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(My post, The Last Week: Part Two, will be up by the end of this week to sum up some overall thoughts and decisions I’ve made.  The following post describes what’s going on in our household at the moment…)

I miss my oldest child.

I really miss her.

Last Sunday, we dropped her off at a camp 3.5 hours away and by “we” I mean all 7 of us drove a total of 7 hours in one day just to drop #1 off at camp.  The drive was full of various incidences of tomfoolery which I will describe another day.  This is the longest span of time where I have had no contact with her.  It’s tougher than I anticipated.  She’s been away from us before: overnight school trips since Grade 1, staying over at the grandparents, and when she was 3, Ever-Patient and I had gone away on a vacation.  The difference is the length of time (1 week) and the fact that we can’t call her to see how she’s doing.

It’s been tough on all of us.  We are a close-knit family.  The 7 of us love being together.  #1 slept in the same room as her younger sisters for 1 week before she left.  Ever-Patient and I encourage the siblings to spend a lot of time bonding so much so that I’ve restricted social contact with friends this summer so that they become even closer.  There probably isn’t much that makes me happier than to see them taking care of each other.

As we said good-bye to her at camp, we all hugged her tight but #2 had to turn away to hold back the tears.  As soon as we all hopped in the van for the drive home, there was a chorus of “I miss her!” already being shouted.  #2 sat in #1’s spot and when we got home, she went to #1’s room and grabbed one of #1’s favourite necklaces and wore it.  The next day, #2 used #1’s world atlas placemat and sat in #1’s spot.  She never said a word about how much she missed her sister but it had become quite obvious.

#3 was setting the table for dinner that night and placed a setting where #1 sits.  I said, “Honey, she’s away remember?”  And #3 replied, “I know Mom.  But it makes me feel like she’s here.”  For the last couple of nights, #3 has cried at bedtime because she misses her sister.

As #2 and #3 moped around the house only 2 days after their big sister had gone off to camp and talked about what she would have eaten for breakfast had she been home, #4 looked up from her book, glanced around, and as if to only notice said, “Oh! Where is she?”  Of course, she was referring to her biggest sister and we had to remind her that she hadn’t actually been home since Sunday.

#1 was so excited for this trip.  She is incredibly independent and self-sufficient and the type to always go-with-the-flow, adapting to any surrounding.  She packed all by herself and had no anxiety about being away from home.  I just couldn’t believe that this time had already come.  This time that I had always foreseen in the back of my head but never wanted to really face.  This time that I thought would only happen when she went off to college/to travel/to work.  It was time to let go.  I realize the flaw in my previous thought that letting go would only happen when she left home for good.  Letting go happens slowly with small baby steps.  Unlike a mama bird who pushes her baby bird right out of the nest to teach how to fly, we as humans (most of us anyway) extend the boundaries bit by bit until they dissolve completely.  We extend the perimeter further just like when we removed the baby gates or let our children walk a bit ahead of us as they are learning to walk.  At some point, we trust them and we trust in how we raised them to venture farther, beyond our reach, beyond our safety nets, beyond our capacity to catch them.

Although sending her off to camp may seem like a first step in letting go, there were many little steps before it:  her first sleepover with the grandparents, her first sleepover with friends, biking to school, playdates without me at a friend’s house, walking home from school, letting her decide how she wants to use her time, letting her decide how she wants to spend her money, respecting her need for solitude and her need for support, giving her a grocery list and money (while I wait in the car with sleeping children), and more.

Having children in multiple developmental stages, I must admit that there is nothing more difficult than the stage she is in right now where there is the constant challenge of assessing her level of maturity and readiness for various responsibilities – basically, when to let go and in what circumstance.  Sometimes I hold on too tight and I only realize it when she struggles vehemently to break free of my grasp.  Other times I let go a little too soon and using non-verbal cues, she pleads for my guidance and for my arms to curl up in.  At times, it’s a delicate game of balance, intuition, and observation.  Most times, it’s guess-and-test.

More often than not, with her youthful optimism and exuberance, she is ready for more: more independence, more responsibility, and more freedom.  I am not.  I am not ready at all.  I know intellectually that change is the only constant and growth is inevitable.  I know that I should just enjoy each moment and be proud of the young lady in front of me.  I know that ironically, if I hold on too tight or for too long, I will end up pushing her away.  But I’m human and sometimes yearn to re-live moments, to re-visit the past if only for an instant, to stall the passing of time.

#1 @ 9 years old.

I miss her.

I miss her 2 year old self who loved chupa chups lollipops and loved it when I sang “Can’t take my eyes off you” to put her to sleep.  I miss her 5 year old self who loved to make potions at restaurants and who loved Avril Lavigne so much she wanted to wear trucker hats in kindergarten.  I miss her 9 year old self who started to love baking and was addicted to all things High School Musical.

I miss her presence.  I take her for granted and how much she helps me in little ways like when I’m cooking and holding the baby at the same time, she notices and will always take the baby and play with him.  She packs all the lunches and snacks when we have an outdoor excursion.  She takes #4 to the washroom and applauds accordingly.  She builds forts for the little ones and plays hide-and-seek upstairs so I can clean downstairs or vice versa.  She writes down the grocery list as I dictate it to her in the car.  She is a pure source of goodness in her house and cracks jokes at the perfect times.

As I lay in bed with the 3 little girls, we talked about how much we missed her:

#4:  “I miss the way she sits beside me when no one else will.”  (Then she glanced over at her other sisters with a look that could kill.)

#3:  “I miss her helping me with my soccer shoes and my Converse.  Mom, I think I’m going to cry because I miss her….No, I think I’m ok.”

#2:  “I miss how she tells me what words mean when I read to her and when she shows me cool stuff in her room.”

#3:  “Oh, yeah!  I miss her reading to us at night! And I miss her sleeping with us.”

#4: “I miss how she used to help me brush my teeth when no one else will.”  (Cue the scathing look at her sisters again.)

#2:  “I miss how you (mama) and her joke around like that time she won a volleyball game at the beach and you jumped on top of her and kissed her and she was so embarrassed and she ran away from you and you chased her and climbed on her back!  That was sooooo funny!”

#3:  “Or that time she told you a knock-knock joke about farting!”

Me:  “She never told me a knock-knock joke about farting.”

#3:  “Oh yeah, that was me.  But wasn’t that funny?”

They went on to discuss how they love it when she helps them make stuff, teaches them things like tying their shoes and reading books, and when she helps them with the dishwasher.  They REALLY miss her helping with the dishwasher.

And the conversation ended like this:

#2:  “I bet she has a lot of good stories about camp.  I can’t wait to hear about it!!”

#3:  “Can we call her tomorrow Mama?”

Me:  “No, sweetie.  You know we can’t call her.  Let’s just send her all our good thoughts and wishes so that she knows how much we miss her.”

#3:  “Ok. Now I’m going to cry…I can feel it in my nose.”

Cue lots of group hugs and kisses.

When we pick her up on Saturday, I will hug her and hold on tight enough for her to know how much I missed her and just loose enough to know it’s ok for her to start walking a little bit further ahead of me….I just hope she looks back once in awhile.

some favourite links.

Friday.  I think.  Sorry, the days blend together.

Here’s a few recent favourites of mine:

ming makes cupcakes (yummy recipes)

DIY Kids (great kids crafts)

a much needed poster in our house (especially since the kids look like some of mine!)

for the quirky sense of humour

my new craft project (I know I am crazy.)

i heart bucky

i heart flowcharts

that’s all.

have a great weekend.

#2: connecting the dots.

That is what #2 does.  And now she is 7.

Some random thoughts about my second-born…a late birthday post:

My #2 is a “connector-of-dots.”  She is always finding relationships where none seem to exist.  She has light bulb and “aha” moments constantly.  It has been exciting to watch her this year.  We were at one of her favourite shops and she picked up this book:

It is full of photographs of plant life sprouting up in the most unlikely places – sidewalks, concrete alleys, cracks in buildings, etc.  No words, just photos.  She spent a good 5 minutes looking through it.  She would flip through the photos and then look at the cover every so often.  I was pretending not to pay attention to her as she kept looking at this book.  She put it down and started to walk away with a confused look on her face.  Then she stopped, spun around, grabbed it and flipped through it one last time.  She ran to me and said, “I get it!  The flowers and plants shouldn’t grow in these places but somehow they manage to!  It seems impossible but they still grow.  Just like that little engine.  No one thought he’d make it up the hill.  But he did.  Mama, can you buy this book for my birthday?”  And I did.  I will never forget the look on her face in that instant that she made the connection.

Opening gifts and spending her day with just mom and dad...and #5.

#2 is a visual person. She can figure out what has been moved in her vignette of found nature objects after she comes home from school.  When I misplace items, she can tell me exactly where I put them and when I did it.  While driving home at dusk, while everyone is falling asleep, she will ask me if there is a name for the colour of the sky because it’s the most beautiful colour she has ever seen.  She loves beautiful things.  She loves making stuff – a mini computer, a home for her pet dog, binoculars, pockets, finger knits, felt food, mini notebooks, cards, origami, scrapbook layouts (yay!), puppets, posters, signs, and more.  She sits for hours at the dining room table, completely absorbed in the act of creating.

Her reading has completely taken off this year.  I cannot describe my delight when I hear her reading this to herself in her bed.  Through reading, she has been able to explore the topics that she is passionate about: space, rocks, and photography.  (“Mama, I’m reading about dark matter.  I don’t understand what it is.  Can you explain it to me?”  My brain started to hurt at that point.  I have to say that I’ve learned more about supernovas and dwarf planets this year than I really wanted to.)

Her accomplishments this year include performing in class plays without expressing any type of anxiety beforehand, and making solid friends for the first time.  Watching her speak her lines with a muted confidence was one of my proudest moments this year.

She invited a couple friends to the museum (one of her favourite haunts) and I created a scavenger hunt game for them.  #2 helped me make small notebooks for each of them with clues inside and when they found the object, they had to draw it in their notebook.

One of her favourite movies currently is Life/Planet Earth Collection.

Our “mommy-#2 time” always involves a creative endeavour.  The most recent activity was here .  We sat in silence and painted.  She was deep in concentration painting and I was deep in concentration watching her paint.  It was then that I began to notice how deliberate she is with her actions and her words.  She doesn’t say much but when she does, it’s usually an impossible-to-answer question like “Did the baby tadpoles come first or the mama frog?” or a decisive expression like “I like that colour on you, mama.”  She never rushes and moves with purpose.

A year ago, she loved pink and sparkly headbands.  Now she refuses to wear dresses and is embracing her inner tomboy.  She still worships her older sister and still has bunkbed nighttime talks with #3 although their relationship has changed since she started full day school.  She has lost 6 teeth.  When she has her time alone with Daddy, she just wants to go and buy mama a special gift.  We talk about making stuff and making stuff from that stuff.  She has an extensive collection of rocks.  Although they all look the same to an outsider, they are very unique to her.  She can tell you exactly where and when she found each one and can tell if one is missing.  She still loves solitude and butter tarts.

(She wanted pics in front of the graffiti.)

She is 7 and I don’t just think she can, I know she can.


Dear Blog:

I’m sorry for neglecting you and I have missed you dearly.

Needless to say, time is a limited resource for me and you’ve paid the highest price.  I had devoted time to you during the small daily breaks that I have had to myself either in the early morning, nap time, or late at night.  But alas, I’ve been cheating on you.  There is another and his name is “Exercise.”  I made the choice to abandon you in order to fit into a pair of pre-pregnancy jeans.  How shallow of me?  I know.

But would you believe me when I say that I did it for your own good?

You see, Exercise has allowed me to have more energy.  It has lightened my mood and enhanced my creative spirit.  I no longer spend countless thoughts on a wardrobe I couldn’t touch or dreading a summer spent in maternity clothes (although the baby is 9 months old).  I am kinder to myself when it comes to the food I eat and the time I spend with my good friend, Exercise (with whom I have had a love-hate relationship).

I have come to terms with the reality of my life:  I must constantly choose how best to spend my time.

There are mornings and nights that I have tried to spend quality time with you after Exercise but it’s never worked out.  There have been hugs I’ve needed to give, a rolling baby I’ve needed to find, an impromptu concert I’ve needed to applaud, and my one true love needing my immediate attention – a Red Velvet Cupcake (just kidding, Ever-Patient).

I have about a dozen posts you’ve held onto patiently, waiting in the wings in the “Saved Drafts Folder.”  It’s time for my return to you – a love that I never knew I had until it ceased to exist in my life.

So let’s rewind and start anew.  We have a lot to catch up on.



where i’ve been.

I’ve been in a good place.

It’s called “The Right Now”  a.k.a “This Very Moment” a.k.a. “The Present.”

I’ve been very deliberate, sometimes painstakingly, in making decisions about how to spend each and every second of my time.  The decision to write a blog post lost out to the decisions to working out, playing soccer, going for a walk, cuddling with the kids, and reading books.  The “One Bowl Project” set the whole conscious living in motion.  It was a successful experience whereby ‘successful’ I mean that we have all learned something new.

This past hiatus from blogging was spent planning birthday parties, spending weeknights at the beach, swimming in my mom’s pool, reading this book and this book and this book, going for sunday afternoon cupcakes here, having root canals, watching the kids watch fireworks, going to see drive-in movies, playing and practicing soccer, planning an upcoming father’s day lunch, attending psychic readings, going for playdates, hosting playdates, having a yard sale, painting furniture, purging and more purging.

And in between, there were plenty of mornings, afternoons, and days off school to just take a bit longer to get up and to stay a bit longer in mama and dada’s bed.  There were picnic dinners at the beach.  There were walks to the park and swings to be swung.  There were bedtime stories and forts built.  There were birth stories told over and over again on birthdays.  There were quiet moments with each child.  There were crazy nights when it was so hot no one could fall asleep.

It was a span of time where I did just enough of what mattered most to me.  I didn’t wish I was somewhere else doing something else.  I didn’t regret what I was spending my time on.  This has led to our current month of “NO TV.”  No TV will be watched in our household except for LIVE sports including the NBA Finals and FIFA World Cup games and these must be watched as a family learning about sports and other countries along the way.  TV will not be used to watch DVDs (nor will the computer).  We will go to the Drive-In movie theatre once a month.  The kids are not restricted if they are at other people’s homes and will make their own decision to watch TV or not.  I don’t anticipate this challenge to be very hard since we normally don’t watch TV during the week but so far it has forced us to be outdoors more on the weekend.  I’m assuming we will eventually get rid of cable all together.


In due time, I will write about my sensational 7-year old who just a year ago wore a sparkly headband every day and who now wears converse all-stars and jogging pants regularly and all about her birthday celebrations.  And I will write about my fantastic 5-year old who still loves “all things pretty and princess” but wakes up every day bouncing down the stairs exclaiming, “I’m 5!  I’m 5!  I’m 5!”  I will write how proud I am of who they are and describe what they like and dislike.

But…for now, I will just watch and listen and enjoy.

Though I haven’t left my city, my home, I feel as though I have been to where happiness and joy reside.  This is a place I’ve never dwelt long-term but where I have visited from time to time.  In this place, impossible to locate on a map, I have been able to be kinder to myself – the self-judgments and the self-criticisms and the guilt – they all cease to exist here.

This is where I’ve been.

hello again.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started to write several posts only to be interrupted by a sick child, a sibling brawl, a mommy-time request, and general life obligations.

So let me try this again.

For the month of April, I managed to declutter and purge the closets and the upstairs bathroom.  So heading into May, I decided to keep with the theme of decluttering and simplifying our life…

the "one bowl" challenge.

I read this and this and created”The One Bowl” Challenge in our house.  Each person in our house can only use one bowl, one spoon, one fork, and one cup (plus a knife for the adults).  I locked up the dish cabinet so no one would be tempted to grab another place setting if they hadn’t washed their bowls.  I was beginning to notice that we were running the dishwasher daily and with our busy schedules, if the clean dishes in the dishwasher weren’t emptied, there would be a huge pile up of dirty dishes.  I also noticed how the kids would grab a cup, fill it with water, drink, and put the cup in the dishwasher.  Now multiply that by 4 kids and add in bowls and containers for snacks and I become a bus-boy of sorts.  I am aware of the possibility that we could be using more water than if we just ran the dishwasher – this will eventually be confirmed by a higher (or lower) water bill at the end of the month.

It’s been almost 2 weeks of having only one bowl and here are some observations:

  • The kids have taken ownership of their bowls, almost as though they were their own personal pets.  They wash them with care and are just short of personalizing them with stickers.
  • Life is simpler.  Without 10,000 pieces of dishware and flatware to put away almost every day, dish washing has become an individual affair (with the exception of #4 and #5 who need a little help).  There is no whining over who isn’t helping with the emptying-of-the-dishwasher chore.  If you don’t clean your bowl, you don’t eat.
  • Life is easier for me.  There is never a mountain of dishes anymore for me to do.  There is never a time where there are no clean forks (or spoons, or plates…)
  • The only person who has had trouble sticking to this is Ever-Patient.  (I have since had to tie up the handles to the dish cabinet to prevent him from grabbing yet another bowl.  He is also unable to cook with one pot or pan.  Apparently, this is tough to do.  Obviously, I have no expertise in this area so  I’ve let this one go.)
  • Washing my own bowl has truly become a lesson in mindfulness and purpose.

I have extended this “one bowl” idea to their shoes, jackets, and bags as well.  One pair of shoes should only be left in the front hallway and one jacket each should be left on the coat hooks.  Though with our family of 7, our front hall still looks as though we are hosting a large gathering of people.

So far the kids are fully on board with all my crazy challenges and adventures this year and it definitely shakes things up at home by opening discussion.  We’ve discussed why we are using only one bowl, the issue of accumulating ‘stuff,’ and things we can live without versus things we think we need.  The kids are learning different things on different levels:  #1 is learning that more does not equal better; #2 and #3 are learning responsibility and are thoroughly enjoying washing dishes; #4 loves eating out of her princess bowl at every meal – which has been her request before this challenge ever since she inherited the bowl from her big sister.  Ever-Patient has learned that he needs to be more prepared and wash his bowl right after he uses it.  I’ve learned that a clean, sparkling bowl gives me such an unexpected joy.


How was your Mother’s Day?

Traditionally, my mother’s days have been spent entirely or partially in solitude – reading a book, sleeping, doing something creative.  This year was very different.  I really really wanted to spend the day with the kids and Ever-Patient.  He had made it clear that he could take them out and let me sleep in or let me stay curled up in bed and read a book.  I told him I’d play it by ear and see how I felt when I woke up.

Lately, I’ve been going to bed early with the kids and waking up at the crack of dawn.  I’m a night-owl normally and love reading or writing late into the night but this wasn’t working out so well now that #5 is teething and up again throughout the night.  Without a good 6 or 7 hours of sleep, I am a little less patient and a little less there.  And when you are in charge of the daily rearing of young children, the future of the world as we know it essentially, lack of sleep over a long period of time spells disaster for everyone involved.

I woke up at about 6:00am on Mother’s Day and tried my best to go back to sleep.  And with everyone asleep still, I felt like I was cheating myself by being awake.  I kept telling myself, “This is the perfect time to be in a deep sleep, damn it!  Go to sleep!”  But of course, the harder I tried to sleep, the more awake I became.  Sandwiched between two sleeping children, I couldn’t even reach for my book to read with the light breaking between the thin sliver of my drapes because any slight movement would make them stir.  Ever-Patient was kicked out of bed again, relegated to the couch downstairs or to the bunk bed – I wasn’t sure.

So I waited.  I waited to hear the creak of the bunk bed and the sound of little feet jumping off the ladder (#2) or feet skipping to my room and a loud whisper of “Mom, are you awake?” (#3) or elephant-like stomps heading to the bathroom (#1).  I waited to hear tiny grunts and whimpers (#5) and I waited to feel a little hand rub my arm and whisper “You need your glasses?” as if to signal it was time to wake up (#4).  Just like the early morning animal calls heard on the African savannah, these are the sounds of my natural habitat.  As sun rays flood their room, as if on cue, one by one they begin their morning ritual which lead to slipping back into bed with me.

But not on this particular morning.  I hear the sounds but no one enters my room.  Instead I hear whispers, tousled paper, and many feet moving about.  Ah yes, it’s Mother’s Day.  I can hear the older 3 debating whether or not they should come into my room.  They elect the soft-spoken one to open the door and check if it’s safe to enter.  #2 pops her head in and I wave them all in.  #4 is still groggy and gives her sisters the dirtiest of looks for all the commotion and buries her head in her pillow.  #5 wakes up grinning as usual.  And like the three wise men, #1, #2 and #3 present the gifts:

my loot....they know me so well.

A simple bag.  Simple Flowers. A simple necklace.  Chocolate (not shown).  A set of pastel crayons. Several handmade items including some handwritten love notes from #2 that said the following:

“I love you because you are nise to me.”

“I love you because you hug me evreday.”

“I love how you gress evereday.” ( I think she meant ‘dress.’)

I can see out of the corner of my eye Ever-Patient holding his breath as I open the box with the bag in it.  Clearly he has chosen it and is worried.  Only when I grin and express that it’s exactly what I need and want does he breathe a sigh of relief.  He does not have to return the bag in defeat at the estrogen and know-it-all saleswomen-filled boutique he bought it from.

So after the multitude of hugs, kisses, and large displays of gratitude, I wanted to just be with them on mother’s day.  Crazy huh?  We headed for an early breakfast here and totally beat the rush thankfully.  Then after breakfast, I wanted to show them how much I appreciated their appreciation (and their best behaviour at breakfast) so we went here.  By the time we left, it was only 10am so we headed home for more family time.  We met my mom, my stepfather and my brothers for a swanky late lunch here where the kids were more impressed with the washrooms than the food.

An early bedtime complete with a dozen bedtime stories and time for me to read for myself capped off a rather perfectly ordinary mother’s day….oh, except for #3’s gift to me which she insisted I wear all day:

Nothing says "mom" like an oversized ring with a plastic heary jewel and bright pink lips.

(And the kids ended up staying home on Monday…Why? Just because.)