Christmas Markets

Wowza!  I can’t believe Christmas is right around the corner!  I am so unprepared this year.  Our decorations are not even out of the basement yet, and it is already the middle of the month!  We’ve just been very busy.  I’ve been thinking, lately, about all the opportunities we have to celebrate here in Canada — parties, special treats, traditions, gift giving.  Seems like the entire country takes on a whole new look at Christmastime,  with lots of places getting all dolled up for the occasion.  I thought I would share a few of the places I would love to visit (or have already!) and share how they decorate for the season.

Old Montreal/Quebec City, Quebec

  We’ve been to “La Belle Province” numerous times and the architecture is fabulous in any season — but nothing compares to when it gets all dressed up for Christmas.  The cobblestone walks and quaint shoppes step right out of Currier and Ives.  Twinkling lights and the snow amidst the sound of french accents… ooh, la, la!  It’s as romantic as Paris without the plane ticket!  The stone and stained glass of the candle lit basilicas demand silent reflection. For the more adventurous, Quebec has some great skiing (or so I hear.).  Quebec should definitely be on a Canadian traveler’s Christmas bucket list!   

Craftadian Market in Hamilton, Ontario

I haven’t been to this one yet, but was exposed to it via the Hamiltonhippie.  It sounds like a super duper craft market featuring local artisans!  I love seeing what other people are making from scratch!  Celebrating their God given talents and sharing them!  And what a better excuse than Christmas to share?  This one is on my list for next year!  Perhaps my cousin’s son, Jonathan, from an edible therapy will be there next year displaying his wares.  He (with help from his wife Chelsea) has turned a challenging experience into a beautiful testament to His Saviour, through his beautiful wood pieces.  I am hoping to get him to share his story someday here on mittonmusings.com!

Brickworks/Evergreen Toronto, Ontario

This is our go-to, Sunday afternoon date destination! I especially love it at Christmas time when their Winter Village is alive!  They have a tiny, little (free) public skating rink surrounded by evergreen boughs that smell super Christmas-y!  We get hot cocoa or cider and tour around the pond before stopping at the big Muskoka chairs for a snuggle by the fire.  The food is phenomenal and I love the diversity of the artisans who display their wares at Brickworks!  Fresh and usually straight from the farm, the market is a unique blend of farmers market and craft fair… I love to scoop up unique treasures here for gifts!  

Christmas Market in the Distillery District Toronto, Ontario

For a more adult date night, the distillery is a must see.  Definitely instagrammable (yes, that is a real word!) it is the millennial hang out at Christmastime.  It makes me feel young and hip. (A statement that just made me old again). The first time we visited, we sipped free mulled wine at the fires.  Now, the marketers have discovered it’s popularity and commercialized it up a bit with tourist-y samplers, but it is still the best decorated spot for that classic, European Christmas market experience in Canada.  Book early if you want a reservation for dinner, though!

Vintelier Boutique in Abbotsford, BC

Okay, so I thought this was just a fleeting Christmas pop-up shoppe when I first saw it on Facebook, but apparently it is a quaint boutique that sells all kinds of adorable little things!  Shout out to my fabulous sister-in-law, who has been graciously employed there recently, for getting my boutique senses all a-tingle! If they have a stationary section, the first born daughter and I are going to drool. Literally.  Oh, how I would love to see inside this gem in person — and especially see what trinkets it has for the holiday season!  I am expecting a cute gift sent to me, O, darling sister-in-law!  

Your local Thrift Shop!

A bonus locale for all things Christmas.  It’s funny how second hand stores get an eclectic gathering of Christmas goodies piled up from days gone past.  Being a big thrifty shopper, I seek out these shops often… not so much to purchase, but to browse the holiday aisle to see how quickly the holidays are discarded.  Those oh-so special objects become outdated, worn and donated away, all too quickly.  I am taken back to my childhood when I see some chipped china plate or tacky, tinsel lined, flashing star tree topper à la 1970, shoved onto the discount shelf at my local Sally Ann.  Occasionally,  you can still find a singing fish or a Macarena dancing Santa.  Oh, the memories.

And so, I take a step back this Christmas season, and see the beauty in “things”.  Of places decorated so beautifully.  The outward appearance of places that represent a little bit of our inside lives.  Yet, I am reminded, again, to dig even deeper than the “things” I see around me.  These picture perfect places and lovely bits and baubles, although beautiful, are not the true meaning of Christmas.  They are precious, yes, but I have to think of Mary on that first Christmas night.  Oh… I am sure she wished she was in a beautifully lit inn off the cobble stone streets, and had warm flannel blankets to wrap her newborn in as she sipped mulled wine by the decorated fireplace.   But these are the romantic gestures we have come to associate with Christmas.  May you and I never lose sight of the cold, dark, dirty stable, as we are coerced by the “pretty things” of this world.  For the true joys lie there… in the warmth of a mother’s touch, the awe struck shepherd’s weathered features, and the piercing cry of the newborn who came to save the world.  

 

Is Homework Necessary?

 December first has come and gone.  We celebrated the first Sunday of Advent, and are anticipating the weeks of holiday bliss which are about to arrive.  But before the Mitton clan goes whole hog on Christmas, we have to get through the last few weeks of school.  Which, in our neck of the woods, means a whole whack of homework.  A topic that has led to a rather brooding debate amongst us… is homework really necessary?!  My first answer as mom, educator and lover of learning, says yes, yes, of course!  Homework is a must.  How can we continue learning if there is no homework, no testing, no study?  The rest of the clan disagrees.  It’s stressful, it’s useless, it’s too time consuming, it has no purpose.  These are the things I am hearing!  Even the hubby, who is thinking of branching out of his comfort zone and taking a course in the new year (to which I am very proud!) wants only to audit a course and not do the homework.  Awk!  No, no, no, I say!  How can you really learn if you have no concrete evidence… nothing to show at the end…no “mark” of your ability.  But — I am willing to be open minded — and so I muse:  Is homework really necessary?

  From what I have gathered, “homework” — the work sent home because either it is not completed in class, or is assigned to enhance the practice, preparation for, or extensions of, lessons done in class — is becoming a hot topic.  There seems to be a growing trend to eliminate it all together.  In Canada, “no homework policies” are being pushed by both parents and educators alike, labeling homework as stress inducing, and time-robbing.  A 2008 study done in Ontario, discovered that the dreaded homework hour can become the primary source of arguments in a household.  Not only in parent/child power struggles, but even among marriages as well.  (Which seems to be happening in my house, too…)  And so I muse again… Why?

Apparently the answer lies in the amount of time.  The “ideal” amount of homework, as laid out by the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association in the US, suggests a standard of 10 minutes of homework per grade level.  Canadian educators pretty much follow this standard as well.  However, reports are coming in that students are doing much, much more than this.  On average, Ontario students are given 40 minutes of homework per night.  Add multiple subjects and this can get pretty stressful. Families argue that this cuts into family time, not to mention that if there is misunderstanding or learning struggles — that 40 minutes could drag on in to infinity….

So.  Let’s take a step back.  Let’s look at the big picture of why we educate in the first place.  If our Christian lifestyle impacts our understanding in this topic, then God should have something to say about it too.  The Bible tells us in Proverbs to “…get wisdom and understanding at all costs…” (Proverbs 4).  Could this mean giving up some favourite television show to study the multiplication table?  Or forcing our students off the devices to sit with pen and paper to make a “useless” title page?  Possibly.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we are not perfect scholars over here… we have had our fair share of homework struggles… pulling our hair out to get that perfect paper machéd, 3-D model of some obscure parallelogram.  Or setting the timer for exactly 21 minutes of reading because that is the bare minimum required.   I have seen my teens burn the midnight oil on more than one occasion to complete that assignment simply because they procrastinated the rest of the week.  Homework can certainly be stress inducing.  And as parents, I think it is our job to shape, encourage and instruct our children… that yes, education is important.  And yes, this teacher’s expectations may be out of the ball park… so let’s deal with learning to have difficult conversations, let’s deal with how to interact with people who do not see our points of view, let’s be present in our education systems and seek wisdom.  Let’s make homework part of the bigger idea of “gathering wisdom.”

I’m not convinced there is an easy answer to the homework debate.  We are a full mix of people with many given gifts.  We have different goals and different learning styles.  Good grief… even within my own little clan, we cannot agree on this debate!  For now… I will encourage the completion of homework in our house, with the premise of gathering wisdom.  Skills like multiplication tables and correct spelling and grammar are necessary, yes, but so is good communication, and loving your neighbour, and standing up for what you believe.  Can homework achieve this?  Certainly not in 40 minutes a night.  It becomes a piece of a much, much broader idea, that I will continue to muse about often.

Let me know your thoughts… do you home school and avoid homework altogether?  Do you enforce homework time at your house?  Is it a struggle? Have helpful hints to share?  We’d love to hear from you!   Drop us a line!

Advent

I hate waiting.  I hate waiting in line, I hate waiting for my food to be cooked, I hate waiting for the kids to get out of school.  I just don’t like sitting around with nothing to do when something else should be happening.  I bring books or snacks or my phone or a crochet project on long car rides because my hands need to be doing something (or else I crash into a nap… which is a whole other story).

So, when I discovered that the real meaning of Advent was anticipatory waiting… I wasn’t too keen.  I don’t think many of us are good at waiting.  Have you noticed that radio stations are playing Christmas music already?!  The stores have been in Christmas mode since the day after Halloween!  The marketers out there certainly don’t like waiting!  They want us to be spending our dough faster and faster these days… no waiting!  Order now!  Direct ship!  Buy online!  Available 24 hours, seven days a week!  

Let’s step back for a minute. In case you are not familiar with the term “advent”… it is a traditional practice of the Christian church to anticipate the coming of Christ at Christmas, and then, in turn, His final return to earth.  Similar to the practice of Lent before Easter, it gives us a chance to slow down, to think and ponder, and to hope for the future.  It’s something I have to work on… this waiting.

My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars.

My first exposure to advent was those cardboard chocolate calendars.  The ones with the little doors you would open every day from December first until the 25th.  Back then, I didn’t understand what it meant… I simply enjoyed the treats everyday!  Later, we began to celebrate the four Sundays of advent at our church.  It was then, that I understood the symbolism, the tradition, and the true meaning of the practice.   It is something I have come to cherish as an adult.  It’s a discipline that that reminds me to slow down, to appreciate my family, to encourage my church family, and to rejoice in the season — and not to be so caught up in the rush of the “stuff”.  It forces me to focus each week on learning to wait.  To anticipate.  To revel in the beauty of hope.

Here’s what I have learned about the traditional advent symbolism:  it begins with an evergreen wreath… the symbol of a circle of eternity.  Our Christ is timeless.  He’s been around much longer than the babe in the manger.  Surrounding the wreath are four candles and one central candle.  Each candle is lit on the four Sundays of Advent, and culminate with the lighting of the white, central candle, which is lit on Christmas eve.  This central candle is sometimes referred to as the Christ candle… and represents His purity and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross.  

The first candle is purple.  It represents “hope” and the prophecies that Isaiah spoke about when He described the coming of our special Christmas baby.  The second purple candle represents love, and is sometimes referred to as the Bethlehem candle or the manger candle.  So much love happened in that lowly stable…. I imagine my own beloveds and how the whole world fell away the moment they were born and I saw them for the first time face to face.   Can you imagine Mary’s first glance at her special baby?  Yup, love for sure.  The next candle is pink… and represents joy.   It is the shepherd’s candle.  It embodies the joy and celebration the shepherds must have felt when they were given the good news that a Saviour had been born!  The last candle is also purple and reminds us to be peaceful.   This “angel” candle points us to worship, to reflection, and to remember that the season is not about gifts under a tree, but the ultimate gift given to us.  The One the angels were made for… simply to worship for eternity.  

So… as you prepare for your Christmas season, and you rush out here and there, be reminded of the advent tradition of waiting.  Take time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas… Christ’s coming.  Anticipate through hope, love, joy and peace, and the pure and holy sacrifice that Christ paid for you.  May you be blessed, my beloveds, as we journey towards the holidays together.   Take time to rejoice in waiting.  Oh… it shall be no easy task!  Especially if there are Christmas cookies in the oven! But we can practice it together, shall we?

Want to learn more about Advent?  Check out my Pinterest Boards for more ideas on DIY calendars, symbols, studies and more!

Legacies

a guest post from Abbie B.

Super excited to be sharing from a friend today!  Abbie is much (much!) younger than I, and yet, I am slightly jealous of her adventures.  I asked her to share a bit of her story after seeing a photo from her Jamaican trip.  Ya’ll know I love a good photo — and this one struck something within me — there is compassion and hope embodied in it, and yet sorrow and despair.  So I knew there must be a story behind it.  I have asked Abbie to share the story.  Enjoy!

Growing up knowing that both my Nana and my Grandma were overseas missionary nurses had always been an inspiration, and created a question of whether or not that might be God’s calling on my own life. When I began my nursing journey, I had many people ask me if I was going to follow in my Grandma and Nana’s footsteps. I always replied:  “If that’s what God wants.” I never wanted to say “I don’t know”.

So, when the opportunity of doing an International placement in Jamaica came up, I jumped at the opportunity.  Being a hands on person, I knew that I needed to experience being an international nurse to know if that was where God was leading me.

I didn’t know what I was going to be walking into when I landed in Jamaica, I didn’t know how I would feel! There was a part of me that was scared to walk into a new culture that I’d never experienced, the other part of me was excited for the challenge that was waiting.  My time was split between an orphanage and a small primary school.  Both places were completely different.  Walking into the orphanage, my heart felt heavy,  it was so hard knowing that some of these children didn’t have a permanent place to call home and to feel safe. We spent a majority of our time with the babies. Some who were premature, some toddlers, some who were not able to walk because of varying mobility impairments.  It was so hard to see the needs of the children, whether it was just to hold premature babies or to take a toddler out of their crib and help them walk.  It was even harder when a new baby would come in and try to settle.  My heart broke at their cries for comfort and security.  Working at the orphanage really affirmed in me that my heart is for people who are displaced and broken. Really breaking my heart for what breaks God’s. Our days there were spent doing Head to Toe Assessments (checking all the major body’s systems to make sure that there isn’t anything abnormal), bathing, changing clothes and diapers, playing games, reading, feeding, giving medications when needed to the babies and toddlers, as well as teaching the care givers at the orphanage about the misconceptions of asthma or hygiene.  Which at times was difficult for me because I never wanted to feel like a “know it all”,  or that I was stepping on toes.  I really learned how to be collaborative with those around me.

Working at the primary school was a good break from the emotional roller coaster (not that I didn’t love the orphanage) because I got to use a different side of my brain and skills while at the school.  It was more of “health teaching” with the children there. We brought down nurse and doctor costumes and I got to explain what the different instruments were and played games with them.  It wasn’t a large school by any means, but it felt like a family there — which was such a different feel than the orphanage.  I took the teachers’ blood pressures daily,  to see patterns of increase and decrease, answered their questions about what diabetes, heart failure, asthma etc. all are, and how some can be avoided, and that some is just up to genetics. So many amazing conversations about what health is and what it means to people either physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.  It amazes me how we can be from different parts of the world and find a common ground — and from there — relationships are built.

I loved my international placement,  and in a lot of ways I’m still decompressing and sorting through the lessons I learned.  The one thing that I will always hold with me is when I was leaving, the woman that we were staying with, said to me “You have a beautiful heart, don’t ever lose it.” God’s given me passions, He’s created a heart in me for people to feel safe and secure, to have a place where they feel like they belong.  By the end of my placement, I had a whole new appreciation for my grandma and Nana. Their faith, their consistency, and their commitment to serve God in the unknown. The whole time I was there I was asking God:  “Is this what you want me to do? Is this where you are leading me?” By the end I realized that being a long term missionary isn’t something that God is calling me to.   I think short term trips are still an open door that God isn’t going to be closing anytime soon.  I know that community is where God is calling me and I’ve really seen that in Toronto.  There are so many who are broken and displaced for varying reasons.  My heart breaks for them, and all I want to do is step beside them and walk with them through the hard times.  I’m excited to see where God leads me, as scary as that is,  I trust that He knows best and He will be faithful in giving me the strength to follow through.

Indeed He will, Abbie.  I wish you much joy in the adventure!  

The Call of the Crows

CalloftheCrows1I’m writing this post under the tranquil setting of the tall oaks… okay it’s not true.  Unfortunately, the internet is not reliable here, and although I thought of playing it old school and using pen and paper and transferring it later… I am just too lazy for that.  (Funny how attached to our technology we are now, eh?)   So.  I am writing contemplating this post under the tranquil setting of the tall oaks near our summer home.  The olive leaves sway gently in the breeze, a mix of mature and mighty oaks and a few spindly little ash trees.  The ash borer beetle destroyed a lot of them a few years back.  It’s so pleasant here.  In the spring, the leaves are sparser and you can almost say we have a lakefront view.  The lake is there, the forest just blocks it most of the time.  Occasionally, if you are really patient, a chipmunk or squirrel will dart through, inquisitively eyeing you, hoping you have a treat or dropped one nearby.  The other night the foxes crept near,  sheltered by the dark brush, but close enough to let us know they are becoming less afraid of us humans.

It’s cooler here than over in the field where the sun beats down all summer.  It has its disadvantages though — nothing ever dries, and the dark, damp ground attracts mosquitoes.  We don’t picnic outside too often, here in the bush.  But it’s a great place to read — or contemplate blog posts.  We rarely have to cut the grass.  Nothing grows much, except the weeds that seem to tolerate the acidic soil.  It’s tranquil, but it is definitely not quiet.CalloftheCrows2

I live in the city, so you think I would be used to the noise.  However, up here it is nonstop.  We love how a good thunderstorm sounds on the roof of the trailer.  During the day you can hear the people playing and enjoying their vacations, or a boat out on the lake beyond the trees.  On Mondays, the garbage truck comes by and you can hear the bins clanging.  Cars make a distinct grinding noise as they go slowly down towards the private cottages along the gravel roads.  The squirrels and chipmunks climb high into the oaks and get at the acorns.  Every so often they drop one, and if it happens to drop on our porch roof it bangs with such a thud, you’d think there has been a shot fired!  Seriously — it’s loud.  When you get used to it, you wait for the ping ping ping as the nut rolls down the incline and off the roof.   Single handedly, the most annoying noise in the woods, however, is the crows.CalloftheCrows3

I say they are crows, but they might be ravens.  They’re big, but ravens are bigger, though, I think.  So let’s say they are crows.  You don’t see them often, their black, sleek bodies with just a hint of iridescent green, blend in to the dense foliage in the treetops.  Sometimes you can hear them fly in — the flapping of their huge wings like some horror movie from the sixties.  It’s their calling that is so obnoxious, though.  Kinda like a cross between a duck quack and dog bark.  Loud and harsh.  It doesn’t seem to hold any meaning either… perhaps they answer one another.  Perhaps they just like to be heard.  Like a two year old and a new, flashy, electronic toy that is stuck on repeat… caw, caw, caw… Either way, the sound is creepy.  During the day, they are there, but the other noises drown them out, and it is easier to ignore them.  It’s in the wee hours of the morning when they become most hideous.  The sun is barely up and the calling begins… like some sick rooster announcing the dawn.   No pretty songbird chirp, just caw, caw.  How come the falling squirrel acorns don’t hit them on the way down and knock ’em out?  Sheesh!

And yet, as I sit here in contemplation, I can’t help but compare the crows to the doubts, fears and insecurities in our lives.  Big, black, and often overshadowing the pretty songs of our other qualities, our doubts creep in and disrupt all our other solitudes.  “Am I good enough?” “Why does this always happen to me?” “Will we make it to the next paycheck?” “What about the kids?”  I don’t know what your doubt is, my friend, but I know that we all have those nagging worries somewhere down in our souls.  We can ignore them most of the time — when the other noisy distractions can push them aside.  They hide in the treetops until, sometimes, in the wee hours, when no one else is around to displace them, they come calling again.  Loud and harsh.  Caw, caw, caw.Callof theCrows4

I want to end this post on a positive note, but the crows will always be there in the treetops… and the doubts and fears will always be there, too.  Sometimes they fly away and the calling stops, but then a new set of crows show up and the noise begins again, in a different tune and tone.  Take comfort, then, that God is the orchestrator of the forest, the one who created the “call of the crows”.  I don’t understand why all the noise, to me it is just harsh and annoying — but He has some purpose in the call.  It’s up to us to give it over to Him, and let Him use those needling noises, the ones all unrelenting and severe in our ears, to blend them in to the swaying melody of the mighty oak forest, in a concert worthy of the master conductor.

 

It’s the Little Things

Little thingsThe Mitton crew has just returned home from a lovely vacation in our summer dwelling.  It truly was lovely.  Except, that about two days in, I got sunburnt.  It was my own fault, really, I did not re-apply the sunblock and could feel the crispy-ness attacking my legs… but was simply too lazy to head back in to shore from the rubber dingy I was lounging in.  Consequence received, I spent the next few days slightly pinked and diligently re-applying the “after sun” aloe vera gel and searching for home remedies for sunburn.  Then the youngest got a sliver in her foot after dancing around barefoot on the dock.  Why is a sliver always the biggest disaster to a small child?  Breathe.  Dig out the blessed thing, slap a Band-Aide there, and move on.  Sheesh.  I soon discovered that it’s the little things in life that make up your days.  Much to the delight of that same little girl, we also fed pistachios to a cheeky little black squirrel who was just brave enough to come near.  We watched the sun go down over the lake and marvelled at the orange and pink glows that silhouetted the trees beyond us.  We giggled under the covers as we read our book late into the night.  None of these things were super adventurous.  We didn’t save the world or climb a mountain.  There were no great heros.  None of these things were utter disasters, either.  There were no trips to the hospital or bank loans needed.  And yet, as I seek to be more grateful, I am again reminded that often it’s the little things that matter.  You can consider this post my gratitude journal of sorts.  A documentation of things that simply remind me of why I should be happy.Little things3

As time goes on and my hair gets a few more streaks of grey in it, I can’t help but stop and remember the days when the kids were babes and we rejoiced at their first steps, and encouraged them as they splashed and played in the sand at the beach.  The greatest joys were when the sandcastle moat collapsed and you had to quickly breach the leaks before the whole kingdom was washed away in the floods.  Slivers were a big deal then too.  But so was jumping off the dock, and pushing the limits was getting just a bit closer to putting their whole face under the water!  Now they strut about with their friends like proud peacocks, hoping mom and dad don’t totally embarrass them by acknowledging their presence.  Oh — the horror — you have parents!

I am delighted to see you grow and come into your own as you begin to lead.  To begin to take more chances and go off on your own.  To not only put your face underwater, but jump wholeheartedly forward… willing to sink or swim. I remember hearing a preacher say once that when you are a new mom, you should be thankful for every Cheerio you pick up off the floor — revel in the moment that you are in right now.  Little ThingsTo be honest, if you are that new mom… you have no desire to be thankful for those blasted bits of cereal… I know, I been there, sister…  but now that some time has passed, I can tell you…yup…it’s true… you are thankful for the Cheerios.  Psychology tells us that there are benefits to gratitude, to counting our blessings and to recognizing that seeking joy makes us healthier.  (Just so you know: it’s not psychology… it’s a God thing…)

Our lives are so full of little things.  The everyday blessings and hurts of this journey we call life.  The slivers and the sunsets.  I am trying to enjoy the learning process — are you?  Are you taking time to revel in the moment that you are in right now?  To not complain about your aches and pains, your lack of wifi, your bank balance or what the weather is doing?  It’s hard.  I get it.  I have those days too… when I am tired and sad and everything seems to go kaput.  But we are here for a only a brief moment, a mere blip in the eternity of time.  So pull out that splinter, slap a Band-Aide on there, eat the Cheerio off the floor, and go jump in the lake!Little things2

 

Would you like to muse along with me ?  I’m trying to reach my goal of 100 followers before I launch some exciting changes here on mittonmusings.com.  Wanna be a part of the adventure?! Share and follow along! I’d be grateful 😉 We’re almost there….

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Hoarding

forgetmenot2By the time you read this post, Mother’s Day (in Canada at least) will be over and the flower shops and restaurants will be filling their coffers with yet another year’s profits.  Teachers will be breathing a sigh of relief that their entire class of 27 six-year-olds managed not to kill off their forget-me-nots, which were sent home on Friday, delicately blooming in hand-painted pots destined for moms and grandmothers.  The “mommy-I made-it-all-by-myself breakfasts in bed” kitchens will once again be tidy and neat and the dose of antacid tablets will be taken to settle the fact that you actually ate that “mommy-I-made-it-all-by-myself” breakfast.  *gag*  The moms will smile and wink at the dads who managed a card and who dressed the kids for church and dinner so you could get two more full seconds of sleep on this “special day” (Trust me… little girl tights are not something dads should handle).  Oh… but friends, I promise you this:  We loved every minute of it!

Even now, as mom of two teens, a semi-adult, and an almost grown-up pre-teen, I still appreciate the grunt and nod of acknowledgement that is directed my way every once and awhile.  Come to think of it, I also still have to clean up the kitchen from the “mom-I-made-it-myself” messes.  Hmmn.  So, I muse:  Why?  Why do we, as moms, savour every glimmer of appreciation from our kids?  Why do we never forget a Mother’s Day, even as adults? I think because we were given this God given gift of connection the moment we weloveditheld those beloveds in our arms for the very first time.  According to some early-stage scientific research, we have things called “u-opioids” that are released in our brains when we are socially connected to someone… specifically our mothers.  It’s that whole bonding/proper imprinting thing that is exemplified by those little ducklings illustrated in classic children’s books.  Moms make us feel warm and fuzzy — so we connect — and are now willing to follow them into the water even though we have never swam with our newly hatched tail feathers before.  It’s already pre-wired in our brains.  (Reminds me of that post about chocolate.  In case you missed it, you can read about that here.)

I remember studying about Rhesus monkeys in animal behaviour — when removed from their mothers and isolated, the tiny monkeys clung to warm pieces of cloth in their cages… anything to help them feel safe.   Even the basic need for food was only used temporarily… the monkeys went back to the warm, safe feeling momma.

08harlow

It’s in our very nature to connect… especially to our moms. (Photo: via UoT research archives)

Not withstanding the controversies of animal research in the 1960’s, these studies certainly showed us something about our need for connection.  I’m sure it’s biological.  And spiritual. Or both.  How much more do complex humans struggle to connect and bond than our animal counterparts?  Our relationships are the key to our existence.  A God woven ticket into our complexities.  We are too fragile to exist without one another.  Every good Hollywood film or compelling book sets it’s protagonist in an entanglement of relationship woes — and we, as an audience, rejoice when they “live happily ever after”.

I don’t have any research to back it up, but I suspect that even moms who are not particularly close to their kids still hoard things that connect them to their children.  A picture, a note, a card.  Even estranged or adoption birth mothers reflect on the day of their child’s birth.  Just a little bit.  It’s really hard to ignore something that grew inside you for nine months.  I’m a die hard scrapbooker and have been since I was a child.  I collect every ticket stub, brochure and report card.  I have file folders for each one of my beloved offspring and a couple of random ones for the leftover stuff.  I am compelled to save these random trinkets — just in case.  Just in case I need to know that in grade 2 your sister got an 82 in English and was a “pleasure to have in our class”.  Seriously.  I have no idea why I keep these things.  I’m sure it has something to do with u-opioids.  Some inexplicable bond that keeps me connected to my kids and my kids to me — through random photos and sticky, wrinkled papers rescued from the bottoms of backpacks.  These things remind me of the experiences we have shared together — and so I hoard and pile them up as the kids grow into adulthood.

This was the first mother’s day without my sweet mother-in-law.  She was taken from us all too soon from the end stages of Alzheimer’s.  Even though her memories were clouded and her fragile body was fearful at times, the family rejoiced in glimmers of recognition at an old hymn, or at some pattern in the table that struck a chord with her somewhere back in the depths of her memories.  She loved to look at my family scrapbooks.  She’d point and smile, and you could tell something clicked.  This is why we keep these little bits of memorabilia.  Our humanness wants to connect.  We need to feel loved and nurtured.

So, if you are a young mom still struggling with sleepless nights and piles of laundry, I hate to tell you… not much changes.  We still have sleepless nights and laundry.  Only now we are awake because they are out past curfew.  And the laundry just stinks more.  But you learn to treasure the coloured mother’s day cards complete with sparkles that’s hoarded away in a folder.  Why?  Because they remind you of the times your little ones believed that you were all that mattered in the world, and they were willing to follow you into the pond water — no questions asked.  As they get older, your treasures become the Facebook likes on your posts,  or the “mom, how do you make that meatloaf I love?” texts. You even relish in the “Can you please wash these pants in time for tomorrow’s presentation?” just before midnight.  And when your mom needs to be the one who gets cared for, you rejoice that you have made the connection complete.  And you’ll smile when the time comes to clean out her closet after she is gone, and discover that she hoarded a few photos and mother’s day cards from you, too.

treasures