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I remember the fall of two years ago, standing in our kitchen the day Aislinn found out she was accepted early admission to Dalhousie. What a heady moment. What a proud moment. Now, it didn’t turn out that that was where she went for her first year of University, BUT, since our older two kids both delayed post secondary education, it was the first time we really had that “you’re accepted” thing and it really brought home for us the shift in the family. For years, it was the “older two”, then Ash (poor middle child syndrome, she was lumped in with either the “older two” or the “younger two”) and then the “younger two” or, the “little ones”.
Kathryn and Shawn Michael are close in age. They would have been 20 months apart, which is close by any standards, but, because he was a preemie, they are only 18 months apart. They were often mistaken for twins from about the ages of four/five, on. And they have always been the little ones of the family.
So, my older three kids have moved onward. They have all moved out, are working and living their lives. Which is still such a weird thing for me to say. But, they are all doing well, in the way young people do when they first live on their own, which is to say, they’re still all figuring it out and financially scraping by. That’s fine, they have loads of time.
Both Kathryn and Shawn M have jobs this year, which means they are both gone a lot. The house went from a smaller version of our regularly scheduled chaos to a very quiet one in one short month.

Yesterday, Kathryn texted me. She got early acceptance to Acadia. It may not be where she winds up going, but, that feeling in my stomach started all over again. Those little ones aren’t so little anymore. My baby girl is graduating high school this year and our baby boy, the little preemie who just turned 16 and is now 6’3″ tall, graduates next year.

I honestly don’t know where the time went! It seems like yesterday we were piling all the kids in the living room with their blankets and pizza from Lola’s and putting on a Disney movie for them before tucking them all into bed at 8:30 and now, my little adults are all either already flown the nest or making their plans for when they do.

Life moves quickly, my loves. And the older you get, the faster it goes.

Kathryn, I am so proud of you!! No matter which school you wind up going to, they will be richer for having you.

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This past weekend was a long weekend and well, we just wouldn’t be us if we didn’t cram it full of stuff to do. So that’s exactly what we did. In the true spirit of team, I offered up our house as the location of the end of summer party for my work. In fairness, our property is just made for hosting and I was happy to do it. The weather was not so happy. It was cold, rainy and dismal. We didn’t let it deter us, though. We built a fire in the fire pit to keep folks warm and split our time from fireside to pool shed to back garage. There was plenty of good food, drinks and conversation and we went on until almost midnight.
Saturday morning, we helped our middle daughter Aislinn move out of our house and into her first apartment.
I’m going to pause here to speak on why this was so hard, because, I already have two other children who have moved out and, not to diminish what I felt when they did, there is something about this one that made it….well, harder.
So, I’m the second oldest of seven and I grew up with my older brother (13 months apart) and two younger sisters (four and six years younger). My three younger siblings were “the little ones”, which, fair or not, is what they were. They are 10, 13 and 15 years younger than me. They were born AFTER we moved from Guelph to Elora. Those first years of mine as a kid are filled with typical kid stuff: soccer teams and gymnastics and dance classes and taking us all over the place on family trips and such. Typical family stuff. But then, when I was 13 my dad got very sick and things slowed way down. So it was like, I got this one ‘Dad’ and the “little ones” got another.
We have often joked, much to our own children’s horror, that our family did a similar ‘split’ after we moved out east. We had family #1, when all the kids were little and we did soccer and dance and trips to Algonquin and epic Sunday morning breakfasts and movie nights and pulled them out of school for Harry Potter releases. And then we moved here and Shawn got sick, Liam and Keisha moved out and it was just us and our own “little three”. Only they weren’t so little. So life went on and we took kids to music lessons and we did a prom and a graduation and then not even a full month ago our Aislinn tells us she is seriously looking at places. Within two weeks she found one and voila, Saturday morning she moved out.
We miss her. It’s quiet with only two kids at home.
So how do we deal with only two kids left at home? Renovate, that’s how. We found a great deal on flooring at Home Depot, a new couch (after months literally of searching), and bought paint at Kent. So we spent the rest of our long weekend ripping out old floors, painting the walls, painting the trim around the room, windows and doors and then yesterday, putting the new floor in. Out with the old, on with the new.
In tune with our changing family, Shawn and I opted for the ‘old person’ choice of only one couch and a ‘special’ chair for each of us. For him, a recliner (only a nice one, not that brown monstrosity he used to have – love you babe) and for me, a chaise lounger. Something I can stretch out on, cuddle under a blanket on and oh yeah, knit. Because I’m also old.
I generally dislike change. Shawn and I walked around our house on Sunday night, after a late night snack in the kitchen and we realized, we bought our house for the family we had at the time, and not the one we were on the cusp of having. It’s a lot of house, for a diminishing amount of people.
I guess that just means we’ll have to have more parties.

Happy back to school, all!

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I had a nest with five little birds
Singing a chorus, night and day
Filling the air with their beautiful song
and never was chirping so gay

My five little birds lived in harmony
From fledgling to full soaring flight
Dipping and diving through air all the day
and snuggled in dark peaceful night

The first bird was quiet and pensive
The second was bold and so bright
The third had a strength behind grace
The fourth was a beautiful sight

The fifth bird was tiny, and broken at first
Fighting for each gasp of air
He grew to be bigger than all of them
he grew to be handsome and fair

My five little birds fluttered round me
All with such mischievous eyes
Then one by one, as they grew bigger
disappeared in beckoning skies

Five, four, three, onward into the world
Until only two remained home
For birds cannot nest for forever
and mothers must let their birds roam

I had a nest with five little birds
Please come back and visit some day
fill up our home with your beautiful songs
for never was chirping so gay

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I am in so many relationships, you guys. Like, a plethora. An abundance. A glut of relationships. I got relationships coming out the wazoo, which is a great thing, because at 42, I can happily say that the majority of those relationships are positive ones. And do you know why that is? Because I cracked the code. I figured out the hierarchy of relationship:happiness.
Me, Him, Them, You
Looks simple, doesn’t it? Almost too simple. And yet, so many people struggle with this. I’m not throwing shade, I myself completely struggled with this for YEARS. I finally got it right though and now I’m going to share it with you.
Me. I have to come first in the relationship list. It took me a really long time to accept this as not only true, but, as the HEALTHIEST choice for me to make. I always thought that putting myself first meant that I was being a total narcissist, but, I had it wrong. It makes me the sanest, most giving and loving me I can possibly be.
You see, I let my “me” relationship sit on the sidelines for a long time. I told her it was more important to focus on the children (which, is highly important, and they are a BIG factor of my life), my husband, my friends and making sure that everybody liked me at the EXPENSE of my own happiness, self worth and health. Tell me, how are you going to make all those other relationships wonderful fulfilling ones when it’s evident you don’t care enough about yourself to be happy? You can’t. Because if those people in your other relationships notice you are constantly unhappy, sacrificing yourself or just being a doormat for their happiness, they will stop trusting you. They will no longer engage in a mutually beneficial way, they will either pity you, or take advantage of you or just plain give up. For years I let my need to be ‘for everyone else’ overshadow my need to be for me.
And then. Major life changes, re-evaluation of life and a lot of really good therapy and I learned that when I look to myself first, I’m a happier person. I am able to give more, do more and be more because I have the reserves to do so. I can say no and not feel immediately worried that I’m letting someone else down because I’M ALLOWED TO SAY NO. My life is no longer lived for everyone else, which has in turn allowed me to be freer with the part of me that I *do* give. Being happy every day, for the most part, is the best way to live my life and believe me when I say, that has a ripple effect on ALL of my other relationships.
Him. So I’m married. I’ve been married forever, plus 22 years. I’m one of those few people in our current society who married her high school sweetheart at 19 years old and we’re still going strong. But we weren’t always. In fact, for a good stretch of years there, we were a mess. A big ol, covered in sticky kid fingers mess. Why? Because I was in the depths of living for my ‘other’ relationships. It was all going to the kids and then to the friends and the community we lived in, for the sake of appearances. And while we “appeared” to be “perfect” on the outside, a farce we were super proficient at performing, we were an unholy mess on the inside. He lived for his job and I lived for the kids. Neither of us lived for each other or more importantly for ourselves.
And then. Those major life changes and all that great therapy. Much like the discovery of self, we learned that we ‘chose’ our relationship with one another and we needed to bring it back to priority. We started to date again. We talked and really listened. We became one another’s best friends again and when there was a problem, instead of going to the friends to bitch, we went to one another and worked on it. The newly found importance of taking care of ourselves trickled into care of one another and our relationship. We found so many new levels of connection and we’re still discovering them. And it’s OKAY for us to put ourselves before our kids. Because when they see us working together every day on making our marriage and ourselves the best they can be, we model for them the kind of love and happiness they in turn will seek out. What a gift to give them!
Them. Those kids. Well, we had a bunch, so what did we expect other than having them take over the world. Five kids in eight years. Like lunatics. Or people who had birth control fail them once or twice. Either way, I love each and every child of mine even when I am super mad at them and they know it.
When they were little, I had the luxury of staying home with them for almost 12 years. I loved being a stay at home mom outwardly, but inwardly I struggled. Children are HARD. And to make matters harder, I also babysat in our home to bring in extra income, so between that and the friends in our neighborhood who came over, it wasn’t unusual for our house to have 7-10 kids in it at a given time. I was all about the kids. I did everything for them. Maybe sometimes too much. It’s hard to know. But, as they got older and I went back to work, in my fear of losing my connection with them from the single digit years, I started blurring the lines between parent, and friend. This did not actually serve either of us well. As the older kids got older, they sometimes became my confidants, and that REALLY didn’t serve us well. So, as I’ve said, excellent therapy and a reclaiming of our roles and their place in the hierarchy and I have excellent, parental parts in my children’s lives. I’m loving watching them all take their turns at moving on and becoming the adults they are becoming and I’m proud to say that they have (or seemed to have) learned that they need to take care of themselves in order to be able to give of themselves to others. I never hear anything but praise of how mature and delightful they are.
You. You get to come last. That doesn’t mean I neglect my friends, it just means, and you all know this, myself, my husband and my kids supersede you. I’m not going to go to you over my husband or hide things for you from him. I don’t do secrets and lies anymore. I don’t do drama. God, I hate the drama. And the best thing is? Since adopting this, the people in my/our life who thrived on the drama and the chaos have simply drifted out. Either than or I’ve let them go. And the people left? They are the ones who understand where I/we are and they get it. They love and respect us for it. Mostly, they are the same way.
It’s a happier life, friends, knowing this. Living this.
Me. Him. Them. You. It made it all so much simpler. And so much better.

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I was crouched down on the ground
In a corner, trying to make myself small
Hiding my body, the scars, the bruises
Curled around myself as if the physical
Sensation of crumpling inwards, like a
Rose wilting, would protect my heart
Which felt like a thousand stab wounds
All fighting for which would make the
Biggest hole and let everything I am leak out

I was the colour of indigo on a blank canvas
Deep deep deep
I am the painting you want to look at, but
I make your soul ache because when you look
Past the first hues of blue, you see the black that
Lies under it all, see the absence of light

I was water. I was the enduring, pulsing rhythm
Of a force that would not be stopped. Or was
I the tears that just kept pouring out?

That’s what her body said to me, as she sat
On the other side of the room. Deflated.
Shivering with the adrenaline that ravaged
Her when words like arrows pierced
The delicate gossamer she is made of
Oh, she’d like you to think she is a warrior and,
She is, but she is also a butterfly. My butterfly
And I will not watch her be pinned to a board
And cased in glass. I will not.

But, that body shifted. It unfurled. It released.
And she?

She rose. She persisted. She soared.

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I was 14, he was 15. The very first day we met, he kissed my hand, very Cinderella style. Little did he know he was kissing the hand of a hopeless dreamer. An incurable romantic. A girl who, even at 14, had learned how to exit the world of her reality and dwell in the world of books, movies, plays and music. My fantasy world was the real one in which I dwelt and the reality of school and homework and parents and such were just the nuisance that had to be endured between escapisms.
Our first date. How ironic it was to a movie. Escapism please!
We went to see The Little Mermaid. When it was first released to theatres (am I dating myself, much?). The song “kiss the girl” was the backdrop to our first kiss. He with his towering height and me with my fantasies and already I had us married off with kids and living in a far away land.
Cut to now, and we’re married with kids and moved provinces, so in a way, my 14 year old dream came true.
My number is inverted now. I’m 41. I still use books and movies and plays and music as a way to leave the trappings of the adult world, a world VASTLY more disappointing than I was led to believe as a child. Sure, I can eat what I want and go to bed when I want, but I also pay taxes and clean and raise children and have a job. But I have my dreams. Tucked away where I can call upon them when needed. I still read books and fall in love with the mythical worlds weaved for me. I even write books where I can bend the fantasy to my own will and whimsy. Songs still transport me and movies are where I give over my heart and soul to be drawn into another place and time.
So, it’s no surprise that when the live action Beauty and the Beast was announced that I immediately professed that I would not only see this in theatre, but that we would all go, husband, wife and the three children still remaining at home. No one minded. When your mother is a dreamer, she tends to influence her children.
The day approached and the closer we got, the more excited we became. The kids would frequently play the trailers on the internet and I, the eternal crier, would more often than not, feel my eyes growing hot with anticipation.

On Sunday we crammed our five adult forms into the car and drove to the theatre where Belle awaited. As we sat in a row at the back of the theatre, I leaned over to my husband and whispered “I love that 22 years of marriage later, you’re still taking me to Disney movies. Only now we bring our children.” He tried to pretend like that didn’t make him “catch the feels” too, but I know it did. He has been much more sentimental since his heart attacks.
The show started and transported is exactly what we were. My youngest, the 15 year old, 6’2 man-child sitting beside me, spent the entire show holding my hand, or laying his head on my shoulder, or hugging me. My girls sat at the end silently letting tears fall. The movie was perfection. It should be held up as an example of how to bring a beloved animation to live action. I won`t go into the details of the myriad of ways I loved it, because this post would simply be too long.
It was beautiful visually, artistically, musically and in it`s composition. The casting was perfect and I truly wanted to step through that screen and into Belle`s world.
We left the theatre that evening to go home to the world that we built. It`s warm, inviting and loving. It`s full of laughter, and yes, sometimes tears. Usually mine. It`s teenagers and adult children who still hug their parents. It`s kids who were brought up to love and to treat people with kindness and dignity and inclusion. With all the mistakes and pitfalls I’ve taken in my life, it`s my deepest source of pride to see the family that we built and what we`ve built it into. Even with my love for escaping through books and music and movies and plays, it’s still that Prince Charming of mine that I come back to.

And he still kisses my hand.

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Last Saturday the hubs and I drove north to Fredericton for an electrical stimulation demonstration. (TENS machines, etc). It was a great opportunity for us to meet some new people and learn about some new techniques in pain control.  Not for him, though, you don’t use those types of products when you have a serious heart condition.   For me, with recurring back pain and sarcoidosis, it was worth looking into.  

Discussion and demo started at six and ended juuuuust before eight and we had been invited to a friends house for nine.  Perfect, time to go have dinner together. 

We were both hungry.  We had left Saint John just around four and had driven straight to the venue.  I must also add that driving along the river in Fredericton is BEAUTIFUL.  Truly.  I’ll never get tired of how lovely the maritimes are.  And I loved that our hour and forty minute drive between two major cities in New Brunswick is so scenic.  Not like driving between major cities in Ontario at all. (Sorry-not sorry, Ontario) 

Anyway, we don’t actually know Freddy very well so we pulled over and looked in the GPS for nearby restaurants.  

Red Lobster.  Within minutes!  Sure it’s weirdly cliche for maritimers to eat there but, biscuits!  Shrimp!  Off we went.  However, upon reaching the spot where the GPS said it would be, there was nothing.  No restaurants of any kind. Nothing that even looked like it was once a restaurant.  Disappointed, we checked again.   Olive Garden.  Six minutes away!  I’ve never eaten at an Olive Garden but Shawn has. He immediately got excited by lasagna.  I did what I do best while navigating,  started a running commentary on every restaurant we passed, which admittedly, wasn’t riveting.  There was an Asian fusion place called Ko-To, a Thai place, a McDonald’s.  Six minutes later and no Olive Garden.  Same situation as with red lobster.  We drove around in case the GPS had merely put us in the vicinity of Italian food, or by this time, 8:30, any food but no. Gas station, optometrist, law office, pet smart. No restaurant.  No Olive Garden. No lasagna.  

We decided to go back to the Thai place. After all, we were due at our friends by nine.  And we were very hungry.  So, back we went.  We parked in the suspiciously empty parking lot and walked to the door.  Closed at 8 on Saturdays.  Closed at 8??? We were flabbergasted.  What restaurant closes at 8 in a weekend?  I turned to my beloved. Ko-To it is.  We got back in the car and started joking about how the city was conspiring against our hunger.  We pulled into the parking lot and the open sign was still on. Another sign pointed us to park in the back.  We drove around and parked beside the only other car. Looking behind us, I noticed that the restaurant was located on the street directly in front of a mini mall with a McDonald’s.  Ha ha, I thought. No homogenized burgers and fries today. 

There was a long ramp on the side of the building that wrapped around to the front door.  That’s nice, I remember thinking.  Wheelchair friendly.  JUST As we reached the top of the ramp, we heard a loud lick click. We rounded the corner in time to see the open sign get turned off. 

Because they closed at nine. Because Fredericton did not want us to eat.  Laughing softly through our raging hunger pangs, we went back and say in the car.  We watched seconds later as a lady came out the back entrance, got into her car (right beside us) and drove out.   We watched her drive right around and into the McDonald’s  lot behind us. Shrugging, defeated and famished, we followed.  Shawn and I ate our Big Macs and loudly rolled our eyes at one another over the terrible conversations by a nearby table of six teenagers.  Thn we went to our friends house for a great evening with adults. 

That was last Saturday.  And three weeks before that we came home from Ontario to my having to deal with a bad case of laryngitis.  No voice for four days.  

Last Sunday my throat was sore.  Monday it was very sore.  Tuesday myself and all three teens went to the clinic for sore throats and varying degrees of voice loss (and this is prom/grad week for ash).  We were given the once over and prescribed a gargle for our sore throats.  By last night just before I left work, I could not swallow.  So I went to urgent care.  Raging laryngitis.  I was told to stay home and not talk.  Naproxen for pain, and wait.  

So I’m home today.  I can’t talk and I’m frustrated.  Our middle daughter graduates high school tonight.  Im going to go, I’m going to cry, but I won’t be able to say a word.  

And that, my friends, is how I’m kicking off my holiday week.  

Good grief.  

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