Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Top 10 New Years Resolutions

  1. Do not get pregnant again.
  2. Do not even consider having sex again.
  3. Get on Atkins diet and get body ready for post baby Costa Rica bikini beach adventure.
  4. Stop eating meat.
  5. Step out of the comfort zone in my yoga practice.
  6. Get back into walking every morning. December's cold made me lazy, well that and the no sleep because of the teething, baby's cold, teething, strange houses, new faces, teething. Did I mention no sleep because of the TEETHING?
  7. Stop swearing - even under my breath.
  8. Enroll in school before the baby brain completely engulfs me. Masters in Journalism here I come.
  9. Get back to writing my book and shopping the pitch to publishers.
  10. Do not accept second glass of wine from hubs who might be plying me into letting my guard down so that point 2 will occur which could end in point one.

Then again who ever keeps their New Years Resolutions?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Die, Die, Die, Die

This is Fin's newest sentence.

Die. Die. Die. Diiiieeee. Die. Die. Die.

I'm trying not to take it personally.
Just to be proactive though, we did put the kitchen knives out of sight.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Catholic WorSHIP - A Modern Day Mary Story


I'm not much of a Catholic even though I was raised in it's church and school system. I gave up on the teachings of the church a long, long time ago for various reasons I don't need to get into to retell this story. My mother however, remained a devout Catholic until the end. Christmas 1996 Mom asked us all to go, as a family, to Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. Of course we all agreed to go because this might be mom’s last Christmas and we were going to do whatever we could to make mom happy. Truthfully, I hated sitting through the drone of the Catholic Mass, it rambled on for more than and hour and a half and the Priest who should have been rejoicing in the Virgin birth of our Savior this Christmas was scolding us all for being born sinners begging us to repent and ask our forgiveness. That Catholic guilt stuff gets a little old.

Our family was late for everything so we were stuffed together into a pew near the back of the church. The view before us was a sea of tacky Christmas sweaters and the back of people's heads. This was what we had to look at for the next 95 minutes. Perhaps, even though I am fairly tall, if I stood on tiptoes I would get to see the top of our priest's balding head. Perhaps.

The church was hot and overcrowded with all the seasonal Catholic Church goers - the ones who attend only at Christmas (me). Which incidentally is funny to me because they are never there at Easter when the mass goes on for two hours while the priest reads the Passion in its entirety. I figure those people had likely been trapped at my Church one past Easter when the tone-deaf Priest decided to sing the entire Passion, which took onwards of three hours and they had learned their lesson.

The priest said a few words and my parents along with the rest of the congregation would, in monotone, respond the appropriate phrases. I too had them burned in my head from years of Catholic school and regular church going but I refused to say them. No God would cause so much suffering to one family. I was not buying that “God doesn’t give us what we want only what we can handle” BS any longer. Our family was on overload. Recently my dad; who had a wife with breast cancer, a grandchild born with a genetic disorder and a mother who had suffered 5 strokes in as many months had vowed to change our last name from Shipley to Ship Wrecked. God was testing our love for our family and him – surely. Most Catholics would say this is when you get down on your knees and pray all the harder. But I was done with this charade. No-way was I going to mime the words from our book of psalms along with the rest of the congregation. No-way God, not this year.

While the sermon was going on I liked to people watch, it gave me a chance to see and say hello to old high school buddies. I have to say, it was, and is always fun to see how the high school kids grew up. Who got fat, who got thin, who came out, who got married, who bought boobs, who had not changed her hair or makeup styles since high school, who had kids…. and my favorite, who walked by pretending not to see me when clearly they did! Yeah I love that one. How wonderfully Catholic.

I passed the time by taking a count of how many women were wearing fur, and when we were asked to spin around under the guidance of our priest to extend the sign of peace to our fellow pew mates uber-cool me offered a peace sign with two fingers rather than shake a hand. For God's sake - it's cold season I am not touching people!

Another old standby used to keep me entertained during the sermon was to yawn and then see who caught the yawn and then I would watch it spread around the church. I learned this one when I was an alter girl in the fifth grade. It was very progressive at the time to have girls help the priest serve mass. My friend Laura and I would serve together and when we sat up on the altar on either side of the priest facing the congregation I would fake a giant yawn and then watch it rotate around the lower level and then up into the balcony of the church. This never got old and no one caught onto what I was doing – except of course my mother who asked me not to play that game when I was serving at our next door neighbour’s father’s funeral. Show some respect she had said.

This year I had a new distraction in the form of an eight-month-old baby boy. My sister had had a baby. Born in sin, out of wedlock and my Mother and Father couldn’t have been more excited or proud to be grandparents. The baby was our savior this year.

Our mother had held my sister by the hand, held her own wigged head up and proudly marched the unwed mother of the Cri-Du-Chat Syndrome baby boy proudly into the eternal judgment of our lord’s home. Amen.

My nephew was born deaf. Actually with no ears at all – he just had little nubs we call lobes. We had all been taking sign language classes so we could teach my nephew in the hope we would one day have some form of communication with him. All was going well with this I thought. My sister Sue was in night school taking sign language classes and I was learning through studying her books and under her guidance.

After mass I decided to take my Nephew up to see the Crèche at the front of the church to the left of the altar. There had been big ceremony in marching the baby Jesus statue into the church in the processional and placing him in his manger next to his Virgin mother and earthling surrogate father. Not that we could see this from our position, but, it was a once a year occurrence and I was certain what was going on up there. The Crèche was pretty and so I thought my nephew would like to see it up close.

Holding Aaron in my arms, I waded through the winter coat clothed people, who were either standing around in boisterous discussions or pushing toward the door, making my way to the front of the church. Pointing at the crèche’s inhabitants one by one I made the sign for each animal. There is a donkey, signing donkey, there is a cow, I sign cow, over here is a sheep, this is the Virgin Mary I make the sign for mother. She is the baby’s mother – I sign baby. The nephew stares off into the ceiling watching the fan twirl around.

My sister is waiting patiently at the back of the church for me to finish showing my nephew the crèche. I look back at her to make sure she is not annoyed with my side excursion. She smiles at me – a look of relief washes over her face telling me she is happy mass and the public scrutiny is over. I return her smile. I then go back to pointing out the wise guys, a cat and finally to Joseph, I sign daddy and then I sign beard and point out his beard to my nephew. My nephew has lost interest in the ceiling fan and decided to pay attention again – this sign for beard has caught his eye and he is entertained by it – so I continue to stand at the crèche in front of the altar and sign “beard.” Suddenly I can hear my sister’s laughter erupt from the back of the church, it is echoing off the nowhere near empty church walls. I spin around to look at her and she gives me a sign of her own. Her hand is flat waving in front of her neck – cut it – shut up! It says to me. She begins racing up the centre isle of the church toward me, her hand is pressed over her mouth in an attempt to muffle her laughter, and as she nears I see tears squeezing out of her eyes.

Michelle
Sue what’s so funny?

Sue
That’s not the sign for beard idiot. That’s the sign for F- You.
F-You Joseph, F- you. You keep signing it over and over and it’s so funny. I had to come and stop you in case anyone in here signs. They are really going to think we are the worst Catholics ever.

Michelle
But we are, I say, we are. And it was an honest mistake the two signs are different only by hand direction.

Still giggling, we hook arms and take our blasphemous selves out of the church and out to the car. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night – except you Joseph you surrogate baby daddy– F-You!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Finally, It Looks A LOT Like Christmas

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Our front door even says, Welcome Christmas!

It's TRUE! It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, which for me is a Christmas Miracle in itself. I have to admit to being quite a Grinch over the past few years. What I have not allowed myself to write or speak aloud until now is this:

My mother spent 8 years dying of Breast Cancer. Every Christmas had the underlying, unmentioned feeling that it could be mom's last one. She spent her last 4 Christmases either undergoing or finishing treatments. We nick named it the annual Christmas Chemo like it was a seasonal holiday treat like egg nog. And then she died just before Christmas December 12, 2000. Yup. That was the worst Christmas ever. I spent the whole day in bed in a rental house in Nags Head NC with Steve's family. I got up to get very drunk then I went back to bed. Sad really, but, it was my way of coping. On Boxing Day I woke up and carried on.


The Island of Misfit Toys sit on top of my painting.

Each Christmas has passed since then without it's luster. I believe it was because we didn't have my mother's home cooked meals, our Christmas morning rituals sucked because we were missing our matriarch. We tried to hold fast to them and replicate them. On Christmas morning I didn't look across the room to see my mother in her burgundy velour housecoat, her eyes filled with anticipation as we opened our gifts from her. There was just awkward silence and then my voice making stupid jokes to sever the tension. We tell a few "remember when mom" stories then look at the floor, choke back tears and leave the room.

Our trees graced our wedding table. They make me happy.

The wrapped gifts under our tree came from; Santa, the elves, Mrs. Clause, the birds in the back yard feeder and even from the dog. Her tourtieres were always made with fresh ingredients, she made her crusts cutting out holly leaves and berries to decorate the tops, she woke early to make her stuffing from scratch, we would always have to beg her to stop or hurry up so we could open our gifts. Our stockings were filled with the best things in them and even into adulthood included a toy of some sort. Crumbs were left on window sills and carrots were half eaten in the snow. As kids we never clued in that it was always mom or dad who discovered and brought this wondrous Santa evidence to our attention. These are the things I think of every year. These Christmas memories are my mother.

A girl is never ready to lose her mother no matter how old we are. I found out my mother was sick when I turned 20, she died a month before my 28th birthday. Those are the formative years. When a girl discovers her mother is a person, a woman, not just a mother. It's in that time I wanted to know about what my mother thought, dreamed of and wanted for herself and for my sister and I. I know some of these answers. They are pieced together by what my dad, and my aunts have shared, they help fill the hole that mom's passing has left. But, they aren't her words.

I have been angry that my mother never wrote a letter to my sister and I telling us her thoughts. She never pulled out her Christmas cookie recipes to make sure we had them, she never went wedding dress shopping with us just to make sure she saw us in a dress. Other mother's have done this with their daughters when they new they were terminal. Not ours. I can only surmise that she was optimistic to the end that she would beat her cancer and not have to leave us. I hang onto the fragments of my memories of her. I pause when I come across her hand writing on a birthday card tucked away in her makeup case in my drawer. It used to smell of her but has long since faded away.

The mantel in our dining room.

This is the first Christmas I feel Christmassy. It's because of my little girl. It's because I can now share in the delight my mother and father must have shared in as they readied our house for the arrival of old Saint Nick. It's in every cookie I bake, ever gift I wrap and every little bit of decor I place around the house. It's in Finley's face every time I look at her toothy smile shining up at me from her favorite spot at my feet. Christmas is back! It's here in my house as I take from my mother's ideas and replicate them in a way we do when we take on customs making them our own.
Cookies I baked. Not mom's but Joy's (of cooking)

Finley's little shining face looking up at me. Then the Grinch's heart grew and grew!

A beautiful glass ornament from a new and dear friend hangs in the kitchen.

Finley opens a gift from her Grampy (and his new finace') Grammy.

And so this Christmas marks a new chapter. I'm having my Christmas cry while I write this post. Saying goodbye to the last decade of sorrow and hello to new beginnings. Wondrous new beginnings. As evidence by the signs of Christmas all around my house. The fact that I have allowed myself to write this means only one thing. I am finally healing. I am letting mom go and keeping only the very best parts of our story together. Merry Christmas Mom and thank you.

The ORIGINAL Elf On A Shelf. If Only My Folks HAD Marketed It.


When we were young before the “secret” was out, my dad and mom would tell us they could see Santa’s elves. All grown ups can- they would say. The elves are Santa’s eyes and ears they help the parents and Santa with the naughty and nice lists. Long before the Christmas lights indicated Christmas was around the corner my mom and dad would use Santa and his elves as a way of bribing us into good behaviour. Santa Clause’s naughty and nice list was yearlong leverage for the management of behaviour of children in our household.

Dad:
Oh I just saw Santa’s elf. He’s watching you Michelle.

Michelle:
Where?

Dad:
Over there on the kitchen window sill.

Michelle:
I don’t see him.

Dad:
Only good grown ups can. You had better be a good girl and clean up those crayons and put away the paper then come and help your mother by setting the table or the elf will report to Santa that you are naughty.

Mom:
Susan! Stop eating out of the bird feeder, put your clothes back on and get in the house before you catch a cold! I guess since you are not listening I will have to dial up the big guy…

My mother headed for the phone on the kitchen wall – dialed some numbers and proceeded to conduct a very loud one -sided conversation with Santa Clause’s wife about how Susan likes to run around naked in November and surely this would be a check on the naughty list.

Then she would ask Mrs. Clause to put Santa on the phone for a word. At this Susan dropped the moldy bread left out for the birds, collected her clothes to run up the stairs toward the back door of our house. Susan, running, the back steps and door were never a good combination.

On a regular day without the threat of Santa’s Naughty list Sue could be found trying to right herself after losing her balance falling backward into my mother’s rose garden. It always occurred to me that my mother must have derived some kind of masochistic pleasure from having children topple into her rose garden – why otherwise would she plant thorn bushes beside a set of stairs with no railing?

Since Sue’s hands were filled with articles of clothing, and Santa was on his way to the phone, Sue made haste. The rose garden and a naked Susan seemed doomed to meet. She had a hard time with the door. Losing her balance she fell into the garden but this time she did not cry she didn’t have time. Santa was on his way to the phone. She picked herself up navigated the stairs with a little more caution entered the house to get dressed in a real hurry. Incidentally, Sue was never hungry for a home cooked meal following the bird feeder buffet and another phone call would be made to Santa.

Since Santa was on speed dial and the elves lived on our windowsills year round you can imagine how paranoid I was in the days leading up to the 24th of December. Even after the tree was raised and decorated and the stockings were hung I would sneak into the living room each morning to make sure they were all still there. I was terrified the elves would come in the night to take them away as this year might just be the year Santa was skipping past our house.

I don’t think my folks ever equated my anticipation of Christmas morning with the shear dread I had that Christmas was just not going to happen at all. They had just assumed it was excitement. “Oh Look at Michelle she is bouncing off the walls.”

Dad, who had seen a sketch on either SCTV or SNL starring Martin Short playing an over excited child the night before Christmas, had dissolved into fits of laughter at how representative this sketch was of my behaviour. He reenacted it for me the next day and each subsequent year until I too finally saw the sketch and had to admit – the producers of SNL or SCTV must have been watching me – that or the elves really had reported me and in the off season must have been in the business of making comedic television. Was Martin Short just excited about gifts from Santa? Or had he been brainwashed into thinking he may have more strikes on the naughty side of the page than the good side and that the jolly fat man in the suit was likely passing by his house too? I will never know.

By Christmas Eve I was dying to slip into the living room to see if any treasures were left under the tree. Each year I was truly amazed at what would be there waiting, not just for me but for my whole family. Each year the set up was different, the crumbs left by Santa were in a different place, the carrots left out for the reindeer strategically placed by an exterior window were gone, and it never occurred to us that it was my parents who discovered these things and pointed them out to us…

My usual MO was to wake up around 4:30 AM to go on a recognizance mission up the hall of our bungalow past my parent’s and sister’s bedroom doors toward the living room just to have a peek to see what might be there. Completely unaware, I held my breath, my hands clenched into tiny fists and I pause just a moment before I peer around the half wall into the living room. There before me stands the Christmas tree sparkling and beautiful. There are presents everywhere! The cookies we laid out for Santa are gone! All faith in my behaviour is restored. He was here! I am good! I am good.

I gravitate toward the stocking, which is and has always been my favorite part of Christmas presents. And then I hear;

“Get back to your room before I call Santa and have him come back here to pick up all these presents! Do you know what time it is?”

I whip around to face my Mother.

Michelle:
He was here already mom!

Mom:
Yes, I heard him leaving, he was very noisy, must have woke you up.

My hands still behind my back carefully take an item from the top of my sock, hide it in my hand to take back to bed with me - this small item was the evidence that I had been good all year. Despite all the threats that the elves were watching me and would report back to Santa if I didn’t eat my Lima beans – the big man had come.

A giant sigh of relief heaved my tiny chest as I settled back into my pillow – I could go back to sleep until 7 AM - at which time I would announce confidently to my whole family it was time to get up to enjoy the delights of Christmas by crowing like a rooster. A rooster. Martin Short never did that.

I laugh when I think about that. What an odd kid. Who crows like a rooster but a rooster? Me - I did.

I was taught to believe in the magic of Christmas even once the giant lie of Christmas was out of the bag. If you can’t believe in the magic of Christmas, then Christmas will never be the same, was my mother’s explanation. So, I believed.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Christmas Stockings

To this day stockings are my favorite part of Christmas and lucky for me my sister Sue has inherited my mother’s gift for creating the perfect sock. This is great news as one year stocking duty had fallen in the hands of my father. Not that this was a bad thing it actually proved to be the shining bright spot in the first of a string of rather dark Christmases.

To back fill a bit - I need to describe to you the physical attributes of the Shipley women. I have and under developed bosom, where my sister has (had -they are gone since she began running) an over developed bosom, and my mother had one bosom – the other removed in an attempt to eradicate breast cancer.

It was tradition now for me to crow like a rooster to wake the family to gather for Christmas morning festivities. But on this particular Christmas morning I did not crow to call the family to Christmas. It just did not seem appropriate. Mom had been in the hospital undergoing another round of Christmas Chemo so she was feeling pretty punchy. We the Shipley’s are quietly nestled in the living room opening our stockings well past the 7 AM usual time in fact it was erring on 11 am before Christmas morning was underway. Sue and I were feasting on a Christmas tradition of the Christmas Eve party’s left over chips and dip for breakfast while drinking coffee and Bailey’s. Christmas stockings were being passed around and we were all feeling less than jovial.

Taking the lead I dove into my stocking and pulled out a pair of socks and a magazine then my sister says:

Sue:
A lime?

Dad:
Put your hand back in there.

Sue: Another Lime?

Dad: Shell what have you got.

Michelle:
A grapefruit?

Dad:
And?

Michelle:
Another grape fruit!

Dad:
Carolyn what’s in your sock?

Carolyn:
A Florida Orange?

Sue:
Dad what’s going on?

Dad just sits there with a straight face. We all exchange glances and then look back at Dad. His face contorts, he grunts and then erupts into laughter. We all stare at the crazy person who is clearly breaking down in the strain of the holidays and the hospital visits in the past month. Finally he regains his composure long enough to say:

Dad:
Well Santa thought you could all use a little help to fill your brassieres!

Then dad bursts out laughing again. The kind of laughter that turns his whole face red, the kind of laughter that takes his breathe away and makes him have to leave the room to blow his nose making the off key high school symphony trumpets section sound, the kind of laughter that no one in their right mind could hear and not join in on. But before he leaves the room in search of a Kleenex he fires his hand into his own stocking drawing back to reveal two lumps of coal and a banana. And just like that normalcy is restored to the Shipley Family Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hoidays At Tryon Palace New Bern NC

While my dad was visiting this week we went to check out Tryon Palace in New Bern, NC. I have been wanting to get there for some time as I love historical sites, especially homes! When I went online to see what the hours were I was pleased to find there was a special holiday candlelight evening celebrating King George III.

We braved the, unusual for NC, cold and a screaming, teething, Finley to drive the 45 minutes to New Bern. All she wants for Christmas is her TWO FRONT Teeth, yeah joy, I found out about the bliss that is MOTRIN after this car ride. But, I'm so happy we made the trip!

We arrived on time to tour the adjacent Tryon Palace Houses and buildings. Guides dressed in period - 1700's - told us about the houses and inhabitants.
The Palace was open late for evening tours. Once inside Tryon we were treated to a ball, and other wonderful performances throughout the house by actors and musicians . The property was lit with candles and little fires in raised free standing fire sconces the air smelled of camp fires. The grounds were complete with entertainers, string quartets, and a sword swallower (no pics because I was staring slack jawed - who learns to do that?) Here is a link - Tryon Palace Holiday It's on again this Saturday and SO worth going to!


I'm a sucker for natural Christmas decor.

This is Dad walking one of the pathways in downtown New Bern.
It was cold - but- not Ottawa cold! He's sporting the diaper bag by Betsey Johnson. Tres chic- non?
We waited at the gates and at 5 PM the Fife and Drum band marched us inside onto the Palace grounds! They played and we followed just like the Pied Piper. At the entrance to the house we were welcomed by the Governor and his wife as though we were there as guests of the ball!

Dad & I waiting for our turn to enter the house for the tour. Finley missed this pic her head is just below frame. The line moved quickly and we were soon inside on a fabulous tour.
The grounds and house were lit ONLY in candle light. It was beautiful.

We toured through the kitchen then out into the kitchen garden where we were served hot cider and ginger cookies. Dad made friends with some of the household staff and guests.

video
The Jonkonnu Band is an African American Holiday tradition unique to North Carolina.
A film crew was filming - so was I - I hope their footage is better than mine! You get the idea & you get to hear the wonderful sounds.


Wordless Wednesday - 151 Xmas photos - Here's 1


I took 151 photos to get ONE for our Xmas card.
This is my favorite too bad it's soft focus. My parent goggles love it anyway.

P.S It didn't make the card...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pecan Pie

As I have previously mentioned we have pecan trees. We have been collecting like mad and when my Dad arrived from Ontario he got down to the business of shelling pecans. We have this neat tool for cracking pecans which keeps them mostly intact. It does take some skill and effort but the incentive is there. The ladies who sold us the house left the pecan sheller as a gift. Nice EH?


Pecan sheller & the cutting board hubby just made is in the background.

HOME MADE PECAN PIE. We used the recipe from the Joy of Cooking which is my favorite and always go-to cook book. Neither Dad or I had made a pecan pie before so it was an entirely new undertaking.

We roasted the pecans before chopping them to add to the sugar and sugar.

The sugar set up and my Dad added whole pecans to the top to decorate.
This is my cutie Dad adding pecans to the pie before we baked it.
We had enough filling to make a pie and 8 tarts and then some.

With the left over crusts dad made an old family recipe. It's a French Canadian treat called Pete Des Soeurs. Translated: Nuns Farts. Cinnamon & sugar rolled into the crust. These were for Finley since she can't have nuts yet.

DELICIOUS! We are making more pies today to send home to Canada and to freeze for Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Finley Mae - 8 Months Old

Finley Mae is 8 Months Old!


She's waving at her Grampy here.

Fin is a busy child! She does not stop moving for one second. It was impossible to get a clear shot of her in the usual spot on the bed as she was rolling around. I was afraid she was going to take a header! After 50 pics these are the best two photos to come out! This does not look good for taking the Xmas card photo!

She has developed so much in the last 10 days it's insane. She crawls with a speed that could break records, she pulls up on everything which means I must tighten the drawstring on my pj bottoms or we WILL give a show. She is after the dog whom she calls "Ughn." The dog is proving a great distraction as I just have to ask Finley where Cecil is and then she will call him and chase him around the house. She has discovered the stairs and has become the ultimate mooch for the food. We accidentally gave her egg whites and fished a pecan shell out of her mouth. Guess what she's NOT allergic to?

She has two bottom teeth and is working on a few more - I know this because of her whiny clingy days. At least she is sleeping better. YAY FOR ME!

Finley is all about waving, clapping and giving the ol' high five. She has also developed a vocabulary based around yelling. It used to be just crying now she cries and yells dadadada or mamama and she has even pronounced her faith by saying Allaaaaaah. Maybe she is Jewish?

Love her BIG cloth diaper bum.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Who's Got A Beard All Snowy White?

On Saturday morning we did what all good first time parents do. We went on an adventure to find Santa! Yaaay! The fun thing about Christmas is that you get to be a kid again and all the MAGIC of Christmas returns, but, only if you BELIEVE!

We spotted Santa just after 10 AM at the Washington Holiday Parade.

It was raining right up until the parade began and then for the duration of the 17 minutes it took the floats to do our Main Street the rain held off. How's that for MAGIC!? Santa sported a rain coat which might not be a bad idea for all the Mall Santas too. I do recall the odor of Mall Santa as being something crossed between burbon, B.O and pee. I am shuddering. Perhaps it's time to stop thinking about the Mall Santa's of my childhood NOW. Although I did love to visit the Scotia Bank Santa. Maybe because he smelled of money. Wink.

Steve introducing Fin to Santa

Steve personally knows Santa as they work together in the Emergency Department. You see Santa is a respiratory therapist in the off months. Santa was in Greenville NC at The Brody School of Medicine in the Lobby on Saturday afternoon and so we went to visit him. With a suggested cash donation to Beau's Buddies Cancer Fund you could bring your camera and take all the pictures you wanted with Ol' St. Nick. He will be there again Saturday December 12th - noon until 4:30 PM in case ya'll want to go see him too!

What a beautiful Santa. He was warm and funny, friendly and he smelled GOOOD! Finley got a good 30 minutes with Santa,which was great, because she was able to acclimatize. She does make strange with new people you know.

Required Photo - Making Strange with Santa

Santa WON Finley over in no time.

Daddy & Santa listening to Fin spew off her Christmas Gift list. Honestly, she went on for a long while and I think she even mentioned World Peace. What a good girl.

Steve took his turn with Santa, but, Santa said; "Oh Steve I've known you a long time. I know what you want. A 44ft sailboat."
And we laughed.
Ahahah - Ho Ho Ho.

I wonder if Santa will deliver? How AWESOME would that be? Then Santa can drop through the hatch to visit us next Christmas instead of our Chimney!
I'm pretty sure Finley was about to ask for a brother or sister here and that's when Mother Ship pulled the plug on the whole, make a list and make your gift wishes known thing, and we said Buh- bye to Santa to head to the grocery store.

The End.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Survivor SHIP: Christmas & The Nose Hair

It was just before Christmas… My mother who had been battling cancer for years was just admit to hospital, again. Oh YAY! What a fabulous new holiday tradition this was turning out to be.

In mom’s illness and absences my father had become completely unaware of himself. He had been holding fast to keep the family together, look after my mother, all the while running a fledgling but very busy contracting business born out of the recession in 93. I don’t think he stopped to look at himself in the mirror - figuratively and literally speaking. He is very generous at the cost of his own needs.

In this case my sister and I had become alarmed at the rate and magnitude of the nose hair growing out of dad’s nose. Honestly, how can he not feel that? My sister and I were both too chicken to bring his grooming to his attention and so while we were alone with mom in her hospital room we decided to ask her to have a talk with dad about his nose hair. If something was not done soon – he would surely trip over them whilst walking up the stairs! We could not afford to have both parents in the hospital.

Mom laughed at our request. We thought she promised us not to say that she was the messenger speaking on behalf of two grown daughters. How ignorant on our part. Neither my sister nor I knew the code of the married couple – who live to share such secrets.

Mom was scheduled to have a few rounds of her annual Christmas chemo and was also about to pop her radiation therapy cherry. What had begun as breast cancer had metastasized into bone cancer and my poor mother was bravely preparing to have her spine radiated. From her hospital bed she showed us the casts the radiologist had made to cover the areas not undergoing the radiation.

Mom showed us all the pen mark ups the radiologists had drawn all over her back and legs. Someone had brought her a package of cartoony thought-bubble stickers with funny and sarcastic captions printed on them. The kind of stickers used on photos. Mom made a game of sticking them on her skin. Hiding them along the highway of green sharpie pen mark-ups to give the nursing staff a chuckle as they readied her for her therapies. Typical of my mother to think of how someone else might feel in her situation. What a card. Her mood was optimistic and so were we. We saw her off to this treatment and headed back to our respective daily activities. Neither Sue nor I thought about the nose hair conversation again as suddenly it seemed there were greater things to worry about.

After completing my last university midterm I headed out to do some Christmas shopping but, my heart was not in it. I was getting over heated in my down coat while wandering around the mall aimlessly looking for wonderful gifts to buy people when the only thing that mattered was my mother's health.

I was growing increasingly impatient with the herds of people pushing and shoving me out of the way. I wondered if I was as invisible as I felt in that moment. I wondered if any of the hurried passersby took a moment to really look at me if they could see the swirl of sadness I was carrying around. If they looked all the way into my being would they see the rock lodged in my chest and the vice grip holding me where my head meets my neck? I wondered what went on in their homes and if they too walked around carrying so much inside. If they did, how is it that they muster the strength to push on?

My thoughts trailed off to stories I have read about people who can lift cars off people at accident scenes and other super human acts of strength. Those people are honoured, as heroes and I know that somehow we are built to bring on the super powers in the face of disaster and despair. While there are no hero biscuits for the family afflicted on the daily with cancer there is survivor ship.

Absently, I wandered over to the Elephant and Castle bar and restaurant and sat down to order a cold beer. I don’t think I had been in this bar since it was a favorite drinking whole for the under-aged back in high school. Ironically, I am carded when I place my order. All around me the bar is filled with jovial office party patrons getting sloshed on the company dollar in the spirit of Christmas.

***

At noon the following day, still lounging around the house in my PJ’s, a reward after cramming for exams. My sister and I casually chat while she feeds her son, Aaron, lunch.

Our neighbours are always very good to us whenever mom heads off to the hospital – they come over bearing gifts of casseroles and salads and buns. Anything they can do to help us out. Today Sue and I watch as baby Aaron chews forever on a piece of beef from a stroganoff.

Michelle
Did you make that?

Sue
No, one of the neighbours dropped it off for our dinner. I thought since it was still warm I would feed it to Aaron.

Aaron still chewing the same bite, sighs, puts his elbow on the table, his tiny hand under his chin to prop up his head and continues to chew. Sue and I start laughing at him.

Sue
He must be hungry! I would have spit that out by now. What’s the stroganoff made of -shoe leather?

The front door opens and Dad comes through the door. He takes of his knock-off beaver fur hat the kind with the ear-flaps that tie over the top. I visualize a film reveal of his nose hair tied neatly in a bow at the top of his head. He pulls off his galoshes, hangs his coat and comes into the kitchen.

Dad
Well helloo there.

He says to us then goes straight for the grand baby to give him a squeeze.

Sue & Michelle
Hiya Pop we say. You home for lunch?

Dad
I guess – what are we having?

Sue
Stroganoff or sandwiches. Take your pick.

Dad
I’ll just have a sandwich.

Silence. We all stare at Aaron. He is still chewing.

Michelle
Um, Sue, maybe you should fish that meat out of his mouth and just feed him the gravy and the noodles?

Dad
Your mother has asked not to have any company up to see her in the hospital. It would be helpful to me if you could share this information.

Sue
Ohkay?

Michelle
No one, as in friends and neighbours or no one, as in her sister and brother or what?

Dad
No. No one. She’ll tell you when she wants to see you. She just wants to be alone right now.

Michelle
But why? What happened?

Dad
The radiation severed her spinal column. She is paralyzed from the waste down. She can’t walk. She can’t feel if she has to go to the bathroom. She does not want to be embarrassed in front of anyone if she has an accident. NO VISITORS PERIOD.

A giant red boxing glove on a mechanical arm flies out of nowhere and punches me square in the stomach. Sue leaves the room. Aaron continues chewing.

***
A few short days before Christmas, and a good week after the no visitor ban was lifted, I popped into see my mother. She was sitting propped up in her bed. She had been given a shower that morning. My sister who was in hairdressing school had come in to cut mom’s hair. Mom was looking more herself than I had seen her look in a long while.

I saddled up beside her gave her a kiss and then pulled out my toiletry case. We had a weekly ritual of manicures and pedicures. My mother, ever the lady, enjoyed to have her nails looking good, especially in the hospital. She always said; no matter how beautiful or expensive your outfit if your nails are chipped and unkempt you will look trashy. Nothing dressed up backless hospital blues and catheters like a coat of Chanel Ruby Red on a lady’s fingers and toes. Classy!

Mom
Look!

Pointing up to the wall at the foot of her bed. I look up. How could I have missed the wall filled with crazy looking construction paper rein deer.

Mom
Louise was in. She brought all this paper, glue and tape. You have to trace your hands for the antlers and then make a deer to hang on the wall. Everyone in the last two days has made one when they came into visit!

Leave it to Louise, my mother’s longtime best, ever, girlfriend to come up with an idea like this.

Mom:
Before we do nails you have to make a deer.

I gotta hand it to Louise it was a clever way to occupy a visit, create a jolly mural and ease the discomfort of seeing my mother in such bad shape. My mother obviously derived so much pleasure from seeing all the deer.

I make a deer, hang it on the wall, study the other hands to see who had made each one. It was uncanny how each deer actually resembles the person who made it. Then we go about discussing Christmas plans while we get down to the business of painting nails.

Mom
I won’t be home for Christmas this year and I haven’t even done my shopping for you girls. Your Aunt Dianne has offered to do some so why don’t you tell me what you would like?

Michelle
Nothing mom. I just want you to feel better and come home.

I barely get this out. I am concentrating on painting her nails but I can’t see through the blurr of tears in my eyes. Be brave, be brave, be brave, I say over and over in my head. The orderly comes in with the dinner tray. Hospital food never looked so good.

***
Christmas day my dad was up early working away in the kitchen. There had been no sign of Santa this year. Not a big deal seeing as we were all adults and Aaron at 15 months was still too small to notice. Dad was on a mission to get the bird into the oven and the rest of the meal going so we could bring Christmas dinner and Christmas cheer to mom’s hospital room.

Dad, Sue and I quietly went about getting everything ready. We made the effort to get all dressed up. Sue dug out Mom’s red weekender wear jacket, she even pinned the Rudolf pin to it’s lapel just like mom always does. She dressed Aaron in a cute fleece tartan outfit with a matching tam. I grabbed a few old photo albums depicting Christmases past and the Christmas stockings. Dad packaged up dinner with plates and silver wear and napkins- the whole nine yards- and off we went to the hospital to have our Christmas with mom.

Totally normal right. We all silently pretended it was. We entered mom’s room with an air of what I can only look back on now as fake forced holiday cheer. Mom was so very happy to see us. She slipped her jacket on over only one arm because the IV was in the way. We laughed, opened presents, leafed through the photo albums while dad and mom told us stories about how late they had stayed up wrapping gifts and how early I had woke them up every year.

I look up at the wall of rein deer. They were there in my peripheral vision the whole time but having seen them a handful of times I had not payed much attention to them.

Mom
Did you seen the rein deer your father made?

Sue and I scrutinize the wall further.

Sue
“OHMIGAWD LOOK!”

On the wall is a construction paper reindeer sporting eye glasses, just like my father’s. But, that was not the alarming or most significant thing about this deer. This deer had NOSE HAIR! The construction paper had been cut into thin strips then dragged over the sharp side of the scissors to make neat curls. The curls were protruding from Daddy rein deer’s nose!

Michelle & Sue
MOM! You said you wouldn’t tell!

Mom
I did no such thing. Your Father and I tell each other everything.

Dad
She’s heavily medicated – stuff just comes out of her mouth. You should hear what else she has told me!

Mom to Dad
You’re bad!

She swats his arm.

Dad still laughing while reaching in his pocket to retrieve a Kleenex. He was laughing so hard his eyes were tearing up. He pats his eyes with the tisue before he speaks.

Dad
The funniest thing, girls, is that I trimmed my nose hair two weeks ago and neither of you noticed.

He was right.

Teething Sux, Milestones and Ramblings

I can't believe how ridiculous this past week has been. Actually, it's not been that busy I am just struggling under sleep deficit. Holy jeez teething is rough and I'm talking about ME here! Fin does just fine during the day and at night the demon that is cutting teeth comes out to posses the wee lass. She has spent the last week waking every hour and forty five minutes shrieking at the top of her lungs. Then she MUST NURSE with the vengeance of a vampire who has missed a few meals.

My nipples are going to fall off. Well I feel like they are. I have kept the nursing to a minimum during the day as Finley is starting to do great with food and my nips need a break. Although, she is still to get 90% of her nutrients via breast milk until the age of one so the boobies are still main meal. Yes, pumping is an option and once my nipples feel better I'll get to it. The nipples heal so rapidly even I am left amazed. The body's ability to take care of itself is nothing short of miraculous!

While my boobs are suffering sudden onset of Fibromyalgia my brain has gone back to suffering maternal dementia or a sudden onset of Alzheimer's. I had a few appointments this week that, by the good graces, I made it to. I rechecked my calendars seven hundred times. I did, however, miss my neighbour's gold party. I was so excited to get to go to it as Steve was home to watch Finley and the party was starting early so I could get in and out before Finley's bed time. (Fin won't settle at night without the boobies so I am housebound during the evening). I had gone to the trouble of digging out the old gold chains and bracelets and charms in my various jewelry boxes - you know the ex boyfriend jewelry you never wear - so I could take it to sell for cash at the gold party. I wanted the money for Christmas stuff. The price of gold has doubled in a year from $350. an ounce to $1100. an ounce! Anyway it was 10 o'clock on the night of the gold party when I realized I missed it!

I had RSVP'd the party and now I feel like such an ass. My neighbour probably thinks I'm a total FLAKE. I dissolved into tears and went to bed where the wee lass screamed in her sleep and promptly latched onto me for the remainder of the night.

So here I am posting super late in the week. My intentions are wonderful and if I remember I will get to posting some more stuff. I am posting some stories I pulled from my writing archives about the kind of Christmases we had while I was growing up. I lost my mother 9 years ago this month and her presence is so near at this time of year.

I am also going to add a weekly meal post because Steve and I love to cook and have been rocking out some really awesome meals and I am slowly building my new Mother Ship Yoga website which will launch in the New Year. So while my postings are thin I am working on them at least in thought!

Milestones:
Finley is eating all kinds of foods, she sat with her Grandma Linda reading a book and doing a puzzle without making strange, she drank from a water bottle and a sippy cup, she's crawling, pulling up, has assigned a word for the dog . It's a guttural grunt - our word for the dog is usually cecilshutup! So they are different words thankfully. And she has discovered the stairs. Hello baby gates.

On a personal note I need to lay off the sugar and get back to my daily walks. Somewhere in all of the excitement and sleep deprivation I've become quite unlike myself. I don't like to feel uncomfortable in my own skin, I just don't. I'm out of balance but plan to get it back and right quick too! But first I need to amp up the Starbucks intake and get the Christmas shopping done! I know the hardest person on me is me. So I just have to put things in perspective and that's that everything is great even in a blurr if fatigue.

On a most awesome note: my dad will be visiting us next week! Yipeeeee!


Friday, November 27, 2009

I Give Thanks

Mrs. P (aka Mother Ship) baked some pumpkin spice cookies and a pie to take to Thanksgiving dinner. It's Fin's FIRST Thanksgiving and I was so very excited. This time last year I was 20 weeks pregnant with her and I had just started this blog.

Oh the difference a YEAR can make.


I give thanks for my Granny Dodie who saved everything. I inherited her rolling pin. Usually, it's on display in my curio cabinet, but, my culinary whizz neighbour informed me it was still usable and a great model at that! So, I used a rolling pin for the first time ever to roll out my cookies.


Brown Glazed Pumpkin Spice Cookies

I give MOST thanks for a healthy - happy FINELY!

I give thanks for my pumpkin pie, but, my hips won't.

Before dinner my 2.5 year old nephew said grace.
Here is it word for word:

GOD IS GREAT, GOD IS GREAT, GOD is great, God is great, god is great. AMEN!

We gave thanks then I stuffed myself on DELICIOUS southern Thanksgiving goodness and some turkey. My favorite are always the sides. What's the difference between Canadian and American Thanksgiving? One Month and in the south - a lot more SUGAR! Sweet potatoes here should be called BROWN SUGAR with sweet potatoes not sweet potatoes with brown sugar. Fin loved them, on a sugar high she stayed awake for four hours after, missing her nap entirely! She was in a good mood so we let her stay up.

Fin' s FIRST taste of sweet potatoes.

Gavin (who said prayer) his brother Noah & Finley playing by the table before dinner.

This was a first family gathering for us with the babies all playing together. Prelude to Christmas when their three cousins join us! Can't wait! Really. We can't!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Family Who SKATES Together Stays Together

We added a new member to our family this week.... A SKATEBOARD! Seriously. Steve has to park his car a good mile from the entrance to the door at work. The hospital does provide buses which Steve will take on occasion but he prefers to walk if the weather permits. Steve arrived home from work the other night to tell me about a woman he worked with who skateboards from her car and of course he had to give the board a try. I think I'm going to get a skateboard he tells me. Super, I told him he could park it beside the thousand dollar road bike in our front entrance -which I've nick named the "hallway bike." I dust the darn thing like it's an art installation - it's been ridden ONCE when Steve was going to train to do triathlons. That was a year ago. Or he could park it with the kayaks they get about as much use as the bike. Okay skater boy - are you going to wear a helmet and wrist guards while you skate to the EMERGENCY Department where you work? He gave me a look and asked why I was making fun of him.

The Skater Family

This is Mother Ship about to pull an Ollie.

A gratuitous cute pic of Finley Mae

I'm walking with the stroller and Hubs is skating ahead.

How cute is he?

This is Steve POSING for a pic. Ha-hah Burn.


The very next day we headed to FUSION and Steve got all set up with a new skateboard. I have to admit I have a thing for skater boys - I always have! The skateboard has already seen more action than the kayaks and the road bike combined. I guess it's here to stay. So as Steve and I skate our way through the end of our thirties Finley will begin her first year grinding her pack and play and studying old school Tony Hawk videos. RAD!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ebb And Flow

It's a good thing, you bringing that baby to the beach. She needs it. Not for the body, but for the mind.

A man said this to Steve and I as he walked by us on the beach. He couldn't have said any clearer what I was thinking. Our sentiments matched. There is something about the ocean and the beach that have such a powerful restorative healing nature for me. It's not for the body it's for the mind. How true. How lucky that I can impart that on my family.

Today started as an off day for me. I slept fitfully and was irritable. Any day where I start dropping f-bombs before breakfast I know I need to make a change. So when Steve asked me what I had planned for the day I said - I need a road trip and I need the beach. How about we head to Morehead City for the day? Like I needed to sell this idea I further added; the weather is going to be awesome and I need to be outside. Within minutes Steve was packing the car with our surf fishing rods and I was packing a beach bag. We were out the door in 30 minutes.

My body and mind are not unlike the ocean. Sometimes a storm brews and the bottom mixes up and then a few good sized emotional waves wash over me. I need to wait for the tidal change to bring in new waters and new energy. I can usually catch this before an emotional tsunami hits. Heading to the beach I figured would be the cure all for this little imbalance I was feeling. So what was this feeling I was wearing?

Our Finley is seven months old and being a breast fed non-bottle taking, going to no-one but Steve and I kind of baby she and I have been together all day everyday since her arrival. We are each like one side of velcro. I'm not knocking it - I adore her, but, a part of me is jealous when Steve says he's going fishing for a couple of hours. He always asks me if it's okay for him to go, and I always say yes, because we value our play time.

I used to jump in the boat and go along, fishing was something we did together. It was our play time and our time to sit and chat or just sit quietly with one another. I have been missing my husband, my friends, mourning a little for the freedom I had before pregnancy and baby. I wouldn't trade my new life for the world, I just have to make peace with the old one and try to find a balance in my new one. After being stuck in my head and in the house for the past week's worth of Ida rain remnants I needed to get away from the same old and out of the house. So the beach was the perfect place to go. I needed to take my sour thoughts and my string of F-bombs and throw them into the outgoing tides.

This day looks as beautiful in pictures as it was for a spectacularly ordinary Monday in November. For us it was our weekend. Having been in a relationship with a shift worker for ten years we learn to make our weekend any two days in a row we can rub together. Sometimes, like on this day, we luck out. While most 9-5 Monday to Friday-ers are staring out the window contemplating playing hooky we are striding a beach, for the most part, alone.

Fins wouldn't keep her hat on (hence the bandanna) but she wanted mine!

Finley clapping as I fly her overhead.

Steve set up his lines and within a few minutes was hooking Blue Fish two at a time. The incoming tide brought a giant school of Blues with it. I video taped Steve several times as he cast and reeled in Blue Fish. The time code on the whole cast, reel and hook a fish sequence read an average of 20 seconds. Steve and I lost count of how many fish he reeled in and threw back into the ocean. We did keep a few to eat for dinner. Steve thanked me for thinking of taking us to the beach. Then he handed me the rod. Here you gotta reel a few in - it's so much fun! And so I did. It was awesome!


Finley had a blast too, she took of crawling like a champ after ocean scrub and shells stopping only to pick up and taste the sand. She had a few sandy poops after this day!

Finley & Steve walking along the shore.

A wave splashed over Finley's feet startling her, it was the only cry we heard out of her all day. She loved the beach and the fresh air I am certain was as good for her body as it as for her mind. The best part of it all was how good it was for my body and my mind!

This my friends is how I restored a little balance to my days after feeling slightly off kilter. It's not alone time I seek, but rather, time with my family doing something we like to do, or a good conversation with an old friend, making and eating a delicious fresh meal. Small things really, but, they are the most important to me.

It seems I just needed a little play time to restore order to my ocean.