She would have been 106 years-old today and I miss her still.

Julia Winepress Phillips, born on this day in Dundee, Scotland, 1913.

My grandma would have turned 106 years-old today. I spent every weekend from the age of two until twelve with my grandparents. She loved me unconditionally, confided in me, listened to all of my blathers, and never questioned the truth or validity of any of my stories (“Oh, aye now, really? Well, isn’t that just an awffie (awful) thing to have happened to ye? Ah well, dinnae ye worry aboot it, Lovey”). She would sit in the backseat of my grandfather’s car with me (while he sped, swore and occasionally hit things with his car) and sing, laugh and delight in our time together. I could do no wrong in her eyes, nor she in mine. I was her best friend and she was mine.

We would sit and talk for hours on those weekends, she would tell me stories about growing up on Malcolm Street in Dundee, and how they would move house occasionally, but always stayed on Malcolm street. She told me about her brothers and sisters and the one baby girl who did not survive infancy, about her stern mother and wee-Irish father, and going to school and being forced to use her right hand rather than her left (she ended up being ambidextrous as a result) and about how terrified she was when she was sent out to work, delivering milk to houses with dark doorways in the wee hours of the morning as just a tiny five-year-old, because her family needed the money. I’m still not sure if she was more scared of the police officer who brought her home or her mother’s reaction that she’d be ‘caught’ and the resulting at the loss of income it caused.

She talked about being a nurse when she was a young, single woman in Scotland, about her dreams of being a nun and being told ‘no’ by her mother, as she was needed to earn money to support her parents and siblings. She told me about working in the factory during WWII and meeting my grandfather there and how during their first date, his temper got the better of him and he threatened to punch another man in the theatre for being too loud (in hindsight people, the signs are ALWAYS there if we are not blind to them).

She told me about coming to Canada on the boat while she was almost nine-months pregnant and tending to her toddler while my grandfather socialized with other travellers for the duration of the journey. She told me about their early years in Canada, the struggles, the scares, the near-misses.

She always stood tall and proud, she always sat straight-backed and knees together, perhaps crossing her feet at the ankles. She wore skirts with tights and was always clean, presentable, no matter the time of day or the weather outside. She tended to her family, house, and home with a fierce determination and pride. Her house was immaculate and her floors were waxed by hand. She worked outside the home for thirty-odd years (retiring at age 67) and still cooked dinner every evening. She cooked, cleaned, ironed, mended, sewed clothing (she made that dress she’s wearing in the picture above and almost all of her other clothes) and she made ends meet. The beds were always made, the mirrors always shone. She had her hair washed and set by the hairdresser every Friday and never once polished her fingernails.

She refused to let the outside world know her pain, heartache or difficulties. “Don’t let anyone know it hurts. Walk on, like your ankle isn’t sprained, like your back doesn’t hurt, like your heart isn’t broken, don’t limp, don’t frown, and for heaven’s sake, don’t cry. Smile and keep your head up and look them in the eye as you pass. You just need to get home. You can cry there. Never let anyone see you cry.”

My grandma never stood taller than 4’10” a day in her life. By the end of her time with us, she was closer to 4’7″ and could no longer sit or stand quite as tall, and her clever and sharp mind had betrayed her, but she was never less than a titan to me.

I will continue to miss her every day of my life.

Happy birthday, Grandma, until we meet again. xoxo




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

A Canning We Will Go + A Giveaway For You!

This month (and maybe next month too) we’re going to be having a #CanningParty courtesy of the loverly people at Bernardin. In preparation of our first jamming’ cannin’ party I want to give away coupons for $10 off the purchase of your own Bernardin Starter Kit. After our first canning party, we’ll have a draw for this Starter Kit, which retails for $49.99 (see link to Canadian Tire), so one of you can try your hand at preserving for the first time or if you’re a seasoned canner, maybe enjoy some new tools in your kitchen.

It's canning season and giveaway time! Free coupons and a canning starter kit - woo hooo!
Coupons! Save $10 off!

Want a coupon? Like and Share this post, and leave a comment (either here or on The Keswick Blog on Facebook with either your favourite thing to preserve or what you are most looking forward to trying to preserve this year. Ten people will be chosen at random and I’ll mail each of them a coupon out to whatever address provided to me. 🙂 Winners will be chosen next week, on July 11th, 2019.

Bernardin Start Kit Giveaway Preview
This could be yours! Everything you need to start canning and preserving all of the wonderful in-season produce we are currently enjoying.

We’ll start the entries for the Starter Kit next week once we have finished with the coupon draws, but here’s a preview of what could be coming your way. During the week of August 5th, I will either deliver (within Georgina) or make this available for pick up to the winner. Because of the size and weight of this kit, I will not be able to send it out via Canada Post or courier, as the cost would be prohibitive for me to cover. Details to follow next week!

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

PSA: Peanuts and shells found in finger holes of brand new baseball glove.

This sounds stupid, I know. While I admit that I am often not the last one to make a big deal over nothing, and I acknowledge upfront that none of my children (knock on wood) suffer from a peanut or other airborne anaphylactic allergy, so no one was hurt in this case, I do need to be able to sleep at night so I’m sharing this story as a precautionary tale to other parents, grandparents, or really any one who is shopping for or with a child.

Last night, one of my sons went with his grandmother to pick out a belated birthday present. They ended up at the Newmarket Canadian Tire, where he found the “perfect” baseball glove (after trying them all, plus three previous stores). They purchased the glove and brought it home.

When he showed it to me, I tried it on – it is a nice glove, the leather feels good, the glove has good action, he made a good choice. But then, at the tips of my fingers, I could feel something hard. I asked what it was and they said “oh, we think that’s just some shipping material.” But it felt hard and sharpish to me, wooden-like, so I kept at it and managed to pull a little piece out. “That looks like a peanut shell to me.” I said to no one in particular, and my curiosity peaked, I carried on.

As you can see from the pictures, in the end, I managed to pull out three complete peanuts plus a lot of shell. These were not there by mistake and they were not easy to remove. I was unable to remove all of the nuts and remnants of the shell remained. We chose to return the glove to Canadian Tire, along with the peanuts (as proof) and exchange it for a new one.

The nagging thought though, would not stop. What IF one my kids had a life-threatening peanut allergy and had stuck his or her hand into that glove in the store? What then?

So, while in this case, no one was hurt (and I am endlessly thankful that it was our family who brought the glove home and not a family with a vulnerable member), I am using the experience as a catalyst to remind everyone that there are some thoughtless, careless or just plain deranged people out there. Carefully check anything your child is going to try on their bodies before they do, just to try to ensure that it hasn’t been ‘pranked’ or tampered with by either some reckless kid or by some ill-meaning adult.

When we returned the glove to our local Canadian Tire, we were sure to request that they alert the Newmarket location so they can have their staff go through the rest of their shelf stock to ensure there are no other gloves that have been tampered with, but just leaving it there was not going to let me sleep at night (and I like to sleep).

Outside of the glove, perfectly brand new, and no appearance that anything is amiss.
The baggie of peanuts and shell that I managed to pull out of the fingers of the brand new baseball glove.
Remnants of peanut shells inside the glove (and there was still at least another whole peanut that I could not remove in one of the fingers).

Please share and pass along this post. I would hate to see a story next week or next month that a child was hurt, hospitalized or even died because another instance similar to this one.

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

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.

Contrary to all appearances

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

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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.

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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.


Mourning the end of my Fertility chapter and sharing my internal conversation, with hope.

I often have full blown conversations in my head (well, when we’re all lucky they stay in my head anyway). I provide the dialogue for both sides of the conversation, yours and mine. In this context, “you” aren’t you though, “you” are what I imagine anyone outside of myself would say, listening to me talk. This conversation is one that has been playing, over and over in my mind for months, perhaps even years (before the “baby” door was forever closed, maybe?) and today I think that if I share it here, then just maybe, my mind will resolve the conversation and move onto one that is more productive and positive, less pitiful, woeful and futile. Or maybe it won’t, maybe this melancholy broken record will just become part of my new normal internal dialogue. Sometimes, for the smaller things that gnaw at my soul, just getting it off my chest is enough to lay it to rest but for the bigger things, I can say from experience, it can take years of writing, talking, crying and sorting through the muck in order to find a peaceful resolution.

On the daily, it goes something like this:

“I mourn the loss of my fertility. I’ll never feel all of those pregnancy feelings or delivery another baby.” I cry to my myself during those moments when either my house or my mind is quiet.

“How can that be? How selfish can you be?” You ask. “You have a handful of kids and you are constantly running around, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, mending, tearing out your hair, complaining, not sleeping, and almost never really ever done with a task (there is always more laundry to do, food to prepare, carpets to vacuum, errands to run). You are forever thinking about the time when you’ll have the time to achieve a few of your other goals. Goals other than elementary school homework, edible packed lunches and motherhood. You have enough kids, they’re growing up, life is finally about more than wiping bottoms, noses and tears – they can now do most of that stuff themselves. It’s great! Your kids are becoming competent humans, just what you always wanted them to be!”

“True, true,” I say, nodding my head and then shaking it violently back and forth. “But that changes nothing. Their growth feeds my grief. My grief for what is no longer as much as it grows my pride in them. What I would not give to have that one last pregnancy. That one last bump. The discomfort of pregnancy-induced heartburn, swollen limbs and looser joints. One last time to feel that “that’s it! I’m done being pregnant – this baby needs to evacuate now!” feeling. That one last precious (and quick) delivery and that wrinkly, squinty and puckered newborn brow to kiss. Those fingers and toes to count, that tiny human to marvel at. Priceless. To have that one last infant to nurse and cuddle and carry – EVERYWHERE. I wouldn’t trade what I have or who I have, but I would be completely complete, given just one last turn.”

“So have one then, what’s one more? You want it so badly, just do it. Or is it menopause? It’s got to be, doesn’t it?” You ask.

“No, no, not at all. I am not menopausal or even peri-menopausal. My cycle is as predictable and regular as ever. My body still functions. My marriage still functions. My ova though, they are past their ‘sell-by’ date and  there is nothing left of them to create a viable, healthy human anymore. And it is cruel for my body to behave like that of a younger, fertile version of myself and deprive me of that one last chance. Better ‘the change’ happen and at least give me the reprieve of the monthly bleeding and bloating with no ‘prize’ for my troubles and inconvenience.”

You, now exasperated “Well, get on with things then. Sounds like unless you’re willing to take some extreme and expensive measures, your baby-making days are behind you. Suck it up, Buttercup. You’ve caught your quota, time to pack up and go home, as the saying goes.”

Me, now defensive and defeated, “yes, I know that. I understand all of that. And I fight against feeling sad and distraught and I feel a right fool for feeling this way at all. I KNOW how blessed I am to have my children, I know how blessed I am to have the family that I have and I understand just how stupid and selfish and ridiculous it is, that I AM, for feeling this way. But I feel it anyway. Grief and mourning are real feelings, whether anyone believes I have a reason to feel this way is neither here nor there, because, at the end of the day, I DO feel this way. The puzzle for me then is to figure out how to have these feelings without letting them own me or stop me from living out the rest of my life with light, love and hope, rather than regret, loss and sadness.”

You, really fed up now, “Focus on the positive, you idiot! You have FIVE frickin’ kids. Each of them are healthy. Each of them are intelligent. Each of them has a kind and generous heart. Each of them are lovely (not a Quasimodo among the bunch). And you get to actively participate in their growing up, you get to help shape them into healthy, productive and kind humans. YOU get to do that, YOU get that privilege. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and count your blessings. ALL OF THEM. Babies you do not have, who did not make it to term, or were never conceived to begin with were not meant to be with you, they were not part of the plan for you. Everything happens for a reason, even sad things. The sooner you accept that and work within the light and blessed space you have, the sooner you will realize that while six may have been your dream, five is your perfect space.”

You continue, tired at this point with my tears and endlessly sad face, “Stop being sad when you hear news of another woman your age (give or take) being pregnant or having a baby. Be happy for her, for she is creating her perfect place. Maybe it is her first baby, maybe it is her last, it matters not, because it is part of the plan for her life. Be happy for yourself because you have your perfect place among a family who loves and needs you, a family who looks to you to steer the ship. You were a mother when you had but one baby, one child. You felt complete and never ‘less than’ other mothers with more children. Think back to that young woman, and remember how proud, competent and sure of yourself you felt. That is still you, you just look a lot older, fatter and more tired now and you have somehow figured out that you don’t always need to drown your fries with ketchup before you eat them. Sometimes, french fries are perfect just as they are. Like you, like your family, perfect in your imperfection.” You say.

“Thank you,” I say. “I needed that,” and I get on with my day, until next time.

🖤

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.


Live update: I’m eating this plate of marshmallows

Live update:

I’m eating this plate of marshmallows for lunch because:

a) I’ve made myself sad writing a different blog post and like an idiot did so without first checking to ensure that I had any scrap of chocolate in the house;

b) the bag was already open, so I’m being super frugal by eating them before they go hard, stale and nasty (housewifing win right there);

c) because the kids are at school so I don’t have the set a good example for ANYBODY; and

d) today, until 4pm, this is what passes for adulting in my world.

Live update, Part 2

Just sitting here in the ‘wick, living my best life ya’ll. #SorryNotSorry #NotEvenABit

The marshmallows have been eaten. And I’m not even sorry.

And don’t even bother hatin’ on my Diego plate. It’s vintage, circa 2007, no chips or cracks and believe me, we have thrown this sucker around plenty. Beat that.

❤️
~A.

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