Sunday, 1 November 2015

Saying "No" to Super Mom

    So I am sure that you have noticed that my blog has been sporadic at best.  My life has been crazy, so crazy that there is very little time for the things that I love, with the exception of the kids that is.  I'm not sure where all of the time goes, but it just seems to slip away between my fingers.
    This September Grace, our oldest daughter began high school.  I was sad that little blonde girl who it seemed had just started junior kindergarten was now a minor niner.  The school she is in is fantastic, it gives her so many opportunities, opportunities that I would have died for at her age.  It is not a high school however that has a direct bus route, because it is a specialty program that is not in the high school that children from our area are supposed to be in.  We knew at the time that this was the case, and this was an opportunity that Christopher and I were willing to sacrifice for.  We would drive her the 45 minutes one way in the morning and return for her in the afternoon.  We were lucky that a bus could pick her up 15 minutes away.  That being said, it is still a lot of extra gas, and a lot of time for me in the car. 
    I have always considered motherhood a calling.  For me it was very important to be the very best at it that I could be.  I do the extra things that give my children opportunities that I did not have.  I do the extra things that make their childhood the best that I can give them.  This is the way I feel.  To some this may seem admirable, but insane, and I can't argue with you on that.  Some of you may be reacting with disgust that I am only trying to make the rest of the other mothers feel inferior.  The thing is that my life motto is "Go big or Go home".  I am not a half in type of person.  I throw myself into things that I feel passionately about, and I feel passionately about being a mother.  I will not pretend that I have not had some pretty epic failures in motherhood, and I will not lie to you and pretend that there are some things that I would give almost anything for a do over on.  I love being a mother, and could not have asked for a more rewarding or difficult career.
    To me it is important to give the kids opportunities to grow and learn.  The problem with that is that there are four kids, each with extra curricular activities that they love and / or are desperate to try.  Riley really wanted to try acro dance, loves her jazz band and her guitar lessons, so they were also important.  Rowan loves jazz band and really wanted to try hockey this year... that's not too much to ask.  Elly really enjoyed her figure skating last year, and this year she was desperate to try gymnastics.  Grace is passionate about her piano lessons and part of her vocal music program has a requirement that she also take part in the school choir.  Our week is insane.  Add into all the extra curricular,  driving Grace back and forth to her bus stop, and the few times she has missed her bus and I have had to drive the 45 minutes to pick her up at school, or drive her there in the morning.  Her school day begins at 8:03 am, she catches her bus at 7:18 am, that means that she should be up and getting ready at 5:00 am, and that means that Christopher or I are up with her in the mornings.
    The busy schedule of the kids does not leave very much time for Christopher and I.  To be honest, I'm not sure how parents who both have jobs manage.  We have one person working and there are times that I feel like I am drowning with the amount of extra work this year has brought.  Because the week is so full, I try not to schedule anything for the week-ends because if I didn't I know that I would burn out. 
    This week I had a breakthrough of sorts, a reality check that may have saved my sanity or what is left of it.  You may recall my saying that I am a "Go big or Go home" person.  This is especially true for holidays.  For Halloween I usually sew the kids costumes, decorate the house inside and make elaborate cakes for the kids classes.  On top of all of that Christopher and I have prided ourselves on having the spookiest house in the village.  We put hours into decorating the yard.  This Halloween I had the insanity of our new reality and add to that Grace's play which saw us driving her around a lot.  Friday morning I was having a bit of a panic attack.  I had committed to going into the school and doing lice checks (don't even ask) for the morning.  I had also promised the kids that I would bake and decorate cup cakes for their class, this included driving some to Belleville for Grace.  I still also had to finish making all three costumes, and decorate the yard.  Most sane people would just decide that it wasn't worth having a nervous break down to do all of that.  The thing is I didn't want to let the kids down.  I had always done all of those things for the kids.  Again, I know that that this next statement will have most of you shaking your head at my stupidity, and that's ok.  I could feel a panic attack coming on.  There was to much that I needed to do.  It was then it hit me I didn't really "need" to do any of it.  The world would not end if the kids for one holiday did not take a home made treat for their class.  There would be no apocalypse if the yard was not decorated or wasn't the scariest  house around.  It was that sane group of thoughts that allowed me take a deep breath for the first time since school started.  No one has ever died of disappointment.  When I took a step back from the self made insanity, I could see that the kids would be disappointed that everything they had come to expect would not happen, but they would be more traumatized if their mom had a nervous breakdown.
    It seems so funny to say that that reality check gave me peace.  It put life into perspective.  Being the best mother that I can be does not mean that I have to give it all away.  Sometimes it's alright to give myself permission to not have to live up to the unrealistic expectations that I have set for myself.  Not doing "it all" does not make me a failure as a mom, it makes me smart.  So I went into the school and did head lice checks ... yuck, I then drove into Belleville bought cupcakes and delivered some to Grace, and then brought some to the other kids.  I finished the kids costumes and let Christopher and the kids decorate the house.  Funny thing, the world did not end.  

Monday, 26 October 2015

I'll Fly Away

         The small renovated church sits quietly, waiting to fill with tears and laughter.  The lights are dim, but bright enough to see.  The burgundy velvet seats harken back to a time when communities gathered together to share in talent and togetherness.  Their elegant design along the sides of the seats, and their wooden backs echo through time to the decades when design was more important than just cost.  The Marble Arts is about to brim over with talent.
    I feel like sometimes I sound like a broken record, but sometimes records break at a great part of the song, today's kids would say that their ipod's stuck on replay.  I have chosen to live in a beautiful part of rural Ontario.  The village I live in is surrounded buy rolling aces of farmland.  The people in my community are good, hardworking people.  I love my little piece of the universe.  I exchanged the hustle and bustle of city life.  Part of that exchange was with the knowledge that I could / would  return to the closest city for material goods, and I could make the trip to Toronto for culture.  As it happens the last part of my self made compromise was unnecessary.   The city came to me, in a sense.  We have Tweed native, Tim Porter.

    Tim Porter has brought an amazing original Canadian production to Tweed.  I'll Fly Away was written by Tricia Black, Joel MacMeeken and Tim Porter.  It takes place in a time that seems so foreign to us now, a time when radio ruled and television was just in it's inception.  The story tells the last days of The Barn Door Country Classic Jamboree, but more it shows the dynamics of the three recently parentless Dawson sisters and their family dynamics.  There is that too familiar static of sibling rivalry, the fight for top dog.  There is that heavy burden of continuing the family legacy.
Riley's dance school got to perform
in the play too.  Doing a little
Hoe Down.
    I have now seen the show three times and could easily see it again.  It was excellent. Tim put together this amazingly talented cast of professional actors (and a few really talented young locals).  The three female leads Sara Wilkinson, Sarah Strange and Sarah Higgins had the most stunningly beautiful voices, and the harmonies sent shivers.  Joel MacMeekin stole the show with his character Maverick and his impeccable comic timing.  I will admit I have a very LARGE soft spot for the Lovely Little Lady Lullabies / The Privit sisters because my Grace played Daisy.

Grace and Tim
     Five years ago a young almost fresh out of college Tim Porter began to teach acting classes at the newly renovated Marble Arts Church.  At that time my Grace was painfully shy.  She could not bring herself to even speak to her teacher at school.  We knew that little shy girl had a big voice, and was an extravert cruelly trapped in the body of an introvert.  We really pushed an extremely scared and reluctant Grace to take Tim's class.  It was the best thing that we ever did for her, and the beginning of her big voice being shared.
    It seems crazy that five years have flown by so quickly and that young actor teaching classes would go on to create his own theatre group first named The Iana Theatre, and now Tweed and Company to better reflect it's and his beginnings.  Tim has gone on to tour the country professionally.  Our painfully shy girl, is still very, very shy, but is now able to belt out her big voice for hundreds of people without batting an eyelash.  She is now a vocal music major at a local high school for the arts.  It was so amazing to me as a parent to see her come full circle and have Tim, not just as a teacher but now as her director in a professional play.  To say that I am proud of Tim and his amazing accomplishments would be an understatement.  To say that I am proud of my Grace would be the understatement of the century!
Grace and Joel

Grace and Abby
     Last night was closing night for I'll Fly Away at the Marble Arts Church.  It ran four amazing evenings.  Those days will be forever a beautiful memory for Grace, and for me.  The cast was so beautiful, like a family to all of the three young girls in the cast.  They were everything that cast should be, kind and supportive.  This morning the first words from a very tired girl's mouth was "I'm really going to miss doing that show.  I'm sorry it's over." 

Grace and Katie

Grace and Sara

Grace and Collin
     So now the show is over, our evenings are once again our own, well as close to "our own" as we will get with four kids with busy extra curricular activities.  Part of me is glad for the return to normalcy, but a big part of me is sad the show is over.  I loved going to the show and marveling that this young local boy, is so talented.  I loved sitting in the audience and becoming lost in the excellent story every single time I went to see the show.  I loved looking around the audience to see if anyone saw me crying.  I will miss seeing my little shy girl's big smile up on that stage and seeing that joy oozing out of her.  I will miss the hauntingly beauty beautiful songs those three AMAZING Sarah's shared every night.  I will miss seeing Joel up on that stage like a deer caught in the headlights.  I will miss Collin's spitting out his drink and his "Just Wait a Tick".  I will miss Katie's crazy stage momma.  I will miss it all.  It was the best play that Tim has done to date, and I have seen most of them.
Grace and Sarah Higgins

Grace having fun with Sarah Strange

    If there are any big time fancy smancy producers reading this, please give Tim a call.  This is a wonderful production, that deserves to grace the stage again and again.  This is a play beautifully written that honestly in my opinion deserves to win an award for writing.  It was so very good, and I really hope to see it again.

The Whole Cast

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Max's Big Ride is Welcomed into Tweed

    Wednesday, June 24, 2015 what a crazy busy day!  This was the day my baby girl (OK she's not really 'the baby', but she is my oldest little girl, and will always be my little baby) graduated from public school.  It was an event that had been very stressful in all of it's preparations, as any of you with 14 year old girls graduating already know.  Everything had to be perfect.  This also happened to be the day that Max and Andrew officially arrived into Tweed.
    The night before we had hosted Andrew, Kerri, Jean, Peter of course the adorable little man of hour Max.  They were the loveliest people.  I had been a little nervous about their visit.  What if they hated us, what if we hated them?  I had nothing to fear, because at least on the surface they were a family very much like our own, well with the exception of being physically fit and active.  They were just so lovely.  Near the end of the evening, Jean pulled me aside and asked me to come to their car, there was something that she needed my assistance with.  In the trunk of the car was a box full of "Max's Big Ride" shirts.  They were just beautiful.  Keri had designed the shirts and originally she screen printed them all... WOW.  They had a shirt for each of us as a gift.  I was so take aback, but so grateful.
    Wednesday all of the kids proudly wore their brand new "Max's Big Ride" T-shirts to school.  They were so proud of them, and knew that their classmates would be jealous.  Leading up to Max's big ride, both Riley and Rowan's amazing teachers (Mrs. Cassidy and Mrs. Adams) had talked about Max's Big Ride.  They had watched videos together on the smartboard.  Both classes had made colourful posters to be put up (by Christopher) along the Trans Canada Trail to encourage Max and Andrew and to give them a hug from the children of Tweed.  The twins had come home excitedly the day that they made their posters.  Rowan's class was collecting quarters for Max to buy ice-cream,  he was such a proud boy.  Christopher had gone that morning when he dropped the kids at school and collected the colourful posters and put them along the trail leading into Tweed.
    You may be wondering why Wednesday was Max's big welcome to Tweed, when Tuesday night we had hosted them for dinner and we live in Tweed.  Tuesday was their trip from Perth, Ontario to Arden, Ontario.  Arden is beautiful, and wild, but not terribly populated, so their plan was to drive into the thriving metropolis of Tweed (she says tongue in cheek) and stay at Trudeau Park for the night which had been generously donated to them for two nights by Casey Trudeau.  So although they arrived in Tweed Tuesday night, they did not officially arrive in Tweed until Wednesday afternoon.  I had suggested to Andrew that he  could easily just sit back Wednesday and relax, no one really knew that he had or had not ridden the trail from Arden to Tweed.  His response was one that you would expect from a man of substance "I would know and Max would know".
    Christopher had been working his butt off for weeks trying to bring attention to Andrew and Max.  He had been in nearly daily conversations with locals wanting to know what they could do to help, and what time Max would arrive into Tweed.  He had travelled the trail to put up the signs, he had spread the word, there was nothing left for him to do but just wait and see the culmination of his efforts.
    In the afternoon of Wednesday I picked Grace up early from school so that we could get her ready for her graduation.  Shortly after beginning work on beautifying my already beautiful daughter I had to stop and get the rest of the kids, and a bunch of their friends.  All of the kids wanted to go down to the park and see Max (forget about his exhausted Dad, Max was adorable and the star of the show). Grace pleaded that she wanted to go to, but really there was just not enough time for her to get ready, and see Max.  While I was waiting for the kids in the school office, one of Riley's friends, Jenna called me over "Mrs. Lindsay,  Mrs. Lindsay, please don't forget to take this jar."  There on the desk of the school office was a jar that had been painstakingly decorated by Jenna.  It had brightly coloured wording that said "Donations for Max's Big Ride" she had also done her research about the terrible disease that Max and Andrew were riding to obliterate, and had included information about Duchennes, and also the Max's Big Ride website  Inside the clear glass jar was change, loonies, toonies, quarters.  I could feel my throat close up a little, the tears try to break through.  People complain about this generation, but this generation, the generation that includes my children and their friends, they are a generation to be proud of.  This is a group of children who are being fostered by the people around them to be good, caring, kind people.  This generation is pretty awesome!
    With my last child loaded into the already filled to bursting minivan I headed down to the Memorial Park so that the kids could see Max.  Riley and her friend Amelia had made a beautiful banner with brightly coloured letters to welcome Max.  The two girls were so excited to share their hard I work.  Christopher had ridden the trail an hour or so ahead so that he could meet the biking team and welcome them (honestly I think the just wanted to see their reaction to the kid's signs).  As I drove into the park, I was awestruck.  There waiting excitedly for the guests of honour were countless people.  The entire school population of St. Carthagh's Separate School were down at the park, oozing excitement.  Behind the kids was one of our towns big red firetrucks, fireman at the ready with siren.  The kids in front of the truck had a huge banner to welcome Max and Andrew.  Several of the town councilors, including our mayor were there, patiently waiting.  Many of the local service clubs, if not all were down there, some with donations in hand.  Many parents had done the same as us and pulled their children from school so that they could be a part of the welcome party.  As I sat there in stunned silence, Riley put her little face into the window,  breaking the spell "Hey Mom, there's Max's Mom and Grandma,  they are really crying Mom." No sooner had she said that when down the sidewalk glided Andrew with Max in his carrier.  Andrew's face wore a look of overwhelmed gratitude.  Shortly after Christopher and Andrew's Dad Peter arrived.  Peter's face very much resembled the look of his son.  When Christopher parked, I left the kids with him to go back to Grace  I was so glad that I could have witnessed this.
    The kids and Christopher arrived home that afternoon, aglow with excitement and pride.  Rowan was most proud of that fact that when he looked into Max's carrier, he Max holding the Transformer toy that he had given him only the night before.  Christopher said that Andrew had pulled Max out of the carrier and had taken his picture in front of every single poster.  Peter was visibly touched.  Such a small gesture had meant so much.
    600 Kms of road, most unpaved and some unfit to drive and Max and his family are now home in Hamilton.  I have to imagine that Andrew may still very well be icing his feet and legs, and possibly bum depending on how good his bike seat was.  They left Ottawa on Father's Day and they traveled traveled approximately 50 km a day for 11 days.  They fought the elements, flooded paths, deer flies and I'm going to guess exhaustion.  They ended their ride on Canada Day in their home of Hamilton. That amazing group of dedicated, loving family members have raised over 50 thousand dollars for muscular dystrophy research.  That is love.  That is a group of superheros cleverly disguised as mere mortals.  I am so proud to say that I met them.

    You can still buy the gorgeous Max's Big Ride T-shirts for only $25 for adults and $20 for youth and children's sizes.  You get a stunning T, and at the same time you get to kick the butt of Duchenne Muscular dystrophy.

    You can also make a donation or find out more information at 

Friday, 3 July 2015

Max's Big Ride to Tweed

    A while back Christopher's cousin Ted emailed him to let him know that a man named Andrew and his son Max were going to be coming through Tweed on their bike ride from Ottawa to Hamilton on the Trans Canada Trail.  You may remember my shout out to Ted and his wife Heather....
Ted and Heather have organised "Eric's Amazing Race" for a number of years now.  Eric is Heather's nephew and he suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  They both tirelessly support Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research.  I'm not so certain that the two of them will not fund a cure for this horrible disease that steals from little boys.

    Christopher began by looking at Andrew's website .  I think that there was something that he connected to.  I personally cannot imagine the challenge that they go through.  I too would want to fight for all I'm worth to find a cure, and yet I so admire their courage.   Although we cannot relate to our child having a debilitating disease, we can relate to the struggle of having an ill/ injured child.  Once upon a time we had a strong boy who was big for his age, rarely sick.  It all changed on a dark country road.  That once strong boy who had in his 9 years had one antibiotic was soon fighting for his life.  It was Christopher who sat vigil beside Gabe's bed in the ICU.  It was him who thought the worst, but prayed for the best.  I think that if  he could have he would have given Gabe any strength he could, instead all he could do is hold that not so little hand that was not hooked up to wires and tubes.  I think that when Christopher read about Andrew and his family's fight to save Max, there was a fatherly connection, a feeling of sameness.  I think that it is most men's belief that it is their job to protect their families and when they cannot protect them them they feel powerless.  I think that it was Andrew's drive to do "something" for his little boy that touched Christopher.

    Christopher soon rolled up his sleeves and began to dig in.  He got in touch with our mayor, the local service clubs, the local schools.  I am really proud to say that Tweed came to the plate, like I knew they would.  I have long bragged about this beautiful little piece of paradise that I live in, but once again my community has risen to my bragging!  Christopher began posting almost daily updates about Max's Big Ride.  Soon people from the community began to ask how they could get involved.  Our mayor was Jo- Anne Albert was AMAZING, as was our Community Development Officer Rachelle Hardesty.  Soon Vito's our local pizza place donated dinner to Andrew and his family.  Tweed Elementary School in combination with our local Kiwanis club held a barbecue to raise money for Duchenne research.  St. Carthagh's School made plans to be at the park to greet Max.  It was amazing!  Christopher became a man obsessed.  He called this "A big Hug for Max from Tweed".  
    Early on in all of this I suggested to Christopher that he should invite Andrew and his family for dinner at our house.  They would be so full of fast food and food on the run that they might welcome a more relaxed environment.  Let me begin by saying that this is completely outside of my comfort zone.  I am not in the habit of inviting strangers into my home, I have NEVER done this!  It just seemed like the right thing to do, it wasn't until I was frantically cleaning that it occurred to me that I have invited perfect strangers to my home. The day of Max's big ride had finally arrived.  I had made salads and hamburger patties ahead, everything was ready.  Unfortunately Tuesday was a nightmarish ride for Max and Andrew.  They had run into flooded trails, and many set backs. They had texted Christopher from the trail to say that they would be late.  Christopher told them we understood if they were exhausted and would like to bow out of dinner, but that we could easily wait dinner for them.
   At 7:00 pm four exhausted looking adults and one adorable little blond boy arrived at our house.  In the beginning it was a little awkward, but I was glad of it.  It was apparent that we were not accustomed to inviting strangers into our home, and they were not accustomed to accepting offers for dinner from strangers.  It was that that made me much more comfortable.  These were really, really nice and interesting people.  We fell instantly in love Max.  As is usually the case, the kids broke the ice.  Rowan brought down his huge overflowing container of superheros and instantly Max was at ease, which then allowed the rest of us to become a little more at ease (or at least as at ease as strangers meeting for the first time could be).
    In the end I was so glad that we had invited these amazing human beings into our home, and into our lives.  They were the loveliest people.  Andrew and Max receive all of the attention, but the unsung heroes are Kerri (Andrew's wife), and Andrew's parents Jean and Peter.  Kerri, Jean and Peter are the ones who get the food, and set it up.  They are the ones who co-ordinated, who worried, who were the support team in every sense of the word.  If it looked like Andrew  needed some moral support, Peter would hop on a bike and ride alongside, playing the role of Grandpa extra-ordinary.
   When our guests who had entered our home strangers and left as friends where on their way.  We all had this wonderful feeling of lightness.  We had offered a very simple gesture, it really was nothing really.  They were so appreciative, that I was almost embarrassed because of how little we did.  I was also really proud of my children.  The girls helped out tremendously bringing out food, and getting drinks, cleaning up.  I was so proud of them.  Rowan was my hero that night.  Rowan who is mild mannered and does not like the spotlight shared his toys, and his heart.  He got right down on Max's level and became a little boy's idol if only for a few hours.  When it was time for them to leave Rowan gave Max one of the toys that Max's had fallen in love with.  Rowan does not give things away, this was amazing.
    Our gesture was so small.  It was small and yet at the same it was huge.  It was huge because we were teaching our children by example.  By opening our home we were showing our children how easy it was it is to make a difference in the lives of others.  They also saw the rewards for such a small gesture of kindness.  It was a privilege to be apart of history, in our small, small way.  It was an honour to lighten their heavy, heavy load if only for a tiny bit of time.

More to come on Max's big ride.......

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Father's Day for the Newly Fatherless

    Today is Father's Day.  I am very blessed to have my father .  I feel very blessed because sadly there are many people that I personally know people who are spending this father's day without their father's for the first time.  I can only imagine the pain that they are in today.  I know grief, but all grief is not the same.  I know the grief of losing a child, I do not know the pain of feeling orphaned. I say that I can only imagine, because unlike so many who feel that because they have lost a pet or a job, they know the same pain.
    I hate that I am entering that horrible age where my friends are all beginning to loose their parents.  I need to remind myself almost daily how truly blessed I am to still have both of my parents.  As a child I thought that when I hit my adult years I would not need my parents, how sadly I was mistaken.  I'm not sure if there is ever a time that you don't feel like you need your parents.
    Life is a gift.  It is a gift that should not be squandered or taken for granted.  I know that life is so very fragile.  I will not pretend that there are times that life gets crazy and stress overwhelms me and I forget to be as grateful as I should be.  Sometimes I need to take a step back and remember that this life I lead is blessed.  I need to remember to treasure the small moments, and take a deep breaths and let trouble roll over me
    To you who are celebrating Father's Day, hug your Daddy just a little bit tighter.  Remember to tell him what he means to you and how much you love him.  To those of you this Father's Day who the raw grief is rolling over, please know that I have no words of comfort, only my thoughts.  Please know that my heart is with you.  Please know that I do not know your pain, but I hope that it becomes more bearable and that you can today and every day remember your father with love.

Happy Father's Day

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Teacher's Gifts aka No Mugs or Candles Please

    I can't believe it but we are just weeks away from summer holidays.  The year has just whizzed by. We were very lucky this year that all four kids had AMAZING teachers.  I'm not sure if it's because I'm getting older, but time seems to be flowing too rapidly.  When I say time, I don't just mean the school year, but time in general.  I'm just not sure how it goes by so quickly.  It seems like just yesterday I was bawling my eyes out as I walked out the front doors of the school, leaving my little blond haired Pretty Princess in the company of strangers.  That same not so blond Pretty Princess is about to graduate from elementary school.
   Like most of you during my pregnancy I took my prenatal vitamins.  I abstained from drinking alcohol.  I sang to those babies before they were even born, having conversations with them calling them by their name and telling them how much I loved them.  After they were born I agonised about the amount of wet diapers, and whether I had enough breast milk to feed their needs.  I watched for each milestone, and worried if some were not met when the books all said they should. I have made almost every step in motherhood thinking about each child's health and mental well being... and then I hand them over to a complete stranger.  A stranger who will spend more time with my beloved child than I will for the next eight months.  Throw into the mix 20 - 22 strange children some of them with issues, some that bite.  I'm pretty sure that beginning school was more difficult for me than it was for my kids.
    To teach is a calling.  It takes a special person to decide to essentially live with someone else's children, and teach and mold them.  I know that I could not be a teacher (I would need a really good lawyer if I ever did).  It takes a very patient and kind sort of person to take on this big roll.  These are the days of integrated classrooms, that means that every child is included, even the children who are disruptive and need more time than the teacher has time to give to one child.  The teachers need to teach the entire class, while putting out fires (metaphorically, although....) started by the children with behaviour issues.  I have the utmost respect for the teaching profession, I honestly don't know how they do it.
    This is the time of year that we as parents begin the search for the end of year teacher's gift.  It is a way to say thank you for not breaking my child.  Thank you for helping my beloved child grow and become more mature.  Thank you for keeping my trust that you will not emotionally damage my child.  A good teacher encourages their students, not just in that grade, but in grades to come.  They are the one who help our children decide if they like school, a place that they must spend every week day in for 14 years of their lives.  I personally think that it's important to say thank you to those good teachers, to show your gratitude.
    The question is what should I get for my child(ren)'s teacher?  I struggle with this, having four main teachers and who knows how many gym, drama, french, (you get it there's lots) teachers gifts also.  The struggle for me is to find something that says "thank you", but does not break the bank.  To help you (and lets me honest me) I have reached out to four teachers that I know.  Two of the teachers are relatives, and two are really amazing teachers at my children's school.  I asked them what were the best gifts they have received as teachers, and what are the worst.
    One of the teachers I asked began by saying that she actually felt uncomfortable about receiving gifts from her students (oh who are we kidding it's from their parents).  She didn't feel like she should be rewarded for doing her job.  A few of the teachers felt uncomfortable about the gift thing, mainly because it can cause some children to feel less than if they don't bring a gift, or if they don't think that their gift is good enough.  Some children have brought in gifts that are really expensive and then there is the whole moral dilemma about whether they should accept it.
    What you may not know about teachers is that they receive A LOT of mugs.  While for a first year teacher, these mugs are touching and probably very welcome (since they are probably still paying off their student loans and may have to use said mugs as both mugs and bowls).  These first mugs have sentimentality, they are very special, marking a milestone.  After the first year they are just mugs, things that just take up space.  Remember that these teachers are kind people, otherwise they would never have gotten into the profession.  Most of them feel guilty for not using every mug.  They have overflowing cupboards full of mugs from loving and well meaning parents.  Think about your own cupboards.  Do you have several mismatched mugs?  Would you like several mismatched mugs?  Unless it is a magic mug that grants wishes, step away from the shelf full of mugs.
    Teachers also receive a lot of chocolates and candles.  While there is nothing wrong with giving chocolates in general, some chocolates are better left of the shelf.  One of my relative teachers told me that she sometimes receives chocolate that is powdery white (because it's old) or is more like wax that has been painted brown.  Here is my own personal take on the chocolate / candle thing... if it's not a gift that you would like to receive (meaning chocolate that you would like to eat) don't give it.
    Traditionally I try to make something for our teachers and get the kids involved in it.  I'm not sure if they like these or not (they will of course all say that they LOVE them, but I'm not sure if they're being honest).

 I try to do something hand made, because it takes more time than just running out the store and buying just anything, it also often saves money, and with this many kids saving money is important.  Most importantly it shows them (both the teacher and my children) that I have given my time and thought into their gift, just like they have given their time and thoughts into my child.

    The majority of the teachers that I know are kind people with a beautiful spirit (this sentiment does not include my grade 3 or 5 teachers, one was evil and one just didn't seem to care, at least about me).  They are the warm and fuzzy people who love our children.  They are the people that lay awake at night not just worrying about their own children, but also about your children.  All of the beautiful teachers that I consulted on this subject really just appreciated being appreciated.  One of them said that one of the loveliest things that she received was a thank you card from a parent
    So this year if you have not already purchased a teacher's gift, stop and give it a little bit of thought.  You know that "do unto others as you would have them do unto you"?  I think that also applies to "give unto others what you would like them to give unto you".  If you would love to receive dollar store mugs, or chocolate that looks like wax that has been painted brown, then go ahead and give that as a gift.  I'm guessing that none of us would like to receive those things.  Here's what you may not realise, in giving a thoughtless gift just to give a gift, you are doing the exact opposite of what you set out to do.  It's really quite insulting to receive a half eaten box of chocolates, or something you found around the house.  Gratitude does not have to be expensive.  Spend five minutes and write out a nice card to thank them for what they have done for your child, or better yet, have your child make them a card and tell them to share their favourite memory from that school year.  I truly think that we need to teach our children gratitude, and this is an excellent way to do it.
    If you have the time and the extra money, make buying a teacher's gift fun (ok, maybe it's not fun, but less like cutting yourself and then someone walking over and rubbing it with salt and Draino).  Take your child with you and allow them to help pick out a gift.  Stay away from too personal items (although let's be honest the too personal ones that your child picks out are hilarious, especially if you attach a little note telling the teacher that your child picked this out especially for them).  Although you may think that the "Best Teacher Ever" underpants are the cat's meow, chances are your child's teacher will feel uncomfortable about them.  If you know something about teacher, then go with that and tailor a gift.  Maybe that teacher is crazy for the Beatles and has shared this with the class on numerous occasions, why not go with something in that theme?  Several teachers have told me how much they have appreciated thoughtful gifts.  One of the teachers told me how much she appreciated a gift basket from a family that included summer activities that she could do with her own children, the tag said something like "Thank you for spending so much time with my child, I hope that these items will help you have fun with your own children this summer."  She found really touching gift.  Another received a Summer Fun bag filled with magazines, and sunscreen and things to help her enjoy her summer.  If time is an issue, you can never go wrong with gift cards, I am told that a Tim's card is a favourite (although I'm sure most would really appreciate an LCBO card in light of the students some of them have had this year).  In the end, give something that we would all like to receive, gratitude.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

What is a Yurt / Glamping at the Bruce

    "What is a Yurt?"  This is a question I get almost every time I talk about our family's camping vacations.  The simple answer... It's a little bit of paradise.  It's what makes me not want to "accidently" run my husband over with our van while trying to put up a tent.  It's the only way that I will go camping!

    So what is a yurt?  It's like a tent, but much more solid and better able to withstand the elements.  Many of the provincial parks and National Parks now have them as a camping option.  The design for these structures is based on the structures used by the ancient nomadic peoples of Mongolia.  It is often round in shape and has poles holding it up.  In ancient times they used animal skins for the outside, but now most are made of a plasticy canvas.  In the provincial parks and now at the Bruce National Park we have been very impressed with yurts.  They come furnished.  Some have electricity, some have wood stoves.  You arrive with your supplies like you would if you were renting a cottage.

    I have often heard the word "Glamping" to refer to staying in a yurt.  Now that we have stayed at the Bruce National Park, I get it.  It's the best of both worlds.  You are out in nature, but do not wake up shaped like the letter S.  I also find that I like my family more in a yurt.

    Here is what makes the Bruce yurts superior to any other yurt that we have stayed in ....
If you look closely at the picture above, you will see a screen door.  The yurt had two doors, front and back.  They had opening windows for ventilation, as well as a screen door.  There were also blinds on all of the windows.

    Our yurt came with a bunk bed, that had a twin on the top, and a double on the bottom, with a wipe-able mattress.  It also came with a murphy bed.  There was composite Muskoka Chairs and a table.    

    The floor was not the plywood we have come to expect, but rather a laminate.  It came with cupboards and a broom.  

    In the roof was a skylight that had a pole that you could crank to open it for ventilation.  I woke to see clouds, really nice.

    There was also a wood stove to keep the chill at bay.  I am pretty sure that who ever designed this set up was a genius!  Did I mention that they included two lanterns?

    Just steps away from the yurt was a comfort station.  There were flush toilets!  I didn't have to go to the bathroom in a stinky outhouse, life was good!  There was a locked area to recharge cell phones and ipods (the kids LOVED this), but the best were the showers!  It felt very exclusive because you had to have a special key to open them!  Only the Yurt people were allowed to be clean!  Honestly it was heaven.  You need to remember that growing up my parents called me "Princess", and not in the loving way that I call my girls.  When I grew up I wanted to be a "YUPPY".  Oh, I appreciated being able to be clean at night.

        At the comfort station there was a set of double sinks.  These are perfect for washing dishes.  Oh those geniuses thought of everything!!!

    The yurts are in a different part of the park than the rest of the camping.  This meant that at least when we were there, there was not a high volume of traffic.  It was gloriously quiet, almost as if we had the place to ourselves.  In the centre of the yurt area there was a covered picnic area.  This would be perfect for groups of people.

    One of the things that I really appreciated about The Bruce, was that there was a parking area for cars, and no cars went beside the yurt.  On paper this seems inconvenient, but the reality is much different.  All of the yurts were very close to the comfort station and parking area.  Each Yurt had it's own wagon to carry supplies from your car to your yurt.  Here's what I loved about this... my kids could explore the area, have fun, be kids, and I didn't have to worry about them being hit by a car (eaten by a bear maybe, but not hit by a car).  I thought back to a few years ago when we had teeny weenies, and what a God sent that would be for families with toddlers to not live in terror of the cars.

    It was absolutely beautiful at Bruce Peninsula.  Our yurt looked out onto Cyrus Lake.  The kids loved venturing down to the water.  It was a very gradual deepness to the water, so they could wade out and have fun, but be safe.  We were also surrounded by trees, so at night you could hear the trees sway, and it sounded a lot like the ocean.  It really was beautiful.

    Each yurt has a small deck attached.  Each deck has a small enclosed fire pit, composite Muskoka chairs, and a table.  It also came with a small covered area which I used to prepare food, and a barbecue that came with a full tank of propane, and a spare.  I know that I keep saying it, but honestly they thought of everything that would make this camping adventure, less hassle and more spending glorious time with our family.

    The kids loved the resident bunnies and named them all.  They took great delight when they would see "Miles" the bunny (named 'Miles' because he hopped along miles around the camp sites).  They named the family of Canadian Geese that calmly walked around the grass, and the Loon who solitarily floated around (at night Christopher and I called it something a little different when it screeched out).

    Here is my answer, my true answer to what is a Yurt.  A yurt is an affordable step into nature.  It is almost a cottage, and almost a tent.  It allows you to feel like you are out in the wilderness roughing it, but without it being too rough.  It allowed us the time to spend with the kids, really being a family.  There were no outside distractions, no cell phones, no computers, no t.v., just us.  The kids had their electronic devices, but instead of using them for play, they used them to take pictures.  It helped us to have a holiday that was only about us.  We smelled like nature, but not body odour.  We could allow the kids to have free rain, and to explore their surroundings.  Whenever I looked up, they were usually together as a pack tossing the nerf football, trying to entice the bunnies to be their pets, or up to their ankles in the lake.  As a parent, that did my heart good to see them enjoying each other.  What is a yurt? An affordable gift of nature, and a the gift of family.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A Camping We Will Go.......

    A few years ago I happened upon a picture of the Bruce Peninsula.  It looked stunning.  It has made it to numerous "Must See in Canada" lists.  I desperately wanted to visit this place of beauty that was so close to home.  This year we did it.

     Let me begin by saying that our years as a family camping with a tent are so distantly behind us.  The last time we attempted putting up a tent, we almost divorced and the police were nearly involved.  We had met up with my sister and her family and my parents at a provincial park near North Bay.  For this trip we had bought one of those monster cabin tents.  We were all really excited about it.  We arrived in torrential rain, I'm talking Niagara Falls.  We tried to wait it out, but it soon became clear that there would be no waiting it out.  The kids went over to my sister's campsite, and Christopher and I began to assemble the tent.  As we began unpacking the tent, it became rather clear that the instructions for said awesome tent were back home.  Christopher and I are not a good team when it comes to building, or moving large things.  I have often said that if we were ever on the Amazing Race people would keep us on, just for the entertainment value.  The dusk was falling and our tempers were flaring. It was really good that we were camping with my family, because I had a temper tantrum, and threw everything down on the ground (by the way, that might be only the second temper tantrum of my entire adult life).  My brother-in-law Spooner walked over and helped Christopher put up the tent.  They had it up in like ten minutes.    The Lindsay Family style of camping now has yurt.  Turns out that Christopher and I like each other so much more and are still talking to each other when we just have to bring supplies.  

    I am a terrible procrastinator, and so it was Sunday night and I was still packing for our trip Monday. Oh heck, who am I kidding, I was still packing Monday morning.  As I began packing the van it became very clear that our van was not big enough for everything that I felt we needed to take.  We took advantage of every single nook and cranny of that van.  Although it does not look classy, I packed each family member's clothes for the week in a clear garbage bag.  I felt that this would work better for packing.  It would be more flexible.

    By the time the van was loaded the kids learned about what sardines go through.  There were many cries of "I'm claustrophobic", and "I can't move my legs".  In the end the van was loaded literally to the roof and we were off on our adventure.

    We arrived at the Bruce in high spirits.  We had unpacked the van, and I began to arrange the yurt while the kids explored. The further north you get the longer it stays light out.  It was just beginning to be dusk at 9:45.   I told the kids to come in and get their pjs on.  They listened and got dressed.  It was not long before Rowan asked where his clothes were.  We checked all the bags, we checked the car, they were nowhere to be seen.  We had forgotten Rowan's clothes!  So we became acquainted with the Owen Sound Walmart Tuesday.  Oh there is never a dull moment with us.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

High School Reunion

    There was a lot of flip flopping and inner turmoil leading up to my high school reunion.  If I went, everyone would see that I got fat, and behind my back they would say "Oh My God, did you see how FAT she got?"  There was also the issue of awkwardness with an old boyfriend who would be in attendance. Did I mention that there was also a person I hated who offered to punch me in the face in high school?  The flip side of that was that these had been my friends.  These were the people who made high school bearable.  They were the people who helped to form "me".  This was not the entire high school, it was just a small group of high school friends getting together after 25 years.  I think that perhaps there were at most 35 people invited.
    In the end I had this revelation.  It was so obvious that I felt embarrassed when it finally occurred to me.  When I last saw my friends I was 18 or so.  That is 4 years older than Grace.  Gracie is going to change in 25 years, why couldn't I have?  I didn't care if anyone got fat (although I was kind of hoping the guy who offered to punch me in the face got fat, and a horrid case of adult acne), these were my oldest friends.  I just wanted to see these people who had once upon a time been really important to me.  Sure I would have loved to arrive and have everyone gasp and be so jealous that I was still hot and had barely aged.  I would have loved that if I had magic, but in terms of putting hard work in, I was ok with people seeing the old new me.
   The day of the reunion my house was filled with whines of "Why do we have to go to your stupid reunion. ", "There will be no one our age and we'll be BORED!"  I heard Christopher quietly telling them "I don't want to go either guys, but we need to be there for Mom."  It was so adorable, not.  I kept trying to reassure all of them (including the largest child I have been married to for almost 22 years), that everyone that would be there was really, really nice.  There would be lots of good food.  To the kids I told them that there would probably kids that were there ages that they would have fun hanging out with.  In the end I decided that they could all just whine because they were going to go, and they were going to like it DAMN IT!
   I arrived at the hall to be greeted by Travis, one of the organizers.  "I was wondering if you were going to come, I was going to call you."  He then figuratively put his foot on my back and pushed me in the door "Get in, we're waiting for a special guest".  "I'm not a special guest?" I asked.  "Yeah, you're really great" he said sarcastically, his head darting to the door looking for that special, super guest.  I began to wonder if it was the Prime Minister, or maybe Bono.  "Now get in!!!!"  In that instant I felt instantly at ease.  Travis had not changed.  The "guest of honour" was the school music teacher.   I'm sure she was super fantastic awesome, but I never took music, so to be honest I really didn't care.  I made my way in and was instantly set upon by other friends, hugging the life out of me.  Why had I been worried?  These were my friends, who the years had separated, but in meeting the years had melted away.
    Here were a group of middle aged people.  We had all aged.  Some of us had gained weight, many of us were now sprouting tufts of grey hair, and our face's looked a little test driven.  It was obvious that it was 25 years later, and yet in talking to everyone, no one had changed.  I am sad to say that the person I most dreaded seeing had aged amazingly well, to be honest I think his looks improved with age.  He also had no adult acne .... why are you so cruel Karma?
   My kids and husband were well behaved.  Some of the people told them stories about me when I was in high school, they really enjoyed these.  They did not intermingle with the other children, but that was ok, they were quite content to eat all the great food that everyone had brought for the potluck.  I looked over on a few occasions to see Christopher engaged in discussion with many of the people.
    In our online discussions about bringing pictures and food I had mentioned that I still had the music video that we had made for grade 13 english.  There were 4 of us in that group (one included my boyfriend of the time), and our friends were the extras.  Julie told me I had to bring it, she would find a VCR.  I did the big debate, should I bring it?  Honestly I could not remember if there was anything that might be uncomfortable on it.  In the end, I brought it.  We all crowded around the tiny TV watching our young selves.  "Why did I think I was fat then?" a few of us proclaimed.   My kids were rivited.  They now had proof that I had not been lying to them all these years, I had been young once.  Gracie my 14 year old quietly looked at me with an admiration.  Later that night she said almost in disbelief "Mom, you were beautiful!"  When we came home that night the kids were all obsessed with that video.  They were begging me to let them watch it.  I kept telling them we no longer had a VCR.  "Mom, we want to see your video".  I'm not going to lie to you, it was a nice feeling seeing my children look at me like I was a person, and not "just a mom".
    I had seen my old boyfriend, but didn't know how I should approach.  Honestly it was nice to see him.  Finally we both gathered up our courage and greeted each other with a big hug.  We talked for a while, and I remembered what a nice guy he was, and how easy he was to talk to.  Why had I been trepidatious about this.  I introduced him to my husband of almost 22 years, and my boat load of kids and he introduced me to his wife.  She seemed really lovely.  It was really nice.  We then moved along to greet other old friends.
   You will be glad to know (or perhaps like me you had kind of rooted for it), but there were no altercations between the guy who challenged me to a fight all those years ago.  We never even really looked at each other.  Part of me was terribly relieved (I really hate any kind of conflict.)  The other childish half of me hoped he would do something rude, and that my big, strong husband would lay him out.  Apparently in my middle years I have exchanged the "My Dad's tougher than your Dad", with "My husband's gonna clean your clock if you're mean to me".
      I was trying to pick out which children belonged to which parents.  Some of them were really easy to guess.  The funniest thing was everyone's reaction to my kids.  "It's pretty obvious which children are your's.  Are they clones?"  I kind of got a huge kick out of this, the kids, not so much.
   By 9 O'Clock I took pity on my husband and kids and we left.  They had been really good, extremely good.  I had been really proud to be able to show off my greatest achievements in this life.  I was not a big time professional, but I have a heartbreakingly beautiful family.  I have a happy marriage.  My life is really, really good.  I am a very lucky woman, and I know and am grateful for it every single day.  I left that night feeling really blessed, and so happy that I had not let my insecurities get the best of me.  I had a really nice time.  It was so nice to see everyone.  I hope that it won't take 25 years to see everyone again (mainly because we may all be quite senile and won't recognize each other).
    When we got home, my kids looked at me a little differently.  I knew that it would only last that night and so I should really treasure it.  One of them commented that they couldn't believe I had so many friends.  If I think about it, I can't believe it either.  They were in awe of that old video, and their young Momma.  For Grace I think it was shocking to her to see that I was once around her age.  That night I fell into bed with a smile on my face, it had been a nice evening.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

High School Reunion ... Should I go?

    A few months back I received an invitation from an old friend from high school.  He and another old friend of ours were organizing a high school reunion.  This would not be the whole high school, just our friends.  I was conflicted.  On one hand I was extremely complimented to be included, and yet the only thing that is the same is the colour of my eyes.
   Back in high school I was at least half the size I am now.  I looked like the picture above.  That was the last image many of them had of me.  Like I say, the only thing that looks the same is the colour of my eyes.  Having said that self derogatory remark, I wouldn't trade being thin and pretty for my life now.  Back then I had horrible self-esteem, and practiced self hatred on a very regular schedule.  I felt that my worth was in my looks.  During my public school years I was picked on a lot, and I honed the skill of invisibility.  If you asked any of my former teachers about me, they would not remember having me in their class.  I always picked a seat to the side near the back, but not at the back.  This practice continued into high school.  Come high school I was no longer picked on, but I still needed that invisibility.  I did not join clubs, or anything that I could fail at or draw attention to myself.  I did nothing that might make me stand out.
    I say all of this and yet my high school friends may be wondering who I'm talking about, that is not the me they saw.  I adapted to my surroundings.  I come from a long line of big mouths, it's what our family does for protection, our legacy if you will.  You know how when you see a bear, you are supposed to make yourself appear bigger than them, to scare them off, well the big mouth thing functions the same way.  If I acted like I was tough, and nothing bothered me, maybe people would believe it.
    Time and love do a funny thing sometimes, they repair wounds.  Although I am roughly twice the size of that girl in the photo, I like me now.  I like who I am now.  I like my life.  I have a husband who adores me, and five beautiful children.  I have good friends.  I have a nice life.  It's as if I traded in my vanity for happiness.  When I stopped practicing the self hatred (I was bulimic among other things) I began to like me.  Turns out I'm funny and kind and over all a pretty good person who happens to be overweight, oh and I still have a big mouth.  In my everyday life I don't really think about being over weight.  Everyone in my life just loves me for who I am, not what I look like.
    So back to the high school reunion invitation.  My first instinct was to say I wouldn't / couldn't go.  That would solve everything, except for the fact that I really liked most of those people.  They were my friends, they were the reason that my high school experience was great.  We shared our quirkiness.  It was nice to have comfort, safety in numbers if you will.  If I didn't go, wouldn't I be punishing myself for getting fat?  Wasn't that what I had worked so hard all of these years to over come, the self hatred? 
I said I would come.  Then they threw a wrench into things.
    One of the people who were invited was an old boyfriend.  Not a casual few month boyfriend.  We dated for over a year.  He was this really nice, funny guy that I outgrew in university.  When I got to university, no one knew me, I could re-invent who I was.  I was outgoing and a party girl at university. I hung out with the university football team.  I was cool.  Cool was something that I was never and would never be again.  I needed to own that experience.  Honestly I still feel badly about the way I broke it off.  He was a nice guy and I hurt him.  I wasn't sure if I could face him again.  Plus, and this is the big plus... if I was him, it would give me great pleasure to see that the person who hurt me got fat.  Man, I was back to the "maybe I shouldn't go" again.  In the end I pulled up my big girl pants and remembered that I have a beautiful life.  I have a husband who adores me, and five beautiful kids (are you sensing a mantra here?).  I could face that old boyfriend, I owed him that much.
    Next obstacle, the person that I hate the most in the world would be there!  Ordinarily I am not one to hold onto past grievances, or for that matter hate anyone.  It takes too much energy and I need that extra energy for my busy life.  The girl who gave me the scar that adorns my face, I forgave her years ago.  She was a really angry girl, and with good reason, I was just in her way.  Years later we even became friends (after she had worked on her anger issues).  I really don't like to hold a grudge, except in this case.
    Back then this individual dated a good friend of mine.  He spoke to her horribly.  Everyone else seemed to be o.k. with it.  The one day, the day that I could take no more,  she was eating french fries.  This girl was 5 foot 3 and if she had quarters in her pockets weighed 100 pounds.  He told her to stop eating because she was already fat enough.  I have never been able to abide a bully, never have and never will, even if it means putting my neck on the line, which on this day it did.  So "I told him that he could not speak to her that way, it was unacceptable, who did he think he was?"  He did not care for this comment and asked if I would like to go out to the hall.  "Are you asking me to go and fight you?" I asked, my face still angry, the insides beginning to get worried.  "YES, that's what I'm saying" he replied.  "If you want to fight a girl, then sure, lets go out to the hall".  By this point I'm pooping my pants on the inside, but being bigger than the bear on the outside.  We walk out into the hall.  As I sit here writing this I'm not sure why no one thought to say anything about this, why they all thought it was alright that this idiot challenged a girl to a fight.  So out I walked to get hit in the face.  So I have my back against the wall, and he has his fist balled up, like he's ready to strike.  In a moment of genius a calm comes over me.  "If you're going to hit me, you should make sure that you hit me really hard, and really make it count because if you take a look down at where my knee is, you will see that you will be coughing those things up for a few years to come".  Ok I may have said it a bit more crudely than that.  He did indeed look down and in the end must have valued his deep voice and ability to father children in the future.  Disgustedly he dramatically threw down his threatening arm "You're not worth it anyway."  I believe, but am not sure, but I think I said something like "yeah I'm not worth it, it takes a really BIG man to hit a girl!"  When he had walked away I calmly walked to the girls bathroom and proceeded to throw up, and then cry.
    That event has stuck with me all those years.  He never hit me, and yet I hate him.  From that day forward I tried to make his life as miserable as I could.  I'm not sure what the logic behind that was, maybe I really did want punched in the face.  I heard that he was wanting to go to York and try out for the football team, so I told my friends who were on the football team about him, hoping they would all beat him up.  I hated him and he was going to the reunion.
    Once again I wondered if I should go.  What would I do?  I then remembered that I had a husband who adored me and was 6 foot 4 (see that mantra again).  If that individual did anything remotely rude or threatening my husband would clean his clock, and that is only if my kids didn't get to him first.  Why was I worrying about this.  I have never really been a helpless damsel in distress, why was I acting like it now?  In the end the chance to see old friends won out over all the reason's why not to go.

To be continued......