This is the price that I gladly pay for raising literate children.

So. Mugsy here insists that her children read. Before these babies could properly sit up, they had shelves of books to look at, chew on, drag around and drop. She also insists upon reading to her children (currently only the younger four, between the ages of 8 and 14). She reads books upon books, chapter after chapter, novel after novel. From the time the children were hardly more than delicious little morsels with chub-chub thighs and wrist-less sausage-like arms over which she could marvel and upon which she could nibble during their 2 a.m. parties (turns out that some babies are really quite crap at sleeping – who knew?) and afternoon cuddles alike, she would read to them. She reads them stories from L’Engle, Dahl, Pilkey, Shannon and Blume. She reads them poems from Silverstein and Mother Goose, and tales from Parks, White and Rowling. She reads them Llama Llama and Dr. Seuss until they can all recite them from memory. She thought she was responsibly and rightly encouraging literacy. Being an only child herself, she had no idea that she was also promoting something else entirely.

One day a year or so ago while she roamed around Costco bemoaning to herself about the price of baby carrots (she doesn’t get out of the house often), she came across an absolutely irresistible boxset of books and before she could stop herself (as if she really tried 😏), she purchased it and once home reverently removed the cellophane wrap. Mugsy and her children were about to enter the weird and wacky worlds and words carefully crafted by David Walliams.

Isn’t it beautiful? 😍

Beginning with first book in the box, The Boy In The Dress, and whipping through one novel after another, in the prescribed order, Mugsy and her children shared in the joy and pleasure of each new chapter. They laughed at the crazy characters and waited to hear the next ‘special deal’ the kind-hearted newsagent, Raj, would offer his next ‘favourite’ patron. Finally finding a story without Raj shocked them all, and not believing that it could be true, they waited for him to appear. When he did not (won’t spoil for you which novel he’s absent from), they all felt, well, a little betrayed. Alas and ahoy however they pressed on, for they were “readers” and not “quitters.” (Whatever that is supposed to mean).

That brings us up to present day. The motley quintet are reading the last book in the boxset, Grandpa’s Great Escape, relieved to find that the world has been righted and Raj is back. Giggles and guffaws from Mugsy’s eager listeners come in short order when Raj tells young Jack “I have an excellent deal going on yoghurt. Well, I say yoghurt, it’s last month’s milk and…” But just a few pages prior to that classic Raj moment, on page 110, is the place where things take a bit of a turn and what inspired this blog post. The passage is on page 110:

Usually, learning new terms and words is something I celebrate, but sometimes, it leaves a little something to be desired.

Fast-forward a week or two later, after still more reading of three-to-five chapters of GGE while the children eat dinner (most weeknight evenings). Everyone is happy and invested in the story, although they do not discuss the book outside of their dinner hour. That is, until one early morning (and all mornings are such early mornings during the week), when Mugsy asks her youngest son if he would like a second egg on a second English muffin for breakfast (his usual school morning breakfast fare). Without looking up from his plate, without batting an eye he says “Oh, yes, please Char Lady.”
“I’m sorry?”
“Yes, please Char Lady” Said now, with an elfish, cheeky smile starting to spread across his face as he lifts his eyes to meet Mugsy’s shocked expression.
“Char Lady!?! Are you kidding me? You cheeky booger nugget!”

The explosion of giggles that follows, from both the boy and Mugsy are the sort that can only happen in spaces were there exists absolute trust, love, and the safety for spontaneous outbursts of silliness.

So now, when I ask any of my younger sons to do anything, they’re apt to reply with either “yes Char Wallah” or “yes Char Lady” and immediately start to laugh. At times when I am giving them a list of things to do, I will end the with “and thank you, Char Wallah” just to make them smile as they set on their way to scrub their toilet or make their beds.

It is in these exchanges, these small moments in time, around forgettable and mundane tasks that we are able to create the happiest memories, the times they will (I hope) one day look back on and smile about, remember yet another ‘inside joke’ that only the four of them will share long after I am gone.

So, since Mugsy here is to be called Char Lady or Char Wallah by a small army of my own making, I can’t think of a more lovely memory to have (and to share) of the moment when I realized that all time spent reading to and with my people has been so much more than ‘just reading.’ The time spent has encouraged them to become readers themselves, helped them discover the magic of being lost inside the pages of a book, and has (gently) forced them to become literate (despite the occasional ‘more better’ that may slip out when one of them is tired or distracted).

Our time spent reading has done all of that, yes, but even more than that, we have been stitching together moments like this “Char Wallah” moment which ultimately help to create the fabric of their shared experience of childhood, of parent-child interactions, of their relationships with one another and with me. Realizing this, it is my dearest hope that one day, when one of them needs it the most and expects it the least, that another one of them will let loose an eye roll and a “yes, Char Wallah” on him and that their memories of this time together and the feelings of safety, of family and love, of happiness and home may encircle each of them like a warm hug and make their hearts happy again. If only for that single moment in time.

Right then. Enough of the soppy stuff. This Mugsy / Char Wallah/Lady must go and prepare the evening meal. The children are hungry and we are all looking forward to reading chapters 47-52 of G.G.E. For now that Mrs. Trifle has finally found a loo, had her tinkle and “shaken it off” (no loo roll left, of course) and she, Grandpa and Jack have resumed their escape attempt from Twilight Towers and it’s matron, the high-voltage cattle-prod-wielding diabolical Miss Swine. We are all on the edge of our seats waiting to find out where the story will take us.

And finally, please believe me that no matter how tired, busy or fed up I am, hearing any of my children ask if I will read to them, do ‘the Word of the Day’ calendar with them or plead for ‘just one more chapter, please!’ makes my heart so incredibly happy (well, happy that is until I stop reading and they kick off one argument or another, for the fifty-billionth time, but that’s a different post for a different day), and I suspect that it always will. 📖❤️
~A.

P.S. Join me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted on one site or another. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, if you like what you read here or hate what you read here, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Today I have thoughts but not too many, don’t worry.

The title is a little mis-leading. Almost every day I have thoughts. But today, I have the presence of mind and the resolve to torture others will them, so here we are. Random thoughts, up for grabs. Since we no longer have pennies in Canada, I’ll take a nickel for them.

First:

I generally do not blow dry my hair. This is probably less to do with the wash-and-wear habits I formed when I was under time constraints juggling four babies aged five and under and more to do with sheer indifference. However, I find myself with a daughter who is blessed with a head full of gorgeous, yet unruly curls and ringlets, which, left alone quickly become a tangled, matted mass of dreadlocks. So I decided to try to find a proper hairdryer in order to be able to (occasionally) tame her hair (the mini travel dryer just makes the chaos worse). Now, I am not sure if I have mentioned this a thousand or so times before, but I LOVE online shopping and hit up Amazon before ever setting a foot outside our front door (always keeping in mind that the best price will trump all else). So that’s what I did and this is what I was met with:
DUUUUUUDDE! I just wanted to buy a hairdryer with a diffuser (for her curls). I wanted to choose from a maximum of FIVE, reasonably priced, limited fire-risk hair dryers. When faced with 831 potential options, my commitment to the purchase (and by extension Miss Moon’s hair), wavered and I felt the need for either a strong drink or a good nap (spoiler alert: I had neither, go figure). I do not want, need or care to look through 831 products in order to buy a hairdryer. Honestly, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying our house and did not even look at five of those. Long story short, spoiled for choice, I folded like a cheap lawn chair and thus we still do not  have an appropriate hairdryer. Just thinking this through now and it occurs to me that she does look adorable with dreads…

Second:

Reading. Oh how I have missed you. In the past month, I have read TWO for real adult (not that kind of adult) novels and it has been marvellous. While I used to read five or more books a week, for now I must be satisfied with two books a month. I have now started two more and find that it remains so much more satisfying and therapeutic to lose myself between the covers of a book than it is to watch television, surf the internet or follow social media drama. For me, a good book wins, every time. Now that my children are older (youngest is almost eight – *insert crying face here*), I can sit in a room with them and read my own book while they read or do other activities and it is no longer considered neglectful or CAS reportable. I remain available to mediate my kids’ disputes, listen to their fart jokes and referee the inevitable outbreak of wrestling when one of them sits too closely to another, but for the most part, I can get a chapter or two read before any major wars erupt. This month, I read The Nest which, while not a challenging read, was enjoyable and well written. Family dysfunction is always entertaining, yes? I also read Two Steps Forward by the author of The Rosie Project (which I devoured and was completely obsessed with about a year ago). Two Steps Forward is a bit more intricate and challenging than The Nest, which I truly appreciated. In a nutshell, it is the story of two people, strangers to each other, who each choose to walk the Camino de Santiago, a Catholic pilgrimage from France to Spain, and how their journeys intertwine along the way. I plan on sharing more about this book in a later post, but for now, suffice to say, I was enchanted by this book, the story, the writing, the very idea of the Camino. Sign me up!

Third:

Thinking that one is funny and smart (in a witty, humorous way, rather than a brain surgeon way) while also suffering from a poor self-image and almost crippling shyness, is cruel and unusual punishment for someone who really, truly wants to entertain and share with others. Any thoughts around dealing with this one?

Fourth:

With five kids ranging in ages from 8 to 24 years-old, why am I still carrying around a purse the size of a diaper bag? I have so many cute purses to choose from (not a lot by hoarder standards, but I am not deprived of choice), and yet here I am tethered to carrying what is basically a suitcase with a shoulder strap. Just in case, I tell myself. In case of what? I have no idea. Has my purse become my security blanket? This is not good news. I am regressing. Maybe I truly did take the “Let’s Make a Deal” game show of the 1970’s/1980’s, that I grew up watching, way too seriously and somewhere in my subconscious I really do think that I will be out somewhere and a Monty Hall wannabe will walk up to me and offer to make a deal IF I can produce three blue elastic bands, a toothbrush, a toy car and a stick of gum from my purse, at any given time. “Um, I think I’ll choose what’s behind Curtain Number Three, please Monty!” What a numpty.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL, Host Monty Hall, 1963-76

Fifth:

Words and music swirling around inside my head like one of those kaleidoscopes children so enjoy. Day and night, night and day, awake, asleep, alert, distracted, always swirling, twirling, and spinning. So many stories begging to be crafted and told with those words. So much music waiting to be written. It is all *right here* inside my head, inside my heart, permeating my soul. And yet, here I sit. Stagnant. Helpless and hopeless. Neither creating nor creative. Powerfully powerless. Watching the words fluttering around my mind. Feeling the music, so clearly, that it turns my skin to goose-flesh. So many good intentions. So many plans, ideas, notes. So many days that pass with not so much as a journal entry to show for them. Why do I prioritize vacuuming, cleaning, care taking, above all else? Who will remember that my stairs were vacuumed this week? No one. Who might remember a shared experience, a shared moment in time or glimpse into the mind of a kindred spirit? Potentially many. I wonder what force will be great enough to propel me forward, to achieve the goals which I harbour within.

And those are my thoughts today. What’s on your mind?

Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos get everywhere, other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems).

~A.


It’s not about bashing men, so just stop it.

This is NOT a post bashing men by any stretch of the definition. I just finished reading an article, by Mark Manson, a fellow I started reading not so very long ago. His most recent article is an attempt to understand what has gone wrong for men and why, and it is a worthwhile, informative and entertaining read. Mark uses the right mix of humour and fact to get his point across to the reader. And the subject matter (the reality and meaning of being male in our society) is important for all of us to understand. It is as important to understand what has gone wrong for men as it is to understand the reality faced by women, children, the elderly, black, asian, Muslim, disabled/other-abled, LGBTQ communities, indigenous people, and every other ‘group.’

Read Mark Manson’s: What’s the problem with men? 
 
When I first became a mother, I was young and single and female. I did not know the first thing about the male psyche or experience that hadn’t been touted to me as ‘fact’ through the mainstream media. Since I was decidedly going to remain female, first hand knowledge was impossible, so instead I set about learning everything that I could about ‘boys’ so that I would be able to do my very best to raise my son to be more than just a ‘stereotypical guy’ who was only out for power and dominance at the expense of women and other less powerful segments of society.
 
My parenting goals now are different and focused less on gender similarities and differences and more geared toward encouraging all of my children, male or female, to be better people, kinder, more empathetic, inclusive, generous and thoughtful everyday. I want them to express their emotions, even the unpleasant ones in healthy ways, and to share their thoughts and ideas without the fear of being shut down. I want them to have the strength and confidence to encourage others to do the same, and, to always look within for validation and purpose rather than looking toward someone else, who is likely just lost, to lead their path through life.
So, that’s it for me today. I just wanted to share with ya’ll what has been occupying my mind while I procrastinate doing my homework. I hope that you give the article a read and share your thoughts – either here in the comments section or on the Twitter or Facebook pages. The older I get, the more I appreciate hearing all different points of view and ideas. The older I get, the more excited I am to learn new things about subjects that I was not that impressed with in my youth. It would seem that spending my childhood in school was likely wasted on me, although it did keep me off the streets. But honestly,  I am far more open to learning now than I ever was then. On the sunny side  though, I did learn how to read and write and do long division, so it’s not like it was a complete waste of time. 😂
~A.


What I am reading now

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I feel sad, heartsick, and like I want to crawl inside of a bag of salt and vinegar chips with a package of chocolate chips beside me, and just, well, hide. Everything that I am reading in this book is screaming at me “this is YOU, stupid!”

And then I push those thoughts aside and turn to the next page, ever hopeful that there I will find even a morsel of information that challenges everything else that I have read thus far. But no. And the cycle starts again.

Why am I so scared to even start to admit and realize what it would mean about me and to my life if I were to embrace the truth of being a total, life long and very active food addict? And if I decide to deal with it, what will I replace it with? Obviously I’m not that far into the book yet. Just far enough in to want to forget that I ever started it, but I won’t, I’ll push though and finish it and then I’ll figure out what to do about it.