Hannah + 12

My husband Jon and I are both oldest children. All of our parents are oldest children, as well. This means that when our daughter Hannah was born she was not only our first child, she was also the first grandchild and the first great-grandchild on all sides.

She was, in short, The Baby. She immediately became the first direct descendent in a decade or two, and the first niece and nephew for our siblings. Her baby pictures tell the story.

The past 12 years have flown by. The Baby has been joined by one younger brother, five first cousins, and a whole bunch of second cousins (there are at least eight, but I may be forgetting someone). She is not so little anymore. The tiny 5lb 4oz bundle who arrived six weeks ahead of schedule is now a middle schooler with dreams and ambitions and friends and opinions that she can – and does – articulate. She is a tween who has her own Instagram account and communicates with me via text messages. She has grown from The Baby to The Babysitter and she has the Red Cross certificate to prove it.

This feels like a big deal to me. I remember being 12 years old. And not in the way I remember being six years old – with a sort of fuzzy around the edges nostalgia. I remember the angst of being 12, the social drama, the projects I worked on in school, the boys I had crushes on, the sleepovers at my friends’ houses, the bad poetry I wrote, getting my first job as a babysitter, and on and on and on. I was younger and more earnest, but I was me. I really came into myself that year in so many ways, and I see that happening for Hannah right now. And even as I’m tickled pink I’m overcome by the bitter sweetness of parenting.

I’m working myself out of a job. It’s both fantastic and heartbreaking. But it was always meant to be this way, and I knew that, and I can only embrace it. I actually do embrace it. Because this person that my daughter has become is pretty freaking amazing.

Happy birthday to my girl.

Happy birthday Hannah

2016 Year in Photos Slideshow

2016 slideshowThis is my favourite post of the year. It’s a lot of work, but I always do it because I love it. It gives me a chance to reflect and wax nostalgic, which is why I have a blog in the first place. This post contains my annual slideshow, chronicling my family’s year in photos. It’s my ninth (!!!) such slideshow. Looking back over the others is a real walk down memory lane from 2008 to today. I remember things I’d forgotten. I laugh and – of course – I cry. If one of the benefits of having a website is creating a digital record of your family life, then this slideshow is the best example of that.

I know that a lot of people couldn’t wait for 2016 to end, but it was actually a pretty great year for me, personally. A year of completion and new beginning. I started the year one third of the way through teacher training, with my short practicum behind me and my long practicum ahead of me. During 2016 I taught a grade 6/7 class with the support and mentorship of amazing teachers. I participated in the environmental education field school in Vancouver. I turned 40. Hannah finished elementary school and started middle school. I graduated with my B.Ed. and started working as a substitute teacher. My kids started skiing. Looking back over the year’s photos I see snapshots of all that and more. Here’s the photographic evidence set to music. This year I chose one of my favourite songs, Joshua Radin’s “Beautiful Day”, which I have shared with you before.

If you’d like to take a walk down memory lane with me, here are my past slideshows:

2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015

I’ve shared the photos and now I’d like to turn the tables back on you. What was 2016 like for you? When you consider this year, what images will stand out in your mind? And what are you looking forward to in 2017? I’d love to hear.

Happy New Year!

2015 Year in Photos Slideshow

happy new year slideshowThis is my favourite post of the year. It’s a lot of work, but I am happy to do it because I love it. It gives me a chance to reflect and wax nostalgic, which are sort of my bread and butter. This post contains my annual slideshow, chronicling my family’s year in photos. It’s my eighth (!!!) such slideshow. Looking back over the others is a real walk down memory lane from 2008 to today. I remember things I’d forgotten. I laugh, and of course, I cry. I’m not sure if anyone else loves my slideshows, but if one of the benefits of blogging is having a record of your family life, then this slideshow is the best example of that.

2015 was another big year for me. I started the year unemployed and applying for teacher training. My car was totalled. I was accepted into the teaching program. I spent the summer with my kids. I started back at school and finished my short practicum. Looking back over the year’s photos I see snapshots of all that and more. Here’s the photographic evidence set to music. True to my hippie roots, I’ve gone with Joni Mitchell this year, from Joan Baez last year:

If you’d like to take a walk down memory lane with me, here are my past slideshows:

2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014

I’ve shared the photos and now I’d like to turn the tables back on you. What was 2015 like for you? When you consider this year, what images will stand out in your mind? And what are you looking forward to in 2016? I’d love to hear.

Happy New Year!

Jacob + 7 years and 6 days

Last Thursday my son Jacob turned seven.

Seven!

Seven year olds climb trees and ride scooters and read comic books. Seven year olds have skinny legs and knobbly knees and gap-toothed grins. Seven year olds go to school and swimming lessons and baseball practice. Seven year olds are not babies. Although sometimes they are still your baby.

Even so, this birthday isn’t hitting me as hard as his last one. Seven doesn’t really feel so much older than six. Grade two doesn’t really feel so much more sophisticated than grade one. Maybe I got all the tears and bitterness out last year, and this year is only sweetness. Maybe. I suspect the more likely reason is that I’m enjoying having older kids. I am really grooving on the increased independence (for them) and freedom (for me). I like that my son can wipe his own butt and choose his own clothes and pack his own backpack. Watching him become a more fully-formed person is cool.

So what is my seven year old son like? He’s funny. He loves to tell a joke and he loves to make people laugh. He is still a little bit scared of the dark. He is always delighted when he receives a gift. He gives me the silent treatment when he’s angry. He’s friendly with everyone. He is super into Minecraft. He dreams of being a scientist. He tells me that when he’s old enough he’ll be a YouTuber. He is better at math than his big sister, although he is much less coordinated than she is and definitely cannot touch her artistic abilities.

Sometimes I look at Jacob and just feel gobsmacked. Can this person really have grown inside me? Is this really the tiny baby I gave birth to seven years ago? Did I really have any part in creating this person? It boggles the mind and even though I was there I don’t really know how it happened. I guess I am always too busy living in the moment to observe the journey from point to point to point. I can’t remember how I got here, but I know what I need to do now that I am here, and it probably involves cleaning a mess.

Because parenting? It is a beautiful mess.

So a happy belated birthday to my son, one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can’t wait to see where you go next.

Hannah + 10 years and 12 days

There were a few things that I gave up when I became a mother:

  • Bathroom privacy
  • Adequate sleep
  • The ability to leave the house in less than three minutes
  • A rigid adherence to schedules

It should come as no surprise, then, that I’m sitting here writing about my daughter’s 10th birthday almost two weeks after the big day. This is just how I roll these days.

It’s been a decade, now, since Hannah made her surprise entrance into the world six weeks ahead of schedule. The fear over having a preemie has long subsided. So has my desire to maintain my pre-baby identity. I’m okay with letting a blog post slide.

Of course, for all that I’ve given up as a mom, I’ve gotten so much more. I’m able to let go of who I used to be because the person I am today is actually a whole lot better. I’m more flexible, more pragmatic, less selfish and less judgmental. Those early years broke me down and built me back up, a new and improved person. I might not be as chipper and fresh-faced, but looks can be deceiving. I am proud of my children, and I am proud of the person that I have become thanks to them.

Of course, the changes never end when you’re a parent. At my daughter’s party, surrounded by nine and ten year olds, I watched as the children danced around the arts centre to songs I didn’t recognize. They knew all the words, and they sang them out loud while they chased the little circles of light reflected from the disco ball. It was supposed to be a theatre party, but the highlight was definitely having a personal DJ who played every song they requested … provided they were age-appropriate, of course.

As Hannah’s age turns to double digits, her connection to pop culture is growing stronger while mine is waning. She is entering the world and has a strong thirst for staying current. I honestly can’t bother anymore. It feels like I’m passing the baton. Here, you keep track of what clothes I should wear and what music I should listen to and what movies I should see. And I will do my best to let you express yourself without passing judgment. Deal?

Soon Hannah will not be my little girl anymore. But right now, as she settles into tweendom, she still expresses glee over testing her skills against a boy at fencing class. She still tells me I am cozy. She still insists I sing her a lullaby every night. She still asks me for advice about pretty much everything. And so I watched her dancing with her friends and soaked up the moment, knowing that like all things in parenting, this will end long before I’m ready. At each step I memorize as much as I can. I don’t want to forget what this was like. Please don’t let me forget.

I know I will forget. See: sleep deprivation.

The first decade of parenting has been a wild ride. When all is said and done, it’s been amazing. I would do it all over again without any hesitation. I can’t wait to see what the next decade holds, for me and for my daughter.

happy birthday 10 year old

Farewell to the Silver Bullet

Sometimes life brings the unexpected – events that are completely out of your control, and you could have never seen coming. Such an event happened to me last Friday. I had just set out from my house to run some errands when another driver turned left out of a townhouse complex driveway and straight into me. Luckily I wasn’t going that fast, and I did have a second to see her coming so I had time to brake and slow down further. As a result I wasn’t hurt, and neither was the other driver – at least not physically. My car wasn’t so lucky.

car accident
My silver Honda after the accident

This was the most serious car accident I have ever been in, by far. I called 911 and the fire department, police and paramedics came. They took pictures and I gave a statement and my kids’ principal came down to see what all the commotion was about because we were right down from the school. The other driver and I made friends and hugged and cried. I know that she didn’t mean to hit me, and there was nothing to be done about it at that point. Eventually they came and loaded my car up on the tow truck and the police officer gave both of us drivers a copy of his report and I walked home.

car on flat bed tow truck
My car on the tow truck

I called the insurance company and reported the accident and then waited to hear what would happen. On Sunday I got a call from an insurance estimator letting me know that my car had been declared a “total loss”. I could come and get the rest of my stuff out of it from the estimate centre. In that moment, I found myself feeling indescribably sad.

broken honda civic
Saying good-bye as I collect my stuff

My car was not a new car. I bought it brand-new, but that was way back in 2000. It was my first act as a fully-employed university graduate. I paid the car, which I nicknamed the Silver Bullet, off in full within two years. It was nothing fancy, but it drove like a dream and was always reliable. And in a decade and a half we’ve been through a lot together, that car and me.

The Silver Bullet took me from my life as a single university graduate to a married woman to a mother of one, and then two. That car has seen me through multiple jobs, lengthy work commutes and a return to school. I was in that car (parked, in a driveway) when I called Jon to let him know that I was in labour with Jacob. I brought my wedding dress home in that car. I took it on road trips and to the grocery store more times than I can begin to count. It was like another living space for me, where I could set everything up exactly as I liked.

My car had been hit and scraped before, but it was always fixable. It always came back to me. And I was planning on driving it for another 15 years. By all accounts, with only 113,000 km (70,200 miles) on the odometer it had a lot of life left in it. This time, though, the damage was too bad. I had to say good-bye.

Dealing with the insurance company and finding another car isn’t easy. Being in an accident is no fun at all. I’m not relishing the experience. But mostly, I’m feeling sad. I realize my car was just a car, but it really had come to mean a lot to me. I don’t want to let it go, but the decision has been made for me. All I can do now is make the best of it, so I’m trying to do that. Trying to look on the upside. I get a new car – that’s something. I’m sure I will come to like that new car, too. But it will never be the same. It will never be my Silver Bullet.

Picky Eater

It’s been a while since I opened Use Your Words by Kate Hopper, which is unfortunate because it really is full of great ideas. Today’s post was inspired by one of the writing exercises in that book.

The other day my six-year-old announced that he was a vegetarian. Actually, though, that’s not exactly right. We were doing his home reading, and the story he brought home from school featured a bunch of animals going fishing. His response? “Fishing isn’t nice. Fishing kills living creatures.” I asked him if he was becoming a vegetarian and he replied, “No, mom, I’m a scientist. Scientists know that all animals are alive, and we shouldn’t hurt them because that’s not taking good care of the earth.”

Flash back to my son the baby. One of his first solid foods was pureed beef, which he loved. Because I am a hippie mama it was pureed grass-fed, free range, hormone-and-antibiotic-and-chemical-free, purchased straight from the rancher at the farmers’ market. While my son no longer eats with the full-bodied gusto of a six-month-old discovering a whole new world of tastes and textures, meat is still one of his favourite foods. And given how picky he’s become about what he puts in his mouth, I’m not sure what his diet would look like without it. I’m guessing it would be comprised almost entirely of nachos (without any vegetables) and breakfast cereal, with, perhaps, the occasional serving of fries thrown in for good measure.

I’m sure this is all my fault, of course. If I’d fed him like a French child, he would eat anything. If I’d offered him nothing but beans and rice and vegetables until he ate them all eagerly he wouldn’t turn his nose up at them today. If I’d offered him the right foods, in the right quantities, in the right order, there’s no way he’d refuse to even taste something because it “looked weird”. After all, I’m his mother. It’s my job to establish good eating habits.

baby eating food
Before it all went wrong

I remember reading an old copy of Penelope Leach’s Your Baby and Child that a co-worker gave me when my daughter was born. The book actually claimed that babies who weren’t started on the right purees at four months of age would become “problem eaters”. I didn’t start my son on solids until he was almost six months, and then it wasn’t purees but mashed banana. I should have anticipated that he would turn into the world’s choosiest vegetarian by the time he was in first grade. It was all there right in front of me 10 years ago, but I ignored the warning.

I also heard, back in my new parent days, that if a child refused a food the first time it probably meant they were just getting used to the taste. So you should offer it again. And again. And again. Until, eventually, that child would learn to love the food in question. I tried this with my daughter, who turned her nose up at avocado. She refused it once. She refused it twice. She refused it five times. She refused it 27 times. And today, with her tenth birthday rapidly approaching, she adores sushi but uses her chopsticks to remove all the avocado before eating it. Clearly, the 112th time would have been the charm, but my persistence faltered and with my son I decided to actually respect his decisions about what he did and didn’t like. I know, I know, I was so very, very wrong.

Of course, there really aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for what foods to introduce and when to introduce them. Different cultures have different practices, and still, somehow, all adults grow up to think that food is pretty good and they should eat it. Not everyone likes the same foods, but I’m living proof that you can turn up your nose at corn on the cob or sweet potatoes and still live a full and happy life. As far as I’m aware, there aren’t any 40 year olds out there that are still subsisting on milk because their mothers didn’t give them pureed green beans at exactly the right time. Or at all. And speaking of pureed green beans, I’m living proof that you can live a full and happy life without ever touching those, either.

As for my son, we talked more about his food choices. He’s decided that for now, he’s avoiding fish, but he’ll eat other meat because it’s “already dead”. My guess is that this choice is mostly about what foods he actually likes. He’s six, so that fact that he enjoys meatballs and passes over salmon isn’t exactly shocking. I’m not going to insist on logical consistency from a kid who is still learning to tie his shoes. And later on, if he sticks to his decision not to eat meat and decides to go completely vegetarian, or vegan, or what-have-you, I will support him as best I can.

For now, though, I’m really glad that my picky eater will consume the foods I’ve come to depend on to keep dinnertime running smoothly. Because I didn’t have the foresight to shove pureed green beans down his throat until he liked them.

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