Monday, January 11, 2016

Two Years Ago Today

Two years ago today, this little one was 31 days old. 
Two years ago, this little one wouldn't nurse all day. 
Two years ago, Leslie's dog ran away from my back yard. 
Two years ago, Dimitri went out looking for her dog and when he came home I looked at her sleeping right beside me and said, "something isn't right." 
Two years ago, she let out an ungodly yelp, eyes wide and holding all the darkness and wisdom of a newborn.
Two years ago, she turned grey and yellow. Ice cold in our arms, ice cold on our chests as we tried to warm her. 
Two years ago I hesitated. A guilt I'll always feel. As we waited on hold for a nurse I panicked, "this is taking too long!" And knew we should have called 911 instead. 
Two years ago, her heart failed. She stopped breathing. She went unconscious. The dispatcher yelled CPR instructions over speaker phone. 
Two years ago, paramedics kicked our shoes and furniture out of the way, brought us into the ambulance, taught me to hold an oxygen mask, tried to get an IV ready but the ride was too bumpy. 
Two years ago I learned the hollow wail of an ambulance siren against the empty buildings of the city late on a Sunday night. Wishing they could go faster. 
Two years ago I saw a team of ER doctors and nurses at each of her limbs struggling to find a tiny vein. I saw her heart rate climbing on the monitor. I saw her stop fighting. I saw her getting tired. 
Two years ago I wondered if I'd ever hold my baby alive again. 
Two years ago I promised her to hold her through a thousand sleepless nights just for the chance to hold her again ever at all.

Two years ago the doctor approached me and told me to sing for her as they worked. He told me the medicine was supposed to stop her heart and restart it again but they'd given her an adult dose and it wasn't working. Two years ago I saw them use electric paddles to stop her heart and prayed out loud that it would beat again. 
It did. 
Today she sits on my kitchen counter licking honey off a spoon. 

Today she sends cars down tracks and builds towers out of blocks. 
Today she drums a song on her stomach yelling Belly Belly BELLY.
Today she spends 15 minutes taking off and putting on her hat.
Today she finally walks, toddling all around the house carrying toddler treasures - a Lego person and a tube of hair conditioner.
Today she sings me songs about bananas and some other mumbled words.
Today she is vibrant, and funny, and bright, and yes - electric. Her heart beats out a rhythm at a steady and beautiful pace. She asks for kisses and hands them out just as freely. Her blue eyes smile warmly and she loves her brother more than anyone in the world. Two years ago I thought we'd lose her before we knew her and she changed my world. She is the kind of magic person I never knew I was lucky enough to meet.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Handmade Daily Visual Schedule

My 4.5 year old isn't going into school this year. He could qualify for kindergarten - some of his peers started today - but we're just not there. To be honest, I haven't completely decided if I am going to homeschool. If I did, I wouldn't receive much, if any, funding for this year anyway. 

Regardless, it was becoming apparent that we needed more order in our day. I created a weekly rhythm but our daily rhythm was off and I knew my preschooler / kindergartener / kid could use help with transitions. Hell, I could use help with transitions. I also wanted to reduce screen time without restrictions. Generally I believe my children can self-regulate pretty well when it comes to screen time, but I wanted to make space for other types of play. And I wanted to play more music in the background, instead of Mighty Machines in the background. Now my preschooler knows that screen time is represented by a big green ? - meaning free choice. And it usually coincides with quiet time for my toddler. Goodbye All-Day-Zoboomafoo marathons. See you next time we are sick. 

When I was in the classroom as a teacher I did make use of PECS visuals to help children through activities and transitions. I wanted something similar for our home - something that could change daily, something easily manipulated by little fingers. 

This could easily be a daily visual schedule for any age. I used pencil crayon and drew the various activities in our rhythm. I used the occasional marker for outlines, laminated professionally and then hot glued magnets to the back. I colour coded them - yellow for good morning and goodnight, dark green is caring for our home, light blue is caring for our bodies, and teal is activities - like play, gymnastics, or family time (lovingly drawn by the 4 year old). You can see I snuck in coffee and books time each morning. We do Calendar afterward - we rearrange our schedule during that time and then we all know what is in store for the day. If something comes up and the day changes, Desmond is eager to rearrange the schedule to fit our needs. I'm probably going to spring for an IKEA magnetic board which will be a little bigger and have no edges.   

So for today the daily rhythm symbols are Wake up, breakfast, play (Lego!), coffee and tea with books, Calendar, Laundry and get dressed, lunch, toileting, gymnastics, snack, quiet time, free choice, dinner prep & set the table, dinner, tidy toys, bath, brushing teeth (I should have made two of these), feed the cat, goodnight. Extras at the bottom are Cleaning tasks, family time, rhythm wheel activity, dancing and yoga, and finally, arts, crafts, and project time. 

Do you follow a daily rhythm? Do you use a visual schedule? Please share a picture, I'd love to see. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gluten free, dairy free, nut free Sugar Cookies!

Sugar cookies are pretty much the best baked treat around any holiday, and I found myself wanting to use some of my vintage cookie cutters to share the tradition of rolling out cookies, baking, and decorating with my 4yo. We recently discovered that my youngest has a severe treenut allergy so all my Paleo baking recipes pretty much went right out the window! My 4 year old son was adamant that we make cookies to gift to our friends and family this year after seeing it in a library book so I was left scrambling to find a new recipe! 

The trouble is, I am strictly gluten free, we are dairy free, and my daughter has anaphylactic allergies! She's allergic to chickpeas as well, so a lot of all purpose gluten free flour blends do not work. I wasn't able to completely find a recipe that would work for us, so I read a lot about tips, ideas, and substitutions and this is what I came up with! Thankfully I have a few friends who lead this allergy life and they were able to hold my hand through this process... Special thanks to Angie! 

Enough folks have asked me to share my recipe so here it is: a gluten free, dairy free, nut free rolled sugar cookie that tastes good. I wanted a large batch to give plenty away, but this recipe can easily be cut in half. Yields about 55 cookies. 

2 cup coconut oil, softened
1 3/4 cup organic raw granulated sugar
1/4 icing sugar
4 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 2/3 cup white rice flour 
1 1/3 cup tapioca starch 
1 1/3 cup potato starch (not flour) 
3 teaspoons xanthan gum

In a *very* large mixing bowl, beat the softened coconut oil and sugar on medium speed until fully incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and add the extracts and the egg. Mix just until blended.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the salt, baking powder, rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and xanthan gum.
Slowly add the dry ingredients, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Mix on low just until the dough comes together. My mixer had a tough time at first but the dough slowly came together.
Scrape the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, and wrap tightly before refrigerating for at least 1 hour. I refrigerated overnight and my dough was rock solid the next day. I was able to warm it up and knead it out but... Do not recommend! 
When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
Working with a quarter of the dough at a time, roll the dough to about 3/8-inch thick. If the dough is sticky try. Dusting with icing sugar instead of flour. Cut to desired shapes and place on prepared baking sheets, leaving 2-inches between cookies. You can roll and cut directly on the parchment paper, then transfer the parchment paper to the cookie sheet. 
Re-roll the scraps until all the dough has been used. 
Bake in preheated oven for 10-14 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. The cookies should just barely be turning brown around the edges, and have just a light brown colour on the bottom of the cookie.
Let cookies sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Allow cookies to cool completely before decorating with icing or storing in an air-tight container.

We will be decorating our cookies with a dairy free glaze Christmas Eve morning, so I'll come back and add pictures of our finished product and a recipe for our vegan glaze. Until then enjoy your allergen-free sugar cookies! Xo

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Everybody needs help sometimes.

Yesterday we were driving home and we passed by an elderly couple walking slowly in the heat. The woman was pulling a cart full of groceries and they were both carrying bags. Just as we were beside them I saw the man stumble towards the nearest tree, leaning on it, then collapse. 

I'm ashamed to say I drove 4 blocks away battling myself; I should help them, but I only have room for one person. I would help them, if only my baby wasn't crying in the backseat. And Des said "what's wrong, mama?" Like he read my mind. 
I immediately pulled a u-turn and said "I saw someone that might need help." He was so hungry at the store, he'd eaten all the snacks within minutes of arriving, and I was worried he'd be upset we weren't going home to eat like I'd promised. He said nothing. We pulled up to the couple and immediately Frankie stopped crying. Like she knew. 

"Do you need help?" I called to them.
"If only we could get a ride," the man said from a spot on the ground beside the huge tree, "I nearly fell." 
"I know, I saw. I could give you a ride but I only have room for one. I have two kids in the back." 
At the time I didn't understand the panic in his eyes. He told me he couldn't leave his wife. A neighbour heard from inside and came out with his partner to offer a ride. "You take her, I'll take him." The neighbour said gruffly and started his small car. 
"I'll take your partner, is that okay?" I asked him. She hadn't said a word at this point, distancing herself. 
"My wife!" He cried out sadly. 
"Your wife! Of course," I turned to her. "I will drive you home, is that okay?" 
All she answered was their address. I took the cart from her and loaded up my trunk as quickly as I could. She became friendly and told me how she used to use a similar cart to deliver newspapers in all kinds of weather. Hot weather, she said, was the worst. 

I drove her the five blocks home, with her husband in the neighbour's orange car behind us. Her name was Hazel, with long silver hair in a low ponytail. She was upset that her husband had fallen. She asked about my kids. Desmond said hello, and I turned down Dead Prez for her, even though she didn't ask.

She almost didn't recognize her house but she very excitedly pointed it out when we were beside it. Frankie, who hates the car, remained smiling and cooing in the backseat. You cannot tell me she didn't know. I unloaded the cart and packed it up with their groceries as the neighbour in the orange car dropped off the man and left. I brought the cart up to their house and the man slowly made his way towards the door. He asked his wife a few times to unlock the door. Hazel danced around their front yard unfocused. I tried the door but it was locked. 
"You have to lock the door to keep the sprites and bad spirits out!" She said, wiggling her fingers.
"Yes, of course," I nodded, as she eventually unlocked the door. It finally dawned on me why he couldn't leave his wife.

"I nearly fell," he said again. 
"I know, I saw. I was driving past you. I'm sorry I didn't stop right away." I dragged the cart up their front steps and just inside the doorway.
"I didn't know what to do. I didn't think there were people nice enough in the world to stop."
"We're here. We're all around you." I put my hand on his shoulder and tears glazed his eyes. "Take care of yourself." I said as I returned to my car. 
"Come back to visit!" Hazel danced on the sidewalk, her arms in the air. "Bring the kids!" I laughed and told her I was glad to meet her. 

We drove home without any music on. Frankie still happy in the backseat. Des curious. 
"Why we drive that people?" He asked.
"They looked like they needed help. So I asked them if they needed help. They said yes, so we helped them." 
"Everybody needs help sometimes!" He said, in his 3 year old wisdom. 

People talk poorly about our neighbourhood sometimes, but there is so much goodness here. There are so many folks waiting to show kindness.

 I think we'll bring that couple a meal this weekend and see how they're doing. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Poem Inspired by Dance and Hoop Path

Farren Square 2009 Photo by Ester Malzahn

This poem came coursing through me at the end of the first day of hoop dance workshops with JL Baxter of Hoop Path, and I shared it with all 46 other dancers at the end of the third and final day. My hoop is my temple, and dancing is my prayer. It felt powerful to be in a room with 46 artists and dancers, dancing for the love of movement and the freedom of expectation.

My Ribs

I felt my ribs
          break     open
two birds were freed.
My heart is healed
by the teal tears
of my reflection.

The earth     holds me.

My fingers are roots my    h a i r
stretches  l o n g   like  b r a n c h e s
Song and soot of dirty sweat

          I ache

to be free
of these ribs

          I quake

at the whisper
of the air
of the linger.

The earth     holds me.

Healed by teal tears
the girth of me
feels my ribs
          break     open

and two birds were freed
inside my heart


You may be interested in my Other Poems including:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Allowed Hibernating

Aren't I northern mammal,
of northern mammals who came from
northern mammals before them?
Aren't I borne
of centuries of darkness,
northern mammala diet of
salty fish and snow and snow
and wind and rains?

And like northern mammals,
I make a warm cave.
I build a warm nest, tangled so
imperfectly and too tight and too loose
but warm and bright and welcoming.

I am a snowshoe hare, my eyes vigilant
but ready and calm.

I tear the soft fur from my belly.

I can hear the melting snow ringing
in my long ears, I
can feel the ground thaw
underneath my old feet.

I can hear the greens return.
I can stay in my nest 'til then.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

I haven't been breathing.

And all at once I heard a sound that took my breath away, deep in relief and frenzy.

I haven't really been breathing since.

Ha! I laughed, airlessly, as this tiny being cried into my ribs, coated and uncomfortable, his sounds echoing into the vacuum of my breathless torso.

Is it okay? I asked the woman peering over me. I don't know, she said, then quickly Yes. Yes. Of course it's okay. But I wasn't speaking of you.

Is it okay to feel as though you are a small nothingness, slipping off the side of the head of a pin, holding the most important thing you've ever seen. Is it okay to feel the weight of dumbness over you like clear waves, pressing you into the dark sand below. Is it okay to want to sleep forever wrapped in gasping fear and wisdom all at once. Is it okay to feel love tearing through yourself, like a sun burning up the clouds over the sea. Love is ripping each cell apart, the friction of newness explodes all neurons in fire and the smoke waters your eyes. And it's okay.

Can I take him home? I asked and they laughed, but I meant it. When can I leave and can it be right now and can we never leave home again? The world was already bored of snow that year and the path we took circled through the forest and past SCENIC LOT NUMBER 65. Once we saw a snow fox there, but not this time, probably because it heard us coming, all important and deafeningly breathless. All full of potential and worry.

And this is where your family sleeps, this is where we wait for frost and thaw, this is where we hold you, without the rise and fall of ribs for fear of waking from this fog. This is where your feet will grow, this is where the lights will glow deep into 4am one night, ears red with fury and the first stabbings of pain. This is where we soak in baths, and wait for sleep. Wait for sleep and wait for sleep.

I admit defeat and I opened my skull and I know nothing. I know everything about you and I know nothing else. You are the most important thing I've ever seen and some days I celebrate the fact that I don't understand you at all. I force myself to breathe. I remind myself to take air, I focus on the pattern, on the wheeze of my unused nose. I remember when it came easily to me. Breathing. Before there was you.

Friday, August 17, 2012

#37. This Moment: Best Moments in Life are These

Best Moments
{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour, and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same
leave your link in the comments 
then go to Soule Mama and do the same.

Friday, August 10, 2012

#36. This Moment: Baby Scientist Has Work to do.

Baby Scientist Has Work To Do
{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour, and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same
leave your link in the comments 
then go to Soule Mama and do the same.

Friday, June 15, 2012

#35. This Moment: Rain Explorer

Rain Explorer - Taken by Mandude

{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour, and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same
leave your link in the comments 
then go to Soule Mama and do the same.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Very Big Thing - The Cheese Edition.

a Very Big Thing is happening. I haven't tweeted about it because there has been too much to say. I haven't blogged about it because the vastness of my feelings about this subject were surely going to be misconstrued.

We had Squeaky D allergy tested. I was terrified, for many reasons. It was all very complicated.

But when the RAST test happened without a single tear shed, without a single food reaction. A heavy veil was lifted. Because we only tested six items, the allergist asked if we wanted to do a blood test. He was concerned about my reports of gastric pain in Baby D, about his belly rashes and eczema. Signs of sensitivity to something, he said.
The slippery slope of cute.

And then I was terrified about drawing a toddler's blood. People do this all the time! I told myself, unable to convince myself. Thankfully good friends advised me to go to the Stollery Children's Hospital and ask for a pediatric collector. They told me exactly how to hold him, and in the end it went much better than anticipated (besides the nurse telling me afterwards not to breastfeed him when he was crying in case he chokes. MEGALOL.), and he got a sticker at the end, which made him very proud. Who knew he gets stickers now? Not me.

The results came back perfectly clear! The only test that wasn't done was the test for Celiac Disease, as neither of us consume gluten and you have to have the protein in your system for 6 weeks prior to the blood test.

CHEESE! And firetrucks and horses, I guess.

I've been dying to say something. Brie! Havarti! Swiss! Feta! Edam! All my favourite cheeses! I ate a creamy dip. I had scrambled eggs! There has been mayonnaise, a latte, ice cream, and OMG REAL GREEK YOGURT. Cookies baked with egg and butter.

I will say this. I'm skeptical. Very skeptical. Squeaky D so far hates egg and dairy. Refuses to eat much of anything, including melted cheese (Theories abound that he may not be mine, but I watched him come out of me and he didn't really leave my sight after that, so...). His eczema on the backs of his hands has become worse. At first, he did have little bumps across his belly though it seems to have become a mix of eczema and dry skin, now. The medical community tells me that this is simply NOT related to his diet, it could be anything they say.

So here I sit, a baby who is suffering, doctors who have no answers, and a mountain of milk chocolate at my disposal. Milk chocolate, you guys.

A Very Big Thing, indeed.

Friday, April 20, 2012

#34: Cat in Box, Toddler with Blocks.

Chairman Meow isn't always this patient.
{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour, and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same
leave your link in the comments 
then go to Soule Mama and do the same.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The quick step of a toddler.

There was a time in your childhood that your father played music in a band. He sits with you, in the bathroom while you play in the tub, and plays guitar softly. Or sometimes he plugs his bass guitar into his amp and grooves a bath-time beat for you.

Every now and then I can hear him, stopping to help you keep water in the tub, congratulating you on your latest watery concoction, a bucket full of water and toys.

You are one year and four months old and you are so alive. It is springtime, almost, we can feel it if we breathe in deep at the right time of day. Trees have buds, but are holding their breath. The days tumble by with the quick step of a toddler learning to use his feet and balance. And you love to stomp around, you've only just mastered the vertical existence, and already you see the power and potential in this independence.

Best Buds
You say things like no! And oh oh, mournfully, of course. You use more and again to get what you need. You know how to sign sleep when you are tired, help when you are frustrated, and of course milk, well, anytime, really.  You say car! and point out our low front windows at neighbourhood traffic. You say car! and push around any toy that rolls saying brbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbbrr. You build towers out of blocks, not just knock them down. You ask me to turn the music on in the morning and then you dance until nap.

 When you laugh, when you are simply delighted, you throw your head back and exclaim HA! You don't ever want to hold anyone's hand. You are never still enough for a really crisp photograph anymore, unless you're eating or nursing.

Sometimes it strikes me, it physically stops me in my tracks, how magical you are. How fantastic it is to watch you grow and discover. How un-cussing-believable it is that you came from me, that I get to help you build this experience called life. How big and important that makes me in your eyes, how small and tiny and spec-like it makes me feel in my eyes.
Beautiful magical baby.
This time last year I was much more afraid. Everything scared me, everything. I had to shovel myself out the door, shock myself into being human, into showing you the world. This year I am excited. The world is brimming with possibilities and I want to show you how spectacular and brilliant summer-time can be.

I want to show you bugs and water animals, I want to built forts in the urban forests and picnic in their shade. I want to take you camping and show you lake swimming. I want to dance on the green grass with you under the stars and fire-flies.

Friday, March 23, 2012

#33. This Moment: Multitasking.

Breastfeeding and Cat Cuddling
{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour, and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same
leave your link in the comments 
then go to Soule Mama and do the same.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Vegan Whipped Coconut Cream on Strawberries

Are you ready for the easiest vegan desert in the history of amazingly easy vegan deserts?!
Vegan Gluten Free and Unbelievable.
Yes. Yes you are.

This whipped topping is made from coconut milk and is completely dairy free, egg free, soy free. Vegan. So light and delicious. And only four simple ingredients. I have attempted this recipe a few times on a few different occasions and each time it just keeps getting better.

Coconut milk can frost a cake, for real.  
For my lovely friend Leslie's Autumn birthday I made a vegan gluten free pumpkin cake and used this recipe as the orange icing, it worked perfectly.
For Squeaky D's First Rainbow Birthday Party I used it to frost the rainbow cupcakes.

Cold Creamy Coconut Milk
And the other night I noticed the can of organic coconut milk I had in the pantry was about to pass the "Best Before" date. I popped it in the back of the fridge overnight. By morning the thick creamy coconut milk has risen to the top of the can and what little bit of coconut water that is left is at the bottom of the can. I scooped a spoonful into my coffee and decided to save the rest for this desert, perfect for a sunny spring day.

What I Used
1.5 cups sliced strawberries
Sugar or sweetener to taste (I used organic raw Agave Nectar)

1 can premium organic coconut milk
1 tbpsn icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
small pinch of cinnamon

What I Did
Earlier in the day, I sliced up the strawberries, drizzled them in agave nectar, stirred them around in a small but deep bowl, and popped them in the fridge. The key is letting the strawberries soak in the sweetener and make that nice yummy syrup. I like to stir them (and taste them!) a few times over the course of the day. Hey! I never said it was healthy, I just said it was vegan.

 Just before serving, I took the can of coconut milk from the fridge and took extra care not to flip or shake it. When I opened the top to scoop off the thickened coconut milk into a bowl I was happy to see well over half the can was creamy and thick, which is why I buy the premium organic coconut milk. Once in a bowl I added the icing sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon and then using my mixer I whip it until it is light - very little time at all, really.
I take every excuse to use my vintage pyrex bowl.

We had more than enough whipped coconut cream for our strawberries in syrup that we dipped a few other fruits as well. This topping is so versatile, in coffees, hot chocolates, on cupcakes, or pancakes, pretty much worth trying on anything sweet!