Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

From the M. family kids to you and yours, a very merry Christmas!

Monday, December 07, 2009

A little announcement...

The M. family is pleased to announce the arrival of Baby Bean in late May or early June 2010!

I am feeling very well, thanks to good medical care, and we are all greatly looking forward to this little one joining our family.

Onward to a family of.... six?!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent, Week One

Wow -- Sting singing my favourite Advent song. Amazing.

During Advent, I often think of Mary: very young, very pregnant, travelling, perhaps frightened and missing her mother and wondering what she got herself into when she said yes to the blindingly bright angel who appeared to her.

My oldest son, A., was due on Christmas Day 2001, although he chose to wait around until the New Year. That Advent, as I dealt with trying to put on my -40C boots and to find a parka that would fit over my mountainous belly, I often thought of Mary, riding a donkey for days on end, swollen and sore and uncomfortable. I was "young" too -- at 24, I was most likely a decade older than Mary had been when she carired our Lord, but 24 is a pretty young mother now. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. Imagine what she must have been thinking.

When she said yes, did she have any idea that she gave the rest of us the Gift of Eternal Life? As she carried her unborn son to Bethlemhem, did she wonder if God, the One who had given her this child, had abandoned her? I don't know, but I think Mary at 14 was a lot wiser than me at 24. There's a reason she was chosen to be the "most highly favoured lady" when she was really still a child.

Happy Week One of Advent -- and thank you for saying yes, Mother.

Friday, November 27, 2009

From a grateful heart

Prayer of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla
Jesus, I promise You to submit myself to all that You permit to befall me,
make me only know Your will.

My most sweet Jesus, infinitely merciful God, most tender Father of souls,
and in a particular way of the most weak, most miserable, most infirm
which You carry with special tenderness between Your divine arms,
I come to You to ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart,
the grace to comprehend and to do always Your holy will,
the grace to confide in You,
the grace to rest securely through time and eternity in Your loving divine arms.


Hubby is home, playing Pokemon with the brood, and I am one grateful wife.

The woman pictured above, and the author of the prayer, is Saint Gianna Molla. Saint Gianna was a working mother, an obstetrician/pediatrician, with three children, a full-time medical practice serving poor mothers and children, and a husband who often travelled for work. Her pregnancies were not easy, because she suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (, the same pregnancy condition I suffered with N. Gianna loved fashion and opera and skiing. This is a woman I can fully relate to, a saint for the working moms. I often ask for her prayers, and she has never, ever let me down. She is truly my friend and comfort.

During her fourth pregnancy, doctors found a tumour growing in her uturus, and suggested she have the entire uterus removed. She refused, allowing them to only remove enough of the tumour so her baby could continue growing. She chose to risk her life in order to save the life of her daughter. She died of sepsis several days after Gianna Emmanuela was born, crying aloud, "Oh my Jesus, I love you!"

I prayed to St. Gianna a lot during this last sail. When her husband was away for work, she wrote him letters, and I've read them. She often talks of love in marriage, and Jesus and her deep, abiding faith -- but she also discusses household matters, her own exhaustion, and  how much the children miss him. This woman understands my life.

So, to all the other working moms, Navy wives and those who deal with the challenges of modern work and modern marriage -- may I introduce you to my friend? I guarantee she will be a help and comfort to you, too.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My little choister

A. was in the Chritmas parade this weekend. Yes, I know he's impossible to see in the video, but just listen to the singing! And then listen to N. wonder why her brother isn't joining us on the sidewalk. Too funny.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

He's still not sleeping at night

Poor Big I. I think he just misses Daddy.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One thing they don't tell you about children...

... is how inherently selfish and self-absorbed they are.

We try very hard to teach our kids to be empathetic and polite little people who think of others. Sometimes it works, but a lot of the time it doesn't.

An example: Big I. has been refusing to go to sleep at night. He makes noise, talks, jumps in his brother's bed, gets up and demands hugs, etc. It is driving me insane, keeping his siblings awake and is stealing what I have of down time in a day, when I neither parent nor work. When dealing with these antics, I can't make lunches or sign permisison slips or any of the other things I do for them after they sleep and before I sit at the computer.

I've explained to him, over and over, that this is not OK and makes mommy very, very cranky (and lands him in time out and with Xs -- three Xs and he loses his allowance for the week.) Nothing works, and he continues to act out this way rather than telling me what's making him act like this. I can't ignore him, because it wakes the others.

Tonight, an hour and a half of this nonsense led to two Xs, the curtains in the boys' room being pulled down, and waking Toddler N, who promptly started to scream in that "I've woken up sick as a dog" way.

As I tried desperately to give N. Tylenol and take her temperature while checking her for serious symptoms, he kept acting up, yelling and bouncing and squirming on his bed.

Finally, I put N. down, went into his room, turned on the light and chewed him out. Wow, sucky pareting moment right here.

After I finally calmed N. back to sleep, I went back into the room and apologized for losing my temper, and had a good talk with I. I told him I loved him very much and he was a good boy, but these nighttime behaviours were not OK and not good and were hurting everyone in the house. We talked about our agreement this week (he will try to listen the first time and I will try hard not to raise my voice.)

Look, I have no idea if this agreement will work out. All I know is he has to start going to bed. He's five. Bedtime was, for a long time now, the good end to a long day. For the past two months, it's once again become the most stressful time of the day for me. It hasn't been like that since I used to have to sit in their room for hours at night to get them to sleep. I refuse to go back to that.

The hardest part of being alone is dealing with these sorts of things and having no one to take over when you feel you are losing your cool. When C. is here, we spell each other off. When alone, it's just me. Although I'm a good mom, my children are adept at finding something that irritates me and notching it up to torture level. It's exhausting, especially since I can't use healthy guilt (pointing out how his behaviour affects others) with Big I. He has none.

This stuff is hard. Most days I do well, but today was just one of those days.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Memories of Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day has always been an important occasion for me. As a little girl, I donned my Girl Guide uniform and marched in parade after parade, and laid a wreath for my mother's father, who served as a gunner with the Newfoundlanders in the Second World War. Grandfather Spawn served in many places, including Africa, and was reportedly the tallest man in the British Army.

In university, I was fortunate enough to hang around with friends who were also grateful for the sacrifices of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers. I attended at least two ceremonies at the National War Memorial with Kathryn and John; each year, we skipped classes (shame on Carleton for being open on Remembrance Day) and headed down to the War Memorial to do our duty as proud and grateful young people.

John was a former reservist by then, and made a point of introducing us to any soldiers and veterans he knew. I remember making signs one year, saying "Thank you for our freedom, from students of Carleton University."

One year, the War Memorial was under construction; the government held the ceremony right on the lawn of Parliament Hill. We felt strange, walking onto the Hill; it just didn't feel right. Many people looked uneasy.

But then, music swelled from the Peace Tower. It wasn't the tolling of the hour. It was a song played on the clock's carillon.

"What is that?" I said to John and Kathryn. In reply, John began to sing along.

"They'll be blue birds over/ the white cliffs of Dover/ tomorrow, just you wait and see...."

They were playing war-time music and hymns. "The White Cliffs of Dover" faded, followed by "For Those in Peril on the Sea" and then by "To Thee My Country" and many others. And suddenly, holding the ceremony there on the Hill felt right, and the crowd was united in singing.

The best part of the national ceremony, every year, was the veteran's parade. They marched by, some of them using canes, others being pushed in wheelchairs, as thousand of people lined the route. We would clap, and wave and cheer, and yell "Thank you! Thank you!" until our throats were hoarse and our voices gone.

Back then, I remember feeling as if these were the very last veterans of a "true" war for Canada, the last ones to carry that burden. Little did I know that 12 years later, I would be living in a military house on a military base, with one neighbour and friend just returned from Afghanistan last year, haunted by what he's witnessed; another neighbour  who just left for Afghanistan earlier this month; and more friends than I can count who have sent their husbands and wives over to that country. We worry ourselves sick about these friends, and yet we are so proud of their willingness to risk their lives for women and children in another country, women and children who have been brutally oppressed and abused and scarred.

The Hubby is sailing today, and therefore is attending the ship's Remembrance Day ceremony, rather than helping me drag our kids to the local cenotaph. The children and I are watching the national Remembrance Day ceremoney in Ottawa this year, and as always, it's making me cry from a mixture of homesickness and pride and gratitude. But this year, I'm also thinking of D. and C. and the others I know who are modern vets; I'm thinking of my grandfathers and Hubby's grandfather, who served in the First and Second World Wars; and I'm thinking of Hubby, ready and willing to fulfill the same duty these men have.

Of course, like everyone else, I hope that wherever he serves, he stays safe. But I won't prevent him doing what he thinks is right. And I hope the next generation of university students lines the streets of Ottawa to clap and shout thank you to the veterans of this generation, many years from now.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The silvery moonbeams so bright, down through the window give light

The other day, Super A. looked out the front window at dusk, and leaned his golden head against the glass, slick with rain on the other side.

"What a beautiful night," he said, "even though it's raining. It's beautiful. And soon it will be time to get in my bed!"

"You like to sleep, don't you, buddy?" I asked.

"Oh, yes," he said. "Sleeping is nice!"

As I turned away, I shook my head in amazement. Seven years ago, I never would have believed A. would enthuse about the wonders of going to sleep.

A. was the baby who never slept. EVER. He did not nap for more than 20 minutes at a time. He ate every hour, all night long. If Hubby was working the evening shift, he would insist on staying up and waiting for him until midnight, when I had to work at 5 a.m. His first four years of life, he never slept the night. Ever.

Now, he sleeps from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m., like clockwork every night. He loves to go to bed, and only ever stays up because I. is keeping him awake.

My friend Gail often told me "this too shall pass" during those sleepless nights. I hardly believed her. All I could imagine was endless years of sleep deprivation. And now, A. is a dream to put to bed. He snuggles into his covers after book and kiss, and drifts off to dreamland.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another failed mommy badge

The Hubby left this morning for a month-long sail, after being away the week before. He felt rotten about missing Hallowe'en, but he was comforted by the fact that he managed to make it to Big I.'s father-child pumpkin-carving party last night.

Big I. has an absolutely wonderful kindergarten teacher. This same teacher taught A. two years ago, and she is a gem. Hallowe'en is a big time in her class; besides the pumpkin-carving party, she hosts a "Halowe'en Howl" for parents to attend, and then a class party.

The Howl was today, and it is a chance for the children to perfom some Hallowe'en songs for their mommies, daddies and the occasional grandparent. I. was very excited about it, and came home earlier this week clutching a handmade invitation for me. I looked into his sweet little face and had to say, "I'm so sorry, honey, but I can't go."

Work has been insane. Completely, utterly and absolutely insane. We seem to be inundated right now, and everyone is working flat out. Plus, several of my coworkers have been sick, and several more had bought tickets to the U2 concert in Vancouver. The office was half empty today, so the rest of us were running around, madly trying to do the work of two people at once. The whole week has been like this, so I knew there was no way I could miss most of a morning at work.

I work downtown, but our PMQ is about a 30-minute drive west of the city's core -- more like an hour at rush hour. To get to his Howl, I would have had to leave work at 10 a.m. to make it to the school, sit through the 30-minute party, then head immediately back to work, arriving back around noon (and that's with the van, not by bus.) Two hours to make a half hour party. I knew it just wasn't possible.

He was disappointed, but seemed to perk up when I suggested he invite V., the nanny, and his sister N. V., my saving grace in my working-parent hell, took meticulous video of the entire thing, which I sat down and watched in full just now. By the end, I was sobbing.

Big I., my boisterous, funny and fun-loving guy, just stands there during all the songs. No singing, no actions, no jumping and clapping. He actually turns his back on the teacher for several minutes and just stands there  with his head hanging down and his lip out. He missed me so much he didn't even want to participate.

When I got home, he told me he has enjoyed the Howl, but he also pointed out, "C.'s mommy was there. Her mommy made it to the Howl." C.'s mom is an at-home mother, you see.

My friend Karan invented the Failed Mommies Club awhile ago, for those mothers who just don't make the mommy grade nowadays (and so said mommies can get together now and then and drink wine.) I think I earned another Failed Mommy badge today for:
  1. missing my son's Hallowe'en school event;
  2. sending the nanny with a videocamera instead (and even having a nanny in the first place -- tut, tut!);
  3. doing it on the day his father sailed for a month;
  4. working a demanding career downtown instead of a mom job or (as the much smarter mommies do) keeping the demanding career but working from home; and
  5. working so far from home that these sorts of events are sometimes impossible.
Never mind the homework I do with A. every night, or the fact that tonight I cooked a healthy meal, cleaned up, baked cookies with the kids for the actual Hallowe'en party tomorrow, made A. get a shower, made lunches and put all three kids to bed alone. No matter how super a mother you are, you are always a failure when you break your child's heart.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A letter to the person who writes the school newsletter

Dear Educator Administrator Education Professional Teacher, Principal or Vice-Principal who writes the school newsletter:

You recently sent a school newsletter home in my son's backpack, a week after the date printed on the top. The events section listed two events at the school earlier this week, one of which I completely missed. For the other one, I had to call half the mommies in the class until one of them knew the time we were supposed to show up. The newsletter asked parents to call and volunteer for the events. I would have raised my hand, but I had no idea you needed help, since the newsletter was a week late.

Most of the parents at our school are pretty smart, with lots of common sense, but few of us have PhDs in educational theory and jargon. I have an honours degree, and I still scratch my head over the newsletter when it is filled with phrases such as "there are many initiatives/programs that the school has implemented in supporting students." What are you really trying to say? First off, you are misusing the word "initiative;" it does not mean a program. It means personal drive or ambition. And what do you really mean when you say you have implemented programs that support students? Are you talking about school counsellors? Anti-bullying programs? Hall monitors? By saying "supportive programs", you don't have to get specific, which means you are communicating essentially nothing to the parent. And what do you mean by implemented? Did you put up a "bullies suck" poster and walk away? What has the school achieved in its program? Have incidents of bullying gone down? Give me details.

When you use big, fancy and vague words, you are not communicating with parents. You are stressing us out as we try to decipher what the bafflegab really means as we read the newsletter while cheering a soccer team or cooking dinner.

Even worse is the lack of correct grammar and punctuation (and sometimes spelling!) in these newsletters. Quotation marks are not used for emphasis. Use bold. Or italics. Anything other than "SCARE QUOTES WITH CAPS."

You don't need to capitalize every third word. In School Suspension may look impressive to you, but it's poor grammar. You're giving me a face tic. Stop it.

Finally, please stop calling yourselves administrators and educators. I don't care about your job classification. I care about what you actually do in my child's school. Are you in charge? Then you're the principal or vice-principal. Do you teach? Then you're a teacher. Stop confusing us with pompous titles.

I know your hearts are in the right place. I know this is a terrific school, and my kids love attending it. I know you have great teachers; both of my boys have dream teachers.

Please don't make me pull out my old grease pen and send back the newsletter after I vet it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Toddler N. gives a vocabulary lesson

Hubby: I wish we had some wieners to put in these beans.

Big. I.: What's a wiener?

Super A.: It's a hot dog.

Toddler N.: No, a wiener isn't a hot dog. A wiener is a penis!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Anyone want a faulty gall bladder?

If you do, you're more than free to help yourself to mine.

I had what was probably a gall stones attack two nights ago. Except for labour and miscarriage, it was the most painful experience of my life.

So now I am on an extreme low-fat diet. Nothing can enter my mouth with more than three grams of fat. Do you know how little fat that is? Two slices of bread have about a gram to two grams of fat. Half a chicken breast has about two grams. Bananas have about 4 grams.

I am seriously ticked off.

Bright side: this should help me lose weight

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Honesty and privacy

I kept a journal from the ages of 13 to 18, pouring my thoughts and dreams and aspirations, my observations of myself and others, and my spare story ideas into its pages. I got the idea from three sources: a friend who journaled (as her mother journaled before her), the diary of Anne Frank (which I first read at age 12) and the published journals of my favourite author, L.M. Montgomery.

While two of those journals were published works, only one of these authors had ever written a journal with some awareness it might later be published. Montgomery kept detailed and voluminous handwritten journals, but she later meticulously typed and edited volumes for publication after her death. Although she tried very hard to be honest and bare in her edited version, leaving little out, there are things she dropped for public consumption. Most of these had to do with her son Chester, who turned out to be a major disappointment to her.

When I started this blog almost three years ago, it had a purpose: to give an honest and thorough account of a woman alone with three children in the sub-Arctic for five months, while her husband attempted to pass Basic Officer Training with the Canadian Forces. I think I gave a fairly honest and accurate account of that experience, while also posting pictures of the children Hubby could enjoy whenever he got five minutes in front of a computer.

When we were reunited and moved, the purpose of this blog changed. It became more of a personal ranting and writing spot, a place to share thoughts and ideas, religious beliefs and personal causes. I think it is less successful in this, less satisfying to the reader, but for the few who read, it suffices.

Back when I was a reporter (I shall return...), I often told people new to the reporting process who were telling me personal stories to self-edit. "I have every right to ask you any question I please, and you have every right to refuse to answer it," I would say. "Edit yourself before you say it, because once I know it, it's too late. Take your time and think about what you want to tell me about you, but be as honest as you can be." People always appreciated the advice.

I find I often self-edit on this blog, and leave out ideas I would love to write about. Although I have many reasons for this, the main one is simple: I don't want to hurt someone in my life.

So I limit what I write about the children's misbehaviour as they grow. I leave out information I don't want extended family members to discover. I curtail my need to write about some relationships. In the end, protecting others' privacy is worth it.

But I admire writers who write without fear of the consequences. I think they give the rest of us the gift of truth about our shared human experience.

So if you wonder why I haven't written lately, I probably have a blog post I am dying to share... but I've curtailed myself.

I think I need to restart my paper and pen journal.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

To the military families...

... especially those who have sacrificed their loved ones for the rest of us.

Hubby sails back in two days. Can't wait.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Revenge of the school-supply-crazed mommy

I'm sitting here, on a perfectly fine Thursday evening, with all of the children in bed and fresh ideas for my book.

But can I settle in for an evening of writing? No.

I have to sharpen 72 pencils before school starts on Tuesday. Why? The teacher said so on the supply list. The hateful, dreaded, crazy-making supply list. The one that asks for two, yes, two pencil sharpeners with lids, but also demands all the pencils be sharpened.

Another mother has channelled many of my feelings about the supply list so much better than I can while sharpening 72!! PENCILS. Go on over to her blog and enjoy her revenge fantasy.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

American stroller

The Hubby has been away for a month on the final sail of his officer training. Although he has been home for the occasional weekend, and will be home for a few more, I am essentially alone for a full seven weeks. No biggie; it's just part of Navy life.

While Hubby has been gone, my house and budget have decided to self-destruct. The computer, BBQ and washer all broke within a few days of each other, wiping out what little savings I had left from a rather expensive last six months.

We're broke. I could barely afford my school supplies this year ($226 for supplies and shoes for 2 kids, and a backpack and shoes for Toddler N.'s preschool. Insane.) In order to save money, I went through the children's closets and fall/winter gear meticulously, compiling a comprehensive list of what they need in clothing. Except for Super A., they don't need much, thanks to the magic of sibling- and neighbour-hand-me-downs.

"Great," I thought as I hung the list on the fridge. "$150 should do for everything else they need, including rain boots and winter mitts."

This past weekend, the Hubby sailed into Olympia, Washington. He had some time off on Saturday, so he did a bit of shopping and toured the town via bus. He knows about the money situation, so he virtuously limited his personal spending.

A very pregnant, very young woman boarded the crowded bus, and C. got up and offered his seat. She took it and thanked him, and he struck up a conversation. She started telling him about her current situation -- just left an nasty boyfriend, no real home, staying at a relative's house and trying to afford what she needs to bring a baby into the world.

Now, before I go any further, you need to know something about the Hubby. He truly feels pregnant women should be treated very well by everyone around them. He feels it is the most beautiful and amazing time in a woman's life, and that all pregnant women should feel special, because they are. He was (generally) ridiculously doting whenever I was pregnant. So I know this girl's story must have cut him to the quick.

He asked her what she still needed. She replied she had clothes, a bassinet and a crib, all secondhand, and all she needed was a car seat/stroller combo. She was looking to get them secondhand, too.

At that moment, a Bible verse popped into his head, the one about how hard it is for a rich man to get into Heaven, harder than a camel going through the eye of a needle. And although he knew I might kill him, he said, "Let's go to Target and get you a new one. On me."

So that's what he did. He took this young woman to the store and spent $150 on a car seat/stroller travel system.

He bundled up his courage and called me the next day.

I admit it. I yelled at him. But it was half-hearted, because how do you yell at a man who loves women and children so much that he bought a lonely and hurting stranger a stroller, even as he knew it would cause some financial troubles for us? How can I not respect, admire and love him for that?

Jesus teaches us to give the coat off our backs and the food from our hands to other people who need it more than we do, to give until it sincerely hurts. On Sunday, my husband became one of the few Christians I've ever met who actually did it.

I'm proud to be his wife.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

On fear and motivation

Weird things have been going on in my writing life lately.

As I've blogged before, I've dipped my toes, blushingly and hesitatingly, into writing fiction. I have never, ever written fiction; from the very first scribble, I wrote non-fiction. Character studies, non-fiction short stories, narratives, journals, and then on to articles and interviews and radio scripts. Reality was where my pen was most comfortable.

But now that I am no longer a working journalist and can no longer spend my days asking real people questions, my reporter-brain has despereately started asking imaginary people about their lives and thoughts and stories. It's weird. I don't know how to deal with all these people who hang out in my brain and tell me things.

My first fiction manuscript is stalled, simply because I do not have the time to research the minute technical details properly, what with The Hubby's training and the full-time job and the rugrats. I wil get back to it, since it is, at its core, about identity, military family life and the nature of the life of a journalist, both in and outside the newsroom. The question I'm asking the protagonist is one I ask myself: "When do you stop being a journalist? Where does the reporter end and the person begin? How does your spouse's identity affect yours? Can you be two archetypes at once?"

The first chapters of the second manuscript exploded out of me about two months ago (before the computer croaked). That one I don't need to research so much. It is much more visceral and personal, and it is about something of which I know more than most obstetricians. (A sub-group Internet friends have immediately figured out what I'm talking about. Yes girls, I'm writing about it.)

But what it's really about is fear and the strange things we do when we're frightened.

Fear is a powerful motivator, and in some ways that's supremely appropriate. When we're frightened by a physical threat, we either run or fight, depending on what will best protect our sorry hides. Adrenalin exists for a reason.

But most of the things which frighten us are not physical, and we can't physically run from them. How do you run from illness or loneliness or death? How do you run from thoughts and emotions? How do you make yourself, or the ones you love more than life, safe again?

Finding safety in those kinds of situations is never simple or straightforward, and it often takes calm and quiet to suss out the answer. But here's the tricky part: fear is fear, and our bodies react the same way to each fear-threat. Adrenalin kicks in, and that particular hormone doesn't do calm and reflective very well. Its whole point is to flush out the indecision and make us act right away.

Often, when someone we love is sick or suffering, and we are terrified for them, we want to listen to the adrenalin and just make the pain STOP. It's hard to remember the short-term pain may be worth it, in order to avoid a longer-term consequence of absolute agony.

I remember when Super A. was a toddler, no more than 14 or 15 months old, he got very sick and needed to go to the hospital. The doctors ordered an IV placed and blood drawn. I held A. while the nurse did her job, expertly getting the IV in one stick as poor A. writhed and sobbed. Hubby held his other hand and stroked his back.

Then A. hiccuped out, "I be good, Daddy, I be good boy. I be good, no more owie."

As I kissed A. and assured him he was the best little boy in the world, and we were not punishing him (where did that never-spanked angel get that idea?), Hubby kissed his head -- and walked right out of the treatment room.

Later, he told me he had almost punched out the nurse, and had to walk away to make sure he didn't -- the nurse who was fighting to get fluids into our dehydrated and very sick boy.

That's what fear and terror and heartbreak can do to you.

So I'm writing a novel about fear as a motivator. Although it's not about me, I've already lived one side of the story. Now I'm asking myself how I might react if my own precious pearl faces my greatest fear.

I'm beginning to understand how fiction is just another form of writing the truth. I already knew the truth ain't pretty.

Wow, um, sorry 'bout that

Add a month alone with the kids to a computer collapse (freaking hard drive) and you have a full month of no blog posts.

Apologies to my four readers!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Still saving that dance

Fifteen years ago, when I was 17, I went to a homecoming dance in Stellarton, N.S. with a friend. She was hoping the boy she was crushing on would be there, and although I had acquired a very pretty black eye trying to play Ultimate Fribee that day, I smeared on some make-up and grumpily agreed to go.

Alas, the boy in question wasn't at the dance, not was anyone else over the age of 14. Chris and I prepared to leave; we weren't going to dance with teenyboppers!

"Wait," Chris said, peering into the dark arena. "There a guy from my class over there, and he looks bored to death. Let's go over and say hi."

As we approached, I saw a tall, skinny seventeen-year-old boy hunched up on a chair, elbows on knees, hands cradling his face . His shoulders were too big and wide for the rest of him, his hands too large. He had curly hair, tanned skin and was scowling at the infants dancing nearby.

"C., what are you doing here?" Chris shouted through the music.

He looked up and finally smiled. He'd been dropped off at the dance by his folks. He was stuck there. He seemed very glad to see us.

We spent the rest of the night dancing. I gave him my phone number. He called the next day, and every other day that summer. I liked him, but found his persistence a little annoying.

A month later, he picked me up for another dance. I opened the front door for him and realized I was in love with the guy.

We had a great final year of high school together. I went to Carleton, leaving him behind in Nova Scotia -- or so I thought. But no matter who I dated, no matter how crazy my hijinks, no matter how many times we dumped each other, I always seemed to find my way back to him.

So, to that boy, who is now my husband, my soulmate, and the father of the most beautiful children on the planet: I saved that last dance for you. I always will. Happy 15 years!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy belated birthday, Hubby!

I didn't have the perfect post on your birthday, but I've found it now.

Love you.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Defining quotation

"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." -- Albert Camus

This defines who I am at my most basic. No matter what happens, that summer is somewhere in there.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Weekend with Megan H.

I needed to go to Edmonton for business, so Megan joined me for the weekend once the work was done. Here's some random shots -- more pics at Meg's site.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Perceptions of "working" motherhood

I've been alone with the children during the evenings this week. A few days ago, I took them to the playground down the road after supper, to blow off some energy. A mother out alone with three children usually attracts a lot of attention in B.C.; people tend to stare and either marvel or scowl.

While pushing Toddler N. on the swing, I started chatting with another mom. She asked me if the three of them were all mine. I said yes and prepared to hear the dreaded phrase, "you've got your hands full!" Instead, the mom nodded and said, "We've got four: my daughter, my older son, and the twins."

We immediately started talking full speed; another mother-of-more-than-two is rare here. I thought I'd made a new best friend when I happened to mention I work full-time outside the home.

The other mom blinked and said, "Oh, that's why you're so calm. By six o'clock I'm ready to lose it."

I wanted to sit down on the wood chips and cry. I finally found a person who understands a part of my life, and she threw the Mommy Wars in my face.

I find this tendency of moms to suppose other mothers' work arrangements are easier to be tremendously annoying. I've been a stay-at-home mom for three and a half years and a working mom for four years. Both are hard.

Sometimes, they are hard in the same ways -- kids are kids and their needs don't change. It's just a matter of how many hours you're dealing with it on weekdays. But there is a dramatic difference in being with your kids all day long versus being with them half the day, I admit that.

But why anyone would think working all day long in a high-stress job, commuting for an hour each way, then coming home to cook a meal and deal with children alone all night (another high-stress job) would induce calm is beyond me.

Let's be honest here. I do a very demanding and stressful job with multiple deadlines in a day. The only reasons I can do it between 8:30 and 4:30 is because my bosses are understanding and because I am a ninja. It often takes the entire bus ride home to find my equilibrium before walking twenty minutes from the bus stop in heels to children desperate to see me. And this isn't even me at my very best -- I gave up my best so I could be home before 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. every night.

I wasn't in the mood for that kind of judgment at the park, so I wished the mom a pleasant evening and started climbing the jungle gym with Toddler N.

The next day, I stumbled across a conversation about working motherhood and stress at "Ooh!" I thought. "Awesome, let's see what the bloggers have to say."

I was disappointed: although there are some 9-to-5 workers who are panelists on Momversation, NONE of them were part of this discussion. All of the mommy bloggers in the conversation worked for pay from home. That's valid work, and has its own set of stressors I've never had to have. But let's acknowledge it is not the same as strapping on heels and trooping out the door at 7:15 in the morning. When you work at home, your child's school play, dental appointment or field trip is not a professional crisis. It takes a long time for me to get home; the round trip means I lose half a day of work. There are many days I just can't leave, and I don't know that until 20 minutes before I was planning to go. I've managed to avoid missing anything important, but it is always on my mind. I would have liked that reality, the reality of many working for pay moms, to be reflected in the discussion.

Work is work. It can often be stressful. Motherhood often conflicts with it. Can't we find a way as mothers to acknowledge the differences in our work without thinking everyone else has it easier?

Sunday, May 17, 2009


The garage sale was a total flop. We had one guy look over our bike and tell me it wasn't worth any money, especially not the $10 listed on the sticker; and a neighbourhood kid who tried to buy our dinkie mat as Hubby loaded the detritus into the minivan to take it to the Sally Ann. Hubby took pity on the guffer and gave him the mat.

Salvation Army shoppers, look for some fabulous merchadise this week.

I miss Yellowknife.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garage sale city

I am a devotee of the garage sale and of secondhand living, and it's all Yellowknife's fault.

When the Hubby (then Fiance) and I moved North, we needed many, many things to furnish our first home. We owned no furniture, no cutlery, no pots and pans. We essentially owned the clothes on our backs and an old dresser my former roommate gave me.

What we needed we got from friends, the secondhand store in town and the Yellowknife garage sale circuit.

You see, in the North, furniture is an expensive and precious commodity, since it has to be shipped from down south to get there. It doesn't matter if the local furniture store is selling it or if you order it from IKEA in Edmonton, it still has to travel, and the consumer pays up the nose to get it there. That goes for lots of other stuff, too, such as brand-name clothes and chic baby gear.

Conversely, when people leave, it is often more expensive to ship their Northern furniture and other items south than it is to buy all new and shiny stuff at their destination. That means you have people desperate for cheap furniture and other items, and other people desperate to sell their stuff for any price, just to get rid of it.

It's garage sale heaven.

We furnished our apartment on the Saturday of the May long weekend in 2000, with the help of our friend Julie and her trusty truck. She'd just moved North too, and with her wheels and Hubby's lifting skills, we all did well.

When the Hubby finished his basic training, I held a massive garage sale a week before he came home to move us to Victoria. It was raining, so the turnout was small. For two hours my front yard was stormed by about a hundred furniture seekers, clothes shoppers and pregnant women.

So imagine my dismay when I saw the Victoria version of a garage sale: a few paltry tables of worn-out toys and kitchen stuff, with one lonely and disgruntled shopper digging through the wreckage.

We are holding a garage sale tomorrow to sell some old furniture (Northern vintage!) along with a tonne of awesome kids' clothes and shoes (including two pairs of Robeez), a bike, some DVD stands, computer games, a computer speaker system, etc. If you live in town, come on over. Whatever is left will be free for the taking after noon. (This never would have been an issue in Yellowknife.) Wish us luck!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

For my mom

Elvis singing a classic Ann Murray tune -- Mom, what more can you ask for? Happy Mother's Day!

No inner peace here

Today is Mother's Day, and I have received some of the usual spoiling from the Hubby and our little brood (breakfast in bed, flowers, a meal out, ice cream; it's been a good day.)

After a little more than eight years into this motherhood gig, and many sacrifices made for my guffers (I'd love to NOT have my C-section paunch, thanks very much), I'm at the point where I' mot sure what I've learned from all this.

When A. was born, after the first few months, I could list all the wonderful qualities I'd been learning as a new mom: patience, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, an ability to function on less than three hours a sleep a night for more than a year (no, I am not joking.) I felt as if I was discovering my true abilities, my gifts and strength. I was a reporter and a young mother; I'd show them all this could be done. Pop in that university mixed taped of rousing feminist ballads!

Baby I. came, and Baby N., and I still felt I was doing pretty well. It was hard; I cried a lot, but I was getting better at it, day by day.

And then A. went to school. Lately, as he matures and starts doing and experiencing things I've never dealt with before, I often feel like they've handed me a newborn again (a 50-lb. one) and I have no idea what to do.

In the Gap ads, mothers are thin women with wonderfully toned arms who run through the surf with their perfect offspring, laughing and smiling at their handsome husbands with six-pack abs.

Motherhood is not like that. Motherhood is not bliss. It is hard; it can be frightening and is often downright messy.

I have learned this much: motherhood is not supposed to be sunshine and rainbows. It's not about self-fulfilment or inner peace, and I think that modern expectation is what makes so many mothers feel like failures as they deal with squalling, colicky infants at 3 a.m., or second-graders who insist on bullying their classmates, or teenagers who never want to eat and say they feel fat.

Motherhood, in essence, is about the survival and betterment of the species. Period. Little humans need a lot of things to grow and grow well, but none of them are a perfectly toned, perfectly tanned mother with a personal shopper and a perpetual smile.

Motherhood has shaped who I am, and that person is better than the one I was before the kids came along. I think that's certainly one of the benefits of motherhood. But I don't think that was the point.

The point is, motherhood is not about the mother at all.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A request for my readers

I ask all readers of this weblog to have the common courtesy and respect to contact me directly, whether via the comments or the new email link on the right, if they have a complaint about this personal blog.

Thank you very much.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thoughts on marriage

Megan over at Reflections on the Snow-Covered Hills is having an amazing discussion about the nature of civil vs. religious marriage, especially in light of gay marriage. One of her commenters, Jason, asked us to detail the differences between civil and religious marriages.

Below is my reply. I invite Megan's crowd of commenters to come on over and continue the discussion here, if they wish.

Taking up Jason's challenge -- much of my marriage, in its day to day workings, is similar to Jason's. My husband and I love and support one another, raise children together, share a home and household expenses, pool our earned money, file a joint tax return, claim each other on our benefits, take care of each other when sick, are intimate. Jason and his husband also do all these things, I'm guessing.

The differences are harder to quantify (and I'm going to talk about Catholic marriage in terms of what the Church teaches now -- many Catholic couples you know may not be living this commitment fully -- heck, I know I don't fully live up to it, but Hubby and I try.)

A major difference is the idea of the purpose of marriage. In Catholic thinking, marriage is NOT about romantic love at all (although that's very nice and encouraged.) It's about love as an action, as a set of choices. It's committing not to the feeling of love, but to the idea of raising and caring for a family. Of course many, many married couples also raise families, including Jason and his husband, but I would argue the secular view of marriage is that it is about a commitment to romantic love first. For Catholics, romantic love is secondary, although still very nice and encouraged.

As Catholics who practice our faith, my husband and I have pledged to procreate -- the Catholic wedding service requires you to state you are open to new life and will accept any children God sends through the marital act. (Notice I didn't say parenting, because Jason and his husband do that as well, as do many if not most straight and gay married couples.) That means no artificial birth control. We also accept the indissolubility of our religious marriage -- in other words, we accept that we are married until one of us dies, period. No spiritual divorce (although we have the legal right to divorce the civil aspect of our marriage, and the Church accepts that legal separation is sometimes necessary for the safety of members of the family.)

My husband also has different duties as a married Catholic man than Jason and his husband would -- Hubby is responsible for the entire family's religious education and direction, and that includes me. It's his job to feed my faith and to help me in my religious learning. He will answer for that when he meets the Lord in a greater way than I will for his education. Now, if he abdicated these responsibilities to me or the kids, I would need to step in and teach my kids my faith on my own. And of course, I am very involved in their education, but I take my lead from Hubby.

I also have a different duty as a Catholic wife, and this is a doozie -- I have committed to obeying Hubby's spiritual direction. That doesn't mean going against my personal conscience, ever, but it does mean accepting he has the duty to be involved in my religious life, and I have a duty to accept that and to at least listen to him. It also means I have to accept his primary spiritual direction of the children.

The most important difference of all, I guess, is the Catholic belief is that marriage is a sacrament, not just a ceremony, and therefore confers special graces to the couple through the Holy Spirit. It is a marriage of three, really, a promise to each other and to God, and the Holy Spirit helps us live the vocation.

I hope I haven't totally butchered this, and it is all given with respect. I know other Christians see marriage slightly differently, as will people with different spiritual beliefs. This is simply what my faith teaches, and I think the additional layers on our marriage, the non-civil stuff, is more obvious once explained like this.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Isaiah 55:8-9:
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Our thoughts: only the physically attractive, those who spend their time thinking about themselves and how they can get ahead, are talented and successful.

God's thoughts: A frumpy, lonely, poor, loving, compassionate middle-aged woman who spent her adult live selflessly caring for her elderly and sick parents has the voice of an angel, and is a commanding presence when she sings.

When I watch this talented and passionate woman sing, every single sacrifice for my family seems insignificant in comparison to her sacrifices for her parents.

Well done, Susan Boyle. Keep singing!

Click the link, you will not be disappointed. But I promise you will be surprised.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Adventures in kitchen paleontology 

Big I. is obsessed with dinosaurs. All small children seem to enjoy the ancient lizards, but Big I. is fixated. He now owns two separate encyclopedias on dinos. My four-year-old son can tell you about the different types of skulls each dino has, and why they have sails or plates or horns or massive claws. He can't spell my name, but he can read the names of such dinos as Baryonyx and Xenotarsosaurus.

Big I., you see, has decided he is a paleontologist.

So when the men were at Toys R Us today, and they saw a dinosaur excavation kit, all plans for baking Easter cookies were off. Big I. had bones to dig, and he needed an excavation team.

Chief paleontologist Big I. prepares for the dig.

The first strike of the excavation.

The excavation continues. Digging dinos is hard work.

Excavation team member Daddy chips in.

Chief paleontologist Big I. gives the team instructions and praise.

Putting the skeleton together.

It's a velociraptor! Well done, excavation team!

Quick Easter pic

Sorry I don't have more Easter pics to share (long story), but here's one of the kidlets after Mass on Easter Sunday.
Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

First, why I am a Catholic. The Lord and His Truth never change.

Second, why I am a Christian. "The grave became a place of Hope."

I have a soft spot for Michael Card's music. :-) Happy Easter, everyone!

(For my Christian friends, please do me a favour and pray for me. I need some help. Thanks.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Gone, baby, gone

The CBC is laying off 800 people, cutting programming, and hacking at CBC North's budget (at least $500,000 gone for the North, possibly $1 million.) At least two former colleagues are definitely losing their jobs.

I'm in shock. A part of who I am is wrapped up in that place. I believe in the CBC's mission, especially in the North and in remote areas of Canada, and especially radio. And I'm so very sorry for my worried friends at the Mother Corp., all wondering who will get the ax and who will get pressured into taking early retirement. (They say it's voluntary, but I've seen how management pushes people they don't like to quit or retire.)

It's like the lockout all over again, the realization that the corporate types are out to protect themselves, rather than programming. (Why couldn't they merge the dual bureaucracy of CBC and Radio Canada? Cut the never-ending stream of managers?)

I don't even have the energy to be grateful I'm no longer there and not part of this. How can I be happy I'm not suffering, when so many good friends are, and when the listeners will ultimately lose out?

And now the politicking really begins, but it's going to make no difference. Thanks for trying, MP Charlie Angus.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Who's on top?

On my very first day at CBC Radio, my manager sat me down at a table with a piece of paper and a pen between us. P. drew a triangle on the paper; he drew a little circle on the top and a bunch of little circles on the bottom. He then drew some lines horizontally through the triangle.

"This is the CBC," he said. "The circle here is the president of the corporation. These circles down here are our listeners and viewers. In between are the vice-presidents, directors, managers and staff."

I nodded. It seemed like a pretty routine corporate structure to me.

"This is the way some people see it," he said, showing me the graph with the president on top.

Then he turned the paper so the viewers and listeners were up top, and the president at the bottom.

"This is how it really is," he said. "These people who listen to us, who watch us, they are the boss. They are the reason we are here. They are the reason we produce shows and run the news and try to make them laugh from time to time.

"We're here to serve them, to give them what they need, to tell them stories they need to hear. Never forget that, and you'll do all right."

Over my years at Mother Corp., I tried to remember P.'s advice. I tried to tell stories my real bosses needed to hear. Because of that, I was lucky to do some fun, intriguing and (I think) important work. I often covered stories people outside the North would think unimportant -- but hey, my bosses were Northerners, and at least half of them lived in small Aboriginal communities.

With all of the problems at the CBC lately (the enormous budget shortfall, the passive-aggressive statements from the federal minister responsible, the anxiety and panic amongst the staff as rumours of 600 to 1200 lay-offs float about), I keep remembering that Sunday morning in Yellowknife, and the look in P.'s eyes as he showed me that graph.

That's what is the root of the problems at the CBC, really. Sometime in the past ten years (or longer), the upper levels forgot they are actually the lower levels. They forgot about the real bosses. And oh boy, it showed

They chased after potential listeners/viewers, and ideal listeners/viewers, and hip ones and young ones and ones who dig it when you use swear words on the air. They worried about being contemporary and trendy. They Stromboed the news, rather than just The Hour.

And you know what happened? Some of the original bosses quit. Especially the television bosses, the elusive viewers. A lot of them quit. They went over to CTV and Global, where they weren't the boss, but at least they weren't being condescended to death.

Then the lower levels forgot the middle levels are the ones who keep the bosses around, who make radio and television worth listening to and watching. They tried to make us all expendable, contractors with no job security and no defense against being fired on a whim. At the same time, the amount of managers (who do not produce stuff for your eyes and ears) increased dramatically. They locked out the staff and pissed off a lot of the real bosses. Some of them never came back after the lock-out.

And now we are in a recession, and revenue is down, because why spend money on ads on a network that is losing its viewers hand over fist?

I don't know how to solve this crisis. But I do know if the CBC is going to continue to exist in some semblance of what was meant to be, the guys at the bottom need to wise up and remember the guys at the top.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

...with a carful of quintuplets who are all cutting teeth

... and I'd be smiling underneath.

Having an Ani week -- this woman still speaks to who I am, all these years and vast changes later.

To you, Hubby. You're worth it, too, always.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I would defend to the ends of the Earth her perfect right to be here

I've been commenting elsewhere and on Facebook about my feelings on the media collapse. I have to admit much of it is selfish, because it looks like I will never get to go back. Tonight, after a busy evening with the brood, I'm remembering why I left in the first place.

For N.: I've been mourning my career, and my youthful appearance, and all I gave up for you to be here, and for the family to be in a financial position to raise three kids.

I will always regret leaving journalism. But I will never, ever regret leaving it for you and your brothers.

For the boys: You may not hear me on the radio anymore, but you see me every night. And my feelings of wasted talent are nothing compared to how I used to feel about my wasted motherhood.

I love you all. You are worth it. Keep reminding me of that.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My new hero

Good job, Selma Hayek. Women did this for each other for millenia before formula. I think this is why we let down milk even when someone else's baby cries.

(I have to admit, now I'm wondering if Angelina Jolie is pumping her milk to ship to Sierra Leone.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Overheard in Buses #1: Teenage Bullies Attack

The bus is packed and at least 20 of us are standing in the aisle. A teenage couple is standing near the door, shooting dirty looks about. A man in his 50s, balding, fat and wearing glasses, is standing nearby.

Boy to Man: What are you looking at?

Man, taken aback: What? You mean me?

Girl: Yeah, you, what are are looking at? Are you looking at us?

Man, flabbergasted: What? I wasn't looking at you.

Girl: See this bus, it's full of windows for you to look out. So look out there, don't look at us.

Boy: Yeah, stop looking at us.

Man, looking nervous: Listen, I wasn't looking at you. I wasn't.

Boy and girl share the triumphant glance of successful bullies. I resolve to speak up at the next exchange, but the man turns his back on the kids and spends the rest of the bus ride trying his hardest not to look at them. I spend the rest of the ride wondering why a grown man allowed two children 40 years younger than he to bully him, and why I allowed it to happen.

Monday, January 26, 2009

True writer's block

I've hit another blogging drought. I have lots to write about, but a certain reticence to put it here. It's all so raw, and some of it is just not pretty, and lots of it is not happy.

I am generally a very happy person, and I am happy right now in my life, but my writing is always a little darker than who I am. I think I need a fresh start for this Year of the Ox.

I will soon start two new series of posts; one is called "Overheard in Buses," which is inspired by the amazing "Overheard in Cabs" by NWT blogger Mongoose over at Trucks and the City.

The second series will be called "Journalism Heroes," looking at some famous and obscure reporters I admire, and why.

So stick around -- there's more than pictures of adorable Navy brats and me in my PJs on this site, I promise.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas in the infirmary... I mean our house

So A. and I were sick Christmas Day, and Hubby and Big I. were sick just before New Year's. And that's why I haven't posted Christmas pictures.

So here are a few for you to enjoy, at the end of the Christmas season.

More Christmas pics

Even more Christmas pictures

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy birthday, Super A.!

Super A. is seven years old. SEVEN.

I've been a mother for seven years. Wow.

Happy birthday, my awesome big dude!