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birthday

Motherhood, Olive

7

Over the past seven years, I’ve come to understand my strengths as a mother. My weaknesses, too.

I’m great at talking, first of all. Especially the hard conversations. I think my time as a youth worker prepared me for this. When you spend five years having daily chats about awkward subject matter with even more awkward teenagers about everything from personal hygiene to sex to drug use to abusive relationships, you get used to diving into the tough stuff, erasing the judgment, letting your matter-of-factness draw out theirs.

I’ve always felt comfortable talking to Olive about the tough stuff, too. About the divorce, moving, consent, swearing, body image, my dating, her fear and anxiety, and the budding dramas in her friendship groups. Talking about things feels like it comes easily to me; the words show up and I speak them. We talk a lot, and she tells me everything. I’m good at that stuff.

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Musings

30.

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We are here, nestled in the warmth of my mom’s floating house. I’ve been basking in unlimited  sister time, just drinking in these four strange, wonderful creatures and also negotiating the bewildering dual identities of daughter and mother. Does anyone else get this?

I think they must. It’s a fairly common thing, to lapse into a familiar pattern of childishness when you return home again. No matter how old you are or how far you’ve come since that you left home, that cozy dependence beckons the moment you let your guard down. Before you know it you are eight years old again and saying yes to tea, and naps, and sandwiches. It feels so good to be taken care of like that, with offers of hot baths and sleeping in. It’s always been one of the things I most looked forward to when visiting my mom.

But lately, since Olive was born (and getting stronger with each passing month) there is a strange looping effect where I am taken care of by my mom while simultaneously doing the same for O and suddenly there’s an abundance of mothering happening and we’re walking out the door with me adjusting Olive’s scarf against the wind and my mom shoving mitts at me and the whole thing just seems to loop in on itself, then Olive picks up her baby and starts rocking her and patting her on the back and I just think my head might explode.

Christmas was beautiful, and this was one of the few years that I haven’t felt a heavy sense of guilty settling in after the gifts were opened. This may be because we were really restrained in gift-buying this year – Adam’s family opted out of exchanging gifts between adults, and we did a Secret Santa exchange amongst my siblings – but I also think it had to do with Olive. Seeing her joy while opening gifts, and not necessarily because of the gifts themselves but because of the actual rip and tear opening, was priceless. It did a lot to yank me out of my existential first world guilt and actually just enjoy the occasion.

I gave Adam this gorgeous sweater that I saw at RW & Co. a few weeks ago, which I then promptly adopted and wore for all of Christmas day, and today too until he finally staged a coup and stole the sweater right off my back.

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Last but not least:

Internets, tomorrow I turn thirty. 30. THIRTY.

I am feeling pretty good about this. I look at the past decade as an education, and over the past few months I feel like I have known myself more thoroughly than ever before.

When you’re younger there’s a gap, whether it’s small or gaping, between the person you are and the person you want to be.  I think I have let that go. Or am midway through the process, at least. I look back on the last decade, the ten years where I mostly became the person I am here, now, sitting here up too late drinking coconut water, and I see myself setting, gelling, solidifying. This is somewhat gratifying because it means I can let go of the process of becoming that seems to typify the twenty-something years, that laborious trying on of identities and personas, shedding personalities like snake skin along the way.

But it’s also somewhat worrisome because it means I have to acknowledge and accept aspects of my personality that I had always hoped I could change – through good intentions, perseverance or sheer will. Everyone has these things, the shadow side of themselves they like to deny or avoid, but in the past year I have sort of sat with them, and accepted them. Things like my tendency towards judgment, a way of thinking that can sometimes seem rigid and inflexible, and an unfortunate predisposition to pessimism and over thinking.

They aren’t my favourite characteristics, but there they are. There they have been for the past decade and probably more, and I think they are here to stay. I can mitigate their effects, try to minimize their influence but I don’t think I’ll ever destroy them completely. They’re as much a part of me as my freckles, or that strange man I married who just leaned over and said, “Why do I get so full so quickly? I think I have a baby stomach.”

Guys, this is my life. And what a life it is, too.

I drove my sisters home tonight and after we’d pulled up in front of their house, Mawney started quizzing me about my plans for tomorrow. “Breakfast, pottery, a visit to Russell Books. Sushi for dinner, and hopefully a round of deep tissue back massages.” I said.

She quizzed me further. What time for breakfast? When would Olive be napping? Should she make reservations for dinner? The questions just kept coming and the fact that they were coming from her, my youngest sister who answers every query with “I don’t care. Whatever you want is fine.”, was beginning to get weird.

Just then she pointed at the clock, as I turned to see the time change over to midnight the van erupted into a joyful rendition of Happy Birthday. Laughter bubbled over and I looked back at this van of smiling shining faces and I felt so lucky, and so amazed that they love me as much as they do.

Dirty thirty, guys! Bring it.

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I might just kick off my fourth decade by recreating this magnificent photo.
Also: Look at those lips and tell me I didn’t invent duckface. Seriously.

Eco-Friendly Living, Motherhood, Olive

One

Hey, remember that time Olive turned one? Here are some pictures!

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I had been anticipating this day for what seemed like forever, because I am insane.

Aaaand I may have gone a little Etsy crazy.

For instance I ordered a fabric Happy Birthday banner from Etsy that we can reuse for all of our family birthdays. That’s cool, right? I mean it’s cute, and eco-friendly, plus I really like the idea of creating little family traditions like this – this very banner will be in the background of ALL of our family birthday photos! At least until the kids are surly teenagers and want nothing to do with colourful felt banners or family birthdays.

And then we will sit by ourselves and cry. BUT for now – banners! And paper cranes!

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I made a wall of Olive’s monthly photos so guests could see the metamorphosis from tiny dark haired baby to vivacious chubby blonde.

Because I am a plastic-hating scrooge, I wanted to avoid using balloons and when I spotted some strands of colourful paper cranes at a local store, I was instantly in love! (The fact that Olive’s aunt gave her a paper crane mobile for Christmas last year made it seem that much more perfect.)

I picked up around ten of them in different sizes, lengths and colours and hung them around the living room. Each of Olive’s little friends got to pick one to take home and hang in their room in lieu of a goody bag.

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(Oh hey! Not excited or emotional at all!)

The cake. OH, the cake.
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The cake itself tasted great. And Olive’s little cake, with a sugar-free coconut cream cheese frosting was also awesome.

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But when it came to making the frosting for the big cake I went a little buck wild with the coconut milk and I upset the delicate balance of this no-recipe frosting endeavour and I could never get it back again.

It was all too runny and I kept adding more icing sugar and more icing sugar to try and stiffen it  (ironic since the whole reason I decided against a buttercream frosting like a normal person in the first place was that it had too much sugar.)

As a last resort, I stuck the whole thing in the fridge while we ran out to another birthday party (these one-year-olds and their social calendars, I swear!) in the hopes that the whole thing would magically firm up by the time I got back but instead I got this…

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Sigh. It tasted good, and that’s all that matters, right?

When it came time to give Olive her cake, we brought it out and sang happy birthday while a sparkler burned on top. Then we plopped the whole thing down on her high chair tray and waited for her to dig in.

She was remarkably restrained in the beginning, even offering us bites (so generous!)

 

And I’m not totally sure, but I think she might take after her mama in the chocolate-lovin’ department.

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First thing in the morning, we gave her a little wooden walker that has puzzles and xylophones and a little basket in the back to put books or car keys or what have you (one year old’s got stuff y’all.)

She actually found this gift a few weeks ago when I first put it together (what?! I was excited!) and three or four times since the initial discovery we caught her crawling back into her grandparent’s room to try and see it again.

Each time we caught her she would scream and cry at not being allowed to play with it, so when we actually gave it to her, with a big yellow polka dot bow on top she was all “Say whaaaa? I can touch it? For real?”. 

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I found her dress on Pinterest and then tracked down the shop on Etsy. They didn’t have any current listings for that particular dress but I contacted the shop owner and she said she had an order of the fabric coming in and she would be able to make us one. I mean, don’t you just love Etsy? Seriously.

I am so so so in love with it, I wish she could wear it every day, except it is now tucked away for safekeeping in case she has a sister one day.

EDIT: I forgot to link to the Lamonster Etsy shop when this was originally posted, which was horrible because I always try and give credit where credit is due – so for those who have been asking, Lamonster can be found here.
(P.S. I will always disclose if I am paid or perked by the maker of any product I mention. If I don’t say anything then I bought the item myself and just loved it so much I had to share 🙂


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Would you look at this kid? Seriously.

It was honestly just such a fun day, and I thought I would feel emotional, (and I did) but, surprisingly, I didn’t feel sad.

I thought I would be mourning the transformation from baby into toddler. I thought that I might be longing for the days when she could sleep on my chest and I could fit her whole head in my hand. There were definitely moments of nostalgia – especially while putting up her monthly photos, or watching people look through her baby book, but the emotion that staged a devious sneak attack was pride. I am just completely, predictably, cliched-ly proud of this little girl. And proud of us, too.

We made it! That first year is no joke, and in the twelve months since we had Olive our lives have undergone – and are still undergoing – some major chaotic shifts. We are still smack dab in transition, in the middle of trying to build a life we can be proud of, and that process comes with no shortage of growing pains. But in the midst of this chaos and this transition has emerged a little girl that can use sign language, and who says “woof” when she sees dogs. She eats salmon and brussels sprouts and squid and olive tapenade. She can drink from a cup and shrieks with ear-splitting levels of happiness when the mood strikes her. She has learned to roll over and sit up and crawl and feed herself and I know that some of these sound like dog tricks but the development is remarkably similar at this point so bear with me.

Most of all she has learned to love and be loved, she is a warm, happy, affectionate little thing and we are so lucky that we’ve been able to be there with her every single day, for all of it.

On October fifth we felt so stunned, and breathless and awestruck that we were standing there watching our daughter – that once-tiny baby – feed us birthday cake, and stumble around behind her walker with a huge grin, and crawl over to Gus and give him a huge hug wearing fairy wings.

We felt so lucky and so thankful. It was a happy, happy birthday.

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