Monday, March 30, 2015

A Warm Embrace

Me and my mother.
March 27th marked 31 years since my mother passed away from cancer.  Although my grief is private, ...well sometimes it is not.  Throughout my life, whether it be in school, university or in my adult life, the grief has overwhelmed me at times and I have ended up publicly in tears.  

Let me tell you how embarrassing it is for someone to ask you as a teenager or adult as to why you're crying, and all you can blubber out is something to the effect of, "my mu m mother died when I was two and I'm still totally upset!"

Much to yours and my relief, I have had some good therapy in the last few years and have done a lot of personal work to get through some of this raw pain.    

So at this point in my life, with a four year old son and a reasonable amount of stability, I don't feel overwhelmed by grief so much as I feel enveloped with love.  

I may not have any memories of my mother, but I'm sure that because of who she was, her love has stuck with me all of these years.  I can feel her heart and know that it is connected to the joy that I feel when I'm with Henry.

All this to say, I think that the best way I can honour my mother, and what I'd want to see Henry do if he were in a similar position, is to find a way to move on unencumbered and to thrive.  

Which for me resonates with this Robert Frost poem I recently came across:

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid-air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

And the rest...IN PICTURES:

Pure Maple Sap.
5 more days to go.

Pancakes revisited.
They were delicious.
Thanks to new baking powder.

Henry went to a Paw Patrol birthday party.
Came back with tats.

Sunday afternoon at the beach.

Henry & I decorated Easter eggs and hung them from sticks.

This week brings April Fools Day, karate class, Easter and the end to my month of austerity.

Hello chocolate, friends, coffee, and going out!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sleepers Awake & March Break

March break has come and gone.  

Spring has begun.

And I am happy.

I'm still eating oats for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and dinner, well I find that it's morphed into me eating leftovers instead so as not to waste food that I already have.  So my freezer is cleaned out pretty well, but the soup goal has been pretty much abandoned.  Still off chocolate and coffee -- it's now been 33 days.  I'm starting to plan for what my first chocolate bite will be on Easter Day.  Mmmmm.  


I love being with Henry so much, and spending 5 days with him was such a joy.  Hard work and exhausting, yes, but spending that time with him helped me to feel and know that he is ok.  The boy is thriving.  His sense of humour astounds me, as well as his thoughts and manners.  

Table manners we are working on.  He's getting better about eating the food on his plate, asking to be excused and then clearing his dishes.  We have taken to eating our meals at the table without the distraction of books or papers with the goal of learning how to make dinner conversation.  It was slow at first, but we seem to be getting better each time.  It certainly helps if he participates.  Otherwise, I struggle to make the monologue sound inclusive.

One day over breakfast, I can't remember the topic, but I was asserting something about his behaviour and his response was:

"No mummy, you are mistaken."  he said completely straight.  

I laughed.  And said "ok, perhaps you're right."

So what did we get up to over the first 5 days of March break?


On my way home from work, I checked out a St. Patrick's Day book, Peter and Wolf with narration and music on CD and the Up DVD from the library.  After collecting Henry and his bags from school, we went back to the apartment for movie night.  His choice?  A My Little Pony Christmas special.  Ok-- not bad.  After that, we read/listened to Peter and the Wolf which I thought he was going to reject as boring since there are lengthy musical interludes between the words.  But he loved it, especially the end, where the duck is coughed up by the wolf unharmed.

After he fell asleep, which was quite late, I mustered up some final energy to make carrot muffins.  


It being the first morning a couple of weeks that we'd had together where we didn't need to rush, we spent a good deal of time laying in the bed playing with his stuffed animals.  Going through their dreams one by one.  We were interrupted when Henry decided to punch one of them across the room, and then have one fall into the "ocean" and need rescuing.  Out come the blankets and pillows and Henry comes to the aid of his friends.  "Good" I think, I won't have to finish making up the rest of the animal dreams...But no.  Henry keeps score and insisted that every animal have a turn before we moved on to breakfast.

At 10am, Henry had his second intake meeting at a martial arts studio where he'll be starting as a Tiny Champ on Tuesday, a full 6 month commitment.  It was fun for me to see him dressed in his robe, learning to jab and kick "hiya!"

As I had a few errands to run and it was raining, we just jumped in the share car parked a block away, and effortlessly made it to karate and whipped the chores off lickity split. 

In the early afternoon we watched some tv shows on Netflix and then went for a foggy walk down to the beach before dinner.

On the way back, we stopped by Dufflet bakery for a treat, the bookstore for a newspaper and a book for Henry.  Then he was allowed to pop into a toy store strictly to browse.  He then fell in love with a $50 truck toy, which I explained he could have either on his birthday, or if he saved up enough money by doing chores.  It was discovered that after counting the coins in his piggy bank (just over $5) he would have to do all the chores with me for 6 months in order to afford the toy by himself.  He seems motivated to earn enough to buy it himself, but he doesn't yet have a concept of just how many chores and how much time there is required.  We'll see how long his love affair lasts. 

So while he played some video games, I prepared dinner, my mother's Chicken Pot Pie recipe.  Something I'd planned out for days, ensuring that I had happy/ethical chicken and all the other ingredients.  I followed the recipe and all went well according to plan.

Except.  The $%(ing baking powder made the biscuit dough taste terrible.  

I've thrown that jar of powder out now.  We'll see if this problem persists.

Although the taste was nowhere near as unpalatable as the disaster pancakes, Henry still didn't like the pot pies, even if he was eating just the filling.  

You can be confident that after all of that work, he didn't escape having to eat most of it anyway.


Feeling lazy, we were late getting to choir rehearsal before church.  And without being directly named and shamed, it was brought to my attention that it is very poor form.  So I explained to Henry when we got home later that mummy is not very good at being on time and that is not good at all.  That I was going to have to start being on time from now on and that he'd have to help me.  He seemed to like this plan.  Again, the proof will be in the pudding.

After lunch we enjoyed some beautiful sunshine and walked to the park, bike shop, pet store, pharmacy and grocery store.

For the remainder of the afternoon and early evening, we watched Up.  What a fantastic movie, which involves a grieving grumpy old man who through taking a big risk and embarking upon an adventure, learns to connect with children and animals and move on from the past.  Henry loved the animals.

Luther's retreat.

After a quiet morning playing with stuffed animals and boardgames, we headed into the city to see the special children's programming that the TIFF Lightbox was showing for March break.  We had tickets to see the Artistocats, a Disney film that I had never seen before.  

I thought it was a fantastic film, full of animals, polite and musical ones, who go on a adventure and defeat the bad guy.  Henry loved it too, and wanted to see it again right away.  

Thomas the Tank Engine Memory Game.
Henry handily beat me a few times.
Oh to be young again.

At the TIFF Lightbox

Interactive installation

Yes, you can climb on it.  

City kid.

We jumped off the streetcar half way home to grab a treat at Bobbette & Belle's.  Henry picked out hot chocolate and a chocolate cupcake, of which he consumed about half.  I had a coconut/lime cupcake, which was absolutely divine.

Once home, we spent the rest of the evening just chilling out.


As we had a rental car to pick up at 9am, Henry had agreed to get up and at 'em and not dilly-dally.  So we capped the animal dreams to a few words, speedily ate breakfast, dressed, brushed teeth and headed out to Thrifty's to pick up a car for a couple of days.  

Because today was the day we were driving up to Vaughan to the Maple Syrup Festival!

After navigating my way to the conservation centre without the aid of GPS, we braved the chilly wind and explored some of the trails and buildings.  We found pancakes and sausages, a horse and cart ride, and demonstrations on how the First Nations people would have made maple syrup, as well as the early settlers.

Would be nicer in warmer weather!

Henry wanted to take a picture to show Mr. Pickles.

Not too crowded this chilly morning.


The early settler method of boiling sap.

Can't have enough wood I guess.

He loved exploring the buckets hanging from the trees.

And how does it taste?

You want to try?


After offering to drive Henry to another attraction, he flatly refused and said he'd rather just stay at home.  So we went for a bike ride to the park and had a good run around and play.

Afterwards, we came home and played with his stuffed animals again. 

Henry reading a Hot Wheels book to his "class," a very captive audience.

Playing with Playmobil.
Each stuffed animal had a station and a toy to play with.
Is Henry a teacher-in-training?

After lunch, I peeled Henry away from his toys and sedentary inclination and forced him to go for another walk to the beach.  He didn't want to go, but once there, I then had to peel him away from throwing rocks into the water.

Drawing lines in the sand. 

And at 4pm, I dropped him off at his dad's apartment building.  The time of my half of March break with Henry had run out.  For Henry, he was getting to ride the train to Montreal the next day to visit his grandmother.  And so in a moment, I went from action-packed child-filled days, to just having myself to contend with.  

Which gave me a chance to catch my breath.  

Well, almost.  Since I had the rental car, I drove uptown to a fabric store to order curtains (which I'm going to attempt to sew for Henry's room and the kitchen...stay tuned) and then to IKEA.

I bought a crap-load of furniture, which I didn't have a chance to assemble until Friday night and Saturday morning.  I'm still not finished. 

But the apartment is looking a bit better---no more sheet nailed to the living room window.  I managed to install (badly) a curtain rod and on it, placed actual, real curtains.  Big difference!!

OK, that's enough out of me.  

One last thing actually, HELLO SPRING!  

Never before have I anticipated a season with as much hope for rejuvenation and joy.

Here's a song for spring.

Sleepers Awake
J.S. Bach

Monday, March 9, 2015


Slowing down and simplifying this last week has been a great experience.  By forcing myself to put off unessential busyness and by simplifying all of my meals, I've been able to start to root out habits and distractions that haven't been serving me.  

Henry is also adjusting in that he doesn't have high expectations for new "surprises," at least of the shiny variety.  Instead of new "things," so far he has received some knock knock jokes, new video games for the iPhone and a streetcar painting.  He's not over the moon about them, but they all seem to carry greater longevity than the store-bought gifts. 

It's been 20 days since I last had coffee or chocolate, and I hardly miss them now.  Almost half way there...


Jokes for Henry's repertoire.

Red pepper soup.

Maple syrup mission to Brickwork's market
 came with a winter's stroll.

A single winter rose.

Luther doing a little light reading.

Surprise for Henry.

When the boy returns,
Luther sensibly gets out of the way.

This coming week is deadly quiet.  

Then I'll have Henry for the first 5 days of March Break.  Fun awaits!

Monday, March 2, 2015

March Madness

As previously mentioned, I've hatched a plan to make March an experimental month.  An attempt to cleanse my habits of over-scheduling as well as over-eating.

The approach is simple:

-  Only attend choir, work and Henry-related events.
-  No coffee or chocolate (until Easter!)
-  Only steel cut oats for breakfast
-  Only sandwiches for lunch
-  Only soup for dinner.

2 days in, and 100% success so far...

Henry has been roped into this insofar as his "surprises" are all non-monetary for the month.  So I must get creative...draw pictures, go to the library etc...Henry seems excited for the twist.


My employer's annual sales conference took place last week and so I'm feeling pretty pumped about working for Thomson Reuters right now.  David Thomson gave a very moving talk and answered questions from the group.  Very inspiring stuff.

For anyone curious, here is a short video on the flagship product in the Finance division.  This is the world in which I am a part of the sales administration team.  Many people ask me what it is that I "do."  It is a difficult question to answer, as most of my family and friends live and breathe outside of the financial sector.  And dare I say, are mistrustful of it?  I hope this provides some context.  

So as winter starts to lose its grip, I will march on, trying to chip away at old/bad habits.  And we'll see where this lands me in April.  Stay tuned!

And so the rest IN PICTURES:

Sunrise, now sufficiently early.

Work selfie. 

Henry playing in his room.  His version of helping to tidy up.

Thoughtfully colouring.


Perfect winter's day.

Pre-church skating.

Post-church play with icicle sword.