Sunday, 25 September 2022

Closing the circle

Eight years ago this fall, we were preparing for the arrival of our baby, “Ember.”

There was excitement, resolve (eventually), anticipation, and a good deal of anxiety.

Everything from clearing a room in the house to hiring a doula to making the first purchases of baby gear seemed fraught with terrific significance.

Finally, we were “kinda sorta almost” ready with a fully furnished “nursery” that was unnaturally tidy and organized.

By this time in 2014, I could just visualize that a baby would soon be joining Mr Turtle and I, and most of the time I figured we would probably be alright.

What was beyond me was to imagine life with our daughter. I have heard that people speculate about and imagine their future child, but I never did that when I was pregnant. I never really talked to her either, except maybe some prayerful pleas to “baby”, as much directed at a frightening, uncontrollable, incomprehensible universe as at her.

Today, I can still recall the feeling of being on the cusp of parenthood. Every life has moments of change and transformation: these are not unique to having a baby. Each transition recalls the others.  What is harder to remember now is what we were leaving behind: the life without AJ, and later Dani.

AJ and Dani are full personalities now. On this, a random Sunday, I did the following:
  • Made the girls their two bowls of oatmeal for breakfast, and instant coffee for me
  • Took Dani to a birthday party
  • Chatted on the phone with the friend I have known since AJ was a toddler
  • Laundry… much laundry 
  • Walked to the house of another friend of AJ’s and spent the afternoon while the girls played (her mom is a friend too)
  • Listened to AJ singing “Part of my world” (she wanted to take voice lessons this year)
  • Helped Dani with her music practice (she started Yamaha lessons this fall)
  • Ate Mr Turtle’s delicious tacos and talked around the table 
  • Participated in a rather long Zoom meeting with the board of AJ and Dani’s dance organization
Also today, a colleague of Mr Turtle’s came with a pickup truck and took what was left of the baby gear, including all the furniture.

Mr Turtle’s colleague is a first time mom expecting twin girls. She was willing to take everything and sort it later. It is perfect. And apart from a couple of bins of mementos (ok, more like four) we have now cleared most of our baby/toddler gear.

Is it sad? Not really. It was due to happen. I could have kept the crib and change table, maybe for future grandchildren. But the thought of them being used for real infants versus collecting cobwebs in the basement is more appealing. It was the same when we gave away the bassinet a few years ago.

I know in my heart that the real treasure is AJ and Dani.  And they did not come from a cruel, confusing world by random chance. Whether I can fully perceive it or not, they are part of a beautiful, unfolding pattern that touches my life and others. Whatever material things have passed through their lives, it’s ok to let them go into other lives. I’ve never really wanted money for their baby stuff, either. Whatever good energy has come into my life, I only want to pass it on.

(Dani loves her new big girl bed, too. She had refused to sleep in the crib/toddler bed for several months, first sleeping on the mattress on the floor, then in her sisters’s bed, then on the couch.)

AJ and Dani, enjoying musical moments in 2022:

Tuesday, 20 September 2022


Well, it’s been an…interesting…school year so far. Not terrible, but with unique challenges due to changes in my work team.

I relate to this statement because it is something I’m trying to do, not because I’m really good at it yet. I tend, I think, to be very accommodating and collaborative, except when I’m pushed to my limit then I become quite abrupt. I need to practice graceful ways of saying No, I think.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

One day the mountain

Feels like wisdom to remember anytime, and at the beginning of the school year especially!

Saturday, 20 August 2022

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Seeking the beautiful

Life has been a mix of pleasant activities and a few stressful issues to deal with: so, rather emotionally exhausting. I haven’t accomplished much of anything around the house or yard, though we still have a pretty garden of flowers and herbs, similar to last year. If I could have anything I wanted, time to “putter” would be high on the list.

Sometimes though we do get away from it all. Here are a few photos from a recent hike that was good for body and soul:

Can you spot the bighorn sheep in that photo above?

I’ve also been trying to capture nature sounds when I find a remote place. Of course it can be challenging when you have people interrupting with silly sounds and giggles:

Finally this was a lucky shot of the girls when they were having an affectionate moment.

Monday, 25 July 2022

Parenting advice 1: independence and autonomy

The title is quite ironic, since I have never been much into advice. There are zero parenting books in my house. I suppose I have a parenting philosophy, which I could explain in a few sentences on a good day. I have questions about life, to which I seek answers, or just better questions.  But I don’t have A Method That Works, especially not when it comes to the forces of nature that are my daughters.

However, people have often commented on our daughters’ independence, and I might have something helpful to say about that. From the time they were small toddlers, they were both good at playing on their own (and after Dani’s birth, with each other). As a caveat, I cannot say for sure that anything I did or didn’t do helped with this independence. It may be genetics and have little to do with my actions. But we may have at least encouraged it, so that is what this blog is about.

Pictured below: Lego is a popular toy in our house, so this is a common scene:

Recently I had a conversation with one of the girls’ friends. It went something like this:

Me: “We have a big bin of Lego we like to play with!”

Him: “All the Lego is in one bin?”

Me: “Yes.”

Him: “We have one too, except the sets [to build something specific] are separate.

Me: “Yeah, we have some of those sets too, but we just put it all in together!”

Him: “All of it?!”

Me: “Yeah! Then we just use it to make whatever we want.”

Him: (Mind blown) “My dad keeps the sets in their own boxes.” (His dad, listening to this conversation, stares at me in shock.)

Disney Lego castle

Pictured above: A thick, detailed manual from Disney/Lego, with step by step instructions on how to build the castle from Beauty and the Beast, which I will never, ever do. Also, I’m certain a few pieces have been sucked into the vacuum cleaner. I don’t even know why this is manual is still in the house. I suppose, for the chance that my daughters one day decide they want to A) sort out all the castle Lego from the other Lego and B) follow step by step instructions like those below to build it. Anything, after all, is technically possible.

Just to be clear, I know there are grownups (like our friend) and possibly children (?) who are willing to put time and energy into keeping different sets of Lego separate, for whatever reason. I am not, and this is consistent with both my desire to spend my time on more interesting (to me) things and with my “parenting philosophy.” Part of this philosophy is to respect my children’s choices as much as possible, and to pay attention to when my own neuroticism might be intruding on them.

I have used Lego as an example, but in all situations, we make a point of letting the girls play the way they want to, as long as they are not hurting themselves, hurting anyone else, being anti-social, or destroying anything important.*

Another example: if we go to the playground and AJ ignores the equipment and searches the gravel for half an hour looking for “gemstones”, I’m cool with that. If Dani climbs all the way up to the slide and then turns around and climbs all the way down again, I don’t coax her to go down the slide or demand she justify her decision. (Other people might. That’s fine too. She can learn that different people have different beliefs about sliding.)

*What is acceptable risk is a whole other topic. If I feel like writing more parenting advice I might tackle that one. Hahaha! Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

Sometimes we only become aware of what we are doing by watching how others are different. And I have noticed parents who are much more involved, either calling out suggestions to their children frequently from the side, or actively playing with them (and I don’t mean something like board games where everybody has a role, but trying to involve them in the kind of play that kids typically do with each other). Again, I don’t know every family’s situation and there could be very good reasons for this approach. But my question, which every parent has to ask and answer of themselves, as it’s very personal, is this: What is the purpose of me directing my child’s play?

Personally, I see very little reason to be involved in my  daughters’ play. If I am tempted to interfere, it’s for reasons that have more to do with me than to do with them. I may notice that other children are being physically active on the playground and wonder why my daughter is sitting playing with rocks. Doesn’t she need my help to be more like the others? I may feel its my job to encourage my other daughter to go on the slide, because otherwise she can’t possibly be having fun, can she?! And while I’m ok with the mixed up Lego, I have an interest in fashion and pay a lot of attention to how clothes look and fit. So it’s sometimes harder to accept when the doll clothes get all mixed up and put on different critters. 

Pictured above: Dinosaurs wearing Elsa and Anna dresses from princess dolls. I am totally ok with this (well I’m trying).

As I thought about it, I also noticed that a lot of the toys are created by corporations. They are a specific brand. Those corporations have an interest in making me and my children aware of their brands and focused on buying more. So they also have an interest in promoting a certain kind of play (such as building Beauty and the Beast’s castle, versus a rocket ship, or playing Elsa and Anna dolls, versus whatever is going on with the dinosaurs). So by enforcing categories such as this-Lego-goes-with-this-Lego-set, and this-dress-goes-on-this-doll, I am enforcing the way corporations want my children to play and behave.

Nope, I don’t need to do that. Also, I have better things to do.

I also hypothesize that this consistent, mostly hands off approach has helped my kids to become people who are very good at amusing themselves. In addition, they show confidence in their own choices. After going up the steps of many, many slides and then back down the steps, Dani eventually did go down a slide, and loved it. She did not need me to help her to slide, and she knows it.  Both the girls are also comfortable joining other kids to play together, and they engage their imaginations and their physical energies with those of their peers.

So that’s my parenting advice, from someone who never reads the instruction book and rarely listens to advice. (I will not be giving advice on how to put together IKEA furniture, ever.) I have called this blog “Parenting Advice 1” just in case I decide to write more, but I may not.  After all I’m still trying to figure out other things, like how to teach my kids to pick all that Lego off the floor and put it back in the box.

Sunday, 17 July 2022

Road trip

The girls and I just got back from a “glamping” trip with another family we have been friends with for most of the kids’ lives. Mr Turtle wasn’t able to come due to work and lingering illness (boo). But we had fun, made memories and deepened connections.

Our first destination, a yurt:

AJ and Dani walking at sunset:

I finally was able to calm down on this trip, moving away from the feeling that I am perpetually chasing or being chased by something. We’ll see if it lasts.

My solo driving experience also gave me time to meditate on questions that are ever present in my mind, which I wrote a little about over on my other blog.

Finally, my favourite road trip song (“Road Trip,” by Runrig). “Get free, believe, go real”….. A worthy goal for summer!