The Man In Our House

Miss S saw a man walking down the stairs towards our basement. He was dressed in white and held a candle in an old fashioned holder. He didn’t say anything, didn’t look at her, just walked down the stairs and disappeared.

My husband, who was doing dishes in the kitchen had his back to the stairwell and missed the whole event.

This story didn’t reach my ears until earlier this month when I overheard Miss S talking about the man’s presence with her sisters.

When I asked Miss S what he looked like she jumped to the junk drawer, pulled out a pencil and a piece of paper, and started sketching his nose. Over and over she drew noses, trying to get the slope and rounded tip perfect.

This isn’t the first time our children have seen something in our house.

One morning when toddler Miss Q and I were lazing around in my bed, she suddenly started to giggle. “What are you laughing at?” I asked.

“That man’s making faces at me,” she said.

“What man?” I asked.

“The man who’s hanging in the corner,” she replied like she was talking about the weather, not seeing dead people.

In a completely separate moment, and without prior knowledge of her sister’s observations years earlier, toddler Miss S told me there was a man in my bedroom… in the same corner.

So is our house haunted? Has the man who used to live here come back? Does he like to watch me sleep?

When we bought our 1950’s home eleven years ago, I asked the realtor if anyone had died in the house. She told me no, as that was something people had to declare when selling a home.

Our house has had three owners: us, a single man, and a family with four children. The latter lived here for forty years. So if none of them passed away in the house, maybe someone they didn’t have to declare did?

When my grandma was a young girl living in Victoria, she came home from school at lunchtime to learn that her grandfather had died upstairs in the guest bedroom that morning. She stood on her front doorstep and called across the street to her friend, “Hey (friend’s name) guess what? My grandpa died!”

Her mother was horrified and sent her back to school as quickly as possible.

Don’t worry if you live in Victoria, her childhood home was bulldozed long ago.

Victoria is among the most haunted cities in Canada. This, we are currently capitalizing on.

On ghost tours, my friends and I have heard heavy footsteps in empty stairwells that have stopped in front of us, then continued on the next flight above our heads. We have smelled cigar smoke so putrid that we looked sideways at each other, and then accusingly at the group to see who was poisoning our still forming lungs, only to find we were the only ones who could smell it.

There is a ghost who haunts a golf course by the water. Her name is Deloris. She is most often spotted in her wedding gown and if you ring the bell between the sixth and seventh holes, she is said to appear.

One year, for my friend’s birthday, we took her down and forced her to summon the ghost.

The peaceful, starlit April evening was shattered by clangs from the bell. Moments after the final gong, one of our friends, who had been hiding halfway down the green, appeared cloaked in a white bed sheet. As the birthday girl screamed and tried to run, I couldn’t move I was laughing so hard.

In all my trips to the golf course prior and since, I’ve never seen Deloris or her murderous husband for that matter.

There might be something to it.

There might be nothing.

I have zero explanation for the stench of cigarette smoke that occasionally fills pockets of our non-smoking household.  And I cannot tell you why our girls need, want and like buddies when venturing downstairs, but are okay with the idea that a ghostly man might live with us.

I guess he’s part of the family.


Children of 2016

This last month I signed school district permission forms for all three of my girls from kindergarten to grade four to have Internet access, and their own email accounts.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.

As a family we try to limit our girls Internet access and exposure. Though they aren’t completely in the dark ages. As I type this, my husband is playing WarCraft, a game he has now successfully introduced to all three of our girls. They say they’re in it for the cute battle animals, WarCraft lite, but I know it’s a gateway. Insert eye-roll.

When we let them, our girls also play games on our iPads, know how to turn on Netflix, work the TV remote, and love Mario, but if you peer through our windows on any given Sunday, you’ll see them creating with each other, imagining with toys and listening to Stuart McLean at noon.

As parents born in the 70’s, who are now raising children sixteen years into the millennium, it feels as though we’re walking a technology tightrope. We don’t want our children to be left behind, but we want them to hold on to their innocence for as long as possible.

And phones are everywhere. And, a sarcastic surprise, not every parent has our values. Kids Miss S’s age (7), and slightly younger, run around with their parents’ old phones, making videos and snapping pictures like they’re going out of style.

Miss Q has confided that some of her friends are less than a year away from being allowed to have their own YouTube channels; one click away from international fame.

Suddenly we’re talking to our girls, Miss C (4) included, about how to navigate friends when we don’t want our picture taken, or how to act if we do. We’ve given them permission to blame their old fashion parents for not releasing their images. All the while knowing how hard it is to zig when everyone else has zagged.

The truth is ‘good luck’ seems more appropriate, as we shove them off into the abyss.

Keeping our daughters’ faces off of social media has been a challenge over the last 9.5 years. Not because of their adorableness and my trigger upload finger, but because snapping a picture and posting it seems to have become kin to breathing in our society. People do it without a second thought to personal space, privacy or asking.

Birthday parties are the worst. It’s gotten to the point where I consider sending them in t-shirts that say, “Don’t post my picture.” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve dropped a child off, thought as I’m walking away from the party location, “I should’ve told them to keep her off Facebook.” Shook my head thinking, I was being overly cautious, then opened my computer later that night to find my child’s face smiling back at me.

Of course, if they’re out in public and happen to be in a crowd shot, like they were last weekend when we saw the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, publishing their image is unavoidable. We brought them to the event knowing the world’s media would be there. I mean, seriously, it was the future King.

But when they’re in friends’ backyards running through sprinklers, or in living rooms dancing? That’s kid time. They’re having fun, oblivious of the cameras potentially uploading their every move. It’s that fracture of trust that makes my inner mama bear grumble.

How can we teach children to be free spirits if they are constantly aware or wary of cameras? Are we interrupting their lives for the money shot? Stunting their growth, by making them self-conscious?

The phrase ‘qui prodest’ or ‘who benefits’ comes to mind. Sure we’re all prouder than proud of our kids and their accomplishments. I actually, surprise, enjoy seeing pictures of friend’s children succeeding and living life to the fullest. I completely get that social media connects us all and is a great and easy tool to keep in touch with friends in far off corners of the globe.

That is part of the reason why I started this blog. And yes, the fact I write about my children, but refuse to put their faces on social media, does seem hypocritical. The difference is my words allow readers to form their own images, whereas photos show what they actually look like, for better or worse, the moment the picture was taken.

But something tugs at my soul when I stop and think about what we’re possibly doing to childhood. Are our kids becoming dancing bears?

Over the years when I’ve asked well-meaning people to take down my children’s images, I’ve heard everything from, “My social media privacy settings are air tight,” to “Only people who know her know it’s her.” I’ve had people look at me as though I have three heads. I’ve been made to feel like I’ve ruined the essence of events.

The thing is, I hate asking people to take down our girls’ pictures. I feel awkward, like I’m going to make the person I’m asking feel awkward, but how could they know unless I say something. Ugh. How Canadian.

For me, it all boils down to trust. All I want is for my child to smile for the camera, or continue their temper tantrum, and not question if their image is staying in-house. I always tell them if I’m sending the picture to Grandma or Granny, and they enjoy helping me with the message and pressing ‘send’.

When they’re old enough, which seems to be sooner rather than later, I want my girls to have control over their images and social media presence, without ghosts of photos archived past haunting them.  This is something I hope the school district echoes now that I’ve granted permission.

It’s all about choices as parents. And if you choose to document your children’s lives through pictures on social media, continue on, just kindly leave my children out.img_0064_2





Start Of Something Good

one-cmI was not that mum. You know, the one who was pulled over by the police for smoking a celebratory the kids are back in school joint? Oh, no. I was the exact opposite: mum in a puddle as she drove around singing, “One is the loneliest number…”

Today Miss C started kindergarten. She spent a whopping 105 minutes in elementary school, 9:00 – 10:45am, shorter than she ever spent at preschool, even still, my husband suggested I needed a towel instead of Kleenex.

I’m told it gets easier, so perhaps tomorrow I’ll downgrade to a hand towel, and by Monday, it will be a facecloth.

As for Miss C?  She got sick of everyone asking her if she was excited for kindergarten.Her emotions have ranged from, annoyance, to flashing a sideways thumb, to flat out overwhelmed tears.

Thanks to her ups and downs and in-betweens, my own feelings on the subject have been silenced. Selling this amazing opportunity, has forced me to change the words I use around her.

Of course I’d love for her to continue to be my fearless adventurer, shopping consultant, duet partner for the rest of my life. But in the words of Phil Keoghan, “the world is waiting,” so I suppose it’s time for my cub to start her race… but only for 358 minutes a day, Monday to Friday. Sorry, world, I’ve got her on weekends.

Just as her sisters before her, Miss C has morphed into an inquisitive, too smart for her own good, little girl. This summer we’ve covered everything from why people don’t throw dead bodies into the garbage when they die, to, “It just looks like Prince William and Princess Catherine are going to jail,” when a motorcade passed us on the highway and I told her the police were most likely practicing for the royal visit later this month.

I’ve always said Miss C’s the type of kid who likes a newspaper and cup of coffee in the morning. And watching her shop with her fun money on Wednesday served to confirm how mature her thought process is at 4.5.

She bought nail polish. The first of my girls to ever wander a toy store for forty-five minutes and come out with a, “My sissies won’t ever want to wear this because it’s too sparkly,” bottle of polish. At least it’s functional.

Oh and she now wants a unicorn head mask for her birthday, so at night she can poke her head up from the bottom bunk and scare Miss Q, who sleeps on the top.

Today, with my three girls at the same school, grades four, two and kindergarten, my world has just shifted. I’ve known this moment’s been coming ever since I started having babies. People often told me how amazing it would be, I’d finally get to go back to work full-time, write, workout… In short: have my pre-kid life back.

But the thing is, I never needed any of that. Raising my girls through each of their first five years has been my most favourite thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never felt so whole as a person as when I was trucking off for an adventure with my three girls in tow.

And now, for the first time in 9.5 years, there isn’t a baby to nurse, child to entertain, hand to wipe – okay there was, my husband’s.

After we dropped the littles off, he put his bike together and then asked if I had a baby wipe. “You’re not who they were meant for,” I accused, handing him the package.

So the question remains, now that my littles are on track to leave their marks on the world, what am I going to do?

Once again, as it was ten years ago, the possibilities are endless, though I’ve been told by many a wise been there, done that mama, to keep working part-time as long as I can. Apparently I’ll feel needed again when my girls become teenagers.

Miss C, for the record, let us leave her in her new classroom with zero issues.  She reported school was “good” and when asked for details said, “I forgot.”

How quickly they learn.


Pretty nails for first day are a must for all kindergarteners.

Boiled and Squished

In our family, the first case of a mother murdering her child’s pet was recorded in the late 80s when my mother boiled my brother’s (Uncle G’s) pet shrimp. Before you side with my mum on the tastiness of her crime, know this: my brother had caught his friends with a net off the dock our sailboat was moored at for the night.

He had lovingly cradled each shrimp as he slipped him or her into the seawater pool he’d made out of an ice cream bucket.

They had names.

Uncle G had naively trusted our mother when her hooks hands took his catch and rested them beside her freshly lit alcohol stove. But if he had stopped and looked at our mum, really studied her, he would have seen her eyes had turned from brown to black and a singular strand of drool threatened to drop from the corner of her upturned lips.

Of course, if Uncle G had told his mother they weren’t for consumption, his high-pitched scream harmonizing with the shrimp as they were unceremoniously plunged into the boiling water wouldn’t be seared into my brain.

The second case of peticide happened yesterday. In the hot parking lot. We were walking up to our car after a refreshing swim when I noticed a little lizard speeding away from us on the edge of the yellow curb.

The girls ooh’d and awed at the little fella. When he or she stopped, the girls got up close and personal with him. The cuteness of the moment was not lost on anyone.

Suddenly, their new friend turned. He went rogue. Charging off the curbed away from the trio and the manicured lawn, he came straight at me.

Visions of the lizard running up my leg and into my shorts filled my brain. I danced a silly dance; trying to show my daughters I was cool with the moment their pet went berserk – he didn’t scare me.

But I wasn’t cool nor at peace. I gave the Lords A Leaping a leap for their money. He was out for blood. Not my bare toes. Not on my watch.

“Where did he go?” I asked, quickly feeling my shorts for a stowaway.

“You squished him,” Miss Q said.

“I did not.”

“Yes, you did. You actually squished him,” Miss S replied.

Their faces were long and solemn.

“I didn’t.” I spun around and lifted up my foot. There, under the sole of my cork Birkenstock was the lizard, his soul no longer contained by his scales. “Shoot,” I said.

My girls crouched around their deceased pet. “Poor lizard.”

“Why did you step on him?”

“I wasn’t trying to – I didn’t mean – he ran at me.” Anything I came up with sounded lame. Thirty seconds before that wild animal had been poised to attack – both he and I knew it.

“Sorry, Dudes.” I crouched down with them. He wasn’t moving, or breathing but his head and upper body still looked whole. “Guess he’ll make a crow happy now,” I said, trying to lighten the mood; illustrate the circle of life, but knowing all the while I was going down in their books, like my mother before me, as a pet murderer.

Summer Interruption

IMG_2565This summer vacation has been interrupted by the arrival of three boxes of school supplies.

School supplies.

If it weren’t the middle of summer, the arrival of brand new boxes of crayons, pencils and felts would fill me with joy – there’s nothing like a fresh box of pencil crayons. But all the boxes do now is remind me that this phenomenal summer will be over before any of us are ready.

Don’t get me wrong. Education is important. One has to only peek across the border at the American election to realize that.

The fact there are three school supply boxes sitting in my basement, signals my official graduation from preschool.

Yes, after six consecutive years of co-op preschool, I will be starting this next school year all in at elementary school.

Co-op preschool often gets a bad rap amongst parents. Over the last six years I’ve heard it all: too much work, too much fundraising, parents are too intense. I have to admit at one time or another, all of that was true.

Parents of preschoolers are some of the hardest working people I know. Anything added to their already overflowing plates can be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, tips over the cocktail, sends them running for the hills.

But if you look for it, there is a quiet, almost beautiful co-op preschool existence below the jagged noise.

Thanks to co-op preschool, my husband and I became better parents. We learned to trust other people with the care of our children, which believe you me, was not a small feat for this mama. We learned not to sweat the small stuff and how to separate kid problems from adult ones – though I admit, we still get suckered into kid arguments over who has rights to a toy… annnd, like clockwork, three seconds after we’ve put our parental foot down, everyone is playing harmoniously with the offending toy.

On the flip side, our children learned at ages three and four, that they are important, and that there are adults, who aren’t their parents, whom they can trust and celebrate paintings, friendships, and washing their hands for snack with.

I never thought I’d be so quick to miss our preschool years, but as there are now three school supply boxes in my basement; the calendar has flipped to August 1st; and Miss C is catapulting towards kindergarten, I am more aware than ever how precious the preschool bubble was; how our children will never again be surrounded by unconditional love and safety the way they were when they walked through the gate to their preschool.

Thankfully, the school supplies will not be opened for at least another 36 days, and this mama doesn’t have to do what she did last year. Instead, our August will be filled with salt air, tall trees and ice cream, so when November comes, we’ll have something to fuel our daydreams.

danI’m hard pressed to say who was the perfect age for our trip. Everyone found moments of inspiration and places of great content.

Our girls were pushed out of their rather sanitized existence, and urged, guided and, er, forced to try everything.

They rose to the challenge; falling in love with rides they never thought they’d like, and finding inner strength for ones they couldn’t wait to get off of.

One such ride was Splash Mountain.

Miss S declared Splash Mountain her favourite, before riding it. Annnnd the minute the log moved, she crumbled.

This is how, in yet another priceless mothering moment, I found myself reaching forward, hugging my shrieking six-year-old with all my might, as our log teetered on the edge of the 50ft drop.

You do not want to be leaning forward as your log nose-dives into the brambles. You do not want to choose between somersaulting out of said log, or letting go of your petrified child.

Fortunately, the photographic evidence taken 1/3 of the way down our plunge reveals I chose both: one arm around Miss S, one arm bracing the plastic log. Fewf.

Miss Q and Miss C, on the other hand, loved Splash Mountain.

It is interesting to note that Splash Mountain, with all the warnings of the 50ft drop, has no seatbelts; but The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, a 60 second, one-level meander, and I do mean meander, through Pooh’s daydream has a safety bar.

Thankfully, Miss C had either an uncle or father to act as her seatbelt on her multiple voyages with Briar Rabbit, but still.

Incidentally, Pooh’s ride was one of Miss C and Miss S’ favourites. Mad props to Grandma, who took one for the team, agreeing over, and over, and over again to ride with them.

Mini cheer for Uncle G who also indulged my daughters’ multiple requests for him to be their responsible plus one.

Team building continued at It’s A Small World. Let’s be honest: once through is great, cheerful, joyous and, yes, I’ll say it: pleasant. Two, three, four times?Its

I lost count of how many times Miss S and Miss C rode the 20-minute ride, but Grandma was definitely a good sport.

Historical side note: my mum and her family went on the ride when it debut in the New York World’s Fair in 1964 at the UNICEF pavilion under the name: Children of the World.

In the no rhyme or reason category, a ride Miss S enjoyed, but her sisters did not, was the Haunted Mansion. She ain’t afraid of no ghosts… unless they’re in our basement.

aAutopia was our pint-sized Danica Patricks’ absolute favourite. Even though she was a hair too short to work both the gas and the wheel, it was the only ride Miss S wanted to do on our last day.

We tried twice, once in the early morning, and once at dusk, and both times after waiting 20 and 40 minutes, the ride was closed because a “wild animal was on the tracks.”

Ironically, Disney’s “wild animal” was – wait for it – a Canada goose.

Apparently it’s not Disney’s policy to run them over.

However, because we’d been goosed twice, we were able to walk straight to the front of the line at 10pm.

Watching Miss Q drive off, alone, into the full-moon Saturday night gave me pause, or rather, a reason to step on the gas. This move reignited Miss S’s cackles of glee as she held the wheel and expertly steered after her sister.

Nine more years, Mr. Toad, nine more years.

A side note about Autopia: it stinks. The fumes from the “gas powered by Honda” cars are plentiful, and possibly the reason Disney has tucked a smoking pit next door. Hopefully Honda will soon take a cue from the fact the ride is in Tomorrowland, and splurge for those new-fangled electric cars everyone is talking about.

In four-year-old land, Miss C started her vacation by telling me she did not like Disneyland. “I’m not going to like any of the rides you know.” She punctuated this by crossing her arms and frowning.

Her displeasure with Disney melted like Olaf in summer on the Dumbo ride. She loved that big-eared elephant so much she bought herself a stuffed baby Dumbo and now thinks I’m crazy for thinking she said she didn’t like Disneyland.

Seeing Disney through the eyes of a nine, six and four year old was enough for this mum. In my dreams, the trip was never as grand as what it became.

We couldn’t have created this reality without a massive boost from my mum-in-law, and for that we are eternally grateful.

The chorus of the diamond celebration parade is When can we do this again?

And, my friends, I’m not sure we ever could.


60Seven miles. This is the minimum distance we walked while in Disneyland and California Adventure. Yes, that says miles.

While most families were getting an early start to the park, leaving at lunch and returning after dinner, this family arrived around 9:30am, and staying long after dusk. No siestas. No meltdowns. No strollers. No wheelchairs. Nothing. Nada.

On our last day my Fitbit tracked 10.6 miles. We came in at 7:00am, Miss C, my husband and his mum left after the parade, while and Miss Q, Miss S and I stayed until 11pm.

Indulge me for a wee moment: we have the most amazing kids ever.

Of course it’s easy when you’re in the happiest place on earth, and everywhere you turn there’s something around every corner for your kids to do, eat or see.

We had five-day passes. This meant we picked which park we wanted to go into and stayed there all day. It worked out really well, and my only regret was not upgrading to an annual pass so we could return tomorrow.

We were in Disneyland on Tuesday, May 17th, Wednesday, May 18th and Saturday, May 21st.

The crowds were light on Tuesday and Wednesday and heavy on Saturday, thanks to the grads, combining with the usual weekend busy. But overall we never felt squashed or deprived.

Like any good mum, before we left, I tried to research all the ins and outs of Disneyland: where to go, what to see, how to be the master of FastPasses. But in the end, I had to stop. All the tips and tricks were hurting my head. There are many, many, many different ways to see Disney. For this mama, figuring it out as we meandered through the park was the only way to go.

Having said that, we used four FastPasses: twice for Splash Mountain, once for Soaring Over California and once for Radiator Springs Racers.

Though I wouldn’t plan days around them, I would say it was a lot of fun passing the line of people who’d been waiting for the same ride for over an hour.

A lot of fun.cc

Revisiting the food situation, we went to Target almost directly after we arrived and bought bottled water, boxes of tea, and some snacks for the week.

It costs $10 one-way to Target by taxi from the Best Western Park Place and though it was nice to have the bottled water, really nice, you can also get free ice water from the snack places in Disneyland, so this trip may have been excessive.  But we had tea, and probably should have bought carrots.

Every day we went into the park my husband’s backpack was filled with five bottles of water, and bagels and cream cheese from the hotel’s continental breakfast. Security didn’t seem to mind his extra cargo; in fact, it was yours truly who kept getting asked to step out of line and stroll through the metal detector.

On our last day, I found the source to the containers of grapes I’d seen people snacking upon: Main Street Starbucks. For $4.99US you could purchase containers of real-live produce.

I felt like the Oprah of red jewels as I doled out containers of fruit to outstretched hands. You get grapes, and you get grapes, and you get grapes.

Souvenir wise, the sweatshirts we got the girls pretty much sums up their experiences: Miss C got Elsa, Miss S got Belle and Miss Q got Chewbacca.

All I wanted were silhouettes of the girls from Silhouette Studios on Main Street. Not to sound like a used car salesman, but they were a super deal: $9US for two copies of the portrait. For $23US more you can have them framed in a Disney frame that has 24 hidden Mickey’s in it.

I may have said ‘no’ to the frame, returned to my hotel room, instantly regretted that ‘no’ and sped-walked through the parade crowds to the store to buy the frames at 10pm.

Every time I pass the silhouettes on the wall, I am thankful I had that burst of crazy. They are lovely.

To make them, the girls took turns sitting in a wooden chair and staring at the wall. The woman who did the silhouettes sat in her chair, looked at the girls’ profiles and snip-snip-snip was done. Skeptical Sally might wonder if they actually looked like the girls and I will confirm: we have three different silhouettes that look exactly like our girls.

Have I mentioned we all want to go back?  But, Miss S tells me we need to wait until she turns ten. Not sure why, ten, but we’ve got three years to save.


Mum Travelling Tip:

  • Pack clean Ziplock bags. I don’t know why I tossed them into my suitcase in the first place, but they were very handy for holding bagels.
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