Backpacking in Algonquin

One year and one month

I have this sweet baby, who is now one year and one month. His head no longer smells like newborn, but his hair is still baby-soft against my cheek. He's so much bigger than he was, in the way of very young things, but also still so little and so dependent upon his big people, also in the way of very young things. Some nights, after I get him to sleep, I just want to stay and snuggle and hold him as he silently sleeps beside me. Other days he's infuriating, throwing food of his highchair and screeching so-so loud. Some days, moment one and moment two are about fifteen minutes apart. I remember from the older ones that the first year is brutal with sleep deprivation and all, and it's not felt as hard as the last time, but it's not been easy either. Last weekend alone we missed two evening events I was looking forward to because it was clear that One was done for the day, and it's in everyone's best interest to follow the baby's lead on that. One is that precarious balance of loving the baby, and looking forward to the toddler that is going to start taking steps any day. And then probably running the day after that. One is great, and exhausting, and delightful, and hard, and perfect, and noisy all at the same time. Like all of us, One contains multitudes, and I am so glad to get to love One up close.

One is social. He's like a tiny mayor, or the ambassador for all baby kind. "Hi!" he says, "Hi!", "Hi!" as if every person everywhere in the world needs a personal greeting. Many people seem surprised to be hailed by one so small, but the ones who say hi back are rewarded with a big smile, and another "Hi!". One is not the kind of baby who makes strange. Rather he reaches out to strangers, beckoning them with his little fingers "come." he says, leaning his body toward them "come.". Sometimes he just wants a moment of being in their arms, but for the people he likes, he lingers. He loves his big sibling and wants to do what ever they are doing.

One takes great pleasure in having an impact on his environment. He wants to move things. Books, when not getting read to him, or being carefully examined page by page by him, get flung off the side of the bed. He wants to find out what kind of noise a thing will make when it is struck. He wants to put a thing in a thing. One is the nemesis of fridge magnets, and now he knows where the dustpan and brush live he's very effective at rapidly clearing them off the fridge. If there is a door, he wants to open it. If there is a drawer, he would like to open it and get in it, if there is a thing to climb, he will. One wants to know all the secrets of a place and sets about exploring.

One is full of strong emotions. He loves things, he rejects things by throwing things away. He reaches, he beseeches, he gestures. Between his clarity and the time he has invested in training us, what he wants is usually readily apparent, even if what he wants is up when he is down, and down when he is up. Over and over again. On a recent grocery trip, he pointed at the bananas and shouted "nana", and while they were not in my cart at that moment, they sure were after.

One is committed to decoding language. He talks in a steady stream and increasingly it sounds more and more like words. Maybe he did say "thank you"? Maybe he did say "help me"? He uses his dozen or so words loudly and emphatically, "fish" is said with great delight, face pressed against the fish tank, "up" is full of expectation. "Me" and "more" are most often used at meals and come with great desperation. It's true, words get you things and he is working on acquiring as many as he can.

Six lists One's words as: hi, oh-oh, fish, yay, more, me, come, up, book, hey, Abba, Papa, dog, mine, oh-no, baby, na-na (banana), that.

One sings. He loves a rhythm, and will sing along with a song on the radio, or a protest chant. The words aren't clear, but the rhythm is, and he is very pleased to be part of the group. He loves a game of making the same sounds back and forth. There will be call and repeat songs in our future!

One is most often a baby of great good cheer. One loves peek-a-boo. One loves a ball. One loves swimming. One loves chasing and catching a ball in a swimming pool. Although chasing and catching a ball in the house is now a thing too. He laughs to see me throw the ball up in the air and catch it again and has such a lovely chuckle. One is generally very pleased to be tickled or zerberted, and now that he understands the work of the zerbert will blow raspberries in the air if he can't reach someone's skin. It's a sign of love. In the last week he has discovered the playground slide and wants to go up and down, and up and down it. He slides on his belly, feet first and is delighted.

One is basically a cat. If there is a box, he wants to be in it. In the box, out of the box. In the box, out of the box. He knows how cute he is while he does this.

When travelling he prefers the bike to the car, although he has made relative peace with the car at this point, which is good. Early trips to visit grandparents were hard on everyone. One knows when he is being mischievous. The first time I saw this, he was at the end of our bed, and made something crinkle. He hid the crinkling thing and made a face of great innocence. He knows he's not suppose to climb the stairs alone, but seems to think its a game to race up them without adult accompaniment.

One likes food. Most food, almost any time. He likes to feed himself, and also others, in fact the best part of my lunch today were the goldfish he put in my mouth. First one at a time, and then as a big bunch. But still, it seems good that when he has a snack he likes, he wants to share. He seems to like spicier foods than his big sibling, but like his big sibling is not put off by a blue cheese or a strong flavour. One has sixteen teeth! Sixteen! And yet, he is committed to nursing, and even as I want less of it, he's clearly not ready to cut back. Yet.

One climbs everything. One loves to stand and bounce on the trampoline. One does not walk. Yet.

One also likes this car. Very much.
Backpacking in Algonquin


The Small has now been six for two weeks, and it feels necessary to capture a snapshot of who he is now. After all, Six loves the list of things we do every year, Six loves a tradition.

Six likes puzzles, riddles, games and all things that are clever. Six asks unsuspecting guests "Do you like to play games? Do you like to play strategy games?" Anyone who says yes needs to be prepared for a serious challenge. Or several. Six likes constructing complicated marble runs, car levels, and other intricate routes for small things to navigate. Six is working on being a gracious winner, and also a gracious looser, although he has far more opportunities to practice the former than the latter. On the Ipad Monument Valley is a current favorite - he'd love to teach you how to play.

Six likes an adventure, a place to go, a thing to do, a new spot to explore. He shares our delight at sampling a new food or drink. He loves riding in the cargo bike, and likes it even better if he gets to navigate, either from memory, or using a GPS. There are places to go, and we should be out there going. He likes a hike, a creek, a river, a tree to climb, a wall to walk along, a place to ballance. He can walk a very long way. At the Terry Fox run at his school, they gave the children a popsicle stick for each lap they ran, and he ran until the sticks ran out and then three or four more. After school he likes a snack, and an activity. On Monday he adventures with Connor, on Tuesday it's piano, on Wednesday he studys Hebrew, on Thursday he has chess club, on Friday we celebrate shabbos (where he now knows the blessings and says them with us) and on Sunday we ski. On weekend mornings these days there can be video watching and Octonauts remains a favorite. I've asked him if he feels that is too much, and he replies that he thinks it is just right, and that he would like more. He would like more swimming lessons, and circus classes please if we could only figure out how and when to put them in.

Six is compassionate, cares about other children, people, animals, other mammals in general. He's generous. If he has a snack he likes, he almost always says "This is delicious, would you like a taste?" and offers some to whoever else is there. Six has swallowed our language, and offers it back up to us. He is "not particular", and has all manner of phrases and very sophisticated language that I recognise, and it startles me when it comes out of his mouth.

Six is a great big sibling. He's quite clear that The Baby is OUR baby, as much his as mine or Papa's. He is very willing to entertain the baby and excels at creating dances, and songs that make the baby laugh. He likes helping, picking out the baby's clothes, feeding the baby, generally offering nuggets of baby advice. Six still seems delighted to have a younger sibling and asked if we could make one more. Much to his dismay, Six does not get to make family planning decisions.

Six loves a choking hazard almost above all things, marbles, small rocks, little bits of things that a baby could easily swallow. Sure, he calls it his "Collection" and while it focuses on rocks, it includes bits of metal, bits of trees, dried seed pods, beads, random things he finds beautiful.

Six is right. It's very important to him that you know that, and acknowledge it. Even if he is only right on a technicality. Six shares the facts he knows. Six likes to remind you of the times you have been wrong, and point out it could happen again. Six is suspicious about whether "hangry" is a real word. Six can not imagine that there might be conversations that do not involve him. If his grown people are fighting, he would like to adjudicate, if a decision is being made, he wants to be part of it, he has told us to go to bed, and was annoyed that we did not go. He will stop asking if he is told that it is a grown-person conversation, but he does not like it.

Six loves an Adele spoof. Current favorites are Hello From the Dark Side and Shalom from the Kosher Aisle. If either link does not work, ask him, he can sing both from memory. Six loves Star Wars, despite having only seen the first two movies (first two by order of release). He's concerned that The Force Awakens might be too scary, and so we've not seen it. He likes a visual pun, like the day he wore his Guelph Storms hat and a storm trooper shirt, and if given a microphone will tell a joke. Before his school play, there was a gap between when the kindergarteners took the stage and the time the choir arrived. "Why did Adele cross the road?" he asked the room, and after a suitable pause, "To say hello from the other side."

Six tells me that he would like to grow his hair all the way down to the ground. Six finds the question of "are you a boy or a girl?" both infuriating and wrong. He reports that frustratingly some people just don't know that boths and neithers exist. He would like you to know that boths and neithers exists, and he would like you to make space for them. He is a kid, not a boy, a big sibling not a brother, and he finds other people's interest in his gender exhausting. That said, his gender is a shifting thing, some days he dresses femme, some days more butch, and while he lives and breaths that he can wear what he wants, he is clear it is one or the other, not a mix of the two.

Six loves numbers. Some times, time with Six is like being inside a math quiz. "How high can you count by 32s?" "Abba, add these numbers, 12, 5, 7, 9, 532." "Abba, what number is 5 ... 6... 32 ... plus twelve. He has become very interested in money, birthday money, money he finds on the street, frisking the couch for money, money-money-money. For that matter, he likes the Abba song Money-Money-Money just fine too. Six is interested in letters, writing them, sounding them out, but numbers are his greater love.

Six loves to be active. He loves skiing, and is already a faster and more confident skier than I am. He loves both climbing at Rock Oasis and racing around Pursuit. He likes a bouncy castle, a climbing structure, a patch of ice, you name it. He is fast. Six is regularly exhausting to his grown people, but we love him, and it's a happy exhaustion.

Six tells me that when he is grown, he will be a geologist like his Aunt Bron, so he is planning now for university and grad school.

I have read this to Six, and Six has approved of this message and instricted me to share it on the internet. Six adds that he likes to stay up late, the later the better. And likes screen time, especially when his parents are doing it in the living room and he's in a different room. And I come right over to the screen when it turns on. These are his only suggestions.

How has he changed? I did not look until after I had written this, but here are Five, Four, Three and One, he was delightful and different at each age, and I can see who he is now in each of them.
Backpacking in Algonquin

Obituary for my dog: Levi Jane Dog, June 2, 2000 - October 27, 2015

Levi and I were never meant to be a thing. She was to be my one-year foster dog, but I have always been found by love when I was least expecting it.

Like the royal family, Levi was born into a job. In the beginning she belonged to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the plan was that she would live with me and my roommate for a year, and then go on to be trained as a guide dog, and then go on to be someone's assistance dog. Life and plans. It's a funny thing. That year there were interviews, references, and home inspections. She arrived with a training manual, and a little green vest that said "Future Seeing Eye Dog". For that first year, my roommate and I were suppose to take her everywhere and get her use to everything. She rode the subway daily, went to class, hung out in my office in the York Federation of Students. She was a regular at The Grad Lounge, came on dates with me, and sometimes slept in several different places in the same week. She knew our subway stop, and if I fell asleep on the train, would wake me up as we pulled in. She never let me sleep past St. Clair.  I'd never had a dog before, and had no idea how I would come to love that puppy. She made me into a dog person.

I imagine everyone has heard the story of how we came to be together longer than a year, skip this and the next paragraph if you don't need to hear it again. At the end of the year, the CNIB called to say that it was time for their dog to come back. I rented a car to drive her out to Oakville. We had a long last frolic on a beach, some high-end dog treats and drove West. I felt a bit like Thelma and Louise, and considered that we should just keep on driving. But we didn't. She trusted me, and I took her back. I missed her so much. Missed, missed, missed, missed. Missed her so much I got a hedgehog. Three or so months later, they phoned me back. They liked her body and her temperament and said that they wanted to have her in the breeding program. Did I want her back? I said yes. My roommates said no. We moved.

When we were reunited, we slept on bunk beds. I put my bed up on stacks of milk crates three high, and she had a cozy den underneath. She no longer got to come everywhere with me, so we had longer walks, more off leash time, new adventures. When she was three, she had a weekend date with a hot stud, got knocked up, and had nine puppies at a facility in the country. All the puppies' names began with B. She didn't like all those little mouths, when I visited she was clear it needed to be all about her. The puppies, they never write, they never call, they too would be old now. The following year, at her physical, it was discovered that she had cataracts, which are potentially hereditary, and disqualified her from the CNIB breeding program. She became a dog without a job.

When we first met, she was small enough I could hold her in one hand. I never stopped calling her "little dog", and she never stopped thinking of herself that way. She would lie down on the ground for any dog, was scared of cats, and if something frightening happened when we were out together, she would hide behind my legs. She protected me in other ways.

We walked picket lines together, and trained for a half marathon. She loved both. She loved the mornings we would go down to the lake together. Levi loved a beach. Any beach, although sand is better than stone. Once, we rented a cottage on a beach and Levi could see the water from inside the living room. She was so infuriated at the injustice of being kept inside, when the water was out there. That first summer, when she was a puppy, when we went swimming, she rode on my back, but ever after that, she swam beside me, and when she thought I had gone too far from shore, she would swim circles around me to make me turn back.

Levi loved swimming. She loved fetch in the water, but found it incomprehensible on land. She had a face that said "human, if you wanted that, you should not have thrown it away. Fetching it yourself will teach you." She always wanted the biggest stick, branch, log, whole tree. She could have been a doggy dead-lifter. She never met a snack she didn't like. She hated the rain, but loved being dried off with a towel afterwards. I think she only ever agreed to go out in the rain for the rub-down.

Levi was an actor. She was always ready with a rendition of "No, nobody has ever fed me, ever." and it's companion act "Really, a walk, and a cuddle, neither have ever happened in my whole life." The evening she got me and two room mates each to feed her dinner remained famous. I think it's the only time she got three people to feed her the same meal, but twice was not uncommon.

Levi travelled. We drove out to the East coast together, where she established that salt water is just as good as fresh water for swimming in, with the waves perhaps making it even more fun. We also discovered that she loved a hotel room, and that she preferred to be a dog of comfort, and luxury, with a white puffy bed spread if that can be arranged. Bear and Levi drove back to Ontario without me, sending pictures and postcards along the way. By then he was already family to her, as well as to me. Levi always had great taste in people, and I should have paid better attention to her on this. It would have saved my heart.

We joked that she was an Emotional Safety Dog. Levi didn't like it when people fought or even argued. She could tell when raised voices were in jest or for real and would sleep through the playful ones. If there was genuine upset she would try to get in the middle, and run back and forth, as if saying "hey, hey guys, cut it out". If that didn't work she would demand to be let out, and the sound of her breaking out often would end a disagreement. When a person was not good for me she would signal her displeasure by peeing, or by shredding their things. She was very targeted with both behaviours.

Levi loved the outdoors. She loved camping, perhaps because then we would share a tent and sleep snuggled up together. She loved snow, and even as an old dog would bound through it, sticking her nose it to sniff the frozen smells. She loved boats. She was very happy on a canoe trip, and didn't even mind wearing a vest and carrying heavy items, she was just glad to be together and part of the pack. We once went white water kayaking together, and she was unsure that I was safe without her and preferred to ride on the bow of my boat than be left on the shore.

She was my dog, and I was her person. She was my longest domestic relationship. She snuggled The Small when he was a baby, gained weight when he started on solids, and persevered as he learned to stand holding on to her. She made faces when he was not gentle with her but didn't walk away. If you have known me in the last fifteen years, you have known my dog. She was the kind of dog who inspired other people to get dogs. Big gentle floppy dogs. Dogs so nice, you forgive them for how much they shed.

She was my dog, and I was her person. She was my accidental dog, a one year volunteer project who became family. Then again, she was a girl dog who arrived with a Jewish boy's name, and pretty much everything else matched just as well.

Backpacking in Algonquin

Last year I was mostly pregnant

A couple of months ago I joked that if I was writing a book about last year, I would title it A Year of Being Pregnant. Books about doing a thing for a year still seem popular and trendy, so perhaps someone would publish it. Except there is such sadness in being pregnant for a year. No one pregnancy lasts that long. And yet, I was pregnant every month of last year. Starting in June, I was pregnant for at least part of every month. Before the pregnancy that resulted in The Smallest there was another, one that only resulted in loss and tears. This window, this narrow sliver of early August, this is the anniversary of when I was not pregnant.

This summer, with a glorious, chubby, curious, active, almost-three-month-old I find myself paying attention to last summer. Where was I? What was happening? Was I pregnant? The first time, or the second time? I think about the day in July of confirming that the pregnancy, that much wanted pregnancy, was not going to result in a baby, and deciding that I would rather end it than wait for it to end itself, and bleeding and crying and aching. I remember being afraid that this was it, that I had waited too long, that I wanted too much, that I was at fault for that ending. I think about the July days spent bleeding and crying and discovering how many (so, so, many people) I know who had had similar experiences. I remember the comfort of sharing experiences of miscarriage and loss and what succour there was in knowing I was not alone. Sometimes when I think about the crowd of people I know who find conception and pregnancy so much more difficult than desired, it seems amazing anyone anywhere ever has a baby.

This is the anniversary of the narrow window of deepest doubt, and of loss. The narrow window of trying to discern if we should try again, or if we should celebrate what we have and stop audaciously asking for more. In the window between pregnancies I took Stanley camping at a music festival just the two of us. I spent a week at a cottage with friends. I prayed. I paddled in a canoe and I asked the water for guidance. I felt so unsure, and so empty. And at the end of the week, as unlikely as it seemed, I decided that it was time, and I travelled, and I got pregnant again, and this time we made a baby.

Last year I didn't see many SummerWorks shows because I was away making a baby. This year, I won't see many SummerWorks shows because I will be home loving that baby. Last year - this year. This year - last year. I revisit the past and the emotions of the past visit me in the present. And it is still sad. With the wonder that is a new baby sleeping upstairs it seems indulgent to want to mark and mourn this loss, but I do. Something happened. Something started. Something didn't come to fruition, and even not knowing what that possibility was I mourn the potential future.

I'm not good at being pregnant. I feel pretty wretched most of the time, nauseous and exhausted, fearful and funny-shaped. I find many of the physical changes weird and uncomfortable. I don't like being pregnant, but I sure like being a parent. I did the former for the latter. I did the former for a year. I hope very much I get to do the latter for the rest of my life.
Backpacking in Algonquin


Five is fabulous. Bold and kind, surprisingly good at sharing. Five loves his people, all of us. And I love Five and all his many, many ways. I continue to feel enamoured by this kid and so glad to be his Abba.

Five goes to kindergarten. Which is day school, like a big kid, with a back pack containing all his things. He climbs up three flights of stairs with his tiny classmates, and the amount of his life that happens away from us steadily increases. He still tells us lots about it, but we seldom see his classroom, and I'm not always sure which adults correspond to which kids. Five is very definitely growing up, which is great and terrible. We pack Five's lunches everyday, and Five likes onagri, grapefruit, tiny cheeses, cucumber and red pepper slices, organic, gluten free seed crackers and a little bit of something sweet. He prefers to approve his lunch before it is packed away, and will give helpful suggestions if it is not yet acceptable.

Five is clear about what he wants, and what you should want, and is happy to tell you all about it. Five likes to pick out his own outfits, and may try on several outfits before choosing the one that is perfect for today. This might happen in the morning, but if he wakes up in the middle of the night, he might get dressed then and go back to bed ready to start the day. Most outfits include stripy leggings, but like all things, this can change. Five considers cold weather an affront to his fashion sensibilities. This morning Five charged me with the fashion crime of failing to provide red and white striped socks. I was accused of this in the shower, and was expected to produce new socks immediately. I failed.

Five wants to help with the driving, and will call out all the road signs he recognises. We'll never miss a lane ending, or a deer crossing again. Five is not enamoured with a road trip - he would prefer to fly and is not at all sure why that can not always be arranged. While most airlines think children should be 8 before they can fly as unaccompanied minors, US Airways thinks 5 is fine. Gulp. US Airways thinks he's old enough to handle direct flights alone. Five agrees. Back on the ground, if we are driving, Five never misses a pit stop. He's very interested in the machines that dispense small toys and candy. He'd like to buy several. At every stop.

Five is genuinely helpful, and able to do so much more. He is willing to get things for people, load the dishwasher, pair socks, feed the dog and more. Five likes to care for other people. He'll offer to get you a blanket if you are cold, or a drink if you look hot. Five offers sweet and tender suggestions, and really wants to look after people. He's very happy to share whatever he's got, even if it is a tasty treat - if Five has something good, he'd like you to have some too. Five is also very concerned about animals. He worries about extinctions, and always wants to help animals. He will stand up to bigger kids who are not being kind to animals, and will get help if he can't deal with the situation alone. Instead of gifts at his birthday party, he's planning on asking friends to contribute to animal protection.

Five is aware of more mainstream media than ever before - he's requested a minions themed birthday party. He enjoys a movie, and is particularly fond of Frozen, The Sound of Music and Star Wars. He likes a movie in a movie theatre, and thinks 3D movies are the best. He's quick to offer a snuggle if we are at home, and once the snuggle has been agreed to, he'll ask for a snuggle and a video. In the car, Five listens to the radio - as in intently listens and will ask questions about whatever is being talked about.

Five loves games. He was an avid member of chess club at his school in the fall, loves Connect Four, Labyrinth, and an assortment of card games, but he's almost always happy to be introduced to a new game. He is coming to terms with the notion that we expect him to clean up his games afterwards, although he thinks this is terribly unfair.

Five is the lord of small things. The above mentioned toys from pit-stops, rocks, Lego mini figs, buttons, coins, things he finds on the street, stickers, more things he finds on the street, scraps of paper, small things in general. Five continues to cultivate and curate a large collection of small things. Rocks continue to hold a special place for him, as do fossils, and if you asked him to pick a future career, he would probably say geologist or palaeontologist.

Five loves an adventure. That little person who use to joyfully sing out "We're going somewhere!" still loves going. He's happy to investigate new places, climb new climbing structures, go out for a meal, to a museum, an art gallery, whatever. Five loves a live show - all the better if it is a musical. Five thinks that Neil Patrick Harris is amazing and is disappointed to not have seen him live on stage yet. Five has not forgiven his parents for going to see Neil Patrick Harris without him. In our defence, it was Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and it was not kid appropriate.

Five continues to like strong flavours. He considers The Cheese Boutique an excellent destination and wants blue cheeses, strong cheeses and cheese with an edible rind. Now that I'm drinking beer without alcohol, Five's had a few sips and thinks beer is great - although not as good as kombucha. He was actually so excited about kombucha the other day that he sang about it "Kom-bucha-bucha-bucha-bucha yay!".

Five would like you to know he never sleeps. Never, ever. He is never tired, and he never sleeps. If he has to lie in his bed and rest, he would like to do so snuggling his alien. We actually have four identical aliens. At least two, and sometimes all four are always missing. Aliens don't stay still.

Five's favourite holiday is Halloween, which is almost always too far away. He has grand plans for next year's costume already, and wants to collect things to help put it together. Five can write words - not just his name anymore, but other words, and sends love notes to people he cares for. Living with Five is like living in a constant math quiz - he's very busy figuring things out with numbers and shapes all the time, and prefers it if the adults are too. Five is also full of questions - a drive to school might include questions about plate tectonics, outrage about poverty and questions about infinity.

Five is many, many things.

How has The Small changed? You can compare with four, three, and one. I know, I know he was two, I just did not manage to write a damn thing for his birthday that year. You can bet I am contributing to the therapy fund for that one.
Backpacking in Algonquin

Solo camping with The Small, in the heart of a village (or, talking to strangers)

Apparently I wrote most of this post back in August of 2015. I did not manage to finish it then. Then the school year started, and I was back to work, and The Small Person started kindergarten. I became pregnant, got sick, went to hospital, went to hospital again, went to hospital a third damn time, had surgery and began recovering. Just before I was well enough to go back to work, My Tender Beast had surgery (not the same surgery) and since then has had a series of surgical complications. It's all been very bad for writing around our house. This afternoon, stealing a moment from my burning to do list to write, it seemed to make sense to finish this post before writing a new one. So, uh, sorry if it seems out of date.

The Small and I spent the weekend at Blue Skies. We left on Thursday, and returned late Monday, and it meant that he and I had some intense time together. I was nervous about camping as just a twosome, but I need not have been. We may have been two, but we were two in the middle of a large village.

After I brought two cart loads of gear down to our spot (The small riding in the cart both ways) I had to go back and move the car. The Small decided he was not interested in getting back into the car, and our new neighbours said he could stay with them, and he seemed pleased with that plan, so I left him there, with strangers. When I came back he had a snack from our food bin, and one from each of two neighbouring cam sites.

Blue Skies remains my favorite music festival, and it lives large in the imagination of The Small too.

Earlier this year, we had received the gift of a s'mores kit. Back when I was a kid you had to buy the ingredients seperately and sharpen your own stick with a knife, but now, apparently, everything comes as a kit. The Small was excited to make s'mores. Late Friday night, we stopped at a communal campfire to do this. I roasted the marshmallows (because he was afraid he would burn them) and we assembled s'mores. He was disappointed. Still there was magic. In this case, the magic came in the form of a skilled hulla hoop artist who also stopped by the campfire. Her hulla hoop was lit, all around, with bright lights and she performed a mesmerizing dance for us. S'mores might be meh, but the dancing was brilliant.

Over the weekend I thought a great deal about children who are told not to talk to strangers. That's never been our rule, but The Small hears it often, strangely enough, most often from strangers (cautioning him not to speak to other strangers - you know, the ones who are bad dangerous strangers, not like them). The adults in our family talk to strangers, kind of all the time. We help strangers, we receive help from strangers, we make new friends, we get directions, we share what time it is. Talking to strangers is a way of making new friends and new connections in the world, a way of helping other people, and frankly pant of my work at My Tender Beast's as well. The line between stranger and person one is getting to know seems so mushy to me. What makes a person a stranger? What makes them safe? How is the small suppose to figure this out? Our rule is "Talk to strangers, but don't go with anyone without a parent saying it's okay first."

In August, The Small and I and The Teenager spent a weekend camping among strangers. Or we started the weekend camping among strangers, and made neighbours and possibly friends. At the end of the weekend, as one family was leaving early, they asked if we would give one of their teenagers a lift home the next day, and we did. We introduced her to our favorite maple syrup farmer, our traditional chip stand, and by the end of the ride she'd become one of The Small's babysitters. Because while we don't need more strangers, often you can make friends and neibours out of strangers, and we do need those.
Backpacking in Algonquin

Getting pregnant really isn't the goal

Warning: This is not a happy post. This is a sad and disappointed post about miscarriage. I still want to share, but you don't have to read it. Do what you need to do for you.

That said, if you don't read this, please don't ask me about this. I am writing this here in part so I don't have to have lots of in person conversations about it.


Today I am seven and a half weeks pregnant. For those unfamiliar with "pregnancy math", this means I conceived about five and a half weeks ago, and have know for sure I am pregnant (as in been able to get a positive pregnancy test) for three and a half weeks. Seven and a half weeks is 19% of forty weeks, all of which sounds seriously on our way. After that last post about waiting, this sounds good - right?

Except it's not good. Because, as it turns out, getting pregnant isn't the goal. Growing a baby is the goal, and getting pregnant is just an early step in that direction. This pregnancy isn't going to grow a baby. I know miscarriage is common, that the first trimester is prime time for miscarriages, and this doesn't mean anything at all about the possible success or viability of a possible future pregnancy. The thing is, this is not about a possible future pregnancy. This is about this pregnancy, this one right now, that I had got excited about, that I was nervous about, that was and is real, and that won't result in a baby. Right now, possible future is not really much consolation for a crappy right now.

All that nausea and exhaustion and not drinking over Pride? All that being too exhausted to see Fringe shows? That was an investment in the future, and sometimes, investments don't turn out. This time, no baby.

I am trying to find consolation in the idea that getting pregnant twice in six tries is actually pretty good. It's pretty good at any age, and frankly great at almost forty. I'm trying to find consolation in the idea that my body clearly is trying hard to nurture and grow this pregnancy - even if the pregnancy is not doing it's own growing. Apparently my body is stubborn and determined, which should be a shock to exactly no one.

We are not sharing this with our small person. He is so excited about the possibility of a baby. He believes that he "turned our hearts" to make us want a baby because he wanted one so much. Earlier this week he started grilling us on where a new baby, if we have one, might go to school. He thinks a new baby should go to his current school, and he had a whole plan and a number of warnings for us about what we will need to remember and pay attention to. He did not know we were pregnant, although he does know we are trying. We're not going to tell him we're unpregnant. We will tell him when/if there is an actual baby on the way. It's very important to me that other people not share any of this with him. When I was eight, Heather Patterson knew more about my mum's pregnancy, and the sex of the coming baby, than I did, and I felt so betrayed. I'd had a big argument at school with her where she insisted the baby would be a girl, and I insisted that we did not know yet (because that's what my mum had told me). She so lorded it over me that she knew and I did not, and I felt so betrayed. So, it's very important to me that our small person hears about possible baby news from his parents.

As a further note on how excited the small person is, he once, months ago, come to the fertility clinic with me, where I explained that it is a place that helps people make babies, and that I was going to check on how my eggs were growing. He immediately told me that he is going to go there when he is a grown-up so he can have a baby too. Over two months later, at dinner with company, he turned to me and asked "Abba, how are your eggs doing? You know, the tiny eggs that are inside you, how are they growing?" The Small Person continues to be a tiny detective and is on the case.

If you know me in person, please don't ask me about how this is going. I'm sharing here, in part because I can do so on my own terms, when and how I want to. I'm not ready for every dog walk, every trip to the grocery store, any possible trip outside the house to be an opportunity to talk about miscarriage. Thanks, but no. I really do appreciate the love and support other people give our family. I appreciate the encouragement, prayers, community, friendship - but please, not in person or by phone right now. E-mail is great. Notes are welcome. This does suck, and I appreciate other people honouring that this is a loss and we're sad, but it really helps to be able to have a little control about how that happens.

If you are pregnant, or newly pregnant, or have recently had a baby, if you want to share, please do. I like babies, I like people having reproductive control over their own bodies. I can celebrate your success, joy and good fortune. It's not going to make this harder for me, this is not a competition and it's nice to have things to celebrate.

I'm going to need a little down time, but after that, I'll be in boxing class, in the sauna at the gym and drinking scotch (not all at the same time) because those are things pregnant people can't do, and I'm going to enjoy them now, and hope that I am giving them up again soon, but next time, for longer.
Backpacking in Algonquin


Trying to get pregnant is a giant game of waiting around for the right moment to rush. First you wait to ovulate. You count the days, you measure, you interpret, you wait. Then there is a brief moment of rushing, of inseminating (although that too involves waiting). And then you wait to see if anything happened. If hopes are growing. The waiting is punctuated with more waiting - waiting at the fertility clinic, peeing on sticks and waiting to see what they say (ovulation: yes or no?, pregnancy" yes or no). Waiting and more waiting. We are most certainly expecting, expecting good news, expecting the end of this waiting and the beginning of another. There is absolutely nothing to report, except that we are waiting.

We started this game of waiting in December. And we are still waiting. We are patient people, we remind ourselves. In the waiting we talk with each other, we build possibility, we buoy each other up, we talk with mouths full of love, we entertain hope, we feel frustration and sadness. There is togetherness, planning, tenderness, and other good things in the waiting. We imagine what might be, and then we imagine other possibilities, then we imagine some more. In waiting, it feels like you should be prepared for any possibility.

I pray, and I think about how praying for a baby must be one of the oldest prayers. Is praying for the weather to change older? I don't know. I pray, and I think about generations of people who have prayed, prayed for fertility, prayed for a pregnancy, prayed for a safe delivery, prayed for a baby. Two months ago, in the mikvah I came up out of the water, and the song on my lips was the Magnificat "My soul, magnifies the lord, and my spirit rejoices in G-d my maker. For he who is mighty, has done great things, and blessed, is the Lord..." It's the prayer of a Jewish woman, grateful for her pregnancy, praising G-d. Alright, yes, now it's heard almost distinctly in a Christian setting, but the Magnificat comes directly from Jewish tradition.

I think about how all this waiting is driven by hope. Is it audacious to hope for another small person? Our Small is damn fabulous, might the gracious thing be to just celebrate that? But I don't think hope or fertility are zero sum games. My luck does not come at someone else's expense. My loss is not someone else's gain. And strangely, in months that end with "better luck next time" I am learning to value what I have more. Wanting more does not devalue what is. I love the Small and the Teenager fiercely, celebrate them both, and feel well loved and supported by My Tender Beast. I think about friends and extended family and friends that have become family, and we are already very rich. I am determined not to let a desire for more stop me from celebrating what is. So far, I am revelling in what I have.

In the waiting I act like I am pregnant. I quit coffee in November. Alcohol only in the pre-ovulation part of a cycle, and then not after. I do pick and choose what of the other food behaviours are in or out. So many cultures have such different advice, and it is often contradictory. My body, myself, no food policing please. I act like I am pregnant and keep well hydrated, and engage in regular moderate exercise. I am trying hard to have this body be a place I want to be, because I feel like how can I invite someone else to grow here unless I feel at home here. This too is getting better. My body is strong and able to do many things, I hope in time, this.

In the waiting, Google is not my friend. It promises all manner of things, including to help predict what is happening, or to interpret what is going on. Mostly what it serves is the experiences and opinions of other people also playing the waiting game. No more, no less. Each if them with their own experiences, true, but I am not trying to get any of them pregnant, and bodies can be so varied. There are few absolutes, few guarantees but time, and so little useful well collected data. I try not to pay attention to what's happening between ovulation and what has so far been the "better luck next time" moment. Sometimes being tired is just being tired. Sometimes what you want to eat is just what you want to eat. Sometimes I wake to pee in the night because I am well hydrated. The internet people are more than willing to offer to tell you what symptoms they had when they were pregnant super early on. What they don't say, is that many of them had exactly the same symptoms when they were not pregnant. Google wants your time. It does not offer much in return.

In February, briefly, it looked like we had graduated from this waiting game to the next, from the getting pregnant waiting, to the waiting for a baby waiting, but like a game of snakes and ladders, one can go up and down. We are back to the getting pregnant waiting.

So, I am inviting people to join us in our waiting. If you are willing, to toss your hopes and prayers in with ours. Love is good too. It seems like a good idea. If you have blessings, we'd like them. perhaps it takes a village not just to raise a child but to create one. We would like our villages' love.

If this works, there will be more waiting. I know pregnancy too is a waiting game. And then, then there are many other games, and so little time in which to wait.
Backpacking in Algonquin

Eight Kilometers to Away

I am away this week. Away, away, away. I packed up my clothes, a week's worth of food, books, my computer and my toiletries, loaded them onto my bike and I peddled off. Writing it, it seems simple, but to this parent, with a full-time job, grad school and a dog, it feels immense. This week, this gift of time and quiet, is a gift of the Toronto Arts Council, Artscape and my family. The TAC provided the money, Artscape is providing the space, and my family is helping me believe that a week of writing, alone, with time and quiet to think is something I can have. They are all helping me believe that my work has value, and they are investing in my writing, what I can create in the world through words. I'm feeling full of gratitude.

So, time. Riding the ferry over to the island was like a journey into winter - there was only a slender pathway of open water, and even that was crowded with ice. The sound of ice hitting the hull made the ride over interesting, and when the shelf was big enough you could feel it lift the boat and shift it just a little. On the island side I rode off the ferry, and along the outer side of the island. Four kilometers on this side of the ferry ride, four kilometers on that side, and eight kilometers feels like it is very far away.

Time feels like such a gift. Time to play with ideas, to rub thoughts together and see what comes of them, to walk, to ride, to take in sun, snow, ice and waves. I am liking this so very much. Not that I don't like all of the everyday things, but one can like one's lot and still enjoy respite. I will also like going home to my people, and my good dog and my comfy bed where the snuggles rest on Sunday. But right now, I am indulging in quiet.

I'm enjoying rediscovering my own rhythms - when I wake and when I sleep if left to my own devices. I'm enjoying eating the foods I want to eat - because living as a family means compromise between all of our food ways. Alone I eat more leaves. I brought more leaves and more fresh vegetable that was expected and had to engage in creative stacking to fit it all in my part of the fridge. I'm thinking about how we all eat at home, and how we can all get more of our individual preferences without cooking separate meals for each of us. I'm enjoying morning prayer - something that does not happen at home because I do not make time for it, and am thinking about how to build that in. I'm missing swimming, but enjoying being able to get up from my work, sometime in the afternoon when my body wants to move and the sun is bright, and going outside. For an hour. To just move. It was stunning to stand on the end of the pier, looking out at the lake, as the waves crashed in, alone today.

Sunday I will come home, but I have another precious day and a half to work on my book. It's better than this blog post, I promise, but it is perhaps sucking up all my good words.
Backpacking in Algonquin

Just-turned Four

In the last week the small person turned four. The Teenager made cupcakes, we all sang, and having been celebrated by his Wallace grandparents last weekend, he is spending this weekend being celebrated by his Bergman grandparents. This year, he will celebrate his birthday at school, slightly late, by bringing in 750 bouncy balls. He was inspired by this video. His teachers have said he can bring in lots of balls, but they have no idea what's coming. His birthday phone schedule was epic - all manner of family called to sing to him and celebrate him. Just-turned four remains fiercely loyal to his people, all of you, and was delighted. He talks about people often, asks to call, asks to Skype, and in the last week started bringing home handmade postcards from school with notes on the back. If you love him, Just-turned four loves you right back.

Just-turned four announced that now he is four he will have another new name, but we have to guess what it is.

Just-turned four cares about others. He worries about sick friends and family members, and shares advice on how to take care of others. He was very careful to ask about bringing the balls to school because he was concerned that a younger child might put one in their mouth and choke. Just-turned four chose a Chaunnuka present for me and tricked me into buying it (I thought it was for him). This charms me.

Just-turned four is both startlingly independent, and hates to be alone. If there is a snuggle or a hug he wants to be in the middle, although some times, a request to "snuggle on the couch" turns out to just be an opening to ask for a video. Just-turned four would like to watch Dinosaur Train. He'd like to watch an episode with you and then talk about it. Just-turned four has learned a huge amount about dinosaurs from these shows. He almost certainly knows more about dinosaurs than you. Unless you are cousin E. Inspired by Don on Dinosaur Train, Just-turned four now has "A Collection". Just-turned four's collection is extensive: shells, fossils, beads, rocks, seed pods, random things he has found, plastic insects, geodes, bits of glass. Just-turned four has a shelf full of his collection, and two draws, and a fabulous treasure box, and two bags. Just-turned four would like to have more bones in his collection, but his big people will not allow him to bring home everything he finds on the street.

Just-turned four is interested. He wants to know how things work, where they come from, he wants to peer, touch and smell. Just-turned four has a hypothesis. About everything.

Just-turned four is a rules lawyer and a champion negotiator. Just-turned four prefers to fly. "Driving takes too long" he explains, and also, driving is boring. Just-turned four is looking forward to being five, and being able to fly as an unaccompanied minor.

Just-turned four has no interest in sleep. He is not tired, he is not sleepy, and he does not want to go to bed. Just-turned four is a master at not sleeping, and will try to stay up as long as he can. Sometimes the big people want to go to bed before he does. Sometimes he falls asleep while insisting how not tired he is.

Just turned four likes art. He likes the opportunity to create, and to make beautiful things. He is very interested in beads, and beading, but will use other mediums too. Just-turned four is handy with scissors. Really handy. Almost all his art is trimmed these days into a shape he finds most pleasing. Just-turned four writes more than he draws these days. He brings home paper from school covered with letters. He writes his name, clearly and in block capitals, but then he fills the page with other letters. Just-turned four knows all the letters of our alphabet, and all the numbers, although some times one of the teens goes missing, and he thinks the number after "twenty-nine" should be "twenty-ten". He is clear that what he creates, both letters and pictures is art, and that it should be hung on the wall for all to admire.

Just-turned four loves hockey. Loves, loves, loves, hockey and is sure he knows how to play. Anytime there is a small piece of ice anywhere he wants to skate on it in his boots to practice and in preparation. He has a backyard hockey set of two nets and two sticks and he'll play that for hours with considerable skill. On a recent weekend, he and I watched a Ryerson Rams game, and he explained to me high sticking, and several other rules. I have no idea where this love or this knowledge comes from.

Just-turned four still loves a salmon and avocado hand roll, and will eat five in a single sitting if allowed. He prefers to go out to a restaurant for dinner than eat at home, and if we are going out he would like to be able to choose where. If allowed to choose where, he most often sends us to T and T, Sashimi Island or Guu. At home broccoli, salmon and macaroni cheese might be his pick. He does not like spicy foods, is seldom a fan of soup, does not want onions, and seldom mushrooms. Just-turned four has just come around to salad.

In the last week we have toured two possible schools for Just-turned four for next year this week, and as we discussed them over dinner, Papa shared that one of them has "a rolling start". Just-turned four declared that he should definitely go to that one as we are not very good at mornings. We are not very good at mornings, particularly Just-turned four, who would like to stay up until eleven, and then sleep in until ten.

Just-turned four is full of joy and conversation, full of interest in the world. We are delighted by him, and so glad of him. We look forward to our next adventures.

How has the small person changed? Here's three, and one, apparently I was so busy with two that I did not write something up for it. I should probably put $10 in the therapy jar for that.