey Wright, Jenny Whiteley, Dan Whiteley, and Luke Mercier are some of Canada's premier roots/bluegrass musicians. I love small town music shows. I volunteered to work at the door, and hugged everyone that walked through it (great minds think alike), and even received a jar of fresh honey (processed that day) from my friend Maureen when she came in. The kids danced till the last song, old fellas in cowboy boots stomped around with pretty young ladies in their arms, and a great time was had by all. Saturday was spent sorting/purging the attic, which has become a depository for crafts, knitting, and sewing supplies. I have THREE flat-bed knitting machines. I haven't used any of them. People just give me stuff because I'm crafty, and like a musician who can't say no to an instrument, no matter how damaged, I just say YES! Now I'm saying NO and sending boxes and boxes of fabric out. The toy purging continues in anticipation of our even-more-simplified-than-usual Christmas. Sunday we just kind of lazed around...recuperating from Jude's first sleepover (that ended at one in the morning, when we called his friend's dad to pick him up). My husband is enjoying reminding me that it was my idea...

Some plans for the week: more work in the attic, and preparing our bedroom to paint (FINALLY) after two years of putting it off. My mother will take the girls for a sleepover Thursday-Friday, so I can get the painting done. I can't even fathom having two days in a row ALONE in my house. Oh, the things I hope to accomplish! And of course, I work two days this week, too.

If I find some time for myself, I'd just like to see where each day takes me. I want to play with my kids, go for a walk each day, and remember to be gentle with myself.

I am grateful for our plentiful supply of dry wood, and our woodstove. The plentiful vegetables in our fridge, the bounty from our last CSA basket of the season, is also a blessing. I'm grateful for the trust my children have in me.

Some special prayer intentions for the week: I have prayers to say this week, but they're private ones I'll say in my heart.

Something that makes me smile: when the windshield wipers keep time with the music. Kittens learning to purr. My husband making my coffee JUST RIGHT and bringing it up to our room so I could lie in bed and read on Saturday morning. An old man in a western shirt with one shirttail hanging out, to match the one pantleg that's tucked into his cowboy boots.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, October 14, 2011

This Moment

One moment, one photo: no words, just a moment I want to pause, savour, and reflect upon in years to come. Stop by Amanda's blog to view other moments, or to share one of your own!
Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Knitting Circle

I come crashing into the house as always, with kids clamouring for Nanny, my arms overloaded with bags, baskets, keys, and little shoes discarded during the twenty minute drive.

My mother welcomes us, as always, with a smile and warm hugs. Through my whole life, this is something I have always been able to count on: my mother's warm welcome. She always greets us with joy, and bustles to put the kettle on.

I make my way into the sunroom, where my mom's friend and my aunts are already sitting, head to head, talking gussets, lace patterns, and wrap-and-turns. Sounds like words you might hear at a convention for burlesque dancers, but we're here to knit socks.

We're all in various stages of sock-knitting. My Aunt Karen wants to learn to knit toe-up socks, and I'm here to finally finish what were supposed to be my 37th Birthday Socks. I got stuck on the heel, and after doing them twice, I'm seeking Marg's help. Marg is a bit of an expert when it comes to socks. She knits them constantly, and donates them, gives them out like candy, like something that didn't take hours of time and expertise to create.

Right now she's working on tiny ones to donate to a Grandmothers to Grandmothers fundraiser (Stephen Lewis' brainchild, to benefit the women in Africa who are raising their grandchildren, orphaned by HIV/AIDS).

With the tea, the old photos come out and my aunts reminisce as my sister and I listen, then laugh uproariously at the way these older sisters tease and shock each other. The talk turns to old boyfriends, and marriage, and those who are now gone.
My own children wander in and out for hugs, and act shyly around these women who look and sound so much like their beloved Nanny. Time folds in on itself, and I remember feeling the same way about my Nanny and her sisters.
The talk turns back to knitting. The unsatisfactory heel: too short. Marg diagnoses the problem: these socks need gussets!

She guides me down the path to sock-greatness.

Life's best moments are these: spending time with people you love, who have known you since you were a child, doing something you love together. With them, I am ageless; their hugs are the same as they were when I was little, their scent and voices extensions of the generations of women who have gone before them.

They say that the best way to ensure that your children are musically inclined is to surround them with people who play music.

I expect that this is the same theory for knitting; my children will never remember a time when they weren't surrounded by women knitting, laughing, drinking tea, and remembering. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

GratiTuesday: My Nose

My nose is small and has freckles. It has a tiny diamond stud on the right side. It smells things. For this I am grateful.

I spent a day paying attention to the things my nose could smell.

I am grateful for the smells of

::my husband's skin + the clean laundry smell of his t-shirt in the early morning::
::my childen, when I first kiss them in the morning::
:: toast and coffee in my mom's kitchen
::spices of pumpkin pie when I made them in the morning
::turkey dressing: sage, bread, pepper, melted butter
::chainsaw exhaust
::dry leaves, fresh-cut grass, earth in the fall
:: shampoo in the shower + the familiar mildly chlorinated scent of "town" water
::my Body Shoppe carrot facial moisturizer
::the smell of family and friends as I hugged them on Thanksgiving day
:: many food smells: turkey cooking, bacon frying
:: the musty, incensey smell of the choir loft at church
::the smell of old music books
::the cologne on an old, old friend as he hugged me after Mass
::fresh manure: horse, pig, cow
::tea, pie pastry, sour cream, salsa, pear cider
::the sheepy smell of 100% wool, as I enter the final rounds of Jude's Waterhorse Sweater
::my mom's distinctive, personal, and familiar scent as she hugged me goodbye

Smells! Food, familiar places, loved people. I've heard interviews and read accounts of people who have lost their sense of smell; it is an unexpectedly devastating loss. My son has a keen sense of smell; I put lipbalm on in the van the other day, and within seconds, he asked (from the far back), "Why do I smell oranges?" He's always first to notice and identify a smell. A possible future as a sommelier or a chef? Perhaps.

When we got home last night from Thanksgiving at my parents' house, we were greeted by the powerful smell of cat litter. After cleaning the box, I rubbed lavender oil on my hands to pat on our pillows. We drifted off into flower-scented sleep.

An ode to my nose! I am grateful for it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Musings

I'm joining Nadja over at Patch 'O' Dirt Farm with some Monday Musings. Join in, and make sure to link back to her space!

Right now...I hate to say it, but it's 3:30 a.m. I can't sleep. I have a window of very light sleep between two and four in the morning, and if I'm awakened, that's it. I'm up. The house is quiet, aside from the hum of the refrigerator and the purr of the kittens as their mother climbs into their basket. I've taken some Valerian tincture and am hoping that fatigue settles in soon. Monday is a holiday, so I know that I can catch up on sleep during the day if needed.

This weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving. My brother, his wife, her sister, and her niece landed in from Toronto, and we all spent the weekend at my mom's house. We played music, played cards, played with the kids, did yard work to put mom's garden to bed for the winter, and managed a wee bit of knitting! We also cooked and ate. A lot. A family tradition is to go around the table, each person speaking of what they are grateful for. We are always moved and amused by these sharings, and had many toasts to the blessings in our lives.

Some plans for the week: Phew. On Tuesday, I'm singing at the local day program for adults with special needs, and taking Violet for a haircut. On Thursday, I'm taking Camino to the vet for shots, etc., then visiting with a friend. Long range plans are due at work, and I'll teach Wednesday and Friday. More de-cluttering here at home on my days off, as always!

If I find some time for myself, I'd like to sit quietly and regroup. I started a cleanse two weeks ago, and was very strict about it for a week. I felt really great: energetic, not bloated, clear-minded. With Thanksgiving, I've veered from that path, and am being hard on myself about the self-sabotage I always seem to engage in. So, I'll be pulling a U-Turn, and getting back on track, remembering to take care of myself. I also hope to finish Jude's Waterhorse Sweater!

I am grateful for: this beautiful season, the amazing weather we had over Thanksgiving weekend, the proximity of all my children's grandparents, the fact that I didn't have to host Thanksgiving dinner this year! I'm grateful for the memories I have of my grandmother last year at this time (she was admitted to hospital in early November), and for the updates we are getting from my dad, who is trekking in Nepal at the moment!

Some special prayer intentions for the week: for my sister Julie, that she gets some much-needed rest (read about her journey at ...visit the weblog page to leave a comment). For my sister Lana as she accompanies her friend on the journey through chemotherapy. For those in ill health. 

Something that makes me smile: our kittens. Really! They're hilarious and so full of character. Watching my children interact with them (wrapping them up like babies, giggling at how their tails quiver as they try to walk on the slippery floor) makes me smile.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, October 7, 2011

This Moment: Chicken Wrangler

Inspired by Amanda Blake Soule: one photo of one moment from the past week, a moment to savour and remember in the days to come.

Have a wonderful weekend, and Happy Thanksgiving to all you Canadians out there!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Ordered Home: The Beginning

Sometimes things just get kind of out of hand.

We have this shelf in our kitchen. It's so handy! All of the kids' arts/crafts materials are there on the shelves, within reach of the kitchen table. So is the computer, printer, and speakers. And the random detritus that floats around a house where children roam...socks, pieces of fabric, old artwork, toys, get the picture.
This is the cupboard. Yuck, right? But have you ever noticed how your eyes can glaze over parts of your house that are dreadful?

And then, one day, the veil lifts and you think: how did it GET like this?

It took all day. I purged. I carefully selected "special" drawings and paintings, and put the rest in a box to help with starting fires this winter. I re-organised stuff that had wandered away from its designated place. I tied up cords, discarded empty paint bottles and hardened paintbrushes, and even sorted through that...guck that collects at the bottom of a craft box (pompom fluff, glitter, googly eyes, and bits of wool and fabric).
Ah! Now doesn't that feel better? It took me HOURS to complete, but it was so worth it. See how the afternoon sun lights up that tidy corner? I started in the morning.

Organising this one corner of the house made me feel like I'd actually accomplished something in my day.

What sorting/purging/organising have you been up to in your home?