Monday, May 31, 2010

Blow me away – 25 years later

Anniversaries are a poignant  thing.  You reminisce about the the good and hopefully not too much about the bad.  You remember the details like it was yesterday, and reflect on what has happened over time.  This anniversary is a little different.  It’s been 25 years since our home was “tornadoed”.

I grew up in Barrie, Ontario – far from Kansas and all those places you assume tornados hit.  On May 31, 1985, our home was hit by debris from a tornado.  Pieces of the racetrack or factories over a kilometre away were in our roof. 


Our home was one of the ones up on the hill.  We were lucky.  We had plenty of broken windows and glass damage, a chunk out of the roof, a totalled car and downed trees.  The house three doors down was gone.  No one we know was seriously injured.  My mom, sister and brother were home at the time, wisely sheltering in the basement.  I was downtown, watching out the window of the library at the big thunderstorm and thinking the sky was unusually dark. 

The hardest part of that day was not knowing.  News came in the form of rumours from people at the bus station.   There wasn’t any power,  I couldn’t reach anyone by phone and I couldn’t go home.  It’s funny how strong your homing instinct is when you are in a disaster.  I finally saw my brother at the school down the street where he was helping with first aid.  He sent word, via the ambulance drivers to my father who was a doctor at the hospital.  It’s all a blur now but I know it was hours before I saw the rest of my family at my cousin’s place.

This disaster reshaped our lives.  It sent us into the crazy world of putting our home back together.  Yet there were so many silver linings to this big storm cloud, I can’t even count them all.  Mostly it was about the coming together of family and community.  When I finally did make it home, there were about 20 people helping clean up the place.  Someone knew someone who had a vacant furnished house downtown where we could live until our home was back together.  In this borrowed house, we came very close as a family.  My sister and I shared a room and really got to know each other and have been the best of friends ever since.  We laughed and enjoyed the quirkiness of the 100 year old house we borrowed, bringing us back in time with strange antiques and slanted floors.  And we rebuilt – foundations stronger than ever.

Funny how time flies and yet seems so long ago at the same time.  I was a teenager, learning, growing and finding my way.  As difficult as it all was, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Recital Day


Dressed up for the big day, little hands search for the notes.

Musical pieces with funny names –

Popcorn is hers, played with staccato enthusiasm

He chooses My Paddle’s Keen And Bright, performed like a canoe in choppy water but with pride.

Another music year over – the prodding to practice, the rush to lessons, trying to remember what we’ve forgotten, the encouragement and tears.  They have learned so much.

The anxiety - no wait – that’s me.  They live in the moment, never self-conscious, blurting out exactly what is on their mind, oblivious to their imperfections and rhythm mistakes.   Music is anther way to play.

Eyes shine and they take a bow. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Cool Pool Gang

The kids and cousins chillin' on opening day in the 62 F (16 C) pool. Summer begins.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Knowing Me, Knowing You #17

I am sneaking in and participating in the Fairy Blogmother's monthly quiz, linked up via Smother Mother.

1. Coffee or tea?

COFFEE!!!  Are four cups a day too many?  How about six?  Well, I’m not that extreme but those who know me can count on me going for coffee with them anytime.  Although I don’t really drink anything but decaf after 4pm.  Love the smell too.  Got some today from Equator who makes awesome fair trade fresh roasted coffee.  I like tea too but order me a coffee 9 out of 10 times.

2. Are you watching Glee?  Have I asked you that already?

Absolutely! Although I am a little behind with Lost being at the same time.  Love the music and sing along a fair bit.  My husband leaves the room.

3. Do you sing?

Yep, and I’m fair at it.  But that doesn’t stop me.  I belt it out in the car and am on pitch most of the time.

4. What is your favourite John Cusak movie?

Alas, I am not a big movie watcher so haven’t seen many.  Did like Serendipity.  I’m a sap for a sappy movie.

5. Burger or hot dog?

I like a good lean burger with lettuce, tomato and pickles.  I’m glad we’re heading into BBQ season and look forward to those easy burger meals that seem to make everyone happy.  Ah, summer.

Any other takers?  I like these quizzy thingies.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Handy hints for garbage pickin’

I do not make a frequent habit of garbage picking.  But desperate times call for desperate measures.  As a way to raise money for the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers, I am holding a bottle drive to raise the big bucks.  Assignment Bottles for Boobies is underway.

In Ontario, we take back beer/wine/spirit bottles to the Beer Store for a refund of the deposit.  You get a whole $0.05 to $0.15 for each bottle so a trunk full can net you a whopping $35.00!  Woo hoo!  Well worth the effort.

Now, where to get those bottles?  I’ve pestered my friends and neighbours.  Then I sent out flyers around the local streets.  Finally I brilliantly thought of recycling day.  So yesterday, I wandered the streets of my neighbourhood, pausing my car when I saw a burgeoning blue bin and then casually grabbed my grocery bag, looked around for onlookers and riffled.  Lovely.  However I did score a surprisingly large amount of bottles this way. 

The quest became easier as I went, developing a sixth sense for those houses that had big parties and were quickly trying to get rid of the evidence or those who had watched too many episodes of the “The Hoarders” and couldn’t wait to dump the stuff. 

So here are the handy hints I know you’ve been dying to know.

* Time it well. It is best to get out sometime after the kids are at school and most neighbours have gone to work but before the eager recycling truck.  You don’t want an audience, if you have any self respect.

* Do wear gloves.  One word – Ick! People are pigs and don’t polish their bottles before putting them out.  This is not a task for the smell sensitive or those who value cleanliness. 

* Line your trunk and open windows.  See previous point.  Ick.  My car smelled a bit like some bad all-you-can-drink parties from residence days in University.  Special.  But after the clean out, it is back to normal, with cookie crumbs and squished paper tucked into the seat where it belongs in my mom-mobile. 

* Have plenty of boxes and a garage for sorting.  The Beer Store is your friend and if you are organized, the exchange goes painlessly quickly.

I’ve made over a $100 this way and I would do it again…. maybe…. if truly necessary.  I’d better open a Corona to get over the trauma now.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Great Deck Fiasco

My husband deserves a medal, along with some therapy for all our trials this weekend.  At the very least, we have earned the extra bottles of wine required to make it through.  The good news is that we lived to tell the tale and haven’t strangled each other.

We have a nice big cedar deck at the back of our home.  The pervious owners didn’t do anything to it and by now, it shows.  I have pulled out enough splinters from little hands.  So Saturday (after the rain stopped), Steve and little helper Laura went to Home Depot to rent a sander.  On the way, Steve calls to say that actually, he has to take the car in to lovely Canadian Tire because it is making satanic noises and he thinks it may explode (or words to that effect.  He’s a little dramatic when stressed.) 

Owen and I go pick them up in our brand new car and continue on with the mission.  The rented sander thingy is huge. It weighs a ton and won’t fit in the trunk of the brand new car.  Steve, already hyped up on coffee, is ready to explode.  Logic prevails and we load the beast onto the brand new back seats but there is no room for the kids.  So Steve runs it home and I take the monkeys over to Rogers to kill time (and $20). 

After we get home, the sanding monster turns on for 2 seconds then dies.  Oh yea.  It turns out we don’t have the right electrical output to run this thing. Hunh?  That would have been helpful to know at the store before we spend the morning dragging it home.  Steve runs the thing back to the store (in the new car), yells until he gets a refund and buys a belt sander. I’m sure there was no drama involved there.

Hand-sanding a deck is a big, back-breaking job.  It is loud, dusty and tiring. On the plus side, the job ends quickly when you accidently run over the cord with the sander, grind it to bits and blow a fuse.   *sigh*  Well, he got about 3/4 of the way through and no one got electrocuted.   Personally, I think the backyard nesting robins had something to do with it.  The little robin-lets are hatching and I imagine the mom was quite pissed at all the noise.  A few selected pecks might really be the culprit. 

May 2010 031

So the deck will get finished eventually and likely cost much more that it would have to have hired someone to do it for us.  A second sander or electrical repair, several chiropractor appointments and bottles of wine do add up, you know.  There will be much celebration and stomping on the deck if/when we are victorious. 

Now how shall we waste our next weekend?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

108 years old

So as I’m doing my usual 100-things-in-the-5-minutes-before-we-leave tornado this morning, I absently remark that today would have been my grandmother’s birthday.  Now I’ve done it.  I’ve said the b-word, initiating the usual birthday excitement that spins around here at the mention of the occasion. 

Laura wants to send her a present and Owen wants to know how old she is.  Except she passed away before either of them was born so no, we would not be sending a present.   I gently try to explain about how wonderful she was and how she had a full life and now is in heaven.  I foolishly started talking about memories I have of time I spent with her as a child. 

Crap.  Now Laura is so sad.  Not only is she realizing that those she love may die some day, she doesn’t get to have a birthday party today after all – both equally important to her right now.  And I guess she is realizing on some level that her precious time with her grandparents may not last forever.  Owen does math in his brain and figures out how old she would be and bounces away unfazed.  The difference between my sensitive girl and oblivious boy couldn’t be more apparent. 

I have no time for a deep discussion with a 6 year old on life, death and memories in this mad morning rush.  So I think we’ll have some sort of a party after school today anyway and I’ll find some books for later.  These are the moments it is hard to see them grow up.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - bowling amusement

I don't know what they like most about a family bowling outing - the ball tossing or the toxic slushies they get. Nice tongues!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Power of flowers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA To her, they are sunflowers.  Bright yellow, scattered across the lawn this week. 

“Dandelions” I correct absently. 

“But they don’t look like lions.” She insists. “They look like the sun.  See?!”  She holds it up, pointing out the obvious.  Seriously, mom.  Why would they think they could be anything else.  Grown-ups can be so dim sometimes. 

We take it all for granted.  To us, they are weeds, popping up uninvited in the yard after a rain.  They do seem to have more to do with the sun than the etymological origin from French dent de lion, describing the toothy leaves.  Today I am changing my perspective.  She is the expert.

She gleefully collects the yellow flowers by the handful.  Giving me and anyone else nearby a gift of a little thin bloom to hold.  These flowers are fair game for the picking.  No “Don’t Touch” for these ones.  We welcome the collection. There is a plastic cup of expired “sunflowers” in her room that I am not allowed to throw out.  Each one is special to her.

“I’m not sure what to wish for”, she says, holding the white fluffy transformed flower. 

“How about a beautiful day tomorrow”, I suggest.  She agrees, blowing the little seeds like snowflakes into the air.  blowing-dandelions

I pick one up too, closing my eyes and thinking.  I wish I could stall time, keep her this precious for a little longer.  My wish is granted.  This moment is etched in my heart.  

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother Journey

I should warn you.  I am on the brink of talking about some very personal thoughts and sharing some fragile truths about my road to motherhood.  If you would like to believe that being a parent is Hollywood perfect, skip this post.

I have always wanted to be a mother.  It is funny how strong a pull that is.  I am blessed to have met my wonderful life partner back in university and we have now been together for 20 years.  Amazing when I think about it.  So, after my first nephew was born, we were ready. 

First there was “Tad”.  I miscarried just as I entered my 2nd trimester, two days after we moved to our first house.  We were in a new community and still finding our way to the grocery store, let alone the hospital.  Through the loss, we grew closer and understood how much we wanted a baby of our own.

A few months later we were thrilled to be welcoming another baby.  Breathing easier after the first trimester, we believed we were home free.  It was not to be.  At 7 months, I had a placental abruption, emergency c-section and ICU for me.  It was too late for the baby.  Our tiny perfect son Kyle was born still. 

Amid the grief, I felt blessed.  So honoured to have known our little boy as long as we did, even if it was only in the womb.  For some, it is hard to have faith after something so tragic happens.  For me, I felt my faith grow in a way that is impossible to describe.  Kyle also taught us much about the love of a parent.  It makes me understand the closeness and unconditional acceptance of being a mother in such a strong way.  Perhaps I parent now more peacefully because if it.  It certainly makes the decision to be a stay at home mom an easy choice for me.

After the stress of a tense 38 weeks, we welcomed our dear miracle Owen with blessed cries into our arms.  We are honoured to have our special guy to raise and love every day.  He enriches our lives in so many ways and I love everything about our wonderful boy.

Two years later we welcomed our precious Laura into our family.  She is such a beautiful blessing.  The joy she brings to my life is immeasurable and we love her beyond words.  She is a bit of a mini-me and so I “get” her with her quiet moments, shifting moods and simple positive outlook.  Joy.

Mother’s Day is always bitter sweet for me.  I love the two I am blessed to be able to raise.  I always feel a part missing too.  So I am wishing all who are mothers, mother’s who have experienced loss and mother’s in their hearts, a happy and peaceful Mother’s day.  It is a special day to celebrate those who care for the next generation.  May it be a joyful one for all.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mad Scientists

Sometimes I feel like our lives are one big science experiment. Everything around here seems to be some sort of investigation or another.

Currently we have some caterpillars on our kitchen counter - luckily in a glass container instead of free-range - munching away and hoping to become butterflies. This is a great experiment on metamorphosis for the kids. Or maybe it may be a lesson on what happens when mom accidentally sprays the container with kitchen cleaner and we have a mini-funeral for the little critters. All good and in the name of science, right?

Our backyard looks like a science lab too. The kids are building bridges out of bricks and boards, experimenting with balance with a levers and rocks and growing neglected seedlings in old coffee cans. Hands-on science is so much better than what you get in a book. Now some ideas are much more brilliant than others. "No, you may not build a catapult to see if the rocks will hit the neighbours windows!" Who needs expensive toys? There is nothing more fascinating than a sandbox and discarded kitchen measuring cups and containers. Worms and ants provide hours of entertainment.

I will not share with your the -ahem - "experiments" growing in my fridge. Not the kind of science I am proud of, really.

One of the things I love about being a stay at home parent is having the time to spontaneously go with these learning opportunities. It's wonderful how much these little brains pick up just by doing and interacting with their world. Trips to museums, beaches, forests and even the park provide plenty of chances to discover about our world. We take advantage of it all any chance we get.

I grew up in a home with a scientific dad and siblings who loved to explore. We did everything from launching rockets to a snail terrarium, microscope discoveries to being woken up in the night to witness northern lights and wild thunderstorms. I am thrilled to be able to pass on all these interests to my children. They may not turn out to be scientists but they have already been bitten by the curiosity bug and I love it. No matter where there lives take them, I want them to be problem solvers and appreciate the world around them. I hope we are on our way, one mad scientific discovery at a time.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Bad behaviour!

I should be doing this:

April 2010 B 026

Folding 1000 pieces of clothing and carefully putting it away in proper places. Or tackling my kitchen (which I will NOT show you a photo of at this present moment.) Or figuring out how to raise money for my Weekend to End Women’s Cancer walk thingy. Or any number of things on my HUGE to-do list.

Instead, the computer has sucked me in and I am blog surfing (very important and enlightening work), playing silly mindless games on Facebook (I’m sure Farmville is a life skill of some sort, right?) and e-mailing too many people. Stupid computer. Except it did save me as I forgot to send my dearest mama a Happy Mother’s Day gift and it occurred to me that what she really did like was a gift that gives. Thanks World Vision! (If you haven’t checked out their catalogue, I would recommend it. It makes me believe that you can make a difference, one person at a time.) So the computer is not all bad, I just need to learn how to walk away…. like now… maybe.

If anyone has seen my self-discipline, could you please let me know? I seem to be missing my Protestant work ethic too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Baking Success

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Adventures in gluten-free baking continue!  After some earlier attempts at home creations, I was not too sure how things would go.   I am not a born-baker but I am pleased to say that some of my creations are turning out better than expected.  Here’s some of my latest attempts:

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Cornbread min-loaves from the mix that you can get at Bulk Barn.  I’ve been rather impressed with what they have at bulk-barn for GF diets.  It opens up so many possibilities.  I baked these mini-loaves according to directions on the little paper thing you can get from the store.  The results were not dry and quite good!  I did substitute almond milk for the regular milk and baked them in mini-size because a) I heard that they may rise better and bake through better in the smaller container and b) it’s quicker and c) It’s fun!  Who wouldn’t like a mini loaf of just about anything.  So cute!

Blueberry muffins from Judy’s Add Your Own Magic Muffin Mix .  They turned out quite well.  Moist and yummy.  I added applesauce to the mix instead of too much oil.  Definitely a do-again and I think we’ll be trying some more of the mixes in the near future. 

Finally, I did some good GF Blondies from a Namaste mix.  YUM!  Very sweet and I also added some chocolate chips to make it extra decadent.  We all ate them up rather quickly.  I case you are interested, both Judy’s mixes and the Namaste company have a wide range of foods that help in many allergies.

So the road to GFCF cooking continues.  It is not an easy diet to adopt.  A nine year old boy does not take changes to his already limited diet in stride some days.  Frankly, the best approach is to be honest with him about what we are doing and why.  I don’t try to hide foods and I don’t give him anything I am not willing to eat myself.  I’m not sure what difference this is making to his health and well being yet.  It may be early yet to tell and we are still only 95% there for being GFCF.  Giving it a few more months and it may help all of us be healthier.