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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.

 

Book Recommendation: A Wrinkle in Time

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We read “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle with the three smallest kids, and they absolutely loved it. I remember liking it myself as a child, but I couldn’t remember actually reading it. We got Ashton the book for Christmas last year, but it is a little hard for him to read on his own, so we made it a family book. Just like we read “The Thief of Always,” it became our nightly routine of snuggle story time before bed. I enjoyed listening to Lindsay read it just as much as the kids I think.

The story is about a high-school girl named Meg, who comes across as fairly insecure yet loving in the beginning of the story, and grows in to a confident young woman by the end. Meg, her gifted brother Charles, and their friend Calvin embark on a journey through space and time to save Meg and Charles’ father, who had been missing for over a year. The journey is facilitated by a few beings, namely Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, who all appear as humans on earth, but reveal themselves to be so much more once they lead the kids on their journey.

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The book explores the idea of time travel, the existence of other beings who are much wiser and older than humans, and of course self discovery. While every time traveling child in the book is experiencing their own journey of self-discovery and growth, they are also reminded of other people’s strengths and the need to work as a team.

The only thing in the book that might be a deal breaker for some is the obvious Christian undertones. There is reference to God and Jesus and numerous symbolic scenes, although religion is actually never made implicit. It is interesting though, as many references are made by creatures or stars who have been around longer than humans, and thus seem like a contradiction to Christian literature. It’s a unique intermingling of Christianity and Quantum Physics, and thus has received criticism from both sides for either being too Christian, or anti-Christian. It seems to me that the reader will do with it what they want, and although there is direct reference to God and Jesus, there is also opportunity to explain differences in beliefs and room for exception. Our family is full of agnostics, so it did not derail our reading, but allowed us room for conversation.
I highly recommend this book to read with children, definitely ages 7 – 10, but maybe even younger. The vocabulary might be challenging for a child to read on their own, but when read as a family, it allowed opportunity to also have a vocabulary lesson every chapter or so. The book is part of a quintet, so I’m hoping we’ll read another one of the books… maybe “A Wind in the Door,” or “A Swiftly Tilting Planet.” We’ll see.

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When your kids hate you

My mom used to tell me that having your own child say “I hate you” is like a rite of passage, and you hardly qualify as a parent until that happens. I always thought that was a funning thing to say, and yet I can understand the sentiment. It is true that only a parent can understand the heart wrenching feeling that comes when your beloved child utters those three awful words. And yet simultaneously, that same parent experiences a comical amusement, as it is so obvious that they don’t hate you. That is, until they actually do.

The teenage years aren’t easy, and you may find that a lot of this blog is used trying to navigate my own parental minefield of teenage angst. I love my teens. I love them to no end. But you need to know that I love them because they are my children, and if any other human on the face of the planet treated me the way that they do, I would not have them in my life. I love them, and I tell them I love them multiple times a day. I have to keep vocalizing and telling them that, even when I feel anger, hurt, betrayal and sadness. They still need to hear that I love them.

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Okay, so now that my love for my teens is not in question, let’s get real. I am fairly certain that Faith (my 14 year old) hates me. Those words that she so carelessly uttered when she was four years old seem to hold so much more weight now. Her words actually hurt, and I know she understands the meaning of hate now. It’s not just the words though; she does whatever she can to avoid being in the same room (or the same house even) with me for any given amount of time. Unless I’m dropping hundreds of dollars on her getting her nails done or buying her new clothes, she wants nothing to do with me. Anything I say gets disregarded with a simple eye roll, a heavy sigh, and a hair flip. To her, I am literally the dumbest person on the face of the planet. I have to tell you, it is hard. It is emotionally draining and no amount of red wine fixes it (I’ll keep trying though).

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So here is my theory that I feel like I actually learnt years ago in a university psych course. Similar to when you are pregnant and you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy, and you want to be done being pregnant, the teen years are strategically and perfectly painful. Teens need to push boundaries, rebel, and find their own path. They need to get under their parents’ skin and separate themselves. And THIS is so us as parents can let them go; we can let them move out without a great deal of remorse, and likely be very happy about it. In fact, maybe there’ll be a party. It is a biological phase of separation and it needs to happen. Now with that said, I’m not sure it needs to happen to the degree that it is in our house, but it does help to remember the bigger picture.

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If you find yourself drowning in teenage angst and the nearest floaty appears to have a hole in it, remember this: you are not alone, you are a good parent, and your teens are just assholes. They will eventually get through this, and so will you. Also, feel free to join us over at Surviving your Teenager, a Facebook group I created for parents of teens. Only requirement is that you have an actual teenager. See you on the flip side all you wonderful brave parents, you got this. We all do. (just say it!)

Meditation for Kids

Something I am trying to implement with the kids is mediation and mindfulness, specifically with Aisha. I’d like to do it with all the kids, but it seems like Aisha might need it a little more currently. So at bedtime I turn on our meditation app, and we have a little down time together.

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The program I’m using is called Smiling Mind, and it’s available for your computer or as an app. It’s a not for profit company from Australia, so the guy leading the meditation has a cute accent, which is always nice. They have various programs for different age groups, such as 7-9, 10-12, 13-15, 16-18, and adult programs. They also have meditations for those age groups, but in a classroom setting, along with specific meditations for sport and the workplace. The programs cover such a wide range, and the best part… it’s free!! our-programs
We have been using the app for a few weeks now, taking a break here and there when we stay up too late or simply forget. Aisha really likes it, and she looks forward to our time meditating. So far we have done various sessions on breath work and visualizations, along with meditations on empathy, self awareness and identifying feelings.

Before each session you can log how you are feeling, rating happiness, contentment and alertness on a scale.
After the session you log your feelings again, and the app created a nice little chart for you to look at, learn-for-lifeincluding every time you’ve logged feelings. That part is optional though, so if your tiny doesn’t want divulge their feelings, it’s okay.

 

“Smiling Mind meditation brings balance to young lives. Our programs are designed to support children at each stage of their development, from younger children becoming more independent to older children learning to take on leadership roles, transition to high school, make new friends and plan for the future.” – Smiling Mind

 

I’ll likely write another progress post in a month or so, when we’re able to look at how Aisha felt prior to starting any mindfulness and meditation at all. She is optimistic, which is nice to see, and I like watching her practice something with an open mind and a willingness to try.

Kinda a big deal

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Pic taken from the Calgary Stampeders Twitter profile

Ashton is playing football this season, for the second year in a row. His team name in Lethbridge last year was the Bulldogs, and this year it is also the Bulldogs. He loves it. He loves it more than I ever thought he would. Dakota is also playing football, and Ashton loves doing the same things as Dakota, so this works out quite well. Dakota is currently playing on the senior team for his high school, and although he was initially told that he may not see any field time (being one of the younger players), he has played every game. I am incredibly proud of both of my boys. Being committed to a team, and showing up when you’re needed, is something we value around here.


So this weekend, Ashton got the opportunity to play during the halftime of a Calgary Stampeders game. In order to play, the league had to win a ticket selling competition. img_2346We had to sell tickets to the game, where a portion would be donated back to the league and then the winning two leagues would duke it out at McMahon Stadium in front
of 30,000 crazy fans. So we sold tickets. Ashton’s teacher bought tickets, along with his friends’ families, myself, Dakota and his girlfriend Bri, and a handful of other supporters.

We won the competition, and Ashton got to play at halftime. Holy hell was that kid excited! I have never had an opportunity quite like that, but I can imagine the adrenaline and excitement for all the Bulldogs as they ran on to that giant field. The music, the lights, the big screen, and the screaming fans… how amazing. They played there little hearts out for about ten minutes, and exited the field with smiles so big the entire stadium could see them. Afterwards, all the little Atom players ran to their families in the stands and were greeted with hugs and so much love. So many proud parents, friends, and family members were sitting in those stands. I hope Ashton remembers this day, and looks back remembering how proud he felt in the moment, and how loved he is by so many people. That kid is loved.

I don’t know how to tell you all this, but this kid… he’s kinda a big deal (even if he looks like a tiny little ant in these pictures).

Anxiety goes to the Zoo

Aisha’s school class went on a field trip to the zoo last week. I was able to volunteer, so I accompanied them to the zoo and spent the day with them. Aisha was absolutely thrilled that I could go. We were planning on homeschooling this year, and she has been pretty disappointed by the change in plans, but is thrilled to have me available to volunteer.


Here’s the thing about social anxiety and being the little sensitive soul that my Aisha is. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, how many of her friends are there, or what she is doing… she will still have down times and the need to be alone. She will need to be sad in a  corner by herself somewhere, or in this case, in a kangaroo pouch. She may need to cry, and she may need a big hug. This is exactly why I wanted to homeschool her. So I could be with her more often, and help her navigate these feelings she has, particularly while in social situations or large groups.


Whatever the case, we are not homeschooling, and we will make the best of what we have. I am happy to be able to volunteer for all her field trips, as I’m not sure anyone else would have allowed her the space to cry in the kangaroo. I’m not sure they would understand her like I do, and she could potentially get written off as just a bratty kid who pouts when she doesn’t get her way. And now I’m feeling incredibly lucky to have a partner who shares the dayhome with me. Without Lindsay, I wouldn’t be able to do any of the volunteering I can do this year.

Guess which kid is mine

Aisha really enjoyed getting as close to the animals as possible. She wanted to look them right in the eye. I explained that sometimes animals view that as aggressive, but she kinda has a way with animals so I didn’t coach her too much on it. She loves animals so much, and has such a deep respect for them. I love this about her.

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Aisha picked out her favourite plant in the conservatory and drew it for an assignment. Art is serious business for this kid.

Overall, the zoo was a great field trip. We had a blast, and Aisha’s anxiety did not take over the entire day. She was pretty disappointed that the owl exhibit was closed, but other than that, it was a success.

 

Giving thanks


It was Thanksgiving this past weekend here in Canada. We decided to host the family for thanksgiving dinner on Sunday, where we had sixteen people in total. My parents, Lindsay’s parents, Justan’s mom, and my cousin with her two kids. Five homemade pumpkin pies, four bottles of wine, and one twenty pound turkey, fed all of our family and left us with leftovers for weeks. We call this the “leftover season.”


Last year we hosted dinner, but Justan’s mom did not make it. So this was the first year that we had all the parents under one roof at the same time. There were no tears, no arguing, and no belly left unfilled. There was laughter, conversation, and smiles all around. This is the sort of thing I love. I sat at the head of the table and just observed everyone, and felt so grateful for the family I have. I am eternally grateful for our unique, weird, different, large, awesome family.

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If you’re in Canada and you were celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you enjoyed your day and I hope you were fed well. Happy Thanksgiving. Or as we like to say, “Happy traditional gender roles day!”