Friday, May 29, 2009


"People who say they sleep like a baby 
usually don't have one. " 
Leo J. Burke

Pip had trouble getting to sleep last night.  She came out of her bedroom three times.  First it was,"Mama, I don't have the right blanket."  She loves her ladybug blanket.
"What do you mean by that?"
"That means you have to help me get my blanket set up."
"Do you think you're having trouble sleeping because you had a nap today?"
"Yhea.  Daddy woke me up."

Pip formally phased-out her afternoon nap about six months ago, but occasionally she still needs a little kip if she's overtired.  At about 3:30 pm yesterday, Pip was an emotional wreck.  She was bursting into tears at the slightest provocation, so I said, "Pip, you're really tired," and that's all it took.  With tears streaming down her face she said,
"Mama, I need a nap."  How could I deny her?  I let her have a late-afternoon nap even though I knew that bedtime might be difficult.

Indeed, bedtime was proving to be difficult.  Pip came out of her room a second time because her pull-up was wet.  Fair enough.  Who can fall asleep with three pounds of wet diaper between their legs?  She shed a few tears when I left her bedroom after the pull-up change.

The third time Pip made an appearance she was rubbing her belly-button, her form of self-soothing.  "I still can't sleep Mama."
"Hmmm.  What should we do, honey?"
No response.  More button-rubbing.
"What would help you get to sleep?"
"Um. Mama, one more book would help me sleep.  Just one more book."

I felt for her.  I've suffered from insomnia before and it's dreadful.  The more you try to fall asleep, the more aware you become of not being able to sleep.  I caved.  The pink zebra-lamp went on and we snuggled in for one more book.

Naturally, she didn't want me to leave after one more book, and tears filled her heavy eyes.  I told her that I used to have trouble getting to sleep sometimes when I was her age, but I stopped before I spilled the beans about 'Suzie the hairdresser.'  

You see, I had an active imagination as a child, and when I couldn't find sleep and my parents said, "Karen, you have to go back to bed, "  I would say,
"Oh, I'm not Karen, I'm Suzie the hairdresser.  Can I do your hair?"  My parents would let me comb their hair and peek over their shoulders at the Carol Burnett show.  You can see why I thought it best not to give Pip any ideas.  I'm sure she would've loved the idea of coming into the living-room with a comb and brush to style Big Daddy-O's and my hair.  I have a feeling I would've loved it too.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Little Drummer Girl

"If it's not fun, you're not doing it right."
Bob Basso

A few years ago I was a member of a professional drumming group out of Vancouver called, SWARM.  The director, Bill Wallace, is an artistic genius and he creates all of the instruments out of recycled materials.  The SWARM show is exciting; drums spin and move, band members jump and dance in intricate patterns around the drums; it's very athletic, musical and unique.  

I miss playing with SWARM.  I miss drumming, rehearsing in Bill's funky studio, creating music with other talented artists, but mostly I just miss 'playing.'  I was thinking about SWARM while I was hanging out with Crazybaby in the backyard the other day.  She was happily crawling around on the lawn and I was following behind her.  I had some music playing and I just started drumming to it.  I used my hands to drum on my thighs, my hips, my stomach and my chest.  It felt good.  I was aware of Crazybaby's location on the ground, but I must admit that I was sort of zoned out.  I let myself get lost in the rhythm.  

So there I was, drumming and day-dreaming in the sunshine, when I realized that Crazybaby had stopped crawling.  She was sitting up,  smiling, looking straight at me and drumming!  She was drumming on her legs and her belly, then she mixed it up and started clapping for awhile.  At one point she even started hitting her squeaky shoes on the grass to make squeaking sounds.  It was so cool!  My baby and I were having a jam session!  She stayed connected with me like that for an entire song before she lost interest.  I was flabbergasted!  It was as though she was saying to me, "You do your thing Mama, and I'll just play along."

Was it as fulfilling as playing with SWARM?  Not even close, but it did inspire me to find new ways to enjoy drumming instead of focusing on the past.  Who knows, perhaps I'll start a Grateful Mama drum circle...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Skinned knees

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.
Mother Teresa

Our summer clothes came out of hiding this past weekend.  Shorts, t-shirts and sandals all made an appearance, as did a little floral 'skort' that was handed-down to Pip from her cousin.  We were heading to the beach, so I was carrying an armload of bags, water-bottles, hats and keys as I descended the back stairs.  I saw Pip run across the grass toward me, trip on her new slightly-too-large sandals and fall face-first on the concrete sidewalk.

Now, I admire those moms who casually say, "Brush it off  Buddy, you're okay," when their children get hurt, but in this instance, I was not one of those moms.  I dropped everything in my arms and galloped down the remaining stairs toward Pip.  I think I even said something incredibly unhelpful like, "Oooooooooooooo that was a bad one!!!"

As a mother, I try to appear calm on the outside, but inside it's a different story.  My heart was racing when I peeled Pip off of the pavement and tried to get a look at her face.  "Where does it hurt, honey?"  She lifted her knee.  It was skinned.  That was all.  No lost teeth, no broken bones, just a little scrape on the knee. 

I was much calmer in a crisis when I was a teacher; when it was other people's children getting hurt.  One snowy winter day I was supervising the primary playground when a young lad named Parmvir hit his chin on the monkey bars and his two adult front teeth flew out of his mouth, into the snow.  White teeth; white snow.  After I had ascertained that Parmvir was alright, I calmly organized the children into tooth-hunting teams: "Follow the little trails of blood," I suggested.

The teeth were found in short order, and Parmvir went to the hospital with his pearly whites in a Ziploc baggie.  The E.R. doctor actually asked why I hadn't replaced the teeth myself!  "Better chance of the roots taking,"  he said.Hmmmm.  Not sure if I would've been up for that. 

This morning Pip's scrape has turned into a neat row of scabs.  I asked her how her knee was and she said, "Mama, my dad told me a story about when he fell of a horse and his braving has made me brave.  I'm a brave girl now, Mama."

Yes you are little Pip.  Now if only I could get a dose of that braving.  

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


"One's suffering disappears when one lets oneself go, 
when one yields - even to sadness."  
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

After a wonderful week at the beach-house it was time to pack our bags and head home.  Big Daddy-O took the girls for a walk while I went from room to room stripping beds, gathering towels, packing, and opening windows to let the fresh sea-air circulate.  It was a gorgeous day; one of those windy, sparkly days when the waves pound the shore and everything seems to come alive as it gets kissed by the sun.

I felt sad.  The beach-house was put up for sale earlier this year, and every time I leave it, I can't help but imagine leaving it for good.  I look out at that view and I remember building forts with my brother and sister, playing guitar with my friends, kissing my first love, staring up at the stars the night before my grandfather died, taking our new puppy for her first walk, watching my sister get married, dancing under the stars at my own wedding, floating in the ocean one lazy afternoon when a pod of orcas swam by, taking Pip for her first dip in the many rites of passage.  That beach feels like me.  

As I made my way around the house I felt a lump in my throat, but I swallowed it.  Then Pip walked in.  She was on the verge of tears and she said, "Mama, I just can't say good-bye to this room, I just can't do it," and the dam broke.  It was like she was releasing all of the emotions that I had been feeling.  I gave her a cuddle and explained that we'd be back soon.  I told her that her Grandpa was having some guests stay at the house and it was their turn to enjoy the beach.  I wiped her tears.  Comforting her comforted me. 

Thirty minutes later the car was all packed-up and I was making a final sweep of the house.  Pip was still feeling sad, but she'd had enough already.  "Mama, I just want to go now.   I want to have the 'guestez' come and I want to be back in our sweet-home-home."  She climbed into her car-seat and I buckled her in.  She had a quiet cry as we drove away from the house.

Again, I felt that my little three-year-old was giving a voice to my emotions.  Instead of stifling what she was feeling, she let her emotions rise up, she released them, she dealt with them, and she moved on.  

I remember reading about cancer patients in a book called, When the Body Says No, by Gabor Mate.  He found that patients who tried to suppress their emotions didn't do as well as those who let their feelings out; the anger, the fear, the frustration, everything.  My understanding of Mate's theory is that if you don't deal with your emotions, then your body ends up taking them on in some form of 'dis-ease.'

So it's healthy for our little ones to let their emotions out as they feel them, and it's healthy for us too.  If I had let myself shed a few tears that morning at the beach house, I could have easily explained to Pip why I was feeling a bit sad.  She would have understood.  

Monday, May 25, 2009


"You can't deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants."  
Stephen King, Hearts in Atlantis

I’m wondering why we didn’t teach Pip a cute name for 'flatulence.'  My parents taught us that we were 'poofing,' (rather onomatopoetic,)  and I’ve heard of 'tooting' which seems appropriate in a steam-engine sort of way.  I don’t actually recall teaching Pip the word ‘fart,’ so we must’ve been caught off guard.  My husband and I had no preliminary discussions about naming Pip’s flatulence, we were more concerned with gas etiquette.  

So here we are with a very polite three-year-old who says, "Excuse me, I farted."  Worse yet, she thinks it's funny.  Case in point: Pip often takes books onto the couch and ‘reads’ them aloud, her stories being a combination of memorized and invented text.  I was taken aback when she picked up her book about frogs and said to me, “Now this is a story about the Wiggles farting.”

“Oh honey, farts are not funny,” I said with some difficulty.

“Yes they are, Mama.”

“Who taught you that farts are funny?” 

“My dad taught me that farts are funny.” (Figures.) 

“What did he say?”

“He said, Ah, ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!" Pip did a rather boisterous impression of her father’s jolly laugh.

I tried to keep a straight face, “Well, I like to think of the Wiggles dancing and singing.  Not farting.” 

Pip continued, “The Wiggles heard some rumbling and it was a big FART!”  she said with tremendous glee.   

I pictured her telling this story to her cousins or some kids on the playground.  Not good.  I couldn't simply forbid the use of the term 'fart' because that would make it all the more exciting.  I appealed to her common sense, “Honey, farts are just natural gas.”  Pip quickly adapted her tale,

“The Wiggles had some natural gas.  And it started to rumble and all the Wiggles had to fart.  Then, a big raccoon took away all the farting.  The Wiggles were very happy after all of the farting was gone.  They plonked away to home and said, “Murray, Jeff, Anthony, we stopped farting!!!”

The Wiggles had stopped farting, but I couldn't stop laughing.  It turns out, farts are funny, but if I had it to do over again, I think I'd call them toots.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A stick by any other name

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."
Thomas Jefferson

We went to visit friends the other day and Pip wanted to take a gift to the four-year-old boy we'd be seeing.  She found a little stick on the beach and decided it would make the perfect present.  When she offered the stick to the little boy, his grandmother was squatting beside him: "Oh, my," she began, "what a wonderful gift!  What do you think this could be?" she asked her grandson.  

"It could be a flute," he said.  His grandma responded with the appropriate nods and affirmative sounds.  "It looks like a dog," the little boy continued, "or maybe a shark!"  He was good at this game.

The grandmother said something like, "All great ideas!" then she turned to Pip.  "And what do you think it is, Pip?"

"Well," Pip began earnestly, "it's a stick."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Full Circle

"In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future."
Alex Haley

We’re staying at my parents’ beach-house this week, and I’m experiencing many, “full-circle,” moments.  The first occurred when Big Daddy-O, Pip, Crazybaby & I went for a morning walk on the beach.  Crazybaby was riding in the backpack on Big Daddy-O and I was helping Pip walk on logs.  I told her that, as kids, her aunt and uncle and I used to try to get all the way to Kitty Coleman Park only by walking on logs.  At that point I actually thought, “Whoa, when I was a skinny twelve-year-old leaping from log to precarious log, I had no idea that I’d be helping my wee daughter log-leap thirty years later on the very same stretch of beach.”  Glorious.

Another full-circle moment arrived during a tea-party with Pip.  My friend Wendy wrote a lovely piece about having tea with her grandmother, and it reminded me of the tea-parties my grandfather and I used to enjoy.  He would call me Mrs. Hefflefinger, speak with a British accent, and we’d have wonderful conversations, but we would only pretend to drink tea.  Wendy’s story inspired me to serve Pip real tea. (Heavy on the milk and sugar.)

Pip was beside herself with excitement.  We invited her two stuffed frogs to join us at the table, but we didn’t set tea-cups for them because Pip insisted that they were, “too young to drink real tea.”

I treated every part of the tea-making as a sacred ceremony: filling the kettle with water, pouring it into the tea pot over the two bags of tea, pinching the delicate little papers at the end of the tea-bag strings to perform a few critical dunks, and finally pouring the tea into our eager cups.  Pip chose a flowery cup with red tulips and I went with a short round mug that felt best when held with two hands.

The sound of tea being poured into a cup has to be one of the most soothing sounds in the world.  Wavelets on a beach, my daughters’ breathing when they’re asleep and the tea-pour; those might be my top-three soothing sounds right there.  Pip smiled when she tasted her warm beige drink.  “I like it Mama.”  I asked her if I could call her Mrs. Hefflefinger, but she said, “I’m Murray Mama,” so I called her Murray.  I did, however, launch into my best British accent with:

“I can safely say that this is the most delightful cup of tea that I have ever enjoyed, Murray.” 

And it was.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009


"Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it."

John Naisbitt

I saw something crossing the highway this morning.  At first I thought it was a peacock with it's long tail flat on the ground, then I realized it was a mother duck with eight or nine ducklings following closely behind her in a perfectly straight line.  Many cars stopped to let the feathered family walk safely across the highway; we were all united in spirit, sitting there in our vehicles hoping that the ducks would survive the crossing.  

As I watched the busy little webbed feet following in their mother's footsteps I admired how perfectly behaved the ducklings were.  They moved as one.  I wondered if the mother duck had to have a chat with her babies before attempting the treacherous crossing, "Now dears, we're about to waddle across a very busy highway and you must stay close together in line behind me."  Did she use positive reinforcement?  Were the ducklings going to be treated to a snack once they reached the other side?  Perhaps she had to threaten them with a time-out.  Whatever she did, it obviously worked.  Good little ducks.   

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
Albert Einstein

I've been Anthony Wiggle for over a week now.  Pip has chosen to be Murray Wiggle and she won't wear anything that isn't red.  We're both still females and I'm still 'Mama,'  but she calls me Anthony and I have to call her Murray.  In case you're not familiar with The Wiggles, they are a collection of peppy Australian men who sing and dance on their own Kid's Show.  

Having only been acquainted with the Wiggles for a couple of weeks, I think Pip is playing the role of Murray exceptionally well.  She's more of a method actor, like De Niro.  "Anthony, look, it's your favourite colour, blue!"  she'll say to me.  And any time I call her by her real name instead of Murray, she corrects me, "Silly Anthony, you know my name is Murray."  She also speaks about herself in the third person, "Murray doesn't like beans Mama," and "Murray has to pee."

Just when I was growing weary of the Wiggles role-play, I was reminded of Albert Einstein's quotation.  Where would our society be without the great imaginers of our time?  In a technological age where knowledge is so readily accessible, imagination becomes even more of a commodity.  So, I'll continue to be Anthony as long as Pip wants me to be.  (The frightening thing is, I'm getting used to calling her Murray.)

Monday, May 18, 2009


"We are each so much more than what some reduce to measuring."
Karen Kaiser Clark

Marlo Morgan wrote a fascinating book called, "Mutant Message Downunder."  It's about a walkabout that she went on with a group of Australian Aboriginees.  After the book was published, some controversy arose regarding the book's authenticity, but I met Marlo in my girlfriend's apartment in Vancouver long before she was published, and I believed her story.  

There were many beautiful things that she learned from the Aboriginal people, one of which had to do with labels.  Instead of calling someone in their tribe a doctor or painter or dancer, they held the title, 'interested in medicine' or 'interested in art.'  And they could change their title at any time!  Someone could be 'interested in medicine,' for years, then decide to become 'interested in dance.'  Doesn't that seem liberating?

This concept really resonates with me now that I hold the title of, "Stay-at-home-Mom."  I dislike this label.  It implies that all I do is stay at home mothering.  It doesn't define me.  I find, at parties, it's a bit of a conversation-stopper.  People don't know where to go with it. 

Instead of asking the mundane question, "So what do you do?"  I've started asking people what they're passionate about, or what they're interested in.  So far, people have rolled with it and I've enjoyed some great conversation.  

Don't get me wrong, I am very proud to be raising my two daughters full-time, but today I think I'll be 'interested-in-writing.'  

Friday, May 15, 2009


"The little things?  The little moments?  They aren't little."
Jon Kabat Zinn 

I like the word 'bittersweet.'  It's strange that there aren't more words like it in the English language, because we often feel two opposing emotions simultaneously.  It happened to me last week.  

It was a warm, spring afternoon and the girls and I were heading to the beach for a picnic.  The car was quite toasty when we first got in, so I buckled the girls into their seats and unrolled all of the windows before starting 'Goldie's' engine.  (Incidentally, Pip named my husband's macho red jeep, 'Creampup!')  Pip requested "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," because she likes to look for black horses and cherry trees on our road trips, so I turned on the music.

I heard giggles coming from the back seat so I snuck a peek in the rear-view mirror. Crazybaby had a look of happy astonishment on her face as she enjoyed the new sensation of wind in her face.  And there was Pip; the wind was blowing her hair all over the place, her face was speckled with moving beams of sunlight, and she was singing through a glorious smile.  "Is it too windy for you Pip?"  
"No Mama, I love it!"  Pip yelled back.

I suddenly thought about all of the, "summer-wind-blowing-your-hair-with-car-tunes-blaring," times that lay ahead of Pip.  I hoped that she would enjoy many such experiences in her lifetime, but the excitement I felt for her was accompanied with a little sadness at the thought that I probably wouldn't witness most of those moments.  Bittersweet.

A few months ago I had a conversation with my dad about how difficult it must have been for him when we left home as teenagers.  Imagine one day just watching your child leave for University in another province, when you've known exactly where they were every minute of the day for sixteen years!  Dad just smiled and said, "When it happens, you're ready for it."  I trust his words, but I'm glad that I've got at least another thirteen years to get ready for it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

To Dance

"Kids: they dance before they know 
there is anything that isn't music."
William Stafford

We have a little evening ritual that has somehow come to be known as, "Nudie-Lie-Down."  It happens during the time after dinner and before the girls' bath.  While one parent clears away the dinner dishes, the other parent takes the girls into the living room, strips them down to their respective underpants & diaper, and plays.  (Just to clarify, both parents remain fully clothed.  Not that I have anything against naked dishwashers.)  Usually Nudie-Lie-Down  involves a bit of wrestling, the playing of various musical instruments, and of course, dancing.  

Our favourite song to dance to at the moment is called, "Hot N' Cold," and it's a real crowd pleaser.  Even Crazybaby does a form of "seat-dancing," because she's not standing on her own just yet.  Last night Pip decided that it would be appropriate to lose the underpants and don a pair of fluorescent green goggles for the dancing portion of our nudie-lie-down.  There she was, buck naked except for the green goggles, dancing her little heart out while Big Daddy-O and I tried to contain our laughter.

It made me wish that I was as unselfconscious as Pip.  I do recall Irish Jigging in someone's kitchen at a party once, but that was after a few ale.  It seems that we start off as kids being completely uninhibited, then something changes and we spend the rest of our lives trying to regain the confidence to express ourselves freely.  What is it that changes?  Is it simply the awareness that we are separate from others?  Is it the perception of peer-judgement?  A disapproving glance?  I think I'm becoming more uninhibited in my old age as I care less about what others think.  It's not an easy one for me, but I'm learning...from a be-goggled little nudist.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Being Present

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, 
concentrate the mind on the present moment."

I recently met a lovely man and talented artist named Andreas Kunert.  He is a stone muralist, and I was fortunate enough to visit his masterpiece in the Nanaimo Convention Centre.  The piece is awe-inspiring, and I felt honored to be witnessing it in the presence of Andreas.  I asked him what he thought about when he was creating his art.  "I'm thinking about the next stone," he said.  His answer reminded me of a video I saw about a quilter.  The interviewer asked her the same question I had asked Andreas and she said, "When I quilt, I quilt."  It's so simple!  I suspect that all successful artists are very present when they're creating beauty.  

It's a good reminder for me as I multi-task my way through the day: preparing meals, doing laundry, scheduling appointments, tidying the house...and basically doing everything it takes to run a household and take care of two kids, two cats and a dog!   Am I 'present' when I'm performing all of these tasks?  Absolutely not.  When I'm slicing grapes, I'm not just slicing grapes, I'm chatting with Pip, I'm watching Crazybaby crawl around the kitchen, I'm pausing to scramble the eggs or butter the toast or pour the water, and I'm thinking about what else needs to be done to get us out the door in the next hour.   

Multi-tasking seems like a necessity at this time in my life, but I could be wrong.  Is multi-tasking overrated?  Maybe the times that I forget to check the jeans' pockets for Kleenex before throwing them in the laundry are the times that I'm trying to do too much at once.  Multi-tasking allows you to do more in less time, but at what cost?  It's food for thought. 

Ekhart Tolle writes about "awakened doing," in A New Earth.  He says there are three modalities of awakened doing: acceptance, enjoyment and enthusiasm.  He writes, "you need to be vigilant to make sure that one of them operates whenever you are engaged in doing anything at all-from the most simple task to the most complex."  He goes on to say that if you're not in one of these three states, "look closely and you'll find that you're creating suffering for yourself or others."  

With that in mind, I accept that all of these chores need to be done, but I'm not enthusiastic about them and I don't enjoy them.  I'm happiest when everyone is fed and clothed and the house is relatively tidy, (notice I didn't use the word 'clean,') and I can just BE with my kids.  Yes it's important for them to see that we all have jobs to do, (and I often enlist Pip's help), but we are all a lot happier when I'm able to be fully present with the girls.  And they are such wonderful little teachers because they are always so present themselves.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mister Rogers on a box of tea

"When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the facade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way."
Fred Rogers

 "Are you sure you won't come with us?"  The sun was shining on Saturday and it was a glorious morning to take in our local outdoor Farmers' Market.  My husband usually takes the girls on his own so that I can enjoy a couple of hours of much needed solitude, but this day was so lovely that he asked me to go along.  I thought about it for a few seconds and said,
"No thanks honey, you go ahead."  He looked disappointed so I tried to explain, "I really need this time; I haven't been on my own at all this week."  His expression didn't change.

I knew what he was thinking.  It was a beautiful day to be out together as a family and the market was a place where many of our friends went to socialize, buy great food and listen to music, as a family.  Family-time was important.  I started feeling the tiniest bit guilty, so I kept talking, more to convince myself than my husband.  "It's the beginning of the weekend and if I have a little time to myself now, then we can do something all together later."  

Big Daddy-O and I dressed the girls and before long I was delivering smooches and watching them walk to the car.  I closed the door and heard my girlfriend's voice in my head saying, "Good for you for recognizing what you need."  It was just what I needed to hear.  I know myself well.  My batteries get re-charged by spending time on my own, not by walking among crowds of people, and during this particular week I hadn't made time for myself.  

So, what did I do with my two hours of solitude?  I turned on some music, stripped all of the beds, (don't worry, it gets better,) threw the sheets in the laundry, then gave myself a little home-spa treatment.  A leisurely lavender bubble-bath with a little exfoliating scrub, followed by a hot shower and some yummy, grapefruit moisturizing lotion.  I felt like a new woman.

My little family arrived back at home and informed me of their adventures.  My daughter told me I smelled good.  My husband told me I looked good, then he listed all of the friends he had seen at the market.  I don't think he was trying to make me feel badly for staying at home, but he wasn't exactly saying, "Good for you for recognizing what you need," either, which is why I had to say it to myself.  I have a very strong network of family and friends and a wonderful husband, but I also have to be my own advocate.  I need to treat myself as I would a treasured friend.  By the way, treasured friends, I highly recommend a little home-spa from time to time!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Extreme Sport

"If everything seems under control, 
you're just not going fast enough." 
 Mario Andretti.

Motherhood is an extreme sport.  As a mother, you feel all emotions to the extreme; love, fear, tenderness, frustration, worry, joy, name it.  And quite often you swing from one intense emotion to its' polar opposite in a matter of minutes!  

Last Wednesday, for example, I ricocheted from joy to frustration to love to laughter and back to joy again in one afternoon.  It all began with joy.  Although it was a gloomy, wet day, I got out the rain gear and nestled the girls into the double-stroller for an afternoon walk.  If you're a resident of the Comox Valley, you know how beautiful Filberg Park is, and we're lucky enough to be able to walk there in minutes.  As we entered the park I saw a dozen deer sleeping in the field.  A little fawn stood up to investigate us and I looked in the stroller to see Pip's reaction.  She was sound asleep.  There's something terribly moving about watching your child sleep.  It's a profoundly beautiful thing.  

I pushed the stroller through the park, down to the beach-side promenade, and I felt as though I was truly seeing every beautiful flower, every precious plant.  There were no other human visitors to the park that day, but I saw deer at every turn.  Crazybaby was happily absorbing the beautiful scenery while her sister slept, and I felt an intense wave of gratitude.  Strolling with my two beautiful, healthy girls in such a gorgeous part of the world, I was filled with joy.  Pure joy.

Little did I know that an hour later I would be standing in the kitchen with two girls crying and clinging onto my legs.  My husband was at a function for dinner that night, so I was flying solo.  (I have such respect for single parents.)  I had awoken Pip when we got home from our walk, otherwise she would've been up until midnight.  She has never had an easy time waking up from naps, and this afternoon was no exception.  She was upset that she missed the park and she wanted to go back.  Then she was upset that I couldn't carry her into the house.  Pip reverts back to infancy when she's grumpy, so she started crying and repeating the plea, "Mama."  Naturally, her behaviour prompted Crazybaby to start wailing.  By the time I got us all into the house and out of our jackets, both girls had tears streaming down their hot little red cheeks.  I wiped their noses and tears,  then I foolishly tried to make my way into the kitchen to start cooking dinner.  My daughters followed me and each little body latched onto a leg.

At this point, I took a deep breath, turned the stove off and just sat down on the kitchen floor with a daughter on each knee.  Screw the steamed vegetables.  My babies needed some love, so I abandoned my dinner plan and tried to soothe them.  It didn't work.  Pip had worked herself into such a state that she was inconsolable.  I needed a distraction.  I decided to resort to the thirty-nine-inch babysitter.  I hoisted both girls up and into the living room to watch The Wiggles.  After several minutes of cuddling and Wiggle-watching on the couch, Pip had calmed down.  "I'm happy now, Mama," she finally reported, and I was released back into the kitchen.

Minutes later, the girls and I sat down to dinner: grilled cheese sandwiches with grapes on the side.  (You do what you have to do.)  Oh yes, I had a glass of Merlot as well.  I had earned it, and the meal required it.  I was not prepared for what came next.  Little Pip, sitting next to me in her booster seat, put her hand on my arm and said, "You're filled with love, Mama.  And soon, it'll go out to daddy and out to me, and then back; back into your heart."  I swear those were her very words.  I had my notebook on the counter behind me and I wrote everything down, word for word.  I certainly was filled with love.  Pip got that right.

Because our nutritious dinner was late, we went straight from the table to our bath-time routine.  Pip hopped up on the toilet before entering the tub.  She decided not to use the little toddler seat, so she was using all of the strength in her arms to keep herself from falling into the toilet bowl.  "Mama," she began, "your bum is soooooooooo big that you can't fall into the toilet."  Perhaps it was sheer exhaustion from my day of extreme sport, but I honestly could not stop laughing.

My emotions came full circle while watching the girls in the tub together.  Crazybaby played peek-a-boo with Pip and used the shower curtain to cover her face.  They were simply making each other laugh, but seeing my daughters erupt in fits of giggles filled me with joy once again.  

It's no wonder that I sometimes feel out-of-control; my emotions are bungee-jumping all over the place.  I'm more of an artistic soul than an athletic one, and have never been interested in extreme sports.  It's a new feeling for me.  I prefer calmer, more predictable sports like hiking, beach-combing and floating in warm, salty bodies of water.  I'm adapting though.  I'm learning to go with the flow, to drop my own agenda sometimes so that I can really be in the moment.  I accept that some moments are going to be like cliff-diving, but others will be as sweet as floating in a warm, salty sea.

Friday, May 8, 2009


"We can only be said to be alive in those moments 
when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." 
Thornton Wilder

Her name was Frances.  I knew from my girlfriend Susan, who had taught Frances in the first grade, that she was a special girl.  I was teaching Grade Three when Frances was in my class.  

I was passionate about getting the kids to write, so I had them each keep a 'writer's notebook.'  It wasn't meant to be a journal, it was intended to be a very special book where my young authors could collect ideas for future writings.  They could record little snippets of conversation, notes, quotations, thoughts, absolutely anything they were inspired to jot down.  The writers' notebooks would never be graded, but I did collect them from time to time to provide the kids with feedback.  I loved reading through these books.  They came in all shapes and sizes, and were as unique as the writers who owned them.

I wish I could remember more of what Frances wrote, (and said for that matter,) but one little sentence of hers has stuck with me over time.  She wrote, "I'm really enjoying my life."  She was eight years old. 

Now that I have children of my own I wonder, how does one encourage that level of self-reflection and appreciation at such a tender age?  Perhaps it's through modeling.  I trust that if we're grateful mamas, we're going to raise grateful kids.

Have a happy Mothers' Day you beautiful mamas!  

Thursday, May 7, 2009


"The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears."
Hopi Indian

I think it was the great Maya Angelou who first introduced me to the idea of giving thanks when you least feel like giving thanks.  She was telling Oprah that when you're in a difficult situation, (I'm paraphrasing here,) you should thank the universe for providing you with the experience, because it is an opportunity for growth.  You may not be able to see it in the moment, but after some time passes you might recognize a lesson or gift that has come from your experience.

This is a tricky one.  When you're dealing with tragedy, loss or illness, it takes a highly evolved individual to look Pain in the face and say, "thank you."  I've met such a person, though.  I was volunteering at The Vancouver Children's Hospital to provide support for parents with sick children.  I'd take coffee, tea and baked goods to a little room where parents could meet and chat.  I was there to serve them and to visit with them if they felt like talking.  If parents didn't want to leave their child's bedside I would take food and drinks to their rooms.  Most of the time parents just wanted to make small-talk.  I once chatted with a man about the Canucks for an hour before learning that he was leaving Vancouver the next day because his son had died.   

There was one young mom I will not soon forget.  She had brightly colored hair, a few piercings, and punk clothes.  Her daughter was terminally ill and the doctors didn't expect her to ever leave the hospital.  Mother and daughter were far away from home, friends and family.   This mom had every reason to be sad, withdrawn, depressed, furious; yet she would come into the coffee room and support other parents.  She had a natural ability to boost people's spirits.  I was in awe of her.  I joked with her at one point about how she was taking over my job and she smiled.  I asked her how she did it; how she was able to stay positive and spread hope to others in the midst of such pain.  She told me that her daughter had taught her something wonderful: that she was a good mom.  No matter what her baby girl was going through, no matter how bad things got, she had found the strength to be right there beside her every step of the way.  She said it was a gift.

Imagine that.  I think Maya would have been inspired by this woman.  I certainly was.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mother Goose

"I am thankful for laughter, 
except when milk comes out of my nose."  
Woody Allen

My husband and I decided that we would teach Pip the scientifically correct terminology for her  private parts.  There would be no 'wee-wees' or 'pee-pees' in our household; we were going to call a spade a spade right from the get-go.  For the purpose of this story, though, I'll adopt a Grey's Anatomy term and call it a 'Vajayjay'.  (Forgive me.)

One Thursday morning this past winter, the girls and I made our way to 'Mother Goose,' a wonderful local programme where pre-schoolers sing songs, hear stories and eat snacks.  It's toddler-heaven, really.  On this particular Thursday, Pip seemed unusually enthusiastic about the introduction song in which each child chooses an item of their clothing and we all sing about it: "Pip wore her grey shirt, grey shirt, grey shirt, Pip wore her grey shirt all day long."  You get the idea.

We sang about shoes, sweaters, socks and pants, then Mother Goose led us through a host of other happy little songs and, before we knew it, the class was over.  As we started to gather our coats, Pip marched up to the instructor and announced, "We forgot to sing about my black pants!"  Heaven forbid.  The ever-accommodating  Mother Goose decided to indulge Pip, so we sang a rousing verse of, "Pip wore her black pants, black pants, black pants," before heading out the door.  

During the short ride home we reminisced about the class, and as we walked in the front door of our house Pip shrieked, "Mama, do you know what we forgot?  We forgot to sing about my Vajayjay!!!"  Talk about gratitude.  I was so thankful that Mother Goose and the other goslings hadn't heard this particular song request.  Naturally, I had to tell Pip that we don't normally sing about our Vajayjays because they're private, but later I caught myself thinking that perhaps we'd all be a little bit better off if we did!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Giving thanks

"The daily practice of gratitude is one of the conduits by which 
your wealth will come to you."  
Wallace Wattles

When Pip started to talk, we began a daily prayer at dinnertime.  My husband and I don't subscribe to any organized religion, so we just made up our own little gratitude prayer and Pip repeated it after us.  "O Great Spirit, thank you for this beautiful day and thank you for this lovely food.  Peace and Love."  Short and sweet.  Big Daddy-O and I were big fans of our little prayer, but Pip quickly tired of saying the same thing every day.  

We decided to adopt a lovely ritual that friends of ours introduced to us: they simply call it, "thankful."  Now we just go around the table and talk about what we are thankful for.  I LOVE IT!  We usually start with Pip so that she isn't influenced by the things that Big Daddy-O and I say.   She is often thankful for us, or her frog, or the nice time she had playing at the park.  When my husband and I take our turns, I feel really connected to him.  The hour before dinner is often hectic, but when we give thanks we're sitting at the table, looking into each other's eyes, acknowledging how blessed we truly are.   

Monday, May 4, 2009

Morning Ritual

"Whatever we think about and thank about we bring about."
Dr. John Demartini

I read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne in August of 2007.  If you haven't read it, or watched the DVD, I highly recommend it.  One section of the book discusses the power of gratitude, and I remember being impacted by a very simple suggestion given by James Ray.  He writes, "Every morning I get up and say 'Thank you.'  Every morning, when my feet hit the floor, 'Thank you.'  And then I start running through what I'm grateful for, as I'm brushing my teeth and doing the things I do in the morning.  And I'm not just...doing some rote routine.  I'm putting it out there and I'm feeling the feelings of gratitude."

Thus far, I haven't been successful at making Ray's process a daily ritual, but I recall doing it intermittently throughout the early morning nursing sessions with my daughters.  I must admit that I have found the sleep deprivation aspect of motherhood to be the toughest adjustment of all.  I'm a woman who needs her sleep.  When my daughter's cries would wake me up and I'd look at the clock to see some ungodly hour glowing back at me with sinister, red numbers,  my first instinct was to curse, but when I remembered to say, "Thank you," instead, it made the whole experience much more tolerable.  (Yes, even at 3:12 am.)  Then, while I was nursing my baby, it was easy to feel grateful as I looked down at the precious little face at my breast.  (Provided my eyes were still open.)

I want to integrate James Ray's morning ritual into my life, so I'm really going to hit myself over the head with it!  This week's blogs will all have something to do with gratitude, and the Mama Mantra is simply, 'Thank you."   Every morning this week I vow to say, "Thank you," when my feet hit the floor.  What do you think?  Is anybody with me?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Eight Kids?

"Find what you love."
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

We brought a cool children's  book home from the library this week: Incredible You!  10 ways to let your GREATNESS shine through, by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer.  In the introduction Dr. Dyer writes, "It is my desire to have these tiny, precious souls...close this book and feel so good about themselves that they feel in their hearts that nothing is impossible for them."  

Big Daddy-O read, Incredible You! to Pip the other night.  When I walked into the bedroom for my reading shift, they were just finishing the book.  "What did you think?"  I asked my husband as I crawled onto Pip's bed.
"I liked it.  It's really good.  Did you know this guy has eight kids?"
"No, really?"
"Check out the back cover," instructed Big Daddy-O.  Pip was lying motionless between us as I read the back jacket aloud.  Indeed Dr. Dyer has eight children.
"Can you imagine having eight kids?" I asked.  At this point, Pip finally piped up.  She had a look of concern on her face.  In a very timid voice she asked,
"He ate his kids?"  She was absolutely mortified.  Not quite the feeling that Dr. Dyer intended, but great entertainment value for us.