Growing Pains

We talk a lot about milestones, when we have kids. Milestones and rites of passage. By 18 months, your baby should be able to… Baby’s first tooth, baby’s first step, first day of school, first girlfriend, driver’s permit…the list goes on and on and on. But those aren’t the real rites of passage. Those aren’t the real milestones.

When you look at your child, your baby, who you’ve held in your arms so many times, and you can see the man or woman they are becoming; that is the true milestone. That is the true measure of your child’s progress.

What we are charged with when we become parents isn’t simply to protect a helpless infant. It isn’t to stop bad things from happening to our children. From the moment a child comes in to our lives, our jobs are to be teachers, not wardens. We’re not here to keep our children from harm. We are here to give them the tools and the skills they will need to see them through…”it all”.

There is such a push for all of the firsts that the change – the growth and the learning themselves are forgotten. I watch my boys and I see joyful, thoughtful, intelligent souls. I see their bodies, able, capable, bendy and strong, running and leaping toward each new day. I see their tears of pain and frustration and it’s awesome.

I’m not saying the firsts aren’t important. Of course we should be excited for all the things our children can do that they couldn’t do before. But what makes the decision to break things off with a girlfriend – for the first time – any less poignant than the first time a baby rolls over?

Time.

We lose ourselves in our schedules – of trying to get the kids to their lessons and games and fitting our schedules into one another’s and making sure the linens are fresh and there’s food in the fridge and somewhere along the line we forget to just…sit back and watch. And be proud. It’s okay to be proud of yourself. It’s okay to be proud of your children. This isn’t the sort of pride that belittles others. This is the sort of pride that comes with an exhalation and a smile.

I want you to do this – and if you don’t have children of your own, borrow someone else’s for a little while – watch them and listen to them and let yourself be awed and amazed at all of the things that have brought them to the place they are. Think about the ways in which every person in their lives have added shape to the constantly-changing mind. How every interaction makes a little change in brain chemistry.

Sharing your life with another human is always challenging, whether that human is a lover, a parent, a friend, or a child. Relationships are elastic, dynamic. We ourselves are in constant flux. How the hell any of us survive is a bit of a mystery; add in trying to figure out how to relate to one another and honest to God every day is a work of fiction.

Between it all, though, in the quiet, still places, in the hushed moments you can steal, try and watch where each child is going. Try to see some different milestones. Think about *how* your kids are thinking instead of *what* they’re thinking about. It’s beautiful.

Why we can’t be friends when you’re in Hawaii

My cousin is in Hawaii right now, and I have vowed that she and I can NOT be friends until she is home. Now. She’s a professional photographer, so all of her pictures of her little “vacation” are fucking gorgeous, and because I am not at all petty or jealous, I’ve decided that I’m going to post photographs of MY awesome time STAYING HOME IN THE SNOW.

Now, I’m not a professional photographer or anything, but I think these turned out pret-ty well:

YardSnow The view from our bedroom window. I should point out that this image may be a little under-exposed. It was really difficult to get the light just right, and the snow and sleet kept just firing sideways the whole time which knocked the crap out of my auto-focus. 

I took this with a 500-SLDR MMX BMW 14 gauge 2DR 99% option-free sliding reflux mounted on a tripod made of stale oreos. The lens I used was “Screw You, Winter”, which cost me more than I’d like to admit in mental health. The light’s really nice, coming in from behind the…um. Well there are trees out there somewhere.

SassypantsBumblebuttSnowHere you see ‪#‎PrincessSassypants‬ and ‪#‎Bumblebutt‬ in the yard. They’re adorable when they get out there, all running around and sniffing the air to see if there’s anything still alive after a week and a half of zero degrees kelvin. #Bumblebutt claims she heard a squirrel, but she’s an older dog and might have been hearing #PrincessSassypants’ farts, which, I can assure you, are terrifying. I used the camera on my phone to capture these two mutts. Just look at the looks on their little faces. AREN’T THEY ADORABLE?

…that’s not a dead squirrel in #Bumblebutt’s mouth, is it?

DogpoopSnowOh. This is one of my favourites. After the #Doges romped about for a while (you have to keep moving or else you’ll die of exposure!) , I took this shot of our yard. I’ve always really admired how photographers can capture the SOUL of someone’s yard in a single shot. You know the ones I mean – lush and verdant green gardens, full of blooms and climbing vines, with a little babbling brook or birdbath in the corner, and an arbour under which a small patio set sits, just waiting for a bottle of wine and a much-loved book. Now, I’m not a professional photographer, but I think this shot really does capture the soul of my yard right now, after the dogs have been playing in it.

Well. Okay. Not “playing” per se.

FamilyPortraitSnowOf course, what pictoral essay would be complete without the ubiquitous family portrait in the back yard. We’re all wearing our Hawaiian shirts, as a kind of HOMAGE to my cousins who are staying with my aunt and uncle on the Big Island (the Hawaiian Big Island, not the Lac La Ronge big island). I’m ..I’m not sure what ‪#‎TheNipper‬ is doing in this photo, but it might have something to do with fire walking or coconuts or…I dunno…um…flying crabs? And don’t be turned off by ‪#‎TheTeen‬‘s scowl. He always looks like that. You can tell he’s actually enjoying himself because he’s wearing his earbuds and watching a YouTube video WHILE WE TOOK THE PICTURE. Oh. And apparently one of the mice from our kitchen got in the picture too. Swine cats, not doing their job.

So there. I AM TOTALLY HAVING FUN NOT IN HAWAII.

Believe it or not, walking on air

I was tagged by Julian (@saskajules) to post five pictures in five days.

IMG_8903.JPGToday is #TheNipper’s birthday party. He wanted to come to the giant warehouse full of trampolines. The WAREHOUSE full of TRAMPOLINES.

And because the parts of my brain that process fun are stuck in the 90s, I’m in love with the blacklights and the cheesy lasers and the whole dance club feel of the place. So who’s up for a drunken trampoline tweetup for my birthday? BLACKLIGHTS, TRAMPOLINES, and SHITTY DANCE MUSIC!! It can’t possibly get any more awesome.

WAIT.

SPARKLE PANTS.

Okay this is totally going to be a thing.

I tag my friend James (@_James_Park) to post five pictures for five days and to tag someone every day.

IMG_8912.JPG and my loot from @CBCSask’s tweetup is glowing.

R-E-S whatever

IMG_3476.JPGAnd then #TheTeen saunters in to the room with his hands jammed down his pockets and a scowl on his face in the best inadvertent impression of Reggie Mantle I’ve ever seen. Keep in mind this is after an evening of which the highlight was sitting down at the dinner table having provided the following instructions: “we are going to sit here, miserably, and be miserable. We are going to hate one another and stare pointedly at our bowls. Likely we won’t speak to one another at all. But we’re going to sit here miserably and have a miserable supper and it will be horrid and uncomfortable. But it will be quiet. Resentful, and quiet.”

“So where’s the money you said you were going to give me?” It asks.

“In my wallet,” I answer.

“You gonna give it to me?” It asks.

“We’ll see,” I say.

“Yeah whatever,” it says. It saunters off again. Then it slams something.

This is what you have to look forward to, all you people with adorable babies and balanced lives. THINGS that live in your house and eat all your food and slam and break your things and then say shit like “whatever” as they slouch off because unfair and reasons and hormones.

Why a Communications Strategy is imperative

Man, that sounds boring.

Bear with me, okay?

Whether you are running a business, employed as a writer or PR or communications staff, or whether you’re running or managing a minor sports team, a dance troupe, or a non-profit, you need a communications strategy. This might be as simple as “I have everyone’s email and will always send out notifications to a Bcc: distribution list”. It could be as complex as having dozens of staff monitoring social media, radio, print and television media, and providing official statements from the government. The reason why you need to have a communications strategy is because a good communications strategy will solve most problems before they become problems.

“Give me an example!” You demand.

All right.

Our hockey team, 2011One of our kids has been playing hockey in our town for eleven years. Last year, when he was injured (he had a concussion), he didn’t play contact hockey, but he did work as a referee with our local hockey association. The local hockey association has our contact information. They have our boy listed on registries and in databases and God only knows what else. After that year that he took off of contact sports, we didn’t receive any registration information for the upcoming hockey season (that being this year).

I vaguely remembered at the end of the school year that that was usually when he used to get registration forms sent home from school, but I wasn’t concerned when we didn’t receive one, because in previous years we had received registration packages in the mail. This year, though, the registration package never came. Our kid received his reffing stuff from our provincial hockey association, and he received emails regarding his reffing clinics from our local hockey association. No registration information, though.

Over the summer, we travelled and worked on the farm, and then came home so The Teen could play football on his home team. As happens with football, once September rolled around, we began seeing kids have conflicts with hockey evaluations and the like, and this brought up the question, “do you want to play hockey this year?”

I’ve never been the world’s biggest hockey fan, but I love watching our kid play. I have never begrudged the expense (registration alone is over $1100 this year; never mind equipment) or the time (we’re booked from October – April). I have only a few times begrudged sitting in a rink for most of my spare time, but the up side is that I’ve watched our son go from having to ask his coach to lift him up into the players’ box to being an aggressive, enthusiastic defenceman. He’s never going to play in the major leagues. He’s never even going to play in the junior leagues. Now that he’s midget age, he really only has two, maybe three years left of the excellent instruction and opportunity provided him by Saskatchewan minor hockey. We discussed this, and he registered, and was pretty excited to play again. Last year he was utterly despondent that he couldn’t play.

We missed the September 1st registration deadline, but we’ve missed that in the past and it hasn’t been a problem. The Teen doesn’t do evaluations because he doesn’t want to play on the Tier 1 team. He’s played Tier 2 and Tier 3 hockey his whole life, and is happy as a clam doing so. He’s passionate about hockey, but not…intense. He knows he’s never going to the majors.

The Captain, 2010Monday morning he received an email from the local hockey association telling him that they won’t accept his registration because they have enough players registered for the AA and Tier 2 teams. He doesn’t get to play hockey at home. Where he’s played for eleven years. With his friends. In his hometown jersey.

I was incensed. Disgusted. Angry. Disappointed. I started calling hockey teams all over our hockey zone, trying to find one that wants a Midget defence man. I’m still waiting to hear back. Our local hockey association gave me absolutely no help or direction, other than to tell me there’s a non-contact recreational league in the city The Teen can sign up with (not interested. Testosterone. Hitting. Roar). This led me to the Saskatchewan Hockey Association, who told me that he’s eligible to play for any of the teams in a 160km radius of our home. He told me if we can’t find a team in that area (to which it is feasible to drive a few times a week), The Teen can play in the city, but will need special permission to do so. This communication took five minutes.

Had I received an email or a letter or a frigging carrier pigeon from our local hockey association at any time this summer that said “our numbers for midget hockey are too low to sustain three teams; if you have a player who’s interested, please contact us”, I’d have contacted them. If I’d have seen anything that said “Registration is now closed for midget hockey as both teams’ rosters are full”, I’d have been disappointed, and a little frustrated that we’d never been contacted earlier to register. And mad at myself for not having checked earlier. If at any time I’d have received an email or a phone call or a letter or a goddamned interpretive dance that made me think that this association in any way gave a fiddler’s fart about my kid and his opportunity to play hockey, I don’t think I’d have lost my cool.

But I did. I lost my cool. I sent a pretty vicious letter. I understand why the board made the decision they did – they had the opportunity to put together a AA team that draws kids from all over southern Saskatchewan, and that’s really exciting. They didn’t have the numbers for three teams. They decided to put together two larger teams. I get their decisions. I really do. I don’t *agree* with them, because their communication strategy is apparently “let’s not tell anybody anything and we’ll make decisions that could potentially mean that a bunch of kids don’t get to play hockey in town this year. And in fact, let’s send them terse emails and not give them any information about how to play anywhere else because who in God’s green earth would want to play hockey if they couldn’t play for our team?” Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe their communications strategy is “we don’t need a communications strategy because we’re a minor hockey association and everyone who needs to know something can just find that information on our website or ask a board member”. Which is great if you know that every year you have to phone up the board and say “hey, are you going to have enough teams for my kid to play this year?”

I’ve never had that question before. I always just assumed that the purpose of having a minor hockey association in your home town is to MAKE SURE that all the kids who want to play hockey in your town kind of get to play hockey in your town. But whatever. I’m not on the hockey board. I’ve never been invited to be a part of the hockey board. After what’s happened this week, I will never be invited TO be a part of the hockey board. And frankly, I’m a little worried that because I wrote a critical letter and then kind of sorta talked to some news folks about what had happened, that my kid will suffer in his hockey or his reffing or what have you. I HOPE that would never happen, but I don’t know about these things. I don’t grok politics. I don’t grok power struggles.

But I *do* grok communications strategies. And this, my friend, was a truly sad, and ultimately cruel situation. We received no communication from our local hockey board other than to be told they can’t provide an opportunity for our kid to play hockey on his home team, with his friends, for his first year of midget hockey. That was it.

Bad form, folks. Bad form. I’m truly sorry our boy won’t be part of your association this year. We have given you a lot of our time, money, and work over the last eleven years. And we will do so again, I hope. But this year, you let us down. You let us down HARD.

Post-graduate paper

EssayThis morning, #TheTeen and I got into a bit of a tiff. Mornings are chaotic, and as much as I have really enjoyed #TheTeen’s company this summer, when school starts up again and we’re under pressure, something eventually has to give. Here’s some background, although actually, the deets aren’t all that important. In fact, the deets don’t really matter so I’m not going to bore you with them.

The point is, it resulted in me screaming at #TheTeen for about fifteen minutes, over something that really oughtn’t be scream-worthy. When he left for school, we were on grumpy terms, and I hate that. Just as he walked out, he said, “why are you such a douche? Can you just answer that? Why are you such a douche?” So I thought about what I’d done and what had happened, and I thought the best thing to do would be to write a 1500-word essay about why I’m such a douche.

The essay ended up being just over 1700 words and includes a bibliography. Sorry if the citations are done incorrectly. I do them OLD SCHOOL, mofos.

Why I’m Such A Douche – the essay

It’s been nine long years

IMG_1192Not really. Not really long years. Nine ridiculously short years. Nine years that feels like days. Nine years that passed in the blink of an eye.

Your brother was in his stroller. I clutched my go-mug of coffee with one white-knuckled hand and the stroller with the other. We took pictures of you out in front of the garage with your new backpack. Well. Your dad and Papa took those pictures because I couldn’t. We started walking across the street, and you reached up and took my hand as soon as I put my coffee in its holder.

“I’m scared, Mama,” you said.

“I know,” I told you. “I’m scared too. But I think it’s going to be okay.”

You with your round cheeks and your bright eyes. Your hands were still chubby-knuckled and you wore the sweater I’d knit for you with the Irish wool mum sent back from Kilkenny. I thought about how proud she would be of you. Then I pushed that thought as far away as I could because I’d already been sobbing for weeks about your first day of Kindergarten. Of COURSE all of the other parents were crying (well, some of them, who may have been on their fifth kid, pretty much just drove by and slowed down to let the little urchins out of the  car).

You were the only child I could see on that playground. I heard some of your hockey teammates call out to me, and I suppose I must have waved to them.

Your teacher came to greet us at the gate, and she knelt down and said, “I know you’re scared, and that’s okay. Everyone’s a little scared on their first day.”

Then you hugged me tightly and took your teacher’s hand and you walked onto the playground. I stood for just a moment watching you, and in that moment felt so pleased. Yet letting you go was the hardest thing I’ll ever do. It will always be the hardest thing I’ll ever do.

Somewhere there is a place where all of the little pieces of mothers’ hearts go.