Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Time Passes

My parents have come and gone. My nephew had another birthday and is somehow six now (which means Xander will be 6 in a few short months as well!). We lost a friend suddenly and inexplicable to organ failure. I finished a technical writing contract. Christmas came and went. We are looking forward to friends visiting from Baltimore; they arrive tomorrow and stay until early next week. The New Year is coming. School will begin again. And I have heard that there will be more technical writing in 2011 too.

So much has past and is coming up.

I've mostly been silent because of having so much going on. Other days it is because I am busy chewing on my own thoughts and not sharing as much.

Liam is almost 3 now. He's suddenly really talking and it is mighty cute! Not so cute is the intense "WHY?" to everything. He also will answer "this" when asked what he is doing. I am having a glimpse into the 14 year old Liam.

Xander made me laugh with, "Well, that doesn't surprise me." the other day. Nothing gets by him.

Ray and I are busy, but enjoying some time off from work for two weeks and enjoying each other's company lots.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Is it easy?"

On Tuesday, Xander and I were talking. I was whispering sweetness to him. We have a game where we tell each other how much we love each other. How much equals how far for Xander, because he is 5. So it goes something like this: "Mommy, I love you to Star Command and then Jupiter, and then Uncle Bill and Auntie Karen's house, and then home again." (If you don't know about Star Command, may I suggest the Buzz Lightyear cartoons that are a sideline to the Toy Story franchise.) Lately, he's learned about infinite, so that features into our conversations too.

It's fun to play with words and discover new meanings with a kid who is verbally gifted.

In any case, I replied something along the lines of, "Xander, every day I get to be your mommy is the most wonderful and special day ever. That's how much I love you."

He turned solemn eyes on me, then paused a second, and said, " it hard?"

I told him it was work to be a mommy, but that he was worth all of it.

And it is work, Xander. If you ever read this, it's hard to tell you 20 times to do one thing. And you crowd a person out sometimes, both physically and mentally. I hate arguing with you about every.little.thing. "But I was just..." is not an answer to "Xander, please do not do..." There have been nights without sleep. Moments of sheer terror as I wondered where you had gone. And times where I wished there was a volume button installed when the umbilical cord was cut.

So yes, it is hard.

And yet...

None of it compares to the joy of watching you hug your brother. How tender you are with people. How much you love your Daddy, grandparents, and cousins. How you run wild with your friends and hoot for joy. The day you took your first steps, smiled your first smile, and made your first joke are beyond compare.

As I have the great privilege to watch you grow, help you read, and soothe your fears, I am in awe of who you are and who you are becoming. Your teasing eyes, silly smiles, and enthusiastic way of approaching life teach me to wonder and be joyful too.

And still, with all of this, there is nothing that can describe the quick hugs and kisses, the minutes you cling to me when you need support, and the bliss that is reading to you when we are cuddled up before bedtime.

These moments they move too fast, my Xander. To describe being your mother as being hard is to shortchange us both.

For the record, the math hasn't been created to calculate the distance that can describe my love for you, Xander.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

My Military Childhood

I grew up military. I lived in 7 provinces and was in Europe during the Cold War. My life involved moving and Christmases in new places and always having new friends. It meant ski vacations in Switzerland and floating in the Mediterranean in Spain one summer. It means I have seen a great deal of Canada and lots of European countries. It also inspired me to go to Asia by myself as a young adult.

But it also meant that I grew up knowing for sure what guns and bombs were. I was shipped home from school more than once because of a bomb scare. My father was gone for 2 six month stints to the Middle East before my second birthday. I grew up knowing that at any time, my father could go to war. That he could die for our country. And that at any time, I was representing our country. I knew all of that before my birthdays had added up to double digits.

I've not been part of the military community for a while now. My Dad retired and I grew up and married someone who was not military. We have lived in the same house for 7 years this month, which seems like an eternity to my gypsy soul.

But my heart is still there. I cry for the fallen soldiers -- every one -- in Afghanistan. And I am incredibly proud of each and every soldier and each veteran.

I've written about this before. My connection and my tears. But tonight I saw a video that made my breath catch in my throat, because it is all of this and more. It's part of my life and their lives: each and every soldier and family member who has been involved.

Please watch and listen closely.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Picture Input

I have a load of pictures from our summer vacation. I put a load of them on Facebook, so if you are my "friend" there, then feel free to take a look. Not long after our beautiful summer vacation in New Brunswick (we drove there and back and spent a day in PEI too), I bought a picture frame to put a few pictures in and hang on our fireplace.

My only problem is picking pictures.

I want these two for sure:

Our feet on Cavendish beach. Liam a bit reluctant to play along.
Xander and Liam at Hopewell Rocks, NB...walking the ocean floor!
Now, the big catch is I have 2 spots for landscape photos and 2 for portraits. Here are my other choices:

Hopewell Rocks: Xander muddy, Liam touches the ocean for the first time, and Xander in the ocean for the first time.

Cavendish Beach: Liam and two of Xander in the sand.

Miscellaneous: by a lighthouse and then malarky in the park.

Give me some feedback, please. And some reasoning. Remember to choose one landscape and one portrait photo.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Xander Jumps

Xander has issues with separation. In fact, we are in the process of having him do some work to deal with severe separation anxiety. Anything new, unexpected and...well, sometimes even stuff he knows about and is fine with can create a massive meltdown. Over the last six months we've had problems with having the babysitter come over, us going out, drop offs for soccer camp (that one took 2 hours to remove him from my legs the first day), concerts, and school.

We've also had issues with swimming lessons. I got to be that mother who dragged her screaming kid to the pool every day for lessons this summer (he did 2 four week stints over the summer). It was horrid for all of us.

Xander has taken swimming before. In fact, he's been at it since he was 2.5 years old! However, he did have a bit of a scare over the summer, where he went under for a split second and Daddy didn't catch him.

Last spring we had a series of private lessons with Peggy. Peggy refuses to hear the word "can't" at swimming. She's a motherly type and coaxes a bit, but with firmness. Xander likes her and trusts her. So, this fall, when he ended up with Peggy as his instructor, he was over the moon (let's not talk about the one day when Peggy's son was sick and we had a replacement instructor, since it could have been worse...much worse!). And Peggy was excited to have him too.

It turns out that although Xander is reluctant and takes a while to warm up to swimming, he is doing fairly well. He's swimming front stroke and back. He glides well. He jumps in like crazy and...surprise, surprise!...he loves to dive in. Peggy gets very wet teaching Xander and his classmate Zach. And she laughs doing it. She thinks they are a riot.

Today Peggy had great news: the boys were going to jump off the diving board for the first time.

Xander was not happy. It was new and scary. He didn't want to do that. He had every excuse in the book. And Peggy just said, "You LOVE to jump in and I never let you do anything you can't do. I am always there for you." They did their first few things in the deep end of the pool. Diving, swimming, gliding. And then they got lifejackets on and jumped off the side of the pool. It was all great.

Then it was time to jump off the diving board. Xander went first. He shook and trembled a little as he walked out. Held tight to the silver handles, then cautiously let go and inched his way across the board to the edge. He listened to Peggy and put his toes over the edge of the board, took a breath, made a grimace.....AND JUMPED!!!!

The first thing he said when he surfaced a moment later was: "That was FUN!!!"

Ha! Sometimes trying something new is a great thing. Sometimes there is fun in it.

Good work, Xander!

Monday, October 25, 2010


I grew up knowing that I was smart. I was told that I was smart in every way from the time I could walk and all the way through my school days. I was an adult and living on my own before I didn't have at least a weekly conversation that included one of my parents or relatives or friends telling me how smart I was.

Sounds like a great thing, doesn't it.

Except that in my world "smart" came with expectations. I was supposed to behave better than the average 7 year old (mostly, I understand that I did). I was only supposed to take academic courses...all of the academic courses in high school. My father still occasionally mentions how I did not take chemistry in high school! And did so on my graduation day from university. (Insert a deep sigh and an eye roll here.)

I was supposed to be perfect.

How does a person live with the expectation of perfection? Especially when the other message that you get is that you are failing all the time.

My father, though blessed with many wonderful traits, is not a man of patience for himself or others. And he always feels as though he is failing, thus projecting that onto his kids. If I wasn't getting marks over 80%, then I was failing. I didn't take the courses he wanted me to take, so I failed. These days, it is that I don't have a child who is beautiful, smart, healthy kids are boys! (Now, if anyone were to take issue with his grandsons, there would be hell to pay! He adores them. He just wants a granddaughter too.)

It's not that these are smacks of failure. Billboards advertising it. Or out and out telling me that I have failed. More like whisperings and suggestions of other things I should have done or ought to be doing. Subtle undercurrents. You could miss them. I did for a long, long time.

What does a person do with an expectation of perfection and a whispering voice that says you are failing? How does a person dig out from under all of that to just be?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Seminar for Writers

Last week I went to a seminar by the PWAC on pitching articles to magazines. The editors were fantastic and gave some really informative tips on how do do a pitch properly. I've taken a couple of courses on writing for magazines and certainly done a fair amount of reading about, but nothing was as detailed as this hour and a half.

And then came question time.

Do you ever have the feeling you may be the smartest person in the room? Many of the people in my circles are very smart. We have surrounded ourselves with friends who are incredibly smart; some of them know it and others are oblivious to it, but they are smart. So I was singularly unprepared to sit in a room of people who identify themselves as writers and hear the questions that they asked. It felt a bit like a showing of the worst of these people.

Can I fax you a copy of my previous work, because the one I have scanned is a bad scan. (Umm, either scan it again yourself or get someone to scan it.)

I've written a load of books and wondered if I can make a relationship with an editor without sending in pitches. (Hey guy, do you know that this makes you sound lazy? And yeah, the answer is not unless you already know an editor. Do the work!)

What if I have another idea when I am researching and writing an article for a magazine. (Getting new ideas is the lifeblood of writing. Be happy. But don't repeat the research and quotes in another article. No one wants repeats. No matter how much you rephrase that question!)

How can I negotiate rates? (Seriously? Most of the people in this audience are here because they want to learn how to pitch effectively, which means that they don't have much experience. Without the experience, you say "Thank you so much for this money for my work. Can I pitch something else and do more work for you." As you get better and known for providing good work, you will get better pay or be able to negotiate better pay. Oh yeah, and knowing your audience is a good start when writing, as well as when speaking.)

I loved the editors and was not a fan of the audience, but boy did I feel like I was one of the smartest people in that room. I did leave full of ideas and potential angles to approach magazines. I do wish I'd had a smart question or two to ask though. However, sometimes it is smart to just sit and listen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Elevators and Parking Spaces

I've been having a few different dreams lately that involve elevators and parking spaces. I am often riding up and down the elevators, aimlessly searching for someone or something. It's all done calmly, but I never do find the who or what I am looking for. Eventually, I stop riding the elevators and start looking for the parking spaces. And those parking spaces are never in the right order. I am looking for a certain numbered space and it is just not where I thought it would be.

I only realized this morning that I keep having these dreams.

Hmmph. It's not even something that would take a rocket scientist to figure out either. Apparently I am seeking something. And since I am tired of dreaming this, I'll be sure to let you know when I find whatever it is I am looking for.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sneaking Out

We are now just wallowing in the whole hand, foot, and mouth disease fiasco. Liam is almost better. Xander has yet to fall prey to it. And Ray and I both have it. And yes, despite the promises of well-known medical websites (and our doctor), you can in fact get the whole thing as an adult. My mouth and Ray's mouth and fingers beg to differ with the "adults may get flu symptoms, but are unlikely to get any blistering". But we're special that way!

I'm sick, but also restless. The boys are restless. Today we kept our germs on our property and did some yard work. Breathing on NO ONE. But yesterday, we snuck out and enjoyed the full glory of a Thanksgiving weekend in Ontario.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Yeah, Sharing CAN be a Bad Idea

This morning our two munchkins were all but dangling from the ceiling fans. All day yesterday, Xander kept begging every 30-60 minutes to go outside. He said, "I'm all cramped up inside." Fair enough, but Ray was working, I still had a fever, and Liam was still quite sick.

This morning, Liam woke up and began to eat everything he could get his hands on. The blisters on his feet are not gone, but the ones on his hands have vanished. Not sure about the ones in his mouth (he was not forthcoming about that). Fevers had dropped for me and Liam. Last night we thought Xander was getting one, but he was fine this morning.

So we had kids who were crazed and adults who were feeling the cabin fever too. We were all shack whacky! Add that it was the most beautiful fall day too, and we decided to risk going out for a bit.

The kids played in our front yard and then with the kids across the street (who have parents who know we are all sick). Then we went in search of a place to buy fresh apples and pumpkins. Ended up going for a beautiful drive up the Niagara Escarpment and then stopping at a farm market place.

Thankfully, due to the long weekend and other factors, there were only a few other families there. We had a snack together, took a tractor/wagon ride and then went through a corn maze, and then played in the sandbox and on the hay maze. Not long before we left, I asked Ray to look at my tongue, which was really hurting.

So much for "if adults get hand, foot, and mouth disease, they get flu symptoms, but not the blisters". Yeah, the underside of my tongue and back of my throat beg to differ.

Sharing with Liam was a really, really bad idea. Apparently an afternoon out was also a bad idea. Thankfully it was only a few people and we didn't come into close contact with anyone. Hopefully I didn't just spread this one all over Ontario.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

When Sharing is Not a Good Idea

On Tuesday morning after swimming, Xander and I went for a few groceries. He behaved really nicely and we choose yogurt popsicles as a treat. After lunch Liam and Xander both ate them. Liam is a bit slow and the yogurt was getting all over, so I helped him. I took a big lick and he took a big lick. In fact, I was teaching him how to put the end of it all in his mouth at once, so I put it in my mouth and then he would put it in his mouth.

And Wednesday morning Liam woke up with a huge fever and lesions in his mouth. He now has them on his hands and feet too.

Yup, that's right: Liam has Hand, Foot and Mouth disease.

Fun times in our house!

What do you think my chances of catching it are?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Tale of a Closet

We've lived in our tiny house for almost 7 years now (at the end of November) and until now all of our love and attention has been paid to the common areas. We've redone a bathroom, put venetian plaster in our library (don't...take my advice, and just don't), and painted. We've also put in a new fireplace. But the one place that has had no attention is our bedroom. We moved in, hung up our clothes and put the furniture in appropriate places.

I hate the colour of our bedroom. It's a nasty shade of brown, with a lovely little border that has cherubs all over it. In case you are wondering, I am not a fan of the cherubs and the paint is not only a cruddy colour, but it was put on with streaks and such. It's driven me a little crazy since we moved in, but I didn't know what to do with it.

Well, I know now.

So we started with the closet.

We have a tiny little walk-in closet with a window in it. Sounds weird, but I like it. My uncle put a light in it for us when we did the bathroom reno. Even better. But it was old and badly done. So that was the first thing on my list.

This is the before.
Ray's half:

My half:

Decidedly mediocre. (Check out the colour and the border on the outside.)

So we peeled off two layers of wallpaper, including a layer on the ceiling. Then puttied it up and sanded. And puttied and sanded and puttied and....yeah, you get the picture. Then we painted.

At which point, we went shopping around for different closet solutions. We made a sight-seeing trip to the Home Depot. They had some decent options, but since our closet is an odd size, we thought we'd check out a specialty store. What a bust that was. Worst.Customer.Service.EVER. In the end, we went back to the Home Depot and bought our stuff there and Ray trimmed it all up to fit.

First pics of the new colour and there's the top bracket in!

My side, on top:

Check out the shoe rack on the bottom!Ray's side:
All that was left was to put in the clothing.
My side:
And Ray's side:

So, that's the tale of our closet reno.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


I have to think about ways to reward myself. I'm especially bad at it. Or have become especially bad at it. I was talking to my friend Kristen about them and she says that stickers still work wonderfully for her high school kids.

Hmmm. Stickers. I would love some kind of sticker.

I used to do all of my work for the shiny red A or A+ on my papers. one does that. And work is a place of monetary reward that goes shimmying off through the ether to debts and food and such things that were inconceivable when you are a child or a teenager. It doesn't feel like a reward.

But I've concentrated on rewarding my children: Xander gets stickers and Bakugan for good behaviour. Liam is enjoying M&Ms for using the toilet. And such looks of glee on their little faces over simple things.

I need to figure out my own simple things. The moments I live for. I need something that is bet-worthy (another story entirely). The idea of these things must make me sigh in longing.

After putting myself aside for so long, I have a discomfort with the idea of rewarding myself. Taking time to do things. Or spending money, however insignificant, on myself. I will do it for my children, my husband, and for my marriage, but somehow I forgot about myself.

Some things have come to mind:
- Time to write properly
- Time to explore the ideas I have been peculating for magazine articles
- Photographing something just for me (thanks Kris, that one is a good one)
- An hour to lounge in the tub (I used to do that all the time. Where did that go?)

I'm thinking about rewarding myself for the big and the small things. Because otherwise, what is the point?

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


I've been pondering the meaning of story. How we each have one and how our stories tangle together. But also, how we think about story and create it, share it, hide it, and sometimes revel in it.

Pictures. Music. Radio. Film. Television. Books. Magazines.

We are beings who wallow in story. Even as we live it, we wallow in it. Smelling, touching, tasting the edges of it. Sometimes consciously, but often not.

Even writing this blog is an expression of my story. Your identifying with it is part of your story.

I wonder how my boys will feel about the beginnings of their stories being mixed here, with mine.

So, here is my thought for you for the day: think about your stories and how you are expressing them. Reach out with them, touch them a bit, handle them, and then come back and tell me what came of it.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Recommendation of the Summer

I don't often flog books I love here. I love a lot of books, so that could be a post on its own. If you look in the background of my pictures, I am sure that most of them are littered with books. I've got a particular love of Guy Gavriel Kay. And I have eclectic tastes: from Canadian literature to Sci-Fi to Fantasy. Throw in the odd biography, the paper, some blogs, the odd get the picture. If I can read it, likely I will.

In the pile of books I read this summer, one floats right to the top.

I am going to be up front with you: I have met the author. She is a very good friend of a good friend of mine. Two years ago, we spent a day shopping and eating and just hanging around between Christmas and New Year's. It was amazing. I wish that she lived closer, because I would love to get to know her better. So I would have read this book anyway.

But I LOVE this book.

The characters are faulty and beautiful. You hate and love and desire them. The story is complex and fantastic. And it moves along. (I cannot stand it when you are plugging along and trying to figure out when the darn thing is going to get off the ground.) This story had me from the first paragraph and had me running along behind her to get to the next page and next scene and next...

When I finished, I wanted to pick it up and start again. I wanted to experience it all over again, but with knowing what was coming. And yet, I mourn that I can never have that experience of not knowing how it will end again. I am jealous that you can have that still.

I'm going to foist this book on as many people as I can over the next few months. And hope that the sequel comes out soon. (I hear November, which is soon, but not soon enough at this moment.)

So go! Run to the bookstore! Get it for your kindle or whatever electronic device. Read it. Wallow in it. Breathe in these splendid characters.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Fan Expo 2010

We took the kids to Fan Expo last year and had such a good time, we thought we would try it again this year. What's not to like? Superheroes! Costumes! Comics! This is the stuff of dreams for little boys, so off we trek. We get a nice hotel room, eat out, and call it an end of summer mini-vacation.

We went on Friday night, because last year on Saturday the crowds were wild.

We found the Batmobile!

Notice the light saber. This is Xander's first light saber. On the odd occasion, I play "cool mommy" and get him something unexpected. These suckers light up and make noise: for $10. How could I resist. Keep an eye out for it, because he loved that thing.

We took a good look around the one side of the Silver Snail booth. Yup, only one side. It was huge. Here's the Silver Surfer at the top of the booth and then a few pics of my boys.

(Liam wasn't as thrilled overall about Fan Expo. There were a lot of people and he was too big for me to carry this year -- last year I used the Ergo -- so he was pretty low to the ground and got a lot of bags near his personal space.)

And if you have a light saber, you have to find a Darth Vader (in Lego, no less) to go with it. (Get a load of Xander's face!)

And the funniest story of the weekend was when we were walking along and I was talking to my little guy and said his name and these two young ladies, who were all done up in costumes, heard me say "Xander" and they loved his name so much that they had to have their picture taken with him. Funny, no?

No sooner had Xander left his new girlfriends, than this skanky booth bunny nice young lady gave my kid a temporary tattoo. (This kid really was a chick magnet on Friday night.) Said tattoo has yet to fade at all...a week later.

And then there are the storm troopers. Never forget a few storm troopers in the mix!
At the end of the night, we stopped off to see some friend who were working Fan Expo. Say hi to Scott, Denholm, and Mary.
And on our way back to the hotel...
We had originally planned to steer clear of the Expo on Saturday, because last year was such a zoo. But then our friends Deb and John wanted to go and we couldn't resist the idea of exploring with friends. So we stayed. Also, it was in a larger space this year, so our delusions led us to believe it wouldn't be quite so busy. Wrong! It was packed!

John went into the fray to get tickets for their family and we met up with Deb and Devon outside and played a bit. Because, you know, not all the fun is inside.

Of course, Xander made a few friends along the way.
And John came out with tickets in hand. Hooray!
(Sorry John, the one with you looking up is blurry.)

John may just be the biggest Batman fan on earth. So he got to meet Adam West and let us not forget that you can sit in the Batmobile....
And I especially liked the back of the shirts worn by the staff of this exhibit:

Did I mention the costumes?

Devon and Liam would go up and have their pictures taken, but Xander was suddenly overtaken by shyness. It might have been the paparazzi-like atmosphere.

There are always some hidden gems.
Did I mention the crowds? These shots are just the bare minimum. I should have gotten a few of the line up outside the convention hall, just trying to get in.

I think Liam had a bit better time later in the afternoon, when they were playing at Deb and John's house.

Apparently the dressing up part stuck with him though.