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Pickle Me This

December 1, 2016

Swimming Lessons: Addendum

img_20161014_145046Full disclosure necessitates I update you on how things have proceeded since I read about exiting Guardian Swim and the beginning of my new career reading on the poolside. I thought I was being so clever this time, not keeping my child in Guardian Swim until she was five, which was what happened last time. Never again was I going to have my school-age child in the same swimming class as an infant, and so Iris was enrolled in Sea Turtle. This time we were going to do it right, and it was so right, for the first two lessons, at least. Iris is part mermaid and was happily floating on her back, and she had the most excellent swimming instructor in the entire history of our life in recreational programs…and then, for absolutely no reason, when we arrived at class for Week 3, Iris refused to get into the pool. And there we’ve been ever since, Iris screaming whenever forced to come into contact with the water, turning her body into a plank or a noodle, whichever would prove most inconvenient. And when you’re a parent who’s been expecting to spent 30 minutes reading poolside, the prospect of a screaming kid refusing to enter the pool is most frustrating. There was swearing.

Last week was the second last class, and there was finally progress. Iris got in the pool, but in order for this to happen I had to be crouching at the pool’s edge, basically sitting in a puddle and being splashed whenever anyone practiced kicking. There was no reading.

All of which is to say that this underlines my growing suspicion that there is really no way to do parenthood right. No matter how you swing things, they’re probably always going to be a bit annoying.

June 5, 2016

Iris is Three

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Our baby is three, which means she isn’t a baby. It’s her first time having a birthday where she’s aware of the occasion. “Is it my birthday?” she kept asking. “Right now?” We’re well tuned to birthdays at the moment because Harriet’s was just ten days ago, and it makes me think of the year that Iris turned one and one of her first words turned out to be “happy” because for about a month, it seemed like we sang Happy Birthday to You to someone every second day or so. But now she is three, and strings words together like beads on a string, and she’s got her own stories to tell—about her friends at school, and who pushed who, and who cried because there were raisins in the muffin at snack. She’s got her own little world that’s hers alone, and so staunchly belongs to it, and to herself, and she is quite unaware that this hasn’t always been the case. She knows that we were nothing before her. (“Thank you for coming to live with us,” I like to tell her, and I mean it.) As I was typing the preceding sentence, we heard Iris upstairs muttering to herself and then a thump as she climbed out of her crib and landed on the floor, the worst kind of thud shortly followed by the wailing, and this is what she’s like, reaching beyond her limits, trying to do it all herself, brave enough to jump, to climb. A human whirligig, and she’s fierce and maddening and rude and impetuous and she’ll bite you if you’re her sister, but we love her. We can’t help it. We fall for her charms, because she’s funny and smart and more stubborn than all of us put together, and we can’t stop trying to fathom her, even after it seems there is really no point. The way she ends conversations by saying, “See you next Monday!” and saying, “Pooks,” or when she scampers over, breathes in your ear, and whispers, “I burpted.” We like to joke that she’d be excellent on twitter, because she’s very good at outrage, always screaming at somebody. She likes to read the comic books her sister loves, never mind that she can’t read the words yet. At the moment, all she eats is cereal for breakfast and bagels and cream cheese of lunch, which is annoying but better than nothing. She loves Taylor Swift and singing, “Dancing on my own, has a very very mo,” which aren’t the right lyrics, I don’t think, but she isn’t bothered. Much of the time she is very very good, but when she is bad she is horrid. She used to have a charming three-tiered toy cake stand, until she smashed it in a rage, and that is Iris. Who is also excellent at baking—when she “helps” she actually does. She is much beloved by Harriet’s classmates and is quite accustomed to be being made a fuss of. She likes to dance, and play with her dolls, and draw pictures, and play whatever game her sister happens to be playing—though she can outplay her sister for hours these days, much to her frustration. Iris is kind and loving, and has a good time with her friends at school. When people are sad, she tries to comfort them. She can walk so far without slowing down. She can “read” Go Dog Go and the Elephant and Piggie books. She is fearless, full of fire, and we can learn a lot from her. If she doesn’t kill us first.

March 13, 2016

We did it.

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“WE DID IT. WE FUCKING MADE IT. AND LOOK AT HOW AMAZING THESE GIRLS ARE? LOOK AT HOW MIRACULOUS AND INTERESTING AND SMART AND FUNNY AND WILD AND BRILLIANT THESE BABES BE!? AND SOME DAYS ARE REALLY FUCKING HARD. AND SOME DAYS ARE REALLY FUCKING BEAUTIFUL. AND ALL OF THE DAYS… EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM ARE WORTH IT. THEY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN WORTH IT.” —Rebecca Woolf, Girl’s Gone Child

I never had twins (thank goodness; one baby at a time absolutely pushed me to my limits) but the post from which I quote above really resonated with me. Iris turns two-and-three-quarters next month, which means her third birthday’s on the horizon, and we’ve recently given up diapers, some days we don’t need a nap, she (usually) behaves perfectly well in a restaurant, and today we all went out for afternoon tea. For no occasion, and yet it seems like all the occasions—my novel is finished and gone into copyedits; Stuart (hopefully!) becomes Canadian next week; it’s March Break; how doesn’t like celebrating return from a tropical locale with a lavish lunch. And because Iris is finally old enough to partake. We’re about to leave the baby years behind us, and I can’t think of a better reason to celebrate than that, the future unfolding as it should.

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We never could have dreamed up Iris—she’s a full fledged mould breaker, hilarious, mischievous, irascible, loving, kind, silly and always paying attention. If you ask her anything, she’ll answer you: “Pooks.” We don’t know what pooks is, the definition ever-shifting, whatever is convenient to hang it on. She loves her sister, reading Go Dog Go and talking about nipples. She likes exclaiming, “Goodness gracious,” when she’s not saying, “Pooks.” She knows more about immigration than most two-year-olds: “Daddy’s going to be a Canadian,” she says. “I’m a Canadian already.” She is a favourite pet of Harriet’s classmates and happily ensconced in a class of her own at playschool, where she plays in drama, paints pictures, learns songs and stories. Her favourite thing is singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. She still likes to climb up onto the table and jump up and down. If she’s hungry, she can be trusted to go fetch a snack, no matter how (seemingly) unattainable that snack might be. She likes reading picture books and gets annoyed when we read books without pictures, goes and throws toys on the floor to get our attention. When she does something wrong, most of the time she is willing to say sorry, but always follows up her apology by asking, “And you say, ‘It okay, Iris,’ okay?”

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Harriet will very soon be six-and-three-quarters, which was the age I was at when I discovered there was such a thing as fractions. She will forever to us seem old and wise, just as Iris is forever little, and part of the pleasure I take in the prospect of Iris’s third year was all the fun we had the summer that Harriet was that age, when all at once the days were longer and the world was bigger and we could do almost anything. But she was so little then, I realize now, particularly compared to where she is today. She is bright and articulate and forthright and ambitious, and imagines that she can make anything at all. When she grows up, she wants to be a scientist or a rock star, although she’s leaning toward the former. She loves Taylor Swift, and dancing, and identifies as a feminist. Yesterday we were at Value Village sorting through t-shirts, and I held up one that said, “Girls Rock.” “Okay,” she said. “I mean, it’s what I believe.” She is strong and brave and loves heroic tales of awesome girls. Though she also loves Archie Comics and Betty and Veronica, so she contains multitudes. She’s nuts about the Amulet series, the Narnia books (when girls are in the story), is still more partial to graphic novels than novels proper, and is determined to invent a series of feminist superheroes who do not necessarily fight for justice in their underpants.

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We went shopping yesterday, because what better way to mark the explosion of crocuses across the street than buying shoes for our children’s ever growing feet. It was our biannual expedition to the world of commerce, with purchases of nightgowns too and suburban dinner at chain restaurant (with Jello for dessert!), always a big occasion—we get to drive in a car and everything. Plus a stop at Value Village for amazing clothes for growing girls, which was really an excuse to go on a mug-hunt, but the pickings were slim in the kitchenware dept. Alas. We got what we went for though, and I will never cease to be grateful that we can afford shoes for our children—rain-boots, sneakers and sandals too, which is a small bundle. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have to struggle for that, but nor can I imagine how we got here after all—to be grown people who buy small children tiny new shoes year after year, though they become less tiny with every season.

January 5, 2016

Lottie: Empowering Girls from Outer Space

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We discovered Lottie Dolls over a year ago, and their premise intrigued me. A proper alternative to Barbie, designed to empower girls and their play. I wrote about them here (and check out the pictures! Iris was still a baby! Harriet was so little). It could have been a one-time thing, but I return to Lotties because now it’s my girls who are crazy about them. They’re the one toy, along with Legos, that gets returned to again and again, and they play with them together, which I love so much. We have five or six of them, and received more for Christmas, along with two new Lottie outfits, including the Superhero Lottie suit shown above, which has proven very popular—this is the one Lottie who never gets her clothes changed. When Harriet and Iris received Christmas money from their grandfather last week, they knew what they wanted to buy with it—more Lotties. And so we’re currently awaiting Rockabilly Lottie and Spring Celebration Ballet Lottie in the mail, expected delivery scheduled for tomorrow. Everybody is very excited.

Though we’ve also got our eye on Stargazer Lottie, who was sold out from Indigo.ca when we made our order last week. (Darn!). Like all the Lottie dolls, she’s designed around what she can do and be rather than how she looks (although admittedly, once they’re indoctrinated into Harriet’s play, the Lottie dolls also take on peculiar new identities…) I was so interested to read this post about how Stargazer Lottie was designed in consultation with an astronomer, and even more thrilled to learn that a Stargazer Lottie doll was currently in space with British astronaut Tim Peake on the International Space Station.

And most remarkable? That none of this would have happened at all without a six-year-old girl from Comox, British Columbia, who helped dream up the Stargazer Lottie doll. I showed the video below to Harriet who had her mind blown, and then went to put on her own dress with a space print and proceeded to have her head in the stars for the rest of the day, totally inspired.

November 4, 2015

Butterflies

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As much as I cherish the feeling of my children’s hands in mine, I do so love watching them race ahead of me down the sidewalk. I love their freedom, speed, their unfettered exuberance, the possibility that their feet might indeed sprout wings. Their sense of entitlement that this world, this city, is open to them. And I like trusting too that they’ll know to stop at the corner. Every time.

IMG_20151031_165340 (1)But there was something remarkable about watching them fly down the sidewalk on Saturday, Halloween, butterfly wings billowing out behind them, colourful spans. The most low-maintenence costumes in our family history of Halloweens—we had one pair of wings already, and borrowed the other from our cousin. We made antennae out of pipe-cleaners, styrofoam balls, and headbands. Ordinary clothes beneath. I was terrified that all this would backfire the night before and Harriet would decide that what she really wanted to be was a fiery glittery invisible incandescent humdingermabobber. Or Elsa. But she didn’t. And whatever Harriet wanted to be, Iris wanted to be too.

Butterflies are special to us. We can trace this back to ancient times, when Iris was a small baby and was given a dress with a butterfly print that was designed to become a shirt as baby grew. As Iris is small, it’s possible she’ll be wearing it forever. She loves it, and calls it her fuff-eye shirt, and now we all call butterflies fuff-eyes because  this is what happens when you live with a two-year-old. And obviously, we like to read about them also.

We love love love Julie Worsted’s How To, which has a real butterfly or two, but also has a girl in fuff-eye wings on the “how to go fast” page. (From experience, I can say that wings are an excellent suggestion.)

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Then there is Elly McKay’s Butterfly Park, about gardens and community, and mostly about McKay’s exquisite illustrations, which my children get lost in.

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It’s also been a pleasure to revisit Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, a book we bought in July when gardening fever was at its height.

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Autumn seemed a long way off then, so we’re re-reading it now with entirely new eyes—even if the butterflies are gone.

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And butterflies always have been more than a little bit fleeting, haven’t they? Inherently ephemeral.

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One of my favourite butterfly books is Bye Bye Butterflies, by our friend Andrew Larsen, which came out just before Harriet started preschool. And I’ve always linked the story to our own experience, in two ways. One, that this was a book about a kid going to school for the very first and beginning to make his way in the world—it was amazing to be on the cusp of that. And also that Charlie’s adventure caring for the butterflies was analogous to our own lives as parents. That these amazing, ever-changing creatures are only with us for a very short time before they find their wings and fly away—an achievement that makes us “a little happy and a little sad all at once.” Which is true.

But, yes, how joyful is watching them soar.

September 22, 2015

The Day the Crayons Came Home

The Day the Crayons Came Home

True confession: I don’t love The Day the Crayons Came Home, by Drew Daywelt and Oliver Jeffers, quite as much as I loved its predecessor, The Day the Crayons Quit. The premise is the same but it’s just not as fresh. However my children are quite nuts for the book, and during the first few days after we bought it, Harriet insisted on taking it to bed every night. So when I heard about Small Print TO’s Crayon Creator’s Club event this weekend, I knew we had to be there.

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And so on Saturday morning, we headed down to The Lillian Smith Library (which is the most special twenty-year-old building in the universe) and my children posed with the enormous crayons adorning the entrance. We were able to buy a copy of Harold and the Purple Crayon (can you believe we didn’t have it yet) and listened to the story, before the children were let loose to do some purple crayon-ing of their own. (We also learned that Harold actually grew up to be a graffiti artist, ala Bansky.)

After that, we reassembled for The Day the Crayons Came Home, which is about Duncan’s crayons that have been lost, abandoned or broken over the years—left behind on holidays, stuck between couch cushions, puked up by the dog. In the end [SPOILER ALERT] Duncan welcomes his colouring implements home by building them a crayon fort that meets all their special needs now that they’re in altered states. And then each of the children got to work constructing a crayon fort of her or his own.

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Next up: the door prize. Guess who was quite thrilled to win a crayon that is taller than she is? (And she doesn’t mind in the slightest that it doesn’t actually colour. If it were made of wax, it would have been even to carry home than it already was.)

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All in all, it was a most rewarding morning at one of our favourite places. We posed out by one of the gryphons for posterity.

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And speaking of Lillian H. Smith and crayons, I’m quite excited about the All the Libraries colouring book by Daniel Rotsztain, coming next month from Dundurn Press, featuring drawings of every single Toronto Public Library Branch for your colouring pleasure. You can learn more about the project and see some drawings here.

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September 10, 2015

It begins.

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I got pregnant at nearly the exact same time as Harriet started playschool three years ago, when she was three years old. And I so vividly remember those precious mornings, the time, rushing home to rescue my tea from under the cozy and sit down to get some work done, not wasting a single moment. To be alone. Although the time did not seem so luxurious: I was in my first trimester and would pass out every night not long after Harriet did. If I hadn’t had those mornings, I would have had no time to get any work done. After Christmas when my energy levels had returned, I got a job writing a book about Arctic exploration, the gold rush, mountain climbing, and parkas, and by then my days of freedom were numbered anyway. So I spent that winter reading Pierre Berton on the Klondike and listening to Iris by the Split Enz over and over again, dreaming of my baby as she kicked away inside me—so you see, I was really not so alone at all.

It seemed like the smallest window, that year. I knew that with our new baby, we’d soon be thrown back into newbornland and babyhood, and we’d have to find our way out again. That it would be a long before I once  more found myself at home alone at 9:30 in the morning, the teapot still warm. I edited an entire book as the baby slept on my chest, for heaven’s sake. And now, here I am. And dare I say it: it all went by so fast?

This morning I dropped Harriet off at Grade One, which she is enjoying immensely so far, and then Iris and I trekked down the street for her to begin her first day of playschool. The playschool she has known since she was a fetus: she spent her first year in her carrier as I did co-op shifts three times a month. By the end of the year, she was scooting around the room like a champion. It has always been familiar to her. We love the teachers. Last year when Harriet was no longer a student there, we still visited our playschool friends often, and we’d play with them at the park.

Drop-off was not without its drama. Iris was not happy about my departure, and while I wanted to get out of there and trusted she was in very good hands, I’m a bit worried about the teachers who’ll have to deal with her. Though I assure myself that perhaps like all parents, I’m imagining that my child is more unique and particular than she actually is. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ve seen it all before. And that she’ll have a wonderful morning.

And now here I am, right back where I’ve been before except that this is the way forward instead of just a blip. It’s even time to put the kettle on. It’s time to get some work done. To figure out this new routine, just what to do with all this space and this quiet.

See also: “When I got home again, I didn’t know what to do because there was so much that I wanted to do.” 

August 30, 2015

Girls on the Go

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Some might say that this blog has been lately suffering from a dearth of photos of my children, and so here they are, modelling the season’s latest fashions in Dufferin and Spadina Subway Stations (the latter at the Walmer Road exit). You will note that between the first and second photo, new shoes and crowns were acquired, so it was an all around excellent day. We’re hoping for a few more of these before they start school in a week and a bit, and yes, I am having my usual pre-September “I do not know what my new routine will be yet!!” anxiety. Hopefully, as in other years, it will all be fine.

June 5, 2015

Happy Birthday, Iris

IMG_20150313_121516“You are mighty, you are small. You are ours after all.” 

Two years ago today, the world delivered us the funniest little person. Two weeks late, covered in peeling skin like a reptile, and with two teeth coming in already. Received into a family that was ready for her, waiting for her, and was made complete once she was finally here. “I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words, how wonderful life is while you’re in the world,” is the song I sang to her first when she was four days old (while I was eating sashimi in bed, Stuart was hanging laundry, and Harriet was doing her Thomas the Tank Engine sticker book), and I’ve sang it every day ever since.

She is ferocious, and very noisy, and perhaps the mostly likely person in the world not to be lost in Harriet’s shadow. She pinches, bites and spits, which is charming. When she behaves badly, we’ve been telling her to go away, but now she’s started screaming at US to go away (or at Harriet, after she has pinched her and drawn blood, which doesn’t really help matters). She will not sit down, ever. We are used to her standing on table tops and benches, but it makes other people nervous. She is attracted to the margins of things—she walks on walls, likes gutters and ditches. She walks on the grass beside the sidewalks, and picks the dandelions, and yesterday she discovered what happens when the dandelions seeds all blow apart—like magic—and the look on her face was pure ecstasy.

IMG_20150526_192215She is a funny one. Last week during dinner, it occurred to me that she looks like Anne Enright. “Iris is cuter than Anne Enright,” someone emailed me after, but I think that Anne Enright is adorable. They both look like a mischievous elf, or else a grumpy one. Iris has no idea that she is only two. She conducts long and elaborate conversations in gobbleygook while waving her hands emphatically. She can laugh and laugh at nothing, just eager to be in on the joke. (“Knock knock,” she says. “Who’s there?” we ask her. “Oofoo,” she says. “Oofoo Who?””Apple!”) She calls dogs “oeufs” and whenever she passes one, she says, “Allo oeuf.” She continues to have a French Canadian accent, and calls her sister ‘Arriette. She loves to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep, the Annie soundtrack, and Let It Go. She literally learned to sing before she could talk. She talks all the time now. She dances all the time too. She’s going to playschool in September and I think she’s going to love it.

irisShe also loves her birthday presents, being as passionate about tea, cakes and bunting as everyone else in our family. I love that her limited vocabulary contains the term “book barge.” She does her best to keep up with the big kids, and will not be pandered to—she eats EVERYTHING with a fork, because babies are often denied cutlery, to the point where she eats sandwiches and goldfish crackers with a fork. Do not put a lid on her glass of water either, though that is less because she doesn’t want to be pandered to than she wants to drop her bread in it and then drink the water with a spoon. And while she is the endless tormentor of her poor sister, she also adores her. Wants to go and find her first thing every morning (and not necessarily just to bite her). She has her own flower, and she knows it, though she is also quite insistent that pansies are irises too. She gives the best hugs, is quite the snuggler, adores her daddy, walks everywhere (but more often runs), likes ketchup, is a juice fiend, and is usually somewhere screaming for cake.

Two is a trial. I remember this. When Harriet was two, she had to be carried out of everywhere screaming, “More more more!” Iris is similarly passionate, but on a different keel. When she gets angry, she likes to hurl things to the floor. But two is also amazing—the onslaught of words that arrive, so that there are stories to tell, secrets share, and more jokes than just oofoo. It’s incredible to have a sense of how much better we’re going to get to know her over the next year—she’s going to have her own idea for a Halloween costume, I mean, and when she turns three, she’ll choose her birthday theme. (When Harriet was three, it was dinosaurs.) She’s going to be a person with tastes, beyond just the “cake cake cake” that’s her speed now. I am excited to discover them. I am also excited to trim her fingernails more often so that my skin doesn’t get so maimed in the midst of her rages.

While life certainly is not ALWAYS wonderful while Iris is in the world (she is so exasperating), it is completely wonderful on a  different level. As in, you are terrible, but you are here, and we love you. Sometimes it is really as simple as that.

January 3, 2015

Christmas Vacation

harrietOne of many reasons that members of our family are unlikely to ever take the world by storm is that our greatest talents really are for leisure—we’re experts at doing nothing, or just enough of something with requisite amounts of sofa-lying for good measure. We often visit cultural institutions such as museums and art galleries but rarely for more than an hour or two at a time, and never without a trip to the cafe AND the gift shop. Going out for lunch is our main occupation, and we always have dessert. We are really very good at enjoying ourselves, and so the last two weeks have been an absolute pleasure.

Two things: first, that I finished things up so that there was no work at all to be done for a week or so, and second, we turned off the internet. For a week, there was no checking of email or twitter, which opened up vast pockets of time in every day for all kinds of things—reading, playing, baking, carol-singing, and doing the Globe & Mail holiday crossword. On Tuesday we bought the newspaper because we were curious about what had gone on in the world, and it was odd to flip through the pages and discover news items we hadn’t heard about elsewhere.

windowWe spent the first couple of days of our holiday trying in vain to kick the cold that’s been embedded in our heads since the beginning of December. On the Sunday, we went down to the Bay on Queen Street to look at the Christmas windows, which were wonderful, and then went into the store and realized that department stores were the perfect way to reconcile our hatred of shopping malls with the joys of Christmas consumption (glittery lights, perfume smells, shopping bags with string handles, and 1 kilo tins of chocolate. Also, I now own tights without holes in the feet). Speeding home on the subway in time for Iris’s nap and for me to meet friends for an exquisite afternoon tea at Dessert Trends Bistro.

frankOn Monday, we went to the library (because holidaying doesn’t always have to happen on a lavish scale) and then had smoked meat lunch at Caplansky’s Deli. I also went out for dinner with my friends and drank far too much wine. On Tuesday, I don’t think we did anything, partly due to the wine. Throughout all of this, Stuart and I were watching movies and episodes of Midsomer Murders in the evening (because we are 85 years old) and Harriet watched How to Train Your Dragon Two during Iris’s nap times. On Christmas Eve, we went to the Art Gallery to see the Art Spiegelman exhibit and had a lovely brunch at the Frank Restaurant, which we save for the specialist of occasions. On the way home, we picked up our turkey, which we fastened into our stroller. That evening, we had chicken fajitas for Christmas Eve dinner for the 10th year in a row, and left a snack for Santa.

xmasmornChristmas was so good. Not only did we not have to leave the house, but we got to have my mom come and visit! The children got excellent presents and had fun playing with them throughout the holidays. I received great books, nice clothes, and other lovely things, including a La Cruset butter dish I’d been hankering after and new Pyrex. We all also received new CDs (because are 85 years old and like to do 20th century things) and so the holiday has been extra-filled with music—some of which was even made after 1987, which is very rare for us. My mom arrived and played with the children (which was not very difficult—she arrived bearing her present of a trunk full of dress-up clothes) while Stuart and I set about cooking the best Christmas dinner ever. The joys of Skype brought us the company of Nana and Granddad in England, and our adorable Alberta relations.

playOn Boxing Day, we went to the ROM, and partook in a yummy dinner of leftovers—Stuart makes the best turkey sandwiches on earth. Iris also slept until 7am for the first time in her whole life, which was mind-blowing, but also a bit terrible because when her sleep for the subsequent week was abysmal, I wanted to pitch her out the window. The next day, my dad and his partner arrived, and we all had an excellent time with them. And they played with the children while Stuart and I cooked up another very good meal—the greatest turkey pot pie of all time whose secret recipe was duck fat. The day after that,  we drove out to my aunt’s in the West end, stopping en-route to buy ice-skates for Harriet and I, which had the potential to be a boondoggle. And then we had a very fun dinner with the best kinds of relations on earth—cousins.

anniwMonday was the best day—Harriet and I headed downtown to meet our friend Erin and watch the new Annie film, which we’d been looking to after avidly viewing its trailers for the past month AND after watching the old Annie every day last summer. The reviews for the new Annie were terrible and all wrong—the movie was wonderful. (That one of the critics referred to the 1982 movie as “an abomination” perhaps suggests that some people had no business reviewing either movie, both of which were masterpieces, in my humble opinion.) We all had such a good time watching it, exuberantly applauding as the credits rolled. And then we met Stuart and Iris and took the subway to Erin’s new house in Bloor West Village, which is very conveniently located near the new Book City (which was bustling and full of wonderful books.)

On Tuesday, I had to take a certain someone to a dermatologists to have a wart examined, which wasn’t so memorable, except that we got to stop at HMV on the way and buy the Annie soundtrack, a move supported by all members of our household. Iris can now sing “Tomorrow”, which is really something to behold. We also love Sia’s version of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” and the bizarre and catchy “Moonquake Lake”, with its memorable hook—”she’s a fish and he’s a boy.” That night our friends Jennie, Deep and Lilia came for dinner and the best time was had. They were kind enough not to complain about our music selection.

sk8Rumours of boondoggles were averted on New Years Eve when Harriet and I went skating at Christie Pits—Harriet had the best time and loved it, which was good but also troubling as it means that I have to keep going skating. We went again yesterday and both of us were vastly improved. A third jaunt is scheduled for tomorrow. New Years Eve was our traditional chocolate fondue and ringing in the UK New Year before the children went to bed. And then Stuart and I proceeded to play board games (and ping pong, until Harriet came out of her room and asked us to stop because the pinging and ponging was too noisy) until we were done, and then we went to bed and brought in the new year lit by bed-side lamps, turning away from our respective novels for a moment as the clock ticked over to 2015. Which is the best way to ring in the new that I could ever have imagined.

africaNew Years Day was boring—what a wondrous indulgence is that in this day and age? Although we did have our first meal of the year at Fanny Chadwick’s for brunch, which was delicious, and Iris has been transformed into someone who is fairly respectable about restaurant behaviour from all her practice this holiday. And Harriet and I got to play Scrabble for Juniors, which is almost as excellent as spending New Year’s reading in bed. Yesterday we went to the ROM to see the Wildlife Photography exhibit. And yes, more skating. Today we’re doing nothing, which might prove to be a bad idea but feels pretty good from where I sit (on the couch, wearing jogging pants, watching snow falling outside). We’ve kept things a little special with scones with jam and Devonshire cream, because I had a jar of the latter in the fridge and we had to use it up—not the worst task to be charged with.

teaAnd I’m writing it all down now mostly so that I can remember it, the holiday we were so desperate for and which so delivered. I’m writing it all down because all these ordinary things (libraries and lunches) are so easy to forget, and I don’t want to. I don’t want to forget either that we’re so blessed with friends and family and each other. If how you spend your days are indeed how you spend your life, then these past two weeks are an indication that we’re doing something right.  And it’s something to hold on to as the lights of December fade—let the next few months be something more than just a countdown to spring.

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