Friday, February 26, 2010

Almost TWO

I'm in a bit of shock and denial. It seems that my wee little baby is turning two.

I know...TWO?!?

How oh how did this happen? It was really just yesterday that Jennifer and I were teasing Michele about having a leap year baby...and then I was in labour and it was ME having a leap year baby. A baby who shocked us all by arriving 22 days early. Perhaps I am remembering it all the more, because my parents are returning tonight from their annual vacation to Cuba. Two years ago, they returned only to find that they'd missed Liam's birth by less than 2 days! (I'm still not sure that my Mom has completely forgiven Ray for going and picking them up at the airport and saying NOTHING to them about his arrival. I know that I am not done thanking him for helping me surprise them!)

Yes, two years ago.

A two years that have gone fast and slow at the same time. Full of changes, loss, and victories. First steps, small words, lots of crying, and lots of love.

This year Liam doesn't have a "real" birthday, because his day exists in the moments between February 28th and March 1st. And to answer the never-ending question: he is a February baby, so we celebrate in February. Lucky Liam, because not having an official birthday three years out of four means that we celebrate all weekend. So tomorrow we start by having a party with our friends and family.

I still cannot believe that two years has passed.

From first sight....

To first year...
And now...

The best part of all is that we are looking forward to the surprises that will come...
We love you, little man!

P.S. We would be ever so grateful if we could have more sleep over the next two years than you allowed over the past two years. Consider it your gift to us.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Old Man Winter Shows His Face!

We've had a fairly uneventful winter this year, so the kids haven't had a chance to play in the snow until this week. They've been enjoying it every moment they can ever since old man winter showed up.

I'm especially amused by Liam trying to make snowballs and throwing himself on the ground to do a snow angel (I need a picture of that!). Too darn cute!

Monday, February 22, 2010

In the Wake of the Quiet...

I knew that quiet was a bad thing. I talked about it in my last post. About how quiet often means the kids are into something. That I had been quiet lately because we'd been sick. It's true. That's why I was quiet here. But alas, in the wake of quiet comes questioning and disbelief.

Kevin Jones is dead.

It's unlikely that any of you reading this blog know who Kevin was, but that's okay. Kevin was my high school classmate. We were in a small class. I believe it was 62 or 63 of us that graduated. Within that class there was an even smaller French Immersion class. I did not graduate in French Immersion in the end, but that is another post. I did do my grade ten year in that class. There were 7 or 8 of us. Kevin was also in that class. We weren't the best of buddies. I don't know his first pet's name or his favourite colour. But he was part of my life. I told my husband that we were "good acquaintances". It wasn't quite friendship, but more than just passing in the hallway. We shared a time and a history and a certain knowledge together. And in classes that are this small, there is a feeling among most of friendship.

If I had met Kevin in the street, I would have hugged him.

But that time has passed. Kevin is gone. I'm hard pressed to put a finger on the grief that comes with the passing of someone who was more than a classmate, but not quite a bosom friend. There is loss though. And surprise. Shock. Horror.

At 35, you don't expect mysterious death to visit a classmate. At 35, part of me feels a little like we are all invincible. We're not, I know. But we should be.

And this has been a hard six months: Lisa, Mary, Shirley, Stella, Rolly, and now Kevin. All gone. Friends, acquaintances, people who were almost family, my mentor, and now a classmate. We've only had a few weeks here and there since the beginning of October to try to make peace with these passings, before another one happens and sends me into another tailspin.

Honestly, I am not over Rolly's death yet. I still have no peace. No answers. No closure. And no idea how to go about having those things. Forming them for myself, because of distance.

And then Kevin.

I really want someone to tell me that this will end soon. That this pattern of deaths will break. That I will not wake up tomorrow or next week to yet another loss. Yes, I know that no one can assure me of that. No one knows one way or another.

So I am blundering my way through these deaths, just as we all blunder through death, and hoping that there will be enough time before the next one, so I can gather myself together.

For now, all I can do is say goodbye to Kevin. And honour those who have left us by trying to live my own moments as fully as possible.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


As a Mom, you learn that sometimes quiet is a sign of trouble. When my kids are quiet, often they are getting into something. This is more true for Xander than Liam. And it is not just quiet that defines their trouble. Lately Xander being in trouble is often preceded by Liam screaming (Xander has thinks that if he hangs on to a toy, that it is his and Liam cannot play with it...he's learning that we don't put up with hoarding toys and that if he is not playing with it, Liam will get it.).

In any case, the reason I have been so quiet here is because we are coming off a week of sick. It started with Xander, who was sick for about 3 days with a fever of 102 and a wicked cough. He got better fairly quickly, although he had a one afternoon and evening of relapse later in the week. Liam was a couple days behind Xander, but his was mainly a fever of 103. By the fourth day, he had acquired the intermittent cough of a three-pack-a-day smoker and we took him in to the doctor. He was pronounced to have infections in both ears and pneumonia.

Needless to say, my work week was shot!

So I have spent my week wheedling liquids, food, and Advil into tiny people. Cuddling. Wiping noses. Checking on"monkeys", which is our term for taking temperatures.

The other day I told Xander that I was sorry he was feeling bad, only to be told, "It's not your fault Mommy. It's the monkeys' fault for having a party in there." And said with the utmost seriousness too.

Of course, one cannot be breathed upon, sneezed on, coughed on, and snotted on without some measure of risk to one's own health.

So the last few days I have found myself less energetic. Feeling a little achy. And today I have a low-grade fever of 99+ degrees. Fun stuff.

So I have been a little quiet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lent: Missing the Point

Today, someone on a forum I frequent was asking about Lent and "giving things up" for 4o days as a tradition of Lent. This has long been a subject that is near to my heart, as I have thought of it a lot and had a fair number of encounters surrounding the sacrifices requested by the Catholic church during Lent. Even recently, I have noticed a number of people who are giving up electronic habits for Lent. And I find myself wondering if they are missing the point.

My response to that post sits so nicely in my head that I need to put it here too...

Keep in mind that anyone out there can be stupid about any old tradition.

I was Catholic, so I "get" Lent. And I had the same problem as you do, years ago. I was working with a bunch of Catholic girls who were crazy about sticking to every rule that was ever made about Lent. It was nuts. I think they dug a few up from 1242, if you know what I mean. And I would ignore them. Although I understand Lent, I don't do and never have done these things. They'd say stupid things to me like "God will punish you for eating meat on a Tuesday." It was ridiculous, and a little sad on their parts. I would challenge them and tell them I highly doubted that God was interested in my culinary choices of the day.

In the end, this annoyed me so much, that I went to my 80-something year old grandmother. Keep in mind, this is a woman who has a grade 3 education. She was removed from her home in Poland at the age of 14 and sent to a Nazi work camp. And she is a staunch Catholic. So I told her what they were saying, as I was interested in her spin. Frankly, I thought it would be the same as the girls I was working with. Not so...

She said, "No. You fast or give up things for Lent for YOU to feel closer to God. God will not be angry at you. God did not make these rules. But sometimes doing without makes you feel closer to God and understand Jesus more."

I am no longer Catholic. And I have struggled recently with the scattered remains of my faith. But I can understand what she was saying. Her explanation makes sense to me: as a sacrificing of yourself to understand a sacrifice made for you. Even on a small scale.

I'm not sure of much in religion, but I am sure that most Christians who practice a Lenten sacrifice are completely missing the point.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What defines us...

Tonight the Olympic games begin in Vancouver. It's a time for Canada to show our colours and take pride in our identity, while playing host to an international event. Which is interesting, when you think about it, because Canada is very much "international" with our mosaic ideology and history of immigration. Hosting the Olympics and inviting our friends, neighbours and international colleagues into our home is an extraordinary event. And if nothing else, the people I know and the places I have been are all rooted in a deep sense of hospitality, so I hope that those who come and enjoy these games, either in person or via television, will find themselves enjoying that hospitality and thinking about returning to our land.

I've lived all over Canada and visited from east to west coast, plus as north as Labrador. I've seen the northern lights dance and the wind caress the prairie crops. I've put my feet in the Great Lakes and stood in our Rockie Mountains. My family has served overseas in the military.

In my soul, I carry all of Canada.

As a university student, my minor was Canadian Studies. I'm fascinated by where we have been and what defines us. In the 1990s, many Canadian scholars focused on what were are not. We are not American, not British, and not French. Although our relations with our American neighbours and our British and French ancestors are important too. But time has gone on and I have noticed whisperings and mullings of what we are now.

The opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics did show so much of us, from past to present. We trotted out many of our celebrities, from kd lang to Brian Adams to Rick Hansen to Wayne Gretzky and many, many more. There were speculations in some circles of a visual of Terry Fox to do the final lighting of the flame. Although as a country we will never forget Terry, the image of a collection of our heroes and athletes lighting the flame together is a strong one and I find myself proud of that choice.

I'm still mulling over the imagery from the musical and visual presentations. The fiddling in the fall presentation spoke to me deeply. It was the mosaic and my heart soared to recognize it. Weavings of fiddle music that has different roots from coast to coast, but yet has grown into a single voice. A voice that is our country and our people. Those differences define us and challenge us. Seeing them come together in beauty should inspire us.

As a daughter of the Prairie (I was born in Edmonton, Alberta and also spent my teenage years in Manitoba and Saskatchewan) and a student of Canadian literature, I could smell Prairie summer and feel the wind for a moment during the Prairie presentation. Watching the one artist fly as the wind made me ache a little inside. Now I know why I dream of flying frequently and why some summers come and I turn to my husband and tell him that I have to go home to the Prairie and see the wheat blow this summer.

The poetry of Shane Koyczan was breathtaking. You too, Shane, define us.

As you think about the images and the people you came to know tonight, please know that this really is Canada. We are a young, vibrant nation. Strong. Complex. Full of life. Our history carries burdens and blessings. Our people are as varied as the fish in the ocean and our definition is just as slippery.

I am always proud to be Canadian. Tonight though, I am proud that we can stand up and speak about what it is to be Canadian and to begin to show the world the beauty that lies within our land and our people.

If this is your first taste of Canada, I say: "Welcome!"
If you are returning, I say: "Welcome back!"

Monday, February 08, 2010

This is the part that drives me bonkers

I'm in the middle of a technical writing project and I have reached the part where it drives me crazy. I feel like I am in the bowels of hell right now. In the beginning of a project, you have the early learning about the item/project/company. Later on, you get to write like mad. But this part here is where I pull and tug at different pieces and try to get them to all line up. It's like wrestling a herd of cats, I tell you! And I am just frustrated all the time.

I do know it will fall into place. I know that I can write it. I know that there will come a moment when the pieces will fall into place and I will understand it all. And then it almost writes itself.

But right now I am just tugging at it and trying to fix it all. And it's incredibly frustrating. These are the moments when I think about taking up hair dressing or nails or something else...anything else.

Remind me that the light is coming soon. Please.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Raw Grief

I've experienced death before. Death of grandparents. Death of a friend's baby. Death of colleagues and people in my circle. I'm 35, so it would be odd if I had not experienced it. In fact, the last few months have been rife with death. It started with a woman named Lisa, who owned the bookstore that my husband loved going to in his hometown. He'd known her for about 20 years. I knew her in passing. Then my husband's cousin's wife lost her mother. We knew her too, but we were mostly sad for Karen's loss. My best friend from junior high, Kim, lost her mother suddenly to a stroke. My grief was deeper there. I knew Kim's mother well, had spent many hours in her home and under her care as a child, and she was my Mother's age. It hit home.

A few weeks later, we found out that an old family friend, one we'd lost track of, had passed away.

It's felt like every few weeks in the last few months, there has been someone else.

Last night, Ray and I went to see Avatar in the movie theater. I have other posts in me about that movie, but when I came home, my Mom told me that Kim had called. She'd heard just that evening that Rolly had died.

Roland Denis Ouimet was my eighth and ninth grade teacher. I was 13 when I met him. I had only been back in Canada for a year at that time. My family was the lone military family in that area, and there was little understanding for the places we'd traveled to and the life we led. I was bullied mercilessly. Rolly discovered that I loved to read, so he not only helped me to complete my required classwork faster, but then he fed me the books. I read more and more. Soon, I read through the entire library in our little school. He was creative; we had one day a cycle (we had a 7 day school cycle, rather than a Monday to Friday schedule) where we went to the high school in the next village and he got permission for me to borrow books. He spoke to me and guided me through reading.

He set me on the path that would lead me to do a literature degree and become a writer. He believed in me.

For a long time, Rolly was my teacher and then my mentor. Most of all, he was my friend. For almost 23 years now, he has been my friend.

And now, suddenly, at the age of 59, he is gone.

I am not sure how to process this loss. The grief is raw. I have no details. And I have no tangible way to say goodbye to this man who was a friend and a mentor. I feel like there are still things to say. Questions to ask. And I feel this grief in a way that is raw and encompassing.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Updating the Sleep Situation

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! We're sleeping. Mostly. And I didn't want to disturb the equilibrium by talking about it. So I've been a bit quiet on the issue lately.

Nevertheless, it seems to be working.

After my last post about the sleep monster, I did manage to get to talk to Tracey. Can I say again how phenomenal she is? She is phenomenal! In the middle of her own crisis, she called me back and made sure we were okay. Helped us tweak what we were doing and brought us to the other side of the problem.

So, it turns out that we were shushing him too much. Crap, I didn't realize there was a "too much" to that. This is why we need Tracey. It seems that Liam has taken the shushing for talking to him and has chosen to argue back. Thus the screaming at us for 3 nights running. Boy do I feel silly. I wish we'd just called her to begin with, instead of thinking we could wait him out. There is no waiting this child out, it appears. So we cut the shushing down. I laugh a little when I think about Tracey's "about every 16 minutes", because 16 is such an odd number. But it made the point. We shush infrequently now. He knows we are here. Now get over it and sleep, buddy boy.

Also, after the couple of times Liam threw up in the beginning, Ray was nervous about him causing himself to throw up again. So he would go in and check on him. He was also giving Liam back his soother when he threw it. You know this goes nowhere good right? Ray had the best of intentions. Now we go in for nothing.

And we have slept through the night for two nights.

But he's a wily little man, my Liam. Instead of giving it to us in the middle of the night, he's now trying both ends of the night. Two nights running he sang, yelled, threw his soother, and generally made a nuisance of himself for 2-3 hours before he would go to sleep. To no avail. Seriously, child? Do you not know that if Mommy and Daddy have it together enough to ignore your efforts to disrupt sleep at 2 am, that certainly your shenanigans at 8 or 9 pm will not move us. We are on to your game, wee man. Best to give it up.

We waited through the two nights. I am not going to say it is over, because I have a feeling with this child it will never be completely over, but it was under an hour tonight.

And then there are mornings. The first night he slept through the night, he woke up at 6:30 am. Now, I am not very happy about 6:30, because I have a personal preference for 7-7:30. We have Xander trained to a 7 am wake up. (My actual internal clock likes 8 am, but 7 will do.) So I did not greet 6:30 am with enthusiasm, but felt I should give the kid a break, because he did sleep through the night. And what would making him fuss or cry or scream in his crib for 30 minutes accomplish anyway?

Yeah, I was about as wrong as a human being can be. This morning we were greeted with a 5:50 am wake up as a result of our lack of insisting he stay in bed until 7 am. And if I was enthused about 6:30 am, you can imagine the joy in me at ten to six. Yeah, not so much. So this morning we bit the bullet and let him cry about it.

Liam's developed a couple of interesting tactics to make us come to him. First there is the soother tossing, which boggles my mind, because I know he loves his soother and really, wouldn't that be like having a whole chocolate cake in your hands and then deciding you were mad at someone and throwing that cake on the ground? Who loses? Not the person you were mad at, for sure. YOU. Liam will eventually figure that out...or be broken of his soother habit. Either way, Mommy and Daddy will win that little battle too. Hopefully he gets that memo soon! The whole soother tossing phenomenon aside, there is also the yelling at the top of his lungs and now he is actually making himself cough and cough to try to get us to go in and check on him. Smart, no? I've actually watched him turn it on and off. Truly an act that should be given an Emmy.

It almost makes me wonder what will be next.

He'll get it. Especially since we are getting better rest than we used to and can wait this out a bit.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What I want to be when I grow up.

So, I am in my mid-30s and still I contemplate this question. Only, sometimes it is more like "what I want to be when my kids are in school". Because there is an assumption that them going to school will bring change to the way I work.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I've been working contracts and piecemeal writing gigs for 2.5 years now. It's given me the opportunity to write and edit a wide variety of material.

Before this, I was a technical writer and a technical editor. I loved technical editing, but was not as fond of the writing. It was good, but it didn't make my heart sing. And it is very, very stylized. Plus, each firm uses slightly different styles. But, technical writing brings in good money.

So, sometimes I take the jobs that are incredibly interesting and sometimes I take the ones that pay well. It's a juggling act.

I'm doing a technical writing gig right now. The people are nice and the company seems decent. The project is fairly short, but challenging. It's a nice balance.

However, I am reminded of the reasons I gave up the corporate world. Debates over who has the time to do something and who has what information are pretty common in this environment. I understand it and am patient, but a long-term commitment to this kind of situation would not be in the best interest of my own sanity. It was great to dress up today, but tomorrow I have no idea what I will wear. And surely by the end of the week I will miss my jammies. One of the big perks to working from home is an extended wearing of jammies when the mood strikes.

I've also spent the last couple of years experimenting with genres. From resumes to blogs to short articles and back to technical material. I've covered a lot of different writing. With the articles and blogging I have found what I lacked in the technical world: a voice. I have a writing voice. Who knew?

So, while I won't turn down the technical contracts that punctuate my working life. And I certainly produce a darn nice manual! I find that I miss the opportunities to use this newly found voice. And as I contemplate what I want to be when I grow up, I think more and more about projects that will use that voice to its fullest.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Sometimes Definitions Surprise Me

What distinguishes those of us at the starting line from those of us on the couch is that we learn through running to take what the days gives us, what our body will allow us, and what our will can tolerate. - John Bingham, running writer and speaker

I've been running for a number of years now. I'd have to look it up, but I believe I am at 7. It might be 8. The first few years I ran 5k races. Before Xander was conceived, I ran a couple of 10k events. Between the boys, I ran my first half marathon. And this past year I ran two more half marathons.

Even by my own definitions, in my own plodding way, I am a runner. I live to put on my shoes and pace off miles. In the rain or snow or winds. There is almost nothing in the world that is more beautiful that running in the fall, with crunchy leaves underfoot. The smell of it follows me in my dreams. Although, these days, I dream of the smell of grass growing. That earthiness of spring.

So, for almost a decade now, I have marked the seasons by running new and old paths. Smelling and seeing and soaking in the world.

But I have spent a lot of time benched over the last 18 months. Very frustrating that, because I spent almost a year before it benched due to pregnancy. (Let me just say that running can be very safe when pregnant and I ran in the winter and into my 5th month with Xander, but with Liam I bled early on and was benched. He's worth it, despite my sleep complaints.) I've battled plantar fascitis, IT band injury, and now a torn spot in my hip flexor. Frustrating.

But even in my frustration I learn things.

I've been talking to my coach and to a friend's personal trainer. My coach said something beautiful...

Don't throw in the towel, this is the plight of many distance runners. We need to learn patience as we re-hab injuries along the way. Of course we also need to learn the lesson of always listening to our bodies and not training through sour pain.  Sometimes it's hard to figure out sweet and sour pain but ultimately that is our lesson so that we don't continue to run when we are injured or it just turns into chronic injury.
Yes, lessons. For sure. And I am not the most patient person to ever walk the earth, so mine is a lesson in patience too.

And my friend's personal trainer said something about "endurance athletes".

I've been chewing on his "endurance athletes" and my coach's "distance runners". Wondering when and how I got from being the little girl who holed up with books to this athlete. I still love books. I am still not the person who will play tennis or racketball (I just do not have the coordination for ball and stick sports). And no one in my high school class would believe it to know that I am the one out there running 10, 15, 20 kilometers on a Sunday morning. And yet, this is me. It is my heart and my reality.

Even when I am benched and all I can do is long for it and plan for the next time. Because the next time will come. Because I am an endurance athlete...a distance runner. It's not a resolution. I run because I have to, because my heart beats for this very reason. Even when my shoes are on the shelf and my hip aches too much to do it...this week.

Sleep Just Seems to be the Evasive Monster

We hired The Sleep Doula a couple of weeks ago. She was fantastic and got us through the worst of setting ourselves up for new habits. And she basically talked us through the three nights that followed.

We are being consistent. Painfully so. To the point where Ray has now slept two nights in the hall. Out of over 10 days, or rather, nights of effort, we have had 2 where Liam slept through and one where he wasn't bad and the wake up was less than an hour. Granted, this is better than being up for 4 hours each night, but still really, really exhausting. Really!

We had the initial 3 nights, a night of sleep, then three nights of fussing. I talked to Tracey and she thought that was a burst, which is a period of time where the sleeper regresses. So when after three nights of fussing he slept the night, I thought to myself "Hooray!!! We've whipped the sleep monster into shape." This is working.

Yeah, um, not so much. It has now been followed by THREE nights of Liam screaming at us. Xander has slept two of those nights in our bed and Ray is on the air mattress in the hall. So while I want to say that this is the burst, I have questions. How long should a burst last? If we are on three nights of this how much longer should we expect it to go? And what the hell was the three nights of complaining then?

I know there are more questions, but I am just too tired to think about it.

The big thing is that this follows our previous patterns. Only this would be about the time I would throw up my hands and try something else. Only I've tried it all, so what alternatives do I have? So I will call Tracey and hope she either has comforting words or solutions.