Pride and Joy

There are few things in life that inspire pride and joy more than the people you bring into the world. Sometimes you are proud of their academic achievements. Sometimes it’s their musical talents that trigger that rush of warmth and joy. Sometimes, it’s the kindness and generosity with which they treat others both larger and smaller than themselves.

Mostly you’re proud of the sheer focus, determination, and hours of hard work they throw at whatever they’re trying to accomplish at the moment.

Lately, it’s been so many things. It’s been a teenaged girl working with tremendous dedication and attention to detail on a project for a well-loved science teacher. It’s been a teenaged boy happily entertaining his very much younger cousin with endless patience and much 3-year-old giggling.

It’s been this small group of girls taking over the sunroom with copious amounts of cardboard and duct tape and paint, all in the name of charity.

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It’s been our young man joining a group of kids on the ski hills week after week, stretching his comfort zone and building new friendships. And coping admirably well when a moment’s poor judgement by one of his peers coupled with spectacularly icy roads led to a ski patrol rescue, an ambulance in the ditch, a second (and quite spectacular) rescue involving ropes and crampons and I’m sure more than a few hearts in throats, and 2 bus loads of teenagers (including mine) stuck at the bottom of the hill an hour from home until the wee hours of the morning.

It’s been our boy and a bunch of his friends and classmates walking for hour upon hour and raising many, many thousands of dollars for Relay for Life.

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It’s been a whole group of girls, none of them not mine, who are so willing to strike off on an adventure without the slightest clue what we’re going to be asking them to do, merely because we ask them to trust us week after week and they do.

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We have a serious amount of fun together, these girls and my fellow Guiders and I, trying our hands at circus school, glass mosaics, obstacle courses, computer programming, shoreline cleanups, all the hijinks and fun at camp, and more than a few community service projects. It’s a beautiful thing.

But mostly what’s filling my heart with pride these days is the sight of these:

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Both kids are playing in the ball hockey leagues again this year and come home red faced and drenched with sweat, happy they won or dissappointed they lost, but always playing hard, having fun, and congratulating teammates and opponents alike on great plays or fantastic saves.

Of course, it could just be that these shirts are making me happy simply because with 2 kids in 2 different leagues, we’re spending so very much time at the arena. I’m either cheering those shirts on, washing them, hanging them to dry, or asking if you’re SURE they’re in the bag and ready to go because we really do have to leave 3 minutes ago if we want to be on time for the pre-game warmup…hockey is sort of our life right now and these shirts seem to be everywhere I look, making me proud.

Maybe it’s because I’ve reached a certain age, or maybe because I’ve been investing so much of myself in 30 girls not my own week after week, or maybe just because I’ve been thinking about it a lot and therefore noticing it more, but everywhere I look these days, I see kids and teens doing great things, having fun, giving back to their communities, and making me proud of the world we live in. How about you?

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Here comes the sun…

We have definitely turned the corner from Winter and begun Spring in earnest. Oh, there’s still a pile of snow on the front lawn that’s now as high as my chest, but the days have been warm, the ground wet more than cold, and the air ripe with the promise of green growing things to come.

This morning, I woke early and made my way downstairs to make muffins, and this is the sight that greeted me out the patio door:

Sunshine

Clear blue skies and a gorgeous ball of light making everything bright. The kitchen and the attached eating area we call the sun room were filled with sunshine (the sun room is aptly named, after all) and my heart hummed with happiness while I made up the batter and popped trays of muffins into the oven.

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Soon, the muffin jar was filled to overflowing and the house was filled with the most delicious aroma. It was so tempting, that smell. And that sunshine, too.

Who could resist all that goodness in one place? Not me!

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A cup of tea, some organic cane sugar flavoured with little bits of lemon, and mini muffins in three varieties. It was a most delicious way to start the day.

 

Some days…

Some days, you just can’t face the idea of cooking another dinner. I mean really, who needs to eat every single day?

Oh, right.

Me. I get positively ogre-ish when I don’t eat regularly.

As well as the short-ish people who live here with me.

And The Man We Call Dad.

And the birds. And the fish.

Okay, fine, I suppose I’ll have to admit it: Feeding the hoardes of hungry creatures around here is a never-ending task that absolutely must happen every single day. But there aren’t any rules about how that has to happen, or who has to do the cooking, or how often we’re allowed to do takeout.

In all fairness, I usually enjoy the process of feeding my family. From choosing menus and playing with ingredients to pushing back from the table with a satisfied sigh… it makes my heart happy.

Usually.

But not lately.

I’ve just been so tired of late. The dragons on the beach have been throwing lots of pebbles my way and it has been taking more energy than I have to cope with the daily drudgery of housecleaning and cooking after a full day’s work.

And when I’m tired and not in the mood to cook, and hungry teenagers come whining about how there’s nothing to eat in the fridge because it’s full of vegetables and fruit from the CSA box and nothing else (except the baked pasta with a deliciously browned mozarella top, or the leftover ham, or cheese in three varieties, or salad fixings, or carrots from our garden with 19 different sauces to dip them in, or leftover pancakes, or bacon and eggs, or any of 100 things in the pantry… because of course none of that counts for much when you’re truly starving), well, I get a little grumpy.

So this weekend, instead of caring for others, I chose to practice some self-care and delegate at least one daily chore to others.

Friday, Wild Wings took care of dinner, bringing us pounds of wings in a wide variety of flavours along with french fries, chippers, and one special order of fries with bacon, cheese, and sour cream on them.

But that wasn’t the fun part. This:

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This was the fun part. A couple of hands of gin followed by a laughter-filled round of Cheat (also known as Bullshit in settings where fewer manners are required) had us all laughing within minutes. So much so, in fact, that I didn’t mind at all that the kitchen forgot our appetizer and got not one but two of our meals wrong. It was annoying, sure, but we were all too busy laughing and cheating and laughing some more to care much. Besides, our server was fantastic and they comped the appetizer to boot.

There’s nothing like a truly great bout of laughter shared with loved ones to take the grump right out of a mother at dinner time.

And because my pebble is still heavier than I can easily cope with right now, Saturday night (also known as Halloween) was takeout pizza and Sunday The Man We Call Dad fired up the BBQ and made the most delicious steak and chicken dinner with roasted cheesy-bacon potatoes and green beans with crumbled bacon and bread fresh from the bakery down the road.

It sure is yummy when someone else does the cooking.

Cock-a-doodle-doo?

Not too long ago, we went camping. We were rained out on the very last day, so on our way home, we stopped at one of our favourite restaurant chains for dinner.

It was not the location we usually go to, since we were not in our usual location ourselves, and to our great surprise, they were decorated in the most fun and unique way.

The food is good there. Their signature dish is rotisserie chicken, and they do it very well. And family friendly as they are, they offer it plain with french fries, or fancier with spicy dipping sauce and spicier appetizers and sides that appeal to more grown-up tastes.

The restaurant itself was fairly ordinary. Classy, but not too fancy. Kid-friendly, but not kid-centric. Wallpaper, I think, though it might have been a textured paint job.

But then I went to the bathroom and immediately upon walking in, I laughed and laughed, and then got out my phone, snapped a few pictures, and texted my youngest sister.

Because the ladies’ room was absolutely giggle-worthy and she had to see it, of course.

Because look:

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The walls of each toilet stall were wallpapered in larger-than-life chickens.

I must admit, it’s a good thing someone thought ahead and put the giant poultry pictures on the walls behind the toilets, because I’m not sure one would have felt entirely comfortable using the facilities while a giant rooster stared down at you from above. One might worry about death by pecking.  Or wonder whether or not the rooster was going to step off the wall and stomp you flat with those giant, scratchy rooster feet.

Needless to say, I chose to use the stall with the picture of the hen.

Towering

There’s nothing quite like going up in the CN Tower…

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…standing so tall against a gorgeous blue sky and so high, the people below look like ants…

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and the view is almost infinite…

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…only to look down through the glass floor…

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…and discover…

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…that you can totally watch the Jays game for free.

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Teenaged appetites

I have teenagers in the house. It’s true that one of them has been a teenager for almost a year now, and the other is still a few months shy of officially qualifying as a teen, but judging by the growing push for autonomy and the endless hours of sleep being had…I’ve got teenagers in the house.

It’s been a long time coming, but at the same time, it’s been so very, very fast. Part of me still can’t believe these two wonderful people have sprung from those tiny babes I held in my arms just a minute ago (or so it seems). But somehow, they have. Tiny little fingers and toes have morphed into something rather more adult-like, but no less fascinating to watch in action.

Mostly, I am fascinated by their minds. The things that interest them, the passions they pursue, and their marvelously wicked senses of humour…it’s so much fun to spend time with these people who used to be inside of me and now don’t even fit on my lap, or even on the couch (we tried to fit us all four across for a TV-watching takeout dinner last night. It was not exactly successful).

Over the past year and a bit, we’ve gotten used to watching our boy K inhale serving after serving of dinner. Where he puts it on his skinny frame, I have no idea, but put it he does…two hamburgers and a couple of hot dogs, or three plates of spaghetti with meat sauce, a slice or four of pepperoni and bacon pizza…it all vanishes almost faster than you could blink.

Being the eldest child by a lot (my youngest sister is 16 years younger than I am), I remember being struck most by the way a child suddenly morphs into something not-child, yet not-adult, seemingly overnight.  Growth spurts and hairy man legs, deepening voices and suddenly-too-tall friends…of such things are adults made.

But most striking is the massive teenaged appetite that practically inhales food one day, and isn’t hungry at all the next. The suddenly enormous appetite is, to my mind, the single greatest indicator that teenagehood has arrived.

After watching my tiny slip of a girl inhale three huge platefuls of take-out Chinese food in less time than it took to watch an episode of Musketeers, I think I can safely say that, numbers notwithstanding, I now have two teenagers in the house.

It’s a good think I don’t mind grocery shopping.

 

 

On mornings, bears, and husbands

This morning was most definitely a Monday morning. One seventh of my time here on earth has been occupied by Monday mornings and I have to say, after all this time, I still don’t mind them.

Mondays mark a return to school after two days off. Ditto for work for The Man We Call Dad. As for me, I work Tuesdays through Saturdays most weeks, so technically for me, Tuesday is Monday.

Though Tuesday mornings don’t bother me either.

Maybe I’m a bit of an odd duck (and those of you who know me well can stop laughing now), but I’ve never minded Mondays (even when they are really Tuesdays).  I’ve never minded birthdays, either. They are, like every other day, an opportunity to do something fun. Or something hard. Or something incredibly worthwhile.

And we only get some 30 000 of them in our lives, if we are lucky. Why on earth would I spend 4 285 of them being miserable by choice?

Every so often though, there comes a Monday (or Tuesday) that just needs a little extra grit to get through. Take this morning, for example. It began with a little bit of alarm ignoring after a busy weekend, was followed by the discovery that a thermos one was planning to use for lunch was not, in fact, as clean as it should be, and was topped off by the sudden and smelly discovery that the child on kitchen duty last night failed to take the compost out, much to the delight of the fruit flies that seemingly appear from nowhere overnight.

(The fruitflies, on the other hand, are most certainly having the sort of Monday morning that lottery ticket holders have when they discover upon checking the news one Monday morning that their ticket is worth 9 million dollars, or some other such staggering sum of joyful incredulity followed by much whooping and hollering and jumping up and down.)

After an emergency compost evacuation followed by thermos washing and fruit fly chasing, I plopped myself down on the couch and must have let out a sigh for the girl we call B gave me an empathetic look and told me I looked tired. Not as tired as a girl who spent the weekend travelling to Jouvence to perform with the band and then run obstacle courses, go kayaking, and participate in a kid-sized version of the lumberjack olympics, but Monday-Morning-Mama tired.

And so she gave me a bear.

Well actually, it was a stuffed cat which was then followed by a bear, but you get the idea.

The bear is a small one, white and fluffy (though it’s fur is now rather more well-loved and fuzzy than downy soft, and its colour is no longer pristine and snowy), and its legs have the most adorable curve to them that give the impression that the bear has knees.

I love that bear.

B handed me the bear in all seriousness, telling me how good the bear was at cuddling, and how the thing she loved most about that particular bear was how it was such a good cuddle bear, but not too big, and not too small.

I smiled, cuddled the bear, and told her that the thing I had always loved most about that particular bear was the fact that it had knees.

“I know, right?!” came the answer, followed by a frown and a puzzled “But I don’t remember when I got the bear or who bought it for me.”

I couldn’t help but smile.

I just might have hugged the bear a little closer, too.

For you see, our little Miss B did not get that bear at all. That particular bear is mine, and I have had it for a very long time.

Way back in the middle ages (or perhaps even before the age of the dinosaurs, it’s hard to remember exactly), when The Man We Call Dad and I were only 3 or 4 years older than our oldest child is now, he gave me that bear. We were walking down the street one warm summer evening, hand in hand, when he stopped and dug something out of his backpack and held it behind his back for a moment before presenting it to me.

“She’s got knees!” I exclaimed then, delighted. He smiled at me, that funny little crooked smile he gets when he’s feeling particularly vulnerable, and I kissed him, the bear crushed between us, before we continued down the street.

That moment, in the peculiar way certain moments do, engraved itself in my memory, though it wasn’t particularly significant in any way at all. I can still see the shine of the streetlights against the dark sky and feel the humidity in the air and the way my hair tickled the back of my neck, pulled up in a ponytail as it was, though I can’t remember if he said anything, or what else we might have talked about that night.

That bear has seen me through a quarter century of adventures… my first night away at university, my first time stuck in an airport in a foreign country trying to get home, my first apartment. It has seen me through some sad times, too, like losing our first baby, losing family members, losing friends. More often than not, it sat on a bookshelf in my bedroom rather than on my bed, but every so often as I passed by I would stroke those adorable little knees, or take the bear down and give it a squeeze.

And then my kids were born, first K and then B, and somewhere, somewhen, the bear stopped living on my bookshelf and started living in a child’s bed.

This morning, when B couldn’t remember where she got the bear, I told her the truth of where the bear came from. She had the funniest look on her face as I told her, half wondering and awe-struck, half highly amused.

“That bear is more than twice as old as you are,” I informed her.

“You’re so lucky,” was her reply.

“I am?”

“You are.” A firm nod of her head let me know she was serious. And then a hand went on her hip and her head tilted sideways.

Very serious.

And then came the Grand Pronouncement:

“When I grow up, I want to be lucky enough to have a husband who gives me teddy bears. Teddy bears with knees. A man who gives you bears is one worth keeping, I think. You’re very lucky, you know.”

There are moments in parenthood when it is extraordinarily difficult to keep a straight face.

Especially when I agree so wholeheartedly.

And lest you think the bear from our teenaged years was a one-time event, you should know that last weekend on our way home from camping, we stopped in at Mastermind Toys and spent fully 10 minutes debating whether or not it would be reasonable to acquire a gorgeous, soft, cuddly stuffed elephant for our family room. The softness definitely counted in its favour. The fact that it is life-sized and would most definitely block our view of the TV was a point against, but what can you do?

(Buy your wife a Metal Earth R2D2 model to build, that’s what. And a millenium falcon, too. And yes, he smiled that smile I love so much as he dragged me over to see R2D2 in all his shiny glory. And yes, I may have kissed him just a little.)