Recognizing That This Is The Last Time

When you’re little, there are birthdays and anniversaries and holidays, but then people grow up, drift, and move away. Suddenly, it’s been ten years since you’ve clapped eyes on them. That’s where the big celebrations like marriages and funerals come in.

I understood the concept of funerals getting everyone near and dear together to help the family grieve, but what I didn’t understand, prior to my grandmother’s death was that this is the last party that is just for her. It’s the last party where you can talk all about her without seeming like a crazy person or stuck in the past. It’s the last time that you can demand of everyone you know to share a memory.

My sister and I always joke that our Dad, Aunt and Uncles always give hour long speeches at every family function. But instead of preparing to grin and bear my way through pages upon pages of dry retold family stories and hokey Dad-jokes, on the day of, I found myself wishing for more. Because this was the last time; there would be no more birthday celebrations with Grandma holding court in a funny birthday hat while her children reminisced behind a podium, and her grandchildren not so patiently listened. This was the last of the protracted speeches about my grandmother’s thriftiness. As my oldest Uncle stepped down and finished his speech, I longed to hear more.

Luckily, my cousin had challenged her Dad to share some untold stories about our beloved matriarch. My Aunt did the same- I learned that my grandmother had been a secretary when she was younger. I grabbed hold of these small new pearls of information about my grandma and held them close, turning them over in my mind as they revealed previously unknown facets of the woman I loved and admired so much. My own story was deemed inappropriate for the funeral, so I sang instead.

It was a feat for me to perform- I’ve lived several lives since the time when I pretended to be a musician and aquamarine pleather pants were a staple of my wardrobe. It took all of my focus to stand up and follow along with the music. The song ended and I was swept away in a deluge of grief.

I was crying in earnest when I returned to my seat. My cousin Candy reached over and held me in a hug, from behind I felt another cousin squeeze my shoulder. In that moment, I was transported to all of the times that my little cousins and I crouched underneath my grandmother’s pool table, hiding during a family game of sardines. I thought about how magical it was that we had all those memories together, that Grandma was the linchpin of it all. In that brief group embrace was the love of decades.

My entire life, I have lived in a big family. And for my entire life, my Grandma loved and gathered all of us together, she accepted us for who we were and that in turn fostered a culture of tolerance and support in my family. As a weirdo who has always marched to the beat of my own drum, I have depended on this unconditional love for the confidence to be myself.

Through my sadness, I marveled at what an incredible achievement it is to have a person’s life be a legacy of love and acceptance. That no matter what, our family had this one last time together to appreciate what an incredible woman my grandmother was. Then I sat and listened to who my Grandma was to each of my cousins; sports fan, role model, drill sergeant. All the while, I wished for one more story, one more prayer, one more song to remember and celebrate her life, because this was the last time.

Advertisements

You Are Aware Of How Rude It Is When You Stare At My Burgeoning Winter Babies, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Right?

Jeremiah and Ezekiel are my fat babies- I made them out of chocolate brownies and Nutella. I swear that there is some sort of biological response that FORCES everyone to stock up on adipose for the cold months. Sometimes, one can avoid it, for example last winter, I spent a lot of time strapping my tiny toddler baby to my back, throwing a parka rated for -40 Celsius over the both of us and traipsing about our rough northern town. Something about regularly hauling around almost a quarter of my body weight prevented me from putting on excess weight.

This winter? Not so much. For starters, my baby is a baby no more; he’s all but outgrown his carrier and can no longer fit comfortably in the parka with me. Meaning that going out involves shoving Mini-Tex into HIS parka, a garment he loves, and by loves I mean despises with the wrath of a thousand shrieking toddlers, if my son knew what matches were, he’d play with them in an attempt to rid the world of his evil blue snowsuit. As you might imagine, getting a disgruntled two year old into a full body parka is a challenge, one that ended with me receiving a black eye after a particularly forceful headbutt earlier this winter.

Even our ever hopeful, ever perky, twelve year old babysitters won’t take on the task- and they are up for anything. Consequently, my son and I have spent a lot of time inside. Like a lot a lot. During the day, I gaze out onto the snow covered mountain top that is our view and think “someday” and then I eat some goldfish crackers and wonder when I developed a mommy butt.

Once upon a time, when I spent my evenings doing, well to be honest I can’t remember what I actually did in my late twenties but rest assured it wasn’t singing “Old MacDonald” over and over a thousand times while I cooked dinner, anyway, once upon a time, when I was young, well youngish, during the winter, I’d name the winter weight on my butt. The belly pooch was “Jeremiah” after an obscenely attractive model that I once dated. And bringing up the rear was Erasmus. It’s been a number of years and one child since then, so I’ve since accepted my new posterior which moves both side to side AND somehow back to front. There’s a lot more butt which extends beyond my hips, thus allowing the forward and backward motion. At least that’s my personal theory on my newly mobile bum.

In light of the fact that this newly shaped butt is unlikely to go away, I’ve ceased calling it names, especially one so unfortunate as Erasmus. But in the meantime, the front of me is looking so large, that Jeremiah now has a twin- Ezekiel. And I’d prefer if everyone would stop looking at them, or at least stop caressing them and asking about my “good news”.

What the Hell Wednesday: Drunk Vampires Eating Nachos and other High Points in my Life

So there’s this site called “Storyworth that will send you or a loved one, questions and then compile the answers into a book to then be cherished by your family for generations. No one in my family, including myself, would be dedicated enough to complete such a task, however I thought it was an incredible idea, thus I’m sharing it with the world. As it is, Storyworth has a page of questions, each time you refresh the page, new questions pop up. The questions are taken from their bank of thousands of questions.

I’ve wanted to do a daily or weekly writing prompt and even though I’ve never actually looked at the WordPress prompts, I’ve concluded they’re too “uppity” for my style. So I’m going to shamelessly steal some of Storyworth’s questions, all the while plugging their business. For serious, if you have a more literary family than mine- try it! In the meantime, here are some questions that I’ve lifted from their site, in a new series that I’m calling “What the Hell? Wednesdays”

 

What were your favourite courses in college?

Actual college or Mickey Mouse college? Because I went to both. Well actually I went to university and then decided I was too successful, so shortly after, I enrolled in Mickey Mouse college. In university, I loved the history courses taught by this one professor who had a passion for the North, Canada and rural issues. I used to audit his courses because they brought me joy.

As a part of the Mickey Mouse college program, to fulfill the requirements for the J1 visa, everyone had to attend classes. I have this theory that Disney bought half of the school, a theory which was validated by the giant plaque thanking Disney for paying for a wing of the school. I’m assuming that included in the deal was the understanding that once a week, the international college program kids would descend upon the campus, and the instructors of the school would teach jokes instead of courses to meet the United States Visa requirement. Excerpts from my memories of this educational experience were: the “Leadership” course in which 80% of class time was spent watching Obama speeches, the “Timeshare” course- the highlight was when we visited a timeshare and got out of going to our other classes for the day. Without a doubt though, the piece de resistance will always be the “Wine” course.

It might have been titled “Wines of the World” because I have hazy recollections of France and Australia being mentioned but it just as easily could have been “Wine Consumption” given that’s what it was. Every afternoon, once a week, I would sit with a whole bunch of underpaid youth from all over the world and listen to a portly man drone on about wine. Exactly one person listened, the day before the exam, we all took turns pretending to read her notes. The rest of us sat and waited patiently for when the instructor told us that we could sample our wines. Each week we “appreciated” three wines. Whether the TAs in the course were looking for a Disney World ticket hook up or whether they just enjoyed watching all the tiny Mexican girls get drunk, I’ll never know but those were generous “tastes”. The large samples combined with our youthful choice of entertainment over groceries meant that most of the class entered slightly hungry and exited a little buzzed. I feel all post-secondary institutions could learn a thing or two from this class-it was one of my top moments in a classroom ever.

 

What is your favourite joke?

Question – “What do you call cheese that isn’t yours?”

Answer – “Nawt yo cheese” pronounced as “nacho cheese”

I love this joke so much. It makes me giggle hysterically every time while others groan and secretly plot to avoid future interactions with me. I wholly encourage you to share this awful joke with everyone you know. The only better piece of humour that I have is a knock knock joke told to me ten years ago by a four year old who didn’t understand knock knock jokes.

“Knock knock”

“Who’s there?”

“Vampire eat yowr FAAAAACE!”

It works best if you, the teller, laugh maniacally at your own joke afterwards.

 

When in life have you felt most alone? What gave you strength during those times?

I’m a mom. I am never alone. I actually just go to the bathroom with the door open because it’s easier than trying to open a closed door while peeing because your two year old is having a nuclear meltdown over not seeing you for thirty seconds.

What gives me strength during these times is wine. I’ve established that I love alcohol and my love of truly bad jokes proves that I’m an irresponsible adult.

 

If you could choose any talents to have, what would they be?

The ability to drum with my feet, obviously.

 

Man-Eating Fire Trucks, Unpredictable Horses of Satan and Other Forms of Childhood Entertainment

There’s a saying that “It takes a village to raise a child”. I firmly believe in this adage, particularly when visiting places like indoor carnivals, hence how we ended up with a four to one ratio of adults to toddlers last month. In our motley crew was; myself (obviously), Tex, my Dad and best of all Clark’s chosen godparent, my old friend Gordy.

After a visit at my Dad’s, we decided to spend the day at an indoor fair. Is there a better place for children? Rides? Check. Animatronic dinosaurs? Check. The biggest indoor playground one could imagine? Check. An endless line up of quarter and loonie operated machines to climb on? Double check.

This place is truly a child’s dream. Six months ago when I visited my Dad, the three of us had spent an afternoon at the carnival and it was fun. Unfortunately, Mini-Tex, my son is a toddler and a super cautious one to boot. Given that Mini-Tex is becoming more of a riot and more independent with each passing day, I had high hopes for yesterday. That said, my little boy darts, and also requires a fair amount of reassurance, hence the excessive adult entourage. I figured I could comfort from one side, Tex would be the other half of a toddler reassuring sandwich. My Dad could take pictures and enjoy watching and Gordy would be on hand to catch him if Mini-Tex tried to pull a toddler Houdini.

It was a great plan. Truly I was destined for the toddler mothering championships. And then we walked in; the first thing Tex, Mini-Tex and I saw was a giant animatronic elephant. Mini-Tex LOVES elephants. He adores pictures of elephants, he kisses his stuffed elephant, he enjoys acting like an elephant with his little friends at the library once a week. However, the enormous trumpeting elephant at the entrance to the indoor fair solicited a “No thank you, no thank you” when we got close. Same for the animatronic Santa wishing him a Merry Christmas.

No matter, we rushed up the escalators to meet Gordy and my Dad. My father had thoughtfully purchased ten tickets while he awaited our arrival. “Let’s go on the carousel” he suggested, anxious to start enjoying some awesome Grandpa-grandson bonding time while galloping on wooden horses. Mini-Tex likes horses because of where we live, he sees them regularly. My son even does a spot on impression of a horse’s whinny. Essentially, he’s a total horse fan. With eyes as big as saucers, Mini-Tex approached the stopped carousel. The attendant had just closed the gate but we ushered our little guy forward, eager for him to watch the ride and get in line. Then the carousel started to spin, Mini-Tex’s brow furrowed in horror as he realized what we were pushing him towards. “No thank you, no thank you” he cried scrambling to climb up my body and away from the out of control carnival ride that was clearly going to end in his death.

So that was a bust. No matter. His Daddy needed coffee so Tex and Gordy ventured off in search of caffeine while my Dad, Mini-Tex and I looked at the forty foot T-Rex which was flanked by a ten foot baby T-Rex. Ever the optimist, my Dad said “What about the hot air balloons?” During our last visit, Mini-Tex had clung to me like a terrified baby spider monkey on this ride. We got into line. No protests. We entered the ride. Mini-Tex stayed silent. We boarded our balloon and all was well. Up and away we went, spinning around and around with me using dance training skills to spot the purple slide in an effort not to puke. My Dad was delighted and pointed out dinosaurs and sights to my son.

Upon exiting, we spotted Gordy and my husband. I remembered that there was a quarter operated fire truck about ten feet away so we all walked there. I carefully explained that Mini-Tex loved these machines but only if they didn’t move. An important point for my Dad, who competes for “Grandpa of the Year” constantly, and would have loose change at the ready in no time flat.

Mini-Tex was enthused at the idea of riding his own fire truck, having seen an actual fire truck outside of our house a month ago, but unbeknownst to us, a kind stranger had deposited change into the fire truck and left it for the next person to enjoy. With wonder in his eyes, Mini-Tex clambered into the front seat, smiling an actual smile rather than the uncertain, fearful expression he had been wearing since we walked in. And then he pressed the big green flashing button, all at once the truck sprang to life, moving back and forth. Mini-Tex froze and then lunged for my arms. Desperate to help, Gordy stood by the truck touching it “It’s all right Mini-Tex, look I’m having so much fun!” When Mini-Tex was unconvinced by this display, Gordy folded his adult male sized self into the truck and rode the bucking quarter machine, “This is fun, wheeeeeee!” Best godparent in the world, right there. But Mini-Tex was still skeptical and furthermore, my son extrapolated that if THIS machine moved, all the others did too, so from then on he kept a wide berth between himself and all the unpredictable helicopters, jeeps, zebras, tigers and racecars in the event that they too began moving on their own. So that was a win.

Still, we forged on, determined to make a magical afternoon for my toddler. Mini-Tex loved watching the triceratops and brontosaurus as we made a beeline for the train. Unfortunately, the train was closed for maintenance, but just beyond the station, was another dinosaur! Win! Or a win until the dinosaur roared loudly and scared the living daylights out of our meek little boy. Again, ever the supportive godparent, Gordy started petting the dinosaur and cooing to it about how it was such a nice dinosaur. No dice, Mini-Tex was not going to be swayed- this was clearly an evil, boy-eating dinosaur and possibly the others were too.

We decided to give the carousel another try. In the face of rogue fire trucks, and vicious dinosaurs, by contrast, the carousel now seemed tame to Mini-Tex and he willingly walked onto the ride with me. My Dad was ecstatic and immediately whipped out his camera to document the entire experience. I chose, what I felt was the gentlest looking horse, and just as I went to lift Mini-Tex onto it, came the stream of “No thank you, no thank you, no thank you” before giving way to a terrified screech when his pleas didn’t work. My Dad and I sat on the sleigh. Mini-Tex clung to my front, white knuckling it for all three turns while Tex and Gordy looked on from the outside, waving vigorously each time we past, in an attempt to convince Mini-Tex that this was fun.

Last, we tried the enormous playground. Gordy was going for broke with the whole “Best Godparent Ever” idea and waited at the bottom of the slide for twenty minutes so that when Mini-Tex’s little head popped up at the top of it, he could encourage him to slide down. SPOILER ALERT- it wasn’t successful but man did Gordy try. My son actually enjoyed himself though; he met a six year old girl who wanted to be his friend. She kept shoving him aside and lightly trampling him but in the grand scheme of how his day was going- escaping death by fire trucks, dinosaurs and rabid horses, it seemed like the lesser of all the evils so Mini-Tex accepted being squished and pulled like a champ.

At this point, Mini-Tex was fading fast and using his Dad as a pillow, so we called it a day. Although the day could reasonably be called an exercise in terrorizing your child, personally I would classify the day as a success; super fun for me and I was reminded how much my family and friends love me and the lengths they are willing to go to support both me and Mini-Tex. As it happened, the next day, Mini-Tex was telling everyone about the “big, REAL dinosaurs” he saw to anyone who would listen, so it might not have been a total parenting flop.

All of the Good Bits

Some of the last words that my grandmother uttered before she wasn’t able to talk anymore were “I’m not going”. The statement was in response to her family’s attempts to put her in the hospital where she would receive an increased standard of medical care. I love this so much. This anecdote is pure Grandma- a woman who knows her mind, has made up her decision and by God you are going to respect it. That’s the woman I lived with my entire life, the one who inspired me to show that same determination. And the one who strong armed me into celebrating my marriage with Tex.

Our wedding took place on Tex’s family’s farm two provinces away from my family. There were fifteen people there, including Tex and myself. A month later, a party was planned for Tex’s entire family. I’ve been married before. Tex hasn’t. So I wanted his family to be able to celebrate our nuptials, whereas my family had already done that. Admittedly with another man, but a party is a party right? My Grandmother, who wasn’t able to attend the ceremony because it was on top of a steep hill in the middle of nowhere, was having none of this. She hijacked her own 91st birthday party and ordered a three tiered wedding cake. I was not included in any of this. I was merely told after Grandma had picked out the cake and everyone had RVSPed. Classic Grandma.

The same trip to trip Hawaii when Grandma became a boozehound, she also was a mountain climber. Just for a point of reference, my grandmother was 81 at the time and Haleakalā is 3,055 m high or 10,023 ft. for my American readers. “Dad!” my sister, mother and I cried when he brought Grandma back from their hike up the mountain together, “I can’t believe you made Grandma do that!” Looking back, I realize, there was no making Grandma do anything. Ever. Somehow, she funneled all of her octogenarian determination and hiked for hours and hours to summit Haleakalā and take the triumphant, laughing photo of herself and my Dad that’s in our family’s scrapbook. I hope I’ve got half her fitness when I’m that age.

My grandmother has always been a wildcard. Once, she drove across country with four children and her husband, a chemical engineer. My late grandfather drove most of the way and he did so in the same manner that my own chemical engineering husband completes tasks- thoughtfully, at his own pace, so that it will be right the first time. At some point in the trip, my grandfather got tired which was fortunate because my grandmother was tired too- of watching the scenery plod past her. My Grandpa laid down in the backseat and Grandma took the wheel. When my grandfather awoke a couple hours later, he was astounded at how far Grandma had driven. With four children, there are four more sets of eyes to watch for cops and four more people to silently cheer as you set land speed records with an Oldsmobile.

Despite the fact that my grandfather made an excellent wage as an engineer, he gave Grandma very little to run their household, which meant that she frequently got creative. This was how my grandmother ended up being the only woman in a refinishing and reupholstering class. She would dumpster dive to get her materials and then spend her nights sanding the wood down and pulling the fabric taut to cover surfaces. My grandma was full of ingenuity and chutzpah. Many of the pieces she refinished and recovered live in our house. When the movers transferred her furniture from my Grandma’s house to mine, they commented about the nice quality of it, some forty years later.

My sister commented today that something she misses most now is the fact that when my sister asks Grandma how she is, she doesn’t hear the words “Oh, I’m fine” in response. In my whole entire life, I have never once heard my grandmother complain. I’m fairly certain that even after she bumped her head and needed stitches, when she awoke to the firefighters peering over her, she undoubtedly answered “I’m fine” when they inquired how she was feeling. I have this suspicion no matter her state, even if Grandma was dizzy, in a huge amount of pain, with blood from the cut dripping into her eye and she would always answer “I’m fine” with that same cheer and intonation. It wasn’t until I heard Diana say this that I remembered how much I loved this aspect of my grandmother. I’m sure in the coming days, weeks and months I’ll add to the list of everything I will miss about this wonderful woman.

Fileting Open My Brain To Extract Everything That I Can

Sorry, that was a little graphic. But I felt it necessary to warn you of what was coming.

My grandmother is dying. At thirty-two, I’ve never lost a truly dear loved one; someone who loved me and raised me and cheered for me the whole way along, as loud as they could. I’ve never experienced that. And now it’s happening. There’s a part of me that wants to write something for my grandmother to say good bye, to say thank you, to tell her how much she means to me. But according to my husband, people don’t really do that, not through a letter that one of their uncles would have to read because I live a province away. It’s more of a bedside confessional sort of thing.

In thinking about this, I also realized that now is not the time for that sort of material. At the end of life, people tend to be in discomfort, or only partially conscious or unconscious even. The time to tell them you love them happened every single week, month, year and decade before that.

I did that. Not as often as I should have, but I did that. I wrote thank you cards for every birthday and Christmas gift. And once, in September 2016, I wrote a post about and dedicated to my grandmother. I was able to read it to her in person. She listened quietly, then afterwards, she cleared her throat and said “Thank you, Honey.” My grandmother rarely used terms of endearment. She was a woman of actions not words. In that moment, I felt her warmth and approval. I wish that I had written more posts like that, because those couple hundred words didn’t come close of capturing what a force my Grandma was in my life.

If I can’t give what I would deem a “proper” good bye, in lieu of that I’m going to write down every solitary memory or scrap of a story that I have, so I can hold my grandmother close to me again.

Whenever either I or my Dad would visit Grandma, she would always send a rose, from her garden, home for my mom. She did this for all of the aunts. It was like she couldn’t allow us to leave without a show of her love for the family members who hadn’t visited her that day.

After my parents divorced, understandably my mom didn’t feel welcome at my grandmother’s house, so it became protocol that my sister and I would be picked up at a house down the street. I’m fairly sure that Grandma didn’t know about this arrangement otherwise she would have put the kibosh on it earlier. Two years later after my parents separated, my soon to be husband and I were visiting Grandma. When Grandma found out that my mother was coming to pick us up, she insisted that my Mom come in for a visit.

I dutifully texted my Mom Grandma’s instructions, then met my mother in the driveway while Grandma continued to drink tea with Tex in the backyard. “You have to come in” I told my mother. “I can’t” my Mom replied. My parent’s divorce was an acrimonious one and at that time was still going on. “Well you’re going to have to take that up with Grandma, because she sent me to come get you so I can’t return alone” I stated. This was a fact- if Grandma asked you to do something- you did it. There was no questioning my grandmother.

So my mother followed me into Grandma’s house, probably cowering a little in her orthotic sandals because Grandma had a cutting and blunt way with words when she wanted to. My grandmother greeted my mother with kindness and forgiveness. My Mom walked away, once again with a rose from Grandma’s garden. And once again I was struck by the power of my grandmother’s character.

It’s unclear when the obsession with the firemen started, whether it was before or after her fall, I can’t remember, for the sake of a good story, we’ll say after. On one of the trips my Grandma took with my Grandpa, she fell and hit her head. When she came to, she was staring up at a couple of gorgeous firemen. My mother remarked that after every other one of my grandmother’s trips with Grandpa all she talked about was the food, but that trip, every story included the “handsome firemen”. And so became the running gag that my grandmother loved firemen. Each year, for Christmas, my aunts would buy her a firemen calendar. Grandma fell once more, I believe, during a trip, and once again was rewarded with attention from firemen.

More than a decade after this, my grandma was sitting in the car with our family, preparing to take our annual drive to see the Christmas lights in her neighbourhood. I commented that the two simple red and green floodlights that she used to decorate her house were quite old. “Oh yes” my grandma responded- “the wiring was showing on one of them so I taped it up.”

“Ruth!” My mother exclaimed. “You can’t do that- it’s a fire hazard!”

Quick as a whip, Grandma turned around to face my mother who was sitting in the backseat with me and quipped “Did you ever consider that I might want the firemen to come back?”

We all laughed. But the thing with my grandmother was – we had no idea if she was serious or not. Even to this day.

My grandmother was always game for anything. When I was twenty-one, my Dad took everyone to Hawaii: myself, my sister Diana, my mother and my Grandma. One of the nights, we went out to a luau that was all you can drink. My sister, mother and I took that descriptor extremely seriously and ordered every single cocktail on the menu and seconds of the ones we liked. My Grandma didn’t drink ever but unlike my late grandfather, she wasn’t a teetotaler. We’re not sure what happened, whether it was some of the energy of the night or maybe it was the tastiness of the drinks, but something got to Grandma and she started sipping away.

For the record, Grandma wasn’t drunk, she left that level of debauchery to my sister, mother and me, much to my father’s dismay. But oh boy did the pictures we took ever make it seem that way. There’s a section of the scrapbook I made from the Hawaii trip entitled “The Night Grandma Became a Booze Hound”. Grandma good naturedly posed next to Diana and myself, all three of us sipping hurricanes and margaritas and the like. Then my grandmother posed next to my mom and finally, we took of a picture of Diana and me each holding a drink up to her mouth while she drank from both of them. It was like the photographic, elderly version of a keg stand.

She laughed a lot that night. I wish I had a video of her laugh. I have these stories instead. Do me a favor and go tell a loved one a little bit about how much they truly mean to you. Bonus points if you haven’t spoken with them in a while.

 

 

 

**I did not change the name of my grandmother because she’s kind of like my Aunty Betty- she’s so wonderful that the whole world should know who she is.

Five Things Friday : Bidets and Barfights with Babies

  1. We got a bidet!

Not actually, however I had an extremely similar experience when I went to sit down and my son lifted up the toilet seat at the last second. In case you’re wondering, this scores high on the toddler amusement list, right after farting loudly during prayers at a Sunday church service.

  1. Bobby pins 7 : Me 1

I keep losing the game of Find all the Bobby Pins before bed. My hair is unconscionably long, and still curly which means that it takes no less than at least twelve bobby pins for me to look as unkempt as Helena Bonham Carter on a good day. Otherwise I look like a graying Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City circa season one. While I rock at putting bobby pins into my hair, they tend to twist and bury themselves so that I can’t find them at the end of the day, that is until I roll over and stab myself in the head while falling asleep.

 

  1. Welcome to our Ice Hotel

I slept on a bed of ice! You know those iconic photos of the ice hotels? It was exactly like that. Only not really, because it was my bed, in my house. It’s so cold that somehow the mattress froze to the wall and the mattress partially froze too. Come to Canada where it isn’t even warm indoors!

  1. You should see the other guy

Mini-Tex head butted me in an attempt to escape being shoved into his snow suit and gave me a black eye. So I’ve been putting on cover up all week and feeling like a bad ass when actually I’m merely a bad parent because my reaction was to stop going outside ever, to prevent further injuries. Mini-Tex was completely unharmed in case you were concern, by contrast I saw stars.

  1. Next come the flame throwing lessons

I taught our two year old how to scale the four foot high ladder section of his play structure, figuring that our cautious non-climbing child would never attempt such a maneuver on his own. In other news, I shall be eating my hat along with my words and clearly idiotic intentions.

Breastmilk Cookies : Note for making breastmilk NOT made with breastmilk, although I’m certain theres some “nouveau” restaurant in Toronto serving those kinds of cookies

Materials Needed:

Spatula

Mixing bowl

A strong man like the kind that used to appear in carnival sideshows in the 1930s. If you can’t find one of these one of the large, grunting men from the gym will suffice as well.

A cement mixer for when the strong man gets tired.

 

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup butter – coconut butter works too if you’re one of those people

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbsp of flax meal

3 tbsp of water, the initial recipe said 2 but frankly I’m not sure how the batter can be mixed with less liquid

1 egg

1 tbsp vanilla extract, supposedly this is optional but again, with this recipe, the more liquid the better

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp of salt

1-2 tbsp of brewers yeast (If you haven’t a clue what this is or how it’s different from regular yeast, not to worry- you aren’t alone. The first step is to to go the nearest hippie store- you know the one where everyone who shops there has dreadlocks? If they don’t have it go to an even weirder hippie store. You know the one I’m talking about; the kind that only allows you to bring your own containers, where you question whether the proprietors own underwear. THEY will have brewers yeast. They also may even sell breastmilk cookies, only they’ll call them by their proper name- lactation cookies. Anyway, do that and under no circumstances are you to use any other kind of yeast- it won’t work and instead of making funny tasting cookies that promote lactation all you’ll have is funny tasting cookies.)

1 to 1 1/2 cups of steel cut oats, the original recipe calls for organic but you needn’t be that pretentious

A certain amount of shredded zucchini, or apple, or some other wet shredded substance.

Steps

  1. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. Easy enough right? (Revel in the ease of this step- it’s about to get more difficult.)
  2. Mill the flax seeds. The omega oil in these together with the brewer’s yeast and the steel cut oats are the milk makers in the recipe. So make sure to be generous with these ingredients. Combine a couple of these cookies with a glass of wine and to quote my GP “There’ll be milk everywhere! On the ceiling- all over!” You can use a blender to chop up the seeds. Then combine them with the water so they form kind of a paste.
  3. Mix all the dry ingredients together except for the oats; flour, salt, cinnamon, brewer’s yeast. The brewers yeast is supposed to smell strange. All products from hippie stores have a unique scent. It’s just counterculture off gassing, which is exactly like paint off gassing only without the worry of carcinogens. Don’t be concerned if you suddenly have the urge to buy an electric car after inhaling- that’s normal.
  4. Add the flax paste to the creamed sugar and butter. Stir in the egg and the vanilla.
  5. Go fetch the strong man. You may  want to have the cement mixer on standby.
  6. Have the strong man attempt to mix all the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stop him just before his arms rip off because no one wants a strong man that looks like a broken Barbie doll. Break out the cement mixer to finish the work. If necessary, use a jackhammer to chip the batter out of the cement mixer.
  7. No matter how hard your strong man and cement mixer have worked, there’s probably going to be a bit of dry ingredients at the bottom. This is where the shredded zucchini/apple/eggplant/radish/whatever-the-hell-you-have-on-hand-to-add-some-moisture-to-the-dough comes in. Use it to mix in the last bit of the dry ingredients. And add some more so you don’t end up breaking the jackhammer too once the oats have been added.
  8. Add the cup and a half of oats. If the strong man’s spirit and self image has been broken by the recipe, ice his shoulders and sit him down with an action flick- I suggest a classic like “Die Hard”.
  9. Preheat the oven to 340 F. I know it seems low and like an odd number but this whole recipe is out there, so just go with it. Form the dough into small balls and place on the tray. They won’t rise, move, flatten, or really do anything, so in theory you could place them a millimetre apart. But your baking tray might crumple under the weight of them so a centimeter or so is likely best.
  10. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes.
  11. Serve to your family and record the reaction

 

Tex – “These are excellent horse treats.”

Janie our German au pair – “I think that this is not a cookie.”

Mini-Tex – Chucked his across the room and giggled hysterically when it exploded on impact. By contrast, my husband was not amused by the dent in the wall.

Me “Excellent for a hippie cookie, just the right amount of after taste to let a person know it’s healthy.”

Just An FYI-My Grandma Was Fierce Even Before Beyonce Made That A Thing

My grandmother is ninety-three and a half. She’s come full circle in life to the point where just as in childhood, halves matter, because halves represent a whole six months of life that you have remained on this earth. As a result of distance, I see my grandmother an average of every six months. With each passing visit, I witness the way that time becomes more precious at each end of life. In the same way that a newborn is no longer a newborn three months or even a month later, my grandmother changes with each of my trips home.

My Grandma has lived a long and wonderful life, and while a part of my heart breaks with each small loss of mobility or mental acuity, I know that no matter how little she can move or remember, my grandmother absolutely still loves me. And that’s enough. It’s enough for her to roll a ball to my son, even if she can’t recall his name; his giggles still bring her joy. We don’t need to go on walks to neighbours’ houses or drive to her favourite charities to drop off goods; talking about her endless good deeds and our past adventures suffice for now. I know that other members of my family struggle with the changes that age has brought, but I am at peace with it. Or at least I was until my father made a statement which sliced through my calm acceptance.

Throughout my life, my own mother, when speaking of her mother-in-law, my grandma, would often comment that she wanted to grow up to be Grandma, which is to say – loving, tolerant, fierce and determined. My parents divorced late in life, so my stepmother is a relatively new addition to our family. I had assumed that my stepmother would share the same admiration for my grandma as my mom. That was until I heard my father carefully explain who my grandmother was to his new partner over Christmas and I realized that my stepmother had no clue of what my grandmother was actually like.

I can’t reverse the effects of time, but I can preserve the woman I love with my words and stories. And I can share these memories, with my stepmother and my son and my newborn little nephew so that they might be as inspired by my Grandma as I am.

Above all, my grandmother is loving; if there was ever a person who deserved such a large family as ours –it’s her. Care is a part of her very being. When I was younger, my grandmother always had causes, endless causes; the women’s shelter, Meals on Wheels, her church, the youth shelter, the neighbours’ kids. My grandmother loved and wanted to help everyone in the world, and so she did, whether it was through volunteering her time or some food or money, my grandmother was there.

The world loved her back too. I remember when she was moving out of her house, listening to her neighbours talk about dropping their children off with her when they were in a pinch. Or the fact that her cleaning lady continued to clean my Grandma’s house for a decade after retiring because they had become such close friends. And all of the thank you cards from charities that lined her mantel.

More than tolerant, my grandmother was accepting. For most of my childhood, it felt like my grandmother was continually executing the wills of family members. She would stand back and watch all the family squabbles that follow a death and the division of property, then would step in and attempt to work her magic to divide things as fairly as she knew how. Good, bad or drama queen behavior, my grandmother accepted everyone.

The quality that helped my grandmother to end family disagreements was her fierceness, her habit of laying down the law in a way that made it clear that arguing with her wasn’t an option. I personally have never been on the receiving end of one of my Grandma’s quips or diatribes, but I’ve heard enough of them to have the fear instilled in me. To this day, even though many of my Grandmother’s qualities have faded and diminished with age, I do not cross Grandma, because I know with absolute certainty that there’s a stern gaze or cutting words hiding behind that nonagenarian façade.

As much as my grandmother loved people, she called it like it is. When my sister poo-pooed a suitor’s attempts at wooing her, despite it being my sister’s birthday, my grandmother looked straight at her and declared “You’re difficult”. My cousin once had the misfortune of being on the receiving end of a lecture, after he announced during a family Sunday dinner that he had gotten a job. My grandmother called him lazy and predicted that he would arrive late as always and wouldn’t keep the job. Even hearing the words secondhand from my father, in spite of the fact that they weren’t about me, I wanted to sink into the floor in shame.

I can only recall two times, that I upset my grandmother. The first was when I moved in with my boyfriend. The stony silence on the phone after I told her that my boyfriend and I shared both a bedroom and a bed still rings in my ears to this day The judgment was so profound that years later when my sister moved in with her boyfriend she jokingly thanked me for breaking that family ground with Grandma so my choice was the first and therefore the biggest disappointment.

The second time, well, to be honest, I should have known better. One of my cousins once starred in a fashion show.  I was enormously proud of my young cousin for chasing after her modeling dreams and figured that my grandmother was too. And no doubt Grandma was, however that didn’t mean that she wanted to look pictures of my little cousin Sophie jumping in a bathing suit or posing with half naked men every day. A month after I gifted my grandmother framed photos of my cousin’s modeling career, my Grandma handed the present to another cousin saying “Get rid of this”. From then on, I stuck with my tried and true Christmas and birthday gifts for her of donations to her favourite charities.

I want to hold onto the memory of my grandmother’s determination. Memories of her always contain a sense of motion, because she was always propelling one project or another forward in some way, whether it was a family dinner or harvesting flowers and vegetables from her garden, my grandmother had an agenda. I try to inject that momentum and drive into my own life. But I never feel as successful as her.

This is the woman I know, the grandmother who took care of me when I was sick, who would cut flowers to bring home to my mother, the one who I look up to. Age has filed down some of her sharper points but what I’m always struck by is the kind warmth that remains. If I live to be ninety-three and a half, I hope I am as happy to see everyone and content as my grandmother is. It’s heartening that even in the decline that comes with extreme old age, my Grandma remains someone I aspire to. But as charming and warm as she is today, I still want to remember and share her sharp-as-a-tack self.

New Year, Fatter You! A Guide To Making This Year Your Biggest Ever

Times they are a changing. Landlines are going the way of the leather-backed sea turtle, running home at lunch to check on your home is a thing of the past thanks to the Nest, not that one would need to as working from home is becoming more popular than ever. It’s time to embrace our sedentary, potato chip filled future. As a society, it’s time to for viewpoints on health, on body shape and size to catch up with the rest of the world so everyone can commit to a bigger, better future.

Steps to a New You

  1. Throw away the gym membership

Did you even use yours anyway? I didn’t. First of all that place is waaaaay too close to my home. That niggling, guilty feeling that I got each time I drove there was further exacerbated by the twenty minutes I spent circling the lot trying to find a close parking space. Let’s all find a better use for our time and guilt.

  1. Treat chocolate as a food group

This delicious treat has been maligned. Because let’s face facts- it’s not a treat, it’s a food group. Aim for five to ten servings a day. If that sounds excessive, ease your way into the change by melting it onto your broccoli. Chocolate is like cheese, it improves every dish.

  1. Reconsider lard

If chocolate has been demonized, don’t even get me started on this yummy cooking additive. Not just for frying bacon, add it to salads, jello- anything that could use that extra kick of taste.

  1. Buy a bungalow

On the topic of exercise, stairs provide the average person an unnecessary fourteen minutes of cardio a day! Nix this roadblock to your new life change by purchasing a bungalow. Or better yet downsize to a studio condo. Nothing will prevent movement like a lack of space, and it will enable you to spend your days in bed.

  1. Travel less

Something about the prospect of sightseeing incites even the most committed of souls to walk about and take in new experiences. These types of activities will greatly impede your desired lifestyle. Cancel all plans and get a Netflix account – why go outside when the whole world is available within reach of a bowl of your favourite your broccoli-chocolate-cheese-chips?

  1. Become a shut-in

Another barrier to your new big lifestyle are friends, often in these sorts of relationships, people will do things such as shopping, otherwise known as cardio. You are building a new you; cut these toxic ties and reacquaint yourself with Ross Gellar and Chandler Bing, also coincidentally available on Netflix.

Ultimately, change is hard and takes time; don’t beat yourself up after a day of only one serving of chocolate followed by a walk with a pal. After all, in every new diet or lifestyle, there is always room for cheat days.