Orlando, Day Two

More Day One Photos

Day Two

Our first full day in Orlando ended in the hotel pool with a moonlit family swim, and a little white lie about it being midnight when we finally convinced the kids to get out and get to bed. It was, in fact, ten o’clock which is a full two hours past their bedtime. They protested a little, but once they were tucked in, they were completely out.

The grown ups enjoyed some late night snacks and some Olympics on the hotel television. We don’t have cable at home, so it was novel to have TV, and I forgot how much I enjoy the Olympic coverage. I slept like a log, much better than the first night, where I think I got a total of three hours after trying in vain to share a bed with a twitchy eight-year-old.

In the morning we woke up slowly and headed to the hotel restaurant for breakfast on the patio. The food at the hotel was decent. Not bad, not great. We got a sweet ass discount though, so I won’t complain. With breakfast in our bellies we wandered the grounds until we found the other kid-friendly pool – a smaller one that contained a pirate ship playground. The ship spouted water and had a small slide, so it was just right for A, who incidentally decided to liberate herself from her water wings once and for all on this trip. H took great delight in playing thousands of pool games (including ‘dive for my watch’ with Daddy who is some kind of super hero when it comes to his relentless energy). Mamma S and I had a splash or two and then enjoyed lounging – she with her Suduko and I with my book. (Oh, my book! It definitely bears mention. A gift from my wonderful friend who works for a major Canadian book retailer, ‘tiny beautiful things’ was devoured by me on this vacation. It’s a compilation of published advice column entries called ‘Dear Sugar’ and Sugar is in fact author Cheryl Strayed. Oh how I love this book.) We also armed ourselves with virgin Pina Coladas.

Pool side fun began to subside for me as I started to fret about when we would leave for day two of Disney. It seems I have a real problem with relaxing and chilling the eff out. I watched our kids with fascination amazed at how they lived in each and every moment, wondering how I too was once capable of such a thing. The idea of doing nothing for a whole day actually makes me feel a bit anxious. After a gentle reminder from Daddy, I forced myself to relax a little. Not long after we returned to our room to change, hit the resto again for a lunch/snack and then headed back to Magic Kingdom.

The weather was much more agreeable, and we arrived there just before 5pm but all we had to tackle was Tomorrowland. We (or at least those of us who aren’t pregnant) Fast Passed for Space Mountain, and  then filled the four hour wait with all of the other rides in Tomorrowland. A and Mama S went off to meet the latest Disney Princess, Merida from the movie Brave, while H and Daddy and I took on the Carousel of Progress. Those animatronics figures still delight/creep the hell out of me and I’m fairly sure H felt the same.

Poor H has a real fear of mascot characters too, but strangely we encountered very few of them on our trip. She and I kept a wide berth between us and them, and she did rather well.

Tomorrowland was kind of lame, in my opinion. The kids loved the new Buzz Lightyear ride, and they also enjoyed the flying space ships. The highlight (pre Space Mountain, of course) was the Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor. It was a totally interactive, improvised comedy show that picked out members of the audience and flashed them up on a big screen for our delight and amusement. This was so well done, and half the joy was listening to H laugh so loud people kept spinning around in their seats to look at her.

Dinner consisted of $50 worth of ‘gourmet’ hot dogs (god help me), and then there was just enough time for the space ship ride before the scheduled date with Space Mountain. The ride looked like one of those fairly time kiddie rides that go up in the air and down again in a circular motion. It’s quite high up because they built it on top of a structure, so there was an amazing view of the part. There was also a far-off lightning storm which was incredibly beautiful. However, there was one thing I didn’t read about in any of the hundreds of pregnancy books I’ve tackled. Apparently you have zero equilibrium when you’re preggers. I got so dizzy and woozy on this ride, it was all I could do not to puke my $10 hot dog on to little A’s head. She was my co-pilot you see. Mama S had to help me out once the ride was over because I was too twirly to stand. The kids thought this was hilarious.

While the fam hit Space Mountain, I made a date with the People Mover, which is a series of little cars that move around Tomorrowland. I had the whole thing to myself, so I put my feet up and enjoyed the warm breeze. The ride was substantial, and ate up a decent chunk of time. The fact that we broke down for ten minutes also really helped.

We all met up again after, and it was just about time to find a place to watch the nightly fireworks blow out. H was unfortunately done with the whole thing at this point, and A despite demanding that we stay was also getting over-tired (read angry and emo). I’m still not totally sure why we elected to stay on anyway, but the fireworks were very pretty. Thank god Mama S thought to rent a stroller.

By the end of the fireworks, I was definitely on the list of children who wanted to be in bed NOW. The problem was this – do we stay an extra hour and let the crowd disburse, potentially getting trapped in the light-up parade that ends the night, or do we brave the crowd and get the hell out of there? The shrieking and crying that began coming from the stroller was our answer.  We really should have got a double.

If you ever think it’s a good idea to drag two exhausted kids and a seven-months pregnant lady through a crowd of thousands of people all trying to get to the same place (and many of these other people are exhausted, cranky-ass kids) I am here to tell you resolutely that it is NOT. Getting out of the park was challenging, but the line up to wait for a monorail was pure hell.

When you are an adult, you are apparently not supposed to whine and carry on as a child might when you are uncomfortable or tired (another lesson I’m working on). When you have kids, you have to bite your tongue and soldier on, and even try to make the shittiest shit fun. Daddy is very good at this. I am not. I did manage stoic and silent though. Just as we were about to board the monorail, the two kids behind us, roughly the same age as ours, actually threw themselves to the ground and passed out. There was something that was frankly eerie about being jostled about in a crowd of exhausted, emotional, sweaty people who were all waiting to be herded onto trains. Not really the Disney fantasy I had in mind. At least nobody puked.

Reaching the car was like arriving at the Promised Land. Once they were strapped in and the a/c was blasting, it was only moments before the children were deeply unconscious. Once home, straight to bed for every last one of us. Were the fireworks worth it? Personally, I say no, but Mama S got to snap some cool photos.

Day three brought us a day of total chilling out. Stay tuned for more…

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It’s Gonna Take A Lot To Take Me Away From You

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Have you ever remained in denial about a thing until it was right there staring you in the face? Of course then what happens is that all of the feelings and fears you refused to acknowledge are there en mass, and there’s no pretending anymore.

I’m folding tiny clothes and tiny socks and packing up suitcases and trying to stay bright and positive, but I’m not good at missing people. I’m not good at “aparting” as my five-year-old would say. My fella and my girls are off to Africa for three weeks and my lady and I must stay behind.

It’s a huge opportunity and a huge adventure for the girls and my man hasn’t been back in 22 years. It’s an important trip for the extended family, surrounding an important religious occasion, and I’m excited for them but so sad.

Sad to miss so many firsts, sad to be so far away, sad to not be able to take time off to visit such an amazing place, and sad that their first time couldn’t be our first time too.

There’s a bright side too because there always is. I get three very quiet weeks to focus on work, reading, writing. I get three weeks to enjoy some alone time with my lady. I’m hoping those great pluses will take the edge off my worry and sadness.

I furnished the girls with a fresh new sketch book, we will Skype every day, and hopefully the time will fly by. In the New Year, I’m hopeful that we can go on a family vacation – something we’ve yet to do all together.

What a magical time for them! I guess it’s a little tough for me because I’ve missed a lot of their magical experiences already, and I’m new to the maternal separation anxiety thing.  I’ll focus on the magic that we’re bound to share as their lives unfold, enjoy the quiet time for reflection, and celebrate the adventures that await us all.

Dear Friends

You are really and truly amazing and important to me. In many ways, I think of you as the family I have chosen, and I hope that you share that sentiment with me. My home is always open to you, as is my heart, and when I love people there isn’t much I wouldn’t do for them.

I have a few requests of you, so I hope you are listening.

1. I am in a closed romantic relationship. Though it defies convention, in many ways we are the same as conventional couples. We are “monogamous” insofar as we can be. We welcome your hugs, kisses, platonic love and mild flirtation, but please know that we are not recruiting.

2. The children in my life call me “mama”. They believe I am their mother. I believe I am their mother. My partners believe I am their mother. Please address me as such, particularly in front of my children, and kindly do not address parental-type conversations directly to their biological parents in front of me. We are called “mamma S” and “mamma C” if you need to make a distinction. Please treat my children as you would if they were my adopted or biological children. I call them my step kids, but it’s a bit different, isn’t it?

3. We are living in the open. Therefore when thanking us as a family please address us either by our individual first names or lump us all together under one tree. Either use my full name and say “and the rest of the x family” or just say the “x family”. We care what you think. We don’t give a shit about what your parents/aunts/uncles/strangers/etc. think.

4. If you can’t invite all of us to events and occasions because you’re afraid of what people will think, please don’t invite any of us. We won’t always ALL be able to come, but we’re not really into leaving anyone behind for reasons other than schedule conflicts.

5.  We are all partners now. Terms like “husband” and “wife” no longer apply to any of us, unless you are trying to be cute and are bestowing titles on all of us.

6. Thank you for your love and support. We’re going to have a lot of explaining to do in this lifetime, and some unintentional social blunders to wade through because of the choices we’ve made. We anticipate this, and hope that this post has been helpful. There aren’t really any etiquette tips that apply to our situation, so we are creating our own.

Take a moment and reflect on your own relationship, if you are in one. Some of you wouldn’t have the love that so enriches your lives if it weren’t for pioneers to blaze the trail to the rights you now enjoy, and perhaps take a little bit for granted. Maybe one day, we’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our own courage in a way that extends well beyond our four walls.

With so much love,

Schnoo

The Wild Geese

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
Mary Oliver

This week in Schnooville

We adopted a six-month-old bunny. After conclusively deciding that my man is only mildly allergic to rabbits (a very hilarious trip to the Menagerie Pet Store involving a rabbit face-rub was our scientific study) our tribe decided it was time for our first pet. Floppy was the first rabbit I discovered with my lady on Kiji, after the kids had been tucked into bed. Her family was near by, and had made the sad decision to give her up because she was terrified of their terrier. Terriers were bred to hunt small game and rodents. Sigh. They described her as gentle, fun-loving, eager to be pet and stroked, mostly litter trained and adorable. Their photos supported the adorable theory, and she came with her massive cage and all of the goods for a very reasonable price. A steal, really. I sent a note and the next day we went to gather her up. The children decided to call her Ella because she is a lovely mottled grey, and elephants are also grey. She is as affectionate as described – perhaps too much. She keeps making chortles, giving me little nips and peeing on me. Based on my bunny research, she is trying to do what rabbits like better than carrots. Ella will be spayed on Friday which should help with her marking and garlic-smelling poo. So not okay. Nothing I read told me her crapola would smell like cooking. Feeding her more parsley only made it smell like French cooking. Hmmm…rabbit stew. Just kidding, I’m already quite in love.

I have the weirdest cold. One day I’m just a tad sniffly, the next I can’t talk, am hacking up a lung, and wondering whether I might be expelling brain matter from my nose. The cold arrived before the rabbit, so I’ve dispelled the possibility of my own allergies. I’ve cleared my social calendar completely and am behaving like what my friend Natalie would call a “nana” – like a contented old lady who takes naps and sips tea by the fire.

I discovered the amazing poet Mary Oliver through the lovely Liz Green – thank you Liz! I’m hungry for her words like I haven’t been in a long time, and look forward to reading more of her work.

One of my ‘Besties’ (a title reserved for my very closest friends) is relocating to Los Angeles. He’d already moved far away to Montreal, but his lovely Toronto girlfriend kept luring him back for visits. Now they’re shacking up and heading off for new adventures. I’m thrilled for them, but he will be missed. I can only hope that they will follow through on their plans to settle in Toronto permanently.  Spring has me thinking of babies, and I’d like to rear all of my young with my friends who I love so dearly close by.

I’m trying to do good and right by the ones I love. I’m taking big steps, reaching out, and reaching in. This week I came to realize how profound one of my big-time low moments in life has affected my present tense. When you have royally fucked up, there are always consequences. My former tendency was to run, under the guise of sparing others from the misery that I decide that I’ve caused them. Grown-up Schnoo is willing to stand and face the music and do whatever it takes to make things as amazing as they can be. It’s abso-freakin-lutely terrifying to stare down the barrel at your own weakness and stupidity. I want to crawl out of my skin or disappear in some moments, but there is such immense power and tremendous love in humility. I wish to foster humility in my girls, because I was only able to embrace it after smashing my head repeatedly in the same spot over and over again. I’m still learning how to really embrace the humble openness that seems to consistently make magic. Nothing is scarier than being that open for a Schnoo like me. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. I’ve been whispering my feelings into the Internet for several years now. Naming them to real-live people is another matter entirely.

With that, off I go to my head shrinker. We’ll have lots to discuss today. I’ve fueled up on a giant maple flavoured coffee while I’ve been typing here. I hope your Hump Day is happy. Tell someone you love something brave and beautiful that is deep inside your heart, and then congratulate yourself for being so bold.

xo

In the hall of the Gnome King

Pheasant Feathers - David Taylor

Yesterday we bought a Christmas tree, set it up in our living room, went to a pot luck at the girls’ school, and then decorated the tree with all of the decorations we’ve made.

I’m a PTA mom. I have children to enjoy the holidays with. I have a family.

Every day we are growing, and with the hope that peaceful December brings, I daresay getting stronger. I believe we are getting stronger.

The dreamy phase has been paused, and work, and life have sunk their teeth into us, creating some stress and some seriously distracted grown-ups with their faces buried in their computers, but we persevere. I work at being better, stronger, and most importantly, more trusting. This one is the hardest, and it is with real anger that I admit that. I imagine myself free of doubt, and able to sink deeply into the arms of love, and know that work distractions don’t mean the end of the world. My waking brain knows this, but there are still cobwebs that keep this message from being clearly relayed.

Sometimes when I tell my boyfriend some of the things in my head he laughs. Not because he is laughing at me, but because he can’t believe how far his own thoughts and my perceptions are from each other in such moments. I wish I could laugh at this too. Maybe that’s a good way to dismiss such moments, or put them in better perspective.

This has been an incredible weekend. When I can look up and catch secret, special glances from both of my partners each time, I know all is right with the world. We’re listening to Louis Armstrong, each working away in our brightly sun-lit living room, brunch is packed away, and the girls are playing in their now-clean bedroom. The six-year-old is wearing a crazy woolen hat that I own, and matching blue tights with crazy flowers all over them. She has a leather belt with embroidered flowers, where she’s tucked a recently acquired plastic sword. Her fuzzy red and white striped socks match the red and white furry pouch she has slung diagonally across her little self, and she is addressing her father and I as the Gnome King and Gnome Queen. She returns from her epic travels to her bedroom with treasures that she lays like offerings with a bow and a flourish; old rhinestone costume jewelery, feathers, crystals, old coins, and anything else that catches her imagination.

She is a soul-twin, of that I am sure. There are so many moments when I am convinced she can see into my head and my heart. For example, just the other day, she was playing a story game taught to her by a class mate. It goes like this:

“Once, there was a man named Gunkie Dung Gung, and he ate a slug.”

None of us knows what this means, but we have a joke that only children can say the name of this man, because it is unpronounceable to the grown-up tongue. This particular morning though, she changed the game up:

“Once, there was a man named Bookie Boo…”

Bookie Boo was the nickname my father gave me as a little girl. I’ve never told her this, nor have I ever uttered this name in her presence, but there it was. She amazes me every day.

At the pot luck, the children in her kindergarten participate in a little ritual called the Advent Spiral. The teacher lays evergreen boughs on the floor in the shape of a spiral and the path is marked with large shells or crystals or tin stars. In the centre of the spiral are individual white taper candles in fat apples. The children walk with a parent, select a candle, and walking the spiral, place the candle near the symbol that speaks to them. Our six-year-old chose me to walk the spiral with her, and it was so sweet and solemn. She didn’t want to hold my hand though. She led the way, proud and strong, selected her candle, walked with me at her side, and laid it to rest beside a large, beautiful feather.

From the internet:

“When you find feathers upon your path it could be taken to mean that you are on a higher spiritual path (whether you accept it or not), and it may be a sign of encouragement as you philosophically travel on this path.

Finding feathers on your path is also symbolic of having a lighter outlook on life or a particular situation.  When we see feathers in our midst it is considered a message that we need to lighten up, not take things too seriously, and try to find the joy in our situation.”

Light. Joy. Spirit.

Let the holidays begin.

Sometimes I Wonder How to Be Me

Workspace of my dreams

I am sitting by the wall of window that is my new living room, and watching the sun sink slowly below the tops of the skyscrapers.

I feel like me again. Mostly. I wonder if it is because it is no longer November?

I’m waiting for the family to get home. Waiting for our six year old to swing open the door and yell “Hi Distinguished!”. Distinguished is her nick-name for me. I have no idea where she picked this up. Waiting for the silence to be broken by hustle and bustle. Waiting to see how I feel to be surrounded.

I’ve been home alone a lot lately. I think it’s good. It’s been productive, and quiet, and this space is feeling more and more like my own as a result. My partners are working away at their old warehouse, and my apartment, and I am plotting and planning here between loads of dishes and laundry. It is only today that I’ve really felt like leaving my house in about a week or so. Very unlike me, for sure.

These two little girls have unlocked my creative drive like no self-help book I have ever encountered. All of this crafting has been incredible, and I’m constantly on the hunt now for new ideas and activities. Our six-year-old is an incredible artist, mind blowing really, and it’s thrilling to show her new ways to express her talent. It’s also a huge ego boost for me because they think I’m some kind of artistic genius.

I know I’ve written before about never recognizing my own artistic ability. I’ve spent so much time trying to support the artists I’ve loved, and help them realize their own goals. I’ve always thought of myself more as a dabbler, but now that I am the working artist in my household, I think I need to get on board with this idea – Schnoo as artiste.

Thirty-three years of denial is hard to kick. This much I know.

My partners are super supportive. They are supportive in the way that I have been supportive; that ‘I know you can do anything you want, and I want to help you realize how’ kind of way. It’s so incredible, in fact, it’s sometimes hard to believe. I want to be very sensitive about never taking advantage of this, or taking it for granted.

What will I do now, with this opportunity? I know I cannot sit at a desk, in an office, tied to one space for hours on end. I don’t work well like this, and I can’t pretend anymore.

The faint glimmerings of an incredible work possibility are on the horizon, but I don’t want to jinx it. It all came about in one of those moments when timing seemed like everything. I’ll write more as I learn more about this.

Whatcha got for me next, universe?

Morning Pages

Picture 2

I’m trying to post something here every day, but sometimes when I wake up in the morning, my head is so full of cobwebs, I have nothing really to say.

This morning, we’re listening to music that is slightly too loud for my morning ears, our three year old is laying on the sofa looking up adoringly at her daddy who is trying to get her dressed, our six year old is very slowly eating her cereal, my girlfriend is unloading the dishwasher, and all five of us are drinking kale smoothies.

“K for kale.”

The little one has been home from school for three days now, if we include today, due to a runny nose and a nagging, liquidy cough. Despite these symptoms, she seems her usual self – just as much energy, and I learned yesterday that if you don’t want to be bombarded in the shower, you must lock the door. I didn’t even have a lock on my bathroom door at The Fortress.

Our older one is looking forward to a big event at school tonight that involves the children exploring a magically transformed classroom in the dark, on their own. It’s supposed to be quite magical, but I have to miss this because I have a meeting this evening.

It’s slightly overcast, but I can see lots of blue sky, and I’m wondering if I should ride my bike today. I’m also trying to decide if this is physically possible because my boyfriend switched up my workout yesterday, and I can barely move. I think I’ll decide to push myself anyway. I have no clothing that fits me anymore.

Sometimes I sit here and marvel at how much everything in my universe has changed.

I went from being a lonely, single girl who took the occasional solace in her dog, to a girl who is constantly surrounded by people who love her, who no longer sees her dog because of the petty nature of his other owner, who is in the best shape she’s ever been in, and who is watching every single thing she’s ever wanted fall into place.

I miss my dog. I miss living close to the park and the trees, particularly because I know how much the girls would love that, sometimes I miss my things, and every once in a while I’m aware that I need a quiet place to retreat to. I imagine we all do. Our current home has no walls. The rooms are divided with a series of sliding glass doors, and you can hear everything around you. When I’m not at home, I hear everything around me in a different way. This dam-bursting amount of change, and joy, and love has me casting a critical eye at all of the things that are wrong in my own head, that have been preventing me from feeling such joy all along.

This weekend will be about family. (I’m looking at my girlfriend right now who is talking to our six year old from the fridge. Her hair is all tied up and she is wearing a fitted oatmeal sweater. She looks so gorgeous and delicate this morning. I love how fairy-like she is.) Last weekend, we hit the dollar store and bought a whole bunch of craft stuff and spent the day working on home made decorations for the Christmas tree. I’d love to do more of the same. We were hoping to get in a visit with my friend Ming and her new baby, but I think with a sick little one, and the rest of us exposed to those germs we’ll have to forego that.

Tonight we’re cooking dinner for two of my friends who have been so generous lending their talents to my cabaret company. They will get to meet the girls for the first time, and I’m always delighted by this because they are so utterly charming with new people.

Sunday I’m hoping to connect with my aunt who I haven’t seen in a while, and Sunday evening we’re descending en mass to the Muslim equivalent of a baptism or baby naming ceremony. Oh yes. There’s the element to our relationship that I haven’t shared yet. It’s going to be a big one, I think. A whole new world to discover and negotiate my way through. I’m looking forward to this. I love ceremony and religion.

The sun has gently pushed aside some cloud cover, and is streaming over my shoulder to illuminate my hair in a fiery halo. Our littlest one has been released from her first time-out of the day, my girlfriend is finished packing up lunch (which is supposed to be my job), my boyfriend is hard at work, and I’m off to fold some laundry and send our six year old off to school.

See how normal life can be? We’re not so different, you and I.

From our three year old: “Daddy, can you put rock and roll on?”