Friday, October 30, 2020

It feels good to Do Good!

An idea has been circulating lately that resonates with me, and maybe it will with you too. 

The idea is this: that perhaps the best and most effective way to dig ourselves out of this pit of despair that we call "living through a pandemic" is to SERVE OTHERS. 

Why does this work? I'm glad you asked.

Helping people makes us feel good.

Also, finding ways to help people gives us something to focus on and takes our minds off of our despair.

I saw a Facebook post a while back about asking loved ones who are elderly or have limited mobility what help they need this holiday season instead of traditional gift giving.

My new running buddy, The Minimal Mom, recommended that instead of overcompensating for a terrible year by overbuying (which leads to more clutter, more financial strain and more STRESS), we should find ways to share experiences rather than exchange gifts. She also noted that she felt much better when she found ways to help out within her community. 

Yesterday I was reading about a technique to deal with anxiety from another mom buddy of mine (to be clear - none of these ladies realize that we are buddies, but that is neither here nor there). She went through an exercise to illustrate that in order to stop the spiralling thoughts associated with anxiety and worry, it is much more effective to find something else to focus on, rather than just trying to stop thinking about whatever is causing the anxiety and worry. 

All of these ideas have been swirling around in my head, and I have been letting them get comfortable, having not entirely decided what this will look like in my life. Do you ever take a super simple idea,  overthink the heck out of it, and then never really do much about it? Me neither.

But then...

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was looking for baby gates. I happen to have a set of gates that I no longer need, and have been intending to sell them once I get around to it. They also happen to be very similar to the gates my friend is looking for. I immediately sent her a message, and we set up a time for her to collect them. While I was rooting around in the basement for the instructions, I found a few other baby things that I have been planning to sell or donate, so I gathered them up and sent her pictures. She took it all! 

This was incredibly satisfying for a few reasons. 

First of all, as my efforts at decluttering and organization continue, freeing up even more real estate in the basement is a huge success. 

Secondly, my little baby gear scavenger hunt took my mind completely off the bummer of a day I was having and gave me something useful and uplifting to focus on. 

And finally, it feels SO GOOD to do something nice for someone. When I was pregnant with e, a friend of mine gave me a whole carful of baby gear that she no longer needed, including an expensive stroller and a travel crib, and wouldn't take any money for it. I remember how awesome it felt to be the recipient of her generosity, and how helpful it was to be able to get those items secondhand instead of buying new. The idea that I can now do the same for someone else makes me giddy. I rode that high all day.

So now I'm sharing this with you, in the hopes that you can catch the fever too! (Too soon for a fever joke? I get it.)

It does not have to be complicated. It does not have to be big. You don't need to come up with any grand ideas on your own. The only thing you need is a pair of ears. Even just one ear is fine. It involves simply listening, and being open to responding to the needs of the people you care about. 

Lately I think we're all in a bit of an oblivious daze. There are so many things that we are unsure of right now that we've become a tad self-obsessed. We're trying not to get sick, trying not to make others sick, trying to follow the ever-changing rules, trying to find normalcy, trying to stay updated. Many of us are probably feeling like we're not being the friend or community member we would like to be. 

But it doesn't take much to get back on the right track. In fact, often, just the tiniest effort can make a big difference. 

Are you working from home and have more flexibility than a friend you know who is still going in to work? Maybe offer to pick up a few things for her on your next shopping trip.

Now is a good time to go through winter clothing and donate outgrown items to a coat drive or homeless shelter. 

Do you have a friend who has been looking for Lysol wipes and you happen to spot them while you're shopping? Grab a package and drop them off. (Not for nothing...I am that friend.)

Has a new family moved in on your street? It's a tough time to meet new people. Maybe drop a card in their mailbox to welcome them and introduce yourself.

Ordering more stuff online lately? What about leaving some Hallowe'en candy for the delivery drivers?

Try it! I think you'll like it.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

In case you need this today

This is for all of the parents out there doubting themselves today. For all of you who go into each day vowing to do your best, only to end the day picking apart your decisions. For everyone scrolling through everyone else's lives, knowing you shouldn't compare but comparing anyway and falling short.

We are doing okay.

Our kids may fight, we may yell, the TV may stay on indefinitely. 

We may have planned a healthy meal and then ordered takeout. 

The apples may be from the grocery store instead of the orchard.

We're still okay. They're still okay. 

It's okay.

I know I'm not saying anything new, but I'm saying it again right now for every mom and dad who knows it deep down but needs a reminder today. 

It's easy to look at our kids and see faults. Obstinance, messiness, laziness, "bad-itude". It's easy to get caught up in an endless cycle of frustration when NO ONE LISTENS OR COOPERATES OR ACTS RESPECTFULLY FOR LONGER THAN 5 MINUTES AT A TIME!!!

But this morning my 11 year old announced that she was going to look up some math questions to get a jump on what they would be learning next week. And as she walked out the door a few minutes ago, she asked her dad if she could take a science book for the drive and quizzed me on the earliest species of plants. 

My 3 year old gave me the longest, sweetest, most glorious hug this morning. For several minutes, we crouched on the kitchen floor, enjoying the warmth of each other's arms.

Both of my girls are such thoughtful, empathetic souls. They are kind to animals, friendly with strangers and always eager to help someone in need (unless that someone is mom and the need is tidying up). Whatever faults I can find in them are far outweighed by the truly valuable qualities they possess. 

My 3 year old showed me a cow sticker that she and her sister had placed on a kitchen cabinet yesterday. She spoke about the cow so lovingly. She pattered his head gently. She introduced me as though he was a great friend. 

Now I know it's just a sticker. But the pure goodness in a child's heart can be seen in a million ways, not the least of which is the ability to show love without prejudice, and reminds us struggling parents that no matter how many times we slip up, fall down, and generally fall short of our own expectations, we have created these divine beings who will learn things from us that we never even thought to teach, simply by witnessing our efforts to be the best parents we can be. And it will be more than enough.

She named him "Fuckface".

Welcome to the family, Mr. Face.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Parenting in a nutshell


On the menu: Pasta with bolognese sauce

Kiddo reaction: This is SO good. Why don't we have this more often?!


On the menu: Tuscan sausage and kale soup

Kiddo reaction: This is the best soup I've ever tasted. Can we please eat this every day forever?


E/e: Can we PLEASE have lunch now?! We're STARVING!!!

Mom: Sure. You guys can choose from the pasta from the other night or the sausage soup.

e: Um. I'll have sausage.

Mom: The soup?

e: No. Just sausage.

M: I don't have just plain sausage. It's in the soup.

e: Yogurt please.

M: E, which one would you like?

E: I don't have much of an appetite.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

2nd Wave Problems

The best thing in the world happened to me today and yes, it has to do with toilet paper.

I have had quite the weekend. It is deserving of its own post and that is forthcoming. However, you need to know what just happened as a direct result of all the things I've been up to.

I'm almost out of toilet paper, you guys. I don't know how it happened. I've been so careful. And still, earlier this week I found myself grabbing the last 6-pack of my Costco pack to buy more! So I hopped on to the Costco website and guess what? Yep, SOLD OUT. 2nd wave, indeed. So I added it to my Superstore grocery list and guess what? LOW STOCK. There's a good chance I will get no toilet paper this week. My guess is the supply will only get shorter for the next little while. And we're down to 6 rolls. 


So, I crossed my fingers for my Superstore order and went about my weekend, trying not to obsess over my lapse in judgement. Part of that weekend, in fact a large majority of it, has involved a great declutter and reorganization, resulting in a tsunami of cardboard boxes. I feel like you may know where this is going...

I spent a while today tying up all of the boxes I had broken down over the weekend. And then I got hooked and noticed all kinds of extra boxes lying around the basement, and so I tackled them too. Empty box after empty box...what kind of hoarding nonsense is this?! Until the very last the very bottom of a pile of empty boxes tucked away in the corner. Why, this box wasn't empty! It was decidedly full! What could be in there??

Do you hear that? The angels? Singing a heavenly chorus? 

I hear it. And it is a glorious sound.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The other day E surprised me by telling me that she has come to realize I am often right about things when I give her advice or speculate about how a situation will play out. She wanted to know my thoughts about a dilemma she was having, knowing that we were probably going to disagree but that I would likely have the wisdom of experience to think of things she hadn't considered. 

Wow. I'm still reeling.

And it occurred to me that this may be an opportunity to strike while the iron is hot.

I've been thinking a lot lately about E getting older and all of the new, complicated, risky adventures she'll embark on, while we cling desperately to her coattails, doing our best to guide the ship from a distance, to help spot potholes or pitfalls and maybe prevent little slip-ups from becoming catastrophic. 

There will be many conversations. And, like every parent before me and every one after, I am faced with the challenge of figuring out how to talk to my child in a way that will be meaningful to her and that will encourage her to listen to my words and maybe even heed them. 

Okay boomers. Stop laughing.

Booze is one such conversation. Or rather, series of conversations. I think most of these things are best dealt with regularly, rather than trying to cram it all into one big presentation so that we can check that one off and move on.

What follows is the kind of conversation I wish someone had had with me as a teenager. I think of it as a sort combination of cautionary advice, practical tips and overall wisdom. 

1. Booze is not good for you. Having said that, neither are french fries. Something that isn't good for you doesn't necessarily need to be avoided altogether, and it most certainly doesn't need to be hidden or kept secret or feared. Rather, like with french fries, we should be aware of exactly what effect it has on our bodies, and we should understand how to consume it responsibly. For example, eating french fries or drinking alcohol every day with every meal will probably kill you eventually, but at the very least it will take a serious toll on your health. But eating french fries or drinking alcohol once in a while is probably a reasonable choice that balances enjoyment with taking care of our bodies. 

2. Booze affects your brain. It will mess with your judgement, your reflexes, your balance and your inhibitions. 

Take that into consideration before you drink. Think about where you will be, who you will be with, what you will be doing and how you will get home. Make plans. Tell people you trust your plans. Have an exit strategy. 

Take that into consideration while you're drinking. Be aware. Know your limits and how to enforce them.

3. Pace yourself. There is no rush. The best effects of alcohol happen when you're "tipsy", or just on the fringes of sobriety. That feeling is great, and it makes people think that another drink will feel even better. Trust me: It won't. Try to stick to about a drink an hour. And drink a glass of water after each drink. Yes, you will pee like crazy. Anyone I know would pick that over a hangover.

4. Body weight and tolerance matter. You cannot waltz your novice drinking 110lb frame into a pub and outdrink a 250lb veteran daily drinker. Don't try. It's biology. You could die. 

5. Eat before you drink. Drinking on an empty stomach means the alcohol will be absorbed quickly into your bloodstream and you'll feel it, fast. If you eat first, the food in your stomach will slow your alcohol absorption, so you won't feel the effects nearly as much. 

6. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Most hangover symptoms are the result of dehydration. Headaches, nausea, weakness, dry mouth, fatigue. No fun. Make sure you are well hydrated before you start drinking. Alternate alcoholic drinks with glasses of water. And make sure to drink a BIG glass of water before bed, no matter how much you just want to collapse face first into bed. 

Pro tip: Take a multivitamin and an Advil before bed with your water. 

7. Shots! I get it. Shots can seem like a really good idea. They're small, they're cheap, they're either delicious or at least over quickly, and it's fun to yell "SHOTS!!!" But please, please, pretend they're whole drinks, because they are. A shot is just a whole drink without the filler. Don't slam back five of them and expect to not deeply regret your decision. Pace yourself. It's worth repeating.

8. Alcohol poisoning and alcoholism. Not to freak you out, but I did start out by saying that booze is bad for you. And besides living with the consequences of countless terrible decisions you can make when you have had too much to drink, here are a couple of big things to consider. 

Acute alcohol poisoning happens when you drink more alcohol in one sitting than your body can process, and it can kill you. Normal people out with their friends, drinking too much and not knowing their limits or no longer able to identify their limits, end up hospitalized, comatose or dead. Don't put yourself in that position, and don't let your friends put themselves in that position either.

Alcoholism is a disease that can kill you. Not only that, but withdrawal from alcohol addiction can kill you. So be smart. When you do start drinking, you need to keep yourself in check. If you ever feel that you're exhibiting signs of addiction, get help. Tell people you love and trust. If you have loved ones that you think may be struggling with addiction, offer your support and encourage them to get help.

9. Drinking and driving. Not even one time, not even on back roads, not even a short distance. As a driver or a passenger. There's a long list of dead people I can show you if you need more convincing. 

10. Be responsible. That got heavy for a bit, but that's kind of the point. Alcohol is a big responsibility. It can be used responsibly and safely. It can also be dangerous. 

Remember that you are responsible for yourself and your choices while drinking. The choices you make can have profound effects on both yourself and anyone else you come into contact with. Make safety a priority.

You also have a responsibility as a friend of someone who is drinking. Take care of each other. 

11. CALL ME. I don't care what time it is, I don't care how hammered you are. I don't care where you are or what you did. Call me. I will come and get you. I will drive your friends home. There will be no consequences. End of story.

Now obviously, this isn't a universal template. I'm sure there are endless versions of this conversation, based on what you believe and what you want for your children. But I bet if I throw this out there, I'll get a ton more awesome words of wisdom that I haven't thought of. So lay 'em on me! I'm still in the planning stages for these conversations, and I'll take all the input I can get.

Sunday, August 9, 2020


Our kids have unusual names. I'm not talking crazy, alphanumeric word puzzles or anything. They're real names, just uncommon. In the case of our eldest daughter, both her first and middle names fall into that category. So imagine my husband's surprise the other day, when he found himself speaking to a patient with E's middle name. First time in eleven years! Cool.

And imagine his double surprise when, after telling her his daughter's first name, the patient said "That's funny, that's my sister's name!

So, to clarify, my daughter's two unusual names are also the first names of two sisters who live in Wheatley, Ontario, a small town we discovered a few years ago that has become our favourite cottaging spot. 

Huh. What are the chances?

This happened on Friday. On Saturday, we had a guy come to cut down some some trees on our property. His name is Cole, which would have been our son's name when E was born, and it was still our choice when e was born 8 years later. Neat. 

While chatting with him, he noticed our dog. We also have an unusual breed of dog. I swear, other than the dog and the kids' names, we're painfully mainstream. He grew up with the same unusual breed that our girls are growing up with. 


What a weekend! I don't know about you, but I absolutely love these little moments in life.  They make me feel like we're all connected in a million little ways. I don't know if I believe in kismet, but I sure love the idea of strange forces at work in the universe. I imagine little alien fairy types watching us through a crystal ball from a star somewhere and throwing little things like this at us for kicks.

But what do I know?

Friday, June 26, 2020

Don't mess with this one...

e: The princesses are real in Disneyworld, right?

M: Yes, they're real.

e: They're not dolls, right?

M: No.

e: How big are they?

M: They're a regular adult size. About my size.

e: The real ones?

M: Yes, the real ones in Disneyworld.

e: So...could we fit a trunk??

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

This is Quarantine: Day...Oh forget it.

It's safe to say we're well past Day 100 with no end in sight, so I'm going to kibosh the counting. Also, I can't be bothered to count ALL THE WAY BACK to my last entry to figure out what day it is.

I've been remiss.

First, let me clear up a few questions you may have:

1. I did not die.

2. I did not sell my children to gypsies passing through town.

4. I am still making sourdough. And it's only getting better.

5. The girls did wrap up the school year successfully and embarked on their summer "break" this week.

On the other hand, here's something that no one anticipated:

I retired!

Yep, you heard me. As of...well, now...I am no longer working outside the home. It's a little anti-climatic, as I haven't been working outside the home since March, but it represents a huge shift for me.

Working as a massage therapist during a pandemic is a daunting prospect. Social distancing is not possible. Direct contact with a whole bunch of people is inevitable. We were officially allowed to begin working again toward the end of May, and that surprised me. I thought, given the nature of our work and the fact that it isn't "essential", that we would be among the last to be given the green light. I knew when I heard that announcement that I wasn't ready. Soon after, I heard from the owner of the clinic where I work, asking about when I was thinking of returning. As soon as I got that phone call, I knew I wasn't going back.

How could I go back to a high contact situation and feel safe returning to my family at the end of the day?

Who would care for my kids while I go to work, with camps closed?

If camps open, do I feel comfortable sending a 3 year old?

What will happen in September, if schools remain closed or, more likely, students attend school in a part-time capacity?

How is it possible that I got a tax refund last year when I wasn't working, and had to pay an exorbitant tax bill this year when I was??!

There are many people just like me out there struggling with these questions. For some, the answers to those questions are irrelevant, as they don't have a choice about whether or not to return to work. I do have the choice, along with a wonderful husband and family, who threw their support behind me wholeheartedly.

And so, at the ripe old age of 43, I am gracefully transitioning into my "retirement years". They will look different from most. Most people don't retire with preschoolers in the house. Most people don't stop working before their oldest child is out of elementary school. It will likely be several years before I start to feel retired. But I'm okay with that. Truthfully, I am excited at the prospect of focusing on being a mom and a wife for a while. I feel like that's what our family needs right now.

And in that spirit, here are the Top 3 benefits of early retirement:

1. Being able to go to the grocery store (whenever I end up doing that again) when everyone else is at work.

2. Being able to fill my days with whatever I want without having to consider my afternoon nap or my colonoscopy appointment.

3. Being able to say that I retired before my father-in-law.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

This is Quarantine: Day 94

I guess those bagels were so good they rendered me speechless!

As a result, there is so very much to catch up on.

First things first:

We did manage to get that playset up and running last weekend. It took about 5 hours or so and went so much more smoothly than any of us expected.

And it's a big hit! We're already getting our money's worth.

Whew! I'm exhausted. I guess I'll have to back into this slowly so I don't pull a hamstring.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

This is Quarantine: Day 83

Quarantine Mission Accomplished!

I finally got around to the bagels.

We've accomplished a lot, my starter and I. Sandwich bread, boules, cinnamon buns and even english muffins. Rave reviews all around. But all along I've had my eye on the bagels.

A mighty adversary for something that looks so much like a doughnut.

And there's an extra layer of challenge to the undertaking, knowing that you will most certainly not please everyone.

There are the New York bagel champions, who enjoy the thick, bready texture that holds up to a half pound of cream cheese. These are the bagels my kids clamour for.

Then there is the Montreal contingent, who like a bit of fight in their bagel, with a chewiness that makes you work for it. I am a Montrealer at heart.

There are an infinite number of bread vehicles offering a thick, pillowy texture. The bagel, in my opinion, is special because of its divergence from this path. It is sturdy and stubborn, able to shine under an endless array of toppings. It can be simple and humble, elegant and refined, rustic and hearty. It can fill any category. There isn't much a bagel can't do.

It is even supremely portable. I can eat my bagel with one hand, while popping another on my pinky for my toddler while we take a neighbourhood stroll. Depending on the length and spread of your fingers you might even be able to take a couple for the road.

I'll be honest. They take a long time, and you end up with 8 bagels. So basically, if you live in my house, it takes about 26 hours to make something that will last about 26 hours. I had actually decided, when they were rising for the second time, that I would not be doing this again. Between the starter activation, the first rise, the shaping, the second rise, the boiling and THEN the baking...I mean come on. Sometimes you just have to say enough is enough.

And then I tried them. And forgot about everything else except that perfect. texture. 26 hours is a very small price to pay.