Thursday, February 26, 2009

Here comes the sun

I never did share any pictures of our vacation in Key West a few weeks back.

It didn't seem appropriate, somehow, to hold up and celebrate the wispy snippets of happiness that we managed to steal even as Rob's mom lay in a hospital suffering terribly from the ill effects of her first round of chemotherapy.

But she is better now - her improvement over the past week has been so dramatic that it feels something like a miracle and we are enjoying her relative good health even as we look towards next week when she faces her next scheduled round of treatments.

And these days, these days we are feeling hopeful. We are still heavy with stress and worry - just like we were the entire time we were away - but it no longer feels as if reveling in moments of joy will surely tempt fate to steal them away again.

We needed these days and we needed this joy. We need it still: I expect the memory of it will be our sustenance as we all continue down the long and difficult road ahead.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spring chicken

Are you dreaming of spring?

Our gal LeeAnne is busy developing warm weather recipes for Canadian Family magazine and she shares one of her favorites over at Don Mills Diva Recipes and Reviews.

Check it out!

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The curious case of the toddler Graham

Evidence is emerging that the soul of an old man - an old British man at that - lurks inside the body of my precocious three-year-old.

To wit, these gems have emerged, unsolicited, in the past few days...

"You know Mommy, that reminds me of an old story I once heard..." delivered in an attempt to forestall bedtime, with a knowing smile and a sage tilt of the head. (Seriously: he did the head tilt.)

"Pish, posh Mommy - don't be so silly."

And, after I apologized for losing my temper and screaming at raising my voice with him:

"That's quite okay Mommy, but I don't expect Daddy is going to be very thrilled with you."


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Sunday, February 22, 2009


You might think I have a hell of a lot of nerve to call someone out for overexposing their child.

There have been times, many times, in this space where I have conspired to use Graham's antics to elicit from my readers gentle and knowing laughs.

At least I hope they are gentle and knowing laughs, because it is those kinds of laughs, and only those kind of laughs, that I am shooting for.

My boy is my heart, my whole heart. And the thought of ever mining his life for different kinds of laughs - cheap, jocular laughs, laughs born of fear or confusion or at the expense of his dignity or self respect - makes me feel ill.

And that's exactly what I told the reporter from the Globe and Mail newspaper when she interviewed me for a story published last week about the ethics of this Youtube video...

It bothered me to watch it.

A few years ago a couple of teenagers were arrested for smoking up (with marijuana) the two-year-old toddler they were charged with babysitting. A shocking and heartbreaking cell phone video shown on news programs depicted the poor, wee lamb stumbling around dazed and confused while his supposed protectors laughed uproariously.

My logical mind knows the boy in the video posted above is in a very different situation from the toddler in that video, but my initial, visceral reaction to both videos was the same: I want to protect those boys.

There is a difference, I believe, between a parent who holds up their child's antics in search of gentle, knowing chuckles and a parent who seeks to make them the butt of the joke. There is a line. And even if I can't quite articulate exactly where that line is, I think the video above crosses it.

And I don't care that some of the on-line comments to the Globe story assert that my worrying about having a laugh on a kid is just another example of the kind of over-protective, over-wrought parenting that is destined to create a generation of weaklings. (I don't care much what on-line commentors to that paper think in any case).

Because I know that at different times throughout his life, Graham will face scrutiny and teasing and perhaps even ridicule and as much as it pains me, I wouldn't have it any other way: people need to look at life from all sides in order to be fully rounded.

But he is my son. I am his mother, his safety and his home.

And you will never, ever, see the likes of that video in this space.

*Edited to add: I reposted the video - his dad has taken the original down and replaced it with the new one above that also runs ads promoting a web site he's created in order to cash in on his son's notoriety*

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Calling all celiacs

I believe in the power of the blogosphere.

I believe it has the power to bring together people and ideas and advice.

And knowledge.

Here's the deal:

Rob's mom had her first chemotherapy treatment last week and it did not go well. She suffered mightily from every possible damn side effect, was re-admitted to the hospital twice and has resided there since Monday.

What is complicating her ability to tolerate the chemo treatments is apparently her body's inability to retain potassium. She can take it in, has been taking it in, under medical supervision even, but her body will not retain it. She and her doctors know this inability to retain potassium is related to her celiac disease, but no one is quite sure how to get around it.

She feels, we feel, that what is lacking is someone fully versed in the effects of celiac disease on the body and specifically how a celiac sufferer might counteract his or her body's inability to retain potassium.

Any bloggy angels out there with any thoughts on this? Please e-mail me directly at

Thanks to each and every one of you for your kind comments and e-mails this past week. I expect to be back soon with a substantive post because this break has made it clear to me that, even in the midst of stress, this space, and all of you, sustain me.

Oh yes you do.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

If only

If only you could go on vacation and return to find that life had miraculously sorted itself out in your absence.

If only a week of sunshine could keep darkness at bay for at least as long.

If only the purest and most beautiful things in life truly had the power to keep sickness and pain and ugliness from hurting the people we love the most.

I need to take a few days off to attend to my responsibilities and to love my family - hope to be back in better form soon.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

My window

*Frog and Toad Are Still Friends is one of the first blogs I ever read and it remains one of my favorite. Time and time again its author Beck makes me catch my breath with the beauty of how she adept she is at capturing the poignancy of everyday life. Enjoy..."

My house is an old, old house and has an old house’s tall, narrow windows.

For several years after we moved in, we just never bothered putting up curtains – we were too poor to buy any that we liked, for one, and for another it just never occurred to us. Windows were for us to look out of, and it never occurred to us that people could look back in. It wasn’t until we finally did put up curtains on every window that it began to bother me to stand at the window exposed and looking out, with unseen people possibly returning my gaze.

I started blogging after a very serious, near-fatal illness nearly three years ago. I had read blogs in a casual sort of way before then, never commenting and not one of those blogs, oddly enough, do I read now, so I knew that they existed and I’d actually started a handful of short-lived blogs before then but lacked the compulsion and self-discipline to keep at them for longer than a week or two.

But then I got very sick and for months afterwards there was this dark curtain about me – how sick was I? Was I, in fact, dying? And it was that pressing question that started me at my blog, which was from the start light-hearted and silly while the real me was still laying down for much of the day, my actual bruised heart stuttering within me. I deleted that blog recently with a great feeling of relief, and although I now wish that I’d saved a handful of posts, I don’t really regret it. The false cheer of those early posts bothered me.

I think we’re lying (to ourselves, but still) when we say that we’re writing for the future, for some later version of our children who will read us, maybe, with understanding eyes. My blog definitely has a short lifespan – it will all be deleted someday, although I will make a point of saving a few things this time around, like the roses I kept from when my husband and I were not yet husband and wife but very, very young and dating. It’s not meant for my children, but I am writing for someone, and who is this invisible audience, this reading eye?

Doesn’t it bother you to have strangers reading your private stuff?” an acquaintance asked me recently, which I responded to with a bemused shrug. Obviously not – I’m not a secretive person to begin with, but rather a smiling, friendly sort, quick to befriend and confide…. So my heart is pretty much on constant display anyhow, which is just as risky with one person as it is with one hundred, really.

The whole idea of what I write as being private, though, is a bit of a hard one for me to think about. After I was so sick, I felt very damaged inside for a very long time, like I was still half-dead and so when I started blogging, the me I wrote about was as much a creation as it was a reflection of any private reality. I wrote because of my paralysing fear that I was vanishing, that my hands would quickly become dust. So blogging was a rebellion of sorts, a way of making myself again out of mere words.

My friend worries that I have turned a light on in my life, that I am leaning out a bright window into the darkness, seen by unseen eyes. But what I primarily see is my own reflection, thrown back against the darkness, my shadowy, constructed self.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Trolls in art class

*Did I mention I love people from Texas? Kellan is a perfect example: exuberant, funny and straight-taking. She has a fanatical following over at her blog - On The Upside - and posts like this are precisely why...*

Hi, Kelly's readers - I'm Kellan.

I am so honored that Kelly asked me to guest post here on her fabulous site while she is gone on vacation in Key West. Kelly and I have been friends for a long time and I love her to death. I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet her at the BlogHer '08 Conference in San Francisco last year and she is just as wonderful in person as I knew she would be!

Thanks, Kelly - have a really great trip!

I have four children - 16 year old twin daughters, Courtney & Chloe, an 11 year old son, Billy and a 7 year old daughter, Alexis. On my site I generally write stories about these wonderful children. The following story is about Alexis.


When Alexis was little(er), ... she used to believe that every show on TV could be rewound to watch over - because her favorite movies on VHS tapes could be rewound to be watched again and again.

It took a while to get her to understand that this was .. not so.

When Alexis was little(er) ... she used to think that anytime you needed money you should just go up to an ATM machine and extract money - it was there - free - for the taking.

It took a while to get her to understand that this was ... not so.

When Alexis was little(er) ... she used to believe that dinosaurs were real and lived in the forest with the fairies and the trolls.

One day, not long ago, Alexis was near me in the kitchen.She was sitting at the table drawing a picture while I prepared dinner.

"That's really a good picture," I said, as I walked by her on my way across the room.She looked up at me and smiled."Did you like art when you were a little girl?" she asked.

"I did," I answered. "I loved art."

She straightened up in her chair ...She tilted her head ...She said ..."Was art your favorite class or ... did you like computer class better?"

On the upside ... When I was little ... I lived in the forest with the dinosaurs and the fairies. And ... when I went to school ... I took typing class with all the other little trolls and we learned to type on brand new Smith Corona typewriters.

Occasionally, we heard rumors of giant computers that would one day take over the world, but ... we never worried about such things - out in the forest. We were too busy fixing our CORRECT-O Tape, changing out typewriter ribbons and ... chipping arrow heads with flat rocks ... in Art class.

It took a while to convince Alexis that this was indeed ... SO!

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

The picture of innocence

*Yes, OHMommy really is that classy and that sweet: I should know - we were roomies at BlogHer last year and it was a blast. Lucky for all of you I sweet talked her into guest posting here and she's too darn nice to say no. ..Enjoy!"

On the wall of my aunt's house, in suburban Chicago, hangs a framed picture that makes me smile out loud each time I pass by it.

Pictured is a smiling family of five hand holding hands, drawn by a six year old, seven years ago. In the far distance is a small church. The artist, the baby of the house, included a puffy bubble over his head that reads "Hury wer late agin!"

Awe. Truth will always be told through innocent eyes.

For seven years I have gracefully walked passed that crayon drawing and smiled imagining what my children would innocently draw in the future that I would deem frameable. I envisioned colorful pictures of rainbows over our house and puppies prancing around. I had already picked out the shabby chic frame, in my head, that would hold such a treasure.

I was thrilled when my eldest at the age of three started to take an interest in crayons. I sent him off to preschool with a hug and a kiss every day whispering sweet words in his ear to encourage such sweet artistic visions.

It was a long winter, that year, in which on more than one occasion I, the busy mother of three young children, had forgotten to shave my legs. That, my friends, is a portrait of me with hairy legs.

A solid reminder that truth will always be told through the eyes of the innocent. And yes, this framed picture in our house makes me smile every day.

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Saturday, February 7, 2009

I'll follow the sun

By the time you read this I may have already found it.

We are leaving for Key West, Florida today - me and Rob and Graham and my mother. We are renting a three bedroom house with two balconies that has the ocean on one side and a pool on the other.

We are gone for a week: we know it's not the best week to be going, but we desperately need this. We need a week away from stress and worry and work. We need to draw each other close and to relax and rejuvenate and remember how much we enjoy each other when our minds are not on other things.

I have some wonderful guest posters lined up during my absence and I may pop in as well. At any rate I hope to be back in full Diva mode upon my return next weekend.

Thanks to each and every one of you for your love and kindness and support and prayers these last few weeks - as always I feel blessed to be a part of this community.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Dear Cancer,

You are not going to win; not this time.

You stole my best friend from me at the tender age of 26 years, but you will NOT steal my mother-in-law.

You have weakened her, but you will not conquer her. You are no match for her vitality and her spirit. Come Monday, you will find that the fear your presence has brought into her heart has coalesced into something different, something stronger and infinitely more powerful than you are.


Come Monday the battle, and the countdown to your defeat, will begin. You will be vanquished, not just by a series of powerful chemical cocktails, but by intangible things that your black, workmanlike destruction is not capable of understanding or touching.

Because ultimately you and your filth and foul are no match for a woman of beauty and strength; a woman of courage and exuberance, who has survived the Nazis and routed opponents half her age on the tennis court.

Mark my words: you are no match for her.

You are no match for this family.

You are no match for love.

You are NOT going to win; not this time.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Club Kid

Even when I was a swinging single I wasn't big on clubbing.

The crowds, the pounding music, the crowds, the over-priced drinks - I just didn't enjoy it.

And the crowds. Did I mention how irritating I find crowds?

So it felt a little surreal last Sunday when my three-year-old and I headed to the heart of Toronto's club district and braved a massive line-up to meet some friends and gain entry to one of the biggest and hottest clubs in the city for the Bunch Family Dance Party.

It was packed to the rafters with hipsters and their hipster offspring sipping cocktails and mocktails. The three dance floors were jammed and the video and light shows and go-go dancers were undeniably cool.

There were eccentric characters roaming the joint...

And stylin' kids showing off the latest dance moves...

And of course there was this one guy who was sooooo cute I couldn't stop staring at him.

And the best part?

I actually ended up going home with him.

Could you die? I think it might really be love this time...

Turns out clubbing is a lot more fun than I remember it.


Are you pinching pennies in this tough economy? LeeAnne has a new recipe up over at Don Mills Diva Recipes and Reviews that delivers great taste AND great value - check it out!

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Wanna be a big loser?

Almost every Tuesday night I feel like The Biggest Loser.

And no, it's not just because I plant myself on the couch, munch snacks and watch television; it's because I plant myself on the couch, eat snacks and watch people on television swear off snacks and a sedentary life in favor of a grueling diet and exercise program intended to launch them on a lifetime path to health and fitness.

Yup, The Biggest Loser has become a bit of an addiction for me and why not? It features the most classic redemptive story arc of our time: everyman (or woman) whose obesity is a symbol of their inability to cope with emotional pain and stress are introduced to kick-ass trainers who put them through their paces physically and emotionally until they emerge transformed, in control of their lives and their bodies.

It makes for powerful viewing, especially since there is no doubt that these are real people, whose real lives are being changed. Just ask Julia Hadden.

Wanna read my exclusive interview with Season Four The Biggest Loser contestant Julie Hadden? Click on over to my Shooting For Hip column at Better Than A Playdate...

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