Category Archives: annie and ben

the little things

“You have two kids!”

She smiled as I sat down in a chair and I smoothed my dress over my knees. I had stepped off the stage moments ago after telling my story to a group of women.

I signed the book she held in her outstretched hand. She moved closer, rested her hand on the table beside me as we talked. We didn’t discuss my disability. We didn’t dissect the car crash or the many reasons I was led to the stage this night. We talked about what we had in common. How we have two kids, a girl and a boy, two years apart. We swapped stories. “I used to drive my babies around for ages just so I could get some sanity.” “I never thought I’d repeat myself so much.” “I’ve turned up the music loud in the car…I mean loud…so I could drown out the whining. Oh the whining!” And we agreed – thank God for drive-thru Starbucks. We laughed over the innocence and craziness of our children, the perils of parenting. Mom stuff.

As our easy conversation came to an end, I stole a glance at my phone. Somewhere between speaking about loss and choosing hope, a text had come in. It was from my daughter Annie: Hi mummy just wanted to say an early goodnight and that I Love you. Followed by smiley faces and hearts. I sighed, my heart full. I typed: Awww…I love you too! I was just giving a speech. Miss you babycakes. Give Ben a hug for me. Smile for your ballet teacher tomorrow.

I held the phone in my hand and smiled at a woman walking toward me and I saw the word before it landed, before I felt its truth. Blessed. I am blessed.

Swept up
cache_180_155_2_100_80_necklace_rayoflight-1I was just introduced to this incredible organization Global Mothers at a friend’s Christmas party. “Women in North America may have differing economic environments than their counterparts in the Global South, but they too share the universal role of motherhood. From seeing the first smile to hearing the first words, being a mom is a new and powerful experience that connects women with each other. Global Mothers seeks to strengthen this connection through a product line that is designed specifically for new moms and their young children. When a mother in North America purchases a product to care for her child, she is in turn caring for another child in the Global South by providing valuable income for that child’s mother.” You guys! Isn’t that awesome?! I just bought beautiful bracelets for teacher’s gifts and I’m wondering how I can get a certain gorgeous necklace into my stocking. AND you can shop online! I am in love with their stuff and their message: Every product has a story. Buy good.

 

 

 

lost and found

I wrote this and posted it in April 2012 and it has become one of my favorite posts because it’s about my daughter, our family, the way we are. Annie is 10 now and Benjamin just turned 8 – my summer babies. We fight and bicker and I get annoyed about “ALL the Minecraft”, but we have our sweet, bottle-it-up moments too and this is one of those moments. 

We’re in the car, windows rolled down, words measured and aired. My family holds some of our best conversations strapped into our seats driving toward various destinations.

My eight-year-old daughter Annie, who has expressed a steady stream of thoughts and opinions, interrupts herself, “Are we always learning?”

I nod, “Yes, we are. We’re taking in the world around us. That’s one of the best things about life. We always get to learn.”

“Why do people do bad things if they know it isn’t good for them?”

I wonder why all the philosophizing, but I’m going with it. “I don’t know. We have choices, but sometimes we don’t make the right choices. Or we want to try something out, so we do, and then find out it’s a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes.” I catch her eyes in the rear-view mirror, eyes like mine. “I do know it’s important to think for yourself.”

She wonders, “Is it important to like yourself?”

“Yes it is. To know and respect and like you is very important.”

In my girlhood I often felt hesitant and cautious, searching for something just out of reach. I had trouble identifying my emotions at the age of eight, but I knew I was lost. I silenced my confusion, who could understand me? Instead I played to my strengths. I was the loyal sidekick, a friend to the popular girl. What I couldn’t do for me, I did for the girl in charge. I made her feel good about herself.

From lost and uncomfortable to insecure and loathing, I could not like myself. I wanted to, but didn’t know how. Years later I peeled myself from the wall, abandoned friendships that harmed, and stopped hiding in the shadows. It was okay to want more. It was okay to like me. It wasn’t arrogance. It was necessary.

When I get to observe Annie in her ballet class, I can see from fingertips to toes she is armed with confidence. Concentrating on a drawing, giggling with her best friend, bounding across the yard, she is fearless.

I once lost Annie at the school playground.

I can’t see her anywhere. “Annie! Annie!” I’m frantic. My fingers graze a friend’s shoulder as I dart by, “Have you seen her?” My eyes are everywhere at once. And I stop. Of course. I walk over to the tallest tree, the best tree to climb.

“Hi, Mommy! I’m up here!” she chirps. High, high in the tree is my girl. I gulp air, consoled by the realization that I know her, I found her.

In the car I listen to her chatter, her curiosity and I breathe; please, please keep this. This knowledge of who you are. Always, always be yourself. The wind finds me through the open window and carries my wish for both of us, discerning I need this grace as much as she does.

Swept up
a3841688826_2in the song San Francisco by the Mowgli’s. It’s my summer jam. You have to listen to it LOUD and with the windows rolled down.

 

a week in the life of a debut author

My phone is ringing, loud and persistent. I’m asleep and bleary-eyed as I roll over to look at who is calling me this early?! I squint. Does that say radio? I reach for my glasses and let the phone go to voice mail. I pick up my cell phone and see missed calls and texts. I put on my prosthetic legs and shuffle downstairs to the kitchen. The phone rings again. My friend, Jenn. “CKNW wants to interview you! You have to call them!”

I call the producer and she answers. “We want to talk to you in 10 minutes about the article you wrote for The Province.” I look down. I am in my jammies and I haven’t had coffee yet. For those of you who live life with me you know that I am not a whole person until I’ve had coffee. I can hardly string a sentence together. In fact, I can be a little mean before that sweet caffeine is in my bloodstream. I wait downstairs in the dungeon that is the office for them to call me back. I have ‘morning voice’, but I answer questions. The host is wonderful and I manage not to sound like a robot.

On Saturday I am at a TV News studio and seconds before the show is about to air live I’m concentrating on the very hot lights above me wondering why everyone isn’t sweating profusely all the time. I’m fascinated by the green screen and the weather person. Sunny skies! My thoughts turn to me and I give myself a pep talk. Do not screw this up. Be coherent. Don’t talk too fast. It’s not an inspiring pep talk but it works. The segment went great. I didn’t wave my hands around too much and the host was lovely. Phew!

I have received the nicest, kindest texts, emails, tweets and FB posts about Fancy Feet. People have spotted the book in a bookstore. Yay! So, so exciting! I ask my kids if they would like to do a little book tour with me. “Do you guys want to go into a couple of stores and see the book?”

“No, that sounds boring. Let’s go swimming!”

I turn to Scott. “I wanted to make them hold up the book so I could take a picture. It would be kinda cute, right? My kids with my book?” Annie shakes her head.

My kids – keeping me humble.

Seeing my book in a bookstore for the first time is wild, almost scary. I am tempted to shout, “That’s my book!!” Instead I sidle up to it and stare until the sweet girl at the register asks if she can help me. I point and smile. “That’s my book.” She congratulates me. “We just sold one.” She moves my book to the middle of the counter where more people can see it. I’m thrilled and I want to throw up a little and I hope, hope, hope people will like it.

Not everything is about the book. One afternoon Ben waved a slide-whistle in front of my face. “I’m going to play this for people. Outside. On the street. For money. How much do you think I’ll get?” I’m afraid he will live in our basement forever. On the flip side I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my 10 year old daughter home. I was headed to UBC to do an interview and Annie was desperate to join me. “Are there rooms you can live in when you go to University? What are those rooms called? You can live alone, right? What do those rooms look like? Can we see one?”

Can we see one? Live alone? “No, I don’t think we can see a room today.”

My kids – keeping me tethered to the earth and scaring me every day.

Swept up
in our Sundance trampoline
I’m not jumping on it – are you kidding?! But my kids (and the neighborhood kids) love this incredible gift from their grandparents. Ben snapped this picture of Annie jumping. No net! We live dangerously around here. BRaT2EtCAAE2Hy3.jpg large

my first reading

I pick up my book with trembling hands. “Thank you for being here. I’ve been speaking for the burn fund for a long time. Whenever I’m with you guys and our fire fighters it feels like coming home.”

Deep breath.

“I’m going to read you a little of chapter 12 called ‘Home for Christmas’.”

Deep breath. My hands are still shaking. Keep still. But my hands won’t hear me.

I begin to read aloud from page 63. “Tinsel, wreaths and garlands…” On a hot July evening I read about going home for Christmas after being in the burn unit for 6 months. In front of me is a small audience of fire fighters and burn fund supporters. We’re on a large boat, big enough to hold many people, serve dinner, and pick up a gaggle of campers waiting on an island for us as we make our way across the ocean.

It’s quiet as I read. There is a smattering of applause when Peter is mentioned. Peter is the fire fighter who drove me home when snow had fallen hard in the Lower Mainland, making the roads slick and dangerous. My voice is steady but my hands continue to shake. This is the first time I have read my book aloud to a group of people. For years I’ve spoken to audiences large and small, telling my story, and I have never been this nervous, this raw.

I finish reading on page 66. I look up. “Thank you. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for listening.”

People are smiling and clapping. I look at my family, at Scott and my kids. Annie and Ben have never heard me give a speech. They’re too young to read my book, but they came with me today. I wanted them to be here, to be a part of what I do and meet kids who have suffered, who are spending a week at camp to have fun and be free. Ben jumps up from his chair. “Good speech, Mommy!” He wraps his arms around me tight. I squeeze him back, hard. “Thanks buddy.” I return to my seat beside Annie. Tears shine in her eyes. “Mommy, some of that was so sad. It makes me sad.” I pull her to me, rest my chin on the top of her head and breathe her in, shampoo and sunshine. “It’s okay. I know. But there is a happy ending.”

Swept up
in the incredible people of the BC Professional Fire Fighters burn fund

1082731_10152075690059202_159081274_n1085225_10152075690064202_1643917081_nThis photo of these lovely women reading my book was snapped and sent to me. The second photo was taken on the Burn Fund Cruise where I did my very first reading and signing.

leaving room

This is a field trip I am not going to miss. I checked the box and signed my name with a flourish on that pink piece of paper to ensure I would go to the Orpheum to see the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with my seven year old son Benjamin’s class. We would participate in the magnificence that is Beethoven.

After we settled in our seats and the lights dimmed and the chattering of hundreds of young children quieted, the music began. Violins, oboes, flutes; notes weaving grace. Ben sat in the seat in front of me and after a few minutes of listening he began to squirm, wiggle and sigh. He turned to look at me, pleading with wide eyes. Get me outta here. I leaned over, put my hands on his small shoulders and whispered in his ear, “Ben, you don’t know this yet. But, it is a big deal that you are here in this beautiful theater listening to this beautiful music. Look around you. Take this in. You want to remember this day.” He nodded, one quick bob, and pressed his back against the chair.

At the end of the Symphony’s performance the conductor invited us to sing along. A theater full of children and teachers and parents sang a piece of Ode to Joy. Oh, the sound. The wonder of those small voices. Together.

In the bus on the way home I asked Ben, “So, did you have a good time?”

“Yup!” He bounced, the back of his head crashing into the seat behind him. Over and over again, bounce, crash. He stopped. “I cried a little.”

“You cried?”

“Happy tears. Because of the music.”

My heart swelled, full of joy, full of a little boy who got it.

When so much of life is measured and scored and assessed, this was a sweet, holy moment. A reminder to leave room. For more than tests and grades and math. Jobs and bills and obligations. We are moving, rushing, changing all of the time. And it’s okay…because this is life. Time doesn’t stop. In the heart of busy I want to remember to enjoy, marvel, revel. To listen. I want to be reached when something sacred happens, to have space inside me marked by music and beauty. A place to catch my breath and a place for the breathtaking.

swept up
in this beautiful and poignant post called a Tale of Two Sirens by Julie Gardner. Recently her home was ravaged by fire and she writes about it here with grace.


me as mom

When I had my babies and I was thrust into this strange world of breastfeeding and losing sleep and diapering, I was hyper-aware I was a parent. Why is she crying? Should a belly button look like that? How do I get her to be less jaundiced? There were other signs along the way that pointed to parenthood like my 2 year old daughter throwing such an epic tantrum in a bookstore that my husband had to carry her out. While all eyes were on this screaming, writhing child, a small alligator in his arms, I was suddenly very busy paying for my books, not paying attention to that poor man with the crazy child. So, I knew I was a mom. It just took me a while to feel like a mom. And enjoy being a mom.

This past summer I entered another level of parenthood, where I was caught in the middle of Supermom and One Of The Most Disgusting People On The Planet. My kids and I were in a dressing room where I was trying on a bunch of clothes. There was a sale and a long line up of people outside the changing area. I had 2 tops to go. Ben is squirming on the bench. “Mommy, I have to pee.”

I sigh, “Of course you do.” Ben had just downed his lemonade from Starbucks. Nobody can drink sugar like he can. “Can you wait? Or do you have to go, like, now?”

“I can’t wait. I have to peeee.” He’s hopping. This is serious. There isn’t a public bathroom in the store and the nearest bathroom is a few stores down. I can’t go back to that line-up, and these tops are so cute and cheap! What do I do?

Now he’s hopping with his legs crossed. He’s not going to make it. Out of the corner of my eye I spy the empty Starbucks cup. I pop off the lid. “Ben, look at me.”

Annie breathes, “Nooo.”

“Oh yes. Okay, Ben, you’re going to pee in this cup. Annie, turn around.”

I tell Ben to be careful and be quiet. No one needs to know we have just turned this dressing room into a bathroom stall. Ben doesn’t bat an eye, like peeing in a cup in a dressing room happens all the time. He was about to burst. It was the cup or the floor. He didn’t care. Annie is in the corner muttering, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

I stifle a giggle and keep calm. “Sometimes you just have to make do. We made do.” Am I really trying to make this a teachable moment? About what, exactly? “Don’t tell anyone.”

I cautiously put the lid back on the cup, and heads held high, we make our way outside to a garbage can. But, before we step outside I place those cute tops on the counter (priorities!) and tell the cashier I will be right back to pay for them. That was a huge mom moment for me, mortified and proud of myself all at once. A mom thinking fast. A mom holding a cup of pee.

I used to feel as though I was wearing motherhood or maybe it was that it was wearing me, and it didn’t quite fit. Someone else could do this better. Someone was doing this better. With each year motherhood went deeper, settling into my bones. This year I’ve given the changing body talk, talked about winning and losing with grace, and shared moments with my kids that I can’t measure, can’t sum up in a facebook status. I get frustrated and shrill and annoyed, but right alongside that are pride and surprise and joy. I’ve decided Motherhood is all mixed up, not easily defined, and I’m just happy to be here right in the middle of it all.

swept up

in Reese Eggs
I love this time of year where chocolate bars are turned into eggs and everything is so much cuter to eat.

cabin fever

This is just a short post to say I’m alive. I finished my edits and was rewarded with a miserable cold which I passed on to my kids. Now we’re miserable together.

I will be back to post regularly again (seriously. I might actually be here weekly rather than whenever) and to read your writing. I’ve missed you guys! Until then I’ll leave you with what winter looks like in our house.

promise

This post was meant to go up a week and a half ago and then the flu found us. I’m sorry I haven’t been around, my friends. I’ve missed reading your words. Now that I’ve returned to the land of the living, I’ll visit your places. Here is my belated post…

“I have to back off.” I reached this conclusion after having a long conversation with Scott about our daughter. Annie and I have been busy reacting.

As parents we comfort each other with, “Do what you think is best. You know what’s best for your kids.” Sometimes I don’t know what’s best.

I listen to other mothers and I mentally scribble, sway, scream as I race to keep up. When did parenting get complicated? Was it always this hard? I’m pretty sure I’m giving this too much thought. Maybe I’m pushing too hard. Clearly, I need a vacation and a martini. I long to soften life’s bumps and blows for my kids and, at the same time, I want to teach them to cope. My instinct is to hang on when I should take down the fences. Let them be. After 9 years of knowing my daughter I’m still unsure, I still second-guess. Who is she?

A week ago, perspective found me as I told my story. I heard my breath, the beat of my heart. For one hour my worries lay at the back of the room behind a small group of kind people as I answered questions. I saw my mangled car, the hospital. I saw me. I saw Scott. My family. My friends. Someone asked, “When you were in the hospital, what did you want from people? What did you need? What worked for you and what didn’t?”

I explained what drove me crazy. Self-help books with a heavy religious hand. People with plans to fix. I was broken and I had to be broken for a while. And what helped. People who were there with love and no agenda.

Later that night, on my way home, belief was on my mind. When I was jerked from a coma and confronted with a question, “Heidi, do you want to live?” and I answered, “Yes,” I knew I could get through. When my conviction wavered, the belief of my family and friends carried me. I rested in their hope.  Trust heals and strengthens. Belief is often what holds Scott and me together. We’ll get lost and then find our way, each other’s anchors.

I parked the car and hurried inside to tell Scott about my great evening. Annie stood just inside the door waiting, “I wanted to say goodnight.” I squeezed her hard; buried my face in her hair.

“Mommy, that’s too tight.”

I sighed, “I know. It’s because I love you so much.” I released her with a kiss, “Have a good sleep.”

I watched her shuffle to the stairs, tripping over pajama pants that puddle at her feet. And I ached. I didn’t know I could hurt this much, feel this guilty, get this angry and love this much.

I don’t always know what’s best and I don’t always know what I’m doing, but I’m her promise. To love and believe.

summer as winter

I took a break. I didn’t mean to. The time just snuck up on me. After two years of spending many emotions tap-tapping them into words; I was empty, quiet, flat. School ended, summer really began in August, and after completing a guide for the book I powered down and switched off. Scott jumped out of planes, and the kids and I did summer.

While most people live for the season where sand, sun and swimming rule, I endure. It’s self-preservation season. Heat is hard on my skin, my legs. I become an observer, watching and waiting. I’m mom. Armed with towels and snacks. I savor summer in snapshots. A lime margarita in the afternoon. An evening bbq with friends. Ice cream cones. A day at Playland where my kids rode the rollercoaster for the first time and burst into thrill-seekers.

School is back on. The leaves, the air carry signs of fall and we will step into the rhythm of routine again. After dropping my kids off I returned home to this sorely neglected place that is my blog. I swear I saw dust fly as I logged in. I’ve missed everyone and I’m sorry I wasn’t around more. But, it hit me about a week ago that my summers come with a ring of melancholy. I wish it wasn’t there. I don’t want it to be there, but heartache reveals itself each year. I try my damndest to stay in the middle, far away from the ring, and not wallow. So. I’ve made it the season of kids and I enjoy them enjoying the summer.

Real posts coming soon. I swear.

swept up

Here are Annie and Benjamin. Back to school. (I was so ready for this)

being brave

Annie has her hand up, as high as it can go. Pick me. Pick me. It’s her turn to climb the rope, her turn to use the ring, her turn to be thrown into the air. She is always eager, ready, her smile wide.

It’s the end of the acrobatics lesson, time to go. Annie bounds over, tired and beaming. A mom, waiting for her daughter, turns to Annie and says, “You are fearless.”

After I ask Annie if she had fun and we climb into the car the word brave is on my mind. It’s been on my mind for a while, begging for attention. What does being brave mean? I see adventure in the confidence of my daughter; hear strength in a friend’s voice as she confesses what lies in her heart, feel courage as I watch people try something new.

Last year believe followed me everywhere. Daring me as I typed, in my ear as I fell asleep. Riddled with doubt about the direction of my life I rose to the challenge anyway, did my best to believe, and now, now it’s time to be brave. To be afraid and do it anyway. To enter the land of the wide unknown, wind against my face, unable to see the end.

I’ve never been excited to ‘wait and see’. I don’t relish the unexpected unless, of course, it’s a happy surprise. We get sidelined by insecurities, flattened by stress until we can’t see who we are or who we’re going to be. Because we’re still becoming. We don’t get to live our lives fearless, but I wonder if I can face my fears chin-up. To have faith – faith that things will work out, and if they don’t, faith that I’ll get through it. I’m not soaring through the air or landing a back handspring, but I can learn from my daughter. Choose to be brave. Pick me. Be ready. As I try something new.

Swept Up

I posted this photo on FB a while ago, but I just had to post it here. Annie’s ballet recital was the Wizard of Oz and she was a Munchkin. Annie has been my little symbol of bravery this year. Also, I’m ridiculously proud of her.