Cyclic

Lately I have been throwing myself into projects around here full-tilt. Just doing stuff, getting shit done. For a while I thought it was because I wanted to get the house looking closer to the “after” image in my head before guests descend for Olive’s birthday, but I realized tonight that it’s more than that.

Olive and I had an off day. She woke late and was grumpy and tetchy – I think she is getting a cold. She was a stage-five clinger all morning and then didn’t nap. Just…wouldn’t. Even though her being grumpy is a sure sign of being tired, and being sick is even more reason to get some rest. But we read our books and had a cuddle and peed on the potty and drank water and got tucked in eight times in eight different configurations and I rubbed her back and sang the Baby Blues song and then it all went downhill and I think I shouted in exasperation something like, “Go to SLEEP! Seriously, Olive. This is RIDICULOUS.”

Because shouting at toddlers is a sure-fire way to get them to sleep.

After an hour I gave up. Do you know how hard that is? To give up on a nap? I live and die by the nap. No nap means that not only does your hour or two of solo time, the time when you get shit done, disappear, but your already-grumpy toddler will only become ever more grumpy as bedtime approaches. Because she’s overtired now.

And although it probably would have been a good idea to get out of the house on our big walk we usually do in the afternoons, the thought of thirty minutes of dressing her and then having to take her to pee and then fighting to equip her with socks and shoes and a sweater and then having to take her to pee again and then wanting a sandwich (she has this thing about sandwiches lately. We don’t even really eat sandwiches but she is asking for them non-stop. I don’t know.)

I just couldn’t muster the energy, so we squandered a beautiful sunny fall day by grumping around inside. And I attempted to get some stuff done with her awake, painting baseboards and replying to emails and writing (ha!) but it was all in all a sort of off-putting and frousty day.

I am writing from a place of privilege. I know this. Right now I have everything I have ever wanted. Being able to stay at home with Olive is honestly a dream come true.

You are expecting a “but…”. There is no “but..”, but there is an “and”.

Being a stay-at-home mom to Olive is a dream come true, and it is challenging in ways I did not expect. And as I sat back after she had (finally, in a blaze of glory) gone to sleep tonight I realized that it’s because I often feel like I have nothing to show for my efforts.

At the end of the day, if I don’t take on a visible project like painting the baseboards, there is no tangible way to see how I spent my day. Dishes were washed and dried, but more dirty ones soon replaced them. Laundry was put away but there’s a fresh load hung to dry and the hampers are filling. Gus has molted all over the hallway I swept this morning. The fridge empties and is filled, the recycling gets taken out.

Things just cycle, endlessly.

I find beauty in these cycles because for me, the most routine-less of routine-less ladies, being able to keep to even the most bare-bones of schedules (wake up, eat breakfast, clean up, play, eat lunch, put Olive down for her nap, go on a big walk, make dinner, put Olive to bed) is a mammoth achievement. With a child you can’t simply not eat all day. You can’t sleep in till all hours, you can’t lose eight hours to a book you intended to read for just ten minutes. There is an external force governing your days, and how reassuring it is. How reassuring she is.

Here when I wake up, here when I go to bed.

Yet it’s all just…invisible.

“What did you do today?”

I mothered. I got her dressed and made her laugh and remembered where she left HeMan. I ran with her to the potty and washed her hands dozens of times. Fed her, cleaned her up, taught her table manners. Dressed her again after she undressed. Hugged her when she bonked her head. Played Cave Baby and Witch and Horse and sat at the front window watching for fire trucks. I stopped her from eating dog food again, soothed tantrums without bending boundaries, read eighteen books. Cleaned up after her, fed her, put her to sleep.

I did the same thing I do every day, sometimes in a different order.

Sometimes we walk in the morning.

Projects give me a way to make my mark, and how lucky I am that they are so small and so pleasing. A coat of white paint. A rescued shelf. A filing cabinet painted yellow.

I’m not sure where I am going with this. Just running the irony of it over and over again in my mouth. We, many of us, have children to make a mark on the world. To pass on knowledge and create kind, responsible, creative human beings to make up the next generation.

But the process of making a mark means several years of not really getting anything done, by your former standards at least.

No one can vouch for what I did today. I could have spent the whole thing sleeping with Olive glued to the TV and no one would know the difference. We’re banking these hours and weeks and years in the hopes that they will make a difference later, when we see them grown up, all of these kind and responsible and creative little souls. Grown into people who, through our efforts and the cumulative effect of these thousands of cyclic days, love big walks and take comfort in reading. People who go to the bathroom by themselves and wash their hands without being reminded. People who are empathetic, and perhaps don’t shout at almost-sick almost-two-year olds and tell them they are being “RIDICULOUS! SERIOUSLY!”

In the meantime, I am painting.

Resist

Resist - SweetMadeleine.ca

Cree Proverb

I have four sisters, and they are a feisty, motley sort of crew. Among our ranks –  us five feisty  Somerville Sisters- we count medical office assistants and midnight chefs, burlesque performers, world travelers, internet oversharers (oh, hello there!), and then, then we have Hilary.

Hilary is the second youngest, the most brazen and wild. She is a lovely, witchy, transient, creature. She has always had a powerful voice – a few years ago she appointed herself the “Family Mouthpiece: Saying what everyone was thinking”.

She has used this voice for many myriads of things over the years – acting, singing, performing in slam poetry competitions. But for over a year now she has lent this powerful voice to a cause she feels deeply about. A cause that feel deeply about.

The issues surrounding pipelines, fracking, energy use, the see-saw of corporate greed and responsibility vs. the unalterable fact that we are tearing up the very world we need to survive  – these are not small things. They are not easily understood nor easily solved, and for most of us I think it is simpler to just absent ourselves from the conversation. We read the headlines and pass by the protests, we have some vague convictions about what is right and what is wrong but we plead ignorance or apathy – myself included.

It just seems too much. Too big. Too insurmountable.

If you want somewhere to begin, this is a good place. Last July, Hilary, alongside David Goldberg and Eli Hirtle, traveled to Northern British Columbia to film a short documentary on the efforts of grassroots Unis’to’ten people occupying unceded Native land in order to resist the sprawl of pipelines barreling through the province. She asked me to share it with you.

It is a short film, under 30 minutes, but a powerful one. Even Adam, more fond of shoot ‘em up action thrillers with lots of spandex and cheesy one liners, turned to me mid-film and said, “This is really well done.”

I won’t say any more, I’ll let the video itself do the talking.

 

 

These issues, in my eyes, go beyond land claims, natural gas pipelines, or profit. They speak to a shared history of abuse, colonization, and mistreatment of people indigenous to Canada. It’s our dirty little secret. We like being known as the nice guys, up here with our toques and our maple syrup, apologizing for everything and always saying please.

Except when we stripped an entire culture of their language, their homes, and their families. Except when we took – often forcefully –  what was not ours to ask for. Not ours to insist upon.

Canada operated residential schools from 1876 to 1996. Indigenous children were removed from their parents and taken to live at schools staffed by strangers who didn’t look like them, didn’t have the same history or culture or language. These children were punished for speaking their native tongues. They endured years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

Their cultures, and our country as a whole, are still reeling from the effects.

We, as many countries, have a shameful history. The Unist’ot’en people have managed to escape it in some small, but significant, ways. Their territory is unceded, meaning it has never been sold or appropriated by the Provincial or Federal governments. This grassroots group of Unist’ot’en people are asserting their ownership over the land in order to protect it, renew their old ways of life, and attempt to regain what so many have lost.

I think this story, and the film that tells it, is incredibly important to watch regardless of where you stand on the issue.

I am so proud of Hilary for lending her voice to such a worthwhile cause. I am proud of her as a big sister, and also as a Canadian.

 

For more information about the grassroots Unist’ot’en Action Camp, or to support their efforts, visit http://www.resistfilm.com/ 

My favourite room

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

 

It makes me so happy seeing her in here, her “big girl room”. Up to this point she had always slept in a crib in our room. And I am unashamed to admit that I may have quietly crept in and slept in the matching twin bed every so often for the first few weeks we lived here.

You know, so she wouldn’t be lonely.

It was for HER.

The twin beds were left by the previous owner, I refurbished the dresser before she was born, and all of the gorgeous hand crafted things filling her space are from her not-a-nursery here.

I used some of my suitcases as a toybox, and the big basket on her dresser houses our rotating assortment of library books.

Let the pictures BEGIN!

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

Olive's Big Girl Room - SweetMadeleine.ca

It’s not really anything fancy or Pinterest worthy. It’s just a really simple, happy room.

I’m going to get cheesy here for a moment and say that literally whenever I see Olive in here, I become incredibly grateful that we are able to provide this space for her. For so long I felt horrible that she was so rootless. And I know that she probably loved being in a room with us for so long, and being around family, too- but the thrill I get when people come over and she races to show them her big girl room, is indescribable.

(Also indescribable? People’s faces when she gives them the grand tour and points at one bed and says “Olive’s big girl bed!” and then points to the other and says, “Papa’s big girl bed!”

He and O had an epic pretend sleeping game one day, and now the bed is forever called Papa’s Big Girl Bed.

Never change, Olive. Never change.)