Sunday, December 30, 2012

Only In Canada, Eh?

Matthew came home from hockey practice with the goalie equipment, which means it's his turn to play in net. His ever-accomodating little brother agreed to a little scrimmage, but there's so much snow outside, they suited up in the dining room.


I wish I could tell you that I was concerned about the furniture, but when moments like these present themselves, the only thing I cared about was getting a decent shot:

As the new year draws closer and brings some unexpected changes to our lives, it makes my heart happy to have these moments....preserved. Shared. Lived.

May 2013 bring you peace, love and awesome memories of your own.

Bellymonster and the Reds

Monday, December 24, 2012

On Christmas Eve, Dinky Cars and Traditions-in-the-Making

A few weeks ago, this happened:

Since then, we've spoken of my brother many times. My parents were here last week and we stayed up too late, reminiscing about our best Christmas Eve EVER, as a Schillings family of four. It involved a ton of eating, drinking and present-opening. And laughter. Oh God, how we laughed.

Having children of my own brings a certain magic to the season, as I'm sure it does for so many of you. But memories of Christmas, 1999 are the sweetest ones to savour because a decade later, Andrew is gone.

So, on this special day, as families begin to gather in celebration for all that was and all that will be, I will think of Andrew and hope that he is watching over my sons from someplace warm and cozy and remembering Christmas of '99, too.

In the meantime, Luke and I are heading out to rummage for some last minute groceries...and some balloons.

In what I hope will become a yearly tradition, on Christmas Day, we will  release some balloons from Andrew's Garden, with our love and (maybe some more dinky cars) attached to their strings.

I have a feeling that he's been waiting...

Andrew with Baby Matthew, Christmas 2008

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tomorrow's Promise

Mornings are often difficult here - too often, it seems, despite my best intentions and however much prep I do the night before, I find myself yelling at my children:

"Hurry up, hurry up! We're going to be late. Brush your teeth. Have you brushed your teeth? Do NOT sass me, Matthew! Luke, quit that - get your shoes on. Get your shoes on NOW!"

Sometimes I make them cry with my fury and my nagging and my impatience.

Some mornings, after I've kissed them goodbye and poured last-minute, guilt-laden love into their ears, I stand and watch them make their way into the schoolyard, watch as they're swallowed up by their friends and I think, "I do not deserve to be their mother."

And then I promise myself, promise them, in my heart, that tomorrow will  be different.

Tomorrow, I will be the mother they deserve: one who is gentler and kinder and one who does not yell. Tomorrow, I will be better and there will be no rushing and there will be more time for cuddles and I will let them eat cake instead of cereal and I will not care if we're late because tomorrow, it won't matter so much.

Tonight, reading the news of 20 children dead at the hands of a man gone mad, I am heartbroken and ashamed because TODAY, for dozens of other parents, it mattered.

Today was the last day that another little boy's mother had the chance to kiss his freckled face and hold his growing hand in hers.

Today was the last day for another mother to stand and watch her son disappear into the safety of his friends and teachers.

Today was the last day for another Matthew's mama to pour hurried words of love into his heart, to whisper into her Luke's ear that she doesn't care if he eats his mittens, as long as they keep his hands warm.

My sons. My darling sons. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

Tonight, I will tumble you into your beds and I will sit and guard your sleep and thank God for one more day to be all that you deserve.

And tomorrow, I will thank Him again, and I will live up to your love, even as my heart breaks for another mother, someone else's father - whose last chance to do so....ended today.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What MY Little Boy is Made Of...

Luke eats stuff. Mostly his sleeves and the collars of his shirts. I have no idea why he does this and have pleaded, cajoled, hollered, begged and bribed....and still, he chews.

This week alone he has chewed the thumbs off his brand-new FINGERLESS gloves, the sleeve off a sweater knitted especially for him, the collars from two undershirts and the tip off his limited edition "Olympic" red mittens.

This morning, as I rummaged through the mitten box for yet another pair of mittens, I gave him a stern lecture:

"Luke, if you chew through these mittens, I won't buy you another pair and your fingers will freeze in the cold and then they'll fall off and then you won't be able to play video games or pet the dog we might get one day."

(I shall take my parenting award now, thank you.)

Tonight, I stood chatting with the sitter while Luke got himself dressed to come home. The boots were fine, his coat collar too and the sleeves of his sweater were fully intact.


And then I tugged Luke's hat/mask over his face - it's grey and covers his head, neck and ears, while his eyes, nose and mouth peek through a hole in the middle.

As it dropped past his nose, I let out a shriek: "LUKE! You ate your hat?!!"

Luke grinned through the newly-chewed "mouth-hole."

"I needed it to breath, Mummy."

"But Luuuukkkke," I wailed, "There's a BIG hole here, for your mouth. See?"

"I saw. But Mummy?"

"Oh Lord, love a duck! What, Luke? WHAT?"

"I didn't eat my mittens!"

I laughed until I cried.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Have No Words

I have lost my voice. As of this moment, I have been entirely silent for close to three hours.

My husband may have referred to it as "The Christmas Miracle," but I'm sure he was kidding.

Me, I kind of dig it. In a "my throat is aching and feels weirdly full" kind of way.

I lost my voice in bits and pieces yesterday, but it came back this morning, just in time for me to holler at the Reds to get moving.

It grew softer again when I knelt down to hug them and offer apologies for yelling, something I'd promised (a million times, it seems) to try to stop doing.

I chatted easily, if a little huskily with my placement supervisor all day. Was surprised, though I shouldn't have been, at how much more I learned today, because I was quieter.

After then just after supper tonight, I yelled at Matthew for yelling at his brother, took a breath to yell at his brother....

and nothing came out.

I blinked. Tried for softer words.


Blinked again and peered at my astonished children, saw amazement and amusement spread across their freckled faces: Mummy. can't. speak.

They giggled with delight while I mimed clutching my throat and hollering, as tears of silent  laughter rolled down my cheeks. It felt...good.

At bedtime, I tucked them in without words, held them closer for longer than I usually do, because usually I toss my final "I love you"s over my shoulder as I close their door.

Grinned broadly to see their not-so-tiny hands making the sign for "I love you" in American Sign Language. I learned it just this week and taught them only yesterday. Signed it back with a happy sigh.

Photo courtesy of:

Came back down to a silent and empty kitchen. Contemplated the quiet.

Realized that the time has come, truly come, for me to listen. There is something that I need to hear. In order to actually hear the message meant for my heart, I needed to be SHUT UP.

That God.

He's so funny.

And you?
Anything you'd like to tell me?
I'm listening.
And I promise that I cannot won't interrupt.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Bellymonster Christmas Carol

** To the tune, "The Twelve Days of Christmas". No, it doesn't match up exactly, nor did I manage 12 days. Whatever. I survived this week, which frankly, is an early Christmas miracle...*

On the first day of last week, the universe gave to me
One flushed-cheek redhead and another looking far from health-y.

On the second day of last week, the universe gave to me
Two spikes of fever,
One flushed-cheek redhead and another looking far from health-y.

On the third day of last week,the universe gave to me
Three "He's sick" phone calls,
Two spikes of fever,
One flushed-cheek redhead and another looking far from health-y.

On the fourth day of last week, the universe gave to me
Four rounds of barfing,
Three "They're sick" phone calls,
Two spiking fevers
One flushed-cheek redhead and another looking close to death-ly.

On the fifth day of last week, the universe gave to me
Fiiiiiiiiiiive birthday cards (and a fever)
Four rounds of barfing,
Three "They're sick" phone calls,
Two spiking fevers
One flushed-cheek redhead and another looking close to death-ly.

On the sixth day of last week, the universe gave to me
Six fever-free minutes
Fiiiiiiiiiiive birthday cards (and a fever)
Four rounds of barfing,
Three "They're sick" phone calls,
Two spiking fevers
One flushed-cheek redhead and another looking close to death-ly.

On the seventh day of Hell week, the universe has given me
(A) 7-year-old who's better,
Six loads of laundry
(A) 5-year-old who's feisty
Four wishes for Baileys
Three cups of coffee
Two slices of bread left,

And a husband who is sick and whine-y.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Colour of Love

 November is my least favourite month of the year. It's cold, snowy, I have a birthday at the end of it (I'll be 29 again, thanks for asking) and the Reds get sick.

Every. single. November.

This week, it's Matthew who's down with a fever and headache, which means that soon, his brother will follow suit. Thankfully, the boys are pretty cheerful when they're not feeling well, all things considered. Matthew, for example, bounded out of (my) bed pale-cheeked, hollow-eyed but surprisingly pleasant for a kid who'd only caught an hour's sleep last night.

He was so brimming with good feelings, he set about drawing me a picture. "It's gonna be your favourite picture ever, Mummy, I promise! It's my favourite already!"

While he coloured, I traipsed up and down the stairs with laundry baskets and fretting over missing a day of placement. Even as I saw his eyes grow glassy and redden with fever, I focused on racing through household chores, determined not to waste the unexpected time in which to complete them.

Somewhere between the second load of laundry and sorting out the pots-and-pans cupboard, I was seized by guilt and drew Matthew onto my lap for a cuddle. I asked if I could see the picture he'd worked so hard on.

Wordlessly, my feverish kid offered me a gentle, beautifully-rendered reminder about what really matters:

Us: Matthew, Mark, Luke and Liz
With a lump in my throat, I thanked him for the beautiful picture and hugged him, before nudging him under a blanket while I went hunting for a frame. All great works of art deserve to be framed, I explained to him as he sagged into the pillows, suddenly exhausted.

It took me about 5 minutes to find a suitable frame. When I came back downstairs, this is what I found:

And to think, I almost missed this peaceful innocence. Thankful for the moment, I ignored the beep from the washing machine indicating that a load of laundry had finished, poured myself a fresh coffee and sat down to guard Matthew's sleep.

These are the days, my friends.

And you?
How do you deal with sick kids?
What would you draw, if you had to draw your favourite things?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye...

When Mark and I moved our family to Belleville on a bitterly cold January day in 2009, we had no clue what was coming. We'd sold our house in Newcastle on the heels of a vicious recession and were just trying to keep ourselves - and our family - together in the aftermath of job loss and a frustrating, province-wide search for employment.

There were days, moored here in a strange city in the middle of winter with two boys - one just 3, the other a busy 16 months -when I questioned my own sanity at making such a move. Almost exactly a month later, my brother passed away and in the days between his death and his funeral, I wandered the unfamiliar rooms of our rented house in a fog. Cast adrift. Lost.

By Spring, I'd moved from now-familiar rooms to unfamiliar streets, just beginning to blossom with the promise of new beginnings. I made some incredible friends, fell in love with this city's parks, its people, my neighbourhood and the fresh breath of hope that blew into our faltering marriage.

In 2010, exactly one year after our move to the Friendly City, we spent another frigid January day hauling our possessions and hopes into another house on the same street. Only this one was ours and we were staying for keeps.

Or so we thought.

In July of this year, Mark received a job offer from a company based in our hometown. With equal amounts trepidation and delight, he accepted the job and began in September, a day after the Reds and I entered SK, Grade 2 and Final Year, respectively.

As of this writing, he has almost passed his probationary period and has given me permission to "officially" announce that - at some point, possibly this summer - we will be moving home.

To Bowmanville.

It feels odd to write that, now. Bowmanville is our shared hometown and many of our memories of childhood are also shared as Mark and I grew up mere blocks from each other. 

But as adults, our best memories - for me at least - have been made here, in Belleville. This is where our family has truly grown, even though the Reds were born elsewhere. THIS is the place whose streets I know well - at least, the ones in my end of the city - whose parks have beckoned and shaded and pleased me and my sons for almost five years. It's where many of my dearest friends live, my sons began school and I began to dream of something bigger for myself.

And yet...

Bowmanville is filled with old, true friends and amazing opportunities for all of us. Its streets are unfamiliar to me now, as they've multiplied a thousand-fold it seems, in the years since we've been gone. But I've been visiting. Since early summer, I've been quietly researching schools, house prices and the professional possibilities for me, once I've graduated in the Spring. I've looked into sports teams and Scout troops, pored over home builders' plans, old photographs and sweet memories.

I've narrowed down the school search to two which are well-run and have great reputations. We know people whose children attend one or the other and are thriving and happy. Our "wish list" for a new house in our old stomping grounds includes being able to walk the kids to school and easy access to parks and other  green space.

Alas. The public school, which is presently being built to accommodate the population of an old one, won't have a playground. Budget cuts have made one impossible and so my hometown friends have rallied to "win" one.

The Aviva Community Fund is a relatively unique concept: communities submit their ideas and plans to competition. The concept/idea/plan/dream that garners the most votes - from anywhere in the world - can receive up to $100,000 towards its goal. In this instance, voting for the playground builds a place to be a kid for deserving students, but it also helps to build a brand-new community at the same time.

I mention it here, dear readers, because an old, dear hometown friend asked me to. I ask you  to vote please, dear reader, so that the children of my childhood friends will have a place to begin building lifelong friendships like the ones their parents enjoy.

So that my sons might begin building them, too.

With tears in my eyes for all that we will be leaving behind and with enormous hope for what we might find, I'm ignoring my own "never plug stuff" rule to ask for your vote.

To vote, please click this link:

I will accept your vote with gratitude and love and consider it a farewell gift....or one that says, "Welcome home!"


If you vote, would you let me know in the comments? Thank you. For all of it.

Friday, November 23, 2012

On Fridays, Baileys and Being a Domestic Goddess

It's Friday!

Around here, the end of the work/school week goes like this:

Dump kids, purse, mitts, coat and bags in the porch and let them sort themselves out. Head directly to kitchen sink, filling it with hot, soapy water. Fill sink with dishes from breakfast, toss juice into cups and rummage for apples.

Toss apples, juice and kids into family room. Ignore them to empty dishwasher from one side whilst filling it from the other. Heat oven to 300C and  place cup filled with two tablespoons of vanilla extract, two tablespoons of cinnamon extract inside. Set timer for 20 minutes.

Pour Baileys. Sip contentedly.

Shoo kids upstairs. Ignore their shrieks of laughter and thumping as they bounce on beds. Spritz couch with Febreze, fold a quilt tidily over its arm and kick lone sock underneath it.

Sip Baileys.

Turn on side lamps, bask briefly in the warm glow they cast. Scurry over to computer desk, stack haphazardly tossed papers and bills into a tidy(ish) pile. Festoon piles with sticky notes that say "To File" and "Kids' Work" so that it appears as though I will be organizing them shortly, instead of simply adding to the piles next week around this time.

Photo nostalgia courtesy of
Check Facebook.

Sip Baileys.

Toss laundry into washing machine. Hide washed and folded but not-yet-put-away baskets of laundry in the boys' closet. Shut their door, just to be safe.

Head to bathroom, kicking two toy guns, a lone plastic arrow and a stuffed alligator into the linen closet along the way. Windex toilet, bathtub, sink and mirror. Pause to inspect eyebrows. Make mental note to have them waxed as soon as possible.

Sip Baileys whilst folding tiny triangle into the top of the toilet paper roll. Grin at how such a small, stupid thing can bring such delight.

Race downstairs. Wash dishes in sink. Sweep kitchen floor, hide schoolbags behind the settee, hide remnants of late-night-Halloween-candy-foraging in bottom of garbage can.


20 minutes' worth of Christmas wafting from the oven has come to an end. So too, have my chores.

Glance at clock. 5, 4, 3, 2....

Lean against counter, watching the side door.

Sip Baileys.

Open the side door, just in time.


"Hello, husband! Welcome home!"

And you?
How do you wrap up a long week?
Any hoodwinking cleaning tips you'd like to share?  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Strings of Light...

We don't hang lights here at the House of Leprechauns, for a number of reasons, all of which boil down to the same thing: we're lazy.

Thankfully, other people here in the Friendly City have been very busy picking up our seasonal slack:

 Just this afternoon, walking to pick up the boys, I saw that many of my neighbours have begun stringing lights and arranging ginormous blow-up Santas on their (still-green) lawns.

Wreaths adorn their front door and complicated-looking planters filled with cones and what looks like pussy willows (that can't be right, can it?) flank their tidy walkways. Even the hot single fireman down the road has  placed tiny, perfect single "candles" in every window of his house.

It makes me happy, this abundant joy that so many have for the season, despite the fact that there's not a drop of snow in the forecast and I that  heard the distinctly "summer" sound of a lawnmower as I strolled along.

Earlier this evening, I drove through a Spring-like fog on my way to school for a group project. Part of my route takes me through an area of town that's a little bit...sad. It's an odd combination of industrial units and forgotten residential streets and normally, there are no homes that draw my admiring gaze or porch-envy. Most don't draw my gaze at all.

Until tonight. Tonight, nestled in the soft fog hovering atop a deserted street, I blinked it surprised wonder at an otherwise unremarkable white two-story house on a corner.

The industrious and Christmas-loving folks who live there have used old-fashioned lights - small, brilliant, rainbow-hued colours - against faded white boards to transform a house that no one ever truly sees, into the happiest house on the block. Possibly the happiest house in the city, so far.


No icicles or rectangular patches of colour tossed hurriedly 'round a bush for these folks. Nope.
Instead, with what I can only assume was painstaking patience (or a LOT of coffee in their Baileys)  the Christmas Family (as I have now officially dubbed them, in my head)  strung miles of lights  PERFECTLY around the house, tracing its lines  from top to bottom, curling around the corners, edging the windows, along the eaves troughs.

In a word? Awesome.

Sadly, I don't have a photo to share because, well, I suck that way. But the Christmas Family? They sure don't. In fact, they've made me so happy, I've penned them a little thank-you card and will pop it into their mailbox on Friday morning.

At the end of a long and tiring day, your Christmas lights
 have brightened my heart
and lifted my flagging spirits.
Thank you for decorating with such care and for
showing all of us 
how bright the spirit of the season can be.
A Fellow Bellevillian
This is not the house I saw, but it's awesome, too.
This one belongs to some friends of mine
who create this joyful masterpiece every year.
Thanks, Kay Family!


And you?
Is there a Christmas Family in your world?
When do you start decorating for the holidays?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What Love Smells Like...

This is a verbatim conversation I had with Luke as we walked home tonight:

Luke: Mummy, do you hug and kiss the kids you work with?
Me: I sure do.
Luke: Do you love them?
Me: I do.
Luke: It's 'cause you practice all your love on us right?
Me: Maybe.
Luke: I bet they liked it today. You smell good today. Yesterday, you didn't smell right at all.
Me: That's weird. What did I smell like yesterday?
Luke: The wrong shampoo and rumbly sweaters.

I'll admit it -  this little gem of a conversation has touched me deeply. I love that he's OK sharing his mama's love with other kids because he knows that all of it comes from loving him and Matthew.

It's how I shared my parents with hundreds of children over the course of their careers and I am thrilled that, in this at least, I have managed give to my children what they gave to me:

Familiar, comforting, predictable, growing and deeply-rooted love.

And that Luke is so tactile and scent-sitive, well, that just plain delights me. It makes me wonder how the rest of the world smells to him and if he could bottle up his favourite scents, what would they be?

What does love smell like to you?
Do you associate certain scents with a person or place?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Growing Love

Two of my classmates are pregnant. One knows she's having a boy and the other doesn't know the sex of her baby. A few of us think she's having a boy though, so we're going with it until the babies are born in April and May, respectively.

While neither of these women had necessarily planned to become a mother just yet, both of them were born to be one.

I know this because I've watched them both blossom since we began our program in 2011. Over the months, I've seen them gain confident in their own voices, offering up wise and compassionate viewpoints during class discussions. They know love.

And, through our studies and our placements and their work, they also know what being unloved can do to a child, an adult, a group. I have listened to both women speak eloquently about the heartache they feel when they see cruelty and injustice being done to those they support.

My friends are quiet but fierce advocates for those who do not have the words to ask for what they need. They are ready and willing to protect those who are vulnerable, physically and emotionally. They are open to new ideas and willing to help someone else thrive and grow and live their best life.

Helping Hands

They know that while this work will require them to sacrifice their ego and their sanity, some days, it will also bring enormous joy. They also know that this work is an absolute privilege and that it will break and mend their hearts a thousand times, sometimes in the same moment. It takes patience and empathy and is the hardest, most amazing job they'll ever do, especially if they're doing it right.

As their classmate, I want them to know that, in my eyes, they are among the best of us - the class of 2013 - who will carry our lessons in our hearts and go out into the world armed with hope and dreams and a healthy dose of fear for all that we still don't know, cannot change, could never have imagined.

But as a mother, I have been aching to tell them other things, these two impossibly beautiful women.

I wanted to tell them about how they will find in themselves a love they never knew existed, the first time they hold their sons.

I wanted to tell them that even though they will think themselves utterly spent and beyond exhaustion, they will find a way to get up and do what needs to be done because of love.

But today, I realized that they know all of this already. Realized that their journey to become support workers to people with disabilities has prepared them for motherhood in a unique and awesome way:

As mothers-to-be, they carry their future under their hearts and are venturing into motherhood filled with hope and dreams and a healthy dose of fear for all that they don't know, cannot change, could never have imagined. They are growing love.

They already know that while motherhood requires us to sacrifice our ego and our self-absorption it also brings enormous joy. Being a mother is an absolute privilege and it will break and mend their hearts and thousand times, sometimes in the same moment. It takes patience and empathy and is the hardest, most amazing job they'll ever do, especially if they're doing it right.

As mothers, I know that they will be fierce advocates when their sons do not have the words for what they need. They will readily and willingly protect their boys' hearts, bodies, souls and will happily do what needs to be done to help their babies thrive and grow and live their best lives.

Two of my classmates are pregnant.

Their love is going to change the world.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Confessions of a Former Grinch...

 T'is the season of holy births and jolly men in red and making lists, checking them twice. Mostly it's the season of tradition...and magic.

"Bah Humbug!" I used to say, once upon a time.

I got more than a little bit grouchy when retailers began hauling out their plastic Christmas trees the day after Halloween. Grumbled through November because I couldn't bear Christmas carols being piped through tinny speakers when nary a flake of snow could be found.

Groaned and clutched my head when Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" came on the radio. "Seriously," I'd carp to anyone with earshot, "there are a zillion Christmas songs to play, why do ALL radio stations play this one? Do they think because he's The Boss that the song is cool?"

Sometimes - more often than not, I'll admit - I guiltily averted my gaze as I hurried past the smiling Salvation Army people, standing by their kettles, waiting hopefully for me to help make someone else's season a little brighter.

"Vintage Kettles" courtesy of

I used to loathe the mall and would mentally kick myself for not leaving my coat in the car as I braved the madding crowd, sweating under its weight and straining under bags filled with hastily-chosen gifts. I used to have those gifts wrapped by prim and smugly-tidy mall ladies who wore festive aprons, wielded Scotch tape with terrifying skill and pulled corkscrewed ribbons from thin air, it seemed.

And then...I had kids.

I grinned when I popped into the dollar store two weeks ago - at the end of the aisle strewn with the remnants of Halloween, stood a lone and half-dressed Christmas tree, waiting to be trimmed.

November is just one long, glorious lead up to the BEST MONTH OF THE YEAR instead of the countdown to my 29th birthday. (Incidentally, I will be turning 29 on the 30th, in case you were planning to send me some Baileys or something)

Now I deliberately search for Christmas songs on the radio and have been playing "Winter Wonderland" by the Eurythmics since last week. As soon as I hear that happy tune on the radio, I'll start counting down the days, in my head. It's like an audio advent calendar or something.

These days, I can't afford to have the wonderfully maternal and ever-so-clever mall ladies wrap my gifts. Since Matthew was born, it has become our "tradition" to put on some classic carols, pour a few drinks and tackle all wrapping at once, on Christmas Eve.

"Vintage Reds" courtesy of Bellymonster

My Christmas List - written, revised and price-compared - lives permanently in my purse, for quick, stealthy trips to Walmart. I always remember to leave my coat in the car.

Today at the grocery store, my sons spied a serene and hopeful man standing next to the iconic red Salvation Army kettle. Within seconds, they were at my side, begging for coins to "give to the man for the people who are sad, Mummy." With a grateful heart, I tumbled toonies into their hands and watched them dance over, eager to give.

But I still loathe "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" by Bruce Springsteen.

It is tradition, after all.

And you?
What are some of your favourite holiday traditions?
Which seasonal song do you loathe love the most?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I Surrender

This is my Facebook status from earlier this evening, when I arrived home with two frazzled Reds in tow, the making of supper a daunting task before me and another run in my stupid stockings:

Seriously now, this post is officially a shout-out to all you working parents out there, including a belated one to my own, who, though long-retired, still put in full days being awesome.

AMAZING, you are. INSPIRING, you are. STRONG, you are. MY HEROS, you are.

I don't know how you do it and still look as good as you do. Me, I straggle home at day's end looking like something the cat tossed aside in disgust and feeling worse.

In a good way, I suppose, but still.

Carry on being awesome, all. I'm just gonna put my head down here, for just a min.....


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Happy Mantra

JC is one of the incredible caregivers in the daycare section of my 7-week placement. Along with a three other equally dedicated, compassionate teachers, JC runs herd on a bunch of 3-and-4-year-old kids, all. day. long.

Frankly, these women deserve awards and Baileys for life, but that's not the point of today's post. Nope. Today, I'm gonna share this little mantra that JC has the kids recite every day, at circle. First she gathers them close and has them, literally, give themselves a pat.

Says JC: "Ok, my friends! Raise your right hand high in the air. Now, cross your arm over your front and put your hand on your opposite shoulder. Now pat. Pat your own shoulder. Gently, friends! Now, repeat after me:

I am the best person I know.
I am smart.
I am kind.
I am funny.
I'm a good friend.
I am ridiculously good-looking!"
My smart, kind, funny, ridiculously good-looking Reds!


This Happy Mantra tickles every part of my heart. I love it so much, I plan to have the Reds do this each morning before we rush out the door and into lives that are often separate, these days. I want them to hear their own voices alongside mine, ringing out these awesome truths.

Care to join us?

Try it! Go on, make your own day and recite the Happy Mantra!
Now tell me, how do you feel?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What "Thank You!" Sounds Like

Today is November 11th.

The Reds and I watched the Remembrance Day ceremony on TV, as we returned too late from Matthew's hockey game to change in time to head to our city's cenotaph.

The Reds were as solemn as the ceremony, sitting quietly on either side of me, fingering their poppies, asking very little. But when the bagpipes began their soulful, familiar lament, Luke looked up with serious eyes:

Every day, but especially today, I am grateful to all who served and those who continue to do so.

For all that I hold dear - my family, my friends, my country, my life...

Pour toute ce que j'adore - ma famille, mes amis, mon pays, ma vie...

Thank you!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Words to Love By...

T'is the week of awesomeness here at Life With Bellymonster. To recap:

On Wednesday, I met God. At McDonald's. He was wearing a nice sweater, lovely slacks and a wedding band. In one hand, he held his wife's, in the other, a cup of coffee. From His heart, he offered up words of  hope to a woman in need.

This morning, I bumped into Santa Claus at my son's hockey game. Pretty sure it was him: white beard, red hat, twinkly eyes, rounded belly...

When the man in red leaned past me to wink a "hello" to Luke, Luke's eyes went huge and he froze on the spot. Chuckling, I turned to my gaze to smile at the man as he settled down next to me:

 "I guess you hear all the time that you look like Santa, eh?"

The man smiled and patted my hand. "My dear," he leaned close to whisper, "I AM Santa!"

For a moment - one brief, incredible, magical moment - I thought, "Santa! It IS you!"

(And, "God and Santa in the same week? What are the chances?)

Santa Claus! (courtesy of Pinterest)

We talked about all kinds of things, the jolly old elf man and I: the Reds, hockey, his accent, his love of children and fear of technology. We laughed at his hat and the faces of children and grown-ups as they spotted him - young and old alike, a look of wonder crossed many of their faces before they blinked and shook their heads before moving on, smiling.

 For 1/2 an hour we sat with our heads together, discussing my college program (training to support people with disabilities) and the wondrous journey that brought him to Ontario from the east, many years support people with disabilities.

Coincidence? Maybe.

But....maybe not.

A little while later, I posted about the happy encounter on Facebook and was delighted and gratified to see how many of friends "liked" the tale and how many responded happily to it. Just sharing a little bit of Christmas magic, I wrote to one friend, who'd messaged me privately to say "Thanks for that!"

And then into my inbox, came another message. This one was from an old friend who I've not seen face-to-face in 20 or more years, but whose life I watch with pleasure, via Facebook.

This is what she wrote:

Hi Liz!
I just wanted to leave u a little note. There are times when my days are well... Lets not go there but reading ur posts make me smile, laugh, always heartwarming, and sometimes tearful. Your an amazing women to share all ur tidbits because u are funny as hell!! You know just what to say! Just want to let you know u have inspired me. In the small ways u express yourself.
When I saw you were going back to school I too have decided to go back. ( hopefully I get admissions ;-) I just wanted to let you know keep it ur amazing and inspiring.
Ps hope this wasn't too awkward ... But I just wanted you to know ur post about God and Santa really just made my day!!

Jo xo

I don't share her words here to toot my own horn, but rather to show once more and the best way I know how, that the words we use - and the way in which we use them - can and do have an awesome, incredible, sometimes transformative power.

I have never been more aware of or focused on the power of words than I have been this week. Practically every encounter I've had during the past seven days has left me pondering the conversation long after it ended.I have been marveling over the profound effect we have on others when we speak our truth, call "Hello!" offer our thanks, our prayers, type a status, publish a blog post, a comment, a manifesto, when we whisper, "I need help," or "You hurt me," or  say "I love you."

And because I've had such amazing conversations - with God, Santa, in real life and via the 'net - I want to keep them going. Let me, dear readers, thank YOU for being such a strangely intimate and wonderful  part of my life and my family.

 If we're friends on Facebook, let me know in the comments HERE and I promise that - between now and year's end - I will send you some cyber love, via your inbox.

If I follow you on Twitter, comment HERE and  I'll tweet you 140 characters about why I'm happy you're my tweep.

(If we're connected by both, pick Facebook, OK? I tend to ramble on, as you know, so will need more space in which to do so...)

Let me tell you the story of how our friendship was born...

Who's in? Pass it on!

Friday, November 9, 2012

When Pinterest Takes Over....

This is Day FOUR of the "30-Posts-in-30-Days Challenge" and I'm already scrambling for stuff to write about.

This is disturbing because until the challenge was issued, I had tons of stuff milling about in my head, waiting to tumble forth here. As soon I accepted that challenge? Stuff took off running.

Stupid Stuff.

I began another post, went looking for a photo to illustrate my point and ended up on Pinterest.

Blog post? What blog post? Just one more...ok, two more....sixteen or so should do it.....

 I've been there for an hour, happily pinning and chuckling and sighing and dreaming. And since I have and I'm in the sharing (read: lazy-can't-write-for-crap) mood, I'll share some of my new faves here:

This could be the end of a relationship, a trip, a book or a  single perfect moment and I wanna stay in it forever:

Speaking of places, in my next life? I'm gonna live right here:
Irish Dreams
But not before I do this:
"Sometimes, you simply feel the need to skip down the centre of the road..."
and this:

But first, I'm gonna laugh my face off at this:

recognize myself in this and laugh even harder:
Gonna be thankful for this:

and, dear readers, all of you:


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Professor Poopypants & The Truth About Baileys

I'm gonna steal a page from Ironic Mom's blog and walk you through my week, by the numbers.

The reason for this is two-fold:

1. I'm lazy.
2. I'm lazy.

What? OK, three-fold:

3. I'm tired.

Here it is. A week in the life of a mama-student-blogger-with-too-much-chocolate-and-not-enough-closet-space:

5. Baskets of laundry that I have not even taken down stairs, let alone sorted through or washed.

1. Pair of clean panties I have left in my drawer (not including the ones that my husband insists I keep that remind him of our honeymoon but only remind me of how small my ass used to be...sigh...)

14: Times I had to call the Reds for breakfast on Wednesday. It would have been more, but I lost my voice (and my mind) during one particularly loud holler.

6: Times I called the Reds for breakfast this morning, before tossing their cereal in the garbage, like I'd threatened to do all those other times, but didn't.

1. The number of times I anticipate calling the Reds for breakfast tomorrow.

4. We're on the 4th "Captain Underpants" book around here. It includes character called Professor Poopypants. I don't know who laughs harder when I read it aloud, me or the Reds.

Professor Poopypants...bahhaahaahahahaahahaa!

32. The highest score my kids received from me (the one holding the scorecards) during their Dining Room Furniture Olympic High Jump game from last night.

2. Phone calls I expect to receive from the Children's Aid shortly, due to "questionable parenting practices."

10: Times a day I think, "I could take you home and love you forever!" about the little people I'm supporting on placement right now.

10: Times a day I think the same thing about their young mothers.

3. Glasses of Baileys I've enjoyed. Erm...make that 4.

2. Amazing kids I feel so blessed and grateful to call mine, always.

19. Tiny, perfect candy bars I've eaten since Monday yesterday.

497. Times people read yesterday's blog post and times my mind was blown away by that.

1. Love.

1. Life.

1. Need.

7. Of you who'd better be channeling Bono right now...

And you? What'd your week look like, by the numbers?
What's your favourite U2 song?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

To Love A Stranger

Took the Reds to the Golden Arches for supper. I had hoped to read the paper while they played, but the place was packed, so we ate outside the play area and had lessons on sitting-properly-in-public instead.

A well-coiffed, well-dressed woman sat alone two tables over, staring intently at her laptop and giggling at the Reds, though she was trying hard not to. In the end, I grinned over Luke's head at her: "I give up. Some days, they just crack me up."

And she laughed out loud and said, "They crack me up, too!" and congratulated me on having such great kids. I tossed back that I am indeed very, very lucky.

This woman, as it turns out, has not been as lucky. Over the next hour, I  heard about her divorce, her job loss, her childhood, the resentment she holds for her own mother,  who is long past the age of being able to set things right.

 I learned that she has one child. A son, long-grown. One who never calls or writes or visits. One who is very, very angry with his mother.

"But why?" I asked quietly. (What I meant was, "Tell me everything you did so that I can be sure not to do the same.")

She shrugged elegantly, splayed her hands in a gesture of defeated confusion, muttered something about not having read the same parenting book that I have and then promptly burst into tears.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit, damn-it-Liz-why-do-you-gotta-TALK-to-people-all-the-damned-time?

Mortified at her tears and my nerve, I fumbled through an apology and then wrung my hands together as  I gently mocked myself:  "Parenting book. Ha! Mostly, I spend each night before sleep counting all the ways in which I've damaged the children today!"

She blinked in surprise, wiped carefully at her tears and smiled sadly.

"I carry that with me every day, that knowledge that I damaged my son. That I did it all wrong. That I didn't do enough."

"You know, you're taking an awful lot of stuff onto your shoulders, mama. I don't know you, or the reasons for your son's anger, but at some point, we all become responsible for our own shit. At some point, we've gotta stop blaming our mothers and blame ourselves instead."

"But he hates me. He told me."

"That's hard. Why do you think that is?"

"Because he's gay."

"You think your son hates you because he's gay?"

"No. I find it hard to love him because he's gay, so he hates me."

I think my jaw dropped open and there was a weird rushing in my ears - like a distant roar, which I now recognize as rage, but then, I could only blink in shock.

Finally, I found my voice:

"Well, hell. That's huge. And sad. And frankly, if I were him, I probably wouldn't speak to you, either."

She glared at me then, furious: "I gave him everything. Every advantage. Every dream. Every chance. And he won't even talk to me!"

"You gave him everything but acceptance about who he really is. Because all he sees, in the end, is that you don't love him."

"Would you love your sons if they decided to be gay?"

"I love my sons. Period."

"Even if they won't ever give you grandchildren?"

"I love my sons. Period."

"But what if they love men?"

"Then I will have more sons to love."

We sat quietly for awhile, absorbing, assessing, fuming, watching the children play. Finally, I could stand the silence no longer and was moved to say this:

"I hope that this conversation has offered you something good. I hope that in the days and weeks to come, something will happen or a call will come and you'll think of my sons and me and this all make some sense."

"Why do you hope that?" she asked, resigned, a little bit bitter. A LOT angry.

"Because," interrupted an older man, sitting quietly nearby with his wife, cradling a coffee in his hand, "Because you have lost love. Hope's all you've got left."

We all looked back at the woman, whose eyes filled once more with tears. I cannot say that my heart ached for her, because it didn't. Not for her.

"I suppose it's worth a shot," she offered, reluctantly. "His birthday's on Friday. I suppose I could call."

Part of me hopes she does. Part of me prays that she doesn't.

All of me loves that man.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Little Mother

Little mother, I see you there,
 huddled inside a coat too small to cover
your belly, ripe with life.
At your side, a child twirls and dances,
barely steady on still-tiny legs.

The umbrella you hold shelters only your babies,
the one who dances, the one not yet born.
Upon your head alone, the rain falls,
cold and sharp, unrelenting.

You wait, you wait forever it seems,
for something to arrive that will take you from this place,
to somewhere warmer, better, brighter.

Watching you, from the blessed warm comfort of my car life,
I feel pity and fear and relief that I am [in] here, instead of there,
on the outside of everything that's supposed to matter.

You see me then, across the way and your chin comes up
and our eyes lock and hold.
And then your daughter's hand fumbles for yours and you
take it and squeeze and hang on tight and your eyes leave mine to
look instead at her face and smile...

Courage, I whisper, though you cannot hear because you are busy
being a mother,
a protector,
a warrior,
a survivor,
a shelter,
a home.

Have faith, I think and then suddenly, I wonder who it is that
I am whispering to because then I see that
 you are so much braver
 than anyone I have ever been.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Right to Bear Arms...

It's random story day here at Life With Bellymonster and I've got a silly one for you. Have been having a friendly convo with some American friends about the right (and desire) to carry a weapon - some of them do carry guns, some want one, others are on the fence.

Me, I'm not a gun person. I'm a "leave-my-house-unlocked-if-you've-chosen-to-rob-MY-house-over-all-the-other-pretty-ones-on-this-street-you-might-need-my-hand-me-down-TV-or-100-dollar-camera-because-clearly-you-have-bigger-issues" kind of person.

This both frustrates and amuses my husband, but even he wouldn't have a gun in the house, which, given the ferocity of some of our arguments is probably a good thing.

Anyways, a million years ago, I spent several weeks in northern Ontario, living with an older couple, as their "Girl Friday." I cooked, cleaned, ran errands, collected Dave from the local watering hole at supper time and generally made a nuisance of myself useful.

My second night there, Dave showed me where he kept his gun - I can't remember what kind it was, only that it was stubby and heavy in my hand. And cold. I remember mostly that it was cold.

In any case, I sat quietly while he demonstrated how to handle, load and clean it before finally clearing my throat to say, "Uh, Dave? This is a nice gun and all,  but I'm never gonna use it."

He frowned and sat down in the chair opposite mine, his face serious. "Liz, for as long as you live in my house, you will ABSOLUTELY know how to protect yourself, if I'm not here or Bonnie's not here. You WILL learn to use this so that you will be safe, unlike the poor young mother down the street who two years ago was brutally assaulted by an escaped convict, in her own home."


So, he taught me. And I paid attention, but my heart wasn't in it. Besides, I thought to myself, as I shifted the gun's weight from palm to palm, I'll never have the balls to actually shoot it.

A few weeks later, I woke in the middle of the night to what sounded like someone trying to break in to the house, through MY bedroom window. I skittered down the hall to Dave and Bonnie's room, dropped to the floor next to Dave's side of the bed, my heart beating so hard, I thought the sound of it alone might wake him.

"Dave," I whisper-shrieked to the side of his face, "DAVE! Someone's trying to get in my window!"

Before I could even summon my next breath, Dave had flung back the covers, landed on his feet and suddenly, his gun was in his hand. He handed me the cordless phone from his bedside table and lifted the bed covers again, motioning for me to climb in beside Bonnie, who was awake and alert, but silent.

"You hear me yell, you dial 911," he ordered and crept back down the darkened hallway.

Minutes passed, but felt like hours while I huddled next to Bonnie, my eyes on the empty doorway, ears straining for the sound of commotion. I don't think I breathed.

And then...a sound! It started low and built to a crescendo.....of laughter.


Clucking, Bonnie pulled me from the bed and together we made our way to Dave, whose hoots of laughter rolled from my room, where we found him peering out my window and pointing.

"I found your burglar, Liz!" he managed, in between mirthful snorts. His gun rested lightly on the windowsill, silent and still. Beyond it, past the neatly-trimmed bushes that sat just outside my window, I saw a large, dark shape, meandering away.

It was a bear.

Apparently, the berries on the bushes had drawn him over and the thudding and deep breathing I'd heard were his bear-noises of delight as he scarfed down  a little early-morning snack.

Photo courtesy of :

"Ha, ha!" I said weakly, as Dave's laughter died down. "Sorry about that!"

Bonnie patted my head kindly and wandered into the kitchen to make coffee. Dawn was breaking as we watched the bear pause in the neighbour's yard before loping off down the street, oblivious to the panic he'd caused.

Dave turned from the window, cupping the gun in his hand. "Well Liz," he said with a smile and a sigh, "It's a good thing I was here. Better me holding the gun than you, girl. Left to your own devices, you mighta shot that bear dead, eh?"

More chuckling while I pouted and huffed, "Whatever. You told me to use it if I needed to. I might have been able to, you know." At his chuckle, I scowled some more. "I might have, Dave!"

"Good thing you didn't, love." Dave moved to leave the room as the smell of freshly-brewed coffee floated in. "We'da had to charge you, Liz."

"Charge me? Why?"

"Bears are outta season!"

And you?
Tell me about your experience with things that go bump in the night!

Friday, October 12, 2012

On Social Media and Cyber-Meanies

I love the Internet.

 I love that I am Facebook friends with practically every person I've ever known. Love that, with a click of the "Publish" button, I can share my life here at Life With Bellymonster with family across the pond or friends just across town.

Twitter just plain delights me and I have spent many a happy hour on Pinterest, dreaming and repinning pictures or sayings or recipes that catch my eye and my fancy.

I love the immediacy of email and the weird freedom that comes from sharing thoughts through the computer instead of face-to-face. Sometimes it's just easier, even for a person like me, who will talk to anyone, anytime.

But sometimes, even I wonder if what we've created isn't entirely good or wise.

The news today is full of Amanda Todd, a young B.C. girl who was bullied to death, via the Internet. She posted about her deepest pain via YouTube just weeks ago and earlier this week, undone by vicious words and actions of strangers, she committed suicide.

My heart aches for her parents and others who loved her. My heart aches for the thousands of other children whose self-esteem and sense of worth and safety lessen every day at the hands of faceless, nameless strangers (or enemies disguised as friends) at the other end of a keyboard.

At the other end of things, a Canadian mother named Jessica Stilwell has brought the ire of an entire nation down onto her head, in less than a dozen posts on a newly-created blog: Crazy Working Mom: Diary of a Mother on the Brink of Snapping.

 Discouraged by her family's refusal to pitch in to keep up with the housework, she gave up the picking up and (encouraged by family and friends on Facebook) blogged about the ensuing chaos.  Written with humour and heart, Jessica's story is honest and real and  messy and gosh darn it, people, going on strike from domestic drudgery is something I've wished to do myself, from time to time.

Haven't we all?

Needless to say, I was shocked and dismayed to discover that so many people, smugly seated at desks or laptops the world over, can do little more than criticize her actions, her marriage, her parenting, her intelligence, her life. Most commenters, it seems, have nothing nice to say at all.

And therein lies the rub.

Seems to me that, as time passes, more and more people log on to news feeds simply to spew venom and pass along hatred. And, it seems to me, more and more people will have their voices silenced - some, like Amanda Todd, forever - because a virtual stranger typed before s/he thought

What are we becoming, as a social media society? Is THIS what it's all about? Tearing down our mothers, our daughters for sharing themselves with us? Does it make those who rip into a stranger feel bigger, wiser, stronger, better when they do? Do those who write things like, "She did it to herself!" or "Sorry, but it's all your own stupid fault!" truly believe that and if so, WHY?

Why do you think it's OK to blast a young girl or a middle-aged mother or a troubled boy or a lonely man for sharing their truth? When did we all become virtual judges and when, pray tell, did we get so damned mean about it?

And finally, why would you choose to hurt with words - typed, spoken, hurled, sung - instead of heal?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Giving thanks...

It's Thanksgiving, my favourite holiday of the year.

At Thanksgiving in 2003, Mark and I married under perfect blue skies, surrounded by everyone we love:

At Thanksgiving in 2005, we brought tiny Matthew home:

At Thanksgiving in 2007, Luke joined our family:

Tonight, the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful for all the moments we've shared since, but mostly, I am thankful for this one:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Poem For Luke, As He Turns FIVE!

What happened to my baby, the super cranky li'l dude?
The boy who waited till after bath to say that he had poo'd?

What happened to my tiny Red, whose pant legs had to be rolled?
The grouchy kid who rarely, if ever, did as he'd been told?

Where has he gone, my curmudgeon child, the one with the cheeky grin?
I only see him sometimes now, in the set of a firm, dimpled chin.
When once he shied from kisses, now Luke doles them out with glee.
He often hugs me softly these days, when once he'd punch my knee.

Diapers and wipes are things of the past: he's proud of his toileting skills.
And he carries his plate to the table, with only occasional spills.

Not long ago, the phone was a toy, that he'd chew on with great delight.
These days, he's apt to pick it up when it rings and sometimes he holds it upright.

Books, once the things he'd rip and tear into, with maniacal glee and aplomb
are now his most treasured possessions: "Please can you read to me, Mum?"

Where has he gone, the small lad who would tumble and wail his way to my lap?
He's too busy for bandaids and picks himself up now, often muttering, "Crap!"

Where has the time gone, these halcyon days, when the morning would stretch on for hours?
Now he is five and he's fierce and he's tough, possessed with fine boy Super Powers.

From birth until now, Luke has worshipped his brother, the way that I'd hoped he might do:
 best friends ('til they're not), they share secrets, my love,
fine red hair and a bedroom of blue.


That cross newborn boy who filled spots in my heart that I hadn't known were missing,
will, today, be five and I'm lost in these years, smiling through tears, reminiscing.

Sweet darling Luke, five years ago, you came into the world from my tummy.
Thank you for being your incredible self and for choosing me to be your mummy.

Happy Birthday, Took-Wookers.

I love you.