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Kate turned seven. Simon also turned four, but that was back in November and along with the one year anniversary of this blog, I didn’t get to writing about it. Much.  I’m not going to write about Simon or the blog but I am going to write about Kate. I don’t like Kate more than Simon (if it’s a competition, the blog beats both of them anyhow), it’s just that a lot of time is spent fussing over how awesome Simon is. Which he is. It’s nothing in particular, but he’s generally a favourite of people and people generally gush. Not so much about Kate. She’s equally awesome, but it’s quieter, more subtle, the kind of cool you have to get to know. Besides, Simon’s current shtick involving declarations that “he” decides everything, “not parents” suggests the kid could do with a little less air time. So happy belated birthday Simon. Whatever.

Kate was born early on a freezing January morning seven years ago. While a very well-behaved child, Kate does things her own way, and arriving on the living room floor after an unexpectedly speedy labour was just the beginning. Kate was a fitful, cranky baby who we couldn’t put down but no one else could hold – unless they wanted to hold a crying baby. Most people blamed me for her temperament (Marc changed diapers and took turns holding her which made him the kind of hero no woman can ever be  for doing twice the work. Yea motherhood), which at the time I was too tired to address. Even though we are totally, absolutely, completely finished having children, I secretly harbour a desire to have one more, cranky baby. (Simon sucked too, our babies are cranky. Period). I want another cranky baby just so I can tell people to fuck off. No one would do it though because back then I’m pretty sure people could smell my fear and attacked knowing I was weak. I’m seasoned now, people would retreat. Okay that’s a pretty poor reason to have a kid, but this is my blog and I make the rules, so I’m going to realise my dream and give a great big retroactive “fuck off” to all the people who weren’t good to a new mum (whether it was me or someone else) when they should’ve been.  You know who you are.

Ahem, sorry about that.

Kate transformed from a cranky-pants baby into a charming and insatiable little girl. Replete with uncanny humour and unwavering compassion, Kate’s untroubled manner is such a departure from her tumultuous baby-dom, I can’t help but think this, her childhood,  is Kate’s way of saying “thank you.”  Well thank YOU Kate, thank you for teaching me everyday what generosity and kindness looks like when it asks for nothing in return. Thank you for hugging me every time I see you in the hall at school, even when I’m distracted, my arms are full, and don’t realise how much a hug is just what I need. Thank you for the way your mind is always ticking with new ideas and explodes with stories and songs from your imagination. Thank you for the snuggles we get from you every morning when you climb sleepily into our bed, waiting for wakefulness to come while nestled next to us. Thank you for all the everythings and nothings, each day is a little bit better and fuller because you’re part of it.

It’s hard to imagine the wriggly baby, choking on tears, vomiting so violently it hit walls, has grown into a little girl who isn’t all that little anymore. She’s 7, which means nearly at the end of early childhood, on the brink of middle childhood, which gives way to adolescence and… let’s not talk about what happens next, this is too sentimental to talk about those likely dark days.

The impossibility of untangling you from my life, of even imagining life before you, is a sentiment I could barely conceive before becoming a parent. Quite frankly Kate, you’re awesome and I feel fortunate to witness it. Happy, happy birthday babes, here’s to many more…

12 days apart, friends since birth.

… But I might wait a few years before I make bubble gum with five of your friends again.

gum. seriously.

And by way of my friend Paul, and because when I told Simon I wanted to play him a song about January he danced with me with his arms wrapped tight around my neck for the entire three minutes, and because when I put him down he said “that was a pretty song mummy”, and because that’s a true story – you should enjoy it too (and the entire album, but this is a good start).

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Forget June 21st, summer, when you have kids, starts the day after the last day of school. The morning began just as I imagined, tea in bed with the paper, Kate and Simon puttering about, Marc snoring (that man is always snoring). A quick breakfast of cereal for the girl and oatmeal for the boy meant I could jump back into bed with minimal kitchen tidying, and enjoy 8am sluggishly. Summerly. 

Marc eventually stumbled to the shower, commenting that unlike me, he had to go to work. But after months of juggling opposing schedules, not eating until dinner, chasing laundry like some kind of runaway freight train, herding, cooking, make-believing, volunteering, listening, ignoring, sympathising, encouraging, counting, remembering, and of course, parenting, I was only too happy to lie there while he went to work, because today, I’m on vacation. 

Oh Marc’s comment was all-jealous-and-no-spite, and when he finally dashed off for a meeting with a very-important-person, I knew I’d send him pictures during the day of all the nothing we’d get up to so he could enjoy the first day of summer with us. But by proxy. 

For the second year, Kate will be going to overnight camp for a week this summer. A gentle introduction to regular camping, this mini-camp (5 days, instead of 7) is part of a bigger-kid camp. Twice a summer wee ones are invited to give camp a try, doing everything in a group, sampling all the camp activities, bunking together, and joining their larger counterparts only at meal times. With 1 counsellor for every 3 little guys, it’s pretty super-awesome. Like last year, we’ll chuck her on a coach bus in a mall parking lot, and with her friend-since-before-birth, will head a few hours out-of-town to run amok in the county. 

Being the ridiculous city-folks we are, we did not even consider appropriate luggage for our camper-in-training, and thought nothing of packing up her pink, world’s-lightest-carry-on. And since we tend to learn best by fucking it up first, we were suitably humiliated at last year’s drop-off when we discovered that other, normal people, sent their kids to camp with canvas, not hard cases. Our foolishness did not go unpunished, and Kate’s once pristine case, returned 5 days later looking very much like it too had been to camp. And dropped off a ledge. 

This year we are less dumb, and today, the first day of summer, I was going to bike the kids down to Mountain Equipment Co-op, and get canvas, of the duffle variety. Simon aloof, Kate ecstatic, having already selected the colour of bag from the online catalogue (red) and desperate to get a  Canadian flag patch, (since you know, she’d be travelling),  bounded up the stairs to change out of summer pyjamas and into fall clothes – it’s cccold in Toronto today. I was surprised to find a startled Kate back in my room just moments later, imploring me to come upstairs, and “look at one of the rats.” 

Life is a cycle, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. My experience with death is that when it comes at 83, after a long, good life, it is sad, but not tragic. Tragedy occurs when death is out of order, before it should be, like with a child, or a parent with young children. Or a middle-aged rat. 

At the ripe age of 6 1/2 Kate’s not so little anymore, so when she solemnly requested for me to assess the “situation upstairs” I understood she wasn’t asking me what was wrong, she knew, Kate was asking me to make it better. 

We marched upstairs together, although Kate followed a few paces behind, tentatively. It was clear before I got near the cage that the one, lying on top of their little wooden house, was no longer of this world. I confirmed Kate’s worry, and she waited as I approached the scene. I’m not sure if it was all the blood, or the fact that her insides appeared to have relocated outside, but I gave a little start when I got a close-up of the carnage that signified the end of Marzipan’s* life. Literally blood and guts everywhere, and poor Sheila*, her sister, staring wide-eyed and wondering. (Or not giving a shit I couldn’t really tell). 

Opening the cage, Sheila poked her head out, probably for air or something. I scooped her up and told Kate she was probably lonely and sad and needed some love. Carefully taking Sheila from my hands, Kate tip-toed to her bed, gently placed Sheila down and immediately began treating her like some sort of stuffed animal, which probably made Sheila wish she was back in the cage. With her dead sister. 

The task before me, while Kate roughed up the living rat, was to figure out what to do with the dead one. Armed with a bag and not nearly enough fortitude, it took at least three failed attempts before I worked up the nerve to slide the not-yet-stiff creature off the roof of their nest. Once I finally did this, Kate paused her over zealous playing for a moment and asked earnestly what I planned to do with Marzipan. I faltered. What do you do when a child’s pet spontaneously explodes one morning? The same thing you do with anyone who dies- you say good-bye, even if (or especially) it’s a rat. I crouched down and told Kate we would bury Marzipan when Daddy got home. Kate’s sense of relief was palpable, she needed to give her pet a send-off but didn’t know how or what to ask for.  

Standing up, the weight of the bag I was holding seemed suddenly heavier – what the hell am I supposed to do with it until after dinner? I phoned Marc, and he told me like he’d done this a thousand times, to stick her in the freezer. So that’s where I put her. Double-bagged. 

So good-bye Marzipan. I’m sorry your life was cut short by some sort of invisible, internal bomb, it is my sincere hope you didn’t suffer. We are looking after Sheila extra special now, and while it did cross my mind to just pick out all the bloodied bits of the bedding, I came to make senses quickly, recognising that when someone dies in their bed, you don’t just wash the top sheet. She should be comfortable now. 

It was always hard to tell you and your sister apart, but when Simon, was encouraged to bite your tail, and did, the little blunt end where the tip used to be became a useful way to distinguish the two of you apart. The herd of children who came downstairs to expose Simon and proclaim the “rat is bleeding” surprised all the delinquent parents, full of wine and good times. It took a few days for that tip to fall off completely – again, I hope you didn’t suffer. 

One frozen rat, one clean cage and three dressed people later, we were finally ready to grab our camping bounty. But it was late now, and we didn’t have time to bike down and make it back for a lunch time visitor, so we drove. It took a long time. Longer than usual and we probably should have biked. On the way back we were stuck behind a garbage truck, but it was in our neighbourhood and garbage day was yesterday. I’m still confused. 

Today was a funny day and not at all like the one I imagined, even though it began like the one I’d imagined. But I guess that’s summer, feeling all weird and unfamiliar until you get used it. If I remember correctly September will feel the same way, at the beginning. 

Hello summer, good-bye rat. 

Sheila, 2010 (Marzipan looked the same, but with less tail).

*Kate named Marzipan and Sheila in the cab on the way back from The Menagerie, a pet shop for not dogs/cats. She was very proud. So was I.

p.s. I only sent Marc one photo today. It’s okay, summer just started.

indoor camping at MEC

I noticed 5:00 pm yesterday.  I noticed 5:00 pm yesterday not because it was terribly noticeable, but because I could notice it.  I could notice it because it wasn’t dark-o’clock.  I could notice it because it wasn’t dark-o’clock and hadn’t been that way for an hour.  It wasn’t dark because it was light.  It was light because the sun was out.  The sun was out because the earth is tilting ever so slightly in the direction of the sun, and minute-by-minute, we’re getting our light back.   Just as all our festivals, the ones that use lights and candels and sitting by the fire as deeply rooted parts of its  traditions, end- the sun is picking up the slack and adding some light of its own.  Seems like a good system to me.  The sun is totally a girl.

that bright spot, way at the back = the sun (it's darker than it looks, all the christmas lights are confusing things)

In other numbers news, Kate turned 6 on Saturday.  If I was on top of things (such as the packing/organising of our house for the looming renovation we can’t really afford but have to do if we ever want to be able to use our third floor), I would have said “today, Kate turns 6.”   But since I’m obviously not on top of things, (which can be witnessed by the state of how not-packed our house is, as well as the state of my insides over the stress of how not-packed our house is), I’m going to talk about it now.

Kate is 6, which is so amazing to me I can hardly say it out loud.  I can’t believe six years have rushed by since Kate declared herself born, promptly turning into  “ten bad babies rolled into one” as described by our seen-lots-of-babies midwife.  It sucked, but then the crappy part stopped and got way better.  It got so much better we wanted to have another baby, just like Kate.  Okay, maybe not a baby like Kate, but a person – just like her.  Kate is daring and courageous, thoughtful and imaginative.  Kate has the most amazing ability to be inspired by the smallest things, and in turn, inspires us.  The best part about Kate: she hugs with her whole body and sings made-up songs to herself while she plays.  And Kate, because I can tell you you all the other things you are when it’s not your birthday, I want to leave you with this:

Dear Kate, when we met you six years ago we had no idea that you would spend as much time teaching us as we’ve spent teaching you.  We believed people when they told us “you’ll know what to do” and thought following our hearts would make parenting easier rather than harder.  Kate, you had the unfortunate chance of being the person who had to teach us how to be parents first, which means we usually make our mistakes with you, ironing out (some) of the creases for Simon.  Yet there you are, lovely, smiling and kind, even though you’re covered in all our mistakes.  Apparently there isn’t a straight line between our choices and who you are.  Apparently when you do something fantastic it’s your success, not ours.  Apparently when you goof stuff up a bit, it’s not (always) because we’re terrible parents.  Apparently you’re your own person and we just get to borrow you for a bit before you start your own life.  A life we hope will be rewarding and challenging and all your own.  And if we’re all very lucky, you too will borrow a little person for a bit, and be an inspiration as a parent not just as a daughter.  Kate you’re not everything we ever hoped for in a child, you’re more.   Thank you.

it was so cold, we stored the ice cream cake outside.

after blowing out candles, big sister punches little brother in face, 2010

A little sentimental crap always goes down a bit easier if it’s followed up by something that doesn’t matter at all, and since Baby,  it’s cold outside, I’ll show what I’m doing to manage the snow and cold here Toronto.  I prefer otherhatsarestupid berets , but winter’s decision to arrive last week and proceed with vigour has shown me that my preference just isn’t cutting it.  Obvioulsy vanity prevailed last year because I’m stuck, proper-hat-less in January.  I guess I’m over it now and have (almost) willingly succumbed to Mother Nature’s bidding and decided to  knit a toque.  A toque does not flatter as well as a beret, but a toque stays snug over the ears and doesn’t get pushed off the head when North winds force the fur trimmed hoods to go up on down jackets.  Toques cannot be worn inside with the same effortlessness as a beret, and tend to mess up hair in away that looks accidental instead of intentional.  Sigh.  It ain’t fall out there, so a toque is what I need. Voila:

warm, functional, pretty. it almost won't look dumb on my head.

I was *this* close to finishing when I tried it on in front of some of my finest knitting friends, and the truth was impossible to ignore – it’s too short.

exposed ears = bad toque

There’s nothing I can do (don’t suggest blocking, it won’t do enough) except pull it out and add some length.  As a person who enjoys knitting this is not an entirely bad proposition, it’s just that I kind of need the toque now, not last week when I figured it out and then got side-tracked by birthdays and renovations. 

So it’s light at 5, Kate is 6, and I have 0 toques.  2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

t-rex tied with rubber snake, 2009

This has Marc’s genes all over it.