Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Ask Questions And You Will Find Your Way"

My morning had been total crap. I don't say that lightly. I was in the midst of a pretty extreme bout of anxiety due to situations completely out of my control; including an accident down the road from our house, resulting in a road closure and power outage at home. Driving past the accident triggered something and I was having flashbacks from the accident Thomas and I were in back in early December.

I swirled into the Tim Horton's, knowing I had an hour to get some work done. I was frantic. I ordered a coffee AND a bagel, (both unusual for me these days) which were just further signs that I was not myself this morning. As I sat down at a large table by myself and began to get myself sorted, my phone buzzing, trying to hook up the wi-fi on my tablet, switching back and forth between devices, organizing my food, I heard a voice from across the room.

"Is that one of those iPads?"

I looked up and saw a well dressed older lady sitting in front of the fireplace looking at my table littered with devices, notebooks, and my breakfast with curiosity. Normally I'm not really one to talk to people I don't know. A polite response about my technology, she complimented my sandals (I said thank-you) and I assumed we were done. I truly thought she was waiting for someone to join her. I went back to "my work".

After a minute or two
"Ask questions and you will find your way".

She said it with authority, it sounded like she was quoting someone. Maybe she was. I looked up again, and she said "That's why I was asking about your iPad, why do you need that AND your phone?"

I paused. Why do I need both? Truthfully I was navigating text messages on one, and websites on the other at that minute. But were any of them so important that I needed to be using both right at that minute? No.

So I put my "technology" down, and proceeded to have a conversation with the woman sitting by herself.
I learned about her family, her life, and how she likes to spend her time. But as she asked more questions about me, I found it difficult to speak genuinely about myself. Everything felt contrived... I'm not sure why. We spoke a little about my "business", (she found the Jamberry thing pretty intriguing) and about my other part-time job, but mostly I think she was just looking for someone to chat with and spend time with while she passed the time waiting for her next appointment.

But she managed to help me calm the anxiety, just a little. A conversation with this complete stranger helped me in a moment of weakness, without ever knowing.

Or maybe she did know.

I feel like "community" is a concept that has largely been overlooked or misunderstood by people today. I'm not saying "kids today don't go outside and play anymore" or talking about the importance of knowing your neighbours. And how things aren't the way they used to be. Community. Living in one, belonging to one; it's something different and deeper than that. It's being able to rely on each other. Being able to trust each other. My hesitance to share about my life with this woman makes me sad, looking back. She genuinely wanted to know about me. What was I afraid of? As horrible as the news makes this place seem, I'd like to believe that the world is generally full of decent human beings.

Conversation has become a lost art. I don't know where I first read or heard it, possibly in a book, but there's a Stephen R. Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People/Teens/the rest of us) quote that says "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
That's huge. When I think about our over-saturated social media society, even with commenting on each other's posts? Do we try to understand the original post, or do we simply comment because we have something to "say"?
I am absolutely guilty of this 100%, especially with my kids (both at home and at school). Thomas will be trying to explain something and before he's even finished I have it in my head what my response will be. It drives him bonkers.

And how do we begin to "listen to understand"? By asking questions. And listening to the response. Really listening. That is how we learn.

So I will try. I will try to ask questions, and I hope I do find my way, because a lot of the time I have no idea where I'm going.

And thank you Mary for looking past the forcefield of crazy I've built around myself, and chatting with the quirky girl sitting across from you. Our conversation was one of the highlights of my day.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Fournado

In honour of the "almost" four year old.

Your legs stand strong and tall, they have lost all semblence of "baby fat". You breathe deeply as you concentrate on the Lego creation you are preparing to show me.

I am overcome with how NOT a baby you are. You refer to yourself as my "Big Kid" and you clearly are. When peopple ask how old you are, it's "I'm almost four." Always looking to the next.

You have grown and changed in this last year almost as much as you did your first year. You are not a baby, you are not a toddler (I keep correcting Daddy). You will be going to school in September. You are a big kid.

Part of the growth comes from being the "Big Brother" for the past 11 months. It is still a work in progress. Sharing your parents, sharing your space, sharing attention from doting grandparents, sharing sharing sharing.

It's hard.

You get the law laid down - you are the first born of two first-borns. The expectations are high, you are our guinea pig.

I think we're doing okay, all things considered.

You are smarter than smart. Your vocabulary rivals that of kids twice your age. This is partly why we are so hard on you, we forget that you're *just* (not even) four. The words you pronounce incorrectly, or grammatically round-about sentences are reminders that you are still learning. And we should be gentle and kind. Two words you hear so often from our lips.

I keep explaining my opinions and experiences of this phase we refer to as "The Fournado"; it is as though you are experiencing ALL emotions at maximum capacity and maximum volume. The mood swings are swift and violent. If you are happy and excited, you are practically manic with squeals and giggles. If you are sad or angry, the screams and tantrums will ring through the house. You give it your all, all of the time.

You make me so crazy. Let's just be honest. There's a lot of button-pushing, and limit-testing, and some days I think I'm losing my mind. I'm not sure whose mood swings faster, yours or mine. How can I be completely overcome with love one minute, and exploding with rage the next?

In crowds and large groups, you hide behind me, you hang off of me and it drives me nuts. But I forget that you are shy, you are a little bit introverted, and that's okay. You'll warm up, you'll find your way.

You also make me so happy. You are my Sweet Pea. You can be so sweet, and thoughtful and funny. Your brother thinks the world of you. On days you aren't home, he knows that something just isn't quite right. It's too quiet. You want to s snuggle him and hug him and lift him. The first pictures of you kissing his head still bring tears to my eyes. I can still hear your voice when you came to visit us in the hospital and asked "Can I hold my baby?"
Seeing you with Nathan just reminds me of how you used to be that size, and now you aren't. And a part of me is sad, because you can't go back. But then you want to show me a new trick, or tell me something you learned, or show me a bug, and I realize - the fun is just beginning.

We're learning and growing and stumbling through this together. I love you fiercely. I simultaneously want time to speed up, and slow down. But never doubt my love for you. And know that I am desperately trying to do the best I can for you.

Happy 4th Birthday Thomas

Riding the Merry-Go-Round at Santa's Village, part of his "pretty happy" day

A pretty definitive Thomas picture

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On the Eve of Your Second Birthday

July 16, 2013

Dear Thomas,

Tonight is your last night as a one year old. I thought I would give you a glimpse of what you're like, on the precipice of a new year.

Right now we are (for the most part) enjoying our summer together. Your family and some buddies celebrated your birthday on Sunday with an epic Nemo themed(ish) party. I worked way too hard but it was fun. Your Aunts and Uncles built (yes! Built!) you an amazing sandbox which you love like crazy, especially now that it's filled with new trucks and things to dig. Which brings me to my next point; you love trucks, tractors and things with wheels. You love to dig. You love sand. I hate sand, but I love you. So I put up with it. Mostly.

We are attempting potty training... I don't want to push too hard, and you don't seem overly interested. Which is fine. You are absolutely exhibiting traits of the "terrible two's" on a fairly regular basis. You are just so advanced that you've been practicing your terribleness for at least 3 months. You have very particular ideas about which things should happen when and how (just like some other people I know) and when you don't get your way you get very upset. "Mommy! Stop singing!"
I will remind you of a conversation we had last week which basically went like this:
"Milk? Drink? Milk?"
"Thomas, I forgot to bring you a drink. We don't have any milk with us."
"Milk. Milk please Mummy? Milk. DRINK."
This went on (without cease) for at least 20 minutes before I finally decided to bail on the park, and found a drink (but not milk) in your bag in the car. You rock a ladybug backpack, like it's nobody's business.

Every now and then I get exasperated and want to scream and cry... It's very frustrating when we don't get our own way. I understand. I think part of it comes from the fact that you are SO smart and so articulate. You have more words than most other two year old's I know. I don't know what to attribute that to, (except for Dad's theory that you sucked out both our brains as a baby) but I think it's awesome when you parrot me.

You love Hobbes (sometimes painfully), you worship your Grandpa (he has the tractors after all) and I think you'd really love to be able to spend more time with Daddio. I don't know where the "o" thing came from, Daddio is clearly because you're a Cool Cat from the fifties... But Mummy-o, Thomas-o? I don't get it. It sure is cute though.

You love books. And that is fantastic because your whole family loves books. I can't wait to read you the Harry Potter series. We read James and the Giant Peach a few months ago, it only took a few weeks! But your attention span for the sound of my voice was impressive, since there aren't many pictures in that book. But I think if you were given the opportunity, you would likely sit and watch t.v. all day... Couch potato!

You've recently started fighting sleep and naps like some kind of demon... I'm not sure if it's the heat or a growth spurt or if you've just decided you miss too much when you sleep... Honestly, your Dad and I spend some time arguing over our newly-acquired Netflix (he wants me to watch all the nerdy things... I have my limits! And so many sitcoms to catch up on!) and crashing. Very rarely are you missing anything fun! So please PLEASE start doing the napping and sleeping thing... They're so important for your parents.

You can be so sweet, caring, funny, charming and adorable. You can also be stubborn, frustrating, loud and exasperating. Basically, in most ways you are already a two-year old. Except the number of days you've been alive. You are still trying to hang on to your babyhood in many ways, (your sookie, refusing to climb up or down stairs, your stuffies - especially Hop... and that's adorable. I hope you still sleep with Hop when you're 35) but every day I see more of the little boy you are quickly (too quickly) becoming. You tuck in your stuffies, you apologize for your behaviour, patting Grandma on the back when you realize you were hurting her. I can see glimpses of who you are becoming, and I am so proud.

The last two years have been more challenging than I could ever have imagined. Parenting is not what anyone will ever be able to tell you. You will not understand until you live it. No matter what. But it has been so full of complete and utter joy. The purest joy at watching you discover something new, seeing you grow and change and become more of who you are every day.

If you could slow down a little, I'd really appreciate it. I want just a little more time to spend with my Sweet Little Pea.

I love you more than all the words and all the stars and all the drops of water in the sea. As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Girls and Boys

Possibly a little scattered. Just a little... Here we go!

Since it's September again, (how the crap did that happen, anyway?) all the super-fun programs and activities for Thom are starting up again. One of which is a playgroup at our new local community center on Mondays and Thursdays. We go and Thom plays and hangs out with his buddies and it's generally a great time (until he crashes, because it's right at nap time).

Lately as I watch Thom and his buddies play I've become more and more aware of the (seemingly innate) differences between boys and girls in terms of gender roles. As I talk to parents it seems like we don't necessarily teach little girls how to play with dolls, or little boys how to drive trucks (complete with sound effects) but it was fascinating to see the little girls show up in playgroup and head for the dolls and the kitchen and the dress-up section, where the boys headed for the tool bench and the cars and trucks. Just thought it was interesting. I was speaking with some of Mike's co-workers yesterday and they mentioned that even if you don't necessarily expose your kid to the "gender stereotype" toys and activities, they will sometimes just be drawn that way. Little girls loving dolls and pink, even though their Mom tried to avoid it etc.

On that same note though, as Thom and I were sitting playing with some farm animals (he's a little obsessed with animal sounds right now) I was looking through some of the other smaller toys that were in buckets around us being played with by the bigger kids... I was kind of shocked and appalled. There were your typical "Barbie" style toys, wearing their crop-tops and their shorty-skirts (with roller-blades, because that's practical...) but nobody's surprised by those anymore. I'm thinking more about the "boy" toys, since that's what I'm dealing with right now! The policeman had some kind of crazy blaster-gun/backpack thing that I couldn't even identify, the pirates all had swords, the cowboy had some kind of weapon, but the thing that surprised me was how BEEFY these figurines were. Muscles everywhere, even their thighs. And it got me thinking; we focus so much on body image and girls and just what are we teaching them with their Barbies and their "Bratz" dolls (the horror), but the same goes for boys. When it comes to what it means to "be a man", does it have to be all about muscles and guns?
*Disclaimer* I am totally aware that all the toys at Playgroup are donated, nor do I place any blame on the playgroup itself for the toys! They are EVERYWHERE.

If you know our family at all, you know we try to be pretty free-flowing when it comes to gender/sexuality/all of that. I don't go so far as to not call him a boy, he has the dangley bit, so he's a boy. Unless or until he tells me otherwise. A rule I like for Thom (that Mike actually came up with!) is "if he picks it, we support it". But he chooses it for himself. So if he chooses to bring home a purple hedgehog from the dollar store, that's cool (has happened). If he decides he wants to carry around a baby doll, also cool (hasn't happened yet). He came really close to pink and purple running shoes, which would have been fine with me, but once he saw the bright green, he was sold. I want him to be able to make decisions for himself when it comes to toys, clothes etc. I want him to know that being a man has nothing to do with muscles and weapons. I know a lot of this is going to fall on Mike, and I'm okay with that because I think he's got a handle on it. I want Thom to be comfortable with the person he decides to be, because we will support him no matter what!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Past 5 Years

Hey y'all! It's been a while :) Update on my life: Thom is 13 months old, (or as Mike insists, "A year and a bit!" He is *very* opposed to counting months after babies turn 1) and starting to walk! It's so exciting to see him when he takes a couple of steps, he gets so proud!

But tonight I'm gonna gush over another important boy... AKA my man. Since tomorrow is our fifth(!) anniversary, I thought I'd mark the occasion by gushing a little. I think I'm entitled.

I know there were a number of people who thought I was nuts for getting married so young, (and some people thought I must have been pregnant and that was the only reason we were getting married. Nice.) but I maintain that Mike and I were absolutely meant for one another. I've known him most of my life, and had a crush on him since I was like 10 years old. A little weird? Maybe. More like "unusual"... But I think it just furthers my argument!

We've been through so much over the course of our relationship and the past five years...

  • I finished school and teacher's college.
  • Mike changed companies, I changed many of my jobs and volunteer opportunities
  • We've seen friends and family married, divorced, have kids, new relationships, some friends have literally moved away, some have moved away in an emotional sense, and many a new friend has been made! (Hi new friends!)
  • We've sadly lost many loved ones
  • We traveled all around Ireland, man that was a good time.
  • We sold our old (new) house and bought a new (old) house
  • We brought a person into the world! And it was exciting and so scary and every day is an adventure.
There's so many other things and more specific things that I can't even recall. But through it all, there's never been a question of our commitment to one another and the strength and support we get from each other. I was raised by a strong, independent woman, to BE a strong, independent woman. Sometimes that makes it difficult to be in a successful relationship, but I have to remind Mike that I'm learning a lot of this stuff first-hand. My examples of how a marriage works were a little limited growing up (if you were one of my examples, then I so appreciate it!) so together we're learning how to be married, and how to be parents and it's exciting and scary but through it all, we stand together.

He's my soulmate, my best friend, my love. Here's to another five years, and another sixty after that!

One of my favourite wedding pictures

 Back when we were first dating! Not much has changed, except glasses and shorter hair :)

Happy anniversary darling! xoxo

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Family, by Choice

I am a very lucky lady. I am extremely close to my immediate family, and they all live so close by! My Mom and sisters and I are like four peas in a rather boisterous pod. I also have a great family of in-laws that are wonderful and supportive and also live nearby. But earlier this week I was "gently prompted" (lol) to write a post about some other amazing people in my life. Thom and I, along with my Mom went on a whirlwind road-trip down to "The County" (Prince Edward County) to visit my fantastic (and so young looking) Godparents, Donna and Denis.

These two, along with their kids (Hi Em & Mike!) have been there for our family since WAY before I was born. Donna's friendship with my Mom has always been an example of how two people can stay friends through thick and thin, and though they may not see each other as often as they'd like, you can always pick up right where you left off. Donna and Denis have been a shining example of a strong loving marriage, which I desperately needed growing up! They have raised two great kids who were (and are) friends of ours and they have a beautiful (newly renovated!) home. We were lucky enough on this very short (24 hour) trip to have dinner with Donna's family, and I love that I am as comfortable with her parents as I am with my own grandparents, they're hilarious people. Donna's 97 year old grandma was even there, and she is an amazing lady! Still in her own home and still very independent.

But when we started discussing whether Thom could call Mike (Farmer) "Uncle Mike", (and my answer was an obvious "yes!") I started thinking about what makes someone family. Everyone has a family, whether they are close with them or not, whether they even know them or not. But some people aren't as close with their family as I am. Emotionally or in terms of distance. Does that mean that they are less "family"? Not technically... But I know that some people who live far away from their biological family sometimes make a new family. A family of friends. People you can count on, for anything at any time. People who support you, who cheer you on and share your joys and tears. Who can call you out for all your crap, but still make you laugh at the end of it all. This is the relationship our family has to Donna and Denis. When we'd all be at the cottage growing up, you never knew which Mom would be telling you off if you screwed up!

I heard someone say "You can't pick your family", but I think you can't pick ALL your family. Some family you're born with, and some become family over time. You build a family with love, whether you do it biologically or through acquisition. And I love my crazy family!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Creepin' But Not Quite Crawling

It's a momentous day. Somehow I managed to convince Thom to almost "army crawl" across the playroom floor this morning! It took like 20 minutes, and it involved a lot of effort on his part, but he did it! I can just feel how close he is to crawling, and it's both exciting and terrifying. I don't know if I'm ready to have a mobile baby! But as we approach this milestone I realize (again) how fast time is passing. My squidgey little baby is becoming a busy little guy!

I just want to press "pause" and appreciate the time we spend together. We still have our moments-we always will! I'll get frustrated with his whiny sounds, he'll get mad at me when I don't know what he wants... But lately (other than teething time) we've been having some excellent times. WAY more fun than frustrations. The past few weeks we've done a lot of fun things, and I hope to do many more in the weeks to come. I don't know how long I will be "off" from work (or if I will go back) but I want to make the most of these days.

We have a fairly rigorous bedtime routine for Thom that we try to stick to. Every evening after Mike gets home, we have some playing time, jumping time and then dinner. After dinner Mike does bath-time and then Thom gets ready for bed. There's lots of giggling and laughing during these times. 5 o'clock used to be called "Yelling Hour" in our house, but most of the time that is no longer the case. When Thom is ready for bed, I feed him and then we spend some time snuggling. And honestly, there is nothing in the world I value more than those ten or fifteen minutes every day. Even when he is still wound up and he's rolling back and forth and I'm sighing, eventually he snuggles down, wipes his oily head (cradle cap) all over my face (maybe that's why my skin is so bad?) and buries his face in my neck. And my heart melts. Every time.

I know that he's growing up, (too fast!) and eventually he won't want to snuggle with his Mom to fall asleep. I have to remember that when he wants to snuggle to fall asleep at 3am... I know that this is "Mommy time", and in a couple of years it will be "Daddy time", and Mike will be his hero. At least I hope he will :) but for the time being, he's Mommy's Boy, and I can't help but love him to bits.

Look how freaking cute!