Over the past 14 months, I’ve been taking a 12-month course in aromatherapy. (If you’ve noticed that I haven’t been writing as much, it’s because I’m “studying”.) Let me tell you two things about going back to school as an old person.

1. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Every single morning, I write a to-do list for the day. It usually includes things like shower and breakfast. Not because I’ll forget to do those things, but just so I can visualize everything and plan my day around time-inflexible items and priorities. Study is also on my list. But you know what? There are five other people in this house and even though they are unreasonably demanding, I am nice. So once or twice a week, I prioritize going to the grocery store over studying so that they can have food. And every now and then I prioritize laundry over studying so they won’t be naked or stinky. And at least once a day, I have to prioritize driving over studying so they won’t have to sleep at school. I am nice. And they should at least rub my feet or brush my hair or something.

My point is this: by the end of the day, I have often crossed off a whole bunch of things except study from my list. And then I go to bed and the next morning I write study on my new list. This has been going on for fourteen months.

2. My brain is mush. Being old means remembering stuff is hard. Recalling simple things like people’s names and important dates is teetering on the periphery of my mental capabilities. Memorizing botanical names like Vetiveria zizanioides and anatomical terms like occipital mastoidal suture is an excessive load for this mushy, old brain to bear.

I will now regale you with an entertaining story that happened just this week. My husband and I won a cool prize in a draw. (It’s an elite icewinemaker’s dinner at a winery in Niagara-On-The-Lake. Very fancy-schmancy. We are sophisticated like that.) One of my children commented, “Wow! You’ve never won something before!” I told him that’s not true at all and proceeded to list a bunch of things I’ve won over the years: a TV, my high school letter jacket, Taylor Swift perfume, a walk-on role in Les Mis, and I even won a pair of round-trip tickets to anywhere in the world that Air Canada flies – which I never got to use.

They wanted to hear that story! I explained that I won the tickets when I was in high school, but they had to be used within a fairly short period of time. I had already just missed a bunch of school for a conference that I was at and couldn’t immediately take more time off to go flying away to some random destination. “What conference?” they wanted to know. It was a student-focused citizenship conference in Ottawa, and a bunch of schools across Canada were allowed to send one student to represent their city.

Here’s what my precious offspring asked: “Why’d they choose you?” (Sometimes their preciousness is underwhelming to me.)

I answered, “Because I used to be smart.” I might as well have fabricated a tale about my years as a Russian spy, for all the credibility they afforded me. This image before them now – the woman who CANNOT EVER remember to turn on the dishwasher before she goes to bed at night – does not jive with the image of someone who once had potential.

Why am I telling you all this? For two simple reasons. One: I enjoy giving you a laugh at my expense. Two: if you are a praying person, I am begging you – BEGGING YOU – to add me to your list for this month. My aromatherapy exam is on February 5 and my anatomy exam is on February 12. My mushy, old brain is desperately trying to memorize 12 (going on 15) months of intense information and I need supernatural help to do it.

I’ll leave you with this interesting little note. There is a specific essential oil that stimulates the brain in such a way that if you smell it while you’re studying and then smell it again at a later date, it increases your ability to recall what you studied. Thing is, I can’t remember which oil.


Posted by on January 9, 2015 in Humour, Personal Growth


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Eggnog from the Realms of Glory

Yesterday was a momentous day for three reasons:

1. We put up our Christmas tree before December AND my husband, Mr. Anti-Fest, didn’t have a tantrum. This is a big deal. You don’t even know.
2. For the first time ever in our parenting careers, one of our children had a “special friend” hang out with our family, in our home, with our craziness, and our putting up of the Christmas tree. A date, people. A suitor. A person who has asked our permission to pursue a relationship with our baby! Oy. This is the beginning of the end.
3. Eggnog perfection. Oh my dear readers, I bring you good tidings of great joy!

I have a confession for you: I don’t really mind the taste of store-bought eggnog. What I mind is the price! It is insane and ridiculous and completely unreasonable to me. Honestly, if the wise men had brought four precious gifts to Baby Jesus, we would now be singing carols about gold, frankincense, myrrh and eggnog.

I have another confession for you: I really like eggnog. A lot. But I’m not willing to sell my children to finance my fancy. (At least not during this season of mandatory goodwill and cheer.) So I set about to find the perfect eggnog recipe.

Over the past couple of years, I have tried just about every variation out there.
The cooked version. It is so much work, and it turns unacceptably gloppy if you overcook it by a quarter of a second. The instructions always say something inconceivably unhelpful like, “Remove from heat immediately before it comes to a boil.” Why don’t I just “turn left at the second last intersection” while I’m at it?
The whipped egg whites version. Again with the so much work. Plus extra dishes. And then if you don’t drink it right away, it all separates and just…meh.
The fancy ingredients. Really, sweetened condensed milk in eggnog is a pretty fantastic creation. But I don’t always have a can on hand, and it’s kind of expensive. Not a bad idea, just not perfect.

So without further ado, I shall share with you the recipe that IS perfect. And easy. And made with ingredients that you already have.

4 large eggs
1/3 to ½ cup sugar, depending how sweet you like it
Nutmeg to taste (try ½ tsp, then add more later if you like)
2 cups milk
½ cup cream (or if you want it a bit thicker, add more cream and reduce the milk accordingly)

Get all the ingredients out and measured. Put the eggs in a blender and beat well. (15 seconds in a Vitamix on about speed 5, or up to a minute in a standard blender that isn’t going to start cooking the eggs). While the blender is still running, slowly pour in the sugar and nutmeg. Then the milk. Then the cream. Let it run for a few more seconds.

That’s it! If you have any willpower (I’ve heard of this strange thing. Can I get it on Amazon?), you can pour it into a jug and chill it for a couple of hours. Or if you’re me, you can drink it right from the blender container. Or if you’re a normal person somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, pour it into 4 glasses and serve with another dash of nutmeg. And then immediately make another batch.

Obviously this is the child-safe version. You can very easily stir some rum (spiced, light, dark, whatever) and/or brandy into the adults’ servings.

There you have it, folks! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!


Posted by on November 30, 2014 in Recipes


The Art of Creep-Free Compliments

I am quite fascinated by the video “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman”. It is fascinating to me because it is so far from my reality. Is that seriously what this woman experiences every time she leaves her house? That does not even make sense in my brain. I’m not trying to deny that it’s her reality; just stating that it is way beyond the scope of anything I’ve personally experienced.

In my 39 years, I’ve been verbally “harassed” once by a man (and I use the quotation marks because in my singular example, it was too ridiculous a statement to compare it to the harassment that is apparently so rampant for other women). When I was in highschool, I had to go get something from my locker in the middle of gymnastics practice. The halls were nearly empty except for a small cluster of guys, and when I walked past them, one of them said, “Mmm-mmm…her legs go ALL the way to the floor.” I don’t know what that means. It wasn’t offensive, nor was it complimentary. It just seemed like a really weird thing to say. Did that boy know a bunch of people walking around several inches above the floor because their legs didn’t reach that far?!?!

That was my one and only experience. Yay for me; I’ve been “harassed”. Seems like something Amy Farrah Fowler would also get excited about.

Back to my fascination with the whole “10 Hours” thing. It’s like winter camping. It does not sound like my idea of a good time and I don’t intend to try it just to prove that I don’t like it. But I am curious about the people who intentionally participate in such activities. This experiment is interesting to me, but it prompts more questions than it answers.

How would the outcome change if she was wearing baggy clothes? I am not for one second suggesting that women deserve to be harassed or abused because of what they are wearing. I do think there is a lot of room for improvement in the area of how we as women present ourselves, but this video isn’t about modesty (and neither is this blog post). She did choose a fairly middle-of-the-road outfit as far as today’s standards of conservative dress go. On the other hand, I would be curious to see the experiment repeated with her body more concealed. Would men notice her beautiful face if their attention wasn’t first drawn to her curves? What would the footage reveal if the woman had a beautiful face, but no curves? Or lots of curves but a less attractive face?

And maybe it’s not completely about what she looks like. I understand that the experiment was meant to show that she’s not soliciting this attention by acting flirtatiously, and that the attention continued even though it was clear she wasn’t interested. I’m wondering, though, if her aloof demeanour is part of the allure. How would the results differ if she was smiling and talking with a friend as she walked?

I also wonder, if the camera could catch a broader picture, how many other women walk by those same men and don’t elicit the same reaction. Is this particular woman’s experience one in five? One in twenty? One in fifty? I think she’s right to speak out about her experience, but I want to know what percentage she really represents.

I can’t answer any of those questions, but discussing it and developing awareness and promoting empowerment and demanding gender accountability are all good things. So that’s why I’m writing. To keep the discussion going. (That, plus I like to write about things that fascinate me, so there!)

There is, however, one question that has arisen from the discussion surrounding this video that I would like to address.

A lot of the men who have responded to the video have stated that they wish they could compliment a woman without it being labelled harassment. How can they do that?

Let’s be clear on one point: the things said in this video are not compliments. So if you’re trying to justify that kind of treatment of women, forget it. Go directly to jail, do not collect $200.

But is there room in our culture for a man to say something nice (even something that does NOT have any sort of sexual connotation) to a stranger? Can a man say, “That colour looks great on you” or “I like your glasses” to a woman he doesn’t know?

Sadly, I think even the most compliment-starved woman would probably find that a bit creepy. Our world has moved beyond that and we can’t go back.

So how can you compliment a woman without getting sued or slapped? Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: strangers are off-limits. I think there’s plenty of room for you to be a nice guy, but you need to do that within the framework of a previously established relationship. Did your co-worker get a haircut? Then go ahead and say, “Hey, your hair is different. It looks nice.” If your friend’s wife brings food to your party, please do proclaim “Hot dish coming through! And she’s carrying a casserole!” because that line will never, ever get old. When your girlfriend’s friend borrows your girlfriend’s dress, it’s okay to tell her, “You look great and your taste is exquisite.”

You can be nice without being a creep.

What if you want to compliment a stranger? First, don’t. Second, work on establishing a relationship (and you can’t do that by hollering and grunting from the street corner). Engage in conversation that isn’t about her looks. Then, once she’s not a stranger anymore – when you’ve established and proven that she is safe with you – then you can compliment her.

There you have it, gentlemen. You can give creep-free compliments. And I hereby permit you to practice frequently.

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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Beauty


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Boys are…Different

I would like to go 7 years back in time to when we were in the middle of the adoption process and change my answer to the question, “Would you like a baby boy or girl?”

Not because our now 7-year-old boy isn’t delightful. But because all the other 7-year-old boys are not delightful.

Really, really not delightful.

We love our delightful 7-year-old boy, so we decided to throw him a birthday party with a bunch of other 7-year-old boys. And they are not delightful. Really, really not delightful.

I booked the party at the movie theatre. We did that last year, and it was an easy party. It’s not terribly expensive (compared to most other party options out there), they can accommodate a group as small as 8 (unlike most other party options out there), and we were really excited about “Big Hero 6”.

We arrived at the theatre half an hour before the movie (as per the manager’s instructions) to allow us lots of time to get our cake and presents and any decorations set up in the party room. Unfortunately, they’d double-booked the party room, so it wasn’t available for us until after the movie. They did provide a space for us to lock up our presents, cake and coats. But the boys…the boys were not contained.

The screaming, running, break-dancing little monsters were everywhere. In the foyer, in the arcade, in the bathroom and running out into the mall. I could not keep track of them. And there were only 8 of them!

I didn’t even know all the kids or remember their faces after their parents dropped them off. Imagine a crazy lady snatching kids as they came out of a public bathroom, asking, “Are you supposed to be with me?” Yeah, that was me. Classy, eh?

After much chasing and herding and gnashing of teeth, we managed to get everyone to make a trip to the bathroom (“Are you SURE you’ve gone? You can make it through a two-hour movie now?”) and sorted out their drink and popcorn orders (“I don’t like popcorn.” “That’s too bad.”). Finally, the dreaded half hour of free reign was over and we were in our seats.

All I can say is, “I’m sorry” to everyone who was sitting behind or in front of us. There was talking and spilling and crying and many trips to the bathroom.

After one trip to the bathroom, I returned to my seat and whispered to the kid next to me, “What happened?”, thinking he might fill me in on any pertinent plot details. “I don’t know,” he non-whispered back. Okay, fine, I can figure this out. Oh. An important character died. Really? That wasn’t an obvious, helpful little tidbit that you could’ve shared? Thanks, kid.

And the crying. “I dropped one of my Pokemon cards and I can’t find it!” “We can look after the movie is over and the lights come on.” Crying continued for 45 minutes until the movie was over and the lights came on. “Oh look, here it is. Maybe you should put them in your pocket until the party is over so none of them get lost again.” “I don’t have a pocket.” I am going to throat-punch your parents.

So the movie is over, we get to go to the party room now, right? Wrong. The other party is still in there and then the room will need to be cleaned up. But we got some free arcade tokens to use in the meantime.

Again with the screaming, running, break-dancing monsters. Except now they’ve had Coke and M&M’s and they have basketballs to throw and game tokens to lose. “Can I have one more? I lost one behind that game.” How did your token get behind that game?!?!

Finally. The party room. That blessed little space where they can be as loud as they want and I can just block the door and keep them there.

That blessed little space where drinks are spilled and kids try to play tag and icing is smeared all over faces. “Look at my blue boogers!” “I got icing in my hair!”

And then I hear, “What the *#$%&@!?” from one of the not-delightful monsters. I look over, and one of the other not-delightful monsters is opening a present. A present that was meant for my child! I got in that kid’s face, with my finger pointing right at his nose. “This is NOT YOUR party and that is NOT YOUR present. So hands off! Sit down! And maybe try being NICE to the people around you.”

Don’t judge me.

Do you know what little girls do when they have a birthday party? They dress up in princess costumes so you can take them for high tea at a real castle. And they walk in a line to see all the fancy, old furniture. And they use their napkins after they nibble on fancy cookies. And they stand and smile for a group photo.

This is what boys do for a group photo



Posted by on November 8, 2014 in Family, Humour, Marriage, parenting


Reality Bites

There have been several articles in my newsfeed lately that bemoan the perils of blogger moms. “Don’t read those things!” they warn. “You will be made to feel inadequate. You will hate yourself and your children. You will get so obsessed with making the quintessential tiramisu that you will forget to change your baby’s diaper for three days.”

Okay, the advice is actually well-founded. You can’t let yourself get sucked into the hype. Truly, if a blogger (or an Instagrammer or a Pinterester or a Facebooker) is posting only their amazingness and subconsciously (or intentionally) letting you think that they tend to every detail of their mommyhood and wifehood with such exquisite perfection, you should block them from your inbox.

However, I would like to think that I am not that kind of blogger. I’d like to think that, but maybe you are just dazzled and frazzled enough to have forgotten some of my glaring faults (which I am not shy about posting). In the unlikely event that I intimidate you, I shall hereby take a moment to share a few snippets of my reality with you.

First. Yes, it’s true that I make my own laundry soap. And I love hanging my laundry outside to dry. But I am not a laundry diva.

This is my laundry room.


It is in the unfinished basement of our 140-year-old farmhouse. There is dust. There are cobwebs. There is dryer lint. There is cat poo (not pictured). I do clean up all that stuff once in a while (FYI the cat poo gets cleaned up way more often than “once in a while”. More like ASAP.) But you don’t need to feel like Satan if you buy ready-made laundry detergent. If you are somewhat capable of maintaining a reasonably clean environment in which to use said detergent, you are awesome!

Next. You may think all the sparkling wit, hilarity and brilliance that is created right here must happen in a zen bubble of peace. You would think I would be incredibly organized with the God-given gifts of administration and structure. Wrong-o! This is my desk right now:


There are about 6 different to-do lists here. There are reminder notes stuck all over the place. And see all those pens? Half of them don’t work. Whenever I grab one and it doesn’t work, I just drop it and grab another one. You do not need to feel like a rabid honeybadger if sometimes things are disorganized. If you have a general idea of where most of your stuff is, or at least some good ideas about where to start looking, you are fantastic!

Next. I know, I know, you talk about my carefree beauty at your playdates. You are in awe. You are jealous. (Riiiiiight.) This is me right now.


The truth of the matter is, once or twice a week I put on mascara and use some sort of product in my hair. And if I need to have my picture taken, I’ll make sure it’s on one of those days. The rest of the time, I look like this. You do not need to feel like Quasimodo if you have more important things to do than Kardashianizing yourself. If you have showered and/or brushed your teeth, you are a beauty queen!

Next. I enjoy a good decluttering day as much as the next gal. I do not keep scads of my kids’ schoolwork and artwork and church lessons and paper snowflakes and restaurant menu drawings. They show it to me, and I praise the work, then it goes in the recycling bin. The kids each have a Rubbermaid tub in the basement in which to store the most precious papers and keepsakes. I, however, have all of this:


I’ve been mid-sort for about a year. I would like to get this job finished and purged and minimized. But…ain’t nobody got time for that! So I’m a hypocrite. That’s what I am. There. You do not need to feel like a Nazi if you sometimes have standards that are, shall we say, double. If you have realistic goals that you intend to someday work towards (and if your kids are not hurt by what they don’t know), then you are a rock star!

Next. I have been so proud of myself these 2 weeks while my husband is away. I’m staying on top of so many of the jobs that he usually does. I am single parenting like a boss (and I’m not even in a drunken stupor). I’m looking after his chickens and turkeys – feeding and watering them every single day! I have taken out the garbage. I have brought in firewood and built a beautiful fire in the wood stove. I looked after a sale of something that he had listed on Kijiji. I got rid of a dead mouse in the driveway (and by that I mean I stepped over it and then I guess a racoon or something dealt with it later). I have even made an appointment to take my van into the mechanic tomorrow!



I didn’t notice right away that the water softener was out of salt. I noticed AFTER I’d scrubbed the tub and then a day or two later, it was looking like this. We have iron issues.



It turns out that sometimes dehumidifiers can overflow if they are not emptied regularly. So know this, dear mom. You may be the most capable, strong, independent Guru of Multi-tasking and Super-Ability, but you don’t need to feel like Rob Ford if you make a few little mistakes here and there. If you didn’t burn down the house today and most of the children ate most of their meals, then you are pre-fraud Martha Stewart.

Next. I have a lot of things on the go. Too many plates that I’m trying to keep spinning. I don’t really like frantic busyness, but I do sometimes bite off more than I can chew. And then my schedule gets crazy. And sometimes people look at my schedule or ask me what I’m up to, and I probably come off sounding like I’m so glamorously needed by everyone and I just have to suffer humbly under the weight of all my astonishing talents. But the truth is:


I’m on level 480. Sometimes there are just too many things to do and I buckle. It doesn’t happen often, but there are days when I get absolutely nothing worthwhile done. So you don’t need to feel like a speed bump when the world is running you down and all you can do is lie there. If those days are the exception, not the rule, then you are Michael Phelps (without the DUI and with, I don’t know, a cute sweater/skinny jeans/boots ensemble).

There you have it, folks. A few little bites of reality from your favourite (ahem) mommy blogger. Now go out and conquer the world.

Or don’t. Whatever.


Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Family, Humour, parenting


Knock Knock

I know that all parents go through this developmental stage with their kids. And kids reach this stage at different times. And it takes some kids longer to catch on than others. Even bright kids that seem to learn everything else so easily sometimes struggle with this concept. That’s normal childhood and normal parenthood. Anyone making the decision to raise a child understands this before they begin.

But sheesh! I thought we’d accomplished this and moved on a year ago. I thought we were done! Why are we having to go through this whole stage again? I am losing it over here, people.

The concept of knock-knock jokes, of all things, might just be the death of me.

This is my life right now:

L: Mom, can we tell knock-knock jokes?
Me: (with phony enthusiasm) Sure! Knock-knock.
L: Who’s there?
Me: Anita
L: Anita who?
Me: Anita go to the bathroom.
L: (uproarious laughter) Okay, my turn! Knock-knock
Me: Who’s there?
L: Levi
Me: Levi who?
L: I need to go to the bathroom!
Me: No, honey, you need to use the name and make it into a funny sentence. Like this. Knock-knock.
L: Who’s there?
Me: Levi
L: Levi who?
Me: Leave? I just got here!
L: Ohhhhhh! Okay. Let me try it. Knock-knock.
Me: Who’s there?
L: Levi
Me: Levi who?
L: Why do I have to leave already?
Me: Well, that’s close, but you have to take the first name and then make up a funny last name so that the two names together make a joke.
L: Ohhhh! I get it. Okay. Knock-knock.
Me: Who’s there?
L: Levi
Me: Levi who?
L: Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?


You don’t have to answer that. It’s just me banging my head against the wall.


Posted by on August 22, 2014 in Family, Humour, parenting


My $0.02 on the Mental Health Discussion

This is not something I wanted to talk about publicly just yet. I’m still working through stuff and I’m not sure what to share or how much to share or even if it’s worth sharing. But I do try to write about things that are going on in my own life as they relate to current events, and since the news of Robin Williams’ death yesterday, the whole internet has been buzzing with talk about mental health. So maybe I need to just throw this out there. Maybe there’s someone that needs the tiny bit of encouragement I have to offer.

I saw a counselor last week.

There. I said it. And it wasn’t all that hard to say, surprisingly. Perhaps because now that the first appointment has come and gone and it went really well, the whole concept of therapy isn’t quite as overwhelming. It was HARD to make the appointment and it was EXCRUCIATING waiting for the appointment, which was only 2 days later. I was an anxious, nervous, nauseous mess.

But the appointment was good.

I recognize that my one appointment (so far) does not qualify me as an expert in all things related to mental health. Far from it! But while everyone is talking about mental health and depression and suicide, I want to throw my two cents in.

Mental health is not limited to depression. There are a whole bunch of other issues that could be plaguing you, and which could be beneficially addressed by a counselor or other mental health professional. Anxiety, guilt, fear, grief, anger – if you are dealing with any of these things on a consistent basis, to the point that you aren’t sure you’re coping well and you can’t really remember what it was like to not be dealing with it, it’s time to get some support.

Many of these feelings overlap and can easily be confused with depression, but I would suggest that the defining point is when you start to feel that you’re not worthy of getting help.  That is a lie. You are worthy of help and getting help is not as scary as you think it is.

Mental health is not limited to chemical imbalance. That is certainly a common factor, and it can often be treated somewhat easily with medication. But there are other factors to also consider: spirituality, personal history (abuse or other trauma), current crises (financial, relational, occupational…), or an overload of stress from the chaos of day-to-day life. If yours is a chemical problem and medication works for you, great! If it’s a chemical problem and you haven’t yet found the right balance of the right medication, keep trying!

If it’s not a chemical problem, keep talking it out with a therapist or counselor that hears you. Being truly heard will go a long way in helping you to sort out how you feel – which makes it easier to express how you feel and then be better heard. It’s a positive, healing cycle. But in order to find that right person who’s a good match for you, you have to be willing to ask for referrals. Ask friends. Ask a pastor or spiritual mentor. Ask your doctor.

Now let me tell you a tiny bit about my session. After explaining the situation that was (is) causing my anxiety and anger, the counselor validated my distress and walked me through some advice to address the cause. I truly expected that the focus would be on fixing my craziness, so it was a pleasant surprise to think that maybe there is hope for addressing the root cause instead of just letting that cause fester and giving me tools to cope with it better. That made me feel less crazy.

The counselor also asked me how this was affecting our marriage. I told her that my husband thinks I’m starting to lose it. “Are you?” she asked.

“Maybe,” I answered. “I don’t know. I think I’m on the verge of losing it, but I’m trying really hard to still be objective. But would I even know if I’ve already gone off the deep end? I know this isn’t me. I used to be strong and capable and optimistic… and right now I don’t know if I will ever be that person again. Does that mean I’ve lost it?”

Her answer was so freeing, it’s bringing me to tears just to reiterate it here. She said that I am still that person. I am strong. There is no strength in thinking you don’t have a breaking point. Everyone has a breaking point. Strength is recognizing that you have reached the breaking point and then getting help before you actually break.

I think that’s all I want to say about this right now. I may be able to share more eventually. But for today, I hope this has been helpful to someone.


Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Adoption, Personal Growth


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