Wednesday, 2 November 2016

New Blog!


Hello to anyone still hanging around at Danielle's Imaginings. I have started a new blog,

www.arewebritish.com

I am focusing on my experiences, adventures, and misadventures while living in England with my boys. Please join me! Or keep reading and rereading my previous musings at Danielle's Imaginings. Or do both. Whatever floats your boat.

I am extremely grateful to anyone who has followed this blog, especially those who have reached out to me. It was an immensely rewarding experience. Thank you!

Cheerio from Jolly Old!

~Danielle

Friday, 29 July 2016

Life is an Adventure Party!

Us. Watch out UK!

My favourite parenting technique, other than distraction, is telling my children that everything we do is an adventure, or a party, or BOTH.

"Come on kids, let's get our shoes on, get in the van, and have an adventure!"
"Please finish your supper so that we can go out and have an adventure!"
"We are getting groceries, what an adventure!"
"You are all running in different directions, my favourite adventure!"
"No one is listening to Mommy or Daddy, is this a 'disobedience party'?"
"Oh Yay. A potty training party."
---Honestly, simply walking into a public place is an adventure when I have 3 wild boys and 2 hands.
"We made popcorn. It's a popcorn party!"
"We are eating pizza. It's a pizza party!"
--------------food parties are the best!
OR
"Hey! Let's all move to England and have an adventure party!"

Our adventure party plans for England have been taking over. Completely. We have a list on our fridge a mile long and we are at the point where everything seems impossible but life is moving forward anyway. It's exciting and it's happening and it's definitely an adventure and a party. Life is an adventure party, just saying it makes it so.

I love blogging, but don't have time for it at the moment. Writing this right now when I should be finishing the detailed inventory of my entire house, is giving me a bit of anxiety...

Writing is an adventure party for me, so I will be back. Stay tuned!

Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Girl With Blue Eyes (Happy Father's Day)


Once upon a time there was a girl with blue eyes who was born to loving parents in a magical land called Edmonton. She had a happy childhood full of community, creativity, and opportunities for learning and growth.

Her father was a kind man with sparkling hazel eyes and a gift for helping people. He was hilariously goofy to those who knew him personally and respected by all. The little girl with blue eyes knew that her father would always be there for her, no matter what.



One day, the little girl with blue eyes told her father that she wanted an animal to love. Her father planned a family trip to find some fuzzy friends. After over five hours of driving they arrived at a friendly home with many beautiful animals. The little girl with blue eyes helped to pick out two fluffy white sister bunnies to take home and love. She named them Flotsam and Jetsam. They rode home in a cardboard box.

When they got home, the little girl with blue eyes asked her father where the bunnies would sleep. He built a wonderful hutch with a little house for them to cuddle and stay warm in, lots of windows for peeking out, and a place for their food and water.



The bunny sisters brought the little girl with blue eyes a lot of joy and she was always grateful to her father for listening and helping her take care of her animals to love.

They all lived happily ever after until the fluffy white bunnies died of old age and the girl with blue eyes moved far away from her hilariously goofy father.


The girl with blue eyes continued to love her father from far away. She looked forward to their visits together and for the way that he would make her laugh with his adorable goofiness. She had children of her own and tried to be kind, helpful, and goofy when needed.

The girl with blue eyes is waiting for the day when her children ask her for an animal to love.

The End

~Happy Father's Day to my father with sparkling hazel eyes. I love him so much. And I am not quite ready to write a children's book because I couldn't resist drawing a picture of dead rabbits.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Sister Songs featuring Adri Meeks


In August, 1988, one of my favourite people was born. I thought that she was mine, as I was 6 years older and obviously capable of taking care of her (jokes), although I do remember changing diapers, babysitting, etc. (HOW DID MY PARENTS GET SO LUCKY). In reality, most of my days were spent dressing her, bossing her around, directing her in various made up plays, doing her hair and makeup (not in an attractive way), forcing her to ask my parents and grandparents for treats, sending her to the neighbours in dress up clothes and instructing her to speak in an accent when they answered the door, having tea parties with friends. Most importantly, Husband and I took her on easily half of our dates, I think that my parents felt she would be a suitable chaperone, and also then they would have an evening with no children at home (HOW DID MY PARENTS GET SO LUCKY). We once took her to see the film, The Sixth Sense. She was 11. Bridget Jones's Diary was another movie choice that my parents were not thrilled with (at least she was 13, practically an adult).

This little minion of mine has grown up into one of the brightest most talented and hardworking young ladies that you could ever meet. She studied theatre overseas (obviously due, in part, to all the plays I directed her in). She is still one of my favourite people, and someone that I can always count on for support, understanding, laughs, and deep conversation. She writes beautiful heartfelt melodies with lyrics to match. She has come a long way since she was one of my young piano students.  I am so proud of her and her present goal to record an EP followed by a full album. She performs quite a bit in and around Edmonton. I am glad that I have a little sister named Adrianne. She's the best. 

This morning I woke up to a beautiful song, written about me (I actually woke up to my 5 year old playing the piano in the basement at 5 am, but then the song). There are few moments in my life when I have felt so loved that I will remember them always, and one of them happened today, when I listened to the song that my baby sister wrote about me. It touched my heart and brought a tear to my eye. Adri also emailed me today and said that she now has a goal to make me cry every day, so my life is going to get even more interesting. She didn't specify if it would be a happy or a sad cry that she is going for. I am slightly frightened, but also intrigued. Sisters are so fun!

My beautiful song. This will be on my playlist forever. Thank you Sister. <3


You dragged the paint across the scene
A robin’s blue, a forest’s green
Creating what a life could mean
Letting other meanings go
 
You filled your cup with fostered love
Springing from the well you dug
Your voice so soft and your words so tough
You’re stronger than you show
 
You drove across the country clear-
That your heart was beating far from here
You heed the call despite the fear
Of the things you don’t yet know
 
And there you grew some vines so your boys could climb
above the earth
You give them hope and you give them time
To find their worth
The things that come first
 
A quiet night a walk alone
Your thoughts can drift; your dreams can roam
Your heart is big, your heart’s a home
A haven safe to land

Not to be outdone, I recorded the song I wrote for Adri when I was 11. It is almost as amazing as the song Adri wrote for me. Almost. Jess, I can record the song I wrote for you if you like... it is also stunning. Only the best for my sisters. This recording was not edited for mistakes and was supervised by Mr. G. He tried to be quiet, and for a 3 year old, did very well. 



Adrianne

Lyrics

chorus
Adrianne
Adrianne
Adria-a-a-a-a-a-anne
(repeat)

verse
(improvised)


As you can see, we are a very talented family.

To read about, listen to, and support my dear sister, click links below. If you donate $100 (or more) to help Adri Meeks fund her EP, she promises that she will write you a song too! 



Sunday, 5 June 2016

Today, I stay in my pyjamas.


Today, I am staying in my pyjamas. All day. And I call this hairstyle, I haven't brushed my teeth yet either. If you call me on the phone, I might not answer. If you show up at my doorstep, I definitely will not answer. So far today, I have slept in (until I was awoken by the sweet sound of my children fighting- Husband and I take turns sleeping in on weekends, but the kids don't take a break from fighting... unfortunately). Husband made me a coffee, I had a piece of toast with raspberries. I cuddled Mr. L and watched the rain pour down outside. Mr. K and I had a laugh in the basement as I played through my Vince Guaraldi songbook on the piano. I made a lunch of eggs, cheese, ham, fruit salad, and an amazing new food discovery, chipnuts (they are literally peanuts covered in potato chip and they are SO GOOD). Mr. L and Mr. G took turns trying out the new snapchat filters on my phone. The moustached man with the dark eyes produced the most giggles. I played Winnie the Pooh with stuffed animals, a favourite pretend game at our house lately. I read books to the twins and then quietly read in their room as they fell asleep for naps. Presently, Mr. K and Husband have gone swimming, I am lounging on my unmade bed with a good view of the trees and the puddles outside. It's a dreary peaceful hushed sort of day.

Beside me is my Day Planner, and some to do lists. I have decided to ignore them a little while longer and continue to revel in this tranquil day. And when I do get to my "to dos" for today, I will be kind to myself and only do the necessary, because my brain and body are weary and I am learning to be gentle. Last week, in the sudden flurry of activity in preparing for our move to the UK, we all were horribly ill. Luckily, after a week of dealing with the fun that comes with children who can become suddenly sick at any moment, we are on the mend. Grateful for our health, each other, and reminders to slow down.

High five for mental health days!


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

How the tidiest person I know became even more tidy with the KonMari method.


We all know someone who is tidy, constantly straightening and cleaning up, perhaps obsessive. Maybe this person annoys you. Maybe this person IS you. The tidiest person that I can think of, is myself. I have always been this way. My apologies to everyone who knows me, as I have likely tidied up something that you were still using. Marie Kondo, my new favourite person, believes that roughly 10% of people are naturally neat. As I read this statistic, I will admit that I felt slightly smug, maybe I should stop reading, what could this book possibly teach me? "Preaching to the choir," were my exact words when Husband gave me this book for Mother's Day. Although, being obsessed with the minimalist movement, I had heard wonderful things about the KonMari method and was curious to learn more. I quickly realized that I had much to learn, and was delighted to streamline my thinking into one brilliant phrase, "does it spark joy?"

Marie Kondo is an organizational expert running a world acclaimed consulting business in Tokyo, Japan. Her methods are proven successful, 100% of her personal clients have never relapsed into clutter. The title of one of the chapters in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is titled, "Tidy a little a day and you'll be tidying forever." Kondo believes that people cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking. By tidying everything you own in one large event, you shock your brain into changing the way you view your possessions. It works! Kondo goes against everything else that I have read regarding decluttering and organizing, she recommends aiming for perfection. I really believe that this all or nothing approach makes all the difference! 

This book brought me so much joy, I will not be discarding it, ever. I enjoyed reading Marie Kondo's book so tremendously, that I had trouble falling asleep after reading (I like to read in bed before I go to sleep most nights). My brain was buzzing with ideas and personal epiphanies! Husband did make fun of me as I was too excited to sleep and he looked over and saw that I was reading a chapter titled, "Storing socks: treat your socks and stockings with respect." Ha ha! Honestly, this book is riveting! 

The first thing that I did after reading this book was hug each of the people who live in my house. Luckily, they all spark joy for me, so they can stay. 

The second thing that I did was discard possessions using the KonMari Method. I did the entire house. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at once. The interesting thing is that I have been actively discarding as we have a move coming up, I am not a huge accumulator to begin with, and I still got rid of SO MUCH! Kondo recommends that you discard all at once, intensely and completely. Discard according to category, not one room at a time. Recommended order of decluttering is clothes, books, papers, kimono (miscellany), and mementos last. There are many reasons that this order brings the most success, I recommend reading the book to learn more. You pile everything in a category on the floor, which makes a huge mess (motivating for me), and then pick up each item and only keep it if it "sparks joy." If you don't love it, it's gone. This sounds like it would be time consuming, but I found that this step went quite quickly. Also, for those of you who have difficulty making quick decisions, the more you do, the easier the decisions get.  

Kondo's book is full of wisdom on what to do when you can't throw something away, specific advice to the common pitfalls in each category, and brilliant organizing and storage solutions backed by research. There is a reason that mementos are the last category, these are the most difficult decisions in the process, and you might find yourself feeling nostalgic and taking time to remember your life. Honestly, I really enjoyed going through my mementos. I didn't actually have an entire day or a weekend to devote to discarding (as recommended), so it did end up being in spurts of an hour here or there, which seemed to work fine for me. I can see how if you need more of a jolt to change your ways, an intensive weekend (or 2 or 3) would be the best plan. 

Kondo recommends reducing "until you reach the point where something clicks." This happened! By far, this was my favourite moment in the process. I no longer feel like a fake minimalist. I am the real deal People. I have possessions, but I have the correct amount for me at this time in my life, and I honestly don't feel stressed by what I own. It saddens me that belongings bring anxiety to so many people. Marie Kondo believes that excess possessions are a burden (no exceptions), and I would have to agree. Consumerism is a trap. 

The third thing that I did was put everything away. There was so much less to put away. It is amazing. I had fun trying out different methods of folding and organizing, vertical is best as it uses the least amount of space. There were areas in my home where I have shelves where Kondo would recommend drawers, so I did some adjusting according to my space.  

"Your real life begins after putting your house in order." Many of Kondo's clients made large life changes after overhauling their possessions. Some changed careers, quit jobs, learned to love life with less income, made lifestyle changes in eating and preparing food, lost weight... the list is endless. Decluttering and organizing your things, has a spill over effect to the rest of your life. In general, there is a feeling of simplifying and focus, which is beneficial in all areas of life. "The question of what you own is actually a question of how you want to live your life."

When everything around you in your home sparks joy, you have more happiness. There were a few things that I was hanging on to out of duty or reasons that I can't quite articulate, and I feel a lightness now that I have discarded those things. Everything in my house makes me smile. Most of all the people in it. Reading and implementing this book was a gift to myself and my family. 

Referenced
Kondo, M. (2014). the life-changing magic of tidying up. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Modern Love with Children (a texting story)

Fourteen Years ago we were married. It was the best decision I have ever made. Through the chaos of life, we keep connected through texts, because technology is romance.

 When you just send each other links to articles. So much of this. Nothing says, "I love you," like a hyperlink.

 Sometimes we send each other photos of the children. We make the most attractive babies. 

 Some nights you have to work and don't have time to speak in person, so you boss your partner around through texts. He is too busy to answer. Obviously this means 100% compliance has been achieved.

 Little updates throughout the day.


As you can see, a lot of our communication revolves around the children. I don't know if you have encountered this, but children are all consuming. They have so much energy because they syphon it out of their parents like tiny gasoline thieves (thanks for sending me that quote Jessica, I reference it ALL THE TIME- it even hangs on my fridge as an oppressive reminder). I don't know what we talked about for the first 12 years of our relationship. I can't remember.

I thought she was asking me if Danielle had an I or a Y, I said I, and now my Starbuck's name is Tania. My sister-in-law taught me about Starbucks names, and I am so glad that I finally have mine. Obviously, when your Starbucks name chooses you, you must alert your Dearest. Romance 101.

When he just gets you.

When he knows exactly what to say.

More with the kids. Texting is amazing because (if your ringer is off), it is silent. This is imperative if you are attempting to force children to nap.

When he comes to you with his queries. 

...this pocket is definitely too low.

When you discuss doughnut murder then suddenly become very formal.

When you share your children's accomplishments.
Pictured: toilet paper wadded up with water and thrown onto the bathroom ceiling

Sometimes you just send out a warning. WARNING.


When the articulateness of your exchange becomes incredible. Is there anything more romantic than accuracy of language? Nothing I can think of. And I don't want to live in a world where sandwiches don't exist.

Now you know all our secrets. Try some of these tactics on your Love, you won't regret it. This level of glamour is worth the effort. If you are on the search for a Love, these might be just the wooing stratagem you have been seeking. Let me know how it goes! I adore a love story!

All love stories are beautiful, but I like ours the best (I must have read that on Pinterest somewhere). To my best friend, this is the truth. I love our adventure together. It's my favourite. Happy Anniversary! I recorded our song. You are safe and sound with me, always. I love you! 

Safe and Sound - click to listen

Safe and Sound
by, Hawksley Workman (thank you for writing this song, I love it so much)

You slept through the last small town
I'll wake you up when the next one comes around
You're eyes are closed, like you truly believe
You're safe and sound with me

No looking back, no turning into salt,
The city was crumbling but baby we're not to fault
When things got too rough, I promised you we'd leave
You're safe and sound with me

You're safe and sound with me- yeah -ah -ah -ah
Just like you always will
Just like you always will be

The wipers clear the windshield of the rain
My shirt sleeve dries your eyes the very same
We fit together like the ignition and the key
You're safe and sound with me

You're safe and sound with me -yeah -ah -ah -ah
Just like you always will
Just like you always will be

The glove box light shines bright enough to see
You read the map like you're reading poetry
And it just might take you forever to see
That you're safe and sound with me

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Thank You Mom

My mom, my dad, my sister Jessica, and me, at the top of Bear's Hump in Alberta.

Dear Mom,

Thank you. 
I don't think that I say it enough, but I love you and appreciate everything that you have done for me. 
Thank you for waking up with me in the night when I was a baby, thank you for all the snuggles and kisses and ensuring that I grew up feeling very loved. 
Thank you for picking such a wonderful partner in life who also provided me with love and security. 
Thank you for my siblings. They have been my friends and my rivals, but mostly my friends. 
Thank you for taking us on family vacations and showing us the beauty of the world. 
Thank you for singing with me and instilling a deep and early love for music. 
Thank you for drawing and creating with me and starting my love affair with the arts. 
Thank you for teaching me how to play the piano even though I cried at every single lesson because it was too intense for me to receive correction from you (because I wanted to please you so much). 
Thank you for reading to me. 
Thank you for taking care of me when I was sick. 
Thank you for keeping me safe and warm and comfortably (and adorably) dressed. 
Thank you for teaching me to have fun. 
Thank you for putting on Cyndi Lauper and dancing with me. 
Thank you for playing opera, symphonies, celtic music, country music, broadway, pop, folk, rock, and Abba (Abba is their own category). I love that our home was always full of music and that we listened to everything.
Thank you for making me beautiful delicious birthday cakes and letting me have fun birthday parties with my friends. 
Thank you for making me beautiful things. 
Thank you for being an example of glamour. Your jewelry, your makeup, and your clothes are always beautiful and this taught me to take care in my appearance. 
Thank you for taking me to movies, to live theatre, to live music. 
Thank you for the countless healthy meals that you made for me. 
Thank you for all the lunches you packed. 
Thank you for doing my laundry. 
Thank you for putting up with my moods. 
Thank you for not murdering me when I was a teenager. 
Thank you for always welcoming my friends into your home. 
Thank you for attending all my performances, recitals, art shows, and award ceremonies. 
Thank you for teaching me to work hard. 
Thank you for teaching me to think for myself.
Thank you for teaching me to be myself. 
Thank you for letting me wear whatever I wanted, even if it was a men's brown polyester leisure suit purchased at Value Village.
Thank you for letting me dye my hair whatever colour I wanted.
Thank you for letting me paint my room whatever colour I chose. 
Thank you for all the times you "shared" your craft supplies with me.
Thank you for forgiving me when I used your craft supplies without asking. 
Thank you for teaching me to go for the expensive items when eating at a buffet.
Thank you for teaching me manners.
Thank you for always standing up for me.
Thank you for teaching me to stand up for others.
Thank you for helping my sister and my friends throw me a surprise 16th birthday party (I was actually surprised and it was the most special I have ever felt).
Thank you for always being there to to talk to when I was a teenager.
Thank you for always forgiving me.
Thank you for loving my partner in life.
Thank you for supporting us when we decided to get married as babies and move far away. 
Thank you for always visiting me wherever I live.
Thank you for surviving your stroke and sticking around, we still need you.
Thank you for saying that I was one of your best friends when you were in the hospital after your stroke and writing me a long letter saying how much you love me. Your writing was all pushed to one side because of your recent brain injury, but the fact that you wanted to write to me when you had so much going on meant the world. That letter is one of my most treasured possessions.
Thank you for being brave.
Thank you for always looking for beauty and humour. It is helpful that you are beautiful and hilarious.
Thank you for loving my children (they love you right back).
Thank you for loving me.
I love you.
Happy Mother's Day.

Love,
Danielle

Me, my beautiful mother, and my lovely baby sister Adrianne, just a few weeks ago when I was visiting Edmonton.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Slow Living & Feelin' Groovy


Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.
~Simon & Garfunkel

In recent years, I have become interested in the slow living lifestyle trend. Slow living is a natural product of the changes I was making already with embracing minimalism and mindfulness. My son's autism diagnosis was helpful in eliminating any competitive feelings I may have had about parenting (and life). It also forced me to slow down for my son's well being as well as for my own. We both need time to regroup and to just be. A lot of this "being" is accomplished by simply clearing schedules and having time to connect with each other at home. This doesn't mean that we don't accomplish anything, in fact, I feel that I am more productive now than I have ever been (and I am an extreme goal setter by nature). 

Slow living is exactly as it sounds, slowing down, focusing on what is important to you, and letting go of the idea that you need to do everything. It is learning when to say, "no" and when to say, "yes." Feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, and the realization that more isn't necessarily better, are all signs that slow living might be for you. There is a misconception in the modern world that being busy is a badge of honour, although many of the most successful and creative people have learned that slowing down increases productivity and creative output. 

If this sounds like something that might interest you, the first thing to do is to analyze your days and be brave enough to make necessary changes. At the end of the day, reflect on what brought you the most joy. Take a moment to be grateful. Do this every day, and try to increase your joy bringing activities. It must be noted that a lot of joy inducing activities are work, slow living is not the avoidance of work. People are happiest when they are learning and growing. The idea is to prune your activities down to those that will bring the most meaning to your life. There seems to be a tendency to over schedule, especially with children. I have been a private music teacher for half my life, and have witnessed repeatedly the difference between an over scheduled child and a child that has more time for free play. The latter is a more successful student in most cases, not to mention a happier child.

Another important step to slow living is to let go of competition and stop comparing yourself to others. The only healthy competition is with yourself, trying to improve and be better than you were yesterday. When we are competitive with others, we are missing so many elements of the big picture. There is no way of knowing someone else's personal struggles or day to day details of their lives, so it seems an exercise in futility to be constantly comparing. Comparing to others is a recipe for unhappiness. We tend to compare our weaknesses to someone else's strengths, this leads to discouragement. If you can truly let go of comparison and competition with those in your life, an amazing thing happens, you embrace and support one another, a sense of community and friendship emerges, and you truly feel happy for the success of others. 

An easy way to slow down and enjoy life is to increase mindfulness. There are many ways to do this, meditation, or ensuring that you have time for free thought (I do this during my outdoor walks). The most simple approach, however, is to "stop and smell the roses." Take pause multiple times a day. Notice the beauty of nature, a sunset, the buds on the trees in early spring, the smell of the air after a rain shower, the feeling of a gentle breeze, the sound of the birds chirping. Look into a child's eyes, really listen and connect. Observe the good in people, make note of all the small kindnesses people do for each other, opening a door, smiling, saying hello. Put away distractions (computers, smart phones) when you are with loved ones so that you can be truly present. Take care when preparing your food, enjoy the look/smell/taste of what you are eating. Eat slower. Find a way to enjoy the mundane. Enjoy the warm water to wash your dishes, the feeling of having a clean bathroom, the landscape you observe on your commute. Feel grateful for the beauty that is all around and take the time to enjoy it. 

Life is pretty groovy. Rejoice in the imperfections of mortality (this is where humour is helpful), slow down, delight in your experiences. I promise that it is worth it. 


Friday, 22 April 2016

5 Lessons I Learned from Kimmy Schmidt (no spoilers)


A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything. 
Irish Proverb

If what you are searching for is sleep, stay far away from my house. I have a 5 year old who has been waking up at 4 am and refusing to go back to sleep. We are zombies.

If you need a good laugh, I recommend watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. Ellie Kemper is delightful as an optimistic redhead who has endured more than most (reminds me of my other loves, Anne of Green Gables and Annie). In Kimmy's case, she has suffered being kidnapped and held hostage underground (literally) as part of a doomsday cult for 15 years. Somehow, creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock are able to form this dark storyline into one of the sweetest and most hilarious sitcoms I have ever seen. The supporting cast is amazing, I am especially in love with Titus Andromedon, easily one of my favourite characters ever!

Kimmy Schmidt is refreshing, positive, hilarious, naive, selfless, and kind. All she has is a good attitude, an eighth grade education, and gumption to help her navigate life in New York City. Her adventures are endlessly entertaining and I find myself learning something each episode.

5 Lessons I Learned From Kimmy Schmidt

5. Take life 10 seconds at a time. As someone who is prone to feeling overwhelmed, I think this is wonderful advice. To quote Kimmy, "I learned a long time ago that a person can stand just about anything for 10 seconds, then you just start on a new 10 seconds. All you've got to do is take it 10 seconds at a time."

4. Don't let your past define you. Everyone has a past, and everyone has experiences in their past that they don't care for. Perhaps you have been a victim of abuse (in whatever form), part of a cult (you would be surprised), made mistakes (this is everyone). Obviously, these experiences do not determine your behaviour and identity today... unless you let them.

3. Even though your past doesn't define you, you need to make peace with it. Season 2 of Unbreakable has Kimmy dealing with her very real PTSD and her unhealthy relationship with her mother. Kimmy has a breakthrough with her drunk therapist and realizes that she needs to work through her issues and face them in order to move forward with her life.

2. "Happy people value their needs as much as otherses."- Drunk Therapist
Kimmy is a selfless giving person, but her own life and well being were suffering as she continued to put everyone else's needs ahead of her own. Such an important lesson for us all, especially those of us who find ourselves in caretaker roles. Burn out is real.

1. There is humour and hope in all things. Kimmy Schmidt is sounding pretty heavy right? Nope. It is the most hilarious show with a joke a second. Kimmy is charmingly strange (my absolute favourite type of person). The characters grow and learn as they live their stories, especially in the second season.



P.S. Official Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt liked my mug on instagram. Nerd Alert! #hashbrownnofilter 

Friday, 15 April 2016

How to go on a date with yourself.

"Superman and Batman, more like Pooperman and Batfart."

A few days ago, I made this joke and it was met with uproarious laughter. This made me realize two things. One, I am hilarious. Two, I needed to get out. 

HOW TO GO ON A DATE WITH YOURSELF

1. If you have kids, arrange child care. Children are many things, convenient is not one. Luckily, Husband and I are happy to give each other breaks whenever needed. 

2. Make a plan. My plan yesterday was to go to a movie. Pretty simple. Other dates I have had with myself are; a Rufus Wainwright concert (this required more planning), many trips to coffee shops, recreational shopping (Chapters is good for this), long nature walks, a trip to the spa for a haircut. Whatever fills your bucket is a good choice. 

3. Do not plan other errands around your date. This is important! It is so tempting add a trip to the bank/grocery store/drug store/whatever, but if you do, you have turned your date with yourself into a chore. We all do enough chores. 

4. Make yourself pretty. Brush your teeth, brush your hair, put on makeup, paint your nails, pluck your nose hair, put on deodorant, whatever makes you feel great! Take some selfies for proof that you freshened up.

 Check me out with my lip gloss and freshly brushed hair! Is it better to look at the camera or to look at yourself on the screen? I feel like I look slightly mad (all the best people are) either way. Really, I'm just thrilled to have my face back after weeks of looking like a swollen tomato, a tooth abscess with an allergic reaction to antibiotics is not a fun time. 

My sister has a wonderful tutorial for taking selfies. I may be older, but she teaches me so much. Check it out here.

5. Wear the comfiest clothes possible. I have a personal motto (stollen from my wise cousin) that everything I wear must be cute AND comfy. Since all of my clothes feel like pajamas, dressing for my date was pretty easy. I had some fun at Polyvore putting together date outfit ideas for when you only want to date yourself.
This is my everyday uniform. Dress, tights or leggings (unless summer), cardigans, scarves... I do not have these cat shoes though. I feel like I might need to get them.

Husband actually owns and wears everything pictured here. Cute and comfy, this describes both him and his clothing choices.

6. Eat something yummy. Food is very important to me. A date by yourself is the perfect time for an overpriced coffee or pastry! If you fancy popcorn, frozen yogurt, nachos, or a hot dog, this is your moment. If you want to order a large popcorn with the intention of sharing it with your children and then eat slightly more than you had planned, go for it!

7. Get Over Yourself (the most important item). No one cares about what you are doing. I am sorry if you thought they did care, and you are saddened by this news. Go to a movie/restaurant/concert/museum by yourself, and you will notice other people there by themselves. You will also notice that no one pays attention to anything beyond their own nose most of the time. 

Enjoying your own company is an important life skill and there are many benefits. For example, when you go to a movie by yourself, you do not have to agree with anyone on which film to see. Last night, I saw "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2," which I enjoyed very much, although I realize that it probably isn't a movie for everyone. I recommend it to those who loved part 1 and who have a high tolerance for cheesiness. I may have cried twice.
The theatre was packed. 

The last movie I attended independently before last night was "Deadpool." I loved it. "Deadpool." By myself. On Valentine's Day. I am obviously very confident on my solo dates. With a little practice, you can be too!

Happy dating to all you gorgeous people!

Friday, 8 April 2016

Today I Called Sweden


Do something everyday that scares you. Most days I do this. It's a recipe for growth. Today, I called Sweden.

"Calling Sweden. You will soon be connected to a random Swede."

Within seconds of hearing this recorded message, I was chatting with a lovely girl named Amanda, who lives in Roma, Sweden. We have never met before, but we had an enjoyable 15 minute conversation discussing weather, life, and food differences and similarities between Canada and Sweden.

You can do it too, just call 46-771-793-336. I learned about this fun tourism promotion through a New York Times Article, and decided to go ahead and call before I lost my nerve.

I told Amanda that I would be in the UK shortly and would love to find a way to visit Sweden as part of my adventure. She recommended that I enjoy the natural beauty of the countryside, the mountains, the beaches, and smaller communities. That I eat pancakes, both sweet and potato. She asked me if Canada had a lot of scary bears. Is this something that comes to mind when thinking of Canada? Terrifying animals? I actually am extremely frightened of bears, and have come in contact with them a few times when camping in the rocky mountains. I told Amanda that when camping, we would hang our food or anything with scent high up in a tree to keep the bears away from our tents, and I think she is even more scared of bears now. Amanda told me that she did not start school until age 6, which is a preschool type program, with formal school beginning at age 7! I decided it best not to share my misgivings with the Ontario/North American way of beginning structured full day education earlier and earlier. Why our western culture seems obsessed with shortening childhood I will never understand. Amanda learned English in school, and I was extremely impressed with her proficiency! Amanda will be visiting Ikea tomorrow with her mother (what are the chances)! She said that Yes, Swedes do love Ikea. I told her that I love Ikea as well. I did not tell her that I have a dream of running away to a Scandinavian country and living a simpler life among my people, the pale socialists.

Isn't it fascinating, to make a connection with a stranger on the other side of the world, with no ulterior motive, on a whim? Thank you Amanda, from Sweden, for picking up your phone and taking the time to talk to a tired Mama with a toothache in Canada. It brought a little unexpected magic into my day.

Call Sweden. I dare you!

Just check the time difference first.

Photo used with permission from the Image Bank of Sweden.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

5 Ways to Celebrate Autism



April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. In general, I think this is a great thing, although I fail to see how "lighting up the world blue" is really helpful for autism education, and don't even get me started on the problematic use of a puzzle piece as a symbol for autism, or the deeply flawed charity Autism Speaks (if you don't know about the issues with Autism Speaks, I urge you to educate yourself and read about them here - there are many helpful links on this page).

What the world really needs is Autism Acceptance. I look forward to a day when a teenager with Autism getting a job as a Starbucks barista is an everyday occurrence and does not warrant a special segment on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. I love someone with Autism, and my life is richer for it. Statistically, you either have Autism or know someone with Autism.

Here are some ways to celebrate Autism Awareness Day and Month.

1. Be a friend. I recently read something that said, "if you don't know how to treat someone with Autism, treat them as their siblings do." My boys are brothers, friends, enemies, and playmates, as siblings should be. Autism doesn't impact their relationships and there is complete acceptance between them for all their differences and similarities.



2. Realize that everyone with Autism is different. It's nice that you know someone with Autism, but realize that Autism is a spectrum, and every person on that spectrum is very different. If you've met one person with Autism, you've met one person with Autism. Some Autistic people are extremely verbal, some are non verbal, some use augmented communication devices, some need extra supports, some can live independently, some cannot, some are sensory avoiders, some are sensory seekers... the list goes on and on.



3. Don't read or believe disproven information. Please check your sources! Autism is a neurological difference, not something to be cured. We all process information differently, and we can all learn to make our differences work for us in the world. If everyone is more aware, accommodating, and patient of differences in general, this makes the world better for us all!



4. Read books and blogs written by Autistic people! You will learn so much. One thing I have learned is that many people dislike "person first" language as it separates Autism from who they are as a person. Educate yourself, don't expect others to do this for you. I always think of, "nothing about us, without us." Reading too many books written by Autism parents or medical professionals can be damaging. These resources are not going to give you the entire picture, you will be missing out on the most important view point.



5. Talk about Autism! It is amazing. This morning I was chatting to Mr. K about his Autism, we talk about it all the time. When I asked him, "What do you think about Autism? Do you have Autism?" he had the biggest smile and gave me a high-five, because it's that awesome!

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Wuthering Heights Party

A Wuthering Heights Theme Party might be the most fun event possible. Maybe you are looking for something different to do this weekend, I am. Ideas for a party featuring the classic English Gothic novel have been swirling through my head all day. But first, some background.

Once upon a time, there was an old dude who's only wish was to rent a cottage for peace and relaxation. Unfortunately, his landlord was a portentous miscreant named Heathcliff and Old Dude ended up stranded in a snowstorm at a terrifying bit of farmland called Wuthering Heights (the name should be warning enough). Old Dude was given a dusty abandoned bedroom and quickly discovered that it was haunted (this pleased Heathcliff greatly because in addition to being a portentous miscreant, he is the most romantic macabre character of all time). Old Dude finally made it back to his rental the next day. Serendipitously, Old Dude's housekeeper, Nelly Dean, had been a servant to all 3 generations of the Wuthering Heights clan and was able to relate their complete history in astonishing detail. Old Dude must have sat and listened for hours.

As for everything else you need to know, it can be learned from the charts below (click on the chart to enlarge). If you have not read the book, relating the remainder of the twisted tale is a lesson in why children should not be named after their parents, it's terribly confusing. Let it be noted, that some cousins get married in this book, but that is far from the most disturbing happening.

Key:
  • black line: son or daughter of; if dotted it means adoption
  • red line: wedding; if double it means second wedding
  • pink line: Relationship
  • blue line: affection
  • green line: hate
  • light yellow area: plot-driving characters
  • violet area: external observers

I first read Wuthering Heights as a teenager, probably as part of my unquenchable thirst to read every piece of classic literature I can get my hands on. It quickly became my favourite book and I have read it many times since. I love the setting, the poetry of Emily Bronte's descriptions. It feels real to me. There is madness in many of the characters, so much so, that I regularly take a "reading break" when Catherine Earnshaw is at peak insanity, perhaps to make sure I don't become insane myself. It becomes too much and I must stop reading, a true testament to an engaging novel. Part of me will always be in love with Heathcliff and part of me will always be terrified of Heathcliff. Wuthering Heights was pivotal for me in understanding that there are motivations behind other people's behaviour that I will never know and never understand. It also taught me that no matter the circumstance, one always has a choice as to what one does with those motivations.

I am sure that it has now become self-evident that Wuthering Heights creates the quintessential party atmosphere. The party could focus on the celebration of passion and cruelty as featured in the novel. Another idea is to celebrate the fact that Emily Bronte's masterpiece was published under a male pseudonym and did not become a success until long after her premature death at the age of 30. Or you could just play this video over and over (one of my mother's favourites, this is very telling of my childhood)...


Wuthering Heights Party Details

Location: Obviously your own home, no need to clean up or decorate. The goal is to feel forgotten and alone.

Guests: No one. Just have in attendance whomever you live with, whether you like them or not. Don't even tell them it's a party, and if they happen to stumble into the party area, be sure to be hateful toward them.

Dress: Period dress is the only acceptable clothing choice, 18th century English dress. Some ideas,



Party Food: Almost enough cake, basin of tea, dirty bread, toast. For more delicious ideas and a definitive ranking of every meal in Wuthering Heights in order of sadness, click here.

Entertainment: Watch any or all adaptations of Wuthering Heights on film, take a drink whenever Hindley is cruel. Or, if it is raining or otherwise miserable outside, have a group walk in the wilderness. Make sure that someone gets lost for a period of time.

Music: Kate Bush or the soundtrack to the wildly unpopular Wuthering Heights musical.

Party Favours: Empty hands and cold hearts. Maybe make heart shaped ice cubes. I couldn't find any ideas on Pinterest.

Wuthering Heights Party at my house this Saturday. I can't wait!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Hippity Hoppity Easter's On It's Way!



Today we have a snowfall warning followed by freezing rain, but yesterday, we had sunshine! Easter is this weekend, and I am absolutely not ready, although I welcome the four day weekend. I welcome a four day weekend anytime, really. Because it has been a while since I dressed up my children like dolls and took pictures, it seemed like the right thing to do as we enjoyed our sunny Wednesday. My boys are growing, but I have a dream that they will enjoy this sort of thing well into their 50s. 

I dressed them up as "cowboys," according to Mr. G, and forced them to hold Easter baskets while standing in the snow. This all feels perfectly natural. 

 My cowboy climbing our backyard snow mountain. 

Such a dapper little man. My kids love getting dressed up (I am not being sarcastic- honestly)! They probably love it because I make such a big fuss and shower them with affection, when normally I completely ignore them (this is sarcasm).

 Oldest mini man was not as into pictures but was very much into running around the yard and planning how he would live outside permanently. Where he would sleep, what he would eat. I have no doubt that is his life plan, living in the wild. I will visit him, but I prefer living in a house.

 Our snowman is dying. Hooray! So long Frosty! We only like you until February. Then we hate you. It's an extremely intense relationship.





I showed him the proper way to wear his hat, I am very big on styling. He likes this way. It brings out his ears, and his cuteness.

 Showing me the "monster." We have some big imaginations. How terrifying is the steam from the laundry room? Obviously not that terrifying if you can stand this close and live to tell the tale.



 "Look Mom! I throw a snowball." So proud.
For the record, we might be focussing on the arts and not sports. That's why kids go to school, to learn about the things their parents don't teach them. Right?
And when I say the arts, I mean superheroes.
Childhood bliss. A messy chaotic backyard full of freedom, promise, and more mud than I thought possible.
Easter in Canada. The best. 
I am tempted to hide white eggs this year for added difficulty.

Happy Easter to you and yours!

View last year's Easter pics here. We have grown a bit!