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Hold My Hand

March 4, 2014

Every morning it was my turn for daycare drop off, we’d pull up in the lot, I’d unbuckle her car seat, and gather her stuff.  When it was time to get out of the car, the Doodle would demand to be picked up. I swooped her out of the back of the car up into my arms, finally resting with her legs around my waist.  I’d juggle the squirmy toddler jutted on one hip with a handful of loose stuff – sippy cup, clothes and a toy or two – and only if I was thoughtfully lucky I would have remembered to shove all of these extras into a bag.

We’d walk into daycare at a quick pace and I’d observe all of the other parents patiently shuffling with their charges. Their kids were walking, picking up sticks, rocks or snow, and taking their time transitioning from the care of their parents to the care of their workers.

It’s not that we were rushing through our last minutes together, it’s because she needed to be close. She needed her mommy or her mama to care for her in the way that babies need their mommies. She spent all day being fiercely independent and needed to be loved and held close in our arms when she was in our care.

Seasons changed. Fall turned to winter, winter turned to spring, and spring turned to summer. Our toddler transitioned to the preschool room and the morning routine didn’t deviate.

“Up, up, up, Mommy!”  “Pick me up please.” “I can’t walk.” “I don’t know how to walk.” The Doodle just refused to walk from the house to the car or from daycare to the car. Pretty much she wouldn’t walk on her ownsome with us at any time.

There were times I got frustrated. This was a kid who started walking at 11 months. I had all of the stuff she asked me to carry and it was getting strewn around the parking lot.  I didn’t have arms big enough for her and all her worldly possessions.  I wanted her to just be a little more like the other kids her age.

But then I didn’t. I got over myself and relished that she wanted to be nurtured in this way. My arms and back remained strong as I had to lug this 30 lb kid to and fro from place to place every single day. For short distances, I had my arms, and for long distances, I had the carrier.

But in my arms, she could look me right in the eyes, and talk to me.  We’d have a hushed conversation of peers.  She could see the world from my vantage point.  She’d grab my face in her hands and earnestly tell me that she loved me.  She’d plant an open-mouthed kiss somewhere on my cheek.

I’m not sure when the change happened. It wasn’t gradual, it was sudden. One day, she just asked for my hand and we walked in to daycare together. It happened the next day, and the next day again, and then the day after that. That’s how change happens with her.

“Mommy, hold my hand.”  Four simple words that altered a two-year long routine. A request that got repeated for a number of days. A new pattern emerged.

I followed her lead and in an instant she decided to grow up.

For most, that change wouldn’t be monumental.  But it was for me.  It denoted the change in my mind from being the mother of a toddler to being the mother of a young kid. I have a preschooler. My baby is nearly three.

Not pushing my child to walk was the first time I consciously acknowledged that I didn’t need to push her to do something. It was how I realized she would come into her own in her own time. Picking her up and carrying her when she asked was my way of nurturing her inner child, and my way of letting her be a baby for as long as she needed to be. It was my way of letting her grow up on her own terms.

Now when it’s my turn to drop her off at daycare, I unbuckle the belt, put on her winter coat and lift her out of the car.  She waits beside me while I grab all of her stuff, which still never seems to get into a bag, with her tiny hand stretched above her head in the cold air.

“Hold my hand, Mommy,” she says patiently. She’s waiting for me. She’s waiting for my big hand to wrap around hers, and I’m waiting to feel her small warm palm press into mine as her fingers stretch around mine.

Then we walk, we shuffle, slowly and patiently, to the front doors of daycare as we look at the parents scurrying about around us.

7/52 – Simplicity

March 2, 2014

7/52 - Simplicity
Naps are becoming somewhat of a relic around these parts.  We do quiet time when we can, and for now, I’m just happy when she stays in her room and self-entertains for an hour. On the rarest of occasions, she somehow manages to put herself to sleep.

It’s hard to find the perfect amount of sleep for this kid.  She’s a night owl, and if her biorhythm could trump over the schedule demanded by a preschooler’s life, she’d be up until 10pm every night and still be cozy in her bed until 9 or 10 am.  Her body seems to strive for the most basic 10-11 hours sleep at night.

No matter what we do with a nap, push it earlier or later, make it shorter or longer, we haven’t found the perfect schedule yet. I’d give anything to have her in bed by 8 or 9pm each night, without having an hour-long go-to-sleep routine that involves our active presence for the entire time. I think bedtime should start to be, relatively speaking, a mostly DIY endeavor.

The thing is, when she’s not asleep by 9-ish, we know the morning is going to be quite tricky.  When sleep doesn’t come until 10pm or later, we’re guaranteed to have a more difficult time waking up the preschooler than the two teenagers.  And she’s a total bear at that.

Actually, what’s really the problem is the schedule and the fact that we can’t let her body’s wishes dominate.

On the days that she skips her nap, sometimes she is a tired mess by dinner time. What this looks like is melodrama of tween proportions. Tears. Tantrums. And hitting people.

When this happened on Friday, no nap and melodrama, she fell asleep in my lap at 7pm.  While that was lovely, we know it’s dangerous, because she wakes up and has a party from 3-5am.

It’s her brain. It’s go go go. She can’t get it to be calm and quiet. She struggles to slow down and fall asleep, even when her body wants it, she revs it up into the most dangerously wild second wind.  She’s like a little tornado whipping through the house.

The Doodle want to live. Sleep is for chumps.

We try to balance teaching her to be self-sufficient in this area, and giving her a little extra help when need be.

After 1.5 hours of quiet time and no nap, we opted to help her along. We knew it would cost us on bedtime and the next morning, but having a pleasant Sunday afternoon seemed more important at that exact moment in time.

Thankfully it was one of those warm-ish winter days,and no amount of bumpity-bump and snow slush crushing, could keep her awake. She basked in the most simple of late afternoon winter stroller naps.

6/52 – Quiet

February 10, 2014

6/52 - Quiet

We escaped the cruel Canadian winter to lounge in the sun for a week in Cuba.

Only four of us went. We had to make a tough call and decided that Cuba wasn’t in the cards for Bubaloo this time around. This resulted in a holiday that was a bit quieter than we would have liked.

It’s hard to linger on what could have been when you’re exploring the gorgeous beaches of Cayo Coco, or chasing a toddler around the kiddie pool. You linger fleetingly on his absence and wonder what he’s up to at home. You wonder how many ice cream cones he would have consumed by lunch or how many times he would have tried to try out the non-virgin pina coladas.

Then you’re back in the present moment watching your littlest daughter cover herself in white sand or run around with a swim ring around her middle. You’re watching the sea salt and sunscreen pull up the curls in her hair. You’re watching the sun pull out the brown of her South Asian skin. You’re watching her splash in the ocean as the tide goes out.

You’re absorbed in a good book. You’re enjoying your wife’s companionship. You’re not cooking dinner.

You’re savoring the fact that your vacation is indeed quiet.

5/52 – Story

February 3, 2014

5/52 - Story

Last winter I got a call that I need to immediately rush home. My Gran was in the hospital and I had less than 12 hours to get there and say goodbye. I wavered and was torn. I was needed at my home with my kids, I couldn’t fathom being the only one to hop on a plane, and it was highly unlikely that I would make it in time.

I decided not to go that night and said what would likely be my final words to her over the phone.

In the morning I woke up and so did she. My cousin’s brought in their iPads and we talked a little more, this time with video. We said more hellos and goodbyes. We said the things we needed to say.

The doctors still said her death was imminent, but not so immediate, and they planned to move her to palliative care.

My Gran was 91 years old then. She’d lived way long than she’d expected. Her hospital room was a revolving door of people coming in and out to say goodbye, which suited her well because fear coursed through her and she didn’t want to ever be left alone.  She wanted someone at her bedside 24 hours a day.

I flew home three days after the initial call. I wanted to have another goodbye – in person this time. I spent 24 hours with her in her hospital room.

I wore a brave and kind face but I was terrified. My Gran had aged, was losing her eyesight, and wasn’t living life entirely as she would like. Drawing and painting had become her companion hobby of recent years and her body was forcing her to stop doing the things she loved. She wasn’t sold on living for forever this way, and I supported that. My Gran was more than a grandmother, she was a constant in raising me, and her death was going to punch a hole through my heart.

But I wasn’t so much as scared of her dying, than being the only one in the room with her as she died. I didn’t know if I was emotionally strong enough to be the one to hold her hand as she transitioned from life to death.

I’ve never seen anyone die before. Just like before the Doodle, I had never been in the room when someone gave birth. I knew my Gran’s death couldn’t be about me and my conflicting emotions, and that I needed to be fully present for her. I just didn’t have a road map to do that. I was overwhelmed by my fear. I didn’t have the time I needed to adequately prepare and reflect for this visit. But it wasn’t about me. It was about her. And that needed to remain my focus.

When I walked into the hospital room, she had no idea I was coming. She popped up a few inches off her pillow in surprise and her face lit up with delight. That’s what being thrilled looks like for someone who is dying.

While I stayed with my Gran for 24 hours and continuously fed her thickened water off a plastic spoon, I was never alone with her in the room. Someone else was always dropping in to share words and stories of lifetimes shared with her.  When I realized that she wasn’t going to die while I was there, and if she did, I wouldn’t be the only one there, my fear began to fizzle out.

My Gran didn’t die that day. She didn’t die that week or even the next week. Somewhere, she regained an even greater will to live and was moved from palliative care to rehabilitation.

Today she is alive and is still seriously feisty at 92 years of age. She has still has many stories to create and tell. I only get to see her a few times a year, and when I do, I want to ensure to always capture images like these.

4/52 – Busy

January 27, 2014

4/52 - Busy

Go, go, go. Finding ways to make the mundane ritual of daily activity exciting and fresh to engage the baby who is now a bonafide kid.

Life before kids meant you could eat your eggs on a Saturday morning without having a dance party.  But getting your wiggles out does make it easier to dip your toast into your eggs. I’m sure of it.

I love these two monkeys so, so, so, so much.  I also appreciate their never ending patience in being the subject of my photography practice.

Toddler with iPad

Maybe this picture captures the theme better, but I realize that I can’t have a year of pictures that only capture the Doodle.

This kid loves the iPad. Her Nana and Papa bought her a leap frog for Christmas, but it’s a little bit above her yet, and not nearly as slick as the apps on the iPad.  She’s really an iPad monster. While it’s password protected, if you leave it unlocked for just a moment, she swipes it and takes over.

“Hey you! Swiper no swipping,” I’ll shout aloud as she laughs with glee.

It’s amazing to watch how intuitive kids are with this technology. She knows how to navigate to her apps, how to find her favourite songs, and how to get into all sorts of trouble. She’s called a few people, typed a few messages, and taken lots of photos of her finger.

But my favourite thing is to watch her watch herself.  As a toddler, she loved for us to put on a photo slideshow with music.  Now she self serves and watches video after video of herself.  It’s incredible how much these random short clips of film play in the development of her sense of self. She loves to watch herself. But even more when the video involves her with someone who is a big part of her world.

3/52 – Home Sweet Home

January 20, 2014

3/52 - Home Sweet Home

The ongoing “polar vortex” (seriously, whoever came up with this new name for a cold snap is simultaneously irritating and a marketing genius) is keeping us indoors for days on end this winter. I’m not afraid of snow or cold, but even the dog doesn’t enjoy getting bundled up to take a walk in -40 degree weather. I can work with the -1 to -20 range. It’s relatively easy. Even a shorter activity outdoors in -25 I can swing. But go below that frigid threshold for successive days, it’s really hard to contain a toddler when the same three rooms in your house have to double as your playground.

I’d be happy turning on the radio, listening to the CBC while curling up with a cup of piping hot tea in front of our fireplace. The toddler on the other hand can manage something that’s entirely self-directed for maybe an hour each day, broken up into two or three chunks of time. That means that Mommy and Mama need to come up with 11 or 12 hours of stuff to do with the Doodle on weekends. It doesn’t mean we entertain her non-stop, but it does mean a somewhat careful calculation of how we tackle chores and errands, add a dash of some preschool focused activities, balance the wishes and needs of the teens, and try to squeeze in some adult time for ourselves.

Home bound for yet another day, we pull out the board games. Now, the Doodle can’t really play them as intended, so we make up our own games from their bits and parts.  The frogs from Cranium are worth a guaranteed solid 10 minutes, and today, I even eked out 30 minutes.  She was happy to explore and play and let me take on the role of an observing photographer.

Which was good for me as I’m taking (and loving) the SnapShop photography course and trying to squeeze as much practice time in as possible. Since upgrading my camera body in August, I’ve not taken the time to learn what this camera can do. Frankly I’ve been intimidated by it. I don’t know what all of the settings mean, I don’t understand how to use it well, and I touch one thing and mess up way to many other things.

A new camera also let me become a lazy photographer. I could get really nice pictures through automatic settings and composition. I didn’t really try to stretch or challenge myself. I simply was taking nice family photos.  So, a refresher on the basics, creating intentional time and space to practice, and exercising creativity in how I capture the same activities, in the same space, with the same people day after day, I’m back at photographing a bit more regularly again.

Thanks to home for being a source of inspiration. It’s a little bit sweeter to be inside here again.
Never before have I ever seen her line any of her toys up like this. She’s more the throwing type of kid.

Flying frog!

I love little kid fingers.

Her hair is finally getting long enough to entertain hair clips again.

I love watching her concentrate so hard on making things work. She’s on a big “I do it by myself” kick.

She has such a big personality.

Quietly playing and chatting to herself.

Capturing the conversation from a different angle. Still going.

2/52 – Surprise

January 13, 2014

2/52 - Surprise

We weren’t sure how she’d react to getting a sewing machine for Christmas. She seemed to like to like it, but the glee was nowhere as near intense as the utter elation last year when she received tickets and a trip to Toronto to see Lindsay Sterling. For two weeks in sat in its box, untouched.

Then one day it came out, and in a flurry of activity over a 24-hour period, she designed, constructed and created an entire costume.

The project started out with only a vest, and when that was completed to her satisfaction, she decided she needed a dress to go with the vest.  All day long the noises of the house were punctuated with the hum of the sewing machine.  It’s whir was occasionally punctuated with an, “ahhh…no…no…no,” followed by a very large sigh.  She kept on going. Driven by the desire to wear her creation to school on Monday morning.



In Search of the Perfect Cookie

January 6, 2014

Brown butter + sea salt cookies

I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like.  Well, maybe that’s not entirely true. I’ve encountered many a cookie that I managed to choke down simply because I have a love of cookies.

As a child, I remember baking with my mother. We’d pull out The Purity Cookbook (1967 version) and it would immediately crack open to the chocolate chip cookie recipe which was weighted down with the spills of previous baking accidents.  Flecks of flour, buttery grease marks, and the occasional spot of smushed cookie dough.

Having requested this recipe from my mother as an adult, I realize that my love of the chocolate chip cookie had nothing to do with that exact combination of ingredients laid out in this particular recipe.  I’ve made it several times as an adult and it’s simply not a fantastic cookie. Even worse, tt doesn’t even taste like my childhood. My love of this cookie recipe in memory alone has to do with the process of baking with my mother.

When we baked together, it was about commencing an activity that just the two of us would enjoy. A mother and daughter who came to share the same love of raw cookie dough. We’ve bake a dozen, and then freeze enough dough to make a second dozen later on.  But that dough we froze wasn’t really for baking – it was meant to provide frozen morsels to snack upon.

After the Doodle was born and I was panicked about my milk supply, I started baking these lactation cookies. They’re so yummy.

What a better way to boost my supply I told myself as I ensured that I would eat four of these each and every day. Oh what selfless sacrifices I make for the baby.  I used nursing as an excuse to feed my cookie addiction. I was frantically baking every few days. I told the big kids that these particular cookies would give them breast milk just so they wouldn’t dip into my stash.

It got so out of control that I had to wean myself off of these cookies before I weaned the Doodle. I was utterly obsessed with these cookies.

Since I’m no longer nursing a baby, it just felt weird to make these cookies even though I once loved them so very much. When I make them again, I’m sure I’ll fondly remember the Doodle’s infancy. But I’ve been searching around for a new chocolate chip cookie recipe to fall in love with. And I think I finally did it.

Brown butter + sea salt cookies

Introducing Browned Butter + Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies.  They’re heavenly perfection best enjoyed while still warm from the oven. The browned butter smells heavenly, it gives the cookies a nice rich flavour, and the pairing of dark chocolate and sea salt will delight your taste buds.  I’m a sucker for a richly sweet earthy salt pairing.

It was love at first bite.

Brown butter + sea salt cookies

Browned Butter + Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe copied from Rustic Brooklyn with one slight modification)

makes 30-36 cookies

– 1 cup (2  sticks) unsalted butter
– 1 cup light brown sugar
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
– 2 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
–  1/2 cup chopped dark baker’s chocolate (the original recipe call for 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips, but I don’t really like milk chocolate, so I booted it)
– 1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt for sprinkling


  1. To brown butter, heat 1 stick of  butter in a pan over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking and swirling the pan constantly until the butter is dark golden brown with brown flecks on the bottom of the pan, and you can smell a nutty aroma.  Pour it into a bowl and allow to cool completely.
  2. Mix the other stick of butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar  on medium speed for a few minutes.
  3. Add the vanilla to the mixer.
  4. Slowly add the brown butter, then mix on medium speed for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add the egg and egg yolk and mix.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda.  Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture and mix on low until the flour is just incorporated.
  7. Add chocolate chips and mix for a few seconds.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, then cover and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  9. Line cookie sheets with  parchment paper and place dough 2 inches apart.
  10. Sprinkle each ball with some sea salt.
  11. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through. Note: I had to cook for 15-16 min.

Brown butter + sea salt cookies

While I did bake these with the Doodle, I can’t say that baking with her is quite a relaxing experience yet. She’s way too fascinated with turning the mixer on high and watching the flour fly up into the air. So if I can distract her with singing and pouring and re-direct her from the mixer, it’s a good day.

Brown butter + sea salt cookies

1/52 – Balance

January 6, 2014

1/52 - Balance

Balance is life captured outside of the photo frame.

Today was supposed to be the first day back at preschool, only the -40 temperatures caused a pipe to burst and flood the school, so it instead became an impromptu sick day.  Two weeks of Christmas holidays extended by a day. I was the one without fixed meetings scheduled, so I stayed home to parent the Doodle while Otto went in to the office. Which was a good thing because outside of the house freezing rain fell from the sky and only one of our two vehicles is suitable for driving safely in those sorts of road conditions.

While I worked from home for a few hours in the morning, the Doodle got her fill of Caillou and other assorted kid television shows on the iPad.  We sat side by side on the couch with our respective electronics balancing work and parenting, laptops and iPads.

The frigid weather kept us indoors over most of the holidays, but I never did get the chance to introduce the Doodle to the glory that is the Sound of Music. After lunch we snuggled on the couch under soft blankies with the fireplace on while I sung along with Julie Andrews.  She was on-key, I was off-key, and the Doodle smiled. We made to the part where the Barnoness gets Maria to leave before the Doodle lost interest.

We needed a change of scenery.  My toddler indoor activity idea bank was dry. The Doodle was getting crabby, irritable and completely uncooperative. I needed the best redirect I could possibly muster, or any redirect I could think of.  Thankfully I scored with, “Would you like to try on your new bathing suit?”

So the Doodle spent the rest of the afternoon jumping on my bed in her swim suit during a winter storm.  Balance achieved.

iPhone lover

We spent the morning in our jammies. I obviously forgot the part where the Doodle got a hold of my iPhone. Watching Caillou is serious business.

Little monkey jumping on the bed

This is actually my favourite photo as it so perfectly captures the Doodle’s personality. It was snapped immediately after she jumped so hard that it caused her to fall down. It’s a little blurry, sadly.


And again, her mischievousness comes through right here.  As well as her clear lack of hair.  I think she’s going to be five before she has something substantial up top.

52/52 – Emotive

December 29, 2013

52/52 - Emotive

When the Doodle was born, there was something about her arrival in the world grounded him. It was if they were leading parallel lives. Her infancy was the infancy he should have had, and for those first 12 magical months, he somewhat lived vicariously through her having the babyhood he never had. He experienced unconditional love, budding attachment, fierce protectiveness, attentiveness and tender care. She had so much of which he had been denied.

The birth lottery is quite the gamble. You don’t get to choose your parents, your socioeconomic circumstances, your race or your nationality. The Doodle won all-round. Bubaloo wasn’t quite so lucky.

The day after Christmas my two kids donned their matching batman t-shirts, shirts they purchased with money from their gramma. Every time that they’re together, when they play together like this under our watchful eye, I’m painfully aware that this could be the last time.

It’s been an incredibly challenging year with Bubaloo. We anticipate much of the same, if not greater and more severe challenges, in 2014. We anticipate by the end of the year he’ll choose living on the street as to living at home. Or, we’ll support his choices by asking him not to live here anymore.

He’s only 16 years old. This is not the life we want for him. We’d want anything other than this for him. But he exerts his agency and will, and his broken and damaged thinking leads to a never-ending series of bad choices that are having far-reaching consequences on his life, and the lives of the people around him. He’s toxic. He’s dangerous. Yet he’s my kid.

As we went to bed on Christmas eve, lingered over presents on Christmas morning, and shared a turkey feast at Christmas dinner, I catalogued each moment and savored each one as our possible last as this family of five. When trying to raise a child like this, you live in the present with no hope for the future because there’s only so many times you can have hope beaten out of your cupped hands.