"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Sometimes it goes well

Today, as on many other days, George R.R. Martin made me sigh a little.

No, I wasn't re-reading the Red Wedding scene in A Storm of Swords for the fourteenth time. No, I wasn't watching good ol' Jon Snow get sliced and diced on TV. I was reading George's livejournal entry from January 1st, 2016, where he explains to legions of salivating fans why his long-awaited Winds of Winter won't be published anytime soon, despite repeated assurances that it would be.

"Unfortunately, the writing did not go as fast or as well as I would have liked. You can blame my travels or my blog posts or the distractions of other projects and... whatever, but maybe all that had an impact... you can blame my age, and maybe that had an impact too...but if truth be told, sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn't."

Word, George. I feel you, you big, bearded, suspender-wearing genius.

That's part of the reason I haven't written anything in this blog for years, why I haven't even put pen to paper to scribble any just-dropping-off-to-sleep-when-a-brilliant-idea-pops-into-my-brain stuff, or snippets of conversations I've pulled from shameless eavesdropping in restaurants and waiting rooms. Because sometimes the writing goes well, and sometimes it doesn't.

I can even pinpoint the exact moment my muse fled screaming: that day back in April 2015 when D and I learned our son Dylan is on the autism spectrum, which flipped typical parental expectations and hopes on their asses. The urge to write, to create, to dream on paper...well, all that energy drowned in a huge wave of grief and worry and WTF.

D and I have a strong foundation of love and respect in our home, and the unwavering support of our immediate family. We're damned lucky that way. Anytime a child in your life faces a health challenge, though, I think it irrevocably alters a family's dynamics. It alters your priorities, your marriage, your relationship with friends and extended family members who either don't get it, or don't know how to support you. Shit, I don't even know how to support me sometimes. You learn quickly who you can lean on, and who you want to punch in the throat.

Dylan is a beautiful boy. If anything, he's become even more precious to me simply because I treasure all that he is, now that I have learned to let go of my expectations of what he should be. Autism is not a disease that needs to be wrung out of someone. Autism isn't always fun, but it certainly isn't the end of the world. As I've tried to explain to our daughter Jade, who is a year older than Dyl, autism makes her brother's brain work differently than hers, and that's okay. We work with his strengths to overcome his weaknesses. We practice compassion and patience and humour. And isn't that how it should work with everyone, anyway?

So I'm back. My inner Mama Bear has become a little more badass, and I've come to a place of acceptance and determined optimism where my boy is concerned. Oh, there are still days where I cry in the bathroom because my little dude - in the most overused euphemism ever - is "being difficult." There are days when people, even those closest to me, just don't get it and I have to pace the cornfield for an hour and rant my frustrations to the crows and barn swallows. And there are days where Dylan's brilliance lights up my world and reminds me to open my heart to the times when it goes well so I can have the strength to power through the days when it doesn't.

Here's to more days where the writing goes well, for both me and Big George.

Friday, 3 April 2015

To my darling

Rose Marie Lowry
April 3rd, 2008

Silently a flower blooms
In silence it falls away;
Yet here now, at this moment, at this place,
The world of the flower, the whole of the world is blooming.
This is the talk of the flower, the truth of the blossom:
The glory of eternal life is fully shining here.

- Zenkei Shibayama

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Tastes like spring

"Well, Kimmy, winter's over."

My husband D said this to me about a month ago. We were on our way home from slogging through thigh-deep snow on a sledding expedition with the kids in nearby Tout's Grove. D isn't one to err on the side of optimism, so this uncharacteristically positive statement took me by surprise. Especially since just the day before, he'd announced loudly to no one in particular that he was "sick of all the (insert naughty word) snow."

D is better known for his annual "summer's over" announcement, which he makes in the laconic tone of an undertaker around the second week of June. This is before summer solstice has even started. I know. He's a little weird.

But on that day, the "winter's over" comment was particularly weird. I wanted to remind him that we'd just spent the better part of three hours towing 80 pounds of soggy children up and down a very steep incline, not to mention the impressive twelve-foot hill of snow in our backyard. It had a surface the texture and hardness of crystallized brown sugar and the wind froze the bottom half into chunky moguls that rattled my spine every time I had to toboggan down it with one of the kids. Even when the sun shone, the air was still cold enough to make me understand brass monkeys and their unreliable nether regions. I couldn't even take down our Christmas decorations because they were hopelessly frozen to the lawn. How, exactly, did my beloved husband figure winter's end was nigh? Being the wise wife that I am, I decided to do what I do when he says summer is over: roll my eyes and keep quiet.

At the risk of receiving bloggy hate mail, I will admit that winter is my favourite season. I'm never in any hurry to see it go, no matter how freakishly cold and snowy it's been. But last week, after I shuffled the kids off to the bus, I turned my face east and drank in the sunshine for a moment. I decided that a walk was in order, something I hadn't been doing regularly because it felt like the wind would peel the skin off my face if I stayed out longer than twenty minutes. But there was no wind that day. None. Freaky for a place like Someday Farm, which is possibly the windiest place in the Bruce.

I scaled Mount Someday and headed south past the stables. At times, my waist was the same height as the fence line as I crunched along the wind-packed snowdrifts. Occasionally I'd hit a sinkhole and plunge in up to my thighs, all the while thinking what delicious coyote bait I'd make if I couldn't heave myself out again.

Coming around the bend behind the stable, I spied a cosy little hollow between the pine trees that guard the east entrance to the property. The drifts on either side sparkled in the sun. I sank down gratefully, tipped my head back to let the light wash over my face and smiled. I heard the wind sigh above me in the pine trees, just like my son does the moment before he falls asleep. Crows chortled briefly somewhere behind me until a beautiful, holy silence enveloped me. I took a deep, long breath of March air and thought I caught a hint of maple sweetness, a touch of smoke. I pulled a hand out of my woollen mitten and touched the snow. For once, the cold didn't bite my skin.

Maybe D was right. Despite the looming presence of Mount Someday and the disappearance of our fence lines, the air felt different. The sun was brighter. The snow glittered instead of squeaking like tormented mice under my boots. When I huffed myself out of the hollow and walked back to the house, a whirl of finches scattered into the sky above me; I hadn't heard their sweet gossip in months. It meant that the robins and red-winged blackbirds wouldn't be long in arriving to gobble all the berries off the ash tree. And that would mean only one thing: winter would be over.

That night, I washed dishes while D and Carman chatted at the kitchen table behind me. "Wasn't the weather nice today?" I said with a grin over my shoulder at the brothers Lowry. They eyed each other and Carman raised his eyebrows. Oh crap, I thought. My shoulders and triceps began to ache with phantom pain at what I knew was coming next.

"Well, Kimmy, I guess that means it's almost sapping time," Carm said.

Winter's over, indeed.

Friday, 27 March 2015

A Cold Day's Journey

There are friends you can drink wine with. There are friends you can take endless selfies with. There are friends you can gossip with. Eva isn't one of those friends.

Eva isn't much for gossiping and she doesn't drink. When we hang out, once every few months or so, we never end up just sitting around. There's usually a walk or hike of some kind involved in our visits. Even when we're in the city, we end up trudging through mosquito-infested trails beside the Grand River, or pounding the pavement in downtown Kitchener in -24 degree weather, on the hunt for a good sushi place. Sometimes she takes me for picnics in places like this:

One thing I especially like about Eva is that she brings her trusty camera nearly everywhere. She has a talent for taking fantastic, unexpected shots of random cool stuff like this:

And we always meet interesting characters:

Eva loves to take photos of me, too, because I am just as entertaining as little red salamanders and Alice In Wonderland mushrooms, don't you think?

This past weekend, Eva and her trusty camera came up to Someday for a visit. After Eva showered us with an assortment of funky gifts, D distracted the kids so Eva and I could do our thing. It was freaking freezing and horribly grey outside, which never bothers Eva, but the temperature thwarted my plans to initiate her into the world of sap domination: all the pails were frozen solid. So we bumbled around the farm instead. I introduced her to the cows and calves and barn cats (and to Carman) before we set off down the hill for a hike on the trails below the farm.

That's when the sun came out, turning the sky electric blue and the snow into a brilliant canvas of white. The air was as cold and fresh and crisp as my favourite wine. We trudged along the half-frozen trails, sometimes talking, sometimes not, always comfortable beside each other.

The best part about a hike with Eva is that she gets you to look at things you've seen before with a new appreciation. As soon as she whips out that camera, I know to pause and wait until she gets the shot she's looking for, and I try to see whatever it is she's seeing in the moss, or tree trunks or raindrops she's focused on. As a reward for my Buddha-like patience, I usually get a chance to act like an idiot somewhere within the frame of her imagination.

Eva and I try to sushi whenever we can. Kincardine now has a mind-blowing TWO sushi places to choose from, so after we stuffed ourselves with gyoza and agedashi tofu and dynamite rolls at Sushi Won, we went for a bone-chilling walk along the pier. I remember how fascinated I was with the lake during my first winter in the Bruce; I'd never seen the water wearing anything other than its sparkling summer attire, and it shocked me to see it looking like a setting in a Farley Mowat novel.

Eva was equally taken with the frozen wasteland as we braved the east wind and darkening sky:

I was tempted to jump down from the pier and see if the ice would hold - wouldn't THAT make the front page of the Kincardine News? - but after a horrified look from Eva, I settled for a Dorka-the-Explorer-meets-Sears-model pose instead:

We may not drink or selfie together, but Eva and I are in it for the long haul of friendship, one wacky walk at a time.

Monday, 23 March 2015

5 Things…I didn't do on March Break

Ahhhh, March break. Nine (that's NINE) days of uninterrupted quality time with my children. Enough time to take a trip somewhere, or plan fun and exciting daily excursions. You know, museums, parks, swimming, skating, hiking, ice fishing, skiing, sap-collecting. Because spring break is about doing all the things things as a family that you normally don't have time for.

Or not.

This March break was not what I'd pictured. Never mind the fact that we passed around a violent stomach bug like a diseased hot potato ("Here, you have it!" - BARF! - "No, you have it!" - SHART! - "I know, let's give it to our poor, unsuspecting cousin. Catch! - RALPH! -). We just didn't really DO anything. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that; there's a lot of pressure on parents to DO STUFF and MAKE IT MEMORABLE, especially during March break. To be honest, I don't even remember what we did last year. I asked my daughter and she just shrugged. Whatever we did, I'm sure it was at least moderately fun. Probably.

The year before that, we went to Florida. But that doesn't count as a fabulous March break, because neither kid was in school at the time. I'm sure we won't remember much about this slightly miserable break either. But man, I had plans! I had ideas! Plus I didn't realize how out of practice I was having the kids home for long stretches of time. I'm used to a nice chunk of quiet between our morning shuffle and the evening frenzy. I'd forgotten about the Sisyphean task of cleaning a house while children are still in it. I'd forgotten how much TV they want to watch. I'd forgotten how to juggle puke bowls and towels and the awful necessity of a middle-of-the-night-sheet-and-pyjama-change. Boy, do I remember it all now.

So here are 5 Things I didn't do on March break, in no particular pathetic order.

1. Go to Kindergym.
Got the kids up, fed, dressed and excited about Kindergym. Drove 20 minutes into town. Made children peel off four layers of outerwear. Realized gym was filled with women doing Zumba because Kindergym was NOT ON TODAY because TODAY WAS NOT SATURDAY. Plied kids with doughnuts and empty promises to stop the whinging.

2. Write.
By the time the kids were in bed, I only had the mental capacity to play online Scrabble very, very badly.

3. Do something fun as a family.
D worked the entire week, which was unavoidable but still sucky. Dylan and I made it to visit my sister Tanzi and hit the butterfly conservatory for an hour before the crowds freaked us out. I guess mooching dinner off Grandma several times that week kind of counts as a family activity.

4. Have a romantic date with my husband.
D had a worse week than I did. Plus nothing puts a damper on hanky panky quite like finding a child sleeping in your bed covered in his own vomit.

5. Swim. Skate. Go to a museum. Go the freaking library. GO SOMEWHERE. GO ANYWHERE! AHHHHH!

So what did we do? Well, we painted the hell out of every toilet paper roll and pine cone in the house. We cuddled. Imagined. Sang. Tickled. Planted. Baked. Told each other how much it stunk to be sick over March break and celebrated with chocolate cake when we got well.

It wasn't the best of times, it wasn't the worst of times. We did get to relax and hang out in our PJs with no real routine or schedule pricking us in the conscience, which was pretty cool. I think I so got caught up in what I wanted to do with the kids that I kind of forgot to ask them what they wanted to do. It was their break, after all. Turns out there's a big difference.

Last night, as we snuggled down for our bedtime routine, I asked my daughter whether she'd had a good March break, mentally shuddering as I anticipated her answer. "Oh Mumma," she sighed from the depths of her comforter. "It was SO GOOD. I got to wear my pyjamas EVERY DAY and hardly had to go anywhere!"

I guess next year I'll try not to be such a doofus and take a cue from my kids.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


Up until last Sunday, I felt like I was the only parent in town who hadn't treated her kids to the glory of a certain giant, lodge-themed water park. I'd see photos of damp, happy families and read exclamation-mark-riddled status updates (WE'RE AT XXX XXX LODGE! #TOTAL FUN!! #SO BLESSED!!!) and my Mama guilt would start to tingle like a the beginning of a cold sore.

Spending more than two hours at any kind of park or event, wet or dry, in crowds of strangers and their offspring isn't really my jam. I loathed the day we spent at Disney two years ago. I can't bear to try our local Easter Egg Hunt with its herds of chocolate-addled children and over-caffeinated parents. I can only manage to march in the first half of any of Kincardine's weekly summer Pipe Band parades; I lure my children into the quiet Aztec theatre for ice cream at the half-time pause and lay low while the rest of the masses march past. And even though I adore the Ripley Fall Fair, I still feel the need to hide in the pie n'coffee social room at the arena every few hours to get a break from the crazy.

It took me three years of futile resistance before I gave in to water park madness. My sister-in-law found a 24 hour flash sale and the price seemed right for two nights and three days. We'd get the meal plan and I'd coax my other brother-in-law Carman - beloved uncle and all-purpose human trampoline - to come along and help me with the kids since D couldn't make it. I might not love water parks, I might shudder at the thought of crowds, but as my most favourite epithet goes, "It's not all about you." This one was not all about me. This one was for the children.

And you know what? Despite hours of planning and packing and a seemingly endless 3.5 hour drive, despite the tidal flow of people and a few Dylan related incidents, it was better than fine. Especially since one of the first things I encountered was a dimly lit coffee bar serving my absolute favourite brew, Kick-Ass Coffee. Clutching a large cup, my brother-in-law wheeled our mountain of crap to our rooms. When we opened the door and I saw delightful beds with fluffy white linen, real china mugs and a stainless steel coffeemaker, I knew the place wouldn't be so bad after all.

Considering the volume of people the lodge entertains, it was clean, well-organized and staff were surprisingly friendly. Anyone who has to deal with, not to mention clean-up after, a never-ending swarm of adults and children and still manages to smile and talk to my kidlets wins my admiration immediately. But the real test was the water park itself and the scary amount of people we'd have to navigate while there. My not-so-bikini body didn't add to my excitement, either.

We walked into the pool area and I immediately felt like someone had whapped me across the face with a warm, wet sponge. At least keeping my kids warm wasn't going to be a problem. We got fitted with bracelets (which Dylan and I hated) and were set loose to join the throng. After I got over the initial fear of losing my children, I sank into the semi-tropical water of the kiddie pool and watched my family have enormous fun. Around me seethed a mass of skin and hair and tattoos and feet...GAH, don't get me started on the feet. (I hate feet.)

As I people watched in between my kids' trips up and down the waterslides, I began to notice bodies of all shapes, sizes and skin colours. There was a wide range of ages, too, from the tiny baby who looked like it still had placenta behind the ears to the jolly-looking grandmother who plodded gamely along behind the excited toddler tugging on her hand.

I saw women in danger of revealing a bit too much butt-crack and four giggling Muslim women covered head to toe in black bathing costumes. There were men with six-packs and men with two-fours; men with long hair, women with buzzed heads. I glanced at tattoos, piercings, scars and birthmarks, heard tiny children lisping in languages I couldn't identify. The water park was glorious mash-up of humanity, something that my kids don't get enough exposure to in our sometimes-sheltered life in the Kink. Even though there was craft beer on tap in the restaurant, and creme brûlée at the buffet, I think the convergence of so many different types of people turned out to be my favourite part of the whole experience. Weird, huh?

On our final day at the park, as the minutes ticked down to the horrible moment when I'd have to haul the kids out of the warm water to change into dry clothes and get ready to face real life, I noticed Dylan floating on his back nearby, a happy little otter basking in the invisible rays of an imaginary sun. He flipped over, caught my eye and smiled before waddling to the stairs to hit the slides one more time. That's when I noticed the butt of his threadbare bathing suit had ripped clean open and his plump little rump was exposed for all the world to admire. He didn't care. No one else did either. His was just one more example of the unique homogeneity we'd been experiencing, where you let it all hang out, whatever your "it" is, and just enjoy the moment.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

My, My, My...

How time does fly, fly, fly when I'm ignoring my blog.

I mean, come on: my last post was October 2014. What's up with that nonsense? Sheesh. You'd think that chest cold really DID turn into a raging zombie infection, causing me to become a mindless non-blogger who ate everyone in Kinkytown. Either that or I really got into the rum.

Turns out my affliction was nothing more serious than a case of mummy meltdown because Dylan started JK, combined with a healthy dose of "I don't give a crap about blogging right now." I know I'm a writer, which makes it strange and scary when I lose my need to write. It's sometimes hard to have faith that the urge to tell stories will return if I give myself permission to not write for a while. Then one day, I buy myself a new cahier d'exercices in a flashy colour, grab my favourite pen and sit down and scribble like I never stopped. That day was today. (Thanks, purple cahier!)

So fear not, faithful (and possibly frustrated) readers. I've been busy blogging in my head, so all sorts of things are ready to spill out onto scraps of paper and my keyboard. I'll try really hard not to abandon you for this long again.

Stay tuned for tales of dismembered rabbits, dancing at the Russian Tea Room, and that word of the year thing.