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The problem is, he’s the most like me. The one who forgets things and gets lost in books and is easily sidetracked.

He’s the boy who loses stuff. Every time he participates in something, say camp or a youth rally or whatever, I place a little check in the box on the registration form that says, would you like to order a t-shirt for your child. And every time he comes home without said shirt. I’ve bought at least a dozen shirts which I assume are now in other boys’ closets.

He’s the boy who, when he changed bedrooms this spring, found a total of four hundred dollars squirreled away in drawers and forgotten coat pockets. Four hundred dollars he didn’t know he had!

He’s the boy who’ll eat an entire jumbo box of frozen waffles when he’s left alone for the weekend because it’s easier than cooking eggs or making a sandwich.

He’s the boy who goes upstairs to collect his laundry and comes down two hours later with a comment about the book he found under his dirty socks.

He’s the boy who shows up for work three hours early because he couldn’t remember what time he was supposed to start.

He’s the boy who, when he found his weeks-lost wallet, found inside it a crumpled months-old pay cheque.

This is my boy who, tomorrow, will be flying thousands of kilometres to a place I’ve never been. There are things to keep track of when a person travels. Luggage, tickets, passport, money. And because he’s so much like me, his questionable organizational abilities frighten me just a little.

So if you are reading this in Toronto or Amsterdam or Estonia sometime in the next couple of weeks and you see a tall, blonde, sweet-looking boy wandering the streets looking lost, please stop and offer some assistance.

His absent-minded mother will be forever thankful.

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I have a middle son, and of all my children he is the most like me, I think. He loves to read and think and process and talk about all the things he reads and thinks and processes.

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On Sunday last, my middle son and I were tourists. He is an incredible fan of history, religious history in particular (at the moment), and he’d been wanting to go to Catholic mass for quite a while. We live in a French/English community, and so finding a workable time to attend English mass had taken some time, but on Sunday morning at 9:00 we were sitting in a pew at the Cathedral, waiting for the service to begin.

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It’s a beautiful building. My son knows its history and the architectural style and that there are other churches in Europe designed by the same architect and they are the spitting image of the one in our little town. He’s studied Catholicism and he knew the priest would be wearing a purple robe because of Advent, and he whispered bits of history and tradition to me throughout the morning.

There was a little man sitting a few rows ahead and to our left, and he was our guide. He was the first to stand or kneel or sit, the first to step into the aisle when it was time to do so, the first to come and shake our hands and offer a peace be with you when it was time to shake hands and offer peace. We watched him and followed his lead, like the tourists we were, and I unobtrusively snapped a few pictures because… tourists.

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I feel like a tourist at Advent. It’s not a familiar experience; we didn’t observe it when I was growing up, but it’s a place I want to see, a journey I want to take. So I read the books and blogs to see how others do it, and I follow the leads of those ahead of me and to my left, the one’s who know what they are doing and for whom it’s all second nature.

I snap a few pictures along the way.

And like a tourist, I find the things that connect me to the experience. Being pregnant. Anticipating a child. Giving birth.

I’m a tourist at Advent, trying to act like I know when to stand or sit or kneel, and I’m stumbling a bit, but the view is still wonderful.

Colton's doodle of a Metis boy

Colton’s doodle of a Metis boy

You can find my words over at How to Homeschool High School today. A little letter to Anne about art and muskrats. Love to see you there if you don’t mind popping over for a quick visit!

Have a great weekend! I’m off to the spa with some friends to talk about writing and such. Yay, me!

Bella in the sun

Bella in the sun

I’m alone in the house when my oldest comes in and, without any preamble or bush-beating or the slightest hesitation, tells me she’s dead. “She got hit on the highway,” he says.

“Who found her?” I ask, and when he tells me it was Colton, my heart cracks open a little. He’s found death so often on the farm.

“He carried her home,” Tyson says. “It’s not pretty.”

I take a towel from the bathroom, one of the nice ones, and I go outside to find my two youngest men with their dad, standing over her little body lying still in the grass. I hand the towel to my husband and put my hand on Carter’s bent head and I reach over to hug my tall, middle son.

“I’m so sorry, Colton,” I say and he nods and the tears fall on his sweet face. I want to take him inside and wash the red off his hands and take off his blood-stained clothes and bathe and jammie him like when he was five. But he’s fifteen and ten years makes a world of difference and all I can do is to stand with him.

We watch as my husband wraps her broken body in my green towel, freshly wind-scented from the clothesline. We gather at the spot chosen, and I can’t help but cry as all three of the boys take turns with the shovel and the pile of black dirt grows beside the hole.

“Find a stone,” says my husband to Carter and Colton, and they leave, mission-focused. When they return, sharing the burden of the carrying, he looks at them and quietly says, “That’s a good rock for her grave, boys.”

In my mother heart I think they shouldn’t have to be carrying broken love in bloody hands or digging black holes or finding rocks for graves. And I know there are big, sad tragedies out there – bigger and sadder than ours – but this is the tragedy that is breaking my boys’ hearts and mine today, and it’s big enough.

With the hole dug and the rock chosen, sweet Bella is laid to rest and Carter and Colton say their tearful, heart-broken goodbyes while the oldest stands a step away, leaning on his shovel, because that is how he is.

“She was a good dog and a good friend, and it’s okay for you to be sad,” my husband says. And the hole is filled and the rock is placed and I watch as my youngest writes his puppy’s name across the stone, and Colton takes the pen and adds, you were loved.

She was.

**********

It’s been a year and there is a new dog on the farm, but today I’m missing the sweet little poodle who loved to cuddle on the couch, who jumped crazy all over us when we walked in the door, who followed me down the back road when I went for summer walks, who chased grasshoppers and snapped at dragonflies, and who loved us like only a dog can.

Time speeds, faster and faster it seems, and I am remembering the sweetness of boys running and climbing and a little dog barking and chasing, and the memories are kind.

Sunday was The Day, I know. But really, around here, it wasn’t a big deal. Mother’s Day, schmothers day.

I left my sick husband at home and the three boys and I went to church. Just me on the back row and the boys scattered throughout the room and I really just wanted to be done with it and go home, to tell you the truth. Not feeling so joyful and lovely that Mother’s Day, to tell you the truth.

So I sit and stand and sing and pray when I’m told to, and I close my eyes and drift a little, there on the back row with everyone in front of me.

And then the older kids’ class is called to the front, two of my boys with them, and they stand in a line to share a Mother’s Day poem with us. Carter had been practicing his lines that morning, and he’d debated with himself over changing a word or two to make it a little less mushy. Whatever you want, I’d said, and when it was his turn to speak he included his revisions. That’s how he rolls.

Then it was Colton’s turn, tall boy up there at the front, and he didn’t say anything but only looked up from his paper and his eyes glanced around the room.

He’s nervous? He’s lost his place in the poem? He’s holding the wrong paper?

My thoughts immediately went to what’s wrong and oh no and I fretted for him.

But then his eyes found mine, and he spoke his lines deliberately, one by one, straight across the room past all the other people and directly into my mother heart.

And love found me, there on the back row, on Mother’s Day.

my Colton on a spring morning

my Colton on a spring morning

I had breakfast today with one of my favourite people. My middle son and I shared toast and tea and it was nice to visit with him, just him, for a few minutes before he went out to do chores.

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Colton is the last man standing.

Our home has been hit with a nasty bug, and so far he and I are the only ones who haven’t fallen victim. We were talking about it. About trying to avoid what will probably be inevitable. About how it’s almost worse, the anticipation of something nasty than the nasty itself. About how, if it’s going to happen, we’d have rather had it first and gotten it over with.

It feels like years since we’ve done math or read a book.

Sometimes, just trying to stay ahead of the nasty is about all there is energy for.

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They’re doing the dishes, all three of them like they do every night, and I hear their voices. Well, I hear two of them. Carter has said something and Colton tries to add a bit to the conversation and Carter won’t listen. He talks over his brother, his voice getting louder. An argument begins, angrier and angrier and I just listen. I should go in and intervene and peace-make this thing that’s happening, but I don’t. I’m so tired of these boys and this argument. I want them to just STOP it already.

It’s too much for me. I look at their dad and he goes in to deal the way he deals. He sends the youngest to his room and tells the other to finish the dishes.

It’s quiet now, but there isn’t peace. There’s just a big, gaping hole where the voices used to be. The dishes are finished in silence, clean and put away and the kitchen looks nice. It looks just fine and ready for the next day, but there’s a big messy pile of invisible anger simmering and my heart hurts.

Colton is wiping the counter top when I step toward him. I open my mouth and words come out. Words like sorry, and I know it’s tough, and I understand what it’s like to have someone in your life who is a “hard” person. I say stuff like you can’t force other people to be different, and unconditional love is hard because it’s about you and not about how the other person treats you, and I tell him how wonderful I think he is. How caring and hard-working and how proud I am of him and it’s all true, but I see his eyes, brimming a bit, and I know the words are not enough.

I just want him to listen to me, he says. He never listens to me. Never. And he shares some more but really, this not being listened to is at the bottom of it all.

I’m listening, I say. He nods, he knows, but this night it isn’t enough. He’s gone to that alone place, that sad place we all visit occasionally and it will take some time.

I wish I could fix it all. I wish I could make everyone be nice all the time. I wish children didn’t feel alone, ever. I wish brothers didn’t fight. I wish it was easier than it is, this living together thing.