From Our Minister of Happiness…

Duncan is disheartened with the state of our current government (frankly, so am I — but I am more resigned). Anyway, he’s taken to dreaming of an Alternation – a space of ideals hearkening back to a Canada that was (or that was at least envisioned): multicultural, artistic, environmentally aware, literate, idealistic, etc. I’m not sure such a place is not just a classic utopia (with all the inherent problems of such a good-place/no-place), but I do like that he believes that we can all be better if we can envision the nation we want rather than the one we have. In Duncan’s imagined nation, Owen is (of course) the Minister of Happiness. His minute-to-minute inquiries after his parents’ happiness actually creates the stuff out of nothing. It’s hard to be sad when your (almost two-year-old!) boy asks you “happy Mama?” – it’s pretty rare that I answer no.

One reason I am happy today is that Owen’s eardrum has healed. PHEW! He didn’t even cry when the doctor looked in his ear, and the doctor didn’t seem so insensitive now that he was offering me good news instead of bad. Perspective changes everything, of course.

Yesterday was Duncan’s birthday (in a month of many, many important birthdays: Adam, Luke, Duncan, Owen, Erin, Liz… did I forget any?), and we’ve been getting Owen to practice singing happy birthday. Perhaps because he’s the minister of happiness, though, Owen sings not about happy birthdays, but general happiness. “Happy to You! Happy to You!” he says. Witness:

And very, very soon it will be time to sing happiness to Owen. I can’t wait.

Listmaker, Listmaker, Make Me a List

My mother is a list-maker. When I was growing up, there was always a list on the kitchen counter: lists of things for her to do and lists of things for the rest of us to do. My mother took great satisfaction in crossing things off her list, so much satisfaction, in fact, that most new lists included several things she had already done so she could cross them off immediately. My intense, uptight adolescent self used to get annoyed at her for this. It seemed dishonest – though my mother always maintained that it gave her a feeling of accomplishment – and with 4 children and a full-time job there was a lot to accomplish.

Now (since the apple sometimes falls close to the tree) I am a listmaker. I make lists because if I don’t write stuff down, I forget, and also because lists prevent me from procrastinating as much. If it’s still on the list waiting to be done, it bothers me until I can check it off. My intense, uptight adult self prefers to draw little boxes and to place check marks in them when a task has been completed. It looks tidier. Weird, no?

This listmaking obsession of mine and of my mother’s is also reflected in one of my favourite story books from childhood: Frog and Toad (and their volumes of adventures). In one particular story, Frog makes a list of things he wants to do that day and proceeds to cross them off as he does them. He (like my mother) likes to write things on his list that he’s already done, in this case “Wake up.” Unfortunately, just after he has crossed off “Meet Toad” and “Take a walk with Toad,” an errant gust of wind blows the list out of Frog’s grasp. Paralyzed without his list, Frog and Toad wait around listlessly (hee!) because they cannot remember what they were supposed to do next. Finally, Frog remembers that the last thing on his list was “Go to sleep.” They write it in the sand, cross it out, and fall into peaceful slumbers.

All this to say that my energetic (listful?) motherĀ  remembered my childhood love of this story and created one of her marvellous toys for Owen’s birthday present. And, of course, Frog has a list in his pocket, partially crossed out.

I imagine that my mother had a list somewhere in her house last week that read somewhere on it “Make Frog and Toad Puppets for Owen” and then crossed it off.

My mother makes all kinds of wonderful and magical toys. You can find them here.

My most recent list was a list of things to do before I leave for Germany, with Owen, to visit my sister. And now, with tidy boxes ticked off and a less tidy suitcase packed, I am off for about a week.

NOTE: About an hour after writing this, I added “update blog” to my list and ticked it off. My adolescent self would not be pleased.

Party Boy

We threw a first birthday party for Owen on Saturday.

As usual, he was a gracious host, all smiles and giggles. I must confess that I didn’t spend that much time with him at the party. He was so surrounded by loving adults, teens, and children, that I felt free to chat with my friends and family. At one point, my dad asked me where Owen was, and I confessed I had no idea – but I wasn’t worried. He was among friends:

What I think I was most impressed with was that he took the time to look at and smile at every present that came his way. I would have expected him to grow bored with the barrage of bags and cardboard boxes, but he was engaged and delighted with his new toys. He even took great pleasure in a picture frame, spending a couple of minutes cooing at the stock photo insert.

He ate cake (not quite his first time, since there are birthday parties at daycare, but almost). He quite liked cake.

It was a great day.