This morning was hard and I owe them an apology. A letter to my smalls

Dear Mason, Deacon, Paxton and Miranda,

First, let me start by saying that I love you all, beyond reason and measure.

Second, let me admit to you all that I am human, incredibly fallible and flawed.

Thirdly, allow me to apologize for my outburst this morning. I could give you a hundred reasons why, lay blame on the four of you and others in my life, and make endless excuses for myself, but I will not. At the end of the day, I, just like everyone else, am entirely responsible for my feelings, thoughts, words and actions. This morning, I did not walk away, breathe, pray and ask God for the help that I needed in that moment. I did not keep my voice quiet and remain in control of myself and my feelings. I allowed myself to become overwhelmed by the chaos of my mind and my life and I brought you all along for the ride. And for that I am truly and eternally sorry.

I honestly do believe that as people, no one can “make us feel” or “make us do” anything. We have ultimate control over one thing in life. Ourselves. We choose our feelings, our reactions, our actions and our choices, and we always have more than one choice.

I promise to continue to strive to do better, to be better and to work harder to live the lessons that I try so hard to impart to all of you. Turn the other cheek, practice forgiveness and personal responsibility, be kind, always. Be kind even when, no especially when someone is not being kind to you. Think about what our purpose is in this life – to love, to take care of and be of service to others, to make our home, family and world a safer, better, more welcoming and loving place to be, for everyone and anyone who walks into (or out of) our lives.

I am enormously proud of each and every one of you, together with your brother Declan. The five of you, are collectively and individually, my entire heart, and are perfect both in your perfect and imperfect moments. Without you, there is no me.

You are, my beautiful babies, in three words, so wonderfully made.

Love,
Mummy.

Today is a good day

As an act of deviation from my usual modus operandi of bitching and moaning and generally wallowing in self-pity (and chocolate), I am here to share that today is a good day.

I am purposely ignoring my scratchy, threatening-to-hurt, throat. I am in denial that my youngest has screeched herself hoarse at her brothers’ every infraction, real and imagined. I have chosen to omit any and all parts of the day that do not fit in with it being ‘a good day.’

Because today is a good day. We are on day three of March Break. For the third day in a row, I did not make four lunches before 7:00am. I did not shuffle kids outside, in shifts, to wait for their school busses. I did not have to search through backpacks for notes home, permission slips, agendas and homework. I did not have to fill my dishwasher with countless containers and lids that never fail to fill with (and retain) water during the wash cycle. Today is a good day. My smalls (hardly small at all anymore, but I also refuse to admit that most days) are home with me. We had one friend over for a playdate, another friend invite one of mine to a movie, and there are plans in the works for the other two to meet up with friends over the next couple of days.

We are not on vacation, somewhere warm and wonderful, frolicking in the sun and sand. We are not en route to some crazy adventure (that would most likely end up with me being featured on ‘Fail Army’ – ” You alright, Cory?”). We are not throwing money left and right at our week to keep us occupied and busy. We are home. We are playing with friends, reading, seeing movies (thank you, Cineplex Family Favourites!), running around outside, eating at home, having sibling sleepovers and staying up just a bit past bedtime.

Um, you know what? I’ve changed my mind. Today is not a good day. It is a good life.

~A.

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on far too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off. Life is good, not perfect 😂

Good bye, our Lucy

The Life and Times of our Lucy Liu, with us April 2012 – February 2018

The very thoughtful and kind gift from the 404 Emergency Vet clinic. Each of our smalls received one. Lucy 🐾

When we bought this house in 2012, it came with cats. Like fourteen feral cats with varying degrees of illness and disease. And in among the chaos of cats we were dealing with, was her. A small, black and white warrior, who survived despite her surroundings. She, who did not hiss, run or yowl. She adopted us quickly. The other cats were trapped and taken by Animal Control. Many went on to have litters of kittens shortly afterwards. Some were able to be adopted out. Others, well, I don’t know.

The bond between Lucy and ‘her kids’ was unbreakable, genuine and always loving.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not, by nature, a cat person. In fact, cats scare me, I never know if they’re about to attack. This cat though, was different from any other I had ever encountered. She very decidedly chose us. Lucy Liu (aptly named after the actress of the same name, by my husband, for her obvious, ‘Kill Bill’-esque ninja abilities) stayed with us and within no time at all, a matter of a few weeks actually, she gave birth to a litter of three kittens. We never even knew she was pregnant. She was just that tiny, undernourished and unwell. Immediately we could tell that she was an amazing mother. It was apparent that this was not her first litter. When the kittens were old enough to leave their mama, they were adopted out. But Lucy stayed with us. We had her spayed and microchipped and loved, cared and fed her back to health. She was amazing. She was also a bit blood thirsty, but only towards creatures we wouldn’t want in our house anyway. So we appreciated her huntress ways.

My husband snapped this picture on his phone a few days after Lucy had her kittens. We named them Squawker, Little Grey, and Butterball.

Lucy was never indifferent and uninterested in us. She trusted us with her kittens, she trusted us with her own care. She never fought or scowled at us. She would follow me down our driveway and along the road and around the corner to pick up our mail. She would respond to her name and come when called. She was the perfect blend of independent and social. She would join us in the living room for movie nights, lie on the floor with our smalls, she would even join us for bedtime story and outdoor movie nights. She was completely comfortable and at ease, blending in with our big family without missing a beat.

She was all in. Whether it was story time, movie time, playtime or sleeping time, she gave it her all.

Often in the mornings (during the months that she enjoyed the outdoors), she would walk with us down the driveway to see the smalls get on their school bus. She would check on the children at night, visiting each one of them after lights out. And sometimes she would stay with one or the other and sometimes she would settle in for the night in her own bed (a favourite cardboard box filled with baby blankets), or on a cold night, in front of the fire.

I loved when she slept like this.

She was definitely a cookie. If the box fits, sleep in it.

She would plank anywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was an outdoor cat from April until October and absolutely agoraphobic between November and March. This always struck us funny, as before adopting us, she lived outside 24/7, 365 days a year. She rarely, if ever, really left our property. When other cats, both known to her and feral would approach her porch or deck, she would defend it with a fury that we otherwise never witnessed.

For such a tiny little thing, she sure knew how to walk menacingly.

She never grew to be much  more than 7 or 8 pounds, so stayed a small cat always. But she had the heart and spirit of a lioness and I often joked that one day we would look out and see her pulling a deer down the driveway after a day out hunting.

Lucy Liu, Boxing Day 2017.

Then, last night I had to rush Lucy Liu to the 24 hour, 404 Emergency vet clinic in Newmarket. She could barely breathe and was not acting like herself at all. She was immediately taken into an examination room and triaged and within 20 minutes of our arrival, Dr. Rebecca, very gently and kindly gave me the results of her assessment and the options available to us. There was very little doubt. I had to call my husband and let him know that it was probably best to get the kids (I had just put them to bed before Lucy and I left the house) and bring them down to say good-bye. Lucy’s chest was filled with fluid and making it impossible for her lungs to inflate, the most likely cause was cancer. Rather than putting her through endless tests and diagnostics and lengthy hospital stay with a poor prognosis and nothing but suffering on her horizon, we had to let her go. She deserved to go gently, without anymore suffering.

We were all with her to the very end, petting her, loving her and comforting her. When she was gone, we brought her back to the home that she loved and we will bury her here in the Spring. We miss her tremendously already. Today, our house is a little bit emptier and a whole lot more sorrowful.

Good bye our beautiful Lucy. We could not have asked for a better companion and friend than you. Thank you for all the gifts you brought to our family. We will love you always.

Just sitting here raising a big spender, is all. Paxisms

I took my smalls on a mini-shopping trip on yesterday. They all had Christmas money that they were desperate to spend. So, at the second store, Pax finds exactly that he’s been looking for and it’s on clearance – bonus! This was our conversation:

P: Mumma, how much is this with tax?
Me: Um, just over $20, maybe?
P (looking impish): Well, I’m going to give her a $20 bill and tell her ‘keep the change’
Me: Hmm. Okay, big spender. Except that $20 isn’t quite enough, so there will be no change for her keep and you’ll owe her a bit more.
P (crestfallen): Well, I’m still going to give her a twenty. I’ll figure out the rest when I get there.
Me: (to self): Where’d this kid even come from? (While picture him wearing a fedora and making it rain in Mastermind Toys one day).

This morning, Pax came down stairs with a croupy-sounding cough and the saddest little face I had seen since he came downstairs yesterday morning. I felt his forehead, checked him over and asked him what he would like for breakfast. This was our exchange:

P: Mummy, do I have to go to school today?
Me: Well, probably Pax. We still have an hour until the bus, so let’s wait and see, okay?
P: (Tears welling up): But I’m really sick. My throat hurts and I’m walking really slowly.
Me: Walking slowly? Oh no! Well, let’s just see how you’re feeling after you’ve been awake for a while, okay?
P: (sniffing): Okay, but I’m pretty sure I’m too sick to go.

Within half an hour, he had eaten, gotten dressed and made no other mention of staying home. Had I just listened to my heart when that sad little face that first appeared in the kitchen, he would have been home today and full of energy and jonesing for fun, while I spent the day trying to confine him to the couch. So glad I remembered to pause and think before blurting out the first thing that popped into my head (which is a bit of a trademark of mine).

Now if only I could do that in other life situations, I just know that I would start to make some serious traction on this adulting gig. As it is, I got the garbage and the recycling to the curb before the truck came, so yeah, I’m already feeling pretty grown up today.

~A.

P.S. Immediately after writing that big “I’m winning at being an adult” brag, I spilled my drink down my front and narrowly missed dropping the glass in the process. So, right then, never mind. Still a dork. 🤦🏼‍♀️

Guys, I think I’m making a pig’s ear of this parenting gig

Preamble:
Kids need to play outside. I mean, fresh air, physical activity, rosy cheeks and bright eyes, right? All good things that help promote healthy mental health (awkward, much?) and all that super popular back-to-nature stuff that I keep seeing posted on Facebook, right?

So, being a ‘good parent,’ my kids are outside. All bundled up and ready to frolic and play in the snow, fight with their siblings until eventually one of them breaks and tears and fists fly. Yes, I can see their mental health getting healthier by the minute outside these four walls.

So, out they go. Except one resister. My nine-year-old. He’s active and full of energy. Brilliant, funny, and cuddly as all get out. Unfortunately (for him) he was not built for winter (just like his mama, so believe me, I feel for him). He finds very little joy in sub-zero temperatures and being outside in the snow, just for the sake of it (again, I get it. I’m sitting bundled up in my kitchen and decidedly NOT outside improving my mental health) and while he won’t be openly defiant about going outside, he will delay the trip as long as possible. Someone else may let it slide and let him stay in. But I’m not that mother. One of the few perks that come with this title, is that I get to toss the kids outside to play every day and they have to do it. It’s in the rules.

So, now that I have (I hope adequately) set the scene, here is the exchange P and I just had at the door.

The exchange:
Me: No gloves? Here, at least take this one. I don’t know what you’ve done with the other one, but at least one hand won’t freeze. (Notice how much adulting I’m doing here. It’s breathtaking, yes?)

P: Nah. I don’t need any. I’m just going out to play dead.

Me: Um. Huh. Dead? That doesn’t sound like an awesome game, but okay. Take the glove. (Clearly, this kid is in dire need of outside play time. His mental health needs a boost. It’s okay. I am on it like he’s a cheesecake and I’m, well, me).

P: But I’m going out to play DEAD. I don’t need gloves.

Me: Well, when you decide that you’re not dead anymore, won’t it be nice to have at least one hand not get frozen in the snow trying to get up? (I’m on my June Cleaver game today, people. I’m owing this parenting thing).

P: Fine (taking the glove). But I’m telling you, I’m only going to be lying dead in the snow, Mummy.

Me: Okay, baby. Have so much fun!

He trudges outside with his sister who has been waiting patiently for him to get ready and I skip away, into the kitchen to wash pears and marvel at just how obvious it is that I was born to parent. When it dawns on me. “Um, did he just say dead?”

To make a short story long and back to short again, I am making a pig’s ear out of this parenting gig. Pray for my small humans. And someone, please. Start a GoFundMe to cover their future therapy bills. Those clinical hours add up quickly and the bills are going to be astronomical.

~A.

And today he would have turned 70 (fabulously, adorned in sequins, stilettos and feather boas, no doubt)

We get but one life. Four days ago it was my birthday (yay, me!). And today, the person who contributed 50% of my DNA would have turned 70 years old (and he would have lied about it smoothly, without guile or shame). He lived the holy hell out of the 42 years he was here with us. He blew mainstream society up, he opened minds, he got conversations started. He was unapologetic and determined to follow his dreams, on his terms. He looked at the way things were in his world, and what society told him that he needed to be and growled a resounding “NO.” He had the ability to make people furiously happy one moment and to the brink of irrational rage the next (a talent, it seems, I inherited, much to my mother’s chagrin).

He was ADHD personified, possessing that singular, obsessive hyper- focus on his passions, he was unstoppable by social norms or expectations. Pushing people’s buttons was a gift and he made good use of that gift at every opportunity, it would seem. He went where and when he wanted and he was stopped the only way he could be stopped. By the demons that lurked within.

At the end of the day, the only thing that truly has the power to stop us, to end us, are the demons we harbour inside ourselves. And his demons were even more powerful and larger-than-life than he was at the peak of his talent, career and life.

Craig, Carol, and Bette. They just don’t make stars like this anymore.

If we lived in a wish-based world, I would wish he had lived to see his grandchildren. I would wish that he had lived long enough to lie about being old enough to HAVE grandchildren. I would wish that my children could have experienced the incredible energy and talent their grandfather was and just how powerful his talents were, in part because he decided that he would be the best so he worked tirelessly perfecting his craft until he was the best. I would wish that I had been allowed more time with him – just as he was, after the stage lights dimmed and the curtain fell.

Alas, since we do not live in a wish-based world, I will take some time today to watch some of the YouTube videos of various live shows that people have generously uploaded over the years and be thankful that through my children, he lives on, in at least some small way.

~A.

Engagement rings, history and searching for answers – Part 1 of 3

This is a trilogy of posts looking at the history of engagement rings and what they really mean.

Getting married? Want to get married? Already married?

I was. I kind of did. Then I really did. Then I did and so I remain.

I got married without an engagement ring. Honestly, I never really thought that I would get married, I knew that I would have children, but marriage? It was a foreign concept to me. That said, I always knew that if I did one day get married, it would involve a HUGE dazzler on my finger. I never pictured myself in a big white dress and having a huge wedding, attended by people I barely knew, but of the ring, I was certain. And aside from my natural obsession and attraction to shiny things, I always just wanted a seriously big diamond ring. And like so many other people, I felt that a beautiful, sparkly rock on my finger would let other people know at a glance that;

1) I was loved and desired (and therefore worthy of their attention);

2) that I was worth A LOT as a person (because a bad or worthless person surely would not have such a beautiful ring? *insert eye roll here*);

3) that I was special enough for someone to spend a whack of cash (at least two MONTH of his salary, right?) on to gift me something so coveted and valuable; and

4) That I was finally pretty enough, smart enough, sexy enough, funny enough, just plain GOOD enough and someone amazing had sealed his promise to love me unconditionally forever by putting his money where his mouth was and I had the 1.5+Ct VVS1 or better, white gold/platinum, 3+ total carat weight knuckle duster to prove it.

Now, I don’t need you to tell me that this kind of thinking is some seriously twisted shit. I can read. I get it.

I have been married over a decade now, and there is no engagement ring in sight. We had a small, perfect ceremony (we eloped locally) and I would not have changed a thing (except perhaps to extend an invitation to our respective parents). Even so, it has always nagged at me that I do not have an engagement ring, that I lack that one, seemingly very important cultural symbol of love. What does it mean? Does it mean that I was not (am not) special enough or worth enough to deserve the very splashy and public declaration of love that only an expensive, flashy ring screams? It has bothered me so much so that over the years, I have started various savings funds to purchase my ‘dream ring’ for myself. But those funds always end up being needed for the family, so I use them happily and start again.

Recently though, I’ve been thinking – is my internal struggle over having an engagement ring about me, for my ego or well-being or it is for the benefit of others? Would it enhance my life or would it merely give me the false belief that other people will perceive me to be a ‘better’ or ‘more worthy’ person? Would it make marriage easier, would it make any difference in the day-to-day realities of being married? Would it mean that my husband loved me more or better than he did before the ring?

And the answer is, I just do not know. But I do know that I want to learn and understand how the engagement ring became such ‘a thing’ and how it came to represent of love and the worth of a woman within our society. Because if I can understand those things, then maybe I can get honest about the origins of my motivation and determination to have one of my very own.

The next two blog posts in this mini-series will explore some of the history behind the engagement ring ritual and try to sort out fact from fiction and meander through through centuries-old relationship drama (spoiler alert: not a hell of a lot has changed in the past 600 years). And by the end of it all, I hope to have a better idea of what I am really searching for and if it can really be found at the top of a band of gold.

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.

If you need to know what love is, feel free to ask my eight-year-old. He knows the answer.

A friend on Facebook, who has a small army of young, adorable children, recently posted a list of questions to ask your kids, typical stuff like “what’s your name, age, favourite food, etc.” The last question on the list was “What does love mean?”

I do not usually do these with my kids and when I do, I won’t post their responses, but for some reason, this time I did ask them the questions, privately, without the other three listening in. And for the most part, their answers were not surprising, I like to think that I know my kids fairly well (well, except for finding out that my twelve-year-old believes that my favourite thing to do is wash dishes, but I digress). Overall though, their answers were not shocking. Until that last question, that is. Ugh. My heart is pulverized by the sweet, tender, kind, loveliness of it all.

My oldest small and my youngest both answered ” That you care about other people” and “that you care” respectively. My second youngest son answered “kiss!” with a giggle. And my youngest son, well, he had some thoughts on the subject and I took them down while he dictated. He propped up his head with his fists under his cheek bones, thought for a few minutes, then looked at me with his deep blue eyes, took his time and slowly answered:

How does my eight-year-old know and understand the answer to this question so completely,  but the people in positions of power, who are threatening to destroy every ounce of progress made toward equality and human rights over the last century cannot connect the dots?

For me, being one who is prone to great, big feelings, able to go from feeling great big happiness to great big sadness in a matter of moments, I needed to hear this today. It gives me hope. It makes me think that maybe things really will be okay.

#BeKindAlways

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.

 

Family bike rides just got so much easier and I’m not complaining

It’s no secret that I loved, loved, loved being pregnant and having babies and raising babies and cuddling babies and everything about being with my babies 24/7. It is also no secret that part of my life has come to a close. So rather than having a depths-of-dispair pity party for myself, I’ve decided to appreciate, enjoy and NOTICE what a blessing it is to be surrounded by bigger, older, stronger kids. And the first blessing on that list this week? Family bike rides. No more baby seats, no more tricycles, training wheels or 12″ bikes that take A LOT of peddling for VERY LITTLE distance. The only pain I feel now is the burning of my thighs as I try to peddle myself up even the smallest of inclines. 🤦🏼‍♀️

That’s right, the last small of my smalls has ripped her training wheels off and is flying down the roads (staying mostly at the side and always wearing a helmet) and this development has transformed family bike rides from long, treacherous affairs to enjoyable, fun experiences.

No, really.

Deacon’s squeal at the very end of the video was because he thought he saw a butterfly but it was enough to startle me. 😂

P.S. I post a lot of nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.

Are you kidding me? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Every now and then, I get a wake up call that serves to show me that what I had always suspected is true. Sometimes it’s an accidental wake up. Other times, I go looking for it. And sometimes, it’s forced upon me after willfully hiding from it forever.

It’s no secret that I have a long-standing fear and avoidance relationship with having my picture taken. I can sometimes take one of myself, and if I do, I’m usually surrounded (read: protected) by my children, but generally, as soon as someone wants to take my picture, or there is a video recording being taped, my anxiety begins to rise and I start looking for a way OUT. I could spend an entire post psychoanalyzing WHY I’m photo-adverse, but that’s not the point of this post, so I’ll leave that for another angst-filled day.

No, the point of this post is to say “what the fuck, guys?!? Why didn’t any of you tell me that I have gotten THIS far out of control and that I’m walking around looking like a frumpy, middle-aged, worn down and tired out sack of shit?” But that was too long for the title, so I’m just putting it out there now.

Seeing myself on video, without the protective shield of my children was painful, embarrassing, uncomfortable and just plain, UGH. The fact that the video was for a school assignment made it just that much more UGH because I had to share it with other, SIGHTED people

But, you know me (or, if you don’t, you’ll quickly learn that) I’m not one to hold a grudge (ha!), so I’m just going to take it from here and start turning this ship around. No more complacency in my own gluttony and sloth. No more convincing myself that I can eat “just one slice/square/cookie/tub of ice cream.” I can’t. My willpower and self-control is not that highly evolved yet and it is time that I take ownership of that fact and stop being a victim of circumstance and emotions.

So, that said, I’m also a realist in a  lot of ways. I know that the best way for me to fail is to completely swear off sugar, white flour, junk food, pizza, and desserts forever. So I’m not doing that. I’m going to take a more mindful approach to food and what my purpose is in eating whatever it is that I’m about to stuff into  my gob. I have found that more often than not, if I stop and really think about what I’m eating, why I’m eating it and what effect eating it will have on my health, both physical and mental, I can easily resist the urge.

When I was younger, my weight struggles were about vanity and appearances. Now that I’m older, my weight issues are about health and mortality and being fully present for my family. You see, I have this goal to live to be at least 106-years-old and to share a beautiful, triple-layered chocolate cake frosted with pink vanilla buttercream with my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and I am painfully aware that it is going to to take more than a wish and a prayer to get there. It’s going to take mindful, willful, determined effort, and only I can make it happen.

I am a mindless eater. Awareness is half the battle. The other half of the battle will be choosing to switch my modus operandi from mindless to mindful and I’m calling today day one. And I may call tomorrow day one as well. And I may call every day from here on out day one, because as long as I’m trying, I’m not failing. As long as I’m trying, there is hope. As long as I’m trying, I will, eventually, figure out my way through even the hardest of obstacles.

Yes, for some of us, even stairs are an obstacle.