Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I totally get that Staples commercial. You know the one with the parents dancing through the aisle of the store, loading the cart with school supplies while singing that old Christmas classic but with a twist.

I love back to school - and not only for the reasons you think. Sure, I'm looking forward to a clean house and a little peace and quiet but that's not the only thing I'm looking forward to ... I love everything about back to school. Always have. I love shopping for school supplies and picking out a new outfit for the first day of school. I love the pre-school haircut, the new 'indoor' shoes, the new back pack and the fresh lunch kit. I love the anticipation of seeing old friends and making new ones. I love walking into the classroom for the first time, organizing my new desk, seeing where my spot in the classroom is ...

Oh wait ... I'm not the one going back to school.

Anyway, I love back to school ... especially labelling school supplies! I love seeing all the brand new markers and pencils and glue sticks laid out beside the stack of unopened loose leaf and fresh binders and unmarked scribblers. Oh Hilroy, you are everything good and stationary in this season!!!

Um, excuse me ... I seem to be getting a little carried away.

This afternoon, while the kids are desperately clinging to the last dregs of their summer holidays I will be surrounding myself with stacks and stacks of school supplies; labelling, sorting and organising. I will pack backpacks and hang up all the new first day of school outfits, all the while humming my favourite September song!

If there were no schools to take the children away from home part of the time, the insane asylums would be filled with mothers.
~Edgar W. Howe

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

10 Undeniable Truths of Summer Break

As Summer Break draws to a close I have learned a few undeniable truths about kids and summer and survival ... Can you identify?

1.   You can schedule twelve hours of activities for six consecutive days for the kids but when you take the seventh day off as a home day they will whine about how 'Its so boring' and 'We never do anything fun!'

2.   You can spend an hour setting up the sprinkler, finding towels and bathing suits and slathering sunscreen on the kids and they will still only spend 10 minutes playing in the water before they get cold and hungry and want to do a craft/watch a movie/go to the park...

3.   The kids will never remember that you said Wednesday is room cleaning day but they will always remember that Thursday is ice cream day.

4.   9 out of 10 times, at their insistence,  you will drag every inflatable beach toy, sand toy and water gun the kids own down to the beach and they will play with rocks and sticks instead.

5.   Letting the kids stay up late so they will sleep in the next day never works ... they will still wake up early the next morning and they will be grouchy to boot!

6.   At some point in mid July you will start to pass summer grime on your kids feet off as a suntan.

7.   At some point in late July a run through the sprinkler or a dip in the lake will pass for a bath/shower for your kids.

8.   The same stack of books you wanted to read in June will still be there in September ... waiting to be read.

9.   It is an unreasonable expectation to think a six year old boy will voluntarily wear underwear during the summer months.

10.   As desperate as you are for school to start so the fighting and whining will stop, you will still feel a little sad to turn the calendar over to September.

Thanks kids for the great summer of beach days, long walks, movie marathons, storytelling, tree climbing, backyard adventures, silly antics, laughs and memories ... let's do it again next year ... same place, same time!

The tans will fade but the memories will last forever

Monday, August 29, 2011

Easy vs. Right

Being a parent isn't the hardest job on earth, being a good one is.

I remember when Dude was about 10 days old and I was completely overwhelmed. I hadn't slept for more than an hour at a time since he was born, I was leaking from every possible place on my body, I was sore from birthing Baby Budzilla (he was 10lbs 7oz and almost 24 inches long) and nursing him every two hours. I can clearly remember standing in the shower, the first one I had had in what felt like years, and bawling my head off. I was a mess!

I look back on that day often and ask myself, "What the heck are you crying for?! That was the easy part!!!"

Some days I would give almost anything to go back to when my biggest concern with the kids was how long they are going to nap for and if they had a BM that day. If I would have known then what I know now I would have cherished those exhausting but comparatively carefree days. I would have savoured the cocoon we were in, how sheltered we were from outside influences and expectations. I would have basked in the baby-bliss just a little more.

Because of the age of our kids and where we live our challenges with them are still nothing compared to what some parents face. Recently I heard from a friend that I don't see very often. She has a son that is a couple of years older than Dude and I knew that she was having some trouble with him. He's at that preteen age and had had a rough year at school and in their neighborhood. There's a lot of gang activity in her area and her son was being alternately harassed and recruited by gang members. In July things got so bad that my friend knew that if she didn't act quickly and drastically she might lose her son for good.

So she made the tough decision, the right decision. My friend packed up her son and shipped him off, halfway across the country to live with his aunt. This might seem like an extreme reaction but my friend had seen other kids she cares about go down the same path her son was on and it scared her. Even though she is plagued by doubt and loneliness she is sticking to her guns, so to speak; her son is there and she is here and that's just the way it is for now.

My friend's son is doing well, settling in to his new life with his aunt and my friend says that even though she still gets the odd call from the gang recruiters and neighborhood thugs looking for her son she feels like a weight has been lifted. She can see that this right decision has given her son a chance to live and grow and be successful. She can see him growing into a man of integrity and purpose rather than squandering his life away in jail ... or worse.

No one said being a parent is an easy job, in fact people tend to say the exact opposite. I just hope that I will always have the guts to make the right choices for my kids, even if those choices are not the easy ones to make.

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
 ~Elizabeth Stone

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Things They Say

Despite the mayhem and moments of frustration, having the kids home for the past couple of months has been pretty entertaining. Chatting with them or listening to their conversations with each other has provided us with hours of comedic relief. Here are a few snippets from our summer together ...

Mischief - What is Romeo and Juliet about anyway?
Dude - Its a high school play that some guy in Europe or China wrote. Its about these two people who like each other and then they die. The moral is that if you get a girlfriend it might kill you, so be careful.

Mischief - I just drank a big glass of milk, wanna see me do a handstand?
Random One - Ah, I think you might want to let that milk settle before you start doing tricks.
Mischief - Right, I might puke if I do tricks now (pause) Hey, mom ... wanna see me puke upside down?

After seeing me answer the door in ratty yoga pants and a pilly sweater...
Crafty - Ugh! You answered the door like that?!
Random One - Yeah, so?
Crafty - You look like a hobo!
Random One - If I was a hobo I wouldn't have a door to answer.
Crafty - Yes, you would, it would just be made of cardboard or something.

Mischief, upon meeting my cousin's baby - So this is the new little dude? He's kind of cute, once you get to know him.

Dude - That was sarcasm? Hmph, I thought I knew what sarcasm sounded like. Interesting.
Crafty - Duh!
Dude - Now, that was sarcasm!

Mischief - We can't go back to the dentist for maybe like two years.
Mr. Awesome - Why?
Mischief - Because I promised the dentist that I would stop sucking my thumb by the next time I see him.
Mr. Awesome - And?
Mischief - I don't think I'll be ready to give it up for another couple of years and I'll feel bad to break my promise so we can't go back.

Children seldom misquote. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn't have said. ~Author Unknown

Monday, August 22, 2011

Right as Rain

I am kind of an anomaly; I love weather that most people hate. I love winter and snow and minus 34 temperatures. I love cloudy days and cool summers. I also love rain. Most everybody loves a raging thunderstorm every now and then but I also enjoy a good, steady rain. I like misty, foggy rain, hard pounding rain, a constant drizzle, thundering sheets and intermittent showers. I just love rain.

I love how a good rain makes things grow. You just know that in the days following rain, there will be lush green grass, blooming flowers and the fields will be bursting with new growth. Rain washing everything clean and makes the world seem almost new and fresh again. A thunderstorm, though cool to watch, can often cause flash floods,  widespread damage and leave a big mess in its wake; but a constant rain is soaked into the ground as it comes down and leaves nothing but possibility when its done.

*Insert eminent jump to deep, philosophical analogy here ;-)*

I have been living in intermittent showers lately. I've not experienced a real storm yet but the threat of one is looming. I see the clouds in the distance and I'm not sure whether they are ominous, threatening storm clouds are light, fluffy benign clouds. I see them but I just don't know what they'll bring. No matter how long I stare at those clouds I won't know what they hold until they are right overhead.

You can go a little mental if you stare at clouds too long. You start to see things that aren't really there and you start to worry about what the clouds mean, which direction they are travelling and how they will disrupt your future plans. You can waste your life cloud watching and storm fretting if you're not careful.

Rain is normal and natural. Without a little rain every now and then how would things grow? When I think about the rain I've experienced I can see where I have grown or learned something about myself.  The rain has helped me to realize that I am stronger, smarter and more resilient than I thought. The rain has revealed patience, perseverance and optimism I didn't know was there, just under the surface.  The rain has also proven to be short term, it never lasts too long and it never destroys what is meant to be.

Although rain is often cold and uncomfortable, it can also be warm and refreshing. I don't spend too much time cloud watching, trying to figure out when the next rain is coming and if it'll be a light misting or a fierce storm. I just keep living my life, making plans and when it does rain I try to see it for what it is; not the end of the world but a time for growth and possibilities.

Right as rain ... I like that saying.

Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away the hunger.
 ~Saint Basil

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Every Little Moment

Today my friend is saying good bye to his father. I knew my friend's dad briefly, years ago and I remembered him to be a friendly, funny, gregarious man. He drove the bus to Mexico on one of the mission trips I went on as a teen and he was constantly joking around, laughing and talking about his family. He was a big man with a huge heart and I feel very blessed to have known him even for that moment in time.

Over the last couple of weeks, while his father was struggling with health issues, my friend often talked about how his dad was his best friend and the greatest influence in his life. He talked with respect, awe and a little playful remorse about the adventures he had with his dad and the things they learned about life, God and each other along the way. The most amazing and inspiring thing to me, though, is knowing that my pal told his dad often exactly how he felt about him.

At times like these we often tell ourselves that time is fleeting and we need to tell our loved ones how we feel about them and most of us do. Most of us are good about telling our spouse, kids and family members how much we love them but what about the other people in your life? Do you tell your friends that you wouldn't want to do life without them? Do you tell your neighbors that you are so glad to know them? Do you tell your difference makers just exactly how much they have meant to you?

I'm not talking about becoming a soppy mess and making people cringe when they see you coming for another out-pouring of mushiness. I'm talking about saying a heart felt thank you, truthfully encouraging people in the good work they are doing and recognizing the effort they put into their relationship with you. I'm talking about really seeing the people in your life and appreciating them.

When I leave this world I want people to know that they mattered to me, that I thought they were awesome and I felt honoured to know them. I don't want anyone to doubt the value they had to me, even if I only knew them for a moment. I want people to know that they made a difference to me just by living their life with integrity and genuine passion, that their happiness was inspiration enough for me to live a better life. I want people to know that they mattered, that they made a difference ... so I tell them.

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.
~Marian Wright Edelman

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Happy New Years!

This past weekend marks the one year anniversary of our move to Small Town Canada.

A year ago I wasn't thinking about anything but just getting here and unpacking. The whole thing seemed kind of surreal. It was less three months from the time we decided to move until we were sleeping in our new house, an hour and a half away from our hometown. Things happened so fast that I didn't really have time to think about anything but the actual logistics of the move.

It wasn't until school started a couple of weeks later that I really thought about what this move really meant to all of us. Sure the job and work environment was better for Mr. Awesome and the schools were overall better for the kids but we also had to give up a lot.

We left a tight knit community, our friends and our church. We lost the convenience of having family close by, of knowing where everything is and of having Starbucks just around the corner. We had to, for better and for worse, let go of familiarity, reputation and comfort of the life we had built and step out into this new adventure.
Not knowing what to expect and having no real plan for our new lives in Small Town left us open to a world of possibilities and I think that for the most part we made the most of every opportunity. We all jumped in with both feet and I have to say that I am really proud of my Random Family. The kids put forth their best effort at school and they each finished the year strong. They all matured some, learned a lot and made some really great friends ... in fact, we all have.

This blog started off, a year ago, as a way for me to chronicle our move and the daily antics of The Wee Ones for my pals and a year later it has evolved and so have I. I started writing this blog as a way to hold on to everything I was leaving behind but it has become a measuring stick of change. Over the year I have changed how I view motherhood, wifedom and my role in my own life. I have become more comfortable in my own skin, in my own shoes and for the first time since leaving university I feel as though I see a future for myself, apart from being some random mother.

I want to thank you all for reading, for commenting and for encouraging me. Knowing that you are taking a few minutes out of your busy day to check in with this Random Family blesses me. And hearing that you are getting something out of my rambling words blesses me even more. I love reading your comments and emails, I am so encouraged to hear that the lessons I am learning make you laugh, think or inspire you to learn a little something new, too.

Thanks for being my pals for the past year and I look forward to the year to come ... Happy New Year!

Monday, August 15, 2011

What are you Mongering?

Monger - a dealer or trader of a commodity

I have a cousin who has struggled with anxiety for much of her life. Although she is a beautiful, intelligent and generous person she has always had a tough time when it came to being around other people. As a little girl she was always quiet and shy but as she got older some people mistook her shyness for snobbery or disrespect, this only compounded her anxiety.

By the time she was in high school she was a bit of a mess. Fear had her so entangled in a web of doubt and confusion that I don't think she knew which way was up! Somehow she made it through high school and graduated but I worried that all she could become was going to be wasted because of fear. My pessimistic self thought that she would settle for working her familiar job, living in her parents house and missing out on all the great opportunities that the world had for her because of fear.

I couldn't have been more wrong!

It turns out that the only thing my cousin was more afraid of than fear was not living the life she wanted, the life she dreamed of. Shortly after graduating something changed in her, for her. She caught a seed of hope and held on to it with shocking determination. Despite her fear of meeting new people and of speaking in public she enrolled herself in university. Even more surprising than that ... she actually went! Everyday she would stifle her fears and focus on the hope of her future, of being a nurse, of helping others overcome the struggles they face.

She graduated from university and went to work in a palliative care unit. She spent her days helping people face the biggest fear in life; death. She also became an instructor at the nursing college which required her to meet new people and speak in front of them, instructing them, regularly. During this time she got married and moved into her dream house. Her life was coming together exactly how she had hoped, except for one thing. My cousin wanted, more than anything, to be a mom but it just wasn't happening.

She dealt with infertility the same way she dealt with every other fear she had faced, head on and full of determination. While those of us who love her covered our fears with desperate prayers and false bravado, she had a calm certainty that she would, one day soon, be mom. Again, she was right.

Last Christmas she announced that they were expecting and this morning wee Julian was born. After 38 weeks of hoping, praying, planning and protecting this pregnancy, my sweet, brave, bold cousin went into labor and birthed this beautiful baby boy like a champ!

When I received 'the call' from my sister this morning I was humbled by the courage of one determined woman. My cousin knew the dream she had for her life and she chased it down with all the strength and  courage of a warrior. I can't even imagine the struggle against fear and exhaustion she faced some days but through everything she persevered, her hope won out over fear time and again.

I often think of my cousin as a hope-monger. In a world where people often make decisions based on fear, she lives on hope. Instead of letting her fear of other people, their opinions and judgements govern her life she moves through life in the direction and at the pace that she knows is right for her.

She exudes strength beyond her own means and confidence that life will be everything she wants it to be just as long as she never loses faith. She is an inspiration to me. If ever anyone had an excuse to crumble under the weight of fear, confusion and depression it could have been her but she didn't. She got up each day and kept moving forward. It wasn't easy and many days the weight of circumstance seemed almost too much for her to bear but on those days she asked for help and allowed those who love her to help carry her load.

So, when I look at Julian, the tangible proof of the power of hope, I wonder ... what am I mongering today? Am I selling joy, hope and acceptance or am I dishing out fear, pessimism and anger? Am I a dealer in kindness and love or in meanness and disdain? Am I a life monger or a death monger? What am I mongering?

Sanity may be madness but the maddest of all is to see life as it is and not as it should be.
~Don Quixote

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Urban Princess - The Essentials of Autumn 2011

Ok, it’s called autumn, not fall…. (only because it sounds more poetic)

And yes, I know its 30 degrees outside right now and I have no right to bring you down with talk of autumn, but I can see the signs of the change in season all around me (in particular, on my computer as I waste time at work on Pinterest…but shhhh! Don’t tell my boss…)

Planning the perfect autumn wardrobe is an exciting one for me. Boots. Scarves. Sweaters and all the fun stuff in between. I’m noticing my closet is lacking and in need of a serious upgrade so here is a list of things I need to add to the wardrobe this autumn to step it up a notch.

1. Boots! The higher on the leg the better. I’m not talking patent-leather-thigh-high-swing-me-around-a-pole boots, but nice, well heeled knee boots. And I’m thinking suede….

Which brings me to

2. SUEDE! Suede screams to me! Be it brown, black or green, suede is a hot trend for autumn and a bandwagon I will jump on with both feet.

3. A great hat. I bought a felt cloche last winter and love it and have a couple fedoras in my collection (and a beret or two). Oh the fun. I LOVE HATS! I’m debating on getting a big floppy felt hat a la Jennifer Lopez.

4. A good pair of jeans. Here’s the thing though…you don’t have to spend a ton of $$$$ to get a good pair of jeans. Honestly. I love GAP long and lean jeans but only buy them when they’re on sale (and that’s rarely). I usually end up getting my jeans at – wait for it – REITMANS! Yes, Reitman’s! They fit fabulously, are just the right length and always look good! Be it trouser style, boot cut or skinny I swear by their denim. Soooo good!

5. Cardi’s and ruffles. I’m not the smallest person, so when it comes to ruffles I have to be careful, but I think it’s a trend I may try to venture in to. The key is to keep it mature. Ruffled pants are a no-no, but a beautiful sheer top with a few ruffles can be grown up when paired with tweed pants and cardigan.

6. Tweed! Seeing as though I work in a denim-free environment (not by my choice!) I think this will be the next work wardrobe purchase. I have some tweed pants that no longer fit (thanks pregnancy leftovers!), so the hunt is on. Grey tweed will generally go with everything, but I have some fab brown boots that I would like to pair with something and I think brown tweed pants (LINED!) would be a fantastic addition.

7. Don’t forget the little things. Accessories can make or break an outfit. I always remember Coco Chanel’s words when I’m getting dressed ‘Always remove one piece of jewelry before you leave the house’. What she’s basically saying is don’t over accessorize! If you’re wearing great earrings, don’t wear a necklace and bracelets and a bunch of rings too. You don’t put Christmas decorations on every branch of your Christmas tree, so why would you hang baubles off every available appendage on yourself?? Keep it clean, simple and ladylike. Chunky necklaces have their place, but if you’re wearing it, don’t pair with a busy shirt and huge earrings. You want people to notice you, not everything you’ve draped all over yourself. And don’t forget your nails! If you’re not into the Mani/Pedi thing, keeping them short and buffed is a great both professional and timeless style.

That being said, have fun with Autumnal dressing (ooooh…even more poetic!)

P.S. - Men, can you please stop it with the scarves, skinny jeans and dark rimmed glasses? You’re not fooling anyone. We know how old you are, you don’t work in a bookstore, and you’re trying to hard to be hip. Be classic. I’d rather have a guy in well fit jeans and a t-shirt than some dude who looks like he walked out of an advertisement in A&F. Men, dress like men, leave the scarves and the glasses to the teenagers….

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
~Mark Twain

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Babies are Nocturnal and Other Words of Wisdom

Last weekend we spent some time hanging out with my cousin. She is expecting her first baby, a little boy, any day now. As we were leaving her house, Mischief thanked her for the invite and said this to her, "well, good luck with that baby! Enjoy your last few nights of sleep....cause babies are nocturnal, you know!"

That got me to wondering, what other wise words on babies and toddlers do the kids have to share. So this one is for all of you newbie parents out there ... sit back and soak in the wise words about babyhood and toddlerhood from three experts.

Mischief, "Right now, if you have a back inside you, you should walk alot. The walking is like squishing back and forth for the baby and it will sleep more. If its sleeping maybe it won't kick your bladder and make you pee your pants."

Crafty, "You should pee on that stick thing so you know for sure that you have a baby in there and you should probably go to the doctor once in a while and he'll tell you when the baby is done, like, ready to come out."

Dude, "When the baby comes you should go on the Internet to figure out how to take care of it. Its important to know what to feed it before it has teeth and how to change a diaper the right way. Those are the most important things to know."

Dude, "When you have a baby you have to wake up every night in the middle of the night to take care of it. If its hungry you have to feed it, then it will have some energy so it will want to play and then since it ate and played it will probably make a mess in its diaper and then you'll have to change it. If it doesn't like diaper changes then it might cry so then you'll have to cuddle it. Its kind of like that book If You Give a Pig a Pancake, except with a baby, not a pig."

Crafty, "When you have a baby you can't go out that much anymore. I don't think you'll have that much time for video games either at first. You are going to feel excited but very rushed about stuff. There's lots to do when you have to think of someone else first."

Mischief, "You should get a baby mom-meter so the baby doesn't have to sleep in your room, that way you can just turn the volume down and go back to sleep if it starts crying. Just joking, you should probably go check on the baby. The other thing is that babies are very messy. They make a mess with their food, they drool all the time and don't forget about the poop. Oh, man!"

Crafty, "At the age of three babies want to have their own way. They get very selfish but don't give them their own way all the time or they'll grow up spoiled like London from Suite Life and noooobody want to live with that!"

The trouble with learning to parent on the job is that your child is the teacher.  ~Robert Brault

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Team Awesome

I'm not a very serious person. I can often be found/caught making a joke at the most inappropriate times. I know that I use humour and wit to cope with emotionally uncomfortable situations and I'm okay with that.

Although we've been dealing with some big stuff over the past couple of weeks we have spent a lot of time laughing and teasing and just being 'us'. Tears have their time and place, and we have shed a few recently, but for me, laughter trumps tears. Even at the most serious times we have laughed. It helps. The laughter has kept our worst fears at bay; it allows us to vent, be ridiculous and find comfort in each other. The laughter has brought us together.

There have been many jokes and crazy moments lately but nothing tops the night we returned to my parents house, a couple of days after the quadding accident. It was the first time I had seen my dad since leaving him and my mom in the emergency room, waiting for transport to the hospital in the city. He was in rough shape that night and truthfully I was a little nervous about what condition he would be in when we saw him again.

Thankfully he was back to himself, except for the neck brace, sling and multiple scrapes and bruises. We spent the evening talking about the accident and everything that surrounded it. We also spent a lot of time joking with each other. We teased that, in retrospect, perhaps putting the two most accident prone people we know (my Dad and Mischief) on a quad together was not the best idea. I ribbed my Dad that he couldn't just let me have my moment of pity with my sprained wrist, he had to upstage me with a backboard and neck brace and he teased me that the accident was all my fault because if I had never got married and had kids there would be no grandchildren to take quadding.

After a couple of hours, Dad started to nod off in his recliner so we called it a night. He was planning on spending the night in his recliner because it was the most comfortable place for him to sleep so Mom just hunkered down on the couch, in case he needed anything in the night. Mr. Awesome and I agreed that Mom should stay close by because the last thing we needed was for Dad to stumble around in the dark and fall down. They laughed and wished us good night.

Twenty minutes later I was laying in bed reading when Mr. Awesome came into the room, ready for bed. I glanced up at him and broke out in hysterics. I laughed until I cried, until I couldn't breath, until I wet the bed ... nearly. He was covered from the head to navel with glitter; he looked like a vampire from Twilight!

Turns out he had taken a shower and then grabbed a moisturizer from the basket in the bathroom to use. It wasn't until he had slathered it all over his head and torso that he realised he was using Crafty's Glitter Girl lotion. He thought he could slip into bed without me noticing and he'd just rinse off again in the morning before anyone saw. No such luck!

I laughed so hard and so loud that I thought for sure the kids were going to wake up. Once I calmed down I somehow talked Mr. Awesome into going back to the kitchen to get me some water. He snuck upstairs in the dark and was just about to open the fridge when I came up behind him and flicked on the lights. My plan was to reveal Glitter Awesome to my parents so they could have a good laugh to but we were the ones in for a bit of a shock.

When I looked into the family room I saw my Dad lying on the floor, sling side up. It seems my Dad wanted to sit with my Mom for a while so he decided to crawl on his knees across the family room, figuring this would be the least dangerous mode of travel. What he didn't count on was the charlie horse that would launch him, face down into the carpet.

Mr. Awesome went over to my Dad and tried to help him up but it was still kind of dark in that part of the room and he was having a difficult time so I flicked on the lights. Shazam! Glitter Awesome! My Mom was stunned, she could not figure out was Mr. Awesome was sparkling like a disco ball. I started to laugh all over again and my Dad looked up for the first time and burst out laughing. So there we were, my Dad rolling from side to side on the floor laughing, my Mom and I sitting on the couch laughing to tears and Mr. Awesome, still trying to help my Dad up while mumbling something about the label on the bottle saying moisturizer.

It took us fifteen minutes to calm down enough to get my Dad up off the floor and settled in for the night again. When we finally got back into bed that night, the wait of the circumstances was still there, but I was not carrying it alone. The laughter reminded me that I am not alone in the dark times anymore than I am in the light. Hope rides in laughter and brings with it true joy, healing and comfort. God is in the laughter, too.

Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.
~Bob Newhart

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Near-Life Experience

I write fiction. I write this blog and book reviews but I also write fiction and in my genre of choice it is important to keep the happenings believable so the reader will relate to the characters. If I were to write the last two weeks of my life into a story line it would never see the bright side of an editor's desk because it would be completely unbelievable. The reader would balk at the over-the-top circumstances, drama and conflict and therefore would find the characters boring, this story would be completely unsellable.

But as they say truth is stranger than fiction.

I can't share everything that has happened because I am still processing some things, figuring out others and there are a few things that are not mine to tell but I can tell you this ... vacation isn't always as rejuvenating as they say. When I signed off nearly two weeks ago I expected to return to my keyboard refreshed, refocused and ready to go. I am none of those things.

Our vacation plans never even got out of the gate due to a serious illness in my uncle's family (it was his cabin we were going to). He insisted that we go to the cabin without him anyway, so instead of 13+ people for the weekend we arrived at the cabin as a group of seven.

The first two days there went off without a hitch except for when I sprained my wrist and when Mischief's ankles got sliced when he got tangled up in the dog chain. Except for that, we had a great time those first couple of days. By noon on the third day my uncle and cousin arrived with a few quads. The plan was to take the kids for a ride and then we'd have a BBQ and bonfire before my uncle headed back into town. We didn't make it past the quad ride.

My dad momentarily lost control of the quad he was driving (with Mischief on the back). Mischief was thrown clear of the quad and tumbled into a bush. My dad ended up under the quad on top of a tree stump and boulders. Mr. Awesome took my parents and Mischief to the hospital (the same hospital I had been at earlier that morning with my wrist injury) immediately and I followed later with my uncle.

Mischief was cleared immediately; nothing more than a few scrapes and bruises. My dad, after a long 24 hours of x-rays, scans, back brace, ambulance rides and two hospitals, learned that he had broken his collarbone and torn some ligaments in his neck in addition to the scraps and bruises that were covering much of his torso. All things considered we feel pretty lucky that both quadders walked away from the accident.

There are other things going on, things I can't write about now but I promise I will sometime soon. I just need more time to get more information, process and figure things out. What I do know for sure is that life is a precious, fleeting thing. That even though it sounds so cliche, we really must savour every moment, live the life we want to live and not just the life we settle for. We need to do what it takes to make our dreams a reality, we need to make memories with those who are precious to us and we need to be grateful for each day we have. We never know when life will take a turn and suddenly we are out of chances, out of time, to do the things we really want to do and be the person we really want to be.

I read a quote a while ago that kicked my procrastinating self in the behind. Before the accident and everything that surrounded it I realised that I need to live today and not wait for everything to begin tomorrow. I need to do the things that are important to me now instead of waiting for the right circumstances or a more convenient time. My life won't be anything if I just sit around waiting for something to happen to me. I need to start moving, start making things happen. What's that saying? You can't steer a parked car.

Anyway, I'm not dying and I didn't have a near death experience but I don't want to settle for a near life experience either. Do you?

A year from now you may have wished you started today.
~Karen Lamb

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Guest Blogger - Rachel Elizabeth Cole

Welcome to Part Two of Couponing is a Verb by Rachel Elizabeth Cole. Rachel has been a writing pal of mine for ages but her coupon savvy ways were news to me until recently ... I have learned much from this Jedi-Coupon Goddess and I hope you do too! Be sure to check out Rachel's Website, too!

I’m sure you’ve seen that show. You know, the one with the crazy coupon ladies who get thousands of dollars worth of stuff for under a hundred bucks? Yup, I’ve seen it too. I bet, like me, your first thought was, “Only in America.” But then I got to wondering, “Can we use coupons like that in Canada?” Well, after a bit of Googling and reading up on the subject, it turns out my gut instinct was right. You can’t. But by using coupons, you can still get some significant savings on your monthly grocery bill. Anywhere in the 25-30% range is typical. I don’t know about you, but at my house that works out to about $150 a month. That’s $1800 a year!

So how do you Extreme Coupon Canadian style?

1. I know it’s obvious, but collect coupons. Lots and lots of coupons. Coupons can be found pretty much everywhere. They come in the newspaper or mail, can be found hanging on tear pads in stores, can be requested directly from the company, they can even be ordered online or printed off with your computer. If you live in an area with curbside recycling, take a walk on recycling day and collect all the coupon inserts people have thrown out in their recycle bins. In my neighbourhood just last week, I found over 20 coupon inserts!

2. Ask your friends to save coupons for you or allow you to order coupons with their address. Make friends with other couponers and trade coupons.

3. Learn what the wording on coupon means. As an example, for years I thought “Limit one coupon per purchase” meant one coupon per shopping trip. But really it means one coupon per ITEM! So if you have four coupons (or ten!), feel free to buy four (or ten!) items! “One coupon per customer” means you’re only allowed one coupon per shopping trip. But most cashiers will just do two transactions for you, saving you a second (and third and fourth…) trip back into the store.

4. Get a copy of each store’s coupon policy and keep it with you. Learn what each store allows and doesn’t allow. For instance, some stores in Western Canada permit stacking (the use of more than one coupon per item). Some stores permit their own store coupons to be used along with manufacturer coupons. And some stores allow overages (the use of coupons with a higher value than the item being purchased).

5. Read all the weekly flyers, not just your usual stores, and take advantage of the best sale prices.

6. Learn to price match at stores that have a better coupon policy and save your gas.

7. Use your coupons on items that are not only on sale, but on clearance.

8. If an item is sold out, get a rain check. When the store restocks, you’ll get the item at the sale price!

9. Forget brand loyalty. So Tide has been your favourite laundry detergent forever? Well, it won’t be for long when you discover you can get other brands (that work just as well) for free or nearly free.

10. Stock up. This really is the secret to using coupons. Don’t just buy what you need as you need it. Think ahead. How much soup or cereal or pasta does your family eat in a year? What about laundry soap or toothpaste or dish soap? Buying now when something is on sale and using coupons will save you money in the long run.

For more information on couponing in Canada visit: Smart Canucks

Happy couponing!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Guest Blogger - Nelson Camp

Here's another one from my pal, Nelson. Today he has switched hats from dad to educator but he is just as compassionate, engaged and present with his students as he is with his family. As you'll see Nelson has a passion to see youth supported, nurtured and given the tools they need to succeed in life, he is committed to effecting change and seeing success measured in more meaningful ways.

Making a difference … one life at a time

“I hate myself… I hate my body”. “It makes me feel better when I bleed”. “I don’t want to do anything unless I’m high”. “I feel so alone… nobody even cares if I exist… I am so invisible”.

These are the things that I hear each and every day in my office. These are the teens that come to see me for help because they don’t know where else to go. These are the young people that have no one else to talk to that will accept them for who they are rather than judge them and give them a long-winded speech about who they should be. This is my day as a high-school counsellor.

I have seen so many of our youth struggling with emotional difficulties and challenges that they are not equipped to handle. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that schools do an outstanding job at focusing on inclusion and adapting teaching methods to the specific learning needs of our classrooms. However, there is also a deafening cry for help that goes unheard to address the emotional needs of our young people. The challenge? It is near impossible to quantitatively evaluate the success of therapeutic interventions with teens. How can you give someone a mark on how well they have learnt to manage their emotions? How can you test someone on their improved self-esteem? Society demands to see an A or 85% on report cards, rather than a comment related to “Student has learned positive techniques to handle anxiety”. No university or college will consider this a pre-requisite for admittance. The focus of schools is, and always has been, on the three Rs: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic.

I propose that we need to see a paradigm shift in education where greater importance is put on helping students learn life-skills and coping skills integrated within the curriculum of other subjects. How about a language arts class that studies short skits about real-life situations where students are faced with challenges of drug use, empathy, conflict resolution or managing emotions? How about a class where students are encouraged to discuss how Macbeth could have changed his behaviour to avoid the story ending in a tragedy? This does not at all eliminate the importance of studying the grammar and form of the language.

Although I am a counsellor, I long to see the day where there is less need for counsellors in schools, and “success” is based the evolution of the whole person, and not only on the academic achievements of students.

About the author:

Having worked in education for over 15 years, Nelson Camp has had the opportunity to help children from kindergarten to grade 12 as well as adults. He completed his Master’s degree in Education, specializing in Dramatherapy, while studying at the University of Regina, Université Laval and the College universitaire de St Boniface. He is also the CEO of N-Gage Solutions, a company that publishes therapeutic skits and plays to help students learn positive and adaptive skills. These abilities can be taught and learnt through the safe and non-intrusive methods of drama and theater. For more information on resources and publications, please contact n-gagesolutions@live.caor visit the soon to be published website of (Coming September 2011)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Guest Blogger - John Elder Robison

John Elder Robison is another pal I met online, in a writer's group. His writing and psydo-friendship has been inspirational and encouraging as we have walked this Aspergian journey with Dude. John is from the same place as Dude and I'm not sure but I think John may be king of Asperger Planet! At any rate, he is funny, insightful and full of good, old fashioned common sense. I love reading John's words and I hope you do too!

This post is one I stole, with permission (John is neck deep in writing his third book so he told me to help myself to his blog), from John's blog Look Me In The Eye ... be sure to have a look at his blog and pick up his books, Look Me in the Eye and Be Different.

A blind guy and an Aspergian walk into a bar and each one picks up a telephone.

That sounds like some kind of joke, but it’s not. I actually credit the insight for this story to Paul Van Dyck, a well known radio personality in Portland, Oregon. Paul happens to be blind, and we had a fascinating talk about our respective conditions.

What do Asperger’s and blindness have in common?

Both conditions leave us unable to read body language or visual cues in others. We can’t instinctively read faces, like sighted nypicals (I know, that sounds like some kind of bird. For the rest of this little story I’ll say nypical but I mean sighted nypical. Blind nypicals aren’t nypical anymore. They’re blind) To succeed in life, Aspergians and blind people need to develop other skills to compensate. And some of those skills become very apparent . . . you guessed it . . . on the phone.

When we speak on the phone, all we have to work with is the spoken words and the melody of the voice coming through the phone. For nypicals, sight is the brain’s top priority when engaging other people. Much of their brainpower is focused on the other person’s face and occasionally their body, to divine those important unspoken messages.

Blind people and Aspergians can’t do that instinctively. Aspergians can only do it with conscious effort and practice, and blind people can’t really do it at all. But we can do something else – we can pay very careful attention to the words and inflection of people who speak to us. Since we’re not tying up brainpower reading nonverbal cues, we are free to deploy those resources to analyze speech. And we do it well.

When I spoke with Paul, I was struck by the clarity and precision of speech, and the way he immediately “got” what I said. In the middle of our conversation, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that telephone conversation is a place that both of us can really develop a competitive advantage in life. In face to face meetings, we’re disadvantaged because we don’t see what’s obvious to most nypicals. But on the phone, the tables are turned. We’ve compensated for part of our disability by increasing our ability to process and interpret spoken words, and when sight is taken out of the picture . . . voila! We’re on top.

There have been many times that I've done a phone interview and the other person says, "You sound so good on the phone . . . I can't believe you have trouble connecting to people in person." It took a conversation with a blind man to show me the answer to that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Guest Blogger - Cat Connor

I 'met' Cat Connor ages ago through an online writer's group we both belong to. I love her wit, her humour, her huge heart and creepy dark side; nobody wracks up the literary body count the way Cat does! I have reviewed Cat's books here before but if you want more of Cat (and really, who doesn't?) be sure to check out her blog I See You  and if you are looking for a great summer read or two check out her 'Byte books(Killerbyte, Terrorbyte and Exacerbyte) featuring FBI agent Ellie Conway.

Kia ora,

Every bugger can say hello or howdy… but only New Zealander’s say kia ora.

That was your first clue as to where I’m from! (I’m so sneaky.)

Anyway, I’m Cat Connor mother of millions – okay 7 but some days it truly feels like millions, and thriller author. I lurk around this blog, reading, giggling and enjoying the thoughts of my awesome friend Some Random Mother. Which meant when I was asked to guest post, I jumped at the chance.

My work day is slotted around our youngest kids Squealer, 12 and Breezy, 5. The Boy Wonder features too, he’ll be 20 by the time you read this. He lives at home and works full time. This is his gap year. The Boy Wonder is also a God send when it comes to his little sisters. (Babysitter extraordinaire) And then there is the husband, Action Man. (I am fully surrounded by super heroes, it’s as it should be.)

Parenting down here at the bottom of the world is not much different to parenting up there where you are. If it wasn’t for the internet, I think I would’ve lost the plot years ago. You see, without the internet I would never have ‘met’ other parents with interesting kids. Interesting is our code word for Squealer’s specialness. She has ADD, Generalized Anxiety disorder – yes, she was born with it. Sensory Processing disorder and ASD traits. Which all confused people for years because everything combined LOOKS like Aspergers, but it isn’t, only some of it is. She also has several medical conditions, which means she can’t do stuff like other kids. All this makes it quite difficult for Squealer at times.

With our other kids, if I said green milk came from green cows they would laugh. Squealer, well, she squeals hysterically, about how that’s not true. Her world is not like ours.

Recently, we adopted a Greyhound, from Greyhounds as Pets here in New Zealand. Romeo has bought a level of calm to Squealer that she lacked. But more than that, he trusts her and she is able to walk him. Seriously, it’s like walking a horse… our boy is TALL. Squealer is good with horses. (She has an affinity with large animals.) Her confidence is improving, her self esteem is improving. When we got Romeo, Irene at the GAP kennels told me he was a Jesus dog, because he was so perfect and that he was without a doubt the dog for us. We think she was right. Everyone who meets him loves him.

So, now I’m a mother, wife, author, and Greyhound pack leader – life is awesome!