Wednesday, June 17, 2015


My son is six years old.
And I'm better than him at... well, everything.

'Cause he's six.
And I'm a grown-up. A really freakin' responsible one, and I have an extensive skill-set, including reading big words and following detailed instructions.

So when I bought Cole his first Origami book, I knew I'd have to sit down and help him muddle his way through it. We set up camp at the dining room table and he picked out the swan he wanted to make and I helped him line up the edges, make sharp creases and read the step-by-step instructions. A few times, he wanted to take over. He wanted to take the swan and do it himself. This just led to more frustration and me trying to convince him that what the instructions were trying to say was different from how he was interpreting them. It was an inefficient way to build a swan, with two captains at the helm.

At one point, I got a bit muddled up though. I wasn't sure how to "squash fold" the neck and the beak. The pictures weren't terribly descriptive. I was holding the swan and making squinty brows at the book and Cole kept trying to take over.
"I think I know what to do!" he kept saying.

I tried a few things without success then FINALLY handed over the bird when I really felt like saying, Of course you don't know how to do this. I will figure it out and I will let you know how it goes. I am a bit smarter at this because I have so much experience. But I will humour you....

And, he turned the paper a few different ways, folded something inside out and all of the sudden, the swan had a beak.
I was dumbfounded.
I turned my head and he turned his and our noses were six inches apart and he grinned at me.
I felt like I was looking at someone completely new to me.
Someone who is better than me at .... stuff.
I had been slightly outranked.
For the first, but not the last time.

Don't get me wrong, on the whole, I am still better at Origami than he is. But it was a moment of awe when I had to be humbled by some innate gift for manipulating things spatially in his mind. He could figure something out, with negligible help from the instructions and myself, because he had a skill that extended a bit beyond my own natural skill.
I could compensate for lack of this spatial manipulation and still be a useful part of society because my other grown-up skills, like following instructions, had compensated.
But still, I knew suddenly that my young man was not simply a vessel I'd been pouring my knowledge and life lessons into. He came with his own brilliant gifts.

And I KNOW that if you are not the mother of my six year old (which you are not), then you might just say that a six year old should age-appropriately be able to fold origami using the squash fold. Not rocket science. Not earth-shattering stuff here.
But as a mother you might know that it's different for your own children.
So much of what they do inspires wonder in you because you have simply known them for such a long time. You've known them since they could not even manage to support the weight of their own heads with their scrawny little newborn necks.
And now they can do stuff you can't.

It is glorious and humbling and nostalgic and exhilarating.
This thing called Parenthood.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Today, Amelia is home "sick". This  means she threw up at daycare and they say she can't go back for 24-hours. Luckily, she seems to be feeling better. This is why she was with me when I dropped Cole off at the YMCA before-school program at his school.

Cole's teacher in the YMCA program is named Sahar. I have seen her every day since the beginning of September and nothing about her appearance has seemed particularly note-worthy to me. She does not wear make-up. She does not wear fancy or glamourous clothing. She is a bit older than me. I don't know the colour of her hair - it is always covered with her hijab. One thing about Sahar though, is she is always smiling. And, without fail, she is always very excited about whatever craft she happens to be preparing that day.

Amelia has come with me twice to drop Cole off. The first time, Sahar was preparing a felt ice-cream cone craft. She was so happy to see Amelia. She pinched her cheeks and she ruffled her hair and she gave her the little felt ice-cream cone. Today, Sahar had in her hand a little colourful star made out of Perler beads. She exclaimed with glee when she saw Amelia and she quickly handed her the little star. Amelia beamed.

When we were leaving, as I buckled Amelia into the car, she sighed happily and said to me, "Sahar is so BEAUTIFUL. She always gives me things."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Being Truthful

I picked Amelia up, as usual, at the end of the day from preschool. We had the usual conversation in the car. The one where I ask what she did and she says she doesn't know. And I ask what she played and she shrugs. And then I ask what she ate for lunch and she says, "Ham'n'cheese". Same conversation every day.

We got home and thus ensued the chaos of the witching hour. While I was trying to prepare supper, Amelia began protesting about being hungry. I tried to explain calmly that she'd have to wait. She got very upset. She began to demand cookies and marshmallows and apples and gummy vitamins.

"Amelia," I asked, "Have you already had vitamins today?"
"Amelia, are you sure? You must tell the truth. That means telling me what really happened."
"No, I did not have vitamins already today."
"MAAAA-AAAARK," I hollered....
"She did! I gave her some this morning," was his reply.

I looked at my daughter sternly.  This lying bit is getting a bit old. I decided to fight the good fight and make a point.

"Amelia, you must tell the truth. Because you lied, you need to have a time-out."
As I attempted to pick her up by her armpits, she went all rag-doll on me and I had to drag her to the bottom step. She began to fuss and scream at me.

"Amelia," I said, "telling the truth is important. It's the right thing to do..." I tried to explain through her protestations, "...but also, Santa's watching. And he can hear when you don't tell the truth."

She paused in her screams for a second, then cried out, "Not ham'n'cheese.... It was rice."

Monday, November 24, 2014

Movie Night

I had the kids to myself. My husband was away (all good adventures happen when the husband is away).

We'd had a busy day and we decided that the best way to finish it off would be with a movie night. Not just any movie night. One with popcorn!
So I popped some popcorn, the kids put on their PJ's, and I put the little Batman couch at the foot of our bed so the kids weren't actually eating popcorn in the bed (I'm no fool). At some point, Cole finished his bowl of popcorn and crawled up onto the bed with me. I couldn't exactly see what Amelia was doing down there on the floor. I wasn't worried. She was done the popcorn. (The risk of choking on the popcorn decreases significantly when the popcorn is no longer being consumed).

Then suddenly Amelia began to whine and she declared in her very high pitched, almost accusatory tone, "There's a popcorn in my nose!"

Dear god. She was right. There was an unpopped kernel up her nose. Because...well... she'd put it there. If I think back, I do recall just before her declaration of the nostril situation that she'd commented on how popcorn smells. I really, really wished in this moment that I'd paid closer attention to that seemingly innocuous comment.

I grabbed the tweezers off my dresser, tilted her head back and took a good look. There was a shiny, golden popcorn kernel in her left nostril. I reached up with the tweezers, but the kernel jumped out of reach. Each time I tried, it would slip further and further out of reach. I wondered where that dark cavern led to. I wondered if the kernel could get stuck behind her eye. I'm a Science teacher, I'm supposed to know these things aren't possible. But when your kid has popcorn in her nose, you kind of lose your grip on logic.

"Cole," I shouted, "Get your shoes on."
"Because there's a popcorn kernel in your sister's nose."
The kids went downstairs. They put on their boots. I remembered the Health Cards. I remembered my purse. I even stuffed the tweezers in my pocket (in case the line up was fourteen hours long or something crazy, I could give the tweezers another go). I lost Mommy points for forgetting to put coats on the kids, but I did remember the ipad. If you've ever been at Emerg with children, you'll know that the ipad is WAAAAAAAAY more important than the coats anyway.

We arrived at the hospital. Somewhere in the melee of triage, I realized I'd dropped the parking ticket. I considered leaving the kids there with sick strangers, but then thought how bad that would look, so I packed them back up and we walked through the dark parking lot til we found our car and there on the pavement next to my driver's side door was the parking ticket.

We went back inside. The nurse asked if Amelia had visited any foreign countries lately. She took her temperature and her blood oxygen level. Just as she was asking when Amelia had last voided her bladder, I whispered, "She just stuck a popcorn kernel up her nose." The nurse grinned and said, "My younger brother used to stick EVERYTHING up his nose."

We waited another three hours there at the hospital. The kids watched a movie on the ipad. At one point a very graphic, gory t.v. show came on in the waiting room. So I had to move the kids to a different seat. Then finally, we were admitted to the Non-Life-Threatening-but-Still-Kinda-Bad area and a doctor took a look in Amelia's nose. He had a headlamp on and a long plastic stick with a loop on the end. He tried to hook the kernel but instead he chased it WAY up there. I began to hyperventilate.
He said he was going to get a more powerful light. I think he went to consult with other physicians about the best way to get the popcorn out short of surgery.

When he came back, he was rolling a very large machine which ended up just being another light. He declared that we were going to try some pressure difference. I nodded, "Yes, that sounds good." At this point I thought the machine might just be a fancy vacuum to suck the kernel out. Kind of like the one they use to birth stubborn babies.

Then he told me the plan. I was to hold Amelia, tell her I was going to give her a big kiss, then plug her other nostril and blow in her mouth (all CPR-like). So I did. And she yelled at me! Boy was she mad. And nothing came out. I leaned over again and blew hard. She got really mad this time. The doctor looked in her with the light and said, "Where did it GO?" This made me very, very worried. I looked at the nurse who said, "No, no, that's good. She either swallowed it or... it came out and we didn't see."
At that moment, Amelia sat up and there on the stretcher was the popcorn kernel.

I burst into tears of relief.

We left the hospital discussing how it's not a good idea to put stuff in our noses. I stopped at the exit door to disinfect our hands. I squirted the antiseptic gel into my hands and reached for Amelia's. She had her hand in a tight ball. I reached down and pulled her fingers back only to discover... the popcorn kernel.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I (heart) Gardening - pass it on

The winter was a long one. This is a much-lamented fact. Wherever you found yourself on any given snowy or frigid day between November and this morning (April 29th), there was bound to be someone in your proximity with whom you could connect on a very personal level just by bringing up the bleepin' winter weather.
I try very hard not to complain out loud about cold weather because what I truly despise is stifling heat. That being said, this very long drawn-out winter actually numbed my green thumb. I think I forgot it was there.

Then, last weekend, I remembered.
I think it happened when I was out running one morning and the birds were kicking up a very spring-like racket all around me. It might have been when I reached down and plucked some dead leaves off a shrub and noticed green buds beneath. When I slipped my sandy gardening gloves onto my hands and grasped hold of those branch-snippers, I felt the excitement for the first time in a LOT of months.

I had forgotten about gardening completely, it seemed. I hadn't felt that tug to want to plant things in muddy little containers and perch them precariously around my house and check back for growth every half hour. I think I just felt like it was still winter.

Then last weekend, I drove up to the mushroom farm with my kids and collected several HEAPS of free compost. I came home and spread it everywhere! In the garden, in the flower beds,.... everywhere. That felt so good, that I got down on my knees and I weeded for a few hours. And THAT felt so good, that I cut down all the plastic rabbit-gnawed fencing from my veggie patch and I zippy-tied up some squeaky-new chicken wire. The Green in me awoke and stretched.

And I felt so good, in fact, that when I spied a baby bunny outside the kitchen window, instead of cursing and throwing sudsy gestures in its direction, I perched my son up on my hip and pointed and we both grinned quietly.

And when I came home after a very tiring and emotional day, I just pushed the back gate open and stood next to my garden (with nothing growing) and I felt instantly calmer. I'd forgotten what I love most about gardening.
The hope.
The promise.
And we all need that.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How Teachers are Born

Cole finally loves swimming lessons.
And last Thursday evening, just a few minutes before we were slotted to leave for swimming lessons, he announced that his ear hurt. It had, he declared, been hurting all day. So my husband took him to the walk-in clinic and he had to miss swimming lessons. Fin. Du. Monde.

To console a heart-broken beached little boy, I promised we could go to the Family Swim on Saturday.
So on Saturday, I packed my own bathing suit and the kids' bathing suits and headed to the Leisure Pool (code for very shallow and very warm, a bit like a glorified bath that you share with about twenty of your nearest and dearest).

Cole loves the Leisure Pool because he can touch and keep his head above water wherever he is. This is great because his version of swimming looks  a lot like drowning, but he can sustain it for a few seconds and then he puts his feet down. Amelia hangs out on the stairs or she perches on my outstretched arm and glides along happily.

Suddenly, Cole called to Amelia, "Do you want me to teach you how to swim?" And Amelia replied in her Amelia-type way, "Sure!"

So Amelia and I sat on the steps and Cole demonstrated all the types of swimming he'd learned. First there was the front glide. The back glide (apparently, the arms are different, I guess I wouldn't pass Swim Kids 3). And then the Bear Glide. It was obvious Cole was holding his fingers in the shape of a claw as he did this, which made me giggle because I'm pretty sure that's not technically very aerodynamic. Following this was the Lion Glide and then the Falcon Glide. Then the Watermelon Glide, which looked a lot like drowning. I stood close my son and smiled reassuringly at the Life Guard so she would know that I-got-this.

After the presentation of all the glides, I said to Cole, "Wow! Your teachers are VERY creative to find all these neat names for the glides." (I know she takes them on imaginary expeditions through jungles and to the Arctic - this seems very in-keeping with those themes).

But Cole shook his head, "Oh, this isn't what my teacher calls them. I'm just trying to make it interesting for Amelia!"

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Un-Cookie #12: Apple Pies

I'm sure it will not escape your notice that apple pies are not cookies.
I wanted to end the 12 cookies of Christmas on a nostalgic note, but I had run out of steam by today (Christmas Eve) and didn't want to mull through the motions of a meaningless kind of easy cookie just to make it to 12. Instead, I thought I'd share a tradition in our family - baking apple pies from scratch.

I was assigned to bring dessert to the Loftus Family Dinner.
And although I don't make nearly as good an apple pie as my mother does, I get better every time I try. Incidentally, my own mother didn't learn to bake pies until she came to Canada, married my father, and learned from his mother. My grandma's apple pies were famous before my mother's, and although I have no illusions about my pies becoming as famous as my mother's or grandmother's, I do enjoy carrying on the tradition.

I used the Joy of Cooking as a guideline. Here are a few key points.

#1: Use tart apples that will hold their shape. I used Granny Smith. My mother swears the key to her apple pies were the wild apples she scavenged from the trees in the vacant properties near our house.

#2: Read the chapter introduction in the Joy of Cooking on Making Fruit Pies. I am the opposite of a perfectionist and I love to cut corners and I often skim instead of reading. When I finally took the time to read the blurb about making fruit pies in the Joy of Cooking, I had a lot of Ah ha! moments and my pie-making game got upped instantly.

#3: Add butter chunks to the pie filling before you put the "lid" on the pie.

#4: Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sugar before cutting the vents in the upper crust.

#5: Bake with people you love. And don't be afraid to sacrifice a bit of dough and apples for the sake of a budding baker's education.

Merry Christmas!!!
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