Monday, May 28, 2012

Smartie Cookies

It was mid May last year and we broke the news to the kids that Oma was sick. Very sick. She might not be with us for much longer.

They accepted the news better than most of the grownups.

Sydney did have one question:  did Oma show Opa where the Smartie cookie recipe was?

Oma will always be remembered for these special cookies. I did not get a chance to ask my Mom where her recipe was, but she got it from her sister who gave it to me.

I have had it for a year but had not made the cookies yet. Sydney has been asking. I thought as we gathered to mark the one year anniversary of her death as a family, a batch of Smartie cookies was in order.
And they were packaged with lots of curly ribbon and the recipe.
 I think Mom would approve..

One Year

It's been one year since Mom left us. 

I have been struggling with what to say that will capture this moment.  We have made it through the dreaded year of 'firsts'.

Thanksgiving. Mom's birthday, Christmas, Mother's Day. I even turned 50.

But I think the hardest moments of the last year, you know apart from all of them, were the quiet ones. 

In September, when the kids got their new class and teacher assignments, I would always call Mom and give her the rundown.  But she wasn't here to call.

At Thanksgiving, I could not find my recipe for Nutty Yams and I called my Dad who valiantly flipped through cookbook after cookbook looking for it. Mom would have known what book and what page.

My Mom was an affirmer.  She used to tell us in person, that she appreciated us.  But I would brush it off, a little embarrassed, because she does so much more than I do.  So she became an affirmer by email.   Luckily I am one of those people that rarely cleans out her in box and from time to time I come across an email from Mom, thanking me for hosting  a dinner or for flowers or for remembering something.

And my heart smiles. 

Miss you Mom.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

All Grown Up

I had a dream.

To eat at a restaurant with my family that did not have a children's menu.

I requested scintillating conversation and, importantly, no complaints that the food was weird.

(I had emergency snacks in my purse because I know how hard scintillating conversation is when you're hungry.)

So, belatedly for my birthday, we went to dinner.
Did I mention getting dressed up was part of the package?
Shirts. With buttons.
Some may see a slight resemblance.
Dessert = very serious business
Expectations = exceeded 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I was schooling Jackson on respect one day in the car.  He was telling me how good it was going to feel to say "I told you so" to a friend.

I was assuring him that Dale Carnegie would definitely say that is NOT the way to win friends and influence people.

So as I was delivering a moving, and inspirational sermonette on the merits of being a good friend, I heard a little chirp from the back seat.


(Jackson has taken to speaking in stage directions. "Sigh" "Face palm" "Eye roll")

That got my attention.  I pointed out in a brisk tone the irony of my speaking to him about being respectful and he disrespecting me with his commentary.


I think this is where I started screeching.


Then I really lost it. It was a good thing we were only half a block from home.

Fast forward an hour and Jackson had just the right amount of indignation and revision historian.  He came to my room and I naively expected an apology.  I had one for him.  I lost it. I would not tolerate like the disrespect, but I also should not have gone Linda Blair on him either.

I waited for his contrite apology.

"Mommy, you know there's an amendment, I have freedom of speech."


Guess who is halfway to twenty-one?
The honouree was very keen to open presents.
Official filmographer.
Mario Brothers wallet.
Custom-made sisterly coupons.
"Coupon for being slave"
"Coupon for letting Jackson borrow Sydney's stuff"
"Coupon for when watching a girls' show let him watch something else"
And the thing he wanted most desperately.
His own fedora.
(You know, it runs in the family)
Happy Half Birthday Dude.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

One last thing ...

Mother's Day 2011
I don't suppose anyone needs to have any advanced degrees in psychoanalysis to know my emotions have been close to the surface this week.  That explains (in part) my tears at Sydney's letter this morning.

Last Mother's Day as my family gathered for a weekend away, I had one prevailing thought.  How will I get through Mother's Day next year? Looking back on the last bittersweet Mother's Day weekend. Knowing she was with us one year, and not the next.

But I am making it through. A few people have told me how the lead up to all the big milestones after a loss is harder than the actual day.  I found that true about Thanksgiving, Mom's birthday Christmas and now Mother's Day.  Last week was harder. Today is okay.

I remember her for all the love she had for me and all her family. But I had fifty Mother's Days with her.  And this morning I experienced the other of Mother's Day: as a mother, rather than as a daughter.

Mom spent the last fifteen Mother's Days without being able to give her Mother wishes. And this year they are together again.
My Grandma's 95th birthday and I think the last photo my Mom had with her.  She died about sic weeks later.
Miss you Mom. Say hi to Grandma.

Tears. Of Joy?

I have never been much of  happy crier. I suppose on the rare occasion my eyes have teared up. But I didn't cry on my wedding day, when my kids were born or the happiest moments in all of motherhood, the day each of them were potty trained at age 4.

This morning that changed.  As is our Mother's Day morning tradition, after Pillsbury cinnamon rolls and coffee, I read cards and open gifts from my kids.  (see here or here for fine examples of Mother's Day).

But today, I cried. Effusively.  And laughed. Hysterically. Here's why:

Dear Mom,

Thank you for everything you do for me!  Thank you for cooking for me and taking me to dance.  Your broccolini is so, so crunchy!!!!  Your cheese buns are baked to perfection and I can't forget the chocolate muffin tops!  Mmmmmm delicious!  Dance oh dance! I could not perform or be backstage if you didn't drive me or pay for me! So I love you and you are the best mom ever in the whole wide WORLD!  No other mom could sing like you or drew Jackson, Daddy, me and yourself.  When you bring Finny in my bed it's so funny when she sleeps on my bed because she's tired!  I love it when we watch "Say Yes To The Dress: Bridesmaids! I love when you buy me clothes when I grow out of them or just for FUN!! Your Finny impersonations of what Finny would do in school are so alike.  I can't say how much I love you - not with numbers and not with arm lengths. I wish you could live forever and ever and ever cause you're the best mom in the history of moms!

A few inside jokes there, like the fact that I buy (and don't bake) the cheese buns and the muffin tops.  My drawing of pictures is a frequent point of mock ridicule and not much can really be said about my singing.  But I think anyone can appreciate this tender-hearted letter.  

My favourite part is the second to last sentence "I can't say how much I love you - not with number and not with arm lengths".  We have often had a back and forth over the this in this family.  Sometimes we see who can spread our arms the farthest to demonstrate our love.  Sometimes we say things like this:

"I love you a million."
"I love you a trillion"
"I love you a gazillion"
"I love you google"
"I love you google-plex"
"I love you infinity"
"I love you infinity infinities"

You could say we're a family of math geeks. And maybe just a tad competitive.

But my precious girl went beyond that.  She trumped us all.

Mother's Day Morning

It's that time of year.
  It's one of the few times I get pictures of me with my kids.
 Next year I might even put on makeup. Or get out of my pyjamas.
The present opening.
 What Mom doesn't love jewellery? 
 Always lots of help.
Feeling very blessed.

Friday, May 11, 2012

One. Year. Ago.

It was terrifying times, May 2011.  On May 4th, I learned that my Mom had been enrolled in the palliative care programme.   We had hope for a clinical trial drug to give us more time.    But it was hard to be hopeful that the cancer would not take over her body.  In fact that is how the oncologist described it, the cancer cells were literally crowding out the healthy ones.

On May 6th, providentially as it turns out, our whole family went away for Mother's Day weekend.  The plan to go away had been in the works for a while, but by pure coincidence divine intervention, it was Mother's Day weekend that we were all to be together.

As we gathered, we knew our time with Mom would be short. We knew this would be, barring an extraordinary miracle, our last Mother's Day with her.   I think we all managed to focus on being together, being a family.  I took many pictures.

It was a truly special time.  We had a memorable Mother's Day brunch. For me it was magical, like we were living in a bubble.  I truly enjoyed the time I had with my Mom and the time that we would all be together. I did not focus on what was to come.  It was a good bye.

In the afternoon one of my brothers and his family had to leave.  The next day would be a quieter one.  That evening, Husband told me that when he gone for a walk, Dad had said the doctor had said he thought Mom had three to eight weeks. Three to eight weeks.

I believe that was the hardest moment of my life.

Three weeks? Three weeks is nothing. It's a blink of an eye. 

Husband tried to reassure me that it would be more likely to be eight.  Or even longer.  Mom had walked to the beach twice and apart from taking time to rest, looked no where near that kind of terminal diagnosis.

I don't think I breathed normally for most of May.

Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

For years we have talked vaguely about getting a trampoline.  We resisted  with the ferocity that people resist mini vans (an urge we overcame 8 years ago).
Did we really want that monstrosity in our backyard?  It's an eyesore. How will it look during our elegant garden parties and swanky BBQs?

They I realized our pantry, fridge, cars, house and schedule have been given over to the kids, why draw the line at the backyard?

Couple that with an increasing challenge of getting our J Boy sufficient exercise to purge his hostility, manage his demons, stop driving me mental cope.  Most kids his age are into at least one multi-day sport.  Be it dance, soccer, hockey, baseball, most kids seem to have at least a few days of significant fitness.  Jackson's current activities are Cubs and playing clarinet. (Though he was doing trampoline and swimming earlier in the year).  While Cubs does include a portion of running around, the only exercise he gets playing clarinet is running from the car to the music place because we chronically drop him off late.

So when my brother casually mentioned to Husband that a trampoline was under consideration for his family, it crystallized for us.  After our usual obsessive Googling, we decided on one model (shown in photo). It had the safety features we wanted and was on sale. 

After some humming and hah-ing, we decided to make the plunge only to discover that the model we liked was no longer on sale.  We weren't sure we could stomach and extra $120 just on basic frugality principles.  Luckily, we live in the age of perpetual sales and two weeks later it was on sale again.

The first night I saw Jackson bouncing on it in the dark, I wondered why we waited so long.  It's solitary (unless they jump in tandem), rhythmic, and draining.  EVERYTHING THAT JACKSON NEEDS.

They have been on the trampoline every day except when Mother Nature interfered with the plans by sending rain.  Even then, they  mopped up the trampoline and jumped between showers.

They have been inviting friends over to share their bouncy bounty.

In a moment of desperation, when no one else was available to jump, Jackson asked me to join him.  I had been planning on jumping on the trampoline as a possible workout option (especially after my cousin told me a friend of hers lost 25 pounds with a trampoline workout).

So I got on with Jackson, with some hesitation, and then Sydney joined.  I have had injuries with both knees, loose ligaments that leads me to chronic misalignment and chiropractor visits.  If I was alone, I had no worries. But with my bounce-mates, the up and down can, I know from experience, jar ones knees. 

I avoided injury. And I learned two things.

One, Jackson has some sense of humour.  He urge me to do a seat drop where you bounce on your bum and then back to your feet. I got the kids off the the sides and started bouncing in preparation.  As I was about to drop Jackson said in a mock-urgent voice "PREPARE FOR IMPACT".

I laughed so hard, I fell into a pile in the middle of the trampoline.

Lesson two,  if you're 50, post childbirth, only jump on trampoline on an empty bladder.