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
Ben you are 14! You have been a teenager for an entire year, and so far, so good :)
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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.
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.
And I watched a hundred black crows
Fly through the red tint of approaching sunset
Clear winter sky,
And I called out, Yes, darling! Please return!
As I smiled and turned to face the dying sun.
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,
We did the Terry Fox run yesterday and raised over $800! Donate if you can.
Ben, you are 11 today, and I know I say this every year, but I cannot believe where the time has gone and how much you have grown up.
If I could sum up this year in two words it would be: Dr Who. You are crazy about the Doctor, you read about him, watch the show, make Legos of the Tardis and draw all of the characters. You know that the fourth doctor is my favorite, so you made me a Lego of him and other characters from the show. I am always amazed by your creativity and ability to build and draw whatever is in your mind.
You had a good school year and got caught up and ready to take on grade 5 next year, your reading and math have improved and your attitude is getting better. You would love to spend all of your time playing, but when I remind you that Lego engineers have to do well at school, you try your best.
Another big development is that you now have a best friend besides your sister. It is so wonderful to see you making a friend and wanting to hang out with someone besides me and your dad and your sister.
Karate is progressing and you achieved another belt and participated in some competitions. We changed piano teachers and you are doing so well and performing at concerts with ease and your own showmanship.
Your number one friend is still your sister and you continue to be the most patient and loving brother in the world. You would give her your most precious possessions to make her happy. You also know how to stand up for yourself, so there is a tad more shouting in the house.
This morning, you followed me down to the basement when I was doing some laundry and wrote "I love you Momma" on a post-it and stuck it to the washing machine, "So when you are down here you will see it and make you happy". You are always doing thoughtful things like that, just because that's who you are.
My little boy, you are still the kindest and gentlest soul that I know, I truly know no one else as good and perfectly selfless as you. I am always humbled by your wonderful heart. You teach me something every day and I hope you know how much I love you and delight in your smile and joy of every tiny thing in your life. I want every day to be the best day ever, always.
All my love,
Wow my not-so-little girl, you are 8! Where did the year go? You made it through the first grade with ease, making friends, working dutifully, and participating in the school talent show. You decided to do a karate routine and you were fantastic! You joined the chess club, switched to karate with Ben, continued your swimming lessons, and started piano, and you wanted to do even more, but Momma is tired. Your energy is boundless at times, and you are always talking, making up and telling stories to me, your brother, and sometimes just to yourself and your toys in your room. One day you will be writing all these down, but for the moment they come out as performance art and I am always surprised by your imagination. Your artwork is definitely your own as well and I love to look at what you create and the fearlessness with which you draw your world.
You have many friends now, your outgoing nature and exuberance draws people in. Your best friend is still your brother though, and the way that you play and argue and discuss and negotiate always makes me smile. You know each other better than any other person in this world, and I hope that it is always this way.
We had so much fun this year, museums, biking, parks, hiking. Our favourite week was at a cottage where you learned to kayak and steer a paddle boat and we rode our bikes and got up late at night and watched the stars. You caught a toad our first day and on our last you caught a snake and carried him around for over an hour. By the end, you'd let him go on the grass and he'd return because he liked you and your warm hands.
You are starting to read more now and your love affair with books grows stronger. You long to read novels and soon there will be nothing in your way and then every story in the world will be yours. I am so excited for you, because I know how much you want to live in books. You hang on every word I read you and remember details from Harry Potter that I can't remember.
I love the person you are and the way that you see the world, you see beauty in a spiderweb lit by the sun and the mud spatters on the side of the car, you trace a heart on the frost on the window and marvel at the random patterns that exist everywhere. I see the world in an even more beautiful way because of you.
And even though your life can be a bit too dramatic at times and we are not always in agreement (I dread your teens), in the end we always manage a hug and an apology, which is important because I never want you to doubt that I am always on your side, even when it may not be obvious to you.
And you still creep into my bed some nights and cuddle up with me and fall back to sleep, just because you can.
I love you so much little Noo, nothing can change that, and I am so damn proud of everything that you do.
All my love,
I was out for a walk in the woods today. A few trees have started their colour swap, among the green leaves there is suddenly a burst of yellow and orange and red. The bright leaves on the dark, wet earth look like confetti thrown for a celebration. Fall has always felt like magic to me, when things turn and change and I feel happy and warm even though the weather turns cold and I know that the festive colours and bright autumn light is heading towards stark landscapes, darkness, and a sleep that feels like death. But the coming grey and biting cold is the price for my carnival of September and October with their brilliant painted landscapes and the red apples and bright orange pumpkins that show up at every market. The colours dazzle and speak of a seasonal life well lived, of a gratitude for another spring and summer accomplished and filed away with growth and sunshine and vigor. Now it is time to look back and smile and relax into the comfort of knowing how much has already happened and prepare for the quiet and dark that awaits, the long rest before things begin again.
This is my favorite time of the year, the time when we feel the year the most deeply.
Ben, you are ten today and you have been anxiously awaiting your new age for weeks. I am still shaking my head in amazement that my little boy is now in the double digits.
You are still very much a Lego fanatic, although now your play is more about fighting orcs and toilet humour, preferably at the same time. It had to happen eventually...
You continue to be the kindest and most generous soul that I know. You would give your last treasure to your sister without question if she asked, or sometimes just to make her happy. You delight in making people smile and you spread joy freely. You remember to tell people every day that you love them and give them hugs. A while back we were getting ready to leave the house, and in the hustle and bustle I noticed that you had stopped moving and were just staring at me. When I asked what was the matter, you said, “Sometimes I look at you just because I love you”. My heart exploded right there on the spot. Karate and swimming lessons continue, and now we have added piano. You have taken to music very naturally and I was bursting with pride when you played at the school talent show. You never complain about practising and you love the feeling of the keys and experimenting with sounds and tempo.
You continue to progress at school, slowly but surely. You love to read comics and write your own stories. Your art is fantastic and creative and shows your enthusiasm for making. You love to venture out and see and discover. This year, we ran a 12k for charity, pretty amazing! You also conquered your bike last summer, so now we can explore on two wheels. I feel your confidence rise with every independent step you take as the months go zooming by.
And yet you still request a cuddle every morning, and it is still my favourite time of the day.
Your inner light is still the most dazzling, brilliant glow of any little boy I know, and I am so proud you are mine.
Happy birthday Benny,
The rain is luscious this morning. Lying here with a cool breeze coming in the window, listening to the soft sound of the water hitting the earth and the thunder rumbling long in the distance. Summer storms are the best.
[My words, barely choked out at the gathering after the burial, my hands shaking so hard I could barely hold the paper I wrote it on. Goodbye Dad, I love you.]
My dad had big life.
I was trying to think of a story that sums up my life with my father, but there isn't one, just memories of the countless journeys, and places we discovered by car, truck, camper, boat, snowmobile, and feet - journeys that took us across Canada and from the far north of the United States to the farthest south. Where ever we went, it was more than the journey, it was what we did when we got there. It was the people we met, the things we learned, and the fences we climbed under that were the true adventure. My father instilled in me that love of the journey, the need to break the rules to get to the good stuff, and he taught me the importance of the connections that are made between people.
My father could talk to anyone. It was his greatest skill in life. He could find common ground and laughter and friendship everywhere. My dad loved people, and his honesty and openness drew people to him. I think that we can all agree that dad had a great sense of humour and that he loved to share his stories - the mouse on the string, the time he owned a monkey, eating lemons in front of a trumpet player, the list of prankster tales and laughing at his own mistakes could fill several books, and he told them all so well. He taught me that in order to make friends, you must share yourself truthfully, and playfully, with the world.
My father followed his dreams. It was never a case of if he could do something, but how he was going to do it. His first journey to Alaska was made solo in a VW Beetle from Quebec. He crossed Canada and made it up an unpaved Al-Can highway, found a job, a place to live, and sent the plane tickets for mom and me. That kind of courage only comes from a very special person. And luckily he found a partner in his life who was equally courageous and capable so they could live their dreams together.
My father taught me that I can do anything in this world, and that has been invaluable.
His life was a wonderful story, and I want to thank everyone in Dad's life for being part of it.
Two weeks since he died. On my way to Amsterdam, then home. Soon this trip to Prague will only be a memory of numbing cold and grey skies, golden theatres and smokey cafes, and turning out the light every night and crying when I realise he is gone. It is an odd pain, distant and unreal and then so present and biting. Like knowing you have lost something so important, without being able to put it into words. The only man who will love me so unquestionably is gone. Every light moment of laughter and wonder has been tinged with something else, and there is no one to comfort my heart, so I must keep searching for wonder and hope that the crying someday stops.