Moira turned 11 on Monday. This makes a full 11 years of motherhood.
My girl is ridiculously sweet, sarcastic, funny and fiercely loyal to her friends – but can also be very caustic towards her sisters. She holds herself to a very high standard and has a hard time when other people don’t hold themselves to that same standard. People often comment about how much she is like me but, honestly, I think she is so much better and smarter than I was as a child. (And definitely better looking than I was in the fifth grade.)
It is hard to judge the person you were as a child. Recently I have been back in touch with people from elementary school (I am in the process of planning a reunion) and they have said they remember me as being “kind and funny”. I think that this could be the best compliment I could ever receive and I desperately hope it is true. I worry, I guess, that maybe there were times when I wasn’t as kind as I could have been and I feel like I have spent a lot of my adult years making up for this.
Every birthday the girls go through is bittersweet because I often wonder if it will be the last one I will be around for. I am, of course, ecstatic to be here but the lingering fear always hovers on the edges on the good days, and sits right on my (fragile) chest on the bad ones. Moira was seven when I was diagnosed and to still be here to see her turn 11 is pretty miraculous.
Eleven is such a great age. Sure, the hormones are kicking in and we have fully entered the tween years but the conversations are getting better (and she has always been a great conversationalist), the ability to do more activities together is increasing, and there is such joy in glimpsing the person she may become as an adult. I used to think that I had to leave all sorts of mementos behind for my girls when I died but having this extra time with them has made me realize that puts a sort of pressure on them (and me) they aren’t going to need when they grow up. Not everything from mummy needs to be infused with sentimental value that they feel compelled to cart around for the rest of their lives. I had once thought about writing a journal to each of them with my thoughts but that was a lot of work and what do they need something like that for? Instead I try and do things with them and give them memories – even if, in the future, those memories are vague and hazy – of being loved. My legacy to them will be that I was funny and kind and loved them fiercely. That we celebrated every birthday with the quiet honour it deserved because I was just so grateful to be their mother for whatever amount of time I am given.
I’m trying not to let my current state
prevent me from getting writing done so right now laying in bed with
the laptop on my lap. It isn’t comfortable but it isn’t as painful
as sitting upright either and right now avoiding pain is what I am
Yesterday I took a minor fall down the
stairs which banged me up but, at the time, didn’t seem to cause any
real damage. Except as the day went on an area of my ribs started to
ache and by this morning it was full-blown pain. The chances that I
cracked it are pretty good – after all, I have been know to crack
ribs in my sleep just by laying on my side for too long. This is the
thing with bone metastasis. It’s always there and always reminding me
that it is there. Even when I’m feeling good and am considered stable
my rib bones (where the cancer is) are still weak. I’ve spent the
morning debating calling the oncologist but the last time this
happened they told me to go to my family doctor to get a requisition
for an x-ray and then I had to get the x-ray done and then the x-ray
didn’t show anything because minor cracks and fractures don’t show up
even though they hurt like hell. It showed up a month later though
when I got my bone scan and the evidence of a recent fracture that
was currently healing was right there. Honestly, just thinking about
all those steps has me exhausted and I have to get out of this bed in
10 minutes to make lunch for my kids. There is nothing they can do
for broken ribs anyway although at this point I would take any
painkillers they offered because I don’t have any. Truthfully, the
first couple days after a rib fracture I need the good drugs but I
never have any on hand. This is something I’m going to have to fix at
my next oncology appointment.
Anyway, I went into April feeling
excited and focused (after weeks of the stomach flu going around the
house). I have some pretty intense physio therapy exercises I am
doing to try and fight the complications I have been having from my
mastectomy last August and those are painful but at least they are
helping me work towards a goal. With the rib pain I’m feeling pretty
sorry for myself. I know it will pass but you know that feeling when
the universe feels like it is conspiring against you? Yeah. I’ve got
that feeling. But right now I’m trying to organize a reunion for my
elementary school and I can do a lot of that laying down. Planning an
Harry Potter-theme 11th birthday party that is being held
in two weeks (and I haven’t started planning yet) is going to be more
Also, whenever I am bed-ridden my children freak out because they remember what it was like when I couldn’t get out of bed at all and then the mommy guilt takes over. (Another thing pain does is make one grumpy and, in my case, slow and stupid. It has taken me most of the day to get this blog post out there – my children have long since gone back to school from lunch and I wrongly posted this earlier and it didn’t show up and it took me a while to figure out what I had done wrong.)
In less than a month I’m traveling east to go on a road trip with my sister Amandato Salem, Massachusetts. We are both really excited about this and get to bond over our love of all things witchy and historical. We have rented an AirBnB for five nights and then don’t have anything planned for after that which is taking me WAY out of my comfort zone (I’ve had all our summer vacation and activities planned and booked since early January) but my sister is more adventurous than I am so I’m relying on her to figure things out. (It’s not like I need *everything* planned. I just like to know where I am sleeping and that I will be able to make food instead of eating out a lot.) We also hope to stop in Concord, MA to visit the home of Louisa May Alcott.
Anyone else been to Salem (and area)? We are open to suggestions for things that might not be listed in the touristy guidebooks.
The weather has turned and spring feels like it is on it’s way. Of course, this could be a lie – I do live in Alberta after all. A conversation I often have with my children is, “mummy, can it really snow in every month of the year here?” The answer is yes and then I tell them about the time I was at the Canmore Folk Fest over the August long weekend (to see Janice Ian – but they don’t know who that is) and we had to sit in our sleeping bags while getting snowed on to listen to the music.
However, it is supposed to be +9 degrees today which means things are getting warm and slushy. Last week it was so cold the kids were still having indoor recess (-20 or colder with the windchill calculated into the decision).
Saturday night I went out for dinner and to the theatre with a friend and came home with a stomach ache. I thought maybe the food I had at dinner was too heavy but I hadn’t been feeling great before. That stomach ache turned into a full blown bout of stomach flu and I’m still feeling weak and shaky and afraid to eat much. Sadly this coincided with the Mister’s birthday yesterday. I got up long enough to watch him open his presents and then went back to bed for the rest of the day. Even now, as I write this, I turn around and look longingly at my bed knowing I will be back in it soon.
At least today I don’t feel as though I have puked up all my brain cells but it probably isn’t a good day to start ripping apart any stories or starting any major (and not major) projects. So, because my body is forcing me, I’m going to rest and read and maybe watch a movie with the Mister who is home today and not feeling so great himself. Ah, stomach flu – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
People every where are giving up things for Lent (which starts today). Various friends have told me they are giving up chips, chocolate, coffee. Moira asked me what I was giving up and I joked “swearing” which is an f**king lie and probably impossible anyway – although I am quite good at not swearing in front of my children.
My real answer to Moira was this: I feel like cancer has made me give up enough in this life.
I thought this year instead of giving
up something for Lent I would add something. Except usually once I
set myself a hyper-specific task like “you will blog every day for
40 days” my inner-rebel immediately starts looking for ways to
sabotage my efforts. But as I try to build up a writing practice
maybe this isn’t such a bad idea? Who says all blogging has to have
something illuminating to say anyway? Sometime it can be just a brain
dump. And I rarely talk about writing on here but maybe I should as a
form of accountability. Maybe what I need for Lent is 40 days of
accountability. Of course, it doesn’t have to be for Lent. I’m not
even a Christian. But it is -24 degrees out right now and we know it
will probably be 40 days before Spring really arrives so maybe this
is my waiting-for-Spring project.
I’ve almost got my first children’s
story ready for sending out on agent queries. I know that this is
going to take a long time and I’m prepared for that, but the agent
research is overwhelming. I keep wondering how I can make the story
better but at this point I think changes can only come from the
outside. It’s that first step that is so terrifying. But I will be
happy to get it out there into the world so I can say I have done so
and then put it aside for a couple months (waiting for the rejection
letter) and move on to my next story – which is almost finished as
well. I know rhyming stories are not popular in children’s literature
these days but I don’t care. The second story is about a little girl
who is a mathematician in a family of witches and I love it even if
no one else ever wants to publish it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about inclusivity in my writing lately too. How do I, as a cis-white woman, make my work accessible to all children? I think it is easier (for me) when writing picture books because I just provide the words. In the story that is going out to agents this week it is about a neighbourhood and, in my eyes, the possibilities for representation are endless – just like in a real neighbourhood. For my witch girl the same thing. I have given her a description because that is part of the rhyming scheme but the rest of her family and friends can be anything. My stories are usually about family or community dynamics with a twist – and every one has a family or a community (or they should). Once again I lament my lack of drawing skills because I can’t put my vision down on the page – but I can provide the words.
I find myself noticing that
Representation Matters in little ways these days. A couple months ago
one of my closest friends was in town visiting with her daughter. My
friend is white, her husband’s family is from the Philippines. Their
little girl was playing in our basement and found one of my
daughters’ dolls that had pale skin and dark hair. She played with it
for a while and then lost the doll (because honestly what she loved
the most was the giant spider in our basement which she kept kissing
and hugging and it was freaking adorable and I love her) . She picked
up another doll, this one identical but with red hair – and stared
at it for a moment and immediate threw it away and went looking for
the dark haired doll – the doll that looked more like her. Subtle,
but so important.
Also, I thought I would mention that Moira has trouble falling asleep a lot but lately I’ve had her listen to the Sleep Stories on the Calm app and it has been super helpful. Instead of going to bed worrying about how she isn’t going to fall asleep (and then keeping me awake because I’m worrying about how she can’t sleep – I never said she didn’t come by this problem honestly/genetically) she now looks forward to bedtime because she knows she gets a relaxing story. (In addition to me reading to them every night because I’m never gonna give that up.)
This morning I could hear Oonagh unloading the dishwasher while I was still laying in bed. She can’t reach the upper cupboards (even standing on a stool) so when it is her week to unload she leaves most of the dishes on the counter. However, when I came downstairs the dishes were all away which means one of her sisters helped her (it was Moira). The three girls were sitting at the table eating their breakfast and having a conversation as I sat all bleary from sleep and watched them. Then Moira announced it was time to get dressed and off they went.
This is not a typical morning.
Some days the dishwasher doesn’t get unloaded until after school no matter how many times I ask. Some days getting dressed is a fight.
But not this morning. The goal, I found out later, was to get ready for school so they still had time to play The Game. We call this “The Game” because there is always a never ending game going on – the toys and rules are different but its always The Game. Sometimes when I tell Oonagh it is bed time she screams at me “but we haven’t finished The Game yet!” And I laugh at her because The Game is never finished.
Anyway, my girls are hilarious and I love how they play with each other. They fight a lot too and dynamics are changing as people get older and the oldest of them is heading into puberty. But compared to my early mommy writings on this blog the old adage “things will get easier” is so true.
This morning was easy – I even went to the basement later to get something and ALL THE LIGHTS WERE OFF.
In fact, it seemed almost a little too easy. I keep wondering if we have reached Peak Parenting? Years and years of little irksome issues that compound with child rearing to give you one perfect morning. (Made more perfect by the fact that no one is sick and they all went to school.)
I hope we get more than this one perfect morning. I should make something really challenging for lunch just to see if they will eat it. (Just kidding. Why would I want to jinx things?)