Wednesday, May 30, 2012
You know what I said about not being ready? We went to the school on Monday and I changed my mind.
It's big. Much bigger than I (or M) have been used to in elementary school (my school was led by nuns, in one -barely- converted aisle of a coventry. There was one class per level, and no kindergarten. Phys Ed was taught in an old chapel. When I started, it had only been 7 years since girls were first allowed to attend).
In LP's school, there is an aisle... just for kindergarten. Six whole classes of them. The vibes were very cheerful and good, with mini-lockers and color everywhere: drawings of parrots reminiscent of Bruno Munari's Zoo, crafts, glitter. LP visited his class with oohs and aahs. He barely noticed when we left, and we heard him ask out loud: "Are we going to visit the whole school"? Which made the (super nice) teacher laugh.
We were taken to one of the three gyms (!), which had a climbing wall. The two principals (a woman -from my hometown!- and a man in their fifties, which were almost cliché in their principal-like apparence and behaviour (I mean that in a good way)) talked and introduced us to some of the personnel and discussed everything we needed to know.
There's a great library. Kids have English-language storytime every week, even starting from when they're 5. There's a school band, and a music room. There's an apparently outstanding drama program for all kids, two hours a week. K-kids go to recess with the 6-graders, and only these two grades together, they told us. My first instinct was, er, why? Won't the big kids hurt and tease and be annoyed by the "babies"? Well, not at all! It's so they can help with the little ones, of course, they said, as if it were the most natural thing in the world! It's part of their "introduction to community involvement and volunteering" program.
All the personnel seemed great. I sometimes hear horror stories of underfunded, overextended school with completely overwhelmed and burnt out resources. I feel extremely bad that it happens because it's awful for the kids and because I think teachers (the ones from daycare too) should be national heroes, but I know unfortunately it does... It was the opposite of that. Each class has, on top of a teacher, a specialized education one ("whose job is mostly to work on social skills and self-esteem") as well as an aide. There are resources like I thought public schools didn't have anymore: a nurse, a language specialist, a development specialist, a psychologist...
When we came back to our son, he was over the moon. He showed us the clown craft and portrait of his family he had made. He seemed, for the first time in a long time, very stimulated in a good way. He loves his daycare and his friends, but I think he's just so ready for the next step now. So ready and eager to learn. We feel completely at ease, and confident that this environment will be beneficial for him. And I hope even more than ever that I can somehow at one point make a part-time/freelancing schedule happen, because I would LOVE to get involved in the school in some way (they have all kinds of possible little tenures for parents).
I'm ready. We feel like it's just one extra blessing brought by our move. I'm excited. I'm borderline disappointed that it's not going to happen for another 3 months.
Monday, May 28, 2012
Montreal is a stylish city, that's for sure. OK so it's not Milan or Paris, but it's still lively and great. I keep getting pleasantly surprised and inspired by the way women (and men!) dress on the street. I would say it's usually more about being put together than it is about originality, but that's an awesome start already.
I'm not going to start posting pics here, but rather use that as a detour to present my absolute favorite Instagram feed: oldmontreal, which publishes archive photos from The Gazette (the local daily English paper) of the city in times past. Each one of them is a true gem, whether of streets and places that don't exist anymore, of the daily life (trams! kids playing in large mounds of debris!), of the construction of landmarks and buildings which are now part of our landscape...
There's also the people, and, by extension, the fashion. Which is just fascinating. I guess it's always been a stylish city.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
We went to my hometown this (long) weekend.
And, for the first time in a very long time, I loved it. Actually, I think I fell in love with it all over again.
The weather was great. I had this idea in the back of my head that it would still be so cold and almost wintery. But it was 33 (low 90s) and sunny, and this is what my dad's garden looked like.
The difference in season really wasn't as big as I thought it would be, too. Newsflash for me: global warming is not just happening here... Even the winters, which are admitedly quite bad, are apparently nothing like the way I remember them from 18 years ago.
I had my 20-year high school reunion, which took place there.
It's the (splendid) ruin of an old paper mill that used to drive the town economically. I hadn't been in years, and thought it was striking.
The reunion in itself was fantastic. Seeing all of these great people (several of whom I'm still in touch with but still) and reminiscing made me really happy. Made me realize again, how despite the remoteness of our town I was very lucky to have such a great and precious teenagehood (I was an indie kid, but we mingled with the metalheads a lot too). It was fun and heart-warming to chat with everyone and realize that they (we) have changed of course but at the same time not that much...
I decided on what to wear two days before (sorry, bad lighting in our new bedroom)
We also had a great time with my dad and stepmom, as well as with my grandma... We went for a walk alongside the river where literally thousands of white goose were nesting, we took the kids to the park in the old port... We even ventured out a little to show the kids the "interior sea"...
But it wasn't even just that. M, who had brought his bike and went for a (very hilly!) 50k ride was extremely impressed at both the landscape and the sheer number and seriousness of the riders there. Made us realize how much quality of life is important and mainstream for these people; due to a combination of closeness to wonderful nature and outdoorsy paradises, prioritizing a healthy lifestyle, and having much more free time than we have...
There was the people, too. We had forgotten how genuinely nice, friendly and relaxed they were. All weekend long, strangers kept striking up conversations with us (M even came back from his ride with a few new "friends"!) Here this happens now and then, but frankly, when it does you always have a split second of assessing whether the person is insane or not...
Of course there isn't a wide variety of jobs there, not to mention we just moved in our dream house, but we still caught ourselves dreaming a bit. Of a life less hurried, of a perhaps simpler existence, but probably one that makes a little more sense, too. Of spending more time as a family. Of 5-minute commutes, and being able to get everywhere in under 10. Of a home that would easily cost us half what we have now. A life far, far, from the horrible traffic that I loathe so much, and far, far from the awful, increasingly worse (as well as increasingly unsettling and scary) civil unrest we've been experiencing here as of late.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
As far as animals are concerned, we mostly only see common (finches, sparrows, etc.) birds on the golf. It's expansive but still enclosed within an (sub)urban area, so I don't think there's much of a way for lots of fauna to thrive there. Still, I've seen wild hare a few times (we have occasionally seen them in our front yard at the old house too, as well as racoons and a porcupine), and this morning, I've seen a whole nursery of baby Canada goose...
So the picture is not the best, because I couldn't get much closer to them, but they were really cute! There were about a dozen of them, with four adult ones. I had never seen them this close -they were impressive, and much taller than I had imagined. Very gracious, too -quite swan-like, but with an everyday outfit instead of a flashy white one.
They were all together on the lawn, but they immediately retreated to the water when I slowly walked towards them. The one on the forefront was very protective, and kept hissing at me to go away.
It made me curious so I researched them a little. They are among the most "talkative" animals, with at least twelve different sounds that apply to different contexts. Unsurprisingly, the "hissing" was a very clear warning (I didn't need to speak goose to understand that!)
They are also monogamous, staying with the same partner throughout their lives. Both the male and female take care of the young, and they usually lay their eggs at the same place where the female was born, year after year. Little goose chicks stay with their parents for about a year. These ones were probably just a couple of weeks old.
So what I saw was two families, who apparently teamed together to raise their young. When they have babies, the geese lose the feathers that enable them to fly for about six to eight weeks, which explains their current occupation of an unusual territory. Even though their return here is always much celebrated in the spring, they are only passing through, since they spend their summers in a milder climate up North. The two geese in the back were probably the female ones, and the hissing one was certainly the alpha male: that's their protective pattern, the females leave with the chicks, while the male bravely stays put and tries to scare the intruder away.
They often have a few nests close together like that (usually on small islands, just like the one there), and will gladly take care of each other's kids, even spontaneously adopting ones that are lost or whose parents have died. Isn't it cool?
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
So. Here we are in our lovely house, with things finally beginning to settle after a somewhat rocky year.
Am I sounding especially obnoxious, oblivious, rub-it-in-your-face these days? Well. There’s a genuine feeling of being lucky and blessed, of finally having arrived to where we’re supposed to be. In don’t really mean in the material sense, a lot more in the our-kids-can-spontaneously-go-play-outside-safely, can-grow-underneath-these-trees sense. It brings us immense peace of mind. I am writing about this state because 4+ years into this blog, I know this is what will feel the most precious to me down the road, remembering and reliving this honeymoon phase with our home. Right now we can’t imagine ever taking this for granted, but despite the nice weather none of our neighbours seem to spend any time outside, so who knows, maybe we will.
It's also very important for me to try and stay honest and real, so here it is. Despite this important aspect of my life that is now exactly where I always hoped it would be, everything is not rosy. Is it ever? I’m not sure. Lately, I keep repeating to myself this tiny bit of wisdom read from a comment on a recent APW post: “Usually not all parts of your life are in focus at the same time.”
And right now it rings so true. I’ve been having a hard time feeling entirely cheerful and completely shaking off the underlying sadness lately, despite all these good things in my life (and I know they are numerous). First, it’s the long commute (we haven’t moved far at all, just 2 km away from where we used to live, but traffic keeps getting worse and worse for seemingly no reason, and M and I travelling together necessarily maximizes this insanely lengthy period that drives (ha!) me nuts each day), which translates into the kids having long days at daycare, and me having long days away from them. Longing to spend more time in this house I love so much, more time with them, but not being able to right now, is the root of the problem I guess…Those of you who have been reading for a long time might remember how I used to post about family/work balance, how I was constantly striving for it in my previous job… How ironic this seems now, because in hindsight, I had it pretty good, with lots of flexibility and understanding, not to mention a much shorter and straightforward commute. My balance now, with two kids, a full-time job, and a downtown office with fixed hours, is... flatlining.
I don’t mean to be complaining; we are managing, I am managing. We can still make it work –good home cooked meals are put on the table (nearly) every day, we bake together, we try to fit in little activities. It’s not downright bad… It’s just… not what I want it to be. I’m finding it hard being in the moment instead of running ALL THE TIME, I'm finding it hard being as attentive and attuned to the needs of my kids as I would like to. I’m finding it hard having such little time for everything, for myself especially.
Add to this the nagging feeling of being professionally lost, which keeps growing and growing inside of me -has been for years now, but never this acute before. I’m not sure what’s going on, what I’m supposed to do, how to unstick myself. I don't know how many times I need to plead with the universe for *something* to happen. There you go.
Monday, May 14, 2012
You know how once or twice a year, you have a near-perfect, heartwarming weekend?
When the weather is just great, and for the first time in your life you keep having this feeling that you're on vacation even though you're at home?
When an up until then unassuming tree in your front yard becomes a show stopper overnight and reveal itself, for a few absolutely glorious days, to be the most beautiful pink blossoming crabapple tree on the street?
When your son learns to ride a bike without the training wheels on?
When the house suddenly starts to feel more settled, when you finally begin to
see it all come together?
When you kiss your kids on the forehead and they smell like the sun and fresh air?
When (like probably half of the people here), you have lobster for dinner?
When your family showers you with love for Mother's Day?
When you go for a run and everything smells like lilacs?
Yeah, that one.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Monday, May 7, 2012
I've taken up running again. There's a long five minutes of my brain fighting hard against the alarm clock when it rings so early, but after that, it feels fantastic. My life-long relationship with exercise: never want to do it, always so happy I did it anyway. I have to make peace with it -life just doesn't feel exactly complete or like it's flowing like it should when I'm not active. Endorphins I guess?
I don't golf, so it made me discover this beautiful park that sits on the back of our house in more depth. The course is older than the town, dating back from the fifties, and was designed by an American architect. I'm already getting attached to the trees, the sinewy weeping willows especially.
This morning, the near full moon was still visible, and after a turn this pond suddenly appeared, pristine, covered with smoke-like fog on the surface. With the cedars and the row of houses (including ours) distantly visible in the back and subtly glistening, I had one of these fleeting moments of being transported by beauty. I *had* to go running. What excuse do I have, when this is directly accessible from my backyard???
I love these early morning outings, when I see no one, no car, hear nothing but the wind and the birds, when all of this is just mine.
We still can't believe our luck. I don't know why we ever doubted that moving was the right thing to do, as long and weird and tough as the very long transition was. We love the house, but this "park", this expansive view, this nearly daily putting green for M and LP, this private jogging track, this winter opportunity for sledding, snowshoeing and ice skating, is really why we truly feel like we've found our forever home.
Friday, May 4, 2012
Usually we all leave together in the morning and both drop the kids off. But today I took my own car, since I have a much-needed appointment with my hairdresser after work.
And I guess I should say that this week our schedule has been a bit peculiar as LP started feeling a little under the weather (some kind of a mild virus (?) that seems to have gone away now) and we spent two (rare and precious) afternoons together at home, without M or F. He was excited to go back to daycare this morning (it was circus day! And we made a cardboard top hat and bow tie for him to wear with black jeans and a striped shirt, so he would go as the ringmaster) but also, I think, aware that it meant we would both leave this cozy cocoon we were in for the past few days.
So I said goodbye while the kids were still having breakfast in the kitchen, then stopped by the door to put on my trench coat and grab my keys.
And suddenly LP arrived running. "Mom!"
"Yes, mon loup?"
"I wanted to tell you something."
"I wanted you not to forget something."
"That you love me."
Thursday, May 3, 2012
I came across this episode of Anthony Bourdain's The Layover, shot here last summer.
You can, among other landmark figures,
some more annoying than others, see his friend Martin Picard. THE guy, the chef, you know, the one from The Launch?
The.Layover.S01E06.Montreal by educkling
P.S. If you want to come visit we have a comfortable sofabed in the basement.