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

Friday, 28 August 2009

In praise of...sisters

I just realized I'd better get my August entry in for my "things I love" blog. No sense starting a new series if I don't keep 'er up! So here are things I love about...sisters.

I am the filling in a three sister sandwich. Tanzi is two years my junior and Sissy nine my senior. Tanzi is teaching English Lit in Moscow until next June and Sissy has been enjoying life down under in Australia for almost twenty years now. Despite gaps in age and distance, we're close and fondly refer to ourselves as "crazy sisters three." We even have our own theme song set to the tune of Dolly Parton's 'Islands in the Stream,' but it only exists in a rarely heard live version, usually fuelled by a lot of champagne.

On the rare occasions that all three of us are together, we talk and talk and talk. And drink. And then talk some more. And I'm not even gonna touch on the giggling fits that drinking and talking induce. The exciting part? There's a slight chance that we may get the opportunity to do just that this Christmas, and it will be the first time since D and I got married that we'll all be in the same country together.

Since meeting D, I've been exposed to the brother dynamic (he has two), but I have to say, it pales in comparison to the sister connection. For one thing, the brothers Lowry don't hug, or talk about stuff unless it's mechanical or cider-related. So I thought I'd jot down a few of the things I love about sisters, just for the record.

1) Sisters get you.
Whether it's your weird fear of feet, the way you blink really fast when you're lying, your penchant for toilet reading or your addiction to Asian knick-knacks, sisters get you. They get your jokes, your quirks, your habits in a way even a parent or a spouse can't quite appreciate. I've seen D and my Dad look bewildered over many of the things I do or say, whereas my sisters simply shrug. "Hey, that's just Kim," their expressions seem to say. "Accept that she's weird. Move on."

2) Sisters are your biggest fans.
Sisters have a knack for making you feel good about even the smallest of your accomplishments. My sisters cheer me on constantly, about things as innocuous as creating a new jam flavour to getting one of my articles published. We encourage each other, no matter how crazy the scheme or plan or idea may sound, and we are there to hurrah or comfort as the situation requires. When I publish my book, you can bet my sisters' names will be first on the dedication page.

3) Sisters are kinda like you, but not really.

Even though you share may similarities and certain traits that cement your status as sisters (in our case, a seal-bark of a laugh that has been compared to our Nana's, a bad habit of making funny faces in photos, and a love of lychee to name just a few), you're very different in other respects. And that's a good thing. It's like you're just similar enough to feel connected, but different enough to earn each other's respect.

4) Sisters let you borrow clothes.
'Nuff said. From what I can tell, the brothers Lowry only borrow tools.

So what else can I say? Amen to sisters, my friends. There's nothing quite like 'em.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Hausfrau apathy

Today, I just couldn't take it. I couldn't take the dirty dishes, the dirty floor, the dirty laundry, the dirty dog. The mounds of thank-you notes waiting to be written. The garbage waiting to go to the curb. The clothes to be packed for tomorrow's excursion to Waterloo with Jade. Individually, any of these tasks would be quite manageable, welcome even. But collectively, it made me want to crawl back under the covers and hibernate until a fairy godmother appeared with a manservant in tow. Preferably a hunky one that looked like Hugh Jackman.
Normally I don't mind domesticity. I like cooking and laundry, and I enjoy writing little thank you notes to all the generous folks who have showered Jady with gifts. But there was just something about it all today that seemed overwhelming - almost suffocating. D is a great help around the house and usually does the dishes, most of which he did last night at 10pm, leaving just a token few "to soak". He even threw in a load of laundry before he left for work this morning. I can't really complain
about having too much to do; I just didn't wanna do any of it today.

So after surveying my arena of domestic chaos, I decided that Jade and I would be better off outside. And that's where we spent most of the day: picking beans, peas and cukes from the garden, plucking gem-like red currants off the bush to make jelly, playing with Black Betty the cat and Neko the dog. Jade got her first feel of grass on her toes (loved it),
her first look at apples on the tree up close (grabbed them) and her first view of a kitty cat (fascinated by it).
I even hung out her wet laundry to dry later in the afternoon since my mood had improved considerably.

Sometimes, you just need to flip the mess the bird and go do something fun. The mess will still be there; garden harvests, sunshiny days and wee babies won't.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Soggy Bottom Girl

Every now and then, God peers down on Someday and says, "Hmm. Looks a little dry down there." He then proceeds to send a deluge of biblical proportions. This happened yesterday at the exact moment I was unbuckling Jady Lady from her carseat to take her into the house. Ahhh, nature.

I plugged her back in, flopped the top over her seat and ran for the back porch door. This is no easy feat when your hands are slippery with rainwater, you are blinded by said rainwater and the carseat weighs approximately three thousand pounds. At least that's what it feels like to stick-armed, outta shape me.

It took me all of 15 seconds to run from the car to the house, but by the time I pried the screen door open and heaved Jade inside, I was sopping wet. I'm talking wet to the skin, from dripping hair to waterlogged sneakers. Even my underwear was soaked. Bleah.

When I lifted the carseat cover to check on Jade, she was completely dry and stared up at me, perplexed. I guess she'd never seen Mummy look like a drowned rat before. As I leaned over, a drop of rainwater ran off my forehead, plopped onto her nose and dribbled down to her lip. She tasted it and grinned a big toothless smile.

It was at that moment that I felt the urge to take off my clothes and run outside in the pouring rain. There's just something about being in the country during a warm summer rain that causes one to entertain thoughts of running outside in one's altogethers. However, having a three month old baby waiting patiently for you to take her out of her carseat and feed her lunch puts a damper on these crazy tendencies. So instead, I stepped outside, fully clothed, and enjoyed a bit more of the rain before peeling off my wet things to put on dry clothes and return to my motherly duties.

I'm sure it will rain again this summer. Hopefully next time Jade will be fast asleep!

Friday, 14 August 2009

The inconstant gardener

When we moved to Someday farm from Waterloo, I missed very little about my old house. It had its charms and I was fond of it, but I certainly didn't miss the cupboard doors that wouldn't shut, the bathroom plumbing that misbehaved at inopportune moments, or the mold growing stealthily in the basement. No, I didn't care so much about the house; what tugged at my heart after we'd settled in at Someday were all the wonderful green and yellow and purple and pink things I'd left behind outside.

I lived at 139 Moore for over 10 years, and in that time, I'd managed to amass an impressive (and motley) assortment of flowers, plants and shrubs. I had gardens everywhere I could dig them. They were crazy and unmanagable but I loved them all the more for their untidy beauty. I enjoyed tinkering with my naturalized boulevard and chatting with passersby; I shared ribbon grass and russian sage cuttings with complete strangers who complimented me on their abundance and traded plants with neighbours. Gardens are great conversation starters.

What my gardens lacked in respectability and neatness, they made up for in personality. My seven foot high raspberry patch pulled me into a prickly embrace every morning when I went to pick berries for breakfast. Clematis vines stretched happy purple faces up the sour cherry tree and along the south wall, growing as high as the eavestrough. Dozens of rose of sharon shrubs bloomed serenely along the east wall where they'd sown themselves from my neighbour's fertile plant. My grapevine produced sticky sweet and sour fruit every year that my husband, dog and feathered friends enjoyed with equal pleasure. Peach and green striped tulips were the pride of my spring, tomatoes and herbs the pride of my summer. I didn't care so much about leaving my first house as I did about leaving my first gardens.

Thankfully, Someday already had many beautiful plants, shrubs and trees for me to discover when we moved here. But there was one thing missing: a vegetable plot. Truth be told, I'd never had a big vegetable garden before. I'd grown berries, herbs and tomatoes successfully in the city, but little else of edible interest. One year I attempted to grow two rows of popcorn; I can still remember my neighbour, an accomplished gardener who grew tomatoes from seed and zucchinis the size of baseball bats, shaking his head at me as I flicked earwigs off the cobs and chased squirrels away in vain.

Shrugging off my past failures, I pictured myself gloating over a green space teeming with with spicy herbs, giant tomato plants, fuzzy cucumbers that twined wandering fingers around the soil, orderly rows of peas, beans and onions. I'd even grow sweet corn. I was now a country woman, and I wanted me a vegetable patch!

My husband ploughed up the foot of the apple orchard with his uncle's tractor (and would have kept going if I'd let him) and hemmed in the space with weathered timber. He warned me that corn and watermelon probably wouldn't grow but I ignored him and planted lots of both, along with the other aforementioned veggies. How hard could it be?

As I've mentioned, I am not a tidy gardener. My watermelon vines overflowed onto the lawn, cucumbers kept climbing up the tomato cages and my peas clung to the nearest corn stalks. It looked a bit wild, but I didn't care. I planted everything myself and with the exception of the corn and watermelon, my crops were bountiful and beautiful.

This year, my garden is wilder and more overgrown than ever, thanks to the arrival of my baby daughter during prime planting time. I couldn’t dig up the garden, spread the manure or plant the seeds, so I enlisted my very tired hubby to do both. Carrying baby Jade in a sling one mid-June evening, dodging bats and mosquitoes, I called out instructions to my patient man on where to set the tomatoes, the herbs, the cucumbers and the onions. He even planted my beans and peas from seeds I’d saved last year. I felt a surge of relief a few weeks afterward when everything sprouted. And then, busy with baby, I proceeded to tend my garden in imagination only.

When my husband informed me we’d be getting our barn roof repaired by local Mennonites, an alarm went off in my head. Mennonites had impeccable gardens with neat, orderly rows and vegetables that behaved themselves. I could not let anyone, let alone a Mennonite farmer, see my garden in its current state of chaos. Baby Jade went in her buggy and I went to work on a warm August day. I pulled out pigweed by the fistfuls, hacked at stray dandelions and desperately tried to train my tomatoes into some semblance of order. I realized that I’d completely forgotten to cage three out of my six tomatoes, and there were two unidentifiable yet important looking plants that I couldn’t remember asking my husband to put in. Gah, I thought. I am a terrible, terrible gardener.

And then, in the midst of my sweaty gardening angst, I started to laugh. I looked at my dirty toes, my mud-caked nails, my dirt-smeared arms. I sniffed the aroma of bruised mint and pruned tomato vines. Jade was cooing in her buggy and the birds were singing. I'd forgotten what fun it was to dig in the dirt and I was having a great time. My garden didn’t have to look perfect. It didn't even have to yield much of anything. It was there for me to work in and learn from. And I have a feeling that it will be there again next year, waiting for me to dig in and learn some more.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Sister Misser

Well, my sister Tanzi left yesterday for the long day's journey back to Moscow. Actually, she's stopping off in London first to take in an unlikely performance: Jude Law as Hamlet. If Hamlet had slept with his nanny, dated a skin and bones starlet and had a habit of impregnating women 10 years his junior, I might believe Jude in the role. At this point, I'm having a hard time picturing pretty boy as the brooding prince of Denmark.

But hey - to each their own. Hopefully it's not a total disaster. At the very least, Tanzi will have the whole crazy city of London to explore for a few days before she heads back to the less than passionate embrace of the 'Cow.

I shouldn't moan too much; we were lucky to have spent most of the summer together. I was so thankful she got a chance to meet her niece and hang with us. We did our annual Bayfield and Stratford pilgramages, drank countless cups o' coffee and played lots of Yahtzee (man, if Facebook ever creates a Yahtzee application, we are so screwed). We slept in, went to the beach, shopped a little, ate a lot of great food and drank a lot of great wine (let's never speak of my attempts at making mojitos again).

It's gonna be a slow and lonely August without her. I got used to waking up and hearing her patented greeting ("Meow!") from the guest bedroom. I relished the fact that I could take an extra-long shower and know that she'd be keeping Jady Lady entertained. I miss seeing her buddha statue on the guest bedroom night table. And I was tickled by how many people thought Jade was Tanzi's baby when we were out and about because she was usually snuggled in her Auntie's arms. In fact, I think the phrase I will remember most from this summer is Tanzi saying, "Can I hold her?" (Thanks Jaime for the beautiful photo!)

Whenever I miss Tanzi too much, I just have to look at all the lovely keepsakes she's given me over the years: my polished stone with golden Koi swimming on it; my "New Beginnings" picture; the rose and violet art she gave me this summer. When my sister cravings get to be too much, I'm able to take some comfort in the ultimate calmer-downer: lying in my king-sized bed under the hand-made quilts D's aunts made us, listening to my husband breathing on my right and my daughter breathing on my left, secure in the love of my little family. That's when I remember that the Tanzinator WILL return!

Well Tanzi, only a few more months until I start making subtle hints about you coming home for Chrissie...in the meantime, I'll innundate your inbox with stories and pictures of wee Jade so you don't miss a moment of her growth spurts, poopy explosions, bizarre noises and other wacky baby accomplishments.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Once more into the beach...

At last, summer has stopped hiding like a naughty child and made an appearance. Huzzah! Sunshine! Warmth! Blue skies! Final-frickin'-ly.

It never quite feels like summer to me until I've baptized myself in the cool waters of lake Huron. And while I'm not really a beach person per se (e.g. I don't enjoy laying on the sand cooking exposed body parts to a vibrant hue of red), I do adore being near the water, especially on that magical weekend every year when the lake turns warm enough to swim in. Sometimes that weekend occurs in July, but most often it's August before anyone other than kids and a few reckless teens venture into the waves. To my delight, this past week of sunshine and humidity coaxed the lake into swimming-friendly temperatures.

I spent all afternoon Friday soaking up the sights and sounds of Bruce Beach with my sis, my good pal and her small daughter and my kissin' cousins from Indiana at my auntie's cottage. My sis and I have been going "up to the cottage" ever since we were kids. It holds a lot of nostalgia for me and has felt like a second home of sorts ever since the day we sold our family home after my mother's death.

My aunt and cousins aren't blood relatives; my auntie was one of my mother's closest friends, but she treats us like one of her own three girls. Coming from a very small family where my only cousins live either in Nova Scotia or Russia, it's wonderful to have a doting auntie so close by. And it's such an added bonus to live two concessions over from them now. We're neighbours all summer long.

While auntie cuddled Jade for the afternoon, we girls giggled, gossiped, swigged lime coolers and Coca Cola. We watched my friend's little daughter get acquainted with sand castles, rocks and waves for the first time, took dips in the water and discreet peeks at the handsome neighbour boy. I decided to pooh-pooh post-pregnancy body woes in favour of my favourite turquoise bikini. It's strangely freeing to wear something revealing despite the triple threat of cellulite, stretch marks and thunder thighs. And man, can I ever fill out that top now. Yay for dumplings!

On Saturday, my friend and I took our daughters down the 6th concession to the public beach. Our umbrella kept blowing away, but we managed to keep our babies shaded and happy. We built more sand castles, picnicked, took pictures of her daughter's sandy goatee, watched a guy wrestle his lemon-yellow boat into submission. I went swimming a few times, and suddenly I felt 10 years old again: watching the water foam up when I kick my feet, snorting nose and mouthfuls by accident, diving under just to listen to the weird watery silence. I even carried lady Jade with me into the water and dipped her teeny tiny toesies in the lake for the first time. It wasn't a screaming success (just a lot of screaming), but hey, my mother did it to me - I have the photos to prove it - so I am just carrying on a hallowed family tradition. As I took my last dip for the day while she snoozed on the shore, I kept thinking how great it's going to be next year when Jady Lady is old enough to frolic with me on the sand and in the surf.

I am a very blessed girl on so many levels. What a great weekend.