Just like that.

There are seasons of parenthood where you can see childhood stages coming to an end.  Diapers lead into potty-training, cribs lead into beds, and nursing/bottles eventually wean.  In my experience, these stages have had a build-up, a preparatory phase, a time of transition whereby I could mull things over in my analytical brain and get a handle on my emotional brain.  As a parent, of course each new childhood stage brings excitement and the chance to watch my kids grow and prosper, but another part of me mourns the passing of the previous stage.

When I was younger, being a mother was never on my radar.  I didn’t play with dolls and dream about having children like some little girls do; in fact, I used to wonder if I had any maternal instinct in me at all.  But when my son was born in 2009, my new role turned into my life’s greatest joy.  As I’ve been along for the ride of watching these little people grow, my joy has also grown.

But with each passing stage, there’s a tiny bit of me that wonders if I soaked it up enough while it was happening right in front of me.  Did I cherish their curled-up newborn bodies?  Their haphazard crawling styles?  Their oh-so-sweet toddler-speak?  Their unsteady gait?  I can’t recall their baby coos or three-word sentences unless I see them on old videos, and the clear memories of their first steps and their first words are already waning.  They say that the days are long but the years are short.  They’re right.

So, when we ended a parenting stage abruptly this weekend, I didn’t even see it coming.

You see, my daughter, who just turned seven last week, has been crawling into our bed halfway through the night for nearly four years.  Some of you may be shocked by that, but it’s never been a big deal to us.  Our house has a main-floor Master with kid’s bedrooms upstairs, and when we moved in 2015, her three-year-old self found comfort by wandering down the stairs, usually between midnight and 2am, and sleeping snuggled in between my husband and I.  At first, we attributed it to the move and all the changes in her life, and then it just became a habit we didn’t care to change.  Yes, some nights we got kicked by little feet and elbows, but most of the time she was a welcomed addition who whispered to me a “mom, snuggle” request that became our pattern.  I knew it wouldn’t last forever, and I wanted to soak it up for as long as I could.

This past Friday night, we returned from a March-break vacation in Arizona, with a three-hour time change to manage.  As I tucked her in much later than usual, I mentioned that she needed to stay in her room that night, rather than coming downstairs with us.  I had to be at work early on Saturday morning, and my 7:30am alarm would feel like 4:30am in Phoenix; she needed to sleep in and get her body rested instead of waking up with me.  And she did stay in her bed all night, likely exhausted from travel and a busy trip.  The next morning she proudly announced: “I don’t need to sleep in your bed anymore.  I’m going to stay in my bed all night from now on.”

Just like that.

And she did.  For three nights there were no pitter-patter of little feet on the stairs, no drinks from the sippy cup on my nightstand, no tip-toeing out of my bedroom in the morning to allow a sleeping child to slumber.  Done.  Onto the next stage, and I didn’t even see it coming.  And then last night, I awoke to find her beside me once again.

So although this stage is ending, it’s not finished quite yet.  Have I soaked it up enough?  Without a doubt.

But I’ll still miss it.

ash casey toque photo

My baby is not such a baby anymore.


Friends of a Lifetime

This is a story about three girls who still think they’re twenty years old.  But in fact, these girls are all turning forty, and these girls are headed to Mexico late next week to celebrate the milestone.

These girls are me and my two oldest friends, Sarah and Shannon, both of whom I’ve written about many times, sans permission.  This is another one of those ask-for-forgiveness-not-permission posts, so I’m going to take some creative liberties to share our history with you, and they’ll likely read this post on their Tuesday morning commutes and shake their heads at my antics.  That’s our usual pattern.  (I’ll load my words up with hyperlinks, so that you can read more about the backstories, if you’re so inclined.)

I’ve known Sarah the longest, since we were twelve years old and became attached at the hip in grade seven.  We met Shannon in our first year at the University of Calgary, and we quickly became an inseparable trio.  Using our first initials in a brash acronym, we established the ASS Tour, and made sure the three of us went on a short annual getaway.  Back then, our getaways meant road trips and small towns and hostel rooms and Missy Elliot mix tapes.  We would take a weekend in Red Deer here or an overnight in Edmonton there, and once drove West for a week in Kelowna and Vancouver, through forest fire smoke and rock slides on the Coquihalla highway.

In 2002, I moved to Toronto, and in early 2003, Sarah moved to Washington, DC.  Shannon stayed in Calgary, and I’m not sure if we ever spoke about it in depth, but in the back of my mind I always thought we’d all move back.  However, life happens, careers grow, marriages take place, babies are had, and somehow we all found ourselves living wonderful lives 3500km apart.  We still make the effort to see each other regularly, usually every second Christmas in Alberta, and the odd time we’ll uncover bonus visits like work trips or concert weekends.  We managed a few days in NYC in 2011, the week after my miscarriage, at a time when I desperately needed them to help me heal, and our last big trip was in 2014, when we went to Vegas to see Britney Spears and relive our Uni days.

My memories of those adventures, and my memories of the three of us in general, are overwhelmed with laughter.  The kind of laughter that makes you gasp for breath and squeeze your sides and wipe your tears.  The kind of laughter that annoys your husbands and wakes your children and makes everyone else roll their eyes.  We’re gone for four days, and with some creative scheduling at Burlington Sports & Spine, that’s only meant one shift off for me during our busy Winter season.  It’s a short trip due to the realities of busy lives, but those four days will give us time to reflect and reminisce, and most importantly, to laugh; and the Mexican sunshine, the sandy beach, the tacos and tequila, well, those won’t hurt either.

This year’s ASS Tour is going to mark our milestone birthdays (although, ahem, I’m the youngest and my birthday is still nine months away), but more importantly, it’s going to mark decades of friendship, support, love, and connection.

They are the friends of a lifetime.

screen shot 2019-01-07 at 9.42.56 pm


91, each with a story.

My family got our Christmas tree on the weekend.  It’s a bit earlier than we usually do, as December is not yet upon us, but the kids were asking and we had a free weekend afternoon with mild weather, so we took full advantage.  We get a real tree, and we do as city-people do, and trek to one of the local rural Christmas tree farms for the full urban Instagram experience.  Gone are the days of my Albertan prairie childhood, when we would drive country roads and walk through waist-deep snow in search of “the one.”  The opening scene of Chevy Chase’s ‘Christmas Vacation’ comes to mind.  These days, my husband and I do our best to give our kids a new version of that experience, and it’s definitely a Christmas tradition that we all look forward to.

We borrowed my father-in-law’s saw, again part of the tradition, as my husband remembers his childhood Christmas trees being cut down with that particular saw.  I marvel at the changes in our children each year, and remember the early years of babies in carriers and blankets, sneaking in tree-cutting between naps and feeds, worried about the cold and the little legs that couldn’t hike very far.  Now our kids are involved in the whole process, from cutting to carrying, unloading to decorating.  My daughter’s choice of tree got the nod this year, a point of pride for her, and my son placed the star on top.  In fact, once we got it home and in the tree stand, the kids decorated the whole tree by themselves while my husband and I sat on the couch, acutely aware of the fact that we’re in the midst of a wonderful stage of parenting, sandwiched between the emotions of toddlers and the moods of teenagers.

We carefully unwrapped the ornaments from their newspaper homes and laid them on the coffee table one by one.  And as the table filled, we counted: 91, each with a story.

IMG_3149

Each year, I get a family photo made into an ornament.

Many come from my parents, as they give both of my children an ornament based upon their current interests- we’ve got everything from Thomas the Train to Elsa, Captain Phasma to Dora, Harry Potter to the Toronto BlueJays.  When my kids move out, they’ll take their ornaments with them and have a head start on filling a tree of their own.  Many come from my husband’s childhood, the most precious being a tiny stocking from the year he was born.  Some come from gifts from friends, some from Winter weddings, some from school crafts.  But consistently, year after year, the most magical part for me is not the ornaments themselves, but the stories they tell.

We’ve got 91 stories on display;  91 feelings of nostalgia, 91 tokens of gratitude, 91 memories of happiness, 91 reasons to give thanks.

Merry Christmas.

IMG_4041