2014 Year in Photos Slideshow

This is my favourite post of the year. It’s one that I do purely 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 seventh (!!!) such slideshow. Looking back over the first six 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.

2014 was actually a big year for me. I went back to school. I suffered through a renovation nightmare when the contractors I’d chosen went bankrupt only after they’d demolished my ensuite. I received confirmation of my decision to become a teacher. I lost my job. 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 Joan Baez this time:

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

2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013

I’ve shared the photos and now I’d like to turn the tables back on you. What was 2014 like for you? When you consider this year, what images will stand out in your mind? And what are you looking forward to in 2015? I’d love to hear.

Happy New Year!

Hannah + Nine

Nine years ago right now I was sitting in a bed on the maternity ward, making phone calls. “It looks like the baby is coming early. I won’t be able to come to the event tonight. No need to worry. Can you bring me apples? I’d love apples.” When I wasn’t organizing, I was joking with my husband. He was working hard to keep the mood light, which wasn’t particularly easy as I was worried about having my baby at 34 weeks gestation.

From the moment Hannah came shooting into the world, skidding across the table while a room full of medical personnel gasped, it was clear that she was a force to be reckoned with. Big and healthy for a baby born six weeks early, she let us all know she had arrived with a hearty cry. At the time, I was relieved. Crying was a good sign. Crying meant she was breathing. Crying meant she was going to be okay.

I am no longer the same person I was on that sunny, cold day in 2005 when my life changed on a dime. My daughter isn’t the same person, either. And yet, if I survey our new little family I can see how the groundwork was laid, even then, for all that followed. I can see how my daughter has always been in a rush, eager to do everything quickly, quick to make her voice heard. I can see how I have always been dragged headlong into parenting, never quite ready, always a little worried about how things would turn out. I can also see that it was always going to be fine.

Today, as I celebrate my daughter’s ninth birthday, I don’t really know what to say about her. My girl is entering tweendom, growing like a weed, learning new things every day. She loves art and diaries – Hannah can never have enough diaries. She’s a huge fan of Harry Potter, and this past year we read all the books together. She has a fervent desire to be Hermione Granger, and to that end she’s perfecting her English accent. She tap dances through her days, singing as she goes.

Hannah is very much her own person, now. I find myself writing less and less about her here, because her story isn’t really mine to share anymore. She’s writing it down herself in all of her diaries, illustrated with her own artwork. More and more, I sit back and let her work things out for herself, test her strength, and make her own decisions. I’m still here to set boundaries and help her pick up the pieces, but I’m increasingly taking on more of an advisory capacity than anything else.

Nine years ago, I became a mother. It wasn’t like a switch was flipped, though. Rather, I have continued to become a mother, each and every day. My daughter has been there with me every step of the way. It hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve figured it out together. As I survey the young woman she has become, I can only feel proud and amazed that she is mine. My daughter. My Hannah. Happy birthday to both of us.

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Why I Heart Re-Watching Old Movies

old movies

Last week I was on vacation from work, taking a little bit of time off so that I could concentrate on my first week back at university. On Thursday, after attending an early-morning tutorial, running some errands and meeting my husband for lunch, I found myself back at home with a little over a half hour to kill before picking my kids up from school. I turned on the TV and started flipping around when I saw that Titanic was playing, and it was at around the halfway point.

I turned the movie on and found myself at the scene where Rose is at the party in steerage, standing en pointe for the big tough men. I continued to watch as Rose’s fiance threatened her, and Rose’s mother made astute observations about the condition of women while tightening her daughter’s corset. I saw Jack sneak on to the first-class deck and make Rose feel as if she was flying. I watched as Jack sketched Rose, and as they found the old motor car, and just before they proceeded to make good use of the car I turned off the movie and picked up the kids.

As I walked up to the school I thought about just how much I love re-watching old movies. If I hadn’t seen Titanic before, I wouldn’t have enjoyed catching 35-ish minutes at the midway point of the film. I also wouldn’t have had the experience of delightful nostalgia as I recalled going to see the movie for the theatre the first time, or watching it a few more times over the years. I wouldn’t have been able to walk away as easily, without being able to find out what happened next, either. (Spoiler alert! The boat sinks.)

I am not someone who particularly enjoys the feeling of suspense. I read the last pages of a book first, especially if I’m anxious about the outcome. Because I already know what happens when I re-watch an old movie, in many ways the experience is much more comfortable for me. I don’t have to worry about the characters, because I know just what comes next for them. I can relax and enjoy what’s happening now, laughing over the jokes and smiling at the sentimentality, rather than feeling preoccupied over what may or may not happen next.

There are some movies that I seem to happen upon far more often than others. I’m sure I’ve seen Steel Magnolias, Forrest Gump, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Titanic 15 times over, but mostly in bits and pieces, rather than all at once (though I have watched each of those movies all the way through a couple of times at least). When I see that one of them is playing, it’s almost like an unexpected visit from an old friend. I can dip in and out of them at ease, only half paying attention sometimes and not missing anything, and never worrying when things get tense. None of those movies are necessarily my most favourite films, but I harbour a special affection for them nonetheless, formed over the dozens of times I’ve happened across them in the TV schedule.

Some of the movies that I find myself re-watching again and again are seasonal. Over the holidays I’m more likely to watch It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story, or old TV specials featuring Charlie Brown. For the longest time it was Edward Scissorhands at Halloween, though I haven’t seen that one for a number of years now. And of course at Easter movies with Biblical plots feature heavily, and I catch them in bits and snatches when I happen to be watching.

I know some people don’t enjoy re-reading books or re-watching movies. I am not one of those people. In fact, sometimes (maybe even often) I prefer re-treading old ground to covering new ground. It’s more familiar, it’s easier, and it reminds me of pieces of my past in a way that something new never could. If a new movie is a sexy dress, an old movie is a cozy sweater. I do love a cozy sweater – especially when a whole lot of other new things are happening in my life. Sometimes you want novelty, and sometimes you want comfort. Right now, I think, I’m in a comfort place.

Bring on Steel Magnolias.

2013 Year in Photos Slideshow

This is my favourite post of the year. It’s one that I would do, no matter what, purely because I love it. It gives me a chance to reflect and wax nostalgic, and record my life in a unique way. This post contains my annual slideshow, chronicling my family’s year in photos. It’s my sixth such slideshow, and looking back over the other ones I can immediately see how my children have grown. 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 big benefits of blogging is having a record of your family life, then this slideshow is the pinnacle post each year for me.

2013 was actually a really great year for me. Looking back over the year’s photos, I see evidence of how much more I can do with my kids now that they’re a little bigger. They’re not babies anymore. This makes me a little wistful, but it also means they’re more independent, and less prone to cry in public. We’ve gone a lot more places and done a lot more things this year, because my kids are getting older. Here’s the photographic evidence set to music:

If you’d like to take a walk down memory lane with me, here are my past slideshows:
2008 in Photos | 2009 in Photos | 2010 in Photos | 2011 in Photos | 2012 in Photos

I’ve spent plenty of time talking about my family and myself – and not just in this post. I’ve had a whole year to write in this space, and I’ve done it. Now I’d like to turn the tables back on you. What was 2013 like for you? When you consider this year, what images will stand out in your mind? And what are you looking forward to in 2014? I’d love to hear.

Happy New Year!

Jacob’s Legs

When my son Jacob was born I remember looking at his tiny little legs. They were so small, and he held them curled in against his body, in (I imagine) much the same position they were in during the months he spent inside me. Like all newborns he was a combination of this world and another, both a perfectly complete human being and something else entirely. As I held him and looked at his legs, I worried that such tiny little things would never be able to carry him through life.

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Newborn Jacob’s feet and legs

Of course, as babies do, my son grew. He was born knowing that what he wanted to do more than anything in his first few days of life was eat. I sat up with him during his first night as he hungrily nursed, repeating the words This will pay off over and over in my head like a mantra. Then, to make myself laugh I told him, “I love you but you are a terrible roommate. You’re up all night drinking, keeping me awake, and you even pooped in my bed!”

All that eating did pay off. When Jacob was three days old he had gained half an ounce from his birth weight. The midwife laughed when she saw the number on the scale, and I exhaled with relief. Following my daughter’s premature birth and early weight gain issues, this was a blessing. From there, the weight gain only continued, as Jacob packed on as much as a pound a week during his first month. By the time he was four months old he had legs like tree trunks, with almost no ankle. His little feet were so chubby I couldn’t find shoes to fit him for his Christmas portraits.

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Jacob riding on my back at nine months

Eventually Jacob started crawling and cruising, climbing and walking, running and jumping. From nine months on he started thinning out slowly. He grew taller and thinner, taller and thinner, stretching out like an elastic band. Still, he retained something of that baby softness. The transition was so gradual, taking years, that I almost didn’t notice it. Then, the other night in the bath I looked at my now five-year-old son’s little legs and saw the skinny legs of a child.

Jacob’s legs are no longer the wee little unfinished legs of a newborn, or the solid, chubby legs of a toddler. They’re the long, lean, lithe legs of a school-age kid. He has knobby knees and so many bruises and strong little muscles that he uses to master the playground. I no longer worry that these legs aren’t strong enough to carry him where he needs to go. I know they’re strong enough and then some, and as I struggle to catch up with him while we play a chasing game there can be no doubt that he knows how to use them.

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Jacob getting his zen on this summer

It’s funny how these things sneak up on you. How you think of your children as one way, when in reality they’ve long since left that behind and moved on to other things. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at Jacob’s legs without thinking of that August day in the hospital, holding my little newborn, and seeing how very small he looked. Then, I was struck by how very much my son needed me to carry him through the world. Today, I’m only hoping I can keep up with him as he sprints off in search of adventure.

Five Years Ago Today …

jacob five years oldTomorrow my son Jacob will celebrate his fifth birthday. As the big day approaches, I find my mind drifting back, like it does in the lead-up to each birthday my children celebrate. I think, “Five years ago right now I finished my last day of work.” Or I muse, “Five years ago today I was starting to get impatient.” On Jacob’s actual birthday I will probably think, “Five years ago right now I was pretty uncomfortable, and I’m glad I’m not in labour today.”

Five years ago today was the last full day I spent pregnant. The odds are better than great that it was the last day I ever will spend pregnant. Now I kind of wish I had taken the time to enjoy and appreciate it. Of course, at the time I didn’t know that I was experiencing my final 24 hours as a pregnant woman. Oh, I suspected maybe something was up, with the random contractions that can happen at the end of pregnancy coming a little more often. The truth, however, is that I didn’t think that I had time to deal with any of that. I was too busy nesting.

In fact, the one thing I remember with great clarity from my last day as a pregnant woman was how very much I wanted to cook and clean. I stayed up late slicing cucumbers for pickles, and then I washed the dishes. I wanted to clean my bathtub, too, but by the time I was finished it was too late and I was worried I would disturb my daughter sleeping in the next room. Instead of cleaning I headed to bed that night fantasizing about what I would do the next day. First, I would drop my daughter off at daycare, then I would pick up my friend and we would make pickles. Then, at last, I would clean the bathtub.

At the time I thought of cleaning the bathtub in the same way I might now think of eating a slice of chocolate cake. Cleaning the bathtub wouldn’t be a chore, or even something I would be glad to get done. It would be perfection. I felt another couple of contractions before I drifted off, and I told them to go away until my bathtub was sparkling.

The contractions didn’t go away. The next morning I did go pick up my friend, and we did make pickles. However, as we worked, she kept looking at me funny. She laughed at my inability to stand still. I believe she described my behaviour as being like a cat looking for a laundry basket to have her kittens in. I refused to admit that anything was up, though. I had a bathtub to clean.

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As I drove my friend home, a contraction hit while I was sitting at a stop light. The thought flicked through my head that I probably shouldn’t be driving at that moment. Luckily her house was only a few minutes from mine, so I got her home safely, and made it back home myself. I called my husband, and realized I wouldn’t be cleaning the bathtub that day. My son was born about two and a half hours later, just 45 minutes after we arrived at the hospital.

Five years ago today, I was too busy thinking about the next thing to think about the moment I was experiencing. The truth is that most of parenting has been that way for me. I’m always thinking about what comes next. What I have to do. What I should have done better. I forget to notice the way my children are sitting together on the couch, heads close together, conspiring against me. I don’t really listen to what they’re telling me. I ask them please to wait a minute, I’m in the middle of something.

Actually, there’s nothing wrong with all of that. No parent can devote one hundred percent of their attention to their children, whenever their children ask for it. We have other things to do. Other things to think about it. Pieces of our lives that we don’t want to share. And yet, if there’s one thing I wish I’d done more of, it’s stop to pay attention. Because if there’s anything your child’s birthday does, it’s remind you just how quickly time goes. How one minute you can be fantasizing about cleaning a bathtub, and the next moment you can be watching your five-year-old blow out his birthday candles, wondering where the time went.

Staying Out of the Sibling Fray

sibling rivalry sibling loveMy children fight with each other like an old married couple. The use phrases like you always and you never and you’re not listening to me. They proclaim their undying love and affection for each other with one breath, and declare they never liked each other at all with the next breath. They can play together so nicely that it makes my heart sing. They can bicker with each other until I feel like my ears are bleeding and I just want the fighting to stop, right now, this instant, I can’t take another second. They are partners in crime when they conspire to hide in the closet with a bag of marshmallows, and they are arch enemies when they decide that the marshmallow distribution is not perfectly equal.

I understand that this sort of thing is par for the course with siblings. I have a sister who is two years younger than I am, and I remember what it was like to grow up with her. I remember the way that always having my sister around could be alternately comforting and stifling. On the one hand, when it was just the two of us in a sea of adults there was always a ready playmate. On the other hand, sometimes we were just sick of each other. We forged a complicated relationship that, to this day, remains unique in my life. When I’m with her I speak a little faster, my voice pitches a little higher, and I use a verbal shorthand that I don’t use with anyone else. She’s my sister, and she always will be, for better or worse.

Growing up, sibling dissent wasn’t tolerated in my house. My sister and I were expected to get along. If we fought over a toy, that toy went away. If we hurt each others’ feelings, we had to make up. My hippie parents wanted to sew harmony, not dissent, in our home. As a result, my sister and I learned to hide our fights, retreating to our room and talking in whispers. We knew that if our mother heard us, the consequences would be far worse than anything that we would dole out to each other.

sibling rivalry sibling loveMy own parenting style is a little more laid back. For the most part, I try to stay out of the sibling fray. I look at my children’s relationship with each other as a sort of testing ground, where they can learn about fairness, negotiation and conflict resolution. The more that I butt out, the better for all parties.

Unfortunately, my children don’t always respect my parenting decision. They look to me as a moderator. They come to me with their stories of how their sibling has wronged them. They both talk at me, at top volume, trying to make sure that I hear their side of the story. Provided that no serious harm has been done, I try to bow out. I tell them that I want them to work things out for themselves. I tell them that I really don’t like it when they fight, and I don’t want to take sides. I tell them that I’m making dinner / cleaning the floor (yet again) / working / reading / trying to hide in the bathroom. They don’t care. They want to tell me all about their dispute over the bubble wands, in all its gritty detail.

I can see where my kids are coming from. We all want to feel understood, especially by our parents. When your sense of fairness and justice has been violated by your brother or sister, you look to the adult who’s present to share your story. Once one kid is coming to me, of course the other needs to come, too. You want to make sure that your side is represented. I understand all of that. Mostly, though, I just want the fighting to stop.

And so it goes, day after day. I try to let my kids work things out for themselves. Sometimes they do, and life is grand. Sometimes they don’t, and everyone is sad. No matter which way things are going, though, I can see that my kids are forming their own special and unique relationship. They know the joys and aggravations of having a sibling, and I am happy for them. I know that it isn’t always easy (or quiet), but I also know that decades from now, they will be so glad they have always had each other.

When your kids are fighting, do you wade in or stay out? I’d love to hear your own tales of sibling rivalry.

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