Tuesday 23 June 2015

Watching Fatherhood

These are some of my favourite photos of my favourite people. They are out always, as is the sketch done by my good friend during a camping trip a couple of years ago. They show one of the things I love best about this partner of mine, Safiya and Zinadine's "Babo"; his contentment and happiness at the kids being with him.

Like many men of our generation, Mr. S. did and does all the things: diapers, bedtimes, reading, food, comforting, carrying, baby wearing, co-sleeping, walks, taking the kids to his work, etc. And on top of that, he's the fun one. Forts and ridiculous stories and jokes are his forte.

But it's watching him shed work as he walks through the door and totally be there with joy for Safiya and Zinadine that gets me everytime. Just like all of us, he's flawed, and makes mistakes and has struggles. But dear lord, the fierceness of his trying for his kids is amazing. He will do anything for them, no questions asked.

We were the first of our friends and family our age to have kids, and our families live far enough away that we both got thrown head first into this parenting thing, no crash helmets. The thing is, even though we've both wept with exhaustion at some point or another, it was a good thing. We learned very quickly how to do the parenting thing together. We became eachother's relief, and I can always, always rely on him.

Very early on, I was fussing at him about some way of doing something with Safiya (because I, as the mother, obviously knew how to do everything the right way ;) and Mr. S. said, "I'm going to have a different way of doing things sometimes. Please trust me that it will be o.k." This standing up for his abilities as a father took me aback (let's just say it wasn't a version of fatherhood with which I was familiar) and won me over and over and over.

Mr. S.'s ego isn't tied up in public accolades or recognition, but I wanted to write this, incomplete and inadequate as it is, to have it noted. He is an excellent father. So there, husband of mine: Happy Father's Day.

Thursday 14 May 2015

Studio Wednesdays

Every Wednesday I try to be here. I might be here other days of the week, and at least once of the weekend (although some weeks are a wash altogether), but Wednesdays are my promise to myself. It's only a couple of hours usually, but it's a quiet and creative balm, this time. Other days the kids are here with me sometimes or sometimes it's a while and then I hear the bells on the front door to the shop and then small feet who are definitely not browsing :) But Wednesdays are my own.

After a while settling in, signs of commitment have started springing up here. A shelf. A kettle and some tea. A cleaning out of the scrap bin. Projects completed. Old patterns re-discovered.

One day a lovely lady came looking for help setting a zipper in a knitting project after trying at other places in the city. I heard low polite conversation at the front of the store, then hesitant steps, then someone was at my door: "Are you Marnie?"

Yes I am. girl number twenty on the door, Marnie in her studio. The renovations in our basement are almost done, and I am still here. I've completed projects, messed up new ideas and finally gotten other ideas to work. I've sold a few things in the shop. I've met some very nice people and had some great conversations. I've also hidden here with snacks and Netflix. Ahem. I've taught (well, guided) a friend of Safiya's to sew (and she designed!) her very own skirt here. Someone suggested "workshops? Could you do workshops? I've always been scared of my sewing machine...."

Oh. That's an idea. What do you think?

Saturday 9 May 2015

And Now (and Bikes and Optimism and Expectations)

Now. (I just couldn't leave those wintry pictures up too long :)

Yesterday I watched Safiya ride away with Mr. S. to his work for the day. It was her first big bike ride and she poked her head into our room at 6am, dressed and ready to go. She was so excited, and a little scared. This is the girl who only fell in love with bike riding two years ago (before that there was a lot of "I just don't like bike riding!") and is tall enough to require a "big bike". To go from riding around the block to riding 18k in one day is a big deal when you're ten years old.

Mr. S. said she handled it with aplomb: tired, but not a single complaint. Safiya had been asking for a longer bike ride and when Mr. S. suggested this one, she had latched on to the idea with enthusiasm. It had been her own goal, and she had done it. I tried not to embarrass her with too much high-fiving when they got home.

Two weekends ago I had the idea to do our first family bike ride, which included Zinadine on his training wheels.

even before the snow melted the kids had their scooters and bikes out, mittens and all

I remember being optimistic as we loaded up the bikes on our very optimistically purchased bike rack to make our optimistic way to a big park with a rec trail. It was one of the first gorgeous days and.....it went hilariously not that great. We made it maybe 250 metres until we had to turn around.

Zinadine's mantra was "I can't dooooooo it." This is the boy who last year scooted 53k on his scooter from Toronto to Hamilton with only excitement (that's another post), but 500 metres total on his bike was just. too. much. The birds chirped in the trees and his rejoinder was "I. don't. wanT. to." To his credit, the complaints were low and resentful rather than high and wailing and only occurred uphill :)

Presented with this challenge to my expectations, Mr. S. and I took turns going slow with him.....very slow.....and decided to enjoy the sound of the nearby creek and the birds and talk about what we were seeing in the park. The end result was that Zinadine said he liked biking and that he'd do it again and that we all needed freezies from the corner store.

Now, the point of the story isn't that Safiya is ten and Zinadine is five. The point is that Safiya was also once five and behaved very similarly. The point is also that apparently I need reminding that my expectations as far as skill aquisition have very little bearing on reality. We can try out different things and make gentle suggestions (and sometimes bribes), but what Mr. S. and I learn from the kids over and over is that true joy of accomplishment only comes from the inside.

So, sometimes it works and sometimes......sometimes you are reminded that everyone gets there at a different pace and sometimes a different method, to be determined by them.

And sometimes you need freezies.

Friday 1 May 2015

We Fell in Love With Winter

Granted, it's an odd post title what with the cheery new banner and weather that has finally turned to the teens for good it seems, here in Toronto.

However, I wanted to remember this bitter winter precisely because it was the perfect storm of sustained cold and snow, enthusiastic kids, and trying new things.

Did you know they make tiny cross-country skiis?! Fell in love with that, too :)
This was the first winter in our little collective memory here that not a single one of us was ill. Not a sniffle, not a cold. And I write this not to tempt the fates, but to remember what a blessing it was. It was a minor miracle, what with the urban mingling we do here everyday, and it was a major factor in this glorious winter of 2014, because it eased the edges of our everyday and gave us even more time.

More time to bundle up and explore the outside and write our names in the snow on nearly frozen creeks.

More time to say, "Let's go that way!" and "I'll follow you!".

 Or to sit still and watch the birds by our window

and encourage a young obsession.

More time for shovelling. (Oh the snow shovelling! Good thing it turned out to be one of Zinadine's favourite things :)

Time to climb things, anything, (Zinadine) or to just lay still in the snow in the backyard on your own and watch the sky (Zinadine again). To watch the kids make up their own silly games. More time to take the train to visit cousins, to write letters, to learn new skills (Safiya fell in love with woodworking), and to play more games.

To say "no thanks" to some things and to learn that when we say "yes" we need to make time after for ourselves as well, even if it's a good "yes" like visiting extended family. To choose to make time for our little family, to create our own occasions that were special simply because we set aside the time for the four of us to explore the world together. It didn't have to be big adventures, just saying "yes" to the world and taking it at our own pace. Finding our own pace, really.

It was still a winter full of the everyday heartaches and joys of friends and family, some of them big, some of them small. And yet it seems that turning inward we were more able to face the outward, all of us together.

Just wanted to remember, is all.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Making a Decision (A Room of One's Own)

There is something about having one's own space. I've been sitting on some fun news since November-ish, mostly wanting to savour it a little and let it sink in. Also, I wasn't sure how it was going to work, how it was going to fit into the fabric of my life. So far it's fitting in fine.

(You'll have to excuse the quality of the photos - they were taken with my phone.)

I've rented a studio space. It's really close to home - a five minute walk - at a lovely place called Artisans at Work. I took the leap one day after Mr. S. and I talked about having to redo the basement room where my studio was. Since we were probably going to renovate slowly, there was really nowhere else for all my supplies and tools in the house, and if everything was to go into storage, it would be a long period of no work/fun for me, which didn't sound appealing. I was just getting back into sewing a little more consistently. So the studio space, which had a reasonable fee, seemed like the perfect solution.

And that was my spiel to anyone who asked. Until a neighbour from down the street who is the kind of neighbour that I keep wanting to know better because she seems really interesting and her kids are lovely stopped me right in the middle of it, my spiel, and said, with a twinkle in her eye:

"Or, because you want to."

She said it so assuredly and pleasantly. And I found in that instant that she was right. It is an odd revelation to have at forty, but a nice one.

So I've been slowly moving everything over, slowly settling into a commitment to myself and carving out time. It's lovely and so very different than having a studio at home. I was never ungrateful to have that space, but here I can close the door, walk away, and when I return everything is exactly as it was when I left. Not pushed to one side. Not covered in items hastily hidden because visitors were coming. And no spiders :)

And I'm really pleased with the kids getting the opportunity to see me work outside the house. They made me the awesome spool holder in the picture above for Solstice. Zinadine has come to accept the studio as part of what we do and understand that sometimes I'm just there, away from him. Safiya is a little excited, I think, because she loves the selling of things that people make and has come along with me a couple of times to hang out. In fact Tara, who owns the shop, has been very welcoming of the kids, very accommodating of the noise of the sewing machine (which isn't that bad with my door closed), very adamant that it's supposed to be artisans at work, with all that that entails.

And Mr. S. covers. He does all the things that need doing and when I hem and haw about if I should come home yet, every time he says, "It's o.k., everything's fine here. Just let me know when you're coming home."

It's humbling and exciting and really, I've been jumping up and down this whole time :)

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Daily Bread

At my grandparents' house, there was always homemade everything. Except for, as I recall, salad dressing, individual bottles of which lived in Grandma's fridge for years, perhaps because it was modern and therefore she believed it had an indefinite shelf life.

I was a Mennonite kid. I think I've written about this before, but it was a while ago. Not Old Order, and fairly liberal as far as appearances go (my parents would have definitely passed for hippies, in fact), but the religion and the patriarchy and the food were well entrenched and something about which many posts could be written.

But this post is about bread. Both my Grandma and my Grammy baked heavenly things, but my Grandma's bread was distinctive. It was usually brown bread, with an even, crackling crust (my favourite part), a light, small, and yet substantial crumb, and it smelled like nothing else does. With butter and bean-soup-with-the-ham-bone-in or with Mennonite sausages and white gravy and vareniki it was soooo delicious.

And now I am a non-gluten-eating-vegetarian-homeschooling-mostly-pagan-married-to-a-gluten-eating-mostly-vegetarian-homeschooling-muslim. And this house still needs bread. We have a four-year-old who loves bread with grape jelly (crusts off), a ten-year-old who loves bread with honey, with Nutella, with oil and balsamic, with anything, really. I also have a husband who will sometimes eat a pre-dinner of bread with something. (That's Safiya below, swiping bread right in the middle of things.)

This past Solstice we celebrated a little differently. We had a candlelight (well, for as long as the boy would tolerate candlelight - not one to be swayed by the gentle beauty of things - pragmatic, that boy) dinner of butternut squash soup and bread that Mr. S. baked with the kids.

'Cause I was a smart cookie. I married someone who could bake bread. From scratch, no recipe.

They shaped it into a sun. It looked more like a spider. There are very few ways, none really, in which you can do a spider tie-in for Solstice, so we ate our delicious spider/sun heedless of the imagery difficulties and celebrated the longest night.

And then we ran out of our usual store bought loaf. So Mr. S. just kept making bread. He switched to a Julia Child recipe which so far has been absolutely reliable and gives a jam-and-butter sandwich type of loaf instead of a country loaf. One of which is sitting in the cupboard right now out of the reach of the cats (we have weird bread-stalking cats).

 It's been a fair number of weeks now, and we know how long a batch will last, and how disappointing store-bought bread can be. We have learned, I think, that it is worth it.

A lot of things can be shed or transformed in a life but not, I think, our daily bread.