What is it about school?

Heading off into the world…

There was one moment when I just wanted to grab her hand and pull her back to me.

Unfortunately, that would be quite embarrassing to have the entire busload of kids laughing at the mom who couldn’t let go, so I backed off and moved back up the driveway so she could get on without a desperate mother clinging to her little hand.

What is it about school? Friends have told me and told me, “Oh, once they start school time just starts to fly, and they just move further and further away from you all the time.”

Good God, there is something really sad about that, until you realize in many ways they are just moving further and further away from you from the moment they are born, from the minute they eat their first solid food, the second they take their first steps. Is that sad or is that joyous? I feel a bit of both. It is the ultimate in bittersweet, really. I rejoice in every first in my babies’ lives, and yet I feel a twinge of sadness. Last week I finally hauled all of the baby gear and sweet wee clothes out of every closet and from beneath every bed and got rid of all of it. Other babies are using it all now. This was due in no small part to the fact my youngest child was about to start kindergarten and is clearly far from being a baby anymore. But it still hurt.

It is a letting go like nothing else I have experienced in my life. I am no longer a parent to babies, or toddlers, or even pre-schoolers. I am out of that club. I can offer wise words as someone who has been there, but a new parent would probably think to themselves, “Oh, she is not HERE where I am, so she does not KNOW.”

So here I am with two schoolgirls. I am the lunch maker, the form-signer, the one who tries every afternoon, like a dentist trying to pull teeth, to extract some meagre nugget of information from our children about their day at school. After years of spending most hours of the day with her, it is hard, really hard, to be relegated to this seemingly secondary role. Yikes, could I be taking it personally? Yes, other than sleep time, a teacher now spends more hours a day with my child than I do. Who knew that could be so tough to swallow? Even when the teacher is wonderful and caring, it still burns.

When our kindergartener comes home from school, she is exhausted and exuberant and bursting with all the new experiences. I try to see it all through her eyes, all the glittering freshness of being out in the world on your own for the first time. Every thing we take for granted, it’s pretty darn thrilling to her, bus rides, lunch kits, recess, a whole class full of other children who she just knows will be her best friends.

I smile and I enjoy the moments when she bursts out with some little story about her day. I look into her eyes and I see the baby that she was just a short while ago, the way she used to look at me when she was tiny and her parents were the centre of the universe. And I see that we are still her centre. Her universe just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Sunshine and blue skies

off into the world

Okay, it actually is not sunshine and blue skies outside my window this morning, but it will be later today, I think. Lots of things flitting through my mind this week, which is only appropriate for a blog called “the mind does wander.” I’ve got a list going in my head at all times of things to accomplish, goals to wish and strive for, little tasks to tackle, and of course Big Goals that keep getting added to every list in hopes that one day they will be achieved. (Write novel. Pay off debt. Get up earlier. Have date nights every week. Or at least every six months.)

This week’s goals include celebrating our “baby’s” fifth birthday, and I am feeling a little weird about that. It seems to launch us into a whole different realm of parenting. We go from being parents of very young children, preschoolers even, to being parents of school-age children. Since kindergarten is a full-time affair here, that is huge. It means both of our girls will be gone off to school in September, leaving at 8 a.m. and back home at 3:40 p.m. It means I am no longer in the baby-toddler-preschooler-mom’s club. So how do I feel about that?

I am feeling a bit ambiguous, to be sure. It means letting go of all that is wrapped up in that pre-school period, including my role as a part-time worker and full-time parent. Of course parenthood is always full-time, but the time I have spent at home with the girls the majority of days is pretty much over, and this brings with it a sense of sadness. Already I have moved into the role of more work and less time at home, as Dan has been more the full-time parent this year. I feel that this summer is the end of a certain period in our lives that will never come again in quite the same way, but I suppose that can be true of every moment in our lives.

With that in mind, I am focusing on truly being present in every moment this summer, on looking ahead to the future and what it holds but also just soaking in the joy that is right now. Here are a few things on my wish list for the coming months:

1. Grow more of our own food. Gardening is earlier this year than it has been in years, so we are making the best of that. The greens in the cold frame are cropping very nicely and we are all enjoying the freshness every day. Ava and I actually got most of the garden planted the other day, including my first attempt at growing tomatoes from seed. So far, so good, and I already have visions of the gorgeous tomato sauce made with our own roma tomatoes and red island garlic.

2. Get out camping more. Now that we have resolved that a camping trailer is not in the cards this year, we will enjoy our lovely new tent instead. Destinations? Wish list includes Cape Breton, Fundy National Park, Graves Island, and as always, the Annapolis Valley. The girls’ legs are longer this year which means we can do more hiking trails without having to resort to carrying tired (and heavy) little ones.

3. Spend as much time outdoors as possible. We all love geocaching, so that is definitely on the summer bucket list. It is such a great family-friendly activity that seems to work for all ages. It gets us outside, discovering many gorgeous spots off the beaten track, and the girls always feel like they are on a treasure hunt. Plus, with many hundreds of caches in every province, we can do it anywhere and everywhere we have our GPS.

4. Take holidays. Forget about work completely and absolutely. Sometimes I think we feel somewhere deep inside (or maybe not so deep) that our workplace will fall apart without us, that chaos will ensue  the minute we leave, and that all sorts of crapola will build up there to haunt us when we return to work. It may be disconcerting to admit, but even without you everything just continues on just fine. There are lots of competent people holding things together just as well as me.

5. Hang out. Be a kid. Go to playgrounds every week. Eat ice cream.

6. Take better care of our bodies. We all have bikes now, so I really want to get out biking the trails as a family. I was never a physically active kid (sports??? Ewwwwwww!) but I want to provide the example of being active to my girls. I am even attempting to take up running, and in some sick and twisted way I like it. Of course I am only running about five minutes, then walking, then running. But still, the only thing that could have motivated me to run in the past was if some horrible purple monster were chasing me. And that never happened, thankfully.

7. Have fun.

8. Be loving.

9. Read lots of fluffy books.

Happy Birthday, baby!

How to be quiet

The sea can be quiet.

Silence is an interesting thing. It can speak volumes, like when someone is glowering silent disapproval all over someone else’s third spilled glass of milk that day. Or, if you wake up early enough in the morning, before everyone else is up and chatting, silence can just be gloriously, miraculously restful.

I am not good at quiet. In my work, I chat non-stop, which is kind of funny considering I work in a library. It is a one-person branch in a small community, though, and people don’t come there to study in silence. They come to chitchat about the weather and their children and most of all, books. I love that, because getting paid to talk about books is just about the closest thing to heaven I can imagine from a professional perspective.

Still, I do crave silence sometimes, and with two little girls in the house silence is not an everyday (or every week) occurrence. We seem to get louder all the time, raising our voices to be heard over the din of raucous giggling, yelling, singing, crying masses. Okay, it is not masses, it is only two but sometimes they feel like more.

So this past week when I was hit with a whopping case of flu, complete with silence-inducing laryngitis, it got me thinking about ways to be quiet. I suppose that is the easiest way to shut me up, to strike me with laryngitis. So everything I said has had to be whispered, while at the same time the sore throat meant I was extremely frugal with what I had to say at all. If it was not important, I just saved my breath. I waited for people to come to me, rather than trying to yell over the din.

Hmmmmmm. I might have something there.

Could this be a new way of communicating effectively? Because frankly, I am tired of raising my voice.

Anyhow, the other side of the coin is that it was just nice to feel like I didn’t HAVE to talk. I could sit silently. We are, in these days of extreme connectivity, apt to fill silences as quickly as they arise, when really some empty spaces would be good for all of us. Being quiet means you can hear the wind blow, or the birds sing, or the soft breathing of a sleeping child across the hall. It also means you can be completely present in that moment, rather than clicking away on your smartphone or cranking up your earbuds.

Last fall, as part of a mindfulness-based stress management course, I had to take part in a one-day silent retreat. That meant for the full day, there was no talking, no eye contact with the other participants, just silence. Let’s just say right up front that I have never, ever in my life been silent for an entire day, and I was intimidated. Even while eating lunch at a table with others, no talk, no eye contact. We spent the day doing relaxation exercises, meditating, yoga, writing in a journal, or just sitting in a peaceful spot staring at the sea. There was a little boathouse down by the water with a hanging swing chair, and I remember sitting there, idly swinging and thinking “I want to do this every week.”

Which leads me to try to find ways of being silent in my everyday life and in the life of my family. Getting up early seems to be the best way for me, while staying up later seems to work best for Dan. Carving out even a half-hour of time to be alone and quiet makes such a difference to my day. Sometimes I do some yoga or stretches. Other days I make a cup of tea and just sit down at my little desk with a notebook. Some mornings I sit and watch the birds outside the window. It sounds pretty simple, right? Well, it is, but it is amazing what a difference it makes. Last year I had just been finding that stress was hijacking my day right from the second I became conscious in the morning. The moment I heard a child wake up, I would leap out of bed with my mind already on overdrive, thinking of all the things I had to do, my heart rate already pounding and that cranky feeling already well-established for the day. THAT is not healthy.

We are trying to help our children find a little quiet as well, which is not easy. But the most simple way to do it is to allow a bit of time at the end of the day for them to read in bed on their own. Just giving them that silent 20 minutes to sit in bed alone with a book helps them unwind and quiet their minds enough to really relax for sleep. Of course Ava can’t read yet but we encourage her to just look at books, which she loves to do. What is really important is that our children learn ways to quiet themselves.

We are always saying “Take a deep breath.” This is a catchall phrase that is sometimes an attempt to divert someone from a tantrum or from smacking their sibling across the head with a Groovy Girl. But it is also a way of diffusing a kid who is getting so wound up that her eyes are actually unfocused and her heart is pounding. It is healthy for children to learn ways to self-soothe, and just taking five deep breaths with the eyes closed is a simple technique they can use anywhere. Heck, it’s a simple technique we should all use.

Needless to say, going on silent retreat is not an option for everyone, and laryngitis isn’t an easily-acquirable solution either, but a little quiet time is good for everyone in the family. It helps us to ground ourselves in the world, to just “be” without constantly having to “do.” That is a huge challenge especially for busy parents, but if we can provide that example to our children it will also help them to handle stress and busy-ness with greater calm.

So take a deep breath. And for heaven’s sake, be QUIET.

 

 

To have no limits

Flying

Children can do absolutely anything. They can be ballerinas and space scientists, at the same time. They can excel at any sport, any style of dance, any subject at school. They can turn cartwheels and create mind-bending art and win any competition in the world in any skill. They are superheroes.

It is forever amazing to us grownups that our girls seem to see no barriers to success, no restrictions on what they can achieve, and no one who can do more than they can. OH, how I wish that invincible confidence could last forever! Already I see a difference in our older child, as the pressures of school and classmates start to take a toll on invincibility.

JUMP!

I admit, sometimes that confidence is frustrating, like when I suggest they take swimming lessons and Kat informs me, “I don’t need to, Mummy, I already know how to swim.” Which, of course, she doesn’t REALLY but she does paddle and dunk very nicely. I remind myself that you really have to respect that attitude of complete and total belief in yourself and your own abilities. Like today, for example. The girls watched a bit of the world championship figure skating, which they were really loving. During a break, they ran upstairs, put on figure skating “costumes”, came down and started recreating the skaters’ routines on the kitchen floor, sliding around in their socks. Kat’s reenactment of the medal-winning woman’s sit-spin was especially moving. This is fairly typical for us…we watch a dance show, the girls recreate it. They hear a Taylor Swift song, and become rock star girls, dressed in what they think rock star girls wear. Usually jeans and a sparkly shirt. Or they read a fairy tale and become the heroine.

Little Red Riding Hood in genie pants

We have often said that our older daughter hurtles through life at full-speed, fearing nothing and slowing for no one. I admire that so much. I don’t recall being that way even as a child, and certainly it is not my style now. I sometimes wish I could borrow just a bit of her fearlessness. As I get older I have learned to care less about what others might think of me, but through my teens, 20s and early 30s I cared, OH, I cared. When I think of the time wasted in dwelling on others’ perceptions of me, it is frankly exhausting.

So what can we do  to keep that spirit of fearlessness alive in our girls? None of us can control what other people say or do or see, so we can only work on our own family unit. Here are a few things we are trying.

1. Explore different sports and activities to discover strengths and find what they love to do.

It’s not about competition for us. It is about having strong bodies that do amazing things, and having healthy outlets for all that energy. Neither Dan nor I were ever sporty (if there is such a thing as anti-sporty, I was that) in the least, but we try to encourage the girls by being active as a family. I believe that having a strong, healthy body that dances and cartwheels and plays soccer will go a long way to boosting confidence as they get older.

2. Don’t get hung up on the “Oh, you look so pretty/you are a princess today/what a nice frilly outfit you have on” kind of feedback.

We try to focus on ability, and love and respect for each other, and what makes them unique. The girls have selected their own wardrobes since they were old enough to talk, and it is so fun to see what they come up with. There are times when they may look a little bit eccentric, but those are just the times when my heart surges with love for their little individualist souls. Let your freak flag fly!! (Sorry, but I always was a bit of a geek.)

3. Talk to them like people, not just kids.

I think, and I hope, that even with all the whining that goes on at times (“You NEVERRRRRR let me do what I want!”) our children feel respected and valued as members of our family, and just as important people in the world. If they ask me a question, like “Mummy, did I have any clothes on when I came out of your belly? And how DID I get out of there?” then I answer as honestly and sincerely as I can without over-sharing. Since they were babies, we’ve used the mantra “they’re just little people.” Little people with their own specific agendas and opinions.

4. Let them get bored.

The most amazing play comes out of being bored. We limit television to a couple of hours a week, which leaves lots of time for other stuff. Television has its place for sure, but it is mostly an imagination-killer. Who needs to come up with a new game to play when you can pretend to be Dora, or a Disney Princess, or Strawberry Shortcake? I would much rather have them make up a game out of whatever household materials they can scrounge up and what’s in the dress-up trunk. There are no limits in a child’s imagination, but sometimes we place limits on them inadvertently by what kinds of toys we buy or what entertainment we provide. That’s not preachy, I hope. Not meant that way.

Anyhow, this is all to say that children have no limits. What a beautiful quality that is, to believe that all things are possible. If we as adults could learn a little of that, or remember when once we felt that way, wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing?

All things are possible.

Springing

Image

The line of laundry...and bears.

First speck of green in the yard...the primula.

 

And a wee bit of purple from the columbine.

The true sign of spring...Taz comes out to bask.

So many things to love about today.

I could let the pictures do all the talking, but I am always full of words waiting to get out.

The sun shone all day long, and the girls ran around in their bare feet, giggling and screaming, getting muddy and filling up on warmth after the winter’s end.

Raking the flower beds, which never really got properly put to bed for the winter. And, in removing all the dead leaves and vines, I uncover new growth. Green is always so much more brilliant and enchanting when you have not seen it in a while.

Smelling raisin bread baking, cinnamony warmth greeting us at the door. Eating it outside in the sun.

Having finished the second of two really good reads in a row. I don’t remember when last that happened. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins I gulped in the course of two days. I wonder if I could be Katniss Everdeen, and I hope my girls will be more like her than like Bella Swan. OH, yes, just finished Winter Bloom by Tara Heavey, also very satisfying.

Thinking of what we are going to grow in our very first cold frame. Some radishes, greens, maybe green onions? Wishing we could get it built and planted NOW.

Feeling glad to be working out of doors!

Feeling the urge to pull out the lawn furniture, the bikes, the sun umbrella, but just managing to rein it in. It is still March in Prince Edward Island, after all, and snow is not quite a thing of the past. But it certainly isn’t here today.

Tomorrow is meant to be even warmer, and we will soak up every minute of it.

Feeling grateful today. Beauty is everywhere, to give our minds a place to rest.

My youngest is using the word “hate” a lot lately, as in “I hate potatoes,” and “I HATE that book!” Today I heard her older sister saying to her, “You know, Ava, you shouldn’t talk so much about hate because then you just hate more and more.”

Wow. The wisdom of seven-year-olds, another reason to love this day.

 

 

 

Why we don’t have a DS

We don’t play video games. I am not going to get up on my high horse here because that would be wrong and even hypocritical, and possibly anti-social as most of my good friends and practically everyone else has and plays all sorts of video games. But, I was thinking hard this week about what to blog about. I thought the “new year’s resolutions” theme, the “best of 2011,” and “what’s coming in 2012” were already DONE.

Dan and I were chitchatting about our six-year-old daughter’s post-Christmas statement that she was now practically the only kid in her class who does not have a handheld video game of some sort. She is in Grade 1. Seriously, I am sorry if this offends anyone, but I think that is just crazy-weird. Why on earth would a child in Grade 1 need a DS or their own iPod touch, for heaven’s sake? Shouldn’t they be playing with blocks or outside in the yard or using their imaginations or reading a book or ANYTHING but staring at a little tiny screen for hours at a time? Once I started writing about this, it was diplomatically suggested that no matter what I say about video games, I am going to come off as being self-righteous. Honestly, not my intention, and I truly believe that as long as everything is done in balance, it can’t be all bad.

We don’t deprive our children from modern technology, but we do restrict it and they seem pretty filled with joy anyhow. That being said, wouldn’t you rather go for a wander in the woods than sit in front of a screen?

Kat in the woods December 31, 2011

I took a silent vow when we had children that I would never judge other parents, and I stick to that vow as much as I humanly can. I can talk only about our own choices. So, back to that one choice… we don’t play video games. Some games, like the dancing ones, sound like a lot of fun, and I am quite sure the exercise and sport ones provide wonderful opportunities for physical activity. And yes, there seems to be some argument that hand-eye coordination and motor skills can be improved through video gaming. Many games are quite educational.

When we want to be physically active (sometimes it happens), we go outside and do real-life activities. We paddle, we bike, the girls run around the yard in circles. In winter we ski, snowshoe, toboggan, go to the pool or skating. We compromise on screen time by putting on one of the girls’ yoga DVDs (http://yogakids.com/ ). The girls feel like they have had “TV time” but they get some exercise and learn techniques to relax and calm themselves in a healthy way.

Last paddle of the year, October 2011

Getting dirty is a developmentally-appropriate activity for kids, and we encourage it. I have always thought that if the girls are still clean at the end of the day, they have not had enough fun. Climbing trees (safe trees!), playing with things in nature, like sand, sticks, rocks and water, and just being out in the woods or on the shore is the most satisfying way to spend an afternoon. Sometimes I think we spend too much time entertaining our children, putting them in organized activities and planning their days. Left to their own devices for a while, they come up with amazing, complicated scenarios for play, or something like what you see in this photo…

Poster for the girls' art exhibit

Role-play is huge in our house. Dolly daycare, school, dress-up, Miss Fix-it-all, ballet recitals, Playmobil-a-thons, we do it all. We have a huge stash of dress-up clothes thanks to our talented friend Christine, who made or found everything from cowgirl to genie to chef to little red riding hood and everything in between. Nary a princess in sight. Okay, maybe the occasional princess.

We do Just Dance, except we just put some 1990s dance music on the stereo and dance around the living room. For some reason the girls think Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch is the BEST. We read tons of books, and have since they were born. Having books around and seeing the adults in the family reading provides a strong base in those little minds for future literacy skills. Arts and crafts, also big and by the way GREAT for hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

Early art

There are times when our children want to play on the computer, and once or twice a week, we let them. We put some kids apps on the iPod, simple things like colouring or Highlights puzzles, or we let them play the games on sites like PBS kids or the Knowledge Network. So they feel like they are doing a bit of what other kids are doing, and we know what they are up to. I know that soon enough, they will be wired in as almost everyone is now, but in the meantime I want them to be as free of all that as possible. Free to be kids, free to use their imaginations, free to have fun and learn from the world around them, not from a screen.

Holly days

Stuff I LOVE about this year’s holiday season:

  • Lazy days of staying in our pajamas half the day and just playing.
  • The snow that arrived Christmas Eve, just in time for snowmen-building.
  • Discovering different holiday books to read, like Jan Brett’s classics The Wild Christmas Reindeer and The Christmas Trolls. Weird and wonderful.
  • The tree I made out of old books in the library.
  • Impromptu dance recitals in the living room, with ballet as well as Egyptian, Chinese, Irish and Scottish numbers complete with costume changes. Our four-year-old and six-year-old did this, not us. Although Dan did do one lovely pirouette.
  • The 20 lb local turkey whose delicious leftovers will now fill our freezer with convenient pot pies because we are all turkeyed out.
  • The upcycled wool owls that I made for our girls.

    Kooky striped owl

  • Discovering that we all love air hockey. Who knew?
  • All the gifts made by our own hands, small ones and big ones.
  • Digging out all the board games and puzzles and spending time unplugged from screen time of any kind.
  • Good reads: right now I am deep into Kazuo Ishiguro’s haunting Never let me go, as well as Patrick Taylor’s An Irish country Christmas (for holiday levity), with a little of Suzanne Desrochers’ Bride of New France thrown in for Canadian content and fascinating history.

    SO many books, so little time

  • Fabulous new treat, cocoa shortbread cookies from the Saltscapes Traditional Holiday Fare cookbook. So easy, so sinful.

Cocoa Shortbreads

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 cups softened butter ( oh YEAH)

1 1/3 cups sifted icing sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Sift flour, cocoa, and salt. In a large bowl cream butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add icing sugar, beating until smooth. Add vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, stirring well. Chill for at least one hour. But not any longer or else it turns rock hard as it did for me. Divide dough and roll out, cut into shapes with cookie cutters, OR just form into a log and slice like icebox cookies, much easier.

Bake at 350 Celsius for 10-12 minutes.  Makes about 3 dozen which should last about a DAY.

Little things

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This morning I was reading one of my favorite blogs, SouleMama, where Amanda Blake Soule was writing about gratitude. Her little girl had pointed out that if she didn’t know what to write, she could just say “Thank you.” That got me thinking about a little project that my youngest, Ava, has embarked on this past month, and what it can teach me about gratitude and appreciation for all the little things in life. At age four, Ava has developed a fascination for taking photographs, and her subjects are wide-ranging, often very “everyday” in nature, sometimes hilarious, always kind of, well, fascinating. These are all her shots in the slideshow.

Like there was the one day she was let loose with the camera in the backyard and decided that the perfect raspberry was the theme of the day. So she took shot after shot of each raspberry she picked, held up with one hand and photographed with the other, and then of course ate. She takes random shots of toys, cats, her shadow, buckets, favourite corners of the house, cupboard doors, the floor, pictures (pictures of pictures, that is). At first I thought “Whoa, she is just filling the camera with all these photos and we are going to have to delete hundreds of images here.”

Then I started to really look at these images, and I started to see things differently. I started to see through Ava’s eyes, those fresh, unbiased, un-jaded, sparkly hazel eyes that see so many bits of life we never even notice. Ava was capturing all the little things that she loves, her special stuffed owl, her doll stroller, her crafty space, the way the light falls on the cat and the mums in autumn, photographs of all of us around the house, her favourite shoes standing on the beach. It is beautiful.

We often talk about living in the moment. I have just finished a really good eight-week course on mindfulness. But really nothing teaches us more about mindfulness than our children. They live in the moment completely and absolutely, without question or effort. This moment is what matters to them. Ask them what they had for lunch two hours ago and they can’t remember. Who cares about that when there are cartwheels to be done and much giggly nonsense storytelling to be had? Every day I try to take a deep breath and really listen to what they are saying, understand what exactly is the plot behind their latest Playmobil adventure, or discover why Ava is in hysterical tears when just a second ago she was giggling. (It is because she is four.)

When I do this, time slows. I stop seeing the laundry and the messy desk and the calendar and the fact that these girls STILL didn’t put any socks on. I just see them. And I am so grateful for that.

Leave the light on.

Remembrance Day here in Canada, 11/11/11. Pouring down sheets of sideways rain, with a warm wind off the sea. I think of all who went out for services, who hoped that by 11 a.m. the moment of silence for all the war dead would actually be silent, rather than whipped by wind and rain. Those hardy little Beaver and Girl Guide troops, walking alongside the veterans who get fewer and older with every passing year.

And I wondered, as I do every year, how do we explain to our young children what Remembrance Day is? How do we explain what war is? What a soldier does? How do we answer all the questions that come out of this particular day for a four-year-old and a six-year-old to understand? It is so far-removed from their reality, living as they do in Canada, in this generation. All that fear and pain and courage and unspeakable hardship and just the unknowing of what had happened to sons and daughters and fathers and friends who left and never came home. Is that something we can explain?

I remember reading at a young age about the wars, about the young soldiers who fought and died in miserable, lonely far-flung places, and being strangely fascinated. I knew my grandfather was a veteran of World War II, but he rarely spoke of his experiences there. I would see him march in the parade on Remembrance Day, with his medals on his chest. Now that he is gone I often wish that I had asked him about it more, that I had even written his stories down so they wouldn’t be forgotten, so that I could share them with my children to help them understand a little better.

Lest we forget. But somehow, even while I don’t want those sacrifices to be lost in our collective memory, I also feel so very blessed that my children don’t have to understand war, don’t have to feel the fear and uncertainty that our grandparents had to live with and that children in many parts of the world are living with right now, today.

So, the rain falls down. It seems appropriate somehow that the skies are not blue, the sun is not shining. We did not go to remembrance services, but spent the day with family, savouring a good meal together, walking in the rain, tucking our daughters into their beds and listening to make sure they get to sleep. I think my grandfather would appreciate that, and know that by going across the sea to fight for freedom that he, and all the others, won this for us.

And then all the animals had to say good night.

Bedtimes are always a challenge, despite all of our best intentions to be mindful, be patient, be kind and loving and patient (did I mention patient?) and filled with good humour. Somehow it all goes sideways when someone does not want to brush her teeth, or someone else says she has to go to the bathroom again although she just went five minutes ago. But when all is settling down, one little voice says “Mama, you didn’t say goodnight to my animals!” I have to go back in, tuck them all beside sweet Ava and give them kisses, too. Then she does little pretend animal voices each saying “Goodnight, Mama, goodnight.” And all my impatience melts away. I take a deep breath and just soak it in, this brief moment in the busy day. I remember that these days are short, that already she has grown and changed, and that no matter how many times I take pictures of her sweetly sleeping, I can never recapture the deep, dreamy peace of these night times.