Summer means bare feet for sure.

Father’s Day has passed.  To me that means that summer has officially begun.  The official first day of summer is always just after Father’s Day anyway, but it’s not just that.  Late June means a ton of things.  It pretty much means that we definitely are going to have more hot sunny days than cold ones.  It’s the end of school for the kiddies, and the start of summer vacation.

I love all the seasons, usually preferring the transitional seasons, spring and fall, for their moderate temperatures.  But summer has many things about it that I hold dear.  I love to swim, and spend time in the water.  My son definitely gets this from me.  He would literally live at the splash pad or the beach all summer long if we’d let him.  I love it when the weather is gorgeous and not too hot, with a nice breeze, coming home after a long day at work and cracking open a beer and relaxing with my family outside on the back deck before supper.  Cooking supper on the grill, and enjoying it all under the canopy outside.  Keeps the mess out of the house, minimal dishes to do, and just the joy of being outside in the fresh air.  It all feels so good.

I look forward to summer, because I usually take a week off work, and I look forward to spending that time with my family.  My husband’s job doesn’t usually lend itself to several days off in a row during the summer, so we usually plan a day trip or two, to places that aren’t too far away.  I love taking this time to expose my son to new things, visiting new places, meeting new people, storing up lots of awesome memories for him to look back on when he is older.

This summer though, means more than all those things for me.  This is the last summer before my son starts school.  We’ve heard it all before, but it really does just seem like yesterday that he was born.  Now he’s four, and headed off to school in September.

I have a lot of concerns with him starting school.  He is an incredibly shy child.  Upon meeting any new people, he clings to the adult he is with.  We’ve enrolled him in soccer this year, and it has been interesting indeed.  For the first two weeks, he wouldn’t even go out on the field without me.  He wasn’t the only child like this, but the thought of putting him on that bus scares the hell out of me.  He’s an only child, which I do not regret by the way, so you can hold back on the sermon about that.  And his shyness seems to be limited to adults, he is fine meeting new kids.

I just think about this huge change that is about to take place in his life.  He says he’s ready for school, ready for the bus, but he really has no idea what he’s talking about.  We’ve told him that Mommy and Daddy have to go to work and he has to go to school, and he seems to understand, but there’s a big difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.

I know he’ll be fine.  I know that he is ready.  School will be so good for him.  He is such a smart little boy and I know that he will learn and catch onto things quickly.  Part of it I know is my own selfishness, not wanting him to be away from me, not wanting him to grow up.  He’s only four, but in the blink of an eye, he’ll be fourteen, then twenty four….

In the meantime, I’m going to try not to think about it too much.  Summer is here, and I’m going to take it for all it’s worth.  I’m going to enjoy this summer with him, and do my best to help him (and me) prepare for the changes ahead.

Wish me luck.


Ode to Mom

My Mom at around my age.

Today is my beautiful Mom’s 63rd Birthday. (Sorry Mom!)

I look up to a lot of people in my life.  I am very blessed to have a lot of positive influences around me, a lot of family and friends who are truly fantastic people.  Those who are still with us, and those who have passed on.

Of all those people, there is no one that comes close to this woman.  I have never met anyone so willing to give, give, give.

Growing up, my parents owned a business.  I remember being young and looking back, I know that they were financially strapped.  Obviously as a child, I never knew about any of this, as this is not the type of thing you typically burden your child with if you can help it.  As time went on, I got older, the business went through some really prosperous years, and our lifestyle reflected that.  One thing I can say about both of my parents is that when they had it – they gave.  They were always so generous with people and not in such a way that made you feel uncomfortable, they were just generous.  If you saw something you liked, don’t mention it in front of them, or within a very short amount of time, you would find it within your possession.

Christmas growing up was really quite the thing in my house.  Everyone was spoiled rotten.  We would all sit around with mountains of gifts – all completely thought out and hunted down and purchased by Mom.  Nothing gave her more pleasure to sit and watch her family open the gifts that she had so obviously thought about and stressed over, wanting to make Christmas perfect for everyone.  Especially me.  I’m her only child and I used to sit there forever, opening gift after gift.  Totally spoiled.

So there is a reason for telling you all this.  About 6 years ago, when the economy started to get really bad, things were pretty tough at work.  A very high stress situation all around, and things were not good.  Luckily, someone came in and bought the business, meaning that everyone that was working could still keep their jobs.  After this, obviously my parents didn’t have the steady working income coming in anymore.  There are investments, and pensions, but my Mom was definitely not able to be as flush as she once was.  We even decided for a few years running to forget gifts at Christmas altogether, just to concentrate on the dinner, the holiday, and being together.

So here’s the thing, and this is a real tribute to her:  I thought this was a great idea.  Me, who had basically been spoiled since birth not only at Christmas, but all year long, didn’t give a rat’s behind about whether or not I opened a single gift at Christmas.  As long as I had my family around me, and everyone was healthy, and we had a tree, and lots of food, and each other, I was good.  So obviously, throughout all the gift giving, the true message of Christmas got through, the true meaning of the season was more important than all that commercial stuff.  That I thank her for more than anything, and hope to be able to pass on to my son.

Nicholas with Grandma at Christmas.

She still gives like crazy.  If I need something, help with anything, she is the first person I call.  She is an amazing Grandmother and our primary caregiver for Nicholas.  If I need to paint a room, she is there with her ladder and brushes.  If I need decorating advice, she is the one.  If I need help organizing or cleaning anything, she is my go-to girl.  She is the most clean and organized person I know, bar none. Most importantly, if I need a friend, advice, or just someone to vent to, tell my dreams to and my fears, she is always there, no questions, no judgments, just 100% love and support.  You can’t ask for much more than that.  But if you did, she’d find a way to give it.

I’m not the only one that has benefited from her giving.  I can think of several people who would line up to say that she has helped them in one way or another.  Moving, tearing down or putting up wallpaper, painting a room, or several rooms.  Caring for sick family members during tough times, from making me chicken noodle soup when I’ve got a cold to really caring for someone who is palliative.  Sending a card or present at just the right time, saying just the right thing when you need it most.  She really has a gift for knowing what to do to make a difficult time a little easier.  When she loves you, she loves you.  She loves fully, and without restrictions.  And if she loves you, she will do anything for you.  Heck, if she LIKES you she’ll go above and beyond.  That’s just the person she is.

So today, as I do every day, I thank God for my Mom.  I know I’m not alone in thinking that she is truly an amazing person, and I am so lucky to have her.  I can only hope that someday people look at me with half the respect they feel for her.  It’s a lot to live up to, but I know she’s there, steering me gently in the right direction.

I love you Mom, and Happy Birthday! – here’s to another 60 years!  Okay, I know that makes you 123 years old.  That’s not too much to ask for, is it?

Well, I’ve Gorged Myself on Pancakes, So Now What?

A final feast before the fast.

Shrove Tuesday.  Pancake Tuesday.  Mardi Gras.  I love me some good pancakes.  A good string of beads is fun too. So I’m not complaining.  But I’m not going topless through the streets, whether in New Orleans or not.  The waistband of my jeans was complaining last night after a feast of blueberry pancakes and sausages.  But oh boy, they were good.

So now what?  Now we have what we Catholics (and lots of other Christians) like to call Ash Wednesday.  What is Ash Wednesday?  Well, the history of it all and a pretty good explanation can be found here.  Basically it signifies the start of Lent.  What is Lent?  Well, that explanation can be found here.

But what does it mean to me?  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about that lately.  So here goes.

I was born and raised Catholic.  Baptized as a baby, attended Catholic school for elementary and secondary.  Even the year of university that I managed to squeeze out was at a Catholic affiliate college.  I attended church every Sunday growing up, with my Mom and Memere.  Hardly ever missed.  Usually I quite enjoyed it.  Especially when there was a priest at our parish that worked really well with the people.  There are a couple of priests that I can think of from as I grew up that were wonderful men, who helped me be excited about my faith, who helped shape me into the person I am today.  I am so thankful to them for all that they had to offer to my childhood and adolescence.

Somewhere in my late teens, I got away from the church a bit.  One priest that I was particularly close to was transferred after many years with us and I had a really hard time getting used to his successor.  Not that he wasn’t a really nice man, he just didn’t mesh super well.  I strayed away slightly.  Then, as I got closer to where Joe and I were planning to get married, I found my way back, attending mass in London where we lived.  We attended together as a couple, and it felt good to be back into the swing of things again, to belong to a parish again.

Eventually though, we strayed again.  I would go through spells, attending mass with my Mom, especially when we moved back into the rural community I was raised in.  But there was no regularity to my attendance.  When I had my son, I had him baptized in our church, as it was important to me that he be raised in the faith, and attend separate school as I did.  But here I was, not attending mass myself on a regular basis, or making sure that my son was exposed to it the way I thought he should be.

I felt slightly detached I guess.  My beliefs were still there, but I wasn’t really following through on them.  I would kneel beside my sons bed every night and say his prayers with him, but then when I went and crawled between my own sheets I wasn’t saying any myself.  Going to church was a thing that was always there in the back of my mind, slightly nagging.  Every Sunday morning when I got up, I knew my Mom was at home, getting ready to go, and that she would be super excited to swing by and pick us up on her way.  But I chose to spend the morning cuddling with my kid instead.

I think that part of the reason that stopped me from starting back was that whole – the longer you’re away, the harder it is to go back – thing.  I knew I shouldn’t feel that way, that I was welcome and would be accepted back with open arms whenever I was ready to go.  But that didn’t really make it any easier.

A couple of weeks ago, I called up my Mom and the boy and I went to church with her.  Again last week.  It’s a start.  He is starting school in the fall, and I want him to at least understand why we enrolled him in a Catholic school.  I want him to have the same foundation that I have.  What choices he makes in his life when he is older will be his own, but I want to lay the groundwork so that, combined with the values and morals that his father and I hope to teach him, he will have a running start in the world.

And maybe there’s still hope for his mother too.

Family Day

Back in the "good old days."

Third Monday in every February.  Here in Ontario, we call it Family Day.  Or, we call it an excuse for a long weekend in February.  Either way, I’m good with it.

The picture on the left was taken in the summer of 1987.  I was 9 years old, turning ten in about a month.  I’m in this photo, though I’m not about to say where, as it is slightly embarrassing.  My Uncle Fern had died a few days previous and so many of my family from Sudbury were down for the funeral.  So what did we do?  The only thing we could do when my Pepere and Memere were around and there was family visiting: have a party.  Get lots of food, lots of drink, and lots of good music and celebrate.  In this case some lightening of spirits was definitely required, as everyone was obviously gathered to mourn the loss of a brother, uncle, cousin that was taken far too early.

Growing up, I remember quite a few gatherings like this.  To my Pepere and Memere, family was everything.  Family were friends.  Family was who you hung around with when you wanted to have a good time.  There were always relatives coming from up north and elsewhere to visit, sometimes for weeks at a time.  I also remember summers when Memere and Pepere would get in the car and disappear for 2 weeks or more.  Moving around from family member to family member, visiting.  Of course it was rare that they went anywhere that Pepere didn’t build something before he left, a porch, a table, a deck, etc.  He always left a piece of himself everywhere he went.

It seems though, as I’ve gotten older, and he has passed on, that things really aren’t like they used to be.  Relatives that I remember from growing up, I haven’t seen since his funeral 15 years ago.  Not that this is anyone’s fault, it just seems as though as one generation leaves us, and our generation has become the adults, things have changed.  We still are family, but it seems like we’ve separated from each other.  When my Mom was younger, they spent the summer travelling around visiting family.  Now that I am grown and have a family of my own, we don’t do that anymore.  We’re obviously busier, women aren’t housewives and stay at home Moms the way they used to be.  We’re working, and when we get a week off here and there, we’re tired!  What time we do spend travelling is usually spent on a vacation for our own little immediate family – a weekend in Niagara Falls, a week at Disney World – something to make up for the times that we don’t get to spend with our kids, and to create memories for them like we had growing up.  Except sometimes I think I forget that some of my greatest memories growing up were not the time in Niagara, or the trip to Disney, though they were amazing.  The times that stand out to me are the weekends where family came to visit.  The trips up north to my Uncle Claude’s cottage on Manitoulin Island.  The yearly horseshoe tournaments.  The trips to Florida – not because of Disney as much, though that was awesome – but to visit my Uncle Bill and his family.

Life has changed so much since those days.  Sometimes it seems hard to just keep it together, to keep in touch with those that we consider close friends.  Life gets in the way.  It gets so busy.  We grow up, get married, have kids.  There are work schedules, school schedules, practices, meetings, appointments.  When the weekend comes, we often just try to catch our breath, not just hop in the car to drive a few hours to visit friends or family.  The same thing is happening with those friends and family, so they hardly have time to visit us.  It almost feels like I wish we could hit the pause button, just for a little while.  So the phone stops ringing, and time stops tugging at my pant leg, saying “hey, lets move!”

The point of this post isn’t to say that we should get those days of old back.  Because deep down I know that isn’t going to happen.  Life isn’t going to slow down any.  If anything, it’s just speeding up, which I’m really noticing as I get older and watch my child grow.  I guess what I’d like to do is just acknowledge those days, and strive to bring at least a little of that back.  Stop and take a few minutes to smell the roses, so to speak.  Call a friend, or a family member.  Or just remember, and try to pass a little of that legacy, and those values, onto our own children.

Happy Family Day!

WAY back - a bunch of family that were the best of friends.

A New Family Member

Ever feel like something was missing from your life?  Like life was almost perfect, but not quite?  Like your family needed one more member in order to be complete?

Nope, not me.  Never had that.  Okay, maybe a little bit of dis-satisfaction here and there.  Nobody is 100% happy all the time.

We have one child, a boy, who is 3 1/2.  He is the light of our lives and a joy to everyone who knows him.  Joe and I, when asked how many kids we were going to have, always said “we’ll have one, and see how that goes.”  I think deep down we always knew we were only going to have one child.  Heaven forbid!  So many people have opinions on that, but that’s a whole other blog entry.  Though there is a great article about that on the Huffington Post.

Okay, I digress.  So we had decided to only have one child.  We were happy with that decision.  We are still happy with that decision.  Enough said.  Though sometimes I looked at my son while he was playing by himself and wished that he had a companion.  Someone he could play with.  Someone else who would love him unconditionally and constantly.  Besides us.  But was that enough to make me want another child?  Well….no.

But what about a puppy?  Growing up, we had various dogs come and go.  Often the lifestyle that we led when I was a child did not lend well to having pets.  When I was in grade nine, my Mom decided that she was going to get my Dad a dog for a surprise birthday present.  He had always loved basset hounds.  So we found a breeder and went to pick out our beloved Brandy.  She was a joy right from the start.  Everyone loved her.  She was

affectionate, playful, sweet, obedient, all the things you look for in a dog, and to top it off, she was darn cute, and she stayed that way through puppyhood, right into her senior years.  When we finally had to have her put down when she was fourteen, it broke everyone’s heart.  I remember the day we had to take her, she lay on the floor of my office, with me laying down beside her, and I watched my Dad completely break down because he knew it would be the last time he saw her.   She was so loving, so loyal, it was so hard to say goodbye to her.  Her collar still hangs on the rearview mirror of my truck, and I still think of her so often.

So should we get a puppy?  Were we ready?  We sat down and talked about it for a while, because we really wanted to make the right decision.  Joe and I had gotten a puppy a few years ago and ended up returning her to the breeder within 24 hours.  I had a gut feeling that we had made the wrong decision, and that all I was trying to do was replace Brandy.  The dog we got was even a Basset like she had been.  Our lifestyle was wrong for the breed, and we weren’t doing it for the right reasons.  I’m sure that puppy ended up in the home she was meant to be in and I hope she’s happy now.

If we got a puppy, what were our expectations, and what were our needs?  I love big dogs.  The bigger the better.  I would love a Great Dane, or a Bernese, or a St. Bernard for that matter. Labradors are wonderful pets and great with kids. But as I looked around our house, I knew that we were not suited for a big dog.  We would have to go with a smaller breed.  Something that did not have to be exercised a lot, something that would fit into our lifestyle.  I knew that if we tried to change our lifestyle to accommodate a certain breed of dog, everyone would suffer, especially the dog.

Joe’s sister and her family have a 5 year old Shih Tzu named Daisy.  When they got her, I thought they were crazy (sorry Jenn!) as I had always thought of a Shih Tzu as an old person’s dog.  I didn’t think that they were very good with kids.  It turned out I was wrong.  So wrong.  Daisy has become a member of the family.  The three girls and their parents adore her, and with good reason.  She is loving and playful, and wonderful with the girls.  I started to think that this breed might be a very good match for our family as well.

Combine that with the news that my cousin had 6 newborn Shih Tzu puppies available, and we really had our answer.  We went to go and look and one glance at the little fuzzballs told me that we had to have one.

We brought Sophie home a week ago today.  I will admit, the first few days were very trying.  There were a few sleepless nights, quite a few accidents in the house, whining, a three year old who suddenly wasn’t the center of attention anymore.  All of which led to a breakdown on Monday morning when I got to work.  I felt seriously overwhelmed.  Though, as I tried to tell myself, I felt pretty darn overwhelmed when I brought Nicholas home from the hospital too.  Didn’t mean I wanted to take him back.  I just needed time.  We all did. And looking into the adorable face of that puppy, I knew it was meant to be, it was just going to take a little work and patience on our part.

I’m noticing a difference in her already, and in us.  She is getting used to us, and we’re getting used to her.  There aren’t really any accidents in the house anymore already, and last night, I didn’t hear a peep out of her all night long.  She has only been home a week, and already we love her, and can’t imagine the house without her in it.  And we managed to give Nicholas a sister after all.



Counting our Blessings

There are lots of things that suck in life.  We have all kinds of problems that we have to deal with on a daily basis.  Sometimes we just don’t have enough money to stretch to cover those bills in a month.  Sometimes we have just enough for the bills, but groceries?? No way.

We had a rough year when I was on maternity leave.  Living on one and a half incomes is tough.  After I went back to work, we decided it was time for Joe to go back to school to make something of himself.  We had barely caught our breath financially, and all of a sudden he was a full time student and we were back to one and a half incomes again.

Times were tough.  We did the things that many people do to get by, roll change to buy food, thaw out and eat chicken skewers and pigs in blankets found in the bottom of the deep freeze.  As long as our kid was fed, clothed, warm, and happy, we didn’t care too much.  Though it was pretty stressful at times.

We still have those months where things get tight.  A dollar just doesn’t go as far as a dollar used to.

It’s so easy in life to feel sorry for ourselves.  I mean, of course, we’re the worst off out of everyone we know…right?  Well, maybe not.  Being sorry for yourself doesn’t take any effort.  It’s an easy pattern to slip into and a hard one to get out of if things continuously keep screwing up.

It’s easy for me as I sit there, miserable at the kitchen table, looking across at my equally miserable husband, as we both eye  the last pig in a blanket, being courteous to each other by saying “no, you take it!” meanwhile ready to fight to the death over it-  to feel sorry for myself.  And I do.  But then I try to take stock of my life and count my blessings.

I look down on the kitchen floor, and in his exersaucer at the time, was my little guy, smiling up at me with a tooth or two in his mouth.  Healthy and thriving.  I look across at my miserable meat and potatoes husband, and thank my lucky stars that if I have to be in this with anybody, it’s him.

Even as things even out a bit, as I said, there are still months when things get tight.  An unexpected car or house repair has to be made.  A ton of Birthday parties to go to in one month, and something to take to each one.  Having to go here or there or everywhere, with gas prices going through the roof.  It takes a bit of juggling sometimes to be able to handle everything and still be able to have an extra or two here or there.  To be able to go out to dinner together or see a movie.  To buy a paperback (or six) that I’ve been wanting.  Sometimes it’s very frustrating.  We lie in bed and talk about things and what needs to be paid.

It’s times like this where it is very important to be aware of your blessings and be thankful for each one.  I think of the little boy sleeping in the room across the hall.  He is happy, and healthy.  I look at the man there in the bed being frustrated with me.  He’s my best friend.  He also works hard and does everything he can to support his family.  He’s healthy and is able to work.  I have a healthy and supportive family.  My parents are well, and are so supportive of us and so willing to help however they can.

We all have our things in life to deal with.  I remember when I was little and sitting in church, the priest was saying his homily.  I have heard a very large number of homilies in my lifetime, and though I’m sure there was a message in each one, this one has stayed with me throughout my life since.  It was basically a story about how we all have to carry crosses in life.  One man went to God and begged him to be relieved of his cross.  God agreed, saying that he could throw his cross into a pile with all the other crosses in the world and pick out another one to carry.  After throwing his cross onto the pile, he started trying to look for one that he would rather carry.  To make a long story short, after examining all the other crosses that others were carrying, he decided to pick up his own cross and carry it again.

Moral of the story:  no matter how bad you think you’ve got it, there’s always someone that has got it worse.  Is your kid driving you crazy because he is running around the house when all you want to do is relax for a minute after work?  At least he has the energy and is able to run.  Is your spouse driving you crazy because….well, there are tons of reasons why they could be driving you crazy.  Ask the person who just lost their spouse to an accident or illness what they would give to have that person there to drive them crazy again.  Is your boss a pain in the butt?  Think about the unemployment rate.   Worried about living on one and a half incomes? What about just one?  Or just half?

So I guess that’s it.  Find your blessings.  They are there.  Count them and cherish them.  Even when it seems like there are none, there are some.  Sometimes they are in disguise, but they are there.  Don’t take them for granted.