Happy Birthday Buddy…

Dear Bang,

Since the day you were born, you’ve been quite a character. Full of personality. Full of quirks that made you unique. Today, exactly seven years later, that still holds true. You have a heart as big as the world and a temper to match. You can be as prickly as porcupine but also as snuggly as puppy. You have the temper of bull but also the kindness of Mother Theresa herself. You can be saucy, little brat, but also the most loving child a parent could ask for. You make your parents feel like we’ve done this parenting thing perfectly, but also make us feel like complete failures.

You’re kindness overshadows all. To this day, we still don’t know why you decided you wanted to sing in the church choir. Our only guess is that you absolutely adore the little, “old” ladies. They look forward to Sunday mornings as much as you do. I remember one morning when I told you to go up and get dressed and you growled at me like a rabid rhino ready to charge at me because you didn’t want to go to school. I reminded you we were going to church and you said “Oh” and happily got dressed. Today, not only did the church choir sing you happy birthday, but the whole congregation sang. I don’t know too many seven year olds who have happy birthday sung to them by the whole church. You’ve unknowingly made many people happy.

You hold doors for people just because you want to show them a bit of kindness. You could be sitting with your parents at Tim Hortons, but you’d rather stand at the door and open it when people enter or leave. You do it out of kindness. One day, someone gave you a tip, their loose change from their most recent purchase. It couldn’t have been more than a quarter. They might as well have given you a million bucks. Sometimes they would give you their free donut or free coffee they had just won from Roll Up the Rim to Win cups. Still, you hold doors because you want to, not because you are looking for tips. Even after the kindness of the lady who gave you ten dollars because she was traveling and had an armful of luggage.

At the grocery store you skip ahead in line so you can help bag the groceries of the person in front of us. At first I was afraid they would think you were stealing their food. Those fear were dashed quickly, when again, you discovered you could get tipped for helping. Everyone pays you with a thank you. The special ones give you a tip. Like the doors, you don’t do for the money. But it sure is nice.

You save money like Scrooge McDuck. When given ten dollars to spend at Toys R Us, your brother couldn’t get their fast enough. When we finally arrived, you asked, “Do I have to spend it? Can I save it?” don’t know too many kids you can take to a toy store and they don’t want to buy anything. You’ve got your eyes set on a puppy. So it’s only a matter of time now, buddy.

You frustrate us with your sauciness. You amaze us with your constant questions. You exhaust us with your desire to always to be moving. Come the end of the day, you make us feel loved and make us wonder why we ever thought we were “parenting” you wrong. Come morning, though, we’ll wonder all anew.

Love ya buddy,

Mom and Dad

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Peace and Chocolate

سلام

I don’t know how up to date on the happenings of Syria you are, but you’re probably as much “in the know” as I am. I know they’re fighting some kind of war and pretty much no one is safe. People have fled the country for their safety in the thousands. Tens of thousands. Millions. In 2016, the U.N. identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance. Six million of them are internally displaced and about five million are refugees outside of Syria. In that year 46,700 were admitted to Canada.

This year, one of those families came to our town. They fled to Lebanon seven years ago and lived there until a small group in our town rallied to get them here. The group even fund raised so the family would have enough money to live for a year since the family won’t be allowed any government assistance.

I don’t know about you, but I would have serious trouble if I suddenly found myself in Syria. Not because of the fighting, but because I don’t speak a word of Arabic. Have you seen how Arabic is written? Take a look at those squiggles at the top of this post. Arabic is written from right to left. Books are read front to back. You might as well teach me to flap my arms and fly away.

This family has been very eager to learn. While I would just hide in my house and hope no one noticed me, this family wants to learn. DW has been to their house nearly every day over the last week and a half to talk to them and help them and teach them. I have gone, too, but since I’m still teaching I don’t get to go as often. The boys have joined us. The family has three children, all around our kid’s ages. The great thing about kids playing is they often don’t need words. Play just happens. With the help of DW and a few other significant others, they have come a long way in just 2 weeks. They still have many miles to go, but their determination should see them there. We laugh with them when they tell us we’re teaching them English and they’re teaching us Arabic!

Anyway, a couple years ago a Syrian family moved to a town near us. Turns out the family had a thriving chocolate business in Syria. Or, at least they did until their factory was bombed. They moved here and soon set up a small baby barn to create some chocolate. Peace By Chocolate. Word spread quickly and they were eventually recognized by the Prime Minister. That’s how good their chocolate is. Needless to say, their business is thriving again. Just recently they created a chocolate bar. I know, big deal, right? How many chocolate bars are there in the world already? These chocolate bar wrappers have one word on them. One of those words is the squiggles that are at the top of this post.

Paix. Wantaqo’ti. ਸ਼ਾਂਤੀ سلام

French. Mi’kmaq. Punjabi. Arabic.

Peace. In our area of Canadaland these four languages are prominent and Peace By Chocolate is proving they are here for everyone. If we can all get along here, why can’t it happen all over the world, too?

You can visit them at peacebychocolate.ca. To my knowledge, they ship world wide. It’s worth every bite.

U is for…

Undivided. In it’s entirety. Whole. As parents it’s easy to understand why our children may not receive our undivided attention. Laundry. Cooking. Assembling trampolines (that what we did after school today). A phone call. We’re sitting on the toilet. However, when our children finally have our undivided attention, there’s no telling what might happen. Perhaps they’ll want to play a board game. Perhaps they’ll tell us what they did in school. Perhaps they’ll just want to tell us a story. Usually, they’ll have some piece of useless information they found out about whatever video game, or Pokemon they’re obsessing over. We’ll feign interest so they know that what they have to say is important to us no matter how mundane. When a kid hands you a toy phone you answer it. It’s the same with their stories. Sometimes the best thing we can give them is our time. After all, it’s the one thing that once we give we never get back.

Unconditional. Our children’s love comes with no strings attached. Our love for our children is nonnegotiable. From the time we find out we’re expecting to the first moment we hold them in our arms, our love grows exponentially.

Of course we’re going to have tough days, tough weeks. Perhaps some tough years, too. We don’t love them less. They are our children. Learning. Growing. There’s bound to be mistakes by child and parent alike. We pick each other up, dust each other off, apologize and move on. We continue to feed them, shelter them, love them. No matter how much we’d like to hang them from the clothesline for a few hours.

H is for…

HRaising kids properly. I’ve always said there are three requirements for successfully raising children. If they are happy, healthy, and educated then you’re doing it right. Naturally, it’s nearly impossible to hit on three counts all the time. Kids get cranky. Kids get sick. Sometimes we redefine what educating our children means. We have no curriculum, after all. So we make forward progress, always trying.

Raising happy kids is a tricky business. On one hand you want to spend your day with them, bending to their will. However, we know in the long run that won’t make them truly happy. When it comes time for them to be on their own they will flounder, lost without our help. So we need to balance bending to their will with allowing them to figure it out on their own. Whether it’s entertaining themselves or working independently or problem solving, they need to try it by themselves first. A couple years ago I heard a parent being described as a “snow plow” parent. I’d heard of crunchy parents, helicopter parents, tiger parents. A snow plow parent is one who pushed aside and solves all their children’s problems. Didn’t get the grade? Parents talk to the teachers. Didn’t make the team? Parents talk to the coaches. Didn’t get the job? Parents talk to the boss. It’ll make your kid happy now, but in the long run they won’t know how to handle disappointment and failure. So we walk the tight rope trying to balance what our kids need with what they want.

Another factor in their happiness is attention. There’s much to be said for positive attention. When you praise your kids for doing good, even if it’s something they do all the time, they start looking for more positive ways to be recognized. I know this, yet I still find myself nagging and barking at them for doing wrong. Attention is attention for them, positive or negative. I’m now working on catching them being good and verbally recognizing it. It’s making a difference.

Keeping them healthy is an entirely different issue. They’re going to sick at some point. Once they start trading germs like Pokemon cards it’s inevitable. Good parents nurse them back to health. Crazy parents wish they could take their child’s place in the sickbed and be sick for them. Hell no. Parenting is hard enough. We don’t need to be handicapped in parenting with the flu. Let them be sick and get your extra snuggles. Give them extra screen time and extra juice boxes.

Keeping them healthy also means feeding them properly. Real food. I know not everyone enjoys the kitchen as much as I do, but it doesn’t take much effort to make real food. Of course, there are cheat days when you don’t have the time, the energy, or the desire to make a meal so you throw in a frozen pizza, or nuggets, or whatever is easiest. Real food is a great way to save money, too. It’s cheaper to make a meal for four than it is to buy a meal for four. Plus you get leftovers. Unless it’s fish. We don’t eat leftover fish.

Keep ’em happy. Keep ’em healthy. The rest will fall into place.

You can also find some happiness on my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

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G is for…

G
Good.

Good times. Good bye. Good morning. Good night. Good enough.

Good times are like the time we had this evening at a 70th birthday party. You wouldn’t think that someone turning 70 could have a rockin’ party. When the family is musical, though, it’s always rockin’. It doesn’t get much better than sitting around a sing along with a few guitars. Perhaps you define “good times” differently, but for us, this is our definition.

Good bye. Rarely are byes good. Really the only time a good bye is truly good is when it’s someone or something you are relieved at being gone. Good bye cancer. Good bye flu. Good bye freeloader. I read somewhere that’s textspeak from the 1600’s for God Be With Ye. That makes it just good enough.

Good morning. Are mornings good? I used to be a morning person. I used to have no trouble getting up at 6am for work. Now when I get up at 6 am for work I need a nap by 10:15. My internal clock, however, is set for 6. Fortunately, I also have an internal snooze button. Yes, they’re good mornings regardless, because I’m happy to see you again. Good nights are sweet. ‘Round here it’s followed by “Love you. Ugga mugga see ya in the morning. Like your face. Your the best person.” and a kiss. If it’s the kids, peace and quiet reigns. If it’s us, amen. How do you know you’re a grown up? You enjoy bedtime.

Good enough is the feeling we parents get sometimes when we feel we’re just scraping by with our kids. They’re fed (so what if it was chicken nuggets with mac and cheese). So what if they got 3 hours of screen time today. It’s when we’re doing what we need to do get by. We’re surviving. For the most part, parenting is lots of fun. We have plenty of laughs. But sometimes we hear “watch me” a few hundred too many times. Sometimes we’ve played make believe, or that one game, or listened to our kids once again recite more facts about pokemon characters. We need adult interaction. Real conversation. Yet, here we are in munchkinland doing “good enough”.

Good night. I’ll be gooder tomorrow.

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E is for…

E

Everything.

Everything from A to Z. Everything I’ve written about so far and everything I will write about over the next 25 days. It’s about everything I’ve done today and yesterday and the 15,215 days since I was born. It’s about everything I’ll do with the unknown number days I’ll be here, of this Earth.

Right now, though, life is about everything we’ll do for our kids. We house them. We feed them. We educate them. We play with them. We put them to bed. That’s just the routine stuff. It’s the stuff we have to do. It’s in the contract.

It’s about everything we do for our kids that we don’t have to do. We sign them up for sports and music and dance and clubs and lessons and everything. We end up driving all over tarnation to get them where they need to go. It’s daughters doing dad’s nails and makeup. It’s about moms playing dump trucks in the dirt with their sons. It’s about dance parties in the kitchen. It’s about splash parties in the bathtub. It’s about doing what we need to do help our children be happy.

When your six year old son and the neighbor’s nine year old daughter decide they want to get married, you entertain the thought. You giggle when they start planning in November and set a date for April 5th. You roar with laughter when you hear they’re going to get divorced so they can get married again. Then they start assigning roles; a priest, a chef, a flower girl, a waiter. They create a menu of the grooms favorite meal; fish, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and corn. They ask for a wedding cake and cards. In November, it’s all good. It’s all fun and games and you allow them their creativity. Then comes April 5th. They didn’t forget. In fact, they spent the better part of those sixth month preparing. Invites. Place setting. Seating arrangement. Outfits. Decorations. The meal. Dessert. The first dance song.

So you make it happen. Coincidentally, there happens to be no school on their random date choosing six months ago. You take them to find a few things and return with fish, broccoli, pink salmon and green table cloths, a fake flower bouquet for the bride to carry, balloons, makeshift rings, and a cake that says Happy Wedding Day April 5, 2018. You gather the few who were invited and you act out the wedding. Then you cook the fish and mashed potatoes and broccoli and have it served by the gracious big brother. You allow them first dance waltz to Ed Sheeran’s Perfect then cut the cake.

Then you have to burst a bubble when you have to explain to your son that no, his “wife” can’t come live with us. Still… they do look like a very happy couple. It makes everything we do for kids worth everything we can do for them.

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C is for… #atozchallenge

CEmbracing the chaos (or as our niece used to call it, chowce).

It comes in many forms and it comes during varying times of the day and night. We always have two options. Option A is stress about it and try to find a way to calm the chaos. Option B is embrace the chaos and roll with it.

There are parents who can handle the chaos. These are the parents who have their shit together and all the ducks in a row. They give us the impression that parenting is as easy as watching our kids sleep. Here they are showered, dressed in real clothes, and so are their kids. Even their car is clean…

For the rest of us, parenting is more like getting our kids to sleep after they’ve eaten an entire chocolate cake and it’s 2:30 in the afternoon. Our car is muddy. And so are the kids. My chaos is different from your chaos as no two chaoses are the same.

There is the chaos that happens in your house. The kids are shack wacky, climbing the walls with too much energy and not enough room to unload it. There may be arguing. There will definitely be a mess. It will be loud, someone will end up with a time out. If we’re lucky, it’ll be us. It may be your own kids. It could be your kids and their friends. Whoever it is, you won’t be able to hear yourself think, which is all part of their plan. Our only hope is channel their energy into chores, board games, coloring, or something quieter. The only other way to beat them is to join them and their chaos.

There is chaos that is trying to get two kids to three different places. Dance. Band. Sport. Lessons. Chess club. I have heard of parents who drop one kid off one place, run their second kid to another place and by the time they get number two dropped off they have to go pick up number one. Somewhere in there they need to eat, do their homework, and at some point, go to bed. Only to have to do all again the next day. The chaos of having more to do that can be done in one day can be overw
helming. Or you can embrace what your life has become and know that it’s better to have your kid involved instead of in trouble.

Whatever your chaos, remember to breathe  and embrace the chaos. One day there will be no chaos and I dare say we’ll miss it.

You follow my chaos on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Questions I Asked My Kids: Ep64

US Gun debates are running wild around the world. Education reform is stirring up some strong emotions here in Nova Scotia. Change is needed in both places and I feel like those with the most power to make those changes happen aren’t listening to the ones who know what changes need to be made.

But that stuff is too heavy for a Jeudi. That’s French for Thursday. I substituted in a French Immersion class yesterday and today and the little ones had a blast trying to teach me some pronunciations. Guess it’s time I start taking some French courses!

Pouvez-vous parler français?

1. What do you like daydreaming about?

Crash: Minecraft and Pokemon Battles with real Pokemon
Bang: I feel like I’m still sleeping… even when I’m in school.

2. If you could do anything right now, what would you do?

Crash: Stay up late and play video games… Geometry Dash!
Bang: Play electronics all night… Geometry Dash!

geometry-dash

3. If you opened a store, what would you sell?

Crash: Candy, Pokemon, Minecraft Figures, Books about Pokemon and Minecraft, and super snuggly, ultracomfy stuffies
Bang: Things from Sobey’s (grocery store) like bread, cookies, and milk

4. If you could grow anything in the yard, what would it be?

Crash: A big orange or apple tree
Bang: I would grow more electronics!

5. What sounds do you like?

Crash: Farting, my favorite songs
Bang: Wawa (imagine Charlie Brown’s teacher) and creepy noises

6. What sounds do you not like?

Crash: When I’m laying in bed at night and I hear thump thump thump
Bang: I hate the word “this”

7. If you could ask a wild animal any question, what would you ask?

Crash: I would ask an eagle if I could be best friends with him
Bang: I would ask a wolf, “Can I ride you?”

8. What animal would make a great racecar driver?

Crash: Cheetah because they’re fast and used to the speed
Bang: A giraffe because he would stick through the roof and be able to see all the cars

funny-giraffe-driving-in-red-car

9. What makes our family so awesome?

Crash: That I’m in it and that we have an amazingly cute Quaker Parrot
Bang: Nothing, our family isn’t awesome because you yell at us

10. If you could make up a new holiday, what would it be?

Crash: There’s already a Minecraft Day so I’ll make a Pokemon Day
Bang: Booty Time and on June 10th you go outside and take all your clothes off

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Go Ask Your Father: Mirrors, Teddy Bears, Brain Messages, and House Water

Sweet Baby Jesus… Thank God it’s Friday! Did anyone else feel like this week was longer the 2016 presidential election? I swear the Universe had some kind of  time malfunction. Her clock was running a bit behind. Time does move slower the faster you go so maybe we went farther. Anyway, here in Canadaland this is a long weekend. Monday is Family Day. What do you think would be a good family day family activity to do with the family? (Did I say family, enough times?)

1. What color are mirrors?

Mirror, mirror on the way, who is the fairest of them all? Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris, the Canadian gold medal winners for mixed couples curling, are pretty cute. I don’t have a talking mirror, though. So the only way I know who the “fairest of them all is” is when DW is standing in front of it. What color is a mirror, anyway? Any color that is put in front of it. I had to look up how mirrors are made to find this one. Turns out they’re silver. Technically, they start as a window, a clear piece of glass. Then they spray it with demineralized water to clean it. It’s sprayed with liquefied tin. Silver is spray atop the tin because silver won’t stick to glass. As the liquid silver sets it hardens and takes on the reflective properties needed for a perfect selfie. A layer of copper is sprayed on to protect the silver and it’s all baked at 160 degrees Fahrenheit. The backside of it is painted and it’s all set for the fairest of them all.

2. Why are they called Teddy Bears?

The story I told Crash at bedtime when he asked went something like this. An American president a long time ago, named Theodore Roosevelt went by the nickname of Teddy. For a reason unbeknownst to me, created a stuffed animal that was a bear. People called it a Teddy bear. I was close. Right church, wrong pew. Theo did not create the stuffed animal. Instead its origins are from a bear hunt he attended. After 3 days he had not spotted a bear. So the hunt guides tracked down a bear, tied it to a tree and showed it to the President. Theo, seeing that it was wounded and tied to a tree couldn’t shoot it, deemed it inhumane. However, he did have killed to end its suffering. Political cartoonist, Clifford Berryman, drew a cartoon illustrating the President’s refusal to shoot the bear. That bear appeared in later cartoons by the cartoonist. Then Morris Michtom, a candy shop owner in Brooklyn, NY saw the cartoon and, with permission to call them Teddy’s Bears, put two stuffed bears his wife had made, in the front window of his shop. They became so popular he started mass producing them.

3. How does our brain send messages to the rest of our body?

Email? Text? Binary code? Shouting “HEY!” Really, I have no idea. Other than the brain using synapses and neurons and sending signals through our nervous system to the body part that needs to move (like my fingers across the keyboard). Your brain, spinal chord, and a tremendous length of nerves throughout your body all work together to give you that “human experience”. There are 2 kinds of nerves, sensory and motor. The sensory nerves send messages to the brain in regards to our senses, touch, temperature, pain, etc… Motor nerves send signals from the brain to our muscles either voluntarily or reflexively. If you’re wondering how it works on the molecular level, you’ll have to ask your friendly, neighborhood neurologist because I don’t understand neurons and synapses and stuff.

4. How does water get from the water tower into our house?

Magic. Just open the tap and out comes fresh, clean water we can drink (though we filter it anyway). We have several water towers around town.  Water is collected from the lake, cleaned, filtered and pumped though the water pipes that are networked through town by pumping stations. The pumping stations provide the pressure required to push the water through the pipes so that it comes out of the sink, the tub, the toilet, or the hose when want it to. There’s something for you to think about when you’re standing in front of your silver mirror, telling your brain to move your arm while holding your toothbrush while water flows from the faucet.

sydneyjharris1

all mirrors start as a window anyway…