Category Archives: traditions

Portrait of Christmas Past

I bought the first stocking long before we were even trying to have a baby. Red felt with white snowflakes across the top, a happy reindeer, and one word across the toe: JOY. When we finally had our very own bundle of joy, we put his chubby, four-month-old self right into the stocking and used the photo for our Christmas card.

It was fitting, because stockings have always been my favourite part of Christmas morning.

The next year, he couldn’t fit IN the stocking of course, but we dressed him in some festive jammies and a Santa hat, and he held the stocking that once held him.

It became our own little tradition. By the fourth year, there was another baby boy, and another stocking: a sweet snowman with bell at the top of his jaunty red hat. The brothers wore matching pjs: blue, with red santas. Big brother’s smile in the photo that year revealed a grey tooth, which he’d bruised in a fall. Little brother, barely two months old, had no visible neck.

Each year it continued: different jammies, same stockings. Digital photography meant we could take as many shots as necessary to get the perfect one. Which was good, because some years it took more than 100 to get one where both boys were smiling, had their eyes open, and weren’t making a goofy face. The outtakes are as precious as the final portrait. But the best part was always seeing my two beautiful boys, arms around each other’s shoulders.

This year, I let the boys help me choose the pajamas they would wear for the photo. And though they went with “cool snowboarder” over “cute snowman”, it seemed like at 8 and 11, they were still happy to continue the tradition.

But cue all the versions of Landslide, because the annual photo shoot didn’t go as planned, and I don’t think there will be another sitting.

Just like that, things change.

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Twenty Questions (2015 Version)

Inspired by my late friend, Tracy Chappell, I ask the boys the same twenty questions each year around their birthdays. It’s a fun tradition (they now ask, “when do we answer those questions?” and insist I include pauses and “ums”!) and I love comparing how their responses change (or don’t!) year over year. So in honour of BB#1’s eleventh birthday (I can’t believe it’s been a year since I wrote him this! or that his baby brother is going on eight!), I’m finally posting (it’s been a busy year, more about that later!)

Look back at:

2012

2013

2014

1.What is your favourite color?

BB#1: Green. I think.

BB#2: Probably, I don’t know, purple.

2. What is your favourite toy?

BB#1: Lego?

BB#2: Lego and my Bionicle six arms awesome guy.

3. What is your favourite fruit?

BB#1: Peaches I guess?

BB#2: Peaches and strawberries.

4. What is your favourite TV show?

BB#1: Wakfu. That’s pretty much the only TV show that I watch. [This is a French show he watched on Netflix this summer. We don’t have cable.]

BB#2: (long pause) I don’t know. [See above]

5. What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch?

BB#1: I have no idea. Crepes I guess.

BB#2: Pizza.

6. What is your favourite outfit?

BB#1: My black pants that are like jeans and a t-shirt, and maybe a hoodie with a zipper.

BB#2: My all-black outfit.

7. What is your favourite game?

BB#1: I going to say a board game because that’s easier. I think Apples to Apples.

BB#2: Spore. [A computer video game]

8. What is your favourite snack?

BB#1: Crackers and cheese.

BB#2: Dried mangoes.

9. What is your favourite animal?

BB#1: Crested gecko. That one’s easy.

BB#2: A snake. [He wants a milk snake as a pet…]

10. What is your favourite song?

BB#1: I can’t decide between “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zepplin or “One” by Metallica.

BB#2: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.

11. What is your favourite book?

BB#1: The Kill Order from the Maze Runner series.

BB#2: Harry Potter. [We’re currently reading Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix together.]

12. Who is your best friend?

BB#1: I don’t have a best friend, I have only a bunch of friends.

BB#2: I have two, Jason and Kian.

13. What is your favourite sport?

BB#1: Snowboarding.

BB#2: Basketball, soccer and football.

 14. What is your favourite thing to do outside?

BB#1: Snowboard.

BB#2: Swimming and biking.

15. What is your favourite drink?

BB#1: Pina colada.

BB#2: Lime smoothies, like the ones at Cuba. [Where we spent March Break, and also drank pina coladas. Virgin, naturally!]

16. What is your favourite holiday?

BB#1: Christmas? No, Halloween, Halloween is my favourite holiday.

BB#2: My birthday. [Last I checked, still not a national holiday…]

 17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?

BB#1: My big dog.

BB#2: My one of my tiny dogs and my biggest dog.

Note: all of these dogs are of the stuffed variety.

 18. What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast?

BB#1: A bagel with cheese. Unless it’s a super egg sandwich, with ribs on it and bacon and cheese. Because I love that.

BB#2: Waffles!

 19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday?

BB#1: (shrugs) Steak I guess. I can’t decide. We kind of eat everything that’s special treat dinner every few weeks. So steak or salmon. [We’re having steak.]

BB#2: Pizza, ribs, or filet mignon.

 20. What do you want to be when you grow up?

BB#1: A rock star? Or a professional snowboarder.

BB#2: A singer.

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This is 40

I had my first child just weeks before my thirtieth birthday. It’s a decade later, and that baby just pointed out that I am now four times older than him. My thirties were unquestionably all about my children, and have therefore gone by incredibly fast.

My husband would tell you I tend toward being a pessimist, so I could whine about getting older, declare that I will no longer have birthdays, start looking for wrinkles (I’ve been finding white hairs since I was twenty-six so…) But it is Thanksgiving here in the Great White North, so instead I’ll focus on being lucky to have reached forty. I’m healthy, have a great husband, amazing kids and a supportive family. What’s to complain about? Sure we’ve spent ten years in our “starter home”. In the meantime I’ve gone back to school, started a new career, been able to stay home with our kids at least part of the time these last few years. It’s all too easy for me to be envious of others, but the fact is we have all that we need, and more. Besides, forty is the new thirty, right?

This weekend we took the boys to an amusement park, and while on one of the rollercoasters I couldn’t help but think of the movie Parenthood. I may not run for the biggest, fastest coasters these days, but I’m not restricting myself to the merry-go-round either. And I’m pretty sure that being “over the hill” just means there are more ups, downs, twists and turns coming up a little further along the track.

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My Kid Just Said (Part 32)

“What is the other name for Santa again? Nick Fury or something?” BB#1, 9 years old.

Clearly we have failed in our Christmas teachings.

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Who Cancelled Halloween?

Being the new kid is always hard, but when friends of ours moved out of the neighborhood recently, their two girls looked on the bright side: they would finally be allowed to wear costumes to school on Halloween! Their previous school is notorious for not allowing observation of any holidays, and even schedules picture day on October 31 (I can only guess to discourage kids from skirting the rules by wearing orange and black or any other Halloween-themed items). While I get why the administration might have done this, to be honest, I’ve never met parents of kids attending this school who are happy about the complete absence of celebrations there.

Meanwhile, my children have attended two different schools only minutes away, and have always been allowed to wear costumes to school on Halloween (though the ban on masks and weapons and weapon-like accessories has meant BB#1 has worn a plain black robe twice now, once as a wandless Ron Weasley and once as a sytheless grim reaper). Same neighborhood, same diverse population, same public school board—different rules.

I’m not certain how I feel about banning Halloween in public schools. Like many others my age, I remember being excited about going to school in costume, doing Halloween-themed activities and basically goofing off that day. I’d like for my kids to enjoy that too—what’s wrong with having a little fun now and then? But if it means other kids feel excluded, or some families feel they must keep their children home for the day, is it really worth it? I’m not so sure.

It’s not like my kids wouldn’t have the opportunity to dress up if they weren’t allowed to at school. Halloween isn’t cancelled. Families can still decorate at home, carve a pumpkin, hand out candy, go trick-or-treating if they choose to. I also loved Christmas Concerts back in the day, but have absolutely no problem with schools today having more inclusive Winter Concerts. Again, it’s not like families can’t still observe Christmas if they wish, however they wish—last I checked, schools still close for two weeks around this one day! And while I am personally already looking forward to having the boys home in December, [opens another can of worms] I have to wonder how appropriate it is to continue to build the school calendar around Christian holidays—is that truly reflective of the Canadian population today?

Fortunately, instead of banning holidays and celebrations in an effort not to exclude anyone, the schools my boys have attended take the opposite approach: they celebrate and encourage discussion of a variety of religious and cultural days. And I’d like to think that through learning some of the ways we’re different, children will learn to appreciate the ways we are the same.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to help my kids figure out costumes that are both cool, and acceptable for school…

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Oh, Canada: Change Is Hard

Last year I went with BB#1’s third grade class to a heritage schoolhouse to experience what a typical day was like for children 100 years ago. So we learned about such quaint, outdated practices as corporal punishment, addressing the teacher as “ma’am”, and singing “God Save the King” each morning.

I know: some of you are surprised that once upon a time, our national anthem was not, in fact, “O Canada”! But it’s true! Then times changed. And so did our anthem. It wasn’t actually that long ago either, Canada as it is today is pretty young in the grand scheme of nationhood. And probably, people resisted at first. Probably they said stuff like, “people are oversensitive these days” or “what a silly change” or “why are we rewriting history” or “if we change the anthem to suit one group, pretty soon other groups are going to demand other changes”. Or even “if you don’t like OUR Canada the way it is, get the @#$%! out!”*

Sadly, Twitter and the internet comments sections on news sites didn’t exist back then, so we can never know for sure.** But I think it is safe to assume some people reacted much as they do every time someone makes the suggestion that the lyrics to our current national anthem be changed ever-so-slightly in order to include the other half of our population: you know, our daughters.

What’s particularly ironic is, the lyrics have already been changed at least once. They weren’t actually handed down from on high, written on stone tablets***. We can and do change these kinds of things to reflect the current society (did you know at one time women were denied the vote in this country?) And life goes on. Okay, so “thou dost in us command” might be difficult for modern-day Canadians to sing, but the proposed change to “in all of us command”? Seems like it would roll off the tongue. And hey, we’d get to lose that pesky “thy”! Win-win.

Of course there are always the “there are bigger fish to fry” folks, who suggest activists focus on a more important issue than a few words in a song. Classic distraction technique. Okay then: If it’s no big deal, why not just make the change? Or better yet, let’s change it to “in all thy daughters command”? Because of course, when we say daughters, we really mean “everyone”, don’t be so sensitive! After all, it’s just a word, right?

*to these people, I have to say, in the words of Jack White, even though he was speaking to Americans: “Why don’t you kick yourself out, you’re an immigrant too.” (Unless they are First Nations of course.)

**actually I’m sure there are archived letters and newspaper clippings on the topic, if you would care to do the research.

***which brings up the whole issue of “god” in the anthem of a country where we’re supposed to have a separation of church and state. Let’s just say, I don’t sing that line either, because atheist.

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Twenty Questions (2013 version)

Last year I asked the boys twenty questions. Now that BB#1 is 9 (today!), and BB#2 about to turn 6, I asked them again. Some of the answers have changed, and some have not.

1.What is your favourite color?

BB#1: Either purple, pink or green.

BB#2: Pink.

2. What is your favourite toy?

BB#1: Either Lego, MegaBlocks or Minecraft.

BB#2: Minecraft.

3. What is your favourite fruit?

BB#1: Blueberries.

BB#2: I don’t really have one.

4. What is your favourite TV show?

BB#1: Animaniacs.

BB#2: Um, (“actually write the um part”), Ben 10.

5. What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch?

BB#1: Bacon and egg and chicken and all the other meats on a sandwich with cheese melted on it.

BB#2: Cereal.

6. What is your favourite outfit?

BB#1: I don’t have a favourite outfit, because it’s either my green hoodie with my new [blue] jeans, or my black jeans and my purple hoodie. With a T-shirt under it, I don’t really care which one.

BB#2: I don’t have one.

7. What is your favourite game?

BB#1: Minecraft.

BB#2:Minecraft.

8. What is your favourite snack?

BB#1: Cookies?

BB#2:  Fish crackers.

9. What is your favourite animal?

BB#1: Crested gecko.

BB#2: Chipmunk.

10. What is your favourite song?
BB#1: “Mine it Out” (Minecraft parody song).

BB#2: That one we heard on the way to the cottage, with the lightning thing. (Turns out he meant “Electric Avenue” by Eddy Grant).

11. What is your favourite book?

BB#1: Percy Jackson, the last book. The Last Olympian.

BB#2: Doggies by Sandra Boynton, because it’s the easiest for me.

12. Who is your best friend?

BB#1: Sasha.

BB#2: Andrew (who is actually a close friend of his big brother).

13. What is your favourite sport?

BB#1: Swimming or skiing.

BB#2: I have none.

14. What is your favourite thing to do outside?
BB#1: Play Spy Allan [a game he plays during recess at school. I think Allan may be a classmate…?]

BB#2: Monkey bars.

15. What is your favourite drink?

BB#1: Either root beer, Pepsi or Coke. [which he’s still not allowed to drink]

BB#2: Fruitopia.

16. What is your favourite holiday?

BB#1: Christmas.

BB#2: Halloween.[which makes the fact his tonsillectomy has finally been scheduled for October 30 really, really bad timing!]

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?

BB#1: Books and stuffed animals.

BB#2: My stuffies.

18. What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast?

BB#1: Egg sandwich with bacon and ham.

BB#2: Cereal.

19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday?

BB#1: Steak, the most expensive kind, cooked properly with Barbarian steak salt. [which is in fact what we’ll be having tonight!]

BB#2: Pizza from Pizza Nova.

20. What do you want to be when you grow up?

BB#1: Someone who owns a lot of businesses, and an inventor.

BB#2: I haven’t decided.

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