Abby had her dance recital this past weekend, it went very well and she did wonderfully. For her first experience being on stage in front of a large crowd she was very composed and remembered all her steps well.. but oh those butterflies! Poor thing was so nervous, she tried really hard to contain it and we had numerous discussions about how being nervous was perfectly normal and it happened to everyone. I stuffed her full of as much banana as I could (due to it's perhaps real or perhaps imaginary calming properties that at least made me feel like I had done everything I could.) Then dropped her off at the backstage area with a passel of other kids all in various stages of undress, and hoped and prayed that all would go well.
Abby has undergone a softening of her previously fiercely self assured personality in the past little while. She is feeling more, and acting less, she is growing up and becoming more aware of herself inside her surroundings which can be enlightening and terrifying too. So I wasn't sure whether she would calmly let me leave her to the chaos of the room or hang onto my legs sobbing and fervently request to accompany me to my seat.
Luckily, and I have a beautiful little girl in a sailors suit to thank for this, she made a friend instantly. They spent their time before the performance parading around together introducing each other to their classmates. SO really I had nothing to worry about, my little Abby who so easily makes friends and treats them well always rises to the top, not that I was worried mind you.... really... wasn't worried...
She danced beautifully and when we met her after the performance with two of her very best friends a bouquet of roses from mom and dad, and a potted gerbera daisy from Papa and Grandma she almost cried from joy. This child amazes me everyday, she is so thoughtful and considerate, intelligent and inquisitive, I see myself, then Seth then something completely amazing and new in her.
I was told about sleepless nights, I was warned about frustration, fear and worry, I was aware I would never have any free time again. But no one mentioned the awe, the elation, the pride and wonderment that having and raising a child brings to your life. The love that almost rips you in two.
Yesterday was Mother's Day. In a botched attempt to decorate a cake at the local grocery store we found ourselves walking the aisles at 10am on Sunday. A normally quiet time of day there was the odd shopper getting a last minute boquet, or bag of oranges, or in our case 4 pounds of strawberries because Norah is a maniac for them and they were on sale.
The rail thin blond women barely able to walk down the aisle caught my attention immediately. It always amazes me that when I am out with my children and there is something outside the norm how quickly the fight reflex rears up, (for the record I have yet to find my flight reflex, but that's just who I am.) And this gal was pinging all the 'abnormal' alarm bells for me, maybe 80 pounds, 8 inch heels, ripped jeans, ripe smell, several glittery ripped worn out t-shirts overlapping... and keeping steady only by holding the hand of the small 4 year old child walking beside her.
I must admit that my very first reaction was to fiercely fight down an impulse to run over and grab the child. No child should have to steady their mother while she lopes sinuously down a grocery store aisle like a drunk Giraffe. Or look up the scarred and trackmarked arm to dilated pupils and a stupid cheshire grin. That adorable boy who repeated and repeated the list to his mother while she stared at him and stroked his face over and over repeating words of affection.
I wondered if she saw him, or even knew where she was.
The moment really stuck with me through the day, I went to a lovely affair titled Listen to Your Mother and amid moments of laughter and grief shared with a roomful of mothers, mothers to be, or the mothered I thought again of that blond gal and her son. Did she love him? Did she love him more than the drugs coursing through her veins?
I am so lucky, I know who I am, what I want and where I am going. I can take care of my children and be present for their daily lives. In a brief moment of viewing someone else's I know that despite the moments of hardship and frustration, despite not always feeling appreciated or noticed or special, I have one very important thing. Myself. and I can teach my children to be strong and vital and take care of their bodies and minds, that love is kind and gentle and fierce and fiery but it is never ever selfish.
Well folks just when we were finally on the road to recovery Abby found herself another virus. March has been the worst month in recent memory for sickness around here, both the kids had back to back viruses and missed over two weeks of outings and school between the two of them. Then Seth got sick which immediately was an ear infection (also loads of fun should you ever wonder fleetingly about infecting the ears of a man who has a broken ear drum and a compromised immune system- vote yes- vote a total riot.)
And just when we thought that things were looking healthier around here, Kablammo! Abby is sick again. Hopefully Norah can avoid the extreme fever and chills that had Abby ( and subsequently Seth and myself) up until 5am this morning. I do suppose that the one really really good thing about one of us being sick is that it immediately trips my 'soup trigger' and has me thinking steaming bowls of tasty stoup. Oh yes that "t" is in there for a reason, I cannot actually make a soup per say, but I am a master craftsman of the Stew+Soup=Stoup. My Stoup is always intended to be a soup, but alas far more vegetable, meat and rice/noodles/potatoes fit in than I ever expect. If there is room in the broth it just doesn't look full enough to me and so I add, and add, and add until... Stoup. I suppose the only real reason that it isn't just called a Stew is that I intended it, however briefly, to be a soup when I began.
This particular stoup was a great hit and even had Abby munching away despite the non-appetite of a cold. Let me introduce: Ukrainian Prairie Soup, otherwise known as the best damn soup I have ever made. This was such a great meal, and it immediately reminded Seth and I of growing up in Alberta with the huge Ukrainian population and all the tasty yummy delectable food that should be eaten and available everywhere... but isn't. I must admit that I took it for granted that I could go to the store and buy a 5 kg bag of perogies for 7 dollars, did you hear that 5KG of PEROGIES? Or how about a tray of cabbagerolls, tasty rolls of meat and rice covered with that great tomato sauce, seriously!! I mean the trouble I could get into with that these days!
But alas, not here in warm and rainy Spokane, perogies and cabbagerolls are simply the stuff of harsher winters where the only reason you leave the decently warm bus to walk home in the freezing/windy/icy/snowy/wasteland is because you know that there is 5kgs of perogies waiting for you. Or at least I tell myself this so I won't spend every hungry moment bemoaning the lack of perogies and cabbage rolls. Anyway back to the stoup, here we are folks a stoup that tastes just like cabbage rolls and then some. Granted it lacks ground beef, but I am sorta picky about ground beef in soups and I would have told you I hated that the lovely fatty tasty amazing ground beef that should be a hamburger or a meatloaf is floating in a liquid. BUT then I had some ground beef soup at the lovely Sarah's house and well.... she may have changed my mind a little, or a lot, that was damn good soup too, but I don't have that recipe I have this one:
1 tblsp each of butter and oil
2 large chicken breasts diced with salt and pepper to taste
Half a head of Green cabbage chopped
1 cup of chopped green beans
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 cans of tomato soup
3 cups of chicken broth
1 1/2 cups cooked rice ( remember the stoup, you may want less if you can't handle the STOUP)
1 tblsp of dried dill
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, brown in butter and oil, add cabbage and saute until slightly translucent, add beans and tomatoes, soups, broth, rice and dill. Bring to boil and simmer for half and hour or so until the stoup has thickened and you are clamouring for food.
Ah Spokane, what a fickle winter you weave. Sometimes it snows and then it rains and then it's cold, no warm, and then cold, and then spring-like... the only place more indecisive in winter is Calgary. BUT I do really love living here, and the variety has made it more fun. I grew up in Edmonton where the winters were polar, bitter, freezing and ridiculous. At least one week of minus 30-40 celsius and on top of that freezing winds, lots of snow.... you get the drift. ha ha get it? snow.. drift.. okay lame, but the point is that I am really enjoying winter here! On our last snow day I was out with the girls trampling that newly fallen blanket of pristine white flakes into a strange highway of boot tracks criss-crossing our huge yard.
There was much excitement about shadows for some reason and Norah spent a lot of time exclaiming about the location of her shadow and it's neat trick of following her around
Abby and Nemo were digging for ... well.... something
And now for this dog, I have to tell you, this dog is so damn cute. And especially when he is all covered in snow and NOT banging on the back door to be let in, then he is extra cute.
Our loyal doggies, featuring Snow dog and Old dog who is far too dignified to actually prance in the snow, I mean really!
Lastly.. our tracks, Norah was most impressed that people make tracks just like animals do, thank you Diego.
So about three years ago my Mother in Law bought a dollhouse kit for Seth to work on for Abby, at the time it seemed like a really great constructive project for him. It soon becaem apparant that there were way too many instructions that were vague with unlabeled pieces for his brain injury to handle.... Cue Mommy to the rescue. We have been working on this crazy dollhouse for the past year together, it started with wanting to get it done for Abby's Fourth birthday over the summer but that didn't quite happen. And then wanting to get it done for Christmas, but still.. not enough time. So after stalling out on cutting all the little bitty pieces of trim (that really my kids couldn't care less about) an executive decision was made in January that the inside should be finished first. This was based partly on the fact that the kids were loving playing with it and starting to colour the walls with crayons to help mommy finish, and also partly because I am quite worried about the little delicate wooden deck railing spindles surviving the next few years.. so inside won over outside. Above is a shot of the inside all primed with papers laid out for each room.
Here is the upper floor of the dollhouse, the two girl's rooms. Not surprisingly the older girl gets the biggest room and when ABby is playing she also gets all the blankets, food, pets and toys... :)
Baby's room, the wallpaper is also sparkly in a lot of these rooms which really put Abby over the top
The Bathroom which I am thinking that i am totally in love with and I wonder if they could make scrapbooking paper 10 feet tall for my bathroom :) lol
Mom and Dad's room, yes we did use vinyl flooring in the whole dollhouse, yes I did cut it out to fit each room from large tiles, no I am not crazy. My thinking was this: it is super durable and meant for real people to walk in so therefore it should survive the doll family and the two little girls manipulating them.... right?
Two angles of the living/dining room
And two angles of the kitchen
It may have been the most fun I have ever had making something for the kids, and I thought seriously about starting a dollhouse renovation company.. but you know.. time :)
Lastly we have a few shots of Baby Raccoon and Baby Kitty who came to play a few days ago. They were masks cut out from a cutting crafts book ABby got for Xmas, and they provided hours of playtime. :)
Finally! Finally I have my brand new shiny red camera, and I finally got some time to work with it and take a few new pictures of the girls that aren't all grayed out. Finally I can select shots that are really the ones that I want and not just have to settle for the half decent ones. So I celebrated by trying to take a few shots of what we did today.
It was such a lovely warm day above freezing, mostly all the snow has melted and so the kids were itching to get the bikes out for the first time in months. Norah is still too short for the real bikes, or even the tricycles, but she can scoot. And she's pretty darn fast at it too!
Not as fast as Abby though, so she settled with yelling "Abby!" over and over while her big sister lapped her around the driveway.
Abby was delighted she still knew how to ride her bike and spent at least a half an hour riding in circles and giving me a play by play whenever she got close to the flower bed.
Abby and I made homemade turkey soup and homemade buns for supper. Whenever I make homemade bread or buns I always ponder why I don't make them all the time. Unfortunately with Seth on a low-carb diet buns aren't really a staple food but once in a while they really hit the spot. And my kids love homemade soup so much! More than pizza, more than chicken nuggests, and only slightly less then french fries. (seriously, french fries are the most sought after food for my kids, but not the crappy ones, they have to be big nicely seasoned Steak fries.) Abby is really good at eating the soup broth and the bits, but really Norah is a broth girl through and through. So tonight HandDog came to visit and help Norah eat her bits so she wouldn't be all full of liquid and hungry in two hours.
At first HandDog was such an anomaly that she wasn't too sure, that silly handdog masquerading as Daddy's hand this whole time had her stumped for only a few seconds.
Then they were best of friends and HandDog quickly helped Norah eat some bits from the soup bowl by trying them first and proving without a doubt that the bits were indeed edible. She was very upset when Hand Dog had to say goodbye and help Daddy do the dishes and walk the dogs. Ultimately HandCat that tried to help Mommy do the bath was not nearly as popular and very nearly drowned via angry toddler.
Sometimes when we're tired or just plain wanting the kids to "do what we say when we say it," it's easy to forget that a lot of parenting has to be creative. A situation where we struggle to get the obstinent child to comply can be easily diffused with something as simple as HandDog. Even though today ended well I am still struggling with trying to balance time between the kids and things that I want/need to do. But when all else fails looking at the world through the imagination of a little girl can really change your perspective.
So here's the thing, because I spend all this time at home, and work from home and my husband is at home too and the kids are at home most of the time... well... sometimes I don't actually appreciate the time that I have with the kids. It's not like I am at work all day thinking about how much I miss their little faces, I am upstairs at home trying to work with a million distractions namely two very smart, very verbal little girls. So what could actually be a whole day of us doing things together turns into a day of me trying to escape for a few minutes and being interrupted, so I feel like my escape was jilted and therefore I am sore about it.
I take this sore spot and I flaunt it by huffing about it and then planning a household chore that simply has to get done and 'might' include a child but really isn't their idea of fun at all. So since they really couldn't care less about participating in putting away the laundry, or tidying the shelves I do indeed get that much longed for escape, but by then it is soured and tainted by the fact that I won it underhandedly.
This year will be different, following up on my resolution to spend some individual time with each kid ( which is mostly working) I am trying to pay with cash instead of credit.
I plan an activity with the kids that we simply just do, a craft, or a game, something together... 30-45 mintues or so. I try to be wholly present in whatever we do, have a great time, and then after we are done I can ask for a few minutes to work on what I need to do. This way my kids already feel like they have cash in their pockets, I am not paying them with empty promises of some indistinct activity in the future I have already given them the gift of my time and am asking for a little back.
We started this off with shaving cream painting, you know the activity where you spray shaving foam all over the table and watch your horrified children as they tentativty poke at it while wondering transparently if their mother has really and truly gone mental? You know that one? well we did it.
After the initial spate of " Let's make as big a mess as possible before mom realizes just how big a hole she has dug here," we moved on to "hey this feels pretty great on the skin"
And finally the intended result, the paintings
A lovely flower above, and a rendition of Toothless the Dragon from How to Train Your Dragon
And Norah informs me that a reliable source has told her this is a cow, definitely a cow.
It was great fun, and I did really enjoy it. Letting go of 'the plan' is really hard sometimes but soon enough these kids will be off at school and time will drag for hours.
And lastly I'll leave you with a shot of poor Nemo who was out in the snow in the perfect conditions for this crazy snowball effect. Poor dog was waddling all over the house until I took pity on him and gave him a warm bath to melt him down a bit :)
New Years always seems to be such a surprise for me, not that I don't know it's coming but more that the confirmation that all time is just slipping by faster and faster scares the pants off of me. And there is no better reminder than that crazy anti-climactic celebration with the odd pressure to drink copious amounts of alcohol and watch some crazy sparkly ball fall a continent away. And after you kiss your special someone ( and in my case marvel that there is this crazy forever marriage with this perfect person and how the hell did that happen?) and then it's all over. All the anticipation for all the holidays that are sandwiched into two months is suddenly let go and you feel.. well... tired.
We have been running at full tilt over here for the last few months, we had two birthdays within our little nuclear ( love the word and the completely volatile implications) family, one birthday in the extended family, 4 birthdays with friends, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then New Years which brought a new baby to a very best friend. Add to that Seth deciding to go back to school, Abby starting Ballet, Norah stopping her napping and I had two publication deadlines for other people and self published one other pattern not to mention making Christmas presents and what you you end up with? Tired.
I am looking forward to January, sweet sweet January with it's endless possibilities and unmarked calender.
The best thing about the first few days of the New Year is that you can fool yourself into thinking that life really should be this unblemished list of hopes and dreams, ideas planned and yet not made real. That you will indeed have time to complete all things which you desire and still have time to relax in a pillow of lavender steam each night while your children magically put themselves to bed after pouring you a glass of Merlot. That somehow all the gritty parts will be brushed over and a perfect silver lining will always gleam with promise like a beacon in the night.
And then the best thing about the rest of January is that you realize nothing has really changed, that there are still kids pulling each others hair, dogs pooping in the living room, books being ripped, favorite coffee cups smashed, not enough time to do anything other than laundry and work and cooking for the starving hordes. But this is the very best part of life, the part where we have other people to mess it up and change it around, to demand our time away from the very best resolutions we have made. Life is lived inside the in between spaces, the moments before and after the climax where we just be with each other and do our daily things.
For that very reason I would like to share my resolutions with you all:
1. Make a point every day of spending half an hour with each child separately doing something of their choice, I will do this without thinking of knitting, and without trying to double task a household chore because when my children are grown they will remember the small moments not the big ones.
2. Taking another half an hour to exercise each day, this does mostly happen anyways but making it more formal will make it more appealing. I will feel like I am healing my body, and making it strong, I will not bend to the image that society makes for me but carve my own.
Just to point out that at this point I have lost 1.5 hours of knitting time
3. To work my ass off at my now chosen career, to be the very best dynamic incredible artistic person that I am, and to never apologize for it.
I wish everyone the very best of the New Year, make the small moments count, and live the life you really want !