A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Three Kings... and a clean fridge

Once again I can't quite believe I'm doing this. Once again I'm going to share with you my shame. I'm going to show you my fridge, the hasn't-been-cleaned-in-11-years fridge.

And you need to see the fridge to truly appreciate what an accomplishment it is, why it is such a huge deal, when I say, "We had adults in our house last weekend!"

And these were not "safe" adults, the few I can trust not to judge me, or judge the state of our home, but Adults-with-a-capital-A that I... had... never... met!

When we moved into our current home, we had an open house party on "The Twelfth Day of Christmas" January 6. We had painted our dining room, living room and hallways, as well as the bedrooms. The kids now had separate rooms, pink for Taylor, blue for Mitchell, as you can see in the photo below.

[In Jan 2007 a woman in Vancouver delivered sextuplets. Since the local paper couldn't get pictures from the family (who wanted to remain anonymous), a photographer from the Ottawa Sun came and took some photos of our "multiples", Mitchell and Taylor. This close-up photo is the one that ran in the paper.]

After our successful Twelfth Night party, the kids asked if we could have a party again the next year. But I couldn't manage it. That year had been just a little stressful. We discovered that our daughter Taylor was struggling in school and we needed to have a psycho-educational assessment done. Because she was only in grade one, she was too young to be diagnosed with a learning disability, but she had some processing issues, and was at risk for literacy problems, so we were advised to remove her from the French Immersion program. Three years later it was confirmed that she had dyslexia, so it was a good move.

But we were also struggling with Mitchell's behaviour at home. A psycho-educational assessment for Mitchell said that he would be fine to stay in French Immersion, while Taylor started grade two in her new English-only school. But Mitchell was struggling at school too. We discovered that he was having problems with his teacher, and the way the school handled active little boys in the French Immersion program. His anger and anxiety was spilling over at home. By March Break we knew we needed to move him as well - and get him some help. (You can read more about how we tried to help Mitchell in this post inspired by Nemo's dad Marlin) Unfortunately leaving the French Immersion school also meant the kids losing all their friends, and me losing the community that I had worked so hard to create, a community of moms, friends and families. So, as I said, just a "little" stressful that year.

Our last Christmas with my mom, 2007
A few years earlier my mother had moved from Halifax (my hometown) to Ottawa where we live now. She was living in a retirement home not far from our house. It was a lot of work for me, not just because she was blind and had some hearing impairment, but because she had osteoporotic fractures in her spine, her collar bone, and then her hip. And because she had Alzheimer's. By the Fall of 2007 her health had declined significantly and she needed to be moved to a long-term care facility, essentially a "nursing home." Christmas 2007 was our last Christmas with my mom, who passed away at the beginning of February 2008. So, as I said, just a "little" stressful that year.

And then my depression came roaring back. In part, because of my health. I had uterine hemorrhaging and was practically bed-ridden for two years. This is an excerpt from a previous post (you can read the gory details - that women just don't talk about - here)

My iron got lower and lower. I got weaker and weaker. I was more and more tired. I could barely walk up even the most gentle of slopes. I was unable to do anything around the house. My poor husband had to take over laundry and meals, leaving me feeling pretty incapable, adding to my depression. And it also left our home to get more and more cluttered, while my fitness level and mood kept falling.
Mitchell and his bedroom when we first moved in
and "After" a few years
And then my depression worsened. And then my father died. And then I started having panic attacks.

I thought I had Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) because the winters were so hard. I saw a specialist and he put me on some meds. When I went back to see him he said, "You feel better in the Spring right?" My response was, "Um. Not so much. In fact we didn't take down our Christmas tree." He said, "Ah. This is not S.A.D., this is a major depressive episode." He referred me to a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) group where I learned about riding the wave of emotions. It was also where I first realized the shame I had about our house, and learned the strategy of just doing ten minutes, to clean up with tea cup. And then, at the end of that group therapy session, I decided I needed to tackle my eating disorder. I joined a therapy group at the Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre. The therapist (who inspired the turtle charm) and the women that I met in that group made so much difference in my life. I called them my "Flower Power."

And then, in December of 2011, I started to overcome my eating disorder, using Pandora charms as my reward. And then after two-and-a-half years of recovery, I asked for help with my depression and panic attacks. And then I attended the "Day Hospital" program in the fall of 2014. And then I did six months of schema-focused therapy in the winter and spring of 2015. And then I participated in a program called "Working with Emotions" doing a program based on DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) in the fall of 2015. And then I was enrolled in a mindfulness meditation series in the winter of 2016. And since then, I have continued working on all of the skills I acquired, with support from my family doctor and a social worker.

And now here we are, in January 2018, in a house that had not been thoroughly cleaned in a looooong time. And now I realize that with all the work I've been doing I have not been writing very many blog posts.

I'm not sure when the kids stopped asking if we were going to have another Christmas party, but they did stop. We didn't invite adults to our home for many years. I was just too ashamed of how bad it got. But we've been working on our Clean Sweep for some time now, using the Hopi charm as inspiration, so this year I suggested we invite parents to our Saturday Games Night, which just happened to fall on Twelfth Night, January 6. My only stipulation was that the kids had to promise to do some major cleaning jobs on their Christmas vacation.
"Before" and "After"

One of Taylor's chores was to tidy the basement. We have done a major Clean Sweep in the basement, as you can see from the "Before" photo. (That is a story for another day.) Those plastic bins were ready for the start of our Clean Sweep. In the top photo on the far right you can just see where the futon was open after someone was here for a visit. We have painted the basement, and when Taylor tidied up, she covered the old stained futon with this bear paw quilt that my (blind!) mother made for our wedding. I thought it was quite a brilliant move on Taylor's part, so I took a picture.

When we started Games Night it was my intention to invite families, not just kids. But it never happened. We've been holding Games Night since the kids were in grade 7 and they are now in grade 11. And all those years, I was too ashamed to have adults come to our home. Shame can be very isolating.

Although it feels like we've been working on our Clean Sweep for a looooong time, the house was still VERY dirty. And I could not bear the thought of people seeing it so dirty. The kids were whining and questioning why we need to clean. Mike assigned Taylor the job of cleaning the fridge and of course she complained, and said, "Why do we need to clean the fridge?" So when she got to the part where she took out the fruit and vegetable bins, I said "THAT is why we need to clean the fridge!" and so I took a picture.

The "Before" and "After" of the fridge
Mike washed the kitchen cupboards, the range hood, and the spice rack over the stove that had a quarter-inch layer of kitchen grease and dust. I was in charge of kitchen sink, countertops and backsplashes, windows, all appliances from microwave to clothes dryer, as well as bathroom toilets, shower and bathtub. Mitchell was in charge of vacuuming everywhere as well as washing all the walls and woodwork - doors, window frames, etc. He was so surprised to see what a difference it was making, particularly the stairwell. And I said, "THAT is why we need to clean the house!" But I forgot to take a picture. Taylor had the jobs of dusting everything, including all bookshelves, cleaning the basement bathroom and scrubbing the shower floor, tidying the basement, organizing the games... and cleaning the fridge.

What did you do on your Christmas vacation? We cleaned our house and had a PARTY! And this massive accomplishment will be marked by Pandora's "Three Wise Men" charm on my "Victorian Christmas" bracelet.

 "On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me....
a clean house and Christmas par-TEE."
(and the three kings charm)

And how WAS the party you ask? Well, we had so much fun I forgot to take photos! There were 15 of us in total, including three other parents - moms. Upon arriving, the first mom said, "I wish I was one of those parents that has people over. I'm glad you are." If only she knew! I just smiled and told her, "If the kids are going to hang out with friends, we'd rather have them do it here." She was so pleased to come, and participate, because her daughter, she says, "is always so excited to come."
Taylor's best friend (and a friend of Mitchell's too) said, "My other friends want me to go out with them and are surprised that I'd rather come to Games Night. But it's easy here." So easy in fact that she fell asleep on the couch in the midst of the game. Her mom said, "She thinks she's part of your family." We're happy to have her.
As everyone was leaving, the third mom said, "I've offered to have everyone come to our house." But her daughter just waved her off and said, "It wouldn't be the same Mom." My only complaint was I would have enjoyed visiting with the other moms rather than just playing games - and maybe made a new friend - or three.
I've made many friends from around the world through Pandora. And I was curious when I saw people from Spain share photos about "Three Kings Day." And Puerto Rican friends said their kids would leave hay for the camels of the three kings and the magi would leave gifts for the children. Los Reyes Magos, celebrates the arrival of the three wise men in Bethlehem. In French countries - and French Canadian cities - the tradition has been to celebrate with a cake, Galette des Rois, in which a small toy was hidden, sometimes a baby to represent the three kings searching for Baby Jesus. The person who found the toy would be king and wore the crown, which luckily comes with the cake when you buy it. We gave it a try a few years ago but nobody was particularly fond of the cake, and the kids were really too old by that time to care much for wearing a paper crown, even if it was gold. But now we have a new tradition on January 6 - A Three Kings Party.

I have to say, it is getting easier to share my shame. Because I know that there are others struggling with the same things. And I know this because many of you have been in contact with me. To let other readers know that they are not alone, please comment (anonymously if you prefer) to say you can relate.

I think the other reason that I have less anxiety when I "share the shame" (that should be a hashtag) is that I am more accepting of myself and my situation, and recognizing how I got here. Accept where you are and start where you're at

Pandora stock photos
My thoughts on the charm itself: This is a nice solid two-tone charm. The details of the kings' crowns, garments and offerings are fabulous, especially the gold cross on the back. Although I have to say, up close, the hollow eye sockets are kind of freaky. Pandora always does good details like tails, backsides and butts, and in this case the feet of the three kings.

Photo from the blog Charms Addict

Maybe this year I'll work on earning the Twelve Days of Christmas charms by redbalifrog.

Photo by Paula Jackson of the blog beadsaholic
Find the link in my Blogroll

Friday, 29 September 2017

Just call him crazy

I can't believe I haven't done a blog post since June! But I have been thinking about this one since my husband's birthday at the end of June.

I think after seeing these photos and hearing these tales of Mike's pranks and shenanigans you might just agree with me when I say Mike is a pretty "crazy" guy. And you'll see why I added these "crazy" clips to my red "Always and Forever" marriage bracelet. You won't believe Mike's latest caper. It even had my teenaged son saying, "Ewwww."

My family went to see "Wonder Woman" on Father's Day in June, and I took this photo of my husband posing with the emojis. As I shook my head and thought, "What a crazy guy!" I realized I should gather some photos and let you get to know my crazy husband a little better.

Upon meeting my husband, most people think he's quiet, serious, dependable, and level-headed. But those of us who know him well - and that now includes most of my Facebook friends - we know that he's very funny and really just a kid at heart. Mike collects comic books - lots and lots of comic books. He loves LEGO - of course he's into the much more expensive Architect sets. And on Christmas day he puts on every piece of clothing he receives as a gift - all at the same time. Whenever I share a photo of Mike on Facebook it's a photo of him being silly.

When our daughter Taylor needed a photo of both Mike and I for a school project it took a few shots before I could get one of him not being silly.

Mike is known in the neighbourhood as quite the crooner. At the elementary school end-of-year barbeque they used to have karaoke. The first year Mike got up and sang "Copacabana." All the other moms spoke to me afterwards because they were so surprised that this serious quiet guy was such a singer - and more importantly a performer. The following year he sang, "I Will Survive," and in this photo he was singing "Roxanne." He tried to get our twins to be back-up singers but they chickened out at the last minute.

Mike also has the freakish ability to remember the lyrics to almost any song (like those above), or a jingle from an ad. He will also make up his own lyrics to a song. On this occasion, he had us all in stitches after a buffet dinner at the hotel when he sang "Had too much buffet."

When Mike ran the New York City marathon (over 20 years ago now), he ran much of the race beside a guy dressed up in a Gumby costume. So one year, when the Salvation Army had a race on Boxing Day, called the "Santa Shuffle," Mike decided to dress up as Gingy from the Shrek movies. Just like Gumby, he had lots of people cheering him on and many people wanted to take their photo with the famous gingerbread man who ran ran as fast as he can.

Mike's partner in crime was supposed to wear the angry Gingy costume

When Taylor and her friend Jia Qi trained with Mike to do the Colour Run, Mike went out and found something to wear. Because powdered dye is thrown at you during the race he wanted to find something white. He didn't tell the girls what he bought at the thrift store. So when they arrived at the race he made a big production of ripping off his tear-away sweatpants, revealing his full-length white frock. You can tell in this photo that the girls are just a little embarrassed to be seen with this crazy guy. Mike has declared it his mission in life to embarrass our kids.

Mike is always ready to jump in and do things with the kids. I've shared pictures previously of him taking the kids downhill skiing or tubing, but he will also jump on giant pillows, go rock-climbing, zip-lining - you name it. He was even willing to humiliate himself when the kids first tried Just Dance on the WiiU. If you read my story about Games Night you might have seen this video taken while Taylor was trying to make a shot in pool: Is this distracting?

Before our kids were born Mike's office desk was covered in figurines of Superman and other super-heros, as well as characters from The Simpsons. More recently it's been vehicles from the Cars movie, Perplexus, and LEGO mini-figs.

When Mike was moved to a cubicle he said, very sarcastically, that he had enough room for a swimming pool. Didn't one of his staff go and buy him a blow-up kiddie pool! And so, just like people with a pool in their backyard, Mike had an end-of-summer pool-closing party. The kids and I stopped by to check it out.

One year, Mike played a trick on two of his employees. When they returned from holidays their offices were filled with balloons. It took them (he and the other staff) four days to blow up all those balloons. His staff paid him back on his birthday. His office was too big to fill with balloons but they hung balloons from the ceiling, in the doorway, and covered the floor in balloons. They even decorated his desk and gift-wrapped the conference table!

When they took Mike out for a birthday lunch there was a clown that made Mike his very own bowtie and clown nose. It has now become a tradition to do something crazy on Mike's birthday.

The next year on his birthday his staff filled over 500 plastic cups with water and food colouring and completely covered the surface of his desk and the floor.

Last year they had a little get together for Mike's birthday and served him cake made from Pop Tarts and filled with Jelly Belly jelly beans - they know him so well!

When Mike was moved from an enclosed office to a cubicle he realized he didn't have enough room for all his books... or his exercise ball... or his conference table. So he managed to remove a wall between his office and the adjacent cubicle which just happened to be empty . He used his bookshelf as a sliding "hidden door," just like you see in the movies. Only recently, with another reorganization of their offices, Mike did sadly lose that extra space.

Very recently Mike and his staff moved to these new cubicles. One day, he and two of his staff were all talking to each other, each leaning over and peeking out from the doorways of their offices. Mike realized that all the others could see was his head, his lower legs, and his feet. So he wheeled back into his office. Still wearing his shorts, he slipped his jeans over his sneakers and rolled back out so the staff could see him - looking like he's sitting on the can. And that's the reason Mitchell said, "Ewwww!" when I showed him this photo.

Today is the last day for a valued employee who is moving to a different department. Yes, the employee who blew up balloons, filled all those plastic cups, and has been an enabler in the collecting of toys. This morning the kids and I were all shaking our heads when we saw that Mike is wearing all black today, on this day of mourning, when he will have to say goodbye to one of his favourite employees. Why would you want to stop working for this crazy man? Lord love him.

What I stack with my "Always and Forever" bracelet.
The bangle and the "I love you" charm were gifts from our Anniversary in July

Related Posts

My home, my marriage, my husband, and my honeymoon - all wrapped up in one little lighthouse - a story about the lighthouse charm and all that it represents to me, including how to keep a marriage strong. And there's a little poem I wrote, about my husband.

The lighthouse part 2 "I'm higher up in the lighthouse" - a story about the importance of the lighthouse when you're battling depression or feeling like you're not getting anywhere.

Two babies, two parents, many "unforgettable moments" - a story about finding out we were pregnant with twins (and the charm to represent it), about our time on parental leave, and why I call a charm "Ring around the rosie."

The beginning of "Always and Forever"- a story about how we met, the meaning of the original clips on this bracelet, and why my husband said kissing me was like kissing his sister.