Monday, 30 March 2015

Pterodactyl update

On silent prehistoric wings, he swooped past the moon and flitted between stars. Owls watched him with bemusement. Bats scattered in terror.

Pterodactylus belovedus.
He'd been to Tierra del Fuego and Greenland; he'd been from Bali to Siberia and back again. 

He'd had the best wasabi in the world a hundred times over, and luxuriated in the heady, soaring freedom of being a free bird on the road. 

But he missed his girl. Nothing compared to his girl.

And so he followed the juniper shadows until he found her. 

The night before the morning he landed, she was too preoccupied to see his pterodactyl-shaped shadow over the moon.  

Her sister saw it. Her sister saw him flit from juniper to juniper. Her sister saw him peering in the window anxiously. 

Usually lost things are just plain lost. Usually one has to take solice in such aggravating sentiments as "there's always another pterodactyl in the sea." 

But on some glorious, unusual occasions lost things are found with a little help from the universe and Amazon. 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Pterodactyls love wasabi

Last summer, I had to organize a hasty exit from a domestic crater in a remote cow field.

Well-planned moves involve loss and breakage. Cow-field-crater moves even more so.

My daughter Ana packed up a much beloved stuffed pterodactyl. She diligently checked on his welfare throughout moving day.

She promised to meet him on the other side of the move.

I've always been proud of the high degree of compassion and pastoral care Ana exercises with toys and humans, which is why it was so devastating to unpack the last box and discover that pterodactyl had gone missing.

The loss of pterodactyl was deep and painful. With the loss of pterodactyl, a way of life disappeared and dreams fell to pieces.

His ghost persists.

A recent bedtime mention of his name brought her to tears. As I held her in my arms, wishing for all the world that my daughter never had to suffer loss, a story bubbled up from deep inside me and sprang from my lips.

Pterodactyl was not in fact lost! Not all who wander are, right? Nor had Pterodactyl been adopted by the new family who now lived in our old home.

Pterodactyl had done a marvellous thing. He had taken the crater upheaval moment as a wake-up call and a beautiful opportunity.

Pterodactyl had taken wing, with a vow to explore the world.

Why, at just that moment he was in the Caribbean, landing on gruff, tough pirates' shoulders and completely freaking them out by screaming: "Pollydactyl want a cracker!!!"

Beyond crackers, what Pterodactyl really was searching for was wasabi. The best wasabi ever. And tons of it.

Why wasabi? Why not?!

One of Ana's favorite books is "Dragons Love Tacos." Perhaps this is where the idea came from.
Off to Tanzania!
Regardless, wasabe became the magical word that turned tears into laughter.

And so night after night, my daughters snug in bed, we discuss Pterodactyl's whereabouts.

He is quite well-travelled. He has been to Greenland and Antarctica. He is running out of options, and may have to go to space.

I can see Pterodactyl's ghost on my daughter's shoulder. I wish there wasn't a pterodactyl-shaped hole in her life, but I don't have the power to stop it.

And this is one of my own pterodactyls. I wanted my kids to have a "perfect" childhood. Stability. Certainty. Two parents, one roof. Two cats in the yard. Etc. That pterodactyl has flown. You can see it's ghost on my shoulder.

We all have lost pterodactyls. No matter how deeply we bury the memory of them, they are part of us. Spiritual survival is learning to accept the gone-ness of our pterodactyls while retaining the inner core of joy that is our pterodactyl-proof birthright.

"When pigs fly" has always struck me as an odd saying, because pigs fly all the time (they fly business). But what about when life's pterodactyls take wing? Where do they go?

I suspect that the rare prodigal pterodactyl returns, laden with offerings of worldly wasabi and the sorrow of experience. Perhaps life is richer for wandering and losing.

Not all who wander are lost, even pterodactyls.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The atlas and the axis

My son has discovered the power of "no".

This is to say, he has discovered his top two vertebrae, the atlas and the axis, which allow him to shake the heck out of his head at will.

My son, are you hungry?

Vigorous head-shaking while simultaneously eating three cream cheese sandwiches. No.

No. This is not a photograph of an earthling. 

Glug. No.

Do you have fingers?




Are you human?

Exasperated look. No.


Whisker of doubt. Furrowed brow. Then...NO!

He shakes his head in his high chair. In his crib. He shakes his head vigorously as he crawls down the hallway.

He head-shakes with such gusto that his crawl has a sideways wobble to it.

He shakes his head rain or shine. He shakes it with joy and nary a hint of guilt. Sometimes he shakes so hard that he cracks himself up and goes giggling, wobbling, giggling, wobbling right down the hallway.

My son shakes the word rather than speaking it, but he knows what it means and he's not afraid to use it. My son is not a pleaser. He doesn't know what is expected of him, nor does he care. He is free.

In human anatomy it is the atlas, the first cervical vertebra, that affords the ability to nod "yes". The second vertebra, the axis, is required to shake "no." Thus the world rests its heft and beauty upon "yes", but only fulfills its potential to spin upon "no".

It took me years to discover the power of "no". When I finally did, the floodgates opened and the sun broke through.

No, that's not okay.

No, I won't be treated like that.

No, you can't tell me what to do.

No. You don't get to tell my story. I do.

I like my son's attitude. I hope he holds onto it, because he's going to need it out there in that crazy beautiful world with all its heft and baggage.

"No" makes the world go around. "Yes" should be reserved for those select few decent human beings with the character and courage to handle it.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The careful love of years

C Anna Kate Yarrow
Sometimes the careful love of years explodes at thirty thousand feet and falls to the earth as charred wreckage.

Sacred memories turn to shrapnel. The fundamental laws that held earth and sky together deconstruct in a moment.

Sometimes a living heart falls from the wreckage. With it a voice, a pair of lungs, a desire to exist.

C Anna Kate Yarrow
Great catastrophic sometimeses land on broken ground, covered in manure and the machinery of decomposition.

When there is nothing left to lose, there is no further to fall.

Sometimes a living heart persists in beating after falling to the earth.

C Anna Kate Yarrow
Beginnings are dark formless voids. Something has to move over the face of the deep for the earth to shift.

From shrapnel grew self-respect. Self-evident truths: a voice, a right to exist.

Carefully, stitch by stitch, my mother made a dress for her daughter, twelve years ago. Carefully, step by step, I walked into a dream.

The dress collected the dust of dreams for twelve years.

C Anna Kate Yarrow
Sometimes, in those long years of sleepwalking, my daughters poked their fingers through the garment bag and ever so carefully touched the satin of the dress.

A voice, a pair of lungs. A long winter.

Out of the garment bag. On with the dress. Put some damn glitter on this dress.

Daughters and sisters threw caution to the wind. We painted the dress.

When my son took his first steps, pure laughter rose from the deep and shook the sky like church bells.

C Anna Kate Yarrow
Cautious mourning doves took wing.

The heart that fell to the ground is lifting herself up.

The careful love of years can disappear in a heartbeat. In a heartbeat, joy rushes in.

There is sweetness in every tiny, shimmering speck of life. Put some damn glitter on it.

A heart, a voice, a pair of lungs.

A desire to exist.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Happy Fathers' Day

Farting around. 
My dad taught me my first fart joke at four (What did the burp say to the other burp? Let's go out the other end and be farts!).

He was a clever, thoughtful man who built things. My dad gave me my sense of silliness, and I simply cannot imagine life as a serious person.

I am thankful for my Dad, this year and all years.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Mom's house

I like going to Mom's house.

When I arrive, she asks me if I've eaten and feeds me regardless of the answer. It's always something healthy as opposed to the fridge dregs I would feed myself.

Mom gets the kids as many milk refills as they need, while I sit there. When the kids get cheeky, she gets cross and tells them to be nice to me.

Mom says to get some rest as many times as it takes to get me into bed. She covers me so I can sleep in. When I mosey out mid-morning, I find my kids playing with my old toys, retrieved from well-labelled attic boxes, lovingly stored all these years.

I like going to Mom's house. I like walking around the old hills of my childhood and remembering how the air there smells and how the earth crumbles underfoot. I like feeling a childish sense of security within the walls Dad built.

I grow older, but being mothered never grows old. Sometimes I think I need it more now than ever.

Monday, 31 March 2014

The atmosphere around Uranus

Before foolishly embarking on the construction of a planetary mobile with your children, consider Uranus: the planet that cracked you up as a child, and may continue to do so even as an old person.

Don't bother reading your horoscope for a while.  
I discovered this the hard way, as I attempted to be educational, which always ends in tears.

"Mom, I painted Uranus green! But I dropped it on the floor..."

Sure enough, there it languished.

When Uranus plummets from the heavens, you feel humbled. And when you kneel on the floor next to Uranus that was so recently in celestial orbit, it puts you in a reflective mood. You find yourself cast back to previous instances of Uranus crashing down.

This blog was born as a lament for the independence that I lost in a thumb war to Baby One, which I again lost in a dodgy poker game to Baby Two. Here six years into this adventure, the stars have once more aligned to send my sorry backside to the back of the queue with Baby Three.

"Mom! Wake up! Uranus is still on the floor."

There is little time for reflection with Uranus so low on the horizon, but I know from experience that it's only up from here.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A Twinkle in Bad's eye

I am deep into Bib Territory. There is no turning back now.

Armed with layers of protective gear, I have nevertheless become a Jackson Pollock of apple sauce, and carrot barf. Three kids in, I am somehow still shocked at what root vegetables can do to baby crap. And that is my lame excuse for not posting a dispatch here in so long: I was too busy running from crap.

Parenting is in the eye of the beholder. 
I would say that the first six months of my son's life have flown, except that they haven't. And yet they have. Haven't. Have. Haven't. Etc. As you can see, I am feeling a bit conflicted and fuzzy about the passage of time, and everything else.

You can tell by my poor choice of baby nicknames. When I watch my cherub gleefully bounce around in his baby swing, I am compelled to call him "Twinkle Toes".

Last night Ana very sweetly told me to check out where she'd written "dad" and "mom" on the fridge, and the picture on the left is the result. She claims innocence, but I have to wonder if it's a revenge plot for the Twinkle Toes thing.

Life with the three-ring circus is a messy logistical nightmare, but it is punctuated by frequent moments of joy, and the arrival of a little boy has provided a very happy disruption in the close and sometimes war-like relationship of his two older sisters.

Recently, while jack-hammering a dried avocado bomb from the highchair, I glanced over and caught Ana and Ali in tense Barbie negotiations, with the Little Guy drooling in the middle of them as a mediator. And right there, banana dripping from my hair, I had to catch my breath because of how perfect they are. Far more wonderful than I could have ever dreamt or imagined. Worth every ounce of sweet potato and crap. And there's been a lot of crap by now.

Anyway, Twinkle Toes is calling me and I'd be a bad mom if I stayed here typing any longer...

Monday, 6 January 2014

Hunting the old magic

Ana could've spent Christmas break honing her reading skills from the first semester. Instead she went hunting moon lions with a bow and arrow fashioned from farm junk.

Reality defense. 
Moon lions are more common than you might think. In fact the world is full of all kinds of amazing stuff, if you don't limit yourself to what's visible. 

I'm not entirely sure why the bow and arrow are neccesary (contrary to popular belief, moon lions are actually quite gentle). But as an expert in invisible magic, I trust her judgement.

Watching her hunt, I felt the anemic ghost of my own childhood magic stirring. Reading practice would've been great, but my gut told me that this rare unstructured time was best left unstructured. 

Whether you be child or ex-child, I wish you a happy New Year. May the year ahead be as magical as it possibly can be, and only as practical as it needs to be. Do your paperwork, then go hunting moon lions. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Christmas letter

Dear Niece,

This is your second Christmas. Hooray!

At this early stage in your Christmas history, you may be encountering certain frustrations, like:
  1. Aiming cookies at the correct orifice. 
  2. Getting boogers all over cookies. 
  3. Not being allowed to eat the Christmas lights
  4. Occasional abandonment by PARENT GODS OF ENTIRE UNIVERSE while they enjoy mulled wine or sitting down. 
  5. Lack of spaceship and control of entire universe. 
Fear not. There are certain advantages to being the magical age of one and a bit at Christmas. For instance:
  1. Santa must do your bidding. 
  2. Mama and Papa must do your bidding.
  3. Grandma must do your bidding. 
  4. Auntie and Uncle must do your bidding.
  5. The entire universe must do your bidding, just as soon as you find your spaceship.
Happy Christmas Nichte! May the year ahead bring you fewer boogers and more presents.