Monday, July 27, 2009

Things I've learned at the pool

Has it really been two weeks already since my last blog? Where does the time go? People keep saying to me you think time goes fast now just wait till they start school. If time goes any faster my head will literally be spinning in circles.

We're almost finished with the second week of swimming lessons for our twins. It's their first time in lessons and I cannot believe the difference in my little fishes. Tristan has always been a daredevil in the water jumping off the ledges of the pool and the diving board with abandon pretty much since he figured out he could jump. The lessons have given him a whole new skill set and seeing your kids excel at something is thrilling. In keeping with his daredevilness (and yes I realize that's not technically a word) not too long ago Tristan decided he wanted to do the tunnel waterslide at our rec. centre by himself. The first time he asked I said an unequivocal no. Are you kidding me? Let my precious baby slide through a tunnel of water out of my sight for 20 long seconds hoping he makes it to the bottom without drowning? I don't think so. The second time he asked I said no. What part of not wanting to see you drown do you not understand? Many, many, many, many, many "can I's" later I relented. There is something to be said for perseverance.

However, like all moms, I couldn't let Tristan go without some instructions, "Don't lay down on your back. Don't lay down on your stomach. When you get to the bottom stand up right away and walk to the end of the recovery area and wait for me." And then I repeated them. And then since he had been looking longingly at the slide instead of at me I made Tristan repeat them. And then I might have repeated them one more time for good measure. And then I let him go.

I stood at the top of the tunnel and watched my son push off from the edge with my heart in my throat. As he went around the first corner he looked back and threw me a smile of such exhilaration and joy and mischief that I almost dove in after him, so strong was the urge to scoop him up and hold him tightly to my chest sheltering that smile and that heart for all times. Instead, with one hand across my stomach, though that doesn't really make the nausea go away, and one hand at my mouth, though that doesn't really stop the tears from sneaking out, I held my breath and waited for his little form to reappear at the bottom. That was the longest 25 seconds of my life.

At about 15 one-thousand, I almost went in after him. At 24 one-thousand I was sure he had drowned. And then, a little flash of red and a mop of hair and a sunrise exploded in my soul. He never even glanced up as he splashed his way to the end of the recovery zone but I could feel his grin and the joy radiating from his body from 3 stories up. I threw myself down that waterslide as fast as I could, paddling like a madwoman to go faster, faster; I needed to wrap my arms around his tiny frame and hold him tight and lay my cheek on the top of his head. Not for him, he was fine. More than fine, he was antsy to do it again; I needed to hold him for myself. Because with time going at the rate it is, who knows how long I'll have to hold him tight to me, he trembling with joy and pride, me trembling because I've realized yet again he does not truly belong to me, that he has his own path to carve, his own destiny to fulfill. And I'm excited for him and the journey ahead and I know this is just the beginning of a long line of smiles he'll throw back to me from over his shoulder, the beginning of a long list of accomplishments to be proud of, the beginning of greater and greater lengths of time where he will be out of my sight and out of my arms reach. But for now, for today, with my heart full and my throat burning to keep the tears at bay, I will hold him tight, while I still can.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

3 hours and counting

Really, it's only 10 to 5:00? This day is dragging. Hugh is sick, some sort of influenza thing that has made his throat hurt, his head ache and apparently made the back of his neck tender to the touch. According to google this could mean a) the flu or b) he's dying. Note to self: Never google medical symptoms they almost always add up to cancer or at the very least a life threatening illness. You might just have time to hug your kids and kiss your spouse before the end if you put down the computer RIGHT NOW!

Anyway, Hugh spent the night tossing and turning which meant I spent the night tossing and turning. Never has there been a better case for memory foam mattresses. I knew Hugh wasn't feeling well, he was shivering up a storm and burning to the touch but at about 3:30 in the morning I lost all compassion and just wanted to kick him.

And now today I'm dragging around feeling like every movement is happening in slow motion except for when I'm yelling at the kids for you know, existing. And asking for things. Like lunch. Tristan wanted to play a game this morning but I had to say sorry honey, mommy is just too tired and cranky today and doesn't want this day to come up in therapy in your 30's so let's just watch some more TV, mmmmkay?

I had a preplanned coffee date for today at naptime and almost cancelled because I really didn't want to get dressed. I did want to get out though so I compromised with Lulu's, a scarf, blush, eyebrows and no mascara. No mascara means I don't have to wash my face tonight and I am already anticipating how quick getting ready for bed will be tonight...

Starbucks and not having to wash my face. It's a good day. Just incredibly long. Is it really only 5 after 5:00?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The beauty of being kindred. Or, I apologize in advance for the length of this post...

My mom works at an assisted living home for seniors in Salmon Arm and they recently lost one of her favourite residents; Mary, born in 1919, my mom described her as one of the original earth mothers interested in all things natural and homeopathic. At the Lodge Mary became fast friends with a woman named Marie instantly recognizing in each other a kindred spirit. They would meet every morning in the dining hall for coffee laughing and talking and sharing as only women can. Last week Mary took a bad turn and had to be moved to the hospital. Just before the end Marie went to visit her. As she walked into the room Mary said, "Oh Marie, I was just laying here thinking of you and all the things I haven't told you yet."

These women had both lived in Salmon Arm, not a large community - the population is currently about 16,000, for 45 years and hadn't met until this last year when they both moved into the Lodge. My heart aches for all the years of friendship they missed out on, the memories they never got to make, the conversations they never got to finish. All the joys, all the heartaches... all of life is either more or less when you can share it with a kindred spirit. I have been incredibly blessed with kindred spirits. The first time I met Heidi after moving to Alberta I felt I'd known her all my life and I've written about her here, but the first kindred spirits to enter my life happened a lot earlier and weren't recognized quite as quickly.

Tanya I met in Grade 5, 1988. She was in Grade 6, the height of the elementary school social pyramid and therefore uber cool and I was the new kid just moved to Telkwa from Whitehorse. And I had just gotten a poodle perm that didn't really take except in my bangs. But our parents became friends; our dads met and bonded over pints in the Telkwa pub and our moms walked and bonded over faulty husbands and raising families. As a result we were often thrown together and sort of got to know each other becoming friends because of our parents. Then about 4 years later we both went to the same summer camp and afterward both started going to the same youth group. She had her license and she'd pick me up in her mom's rat-bagged silver Chevette and over our parents separations, our quest for spirituality and a missing muffler we became friends for ourselves.

I met Michelle in Grade 11, 1994. She had already graduated and moved with her mom and siblings from Winnipeg, population over 600,000 to Smithers, population about 5,000. She went from a city that had an NHL team, a renowned Ballet company and shopping malls to a town where movies "opening everywhere" arrived several months later, the mall consisted of Safeway, Zellers, a mom and pop diner and a silk screening shop, and where a fun thing to do on a Friday night was burn pallets or drive through the huge puddle in the Safeway parking lot. She came with bad orange hair, bad black lipstick, and a bad attitude. But she also came out of an absolute nightmare family situation and over fries at A&W and late night hangouts that became sleepovers I discovered an incredibly resilient spirit, an amazing sense of humour, and a true heart connection.

I can't actually remember the first time I met Laura. She was someone I knew because of youth group but she was a year younger than me and more innocent than me and we didn't connect right away. Her parents were still married for one thing and her dad seemed too perfect to be real but one May long weekend at a youth convention in Kamloops, BC she asked me and another girl to make her over. While trying on boot cut jeans, belts, and various shades of blush I found her to possess an endearing sweetness, a deep, quiet passion, and a very similar list of best-loved books.

We have so many memories together, the four of us. Memories of road trips, late nights, and lots of laughter. Memories of secrets shared, souls revealed, tears, and whispers. And through it all, the fights over boys, the coffees at Java's, the times where one or more were away for school or travel, the ebbs and flows of friendship; threaded throughout our memories is our Anne Of Green Gables sleepovers.

At some point we discovered a mutual love of the Anne of Green Gables movie and decided to get together to watch all 8 hours of it. We bought every kind of junk food imaginable, brought pillows and hair ties and wore the rattiest, comfiest sweats we owned and got down to business. We loved Matthew who bore an uncanny resemblance to my dad and when he convinced Anne to apologize to Rachel Lynde so she could stay at Green Gables and when he bought Anne the dress with puffed sleeves that she'd always dreamed of and when he was dying and Anne lamented she wasn't the boy they'd originally wanted and he said he never wanted a boy he'd only ever wanted her, all of us, excepting Laura who has an amazing father, wished he could be our dad. And we loved how tough and unyeilding Marilla was in the beginning and how much life and colour and laughter and tenderness Anne had brought into her world by the end. We all knew Anne and Gilbert ended up together but we grew anxious at her stubbornness not to have him anyway and then elated by her final revelation that she loved him. 8 hours just to get to the kiss at the end! But it was so worth it. By the end of the movies our stomachs hurt from the sheer amount of junk we had forced into them. Half asleep already and surrounded by food wrappers we sprawled out wherever we had sat down on the floor or couch, agreed the night had been awesome and closed our eyes as the sun began to rise. It was only a few hours later our alarm went off and we got up to get ready for church. And that was how it all began. We pretty much stuck to the same format over the next few years. Sometimes one of us would be away, sometimes we'd add other people but it was always us four at the heart of it.

Laura, Michelle, me, Tanya circa 1998

The last AOGG sleepover we did was the summer before Michelle and I went backpacking in Europe. In the fall we flew to Amsterdam. Michelle ran out of money and came home a couple of months later and I stayed and traveled with whoever I met and liked. Laura got married while I was away but I came back for Michelle's wedding a few months later, my lack of money perfectly coinciding with her wedding date. A year and a half later I got married and Tanya 6 months after me. And then it was babies for Michelle and Laura. We moved away. Tanya and her husband moved away. More babies were born. 10 between the four of us. I came to Smithers to help Michelle for a week when her third baby was born. Tanya came from Russia to have her first baby back home. When we discovered our first baby was actually babies Michelle booked a flight to be there the week after my mom left. And the years passed. 12 to be precise but we all kept in touch throughout and managed to see each other off and on. Michelle became our grounding source so even if Tanya, Laura and I hadn't spoken much to each other we were caught up because we all talked to Michelle.

For the past two weeks, My family and I were in Smithers for a kind of AOGG reunion. We barbequed, we coffee'd, we laughed, we cried, we watched our kids play together and we watched Anne of Green Gables and had our first AOGG sleepover in 12 years. And apparently we aren't as young as we once were. I was in my teens during our last sleepover; I am now in my thirties and have been sleep deprived for the last 5 years while I've been pregnant and having babies. This makes a difference in one's ability to sleep on the floor. And one's ability to stay up late.

We started out with grand plans, an extremely oversized bowl of Tanya's honey popcorn and other necessary items like wine gums and chocolate chip cookies and the fixings for Reece's Pieces blizzards at intermission. We all crowded onto the couch facing the TV as the entire living room floor was being occupied by a queen-sized air mattress and two twins. But let's face it, they were not the obstacle. I simply do not like to sit on the floor to watch movies anymore. We gorged on junk and my stomach started to hurt about hour 2. Which was when Michelle fell asleep. It was 10:30. I think Laura lasted till hour 3 and Tanya and I made it to the end with only a tiny catnap somewhere between hour 3 and 4. It was now 12:30 and technically only intermission as we had another 4 hours of movies to watch. Ha! Who were we kidding? That was so not happening. Instead we decided to have the blizzards for breakfast, picked up all the food wrappers because we're moms now and we know things don't get picked up by themselves, and took our bowls and glasses to the kitchen. We rinsed out our glasses and got water to put beside our beds because I don't know about you but I hate waking up in the night and not having water beside my bed in case I'm thirsty. Then we washed our faces, brushed our teeth and put on our anti-aging moisturizers and crawled into blankets on our air mattresses, making sure the pathway to the bathroom was cleared of any potential tripping hazards for those late night, post-baby-bladder trips.

Just before closing my eyes I got out my ear plugs because I can't sleep without them (which is a whole other story and yes I can still hear my babies if they cry out at night) and made sure my special neck pillow was in exactly the right spot so I didn't wake up with a headache. We didn't even pretend we were going to stay up late whispering and giggling like the old days we all just rolled over and crashed. Or tried to. It was a very uncomfortable sleep for me, partly because an air mattress seriously sucks to sleep on, they're cold and hard to roll over on and just aren't beds no matter how hard they try; and partly because my stomach was churning which I thought was the result of all the junk food and turned out to be the result of a stomach flu which my smallest son had had 5 days previous but which I didn't find out I had until the next morning when I was back at Michelle's.

We left Laura's the next morning, sans breakfast blizzards, still full from the night before, exhausted and wondering how we used to be able to get up after 3 hours of sleep and function and so glad we managed to do an AOGG sleepover. We were disappointed we hadn't made it all the way through to the kiss at the end but it was so much fun we've decided to try again the next time we're all together. Who knows when that will be but we're no fools, if we're going to see that kiss we're going to start with the last movie!

me, Tanya, Laura, Michelle, 2009