Sunday, 23 September 2012

Farts

Come on, even if you wanted to, it's impossible to skip past a post with a title like that.

I am, at heart, a four year old. Although I am perfectly capable of appreciating the humorous undertones of Dickens' tongue-in-cheek social commentary on Victorian society, nothing makes me cackle like an ill timed blowout. Perpetrated by someone else, of course. I don't fart. But I've heard other people do.

Farts are just stressful all around. Starting with what to call it. If you were my Grandma, the solution was simple. Farts never occurred. Ever. Except by terminally ill people. But even then, you didn't refer to them by name.

My mom referred to them as 'toots' or 'fluffs', which made you think that the escaping air was coming out in pink, bunny-shaped clouds reeking of cotton candy and strawberry lip gloss. Her other term was 'passing gas', which simply brings us right back to Grandma's terminally ill breakers of wind.

I, for one, do not mind the term 'fart' escaping the orifices of people over the age of 12, but something about my darling 2 and 6 year olds using the term makes me twitchy. It's cute coming out of the mouths of tweens, and crass when uttered by toddlers. Odd. Then there's 'flatulence', which makes you feel like the gas you passed isn't good enough or smart enough... it's enough to make a person cry.

And how long, exactly, are you supposed to know someone before you can fart in front of each other with impunity? Elementary school children seem to be able to cope with each others' minor embarrassments with a modicum of class and good manners (after a prolonged bout of giggling), but let one rip in the middle of a quarterly budget meeting, and you will never get past it. They will never speak of it, but every time you push back your naugahyde chair to stand up and begin your presentation, people's noses will involuntarily wrinkle. I have tattoos with less staying power.

Is mutually comfortable farting age-dependant? In your forties, is it completely inappropriate to fart in front of anyone, but the farther you travel on either side of the golden age (be it 15 or 83), the more acceptable it becomes?

Or does it depend upon the level of intimacy? Once you have known your best friends for more than twenty years, is it acceptable to just fart and NOT spend the rest of your evening running outside to 'check on the kids' every time the urge approaches? Should you trumpet your successes, or hide your face in shame? (I tend to straddle the fence on this one, announcing "Wait for it....wait for it...." then developing stage fright, impeding my desire to thoroughly gross out whichever best friend is currently sitting next to me.)

Or does it depend on the sex of the person next to whom you are farting? I had a relationship (a long, LONG time ago) with someone who flat out refused to fart in front of me, preferring instead to percolate silently until they thought I was asleep, at which point the sudden cacophony of flatulence made it seem as though all the demons of hell were making a break for the only available escape hatch at once, screaming in frustration when they were forced to squeeze their way out, one tiny banshee at a time...

Or should you simply let it all hang out, as do some of the people I am married to, gleefully celebrating every vapour, as you surreptitiously watch to see which one of your children will vacate the room in response to your gift? Jason has actually EMPTIED THE OUTDOORS with a camping fart of such nauseating proportions that the children in the playground next to the outhouse were forced to re-enter their respective trailers. That is a shame which I, as a wife, will never live down. He has done grosser things, but I will not discuss them here. (At least, until I run out of ideas...) (No seriously. That one will never get talked about. I'm still irritated. So those of you who know it can keep it to yourselves.)

My grandpa, who I miss dearly, was always very careful what he said and did in front of his granddaughters. As I get older I am finding out that there are things he was far more likely to discuss with the boys (war, for example, and what happens on leave) than he was with us. Any time he let his guard down in front of us, therefore, was a moment to be cherished and recapped over Thanksgiving dinner for years to come.

As we get older, our muscles naturally start to relax, and our hearing naturally starts to fail. Grandpa had this issue, with the result that sometimes he farted when he didn't mean to, and when he did, he didn't always hear it happening.

After Grandma passed away, Grandpa slowly came to the realization that he might be happier in a seniors complex rather than the three story condo they had lived in for so many years. It took time, but eventually he had my mother list it and start to have  a realtor show it in the interests of downsizing. Although I don't remember whether or not the realtor did most of the showings, or whether they were always left up to us, on one occasion a couple wanting a second visit called to see if they could come back as they wanted to take a more in depth look at the place. Grandpa told them that he and his daughter would be there to answer any questions, and over they came. I had already been at mom's house with the kids, and decided that I would come with her and we'd have a little family lunch afterwards.

At this stage of life, Grandpa was starting to get more comfortable saying what he was thinking, and my mother started to get flustered immediately when the couple asked about condo fees and property taxes and Grandpa began a rant about highway robbery. As she was trying desperately to let the couple know that the condo fees were, in fact, quite reasonable, I noticed my son, who was 8 or 9 at the time, and standing beside my grandfather, turn beet red and start to giggle. It turned out that Grandpa was getting so worked up discussing the government taking whatever they could in property taxes from old men on a fixed income, that he was beginning to punctuate his sentences with a machine-gun like rat-a-tat-tat of farts. The more mom tried to steer the conversation in another direction, the more fixated Grandpa became, and the more sustained the fusillade. It eventually got so bad that my mother derailed the conversation altogether and suggested we start by looking upstairs. My mother led the way, in case Grandpa fell, as he had been having trouble with stairs lately, and grandpa, eager to show off his home, followed her. The poor couple, who had no idea what they were getting into, came next, and I, after smacking Isaiah across the top of the head and threatening him with sudden, violent death, brought up the rear.

After a few steps, it was apparent that we should have thought things through. With each step, Grandpa expelled another fart bullet, and my mother, oblivious, kept on with her tour. The couple was holding it together as best they could, with only a few grins escaping the husband's iron-rigid face every now and then. My son, on the other hand, only made it to the first landing, where he literally collapsed with glee and had to be physically removed from the condo and deposited into the car where he could howl to his heart's delight. Oddly, this is one of Isaiah's favourite memories of his grandfather. I love that.

No matter how you look at it, farting is a natural part of life. it happens to you, it happens to me (rarely, if ever), and it happens to your friends and family. It is my hope that this blog will stimulate dinner conversations worldwide, bringing children and their parents closer together. Farting should be celebrated, perhaps with its own civic holiday. It unites us in our shame and brings us together as a society and a species. It even works as a sales pitch.

They bought the condo.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Thank You Video



This is Liz's thank you video for everyone who donated to the Canadian Cancer Society for her fundraiser. Although there is a reference to the AE Cross Colts at the end, this video is really meant for everyone whose generosity made this possible! The final total raised was $3592- thank you all!


Friday, 15 June 2012

She Did It!

(Yet Another Update: The final donations were accepted last Friday and the totals are in.... Liz's hair cut raised $3592 for the Canadian Cancer Society, which is nearly $300 more than her previous total for 2007, and nearly $2600 higher than her goal donation! Please stay tuned for a thank you video from Sabrina, to be posted on Wednesday!)

(Update: Liz's total dollars raised for the Cancer Society were $1713 as of about 9 last night. As of just now when we happened to check the website: http://fundraiseforlife2012.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=492657&supid=355560506), the total his risen to $3069 in online donations and $419 in cash/cheques (including $6 from her big brother!). With a running total of $3488, your donations to the Canadian Cancer Society have now exceeded those from her last fundraiser in 2007 ($3298), and have destroyed her goal donation of $1000. I am proud and humbled to know all of you. On behalf of the Canadian Cancer Society, thank you so much for your support!)

This one is all about Liz.

She done good.

She just cut off 12 inches of her hair to donate to a company that makes wigs for kids and adults who are suffering from hair loss (*Pantene Beautiful Lengths- see the bottom of this post for donation info and instructions) and raised $1713 (and counting) for the Canadian Cancer Society in the process.

Sometimes I take her a little bit for granted, and I forget how insanely great she (and ALL my kids) really are.

She started joking about how short it was when the lady cut off all the pigtails (to preserve as much of her length as possible).

Then she sounded a little nervous as the remaining hair got shorter and shorter and shorter.

And finally, even with a gaggle of other teenagers looking on, she couldn't hold it in any more and covered her face and cried her gorgeous eyes out.

Up till that point, we thought she was being kind of goofy and facetious- maybe putting on a little show for her friends.

And it hit me.

Holy shit.

When you're a 15 year old girl, your hair is what you hide behind.

It hides your face on a bad acne day.

It hides your blush when the hot guy speaks to you.

It hides your embarrassment when your mom does something stupid.

And it was gone.

She wasn't joking. Up till that moment we hadn't realized what a sacrifice our brave, beautiful daughter was making.

And we are so proud of her. We are proudest of the moment when she cried.
Because that's when we knew how hard this was for her.

So wear your rockabilly 'do, Liz, and wear it hard.

Because you are more beautiful today with your few inches of spiky goodness than you have ever been.

Way to go, my girl. You rule!









*Pantene Beautiful Lengths
c/o Archway Marketing Services
P. O.Box 434
2110 Kipling Avenue
Etobicoke Station B, ON M9W 5L4
Minimum requirements: length – 8 inches. Visit www.beautifullengths.ca for hair guidelines and cutting instructions
Please send by Canada Post only

Monday, 11 June 2012

Finding My Way Out Of A Wet Paper Bag

(To all my loyal readers: I am so sorry about the length of time between blogs. I have no excuse, except that the month of May is an incredibly busy one in our family. On the days we had nothing to do, I was quite often recuperating from the days where too much had to happen. Now that the birthdays and graduations of all kinds and May Long Weekend have passed, I hope to get back into the habit of regularly posting my thoughts. Thank you for your patience. Please send booze.)


I can't find ANYTHING. You can give me a map and precise, minute by minute, turn by turn directions, and it won't help. I will get lost, and I will cry. I cannot understand even the most direct of routes without having it explained 8 or 10 times, in the very simplest of terms. When I do understand a route, I cannot retain it. I am completely geotarded (or for those of you who prefer the more pc version, locationally delayed).


I have been lost in a lot of places.


I have been lost in the States.


I have been lost in Europe.


I have been lost (repeatedly) while out camping as a child. At a family reunion at Mount Kidd when I was about 10, I went to the lodge to use the bathroom (we weren't allowed to pee in the trailer unless it was midnight. Neither are my kids. Some of the old rules are GOOD rules), and took so long coming back that my mom had to send my sister and 2 of my cousins out to look for me. It didn't even occur to her to think I had been eaten by a bear- she just assumed I was wandering aimlessly around the bathrooms, unsure of how I had gotten there and how I was going to return. That is, in fact, where they found me. To this day, I can't leave the lodge at Mount Kidd without consulting a map.


It's weird. I can coordinate the schedules of 6 very busy people, budget down to our very last penny, and remember useless information about fighter jet specs and who fought what war in England in 1066, and yet I cannot, for the love of anything holy, figure out which way is west unless the sun is setting (rising???).


I have had to take all 4 kids there at least once, and still, every 3rd or 4th time we go to the 'new' Children's Hospital, I get about halfway there and realise I have no idea where I'm going and have to call home for help.


I drive with my hands in the 10 and 2 position on the steering wheel so that if someone says 'turn left', I can make the 'L' shape with my fingers and go in the correct direction. I have dropped off a child at a mall and when I returned 3 hours later to pick them up, I have been unable to find that same store again. I once went looking for the MIllarville Farmer's market and ended up in Nanton. Twice. In the same trip.


I can sit in the passenger seat and navigate from a map for Jason and get us from small town to small town with no issues at all. But when I have to put theory into practice, I can't do it. I got us all the way to and from Stoney Plain, Alberta, using my map reading skills, and when I went out that night to pick up dinner, I forgot which exit to take on the new traffic circle two blocks from our house and ended up at the Glenmore Reservoir instead of at Joey's Only.


I once got lost in a truck stop. If you're thinking it was some sort of giant ass truck stop that covered 155.4 square miles of land, and had 13 exits and entrances, think again. It was a teeny, weeny, baby sized truck stop smack in the middle of Calgary. I couldn't get out because all the semis were too high and I couldn't see the way I came in. I had to ask for help getting out to the main road, and the guy I asked looked at me like I needed a drug test, pointed and said, "It's about 15 feet that way." (I'm not telling you which road it was, because if I tell everyone it was Ogden Road, they'll figure out I was actually lost at the Road King and I'm going to sound pretty freaking stupid).


My IQ is in the triple digits. I can tie my own shoes. I can be trusted with sharp objects like toothpicks and butter knives, and I don't need to be medicated or rehabbed on a regular basis. No one has to supervise me- I am actually trusted to supervise OTHER (smaller) people. I can usually win at Trivial Pursuit (unless we're playing the Sports Edition, in which case it's all Erik, and none of us even try.) (That's a lie. We don't play the Sports Edition. Because the only one who would ever win is Erik. And if you can't tilt the odds in favour of the women, there's really no point in playing.)


And still, about once every 2 or 3 months, I look up when my husband is driving through a neighbourhood we have driven through 817,254 times before (often our OWN neighbourhood), and exclaim, "What the hell? Where are we???" He hates that. For years he thought I was joking, until one day he made a snotty comment and I burst into tears and he realised that I really didn't recognise the kid's school if we came at it from the wrong direction.


When my best friend, Jamie, and her family had been living in the 'new' house for about 6 years, I drove over to her place to hang out the one day. I had to stop first to drop off Isaiah's lunch at school, and forgot how to get onto Glenmore from there, and ended up on Memorial. Although I had ONLY ever taken Glenmore before, I figured it shouldn't be a whole lot different- I just needed to get off Memorial on 8th. Or was it 6th? Definitely 4th. It was 4th.


I drove and I drove and I drove, and the houses started to get scarier and seedier, and the sky started growing dark. (It wasn't, but my panic had begun to make me lose the sight in one eye.) I drove for what seemed like hours, getting more and more concerned as I went farther and farther without recognising a landmark. At one point, I began to worry that I had left the city and was now in Chestermere. Short of stopping the car and actually ASKING someone if I was in Chestermere, there was no way of knowing the truth. I was a wreck.


I finally pulled over into a parking lot outside a strip mall, calmed myself down, and called Jamie's house. Her mother, who was in town for a visit, answered the phone, and I couldn't hold it together anymore. I lost it. When she realised how hard I was sobbing, she took a few minutes to let me get it out of my system and asked, "Oh, honey, are you lost again? Look out the car window and tell me what you see."


As I described the unfamiliar territory surrounding my vehicle, I could hear her relaying the information to Jamie, in the hopes that I would see something familiar to both of them. When I stopped for a breath, Marlene jumped right in.


"Jamie says to leave the parking lot the way you came in, turn right, and drive up 3 blocks. Then pull over, get out, and ring the doorbell. We'll see you shortly."


She still worries about me.


So the next time I ask you for directions, please, don't tell me to 'turn west on 64th', or 'go south at Christie Cove' or 'head towards the airport'. Just get in the car with me (preferably in the driver's seat), and take me there yourself. It may cost you a few hours, but in the long run, it will save you the pain of filling out the missing persons report. 


Sometimes, it's about the bigger picture.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

On Writing

Jason asked me recently if he could do a post on my blog sometime about what it's like to live with me. (I'm sure it will be full of praise for my organizational skills and endless anecdotes about my snappy wit.) I have agreed that I am willing to try the experiment, with one caveat. Although he is a very funny individual, watching him type gives me the shakes. He has trouble remembering to use capital letters and his lack of punctuation has almost driven me into the nuthouse on more than one occasion. I'm not even going to get started on 'your' and 'you're'; 'their', 'there', and 'they're'; or 'its' and 'it's'. I will vomit. (That said, the man understands that 'regardless' is a word, whereas 'irregardless' is a nonsense term to be used only when you want to sound WRONG (see note). Were it not for that, I wouldn't have married him.)

So today's post actually started out as a brief, one paragraph preface to Jason's one-time-only, never-to-be-repeated post-to-be about the eternal gift that is life with me. However, in the process of writing my paragraph, it seems that the whole thing has now morphed into a post about one of my 'quirks'. Since there are so many to choose from, I will limit today's neurotic discussion to one of my favourite topics. I will call it: 'Proofread, Dammit!'.

(*Note: 'IRREGARDLESS' is not a word. It was never a word. However, it is used constantly in everyday conversation by people who don't know better. Generally, use of the term will cause me to stop listening to whatever the user is saying and discount all future conversations by said user as the ravings of an uneducated maniac. Even dictionary.com , which provides definitions of words that have  become acceptable language as recently as yesterday, has this to say about it:
'Irregardless' is considered nonstandard because of the two negative elements 'ir-' and '-less'. It was probably formed on the analogy of such words as ‘irrespective’, ‘irrelevant’, and ‘irreparable’. Those who use it, including occasional educated speakers, may do so from a desire to add emphasis.)

(*Other note: I also felt compelled to edit and correct the grammar and punctuation within the definition I copied and pasted from Dictionary.com. I can't help it. Someone has to help the stupid people. There are still a few errors in it, but I can't fix everything without rewriting the entire definition. And that would be silly.)

Since my blog readership has started to expand a little bit, I have gotten comments from a few people about how fast I must type, in order to cram my writing into the few spare minutes I have in each day.

Let me clarify. I am a perfectionist. I am too hard on myself. I obsess over things. If you see a post from me with a time stamp of 5 a.m., let me assure you, it is not because I awoke at 4:30 a.m. to blog. It is because I didn't get started till 11 p.m. the night before and am getting panicky that I won't be finished before the kids get up. For every post I publish, there has been a full hour of typing and at least 2 hours of compulsive checking and re-checking of facts, figures, grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, and punctuation. And there is still always something I miss. (Luckily, my best friend Jamie is always willing to point it out to me a week later, when the whole world has already read what I've gotten wrong. She's a big fan of "Did you catch that spelling mistake in that post from last August? I didn't want to tell you in case it was going to bother you." It's all right. I love her because she's mean.) 

I do not jest. Some days, rather than do the grammar feedback loop one more blessed time, it's easier just to delete the whole thing and start again.

Here's another thing that drives me crazy. If, while you are typing, spell-check flags a word, you can't just arbitrarily hit 'Ignore'. Although I agree that there is a possibility that your computer doesn't understand the context in which you have used the word, really, honestly, 9 times out of 10, Microsoft is smarter than you. I used to work with a girl who was CONVINCED that spell-check was mistaken, and got annoyed with the constant interruptions whenever she typed an email. So the next time it popped up, she added the word 'I'am' to the dictionary. Oh. My. God. Every time I got an email from her, I twitched;

Hi, techs!

I'am going to be staying late tonight to print some reports. If you need anything printed, let me know and I will add them to the ones I'am already doing.

From,
X

Every time I opened Outlook, it was everything I could do not to correct all her errors, highlight them in red, bold, 26 point font, and re-send the email for her. Seriously. Eventually, the urge to do so became so bad, I had to quit. (Not true. I quit for other reasons. But that should have been one of them.)(And I bet I get at least 1 email from ex-coworkers at that company telling me they know exactly who it is that I'am referring to.)

To sum up: There WILL be a blog by Jason. The sentiments and thoughts expressed therein will be his, but they will have been cleaned up, spell-checked, reworded and punctuated by yours truly. So what we will have is a sort of collaborative work. When we publish it in a few days or weeks, if you laugh, it is to his credit, not mine. He has been stewing about this post for a long time, and I am sure it will be brilliant.

Should you find any errors- grammatical, historical, or factual, those should be laid at his feet as well. They’re not my fault.

(Not many things are.)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

How My Mother Ruined My Life (Part 3 Of 7,000,000,000)

If I have a twisted, awful sense of humour (I don't, but occasional, misinformed people THINK I do), then the blame lies solely at the feet of my mother. Please talk to her about it.

My mom is hysterical. She is quick to laugh, and when something strikes her as funny, she will giggle about it for years. I can still bring her to near tears just by MENTIONING the scene with the bracelet in Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin's "Big Business". No joke. Those of you who know her should try it. I think it makes her pee.

Lest anyone think the reason I love to publicly humiliate my family is that I am a cruel and unjust person, it is not. It is because I have been trained and conditioned my entire life to do so.

Remember how, when you were sixteen, your entire family was awful and they all looked funny and said stupid things? And you wanted nothing more than for them to fall off the edge of the planet so you could go live in a dorm like one of the cast of 'Facts of Life'? Most parents are bothered by this snotty attitude in their teenagers. My own mother saw it as a challenge.

I was in the line up at the Bank of Montreal one day (remember back when your McJob paid you by actual, physical paper cheque and you had to give it to an actual, physical human so they could put it in your account and you would then withdraw ten dollars in cash in order to pay your $4 to get into Nightmare on Elm Street? I miss those days.)

(No, I don't. I'm lazy. I like these days.)

(Except the part about the $4 movie. I miss THOSE days.)....

Anyway. The lineup.

There I was, all dressed up in my acid-washed, 20-inch waist Bluenotes, my perfectly fitted baggy Cotton Ginny sweatshirt (with matching scrunch socks, thank you), hair tortuously teased, hairsprayed bangs standing straight up from my skull (then flopping over in an effortless (HAH!) feather), hoping for all the world that the other people in the bank had noticed my flawless Cover Girl skin and smelled my Body Shop strawberry  perfume oil and wished they could be just like me; when in came my sister.

Mom had driven me to the bank, and my sister had come with her for some reason or another. Mom had been in a giddy mood all afternoon and I should have known that to leave her in the car was to invite disaster.

My sister came flying in through the doors of the bank, dressed in what she and mom had decided was the perfect foil to my anal-retentive, obsessively planned preppie outfit.

The bright pink plastic rain bonnet (freshly yanked out of the glove box JUST for this purpose) fitted her head perfectly, bow knotted at a jaunty angle under her chin.

The sunglasses fit her face to a T, shading not only her eyes, but both sides of her head (with those giant old-lady-sunglasses-side panels). The sun would not blind her ears today, no sir!

Her shirt was inside out.

She was dancing.

She was jingling about 300 cents in pennies in her hands, and shrieking at the top of her lungs,

"Mommy says if I ask nicely, you will put all my money in the bank!!!!!!!!! Will you? Will you? Will you? Will you? Will you?Will you Willyouwillyouwillyouwillyou????? If you want, I can go out and find some more under the car seat! Then you can buy that expensive acne cream!!!!"

I died. Every customer in the bank burst out into hysterical laughter, and the rotten 14-year old skipped (yes, REALLY skipped) out the door, cackling with glee, leaving me standing in the bank, wallowing in my humiliation, seething.

My mother paid her $5 to do it.

I did my banking and went back out to the car. Mom was hysterical, tears literally STREAMING down her face. She was laughing so hard she was no longer producing noise, just a strangled wheeze. It took her 10 minutes to be able to drive again. After a while, I couldn't help but join in. Come on. That's just funny. I would have loved to have seen the look on my face.

To this day, I have the rare, wonderful ability to laugh at myself. It's a great thing to be able to do. It means I can enjoy life, and see the lighter side of nearly every situation (including some for which there is no appropriate lighter side. I apologise a lot for those ones.). It's probably the greatest single thing my mother instilled in me.

So, my sweet children, the next time I force you to dance with me at a school dance, or tell an entire wedding party the story of you peeing on your auntie's new carpet, remember this:

Every time I make you blush, you are becoming a better person. I do it all for you.

And if you believe that, I have a rain bonnet I want to sell you...

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Why Camping Rules

We were over at Jamie and Shawn's tonight, with Lana and Erik and all the kids, doing our 'One-Week-Till-Easter Dinner', and the subject of camping came up.

As we near another camping season, and try to decide where we want to go as a group this year, the talk naturally turned towards previous camping trips, and we were flooded with memories.

The year Squid was born, we decided to take our annual camping trip in Parson, BC. The weather would be gorgeous, the scenery would be beautiful, and it had the added bonus of not being too far from home (it wasn't till later, when we realised that Squiddy was a ticking time bomb, that we started to add 'close to major trauma centers' to our list of requirements....)

Although Jamie and Shawn had bought a motorhome, Jason and I had not yet graduated from a tent, and Lana and Erik were still camping in a cozy little freshly painted tent trailer.

Our tent was great. We could sleep all 4 of us in a row, and still had room for Squid's playpen next to us. We could probably still fit all of us in that tent, even with the big kids having grown and adding Eva to the clan, but it died an unfortunate death at the end of one of the quickest September Long trips we've ever taken. But I'm sure that will come up in a future blog.

The only down side to a tent (aside from the fact that there is no heat, no bathroom, you're sleeping on the ground, and the condensation in the mornings might hit the high-water mark left by the last great flood) is that fabric walls are not the best defence against wildlife. But I planned for that. I married Jason. One look at his big, burly body doing the peepee dance in the morning scares away pretty much every living creature on God's green earth.

When we picked the campsite, we took into account that we would be right next to the Columbia River, and that wildlife may become an issue. We planned carefully. We bought bear bells for the kids (the added bonus being that never once did we actually have to STAND UP to find them when they wandered away), we packed our food away every night, and I was careful not to wear my prey-scented perfume.

Jason and I were the first ones to arrive, and as we drove through Parson to the campground, we caught a glimpse of the liquor store (which we knew we would have to visit at least once, as our 2 huge coolers were stuffed with stupid things like food and juice).

If Jason Voorhees ran a liquor store, this would be it. The shingles were peeling from the roof, and the siding was falling off the building. One window was boarded over, and there was an abandoned car out front and two more in the back. Somehow, the flashing 'Open' sign on the one unbroken window was not overly reassuring.

"Do you wanna stop?" I asked Jason.

And he, who usually isn't bothered by my flights of fancy, took one look as we sped past and muttered,

"Nope. I've seen that movie. I know how it ends."

Not an auspicious beginning.

Once we had set up camp that first day, we sat back and looked around. This place was awesome! We would be there 10 days, so the laundry room was a plus. There were ponds and streams for Jason and the kids to fish in, a relatively clean swimming hole with a culvert perfect for jumping off of, and the campsite was huge. I checked out the washrooms, and they were spotless. Perfectly clean and well tended, and the smell of lemon cleanser was strong enough to make your eyes water. There was a cute little guest book on the counter, and the couple who ran the place had even taken the time (I assume it was her, not him) to sew little curtains for the front of the sinks so no one would have to look at unsightly plumbing while washing all the vacation off their faces. We set up our tent and assorted other gear, and sat back, waiting for rest and relaxation to overtake us.

And afternoon hit.

Apparently, the people who ran the place preferred that people check in in the mornings, because they waited till afternoon to let the mosquitoes out of their cages.

At first, I thought a cloud had moved over the sun. Then I took a look at the sky, and a swarm of the buggers had blocked every visible patch of blue. I don't say 'little buggers' here, although that is normally how I refer to the things, but 'buggers'. That is because each mosquito was roughly the size of a sparrow. Not a little sparrow. A sparrow the size of an eagle.

They would hover over you as a group, and while one of them sparred with you to distract you, another 2 or 3 would start ripping chunks of meat from your back in an attempt to drain you dry. The only defence seemed to be to swing at them with a small child, but all our available children had taken shelter in the car.

We realised that our supply of bug spray wouldn't last the day. We also needed something more powerful than the Off Skintastic we had brought along. Remember when you would go backwoods camping as a child and your dad would pull out the bottle of straight Deet? You used one drop on each wrist (the top of the wrist, not the thin skin over your veins- that was stupid), one on your shirt (being careful not to drip on your shoes, because it would melt the rubber on your Keds), and not only would the bugs leave you alone, but squirrels dropped dead out of trees as you walked past? We needed that. And some mosquito coils. And a citronella bucket. Or thirty.

We drove back into Golden (giving us the opportunity to hit a less-terrifying liquor store, so that was a bonus), and found that although they no longer sell straight Deet (apparently it's dangerous, and has therefore been made illegal), we picked up a huge supply of mosquito-deterring lotions, creams, sprays, bracelets, coils and candles. As well as a giant supply of mosquito netting and some clothes pins. We worried they might take Squid when we weren't paying attention. He was only 8 months old, and although he was already walking, he couldn't run nearly fast enough to escape a coordinated attack.

After a full few days planning a strategic offence against the invading hordes of bloodsucking monsters, we thought we had things licked. Everyone else showed up on time, parked in a horseshoe shape with the communal firepit in the middle, and Jamie and Shawn set up their giant dining room/mosquito shelter right over top of the picnic tables. We learned to take refuge in there when the flying vampires came out (and to hide in the motorhome when the campground guy sprayed the place every morning- apparently the mosquitoes were a huge problem), and things seemed to be moving along swimmingly.

Then came the skunks.

Jason woke up early one morning, as he hadn't been able to sleep well, and left the tent to make coffee and go pee.

Turns out that skunks, like me, love nothing more than a late night snack. Turns out, that UNlike me, they prefer to do their post-midnight noshing on a nice, stinky disposable diaper full of poo. Turns out that they can also get into garbage cans. Turns out, Jason hadn't been able to sleep well because there was a food fight going on right outside our doorstep.

Apparently the last few days of skunk-free camping only happened because Squid's diapers were SO foul that the odor permeated the entire province, and the skunks needed to wait for the cloud to dissipate somewhat before they could pinpoint the location of the buffet.

They had stealthily waited till the campsite was quiet and all the inhabitants were asleep (which took some time, as we were all stocked up with liquor, and it takes a while to work your way through it), and under cover of night, began their raid.

I have no idea why the garbage can lid falling off the receptacle didn't wake any of us up (well, yeah, I DO, but you'd think one of the KIDS would have heard something, at least...). With absolute precision, they separated the poopy diapers from the merely pee-soaked diapers, and dug in. Flinging scraps of fecal matter and shreds of highly absorbent synthetic God-knows-what around the campsite, they found whatever it was they wanted to eat (we're still not sure what that was, because there was roughly 38,754 pounds of crap scattered around the campsite, so it may be that nothing got eaten, and it was just the skunk equivalent of a snowball fight), and, having had their fun, went on their merry way.

I heard Jason gagging after he got out of the tent, and much traveling back and forth around the campsite as he (I now know) cleaned up the poop and diaper scraps before anyone else exited their sleeping quarters. I don't know about any of you, but when you hear your husband gagging first thing in the morning on a camping trip, do you get up to help and see what's the matter? I don't. I don't care. If he has salmonella poisoning and is puking up his lungs and my assistance is required to get him to the hospital before he expires, he will come get me. Until then, as far as I am concerned, it's his problem. I birthed his children. That gives me a free pass. Forever.

That morning, after everyone had finished eating, we all got to hear the (exceedingly funny to us, but oddly, not to Jason) story of the diaper bandits, and a lesson was learned. We talked to the campground manager, and it turns out that skunks were a huge problem for him. He needed to clear them out every few weeks, and felt bad that he hadn't warned us. So we knew that henceforth, the poopy diapers  needed to go into a bag, then into another bag, then into the giant dumpster at the gate of the campground. Every time. It didn't matter if mommy was on her 35th bag of wine, and daddy was (still) trying to start the fire, that's where it went. I am only grateful that it was one of us that woke up, as I would feel awful having to make someone else clean up my family's poo. (Insert wild cackles of laughter here, as that did indeed happen later that day, but out of love and respect and a desire to maintain the friendship, I won't say WHICH family's poo, or describe the circumstances thereof. But as a public service, I would like to suggest to everyone out there that you should never, ever, ever, ever, ever camp downhill from someone else's sewer hookup without first making sure that everyone involved has checked and double checked that things are draining properly. Just saying.)

That night the bats showed up.

Lana and Erik's tent trailer had a white awning, which reflected the moonlight, the light from the campground office, blinking lights from orbiting satellites, and possibly the residual light from stars 8 billion years burned out. It was BRIGHT. And that, apparently, lures bats in to feed. All night, we heard them as they flapped around underneath the awning, ricocheting off the canvas of the tent trailer, and twanging into the ropes. Lana and Erik and Jason and myself were awake the entire time, but none of us could summon the energy required to get out of bed long enough to set up a light and take down the awning. Jamie and Shawn heard nothing. They had air conditioning in the motorhome. They slept like the dead.

Bastards.

We learned, though. The next day after dinner, when the sun went down, so did the awning. No one was overly upset about it. You live and you learn, and these were experiences we could take with us in life, and rely on for future camping trips. The campground guy mentioned later that there were tons of bats in the woods at night. But they weren't a huge problem, because they were scared of people.

That day, the kids found frogs at the swimming hole (in which they had ceased swimming, because there were leeches. Apparently, leeches were a huge problem out there) and spent the next 64 hours dropping them into the adults' empty cups when we weren't looking so that when we dragged ourselves up to get a drink, we were confronted with nasty, warty little creatures that leapt out into your face in an attempt to escape. We were all so shell-shocked that after the first few shrieks of terror, we were simply grateful that they weren't poisonous.

As we all went to bed on the second-to-last night of the trip, we looked forward to a good, solid night's sleep. The mosquitoes had been beaten (or at least, we had come to a mutually agreed upon temporary cease-fire), the skunk problem had been solved, the bat problem eliminated, the supply of frogs was dwindling, and a nice fresh mountain breeze had taken care of any other small issues that may or may not have arisen.

As I nestled my slightly-chilled-from-sitting-around-a-dying-campfire body into my sleeping bag, and began to drift off into sleep, I felt Jason tense suddenly beside me.

"What's up?" I asked, only to be interrupted by a hissed,

"Sssssh! Do you hear that???"

Lest you forget that I have issues with being scared of everything, everywhere, all the time, let me mention that the phrase just uttered by darling husband is never, EVER one I want to hear while sleeping in anything but a concrete bunker.

"Holy crap! WHAT????" I asked.

"Look."

I gingerly turned around in the direction my motionless husband was facing and looked out the (unfortunately unzipped to prevent condensation-related drowning deaths) tent window, and there, ringing the campsite in a perfect circle about 3 feet into the forest, were eyes. Pairs and pairs and pairs of eyes. I counted eleven without even having to turn my head.

"What IS that????? Skunks aren't that tall!!!!" I panic-whispered to Jason, who was desperately trying to remember anything he'd seen on the Discovery Channel about what animal stands with its head about 2 to 3 feet off the ground and what colour their eyeshine was in the dark.

"I know they aren't bears." he said, "Bears don't hunt in packs."

I almost died. My brain froze. I was trying to decide if Squid was less accessible to a cougar in the playpen in which he was sleeping, or whether I should take him out and shelter him with my body, and whether Isaiah and Liz were strong enough to fend off a night time attack by Siberian tigers, or whether we could scoop up the kids and make it to the safety of the car before the raging orangutans ripped off our limbs. I came up short on every count.

"At least close the tent window so they can't see how meaty we all are!" I gasped, "Make them WORK for it!"

"The bloody thing zips up from the outside." muttered Jason, "And I'd rather see where they are."

I was going to die. All those years of fretting about the bathrooms looking like the gates of hell and the bad man in the outhouse pit and Freddie and/or Micheal Myers and/or Reagan from 'The Exorcist' stalking me through the trees, and I was going to die at the hands of Bigfoot??? What the hell????

We perched there, for what seemed like hours, watching the ring of eyes as they closed in. Once or twice Jason would shout/hiss/whisper, and they would back off for a brief period of time, but they never left. And they always started to move in again. We finally realised that the only way to deal with the problem was for Jason and I to get up, grab the fire poking sticks, run around yelling, start the campfire again so that they couldn't sneak up on us comfortably, and remain reasonably vigilant for the rest of the night.

And just as we were about to crawl out of bed, we heard the handle on Lana and Erik's tent trailer door start to turn.

Thank. God.

Erik must have come to the same conclusion, and was coming out to deal with the problem. He had obviously picked up on the fact that Jason and I didn't want to accidentally show the animals where our tasty little kids could be found, and figured he would drive them away. We listened to him jump on the trailer steps, and move around the campsite, occasionally making a rush at one of the animals, and finally, blessedly, we fell into the most restful night's sleep we'd had since we got there.

When we woke up in the morning, we found a haggard, bloodshot, gaunt-looking Erik sitting alone at the picnic table, guzzling cup after cup of instant coffee.

We thanked him for getting up and dealing with the problem the night before and asked him what exactly the animals were.

"They were coyotes,"  he said, left eye twitching in a horrible, exhausted little dance, (in hindsight, this did make slightly more sense than it being a band of Komodo dragons, looking for someone upon whom to vent their pent-up rage.) "but that sound you heard wasn't ME getting up to deal with THEM. It was the sound of THEM trying to get into the tent railer. I think they were after the dog. We were up all night, one on guard on each end of the tent trailer, so they wouldn't eat the kids."

We spent the rest of the day listening to the shotgun as the campground manager tried to clear the coyotes off his land (having explained that they were a huge problem, and he had to hunt them every few months).

As camping trips go, it wasn't the worst one. No one needed to go to the hospital, and we left with the same number of kids we arrived with. But there were lessons learned.

Lana and Erik bought a trailer with walls.

We stopped allowing our babies to poop.

Nobody eats corn out camping anymore.

And we probably won't go back to Parson, BC.

Man, I miss camping!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Plug for The Canadian Cancer Society

OK, boys and girls! This June, Liz is once again going to be cutting all her hair off (leaving juuuuuuust enough for a fauxhawk this time) to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society!

For those of you who remember, when she did it when she was 9, she raised $3298.

We are hoping to beat that number this time around, and make an even bigger donation to a very good cause!!!

You can donate in cash, by email money transfer, by coming directly to Liz, Jason or myself, or online at: http://fundraiseforlife2012.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=492657&supid=355560506

If you're willing, we will even take the pennies from your car ashtray. No joke.

Come on, everyone! Let's do some good this spring!




Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Down Side

There are lots of cool things about having kids. Today's post has nothing to do with any of them.


This is about the down side.


Kids are gross. They have very little control of their bodies, and as a result, much of what happens to their bodies gets splattered around for all the world to see.


Boogers run out of their noses. Hideous-smelling farts escape uncontrollably. Poop leaks out of the backs of their diapers. They pee in the tub. And they vomit.


Oh, man, the vomit.


My poor little Squiddie just got over a nasty stomach flu (only to be immediately followed up by croup, but that's neither here nor there.)


I spent all of Thursday night sitting up with him, either at his bedside with a bucket, or perched on the edge of the tub, rubbing his back as he ridded himself of every food he had eaten since the time of his birth. I always feel so bad for kids when they throw up. It's such a primal function, and there is nothing you can do or say to make it any less horrible. We tried giving him Pepto Bismol, but he couldn't keep it down for more than 5 minutes, so rather than continuing to replenish his digestive system with barfable substances, we gave up and decided to wait it out.


Finally, at about 6:30 Friday morning, the vomiting slowed down, then stopped (at which point Isaiah started to puke, but at least he was a little less labour-intensive than Squid, and all I had to do for him was call his school, fetch a glass of water and turn up the heat).


I ran out to Safeway and picked up about 32 bottles of ginger ale and some more Pepto, and when I got home, settled Squid onto the couch and Isaiah into his bed with nice glasses of flat, clear liquid, and spent the rest of the day on the couch with Eva, hoping I wouldn't get sick till after she did.


I was worried that Squid couldn't keep anything down, so I made sure he had a sip of ginger ale every 20 minutes or so, to keep him hydrated, and by about 3 that afternoon, when everything had stayed where it belonged, I started to feel brave.


First I gave him some Children's Tylenol to bring his fever down (which he chased with a bit more ginger ale because Tylenol tastes like 'fruit, but nasty fruit', and he needed to get it off his tongue), and after a few moments, let him go downstairs to play XBox.


He came up a while later when Jason got home from work, and asked if he could have a freezie, because he was still overheated and wanted something to eat. I figured he had last thrown up more than 8 hours ago, so a freezie couldn't hurt, grabbed him one, and sat him down on the couch to eat it.


I knew I had pushed my luck too far when the expression on his face changed suddenly and he sat bolt upright, screeching "Where's my bucket? Where's my bucket?" Ah, yes. Helpful bucket. I had been lulled into a false sense of security. It was downstairs, next to the XBox. All fresh and clean and lined with a plastic bag, and of absolutely no use to anyone.


I grabbed his hand, yanked him off the couch and started to sprint for the bathroom. I really, truly believed we could make it (but then, I also believe that saying the word 'snow' out loud in June will cause the inevitable to happen, so I am probably not a reliable predictor of future events). Right as we stepped off the area rug onto laminate floor (in retrospect, I guess I should be grateful that we had stepped off area rug onto laminate floor), he erupted. Since we were running and he was facing forward, the vomit naturally sprayed in our direction of travel, creating a giant puddle of blue-tinted ginger ale in our path.


Mother Nature had laid her little trap.


As he started to round the corner into the hallway, his bare feet skidded in the puddle of barf. He struggled, almost righted himself, and, just when I though we would make it, he went down, taking me with him.


He lay on his back in the pool of liquid sugar, head turned to the side as he continued to empty his stomach, while I (for a split second, but it seemed like days) debated my next course of action. Finally, I grabbed him under his (oh, so warm and sticky) armpits, hauled him up, and carried his still-vomiting little body to the bathroom, leaving a dripping river of happiness along our path.


Jason, who had (Miraculously??? Or on purpose??? You decide....) missed the entire event, was in the kitchen, and as I called him to come help me, I realised that Eva, who loves nothing more than to tag along behind Squid everywhere he goes, was on the verge of following our nasty little trail down the hallway. I ran back into the living room, picked her up (touching as little of her as possible), and handed her to Isaiah, who looked very much as though he was going to have to find a bucket himself. I ran upstairs and grabbed as many towels as I could without having to touch anything else in the linen closet, and while Jason sat with Squid (who was fine now, as the worst had already happened) on the bathroom floor, I started to clean up the mess.


Honestly, I was lucky. There were no identifiable chunks, designed to turn me off of food for 6 months, and the liquid was virtually clear and non-staining. I didn't even gag once. I cleaned everything up with the towels, mopped the floor with super hot water, and ran it all (including my clothes, as the hems of my pants were starting to stiffen) down to the washing machine and set it to 'Obliterate'.


Feeling as though that whole awful situation had been MUCH easier to deal with than I originally thought it would, I threw on another outfit, washed my hands (twenty or thirty times), checked on Jason, Isaiah, and Eva (who were hiding out in the kitchen), and walked into the living room.


And there, laying back down on my living room couch, crusty hair matting into a solid block of drying blue raspberry, head perched exhaustedly on a throw pillow, shirt and underwear soaked through and reeking of barf, covered with a (no longer) clean quilt, was my darling Squid.


Some days, the only thing keeping me sane is knowing that it will be REALLY funny later.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

How My Mother Ruined My Life (Part 2 Of 7,000,000,000)

So, when my sister and I were little, we went through a phase where we would run around the house screaming "Fire! Fire! Fire!", because it was funny to watch everyone come running. This phase only lasted a week or so, because we got in major trouble for doing it. (Remember this.)

Mom is super crafty. When we were growing up, she crocheted, she hooked rugs, she painted plates with birds and flowers, and she did that weird thing where you curl the paper around a tiny metal hook and schmeared it with glue and made 3-dimensional landscapes and country scenes in a frame (she knows what it's called, but I'm pretty sure no one else does).

Anyway, because of her incredible talent for building something out of nothing, slapping it with a coat of lacquer, and producing a masterpiece, craft times as kids were pretty fun.

One day, as the afternoon wore on and mom had no idea what to do with me, we found there were no cool craft supplies in the house. So she had to fall back on the egg carton caterpillar- you know the one I'm talking about. If you've had kids and ever run out of fun stuff in that ugly hour between Lego and dinner, you've probably made one. Half an egg carton, a pipe cleaner, googly eyes and a few markers, and you're good to go.

So mom and I put this caterpillar together, and when we reached the end of our project, she realized we had no pipe cleaners. Being that she's super mom, she had no problems coming up with a solution- she grabbed a few matches out of the jar above the stove, jammed them through the cardboard, and I was good to go.

I spent the rest of the afternoon in my room playing with that thing (did we all have longer attention spans back then, or did the lead paint on our walls just make us all mildly slow? I ask because there's no WAY any of my kids would have played for 3 hours with some crappy 3 cent craft...), and the inevitable finally happened. As I was 'crawling' the caterpillar along my (toxic-paint-covered) wall, I accidentally managed to strike one of the (unburnt) matches, which flared up and immediately ignited the cardboard body.

I instinctively threw the thing away from me as fast and as far as I could, which was, unfortunately, in the direction of my bed. When the bedding lit up and started to REALLY smolder, I did the only thing I could think of and threw open my door and tore down the hallway, screaming "Fire! Fire! Fire!"

(Here's where mom's bad planning and my stupidity cross paths and nearly disfigure me....)

As I came flying around the corner into the kitchen, screeching at the top of my lungs, my father, who had just returned from work, scooped me up and growled, "We told you not to do that fire thing again. I've had it- you can sit in your room till dinner time."

WHAT?????

As we marched down the hallway to my room, I tried desperately to explain to my dad (who had heard it 736,591,374,019 times that week and was having NO more of it, thank you very much!) that it WAS a real fire, and I was telling the truth that time.

I will never forget the look on his face when he tossed open my bedroom door to see the smoke billowing out and my bed skirt in flames. It made the whole episode worth while. I've never seen anyone out side of a cartoon strip make that big, shocked 'O' with their eyes and mouth. Didn't actually know it could be done.

When my mother realised what had happened, she (understandably) felt horrible. Although 'playing with matches' is right up there with 'running with scissors' and 'taking candy from strangers', she was so desperate to entertain me that afternoon that she completely neglected to burn the match heads before she gave them to the 4 year old.

Luckily, I am here to remind her (every day, should the need arise), that craft time can kill.

I'm sure she's grateful.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Ode To The Men In My Life

(I have been saving this blog for a long time, trying to work up the courage to hit 'publish'. I have realized that there is no time like the present, which is why I have (shockingly) published my second blog of the day. Please forgive any spelling errors. Blame my blurred vision.)

I am going to be serious today.

Just today, I promise.

But there is a small, select group of people I need to thank, and as the years go by, I have started to lose some of them to age or illness, and the thought that I did not thank them while they were with us eats away at me every day. So I want to make sure that I express my gratitude to the rest of them while I still have the time. If you feel like this is not the type of blog you want to read, by all means, skip this one. It's not funny, or lighthearted, or amusing. But it needs to be written.

I have a hard time saying thank you to the people I really need to say thank you to from my childhood. I have a huge sense of shame (that I will never quite get past) for needing the help as much as I do, and it is so hard for me to tell these people to their faces. For years, I had a hard time even admitting it- it's hard for me just to think about. I am getting there, but it's taking time.

It's not that I am not grateful. Far from it. I am actually so grateful to these people that there are not enough words in all the languages of the world to make them understand how important they were. I need to say thank you in a very loud, very permanent way, and this is the best avenue I have.

Let me begin.

Some people, for whatever reason, because of outside factors, addiction, psychological makeup, personality, or mental illness, should not become parents. These may do well with smaller children, who are fairly pliable and easy to deal with, but when faced with pre-teens who argue, ignore, talk back and dismiss their opinions, are unable to make the adjustment. The caring, loving, attentive parent of a four year old may become the raging, angry, vindictive, unkind enemy of that same child at fourteen.

I had this type of father. I am past the anger now, and have come to terms with a horrible, horrible relationship. I have forgiven him (although I have not forgotten, nor do I choose to have a relationship with him), and I am doing my best to avoid the same pitfalls with my own children.

While my father emotionally (and, years later, physically) separated himself from his children, a group of wonderful, caring friends and neighbours stepped in. These surrogate fathers (and to no lesser degree, their families) are the sole reason I trust men today. They saved my sister and I when our mother was unable to do it all by herself, and they are the people who kept me from becoming an angry, bitter recluse.

In the last few years, three of these wonderful men have passed away. I wish to God I could say to their faces what I am about to say now.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart and with every fibre of my soul, I thank you.

Grandpa. I can only remember once in my life that you ever raised your voice to me (and I REALLY deserved it!). You were the man who taught me that not all fathers scream. You taught me that an argument can be held without nastiness and unkind words. You stepped in when you knew I needed it, without being asked. You gave me away at my wedding. You WERE my father. I love you and I miss you. When you died, customers who hadn't seen you in fifty years wrote to tell us what a great guy you were. That's the kind of impression you made.

Joe White. You were the father of my best friend. You joked with me like I was a grownup, and actually listened seriously to my ideas. You picked up on the words I WASN'T saying, and you and Linda rescued me more times than I can remember. When my whole world was shattering (because, even with the misery of having him around, I preferred the 'normalcy' of knowing my father would be there in the morning when I woke up), and my mom was trying to hold herself together, your wife came to our house, brought me home with her (knowing that my mom was unable to help me herself just then), and you held me for hours as I sobbed. You taught me that recovery is possible, and that great men can surmount less-than-stellar pasts, and be wonderful people. I miss you every day.

Lorne Shields. You opened your home to my sister and I. When our space got just too horrible, middle of the night or not, you took us in. You heard the hideousness, and in a day and age where not a lot of people stepped up, you did your best to calm the storm. You and Maryanne fed us peanut butter and banana sandwiches (on WHITE BREAD!!!!!), let us sleep on the floor, and made us feel a little more powerful under powerless circumstances. You taught us to stand tall, and appreciate the tiny things. The hole you left behind is bigger than you ever could have guessed.

Chuck Faas. Your home was an oasis of calm in a world that sometimes seemed like it was spinning out of control. Although your children were older than my sister and I, you never lost your ability to relate to kids. You and Sandy took us in and told us the truth when our father didn't care enough and our mother was too heartbroken to do it themselves. You taught us to trust our guts and our intuition, and you taught us that safety was only 55 feet away. You taught me that chaos and eggshells were not the gold standard for fatherhood. I am grateful that I am able to tell you today how incredibly much you mean to me.

Uncle Dennis. When my father managed to alienate his entire family, and  left my mother, sister and myself drowning in a pool of loneliness, you made the first move to reconnect. You knew how important our relationship was, and how sorry we were to lose it. You inherently recognised how painful and embarrassing it was for us to come crawling back to a family so shamefully treated by my father, and you gave us time, and you opened your arms (and your heart), and welcomed us back in. You will always be my favourite. Although we don't see each other as regularly as we should, you have taught me that family is forever, and that anger and resentment doesn't matter. You are my only remaining connection to that side of the family, and I am deeply, deeply grateful for you.

Although other friends and neighbors, and the families of all these men, played a part in rescuing me, it is these few who hold a special place in my heart, because that was the role I so badly needed filled. When I am proud of my accomplishments, it is their opinions and respect that I crave. When I look at my family and think "Huh. I done good.", it is they that I picture standing behind me, smiling at my offspring.

I don't visit my old neighbourhood as much as I should, nor did I visit these men as much as they have deserved. It's still painful for me, and I tend to avoid these memories except on rare occasions, even though I live mere moments away. Sometimes I am lost for words, and sound silly and unimportant, and can't convey the depth of my feelings. To all of you, please know that it is not forgetfullness or uncaring that keeps me away, but the depth of my love and appreciation (as incredibly odd as that may sound).

But when I think of 'home' and 'childhood', your faces are the prominent ones in my mind's eye. You made me who I am today. All my successes are due in equal part to each of you. I am thankful for all of you every day. God knew what he was doing when he sent me to you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.