The End Of Another School Year

There's something so magical about the seasons that bookend a school year. The spring and fall gifting us with changes in colour and landscape. We see those changes with our eyes and we feel them in our bones. It's like a coordinated dance between nature and nurture when it comes to moving our family through those transitions. 

It is funny, though, that spring comes and wakes everything up at a time when the school year is coming to a close. And then fall comes along and ushers us into hibernation, just as our kids are preparing to take on the challenges of a new year. 

Maybe that's how the dance is supposed to go. We quiet the noise around us, so we can focus on the steps we need to take to learn new things and navigate new relationships. And then colour and light come and splash themselves everywhere and we wave our arms and celebrate how far we've come. 

A few weeks ago, I had the idea that my sister and her kids should take time out of their busiest season of the year to join our parents and my kids for a long-needed grandparent/grandkid photo session during my family's busiest time of year. 

It's never as easy as I tell myself it will be, but we pulled it off anyway. Thanks to the patience and skilled eye of local photographer, Lisa Tullett — who had to put up with photographing six squirmy kids under the high noon sun — we now have a lovely collection of photos taken during on a gorgeous spring afternoon. And they're perfect. 

With my oldest graduating from elementary school and my youngest graduating from kindergarten, I'm so glad to have photos of this moment in time. It has been a year of great changes and triumphs; a year when family was a priority and individual accomplishments were met. And we were able to do so much of what we hoped to because of the support and help my parents gave us so generously — thanks, Mom and Dad.

I'm of the mindset there can never be too many photos. Because with each photo comes a story. And with each shared story comes the strengthening of a family's bond. I see so many stories when I look at these photos of my kids and my family. And it makes me glad to know my kids and nephews will be able to look at them someday and have their own versions of these shared moments. 

Thank you for this beautiful gift, Lisa. Local friends: you can find out more about Lisa's gorgeous photos on Facebook and Instagram. Lisa is also offering one day photography workshops for budding photographers of all levels during the week of July 11 -14th. Check out her Facebook page for details.

Happy summer, everyone. Thanks for lifting me up and carrying me through another school year. I'm so glad you're all here. 

xo

 

 

 

 

She Taught Me The Secret To Motherhood

Mom

My oldest child just entered her teen years, which leaves me feeling like I've crossed the bridge to the beginning of letting go—where my influence will continue to diminish and my seat will move higher and higher in the stands and further from the playing field, where I have always been the coach. 

But the secrets we teach our children, about how to play their best game, stay long after they've left the field.

My mom did not have an average or textbook childhood. And though there were many good things, there was also a lot that was hard. And the early years of motherhood were hard, too.

She was a very young mom in a new country with a husband who worked two jobs to feed and house us. She had to do a lot on her own and while raising us she shared a very important secret with me and my sister (probably without realizing it).

Take care of yourself, too.

My mom likes to get her way. Because at her core she believes she deserves it. Mothers don't do that for themselves enough, and if they think it is for the benefit of their children, I will tell you that it is to their detriment. 

She gave up dreams, she gave us the better piece of food, she went without to give us more. Of course, she did. 

But if my mom didn't feel like parenting us, or getting up and helping us to get ready for school, she didn't. She was there if we needed her, but we learned we could do it on our own. And we were okay and no less loved.

She watched soap operas while we played downstairs, she didn't worry if our favourite shirt was clean, she stayed home while our dad took us tobogganing. 

She left room for us to learn how to do things on our own and she allowed our dad to take on a greater role than most of the other fathers of that time.  

She also she drove me to every painful swimming lesson and sat with reddened cheeks as I screamed in terror at the edge of the pool. She showed up to every parent-teacher interview and concert. She made us our favourite foods whenever we requested them. She let us stay up late and watch TV in her room. And if either of us were sick, she always let us sleep in her bed.

She loved us completely, but never at the cost of loving herself. 

Thank you, Mom. 

Because wanting my own happiness has invited so much joy to my life. 

I hope you see what you have given us. 

Happy Mother's Day. 

xo

 

 

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Home Again: A Storytelling Journey Across Ireland

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If you've ever heard an Irish ballad, then you already know each one tells its own story.

I've known them by heart from the earliest days of my childhood. And though they belong to my dad's home, their sounds and verses connected me and my sister to the stories of Ireland long before we had the chance to stand upon its rolling hills.

I feel like this post needs to convey what those songs make me feel when I hear them—a longing for those hills and a connection to the people who live among them. 

Since returning from a 10-day trip, from one side of Ireland to the other, I've been trying to make sense of my newly-shaped heart; to understand how it could be so full and changed by the moments I experienced there, but also saddened by knowing the journey is behind me now.

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When we first heard that my parents oldest and dearest friends' son was getting married, we had a wouldn't it be great if we could go moment. But then the logistics of schedules and children and responsibilities set in, and we too easily brushed off the possibility.

My dad has wanted to take us home again for awhile. The wedding gave us the perfect reason to go and the what if we went wouldn't go away. At some point it became clear that we needed to think less with our heads and more with our hearts.

Familyselfie

Even though this trip could only happen if my sister and I left our husbands and children behind, something told us it was important. And I know it surprised some to hear I could take a vacation like this without my own family. But if we were going to travel through my dad's childhood and really get a good picture of what it was like, we had to go alone. 

I'm so glad we did.

I've reached a time in my life that plays tricks on me. I still have so much to look forward to, but I've also come far enough to feel the value of what lies behind me and gratitude for each day that I am given. I've gone past the days of taking any of it for granted.  

And it was this trip that showed me how important it is to see every page in my story. I realized how much I want my children to hear about the moments that came before them—the beautiful and the hard—because it has everything to do with the moments I'm creating with them now.

Fourbefore

{Our first family trip to Ireland, 1986}

Fourafter

{Roscrea, Ireland where my dad spent his late teen years after leaving home}

My dad's childhood wasn't an easy one. And taking us back to those places and memories was both good and hard. We were too young on earlier trips to fully appreciate what he wanted us to know. 

In the moments that my sister and I stood and listened to our dad's memories, we were his children more than we were wives or mothers. He was carefully handing us a torch to pass on when we feel the time is right. And with each story it became more clear how much his early life shaped the way he raised us and how much he triumphed over pain to love us unconditionally.

Even in my toughest parenting moments, I am reminded that I already have everything I need to succeed. I only have to love my children the same way I was loved, and I know it will be okay. Because my parents made the choice to gave us everything they didn't have and more. 

 

 

Gate

When we first pulled up at the gate of the farm property, where my dad spent his first 15 years being raised by his grandparents (until he left and made his way in the world on his own), he pointed to the fields through a rusty gate and began to tell us what we were seeing from behind the barrier. At a safe distance.

It was my bold and feisty sister who climbed through it and beckoned for us to follow. There was a brief unspoken moment of understanding exchanged between us, and then we were all on the other side. 

We spent nearly an hour exploring the abandoned buildings (that humbled me beyond words) and hearing things about my dad we hadn't known before, that he hadn't been ready to tell us until now.

Farmhouse

{Newport, Tipperary. Family farm} 

 A couple of years ago, my dad and I were having a cup of tea in my kitchen. My 10-year-old came into the room, long after she should have been asleep, and told us she couldn't sleep. I sent her away with a less-than-understanding tone.

He waited until she left and then told me that at 10 years old, he was often left on his own for days. There was no one to go to when he couldn't sleep. He reminded me, sometimes kids just need to know they're not alone

As we stood looking at the place he had spent his childhood, I remembered the many times I had gone to him in the night to tell him I couldn't sleep. He never sent me away. He never left me on my own. 

  Field

{In the field on the family farm. Newport, Tipperary}

My dad has lived his life with unanswered questions and it was this trip that gave him the courage to face them. It was a privilege to be there for each step that he took beyond that rusty gate. And I'm so grateful for the understanding and compassion he was shown along the way. 

 

Geneaology

{On our way to the North Tipperary Genealogy Centre}

We were welcomed by so many of our extended family members and friends. And I know my sister and I both feel like it will be a homecoming when we go back with our children in the future. Because of this trip, we have stories to tell them and a history to share when we get there.

I hope it changes the shape of their hearts, too.

 

Wallbefore

Wallafter
 

Thank you, Ireland, for giving my family this extraordinary gift. Thank you for reminding me that life is too short to waste a chance.

I've always felt connected to you, but now I know my story begins with you. I know where I come from and so much more about who I am and what a gift my life has been. I can't wait to see you again.

 

There's a spirit that flows in an Irishman's soul,

and carries within it, all the dreams of the past.

In each Irishman's heart,

there's a part of you inside.

In my heart,

I have been here before.

{Back Home To Ireland - Irish ballad)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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POTS & PANS

A couple of weeks ago, my dad stopped by our house on a busy school night. He was supposed to be passing through, maybe to help drop one of the kids off at his/her after-school activity, but it happened that we were sitting down to a taco dinner when he arrived.

Oh I don't need a plate. I'm not eating, I'll have something when I get home.

I had a hunch it was because he'd never had a taco.  

So I made him one, while the kids began to giggle and clamour from their seats for a closer view of his very first taste.

Taco

He liked it, and we had a good laugh about the punchy taste of the salsa. 

It's not that he's picky or wary of new foods; that couldn't be further from the truth. Even though he was raised on a farm in Ireland, he jumped chopsticks-first into authentic Chinese cuisine when he fell in love with my mom. 

My dad will try anything, my mom raised her family on primarily Chinese meals. He shocked the monks on Yellow Mountain in China, by accepting their traditional food. He has dined from the road side carts all over rural Asia. He and my mom have travelled to the corners of the world together, and food has never been an issue. 

But here's the kicker. He'll try anything that my mom says he should and not much else—which means her tastesbuds have become his tastebuds. 

When we joined the two of them for dim sum, a few days after the taco-eating incident, my sister and I were prepared to give them a good ribbing about their five taco-free trips to Mexico.

He doesn't eat tacos, because I don't eat tacos, our mom said while placing a bean curd dumpling into his bowl. 

We know, but don't you think it's ridiculous? 

No. It's just the way we are. 

There was no apology or sheepishness written on either of their faces.

We dropped it and went back to sharing our meal. 

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I keep thinking about it though.

The differences in their marriage, when I compare it to mine.

Though I would never think to tell JB what he should eat, we've made decisions my parents would never make for their own relationship.

My memory takes me to the pots and pan aisle of a department store, soon after I found out where I'd be going to graduate school. It was the same university that my boyfriend of two years was headed. We never pretended it was a coincidence.

We stood side-by-side, and she reached for a wok big enough for one, while I let my eyes fall on one with room for two. 

You don't need anything too big. It's just you.

I didn't tell her there, even though I knew she was looking for my reassurance. But I did soon after. 

We were moving in together: no marriage, no engagement.

All we had was the certainty that it was the right to move forward together. It was enough for me. It wasn't for her. 

There were weeks of cold silence. 

There were phone calls that ended in hang ups. 

At the three week mark, I was headed into the shower when I saw her number come up on the call display. I turned the water off and focused on the tiled wall, waiting for her to speak.

I just don't know why you're doing this to me.

She went right to my weak spot and struck hard.

The expectation that I should make my decisions so they fit other people's expectations of me. 

We both knew it had always been my way.

I wanted her to want more for me. I wanted her to be ready for me to leave that behind.

I am not doing this to you. I am doing it for me. 

And finally, we both cried. 

She never came into the house we shared, we always went to her. But still, she let herself fall in love with the boy who is now her son-in-law. She loved us around our choice to conduct our relationship in a way she wouldn't. 

I've thought a lot about the reason my mom decides what my dad should eat—she worries about his heartburn or thinks he won't like the taste of something new—and decided I don't have to.

I can have my ideas about why it's something I wouldn't do, but it's not my place to suggest they change their minds, anymore than it was her place to change my mind all those years ago. 

There is so much value in navigating my marriage alongside and in the wake of my parents' marriage. 

They never waver in doing what works for them, and they make no apologies for the choices they make together. 

That mindset has served me well, especially in recent months. And I'm very grateful for it.

Maybe we'll have tacos again together, maybe we won't. 

It doesn't really matter. 

 

 

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