Monday, December 30, 2013


Moe, I'm ten days late with your letter. I haven't had the time or energy to write it. But I did write this.

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Yumi, and I grew up in a little house on Southgate Road, right next door to Reg and his first wife Nina. He was recently retired from Bell Canada; she was British war bride who won my heart with her cooking and liberal use of butter. I spent more time at their house than I did at my own, and when I was 8 years old, I asked Nina if she would be my grandmother. She said she would, and drew up official paperwork and everything. And although the agreement doesn't mention Reg's role at all, he became my grandfather whether he wanted to or not. They took their roles seriously, and so did I. At my sister’s wedding, and later at mine, Reg and Nina were the honoured grandparent guests.

In many ways, Reg was a man of few words, but at the same time, he was a wonderful storyteller. He told stories about growing up in New Edinburgh, skiing in Rockcliffe Park, attending Lisgar Collegiate and taking the streetcar to Britannia to attend dances at the Lakeside Gardens pavillion. He told stories of going overseas in wartime, of his service in India with the RCAF, of meeting Nina in an English dance hall (she told him he couldn't dance and he knew right away that this was the girl for him), and of their war-ration wedding feast. He spoke about raising his family, his work for Bell Canada, and his experiences in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. He told many proud stories about his sons – including Bruce's diving career, and Bob's ability to make and fix anything with his hands. He spoke with delight about his grandkids Philippe and Stephanie as they grew from small children into adulthood. And I know that one of his biggest pleasures in the past year was attending Phil and Katrina's wedding. It was wonderful that he was able to share in your happiness, and Phil and Katrina, I know that having him there made your happiness complete.

Reg also told stories about the lifelong friendships he developed with his neighbours, in the many places he lived. While it was never the focus of the story, what often came through was how generous Reg was with his time and help. He often went far above and beyond any call of neighbourly duty. I am sure a lot of people here can think of examples. One that comes to my mind for me was when he taught my sister how to drive.

He kept the ancient laws of hospitality alive and well. He offered food and drink to anyone who came into his home, and was genuinely disappointed if you didn't accept it. When I was little, he was my pusher of cookies and ginger ale. Years later, my husband Jason and I had to explain that as much as we would LOVE to drink everything in his liquor cabinet, one of us had to drive home. He made the best gin and tonic out there. Even after he moved out of his house, he still kept chocolates and other goodies in his room to offer visitors.

He was incredibly, overwhelmingly generous. So generous, in fact, that it was almost impossible to take him out for dinner, even for his birthday or Father's Day, because he would insist on paying. Jason and I had to learn to be really sneaky and pay the cheque during a trip to the bathroom mid-meal. If you were out shopping with him, you had to be careful what you admired because he would buy it for you.

Reg loved taking care of people. He loved being needed and being helpful.

He also had a huge love of life, and he shared that love with everyone around him.

He was passionate about his hobbies and interests. Golf, jigsaw puzzles, stamp collecting, and photography are just some of the things I'll always associate with him. We shared a love of photography and often went on outings to take photos together.

He was passionate about travel. Whether it was a Sunday drive within the city, a day trip to explore a nearby town, or a voyage across the ocean, Reg loved to travel. Between his service with the Royal Canadian Air Force, his travels with Nina, and his late-in-life discovery of the cruise lifestyle, Reg was a very well traveled man. In the past decade alone, he travelled to Alaska, the Yukon, the Rocky Mountains, Nova Scotia, the Caribbean (twice), the Panama Canal, France, England, Italy and around the Mediterranean. I was fortunate enough to go with him on a cruise to the Caribbean, and I will treasure the memories from that trip for the rest of my life. We went swimming with stingrays together. It was his idea. When he cruised with Lyla a year or two later, she nicknamed him the Energizer Bunny because most days, his energy outlasted hers!

And he was incredibly passionate about Joan. His intense devotion to her touched everyone who saw it, even if it was also driving them insane because he was breaking quarantine rules to be with her or pushing her chair with a sore back, or even better, with his scooter. I am so pleased that he found love again so late in his life, and I'm convinced that Joan is the reason that he made it to 93. Joan, thank you for bringing him so much joy.

Reg was pretty... particular and liked things a certain way. He kept a dozen toothbrushes and alternated them every day. Whenever I packed him for a trip, I would suggest he bring one, he would insist he bring five, and we would compromise on two or three. He was a sharp dresser who took pride in his appearance. But getting him to part with old clothes - even those that were worn through, ill fitting and unworn for more than a decade - was an exercise in patience and perseverance. Frequently, Lyla and I would have to attack as a team. He liked to have at least six different brands of breakfast cereal from which to choose. He loved pie and ice cream - he had a real sweet tooth and strongly encouraged it in others. He was not afraid to speak his mind. And, as the staff here at the Perley can attest, rules were merely guidelines, and they were really for other people. I can recall a day trip to Kingston that we did together. We were doing a guided tour of the City Hall and despite the tour guide's insistence that we stay on the designated route, he kept sneaking away to see if he could find where he had installed the telephone lines 40 years before. It wouldn't have been so bad, but we were the only people on the tour, so his sneaking wasn't terribly effective. If you called him on breaking the rules, he would just smile serenely and maddeningly. I am convinced that for a long time, his deafness was somewhat selective.

Reg was an amazing combination of funny and clever, loving and sweet, stubborn and maddening, and kind and generous. He was a loving father, a proud grandfather, a devoted husband, and a wonderful friend. He has been a huge part of my life. I will miss him terribly.

Thank you, Reg, for teaching me that family is not limited to people who share your blood. I love you very much. When you and Nina moved into that house on Southgate Road, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I would like to close by acknowledging one other person. Lyla, you have done more for Reg in the past ten years than anyone in this room will ever really understand. Through whatever life has thrown at you, Reg has remained your first and highest priority. Thank you for everything you have done for him. He was so lucky to have you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dear Moe (45th Month)

Hi, sweetie. Another month has flown by, and we’ve had a lot of fun. It isn’t as easy to find weekend adventures in late fall when the cold is here but the snow is not, but we’re doing okay. We’ve been going to museums a lot. 

We’ve had post-gymnastics playdates with Gemma and Emma and their families at the Canada Museum of Science and Technology, and we went as a family to see the Frogs exhibit again at the Canada Museum of Nature. You were eager to show Daddy the frog that looks like a “puddle of frog” and to show him how well you can play frog golf.
It has been such a pleasure watching you do gymnastics every Saturday morning throughout the fall. Your confidence is soaring and you clearly enjoy the class. It has been wonderful to watch your skills improve. (I think you have a bit of a crush on your coach, Pépé, but I think all the other boys and girls in your class do, too. You even like to put your pencil crayons into the spiral spine of a notebook, because that’s what Pépé does with her pen.) It was without hesitation that I signed you up for another session. I hope you have the same coach, but even if you don’t, the others all look great.

We had a lovely, if wet, Halloween this year. You helped me carve the pumpkin, making all the decisions about how the face should look.

You had two different costumes. At day care, you were Buzz Lightning, thanks to some awesome PJs handed down to us from Aunt Kimmy, along with the coolest of space ranger wing sets. The highlight was definitely when, a few days before Halloween, Uncle Ted and Aunt Jen visited while wearing THEIR Buzz Lightning costumes. That was, in your words, pretty cool.

Your costume for trick or treating was a labour of love. With help and advice from Daddy and Uncle Ted, I made you a fire truck to wear. I had a bumper, headlights, a real flashing light that spins, not to mention a ladder, a hose and a tactical axe. You were a hit, and I was really proud. (Your grandmothers have both made such awesome costumes for you over the past few years that when you said you wanted to be a firefighter for Halloween, I felt I needed to step it up a notch.)

You are enjoying your candy haul this year. Your favourite candies are Rockets, and you also enjoy a good lollypop (or, as you say it, “yollypop.”) 

You express yourself so well, darling. One of your favourite things to say is, “Did you ever see…” and you finish the sentence with a silly suggestion. You’ve asked if we’ve ever seen a banana jumping in a tree, for example. It’s a lot of fun.

At one point you were looking at a book with Daddy, and you pointed at one of the characters and asked what was wrong with him (he had spots on his face). Daddy said he was sick. “With chicken nuggets?” you asked. We assume you meant chicken pox.

I’ve been working hard on teaching you your numbers up to 20. You have 1 to 10 down (and have for quite some time), but 11 to 20 are much harder, mainly because they don’t make sense! (Shouldn’t it be one-teen, two-teen and three-teen?) I’ve written them out on a piece of paper and we work on them together during dinner. We’ll keep it up.

There are a few pretend games you like to play at home. You like to “go on a journey” – you’ll find some kind of portable receptacle (your Halloween treat bucket, for example) and fill it with all kinds of stuff, and then lead me around the house until we find the end of our journey. Then we inspect and play with the supplies you have brought. Then we pack up again and go “home.”

You are also a fan of gathering all kinds of toys and things on the couch with you, including your bumblebee flashlight, and asking me to turn off the lights in the living room. Then you are “camping.” Sometimes Daddy will build you a fort where you can camp, too. We’re going to try taking you camping for the first time this summer – I’m not sure if will match your expectations, but I think you’ll still enjoy it.

We’ve been busy gearing up for Christmas. For one thing, I asked you to help me make room for the toys Santa is going to bring by choosing some of your older toys to give away. You’ve been surprisingly flexible. We keep a box in the hallway, and occasionally you’ll bring something over to it and say we should give the toy away, usually “to Caspian.” You have made some great choices. I’ll suggest a few more after Christmas.

There is one new thing in your playroom that takes up a lot of space. A friend of ours was selling his mini trampoline, and I couldn’t pass that up. It’s a great way for you to burn some energy, practice the skills you are learning at gymnastics, and for me to get exercise, too!

We still visit Grandpa Reg every few weeks, but I’ll tell you, it’s getting more challenging. He is getting so tired that he often goes for a nap right after breakfast, which is when we come to see him. We’ll try again this weekend, but it may soon be time for me to do most of my visits with him on my own in the evenings. Also, because he is less responsive now (his hearing is pretty much gone), I don’t think it’s quite as enjoyable for you. But you do speak warmly of “going to the Perley” and we have lots of little rituals when we visit.

You’re a pretty fantastic kid, you know. You are sweet, caring, thoughtful, mischievous, silly, and a lot of fun. You are fiercely independent, except when you aren’t. You are loving and affectionate. And we are living up to our family mission statement of always being invited back. It’s easy when you are so charming.

We love you more than you could ever understand, and are so very happy to have you in our lives. Thank you for being so awesome.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dear Moe (43rd and 44th Months)

Darling Bean, I missed your letter last month, but will make it up to you with an extra-long one this month. So much has happened since we got back from Maine, it’s hard to know where to begin. Let me see what I can tell you.

September brought some changes to day care. Ben has moved on to go to kindergarten, and Emma moved to another day care closer to her brother’s school. That leaves you as the oldest of the day care kids. You and Gemma play together beautifully – Robin is stunned at how well you two get along. You have been begging for me to organize a play date for you two. You love the two littlest additions to the day care crew – Margo and Kilianne are just babies, only a year old. You dance for them to make them laugh, and you love entertaining them.

The other day you said to me, “Mommy, I just love babies.” I said, “I’m so glad, sweetie,” and then you said, “I wish we could have a baby in our house.”

You have started role-playing with your stuffies. One of them (usually Lambie, or another small one) will be the baby and then you designate others to be the mommy and the daddy. Once, when you had determined that Rilla was the mommy and Foxford was the daddy, I asked you who Rumpus was going to be. You looked at him and said, “He’s the other daddy.” I’m glad you’re so flexible.

You are wonderfully curious. You ask constant questions, and we do our best to answer them honestly and without being terribly dismissive. Of course, you know this, and often ask lots of questions when you are trying to dilly-dally. Sometimes you ask questions to which you know the answers as a form of secure routine. And then there are the times when you just keep asking “Why” because you are cheeky and you know it eventually drives us nuts. But overall, it’s wonderful that you are so (mostly) genuinely curious about the world around you. You certainly make us think!

You are very affectionate, and it’s delightful. You give awesome hugs, and often ask to snuggle with us. You love giving and receiving hugs and kisses, and are so very cuddly. I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can, because I know it won’t last forever. I hope you’ll always be cuddly, though.

Health-wise, we ended up at CHEO in the middle of the night a few weeks ago because you had croup. You’ve had croup before, and usually we just wrap you in a blanket and bring you outside in the night air, but this time, every time we went back in, you would start coughing again. Also, between coughs, you had this terrible wheeze that we’d never heard before. So we packed you up into the car and went off to the emergency room at three in the morning. You were a trooper. They gave you a steroid to help with the inflammation. As a nice side effect, your eczema was pretty much non-existent for the next few days.

There is another health issue that has been plaguing you for some time. Little man, you get so bunged up, it’s tragic to watch. You can get so constipated that you actually become feverish and listless. You are active, you eat a balanced diet with lots of fruit and veggies. We’ve tried coaxing you to eat oatmeal by putting chocolate chips in it. We’ve tried cutting up prunes, but you feel they are too squishy. (I can’t really blame you – I find prunes too squishy, too.) When we realized that you had only pooped without a suppository a couple of times over the past two months, we had to make a change. Enter a President’s Choice prune-cherry juice blend, doctor approved. You get a small glass every day, and every day after dinner (or before bed), you spend a mandated five minutes sitting on the potty. It's often longer than that, as we let you play on the tablet while you sit there. Things are improving.

It doesn’t help that you are the slowest, most easily-distracted eater I have ever seen. (This basically means that you are a normal three-and-a-half year old.) There are meals where we have to coach you through just about every bite, and bargain with you over how many more bites you need to eat before you can leave the table. I knew this would happen eventually – it isn’t that you aren’t hungry; it’s that there are so many things you would rather do than sit down and eat. In an effort to make mealtime more pleasant for you, we have removed your booster seat. You sit on a thick book of feminist history, tucked under a cushion.

People are constantly commenting on how well you speak. You have a great vocabulary, and overall, your speech is very clear. You have come up with some pretty complex sentences. It’s wonderful to see you mulling over your words and being able to express yourself so well. We do sometimes get into trouble when you answer questions without thinking the answers through. You’ll answer “no” or “yes” without really thinking about it, and then will express great frustration when we aren’t able to read your mind.

We have had great fun together over the past weeks, Pookie. We said goodbye to summer on a very windy day at Mooney’s Bay when we climbed a big hill and flew your pirate kite. You were more interested in digging on the beach, so it took some convincing to get you up that hill. But I think you were glad you made the climb. You especially enjoyed when it was time to climb back down… you rolled most of the way while giggling happily.

We said hello to autumn with a special play date with Emma at the apple orchard. You had a wonderful time picking apples, playing in the hay, and munching on apple cider donuts. It was also really nice for you to see Emma again. We were so glad it worked out.

We don’t often get together with your buddy Koen, but when we do, you have such a great time – and so do we! We had a play date last month that included drawing roads on the driveway with sidewalk chalk, sharing cinnamon fish cookies, playing with Hot Wheels, and reading stories.

One of your favourite things to do on the weekend is visit Daddy at his store. You love looking around the kids’ section (and pointing out things you’d like Daddy to get for you!), playing with some of the toys (it’s the only time you are allowed to touch stuff in a store), being allowed in the back room, and of course, seeing Daddy at work. I’m trying to teach you that a visit to Daddy’s store doesn’t mean a new book or toy, but let me tell you, Daddy isn’t helping much! He really enjoys being able to let you pick out a new book.

We started doing a weekly gymnastics class at Starr Gymnastics, and you absolutely love it. It is much more engaging and enjoyable than the one we did through the community centre last year. Your coach is called Pépé (they all have wonderful silly names like Bubbles and Ziggy) and I sit happily on the sidelines while you work with her. I was pretty nervous during the first class because a lot of little ones were crying for their parents, but you did so well and stayed the course and didn't get upset or worried. I was incredibly proud of you. You are a wonderful listener, you are great at doing “the motorcycle” when you land, and although you aren't super excited about jumping into the foam pit, you're getting less timid about it. I love watching you try new things. Even after just a few classes, your confidence in the gym has improved a lot.

Halloween is just around the corner, and this year I decided I wanted to make your costume. (Grandma made it last year, and Granny made it the year before. I figured it was my turn.) This is the first year that you have chosen your costume, and you very emphatically stated that you want to be firefighter. I didn't think that was quite exciting enough, so you're going to be a firefighter with a twist. It's been great fun building your costume, and you are very excited about it.

Of course, not long after Halloween, it will be Christmas, and you and I have been working on a plan for that. You have decided that you will let Santa take all your soothers in exchange for a SECOND gift from the North Pole. And for the first time, you have a very specific gift in mind. You have requested the Thomas the Tank Engine Mega Blocks Diesel Works set that you saw in the back of your Day of the Diesels book.  Unfortunately, I don't think Santa will be able to find that exact toy, but he's got something just as good that we think you are going to love. I sure hope we're right! (And I hope you stick with your plan to give Santa your soothers.)

We've been very lucky and had some great visitors this past two months. Aunt Marsha came down for a weekend especially to see you, and you had a great time with her. She came with us to gymnastics, and we went for lunch at O'Grady's together. She brought you a very special gift... a Furbee. You love your Furbee, which is great, but we can't get it to stop talking like a Valley Girl, which isn't great. Aunt Marsha is very lucky we love her.

Grandpa Will and Grandma Anne also came down for a weekend, and we spent a great Sunday morning with them. They brought you your own camp chair, as well as a bee flashlight and a pair of binoculars that look like a dragonfly. You were over the moon! All three gifts are a huge hit. (Aside - I love how your pronounce them “ga-noc-u-lars.”) But the best gift was the time they spent with you. You love them both so very much. You love hugging Grandma Anne, and Grandpa Will cracks you up.

We did a bit of travelling over Thanksgiving and went to Toronto for a “ba-caytion” (another great pronounciation) to visit Tia and Tio and Isabel. You did so well sleeping in a strange house, and you fell in love with Pippa and Sadie, the 12-year-old yellow labs. They were so calm and just love to be pet, so you obliged happily, whenever you could. Unfortunately, you are still allergic to dogs, so we were dosing you with Benadryl quite a bit. Also, you pet Sadie so much that you got a blister on the tip of your finger. Between the Benadryl and the exposure, things got a bit better over the weekend.

You played very well with Isabel and Aiden, and were so sweet to Caspian when he and Aunt Natalie and Uncle Darin visited for Thanksgiving dinner. But the best part of the weekend was watching you become totally mesmerized when Tio Rodrigo played the guitar. We were joking that he's never had such a willing audience! You asked him to play again and again, and loved every song. You danced to the blues, and even played a bit yourself with a small, blue electric guitar that used to belong to Aiden's big brother Raven. I think it will be important to continue with gymnastics, but I may look at some kind of music class in the next year or so.


We visited a great new temporary exhibit together at the Canadian Museum of Nature. It's on until the spring, and I think we'll be going back many times. It's all about frogs! You adored seeing the real frogs in their habitats, and we played “find the frog” in each case. You also loved watching the waterfalls in the habitats. We had great fun playing “predator mini-golf” and you really enjoyed the interactive about the sounds frogs make. It was a wonderful museum visit. We both left very happy.

Fall has been a great season. You've greatly enjoyed helping Granny rake the leaves on the front lawn. Today we had a playdate with Amelia at her house, and you even raked their front lawn! (And then you and Amelia tossed leaves into the air and laughed together and it was so magical that a neighbour stopped to tell us it made his day.)

We have some really sweet rituals. At bedtime, when Daddy holds you and hums the Imperial March, you insist that you get to hold this glow in the dark ball that Uncle Ted gave you. Daddy and I started calling it the Ood ball because we had just seen that episode of Doctor Who, and now you call it the Ood ball, too. The other day, the glowing was starting to fade, and you said, “Oh no! It's running out of ood!”

You're saying some fantastic stuff these days.

One evening, I told you that it was almost time for dinner. You asked if you could go play in your playroom. I said you could, but just for a few minutes.

“Can you come with me?” you asked. “I need a friend down there. And you don't cook.”

One night, about half an hour after you had been tucked into bed, you called for me through the monitor, saying, “Mom? I have to tell you something!”

I went up to you. The important information? “Mom, I think fish don't have feet.”

The other day, Daddy was rushing you along in the morning so you could get out the door to daycare on time.

“Daddy,” you said, “I thought I was being a good boy and not dilly dallying?”

“Yeah, buddy,” Daddy told you, “You are being good. It's Daddy who lost track of time this morning and who was dilly dallying a bit. Sorry for rushing you.”

“That's ok, Daddy,” you told him, “it happens sometimes. I still love you, you know.”

And we still love you, all the time, more than we can even express. Thank you for being such an amazing little boy, so full of love and humour and personality. Every day I ask you what your best thing was that day. In this life, you are our best thing, hands down.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Dear Moe (42nd Month)

Hello, Pookie Bean. What a month it’s been! 

You are officially three-and-a-half now, and you are tons of fun. It has been an exciting month and a wonderful summer. 

We started the month with a day trip to Iroquois to visit Bambi and her mom. You greatly enjoyed our trip to Prehistoric World, which is a 1-km walking trail dotted with life-sized cement dinosaur statues. You still talk about it and ask to go back. After the dino walk, we had a picnic at the Iroquois Locks. We chased seagulls, watched the locks open and close and saw the boats go by. It was a lovely day. You happily gave Bambi’s mom a big hug before we left. 

We have been lucky enough to have Aunt Natalie and your cousin Caspian in town for a few weeks. Uncle Darin came with them for the first few days. While it was obvious that you weren’t delighted to suddenly share our attention with a baby, you did really well, and love to entertain Caspian with funny dances. He loves to bounce up and down, so you do that too, and you both laugh together. It’s wonderful to watch. You have also been pretty darn graceful about watching a number of your toys being passed down to your little cousin. Although, when we found that some stickers I bought you were somewhat subpar and you suggested that we give THEM to Caspian because they “aren’t very good,” you may have missed the point. 

This letter is so late because we’ve been away and it’s been a busy time since we got home. We spent a week in Wells Beach, Maine. We stayed at a beachside cottage (or a “little house,” as you called it) with Granny, and Aunt Janine and Uncle Mark stayed in another cottage across the way. It was a wonderful vacation. The weather was perfect, you were a total trooper on the drive there and back, and we got to spend time with some of our favourite people. 

On the night we arrived, we were greeted by Evan and Megan, who you adore. We had a lovely evening with them, although bedtime was a bit of a challenge. You were pretty keyed up and you were sleeping in an unfamiliar place. I’m pleased to say, though, that you were an excellent sleeper for the rest of the trip. 

The next morning there was sand play on the beach with Uncle Mark. You both devised a good system whereby any castles on the right side of a line in the sand were fine to be demolished and any castles on the left side of a line in the sand were not to be touched. It worked out well, you demolished many castles, and had a lovely time. Then Aunt Kimmy, Uncle Luc, Caleb and Noah arrived for the day and your cup ran over. Not only were they awesome playmates, but they brought you a slew of amazing hand-me-down toys that pretty much blew your mind. The highlights were the Dinosaur Train and a set of Buzz Lightyear wings and bracers. Oh my goodness. You were absolutely delighted. It was really lovely to see you play with Caleb and Noah. Caleb in particular took a real shine to you and helped you into your wings, played ball with you, and invited you to hang with him. It was also so gratifying to see how huggy Noah still is, even at the age of six. It gives me great hope that your wonderful affectionate nature will stay with you a while longer, even as you get older.   

You did very well in Kittery at the outlet malls, both in terms of your behaviour and your haul of new clothing. We got you some new pants, a whack of socks, a fall shell coat and a winter coat that you liked so much you insisted on wearing it one evening in the cottage. How you didn’t melt away remains a mystery. 

The best times with you on this trip were really the simplest times - sometimes we were doing things I remember doing as a child, and sometimes we were creating our own memories. Digging holes on the beach. Blowing bubbles for you to chase on the cottage lawn. Walking to the boardwalk, and visiting the Beachcomber, where you scored a shiny red firetruck with an extendable ladder. Sitting on the cement outside Forbes, eating ice cream. Standing outside the Goldenrod in York Beach, watching the salt water taffy being made. Sharing a lobster roll with you. (History repeated itself - I barely got any!) Standing on the sea wall, watching the waves crash against the rocks. Hearing you exclaim, “WHOA! Did you see that one? It was a big one!” with every wave. Watching you fly your pirate kite by yourself. Standing with you in the water as the waves lapped at our feet. Riding the trolley while eating fried clams and french fries. Watching you fall in love with showers. Our meal at the Ogunquit Lobster Pound where you were given a cookie bigger than your head.  

You shared a bedroom with Granny, and while I don’t think she’s used to getting up that early, I know she greatly enjoyed seeing you first thing in the morning. Aunt Janine and Uncle Mark loved seeing you in the evenings when you were at your most cuddly. You were completely freaked out by seaweed and would not walk on it. But you loved when Aunt Janine carried you and made “squishy noises” when she walked on the seaweed. 

You napped every day. You didn’t have a single accident. You behaved beautifully. We simply adore travelling with you. 

Thank you for a wonderful “bacation,” darling. It was magical, and so are you. We love you so much and you bring such joy to our lives. I talk about Wells Beach being my happy place, but really, my happy place is anywhere with you. You made my happy place even happier by being there. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dear Moe (41st Month)

Hello, darling boy. Your letter is a week late this month, and I’m sorry. 

I could tell you all kinds of things about our adventures in the last five weeks. I could tell you about how we had a lovely belated Father’s Day celebration with Grandpa Leo, which included an outing to the Farmers Market, and a trike ride to O’Grady’s for lunch. I could tell you about the week you ate at O’Grady’s three times (once with Grandpa Leo, once with me, and once with Aunt Janine and Uncle Mark). I could tell you about how, even though you aren’t in school, summer vacation has presented some behavioural challenges for you. I could tell you it’s because you miss Sandy’s playgroup very much (it’s only open during the school year), and that having Robin’s older sons home during the day can be tons of fun for you but also quite overwhelming. I could tell you that you are finally sleeping without a bedrail, and you haven’t fallen out of bed in weeks. I could tell you about our fantastic visit from Aunt Heather and our trip to Sky Zone indoor trampoline park together. I could tell you that we hardly ever use the travel reducer seat when we’re out and about because in the last three weeks, we have not met a toilet into which you couldn’t pee standing up. I could tell you about how much you adore Dinosaur Train - especially the episodes about the forest fire and the drought. I could tell you about our trip to the fire station. I could tell you about your awesome sense of humour, your new love of knock-knock jokes, and your jokey-rhyming (Daddy: “Your bum is pretty raw.” You: “My bum is made of STRAW!” *peals of laughter at your own hilarity*). I could tell you about how changes at day care (a new little girl, a new routine, end of Sandy’s playgroup) meant that you suddenly developed some real separation anxiety, as well as a huge desire to test your limits (we clamped down, and things have been much better in the last week). 

But instead of telling you all those things, I’m going to tell you about your Grandpa Reg. 

First of all, he’s not your grandpa. If he’s anything, he’s your great-grandpa. I’ve thought of him as my grandpa for the bulk of my life. He and his first wife, Nina, with whom he was married for more than 50 years, lived next door when I was growing up. Here is something I wrote 10 years ago about my relationship with Nina. But a lot has happened since April 2003. Nina died in December of that year, and I began visiting Reg every weekend. That continued pretty much until you were born, and now you and I try and visit him twice a month. Since Nina’s death, I’ve seen Reg through many transitions. He sold the house. He moved to Belleville. He moved back to Ottawa, into Stillwater Retirement Residence. There, he met and married Joan. Joan moved to the Perley, and Reg moved to Alta Vista Manor to be closer to her. Reg moved to the Perley. In the last ten years, Reg and I have become very close, and he is an irreplaceable part of my life. It isn’t just because he’s my tie to Nina’s memory. We have been on countless adventures (outings, road trips, and a very memorable Caribbean cruise), and if I go too long without visiting him, I feel like something is missing from my life. My experience with Nina and Reg is one of the main sources of my philosophy about “chosen family,” which I am trying hard to pass on to you. 

Reg has also become a very important part of your life, and the feeling is quite mutual. You are not shy to tell him that you love him, to give him hugs and kisses. You love sharing your toys and snacks with him, and telling him all kinds of things that you think he should know. You love getting a ride on his scooter - and not just because he goes fast, but because it’s something special that you share together. You are both so proud as you ride down the halls, and the other residents comment about your sweet ride. You have never not wanted to visit. In fact, there have been times when I have told you about our plans to visit the night before, and you have eagerly asked, “Can we go NOW?” 

In the last year or so, Reg has declined. He is 93 years old. He’s had prostate cancer for years, he is at risk for another stroke, and in the last year, his bone marrow has become tired. We aren’t sure if cancer has invaded the marrow, or if it is simply declining, but he’s gone from having a blood transfusion once a month to every three weeks, and now, to every two weeks. He is tired and anemic, and for the first time in a long time, he’s not doing a fantastic job of hiding it. 

I don’t know how much longer Reg has before his body becomes too tired and gives up. It could be months and months, or it could be less. But when we said goodbye today, he watched us walk all the way down the long hallway until we were out of sight. I know this, because I couldn’t help looking back. We blew kisses and waved. 

You are only three and a half, and when Grandpa Reg dies, I don’t know how much of him you will remember. So I’m telling you this now: 

He loves you, and you love him. I know this because you’ve told him so. In fact today, when he left to use the bathroom, you asked to go with him. When I said no, you said, with a note of desperation in your voice, “But I love him.” And you do, very much. (I still didn’t let you follow him to the bathroom, but he came back, as promised.) 

When we get to a point that he doesn’t come back, darling, I want you to know that you have shared something very special with a truly amazing man. And that amazing man has enjoyed every moment of his time with you. 

August 2010

Friday, July 12, 2013

Letter to Mo Willems: Moe, Gerald and Piggie

Dear Mo Willems,

I want to tell you about my son, Moe. (That isn’t his real name, it’s what we call him on the internet. Not that there is anything wrong the name Moe. Or Mo.) Moe is 3.5 years old and fantastic. I’m saying that because I’m his mom, but also because it’s true.

We have read about and greatly enjoyed Edwina, the naked mole rats, and of course, the Pigeon and the Duckling. But something has happened recently involving Gerald and Piggie that I wanted you to know.

We first met Gerald and Piggie in We are in a Book! Moe adores this book, although he always hides when Piggie comes really close to scope out the reader. He howls with laughter when they make me say “banana”. He recites Gerald’s freak-out along with me as I read it.

It wasn’t long before my husband, who manages a bookstore, brought home a whack-load of Gerald and Piggie books. Moe has taken a particular shine to Are You Ready to Play Outside?, Happy Pig Day!, and Let’s Go for a Drive.

Last night, we read Are You Ready to Play Outside?, and something interesting happened. Moe started talking to Gerald and Piggie.

“Piggie?” he asked, after Piggie had declared she didn’t like rain.

“Yes?” I answered, in Piggie’s voice.

“You could try and like the rain.”

“Do you think so?” Piggie asked.


We kept reading. The story went on, and the sun came out.

“Piggie?” he asked.

“Yes?” Piggie answered.

“Don’t worry. Gerald has a plan. He will make it rain because he’s your friend.”

We finished the book, and moved on to I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen. I put Are You Ready to Play Outside? aside.

“No, Mommy! Gerald and Piggie want to see the book, too!”

So I propped the book up so they could follow along as we read I Want My Hat Back.

“Piggie, is that funny?” he asked. “Gerald, do you like this book?”

At the end of the story, he said goodnight to Gerald and Piggie and told them he’d see them tomorrow.

Thank you so much, Mr. Willems, for creating characters that have obviously captured my son’s imagination as well as his heart. I was going to write that Moe so desperately wants these characters to be real, but that isn’t true. To him, they are real. And that is the magic of books.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dear Moe (40th Month)

Hello, apple cider granola bar sunshine. (That’s what you call us when you go to bed. “Goodnight Daddy apple cider granola bar! Goodnight Mommy granola bar sunshine!” It’s very flattering - they are all things you like.) 

My darling, this past month has been pretty magical for so many reasons. Here are a few examples: 
  • You, all tucked into bed and stroking your belly through your blanket, saying, “I have to get comfy-fied.” 
  • You have added a new element to the bedtime ritual, and it involves humming the Imperial March with Daddy. I have never seen a happier, prouder father. He describes it as a little slice of awesome. 
  • You pick up rocks whenever we go for a walk, and they are all sitting in a little pile on the window sill on the front porch. You refer to it as your “collection”. You now understand that rocks and sticks don’t come into the house. 
  • Granny took you to the Agriculture Museum on a day when you were able to pet the baby bunnies. You were so delighted and ever so gentle with them. 
  • Robin now has a small (hypoallergenic) doggie named Smokey, who you absolutely adore. You love petting him and having someone small to take care of. 
  • Grandma stayed home with you for the day when you were sick, and you worked with her to wash every dish in the kitchen. When you woke up from your nap, you were so very proud to be able to tell me, “Mommy, I washed the dishes.” You had a ball. 

There have been a number of times this month when you got very frustrated or angry and cried, “I just want to DO something.” We weren’t sure if you were frustrated because there was something you were able to do but weren’t allowed, or because you wanted to do something but weren’t able to do it. Then Robin told us about an incident that happened at day care. She had made brownies for everyone, and had put them in a container on the table. You asked for one. Just after she got you one, you picked up the container of brownies and deliberately dumped them on the dirty, sandy carpet. Nobody else was able to have a special snack that day. When Robin asked you why on earth you’d done that, you said, “I just wanted to do something.” We had a talk about it while you were in the bath that evening, and you essentially told me that you did it to get a reaction. By the end of the chat, you were able to consider how you would feel if you had worked hard to make something, only to have someone come along and dump it in the dirt, and you agreed that you would feel very sad. I think you felt real remorse when you looked at it that way. I also explained that in this world, there are people who do things that make others happy, and people who do things that make others sad, and that we should always try and be the people who make others happy. (“If you want to do something that gets a reaction, do something good that gets a happy reaction.”) As you get older, you will learn that it isn’t that simple - sometimes doing the right thing isn’t the course of action that will make people happy. At the end of the day, though, we want you to be compassionate and caring and kind. Right now, for someone who is three, that generally means making the choices that make others happy. I look forward to sorting out the nuances of this with you as you grow. You are a kind and loving little boy. I know you will be able to make the right choices. And when you don’t, I’ll be there to talk them through with you. (Since the “brownie incident,” there have been fewer declarations of “I just want to DO something.” I see this as a positive thing.) 

We had a number of amazing adventures this month. To begin, we went as a family to the Star Wars Identities exhibit at the Canada Aviation and Aerospace Museum. I’m not going to lie, we were pretty disappointed that you were unnerved by how dark the exhibit was and that you wanted to go home as soon as you walked in. But you allowed us to hit all the main stations, we all built our characters and saw some cool stuff. Since then, any time you see either C-3PO or R2-D2, you declare proudly, “I saw them at Star Wars!” The experience was worth it just for that. (Mommy’s highlight was seeing Leia’s metal bikini.) 

You and I had our first overnight out-of-town getaway together since we went to Halifax when you were 3 months old. We went to Montreal for two nights. Pookiest of pookies, let me tell you how incredibly proud I was (and am) of you. You are a homebody and an only child and you dislike being outside your comfort zone. You handled being without your daddy, sleeping in a strange house, and suddenly being surrounded by no less than SEVEN other little kids (five of whom were eager to share your toys) with incredible grace. You did beautifully. It was a lovely experience for me, because I got to hang out with some of the girls with whom I went to Kamp Kanawana more than 20 years ago. I hope you make friends like that, my darling... people that are worth reconnecting with after 20 years. We stayed at Samantha’s dad’s house, and we pretty much had our own suite upstairs. It was a very comfortable arrangement, and you slept quite well on a futon on the floor at the foot of my bed. 

One of the highlights of the trip was definitely our Saturday morning adventure with my friend Chris (someone else I hadn’t seen in about 20 years). We met up with him at the Biodome and you took a shine to him immediately.You weren’t crazy about the Amazon area. (It was for several reasons, including the heat and humidity, and some confusion created when you asked “is that fog real?” and I said it was, and then realized you were asking if an ENORMOUS plastic frog was real. No amount of explaining that the frog wasn’t real could reassure you - you wanted out of there, and quickly. You did not trust that frog. Although you did enjoy the monkeys.) You also weren’t keen on anywhere that was dark, like the bat area. But you perked up immediately in the Laurentian Maple Forest (there were otters swimming speedily!), and loved the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Labrador Coast. You loved walking like a duck and playing with some small puddles that had formed by the “seashore”. You had a hard time seeing the penguins (it was dark in their habitat), but we enjoyed watching puffins dive and swim. Then you noticed one little puffin all by his lonesome over to the side, and you asked, “Why is he sad?” and I realized that it was probably because he was living at the Montreal Biodome. I was ready to explain that, but you were quickly distracted by something else. We’ll have that discussion together someday. Then you totally blew your gift shop chance by throwing a tantrum and demanding an expensive truck when I’d already said I’d buy you a small stuffie. Oh, well.  

We sought solace and distraction by blowing bubbles in Olympic Park, and Chris found some pylons and set up a stroller slalom course for the two of you. You had a blast, and Chris learned that a three-year-old will never actually stop saying “AGAIN!” until you tell them “no”, and even then they will try and negotiate. We went for lunch on the Plateau (you tried poutine for the first time), followed by ice cream, which we ate while sitting in a rather scuzzy doorway because we are not too proud and there apparently aren’t any benches in the Plateau. You didn’t mind at all. You even got to pee on a fence across the street from a super sketchy strip club, so it was a full and complete Montreal experience. We dropped Chris at his place, and about five minutes later, you said, “Mommy, I just love him.” I asked you who you were talking about, and you said, “Your friend.” I said, “Chris?” and you said, “Yep. I just love Chris.” I was very glad you had such a good time. 

The next morning, it was raining, and you asked very sweetly, “Please can we go home now?” (Except you pronounce it nay-ow, which is awesome.) As all my plans relied on the weather being good, I couldn’t deny you. Also, you were just about done. So I drove us home, and you were so, very, very happy to get there. And then you punished me for the next day and a half with behaviour that resulted in time-outs, tears and recriminations. Holy cow. I was terrified about what the recovery period would be like from our next (much bigger) travel adventure, but you surprised and delighted me. I think the problem was that I took you away from home AND took you away from your Daddy. I think you could have coped with one of those things, but both was overwhelming. 

Hilariously, when I asked you what your favourite part of Montreal had been, you said it was when we were at the grocery store and I got to the cash and realized I’d forgotten to pick-up hummus and I had to push the cart through the store at light speed to quickly find and grab the hummus and get back to the cash before the cashier cancelled my transaction. I’m glad that was a highlight for you, darling. 

We just got back from our second travel adventure. We went to Mason City, Iowa for Evan and Megan’s wedding. We had known for a long time that you would have a special job during the ceremony, but we made a conscious choice to really not make a big deal about it at all. As a result, you were a fantastic ring bearer, and enjoyed many kudos after the fact. Both Evan and Megan were delighted in your performance (you were adorable, seriously, and I was so incredibly proud of you), and you returned their affection with big hugs. Your highlights from the wedding reception were playing croquet (you showed an incredible aptitude, actually), loading and unloading your new John Deere tractor toy with the gravel from Megan’s grandfather’s driveway, and eating all of Daddy’s coleslaw and most of his ribs. 

Getting to Iowa was an adventure, but you were a total trooper. The original plan had been to fly to Minneapolis (through Chicago) on the Thursday, spend the night in Minneapolis, and then drive the two hours to Mason City on the Friday morning. Instead, our Thursday morning flight was cancelled (twice) and we ended up hanging out at the Ottawa airport for four hours, only to have to go home and try again Friday morning. We flew Ottawa to Toronto and then Toronto to Minneapolis on Friday, grabbed the rental car, drove two hours to Mason City, did groceries, bathed you, and then I dashed out to the rehearsal dinner while Daddy put you to bed in your “nest”. (He made a border around your bed with blankets and sheets so that you wouldn’t fall out of bed. You loved your nest.) 

The next morning, we hung out at the farm (the location of the wedding) so you could get the lay of the land, and that was a great plan. It also allowed us to hang with Evan and Megan and help out a bit getting things ready. (Daddy helped. I hung out with you.) Then it was back to the hotel for a nap, and your triumphant return to the farm in time for the wedding.. 

Sunday morning, we explored East Park and I introduced you to Pooh Sticks, which we played on a bridge over a creek. Then we joined everyone for a Father’s Day brunch at a local restaurant, and then drove to Minneapolis. We had dinner at the Mall of America, which was completely insane. We watched the Nickelodeon amusement park rides go around and around, we checked out the Lego Store, and then we spoiled you rotten at the Disney Store. I offered you a choice between a Woody doll or a Buzz doll, and your eyes just lit up when you saw Buzz. He now has a place of honour on your rocking chair at night, and he comes down with you in the morning. He’s as important as Lambie and Rumpus (and they are IMPORTANT). Also, when you go to university, please be grateful that I didn’t go into the Victoria’s Secret at the Mall of America and spend your RESP. Because I totally could have. 

Monday morning we fulfilled a dream of mine and visited the Minnesota Children’s Museum. You had the time of your life. Moe, there was a whole gallery of water tables where you could put on a smock and play with the water. I was afraid your brain would explode. And then you played with conveyer belts and made them go. You were mesmerized. I finally dragged you to the Our Community gallery where you had a ball in the you-sized grocery store. It was bliss. I was only sorry we could only stay an hour and a half. 

We flew home (with a long layover in Chicago) that afternoon, and got home quite late due to a delayed Chicago-Ottawa flight. Uncle Mark was there to meet us at the airport. You were chatting with him on the way home, until you suddenly said, “I don’t have any more talk” and zoned out. And no wonder. It was past 11 pm.   
Shockingly, despite the late night, your transition day went super well. We had braced for the worst after Montreal, so we took it easy and you were wonderful. You were also very happy to be home, to see your Granny and Grandma, to show them Buzz, to sleep in your own bed, and to flake out on the couch a bit and watch the Octonauts and Finding Nemo while clutching your new Nemo stuffie. 

Moe sunshine apple cider banana granola bar, we are so incredibly proud of you. Once again, you have shown us that we can take you everywhere. People - complete strangers - fall in love with you wherever you go. You are loving, sweet, kind, and funny. You have the best sense of humour and we laugh together every single day. I am so proud of the person you are becoming. Keep being awesome. And never forget how much we love you and what a great human being you are.