The Imperfect Parenting Advocate

Everyday we are all inundated with tales of perfect children being perfectly parented by pristine, perfect parents. As much as I may wish that I could claim even one of those stories of perfection as my own, alas, perfection in any form was not my destiny.

Tonight was a typical Tuesday evening. The kids and I tumbled out of the house juggling Thumb Chucks, bouncy balls, keys, sweaters and whatever else they managed to smuggle into the van and off we headed for an appointment with the foot doctor for one of the boys.

We navigated our way through town and got there with two minutes to spare. Everyone piled into building and the kids all gathered around the water cooler. Moments later, we filed into the examination room and everyone crowded around the patient chair. The kids bickered over who got to sit in the other chair, who got to play with the skeletal model foot until the one kid who was actually there to be examined said “everybody stop looking at my foot!” and the foot doctor kicked the offending three out into the waiting room so that she could continue her job in relative peace.

Once back in the waiting room, two of the boys started to wrestle, so I stepped out and tell them to take it outside. Conveniently, “outside” just happened to be completely visible from the examination room windows, so we were all treated to a shoving match, some screaming, and a tongue-out-spitting finale. Sweet.

Then, my youngest son decided to share this with us: ” ‘K, so at school, I had this plan to get out of doing work.” He pulled up his sleeve to expose a previously skinned elbow and continued. “I was going to pick the scab and make it bleed so that I could go to the office and get a band aid. Buuuuuut Madame had band aids in the classroom.” He shrugged.  “So my plan didn’t work.” He shrugged again and smiled sweetly, clearly having no idea how devious the plan he just shared might sound to the average listener. The foot doctor and I looked at each other and I could tell that she was unsure how I was processing this admission of attempted deception. As usual, wherever possible, I chose to laugh. Because I try to refrain from crying in public. It tends makes people feel uncomfortable and then things are just awkward. And today was one of the few days that I remembered to wear mascara.

Our lovely foot doctor had now been witness to a bar-style brawl in her parking lot and heard a thwarted, yet diabolical plan of a third-grader to avoid doing his school work, and this only represented 3/5 of my children.

Time to head home, our work there was done. I re-arranged the bodies in the minivan for the ride home with the idea of limiting the opportunity for further brother-on-brother violence. This time, I was mostly successful. Only one primal scream for the entire eight minute drive home. #winning.

Needless to say, by the time we pulled into the driveway I was 88 years-old and they were back to laughing and being ridiculous. Good times. Always good times.

And that, my friends, is how a typical half-hour outing goes with my crew. Please form the line up to babysit my babies on the left…

Open letter to Georgina-onians and passersby

Dear fellow concerned citizens, human prototypes, Georgina’onians, Keswickians, Suttonese, Pefferlawfians, and of course, our esteemed visitors (yes, I made up 60% of those labels).

First, I am not perfect. In fact, I am so far from perfect that I daresay that I am usually fairly reliable in the ‘if it can be eff’d up, she’ll eff it up’ department. My ‘Making A Complete Mess’ track record is a thing that legends are made of. To illustrate my point, I got knocked up out-of-wedlock – YOUNG (no regrets), dropped in and out and back into school, sometimes seasonally (big regrets). I fall off of chairs, can say the EXACT wrong thing at exactly the wrong time like a Trump supporter on speed, and when I’m not chasing my own tail in a futile effort to get ahead, I’ve likely forgotten why I walked into a room. But, even with all of these faults, inadequacies, character flaws and an unrelenting flair for the dramatic, I remain fairly adept at understanding where my garbage is supposed to go and where it is NOT supposed to go.

Again – NOT a perfect track record on this front either. I have been known to occasionally toss a tissue into the blue box, or thoughtlessly toss a banana peel into the ‘regular’ garbage instead of the compostable garbage. So I get it. It happens. But, and much like mine, this is a BIG BUT, even I with all of my aforementioned flaws and rudimentary understanding about our complicated garbage pick up system, know that the ditch beside a farmer’s field is probably NOT the place for my once-loved (on) sofa and love seat. Even I am able to discern that the evidence of my fairly faithful (and mobile) habit of drinking Busch’s beer probably does not belong tossed out my car window while I careen down backroads. And perhaps, most oddly of all, the flowers from my late-beloved whoever should NOT be disposed of, containers and all, at the side of the road. I mean really? How dead inside do you need to be in order to toss Grandpa’s flowers out on the way home from his funeral?

I am not even kidding here, people. I couldn’t make this up if I tried (heart is still beating in my chest, apparently). And no, it’s definitely not a roadside memorial.

Even I, with all of my blonde ditziness, realized long ago that evidence of backseat shenanigans just DO NOT belong on the pavement, naked and exposed where people walk their dogs or go for walks with their families (YAY! for using birth control though, we completely approve of all things disease and unwanted pregnancy preventative – but BOO for tossing it out of your car window with your empty pack of smokes and another one of those damned Busch cans). (Am sparing you the pictures of this one. You’re welcome)

Takeaway containers and beer cans in a paper grocery bag. Really?

And while I’m at it – WHO is still drinking Red Bull and Monster, anyway? That is SO 2012. Move on people. And while you’re at it, take your empty cans with you? Pretty please?

With the spring thaw, so many things come to light. What the snow hid, the warmer days reveal. The sins of the winter and all of that.

We are so incredibly blessed in Georgina to have green space, farmers fields, forestland, wetlands, parks, just so much SPACE to breathe, that it is easy to forget, while taking in all of this natural beauty, that it is NOT the place to toss your left-over renovation materials, drywall, 1970’s shag carpet, evidence of your last beer pong tournament, half-full paint cans, tires, cement blocks, or yes, even your Tim Horton’s coffee cups. Because while I know, that there is very little more Canadian than a Timmy’s coffee (how did that become a cultural symbol?), there is something so very un-Canadian about throwing your Timmy’s cup out your car window. Be honest here, who do you think is or should be responsible for cleaning up your mess?

The contents of your misguided life do not belong at the side of the road. Unless you’re sitting with them, that is.

Your terrible taste in carpeting is not taxpayer’s responsibility, nor do the fox, deer or other wildlife living here want it. Bag it and tag it, leave it with your garbage and the Town will remove it for you. This Stop and Dump = Bad Karma. Bag it and Take it = Good Karma

And, as a special note for visitors: we welcome you to our parks, beaches and roads. In return, we merely ask that you take your garbage HOME with you or use the receptacles graciously provided for your use with our local tax dollars. Our residents and wildlife, do not need to deal with your silo cups, empty potato salad containers, paper plates, plastic forks and the ever-present pop and beer cans. PLEASE.

Use our beaches and our parks. Just don’t be a self-entitled dickhead and leave all of your trash for the rest of us to deal with. It is polluting our land, and waterways, not to mention that it is a danger to our wildlife. And, if one of the local ‘fanatics’ happens to catch you tossing your garbage bags out of your window, you may be run off the road while the sweet sound of banjos play in the (not to) distant woods. And we all know how well that went for those visitors.

This is a forest. NOT a trash receptacle.

The remnants of your family reunion, held at one of our local parks should only be painful for you. The rest of us have our own Aunt Edna’s and Uncle Frank’s to deal with, thanks.

Reduce, reuse, recycle – ugh. Never mind. Just don’t be a filthy miscreant and deal with your own mess.

So, next time you’re out and about and for some reason have a trunk full of shit you want to dump, please visit our local transfer station (so much fancier than saying ‘dump’ isn’t it?) at  23068 Warden Avenue. The fees are very reasonable and you’ll feel awesome for doing the responsible, adult thing with your unwanted goods. Or, even better, before you load all that shit into your car, truck, or bundle buggy, march it out to the curb in front of your house and slap a $1 green garbage sticker on it. The town will pick it up with your regular garbage pick up (black bag day), no questions asked. Those stickers are not very sticky, so make sure you staple or otherwise affix the sticker in plain view.  You can buy stickers at any branch of the library, Zehrs, Pinky’s, the Civic Centre,  there are a ton of distributors all around Georgina. Or, if you’re really stuck, let me know and I’ll drop a sticker off to you – no questions asked.

Out past the edge of a big untidy town was a beautiful green valley. Hidden behind its tall trees were bright flowers and bushes full of birds. In the middle of this lovely place the people of the town dumped their rubbish…There should have been a pretty village in the valley but instead there was a terrible mess.
          ~Excerpt from “The Paperbag Prince”
                               by
                          Colin Thompson

Yours truly, madly and beseechingly,

The Keswick Blog

Suck a what? And how long have I been trapped in a minivan?

So, on Friday, Mr. K.B. took a day off work to get some things done that he has been needing to get done, and also to hang out with me (because who wouldn’t want to hang out with me, right?). Now, remember, we’re married and have four kids living in our house. This means that opportunities for us to hang out together by ourselves (that may be an oxymoron?) come around about as often as that Super Moon deal that we missed last year.

Anyway, so we were out and about town in his car and I was telling him how I didn’t really know how to use his Sirius radio set up, so when I was driving his car earlier that day, I just pushed the one button and left it at that. He started to show me how easy it was to use both the preset channels and to just scan for a station. Then, to demonstrate, he spun the knob and landed on a random station. When the signal caught up to the channel, this is what we heard:

“suck a dick, suck a dick, suck a, suck a, suck a dick…”

and then I was like, what conversation was this fella having that preceded these lyrics? Because if it was anything other than this:

dude is definitely NOT going to get his dick sucked.

I’m no prude or anything, but may I ask just exactly HOW LONG I been being held hostage in a minivan full of kids? When did music change this much? I mean, just yesterday, the kids and I were happily listening to the 2017 Grammy Nominee CD that we borrowed from the library and I was feeling all “up-to-date” and “current” and then today, I find out I have NO IDEA what the hell is going on out there. Here I was, upset that my kids are already being exposed to gangster rap in elementary school, while I should have just been thankful that they’re not walking around the house singing “suck a dick.”

Fuck.

So, two things come from this impromptu music lesson. 1) I’m keeping my head, heart and ears firmly planted in music pre-2000, and 2) It will be another decade or longer before I am morally able to join the ranks of satellite radio subscribers.

They represent me perfectly. The princess and the basket case. C’est moi.

Note: I was going to Google it and try to post a link, but then I thought – with all of the ad targeting bullshit do I really want paid ads showing up for me on Amazon, Facebook, or anywhere else that are encouraging me to suck a dick? Probably not. I’m still annoyed that everywhere I go online I see ads for hemorrhoid cream (you ask Google ONE question about something you heard about models using Preparation H as an under-eye cream and you’re marked for life. Take my word for it, just accept the wrinkles).

Nope. Just don’t do it.

And that’s how my life went from PG to XXX in one turn of a radio dial.

~A.

The kids are alright. Except, no, wake up, they’re really not.

stig·ma

ˈstiɡmə/

noun

noun: stigma; plural noun: stigmata; plural noun: stigmas

1. a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.”the stigma of having gone to prison will always be with me”
 synonyms:shame, disgrace, dishonor, ignominy, opprobrium, humiliation, (bad) reputation “the stigma of bankruptcy”

The kids are alright. Or are they?

If you’ve ever hung out with me on The Keswick Blog before, you may be under the impression that I’m not necessarily a champion for Facts. That I am more about feelings, or opinions born of facts, or maybe feelpinions, perhaps? Well, I am kind of a fan of #RealFacts. And it turns out that I’ve become a bit of a curmudgeon and realize that I have have zero time or patience for #AltFacts or #FakeNews. Not only that, but I’m also not a big believer in statistics generally speaking (I could not get through my stats class in university to save my life, I’m telling you). There are just too many ways to manipulate statistics to fit even the wackiest arguments. But with that said, even I will concede that there are a few areas in which facts and statistics resonate with me, and when that happens, I try to share them with others. And this is one of those areas that resonate with me, because for all the iPhones, $200 pairs of shoes, new flat screen televisions in their bedrooms and unlimited data plans to Snapchat their days away, the kids are not alright. And as adults, as parents, as concerned citizens, it’s time to wake. the. fuck. up.

*Warning – I’ll be tossing a few offensive words throughout this post. But if you’re offended by my using the word ‘fuck’ and not by the gross misunderstanding and misinformation that the majority of us are operating under when it comes to our children’s mental health, I’ll bid you adieu right here.

Our kids are suffering. Not all of our kids, but far, far, far too many of our kids. And not enough is being done to help them. WE are not doing enough to help them. And even when a parent, friend, teacher or other adult figure recognizes the signs that a child may be suffering, too many of those children are not able to access the appropriate services to get the help that they need.

Am I talking about cancer? Nope. Am I talking about learning disabilities, closer, but nope. I’m talking about mental health. The mental health (and illness) as it pertains to our children and youth, to be specific. Because contrary to popular views of previous generations, children are people, and therefore completely capable of feeling ALL the feelings and experiencing ALL the complications that make up what we define as ‘mental health.’

I promised you some statistics earlier, and since I almost always deliver on my promises (the exception being if said promises are made while you’re holding a giant Toblerone bar in front of me. In that case, I’m apt to say or promise just about anything to get my hands on it).

But alas, there is no chocolate in sight, so here they are:

  • It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide.
  • Today, approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode.
  • The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million.
  • Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities
  • Mental illness is increasingly threatening the lives of our children; with Canada’s youth suicide rate the third highest in the industrialized world.
  • Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year old Canadians, second only to accidents; 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide.
  • Schizophrenia is youth’s greatest disabler as it strikes most often in the 16 to 30 year age group, affecting an estimated one person in 100.
  • Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada.
  • In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.
    *Emphasis added 
    (From The Canadian Mental Health Association @ http://www.cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/#.WNsqPxgZPVo)

And we, as parents, guardians, and a society, still want to insist that the kids are alright? Really? We want to continue thinking that if we just buy the right product, if we just make sure that they have the right ‘stuff’ that everything will be okay. But no. Step back and take a good look at your kids, a real, good, honest-to-God look. Is there something there that you haven’t seen or noticed before? Is there something there that you’ve been  justifying or excusing away that really, should be dealt with? Is there something going on with your child or teen that you’ve been denying, even though you know, deep in your heart that something is just wrong?

There is no shame in seeking help for your child and there should be no stigma attached by your or anyone else to your child for his suffering. It is not a failure on your part if your child is struggling with mental health issues. It is not a failure of your child either. Shit happens. We need to deal with it. Because there is very real shame in NOT dealing with and seeking help for issues that are HURTING a child and causing him or her to SUFFER needlessly and alone. Far too often, our egos as parents prevents us from being HONEST about what is going on with our kids. It’s not them, it’s the school. It’s not them, it’s the other kids. It’s not them, it’s our ex. It’s not them, it’s lack of sleep. And you know what? Sometimes is may not be them. But sometimes, it is. And if we’re so heavily invested in it not being them, who is going to step up, step in and help them to deal?

Years ago, mental health and mental illness were taboo, scary, shameful subjects that were spoken of in whispers and largely ignored, where possible, dismissed when acceptable and denied when confronted. The fear and stigma attached to mental illness has likely caused more complications and strife than it’s ever prevented.

My message to parents? Simple. Get out of your own way. So what if your kids aren’t “Facebook” perfect? So your life doesn’t fit into a quirky 140-character tweet. Maybe when we stop living our lives and running our families with the goal to garner the most “Likes” or “Followers” and instead begin to run our affairs in the best interests of our children and our selves with the aim to be solidly educated and productive, contributing members of society, only then will we begin to see some of those terrifying statistics we read above start to change for the better.

There is NO excuse why only 1 in 5 children is getting the mental health services they need. It cannot be said enough. There is NO shame in admitting that you need help to figure out how to help your child. If your child fell, and broke his arm, would you try to set and cast it yourself? Of course not. If your child had a raging ear infection, would you put a band-aid on it and pretend they were fine? Of course not. That would be ridiculous, even downright neglectful. Right?

Well, trying to pretend that a child cannot be suffering from mental health issues when all of the signs and behaviour suggest otherwise is just as ridiculous, and yes, neglectful. Children and youth need us to be strong, capable adults who protect them, guide them, and help them. If our egos get in the way of that, whose best interests are we serving?

So, are the kids alright?

The kids? Oh, sure they’re alright. Except that one over there, the forlorn-looking fella, he’s eleven-years-old and closing in on 200lbs, oh, and that sixth grader, the one with the backless shirt and bra straps hanging out? She threw a chair at her teacher yesterday and threatened another student with a stapler. Oh, right, and maybe that one sulking over there, she used to be a boy, but decided in the third grade that she wanted to be a girl, so we just went with it, but now puberty is starting and shit it getting real. Mom? Well, that’s the kicker, mom says he only eats fresh fruit, vegetables and lean chicken, so there’s nothing she can do about his weight, He’s just big-boned. And about that chair throwing thing? Well, that teacher is a bitch and was ganging up on her daughter demanding that she sit in her seat when all she wanted was to go for a drink at the fountain. The other student? Lying. Staplers are for losers. Do you see this? Are you taking this in? These children are SUFFERING and their suffering makes ADULTS scared, uncomfortable and defensive. It needs to make adults sit up, take notice and start addressing the source of children’s suffering.

For the last time, there is no shame in seeking help. There is enormous shame in pretending that all is well when things are falling apart. Needing and seeking help with mental health concerns is not wrong, for anyone. Seeing or even suspecting that there is a need for mental health intervention and not reaching out and seeking that help on behalf of those vulnerable members of the society is a life sentence. Not merely for the child, but for the rest of society as well.

#EndStigma #LetsTalk #KidsHelpLine #TheKidsArentAlright #KidsDoGetDepressed #GetLoud

Kid conversations. Or, Being schooled using a banana analogy

So, this conversation happened at my house tonight:

10 year-old: UGH! This banana has a HUGE bruise! Blech! *insert lots of gagging noises*

6 year-old: *insert hand gestures and adult tone of voice* Okay. I’ll tell you the story of how I ate my bruised banana. Ready? I opened my banana. It was bruised. I just it ate through it and didn’t say a thing about it. Not a word. And that’s how I got through it. Just eat through it. See?

My six-year-old is wiser than me again. You’d think that I’d be used to this humbling truth, but the fact is, I am not. It takes these moments in time, these overheard conversations to remind me that for as much as I think that I’m teaching them about life, it is they who are teaching me.

Because Miss Moon’s banana story is a lot like life. Sometimes, you just have to keep moving forward, not complaining about anything, and just get through it. Sometimes, it really is okay.

Like Miss Moon and Shia say, sometimes, you just have to do it.

It’s Bell ‘Let’s Talk’ Day and It’s Okay to Struggle.

For the people struggling with metal illness and mental health issues on a daily basis, today is about creating a safe space for conversations to happen, to take mental health issues out of the dark, taboo places and insinuate them into the general population. To create awareness. To create empathy and understanding. To educate and attempt to eradicate some of the stigma that plagues any illness that is not physical in nature.

And I have a theory.

I believe that we all struggle with mental illness and mental health. Every single one of us. Depression, anxiety, addictions, narcissism, social dysfunction, phobias, compulsions, delusions, we all have something. Some of us battle daily. Some of us battle once in our lifetime. Some of us are triggered seasonally. And some of us completely unaware that we are suffering from an actual illness and think we’re just fine, but can’t explain why we do, think or say the things that we do. Not understanding why some things just keep on happening ‘to us.’ Some of us struggle our whole lives and some of us struggle with mental illness and health during various phases of our lives. The point is, no one gets out unscathed. This effects us all.

And that is okay.

It is okay not to be ‘perfect’ and have it all together, all the time. It is okay to need a little (or a lot) of help. It is okay to need medication, therapy, comfort, and to retreat to regroup. It is okay to not be strong all of the time and really, sometimes we are the strongest when we are the most vulnerable.

I am very aware of my imperfections, issues and struggles 365 days a year. The older I get, the more issues I realize that I have. And that is okay. We are all imperfect. We are all in this together. If I see you struggling, I will offer whatever help that I can. Be it an ear to listen, advice, chocolate, or, if we’re really good friends, help hiding the body.

My door (virtual) is always open (I’d keep my actual door open, but last time I left the screen unlocked a racoon walked into my kitchen and stole the cat food, so I keep things pretty Fort Knox’d now). If you’re feeling like you’re the only one who yelled at her kids, didn’t do mothering perfectly, fed her family whatever was around, screwed up at work, ate too much or too little, are overwhelmed by all of the demands placed on you – for your time, you attention, your affection, for your YOU – you are not alone.

My door is open. So for this Bell Let’s Talk Day, and everyday until the next one, Let’s Talk. 

#BellLetsTalk

Twelve months of new initiatives to save my soul and my sanity

Most of what I have blogged about so far this year are issues around personal, inner-spirit change. Mine, specifically. And this afternoon, as I was (very glamorously and fabulously) hanging up the wet laundry to dry (er, change that to frugally, perhaps?), a thought occurred to me. I have twelve complete months ahead of me and the number twelve is not overwhelming or too daunting, so that if I do just one new behaviour or make one different choice each month, if nothing else, I’ll be closer to reclaiming my soul and my sanity.

So, to start the year off right, I’ve decided that the emotional and mental energy that I use trying to convince other people that I mean what I say, that I am sincere in my compliments or kind observations is actually draining the life out of me.

So, I give. I am sitting this dance out.

For the next month, if I say something nice to someone, for example, “You look great!” or “You’re so funny” or “That slab of cake you’re eating really brings out the colour of your eyes.” and I get any response other than “Thank you!” or “Effin’ A!”  or some other positive and accepting response, I am not going to try again. I am not going to argue and try to convince the person that they look good, that they are funny or have the cakeiest looking eyes ever. Conversations will start to sound something like:

Me: You look so nice today!

Other: Yeah, sure. I’ve gained a ton of weight and my hair looks like shit.

Me: K.

or maybe like this:

Me: You are so funny! You make me laugh! *laughing*

Other: Yeah, but you don’t really think that I’m funny.

Me: K. You’re right. *no longer laughing*

And just maybe, if I have enough of these conversations, change will happen and I can start having these conversations:

Me: You look so nice today!

Other: Thank you!

Me: You’re welcome. I love it when you look so happy!

or even:

Me: You are so funny! You make me laugh! *laughing*

Other: Thank you! *looking pleased and also laughing*

It seems like such a small thing, but I feel like it would make a significant difference in my overall outlook and emotional wellbeing if I could just stop trying to make anyone believe me and accept the truth, as I see it, rather than just giving them the space to feel however they choose to feel. I can no longer own everyone else’s insecurities and issues. I have enough of my own.

And no, I’m not going to turn into a blistering, blustering, angry asshole (how is that for a colourful visual?). I am still going to offer sincere compliments and kind observations, but I am no longer going to do the “Noooooo, you are lovely! Yes, you ARE!” dance with people. I’m sitting this one out. If I say it, I mean it. If I meant to say that I thought you looked like ten pounds of chum in a five-pound sack, well, chances are I wouldn’t say anything at all. Because, while it shouldn’t be true, I do find that unfortunately, I am in fact, a complete failure as a liar. So simply dreadful, that I refuse to even try anymore.

So, the next time I tell you that I like your face, do not tell me that I don’t. Do not ask me why I like your face and try to make me justify it. Do not try to make me convince you that I like your face. And do not try to convince me that I do not, in all actuality, like your face. Either, just accept that I like your face or I’ll accept your (baseless) assertion that I don’t. This dance of insecurity and neediness is no longer my jam.

Reclaiming my sanity, step one.

~A.

 

Giving thanks and asking questions

I love blogging. I love sharing information, recipes, stories and issues with everyone who reads the blog. I love writing something that resonates with another person, makes someone think about an issue in a new way or brings an issue to someone’s attention for the first time. I love the give and take of blogging, the sense of ‘finding one’s tribe’ and the sharing of ideas and quips. The thrill that I feel when any one of you leaves a comment or thought, sends me questions or emails, shares my posts with others in your social circle is akin to the thrill that I get when presented with a fresh-from-the-oven gooey pizza (and I can promise you, my excitement is almost pathological in those moments). My cup, she runneth over. And please do not even get me started on the jubilation that a new follower, reader or ‘Like’ can induce. So, for that, I must give enormous thanks. But thanks are cheap. So I’m giving thanks AND asking for your input (it’s that give and take one thing in motion, see?).

And now – the whole Question!

What are your thoughts on blogs that run contests, giveaways and the like, (interspersed with their regular content)? Are they gimmicky? Are you less likely to take them seriously or more likely to visit regularly to see if they are offering anything for free that interests you? Are you more or less likely to subscribe, Like, Share, and Follow or unsubscibe, Unlike, and Unfollow a blog that incorporates giveaways into their line up? What do YOU think about giveaways and contests on blogs. Yay or Nay? Go for it or Go away?

Please, I want to hear from you! The more comments, opinions, thoughts the better. One of my goals this year is to use 2017 to start realizing my vision for The Keswick Blog. And let’s be honest, between you and me, without readers, and without bringing interesting and engaging content to the table, it is just another online diary documenting my madness for my own amusement. And that is not what I’m going for here. I am already overexposed to my own madness as things currently stand.

Comment here on the blog, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email, or whatever your preferred method of communicating is – Contests and giveaways, yay or nay? Why? And what would  you want to see more or less of this year? 💁🏼💁🏻‍♂️

~A.

Conversations with kids thus far in 2017

As some of you know, Miranda and I just returned from an adventure at the hospital that included an over-night stay. While we were waiting for a room in the Hospital for Sick Kids E.R. Miranda announced to me, rather urgently, that she needed the bathroom. So, off we went, dragging the IV trolley beside us in search of a bathroom. We found one close by.

“Oh, wait a minute, honey. The seat is a mess” I told her once we were inside the little bathroom. She looked over her shoulder at the toilet, “Ugh! Who PEES like that?” she asked incredulously. Before I had the chance to answer, she spoke again, in a low voice while looking downward and slowly shaking her head. “Boys.” she said. “Boys pee like that” she sounded so mournful, so disappointed and just so defeated that I had to stifle a chuckle. She cut a comical, yet heartbreaking figure, all six-and-a-half years of her wearing nothing but dark grey cotton tights and 3/4 sleeve purple top, now cut up the side of the left arm to accommodate her temporary plaster cast, which was supporting her broken elbow.  Her other hand was incapacitated by the i.v. drip and sponge block the nurse had just finished setting up moments before. Her beautiful blonde hair a tangled mess of curls, hair elastics and sleep. And, as I hurried to clean up the seat for her, using the hospital one-ply and a prayer (honestly though – who does pee like that? And more importantly, who leaves it like that?), I had to agree with her, “yes baby, boys sometimes pee like that.” And, hoping that she would sense my solidarity and hear me telepathically, I thought “and sometimes, it’s just enough to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I hear ya, kiddo.”

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And then this exchange just happened:

Paxton – Mummy, do you know what I’m really good at?

Me: Everything?

Paxton: Yes. But no. Really. I mean do you know what I’m really good at?

Me: What?

Paxton: I’m really good at sticking my head in a bucket of water and getting an apple.

Me: Bobbing for apples? That’s what you’re really good at?

Paxton: Yup! *beaming and proud as punch*

Me: … *with visions of a 50 year-old Pax living in my basement flashing through my mind*

Thank you, Mr. Einstein for this invaluable insight and truth. I am a believer.

Transition pains and birthday wishes

Lucky me. The New Year and my birthday conveniently occur with only five days between them. This means that I have barely the time it takes to eat a cheesecake before beginning (and failing at) New Year initiatives and deciding (and failing at) birthday initiatives. So, while earlier I blogged about my objectives for 2017, now I find myself trying to put words around more personal objectives and meanings as I pass into yet another (early) year of my 40’s.

It is my birthday on Friday, so the time to get this done is now as short as my skirts once were.

Turning 40 did not hurt. To be honest, it was painless because I did not (and do not) feel it. In my mind, I’m still the deranged, scattered, dippy teenage girl I was (except now I have a credit card, a car and a bunch of kids to drive around). Until now, I don’t think any age has really struck a chord with me. But this upcoming birthday has been bothering me, and I think that I have finally figured out why.

It is because this year, I feel very much like I am on the cusp of a brand new chapter and a whole new way of defining and living my life. And that is terrifying and exciting, devastating and energizing, mournful and celebratory, all at the same time (this may be a side effect of my basket case mental health status).

I have always prided myself on being smart and certain. Not muddled, not confused, not unsure. But muddled, confused and unsure is where I have been residing lately, during this ‘life’ changing of the guard, so to speak (and no, I’m not menopausal, thankyouverymuch).

This birthday is a milestone for me. It’s not a traditional milestone, it’s not 40, 45 or 50, but then, rarely in my life have I done things how and when I was supposed to. Chalk it up to a potent combination of the ‘nature and nurture’ forces from which I was created.

This year will be the year that I finally lay to rest my belief that ‘one more baby’ is reasonable, possible and ‘right’. This year I lay to rest my belief that my life circle and purpose is incomplete without mothering one more child. This year I move forward knowing that I have five beautiful, healthy, wonderful(ly infuriating) children who depend on me to help their worlds make sense and who also need me to  love them, protect them, feed them (possibly the most important item on this list), and mother them. Alas, this is the year that I stop thinking of my body in terms of its function and ability to produce and directly sustain the life of another and start thinking of it more as the irreplaceable, important and worthy entity for the sake of MY survival. To sustain MY life. Because my survival matters too.

Change has never been my forte. I am a planner, perhaps a bit of a control freak (as much as hippy-dippy and control freak go together, that is). I’ve been told (more than once) that I do not shift gears very easily or quickly, and as much as I dislike the sound of that or what it feels like it means about me, I have to begrudgingly admit that it is a true statement. I like things done my way. On my schedule. And I’m not terribly good at trilling “plot twist” and moving on when presented with an unplanned-for idea or event. But I am working on it. My personal goal for this year is to be better at plot twists and plan changes. Oh, I’m not giving up my lists, but this year their role will shift from that of an unforgiving dictator to more of a gentle guide for my days.

I’m looking forward to my birthday this year. I’m looking forward to doing the work that I need to do on myself, to be a different, if not better, version of me. I am looking forward to figuring out who I am and how I fit into this world now that my baby years are behind me and my future is still wide open.

~A.