Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Way We Speak To Our Children

    I was out shopping today.  As I rounded the corner I saw a harassed mother pulling on her toddlers arm, yanking on it way to hard.  She was speaking to him in an angry voice telling him "This is why I don't take you out with me!"  When she met my angry gaze she looked embarrassed, as well she should.  Her tone softened when she saw that she had been caught.  Her little one might have been two, just a baby.  I then went to another store where I heard this man berating a little boy because he got the wrong grocery cart.  Did he not see the garbage in the one he had picked? "Go get another", the bully barked.  The little boy was perhaps 8, he man old enough to be a grandfather.  I just shook my head, what was this world coming to when people spoke to their children like this, and in public.  If they speak to those children like that in public, how must they treat them behind closed doors?  In public I generally sound like Mary Poppins, so sickly sweet it might make you want to barf.
    As I walked away from the Neanderthal man, I berated his ignorance in my head.  What the Hell was wrong with him to speak to that little boy like that?  Why didn't he just get off his lazy butt and get the cart himself if he had a specific shopping cart in mind?  As I was berating him, a terrible thought crossed my mind, as I was taking the moral high ground.  What if people heard the way I spoke to my big kids?  They would think I was the biggest pig!
    I work really hard to give my children the best childhood that I can give them.  I am very involved in their lives.  I know their favourite colours, foods, best friends.  I make sure that special occasions are well, special.  I am the mom who goes on class trips, bakes fancy cakes for their classes.  I really do work hard, but then that angry witch comes out.  I think about the episodes of Dr. Phil where he has hidden cameras in bad parents homes.  I would die if anyone ever heard the way I speak to the big kids.  I don't always speak to them terribly, but it just takes once to effect their sense of self.  The ironic thing is that it's the days that I am working my hardest to make everything so super special for them, that I have the least patience and am the most obnoxious to them.
    I would never speak to Elly in the angry tones that I use on the big kids.  It seems like child abuse to speak to her like that, she's just a baby.  What makes it wrong to speak to Elly like that, but not the big kids?  I remember hearing a parenting program on t.v..  They were talking about dealing with pre-teens and teens.  They were discussing the way we speak to toddlers vs the way we speak to our teens.  We would never use angry tones with toddlers, and yet we allow our frustrations to be taken out on the teens.   The parenting "expert" then suggested that when your teen is driving you to the point of loosing your cool, think about them the way they were as toddlers.  That really struck a nerve with me, even at the time, now to just put it into place.
    I really like the moral high ground.  I like to look with distain on others, and forget about the exact same things that I do.  It really stinks when I realize the facts.  I prefer the fantasy land that I try to live in.  You know, where I am this amazing mom, who can do no wrong?  It's hard to think about the way that I am speaking when I'm angry.  It's easier to just flare up at the kids, than to take a step back and think before I speak.  I need to be that Mom I was after I had my surgery, that Mom who spoke in a calm and loving tone.
    Here is the end of my story.  After I had my horrid epiphany, I went into the fresh produce isle.  In the produce isle was this mother bent over cuddling her preschooler.  She used a beautiful voice to speak to him.  As she spoke to him her eyes also spoke their love for that little boy.  Watching her interact with that little boy was beautiful.  I had that soft and fuzzy feeling.  I realized that I am also that Mom.  I am the soft place to fall.  I just need to balance that ying, and that yang.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Unexpected Grief

    Today is the first day of summer vacation.  I have been eagerly anticipating it for a month now.  I have been counting down how many school lunches that I will need to pack.  I love summer vacation.  I love the easy beezey days of summer.  I was anticipationing great joy, but instead found myself sidelined by unexpected grief.
    December 24, 2004 my oldest son, Gabriel died because of a stroke.  He stroked because his spleen had been ruptured in a car accident, and due to an absurd amount of errors (the ambulance got lost.  The dispatcher could not decide what township the accident had occurred in and did not know where to send the ambulance to...) my son's spleen threw blood clots which caused a 9 year old boy to have several strokes.  He also had a severe brain brain injury, but it was the strokes which caused the brain damage that killed him.
    I know that from the second week of December until the end of February (Gabe's birthday is February 2) I am almost debilitated with depression.  It settles in like a heavy cloud.  I know this, and prepare for this, I put things into place so that I disrupt my living children, as minimally as I can.  There are the times that I know will be difficult (Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, his birthday), and then out of the blue I am struck with the overwhelming grief.  It has been 7 and a half years since I lost my child.  The grief has become bearable, but it is always with me, waiting, but it usually drifts over me.  It might be a teen who makes me think about what Gabe would be like.  It might be something that one of the other kid's say that reminds me of something he would say.  It is usually momentary.  It does not usually last.  It is no longer that lead jacket pulling me under water feeling that it once was.
    When Gabe first died I was wracked with the unknown.  I always wondered what toys he would like.  Who would his friends be.  When his friends ( we have been so blessed that Gabe's friends still came to our house, still included us in their lives) got to grade 6 (Gabe was in grade 4) they would tell me the gossip about who was dating who.  I would wonder if Gabe would have had a girlfriend.  Would he have gone to the dances.  I looked to his friends to guess what he would be doing.  When his friends made it to grade 7, I stopped the wondering.  It was so outside of my field of knowledge to guess what a teen boy would be doing.  I resolved myself to the knowledge that I would never know, and I was o.k. not knowing, or so I thought.
    Over the past few weeks I have seen beautiful pictures of the older familiar faces of my niece and nephew, and some of Gabe's friends.  They are dressed for prom.  I did not expect prom to throw me into suffocating grief again.  I look at those young faces, they are so excited about their future.  Gabe would be going into grade 12 this year.  This year he would be applying to universities.  I would have had mixed emotions thinking about the pride in him, and the sadness of my first baby leaving the nest.  I don't get to experience this.  That experience was stolen from me!  Because two young men were in a big hurry to get home from work and were not paying attention to the road and were grossly speeding, because a deer ran out onto the road, and I braked, because unknown to me there was black ice on the roads, because my car spun onto the other side of the road, because the first car drove around us, only to be hit by those young men who were not paying attention to the road, because I wanted to treat my two oldest children to a special night that was just about them, because we chose to see that movie in Napanee and traveled the back road, I have been robbed of my son, my oldest son.  I will never see him graduate.  The only graduation that I got to witness was nursery school graduation.  I will never see him drive a car.  I will never see him with a girl (that I will know is not good enough for him).  I will never watch him get married.  I will never hold his child, my grandchild.  I was cheated, I was robbed!
    We live in country where the child mortality rate is something like one in every ten thousand children.  We have an amazing medical system.  We have a vaccine for chicken pox for heavens sake.  Our grandparents experienced the loss of children, third world parents experience the loss of children, Canadian parent's don't have children die, or so I thought.
    I know that this grief will pass.  I think it's more of the feeling of being ambushed by it.  I did not see it coming.  I did not expect prom pictures to throw me into dispair.  I guess that is the funny thing about loosing a child, no one prepares you for the unexpected triggers, no on for that matter prepares you to loose a child.  Tomorrow is a new day, I guess I will just have to wait and see what it brings, hopefully sunshine.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Tarp Tent

    Last night Christopher and I were enjoying our coffee on the deck when the kids scrambled up the stairs.  They wanted to make a tent, could they?  Normally, my answer NO!  But if you will remember, I made a promise to myself to say YES more often (oh, I'm not mental, I don't say yes to everything.  There will never be a point that I say yes to scissor fights, or running with scissor races, or glue and feather fights... you get my drift).  A back yard tent would be fun for them, and really barely any work, and barely any clean up.

    Christopher found a tarp in the basement that the kids could use.  They used the slide to hold the tent up, and then staked it through the grommets.  There was heavy usage of clothes pins.  It took about 15 minutes.  After the "tent" was set up, they set about fixing the inside of it.  They found boogie boards from the pool for their beds.  They found a lawn chair to put in it.

Little miss dirty face wanted a picture of her holding her pony.

        The kids were so proud of their tent.  They played in it until it was bedtime.  They wondered if maybe they could sleep in it, after all they had made beds out of the boogie boards.

I admit that I was a bit impressed by their "shelf".

    They needed to demonstrate to me how it would look if they slept in their tent.  You'll notice that apparently Rowan will be sleeping sitting up.  They really had a fun time.  The tarp did not smell so great, but they didn't care.  All they cared about was pretending that they were camping out.  

    One more time that my first instinct was to say NO, and instead said yes.  Maybe I have a chance of turning into a fun loving Moma.... I guess time will tell.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Crayon Wreath For A Nice Teacher

    Riley and Rowan had a really lovely teacher this year.  She has at some point taught all of my children, with the exception of Elly, but there's time for that.  She is one of those gentle spoken teachers, who somehow still has controll of her class.  I have an enormous amount of respect for her.  Riley and Rowan brought home the neatest art projects from school.  So, on top of being a lovely teacher, she's crafty!
    I had seen a great crayon wreath on Pinterest (, and knew that was what I would make for her end of the year gift.  I tailored the wreath a little.  I found some really cute items at Michael's, and wanted to incorporate them into the wreath.

    I purchased two 64 piece packages of crayons.  I bought Crayola for the top layer and much cheaper Rose Art crayons for the bottom layer (you know the layer that you only really see the crayon tips on).  I also found a wooden picture frame at Walmart for only $1.00.  I popped out the plastic and the back, and it made a perfect wreath form.  I was going to use wooden letters to spell out their teacher's name, but then I found the adorable blackboard easel.  I had wanted a nice bright yellow ribbon for the wreath, but then I found the black Aa Bb Cc ribbon.

    The very first thing that I did was to open the crayons and separate them into colours.  It actually sounds easier than it is.  It was tricky deciding what order to put the colours in.  I assumed that the crayons would come packed in their monochromatic colours, but they were all higgly piggly. 

    I put the first layer of Rose Art crayons down first.  I used my hot glue gun.  Word of warning, hot glue gets super hot, and crayons have a low melting point... do you see what I am saying?  In my head the circle was completely semiotical, and even.  Oh in my head it was so lovely.  The reality, was a little different.  I should have remembered that although I LOVE crafts, I am not really all that gifted.  My first crayons began their arch beautifully, the farther along I got, the less simetry there was.

    After my first layer of crayons was down, it was time for the second layer.  Once again, in my head it looked semiotical and beautiful.  The reality, very different.  There was a point where I thought "I can;t give her this piece of garbage!"  The crayons were all ca ca, and pointing in weird angles.  I am a perfectionist, and this nearly put me over the edge.

    The little wooden easel (I painted the words) covered a multitude of sins.  I then made my bow.  I gathered the ribbon and used a twist tie to secure it.  To cover the twist tie, I cut a small bit of ribbon and hot glued it over the top.
    In the end the wreath was not perfect, but I'll be honest, I was pleased with the way it turned out.  Riley and Rowan were really excited to take it to school today ( I packed it in a brand new pizza box).  I must admit I am excited to hear what their teacher's reaction was to it.  I hope that she enjoys it.  More than anything I hope that I constructed it well enough that it wills stand up, and allow it to be a wreath.

    So here we are, one day left of school, another school year come and gone faster than the last.  I base my year, not on the calendar, but more on the school year.  Every August I make resolutions to be more organized.  This year I have started my resolution list earlier. I resolve to make lunches more fun.  I plan to make at least one "Bento" lunch a week.  Bento is the newest trend.  It uses separated containers, and tons of fun.  You can purchase boiled egg moulds that will mold eggs into fun shapes (like Hello Kity, and teddy bears).  You can even buy googly eyes that you can make their sandwich smile at them.  I vow to make lunch more fun, much less boring.  Let's see if my resolutions last beyond October, they usually don't.
    In the meanwhile I plan to enjoy my kids while they are home.  I plan to recharge my batteries so to speak, and gather the stamina that I will need again for September.  I love summer.  

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Teacher's Gifts... Part Two

    A few weeks ago I painted pots for the kid's teachers.  I would not let them come near me with a ten foot pole while I was working on them ( if you want the instructions for them, see my blog from a few weeks ago).  They desperately wanted to help, but I held them at bay.  

    When it came to planting the pots, I let the kids help.  I was prepared for a nightmare, but it all worked out.  I let each kid plant two pots.  I enjoyed watching their level of concentration while they planted.  They really enjoyed it, and really did not make a mess.

    These pots are going to Elly's nursery school teachers, and the big kids gym teachers, art teachers, music teachers, french teacher.  All the teachers that they want to recognise, but that other wise it would be too costly to.  This was a really inexpensive gift, but a thoughtful gift.  It cost me under $20.00 to make 11 pots.  The kids feel proud because they had a hand in the gifts, and I feel happy because I really enjoyed painting the pots and it did not cost a fortune, it's a win win.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Being A Martyr, and Then Being Angry About It

    I saw this quote on Pinterst, and and it really struck a chord for me.  I am a save the world girl.  I have this terrific need to leave this world better than when I came into it.  It's not really that I am so good, it's more of a compulsion.  The first time I ever watched "It's a Wonderful Life", it really resonated for me. I was in university, and had nothing better to do at the Christmas season, so I watched a movie classic, little knowing how it would forever change me.  I remember finishing the movie and being dazed.  If I were to die at that moment, would I have made a difference?  How many people's lives had a touched, was the world a better place because I had been in it?  My answer to those questions was not many, and not really.  From that moment forward it would change.
    This need to touch lives and change the world became more of a compulsion than ever when Gabe was born.  When he began school I saw the disparity in the life that he had, and the lives of other children at his school.  Gabe wanted for nothing, even though at that time I had nothing.  He had people around him that adored him.  I would volunteer at his school and see children with the dead eyes.  There were and still are, children who are wearing dirty clothes that don't fit them, wearing clothing that is inappropriate for our harsh climate.  I began a snow suit exchange that is now nearing it's 14th year.  Three years ago I saw what some of the children were bringing for their lunches, and with another mother we brought a breakfast program into our school.  I share this not so that you will wonder at my goodness, but to make a point.  I do it because it is a compulsion, it is a need of mine.
    Until about three years ago I gave EVERYTHING of myself to my family.  If I received birthday money, it was spent on the kids.  If there was any extra money it went to buy things that the kids or Christopher needed.  I asked for nothing, but I resented it.  I resented that they did not appreciate my sacrifice.  At no point did they ask me to sacrifice everything for them, but I resented that they did not give me their undying appreciation for my sacrifice.  I found myself being angry more often than I was not.  I needed to change.  I began to take for myself.  Funny thing happened, I was much nicer.  It was difficult to buy a nice shirt for myself, I was wracked with guilt thinking about what that money could buy.  When I wore that shirt, I felt better about myself.  When I felt better about myself I had more patience.  It was a hard lesson, and still is, I need to treat myself with the kindness that I give openly to others.
    For me the Audrey Hepburn quote resonates for me.  Too often I give both of my hands to help others.  I do without so that others will have.  I need to remind myself that I have two hands, one for giving to others, and one to give to myself.  Balance.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Grace's Birthday Party

    As I shared earlier, Grace's birthday party got backed up a few weeks because of my nose reconstruction surgery (that's not the technical name for the surgery, it's just what it was).  I felt really badly about it, but she is getting a party, even though it's a bit later.  She handed out her flip flop invitations a week and a half ago, and the replies came in.
    Grace decided that it should be a beach theme.  I scoured the party planning blogs searching for inspiration.  I received inspiration, and also a healthy dose of humility.  I decided that I could not compare to those creative genius's, we would make due.  After a trip to my favourite spot, the dollar store, I was inspired.  I decided that instead of balloons, I would string up pool toys.  I strung 5 beach balls together with fishing line.  I also found these adorable blow up flamingos and sharks ( I caught Elly riding one of the sharks this morning).  Balloons are good for a few hours, but pool toys should last a day or so (more if you don't live at our house).

    The dollar store also sold inflatable pools.  I do not personally know anyone or anything that could swim in these inflatable pools, but they made really cute coolers for the drinks.  I provided orange pop, cola, and drink boxes for those crazy kids who don't like pop.

    Instead of using bowls, we used the largest sand pails that the dollar store sold.  I used a plastic boat as a dip bowl.  I scattered around shovels and other small sand toys to make it look cute.

    Instead of a cake, I decided on cup cakes.  We discovered gummy sharks at Walmart, and that served as the inspiration for the cupcakes.  I learned a very valuable lesson while making these cupcakes, don't use "Extra Value" icing.  I thought that it would save valuable time to purchase icing as opposed to my usual homemade icing... big mistake.  The "extra value" (Walmart's store brand) was 50 cents cheaper than the Duncan Hines, what could the big difference be ... big mistake.  I spooned the icing out of the tubs into a bowl, and mixed in the blue food colouring gel.  It was the consistency of thick water.  I did not have time to use anything else.  After icing the cupcakes, I put a gummy shark on the top of each.  The sharks kept sliding off,  I decided to concede defeat.

    The party went off without a hitch.  Grace had a great time, and so did all of her friends.  Riley and Rowan are excited for their turn in two weeks ( we are doing an exact repeat, with the inflatables and everything).  It was a great day.  I did not have to spend my day cleaning, only to have it destroyed by crazy party kids.  We had two life guards at the pool, which was good, because my swimming skills are not that great.  The weather was perfect.  It was a great day!

Baby carrots, cucumbers, and celery with a dip in the boat.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Playing Hookie

    Right now my little piece of the universe feels like it is on the sun.  We are having a heat wave.  I count myself as fortunate because I have an air-conditioner, but it is so hot out there.  We have been talking about pulling the kids out of school and going to the Sandbanks for years now, and yet we never seem to do it.  On the first official day of summer, and one of the hottest days I can remember, it hookie seemed like a really good idea. Yesterday, we played hookie, and it was the smartest thing that I have done in years!
    The Sandbanks are a provincial park that is about an hours drive from us, near Picton, Ontario.  It is a glorious spot.  Lake Ontario looks like the ocean at this little bit of paradise.  There are naturally occurring sand dunes that surround the lake.  It is a gift to our province really.  There were times that I had to remind myself that we were still in Ontario, and were not at the ocean.

    Christopher and I had been planning the trip for a week.  We kept it a secret from the kids.  When they woke up we told them that there would be no school today.  They were elated!  Secretly we packed up their bathing suits and towels (although not as secretly as I thought).  We then sunscreened all the kids, and loaded everyone and everything into the van.

    The whole ride the kids kept asking questions about where we were going.  I admit there was sick delight on my part in making them guess.  One of the kids had seen Christopher load the towels and suits so they deduced that we were going to be in water.  I loved listening to them talking it over with each other.  It was like a van full of mini Sherlock Homes's.  I stopped at the dollar store and bought some sand toys.  That then became a further clue.  When we drove up to the Sandbanks sign they all roared out a cheer.  For some reason we had never taken the kids there before, but they had heard us fondly reminisce about the times that we had been.  I realized that it had been more than ten years since we had been to the Sandbanks, way too long.

    It was an amazing day.  It was a day that will be fondly reminisced about for countless years to come.  It was good for the soul.  We just enjoyed each other.  We don't do that enough.  Our lives are so busy, and sometimes we forget about having fun.  We had a picnic lunch that for some reason tasted so much better than usual.  The kids took turns burying each other in the sand.  They built sand castles. They played in the water.  It was hot, but no one noticed, we were having too much fun.  I just kept looking at my family (nearly in tears, I have a problem with that), and the love I felt for them, was nearly overwhelming.  This was a moment.  This was a memory being made, and I knew it.
    The day cost very little, gas and park admission.  It was worth twenty times that amount.  The whole car ride home was filled with giggles.  They kept shouting out what their favourite part of the day was.  They all said how much they wanted to come back.  Christopher and I vowed that we needed to do things like that more often.  We needed to make time stop, just for a little while, and just enjoy life.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Elly's Kindergarden Orientation

    I took Elly for her kindergarden orientation.  She was so excited!  She could not wait to go.  I did not want to take her, I do not want my last baby to grow up.  I thought about keeping her home, and not sending her to school, but I won't, it would be for my benefit, not hers. 
    We walked into the school library, and right away Elly wanted to go and play with a little girl.  I wondered who's child she was.  All of  the other kids had clung to my leg, but not the last one.  The one I want to cling to the most is the one who is the most ready to let go of me.  At one point she waved to me, and looked a little disappointed when I told her that I was staying.  She is going to LOVE school, me not so much.  I have visions of stalking my own child.  I'll be standing there with my face pressed up against the glass kindergarden classroom.  The nice teacher coming out and asking me to go home.  It may not be a good scene.

    I've been doing this parenthood thing for 17 years.  I should be used to this... shouldn't I?  I sat there during the orientation biting the inside of cheek forbiding myself to cry.  The tears were right on the surface fighting to break out.  I sat there remembering each of them leaving me, I mean going to kindergarden.  When Gabe went I cried everyday for the year.  I also cried when he went to senior kindergarden, and grade 1, 2 and 3.  I cried for Grace's first year, everyday.  Grace began junior kindergarden in a wheel chair.  She had just had her first surgery (there were 4 more after) on her leg.  I spent the first week helping her go to the bathroom, taking her for recess, guarding her.  When Riley and Rowan went to junior kindergarden I cried, and cried for the first year.  I cried also because it was beautiful.  There the two of them were holding hands, giving each other strength.  At that moment I thought that it would be nice if everyone had a twin.  They had each other to cling to.  After 17 years of doing this, shouldn't I be better at letting go?

    Elly will be just fine leaving me.  She proved that to me today.  She joined in, she put her hand up to answer questions.  She is confident.  She got right in there and interacted with the other kids.  I was impressed.  Part of me felt a little better about leaving her to strangers ( o.k. I'm not leaving her to strangers, it just feels like it).   Most of me felt overwhelmed by grief.  I will never have another baby.  My last baby is already taking steps to her independence, fighting my strangle hold.  My last baby is leaving me, and so is my youth.  That sounds so melodramatic, but it is also true.  If you have a little one, you are still in "that" phase of your life.  As much as I call Elly my "baby", I know she's not.  She's a little girl.  It is my job to prepare my children for life, to teach them what they need to know to have a good life.  I am doing that.  I have nice, polite, confident children, and I know that is because of what their father and I have instilled in them.  I know in my heart, in my soul, that I am raising good citizens that I will be proud of when they reach adulthood.  Knowing all of these things does not change the fact that I would like to selfishly keep them all to myself.  Knowing that it is the best thing for Elly to go to school, does not change my desire to keep her my little baby, to wish that time could just stand still.  

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Art of Giving, (and accepting when people don't want your gift.)

    I live in a small rural community.  In my community neighbours help neighbours, that's what I love about living here.  This became solidified to me when Gabe died.  My neighbours all took up a collection for us.  Local stores had donation jars to help us with Christopher's traveling expenses when Gabe was in intensive care, and I was in the hospital in Kingston.  When Gabe died, meals arrived at my door every day for a month.  I had experienced the worst nightmare a parent can live through, and yet I felt the warmth of my community.  That has stayed with me.
    I feel that it is so important for me pay the kindness I was given forward.  There is a couple in our community who are going through a very difficult time right now.  They are both people who give of themselves to our community.  I don't really know the wife very well, and for that matter I know the husband to speak to, and he's a lovely man, but I don't "know" them.  They just found out the wife has terminal cancer, and has very little time left.  From what I understand it came as a complete shock.  I cannot even imagine how that must feel.  When I found out, I felt like I needed to do something.
    I decided to organize meals for them.  I know a lot of people, and I could arrange for this couple to have meals delivered to them everyday.  Meals aren't a lot, but it would be one less thing for them to worry about, and those meals would do more than just physically sustain them, they would know that people care about them.  I lay awake two nights making plans and dreading calling the man to ask if I could do that for them.  I made lists in my head of people I would ask.  I was in my "save the world" mode.
    I made the call yesterday.  My mouth went dry when he answered.  " Hi," I said, " I understand that you are going through a tough time right now, and I wanted to know if I could have meals made and dropped off for you?"  He was lovely, and polite, but didn't want them.  He didn't think that they would be able to eat them.  I wanted to force him, to just make the meals and drop them off whether he wanted them or not, because it would make "me" feel better.  I had to respect his wishes, and that stunk.  I had to remember that giving is not about "making me feel better", and that really stunk.  He thanked me for my kindness and told me how much it meant to him that I would even think about them.
    I got off the phone, and just sat there.  I felt so terrible for this lovely, nice couple having to go through this horrid ordeal.  I knew that meals would not get rid of the cancer.  I knew that meals would not lift their spirits so high that they would forget the cancer.  I just kept thinking about "what if it were me".  What if one day one of Christopher's stomachaches turned out to be more than "just a stomachache?"  I can not imagine what a nightmarish shock that must feel like.  I am a take charge doer.  I charge in and try to make things better, whether people want me to or not.  I think that I can change the world, and it stinks when I can't.
    In the end I did exactly what I had set out to do.  I let this couple know that they were in my thoughts.  I did not orchestrate meals as I had planned, but they got the soul sustenance.  I also went against my instincts, and respected their wishes (even though it nearly killed me).  Now my brain is spinning a thousand miles a minute thinking what else I could do to help.  I have to remind myself that it's ok to do nothing.  It's ok to let people know that you have them in your thoughts, and then do just that.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Prince Edward County Lavender

    A few weeks ago I was invited to the Great Canadian Cheese Festival.  It was AWESOME!!!!!!  We had so much fun.  While we were touring around we saw a booth for the Prince Edward County Lavender.  I have been fascinated with lavender for a while now.  I don't really know why I have this fascination, but I do.  I tried to grow it a few years back.  I am an instant gratification type of a girl, and was disappointed that my lavender did not look like the lavender out of books.  I discovered that it takes three years for lavender to mature, that explains a lot.

    The booth had so many beautiful lavender products.  Who knew that the herb that smells so nice and scares off moths could be eaten?  Well it can, because they had cookies and treats that contained lavender.  So many beautiful products to choose from.  I wanted them all!

    I asked the lady at the booth if they allow people to come to the farm, "Oh yes."  That was a little bit excitement for me.  She then told me about the "Lavender Festival" that they were hosting July 7 - 8 from 10 am - 5 p.m.  The cost of the admission is $5.00 and kids under 12 get in for free.  Each of the days they were going to have bands, and different activities.  $5 seems like a deal for all of that!  They plan to share their knowledge about growing and maintaining lavender.  There is is even pick your own lavender.  That is pretty neat to me.  I could go out in their fields and pick my own lavender... instant gratification!
    On the website they ask that people do not bring dogs.  I have to admit I am perplexed at the amount of people that think that their dogs should automatically be included in things.  It's a pet peeve of mine (no pun intended).  I HATE when I go to events and there are people walking around with their dogs, like it was their divine right to bring their dog.  Don't get me wrong, until recently I was a pet owner.  I loved my pets dearly, but they were just that ... pets.  I did not think that they should accompany me on vacation ( unless it was a cottage that I had permission to bring them), or should go to festivals.  It's not fair to the other's around you to bring your dog.  What if my child was severely allergic to dogs?  What if I was terrified of dogs?  So if you are "one of those people", please leave your dog at home.  Sorry, I got a little carried away there, forgive my rant.

    If you are looking for something that is fun and educational this summer, why not go over to Prince Edward County in Hillier and visit the Lavender Farm.  I know that I plan to.  If you would like some more information please feel free to visit their website....

Sunday, 17 June 2012

My Dad and "I Love You"

    "I Love You."  It is such a powerful word.  It is used at our house so casually that it has almost become a greeting.  "Have a great day at school / work, I love you."  "Good night, I love you".  Every time I say it it has great meaning, and yet as I lay in bed last night unable to sleep, thinking about today's blog, I wonder if is accepted with the meaning in which I say it.
    Today is Father's Day, and it got me thinking about the two father's in my life, my husband, and my Dad.  As I lay there, I got thinking about the enigma wrapped in a riddle which is my father.  My Dad did not throw around the word "I love you" lightly.  If I truly think about it, I might be able to count on my fingers and toes the amount of time he said it to me (it might be more than that, but that's what I remember).  I never doubted my father's love, it just was not a phrase that he threw around lightly.
    My Dad comes from a long line of undemonstrative people.  On Dad's line we come from hard working pioneers.  My family helped to tame this wild country.  They came here when it was wilderness, and were strong enough to survive.  My family were Empire Loyalists on my Great- Grandmother's side.  They were so true to The British Empire that they left their homes in the United States, they stood up for what they believed in, even if it might cost them their lives, I'm proud of that!  My Great-Grandfather, Gampie was a blacksmith, and as was his father before him, and his father's father.  They were strong people, people who carved out this country before it was even a country.  Canada was built on their backs.  It was not built on their mushy side.  My Gampie (my Great-Grandfather) was this tall man (6 feet was a giant for men of his time) with the fluffy white beard.  We loved Gampie.  He kissed us and cuddled us and always had humbugs for us.  When we left Gampie feeling all warm and fuzzy, Dad would shake his head wondering who that old man was.  That was not the "Grandpa" that Dad remembered.  My Grandma (Dad's Mom) is this tiny little lady (hard to believe looking at her that it was her father that was 6 feet tall),  I think that Riley and Rowan might be taller than she is.  She is this tiny little tough lady.  When you leave and give Grandma a hug, she hugs you like you might hug a stranger, it makes her uncomfortable I think.  Do you see the pattern?  It's no wonder that Dad is undemonstrative, how could he be?
    My Dad did not say "I love you" a lot, but I never doubted his love.  My Dad worked hard all of his life to provide for us.  He picked up every extra shift that he could.  That was him saying "I love you".  As a little girl one of my favourite things was when Dad would come to my bed and read me a book.  Every character had a crazy voice, he read it with such feeling.  I read to my children the way Dad read to us.  When Dad read to us it shouted "I love you".  Sometimes much to my mother's chagrin, Dad would tickle me before bed, until I literally peed on his lap, that was "I love you." When we were out, and Dad would see someone he knew and introduced me, his face lit up when he told that person my name.  He always added that I was really smart, and then an embarrassed "but she's a monster".  When I went to my Dad's work, and he opened his locker there was not a bit of metal showing.  It was covered in pictures of my sister and I.  When Dad's Co-workers/ friends spoke to me they would ask me questions about things my Dad had told them, things I didn't think that he was listening to.  These people knew every little detail about my life, which meant that my Dad knew every single detail about my life, he just didn't let on.  No, never have I ever doubted my father's love.
    When Dad does say "I love you", it is a BIG thing.  When I went off to university Mom and Dad drove me there in a rented moving van.  My Mom bawled all the way there.  When it was time for them to leave, and me to stay, my mom crumbled, she was leaving her baby to the great unknown.  My Dad pulled me in for this bone crushing hug.  He whispered "I love you".  I looked up and there were tears in his eyes.  The only time I had ever in my whole life seen my father cry was when my Gampie died.  He turned quickly away, so that I could not see his weakness.  My Dad has always been the strongest man that I ever knew.  He still was, his tears shouted "I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!"  When I would call home my Dad would always tell me he loved me.  The way that he said was not in a way to be taken casually.  When he said "I love you", it was with strength.
    When I watch Dad with my kids I wonder who this grey haired man who looks a lot like my father is.  He kisses and hugs and tells them how much he loves them.  I guess it's safe now.  He does not have to be a strong powerful man for them, he can just be goofy Papa.  My kids don't know "my Dad", they just know Popa.  They adore Popa, and Popa unabashedly adores them.
    All of this got me wondering as to whether or not Christopher and I throw "I love you around too much".  Does it loose it's power when it is said dozens of times a day?  Maybe the power isn't really in the words, but in the feeling behind them.  I guess I will just have to wait twenty years or so to see.

Happy Father's Day to the strongest man I know, my Dad... I LOVE YOU!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Trials Of Motherhood - Seizing The Day


    At no point 18 years ago when I wanted to become pregnant did I think about anything other than a baby.  When I thought about parenthood my only thoughts were of that tiny baby I would hold in my arms.  I knew that I would have sleepless nights, but I thought it would be for feedings, and changings.  Even when I had subsequent pregnancies I only thought about that tiny baby.  At no point in the pregnancy books do they prepare you for anything after the first year.  I'm not sure that if there was a chapter at the back for the after one year information that it would have prepared me.  Nothing prepares you for the sleepless nights of worry.  I worry about each of the kids and the problems of the day (Why doesn't so and so like them?  Why is that teacher so mean, is it just to them?  Is that cough serious?).  Perhaps the worst worries are the worries that I am doing my best.  Am I the best mother that I can be?  To that horrid enduring question the answer is always NO!    Nothing prepared me for the level of self abuse that I would hurl at myself.
    Elly will be going to school this September.  This year our school has instituted all day, everyday kindergarden.  Elly will not turn 4 until the middle of October.  All day, every day is just too much.  Then I start to think is all day, every day too much for her, or is it too much for me?  I am loosing my baby.  My last baby.  I honestly feel anxiety when I think about her going to school everyday, or if I were being honest, it's not the going to school everyday, it's the being away from her all day, everyday.
Sometimes I feel like I have squandered my time with her.  Like I don't spend enough quality time with her.  I spend every day with her, but how many hours of that day are devoted strictly to her?  Not many.  I feel like I have squandered my last baby, and now that she is about to embark on her school career, I have run out of time.
    I think back to the mother that I was 17 years ago.  I made time for Gabe, I was devoted to Gabe.  I did crafts with him everyday.  He was my world.  I try to remind myself that 17 years ago I was a young woman.  17 years ago I had one child.  17 years ago I had a whole soul.  It sounds melodramatic, but when Gabe died, I truly feel like most of my soul went with him.  Luckily these kids don't know "Gabe's" mom, they know "their" mom.  Sometimes I remind myself that I am a more patient mom now.  I am a stronger more confident mom now.  I am who I am, and offer my best most of the time.  I need to be kinder to myself.  I would not be this harsh on anyone else.

    Friday I felt the loss of time with Elly very strongly.  For once instead of bemoaning the loss, I decided to make the most of the day.  I hate taking her to the park, I get bored.  Friday morning, I took her to the local park.  She made a new friend.  She laughed and laughed.  She had a great morning.  It was one hour of my time, and it was well time well spent.  I seized the day!
    After lunch I found a Sponge Bob Square Pants sun catcher kit that I had been given as a gift several years ago.  It had sat on a shelf because it seemed like too much work, too messy.  I put a black garbage bag on the table, and Elly and I painted the sun catcher.  We giggled... a lot.  We had a really fun time.  I wondered why I had put this off so long.  She felt so proud of the finished product.  It wasn't really that messy (the paint eventually washed off of my hands).  I seized the day!
    Last night, just before Elly came to her bed, I hung the sun catcher on her window.  When she walked into her room, it was the first thing that she saw.  She was so excited, and so proud of her work.  She called Daddy, and Riley, and Rowan, and Grace in to see her beautiful art.  She had this glowing smile on her little face.  I felt like a good mommy.  I seized the day!
    The moral of this story.... I need to be kinder to myself.  I know that I am a good mom.  My kids know that I am a good mom.  I am the mom that the school calls for trips.  I am the mom who mothers the children at school.  I am the mother who started a snowsuit charity to ensure that all children are warm in the winter.  I am the mom who fought for our school's breakfast club.  I am the mom who stays up until 2 in the morning finishing elaborate cakes for the kid's classes.  I am a good mom, I am not the same mom I was even 7 years ago when I still had my Gabe, that's o.k., not many mom's would be.  Having said all of that, I have room for improvement.  I know better than maybe anyone how short time is.  I need to make better use of my time.  I have two more weeks of just Elly before summer vacation starts.  I am going to seize each one of those days.  I am going to make the most of what I have.

Friday, 15 June 2012

The Elvis Festival

The hard working Elvis Festival planners, deep in planning.

    It started so many years ago, there was an Elvis siting in Tweed.  It became a funny little joke that put our sleepy little farm village on the map.  Anywhere we would go when people found out I was from Tweed it would be either "Where's that?", or "Say hi to Elvis for me."  A few years ago Tweed was put on the map once again.  News crews from around the world descended upon our close knit community, and this time it was not cute, or funny.  Russell Williams for a time, left an ugly scar on our community, as he left scars on so many.  When people heard that I was from Tweed it was no longer Elvis that they asked about.  "Did you ever meet him?"  "Do you know any of the people involved".  Those questions felt dirty, not funny.  
    Last year a dedicated group came together and brought Elvis back to Tweed, hopefully putting a layer of dust over Russell Williams.  I think that we can all agree that we would rather be known for Elvis rather than a serial killer in our midst.  They put hundreds of hours into convincing everyone that it was a great idea, and hundreds of hours into planning.  Their reward,  last year's Elvis Festival was a HUGE success.  Thousands flocked to see those hunk a hunk of burning love impersonators.  That week-end was a lot of fun even for those not attending the actual event.  Every few feet, or so it seemed was a different incarnation of Elvis.  Some of them were even giving free concerts.  You could feel the happy buzz throughout the village.  It was like an electrical charge.
    This year Grace's Jazz ensemble was asked to help at the festival in exchange for some much needed revenue.  The Jazz band parents were asked to volunteer.  It is actually a pretty sweet deal.  We help out at the festival for two, three hour shifts and in return our jazz band receives funds and we receive free passes for the week-end.  I signed Gracie and I up to sell Elvis merchandise, how hard can it be.  I think that it will be a lot of fun.

Volunteers going over jobs.
        I am not a real Elvis fan.  I think that the man had talent and was a pioneer in rock and roll.  I think that he blazed the trail for today's Justin Bieber.  Maybe my neutrality is a form of rebellion (my mother loved Elvis).  Having said all of this... I am looking forward to this years festival.  I went to a volunteer meeting last night, and they were talking about the various events for this years festival.  The theme for this year is "Aloha Tweed".  They are paying homage to Elvis in Hawaii.  There are going to be Polynesian dancers, fire dancers and everything.
    If you are an Elvis fan, then you may want to circle August 24 - 26 on your calendar.  If you are there on Sunday, come and say hi, I'll be the person looking frazzled and giving out the wrong change at the merchandise area.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Elly's Art Show... The End Of A Chapter

    As I write this I feel a little sad.  I am feeling a loss.  I know it's foolish.  Elly is in the final weeks of nursery school.  I have no more babies.   It really does kind of feels like a loss.  She goes to junior kindergarden next year, real school.  My last baby is going to school this fall.  On and off for the last 14 years I have been taking a little hand and walking across to the nursery school, and that will never happen again.  When I look across (we live across from the school that houses the nursery school, I know convenient) at the playground and see the nursery school kids out playing, I will no longer stain my eyes to pick Elly out and see if she's having fun.  All 5 kids went to that nursery school.  We could only send them one morning a week, but they enjoyed it, and now that chapter is coming to an end.

    To celebrate the end of the year the nursery school holds an art show.  It is a lot of work (I know. This is the first year I have not helped out).  The school gym gets covered in nursery school art.  There are snacks and cold drinks.  There is the line up of parents with cameras waiting to get a picture with their little one and the teachers.  There are the little ones all proudly pointing out their art, it's nice.

    Elly has been so excited for her art show for the last week or so.  I bought her a new dress and a tiny crown for her big show.  She would have to tell everyone about her new dress and crown and "Are you coming to my art show?"  a dozen times a day.  She would call Nana and Papa everyday "Are you coming to my art show?  I've got a pretty new dress.   Mommy bought me a crown."  All Wednesday she could only talk about her art show that night.  We had to do her nails, and they had to have balloons on them.  We had to keep pulling out her new dress and crown so that she could look at them.  We had to run down who was coming to her art show.

Elly said this was me, I can see the likeness.

    The big night came.  She could barely contain the excitement.  Before we left there were many "take my picture" requests,  as she did various crazy poses in the yard.  Nana and Papa came over and we all walked over.  She was the celebrity, the centre of attention, well at least in our family.  The kids were really good and made a big fuss over her, asking her about her art.  After all of the talk, all of the excitement when we walked into the gym she was quite sedate.  
   We looked for her art, and of coarse took pictures of her with her art.  For me the cutest moment was when she saw her friend Sammy.  She walked over and said "Hi Sammy", with this little bashful voice, and Sammy in return said "Hi Elly".  Why was this so cute and exciting?  Because instead of being my little baby, who is only exposed to what I expose her to, she had a friend, who I did not make for her.  She had a life away from me.  Although I want her to stay my baby forever, I want her to grow independence and and have fun experiences that she has created for herself.

    After all of the excitement, the art show took approximately 15 minutes.  She was so proud of herself.  She walked home with her head held high, and with a little skip.  The big kids all told her nice things about her art, and her smile got bigger and bigger.  I know that it was just 15 minutes of my life, but for her that has to make a big mark on her.  In a family with 4 kids to vie for attention, for 15 minutes she was the centre of attention.  She was a star.  I guess that's what it's all about.

Thank you Little Learners for all of your hard work, it was noticed and appreciated.