Category Archives: family

best parts, worst parts

Our family does this thing at dinner. Best parts, worst parts. What are the best and worst parts of your day? Ben’s best parts often revolve around food and he rarely has worst parts. He shrugs his shoulders. “It’s been a pretty good day.” He speaks last because he is so busy eating he can’t form words around all of the food. Annie is eager to talk because she has many best and worst parts to her day, all of which must be shared, so she usually starts us off.

The rule is that there are no rules. Scott and I don’t get to judge even if it turns out the worst part of the day is when Ben got kicked by his sister or mummy lost her mind in the car. If their best part was that they got a smencil (a smelly pencil) and they saw a cool bug, awesome. Everyone is entitled to their feelings, their best parts. Sometimes the worst part is so embarrassing that we preface the story by demanding that “you can’t tell anyone outside the family” with a long, threatening look for emphasis. We have found this dinner thing a great way to start a conversation, rummage through their hearts and brains a bit (every once in a while their answers go deeper than a smelly pencil), and the kids know they can talk without fear of us freaking out.

So. Here are a few of my best, worst parts over the last long while.

It has been an intense few months for me. I was busy promoting Fancy Feet and then I became a part of the ICBC Road Safety Speaker program. From March to June, I spoke to 20 high schools, telling my story and talking about choices. The best parts of being in a high school are questions from students that made me think, clusters of girls saying thank you and meaning it, a 17 year old boy hugging me with tears in his eyes. The worst part is how old I felt. When I returned to my former high school, they said, “Oh you can find your grad picture in the heritage wing!” The heritage wing. Wow. There I was, one of only a handful of girls with straight flat hair among all the big-haired girls of 1992. I felt a little smug until I remembered my hideous grade 8 and 9 photos.

While I was having the busiest year ever, so were my kids. Between school, guitar, soccer and dance I discovered I could not divide myself into a thousand pieces. The best part? I was focused on 2 things – being mom and going to work. The worst part? There wasn’t enough time to do everything else and the guilt…the anxiety of not being able to keep up with it ALL was overwhelming. I can’t even. I mean, write much? And my legs. My damn legs. My legs will always pay for busy, for my unrest and this was an especially tough year for my fancy feet. My legs deserve a post dedicated to them, perhaps titled: so this sucks.

At the same time, and this is the best, best part, it has been one of the most meaningful, incredible years of my life.

 

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.

 

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.

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)

the worst job ever

For seven summers, from the age of seven, I picked raspberries with my mom and two brothers. My mom cleaned houses and offices from September to June, and in the summer, family in tow, picked raspberries. Rows and rows of bushes that needed to be plucked clean for farmers. I hated picking raspberries.

My mom woke us each morning just as the sky began its transformation from night to sunrise, awash in orange and pink. Yawning and shivering in the misty dawn, we made our way to the field of farmers I only knew by last name; buckets tied around our waists, coolers of food and blankets in hand. We found our rows by the numbers on the posts and claimed our spots. My mom at the beginning of the row, me at the end, my brothers in the middle. My mom was quick, her hands lined by hard work, she was a machine. She led and loved us with her efficiency, her preparedness. If it rained she brought garbage bags and cut out holes for heads and hands. We slipped them on over our clothes and continued picking. She laid out a blanket for us in the shade where we took refuge when it was too hot, too much. She doled out food and warnings. “Just for a little while and then back to work.” “Okay, mom.” If we were quiet we could stretch out our reprieve. My brothers and I drank apple juice, dug out worms, ate homemade cookies and smashed raspberries between crackers.

The sun hot on my neck, I lifted branches and leaves to pick-pick berries. Fingers stained red, juice running down my arms, I created a game to amuse me. This cluster of berries to the right is a family. The isolated berry nestled in the bush is lonely and it’s pleased to join the others. Low, low on the bush they didn’t see me coming… Gotcha! A few berries begged, “Please, eat me!” “No!” I shout. “You’re too mushy!” Some are sad to be taken, not wanting to leave home. They’ve never been anywhere else! They scream and cry as I send them to the bucket. Once my bucket was full, straining the thick twine at my waist, I emptied the berries into a plastic flat which would be lifted and stacked with many flats, then loaded onto a truck. Roaring to life, the truck rumbled as it drove the unaware and ill-informed raspberries to be sorted and squished, their destinies fulfilled as they became juice and jam.

When I shut my eyes at the end of each day to sleep, dark green leaves holding red berries were all I could see, like they were stitched to the backs of my eyelids. My hands smelled sickly sweet even in my dreams. While others kids played at home, in yards and playgrounds, we were in the fields working. There were moments of freedom; of picnic lunches, and jumping on trampolines slippery with water and soap and no safety nets. We earned money. I learned diligence and discipline. I learned how to work all those summers with my mom and when the season was over we put our money into bank accounts. She said, “You’ll do this with your kids one day.” In my head I was emphatic I will not.

As my kids and I drove up to a farm today, the tires crunching on the gravel road, acres of berries in front of us and people pick-picking, my kids asked, “Can we pick?” I laughed, “No way! You and your dad can do that.”

I parked the car, shuddered at the rows and rows of raspberries and strawberries, walked into the cool store and bought my berries in neat, tidy baskets.

After being on a brief blog hiatus, I’m hanging out with yeahwrite this week, lounging and eating my picked-by-someone-else berries.

lost and found

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 say, “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 asks, “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 remember. 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.

I’m linking up with the fabulousness that is Yeah Write this week. Come check out great writing!

Swept up
in Old Mare

These guys are friends and they know music. Their album You Deserve More came out a little while ago and it’s on high rotation in our car. We love it, not just because they’re good friends, but they’re good friends who make good music.

best and worst parts

I met Kelly not too long ago when I became a member of Studio 30 Plus, a great site for writers. I submitted a piece for Weekend Spotlight and I did it all wrong, showing off my technological ineptness. And Kelly was there to guide me with utmost patience and care. She helps run Studio 30 AND she holds court at her own blog, Naked Girl in a Dress. I am honored to be there today.

Kelly is celebrating the two year anniversary of her blog. She is a writer and photographer. I lifted this quote from her blog because I love it so much.“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”  ~Helen Keller

Kelly moved beyond the closed door, opened the right door and walked through. I admire her tenacity and talent.

At her blog I write about my family, our dinner-table tradition of best and worst parts, and my struggle to embrace parenthood. You can read the post in its entirety here. Come join me over at Kelly’s!

blog bash (I Love You)

I am joining Alison and Ado’s Blog Bash today! They are fabulous women and writers I recently met through Yeah Write. As fellow party-ers we are to include and link one of our favorite posts. In true party fashion there are great prizes. If you want to join in the fun click on the pretty badge below.

I wrote this and posted it last summer in July 2011. It’s included in a chapter of my manuscript. This is one of my favorite posts because it’s about my family, my heritage and how their lives have shaped mine.

I Love You

I come from a long line of doers. Good Mennonite stock that emigrated from Paraguay, South America. This means there is nothing you can’t fix by doing. In church circles it’s called the gift of hospitality. It was like a calling for us as Mennonites. You don’t sit around and wait for things to fall into your lap. We may be pacifists in war, but in life you cook, clean, bake! I had a lot of family who wanted to help.

When I was at my worst, no one knowing if I was going to cross over to the other side, family came out in droves. My two younger brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins parked themselves on chairs in the waiting rooms and took turns sitting with me while I was oblivious, trapped in a coma.

One of my cousins was willing to donate skin. Some were silently supportive, stoic in their pacing around the room. Others sat with me and held my hand. Some prayed and recruited their church congregations in prayer. Others had questions for the doctors. What could they do? How could they help? This is the Mennonite way. There may be a situation which is beyond our control, but one can always find a way to help. We demonstrate our love through action. The gift of hospitality is something we are not in short supply of.

Another way we help is through food. There is always more than enough food. You don’t go without, not if my mom or any of her sisters have anything to say about it. I have never left one of our family gatherings without somebody pressing food into my hands saying, for lunch tomorrow. You look down and it’s already been covered in plastic wrap or tucked into a Tupperware container. You cannot refuse. It’s not a choice. You say thank you and go, grateful for how your body will be nourished tomorrow.

I grew up in a house where you pray, but with efficiency. Short and to the point, amen. God doesn’t need for you to go on and on. He’s a busy God and not interested in flowery prose. He’s God. He knows your needs. My prayers growing up were all said in German. They were memorized, traditional prayers – one for mealtime and one for bedtime.

As a child I believed God preferred German. It was the language I learned first. If I said a prayer in English it would not be received as well as if I had spoken it in German. Our prayer at mealtimes went like this, Segne Vater diese Speise uns zur Kraft und Dir zum Preise. Amen. (Father, bless this food for our strength and to you as praise) It is said swiftly but with reverence. When we were children, to amuse ourselves, we recited it as fast as we could, picking up speed as we went along. It was a race. Who could finish first?

“SegneVaterdiesespeiseunzurkraftunddizumpreiseamen!”

My dad did not appreciate this. With a stern look and a “Nah” with the ‘a’ drawn out, so it came out a Naaah, the word coming up at the end, we shut up and looked down at our plates, very busy with our forks. This meant he also didn’t appreciate when we said it slowly enunciating each word as if we were delivering a powerful sermon, sometimes with emphatic arm gestures. This was considered disrespectful too. I’m pretty sure I saw my dad hiding a smile more than once during our attempts to spice up our prayer lives.

My dad wasn’t a man big on I-love-you’s. We were loved, so it didn’t need to be said. That changed after June 12, 1998, the day of the car crash.

When I was newly born my dad cradled me in his arms and carried me around in the middle of the night to lull me to sleep. From infancy on I liked to be near him. There’s evidence of this in photos of us sitting side by side, my dad sipping his Yerba Mate (a South American herbal tea) and me leaning into him. My brothers and I spent a lot of time on my dad’s back as he crawled around on all fours as a bucking bronco, a galloping horse! He wrestled with us, played street hockey with us, but he never said I love you. When I was sixteen I worked up the nerve to say, “I love you” and it was met with uncomfortable silence. There was no I love you too.

My dad’s very first I love you came when I was in a hospital bed hovering between life and death. He said, “When you were brand new to the world I dedicated you to God. I told Him, she is yours first and mine second.” He spoke in his well-worn German broken with English, the voice of my childhood. He cleared his throat, “I prayed, wondering if God was going to make good on the dedication. But, God gave you back to us.” He paused, looked at the floor, and then his eyes met mine. “I love you, Heidi.”

Blog Bash