WEEK 3 Update: Bringing the Grocery Budget Back to Reality: A Four Week Challenge

Two weeks ago, I posted this grocery budget challenge for the month of May. You can read Week 1 here and Week 2 here. If you would rather skip the preamble, scroll down for the Week 3 Update (spoiler alert, I bent the budget).

This challenge, in a nutshell came about because while most of our children were younger, our grocery budget was consistent and small. They were small. They didn’t eat much and I tended to avoid the more expensive pre-packaged snacks and sugary treats, juices, etc. The bulk of our budget, honestly, would go towards produce. As they have gotten older and bigger, they eat more, and coupled with increasing prices, my grocery budget has also had to grow. And I allowed it to become overgrown.

This year, April was a grocery budget disaster (I have three grocery/food categories that I track: Groceries, Restaurant Meals and Junk Food, and Health and Beauty (includes household consumables, like toilet roll). I generally, at this point in our family’s growth, would like to stay at $600 a month for groceries and HBA and $75 for Restaurants and Junk Food (includes pop, ice cream, etc). Looking at that figure now, it looks crazy high, but keep in mind that I do generally prepare five lunches each day (kids and husband), seven days a week, six to seven dinners a week, six breakfasts a day seven days a week, plus provide all snacks, treats, and drinks (mostly milk and free water for the kids though, truth me told!) out of that budget. Not to mention toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, first aid, etc. etc. etc. So, overall, it’s not horrendous, just mildly alarming, I suppose. Crunching the numbers (well, getting my spreadsheet to do the math, really), it would seem that I have gone over budget by about $170 each month from January to April. YIKES!

So, this month, I’m bringing sanity and reality back to our grocery budget. Drastic cut backs will ensure that I prepare meals with all of the ingredients that I already have on-hand and use up all the bits and pieces hanging around the cupboards. My goal is to spend no more $60 PER WEEK on groceries, knowing that just about all of that amount will go toward milk and fresh produce (my kids consume, on average, around 18 – 24lbs of apples each week, just to give you an idea of the scope I’m talking about when I saw “fresh produce”).

In the spirit of honesty though, I must admit up front that before deciding to do this, I spent $15 on a Good Food Box (local produce) which I picked up this week. I haven’t included that amount in any of the weekly tallies though, I guess I’ll consider it a “Happy Spring!” gift to the family, lol.

Week 3 Update:

The third week of May was a tad bit rollercoastery. Recovering from surgery, celebrating our wedding anniversary, having a long weekend (yay Victoria Day!) and celebrating a birthday (my baby girl is now nine!), I definitely faced some physical and budgetary challenges.

Also, I did end up buying pizza for the gang on our anniversary (Mama can’t eat things as lovely as pizza so going out for dinner seemed silly and cooking on my anniversary while also juggling a soccer practice? Um, no thank you. I did though decide to take that from my ‘gift’ category, since who says that every now and then pizza isn’t the greatest gift ever? It would appear that when in doubt or feeling sheepish, I call food a ‘gift’ and slide it right into that budget category, but perhaps that is an issue to explore another time?

Blah, blah, blah. Just stop procrastinating and spill. How did the spending go? Well, in a word, it went OVER.

Did not make special shopping trips, but still, spending money 5 out of 7 days is not cool.

What I did notice from the list above is that 48% of the entries are for produce, 24% for breads and grains, 14% for dairy and just 5% each for meat, fish and salsa. All this means is that of the 21 entries, 10 were for produce (although multiples of each item were usually purchased). This is not pertinent to the budget, more something that caught my interest and confirmed what I thought. This family runs on produce and bread. Lol! We also received our Good Food Box last week, which while not a ton of produce, definitely helped and much of it is already gone.

Tallies

May 1 – 8th – Goal: $60.00
May 1 – 8th – Actual: $65.54
Result: (- $5.54)

May 9 – 15th – Goal: $60.00
May 9 – 15th – Actual: $30.16
Result: +$29.84

May 16 – May 22nd – Goal: $60.00
May 16 – May 22nd – Actual: $86.46
Result: (-$26.46)

May 23 – May 30th – Goal: $60.00
May 23 – May 30th – Actual: $TBD

As usual, I do have carry-over from the last week into this week, so I don’t necessarily need to buy certain things each week. This week I will need to buy milk, as I haven’t been stocking up on it (no PC Optimum bonus offer, no milk stock up – hurumph!). I also check the upcoming flyers as soon as they are available and if something (like berries or lettuce) is one sale this week but will be priced higher next week, I will buy it a day earlier in order to avoid the higher price. This week I also have berries, pop and yogurt on my list (with some nice PC Optimum bonus offers), so I’ll be picking those up over the next few days.

If I can keep the spending to just under $60, I think I’ll have met the challenge’s objective and will be in good shape to move onto June’s challenge (which also involves food – go figure).

There are so few who do a happy dance with as much aplomb as the Fresh Prince, amiright?

P.S. Please! Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and 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). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

When the long-awaited prognosis is “there’s no hope for recovery.” What then?

To set the scene, you’re at the doctor with a complaint. They diagnose the problem and your first reaction is relief (that you’re not crazy and it’s an actual ‘thing’) followed closely by a practical “okay, so what do we do about it, how do we fix this?” You’re given your options (there are usually at least a few) and maybe a plan is set forth to rid you of this issue, or at the very least, to deal with it. Disgust, fear, sadness, anger, frustration, depression, all of those feelings may come later, and none would be unexpected, depending on the diagnosis and prognosis.

So, that covers what may be a typical scenario, but there are other scenarios, aren’t there? Ones where the outcome is less positive, less reassuring, and far, far less okay.

You attend a hospital clinic appointment for a years-long issue (an issue which was, incidentally, discovered quite by accident when receiving annual follow-up for an unrelated and non-fatal condition). While the doctors have never been able to pinpoint or explain to you how you ended up with this very rare (you meet exactly zero risk factors), and likely non-genetic yet life threatening condition, you have so far endured years of treatments to manage the situation. All the while, never imagining that the mystery of the ‘why this, why me and how?’ will never be answered, but there is it. No answers.

It is while you are in attendance this latest appointment, that you ask the question “so, what can be done to get rid of this?” You are told, for the first time throughout the entire ordeal “nothing. There is nothing we can do for this particular problem.”
“Can it get bigger/worse?” You ask.
“Oh yes, it could.” Your clinic specialist physician says immediately.
“So, I’m a ticking time-bomb? The walking dead, essentially? Nothing will help? No treatment? No laser, surgery, medication, nothing will make this go away?”
“No, nothing. It could stay the same, it could change. We have no treatment options. Please make your next clinic appointment on your way out.”

Now, before I continue, this is NOT happening to me, my husband or my children. None of us are the patient in this scenario and I will not reveal the person’s identity out of respect their privacy. I am, however, a completely entangled and emotionally devastated ‘other’ receiving this news and I am, for the first time in my life, absolutely devoid of coping strategies or ways to either help the patient or myself to deal with the twisted rainbow of emotions, the paralyzing fear and grief upon hearing this news. If I can’t speak the words out loud, or even think them in my head without crying, how am I expected to deal with this?

What do you do when you are given NO hope? How do you cope with the news that not only is there no hope, there is no fight? There is no chance to over come, that no matter what, nothing you do or don’t do will have any impact on the outcome?

How do you prepare to be left? Knowing full well that everyone who is born, everyone who is in our lives will one day die, how do you prepare knowing that it may not be from very, very old age, but rather an unexplainable, unforgiving and untreatable malfunction from within? How can there be no hope?

I can deal with a lot and I have dealt with a lot. I have survived a lot and I will continue to survive a lot. What I don’t know, what I can’t figure out is how to deal with any of this without any hope. I can’t figure out how to survive any of this without even the smallest possibility that it’s all going to be okay.

This is all still new information for me and I am processing while absolutely losing my collective mind at the same time. My immediate rational reaction, to search for studies, treatment, other doctors, specialists, third, fourth, fifth opinions have been exhausted and now I am just broken and sad and trying so very, very hard to pull myself together. My being broken hurts everyone I love and I know that if I am not okay, then none of them are okay either but honestly, how am I going to fake my way through this one? How do I hold on to or even find any hope when I’m told in no uncertain terms that there is none and the only certainty is the loss of this most precious person from my life?

I am open to any and all suggestions, because I got nothing on this one.

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and 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). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Apparently, carrying a big purse does not give me superpowers but at least my wallet wasn’t stolen.

I carry a big purse. I have tried to scale it down, but alas, it appears as though I am not ready to make that leap to a smaller bag. I also carry a big wallet and I love it. It holds everything I need, my bills lay flat and together with my coins are easy for me to access. 

If only this were true! 😂

One day, I may reach the point that my mother has realized in the last year or so. The point at which she now carries her wallet in her pocket and carries only a pen and handkerchief in her purse. This seemed so strange to me, so of course I asked her about it. She explained to me that she carries a purse because accessorizing is the key to any outfit (duh). She also explained to me that as a senior, she is acutely aware that she has joined the ranks of yet another class of vulnerable people, at least when she is out and about in the world. 

My mother has always been fierce and brave and just a little bit crazy. Being a woman of her generation came with certain vulnerabilities in society, and none of those (now) openly challenged threats ever stopped her from living her life. 

She is still fierce and brave although advancing age has now introduced her to a new level of awareness around her personal safety of which she had thus far been unfettered. “I carry a purse because I love my purses. You know that. And you just can’t find good quality, well-made leather bags anymore. It’s all this over-priced garbage-quality shit. No way, Jose. A good bag will never let you down” she said with the conviction of a woman used to getting her own way (I know the tone well). She continued “but at the same time, if one of these assholes tries to knock me down and take my purse, well, joke’s on him, right? A used hankie and a pen. Ha! They won’t get a dime from me, the fuckers. My keys and my wallet are all safely kept not in my purse. Smart, huh?”

“Yes, Mum, that’s a good idea. But why are you bothering with the purse again? Isn’t it just a pain in the neck to carry about?”

“Ah well, you know I’m never out for that long, have to get back to take care of the dog and besides the outfit just  looks better if I have a purse, you know?”

Well, I don’t actually know because the majority of my outfits look homeless but I do know that while I love my current purse there are still times when I wish that I didn’t feel the need to carry it (and its endless contents) everywhere. While out shopping I spend time and energy keeping my purse safe, all the while also forgetting to zip it up while it hangs from my shoulder. This brings us to this morning.

I was in a slightly shady store in Newmarket (ugh, stop it – not XXX shady, just bargain-type shady). The kind of store where the other patrons will stand too closely behind you while you look at items. The kind of store where you instinctively hold onto your purse with your hand while it is still on your shoulder. Knowing these two things to be true, chose to patronize the store anyway (the frugal voices in my head are loud) and I ignored my inner sensible voice reminding me that I ought to zip up my purse. I wondered the store for a bit, choose a few books then lined up to check out, putting the books on the counter. I then started to look through my purse for my wallet and felt an instant and overwhelming panic setting it. As mentioned before, my wallet is big. It is not one that can hide or get lost in my purse, and I couldn’t find it. The words “my wallet has been taken” were almost finished leaving my lips when I glanced up from my bag and saw that I had already set my wallet on the counter, atop the books. I could have cried. I felt faint with relief and embarrassment as I was thisclose to losing all sense of dignity and having a full-on melt down right there. 

The woman behind me in line chuckled. “You’re okay” she said “I saw you starting to get panicky and I wondered if it was your wallet you were digging for, I was just about to tell you that it was on the counter.” She said with a kind and open smile. 

“Ah, thank you. I can’t believe I did that. Such a space cadet! It’s just that last time I was here, a woman was yelling that her wallet had been taken from her bag and ugh, I don’t know what got into me. Breathe.” I said, flapping my hands around my face, without taking a breath at all.

“Nah, you’re okay. It’s a different world we’re living in now. Doesn’t matter for me, I’m old, but it really bothers me for my grandchildren.” She shook her head.

“Yes. Yes, you’re right. That’s exactly what my mum says as well.” I smiled at her, willing for my body to calm down and my stomach to stop churning. “Well, lesson learned today for sure, I’ll be remembering to zip it up from now on!” 

“Well, now that it’s out of the way, you can carry on and have a good day.”

And so I did.

I should acknowledge that this story could have turned out very differently and if it had, I would have been devastated, full of guilt and shame. As it stands, I feel grateful, lucky and warned. Yes, things can be replaced, it’s inconvenient and cumbersome to cancel cards and to replace identification and I am ever so grateful that is not what I needed to spend the rest of my day doing, and at the same time, the experience has me more acutely aware that most things, once done, cannot be undone. My decision to not take the three seconds required to close my purse could have caused me, my family and others in my universe a great deal of stress and upset, had my wallet been lost or stolen. 

So, on this Monday of Mondays, I will henceforth heed the warning that God, the universe, or circumstance has so generously and graciously bestowed upon me and I will pay greater attention to the always-sensible-and-knowing voice that spends so much time reverberating around my brain trying to keep me safe from harm and far less time listening to the voice of that laissez-faire ne’er-do-well who skulks about up there looking for moments make a mess of a perfectly good day.

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and 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). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx

Have you had an Amazon package go missing from your front door?

Indulge me, please. This is going to be a wee bit of a meandering story, and I did not take pictures, (the reasons which I hope will become apparent as we go through this) and the content of parts of the story are not PG-13, so mind any young, literate humans in your vicinity while you read this.

Mistakes were made.

Today is a beautiful day here. The sun is shining, it’s 12C and it’s neither windy nor raining (it being a sunny day would not automatically rule either of the latter two conditions out), and so I decided to head outside for a walkabout. This would turn out later to be mistake number one.

Of note, I live in a relatively sparsely populated area, surrounded by forest and farmland. I believe that I can count on one hand the number of houses within a 15 minute walk of my home. It is beautiful and I love it. Unfortunately and for reasons completely unknown to me, other people like to drive around the area and dump various garbage as they go. On a typical day, I can expect to see littering the ditches and edges of farmers fields a vast number of fast food bags and cups, drink containers, beer cans, empty liquor bottles, construction waste and the like. Today was the same, but different.

As I was nearing the major cross-street in order to make the turn to complete the third leg of the giant block I was walking (it’s approximately a 2 km block), I noticed, in the ditch, an overturned Amazon box. It had clearly been there for a while, given how weathered the box appeared, but I could see that it still contained some of the plastic packaging Amazon uses to cushion their deliveries. I admit to having driven by this box any number of times over the course of the past weeks and not stopping. Today though, on foot, it occurred to me that perhaps this box had been stolen from someone’s front porch and if that was the case, perhaps I could help reunite that person with their package or at least give them an idea of what happened to it so they could have some closure (rather than just the blind rage I’m sure one feels when his mail is stolen from his front door). I decided to take a closer look. Mistake number two.

I stepped down into the ditch (luckily, not in a deep area of the ditch). The box was upside down, but open, so lifted the flap and saw something pink. Was it a children’s toy? It looked largish, maybe a toy pink head or something? Toys today are so weird. I lifted the flap a little further and lifted and saw a brand new-looking white USB-type cord, clear plastic bags (as most Amazon purchases are in when shipped) and more the pink item. It was not head. I had the wrong end of things. My mind quickly computed the situation and my hand let go of the box and I stepped back.

It was then that I noticed an open small black garbage bag wedged under a corner of the box. Protruding from the bag was an opened blue cardboard box with the word “Fleshlight” written in white lettering. No, that is not a typo. Needless to say, I did not touch the bag, nor investigate further. I stepped out of the ditch, completely grossed out just as a pickup truck, driven by an elderly gentleman rolled past. Ugh. My luck. Always my luck, I thought to myself. Well, I can only hope a) that he does not return to the site later to see what I was looking at and b) that he does not think that I was the one leaving that stuff there.

After the pickup truck turned the corner, I had another thought. I had only seen the bottom of the box. What if the shipping label was still on the top of the box? Without thinking further, I stepped back into the ditch and lifted the box enough to see the shipping label. It was still attached. The recipient’s name and address had been blacked out with a Sharpie marker. I was quite pleased to see that though, because I quickly realized that I really didn’t want to know who this box belonged to because SO AWKWARD. I’ve found things that belonged to other people before and have always been happy to deliver the news that I found their item and return it to them, but this? Ugh. I dropped the corner of the box again and stepped back out of the ditch, to resume walking.

I debated with myself about going back to take pictures, but asked myself why? Could I in good conscious post such pictures? Would a picture really make it ‘more real’? No, I decided. I really don’t want pictures of sex toys on my phone alongside pictures of my children, cat and cookies. Ewwwww.

In the end, I decided to come home and somehow impart the information to the locals, but also to use this incident as a bit of a platform to encourage some small change.

So, what do I want people to know?

First, if you’re local to Georgina and you have been unfortunate enough to have an Amazon delivery of male-oriented sex toys (large-size shipping box, but Amazon is notorious for using crazy big boxes for single, small items, so no way to tell how many toys the box once contained), your box and the remains of your order are in a ditch. If you’d like to retrieve them, message me and I’ll tell you where the ditch is. No judgement, to each his own.

Secondly, if you are local to or visiting Georgina and have the inclination to steal deliveries from private residences, (and I do not condone nor encourage you in this inclination) and you discover that the items therein do not meet with your approval or personal tastes, kindly either return the box to the house from which you removed it or if offended by the stolen booty that you feel compelled to dispose of the items, please use one of the town serviced garbage cans which are abundant throughout Georgina. These garbage receptacles can be found in all parks, town properties, and even a mere 3 minute drive down the road from where this box of treasure was found. Leaving NSFW-materials where children and families often walk and ride is irresponsible and reprehensible. Be better.

Thirdly, and perhaps finally, we all make mistakes. Some of us make bigger mistakes than others. Some mistakes we make are small. Some are embarrassing. Some are hurtful and some are innocent. Some are even illegal. Since whoever is stealing Amazon packages from homes has gone with the latter, I can only suggest that you limit the amount of harm you are doing while pursuing this misdirected choice. I do not pretend to know the who, what, where or why about that box in the ditch, but I do know that stealing is a big enough mistake without compounding it with littering and risking the emotional well-being of others, namely children. Do better.

Actually, no, there is one last thing.

This is not the first time that I have had the misfortune to see a discarded sex toys on the road in this area. The first time, a summer or two back, another male-oriented sex toy was laying smack-dab in the middle of the road baking on the tarmac and I could not, for the life of me, figure out who could possibly be driving around with sex toys in his vehicle and deciding that toy was suddenly so offensive that it must be immediately flung out the window and out of his life. I’ll likely never know (and I’m really super okay with that). But whoever you are, please stop. To you, noticing lack of subdivision houses may mean that no one lives here, but you’re wrong. People do live here. Animals live here. Families live here. So if you are unwilling to throw whatever you are tossing out your window into your own backyard (and clearly you are quite unwilling to do that, since you keep doing it here), then please do not throw it in our backyards either.

(This, of course, also goes for the (as yet unseen) person who walks around the area drinking beer after beer, and crushing and throwing the cans in the ditch or on the roadside every day. Bring a big and take your empties home with you, we don’t want them. Or better yet? Drink and stay at home).

So, while this is totally not a post about Easter, and is actually pretty icky when I think about it, I am going to just put this here because snuggly bunnies just make things better.
xx


P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and 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). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
xx


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

Even when I think I’m an adult, I’m not really an adult. Can my kids fire me?

Some days, I am sure that I have it all together (like, really, really sure, positive even). On those days, I am adulting at gold medal levels. I’m feeding children, I’m packing lunches, I’m getting children on the (correct) bus, and on time. I’m cleaning the kitchen of all evidence of breakfast and I’m listening to my Rachel Maddow podcast while I eat my peanut butter and toast and check CNN, BBC, and CBC. I write my ‘to-do’ list with every intention of completing it. You tell me, does that not all sound terribly adulty? Right. I thought so.

But then, something will happen and I prove once again that I am merely an imposter and if my kids could find any takers, I would be made redundant on the double (after, of course, being forced to provide a comprehensive list of who likes what and what makes who sob in despair, you know, those things that only a mummy would know and keep track of, right?).

Not being a master of suspense writing, it is pretty obvious by now that something happened this week (and it’s only Tuesday), that has brought my ‘adult status’ into question (or more accurately, at risk of being completely revoked), and despite the fact that Miss Moon found it completely hilarious at the time, I do believe that this event will resurface in some far-in-the-future therapy session between her and therapist number 26. She will likely still think it was funny and the therapist will (perhaps rightly) point out that I was not the fittest person to fill the role of ‘Mummy’ during her childhood. But I digress. I’ll get to the point.

This week, I was tagged in this post on Facebook:

raspberry-headed lego person
Oh, you know who you are, tagger-lady. ❤️

Since we had been grocery shopping the day before, I just happened to have a few berries lying around. Miss Moon was hanging out with me in the kitchen because her brothers were watching The Goonies and she wasn’t that interested in seeing it again. So I made her my accomplice. Without knowing why, she fetched me three Lego people. Two from her Lego Friends set and one regular Lego lady person. Then this happened:

“Mummy! Why are you doing that?!? You’re so crazy! Wait, you’re taking a picture too?!?” ~Miss Moon, laughing wildly.

It’s hard to explain to an eight-year-old that you’re just doing what your friend told you to do, but that’s a little bit, kind of like what I had to tell her. She nodded knowingly, but being lovely and loyal and used to my eccentricities, she was quick to excuse my bending to peer pressure by pointing out that 1) no one got hurt and 2) the berries were still edible (the latter point being her main concern, I believe, based on how quickly she popped them into her mouth upon seeing my nod of agreement – cheeky girl).

Also, as an aside, I feel it is only fair to tell you that getting berries to stay on those little Lego heads is very tricky business and the added weight of the berries completely changes their centre of gravity and makes them incredibly tippy. Almost as though they are drunk. Which would not be unexpected from one wearing a giant blackberry as a wig, would it? Right then.

So now here we are in today-land. Yesterday was a ‘snow day’ but today the kids are back at school and I have, reasonably speaking, a ten percent chance that Miss Moon has not told her teacher that I was dressing Lego people in blackberry and blueberry wigs last night. Sigh. I shall pour a fresh Diet Pepsi and await the expected home check/wellness visit any moment now.
xx

Mums Who Have Lost It Featuring Lego People in Berry Wigs
I cling to the edge of adulting and frequently lose my grip. I’ve levelled up to dressing Lego people in fruit. I fear that there’s not much further to go now…

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and 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). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.

Do you have a “Plan” or are you like me and “Plan-less” by choice?

A rainbow of smart phones, but do you need a plan? Can you save the money and do without all the bells and whistles?
Smartphone image credit: pctechmag.com

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you’ll have learned that I am a planner. I live and die by my day planner (or agenda, as my kids call it). If it needs to happen, will happen, may happen, could happen, didn’t happen or happened, it’s in my giant 9″x12″ spiral-bound, monthly-tabbed planner. I record our LIVES in my annual day timers and I take a considerable amount of time finding just the right one (because let’s face it, planner needs change over time, amiright?) and have been known to purchase two within a week of one another when the first one just doesn’t quite “feel” right. This is me. I’ve come to accept that.

But in one area of my life, I live “plan-less” and it’s by choice. I’m talking of course, about my mobile phone. I’ve had one fairly constantly since they were little bricks that looked like this:

Circa 1999 (photo credit: Timetoast.com)

My first provider was Telus. They had a low-cost monthly plan that I could afford ($20ish a month), plus they had a really cute ad campaign). Not that I used the phone much at all, I admit that I often forgot to charge it and when I did have it charged, found that I didn’t really have that much need to speak to people on it when I was out and about. These were the days before texting, wi-fi and internet EVERYWHERE. It was just another device to lose in my purse, feel terribly adult for having and to chat on (or club someone over the head with if they were being inappropriate). Nonetheless, I had a cellular phone then and I continue to have one today.

I’ll resist the urge to bore you with my personal evolution from cell phone to smart phone, but this point of this post is this. I live, survive and thrive, quite happily without a cellular phone “PLAN.” I have never had a data plan, unlimited calling anywhere, or unlimited texting. My monthly cost to operate my smartphone of choice (iPhone 7+, which was purchased outright for me as a Christmas present two years ago, by my lovely husband) in 2018 was $9.42 a month, or $113.00 for the year. For that amount, I was able to text as much as I liked (I text about four people consistently, iMessage the others while in wi-fi range) and take or make the occasional urgent call.

$9.42 per month. I’ll just leave this here.

The beauty of my pay-as-you-go, non-plan plan is that I am not locked into a contract, there is no temptation or incentive to always be looking for the next phone ‘upgrade’ and I am completely off-line whenever I leave the house, unless I purposefully tap into some free wi-fi (which I will admit to doing at times, although mostly to access my Flipp app to price match groceries).

What never ceases to amaze me though is the almost weekly “Special, exclusive” offers I receive via text message from Rogers. This one came in on Tuesday afternoon:

Sounds pretty “exclusive” to me! Oh wait, just a sec…

So basically, I can go from having everything I need for $9.42 a month on pay-as-you-go (no commitment, fees, or contract), to having more than I need for a minimum of $33.90 (taxes included, extra fees excluded) a month? Now, I’ve never claimed to be a mathematical genius or financial guru, but it sounds to be like Rogers is trying to tell me that I’d be getting a much better deal if I spent $410 a year rather than the $113 a year that I currently spend. Except, I still would not have a data plan and I’d be out an extra $300 a year. Calling it a “no tab Plan” doesn’t change the fact that it is, in fact a “Plan” and by definition, at least in my experience, “Plan” = $$$$.

Look. I’m not a doctor, lawyer or pimp. I do hold a pretty high position, but it is within my family unit and to them, I am always just a holler away. Heads of State do not need to reach me at all hours and when I need to price match a head of lettuce, the grocery store has free wi-fi for when I’ve forgotten my paper flyer at home. I do not feel the need to be online and entirely reachable 24/7. I almost always have my phone charged and with me, but more often so I can take pictures and video of my kids and other absurdities in my day, track my steps (phone and watch sync strangely) and keep an eye on it for texts from any of my people. The ringer, notifications and sound features are almost always in the ‘Off” position. I do not allow apps to flash notifications on my screen when someone posts on Instagram or Facebook or sends me an email. I’ll check everything in good time.

For some people (doctors, lawyers, or pimps, say) it may make real sense to have an expensive data plan with all the bells and whistles, 24/7 access to the internet, maps, GPS, etc. etc. I get that. I suppose, what I really want people to know is that for most of us OVIP’s (Other Very Important People), it is a choice and there are options out there for those, who like me, want to just have what they actually need, rather than what we’re constantly told that we need or inundated with media telling us that it is what we all really want. For me, I would rather spend that $300 on a great day out as a family or register one of my kids for an activity they want to pursue. If I were single, I would rather add that $300 to my travel fund, RRSP or towards an adventure (that I would document using my plan-less phone *grin*).
xx

A rainbow of smart phones, but do you need a plan? Can you save the money and do without all the bells and whistles?
Smartphone image credit: pctechmag.com

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and 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). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.

As it turns out that like my mother before me, elephants make me cry.

How reading a book about elephants reminded me why it is so important for parents to read with their children.

Long ago:

When I was young, on Sunday nights at 6 p.m. on CBC (channel 5, cable 6 in Toronto), The Wonderful World of Disney would sometimes play a full-length movie, much to the delight of thousands of Canadian children. Escape from Witch Mountain, Herby The Love Bug, you know, well-loved Disney fare. Remember, this was before the days when every household had a VHS player and a video store rental membership, or even just cable. CBC was available to anyone with a t.v., rabbit ears and a working knob dial that turned to change channels.

It was on one of those Sunday evenings, that I remember seeing the animated full-feature movie, Dumbo for the first time. My mother watched it with me and (spoiler alert) when baby Dumbo went to see his mother in elephant jail and she pushed her trunk out between her cell bars to reach out to stroke and rock him gently, my mother lost it. I was shocked by her tears, and I remember laughing at her for being so silly. It was just a cartoon! I remember her starting to laugh too and she was still dabbing her eyes when she tried to explain to me that having a baby (me) had turned her into a weepy mess and just the idea of that poor baby elephant being separated from his mummy was just about the sadness thing ever and it just killed her every time she saw it. I listened without really understanding and eventually just shrugged and turned back to watch the rest of the film. But that moment stayed with me.

Present day:

My mornings start at 5:30a.m. I put my first small on the bus at 6:45 a.m. and my last on the bus at 8:40 a.m. Between the third and fourth departure, there is approximately 20 minutes. I have been using that time to read to small number four. We usually read a chapter from a book that is just for her (currently Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton), as the books we read at dinner time or bedtime are of interest to all four of them. This morning though we could not find her book in any of the usual places. So, rather than waste more our time looking, she (wisely and practically) suggested that we read her school library book about elephants. Great, we love elephants! Except that it was a book based on the true story of three female elephants (two born in the wild and one born in captivity) who were slowly dying at the Toronto Zoo and were (finally) allowed to go to a sanctuary in California in 2013. Remembering Dumbo, I understood my challenge almost at once.

I made it through the entire book, not a tear in sight. No lip-biting or quivering voice. Until the last sentence.

At the end of the story were a few pages about elephants, their statistics, needs, health and habits. The last few paragraphs were specifically about one of the elephants in the story who was relocated to California with her two friends. While she showed improvements at the sanctuary, it was, sadly, too late for her health to improve enough. She was 46 when she died (around mid-life) and that last bit, about how happy the author was that she (the elephant) was at least able to enjoy her last couple of years of captivity living comfortably, happily and closer to her natural environment broke me. I couldn’t make it through the sentence. Tears spilled over and my voice cracked. I had to stop reading. In that moment, I became my mother.

I did finally pull it together and finish the last seven or so words, and wiping my tears away looked at my girl and said “ah then, what a lovely story!” And while she looked a bit taken aback, she simply gave me a hug and nodded in agreement, putting the library book in her backpack to return to school.

I love that we have this precious time in the mornings together, a quiet moment without the chaos of our ‘real’ lives. I love that she loves animals, big and small, and that she actively seeks out opportunities to learn more about them. I love that she wants to include me in her learning. I love that rather than laughing at me (as I did to my mother), she sat quietly and cuddled in, understanding that it was genuine empathy and caring for that poor elephant and the tragedy of her life circumstances that was the cause of my tears and not merely silliness.

I have always read to my children and I have also always advocated for others to do the same. Aside from encouraging literacy (very important), it creates these precious moments of connection between a parent and child, whether that connection is based in empathy, humour or excitement stirred up by the story being read.

So,

If you like elephants, or you like crying in front of your children, or you like crying while reading about elephants to your bewildered children, here is a link to the book on Amazon.ca. The story itself is fine and the illustrations are lovely. It’s that last page you need to look out for.

How reading a book about elephants reminded me why it is so important for parents to read with their children.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and 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). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.

My crazy did not beat out my sanity this morning. Everyone won.

“Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…”🎤

This song. I’ve known it since childhood. I have wonderful memories of singing it in the back of the car with my grandma while my grandpa drove me home on Sunday evenings. It is a good thing that I have those childhood memories though, because this morning I heard this song, no fewer than 300 times between the hours of 7:45 and 8:30. So not even hours but rather, minutes. The song was performed at various tempos, pitches and volumes. Over and over and over again, the singer trailed after me, thisclose to my elbow at all times, crooning away until I was sure that my head would explode and my heart rate was letting me know that my anxiety was reaching critical levels. I needed to get out of my own skin, but there was no escape, there was no hiding.

I wanted to scream, cover my ears and run away, but I did not. Instead, I kept reminding myself that soon, in the near years to come, none of my children will likely sing with such glee, such careless abandon, such enthusiasm and happiness and if they do, it will possibly be something far less innocent than a Christmas carol. So, with that thought reverberating in my mind, I slapped a smile on my face, gritted my teeth and said “lovely, darling!” with enthusiasm after each and every rendition.

I cannot regret my feelings, they came out of nowhere and took root, but I would have regretted very much had I given into those feelings and squashed that innocent and joyful happiness out of one of my children by snapping at them to pipe down or cut it out.

Now, not even an hour later and they are all safely at school. The house is empty and quiet and my anxiety has slunk back into the dark corner of my being where it resides. While I sit here, quietly, I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes and in my heart at the memory of that sweet, smiling little face belting out “Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat! Please drop a penny in the old man’s hat…” 🎩 🎤 The tears are a mixture pride, shame, happiness, love and sorrow all at once. But mostly of love.

Thus, I have decided to use this moment in time to define myself as a mother today, to remember that for all the mistakes that I make (and I make a lot of mistakes), sometimes I get it right. Most importantly, I will use this morning as a gentle reminder to myself that while the days feel long (oh so very, very long sometimes!) the years are flying past and that fact is easy to lose track of when I’m too busy keeping track of the daily strife and upsets. Really though, in all honesty, what sort of psychopath wants to track those memories anyway? Not this sort, I’ll tell you, No. This sort of psychopath is going to track the singing moments, the smiling moments and the loving moments.

And just in case the song is not already playing, on repeat, in your head, here you go.

You’re welcome.

~A.

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and 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). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery.


Contrary to all appearances

So this was today, but you could pretty much replace “today” with “any day” and it would still be accurate.

******************************

Thursday morning:

Characters in this scene: Me, alone at home and trying to get ready to leave the house.

Me: (mumbling to self) Where’s my purse?

Me: Looks beside kitchen chair, in foyer, no purse.

Me: (louder, outside voice) WHERE’S my purse? (with increasing alarm).

Me: Looks in living room beside couch and quickly scans the rest of the room from the doorway. Panic sets in. Check front door.  Still locked, thus, unlikely purse was stolen while I was in the shower.

Me: (actual outside voice now) WHERE’S MY purse?!? (almost hysterical). Did I leave it in the car last night? No, I wouldn’t have done that. Are there any footprints around the car? There are! Oh, but wait, brought the kids home from soccer and the library last night, they have feet. Yes, kids’ footprints around the van, not a robber.

Me: (frantic now and on the verge of throwing up) WHERE IS MY PURSE?! (now actually running around the house, in circles, through kitchen, into dining room, up the stairs into office, look under desk (not sure why, as only garbage pail and my feet go there), race back downstairs in the living room, panting (ugh, why am I so bloody out of shape? Ah, right, never exercising will cause that). WHERE IS MY oh, wait a second, what is that peaking out from behind the coffee table? Ah yes, my purse strap. Approach said strap, with is, predictable, still attached to my purse. Wonder how it got there? Did I put it there? Why would I do that? Ah, never mind, have it now, so about ready to leave the house.

Me: Right. Now, where are my sunglasses? 

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Lesson today: no matter just how poised, pulled together and organized one (read: I)  may appear to the outside world, most of us (again, read: I) do spend an exorbitant amount of time looking for stuff just in order to get out the door at any given moment.

***********************************

P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and 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). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery.