Saturday, November 28, 2009


This year, instead of our usual seasonal tree advent calendar, we've decided to change things up a bit. We'll still be keeping our trusty tree painted on our living room window; but we'll be using it for other seasonal decorations (snowflakes, winter birds, gnomes, etc.)

At Liv's farmschool recently, they made paper cups from folded squares of...well, paper. Liv has become very interested in origami and drinking from these folded pieces of wood pulp. After finding dozens of these things around the house, I had an AHA! moment when thinking about our advent calendar. (And then I found that someone truly fabulous had had this AHA! moment before me and had already made them, but oh well, today I celebrate my own AHA!)

Instead of the long crafty day of creating a variety of winter and Christmas decorations from construction paper, we just gathered up a plethora of these cups, folded a few more, wrote numbers on them and hung them with clothespegs from the fishing line we have hanging through the living room (good for hanging art work on when all the bulletin boards and fridge space in the house is full!).

I still had the list of Advent activities saved on the computer. After a quick search of the local Christmas events, I added a few to our list (make sure to only add a 'few' or you may get tired out. Also, have one or two low-key standins for days that you find that although you had some parade written in, someone is vomiting on the couch, thus dashing your plans.) Also, put on the things you would be doing anyhow. I know this sounds like 'cheating' but, man, the holidays are so crazy and busy that just GETTING the tree is an event worthy of the calendar!

Anyhow, here is a quick list of things that we have done on our countdown to Christmas:

Santa Claus Parade
Christmas at museum
Read a Christmas book
Write letters to Santa
Make paper snowflakes
Face painting
Get Christmas tree
Put up Christmas lights
Decorate Christmas tree
Candlelit bubble bath
Family game night
Donate gift to needy kids
Make bird food pine cones
Go skating
Moonlight walk
Christmas train Cut down tree
Dinner by candlelight
Make gingerbread cookies
Watch Christmas movie with popcorn
Christmas light drive in jammies
Christmas carols
Donate food
Homeschool Christmas concert
Make snowflakes
Wrap presents

Please add to the list in the comments section if you can think of any!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

musical memories

Photo by Misspiepie

Also posted on Widow's Voice

Today, as I scanned through my CD collection in search of something mellow yet fun to listen to while doing housework, I found that every. single. bloody. CD had some memory intertwined in its' melody.
I found myself sobbing due to the fact that I am the one now, the ONLY one, who remembers dancing in the wheelhouse of the boat in the middle of the night to Van Morrison with my head upon his chest. The one who can recall playing "Smooth" in my little truck on the way to Port Hardy and singing at the top of our lungs. The one who has stored in my head the long ago deleted messages of Jeff singing Jeff Healey's "Angel Eyes" for me to find in the morning on the answering machine.
Each of these memories are sacred and terrible. I love them. I want to keep them. But they pain me with a new and fresh pain.
I had been shying away from these memories. Hiding them in the bottom of my brain's sock drawer. So now at 20 months out, I can either play the music, have a big ole pity party for myself that will last god-knows-how-long...or I can buy some new music.
So tomorrow, I am heading to the music store. I need a soundtrack that'll make me light on my feet, not heavy in the soul.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

pride is a bad thing?

Look at my little girl....
We worked together all last week making 'fairy house Christmas ornaments'. We found the wood at the side of the road, cut it, whittled it (resulting in a few bloody injuries for my poor, brave girl), drew in widows and doors, glued bark for the roof and twine for the hanger.
Liv attended a craft fair with my mom in the hopes of selling all 31 of her creations. She was selling them for $2 each (allowing many counting and money lessons).
She sold EVERY one of them. EVERY ONE! Her little grin when I arrived to pick her up was beautiful.
With her $62, she has decided to split it in thirds; 1/3 to the bank for saving, 1/3 for spending on needs/wants, 1/3 to charity (1/2 to SPCA, 1/2 to foodbank).
Lessons like this are my favourite. The ones that come easy and are filled with pride and excitement are the best.
I am so proud of you, my little love. You and your brother make life worth living and fill me with unexpected smiles. I love you, Bean.

stopping the treadmill

I've been away. Mentally. I am overwhelmed. Too much on the brain. The faster I run, the faster the treadmill goes.
I realize that I'm a person who is constantly on-the-go, never can sit still for long and always has a project or five; but I am finding that my poor old neck isn't liking the crazy schedule, my sleep just can't get slept with all my thoughts running through my cavernous nogging like elephants, and my ears are stick of all the noise and thumping going on...
The doctor suggests time alone. Time spent on my own. I do get this occasionally. Mom takes the kids overnight now and then. My sister watches the kids when I have non-kid-friendly errands. Friends take kids for playdates periodically.
My issue is that I can't STOP. If the kids are away, I am either feverishly painting, cleaning, organizing, wrapping or mowing OR I am getting in the adult socializing I need as well.
It is a endless circle and question. Do I value having things 'done', time with friends with whom I can use the 'f' word, or quiet blissful relaxation more? Unfortunately, I let rest or relaxation slip....EVERY time.
I need to remind myself how to rest. How to take a breather. How to calm my mind and still my thoughts. Is this avoidance? Is this me trying to hide from uncomfortable and unpsetting thoughts and emotions? I don't know for sure, but I do know that it is reaking havoc on my stress level, my tone of voice, and my neck muscles.
Tea seems to be a bit of a relief. I never really drank tea, except in social situations...much like drinking booze. hmmm......Anyhow, now I find if I just brew a cup of tea, I don't even have to drink it. It just makes me feel like I am doing something for myself. Calming. Quiet. Zen-like.
Lighting candles, turning off all the household lights and staying away from my computer helps as well.
Practising talking quietly does wonders.
So, I am thinking that I am going to try to practise shutting my loud and obnoxious brain up. Maybe meditation. Maybe exercise (which I SO miss). Maybe yoga. Maybe just sleep (now there's an idea). But I need some self-care. I need to rest me as I would rest my kiddos. I need to put my mental health first for a bit.
How do you rest? How do you recharge? Please give me hints. I need them.
~ A chronically crazed person.

P.S. Reading "Raising Your Spirited Child" has made me realize a lot of things about both my child and myself. SUCH A GOOD BOOK!
I have also read "The Omnipotent Child". Awful, terrible, horrible book. Don't read it. You will be convinced that your child is a horrible deviant, manipulative, self-centred, miscreant that needs professional help.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

~ Scott Peck

on the brighter side

In a bid to exercise positive thinking, I have borrowed an idea I read on another widow's blog (unfortunately I can't give the widow credit as I cannot, for the life of me, find were one of my midnight rambles through the blogosphere took me - If it was you, please let me know, so I can give you credit!) and list some of the better positive ....not-so-crappy things about widowhood and the experiences that have happened. I DO, however, wish with all my heart that I weren't a widow. That Jeff were here holding me now and that my children and I hadn't had to go through this. Anyhow....

1. I am 'glad' that Jeff died in my arms. I was there with him. I held him. He knew he wasn't alone. I know what happened. There are no questions for me and no hazy details that cause more agony. (This was the heavy one. The others are much more...vacuous and light-hearted, I promise).

2. I am glad that I now have the insight to know reasonably well what is 'small stuff' and what is 'just crap'. I thought I knew before. I didn't. I still have difficulty at times staying 'above' the ruckus. But I often have the realization that the issue won't last or even be remembered later that day....If I breathe, I can let 'it' go more easily than before.

3. As with all marriages, our identities were intertwined. I loved this. I loved being a unit, a team, husband and wife. Although now, I find I often feel that I am standing naked in a crowd; I also find that the fear and confusion of being alone is off-set with the feeling that I can reinvent myself. I can release what I didn't like about myself or my life before and start new and fresh. I can try on new hats, use different words and exercise internal muscles not used in such a long time. I loathe the necessity to change because I am only 'one' now, but if I look in a slightly different light, I can feel a slight excited tingle in "What can happen now?" Maybe the kids and I will travel (one can dream, right?), maybe I will write a children's book as I have always wanted, maybe I will cut the firewood myself this year, maybe I'll be able to support the kids comfortably on my own.....It goes on and on

4. I can load the dishwasher MY way. I can tuck the sheets into the bottom of the bed. I can get a goat if I want to. I can feed the kids tofu. I can have not one dollar of this household go to cigarettes. I don't have to listen to WCW in the background as I sew. I can buy organic food without justifying why organic strawberries are better for the kids. The small stupid things that caused tiny ripples in our household, now not only mean so little, there is also no one to bicker with them about. Bittersweet.

5. ................Okay, I am done. I am trying to find more positives. I am trying to BE positive. But it's hard. Number Four was hard. It made me think of those times that I listened grudglingly to WCW as I sewed. I could see Jeff in the reflection of the window above my sewing table elbows on his knees in rapt attention. I'd snort and scoff at the phoney throws and pins. I'd say, " I CAN'T believe you watch this!" He'd always say, "I know it's fake, but you're wrecking it!!!....And besides they are amazing athletes to be able to do any of this stuff!" Now, I miss the childlike wonder with which he watched it. I miss his laugh and his unconscious eating of some snack. He'd eat fast when the match really heated up. Slower when they were circling and cat-calling. His buddy, Finnegan, and he would call eachother mid-match, "Did you SEE that?" They were like two little boys. God, I miss him. I so miss what he brought to me, to our family, to this home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

post of pictures

I have had this sitting in my draft box for a few days....Forgot to post...

contents of pockets

Every now and then, I see a quiz go around on Facebook about the contents of a woman`s purse. You`re supposed to write what is found in your purse for all to see/read. In all honesty, I find it slightly dull and monotonous to read these lists perpetually containing lip gloss of various brands/ingredients, wallets, cellphone and other standard purse fare....although, I must admit that my contents list included a container filled with mouldy cheese last week - not so standard.

I feel that more interesting is the would-be list of the contents of a child's pockets. Before little ones 'need' to have certain tools and adult paraphernalia toted around with them, they carry a variety of found 'treasures' that give us a glimpse into their personalities and minds. Like crows, they adore all things shiny. Objects not found in their natural surroundings are also intriguing. So are the unusual, the beautiful, the see-through.

While unloading Liv's pockets the other day as I prepared the laundry, I found myself smiling at the little person who was displayed in these contents.

Her treasures included:

  • a grey feather with white tips

  • the plastic head of an unknown action figure found on the beach

  • a heart shaped stone

  • a variety of found litter

  • a pair of glow-in-the-dark fangs

  • a baggy containing mouldy pumpkin seeds

  • The feather and heart-shaped stone now reside in our 'nature collection'; after years of being reprimanded for putting some of her more nature based findings outside, I started a basket filled with chestnuts, snake skins, feathers, bark, animal fur, old nests, etc. Goodness knows it's contents are most likely not hugely hygenic, but I will risk it in the hopes that these special things remain someplace safe and will continue to ingender a love of nature within my children.

    The head of the action figure is rather creepy in my humble opinion, but Liv thinks it's pretty cool. It shows up in remarkably strange places and gives me a little thrill of creepiness everytime I find it unexpectedly. I find that my kids, and most likely all kids, keep objects that are 'special' for reasons unknown to us adults. The problem is that I often don't know where the fine line is between 'junk' and 'treasure' - especially since she loves to collect garbage as well. I often attempt to dissuade her from doing this when I worry about what types of germs are residing upon these oft soiled food recepticals. I always promise to carry a bag with us on walks for just this purpose (and intend to bring gloves as well), but forget so very often...and then find myself cleaning garbage from pockets yet again...

    The pumpkin seeds are signs of my daughter's green thumb and love of nurturing. She loves to grow plants, raise animals, cuddle babies. Unfortunately, she has also inherited my genes for have great intentions (such as collecting seeds from an extremely large pumpkin only to forget them in your pocket causing them to mould beyond viability) but less follow-through when distracted.

    And the fangs, well, the fangs are just fun. Kid fun. A sign that you can still enjoy life and all its' silliness. I am hoping that as I grow and learn and remember how funny life CAN be, I will be able to carry a pair of these things around in my purse as well....

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    mine. all mine.

    Also posted on Widow's Voice
    I wonder how many decisions we make a day on average. Five? Fifty? Five hundred?

    The small ones have never been of much consequence. Brush my teeth or not? Wear pink high heels or brown loafers? Watch The Nature of Things or 22 Minutes?

    The larger ones are the tough ones. As a teenager, they were pretty easy. Hear what my parents had to say...and do the complete opposite. In my twenties, I winged it, thinking I was invincible, capable and brutally independent. But when I became part of a pair, a marriage, I began to forget my desire to make plans on and of my own.

    I grew to need the sounding board and the agreement from my husband. The comfort in knowing that I was not the only one who thought I was 'right' was immense. Even when we didn't agree, I was able to voice my feelings and listen to the pros and cons from someone I trusted.

    Now, learning again to make decisions alone is daunting and uncomfortable. I want someone else's agreement, validation and support. But who do you ask for this? Your parents?! You friends? Your neighbours?

    I am just beginning to feel the exhilaration of 'choosing' on my own. I am still frightened and nervous, but I am feeling again that glow of confidence in myself and the choices I make for our family. I am secure in my knowledge of Jeff's morals and views on many things. I can use these remembered traits to guide my decisions....or I can do it how I want.

    For now, I take comfort in following the path that we had chosen together....But I am thrilled to be able to load the dishwasher how I want to and leave the car in the driveway begging for gas.

    Since Jeff died, the largest decision I have made alone was the choice to trade in our car for a mini-van (something he was loathe to do). I am proud of myself....and I think he would be proud of me too (once he got over the shock of driving around in a 'mom-mobile').

    I am working my way up to bigger and better things. One day, I am sure I will make a decision that I have no guidance from him through my memories. I will be flying solo. And those choices will be mine. All mine. Terrifyingly, excrutiatingly, possibly excitingly mine. And I know he will smile down on me as these rusty wings of mine fly again.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    magic mud

    Just because I haven't posted any crafty or creative goodness lately, I thought I'd stick a quick note up about magic mud (a favourite around these parts).

    I remember playing with it when I was a child and how it confounded me. It has two essential ingredients - cornstarch and water. We often include food colouring and/or almond extract for a bit of excitement. ;)
    Put a few tablespoons of of cornstarch in a small bowl. Add water one teaspoon at a time until (this is the tricky part to explain) it is runny when you pour it but hard when you apply pressure. It's an amazing consistency when you get it right! You can roll it in a ball and then let it run through your fingers.
    The kids love to play 'dirty cars' with it. It makes an amazing mess if it gets out of the bowls....but I prefer to clean up later as long as the kids are enjoying themselves now.

    Monday, November 09, 2009

    my kiddos and me

    Lately, when I look at the photos of 'before', I am struck not just by how innocent and naive I look, but at how pure and happy the kids look. I know that this may be just a natural consequence of aging for them, but I am concerned that my sadness, anger and general 'inward turning' has affected them in negative ways. I want to repair this. I want to heal what I can in their little hearts. I want to return to the parent that I was before....
    So I am striving to be more patient. To again trust my children. To play as I once did. To not lash out when I am stressed as often. To take a breather and to let the kids know when I need that moment to myself and why.
    I have been immersing myself in appropriate parenting books and with people who exhibit the parenting behaviour that I would again like to employ. If I had the balls, I would have tattooed on my wrist "YOU are the adult. ACT like one." to remind me to curb MY temper tantrums. I want our home to return to some semblance of calm. I know it was never perfect and neither was I, but it was damn sight better than it is now.
    It is amazing to me just how stress can effect ALL aspects of your life. Briar will ask for one more cracker and I bark at him, "No! I don't have time to get it!" while thinking that he should be able to see that I am attempting to get the bills paid online with only enough more to pay three of them. (Just to remind you he is three....I doubt he even knows what a bill is.) Liv will merrily dance through the house with her cowgirl boots tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tapping away. I will bite my tongue. I will furiously try concentrate on the task at hand......Then, after one truly exuberant flurry of foot stomping, I'll yelp, "What is going on?! That is TOOOOOOOOO loud....and TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF IN THE HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!"
    They both seem to regard me as the 'Lieutenant Commander No-fun' and if there are happiness and giggles to be squashed, I will be the one who does it.
    I can't do this. My role as mommy has been THE most important and sacred thing to me. I cannot let go and allow my children to flounder just because I am grieving and I am exhausted.
    So, I am now reading:
    Raising Your Spirited Child
    How to Talk so your Kids will Listen and Listen so your Kids will Talk
    Siblings Without Rivalry
    Hold onto Your Kids
    Let me know if there are other parenting books that you have found help and value in....

    So, here we go. I am going to work on myself and my relationships with my sweet, little kiddos. Wish us luck....

    Friday, November 06, 2009

    the hardest part

    Also posted on Widow's Voice

    As a widow with young children, the worst thing about parenting now is NOT watching fathers whirl their delighted little girls around in the air or push their little boys on the swings. It is NOT arriving to your child's dance recital alone and wishing that someone was there to experience the joy and pride with you. It is NOT that you are now the only one to remember the day of your little one's birth or what their first word was. It is NOT the strange and uncomfortable silence when your child announces to the check-out clerk that "daddy is dead". No, the worst thing about being a widowed parent is that you can't fix that their other parent is gone....forever.
    All parents want to fix their children's injuries, soften their disappointments, explain any misunderstandings and replace what is broken. But no matter how hard I've tried, I cannot bring him back. I can't make it better. I cannot take the pain away.
    Nineteen months since my husband, Jeff, died and our seven year old daughter still cries for him often. I can often tell when it's coming. When missing him has overwhelmed her. She becomes angry and combative. She screams and yells at any small injustice, whether it be her three year old brother adding his own embellishments to her drawings, my requests that she keeps her fingers from my nostrils (she is a true pest - like Jeff was).
    When the crash comes, she sobs. Her little shoulders shaking as she asks me for the millionth time why he died. She rages at the way things are and screams that 'it's not fair'. I feel helpless. I want to soothe her little heart. I want to offer some remedy for grief, a magical elixir.
    Last week, she asked me if Jeff and I really did have Santa's phone number. I was confused by the change of direction in our tear-filled conversation. I misunderstood. I thought she was tired and just saddened by the world in general and had a desire for some toy. But no. Our little Bean wanted Santa's phone number because Santa "knows everything" and Santa would know Heaven's phone number. She wanted to talk to her daddy.
    That night, I tucked her into our bed, with his shirt swaddled around her little body, the necklace containing some of Jeff's ashes clutched in her hand and a hotwater bottle nestled into her back. She fell asleep with tears on her I did - not just for the loss of Jeff, but for the sadness that my little ones bear.
    What I have learned in these last nineteen months is that the best, and really, the only thing I can do for her is to be here. To let her lean on me. To hold her hand. To bring her tissues and hot water bottles. To hold her on my lap and listen as she cries. To assure her that we will smile again and that I will be here whenever she needs me.

    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    pictures and junk drawers

    Some nights, after the kids are in bed and the house is quiet, I find myself aimlessly looking through old pictures. I am never truly conscious of a time or event that I am searching for...But when I find it, I know... I've found you.
    I find myself staring into your eyes. Imagining what we'd say to each other. How we would cling to each other. Remembering every physical feature. Longing to hear you laugh. Craving just one more moment with you.
    I miss you so ferociously. I want to hear you voice and your opinion. Feeling the comfort of being with you. Connected to you. Just us. Only us.
    I can't clean the junk drawer or open your sporadic mail without sobbing at the forgotten memories, silly arguments, secret jokes, and broken plans. I keep thinking that all the firsts 'should' be over by now. But new ones keep cropping up.
    This sisyphean cycle continues as I quietly pine for you alone. I find you everywhere and no where.


    Liv as Laura Ingalls. Briar as a 'super nippled' Superman/Diego.

    Briar as a devil, bunny, dragon snake.

    Liv as Laura Ingalls.