Ben is 15

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15! Wow.

I was looking at you today across the table at the Chinese restaurant and I'm still trying to wrap my head around this. You emerged 15 years ago, and life has been so much more interesting ever since.

This was the year that you GREW! Holy moly did you ever grow - up, up, up, like a fairy tale beanstalk you climbed. You are now taller than me and everyone remarks on your sudden spurt and realises that you are no longer a little boy. Your voice is deepening, your skin is acne'd, and you have entered into the gangly phase of in-between - not a boy, but not yet a man. It must be a strange place to be.

On the inside you are still your boy-self - You are now completely engrossed in Japanese power rangers and The Simpsons, you continue to love Lego, but spend tons of time on your phone watching videos or reading graphic novels. Some days you are moody, especially if we have been reminding you about your chores and your homework, but you are for the most part a pretty happy guy.

And you are still warm and loving and always willing to help others, and your compassion shines bright in this world. Life is not perfect, but your heart is always in the right place.

I love you so much my not-so-little Boo.

All my heart,

Momma

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And so we begin

Some days, you just have to tell your story. Here is part of mine.

I reached a point in life where it looked like I had everything more or less worked out. I had a good job, was financially stable, had a family, etc. There was only one problem, I was deeply miserable. I didn't actually know how miserable I was - I distracted myself by parenting, working, quilting, baking, socializing, shopping, and exercising. The first time I had an inkling that something was wrong was during my first yoga class taught by a friend of mine. It was a small group of ladies, and we started by sitting and just breathing. Cross-legged on my mat, listening to something soothing and new age-y, I realised that I hadn't been alone with my thoughts in a long time, and I started crying. I didn't want to spend one solitary moment with myself, and it broke my heart.

That was ten years and what feels like a million tears, and smiles, and screams, and open-mouthed, full-out, loud, laughing fits ago, and I still feel like my journey is only beginning.

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Heartbroken

For my daughter, who this weekend was hurt by a group of mean and crappy girls:

When a person doesn't think about you, it's generally because they do not think much of themselves. They are so caught up in their bubble of insecurity - wanting to be popular and liked by certain people, with no real idea of who they are, too scared to be themselves for fear that they are not worthy of belonging and being loved in this world.

But you, my amazing daughter, know who you are, and you have the maturity and integrity, and bravery to stand out in the world. You know that you are enough, and that you are loved by people who matter and who will always be there for you.

The parents of those other girls envy me - they take one look at you and the beauty and awesomeness that you exude inside and out, and their kids can't even compare.

There are many inconsiderate and unkind people in the world, and I am so proud that you made the choice not to be one. You are the best.

Jan 13, 2017

In my dream I was busily creating these beautiful honey sculptures (they stayed in shapes, not sure how I did that, but it seems to have made me very happy in the dream). I was attempting to move them, carrying many in my hands. The kids were helping me, but then they dropped all of theirs on the ground and started running away. I was swarmed by hornets (I know, should have been bees?) and they landed on my lips. I closed my eyes. I dropped all the sculptures and slowly walked away from them, and I could feel the hornets peeling themselves off my lips and under my nose, like they were stuck in honey.

Symbolic you think? :)

Tosca, in a dream

Sitting at the opera Thursday night, listening to Mario sing E lucevan le stelle (The stars were shining) in the third act - thinking back to a memory of the sensations of a moment spent with Tosca, an intensely private internal reverie that you feel touched to be included in. And then that universal truth of any human knowing that their life will end very shortly: E non ho amato mai tanto la vita - I never before loved life so much.

Puccini rocks the planet.

Where are you? - so many dull faces out there, lacking ideas, dreams, humour, and intelligence. 

and they aren't you.

So what shall I do when you are still the one I choose? Try to ignore it, throw myself into my work, get ten cats, laugh at the universe?

We shall have to wait and see...

I can feel you missing me every day, missing the warmth of my smile and the way that my laugh opens up your heart and lets in all the hope in the world.

La vita, la vita, la vita. Stretched out on the sofa, wrapping my curls around your fingers, soft hair, telling you a story while Bach plays quietly in the background, the light casting shadows from the crane tree and my hands as they gesture every emotion and reach up to gently stroke your cheek. And you know that you are home.

E non ho amato mai tanto la vita.

 

After watching a beautiful cellist-pianist duet, a year ago

I was coming home on the metro from the concert, a beautiful evening with Jean-Guihen Queyras and Alexander Melnikov  and thinking.

I realised that what I had just seen tonight is what I want. I want a collaboration between two strong, dedicated, talented people who understand one another, who listen, who are attuned to the needs and rhythms and pace of the other and practise to create something beautiful that gives them both joy. A partnership that requires hard work and humour and love of themselves as individuals so they can both bring the best of what they are and all their failings together without judgement because there is no blame in a partnership and no ego, when one person makes a mistake the other changes step and you both keep playing because the music isn't over and stumbles make the piece a little more unique and it's selfless, when you play this way you eventually become one.

That's what I want.

Naomi is 12!

My darling girl, you are 12! You are transforming into a young woman before my eyes. I cannot believe how much older you seem compared to a year ago!
You are in your final year of elementary school, and you are working hard on your studies. You are a prefect at school and handling the responsibilities well. You have also decided which high school you want to go to next year after the multiple open houses. This year, you completed 14k for the school's Terry Fox Run, are continuing figure skating, and you have also discovered that you love hiking up steep trails full of rocks. We went to Vermont this summer and you ran up the black diamond trail like a mountain goat! 
You are still a big reader (currently Hunger Games), a huge LaurenZ fan, and your imagination never ceases to amaze me - from stories you make up with your brother, to the art you create, the images and videos you make, and the plays you perform, you bring your immense, shining personality to everything you do and make it your own. 
You go your own way and follow your own path. You are not in a hurry to grow up, you have no desire to pretend to be anything that you are not. I am so proud of you for that. You know who you are, and that is such an amazing gift.  You support your friends with your wisdom, and you stick up for them and what you think is right. People look up to your strength.
Through all that you do there is a love of life and a love of laughter. You make everyone you touch richer for it, and your energy lights up a room, a city, the world. 
You are an amazing person, and I cannot wait to see how much more awaits you this year. I continue to be in awe of the wonderful girl I brought into the world.
I love you with all my heart,
Momma
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14!

Ben you are 14! You have been a teenager for an entire year, and so far, so good :)

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It is almost a year since we got on a plane and started our summer adventure in Europe and Iceland. You were an amazing travel companion and you and your sister came back different people, more mature and confident and with your minds full of cottage fun, cousins, boats, Lego, lost luggage, waterfalls, and ice cream reviews.
You started high school this year and started taking public transit by yourself. There were some mishaps, but you learned and now can navigate with relative ease. You had to work super hard at school this year to catch up a bit and adapt to the new pace and you did it, passing all your subjects. In addition, you ran cross country and got braces! You look so different with your shiny metal smile and other than the first few days, you haven't complained even though you had to give up some favourite treats.
You are still progressing in karate and piano, and this year at camp you are an urban explorer and going all over the city. You have sprouted up and are now taller than your grandmother and nearly as tall as me - now if you could gain some weight! You also discovered Monty Python and think they are hilarious! Your mother is very, very proud :)
You continue to light up the world with your smile, your humour, and your love and kindness for those around you. I have yet to meet a person who walks through the world as sweetly as you do. I am so very lucky to know your wonderful spirit and realise that part of me that resides in you is so utterly perfect.
I love you with all my heart little boo.
Kisses and hugs,

Momma

Naomi is 11!

My Lovely Naomi,
It's your birthday and you are 11! So much has happened this year!
You have transformed into a tween, but a very nice one. You have grown taller and soon you will be looking down at the top of my head. This year we went to Europe and you came back more mature. You swam in the sea, drove a jet ski, climbed mountains, stood on glaciers, became an ice cream connoisseur, and learned a bit of Finnish, Danish, and Icelandic along the way. I could not be more proud of the way that you navigated the world, how you enjoyed every new experience and held it together when jetlag and travelling schedules made life challenging.
You have started grade 5, you are the top-ranked chess player at school, you are the helper for the Welcome class, you have taken up figure skating, and piano continues to progress. You have become a big Harry Potter fan and are buried in the books, and all books - you love to read! You still want to be a surgeon and help others. Your life is filled with so much movement and light and creativity - art springs up out of you in the most amazing ways.
You find it hard when people are critical with you even though it is constructive. I get that, it's hard, but it will get easier I hope.
As you continue to grow into a young woman, so much remains the same: you are still the source of so much love and spirit and energy. I am in awe of you and the life that radiates from you. I cannot wait to see what this year brings.
I love you more each day, you are my hero.
Love, love, more love,
Momma

13!

Ben, you are thirteen today - 13! A teenager! You are very excited about this, as well as starting high school in the fall. Your mom has some catching up to do..... 

It was yesterday that you were starting kindergarten, a few short months since you were toddling around and presenting your baby sister with stuffed animals, hardly a season since you were born and I held your perfect, tiny little body for the first time. How can you be taking on the world already? I am proud and excited and anxious and scared all at once.

I know you will be a great thirteen, you already have the advantage of not being a typical preteen - you still see the world as a place of endless possibility and treat everyone in it with kindness. You think of others and their feelings and try to make the people you love happy. You approach the world without self consciousness and with an openess and vulnerability that I wish I had when I was your age, I am amazed at the ease you have in the world and the joy you find in it. I know that it isn't easy for you, I know that you have struggles and loneliness and fears, but your family will always be here, and hopefully you will make a few more friends in the coming year who see you and love you for who you are.

Karate continues, you still know everything there is to know about Dr Who, you enjoy reading about the exploits of Big Nate and the wimpy kid, and Uncle Grandpa, which I utterly fail to understand, but it's fun to listen to you giggle away as you show me a video. I hope you never stop sharing what you love with me. You are still the best big brother, a friend and confidante for your sister as she starts to experience her preteen awareness and issues.

You are about to set off on an adventure, a journey into young adulthood and eventually puberty. You will jump into this as I look on in wonder and worry silently and cheer.

You are my young man, not a boy anymore, but still full of a love and gentleness that lights up the whole world. You are my hero and my greatest teacher, and I cannot wait to see what we will learn this year.

All my love,
Momma

Next steps

Ben you graduated!
It was a short ceremony, all of you seated on chairs to the left and right of the stage. The principal gave a little speech, and then he started calling your names. You'd get up and walk on the stage, collect your certificate from your teacher with a smile and a handshake, then continue your walk across and down the other side. Such a short walk that meant so much to me, such a short walk that I thought might never happen when the psychiatrist told us eleven years ago that you were autistic. Such a long journey to get to that short walk. You did so much work to get to that moment, and you didn't even realise that that was the reason your parents were smiing so broadly. Your classmates had no idea how many hours of therapy you sat through, how many extra hours of homework you endured, how many times you couldn't go to the park or play because you had to write out your essay again, or do extra math problems, or look up all the French words you didn't know in a dictionary. Some of them see your kind heart, playful being, and amazing from-the-gut smile, some of them only see you as the kid who cries inappropriately and who used to eat paint off the walls. I know how far you have come, and what a miraculous gift that I was given the day that you were born. You came into this world as softly and gracefully as you continue to walk in it. I am truly blessed by your kindness everyday.I have never encountered a more beautiful soul than yours.
And now you are starting a new stage of your life, and we all will have a lot to learn as you start again at the bottom of the ladder and climb towards your goals and adulthood. My only wish is that the experience be as rich and delightful as the past seven years, and as blissfully memorable.
I could not be prouder of you Benny, thank you for teaching me so much.
All my love,
Momma

Naomi is ten!

Naomi, you are ten! Ten! Double digits! How is it even possible when it was just yesterday that you announced your imminent arrival out of my very large body while I was in the shower and showed up two and a half hours later? You are my little Halloween pumpkin, my treat, my goblin, my kitten, my freight train, my adorable, determined, passionate, sensitive little girl.

This has been a very action-packed year for you. You made it to orange belt in karate before deciding to take a break and give figure skating a try. You took up baseball and before long you were knocking the adult pitchers off their feet and rounding the bases like a pro. Our summer was filled with biking and hiking and swimming and some kayaking, and you ran 10k for Terry Fox in the fall. You had a rocky year of school, but this year is much better and you are already getting great marks and studying your hardest in grade 4, as well as doing chess and drama. Your piano is also coming along so well as you master more complicated pieces.
You started a dog walking business over the summer. You came up with the idea, drew your own posters and put them up, and so far you have one regular client. Your initiative is amazing to me and I'm thrilled to see you so happy with every dollar you save up. A few weeks ago you paid for yogurt day for you and your brother when I forgot, and you were so proud to do it.
You are getting older and we have had discussions about friendships and boys and art and the world. I am hoping that you will be able to learn from your disappointments and setbacks and see more of the positive experiences, but that is a work in progress

More than anything, your sense of loyalty and your convictions of what is right and your ability to stand up for what you believe are my favourite strengths among your many. You have such courage my darling, and so much heart.
And you continue to be the best sister and Ben's very best friend. I cannot believe what you bring out in him and the joy and wonder we all have for you. I love you with all my heart and cannot wait to see what awaits you this year.
All my love,
Momma

Election thoughts, leaders

We had a federal election on Monday, and many people, myself included, voted for a change. I watched the Facebook and Twitter posts of friends and pundits celebrating the end of Mr. Harper. I agree, he had to go, but as I thought about it, I thought about what it means to be a leader. What is it that I want from the next person to lead the country?
For me, a good leader, in any form, has a vision for something better and pulls all of her people into that vision until everyone believes in that vision too, because they can see it working effectively. Whether in politics, business, or at home, when I think about the effective leaders in my life, they have always been the ones who changed my mindset and pushed my ideals in a new direction, taking me forward.
I think that the main reason that Mr. Harper failed, was because he was trying to take Canada back to a vision from the past. While that past may feel safe in the memory of many people, in truth it never was and cannot be realistically achieved in our current world.We cannot exclude the people or ideas that are a part of us. I believe that Mr. Harper honestly wanted what he thought was best for Canada, and that his job was to protect his people, but an effective leader creates individuals who can protect themselves and make their own decisions.
So, will the new leader have a vision for the future that includes all Canadians? Will he help to bring us forward in our thinking about ourselves and our country?  We are all hopeful and relieved and giddy, but time will tell if Mr. Trudeau can do his part to create a Canada that makes us proud to be Canadian again.

12

My darling Benny, you are 12! You are growing up and you want to be treated like a young man. There are things that you tell me are too babyish for you now. This past year you worked hard and made it through grade 5. Homework was not always successful, but you tried and we were proud of your effort. Secondary 3 is not easy and poses new challenges. You and your classmates went on a class trip and you were nervous but in the end you had a great time. You were selected to present your story of Goldilocks and the three flies at the storytelling competition and you did wonderfully. You played piano for the talent show and were in a hip-hop dance show. We wish you had more close friends, but you are afraid of putting yourself in the action, even when others invite you. You did the Terry Fox run with me again and we did 12km! Karate continues and you are now an orange belt, and you passed your second year of piano exams and are now start some improvisation which you are enjoying.
Your sister continues to be your best friend and comfort zone, although she does annoy you a bit more with her bossiness. You are the peacemaker, and when she is sad and dramatic you are quick to take her side and try to make her happy. Unless she has destroyed your lego, and then you just want her out of your room.
 I see you guys sitting on the couch together reading a book and talking or making up a show with action figures and stuffed animals and I am always in awe of your closeness. Sometimes you are sitting on the floor together and doing different things and your legs are linked, or you are using eachother as pillows and I think how lucky it is that you have one another. You share so much and will always have the memories of your games and stories.
This year you started to understand what you want and you stood up for yourself and became more determined. You still become very upset when you think you have disappointed your family or your teachers, but now you are pushing back. You care deeply about others and you want people to be fair and treat others with kindness. And you are a funny guy. This year you mad eme laugh more times than I can count at your little jokes and surprises. You see the humour in this world and that's a fantastic skill to have.
You are still the person that I try to be. Your grace and forgiveness and open heart are truly inspring. I cannot imagine my life without you and your sister. You are a bright light that guides me. You make me a better person in this world.
I love you with all my heart Benny-boo, forever.
Momma

Naomi, you are 9!

My little kitten, today you are 9 and our whirlwind life has come back to the day that you were born. You knew exactly what you wanted then and that has not changed. You are still the most amazing girl I know.
You are getting older and long to be more grown up, but still play and sing and make up games for you and your brother and your friends. You know your own mind, and you stick up for people and for what you think is right and I am so proud of you for that. It does get you in trouble, but that's ok with me. You have a knack for finding the people in your groups who need you the most and you help them. I hope that never changes. You have a best friend, but your closest friend is still your brother, who you constantly bring out of himself. Thank you.
You get smarter, funnier, more creative, and more beautiful every year. I cannot wait to see what this year has in store.
And despite your independence, you are still Momma's girl, ready for a snuggle anytime.
My pumpkin, my brilliant little light, my Nomi-noo, I love you so.
Love and all my heart,
Momma