Monday, 30 April 2012

Soccer Season

    The team jerseys have been washed.  The welcome letter is made and printed.  The first week's after game snacks have been purchased.  I think we are ready for this year's soccer season.  I am preparing myself for the endless soccer discussions, that mostly take place just as I am drifting off to sleep at night.  Soccer season makes me think of the funny story often told at barbecue season.  The wife purchases the meat for the big barbecue.  She makes the marinade, then soaks the meat in the marinade overnight.  She spends the day making salads and other side dishes.  She takes everything out that they might need for the barbecue (plates, napkins, utensils).  She makes sure that everything is perfect for her guests.  The guests  arrive the husband hands out drinks and grills the meat.  Everyone makes a big fuss over how delicious the meal is, and thanks the husband, telling him how delicious that meal was.  Soccer season is a little like that for us.  I wash the jerseys, buy or make the snacks, type and create the newsletter, do the leg work, buy batteries for the CD player, burn the CD, coach gets the credit.  To be honest, I'm OK with that, it's just funny.  I'm happy to be the person behind the scenes, not standing in the rain covered in mud.  Not running up and down the length of the field (probably for me ending in a heart attack).  I'll give him all of the credit, he really does earn the majority of it.
    For the last 12 years my husband has coached soccer.  It's funny because until he began coaching Gabe he really knew nothing about the game.  I am awfully hard on my husband, and make him the the butt of many of my jokes, but he is really an amazing coach, for that matter he is a really amazing dad (and husband)!  There are many parents that specifically ask for their children to be put on Christopher's team.  He makes it fun for them.  He really encourages the kids to do their best.  He grumbles about going out soccer nights, but he loves it.
   It's funny to see the transformation of Christopher Lindsay as he transforms into Coach Chris (not unlike David Banner to the Hulk).  My husband is tall man, a big guy.  He is also really quiet, in public (I would really like to underscore that he is quiet in public, not at home).  He's kind of shy.  Coach Chris runs along the sides of the field screaming encouragement at the kids.  He screams a lot.  It's all positive, but it is screamed.  Many a person who knows us looks at me in disbelief often wondering aloud if this is my husband.  I shake my head feigning embarrassment.  Being the comedian I am quiet often I can be heard exclaiming "I hope he looses his voice!"
    This year three of the four kids are involved in soccer.  Elly has her first practice tonight  ( I can't believe that my baby is old enough to play soccer).  Christopher coaches Riley and Rowan, and has their entire soccer career.  Our nights will be taken up with soccer practices and games.  My precious sleep will be interrupted with instant replays of the games, "What can I do to get _______ out of his/ her shell?", " Got any ideas for tomorrows drill?"  
It's only two months, the kids love it, Christopher loves it.  That is what I will keep telling myself,
it gets me through soccer season.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Broccoli and Cheese Omelettes ... Yum!

    It is not in my nature to try new things.  If it is not something that I have known since birth, I am extremely resistant to try it, I know it's child like.  I always think "what if I don't like it?".   It seems a waste to, well waste.  It's just the way I am.  All of this changed when we went to Disney.  
    At Disney I was in a new place trying new things, I was a new person, well sort of.  Every meal that I had the opportunity to, I tried something new.  It was relatively risk free, because most of our meals were buffet.  At the buffet I just tried small amounts of the new foods to see if I would like them (this feels like I'm talking about my kids here, I am a little ashamed to admit.  "Just try a little bite, and if you don't like it, you can spit it out.")  I tried a lot of new and exciting foods.  Some of them I have always wanted to try, some of them I had never heard of, but they looked benign.  One of those foods that I tried was a broccoli and cheese omelette.  Before you start shaking your head, I have tried omelettes before.  In fact I very often make toasted western omelettes.  Broccoli just does not seem like it should go into egg.  I was in a new place, trying new things, so when I saw it offered for breakfast, I went out on a limb and tried it.  It was delicious!!!!!!

Just so you know, I had already made several omelettes in this pan before I took this picture,
 although this sad little pan has indeed seen better days.

    Yesterday morning Christopher woke up and announced that he had a hankering for a broccoli and cheese omelette.  I sent him to the store for broccoli and well the rest as they say is history.
    I began by getting all of my ingredients ready.  I mixed a dozen eggs with a tiny bit of milk, and whisked, adding salt and pepper.  I then precooked my broccoli and chopped it up.  I shredded my cheese, and cut some chives.  Then I slightly heated my sad little well loved frying pan.  I decided to do one omelette at a time, to make them look pretty.  When I make westerns, I mix it all in together, including my diced ham, and chives, then I pour them into my big electric frying pan, throw the lid on and wait.  When they are cooked I toss on a generous amount of shredded cheese and cut the omelette into toast sized squares.  Not fancy, but really tasty.

    Yesterday I wanted to recreate the beauty of the Disney broccoli cheese omelette.  I went with the omelette bar style.  So I heated my pan, and added about a tablespoon of butter (ummmmm butter).  I melted it and spread it around.  I then added the egg.  I just poured enough to coat the bottom of the pan, about the same amount you would add for a large pancake.  I watch a lot of cooking shows, and on all the cooking shows when they make omelettes, they run their spatula around the outside of the omelette (between the omelette and the inside of the pan), so that it's easier to flip.  Turns out that those experts are right.  It does make it easier to flip if you do that.  I waited until the top of the egg looked firm, not runny anymore, and then I flipped it.  After the first one it became easier, as I gained a technique.  The trick is to have the perfect thickness to your omelette, not too thick.

I had my fillings right beside me so that they were ready to go.

    After I had flipped the omelette, I added the broccoli and cheese, and chives to half.  

I turned the omelette onto the half with the broccoli and cheese.  I put the lid on the pan
 for a minute to let the cheese melt, then it was done, and ready to serve.

My broccoli and cheese omelettes were not quite as good as the ones at Disney,
 but that is only because I had to make these, and clean up, 
but other than that, they were identical.  They were a big hit with my kids too. 
I served the omelettes with fresh bakery bread (Sweet Temptations Bakery), and we were good to go.
It was a real win win breakfast.  

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Tweed Elvis Festival

    Today we had a fun afternoon, well I did.  Christopher and three of the kids and I (Riley was at a birthday party) went over to the  Spring Sale at the Tweed Community Centre.  Several local business had gathered in the arena for a sale, like a sidewalk sale, but inside.  I really enjoyed wandering around looking.  I also enjoyed getting some really great deals from Tracy from the Unconventional Moose, and buying discounted theatre tickets from Tim Porter for this year's productions at The Marble Church.  I enjoyed chatting with all of the people that I knew.  That is one of the things that I most love about living in a small town, you can't walk a foot without bumping into someone you know.   It was really nice to talk to people that I don't always get an opportunity to speak to.
    Two of the people that I met and spoke to were Bob Taylor and Maril Swan.  These two are very involved in our community.  The really funny thing about this is that Bob Taylor doesn't even live in Tweed!  It's funny how small towns work, it's always the same people that do all of the work.  Today Bob and Maril were at a booth supporting the up coming Elvis Festival (they are both also members of the Tweed Lion's Club among other things).

   This is the Elvis Festival's second year.  It was a great idea.  To those of you not in the know it has long been joked / rumoured that Elvis lives in Tweed.  We have had news crews, newspaper and magazine articles about it.  Some smart person decided to capitalize on it and host an Elvis Festival.  Last year it brought a lot of people into our little quiet village.  Last year I was not able to attend the festival, but I admit that I did really enjoy the energy that week-end.  There were Elvis impersonators at a couple of locations giving free mini concerts.  It was unexpected, and so much fun.
    This year I am volunteering to help at the festival.  I have made it clear that I don't want to volunteer to do something gross (i.e. sanitation),  I'm thinking, sell wrist bands.  One of the bonuses to volunteering is a free week-end pass to the festival.  It sounds like it will be fun.
  I know that people who love the Grateful Dead are called Dead Heads, but I'm not sure what Elvis lovers like to be called, Elvi?  Whatever you call yourselves, if you love Elvis you should take a little trip to my home town.  I have it on reliable authority that he lives here!  The festival is August 24, 25, and 26.  If you are interested a great place to find out more information is

Friday, 27 April 2012

Sweet Temptations...

    Oh Guselle and Jodi are two people in the neighbourhood, in the neighbourhood, in the neighbourhood, in the neighbour  --- hoooooood.  You get it, I couldn't help it.  
I visit Sweet Temptations Bakery every day, well not Sunday or Monday because they aren't open, although I have been sorely tempted to break in.  Before you jump to conclusions, I don't buy myself treats everyday (some days I can't help but to), I buy myself delicious freshly baked bread.  Today it was still warm.  I buy my fresh baked bread for only $1.55. Where can you buy fresh bread for $1.55?  Everyday they ask "would you like it sliced?"  Everyday I roll my eyes and say "you know I do".   
    Guselle and Jodi are fairly new to Tweed.  I think this is their second summer here.  I find it hard to bear thinking about a time their shop was not in Tweed.  Tweed has had it's fair share of bakeries that have come and gone.  Those bakeries were not that great,  Sweet Temptations is great.  In my little one horse town I can buy cannolis , Holy Cannoli, I can buy real cannolis!  I can buy any specialty pastry that you can buy in Toronto, or Ottawa.
    Sometimes if I am a really good girl I will buy myself a mini cheese cake tart.  I try to sneak it (there are no calories if no one sees you eating it.)  I find a place of serenity (usually my comfy brown leather chair), take a deep breath and take a tiny little bit.  I just let it sit in my mouth while I take in every single flavour.  I do this for the whole tart, until the very last bite, which I just pop in and am sorry I did it.  Sometimes I even buy one for Christopher (when I'm feeling particularly loving).  Christopher's technique is different from mine.  He shoves the whole thing in two bits.  I always shake my head at him disapprovingly, and laugh.  Part of the laugh is evil, because his is done and I am still savoring mine.  It feels really good to know he's watching me with envy.

    As a special after school treat I took the kids to the bakery today.  I love watching them pour over the display. Their eyes devouring every tasty item.   Elly knows what she wants before we even get in.  Today Jodi asked if Elly wanted "the usual".  That made me laugh.  Elly, our last and most spoiled child talks me into buying her a chocolate cookie every day that I buy bread.    Riley didn't take too long to decide either.  Grace really weighed out her choices.  For her it's really hard to decide between the eclairs and the cannolis.  Today chocolate eclair won.  Rowan in Rowan style decided on an orange lolly pop.  "A lolly pop in a bakery?" I asked.  "but that's what I want." he told me.  Lolly pop it was.

    Every time  I go in there it feels like a little visit with friends.  I think that I like that even more than the delicious treats, although in truth it might be a draw.  There is always a smile.  I always feel good when I leave there.  They are good business women, but maybe they are just nice ladies.

Elly enjoying her "usual" the chocolate chip cookie.

   Did I mention that they were also amazing artists?  Above is the cake that Christopher bought from them for my 40th birthday.  At first I did not know it was a cake.  Every single item was eatable.  I thought that is was just cleaver decorations.  Oh it was cleaver decorations, that you could eat!  Not only did it look like art, it tasted like heaven.

   So now you know what I did today (well every day except Sunday and Monday).  If you find yourself in our neck of the woods you should stop by and see them.  See you tomorrow girls.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

My Sister

    For some reason I have really been thinking about my sister today.  I'm not sure why, maybe I'm missing her.  We don't see each other very often, she lives 10 hours away.  It's difficult for her to get down our way.  When she does come home her time is packed in tightly.  There is just not enough time.  I should make more time to call her, but we both have busy families.  Her kids are involved in competitive sports that tie up a lot of week-ends.  My four kids keep my hopping all day, and at night when  I do get five minutes of peace and quiet, I feel like it's too late to call.
   Growing up life always seemed to come easy to Mandy, it probably didn't, but to me it always seemed like it did.  She was adorable when she was little, and everyone thought that she was the cutest thing ever.  I had some insane need to fight the powers that be ( I fought my poor parents on everything), Mandy seemed to get everything by simply just smiling.  Mandy was naturally small, naturally thin, naturally blonde, naturally athletic, naturally popular, naturally everything that I was naturally not.  It burned.  In high school the guys that I liked called our house to ask Mandy out, oh how it burned.  It wasn't her fault, but I resented it.  At this point I would like to share the life lesson that I learned from all of this, but there really isn't one.  I learned to put on my big girl pants and suck it up, does that count as a life lesson?  We grew up.  We went our separate paths in life.  In childhood our paths were so different, but after high school they became more similar.  Mandy went to the same university that I went to York.  She got married, had kids.  She became a stay-at-home mom.
    When we were in that horrendous accident that forever changed my life, my little sister hopped on a plane to be with us.  We had our accident 4 days before Christmas.  Mandy left her husband, her 4 year old daughter, and her two year old son to be here with us.  Gabe died Christmas Eve.  I was in hospital with a ruptured spleen that did not want to stop bleeding, but more I had a broken heart .  She spent the most miserable Christmas of my life with my children, ensuring that Santa came that year, giving them happiness.   Even if I had been home I could never have done that, not at that time.  How do you ever thank someone for that?  I will be forever in her debt.
  She has just finished an early childhood educator program at college.  I am so proud of her.  She worked so hard.  She was one of the oldest people in her class, yet she didn't let it stop her,  I'm not sure I could be that brave.  She has an 8 year old and a 12 year old, goes to school and still manages their schedule.  I am really proud of my little sister.
    I need to call my sister, I miss her.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Sons and Daughters

    I began my day wondering what I might blog about today.  It was anyone's guess really.  Sunday night I spent a half hour or so painting Riley's nails.  I painted them green, then used my special thin brush nail polish I painted monster faces on them.  It was lots of fun.  Today Elly wanted her nails to look like lady bugs.  That's it... I will blog about painting Elly's nails to look like lady bugs.  I took pictures of each step (you know that way people could copy me).  Then I looked at the finished product and felt a little silly.  Elly LOVES them!  Do they look like something I should do a step -by- stop of ... NO.  She's 3, she doesn't like to sit still.  Really it's a miracle that she sat as long as she did without touching her nails.

    I started by painting her nails with red nail polish.  

Then I took my thin brush and ran a curved line down the middle, 
and a thin line at the bottom of the nail.

Then I ran a high light of white nail polish.

Now the tricky part.  I did the dots.  She had a hard time at this point sitting still, 
so the dots look a little more like lines than dots.

I finished them by putting a clear coat of nail polish over the top.  She walked away feeling very proud of herself.  Are they picture worthy, not really, but she loves them.

    So I was thinking about having three girls, and what a gift they are.  Then I thought that does a disservice to my boys.  My boys are a gift too, just a different.  It then got me to thinking about my relationship with my girls and how in some ways it is so different from my relationship with my boys.

    My girls are /were a little bit like my living Barbie dolls.  Gracie is now starting to rebel against this.  I loved to do their hair pretty.  I love to do their nails pretty.  There comes a point (Gracie is now at this point) where they want to make decisions for themselves.  Who am I kidding, Riley was at that point at birth.  I like to do her hair pretty and she gets impatient with me "Just a pony MOM!"  "But what if I did something pretty with your pony?"  "JUST A PONY!"  They are beginning to build their self image on the inside and consequently on the outside.  I need to remind myself not to take it personally.  Some days it is like my mantra "don't take it personally, ohm-mm, they are just growing, ohm-mm, don't take it personally, ohm-mm, they are just growing ohm-mm."  It is difficult to not get hurt feelings when they don't like what I like for them.  They want to be separate from me, to show me that they are different from me.  I need to think of this as the gateway to their teenage years (God Help ME).    This is all easier said than done.  I need to give them enough space to grow, but not too much so that they grow wild.

    My boys are different.  Our relationships are different.  Rowan still lets me dress him.  He doesn't care, it's easier for him if I pick out his clothes.  Sometimes I will catch him giving me that look of love (with the girls it's usually the look of disgust I get).  Our bond is more tender.  I need to remember that I am stamping his image right now with what his definition of a woman will be when he is grown.  I hope he finds a woman who is strong, but not too strong.  Someone who nurtures him, but doesn't smother him.  Mostly I want him to find a person who will make him happy, and make him feel like he is blessed every day of his life.  I hope that I give him a positive imprint of what a woman is.  

    All this from simple nail polish.  Maybe I think about things too much.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A Happy Birthday Message To Aunt Ella (She's Turning 100)

Uncle Alistair, Papa, Nana, Aunt Jean, Uncle Johnny, Uncle Bruce and My Mom
It think this must have been taken shortly after they came to Canad

    My mother came to Canada on a huge boat when she was 4 years old.  My Papa had come over 6 months earlier with my Aunt Jean (she was 16).  He was laying the ground work for them, finding work, finding them a home.  Remember these were the days before Skype, before computer or internet, a time when it nearly cost a weeks pay to make a transatlantic phone call.  Nana left the only home she had ever known to sail across a huge ocean to the great unknown.  She left Scotland to make a new life, what she hoped was for a better life.  My Mom was only 4, Uncle Bruce would have been 9 or 10, Uncle Johnny 11 or 12, and Uncle Alistair 14 or 15.  Perhaps Uncle Alistair was old enough to be a help to Nana, I'm not sure.  Nana would have been younger than me when she came ( I always put things into what it would be like for me).  I try to think about what was going on in her head as she watched her country, her Mother and Father, her brothers and sisters fade like a dream.  I try to imagine myself making that HUGE trip with my four kids all alone, without Christopher's help.  When I think about it, my Nana who has always been my hero, becomes even more of a hero.
    I come from a long line of people who have achieved old age.  Meaning that if I change my junk food ways I might live long enough to see great- grandkids.  My Nana lived to 82 years.  Her father, my great-grandfather was nearly 100, or so the story goes.  This May, my Great- Aunt Ella will turn 100.  Aunt Ella is my Nana's younger sister.  From the time I could remember family stories I have been told of my Aunt Ella's great beauty.  When I say great beauty, I don't just mean physical, I mean her inner beauty.  When my Mom talks of Aunt Ella she always gets a little peaceful smile on her face (I'm not sure if she knows this).  I met her once, my Aunt Ella, when I was 3.  I remember it in memory snap shots.  I do not have a running movie memory.  I remember that she was nice, but I was 3.
    The beauty of the age we live in is technology.  Technology has allowed us to be in touch with people around the world with minimal effort and maximum joy.  Simply by turning on my computer I am able to be in touch with my relatives across the ocean.  Across that ocean which took my Nana and Mother away from all of them.  Thank you Facebook!  Because of Facebook I know have the privilege of knowing my cousins in Scotland.  I even get to Skype my cousin Patricia (who is really nice and has a bit of a look of my Nana).  It is because of this technology and newly found family that Mom received an email from her cousin David.  Would we like to send a greeting for Aunt Ella's birthday party?  It's not every day someone turns 100, of coarse we would.
    It seemed like such a lovely and simple idea.  "Mom, we could send her a video greeting!"  It would just take a few minutes, famous last words.  Mom and Dad came over and we cleaned the area that would be caught on film (no one is going to accuse me of being a clean freak).  We placed everyone, set the video camera on the tripod.  We sat, ready to go.  Mom wanted the kids to say "Happy Birthday from Canada", and then we would all sing Happy Birthday to Aunt Ella.  So sweet, so simple.  The camera was rolling, everything was ready... until I happened to glance at my husband. There he sat, dead panning the camera, poker straight, perfectly still.  He just sat there unmoving, like it was a photo we were taking.  Not just that, for some reason that is so completely unknown to me in every single picture that I have of him, he feels the need to stick out his lower jaw in all of his pictures (not unlike Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys).  I took one look at him, and that was it, I was in hysterics.  Unfortunately after I have given in to one batch of hysterics, I'm a lost cause.  Every single time we tried again, I would peel into laughter.  I would stop, go rinse my face, get myself together.  "Are we ready now?" Christopher would ask me in a slightly irritated tone. "Oh I'm ready" I would tell him.  I was ready, I swear I was ready, and then I would go into hysterics again.  As I went into hysterics, my mother was helpless not to follow.  Mom and I spent most of our "face time" in peels of laughter.
    It took an hour to get salvageable footage.  Sadly the only footage we could use was not excellent, but merely passable.  It was near the end of the hour.  At that point my eyes were all puffy, my nose was a nice shade of purple.  Our family in Scotland will be worried about poor wee Katrina's daughter and her drinking problem ( you know because of the puffy eyes and purple nose).  We have edited to the best of our abilities (that's not saying a lot).  It's ready to go to Scotland.  If nothing else, it provided me with the most laughter I have had in months.

Happy Birthday Aunt Ella!

The above video was not sent to Scotland, it is a blooper real.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Play Dough Illustrators....

Incase you're wondering, this is the Grape's of Wrath, (I know I have problems)

    The kids were home sick today.  Not sick enough to be bed bound, but sick enough that school would have been no fun.  In Mother of the year style I let them watch t.v. most of the day.  I started to feel a twinge of guilt, so I made play dough.  Who am I kidding they were getting on my last nerve so I decided to make busy work for them.  Play dough for my kids keeps them entertained for hours.  Last year at the end of the year we did a really fun craft project, I thought that it was worth repeating.
    The craft started because one of the kids brought home a library book written and illustrated by Barbara Reid.  Barbara Reid illustrates her stories by using clay story blocks.  The kids were fascinated.  We then went onto you-tube and watched this great video of Barbara Reid showing how she does her clay figures.

    After watching the clip the kids sketched out pictures of their teachers.  We decided that it would be nice to do a dough sculpture of their teachers which I would take a picture of and we would put the picture on a blank card for their end of the year thank- you card.  While the kids did their sketches I made play dough. Here is my tried and true play dough recipe.

1 cup flour                                                           1 Tbsp oil
1 cup water                                                          2 tsp cream of tarter
1/2  cup salt                                                          food colouring

   Mix all of the ingredients together in a large pot (I use my dutch oven).  Cook over medium high heat.  You will know it's done when it looks like mashed potatoes, or when most of the moisture is gone.  Let it cool.  When it has cooled for 10 minutes or so, it's the fun part.  Kneed it.  I really enjoy kneeding it when it's almost too hot to touch, but then I have problems.  

   The next step is to colour, if you want to.  I will warn you, put down something to protect your kitchen table, and your hands will become rainbow coloured depending on how many batches that you make.  I use gel food colouring to colour mine.  I make a well in the middle of the dough, then kneed it in.

If you are wondering about my thumb nail, yes it is a monster.

    To make enough for everyone to do their teacher I made 6 batches.  It is a lot of dough.
The kids really had a fun time doing it.  I myself really enjoyed making the pictures with dough.

This is wonderful picture I created of my husband.
Riley did Mrs. Bateman
Grace's Ms. Davie

Rowan's Mr. Coffey

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Renewing Our Vows

Look at those two kids, so in love.  I'm glad we couldn't see what the future held.

    This August 21, Christopher and I will have been married 19 years.  Well kind of.  We lasted two years, split up for 5 years, and found each other again.  I mean we have technically been married for 18 years.  Even when we were not together we were always in close contact.  Gabe was 6 months old when we split.  We always put him first.  We never ever spoke a harsh word about each other in front of him.  Christopher was kind enough to come to our house (Gabe and mine) for his visitation, and I always served him a hot dinner and made him feel welcome (even when I didn't really like him very much).  We spoke on the phone a couple of times a week so that I could share what Gabe was doing.  I think that the kindness we showed each other in separation was what helped us find each other again after 5 years.  We split for lots of reason's, but really it was immaturity.  It was not because we married young (22), but because neither of us were ready to put someone else ahead of our own needs.  He was too selfish, I was too needy.  We needed time to grow up, before we could grow together.
    Gabe was 5 when we got back together.  I think that every child of divorce prays that their parents will get back together.  Most of them don't get their deep desire.  I remember Gabe's face when we told him that Daddy was moving in.  He said "This is my dream come true".  We were back together, but it still wasn't always easy.  We have been through more in our 18 years than anyone should ever have to.  So many marriages can't deal with the strain the death of a child puts on them.  We came out stronger.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy.  There were times we really rethought our decision to be together.  Today we are more deeply in love than we were when we first started dating.  Dating love is infatuation.  Ours is strength. We know that together there is nothing that we cannot withstand.
    From the time that we got back together we talked about renewing our vows.  At first it felt like it might be too soon, then came Grace.  Then came bills, then the twins.  There never seemed to be enough money to do it the way we wanted.  Then the unthinkable, we lost Gabe.  How could we rejoice in each other, when we hurt so much?  We needed time to heal.  Anytime we considered it, something else came up.  Well this time we are putting our feet down!  Next August 21 we celebrate anniversary number 20.  We are renewing our vows DAMN IT!  I booked the hall two months ago.  There's no going back now.
    Now for the fun part, planning a wedding.  My girlfriends are all already excited.  Keep in mind for those of us who are married, we have been married a long time.  For those not married (o.k. it's my best friend), she gets to live vicariously through me.  I have so much to do.  I'll admit it, it's fun.  Maybe I will even splurge on some wedding magazines, who knows.  What I do know, is that this will be a time of joy.  We will celebrate, because I think we've earned it.

p.s. please feel free to pass along any "beach themed" ideas, I might need all the help that I can get.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Wisdom of the Funeral Director's Wife

   My husband is a funeral director... there I said it.  When I tell people my husband's profession they usually get an uncomfortable look on their faces and blurt out either "I guess his profession is recession proof", which they follow with an uncomfortable giggle.  The other comment, "Well it takes a special person to do that job." This last comment they usually try to look really somber and thoughtful as they say it.  I have said it a million times, "Death makes people uncomfortable," there I said it again.
    The funny thing about death, is that no one can escape it.  We think that if we don't talk about it, or run away from it, it will just go away.  Don't get me wrong I don't think that death should be a cheerful thing, and I have often thought with envy of the deeply religious people who look on death a visit home.  Death is not something that I embrace, nor is it something that frightens me for myself... anymore.  It used to.  I lost my 9 year old son in a car accident, I was half an hour away from bleeding to death myself, I no longer fear death.
    Christopher and I have been dating since the last month of my first year of university.  We met at York University, where we lived in the same dorm.  We have been together for, gulp, 21 years.  Christopher had finished his Sociology BA and was unsure what he wanted to do with his life.  One day he announced, "I'm thinking that I might like to be a funeral director."  For me he might as well have said "I'm thinking that I might like to be a circus performer." Circus performer might have been easier for me to swallow.  "GROSSSSSSS" were the words from my mouth.  We got engaged, we got married and I helped to put him through the Funeral Service Education Program.  At no point was I ever comfortable with his decision.  At no point did I ever stop thinking that it was a super gross profession.  At no point that is, until I saw for my unfortunate self the importance and utter magnitude of what my husband does for a living.  I would like to make clear at this point that I am still completely unaware what made Christopher decide to become a funeral director.  I still am slightly uncomfortable with his job, but I truly do have a whole new perspective on the importance of his job.
    Here is the funeral wisdom that I would like to share.  I feel like this is my PSA (Public Service Announcement) for Funeral Homes.  How long did you spend planning your wedding?  Did you your boyfriend ask you one day, and did you have your wedding two days later?  Why?  Because this was the most important day of your life!  You wanted everything to be perfect.  Did you bemoan the absorbent amount of money you spent?  Yes, but you spent it because you knew that is what it cost to do it right.  Funerals should be the same, but they are not.  No I do not think you should plan a funeral in a year, but you could take a few days.  This is the good bye to someone you love.  This is what you tell the rest of the world who your loved one was.  Am I telling you all of this because I have a vested interest in funeral homes, no.  I know from experience.
   I had to bury my 9 year old son.  This is something no mother should ever have to do.  I had my husband the funeral director to help guide me through.  We took a week to plan Gabe's funeral.  I will be honest, planning his funeral helped to keep the madness at bay.  I could feel a building hysteria that wanted to overtake me, planning this "for Gabe" kept reality in my grasp.  In his life I wanted everything perfect.  In his death this is, and was just as important, if not more.  We put together a beautiful slide show, brought in the things that were important to him, and decorated the funeral home with them.  We put together home movies and set them to music.  At his funeral we told the tale of Gabe for everyone.  We played his favourite music at the visitations.  We played our favourite music for him at his funeral.  We threw ourselves into planning the big good-bye.  My husband was an amazing help.  I will be honest I think that it helped for him to become the "funeral director", it helped him to bury the "grieving father", and keep his grasp in reality.  I have to say it was a beautiful funeral.   It was important to me to show everyone how much we loved Gabe, and I think we did.  As I mentioned Christopher works for a small family owned funeral home, and because of this they went above and beyond the call.  Jon carried their own personal television set downstairs so that it could be set up in the funeral home so that people could watch the dvd of Gabe at Medieval Times.
     It is because of personal experience that I now know how important funeral planning is.  I feel heart sorry for people who feel like they have to rush.  I can only imagine how I would feel now if I hadn't taken the time and done Gabe's funeral the way that I thought it should be.  I would have felt so much regret.  I had no control over the fact that my child was taken from me, but I had complete control in the way I planned his good-bye.
    We need to rethink this fear we have of death.  No, we should not embrace death.  Death is inevitable.  You cannot out run it.  At some point in your life you will loose someone that you dearly love.  Of that you have no choice.  You do have a choice in how you handle death.  Grieve!   Allow yourself to feel the loss.  If someone that you know loses someone, don't run away or avoid them because you feel uncomfortable, man up!  You feel uncomfortable, I would have given anything in the world to feel uncomfortable rather than the choking loss and grief that I felt.  Don't tell them something stupid like "I know how you feel", or "He's in a better place".  You have no idea what you are talking about, even if you have been in the exact same situation.  Better to say "I am so sorry", and then next week take them a meal.  If it is you planning that funereal, take your time, do it right.  Funeral directors are there to guide you.  They do this every single day, they really do know what they are doing, that's why you pay them the big bucks.  Let them help you.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Little Ears Hear / Know More Than We Think

    My daughter Riley drew the above picture and wrote the picture's explanation below it.  Last year when she was in grade 1 she had to write a story about her family, this was what she wrote and drew about her Daddy.  At the age of six she knew what Daddy did, even though I had desperately tried to shield her from it.  My husband is funeral director, it is such an important job, much more important than people realize (stay tuned for tomorrow's blog and I will elaborate why it is so important).  I know first hand that he is excellent at what he does.  
    For years the kids thought that their Daddy was a UPS man.  Part of Christopher's job is to pick up  bodies from hospitals, nursing homes, accident scenes, where ever they may be.  He works for a small family owned business and so he is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  That means he gets called out at the most inopportune moments.  When he would receive the phone call from his boss,  I would always tell the kids that "Daddy has to pick up a package for Jon".  When he was running out the door I would ask "do you have to wrap the package?"  This is code for "Do you have to embalm?"  this means that he will be hours, and that way I can make accommodations.  One time one of kids commented on how many packages Jon sends out, I stifled my laugh (secretly congratulating myself on a job well done).
    I have carefully laboured to sanitize my husband's job in my children's eyes.  Yes, I know that death is just as much a part of living as birth.  I know that we as a culture fear death and that we should try to remove some of the fear, I know this.  I also know that my children have a lifetime to learn all of this.  They are small and innocent, why burden them with this at such a young age?  They knew that Daddy "hosted" "goodbye parties" for people who had someone that they love die.  I felt that explanation was close enough to the truth.  Christopher does help people to say good bye to people they love.  They were satisfied, I was happy in my protection of them.  
    My carefully crafted fantasy was shattered with the above picture.  I asked Riley "So is someone taking a nap in your picture?", I tried to take the anxiety out of my voice as I asked.  "No Mommy, they are dead.  That's Daddy, and he's talking to the family and trying to make them feel better."  She said it in the same tone as "silly mommy."  It turns out that my careful wording was more for my benefit, than theirs.  I don't know how she found out what Daddy really does, but she did, and she was not traumatized by it, I was.  I guess they listen more than I give them credit for.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Book Points - In Place Of Allowance

    In our house one of the one biggest, best treats the kids can get is a trip to Chapters.  It makes it even better if it is a one-on- one trip to Chapters.  They love to wander the isles, looking for a book.   I love watching the self important look on their faces as they march up to the cash.  My kids are book lovers (a gift they did not acquire from their Daddy).  I am very proud to say that the three big kids all read at the top level of their class.  I would be so bold as to say that they read a full grade level above their grade.  I am not sharing all of this to be boastful (well maybe just a little),  but to explain how "Book Points" are our family's currency.
    Years ago we tried the allowance system.  We stunk.  When I say we, I really mean Christopher and I, we would forget to give it, or they were too lazy to earn it and we did not get after them.  It did not work for us.  I accidently stumbled upon "book points".  I told one of the kids that if they did a chore I would buy them a book.  They were excited and the chore got done.  From that point on we set up "book points".
    The way it works is that when they get 5 points it equals one dollar towards a book.  They get points if we ask them to do something, or if they do something nice without being asked.  Two days ago Grace was upstairs for a long time.  When she came down we asked what she had been doing, she had cleaned Elly's room for her!  That earned Grace lot's of book points (50 to be exact or the equivalent of a $10.00 book).  Usually we will say something like "anyone who helps to clean the living room will get 2 book points".  Is it fool proof, nothing is, but for us it works (most of the time).

    I made each the kids their own chart with their own favourite animal on the bottom to personalize it.  Sometimes it makes them a little competitive when they see that someone has so many more points than them.  Sometimes competitive is good.

    Here is what I like about our system...
1.  It fosters a love of reading.  I believe that if a child is a good reader there's nothing they can't accomplish.
2.  It teaches them how to work towards a concrete goal.  They love to receive new books, to get new books they have to earn them.
3.  I can't forget, because it's right there in black and white ( I have a terrible memory).
4.  It is not only a treat for them but also for me.  With 4 kids, I don't get the opportunity, nor do I often make enough effort to give them one - on - one time.  Chapters usually is one - on - one time.  On the drive there I get to hear their hopes and fears (most times), it allows me a slip into their inner circle.  They can ask awkward questions, more comfortably (you know by awkward I'm talking the birds and the bees).  I get to learn more about them both on the trip there, and at the book store.  I learn more about their interests.  I learn more about them.
5.  Who am I kidding, if they get a book, usually I get a book!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Let's Go Fly A Kite!

    Every year since Gabe was 2 (15 years ago) the Easter Bunny has brought our children kites for Easter.  Kites are lots and lots of fun on .... television.  Oh on television they have a grand old time.  Heck, there was even a song written about "Let's Go Fly A Kite".  The reality looks a little different.
    Flying a kite means that you are prepared to work your tail off.  Work yourself into a sweat.  There is a fine art to kite flying, and I have yet to crack the code.  Maybe I need one of those wooden Davinci puzzle things like they had on the Davinci Code.  You need to calculate which direction the wind is blowing, know which way to run, oh way to complicated for me.
    Elly has been obsessed with flying her new Cinderella kite.  Every day, "It windy?" Most days it is not windy.  In theory the Easter Bunny brought them cool kites this year.  Instead of a cross bar which inevitably breaks or falls out, it inflates.  They provide a little straw for you to blow it up.  Yesterday was windy, and I gave in "Yes we can fly your kite."  I pushed the rigid straw into where I thought it was supposed to go, only to discover that I had put a hole in her kite in my attempts to push through the plastic.  Apparently the spot I shoved the straw through was meant to attach the string to.  The place you put the air in was at the bottom (which I would have known if I'd thought to read the instructions).
So finally I have the kite kind of blown up (the air kept leaking from the hole I had made).
    Christopher happened to be home for lunch and witnessed my kite attempts, as did all of the elderly ladies that live in the apartments behind our home (I'm sure that we provide them with lots of laughter with our insane antics).  So there I was, poised to fly this kite.  Elly was so excited that she was jumping up and down.  In my head I knew that I was the world's greatest mother.   I had just taken her to the Ivanhoe Cheese Factory, and now kite flying, WOW I'm great (it does not take much to over inflate my own self image it would seem). By the time we were ready to go there was no wind.  Then a wind came up, a small wind.  I ran with that little kite, running for my daughter's love.  The back ground sound was not "Chariots of Fire", but my husband's hysterical laughter.  I gave up.

    That night when Christopher got home from work he took the kids all out to fly their kites.  I now understand why he was in hysterical laughter at my attempts.  Of coarse there were many temper tantrums (only a few from the biggest kid).  There were legs tangled in strings.  Last but not least, there was not one single kite in the sky.  

    Maybe I am not ascribing this tradition the credit it deserves.  It's all in the way that you look at it.  I mean we have on a few occasions been airborne.  Those times usually end with a kite in a tree, or someone letting go of their kite, it usually ends in tears is what I am getting at.  The fun is in the anticipation.  In their heads they will sail that kite up near the sun and the clouds.  For me I am guaranteed a hysterical laugh.  Although it usually ends badly, there is some fun sprinkled in the middle.  So Mr. Easter Bunny... Bring it on again next year !!!! 

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Ivanhoe Cheese Factory


    This morning Elly and I ventured over to the Ivanhoe Cheese Factory.  For my kids this is a treat.  In the summer they often ask if we can go over to the cheese factory and watch them make cheese.  I feel very fortunate to live in an area with so many cheese factories.  Of the many cheese factories, Ivanhoe is by far my favourite.

    They have the neatest thing there, a huge window so that you can watch them make the cheese.  This is my kid's favourite thing about the cheese factory, other than the samples and the inevitable bag of cheese curds.  Elly stayed at the window the whole time we were at the store.  I felt badly for the workers because there were times that she was banging on the glass waving to them.  I wonder if they sometimes feel like zoo animals on display?  It really is neat to watch them make the cheese, an opportunity we may not otherwise have.

    The other excellent thing about the Ivanhoe Cheese Factory is the cheese samples.  There are cheeses that I would not normally try (I am not a risk taker, even on the small scale food area).  I am always a little embarrassed at the sample part.  Inevitably my kids act like they have never seen food and descend upon the sample like a pack of ravenous dogs.  I remind them before we even enter the store to use manners, but sometimes in the excitement they forget.  

    It is at this point I would like to talk about "cheese curd".  My husband's family lives in Acton, Ontario and had never had cheese curd before.  I had easily by that point converted my husband.  We had also converted my nephew who came to visit us for Canada Day.  So off we went with a small bag of cheese curd for our nephew, Matthew and a big bag to share with everyone else.  For those of you uninitiated in the ways of the cheese curd, the best cheese curd that there is has been freshly made that day.  It will have a delightful "squeak".  The "squeak" is the best part, oh and they should be eaten warm.  We pulled out our huge bag of cheese curd feeling like cheese curd missionaries, there to convert the savages.  Christopher's mom took a bite and made a face. "Not for me." she replied.  Each person tried the curd, each did not like the curd.  The whole time this was going on my nephew is shouting "You're crazy!", and "I hope they all hate them, because that's more for me!".  The funniest response was Christopher's 80 year old grandpa.  He ate one and then politely responded "Maybe on a biscuit".  I howled with laugher.  I then explained to him that we eat them like potato chips, he wrinkled his nose.  Maybe the love of cheese curds are a regional thing. 

    Today I purchased "Asiago Cheese" and "Parmesan Cheese", and of course cheese curds (don't tell the big kids because Elly and I ate the whole bag before lunch).  I abandoned the dry powder parmesan cheese a long time ago in favour of the bricks of cheese.  The taste difference is huge.  I figure if I am going to the trouble of making food from scratch for my family, shouldn't I use the best ingredients too?  I also like the price of their cheese, i.e. it's affordable.  My brick of Asiago was under $5.00 as was the brick of Parmesan.  Their Feta is also great and very affordable.

    Last but certainly not least the thing I like about Ivanhoe Cheese is the staff.  They are always so nice and friendly.  It is rare in this day and age to go to a store and leave happy, not just because of your purchases but because of the level of customer care that you received.

    If you find yourself traveling highway 62, or find yourself in the area, you really owe it to yourself to visit the "Ivanhoe Cheese Factory".  You will love it!  They also deliver.  When my sister was living in Red Rock, Ontario (near Thunderbay) she was feeling homesick.  For her Christmas that year I ordered her a Ivanhoe Cheese cheese basket.  That we she could at least taste home.

    If you can't visit Ivanhoe Cheese Factory, why not take a road trip and visit a local cheese factory?