Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Utopia (my version of the perfect health care system)

        Utopia, that imaginary place where everything is perfect.  I'm not talking about Thomas More's Utopia, his was a bit off, but what do you expect from a man living in 1500's?  Besides the poor guy was beheaded by Henry the Eighth.  Over the years other's have tried their hand at Utopia.  The communists came kind of close, other than the oppressiveness.  The problem is that human greed and the need for power always ruins everything.
    You may well be asking yourself what the heck this crazy woman is talking about, and is she wanting to be a communist?  The answer to both is no (although some may argue for the crazy part).  No I am tired of some of the aspects of our society.  I'm tired of the rich having everything and the poor having nothing. Yes some of it comes down to work ethic, absolutely, but some of it does not.  There is quickly becoming no middle class (that part of the economic demographic which for the second I belong to).  Our health care system is failing us, and we are allowing it to.  Our health care system was at one point the envy of the world.  Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy health.

        You may ask what this little rant is all about.  Christopher and I lay in bed the other night and were talking about our health and our health care system.  We were sharing our dismay that fruits and vegetables have become luxury items.  Never in my life did I think that I would see cauliflower cost nearly $5 a head, or heads of iceberg lettuce over $3 a head.  The price of beef is absurd, and out of the reach of most people.  2% milk costs $5 for 4 litres and yet you can often buy pop for $1 for 2 litres.  Honestly I am not sure how people can survive with the current cost of groceries.  How can people who are living hand to mouth able to provide for their families?
    Our health care system is broken.  In one respect I am very thankful that I live in Canada where we all pay into our healthcare system and everyone is able to access healthcare no matter their income without having to mortgage their homes.  I am grateful for our healthcare system and yet it is so flawed.  If you are in need of a doctor you can access one, but if you have no health insurance you cannot get the prescriptions that you need to make you better.  You break your leg and the cost of the cast and the doctor are covered, but you need to pay for your crutches and physiotherapy.  Oral health is linked to overall health and yet dentists are not covered, but the doctor is for your preventable heart attack.
    Here is my Utopia.  In my utopia healthy foods are subsidized by the government, if need be unhealthy foods could be at a greater cost.  Gym memberships and exercise programs can be accessed by everyone at no or very low cost.  Prescriptions and dentistry are included with our healthcare.  Just as cosmetic surgery is not covered by our OHIP system, cosmetic dentistry and non-health prescriptions (Viagra) would not be covered.  In my Utopia people could access message therapy or chiropractors once a week unless they medically required more.  Physiotherapy used to be in our OHIP as did visiting an optometrist in my Utopia they are included.  Mental health would be a priority, and people would be encouraged to seek out therapy and come out of the darkness they may be living in.   Mandatory four weeks of holidays would also be required and Sundays would once again be a day of rest.  I am not a religious person, I truly think that we should have one day to be at rest, to enjoy our families.
    As you are reading this you may be shaking your head at my vision of the perfect world.  The thing is that although we are very lucky to have the healthcare system that we have, it is not looking at the big picture.  If we invested in making people physically and mentally healthy then we would not need to invest as much money into hospital care.  People would not have heart attacks as often, there would be much less suicides, there would be less destructive health.  It is a statistical fact that people with money have better health that those living in the middle class and especially those living at or below the poverty line.  How can you possibly have good health when you are not able to eat properly?  How can you have good health when you are in a constant state of anxiety wondering if you can afford your child's insulin, or other drugs / therapies not covered by OHIP?  Stress creates hormones that create obesity and heart attacks.  Stress destroys physical and mental health.
    As a recap (with a few additions) my Utopia would be .....
More doctors and nurses.  Better hospitals with food being made at the hospital and not shipped in from who knows where.  Longer hospital stays when people need them.  All schools would have a lunch program provided by the province.  It would have locally grown foods and would include milk free of charge to every child.  Healthy food would be subsidized by the government to allow access to all.  Prescription drugs would be included in our health care as would mental health, dental, physiotherapy, optometry and glasses.  Mental health would be a priority.  Massage therapy and other alternative health practices would be covered.  Gym and pools would be free of charge to visit.  There would be a mandatory four weeks of vacation time for every Canadian and we would have a legally mandated Sunday (or another day of government's choosing) day off to recharge.
    This is a utopia, an imaginary world, and yet it does not need to be.  If we as a people invested in our physical and mental health we would have greater work productivity which would mean fewer days off of work.  We as a Canadian people would have greater health which would mean that we would not have to invest as much money into preventable illness.  In the end it would probably all break even with much happier healthier citizens.
   What do you think of my Utopia... discuss.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Why Glamour Shots for Today?

    A couple of friends and I have been joking about getting Glamour Shots taken.  For those of you who did not live in the 1980's, let me share with you a little bit about Glamour Shots.  The first thing that you need to know is that they were a BIG thing.  I thought they looked well, glamorous.  Ladies would get their hair and make up done, would put on fancy clothes and have their picture taken by a professional photographer.  I was too young to do Glamour Shots, but Christopher tells me that his Mom had some done (Doreen, just so you know, I WILL see these said pictures).  Today they are very 1980's, but I truly think that they were empowering.
    The more I thought about our "Glamour Shot's" joke, the more I began to think it was not really that funny.  The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do something equivalent.  Here is why I really want to do this.....  when you look at my family's pictures, you will notice that there are A LOT of pictures.  There are pictures from every angle, but there is a noticeable absent element to them...  me.  I am the family photographer.  I love to take pictures.  I also do not really like having my picture taken.  Pictures just prove to me all of the things that I dislike about my appearance.  So while I am absent in years of pictures, and happily so, it is not until years later when I look at them and wish that there were more pictures of me when I was younger. 
    I have never been happy in the skin I was in.  When I looked in the mirror, or photos all I could/ can see is what is wrong with me, not what makes me beautiful.  I look at pictures of my younger self and think how beautiful I was.  This sounds vain, but I see that beautiful face when I look into the faces of my three girls.  All three girls have some part of my face in their face.  My girls are stunningly beautiful, so I guess that if I can say that they are without difficulty, then I should be able to say that the woman who made them so beautiful is, but I can't.  I look at pictures of that beautiful face, so young and without wrinkles.  I look at that body I used to inhabit and am longful to have it again.  I was never bone thin, but I was perfect for me... I can say this now.  The problem was I lived with bone thin people, my both parents and my younger, naturally blonde and perky, athletic younger sister were all terribly thin.  I looked obese in comparison to them, and yet I see now that I was perfect.  I was beautiful.
    Why glamour shots now?  Why would I want photographic proof that I now inhabit a large body that has a face full of wrinkles and grey hair?  Why, because in time I will look at those pictures and wonder at how young and beautiful I was, even though I could not see it then/ now.  My children will look at those pictures when they are older and show them to their children and say "Wasn't Nanny beautiful?"  Why, because it would be pampering, and making me feel beautiful even for just a little while.  I will never look the way that I would like to look, never.  Instead of berating myself, why not be happy in this skin that I live in right now?  Why not love myself just a little bit?  Having pictures taken would not shout out to the world that I am full of myself and think I am something that I am not.  These pictures would capture the person that I am at this snapshot of my life.  It would remind me in years to come of who I was at this age.  The other thing, which is a little morbid is this, by not allowing myself to be in pictures I am depriving my children.  I will not live forever.  In time I will be a memory, but how nice will it be for the kids to have pictures to look at and to help them remember me.
    I am now going to actively find somewhere that does the equivalent of Glamour Shots, it's made it to my bucket list.  I am also going to encourage my friends to join me.  This would add to the snap shot in memory.  The night I put myself first, and had so many laughs with great friends and have photographic proof for my memory.  Yes, this is happening.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Taking Care Of Me / We All Need Friends

    Not all that long ago I suffered from a familiar Mommy affliction, Mommy Martyrdom.  For those of you unfamiliar with the terrible affliction of Mommy Martyrdom, it's pretty serious.  Mommy Martyrdom causes women to put everyone including the dog ahead of themselves.  They suffer in silence thinking that by putting everyone's needs ahead of themselves it makes them a good mother.  This disease tends to be a genetic condition, meaning that it comes from the mother.  The long term effects of Mommy Martyrdom include low self-esteem, low self-worth, anger and depression.  The only cure for this horrible affliction is to occasionally put yourself first, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel.  Maybe I could start a telethon.....
    So I mentioned that this is something that I "suffered" from, meaning past tense.  I learned at the knee of my mother to put the needs of everyone else ahead of my own, but not to suffer in silence.  It's important that the entire family knows  that you are a martyr, and that you resent them for putting you into that position.  I felt angry that I did not "count", that is until I had this big light bulb moment the one where you smack your head and wonder at your years of stupidity.  I had created this position for myself.  The reason that I always came last was because I never, ever allowed myself to come first, or even second or third.  How could I resent my family, when I had created, and maintained this stupid behavior.  When I changed my low standards,  I changed the family happiness level.  I realized what a heavy burden martyrdom is.  I was making myself feel worthless, no one was forcing me.  I will not pretend for a second that I put myself first, that's just plain selfish and it would be undoing hundreds of years of Martyr evolution running along the female branch of my family.  I do however put myself near the top of the priorities when I need to be.  I feel better, which means I am less bitchy, and angry, which in turn means that my family is happier.  It's a win win.  I will admit that it was tough on the family to begin with.  I was changing the rules of the game, in the middle of the game.  In the end they liked "happy" mommy more than "miserable" mommy.
    Part of my end to mommy martyrdom was to allow myself to spend time with friends.  This sounds like a stupid thing, but really it is HUGE.  Going out for coffee with friends always felt indulgent.  I was spending money that could have gone to the kids.  I really now feel like that $1.70 I spend on my once a week coffee, and that few hours away from the house is kind of worth it.  I read this and see how stupid it looks, and I also realize that you may be reading this and thinking that I am being humorous, but I am not.  Taking a once a week coffee date truly felt overly indulgent to me.  I did not feel that I was worth the price of a coffee.  It's really pretty sad, and honestly it makes me feel sad to think that I ever thought so poorly of myself.   I now wonder how I did without my once a week coffee date.
    Once a week a group of AMAZING ladies get together and have coffee.  Sometimes one of us hosts the others at their home (this depends on how industrious they have been in their house cleaning), but more often than not we just get together at Tim Hortons.  The size of our group varies depending on what we all have going on that week. Sometimes there are lots of us, sometimes just a few, and that's ok.   I have said it before, but I am truly blessed to have such a group of amazing women in my life.  They are there for the laughter and the tears, and sometimes both in the same coffee date.  We care about each other.  When one of us is having a difficult time, the others rally around her.  It's like a therapy session that only costs $1.70.
     It seems like such a little thing having friends, but it is so big.  That group of friends help contribute to my mental health.  I do not ever have to suffer in silence, because there is this group of amazing women who will listen to me, and nine out of ten have walked the same road I am now walking.  We are a cheering squad.  We know each other's children, and each other's spouses.  My husband will hate to hear this, but they know more about him than I think he does.  We talk about our lives good and bad, and that is what makes the bad more bearable.  I love my husband with my whole heart, he is my best friend, truly he is, but.... he is not a woman.  When I talk to my women friends about what is going on in my life it makes it easier.  There are enough women in our group of friends that you have exactly what you need for the situation.  We have women who will listen and never pass judgment, there are also the one's who play devil's advocate, and there are the ones who will be angry along with you and want to go and kick some ass.  I need them all.  Most of all they are a group of ladies who make me laugh.  I cannot think of a time I have gotten together with them and not laughed, usually until my sides hurt.  I am blessed.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Fighting for a Good Marriage

    This morning Christopher called into work to see what he was doing for the day (yup I hate that part of his job too).  He had to work visitation for a funeral afternoon and evening, giving him the morning off.  At first I was upset because I hate when he has to work nights, then I was excited because it meant that I had him all to myself, not interruptions from the kids.  Since becoming parents almost 21 years ago we rarely have time just the two of us. 
    Oh it was so romantic watching Netflix (without the and chill).  Ok it was not romantic, but it was nice to make it through an episode of The Last Kingdom without "Mom can you wash my black pants for tomorrow", " I need $200 dollars for our class trip tomorrow", "I promised the teacher that you would sew costumes for our entire class for tomorrow", or "DADDDDDYYYYY come kill this lady bug, it's freak'in me out!"  We were able to just be.  We snuggled together on the couch, just being.  I realized after I stomped my foot like a child because he had to go to work, that I really love that guy.  I mean I didn't realize just in that moment that I loved him (don't get me wrong there are times that I lean quite a bit away from love), it was one of those moments when reality hits you.
    I have known Christopher for longer than I have not.  I have known those big hands, and that funny nail on his finger that the doctor shot with something to kill a wart when he was little and it dwarfed his nail.  I can close my eyes and see those hands, every scar, every hair, every mole just as easily as if I was looking directly at it.  I KNOW him, and in return he KNOWs me.  We have a history.
   This past August 21, I became Tristan "Lindsay" for as long as I was Tristan "Haynes".  As I write this I have been Tristan "Lindsay" for longer than I was ever "Haynes".  I marvel at this considering the divorce rate.  I marvel at our longevity when I look at the relationships of some of the people I have known in those 22 years, our friends and family members who's relationships are broken, or just couldn't make it.  How can it be that we have been married for almost 22 and a half years and yet I feel like we were just those two goofy kids at York?
    Before I give you the notion that I am gloating about my happy marriage, please know that I am not.  Do not think for a minute that we are "soul mates" and that these past 22 years have been a walk in the park.  There are days (and not all of them all that far in the past) that I have plotted his murder.  How angry would he be if I just pushed him down the stairs?  If it doesn't kill him,  how angry  would he be if I took this pillow and really put my weight into smothering his snoring stupid face, and could I with my lack luster upper body strength?  No these past 22 years have been damned hard work, and there have been times along the way I wondered if he was worth all of the effort.
    I will not lie and say that we have grown into one person, that's a lie.  22 years do change people, but not that much.  We are two very different people, and that's why we are still together, honestly I couldn't stand to live with me.  We both know that we are very irritating people and that if we ever did split up no one else would be able to stand either of us, so we are better off together. We agree on all of the important things, the deal breakers, and that is something that we have worked at.  We changed the way we fought.  To begin with we fought for supremacy and not to have our voice heard.  I was in it for blood, and he longed to inflict psychological damage.  Now when we fight we do it like civilized adults, oh there's yelling sometimes, and an occasionally the odd below the belt hit, but for the most part there is no blood or psychological damage.  Most important we shield the kids from it.  If we are in a massive fight we are honest with the kids and tell them that their Dad and I are upset with each other, but it's between us and we will get over it.
    Right now, at this very second in time I am very much in love with my husband.  We have 5 beautiful children together,  children we adore (most of the time).  We truly are best friends, he knows me better than I know myself.  We have walked a difficult road together, but no matter how many bumps tiny or gargantuan earthquakes, we end up on the other side together.  Love is not enough.  Love is that warm and fuzzy thing, but it is not the only thing that has held us together.  Sometimes it has just been sheer brute force determination.  We have put too much time into this relationship to just bail out. Sometimes I miss the days of the butterflies that you feel when you are in a new relationship, but those butterflies are not worth what we have.  Besides, sometimes I still get those butterflies when I see him in a suit, or when he's been working a lot and he calls to say that he's coming home, sometimes it's just his deep voice on the phone or saying that he's home.
     Marriage is not easy and I think that is why so many people fail.  We think that what we see on television and movies is  real.  We think that good marriages are always happy and that we are always mad with lust for each other.  The truth is something very different.  The truth is that a good marriage is worth its weight in gold, but it is hard work, every single day.  There are the days of bliss and days of plague and locusts.  It takes two people who love each other, but are committed to fighting for their marriage.  It takes the knowledge that you can be both best friends and then hate each other, and then work it out.  It means putting someone else's needs ahead of your own, but that applies to both of you, and like they teach you in kindergarten "SHARE", and take turns.
     I sit here, right now this second feeling very blessed to have someone who loves me and has been able to put up with me that many years.  I sit here missing my husband and looking forward to seeing him again tonight.  I sit here realizing that all of our hard work has been more than worth it, and that we are lucky to have made it.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Parenting a High Schooler (is that even a real word)

    When you bake (at least when I bake) I follow the instructions.  I carefully put in what the recipe says to and I bake it for as long as the recipe says to.  In the 30 - 60 minutes ( I always set my timer)
whatever the recipe says to cook it for, I take it out of the oven and when it's cool enough I get to try the fruits of my labour.  It might have turned out amazing, or it might be a  fail, but it's quick results.  Parenting is not like this.  No parenting is like that time that you asked your Grandma for a recipe and she told to throw in a handful of this, and if you didn't have a handful of that to substitute it for this.  When you asked for actual measurements she looked at you like you had just landed from another planet "I make it the way my mother made it, I just throw in handfuls".  That is more like parenting.  You throw in what you think is best, and pray that you are right.  Sometimes you make mistakes, and pray that you can correct the mistakes.  Unlike a recipe, you wait 20 years to see if you were successful in your endeavors.

    We as parents are now in uncharted waters.  We have a high school girl.  It is that day that she dreamed of all last year.  She would be with other kids "like" her.  She made the honor roll last year.  In grade nine she would be in a class composed of other honor roll students.  There would be no children disrupting the class with their out of control behaviors.  The teacher would be able to complete a lesson without having to put out fires in the classroom (both real and figurative ... mainly figurative).  Her dream came true, but like most dreams it is not exactly how you envisioned it.  All of the kids in her classes are smart, and the teacher teaches without interruption.  There is no mental break while the teacher has to stop a wrestling match.  Being one of the smartest kids in your class of 30 children who all have different abilities is very different from being one of 25 smart kids in a group of 25 smart kids.

    I have always been that hands on mom.  I bake treats for the special occasions.  I am the mom that the teachers know they can count on to help with class trips.  We  help the kids with their projects and inject it with my perfectionist attitude (oh the kids just love it when I tell them what they have done is not good enough).  I am not one of those mom's who does the project for them, but I am very involved.  I think of life as a learning opportunity.  We have always been right on top of due dates for assignments and projects and tests.  We want them to be their best.  This is my parenting style, this has been my parenting style for the last almost 21 years.  I'm not sure if that parenting style will work for a teen.

    At what point do you throw your child into the shark infested waters having taught them how to swim?  For us it's high school.  We have tried to help ease our big girl into high school life, but I feel like it is now time to stand back and let her sink or swim.  I say this and yet I am wracked with indecision.  How can I have been such a push parent and then all of a sudden stand back and watch her possibly fail?  This is one of the hardest things as a parent I have had to do.  I do it knowing that it is for her own good.  She needs to make mistakes and learn how to get out of them.  I say this but I don't like to see my kids get hurt.  It's time to take Tiny Tim's crutch away and hope he (or in this case she) can walk.

    So here we are in uncharted territory.  We/ I have to trust that Grace has listened to what we have said.  I have to trust her to find her own way, and that way may not be the route that I would have chosen.  Oh this is difficult, but I know that we have to loosen the reins.  We have to allow her the opportunity to fail, and then how to pick herself back up.  I have thrown in the handfuls of things that I think will make this recipe great, and now is the time where I let it bake.  Unlike a recipe from Grandma there is no passive allowing the recipe to sit, this recipe has to make active decisions on the way she would like to turn out.  I'm not sure I am ready for this part of parenting......

Friday, 15 January 2016

Meeting Chris Hadfield a.k.a. a Canadian Super Hero


        As you already know I am so far behind in my blogging.  I honestly don't know what happened and why I stopped writing.  I guess the why doesn't matter, but it more matters that the writing bug has bitten again.  Although the writing well had gone dry, I still added pictures to drafts, just in case, and I'm awfully glad I did.
    Last June I seen an add about Chris Hadfield coming to Hastings, a pretty little town a little ways from here.
    Coincidentally just after reading that Chris Hadfield was coming to Hastings we hosted Riley and Rowan's Jazz band for a barbecue at our house to celebrate a great year.  At that time the Gateway Jazz coordinator was Kira Mees.  Kira is this amazingly perky ball of positive energy.  Kira as well as being our coordinator, and a perky little ball of energy, is a resident of Hastings.  At the barbecue I asked Kira if she knew anything about this Chris Hadfield event in Hastings.  The response was something like "Do I, I am one of the organizers.  We need volunteers to help."  Ok that wasn't really what she said, but you get the gist of it.  I volunteered Grace and I to help, and the rest as they say is history.

    I'm not a real astronomy nut, as a matter of fact much to my poor husband's (who took a university course on astronomy) dismay I frequently interchange the words "astronomy" with "astrology" (and no I'm not blonde).  The reason that I was so keen on this event was because of Christopher's love of astronomy that he passed along to the kids.  Back a few years ago Riley and Rowan's class took part in the sing along with Chris Hadfield in space thing (ok I know that's not what it was called).  They sang that song constantly, and it was such a beautiful song.  All they could talk about was Chris Hadfield and traveling into space.  It was a wonderful feeling seeing the kids have a hero who was Canadian and who was doing so much to educate the world.  After Chris came back to earth he began doing a speaking tour.  I so much wanted to buy tickets and take the kids to meet this hero, but everyone of the events boasted and astronomical cost.

    The big day finally arrived.  Poor Christopher had to work and was devastated.  We had bought one of the Chris Hadfield books for Christopher for his father's day.  We took it with us to get it signed.
    WOW is all I can say about listening to Chris Hadfield speak.  If you ever have the opportunity to see him speak GO.  That man is inspirational.  He is just the person that you want to inspire our children.  He was so honest that is was so refreshing.  I'm not sure what I thought I would see when I went there, but the real thing blew every imagination out of my head.

    To understand how fantastic Chris Hadfield's accomplishments are you really need to put this whole experience into perspective.  Col. Hadfield was born in 1959.  Yuri Gagrin was the first man in space in 1961.  Neil Armstrong walked on the moon July 21, 1969.  Space voyage had up until then been science fiction, much like time travel is for us.  Even after there were more space missions, space travel was done by the Americans and the Russians, and Chris Hadfield was a Canadian boy.  He knew (much like probably every other child who watched that first moon landing) that he wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up.  Unlike the other children who fantasized about suiting up in that fancy white outfit, he had a plan.  He knew from childhood what he wanted to do and set about putting everything into place to make his dream a reality.  Yup, I think that is exactly who I would like to inspire my children.
    I personally sat listening to this great Canadian speak and answer questions from the crowd.  I sat there in awe.  I was so impressed and so proud of this amazing Canadian.  He was smart and he was real.  When I say "real" I mean not a phony.  He was not this touchy feely, fake guy standing up there.  He did not stand there and make light of his amazing and almost impossible accomplishments, nor was he a braggart.  He stood there and spoke about his accomplishments and his regrets.  His greatest accomplishment he said was not space travel, but rather when he sang with all of those children in Canada.  I sat there in the audience my mouth open like the letter "O", hanging on his every word. 
    After the talk / lecture part of the evening there was a book signing.  I had volunteered Grace and myself to help with the book signing.  We stood expediting the line. As I stood there I watched all kinds of characters go by.  Some were just average Joe's like myself, some were space nerds, some were just weird.  Every person no matter who they were, Col. Hadfield spoke to.  He even at one point shook this young teens hand and told him to do it again, only this time use a more firm grip because a good handshake was important and told the world about who you are.  WOW.  Some of the people were star struck and clearly shaken to see a celebrity up close and personal.  "I can't believe I'm shaking Chris Hadfield's hand" was uttered a few times.  Part of my job was to ask the people what they would like Col. Hadfield to write in their book and write it on a sticky note and put it on the inside of their book to speed the line up.  Oh my goodness if you could only have seen the crazy things that people wanted this man to write in their books "To Joe, a wonderful guy", "Hey Spaceman", some of them wanted this poor man to write them their own novel I think.   I waited patiently for the nearly endless group of people to make their way through the line so that my kids could shake this hero's hand.  They made their way from the back of the line to the front.  They handed him their books and asked him to inscribe them.  He read the little yellow post it out loud "To Daddy Doodles?" he asked them his head cocked to the side.  "Aww is this for your Dad, that's so sweet".  He talked to them, and shook their hands, and made my day.  Oh who am I kidding made my year.  No I was not one of those star struck people, it was an honour to shake his hand, but I know that he is a real person, and I think that is what made it all the more impressive for me.
    So you may have noticed my "Canadian Super Hero" in this blog title.  This is not me being my usual larger than life self, I truly believe that is what Col. Chris Hadfield is.  He made the space program more accessible, and in turn made science interesting.  He made us raise our faces upward to the skies.  He sang in space for goodness sake, he put on a concert of sorts and asked Canadian children to join him.  He has taught us to love our world, and to be ever so proud to call ourselves Canadians.


    As a Post Script..... Thank you Kira for allowing us to part of such a life altering event, oh and your Field House is an inspiration to the rest of us.


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Our Children Are Only Lent to Us...

    You may have noticed that there has been a significant deficit of blogs lately.  I'm not sure why to be honest.  I mean I have some ideas, but nothing concrete.  Life has been crazy.  This year we decided to allow the kids to take part in more than one afterschool activity.  Normally because we have 4 children we limit it to one activity per kid.  Perhaps I was sniffing glue this year, or guilt got to me, because we said "yes" to way to many activities.  Grace is attending an arts program high school in the city, and we have to drive her 15 minutes twice a day to meet her bus.  That doesn't sound like a big deal, until you begin to add that up, 15 minutes each trip is half an hour round trip for me, double that and it's an hour a day in the car to drop her off and pick her up.  Add to that the 45 minute drive one way on the days that she misses her bus, for you math wizards that's an hour round trip for me.   Grace has choir once a week and that means a trip into the city to get her.  In a week that amounts to 6 and a half hours in the car just for one child.  Tuesdays and Thursdays Riley and Rowan have jazz band which means that they don't come home until 6, so that's a 6:30 dinner Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Elly really wanted to do gymnastics, so we put her in the tumbling class that coincides with the end of Grace's choir, so only one trip to Belleville, but we don't get home on those nights until 7.  Every other Thursday Riley has guitar lessons, which we are lucky enough to have at the house, but they are right after jazz band so I have to feed her as she walks in the door or she doesn't eat until 7:30.  Rowan wanted to try house league hockey this year, and he's loving it.  It's in another town 20 minutes away and alternates Thursday nights and Friday nights.  Did I mention that Elly has skating on Mondays?  Add in to all of that my school commitments a week at the school for book fair, planning a festive lunch, and planning a  talent show and my life has been a mess.  Man I am getting exhausted just typing all of that, never mind living it.
    This year we over scheduled.  It did not seem like a big deal when you looked at it per child, but added up it was too much.  I will NEVER do this again, it's taken years off of my life.  More importantly it made me lose perspective.  We just wrapped up Christmas, a time of year that is so difficult for our family.  It's that razor thin balancing act between giving the kids the Christmas / memories they deserve, and mourning their big brother who died Christmas Eve 2008.  This year I threw myself into making this a wonderful Christmas, mainly out of guilt.  We could not afford to do our usual Christmas traditions (mainly because of all of the extra curricular activities), and I had jam packed my own schedule so much in the month leading up to Christmas that I did not have breathing room to think about Christmas.  The first week of Christmas Break was magical for the kids, I worked really hard, the second week I relaxed and enjoyed my kids, taking a much needed break from "doing", and a much deserved time of "just loving them".
    We are nearly half way through January and that Christmas Break feels like eons ago already.  We are back into the crazy routine, and now our house has been hit with a stomach bug.  I will be honest, I was sitting here feeling sorry for myself when I read a post a friend had shared on facebook, it is a post I have seen before, but that I really needed to re-read today.

    I know this, and yet in all of the stress I forgot it.  I know how precious these children are, I just had a moment of temporary insanity.  I know that life is not a given, it's fragile we do not know how many days we have on this earth, even for 9 year old boys.  I know how it feels to torture myself about my inadequacies as a mother knowing that with Gabe I can never ever make it up.  He is the reason that I try to make every day count.  He is the reason that I don't care if in our retirement Christopher and I have to eat cat food.  Our children did not ask to be born, they were a gift, a gift that we dearly wanted.  When the kids are adults they won't look back at their childhoods and congratulate their father and I for having all of the bills paid on time.  They won't look at us snuggly nestled in our designer living room and congratulate us for saving so well for our retirement.  I can only hope that when they look back on their childhood they will see our sacrifice.  I hope that they look back at our family adventures and traditions and smile and hopefully laugh.  If we can accomplish that then we have lived a good life, better than any amount of money in the bank.
    In 1995 there was this amazing movie called "Powder".  There was a particular scene that stood out for me.  I tried to attach the clip itself, but for some reason I couldn't.  I have included a link to it.  Do yourself a favour and click it, or rent the movie.
    In the scene the boy with this amazing power touches a deer that is dying, shot by hunters, and then touches the hunter.  He is able transfer the feeling of death from the dying deer to the hunter.  This is very dramatic, but I wish that I could have this ability, if only for a second.  I would like to transfer the feeling of grief and despair and the inability to make things right for your child that I feel, if only for a few seconds to other parents.  If they could feel this, if only for a second then they would re-order their lives and make their children priorities over money, over things.   You would never look at your life the same way. 
    To my facebook friend who re-posted the beautiful poem "Slow Down Mummy", thank you.  I needed that reminder.  I needed to remember what is important in life, in all of the chaos I had forgotten for a minute.  To my friends who are blessed enough to have never experienced the nightmarish loss of a child, please take every single day for the gift that it is.  I know it is easier some days than others.  Take my advice on this, it is much easier to sleep at night knowing what you did right with your children than it is lying awake at night beating yourself up for what you did wrong.

Powder - Deer scene

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Your First Boyfriend... Part Two of "The Other Sex Talk".

   As a parent you wonder how much your children actually "hear" what you are saying to them.  Knowing that they only selectively listen does not mean that you should stop talking. All I can hope for is that when I am not there with them they sometimes hear what I have said and listen to keep themselves safe.  I spoke yesterday about having the "other sex talk" with my kids.  I think it's important not just to guard against pregnancy (I mean don't get me wrong I don't want to be a granny just yet), but to guard against sexual assault, date rape, unnecessary heart break.
    I want my kids to understand that keeping themselves safe means not putting themselves in risky situations.  Grace is getting to the age where kids begin to under age drink.  I never did, mainly because I was a nerd and had no need to, and none of my friends did.  I can only hope the children are nerds like their Momma, but I know that realistically that will likely not happen.  What I can do is stress safety.  Binge drinking is never a good idea, you can die from binge drinking and kids do.  If you drink too much you put yourself at risk.  Being knock down drunk lowers your ability to protect yourself.  Imagine being drunk and feeling sick and someone pulling down your pants or lifting up your shirt and taking a picture, then posting it.  That is something that can be shared around the world.  Imagine drinking so much that it leaves you ripe for some pervert to rape you.  I do not want you to drink at all, but if you do... moderation... be smart.
    That leads now to boys, and boyfriends.  It's ok to not have a boyfriend.  Sure you would like one, but at some point the right boy will come along and see how beautiful you are.  I was a late bloomer, I hated it, but I survived and have been happily married to the same man for 22 years.  Nice is more important than HOT.  HOT guys usually know it and often are idiots, not worth the heartache.  That is not to say that there are not HOT guys who are amazing, but know the difference.  The most important thing to remember is to pick someone who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated.  In return you need to treat them the same way.  A nice boy may break your heart, but should not leave you emotionally damaged.  NEVER be with someone who does not respect you!  If there are things that he wants you to do, and you are not comfortable with them, walk away.  If he's the right boy he will understand and not pressure you.  If it's his way or no way, walk away, he does not deserve to be with a smart and beautiful girl like you.
     The most important thing that I could pass along comes more from their father.  It is something that I have told Christopher from the time the kids were toddlers "You are their example of who a man is.  The way the kids see you treat me is the way our son will treat his wife, and what our daughters will look for in a husband.  Treat me the way you way you would like to see our daughters treated."  We impact our children by the way we function as a couple.  Luckily for our kids they see two people who love and respect each other.  They see us kiss, which they make a big grossed out display over, but when they are adults they will instinctively seek that out.  Our stability is their example, that will give them a better chance to have their own stable marriage.  I have told our daughter(s) "Do you see the way your Dad treats me?  Do not settle for anything less."

    Parenting is difficult.  When they are tiny you worry about keeping them safe, but that worry does not end and it is no longer as easy as baby proofing your home.  There comes a time when you are not there to hold their hand when they cross the street, nor do they particularly want you to.  The difficult thing is hoping that they have listened to you, and can think for themselves.  All you can do is talk, not lecture, and hope.

Friday, 8 January 2016

The "Other" Sex Talk

    I always thought I would be "the" cool mom.  I'm not sure why I even thought this because quite honestly I have never been "cool" at anything in my entire life thus far.  Oh back in my childless days I thought that I would be that Mom that had frank discussions with her kids, that I would have no problems getting them birth control.... I was delusional it would seem.
    Back a few years ago I took a human sexuality course at Queens.  It was fascinating, and not for the reasons that you might think (I don't think that we even discussed the Karma Sutra).  The thing that most stood out in my mind then and now was the information about parents discussing sexuality with their children.  The Netherlands and those cold northern countries are so much more relaxed than we in this part of the world are.  At that time there were virtually no unplanned teen pregnancies.  The parents at least in that study were very open with their children about sexuality.  In fact the study further went on to look at all western cultures, and the homes where talking about sex was not taboo were the homes where there were no virtually no unplanned pregnancies, and those children went on to have good fulfilling sex lives as adults.  This has really stuck with me.
    I had the nuts and bolts talk about "sex" twice now.  It was important to me to have the discussion at home before they were introduced to it at school.  I tried to be cool, and act like I was so comfortable having a frank discussion, but on the inside I was a ten year old boy increasingly more squeamish as the discussion went on.  In the back of my head I heard that professor talking about the Netherlands, and I shouldered on putting on an Oscar worthy performance.
    Here is what occurred to me, the nuts and bolts part of the talk is to prevent pregnancy, but there are far worse things than teen pregnancy.  The nuts and bolts were important, but the next part, the part so many of us skip, thinking that we are done is most important.  My job as a parent is to prepare my children for life, to give them the skills to take care of themselves.  This is not just about manners and chores, it's about true life and relationship skills.

   We put our children in approved car seats and are careful not to move them from rear facing to front facing until they are the right age and weight, heck some of us were so cautious that we repeatedly took the seat to be inspected by the police to make sure it was strapped in safely.  We make them wear helmets for ice skating and tobogganing.  We teach our children to look both ways before crossing the street.  We caution them again and again about stranger danger.   We do all of these things to keep our children safe, and yet so often we do not equip them with the skills they need to prevent heart break, shattered self esteem, or worse so much worse it does not bear giving it a name.
   Keeping my children safe is more than just preventing pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.  Those are important things, yes, but there are worse things.  The first part of the keep her safe talk was about older boys.  If a much older boy seems interested in you, be flattered and walk away.  If a much older boy is interested in you and knows how old you are it's not because you are so beautiful (which we both know you are), it's because there is something wrong with him.  This is strictly my own opinion but I think that much older teens wanting to date much younger teens or pre-teens is them honing their skills to become sexual predators.  It is not natural to be attracted to someone so much younger, and where are their friends and family members?  How are they not being ridiculed for finding these children sexually attractive?  These boys / men are either insecure about themselves or are preying on your self esteem.  I remember back to being a young teen and older boys looking at me.  It was a high, it proved how beautiful I was, how desirable I was.  Often these young girls are easy prey because they want the status of dating an older boy and will do whatever it takes to keep him, which is what they are counting on.  I've been very open with my kids about my first boyfriend.  I was 16 (a bit of a late bloomer) and he was 21 .  He was so cute and older, the important thing was that he was older that proved that the boys my age were stupid not to have noticed me.  He was part of an exchange program, and he had stressed that "no one could know we were dating".  I went along with that for the first little while, but what is the point of having a much older, hot boyfriend if you could not share it with the world?  At first I went with his argument that it could jeopardize his exchange.  In the end my self esteem won out and I told him I would not "date" someone I could not be seen in public with. 
    The nice thing is that so far the girls seem to be listening to me.  I know it's early days and I also know that there are heartbreaks ahead.  I can deal with ordinary heartbreaks, they are part of learning who is a good partner.  I don't want to deal with the heartaches that can cause long term mental / physical damage.
To be continued........