Mirror Image

Since the moment my daughter escaped my womb I've had to hear about how much she looks EXACTLY like my husband, his sisters, his aunts, his grandmothers, his million-times removed fourth cousin, you name it.

I always knew this was said with love but that never stopped it from stinging my ego a teeny tiny little bit. Okay. A LOT. After all, my husband didn't just carve our daughter from play-doh in his image. My DNA is mixed in and my side of the family wanted to wrap their tree roots around her as well.

However, the older my daughter grew, the more unmistakable her lineage has become. 

It's as though Bruce's genetics and mine mud-wrestled until he was declared the victor and I was left sitting in a rubber tub scooping goo out of my eyes. Ken strongly resembles her father, she is a spitting image of one of his sisters, resembles the other sister, and heck she probably looks like both of his grandmothers, each of his cousins, and likely their family's favourite next-door neighbours all rolled into the shiny package I call my daughter.

I am older and wiser now, and for the most part, more mature, so I no longer get my knickers in a twist when someone points out how much she looks like her father or one of his family members. There is enough of me in my daughter that I can proudly take ownership of her. She has my figure. My facial expressions. My quirks.

She is my mini-me and for as often as she's told she looks like some member of her paternal family, I look at her and see flashes of me staring back. 

(And yes, I'm aware many readers think she looks just like me. And she does. But mostly she looks like her dad's side of the family tree.)

A few weeks ago I sat at the kitchen table, her grad proofs spread out before me, and emotion clawed at my heart. I recalled staring at her wee face as an infant and wondering just what she'd look like when she grew up while dreaming of the person she'd grow to become. All those years ago it was hard to imagine a time when I would be sitting at a kitchen table trying to choose which of her grad photos to buy.

"Mom? Are you okay?" Ken asked as she looked up from across the kitchen table where she sat doing her homework.

"I'm fine. Just trying to choose a photo from these proofs."

"You look like you were about to cry."

"I am. Have you seen the price of these grad photos? It's enough to bankrupt a family," I half joked, while wiping the corners of my eyes.

"Oh, I thought maybe the pictures were making you cry."

"No! You look beautiful in them!" She shook her head as she disagreed with me. 

"No I don't. I look like a stringy haired, goober. I hate them."

She hates them. Of course she does. I looked back down at them, trying to see what she saw. Apparently I was blinded by maternal love. I wasn't seeing the monster she professed to look like.

"You look lovely. What about this one?" I asked as I pointed to proof number 7.

"That one? NO! I have a stupid look on my face."

"You're smiling."

"It's a STUPID smile." Right. Of course it is. My bad.

"What about number 19. That's your dad's favourite."

She looked at 19 and shook her head emphatically. "No, my hair looks weird."

It didn't.

"I looove number 13. You look stunning."

She peered at the image I was pointing to and snorted, "You mean, I look STUNNED."

Hard to please. Yep. She's totally her mother's child.

"Okay," I sighed, "which photo do you like? We'll get that one. There are 22. One of them must be all right."

Ken shook her head. "I can't choose. I hate them all. All of my friends look a million times better than I look."

"Oh my vain princess. I'd have killed to have grad proofs like these. I can't choose a picture from your grad proofs because you look beautiful in every one. My mom couldn't choose a picture from my proofs because I looked ridiculous in every one."

"I doubt that Mom. You are beautiful."

"I've trained you to say that. Good job." Her indoctrination is almost complete. "But I've got proof. Hang on," I said over my shoulder as I walked to my bedroom.

A few minutes later, I thumped a dusty photo album onto the kitchen table and started flipping pages. My past stared back at me from yellowing photo album pages that were stuck together.

High school friends, crushes, birthdays, pets. Old memories that had been forgotten or fuzzed with time.

And then, my grad proofs.

"Here. Eat your words, child," I chortled as I slid the photo album over to her. 

And this wasn't even the WORST picture.

She didn't stop laughing for the rest of the night. 

Staring at her grad photos next to mine, I've never been more grateful my kid looks just like her daddy. There is only so much room on the wall for grad photos like mine.


Ken's official picture. My choice. Wisely, she never argued after seeing mine. Smart girl. Just like her momma.

To India And Beyond

"Hello, may I please speak with Ken?" she asked.

"I'm sorry, she's not here at the moment, may I take a message," I replied.

"Is this Ken's mother?" she inquired.


13 years ago I watched as my little girl with her crooked blonde pigtails, boarded the little yellow school bus and drove off into the vast unknown of her future. She was fearless and excited and I was the opposite. I remember watching the taillights of the bus and worrying that she was too young for such an adventure and I remember chiding myself for such thoughts as I wiped away the tears that had slipped down my cheeks and turned away to trudge back up the driveway and into the house.

Letting go was hard to do that morning. It was only with time and the arrival of the little yellow school bus bringing her home that I was able to exhale. My baby was home. 

Eventually, the sands of time softened the harsh edges of the fear I held, and we sunk into the trivialities of life. Homework, sports, missing mittens and unmatched socks. It's hard to be scared of the future when you are mired in the present.


"Hi! My name is (redacted) and I'm calling about a scholarship your daughter was nominated for."

"Oh! Hello! I'm Tanis! Is there a message I can pass along to Ken?" 

"You're daughter is an amazing young woman. You must be proud of her."

"Yes, yes she is. We are so very proud of her."


Parenthood turned out to be exactly nothing what I expected and everything I never dared to dream. These teenaged years have turned out to be the best of all the years, a reward for all the tantrums and diapers I've had to endure over the years. 

As I sat at the kitchen table last night, listening to my teens argue over the merits of matching tuxedos and bowties to grad gowns, that fear I felt 13 years ago came rushing back and tightened it's grip around my heart once more.

My time with my kids is running out. They're standing on the precipice of adulthood, ready to unfurl the wings I've worked so hard to give them and fly out into their futures. 

I'm not sure I know how to let them go. This time, there will be no school bus to bring them back to me. This time, I have to trust they will be able to find their way back to me on their own.


"I'm so pleased to inform you that your daughter has been chosen to be a recipient of our scholarship program."

"That's fabulous," I gushed.

"As part of the scholarship, we will be sending your daughter on an internship this summer, before she starts university."

"She's going to be so excited!" 


I console myself by remembering my first tastes of adult freedom and my first adult choices. The exhilaration of the unknown. I remember that feeling of missing home and the comfort my parents brought to me. Leaving the nest was just as scary as watching your youngsters take flight. Perhaps scarier. 

So I've done what so many parents have done before me; I've tamped down the bitter taste of my own fears and I've pasted a happy smile on my face as I helped fill in university application forms and scholarship applications. 

With every application sent, my daughter's hope for the future blossoms and my fear of the unknown rises a little further in my throat.

With every acceptance letter that arrives in the mail, I smile wider and swallow harder.

The months have marched on, drawing her future nearer as our time together dwindles. Soon her life will be foreign to me, a series of anecdotes related over texts, stories shared as she washes her laundry at my house before dashing off to chase her dreams once more.

So I smile hard as I watch the days pass on the calendar, grateful for every remaining moment of her childhood I have left, determined to squeeze every drop of joy out of these last few months I have her under my roof before she forges off on her own.


"We're pleased to tell you that she'll be spending this summer in India as part of our leadership awards program," the voice on the other end of the phone chirped on.

"India! That is wonderful! She'll be so very excited!" 

"It is a wonderful program and we're so pleased to have Ken involved!"

"An opportunity of a life time!" I smiled.


I stood on the deck this morning, watching as the kids loaded Knox onto the school bus and then my daughter hopped into her car and waved goodbye as she followed the bus to school. Her life is too busy now, packed with activities and a job, for her to ride the little yellow bus.

A parade of taillights drove off into the distance, taking my family with them, and as my dog wove his way around my legs I realized it wasn't long before some of those taillights don't come back.

In just a few months, my daughter will be on the other side of the world, in India, forging her own path, only to return to a dorm, to start the long journey of making her own dreams come true. I worry she is too young for such an adventure and I then chide myself for such thoughts.

In another short year, I will see the taillights of my son as he drives away from me and into a future he will create for himself. 

Soon it will just be Knox and I under the roof that we call home. 

Fear gurgled up as the sky bloomed into a beautiful sunrise.

As I swallowed, I realized, I am not scared for their futures. I am scared for mine. All of these years I've held the comfort of the familiar around me like a warm cloak to keep fear at bay and now I find myself standing at another precipice, that warm cloak slipping off my shoulders.

I've grown up while raising littles to grown ups and once again, like all those years ago when I was a teenager myself, my future is unknown, shiny with all the possibilities within. And still, letting go is hard.


"You're daughter is an exceptional young lady. This is such an exciting time. Her future is so bright!"

"Yes, yes it is."


The same could be said for mine.

May the camels of your future carry you far and always bring you back home to us.

Congratulations Ken, on all your hardwork and dedication over the years. We are so very proud of the person you are and all that you have, and will, accomplish in your future.  Here's to India, a future filled with possibilities and knowing we are out here loving you, no matter where in the world you land.


It's my baby's birthday today.

No, not Knox. That was last month. The still-dreaded double duty day. Knox turned ten on the eighth anniversary of his brother's Skjel's death. I didn't write about it. It was the first birthday of Knox's that my husband was home to celebrate.

It was also the very first time my husband has ever been home on the death anniversary.

I was relieved to have the emotional support this year until I realized his presence actually destabilized my control and sent me reeling back into a pit of grief. It didn't help that he convinced me to leave the house and go shopping for light fixtures for the Zeppelin Hangar. Every time a salesman would approach us my husband would start shaking his head violently at the sales person and beg them to go away with the power of his eyes. The sales person would look confused and then innocently ask how I was doing and if there was anything they could help us with.

At that point I would burst into tears, snot into a tissue so used it was starting to disintegrate and mumble something about needing a cake and pot lights. 

It wasn't our most productive shopping excursion ever and there are now five lighting stores I can never show my face in again. In the end, there never was a cake but there were smiles. Big tear stained smiles.

One day I'll be able to manage my son's birthday on my other's son's death day, no matter who is home or where I am. I'm sure of it.

Happy tenth birthday kid. Your peoples love you.

It's not Nash's birthday either. His was a week before his brother's. He turned 16. There was no cake for his birthday either. There was a volleyball game that evening and I made the poor boy keep score for his sister's team. Don't look at me like that. Have you seen how short the spandex bottoms are in girls' high school volleyball? I did Nash a favour. It may have been his best present yet.

I also gave him a car. Happy 16th son. Your peoples love you too.

There was a cake for Ken's 17th birthday, which happened three days after I wrote about Knox's hearing aide mysteriously disappearing. (No. His hearing aide was never found. Yes, it's been replaced. All hail name redacted insurance company.) Apparently I was too annoyed with losing my son's ear to write about my other kid's birthday but not annoyed enough to not throw a party for her and a dozen other teenagers.

May you never be too cool for dorky hats on your birthday, kid. Your peoples love you.

Today is Abbott's birthday. His first birthday. And like his human brothers, there will be no cake for him either. There may be a raw steak in his future but I draw the line at sticking a candle in it. Maybe. Hmmm. Suddenly Instagram is calling my name.

(Look at me, taking doggy parenthood to a newer, keener level of obnoxiousness.) 

And even though I couldn't be bothered to honor the birthdays of any of my human children on my blog this year, I'm bothering with my dog.

Yes kids, I do love Abbott more. But only for the moment because he is keeping my feet warm and I'm too lazy to either turn up the furnace or go outside to get more wood to put in the woodstove. 

When Nixon, my Boston Terrier, died on Nash's birthday last year, I thought I'd never be able to love another dog the way I loved him. Nixon kept me sane while I grieved the death of my son. I loved him wildly and passionately. 

But then we found Abbott. Abbott, the world's largest pain in my ass. And man, do I love this dog in an entirely different but equally wild and passionate way. 

Abbott sheds the weight of three cats in a day, he drools in a way that fascinates and disgusts me, he farts more than my husband and he hogs the bed worse than any toddler sleeping sideways ever could. He pees on my new grass with oblivious abandon, steals sips of my coffee as it cools on the kitchen table, and likes to put his head on my pillow while I'm sleeping on it and huff loudly into my face to wake me up at all hours of the night so he can dance in the freshly falling snow.

He sits on me whenever I have to pee, he hogs the couch when the kids want to sit on it and he has chewed holes in all my socks. While I'm still wearing them. He likes to walk through my legs as I'm walking. He steps on my flip-flops as I'm mid-stride and he has zero respect for cats and their personal boundaries. Abbott is entirely incorrigible.

But then this dog, this well-over 200 pound dog who is now actually taller than my husband and my son when he's standing on his hind legs, looks into my eyes, I melt. He's quiet and loyal and fiercely protective. 

Every morning he puts his face in Knox's and lets Knox kiss him goodbye. He stands still long enough for Knox's tight little arms to stretch out and he holds still as Knox tries to open his fists to pet him. 

Every afternoon he stands at the end of the driveway and waits patiently for Knox's school bus to turn onto our road and stop at our driveway. He sticks his nose into Knox's nose as if to say hello and then he walks beside Knox's chair the entire way up our drive.

And every evening, he snores gently with his head in Knox's lap as Knox and I read bedtime stories together.

He even leaves Knox's socks alone. 

(But not his toque.)

This big dopey dog is Knox's gentle giant and my constant companion. 

Happy first birthday, Abbott. Your peoples love you. Even when you chew holes into our socks.

Abbott, 8 wks old, the day I brought him home.

Nap buddies.

"I am the one who knocks."

My baby. I wub you widdle man.