Monthly Archives: July 2009

31.

I am 31 today.  Here are 31 things about ME right now…

  1. I am happy in my own skin.
  2. I still tend to commit to things too hastily.
  3. I am madly in love with my 4 girls and the baby boy inhabiting my insides.
  4. I am madly in love with my husband.
  5. Every morning when I wake up, I immediately draw the curtains and look at the sky.  If it’s blue, I get out of bed with an extra bounce in my step.  If it’s gray, I close the curtain and lie down for an extra 10 minutes convincing myself that the sun will eventually make its presence known.
  6. I would write all day long if I could.
  7. The perfect moment for me is having all 6 (plus baby whoops) all together in my bed, squished and laughing hysterically.
  8. Curling up with a good book comes a close second.
  9. I hate wearing makeup.
  10. I lose my patience when I am tired and anxious.
  11. I am very grateful for every experience: the good, the bad, and the really bad…and for my family who inadvertently has taught my children how to value “relationships” over “things.”
  12. When I get “caught up” in trying to “catch up,” I am now able to let go and focus on what is important (see #13.)
  13. Life has been less stressful since Ever-Patient and I composed our family mission statement:  Live simply. Live healthy. Celebrate relationships. Value the Present.  Learn Continuously.
  14. I sweep/swiffer vac the floor 3 times a day.
  15. I am proud of the life I have chosen.
  16. I must do one crafty or creative thing a day.  (This includes doodling/painting/sidewalk chalking with the kids, art journaling, writing, baking, or even making random patterns on a scrap piece of paper while I’m on the phone.)
  17. My word for 2009 is RELEASE.  Focusing on this theme of letting go helped me this year whenever I encountered unexpected challenges.
  18. I have been caught up with laundry for the last 2 months.
  19. I am proud that I have cooked one meal this week. (And many “buttermilk pancake” breakfasts from scratch…because they just taste so much better and the kids love eating their berries with it!)
  20. I don’t like eating outdoors.
  21. I still love watching this: 
  22. I hate sleeping with my window open because I can’t stand the sound of the birds waking me up in the morning.
  23. I miss my daily coffee.
  24. I love jewelry…only I hate wearing it.
  25. I could spend all day at the library or my local bookstore.
  26. If I didn’t have 4 children and one on the way, I would definitely try to open one of these in town asap.
  27. I want to learn the following this year (in no particular order): to sew, to letterpress, to make homemade marshmallows, to speak Spanish, and to enjoy the months: November, December, January, and February.
  28. One of the most important things that I have learned in the last 31 years is that no amount of money in the world will change the past, change people, make you happy, give your children the “best life,” or make you feel better about who you are.
  29. When I answered the question, “What is the purpose of life?”, an answer that may be different for everyone, I stopped questioning who I was supposed to be and started to really live my life the way it was intended to be lived.
  30. If this were my last day here, I would be content with all that I’ve done and all that I’ve said in my lifetime.
  31. I miss peanut butter.
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on amusement parks.

I’ve always had mixed feelings toward the “amusement park.”

It was a prominent part of my childhood summers – Wonderland, Marineland, Ontario Place, even small-scaled Centre Island.  And of course, the amusement park that kills all other amusement parks, Disneyworld.  For me, it was an escape into a fantasy world where it was the only place you could get cotton candy and that feeling in your stomach when you were on a dip on a roller coaster.  It was on Space Mountain, when I was about 8 or 9 years old, where I fell in love with the “thrill ride.”

When you’re young, you are self-contained in your own perceptions – your eye level views.  I remember entering the park, grabbing a map, running from ride to ride, occasionally stopping for a bite of funnel cake, until it was time to leave and I would most likely pass out in the car on the ride home.  Only when I became a parent, did my perception widen and I realized how far I had fallen out of love with the theme park.

When #1 was little, I remember agonizing over taking her to the public washrooms and cringed at the food choices.  And as a parent, all you do is wait.  Wait until they get on a particular ride, wait until the ride is over, wait for them to be hungry, just waiting until you can finally go home.

You can imagine my own physical discomfort because for the last 6 years, I have been pregnant or nursing an infant during most of my trips to amusement parks.  I’m uncertain if it was due to swollen feet or the rise in ticket prices, but I soon became disgusted with the commercialization that surrounded the experience at the park.  (Yes, Disney was magical, but it better be the happiest place on Earth for $75/ticket.)  While the kids went on the rides, I would squirm on the bench in the heat and try to meditate, repeating in my head, “This is for the kids.  This is for the kids…”

This year, the end of school was fast approaching and I knew it was time for our annual trip to Wonderland with the kids and their cousins.  We go on a weekday during the last week of school to avoid lineups and before the severe heat and humidity of the summer actually kicks in.  The kids were excited and couldn’t sleep – planning their ride itinerary and #2 obsessing over Tiny Tom Donuts: “Are you sure they’re still there?” “When can we have them? After lunch? Or before we leave?” “What flavours are there again?”  On the other hand, I was dreading the outing.  I had just checked the weather and it was going to be the hottest and grossly humid day of the year and lately, I had been getting tension headaches from tight shoulders and neck.  I figured that an 8 hour walk around an amusement park was only going to result in intense back pain, tired feet, and a headache of some sort.  The night before, Ever-Patient and I too could not sleep.  We both started to collectively whine about our day ahead:  “Why do we do this?”  “This is going to kill us.” “I can’t do it…I’m already sweating!”  The one silver lining was that The Saviour would be joining us on our little adventure. I never understood why my father still loved these amusement park outings; never a complaint as he pushed around the stroller filled with various paraphernalia like sweaters, water bottles, and found objects; and he always had a smile on his face as he dashed off to a ride where he was needed to go on.  Being in my current state, rides were pretty much out of the question so my father was definitely needed for extra support especially if a child falls asleep in the stroller and needs supervision.

A few of my cousins and some of my cousins’ children also joined us and we all met up at Wonderland.  As I braced myself for the onslaught of ride requests and anxious inquiries about Tiny Tom Donuts, I become overwhelmed by the sweltering heat and humidity.  At this moment, I already wanted to cry.  But I pushed on.  We arrived at the kiddie area and I immediately took shelter underneath a small patch of shade and I waved serenely at Ever-Patient who was now cursing me with his eyes as he waited in line for the character merry-go-round with #3 and #4.  #1 and her appetite for the thrill rides, the scarier the better (something that she inherits from both her parents), had already taken off with my teenage cousins who I trusted would watch her like a hawk, and of course, with the advent of the cell phone, I knew they could be reached anytime.  I sat and waited as per usual.  I witnessed the inevitable tantrum, the consumption of questionable food, and my feet slowly expand two sizes.  All of sudden, in the distance, I saw #2 running toward me with her hand up.  She was grinning from ear to ear shouting something.  As she grew closer, I noticed something funny with her grin.  It looked different.  She yelled, “Mom! Mom!  My tooth fell out on Ghoster Coaster!”  She had her tooth in her hand and wiggled her tongue through the gap that formerly housed said tooth.  My dad, who had braved the coaster with her, was beaming as well.  She couldn’t wait to show her sisters, her cousins, her aunts and uncles, and ran to show her daddy as soon as he stepped off the merry-go-round.  #3 couldn’t wait to go on the next ride with her big sis – #4 was still deficient in the height requirement.  Hand-in-hand, they skipped to the next ride and waited in line.  While in line, #2 spoke with great animation (as animated as #2 can get) to #3 and after a swooping like gesture with her arm which clearly mimicked a downward dip of a coaster, I could only guess that she was recounting her harrowing tale of catching her tooth in her hand while bracing her tummy for the subsequent flip it would make.  #3 was looking up at #2 in total awe and admiration as if her big sis had just climbed Everest or walked on the moon.  Ever-Patient was waiting by the railing, waving to the kids to reassure them that he was there and would help them in and out of the ride if need be.  I decided to join him and waved excitedly at the kids as they hopped on the ride.  They waved back, happy to see that I was simply there to watch.

From that moment on, my attitude changed.  I decided that I no longer wanted to be the passive observer on the sidelines.  I wanted to be fully engaged in every moment with the kids.  I wanted to be present as they enjoyed these magical instances of childhood.  I felt a sudden shift in perspective: “Ok, Wonderland, I have a feeling that there’s more to you than cavities waiting to happen and overpriced souvenirs.”

I began to notice things that I had previously overlooked because I was so preoccupied in wallowing in my own discomfort and selfish needs.  I noticed how ecstatic the kids were when they realized that they had grown taller because they could now go on rides they couldn’t go on last year (especially #3 who took full advantage and went on EVERY ride she could possibly go on).  I noticed how #3 held #4’s hand on rides where they were alone together saying things like, “It’s ok baby, I’m here.”  Last year it was #2 holding #3 and before that it was #1 holding #2.  I noticed how #2 went on rides this year that she was too afraid to go on last year and the triumph on her face when she got off them.  I asked her, “Do you want to go on it again?”  She shook her head and said, “Maybe next year. I’m good.”  I noticed how #4 LOVED riding on the “shark” character on the merry-go-round, the same character I LOVED to ride on 25 years ago.  I noticed how the most memorable experiences occurred during the 30-35 minute wait in the lineup versus the 2 minute ride  – the kids would have conversations anticipating what the ride would feel like, reassuring one another, playing word games to pass the time, or recount funny memories from past trips.  I noticed the evolution of their emotions as they went on a ride:  the fear, the uncertainty, the thrill, the excitement, and the pride and confidence in themselves when it’s over.  I noticed that even amidst the crazy and crowded chaos, Ever-Patient and I still loved to hang out together, just people watching especially laughing hysterically at the two grown men, dressed in nightclub attire, posing in front of the manmade mountain.  I noticed how waiting in line can be an exercise in diplomacy for my children as other kids try to “bud” or cause trouble and I couldn’t help but feel proud of their reactions that needed no intervention from myself or Ever-Patient.  I noticed how much my family cares for each other as #3 had ran down a hill and face planted on concrete, developing a large goose egg on her forehead and after a trip to the nurse’s station and a lengthy application of ice, she was met with a concerned crowd who offered her recently-bought treats to feel better.  I noticed how fearless #4 is and how disappointed she was when she wasn’t tall enough for a ride (somehow I think she held hands with #3 for #3’s sake rather than her own).  I noticed #1 absolutely euphoric…not sure if it was just from the extreme thrill rides or just being the youngest with her older aunts and uncles.  I noticed my dad watching my kids and felt a pang of nostalgia as I recognized that same expression when I was young.  Only now did I understand what he must be feeling and why he’s always enjoyed these outings all these years.

We stayed until the park closed and all the kids fell asleep in the van on the way home.  Ever-Patient and I lingered in our driveway before hauling the kids in and did a quick post-mortem of the day.  Why had we been so negative before?  When did we get old and lose our energy and our child-like tendencies?  How come we couldn’t see that the amusement park could offer opportunities for camaraderie, risk-taking in a safe and controlled environment, responsibility (where the older kids feel the inherent need to take care of the younger ones even if it is just for the duration of the ride), forging and strengthening existing relationships?  Our perception had changed.  Yes, we were still going to bring our own healthy meals/snacks and avoid spending any money on games and souvenirs.  But it wasn’t about lineups and the rides anymore.  It was how we approached every experience – from the everyday to the unique.  We promised ourselves that with every outing, event, commitment, and seemingly routine moment, we would open ourselves to whatever lesson or magical moment it had to offer.  “Living in the moment” was not some catch-phrase or some abstract philosophy anymore, it was a choice we decided to make.

#3 and #4...courtesy of my dad and his iPhone.

#3 and #4...courtesy of my dad and his iPhone.

The children slept well that night and the following morning, #3 comes to my room and says, “I can’t wait for Marineland!”  I start to sweat a little and my heart skips a beat but then I take a deep breath, and remember the vow…

…and I also remember that I have my dad’s number on speed dial.

25 things #3 says.

#3, who will be referred to as “Sparkles” for the remainder of this post, celebrated her birthday about a month ago and is owed this special post celebrating her turning 4 years old.

fabulous 4.

fabulous 4.

In my experience, the 3-5 year old stage is one of the most exciting and amusing stages to witness your child journey through.  There is an intangible electricity that they emit as they start to really enjoy what the world has to offer.  Sparkles is no exception.  She is in full sponge mode, soaking up everything there is to learn, being extremely inquisitive, and taking the most delicious risks.  Twirling is her thing.  The best thing about it is that she makes me twirl and although I am no natural at twirling, she reminds me that it’s ok and to keep twirling anyway.  Her imagination runs wild and sometimes her line between reality and fantasy is quite blurred so you can imagine the types of conversations we have.

In celebration of our beloved Sparkles, here is some things she says…some of it has been directed at me while other gems have been overheard…

  1. “Get me off this toilet!”  This she has been known to scream when she is waiting for someone to help her wash herself.
  2. “True love’s kiss!”  She spotted an innocent smooch between Ever-Patient and myself and proceeded to squeal and say this.
  3. Ever-Patient has taught her a few sayings…  Ever-Patient: “They’re jigglin’ baby.”  Sparkles:  “Go ‘head baby.”

    100% sass.

    100% sass.

  4. More from Ever-Patient…  Whenever one of the girls says, “I can’t….”  Sparkles immediately chimes in, “You can do it.  You can do it.  Just put your butt into it.”
  5. “I miss my sister.”  She used to say this every day after we would drop off #2 at school for her afternoon kindergarten class.  It was a couple of hours of suffering without her big sis…they would be attached to the hip all morning and then Sparkles would have to navigate the afternoon, trying to fit into the big sis role for #4.  I can’t imagine the sweet sorrow parting that September will bring when Sparkles loses her BFF for the entire day!
  6. “You’re like my fairy godmother.”  This was overheard after #2 picked an outfit out for Sparkles to wear one morning and helped her get dressed, after Sparkles was fraught with indecision for 10 minutes.

    Best buds.

    Best buds.

  7. One morning, after #1 has gone to school, we are all sitting at the table.  #2 is finishing her homework, Sparkle and #4 are eating their second breakfast.  Sparkles looks up from her plate and says:  “I love you, Joey.”  No response.  Sparkles says it again, “I love you, Joey.”  Still no response from #2.  Sparkles now is yelling (only two feet away from her sister) and is standing on her chair: “I LOVE YOU, JOEY!!!!”  Without looking up from her work, #2 mumbles, “I love you too.”  Sparkles sits down with a contented expression and finishes her food in peace.  Her sister loves her back.  All is right with the world.
  8. I set aside alone time with each child about once a month where they choose the activity they’d like to do with me and for this hour or afternoon, depending on our schedules, they have my complete undivided attention.  It was Sparkle’s turn for some Mama-time and I asked her what she wanted to do.  She twirled and said, “Let’s just dance, mama.”  That evening, we twirled, dipped, cha-cha-ed and even choreographed our own dance.

    She danced like no one was watching...

    She danced like no one was watching...

  9. Sparkles: “Can I tell you a secret, mama?”  Me: “What baby?”  Sparkles: “I love you.”  My Heart. Cue the melting.
  10. “But there’s more…”  Sparkles always says this whenever a stranger comments on #2, #3, and #4 while #1 is at school.  I always receive nice remarks from people about having the 3 girls and because I am normally in a rush or in no mood for small talk, I don’t volunteer more information, specifically the fact that I actually have 4 girls with a boy on the way.  But Sparkles cannot resist letting people know…like the old lady walking in Greektown, the cashier at Canadian Tire, or the “muffin-lady” at Loblaws.
  11. Sparkles to #4:  “Your shoes are fash-inating.”  Me: “You mean fascinating, don’t you?”  Sparkles:  “No, FASHION-ATING.  They have so much fashion.”

    Sparkles giving #4 a headlock...I mean a hug.

    Sparkles giving #4 a headlock...I mean a hug.

  12. “Professor Outfit, do I button my sweater?”  This was overheard when she asked #2 her fashion advice on whether or not she should button her cardigan or leave it unbuttoned to show off her dress.
  13. “You never say ‘hello.'”  This was said to me as she passed me in the hallway.  I turn around and say, “What?  Sorry.  Hello?”  Sparkles turns to me and says, “Oh, that was from ‘Twilight.'”  Sparkles likes to quotes movie lines she overhears or remembers and tends to just surprise us with them at odd times.
  14. Another movie line she dropped on me recently:  “What’s with our relationship?”  Me: “Excuse me? I wasn’t aware that something was wrong with our relationship.”  Sparkles: “Mama, what’s a relationship?”
  15. When it’s time to leave the house to go somewhere, Sparkles puts on her shoes, looks down at them, and says, “I wonder where my shoes will take me today.”

    What could she be thinking?

    What could she be thinking?

  16. “Oh please open for me magic doorknob.”  Sparkles begs the doorknob to open for her because her hands are full and she can’t open it herself.
  17. “That’s not appropriate.”  She uses this expression in the most inappropriate and random circumstances.  For example, Ever-Patient says:  “Please put on your sweater.”  And this would be her reply.
  18. Sparkles likes to have pretend cell-phone conversations with my phone.  Me: “Who are you talking to?”  Sparkles: “My friend, Alicia.”  Me: “Is she in your ballet class?”  Sparkles: “No!  Alicia KEYS!”
  19. In dire distress: “Mama, my bum keeps farting!”
  20. Last summer, my cousins took the girls to Marineland, but before we went there, we stopped at my cousin’s apartment in Hamilton.  We went inside and Sparkles said, “When I get bigger, could I stay here?”  The monkey pillow and the clap-on/clap-off lights sold her.
  21. More from Marineland…”You’re killing me.  You’re really killing me.”  (Another movie line.)

    Definitely not camera shy.

    Definitely not camera shy.

  22. In anticipation of the annual Marineland trip year this summer:  “I can’t wait to see the Begula whales again.”  Yes, she says BEGULA.
  23. Sparkles: “There was a fun-derstorm today.”  Me: “Do you like them? Or do they scare you?” Sparkles: “I like them because I like to dance in the rain.”
  24. “What kind of tree is that, Mama?”  Me: “I don’t know it’s name.”  Sparkles: “Then I will give it a name.  It’s new name is ‘Floppy Tree’ because it’s very floppy.”
  25. Last week, we were on the porch at dusk.  Everyone was busy reading, munching on berries, or drawing, except for Sparkles.  I noticed her out of the corner of my eye, standing on a stool, elbows on the railing, looking up at the sky.  I could hear her whisper to herself, “I wish I was up on the moon.”  She looked up at the half-moon in the darkening sky and closed her eyes.  She opened her eyes, looked around at us, and said sadly, “It didn’t work.  I guess I really don’t have magic powers.”  I quickly took her in my arms and whispered in her ear, “Maybe you will someday.”
I hope you will always dwell in possibility.

I hope you will always dwell in possibility.

We love you, Sparkles.

summa-time.

I love summer.

Leaving the school for the last time.

Leaving the school for the last time.

The last school bell rang last Thursday and although most parents held expressions of dread and despair in the schoolyard, mine was full of anticipation and absolute joy.  I love having the kids home and this summer is a special one for us.  In September, new beginnings and new chapters will commence.  #1 will begin middle school and the social angst that goes with it.  I will be saying goodbye to #2 and her mornings spent with me and her little sisters as she begins Grade 1 – a full day adventure including lunch at school.  #3 will begin kindergarten, leaving us in the afternoon.  #4 will adjust to life at home with mama, only to make room for a new brother in November (more like late October).

This year we’ve decided to cut back on the camps limiting to one week each.  I want them to spend as much time together as possible this summer, chilling out as a family before we endure another adjustment in the fall.  A summer full of relaxation, spontaneity, freedom, and re-connection.  I want them to fully experience a splendid summer…although #1 is already anxious about buying a combo lock so that she can start practicing before school starts, #2 is obsessing over how lunch is actually going to work in September and if it’s at all possible she can come home for lunch at least once a week, and #3 cannot wait to sport her older sister’s well-loved princess backpack on the first day of school and has told everyone we meet on the street that her new teacher’s name is Sandee.

Here are some of my goals for this summer (some loftier than others):

  • Create themed weeks for the kids…just like camp but without the stress of getting kids up and ready at 8am and without the high expense.  Arts week:  Include exploring different artforms (including the much-requested shrinky-dink) and have a gallery showing/dramatic play by the end of the week.  Science week:  Experiments exploring the senses including the smell and touch identification exercises we used to do in grade school, making gooey things like silly putty and “quicksand,” writing messages in homemade invisible ink, and of course, everyone’s all-time fave – mentos in a coke bottle.  City Week:  Scavenger hunt with the kids in the city…for example, #1 is quite the amateur photographer so her project is to create an “alphabet album” for #4 simply by taking shots of interesting letters found in the city.  This week of course also involves riding the bus, streetcar, and subway which seems to thoroughly thrill the younger 3 kiddies…I’m not sure if it’s the different modes of transportation or the interesting characters (and smells) they encounter that amuses them more…International Week:  We will travel around the world…actually, around the city – visiting Little Italy, Little India, Chinatown, Greektown sampling foods and picking up cheap souvenirs from our travels.  Outdoor Play Week:  We will visit the most fabulous outdoor areas/playgrounds in the city where the kids will have a scorecard to rate and judge their favourites.  Of course, lazy days at home, playdates with friends, and sleepovers with the grandparents will be interspersed throughout the weeks.
  • Lots and lots of reading this summer.  #1 already has a goal to read 20 books while both #2 and #3 would like to go to the library every week to grab at least 10 books to read.
  • Escape the predictable and turn routine on its head.  Have dessert before dinner.  Have opposite day (or opposite morning…not sure how long I would be able to mentally withstand an entire day of it).  Bedtime Scmedtime.
  • Document daily.  I hope to take at least one photo a day and write in my journal daily about our adventures, misadventures, and non-adventures.
  • Re-decorate their rooms.  I have decided to loosen up and let them paint their bedrooms with me having final colour approval of course.  #1 will be getting a chalkboard wall…with a dust buster accompanying it.
  • Learn to sew.  I am convinced that I need to make their clothes…even if in the end they look like pillowcase-dresses.
  • Cook dinner at least twice a week.  The kids are very much into “helping” with meals and Ever-Patient would like a much-needed break from this chore.  (This is one of the loftier goals.)
  • Give away/donate/sell all the baby-girl clothes.
  • Take the training wheels off of #2’s bike.
  • Have a yard sale/lemonade-treat stand.
  • Teach a class or two here.
  • Have swimming lessons for the kids at my mom’s house.
  • Prepare homemade popsicles.
  • Make these with the kids…especially on onesies for the baby.
  • Engage in weekly water fights.
Happiness=Hot summer day+Water

Happiness=Hot summer day+Water

Post-water fight glow.

Post-water fight glow.

  • Have conversations in French for at least half an hour a day to refresh #2’s skills and to improve #1’s in preparation for her start in French Immersion in the fall.

Here is my summertime vow:

I promise not to rush or hurry through any moment.  Each moment will be savoured like a fine wine.  I will be open to opportunities for connection and growth.  I will find the magic in the mundane.  I promise to bask in their curiosity, creativity, and in of course, the glorious sunshine of the summer.  I will make homemade lemonade once a week…or once every two weeks.

Happy summer!