Friday, October 7, 2011

Weekend Adventure.

I had the most amazing adventure this weekend. I was kidnapped by a group of women and whisked away, deep into the Adirondack mountains - to laugh and bond and to grab life by its...ahem, stuff and experience every moment in vivid and wondrous new ways.


The weekend certainly delivered.

It was a trip filled with firsts - a trip that I almost didn't take when I actually took a moment to think about them all. It left me gasping with incredulity: First time away from my kids. First time at camp (brown people don't camp, you see. We study hard and grow up to become doctors, lawyers or engineers. No overnight camps allowed.). First time kayaking. First time doing archery.

 Pretty proud of myself, both in the water and on land. I love that both of these firsts were caught on camera!

I just happened to get six bulls eyes in a row. Promise.

(Interesting side note: I just looked up the verb form of archery, and the internet blew up at me. No joke. Apparently I'm not the only one confused about the correct terminology relating to archery.)

Why was I doing this again? What had driven me to such madness?

I blame my neighbors, that lovely group of women who insisted that I join them, insisted that it would be worth the effort, and insisted that we have a raucous, and yes, a rejuvenating time.


 Someone left this at the outdoor chapel/meditation space. I'll never know who or what it was left in tribute to...but it was a beautiful gesture and a touching treasure to chance upon.

I thought that I would miss my kids, and I did - but not nearly in the soul-aching, worrying way that I had anticipated. Instead, I found myself feeling like I wanted them with me because I was having so much fun. I had more fun than it should be legally allowed to have when you are a rather cautious, thirty-something mother of two. I found myself pushing harder, willing to try anything and everything I could cram into my 48 hours away because I wanted my family to know that I had used my time wisely, I wanted them to be proud of every new adventure their Mama experienced.

In other words, for about two days straight....I acted like a twelve year-old. And it felt so good.

Channeling my inner Katniss. (If she was a brown chick and wore a big yellow raincoat.)

 Matching camp braids and a friendship bracelet. I took the overnight camping experience VERY seriously!

Here my room mate and I show off our glamorous breathe right strips (which we used at night because we were both as sick as dogs). 
Too bad my nose is so big that you can't even tell that it's there.

Unburdened by diaper bags, spontaneity gripped our little group of mamas like a fever.  We hiked in a freezing cold downpour, and the rain lasted all day - but not once did it dampen our buoyant mood. We danced into the wee hours of the morning, out on the porch of our cabin deep in the woods. In the mornings, I sipped hot tea, relaxing outside as the sun came up overhead, illuminating the breathtaking lake views, and beckoning us all towards a new day filled with every kind of possibility.

Those are not my fabulous slippers. But I so wish they were!!

 It's raining, it's pouring...and WE DON'T CARE!

Funnily enough, I felt relaxed, even in the middle of powering uphill through wet underbrush. I wouldn't call myself an outdoorsy type of gal, yet I took time for myself and separated from the group to explore the woods - it was one of my most cherished moments of weekend. I got lost out there, in the drizzle and grey...but I found something there too. I found a version of myself that wasn't  so worried about what had happened or what was to come. A lighter, freer me - one that noticed the brilliant details in every small moment, instead of being swept away in the routine of life. I determined to bring that feeling back and share it with my family.

 Deep puddle and leaves
Colors painted by nature
My weird fall haiku.

 Empty stables - it was too cold for the horses to come out and play.

 I have this obsession with barn doors - this one looked beautiful and rustic out there in the wilderness.

 We had our bellydancing class in this cabin, overlooking the lake. We shimmied to the sound of pattering rain overhead and a crackling fire behind our backs. I could have stayed there all day!

 Adirondack chairs in the Adirondack apropos.

 I took a picture of my weekend outfit for posterity. It wasn't pretty, but it sure did keep me warm.

 Poor little sand toys, left out all forlorn in the freezing cold drizzle.

 Beautiful barn door. See: obsession with, above.

 Rocky path, leading...who knows where? Perhaps a hidden treasure awaits at the end of the trail...

 A frozen, dead dragonfly. Haunting and beautiful, a reminder of the short, dazzling beauty of life. I feel so lucky to have caught this tiny creature on camera.

Fiery fall colors at their peak...and another lucky coincidence that we were present to witness this!

It was the same for the rest of my group of friends. I knew the ladies that I traveled with, but over the weekend I got to know each of them in a completely different way. There were no playground conversation time-limits to hold us back, and so we each shared our stories, marvelling at how life had brought us all together. I remain humbled by the strength of character of each of my travelling companions, truly grateful for the opportunity to share the gift of motherhood and sisterdom with them.

Beautiful faces of beautiful friends...inside and out.

We relaxed mentally as we exhausted ourselves physically, urging each other forward, looking out for the newbies (that would be me), and laughing until our sides ached. In the end we returned to our families renewed, bubbling over with stories to share with the ones we love the most.

There I am, right in the middle. Everywhere I looked, was another smiling face, and the mist and lake and trees all around. It was pure bliss.
Maybe it comes from waiting until your children are older, but I didn't think for a second that Yousuf would be in over his head while I was away. In fact, I came back to a household filled with giggles. When I asked the girls what they did while I was away, Inara looked at Yousuf conspiratorially and said, "Daddy made us waffles (uttered in a reverent whisper) for dinner, Mama. And he hardly ever said 'no' to us the whole time you were gone."

I'd say they did just fine without me, writing their own special story with their father. I can almost hear a grown-up version of Inara and Nissa talking to each other years from now, "Do you remember whenever Mom went away for her Adventure Weekend and Dad would let us .... (insert forbidden activity here). " It will be a cherished memory, for my girls, for my husband, and for me - knowing that I am damn lucky to have a family that loves each other so well. A family indeed worth missing.

I am refreshed, after my weekend away - even if I had to catch up on laundry and dive back right back into the Monday-Friday routine. My girls could scarcely believe all the things I did on my trip, and their eyes widened with surprise as I described finding deer in a forest clearing, hiking up a mountain, sitting in a tiny kayak and watching the mist rise lazily off a lake in the early morning cool, belly dancing with strangers before a huge stone fireplace, discovering that I was right handed but left-eyed when I tried archery for the first time, and drinking in the magical beauty of an outdoor gathering/meditating space:

Wouldn't this be the most beautiful spot for a wedding? 

"Mama, you did so many things!" Inara exclaimed as I paused for a breath. And then she said something that made my heart leap up into my throat and get stuck there, a sensation that feels like falling in love again and again.

"When I grow up, Mama, I want to do all of those things too. I want to be just like you."

I realized that I was wrong when I told myself that I was going away for me. It turns out, I did it for my girls too.


Happy Friday, friends. May you have many adventures of your own to share with the ones you love. xoxoxmahreen

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Getting To Know You.

Firstly, THANK YOU for all the great advice about my Sn(ugly) Chair. It was great to read all of your responses and tips, and I learned so much. For instance, I had no idea that there was such a thing as upholstery spray paint! I looked it up over the weekend, which of course led me down a rabbit hole of weirdness that took strange turns at things like interior car detailing, "after" shots of upholstered chairs that were far WORSE than the "before" ones, and finally a fantastic how-to on how to, get this...paint a wing back chair.

Not with spray paint, either. I'm talking real live actual brush-on paint. It's crazy. And dare I say...fantastic.

I'm still investigating it more to see if it will work for my chair, but it feels like this could be a real possibility. Don't laugh at me yet...just wait for the reveal, then I'll tip my hat off to you and you can go gangbusters as you clutch your sides and the tears roll down your cheeks from laughing.

It shall be great fun! Or something to that effect.

Meanwhile, I'm now nursing myself back from the land of the living snot-infested dead - as my sweet little children were so kind as to share their germies with me over the weekend. I have this mental image of them, walking towards me as snot droobles down their vapid, lifeless faces and they shriek their battle-cry of, "Mama! Mama! I love you!! I vant to suck your bloooood!" (Wait. That's totally not zombie, is it? Great, now I've gotten my undead monsters all mixed up, way to go, George.) and then they infect me with their grossness...

...but I digress.

The point is, that I am two degrees away from death exactly THREE days before I am scheduled to go away with my galpals for a insert drumroll here....Women's Adventure Weekend!

I'll share more about the trip upon my return, but I do want to say it's something that I've never ever done before. It's way out of my comfort zone (my comfort zone being marathon shopping, not marathon outdoor adventuring), but it promises to be a weekend full of great memories made with a few of my most favorite people. Provided I can get better, of course. Did you hear that, body? It's time to STOP BEING SICK. NOW.

It's hard trying to make your body better when you're chasing a toddler around - as I am sure you are well aware. Unfortunately, I was one of those poor naive sods who was living under the misguided notion that once my eldest child was in full day school I would have oodles of free time on my GAWD, how wrong that silly thought was. I feel like I have less time than ever!

My days are now spent in a sort of revolving-door that involves drop offs, pick ups, and trying to cram in as many errands and activities as possible in between. I feel badly about hauling Nissa along for a lot of the not-so-fun daily chores, but at the same time, I'm enjoying our alone time a great deal. The downside is that there is less time than ever for me, which includes blogging. It's a problem, people...but I am working very hard to keep this creative outlet. I need it for my own sense of sanity, for my own sense of self.

In the meantime however, I am lucky enough to get lots of alone time with this delightful little girl:

I'm learning all about Nissa during our time together - and I have to tell you, she is certainly one cool chick. Nissa has become my little bestie, we hang out and share inside jokes wherever we go, making the most of her perpetually good mood (except for when I miss nap time - which tends to happen when we're having too much fun!).

A special date with Daddy, who also gets to spend lots of alone time with Nissa on his day off.

I had honestly forgotten what a joy two year-olds are to be around. There is a sense of maturity to Nissa's being, she is fiercely independent (more so than her sister was at the same age), yet she still likes to be smooched in public. She is adventurous and bold, yet easy-going and laid back. She's always up for whatever the day has in store, and I find our time together flying by as I discover more about her blossoming personality. I wonder who this bouncing little sprite will become, what her likes and dislikes will be, how she will view the world and her own very special place in it...

(Only a two year-old would think that cleaning up is fun. Partay time!)

We don't say cheese. We say, AHHHHHHHH! It's what all the cool kids are doing.

Inara always asks what Nissa and I did together while she was away at school, and on some days we have a lot to share. But on other days, the ones where we haven't gone to music class or grocery shopping or to the library, the days when we just get to be together, those are the days that are harder to describe... and yet they are far richer in experiences. Nissa and I always give each other a look on those days, and then shrug. "Not much", we say...but we mean something else entirely:

DANCE PARTY! or, "Shay-kah shay-kah booty!" as Nissa likes to say.

I love being with you, kiddo. I love everything you are, in this very moment. I love that you are my daughter, and I am so lucky that I get to be your mama.

Friday, September 23, 2011

DIY Design: The Sn(ugly) Chair.

My girls and I spent much of the week curled up together - both of the girls were sick and they needed some intensive Mama TLC to get better.  It definitely helped to have a nice big chair to curl up in...

...poor sick kiddos!

The chair is something I've been meaning to tell you about. I've been looking at our living room for some time now, and I've been thinking that it is missing something but not quite sure what. We currently have a tiny IKEA sofa and armchair (Klippan and Tullsta, respectively) in the room, and not much else...unless you count the toys that are threatening to take over my house. That back corner between the two windows was basically dead space, and we've been wanting more seating for when guests come over. In my mind's eye, I could see an upholstered wing back chair with a really modern print, but they are really way too expensive for our budget (our budget is IKEA Klippan and Tullsta!).

When a friend of mine suggested that I look on Craigslist, I laughed out loud, thinking I'd find only really dated furniture. So what? Was my wise friend's response. Ummm, excuse me? And that was how the plan to re-upholster an old chair was born....

Now, I have absolutely no idea how to go about doing this, but I do have the internet and a very handy friend who has promised to hold my hand (and my pliers and staple gun) as I bleed, sweat and probably curse my way through this project. What the heck, I thought. Let's do it! Yousuf thinks this whole exercise is nuts (which is code for "don't spend too much money!"), so I'm going to have to prove him wrong. It should be fun, right?

But first I needed a chair. A really cheap, but not so cheap that it was gross, chair.

Craigslist is a DIY'ers fantasy brought to life. Even in the quiet little market where I live, you can find absolutely anything. The chair that I settled on was going for $75, which was a bit more than what I had intended to pay, but I liked the overall shape of it and also that the ad said that it was in almost-new condition.

It was the first time that I ever made a Craigslist purchase on my own - Yousuf is usually the haggler, but as this was my project, I decided to go for it myself. Aside from the 90's green color, the chair was in great condition, and get this, El Cheapitan - I even haggled the price down to $60!!

Off to a good start, I'd say!

So we've been living with this GREEN chair in our living room for about a week. It's really comfortable, it makes a lovely accent piece and I love it's vintage lines.

I do not however, love the color. At all.

GREEEEEEN. I'd call it Pondscum, but that name's already taken by our van (which was another used purchase) The birds are a-chirpin': CHEAPY CHEAPY CHEAP!

But there is definitely the potential for character with this piece...I just have to figure out what fabric will look really fantastic, and oh - also how to reupholster the chair. No biggie.

So, if you have any great upholstery advice, websites, links, videos - hit me! I could also use help with my fabric choices too. It needs to be durable for sure, and I'm thinking no geometric patterns because lining up all that fabric in the right direction will give me a heart attack.

I'm envisioning the walls in my living room to be a very pale grey (gray for you Canadiurns). The IKEA sofa is in the process of being re-covered to a slightly deeper grey, to pick up the silver tones in these fantabulous pillows that I just snagged for sale off of West Elm. Hello, lovelies. I'm so loving this Indigo hue right now:

And then there is the IKEA Tullsta chair to deal with as well. It needs a new cover too - but thinking about all these different pieces and what fabrics to choose has me overwhelmed, which is SO WEIRD. Finding design inspiration is usually not so difficult for me, but I think I'm afraid of making an irreversibly horrible choice in my own home.

So - here is my Design SOS! Or, you can just sit back and watch how this whole thing unfolds. I'll keep you updated as the process develops.

But for now...I'm going back to doing more of this:

(I kind of adore it when my babies get all sniffly and need a little extra Mama love. The new chair helps to make it all extra comfy!)

Happy Weekend!
p.s. I just came across this fabulous website, it's called InCircle Interiors, and they offer design advice online to fit tight budgets. How neat! I thought I'd pass it along in case any of you are interested. xoxoxmahreen

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Hiney Woes.

My friends, last week - in all it's entirety - kicked my hiney.

And if you must know, I have quite an ample hiney (I blame genetics, and chocolate, and cheese. And bread. Oh, and ice cream! Can't forget the ice cream!), so you can trust me when I say that if my hiney received some kickage, and I felt said kickage on said ample hiney...that it was a really rough week.

My hiney actually hurts just thinking about it.

Fatima Mustafa, aka my mom, hopped on a train from Toronto when she sensed the desperation bordering on hysteria in my voice early last week. It was a blessing to have her here, and it helped immensely. For three days, I didn't have to feel guilty about abandoning one child in order to care for the other. Nobody felt left out, nobody acted out because they felt like they weren't getting my attention. It was all good in the 'hood.

And yet, the week still kicked my hiney.

It's because kindergarten is upsetting the very delicate balance of MY LIFE. We were teetering on the precipice here at the George household, looking out over the abyss and imagining that it was filled with sparkles and glitter and magical unicorns and happy friendly school vibes.

But it totally, utterly, completely, wasn't.

They abyss looked back at us last week and then reared it's ugly head and roared ANXIETY FEAR TEARS MAMA AM I GOING TO HAVE TO BACK TO SCHOOL EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE?!?!?!?!?!? OH NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

They (And by they I mean people that know more about parenting than me - which is like, everyone.) say that the second week of school is actually harder than the first. And sure enough, once the novelty of the school situation wore away and and was replaced by the tedium of sleep eat change school home eat change (bath optional) sleep, it really wasn't so much fun any more.

We're getting there though, with fewer tears every day - but lord almighty, is it ever hard. I feel like every moment of my life last week revolved around this gigantic spinning tornado, and I was grabbing onto anything solid every second of the day, trying not to get sucked into the chaos. It was so completely exhausting, the tears and the routine and the handling of every fragile emotion in a way that didn't end in someone bursting out in tears or banging little fists against the walls, floor, or me...and urgh. I just hope that we hit our school groove soon.

Nissa misses Inara SO MUCH. I miss her too, but the depths of Nissa's despair upon seeing Inara off to school every day is absolutely heart wrenching. I'm trying to re-learn all my toddler-entertainment tricks, but man, are my skills rusty. I love hanging out with my two year-old though, it's as if we are re-discovering each other in a whole new way, I'm learning things about my youngest child that I had no idea about previously.

Like last week, I learned that:

- Nissa loves green beans.
- Nissa compliments any outfit I try on in a changing room. She says I look like a "fancy lady", even when the pants are about two sizes too small for my (as I am sure you are well aware of by now) very ample hiney.
- Nissa wears her sunglasses upside down, every single time. She insists that this is the correct way to wear them, every single time.
- Nissa is all kinds of hilarious, and her sense of humor is fantastically well-developed. She can be dry and sarcastic in one instant, and be making farting sounds the next, all while giving me a look that says, Come on, Mama. Try to keep up with me here.

Nissa has been having a hard time napping lately, and I think it has to do with Inara going away. But last week I told her that as soon as she woke up from her nap we would be going to get Inara, and just like that - problem solved. Little sister understands a lot more than I give her credit for.

It hasn't been all awful, it's just been insanely busy. There were times last week when I felt like we could so do this school thing, and that given the right amount of time - everything would be a-okay.

Here is a brief run-down of positives, because it's good for me to keep all these in mind when I'm yelling at my kids and stuffing their faces full of breakfast muffins so that we can get to school on time (is anyone else dealing with morning slowpokes? Please say that I'm not the only one!):

- Inara loves with a capital L covered in goopy wet kisses to infinity her teacher. I am so SO thrilled for her.
- In spite of a slightly rocky second day (she got pushed on the playground, resulting in a scratched cheek), Inara has overcome so many of her own anxieties about school, and she hasn't missed a single day because of it.
- I have found a great way to alleviate all of our stress - humor. I make funny faces at Nissa when we drop Inara off, and instead of a love note at lunch (which was reminding Inara of me in an "I need Mama RIGHT NOW" kind of way), she gets a Joke Of The Day. I found out on Friday that her classmates and teacher all look forward to her reading them aloud. Awesome.
-  At the end of last week, we discussed Inara's feelings about school. She told us that when she comes home, no matter how tough of a day it has been, the feeling she feels the most when she finishes a day of PRIDE.

Oh yeah, baby. So take THAT, last week. I am laughing my backside off, in all of it's magnificence, in your general direction. And oh, how good it feels to laugh.

p.s. - approximately twenty minutes after writing this post, Nissa threw up in my lap. Sigh. Looks like it's going to be another loooooong week.
p.p.s. - approximately 4 hours after writing this post, I fell asleep and had the strangest dream about Matt Damon leading my next book club meeting. This has nothing to do with anything, other than to remind you that my mind is a strange and bizarre place. And that I love Matt Damon.

Sweet dreams of waking up to get Big Sister from school - and by the way, no more puking, please.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Champion Of Kindergarten.

So, guys...she did great. No, great isn't an accurate description. Inara ROCKED her first day of kindergarten.

I always remember it raining on the first day of school. Even if we had a summer filled with nothing but sunny skies, as soon as September hit it would pour buckets, especially on the first day. Sure enough, yesterday was no exception. But the grey skies didn't put a damper on my kindergartner's spirits. She bounded down the hall with eager anticipation, not minding the squelch squirch squeak of our footsteps.

(Yousuf got more than a little soaked. Poor guy doesn't have any hair to absorb the rain, you know.)

And the rest, as they say, was history. She could barely sit still, wanting to explore the class, eat her snack, and basically you know, just get on with it, already. Especially when we posed for pictures and I almost suffocated her with the sheer desire of never wanting her to grow up:

 Okay, mom. Enough, already.
In fact, the only person who had any major issues was little sister, who got grumpier and grumpier as the morning progressed. She felt slighted when she didn't get a morning snack and therefore tried to steal Inara's...

 ...and even grumpier when Inara said that she was ready for me to leave and I channelled every ounce of my being into not crying in front of my big, brave, amazingly grown up girl.

Nissa remained grumpy until the car, when she went straight into morose without any warning. I had no idea that it would affect her so deeply, but being without Big Sis was the most heartbreaking thing that had ever happened to her. She couldn't understand why we weren't going BACK to get Inara right away.

And to tell you the truth, I spent much of my day wondering the same thing. I spent the day puttering around, carrying Nissa and convincing her that Inara was okay (but I was really convincing myself), and half-wanting her school to call me to come and get her early. Thankfully, they never did. And when I went to go pick her up later that afternoon, she was SO proud of herself. She was The Champion Of Kindergarten, she said.

I have to agree with her assessment of the experience. Inara kicked all kinds of...well, you know what I mean. She didn't even MISS ME, that's how great of a day she had. Her teacher confirmed it all, which leads me to believe that she is now officially a Big Kid. Sniff, sniff, I'm trying very hard not to have "a moment" as I type that. We couldn't have asked for a better start, and I am so awed by how grown up she seems today. For today I am the mother of the Champion of Kindergarten. It's a big deal around these parts.

Aside: You will notice in the above picture, that my girlie is NOT wearing the nice black mary janes that we hunted all over the known universe for. Nay, instead, she insisted on wearing her old, treadless, beaten-up Fancy Nancy sneaks...and I let her. Because she is the Champion Of Kindergarten, and who am I to argue with that?

The night before the first day of school, Nissa was so forlorn. I had told her that Inara was going to school the next day and she vehemently shook her head at all of us insisting, "She NOT go to school tomowwow. Nanu stay HERE." Then, she walked over to Inara and held her hand while she looked up at her and said, "I miss you, Nanu. I miss you tomowwow."

Inara hugged her little sister very tightly and said to her in a soft voice, "I'm going to kindergarten now, Issie. I can't spend every day with you anymore. But I'll always come home to you. I promise."

Gawd, I thought to myself. Just kill me now.

This growing up thing is going to take some getting used to.

Thanks for all the wonderful comments, emails and messages, friends. I read every one and cherished every word. Thank you for going through this with me. I feel like we all sent my big girl off to school, together. xoxoxmahreen

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