Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Not Our Official Christmas Card

But too hilarious not to share. Snapped at my company Children's Christmas party. Amazing. 

The whole family gets in on the Santa action because otherwise the kid was not having it.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Card Rejects

I'm not quite sure how I managed to rope myself into this put-a-picture-of-your-kid-on-a-Christmas-card thing, but let me just say that this is our fourth Christmas with Bella in our lives and on our cards and I'm in deep.

This picture is a reject but still pretty darn cute.

I'm obsessively compelled to make these cards and get them printed, signed and delivered in time. But it's even worse than all that because since the first card featured her in a cute winter hat, now they all have to involve her in a cute winter hat. Why you ask? Because I am an insane person.

I start panicking about the hat itself sometime around September, as soon as the winter hats start to hit the shelves. All hat options have to be seen, touched, compared and thought about before I can make a choice. Then Bella herself has to pre-approve the selection because Lord knows if she doesn't like the hat, there will be no picture taken. FACT.

The taking of photo haunts me for months until I finally land a day that seems sunny enough coupled with a moment where Bella is happy and willing. Last year she refused to smile at all between early October and mid-December, so the card, while still very cute, was rather on the glum side.

This year I got lucky. I managed to have a semi-free morning on a semi-nice day with a sort of happy kid. I think our card this year totally reflects this perfect storm of coincidences. But I'm not going to lie. We had to take a lot of photos to get the three that ended up on the card. A. Lot. Of. Photos.

Would hate to see these Christmas card rejects, each so funny and adorable in their own way, go to waste. And so, voila! I present you with my favourite selection of this year's unselected.

There's always that moment in the shoot when things get a little bit sad.

Thought we might go artsy this year. Yeah, no. Not quite card material.

There's always that moment in the shoot when she gets crazy eyes.

I wish this was real but full disclosure: a staged picking.

This, however, was real.

Taking the Christmas card photos is serious business.

Mom gets in on the action.

All I want for Christmas is a set of lashes exactly like hers.

Finally, with the photos in the bag, we all deserve a sweet reward. 

The 2011 card is officially in distribution. If you're reading this, you're probably getting one. But if not, we wish you the very merriest of holiday seasons and all the love, joy and belly-laughs you can handle in 2012.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I was just outside in the backyard, sweeping and bagging leaves, when I heard the children in the schoolyard next door shriek with pure excitement and joy, "Look! Snow!"

I thought they must be crazy, I was warm from working, hot even, but sure enough I raised my face to the sky just in time to see the dusting of white flakes before they dissolved into icy water droplets and disappeared before my eyes. For a moment I was completely caught up in the contagious energy of the kids and I smiled. Just as quickly as the snowdrops melted, so too did my excitement. Winter.

I've always been a summer girl. It's by and far my favourite season. I thrive on the heat, the sunshine, the thunderstorms. We all know I love the beach, the long, lazy days that humid Toronto summers allow us to indulge ourselves in. I know there are people who love winter for almost the same reason - the excuse to huddle up and stay indoors, watching the weather bluster and blow through the window as you lounge under blankets with hot cocoa and good book. I get it. But still, summer is my season.

I haven't posted about this summer here yet. Unusual for me, since I'm usually so quick to share my most magical moments: my daughter running naked on the beach, kicking back with best friends and family, enjoying cold beverages on the lawn. This summer was no exception, it had all of those moments, each special and worth sharing, and seeing as today is Remembrance Day, 11/11/11, I figure, what better time to remember?

This summer was the best of times. It was also the worst.

I found out I was pregnant in early July. It was not expected exactly but not entirely shocking either. Whatever it was, it was wonderful. I was ready. It's not my place to speak for Cairn here and I won't, but I will dare to say that we were ready. Finally feeling settled into the new house and with many months ahead to take care of anything else that needed doing, a March due date was just perfect. Bella would be four years old (!) and off to Kindergarten in September. I'd keep her home with me part time in the summer, maybe. By the the time summer arrived, I'd have a four month old and a four year old - imagine? I'd spend extra time at the cottage with the kids.

The kids. I've always thought there would be two.

I drifted in a happy daze through the first summer month. Just thrilled really. Bursting inside with my secret. Happy at work and at home in a way that I hadn't been quite a while. It had been a trying year, with all the house stuff and changes at the office. Exciting, but stressful. And finally I was calm and settled in. I started planning how I'd tell Bella the news. She was asking for a baby brother or sister a lot at that time. She still is. I was already choosing names and decorating rooms in my head even though as every newly pregnant woman is aware, particularly those at my age, it was too early to be doing all those things. But as we also know, the love for a child does not start on the day they are born. It starts the moment you discover your secret. It's a special, intense love that only a mother can feel.

I miscarried naturally at home on August 1. Exactly one week after I'd started spotting. The longest week of my life. I was almost nine weeks along and had known about my pregnancy for four weeks. Four weeks is a long time when you're dreaming up a life for a child.

I'm not trying to be melodramatic and some might wonder why I'm choosing to share this now and in this way. It's difficult to tell people this in person. Awkward for them, because they struggle to find the right words to say, when really there aren't any. Awkward for me because I want to gloss over it and be quick to assure then that "I'm okay, it wasn't the right time, we'll all be fine!" I'm also sharing because because I don't want to hide this thing that happened to me, to us, behind closed doors. I've read many, many brave and inspiring stories from other women since this happened. I know I'm not alone with this grief. I want to join their ranks. To let other women know that it's okay to be angry and confused and devastated by the loss of a pregnancy. But also that it does not define you, it does not destroy you and you should not be ashamed.

I'm not ashamed. But I've had moments of huge guilt. Moments of panic that this will happen again and again. Moments of utter, heart-wrenching sadness. Those painful moments hit me less and less as the summer days drifted into fall, and even less now as fall drifts into winter. And between those awful moments have been many, many moments of pure joy. The joy of summer that I dream about all winter long.

That's what I choose to share from this summer past. And so here I celebrate with snapshots of summer 2011 - a bittersweet one but a sweet one none-the-less.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tiny Dancer: The Bonus Footage

Bella loves her Saturday morning dance class, but her favourite part of the ritual by far doesn't happen until her class ends. She bursts from the studio, flushed and smiling, proudly showing me the stickers she's earned, then takes off at a run to the end of the hall where a ladies aerobics class is just getting underway. She stands just back from the doorway and stares with eyes wide, mouth agape, at the women as they grapevine and high-kick themselves into shape. And she's totally and utterly riveted. Before long she's moving and shaking right along with the work-outs. And. It's. The. Cutest. Thing. Ever. FACT.

This is a video I caught during the first time she ever watched the class, she'd never seen aerobics before so she was mesmerized by the music and movement. She's gotten quite good at the moves now so me thinks an updated version is in order. Karen Kain she may not be, but Jane Fonda? I think perhaps yes.

Tiny Dancer

Top 40 (before 40): #18 - Put Bella in Ballet classes (to see if she likes it) - Check!

Giving me a giddy grin just before her first ever class. 

It was March when I enrolled Bella in her first dance class. Creative Movement and Dance is run through the City of Toronto and it's a precursor to Beginner Ballet which, at our community center, doesn't accept kids under 4 years old.

Feeling special after surviving her first class.

I decided to go with city classes for her first time because I was skeptical that she would even participate given how shy she can be and I was not about to drop hundreds of dollars on private dance classes if she was going to refuse to enter the studio and instead cling desperately to my legs the entire time.

Warming up at Nana's before class. 

To my surprise and delight my worries were unfounded and Bella left me in the hall and ran into her very first class without so much as a backwards glance. It was one of those moments I like to call happysad. She danced there all spring and then we took the summer off because the class was not offered at our center. We have just started classes up again for fall and will continue right through until spring, when if interested, she'll be eligible to start the 'real' ballet.

Mary McCormick Community Center dance studio - charming and full of light.

I am completely impressed with the studio, the teachers and the excitement Bella has for this class and I can't think of any reason not to continue with the city-run classes, until Bella outgrows them or decides that she's really serious about ballet or dancing. For now, this is exactly her speed and mine.

At her first recital. 

Bella is not the most active child. She's content to sit quietly for hours playing with her toys, books, arts and crafts. Or she'll get lost in her own head inventing worlds for her stuffed animals and dolls - taking them on a train, to the beach and now sometimes to her imaginary dance studio. She's also completely obsessed with TV. OH TV YOU ARE A BLESSING AND A CURSE. She will always ask for TV before anything else. I'm not against it and do allow her to watch when I think unwinding is called for or a lazy morning is in order but her predisposition to vegging means we have to play a big role in making sure she has other activities and pastimes available to her.


I am determined to maintain a Saturday morning activity that ensures we all wake up and get out of the house before the glowing box presents her with even a whisper of an option. Swimming didn't work out so well when I took her last fall, not because she didn't like it but because I didn't like it. At her age a parent needs to get in the pool and I hated going in the pool. I already KNOW how to swim, thankyouverymuch. And so we (I) chose dance.

Waiting for her turn.

One reason I want her to dance is because it's at once creative, cerebral and athletic, but in a non-competitive way. At least not at this stage. Though she doesn't exactly show signs of being the next Karen Kain, she's not a complete bull in a China shop either. She watches the teacher and emulates as best she can. And she absolutely shines with pride later when she shyly shows off her new moves to friends and family at home.

 Mimicking her teacher and exploding my heart into shrapnel of happiness.

The other reason I want her to dance? Because it's one of those things that I have always wished I was good at. I look at graceful, strong dancer-types and wish that I had the genetics, the training, the what-ever-it-is that allows a dancer to move with precise control and utter abandon at the same time. I never had the drive or desire to pursue it when I was young, and now I look at my daughter and think, maybe she will? Or maybe not and that's totally okay. Because for now I can sit back and simply absorb the utter joy I get from seeing every tutu, every twirl, every hokey pokey.

Name me a mother of a daughter who can witness this without melting.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Birthday to You: Three and a Half

Dear Anabella,

Tomorrow you will be three and a half years old.

 Trying to figure out three and a half on your fingers. 

We had our bi-annual chair shoot today, one day early, just after waking up from a long nap together in my bed. It was by far the highlight of my day, my week; the first time I laughed this week and actually felt it in my heart.

Rolling your eyes at my cheesiness.

This was our first shoot in the new house. Up in the sweet little room on the third floor, the one that houses your chair, a few boxes, and a big TV. It was bitter sweet to take these photos and not be in your old nursery. I love our new house, but I miss your old room, mostly because of what it symbolizes. My baby. My first baby. Just look at you now, all grown into your preschooler deliciousness.

   Three and a half going on 13.

I don't have much to say about three and a half except that the amount you have changed and grown in the last six months is infinite. I couldn't possibly capture you in words but I think our photos today are worth a thousand.

You swing wildly these days, my girl. Your temper is fast and fierce. Some days it's like living with a tiny dictator. "GET! ME! MY! MILK! AND! SHOW!" is the first thing out of your mouth after daycare. And you mean NOW. Other times you are so loving, kind, heartbreakingly empathetic. Little kids shouldn't be so aware of the suffering of others. You can detect the faintest sadness. There is very little that you miss.

Here you are, feeling something deeply. Probably the fact that you can't have your MILK AND SHOW.

Your language is remarkable. I know I always mention it here, but you really do speak as clearly and articulately as a full grown human. Sometimes it makes communicating difficult, believe it or not, because I forget that you are three and half. You don't sound like three and half. I forget that while your language is there your comprehension is not always at the same level. Sometimes you dumb down your words, just so I'll remember that you're little.

And then sometimes you naturally make a mistake with your words. And those are the most delightful moments. My favourite misspoken phrase recently is when you tried to say, "Oh my gosh!" But instead it came out, "Hey my goshes!" I will remember that for the rest of my life. Oh my gosh will never be the same.

You're beautiful in every way. And I know that emphasizing beauty is a dangerous message for a little girl. Lately you're becoming very aware of gender roles and divisions. Differences, real or invented, between little boys and girls, between women and men. I've tried to protect you from these unfair discrepancies but if there's one thing parenthood has taught me, it's that no matter how hard we try there are many things we can't protect our children from. So I hope that you'll embrace your beauty and always recognize that as cliche as it may sound it is from within. And you've got it girl. You've got it in every way.  

 Hangin' out, being gorgeous. And smart.

You really are my sunshine, sweet girl. My happiness when it is grey. You'll never know, Bella, how much I love you. You'll never know. Until you have a baby of your own.

Hey my goshes, I love you!


Saturday, June 25, 2011


Wishing a very happy ninth birthday to my charming, quirky, irksome, funny, handsome, loving, stinky, hilarious, beautiful fur baby.

Momes, we never take for granted that each passing year with you is a special gift and I hope with all my heart that you're around to wake us up with your incessant barking for many more years to come.

Just yesterday a lady on the street asked me if you were a puppy. She wouldn't believe me when I told her you were nine. And it's true, even though you've just reached the ripe old age of 63 people years, I swear you don't look a single day over 50. Well, except for that ever-so-dignified white beard. 

Thanks Lil' Boss, for loving us no matter what, and for for being so patient and lovely with your human sister, even though she swept in and stole the spotlight from you in just about every way. She loves you more than ice cream. So do I.

Happy Birthday my wonderful Momo! I love you,


Monday, May 09, 2011

The Gambler(s)

Motherhood is nothing if not a gamble. From the moment of conception you are betting every last emotion on the outcome. Betting on an easy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Betting that this most complex, life-changing adventure will bring you riches worthy of all the sacrifice and struggle.

Indeed in my experience it has been the greatest gamble I have ever made, but also the most astounding win. But then I'm a betting woman. I come by it honestly, from generations of women who have made this same bet and won.

And so it is fitting that our family tradition is to celebrate Mother's Day at the racetrack. Surrounded by all the people that make me a most fortunate winner.

This year we were soaked in sunshine and clutching our paper tickets as we cheered and jumped up and down, inhibitions laid wayside by the sheer excitement of the race.

Little paper tickets that represent dreams, and it's not such a reach to compare them to all the dreams that as a mom you clutch close to your heart as you cheer your children on through their journey. Sometimes those dreams will be realized, and just as often they will not. But the excitement of what's to come around the next bend is always there, and it's always thrilling.

This year as the glorious creatures came thundering towards the finish line, I looked at my mother, my sister, my glorious little girl, and was easy to see how fortunate I am.

Regardless of which beautiful animal crossed that finish line by a nose -- of whether my paper ticket ended up cashed in or crumpled and tossed in a heap on our table laden with food, drink and love -- I have hit the jackpot. I could not ask for more.