Monday, January 31, 2011

Gran and the Tortoise

My mom is not an animal lover. She doesn't hate them but she's just not the type of person to go all mushy over kittens and puppies. It took a lot of hardcore campaigning for her to finally give in and let me have a pet. My pal's name was Casey, he was a Bichon. He was a quirky little dog and I loved him but when he died, shortly after I got married, I was devastated.

When Dude was four years old, he started asking for his own pet. I didn't want him to have to experience the pain of losing a pet but I also knew the fun and joy that a furry little pal could bring, so I caved ... and bought him a fish.

Not the heartiest of pets, those fish critters, we had two deaths in under a year. Dorothy the Goldfish, lost her will to live after being fed a handful of cheerios and Mr. Bluefish died while in the care of a known fish hater, investigation still pending. After the trauma of those two deaths, we decided that Dude needed a pet who would stick around a little longer. So we got him a tortoise. Her name is Tuck.

Tuck has been a member of our family for nearly four years. She is pretty low maintenance but still a lot of fun for the kids. She spends most of her day chewing on lettuce in her tank but every evening she gets to roam free in the basement. We all get a kick out of watching her. She has a funny little personality and she's a just right pet for us.

We took Tuck with us to visit my parents at Christmas and had to leave her behind because we didn't have enough room in the van on our return trip. She's been at my parents' place for a month and like I said, she's fairly low maintenance but my mom has been a little stressed out. She's afraid that this pet, with a life expectancy of 40 years, will die on her watch.

The first week or so that my mom was Tuck-sitting was pretty mellow. She called a couple of times with questions and sent a few Facebook updates but that was it. In the last week or two, though, my mom has gone a little nutty. She called me last week because she was worried about Tuck,

Mom - She staring into the corner of her tank and digging. And she bangs her shell against the glass sometimes.

Me- That's what she does.

Mom - She tries to climb out, too.

Me - She wants to get out. She likes to roam around for a little while every day. If you let her out she'll stop doing that.

Mom - She's looking at me, it's freaking me out.

Me - Just let her out for a walk in the family she'll be much happier. Keep her from going under the couch though because you'll have a heck of a time getting her out.

Mom - Okay, we'll let her out when Dad gets home.

Me - Good, put her on a towel though.

Mom - Why?

Me - Because she tends to poop after she's walked around for a bit.

Mom - That's gross.

Me - That's what she does and if you don't clean up the poop right away, she'll eat it. The guy at the pet store says its normal but still...

Mom - That's disgusting. When are you coming for her?

We talked for a couple more minutes then say good bye. About ten minutes later the phone rings again. It's my mom.

Me - Hello

Mom - Tortoises aren't supposed to eat and poop in the same place, it's not what they do.

Me - Ooookay.

Mom - She also should be getting more fruit.

Me - She doesn't like fruit. She likes Romaine lettuce, carrots and green peppers. Where are you getting this information from?

Mom - I Googled it.

Me - You Googled 'Tortoise'?

Mom - Yes, I was worried.

Me - (laughing) You're worried? That's nice, Mom but she's fine. Let her out for a walk and she'll be fine.

Mom - She's staring at me, her face is red and I can hear her breathing. I think she's having a heart attack or something.

Me - (laughing hysterically) She's not having a heart attack. She's a red-footed tortoise, she she has red markings, that's normal. She has nothing to do but look around, get over it. If you're really worried about her, take her out of her tank, give her a cuddle and sing to her. She loves it when you sing to her.

Mom - (offended) I'm serious and I'm not going to cuddle her or sing to her! If you're just going to laugh at me I'm going to hang up.

Me  - Bye.

I hang up and the phone rings again, almost instantly.

Mom - This better not show up on you're blog!

Me - (still laughing) yeah, okay Mom.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Right now I'm hiding. I am sitting at the computer, right where it usually is but I'm hiding. I'm not making any sudden movements and I am tapping the keys as gently as I can because I am hiding. I am ignoring the Clown Town song that is blaring on the TV and the Jedi light sabre war that is raging in Dude's bedroom. I am keeping my eyes on the screen so I won't see the explosion of dolls all over the family room or the trail of cereal down the basement stairs. I am hiding.

Today is a Professional Development day in our school division so the wee ones are home for the day. Because the kids are off for a few days my sister drove out here with Bizzy to spend the weekend with us. Four kids...before hasn't taken effect...I'm hiding.

I have already been found this morning several times. Mischief barged into my room at about 7:30 to ask where his favourite movie is, Dude came by at about 8 to see if I was having a good sleep in and at 8:07 Crafty could be heard in the hallway, loud whispering to everyone that they should be quiet because I was sleeping. At that point I realized that hiding in my bedroom wasn't going to work.

So I got up, made coffee and decided to hide in plain sight. I have been sitting here for about half an hour and no one has said a word to me. No one has touched me, poked me or even looked at me. I am invisible.

I have wondered something for a long time and maybe you can help. Why is it that a mother can sit and do nothing, not read a book, not talk on the phone, but literally sit in a chair and do NOTHING for hours, probably even days, and her children won't even look at her? She could probably sit there, doing nothing, for a hundred years and the kids would let her be but as soon as she moved, as soon as she picked up a book, answered the phone, started a task the kids are sure to be all over her.

Maybe kids are like T-Rex's, maybe they can't see things very well until they move? Or maybe they have short term memory issues and they don't remember they have mothers until she draws attention to herself? I don't know what it is but I am sure of one thing. Kids have an internal something that triggers them to search for their mothers as soon as their mom enters the bathroom for any reason. So moms, NEVER HIDE IN THE's the first place the little critters will look for you!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

BUBFRS, Mommy Brain and Baby Fever

Lately our kids have been obsessed with finding out what they were like as babies and the regular answers aren't cutting it. They want detailed answers about when they first started talking, what they said and what was funny or cute about them. The standard party line of, "Dude was cuddly, Crafty was pukey and Mischief was quiet" is not enough, they want anecdotes.

I have been wracking my brain trying to remember details of their infanthood but for the most part I am drawing a blank. From March 2000 until about December 2006 my memories are all a murky haze. I have flashes of being awake all night, people puking on me and clothes strewn all over the house...much like the heyday years of a rock star, I would imagine, but not very many clear memories. I remember that Dude loved his bouncy chair, that Crafty started talking at a freakishly young age and that Mischief was a fast little crawler. But that's about it.

This kind of memory loss is common among mothers and I have a theory.

Women who have children, especially more than one child, tend to be more forgetful and not as bright as they were pre-pregnancy because they suffer from BUBFRS, Brain to Uterus Blood Flow Reversal Syndrome. During pregnancy the uterus requires more blood so it re-routes the blood flow from the brain to the uterus, thus starving the brain. This is when women begin to notice increased clumsiness, short-term memory loss and a dip in their cognitive abilities. They chalk the deficit up to the pregnancy and expect things to return to normal after the baby is born but it doesn't happen.

Add sleep deprivation to the already oxygen starved brain and you get Mommy Brain, a permanent condition with no cure. Mommy Brain causes us to over schedule our time, start multiple tasks at once while completing none, repeat the the same five sentences over and over (for example, clean your room, don't hit your sibling, I'm not the maid) and, of course, the continued wide spread memory loss. The most dangerous part of Mommy Brain is that it fogs over the exhausting and stressful moments of your baby's infanthood and leaves you only with the gooey, giggly, cuddly parts so that by the time your infant is approximately a year old you are often battling Baby Fever.

It's a vicious cycle. We should start a campaign for a cure, maybe chose a color for a ribbon...but first I have to switch the laundry over, unload the dishwasher, finish making cupcakes for Crafty's class. Oh yeah, then I have to run to the store and pick up a few things for supper but before that I should vacuum while everyone is out...oh wait, what's this ribbon for? Oh look at that cute baby! Wouldn't it be nice to have another baby?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When the Child Becomes the Parent

The Internet is full of articles about when the time comes that the adult child must become the parent for their aging parents. When the parents begin to have memory problems, mobility issues and other health concerns. Its a sad and stressful time for many families and something I've hoped I would never have to face but despite my parents' relatively young age I fear this is already happening in our relationship.

My dad is a pretty smart man, he never graduated from high school or went to university but he is smart. He is a logical thinker, diligent and hard-working. He is self-taught and has always been very motivated to learn new things. He is also a very good teacher.

Growing up my dad was the go-to person with homework problems, questions about politics or anything else I didn't understand about life. There was rarely a time when he didn't have an answer for me and more than giving me an answer he loved to challenge me to explain or defend my answer. The man loved a good debate, still does.

But this past weekend, while we were visiting my parents, I realised that the time for witty banter may have passed and we might have to seriously look at placing my dad in a long term care facility. And it's all my sister's fault! She thought it would be a good idea to introduce my dad to Facebook. This decision brought me to the brink of my sanity limits on Sunday when he tried to log on to his FB account for only the second time ever. Thus began one of the most painful experiences of my life.

After wracking his brain and searching the office for 15 minutes he finally found/remembered his log in information. Once on his account he had 60 some odd updates and messages. We explained to him how to read those updates and left him to it. Within minutes he was panicking. He had accidentally clicked on an ad and was taken to a site where a large breasted woman promised that he, too, could have natural looking cleavage.

After navigating back to Facebook, and explaining the difference between ads and updates, we left him to reply to some messages from family. After typing away for several minutes he started to grumble that this was going to take forever. I asked him what the problem was and he said that every time he replied to someone, something else popped up on the news feed. I told him that he didn't have to respond to everything he saw.

Turns out he has been congratulating people on becoming friends, making random comments on people's walls and requesting friendships left right and center. I tried to help him but it was no use. He was all over the place, causing havoc like a toddler in a department store, and having a great time. He kept getting lost in the sea of ads, events, invitations and friend requests until we finally told him that the right hand side of the screen was off limits.

This went on for more than an hour. He left random messages for friends and family members and more than once accidentally requested a friendship with a total stranger. My patience was wearing thin and I finally put my foot down and took the netbook away when he started messaging my mom...who was sitting two feet away from him, returning his messages via her Blackberry. The two of them were cackling like children and getting carried away.  Thankfully only a portion of what they were saying to each other actually made it onto FB so we still have some friends.

Yesh, parents these days!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Mom's Work

I'm not going to say much today because this video says it all...a mom's work, and words, are never done. Enjoy!

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Trip to the Grandparents

Since we moved five months ago a trip to visit the grandparents has gone from a 15 minute drive we do on a whim to an hour and a half ordeal that takes days to plan for. Here's a break down of what it takes to visit Gran and Papa for a weekend...

~Two day advance warning of a total room clean up and laundry blitz for upcoming visit
~3 hours of hide and seek (aka looking for dirty clothes in the kids' rooms, family room, bathroom...)
~9 loads of laundry
~2 hours of folding laundry
~1 hour looking for suitcases
~Half an hour of washing mysterious goo out of Mischief's suitcase
~2 hours to pack all four suitcases
~2 hour of lectures, pleading and threats to tidy rooms and pack necessities
~1 hour to clean and organise the kitchen, front entry (can't find winter gear until the week's worth of school notes, crafts and lunch remnants are cleared from the hall table and front closet)
~1 more load of laundry because I missed washing Crafty's favourite sweater
~1 hour of baths/showers so everyone at least appears clean and well cared for upon arrival
~2 hours of refolding and packing after Mischief 'helps' by rummaging through his drawers and 'packs' his own suitcase with nothing more than his favourite t-shirt, a pair of PJs, six pairs of socks and ten Playmobile guys.
~Another shower for Dude after he over applies his cologne so he'll "smell good for Gran"
~Half an hour to sort through the four bags of dolls, hair accessories and dolls Crafty has packed for a two-night stay in the city
~45 minute diplomatic negotiation of what movies will be taken with us for the drive
~Another load of laundry to wash Mr. Awesome's jean that didn't make it into the first two batches of laundry
~1 hour to load the van
~15 minute scramble to pack Lego for Dude who just clued in that we are leaving for the city
~Half hour hunt for DS power cords and games
~20 minutes to get all kids into the van
~40 minutes to unload and reload the van because we forgot the sleds for the toboggan party
~10 minute delay for Crafty to run back into the house to go to the bathroom
~Another 10 minute delay for Mischief to run back inside for his bear
~Another 10 minute delay for Dude to run back inside for his homework
~A stop at Tim Horton's for coffee and bathroom stop for Mischief who forgot to go at home
~An hour and a half of listening to the same movie we have listened to the last 8 times we have made the drive into the city

~48 hours with Gran and Papa...priceless :-)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Winter SOS Idea Exchange

I am a fan of winter. The -30C and colder temperatures don't bother me too much, it gives me an excuse to snuggle under a cozy blanket and read a good book. What does bother me is the running and yelling and shenanigans my three very bored children get up to at about this point in the winter every year.

By mid-January the thrills of the holidays have worn off, the gloom of the school routine has returned and the kids are thoroughly sick of being cooped up in the house together. They are bored and squirrely and I, the unwilling social coordinator, have run out of ideas to entertain the little critters. After the play dough is dried up, the movies have been watched, the games have been played and the crafts are all done...what next? What fun, exciting and creative thing comes next? (cue crickets chirping)

So, in the spirit of friendship and motherhood I suggest a Winter SOS Idea Exchange. I'm going to share a few of the things I do with Dude, Crafty and Mischief to stave off the January Jitters and I invite you to share some of your ideas either here in the comment section or on my Facebook page.

~Thrift Store Scavenger Hunt
Now that the kids are older, more independent and can read this has become one of their favourite games. I make a list of items that can readily be found in a thrift store as well as a couple more unusual items and give each item a point value, then we start hunting. It's a lot of fun to explore the unique and sometimes bizarre items at thrift stores with the kids and it's an easy way to kill an hour or more. At the end of the 'game' we count up the points and if the kids have enough points (they always) do, they can each get a few books or maybe a video.

~Tower Power
I got this idea from something the kids did at school a couple of years's brilliant. I give the kids a box of drinking straws, a bunch of pipe cleaners and some tape and watch their imaginations go wild. By inserting pipe cleaner sections into the ends of the straws (beams and joints) the kids have built bridges, buildings and towers. Dude, in particular, loves this! He can spend hours constructing things and when we are done I try to remember to take pictures of what they have built.

~Book Play
We do this one of two ways, either the kids choose a favourite story and act it out, improve style, as I read it or they choose a book and practice the play for a while and then they perform as I read. The second way takes more time (yay!) and gives the kids a chance to add costumes and props.

~How many?
I give the kids paper clips, drinking straws, shoes or anything else I find around the house and a list of measurement questions. They can spend ages running around the house discovering how many paper clips it is from Mischief's room to the bathroom or how many straw wide the dining room is. Usually after they have answered all of my questions they think of their own things to measure.

Those are a few of the things I do to keep my kids busy on 'inside days' what are some of your secrets?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Not the Same As

Thoughts on Privacy...
~Kicking my bedroom door open is not the same as knocking and waiting to be told you may enter.
~Yelling that you want privacy from the toilet is not the same as closing the door while you do your thing.
~Walking into the bathroom with your eyes shut to talk to me while I'm in the shower is not the same as waiting until I'm done, dressed and ready to talk

Thoughts on Mealtimes...
~Making faces in response to finding out what's for dinner is not the same as not complaining
~Whispering about your burp, booger or fart is not the same as not doing those things at the table
~Only falling out of your chair a couple of times during the meal is not the same as not messing around at the table

Thoughts on Cleaning...
~Shoving your coat on the floor of the closet and then forcing the closet doors shut is not the same as hanging up your coat
~Pushing all of your earthly possessions under your bed is not the same as cleaning your room
~Nudging candy wrappers under the couch is not the same as putting your garbage away after your snack

Thoughts on Hygiene...
~Sniffing your t-shirt and deciding its clean enough for one more day is not the same as putting on clean clothes
~Wiping your nose on your sleeve, the couch or your sister's hair is not the same as using a Kleenex
~Walking by a sink is not the same as washing your hands and face

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance. ~Franklin P. Jones

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

IGIMs and The One Percent Morning

When I was an EA working in a private school, I watched a video about kids and self esteem. I can't remember all of the details, there was something about blueberry pancakes and poker chips, but the essence of the video was that a kid's self-esteem is like a bank. Parents make deposits in their child's account and send them off to school. Each negative encounter a child has throughout the day is like a withdrawal on their account and the onus falls on teachers to make sure that they are making deposits into their students' accounts so the kids won't be 'bankrupt' by the end of the day.

That message has stuck with me for 13 years. When Dude started school I made a promise to myself that no matter how obnoxious he was in the morning (this later went on to include Crafty and Mischief), I will do my best to ensure he leaves the house every day with a full bank.  With the help of super-human self control and a great deal of coffee, I can say that I have about a 99% success rate.

Today was the 1% morning. This morning I had a less than stellar parenting moment which, in and of itself is nothing new. My life is a series of one parenting misstep after another, but 'losing it' before school is just not acceptable. When this happens I feel like I am robbing the kids at gunpoint rather than making the generous deposit that I had planned on.

This morning when Dude flipped out about his unfinished homework, I flipped out about him flipping out. It wasn't pretty. Once we both calmed down, we had a chat, forgave each other and then I took the kids to school. He seemed like he was in a good space when I dropped him off but that didn't stop me from feeling bad that I set him up for a rough day.

I was feeling pretty crummy when I got home and as the coffee brewed I flipped on the TV. One of the morning shows was running an interview with a woman who wrote a memoir. She was saying that in her Chinese culture, parents assume children have strength but what she has observed in the western world is that parents assume their children are weak, therefore they tend to coddle and shield their children.

In that moment, all these random thoughts in my brain came together to form one IGIM (I Got It Moment). Am I raising my kids with the assumption that they are strong or that they are weak? Do I spend more time protecting them from life than equipping them for it?

I'd like to think that I am teaching my children the lessons they need to know so that they can grow up to be compassionate, successful and happy adults but do I have more fear of their weakness than I have faith in their strength?

I still believe that I need to do my best to ensure the kids leave for school, and life, happy, peaceful and confident but not because I am afraid that if I don't they will suffer because they are innately weak. I need to encourage them and build them up because they are innately strong and if I believe in them and their strength, they will believe in it to.

I found this quote and used it on my other blog is my hope and prayer for my kids...the mantra I want them to carry in their hearts. Its the truth of their own strength...

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life, but define yourself.”

Harvey S. Firestone

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Name Game

When Mr. Awesome and I decided to start our family, we put a lot of thought into what we were going to name our children. In fact, before I met Mr. Awesome I had a mental list of names I liked, most of which he nixed immediately. I did win the battle with Dude's first name and we compromised with his middle name but when it came to naming Crafty things became complicated very quickly.

We settled on a boy's name fairly early on in my pregnancy but when it came to choosing a girl's name, I couldn't make up my mind. Mr. Awesome scoffed at the name I loved but offered no suggestion of his own. The closer we came to my due date the more frantic I felt; I knew I was carrying a girl, I just knew it and nothing sounded right for her.

Finally, a couple of weeks before my due date, we decided on a name. I was thrilled! We had a name that was feminine yet strong. It was unique without being was perfect! That is, it was perfect until Crafty was born. I took one look at the kid and knew we had chosen the wrong name.

When the nurse brought her to me and asked, "What are you going to name this little princess?" Mr. Awesome was shocked when I said her name was going to be 'Crafty' because, although Crafty was a name we had discussed, we had agreed on something entirely different. But, instead of starting an argument with the woman who just laboured for 8 hours and gave birth to his nine and a half pound baby sans drugs, the smart man just went with it.

Fast forward 8 years, Crafty hates her name and Mr. Awesome is taking her side.

For five months she has been on a campaign to change her name. It's something she has been asking for on and off over the last two years but within the last four months or so her pleading has become relentless. This weekend we finally sat down with her and had a serious conversation about her name.

Before we moved, although her name was still fairly common, she was the only Crafty in her class, now she is in a class with another Crafty, making our Crafty, Crafty F. - a less than desirable handle in the third grade, I guess. She stated her case very well and heard our side of the argument. At the end of the discussion we said that a total name change was not something we were willing to do but we would consider allowing her to go, especially at school, by her middle name. We told her to talk to her friends about it, get their feedback and we'll think about it some more, too. We have scheduled another conversation (she made us put it on the calendar!) for the beginning of February.

Now I only have a couple of weeks to decide if making her live with her name, as is, will scar her for life and send her into counselling as an adult or if allowing her to change her name will make her the flaky, weird kid in town and will, eventually, send her into counselling as an adult. Either way, it's bound to be all my fault.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Letters of Manipulation

Several months ago my laptop overheated and it’s been out of commission ever since. I turned it on yesterday to move some files from it to my PC and while I was poking around on there I found a folder full of letters to my kids from The Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

For years these mythical creatures have left notes for my kids congratulating them on lost teeth and wishing them a Happy Spring or a Merry Christmas. Aside from these well wishes, Santa and his gang have encouraged the kids to get along with each other, obey better and be more helpful. Often times they would seem to know about particular issues the kids were struggling with and would say a few words to help the kids find their way. Here’s a couple of samples…

To Crafty (age 3) via a note to Dude (age 5) from The Tooth Fairy
Let your sister know that I can’t wait for her to be a big girl, too. I am really looking forward to when I can leave her notes and treats in exchange for her teeth but only big kids get visits from me. The first sign that a child is growing up is when they use the potty all by themselves. Using the potty, and having no accidents, is a very important thing to do if you want to be a big kid.

To Mischief (age 4) from The Easter Bunny
Wow! You have grown so much since last year and I am sure you are so clever that you will find all your treats in no time. I love to hop and run and jump and I’m sure that you like to do those things too. It is very important to remember that there are good places to jump and not so good places to jump. It is great to jump on the trampoline or when you are playing outside, its not a good idea to jump on the couch, down the stairs or from the deck of the tree house. Keep safe and always wear your helmet when you ride your bike.
PS – Please stop wiping your boogers on the wall beside your bed…its gross.

I hope letters from these helpful fellows continue to inspire kids to continue to grow, mature and be better people…I can use all the back up I can get!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Rules of the Blogosphere

This rant has been a long time coming…it started as a slow boil and now, well it’s a raging volcanic explosion. Since I have started blogging, and even before, I would receive links and messages to check out blogs by other writers. No problem, I’ll take a look but let me law down my rules to blogging.

1. No Rage-a-holics Allowed

No one wants to log on and hear about how crappy your life is, what a moron your ex is or how mean your family is. No one wants to spend what precious few minutes they have to waste blog-hoping by reading a rage filled rant (this one excluded as it is for educational purposes).

2. We don’t care!

We don’t care if you can’t decide what to have for dinner tonight, what colour nail polish is on your toes or that you got your head stuck in the microwave…unless you are funny. Not funny strange either, if you have genuine wit, go ahead and entertain us with the everyday stuff but here’s a tip, if you are bored writing your blog people will be bored reading it.

3. Not everyone is a natural born blogger

In fact very few people are. I have a lot of friends who are published authors and they struggle with their blogs, especially if their plan is to have a daily blog. Its tough coming up with fresh ideas and funny anecdotes every day. Just because everyone else has a blog doesn’t mean you have to have one.

4. Know Your Audience

So, you are determined to have a blog. Great, go ahead and write away, but before you start ask yourself one question. Who am I writing for? If you are writing for yourself, meaning you have thoughts and feelings you just have to get out, buy yourself a journal. Seriously, if you start sharing your most personal thoughts and feelings on the Internet you will one day regret it.

If you are writing for friends and family then fill your blog with pictures of your kids and cute anecdotes. Used this way a blog can be a wonderful tool to keep relatives that don’t see your family often in the loop about what’s going on in your world.

If your goal is to become the next Internet blogging sensation then its time to take an honest look at your writing skill level, your knowledge base and your personal brand (what’s your niche and how are you going to sell yourself)

These are my basic rules to not being a Blog Moron. Here a few links to blogs I enjoy…

Reading this blog is like sitting down for a chat with a pal -
Sally finds the most interesting pictures and I enjoy her musings on life -
A no-nonsense blog about writing and publishing -
A pastor breaks down his sermons and challenges his readers -
A new blog about everything and anything that pops into the writer's head - (for this one you need to scroll down and click on Adrienne's Blog)

**I am appalled that I forgot to inlcude the one of my very favourite blogs! Sorry Cat! This one is full of wit, charm, writing and real life...she's a groovy chick and her blog is a must read!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Since becoming a parent almost eleven years ago I have had thousands of kiddie conversations. A lot of those conversations are the type you expect to have with kids, conversations about how the world works and their observations on life, but every now and then I am caught off guard by conversations I never would have imagined I would have. Here are some of the highlights...

Me with Crafty, age 4

Me - (upon opening the fridge door) Why is there a hat on last night's leftovers?

Crafty - Because you said it was chilly.

Me  - Yes, its Chili, the kind you eat

Crafty - I thought you meant cold, in that case (walks to the fridge, plucks the pink fuzzy hat off the bowl and walks out of the kitchen with more dignity than you would think a four year old could muster)

Me with Dude, age 9

Dude - In a battle, who do you think would win, Gandalf (Lord of the Rings) or Dumbledore (Harry Potter)?

Me - Gandalf the Grey or Gandalf the White?

Dude - both

Me - Dumbledore could beat the Grey but I think the White might be more difficult to defeat.

Dude - That's what I thought.

Me with Mischief, age 5

Mischief - I think I'd like to live in a zoo.

Me - Why?

Mischief - Because you get to be outside and there's always lots of kids around and I wouldn't have any chores or anything.

Me - If you lived at the zoo they would probably give you some chores to do. Jamie works there and she has lots of chores.

Mischief - Jamie is a human, of course they make her do work.

Me - You're a human, too

Mischief - You're silly, Mom! I wouldn't be a human if I lived at the zoo. I'd be a monkey or a prairie dog, of course. (walking out of the room, laughing) Humans don't live at the zoo, silly, silly mom.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where It All Began

Many cultures have an oral tradition of passing their history through music and narrative storytelling. The younger generation would gather by the fire to hear the tribe's bard or shaman recount tales of battle, leadership and love. This was how history was taught, the younger learning from the elder.

This is how I was taught, too. But my tribal fire was a stool in my grandparents' living room and my bard was my nanny.

My earliest memories are ones of sitting on an old stool beside Nanny's knitting chair. I would watch her needles fly and the ash on her cigarette grow dangerously long as she told story after story of her life in war-time England, her voyage across the ocean with my infant aunt and her new life in Canada as a wife and mother (of nine children).

Often times she would tell the same stories over and over and when I was younger I thought she did that because she was old and her memory was failing. But as I matured I realised that the stories she repeated often were the ones she wanted me to remember, the incidents that shaped her, changed her. She wanted those moments remembered.

She had a brilliant way of describing things, of painting a picture for my young imagination to grab hold of, so that I felt as if I was right there with her on the streets of London, teasing the guards at Buckingham Palace or racing down the street to make sure my family had survived the bombing in my neighborhood or holding my infant daughter in my arms watching my mother grow smaller and smaller on the dock as my ship left port, carrying me away to my new life in Canada.

The hours I spent at her knee, hearing the adventures of her life are the greatest inheritance I could ever ask for. I learned more than just the history of her life in those stories. I learned about spunk and wit and courage. I learned how to survive heartache, how to live on hope and how to embrace adventure.I learned that love and loyalty are more valuable than money, that family is family even if an ocean separates you from your loved ones and I learned that hard fought love is the hardiest.

So if I can spin a good yarn, if you appreciate my wit and candor, know that its not me, really. All that I am as a writer, a storyteller, and much of who I am as a person, comes from her, my Nanny...Doris Telfer Kirton.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Art & Life

Since starting this blog I have received many wonderful e-mails and facebook messages offering support, encouragement and from time to time, asking questions. The two most common questions I get are, "What's your novel about?" and "Where do you come up with the stuff you write about?"

 This video, more than anything I've seen and better than I could say myself, answers both of those questions. It was made by a member of the online writer's group I belong to. Her name is Dee Garretson, and she is a genius. Please pay special attention to the cupcake reference ... I have a scene very much like that in my novel.

Life & Art, Life & Art...

For more on Dee Garretson check out her website at

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Things We Teach Our Kids

When Dude was born someone gave me a card that had a poem in it. The poem was about how his little eyes would always be watching and learning from us ... kind of like a stalker (the poem didn't call the kid a stalker, that was me).

I didn't realize, then, how true that poem would be, how much the kids were, in fact, like little sponges, soaking up and taking in everything they see. At times, I can almost see the cogs turning in their little minds as they process that information. They are constantly observing and learning. They notice how people treat each other, the words that are spoken and the attitudes projected. That is both a wonderful and frightening thing.

Mr. Awesome and I spent some time over the holidays talking about the kind of people we are raising and where we might be missing the boat with the kids. We realised that if we want to raise the kids to be kind, generous and productive people then we have to be much more intentional about what we are teaching them. We have made some changes in how we spend time as a family, the TV shows we watch and the types of conversations we have. We have put more focus on building character rather than filling time with the kids and we talk about what kindness, acceptance and respect look like.

Yesterday I was watching some of the news coverage on the tragic shooting in Arizona. Crafty snuggled up with me to watch the doctors describe how they operated on and saved the life of the congresswoman who was the target of the attack. Crafty asked a lot of questions and we spent some time talking about acceptance and kindness.

As we talked the interviews on TV continued and after several minutes our conversation was interrupted by two people yelling at each other during an interview. Shocked, but not really surprised by this emotional outburst, I watched their exchange to try to figure out what the issue was. Crafty watched too and after a couple of minutes this was her observation,

"Mom, are they yelling and angry with each other because they want other people to stop yelling and being angry with each other?"

"Yeah, that's the gist of it."

"Don't they know that no one will ever respect what you have to say if you scream it rather than saying it with kindness?"

"It doesn't appear that way."

"But they're grown-ups"

"I know."

"That's ridonkulous." She slid off the bed and left the room shaking her head.

Yep Crafty, it is.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fiction Friday - Rooms by James L. Rubart

When I first picked up Rooms I was intrigued, partly because I love the feel of a new book in my hands and all the possibilities that invites and partly because of the questions the cover invokes. A large coastal home nestled among trees; cloudy skies and choppy water frame the picture. Mysterious. I tried to ignore the fact that many of the blurbs compared Rooms to The Shack, and dove into the story head first.

In a nutshell, Rooms is about Micah Taylor, a successful Seattle software designer, and the choice he has to make between worldly success and knowing God. Micah receives a letter from his long deceased great uncle that catapults him into a world of supernatural encounters, small decisions leading with major consequences and shifting realities. With each step Micah takes closer to God he loses a piece of his success leading him to face the question what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Rooms is a well-written, solid Christian suspense novel. The gist of the story is very compelling and Rubart creates some very strong moments of suspense and emotion. I did feel that at times the pace of the story suffered because of the amount of description and detail he wrote in. For example I found it very difficult to relax into the plot at the beginning because of all the brand names Rubart used to describe the lifestyle of Micah, and later I skimmed over descriptions of the sea, forests and weather to get to the meat of the scene.

Despite some scenes of forced emotional intensity and a rather awkward final page or so, overall I think this is a good read. Rubart successfully pulls the reader along Micah’s journey while challenging them to search their own hearts and ask what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul.

**This is a book review I wrote for the website If you are interested in reading more of my book reviews click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the page. A new review will be posted every couple of weeks.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Today is a Good Good Day

Today is the day I have been waiting for, longing for, dreaming of. Today the kids went back to school!

We had a lot of fun over Christmas break and I certainly enjoyed the sleep-ins, lazy days and random weirdness of Dude, Crafty and Mischief but I am also thoroughly enjoying these solitary hours. I did normal things this morning without refereeing, bribing or yelling. I went grocery shopping, browsed through a bookstore and got myself a cup of coffee. I tidied the kitchen and living room and now, an hour later, they are both still clean!

And despite their protests I know that the kids are all glad to be back at school, too...mostly.

Crafty and Mischief need NEED to be with other people. Mischief needs to run and jump and talk and talk and talk to someone other than his sister and poor Crafty needs to be a girl. She needs to chat about girly things, do crafts and play with dolls (without the doll being in constant mortal peril of kidnapping and death by NERF firing squad). They need to interact with people who are not related to them.

I have been working on a theory for a while, let me know what you think. After watching my kids interact with each other, with very little input or stimulation from the outside word (over holidays and school breaks), I am sure there is such a thing as Sibling Interaction Mental Defect Syndrome (SIMDS). Its the warping of humor and increase of general weirdness when people who are closely related spend copious amounts of time together.

Think about the things you did and the conversations you had with your own siblings when you were a kid, think about the strange antics your kids get up to when left with little supervision or outside interaction. You'll see, I'm right.

Anyway, all theories aside, I'm just glad that school is back in session and that my house is calm and least until 4pm ;-)

Sip, sip, silence...ahhh!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Off the Naughty List

Over Christmas break, this Random family spent a week at my parents house. Luckily, we have a very good relationship with my folks or ten people living in a four bedroom house for nine days would have been unbearable. As it was, the week seemed like an exercise in insanity some days, most days -- not the straight-jacket, gnashing of teeth, heavily medicated insanity but the more benign and gentle insanity that invites everyone to go happily mad together.

Because my brother-in-law works nights, my sister and their nearly three year old daughter, Bizzy, were also staying at my parents' place for the balance of the week. You already know my views on three year olds but I have to say Bizzy is the exception. The kid has a wicked sense of humour, loves to tease and is generally in a good mood. Lately though, Bizzy has been trying my sister's patience.

We were witness to a couple of melt-downs and more than a few power struggles between Bizzy and her parents. On evening in particular, my sister and Bizzy were duking it out upstairs while my mom and I were in the living room. We couldn't help but hear the exchange between them. After a few minutes of hearing Bizzy stubbornly cry that she was not going to obey and recognizing the growing frustration in my sister's voice my mom turned to me and said, "I want to go up there and rescue poor Bizzy!" I laughed and said, "I want to go up there to rescue poor Bizzy's mom!"

Eventually, my sister won.

The next day, I was in the family room with the kids. They had made a bit of a mess and I asked them to clean up before dinner. My kids whined and denied any part of the mess-making while Bizzy got up and quietly went about the room picking up toys and dropping them into the bin. Reluctantly, Mischief and Crafty helped her finish the job. When I deemed the room clean enough the kids took off to wreak havoc in another area of the house. Bizzy, with her short legs and toddler waddle wasn't quite as quick as the big kids and was left behind.



"You did a good job cleaning up, thank you!"

She beamed back at me and rubbed the imaginary dust off her hands, "Then I'm off the Naughty List!" with that she toddled around the corner to join the other kids.

Yes, you are Bizzy, but pace yourself...Christmas is still 355 days away!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Magic of Coffee

We had a death in the family this week. Our coffeemaker died.

If you know me or have read my blog at all you will know that coffee is the fuel that keeps me going, it is my best friend on harsh early mornings, my comfort during times of stress and a life saver to my children on most days. In fact, Dude has a rule - Mom must have two cups of coffee before lunch time because no coffee equals a grouchy mom!

I knew the coffeemaker was in trouble before Christmas but hoped with a week off to rest it would feel better but alas that wasn't the case. On Saturday night before I went to bed I set the coffeemaker up, hoping for the welcoming smell of the freshly brewed goodness in the morning. Instead I awoke to Mischief barging into our room rambling on about 'coffee pee' all over the floor. When I finally stumbled my way down the hall into the kitchen I could barley comprehend the horror before me. The sweet, precious liquid gold was bubbling and pouring out of every conceivable place on the maker.

I spent the rest of the day trying to fix my poor coffee buddy. I tried making coffee again several more times but every pot ended in disaster. I had to accept it, my coffeemaker is dead. I have struggled through the last couple of days with frequent trips to Tim Horton's with several cups of tea in between coffee runs but this morning I think I sunk to an all time low.

In desperation, this morning I dismantled the coffeemaker. I took the piece that holds the filter, loaded it with coffee and poured boiling water into it while I held the steaming contraption over my favourite mug. This is where Mr. Awesome found me when he came home for lunch, huddled over the kitchen sink 'making' coffee. He took one look at the contents of my cup and said it looked like diesel fuel.

Diesel fuel or not, it is mine and it is precious and it is magic. After that first cup I made myself another, got dressed, cleaned the kitchen and am now writing. Coffee is the magic that makes my world go round. Cheers!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Post Apocalyptic Disaster

Santa visits our house on Christmas Eve morning. By special arrangement he takes a detour from his Australian route and zips over to central Canada to fill the stocking of three, though not extraordinarily well behaved, very well meaning children. He does this so we can have a little Christmas celebration with just the five of us before we pack up and head to The Grandparents Place for a week of Holiday Cheer.

The Wee Ones woke us just before 8am, did their annual Christmas play and then we opened gifts. By 10am we were in the van and heading toward the in-laws. This incredible feat of packing and organization left a few casualties in its wake, though.

I had stayed up late for a week doing laundry, making gifts, wrapping and trying to clean up everything along the way. My plan was to leave the house clean so that when we returned home all we had to do was unload the van and relax. My plan was in pieces by 9am on Christmas Eve.

The kids tore through their gifts and instead of opening a few small things to take with them they went for the big ones. As I was running around zipping up suitcases and packing up snowsuits, Mr. Awesome was loading the van and searching for the tortoise (she was let out of her tank and no one kept an eye on her as she wandered around the basement). This left the kids unsupervised.

Bad idea.

When the van was stuffed to capacity, Mr. Awesome tracked down the kids and jammed them into the van between pillows and gifts and the tortoise tank. I was going from room to room shutting off lights when Mr. Awesome stopped me in the kitchen.

"We're good to go. The kids are in the van, we're just waiting for you."

"Okay, I'm just going to check the living room and then I'll be out."

"Its good. I checked. Just get in the van."

"I'll be there in a minute. I want to turn off Cloris (my frog lamp) and close the blinds."

"Trust me, its better for everyone if you just get into the van."

A wash of cold dread came over me as I pushed past Mr. Awesome and entered my living room, my kid-free, no TV sanctuary. My clean, comfortable grown-up space was now a disaster. There was Lego and Duplex and Playmobile and tea sets and Slinkies and markers and colouring books and Skittles and Life Savers and pony-tail holders and Barbies and card board and plastic and bows and wrapping paper E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E!

"Its a disaster! A the-world-has-come-to-an-end-we-must-eat-the-wounded-to-survive kind of disaster! Its like the apocalypse!"

"Nope, its just Christmas. Leave it, we're going to be late for my parents. The mess will be here when we get back."

And it was.