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Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

In The Middle Of The Night

There’s nothing like staring into the fully dilated pupils of your six-year-old at 11:38pm and wondering if she’s looking at you or through you.

Miss C has had a handful of night terrors in her six-years on this earth. She never remembers them in the morning, but in the moment they are the most horrendous things to watch. Thrashing. Crying. Snot. Inconsolable awfulness that kills me as I sit and wait for the episode to pass.

You can’t wake them, or shouldn’t. My internet research on the subject says as much. In spite of this, my mother’s heart has sung to her, whispered to her and stroked her forehead. I’ve also carried her out of the room so she doesn’t wake her sisters.

Last night I was summoned to her room by sobs. After taking her to the bathroom, which is always a good idea when a child wakes in the middle of the night for no reason, and changing her night gown, because I dropped the hem of her original night gown into the toilet, I tucked her back into bed.

She immediately started thrashing and crying. I settled in beside her and waited. My internet research has also told me these moments don’t last more than 1-5 minutes. Where oh where would we be without doctor internet?

“Does your neck hurt?” I asked Miss C when she’d calmed. She kinked her neck on Tuesday and has been in significant, but decreasing, pain ever since.

“No,” she said.

“Are you awake?” I asked. Her pupils were really dilated.

“Yes,” she said, taking the Kleenex from me and wiping her nose.

Cue a battery of questions, only an inquisitive mum, foolishly trying to get to the root of the sleep issue at midnight can ask.

“No,” she repeated earnestly to every question.

“Do you want me to stay with you a while?” I asked.

“No.”

No. No? I stared down at the sweet child of mine.  No?  This was the girl who jumps, nay, leaps at any opportunity for me to crawl into her bed for a snuggle.

I stared through the darkness into her eyes. Was she actually asleep? When one of my friends was five, he woke in the middle of the night and an old woman gave him a glass of water. He didn’t know who she was. I had to ask, even thought I feared and relished her answer, “Can you see anyone in the room?”

Miss C’s eyes didn’t blink or search the darkness behind me. In one fluid motion, her arm lifted off her duvet as her head and shoulders rose off her pillow. “I can see you,” she said in a slow, even voice, pointing at my face.

Have I watched too many horror movies? Yes, yes, I have.

“How do I know you’re awake?” I pressed as she lay back down and continued to stare at me, or through me.

With crocodile smile, Miss C waved with the tips of her fingers.

“Okay, well get some sleep then,” I said. “I’ll be in bed if you need me.” I kissed her and prayed I didn’t wake to find her silently staring at me through her long unkempt hair with her wide unblinking eyes.

The rest of the night was uneventful, and, true to my internet research, Miss C didn’t remember a thing this morning. She and her sisters found it hilarious that she and I were talking in her sleep.

Joke’s on them. While I hope this is Miss C’s last night terror, sleep conversations could come in very handy during the teenaged years.

sleeping-beauty-painting

 

 

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One

Last week one child came home from middle school with a list. She’d joined soccer, cross-country, strings, band, and choir. Need I mention this child is signed up for soccer, Guides and volunteers outside school? Need I mention this child is also an avid reader, lover of free play and all things video games (thank you, husband)? Need I mention my mama’s heart was a jumble of emotions?

Shock.

Pride.

Glee.

Joy.

Anticipation.

Relief.

Laughter. Lots of laughter, she is her mother’s daughter.

Could we do this? Would we do this? Should we do this?

Yes, I was that mum, grilling the band director at her school during the welcome barbecue.

Practice commitment = 100 minutes a week total for both instruments. Pish, 100? In my day, it was 210 painful practice minutes.

Oh, did I fail to mention she wants to play two instruments? Violin in strings, and we’ll find out in band. Her 1st choice is flute, 2nd clarinet and 3rd trombone. Apparently she couldn’t make band easier by lugging my dear old tenor sax back and forth.

Nothing conflicts.

What’s a parent to do?

My husband and I had many a discussion: should we let her try her proposed schedule? Should we nip it in the butt? Should we? Could we? Would we?

We looped her into our fears about burn out. We got her to map out her proposed schedule. We gave her the tools, then questioned if we should save her from herself and take the tools away. She is only eleven. Eleven. What are other eleven year olds doing around the world? Don’t answer that. She’s got a good life. Freedom. Love. Support.

The thing is, as most of you know, we have three children. Miss Q, Miss S and Miss C. A week before school started I thought I was so organized: Miss Q had the aforementioned outside of school list, Guides and soccer, Miss S had Guides and soccer and Miss C had Brownies and soccer. My calendar was a glowing orb of mostly blank squares.

Then we foolishly sent our girls back to school. Miss Q came home with her list. Miss S came home buzzing about choir and the potential for cross-country. Miss C came home with home reading.

Stay six forever, Miss C.

We knew this day would come. We knew one day our calendars would be full, and we’d be tugged in three directions. It was always a vague thought, something we absent-mindedly acknowledged with every turn of the clock, but foolishly ignored.

Middle school, like a rogue wave, blindsided us with opportunity.

We had no idea how full one child could make herself.

However, on Friday, a dove dropped an olive branch at my feet.

“I think I’m not going to do cross-country,” Miss Q told me after school.

“Really?” I replied. “Why?”

“It’s my least favourite of everything right now.”

“Okay, sounds good.” I knew eleven-year-olds could make wise choices.

“And basketball starts pretty soon.” She grinned.

Beach

Two weeks before my calendar exploded.

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20180824_213138It’s official, Miss Q is a muggle. September 1st came and went, and now our eleven-year-old must start muggle middle school with her muggle friends.

Are we ready for grades two, four and six? YES. Let activities fill our calendar. Let baked goods fly out of our oven. Let us remember in the middle of November that the ocean is fifteen minutes from our doorstep.

The end of summer vacation doesn’t mean the end to adventure. Starting tomorrow, we switch gears from external adventures to internal adventures. New schools. Old schools. New friends. Old friends. New PACs. Old PACs… Oh right, it’s not about me.

Which brings us to the most humbling of lessons I learned late this summer: it’s not about me.

Two weeks ago, I was sashaying through sea foam, sprinting through sunflowers, and slithering across hot rocks. I was living in the moment, completely focused on giving the girls an amazing summer full of beaches, bike parks, and bongos. (Miss S went to a week-long half-day drum camp.)

While my littles were very content to sleep in, play whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, and align their bedtimes with the rise of the Big Dipper, thanks to a healthy dose of educational morning television’s back-to-school commercials, they were acutely aware of the coming school year, and very much wondering when the heck their mother would get her act together and get their school supplies.

Oh, come on, you know I would have gotten around to discussing routines, shopping, and figuring out how our days would look. I’m not a flake. I knew September was coming, I just chose to twirl about my castle, drink from my enchanted teapot, and throw snowballs at Beast a while longer.

Who knew my live-in-the-moment attitude was stressing them out? I thought we were on the same page. I thought they didn’t want to think about school until maybe Labour Day. I didn’t want to be responsible for dulling the edges of their summer with reality.

Turns out thinking about school, prepping for school, and buying for school are all intricate parts of the end of summer. They don’t make summer sun shine less, rather, they are an expected routine. And besides, who doesn’t like new pens? Not this family. So, two Saturdays ago, we canceled a daytrip and went shopping.

Our buckets filled with duo-tangs, a zippered binder and felts. This year Miss C is the only one who needs crayons (sniff) and Miss Q needs a protractor (good luck).

The girls came out of that Saturday, confident their mum wasn’t going to forget to send them to school, and, with 1150 sheets of lined loose-leaf paper.

I rebooted my ego.

It’s not about me.

This is their time. They’re the ones who must figure out new teachers and sit in classes with twenty-plus different personalities and learn.

It’s my job to make sure they go in with both mental and physical tools to ensure a hope of success.

I’ll miss them.

But they’re ready.

Simple as that.

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We’ve crossed over.

Into August with the feel of summer and the gravitational pull of September.

Twenty-five, twenty-four hour days stretch in front of us, waiting to sizzle our skin, show off the planets, and wrap our fingers in marshmallows, but my eyes scan the horizon.

I can hear the hooves echoing on the brown grass. Wisps of dust are sucked skyward. The vibrations begin to buzz my toes.

Sleepy mornings are slipping.

The empty calendar is filling.

Freedom is falling.

And yet, there are twenty-five days between us, and the hot breath of the beast.

So we waste the minutes with cartoon mornings. We agree to attend birthday parties. We attempt to live in the moment with glue guns and sparkles.

We ignore September’s pokes and prods.

The emails about soccer tryouts. The ads about school supplies. The questions about start times, end times and how it will all be accomplished.

There are still ice cream cones to be licked.

Seaweed to slip on.

Ghostly walks to take.

Play on summer, you’re not over yet.

sky cm

sea CM

July’s Sky to Sea Adventure.  We hiked up and down Mount Tolmie and then played at Gyro Park.

 

 

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Good-Bye Grade 5

I’m sure schools in the 90210 zip code provide their parents with free botox before emotional assemblies. Jackie Taylor would never be caught dead sobbing into a hankie while watching Kelly level up in the world. While Mrs. Walsh, being from Minnesota, would have declined, at least for the first few years, but eventually the pressure from Brenda for her mum to stop being embarrassing and conform would’ve sent her right to the beauty doctor.

Yesterday morning was an exercise in crying pretty. Botox in my tear ducts would’ve helped. Same with Kleenex. My husband and I were the only ones around us without a hankie to hide the dam as it broke.

Why do we have to celebrate our children? Why do they fill us with so much pride that it leaks and runs down our faces? Why do their teachers care so much that they too get verklempt when wishing our children well on their travels?

Why world, why?

Because we’ve been there for them. All of us. We might not live in remote huts in the middle of the rainforest, but it still takes a village to raise a child, yes, even for those of us who are checked in to our children’s lives.

Miss Q’s been at her elementary school for six years: kindergarten to grade five.

It was a leap of faith for my husband and I to send her to the neighbourhood school, instead of following friends to the preschool’s elementary school, but we had one goal for our child: consistency.

We wanted Miss Q to stay at one school from start to finish, to make friends, and to find a community. We wanted her to feel stable and be as confident as the Pink Ladies in Grease and “rule the school.”

Six years later, ironically, few staff members have seen Miss Q through her elementary school career, but the building and her friends have remained the same, so like Hannibal from ‘A-Team’, not ‘Silence of the Lambs’, says, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Over the years, Miss Q’s had teachers who sparked her creativity, and teachers who nurtured her artistic side. She had a teacher who fostered her budding interest in botany, and ghost hunting, and a teacher who believed in her sprinting skills long before I did.

She had a teacher who told us that there were no more books left to challenge Miss Q, so she spent her middle elementary school years drawing.

We found out belatedly, that there was a teacher who plied six-year-old Miss Q with up to 15 jellybeans a day for the entire school year just for behaving in class.

A teacher who told us Miss Q would be bullied in middle school because she didn’t speak up in class and wouldn’t look the teacher in the eye.

Teachers who refused to let us in, and teachers who welcomed us with open arms.

Teachers who taught Miss Q, and teachers who taught us, her parents.

Teachers who instantly ‘got’ Miss Q, and teachers who took longer to figure her out.

It’s no surprise, Miss Q has rolled with it all, and she hates jellybeans.

She is the kid who buries her nose in a book to avoid the crazy whirling around her classroom. She is the kid who’d rather shine the light on someone else than have it shine on her. She secretly enjoys it when the grade ones find her on the playground and when the kindies whisper to their parents, “That’s my lunch monitor” when we’re in Starbucks.

She is kind. She is mischievous. She is athletic and smart.

She is the reason I needed botox yesterday.

Hair down for the first time in her life at school (she’d better not get lice), wearing a t-shirt dress and comfortable shoes, she looked every bit a tween on her way to grapple with a combination lock, art classes, and sports where, maybe, hopefully, everyone doesn’t have to win?

She’s worked hard. She’s given back. She pauses at the garbage and asks what parts she can recycle.

My husband and I have worked hard too. We’ve made lunches. We’ve kept tabs on library books. We’ve signed contracts not to sell our minivan so we can continue to drive half the class on field trips.

These grade fives are the kids of tomorrow. Our future, and they’re completely oblivious of their place in society. There is an easy-breezy spirit about them. They still do cannonballs into swimming pools, and shriek across their desks at each other. They get paranoid when playing ‘Cheat’. They eat pizza and drink soda pop. They look after each other.

They care.

We care. So much it pours down our faces at assemblies.

But even if they contain ‘then and now’ slideshows, year end assemblies are necessary life markers. They’re the payout: six years of good citizenship, six years of getting up in the morning, homework done, ready for the day. Six years of playing the game. They did it.

Their teachers did it.

We did it.

Let the village rejoice as the eleven year olds march down the dusty road to find their next adventure.

potluck

One day, using your dad’s Hawaiian shirts for decoration will be embarrassing.

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A Month Of Lasts

June 1st marked the start of the last month of Miss Q’s elementary school career and now the lasts are beginning to build: last whole-school concert, last track meet and, perhaps the most important last, at least to this mama, the last time the sisters will ever be at the same school as a trio.

The ends of the school year are always tinged in bittersweet and wrapped in hope as our girls level up in their lives. This year, I want to press pause, and hold the final notes of the year in the palm of my hand a little while longer.

Come June 29th, my girls will navigate the education system as individuals or in pairs: Miss S and Miss C first, then Miss Q and Miss S, Miss S and Miss C, Miss Q and Miss S, Miss S and Miss C, but never Miss Q and Miss C. It’s a tag game that will last a decade.

How are they feeling about it? Oh, just fine, thank you very much. Last week they piled out of school complaining about each other.

Miss Q: We had to go outside and cheer on (the middle school) on their 5km walk and Miss S wouldn’t stop staring at me.

Miss S: Miss C dumped my snack at recess.

Me: I’m sure it was an accident.

Miss C: It was!

Me: Did you share your snack with Miss S?

Miss C: Only because she came up to me and said I had to.

When I was in grades five, six and seven, all three of my brothers and I attended elementary school together. I don’t remember being sad when I started high school without them.

Oldest child to oldest child, I know Miss Q will be the same. This is her time. Her excitement is building about going to school with an art room, strings orchestra, and sports.

I have a short video from the afternoon Miss Q came home from her first day of kindergarten. She’s wearing a paper raccoon hat and her sisters, who clearly missed her, are clamoring for her affection.

The ten-month-old baby throwing herself at Miss Q, is now six and lost one of her top front teeth last week. She has a gap the size of Canada in her tiny mouth. Like any self-respecting mother, I’m encouraging her to wiggle the other top tooth harder.

This is my last chance to have a child who’s missing her two front teeth. My last chance to annoy one of my children by singing that famous Christmas song. My last chance at childhood firsts with a child who is rapidly leaving her early primary years in the dust.

The three-year-old in the video is now eight. She’s determined to be in the lead when we’re riding bikes, and satisfyingly spacey when it comes to the bad behaviour and words flying around her grade three classroom. “Miss A (her best friend) told me the f-word was in the music video (her lunch monitor) put on for us, and I don’t even know what the f-word is.”

How long will she hold onto this golden innocence? Should I lock her in a tower now?  What about Miss C? It’s probably not too late for Miss Q to head on up there either.

For the record, the school dealt with the f-word issue lickety-split.

Sigh.  Lasts. I should be more embracing of them. Change my thinking. Retrain my brain not to see them as misty-water-coloured memories, but rather exciting milestones. Whoo-hoo.

After all, like the tide, as the lasts run themselves out, the firsts start to build: first day of summer vacation, first day of middle school, first day of being the oldest sister in the school…

Don’t sell your stocks in Kleenex just yet. Whether they’re lasts or firsts, this mama’s eyes are equal opportunity leakers.

So bring on the hotdog days, the field trips, the assemblies and the rituals of saying good-bye. We’ll finish the year strong, and see you on a beach in July.

CM

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41 Candles

The morning of my birthday, I burned all twelve slices of double smoked bacon that cost $8.99 a pound. The girls needed rugby forms signed and hotdog money paid. I only had a loonie in my wallet, so I broke into Miss C’s piggybank and wrote her an I.O.U. for the remainder.

Window-shopping in Oak Bay Village turned into new shoes for my husband and a quiet whisper for me, “Sometimes when our feet are hot, they swell,” the saleswoman hissed.

“No, my feet are naturally wide,” I said, using my regular voice.

foreAfter school, we took the girls golfing for the first time. In the middle of the third hole a drunk man walked up and said it was his turn to play. Proper golfing etiquette states you can’t use your iron to flatten fellow golfers, so we left our balls on the green and let the wannabe human and his gal pal play through.

Some days you have to wonder.

But through the wonder, there’s always good.

Sweet to salty.

Kind to crappy.

Turns out, potential carcinogens don’t bother my husband. Robbing a piggy bank meant three less lunches to make this Wednesday. My mum met us for birthday lunch and the waitress presented me with the tastiest key lime cheesecake I never would have ordered.

The girls want to return to the links.

We had both sweet and sour pork and pepperoni pizza for dinner.

tulipsI found a gorgeous bouquet of tulips tucked inside my front door, along with a scratch ‘n win that won $10.

There were well wishes, exclamation marks and heart emojies.

It was a day where the small gestures meant the most. Where a song on my answering machine from my niece and nephew made me laugh. Where my children’s handmade cards and presents shone. Where plans of birthday bingo, birthday happy hour and a birthday barbecue gave promise to a weekend of new discoveries, nostalgic laughter and parents who gave up their symphony tickets to cook me food.

As the day that marked my 41st loop around the sun came to the end, I sat, squashed on our couch surrounded by my four favourite people, watching Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events.

Belly full.

Heart content.

Focused on the peace of the here and now.

ocean

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