Category: Family Life

Birthdays and a Fast Fashion rant

Now we are Six – and the love of dinosaurs continues.

I had big plans to write a loving letter to Oonagh for her 6th birthday (which was on Friday) and something about World Cancer Day – which was yesterday – but things got away from me. We have had multiple illnesses in the family culminating in my own body deciding to purge everything yesterday. The answer to the question, ‘why is mummy sick?” I think can be easily explained away by the fact that I have had a sick Oonagh practically on top of me at all times for the last two weeks. Not every illness is about cancer even when you have cancer, but sometimes I wonder if I get hit harder because my body is so busy fighting everything else.

So instead of any of those things I’m just moving on and looking at today as a fresh start – like every day should be but I’m better at living in the past and wallowing in regrets even if they are minor.

I had my “Monday morning meeting” (with myself) this morning instead of yesterday. I’m building up my to-do list for the week and even managing to cross some things off of it. I’m pretty sure Oonagh had a good birthday. I knit her a beautiful sweater which she will most likely never where except for the one time I’m going to try and get a photo of her in it (which I haven’t bothered to do yet). She is going through a phase where everything is uncomfortable except one pair of black leggings and a Pok√©mon t-shirt and I’m not going to fight it. She is the third child after all and I have been down this road before.

I made her pants too but haven’t finished putting the elastic waist in because I suspect these pants will also be rejected so what’s the rush. It has been years since I’ve sewn an article of clothing and I had to re-teach myself so many things but managed to enjoy the process so I’m counting it as a win. Those pants were also made from fabric that has been languishing in my stash for almost a decade and it feels good to use some of it up. It is hard to compete with the cheap tackiness of stores like Justice with their cutesy unicorn-barfed-on leggings. The Justice website say they are “empowering girls” – and they mean that by way of slogans on their shirts – but have sketchy labour practices in countries known for not doing enough for workers rights. On their website they say they have Supply Chain Transparency but according to the Good On You app their labour rating is “Not Good Enough” because they “source from countries with high or extreme risk of labour abuse.” So, I suspect this “empowerment” doesn’t stretch to the girls making the clothes. (Duh.) Also, their environmental rating is “very poor” which doesn’t surprise me because the clothing is already falling apart before it even leaves the store.

Anyway, to end today’s post here is an oldy-but-goody of our birthday girl.

Kicked out of my own kitchen (because it isn’t just “my” kitchen).

We had a great weekend. I knit. I sewed. I even left the house and hung out with a friend (one of my goals this year: to say yes to invitations). Yesterday Miss Oonagh woke up sick so I got a lot of snuggles. Plus we had book club on Friday which means I am DONE with Us Conductors and never have to read the book again. (Why no, I did not enjoy it, thank you for asking.) Today Oonagh and I are home and I’m taking a break from snuggles to write. Also, what I have dubbed as my “cancer period” has finally started so I am basically hemorrhaging right now and can’t leave the house anyway. (Really looking forward to a nap!)

This weekend I also thought a lot about how important it is to empower your children.

On Friday Fionnuala made cupcakes. Saturday morning she made pumpkin pancakes and then planned out lunch for Sunday – which she also made: Oh She Glow’s Mac and Peas (It was delicious).

She’s eight.

Of course, I had to help her but I tried to step back as much as possible and just be near enough to answer questions. During the course of the weekend she learned to double a recipe, peel potatoes and get over her fear of knives. I was nervous about her being around the stove but tried not to freak her out by showing my nervousness. I didn’t always do a great job because at one point she told me I had to leave the kitchen. (Small child! Hot stove!)

Fionnuala, age six, cooking at the stove.

Years ago we tried to have a schedule where the kids helped out in the kitchen one night a week – but we aren’t that great with those kind of schedules in this house. Of course we have a rotating chore chart so they always have chores to do (and no, they don’t get paid for them – just like we don’t get paid for them) but the cooking thing never worked out and they were young. I find it works better for us if someone decides they want to spend time in the kitchen – like Fionnuala did this weekend. Initially it seems like a lot more work for me but it really wasn’t – I mean, one of us would have been in the kitchen cooking anyway because everyone still needs to eat. But my initial reaction when confronted with a child who wants to take over in the kitchen is “ugh” because that involves a lot of patience and guidance on my part for something I could just do myself.

My initial reaction to a lot of things is “ugh” but thing almost always work out well – I just need to get out of the way of myself.

From day one my parenting philosophy has been to raise people I can stand being around as adults. (The fact that I most likely won’t be around when they are adults isn’t lost on me but the goal hasn’t changed.) When I was first diagnosed we also knew that the girls had to become more independent because I just couldn’t be relied upon to do every little thing for them anymore and their dad still has to put in a full day at work. Unless I’m making porridge they all get their own breakfast in the morning. They can make themselves snacks (smoothies are popular). They have to make sure they are organized and ready for school because if they forget to bring a snack to school or their homework I’m not bringing it for them even if the school is across the street. This frees up a lot of my time and brain space – which I appreciate.

Also, I know so many people who reached adulthood and didn’t know how to cook (or do laundry, or clean a kitchen) and I just can’t imagine. I love cooking because I love eating. And while our whole foods, plant-based diet might seem strict or limiting to some it has felt like one big culinary adventure for me.

I will admit, however, that it is kind of nice being kicked out of the kitchen once in a while. Giving up control is hard but I am getting so much more back in return – and so are the girls.

Meeting of the Cancer Club

Image is from a walk we took in the fall.
“Mum, take a picture of me in this tree!
Now take a picture of me in this tree!
Oh wait, this one too.”

Yesterday there was an impromptu meeting of the Cancer Club – which isn’t really a club and only has two members in it: myself and my friend with multiple myeloma. Our daughters dubbed it “the cancer club” because we try to get together for our bone juice (bisphosphonate infusion) appointments every three months. But this month she couldn’t come because her cancer took an aggressive turn for the worse – thankfully it has turned back but her story isn’t really mine to tell.

What I do want to talk about is the discussion we had which seemed so normal to us but upon reflection might seem weird to others.

Here is the thing about Stage IV cancer – you can be ticking along stable for months and then gone two weeks later. That is always in the fore front of our minds. It has happened time and again to women I know with metastatic breast cancer. It isn’t always like this of course, sometimes it is a long drawn out process. Sometimes it isn’t. None of us ever know how long we are going to get top-side but some of us know we aren’t going to get as long as we would like.

Anyway, this friend had a book to recommend about raising teenage girls. She and her husband are reading it and as there is the very real possibility that he will be left alone some day raising teenage girls (their girls are already teenagers) she thought, especially after the recent health scare, that it was a good idea they read it together. And she thinks it is a good idea that Mister and I read it together because there is a very real possibility he will be left alone raising teenage girls. These are the things you talk about in the cancer club. You don’t always cry about them either – often you laugh (at least we do) because what else can you do? Do we want to leave our husbands – who are also our partners and our very best friends – to raise our children alone. Not at all. But this is our reality and the longer you live with it the more you come to accept it. Cancer club discussions also include showing off your recent war wounds, discussing what you want for your funeral and what you definitely don’t want, and telling your friend that it is okay she hasn’t organized 10 years of family photos because it will give her family something to do when she is gone. (I’m the friend in that scenario and I appreciated this advice SO MUCH but I will probably still stress about those photos.)

We also talked about making plans. Because you can never stop making plans – and I didn’t realize how hopeful this action was until I was giving my dad the break down of our summer plans the other day. Because I am a PLANNER our summer holiday is booked, the AirBnB is booked, the summer camps are booked and all that is left to do is live our lives until it is time to leave and hope that cancer doesn’t throw any road blocks in our way. But back to my dad. We were on the phone and he needed the itinerary (I am his daughter through-and-through) and he said, “you’re making plans – that is so great” and he sounded so happy for me and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized how important making plans was – not just for myself but for every one around me. It gives us all hope and, as a mom with cancer, I feel like that is a big part of my job. (A job made much easier when one is feeling well I should add – when you are constantly battling sickness things tend to get a lot darker.)

Our plan for the summer is to take the girls out of school a little early and go on a road trip to the coast – and then come home and enjoy our city. My friend’s plan is to take the family to visit family in Europe. Let’s hope we both make it.

My little treehugger turns 6 in a week. That’s a whole other post but I couldn’t resist sharing these photos.

Last day of school, first day of vacation

Tomorrow we are off on our month long Ireland adventure. Not sure if I will get a chance to blog about it. Part of me wants to and part of me wants to just disconnect as much as possible. It’s been a hard week with so many celebrity suicides and non-celebrity suicides and I have felt like social media is the wrong place to be when you are feeling sad and sensitive. I feel like everyone in our house is a bit of a mess these days. It’s time to go sit on a beach or a cliff (but not too close!) and reconnect with my little girls and my mister for a while. I won’t be able to resist taking loads of photos though so I’m sure many will find their way to Instagram.

 

The nice thing about pulling the girls out of school early for vacation is that we get to come home and spend most of the summer in our city which is really the best time to be in the city. I’m looking forward to getting away but I’m also looking forward to having a month home before I have to go for surgery. I’m going to try not to think about surgery or cancer while I’m away. (At least as much as my body will allow me to not think about surgery or cancer.)

 

See you all soon.

Thirteen Days

In thirteen days the five of us will be getting on a plane to spend a month in Ireland. But in between today and the 13th of June I feel like we have eleventy billion things to get done. This weekend alone is nuts with the Writer’s Guild of Alberta conference, a birthday party for the girls to attend, a night out of town in the mountains with the Mister’s company, and a quick drive back to the city the next morning because Oonagh has her first violin recital on Sunday afternoon. Maybe this level of activity is normal for a lot of families but it really isn’t for us. A typical weekend for us consists of having zero plans – or maybe one thing planned – and just seeing what happens.

 

Also this is the extent of our luggage for the five of us:

Plus small backpacks for the girls to bring their stuff on the plane for the almost 24 hour journey.

We are all getting really excited. (Oonagh keeps asking if she can pack and, “can’t we just leave right now?”) However, waiting to travel is an exercise in living in an odd sort of limbo. The first time we took off on a long road trip we made the decision and left the next week. Last year’s trip was similar. But this year we are traveling to a different country which requires a lot more planning – and a lot less stuff.

I’m excited to be traveling so lightly and to show the girls just how little stuff we really need to live. (There will be zero f**king Shopkins traveling with us.) But in the mean time I’m trying to make sure we pack all the right stuff and continue to enjoy our life and not just be waiting to leave. I don’t want the girls to miss out on the day to day joys of the end of their school year or all the good things June has to offer in our city. (We really need to plan better and leave town when it is -30 out, not when things are just getting hot.)

I also have: a sweater to finish knitting, a new piano teacher to interview (because we try and have our activities as close to the house as possible), a child with strep throat to keep an eye on so that it is gone before we leave. There is the meeting with the breast surgeon to try and get my surgery nailed down for the latter part of the summer, and other various medical tests.

Plus there is the writing conference starting today which had me stress eating Mexican Chili chips in the kitchen at 8:30 this morning before I realized what I was doing. Today I’m going to a memoir writing workshop with the amazing Sharon Butala even though I don’t think I have the right kind of memory to ever write a memoir. Tomorrow I’m going to a workshop with author/blogger Shawna Lemay from Transactions With Beauty. This year I promised myself I would get out of my comfort zone where writing is concerned and, honestly, I don’t think I have been doing a great job at that. But it is a process, not a destination, right? Much like writing.

And Mexican Chili chips are delicious, even at 8:30 in the morning.

 

My first newsletter will be coming out this Monday. It includes a recipe for super easy & healthy cookies – which are basically like oatmeal in cookie form. I don’t really believe cookies need to be healthy but when you are supposed to avoid sugar AND want a cookie you need to do something, right? If you want the recipe you should sign up for the newsletter.