When Fairy Godmothers Die

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.06.13 PMMy hand reaches for my phone. I wonder how I could’ve handled the situation with my daughters better. I need to find out how I was to my sister when I was younger.
I scroll through my smartphone to find the number. It is there. I’m about to call when my heart starts to pound so loud I think my neighbors can hear it.
I put my phone down and try to calm my shaking hands. The pain shoot through my heart and thrashes my soul. It has been six years since my foster mom died. Judy saved me when I needed someone. For years she and my mom maintained a strong friendship through university and beyond. When my mom became pregnant with me it was obvious who would be my godmom.
Judy and I had our weekly date for many years. I believed the fairy godmother from Cinderella was made because of her then my mom died. Nannies and the stepmom came into my life as she faded into the background. Six years later, after an extreme fight with my dad, I made a call to Judy. It was my cry for help, and she answered. She recommended I should go through the foster system so she can be registered to be my foster mom. That way she could get money to support me.
It felt like my life and, my childhood, began again after a long blackout. As I grew older, got married and became a mom she remained an important part my life. She was my shoulder and gave me advice. In this moment, I needed her. I forgot. She is gone. I will never forget her nor will her grandchildren.
If you have a special mom or mother figure in your life, phone her or contact her today. You never know when it will be the last. I would like to forget how she died, so I will focus on how she lived.

The Irony of Anti-Bullying

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 9.15.31 PM My ears are burning before it clicks with what she just said to me. Tomorrow is Anti-Bullying Day. She commented on how cute my daughter will look in pink for Anti-Bullying Day. I shrug my shoulders and say, “ Well, if she wants to wear pink?” The woman stared at me aghast and mentioned she would’ve thought ‘families like mine’ would make sure my children wear pink. Because it’s Anti-Bullying Day. I jump back into my car because I need to get my older daughter to her school. At that moment, the irony hits me smack upside my forehead. Did she just want me to strong-arm my girl into ‘making’ her wear pink for one day?

For the past few years, Anti-Bullying Day has grown in popularity, which is great. We give our children the freedom to wear pink, or any other colour for that day. It is their choice. That’s the whole point.

We commend everybody who does to wear it. We appreciate what started this conversation. Funny thing is, when you live and breathe bullies every day 24/7, 365 days a year, you’re good.

I pull-up to my older daughter’s school, give her a hug and spy her running off with her friends. I think of the irony, it’s just one day. But for us, it’s a lifetime. It is not about wearing pink for one day a year as a symbol of anti-bullying.

Anti-bullying teaching begins at home, it is in words and actions. We all have choices, to be kind or not.

A Gift From My Mother

I get into position to begin my freestyle program for the upcoming regional competition later this week. I start as I hear my music come though the arena loudspeakers. I am fueled by the power and motivation that I will make this double salchow. I have to do it. There is no point of me competing if I can’t do the jump to give me higher points. Here we go. Up and away I go. Half way through I think about the land and feel that I will not make it. I land on two feet again. Ignoring my coach, I continue the routine. I do love figure skating but am not competitive. My family is filled with figure skaters.  When I showed interest at four years old, they jumped me into lessons.

The wind from my speed stirs me around the corner towards the viewing area where all the moms, grandparents and other spectators are watching today’s practice. I look up and catch my mom’s eye. Her smile warms the chill I had felt.  Seeing her face reminds me of the talk we had just this morning. She looked me in the eye and told me to have fun, and that is all that matters. If I am nervous, don’t be.  Just have fun.

My mom died of breast cancer a week after that fateful day in the arena 31 years ago. Today. I am in the viewing area of the local gymnasium watching my eight-year-old going through her routine.  She does not land everything nor complete her rolls. I told her the same thing my mother told me all those years ago. When the fun stops we will find something that is.

Through the double-pane glass, I see my darling daughter searching for me. Our eyes connect and share a warm smile.  The class does their wrap up song and then the door opens.

I hold my arms out to welcome my little acrobat. I ask her if she had fun. She replies with a big YES! I get her shoes on and we head out the door to the car.

I only had my mother for the first ten years of my life. I never appreciated her mothering gifts until I became a mom. She never was a great housekeeper or cook, but she gave me a great lesson. Unconditional love is the best gift I received from my mom. We have a lot more in common than I realize since being a mom myself.

I smile to myself as we pull away in the car. Knowing I parent as my mom did with me makes me feel closer to her.

Last Happy Picture of Me and My mom

Don’t Go

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I try to steady my shaky hands. Swallowing doesn’t help put my heart back in my chest. I am afraid to talk in case the tears fall. I know I have to let her do this simple task. All her friends are doing it. She is old enough. I know I can trust her. I have been raising a great kid.

“Can you drop me off there, Mom?” is still ringing in my ears and heart. She wants to be dropped off at the school driveway.

Exhaling a long breath, I nod. My voice has left the car. She unbuckles, grabs her Monster High backpack and gets out of the car. She leans in my window to kiss me goodbye. Not waiting for me to say anything back, she races off to see her friends at the playground.

It was just yesterday when she didn’t want to leave my arms.

It was just yesterday when she started to run back into my arms.

It was just yesterday she played dress up in my closet.

It was just yesterday when I wanted to pee alone.

She must have sensed me still watching her. She turns around to wave at me and goes back to playing. My eyes sting with tears that is ready to burst. Time does go too fast.

“Don’t go.” I say to the empty car. My voice travels over the discarded toys and booster seats.

“Don’t go.”

The New Valentine’s Day

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I spy my husband’s truck pulling around to our home. I see the red balloons bopping up in the passenger’s seat. I do not tell our daughters that daddy will be home any minute. A smile reaches my lips when I recall the Valentine’s Days of our past, or rather before we had kids.

On our first Valentine’s Day we never saw each other. I had high school classes and he had to work. After Social Studies I went to my locker. I felt bummed that for the first time having a boyfriend on V Day  I will not see him. The previous year, my boyfriend had broken up with me the day before Valentine’s Day.  I turned my lock and unclicked it. As I swing open the door I got confused for a second. There was a white long box in my locker. Then I realised they were roses from him. I opened the box and smelled the fragrant flowers. I could not stop smiling all through the rest of the day. For years after we never went all out for Valentine’s Day. How could he top the one that meant so much, so I never expect it?

Since being parents, we stay in for February 14th. As our girls get older we have made the day more about family love. My husband brings home a small gift for each. Having girls, we desire to set the precedent that they are worth being acknowledged and loved. For dinner we either order out for a Boston Pizza heart shaped pizza or we cook favorite foods.  One year we ate all red foods like tomato sauce with pasta, cupcakes and, for us, red wine.

After the paper plates (no cleaning required) are cleared, we break out a game. Our favorite right now is playing Wii bowling. We cheer each other on as we take our turns. For bedtime story we read a special story like: Clifford We Love You.  We laugh and enjoy our special night. When they get even older, we probably will not see them for dinner on that day. Right now, I love that we make it about us being together.

 

Motherless Guilt: She is 8

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 6.14.31 PMThe pulsing in my heart is distracting me from my mad daughter. Her arms are crossed as she is frowning at me. My whole body feels like it is on fire. I am ready to yell a very big, NO! The cold kitchen tile under my feet does nothing to calm my heat. We have been arguing for some time now. She came home in a bad mood. She didn’t eat all her lunch at school again. She does not understand why she is not allowed to watch TV before doing home reading.

I am trying to keep my mom hat on. I have a job to do. There are times it isn’t easy. There are sweet times when it is just the two of us doing something fun together. Today is not that day.

I spy a picture of my family from a few years ago. We are all sitting on Santa’s chair together. It is a happy capture of a moment gone too soon. Then, it hits me.

My sweet first baby is 8 years old. The exact age that my mom got sick for the final time. I lost my childhood at that age. Maybe I have been expecting too much from my girl, because of a past she knows nothing about.

I turn to the kitchen window. Looking out at the traffic helps calm my anger. I know I can’t dump her with baggage that she knows nothing about. I have to have my hat on because that is my job as a parent. The guilt consumes me. I don’t look back at her pouting at the kitchen table.

What would mom have done? What did she do with me?

If this were a cartoon, there would be a light bulb over my head right now. It is as if my mom is standing in this room. I grin.

Before I turn around to face my miracle baby, I wipe the smile from my face.

“ Finish your lunch while you complete your home reading first. Then, we can talk about TV time.” I whirl back around and get busy with loading the dishwasher and prep dinner. I don’t look back at her.

As I finish the mundane domestic tasks, I spy her doing just what I asked of her. My guilt and heart feels lighter. I remember mom being a relaxed parent, probably because of what she had going on. However, I remember being in fear if I didn’t finish my homework.

I know I will always have guilt about treating my kids as kids, and not with my baggage at their age. I know I still have to be their mom.

Thank you, Mom. I miss you and love you with every breath.

 

Na Na Na Na. Hey, Hey, Hey, Goodbye Thyroid

MP900386037My ears deceive me. I thought I just heard my surgeon agree that radiation isn’t working. My thyroid has to come out. He explains to me the procedure. I glaze over the gory specific details. I am so relieved that he understands me. Years of struggling to get answers, I can’t believe there is light at the end of the tired tunnel.

He tells me that I should have taken care of myself more. It is common for us moms to put ourselves last. Women do it all around he world. They do it without a second thought, until it costs them serious health consequences. I should know. In 2013 I ignored something and put myself last for so long that I ended up having a hysterectomy. Mind you, the after effects are quite liberating.

Whoops, I did it again.

For a long time my thyroid now has had many flare-ups. I am constantly tired. I used to blame it on the fact that my youngest child doesn’t sleep. I blamed my lack of rest on the fact that we have a tiny village raising our children.

I blamed myself.

Now, my thyroid is being evicted. There are many ‘what if’s’ post-surgery.

What if there are malignancies? What if I need to have radiation still? What if this long road is over?

Why didn’t I put myself first? This could have been over a long time ago.

But now, it is time. Today I will go in to have my thyroid removed. I am scared. I am worried about what I will feel right after. I am frightened that I will not make it home.

I will reach a happy place as I am wheeled into the OR.

GOODBYE TYROID!!

 

Parenting Through the Storm: Interview

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 4.29.10 PMOver 8 years ago, I strolled with my newborn through the book aisles at Chapters. Blurry-eyed and over-caffeinated, I spied The Mother of All Parenting by Ann Douglas. After flipping through a few pages, I bought it and read it within a few days. The advice from parents and herself were invaluable to me as a new mom.

Ann’s latest book, Parenting Through the Storm: How to Handle the Highs, the Lows and Everything in Between is out this week. It covers things I wish I had known when my youngest was born. If you have ever wondered how to help your family and yourself through the confusing waters of labels, IEPs and more, get a copy today.

I had the opportunity to chat with Ann about the journey of why she is the best person to write this resource. Bonus, I had a chance to be interviewed for the book too. Talk about full circle!

Why did you feel this was the right time to write this book?

While I could see the need for a book like this one a decade ago, back when I really needed it, it wasn’t the right time for me to write the book. I needed to get some distance from the struggles that my four children were experiencing at the time in order to be able to do justice to the issues involved. It would have been too difficult to write this book at the same time that I was living out the experiences.

As it turned out, there was an advantage to writing the book now as opposed to writing it then. Waiting a decade to write the book has made it possible for me to write it from the vantage point of a family that has struggled, but that is thriving today. It feels good to be able to write this book from a place of hope and healing.

Is the book better read from cover to cover?

This is the kind of book that you can dive in and out of—a necessity, given its audience. If you’re a parent of a child who is struggling, you may want to zero in on the specific sections of the book that are most likely to be of greatest help to you right now—and then go back and fill in the gaps later on. Fortunately, I had a great editor, who helped me to organize the book in the most parent-friendly manner possible. She also ensured that the book has a detailed table of contents and a really comprehensive index—essential tools for stressed and exhausted parents.

What can parents experience when attending your workshops?

As you can see from my website, I will be speaking at a variety of different types of events – and to a variety of different types of groups – throughout 2015. In some cases, I’ll be delivering intimate workshops for a very small group of people. In other cases, I’ll be delivering a keynote address in a large theatre or auditorium. And I’ll also be delivering some workshops online. Regardless of the format or the audience, I hope to provide parents with practical strategies that will allow them to start making life better for themselves and their families, starting right now, while offering a couple of key messages of support and reassurance: “You’re doing the best that you can in a difficult situation” and “You are not alone.” Parents need to know that having a child who is struggling doesn’t make them a bad parent – just as being a child who is struggling doesn’t make their child a bad child.

What advice do you have for parents at the beginning of the storm?

Parents need to know that things can get better – a whole lot better, in fact. All four of my children have vastly exceeded my hopes and dreams for them, which feels pretty wonderful. Here’s a link to an article I wrote about how one of my children is now thriving in the world after struggling during his younger years.

And here’s another article about another one of my kids – how he is thriving as a young adult after having a really tough time when he was younger.

They also need to know that there is help available (although it isn’t always easy to access) and that seeking support from other people who truly understand is critical to weathering the storm.

What is next for you?

I am going to be spending a lot of time talking about this book. I am going to be speaking at a lot of mental health and educational conferences across the country during the months ahead. And I’ll be continuing to team up with non-profit mental health and educational organizations that are working to make the world a better place for families.

I’m also going to continue to be continuing to update the books in my The Mother of All book series. Third editions of The Mother of All Pregnancy Books and The Mother of All Baby Books are due out this year, and I’ll be diving into the revisions for The Mother of All Toddler Books and The Mother of All Parenting Books after that.

And, last but not least, I’ll be working really hard at maintaining my own mental health and physical health. This requires a conscious effort on my part every single day, but it is so worth it.

Thank you Ann for taking the time to chat and putting together an amazing book for parents!

The book is available at major bookstores and online.

*CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED* I am giving away a copy to one lucky reader. Leave a comment by February 5th, 5pm PST about what your biggest parenting challenge is these days for the chance to win. Winner will be chosen by random.org. Canadian only.

Angels Around Us: Thank you 1,000 Families.

Screen Shot 2014-12-13 at 8.47.45 PMWe had the pleasure of appearing www.thenewfamily.com.

Thank you 1,000 Families for letting us share our story.

 

 

They are looking for your story. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.