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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.

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.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Hagerman Farms, Bloomfield, Ontario

    Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the bounty of the land.  It's when we stop and appreciate the gifts that we have been given.  It's not just a time to enjoy a monstrous feast but to appreciate the fact that you have enough food that you can have a feast.  It's also a time to stop and count your blessings.  For me it is a gift to live where I live.  I am surrounded by farms.  At this time of the year I can go to any number of farmers markets, or roadside farm stand and share their bounty.  My family get to eat good whole foods that are so fresh that you can taste the freshness.  

    About 45 minutes from us is some of the most fertile land.  It is Prince Edward County, now known for it's fledgling wineries.  Whenever I go to Prince Edward County in the good weather I always stop at Hagerman Farms in Bloomfield. http://www.harvestin.ca/MAP%20AND%20DIRECTORY%20PAGE/RoadsideStands.php

    For me this roadside stand i.e. paradise is nirvana.  I want to skip through the rustic aisles humming a happy tune, a huge basket over my arm.  They have such an amazing selection of unusual vegetables.

    Their vegetables are super sized, like they are on steroids.  Their greens are greener, their orange colours oranger.  It's my happy place.  I fill my arms with copious amounts of fresh, beautiful vegetables making mental notes as to how I will prepare them.  Not only is their produce amazing, it's extremely inexpensive.  I almost feel like I am doing them on the prices.

    This year they have added a store to tempt me.  The first thing that you notice when you open the doors is the heavenly baked goods aroma that wrap themselves around you, like a warm hug from Grandma.  The next thing I noticed was how spotless it was.

   There was a huge variety of preserves.  Preserves that it would never occur to me to make.  They also have a spot at the cash where you can sample the preserves.  We tried watermelon jelly, and watermelon rind pickles.  Needless to say we left, after having paid of course with a jar of the watermelon jelly.  I plan to make a snack of it on a crisp cracker with a small scrap of cream cheese.

    This year I will be serving many of the beautiful vegetables that I purchased at Hagerman Farms for our Thanksgiving meal.  It means a lot to me to be able to not only have a generous feast for my family, but to serve them locally grown food.  It seems like the true spirit of this harvest feast.

Friday, 26 September 2014

The Middle Aged Woman Who Lived in a Shoe: Sarah, and the Girl's at Home Spa Day

The Middle Aged Woman Who Lived in a Shoe: Sarah, and the Girl's at Home Spa Day:     There are times that having three girls is a large headache (I'm talking about in the mornings before school when they are ...

Sarah, and the Girl's at Home Spa Day

    There are times that having three girls is a large headache (I'm talking about in the mornings before school when they are all screaming and carrying on about having their hair brushed, and that their pony tale is not right, and they don't want a braid, 'ouch you're hurting my head').  I know there will come a time when I will have three teen girls under my roof, although I suspect that when that day does come I won't care because I will be in the looney bin.  Raising girls is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.  It can however at times be a lot of fun.

    Thankfully none of my girls are tomboys, not that I have anything against tomboys, I'm just not sure if I could relate to them.  My girls are all girlie girls, meaning they like the finer things in life.  I admit that I do really take great joy in watching them revel in their femininity.  I also love it when they bring their friends over and the house is filled with those giggles that only little girls do.  It is that giggle that makes a smile creep up onto my own face.  The way little girls always have to be touching each other, their heads together deep in conversation (ok if I admit it, it's not just little girls, my friends and I are very much the same way when we get together).

    A while back I noticed an ad on Facebook from a local girl, Sarah Crellin.  She had finished her first year at the local college for esthetics and was offering extremely reasonable rates for manicures and pedicures.  I should make Mom Of The Year, I booked Sarah in for a mani petti day for the girls and their friends.

    In the days leading up to our spa day, the girls could not stop talking about their special day.  The day before they were wound with excitement.  What would they get done to their nails, what could they get done.  Grace knew that she wanted a french manicure.  She wanted a french manicure on both her ands and her tootsies.

    Finally the much awaited day arrived.  Sarah was this quiet  but friendly girl who came prepared for a spa day.  I wonder if she realized just what she was in for?  The girls all shouted out their order fo their manicures.  As usual the noise in my house was crazy (I feel like I should be sending out form letters apologizing to the neighbourhood for the amount of noise my children make).  Most of the younger girls found their way into the kitchen to watch Sarah.  I felt a little badly because poor Sarah must have felt like she was on display in a zoo (my home being the zoo).  I felt badly, but not badly enough to make them stop.  Selfishly with their attention distracted in the kitchen, making poor Sarah feel uncomfortable, I was able to chat freely with my friend without the kids constantly interjecting or diverting attention, o.k. perhaps I should not be accepting that Mother of The Year trophy, and perhaps I should not even consider my nomination for any humanitarian awards either.

    It was a long day for Sarah, but the girls loved it!  They were floating on cloud nine, excited to show all their other friends at school their fancy nails.  It really was a nice day, and it was so reasonably priced that I will most definitely be planning another one for the girls and their friends.   Some may argue that this is unnecessary for little girls, that it encourages vanity.  I think that it encourages them to have fun, to enjoy being a girl, but more importantly to feel special.

    My girls have lovely nails, and big smiles.  After discussion with my own friends, we have decided that we too need a special day, but for grown up girls.  I think that our day will also involve much giggling, probably some racy jokes, and wine, lots of wine.  Sometimes it is nice to be a girl.