Category: Parenting

Thank you for the music

I have this theory that everything we want is already out there. I don’t know when I developed this theory but it was a long time ago. It may have been developed out of broke-student necessity (all of my couches are still second hand) but I believe it was definitely honed in the pre-parenting days of feathering our nest. One thing that can always be relied on is that there will always be people having babies – and therefore there will be people out there happily willing to get rid of the baby things they no longer need. People used to ask me what the theme to Moira’s “nursery” was and my response was always, “hand me down chic.” Knowing that there were hundreds of cribs out there waiting for new homes made it less stressful to have a baby when we had zero money coming in (at least materially). And, in spite of my parents safety fears, we managed to navigate the roads of those early baby years in an almost 20-year old Chevy Sprint that I bought second hand a decade earlier.

Older, and with more money (thanks to husband-with-good-job), we have a nice house and drive a purchased-new-but-with-a-large-hail-damage-discount Honda Odyssey. I find with all these middle-age trappings it is even more important to remember that everything we want is already out there and we don’t need to rush to the store every time something strikes our fancy. For example: Moira and I watched Mamma Mia last week and Mamma Mia Here I Go Again this week (personally both quite awful but the music is fun) and she really wanted some of the songs for her iPod.

More context: earlier this summer we gave each of the girls an iPod: one was the Mister’s old one, one was an old one of mine, and one we asked around to see if anyone had one they weren’t using (to which we got quite a few responses). But we don’t have a music service like so many other people (all those monthly services add up!) – we still listen to CDs, which the Mister rips, puts up on the house “music server” and we copy to the girls iPods. Sometimes if there is only one song that we want we will get the CD out of the library (I have been waiting months for the soundtrack to A Star is Born to come in so that I can continue to torment my daughters with me singing Shallow in the car but I really don’t want any other song on the disc.)

So, knowing that ABBA Gold came out decades ago and millions of people bought it I started asking around if anyone had a copy they weren’t using.

First stop was family: my brother, who got rid of his copy with all his CDs after he ripped them, said he could get it for $17 off of Amazon and have it here next day because he is a Prime member. Kind of him, but not what I was going for.

Second stop was the local Buy Nothing Facebook page for my community. My neighbour behind me dropped off her copy this morning on her way to work. It had been sitting there collecting dust.

It was only a two step process. Sometimes it take many more steps and that’s okay too.

When the girls saw me looking up canes to purchase off Kijiji (which is an online classified ads website across Canada), Moira called grandma to see if she had any. She had two – neither of which she needed. That was a one step process.

Sometimes this doesn’t work and we have to go further afield to find what we need/want or, *gulp* buy new, but we always try to refer to Sarah Lazarovic’s print of the Buyerarchy of Needs that we have in kitchen to remind us daily of what is important. There is something deeply satisfying in knowing that for a brief moment in time we are able to avoid the whole consumerist machine.

My mum says (tongue-in-cheek, but always with sadness) that I shouldn’t worry about these things so much because my footprint is already going to be small because I’m dying young. However, I’ve always been this way, and what kind of person would I be if I didn’t care what I was leaving behind? (Also I drive a van and can now barely walk so my footprint is probably huge). Teaching my girls to pause before rushing head first into consumerism is just as important a life skill as teaching them to cook and how to clean a bathroom. These are all boring legacy things I’m working on but all equally important.

Full disclosure: I also impulse purchased some wash-out hair colouring wax this morning so don’t be too impressed. I’m probably going to be losing my hair again soon so I thought I would have some fun with it while I can. (Plus Halloween is coming. Only two months to get those costumes ready.)

It’s not every day your young lady turns eleven

Birthday eclair for breakfast

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.

These are the things I hope they remember.

Last night at a Wordfest event with our friend Jocelyn, drinking iced tea out of a wine glass and being both grown-up and not (sometimes the iced tea was drank through a licorice straw).

Have we reached peak parenting?

Current parenting win: I knit a sweater that a child is excited to wear. She even wore it to school this morning.

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.

Part of yesterday’s game consisted of a fashion show where they barely wore anything but these handknits given to us by a friend, it was -25 degrees outside. They then got dressed in full winter gear and went and played outside.

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?)



Kicked out of my own kitchen (because it isn’t just “my” kitchen).

We had a great weekend. I knit. I sewed. I even left the house and hung out with a friend (one of my goals this year: to say yes to invitations). Yesterday Miss Oonagh woke up sick so I got a lot of snuggles. Plus we had book club on Friday which means I am DONE with Us Conductors and never have to read the book again. (Why no, I did not enjoy it, thank you for asking.) Today Oonagh and I are home and I’m taking a break from snuggles to write. Also, what I have dubbed as my “cancer period” has finally started so I am basically hemorrhaging right now and can’t leave the house anyway. (Really looking forward to a nap!)

This weekend I also thought a lot about how important it is to empower your children.

On Friday Fionnuala made cupcakes. Saturday morning she made pumpkin pancakes and then planned out lunch for Sunday – which she also made: Oh She Glow’s Mac and Peas (It was delicious).

She’s eight.

Of course, I had to help her but I tried to step back as much as possible and just be near enough to answer questions. During the course of the weekend she learned to double a recipe, peel potatoes and get over her fear of knives. I was nervous about her being around the stove but tried not to freak her out by showing my nervousness. I didn’t always do a great job because at one point she told me I had to leave the kitchen. (Small child! Hot stove!)

Fionnuala, age six, cooking at the stove.

Years ago we tried to have a schedule where the kids helped out in the kitchen one night a week – but we aren’t that great with those kind of schedules in this house. Of course we have a rotating chore chart so they always have chores to do (and no, they don’t get paid for them – just like we don’t get paid for them) but the cooking thing never worked out and they were young. I find it works better for us if someone decides they want to spend time in the kitchen – like Fionnuala did this weekend. Initially it seems like a lot more work for me but it really wasn’t – I mean, one of us would have been in the kitchen cooking anyway because everyone still needs to eat. But my initial reaction when confronted with a child who wants to take over in the kitchen is “ugh” because that involves a lot of patience and guidance on my part for something I could just do myself.

My initial reaction to a lot of things is “ugh” but thing almost always work out well – I just need to get out of the way of myself.

From day one my parenting philosophy has been to raise people I can stand being around as adults. (The fact that I most likely won’t be around when they are adults isn’t lost on me but the goal hasn’t changed.) When I was first diagnosed we also knew that the girls had to become more independent because I just couldn’t be relied upon to do every little thing for them anymore and their dad still has to put in a full day at work. Unless I’m making porridge they all get their own breakfast in the morning. They can make themselves snacks (smoothies are popular). They have to make sure they are organized and ready for school because if they forget to bring a snack to school or their homework I’m not bringing it for them even if the school is across the street. This frees up a lot of my time and brain space – which I appreciate.

Also, I know so many people who reached adulthood and didn’t know how to cook (or do laundry, or clean a kitchen) and I just can’t imagine. I love cooking because I love eating. And while our whole foods, plant-based diet might seem strict or limiting to some it has felt like one big culinary adventure for me.

I will admit, however, that it is kind of nice being kicked out of the kitchen once in a while. Giving up control is hard but I am getting so much more back in return – and so are the girls.

Thoughts on this past Fashion Revolution week

Credit goes to Sarah Lazarovic who very kindly allows you to download this from her website and print it off yourself.

Even before I knew it was Fashion Revolution week I had been trying to have discussions with my oldest daughters about smart shopping. Like, maybe we don’t need a half dozen shirts with unicorns on them from Justice (that are already falling apart before they get home) just because you love unicorns? But if I am feeling overwhelmed by it all I can only imagine how they must be feeling when the only time I talk about it is when I finally loose my s**t about the amount of stuff in our house (which is pretty much daily).

So I’m trying to be smarter about it all. I’m trying to figure out ways to have more open conversations about what mass consumerism is doing to our planet but in order to do that I need to be more educated about it myself. Currently I am waiting for the documentary The True Cost to come in from the library. I’m hoping it comes in this week so we can continue our discussion about fashion which, of course, will continue into a discussion about where all of our stuff comes from.

Fashion Revolution week this year (April 23-29) marked the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster that killed 1,134 people, and not much has really been done about working conditions. Did you know there are approximately 7,000 factories in Bangladesh? I read in a news article that 3,000 of those factories are endangering the lives of their low-paid garment workers. I think this is something even children need to know about. Maybe not enough to give them nightmares, but enough so that they know there is another person making their clothing and that we have more sustainable options.

I’m hoping that this week the girls and I will also make some skirts for the summer. They each picked out a fabric from my stash that has been lingering unused for years. I’m hoping that if they have a hand in making something themselves it will mean more to them and they will see how much effort is put into making clothes.

Fashion Revolution week also started the day after Earth Day and the girls had all kinds of Earth Day events they participated in at school. One day was “no garbage lunch day” where they weren’t supposed to bring a lunch where there was no packaging to throw out. Another day was “no plastic” day – which I found rather difficult since I was trying to send them to school without disposable items. Since then, however, I have been trying to stay on top of making snacks they can bring to school that aren’t packaged. I find the packaged snacks that are also vegan pretty limiting because a lot of them contain nuts and they can’t take nuts to school. So I’ve been making a lot of muffins and putting them in plastic reusable containers. It’s all so very overwhelming but I’m really trying.