Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Start of Change

Today was the last day of school and the first day of our Random Acts of Service Challenge. This summer we have decided to do more than tan and beach and bonfire, this summer we are purposefully setting out to commit Random Acts of Service.

Mr. Awesome and I feel that it is very important to teach our kids to not only be empathetic but to act on that empathy. It is very easy to see a homeless person or a commercial about sick and starving children and think that its too bad but that it's not your problem. We want our kids to understand that because we are all here on this planet together that we are all connected. So the problem of the sick child in Africa is the problem of the homeless man downtown is the problem of us in suburban Canada. We are all connected so we must bear the burden and we must all work to find a solution.

It was with this in mind that we, as a family, started brainstorming about how we, in our safe little home, could be part of the solution. At first we didn't have a real idea of what we were going to do or achieve but bit by bit things started to come together. I'm still not sure of some of the details but I know we are on the right track. The kids are excited about the organisations they have chosen to raise money for and they can't wait to get started.

Next week they will share, in their own words, what charities they have chosen and why but for now I would like you to watch this video clip. Its a ballad of Western world woes (she says tongue in cheek).

I know that we all have big lives, big concerns and many obligations that demand our time and energy but I also know that we are blessed. I know that when I look outside my own life, my own woes and focus on the needs of others I feel fulfilled and purposeful. I know that when I take a moment to help someone in need I receive ten times the support, encouragement and strength back. But most of all, I know that when I stop to care, to help, to speak up I am doing what I am meant to be doing.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

~Anne Frank

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Difference Makers

This time of year is always bittersweet for me. Its the end of the school year, things are coming to an end and new things will be starting up soon enough. Its the end of our chaotic mornings, rushing from school to school and the power struggle over finishing homework but it is the beginning of chaotic days filled with 'what's next?' and 'just five minutes more' and sand in the house and late nights around the bonfire. Schools over and summer is just beginning.

Its also the season of teacher gifts and notes of appreciation.

As I plan for this time of year I often think about the year we've had and the people who have made a difference to my kids, the people who have really seen them as individuals and have taken the time to celebrate them, educate them and guide them on their way. These thoughts inevitably lead me to think about the difference makers from my own school days, Mr. Kennedy and his basketball-to-real-life lessons, Mrs. Goertsen and her no nonsense belief in our ability to do more and be more and Mr. Enns and his humour, compassion and realism. These are the people that come to my mind when I think of the teachers who did that little bit extra to build a relationship with us, to understand us and to motivate us.

My kids have been pretty lucky. They all had the same kindergarten teacher, a woman of compassion, humour and infinite understanding and she set the bar pretty high for the teachers who came after her. She was the one who first noticed Dude's challenges for what they were, who instilled confidence and peace in a very nervous little Crafty and who laughed off all of Mischief's antics. She is the one who still makes them feel like the center of the universe whenever they see her. She has been a friend and an ally, an encouragement and an example and a source of many a much needed chuckle for me.

Mischief is 2 for 2. His grade one teacher has been stellar. I often joke that she is like having a Disney Princess as a teacher, all she is missing is the following of friendly forest creatures! She is sweet and caring, she has inspired Mischief to work harder, do more and believe in himself in a way I didn't think was possible. She corrects his craziness in a gentle yet meaningful way and she always has time to listen to his stories and jokes.

Crafty has had some great teachers too but I think the person who really has made the biggest difference to her so far was her second grade teacher. Dude had the same teacher in grade two and I have to say that woman is magic. She had the ability to see right into Crafty, figure her out and use her strengths to inspire her to work harder on her challenges. She is quick with the heart felt praise and slow to get frustrated or upset. She is creative, engaged and has unnatural amount of energy. I have never seen her angry, I have never seen her give up and Crafty adored her.

Dude has had an arsenal of creative and engaged educators work with him over the years. His fourth grade team was the dream team. His teacher, resource teacher, educational assistant and principal did amazing things last year and I thought that there was no way we'd ever see as much creativity and personal growth for Dude in a single year again but I was wrong. His team this year has worked hard and its evident. I have a lot of respect and a growing affection for some members of his team this year but if you ask him who his favourite person in the school is he'd, without a hesitation say, it's the resource teacher.

She has been his champion, translator and a safe haven this year. She has empowered him to speak up for himself while letting him know that she would always be available if he needed her. She has encouraged him to keep trying when things got tough, she has celebrated his successes and worked with him through his disappointments. He thinks she is smart and interesting to talk to and most of all, he knows that she is always on his side.

I appreciate each of these teachers, and the many others who have taken the time to get to know my kids, to inspire them and to educate them. Not every teacher will be a difference maker to every child but I believe that every teacher has it in them to challenge, inspire and motivate every student that passes through their doors, just as every student has it in them to teach and inspire their teachers.

Thank you for all you have done this school year ... enjoy your summer, Teachers!

The task of the excellent teacher is to stimulate "apparently ordinary" people to unusual effort. The tough problem is not in identifying winners: it is in making winners out of ordinary people. ~K. Patricia Cross

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Mental Break

I have seriously been trying to write this blog all day. I have thoughts, good, deep, funny thoughts but the problem is that they are all wisps and strands. The thoughts refuse to be caught and tamed and strung together today. The thoughts are chasing rabbits, enjoying the sunshine and running amok. So, I give up.

Instead of trying to put together something engaging and coherent today I am giving in to the crazy, random, frolicking thoughts. Today I am celebrating summer and just going with the flow. Today I will embrace the silly and celebrate summer with The Bean, Mr. Bean.

Here's one of my all time favourites ... laugh, enjoy and then get back to business!

Monday, June 27, 2011

That's so Gay

Recently, while playing outside, Dude got into a confrontation with some neighborhood kids and was called ‘gay’. He came in the house and told me about the scuffle. He was upset about the taunting and physical aggression that went along with the exchange but was confused about the insult ‘gay.’ He didn't understand why the boys used that word.

I sat there for a moment, looking at my boy and realised it was time for a life lesson I wasn't sure how to approach. My mind was spinning through the complicated issues of homosexuality, sin, choice, accountability, nature verses nurture and the millions of ways this conversation could go off track. I have to tell you, I panicked for a minute.

Then, I took a deep breath, exhaled slowly and realised that only one thing really mattered, there was only one lesson he had to learn from this experience.

"What does gay mean?" I asked him

"I don't know. I think it maybe means dumb or something but that doesn't make sense."

"Why doesn't that make sense to you?"

"First, if it does mean dumb then they picked the wrong word. I'm not dumb, I'm very smart. But I don't think it means dumb because I saw one time a thing on the newspaper that said 'Gay Pride' and I don't think someone would be proud of being dumb."

"You're right, it doesn't really mean dumb. When those boys called you 'gay' that's probably what they meant but that's not really it means."

"What does it mean then?"

"The word 'gay' has had different meanings over time but right now, in our culture, 'gay' is the word that is used to describe men who love men."

"Like, love them like brothers?"

"No, Buddy. Love as in boyfriends."



"Mom, is that okay with God? Y'know for men to love men like that?"

"Honestly, Dude that's a pretty big question. Some people think that being gay is a sin and that if someone is gay then they are going to go to hell and that, understandably, makes gay people really hurt and angry. There's a lot I'm not sure about but I know that to God sin is sin, there is no sin worse than any other kind of sin. I know that the Bible says that if you ask Jesus into your heart then you get to go to Heaven. And I know that God wants us to treat each other with respect and kindness. That's what I know, so that's what I try to do."

"Do you know any gay people?"

"Yes, I do. I have some family members and some friends who are gay."

"What are they like?"

"They are just like me and you. They are smart and funny and kind and loving. Sometimes they are angry and mean and say the wrong things or do the wrong things. They are just regular people."

"So is calling someone 'gay' wrong?"

"If you are trying to hurt or embarrass someone, then yes, it's wrong. Whenever you take something that is a part of a person, part of who they are and what they believe is right and good and use it to hurt them its wrong. Everyone deserves to be respected."

"Everyone deserves to be respected. Got it."

Everyone deserves to be respected, got it?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Brunch - What Comes Next

I grew up in a church culture that spent a fair bit of time talking about 'The End Times.' People were always watching for signs, puzzling out the exact meaning of events written about in Revelations and talking about what comes next. I remember being nine or ten years old and going to a church movie night to watch a dramatic interpretation of the rapture and the events surrounding The Second Coming. It freaked the heck out of me.

Its for that reason that I have steered clear of conversations and teachings about Revelations. I believe in pre-tribulation rapture just because I don't want to be here for the messy bits but that's as far as my End Times and beyond theology goes. I figure that all that will be sorted out when I get to Heaven, after a long and full life, so there's no need to get wigged out about what may or may not happen when the end of the world comes. I'd much rather focus on what I am doing with my life here and now, what impression and impact I am leaving on those who know me, than worry about rewards and treasures in the after life.

When I started to hear chatter about a book written about a kid's visit to Heaven I internally rolled my eyes. Here we go again, people lining up to get all spooky spiritual on The Glory Train. I promised myself that I wouldn't even glance at this book in passing, never mind actually picking it up and giving it a read. That promise lasted about two weeks, until my contact at Manitoba Christian Online delivered a new stack of books for me to review. Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo was on the top of the stack.

I did my best to shove all my childhood biased aside and give the book an honest read. Turns out that was much easier than I thought. The book is far from the 'Be prepared, the end is nigh' warnings of my childhood. Its a gentle reminder that the life we lead here on Earth, the people we love and the way we spend our time and efforts, has eternal consequences; that Jesus is real and He really loves us and that the people we love remember us and are waiting for us. And for me, it was an affirmation that the Jesus I thought I knew is really the Jesus who is.

Click on the link to read my review and then go pick up a copy of Heaven is for Real for yourself ...

Heaven is for Real Book Review

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.


Friday, June 24, 2011

That's How I Roll ...

Some days my life seems surreal and just a little too much to handle.

You know those days, right?  The days when you're sure that this is all a dream and you'll wake up in a minute, that the 'real' parents are on the way to pick the kids up and you'll go back to your regular life of lazy Saturday mornings, late nights hanging out with friends and doing whatever you want whenever you want.  You fantasize about being cool, hip and fashionable again. No more homework, school meetings and play dates, its all trendy music, swanky restaurants and clean cars for you, in this dreamland.

But then you wake up, look around and realize that you wouldn't trade all of this for all the peaceful mornings and uninterrupted bathroom breaks in the world ... these are your peeps and this is how you roll.

Here's to Toyota and making the minivan cool! This is how I roll ...

It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder and violence every single day should be avoided entirely, but the desire to beget children is a natural urge. ~Phyllis Diller

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stand up, Be a Grown-Up

Bullying, acts of aggression, in schools is nothing new. My dad was picked on when he was a kid, I was the brunt of many cruel jokes during my junior high years and now I see the same thoughtlessness and spite spilling out all over the hallways and playgrounds at the schools I visit. Nothing new, right? Right, except there is something new going on in schools and communities and its not good.

When I was a kid, and being picked on, I could count on the adults in my school and neighborhood to step in and break up a bullying situation. They would exercise the natural authority that adults have, send the aggressors off with a promise to contact their parents and make sure the victim of the exchange was all right. Adults were the calming force, the voice of reason, they could be relied on to be fair, in control and present. That's not always the case now.

I'm not sure when this shift started to happen but sometime between when I was a kid and when I started having kids things changed. Kids can no longer count on being safe just because an adult is around. They can't depend on the cool head, unbiased assessment and absolute authority that adults used to bring into a childhood squabble. Adults don't seem to know where they stand or how much they can say to kids these days and the result is that too many kids fall victim to acts of repeated aggression, within sight of adults, and the adults just turn their heads and keep walking.

Some adults don't want to interfere because they are intimidated by the repercussions of reprimanding some else's kid and they don't feel like the kids would listen even if they did try to intervene. Sometimes they are cautious because one or more of the kids are the children of someone popular, prominent or influential in the school or community. Other times adults don't get involved because they are busy, in the middle of something or on their way somewhere, they assume the next adult to come along will jump in. By their passivity they are condoning the continuing acts of violence, aggression and mean chatter that fill our schools and communities. They are contributing to our culture of cruelty by not standing up and speaking up and protecting all kids.

Schools are trying to teach kids to stand up for one another but I think its time we require adults to be grown ups. Its time that we, the parents, neighbors and citizens in our communities, get involved with the kids in our world. Its time to stop standing there, lamenting about society going to hell in a hand basket, its time we remember that we are the adults and a gentle but firm word can save a life, change a life and help to build character. It's time that we stand up and BE the grown ups.

This is an anti-bullying video. When you watch it imagine all of the passive observers as adults, and not children, imagine a playground, school, hockey arena, soccer field filled with passive adults watching children rip apart each others self esteem and dignity. Sound ridiculous? Yeah, it kind of does, but all too often its the reality our kids live with everyday.

Are you standing up, speaking out? Are you being a grown-up? Am I?

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

~Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kids are Like ...

Yesterday, I went on a field trip with Mischief's grade one class. We went to the zoo. Sounds simple enough, right? But when you live where we live 'a trip to the zoo' means an hour and a half ride each way. In case math isn't your strongest subject, I'll add that up for you. That is three hours on a bus with twenty something six year olds!

The ride to the zoo was filled with low key Lego playing, comic book reading and excited chatter. No big deal, really. It was nice to chat with the other parents and I hardly missed my morning coffeejuice. When we got the the zoo we were divided up into groups, each with a different animal name. There were Tigers, Toucans and Bears but I had the Monkeys ... go figure!

After a day of running around and exploring, I thought the ride home would be pretty quiet. Not even close! I'm not sure if the kids caught the 'zoo spirit' or if they were afraid to sit still because they might fall asleep, but the ride home was louder, sillier and wigglier (I know, its not a word but I think it is a condition that six year old boys frequently suffer from!) that the ride to the zoo.

While I dodged flying hats, an intergalactic Legoman battle and incessant questions like "how many plants are in that field" and "why those birds are allowed to be free but the ones in the zoo aren't," I had a revelation; Kids are just like animals. They can't help it, they just are. They are loud, unruly, cunning and gross, just like their zoo counterparts. The only real difference between a six year old boy and an average zoo animal is that no matter how much we might fantasize about it, we can't put our wee nasty, rambunctious humans in cages to contain the chaos!

Here are a few of the similarities between the zooers and the zooees ...
Kids are like kangaroos because they would rather hop than walk any day.

Kids are like flamingos because balancing on one foot is no big deal, except that it is.

Kids are like camels because they stuff their pockets (and their cheeks) with more than you think is humanly possible and inevitably stuff comes spilling out (of both!) leaving a trail of mess behind them.

Kids are like prairie dogs because they wrestle and chase each other around until they get caught. Then they scamper away and hide.

Kids are like peacocks because they scream for no reason and love to show off for their pals.

Kids are like leopards because they can seem like they are doing nothing, sitting still and behaving themselves but in truth they are scheming, waiting for the the perfect moment to pounce and create chaos.

Kids are like llamas because you never know what's going to come flying out of their mouths next.

Kids are like possums because they pride themselves on hands free stunting.

Kids are like hippos because once they get into the water its very tough to get them to come out.

Kids are like antelopes because they do gross things to impress their pals.

And finally, kids are like monkeys because they climb and jump and swing from things, pick at their sibling, squawk and yell and fight, make a mess and generally wreak havoc wherever they go but ... they are just so darn cute!

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. ~Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth, 1907

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Life from the Inside

Sometimes, while I am busy about my work, advocating for Dude I wonder, "Does he even want this?" "When he is an adult will he resent me, this blog and all I have shared about our life and our struggle?"  "Am I really doing what is best for him and not just what is best for kids like him?" I also wonder what he thinks about Autism, what he will think as he gets older. I wonder if he will feel like I have pushed him into being some kind of poster child or spokesperson.

Dude and I often talk about to whom and what we share about our life. He knows I write about him, about us, and meet with other families of kids with needs to help them get what they need from the school system, too. He is aware that I use our life as an example of what to do and what not to do, sometimes. So,every now and then I ask him if he's still okay with me talking about what Autism means to our family and what it specifically means to him, just to be sure. He says he is but I still worry sometimes.

Earlier this year, John Elder Robison, author of Look Me in the Eye and Be Different, and an adult with Autism wrote about his beliefs about Autism. Please take a minute to hop on over to his blog. I found this post, and many of his articles, very insightful. It really is a glimpse into the mind of someone living, and succeeding, with ASD.

Look Me in the Eye ~ Beliefs About Autism

Monday, June 20, 2011

You Can't Go Back Again?

Who says?

Today we spent the day cruising our old 'hood. The kids had the chance to visit their pals at their old school, we had a picnic in the park and stopped to chat with a few familiar faces while we were out and about. I even took a few minutes to visit our old house. It hasn't sold yet so there was no creepy trespassing involved.

I pulled into the driveway to check the mail but I ended up taking a few minutes to wander in the yard that was ours for six years. It was in this house that we went from a family of four to a family of five. We celebrated birthdays and Christmases in that living room, had our yearly 'first day of school' pics taken in front of that red door and spent countless hours around the bonfire in the back yard while the kids climbed the trees, played in their fort and touched the sky on the old tire swing. This was our home.

We also survived some of the biggest challenges of our married life while we lived in that house. It was while we were living there that we discovered that Dude has Asperger's. We lost two babies and almost lost each other. We survived home renovations, school negotiations and relationship reparations. We saw great heart ache, disappointment and discouragement but we also saw hope and miracles and strength.

It was there, in that neighborhood, that I conquered post-partum depression, learned the power of a soft word spoken with absolute confidence and became comfortable in my role as an advocate/mother. It was there that I met friends who encouraged me, inspired me and unconditionally liked me. It was there that I began to understand the purpose of my life. I grew up in that house.

Yet, as I stood there, in that yard, I felt nothing. Not sadness, longing or regret. I didn't miss that place, I didn't wish I could go back and that left me feeling odd and out of sorts. I expected to be homesick for the life we had, the life we loved, while we lived there. I thought I would stand there, in tears, over the last snowman built in the yard, the last trick or treating on that street and the last snooze in the hammock. I expected to feel something, I think I wanted to feel something but I didn't. I stood there for a moment longer, just in case a rush of tears wanted to strike, but it didn't so I got back into the car and pulled out of the driveway.

I drove to the park to meet my pals for a picnic and realised that this is the part I miss. This hanging out, laughing, teasing, swapping stories and catching up with the people who have been my pals, my peeps for six plus years. These people who hung out in my backyard, invited me over for coffee and loved my kids like their own. These people who gave me a shoulder to cry on, a kick in the pants or a helping hand, depending on what the situation called for. These people who don't take anything I say too seriously, who laugh at my jokes and who 'get me.' These people, these crazy, silly, loving, accepting, wonderful people is what I miss, long for and am homesick over. I miss my people.

Its probably true, you can't go back home again but thankfully you can always go back to your friends! Thanks Karen, Julian, Tara, Joanne, Trista, Debbie and Rob for being my pals through thick or thin, near or far and for better or for worse. Knowing you, being friends with you all, has made me a better person. Thank you!

The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. ~Elisabeth Foley

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Foodie Goddess - The Perfect Choclate Chip Cookie

Welcome to another Saturday of guest blogging ... today we have my pal, Foodie Goddess and her mad domestic skills on display. Check back the third Saturday of the month for more recipes and mayhem from the kitchen of Foodie Goddess!

I am the Foodie Goddess, only because I always wanted to be known as a goddess!  I love cooking and baking, as well as decorating my house and crafting.  So all in all I am pretty domestic, but cooking is a passion!  My husband, "The Captain" and I have two children ages 8 and 2, known as the "J man" and "Miss K." They keep us very busy and slightly insane.  I am looking forward to sharing goodness from my kitchen with you!


Hello Random readers!

 Today I am going to share with you the greatest Chocolate Chip cookie recipe I have ever made. These are delicious…soft, chewy and of course chocolaty! I came across this recipe about 10 years ago while working in a day program for adults with disabilities. Another girl and I ran a culinary program. We made these cookies one day with the group, and well, we were all in love. Between the staff and clients we devoured those cookies in no time flat! In fact it caused me to declare, “I will be the mom who makes the best chocolate chip cookies!”

Ten years ago I did not have any children. I was however a huge “Friends” fan. Any of you who may also have been a big fan back in the day may recall the episode where Monica was trying to recreate Phoebe’s secret family recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Monica wanted to be known as “the mom who makes the best chocolate chip cookies”. As it turned out on the show, the secret family recipe was actually the recipe on the back of Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip package – which by the way I have made and they are pretty good too. But with this recipe you now can be known as the mom, dad, friend, neighbour, co-worker or heck, just as “the person who makes the best chocolate chip cookies”.

The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies


~1 ½ Cups Butter, softened (butter is always better than margarine)
~1 Cup granulated sugar
~1 Cup light brown sugar packed
~3 Eggs
~2 tsp vanilla extract
~3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
~1 ½ tsp baking soda
~¾ tsp salt
~4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips {yes that’s right 4 cups! I believe this is what makes these so yummy!!}

Heat oven to 375 F.
In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until light and fluffy.
Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into butter mixture.
Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8-10 mins or until lightly browned. Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet onto wire rack to finish cooling.
> Try not to over bake these. They are most delicious when they are slightly under baked so they stay soft and chewy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Dad Life

When I met Mr. Awesome, I had no idea what kind of dad he would be. I don't think the thought even crossed my mind until I was twelve hours into a very un-fun labour with Dude. I can remember thinking in my pain riddled delirium, "I hope Mr. Awesome is going to be a good dad because I don't want anything to do with this kid when this is all over, we haven't even met yet and already I'm not very fond of him!"

Back then, before kids, Mr. Awesome was a philosophical, outdoorsy guy with long hair, wool socks and an extensive wardrobe of jeans and sweatshirts. He winter camped, hiked the backwoods and cycled around England for kicks. He was funny, thoughtful, friendly and entirely independent and I loved all those things about him.

Now, with independence and spontaneity gone the way of the dinosaurs, with nothing but kids, homework, housework, home repair and budget balancing filling our 'free time' I sometimes look at him and wonder, "What did I do to this guy?!" I can't remember the last time he hiked or broke out a pair of wool socks. His hair is gone and so are his carefree days of packing up for a weekend of solitary and serene trail wandering. I genuinely feel bad for the guy sometimes.

And just when I am feeling like I ruined him with this crazy life of kids, responsibilities and commitments he does or says something that reminds me that this, all of this, is the life he chose. He gladly traded in his backpack for a diaper bag and gave up a life of wilderness exploration for a life of pushing strollers, installing car seats and holding wee hands. He cherishes the sticky hugs, the chaos that erupts each time he walks through the door and the begging for 'just five more minutes' of playtime with him. This life of science projects, Barbie playing and Lego building, the evenings of playing ball, building snow forts and home reading, the early morning bagel runs, the late night popcorn parties and all the silly, crazy, loving moments in between ... this is the life he dreamed of, The Dad Life!

I found this video on Youtube, its from a church in Tulsa ... the Dad Life may not be glamorous but it is full of unbelievable perks! Watch, enjoy and celebrate the dads in your life this weekend!

He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. ~Clarence Budington Kelland

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Horse Sense

Horse sense is another term for common sense, but we all know that common sense ... well, it just isn't that common.

For the past twelve weeks Dude has participated in an Equine Assisted Learning program. He was signed up through school and it is really the best program he has ever participated in. Over the course of three months we have seen Dude's self confidence, independence and self governing of his emotions sky rocket. He has become more sure of himself and of his abilities. He has developed an inner peace and sense of calm that has previously been missing. He has become much more self aware.

This program, and its facilitators, teach the students life lessons on the go. They use lessons in horse care and behaviour to demonstrate real life lessons with humans. While we were at his graduation celebration this morning, we saw Dude demonstrate, through a horse exercise, that temptation is all around but it is up to the individual to keep focused on what matters and keep walking past the temptations in life.

During the course of the exercise Dude demonstrated with his horse pal, Jimmy, we saw Dude not only in control of his own emotions but in control of the horses movements. This 80 pound boy was able to control and lead a 1400 pound horse with nothing more than touch and hand signals. I don't think Dude realised it at the time but the lesson was about so much more than temptation. It was about confidence, self control and attentiveness. And Dude wasn't the only kid there translating horse skills into personal strength.

We saw five other boys conquer fears, reign in their emotions and discover inner peace and self discipline through time spent with these horses. All of the boys were leading horses through exercises, grooming them and working independently and as a team. It was amazing to see six kids who could be seen as behaviour problems or academic misfits come together in this program and find friendship and self respect. Each child displayed confidence and pride as they showed off for their family and friends this morning, it was amazing! I'm not generally a crier but this morning I was fighting back the tears as I watched each of their unique gifts and personalities shine.

Aside from teaching the kids how to care for horses and read their body language the kids received lessons on empathy, team work and respect ... y'know common sense things. Things they should know but are somehow noticeably absent from the behaviour one sees in the halls of most schools.

As a mom and a volunteer in the school system I was so impressed and thankful that this group of caring adults took the time not only to teach skills but build character as well. Every week we heard Dude talk about acceptance, kindness and teamwork and how in order to be a successful person (his definition of being a successful person is being kind, friendly and caring ... proud mama moment) you need to hear what people are saying, respond with patience and care about how they feel. For him something clicked over the past few months, you need to treat people the way you want to be treated, with respect, dignity and kindness, regardless of how they treat you.

The horse skills Dude picked up over the last twelve weeks are only a byproduct of the great life lessons he learned ... lessons that I am sure will be with him for a very long time!

For more information on Equine Assisted Learning or Keen Ridge Equine Center click here

There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.
~Winston Churchill

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It Just Looks Easy

Yesterday, Mr. Awesome and I celebrated 14 years of wedded bliss, well probably more like 13 years and seven months of wedded bliss and five months of wedded tolerance. If I were to add up all the days he has annoyed me, mocked me and otherwise irritated me into a ranting frenzy, that's how the numbers would play, 13y 7m vs. 5m. I'd wager if he would add up his numbers using similar criteria they would be roughly the same. Not bad.

We spent our anniversary hanging out, volunteering at Dude's school and then hanging out some more. It was really low key and mellow but it was wonderful. We talked a little about our 14 years together but we spent much more time talking about our future, planning for what comes next. We talked about the dreams we have for ourselves, for our marriage and for our future. We talked about our kids and their futures and then we just talked. We talked for hours about everything and anything. We laughed, teased and debated. We shared opinions, insights and perspectives. We were silly, serious and completely engaged with each other. It was amazing!

I love that after 14 years of marriage and 16 years of friendship, we are never bored together. We never run out of things to say. We don't know everything about each other, we don't have it all figured out. Every time we talk I learn something new about how he thinks, what's important to him or his dreams for our family. I love that we talk about things, consult each other, pick each other's brains. We're a team.

Every once in a while people will comment on our relationship. They see us holding hands, chatting together or just hanging out and say how nice it must be to have such an easy relationship. We thank them for their kind words and then laugh. If our relationship is easy its only because we work at it. We make each other a priority and when we needed it, we got professional help.

Shortly after we got married we realised we were in big trouble. Although we didn't want to live without each other, we weren't sure that we could live with each other. Family pressures, immaturity and unrealistic expectations of marriage set us up for disappointment and lots of stress in the early months of our marriage. People who knew and loved us kept telling us how great marriage was and how this was the best time of our lives, all the while we were seriously thinking we had made the biggest mistake ever. We felt very alone and overwhelmed by the mess we were in.

One day, while at work, I broke down and told one of my colleagues that I was pretty sure Mr. Awesome and I weren't going to make it to our first anniversary. Two nights later she had us sitting down with her husband and working on our communication. Her husband was a pastor but not at our home church. In fact, we had never been to a service at his church or even met him before yet he spent one evening each week over the next four months meeting with us, talking with us, helping us.

He talked to us about realistic expectations, communication and problem solving. We discussed the importance of having a plan for our marriage, setting standards in our relationship and putting boundaries in place to protect our marriage. He invested a lot of time, energy and wisdom in us and I think it paid off.

Now 14 years later, we are still married, more in love and have more respect for each other than we ever thought possible. We are friends, lovers, partners and life mates. He is my lobster and I am his. We have three strange and wonderful children, a love and a life we are proud of and we know that this is only the beginning.

Every year, as we drink our anniversary slurpees, I give a toast and say a prayer of thanksgiving for Gerry and Sharon and for the time they took teaching us how to be married. We couldn't have done it without you, thank you!

Don't marry the person you think you can live with; marry only the individual you think you can't live without. ~James C. Dobson

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

14 Years of Awesomeness

No Blog today ... I'm spending the day celebrating with Mr. Awesome.

Thanks for 14 years of love, friendship, encouragement and support. There is so much more I could say but I'd rather be spending time WITH Mr. Awesome today than writing about him.

"To love would be an awfully big adventure."

— J.M. Barrie

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Lost Boys

This weekend we packed our bags and headed out to Family Camp with the church we have been attending for the last several months. When I first mentioned this opportunity to Mr. Awesome I was joking. I thought it would be funny to tell him that I really wanted to go, knowing that he would never in a million years voluntarily go along. He has this weird thing about church camps; I think he may have watched one too many documentaries about Jonestown over the years or something.

Anyway, I told him about it and he said, “Sure … sounds like a great way to get to know more people.” Shocked and confused, I went down to the church the next day and signed us up. I didn’t expect him to go through with it, but he did. On Friday afternoon we dropped the dog off at a kennel and headed in a mostly westerly direction to join a bunch of people we didn’t know at a camp in the middle of nowhere.

And I’m so glad we did!

We spent the weekend meeting new people, hanging out with the kids and laughing. We did a lot of laughing! On Friday and Saturday night we sat around the bonfire until nearly midnight, visiting with our new pals as our children ran wild through the camp. It was amazing to see the kids make new friends and enjoy the freedom of uninhibited play in the safety of this community. It reminded me of being a kid and camping with my parents and all my cousins.

We used to play flash light tag, hide in the tall grass to scare people on their way to the bathrooms and tell spooky stories around the campfire. We had free reign of the place, we could go to the playground, head to the river to skip rocks or go frog catching behind the fish hut. We only saw our parents for meals and bedtime. It was absolute freedom, those sizzling summer days of my childhood, a freedom I never thought my kids would enjoy.

Life is different now, it has to be. There are more dangers, more threats to the safety and innocence of our children so parents have to be more present, more aware than when we were kids. We, those of us who are in our thirties now, are the last generation of the Lost Boys (and Girls), the last who will have memories of playing and riding and exploring from sun up to well past sun down free from the watchful eyes of our parents. We are the last of an aging tribe of day explorers, night runners and unabashed mischief makers.

We will have to be the memory keepers for all the kids who came before us, all the kids who shenaniganned, hijinxed and practiced all manner of prankery for generations, the kids who set the bar, made the legends and caused us to scheme and dream to lofty new heights each of our too few childhood summers. I am sad for the kids to come, that they will never know the thrill of running wild through the woods, wading knee deep in a swamp or prowling around the neighborhood after dark with their own band of adventurers, free from the prying eyes of adults.

And so, last night, as I washed the last of the grime from our weekend explorers, I said a silent prayer of thanks that my kids got at least one weekend to experience childhood in the very best sense, that they, for at least one weekend, got to be part of that fleeting tribe of Lost Boys … and Girls!

So come with me, where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of happy things, and your heart will fly on wings, forever, in Never Never Land!

— J.M. Barrie (Peter Pan)

Friday, June 10, 2011

How do you Be?

I have spent the last several months working with a group of very smart, very talented and every engaged students. We have been brainstorming about their future, their school and their world. We came together with the purpose of making videos about issues that are important to them but what we have discovered along the way is that life is not about 'the issues' its about the people who are affected by and who live the issues every day.

The anti-bullying campaign is not about the message of being kinder, its about the kid who is afraid to show up at school because of the daily ridicule and judgement he faces. The diversity movement is not about being politically correct, its about the kid who doesn't speak the language, doesn't know the culture and is therefore on the outside looking in. Food drives and fundraising is not about the politics of homelessness and poverty, its about the kid who is sitting in school, unable to concentrate on anything but her empty stomach and how she is going to fill it.

'Be the change' has become a popular catch phrase for this generation. It is inspiring, empowering, just to say the words. But how do you be? How do you affect change? Heck, how do you inspire change in a world that likes the reality of change far less than they like the idea of it?How do you motivate a generation to be more than you have been yourself?

You stick them all in a room together and you tell them they can be, and keep telling them until they believe it. Then you provide opportunities, support and guidance as they move forward with passion and enthusiasm. I have seen kids and teens do incredible things because they had an idea, excitement and adults who believed in them. I have also seen kids become cynical and jaded way too young because of disappointment and discouragement in their lives. Kids full of life and potential have settled for being less than they could be because no one ever cared enough to tell them that they could be more.

Every day I look each one of my kids in the eye and tell them that they are smart, creative, compassionate and pretty darn cute, too. I tell them that they are superstars in their own life. I tell them that they were created for greatness but that its their responsibility to figure out what that means for them. I tell them that they can do, change and be anything ... all they have to do is want it bad enough to do the work. Usually they roll their eyes and say, "I know, Mom, Yuo've told me that a million times!" but I know that if I keep saying those words and giving them the opportunities they need to try being, they will, in fact Be the Change for their generation.

This is a promo video for something called We Day. Its a crazy, passionate, inspiring rally for kids started by the folks at Free the Children. This year this rally is coming to our neck of the woods. I am so excited for the kids in our province, that they get to be stuck in a room together with a bunch of excited, hopeful and enthusiastic adults who will tell these kids that they can Be, over and over again until each one of the 50,000 kids in the arena believe ... and then these kids will go back to their schools and communities and they'll tell their friends that they can Be, too. And soon they will all Be, and we all will be better for it.

That's how you Be.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stellar Parenting Moments

I was talking to a friend of mine who is a first time mom. She was worried that she was making mistakes and ruining her wee son. I laughed and told her to relax. I said that I'm sure she was doing just fine and even if she wasn't, the kid won't remember anything before the age of three anyway, so she's good.

I had a friend who lived by those words when her firstborn was little. She said it was the only consolation she had after a long day of parental screw ups. I thought she was nuts ... and then I became a parent. I soon realised that despite your best efforts there are a million things that can, and do, go wrong in a day when you are dealing with the unknown factor of infancy, toddlerhood and childom. Don't believe me? Here are a few Stellar Parenting Moments by Me, The Random One ...

~When Dude was 18 months old we moved him into a 'big boy' bed. It was a hand-me-down bed from a cousin but it did the job. About a week after the big move, Dude was still having trouble adjusting to the change. Almost every night he ended up in hysterics. Frustrated, I finally convinced Mr. Awesome to just let Dude cry it out. We checked in on him a couple of times, and despite all his tears and carrying on, the little guy was still laying down on his bed.  It took a while but Dude finally settled down.  

When we went to bed a couple of hours later, we stopped in to check on Dude. It wasn't until we were right next to his bed that we realised why he was crying so hard. The poor little guy was sleeping with his head resting against the wall, stuck between the two horizontal bars on the headboard! When we tried to get him out we realised that his head was too big to slip back through the bars so we had to pull the bed out and slide his the rest of his body through the bars. We were laughing so hard but the Lil' Dude slept through the whole thing!

~One morning when Crafty was about four months old I was reclining in bed, nursing her. We were relaxing and enjoying a little peace when Dude started to flip out over something. I carefully laid the sleeping Crafty on my bed, lined the edge of the bed with pillows and went to find Dude. I was gone from the bedroom for less than 10 minuted but when I returned Crafty was gone.

 At first glance, the pillows looked undisturbed and I could not figure out what had happened. When I looked closer I discovered one pillow had a tiny indented channel in it. I ran around the bed, expecting to see my infant on the floor but nothing. Nothing was there. I was starting to panic when I dropped on my hands and knees and started looking under the night stand and bed. The first lift of the bed skirt revealed nothing, so I crawled to the foot of the bed and looked again. There she was, under the bed, happily sucking on her toes, completely unphased by her travels.

~Mischief was about three years old the rainy morning we set out to pick Crafty up from school. It was spring and it had been raining for days and their were huge puddles, lakes really, all over the neighborhood. During our walk down the street I had repeatedly told Mischief that he may NOT jump, run or do any tricks in the puddles, it was much too cold to get soaked. When we got to the school the teacher asked to talk to me so I asked a friend to keep an eye on Mischief while I ran inside.

Fifteen minutes later I emerged from the school and asked my friend where Mischief was. She looked around, confused. He had been there just a minute ago. I quickly scanned the playground, focusing on all of his favourite hiding spots. No Mischief. Puzzled but not surprised, I started walking around the playground, looking over and under each play structure, calling his name. Suddenly, I heard a squeaky, "Here I am!" coming from behind the playhouse. I rounded the corner and there he was, my Mischief, sitting in a muddy puddle, water up past his waist. "I'm not jumping!" he declared, so proud of his obedience.

After each of these incidents, and the thousands of similar parenting moments in between and after, I have doubted my ability as a mother. Who am I to be trusted to care for another human being?! Clearly I am not qualified! But once the dust settles and the kids are found, unstuck and bathed, I remember that all parents have days like this from time to time. I tell myslef that it'll be fine, and it always is.

The kids are older now and we have fewer grand scale screw ups than we did when they were younger. It still happens, just less frequently. When it does happen I take a deep breath, and sometimes a picture, and remind myself that these days won't last forever ... for better or for worse.

 So, the next time you are knee deep in a stellar parenting moment I just want you to remember this, we all have these moments, all three of my kids survived and ... they remember nothing!

Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn't know you had, and dealing with fears you didn't know existed. ~Linda Wooten

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Every Life has a Story

Every life has a story (apparently I am now the spokesperson for The Biography Channel, anway ...), I learned the truth of that statement when I worked as a unit clerk on the Alzhiemer's unit of a personal care home. Here was a whole wing of a facility filled with people who were lost in their own lives. They had slipped from the life they were leading and into some kind of alternate universe haze, or at least that's what I thought when I started working there. I felt sorry for them.

What I came to realize during my time of stuffing charts and typing patient histories, is that although it was sad for their families, most of the residents were content, most of them had returned, in their minds, to a happy, successful, busy time in their lives. There is no doubt that given the choice most of them would have rather been living in the present with their loved ones but since that was not an option, somehow they went to the next best thing, a time when they were vital, important and needed.

My first encounter with this alternate existence was with Mrs. Perry. On my first day on the job she asked me to help her plan a trip to Edmonton to visit her daughter. She had me looking up bus schedules and pricing out transport to the bus depot. About 45 minutes into our trip planning session the nurse on duty asked me what I was doing. When I told her she burst out laughing and asked me to follow her into the office.

When she finally regained her composure she told me that Mrs. Perry has been planning the same trip at least twice a week for the last five years and that I needed to better understand the type of peole we were caring for, so she handed me a pamphlet called 10 Things to Know About Caring for Someone with Alzheimer’s. She told me to read it and to spend some time reading the family information and nurses notes sections of the residents’ charts. I read the pamphlet and got a better idea of what Alzheimer’s was and then I dove into the resident charts. Soon I was spending every lunch hour and coffee break reading charts and visiting residents. These people had lead remarkable lives and I wanted to spend some time getting to know them better!

Although most residents had returned to a familiar time in their lives, like Dr. Davis who spent his days reviewing patient charts (we had to set up a carousel full of fake charts for him because he kept wandering off with actual resident charts!), there were some residents who shocked their families with the lives they had once lead.

Mr. Jack, who had lived his life as a math teacher, had once attempted to summit Mt. Everest. When he began talking about packing for his expedition, a couple of years after his Alzhiemer's diagnosis, his kids were confused. They had no idea that their dad had ever actually done anything but teach math to junior high students. Finally they tracked down an old friend of their father's and discovered that it was true, their mild mannered, math teaching father had once been a great adventurer. Beyond the Mt. Everest trip he had climbed dozens of peaks in the Rocky Mountains. He had also tried deep sea diving and surfing in his college days.

And then there was Rose, the former Vaudeville performer turned pastor’s wife. She started every morning by declaring, “I’m Rose May and I love it!” and then she would break into one show tune or another as she carefully arranged her hair and make-up. Her grown children had a hard time reconciling the flamboyant Rose May with the demur minister’s wife and stay at home mom of their childhood, but they loved seeing her smile so they accepted this new Rose and learned all about her secret past through the window of her memory.

I think about Mr. Jack, Ms. May and dozens of other remarkable people I met during my year working at the personal care home. I think about them and their hidden lives when I meet someone new and wonder what their story is. I think about them when I watch my kids grow and learn and become people … I wonder what their story will be? And mostly, I think about them when I reflect back on my life. I hope I live my life in such a way that my kids know the very best and very worst of me. I hope they will learn that every life really does have a story and its all the peaks and valleys that make it worth living.

Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. ~Danny Kaye

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I have been tied up in stress knots for days because I can't figure why people can't just grow-up, be kind to one another and live positively. I feel exhausted by unnecessary criticism, gossip and judgement that I hear bouncing around workplaces, schools and cyberspace. I am weary of negativity spreading faster than optimism, of bad attitudes being more contagious than The Plague and how being bad has become so cool. I am literally making myself sick with the irritation I have been feeling lately. Clearly, I need to get a grip and some perspective because having a stress melt down won't help anything.

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook and I thought it was spectacular.  It was just the little reminder that I need that there, in fact, is no looming hand basket and the world isn't necessarily going to hell, well not immediately, anyway. Seeing this boy write such a beautiful and heart felt note gave me hope for the future generations. There will always be ButtonHeads in this world but thankfully there will also always be people of intelligence, compassion and kindness ... and it starts with this one kid!

All that follows appeared in an online article by Susan Farrelly for The Guelph Mercury Community Editorial Board ...Thanks, Ms. Farrelly for not suing me for stealing this ;-)

He’s not ‘just a boy,’ he’s very special

By Susan Farrelly, Guelph Mercury Community Editorial Board

I was out for lunch with some friends a few days ago and our conversation turned to our children. Most of our conversations do. One friend began to tell us about the struggle that her son is having. He’s in Grade 8 in our community. She shared with us a piece of writing he had produced.

She had asked him to write a pro and con list about going on his school’s Grade 8 graduation trip. But for a spell-checking, this is what he wrote:

I am just a boy who didn’t have any choices about the hell I have endured.
I am just a boy who couldn’t wait to go to school and learn and be liked.
I am just a boy who wanted to make friends and be part of the team.
I am just a boy who didn’t get to realize this dream.

I am just a boy who would walk around the playground, alone and sad, as I watched other kids play soccer and wished they would call me over to join in — just once.
I am just a boy who never got picked for a team and was always last picked in gym class.
I am just a boy who was teased for lacking in athletic ability and mocked for the way I run.
I am just a boy who desperately wanted to share my story but had to suffer in silence for fear of more torment.

I am just a boy who had to suck it up and pretend I was fine and it didn’t matter.
I am just a boy who wanted a friend and a confidant.
I am just a boy who wanted to be accepted for my differences but liked more because of them.
I am just a boy who looked forward to ending my primary school years better than they started.

I am just a boy who wanted to go on the year-end trip with my classmates feeling a sense of belonging.
I am just a boy who just learned that I am not accepted and I don’t belong.
I am just a boy who won’t be victimized anymore and will make choices that will not subject me to the constant messages of you don’t matter or you are a freak.
I am just a boy who will leave elementary school the same way I started, wanting a friend, wanting to feel accepted wanting to be “one of the gang.”

I am just a boy who had to be brave and pretend that none of this hurt.
I am just a boy who is funny and kind and plays by the rules.
I am just a boy who doesn’t understand why subtle yet constant badgering isn’t considered bullying — yet it hurts just as much.
I am just a boy who is tired of waiting for it to stop, waiting for adults to make kids accountable, waiting for a better tomorrow.

I am just a boy who is wishing his childhood away because I hear that adults don’t behave that way.
I am just a boy who loves life, and laughter, and all the things that other kids like and for that I am not different.
I am just a boy who hopes that one kid understands the impact of being so mean, so unkind.
I am just a boy who wonders if they think about the cruel things they say, the cruel things that they do.

I am just a boy who wonders if they are being mistreated and that is why they are so careless with their words that cut through my soul.
I am just a boy who promises to never ever treat anyone like this.
I am just a boy who promises to raise children to be kind and thoughtful and tough enough to stand up to those that don’t.
I am — just a boy.

I hope parents will read this with their children. I hope teachers will read this to their students. I hope teenagers will read it to themselves.

 I hope after reading this, when young children are playing on the playground, others take a moment to look up for the child that is playing alone to ask that boy or girl to join them. I hope when a teenager walks into the cafeteria, they aren’t looking for the table that they always sit at with their friends — but looking for that young person sitting alone to go and join.

I hope individuals learn to be careful with their words because they cannot be taken back. I hope when individuals hear a person mocking another they have the strength and courage to stand up and say that is not OK, no matter what the situation is.

I want to thank this young man for letting me share this beautiful piece of writing with our community. I want to tell him he has a very strong voice. The act of writing is powerful. He is beautiful. He is strong. He is a very special boy.

Monday, June 6, 2011

U2 Can Be Great!

In case you haven't picked up on this yet, there are few things that I love more than my coffeejuice. Sitting here with a cup of that steamy goodness warming my hands and defogging my brain I can only think of three things that I love more than coffeejuice, Mr. Awesome, The Wee Ones and U2 ... not necessarily in that order.

About a year and a half ago Mr. Awesome and I took a trip of a lifetime to New York City to see U2 perform at Giants Stadium. It was beyond fabulous! 100,000 people, the incredible 360 stage and the guys, my Irish boys singing their hearts out. I had a post-U2 glow that lasted for months! I was hooked ... all I could think about was seeing them in concert again.

Last weekend I finally got the opportunity to see them up close and personal, they came to my hometown and I ended up with field tickets. I was unable to go Bono-hunting as planned, but a pal of mine did and she met Bono twice, so I was forced to swallow my jealousy and live vicariously through her crazy FB updates and pictures.

The night of the concert found Mr. Awesome, my cousin and I less than 10 feet from the catwalk. I got some amazing pictures and had a fan-freaking-tastic time. I was all aglow, hyped up and flying high again. The day after the concert, as my feet were recuperating from standing in one place for six hours, I started searching out other concert dates while fantasizing about abandoning my children to become a U2 groupie. I was pretty sure my pal, Urban Princess, would join me!

Anyway, I intentionally did not write about my concert experience because I knew I was U2-drunk and would need a little time to regain perspective. Its been a week and I'm still a little tipsy and as it turns out, so is Mr. Awesome, he was the one who brought up the concert last night. He had just come in from picking up 'Lily Treats' in the backyard and I was in the kitchen scrubbing the remnants of supper off the table when he sighed and said, "One week ago..."

That's all it took. In a flash we were huddle around the computer, looking at our pictures from the concert and half joking about hitting the road and meeting up with the tour in Minneapolis or Chicago. We talked about our favourite concert moments and how great the crowd around us was and how awesome it must be for Bono, The Edge, Larry and Adam to be living their dream.

There is a tangible force surrounding people who are doing what they were meant to be doing, who are using their God-given gifts and abilities to be the person they were created to be. Seeing someone passionately living the life they were destined to live, the life of their dreams, is contagious. It makes you want to chase down all of your hopes and turn them into a reality, too.

Being in the presence of greatness forces you to look at your own greatness factor in a pretty harsh light. Am I doing what I need to do to live the life I want to live? Am I using my influence to effect positive change and growth around me or is my negativity sucking the life out of everyone and everything around me? Am the person I was created to be?

By the way, the greatness I am talking about is not, specifically, U2 but that tangible force of destiny I was talking about ... although U2 is pretty darn great! The point is, I probably won't be abandoning my dreams to watch someone else live out theirs any time soon but it would be nice to catch another concert! So if you want to sponsor this Random Mother and her quest for a 360 three-peat just let me know ... I'd gladly accept a trip and Red Zone tickets to another U2 show ;-) In the meantime, I'll be here working on my own little piece of greatness!

As a rock star, I have two instincts, I want to have fun, and I want to change the world. I have a chance to do both.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Urban Princess - Swimsuits 101

Today I am very excited to launch our first foray into guest blogging. Meet The Urban Princess ...
~I'm an urban princess living in a castle made of fashion magazines. My imaginary best friend is fashion expert, Jeannie Becker. I love the men in my life (Hubs and Little M), good food and good fashion! Meet me here on the first Saturday of each month where I chat about all the things I love!~

It's that season again...

The time of year that those with the hot young bodies flaunt their wares at any and all moderately warm to sweltering events. And those of us with not so tight and not so young bodies hide in the shade...and sweat and curse and give the evil eye to the young 18yr olds who haven't been touched by the cellulite fairy nor have they had the 'beautiful' experience of breastfeeding and are now left with 2 saggy water balloons where her perky boobies used to be...

Feel my pain ladies???

Well, it’s a necessary evil. We all need to go bathing suit shopping at some point in our adult lives, and my first foray into the post baby spandex jungle came a few weeks ago. It was our anniversary and the hubs and I had decided to stay at a beautiful spa with not one, but 2 pools...which meant yes, I needed to get a new bathing suit. I quickly skipped lunch ran out to the mall one day at work and tried on a few suits. Clearly, I would have to skip a few more lunches in order to be happy with what I saw in the mirror (just kidding!).

After coming back to work dejected and suffering from bathing suit depression I decided that this year I was going to treat myself to a GOOD suit. One that lifted where I needed lifting, smoothed out the bumps and generally was not something to settle for. What I found was a plethora of very expensive swimwear that either a) had no under wire (a prerequisite for those of us with larger ladies!) and b) was not flattering whatsoever! So I laid down a few ground rules for myself:

a) Apply self tanner BEFORE going swimsuit shopping. The lighting in those rooms is so horrible that having a bit of a glow going in will make you feel a bit better (and make you look more toned). Now if only they could make a self tanner with a firming agent and a sunscreen already built in....

b) Read the labels. Know your body and be honest with yourself. If you want it to slim your tummy, don't go trying on the one that doesn't have any support there! I don't care how cute it is!

c) Don't look at the price tag BEFORE you try it on. If you love it, it makes you look amazing, then its worth it. Or do what I did with one suit; take a picture of the tag (so you get the style name and number) and go see how much it is on ebay. I fell in love with a suit that was $189 and found it on ebay for $50! BRAND NEW! (it was too late to order it though, wouldn't have got here in time for the vacay).

d) When in doubt, take an HONEST friend. My sister is the person I take along with me when I need a final decision on something. I know she will be brutally honest with me and tell me if it makes me look fantastic, I can do better or help me decide between 2 equally fabulous suits.

All that being said, this is the pic of the suit I got. It was regular $90, but I got it on sale for $49. Its got all the slimming, supportive features I wanted and its CUTE too! Kinda retro/Marilyn Monroe inspired. And best thing of all, I LOVE IT!

*Jantzen one-piece Surplice Suit available at Sears

What I Wouldn't Do?

As parents we want to see our children happy, healthy and thriving in life. No one wants to make their kids unhappy, sad or disappointed. We all want our kids to fit in and have friends, we want them to feel secure and confident. We want them to have more, do more, be more than we had and did as children. There isn't anything we wouldn't do or give for our kids ... or is there?

This is something I've been thinking about for a long time, what we do for our kids which in turn shapes who they become as adults. I have to say, when I look around and see how kids are behaving (mine included) and how people are 'parenting' I get kind of worried. When I was a kid I had one set of parents but dozens of adults who cared enough about me to teach me, correct me and guide me along my way.

Now kids have multiple sets of parents with no one taking the responsibility or interest in teaching them how to grow into a proper adult. Instead of spending time talking to their kids about life, expectations and manners too many parents fill their child’s time with classes and activities.

Before you start lighting the torches and all that, I’m not saying that classes, teams and lessons are bad for kids. Many times kids need this extra stimulation to provide structure and physical activity to their week. What I am asking is if there is balance? Is there as much time spent teaching kids how to be compassionate, confident and generous people as there is driving them to practices, lessons and games?

I was talking with a mom about this topic yesterday and something she said really struck a chord with me. She said that no matter how many hockey clinics, games and practices her son goes to he probably won’t ever be an NHL superstar but she knows that if she spends as much time and effort teaching him morals and values that are important to her he will most definitely be an empathetic, responsible and generous adult.

What wouldn’t you do for your kids? Would you cancel a hockey practice because you are having a conversation about global poverty? Would you turn off the reality TV show and teach your kids about the reality of millions of children never having the opportunity to go to school? Would you put down the newspaper to hear about their news? Would you skip soccer registration for one season and use the money to take your kid shopping for a local homeless shelter? Would you shut off the sports channel during the big game to kick a ball around the yard with your kid? Would you put their need for guidance and instruction, meaningful adult interaction, ahead of your need for quiet, comfort and ‘alone time’?

Would I?


Friday, June 3, 2011

My Random Thoughts

I have been sitting here, spinning in my chair and staring at the blank page for an hour. I have Tweeted, Facebooked and emailed. I have sipped my coffee, talked to the dog and stared off into space. I have wracked my brain, mustered my wit and searched for something funny or substantial to say but I'm drawing a blank. I got nothing today, nothing but random thoughts ... so here they are ... my random thoughts.

The writing in Season Four of The West Wing is substantially better than Season Three. Did Aaron Sorkin take more showers during the writing of Season Four or did he just know the characters better? I like saying Tommy Schlamme. Did his parents do that to him on purpose or did they think everyone would call him Thomas for his whole life?

I need to make Mischief brush his hair before school, hopping out of the jeep this morning he looked like one of those Albert Einstein bobble heads from Night at the Museum. That's the way I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh. What's up with bobble heads anyway ... why would anyone collect them? They're weird. Maybe I'll start a new trend ... Bobble Bodies, little figurines that you attach to the ceiling of your car and then their bodies swing when you drive. Oh, wait ... (visualising a car filled with tiny hanging bodies) maybe that's a bad idea. Bobble heads are still weird.

Coffeejuice should be sold in bigger cups, some days an extra large just isn't big enough. 'Nough said.

Where have all of Crafty's socks gone? I have washed and folded all the laundry but still she has no socks in her basket ... does she eat them or something? For that matter I can't find most of Mischief's t-shirts. What I do have an over abundance of is Lego in the dryer. It's like some kind of mass Lego grave site when I go to fold laundry, there are little plastic body parts everywhere! I should really do a better job of checking pockets before I load the washer.

Why does the dog only lean against me when I am wearing black pants? Does she know her hair shows up better on black or does she just really love that colour?

I would like a new office chair, one with a mesh back and arms, yeah, definitely one with arms. Do office chairs have cup holders? I mean is there one with cup holders? There should be. I'm going to invent one.

I wonder what Bono is doing right now?

When you start a sentence with I wonder is it really a question or is it just a statement? I wonder? I wonder. Ack, I don't really care. I need more coffeejuice.

Happy Friday, folks!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Zero Gravity

We've all seen those pictures of astronauts bouncing along happily in zero gravity while they hurtle through space at bone wracking speeds. They are defying gravity, rebelling against science. They have left all their earthly pressures behind and they are living their dream. They are, literally, free from the weight of the world. No wonder they look so happy!

We have a little fella in our house who is seemingly looking for that same kind of bliss. Mischief will not, or maybe cannot, stop climbing things. He has been like this since he was wee. More times than I can count he would come running out of story time at the library and I would lose track of him only to hear the very sweet and understanding librarian say, "Now, Mischief, climbing the book stacks just isn't safe." And there my three year old would be, standing in a triumphant superhero pose, eight feet up in the air.

If it was just the climbing then I could probably deal with it, but its the jumping that comes after the climbing that stops my heart. We used to go to the playground with a group of moms when Crafty started Kindergarten. All of the other two year olds would slide down the slide, play on the bouncers and run around the field. Normal toddler play. Not Mischief. His favourite past time was to run up the slide and jump off the play structure. Apparently the best jumping spot was the platform where the fire pole was ... seven feet off the ground! I remember the first time I saw my wee toddler fling himself off the platform, sail through the air and miraculously land on his feet, unscathed. I ran over to him, checked his limbs for injuries and scolded him for the flying-squirrel maneuver he just performed.

"Its okay Mama, I'm Spiderman" and then he webbed me and ran off.

I had hoped he would grow out of this climbing and jumping thing. I thought that by the time he started school he would understand that climbing shelves, trees, fences and walls just isn't safe and jumping from these lofty heights is even less so but no dice. The little fella has to climb everything ... just to see if he can.

This past weekend our hometown held their annual 'Doors Open' event where churches, historical buildings and government properties opened their doors to the public for tours. Each year we take our kids to a couple of these buildings and usually finish off our day of touring with a stop at one of our favourite places in Winnipeg, The Legislative Building. The kids love the echoing marble halls, the three floors of statues, painting and carvings and the massive banisters at each staircase. We let them walk around and explore as much as they like and generally they are well behaved there.

On Saturday, I was trailing behind everyone after stopping to look at a couple of paintings. When I rounded the corner I saw two of my children literally climbing the walls. So I did what any mother would do ... I snapped a picture then told them to get down. Crafty carefully stepped down onto the bench and apologized for being disrespectful, Mischief jumped down and declared, "That was too easy. Next time I'll go higher!"

Maybe climbing is just in his bones and I need to learn to deal with it. I don't know, I just wish he'd wait a little longer before he chooses a hobby like free climbing our government buildings but I doubt I'll get my way with this one. He is a rough and tumble bundle of fearless adventure ... just like his daddy.

Before I sign off I want to point out one thing about that picture. Notice Mr. Awesome standing just outside the shot. When I asked him what he was doing (as in why did you let them climb that?!) he answered that he was making sure no one fell. It never occurred to him to make them get down, in fact, I'm pretty sure he was trying to figure out how much trouble he would be in if he joined them!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Making the Most of What you Have

One day, Hannah saw a man eating out of a garbage can and asked why someone would do that. Her mom explained about homelessness and now Hannah raises money and awareness for homeless people across the Canada. She was eight years old when she started volunteering, raising money and talking with homeless people.

Twelve year old Craig was looking for the comics but stumbled across a news story about a boy his age. The boy in the story had been sold into slavery at the age of four and had been murdered for speaking out against child labor. Craig didn't even know there was such a thing as child labour, but he learned and then he taught some friends. Together they began raising funds and awareness to combat child poverty and exploitation.

After three years of battling cancer, four year old Alex decided to help her doctor's find a cure so she set up a lemonade stand in her front yard to raise money. Although Alex lost her battle against cancer she is helping to win the war. Her one little lemonade stand has inspired schools, communities and business to raise more than $5 million for pediatric cancer research.

These three ordinary kids saw a need and made the most of what they had. They talked with friends, educated themselves and volunteered. They spoke up, inspired others and kept pressing on even when things got tough.  They made scarves, collection jars, and lemonade. They made a difference. They are still making a difference. they are world changers and none of them were over the age of twelve when they started.

As the school year is winding down I am starting to make plans for the summer. How am I going to fill the sixty something days between the dismissal bell and the first day of school? I am planning a road trip and beach days and play dates but this year I want to plan something more. I want to teach my kids something more.

Mr. Awesome and I have had the opportunity to participate in some pretty cool philanthropic opportunities over the years. Each time we've started raising money or collecting items for people in need we have tried to find ways to include our kids. We have talked with the kids about being aware of the needs of others and looking for opportunities to help where we can but this year, this summer, we have the urge to do something more, more than just talking and explaining. We want them, our kids, to make the most of what they have. We want them to make a difference, not just feel like they are.

We have started brainstorming and planning to make the most of the talents, abilities and voice that we have. We want to fill our summer with sunshine, good times and good deeds. We want to know that at the end of the day our kids got more out of their summer vacation than a healthy glow and a few more freckles.

I'm not sure, exactly, what this is going to look like for our family but I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, watch this video and be inspired. It was made by a music producer who took the skills and connections he had and made a video that has become a CD that has funded the construction of music schools around the world.

For more information on Hannah's cause check out The Ladybug Foundation.
To learn more about Craig's campaign go to Free the Children
Find out more about Alex at Alex's Lemonade