Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Happy Birthday Faire!

Seven Things About Faire:
1. She is an amazing Big Sister. Seriously. She helps me more than anyone else in the family, and she is rarely asked to. She just busies herself taking care of her baby sister like she is her own. What a Mama she will be one day.
2. She is a wonderful artist. There are works of art all over this house. Anyone have any ideas how we contain it all? I'm all ears!
3. She loves tradition. Baking "mama's bread", bringing us breakfast on Santa Lucia day, advent calendars...these are the things I also love and want to nuture in her.
4. She is a good friend. She has made lovely friends at school, and gets along so well with them. No mean-spirited talk. I hope that never comes...
5. She likes to take photos. She's pretty good too! We have some framed in our kitchen.
6. She likes to bake and knit. A future Domestic Goddess? In this house, you just wouldn't fit in if you didn't love hanging out with the butter and sugar in the kitchen. She makes great Mama's Bread (a Swedish cardamom bread). And she's been knitting a scarf for herself (or maybe just a neckwarmer - she can't decide)
7. She is a sensitive thinker. She hates to hear anything sad. In fact, as she was helping to make cookies for part of the Out Of The Cold project this past December, she was in tears thinking about those less fortunate who have no homes to go to, or families to spend Christmas with. It broke my heart. And after learning a little about African-American history (after questioning why "Obama was such a big deal") she was in total shock at the concept of slavery. And racism. Her most favourite relative, her cousin Maya, is half Jamaican. The thought of Maya or anyone else not being respected (or worse) because of the colour of their skin just seemed so "stupid" to her (and she was worried because she wanted to say it was stupid but knew that saying things were stupid was not nice. What a girl.)
Happy Happy Birthday to You, Seven Year Old! We hope you get what you wished for (we certainly did when we got you!)
Mama and the crazy bunch

Seven Years of Learning

My baby Faire is seven years old today. It has been seven years since we started this parenting journey together. What a trip it has been!

I am a big sister, and I was the main childcare provider to my younger siblings, from a pretty young age. Frankly, between that and working with infants and toddlers in a childcare setting for many years, by the time I was ready to give birth to my own child, I was exhausted from all the caring-for-others I'd already done. I wasn't sure I had it in me. But I did. Although in all honesty my parenting looks different from what I had pictured long ago. In the typical Early Childhood field, it's about playdough, water tables and sand tables and sparkly paint and a book area and a music area...yeah, I don't parent like that. My children just live along with me, cooking in the kitchen, looking at books from a pile somewhere (although I honestly have tried the book area - the books just never stayed there!), experiencing nature when we're out and about. When I tried to run my household like I ran a daycare centre, I started feeling my mental health slide down, heading towards the place I was in when I finally left my job. Maybe because that feels like a "have to" and raising my kids always feels more like a "want to" to me. (Check out Krista's blog for a great post about the "have-to"s).

With Faire, I have struggled through all the rocky patches of self-doubt, and with each new "should I be?" I am more easily able to let go of the "should"s and just trust that I am parenting well, and my kids will not suffer. We are always busy, but we do not live a go-go-go life at all. I really don't want to and I don't want that for my kids. So no, I don't get the community centre guides and immediately fill our calendar with every activity I think might interest them. But Faire loves art and we make sure there are always art books full of blank pages, and sharpened pencil crayons (thanks to her Daddy) for whatever story she wants to tell with pictures. And as time passes I have come to realize that that is enough. If she (or any of them) shows an interest in something, then we do what we can to nuture that. I will admit, though, that I do sometimes feel a pang of self-doubt when a friend will tell us that their little one is signed up for soccer, little league, swimming, and ski lessons, and oh, hasn't Faire tried tee-ball yet? But I let that go. Because I have recently learned something yet again: They need to be ready.

Faire did NOT want to take swimming lessons. But she was three and everyone else was doing it, so I signed her up. Twice. She didn't hate it exactly, but she never "passed" because she didn't want to do certain things and no amount of cajoling was going to get her to do them. So I gave up, which felt right to me, but I worried as everyone else's kids learned to dunk and blow bubbles, and whatnot. She loves the water, she just doesn't want to put her head under it.

Fast forward to this past Fall, and I sign her up again. Her and her 5 year old brother, who has never been in a swimming lesson in his life. Has actually spent very little time in swimming pools in general compared to other kids his age. I am worried that they will have trouble "keeping up" with all the kids that have been in lessons since toddlerhood. Um, no. They were ready and they took to it (pun intended) like fish to water. Loooooooove swimming lessons. Faire spends most of the lessons under water, which she refused to do all those years ago. So I spent less time and money and stress just waiting for them to be ready. Lesson learned.

There have been many other lessons learned about trusting myself. And they all began with Faire. So when I say that parenting her baby sister Isla is easier, it only is because Faire patiently waited for me to get comfortable with what felt right to me. I was proven right everytime to, if I do say so myself. She makes it easy for me. Faire is one totally awesome kid. And I will totally take a little bit of the credit for it too.

Now that I've rambled, I'm off to bake that girl a birthdy cake.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Oh Isla Colleen,

How has 20 months already passed us by? You are leaving your babyhood behind, day by day, and I am sad to see it going. It is a nutty place, but a happy place, when there is a baby underfoot. Someone to always pause and smile at, give a little kiss and hug to, lift up on your hip even though you finally let me put you down only a short time earlier. I'm always doing that with you, little one. A few minutes after I've finally got my hands free to do something on my own, I catch a glimpse of you and lift you back up unconsciously. You seem to belong on my hip.

Not that you are a Mama's girl, however. Far from it. You are all about "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy". You run past me to him when we come to pick you up after a sleepover with your grandparents. A sleepover! There I am, ready and willing to cuddle and nurse you after a night's absense, and you turn your nose up and reach for him. Keeping me on my toes! I love it, though. It is all part of your funny personality.

Things I want to remember about you at this age:

You sing ABBA songs, although your vocabulary is small.

You like dancing and you shake your butt until you catch somebody watching you. Then you get shy.

You looooove your big brother Shea. The boy rarely gets a break. For a year he was told "oh, just let her have some". Now we've created a monster who screeches at him and he instantly hands over whatever he's eating. We're working on getting him to wait until you ask nicely, but he has trouble resisting you. We are fully to blame for your behavior, but you're just so cute! And we are reassured by the fact that your siblings are well-mannered and eventually you will be too. (please?)

You let your big sister mother you. You are patient if she is dressing, feeding, diapering you. You are never this patient for me.

You love to do art. The older kids know that any art supplies left in your eyesight are fair game to you. We catch you with paper and a pencil crayon constantly. Yes, sharp pencil crayons that are not appropriate for someone your age, but you want what the others have, always. It is a miracle our walls aren't covered but you seem quite happy to scribble on paper only. Whew.

You love to walk outside, along the sidewalk. Especially in the opposite direction from us. Oh, spring will be fun!

When you want someone to swoon over you, you say "Goo Goo Gaa Gaa"

You are slowly losing your "baby" language and gaining language people outside of our house can understand.

You like to play "chop chop timber" with Mama and Faire on the big bed.

You like to attempt to put on your own socks and pants. Too cute. Really.

You like to lie on the floor, on your belly, with your knees bent so your feet are swinging. You prop yourself up on your elbows and look at a book, or colour. You look like a teenager on the beach, but in a miniature body. I look at you when you do this and I think equally that you look heartbreakingly adorable, and also that you will be a teenager before I know it. Also heartbreaking.

Also teenager-like: When your Daddy does anything remotely silly, you say "Daaaa-dy!" in that "you-are-such-a-weirdo-I-can't-believe-you're-my-dad" kind of way. I swear you are rolling your eyes.

You could care less about watching television. Yay! It's kind of a pain though, when we want to watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie as a family, like we did tonight and you wanted to sit your naked butt on the mini-DVD player. Or our heads.

You want to sit on the toilet all the time, which you refer to as the "poopy". You haven't done anything on it yet, but I can feel it coming! Not that I'm comparing or anything, but your sister decided out of the blue to wear underwear at 21 months. Just like that. OK, maybe not comparing, but encouraging...?

You have your mother's sweet tooth. Sorry kid.

You love hats.

You suck your thumb and poke your finger into the corner of your special blanket when you are tired or going to sleep. And you can't go to sleep without the special blanket, so there are 5 of them, three at home, and one at each of the grandparents'. Thank you Grandma Kathy for sewing them!

Grandma Marilyn taught you to dunk your cookies in her coffee so now none of our mugs are safe. You will even dunk bread in a glass of water.

You have eaten, and enjoyed: blue cheese, pickled herring, black licorice, smoked fish, and other strong flavours.

You don't eat much at Grandma and Grampy's house because you know if you wait long enough (not long at all), Grampy will start sneaking you cookies. And Grandma will give you ice cream.

You give sweet little kisses to us all, every day.

Oh, Isla Bean...you are so very loved by all of us. Thank you for being you. A bright ray of sunshine in the winter. A sweet voice to call our names as we come home after work, or school, or running errands. It feels like parenting you is easier somehow. We have let go of the pressures and expectations we clung to with your big sister and brother. Now we know, it's all good, it's all love. And when it's hard, we know it will pass. And we just enjoy you.

Happy 20 Months!
Oh, and photo above? I just love the eyebrows. You look at us like this all the time. I wonder what you're thinking...