On the road to "home"

Although Ottawa has become my home and I can’t imagine living anywhere else, I also still think of the US/Florida/Tallahassee as my home. Yesterday I ventured across the border for the first time in over 5 years. There’s a combination of reasons for this delay - the most embarrassing is that I let all my travel documents expire. (Don’t do that, okay?)

So, we left Ottawa yesterday morning - not nearly as early as I’d hoped, but such is life! Brandon fell asleep on our way to the border and was snoring softly as I waited in line to see the border guard. We passed through without any issues, though Brandon did wake up because the car had stopped moving. And, despite staying up very late the night before, that was the last he slept in the car all day.

A couple of hours later, we both got hungry and when I saw a Cracker Barrel sign, I couldn’t resist! 

Also, they had a violin, and Brandon has been asking for one for weeks! (Score!) Unfortunately, it requires batteries and the cover is screwed on. I didn’t pack batteries or a screwdriver for this trip. (Fail!)

After getting through the lovely rush-hour traffic in Harrisburg, PA, Brandon said his tummy was grumpy. Combine, windy roads, rain and dark and his first epic road trip and it’s understandable. We ended up stopped 3 hours shy of our goal.

That means we won’t get to Tallahassee until Sunday, but it’s all good. I’m enjoying the time with Brandon. He’s a good co-pilot.

A little side note: we’re also really enjoying driving in the Ford C-Max that Ford Ottawa gave me to use for this trip. It doesn’t look very large, but it’s nice and roomy. There isn’t as much cargo space as I would like and I had to ditch one of the suitcases I’d planned to bring along, but packing light isn’t a bad thing! 

I’m going to talk about it some more later, especially since I’m honestly considering it as a second vehicle now that I’ve driven it. (Of course, I’m not sure when we’ll finally get around to getting a second vehicle!) I’ve tried out the Ford Edge, the new Focus and now the C-Max and the C-Max is my favourite so far. 

Best part? Filling it up isn’t nearly as painful as when I fill up my other car. And we won’t get into the difference in what we’re paying in Canada compared to the US. It’s bad, you guys.

Sunrise to sunset: a beautiful, but tragic day

As I drove in to work this morning, I had the urge no less than about 20 times to stop the car and get out my camera to capture the sunrise. I was so captivated by it. The sun was this huge orange ball in the sky, slowly rising into obscurity behind a bank of clouds, only to slowly peek out again over them. For 30 minutes, I watched as it got higher and higher, hoping that when I (finally) got to a place where I could stop that it wouldn’t be too late to take the pictures I wanted.

This wasn’t the most stunning part of the sunrise, but it was still very pretty. The day started out with this beauty that fascinated me. I became obsessed with capturing that beauty, even if only a piece of it, to look back and remember.

It’s hard to believe that with such a beautiful start to the day it would just hours later turn to grief and heartache for the community of Newtown, Connecticut. The sun no doubt rose over Sandy Hook Elementary in similar brilliant fashion. But I’ll never understand what drove a young man to murder his mother, eight of her colleagues and 18 children. There is no doubt in my mind that he was a very troubled young man. 

This mass shooting - a horrendous tragedy - has had a profound effect on me. I’ve never cried before. I did today. I cried because my own little boy is in school and I know I would be devastated if he witnessed or was injured or even killed through similar circumstances.

All afternoon, I fought tears in my effort to maintain a professional front. All I wanted to do was go pick Brandon up from daycare and hold him close. Though I ended up working late, that’s exactly what I did. I gave him a big hug and then we just hung out together. 

He helped me smile again, despite the sadness of the day.

The best part of the day was bedtime. I lay in his bed snuggled with him where he told me he loves me very much. And I cried, because I love him so much too, but also because hearing those words out of my little guy’s mouth is one of the sweetest things I could ever receive. I can count on my hands how many times I’ve heard those three words pass his lips, but tonight he said it three times. 

It’s almost like he knew I needed to hear it. He let me snuggle with him and hug him close and tell him I love him back. And I stayed with him until he dropped off to sleep.

My heart aches for the parents and loved ones who won’t ever hear their children say they love them or get to hug and snuggle with them again. I hope and pray that they have beautiful memories to cherish. Most of all, I hope they find peace. The Sandy Hook children and faculty will not be forgotten. 

Am I enough?

As a mother I find myself doubting my worth far too often. I know I’m not alone.

When I see stories of families who are raising children with special needs (of any kind) there is almost always some amazing hook to the story.

Maybe the mom is teaching her kids the alphabet thru cooking with whole foods that have no sugar or any preservatives.

Maybe the dad has taught his kids to sing and all six children are learning different instruments to become the next Von Trap family.

I, however, feel very average. I’m not crafty or artistic. (Matt will tell you. I draw a frog and it looks like a deformed cat.)

What can I do to help Brandon discover the best parts of himself? How can I facilitate that which I don’t yet even know myself?

One thing I know without a doubt: Brandon is the child of my dreams. I longed to hold him in my arms for six long years. He’s brought so much joy to our lives.

I will make him laugh.

I will teach him interesting (and occasionally boring) things.

I will be silly with him.

I will guide him.

Somehow, what I have to offer will be enough.

Anticipation and thanks

Source: USA Federal HolidaysToday is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. 

I miss it.

The last time I truly celebrated Thanksgiving with my family was 12 years ago. It was the same week I left Florida to move to Canada. 

Thanksgiving was always a special time. My mom and I stayed up ridiculously late nearly every year mixing fillings and rolling out pie crusts. We always made about seven pies. Two to three pumpkin, one cherry (for me), one mincemeat, one-two pecan, sometimes apple. We packed them up in our two big Tupperware pie carriers and loaded them in the car for the trek to my great uncle and aunt’s house. They lived on a river and we drove three hours every Thanksgiving morning with the whole family in tow to bring our contribution to the annual family gathering.

We always stopped in the same diner in Perry, Florida. I always tried to avoid breathing in the putrid smell of the paper mill. Eventually I gave up and tried to get used to it. Both attempts were futile - it’s too pungent to block or get used to in a short one-hour visit.

By the time we got to my great uncle and aunt’s house, some family had already arrived and lunch preparations were well underway. Thankfully, there was time for a lengthy trip in the canoe or a lively croquet match amongst the trees in the front yard. Sometimes some of the family would even go fishing. The adults enjoyed time together visiting and catching up on the news of the year. My brothers and I, along with our cousins, scattered to the places we were most interested in on that particular day. 

I don’t think I went a single year without heading out in the canoe. Or the motorboat if my cousin was up to it. I even enjoyed playing croquet. We found ways to make a seemingly boring game fun. (Hint: It is incredibly satisfying to send your brother’s or father’s formerly-in-the-lead ball flying well off the course.)

This year I’m thankful that in a few short weeks I’m going to have the absolute pleasure of introducing my family to my most amazing little boy for the very first time. I’m going to meet my two youngest nieces that I have only known in pictures since their births. 

Every time I think about it, I want to whoop for joy and do cartwheels (except I never learned how). It’s way past time for a visit and I sincerely hope I never go this long without seeing my family ever again.

Whether you’re in the U.S. today or not - be thankful for the people who make up your family. Whether you’ve chosen them, they’ve chosen you or you were thrown together by forces of nature. And if you’re close enough, give them a hug.

So...apparently I lied to Brandon's teacher this week

Brandon’s junior kindergarten teacher is wonderful. She’s a lovely young woman with so much energy and compassion for children. I couldn’t be happier with the lottery that landed us in her class. She’s made so much extra effort with Brandon since before school even started. From visiting him at daycare to calling and spending nearly an hour on the phone with me to discuss his situation. She’s called almost every week since school started to talk about how things are going or give us updates on one thing or another. 

She’s exactly the kind of teacher I hoped for Brandon to get. If he has teachers like this woman every year, we will have a stellar school experience. Brandon’s principle is wonderful too. I feel like we’re all on Team Brandon - doing everything we can to help him succeed. 

So, of course, I lied to a key team member this week.

Brandon’s teacher called to tell me how well his day went after we made a change that we all anticipated would lead to some difficulty. When she called, she mentioned a book that Brandon’s been reading for a couple of weeks, introduced to him by his daycare teachers. The book? Mortimer by Robert Munsch.

I never read Robert Munsch growing up, so if you’re like me, here’s the man himself reading Mortimer:

It’s a cute book - even cuter if you’re looking at the pictures.

Why did this come up? Because B’s teacher wondered if the yelling Brandon has been doing (sometimes) is mimicking the book. I assured her that he isn’t really known for doing that. He’ll often quote books (at odd, completely out of context times), but I said it’s unusual for him to start acting them out or even copying behaviours in the books that are negative.

I found A Bunch of Munsch on Netflix last weekend and Brandon has started requesting to watch them regularly. (People, the show has trumped Thomas - this is big news.) It’s so weird, though. I can see why it appeals to kids, but as an adult seeing it for the first time I’m finding it hard to enjoy. It bugs me that the stories diverge so far from the books, too. Sure, the basic nuts and bolts are there, but there’s so much filler that makes me wonder what the writers were on when they dreamed it up.

One of the books that Brandon has been drawn to is The Boy in the Drawer. I think this one has an actual lesson in it for kids, but it’s so vague I would be truly impressed at the child who can verbalize it without help. Mind you, I could be reading something into something that isn’t there. Here’s the cartoon version - embellishments at all:

If I have to have that song in my head, you do too. :-p

Now, I know you’re wondering about this lie I’ve mentioned. I didn’t know I lied until yesterday afternoon when Brandon came running into my room and said there was a tiger in his sock drawer. Shockingly, I did not make the connection at first. I told Brandon we better go investigate. We crept into his room ever so quietly to keep from rousing the tiger. I slowly opened the drawer and screamed!!!

How did a tiger get in his sock drawer?! And he’s reading a book!

Hmmm…just like The Boy in the Drawer (click that link to listen to Munsch reading the book).

Today, Brandon ran over to tell me that the tiger threw his socks all over his room. I thought this was a brilliant opportunity to get him to pick up his mess since he was clearly play-acting out the book. However, unlike Shelly who did what her mother told her to do, Brandon doesn’t like to clean up messes regardless of who makes them.

I think next week, I’ll have to let his daycare know that they need to find some books that encourage tidiness and stop reading the ones that are so messy. ;)

Ultimately, I couldn’t be happier with this development. More and more I see Brandon using his imagination and books are such a huge part of it. I always wanted him to love reading and he does. I couldn’t be happier about it.

I should probably let Brandon’s teacher know that I lied to her now.