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Who defined family anyways?

This is an article I wrote for Birthing Magazine, and I thought I’d share it here too. Get rid of your preconceived notions of what it means to be a family… and let me introduce you to mine:

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I just finished putting my dayhome babies down for a nap. The remaining two children in my care take up some colouring on the dining room table as I prepare a snack. My step-daughter is quietly reading in the living room, and for a moment it seems very peaceful. A short half hour later my two youngest children burst through the door and start telling me all about their day. Not even 10 minutes later, my partner Lindsay comes home with the groceries. She battled the crowds at Costco; she is my hero. We spend the next while talking about what we need to get done over the next week, what we should have for dinner, and how we wish we could do more yoga. It’s a spaghetti and meatballs kind of night, a kid favourite around here. Shortly after 4:30 my two teenagers drag themselves through the door and try to avoid any sort of conversation — they are teens after all. The house is now pretty busy: the dayhome babies have woken up and are getting ready to leave, dinner is almost ready, and in comes Justan, our other partner. He comes bearing wine and some much needed comic relief. And we all sit down for family dinner.

I never imagined my life would end up like this. In fact, if someone had asked me 20 years ago what my life would look like, I would have told them with much certainty that it would look like anything but this. And that in itself is a weird thing to accept, how something that had once never crossed my mind ended up being my entire reality. Well, it is, and I would not change it for the world.

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I met Lindsay in 2006 at a playgroup here in Calgary, even though I lived in Lethbridge at the time. We had similar interests, we were both in the process of starting natural parenting stores, and we were both seemingly straight. Now, we definitely weren’t straight, but for some reason, we both assumed that of each other. That is the epitome of heteronormativity.

Over the next six years, Lindsay and I kept in touch through Facebook and a fondness grew between us. We actually both had a crush on each other, although that wouldn’t be known until I moved back to Calgary in 2012. Close to a year after that, following some flirty Facebook messages, a handful of playdates with the kids, and one awkward night at the movies, it was pretty obvious how we felt about each other. That was nearly four years ago now, and we still laugh about how we ended up together and how incredibly awkward we were.

So here is where the story gets interesting. I had been a single mother since 2009, and even though I dated another woman for a couple years, I was still very much a single mother. Lindsay on the other hand was the exact opposite— she was, in fact, married. Lindsay and her husband Justan identified as polyamorous and both dated other people. Take a minute to think about that one.

In the beginning, I didn’t think our relationship would be long term — neither of us did, really. I assumed that because Lindsay and Justan were married there was no room for more love, and how could there be? I mean, isn’t it illegal anyways? So for the next four months, we both fell more and more in love while preparing for the end. Well, as you likely already know, the end didn’t come. It turned out that Justan and I actually really enjoyed each other’s company as well, and we decided to expand our relationship into a triad. We all have our own relationships with each other, but then also as a three-person team. It wasn’t, and still isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

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For the most part, we lived in two separate houses for the first year or so, but in 2014 we decided to merge our homes. Lindsay and Justan brought to the relationship one daughter, who is now eleven, and I brought with me four children, now aged nine, eleven, fourteen and sixteen.  In our home, there are three adults and five children, and it is exhausting. We live in a 1700 square foot bungalow, with three bedrooms on the main floor and three in the developed basement. The space is small, but has a good energy to it, even with all the people.

I’m not sure I knew at the time how challenging it would be to blend families. I had been in relationships where my then-partner accepted my children and that was that, but I had never been in a relationship where another child was involved. The dynamics change significantly when children are brought in from both sides. It was quite the transition for all the children. For Lindsay and Justan’s daughter, as she was an only child up until that point, she had to get used to sharing the time with her parents, and also spending so much time with other children. For my kids, they had to get used to sharing my time with the other adults, and also had to learn to get along with a new sibling.

 

IMG_8280There are some great things about blending a family such as ours. First, we have three parents. Yes, this varies from the norm, but the way we function is not all that different from a typical two-person relationship. We all take care of the children the best way we know how, we rotate cleaning, we express love and concern, and we communicate without yelling. I have to stress the “without yelling” bit, because I admittedly have always been a yeller. It’s not something I am proud of, in fact, I am deeply ashamed of it. Yelling is not even a part of our household discourse at all anymore, and I think it likely has to do with the number of helping hands in the home.

Now the children are another story — they have no problem yelling. Usually at each other, during a disagreement over chess or Exploding Kittens, but always as an attempt to let the adults know the horrible injustices they have been dealt. You know, in chess. They are fairly typical children. They play, they laugh, they hold hands while walking to the lake, and they fight. My own children fought before blending families, and they continue to do so afterwards. This is typical, and not a result of blending families, although now the children just have more options of who to argue with.

A topic of importance, and worthy of a conversation when blending families, is deciding who will be disciplining whom. We decided that it’s best if we all just discipline our own children, or at least for the day-to-day discipline. No one wants a step-mom or step-dad to come into the picture and just start doling orders out; it can become quite abrasive. Naturally, children will have their guard up a little bit with the new additions to the household, so try to not make the newcomers the “bad guys.” Of course, there are situations where the step-parent will have to step in and make an executive decision or enforce a rule or two, but it really is best to leave the nagging to the original parent. You see, my children HAVE to love me. They may not like me at times, but they will ALWAYS love me, as I will always love them. This is not the case for step relationships unfortunately, so spending time building a relationship of positives rather than negatives is key.

The other side of this coin is spending quality time with the step-children. Each of us parents has our own unique interests, and we make an effort to include all of the children in those. Well, all of the willing children anyways — we have teenagers too who do not particularly love hanging out with any of the adults for any extended period of time. I believe that to be fairly typical of their ages though, and try not to force anything. We find other ways to include and bond with them, like going to their soccer or football games, taking them out for coffee or lunch, and generally just showing an interest in their very complicated lives.

For the younger three though, we have ways that we all connect with them. I coached my step-daughter’s roller derby team last year, and this season my youngest has joined us. So once a week, the girls and I strap on roller skates and spend an hour skating, learning, and having fun. Lindsay enjoys reading, so she is the designated reader. Every night before bed, the three littles snuggle up in our king-sized bed (and I sneak in there sometimes too) and listen to Lindsay read. I know most parents read, but you should see the books Lindsay reads to the children. She reads books that they may not be able to read on their own, like “A Wrinkle in Time,” or currently, “The Golden Compass.” The books take a long time to read, and keep the children invested. They love their time reading with Lindsay. She also loves hiking, so will often arrange a nature walk or a mountain climb for the children and myself. This summer we climbed to the top of Prairie Mountain. The kids were so proud to reach their first summit.

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Justan enjoys Lego, boardgames, and gaming in general, so that is his role with the children. He gets to be the really fun one. When the kids get complicated Lego kits gifted to them, Justan is the one who will spend hours (and I mean hours) with the children helping them put it all together. He is also the one who will teach them to play a new board game, or help them with any of their gaming needs. They love Pokemon and Minecraft, and I think they like having an adult on their side with that stuff. Justan is also very fun in general, and can be quite silly. All the children (even the teenagers) can appreciate that side of Justan, and they are typically grinning ear to ear when he is engaged.

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It’s not easy. It takes so much more work than you might ever imagine to make a blended family run smoothly, particularly when adding the extra dynamic of polyamory. There will be problems, just like any family, but there will also be great successes. I know that I am teaching my children to be accepting, non-judgmental, loving and expressive, among other things. They will not, and do not, live in a bubble accepting whatever media decides to throw their way. They think critically, and ask questions instead of making assumptions, and that will help them later on in life.

I believe that it’s important to remember that it’s a long game. The successes may not show up until later, when the children are at an age that they can recognize them. But they will show up, I’m holding out for that.

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Truth Bomb: parenting is so much more than hard

I have a major truth bomb for you, and I am relieved that I am not the only one to feel this way to be honest. We’ve all heard that parenting is not easy, and no one really expects it to be, but have you ever considered that it might not be worth it? I can tell you with much certainty, that if I knew how hard parenting teenagers would be, I may have reconsidered the entire parenting gig all together. If I knew that I would spend years on end in survival mode, peeling myself out of bed and getting through each day like a robot mom, I’m just not sure I’d do it.

I can’t admit this to my kids. When my youngest asks me if I love being a mom, I say yes. When she asks me what my favourite part of parenting is, I tell her cuddling her. That part it true, my favourite part of parenting is the snuggles. But that ends. I won’t tell her how hard I have found being a parent, because I don’t want her to feel any sort of guilt. It’s not their fault really. It’s my naivety, thinking I could mother four children on my own, that’s just crazy.

I read this blog post by themotherhub recently, and it was as if the author was in my head. She spoke the words that I often think but am too afraid to speak. She opens with:

I like to be honest about my parenting experience; by honest I mean telling everyone how hard it is, how tired I am, the impact it has had on both my finances and my mental health. Don’t I sound fun? I do this because I really had no idea about parenting before I had my first child, none of us really do. You can read all the books, go to all the ante-natal classes, but you can’t really prepare for this experience.

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via Feminist Friday: Is complaining about Motherhood a Feminist Act? — Feminist Parenting

I am a birth and postpartum doula, and people often assume that I’m a doula because I love babies. While I certainly did love my own babies (you know, when I wasn’t crying my face off and drowning in PPD), I don’t actually love other peoples babies that much. I am a doula because I want to help women prepare for parenthood. I want to assist in the empowerment of women right from the get go and support them through this incredibly hard transition. Birth is the easy part to be honest, parenting the hardest thing in the world. But if you start the journey surrounding yourself with support and being informed and empowered, you may just be willing to ask for help when you really need it. And then, you may just survive. Figuratively and literally.

Oh, and I have a Doula blog, feel free to check that out if you’d like.

The Worst Mom in the World

I’m not sure how it happened. I can’t remember when it started, and I have no idea how to stop it. I feel like I’m the only one, and yet I have seen memes floating around the inter-webs indicating that other mother’s share my sentiment. I feel like I may be the worst mom in the world. The worst.

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Okay, I know I’m not actually THE WORST. I don’t beat my children, neglect them, and I make sure they always have a home, clothes to wear and food on the table. But there is a part of my brain that won’t stop telling the rest of my brain that I actually suck, and that I have likely destroyed my children beyond repair.

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How, you might ask? Well, it could be the divorce and separation. It could be the fact that I have moved between two cities (2 hours apart) twice. I mean, I did get a degree out of that move, but I still likely fucked my kids up. It could be that I came out to them roughly 6 years ago and have been in two serious relationships with women since. It could be that I now have two partners and am in a polyamorous relationship, and have been for the past 4 years. Or maybe it’s the activities I did or did not sign them up for. Maybe it’s the schools I’ve chosen, or the fact that I trained them to sleep in… just so I could sleep in on the weekends. Or maybe it’s the screens!!! Oh it’s gotta be the screens… iPods, xbox, netflix… I’m sure they’re screwed because of the screens.parenthood

Did I not breastfeed long enough? Or maybe too long? Was it the soy formula I gave my first two? They didn’t have the research to warn me against using soy formula at the time, but now it’s out and I can’t change the past. Did I not babywear my older two enough? Was it because when I did wear them, I wore them face out? Oh god, their hips!! And the overstimulation!I didn’t really co-sleep with them much either, maybe that’s it!

But what if it’s that I’m too strict? Or not strict enough? Did I not pay attention to them when they needed it? Maybe it’s because I was quite short with Dakota. It was stressful when he was little. I had PPD and he would kick the crap out of his baby sister, so I was short with him. He got sent home 4 times in the first month of grade one for being violent. Maybe that’s my fault too. His ADHD has made things hard, but maybe the years of changing his diet and trying different treatments fucked him up more than anything.

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I don’t know exactly what I did, but I have a sinking feeling that I failed them. I have always tried my hardest to be a positive, strong, female role model, but I don’t know if it worked. My teens think I’m weird, that I’m too strict (after all, they “should” be able to smoke pot in the house, right?), and they’ll do anything to get out of being around me.

It could be the roller derby, I always took the kids to my practices and games even though they found it boring. I traveled to games, and made the yearly pilgrimage to RollerCon in Vegas. I just quit competitive derby last year so that I could do more with my kids, but maybe it’s still not enough.

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Photo by Chris Edwards

Or could it be the tattoos? Piercings? Pink/purple hair? Oh god… maybe it’s my hair.

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Stop brain…. stop.

I have had enough of the self punishment.

I know that I did make all the best choices I could with the information I had at the time, and I have always been there for my kids. I do love them, and I can only hope they know that. I need to remind myself of that.

But I need you… brain… to stop telling me how badly I suck. Please.

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The Glorification of Busy

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We are a busy family. With eight people in the house, I think it’s nearly impossible to not be busy. Even without registered activities, we stay fairly active. But to be completely honest, the registered activities are taking over our lives. We have brownies on Mondays, roller derby on Tuesdays, soccer on Mondays/Wednesdays/some weekends, in the fall we have football nearly every day, and in the spring we have baseball two nights a week. I coach roller derby and have volunteered to coach baseball this upcoming season.

I. am. going. crazy.

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I’m tired, she’s tired, we’re all tired!

Last week my ex gave me crap because our son’s baseball tryouts fall on his weekend, and his football games in the fall were on weekends. The thing is, I completely understand his frustration and would be fine without all the scheduled activities. But, here’s the kicker: that same ex took me to court for custody last September, and listed the “lack of activities” on his affidavit as one of the reasons. He actually took me to court and told his lawyer, who told the judge, that I “simply did not have the time” for organized sport and he saw that as a detriment to their upbringing (in actuality, I had the kids registered in activities, but we also took breaks). So now I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, I’m damned if I do AND damned if I don’t.

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These things are good for them, I get that! But when does it become more of a hindrance than a bonus? How do we find balance?!

I want my kids to be able to just run to the lake and play a game of shinny with their friends, play basketball at the local school, or play street hockey in someone’s cul-de-sac, but the reality is… it doesn’t happen. This lifestyle of organized sport has taken priority over the spontaneous sport and activity, and I don’t know how to change it. This morning Ashton and I went to play football in the snow with another family, and it was fantastic! We need more spontaneity when it comes to play and sport, and all the organized activities makes it nearly impossible. And what makes it even harder is trying to co-parent with someone whose values don’t align with mine. I’m constantly trying to keep him happy as to not end up in court again, but also try to salvage some sanity and happiness in the process.

It’s very difficult.

But we will prevail.

I will hopefully find my sanity in the summer.

A Cautionary Tale for Parents

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Parenting is hard and definitely not for the faint of heart. You will be puked on, shat on, yelled at, and you will need to deal with things you never imagined. The reward is that you will experience an unconditional love so strong, that all those awful parenting things seem worth it. That is, until you reach the teen stage.

This is a cautionary tale for parents of young children. Parents of young lovely playful children who will one day become teenagers. I am here to tell you that if you don’t start implementing some plans and strategies for their unavoidable growth and maturation, you will indeed hate your life during the teen years. Do not underestimate the power of teenagers, and don’t think for one second that your precious little angel won’t turn in to what seems to be the spawn of Satan himself during that transformative time of teenage hood. But fear not! There are things you can do to prepare, and it starts here.

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The first time Dakota stole a car, he was 14. Granted it was his step-monster’s car (it’s okay, I can say that. It’s an agreed upon term for a woman who came and left our lives within one year, leaving a trail of destruction everywhere she went… she earned that name), so it wasn’t “stealing” per se. The second time, he took his aunt’s car for a joy ride and I got a phone call at 4:00 in the morning from a friendly police officer to come pick him up, along with his younger sister who was 12 at the time. Both of my teenagers have tried DXM (a seemingly more legit name for Robitussin), smoked pot (in and out of the house), been suspended from school multiple times, been expelled from school (not both of them for this one), snuck out of the house, and ran away for days on end, all by the time they were 14. And that’s only including what I’m willing to put on this blog. Not only that, they are 100% certain that myself and all the parental figures in their lives are complete fools and know absolutely nothing.

I keep thinking about how every stage of parenthood is hard, and how we’ve categorized and named the stages to reflect the societal view of difficulty level. Most people only reference the “terrible twos,” but I have gone a step further and assigned a few more titles. Some of those said titles include the terrifying threes, fuck off fours, and fuck my life fives. The problem with the vast majority only referencing the terrible twos, it that it ignores the fact that shit does not suddenly improve when that toddler turns three. In fact, it gets worse. And when your little precious hits 13, you’ll be wishing you were in the thick of the terrible twos or the fuck off fours, when you could at least pick your darling up and put them where you need them. But what is the title for teens? It seems that “teen” is a noun and a verb, but I’d like to propose, “tragically torturing teens” or maybe “tighten my noose teens.” Something that can accurately portray the feeling of hopelessness that comes with parenting teens is hard to grasp.

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Then there are the parents of toddlers who love to give advice to parents of teenagers, so first of all, if that is you, please stop. I have heard it all. I am here to tell you that everything you think will save you from the teen years will not work. Your open communication will bite you in the ass, for even though your teen will be totally open with you and you’ll have great communication, they’ll talk to you like a friend and not respect your authority as a parent. If you think that because you were a shit teen you’ll likely be more understanding and empathetic… nope. When the shoe is on the other foot, it is awful. Who you’ll feel understanding and empathy for is likely your parents, and you may even feel the need to call them and apologize for being such an asshole. I recommend doing that if you feel so inclined. I’m holding out for my teens to realize it and apologize when they’re in their thirties. It’s a long game, this parenting gig.

What I have come to discover is that your children absolutely need to have a healthy level of fear for you, along with a good amount of respect. So while the open communication and empathy will help, if it is not paired with discipline, clear boundaries, consistency, hard life lessons, and some pretty serious consequences when needed, it will do nothing for you. At least not in the teen years. Best case scenario, if your relationship survives the teen years you may end up being besties with your kids, but they won’t see you as an authority figure.

 

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I have taken so many psychology classes (psych is one of my streams for my B.A. Soc.Sc.), including many on the child development topic, which all typically cover the four parenting styles. The optimal style is “authoritative,” but I need to tell you that there is a fine line between that and “permissive.” I have always considered myself authoritative, but I feel like I may have potentially fell in to the permissive role for a bit, and that has wreaked havoc on our household. I am not proud of it, and there are numerous factors that contributed to it, but I’ll save that for another blog post.

Whatever the case, now might be the time to put contingency plans in place for when you’re feeling a bit permissive (or as my mom likes to call it… when your head is in the sand). If you don’t have a partner to help you out, then make arrangements with a friend you can call, another family member, or even a parenting hotline. In Calgary here, the Wood’s Home has a community resource team, and they will literally come to your house and help you dole out consequences as needed. It is an amazing resource, and I highly encourage you to put their number on speed dial, or find a similar resource local to you. You may need it. We need to remember that is does take a village to raise a child/teen, and setting up that village now will benefit you in the long run.

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The thing is, if you wait until you are navigating life with teenagers, it may be too late. You really need to set up the framework way before they’re smoking pot and stealing cars. They need to go in to their teenage years knowing what the expectations are and what the consequences will be. Having the knowledge, understanding, and now the experience that I do, I have started talking to our younger three about what is unacceptable/acceptable in the house. They know that if I ever catch them with a vape, it will immediately be taken away. They know that they ALWAYS have to ask before using the T.V. or playing a computer game, and they are not allowed to just be on a screen to their hearts content. They are required to make their beds daily, and do small chores around the house. They can also rely on nightly stories, bedtime snuggles, a chest to cry on, and open communication. It’s all just one big balancing act.

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If I caught you in time, and you are not currently drowning in teenage angst, I hope this post might help or motivate you to go in to the teen years more prepared than you would have been otherwise. And if you, like me, are barely staying afloat and have completely gone in survival mode, I empathize with you. Please be kind on yourself, because believe me… I know how easy it is to fall in to the spiral of self hate and parenting hell while raising teenagers.

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Considering who I am (queer, poly, “single” mother, defender of equality, feminist, badass), I feel like I am constantly talking to my kids about all the touchy topics, and also modelling what we talk about in daily life. It is not enough to live a queer life, I still need to talk to my kids about why it’s okay (more than okay actually), and what they should say to bullies and how to stand up for their friends. I do need to talk to my kids about transgender issues, because even though that is not specifically our life, I will proudly wear an #illgowithyou button and thus need to explain my beliefs. I will talk to my kids about the Orlando shooting, because they need to know that people who are just like me are being gunned down for being just like me. That is NOT okay, and the next generation needs to start off better than mine did. I believe that starts with me, in my house, and with my children. I will talk to them, and then one day they will talk to their friends, or their kids, or maybe to a community, and kick hate right in its ugly face. Because they can.

We talked about the new music video by Sia, titled The Greatest. My kids have been dancing to the song for a while now, but they didn’t understand how I knew the song was dedicated to the victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting. That was an opportunity to talk a little bit, watch a music video, and feel some feels. I like to think that showing them the video, talking about music as a method of emotional expression and support, was a success, even if ten minutes later they were fighting and yelling at each other.

What have you talked to your kids about recently?

Sometimes Often

I’m going to go ahead and share a grammar tip with y’all. I have no doubt in my mind that you all know better, but I was subjected to a sentence recently containing this, and my brain almost exploded.  SOMETIMES OFTEN… as in, together. The two words together. I’ll give you an example sentence. “The Prime Minister sometimes often makes decisions based on his personal views of the world,” or maybe, “I sometimes often go to the salon for a hair cut.” Well, which one is it?!! We’ll never know… it’s either “sometimes” or “often,” or maybe “sometimes often?”

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I’m not even going to explain why you shouldn’t use those two words together as I’m sure it’s obvious, and I’m sure the sentence I was subjected to was a special case. That said, I do encourage you to use the words verbally every so often, just for a good laugh of course. Nothing more wishy-washy than “sometimes often.” Even more importantly, I highly encourage you to proof read and edit your writing so something like “sometimes often” doesn’t happen, as it’ll make you look very foolish… especially if it’s a legal document. *ouch

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Playing at the Devil’s Playground

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Picture credits: Public Forum

Back in high school (which was a LONG time ago), a group of friends and I used to go visit the old school house just outside of Calgary, now referred to as the Devil’s Playground. The school house was said to be haunted, with several rumours floating around Calgary about children dying, fire starting, and crazy nuns. I have read that three children died there in a school fire, although I have also heard that up to eight children died. I can’t confirm either. There are claims of people hearing children playing in the fields of the school house, when clearly there are no children around. There were stories of failed attempts to tear down the school house, resulting in Unsolved Mysteries doing a segment on it.

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So one night after dark, my friends and I decided to pay the school house a little visit. In all honesty, that night is a little blurry for me, so I only remember a few details. The school house is on private property, so the thrill of having to navigate a barbed wire fence and then ever so sneakily tresspass to the house was enough to make most people turn back. But I prevailed, made it to the school house and went inside. All I remember is that the floor of the school house basement was covered with dead birds. Like, a lot of birds. Enough that it has created an imprint in my brain for the last twenty years. If my memory serves me correctly (which it probably doesn’t), I’m pretty sure they were magpies. I also remember there being a chalk board with some writing on it, which no doubt was put there by some other delinquent teens trying to hunt some ghosts. I didn’t go in any further, and haven’t returned since.

The farmer whose land the school house was on would send out a warning shot, which typically had the kids all running for their vehicles. It was rumoured that the farmer had salt pellets he’d shoot at trespassers, although I can’t remember if any of my friends took a hit or not… I’ll have to ask around.

After going to the house that last time, the group of us left the property and went somewhere else to use the Quija board, in an attempt to contact any of the deceased school house children. Yes, that was me as a teen. Always searching for some sign of paranormal activity, and scaring myself half to death. I honestly cannot remember what happened when we went on the Quija board, but I know it scared the good majority of us. I have fond memories of that night, and only now can see how dangerous it aquijactually was, you know, now that my brain is fully developed and all. 😉 Yet at the same time, it gives me a little empathy and understanding to deal with some of the ridiculous shit my teenagers now do.

So with that, I hope you are having a lovely Samhain and/or Halloween weekend. I hope you find all the ghoulish tales and creepy stories you long for. Stay safe and make good choices.

Bones in a Museum

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Aisha’s class went to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller recently, and I was able to volunteer again. It was nearly a two hour bus ride full of grade 3 students and a handful of chaperones. This time, Aisha opted to sit with a friend of hers and I sat beside this very chatty 8 year old. This kid was pretty smart actually, and carried a good conversation about movies (he loves “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”, win), music, food, and other pop culture type stuff. I liked this kid. About halfway through the ride he fell asleep and I decide to read my current book of choice, “The Virgin Suicides.”

Immediately I start coming up with a plan of what to say when the innocent 8 year old beside me wakes up and no doubt would ask what I was reading, and ‘oh hell no’ was I about to explain what a virgin is to someone else’s kid. So after about 20 minutes when he asked me what book I was reading, I confidently said, “The Teenage Suicides.” I was okay with explaining the morbid reality of suicide if needed, but I am awkward at the best of times when talking about sex, so I lied. Thankfully, he was well aware of what suicide was, so we didn’t elaborate. I did however ask him if he liked to read. He looked at me, shrugged a little, and sheepishly said “ya, kinda.” But then he carries on to say that he is currently reading the second book of Lord of the Rings! Kid, you have got to be kidding me. You don’t kinda like reading if you are an 8 year old on the second Lord of the Rings book… you love it! Or maybe you don’t know you love it. Anyways, colour me impressed.

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We arrived at the museum around 10am and proceeded to follow a tour guide in to the valley to talk about rocks, hoodoos, dinosaurs, and all sorts of other interesting things. Halfway through this hike I began to thank my past self for dropping my teaching career plan. I went to UofL to obtain a Bachelor of Education degree and teach elementary, but then after I was a student teacher for a semester, I said “forget this noise”…. literally, the noise. Nearly two hours on a school bus, twenty minutes in to a hike, and my past decisions were confirmed. I love kids, but mostly just my kids and my dayhome babies. All the pointless questions, the jumping up and down, and the clear defiance over and over and over made me want to put in my headphones and slowly walk away. I didn’t though, Aisha was having a great time, and I do love seeing her full of energy and grinning ear to ear. So I trudged along… me and the kid who couldn’t stop jumping.

The museum itself was amazing to visit, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who can physically make it there. It’s in the middle of the badlands, which are actually pretty rad, but definitely would have been a bad time for anyone trying to cross them with horses and a buggy (which is how the badlands were named). So many bones in the museum to look at, we found ourself nearly running.

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This dinosaur is in what they call the “death pose.” They’re not sure why, but this is how paleontologists typically find carnivorous dinosaurs. The neck is bent so far back, and I’m sure there are several theories as to why, but I’m not sure what they are. Kinda cool to see nonetheless.

Walking/running through the museum of bones was my favourite part, but the kids did partake in a couple workshops as well, which were pretty fun. They got to play a Trivial Pursuit type game with the theme being dinosaurs and the badlands. All the kids were pretty stoked to play this game, although after about 20 minutes some of them were squirming in their seats just dying to start jumping again.

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The children also got to partake in a simulated dig and uncover some dinosaur fossils. The instructor taught them how to use the tools they were given, most of which were probably taken from a dental office, and off to work they went.

Overall, it was a great day. On the way home Aisha opted to sit with her friend again and I sat beside a new, not nearly as chatty, kid. I put my headphones in and sat silently for nearly two hours. It was a weird sort of heaven, where I was clearly surrounded by chaotic school bus hell, but managed to completely block it all and immerse myself in music, listening and reflecting on the lyrics of Rae Spoon’s “Bones in a Museum.”  Just in case you clicked on that link and thought, “oh god! That is so slow, sad, and depressing!” you need to know that Rae also has some fun and beatsome songs, so maybe listen to this, and this (mine and Lindsay’s song).

 

Mental Health and Mushroom Hunting

This past weekend, Lindsay and I were out in Surrey, BC for a writer’s conference (Surrey International Writers Conference). Now don’t get me wrong, I was not actually attending the conference, but I loitered around and thoroughly enjoyed being a non-attendee. Lindsay drove out on Thursday, and I flew out Friday night to meet her. I had great plans of meeting up with friends and hanging around Vancouver while she did the conference thing, but when it came down to it, I couldn’t.

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Hyperbole and a Half

See, I have social anxiety paired with depression, and served with a side of agoraphobia (not diagnosed, but suspected) that makes it hard for me to go out on my own sometimes. The thought of dropping Lindsay off at the hotel and then venturing out in to the world on my own did not appeal to me one bit, even though I knew I had friends to visit and would likely have a good time. I can’t really explain the feeling of excitement being overshadowed with thoughts of sheer terror, but that is basically it. Whatever the case, I sent my friends cancelation messages and decided to just hold fort in the hotel lounge. Normally I would regret such a decision later on, but I have to say, I am perfectly content with the decision I made. I met some wonderfully inspiring people in said lounge and I had time to work on my blog.
img_2443One of the friends I cancelled on (Maria) ended up coming to me and taking me along for a couple walks through a rainforest and an urban forest. The rainforests on the west coast are amazing, and I am certain that my health increased significantly within just 20 minutes of breathing in the rainforest air. It’s important to have friends that’ll drag you outside when you don’t feel like leaving your bed, or the lounge, or wherever you are. Lindsay forces me to go on nature walks too, as she knows that as soon as I’m actually out and in natural, I WILL feel better. It’s just the getting there that is the biggest roadblock for me.

I was so captivated by the lush forests and the sounds of img_2436running creek water, my mind
settled down and I just enjoyed wandering aimlessly. We went to Green Timbers and spent a good amount of time just reading the plaques on the trees, learning about the variety of vegetation and it’s origin. We even saw a Barred Owl! But my favourite things we saw was the abundant mushrooms. Under every tree, there seemed to be a path of unique mushrooms. There we tiny tiny mushrooms, huge mushrooms, yellow mushrooms, and super slimy mushrooms. One of the things I enjoy doing is taking pictures of mushrooms. I find them so unique and interesting, and therefore like to capture them. I would not eat one to save my life, but I do find them interesting.

I’m not sure what kind of mushrooms these are, but I’m thinking the ones on the right are edible. Maria used to forage for mushrooms in Russia while growing up, and seemed to be somewhat of an expert. I did find it funny though when she would exclaim, “that one’s poisonous, don’t eat that one!” and I’m all like, “c’mon now, I don’t care if I can eat it or not, I am not putting any mushrooms in my mouth.” Haha!

img_2438I loved this mushroom, it looks like a yellow Mario mushroom. Well, I say Mario mushroom, but it’s actually an “Amanita Muscaria.”

“Amanita muscaria is well known in popular culture for being one of those “trippy” mushrooms, the kind that make you have hallucinations.” – Source: This random blog post

After a simple google search, I discovered that the  mushroom we came across is in the same family as the Mario shroom, and is called an Amanita muscaria var. guessowii. I’m not sure if it’s a “trippy” mushroom or not, but the potential is there.

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This one had us a little amazed, and we had no clue what it was. It appeared to be a simple blob of yellow jelly, but after closer inspection, we determined it was definitely a fungi. In fact, after utilizing Google, I discovered it is called Tremella mesenterica. Other names are more fun though, including yellow brain, golden jelly fungus, yellow trembler, and witches’ butter. This fungi is edible although apparently bland. I do wonder however why it’s called witches’ butter; I may have to look that up.

img_2439And here we have your everyday, regular, fairly large, slimy shroom. I took a picture of it because I liked the way the cap was drooping, but I didn’t even notice that water droplet until days later. I feel like I caught the mushroom at the beginning of it’s demise. The decayed mushrooms that surrounded this area made me think that this mushroom was a little stronger, but was still about to succumb to natures pull.

The weekend ended up being fabulous, even though I didn’t really venture out on my own. I met rad people, went on some amazing walks, saw these incredible mushrooms, and spent some much needed time by myself in the hotel lounge. I might even go so far as to say that the Surrey International Writers Conference was the best conference that I have ever non-attended.