Wednesday, June 27, 2012

For Sasha

Yesterday was hard.
You were standing on the playground after school, saying good bye to your best friend.
She was leaving you early, to go on a family holiday, and when she returns, you will be gone.

Soon you were clinging to each other, saying "I'll miss you" over and over again.
She had to go, and walked away down the path, looking back with tears falling.

I bent down to you to see the tears in your eyes too.
I picked you up, just like I used to.
Only now your long muscular legs hung down nearly to the ground.

As soon as I had you wrapped in my arms your sobbing began and the tears fell.
I closed my eyes and cried with you and even though we were surrounded by people, for a moment it was just you and me and a giant puddle of loss and hurt.

You're seven now and your pain is real.
You know what good bye really means.

Most times I can make the hard stuff go away.
"You'll see her next week.   We'll go when it stops raining.   You can try again next time..."
But this time I couldn't.
This time is the first of many loves and losses you will have that will break your heart.
This time I could only hold you as we cried.
This time was hard.

You loved well, dear Sasha.
That's why it hurts.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Making Music

I had the great pleasure, since January, of teaching two of the most amazing little boys to play piano.

There is nothing like watching someone learn something new.  Especially when they are genuinely excited and eager to learn it.  It also helps when your students are incredibly handsome, quirky, entertaining and funny little boys who make you laugh.

We ended the season of piano lessons with a little recital at our house last night.   Even if you only teach two students, you just gotta have a recital!

Foster showed up at my door with a tie on.  If I didn't love him before, I sure do love him now!  He was willing and able to lead the pack by starting things off.

My favorite part of having Foster play last night was watching him take a really deep breath between songs and then blowing it all out.  The boy knows how to calm the old nerves!

Just so that the recital wouldn't be four minutes long, we recruited some other musicians to play for us as well.

We waited patiently and learned to be good audience members.

The next one of my students that played was Ethan - or "The Ethanator" as I like to call him.  Ethan is energetic and loves to move.  He's even got a little "piano bench shuffle" he does while he's playing.

He was very willing to interact with his audience between songs!

Ellie agreed to play a piece as well.  So did Sasha, but she didn't make it on to the camera.

Mike provided the grand finale of the evening by playing some unaccompanied Bach on his violin.   It was a great way to end.

Here are my little charges!  I loved spending every moment with them learning a new language of reading and playing music!  It reminded me of teaching Kindergarten and grade one because it gave me the same rush I used to get when I started to see emerging writing take place.

I have no doubt that these two are well on their way to being fabulous musicians!

Sweet Friends

I was sitting at the school awards ceremony this morning and chatting with a dad I've enjoyed getting to know this year.  He was asking about what we've learned these past two years.  I thought for a moment, and then said, "It's enlarged us.  Our girls are bigger now in the ways that matter."  I went on to say that I've thought often over the past few years of how true it is that you can make a life anywhere.  If you want to know people and share your life, you will find people that want to do the same.

I don't think we would have made a life here, nor would our girls have had their spirits and hearts enlarged it it wouldn't be for their friends from school.    

The relationship I think about the most when I consider Ellie's heart being enlarged is the special one she shares with Nikki.  Nikki has Kabuki Syndrome.  More importantly, Ellie and Nikki love each other passionately.  I don't think Ellie ever realized she could have such affection and endearment toward another person until Nikki came into her life.  They've been together in the same class for two years.  Their teacher tells me that Nikki says, "Me go Ieee house" about 1 million times a day.   One of the most significant parts of the past two years was watching this relationship unfold.

Last week we took Nikki and her sister Holly to the park for a pizza picnic to celebrate the special part they've played in our lives.

One of Nikki's other favorite sentences to say is "Ieeee push me".  
Ellie is only to happy to oblige. 
 I don't think there is any other spot where Nikki is happier than being pushed on the swing by a friend.

Here's Nikki's big sister Holly.  She's been in Hannah's class the past two years too.
I love how 12 year old girls still love to hang out on the swings too.

This was "Twin Day" at school.  Sasha found a special buddy this year in Heloise.  They have very similar styles of relating.  They love their Maplelea dolls and having playdates together.  The great thing about this friendship is that Heloise's dad actually spent a large chunk of his growing up years living in Winnipeg! A "father-daughter" Winnipeg weekend is on the plans for the year, and we know these two girls can't wait!

Ellie has been surrounded by goodness this year.  
She's had good friends surround her and fill her up!  
Here are two special ones, Jordan and Elise.

Hannah has had the best exposure to different cultures, beliefs, and friendship styles.  She had some friends from her class over on Friday after school.  These girls are ridiculously funny, kind, and easy to be with.  I also love that they let me hang out with them at the table and fill me in on all the "inside scoop" that Hannah may have ommitted telling me over the year!

This guy makes me laugh.  He's been in Hannah's class for two years.  His name is Christopher and he's my honorary son.  I actually call him my son when I come to the school and shockingly, he seems to like it!

I don't think Hannah can imagine what the last two years would have been like without these faces.

This is Wesley.  She was Hannah's very first friend.  She has a huge heart bursting with empathy and compassion.  The very first day of school last year she invited Hannah "in" and made all the difference.  It's been neat for Hannah to spend time with her family and eat amazing food from the Philipines.  Wesley's mom makes the world's greatest spring rolls.  It's amazing to see what this family has accomplished having only immigrated to Canada a few short years ago.

Ellie's had friends around her that know how to have fun!

We've promised the girls that vacations in BC will happen so they can see the great friends they've made.  Hopefully they'll keep in touch in lots of ways over the years.  Who knows, maybe they'll end up life-long friends that had their little beginning during these past two years!  You never know.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Packing Boxes

My world has been spinning lately.  So much to do and so little time to do it in.

Last visits here and there.
Last times spent with ones we call dear.
Last moments to look and really see what is around me.

We have been spending a lot of time purging and packing of late.  We work ahead so we don't feel overwhelmed with stress and panic at the end.  Mike knows me, and knows this is how it must be to keep me together.

Scrubbing ovens, wiping out kitchen cupboards, and packing boxes gives you time and space to think.  I need that time and space right now.

As I was wiping out two years of crumbs and dust from the cupboards today, I thought of how easy moving would be if you didn't have people to say goodbye to.  If all it meant was throwing your stuff into boxes and taping them shut, I wouldn't think twice about making my way around the continent every few years.

But the people are what make it painful and messy and bittersweet.  You can't stuff your raw emotions into a box and tape it shut.  You could try, but the tape wouldn't hold for long.

It would also be easy to pack if all you had were things that had no value.
I'm not talking about things of great expense.  I have no valuable jewelery or fine crystal to wrap and put into boxes.  We don't need any extra insurance for all of our silver and gold because we don't have any.

I'm talking about photographs of our girls that Mike has taken that show exactly who they are.  Cards and letters and notes from friends that say words that brought us life.  Paper mache' and modpodge creations that could break and bend if not packed just so.  A binder full of loose paper with recipes scrawled on the backs of envelopes that don't even fit into the rings.  Books with  broken spines and dog-eared pages that tell my story with underlined words and circled paragraphs.

How do you pack memories into a box?

How do you tell a teacher your daughter has had for two years that she will never be forgotten because she deposited worth and value into one you love more than life?

How do you thank families who opened their door and made room for you at their table and then served you up some of the finest offerings of authentic relationship you've ever tasted?

How do you capture the special relationship between your middle one and her friend with special needs in words or a picture?

How can you take your baby's first time skipping "one" on the monkey bars and the look and glimmer in her eye with you?

How can you mend the broken heart of your daughter's 8 year old best friend who hugs her fiercely and hangs on for dear life because she doesn't want to let her go?

You can't.
I can't.

And so I'm going through a process this week of honoring it all in whatever way I can....

A moment of silence.
Verbal expression.
A long and lingering hug.
Words on a page.
Soggy kleenex.
Listening to a song.
Buying a gift.
Prayers of thanks offered up.

To tell you the truth, they don't seem like enough.
They take the edge off and buy me the mental room to move on.
But I don't think there will ever be sufficient closure enough to tape the box shut.
I don't think I am meant to.

I guess I'll end up taking a box home with me that's ragged and worn and falling apart.
I have to be ok with that.
Even if I didn't put it in the moving truck myself, I suspect it would find its own way in.

It's heavy.
It's full.
It's beautiful, rough, and worn all at the same time.
I don't like the way it feels right now.
It's painful to lift.
But I know I have to.

That's how it has to be.

Friday, June 22, 2012

12th and Clark

There's an intersection in East Vancouver that caught my eye back in November.   On the side of a tattoo shop, right at the corner, I noticed an awesome mural that made me dream about family pictures for us.  I knew it was something we had to do before we left, to mark this most significant season in our family's history.

On Wednesday night we loaded ourselves up and were met by some special people who were willing to help us out.  Our friends Heather and Don and their kids met us at the mural.  Mike set up the tripod and the camera and Heather snapped away.  I was so thankful.  She managed to catch some great pictures that I will always cherish because they captured the spirit of our time here.

This one is my most favorite...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Dad's Day

Our girls have a great dad.
He's not a perfect dad - but none are.
He's fun, faithful, and present.
He's always game for a hug, a back scratch, or a wet kiss right on the lips.

Our girls know him because he lets himself be known.

We celebrated Father's Day by going for brunch at Mike's favorite spot - Heidi's.
While we waited for our food, Mike opened some presents that show that the girls really do know him!

Sasha made Mike some note paper at school that says, "A Note from my Dad".

Sasha's card had some blanks for her to fill in about Mike.  Here's a sample....

My Dad is about 5 feet tall.
His hair is spikey.
My Dad likes to wear PJ's.
He loves to cook nothing.
Dad always tells me say please and thank you.
It makes him happy when I kiss him.
I really love it when my dad tickles me.

Hannah made a card at school with a tie on the front.  We laugh at this because cards for Father's Day always feature a tie on the front, but how many dad's actually wear ties very often?  Not our dad.  Can't remember the last time we saw him wear one!    Hannah said a bunch of lovely sweet things wrapped up with "I love going on roller coasters with you".

Ellie created a comic strip for Mike.  It featured Mike drinking coffee together with ice-cream.   Her card made note of the fact that Mike has to go into the hot tub before going into a swimming pool.  Yep, she knows him.

The girls and I got Mike the new release by one of Mike's favorite author's A.J. Jacobs - Drop Dead Healthy (One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection).  He's written some incredibly hilarious books in the past few years, including The Year of Living Biblically.

We were also super excited to get Mike the brand new album from Rush, just released this week.  Mike has been on a crazy Rush love-in lately.  Whenever I leave the house, he says to the girls (while turning up the music to an insane volume) "When Mom's away, the rock will play".  Needless to say, they've heard a lot of Rush lately.

We went to the mall yesterday to pick up the album where we discovered it was sold out within a few hours on the first day of its release.

This cardboard copy will have to do in the meantime.

That's their dad.
He loves music and kisses, coffee and football.
He's also really fond of the three girls he calls his own.
They're pretty glad he belongs to them too.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hannah and Ellie Danced

Last Sunday was the day for the Douglas Ballet Academy's annual dance recital at the Michael J. Fox Theatre.  To say the girls were excited about it would be an understatement.

Ellie was in the first show with her Jazz class.  Since we started at Douglas, she's been in a Jazz class with girls way older than her.  We're still not too sure how that happened, but she can keep up with the girls in grade 7 and 8 without missing a beat.  The hilarious thing is, on her report card from her teacher from this year, she was recommended to register for "Teen Jazz" for the fall!  We love to laugh about this.

Ellie has enjoyed her class and her teacher, Ashleen, so much this year.  She loves to go to dance on Thursday evenings.  Her class performed to the 80's hit, "Freeze Frame" in this year's show.  It was a great song for Ellie.  Jazz is definitely her thing.  You can just see it.

Last minute make-up touch-ups.....

.... then ready for the big show!

Hannah made the switch to Contemporary dance this year.  She would tell you it's one the best decisions she's ever made.  She has been fortunate to have Kelly Douglas, the founder and director of the school, as her teacher.  Whenever I'd pick her up from dance on Wednesday afternoons, I'd ask, "how was it"?  To which she'd always reply "awesome" "so great" or "so much fun".  I'm thankful that she's found a dance discipline that she feels made for.  Hopefully we can find a school in Winnipeg where she can keep pursuing Contemporary dance.

Hannah's class danced to the theme of "conflict".   It was an amazing performance.

The unwritten rule in our house is that you can start "real" dance classes when you're in grade two.  Sasha has been patiently waiting for her turn to come.  Next year she won't have to be the one sitting in the audience and we'll have 3 dancers to watch.

I hope that our girls are always able to see their bodies as tools for expression.
I hope they value them as avenues to make a statement, tell a story, or create emotion.
I hope they take dance with them in all of the seasons of their lives.

We'll help them dance as long as they want to.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bits and Bites

Yes.  A post of random thoughts and observations.  You might think that means I have a lot to say, or it could also be that I'm looking for a reason not to pack boxes.  You decide.

It was so cold here today that I had the heater on my feet in our van.  I was also wearing sandals because I refuse to wear sensible shoes after June 1st.   Summer just never seems to get here.  It toyed with us for one week back in May, but that was just a minor glimmer.  It's kind of like BC has one VERY LONG season of grey skies, rain, and some sunny days thrown in and then has one or two months of summer.  That's it.  Two seasons.  I think I like four seasons.  I still don't like 30 below or mosquitoes though.

Speaking of mosquitoes, I read on the Weather Network website that the famous Winnipeg entomologist, Taz, is predicting an "intolerable number" of mosquitoes in Winnipeg this summer.  Say it ain't so, Taz.   I just don't think I'm up for that.

I like getting rid of stuff.   That's the best part of moving.  Craigslist has been our friend in this regard.  I'm also thankful Sasha has a tiny little friend named Zara who happily takes Sasha's hand-me-downs with great happiness.  As for the stuff we left in storage that is waiting for us when we return... if we didn't miss you for the past 2 years, there is no need for you to remain in my house.  Period.  I sense a purge coming on.

I think I'm kind of opposite to most people.  Most people likely feel happy and content when their fridge is bursting at the seams and jam-packed with goodness from top to bottom.  I'm different.  A near-empty fridge gives me solace.  I'm trying to keep our fridge nearly empty now and we're using up what we have.  That can make for some pretty interesting meals and lunches.

Why had I never heard of Rainn Wilson's book Soul Pancake before this week?  (Yes, that Rainn Wilson).  It's a treasure - filled with compelling questions and quotes and captivating images and things that make you think long after you've closed it up.  I am going on record by stating that I strongly endorse this book.   You can check out the web-ish version of Soul Pancake here.

On the topic of books, I am reading an amazing one right now.  It's called Through The Glass.   It's a true story that I first heard the author, Shannon Moroney, speak about on CBC Radio's The Current, last year.  It's honest, heartbreaking, inspiring and is nearly impossible to put down.  You can read a little of Shannon's story at her website, here.

Do you know how much I love the show Modern Family?  Now you do.

I'm really glad Mike loves avocados now.  He didn't used to.  I like sharing my love of avocados with him.

Why do people wear jeans and turtlenecks to the gym to work out?

I'm glad the NHL playoffs are over.  Hockey in June is simply wrong.  I couldn't pull myself away from them because I know a player on the LA Kings.  I know, I know, everyone says they know a player on a hockey team when that team is doing well, but I really do know someone!  That someone is none other than Dustin Penner from Winkler, Manitoba.  I could go through the way I know Dustin, but that might be boring.  Just trust me.  I know him.  I'm also really proud of this fight back to the top of his game this year.  That wasn't an easy fight.

I had a pair of TOMS.  I like TOMS.  They're cute.  I like the "one for one" campaign.  I don't like that my big toe wore a hole in my TOMS pretty quickly.  Mike turned me on to Sanuks after he fell in love with his.  I bought a pair.  I like.  No holes in the toe area either.  They may not be as trendy as TOMS but they're way more comfortable.  And TOMS feel pretty good.  Related to this is the fact that when we're out, Mike says "TOM TOMS" every time he sees someone wearing them.  We all laugh.  It just fuels him more.  A lot of people here wear TOMS, so it happens a lot.  The reason we laugh is because Mike used to actually think they were called "TOM TOMS".

A Vanilla Rooibos Latte is my new bevie of choice at Starbucks.

Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" is one of my favorite songs to hear on the dance floor.  Right now, "Moves Like Jagger" would be a close second.  Save your judgement.

I'm a good starter but a terrible finisher.

I get a charge out of taping and labeling our moving boxes.  There's just something about taping up that box full of life - all nice and neat - and scrawling its destination on it that makes me feel in control of all of the things that I can't shove into a box and tape shut.

Our girls have never been to Grand Beach.  That's gotta change this summer.

I hardly ever really laugh out loud.  If you get me to really laugh out loud, you should feel very proud.

Cryptic status updates on facebook irritate me.

I have a few moments every day in which I try to stop and really notice what I'm seeing and feeling.  I think this is important in the process of leaving.

Tanning of any kind is damaging to your skin.  It's true.  Our society so values dark, tanned skin.  We comment on how good people look when they're dark.  We abhor our skin if it's pasty white and covered with freckles because we can't tan.  I'm thinking we need a paradigm shift.

It makes me smile and feel good when the receptionist at our dentist office in Winnipeg is so excited to hear that we're coming back.

Mike thinks he's too manly to use the packing tape dispenser.  He uses his teeth.  He's tough like that.

Sasha is the only kid I know who gets pumped up about spelling tests.  Lives for them.  Dreams about them.  Recounts the way they went down at the super table like she's doing the play-by-play.  Where did this kid come from?

The truck gets loaded on June 29th.  We pull out on the 30th.
Time flies.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Back In The Day" OR "Best Party Ever"

Saturday night was the night for the last big school fundraiser of the year.
It also ended up being the most fun I've had in years.
Mike even went on record as saying "that was the best party I've ever been to".
Let me tell you how it went down.

Traditionally, Confederation Park does a "Pub Night" in spring.  This year, we had a nearly new PAC at the helm and we decided to change things up with a live band, dance, and bar in the school gym.    It ended up being called "Back In The Day" because of the crazy mix of old and new music that was going to be played.

I couldn't wait for Saturday night.  Our great friend Don just happens to be the lead singer for the cover band "Hey Stewey" that was performing.   Don's two kids go to Confederation Park, so it was pretty neat to have a school parent performing.  Mike and I love "Hey Stewey".  We've gone out to see them play a few times in the past two years and every time we are blown away by Don's ability to be a vocal chameleon.

But before the music started, we had to dress up.  After a few fruitless trips to Value Village over the week, I found my 80's groove in the mall.  Good thing everything old is new again.  For reals.

Here's my friend Lisa, strutting her 1970's stuff all over that gym floor.

And Mike... who did not come up empty at Value Village and took it to the next 
level with his handlebar moustache.

Heather had a wicked 1970's Charlie's Angels cat suit going on...

... and the ladies behind the bar smiled and poured all night long!

Here's the man of the hour -  Don.  
For this night he was also mistaken for Brett Michaels.

The ladies loved him.

Lisa's only challenge of the night was staying in an upright position with that wig on her head.

I love these ladies.
That's Lisa's Aunt Tina.  She knows how to pour a good Dr. Pepper.

Sasha's special friend Heloise's mom and dad...

... and the cutest thing on the dance floor, our friend Michelle!

Most unbelievable transformation of the night went to our friend Marc.  
He knows how to rock the 1970's, complete with chest hair.    
Mike grew an awesome afro on his head during the night too!

For the third set of music, the wig came off, and Don looked like Don again.
I liked Brett, but I like Don even more.

I can't think of a better way to have ended our time here. 
Awesome music, all my friends, cold beer, and a dance floor.

We walked home that night with neighbors and ended up heading over to their place with a bunch of other parents for a night cap.  The party continued - and I loved every minute of it.

Best party ever.
Wish we could all do it all over again this weekend.