Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Colour of Love

 November is my least favourite month of the year. It's cold, snowy, I have a birthday at the end of it (I'll be 29 again, thanks for asking) and the Reds get sick.

Every. single. November.

This week, it's Matthew who's down with a fever and headache, which means that soon, his brother will follow suit. Thankfully, the boys are pretty cheerful when they're not feeling well, all things considered. Matthew, for example, bounded out of (my) bed pale-cheeked, hollow-eyed but surprisingly pleasant for a kid who'd only caught an hour's sleep last night.

He was so brimming with good feelings, he set about drawing me a picture. "It's gonna be your favourite picture ever, Mummy, I promise! It's my favourite already!"

While he coloured, I traipsed up and down the stairs with laundry baskets and fretting over missing a day of placement. Even as I saw his eyes grow glassy and redden with fever, I focused on racing through household chores, determined not to waste the unexpected time in which to complete them.

Somewhere between the second load of laundry and sorting out the pots-and-pans cupboard, I was seized by guilt and drew Matthew onto my lap for a cuddle. I asked if I could see the picture he'd worked so hard on.

Wordlessly, my feverish kid offered me a gentle, beautifully-rendered reminder about what really matters:

Us: Matthew, Mark, Luke and Liz
With a lump in my throat, I thanked him for the beautiful picture and hugged him, before nudging him under a blanket while I went hunting for a frame. All great works of art deserve to be framed, I explained to him as he sagged into the pillows, suddenly exhausted.

It took me about 5 minutes to find a suitable frame. When I came back downstairs, this is what I found:

And to think, I almost missed this peaceful innocence. Thankful for the moment, I ignored the beep from the washing machine indicating that a load of laundry had finished, poured myself a fresh coffee and sat down to guard Matthew's sleep.

These are the days, my friends.

And you?
How do you deal with sick kids?
What would you draw, if you had to draw your favourite things?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye...

When Mark and I moved our family to Belleville on a bitterly cold January day in 2009, we had no clue what was coming. We'd sold our house in Newcastle on the heels of a vicious recession and were just trying to keep ourselves - and our family - together in the aftermath of job loss and a frustrating, province-wide search for employment.

There were days, moored here in a strange city in the middle of winter with two boys - one just 3, the other a busy 16 months -when I questioned my own sanity at making such a move. Almost exactly a month later, my brother passed away and in the days between his death and his funeral, I wandered the unfamiliar rooms of our rented house in a fog. Cast adrift. Lost.

By Spring, I'd moved from now-familiar rooms to unfamiliar streets, just beginning to blossom with the promise of new beginnings. I made some incredible friends, fell in love with this city's parks, its people, my neighbourhood and the fresh breath of hope that blew into our faltering marriage.

In 2010, exactly one year after our move to the Friendly City, we spent another frigid January day hauling our possessions and hopes into another house on the same street. Only this one was ours and we were staying for keeps.

Or so we thought.

In July of this year, Mark received a job offer from a company based in our hometown. With equal amounts trepidation and delight, he accepted the job and began in September, a day after the Reds and I entered SK, Grade 2 and Final Year, respectively.

As of this writing, he has almost passed his probationary period and has given me permission to "officially" announce that - at some point, possibly this summer - we will be moving home.

To Bowmanville.

It feels odd to write that, now. Bowmanville is our shared hometown and many of our memories of childhood are also shared as Mark and I grew up mere blocks from each other. 

But as adults, our best memories - for me at least - have been made here, in Belleville. This is where our family has truly grown, even though the Reds were born elsewhere. THIS is the place whose streets I know well - at least, the ones in my end of the city - whose parks have beckoned and shaded and pleased me and my sons for almost five years. It's where many of my dearest friends live, my sons began school and I began to dream of something bigger for myself.

And yet...

Bowmanville is filled with old, true friends and amazing opportunities for all of us. Its streets are unfamiliar to me now, as they've multiplied a thousand-fold it seems, in the years since we've been gone. But I've been visiting. Since early summer, I've been quietly researching schools, house prices and the professional possibilities for me, once I've graduated in the Spring. I've looked into sports teams and Scout troops, pored over home builders' plans, old photographs and sweet memories.

I've narrowed down the school search to two which are well-run and have great reputations. We know people whose children attend one or the other and are thriving and happy. Our "wish list" for a new house in our old stomping grounds includes being able to walk the kids to school and easy access to parks and other  green space.

Alas. The public school, which is presently being built to accommodate the population of an old one, won't have a playground. Budget cuts have made one impossible and so my hometown friends have rallied to "win" one.

The Aviva Community Fund is a relatively unique concept: communities submit their ideas and plans to competition. The concept/idea/plan/dream that garners the most votes - from anywhere in the world - can receive up to $100,000 towards its goal. In this instance, voting for the playground builds a place to be a kid for deserving students, but it also helps to build a brand-new community at the same time.

I mention it here, dear readers, because an old, dear hometown friend asked me to. I ask you  to vote please, dear reader, so that the children of my childhood friends will have a place to begin building lifelong friendships like the ones their parents enjoy.

So that my sons might begin building them, too.

With tears in my eyes for all that we will be leaving behind and with enormous hope for what we might find, I'm ignoring my own "never plug stuff" rule to ask for your vote.

To vote, please click this link: http://www.avivacommunityfund.org/ideas/acf15858

I will accept your vote with gratitude and love and consider it a farewell gift....or one that says, "Welcome home!"


If you vote, would you let me know in the comments? Thank you. For all of it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

On Fridays, Baileys and Being a Domestic Goddess

It's Friday!

Around here, the end of the work/school week goes like this:

Dump kids, purse, mitts, coat and bags in the porch and let them sort themselves out. Head directly to kitchen sink, filling it with hot, soapy water. Fill sink with dishes from breakfast, toss juice into cups and rummage for apples.

Toss apples, juice and kids into family room. Ignore them to empty dishwasher from one side whilst filling it from the other. Heat oven to 300C and  place cup filled with two tablespoons of vanilla extract, two tablespoons of cinnamon extract inside. Set timer for 20 minutes.

Pour Baileys. Sip contentedly.

Shoo kids upstairs. Ignore their shrieks of laughter and thumping as they bounce on beds. Spritz couch with Febreze, fold a quilt tidily over its arm and kick lone sock underneath it.

Sip Baileys.

Turn on side lamps, bask briefly in the warm glow they cast. Scurry over to computer desk, stack haphazardly tossed papers and bills into a tidy(ish) pile. Festoon piles with sticky notes that say "To File" and "Kids' Work" so that it appears as though I will be organizing them shortly, instead of simply adding to the piles next week around this time.

Photo nostalgia courtesy of Pinterest.com
Check Facebook.

Sip Baileys.

Toss laundry into washing machine. Hide washed and folded but not-yet-put-away baskets of laundry in the boys' closet. Shut their door, just to be safe.

Head to bathroom, kicking two toy guns, a lone plastic arrow and a stuffed alligator into the linen closet along the way. Windex toilet, bathtub, sink and mirror. Pause to inspect eyebrows. Make mental note to have them waxed as soon as possible.

Sip Baileys whilst folding tiny triangle into the top of the toilet paper roll. Grin at how such a small, stupid thing can bring such delight.

Race downstairs. Wash dishes in sink. Sweep kitchen floor, hide schoolbags behind the settee, hide remnants of late-night-Halloween-candy-foraging in bottom of garbage can.


20 minutes' worth of Christmas wafting from the oven has come to an end. So too, have my chores.

Glance at clock. 5:26....in 5, 4, 3, 2....

Lean against counter, watching the side door.

Sip Baileys.

Open the side door, just in time.


"Hello, husband! Welcome home!"

And you?
How do you wrap up a long week?
Any hoodwinking cleaning tips you'd like to share?  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Strings of Light...

We don't hang lights here at the House of Leprechauns, for a number of reasons, all of which boil down to the same thing: we're lazy.

Thankfully, other people here in the Friendly City have been very busy picking up our seasonal slack:

 Just this afternoon, walking to pick up the boys, I saw that many of my neighbours have begun stringing lights and arranging ginormous blow-up Santas on their (still-green) lawns.

Wreaths adorn their front door and complicated-looking planters filled with cones and what looks like pussy willows (that can't be right, can it?) flank their tidy walkways. Even the hot single fireman down the road has  placed tiny, perfect single "candles" in every window of his house.

It makes me happy, this abundant joy that so many have for the season, despite the fact that there's not a drop of snow in the forecast and I that  heard the distinctly "summer" sound of a lawnmower as I strolled along.

Earlier this evening, I drove through a Spring-like fog on my way to school for a group project. Part of my route takes me through an area of town that's a little bit...sad. It's an odd combination of industrial units and forgotten residential streets and normally, there are no homes that draw my admiring gaze or porch-envy. Most don't draw my gaze at all.

Until tonight. Tonight, nestled in the soft fog hovering atop a deserted street, I blinked it surprised wonder at an otherwise unremarkable white two-story house on a corner.

The industrious and Christmas-loving folks who live there have used old-fashioned lights - small, brilliant, rainbow-hued colours - against faded white boards to transform a house that no one ever truly sees, into the happiest house on the block. Possibly the happiest house in the city, so far.


No icicles or rectangular patches of colour tossed hurriedly 'round a bush for these folks. Nope.
Instead, with what I can only assume was painstaking patience (or a LOT of coffee in their Baileys)  the Christmas Family (as I have now officially dubbed them, in my head)  strung miles of lights  PERFECTLY around the house, tracing its lines  from top to bottom, curling around the corners, edging the windows, along the eaves troughs.

In a word? Awesome.

Sadly, I don't have a photo to share because, well, I suck that way. But the Christmas Family? They sure don't. In fact, they've made me so happy, I've penned them a little thank-you card and will pop it into their mailbox on Friday morning.

At the end of a long and tiring day, your Christmas lights
 have brightened my heart
and lifted my flagging spirits.
Thank you for decorating with such care and for
showing all of us 
how bright the spirit of the season can be.
A Fellow Bellevillian
This is not the house I saw, but it's awesome, too.
This one belongs to some friends of mine
who create this joyful masterpiece every year.
Thanks, Kay Family!


And you?
Is there a Christmas Family in your world?
When do you start decorating for the holidays?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Love Smells Like...

This is a verbatim conversation I had with Luke as we walked home tonight:

Luke: Mummy, do you hug and kiss the kids you work with?
Me: I sure do.
Luke: Do you love them?
Me: I do.
Luke: It's 'cause you practice all your love on us right?
Me: Maybe.
Luke: I bet they liked it today. You smell good today. Yesterday, you didn't smell right at all.
Me: That's weird. What did I smell like yesterday?
Luke: The wrong shampoo and rumbly sweaters.

I'll admit it -  this little gem of a conversation has touched me deeply. I love that he's OK sharing his mama's love with other kids because he knows that all of it comes from loving him and Matthew.

It's how I shared my parents with hundreds of children over the course of their careers and I am thrilled that, in this at least, I have managed give to my children what they gave to me:

Familiar, comforting, predictable, growing and deeply-rooted love.

And that Luke is so tactile and scent-sitive, well, that just plain delights me. It makes me wonder how the rest of the world smells to him and if he could bottle up his favourite scents, what would they be?

What does love smell like to you?
Do you associate certain scents with a person or place?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Growing Love

Two of my classmates are pregnant. One knows she's having a boy and the other doesn't know the sex of her baby. A few of us think she's having a boy though, so we're going with it until the babies are born in April and May, respectively.

While neither of these women had necessarily planned to become a mother just yet, both of them were born to be one.

I know this because I've watched them both blossom since we began our program in 2011. Over the months, I've seen them gain confident in their own voices, offering up wise and compassionate viewpoints during class discussions. They know love.

And, through our studies and our placements and their work, they also know what being unloved can do to a child, an adult, a group. I have listened to both women speak eloquently about the heartache they feel when they see cruelty and injustice being done to those they support.

My friends are quiet but fierce advocates for those who do not have the words to ask for what they need. They are ready and willing to protect those who are vulnerable, physically and emotionally. They are open to new ideas and willing to help someone else thrive and grow and live their best life.

Helping Hands

They know that while this work will require them to sacrifice their ego and their sanity, some days, it will also bring enormous joy. They also know that this work is an absolute privilege and that it will break and mend their hearts a thousand times, sometimes in the same moment. It takes patience and empathy and is the hardest, most amazing job they'll ever do, especially if they're doing it right.

As their classmate, I want them to know that, in my eyes, they are among the best of us - the class of 2013 - who will carry our lessons in our hearts and go out into the world armed with hope and dreams and a healthy dose of fear for all that we still don't know, cannot change, could never have imagined.

But as a mother, I have been aching to tell them other things, these two impossibly beautiful women.

I wanted to tell them about how they will find in themselves a love they never knew existed, the first time they hold their sons.

I wanted to tell them that even though they will think themselves utterly spent and beyond exhaustion, they will find a way to get up and do what needs to be done because of love.

But today, I realized that they know all of this already. Realized that their journey to become support workers to people with disabilities has prepared them for motherhood in a unique and awesome way:

As mothers-to-be, they carry their future under their hearts and are venturing into motherhood filled with hope and dreams and a healthy dose of fear for all that they don't know, cannot change, could never have imagined. They are growing love.

They already know that while motherhood requires us to sacrifice our ego and our self-absorption it also brings enormous joy. Being a mother is an absolute privilege and it will break and mend their hearts and thousand times, sometimes in the same moment. It takes patience and empathy and is the hardest, most amazing job they'll ever do, especially if they're doing it right.

As mothers, I know that they will be fierce advocates when their sons do not have the words for what they need. They will readily and willingly protect their boys' hearts, bodies, souls and will happily do what needs to be done to help their babies thrive and grow and live their best lives.

Two of my classmates are pregnant.

Their love is going to change the world.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Confessions of a Former Grinch...

 T'is the season of holy births and jolly men in red and making lists, checking them twice. Mostly it's the season of tradition...and magic.

"Bah Humbug!" I used to say, once upon a time.

I got more than a little bit grouchy when retailers began hauling out their plastic Christmas trees the day after Halloween. Grumbled through November because I couldn't bear Christmas carols being piped through tinny speakers when nary a flake of snow could be found.

Groaned and clutched my head when Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" came on the radio. "Seriously," I'd carp to anyone with earshot, "there are a zillion Christmas songs to play, why do ALL radio stations play this one? Do they think because he's The Boss that the song is cool?"

Sometimes - more often than not, I'll admit - I guiltily averted my gaze as I hurried past the smiling Salvation Army people, standing by their kettles, waiting hopefully for me to help make someone else's season a little brighter.

"Vintage Kettles" courtesy of ottawakettles.ca

I used to loathe the mall and would mentally kick myself for not leaving my coat in the car as I braved the madding crowd, sweating under its weight and straining under bags filled with hastily-chosen gifts. I used to have those gifts wrapped by prim and smugly-tidy mall ladies who wore festive aprons, wielded Scotch tape with terrifying skill and pulled corkscrewed ribbons from thin air, it seemed.

And then...I had kids.

I grinned when I popped into the dollar store two weeks ago - at the end of the aisle strewn with the remnants of Halloween, stood a lone and half-dressed Christmas tree, waiting to be trimmed.

November is just one long, glorious lead up to the BEST MONTH OF THE YEAR instead of the countdown to my 29th birthday. (Incidentally, I will be turning 29 on the 30th, in case you were planning to send me some Baileys or something)

Now I deliberately search for Christmas songs on the radio and have been playing "Winter Wonderland" by the Eurythmics since last week. As soon as I hear that happy tune on the radio, I'll start counting down the days, in my head. It's like an audio advent calendar or something.

These days, I can't afford to have the wonderfully maternal and ever-so-clever mall ladies wrap my gifts. Since Matthew was born, it has become our "tradition" to put on some classic carols, pour a few drinks and tackle all wrapping at once, on Christmas Eve.

"Vintage Reds" courtesy of Bellymonster

My Christmas List - written, revised and price-compared - lives permanently in my purse, for quick, stealthy trips to Walmart. I always remember to leave my coat in the car.

Today at the grocery store, my sons spied a serene and hopeful man standing next to the iconic red Salvation Army kettle. Within seconds, they were at my side, begging for coins to "give to the man for the people who are sad, Mummy." With a grateful heart, I tumbled toonies into their hands and watched them dance over, eager to give.

But I still loathe "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" by Bruce Springsteen.

It is tradition, after all.

And you?
What are some of your favourite holiday traditions?
Which seasonal song do you loathe love the most?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Surrender

This is my Facebook status from earlier this evening, when I arrived home with two frazzled Reds in tow, the making of supper a daunting task before me and another run in my stupid stockings:

Seriously now, this post is officially a shout-out to all you working parents out there, including a belated one to my own, who, though long-retired, still put in full days being awesome.

AMAZING, you are. INSPIRING, you are. STRONG, you are. MY HEROS, you are.

I don't know how you do it and still look as good as you do. Me, I straggle home at day's end looking like something the cat tossed aside in disgust and feeling worse.

In a good way, I suppose, but still.

Carry on being awesome, all. I'm just gonna put my head down here, for just a min.....


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Happy Mantra

JC is one of the incredible caregivers in the daycare section of my 7-week placement. Along with a three other equally dedicated, compassionate teachers, JC runs herd on a bunch of 3-and-4-year-old kids, all. day. long.

Frankly, these women deserve awards and Baileys for life, but that's not the point of today's post. Nope. Today, I'm gonna share this little mantra that JC has the kids recite every day, at circle. First she gathers them close and has them, literally, give themselves a pat.

Says JC: "Ok, my friends! Raise your right hand high in the air. Now, cross your arm over your front and put your hand on your opposite shoulder. Now pat. Pat your own shoulder. Gently, friends! Now, repeat after me:

I am the best person I know.
I am smart.
I am kind.
I am funny.
I'm a good friend.
I am ridiculously good-looking!"
My smart, kind, funny, ridiculously good-looking Reds!


This Happy Mantra tickles every part of my heart. I love it so much, I plan to have the Reds do this each morning before we rush out the door and into lives that are often separate, these days. I want them to hear their own voices alongside mine, ringing out these awesome truths.

Care to join us?

Try it! Go on, make your own day and recite the Happy Mantra!
Now tell me, how do you feel?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What "Thank You!" Sounds Like

Today is November 11th.

The Reds and I watched the Remembrance Day ceremony on TV, as we returned too late from Matthew's hockey game to change in time to head to our city's cenotaph.

The Reds were as solemn as the ceremony, sitting quietly on either side of me, fingering their poppies, asking very little. But when the bagpipes began their soulful, familiar lament, Luke looked up with serious eyes:

Every day, but especially today, I am grateful to all who served and those who continue to do so.

For all that I hold dear - my family, my friends, my country, my life...

Pour toute ce que j'adore - ma famille, mes amis, mon pays, ma vie...

Thank you!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Words to Love By...

T'is the week of awesomeness here at Life With Bellymonster. To recap:

On Wednesday, I met God. At McDonald's. He was wearing a nice sweater, lovely slacks and a wedding band. In one hand, he held his wife's, in the other, a cup of coffee. From His heart, he offered up words of  hope to a woman in need.

This morning, I bumped into Santa Claus at my son's hockey game. Pretty sure it was him: white beard, red hat, twinkly eyes, rounded belly...

When the man in red leaned past me to wink a "hello" to Luke, Luke's eyes went huge and he froze on the spot. Chuckling, I turned to my gaze to smile at the man as he settled down next to me:

 "I guess you hear all the time that you look like Santa, eh?"

The man smiled and patted my hand. "My dear," he leaned close to whisper, "I AM Santa!"

For a moment - one brief, incredible, magical moment - I thought, "Santa! It IS you!"

(And, "God and Santa in the same week? What are the chances?)

Santa Claus! (courtesy of Pinterest)

We talked about all kinds of things, the jolly old elf man and I: the Reds, hockey, his accent, his love of children and fear of technology. We laughed at his hat and the faces of children and grown-ups as they spotted him - young and old alike, a look of wonder crossed many of their faces before they blinked and shook their heads before moving on, smiling.

 For 1/2 an hour we sat with our heads together, discussing my college program (training to support people with disabilities) and the wondrous journey that brought him to Ontario from the east, many years ago....to support people with disabilities.

Coincidence? Maybe.

But....maybe not.

A little while later, I posted about the happy encounter on Facebook and was delighted and gratified to see how many of friends "liked" the tale and how many responded happily to it. Just sharing a little bit of Christmas magic, I wrote to one friend, who'd messaged me privately to say "Thanks for that!"

And then into my inbox, came another message. This one was from an old friend who I've not seen face-to-face in 20 or more years, but whose life I watch with pleasure, via Facebook.

This is what she wrote:

Hi Liz!
I just wanted to leave u a little note. There are times when my days are well... Lets not go there but reading ur posts make me smile, laugh, always heartwarming, and sometimes tearful. Your an amazing women to share all ur tidbits because u are funny as hell!! You know just what to say! Just want to let you know u have inspired me. In the small ways u express yourself.
When I saw you were going back to school I too have decided to go back. ( hopefully I get admissions ;-) I just wanted to let you know keep it ur amazing and inspiring.
Ps hope this wasn't too awkward ... But I just wanted you to know ur post about God and Santa really just made my day!!

Jo xo

I don't share her words here to toot my own horn, but rather to show once more and the best way I know how, that the words we use - and the way in which we use them - can and do have an awesome, incredible, sometimes transformative power.

I have never been more aware of or focused on the power of words than I have been this week. Practically every encounter I've had during the past seven days has left me pondering the conversation long after it ended.I have been marveling over the profound effect we have on others when we speak our truth, call "Hello!" offer our thanks, our prayers, type a status, publish a blog post, a comment, a manifesto, when we whisper, "I need help," or "You hurt me," or  say "I love you."

And because I've had such amazing conversations - with God, Santa, in real life and via the 'net - I want to keep them going. Let me, dear readers, thank YOU for being such a strangely intimate and wonderful  part of my life and my family.

 If we're friends on Facebook, let me know in the comments HERE and I promise that - between now and year's end - I will send you some cyber love, via your inbox.

If I follow you on Twitter, comment HERE and  I'll tweet you 140 characters about why I'm happy you're my tweep.

(If we're connected by both, pick Facebook, OK? I tend to ramble on, as you know, so will need more space in which to do so...)

Let me tell you the story of how our friendship was born...

Who's in? Pass it on!

Friday, November 9, 2012

When Pinterest Takes Over....

This is Day FOUR of the "30-Posts-in-30-Days Challenge" and I'm already scrambling for stuff to write about.

This is disturbing because until the challenge was issued, I had tons of stuff milling about in my head, waiting to tumble forth here. As soon I accepted that challenge? Stuff took off running.

Stupid Stuff.

I began another post, went looking for a photo to illustrate my point and ended up on Pinterest.

Blog post? What blog post? Just one more...ok, two more....sixteen or so should do it.....

 I've been there for an hour, happily pinning and chuckling and sighing and dreaming. And since I have and I'm in the sharing (read: lazy-can't-write-for-crap) mood, I'll share some of my new faves here:

This could be the end of a relationship, a trip, a book or a  single perfect moment and I wanna stay in it forever:

Speaking of places, in my next life? I'm gonna live right here:
Irish Dreams
But not before I do this:
"Sometimes, you simply feel the need to skip down the centre of the road..."
and this:

But first, I'm gonna laugh my face off at this:

recognize myself in this and laugh even harder:
Gonna be thankful for this:

and, dear readers, all of you:


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Professor Poopypants & The Truth About Baileys

I'm gonna steal a page from Ironic Mom's blog and walk you through my week, by the numbers.

The reason for this is two-fold:

1. I'm lazy.
2. I'm lazy.

What? OK, three-fold:

3. I'm tired.

Here it is. A week in the life of a mama-student-blogger-with-too-much-chocolate-and-not-enough-closet-space:

5. Baskets of laundry that I have not even taken down stairs, let alone sorted through or washed.

1. Pair of clean panties I have left in my drawer (not including the ones that my husband insists I keep that remind him of our honeymoon but only remind me of how small my ass used to be...sigh...)

14: Times I had to call the Reds for breakfast on Wednesday. It would have been more, but I lost my voice (and my mind) during one particularly loud holler.

6: Times I called the Reds for breakfast this morning, before tossing their cereal in the garbage, like I'd threatened to do all those other times, but didn't.

1. The number of times I anticipate calling the Reds for breakfast tomorrow.

4. We're on the 4th "Captain Underpants" book around here. It includes character called Professor Poopypants. I don't know who laughs harder when I read it aloud, me or the Reds.

Professor Poopypants...bahhaahaahahahaahahaa!

32. The highest score my kids received from me (the one holding the scorecards) during their Dining Room Furniture Olympic High Jump game from last night.

2. Phone calls I expect to receive from the Children's Aid shortly, due to "questionable parenting practices."

10: Times a day I think, "I could take you home and love you forever!" about the little people I'm supporting on placement right now.

10: Times a day I think the same thing about their young mothers.

3. Glasses of Baileys I've enjoyed. Erm...make that 4.

2. Amazing kids I feel so blessed and grateful to call mine, always.

19. Tiny, perfect candy bars I've eaten since Monday yesterday.

497. Times people read yesterday's blog post and times my mind was blown away by that.

1. Love.

1. Life.

1. Need.

7. Of you who'd better be channeling Bono right now...

And you? What'd your week look like, by the numbers?
What's your favourite U2 song?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

To Love A Stranger

Took the Reds to the Golden Arches for supper. I had hoped to read the paper while they played, but the place was packed, so we ate outside the play area and had lessons on sitting-properly-in-public instead.

A well-coiffed, well-dressed woman sat alone two tables over, staring intently at her laptop and giggling at the Reds, though she was trying hard not to. In the end, I grinned over Luke's head at her: "I give up. Some days, they just crack me up."

And she laughed out loud and said, "They crack me up, too!" and congratulated me on having such great kids. I tossed back that I am indeed very, very lucky.

This woman, as it turns out, has not been as lucky. Over the next hour, I  heard about her divorce, her job loss, her childhood, the resentment she holds for her own mother,  who is long past the age of being able to set things right.

 I learned that she has one child. A son, long-grown. One who never calls or writes or visits. One who is very, very angry with his mother.

"But why?" I asked quietly. (What I meant was, "Tell me everything you did so that I can be sure not to do the same.")

She shrugged elegantly, splayed her hands in a gesture of defeated confusion, muttered something about not having read the same parenting book that I have and then promptly burst into tears.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit, damn-it-Liz-why-do-you-gotta-TALK-to-people-all-the-damned-time?

Mortified at her tears and my nerve, I fumbled through an apology and then wrung my hands together as  I gently mocked myself:  "Parenting book. Ha! Mostly, I spend each night before sleep counting all the ways in which I've damaged the children today!"

She blinked in surprise, wiped carefully at her tears and smiled sadly.

"I carry that with me every day, that knowledge that I damaged my son. That I did it all wrong. That I didn't do enough."

"You know, you're taking an awful lot of stuff onto your shoulders, mama. I don't know you, or the reasons for your son's anger, but at some point, we all become responsible for our own shit. At some point, we've gotta stop blaming our mothers and blame ourselves instead."

"But he hates me. He told me."

"That's hard. Why do you think that is?"

"Because he's gay."

"You think your son hates you because he's gay?"

"No. I find it hard to love him because he's gay, so he hates me."

I think my jaw dropped open and there was a weird rushing in my ears - like a distant roar, which I now recognize as rage, but then, I could only blink in shock.

Finally, I found my voice:

"Well, hell. That's huge. And sad. And frankly, if I were him, I probably wouldn't speak to you, either."

She glared at me then, furious: "I gave him everything. Every advantage. Every dream. Every chance. And he won't even talk to me!"

"You gave him everything but acceptance about who he really is. Because all he sees, in the end, is that you don't love him."

"Would you love your sons if they decided to be gay?"

"I love my sons. Period."

"Even if they won't ever give you grandchildren?"

"I love my sons. Period."

"But what if they love men?"

"Then I will have more sons to love."

We sat quietly for awhile, absorbing, assessing, fuming, watching the children play. Finally, I could stand the silence no longer and was moved to say this:

"I hope that this conversation has offered you something good. I hope that in the days and weeks to come, something will happen or a call will come and you'll think of my sons and me and this all make some sense."

"Why do you hope that?" she asked, resigned, a little bit bitter. A LOT angry.

"Because," interrupted an older man, sitting quietly nearby with his wife, cradling a coffee in his hand, "Because you have lost love. Hope's all you've got left."

We all looked back at the woman, whose eyes filled once more with tears. I cannot say that my heart ached for her, because it didn't. Not for her.

"I suppose it's worth a shot," she offered, reluctantly. "His birthday's on Friday. I suppose I could call."

Part of me hopes she does. Part of me prays that she doesn't.

All of me loves that man.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Little Mother

Little mother, I see you there,
 huddled inside a coat too small to cover
your belly, ripe with life.
At your side, a child twirls and dances,
barely steady on still-tiny legs.

The umbrella you hold shelters only your babies,
the one who dances, the one not yet born.
Upon your head alone, the rain falls,
cold and sharp, unrelenting.

You wait, you wait forever it seems,
for something to arrive that will take you from this place,
to somewhere warmer, better, brighter.

Watching you, from the blessed warm comfort of my car life,
I feel pity and fear and relief that I am [in] here, instead of there,
on the outside of everything that's supposed to matter.

You see me then, across the way and your chin comes up
and our eyes lock and hold.
And then your daughter's hand fumbles for yours and you
take it and squeeze and hang on tight and your eyes leave mine to
look instead at her face and smile...

Courage, I whisper, though you cannot hear because you are busy
being a mother,
a protector,
a warrior,
a survivor,
a shelter,
a home.

Have faith, I think and then suddenly, I wonder who it is that
I am whispering to because then I see that
 you are so much braver
 than anyone I have ever been.