Sunday, August 3, 2014

One, Final Love Letter

When I started this blog in 2008, I had no idea what I was doing. 311 blog posts later (312, if you include this one) I still don't, but oh, what a fun, fun ride it's been!

Six years.

I have been sharing the "view from here" for six long, glorious years and I am so very, very grateful for all of it. My sons and I have grown enormously during that time and so many wonderful people have entered our sphere, through this blog.

Thank you all for reading and crying and laughing and sharing. There is nothing quite as satisfying as knowing that my words, tumbled onto these pages, have reduced someone to tears or made them snort coffee from their nose.

My heart is full up with the love I've known here at Life With Bellymonster. And yet....

And yet.

I have struggled, this past year, NOT to write the stories that fill my heart and mind. Struggled with knowing that even though *I* consider oversharing my special gift, my children may not. They are growing older, wiser and I need to respect that my journey as their mother does not necessarily mean that theirs need to be shared, too.

I've been chewing on this for months now, trying to find the balance between my needs and theirs.

I've also been thinking hard about the other children in my world - the ones whose faces and stories have taken up much space in my head and my heart. And whose stories I cannot share here. Or anywhere, really, without betraying their trust and their confidences.

It's a conundrum. And it's a sign.

I don't know what I'll do next, darling readers. I imagine that I'll build another blog, though its content and purpose isn't clear yet, in my mind. I cannot imagine NOT writing, oversharing, inducing coffee-snot and tears.

 I am choosing to trust that it will be, though, and that it will be a glorious work-in-progress, like this one has been.

Like I am. Like we all are.

In the meantime:

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for allowing me to share my world with you and for offering me such wonderful, poignant glimpses of yours in return.

Be blessed. Be good. Be the good, beloveds.

Much love,
Bellymonster (and the Reds)

Bellymonster and the Reds, 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dear Student...

Dear Student,

In the Fall, before you knew me and before I met you, I thought I knew everything.

Well, maybe not everything, but a lot.

And I thought that a lot of what I knew was very, very important and that you would see my wisdom and be very, very grateful.


Turns out, I was wrong, thinking I had it all right.

And now, as summer draws closer, I want you to know a little of the whole bunch of stuff that I never knew - until you taught me:

I am, as you now know, not a patient person. I am sort of loud, a lot bossy and prone to talking too much.

But you showed me to be quiet, so that you could think before you spoke.

You needed me to wait, without fidgeting, while you mentally chose the best  - or the least number of - words to explain what you needed. And it was hard and I didn't always get it right, but when I did, it was always worth the wait.

You taught me that there is room and cause for bossy, but that  sometimes, kids just need to let loose and do some dancing, shake their sillies out, run amok in an empty gym simply because it's there and it's empty...and that's OK, too.

In sharing tidbits of your life outside of school, you taught me to listen hard for everything you weren't saying but softly enough that I didn't miss the importance of what you did.

You made me a better mother. You gave me reasons to gather my own children into my arms at day's end and weep into their hair, thanking God for them and their good...and thanking Him for you and yours.

Thank you for your trust and your ears and eyes and your defiance and your determination.

Thank you for letting me colour in your lines, for forgiving me my dismal math knowledge and pathetic basketball skills.

For laughing at my jokes, my dancing and stuff that's sort of gross, actually, but I like watching you laugh, so we're good. (Except for showing me loose teeth. That's just plain mean.)

Thank for taking my hand, accepting my word, appreciating my efforts, giving me the best of yours and for encouraging me to bring my best to the table, every. single. day.

 Without you, I wouldn't know all of this stuff and it's very, very important.

I am very, very grateful.

Mrs. McLennan

Monday, May 19, 2014

Birthday Letter for Bamboo

Dear Bamboo,

Happy Birthday! You would have been 36, if you were still here. Maybe you still are 36, up there beyond everything.

Down here, we've spent some time getting ready to plant your garden - it's looking rather lonely, without colour and bright. Apt, really, since that's how it feels without you here on this glorious May long weekend.

Still, Dad cooked steaks last night and Mum made Caesar salad and in a little while, the Reds and I shall go and get cake makings because Mum only has fancy-cake stuff and frankly, you wouldn't like it. See how I just made that decision on your behalf, all bossy-like? I know, right? Some things just don't change.

The Reds asked about a zillion questions about you last week, when I told them that your birthday was coming up. I may have cried, especially when Matthew pointed out a black Blazer, remarked on its resemblance to yours (Seriously? He was 3 when you died, how does he remember?) and then announced that he's getting one when he turns 16. Right after he gets a motorcycle.Oh, yeah, he's your nephew, for sure.
Luke says, "Andrew looks cute like that! Mummy looks like a boy."

And that Luke - oh, Bam, you'd love him. He's ornery and hilarious, all at the same time. And a few weeks ago, he got into some tar. Yes, yes he did. And I didn't wash it off - well, not all of it - just so I could keep you close a little bit longer. Asshats, both of you. Ha!

Everyone's still sleeping here at the moment, except Molly the Dog, who is also an asshat but she's cute so I keep her. Mum says that she (Molly) reminds her of your Roxy and I'll be darned - she does me, too. It must be the Rottweiler in both girls. In any case, I'm glad that Molly is with us this weekend (though if that gets out, I'll deny it like crazy) as she has provided some comic relief and it's lovely to see her, roaming happily with the Reds. You'd love her.

Last year's planting session - turns out, pink and yellow are fan favourites...
Scratch that, little brother - the troops are stirring. I'm not the only one up and about now, which means, I'll have to sign off now. We've got flowers to plant and memories to share and of course, cake to eat. It'll be chocolate, in case you're wondering.

I love you, Bam. I miss you, more as the years pass, which I didn't expect, but there it is. I wish you joy and happy today and always.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Thousand Tiny Moments

This afternoon, the Reds were a stinky, filthy mess after the impromptu soccer game in our dog-poop and mud-filled backyard.

One after the other I tossed them into the shower, scrubbing away the dirt and listening to their happy play-by-plays. Sent them downstairs while I gathered up their wet things in a basket and contemplated the wisdom of throwing their running shoes into the washing machine, too.

From the bathroom, Mark prepared his own shower as I added his clothes to the mix, clucking and smiling at the fact that no matter how old boys get, they're happiest when they're dirty.

"Some boys came up the road while Matthew was showering," Mark said, conversationally, as I sorted and tossed. "Three of them, on bikes, in the middle of the road."

"Oh, yeah?" I stopped then, sharpened my gaze on his face, which was suddenly filled with something I could not place but now recognize as tenderness.

"They asked if Matthew lives here. They're friends of his from school and wanted to know if he could join them."

I stared at him, processing a flurry of suddenly overwhelming feelings and thinking hard.

Lowered the basket to my hip and took a deep breath in.

Blew it out.

"Huh. I guess it's about that time, eh?"

Mark smiled then, a gentle one, just for me. "Yep. It's about that time."

Another deep breath from me, followed by a sigh that came from the very bottom of my heart. "I guess this is the part where we trust him to make the right choices and be safe and ride off with his friends."

"They were all wearing helmets."

"Well, that's something, anyway," I offered him a tremulous smile of my own before gently closing the door to leave him to his business and his own thoughts.

Came down to start supper and think about how much I want to stop Time, for  just a moment longer.

Realized - though not for the first time - that letting go isn't a big, huge step.

 It's a thousand tiny moments, just like this one - when the world outside beckons my children to come out and explore, discover and job is to let go and trust them to do just that.

But I can't help but think, "Weren't they JUST born?"

Friday, March 28, 2014

Reading, Writing and...

I work as an Educational Assistant in a large school.

The teachers I work alongside are truly called to this work: they are engaging and enthusiastic and encouraging. When I took this job, I didn't expect to find all that they are to and for their students.

It shames me, actually, to remember how I was prepared to find them lacking in patience and compassion and empathy. How I was prepared to know better.

Nothing could be further from the truth of how it truly is inside these classrooms, where teachers give their all, each and every day, to help each and every student find her potential and surpass it. In classrooms full to bursting, these smart and funny women work to inspire, to teach, and to reach all of their kids, even the ones who could care less. Perhaps, especially, those ones.

While I have been assigned several focus students to work for over the course of each day and week, there are several more who have caught my attention and my affection. Technically, I support students academically - helping some to read, others to research and encouraging all of them to keep at their tasks when frustration or distraction loom.

But, as so often happens, I am finding that the greatest lessons? Are my own.

Every day, I carry them home in my heart - these children,  and these lessons. Even as I gather up my own kids to receive their hugs and kisses and listen to the chatter about their day, I am often thinking of the children - and teachers - who fill mine

These are some of the things that I am (re)learning, as a mother, alongside the students I am paid to help teach and it is both humbling and amazing, at the same time:

1. FOCUS: On the lesson, on the words we hear and the ones we don't. Yes, there is much to be distracted by - the computer, the window, our friends, the dishes, the bills, our fingers, our daydreams - but none of that helps us learn. Figure out what's most important and then do it. Finish it. Use your juiciest words, your best printing, your most-present-Mummy-face.

2. SMALL STUFF: Find and work on the small stuff and build from there - the word (world) is made up of small words (moments) inside the big words (stuff). The big stuff is easier to understand and appreciate if we break it down into more manageable chunks. Chunk your words. Savour the moments.

3. TIME MANAGEMENT: If we don't manage our time wisely, we have to stay in at recess or take work home. This means less play time and that someone else will likely have extra supervision duty or have to change their plans to make up for our procrastination. Frankly, it's just not cool.

In mama speak: Put the damned laundry away so that Mark doesn't trip over the basket in the middle of the night thereby kind of ruining your happy Facebook time with his grumbling and stomping the next day.

4. SING: We live in the most amazing country in the world - sing our anthem loudly and with pride. Sing about the sunshine, the rain, sing the alphabet, the Waiting Song and when your heart really doesn't want to. Make up your own words, your own tune. Share your song.

It's hard to stay mad or sad when you're singing, even if it's only in the shower or with the kids before bed. It's also kind of awesome if you can do different voices and a passable air guitar.

5. ASK FOR HELP: There will always be someone who knows more than you or who knows how to help you find what you need. Use the word wall, your dictionary, the Internet, a trusted adult, a wise friend. Ask for help. Ask for grace. Ask for support. Ask for love. Be gracious about giving it, too.

6. READ: Read a book. Any book. A real book, not a story on the Internet. A book-book. A story, a passage, a paragraph.  To yourself. To your kids. FOR your kids. Because of your kids.  Just read. A little bit - or  a lot - every day.

And you? What are the most important lessons you learned in school?