New Year Note to Self

Stop. Listen. Breathe.

They are growing up too fast. Pay attention. Put down the phone, let go of work, and just be with them. They will not always want you there; already they ask you to leave while they play. Be there anyway.

Have fun. Even if you don’t feel it; even if they are cranky, or tired, or annoyed. Even if you are cranky, or tired, or annoyed. Especially when you are all cranky or tired or annoyed. Create the fun. Start with a smile. Give them a home filled with love and laughter and dance parties.

Be grateful. Know you are blessed but don’t forget that you have value too. You bring more to this family than just a wage and some milk. Recognize your worth, but understand that there is room for improvement. Always keep improving.

Remember that you are not just a mother; you are also a wife. Take care of the person who has promised to always take care of you. Show him every day that you appreciate him and that you will always choose him.

Let go of the guilt. Take the time you need to feed your soul. Run, write, swim, play soccer, read, draw. Do what you need to do to stay healthy.

Most of all, be kind. Stop judging, and stop comparing yourself to others. Learn to forgive. Nurture your friendships, both old and new. Be gentle with those you meet and with yourself. Really listen and be present when communicating with others. Wait longer before speaking.

Stop. Listen. Breathe.

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For the Love of the Game

Tonight I took my oldest daughter with me to my soccer game. Technically it wasn’t a game; indoor season is officially over and outdoor hasn’t started yet. Luckily, I’m not alone in thinking that 9 weeks is too long to go without lacing up my cleats: there is a group of about 15 or so of us who are just not ready to go back to a soccer-free Sunday night. So we ditch the refs, throw a bit of extra cash in to rent the pitch, and play until they kick us out. 

I’ve been playing soccer since I was ten. I have no idea why I stuck with it; back then I was the kid who was subbed on and off regularly with one other girl while everyone else got to play the full game. I’d like to think I stayed because it was love at first kick, but I don’t think I kicked anything other than dirt for my entire first season. It got to the point where my dad offered me five dollars for every goal I scored. I did not get rich. However, I do have an urge to yell ‘Five bucks Dad!’ every time I put the ball in the back of the net.

Both our girls have been playing soccer since they could walk. Maybe even before, if you count the times we held them up and swept their legs towards a ball. 

 

When he’s old enough, we’ll dig out the girls’ old cleats to pass on to their brother (yes, even the pink ones). We are a soccer family: we watch match highlights before bed. But despite our love of the game, none of us are exceptionally good players. We aren’t super fast, we don’t know many tricks, and none of us can bend it like Beckham. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not horrible players, but we definitely aren’t stellar players either. 

But we still play.

I don’t know if my daughter watched me at all (she brought a rather thick book to read), and even if she had she wouldn’t have seen any amazing moves or even a goal (despite the fact that I played forward for half the game). She wouldn’t have seen me dribble the entire field, perform a forward flip on a throw in, or even head the ball in the direction I wanted it to go. 

But she would have seen my heart. 

She would have seen that I love the game, that I chased that ball with everything I had and that when someone else was faster I chased them too. She would have seen me run and reach and jump and fall and get back up again. She would have seen me bump into other players, bounce off boards, miss plays, fall down. She would have seen other women, some younger and some older, running with me, running after me, running past me. Women calling for the ball, cheering, teasing each other. Women playing together, encouraging one another, helping each other. Women laughing. 

She would have seen women who love the game as much as I do. 

But let’s be real, she probably didn’t watch. Did I mention the really thick book she brought? And the kid loves to read. The chances that she put the book down to watch a bunch of sweaty women chase after a ball are pretty slim. If I’m honest, I don’t really care if she watched the game or spent the entire time reading her book. In fact, I only glanced up every once in a while to make sure she was still there, safe in her spot on the bench. 

I was too busy chasing the ball.

A New Journey Begins

A lot has happened since I wrote last. We took the girls out of school and began homeschooling in the fall of 2015, and welcomed our son Griffin to the family last July. Since September I have been acclimating myself to my new role as mom/homeschool teacher, and although most days I believe my children are learning in spite of me rather than because of me, I am grateful for the gift of this time with them, and for the people who have been kind enough to share their homeschooling journey with me.

Inspired by the beautiful blogs of other local homeschooling families, I thought I would revisit my own. I hope that in chronicling my family’s time together I will discover that we have accomplished more than I think we have, which really shouldn’t be too difficult as most days my greatest achievement is getting all three kids dressed and out the door before nightfall. Here is a peek at our January:


Addy has been using YouTube to teach herself how to crochet. She could spend entire days doing nothing but crocheting, which has resulted in a beautiful pair of baby booties for her new cousin who is due to arrive this month.


Kenna, our budding entomologist/malacologist, spent an afternoon creating pipe cleaner snail families, and made over sixty of them in one sitting!


Not wanting to be left out, Griffin learned how to roll over (with some encouragement from his big sisters of course).


The girls spent a morning experimenting with different combinations of liquids and powders that they found in our kitchen to try and make an explosion. We conducted a variety of tests to look for signs of a chemical reaction and then chose one we thought would create the biggest ‘explosion’. We took the materials to the laundry sink to see just how big a reaction we could make. We now have no baking soda in the house, and our laundry sink smells like lemons.


Some of our art work this month:


Our favourite hike this month was one that Baba and Papa joined us for. Not surprisingly, it ended with some delicious ice cream from the Enniskillen General Store. Because it’s never too cold for ice cream.

Friendship

rainbow loom

There are three sleeping angels upstairs where normally there are only two. I am writing beside a nearly empty glass of wine, surrounded by toys, paper, and a child’s chair brought down from a bedroom. My daughters’ best friend, who happens to be the daughter of one of my own best friends growing up, is sleeping soundly beside the girl whose birthday is five days after her own, and who now proudly sports her first loose tooth. They are both snoring softly.

Today was filled with squeals of laughter, dancing, singing, snow; smelly markers, coloured paper, pizza; gossip, endless snacks, mugs of tea and, of course, a glass (or two) of wine. The stuff of friendship. Listening to the girls as they settled into sleep, whispering and giggling, shuffling under their covers, I was reminded of other sleepovers long ago (a result of the Ghostbusters Wii Dance video we grooved to?) and my heart filled with nostalgia. It’s not that I long for times past, or that I wish to relive my own youth. I’m quite happy to leave that in the past. It’s more the realization that this is what makes life so special, these moments with friends, and it is so beautiful watching my girls experience it with someone so connected to my own childhood. It’s been exactly the kind of day that you dream of having with your best friend when you grow up and have kids of your own. (Except for the dishes.)

Sitting here next to the (now empty) glass of wine, I feel gratitude for the friendships that fill my life, and those that will shape my daughters’ childhoods. I have been so incredibly lucky to have found (and been found by) so many amazing people. There is just nothing like the feeling you get from spending time with good friends. 

The New Year

sleeping angel

For the first hour of this new year I held my youngest child in my arms while she tried desperately to sleep despite the coughing fits that ravaged her two year old body. Unlike many of my friends this past year, I was not worried for her health. There was no wheezing, no struggle for breath. I held her hoping to provide some comfort rather than to dispel my own fears. We have been lucky, so lucky, but I know that luck can change, so I held my baby tight while I patted her back gently. I breathed in the smell of her baby shampoo and kissed her dark curls. I reveled in the weight of her tired head on my chest, the warmth of her body next to mine. I tried to remember the last time I held her in my arms like that while she slept. I thought back to other sleepless nights, when I woke up to cries of hunger instead of coughs, dragging my body out of bed to feed her again and again. How it felt like years since I’d had a good night’s sleep. Back then I would have given anything to sleep through the night just once.

How quickly those nights disappear.

As we celebrate the beginning of a new year, we also say goodbye to the old. I remember anticipating my first child’s first tooth, her first word, her first steps. Now she is writing words, attempting cartwheels, looking forward to losing her first tooth. Soon these firsts, too, will be in the past, and she will be moving on to other new feats. Watching her learn and grow is so wonderful, so amazing. Each time we do something together she surprises me with a new skill, a new word, a new understanding. But it is all happening so quickly, sometimes I feel like I can’t keep up. I want to tell her to wait, I just got used to her being able to open the fridge and now she can turn on the taps. But she has already moved on and is reaching for the light switch that used to be too high. It’s happening too fast.

I am not ready.

I know that our job as parents is to prepare them for the world, to slowly let them go so that one day they can be completely self-sufficient. And most of the time I think I can do it; I understand the importance of the end goal and so I stand back where once I would have offered my hand. I hold my arms out, just in case, and I watch them grow. I watch them gain confidence, and ability, and independence. And though I watch with pride, it is a tearful pride, as I watch them get further and further away from the soft, sweet smelling babies I once held in my arms in the middle of the night.

I am not ready.

 

Dear Self

Sadly, summer is (rather too quickly) coming to an end.  In order not to feel too overwhelmed by my return to full-time teaching, I have been desperately trying to cram as much planning and preparation into these last few weeks as is humanly possible while still enjoying my beautiful girls and this gorgeous weather (which I’m sure will become ridiculously hot the minute the bell rings in my un-air conditioned new school).

Anyway, one of the first tasks I plan on giving my students is to write a letter to themselves about what they hope to accomplish this year (after bringing them on a field trip to… the stairwell.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I mean, what better place to talk about reaching your goals one step at a time?  Right?  Plus, it’s free).  So, in the spirit of good teaching and modelling, I decided to create my own as an example.  Here is what I came up with:

P.S.  You can find more about the disruptive student satisfaction ratio on Dan Meyer’s blog.

A Little Bit of History

Image

While waiting in line for the photocopy machine today I ended up talking to a colleague who is considering teaching in the UK.  Sharing some of my experiences with her suddenly made me nostalgic for that magic ‘I’m living on the other side of the world’ feeling.  I imagined what it would be like to live somewhere with more than a few hundred years’ worth of history, to tell my children stories of ancient people while we walked down the same streets they did.  Then I arrived home, just in time to see my dad walking up the street with the girls in the double stroller.  He watches them every Wednesday while I work.  After he left we introduced Miss A to her new bike while dinner cooked in the oven.  She travelled up and down our street, and I thought about how we knew the names of the people who lived in each house we passed.  I thought about how, when our dog escapes for a romp around the neighbourhood, he doesn’t get very far because everyone within a 5 block radius knows who he belongs to.  I thought about the fact that, when we take the girls to our local park, they always know at least 3 other kids playing there well enough to join in whatever game they’re playing.  How if I’m chasing after Miss K when Miss A wants to climb the monkey bars, another mom will lift her up because she knows I won’t mind without having to ask.  And I think: we might not have cobblestone roads, but my girls have a history here.