What the heart needs…

A sweet little heart needs a sweet little presentation tag, don’t you think?

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(And yes, I am still crushing on making little hearts.)

So which do you prefer, the black marker version of the tag (on the left) or the brown marker version (on the right)? I rather like the darker ink, though my baby sister tells me she likes the brown version better.

If you would like a little heart of your own, come find me at my favourite local artisans group on Facebook or drop me a line via email.

And one for Mama, too

With The Man We Call Dad’s stocking finally finished, the only person left without a Mama-made stocking was me. But as is common with mamas everywhere, this Mama has an unfortunate tendency to put her own needs last when someone else is in need, and so while there was progress on a Mama stocking in bits and spurts all fall, the stocking still is not done.

It’s close though. At this very moment, it needs only to have a back cut out and attached, and to finish up the little dangle with my name, and attach one of my “handmade by” labels for posterity’s sake. But since you’ve been asking (I’m looking at you, J!) and the front is in fact complete, here are some photos both in progress and now that it is almost complete.

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Good morning

There is a particular kind of blessing that comes with waking up early. When I was a child, it used to amaze me that every time I visited my Grandmother D, she would announce that it was time for bed sometime around 9 p.m. and then… then she would proceed to tuck herself into her big, lush bed right alongside me with every intention of going to sleep.

It boggled the mind.

Grownups were supposed to stay up late, after all. That was the pattern I had grown up with and that was the pattern I knew best.

The littlest kids went to bed first. Then me, after homework was done and often after having helped my parents for a bit with the printing business they ran from our basement. But inevitably, having banished me to my gabled bedroom where the lilacs brushed against the window and perfumed the air the entire month of June, they would vanish into the depths of the house and start up the presses whose clickity-clack would echo up through the vents and lull me gradually to sleep.

It wasn’t unusual for them to work until quite late at night. It wasn’t all that unusual for them to work until 1 o’clock in the morning, either. And then, in the morning, there would be stacks of boxes full of inky-fresh paper or staple-bound books or, my favourite, little custom-made pads held together on one side by the stinkiest of all stinky glues, rubber cement.

So when Grandmother D would crawl into her big bed piled high with pillows and comforters mere moments after the sun had drifted out of sight… it was unusual, to say the least.

But Grandmother D knew a secret. She knew that if you went to bed before 10 o’clock, you could more easily wake up at 5. And that at 5 o’clock in the morning, you can sip a cup of tea from a delicately handpainted teacup while watching the last few tomcats slink their way home. You can rub the sleep out of your eyes while listening to the birds say hello. And you can find 4-leaf clovers from the patch outside your door while they are still covered with the morning dew, soaking the toes of your slippers and the hem of your housecoat.

It was, to her way of thinking, a most civilized way to start the day.

When K was first born, he was by nature an early riser. He would wake around 5 o’clock, nurse for a bit, and by 5:30, he was ready for the day to begin in earnest. As new parents, we were not all that impressed with such an early-rising child. In fact, we rather resented the fact that after going to bed at 11, K would wake us at 1 o’clock, and at 3 o’clock, and then be up for the day shortly after 5.

To say it took some getting used to would be an understatement.

And yet, I find myself gravitating towards that very same schedule lately.  Now that my children tend to sleep at least until 6:30 or 7:00, you might think I would enjoy a little sleeping in, but like my grandmother always did, I often find myself waking some time around 5 a.m. of late and just enjoying a few minutes of listening to the quiet all around me.

Sometimes, like this morning, I get up and work out and shower and eat long before anyone else is awake. Other mornings, I listen quietly for a bit, think about the day ahead, then burrow back under the covers, snug up against The Man We Call Dad, and sleep some more until 6:30 or 7:00.

But no matter which way I choose to start my day, I have discovered that the little bit of silence at 5 o’clock in the morning brings with it a blessing of peacefulness that rests solidly in my heart for the rest of the day.

Fun with math

This morning, my daughter challenged me with the Dichotomy Paradox at an ungodly hour of the morning.

She had snuck into our bed for a morning cuddle, you see, and thought that it was immensely unfair of me to want to kick her out so I could get out of the aforementioned bed and go and have a shower. (I was trapped between the child and The Man We Call Dad, who was likewise trapped between the other child and me.)

“Up,” I told her. “I need to have my shower.”

She responded with a drawn out moan of a word followed by a mad clutching of my arm and burrowing under blankets that I interpreted to mean “Oh, hell no!”

Or maybe “Can’t we cuddle for just a little longer, Mama?”

Either way, I now had a child glued to my side like a baby monkey grasping its mother and The Man We Call Dad as a solid, warm presence at my back, and absolutely no hope of being able to extricate myself without great effort, great complaining, and possibly some heavy machinery.

“I’ll give you ten more seconds, then I’m having my shower,” I informed her (as if I had any real possibility of finding my way to freedom in the next 10 seconds).

“I’ll keep count,” she told me oh-so-helpfully.

Right before she closed her eyes again and pretended to be sleeping.

After a while, I pointed out that I was pretty sure that 10 seconds had passed. In fact, I was almost positive that it had been more like 10 minutes.

“It’s been 8 seconds. There are 2 more seconds left.” I was told. A few minutes later, we were at 9 seconds. And then 9-1/2 seconds. And that’s where the trouble began.

“Well, before we get to 10 seconds, we have to get halfway between 9-1/2 and 10, which would be 9-3/4. And then we have to get to half of the quarter second that’s left, which is 1/8 of a second, which still leaves us 1/8 of a second to go. And then we split that in half and still have 1/16th, and then 1/32nd…” and on and on she went, ending with “…so we’ll never, ever get to 10 seconds and you’ll just have to cuddle with me forever.”

She was entirely too gleeful about this idea.

Zeno’s dichotomy paradox,” I may have moaned. There may have been some eye rolling too.

She had no idea who Zeno was, or what dichotomy meant, but she was absolutely certain that my poking her in the middle until she vacated the premises and freed me from my warm haven prison was mathematically impossible and I just couldn’t leave.

She looked so adorable in purple flannel with her hair all wild from sleep and her hands on her hips and her eyes sparkling with mischief that I almost agreed with her.

But then I pointed out that the Dichotomy paradox also meant that a child who wanted a cupcake for dessert after breakfast (don’t you have dessert after breakfast? You totally should.) would have to cross half the distance from the bed to the cupcake, and then half of that distance, and so on and so on and in the end, would never ever ever be able to actually reach the cupcake, which would mean that cupcake eating was, in fact, a mathematical impossibility.

Like Aristotle did so many years before, she instantly scoffed at the possibility of the distance between her mouth and the chocolate cupcakes on the kitchen counter being infinitely divisible and announced that you could stop at eighths, after all, and therefore eat as many cupcakes as you like for after-breakfast dessert.

I don’t know about you, but I like the way she thinks, even if she does think about math far too early in the morning.

Being Canadian, the fine art of the apology is well-ingrained in me — even when I know there is nothing to apologize for. I have been told that blogging carries with it a responsibility to be dependable. That readers get disgruntled and rapidly become un-readers when you fail to blog on schedule. That you have, as a blogger, made an unbreakable pact with your readers that must not be violated or you will lose every last one of your loyal visitors.

Perhaps it is even true.

I prefer to believe that I have, as a mother, an unbreakable pact to my family that trumps the blog. What’s more, I believe that I have, as a woman, an unbreakable pact with myself that says I must take care of myself in body and mind that far, far outweighs any need to blog regularly, no matter how many reader pacts that breaks.

In short, if I don’t take care of myself first and foremost, nothing else will go smoothly, no matter how much I want it to.

Moms are bad at that whole ‘taking care of self first’ thing.

I know this because I am bad at taking care of myself first, as is every single mother I know.

Usually, I’m one of those Pinterest moms. You know the ones. I make rainbow cakes for my kid’s birthday. I crochet things. I knit things. I sew things. I bake my own bread.

You probably hate me.

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Rest assured, I have just as normal a life as everyone else. I am not always what you think I am — that mom who tries to put Martha Stewart to shame. Lately, I’ve been like the mom above — so busy with the everyday stuff that I fall into bed at the end of the day too tired to even think about finding time to blog, nevermind bake from scratch or do anything but tread water with school projects and music lessons and everything else.

And so the silence in this space has proliferated.

Part of me still wants to apologize for it, but when I think of all that our little family has accomplished over the last 2 months, I know that giving up blogging for a while was the absolute right thing to do.

It has been a crazy riot of things going on as the end of the school year approaches. Some of it has been great fun. Some of it has been hugely stressful. It’s been a juggling act, balancing hard work, knowing when to hound the kids to do their best, try harder, work faster… and knowing when to say enough. Let’s just rest a while. Let’s just play together and read together and make things together.

This spring, we have had one child going through the hellish stress of 5 days of standardized testing. Another going through the hellish stress of a first-time band member not knowing what to expect as the band’s performance season arrived with what felt like half a hundred rehearsals on top of the regular rehearsals coupled with a performance here, a performance there, and a few unique and special events.

Like a young man diving into computer programming.

Or the kids’ band taking home the Gold at the Kiwanis Music Festival.

And serving a lobster dinner to 400 people in an unairconditioned arena and then playing for them afterwards, nevermind that all 70 kids in the band were at that point melting of the heat, smelling of lobster (and vaguely queasy because of it), and performing for a crowd of 400 plus all their parents (and more than vaguely queasy because of it).

They performed brilliantly at the Ottawa Music Association Awards at Greenfields’ Pub.

They cheered their friends and co-musicians in the Jazz band section of their band as they performed brilliantly at the Blackburn Hamlet Fun Fair.

They’ve worked hard at school, making dioramas and holding a medieval fair and going on field trips to Old Fort Henry (K was in heaven!).  They’ve worked hard at home starting seeds in the greenhouse, planting their own garden beds, building models of the space station and a fighter jet, sewing dresses, and reading, of course. Always we read, everything and anything that catches our fancy.

This past Wednesday, an entire year’s worth of tremendous effort, 500 hours of practice, numerous rehearsals, and so many moments of doubt, fear, and despair of ever getting it right culminated in the most fabulous 2 hour concert at the Shenkman Arts Centre, with special guests Gabriel Parent (an extremely talented trumpet and flugelhorn player) and an elementary choir from another school nearby. And members of the school board. And school trustees. And local politicians. And the mayor of Ottawa. And 500 parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends, all cheering them on.

They were fabulous.

And that’s not just the mother in me saying that. They truly are the most amazing young musicians with a rare and wonderful talent — the Kiwanis judge thinks so. The Ottawa Music Awards people think so. The judge at the Wonderland music festival thinks so.

Don’t believe me? Judge for yourself — Rogers filmed them and the entire concert will be broadcast on Sunday, June 23rd at 8 pm, then again on Monday, June 24th at 3. The choir sings first, then the Jazz band portion of the band, then the whole band performs after the intermission, so for those of you looking for my kids, they are 3rd clarinet and 2nd baryton (euphonium) when the whole band plays.

But now, with the kids off at an outdoor adventure camp to celebrate a year’s worth of tremendous effort and hard work with the band by going kayaking and canoeing and swimming and trying their hand at archery and rock climbing and playing capture the flag in the woods at night by flashlight…

I find myself alone in the house with The Man We Call Dad with time to spare for blogging.

What’s more, with school about to end for the year, I am starting to plan a plethora of activities and crafts and new adventures for the summer, and I can’t wait to blog about them.

I might not be willing to apologize for being absent, but I am definitely eager to be back in this space.

And if you have any wonderful ideas for things to do this summer, please share them — I have days and days and days of summer vacation to fill.

I can’t wait!

Friday’s Little Thing

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:: Friday’s Little Thing is a moment in time I wish to remember. Please feel free to join me in sharing your own moments and link to them in the comments. I would love to see them! ::

(Apparently I can’t read the date on the calendar and set the auto-publish for the 21st instead of the 22nd. Well we can just pretend you didn’t see this until tomorrow, can’t we?)