Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tiny Little Milestone...

Overslept this morning, so I rushed the Reds into the car and raced to Matthew's school. Didn't make the bell, but there were other stragglers milling about and wandering in, so thankfully we weren't so late.

Instead of lugging Luke out of the car too, I told Matthew that I'd stand at the gate and watch until he passed through the school doors: "You're such a big boy now, I know that you'll go straight into class, right?"

Matthew regarded me with serious eyes. "I WILL, Mummy!" and set off, loping through the empty schoolyard with his hat askew and backpack threatening to topple him at any second.

He looked back once and waved. Twice. But not again and then I blinked and he was gone.

I know this should be an insignificant moment - it's no big deal, a traipse through the playground alone. But it feels like a big deal, like we've reached some sort of milestone. In taking those steps alone, it means he's that many closer to walking all the way to school by himself. And everything else that comes after.

Independence. Pride. Freedom. All things I want for him. Just not yet.

Not yet...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Messages from Santa...

L. sent me the most amazing link this morning. I plugged in the appropriate information and voila, a message from Santa, personalized for Matthew, appeared!

Oh, I am so excited to see his face, as he watches Santa talk directly to HIM!!!

Matthew's message: http://santa.sympatico.ca/watch/2c6d79f188874bdd8a2f5ef20d2efc67

Luke was not as enamoured. In fact, he hid behind Matthew and frowned at Santa the whole time. Hilarious!
Luke's message: http://santa.sympatico.ca/watch/38ed98881d296bbce493389587a9cf2e

Friday, November 27, 2009

What If?

Waiting for the bell to ring at school this morning, Matthew had to pee. So I sent him to the bathroom saying that I'd be right in, as soon as I could snag Luke from the playground. Got inside, no Matthew.

Checked the classroom. No Matthew.

Checked the OTHER classrooms. No Matthew.

Back outside. No Matthew.

Left Luke with another Mummy (God bless other parents!) and went back inside, trying to quell the panic blooming in my stomach. An older girl asked if she could help and I stuttered out, "I can't find Matthew!"

She asked, "The little redhead?" and when I nodded, she went tearing off to gather her friends.

Principal came over, told me that the kids use the bathrooms in the portable when they have to come in from the playground. I didn't know that and raced back outside without a word. Lo and behold as I careened around the corner of the main building there he was, being carried by a gaggle of 12 year old girls...and crying.

All he could ask was, "Where's Luke? Where's LUKE?"

Poor kid. I feel awful for him. Left him, on what started out to be an exciting, adventurous day, looking pale-faced and glassy-eyed. Am a bit worried about that, actually.

An EA came over as us parents trooped out of the yard and hugged me. Apparently, when I first sent Matthew to the bathroom, he found HER and took her hand saying that he had to go pee. That's what they do during the day, you see.

Well, yes. Now I DO see.

But I have also aged about 10 years in the last 20 minutes and I can't stop crying.

What if...what if...what if.....GAH!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Home Sweet Home!

We bought a house!

*Does Happy-Dance, while seated at computer, not caring how stupid I look!*

Not only did we buy it, we practically TOOK it, so low was the asking price. Never thought we'd be able to buy again so soon, given our debt load and the price of houses in our area.

But, where there's a will (and access to MLS) there's a house and it's alllllllll ours!!

We move in February, although there is some talk of moving the close date to January, so we'll see.

I am happy. Mark is happy. The kids have dubbed it our "new forever house" and they wave as we walk past it on our way to and from Matthew's school. (ummm...and the other 3,452 times I've made the kids walk by and wave....)

So, goodbye rent and paying into someone else's nest egg. Hellllloo, equity-building HOME.
No doubt, the universe is unfolding as it should.

Finally!

*** Close date is now January 25th! Happy New Year to us! ***

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just because I'm an adult...

...doesn't mean I've grown up.


I MUST have pre-menstrual syndrome because I just now sat at the kitchen table going through Matthew's schoolwork...and crying.

In the middle of all these coloured trees and letter worksheets, the proofs from Picture Day - the one I forgot about, but thankfully combed his hair for. Oh, he is handsome, my son. I smiled fondly, but didn't tear up.

Nope.

Me, I gotta get messy and sentimental over a class trip PERMISSION SLIP.

Holy geez, I'm a goober.

It's a trip to Glanmore House, which is an historic home here in Belleville, just down the road and 'round the corner from here. The trip costs $6.50 and involves a bus ride, which made me grin through my tears because Matthew has been aching to ride a big yellow school bus like William, Sweet William.

My first thought was, "Ha! We've already BEEN to Glanmore House!" as I then proceeded to mentally stick out my tongue at the permission slip whilst making the "neener, neener, neener" face. I take an inappropriate and pathetic amount of pleasure in knowing that I have already provided my child with an educational journey into our town's history, thank you very much.

Maybe I don't entirely suck as a stay-at-home-Mum after all.


(Scurries off to see if parent volunteers are needed....)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"I don't love you anymore..."

"...and I am NOT gonna be your son anymore and I'm going to throw you in the garbage!"


Sigh.


So says my beloved firstborn. It's his new favourite phrase and frankly, it's beginning to wear very, very thin.

Where did he learn this? Where did he learn to put all these words together and deliver them with such feeling, such overwrought, four-year-old rage? And omigod, WHEN will it end???

I know that I should simply ignore it and carry on. And for the most part, I do. The only response I've offered thus far is a calm, "Well, I love you, Matthew and I will always be your Mummy forever and ever!"

But inside? I'm a mess. God help me when this fire-haired, wildly-tempered little boy turns 11.

Gah!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

H1N1 - A Survival Guide

H1N1 - A Survival Guide


A first-hand, from-the-trenches guide to getting through this year's 'flu without losing what's left of your mind.

Fever:

They aren’t kidding when "they" say that your child will likely have a high fever for at least five days. My eldest’s has swung wildly for almost an entire week now: 100.1 to 104.2 and all points in between.

To survive:

Buy three bottles of your regular brand of pain/fever medicine, plus the brands that all your Mummy friends have recommended via Facebook. Place them in strategic rooms in the house, so that you don't have to go searching/rummaging/up the stairs, as needed.

Be liberal with measurements -eschewing the stupid fiddly meds injection thing for an over-sized, blue plastic spoon. Make train/motorcycle/car noises at the appropriate times to gently encourage youngest child (who until this sickness, thought medicine WAS candy) to open his mouth.

When he stubbornly refuses, tackle him, pin him down and hold his nose until he does.

Repeat the phrase: This is for your OWN good, son.

Wish for Bailey's.

Cough:

Don't kid yourself - this cough is a sneaky, brain-exploding Hell of a cough. All the literature suggests a dry cough over a "junky" one, but frankly, that's all crap.

This cough is the wake-you-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-vomit-up-your-lung sort of cough.

This cough makes you count the seconds (feels like minutes) between the wracking of your child's small frame and their next breath while holding yours, frantically searching your brain for some sliver of CPR training, circa 1991.

To survive:

Fumble for one of four bottles of cough syrup you've purchased especially for this 'flu and pour it into a green over-sized plastic spoon. (Feel some sort of smug-good-Mummy-ness at having colour-coded your med-shovelling devices. Then realize that in the dark of night, blue and green look the same and that you've likely been overdosing and mixing meds all week long. Have vague, fuzzy recollection of reading articles that vilify the use of cough meds in small children. Shrug. Pour liberally.)

Sit on oldest child who thinks that mimicking his brother is FUNNY and won't open his mouth. Pry open his mouth with a teensy bit more force than necessary, while growling, "See? It's bubble-gum flavoured. You like bubble gum and anyways, this is for your OWN good, son!"

Wish for Bailey's.

Headache:

When they say headache, they mean "it will feel as though your brain cannot possibly be contained within the confines of your skull. As though it's trying to escape through any orifice, including but not limited to your nose, forehead and eyeballs."

To survive:

Medicate accordingly. When your youngest child tries to jam YOUR finger up his nose and into his eye sockets to alleviate the pressure, let him try. At 2 a.m. having rushed in FOUR times to witness him clutching his head and crying, a finger lodged up the nasal cavity might be the best of what's around.

Wish for Bailey's.

Body Aches and Chills:

A given really, as zillion degree fevers tend to make most of us a bit achy.

However, as a parent you may not be able to differentiate between fever ache and the kind that comes from crouching over your child's bed for hours in the night or falling asleep with your back against the windowsill at an angle which was comfortable at 11 but now at 4, isn't.

Ditto chills from sleeping on the bare floor of their room, using the dirty clothes basket as a pillow.

To survive:

Wish for Bailey's.

Staying Home (or: Domestic Torture 101)

All news reports/articles/Health Unit bulletins and health care providers are recommending that you stay home for the duration of your illness, until at least 24 hours AFTER the fever has abated naturally.

To this I say: Are you 'effing kidding me?

I have somehow managed to stay at home with my feverish/hacking/pale-faced children for days now. In fact, I have been so dutiful about not leaving our piggy 'flu pigsty, that the mail-lady knocked on the door yesterday to make sure everyone was OK as the mail's been piling up alarmingly. (Note to self: Mail lady gets Tim Horton's gift card for Christmas)

Today? Not a friggin' chance. We're out of bread, milk, orange juice and toilet paper. I have already gone through my craft supplies for the rest of the YEAR and if I have to watch "Cars" one more time, I will hurl myself out the window.

The boys are - when properly medicated - running amok and fed up with Lego and puzzles and the "let's-help-Mummy-fold-the-laundry-game." Yes, I could call friends and have them pick up much-needed supplies.

Or, I could wait until the children have settled in for the night (and my husband's home to ignore – ahem, excuse me -"not hear!" the fruit of his loins hack up their own lungs via the monitor) but... I'm not doing it.

To survive:

Shower, dress, sanitize and Lysol your littles. And then march out the door because you can.

Because the children need fresh air and to know that yes, there is a world outside of the boob tube.

Because you need to remember that there is life and movement and HOPE outside of your own germ-infested house. Because you've grown tired of tossed whatever's-in-the-crisper and pasta for supper.

Buy cookies and Fruit Loops when your kids ask because they've barely eaten all week and frankly, you're feeling a little bit guilty about the whole "sit-on-the-child" thing.

Buy Bailey's.

But...be quick. Be stealthy.

Do NOT make eye contact with anyone, lest they judge and reveal your sickness to others.

Don't let them see your cart piled high with sixteen bottles of sanitizer and three containers of Lysol wipes you SWORE you'd never waste your money on.

Sing loudly should any of your children start coughing.

Race your infected selves home as quickly as you can. Break out the cereal bowls and crack open the Bailey's. Who cares if it's not yet noon, because today is about celebration: So far?

You're surviving.

Bottoms up!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flattened by the 'flu...

Oink, oink!

It appears as though the piggies have descended upon the House of Leprechaun - poor Reds! The H1N1 'flu is sweeping through Eastern Ontario at the moment and has made a most unwelcome stop in our home.

Matthew was fine on Friday morning. By late afternoon his sporadic coughing gave me pause and by bedtime, I KNEW he was getting a cold, at the very least. Matthew's eyes are his giveaway, set as they are against pale, freckled skin. When he's coming down with something, his eyes red-rim quickly.

Matthew came awake around 9 that evening, crying and feverish - 103.7 - pretty stinkin' high for a kid who'd exhibited no "real" symptoms of anything but hyperactivity two hours previous. Save the eye thing, of course.

His fever spiked (104.2) and waned (100.1) all weekend, interspersed with bouts of nausea and vomiting. The cough, mysteriously absent until yesterday, returned with a vengeance and the poor boy has barely eaten in four days.

Luke was mildly feverish on Saturday, but rallied well. I assumed that this bug had passed him by and was so relieved. Alas, Mr. Luke is also fair-skinned and his gorgeous blue peepers give away the sickies, too - and his were off first thing this morning.

By noon they were BOTH coughing, though Matthew more than Luke. Neither had a fever, unless you count the wicked case of cabin fever.

(Insanity-making = two normally-active boys + indoors for four days + the 'flu)

The boys wanted a car ride, so I obliged them and we drove to Daddy's work, as a surprise. Normally, the Reds would have bounded gleefully from the car upon seeing Mark, but not today. Today they sat quietly, dully watching him through the window. Unmoved. Uninterested.

Just plain UN-Red.

So, I took them to an empty park and let them run about in the leaves. The didn't run so much as dutifully follow. All my joyful kicks and crunching in the foliage failed to elicit even one "Whoop!" so I gave up and bundled them into the car for home.

We "played" in leaves out front for about 15 minutes until the Reds were begging to come inside. They picked through dinner and then Luke cried to get down, his meal virtually untouched on his plate, which frankly, worried me a LOT.

By six, both boys were medicated and pj'd and barely hung on through three bedtime stories. When they both slumped onto my lap in tired little heaps, I gave in and upstairs we went.

Both: OUT by 6:30.

Luke has woken up three times now, clutching his head. I had a terrible fever-driven headache on Sunday, so know well his agony. Fought to get a spoonful of Advil down his throat and failed miserably at getting his temperature.

As of this writing, both Matthew and Luke are sleeping fitfully - there's a little bit of crying and a whole lotta coughin' going on.

So for the record? Swine 'flu sucks ASS.


Edited to add: Luke just came up crying and trying to get me to jam MY finger in his nostril and eye sockets, to dull the pain in his head.

Effin' awesome.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Facebook Status Updates...

I spend a great deal of time on Facebook. Catching up, ruminating, stalking. Wasting time.


Needless to say, I often update my status to reflect both the day's changes and my mood, by proxy. Here then, a recent selection:

Sunday:

...is listening to Matthew plot his escape. He's been sent to his room and is up there fake-crying and mumbling to himself about he is NOT going to live here ANYmore.
Sun at 4:57pm


...has been informed by her beloved firstborn that he is NOT happy that I sent him to his room, nor is he happy with the tone I used whilst scolding him. Apparently, he's also tired of sharing with Luke and why can't I keep Luke in the bathroom so that Matthew can play in peace? Hmm...I wonder....
Sun at 6:30pm

...(d)id you know that there are not one, not two, not three, but SIX monsters living in my room? There are. Matthew keeps hollering down the stairs at me: "One more, Mummy! I see ONE MORE MONSTER! AGGGGHHH!!! It ran out of your closet and is in yo...ur drawer where your shirts go!" And yes, before you ask, they HAVE seen "Monsters Inc." Just last week, in fact. I'll just KEEP the bad parenting award, shall I?
Sun at 8:44pm

Monday:

...is watching Luke coat a rock with orange peel and pretend to eat it. Scratch that, he's TRYING to eat it and saying, "Mmmm...rock orange!" Someday, this child will run the world.
Yesterday at 8:43am


Tuesday:

...thinks the universe is a strange and wondrous place. William, Sweet William and Pinky's Dad is from Bowmanville. What are the chances? No WONDER I like them so much!
2 seconds ago

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Leprechaun # 2 is TWO!





Sweet Luke,

How I adore you, my darling not-quite-baby! Two. Such joy you've brought to our lives in a mere two years. Thank for every blessed moment.

Thank you for your innate sweetness and your natural exuberance for all things yummy - food, dirt, boobies and freezies, not necessarily in that order. How I wish I could capture and bottle the light of your smile, the sound of your unabashed and surprisingly robust laughter.

I wish I could freeze the little moments that make up our days together - at play (or war) with Matthew, rushing headlong into the backyard (shoes on the wrong feet, sweater undone) delighted to be free! How you remind me of myself. Of your uncle. Of childhood, period.

You are loud, Lukey Gavan. So loud. And so very, very present in every.single.moment. The world is not as quiet with you in it, but as predicted, it is seldom boring. You burst into your day, a room, our lives and it's virtually impossible not to take notice and grin. Impossible not to fall in love with you a little more.

Even when your temper (often) flares you make me proud. Proud that you can so clearly convey what it is that you want. Your grasp and use of language astounds and delights me, Luke. I love how you sing along and make up words to the bits you don't know. Love how your every movement is deliberate and sure. Love that almost every day, you find a reason to dance.

Thank you for cuddles every morning and for (FINALLY!) sleeping through the night. For missing nursing as much as I do. For waiting at the top of the stairs until I turn around and say, "Ready!" and then hurling yourself into my arms, laughing, trusting, breathless.

Thank you for loving Matthew as much as you do - for driving him crazy, wanting to be and do EVERYthing he does. It warms my heart to see the bond between you - brothers are built-in best friends, after all.

Thank you for eating anything I cook, but loving grapes and kielbasa best. For random "I want to hug you, Mummy!" moments that melt my heart and for trying so hard to wink. For not yet knowing how to blow your nose and for waving to each and every city bus that passes when we walk Matthew to school.

Thank you for not needing stitches (yet) and for reminding me to put on your hat before we go outside. For finding my keys and closing cupboard doors behind you. For screeches of delight when I run the vacuum and for "helping" me take out the recycling in your pyjamas, rain or shine.
Thank you for loving books so much you must eat them and for your obsessive need to wash your hands whenever we go someplace new or different. For thinking that brushing your teeth is fun and that cold medicine tastes delicious. For trying new things without hesitation, especially if there's a chance you may get hurt. Or dirty. Or both.

You are all boy, Lukey Pookers. And you are all mine. Thank you, most of all, for that. For choosing me and giving me these incredible moments to savour and rejoice over. You are my very soul, little boy. Having you to call my own, I am blessed beyond words.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Luke.

I love you.
Mama

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Matthew is FOUR!







Darling Matthew,

Today you are FOUR. How swiftly these years, these halcyon days have flown by. I am so grateful to have been a part of it all and to have tucked away in my memory every precious moment with you.

Matthew, you are growing into such a wonderful little boy. Erm...big boy. You are bright and funny and as much as your non-stop chattering wears me out some days, I miss it when you're not here. Miss your questions and your constant "why's?" when you're at school and it's only Luke and I clattering about the house, waiting.

I love you more than all the tea in China
I love you more than all the stars in the sky
I love you more than all the bubbles in the bathtub
I love you more than you ask me, "Why?"

Thank you for asking tough questions that make me think long and hard about the world and our place in it. For remembering Uncle Andrew with such light and love and for missing him. How lovely to know that your heart accepts a cloud-filled, high-in-the-sky Heaven and that a God who watches over us pleases you, too.

Since you were born I have been slowly drawn back to the church of my own childhood - seeking comfort in the rituals that transcend both language and borders. I'm so happy to see that you've already developed a love of hymns and music and singing out with joyous abandon.

I love that you sing along with every song in the car, no matter how silly, random or sad. That certain pieces of music can bring you to tears is lovely too, albeit heartbreaking to see. You are a sensitive soul, Matthew James and the world needs more souls like you. Is lucky to have you.

Thank you for singing through supper and teaching a rapt Luke all the gestures and faces for "Five Yummy Apples." I am so happy that you're adjusting so well to school life and that you've formed such a close, warm bond with William, Sweet William. Together, you will have many, many adventures, ones I hope you'll share with me over milk and cookies upon your return.

I miss you when you're at school, my darling. Thrilled as I am to know that you're enjoying yourself and to have special one-on-one time with Luke, I miss your sweet laugh, your endless stories and seeing the world through your eyes. You have a sweetness about you - an innate need to please, to reach out, to care. Yesterday, even though you really, really wanted to play by yourself, you made sure to set aside some special toys for your brother so that he could play by your side. Cracks my heart - both the desire to be on your own and the way you quietly show him that he is loved and special.

I love that despite all this growing up business, you still crawl into bed with me each morning, seeking heat and cuddles. I love that you often fall asleep with your hand on my face, as you've done from early on. Stalling method or not, I love that you often save your best, most-involved tales for the quiet of your bedroom after dark. Love how you recite with me:

Matthew is his Mama's very heart, his Daddy's pride and joy!
Matthew is Nanny's treasure and Papa's best big boy!

I hope you know that they're not just pretty words at bedtime, Matthew. They are truth in rhyme. You are indeed my very heart and Daddy is so, so proud of you. You are Nanny's blessed treasure and her every joy. When you were born, she came alive again and you bring all sorts of magic to her days simply by being. You. Papa too - you make him laugh so much Matthew and have given him another chance to play and frolic and get dirty. Another chance.

Yes, your defiance and sassy mouth challenge my sanity some days, Matthew. I see so much of me in your petulant stance, your slamming-door temper and the proud upward tilt of your chin when you're in trouble. I see me and it shocks me, infuriates me, makes me wary, worry, wilt...and love you even more.

On this your fourth birthday, I promise to tell you "Yes!" more often and to let your pour your own juice for breakfast. To spend less time "getting through" and more time simply being - with you. I promise to yell less, listen more. To give you space as you need it and to always be a safe place to land.

I am so proud to be your Mummy and thank God every day for the wonder that is you. Thank you for choosing me.

I love you.

Mama

Monday, September 21, 2009

Because There is Pink...

There's a little girl at Matthew's school - she's about 7, maybe 8. ALWAYS wears pink. I've seen her marching by with her class, in the yard, milling about: laughing.

Always laughing.

Her cheeks are pale though. And a little bit puffy. Still, she is gorgeous.

At pick-up this afternoon, I watched her walking out to her Mum's minivan, having tumbled from the school laughing, without her hat. It's pink, of course. And usually covers her head quite well because until today, I hadn't noticed that she is entirely bald.

"Leukemia", a mother I don't know breathed into the air as she moved past me. "So sad."

I watched Pinky - watched her amble happily about, watched her mother, gazing at her daughter with the gentlest smile on her face. Saw Pinky's brother draw alongside the van and get a good-natured swat from his sister for making them wait and then they were climbing in and then they were gone.

Guess who Pinky's brother is?

Yep.

William, Sweet William.

(Insert not-yet-created emoticon here: rueful, contemplative, sad smiley)

And sometimes, my friends, the universe delivers a swift and just kick to those of us who might be complacent and a teensy bit too smug about the world and our place in it. (read: Me)

Kiss your kids. Hug your kids. Thank GOD that ours are well and whole. Thank GOD that the ones who aren't but who are surviving, whose brothers are called William, continue to laugh because it's sunny, because there is pink, because there is life. Because.

That Kahlil Gibran Guy was Right...

"You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth..."

Smart dude. Although clearly, he never had to leave a Matthew at Junior Kindergarten, or else he'd have written something with little more....angst.

Today is Monday - a school day - and I expected tears and tummy aches because despite the success of Day One, on school days, Matthew is now seized by a panicked and uncontrollable need to do an "emergency poo" shortly before we leave the house.

As soon as the school comes into view, the tears begin to flow and Matthew often forgets how to walk - poof, just like that. It would funnier and perhaps a bit touching if it were someone else's son, you know?

In any case, this morning I was ready and organized: I fed him straight away and nagged him to eat it BEFORE we leave the house, which he did. I helped him get dressed so that he could still watch TV and not miss a thing - multitasking is not on Matthew's personal "learn-to-do" list. I didn't holler, not once. I drank coffee. I remembered to feed the boys vitamins.

Made it out the door with shoes on and no last-minute poos. The brisk walk was enjoyable and tearless, save a clumsy tumble into a shrub which was funny and touching especially because it was my son. As we neared the playground gate, Matthew suddenly perked up. Stretched up onto his tiptoes and smiled at a taller boy alighting from a minivan.

"That's William!" he crowed, grinning hugely now. I've been hearing about William. William is NOT invisible. William is not little. William is funny. William plays with Matthew at recess. William doesn't use a soother for sleeping, imagine that, Mummy?

William stood patiently, waiting for Matthew, but Matthew came down with a swift case of shy and turned into my leg. Still grinning.

I smiled at William and motioned him to carry on. "We'll go around this way and see you in there, ok?" And William, sweet William, nodded and smiled and then I too, was lost.

"William has a lovely face, doesn't he?" I mused aloud, not really expecting an answer.

Matthew: He has a lovely smile, too, Mummy. He's nice too, just like his smile.

The bell rang then and I braced myself - normally, I spend the better part of five minutes then peeling Matthew from my leg, offering fake-cheerful platitudes and a forced smile.

Not so this morning.

This morning, once the bell stopped clanging, Matthew hurried over to heave his knapsack onto his back and burrowed his way into the line up, next to William. Sweet William (whose elbow grazes the very top of Matthew's head) gave Matthew a cheery "Hey, Matthew!" and then looked over at me (speechless, proud...trying not to tear up and have to be peeled from Matthew's leg) and nodded, as if to say, "I got him. He's ok now, Mama."

And off they went, William, Sweet William's arm draped casually across Matthew's back, guiding him into the school. Matthew never looked back, not once.

Me? I cried all the way home.

"When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. "

Monday, September 14, 2009

For "Bong Hitters United"

















This journey to goodbye has not been easy.
The drive to my parents' home was difficult and sad. On Friday afternoon, while my sons slept in the back seat, I wrestled my own mind in the front - for suddenly, I had realized that while Andrew's friends would be in Lakefield in a few short hours, he would not.

And it broke me entirely. In some deep, dark corner of my mind, I'd been harbouring some hope that he might magically appear because his truest friends were gathering. Hoped, wished, insanely, that the past seven months had not passed, and that he hadn't either.

On the other hand, I looked forward to seeing BHU - (yes, the name absolutely defines them) because they loved him and grieved his loss, too. Because so many of his life's experiences were tied up with them and I was greedy to share, to hear, to take their memories of him and absorb them as my own.

And I love them all, for all of it - they GOT him and were just as eager to share the man they loved as I was. I laughed SO hard as they shared tale after tale of adolescent antics and all the hysterically stupid, stupidly dangerous and utterly illegal crap my brother pulled.

He was naturally charming and disarming - somehow, he drew like people to him. BHU captured my heart completely - even though I wondered aloud how they EVER came together, as a group, so different they all are individually. Except...not. It was as though, listening to them, I could almost hear his voice, see his smile. It makes missing him easier to bear.

My parents had created tiny urns filled with Andrew's ashes, for each of his friends, who (I think) gratefully accepted these small "tokens" of the man they knew. I know my Dad struggled with the task, as he'd not realized that ashes are not sifted soft. Instead, they contain bits of bone and gristle - tiny pieces of his son.

As the "ceremony" began with a gentle prayer, BHU stood quietly at Andrew's Garden, begun that morning by my Dad and my husband, finished by all of them - a wonderfully touching thing to see, to know.

One by one, we took a scoop of the leftover ashes - tossing them onto the freshly-turned soil. Silent. Weeping. Remembering. Matthew and Luke too, had a turn and we all laughed as Luke turned to ash onto himself - typical. Of Luke. And of Andrew, the uncle he'll never know, but whose toddler self whispers past when Luke grins a certain way. Someone dumped a beer on top, which was perfect, so the rest of us did, too.

All afternoon, they stayed by that garden. Laughing, drinking, crying. They played with Matthew: delighted him and me by appeasing his bossy, four-year old ways, pretending to be passengers on his invisible train to Denver. Rolled Luke down the hill, watched for tumbles, and checked in every now and again, wondering how I was, how we all were. In so many ways, BHU became my brother - at his best, happy and relaxed, hanging with friends and family.

More stories - most funny, some sad - lead us long into the evening and far, far into the night. We sat around an awesome bonfire, drinking too much, but weeping no more. Andrew loved fire and I was tickled to see that his (foster) sister does, too. She kept the fire going strong as the others kept my Dad and I in stitches, aghast, lost...enfolded.

Today I think this:

Andrew was blessed, despite his demons. In choosing these friends, he showed an innate wisdom - they are loyal to one another and will now guard his memory just as fiercely. They are funny and quick and haven't let life's sometimes tragic lessons get in the way of their good time or their appreciation for the moment and each other.

They are everything Andrew was...and will never be again. I am blessed and so thankful to know them all. May 24. See you all then - forever.

Liz

P.S. Fuck fishing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Andrew's Ashes...

Tomorrow, we will scatter my brother's ashes over a specially-chosen spot on my parents' property. We will be joined by Andrew's childhood friends and his foster sister, affectionately called BHU, the lot of them.

I miss my brother. Am happy to have his best, truest ones surround us for the ceremony, but oh, it makes my heart ache. If only he'd stayed as true to them, perhaps...

Sigh.

In any case, this I enclosed in a card for my parents - I feel weak and inneffectual for them, feel like I can't do enough, keep messing up the tasks given. Here then, my offering:


“Mummy,” asked Dawd at bedtime “Is Heaven close to here?”
Mummy thought it over, and whispered in his ear:

“Heaven is a far-off spot, where those we loved now roam,
“It’s higher than our favourite hill, where trees sway to and fro.

“Higher than the airplanes, that circle overhead:
Higher than the stars which shine while you sleep in your bed.”

“Is Uncle Andrew up there now?” asked Dawd, tucked into his bed.
“How come he’s up there far away and not down here, instead?”

“God needed more strong angels, my curious little gnome,
to help Him move the heavy stuff, and so He called Andrew Home.”

“But Andrew is your brother, right? Like Menace and me, for you.
Does God know that you miss him and that he was your Sweet Bamboo?”

“God knows that he’s my brother, yes. And He wants me to be okay.
So He’ll make sure that Andrew hears when I whisper, “I miss you today.”

Dawd thought then about Menace, sleeping soundly across the room,
and worried that God would ask for him too, and then what would Dawd do?

“Does God only want little brothers?” Dawd’s impish face was grim.
“Menace is mine ‘cause I’m bigger, and you said that I get to keep him!”

Mummy laughed softly and gathered him up, until he was snug in her arms.
“I’m certain that God sent your brother to you, to keep him safe from harm!”

“And God doesn’t ask for just brothers. He needs Grandpas and little girls, too.
Because for all tasks done in Heaven, only the best hearts will do.

There are prayers to be answered and sweet songs to sing, as miracles wait to be born.
There are angels who flit about dancing while others play bright golden horns.

There are lists to be checked and gates to be opened and clouds to be moved all about,
Uncle Andrew is happily moving it all and making God laugh, I’ve no doubt.

He’ll be free and whole and happy, living high up in the clouds,
and he’ll know how much we miss him, when we say his name aloud.”
Elizabeth Schillings-McLennan 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

He Ain't Heavy...He's My Brother!




Wrapped up in my own angst about Matthew starting kindergarten, I forgot to consider Luke.

Wee, chortling, do-whatever-Matthew-does Luke.

This morning, when Matthew took his teacher's hand and tossed a cheery, "Bye, Mummy!" over his shoulder, Luke started to cry. Baffled, he twisted around in his stroller to stutter, "Where's Maffew? Where's Maffew, Mummy?"

Gulp.

All the way home, trudging up Victoria in the cool morning sunshine, he sniffled and repeated his brother's name. Being me, I joined him in the sniffling bit and together we made our way home without Matthew, one of only a handful of times we've been anywhere NOT as a threesome.

Luke cried at playgroup too, when he realized that I was heading to another room to seek the kind of support only a roomful of other Mums can provide (and cookies) and that he was once again, without his brother.

He did rally though and we both spent a fun morning. After lunch, I packed him into the car, expecting him to fall asleep. Nope.

"Lukey, it's time for nap now, sweetheart."

"No nap, Mummy. Me no nap!" Luke crossed his arms, resolute. "We go Maffew?"

Cra-ck went my heart.

"We'll get Matthew at 2:30, bug. AFTER nap."

"Hmph!" More emphatic arm-crossing, with a pouty lip for good measure.

Li'l boog didn't nap. He fell a bunch and whined a bit, but he did.not.nap. Until I popped him in the stroller for the journey back to school. And out he went.

By 3, we were home again, all three. Matthew hurled himself onto the couch with his precious gucky (soother) and promptly fell asleep, while I pulled sleeping Luke from his stroller, thinking I'd tiptoe him upstairs for an hour or so.

But, as soon as I stepped through the door, his eyes popped open: "Maffew! Maffew?" and he lurched in my arms, head turning every which way until he spied his brother. MATTHEW! Big grins and wriggles for down - he raced over and stood, just grinning.

About 1/2 hour later, I wandered into the family room with a snack for my sleep-deprived, but happy youngest and witnessed a most tender scene:

Matthew's gucky had fallen from his mouth and Luke was ever so carefully, gently-gently easing the gucky back into Matthew's mouth. Done, he gave Matthew's forehead a soft pat and settled himself down on the floor nearby. He would wait.

Sigh.

Life with Leprechauns doesn't get any more perfect than that. I am blessed, indeed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Halcyon Days...


Dear World,

Tomorrow, my beloved son begins Junior Kindergarten. At month's end, he will turn four. Four years. Gone. Poof.

I was here for all it, World. For every moment, every first, every word, tear, laugh, smile. And still, I ache for more. More time to BE with him - reading, singing, laughing. More time to watch him grow into the wonderful imp that I knew he would be. More time to bask in his cheeky grin and endless chatter.

Summer's end crept up so stealthily - all the special trips I'd imagined, sepia-washed moments I thought I'd capture on film...most didn't happen. I wanted to mark the end of this magical time, when he has been all mine - only mine - indelibly. Wanted to create for him, and for me, a lasting and powerful memory of this moment: when I will carefully hand him out into the universe, a gift.

Instead, I hollered at him before dinner, for shoving his brother. We ate tuna casserole for supper - typical Tuesday fare around here, nothing special or different. Instead of playing a game after Luke had gone to sleep, I hustled him downstairs to watch TV with Daddy, so that I could rush out for groceries. A quick kiss and a "go to bed when Daddy tells you," and off I went.

And tomorrow, off he goes.

I'm happy for him, World. I am. He's ready for school and new friends. Ready to begin carving out his own place and discovering who he is besides Mama's Heart and Luke's big brother. He is lively and engaging and curious - he will, I hope, make his teacher fall a tiny bit in love with him.

But he is also sensitive and sassy-mouthed. Belligerent when it suits him and stubborn when it suits no one. He can be loud and given to ear-piercing shrieks at inappropriate times - just like his Mama. I hope that he learns to curb it before I did.

I hope he dances, like I never could. I hope he sings often and with joyful abandon. I hope someone else can teach him to tie his shoes. I want him to love every. single. moment.

So yes, he's ready. But I am not.

I am not ready to leave these halycon days behind. Not ready to let him falter and fumble through friendships of his own making, not ones orchestrated and organized by me, usually because I like So-and-So's Mummy. I am not ready to hear of discoveries and stories and new sights that don't include me. Not ready for him to fall a tiny bit in love with his teacher, instead of staying entirely in love with me.

Give me the strength to take his trusting hand in mine and walk him two blocks west on Victoria to an entirely new and awesome adventure. Give me the words to soothe his worries and make it a happy day for both of us. Let us part with smiles, not tears, at least until I'm a block away and he can no longer see my face.

Be kind, World. For tomorrow, I offer you my very heart. His name is Matthew.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Life in Therapy?

Just a few snippets of life with the Reds at the mo'

Luke:

I think I have traumatized Luke. The day before yesterday, I asked the boys to clean up their toys, strewn all over the living room. After two reminders, they began, but got distracted. I warned them that if the toys didn't get picked up, I'd put them in a box, in the car and they'd be given to children who WOULD pick them up.

I make dinner, they wander off. So, before I called them to the table, I put all the toys in a box and put the box in the car. WELL. All hell broke loose at the dinner table and Matthew WAILED about those darned toys for 1/2 hour. I sent him to his room - he wailed. On and on and on and on...
Finally, he got that I wasn't listening/retrieving the toys and stopped wailing. Mentioned it every, oh, 10 minutes until bedtime, but I remained steadfast. Told him at bedtime that we could talk about the toys after breakfast.

Next morning, shovelling cereal into his mouth, Matthew asked if I was still going to give the toys away. I said that I would let the boys keep them but ONLY if when asked, they picked up.

This afternoon after nap, groggy Luke suddenly started WAILING and rushing about, madly picking up toys. Shoes. He even fixed the rug, often askew.
And waiiiiiiiiiiiiiiillllled the entire time.


Poor kid. I sense some therapy in his future...


Matthew:

"Mummy, how did Uncle Andrew get to Heaven, high in the sky?"
"Mummy, I think I see God's eyes looking at me. They're red eyes. Are Uncle Andrew's eyes red, too? What colour are angels?"
"Hey, GOD!!!! It's me - Matthew!! Can you hear me way up there?" This said outside this evening, as we watched clouds after dinner. I could have wept, so awesome was the moment.

Me: Matthew, do you know that I love you?
Matthew: Yes. You love me soooo much!
Me: And I'm so proud to be your Mummy.
Matthew: I'm proud to be your son, Mummy. I'm proud of you. Thank you for not using your naughty tone today.


Poor kid. I sense some therapy in his future...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Who You Gonna Call Part II...

And THEN...

My neighbour's girlfriend, who visits periodically with her three young children, mentioned that none of them like to sleep upstairs because "somebody's always trying to talk to us." This information was offered unprompted, sort of casually tossed out over coffee one day.
Awesome.
That pretty much did it for me and I headed for the internet, searching. I knew that the Quinte Paranormal Society existed, but had never checked out the site, though once I had, I fired off an email, testing the waters. Flurry of back and forths and the "date to investigate" was set.

And here they are. Or rather, there they go.

I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly, but Josh and Shawn, brothers, were a pleasant surprise. They were clean-cut and friendly - professional and a touch military. (Josh, as it turns out, is in the Air Force and his older brother Shawn was in law enforcement for several years before an injury forced him out.) Patrick, a quiet, older gentleman and sweet-spoken Francesa rounded out the team.

They spent some time hauling in their cameras and equipment, testing the video recorders and such, while Francesa asked about our experiences. Mark and I stumbled through by cracking jokes and being self-deprecating. I did most of the talking, Mark took care of the jokes - and then, it was time.

After touring the house with lights on, the team assembled themselves at various points and then all went dark. Mark and I, feeling foolish and a bit giddy, headed outside to snicker and wonder in whispers - watching the odd flash from a camera briefly light our darkened home.

After about half an hour, the team converged in the driveway, while I made coffee and tried to act as though it's perfectly normal to have four strangers calling forth spirits from my home on a hot summer's night in July. Tried for casual when Shawn and Josh said they were ready to wrap things up, after one last trip to our creepy dirt cellar. (Josh loved it, proclaiming that if it were his, he'd have an office down there, for blogging and writing. Me: Have at it, dude. We'll give you your own key!)

And then, suddenly, it was over and they were packing up. IF there is something or someone lurking in the shadowy depths of our home, it will show up on the audio tapes, apparently. As soon as they've been gone through, Josh will let us know and send us copies of everything.

Excellent. Photographic and audio evidence of one of the weirdest nights we've spent.

Just gone midnight and alone once more, Mark and I settled in to watch the last "Harry Potter" DVD, because really, what else were we going to watch, I ask you? We didn't speak of the evening, oddly enough. Simply enjoyed a cool movie without worrying that the noise would wake the children and plowing through a bag of Cheetos, in companionable silence.

"Tssktsskkflappflapflaptsktsksckritch!"

What the EFF is that? Mark and I looked at one another. There is was again: "Tskshhhflapflapflapskritch!" Mark hit pause on the movie and I froze. He got up and tiptoed into the living room, cautiously flipped on the light and jolted back.

Me: Sigh. "There's a bat in the house, isn't there?"
Mark: Shit, yeah. And it's HUGE! I hate bats. HATE bats!
Me: Well, it's our own fault, really. We had to go and open the crypt, didn't we?

With that, I fell apart laughing. Hysterically. And was no help whatsoever to Mark, who set about trying to catch the huge bat (This shit ain't right, Liz! This thing is HUGE!) with his sweater and a baseball cap. Me? I shoved a pillow over my head and carried on laughing, peeking out every now and again long enough to holler at Mark to open the door already!

Eventually, he did and I thought I saw the bat fly out. Giggling fitfully, we finished the movie (only after we'd inspected every corner and set the rooms blazing with light - our neighbours must think WE'RE the crazy ones around here) and finally, went to bed.

All told? A marvelous way to spend a Friday night - if only for the months of mileage I'll be getting out of this tale. Life with Bellymonster = never boring for long!

I'll keep y'all posted......



BOO!
Update from the QPRS site:


*** http://www.qprs.ca/0709001.htm ***

Friday, July 31, 2009

Who You Gonna Call?

GHOSTBUSTERS!


Erm...well, not really. Actually, these folks are called Quinte Paranormal Research and they're due to arrive here within the hour.

Let me explain.

I've posted before about Matthew's "tingle" and how he seems to know random things he shouldn't. Conversations with whom I presume are imaginary friends, but am not always CERTAIN of that. Odd little "predictions" of the future. You know. The usual.

Well.

A few weeks back, while playing trains with me in the upstairs playroom, Matthew suddenly looked up at the empty doorway and asked, "Mummy, who's that man?"

Me: Uh, I don't know, sweetheart.
Matthew: Mummy, where did the man go?
Me: Erm...I didn't see where he went, sweetheart.

GAH!

The next day, practicing shoelace-tying at the bottom of the stairs, Matthew once again looked up, gazing at the landing in the middle of the staircase: "Mummy, who's that man?"

Me: I don't know, sweetheart. Why don't you ask him?
Matthew: I can't. He's got something covering his head.

Insert TRIPLE "Gah!" face here.

Spent a few days mulling these conversations in my mind, trying to determine if Matthew simply has an especially vivid imagination, like his Mama. I am, in case you've not noticed, a bit prone to hyperbole myself. But I digress...

Time passes. The children continue to have restless nights, helped only, eerily, by playing the local Christian music station while they sleep. Or not, as the case may be. I spend several nights tossing about on their floor, having grown quite weary of carting crying redheads back to their beds all night long.

(I remember a weird conversation I had with Mark one night as we lay in our darkened bedroom, willing ourselves to sleep, listening to the boys snore and rustle via the monitor.

"Hear that?"

"So?" says Mark, "so one of them's up."

"No, they're BOTH sleeping. Listen!"

Sure enough, there is a a defiinite rattle-rattle of the dresser handles, as though someone is moving quietly about the room. Someone heavier than stealthy-footed leprechauns, who have learned to move quietly after dark, lest Mama realizes they're out of bed and makes them stay there.)

A few days pass without "incident" and I mostly forget (ok, block) about things that go bump and men without faces, until an unrelated conversation with my landlady.

We've been having issues with capenter ants and finally, admitting defeat, I called my landlords. They promptly called the exterminators and it was while discussing dates and times and theories as to how the ants were coming into the house, that the hidden staircase came up in conversation.

S. (Landlady. Lovely woman. Sane.): Maybe they're coming in through the back staircase.
Me: What back staircase?
S: The back one. It's boarded up now, but it goes directly into the boys' room.
Me: WHAT???
S: Didn't you notice the stairs above your head when you went into the cellar?
Me: Uh, no. No, I didn't. I probably got distracted by the scary, dark and altogether creepy cellar. (Rush over to doorway and FLING open the door, to reveal, yes, there it is...a staircase. Leading up.)

Dannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggg!

So, the pest guys come and spray some stuff and all goes back to normal, except that "normal" now includes me obsessing about these stairs. It BUGS me that they're there, hidden. BUGS me that I now wonder if the rattling that sounds in the boys' room late at night is actually some spirit trying to trudge UP those stairs and getting stuck at the top. The dresser now sits where the entrance to the room would have been.

Well, still IS, it's just boarded up and carpeted over. Fan-effing-tastic.

I obsess. I brood. I hover. I spend more sleepless nights on the floor of the boys' room, hyper aware of every creak and moan made in our century old house. Brood some more.

And THEN....


Read what happened next here: BOO!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

It Takes a (Virtual) Village...

I refer to my son Matthew as a "gift from the universe," which is a cheeky way of saying, "We didn't use a condom and I can't count." According to my swift calculations in that pivotal moment following an "is this a safe time?" query from my husband, there would have needed to be six weeks in the month of January, 2005.

17 days later, having developed a superhuman ability to smell EVERYTHING, I frantically typed "pregnancy symptoms" and "how to conceive" into Google again and again and again - thankful for yet cursing this new and wondrous way to retrieve information. According to the 14,5078 sites I visited I was most likely pregnant and should probably go pee on stick.

I peed on two - not believing the first and dancing giddily when the second one showed that gorgeous, beautiful, terrifying "+" sign. The journey to motherhood had begun.

Along the way, I spent countless hours on the internet, in that obsessive way pregnant women do. One day, I stumbled across a pregnancy message board and was both entranced and mystified by this online community of women embarking on the same journey - some for the first time, others for the third or fourth. Here, I was thrilled to discover a place where any and every question about pregnancy and labour was answered by women who KNEW and could commiserate. Nothing was taboo or off limits. No one tired of yet another soon-to-be Mama's labour jitters even as the bottle versus breast debate raged on for pages. I found a page dedicated to October 2005 Mums and was delighted to have women I had never met join me in complaining ("I can no longer see my feet!" or "Sex is awkward and I'm afraid I'll squish him!") and rejoicing ("I heard my baby's heartbeat!" and "My boobs are fantastically huge!") about our changing bodies, changing lives. Slowly but steadily, as my belly blossomed with life, so too did my online friendships.

The saying, "it takes a village to raise a child," became a reality for me in September of that year, when fire-haired Matthew was born. My parents, in-laws, friends were collectively smitten and joyful - devoted to raising Matthew in true "village" style. Only my village included my now-indispensable internet friends. As the October babies were born and we were tossed headlong into love and motherhood, these women became my supporters, my allies, my guiding lights and in many ways, my second home. A group of us formed our own private message board, where we were free to share all of who we were becoming - not just as mothers, but as wives and daughters, too.

Today, we call our little corner of the internet "Camp!" and it remains my solace, my harbour, my sounding board. Part confessional, part journal and always a place of comfort, Camp is now woven into the very fabric of my being - these days, I am as much Belly as I am Mummy, or Liz. Perhaps even more so.

We are a strange collection of people from all walks of life and even different countries, bonded and bound by the magic of motherhood. Camp Mamas (and one incredible Dad!) have borne witness to my own remarkable journey from "all about me" Liz to proud Mama of Reds. Camp knew I was pregnant with my second son, Luke, before anyone else, including my husband. They are almost as in love with my red-headed leprechauns as I am and never fail to make me laugh, think, share. We cheer and cry with every positive pregnancy test, birth and potty training victory. We bicker and argue and yes, we've lost a few campers here and there, but we are, like the children that brought us together, always evolving and growing and basking in constant love.

During our years together, campers have virtually held and hugged each other through the agony of trying to conceive, miscarriages and the staggering loss of Grace, felled by SIDS in 2006. Marriages have faltered, cracked, ended. Some of us lost parents and siblings. Jobs. Friends in "real life." As parents, most of us have lost our minds.

Campers prayed for my family when my beloved Mum fell ill, when my husband lost his job and my own marriage came perilously close to falling apart. They cried and raged with me when my only brother died this year, bolstered me, their Belly, with compassion and love - all via the internet.

The lines between real and virtual life have blurred significantly in the years since my initial foray into message boards and the wonder of the internet. Later this summer, I will journey to Iowa to spend five days with a beloved camper who has become like a sister to me, and whose sons I've come to love and watch grow entirely through my computer. Campers from all over the States are travelling to meet - my very own virtual village, come to vivid life.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

His Mother's Son...

Michael Jackson died today. He was 50 years old.

I won't pretend to be saddened by news of his death. I did not know him, nor love him. Nor will I miss him. I acknowledge that his contribution to music was huge and long-reaching and will likely continue to be for generations to come. He was enormously talented...and terribly broken. His death has stunned the world and as I write this, the world thinks only, it seems, of him.

I, however, am thinking of three others: My brother, my mother, and his mother.

Through these Mama lenses, through which I now filter every aspect of my world, I mourn another mother's loss. That Michael Jackson was a troubled, tortured soul is well-documented. But he was Katherine's son - by some accounts her most beloved and for her, I ache.

Watching the news tonight: everywhere, on every station footage of the boy he was, the man he morphed into and speculation about what might have been his future life, abounds. And I sat here, agog, watching, waiting...feeling a viciousness and weird, out-of-place sense of familiarity with the story unfolding before me, practically in real time.

Like my brother, Michael died of a heart attack, found not breathing at his home. Like my brother, he was rushed to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Another brother, gone too soon. Someone else's brother, taken so swiftly, with so much left unsaid, undone. Secrets.

And I chuckled darkly, as it dawned on me that I was not saddened, even as I saw hundreds gather outside the hospital where he lays now, cold and alone. I was pissed.

Pissed because THIS is how it should have been, how it felt, when my brother died, taken so swiftly, with so much left unsaid, undone. I wanted then, as I do now, for the world to simply stop. My brother is dead, my brother is DEAD, I wanted to scream at strangers - be quiet! Be silent. Be STILL.

For Michael Jackson, it seems, the world has stopped, if only to catch its collective breath, to gasp in surprise, in shock. I even took a perverse sort of pleasure in flinging open the front door as my husband arrived home this evening to announce, "Michael Jackson died!"

Children of the 80's both, Mark and I watched the news, awash in memories, quietly trading commentary on the commentary. Mark, typically chilled and watchful, absorbing. Me, not-so-typically cynical and spewing venom. Pissed.

And then suddenly the anger faded as I made the connection between Michael Jackson and my darling Andrew and I sort of wilted and stopped talking altogether. Thought about my Mum and wondered if she's watching the news, if she'd even know who Michael Jackson is (was) and if she'd be sad, too, thinking of Andrew.

Thought about Michael's mother and realized that the only truth that matters is this: No matter what sort of man Michael Jackson was (or wasn't), what he did (or didn't do) and whether or not we agree with the lifestyle he chose, he was still somebody's son.

My prayers tonight are for her - simply a mother, bidding her son farewell.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Dear Dad,

You know the movie "As Good As It Gets?" In it, Jack Nicholson tells Helen Hunt that she makes him want to be a better man.

Well, you make me want to be a better daughter - because of me, because of Andrew, for you. For Mum. For Andrew. For me.

Always, you have been my rock, my solace and my touchstone - a solid and dependable place to simply "be" as I've become me. But unlike years past, this year your true strength and grit shone through as you bid Andrew goodbye and my heart is filled with pride, even as it breaks for you.

You have borne the loss of your son with dignity and forthrightness, absorbing shock and grief - your own, from us, because of him. Quietly, as is your way, you've been here, listening, watching, waiting, protecting - all of us, the way a good father does. The way you always have. Despite everything, you remain my pillar, my sticking place, my beloved Daddy and it simply amazes me.

Somehow, you muster the patience and energy to entertain the boys - endlessly busy, endlessly inquisitive, endlessly LOUD. And smile throughout. Mornings come too early, on the heels of tiny feet pattering into your room to whack your head and holler, "Papa! Papa!" with unabashed glee. And yet you rise and smile and greet the day with them. For them.

Watching you with them, I wonder how we ever got so lucky, to have found our way to you - to have been given the pleasure of calling for you, "Dad! Papa!" and having you answer, every time. Luke loves you best, of anyone. Truly. It makes my heart ache a little bit, so happy that you and he have forged such a wonderful, magical bond. I hope it helps to ease the ache in yours.

I wish that I could be a place of solace for you, Dad. I hope you find some comfort in our late-night chats, early-morning rambles. I hope that you will somehow know how very much I love you, especially in the quiet moments, when even I fall silent. Funnily, those are some of my favourite times with you - the quiet, contemplative minutes spent together, just you and me.

I never imagined that it would only ever be you and me on Father's Day. I'm so sad for you, that Andrew isn't here to say so himself, crooked grinned and all. I know that the pain of missing him, and all the missed chances to continue being the best kind of supportive and compassionate father that you are, haunt you. So know this: yours is a wise and compassionate heart and in this life, the best choice Andrew ever made was choosing you as his Dad. No one could have fought harder, given more, or loved him better. Remember that.

Thank you for your wisdom and your generousity of spirit, of time, of compassion, of patience. Thank you being a living example of everything I'd hoped for Andrew and everything I dream that Matthew and Luke will one day be.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

I love you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

D'oh! Re, Mi...

The Reds and I went to Cobourg Beach this morning. Waiting for Mark's parents to arrive, the boys raced up the stairs of the empty bandshell, eager to give me their precious and always adorable rendition of "The ABC Song."

Laughing, proud and wishing I'd remembered my camera, I urged them to try "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music, but Ganny and Haha appeared, and my request got lost in all the excitement.

No matter. Ganny snapped a few photos of the giddy pair, while I stood below. Turned to see a dad and daughter duo - she, about two, blond hair, angelic face. He - confident, tall, fit: "Cop. Detective, " flitted through my mind and I smiled a greeting.

"I'm trying to convince them to perform some Sound of Music stuff, but they're just not co-operating," I explained and then grinned as his daughter marched up the stairs to her father's encouraging calls for "Encore, Encore!"

"Oh, really?" he smiled back, something like recognition sparking in his eyes.

"Do Re Mi, actually," I offered, "I'm trying to teach them hand motions but...well...they run amok too much!"

"Have you seen the show?"

"Yes, I have. Just last week, as a matter of fact!" Me: Happy to be able to answer in the affirmative, instinctively wanting to please.

"Did you enjoy it?"

"I did - it was awesome! Although, Captain von Trapp was extremely disappointing, I must say."

"Which production did you see?"

"Uh...a matinee, last Wednesday. She was incredible, the girl playing Maria."

"Yes, Elicia won the contest."

Mr. Cop's eyes were now firmly focused on my face, causing me to babble nervously on:

"I was worried that "Edelweiss" would be forever ruined for me, by this Captain von Trapp, but he utterly saved it. He had a beautiful voice. He just couldn't act."

"Hmmm...really. Do you remember his name?"

"Um, well, no. But he had dark hair and is American, apparently."

"Burke." With absolute certainty he rocked back on his heels, crossing his arms, eyes now on his daughter, but waiting, or so it seemed to me, for me to say more.

"So, you've seen the show, obviously!" I smiled, conspiratorally.

Slight dramatic pause.


"I'm in it."

(Well, shit. Doesn't that just freakin' figure?)

BIG dramatic pause while I willed my cheeks NOT go up in flames and mimicked his stance, as if I could care less that I was just, as usual, wanting the Earth to open up and swallow me whole.

"Really?" I asked, in what I hoped was a casual tone, not the high-pitched, panicked, shrieking one reverberating in my brain. "Who do you play?"

(Please, please, please God, do NOT let him say that HE'S Captain von Trapp....please!!!!!)

"I play The Admiral."

At my confused look, (mostly, I was so relieved that he wasn't the Captain, that if he'd told me that he was Brad Pitt, I'd likely have worn the same expression) he explained that he plays Admiral von Schreiber, the man responsible for giving Captain von Trapp his orders to report following the Salzburg Festival. I remembered Swastika-laden flags suddenly appeared in the audience - a chillingly effective and oddly poignant moment during the production.

We chit-chatted a bit longer (well, he chatted, I gushed, because holy crap, what the heck else wasI gonna do?) and then I escaped to the playground, mentally cursing.

Why, why, why do these things always seem to happen to me? What are the freakin' chances that an actor in a Toronto show that I've only just seen, would be at the Cobourg Beach, just in time for me to open my stupid mouth about it?

In my world? Seems the chances are pretty good.

Sheesh.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reds at Play...

Went to the park this morning to watch the Reds roam about, delighted to climb and run and shriek (Matthew) and lose shoes and one sock and eat handfuls and handfuls of sand (Luke).

The playground equipment, though typical, wasn't precisely Luke-friendly, though. So while Matthew had no problem scaling climbing walls and monkeying his way up barred stairs, Luke had to content himself by staying on the ground, watching.

He tried to climb up a few bars, got stuck. Cried. And as I raced over, laughing and breathless at the baffled look in his little face, I spied Matthew running from across the sandbox, calling for me.

"Mummy! Mummmyyy! Lukey's stuck, Mummy! He's gonna fall!" and running as fast as his little legs would carry him.

Managed to save Luke from tumbling onto his head, and shoved him up so he could take a turn on the slide, which he did, face-first, belly down, chortling. Matthew hovered for a few minutes while I repeated our new "game": Hoist, Teeter, Belly, Slide. Hoist. Teeter. Belly. Slide.

Eventually, Luke tired of sliding and wandered off to balance on an empty park bench while I returned to my Mummy friends, scattered about the grass soaking in the balmy air and the giddy freedom that comes with early summer mornings, warm and full of promise.

Every once in awhile, I scanned the greens before me, searching for the Reds - their hair like beacons in the sun. There goes Luke, quietly munching on a sand-encrusted banana, following Matthew with his eyes. It's hard to miss Matthew, shrieking with laughter and calling to his friends to watch out for the "Seamonster" lurking beneath the play structure.

Shortly then, Luke decided to brave the BIG slide, the twirly one, that usually requires a parent at the top and the bottom, for pushing and catching, respectively. I stood at the top, eyeing the bottom, trying to gauge how hard Luke would hit the ground if I simply let him go. While I pondered, Matthew bounced into view and grinned up at me.

"I'll catch him, Mummy! Lukey, I'll catch you! Come on down!"

And so down Luke went, tumbling, giggling, into Matthew's outstretched arms. Safe. Protected.

These boys. They make me weep, they are so beautiful. Thank God they chose me.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bellymonster's Mama (A Clarification)

is not, in fact MY Mama. She's another Mum to a Red (sweet, darling Georgia) and has her own blog and is actually called Heather.

Last week, I googled "Bellymonster" to see if my blog would come up.

(Yeah, I know, it's sorta dorky and vain. Whatev. I'm bloated and inhaling chocolate. What's yer point?)

Well, MY blog didn't pop up but Heather's did, and once I got over the shock of seeing a Mummy blogger called Bellymonster's Mama, who WASN'T me, I emailed her.

Pretty sure I love her now. Check her out!

(http://www.bellymonsterchronicles.com/)


That is all. Shameless plugging of other, clearly sort-of-insane-but-in-a-good-way blogger is now complete!

Love,
Belly (aka: The NOT Georgia)

Monday, June 1, 2009

Magical Leprechauns Abound!

I have what my husband calls "The Tingle." It's a sort of knowing - mostly random bits of oddness and sometimes, brief wisps of other people's memories. Sometimes, I can see a shimmering light around people too - their aura, as it were. It's passed down on my mother's Irish side, through the blood that runs through my veins and I have long given up trying to explain it away. I am. It is.

This gift, for lack of a better word, was much stronger when I was younger, particularly during my teens, when I was more in tune with emotions - mine, looming large and chaotic and of those around me. It has faded since, and while I do occasionally get a passing "flash" from people, my ability to see past seems to have gotten lost admist the daily challenge of showering whilst listening to the Reds beat each with plastic golf clubs in the playroom.

I don't often mention the Tingle - it either elicts smirks of disbelief or an almost immediate weirded-out expression from those who don't know me well. I can't, and never have been able to read minds, nor can I "see" the future. Well, not exactly.

It's mostly insignificant stuff that floats through my mind and I usually choose to keep it to myself, or share with my husband as we ready ourselves for bed. It mystified and frustrated Mark for several years, these random flights of fluff - he's a black-and-white sort of fellow and as a chemist, was firmly of the mindset that if science can't prove it, it can't be. Playing card games used to make him crazy and he'd leave the table, seething at my utter lack of skill, yet, strange habit of winning every stinkin' hand, while apologetically explaining it was "like a tingle in my head." These days, however, he's well accustomed to my ramblings and is keen to watch with me, to see if any of my "tingles" come to fruition. (His mum is also a truly gifted healer, a trait which Mark seems to have inherited and grudgingly accepted about himself. )

Good thing, really, as it seems that our beloved Magical Matthew is the newest recruit to "Team Tingle." This kid - he KNOWS shit. Weird, insignificant stuff, just like me, but sometimes, sometimes he gets this look on his face, like he's listening to someone talking intently. Once or twice, I've seen him give a quiet nod or frown, as though acknowledging the end of a conversation, or a thought. Or a memory.

Once I asked him who he was talking to - expecting a host of names, as Matthew has a veritable playground of imaginary friends, who spend a GREAT deal of time getting blamed for naughty behaviour, rescuing other imaginary friends from untold dangers or insisting on sliced cheese and pickles for breakfast, please and thank you. This particular morning, however, Matthew's reply gave me pause: "I'm just listening, Mummy. Sometimes my head tells me things."

Awesome.

Most nights, Matthew hunkers down in my bed for sleep, and I transfer him to his own when I'm ready to call it a day. The routine seldom varies: we arrange blankets and Lamby and Ellliephant into position and then I snuggle him while we recount our favourite parts of the day. Then, we wait for ONE car to pass by outside, and I kiss him, whisper words of love and comfort, thank him for choosing me and amble downstairs. Lately, Matthew has begun to tell me what kind of car will drive by and I'll be damned if he's almost always right.

Some weeks back:

"Mummy, stay for two cars, ok?"
"No, Matthew. I'll stay for one only. You know the rule."
"It's ok, Mummy, there are two cars coming together. Sort of."
"Oh, really?" (Heavy on the disbelieving tone)
"Yes. A white car, like a police car, but different. Different words. And a blue van, like Ryan's Daddy's, but bigger."

I kid you not, no sooner had those words left his mouth, than a WHITE car, a security company logo clearly written on its doors sailed past the closed window and my open mouth. Followed almost immediately by a dark blue van, a Dodge Caravan just like our neighbour drives, only taller, due to the storage box strapped to its roof.

"Wow, Matthew!" Much delighted squealing from me, "How'd you know that?"
An elegant shrug from my yawning son. "I just do."

Does he ever. In the weeks since, Mark and I have both been witness to similar instances of random "knowing". We popped by my inlaws' workplace last week, believing that only my father-in-law would be there, as my mother-in-law was off and chasing appointments that afternoon. We told the boys this as we unstrapped their wriggling little bodies from the confines of their carseats.

"Ganny will be here any minute, Mummy!" Matthew announced, flinging himself out of the car and heading toward to parking lot entrance, away from the office for which we were bound.

"No, Matthew, Ganny won't be here, remember? She's working out of the office today."
"No, Mummy. She's coming here now. She'll be here any minute."
"Matthew!" a bit flustered now, "Ganny is no..."

I stopped talking as I watched Matthew rush toward the car turning into the drive. Ganny.

"Any minute now. Wow." This was Mark, equally stunned.

A few days ago, I escaped the shackles of domesticity for a Weight Watcher's meeting. (Hey, it's the small stuff.) Popped by the grocery store and returned home, less than two hours later. As I came through the door (1.5 pounds lighter) Mark handed me a freshly-brewed coffee. As in, JUST through the filter, literally, into my steaming cup.

"Wow. Great timing, Daddy! Thanks!"

"Oh, don't thank me. Matthew was eating his snack here at the table and turned to me and said, 'Mummy will be home in about six minutes, Daddy'."

Mark gamely put the coffee pot on and four minutes later, watched my car pull into the driveway and a smug, "I-told-you-so!" look settle onto Matthew's freckled face.

Sure, some of this stuff could be explained away. Like, Matthew knowing when I'd be home could just be that he's learning to gauge time and I'm often the same time gone, every Saturday morning. Or Ganny arriving unexpectedly - could just be a fluke.

But me, knowing what I do? Matthew's tingles are strong indeed. What a long, strange, GLORIOUS trip this is gonna be!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Move Over, Mommie Dearest!

Matthew is almost four and is testing, testing, testing and pushing every boundary, every wall, every godforsaken button his wily little mind can find.

I love him. I do. But God help me, there are days when I wonder who has entered my son's body, because my wee, sweetpea leprechaun is behaving like an IMP, and not in a good way.

He was fine this morning. Delightful, even. But then he had a nap and I'm not sure what happened while he slumbered but it was like a completely different child emerged from his bed. Sure he LOOKED like my fire-haired lovey, wore the same Curious George underpants (backwards, as he now insists on dressing himself) and adorable, sleepy look.

And then he opened his mouth and out came a sassy-mouthed, attitude-tossing, dirty look-throwing, petulant BOY.

Bedtime came....and went. He was hungry, thirsty, had to pee, had to poo, had a sore leg, itchy mosquito bites AND he'd lost Lamby somewhere in the vast expanse of queen-sized sheets.

Finally, finally, as I hovered over the toilet with my clearly exhausted, yet gamely smart-mouthed son, who'd so been SO desperate to poo yet again, he'd removed his Pull-Up and pj bottoms whilst sliding down the stairs, I sort of lost it.

"Matthew," I said sternly, fixing him with my best, never-before-failed glare, "you had BETTER have a poo in there, or you'll be in BIG trouble!" And squeezed him leg a little harder than necessary, to press my point home.

"Oh, I have a poo, Mummy. Watch!" And didn't he scrunch up his adorably-freckled nose and close his eyes, straining so hard to push out a poop he tooted?

"See?" Such glee. Such pride.

"I see no poo, Matthew." Another icy glare.

"It was a little poop, Mummy. But it was so little, it already went down the hole."


Mummy: 0 Matthew: 345,078, 021

The evening's performance ended shortly thereafter, with much crying and gnashing of teeth and wails and not all of it from Matthew.

Half an hour passed and I scrubbed furiously at the dishes in the sink, mad at myself, mad at Matthew, tired, frustrated, let down, ashamed....standard fare, really. And then I heard a plaintive"Muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuummmmyyyy!" from the room at the top of the stairs. DAMN IT!

Grim-faced, resigned, I trudged up and sank to the bed, sighing, "What now, Matthew?"

He was sleeping soundly, one lean arm wrapped around Lamby. Achingly still and calm.

But just beyond him, on the other side of the bed, head barely visible...stood Luke. Crying. He'd been searching for me, seeking comfort and snuggles and I was so busy being pissed off, I hadn't even heard him.

He's sleeping now, too. But something tells me that my dreams will not be restful ones, this night. This parenting business is so wonderful. Except for the moments like these.

The ones that hurt my very heart and soul.


I suck.

Monday, May 18, 2009

May 19th, 1978

Dear Andrew,

Tomorrow is your birthday - you were supposed to turn 31.

I miss you. I miss knowing that whatever else might have been going on in our lives, that tomorrow, I would dial your number and wish you a "Happy Birthday!" and would hear your smile through the phone.

I've been waiting for you to send me some sort of sign, a peace offering, smoke signal - anything to let me know that you're well and safe and happy. One morning, I heard an owl hooting and thought of you. But dude, it was FAR too early for you to be up and hooting, so I chuckled a bit, missed you more.

Some people watch for pennies, but you never had any money, so they're out. Others wait to hear a favourite shared song, but Cypress Hill isn't on my playlist, so it'll be a long wait, eh?

There's a guy here in Belleville - every time I see him, which is about once a week, in random places, like the grocery store, or walking his dog by the Moira River - he reminds me of you and I catch my breath, thinking, "Andrew!"

And then I feel crazy, because he's not you and I know it, but I was hoping SO hard...

Was explaining thunder and lightening to Matthew last week - told him that angels high, hiiiiiiiiigggh in the sky were having a party and the sound of thunder was them laughing and lightening was the flash of their smiles.

The next day, he told Luke not to be afraid of the thunder, because "it's angels, 'Ukey and they're having fun up there. Uncle Andrew's there, too...high, hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigghh in the sky."

And I laughed so hard, hiding on the landing above them, listening. Andrew? High? Never! HA!

Interesting fact: November 30th (which is my birthday, in case you forget) is also St. Andrew's Day. Isn't that something? Connected we were. Are. Always.

Shit, Bamboo. It was supposed to be you and me, brother-mine. You and me, the chosen ones, forever. Remember? You and me, arguing over who gets the stupid "Cows" portrait when Mum and Dad have gone on ahead of us. You and me missing them, instead of this.

Wishing your life had included us more.

Wishing our lives still included you.

I love you. Know that. Hold it close and never, ever forget it. I loved you even when I hated you and wish you'd have stayed with us in Newcastle. Wish you were here to know Luke and watch him swagger through his days, so much like you as a toddler, it makes my heart ache sometimes.

Wish you could see Matthew, growing like a weed and chattering incessantly, all day long. He talks about you every so often and it pleases me that he remembers, even though it breaks my heart that he only has memories now - his, mine. Watch over them, please, from wherever you're perched, chilling, free.

Whisper sweet dreams to Mum, Andrew. And watch over Dad, who's bearing up, but is so sad.

This is harder than I'd ever, NEVER imagined. It was supposed to be you and me.

Blessed be, my baby brother. Always, I love you.

Happy Birthday.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Letter to myself...

This Mother's Day, I want you to know that I am so proud of you, as I think you're turning out to be a great Mum.

Sure, you have your days, when patience is non-existent and frankly, you're a bit mean to the Reds. But you try, Belly, and that matters. You are quick to recognize when you're being unfair and impatient, and you haven't actually tossed a leprechaun out the window.

Yet.

You've changed, since becoming a Mum, Belly. For the better. Since Matthew, finally, someone's else's needs come before your own and you know absolutely what it is to love another person without condition. You are wise in ways you'd never realized before the Reds - slower to judge, quicker to hug.

You are vulnerable in ways you'd never imagined and Belly, that softness makes you beautiful.

Since Luke, you've learned what it is to have your body not belong entirely to you, for minutes, days, months at a time. Be proud of yourself, for you've overcome some dark hurdles to snuggle that boy to your breast and grow him into the chortling little tank that he is. When you feel his soft breath on your skin, allow yourself to feel pliant and good and more like a woman than you've ever felt in your whole life.

Your boys are delightful, Belly. They are funny and lively and are the very best of you and Mark, rolled in Red. They show you every day who you really are - growly faces and all. No, it's not always nice, seeing your own temper flare in your son's face. But it's humbling and real and your honesty about what you're seeing makes you a good Mum. Remember that when you want to pitch yourself out the window.

Matthew starts kindergarten this year, Belly. I know that every day, a part of you weeps for the loss of him, your very heart. But you bravely carry on, vowing to make every moment with him matter and that is your gift to him...and to yourself.

Luke, fierce, darling Luke, your very soul - he will always be your baby even as his impish face grows into BOY and that he loves his brother so, is because of you.

For every hug encouraged, every reminder that "brothers are built-in best friends" they have bonded and are stronger for each other. You gave them the gift of that special sibling relationship, so be happy.

Blessed be, Bellymonster.

Happy Mother's Day.

Love,
Elizabeth