Friday, August 31, 2012

Once In a Blue Moon

If you look up into the sky tonight and provided you can see through the haze of city lights, smog and clouds you will be a witness to a phenomenal sight...A Blue Moon! I am rather certain that the moon will not actually be tinted blue, although given the fact that I have never seen a 'blue moon' before this is not a fact I can confirm either way. In my opinion it would be an astronomical feat of techno accomplishment on the part of God & Mother Nature but I'm not expecting it.

To be quite honest up until this very week I thought that a 'blue moon' was a not real thing. I believed it was one of those anomalies parents and grandparents made up to quantify their level of  astonishment when a child performed some amazing random feat of the unexpected; like putting dishes in the dishwasher or taking the garbage out un-nagged. Those things are the stuff of parental urban legend!

You can imagine my excitement to learn (via the power of facebook news) that a Blue Moon is an actual thing, an event, a scientific possibility! It happens tonight and this is going to be the best day of my life (if you don't count those ones when I got married and had babies and jazz)

I am expecting all of the following and then some...

  • I will sleep though the night
  • the kids will sleep through the night
  • the dog will sleep-in in the morning
  • somebody else will get up and feed the dog if he doesn't
  • Michael and I will go out on like a real live date
  • we will eat somewhere that doesn't serve slaw or present a 'treasure box' with the bill.
  • I will buy groceries and they will cost less than $200
  • I will bring said groceries home and the kids will unload the van and help put things away.
  • the laundry will be caught up
  • and put away
  • my in laws will visit
  • my brother will call
  • I will have awesome hair
  • there will be time for a full leg shave not just to the knee
  • I will control the remote
  • time will present itself for novel reading
  • kids will brush and floss without being reminded
I have high expectations for this blue moon thing, there won't be another until 2015, if I don't see results that's a long time to wait for a do-over. I should probably place a caveat here...I will gladly forgo the items listed if we can get the dishes into the dishwasher! That alone would put me 'over the moon.'

Enjoy your 'Blue Moon' and all the possibilities it holds for you. What is the one thing you hope comes with the second full moon of the month of August? (it really is a phenomenon, one that will not occur again until 2015)

Happy Friday everyone...Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be shared!


Monday, August 27, 2012

10 days...the Coles Notes

Life returns to normal this week, or falls back into routine at least. Our days at the lake are over for summer 2012 and as expected a great time was had by all. We made the decision to 'unplug' the family this year, leaving social media, texting and the internet at home. Everyone survived...Even Mom! although there were a few moments that were 'tweet-worthy' to sum them up;

spider, spider! where's my drink?, where's my dog?, spider! where's my kids? more gas? put poly on it. #Cottage12

First, the unplugged thing was not as difficult to enforce as anticipated. We took only one cell phone so that we were 'reachable' and allowed the teens intermittent use to touch base with boyfriends and social life. there were a few tense moments, a bout of cold sweats but no tears so I am declaring the exercise successful.

What did the kids get up to in the absence of electronic influence? Lula swam across the lake and back, that's 2 miles! KJ and her cottage buddy built a backwoods hangout, planning a myriad of diversionary routes to throw everyone off their trail. E perfected his angling skills (I made frequent expeditions into town for worms and minnows)  There was also a great deal of ATV adventuring, kayaking, swimming, board game playing, and tubing. There were boat rides and campfires, s'mores, hammock rides and sunset watching.

I was so proud of their enthusiasm, they always enjoy our time at the lake but I worry as they get older that they will delight in the simplicity less and less. I was impressed with every blister, bruise, slice, bump, sunburn and sliver they earned themselves. We bathed in polysporin, bug spray and sunscreen and we carried on.

The grown up contingent reveled in games of washer toss, ladder ball. flolf, bean bag toss and dominoes. We sang along to the songs of our youth and indulged in foods and spirits a little more losely than 'normal'. We built things and started fires, we sat in the sand and watched the sun set. All of this was enjoyed in between filling gas tanks, driving boats, untangling lines, unhooking fish, hooking minnows and cooking meals, washing dishes and hanging soaking towels up to dry. A parent never really knows just how tired they can be until they take their family on vacation.

I completely love the traditions of the lake and the traditions our family is building on our annual pilgrimage. Dad's sweet & salty kettle corn, the sandcastle building contest (which may have been conceived in a desperate need for 10 minutes of peace and quiet). There are the UNO games and requisite photos of sunsets and sunrises, boxed mix pancakes for breakfast and dinners of corn on the cob. I was delighted to see that the chalkboard we left behind last year has been put to good use by cottagers leaving out-going greetings to incoming guests...ours to the next; 'a week a the lake, a lifetime in the heart. With Gratitude The Luelo Family'

Our poor dog is suffering severe withdrawal from a week of 17 full acres of leash free freedom and returning to our suburban backyard. I have almost finished the laundry, everything that goes to the lake comes home to a date with the washer. I am surveying everything for dock spiders, horrible, horrible creatures that move indoors with wood spiders as the temps drop. I am also not entirely sure that we haven't brought home a stowaway chipmunk with a propensity for dog kibble and potatoes.

There will be much more to write and when the laundry is all caught up, the dog is detached from his stink and the 8lbs I brought home on my waist have been whittled away I will have more tales to share. Tales like the spider that shared my bed, an introduction to 'Robinson' my Pike counsellor and  why it's perfectly acceptable to use the boy's shower house.

For now I leave with a few pictures of our adventures and a message that as wonderful as it is to get away there is something wonderful about being back. Back to routine, back to writing, back to chatting, back to friends and the spider free comforts of home.

Gratitude today for a family of adventurers happy to go all in or nothing in the name of family memories.

E at the wheel

Lula on board

KJ the kayaker

The big snapper

The wee snapper

Hope Gratitude and Smiles are meant to be shared!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

I'm Up...Let's Get Moving

Everyday we are purging ourselves one step closer to staking the 'For Sale' sign into the front lawn, the closer we get the less I sleep. I become a victim of insomnia fed by one part worry and two parts excitement and a to-do list that goes viral in the moonlight. Paint, replace baseboard, pack-up, store away, minimize, de-clutter, sterilize (both virtually and emotionally) trim, tidy, nag, shine, polish and primp. Remarkably we are only a week or two behind schedule!

A schedule I'm not sweating too much, okay I am but I am pretending like heck that I'm not. Everything in it's right time...right? That is the 'thing' I'm working on right now; improving my tolerance for the slow coarse. Typically I want things when I want them which stiffens a body with tension when every aspect of your life is at the mercy of someone or something else. Waiting for approvals and markets, for the right home, the right buyer, the best rates. If I could wiggle my nose and blink my eyes to make it so you know it would be done. This is where Mike and I are polar opposites, he could wait a thousand years with a smile on his face and a song in his heart, for all the pegs to fall into their right holes. It drives me nuts, there is never any panic or pressure and I wonder what it must be like to live your life in such a perpetual state of zen. Is it possible and more importantly could I get anyone to take me seriously?

So the schedule and the to-do list are robbing me of sleep which is causing my skin to regress into some adolescent stress response. Some days I can't see because my wrinkle cream reacts with the acne cream and causes my eyes to burn. I am pretty sure the rest of the world probably thinks I am either perpetually in tears or high as a kite and probably settle on the latter explanation after 30 seconds of conversation. I'm a tad punchier and giddier at the moment too. Partially to be blamed on sleep deprivation and partly on excitement!

We have lived in our current home for almost 9 years, it has been a lot of fun, we have done a great amount of growing here, made some great friends and learned a lot of life lessons. The most important one perhaps is that there is always a trade. You have to choose; boxes or bags, shoes or sandals, mashed or fries. What I have learned is that a person can accomplish a lot trying to build a life, then one day you sit back and look at everything you didn't choose and suddenly your life doesn't fit anymore. You stand in  the middle of everything you have and you feel a little lost. I always think of showing up to the beach in a business suit; you might look like a million bucks but you're going to to be uncomfortable as hell and you probably won't enjoy yourself as much as you could.

Time for us to change our course in a move I've labeled operation 'Downsize life to upsize living' everyone is on board. E is helping scout great new homes for our family. KJ our in house organizational guru is fixing up closet and cupboard spaces and optimizing our 'room'. Lula is keeping the mood light. Mike is keeping us calmly on course and I am keeping the night watch. I have no clue what exactly I'm watching for except that it must be something great. It takes something pretty exciting like the arrival of Christmas morning or summer holidays for me to submit to being awake and happy about it at 3am.

Gratitude today for adventures and the ability to re-chart your course as you go so that you don't miss any of the scenery you were hoping to see along the way.

Gratitude, Hope  and Smiles are meant to be shared :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Date with the Basement

Michael and I cleaned up the basement this weekend. I say that so casually like we went for pizza or took the dog for a walk. If you have ever seen my basement I appreciate how quiet you have been about my secret shame. For those who have not had the horror of hunting through my subterranean  jungle, you will have to exercise your imagination.... Close your eyes; picture the mismatched, jumble of random thought that fills my twitter feed and this blog, package it all in cardboard and chuck it over a cliff. Now creep over to the edge of said cliff and look at the carnage...That is my basement.

Everything a person could want, need or desire to hide can be located in our basement. It is a gigantic sitcom closet; it has no capacity maximum but an impressive air of impending doom that strikes terror in the hearts of children and adults alike. For the record, my kids are afraid of never surfacing from the basement not a monster under the stairs. His room has be crammed with cartons full of books and CD's. Michael's "Life before marriage" boxes filled with beer paraphernalia, sports knickknacks and fast-food collector toys. There is a broken VCR, some leftover flooring and comforter bags jam-packed with every single piece of paper my three children have brought home since junior kindergarten. I'm going to use it to wallpaper their children's nurseries, that way when they're all... "you're not putting that crap on my walls", I can toss it to the recycle bin released from guilt. It's a lot to lug around house to house but not nearly as heavy as my conscious.

I do a pretty good job of avoiding the reality that is my basement, venturing down only when no alternative exisits to Rubbermaid bin diving for seasonal fodder. I ignore it until it can't be ignored anymore, that time is now. On the 'purge and stage' list we drew the 'basement' card and I instantly hated my disorganized borderline hording self just a titch.

Eventually the past catches up with us all, mine caught up with me on Saturday. I expected to be frustrated and fed up sifting through box after unlabeled box, organizing, pitching and re-packing, what I found however were some great memories. To be quite honest most of my past lives are in that basement. I found fifteen remaining cookbooks from the original run of 700 books created from gathered family recipes in support of a cousin stricken by a medical tragedy. I smiled when I placed them in a box for her Mom. Those books helped a little but more importantly that lovely young lady has her life back due to a determined spirit. In a strawberry crate I unearthed my books from a wedding planning course I took they were tucked on a shelf beside a portfolio crammed with story/design boards from interior design school. Those things together made a run in wedding decor a fun adventure, one I may return to once the kids are into their own lives and they can help not play checkers in the corner while mom yells for extension cords and safety pins.

Michael helped me pack up box after box of cake pans and cake making accessories. What began as a birthday cake or two quickly became a couple hundred sweet creations. I can't part with those pans, I need them 'just in case' and secretly hope a creative child takes up the art.

We packed up crates of outgrown Brats and Barbie dolls, dinky cars and monster trucks. I packed a small bag filled with dishes from pets well loved and sorely missed. We carried boxes and bags to the garage for donations, the dump and re-homing. Bit by bit bins were approved and shelved, organized by holiday, event and usefulness. Eventually the Broom could get across the floor...eventually the basement was conquered!

A pic just to prove to my future self
that I have the ability to organize.
I now bask temporarily in the glow of optimum organization and minimal ownership. I also have a heart warmed with memories of lifetimes past and a great deal of gratitude for Michael who stood by and helped me sift (in fairness he really only holds responsible claim to a box of beer stines and a sack full of collector hockey pucks). He has stood beside me for more than the cleaning, he's been the one believing in me all along, no matter what my undertaking. It's not easy being hitched to a creative spirit.

Of course it's not easy being hitched to a tinkerer either, and next purge day, when it is his garage under the microscope I will hold my patience and the bags, tape shut the boxes and know that these are his memories to sift through.

Hope, Gratitude & Smiles are meant to be shared... spread them around :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What Happens at Grandpa's...

E is off on a grand adventure....he is spending some time with Grandpa. Just how long is yet to be determined, it could be as long as two weeks it could be until tomorrow night. He's loving the days, the nights are a little tougher to manage. In all fairness it is his first time away from home and he is pretty far away (eight hours by car) Last night the 11:30 tear filled call came in. I did my best to be a brave mom sharing my confidence in him over the wire, we will find out tonight just how convincing I was.

Sitting at my desk this afternoon I was thrilled with the distraction of a phone call from my little guy. (he's not the only one struggling a little bit.) I was relieved to hear him more relaxed excited to share his day.

As I understand, E and Grandpa spent some time running errands this morning, paying some bills, shopping for groceries, picking up the mail...all things he could be doing at home. I wonder if errands are more fun with Grandpa. I am betting they are. The afternoon was enjoyed in the bush picking blueberries and raspberries. I understand they are for sprinkling on tomorrow morning's breakfast of chocolate cereal (That's a good Grandpa making sure the boy gets his fruit). E wasn't nearly as excited about the fruit or chocolate cereal as he was about his new pocket knife and the moose call Grandpa had helped him fashion out of birch bark with it. Cool, chocolate, foraging in bear country and knives...a 10 year old's dream! All of which paled in comparison to the next piece of excitement....GRANDPA LET ME DRIVE THE TRUCK!... (a gulp on my end of the line..... holy *only rhymes with* truck) Okay, I'm not completely surprised, in no-man's land there is kind of this unwritten rule that nobody goes in that can't get themselves out, I half expected this was coming, but it's cool for Grandpa to be the rebel adult.

We agreed that what happens at Grandpa's, stays at Grandpa's, as long as he is brushing his teeth twice a day.

I'm getting ready to call and tuck him in over the phone in a few minutes and I really hope that his enjoyment is greater than his nighttime homesickness. There is something so magical about the time a grandchild gets to spend with their Grandpa, it makes me nostalgic for the days I spent with mine. These are ones you don't get to do over. I also hope he doesn't wear out his Grandpa, if he decides to go the whole two weeks they are going to have to pace themselves!

Gratitude to my Dad today for sharing himself with my children, they really don't know how lucky they are.

Gratitude, Hope & Smiles are meant to be shared...share on!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Oh, Deer...When Pineapples and Ice Cream Fail

We rounded off our long weekend with an adventure to the Indulge Caboose for ice cream and a walk along a Cambridge stretch of the Grand River Trail on Monday. Okay we started out going to the beach. Those plans became a new plan to go mini-golfing which quickly disintegrated into "everybody get in the van...You've got 3 minutes!" Yes, what started out as a quest for family togetherness systematically dissolved into a pineapple event. (yes please click that link to find out)

Here we go again! In all fairness if I hadn't allowed all three kids to stay up the night before way past their bedtimes, eating junk, playing video games and giggling until tears rolled down their cheeks they would have been a far more agreeable group. In short I think we probably pushed the 'get along' train a little too far. None the less, I lost my patience and ix-nayed the water, then ix-nayed the mini golf. A measure I probably could have stopped short of except names started flying followed closely by hands and feet. They left me no choice. It was the beginning of the end and a solution for resolution needed to be found. The pineapple solution was a one timer. It's power would not have been strong enough to diffuse the tension and set us back on track. I realised this when Mike came outside, walked up to the passenger side window poked his head in with a smile and a "you know they don't care that you are our here waiting don't you?" Damn! The goat getting had grown stronger that my ability to guilt them into compliance. Time to hand the reins of creative parenting over the the master...Dad, the guy who hatched the Darthvader consequence.

Mike's plan took us on a drive, (the whole time by the way someone was whining about 'where are we going?', complaining about the seating arrangements or the odour of a close range sib.) Heck of a plan Dad. Stop one of his plan was the awesomeness that is Indulge Ice cream with no stipulations on cone selection or scoop quantity. The first hint of childhood will bending and smiles could be seen curving a dimple or two.

Okay, our picture of the deer did not turn out,
something about icecream on the lens.
So I am offering this insanely cute pic from
Boreal Forrest Library
Four waffle cones and a regular cone, 4 scoops of chocolate mint, a granny's cupboard, a Bordeaux cherry, peanut butter brownie and double chocolate fudge later and we were following Dad down the wooded walking trail. Riding an ice cream high, laughing, joking and capturing the 'great old time' we were aiming for before our day fell apart. As we have all come to accept, it is generally a short walk from laughter to tears, in this case 1.4km; that's when I was checking KJ for injuries at the side of the trail following her not so cleaver attempt to remove the tree branch, leaf and twitch grass headdress Lula had been so imaginatively constructing in her messy bun as we walked. While I tried to evaluate through her tears E offered a constructive or rather counter-constructive "that's what happens..." Really? like really E? Need I remind you that you are part of the reason we are walking on this frigging trail in the first place! (I would like to take a minute here and thank random guy on a bike who didn't stop to ask questions.)

Determining that the only damage was to our disposition and our pride Dad smartly decided this was the time to turn around. I have a feeling the darts shooting from my eyes may have been a influencing factor.

We turned back towards the trail head and walked in silence utterly defeated, It's a sad day when 'Dad parenting' can't right the course. I was trudging (which is really the only word I can muster) when a deer stepped out from the woods and onto the gravel path. She stopped in her tracks and I halted the kids as not to frighten her and let her on her way, but she wasn't moving. We waited and watched as two white spotted fawns emerged from the where she appeared. They stepped timidly onto the path and crossed into the opposite brush followed by mom. The sight was beautiful.

"Look at that," said E..."every time something rotten happens there is always something good that comes next." I smiled and agreed. I didn't have the heart to tell him that what I was really wondering was if those deers had just been for ice cream too?

Do deer children squabble and goat farm just like us more evolved creatures? Are we actually more evolved?

Gratitude that Mother Nature and the good Lord took over where pineapples and hiking trails covered in ice cream failed and that we arrived back to the van and back home in one piece and right again with the world and one another.

Creative parenting is becoming an increasing challenge. I hope we stay on one another's good side for a while, I can't imagine what it will take next time!

Gratitude, Hope and Smile are meant to be shared!

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Olympic Movement (to Tears)

We've been absorbed in the Olympic experience in our home this week. Checking schedules and watching Olympic Prime Time, which has provided fabulous coverage with the exception of coining the phrase 'ShuttleGate' how cleverly insipid *rolls eyes*

photo credit *National Post - Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
I cry a lot during the games; the wins, the losses, the pride on parent faces and fellow athletes as one of their own achieves personal perfection. Every minute of competition someone reaches a personal best, attains or surpasses their goals, or suffers the disappointment of falling shy of their dream. It's an emotionally overwhelming roller coaster.

If the performance of athletes fails to start the tears flowing there are always those Olympic Spirit moments to jerk a flood of emotion, not to mention those dammed commercials. Who creates these things? Did they build a room somewhere invite every hallmark writer still breathing into the space and say "here are the products, nobody leaves until we've come up with a punch to the gut concept for every single one." Man they get me every time. Well played marketing gurus, well played.

Then sometimes right in the middle of all of those tears, there are the things that make you say hmmm. (yes, sing it...I am) Things like the the word Velodrome that's Velo as in Velocity tell me this isn't every mother's nightmare and why the aerodynamic helmets? do they really make you go faster? and do they have to look so cool that my 10 year old wants one? Something else that sets me pondering is Shot-put. In a sea of people at the very peak of fitness I don't get this, isn't there some minimum attainment of fitness level? I know there must be. I couldn't 'put' a 'shot' farther than the end of my left foot but I caught a preview commercial for the upcoming event and couldn't help but think they were down a guy so yanked someone out of the pub on the way to the venue.

Other things that set me giggling and provide some cranial respite from the tears; Royal spotting, the fact that McDonald's is a sponsor of the world's greatest showcase of personal health and fitness, speed-walking...I'm going to argue that this is not really a sport, not if the world record can be challenged by any mother trying to get her potty training toddler to the restroom end of the mall in time.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of some super fan or the Olympic Mascot for this years event and I turn to uncontrollable laughter. Then my son asks a question like "Mom, are you going to cry when I get my gold medal?" and I am right back in the land of tissue. Darn you dreamers darn you *shakes fist at sky*

Gratitude today for dreams, achievers, supporters, National pride, and kleenex (I might be looking for sponsorship for my athlete)

Enjoy Friday everyone, Hope Gratitude and Smiles are meant to be shared :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Better a Learner than a Listener be

I swear I have had just about enough of life's little instruction book and the trending advise de jour that floats about cyberspace and media like an unwelcome influenza outbreak. How to be social, How to avoid 8 social pitfalls, How to be happy, How to write, How to argue, How to sleep. and the very latest one to catch "How to listen"

Are you serious? How to Listen.

How to listen implies that everything put out there for us deserves our attention that just because you have something to say other people owe you the respect of undivided attention and appreciation. Who cares. I hear so much in a day that it is simply not possible way to listen to it all, and who wants to?

But if you have to... listening is easy.

First you filter...if you are listening, someone has your attention either with topic or urgency and I guarantee you are 'listenening' to what they have to say. The rest, the processing, assessing, retaining of information happens naturally if the information is crucial to the survival and thriving of your own life of the life of someone you love.

Imagine sitting in a Doctor's office with your sick child. Do you have to practice active listening, absolutely not, it happens because it matters there is information you need to learn.

A real skill is not listening a real skill we could all use a little 'How To" on is Learning 

Learning in my opinion is a skill far more valuable than any amount of listening. I understand this because in my life there are people who "listen" to me in the How To sense of the word (ok, not my children, but there are people) I know they are listening because they have no clue what is going on in my life. These people ask questions like "how was your weekend?" even though when the Friday "Any big plans for the weekend?" question came up, the answer was "a funeral"

Listeners have their place and I love them for it. You can tell them anything you want and be confident that they won't have any recollection of it later. There is always that 'refresh my memory' part of the social interaction program. This is great because if things don't go as planned there are no explanations you just don't bring it up again and no one is any the wiser.

Learners on the other hand are special people, rare even among our closest friends and relatives. They keep a mental cue card of what they know about you. They ask questions and file away the answers not just nod their heads and fake attentiveness. Learners are the people who run into you at the mall and ask if you are feeling better, leaving you to recall the string of status updates related to your recent flu. Learners send you messages out of the blue to check in on your progress and send you wafts of inspiration unique to your current challenges. Learners remember details and facts. Conversations with learners are void of the 'catch-up' they simply pick up where left off. Okay, learners may have stalker qualities but don't we all love that even just a little bit, to feel like people are genuinely interested in us?

Having said all of this, being a learner takes effort, it takes energy it takes an interest in someone besides yourself. It also provides rewards beyond measure. If you can encourage someone because you remember their goal, if you can celebrate someone because you know their dream, if you can comfort them when their hopes are dashed you are making real connections with people. Perhaps this is where the real appreciation of learners lies, in the knowledge that they care about things beyond their own world enough to take note.

Learners make an impact where listeners make a mark.

Gratitude to the learners in my life and to the listeners who make me appreciate the learners even more.

Gratitude, Hope and Smiles are meant to be shared :)