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There are times that I really do feel like The Little Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe. I even call our little house "The Shoe". I am a stay at home mom. I do really think that was my calling. My kids are 13, 10, 10, (yes they are twins) and 5. Our life is an adventure, most times it really is a beautiful adventure.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Lovely Bones - Living with the Death of a Child

    Do you ever read a book that changes the way you look at the world, or as you read a book you think "Man, that author really gets me, it's like he/ she peeked into my head".   I have had both experiences, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold was the latter experience for me.
    The lovely Bones came to my book collection through the Tweed Public Library's semi- annual book sale.  I picked it up more on a whim.  A few years ago Christopher and I had rented the movie, and I would not rank it among my favourites.  I knew that it was a disturbing concept, the story of a girl who had been violently murdered, told by the dead girl.  I'm going to be honest the way it was envisioned for the film, I just didn't get it.  I'm not sure why I picked the book up.
    First let me share that the subject of the book is difficult to read, there are parts that as a mother and as a woman made me shudder.  To me the book wasn't about her gristly murder, it was about how her family dealt with her murder / death and how she dealt with it in "her heaven".  I am pretty sure that Ms. Sebold knows about the loss of a child.  Her words rang true to me.  It was as if she had snuck back into my history 10 years ago and wrote down everything that I was thinking, feeling.
    This was not the most beautifully written book I have ever read, but it really struck me, burrowed into my consciousness.  It was honest.  It brought so many things back for me, and not in a terrible way.  Alice Sebold spoke about the town members giving the family "that look".  I remember "that look".  I remember my community rallied around our family to give us meals, give us their love, but then a few weeks later many felt uncomfortable.  Many times people I knew saw me and walked across the street pretending they had not seen me.  I'm not sure if they thought that losing a child was contagious, or that I would see them and begin to scream in despair.  The truth was I became a bit of a recluse after we lost Gabe.  I did not want to look at little boys his age and feel that terrible feeling of "why do they get to live, but my child didn't".  I did not want to deal with the ghoulish people who would stop me and ask "Aren't you that woman who lost her child?"  They would then begin to ask awful questions about our accident.
    The Lovely Bones gave me a feeling of being seen.  That sounds like a crazy thing to say of a work of fiction, and particularly of a book.  The thing is, losing a child is a club that no one wants to be a part of.  Many of us locally have connected to give comfort and support to each other, but even so you still feel alone.  Parents who have never shared our horrific pain or loss may think they have an idea what we live with, but they don't.  This book, put my thoughts and feelings into words.  It spoke of my grief of my healing.  It suggested a heaven that I had never thought of, but was alright with.  When I say that the book made me feel "seen", what I mean by this is, is that it's words mirrored my experience, allowing me to remember that I am not alone (even after 10 years).

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Library Book Sale / I'm a Book Hoarder

    I love books!  I love the way they feel in my hands.  I love the books with the thick, elegant pages.  I love the way new books smell (old ones, not so much).  I love their weight in my hands as I snuggle into the covers on a cold night, fighting the heaviness of my tired eyes.  Did I mention that I love books?

    My husband is not a reader, he looks at me with my perpetual evening book in my hands with a mixture of envy and distain.  The envy is because he can manage about two pages before he either losses interest or falls asleep.  The distain is because books take up a lot of space in my tiny house.  Each of the kids has their own personal book collection.  I have three totes of books in the upstairs hall way, they are homeless poor little loves.  I have books on the small ledge of my upstairs landing.  I have a book case in the living room filled to overflowing.  In my bedroom I have a bookshelf of the books I have either just read or plan to read.  I feel a slight panic as my pile of "to be read" books begin to dwindle.  As I write this, I realize there is a really good possibility that I am a book hoarder.

    Traditionally I have a genre I read.  I really like historical fiction.  My favourite author is Bernard Cornwell http://www.bernardcornwell.net/.  I find his writing to be mesmerizing.  His books are raw and violent and the way I imagine the times that he writes of to be.  When I read his books I feel like I have fallen through the proverbial rabbit hole and am a part of the story I am reading.  When I finish his books (which sadly I tend to read in a day or so) I feel both a sense of loss because I am finished reading, and also feel smarter.

    Recently one of my friends on facebook posted a book quiz.  It was something like "How literate are you?"  The gist of it was how many of the books labeled as "The Classics" have you read"?  I love books, how could I not ace this quiz... I didn't.  It turns out that the only "classics" that I have read were those I read more than two decades ago in high school.  I was completely taken a back.  From that moment on I began my quest.  I would read books outside of my interests.  I would re-read, and  the classics by my own free will!

    Lucky for me I have an AMAZING public library.  Our "Friends of Tweed Public Library" board put together two AMAZING, HUGE book sales every year, one in the summer and one just before Christmas.  The meeting room is filled to overflowing with beautiful, almost new books.  My girls and I nearly skipped through the hoards of people, gathering heavy armfuls of beautiful books.  I collected books that I would not normally read.  I gathered critically acclaimed books to read.  I gathered books to do me the six months between book sales.  It turns out I liked many of the critically acclaimed books.
    The feel good end of this story is that I could now ace that quiz if I took it today (of course I can't find that stupid quiz now that I'm so literate).  I have now read many critically acclaimed books, and can now sound like a smartie pants when I speak to people.  I now have a huge supply of books to read, and I helped support my AMAZING public library, yup I'm a hero.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Not So Great Attraction in Niagara Falls

    It is my goal through this blog to share with you.  I want to confide in you like I do my girlfriends.  I want to share the tricks that I have learned that save money or that create wonderful memories with my children.  The goal is to be positive.  I do not pretend that all of my blogs are positive and uplifting, oh heck let's be honest some of them aren't really even that good.  My point is, I try not to spread negativity.  The world is full of negativity and negative people, I'm a glass half full kind of a girl, and I look for that in the world around me.  I have had several people ask me to write a blog about their store, or them, and unless I have something that is positive to say, I just can't do it.  I don't like to hurt people's feelings, but more than that I don't want to lie to you.  How can I possible ask you to continue to read my blogs if they are full of lies... do you see where I am coming from?  

    Now that is all out of the way, here is my story about a not so money saving trip (hint there's a picture of it up top).

    Over the past two days I have shared with you what an amazing experience we had at The Great Wolf Lodge.  It was not an inexpensive trip, but honestly it was worth every single penny, and I can't think of to many places I could say that of.  We went to the Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls.  The weather forecast was not terribly favourable for driving on the Thursday we were to travel.  My husband came to the rescue by finding us an incredible deal through WagJag for a hotel in Niagara Falls for the Wednesday night.  This would allow us to make it to Niagara Falls before the storm, and add a little time to our mini vacation.  To top it all off, we got the room for.... get ready for this... $45.00 for the night!!!!!  Now ordinarily I would be a little wary of this kind of a deal.  I am a little like a princess when it comes to hotels.  I am not a great housekeeper (this is code for I am slovenly), BUT and this is a big BUT, it's our dirt.  I will not pay to stay somewhere that is not nicer than my own home.  Christopher and I have nearly gotten divorced when traveling when it comes to hotels.  There have been many times I have walked into the hotel that he has spent half an hour arranging, and then told him to get his money back because we aren't staying.  Luckily, we had stayed at this particular hotel before and it had my stamp of approval (which means that it was really nice and spotlessly clean).  
    We picked the kids up from school Wednesday night and headed for the Falls.  The kids were giddy with excitement.  The weather was great, the sun was shining, the roads clear.  We had made a very smart decision.  Not only would we avoid unpleasant weather by going up a day early, we could check into the Great Wolf Lodge earlier, and let the kids see Niagara Falls.  It occurred to Christopher and I that Elly had never seen the falls.  I'm going to be honest on this one, I felt a little like a bad parent when I realized this.  That night before we checked into the hotel we drove past the falls at night. The kids ooohhhed and awwwed.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  The spray from the falls had frozen onto everything that it touched creating natural sculptures and looked like something from Elly's favourite movie Frozen.  The lights bounced off of the majesty of the frozen falls, pushing through the ice.  The kids hopped back into the car flush with excitement.  You cannot see Niagara Falls and not feel amazed by it's size, it's beauty and it's majesty. 
    That night as we lay in our spotless, cozy, cheap hotel room I listened to the rhythmic hum of my children's breath as they slept.  I lay with an almost spiritual smile.  We were good parents.  That beautiful feeling of being a "good parent" is rare in my parenting world.  More often I lay awake at night beating myself up for what I didn't do, what I should have done, what I need to improve (sound familiar).  I lay there wrapped in a bubble of peace.  I turned over to Christopher and quietly asked what he thought of taking the kids to see one of the Niagara Falls attractions.  He gave me that scared look that says he is afraid to actually say what he is thinking.  "You know they are all kind of a waste of money, right honey?"  I was in my bubble of bliss, and so I smiled at my stupid husband, knowing that he was really thick.  "Oh I know honey"( said this to humor him.  I knew he was thick, but I didn't have to hurt him by pointing it out).  "The thing is, you know it's a waste of money because you've seen it, I've seen it.  I feel like we would be depriving them of an opportunity if we didn't take them to see at least one" (yup I said 'deprived', like Great Wolf Lodge was not quite enough).  He gave me that look, that look that said he though I was thick, but he knew better than to voice this thought.  "It's a big waste of money .... but if you really think the kids would like it ......" all of this he said in that tone that said, "this is what I am supposed to say so that you don't take that extra comfy pillow from the bed and hold it over my face whilst I am sleeping, but I think you are slow witted".

    The next morning we got up and headed for the tourist trap, I mean entertainment district of Niagara Falls.  Christopher and I had decided that maybe we should take them to the Guinness World Records Museum.  When I was a child and had come to Niagara Falls with my Grandparents we had gone to Ripley's.  It was full of side show type displays, two headed goats in bottles of fluid, wax figures with gross things, I was not sure I could take that again.

    I walked up to the little dirty window with the lone attendant.  "Do you have any specials for admission today?" I asked feeling hopeful.  "Sorry Mam, not today" (I sure hate being called Mam).  I paid the $70.00 and we walked in, not before noticing the eye roll from my husband and the "I told you so look".  The kids raced in.  We were the only people in the whole museum.  This would be great I thought.  We could look around at our leisure and the kids could have some freedom to explore without me worrying that some pervert might abduct them.

    We walked into the first room, only to discover that was the best that the museum had to offer.  There was the statue of the tallest man in the world.  At that point I still thought we were in for a treat.  I got Christopher, the tallest man I know (he's 6'4) to stand beside the statue of the worlds tallest man.  He was dwarfed in comparison, a sight I have never seen before.  At this point I was still all smiles, feeling like the best mother in the world, prepared to rub Christopher's face in the fact that I was so right and he was sooooo wrong.  The kids ran to the funny mirror that made them look distorted.  I looked at the sign that said "More upstairs".  In my head I was feeling very grateful for that sign because the one lame room was beginning to make it look like I would be the one having my face rubbed in it.

    We walked up the endless flight of red carpeted stairs.  On the wall was a huge sign that said you could have a "repeat same day visit for only $5".  We got to the top of the stairs and the walls were lined with framed articles.  We would have saved money if I had just bought a "Guinness Book of World Records book".  The kids still raced around excitedly.  I was determined to read every single stupid, boring fact from those stupid, boring framed articles... I WOULD GET MY MONEY'S WORTH!  It was shortly after we had gone upstairs that I wondered what idiot would pay $5 to see this crap again.  It turns out that the most exciting parts of the museum were the bright and colourful statues outside of the museum that you could get your picture taken with for free, yup they saw me coming.

    So, it does not feel great to be at the receiving end of an "I told you so", this I now know.  Christopher was gracious enough (that is code for smart enough) not to actually say "I Told You So", but he didn't have to give it words, his face said it for him.  I totally wasted $70.00, I have been trying to tell myself it wasn't a waste of money because now the kids can say that they have been to one of the Niagara Falls attractions, but we both know that's my pride talking.

     My parting advice to you .... see the falls for free, they are majestic and beautiful.  I have found the best time to come to Niagara Falls is in January and February.  The cold weather seems to keep the thousands of tourists away.  Go take funny pictures with the bright and colourful statues outside of The Guinness World Record Museum.  Stand beside the statue of the world's tallest man and his giant chair.  Giggle as you put your face through the spot for the world's fattest man.  Take your pictures, but keep your money in your purse... You're welcome.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Great Wolf Lodge Adventure - FINALLY

    Our much anticipated Great Wolf Lodge vacation in Niagara Falls had finally come.  The kids had a count down penciled on my big Mom calendar on the fridge.  We had counted how many sleeps and now that exciting day had finally arrived.  As we pulled up to the lodge we were shocked how busy it was.  Christopher and I are really not fans of crowds, and so we were trepidatious to say the least.  The kids on the other hand were vibrating with excitement in the back seat, desperate to rip off their seat belts and throw themselves head long into the chaos.

    After my brain had calmed down and I could see all of my children, all within arms reach, I began to take in my surroundings.  It was the stuff of children's dreams.  It looked like a little camping village, but all inside.  Dead ahead were animated animals, surrounded by awestruck little ones.  To the side was this inviting fireplace that begged to have me sit near it.  The very check in area looked like a rustic cabin.  In short it was nothing short of amazing!  Immediately I could see what everyone had been talking about for years.

    I mentioned yesterday that Vivian St. Onge, The Great Wolf Lodge's Group Sales coordinator was a hero.  She tried her very best to help me get the group rate package, but in the end we just didn't have enough people.  She was fantastic to deal with.  She tried to find us the best deal, and she did.  She was able to upgrade our room for us.  I had no idea just how amazing the upgrade was until we opened the door.

    Just inside the door of the room was a beautiful cheese basket with a card from Vivain, what did I tell you, the lady is amazing!!!!  It was too late for lunch but to early for dinner, but we were all hungry.  We set upon that gorgeous cheese basket like ants to a picnic.  It had glorious cheeses and artesian crackers.  I felt a little like royalty.  I had this big stupid smile on my face the whole time.

    It was becoming increasingly obvious that a genius had created the Great Wolf Lodge experience.  I could now see why people raved about it, why families made so many return visits.  They have thought of everything!  The very room keys are ingenious.  How many times have you been to a hotel with a pool?  You walk down to the pool, the kids are rangy with excitement.  You are about to jump into the pool, but wait, where do you put your room key?  Inevitably our room key gets put into the end of either Christopher or my stinky shoe.  That's all well and good for when you are putting the key in, taking the key out... now that's another thing.  The other thing about traditional hotel room keys is that someone always manages to loose at least one (I'm not naming names, but he's tall and wears glasses).  We usually find the keys somewhere stupid in our luggage when we get home, an unexpected souvenir of our trip.  The geniuses at Great Wolf Lodge have eliminated the traditional keys.  Your water park bracelet is your key.  You just line it up with this little spot on the door and viola it's open ... like magic.  The bracelets are attached to your wrist, so never misplace the room key again.

    Our cabin, I mean room, really did feel like a cozy upscale cabin.  There was a corner fireplace, that I couldn't wait to sit by with a glass of wine.  There was a huge patio door, that in nice weather would have been amazing to sit outside and have a coffee to start the day.  The decor was all rustic themed.

    There was even a Ripley's Believe it Or Not book waiting to be explored on the table.  My kid's loved it.  The couldn't wait to sit and read it.  Like I say, they have thought of everything!

    Arguably the best feature of our room if you were to ask our kids was the kid's cabin.  Right in our room was a little wooden cabin with a t.v. and bunk beds.  The kids were ecstatic.  They jumped up and down and squealed in delight.  

    They really have thought of everything possible to make this the world's greatest holiday.  They even have games to loan out.  After the water park closed (it closed at 8, it seems a too little early) the kids were already bored.  I went to the front desk and signed out Snakes and Ladders.  When the kids had finished playing that, the big girls went down and exchanged Snakes and Ladders for Jenga.  This is built into the cost of your room rental.

    For the kids and for ourselves the best possible part of the trip was the company.  I had tried to book a group of rooms, not just to save money (although that was a good part of the reason), but so that the kids could share this amazing adventure with their friends.  In the room right next door to us was Elly's friend and her family, and just down the hall were Grace's Friend and her family.  I saw another Mom and her family at the water park and in the lobby for story time.  We were away from home, but there was that familiarity.  It had worked out perfectly that the kids each had someone to play with out of the groups.  My guys loved the freedom of being able to run back and forth between the rooms and play with their friends / kids their age.  Christopher and I liked being able to have adult conversation with really nice adults that we really liked.

They really do have everything there, it's truly is like a little village.  There are restaurants, and to make your life easier you can purchase food plans for your visit (we are so doing that next time).  There is a place to purchase swimsuits in case you forgot yours.  There is a coffee shop, a little bakery, even a spa one for grown ups and one for kids!

    The water park was huge.  I really appreciated that it was broken up into different area for big kids and smaller kids, but they didn't have to stay within those particular areas.  Going with friends made it better for the kids in the water park.  Ordinarily the big kids get held back because what they want to do is not appropriate for Elly, and so we have to divide our time (which to them means that their time is wasted).  Having three sets of trusted adults allowed the kids to branch off and do their own thing, but still be supervised by a parent, even if it wasn't their own.

    So there you have it, our Great Wolf Lodge adventure.  I think waiting so long to do this trip actually made it all the better.  I can only speak highly of this resort.  They really have thought of everything to make this a magic and memorable vacation.  It is not an inexpensive trip, but if you are patient and sign up for their emails, sometimes they offer fantastic deals.  The thing to remember is that this is not your run of the mill hotel.  This is a vacation, and you have to expect to pay more.  It was worth every single penny, and we will go back again.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Great Wolf Lodge Part 1

    "Can we go to Great Wolf Lodge.... PLEASSSSSSSSSE?  So and So just went and said it was soooooo much fun?"
   "We'll see ... one day." ( in my head I'm saying 'must be nice to be rich like so and so's parents')
Does this conversation sound familiar?  It's a conversation that we have been having in this house for many years.  It always made me feel awful to have to say no, but we are a single income family of 6 and it just wasn't financially feasible.  I'm going to be honest it made me feel like a failure as a parent to deprive my children of this when most of their friends had already been dozens of times (there goes that  Snow Plow parenting again).   I would try to remind them about all the amazing family vacations we had taken, and all the wonderful experiences that they had been blessed to have.  Honestly I was trying to guilt them, a mother's last trick.  Even as I spoke the words it felt hollow, even to me.  I had looked into taking the kids many times, but it just wasn't possible financially.  I put it on my someday list.
     As you my faithful, beautiful readers already know, I am Mrs. stretch the dollar.  I want to live big but still pay my mortgage.  Recently I have discovered "group rates".  I have decided that from now on whenever possible I will attempt a group rate for everything possible ... that included "The Great Wolf Lodge".  Maybe I could be that awesome Mom after all ... no, I have pre-teens and a teen the best I will ever get is a pleasant face, but at this stage I'll take it as a "YOU ARE THE MOST AWESOME MOM IN THE WHOLE AND ENTIRE WORLD", delusional ... yes, but a Mom's got to do, what a Mom's got to do.
    This Christmas was the year that we finally did it, we became the awesome parents (o.k. only in our own minds).  This year's family Christmas gift was a trip to The Great Wolf Lodge. Two years ago Christopher and I began a new Christmas tradition.  We would scale back on "things" and beef up "memories / experiences" for Christmas.  Surprisingly my kids loved it.  They were more than happy to have less "things" and get to take a big family trip with the money that would go to toys and gadgets that would sit in their boxes or under their beds.  
     This is the part of the story when the Great Wolf Lodge hero emerges from the background, Vivian St. Onge.  Vivian is the Group Sales Co-ordinator for Great Wolf Lodge, she also quite amazing.  I began speaking to Vivian in November.  If we booked with 9 other families then we could secure a "group rate".  The group rate knocked $40.00 off our rate.  Paired with the fact that we were staying during a non-peak time, and we were staying on a Thursday night all meant a rate that we could afford.

    I began my recruiting.  I pitched the idea to my friends and to the kid's friend's parents.  Everyone could not believe the rate we could get.  There was a point when I wondered if I shouldn't try to increase the number of rooms in the group because everyone wanted to go, and not only that, they wanted to bring people with them.  I felt like the Christmas hero.  It's probably for the best that I did not go ahead and get a cape made.
    Through the whole process that beautiful lady, Vivian would call me and say "Tristan we don't have enough families booked yet" as our due date to book for the group rate began to approach.  I would then ask her if we could back the date up, and beautiful lady that she is, she did.  I emailed, called around trying to get those families who had seemed so eager weeks before to book.  Everyone had their reasons why they couldn't come after all, but in the end there were five of us.  Throughout the whole process I would get emails and phone calls from Vivian.  She was so nice, so helpful.  What I didn't know then was that Vivian was just the tip of the iceberg for the amazing experience that we had with the Lodge.  Although we could not get the group rate and ended up having to spend an extra $50.00, Vivian worked some magic and upgraded our room.  See I told you, a hero.

To be continued...

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Changing the Rules of the Game in Snow Plow Parenting

    Have you ever read something that not only set off that light bulb, but actually glowed so bright it blew a fuse?  Recently I had one of those moments that so surpassed an "uh huh" moment.  A friend had posted an article on facebook.  I don't normally read these things, normally I just scroll on by.  For whatever reason I read it.
Holy Cow!  How did that guy know so much about me without ever meeting me?
   My children are my life.  I have said this so many times that I feel like a broken record, but I am a stay at home mother because my children are my life.  Christopher and I decided that it was worth the financial struggle for me to stay at home, and for us to be a one income family.  It was important to us that I was able to be at home and to make sure that there was a healthy hot meal on the table at night.  It was important to us that if they were sick, I was here.  Please don't mistake this for pretending that working mothers don't want those same things for their children, or that all of them were not able to achieve this and work.  All to often Stay at Home Mothers and Working Mothers play this stupid jealous game where we resent the other.  Out of jealousy the Working Mother says that she too would love to stay home and sit in track pants all day, but how could they afford to live?  The Stay at Home Mom in jealousy says it must be nice to pay someone else to raise your children for you.  The thing is that being a stay at home mom is a sacrifice, being a working mom is a sacrifice, instead of being jealous, just be happy in your choice, and respect the choices of others.
    Growing up my family struggled.  I wanted my children to have everything that I didn't have, and then some.  I am pretty sure that I am not alone in this one.  Most of us want better for our children.  I am a bubble wrap parent, I want to shield my babies from pain, from injustice.  I forget that pain and injustice form us.  Failure is what helps us to learn.  If we don't make those mistakes, then we don't know what we actually have.  When I look back at my life, all those struggles, those failures, mistakes, injustices, they made me who I am.  I am trying to deny my children a basic right, the right to be wrong, to get dirty, to make mistakes.
     At night in the dark, my husband and I lay awake talking.  This is our time to discuss the days events without little ears.  We discuss our failings as parents or our triumphs.  More often than not we talk about why our children seem so ungrateful.  When I think about it, sitting here it seems more like whining.  "I give them everything, and they appreciate nothing!"  Although this is whiny, it's also true.  My children are ungrateful, but it's my fault not theirs.  We have handed them everything that they have wanted, and expected nothing of them in return.  They have never known what it is to do without, so how can they possibly know what it is like to be truly grateful?  I don't let them fail, so how can they thirst for that desire to win?  It is like asking a child to be grateful for the sun, when that is all they have ever known.  We have broken our children.
    I am going to change the rules of the game, mid-game.  This bandaid is going to hurt them when I pull it off, but it's for their own good!  I am going to allow my kids to fail.  I am going to root them on from the sidelines, but let them make mistakes, get dirty and God forbid fail.  In other words I am going to let them live their own lives.  I'm not pretending that this will be easy, or quiet and painless.  Wish me luck!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Ten Years of Loss

    It has been 10 years now that the world has been without my beautiful little boy.  Time has softened the rawness of it, and yet for some reason this year the fact that has been 10 years has reopened the wound a bit.  I wonder how it can be that my tiny five month old twin babies have now become older than their big brother who was nine years older then them.  Gabriel's three younger siblings have now surpassed him in age.
    In the beginning I played a cruel game with myself.   I have long since stopped the game of "What if".  For years I played the "What if Game".  "What if I hadn't take the kids to the movies?", "What if that stupid deer had not come in front of the van", "What if there had been no black ice", "What if I had just hit the deer and not braked", "What if those boys had not been going so fast", "What if those boys had been paying attention and seen us, like the car in front of them had", so many what ifs that make no difference to the outcome.  I have long since stopped torturing myself with the "what if" game.  I also no longer play the "what would he be like now" game.  "Would he have been handsome", "Would he have a girlfriend", "Would he have gone to university", "Would he have been taller than his Dad now", I would see other children that looked around his age, see them doing things and wonder what Gabe would have been doing.  I no longer torture myself with that game either.  Now it is just the longing, the missing.  I still miss that smile, that laugh, that funny little boy.  If I close my eyes I can almost imagine that he is standing behind me, about to wrap his little arms around my shoulders and settle his chin on the crook of my neck, like they were puzzle pieces that were meant to fit.
    In the 10 years the pain has lessened to a tolerable amount.  I still miss him, but I don't want to sob every day.  I no longer drive around screaming in my car with the windows up tight, lest no one thinks me to be insane.  I no longer look at other people's children and wonder why it was mine who was taken, mine who was so bright, who was so kind, had such an amazingly bright future in front of him.  The pain still comes, but with less cruelty to it.  It no longer draws blood, but scratches a bit.  There are the times when I know that life will be difficult.  I know that beginning in December, until his birthday on February 2, it will be hard.  I know this and I prepare myself for the onslaught of pain.  All of this said there are still sneak attacks.  Sneak attacks are the times when something will bring the pain out of the blue, a smell, a sound, sometimes nothing at all.  The sneak attacks are the hard ones.
    I have found the 10 year anniversary of Gabriel's death to be a sneak attack.  Christmas snuck up on me this year, I was so busy that I forgot to prepare myself for the pain.  Christmas came and went with such a flurry of activity that I did have time to feel the pain of missing my little man.  It was a few days later that the pain smashed into my unprotected walls.  It was a sneak attack.  I was unprepared for the degree of pain and loss I would feel.  10 years is a long time, and I think that is what is the hardest part of this, this year.  It has been 10 years.  I forget what his voice sounds like.  I forget how he smelled.  I am terrified to forget what he looked like.  I am not just mourning his physical loss, but now I mourn the loss of his memory.
    Right now is a very difficult time, but this will pass.  In the beginning I wondered if I would ever again feel joy and not feel staggering guilt for allowing joy to creep in.  I do not feel the edges of sanity being slashed away with the grief as I once did.  Most days I can feel like an ordinary mother, an ordinary wife.  Most days I wear my strength like a badge of honour.  I passed the most horrendous test a parent can live through.  I passed with minimal damage.  I came out stronger with more focus, determined to be a better mother to my living children.  Perhaps this overwhelming drowning grief I am feeling is actually in some deranged way a gift.  It is a gift to have loved someone so much that it feels like when they went they stole a bit of your soul.  How many people can know that they have loved anyone that greatly.  To have loved him that greatly and to feel his loss so deeply means that I had something wonderful to loose in the first place.  My child, my stolen boy was a gift.  He taught me how to be a mother.  He taught me patience and compassion.  He filled my life with joy.  So for right now I think I will just allow the grief to take hold, to let it leach at me.  I know that if I can live through the nightmare I lived through, I can manage this.  I just need to give myself permission to feel the bad as well as the good.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

I'm tired of seeing "I'm going to Say MERRY CHRISTMAS"

    We are just over the half way point of November.  The Toronto Santa Claus Parade is now history for 2014.  The Toronto Santa Claus parade signals the beginning of the Christmas season. It has also brought with it the "This year I'm going to say Merry Christmas" hysteria.  
    I would like to start by stating what those closest to me already know.  I do not consider myself to be a "Christian", although I do cling to their less religious traditions.  I would probably say that my views and beliefs about religion are more like my Canadian heritage on my father's side.  I believe in a whole mixture of things, things that make sense to me, and like the strong and varied roots of my ancestors, make me stronger in this Canadian climate.  My belief system incorporates many of the beliefs of many different religions.  I believe in a good and loving God. I believe that the good or bad that we put into the universe comes back to us.  I feel like we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us, actually with the exception of the part of coveting a neighbour's ox or ass, most of the ten commandments.  Having said that, I also would like to say, that I really don't care what anyone else believes or who they worship.  I don't judge you by who you worship, or who you love, but rather by how you treat me and others.  I guess I practice the religion of love, of kindness, of tolerance.
   I have stated all of the above personal information because this is the time of year where we are flooded with the message "I'm going to say Merry Christmas".  This makes me angry, and not for the reason that you are probably thinking.  To me this feels like racism, the incitement of hatred.  Have you ever said "Merry Christmas" to a non-Christian and had them turn to you with anger and ask you to not say that to them?  Me neither.  As a matter of fact we are good friends with an Indian family who are not Christian, but they send out Christmas cards and buy Christmas gifts for their Christian friends.  
It almost feels like the 1930's when the whispers were about how the Jews were causing all of the harm in the world.  The Jews controlled the economy, they had to be stopped.  It was an excuse to persecute.
    Our neighbour's to the South are a "melting pot".  People from many nations come to the United States and shed their old nationalities (so to speak) and become American.  Here in Canada we have always prided ourselves that we are "a cultural mosaic".  People from many nations come to Canada and they can keep their beliefs, their customs, and make those differences make Canada better.  That is what we were always taught in school anyway.  I feel like we have become to sensitive.  We embrace all religions, but feel like Christianity is being persecuted.  Why can't we just embrace everyone?
Why can't we have a Christmas tree?  Why can't we wish each other Merry Christmas?  For that matter why can't we wish our Jewish friends a Happy Chanukah?  If you know a person's belief and they are celebrating something that is sacred to their religion you can wish them well.  It is by celebrating and embracing our differences that we find acceptance, that we see that we are not so different, that we will loose our racism.
   So I leave you with this.... this year I will say Merry Christmas, and not because I am making a statement, but because it makes me feel good.  It makes me feel love for others.  If I know that you celebrate Chanukah I will wish you a Happy Chanukah (that is after I have harassed you to find out everything I can about your religion.  Just ask my Indian friend Jane, she'll confirm this).  Please don't buy into the hate.  Please don't wish people Merry Christmas to show your superiority, but because you really want to wish that person well, isn't that what it means?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Welcome to Our Family Farrah

    Gracie is in grade 8.   I can't believe that little miracle of ours could be in grade 8 already.  So far she is loving being a grade 8.  In our school we have a small group of "leadership" students.  This is a group of around 10 grade 8s.  It is a very prestigious position.  Leadership students are grade 8's who act as "leaders" to the other students.  They organize activities for the other students, and generally encourage the other kids to get involved in the school.  In the last month of the school year Gracie wrote an essay telling why she should be a leadership student.  She was accepted. She was over the moon.  This was something that she had wanted from the time that she entered what was then Tweed Hungerford Senior School.  One of the benefits of being a leadership student (other than the gratification of a job well done) is that they get to attend WE Day in Toronto.
    In the weeks leading up to We Day, Gracie was excited (I'm going to be honest here, to say she was excited would be a kin to saying that someone would be happy when they won a lottery).  They would listen to inspirational speakers and they would be treated to musical entertainers, they would leave inspired to do more, be more.  They would also have to leave the school at 4:15 a.m.  That's right kids, she had to leave the house at 4:00a.m.  My first response was I will say goodnight and then tomorrow night you can tell me all about your fun day.  Of Course I got up early with her to help her get ready (and yet still no engraved Mother of the Year trophy... maybe it's still in the shop).  The teacher who is in charge of the leadership students generously offered to pick Grace up and take her to the school.  When I was sure that Gracie had everything that she would need, and her hair looked good, I kissed her good-bye and climbed back into bed.  Her much nicer than me father waited with her.

    Have you ever noticed that when you have to get up ridiculously early and you get the opportunity to go back to sleep you never can.  I think it's a curse.  I lay in bed in that state that lies between awake and asleep.  I had just drifted off when I heard some idiot's car alarm going off.  I looked over at the alarm clock, 4:15 a.m.  For heavens sake, why wouldn't anyone shut off their car alarm, it's just rude people are trying to sleep.  I then heard the hysterical screams of teen girls.  Just great I am thinking they are screaming over God knows what, under the window of the neighbour's one year old daughter.  Oh we are really great neighbours.  Finally the girls stopped squealing and Gracie and her group were off, but that car alarm wasn't.

    As you may now be suspecting having looked at all the adorable kitten pictures, that annoying car alarm was not a car alarm, it was a kitten.  Unknown to the teacher, a stray drop-off kitten had climbed up under the hood of her car to warm up.  It had then ridden under the hood of the car, probably touching the hot engine from the teacher's house to ours.  The ear piercing screams of a terrified little kitten sounded like a car alarm.  I honestly feel a little sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

    Christopher was pretty implicit that we were not keeping that kitten, it was not coming in the house.  I'm not sure why, but for some reason Christopher hates cats.  Being an obedient and dutiful wife I brought the kitten into the house as soon as he left for work.  That poor little baby was so scared, and I was not about to let it sit outside and be frightened.  I should add that "Farrah" has not left the house yet.  It's funny because I was in total agreement with my husband, before I laid eyes on Farrah that is.  I did not want another cat.  My Percy was an amazing cat, but cats are destructive, and we have new beautiful leather furniture.  No matter what the litter company claims, there is no such thing as an odour free cat litter.  For so many reason I did not want a cat.... until that tiny little bundle of adorable arrived at our house.

    The kids are in love.  Luckily for us, Farrah likes to be carried like a baby.  Also lucky for us, and for her she is a loving little girl who likes to be handled.  By that first night, Riley had made her sequined cape.  I knew it was just a matter of time before the pets started getting dressed up in doll clothes.  It was seeing that little kitten happily in a blue sequined cape, that I knew she had found a home here.

    For the first week or so Christopher would do his obligatory irritated sigh about the kitten, and under the breath grumbles about hating cats.  He had to save face, he was out voted.  As for me, I fell in love as soon as I set eyes on her.  She was so terrified, and yet once I had her in the house she just snuggled in and slept for the day on my lap, that was all it took to steal my heart.  I caught the man who "hates" cats smiling at her and petting her the other day when he didn't think I could see him.

    Why is it that all baby animals get you with their adorable cuteness and then sucker punch you with their less delightful qualities once you have fallen in love?  Right now Farrah is still adorable ... when she is asleep.  The rest of the time she has entered into that "what was I thinking having a kitten stage". I keep thinking about watching the Peter Seller's Pink Panther movies.  Cato was always hiding and attacking him.  Farrah reminds me of Cato, maybe we should have called her Cato...
When I am going to bed at night, my feet are attacked.  When I am walking anywhere, she hides, and then jumps out for a sneak attack.  There is kitty litter all through the house and even in my bed (she thinks it's a sand box).  I am concerned about having a Christmas tree, and having it stand with ornaments for more than a minute.  All of these less than desirable qualities, but still, she makes me smile, even when she is attached to my pant leg.  We found a new family member, or rather she stowed a ride to us.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Why I Love My Library!

    So often small town life means there are not as many opportunities.  It's that compromise, we give up opportunity in exchange for clean fresh air and knowing our community members.  I am alright with that compromise.  For anything that I feel like I would really like the kids to be exposed to that are not offered locally, I will take them to the city.  I'm alright with that compromise.  I am even better however with the fact that we have an AMAZING public library here in Tweed.  There is no compromise.

    Our library offers some really amazing opportunities for the children (and adults) in our community.  There are craft days, and now there is a mother daughter reading club.  It was Grace who was looking at the library website, and first noticed it.  This combined two of my great loves, reading and my kids.  We signed up immediately.  Grace and I were to pick a book that we would like to read.  Everyone in the group would also pick a book, and we would read them all and then discuss.  Later one of our librarians, (they are all three so amazingly nice) Wendy called to ask if Riley would also like to take part in the book club.
    The first book from our book club was a quick read, "Dork Diaries : Tales From A Not So Happily After".  We each received a copy of our very own book, that we could keep, it feels a little like Christmas!  When we arrived at our first book club meeting, Wendy greeted us with a big smile and offered us each hot chocolate.  It was just a really lovely experience.  I was spending time with my girls, bonding with them, but also doing something intellectual, but fun.  We received next month's book club selection "Heaven Is For Real".
    While the two big girls and I enjoyed our book club, Rowan was reading to Elly in the children's library (the room right next to us).  Later in the afternoon there were some special guests arriving at the library.... the Disney Princesses.  Elly's life sized Elsa had to come with us.  Elsa the doll proved to be a big hit with the waiting Princess enthusiasts.

    I could not help but smile as the "Princesses" made their way into the children's library for their meet and greet.  All the little girl's faces were alight with sheer joy and wonder.  So many little girls were dressed like their favourite princess, or in fancy dresses.  It truly was beautiful.  This is an opportunity that many would not otherwise have access to.
    I love my library because it brings opportunity.  It makes our world not so small.  When I go into the library, those wonderful ladies know my name, remember what books I like to read.  The public library is really the great equalizer.  It doesn't matter if I can afford to buy all the books I want to read, rich or poor I am treated the same.  Rich or poor I can fill my insatiable appetite for books.  With books I can travel anywhere in time, real or imagined.  At my library I can also learn.  My children can have opportunities without having to buckle up for a long ride into the city.  These are the reasons that I love my library!

    Thank you Cathy, Wendy and Corrine.  Thank you for bringing opportunity to our little piece of the world.