Monthly Archives: April 2010

a brief update.

#1 had her provincial volleyball tournament two weekends ago and our family is still recovering it.  I’ll recap another time.

Some soundbytes from around our house:

#1:  “1500m is long.  I only ran it in 7 and 1/2 minutes.”

(This was said after she came home from track and field tryouts.  I wanted to shake this kid and say, ‘Are you kidding me? You just ran almost a mile in less than 8 minutes…some adults would kill for that time.’  She has no clue.)

#2:  “I miss eggs.”

(Eggs aggravate her eczema.  But she LOVES them.)

#3:  “I don’t want to go to school today.”

(She came down with a nasty cold yesterday and has lived on our couch – one hand holding a plastic bag for throwing up and one hand maneuvering a mouse on my laptop.)

#4:  “FREE BALL!”

(Did I mention we are still recovering from the big volleyball tournament?  #4 throws a ball at me whenever she can yelling this – she loves to surprise me as I come around the corner carrying a basket full of laundry.)

#5:  “Mum..Mummum..Mummumumum…”

(I swear he calls for me now.)

Ever-Patient:  “I am so mentally exhausted.”

Me:  “Ditto.”

****

Today I will focus on placing one foot in front of the other, walking with careful deliberation and acute consciousness.  I will listen and engage.  I will give thoughtful answers as opposed to automatic responses.  I will regain awareness of the life around me.

Wish me luck.

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12.

A little over a week ago, #1, my first-born, turned 12.

*gulp*

She celebrated it first with her friends by having a water fight after school followed by a movie and then with family by having another water fight and good food 2 days later on her actual birthday.  Simple fun that reflected her desire to still have one foot firmly planted in childhood.  It was a relief to witness her requesting a themed birthday party with her friends (‘Alice in Wonderland’) and I loved watching her plan the details – from designing the invites to cutting out decorations and assembling the loot bags.

Although she had a wonderfully childish birthday, I have noticed her slow lean into young adulthood commence in subtle and almost unnoticeable ways.  There have been many instances where I have felt myself tumbling down the proverbial rabbit hole as I try to help her navigate these early stages of adolescence.

People with older daughters have warned me about the changes in attitude and demeanour that girls experience when they turn 11 or 12.  I have been warned about the selfishness, the know-it-all remarks, and the mean-spirited behaviour toward younger siblings.  When I tell people I have 4 girls and that my oldest is 12, I get that look which seems to be a mix of pity and sympathy which is often accompanied by a “You’ll see.”  I often defend my daughter and boast of her grace and compassion only to be dismissed by yet another “You’ll see.”

Because of all these foreboding predictions from family, friends and strangers alike, I have tried to be more observant of her this year, almost holding my breath as I awaited the rebellious pre-teen to rear its ugly head.

I can proudly report that the monster has not surfaced and what I have witnessed is more gratifying and amazing than I had ever expected:

I have watched her choose who she wants to be.

This is the first year I have seen her make her own decisions about her friends, her extra-curricular activities, how she spends her free time, how she tackles school work, and how she interacts with her family.  She still defers to me and her father at times and still asks for advice when necessary but this year she has asserted herself more.  She has become an active participant in shaping her life.  She is more aware of the fundamental physical laws of cause and effect as she discovers for herself that every decision she makes has a consequence.  This has been the biggest learning experience for Ever-Patient and myself – letting her weigh the decision, make it, and own it, even if she has to suffer unfavourable consequences.  She is forming opinions and not only finding her voice but using it.

I have seen her struggle – struggle with employing tact vs honesty, struggle with her need for independence vs her need to feel taken care of, struggle with the choice to spend time with family or friends, struggle with the need to be alone with the desire to still feel included in our family shenanigans, struggle with discerning what she wants vs what we want vs what she thinks we want her to want.  I have seen this in her distance even though she is sitting across from me at the dinner table.  I have seen this in her eyes as she faces decisions that I will no longer make on behalf of her.

In the last couple of years, she has demonstrated her need for solitude and the desire to independently choose.  But this year has been different.  Ever-patient and I have been different.  We have slowly and deliberately stepped back.  She has relied on us to make the best decisions for her or influence her in ways that satisfy our own motivations.  Now, she hears more often than not, “What do you think?”  “What do you want to do?”  “This is your decision.”  We tell her to weigh her options, reflect on the potential consequence of each alternative, and decide for herself.  Because in the end, her choices affect her and she is accountable.  I am here when she needs me and I give an opinion if and only I hear these 5 words:  “Mom, what do you think?”  My answers are seldom concise.  I never tell her, “You should…”  I give her an informed opinion with supporting experiential anecdotes but in the end I try to emphasize choosing an option that reflects compassion, respect, and integrity.  Whatever she chooses, I make it clear that she needn’t look for approval or disapproval from me.  The outcome of her choice and how she feels about herself in the end will be its own internal reward or punishment that she alone will have to live with.  Though I have adopted a trustful approach, I am still working to provide an environment in which she has the opportunity to explore all the possibilities that life has to offer which includes giving her a safe sphere in which to make choices.

I’ve just let her be.  I have instinctively followed her lead.  I have been quiet when she needed a listener.  I have spoken up when she needed to feel supported and validated.  I have held her tight when she has been frustrated trying to find the words to match her emotions.  I have been patient when she has been impatient (for the most part).  I have let go when she needed to breathe her own air and live her own life.  I have ached at every “I love you Mama” because I know it’s not a reflex statement but a declaration of gratitude and appreciation.

Here is a scrapbook layout I made…a message to her from her father and I:

“Yes is a world, and in this world of yes live all worlds.” e.e. cummings

12…always say ‘Yes’ to this day. this moment. this story. this life.

Love: Mama and Daddy

full of it.

Lately, I have been so full.  SO FULL.  My mind.  My days.  My emotions.  My life.

Full.  Full.  Full.

So full that I keep meaning to blog but there is just so much to say.  Lately, I start to write and I just don’t know how to organize my thoughts on this page.  My thoughts jump from the past, the present, and the future at a furious pace.  Please bear with me…this could get bumpy.

I think about the kids – the choices we’ve made about their schooling, how we raise them, and their overall well-being.  I think about how I tend to shrink my world to only encompass my immediate family and then a natural disaster will wreak havoc in another part of the world which then forces my world (and my perspective) to expand.  I think about this year and all the adventures I would like to embark upon personally and as a family.  I think about expressing myself creatively and how wonderful it feels when I am free to do so.  I think about breathing and then I actually do it.  I think about the process of simplification – simplifying my surroundings, my schedule, my commitments, my decisions.  I think about time and the priceless nature of it and how best I would like to spend it.  I think about the delicacy of life and how fleeting it can be.

I think about the present which inevitably leads me to the past.  For example, as I make difficult decisions, I think a lot about the origins of my moral compass and I keep going back to my grandmother and how she played a large part in shaping it.  I miss her value judgments that were largely based on her absolute faith in a religion which I have spent my childhood worshiping blindly and most of my adult life questioning unrelentingly.  I have come to the conclusion that her undying faith, albeit in a Church I have turned my back on, has inspired the manner in which I make decisions.  I have faith that everything happens for a reason.  I have faith that every challenge is an opportunity to learn something new about myself and that even seemingly wrong decisions are the ones that I need to make at that specific point in time.  I have faith in the way I choose to parent.  I have faith that I can achieve the goals that I have set for myself and my family.

I think about the weather.  I think about how the seasons and more specifically the daily weather closely correlate to my overall psychological state.  For instance, we are experiencing the transition into spring.  Though it’s not quite time to put away winter coats and enjoy T-Shirt weather, I can honestly say that the longer days are having a wondrous effect on my mood (not to mention that all my kids are finally healthy!).

This time of year always reminds me of my grandfather, Lolo Harv.  I can’t count the number of times I have heard the following spring story:  After immigrating to Canada and experiencing his first Canadian winter including seeing snow for the first time, he says this, “I remember hearing the call of the robin red-breast and thinking that was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard, finally announcing the arrival of spring.”  I refer to this story because I always think about it especially when I start to take the seasonal changes for granted and it makes me stop and take note of the first signs of spring.  For example, the kids are getting up earlier with the sun, the air smells different, and they have trouble adhering to their normal bedtime routine because the sun is still up when it’s time for bed.

I think about the choices I’ve made.  I OWN every single choice I’ve made.  Choosing to live in a smaller home in the city has been one of the best decisions we have ever made.  It has allowed me to stay home and focus on less.  Our house does not have the capacity to hold a lot of “things” so we are on a constant journey to simplify.  We have surrounded our kids with diversity.  They have seen different family structures.  Just the other day, the kids were playing house.  #4 says (as usual), “I’m the mom.”  #3 says without a second thought, “I’m the mom too because sometimes there are 2 moms in a family.”  Choosing to marry my best friend and to have a big family has been by far the best decision I have made.  I may get tired.  I may feel overwhelmed when they’re sick.  However, I have never once regretted having 5 children before the age of 32.  Years ago, I discarded the “poor me” and “bad things just happen to me” attitude in exchange for the “I am accountable for all that I am, feel, and have” attitude.  Although I tend to self-flagellate overzealously if an “I should of…” even enters my mind.  Still need to work on that.

I am DONE with comparisons.  Present to past to future.  Economic/financial status.  Lifestyles.  DONE.  It is a time and energy wasting past time and I refuse to participate in this destructive habit anymore.  Everything is relative.  Realistically I only have enough to dwell on my own situation.  The grass is not necessarily greener.

The month of March has opened our eyes to what money means and what it doesn’t mean to us as a family.  It has made us more conscious from prepping snacks and bottle of water before we go out to making homemade gifts to finally using gift cards that have been collecting dust.  It was the best wake-up call for us with respect to the insidiousness of the prevalent addiction to instant gratification.  As a family, we have decided to save our money for one large expense – a month long family vacation.  However, #3 was willing to give up any future travel including vacationing in her most favourite city on Earth – New York City – in exchange for purchasing a $200 inflatable jumping castle which she saw in a flyer.  We flat out said “No” to her request.
Life then became an exciting game of how to repurpose and reinvent clothes, existing toys, found objects in nature, and just things we already had.  We’ve decided to sell our second car to save even more money and to continue to try to simplify our life.  We have barely used it in the last 3 weeks in preparation for our life without it.

This brings us to April’s adventure:  DECLUTTER.  Our family has officially waged a war on all unnecessary “things.”  Room by room, cupboard by cupboard, closet by closet, we will eliminate the excess and pare it down to the very minimal.  Each day, a box of stuff will leave the house.  We will detach and discard.  We will reclaim our counters and the rest of our surfaces.

No more stuff.  I am full.  I have enough and I have everything I will ever need.

gotcha.

APRIL FOOL’S!!!

***

Today’s pranks:

  1. See previous post.
  2. The kids and I hid all of Ever-Patient’s shoes this morning…he thought he was losing his mind…so fun.
  3. This morning I put food colouring in the bottom of the kids’ bowls, under their cereal, so when they poured the milk, it changed colour.  There was a lot of:  “What the…?”

That’s all I got.

whoops…again.

really? really? really?!?