Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Block Party

Every year our neighbourhood hosts a big block party as a kick-off to summer.

Sponsored by a couple of local churches and businesses and held in one of our bigger neighbourhood parks it's an afternoon and evening of free family fun for the whole community - bouncy castles, mazes and games for the kids, face painting and balloons to take home, bands playing on the stage all day.

Vendors set up to sell burgers and hot dogs and cotton candy and caramel corn. Kids tear around underfoot and call out to one another across the playground. Parents introduce one another to friends and neighbours and stand around casually chatting in groups. The air is filled with the smell of barbeque and the sounds of music and laughter and the warmth of community spirit and a sunny summer day.

What a wonderful neighbourhood to live and raise our children in!


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Monday, 26 May 2014

City vs. Suburbs

Where to settle down and make a home for your family is a complicated decision. It may be one of the toughest you'll ever make - and have a huge impact on your child's future.

A high-rise condo in the heart of the city with all the amenities and breathtaking views within walking distance of everything? A sprawling farmhouse in the country with acres of land and trees and a creek trickling by? A midtown century townhouse oozing character and charm and a stone's throw away from the office? A cozy suburban bungalow with a sprawling backyard and playgrounds and parks and kid-friendly streets?

Do you need to stay near your families, to the town where you were raised? How long of a commute to work can you handle, and how much traffic are you willing to deal with? How much living space do you need? How important is a yard? Do you need to be close to shops and restaurants? How close? What about schools, and parks, and community facilities? And what can you afford?

Suburban garden, backyard, suburbsThere are a million questions, a million factors, a million priorities to sift through in making a decision about where to put down roots, raise a family and build a life.

For our family, the decision was a no-brainer. For us, the suburbs is the only place to live and raise a family.

We both grew up in the suburbs - the same suburb, actually - a cozy little small town only a couple of kilometres from the biggest city in the country. It was perfect - safe, friendly, family-oriented. Community-minded. Lots of kids bike riding up and down the streets, neighbourhood barbeques, everyone meeting up on Main Street for ice cream, that sort of thing. I can't imagine a more idyllic childhood, and I want the same for my kids.

A rural lifestyle is completely out of the question for us. While I understand the appeal of living a life of quiet isolation in the country - for some, though definitely not for me - I couldn't imagine raising children there. No neighbourhood barbeques, no park full of kids, no sounds of splashing in the pool or children's laughter from nearby backyards, no get-togethers with the neighbours - because there aren't any neighbours. A bus ride to school instead of a short, familiar walk. Strapping everyone into the car for a trip "into town" every time you need to buy so much as a bag of milk. No neighbourhood kids knocking on the front door to ask if your son can come out to play, no security in the knowledge that if your boy falls off his bike down the street a half-dozen adults who know him will make sure he's ok and get him back to you. I'm sure a childhood out in the country has its benefits, but it's just so far removed from my mental image of what childhood should be, from what my own childhood was, from what I want for my kids' childhoods.

The city lifestyle is definitely something that appeals to me - restaurants, shopping, theatre and nightlife all at your doorstep, endless options for activities and entertainment, everything you could want and need within walking distance of your front door. It's exactly the kind of lifestyle I'd want - if I didn't have kids. The problem with raising children in the city, in my mind, is safety. No matter how good a neighbourhood you live in there's always a bad one within a few blocks.

A city is a big, crazy, congested place - too many people, too much traffic, too many distractions. Too easy to lose sight of a little pair of legs walking alongside you. Too much risk of a tiny hand slipping out of yours and stumbling in front of a speeding taxi. Too many people from all walks of life crowded in on top of one another, leading to too much crime, too much exposure, too much risk of something very bad happening. Too much anonymity, not enough sense of community. Though the idea of a shortened commute and access to everything is uber appealing for a young single or a couple without children it would never be my choice for where to raise my kids.

Suburbia is the ideal for us. This little slice of heaven we've found in Pleasantville couldn't be more perfect if we'd made it to order. Our home is small but perfect and sits in a beautiful yard, fronting a quiet tree-lined street and backing onto a park with a playground. Our neighbourhood is safe and friendly - neighbours visit from yard to yard, kids can bike ride up and down the streets or meet at the park to kick the ball around - everyone knows everyone else and keeps an eye on each other's kids. The school is one of the best in the region and is a five minute walk from our front door.

Our small town isn't really all that small but does an amazing job of keeping that small-town sense of community - organized activities and events for kids and families every holiday, special occasion and long weekend, concerts in the park and movie nights, fairs and festivals and barbeques. Though we have restaurants, shopping, theatres and community centres within walking distance of our home we are also surrounded by biking paths and hiking trails and rivers and trees - and we're still only a twenty minute drive into the city. It's the perfect balance of small-town community and city amenities.

This perfect little Pleasantville we've found is exactly the suburband paradise we want to raise our children in. I can't think of a better place to make our family's memories.


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Friday, 23 May 2014

Front Garden Fix

A full year of construction on the back decks, a determinedly sunshiney few weeks of spring after a long harsh winter and a long weekend of raking and turning soil and weeding and seeding and planting in the back garden have turned our backyard from bleak to beautiful.

Front garden and steps, interlocking stone, townhouseWith all the focus on the backyard, though, our front garden has been sadly neglected since last year's front walk makeover when we put in a new garden with a stone retaining wall, a new stone step and a stone pathway up the side of the driveway to give our little townhome a little curb appeal. We had big plans for the entrance to our home this year - resurfacing the concrete steps and porch and replacing the white wooden railings with black wrought iron railings, then planting a few more cedars and finishing off with a couple of hanging baskets with ferns. It will be gorgeous. But between soccer every evening and weekend tournaments and end of school activities and endless spring and summer events filling up our weekends we haven't been able to get to it yet - and looking at the calendar going forward I'm not sure when we will be able to.

So, rather than leaving the sad, neglected mess that was our front entrance until we actually get around to making it over, this week I pulled out the shovels and rakes and grass seed and cedar mulch and tackled the front lawn and garden. I rebuilt the retaining walls which had loosened and started falling apart and started to look sloppy over the winter. I raked the lawn, regraded a mysterious hump, added topsoil and lawn seed. I turned over the soil in the gardens and topped up the cedar mulch covering all the beds. I pruned back the damaged bits from the hedges and shrubs.

A couple of hours of hard work later and I'm pretty happy with my no-money front yard facelift. It's back to looking...well, exactly like it did last year before this ridiculous polar vortex winter happened, half-killing our shrubbery between the ice storms and the extra twelve feet of snow piled on top of them all winter long, leaving a mess of broken branches and brown patches and salt damage and general yuckiness in place of our cute little front lawn and garden.


And you see that awkward gap, where the front garden wall and stone steps and stone walkway come together but don't quite meet? That teeny spot that's too narrow to grow grass and doesn't look quite right? I finally figured out what to do there. A couple of enormous boulders transplanted from our backyard and carefully positioned to look casual and natural cover up the awkwardness and the gap and add a little warmth to our front entrance. A cheerful pot of sunny orange flowers finish it off and keep our front walk welcoming until we can get to the big makeover later this year.



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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Spring Gardening


The May long weekend is the acknowledged official start of gardening season in Ontario so first thing Saturday morning we eagerly headed out to the garden centre.

Our yard is still in the filling and growing stage - although our front yard and streetscape are filled with gorgeous, lush, towering trees that filter the light even through our third-story windows, no-one ever thought to plant anything in the backyard before we moved in so we inherited a bare naked patch of grass (and a deck we tore out and rebuilt...but we'll discuss that later.)


For our first few years in this home we are on a limited budget so that I can be an at-home Mommy until our youngest son starts school full-time, and most of the home improvement dollars we have set aside have already been spent on higher-priority indoor projects like replacing the old, worn carpet with new hardwood floors, redoing the main floor powder room, and building the boys' dream bedrooms and playroom. And, of course, our massive new two-storey deck and staircase in the backyard. There simply isn't a lot of room left in the budget for spectacular landscaping.

 Backyard garden, gardening, spring
Back Garden
So we're building our lush, layered backyard garden one plant at a time, one project at a time.

Our first full summer in our dream home we built a big back corner garden with a stone retaining wall around an existing dogwood - the only planting the previous owner bothered to do. We added a purple sandcherry, a Japanese maple and some low flowering perennials. Last year, while doing the deck construction, we unearthed some huge rocks and placed them in the back garden and framed it out on either side with cedars.


On the opposite side of the yard we built another long, low garden for vegetables. There's nothing pretty about the vegetable garden, but the kids absolutely love planting, watering and weeding the garden, watching it grow, and harvesting the crops - it's one of their favourite summer projects. And I love the idea of eating fresh organic food grown right in our own backyard.


Last summer we planted two tall columnar oaks, one near the back garden to provide privacy from the park and one closer to the house to provide privacy from the neighbours' yard. Next year we plan to plant a mountain ash in one back corner - we have one growing in the front yard and it's absolutely beautiful - and a crabapple in the opposite back corner once we find a new home for my husband's composter (where we make our own dirt.)

This spring there were no large additions - the budget won't stretch to trees this year - so our big spring gardening weekend was all about annuals. We filled in all the open areas of the back garden with cheerful purple, orange and yellow pansies which will grow into a jungle of colour by late spring.

The tomato and cucumber plants we started from seed a few months ago, first in yogurt cups and then moved to larger pots when they flourished in our kitchen window "greenhouse" were transplanted into the vegetable garden and we lined the perimeter in swiss chard. Next to the vegetable garden our strawberry patch is already flourishing.

Time to get growing! Next up: the front garden.


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Monday, 19 May 2014

Long Weekend Summer Kick-Off

This past weekend was the first long weekend of the season and the official kick-off to summer in Canada.

This year we didn't go away (thanks to a couple of scheduled soccer practices despite the holiday) but spent a wonderful weekend relaxing at home and enjoying the outdoors.

Waterfront Fun, kids, cottage, lakeWe spent one day up north visiting my grandparents, playing on the water and exploring the woods. In keeping with long weekend tradition, the day we went up north was the day the weather turned unseasonably cool and we had to bundle up before heading out - but no amount of cold could keep the kids from enjoying the magic of their great-grandparents' big lakefront property and home filled with warmth and snuggles and secret corners and special surprises.



Another day was spent at the Pirates and Princesses event at the town park, an afternoon full of piratey crafts and activities and a pirate-themed Movies at the Park movie night, the whole family curled up with our sleeping bags on our big outdoor blanket until the middle of the night.

The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying the backyard and neighbourhood, a long lazy sunny morning on the new second-storey deck, a couple of hours at the park, an afternoon planting and puttering and playing in the gardens, a long bike ride through the ravine and the first trip to the ice-cream shop of the season.

And our long weekend fun was topped off by a fireworks show at the park behind our house - snuggled up in jammies and enjoyed from the comfort of our own bedroom windows. What a wonderful start to summer!


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Friday, 16 May 2014

Dandelion Days

Dandelion Bouquet, childhood, motherhood, memories

There's something so special, so poignant, so heartbreakingly sweet about a hand-picked bouquet of dandelions, wildflowers or weeds plucked by sticky little fingers and presented proudly "for you, Mommy."


Something that makes a mom feel more loved and lucky than any number of store-bought bouquets or sparkly somethings in little blue boxes ever could.




A feeling of overwhelming warmth and love that carries with it memories of climbing trees and jumping in leaves and digging for worms and building castles in the sand; of running through endless open fields and falling and laughing and getting back up and running again; of swimming all day and drying off in the sun, floating on a raft gazing up at the sky, lazily counting the clouds that roll by, of a time when every moment is the only moment that matters and the world is filled with wonder and joy and pure and perfect love.

For me one of the first real signs of spring is that first dandelion bouquet my babies pick for me.


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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Mother's Day Tradition

Panda, zoo, Toronto Zoo, animals, animal photography
Mother's Day for our family means a day at the zoo, our family's favourite field trip destination. This year we were blessed with a beautiful sunny Sunday for our afternoon out with the animals, the first truly summery-feeling weekend of the year.


Polar Bear, animals, animal photography, zoo, Toronto Zoo

I have loved our days at the zoo ever since we took the boys for their first visit so many years ago. It's such a nice, wholesome way to spend time together as a family, outdoors and unrushed and just enjoying exploring together. No matter how many times we go there's always something new to see -  a new exhibit or display, an addition to the Zoomobile tour, a new baby, an animal who's hardly ever out or always asleep preening and putting on a show.


Kids digging dinosaurs, zoo, Toronto Zoo
Digging for dinosaurs in KidZoo

I love learning and exploring with the boys - we find the animals fascinating and never tire of seeing our favourites. The kids are always excited for a visit to the KidZoo area and my husband and I enjoy the fresh air and exercise, and the whole family always looks forward to a burger in the African Savannah restaurant.



Nothing means Mother's Day to this mom more than a sunshiney day out at the zoo with the man I love and our three beautiful little boys.



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Monday, 12 May 2014

Moms Are Selfish

They say that mothers are the most selfless human beings on the planet.

I say being a mom is one of the most wonderfully selfish things anyone can do.

Being a mom means making sacrifices you can't even begin to imagine or understand before you become a mom; but it also means more love and happiness than you could ever hope to experience and so overwhelming that nothing else matters.

Becoming a mom means distorting and destroying your once-perfect body beyond recognition, months of sickness and stretching and bloating and discomfort during pregnancy, the endless, impossible agony of labour and inhuman ripping pain of childbirth itself, and still more months of leaky breasts and saggy skin and stretch marks. It means strangers and near-strangers poking and prodding at parts of your body normally reserved for the privacy of your bedroom. It means an emotional journey from excitement to anxiety to terror and back - over and over and over again every single day.

Being a mom means giving up all control over your own life for a time - the most basic things, like when you sleep, when you eat, when you shower and use the bathroom. It means your body is no longer yours, for a time. It means your relationship with your husband changes completely - no longer a couple, you are suddenly parents, a family - alone time, date nights and sex become laughably rare, for a time, and lower on the priority list that you would ever have thought possible. You will rarely, if ever, get to see the friends you once thought of as practically family. You will go without sleep, you will be pooed on and peed on and vomited on, you will weep uncontrollably, you will feel like everything you're doing is wrong. You will be an emotional wreck with a body you don't recognize, unshowered in spit-up stained sweats, snipping and snapping at the man you promised to love for the rest of your life.

Being a mom means making choices for your child that will completely change your own career path and future and goals. It means working round-the-clock as a cook, cleaner, chauffeur, coach, event coordinator and childcare professional - none of which you've ever shown any aptitude for or interest in - on a full-time and volunteer basis. It means you will no longer have the luxury of independence you've come to take for granted as an adult and there are days you break down in tears because you just want five minutes to yourself. It means feeling guilty all the time. It means being tired most of the time. It means feeling frustrated, angry and impatient a lot more often than you'd like. It means wrapping your heart and soul and identity entirely up in another human being's but letting them go to learn and live on their own. Being a mom means your heart will break in one way or another every day for the rest of your life.

But.

Being a mom means a love so overwhelming it makes your heart ache and leaves you breathless and none of the rest matters in the slightest.

Your body is amazing - your body made another person. Your belly is soft because it once sheltered your child, your skin is stretched because that child grew strong and healthy inside you. Your hips are round because your child pushed his way into the world from between them in nature's most primal and violent and natural and beautiful act. Your breasts are saggy because your child fed from them, was nourished from them, for months or years. Your eyes are tired from sleepless nights spent comforting someone who loves you, needs you, and trusts you more wholly and unconditionally than you would ever have believed possible. Your face is lined from laughter. Every crease around your eyes and mouth are a memory of a smile. You are a woman, and a mother, and you are beautiful.

Being a mom changes you in ways you can't begin to imagine. Your world changes, your life changes, your priorities change, everything turns upside down as this new little person becomes the centre and the focus and the meaning of your life. You will be completely overwhelmed by love for your little one and become both stronger and weaker than you ever thought possible.

You will fall even more in love with your husband. The bond of love you'll share in the miracle you've made together will deepen and strengthen your connection. You will get your joy together from the life and family you're building together. You will watch him with your baby and weep with the overflow of love for these people who are your whole world.

Being a mom means the world becomes new again as you see and learn all over again through the eyes of your child. It means a new sense of wonder and pleasure in small things as you explore and discover with your little one. Being a mom means your days are filled with laughter and joy, your heart filled with love, your soul filled with memories to cherish for the rest of your life.

Your child will make you laugh until you cry, will fascinate you with his stories and questions and imagination and wonder, will break your heart when he slips his tiny trusting hand in yours or wraps his chubby arms around around your neck and gives you a squishy wet kiss or tells you he loves you. You will love this little human being a million times more than you ever thought possible, and you would and will give up everything for this precious angel you've been blessed with.

Being a mom is the most wonderful thing in the world.


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Friday, 9 May 2014

Pop-Up Card Craft

Pop-up card craft, handprint craft, kids craft

Kids love making homemade cards to give and parents love getting them as gifts. Here's a fun way to change up the usual folded sheet of crayoned construction paper - pop-up picture cards!




Pop-up card craft, kids craft
To make the card, fold two sheets of card stock in half. Make two cuts on the folded side of one of the sheets and invert the folded section between the cuts. Glue or tape the two sheets of card stock together with the solid sheet on the outside. When the card opens the inverted fold should protrude out.

Handprint craft, kids craft
Trace the kids' hands on another sheet of paper and have them colour them in. Cut out the coloured handprint with a little "stem" left on the bottom. Glue the handprint "flowers" to the section of the card that pops out.


Pop-up card craft, handprint craft, kids craft
Cut another piece of paper into the shape of grass. Fold lengthwise and tape the fold to the card just in front of the handprint flowers.


I've had a house full of kids these last couple of weeks as I've been watching my neighbour's boys. This fun pop-up card craft kept all five kids happy and entertained for hours and will make a wonderful surprise for their mom this Mother's Day!

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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Paper Tear Art

Paper tear art is such an easy, versatile activity that really lets kids stretch their imaginations and create some wonderful pictures from nothing more than paper and glue and creativity.

To make a paper tear picture all you'll need is several different colours of paper and craft glue.

Tear the paper into small pieces and glue onto the background in the desired shapes or patterns. You can overlap as much as you like for texture and depth.

Paper Tear Art, foil, rainbow, crafts, kids crafts
Since Easter passed only a few weeks ago we have a lot of coloured foil eggs in the house so we made a paper tear picture using foil.

We wrapped a piece of card stock in aluminum foil for the background, then tore up our saved Easter egg wrappers to create some rainbow artwork.
Paper Tear Art, landscape, crafts, kids crafts
For a construction paper project my son used blues and greens to create a landscape of trees and mountains. Once the glue dried he splattered the page with white paint and voila! A winter wonderland.

This same craft could be done using scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, tissue paper, recycled newsprint... the possibilities are almost endless!


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Monday, 5 May 2014

Too Old For Selfies (or "Dear God How Did I Get So Ugly?)

So I had to take a selfie today.

It was awful.

Back in my day (yes, I'm doing the "back in my day" thing... "back in my day we had to WALK to school, every day, in the snow, uphill BOTH WAYS..." apparently I'm old enough to do that now. I digress.) Back in my day we called them "green cards" - same thing, shot of self or self-and-friend, head-and-shoulders only, often off-centered and with a critical ear or top-of-hair cut out of the shot (back in the day we didn't have the technology to flip the view on our smartphones so we could view the shot before we took it and adjust ourselves to look properly pretty and poised and posed according to lighting and makeup and angles...we just pointed and shot and crossed our fingers. In fact, when I was in high school, not only did we not have smartphones, we didn't even have digital cameras. We had to take our green cards - selfies - whatever, finish our roll of twenty-four photos, take the film in to be developed, and wait to see how they turned out a couple of days later. I swear to God. And I am in my mid-thirties, I am not seventy-five years old.)

But whatever you call it, green card or selfie or vanity shot or whatever, I have certainly taken more than my share of them over the years. I have become fairly expert at taking a blind shot of myself and as many people as I can cram into the shot - as well as any necessary background for context - perfectly framed, with my head tilted at just the right angle to avoid weird chin or jawline or eye circles.

But today's selfie? Dear God. Awful. Awful.

Let me explain.

I am the manager of both my older two sons' soccer teams. At the rep level, this is a volunteer position that requires approval by the Board of Directors of the soccer club, a police screening, approval by the regional soccer affiliation, and provincial sanctioning. Only team officials sanctioned by the provincial soccer association can be on the field or the sidelines during games. It's all very official and absurdly regulated. So they require team officials - coaches, assistant coaches, and managers (players, too - you know, in case the ten-year-old team brings in an international ringer)- to have a "passport": head-and-shoulders photo, name and birthdate, signature, sign-off by the soccer club and regional soccer association and stamped by the provincial soccer association before being allowed to play in any official in-season games.

So, having spent weeks collecting photos and signatures for these silly passports I realized I'd need to do one for myself. No worries - I'd just take a quick selfie, right?

Wrong.

Good Lord.

How did I get so ugly? When did this happen?

I used to be hot.

Yes, I do understand that selfies are by nature unflattering. And if I were posting this selfie on Twitter or Instagram there would be filters I could use to soften the whole effect - but at one time I was hot enough without any filters.

Today's selfie proves that most definitely to no longer be the case. At. All.

The pale, pasty, tired, lined, fleshy face in that picture bears absolutely no resemblance to the hottie I was in my twenties, the hottie that still lives in my mind. How did I not know that girl no longer existed in the real world? I do in fact own mirrors. The girl I thought I was seeing in the mirror is not the girl in that selfie. How did I let this happen? I mean, I don't exactly put any time into doing my hair and face - but I never did. And, sure, I haven't had a full night's sleep in the ten years since I had kids - but really? I went from a hottie to a haggard shrew in a few short years because I need more sleep?

Ageing sucks.

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Friday, 2 May 2014

Mom's Birthday Wine

Mom's Birthday Wine, cocktails, parenting

So it's my birthday.

I'm celebrating alone, in the dark, with a glass of wine and my laptop.



I'm an adult now. And a mom. I don't see my birthday as a big deal - birthdays stop being particularly important, as far as I'm concerned, once you're a grown-up and have kids of your own. My birthday happens to fall on the same weekend as my niece's, a week after Easter and a week before my son's birthday and Mother's Day. It's a gong show this time of year, and we generally sort of slide over my birthday in terms of family celebrations and milestones. A family dinner out, cards from the kids, lots of hugs and kisses. That's all I hope for.

But this birthday, if we're searching for descriptive phrases, could only be characterized as "epically disastrous."

The day started off well. I woke up to three exuberant little boys leaping into my bed and smothering me with kisses and hugs and "Happy Birthday" wishes. We all tumbled downstairs where my husband and children disappeared into the basement to finish "making something secret" they started last night while I proceeded to make breakfast for the family.

Roughly thirty seconds later the basement erupted in cries and shouts and one particularly loud, clear, "I don't want to make a card for Mommy anymore; I don't want to be around any of you" followed by Middle Child stomping up the stairs and slumping on the couch with a look of mutinous rage.

I calmly brought him breakfast

The rest of the family followed shortly thereafter. Youngest Child piped up, "Make birthday cards for Mommy. S'prise. Secret." I laughed. Husband told me that we were going out for dinner tonight, just us, and doing a special birthday celebration at home tomorrow night with the kids, when they would give me their cards. (I should explain: the older two boys visit their biological dad for the night most Fridays. We didn't switch to Saturday night as we have two soccer practices and my niece's birthday on Sunday - it was easier to just celebrate my birthday Saturday night - particularly since, as I said, I don't see my birthday as being a big deal.) Youngest Child immediately threw a fit because he wanted to give me his card right then.

Two kids down, two temper tantrums, not even eight o'clock in the morning. Possibly a record, even for us.

Opened and gushed over Youngest Child's card, fed the rest of the family breakfast, finished making lunches and packing backpacks and rushed the kids off to school with promises to pick them up for one of our special Friday lunches at home.

Spent the morning tearing around doing grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, and cleaning the entire house which was a disaster after babysitting the neighbour's kids all week. And squeezing in a couple of hours of paperwork. While taking care of Youngest Child. And getting special lunch ready.

Walked over to school to pick up kids for lunch. In the rain.

Realized upon arrival at the school that Pizza Fridays had started again and I'd ordered the kids pizza. Spent extra ten minutes out of their hour-long lunch break locating paid-for pizza slices. Walked home. In the rain.

Frantically put together special lunch for kids. Included cupcakes as we always do for birthdays - felt a little weird, as birthday was my own, but did it anyway.

Lovely birthday lunch together with my three boys. Heartwarming. Highlight of my day. Broke out cupcakes after lunch only to realize we had seven minutes left before back-to-school bell would ring. Ate cupcakes in hand while racing back to school. In the rain.

Back home. In the rain. Received email money transfer from my parents with best wishes. Awesome - so generous. Emailed thank-yous. Surely they would call later with live birthday greetings? (Spoiler alert: they did not.) Received birthday texts & messages from one of my brothers. (Wait - one of...? So other brother texted or messaged later? Spoiler alert: he did not.)

Packed overnight bag for kids. Walked over to school. In the rain. Eldest Child dismissed late because of confused supply teacher - everyone soaking wet and cold from waiting. Walked home. In the rain.

Ex-husband waiting at home to pick up older two kids for the night. Hugs and kisses and good-byes.

Five minutes later, phone call from ex-husband to call 911 as his truck pulled back into driveway.

Ran outside with phone - kids were fine, he meant for himself. Chest pains. Made 911 call, sent kids inside. Fairly extensive first aid background and assessment of vitals made me fairly sure it wasn't a heart attack, but better to be safe than sorry. Fire truck arrived. Ambulance arrived. Children fascinated and highly entertained by emergency vehicles parked up and down our street.

Ambulance left for hospital. Texted ex-husband's new-wife.

Made after-school snack for kids, packed away backpacks and lunches and agendas and sat down to play board games while waiting for - something.

Children began complaining of starvation. Right on cue, immediately after snack and an hour or two before dinner. Weak voices. Quivering lips. Very dramatic. Impressive.

Husband texted from work, not feeling well. Nasty flu bug has been running through the family all week - husband was the last man standing. Not anymore.

Gave up on dinner. Pulled sauce and meatballs from freezer and put pot of water on stove for spaghetti.

Husband texted from work. Full-on flu.

Ex-husband's new-wife texted. Ex-husband fine. Good.

Dinner - couldn't eat, as am no longer able to eat pasta (lengthy story for another post.) Watched children eat. Nibbled on celery and carrot sticks. Without dip, as am no longer able to eat dip (part of same lengthy story.) Hungry.

More board games. Youngest Child misbehaving all over the place. Driving entire family insane.

Husband arrived home, sick as a dog. Installed on couch with water and barf bucket.

Ex-husband and new-wife arrived to pick up older two kids. All well on that front.

Youngest Child still misbehaving. Eventually fell asleep. Fifteen minutes before liquor store closed.

Ran to liquor store. Picked up bottle of wine. Got carded. ON my thirty-sixth birthday! Hooray! Clerk looked at ID, looked at me. Said, "Hey - that's today. It's your birthday." Looked at ID again, looked at me again. Handed back ID. Quickly looked at me again and looked away. Said, "Happy Birthday" while hurriedly ringing up my eight dollar bottle of wine. Look screamed "it's ten o'clock on a Friday night, on your birthday, and you're here alone buying an eight dollar bottle of wine..." (Yes, I said eight dollars. I'm not fancy. But I do require wine.) Muttered "thank-you" and scurried on out of there.

Sick husband eventually fell asleep.

And now I'm sitting here, celebrating my birthday alone, in the dark, with a glass of wine and my laptop.

There will probably be a few more glasses of wine.

Like I said, epically disastrous. Like, 90's sitcom hysterically comical disastrous. (Other than the ex's medical emergency, obviously, but since he's fine now - just adds to the ridiculousness.) Epic.

Cheers!

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