Fourteen years ago today…

Fourteen years ago, this happened:

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Last week, on our family camping trip, this happened:

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This kid, this young man we call K…he’s amazing. He’s so full of love and kindness and caring. He’s so good at nurturing his cousins, big and small. He’s so full of silliness, too, with a great sense of humour and so many stories to tell.

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We love him so much. Even when he’s hiding in cupboards. Or riding in canoes.

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Or waiting for something to finish baking, like pies. Or cake pops.

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His smile makes me smile, and always has.

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Happy birthday, son.

 

 

 

 

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The joy of secrets

Tonight, we have a secret. After a long night serving lobster dinners to hundreds of hungry people and then performing with the band to entertain them, our girl B is helping me with a most special surprise.

Almost ten years ago now, K started school and made a friend. For the last two years, that friend has been at a different school than K and they’ve spent rather less time together than they might wish. Tonight, they both turned out and helped their younger siblings serve lobster dinners to hundreds of hungry people for no other reason than they could.

Even though they weren’t in the band anymore.

When the event finally ended, K asked if his friend could sleep over since the stars had aligned and everyone was homework free and with no school in the morning to worry about. And when said friend arrived, I found out that not only did the boys spend the last few hours ferrying plates of lobsters around, they did it on K’s friend’s birthday.

So of course we have to mark the occaision, and what better way to do it than with a midnight surprise birthday party complete with chocolate cake?

So B and I scurried off to the kitchen and whipped up a cake which is baking in the oven even as I type these words. Shortly we will take it out, stuff it in the freezer for a rapid cool down, and whip up some icing. Our fabric garland will come out and get draped around the room and I’m sure I can dig up a candle or 14 somewhere, and together, we’ll sing and smile and eat cake at midnight in honour of a wonderful young man we’ve been priviledged to know since the ripe old age of 4.

 

We still have snow

Apparently, it is high time for Spring to officially kick Winter to the curb. How do I know this? Not because the temperatures have been flirting with positive numbers every other day or so. Not because my kids have abandoned snowpants and scarves and sometimes even coats lately. And most definitely not because in the sunniest patch of the backyard, there is a flash of rich, brown earth speckled with last year’s grass.

No, not for any of those reasons do I think it is officially time for Spring to get serious about doing all her Spring-like things.

You see, yesterday was my birthday. Because of that, friends and family both near and far wrote, texted, emailed, and called with their birthday wishes. It was a lovely outpouring of love and joy and it made my heart happy, as it always does.

But a good proportion of them did NOT ask “Are you having a great birthday?” or  “What are you doing to celebrate?” nor even “What did you wish for this year?” with faces shining with curiosity and voices full of fun.

Instead, their faces were a little more threatening, their voices less fun and cheery, and more “you’d better do what I say or I might just have to find a shovel to bury your body with.”

And what they said? It ran something like this:

“Would you wish for the snow to go away?”

and “Wish for spring already, would you?”

and even “Did you wish for spring? You’d better have wished for spring…”

Apparently Winter has overstayed it’s welcome and Spring had better get off her lazy arse and start to green things up a little before someone gets hurt. Or moves to Costa Rica just to escape the white stuff.

We’re all tired of winter, it seems. That, and a shocking number of my friends actually believe birthday wishes do come true.

Except for that girl we call B.  She did not have any opinion about the weather whatsoever. She had zero curiosity about what I might have wished for. Instead, she wanted to know if I realized that this year, mathematically speaking, as of this moment, I am officially four times her age and will remain so until the end of April, at which time our ratio will become a repeating decimal.

I love that girl.

And yes, for those who are curious, I had a wonderful day full of joy and love.  I ate cupcakes for breakfast, spent an hour or two with the company of a great book, had phone calls from several people I love, and went out for dinner at the pub and listened to a friend’s band, The Fake McCoys, play for an appreciative crowd, then stayed up long after midnight chatting with one of my very best friends. It was a wonderful evening to finish off an enjoyable day.

But sadly, no, I did not wish for spring. Spring is already here, you see, though hidden a little under all the snow. The sun is so much stronger than it was even a week ago. The trees are budding, the sap is flowing, and the birds are flirting like mad from their perches in the tree tops. Spring is here, my friends, no wishing required.

Instead, I wished for Summer.

On the wonder of flying things

Do you remember how, in this post, I might have mentioned that I think I need a flying car? My son had build one out of Lego and proceeded to spend a good 597 seconds explaining all the features and extolling the virtues of said flying car.

He was so in love with his flying car (which, I might mention, took far fewer Lego pieces to build than it took seconds to describe) that he went on and on telling me about it.

He was so in love with his flying car that by the time he finished telling me all about it, I was sort of in love with his flying car too.  A lot. Enough to want one of my very own.

Yes.

Well.

I think I’ve changed my mind.

Our young man recently turned 12 and for his birthday, his father bought him another flying thing. Not a bird, oh no! He bought him a quadcopter. You’ve seen them, I’m sure — remote controlled helicopters with 4 equal-sized rotors instead of one large and one small. They are odd looking in the extreme, some of them. They are expensive in the extreme, some of them. You can get Bluetooth enabled programmable quadcopters with video and still cameras capable of doing all sorts of stunts and capturing all sorts of images.

Like what your roof looks like. Or what your tree looks like when seen from overhead. Or what you look like, head tipped up towards the sky, remote controller in your hands, mouth smiling widely as the copter hovers overhead like a bizarre sort of bumblebee.

We didn’t buy that model.

No, we bought a much simpler (and cheaper!) version that does have a camera, but you have to take the micro-SD card out and download the photos to your computer. No live streaming over Bluetooth, no sirree. No live webcam of your amazing flying skills and spectacular scenery.

Which is probably a good thing.

The first time we took the quadcopter out of the box, we managed to get it to go a little bit up in the air before it crashed into the coffee table. Then the bookshelf. Then the television. It got stuck in the loops of the carpet. It got stuck under the ping pong table. It drifted lazily a few inches above the floor with one motor not activating as much as the other, giving it a very definitive sideways tilt. And then giving it a very definitive crash, with rotors popping off and everything.

Luckily, the rotors pop back on just as easily.

The next time we flew the quadcopter, we flew it outdoors. A little afraid of losing it, and with the battery already half used up from our previous flight, we didn’t get very far. Though we did take a lovely photograph of the blurry gray expanse of road in front of the house (right before coming in for a crash landing on that very same pavement right in front of our house).

The third time we flew, we had a little more success, finally mastering the fine art of gaining height and steering well enough to keep the quadcopter from crashing into landing on the roof. Though we apparently still suck at the landing thing and had to reinstall the rotors more than once after coming back to earth more forcefully than we intended.

The fourth time, K ventured out with a dear friend of ours who happily engaged in an hour’s play. He, being adult and male and rather engineering-minded (and having not spent his own money for the quadcopter), was willing to push things further than this cautious Mama was, just to see what was possible (and much to K’s delight).

Together they flew high and fast and far, zipping this way and that, taking photographs and hoping they turned out to be something more than a blur of pavement.

And then they landed the quadcopter in a tree.

They rescued it with a hockey stick and kept flying until the battery gave out, and K couldn’t be more delighted with his new hobby. He can’t stop talking about it. Or flying it. Or talking about flying it. Or talking about the photographs he took while he was flying it.

He is so in love with his quadcopter that after listening to him go on and on and on for about 587,692 seconds this time, I am sort of in love with it too. Though after listening to him tell me in great detail (and with much laughter) about all the times and all the places he has managed to crash his quadcopter…

…I think I can do without a flying car, thankyouverymuch.

At least until they figure out how to take the plunging-wildly-to-your-doom part of flying cars out of the equation.

The First

The first of July is our nation’s birthday. Living in the capital as we do, I can tell you first hand, it is one heck of a party! This year, we were joined by one of my sisters and the kids were thrilled to have their Auntie N along for the celebration.

Within minutes of arriving downtown, we found a little crowd clustered around the most unexpected collection of characters just hanging around for photo ops:

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The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is currently showing the Star Wars Identities exhibit and it is on my bucket list of cool things to go see this summer.

We worked our way closer to the Parliament buildings and the main stage where all sorts of concerts and speeches and things were happening.

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We saw the Sky Hawks parachute in…

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… the Governor General’s Foot Guards…

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…the Snowbirds did a couple of flybys…

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…and we even saw Superman. Yes, it’s true, The Man In Steel himself was there, riding on his daddy’s shoulders:

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Later on, once we had tired of the main stage shows and overhead acrobatics, we had a picnic lunch and wandered around watching street performers and hanging out with K’s favourite statuary display and trying on their hats, before heading home to get out of the crowds and the heat and rest up for the evening.

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Later on, we returned to the downtown core to find that the crowds, while thick, were not nearly so terrible as last year when it was standing room only with people jammed together as tightly as you can imagine.

We had room to walk around, to take in the sights and the performers, and we even found a nice little grassy spot at Major’s Hill Park where we could settle in and listen to a concert before the fireworks.

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I hope you and your family had a lovely Canada Day yourselves, and for our friends and family in the USA, that you had a lovely 4th.

Wow. Just… Wow.

Do you recall how proud I was of our girl B when I posted a couple of weeks ago about her decision to forgo all hope of getting birthday gifts in favour of raising money for charity:water? She set what we thought was an ambitious goal, to raise $150, and we were excited to see if she could do it.

And then she surpassed her goal. When she saw that her total donations equaled up to $225, she screamed out loud and started jumping up and down. And then she promptly set another goal: $300. And we were thrilled beyond words at the attitude of gratitude and generosity that we were seeing in our girl.

On the day of her party, she had occasion to scream and yell and jump up and down all over again when she saw that she had surpassed her goal again. We were thrilled beyond measure, at the money raised, at how many people will be helped by charity:water, and at how excited our girl was to be helping change the world.

The day before yesterday, I blogged about it yet again (since apparently I just can’t help myself and keep talking about my amazing kids and how proud they make me for so many reasons) and someone over at charity:water noticed. And tweeted about it. And other people saw it. And took the time to donate to our little girl’s campaign. Check it out for yourself. And all I can say is…

Wow.

Just… Wow.

That one word keeps rolling around in my head every time I look at her campaign page — and I keep looking at it a lot.

I have tears of joy and amazement and pride filling my eyes and spilling over my lashes because of all of you. I do tend to cry easily, but this is so much more than that. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for your generosity – that of our friends and family, and that of complete strangers. You have given our girl a gift that is going to stay with her for the rest of her life: the knowledge that, with a bit of effort, she can change the world for the better. What’s more, you’ve shown her that taking on a challenge like this brings with it a rush of excitement and pride and joy that is unlike any other. No physical gift can match that feeling, and it is a feeling that will stay deep in her heart for the rest of her life.

So I guess there is one more thing to say after all:

Thank you.

World Changing

As you may remember, this year, B decided she didn’t want any gifts for her birthday. Instead, she chose to raise money for charity:water, a fantastic organization that helps developing communities in need build fresh, clean water supplies to enable kids, especially girls, to get an education. She set a goal of $150, hoping that her guests and extended family would donate at least $9 in honour of her 9th birthday.

She didn’t meet her goal.

Nope.

She blew it right out of the water! So, naturally, she set another goal: $300. And she blew that one out of the water too! Here is what her charity:water page looks like now:

She has raised $362 dollars for charity:water. Have I mentioned how proud we are of our girl?

Afterwards, she said to me “Mama, giving up my presents was really easy. Really easy. I don’t need all that stuff. Not the way some people need clean water. I want to do it again next year!”

To me, one of the amazing things about this little sum we have managed to raise is that lovely number 18 gracing B’s charity:water page. That number represents the number of people who will soon have access to fresh, clean water thanks to charity:water and a 9 year old girl who gave up her birthday presents. Eighteen people will have their lives made easier and healthier because of B. And all she had to do was refuse to accept stuff she didn’t need in the first place.

The other amazing thing is that our kids have, with a little help from a lot of people, learned just how easy it can be to make a change for the better in the world we live in. To be completely honest, so has this Mama.

For you see, our little Miss B is not the only kid in this house who is setting out to change the world, no sirree! In just over a week, K and The Man We Call Dad will be participating in Relay for Life to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

I firmly believe that the best way to teach your children to change the world is to change the world with your children. Changing the world isn’t something only rich people or talented people or those inspiring people whose stories amaze and astound us can do. No. Changing the world is something that rests firmly in our own hands, and we can do far more than we believe we can.

I know that now, after watching my dear friend Sharon and her kids raise tens of thousands of dollars and collect 150 ponytails to make wigs for cancer patients over the course of 3 years. She taught her daughters and 150 others how easy it is to change the world by changing the world with them.

I had it reinforced when we joined other friends in a 5K charity walk for their daughter’s birthday and watched her face light up as she practically danced down the path with friends in tow, thrilled with their fundraising prowess and determined to cross the finish line ahead of their parents.

I am ever more convinced of it after watching B’s face light up as she realized just how many people she has been able to help with her little charity:water campaign.

And I know it right down to my bones as I watch The Man We Call Dad choose to take advantage of an opportunity to teach K just how easy it can be to make a difference.

The best way to teach your children to change the world is to change the world with your children.

And so K and his dad will be walking next Friday, all night long, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. in the best relay ever invented: Relay for Life.

Will you help K change the world this week by making a small donation, even something as small as $1 or $2, on his Relay For Life page? The Man We Call Dad will be walking too, and so he has his own page as well if you want to support his efforts too. We would be ever so grateful for your support, and your help teaching our children how much good we can do when we just put ourselves out there and try to change the world.