Saturday, June 18, 2005

Missing The Connection...

Funny how sometimes being apart can make you appreciate someone even more. This has been a tricky year with Nick taking a Vice-Principalship at a rural K-12 school about 40 km (20 minutes) from home. We remained a one van family by choice, but that also meant juggling things around sometimes or the girls and I taking the occasional taxi. I also learned to cope with longer hours on my own with the girls. Most mornings, Nick left before 7 am and got home after 5 pm. I know this pales when compared to what most parents in major centers lose to commuting time etc., but it was quite a switch from the family schedule we had the year before.

Since I was lucky enough to marry my best friend, I also found it hard when I couldn’t do much to help him adjust to what was less than a welcoming atmosphere at the new complex. It made me mad to see how hard he was working to help solve problems and not really getting the support he needed. Especially when he had gone down to that school at the request of the District, giving up a nice position at a great school in order to help the District as a whole.

With the school year almost over, and the objectivity of having spent a week away at my Mom’s, I can now see what a great learning experience this year has been for Nick. Even the darker moments taught him things about how he will or won’t run a school once he has a chance to become a Principal. It has also re-affirmed for me why I chose the type of career that I did while the girls are younger, so that I can be there when they get off the bus and help them with homework etc. Yes, sometimes that means staying up late to complete work after they go to bed, but they won’t be this age forever. Rereading my Mom’s collection of For Better Or Worse comic anthologies has reminded me of that.

It is great to know that after almost 16 years of marriage and 21 years of being together, I can miss someone so completely. I have missed all of the chats with my best friend this week, even though we have tried to call each other amid the chaos. Nick very rarely gets that “alone head space” time that I do when I go to trade shows or have an empty house all to myself during the day to get work done. I hope it has been restful in some way for him as the hectic pace of school closing time tries to run all teachers ragged.

When you marry someone, you really do create a bond/fusion of two lives that, if you work hard enough, are lucky enough and support each other enough, stands apart from other family bonds. You remember and love those who gave you live and with whom you grew up. You love, nurture and raise your children until they go off to have lives of their own. But through it all, around it all and in spite of it all, remains the bond that you forge as the years go by. I can’t wait to get home to my friend, my partner and my love!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Our Family Just got Bigger!!!

What an exciting day! Owen Charles Aikman was born at 11:45 am this morning in Lausanne, Switzerland and we’ve already seen pictures via e-mail. The girls are thrilled to have a new baby cousin and “Aunty Dragon” is counting the days until I can hold my new nephew in August when my brother, his wife Anne, Juliette and Owen come to Ottawa for my cousin’s wedding.

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a family where connections are important and blood matters, but Nick and I have also had the wonder of having new people join our family as all of our parents remarried after divorces and in my case, I ended up with a new brother and sister!

Family can be ties of blood, but there can also be people who come into our lives and hearts who become as close or closer than family we are born into. The ties that bind us are what make our lives richer... and Owen Charles is the latest treasure in our lives. Welcome into this big, bright, wonderful world with all its adventures and challenges. I cannot wait to meet you in person and watch you grow up!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Making The Time To Make Memories,,,

Considering that I will be turning 40 this fall, it is kind of impressive to still be able to visit my grandfather whenever I get back to Quebec. This morning, we packed up all of the ingredients for lunch, car toys, books, knitting (I get car sick if I stitch in the car, but my stitching came along too!) and headed off to Montreal, about 2 hours away from Sherbrooke. We ran into heavy rain and big city traffic about half an hour out of the city, so we were almost 40 minutes later getting to his house than we’d planned.

Grampy still lives in the house that he and my grandmother bought more than half a century ago. It is the only house from my childhood that I still have any tangible link to, since Nick and I have now lived longer in our own house than in any place we spent time as children. At 93, Grampy is getting a bit frailer and a bit more absent minded each time I see him, but what a gift for both of my girls to have such detailed memories about their great-grandfather. He was the one to inspire 3 other generations of art loving people and we had a great time doing some sketches to leave behind for him.

The brief hours of the visit flew by, but they were filled with hugs, photos, laughter and memory making moments before the long drive back to Sherbrooke. Was it worth spending the 4 hours on the road to be there today? Of course! Each visit is made more precious by the knowledge that this pilgrimage will not last forever. I spent time as an artist today capturing some of my favourite spots or architectural elements around the house forever on film, and time as a granddaughter, with my arms draped around thinner shoulders, capturing the moments and memories forever in my heart.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Magic Of Taking The Train...

The girls and I arrived safely in Quebec EARLY this morning after a wonderful train ride up to my Mom & John’s. Both girls just love taking the train, especially when we can get the bedroom with the 3 beds. When I looked at how long the school year was this year and how badly Nick needed time to do all the end of year paperwork, file writing etc., I decided that instead of going to Columbus and leaving him in charge of everything, I would pack up my work, pull the girls out of school for a week and leave him with an empty house, no fixed schedule and the chance to work late or eat out of a pot over the sink to save on dishes whenever he felt like it.

So as soon as Erin’s last school project for report cards was completed, we got ready to go! We boarded the train last night before supper in Moncton and waved goodbye to Nick, then settled into the sleeper room. Bethany has to take the couch that converts into the bed because I need place to hang my toes over the end of the other bottom bed and Erin always claims the upper bunk bed, but this time she was kind enough to let Bethany come up for a few minutes of play time.

Our meals were included on this section of the trip because the only way the 3 bedroom car was available was as part of a special “touring package”. It meant that we went down to the dining car for dinner (a luxury we probably would have avoided otherwise) for a wonderful gourmet meal. They did have a children’s menu for Bethany that offered her a small personal pepperoni pizza, a glass of cherry kool-aid and a pudding cup, but not being used to the rocking motion of the train caused an immediate kool-aid catastrophe on the first sip. Boom! Bright pink drink all over the nice white linen napkin in her lap and halfway down her shirt. She began to cry, of course, in that 6 year old mix of sadness & embarrassment spurred on my by cry of “Oh, Bethany!” but then a lovely waitress came over to comfort her and told her that often SHE was a mess by the end of the night if the train lurched while she was serving food! She brought Bethany another warm roll to munch on and made such an impression that Bethy went up to her later to say “Thank you for making me feel better!”.

After dinner, we went for a ride in the observation car to watch the sunset near the Baie des Chaleurs. Erin, or course, was hoping to see the famous burning ghost ship, while Bethany was more interested in the new game of Pokemon Emerald that I’d purchased for us to play on the trip. Knowing that excitement would keep them awake and wiggly, I didn’t push the jammies until almost 9:30. They wanted to have a paint the nails party, but I managed to explain that Mommy couldn’t possibly do a good job while the train was so wobbly. I am severely challenged at putting nail polish on when everything is still...

Finally, around 10:15, both girls each told me a story before I told them one and we all fell asleep to the rocking motion of the train. Waking up at 5:30 am to get a quick breakfast (also included in our ticket worth eating) wasn’t too bad because Quebec is on EST... so it was 6:30 for us. I am sure that we’ll all be in bed early tonight!!