Friday, August 31, 2012

Grade 1 and Grade 3

A Vocabulary List for New Canadians:

1. holiday: (noun) vacation. Ex: "We're going on holiday."
2. runners: (noun, plural) athletic shoes. Ex: "The boys bought new runners for school."
3. expiry: (adjective) expiration. Ex: "What is the expiry date on your credit card."
4. Catholic Board: (noun, proper) A school board that runs the Catholic schools which are FREE just like the public schools. The Catholic schools use the same curriculum as the public schools, but they also integrate faith in God and service into all that they do.  Ex: "My sons will be attending a Catholic school this fall which is run by the Catholic Board."
5. Grade One and Grade Three: (nouns) The reversal of 1st grade and 3rd grade, respectively. Ex: My sons will be entering Grade One and Grade Three next week after our abominably long summer.

Thank God. I pray each morning that I will not kill them before then.

Dear The Soon-To-Be Teachers of My Sons :

You're likely working off the excess weight you may have acquired during the summer: creating name tags, putting up tacky boarders, fighting with the copy machines, kissing up to the Principal, comparing tans and pictures with your colleagues, hugging the ones you missed, and hiding from the ones you didn't.

Maybe you're even looking at all those empty seats in your classroom and enjoying the quiet and fresh air that still exists before the steamy invasion of stinky and small humans. I know. I was a teacher for the past 14 years, and I know what it's like to teach other people's children. I know how mind-numbingly difficult it can be. I know that you'll sometimes be sad and crabby in the mornings and sometimes at your wit's end resisting the urges to slap someone and cry. I know that you likely do not appreciate every person you work with and that you have to jump through so many policies and procedures that you sometimes lose sight of why you became a teacher. I know that your smiles will often be forced.

Well this year, you will be spending the year with the two most important young people in my life. These two little humans are the investment of my life. For the past eight and a half years they have consumed almost all of my mental, emotional and physical resources. And though they are a huge pain in the ass some much of the time, they are the receptacle of my investment and I am proud of them.

So I ask you this:

If my children are disrespectful in any way, to anyone, please discipline them.
If they are lazy, please notice and encourage them.
If they are messy, please show them a nicer way.
If they are sad, please hug them.
If they are arrogant, please humble them.
If they are snarky, please don't tolerate.
If they are brilliant, please praise them.
If they excel, please show them how to help others.

...and lastly, (the exact same thing I ask of them each morning): Be kind, be patient, and be polite. And remember, even though these students you are about to meet and spend the year with are not your children, they are someone's. And they are loved without conditions by many.

In return, I promise to pray for you also, each and every day: That you will spend more time wondering with them than memorizing facts, that you will find the uniqueness of each of them instead of finding faults, that you will open up new worlds and possibilities to them and they will want to return to the space you create. That you will teach them about God and Faith and Service with your actions more than your words. That you will bring out the best in them and help them feel safe enough to take important risks.

Thank you for being a teacher. Thank you for sharing in my investment. I trust you even before I know you.

After all, these two boys of mine, and all of their classmates, are the future. And even though at this moment they aspire to be professional hockey players and animal hunters, we all know that they will more than likely become teachers or farmers or dentists or lawyers or roofers. But let's all pray that whatever future they choose that they will above all be kind, be patient, and be polite. In Jesus' name.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Being a mom of two young boys requires some fairly extreme sacrifices. I often wished for girls and dreamed of nail-painting and hair-braiding and baking and doing dishes together. Fuck. What is that? As if a domestic atom remains hidden deep within me, longing to be the stay-at-home-goddess that I so despise. But. Guessing from my many women friends that actually parent girls, I'd say that my fantasies about raising girls are about as far off as, well, any other fantasy.

Boys, however, require....slime. Slime, a substance that abhors me. It is as hard for me to look at slime as it is for many to look at a hypodermic needles or at a drill that is about to enter the mouth. I was one of those women who gasped after being asked if I'd like a mirror during delivery. "Hell no," I not-so-meekly replied, "I do not want to see that human until it is wiped up, cleaned up, and preferably bathed." Slime is repulsive to me. Absolutely. I can't even eat eggs if they have a bit of uncooked yolk. Agghhh. I am dry-heaving after merely typing the words.

So. My recent parental sacrifice: I took my boys fishing. I was assured by my loving and vindictive husband that I had no cause to worry because Myles (the eldest son) would "take care of it all." Little did I realize that being within a few inches of said "taking care of it all" I would have to witness (watch AND listen) to the ick of the wiggly and helpless worms being cut (really cut! by a knife!) in HALF before being impaled onto a hook. I could hear their screams of terror. But it only got worse for them. They were then slowly lowered into the depths of the lake to be nibbled on by even slimier and uglier creatures: Fish who would come on board our boat, not amused, with gouged out eyes and bloody mouths (and swung mere millimeters from my eyes) only to wait for an 8-year old human to rip and tear the hook out of eye or cheek with about as much gentleness as a hungry alligator looking at a sweet little bunny.

I admit it: There was a little pride involved while watching my eldest decompose and mutilate these poor fish as he separated them from their hooks. I would say 10% pride, 90% disgust. But that 10% was amazed at his capacity for slime. Something clearly not passed down from me.
It was the hardest stomach challenge since childbirth.

I say: I wish we had girls. And then I say: I don't want to do that again.

Monday, August 13, 2012


You know you live in Canada when.... you look down the street in the afternoon to try and spot your children (to make sure they weren't kidnapped, though sometimes you wish they were) and you see at least three driveway road hockey games occurring simultaneously...

I was busy unpacking boxes that were packed up months ago... old photo albums that I wish were destroyed. My own children didn't recognize me in some of them, the fat years. Those years when I must have lost a mirror and hadn't yet learned that when you eat a lot and don't exercise, the pounds add up like Count Dracula on crack.

But. Here's the thing. Unpacking some of these old mementos causes me pause. I have a gut reaction that says, these don't belong here, what are they doing here? Wait. What am I doing here? If these relics from 1980 followed me here, that must mean I'm staying. My trail has followed me. This isn't just an extended vacation where my dishes followed me... my everything followed me. My parents even followed me for a few days.

About an hour after they left, my mother texted me: "I love your new home and city. Be happy there." It was a command. And I wouldn't call my mom the bossy type. She's more the whatever type. So when she says (or texts) like that, it's a threat. A don't-you-dare-not-do-it threat. And I can't even type what happens when you don't follow one of her few of these. Let's just say it involves extreme pain.

So I'm here in Canada. I'm really here. To stay. And it's weird.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Being new

My mother-in-law recently had a health scare, and we needed to explain to The Children (in a moment of don't know how to b.s. this one, better just tell the truth) what happens when things get "old," like our dog, our cars, and a lot of the stuff in the fridge... Death is part of life, death happens to us all, dealing with death is hard and sad, but you get through it, it gets better, etc.

So my 5-year old is thinking about this, clearly getting a bit nervous, and then asks, "But you and Daddy are still new, right?"

Yes, indeed. We are spanking new.

We are new here. Here in Canada. Here in this expensive and strangely quiet and questioningly-friendly place. And being new is hard. It actually kinda sucks much of the time.

Yesterday, I cried when I couldn't find the grocery store. We were all really hungry and tired of eating takeout on the floor.

Today, I almost cried at the bank. The customer service reps here were willing to give me a mortgage, but not willing to give me a bank account. Because I have no proof of address. Even though they just gave me a mortgage to help fund my primary residence. I'm not saying Canadians are stupid. But.

And. I can't get my car registered unless I have car insurance. And I can't get car insurance unless I have a Canadian license plate. Hmmmm....

Ya. New.

But I do know where the nearest liquor stores are located.

And people are crazy nice and polite here. As in: we were invited to someone's house for lunch after a 5-minute conversation; we peaked in a trendy shop downtown and the owner was so excited to hear where we just bought a house, he asked us our address so he could stop by; some people we met at the beach a few weeks ago called today to invite us to the hang out with them tomorrow. This has all been a salve for my sad and lonely soul. And it also seems a bit conspiratorial: are these people terrorists? Kidnappers? Or worse? We have nothing to go by except our guts.

Our NEW guts.

May they lead us to the right places.