Category Archives: Uncategorized

He’s big. He’s bad. He’s Four.

We told ourselves that the first year would be the hardest, that life would find normal after that. The next year, we told ourselves that, really, adopting and adjusting must require at least two years. It’s year three and he’s never stopped rocking our world.

But we wouldn’t get off this ride, not even if it meant uninterrupted sleep and endless free time, because life with the boy is worth it.
Happy 4th Birthday my son!

You crouch low, stomping bare feet on the grass.

“I’m big. I’m bad. I’m big. I’m bad.”

Then you blow my house down. I scream. You clap your hands, shrieking with laughter.

I remind your wandering feet that we don’t go into the road. Not even big, bad wolves. You spin a tale of wolves growing wings and flying over the road. Big hand gestures. A grin that could swallow the whole world.

I’m pretty sure one day it will. You’re irresistible!

Not many can understand your chatter, but it’s coming. You work so hard with Cathy, the speech therapist we have to sneak into the house. She has to work with your sister first, because once you catch sight of her, you won’t rest until she gives you her undivided attention. You understand more than anyone imagined. You are delayed in some ways, but outstrip much older children in many areas.

You’re so smart! I’m one of the privileged few that gets to see just how bright and creative you are. I was amazed when you started naming all the letters you saw last fall. Sure, we’d read alphabet books and you liked to watch that phonics video with your sister, but we’d never taken the time to intentionally teach you these things. You just picked it up. Pretty soon you were naming all the letters, both upper and lower case – and the sounds they make. Pointing them out on signs and in books, shuffling through flashcards and playing alphabet games – little else can hold your attention like the letters.

Except maybe trains. And volcanoes. You’re obsessed with volcanoes.

You started preschool this year, and you LOVE it! You’ve done so well, enjoying the general busyness, the interaction with other kids, the outdoor play, and the hugs and attention from Miss Kathleen, Miss Christine… and your very own teacher/helper (Miss Christy). They’ve noticed how sweet and intelligent you are too.

This year, we saw beyond your struggles to your strengths. We don’t know what the future will bring; we’ve been warned that you will need extra help to learn. You need help with safe behaviour, social cues and sensory modulation. But you are resilient and good natured and you keep surprising us. No tiny preconceived box can hold you.

You have a relentless determination when it comes to overcoming obstacles. Unfortunately for us, these obstacles are often there for a reason – like the deadbolt on the front door. One of the scariest moments in my life was seeing that door hanging open and you nowhere in sight (we found you three doors down laying in the road with a friendly cat). Then it happened again. And again. The latches on the back gate. The child lock on the medicine cabinet. The time you found an unlatched door on the school, then locked yourself in (and daddy out).

I hope you survive your childhood. I hope we do. It’s exhausting, and scary sometimes, because I love you so much and want your life to be safe and easy (and sometimes just a little quieter). But you are not built for safe and easy. You’re meant to be extraordinary! Not to mention fun, rambunctious, silly, happy, imaginative, affectionate, sweet and full of love, love, love!

Bringing you home, to our family, is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

Happy Birthday buddy!

Love always, Mom


And now… a word from Daddy.

Shortly after you came home forever, we celebrated your 2nd birthday. At the time, I was a little overwhelmed by how crazy you were. I had never experienced such energy combined with such little regard for personal safety and reasonable limits.

Of course, it’s perfectly normal for a toddler to get into all sorts of trouble. So I told myself, if we could just survive till you were 4, things would surely calm down.

Well, here we are on your 4th birthday, and unless you’ve radically changed since last night, all I can do is laugh. If anything, our crazy dial has been turned up another six notches. But, our capacity for crazy has likewise expanded.

I now realize that you have a zest for life that cannot, will not and should not be denied. Yes, it needs to be checked by common sense and a concern for those around you. And yes, I very much look forward to the day when we can go out in public and your mom and I can just relax, without one of us having to constantly follow in your footsteps to make sure you don’t do any damage. That will be nice.

But this is who you are: a boy filled with wonder, a thirst for adventure, a need to move, and a desire to experience everything your world has to offer. And you do it all with an irresistible grin that makes it impossible to stay frustrated with you for long – even when I want to!

Lately, you’ve taken to stomping around the house, whispering to yourself, “I’m big. I’m bad. I’m big. I’m bad. I’m big. I’m bad!” I believe you lifted that from the Wonder Pets.

It couldn’t be more fitting. You’re big. You’re bad. You’re tons of fun. And you are loved. I’m so glad you’re part of my family, Mr. Goob! Happy 4th birthday!

Love, Daddy

What I’m Into: Summer 2014

It’s been a long time since I shared a “What I’m Into” post. I haven’t posted much of anything for the past 3 months. Clearly, I’m not that into blogging lately. Not that I’ve lost my love for writing as a hobby/therapy/desperate bid for attention – let’s pretend I didn’t actually spell out that last reason out, shall we?

The truth is, I’ve spent a great deal of my writing mojo on other projects lately. Hesitantly poking my nose into freelance articles, writing poetry and short stories I may never show anyone, and even, deep breath admitting this out loud, the start of my sci-fi YA novel. There are other outlets that would make more sense both financially and practically right now. But sometimes you have to do what makes your heart sing, no matter how silly it seems to everyone else.

So here’s a few of the other things that made my heart sing this summer:

the Calgary Stampede, steak and cheese bread from Ceasar’s, making s’mores with family from far and wide, a backyard full of toys and half-naked cousins, little ones kissing Gigi on the cheek

sour cherry slurpees, lifesaver popsicles and watermelon on the hot, miserable days

kiddie pools, beach days and eating on the deck

finding new sci-fi buddies in my own house (thanks to Aunt Colleen for the amazing Marvel-cation you gave L and C this summer) – next up: Star Trek

brand new text books full of things to learn (art history, medieval literature and creative writing)


Wonder by R.J. Palacio is technically a children’s book (ages 9-12), but I’ve read it twice already. This should be required reading for everyone who’s ever known someone with a disability, or ever will. Funny, gut-wrenching and uplifting by turns it follows Auggie Pullman, who was born with a drastic facial deformity, as he attends school (grade 5) for the first time.

Cinder, followed by Scarlett and Cress in short order. I both love and hate the cliff-hanger endings, especially since the fourth and final installment doesn’t come out until next year. The premise of these futuristic fairy tales (Cinderella the cyborg) is intriguing and the writing is solid, if not brilliant. I’ll go a long way for a clever premise.

Black Dog, Dream Dog is a sweet tale written by Michelle Superle for young dog lovers. I am neither of those things, but a fan of the author and the art of gentle story-telling. They don’t make enough like these anymore.

Bloom by Kelle Hampton has been sitting on my shelf for months. It’s recommended to me, and no doubt every other mother of a child with Down Syndrome, on a regular basis. I admire Kelle’s unvarnished honesty, her stunning photography and her lovely writing. BUT, her experience is as different from mine as night and day. It was so hard to relate to. For those with little experience in the messiness of life, those who pursue picture perfect and are facing the first bump in the road, this might be the book for you. But not for me.

I also really, really wanted to enjoy Blue Shoe by one of my favourite authors Anne Lamotte, but alas, I hated it.


This summer my TV (read: Netflix) watching has consisted of:

  • Season 2 of Veronica Mars
  • Suits – a stylish and fun (though unrealistic) drama about lawyers
  • A blast from my far past – Highlander (full episodes found on Youtube)
  • Extant – weird, but interesting
  • Under the Dome – losing steam, but refusing to give up entirely

The movies that I’ve enjoyed lately are:

  • If I Stay, a sugary sweet, but still palatable story about family, death and young love
  • The silly, but strangely endearing Guardians of the Galaxy
  • And for some reason, despite the gory violence, Lucy

I don’t know if I’m getting old (or boring according to my kids), but I’m enjoying documentaries and Ted Talks an awful lot these days. Here’s a few of my favourites:

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

If you stumble on me doing an aggressive Wonderwoman pose in the bathroom, blame science.

The Happiness Advantage

The Game that can give you 10 Extra Years of Life


Summer isn’t all fun and games. I’m learning to Exhale and accept that Grown Up is Hard to Be. I even posted my first celebraty tribute: Robin Williams and the Human Condition.

We celebrated 19 years of imperfect, but mostly happy marriage this July – Beyond Obligation.

The summer is also a time for birthdays, which in our family means birthday letters. After much discussion, the kids agreed they can be posted on the blog (I suspect it has something to do with the rave reviews we give them). He’s big. He’s bad. He’s four., Raising You is an Art, not a Science, and Prima Ballerina.

So here’s us, facing an uncertain fall full of new things. Teacher’s strike looming, all new SEA’s and teachers for the girl, full time school for me and 4 days a week of preschool for the boy. Wonderwoman poses for everyone.

Linking up with Leigh Kramer:

what I'm into

Excuse Me While I Apologize for Living

Every once in awhile it feels like life is conspiring to teach me a lesson. As if God is pointing a celestial finger at something in my life. “See! Do you see? This.”

The unrelated incidents begin to pile up and a pattern emerges. And I start to see. “Ohhhhhh. This.”

  • I deal with a biting incident at our new church (my son, not me) like a mature, well-adjusted adult – bursting into tears, sobbing “I’m sorry we’re so much work…” The ladies in the nursery both comfort me and call me on it. Why it is so hard for me to receive the same kind of help I’d happily give others?
  • I’ve got a sore throat and a head ache. I need help with the kids. I apologize all day long, until my husband totally loses his cool. “I’ve never met anyone who apologizes so much for their own existence! You are not the only one in the mix.” This is a recurring problem.
  • I read My Sister’s Addiction about the compulsive need to be needed. She quotes Mark Nepo

    “I have been learning that the life of a caretaker is as addictive as the life of an alcoholic… we briefly numb a worthlessness that won’t go away unless constantly doused by another shot of self-sacrifice…”

    This is me. So me. Ouch.

  • I have trouble leaving my son at preschool. Even though he’s totally happy and well cared for and  I have class and I really need the break. I walk down the stairs slowly, so slowly, pushing down a ridiculous upswell of guilt.
  • I make a new friend who is passionate about teaching children to be advocates for each other, especially those with special needs. My kind of people. She tells a story about her daughter learning to advocate for herself, an important first step in becoming an advocate – Short Hair Don’t Care. And I find myself in tears. Again.
  • A blog post appears in my inbox, I mean to delete it (no time to read), but click on the link by accident. Iced Tea, Decaf and the World Changing on its Axis is about a woman going to school while her husband helps cover for her (sounds familiar). She talks about the lessons of her mother’s generation:

    Women are the ones who sacrifice for their families. Not men. Not children. Women. In  her world, God could not be calling any woman to do something that would cost her family anything. Not.Possible.”

    And I start crying (of course), because deep down, I must believe this. Even though I know it’s crap. And I don’t want to.  And it’s not what my parents taught me.

Clearly, I have a problem. I’m pretty good at giving. I won’t back down from a spirited debate. I’m a strong personality in many other ways. But some strange mixture of pride and insecurity makes it hard for me to ask for help. To accept the help I need. To accept that I need help at all. This is more than just a life skills deficit, it’s a spiritual problem.

I go to extraordinary lengths not to put people out, not to be a bother. If they bring me the wrong thing at the restaurant, I’ll usually just eat it. If someone does me wrong, I usually just eat that too. I make myself small.

Also, I’m really weepy these days.

This morning I had a chance to put some weight behind my resolution to speak up, to stop apologizing for what I need.

The good news, the absolutely thrilling and exciting news, is that a short story I wrote has been published in the university literary magazine. The editorial staff put a ton of work and effort into the annual publication. They did a great job!

As someone who’s done a lot of copy editing I know how easy it is, almost inevitable, to miss something. And they did. Unfortunately, the word missing is crucial. A climactic statement at the very end of my story rendered nonsensical.

It still works. I’m still 99% tickled to see my name in print. I know it’s too late to do anything about the print copies. I tell myself it’s not a big deal, stop obsessing. But I need them to fix it before they post the PDF version online.

That was a hard email for me to write.

So here’s me, taking up space in the world. And that might put people out, or rock the boat, or make a mess. And I’m learning to be okay with that.

What I’m Into: February 2014

vitaminsI turned my back for 5 minutes, maybe 10. He pulled a chair into the kitchen, climbed up on the counter and helped himself to a jar. He got a bowl out of the cupboard, removed the “childproof” lid and poured 3 months of rainbow-coloured vitamins into it. He carried it carefully to the table, sat up with a spoon and was just about to chow down on a massive multivitamin feast… when I noticed the quiet.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. A sentiment which pretty much sums up January and February in our house. I’ve filled pages and pages of journals, written a record number of unfinished/unpublished posts and spilled my guts to dear friends and people I barely know alike. Maybe I’ll tell you about it sometime.

In the meantime, to maintain sanity I’ve also been…


E&PEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is the most fun I’ve had reading in a long, long time. Aside from the dark and haunting subplot, this romance between two (slightly nerdy) 16 year-olds, set in the 80s, could be my own. It is funny, sweet and captures the drama and desperation of teenaged love.

In the “you had to be there” category When We Were On Fire is an uncomfortably honest memoir by Addie Zierman about the strange subculture of evangelicalism. Exposing both the beautiful and the toxic, she shares her story of leaving and ultimately returning to “the church.” It tastes awfully familiar.

lamottBird by Bird by Anne Lamott contains some of the most profound, funny, inspiring, practical, winsome advice I’ve ever read. A book about writing and life, by one of the most beautiful writers of our time. To say I like it is an absurd understatement. Brilliant!


If you’ve ever felt the burning desire to drop out of our corrupt, soul-killing, materialistic system, build your own home in a remote forest location, and live entirely off the grid in a one room yurt with your entire family… then you should read Esther Emery‘s blog. If, like me, you really haven’t and don’t expect ever to, you should read it anyway, because she is wise, honest, challenging and amazingly likeable for someone who’s living such an extreme vocation.

In an effort to behave more like the adult I aspire to be, I’m trying to keep up with international news. BBC World News is my new favourite. I’ve found it to be up to date, with quick and easy headlines, balanced coverage, without the North American fixation most local agencies fall into.


Saving Mr. Banks is one of the first times I’ve taken my girls to a movie that I wanted to see. This is based on the story behind Mary Poppins. It doesn’t move quickly, but the acting is fantastic. Turns out 11-years-old is too young to enjoy it, but 13 is just right.

I can barely admit this, but one of the movies I enjoyed most recently is Robocop. These kind of movies are a guilty pleasure – something I do alone, since my guy prefers romantic comedies over action, sci-fi or war movies (take that Binary Gender Roles!). I was impressed with the surprisingly complex issues this movie deals with and a really weird looking Samuel L Jackson.

I was guilt tripped into watching Gravity with my husband. Only 2 actors on camera the entire film, most of which is spent drifting in space… sounds dull. But it’s gripping. I can’t believe Sandra Bullock didn’t win an Oscar for it. She carries the entire show.

I’ve also been watching The Walking Dead, Call the Midwife, and as many episodes of Veronica Mars as I can manage before the movie release on March 14th. I can’t wait – probably my favourite detective character of all time, with the notable exception of BBC’s Sherlock.

Naval Gazing

Okay, I’ll admit it. I love those stupid buzzfeed quizzes that tell you what kind of dog/country/soft drink/cancerous fungus you are. For a healthier brand of introspection I’ve spent some time perusing the Enneagram. This personality system was designed by monks in ages past and is a much more productive, and spiritual, practice than I ever expected. Thanks to Lexi who first “therapized” me into this method and Leigh Kramer, whose series on Enneagram has been eye-opening.

I’m a 1, if anyone cares.enneagram-best


What writing I actually managed to post on the blog this month consists entirely of love letters: to my husband in Once Upon a Marriage, my littles In His Shoes and In Her Shoes, even to an object, the one nearest and dearest to my heart in My Favourite Thing.

So here’s me, participating in Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” link up.

 what I'm into

My Favourite Thing

It’s a nuisance. A distraction. A menace on the roads. A depressing sign of the times.

It’s also my window to the rest of the world. A handful of technological wonder in an otherwise menial and isolated day. A life, and sanity, saver.

Yes. I’m that mom. Smartphone never out of reach. The ubiquitous 5th child in my already busy brood. One more to keep track of, keep safe, keep an eye on at all times.

I’m not blind to the downsides of this strange love affair. I’ve debated each point ad nauseam, with the critic in my head. I can get downright philosophical about it.

Since humanity first harnessed the power of fire, split the atom and pioneered the worldwide web, we’ve shown an incredible capacity to use our fancy new tools for both good and evil. It’s in our nature. It’s in my nature.

This is Mommy’s security blanket. The smooth contours nestled perfectly in the palm of my hand. A solid, sure weight in a tumultuous world. A little piece of control safe in my pocket, in the place of honour at the top of my purse… if all else fails, tucked under a bra strap next to my skin, inches from my heart.iphone pocket

In the course of a day it is my trusted advisor, personal assistant, teacher, counsellor, biographer, court jester, emergency response system, flashlight, calculator, alarm clock and immediate connection to friends, family, help, encouragement, entertainment, poetry, news and much-needed-perspective.

Sometimes, it’s a hero. When our son choked on a cookie this weekend, it was my iPhone that I turned to; typing “foreign object aspiration” into the search engine to find out what to do now. I had weather forecasts, road conditions and a friendly GPS voice on hand to help me around heavy snowfall and road closures on the way to the ER. It kept an anxious Daddy and sisters in the loop, worried friends apprised of the situation and a miserable, scared little boy distracted with games and movie clips. I can’t imagine living through that day without it.

But, it can be overwhelming, so much information and connection hovering in the background. Reluctantly I pry my fingers off my friend from time to time. Pull the curtain. Focus on the here and now. Find silence and solitude again.

Until life and family intervene. The punishing momentum of needs and routines and our very own brand of chaos. A world within a world.

So I reach for Mommy’s best helper. 4.9 ounces of synthetic comfort for the modern woman.

This is my favourite thing.

So here’s my entry for the
Word Press Weekly Writing Challenge: Object.

A Year in the Life: 2013

A few of the moments that made up our year…

silly moments – eating candy I found at the bottom of the toy box, being attacked by my own umbrella, responding to international outrage about the hand-holding ban at my children’s school…

sad moments – the 10th anniversary of my son’s death, the ugly side of marriage with young children, the heartaches and hassles of Down Syndrome…

sublime moments – finalizing our adoption, a new tattoo, winning a Freshly Pressed poetry contest,  speaking on national radio…

and the many, many sparks of beauty and brilliance our normal, everyday life provides.




Starting Over

The only thing worse than stale, month-old Christmas candy corn is the guilt from eating stale, month-old Christmas candy corn. So much for eating healthy this year…  Read More.



For Keeps

My son is 25% boy and 75% snot. Although we were finally getting the hang of sleep at night, all night long, today we are bleary-eyed and grumpy. And slimy (see above re: snot). It’s not what I pictured when I imagined this day…  Read More.


The Writing on My Arm

At the peak of busyness, my skin was a criss-cross of inky blue impressions. The tribal markings of a suburban soccer mom. Appointments. Phone numbers. Grocery lists… I decided to revive my old tradition – with a twist. This important reminder is permanently inked on my left wrist… where I will see it frequently… so I will never forget.  Read More.



little mirror, little me

When I look at you
I see myself
impulses unedited
words unscripted
feelings unrestrained
the stark honesty of an
undiluted soul.  Read More.



How I Got My Black Eye

In the heat of battle trying to unlock my car, the cord of my headphones wrapped around my neck, choking the breath out of me making me very uncomfortable. Juggling an overstuffed bag, iPhone, red umbrella and keys while being strangled by one’s own technology is upsetting, to say the least.

So I dropped my keys…  Read More.



Our Version of Normal

People are staring at us with big grins and smile-y eyes. The kind of looks reserved for fluffy bunnies and newborn kittens. Awwwww… One lady nudges the guy next to her and nods in our direction…

For a minute, I’m thrown. I look around and wonder what’s going on.

Sometimes, I forget…  Read More.



18 Years of Best and Worst

This is a particularly busy season of life. For people who once enjoyed sleeping in, lazy days and reading for hours, the past decade has been an adjustment. We’re often snappy and overwhelmed. We’re usually sticky and smelly. And we’re almost always exhausted.

We’re not our best us…  Read More.


Hoos ll Family Portraits-21

Does Down Syndrome Need Fixing?

You are not broken, sweetheart.

At least, not in any way that really matters. Not like people who are spiteful or small-minded or utterly self-absorbed. I hope the day never comes that you suspect “special” is a code word for defective. Or that having “needs” is a shameful weakness.

There are people that think this way. Ignorant people who simply don’t understand. Cruel, stupid people who simply don’t care…  Read More.


The hospital staff made a plaster cast of Simon's hand and foot. It's one of my most precious possessions.

The hospital staff made a plaster cast of Simon’s hand and foot. It’s one of my most precious possessions.


The next part is familiar. Cold jelly, the smooth glide of the wand, mildly uncomfortable pushing against my bladder… but it’s quiet in here. So quiet. She’s not smiling anymore. I crane my neck to look at the screen, but it’s turned away. And she’s so quiet.

She pops out of the room, telling us she just needs to talk to the radiologist about something. Glen looks stricken. I feel something growing deep inside me. A dark, chilling dread. I know this feeling…  Read More.



Damsel in Distress Part 759

I wonder what he saw as I stood there in my second-hand boots, bags under my eyes and hair falling out of its clip. My son whining and grabbing me while sporting a wicked black eye and a runny nose. I was cringing inside. Feeling judged. Feeling humiliated…  Read More.



Hand Hold Ban, No Touch Play and the Real Story

Dramatic headlines. Followed by a juicy sound-bite about small children forbidden to hug or even push their friends on the swings. Set up a camera across the street to film kids playing.

Et voila – a sensational story that goes viral in hours!

Of course, the real story. And the facts. And the true intentions of a diligent staff. Not so entertaining…  Read More.



Music to my Ears

It projects across the room, flat and forced, more like yelling than singing.

It’s a step, or two, behind the rest. A discordant echo chasing lyrics that roll off nimbler tongues with ease.

It’s one of the most beautiful sounds in my world…  Read More.

So here’s us, in 2013.

Tia Means Auntie

A friend teased me about it on Facebook:

“Only Christie would go on vacation to see someone else’s kids.”

It’s true.  I left snotty noses and poopie diapers and midnight lullabies, so I could experience more of the same with my sister’s boys on the other side of the continent. And it was wonderful!

Wearing the t-shirt we gave him: "I Dig Auntie"

Wearing the t-shirt we gave him:
“I Dig Auntie”

I’m not gonna lie, this isn’t about me being a saintly, mother-to-all-children. Quite the opposite, in fact. The best part of nephews and nieces (and I imagine grandchildren as well), is that I can enjoy all the cuteness and sweetness and snuggliness, without the burden of responsibility. Sure, I tried to pitch in here and there, but when the baby was screaming in the night, it wasn’t on me to fix it. I enjoyed playing with the just-turned-2-year-old until he got out of sorts, then Mom or Dad had to step in.

The boys, age 2 and 4 months, are beautiful and brilliant and hilarious (frankly this applies to all my nephews and nieces). I’m sure that they are normal to objective outsiders, but as an Auntie it is my right to see only Amazing. What do those objective outsiders know anyway? These aren’t “Other People’s Kids”, neither are they “My Own Kids”, but some happy middle ground which is heavy on the enjoyment and light on dealing with poop/vomit/snot.

Not only did both my daughter and I enjoy the babies (sorry 2-year-old, you’re still a baby to me), but we got to see my sister and her husband in their natural habitat. If that habitat happens to be the historic and picturesque city of Boston, all the better. Colleen and Miguel have often visited us, but this was our first time at their place.

With a 10 year difference between us my relationship with my youngest sister has always been somewhat maternal. I was moved out and married by the time she was 9, so I missed out on a lot of her growing up. Even though she is now a mother, a wife, a teacher, a confident, brilliant woman with not 1, but 2 Masters degrees… I still think of her as the pretty baby I loved to spoil.

It was funny (and familiar) whenever she opened her mouth and out came our Mother’s words:

“Use your gentle touches.”

“Better too much food, than not enough.”

“I’m sure it’ll all work out.”

As entertaining as it is for me to see our similarities (we also have the same taste in books and movies), it’s the ways she parents differently that I appreciated most. She’s not a routine person, so everyday unfolds differently according to their needs. She hasn’t tied herself into knots about breast vs. bottles – she uses both. She doesn’t keep one eye on the clock at all times, like I usually do. She takes life as it comes and doesn’t fuss too much about the details.

It wouldn’t work for me. It wouldn’t work for my kids. Though I hope a little flexibility rubbed off while I was there.

This is why maternal instincts aren’t one-size-fits-all. Because it’s not about a right way or a wrong way, but what a family needs.

I’ll confess, I’ve never really seen Colleen as an adult. Not when she married her bold and brash Latino (the perfect foil to her unflappable calm). Not hearing about the intriguing ethnomusicology research project she’d done in Spain (she’s always been smart). Not even when I held my baby nephew in my arms so she could get some rest (it still seemed like she was playing house). She’s always been my baby sister.

Watching her, in her own home, juggling 2 busy little men and an ambitious soon-to-be Dentist husband… I couldn’t help but see the competent grown up she’s become. She’ll always be my baby sister, but now she’s my peer. And my friend.

The best part of Boston, for me, wasn’t the pink and purple polka-dotted amphibious vehicle we toured the town in, though  the Duck tour is definitely on my “do again” list. It wasn’t the amazing architecture, or the impressive Harvard campus, or the fall colours in the countryside as we picked our own apples, or even the interesting people from all over the world who attended my nephew’s second birthday party.

The best part was seeing how my sister’s family works.

And kissing the baby’s bald head.

And being “Tia Chriiiis-tie.”

So here’s me, wishing Boston were just a little bit closer to home. Next year they move to Chicago… Suddenly I have a hankering to see that city too. 🙂

All The Bad Things

Never send this text to your mother:


Never call your wife on the other side of the country, clearly upset, and say with great foreboding: “There’s been an incident.”

For a few minutes yesterday I experienced All The Bad Things That Could Happen, all at once. There was a fire. There was an attack. There was the boy jumping off the 2nd story deck, climbing into a hot oven and eating all the meds in the cabinet (he’s actually attempted all of these  things btw).

I didn’t know the details. I didn’t take time to process it all rationally. For a few heart-stopping, gut-clenching moments I just KNEW that my babies were dead.

“Everyone’s okay.”

This is a better opener. Even if everyone is not completely perfect. Even if you need help/sympathy. Even if you have an exciting, dramatic tale to tell.

It could have been Bad. I can’t imagine how scary and traumatic it was for my husband.

He’s already a hero for staying home alone with the 3 youngest kids, while I took the most helpful one away on a grand adventure. Now, he’s got a harrowing tale to seal the deal.

He’s changed dozens of tires, maybe hundreds. Despite technically knowing how to do it myself, I am decidedly un-feminist when it comes to automotive care. He’s been changing my tires since I was 16 (and, no, that’s not a euphemism).

He didn’t think much of it. Just another chore in an overwhelmingly busy week. In a split second, with the smallest shift on our uneven driveway he found his arm pinned under the van.


Intense pain.

Kids on their own.

I’m sure my 11-year-old was equally panicked! But she called 911 and kept the littles inside, away from the action. While she began to explain the situation to the operator a neighbour arrived. She (clearly a better feminist than I) jacked the van back up and helped Glen pull his arm out. A practical nurse by trade, she examined his arm. Bruised, swollen, painful, but nothing seemed broken. Crisis averted.

It could have been Very Bad. I’ve run those scenarios through my mind too. Somehow it seems worse because I was so far away.

Even now, as I write this on a seatback tray-table at 23,000 feet winging my way home I feel better the closer I get to home.
As if I can protect them.
As if I can hold trouble at bay.
Or lift a van off my best friend with my bare hands.

At least I can make sure he actually gets that hand x-rayed. And takes it easy. And knows that I don’t take a minute with him for granted.

For some people, that text, that call, really is Very Bad News, painful beyond imagining. A friend’s cousin was pinned under his car and died just last month. There seem to be endless tragic possibilities lurking around every corner.

It makes us want to hide. To wrap our loved ones up in bubble wrap and keep them far from every threat.

But that is not a life.

Instead we remember how fragile and precious every second is. We won’t pretend we are immune, but prize each exciting adventure, each meaningful connection and each peaceful moment, all the more. Maybe the occasional close call is a gift in that way.

My 11-year-old can’t wait to tell me every thrilling detail. My husband can’t wait to hand over the cooking and the diapering and the getting-up-in-the-night. I can’t wait to hold them close and finally breath properly again.

Also, I will be changing the next tire myself.

So here’s me, SO grateful for all those who rode to the rescue when I couldn’t – our neighbour and our friends (especially Ray for fixing our tire – bold move) and my parents. Also, Colleen and Miguel for talking me through the panic.

Stay tuned for more about our NYC/Boston trip…

No Ordinary Day

Ordinary people drive car pools,
pack lunches,
wrangle unruly socks and toddlers…
I am equipping explorers.

Ordinary people wipe noses,
change diapers,
pour cough syrup down unwilling throats…
I am fighting the good fight.

Ordinary people break up fights,
talk to teachers,
lecture about kindness and self control…
I am molding the future.

At least I am today.
Today is a good day.
Today is an adventure.

So here’s me, I’ve done all these ordinary things today, but they seem more profound and wonderful, since I’m leaving them all behind for 8 days. My and my favourite teen are heading out on a real adventure this afternoon, just us. And the entire city of New York. And my sisters family (cute nephews!!!!). What a great way to celebrate 13 – especially for my easy-to-parent girl, who gives up so much time and attention to the littles everyday.

This was my Five Minute Friday post – join in here.


Damsel in Distress Part 759

It’s that time again. Time for me to dust off my recurring role as the damsel in distress. I’m beginning to fear I’ve been typecast by fate. So far this blog has entertained… well, not millions, but my definitely my husband as I lock my keys in the car, get stuck in the snow and give myself a black eye, just to name a few.

I have no one to blame but myself. Or my children, and the significant sleep deficit which is definitely their fault. But what kind of Mom blames her own children for her frazzled, overwhelmed and far-too-often absent minded performance?

This one. I blame them. I love them, but I blame this crazy, relentless, exhausting life and my subsequent doziness on those adorable mini people. I don’t know who I’m going to blame when they grow up and leave me.

cartMy latest drama begins in our local supermarket. I sped through my list as fast as humanly possible while the boy alternated between screaming at the top of his lungs (and he has some impressive pipes on him) and cheerfully pulling everything off the shelf as we rolled by. By the time I got to the checkout line I was frazzled and nearing defeat.


More than I’d like, but par for the course these days for the feeding, cleaning and diapering a family of 6, at least in our part of the world. Four of us don’t even need diapers, so that’s a huge savings right there.

Feeling a little smug about my foresight, I pulled out my newly activated credit card. My wallet was stolen last week and I’ve been slowly re-making my plastic identity. It’s one of those extra tasks which seems insurmountable in the face of our usual daily grind. But I did it. I called the number. I even signed the back.

I did not, however, take note of the new pin number which would be arriving in the mail also.


So here we are, with a fully loaded cart of groceries, a half eaten bag of fishy crackers (see above re: screaming), a grumpy three-year-old, and the Perry the Platypus sticker he just stuck on my chin. Embarrassed, but not unused to this position, I tell my story and ask them to hold my groceries until I can return with yet another new credit card waiting patiently at home to be activated.

I felt so bad for the man waiting behind me. He had a bag of oranges and a couple bananas. He was about my age, but polished, put together. The kind of guy who drives a nice car and goes to the gym a lot.

I wonder what he saw as I stood there in my second-hand boots, bags under my eyes and hair falling out of its clip. My son whining and grabbing me while sporting a wicked black eye and a runny nose. I was cringing inside. Feeling judged. Feeling humiliated.

As the checkout lady begins to wheel our cart away, he says, “Wait!”

He leans over and peers at my receipt. He pulls out his credit card. He waves his hand, like it’s no big deal.

“I’ll pay for it. Then you won’t have to come back. It’s my gift to you.”

“Uhhh… oh no, no.” I stammer. “It’s, like, $200. Really, it’s okay.”

He insists. He pays. He acts like it’s no big deal.

This was an extremely rare moment for me. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even know how to start. I was struck dumb. I hope I remembered to say Thank You. I hope I said it a lot.

As I packed my free groceries into the van, he began to drive away. I flagged him down, standing outside his window in the rain, so I could at least shake his hand and find out his name.

He told me that it seemed like I was having “a day,” plus having my wallet stolen and all… He said something about putting good out in the universe and it’d come back eventually. His name was Nick.

I had a lot of feelings about this. My first was pride. I didn’t want to seem pathetic (though, let’s face it, I probably was), and I could take care of it myself. My second was practical, and just a little bit mercenary. I’m going on a trip this month that falls outside our budget and we are feeling it. $188.33 is a lot of money to us. My biggest feeling, however, the one that has followed me around ever since, was bone-deep, soul shaken, faith-in-humanity-restored, just got a-hug-from-God, giddy and amazed GRATITUDE.

It’s not the $188.33. It’s not the time, hassle and embarrassment saved. It’s the unexpected, unsolicited, unassuming grace of the moment.

I’ve been tasting it ever since.

And that’s worth a whole lot more than $188.33.


So here’s me, thanking Nick. Because I needed that. 

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