Thursday, September 27, 2012

Night life

For the first time in about five years, Jason and I have been participating in the Toronto, Just For Laughs Festival.  One of my coworkers reached out to me in August to see if we'd like to buy a pass with a couple of coworkers.

We are wary of committing to a nightlife. This was the first time with a new babysitter, I'm an attached parent, also I get exhausted and September was a month without income so spending money had to be well thought out. I hate spending money and precious energy on extracurricular events and then regretting them.

My guilt is a force to be reckoned with and so an evening has to be perfect for it to be held at bay. Not once in the course of the last 7 days did I feel like it wasn't worth the time, energy and money to go out. What a luxury.

I won't lie.  It was amazing to go out at night and see some really funny acts.  Some local talent and some bigger acts that we had been enjoying from home.  Our first night was Patton Oswalt. We got to the show early and ended up getting in before anyone else did so we got a chill beer and then front row seats to a great show.
To cut down on babysitting cost we saw three shows together and three independently culminating with a Louis CK show. I couldn't quite make all my shows but the ones I did were great nights out.

That guy, is by far the smartest, riskiest stand up comedian I have ever seen. I hope to see Bill Cosby one day but until then this stand up is the best I've seen. Any comic that can eloquently describe a first date as the transcendent human experience that it can be and then button it up with the reality that we all just want to get laid is a genius.

Transcendent people.

He does a good job portraying parenthood too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Who wants to learn how to dance?

Oh man, this video is so romantic I am swooning. Don't you just want to go sign up for ballroom dancing right now? I would also like to start a Damian Kulash Make Out Club who wants to be my Veep?

Last weekend my sister and I ran for our lives in Oro. The pivotal third sister couldn't make it so we tried to fill her space with the newest addition to the clan. Chloe was a sweet amuse bouche for the zombies while her Mom and I dashed by.

A perfect strategy.

We had a hoot and I think we might sign up to do more runs/rides adventures along these lines together.
Sunday I cranked my sore body out of bed and we went for our first every family bike ride where Fenner rode solo. This is the first of many warm up rides where her bike slowly transitions from being a recreational tool in the neighbourhood to a transportation tool.

Don't tell Jason but I hope that this journey culminates into a family bike trip to the Rideau from the Waterfront Trail.  shhhh. Go big or go home right?
Fall has arrived and with it sweater season.  This is the first sweater I ever knit. It was for my niece. Classic crew construction with a classic rookie stretched out neck (it was too small for my niece's cranium).  I love it's itchy wool and colour.

It's one of the few first knits that I made that I'm still proud of. I made it as part of my Romni Wool knitting class I took with one of my oldest friends and so it's filled with fond memories of my late twenties too.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Week Three Day Five

I am a firm believer in the power of threes. Three days, three weeks, three months; the stages to making and breaking habits. It's the number of thematic jokes a comedian can tell in a row before the joke is no longer funny. The number of days that it takes for a small person to realize that the life change is permanent and wigs out.

Last Friday was the last day of week three of me being a working Mom, Fenner being in school and Jason being a stay at home Dad.

It was a bad day.  I had an early meeting, the girls were screaming as I walked out the door. The bike to work took longer than I'd expected and I had forgotten my pass key so I set off the office alarm while on a client call. There is construction on the roof of my office so the noise was off the hook and grating.

I was finding it almost impossible to shake off the negative start and by 1:00 pm I was just humming with grumpiness and stress. That amped up negative stressful state is untenable for me any more. Once I'm there I will do anything to end it. When I was home with the girls I would stop everything and reboot.

We'd go for a walk to the ravine or to The Rail Garden,  in desperate times if the girls were as amped as I was we would put on our PJ's and go to bed with books for an hour or so.
Flowers from The Rail Garden

Anything just to reboot that impossible crabbiness and reclaim the day.

Now that I'm in an office (a great office, make no mistake) I make my reboot list every morning. It's a list of the daily moments that can be forgotten in their ordinariness but if you don't forget them they can be a magical mundane moment of escape. Life is busier now that I'm at work so finding time to make (moments or art) are few and far between.

So I found a forgotten folder of pictures from years ago on my laptop that I now use to store images of  perfect moments to which I have an acute physical reaction.
Friday's list of moments and activities that kept me together. 
  • Biking to work in the morning in the crisp fall air as the light changes from dawn to day 
  • Wild Blueberries and whole yogurt with apples and maple syrup smoked cheddar for breakfast
  • Sweet music courtesy of Rdio.  
  • Knitting Lemongrass socks on public transit while listening to a gruesome chapter of Storm of Swords
  • Finding time every day to make something even if it’s only a few stitches on the subway
  • Processing the lichen to dye wool and felt at Christmas. 
  • Managing to can the peaches before they went off.
  •  Having Fenner identify Parmelia on a branch outside of a corner store and having Jason tell me about how she explained it to her friends
Good food, quiet moments, exercise and nuclear family bonding are the ways we get through life change. What do you guys do?

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Many Faces of Parmelia

This is the last of my fun summer cottage blog posts I swear it. 

I've been going to the cottage since I was born.  Literally, I was born in June in Northern Quebec and as soon as Mom could, she was boating in to the cottage to show me to my Mimi.  My Mom says that they docked the boat taxi and the next thing she knew Mimi was running up the hill with me in her arms so she could get me naked.

My Mimi loved herself some baby munching and legend has it that I was also a good slow cooked little piece of pastry myself.

I digress, basically I have been coming to this place my entire life and somehow it has always fit the time of my life perfectly.  Every year it has something new and perfect for me to take advantage of.  As a mother this became a place where I found my footing managing both girls mostly by myself.  It is an empowering thing.

Fenner and I took our friend Stephanie on one of our standard walks up the back of a big chunk of Canadian Shield called Echo Rock during one of her visits this summer.  There is a small forest that Fenner can explore pretty safely and we end up on the top of the Rock from behind it.
Anyway, turns out that Echo Rock is a massive lichen house.  I have never noticed it before but once Steph pointed out the Umbilicaria Mammulata it was impossible to unsee.

We started to see different kinds of lichen all over the rock and it wasn't long before we were finding it on trees, paths, and recently on a stick we found outside our local corner store.

Fenner, Marlowe and I had already been collecting dried moss, oak leaves and pine needles for some projects we have on the go but this lichen thing BLEW MY MIND.

Because, people, you can dye wool with it.

And so began Lichen fest 2012.  We found Parmelia on sticks.
 Here's the close up of the stick.

Parmelia of a different kind
Fenner found it on trees outside of my folks' cottage.

Lichens are bat shit crazy cool - they are a cross between fungus and algae which means they are weird. I picked up a book to start learning a bit more about it. I've started jarring the Umbilicaria and am researching how to best use the parmelia to dye.
Parmelia Sulcata
The Parmelia Sulcata  which was ubiquitous on the rocks was almost impossible to harvest until I was up on the rock after about 4 days of hard rain after which the lichens actually bloomed with small purple cups.
Parmelia Saxatalis
Fenner was smitten with some different tiny cups and we referred to them as fairy cups.  Turns out that this lichen is actually called Fairy Cup Lichen.

Actually called Fairy Cup Lichen!

It takes years and years to grow so we were careful to only harvest some lichen from large colonies.

Umbilicaria Mammulata

Some of the lichen brings Horton Hears a Who to mind because they blend in with the environment so well.
British Soldier Lichen
Tonight I started some canning of a different kind.  The ammonia and Mammulata kind of canning.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Start as you mean to go on

Dear Marlowe,

Today is your first birthday and I have been trying to write your birth story since you were seven days old.  I actually wrote it about an hour ago but the blog ate it and I had a temper tantrum. 

What I really want to write about is the lost art of slow cooking because that is what you and I did.  We baked you until you felt you were done just right, with a delicious crispy crust that a pastry gets when it's been in the oven for just a minute or two too long. In human cooking time that worked out to be 16 days past your estimated time of arrival. We were healthy and happy so we felt like we could wait and although I love me some slow cooked baby, those last couple of days really tested my patience and elasticity.

On the morning of September 12th, we had been scheduled to go talk to an obstetrician because we were officially out of the ordinary so I was greatly relieved when we went into early labour.  Up until this point the whole neighbourhood had been helping us to get you out.  Fenner would spend the day at any number of friends' houses while I tried castor oil, walking and acupuncture, all to no avail.

Finally your Dad and I resorted to the activity that got us knocked up in the first place.  We spent all day on September 12th relaxing and hanging out.  We played crib, I napped, your dad got the house ready for your arrival.  By the afternoon we were pretty sure you weren't psyching us out so we made sure Uncle Will could come and hang out with Fenner while we worked out your exit strategy.
By midnight I was sure we were almost done.  The contractions seemed insurmountable and mostly, I was so excited to meet you.  Your Auntie Steph and Tia, our Midwife, came to help your Dad and I out. It turned out we were only just getting started. It took me a little while to come to terms with that but once I did we settled into a pattern.

To try and keep relaxed I started singing you out.  It's my most vivid memory of that night. You remind me of it every night as it's the same song you sing before you fall asleep, and like my song, right near the end it gets a lot louder.

There were a lot of really funny moments throughout the whole night, mixed with a lot of hard work.  Your Dad and I do love dark comedy. I charged him one ounce of castor oil for every snore he let loose between contractions.

Every time I would use the loo I would come back and Tia had rearranged the pillows so that I would have to lie differently and every time I would reply, "What fresh Hell is this?"

While we were negotiating those last few hours Steph and our second midwife Marlene were holding my legs - we would rest between contractions and every once in awhile a contraction would sneak up on us leading to me yelling, "Where are My Bitches? Here comes another one!"

There are a million moments that I remember from that night. How we all worked so well together and just how excited I was to meet you on our own terms and conditions in a room full of people with great respect for each other. How at no point did I feel like we had to make a decision that would in anyway compromise how well everything was going.

Once you decided it was time to come, it was a perfect birth.
When I felt your head I was shocked that there was an actual person that I was going to get to meet. Then Marlene put you on my chest, all 9 lbs 4 oz and 55 cm of you. I thought I was going to melt right into the bed.
It was really hard, but I shared you with your Dad who I thought was just going to slide off the bed at the sight of you.
Your big chocolate brown eyes and your long beautiful body. I didn't even think to check what flavour you were for the longest time and then I realized Stephanie was going to explode if we didn't find out. She had been knitting for weeks while we waited, it had been a lovely and charming distraction from the ticking clock.
The bed grew a little bit and for awhile we all fit in it just perfectly, all of us in our nest together.
It was just perfect. The intention with which you entered our lives has become the way we live our lives.  Every day with intention and each other.  
Happy Birthday little Pork Chop. 


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

First day of two jobs

The content here is going to be pretty light while my family and I adjust to our new lives. September is for going nuclear. Pulling together and using our extra energy to make everything as kind and gentle as possible while everyone transitions to their new places.

Jason at home with three amazing girls two 5 year olds and a fast growing 1 year old.  Fenner at a new school learning French and Marlowe and I are apart while I go back to work.

I love my jobs all of them but being present and intentional at both places really challenging and exhausting. If I am not both of those things I find both lives dripping into each other which leads to me playing a zero sum game with my energy sacrificing quality time with both worlds.

Here is a song helps me to slow when I find myself slipping over the edge.

It's fun to be back with my team at the office and even more fun peeing with the door closed knowing that I don't have to ensure a small person doesn't fall down the stairs! FREEDOM.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

When did you draw your map?

Today was my first half-day back at work (thank goodness I'm starting slow) and so my year has ended.  A childless friend once asked me how bored I was at home all day and late at night, when all my doubts and insecurities about how important it is to be Mom come flooding in, I think of my answer.

Not at all bored. Not even close. Not even once.

Still, last night at 2:00 am I woke up with the crushing fear that I had somehow not enjoyed my precious year long maternity leave enough.  That I had squandered the only year I was going to get.

Had I spent enough time with Fenner and Marlowe exploring our worlds? Could I have done more to show them how important our communities are and how important it is to engage with the world around us? Did I represent my ideals and values in a way that might possibly get passed to them??

That says a lot about my insecurities. These fears crushed the air out of my chest and forced me to get up and peruse all of the pictures from the past year for a few hours until I felt better.

This year has been an epic adventure with both my girls. We learned how to be together quietly and together we learned how to start a wild rumpus. We explored our neighbourhood more fully. We built and contributed to our community in permanent and inspiring ways. We saw and experienced the wider world together. We went feral at the cottage and learned to be still together and by ourselves.  We had fun making together.

I look back at this year as the year we drew the map that we chose to follow as a family.

Game Changing Birth Day
Hiked Lake Superior Provincial Park

Awed at Old Woman Bay

Christmas at Home

Built a community

Zenned out at Squam

Learned that personal inspiration doesn't have to be a zero sum game with children
Saw the wider world with four year old eyes
Found the 'Wild' close to home
Went to the Farm

Fed the people in our neighbourhood many meals
Enjoyed new perspectives on a lifelong cottage