About Me

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

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Our ALS Ice Bucket Challenges

    The news and social media have been buzzing with The ALS Ice bucket Challenge.  Because there has been such tremendous support there has of course been lots of accolades and just as much criticism.  As of August 27, 2014 the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised 94.3 million dollars for ALS in the USA and in Canada we have raised $11, 698, 759.00 (I think that this number could have been higher, but some Canadians unknowingly made donations to the American ALS).  The criticisms range from alleged misuse of funds (they contend that very few dollars actually go toward ALS research, but rather to CEOs) to graphs showing how many people die of ALS vs those who die from cancer, or heart disease.  These are all valid points except.........

    The above picture is of my father-in-law Don Lindsay.  He died of ALS March 14 of 2009, he was 66.  This picture was taken after his body had begun to deteriorate on him, but before he needed an air mask to allow his lungs to breath for him.  In his younger years he was an athlete and was scouted by major league teams.  He was the guy that would mow the grass and shovel the driveways of the elderly widows in his neighbourhood right up until ALS took that from him.  He loved to sing Barbershop and was in a critically acclaimed group called "Area Code 519", until ALS stole his music.  He and my mother-in-law Doreen were married for 46 years.  He had four kids and was generous with his time and money with all of them.  I remember when we first bought our house he took time off work so that he could come through for a few days and help Christopher paint the house.  Not only did he help paint the house, he bought the paint.  He was a good man, and ALS robbed us of him!

    Let me answer some of the criticism, in my humble opinion.  Prior to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, had you ever heard of ALS?  I have taken the liberty of copying some information from the ALS site.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
A-myo-trophic comes from the Greek language. "A" means no or negative. "Myo" refers to muscle, and "Trophic" means nourishment–"No muscle nourishment." When a muscle has no nourishment, it "atrophies" or wastes away. "Lateral" identifies the areas in a person's spinal cord where portions of the nerve cells that signal and control the muscles are located. As this area degenerates it leads to scarring or hardening ("sclerosis") in the region.
As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fibers that normally result in muscle movement. Early symptoms of ALS often include increasing muscle weakness, especially involving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing or breathing. When muscles no longer receive the messages from the motor neurons that they require to function, the muscles begin to atrophy (become smaller). Limbs begin to look "thinner" as muscle tissue atrophies.

Symptoms of ALS
At the onset of ALS the symptoms may be so slight that they are frequently overlooked. With regard to the appearance of symptoms and the progression of the illness, the course of the disease may include the following:
  • muscle weakness in one or more of the following: hands, arms, legs or the muscles of speech, 
    swallowing or breathing
  • twitching (fasciculation) and cramping of muscles, especially those in the hands and feet
  • impairment of the use of the arms and legs
  • "thick speech" and difficulty in projecting the voice
  • in more advanced stages, shortness of breath, difficulty in breathing and swallowing
The initial symptoms of ALS can be quite varied in different people. One person may experience tripping over carpet edges, another person may have trouble lifting and a third person's early symptom may be slurred speech. The rate at which ALS progresses can be quite variable from one person to another. Although the mean survival time with ALS is three to five years, many people live five, ten or more years. In a small number of people, ALS is known to remit or halt its progression, though there is no scientific understanding as to how and why this happens. Symptoms can begin in the muscles of speech, swallowing or in the hands, arms, legs or feet. Not all people with ALS experience the same symptoms or the same sequences or patterns of progression. But, progressive muscle weakness and paralysis are universally experienced.
Muscle weakness is a hallmark initial sign in ALS, occurring in approximately 60% of patients. Early symptoms vary with each individual, but usually include tripping, dropping things, abnormal fatigue of the arms and/or legs, slurred speech, muscle cramps and twitches and/or uncontrollable periods of laughing or crying.
The hands and feet may be affected first, causing difficulty in lifting, walking or using the hands for the activities of daily living such as dressing, washing and buttoning clothes.
As the weakening and paralysis continue to spread to the muscles of the trunk of the body the disease, eventually affects speech, swallowing, chewing and breathing. When the breathing muscles become affected, ultimately, the patient will need permanent ventilatory support in order to survive.

    When Don first started with symptoms he would have muscle spasms.  It took a long time to get a diagnosis.  They knew that something was wrong, but it took a long time to put a name to it.  He would drop things, that was very unlike him.  Then came the diagnosis, and the bottom fell out of everyone's world... ALS.  At first the deterioration seemed slow.  We had heard that the deterioration would be rapid.  The average person diagnosed with ALS's life expectancy is 2 years after they receive their diagnosis.  The deterioration at first seemed slow, he couldn't open jars, it then pushed through like a speeding freight train.  He lost so much weight, that it was a constant challenge to get enough calories into him.  He went from requiring a breathing mask at night, to requiring a breathing mask all the time to survive.  Each time we would go to visit, the difference was heart breaking.  We watched this independent man who helped everyone, become confined to a chair and then a bed, and then he was gone.  

    In Canada, the ALS Society's largest single fund raiser is their "Walk For ALS".  The annual revenue for this event is $3.6 million dollars ($1 million of this coming from the Halton Chapter where my Mother-in-law Doreen is a huge supporter).  As a matter of fact the annual ALS Canada budget is $7 Million Dollars, $14 Million if you include the combined ALS Societies for each province as well as Canada.  ALS Canada uses their funds to give grants to researchers.  The provincial societies help the families.  This is not only a devastating disease, it is an extremely expensive disease.  Don and Doreen had to make their home wheelchair accessible, that is expensive.  The society provided Don's breathing machine, and loaned them a hospital bed.  They gave them information, put them in touch with doctors.  It is no accident that it is called The ALS "society".  They provide a social outlet for those people who have been devastated with a very little known disease.


    Now for the criticism about the amount of donations to this cause vs the amount of individuals who die from ALS.  If you saw someone you loved suffer through ALS, you would not be so pompous.  It is a vicious disease that steals everything from it's victims.  There is no cure, they don't even really know what the cause is.  Because this is considered a "rare" disease it is underfunded.  

    I think that the Ice Bucket Challenge is marvelous!  It has brought ALS to the public's attention.  It is fun and brings out the spirit of competition.  It is an internet sensation.  Although the nay sayers have been quick to criticize this campaign they have forgotten the most important part of this... it's a fad.  This time next year everyone will remember that crazy fad, but ALS donations will return to their previous numbers.   This is a one time phenomena.  A one time phenomena that is allowing ALS to stand in the light for just a brief moment.

    Please consider making a donation to the ALS Society of Canada.  
Your money goes to help fund a cure, and to help families survive this devastating disease.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Cabbage Rolls ... So Much Easier Than I thought!

    So the above picture is really not a ringing endorsement for cabbage rolls.  If I really think about it, I'm not sure that I have ever seen a beautiful "looking" cabbage roll.  They taste like heaven, but look good, not so much.  I have never even attempted to make cabbage rolls.  They always looked so difficult.  I decided that it was better to abstain from making them than to fail miserably... this is a bad attitude I know, but at least I admit it.  They are however on the top of Christopher's list of favourite foods.  Last week I decided to try.  The worst thing that could happen would be that I failed.  I would not be the first person to fail at making cabbage rolls, nor would I be the last!

    Last week-end Rowan and I went to the Campbellford Farmer's Market.  I love Farmer's Markets.  There are the people standing there who have grown the food.  They are proud of the food that they have toiled to produce, you see the pride on their face, you see the pride in their very stance.  We strolled around the stalls looking at all of the goodness there was to offer.  In the end we saw this massive cabbage.  It was easily the size of a basketball!  Rowan wanted carrots, so I let him pick them out and we got some beautiful leeks.  I wanted to skip to the van, I was so excited about the beautiful produce (I know, it's the little things.  Just think how my family feels).

    When we got home I decided this cabbage, this glorious monster sized cabbage would be my muse.  I would make cabbage rolls.  How could I fail with this cabbage on steroids by my side?  I pulled out my big cookbook.  This cookbook is one of my favourites.  Quite some time ago my favourite cookbook company, Company's Coming briefly produced a cooking magazine.  It was a mixture of company recipes and tried and true recipes sent in by home readers.  It was amazing!  I'll be honest it was glossy and pretty, filled with amazing recipes, it was like food porn.  I literally shed a tear when they decided to stop producing that excellent magazine.  A year or so after the magazine stopped production they put out a hard covered cookbook that was a collection of all of the recipes from the magazine.  One section of the cookbook featured recipes from Kitchener's Octoberfest.  These recipes were submitted by the organizations that produce the massive quantities of German favourites for the masses.  It was there that I saw the recipe for cabbage rolls.

    The cookbook ladies suggested putting my cabbage in the freezer overnight to make the cabbage leaves more pliable.  These are the experts, I did what they suggested.  Into the freezer went the giant cabbage.  I should at this point share that because it was an organic cabbage I soaked it in warm salty water for an hour to make sure that if there were any bugs still in it, I killed them!
    The next day I went to visit a local chef to speak to him about his role in the upcoming Our Backyard From Farm to Feast that is happening in Tweed this September.  
I came home from that meeting so excited about food, so energized, I was ready to take on this cabbage roll challenge!
    While the cabbage defrosted, I diced about 8 tomatoes and 1 green pepper, and one large onion, salt and pepper.  I let them simmer until the tomato had broken down.  I then let it all cool.  When it had cooled I threw it into my food processor and put it on pulse until it had blended a little but was still a bit chunky.  This would be my tomato sauce for the cabbage rolls.  I suppose that you could do the same with canned tomatoes, or really you could use spaghetti sauce.

     I pulled the now frozen cabbage out of my freezer to defrost.  When the cabbage had defrosted I began to mix the meat mixture.  I mixed....

    One large family sized ground beef                                     One small package of ground pork
    Two cups of rice                                                                  1 large tbsp of horse radish
    1 tbsp onion salt                                                                   1 tsp garlic powder

    I then mixed them all together in a big bowl.  

    I took out my favourite big lasagna dish and ladled enough tomato sauce into the bottom of the dish to thinly cover the surface.  I then took out a cutting board to roll my cabbages.  I cut out the bottom of the now defrosted cabbage, and then peeled off a leaf.  I used my batter scoop to scoop about 1/4 of a cup of the meat into the middle of the cabbage leaf.  I rolled the cabbage the same as I would a wrap sandwich (meat in the middle of one end, slowly bringing the sides in and then simply rolling it).  As I finished each roll I would place it into my dish.  When they were all rolled I poured the rest of the tomato sauce over the top, and covered the dish with tinfoil.  I baked them for an hour in a 325 degrees oven.

    My cabbage rolls did not look pretty, but Christopher told me they were the best cabbage rolls he's ever tasted ... not bad for my first try.  I have to admit they tasted really good, although cooked cabbage does not smell so great.  It turns out that cabbage rolls were more intimidating than difficult.  Hmmm maybe I'll attempt croissants after all ... no not ready yet.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Room To Breath - My Bedroom Makeover Part 2

    I've waited so long for a beautiful room.  Growing up I shared a room with my sister and that room was never "mine", it was always "ours".  Then I went to university and had my own tiny dorm room, it was all mine.  It was all mine, but all I could do was add posters to the white painted cinderblock walls. When Christopher and I first got married I painted our room and added border, and I was in heaven, but we still had second hand furniture, and whatever bed covering we could salvage.  This year after a very long wait I finally have my dream room.  A place that makes me smile and envelopes me in a rush of tranquility.

   This was the year that I would have my the beautiful room of my dreams.  We are a one income family and so I knew that I would have to do this on a very tight budget, but I also knew I could do it.  I began by eagerly eating up Pinterest.  I pinned tons of pictures of rooms that I thought were beautiful.  Should it be ethereal, oh I would love an ethereal room (all white and flowy spa like).  I was sold on ethereal, until I looked at my white duvet that our dog Fergus was lying on... no white is not a good idea in this house.  Eventually I decided on a beach theme.  All of our best vacations have been at the ocean, and the ocean breaths life to my soul.  It was decided, beach theme.  It would not be cheesy beach themed, however.
    On our March Break vacation to Virginia Beach I picked up this shell bedspread, and giant pillows. That was the jumping off point to our room.  Every time I was anywhere near a store that sold paint I would grab up handfuls of paint chips.  I picked up blues and browns and coffee colours, and tans.  What should be the wall colours?  Eventually I took out my bedspread and placed the dozens upon dozens of chips on the bedspread.  That is how I decided on the colour scheme.  The room would be the lighter coffee colour.  That would be a bit boring though... What if I added a stripe?  Should it be vertical or horizontal?  The only for sure was that the stripe should be the blue of the bedspread.  After much self debate (I say self debate because Christopher was not in any way helpful in picking out colours or making decisions).  I decided on large vertical stripes.

    I would like to show you before and after pictures, but Christopher was just to quick!  I came home from shopping to find all the wall border off and the first coat of paint on the wall.  

    I gave the wall 24 hours to cure before I began taping.  To begin with I was going to use a plumb line to get my stripes even, but in the end I decided to use bristol board and measure out rulers.  I have fallen in love with the frog brand of masking tape.  It is amazing, not inexpensive, but worth every single penny.  It took me about four hours to tape out the walls.  If you are looking at the above picture and wondering why there are small bits of tape on some bits, it's because those were the stripes that were to remain coffee coloured.

    As Christopher rolled on the blue I began to get excited.  I could see the room beginning to materialize.  I was going to have my beautiful room!

    Our bedroom floor is plywood, yucky, dirty old plywood.  This had to be remedied.  There was no point fixing the room up, making it look nice, when the floor was plywood.  I am an asthmatic, so carpet was out of the question.  Hardwood was too expensive.  We investigated laminate flooring.  That was quite a shocker.  Our room is tiny, I mean tiny only 9 x 11.  For the very cheapest laminate flooring that we would install ourselves (did I mention that we are not handy) it was going to be a minimum of $300.00, ouch.  We felt like spending $300.00 was our only answer.  And then I saw the below video on Youtube.

    It was decided, we would paint the floor and make it look like faux hardwood floors.  I went to the hardware store and bought a Martha Stewart wood graining brush, some glaze and varathane.

    We began by vacuuming the plywood and washing it.  When it was dry Christopher painted two coats of light yellow on the floor.  At this point you may be wondering why I am always saying "Christopher painted".  The reason for this is not because I'm lazy (although I totally am), but rather because my husband LOVES painting.  He finds it really relaxing, and who am I to stop the man I love from doing the lion's share of the work  what gives him pleasure?  We used yellow paint because if you look at real wood, it has a yellow undertone. 

    I had planned to tape all of the lines so that they would be crisp, and plankish.  The fact is that I am super lazy and the first few bits went on really nicely and looked quite good.  I decided to forget about the extra work, I would just wood grain it without the tape.  Although I am really happy with the way the floors look, if I were doing it again, I would take the time and tape off the floor so that it would have crisp lines.

    I was surprised that all told it only took me an hour and a half to paint the whole floor.  The next day Christopher got up early and varathaned the floor.  If he put a coat on every two hours he would not have to sand it down in between coats.  He gave the floor three coats.  We let the floor cure 48 hours before we moved anything back in.

    We moved all of the old furniture back in.  Somehow the furniture that I had hated so desperately molded itself to the new room.  I dry brushed the old bookcase with antique white paint and it completely changed the look of it, making it look worn and beachy.  Not only did it completely change the look of the bookshelf, somehow as if by magic, it changed the look of the old dressers.   With each return of furniture I would sigh a sigh of contentment.  My room was looking so beautiful.

    Because the room is so small we knew that we did not want to sacrifice the new roomy feel of the room by putting in a clunky end table.  Christopher did need somewhere to put his things, and so the hunt was on.  I found the above little stool at this really neat little spot called "The Vintage Booth" here in Tweed.  It was the perfect size, and by adding a wooden tray to the top it was completely functional. 

    I found dark bamboo blinds on sale at Lowes for only $6.00.  I could not believe it.  I really wanted pure white gauzy curtains for the window.  I really wanted it to have a plantation style feel to it.  The closest I could find were the white gauzy curtain that had the blue circle pattern on them.  I was concerned that I had mixed too many patterns in such a small space (stripes, shells and now circles), but it actually blended in really nicely.

    One of my favourite things in the room is the picture over the bookshelf.  It is a picture from Christopher and my wedding renewal last year (yes I know I plan to share about that even though it was last year).  I had found this really great matted picture frame at Home Sense.  I discovered when I was putting the photo enlargement in it that it had a bit of a shadow box feel to it.  I put shells in front of the matting, shells from our renewal.  Every time I look at that picture it reminds me of that magical day, and just how much I love my husband.

    Now my room is an oasis.   I feel privileged to have a room so beautiful.  It has been a long wait for this space, but I think it means more to me because I had to wait so long.  When I go into my room I smile, every single time.  When I lay in bed, just before I turn out the light to sleep, I smile.  My new room makes me feel special.  That sounds stupid to say that a room could make me feel special, but it does.  I don't know how it happens, but that room improves my self worth, my self esteem.  For the first time in my life I truly feel that I deserve to have something nice.
    This bedroom makeover cost us well below $400.00 to create.  That includes the paint, the bedspread, the pillows, the picture frame, the curtains, I mean everything.  The price tag was inexpensive but the results, at least to us are priceless.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Room To Breath - My Bedroom Makeover

    Every night as I lay in my bed, actually as I walk through my bedroom door, I smile.  I smile and wonder how could "I" ever be so lucky as to get to sleep in a beautiful room like this.  I feel my heart rate slow, and my peace increase.  This is the tranquility that I have desired for so many years and yet have not had, truth be told did not feel that I deserved.
    I have always been of the foolish mentality that everyone and everything should always come ahead of me.  It is a ridiculous idea that many of us moms / women subscribe to.  It has always just seemed so selfish to put myself above anyone else (or even miles close to).  I should always be last on the list, and then resent it, or so I thought for all too many years.  I no longer subscribe to that foolish idea, well not as much.
    In the 12 years that we have owned this home, Christopher and my bedroom has been ever evolving.  When we bought this house and had only two children, the house had three bedrooms upstairs.  They were in bad shape, for that matter the whole house needed a lot of love.  There were two smaller bedrooms and one HUGE long room with an almost walk-in closet.  I had dreams of this room being so beautiful, eventually having a small living area, I could see it in my mind.  Our priorities were to fix up the two smaller rooms for Gabe and Grace.  We created a Harry Potter themed room for Gabe and a beautiful fairy room for baby Grace.  Our room would wait, because there were so many things that needed our attention in this poor run down house.  Then there was the bomb shell announcement that I was pregnant with twins.  Our huge bedroom soon had a wall up the middle, one side for us one side for the two new tiny babies.  We decorated the new nursery, and still our room waited. 
    We lost Gabe when the twins were 5 months old, and our hearts plunged into despair.   The very last thing on our minds was how our bedroom looked.  We had one less child, and a huge hole where our hearts once were.  We existed, we did the best that we could.  Riley and Rowan got bigger, too big for that tiny room, and so we moved again, this time downstairs to what had once been a storage space, then a room for our foster child, then a den.  Riley took the half of the big room that had then become two rooms.  Riley had a beautiful princess room and Rowan got a fun Spiderman room.  We got the t.v. room.  When Riley and Rowan were 3 we found out that I was pregnant with our miracle, Elly.  Elly bunked with Christopher and I in our tiny, tiny room (that was still decorated for a t.v. room).  Eventually our room became to small for the three of us.  We did the unthinkable and boxed up all of Gabes things.  His room had been sitting the way he left it.  It was agonizing, but our living child needed that space.  It took us forever to clean out Gabes room.  In the end Christopher was the hero and did what I could not fully bring myself to do.  We cleaned out Gabes room and painted it hot pink and lime green.  It was now a "big girl room".  Gracie moved across the hall to her big brother's room and Elly moved up to Grace's room.
    In the time that we have lived in this house we have decorated Gabe's room once, Grace's room twice, Rowan's room twice, and Riley's room twice, but never anything for us.  I dreamed of a beautiful room where we could relax, and unwind.  Everything always came before us, before me.  Finally this year I put my foot down, oh I was going to have my nice bedroom, a bedroom that was decorate for no one but Christopher and I.  I would have my tranquility!

Part two tomorrow

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Monarch Madness

Many cultures consider butterflies a metaphor for the soul's journey.
Butterflies have a short life span, most only living one to two weeks. 
 Monarchs have a longer life span, living around 6 months.  
They teach us to see the beauty in life, to remind us about just
how short life is, and to make the most of every moment, smelling the flowers.  
They remind us that like the caterpillar's metamorphosis from lowly
 caterpillar to beautiful butterfly, death is just another transformation.
The ancient Greeks, Romans and Mexican's believed that 
butterflies were the souls of those who have passed.

     Monarch's make an arduous journey from North America to Mexico every year.  They flitter their way over thousands of miles, all to reach home.  When they make it to Mexico they huddle together to conserve their strength and stay warm during the cold mountain nights.  Their arrival coincides with Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead.  In El Rosario, Mexico the people celebrate the arrival of the monarch's, believing them to be the returning souls of their loved ones.

    Last week-end we visited Monarch Madness at the Madoc Skate Park.  This was an event put on by Quinte Conservation http://quinteconservation.ca .  My kids and niece and nephew loved it.  We had not known that there would be a display of snakes and turtles.  The kids loved touching and holding the snakes.  After we had looked at the snakes we made our way over to the butterfly area.

    We spoke to this really lovely lady who told us about the Monarch butterflies.  There were tiny baby caterpillars, big fat caterpillars almost ready to make their silky home and monarch cocoons.  She talked about their life cycle and how the kids could help to save the Monarchs.

    Monarch butterflies are listed on Ontario's Endangered Species Act as "of special concern".  That means that they are a species at risk.  It is estimated that the species may have declined as much as 40% last winter.  Part of the suspicion for their declining numbers lies in Mexico's deforestation, and some on the over use of pesticides and natural habitat elimination.  Monarch's only lay their eggs on milkweed plants, and it is their young's primary source of food and protection.  The milkweed is a noxious weed and poisonous to birds and other predators.  By laying their eggs on the milkweed plants, the Monarch's protect their offspring.  The tiny newly hatched caterpillars eat the milkweed, and gain it's toxicity, protecting it from predators.  Part of the answer to the decline of the Monarch is to plant more butterfly gardens and include in those gardens milkweed plants.

  The Arts Centre in Madoc is planted with native plants that both beautify the area and provide food for bees and butterflies both.  Although we were there to see the butterflies, it was difficult to ignore the soft buzzing of the bumble bees seeking their food from the echinacea flowers heavily planted around the building.   I felt compelled to take some pictures of these fuzzy insects which help to sustain our echo system.  I felt like I really needed to add this information because I really wanted to share my amazing close ups with you, even though they do not directly relate to the subject of butterflies.

     This amazing day featured a display and education about animal species, specifically snakes and turtles.  It had a plethora of really educated and knowledgeable individuals who helped to inspire conservation, and that is what that day was all about.  It was about learning to love and protect our natural environment and to kindle a protective fire in our children.  The other part of the even was to share milkweed.  This was both beautiful and heartbreaking when I discovered the reason that the milkweed plants were given.

    Jamie Prud'homme was an 8 year old girl who went to Albert College School in Belleville.  She loved nature and she really loved butterflies, specifically monarchs.  In 2008 she passed away suddenly.  To remember their daughter and her beauty,  her parents Chris and Laurie Prud'homme began to make a difference.  Every year her parents bring something special to her school on her birthday, September 20.  They call it Jamie Day.  They have brought in theatrical productions, and educational resources. That school is enriched because of the love of their child.  On June 5, 2013 Albert College dedicated the "Jamie P. H. Memorial Garden".  This garden was supported by her parents and the school.  It is shaped like a butterfly and has flowers in Jamie's favourite colours of pink and purple.  It is a waystation for migrating monarch butterflies.  In fact it is the largest waystation in Quinte and is recognized by Monarch Watch monarchwatch.org.  Chris and Laurie also donated the milkweed plants that had been grown in a greenhouse to be distributed on the various Monarch Madness days that have occurred throughout our area.  What a stunning way to remember and share their love of their child.
    I understand Chris and Laurie's need to keep Jamie's memory alive and to enrich their world because of her.  Christopher and I do the same thing for our son Gabe. http://themiddleagedwomanwholivedinashoe.blogspot.ca/2014/01/gabes-spirit-of-kindness.html
To loose a child is every parents worst nightmare.  It creates a huge hole in your soul, and we found that by sharing Gabe with the community and all the things that made him so special, celebrating in others those shared beautiful traits, made our grief a little more bearable.

     We had a lovely afternoon in Madoc.  The sun was shining and was warm.  We were surrounded by our family and we learned new things. It was a great day.  Thank you Quinte Conservation, thank you Chris and Laurie Prud'homme for sharing Jamie's love with us.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Quinte Conservation, Nature Day

Warning; this blog contains many graphic images of children
 and adults holding snakes; 
Viewer discretion is advised
Ophidiophobics (people who don't like snakes) may not want to read this blog

"Please can I have a snake?  P - L - E - A - S- E!  I will take such good care of it."  This is pretty much the loop track that we have been hearing since last week-end.  Riley has fallen in love with snakes, corn  snakes to be exact.  Why this love affair with snakes?  We have Quinte Conservation to thank for that one.  http://quinteconservation.ca/site/

    I don't want to sound like a broken record or anything, but you may recall me sharing that this was the summer of "Free / Low Fee Fun" (a few hundred times or so).  I have made it my goal to fill my children's summer with really fun activities that will enrich their summer and just be good plain fun, but all of this without breaking, or for that matter even gently denting the bank.  Back at the beginning of summer Gracie read about "Monarch Madness".  This was an event sponsored by Quinte Conservation that allowed children to learn more about Monarch Butterflies and help with their preservation.  The event was "free".  Unfortunately it was on a day that we had other plans, so we were unable to go.  Then I was invited by a friend on facebook to attend Monarch Madness in Madoc.  I was all in.

    The bonus for the event was that my niece and nephew were down visiting my parents for the week, so that meant that they were able to come too.  It made it all the more fun for the kids to be able to share this activity together.  Everyone knows that cousins make the world a better place!

    When we arrived at the Madoc Skate Park, a talk about snakes was well under way.  We quietly found a seat and listened to what remained of the informative talk.  The two representatives from The Quinte Conservation were talking about what a bad idea it is to have a snake as a pet.  You should never take an animal from the wild to make it a pet!  Corn snakes were alright pets because they have bred for captivity.  They originally come from a temperate climate, as opposed to a tropical climate, so they do not require any special heating lamps or areas.  The whole idea was if you have done all your homework, and are prepared to properly look after it, then "corn snakes", and pretty much only "corn snakes" make great pets (I should qualify this statement when I say corn snakes only make good pets. This is in relation to wild snakes, and turtles and the like.  The wild should remain wild).

    After the talk the children (and adults) were invited to come up and touch or hold one of the corn snakes or the Burmese python (python's do not make good pets).  My guys were all a little tentative at first, not my dare devil nephew.  Nate waited patiently for his turn, but he was quite keen to hold a snake.  Riley, our next dare devil was next.  This was how she fell in love.

    We had an amazing afternoon.  I have to admit I was a little taken with the snakes myself, brave me, even held one.  I didn't hold it long because although the nice young man said they didn't bite, I was a little uncomfortable when he started sniffing at me with his tongue (just to clarify it was the snake who was sniffing me, not the helpful young man).

    This was a really nice opportunity that was provided for us by a great group, Quinte Conservation.  The people they had there were friendly and outgoing and knowledgeable.  They have that rare gift that is so important when working most especially with children, they were passionate, and excited and therefore passed that excitement along.  By exciting and interesting children at a young age, they can capture them before the rest of the world does.  By creating nature lovers they help to mold people who respect nature and want to preserve it.  To me anyone who could hurt an animal, would easily think nothing of doing the same to a person.  People who respect and help animals carry that same respect to their fellow humans.  By introducing the children to snakes, one of the most reviled creatures, they dispel misinformation.  We fear what we do not know, and knowledge is the ultimate power.  Snakes are not slimy, they are not aggressive by nature unless provoked (and honestly who would not defend themselves if they felt that they were in danger).  The snakes felt like silk, they move in an almost hypnotic way, they are really quite lovely.

    There were a few different types of snakes and turtles and a toad on display in aquariums.  The people there were extremely knowledgeable and helpful.  The kids all left with big smiles on their faces, feeling more informed about the wildlife that they had seen.

    What a lovely day we had in the glorious warm weather.  See, fun does not have to cost a lot of money, it just takes thought!

Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest, the Monarch Madness portion.