Monday, December 14, 2015

From the Sidelines

I watch them out there every week.  Skates laced tight, helmets on snug.  Concentration etched deeply on their brows as they manipulate their feet and bodies while maintaining their balance.  Arms and legs working together to achieve careful unity.  Week by week subtle improvements might be visible in one boy while another seems to still be struggling to balance properly when lifting a foot or turning precisely.  Some weeks one child will almost dazzle when he suddenly masters skating backwards.

Tonight is different.  The regular stations situated at each corner of the ice rink are left empty.  Rather than barriers, drills and practice, the ice is clear for a free skate.  It's beautiful watching them.  Amidst the skaters, small and big, skills vary over a wide degree.  Among our four boys alone, abilities and enjoyment are wide ranging.  Two short months of weekly lessons have brought dramatic changes for each of them.

Slowly their steadiness increases as their confidence grows.  From the sidelines I cannot differentiate which inspires the other - does confidence bring steadiness?   Or do they feel more confident when they achieve a greater level of steadiness?  Either way, the blossoming of success is wonderful to watch.

It was a good decision to enroll them in skating lessons this year.  When they began their abilities were mainly remaining upright and making forward momentum.  James and Morgan have quickly progressed gaining speed, fluidity and skills.  While Evan is progressing at a much slower pace, he's acquiring his own set of skills and is able to do much of what he is shown even if it is in his own awkward way.

But tonight was Nicholas's night to shine!  His determined, solid little body usually makes him appear as a tin soldier on ice skates - legs straight, arms pumping rigidly at his sides.  The moment his skates hit the ice tonight, there was a difference - he glided.  It was the first time I'd watched him move so easily across the cold surface.

At times like this I love sitting on the sidelines.  They learn, grow and accomplish while I have the great privilege of simply watching them.  So much of parenting is teaching and shaping little ones and all the joys and trials that come with it.  But sitting on the sidelines, ahhh, that provides lovely, (almost) uninterrupted moments of watching them experience their life.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween - Day 31

Excitement builds as the day progresses.  Chores are done without complaint.  A friend drops by with early treats.  Costumes are donned for a first run through.  Pieces are found; incomplete costume parts are made.  Face paint is picked to make the costumes complete.  Trick or Treating time is soon to begin.

An early supper of fruit, cheese and crackers is spread on the table to nibble on while we prepare to face the night.  Tummy's don't need to be too full tonight as plenty of treats will be eaten later.  There are certain times through the year I don't limit the amount of treats and goodies they eat.  Halloween is one of them.

After clothes are layered beneath the costumes for warmth, accessories are added and makeup applied.  Pictures are taken and we head out the door.  A Mystery Man, a pumpkin, Robin Hood, a dinosaur, and a black and white cat all load in the van.

Driving to town we trudge up the streets.  Small boys walk diligently on through drizzle and rain, knocking on doors Daddy says are okay.  As wee legs tire and fingers grow colder the little ones climb in the van that is warm.  But the twins keep Daddy walking, and standing in the wet, until home and dry beckon warmth.

Dylan fell asleep well before the last doorbell was rung.  Evan and Nicholas sat sorting candy in their seats in the van, enjoying some while we waited.  The three went straight to bed, exhausted by Halloween.  But James and Morgan's fun was still running high.  A good snoop through their loot, a few treats to eat, and off to bed they went.  

Thank you for joining me on this journey through Write 31 Days.  I'm so glad I accepted this challenge.  It's really helped develop my love of writing and making it part of my every day.  Starting tomorrow, November 1, I will be starting my next writing journey of NaNoWriMo so I can continue writing daily.  I'm so excited! 

Friday, October 30, 2015

On Being a Writer - Day 30

Sometimes staring at a blank page disheartens me.  The words I thought I had in me before I sat down have vanished.  I have nothing to offer.  The blank space, sitting empty, taunting me to fill it up is as intimidating as standing before a crowd of people and feeling I am paralyzed to open my mouth.  My fingers sit poised over the keyboard but I cannot strike the keys.  I cannot string together the individual letters that will form words into sentences to convey my ideas.  There is nothing.

It's a difficult conundrum.  To write is the very act of...writing.  It should be simple really - make words flow together into sentences to express an idea to share with others.

But writing, that is something entirely different.  When writing is something born of yourself, created in your imagination alone, and something others may {potentially} read, it takes on a whole new significance.  It becomes not just words and sentences expressing an idea, it becomes a piece of your soul exposed to the world.  Even if no one else ever reads the words put into print, once it is brought to light, the writer becomes unshielded.

Displaying my own vulnerability by writing, then sharing it through this blog leaves me feeling naked.  Thoughts formed in my mind and shaped by my words are available for others to examine and judge.  Every time I hover over the post button, I pause feeling a wild moment of panic.  As great as I desire to share my writing, my desire to keep what I compose private is stronger.

Write 31 Days has moved me forward in my journey as a writer.  Joining a writers group has motivated me to quit hiding.  I enjoy weaving words and expressing myself in ways I would never achieve verbally.  I have journeyed through this challenge, apprehensive at first and gaining boldness along the way.  I'm finally embracing writing as one of my passions and owning it.  I can call myself a writer and not feel I need to justify why quite as strongly as I did at the beginning of this month.  I feel I have proven to myself that I do have something worth sharing.

I have also decided to take the plunge into NaNoWriMo!  I am joining all the other aspiring authors attempting to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  Writing every day has become a habit I look forward to; I don't want to lose the momentum and rhythm I have come to enjoy.  NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity for me to continue practicing my newly adopted craft.

I wonder what November will bring.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Truth - Day 29

Capturing elusive moments throughout these days of writing for Write 31 Days allows to me be selective as I tell my tales.  (See my landing page here to learn more about this challenge.)  Some of what I've recorded have been experiences with others.  Other times my impressions or memories have been the focus.  Always they are the moments of greatest significance that I reflect on at the end of the day.

Daily expectations to seek out moments finds me slowing down, taking time to reflect, considering why or what a moment means.  It's been good.  Appreciating simple actions and kind words creates healthy perspective.  Finding significance and beauty in all types of experiences forces me to remember why all this daily hard and messy life is being lived.  They are all split seconds that lay the foundation of who we are as a family, and as individuals.  Not big flashy moments but the hugs, chats, smiles and laughter shared together that make all the hard, worth it.

For our home, there is far more mess than there is beauty.  Always the housework needs to be done as there are crumbs on the floor and dust on the shelves.  Scattered wherever you look are toys, books, trucks and Lego.  Always Lego!  Dishes need washing.  Baskets of clothes, both clean and dirty, move throughout the house as good intentions to wash or fold are left waiting.  Toilets need brushing.  Summer clothes need storing and winter clothes need finding.  Organization is lacking!

For our family, there is often more frustration than there is harmony.  Boys are disagreeing.  Mom's instructions are ignored.  The most insignificant of things has caused a fight to break out.  Boys run, still yelling, even after being told to stop being so loud.  Always loud!  Parent's raise voices to be heard over the din as they try sharing together some of their day.  Reminders are given.  Items are misplaced and time is spent looking.  Then looking some more.  Tantrums happen.  Frustration is felt by all.

Still in the midst of all that going on, the most important things are never neglected.  The children are clean and tummies are full.  The house is warm.  There are clean clothes aplenty even if socks from the sock box are matched as we head out the door.  We read together (most days).  Hugs are given.  Sorry's are said.  Laughter is shared over silly jokes or misspoken words.  I love you's are shown, not just spoken.  Thoughtfulness is extended.

For the last twenty-nine days I have stolen time from these hectic days to record the best parts of this chaos that is made beautiful simply because we are living it together.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Kindness - Day 28

Kindness.  The concept is simple - to act in a thoughtful way towards another.  It's a word that requires energy involving forethought and genuineness.  The gesture invokes an emotional response in the person receiving the kindness; and often, in others who witness the kindness

I have tried to teach my children to be kind to one another and those around them.  However, they are boys.  They become distracted so easily and are completely unaware of opportunities to show kindness to those around them.  They can be loud, in the way, swinging things or suddenly jump when it's least expected.  They keep me on my toes and my reflexes quick.

I try to extend kindness to others.  Sometimes I find myself very much mired down in the care and the needs of my little ones and I miss my own opportunities to act in kindness.  It feels like I am letting others, and myself, down when this happens.  Others may not know that I saw a need and tried to meet it only to not succeed, but I do.

Once when we were about to go in the arena, I missed holding the door for someone because I was carrying two bags containing skates and helmets.  I couldn't get there fast enough to help.  Instead, someone held the door for me as I ushered my crew into the building.   It wasn't the first time a situation like this has happened; I'm sure it won't be the last time.  I felt humbled.  

I am a physically capable, independent person.  I feel I should be able to do for myself and my children.  And I want to do for others as well.  But the reality too often is that I need a helping hand.  Over the last nine years I have slowly started to appreciate help and kindness when it is extended to me without feeling guilty for needing the help.  That is the biggest obstacle - not feeling guilty.

The kindness of strangers has been remarkable the few times my mom has gone out during these last months when her mobility has been less.  Doors are held open so she can go through.  Chairs are vacated to allow her an easily accessible chair to sit in.  Papers are brought to her rather than her having to move to them.  Even now, as she is able to walk with just a cane, people jump to assist her in any way they see.  I am touched by how thoughtful others are.  I hope I react as readily when I see someone that could have a door held open or are in need of a chair.  

Again, for me, it's reminiscent of my nephew Jake.  Oh, the kindness showered on him!  It often overflowed to those of us with him and could be overwhelming!  He, of course, took it all in stride in his usual Jake fashion.  We were uplifted.  Of course there were the people that rudely stared at a bald child who was obviously a cancer patient.  And when he was weaker, there were those that would step in front of his wheelchair or not move so we could pass without bumping his chair.  Bumping anything meant causing Jake pain.  But kindness overshadowed all of this.  I remember people who were compassionate and kind.  People who cleared the way for Jake, or held doors open, or made Jake smile.  

Yes, kindness invokes an emotional response, even in those only witnessing the kindness.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Friends - Day 27

The day stretching before me was scattered at best.  Other than a plan to visit my mom and feed my family, there was no plan.

In recent weeks, my regular day-to-day at home has been returned back to the haphazard chaos of not getting things done.  Although I had expected it, knowing I would be gone almost daily to help my mom as she recuperated, my dislike of the disharmony once again has surprised me.  I have put a lot of energy into making over some of my habits and instilling workable routines and structure into our home over the last number of months.  The changes had been needed for a very long time and I relied on them heavily.

Putting some of the new habits and routines on hold temporarily has left me feeling a bit lost at times.  I know what needs to be done, I know what I should do.  But fitting in any extras above meal-making, laundry, basic care needs of my family, and work doesn't give me much time to tackle anything of significance.  When I have a block of time without a plan, I flounder.

In typical fashion when I feel at loose ends, I began cooking.  As most meals have been my go-to easy meals lately, I settled in happily to make a lovely mushroom soup from scratch for lunch.   My phone rang just as I was about to add the last ingredients.  A thoughtful friend was inviting me to visit a local craft sale with her.  Again, I floundered.  Indecision about how to use my time most effectively is a true struggle for me these days.  I wanted to go with her, not because of the local event which hadn't even made it onto my radar, but because I realized as soon as she invited me that I am craving time with my friends.  How did she know?

Pulling myself together, I quickly checked that Luke hadn't made plans to go anywhere.  I put the finishing touches on the soup and set it to simmer so it would be ready for the boys.  Then I made as short of work as possible of making myself presentable to the world beyond my door.  In other words, I got out of my yoga pants and brushed my hair into a more controlled pony-tail.  She still had to wait a few minutes before I was ready to go.

We were together for only a little more than an hour, but it was a rejuvenating hour.  We wandered around the small craft show together with her daughter.  We talked about the things on the tables, things we've bought before, or use regularly.  We admired artwork and handwork.  We bought a few things.  We ran into people we knew and chatted with them.  We laughed.  We were just...friends.  She was a bit of refreshment for my soul.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Boy and His Dog - Day 26

We are greeted in the driveway before we even leave the van.  Three black and white dogs, still puppies, jump and bark their welcome in a frenzy of wiggling bodies and wagging tails.  Opening the door slowly, pushing them back with the bulk of metal, clears just enough space for me to enter the throng.  I try to pet each black head individually even while the noses another is between my hand and my mark.  After a moment, I feel I have successfully made contact with each ball of energy and hope they are slightly calmer before opening the sliding van door to let Dylan out.

It never works.  

Opening the door while Dylan is still strapped in his car-seat, the puppies stand waiting expectantly while I unclasp the buckles.  As soon as he is free of his seat, before his feet even hit the ground, he is swarmed.  When he was smaller, a little less sure of himself, he would hide behind my legs.  Now he is in command.  He tells those dogs to stay "down!".  Once the commotion of wagging tails, lolling tongues and rooting noses subsides, we begin making our way to my parent's house.

The short trek from van to house can often be distracting for a boy of three: Papa on the tractor, cats to catch, a toy to retrieve.  Always there is Missy.  She faithfully walks alongside him, leaning her head against him wherever he stops hoping for another pet, another hug.  I love watching them together, two peas in a pod, full of energy, affection and fun.

Missy has claimed Dylan for her own.  She tolerates his rough loving play.  She sits waiting expectantly for him to come back out the door.  She follows him wherever he wanders whether on a lead or freely beside him.  She loves him.  She is loyal.  She forgives him for leaving for long spaces of time; he forgives her the neediness she oozes.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Pumpkin Carving - Day 25

The fire crackles in the corner stove.  Smells of fresh cut pumpkin blends with fresh cut wood.  The boys murmur quietly to each other, each at their own pumpkin, working intently pulling pumpkin guts out.  Every once in awhile Luke's power saw buzzes loudly, deafening us all for the moment it takes to make a cut; the whir of the drill fills the silence in between.

Every couple of years pumpkin carving has grown a little bigger in our family as we add another pumpkin for another boy to claim as his own.  This year I considered having all the boys carve only the one Big Max pumpkin I grew in our garden.  Not only did I think it would be a little less...well, less everything, but my pumpkins didn't produce all that well.  I only ended up with one Big Max carving pumpkin and three small pie pumpkins.  Fortunately our friendly neighbours had a big bunch of pumpkins to share and the boys happily picked out far more than we needed in a variety of sizes.  Needless to say, each boy had their own pumpkin to carve this year again.

Incorporating some fun pumpkin carving and seed counting homework Evan had with our family tradition prompted the afternoon in Luke's garage.  Dylan napped, Evan planned and counted, the boys each waited their turn to start.  Luke continued to work at his project, pausing to carve the pumpkin faces while I sorted plump white seeds from gooey, stringy orange slime.  The boys each settled in, elbow-deep, concentration mixed with offbeat boy-humour.

Dylan awoke and joined us, blinking sleep from his eyes.  His uncertainty quickly gave way to handfuls of pumpkin chunks.  Nicholas perched on the side of the table balancing precariously so his strong arms could reach further.  Evan methodically counted his seeds.  The twins grew bored and challenged each other to lift Dad's tools and pieces of wood a little higher than the other.

An easy clean up.  Seeds roasted.  Marshmallows bobbing in hot chocolate.  Chairs gathered in front of the toasty warm fire.  A perfect way to spend a cool autumn afternoon with daddy in his shop.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Good Visit - Day 24

Sitting in the hospital bed, her eyes bright, surprise on her face.  She welcomed Morgan with a smile and asked immediately for a hug.  His hesitation was slight.  I could tell he was trying to reconcile the frail woman he has come to expect with this woman before him.  I was trying to reconcile it myself.  In typical Morgan fashion, it didn't last more than a second before he leaned over the edge of the bed and nearly squashed her.  She laughed.  It sounded good.

It's been a couple of weeks since Morgan last saw his Dema.  {Dema is the name Jake, my nephew, chose to call my mom 22 years ago and it's stuck.}  School, life events and her stay in the hospital has limited his opportunities.  After dropping James off at a friends house on my way to the hospital, it just seemed right for Morgan to join me today.  We stopped at Tim's for two coffee's and one hot chocolate before we made the walk through the quiet, Saturday afternoon corridors of the small local hospital.

I sat with her yesterday for awhile and saw how well she was doing considering her reason for being in the hospital.  Today she surprised me by looking so much different, more vital somehow.  It took me awhile to explain the difference to myself.  She moved easily.  She talked freely.  She laughed gently.  She did her leg exercises and I helped the way she's taught me to further her work toward achieving more bend.  She drank her whole coffee.  She talked of being hungry!  Hungry!  She hasn't wanted to eat anything since her surgery over six weeks ago.

Morgan and I stayed for as long as we could before I had to return home to make supper for the ones we left at home.  It was a good visit.  Later, as I was filling Luke in on how much improvement I saw in mom, it finally dawned on me.  She looked more like she did many, many months ago.  Since before this difficult year of health troubles and mobility issues.  And pain.  So much pain.  Yes, today she looked like I expect her to look.

My mom looked young today!

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Friday, October 23, 2015

Autumn Leaves - Day 23

Rustling leaves.  Screeching boys.  Scrapping rakes.  Crunching wheels.  The sounds are amplified today as the wind blows gently.  The blue sky seems magnified by a brilliant sun.  There is peace hanging over us in the yard as we work together.

Trees surround our home.  Shade in summer gives way to the yellow magnificence of leaves painted by the hand of Autumn.  Whipping winds have ripped leaves from the trees and piled them knee-deep in corners and recesses around our yard.  Leaving the piles amassed will cause slippery messes for us to face through the winter and spring to come.  Contrast between our accumulation of messiness and our neighbours yard made pristine by diligent work spur us to at least attempt removal of some of the mass.

A day off school for these energetic boys of ours provides extra time to be outside raking today.  Leaves are raked into a pile.  Then jumped in.  Leaves are raked back into a pile again.  And jumped in again.  Third time around sees the leaves piled into the wagon.  Dylan's small body sits atop the pile packing it down as his big brothers pull it into the bush.  Pushing the leaves off the wagon means one more chance to crawl through the pile.

Leaves clinging to pant legs and shirts, sticking out of shoes, mashed into hair.  The smiles on their faces say it all.  Raking leaves in a way as only the young would do.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Waiting - Day 22

Today was a tough one.

It didn't start that way.  In fact, when I woke this morning, I was looking forward to the plans of the day.  Mom has physio on Thursday.  And we had plans to change up our usual routine so she could attempt claiming back a little of normal life again.

After a positive doctor's appointment this past Monday, Dylan and I had taken Mom out for a pizza lunch.  Other than physio and doctor's appointments, Mom has only been away from home once since her surgery six weeks ago.  That was to vote.  Beginning today she had hopes to venture out a little more. Today she planned to join me in walking around the small local grocery store to help pick out the groceries she and Dad need.  Even if they didn't need anything, she wanted to use the flat, smooth indoor surface to do some extra walking and enjoy a change of scenery as well.

Shortly after the boys left on the bus this morning, Dad called me.  He explained that mom had had severe pains up her side and in her chest.  He had taken her to emerge at 1 am.  Tests have confirmed she has blood clots in her left lung.  She chose to be admitted to the hospital so she can be treated and monitored there.  I believe she made a good choice.  She has a lot of pain; they can help monitor her treatment.

I spent a good portion of the day waiting to learn more information, where mom was, what would happen.  I've paused to pray.  I've passed information on to my siblings.  I finally talked to Mom after 2 pm.  She sounded exhausted.  She was unable to take deep breaths because of the pain even while on pain medication.  She wanted to sleep.

It wasn't until after 7 pm when I was able to take her a small bag of necessities she requested.  Stepping into her room I saw her lying still, sleeping peacefully.   I expected it.  She's a tiny woman and the hospital bed dwarfed her making her look much more so.  Leaving the necessities where she could easily reach them, I sat and watched her sleep without waking her.  She'll know I had been there.  I hope she felt my prayers over her.

Receiving that phone call this morning has shaken my world a little bit.  Unexpectedly I was faced with my mom's mortality.  I had to catch my breath.  I had to figure it all out again and put things back inline.  It's not quite working yet.  The day's proceedings, for me, were reminiscent of more than eleven years ago.  Those days were not about my mom, but about my small nephew, Jake.  Childhood cancer controlled his, and all of our lives, for over seven years.  While he was at the hospital fighting, we were at home.  Waiting.

It's been over eleven years yet the smallest similarities can trigger memories of him and his battle.  I'm so very thankful that each of those hard memories is outshone many times over by all the good, fun, full-of-life memories of the eleven years we had with Jake.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Connecting - Day 21

Surrounded by a crowd buzzing with excitement, we stood in the midst, sharing our stories.  Merrymaking all around us; laughter in abundance, stories being told, children run yelling.  And yet all the noise and commotion was simply a murmur in my ears.

Together we bent ever so slightly forward, bodies comfortably angled.  Intent.  Listening.  Straining close enough to hear every word. Our raised voices absorbed by the throng beyond the knot we formed.

We've known each other awhile now, talked and laughed many times before this.  But it wasn't until this time, standing together among the crowd, that I learned of life experiences that have shaped her.  I also had the chance to share some similar stories that make me who I am.  Stories filled with different circumstances and people involved.  Yet stories so similar because of how they have shaped us.

And even in that moment, I didn't feel the full weight of it.  I was simply in the moment, hearing a story I didn't know, filling in details that hadn't made it to my attention before.  I began to view my friend with new respect knowing now what she's lived.  Our stories unite us for I saw a glimpse of me, in her.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Writer's Jam - Day 20

Laptops and notebooks spread across the dining room table as each writer claims a space for herself.  An eclectic mix of mugs scattered throughout add comfort.  Laughter abounds.  Stories spill over from both voice and keyboard.  Sometimes the staccato music of tapping keyboards and scratching pens is heard.  Sometimes it is the harmony of story-tellers telling their stories.  The setting is Monday night's Writer's Jam.

Sitting among this group I am still getting to know, I feel welcome.  I feel accepted.  I feel comfortable.  These are not feelings I have often while in a gathering that includes people I don't know well, especially not in a group so newly formed.  Only three weeks old and attendance has been slightly different each week since we all come as life permits.  But the level of comfort remains the same whether they are already friends of mine or someone I've only met that night.

The common theme that draws us all together is our love of words.  Our desire to express ourselves through written words bonds us.  Most of us blog, but journalling, story-telling and poetry are all part of the words we spill out.  We come as we are, bringing what we're working on, and plan to write.  Sharing is optional.  Laughter is essential.

We've been brought together by Alanna Rusnak, author of the lovely blog SelfBinding Retrospect and aspiring novelist, when she put out the call looking for fellow writer's to join her in this blog post. She offers us a space to write without distractions from our regular life.  She's pulled together people that share a similar passion.

It has already become a place where sharing that I write, tasting the idea of calling myself a writer, and offering understanding to fellow writers is all part of the evening.  It is safe.  Knowing that the others sitting near, laughing and working alongside me, each understand that sharing my words is something I hesitate to do even as I desire it.  Sharing my words might expose my very most vulnerable parts to reveal deep hurts. hopes and passions.  The comfort of knowing the others around me may have similar trepidation about sharing their writing gives me a boldness I didn't expect.

I'm beginning to see that what I write matters simply because I wrote it.  It's not necessarily all about relevant content or how a reader perceives it, but more about the act of practicing a craft.  I almost feel ready to own the title of 'writer'.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Monday, October 19, 2015

Morgan's Musical Induction - Day 19

Seeing him sit so small behind the full size drum kit, feeling rhythm even with the movement of his body.  Eyes glued to his uncle playing guitar to his left.  Watching, ever intent.  Inhaling deeply as his breathing aligns with his playing.  Absorbing the sound, the rhythm of the music being played. Learning to play as he plays for the first time with some of the music makers in his family.

It is his heritage, the heritage of them all, passed from his great-grandfather through generations to him.  Sitting on porches, in basements, in bars playing with other gifted family member.  Playing with friends who become family through playing.  They speak to each other in a universal language which others enjoy but cannot all speak.  They are bonded by the hours spent with the instruments speaking through the chords, runs and lyrics.  Friendships borne in music, built with instruments, lived in the world.

And it is beginning again, music making is being passed from our generation to our sons.  They sat together in the basement: dad, son and uncle.   Each at their own instrument and played the way that they do together.  But now there is a new element to the playing.  It wasn't only about getting lost in making music.  Instead, they were moments of teaching.  Skilled musicians sharing with a novice musician.  Sharing how to hear, how to feel, how to play using the innate musical ability that is in their very nature.

Watching them, being part of something as it happened in front of me yet not participating, I was able to fully appreciate the magnitude of the moment.  It was beautiful.  Morgan will not forget the first time he played with his dad and his uncle.  The moment when he went from onlooker to participant.

Later he came to me and wrapped his arms around me.  He squeezed me hard and said low, "Did you see?  I played with them."  He glowed.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Reflection - Day 17

Her hand reached out, slightly cupped with fingers extended, asking me to pass her sweater.  A simple gesture, no words needed.  In that motion with the slight turn of her wrist, the grace of her arm, I saw her mother reflected.

It startled me to see the grandmother I remember so fondly.  A shiver washed over my shoulders and clear down the back of me.  Déjà vu?  So clearly the manner of my grandmother.  So clearly the hand of my mother.  One small movement causing present and past to commingle.  The body and needs of my mother; the reflection and gesture of her mother.

Oh, how my Granny did tickle me!  Her quirks and peculiarities so uniquely her own causing her to be unlike any other grandmother.  My Mom is gentleness and sweetness all wrapped up in loving. Opposites in many ways with a likeness born through inheritance.

Limitations of movement and needing assistance were previously unknown to my Mom.  A woman of strength helping others with needs are part of what makes her her.  But for now, for this short duration of recovery, things once easy are cause to ask for assistance.  Requests and needs often indicated, not spoken, using mannerisms echoing her mothers'.

The reflection of my Granny in Mom paints such a beautiful picture of my heritage: a legacy of helping and loving.  Someday I hope I also emulate the actions and traits of my mother.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Friday, October 16, 2015

Home Time - Day 16

Leaning sideways over the counter, straining to see the end of the lane.  Predictably the long yellow bus has slowed to a stop in the blind spot between the two front windows.  Wiping my wet hands on the towel that hangs on the front of the stove, I drop it on the counter and make my way to the door.  Opening it, I wave to the driver to let her know I'm home.  Even from the short outdoor distance I hear the noise tumbling out the door of the bus as four of my boys descend the steps and into our lane.  I can't help but smile.

The west wind blowing from the field across the road is cold.  I shiver as its icy fingers touch the bare skin of my arms.  The small body of Dylan molds against my leg as he shields himself from the same cold wind.  Pressing my hand to his head I step him back out of the open doorway and push it closed.  We stand looking out the picture window watching the flowing crowd of brothers run, jump, move from the roads' edge towards the house and door.

James is crawling along the ground.  Why?  I shake my head.  Morgan turns away, his jacket open blowing in the wind.  Looking both ways, he crosses the road to the mailbox.  Evan heads straight to the house in his slow steady way, up across the stones and mulch; the hardest path.  Nicholas is carrying a book today.  His backpack hanging off his arm, his jacket open.  He smiles when he sees me standing in the window just before he charges forward.

They burst through the door, each in their own time, with stories spilling from their lips.  Joy bubbling over.  My boys have come home.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Snuggles - Day 15

The hurry of the morning ends when four boys clamber aboard the bus to begin their day at school.  My Dylan and I stand waving as the bus grows smaller.  On cool mornings my boy snuggles close finding warmth against my leg, leaning into me while leaning into his waving.  Even waving is done with gusto.

Turning from the road we make the short trek to the house.  In typical three year old fashion he is easily distracted by anything that moves or can be made to move; especially anything that can be sat upon with sound effects.  It takes genuine work on my part to get him back to the house door some days.  Other days he runs ahead while simultaneously turning to encourage me to keep up.  A dancing flow of movement sweeping him along.  Leaves swirl alongside him as he bursts through the door.

Coats are hung, shoes are discarded, mommy and Dylan time begins.  Two to empty the dishwasher.  Two to clear up from breakfast.  Two to straighten the blankets.  Two to fold the laundry.  Ever by my side, helping.  Even when he takes a break to play he migrates where I go, staying near to lend a hand.  Often wrapping his arms about me when he gets near.  A little snuggle as he passes by.

Trying to take a picture of myself and Dylan: a memorable experience.
Once the morning work is complete, mommy has her coffee while Dylan gets his milk.  Snuggles in the armchair make the morning routine complete.  His thin arm snakes round my neck while we watch our daily episode of Dora.  He shouts in my ear when he tells Dora which way to go.  My hair is pulled, caught in the squirming of wriggling happiness.  Having sat still for more than a minute means it's time to dance again.  Disentangling himself from me means I'm sure to have a knee or elbow jammed into my side..

Snuggles with my Dylan.  They are the stuff that make life good.  They are as necessary as breathing

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Morning Chants - Day 14

Morning chants of prodding and waking.  Countdown of minutes 'till the bus rolls down the road.  Reminders spoken of library books or notes left unpacked the night before.  Lunches tucked into backpacks as they head out the door.

Many mornings have made the routine easy with familiarity.  Boyhood distraction solicits frequent reminders.  Chaos ensues with scrambling near the door.  It happens each day no matter how we prepare.  Mom's eyes on the clock as the last tiny man trails out the door; sometimes complete with backpack and lunch.

Standing amidst the ever-shifting flow of them.  Listening as they talk of all the day holds, of the dreams the night brought them, of the stone Morgan holds, or the leaves at their feet.  All the prodding and reminding, the scrambling and countdown are so worth those precious moments we stand at the end of the lane, and we wait.

These are moments of calm at the end of the rush.  A gift I give them to start the day before the busyness of school overtakes them.  A little something to bolster if the day feels rough.

I hope in the future they remember how we talked and we laughed and saw the world covered in its early morning veil.   How we rushed through the have-to to get more of the want-to.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Scribbles - Day 13

Hidden among my own scribbles in my journal there are markings not made by me.  Imposed over my words are drawings and letters, words and lines written in the hand of others.  Along the margins on many pages are letters shaky in their formations, spelling out an idea that only a child's mind can fathom.

My name is imprinted across the cover, but it's inside where the love and hope and joys and cheers, where the fears and hurts and tears mingle to paint a picture of the heart of me.  These are the parts of me that only one other truly knows.  I pour the words out in ink or lead in an attempt to make sense of all I feel and think.

Although the journal belongs to me, my children have felt compelled to insert themselves into it with me.  Oh how annoyed I felt that first time I noticed the markings and scribbles.  I felt as though a part of me had been exposed and handled carelessly.  Turning the pages, I came to the back cover where I found this:

I realized then that they weren't defacing something of mine; they were sharing something of mine.  They understood that this book was mine to write in and capture my thoughts because we had talked about it.  I had explained why I wrote in my journal and had encouraged them to do the same if they wanted, giving them journal books of their own to doodle or scribble in.  But even still, they wanted to share what was mine.  I have a well founded suspicion that all of them have written in it.

Now as I reread the words I've written, my dreams are forever intertwined with these amazing little people in a tangible way.  When I see their childish lines and letters, I treasure even more the input they add to my dreams and thoughts.  It warms my heart that they so desired to be a part of me, a part that they saw was important to me.

I want to teach my children so many, many things.  I hope they remember me writing in my journal, sitting with pen in hand recording my dreams.  I want them to see every area of my life as an example.  I want them to know the value I placed on doing something that was important to me.  I want them to know it's okay to do something just because you want to, not just because it makes sense.  I want them to follow their hearts and be the best people they are made to be.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thankful - Day 12

Warmth lingers this autumn.  It's lovely.  Nature is providing us with a beautiful fluctuation between brilliant blue sky warmth and heavy grey coolness; sunshine and clouds; warm breezes blowing and cold dismal rain; open windows and crackling fires.

I so enjoy warm, sunny days of any season.  This year I am not only enjoying the weather, but I am thankful for it.  Earlier this fall I acknowledged to myself that I might not get to everything in my garden before frost.  Each time I watch the temperature needle drop low, I admit defeat for the remaining vegetables and am okay with letting them go.  So far though, we've been spared.

Our garden lies at the back corner of our property, hidden from my view by the woods that cover most of our four acres.  Although we love living at the edge of the woods, it doesn't afford an open, sunny location for a garden closer to the house.  In the growing season I am in the garden every day, seeing what has sprouted, blossomed or produced the first tiny vegetables.  But this time of year, days pass between my treks.

There is something so right about finishing off the garden on Thanksgiving Monday.  Beautiful skies, warm breezes blowing, boys laughing, husband home and my hands in the dirt harvesting food to feed my family.  Is there anything other than thankfulness I could feel with all of this surrounding me?

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Salsa! - Day 10

Some days are about finishing up those pesky bits of the to-do list that never seem to be finished.  Usually they are those items that aren't really all that necessary but would be nice to be completed and off your mind.

However, if you're anything like me, those undone items are those things that I'd really like to have done, but take more time than I can put aside right now.  I find a deep sense of satisfaction when I can check things off my to-do list.  My to-do list has become a very necessary tool for me to function and more forward with all the things that our large family need.

Well, I think everyone in this house is glad that today turned out to be Salsa Day!  Our family loves salsa; not quite as much as pancakes and popcorn, but it's right up there in the favourites list.  I had the whole day at home without any plans when I got up.  Seeing the peppers and tomatoes sitting, waiting for my attention, made the decision of how to spend my Saturday easy.

See, Salsa!

My fingers and lips are still burning, my sinuses are open, and the house is filled with a delicious spicy aroma.  It's lovely to see the red jars all lined up.  My only disappointment is that it's too late in the season for me to make more.

Yes, checking that off my to-do list for the year, now that makes me really happy.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fireside - Day 9

Autumn heavy skies hung low with clouds,  The gloom lingered long after the cold showers ceased by noon.  The light breeze evoked a shiver just watching the crimson leaves swirl and twist.

Today was a home day.  I arranged to take dinner to mom along with three of the boys.  My day was allowed a slower pace.  It was nice not to have to leave my home today.

But this,  

this was my favourite part of the day.  Listening to the crackle and pop of the warming fire blazing inside, adding cheeriness to counter the drab of the day outside.  Sometimes, dancing flames shift moods to better dispositions.

Thoughtful Gems - Day 8

When the key word of the day is 'busy', any little extra can feel like a super big extra instead.  It becomes just a little too easy to live with emotions on the edge of spilling over at the smallest provocation.  In an effort to to minimize the time it takes to do a task, things can be overlooked or left not quite finished.

Although one of my goals for this year has been to make some necessary changes towards better time management, I'm still a work in progress.  The last few weeks have been more juggling of my time than normal.  I had hoped to be a little further towards my goal when my mom had her surgery a month ago but I am not there yet.  My sister stayed with my mom, caring for her the first two difficult weeks she was home from the hospital.  Now that my sister has returned to her home in another province, the bulk of the responsibility to help falls to me.  I do it gladly, but, sadly, I don't do it effortlessly or efficiently.  It is a complete juggling act!  

Today was physio day for my mom.  Dylan and I picked her up and took her to the appointment.  When we returned back to my mom's we walked in to find homemade biscuits on the table with a note from my mom's friend saying there were also TWO homemade soups in the fridge!  What a gift!  Between both my mom and dad, they have only been managing easy foods like eggs, toast and opening cans.

This thoughtful lady shared more than the gift of a meal.  She offered my mom some of the nourishment she needs to continue to heal.  She gave my mom a much needed reminder that she is being thought of and prayed for.  She provided my parent's some independence to do for themselves without feeling like a burden.  (They certainly are not!  But I know mom feels she is since there is so little she can do still.) 

And she offered me time.  Time to spend just visiting with my mom for a little longer than I would have if I had had to prepare a meal as I was planning.  It also afforded me enough time to see to some other necessary chores that I hadn't gotten to yet this week.  And even when I returned home I didn't feel quite as behind as I do some days and my patience with my boys was a little more gracious.

Yes, the thoughtfulness of one person can impact many.  Never hesitate to do something kind for others.  You never really know what it will mean for them.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Skating Gems - Day 7

What could be more fun than skating on an early dismissal day!

It was a bit of a rush to get there since we had to find skates that fit before we could leave.  Last year we never managed to make it for a free skate because, well, life isn't always simple.  Probably a lot more organization would help.  Sometimes it's more about lack of co-operation.  But last year I suspect a grumpy bear would have been napping at the time of an early dismissal free skate.

Even though we didn't get there for the whole time, the boys had a great time.  We're not a hockey family.  We haven't yet started skating lessons.  My boys are wobbly out there on the ice but it really doesn't matter to them.  They just go and do it in all their awkward, uncertain, hesitating motion and they enjoy every bit of it.  I'm proud of them for trying hard and not being discouraged if they fall.  Because if they do, they just get back up and keep going.

Oh to be like my boys and give everything I do my all!  Oh to be like my boys and persevere through the wobbles and tumbles to get back up and go on.  Oh to be like my boys and enjoy life with zest no matter who is looking to see all my fumbles and imperfections.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Running Boys - Simple Gems - Day 6

Early this morning before the sky began to lighten, I sat in my comfy chair sipping my coffee, reading and enjoying the quiet of the still-sleeping house.  Over summer vacation this became my reason to crawl from my cozy bed consistently earlier than I ever have before in my life!  It has become my favourite time of day, those precious moments I steal alone before any of the boys are stirring their sleepy bodies awake.  No one is requesting or needing anything of me yet.  There are no tasks yet begun that require my attention.  My to-do list for the day is completed the night before so my mind doesnt even linger on the I-need-to-remember's.  It is time completely mine.

Although I was out of bed, I was not quite fully awake yet.  To meet the challenge of Write 31 Days I carve out time to write after everyone is asleep.  This makes my mornings a lot slower once again as I stay up late.  I heard some stirrings from James and Morgan's room and wondered why they were awake so much ahead of their alarm.  I listened to their talk back and forth as they discussed the day ahead.  It slowly dawned on me that today was the day of their Cross Country Running Meet.  Even from another room I could feel their excitement.

It was hard to get them to concentrate on their morning routine so we could get out the door on time.  As the big yellow bus slowed to a stop at our laneways' end, my boys clustered around me waiting for their good-bye hug and kiss before being whisked away to another school day.  In usual form, I kissed their cheeks and squeezed them close.  But as James and Morgan turned from me to climb the steps of the bus, I wished them luck and a word of encouragement.  I was concerned I wouldn't be able to find them at the meet before they ran so I could whisper a word in their ear.  

But I had nothing to fear.  My boys found me even as I approached the moving mass of boys and girls wondering where they were among the sea of oversized blue jersey's representing their school team.  They ran to me, away from their friends, and flung themselves at me for a reassuring hug.  Our last hug was barely three hours old but they needed another to help calm the jitters before the race.  Even there in the midst of all their school friends, I was their focus.  And they filled the moment with joy for me - my eight year old boys are still happy to shower love on me, even in public.

And they did fantastic in their race!  James placed 21st and Morgan placed 26th in a 1500 meter race.  I am so proud of them!

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Monday, October 5, 2015

Healing Gems - Day 5

My mom is one of the most inspiring people I know.  Growing up she taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, loyalty and truth.  She shared knowledge gleaned through life experience: from housework to painting on a construction site; from raising animals on the farm to raising children with love; from gardening and preserving to mending a sock.  If she did it, we all benefited by learning alongside her.

Always I remember her sharing stories while we worked side-by-side.  They were tales of children from a different time in a world that seemed a storybook of characters and places and events played out in my imagination.  They were shared so often my childhood memories are intertwined with her stories.  Some I remember as clearly as though they are part of my story.  It is a legacy I value tremendously. 

Being an adult child now affords me the clarity to appreciate what she has taught me by both word and example.  She still shares.  I hope she never stops sharing so that my children can enjoy the same legacy of knowledge she holds.

But this past year has been hard for her physically.  She was sick for months and when that began to clear up, her arthritic knees continued to deteriorate at a rapid rate.  In early September she had a bilateral knee replacement.  This last month of recovery from that surgery has continued to take a toll on her and she continues to need support with anything that is still beyond her ability.

She was feeling a little more like herself today for the first time in a really long time.  She wasn't dealing with pain and making concentrated efforts at moving herself carefully.  She wasn't sleepy from medication or physical exertion.  She was almost just my mom.  She sat at the kitchen table that has always been an integral part of our time together and asked if I could set her up to cut the apples for applesauce.  YES!  

It was in that moment, while I  watched her work at her place at that table as she has done countless times before, when I felt I could breathe easily once again.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Morning Gems - Day 4

Pancakes!  It's a word that speaks volumes in our home.  I believe it really could be the most requested meal of all.  It almost never fails that when pancakes are being cooked, Evan comes wandering into the kitchen from somewhere in the house making a slurping sound while announcing he smells pancakes.  He has a very good sense of smell.

Cool fall days and far too many nights of interrupted sleep by a small boy adjusting to new routines lend themselves to sleeping in.  Ahhh, sleep can be a most wonderful thing.  

A late start to the day also requires brunch to be served.  Pancakes piled high, crispy bacon, yogurt and a plateful of peaches, bananas and apples.  And the best part, the pure maple syrup made by our friend.   Seriously, it doesn't get much better.  Except, for me, the meal is only the result of the better.

Week-ends offer Luke and I time together not found in any other part of our week - we cook together.  Moving about the kitchen in a harmony perfected over 11 years, we made brunch today.  The kitchen is mostly my domain in our home and it is my hands that prepare most of our meals with only maybe the help of the boys.  But anytime Luke joins me to make a special meal or bake pretzels, is time together I savour.  This morning was no exception.

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Hot Chocolate Gems - Day 3

Crimson leaves are changing the green shade forest of summer.  Crisp cool air greeted us while we waited for the rumbling of the big yellow bus these last few mornings.  Our living room fireplace crackles and pops with the warming embers of the seasons first fire.

Fall is here.

A cold drizzle began to fall this afternoon while the boys played outdoors.  In true boy fashion they stayed outside while their hair and jackets slowly absorbed the mist.  Fingers made red from cold swings, toys and sticks.  When drizzle turned to rain, in the door they piled to drape wet jackets near the fireplace.

Hot chocolate mugs were pulled from the back of the cupboard where they had been pushed to make room for iced tea cups.  Marshmallows bob, boys giggle and share time-worn jokes, cookies are crunched.  Tradition from past cold weather days replays once again as they all gather round the table enjoying their steaming hot chocolate.  

Click here to see the rest of my Write 31 Days series:  Simple Gems