Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Nooks and Crannies

In early June I posted the tribute I wrote about my Mom and read at her memorial service.  A friend, who lost her mother several years ago, posted this comment:
I do know that in the months and years to come, you are going to discover your mom in so many nooks and crannies of your life. Sometimes it will come as a surprise, but it is the greatest feeling when you realize there are places you will find her.
I didn't know what that meant exactly, but I did find it comforting.

About a month ago, Sydney and I were about to make cookies to bring to school for her birthday.  She loves to be involved in cooking. But for the most part, I measure everything out and she dumps it (mostly) into the bowl. As we were about to get started, I remembered how my Mom taught me to bake.  She taught me about the ingredients, how to measure, how to read a recipe, how to turn on the oven, how to tell if the cake was done.  She taught me it all.  

From about grade 5 or so I was making cookies on Saturday mornings to last through the lunches and after school snacks for the week that followed.  I remember making blueberry muffins and fortune cookies from the Nancy Dew cookbook.  I still enjoy baking but honestly never connected it to my early on-the-job training I received from my Mom.

And so I passed it on. I showed Sydney how to measure powders and liquids.  And we read the recipe together and I showed her how to use the Kitchenaid mixer without splaying ingredients all over the counter. (I had to learn that last one myself. The hard way.)

Most importantly, I talked about how Oma had taught me to cook. And how much we miss her. 

And now I know what my friend meant by nooks and crannies.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Talking Points: Homework Edition

Me: Jackson, I had a look at the story you wrote for homework. It's fantastic.

Him: Yeah.

Me: One tiny thing,  you might want to take a read and put in some capitals after the periods.  The only capital is at the beginning of your story.

Him: I'm finished.

Me: Look, here's the eraser and pencil, I bet it won't take you 2 minutes.

Him: Mommy, I'm finished, you're not supposed to help me with my homework.

Me: Oh and I checked your math homework, are you doing all the math in your head? You didn't show your work. I put a tiny mark beside the questions that are wrong. Do you want to correct those today or tomorrow?

Him: Mommy, I  am supposed to do the homework, if you give me all the answers, it won't be my homework.

Me: I am not giving you any answers, I just checked it and I'm telling you to re-do the ones that are wrong.

Him: Well if I get an "A" because you gave me the answers, that wouldn't be fair to the other kids, would it?  That would be cheating. Are you telling me you want me to cheat?

Me: Parents are supposed to check homework.  That is why we sign your planner. That's how it works.

Him: That is not how it works. That is cheating and I am not changing any of my homework.

Me: The point of homework is to help you master a skill. If you're making mistakes, you're not mastering the skill.

Him: What about the other kids that don't have parents checking their homework? It would be totally unfair to them because if I get an "A" it will because you helped me.

Me: They don't usually mark the homework.  I'm trying to help you learn.

[in the interests of brevity I won't give you the real time transcript as we each repeated ourselves 68 times over the weekend before I realized I needed a new approach.]

Me: Okay, we will go to school early and talk to Mrs. K about this tomorrow morning.

Him: Fine.

[the next morning at school]

Him: [extremely reluctantly and at my insistence]  Mrs. K, my Mom and I have a disagreement about my homework.

Mrs. K: Okay.


Me: Jackson thinks that he should do his homework and that we should not look at it because if we find any mistakes and tell him, that would be cheating and would be wrong.  I think that homework is to help the kids learn a skill and the parents should review the homework and the kids should make the corrections.

Mrs. K.: Jackson, your Mom is absolutely right.  I can't sit beside you when you do your homework. You parents are like an extra teacher.  So your parents should look at your homework and you should be making the corrections.

Him: [silence]

Me: Jackson, let me make sure we are hearing the same thing.  Mrs. K is saying that we should be looking at your homework and you you should be making the corrections.

Him: [trying to dissolve into floor] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[after school]

Me: Did you get bring your math so you can make the corrections tonight?

Him: No.

Me: Why not?

Him: Mommy, Mrs. K didn't say to do that.

Me: WHAT?!?!?!!?!? Weren't you there? Don't you remember what she said about the parents being the extra teacher and that you're supposed to correct it???

Him: Mommy, did Mrs. K actually say to fix the homework from the weekend?

Me: Not in those words but ....

Him: See! She did not say to do it.

Me: That is only because we did not ask the exact questions 'should Jackson correct his homework from the weekend'. But that homework is not due until Wednesday and we talked to her generally about how to approach homework.

Him: Mommy, that is a new rule and since we heard about it this morning it only applies to future homework and I should not have to fix the homework from the weekend, which is from before that rule started.

Me: [utter silence]

I did not learn about 'grandfathering' of laws until law school.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Yoga. That word has always connoted only inaccessible new age-y things. Chakras. Chi. The healing power of breathing?

While I am deeply devoted to wearing yoga pants, yoga is definitely not for me.  Some of my best friends are known to carry around yoga mats and hang out in yoga studios, and while I pretend not to judge, I do quietly mock them. I mean, really? A yoga mat? 

And I have tried yoga. When I was pregnant with Jackson, I carried him very high, which put an extreme amount of pressure on my back. So much so that the sharp and searing knife pain in my middle back was unrelenting. Thus, I was desperate. So desperate that I tried a yoga class that was conveniently held in a boardroom at work.

I think it may have helped a little. Any time I spent doing the downward dog, I was not sitting in a chair, which is what aggravated my back pain the most. What that class did for me was reinforce my preconceived notions that all yogis were flaky. The instructor spoke only about flow and air and space and energy,  and spent little time explaining the poses, which I would have found hard enough even without twenty pounds of J Boy and associated fluids sloshing around my mid section.

Since then I have attended the odd yoga class, usually on girlfriend spa weekends.  Some of my sisters are so highly devoted to their well-being that on a perfectly good weekend of indulgence, pedicures, massages, good food and wine are not sufficient, they insist on contorting their bodies, and well I go along for the ride.

This fall, I felt an uncommon amount of tension. Obviously, in and through all I am grieving the loss of my Mom.  The fall is always busy for us. New grades at school. New roster of activities. Children who seem to need 62 reminders to come to the dinner table / do their homework / brush their teeth / change their underwear.  Add to that birthdays, Husband's dividing his time between two jobs and a dog that barks just when I'm clinging to my last shred of sanity and yeah, I think I could use some yoga.

So I found a class Yoga 101 and thought I could spend 75 minutes for 5 Saturdays trying to find a way to let go of a little tension. Instead of an inaccessible instructor, I had one who explained everything and in five weeks I heard not one work about chakras.

And now, I get it.  It's a unique combination of strength and stretch and yes, relaxation.

Which I will be doing more of. On my very own yoga mat.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

8. Going on 13.

Sydney last year, had a little thing going with a boy I call "P".

It was only late July when I was belatedly cleaning out the backpacks from the school year (which I have vowed to do earlier next year), that I found a ring. Silver with a large 10 carat pink heart. Well I am not entirely sure of the carat sizing of pink plastic. I learned at the time that this was a parting gift from P who over the summer moved away. Not to-Timbuktu far, just out-of-the-school-district far.

It was only at Sydney's birthday sleepover party where 'telling secrets' figure prominently on the agenda, that I learned that P actually got down on one knee and presented the ring. Apparently there was discussion over whether there ought to be a good bye kiss, with the resolution being a unanimous 'no'.

A couple weeks ago, I was chatting with Sydney after school. She recounted who she played with at recess and lunch and a new name popped up, a boy "T'. It is not that unusual for Sydney to play with boys and there were quite a number of girls who played with her that particular day, but I had a hunch.

"So, do you have any new boyfriends?"

"Well, not that you mention it, today, T said he wanted to do something private with me on the field."

While that phrase strikes fear in the heart of every mother of a little girl, what T wanted to do privately was to tell Sydney that he liked her. Sydney did not reciprocate in the sharing of feelings she said, but she owned, it turns out they had become boyfriend and girlfriend.

I asked her how that happened since she didn't tell T that she liked him in return.

"He said it for me, Mommy".

I got a little concerned that she needs to be able to find her voice in these situations, but she did recount how later they were playing hopscotch, and she put her foot on the number that has a heart, and said "this is your heart" and he did the same in return and apparently this has some kind of civil union status for the grade three set.

She was definitely feeling a little badly about her long distance whatever-that-is with P. I tried with all my heart not to be alarmed but only amused by these turn of events. I was about 25 when I got up to the point that I had two boyfriends (total, not simultaneously - that is a feat I never managed).

The next day though, she had it all resolved:

"Mommy, I told T I thought things were going a little too fast and that I just wanted to be good friends. He agreed so we are just friends. Oh Mommy, can you email P's Mom and ask her if I can be pen pals with him?"

I am wondering where she finds the confidence to speak so candidly, and to know her own self so well. And how can she teach this to the rest of us. That is when I am not trying to figure out what we are going to do when she is 13.