Monday, January 31, 2011

Don't Sell Me a Tricycle and Tell Me it's a 10 Speed

Ok so not so long ago Michael & E-man built a rink in our backyard. The rink has been the source of many a gratitude over the last 2 months. KJ and E-man are honing their skills on the blades and with the puck.

Yesterday in preparation for a trip to skate on the worlds largest ice rink (the Rideau Canal in Ottawa) Michael convinced me to give it a go and get my skate legs back under me. I used to figure skate as a child. I long ago traded my figure skates for a pair of children's skates and never replaced them.

My only option then to test my memory of basic skating skills was a pair of hockey skates. KJ loves her hockey skates, how hard can they be?

Hockey Skates are NOT figure skates!

Today I am grateful that the laughter has subsided and that we have muscle relaxants and Advil on hand. I am grateful that Michael is taking me for a new pair of figure skates. I will NOT fall like that again...should I start walking normally again that is.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Some Things Never Change

What I get

I was greeted with the empty roll this morning and a great realization.

Our family really has gone through a transformation simply by focusing on what is good in our lives. The exercise of acknowledging outwardly those things that we are grateful each day has dramatically improved the air in our home.

It's been almost a year of sharing around the table. In the beginning there was a lot of "I don't know" answers. There were a lot of "Nothing!" answers. We spent a lot of extra time at the table waiting for everyone to sift through their bad day to unearth a tidbit of goodness. In the very beginning I accepted answers like..."we're having spaghetti for dinner" and "I don't have math class all day long." It was painful really. Every night I asked for the gratefuls I was overcome with the horrible feeling of failure. I think I was shocked, being confronted with the actual level of negativity in our home hurt. I couldn't believe it was really that difficult for five individuals to find something to be grateful for. After all we live in a comfortable home in a safe neighbourhood. We have enough to eat and we try to be supportive and loving in our home. I almost abandoned the project. 

The Goal

I'm grateful that I pushed through. After those first few weeks the Gratefuls began to shift. We began hearing things like "I have good Friends." and "Dad can play road hockey with me." The tide was turning and the project began to feel good.

9 months later and the gratefuls are beginning to acknowledge the day to day things we take for granted. Suddenly the conversations around the table about each of our days have gone from a long list of complaints to a recount of the things that made the day pleasant. We've begun hearing about supportive friends and co-workers. We've started sharing the funny little "guess what happened today" moments. The Gratitude Project is making a difference. We are talking about what we'd like our lives to be and how we are going to help each other create moments to be grateful for. That's a change for the best.

We all still have bad days, that's life. We still have days when we get "NOTHING!" answers. We still have days when we'd like to skip the exercise altogether. There are still dinners that get served with a heaping side of heartburn washed down with some tears. There are days when I'd really like to take a T.V. dinner out to the garage. We are still 5 people after all, taking up each others time and using up one another's oxygen. We are still two pain in the butt parents, two angst filled teenagers and a rambunctious boy at heart. There are some things you can't change and things you wouldn't want to.

I'll take this...We're getting closer!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eat Your Gratitude!

Today my gratitude revolves around food. Secretly it generally revolves around food all the time. I love food, cooking, eating, experimenting. I play the food network the way my grandfather used to play the radio; always on providing a comfortable background for life. I hug my coffee mug every morning and whisper a quiet thanks as the contents pass my lips on route to wake up my brain. I am routinely grateful for casual dinners with friends where we bring together the best our fridges have to offer on a moments notice.

When cake decorating is a hobby
 My kids will tell you that creating cakes drives me crazy and it probably does, almost always I curse at least twice. However, I'm always grateful for the opportunity to exercise my creativity.

So I'm grateful every single day for food or something culinarily related. Today is especially significant in the food gratitude department. For 2 reasons

Lula's first dinner!

Reason #1 ....Lula made dinner tonight! It was her first real attempt, start to finish with cookbook and no supervision. She offered up individual meatloaves, french fries and corn. It was fabulous! I'm so grateful for her help and I can't wait for her next dinner!

Could there be a better thing to celebrate?
 Reason #2 ....Today just happens to be International Chocolate Cake Day! Thank you to my friend Susan for making is public knowledge, what a tragic oversight missing this would be.

If gratitude is a secret wish for future favours I'm all over it. I don't think that Spaghetti dinner by Lula or International Cheesecake Day would be to difficult to accept.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hippies Believe in S-E-X

This is why I love American Idol.

On a day like today, when co-workers have been childish and children have been difficult. On a day when a man tells you his wife has cancer. On a day like today when patience are low and emotions are high its comforting to know that lunacy still exists. Call me cruel but I love to laugh and there is no shortage of material on this show. I realise that most of it is manufactured in a pitch for ratings but I don't care. A guy in period costume explaining the belief system of a hippie as S-E-X, followed by a brutal singer certain she's declined a ticket because of her dress size...that's comedy. Well not really but it's funny enough to make me forget my troubles for 60 minutes. I'm grateful for that.

My position on the Simon issue...I miss him.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Your Turn at the Table

It's been a while since we got around the table.

Today is your turn... leave a comment. What are you grateful for? Did your socks match this morning? has someone made your life amazing? Who opened a door for you today or let you have their parking spot?

Share your Grateful!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

You Wait 364 Days

A big day in our house today. We've been counting down the sleeps. Today is E-man's Birthday!

Having a birthday gives a kid a thousand reasons to be grateful. He's joined me this morning and turned "Me" time into "We" time. It's really nice right now... later when he's completely exhausted from being up this early, maybe not so much. Anyway, he's helping me write and wants to make sure I get all of his gratefuls for today.

  • Grateful my friends could all come for my party.
  • Grateful for birthday presents.
  • Grateful for grab bags.
  • Grateful for Birthday cake.
  • Grateful for a sleepover tonight.
  • Grateful for a hockey game last night.
  • Grateful for balloons.
  • Grateful KJ is going to collect Rangers Autographs for me.
  • Grateful Dad got the rink all ready for my party.

Clearly, turning 9 gives you a lot to be grateful for! Being the parent brings to mind your own set a gratefuls for the day.

  • Grateful birthday parties only last a few hours.
  • Grateful for party stores that offer a selection so awesome and so endless that you really don't need to make any other plans for the day apart from packing a lunch to enjoy in aisle 28.
  • Grateful that kids have attention spans short enough to be impressed with low quality plastic do-nothings and powdered sugar in their loot-bags.
  • Grateful that if you are a cake decorator your kids would rather get a cake from Dairy Queen like everyone else.
  • Grateful that balloons come in 1LB packages...this way you never run out.
  • Grateful that in the minds of 9 year olds, french fries are a perfectly acceptable vegetable.
  • Grateful that Birthday boys want to help get everything just right and are willing to get up at 5:30 am just to make sure it all comes together.
  • Grateful for the happy coincidence that the time dosing time on a bottle of advil mirrors the average length of a birthday party.
Other gratefuls come to mind too. Gratitude for the precious gift of a child, for the unconditional love and joy they bring into your life. There is gratitude for the perspective they shine on lifes difficulties. Gratitude for the laughter and the hugs and the kisses. Gratitude for the better person they require you to be.

Today E-man celebrates the party and adventure, the cake, the presents, the friends and the festivities of turning 9. While he does I'll be celebrating the gift he is to me.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Comment System

There have been a lot of visitors to The Space Between Raindrops recently and that's awesome! I would really love to hear your feedback and comments. I've added the Intensedebate commenting system for more commenting options and creativity. Lets try it out and see how it works.

If you like what you read why not share the post to your Facebook or Twitter... and choose to Follow. the more the merrier!

My gratitude to you for stopping by!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Do Not Call Me Buttercup.

It's a phrase I use all the time "Suck it up Buttercup!" I use it with kids whining about homework and housework. I use it in the restaurant whenever somebody feels the need to point out how busy they are.

Seriously, there are people dealing everyday with troubles that would leave most of us babbling in a puddle of our own drool. 'Suck it up' is my reality check. If you hear me tell you to "Suck it up!" you can be pretty much assured that (in my opinion at least) you are overindulging in self pity.

Never will you hear me utter the phrase faster than when someone in my home sniffles, sneezes, coughs, complains about fever, chills or headache. We have no time for sickness. At the first sign of weakened immunity I open the medicine cabinet. "I have a drug for that." and you will take it and you will go the work and you will go to school and if we deny it hard enough you WILL NOT BE SICK!

Then it happens to me. That scratchy throat or stuffy nose. I put on a brave front and try to suck it up. I abor medications. I think the person who developed the "cherry" flavour of cold medicine is the same guy who dreamt up instant coffee. Nice try... but YUCK!

I will suffer and so will everyone around my before I will resort to medicating...

Eventually we all reach our breaking points.

Today I am grateful for Dextromethorphan Hydrobromide, Pseudoephedrine Hydrocloride and Guaifenesin.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Putting it all into a Bowl of Chili

It's been a week filled with gratitude! There has been barely time to pick up the laptop let alone get it all down. I've been recording the daily "gratefuls" heard around the table but that itself has been a squeeze.

Some of the most memorable mentions this week...

KJ is officially done with her head gear. It took 14 months but the orthodontist conceded that the treatment is going nowhere with the exception of a daily parental trip to the crazy zone. E-man gets a clean bill of health from the pediatrician with the manageable exception of a diagnosis of "classical migraines."  What a fabulous Dr. by the way. Lula makes plans for Friday that stick. She decides to attend the semi-formal. She is choosing her happiness.Michael goes skating with E-man's class. Hockey fundamentals got underway again on Sunday. KJ's modelling resumed after the holiday break. Lula gets 2 Fridays off in a row. It snowed...alot. Friday was a school holiday (yes they just had 14 days off for Christmas) Highschool information night for KJ. KJ catches a hockey game with her BFF and some boys perhaps???

Gratitude generally matches the pace of life. The tiny snapshot above would suggest that it's been a busy week. It was, I'm not even totally convinced that Wednesday actually ended. My "life facilitator" hat often leaves me with a heart full of pent up gratitude. There gets to be a lot to recognize and no one around to receive my appreciation. Thank goodness for the weekend, a cookbook and my kitchen. In one afternoon I can pour all that gratitude and appreciation out into a roasting pan, a pie plate or a serving platter.

Saturday I poured a week's worth of gratitude into a pot of chili. The recipe came from the new Jamie Oliver cookbook "Food Revolution." The book was a Christmas gift from Lula, the end results were delightful, the time spent preparing it was absolutely medicinal. The chopping, the aromas, the sizzling sauteing of ingredients. I got lost in my kitchen. I set the chili to simmer and started in on homemade potato chips to accompany the steaming bowls. KJ joined me to whip up some hummus. E-man and Michael tended the ice rink and enjoyed some wii games. Lula finished her shift at the grocery store in time to enjoy dinner with us. We caught up around the table. Recharged our familial batteries in preparation for another busy week. Hopefully I managed to convey a heart filled with gratitude. Gratitude for exceptional kids, a true life partner and best friend in Michael, a comfortable home and a rich life. Gratitude for humour, sacrifice and health. 

Of course, if anyone feels something was overlooked, they can polish off the leftovers in the fridge.
Good Old Chili Con Carne from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution cookbook

Monday, January 10, 2011

Grateful Humour

When your 8 year old sits sullenly at the dinner table, tears welling in his eyes everytime you insist he eat his supper. It might be wise to assess the situation, observe what is on the plate, consider it from his perspective.

I did and here is how the conversation played out

Mom: "eat up"
E-man: choking back tears
Mom: "what's wrong?"
E-man: choking back tears
Mom: "you know that chicken balls aren't really chicken "balls" right?"
E-man: picks up his fork "I'm grateful for that!"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mental Goodness

I get up very early Saturday mornings. I quietly 'borrow' one of the girl's laptops and head downstairs.

In the dark I brew a pot of coffee and warm up the computer. This is my time. Granted I have to get up before the birds and navigate with ninja like stealth and quite to make it happen but it's my time.

I never need an alarm. My mental health wakes me up. The more taxed my mental health the earlier is wakes me up. Some days I'm up at 4 am.

With my coffee in hand I curl into my favourite spot on the couch. There, I surf and check e-mail, I read blogs and spend some time in The Space Between Raindrops. I tap and I listen, ever alert to stirring from upstairs.

If they knew how critical these hours are to their well being they would stay up there after they wake up and give me until lunch time. I'm always grateful for Saturday mornings.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Like Your Favourite Old Sneakers - Stinky but Comfortable

Let me state right off the bat that I am grateful for a return to 'normal' life. Life after the Christmas tree and the wrapping paper. Life after the food frenzy and the dropping of the New Years ball. Life after the line ups and returns, the late nights, quick dinners, social cocktails, cookie trays, boxes of chocolates and school holidays.

I love them all but man am I glad it's over. Never is there a day that I truly 'enjoy' getting up for work like that first day back after the holidays. I think I miss the routine, the predictability of a typical day, the ebb and flow of day to day life.

Even when it looks like this...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Worth Checking Out

So I've been dabbling with this blogging thing for a couple of months now. The effort of posting has been good for my outlook and disposition. (anybody who knows me, knows, anything that helps my disposition is a good thing) Along with creating The Space Between Raindrops I've also taken some time to explore some other blogs. All are creative and personally reflective of their creators. What a great mental outlet.

One Blog I have found very interesting and uplifting to follow is Single Dad Laughing. It seems that I'm not the only one, the following is huge and well deserved. Dan writes from the heart and about the heart. I don't always agree with his position but I think that's the point. What interest is there in reading if the content only strikes a cord and never a nerve?

Today's post 100 Definitions of Impossible on Single Dad Laughing is special. It is about hope and gratitude and I appreciate the place from where it is written. I think it deserves sharing. Please take a minute to click over and have a read..I think you will be grateful too.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Nothing But Time

Today I am grateful for time. It's the one commodity there never seems to be enough of.

Every day has 24 hours. I use them all. Not always in the most efficient manner possible but I use them.

It's a rare occasion that finds me with carefree hours. That time to sit and devote some time to nothing, To just hanging out.

Today I found some!!!! I worked this morning at the restaurant. The offices are closed today to recognize the New Year holiday so there is no work there.  The kids are back in school and Michael returned to work today. Mathematically I have 4 hours of "me time" available to use as I see fit this afternoon.

Faced with the prospect of nothing but time (even 4 hours of it) can be overwhelming. I have months of delayed personal projects, overdue pampering and housework to catch up on. What to choose? what to choose?

I must have taken too long to make up my mind and life decided to do it for me.  Apparently the penalty for basking in the prospect of some free time is a kid with the stomach flu.

So now I'm watching cartoons and fetching ginger ale and ibuprofen and squeezing in some blog work between mad dashes to the washroom to assist my young hurler. Really I'm getting nothing done, nothing finished, nothing started. But my little man has his mom and we are enjoying nothing but time.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What You Don't Hear With a Banana in Your Ear

Remember those awkward years. Those 12 - 14 year old years when your face didn't feel like it fit your body and your arms didn't look like they belonged to you. Remember that time when everyone in the world had fabulous friends but you and teachers where conspiring against you. I remember, I remember hiding out in my room, reading, writing, drawing, withdrawing from the world certain that no one missed my presence. I remember and I don't miss it one bit.

Surely enduring it first hand was difficult enough, no one told me that as a parent you have to go back there again. I'm sure they knew, but they don't tell you. (I think there is a long list of things NOT handed down through the parenting generations but that's a post for another time.) They don't tell you that one day you will be sitting on the other side of the door crying just as many tears, trying to convince someone that it will all be alright that this place is a phase of life. They don't tell you that you won't possess the secret language to reach the teenage psyche. What they do is laugh. They laugh because you are enduring your right of passage. I'm pretty big on humour. I believe that laughter is the key to successfully navigating life but come on, a little compassion and a handy hint every once in a while would be nice. Do we really have to do it all the hard way? 

Something else they don't tell you is that as a parent of a something-teen year old you are one of the major "suck" elements. Yep, right up there with teachers and homework and boys who don't recognize you and girls who are jealous of your whatever so they torment you about everything else just to make themselves feel better. Wow, it doesn't sound or feel any better now than it did back then, no wonder I can't get through, I forgot how miserable I was.

Evidently I've also forgotten how miserable Lula was as this same stage of life.The slammed doors, the hours of crying, the self degradation, the palpable loneliness. I forgot how many tears I cried for her, about her and because of her. She was miserable, I was miserable, Michael, KJ and E-man were miserable. How can it be that a stage so full of unhappiness can be so easily forgotten. It is forgotten because we grow out of it. There is something to be grateful for if ever there was something. Lula is a perfect example of rising out of the gloom. She has grown into a place in her life where she has great friends and great ambitions. She understands the gifts she has to offer the world and she is happy to share them.

As parents we knew those things were always there waiting for her to grow into. We tried to tell her, we tried to convince her but we were parents and we sucked. Well now, I've just answered one of my own ponderings;  They don't tell you because you wouldn't believe them anyway or maybe they did tell us, we just didn't listen.

So why the post?

 I want to tell my KJ that I am grateful for her. That I can see the things that are waiting for her to grow into. I want to tell her that the very same things that suck right now are paving the way for the future happiness she deserves. I think she should know that her beautiful face came with her body. I want her to look to her big sister as an example of someone fresh out of the gloom. I need to tell her that her "Edward" will come along, that she will own a share in a pair of traveling pants and that right now isn't as good as it gets. I want her to know that our frustration comes from not being able to illustrate her the future. I want E-man to know how grateful he will be when his arms don't belong to him that he has two amazing examples of what waits on the opposite side of the phase.

I'm banging my head against a wall trying to tell her all of these things but I suck so I'm pretty sure she isn't listening.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


The clock struck 12 and 2010 became a memory. I love the magic of that moment. The minute your slate gets wiped clean. It amazes me how flipping a calendar page can fill people with hope.

Truly nothing is different in my life today than it was yesterday, the same bills wait to be paid, the vacuum still needs to be run. A personal chef did not arrive with the twelfth bell, I'm still going to have to cook dinner tonight. So why the excitement? Possibility. January 1st is zero day. A fresh starting point on which to measure the success of a year. The failures of the previous year are forgotten instantly with the prospect of another chance to do things right. I've tried to set our family up for success. Last night I ate what remained of the chocolate in our house and polished off the cheesies. 

We started our Grateful Rule project in 2010 and through the year identified a lot to be grateful for. I wanted to commit to the gratitude concept and keep a journal of the 'good' the rule was doing for our family; blogging has been a great tool for that, even in the short time since creating The Space Between Raindrops. Past entries help navigate those difficult days. Perhaps the greatest testament to the success of the Gratitude project itself is that in one year no one is protesting the rule. It may be the only rule in our home that doesn't get protested in fact. no one ever says "I don't want to do this anymore" I think they get the value of gratitude.

I'm not a fan of resolutions but I like what the Gratitude Rule is bringing to our lives and I like the outlet that The Space Between Raindrops is providing. There are many things I'm going to leave in 2010 but this I think I will bring with me into 2011. With a plan to nurture it and see where it evolves.

A very warm wish for peace, love and happiness to everyone in 2011 and a challenge to take on the Gratitude Rule. Try it for one week. See where you are in a month. If you do, be sure to e-mail me the story of your experience. I have an exciting project planned but I'll need your help and your stories!