Happy Birthday baby girl, today you are seven years old. You are the youngest child and so sometimes you get a little lost in the shuffle of this big family. Don’t fret, you will find your voice; the beautiful voice that it is. When you sing in the car, daddy turns the radio down just a little so we can hear you. We picked up on that; the harmony in your little girl voice and it warms us like sunshine. Your big sister’s friends tell me you are so beautiful, they are jealous of your dark wavy hair and your freckles. The freckles you hate but make you so, you. The freckles that show how you match daddy, how you are his little girl. You are our baby and we love you. Seven years ago today you were born and we were told not to touch you, we were told to hold our breath because you may not be here come morning. But by some miracle and the genius of the doctors on your team you stayed with us and each day that you fought for life and we cried at your side, unable to hold your hand we knew you would be super special to us. And you are. And you always will be.
20 years ago today I became a mother for the first time. I was only 22 years old and I was scared out of my mind. I thought there was no way I could raise a child and have him turn out okay. I was still afraid of the dark for god sakes! Turns out, despite my craziness I did do a good job because the young man I have raised is kind, thoughtful, calm, and extremely giving. He treats women with respect and will someday make someone an amazing husband.
So today my baby turns 20, he is no longer a teenager, he is a man. This day is a milestone in his life but sadly he got injured during training with the Canadian military and broke his hand in two places. He will spend the day of his 20th birthday having his hand put back together on an operating table in an Edmonton hospital. Talking with him last night really opened my eyes to how much he has grown up. He is not afraid of his impending operation, he is keeping a light and easy spirit in spite of being in pain and being so far away from his family and his girlfriend. He is a brave and genuine person, he is my hero and I am very proud of him.
Summer’s here, officially, today is the second day since my kids have been out of school. I’ve been forced to set my art aside and spend some quality time with them. So far we have played dance dance on the xbox, did some lame exercise because it was too hot out then ate freezies. One trip to the dirt bike track in the late afternoon then the grocery store to stock up on frozen yogurt (except ice cream was on sale).
Now it’s day two and I was woken up to sweaty kids clad in only their underwear trying to tickle me. Then a full movie day (because it rained). After too much icecream and chocolate milk, freezie packages stuck to the floor and a few sticky faced kisses now I am getting my hair done by my youngest daughter. She has a habit of banging the brush on my head then tearing it through bringing tears to my eyes. But hey, she’s stopped talking and folks, in the 48 hours since school let out for summer I don’t think this child has stopped talking once.
One day my husband brought home a big dog, without my permission. I saw him driving up the road towards our house, arm hanging out the window, cigar in his mouth and a big black dog in the passenger seat. Secretly I sometimes think he looks more like a redneck but that’s beside the point (and please don’t tell him I said that). I watch him pull into the driveway, with this dog and his cigar and felt one of those rare moments of hate that are inevitable in any relationship. There he was, completely white dust covered from one of his renovating jobs, cigar ashes flying as he strained to cart this dog out of the van. He looked at me; big smile covering his face then shrugged his shoulders and brought the dog in the house. I took a moment, a moment to unclench my fists and breath, just breath. Now don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, although I do admit to a slight fear of the larger ones. Again, I repeat, I do love dogs, however, we have six kids between us, two at that time that were little enough to be home during the day, with me and now, this big dog.
The dog was a female black lab mix with a little crazy stirred in. First thing the dog did to initiate herself into our family was to chew on the legs of my antique dining set. A dining set that has been around for approximately 130 years but is falling apart under the “care” of my rough family. It managed a 130-year life until it fatefully became part of our furniture collection. So the dog, whom we named Dolly, chewed my chairs and one leg of the table; happily I might add, like they were dipped in bacon grease. This all happened fast, she dove straight for the table and started chewing before anyone could stop her. Could have been comical if not for my total distress at watching my table getting ruined. As the kids and my husband chased her around trying to stop the destruction she would move to another chair, go in for a quick bite and slip away before any hands could reach her.
She was a friendly dog, very hyperactive though which did amount to a lot of interesting scenarios. Luckily a few of our kids were old enough to take her on lots of walks. For the older girls it was more of a tug of war then a walk but still, they got the job done.
For our youngest son though, who was only three at the time, this dog, Dolly, was both a friend and an enemy. They quickly developed a very complicated love, hate relationship; you see we were not used to a big dog in the house. So when we laid out lunch for our little guy, on the coffee table with his little plastic chair pulled up, well little did we know this was the perfect height for a dog thief. Every time our son looked away, Dolly, who would act seemingly uninterested while the food was being served, would then scoot over and devour the meal in mere seconds. Around the third time this happened, our son got up, walked over to the dog that was lying on the floor pretending not to notice him and then leaned forward to lift up her ear and whisper, “Dolly, I hate you”.
He had seemed to forgive her though, when later he brought the dog over to show us his art experiment. He had gotten into my art paints and brushes and had decorated the dog in multiple colors. What I found most amusing was the patience of this dog, our Dolly, to have sat through a painting session that was long enough for our son to change colors and cover multiple areas of her body. But he sure was proud and Dolly seemed happy enough, probably hoping in return he would just share his lunch with her.
I long ago decided my only defence in this family is to just paint!
Our family spends a lot of weekends at motocross tracks. On a race weekend you drive to wherever the destination and camp over. The last race weekend I remember waking up and standing outside of the trailer just watching all of the activity; racers tuning their bikes and getting in their gear to head to the riders meeting. Kids running around playing, laughing, making their own dirt tracks in the sand. Dogs being walked by their owners, a steaming mug of coffee in hand and the comforting smell of eggs and bacon being cooked over an open flame. It struck me then how my kids might look back on these summer weekends with such fond memories, being closer as a family, getting to know the other racing families, the noise, and the excitement. On many a Saturday and Sunday morning during the spring and summer season this is what they will wake up to. And it’s pretty cool if you ask me.
With four kids at home and two step kids part time I often use my painting time as a an artistic release from the chaotic life that so many children under one roof provide. I have many stories about life with six kids. Here is one, unfortunately it is a true story! haha
It’s funny really; you bring home this tiny package, bundled snug in a blanket, ready only for your love and care. Then you lose a little sleep, gain a little weight, blink for just a moment and your wonderful, sweet little baby is two and calling you names that would embarrass a sailor. You break out into a sweat at the thought of entering any public domain with your child. The “F” word, that dreaded word that you most fear always slips out of his tiny lips at the exact moment an old lady bends in for a closer look. The words “aren’t you a darling” hang empty in the air as she “tsk, tsks” her way to the cash. This is not a word he learned in a picture book, or one of his movies, if you are lucky like us you could blame it on his teenage brother but for most it is obvious that this word was learned by you, the parent.
Like most parents, we dread our trip to the grocery store. It was on our last shopping trip that our son decided he wanted freezies, in the middle of March. Of course not freezies that you take home, freeze for a day and enjoy later; no, no, freezies at that moment, in that aisle. We tried to tell him just two aisles down he would find some already frozen. But he lay there, spread out on the floor, legs flailing, arms outstretched as if calling in help from the heavens above and I felt that familiar feeling. The shortness of breath, the pounding heart, the get me out of this moment now or I might lose total control feeling. I could have picked him up and endured some bruises from his swinging limbs. I could have grabbed him by the hand and dragged his limp body down the aisle. I could have threatened him with lose of toys, treats, life or limbs but then I would have been witness to an academy award winning performance at high volume, in surround sound. Instead I walked away and simply waved good-bye. It worked. Somehow, on that day, the clouds parted; letting out a little ray of sunshine I depicted as hope and turned my child into a sudden angel. We went merrily down the aisle on to the frozen section where he choose Popsicles, placed them carefully in the cart and proceeded to tell us to hurry. As I do not tell a lie you will believe me when I say we went straight to the cash and then straight to hell. He began his usual swing form the shiny silver “balance beams” which called out to him for at least one lick on its germ infested coldness. As he swung and slide on his bum across the dusty floor he started a rant. “Oh no, oh, oh, I can’t take this. Oh no, oh, oh, I can’t take this. Hurry. I can’t take this.”
I dared to ask, “What can’t you take?”
“I want my treat.”
The nice lady on the cash laughed and said “oh how cute. Well I think they are going to make you wait though.”
I laughed with her, although my laugh quickly slipped into the hysterical laugh of a lunatic. I knew from painful experience that we were nowhere near home free. We packed our groceries into the cart, shuffled his little body along to distract him as we began our exit from the store; not soon enough though, for he yelled with great irritation, “hurry, you fucking idiot.” Ah parenting, the job meant for a saint.