Dec 14

Dear L.L. Bean, I am sad. And it is your fault. Again.


Dear L.L. Bean.

I am a long-time admirer of your store. Since childhood I have coveted your monogrammed backpacks, warm sweaters and sassy summer fare. And as a child, you knew nothing of me. Just another Canadian kid with the L.L. Bean dream. But I knew of you and I would, on occasion receive a Christmas gift from one of our American relatives, purchased from your store and wowie wow wow, was I the Queen of the street in those years.

But alas, I am no longer a child. And my relatives no longer send me your lovely goods. And I am no longer Queen of the street.  As an adult (apparently, that’s what I am now) I have some buying power in my own right. And I have exercised that power and purchased online, from your very enticing website on a few occasions in past years. With the promise of free shipping and 10% discounts and the possibility of having my coveted L.L. Bean merchandise in my own home, I purchased. And each and every time, it cost me an arm and a leg. But this year, this year is the last year that I will (almost) fall for your shenanigans.

So this week, here I sit. Another Christmas season is upon me and your emails are flooding my Outlook inbox daily. Your offers of discounts, bonus gift cards, free shipping, and more dance before my eyes, more appealing than the Magic Mike dancers and more palatable than my beloved Snickers bar. So I fall for your sweet words again and I click on your latest link.

And in no time at all, I am adding an ultrasoft this and a Scotch Plaid that and one of those scoopneck whatsits, those tights and that tote to my online cart, while remaining mindful of how my credit card company will violate me with their criminal surcharges and inflated exchange rates. But the promise of FREE SHIPPING repeats in my mind and soothes the impeding sting of my credit card’s slap.

I too quickly reach my spending limit. I have some lovely gifts for others and maybe something for myself in that light-as-a-feather shopping cart you have so helpfully provided to me. I check it twice (it is Christmas after all) and I gingerly click the ‘checkout’ button. I enter my login, and yes, I’ll have a chance to review the order before it is submitted. Yes, I understand that.

I scroll through my order (sounds longer than it really is, but I scroll slowly, so it feels longer than it really is too). I look to the right of my screen, where the charges are laid out and there it is – 10% discount code applied! Shipping $0.00! Yay! I’m so happy, your products are within reach. I can almost feel the fabric of softest flannel shirt in my hands. I hate to pay shipping and it is always grossly over-inflated and who can help but love a discount code? But my list of charges doesn’t end there, does it? No, L.L. (may I call you L.L.?) You know that the list does not end there at all. HST? Duty? What the what? No. No. NO!

I do not want you to collect HST and duty for my government. I would prefer to pay it directly to the CRA myself, at the post office when I pick up the package (for Canada Post will not deliver it to my door anyway). And, in all honesty, I do not believe that all of the items that I am (trying, well, begging really) to purchase are privy to duty charges. NAFTA, maybe? I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that having the HST and duty come to more than 35% of the total charges, and having to pay them, at a premium in US funds at higher than bank rates just made the entire order outside of my financial grasp.**

So I close the browser window. I close my laptop. I walk away from my desk feeling so sad, disappointed and unfulfilled. My family will not get to experience the joys of L.L. Bean monogrammed backpacks, most excellent gadgets, beautifully soft and well made linens. And that makes me sad. So very, very sad.

Yours truly,
The Keswick Blogger – wife, mother, and 2014 unfulfilled L.L. Bean so-badly-wanna-be customer.

P.S. I think that I should get brownie points for this letter. I did not swear, curse or use a single inappropriate word. Not even once. I think that alone should earn me a break on all of those charges. I mean honestly, take a look at the rest of this blog, this place is riddled with profanity and inappropriate use of the English language. Wouldn’t you agree?

P.P.S. Despite it all, I still love you. I can’t help myself. xoxo

P.P.P.S. I’m sorry if my letter was mean. Please don’t ban me from your website or your Albany store. xo

Mostly a true story.

Mostly a true story.

** In the name of full disclosure and clarity, the subtotal for my most recent order was for four items and the subtotal was going to be $85.43 USD – ‘you have saved $39.37′ between ‘on sale’ items and the 10% discount code, free shipping. Duty and HST was going to be $29.45 USD or 34.5% of the total order price :(  My credit card would have been charged $114.88 USD.


Nov 14

I needed something nice to happen this week

I really, really needed something nice to happen. And just when I think that I am out of luck, it happens. And I have my eight-year-old son to thank. As an added bonus, it is nice when other people see how sweet one of your children can be.

This week, Deacon won a prize at school. And believe me when I say, it was a big deal.

When I saw him in the hall during the school’s lunch hour, he told me that he ‘won a present for Miranda.’ I asked him how, and he told me that he won a prize and he chose a doll for his sister.

“Here,” he said, pushing it toward me, “you give it to her.”
“No, honey, you go and give it to her, it was so sweet of you to choose it for her, I know that she’ll love it. She’s in her classroom.”

And off he shuffled, down the hall to her classroom.

A few moments later, Miranda’s teacher came in to ask me if I knew what Deacon had done for his sister. She told me that when he gave it to Miranda, that Miranda covered him with kisses and hugs. And later, after lunch, another staff member asked me if I had heard what Deacon had done and how sweet it was of him.

That night, as a special treat for all of them, instead of yogurt for a bedtime snack, my smalls had ice cream. And to say thank you to Deacon, he got a special addition of chocolate sauce on his ice cream. Which may not sound like a lot to you, but my kids know that if Mummy is giving them chocolate or candy anything, it must be for a pretty special reason.

I am always proud of my kids. They are smart, kind-hearted, sweet, talented, good kids. But this week, I took special pride in Deacon. He showed selflessness, generosity, and thoughtfulness towards his baby sister. And to me, that tells me that he’s growing up just right and that my mistakes, which have been plentiful, have not made a mess of everything. Because beyond the fighting, squabbling, whining and tantrums, they, my five baby loves, are perfect. Each of them, totally, completely and without a doubt.

And because of their daily reminders, like Deacon’s gift to Miranda, I will continue to strive to be a better mom for all of them, a better role model, a better person, just better.

This week, in our house, this is the look of love.

This week, in our house, this is the look of love.

Nov 14

Authentic living and no longer hiding my failure to do so

Today, I am finding that life is hard. Relationships are hard. Parenting is hard. Figuring out how to pay for all of this ‘life’ that we are not actually living is hard. Everything is just hard. Throw into the mix the feeling that I am not living authentically and you pretty much have my day today, or most days, I suppose. Yes, yes, we have running water, electricity, internet, enough (too much?) food to eat, clothes and all of the other creature comforts that were a luxury for many people not all that long ago (and yes, they still are in other parts of the world, I am aware that there is a more global perspective on life and issues facing women and families, but right now, I’m worrying about my micro-world right now). So chalk this post up to #firstworldproblems and #straightwhitewomanwhine if you must. Moving right along now…

Authenticity is a technical term used in psychology as well as existentialist philosophy and aesthetics. In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures [emphasis added]; the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures and influences which are very different from, and other than, itself. A lack of authenticity is considered in existentialism to be bad faith [emphasis added].

– from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I knew, very early on, that I really wanted to be a mom (and a writer, and a lawyer, and a musician, and hold a PhD in psychology and be the owner of my very own personal cash register, but mostly, to be a mom). At sixteen, I wanted a baby. I wasn’t having sex, so there was no real risk of having a baby, but I man, did I ever want one. And in my clouded adolescent mind, I was ready to be a good mom. At SIXTEEN. Flash forward a handful of years and I was a mom. To a beautiful, perfect, lovely boy. And being a single mom (by mutual agreement) was frustrating sometimes, but I never felt defeated by parenthood or like I was not doing a good job, or that I was really messing up this weird little dude who called me Momma and whom I loved beyond reason. Flash forward another decade or so and I become mum to two more beautiful little boys. And at first it was overwhelming, but so confident was I as a mother that I figured, ‘yeah, I got this.’ Only, sorry about your luck, but I didn’t have it. Not even close.

I had never before been half of a parenting couple. I did not know how to discuss and negotiate anything to do with raising children. I had always had the autonomy to choose what I thought the best thing to do was and there had no one to answer to, no one to check with – I was the boss and whatever I wanted was the way things went (again, talking about child-related decisions only). And then, falling in love, leaping into marriage and diving into a whole new life and suddenly I was no longer the boss. I was Mum, yes. But there were new rules, another person’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to consider. This is not a bad thing, by any means, but it was a new thing. And now, this many years later I can admit that I failed at figuring out how to make the necessary adjustments in my parenting modus operandi.

And I was no longer the mother that I had been. I did not speak my mind, or at least I did not speak it effectively. I was not able to convey parenting or life principles that I believed were important in a way that was credible. I acquiesced to my partner’s beliefs where we disagreed. And now, looking back, I was wrong. I should have been truer to my maternal instincts. But I was not. And now, I believe, life is harder because of that.

Flash forward almost another decade and now there are a total of five beautiful souls who call me Momma and need me to be more than I have been, more than I feel like am but not more than I believe I can be. Five pieces of my heart, all who need me figure shit out and be the mother they deserve. It’s not enough to cook, clean, tend to and chauffeur these fragments of my heart. They need me to guide them through their struggles. They not only need to know that whatever happens, I’ll know what to do, how to help, how to make things better, but that  I’ll teach them how to navigate the treacherous terrain of their respective lives with honour, honesty, creativity, and kindness.

So, here I am, almost halfway through my life and I am re-starting my quest to discover how to live life authentically and to figure out the best way to help and to guide each of these children with the challenges that they face. I read, I research, I talk to other parents, teachers and doctors. I seek information out at every turn and try my hardest to  hear not only the message “there’s no fixing this – you screwed this up but good” but rather to hear “yes, you’ve made mistakes, but all is not lost. You can make amends and be better and every moment is a new moment to do better, make wiser choices, and lead by a more positive example.” Because that is the truth that I really want, need and must to believe.

Each of my children is different from the other. They each have their own ways of dealing with life, problems, stressors, successes and disappointments. They each have their own way of expressing love, anger, sadness, disappointment and joy. They each have their own unique talents, points of view, strengths and weaknesses. Some of their traits are familiar to me, I recognize them and I’m comfortable with them. Other traits I see are foreign and scary to me, but Mum is not allowed to show fear, so I will push through and figure out how to help each of them make the most of their innate gifts, talents, personality traits and abilities. Acceptance of each of them, and myself, where and as we sit (stand, run, jump, scream, laugh) is an absolute requirement. But it’s not enough to accept. It is necessary to help them to KNOW and truly FEEL that they are accepted – just the way they are.

And I need to do this while also trying to figure out how to live an authentic, meaningful life that isn’t about appearances and chores and meeting the expectations of others, but rather about kindness, love, joy and honesty.

Wish me luck and please offer any advice, words of wisdom or warnings. If there is one thing that I have learned over the past twenty years of parenting is that the more that I’m sure I know the less I actually know.

P.S. My spell check must be on vacation, because the only things in this post that it objects to are the #hashtags in the first paragraph. Further evidence that my spell check is a broken, illiterate asshole because there is NO WAY that this post is spelled correctly nor that it is grammatically sound.

Nov 14

The best of the internet this week

Not all of these may be new you, but they are new to me this week. And so I’m sharing them. Because I’m a giver. It’s just what I do. And because I’m fighting and struggling with a few other posts, so I’m taking a step back from them and doing this instead.

First up – Bock, bock, bock!

I can’t tell you how much I want to have chickens. I’m prevented only by my own certainty that they will turn on me the first time I try to take one of their eggs and I’ll be found pecked to death and covered in chicken shit in my own backyard. Not exactly the glamorous, sexy exit I’ve always envisioned. But knowing this does nothing to curb my daydreams of chicken chasing.

Next – I’m too sexy for my television, so sexy it hurts

I’m not a big television watcher. I like a few shows (um, where IS the next season of Longmire, already?!?) and I have my guilty pleasure shows (that’s another post for another time) and I find most commercials insulting, stupid or yucky (think: “Hey, pee happens” Blech). But this banned commercial is funny. And it’s worth a look. And if there were more commercials like this, I would maybe watch more t.v. ;)

Third – A Natural Fix for A.D.H.D.

I cannot think of anyone who has not been effected or touched by A.D.H.D. and as far as I can tell everyone has an opinion about A.D.H.D., ranging from “it doesn’t exist, it’s just kids being kids” to “do whatever it takes to get that kid in line” to “yeah, it’s real but if you would just feed him less sugar, or more meat, or more Himalayan salt on Tuesdays at midnight, he’d be fine.” But this New York Times piece on the subject is enlightening and interesting and NOT the same old party lines we’ve been fed for years.

Fourth – A little bit of Oprah advice

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but I’m generally a fairly highly charged emotional person. Mixing a creative, emotional mind with everyday life with other people can sometimes result in a huge outpouring of energy – good and bad. And for me, tears. I had a handle on it for a long time, but no longer do, and it bothers me, it makes me feel weak, out of control, and unworthy of being taken seriously. So I went on a search to try to find some answers, strategies, solutions and understanding. I found a few sites, but I was shocked to see that the one that helped the most was Oprah’s site. If you or someone you know tears up or even cries at inopportune times and wants to understand why and how to change it, this is worth the read.

Fifth and finally – DIY Fall Treats worth your time from America’s Test Kitchen

I love, love, love ATK and Cook’s Illustrated. I am slowly building up my library of their books and magazines. I turned to CI when I was looking for a pressure cooker. From recipes, product reviews and ratings, all things food-related, they have it all. And I have been eyeballing recipes for homemade marshmallows for a long time now. This article by ATK has pushed it to the forefront again, so, time permitting, next weekend, I’m going to give it a try. Homemade Nutella? Yes, please. Now, please. That is for me.

Nothing to do with anything in this post, but I just love this picture. This beach in Cape Cod quickly became our favourite - when the tide was out, we could walk forever to get to the edge of the ocean, where just hours before, there was barely enough beach to lay our towel on without the water hitting it.

Nothing to do with anything in this post, but I just love this picture. This beach in Cape Cod quickly became our favourite – when the tide was out, we could walk forever to get to the edge of the ocean, where just hours before, there was barely enough beach to lay our blanket on without the water hitting it. So grateful to have kids who love the water and the beach as much as we do.

Nov 14

Three happy things

A love note from one if my smalls.

Three small words. Heated. Mattress. Cover.

IMG_2527.JPGThe view from up here.

Nov 14

If something is not really a word, please, for the love of slugs, STOP USING IT.

This is not the first time that I’ve gotten my rant on about spelling, grammar and the like. And please do not get me wrong. I break grammar rules in just about every sentence I write, and I tend to write in a similar style to my speech, so I’m NOT pretending to be the holiest of holies here but really people? Really? If I read, just once more ‘Well, irregardless of…” I am going to commit some really heinous crime against, well, likely against my laptop, because let’s be honest, I lack the motivation to actually leave my house to do something spectacular to the offending writer.

My self-diagnosed, self-imposed, and likely self-imagined agoraphobia aside, people REALLY, like FOR REAL really, need to stop saying, writing or even thinking that “irregardless” is, to use my Ms. M’s turn of phrase, a word “for in real-life”.

We are rapidly becoming a barely phonetically literate “where r u” and a “i no me 2″ texting society, so I truly do not hold on to a lot of hope to stop the rampant and stupid use of this irritating and infuriating word, but just to make sure that I was not completely out to lunch in taking this position, I went to the all-knowing Wikipedia. You know, just to, like, make double-triple sure (but don’t worry, I used Google to get there, so I covered ALL of the Smarter-Than-Everyone bases). And much to my delight and disgust, this is what I learned:

Irregardless is a word commonly used in place of regardless or irrespective, which has caused controversy since the early twentieth century, though the word appeared in print as early as 1795.[1] Most dictionaries list it as “nonstandard” or “incorrect” usage, and recommend that “regardless” should be used instead. (Emphasis added)

Delight? I was right! Disgust? Over two hundred years. People have been torturing others with this word for over 219 years. Over two centuries. Seriously? Over the past two hundred-plus years, society has seen everything from steam engines to indoor plumbing from electric washing machines to electric cars and we still cannot figure out a way to eradicate ‘irregardless’ from the everyday vernacular?

I don’t know about you, but to that I say: ‘stfu! i m smh @ ppl 4 b’ing 2 dum 2 no how 2 rite. im going 2 roflmao now stil smfh.’ See? That’s easy enough to read, isn’t it? We don’t really need spelling, grammar and rules to form credible, readable, or understandable thoughts, now do we?

P.S. Even my demented spell check is all lit up over this word and I tell you, that asshole lets me get away with just about EVERY WORD, no matter now made up it is. Maybe this spell check is not as useless as I thought. Just don’t try to type ‘xoxoxo’ because it will beat you with a stick to change it to ‘Xerox.’ Every. Single. Time. Sigh.

Oct 14

Halloween Dress Rehearsal and a death-a-versary

Keswick Public School had a family dance tonight. Since a couple of our smalls attend there, I dressed up my crew and off we went. And we had FUN! If you’ve never danced with a couple of four-year-olds, I highly recommend it.


I am not sure if I will have a Ninja Lord, Cowgirl, Spider-Man, and Skeleton tomorrow night for trick or treating (minds and costumes change rapidly around here) but I had them tonight. And I’m mindful that these moments are limited time offers, so I am holding them close to my heart.

Also tonight, I am quietly marking the 24th anniversary of my father’s passing. 42 was too damned young to go, I wish I had more time with him, and I really wish that he could see my smalls on this, his most favourite holiday of the year. It took me a long time to be able to enjoy Halloween after he passed, but every year I derive more happiness from the day and look forward to sharing stories and memories of him with my kids.


Oct 14

My longest hiatus yet and a possible solution

And I haven’t enjoyed my absence. I miss writing and blogging terribly, but life got extra busy in September when I decided to take on two more part-time jobs (working with children but outside of my home) and so my creative/me time has become scarcer than ever. But my mental health dictates that I MUST to make time to write something, really anything, more regularly than, well, never, so from now until the end of November I’m going to try to steal 10 minutes every day and post SOMETHING.

More likely than not, my daily post will be a picture, a quote, a random thought or a question that’s eating away at my mind. It could also be a political opinion (unlikely), food post (very likely), or a plea for help (probably the highest probability right here). I may bore you with pictures of my kids, cat, renovations or any other glimpses into my day living the Keswick dream. And with any luck you’ll get something out of the posts, and with even more luck, I will start finding my way back to a more balanced, happier, funnier me.

So, on that note, I present to you the first picture post of many. This one is featuring my four smalls on our vacation this past August to one of my favourite road trip vacation destinations from my childhood (the town, not the attraction) Cape Cod, MA.

Potato chips? Did someone say potato chips? Yes, please! And these ones are the best. And we toured the factory while we were on the Cape. Fun, free and fast - the best kind of family entertainment when you're toting four kids around on vacation. The free bag of chips at the end of the self-guided tour sealed the deal. This is a 'must do' for anyone who's spending time in Cape Cod :)

Potato chips? Did someone say potato chips? Yes, please! And these ones are the best. And we toured the factory while we were on the Cape. Fun, free and fast – the best kind of family entertainment when you’re toting four kids around on vacation. The free bag of chips for each of us at the end of the self-guided tour sealed the deal. This is a ‘must do’ for anyone who’s spending time in Cape Cod :)

P.S.  If you’ have not ‘Liked’ The Keswick Blog on Facebook or ‘Followed’ along on Twitter, checked out The Keswick Blog on Pinterest, or connected with TheKeswickBlog on Instagram, then you’re missing out on micro-blogging that happens when time or circumstances do not allow for a full-blown blog entry or during the aforementioned hiatus :)

Sep 14

I will never call my daugher ‘Ladybug’ again and here is why.

So I learned something today. Disappointingly enough, it turns out that ladybugs are assholes.

There. I said it. And I don’t regret it. Ladybugs are absolutely outright assholes.

And they are a bitey bunch. I know this to be true because a few of those assholes bit me this afternoon. And I did not appreciate that at all. It made me feel rather stabby.

I also did not appreciate having to re-wash an entire load of laundry because said assholes decided to descend upon my lovely fresh laundry as soon as I hung  said laundry outside on the line. I swear they were like a fat chick (um, yes, that would be me) on a chocolate fountain (yeah, yeah, it was just once and I paid for the damage. Stop judging me).

My photographic evidence (of the ladybugs, not the chocolate fountain) are not all that convincing, because by the time I remembered to take pictures, they had already left their diabolical signatures all over my laundry, so it looks like I hung stained, nasty clothes on the line. But I did not do that. Because that would be weird and bordering on insane and while I may be both of those things, I do not enjoy hanging out laundry enough to bother hanging dirty clothes out there just for a photo-op.

Are you kidding me? I count 11 ladybugs and see one more coming in for a landing!

Are you kidding me? I count 11 ladybugs and see one more coming in for a landing!

This poor crib sheet was cleaner going into the washing machine the first time around...

This poor crib sheet was cleaner going into the washing machine the first time around…

You have GOT to be kidding me with this, right? They are SO TINY. How did this make this much mess? Oh wait. I say that about my kids too.

You have GOT to be kidding me with this, right? They are SO TINY. How did this make this much mess? Oh wait. I say that about my kids too.

It is a lime green crib sheet. I add bleach, I kill it.  I don't add bleach and my small sleeps on ladybug shit. Honestly now, who in their right mind deals with these kinds of issues? Certainly not me, I haven't been in my right mind since the 1990's.

It is a lime green crib sheet. I add bleach, I kill it. I don’t add bleach and my small sleeps on ladybug shit. Honestly now, who in their right mind deals with these kinds of issues? Certainly not me, I haven’t been in my right mind since the 1990’s.

And so, I will never call my only daughter ‘Ladybug’ again. I think I would prefer to call her my sweet ‘Praying Mantis.’  It may not have the same cute ring to it, but a praying mantis has never bitten me and decimated my couture and Fruit of the Looms. (Of course, we all know what female praying mantises do do though, right? If not, click here and then hold on to your seat!)

So, the long and the short of it is, I washed the laundry. I hung the laundry. The ladybug brigade came swooping in and shit all over it. I re-pre-treated and re-washed the laundry. I conceded the win to the ladybugs when I later tossed the re-washed laundry into the dryer (during the low hydro peak time, of course). Heeeeeyyyyy now. Wait a minute.

Fuck. They got me. The hydro company has finally figured out a way to force me to use my dryer. I’ll bet if someone (not me) somehow got into the sinister secret areas of the hydro company, they would find millions and millions of ladybugs, just waiting to be deployed daily, forcing us to abandon our efforts to reduce our usage and hence our monthly bills. But really? Sending the bitey kind was just evil. The shitting, messy kind would have sufficed.

Well played Hydro Company. You blackhearted reprobate. You shall have your extortion money and your pound of flesh (but only because my people like having electricity). Oh, and lastly, ya’ll owe me for the antiseptic cream and bandages (the Hello Kitty kind, ifyouplease) – those ladybugs have killer fangs/teeth/stingers/owie-makers.


Sep 14

I’ve done a few really cool things in my life but this just may beat all

I’m kinda a little bit old, not old old, but a little bit old. So I’ve been on one planet or another for a while now and in my time, I’ve done some really amazeballs things. To name just a few, I traveled alone to Indonesia when I was seventeen, I’ve pushed real human being babies out of my lady garden on occasion and the last time was without drugs, and I started this blog and met some really wonderful people as a result.

But this, this right here takes the cake. I’m not sure how I’ll ever top this one.

That’s right, people! I MADE Cucumbers! Like actually for real, made them. From seeds. I had completely given up on the plants producing anything other than leaves and spiky vines but then, by chance, fluke, by kismet, I discovered these little beauties. I just hope they keep growing so that my smalls may enjoy them before the random deviant garden critters who keep trying to pillage and abuse my tomato plants get their grubby mitts on them.

In just four short months, I have almost completely grown enough cucumbers to keep my smalls happy for at least 30 minutes (45 if a fight breaks, and odds are in my favour on that one).

Now in writing this post, I just may be starting to feel a teeny bit less self-impressed and estatic and maybe just a smidgen more loser’ish. Ah well, that will pass and I’ll be furiously happy about the twins (yes, I named them. Stop judging me) again soon.

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