Whenever I Want You, All I Have To Do Is Dream

– Everly Brothers, 1958

For years I’ve harbored a dream that I recently imagined I was unbelievably close to executing. Not a word had been posted on my facebook (didn’t want to jinx it) until hours before I was to relish the experience.  When I was a little kid, probably about four years old, my mom, busy with five children, had my older brother and sister take me to the local outdoor rink – back in the good old days when kids could take kids someplace fun. Big Sis got my skates on me, tugged me onto the ice, and directing my brother to take my other hand, they coached me, “One, two, three, glide. One, two, three, glide.” It’s all brilliantly sharp in my memory because I loved it. I mean, I really loved it.

Living in a land where winter snow and cold stretches on and on, I made absolutely certain that my own four kids, Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily could skate, so that swishing around a rink with red cheeks and cold toes was a joyful part of the long season. They’ve  left home now, but I’ve continued to lace up and pleasure skate, sometimes with family, sometimes with a good friend, other days just as happily alone, delighting in that push, push, glide across the ice on a crisp winter’s day. And I had a skating dream – the nation’s capital, in Ottawa, Ontario, attempts each winter to maintain the Rideau Canal that runs through the city as ‘the world’s longest skateway’ – how amazing – skating almost eight kilometers through the heart of a metropolitan center.

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It was late in the skating season, but I’d travelled east to assist my sister after she had surgery on her knee, the same sister who had helped teach me to skate. Opting for another traveling ‘first’ I took the train from her home in Toronto, and journeyed four and a half hours north to Ottawa. When I arrived it was cold and dark, but still the weekends possibilities stretched out before me. My husband had flown in to meet me, and sharing a meal in the hotel lounge, where guest’s chatter blended with nostalgic tunes from the piano bar was first on our agenda. I only briefly considered slurping down a bowl of soup, dawning my warm clothes, casting off my sleepiness and hitting my stride with my man – who’d reported seeing hardier skaters gliding over the ice beneath a flurry of new snow.

Waking the next morning so ready to pursue this ice skating dream, I recall feeling sort of jittery. Looking out the window and seeing that snow had turned to rain didn’t squash my anticipation. Even as my husband and I ate our quick breakfast we both imagined that, though it would be less comfortable for us to skate wet, a little water on ‘frozen water’ couldn’t squash our skating trip down the winding canal. We’d been informed that to add to our skating comfort there were warm-up shacks every two kilometers and booths selling hot chocolate and warm Beavertails (squashed cinnamon-y doughnuts).

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It wasn’t until we walked, skates in hand, to the first entrance to this world’s largest skate way and saw the closed black iron gates and signs warning against going onto the canal did it dawn on us that the canal – open to skating the previous evening was now closed up. Below us the canal looked a sorry state with water puddling over the slushy surface, and piped-in music still playing from somewhere near the empty change shack and closed hot chocolate booth.  A helpful citizen directed us to something grandly called, The Rink of Dreams, a small outdoor rink, kept frozen in some mechanical way. We took a few slushy circles around it as a poor consolation along with a half dozen other disheartened skaters. It just wasn’t the same swoosh, swoosh, swoosh over a long distance of discovery that I’d dreamed of. My good husband stayed cheerful buoying my soggy spirits. “Don’t despair,” he said, buying me a warm Beavertail. The temperature is dropping to nineteen below tomorrow. You’ll get your skate in.”

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Let’s face it, you’d have to be in that situation to be holding your breath and hoping for the temperature to drop to freaking nineteen below – I mean, seriously. We shared a meal with charming friends that night and hey, I know what a lucky woman I was to just be so far from home with my supportive man and good people we care about. Still when we came outside again to icy sidewalks and had to tuck our hands deep into pockets I grinned at the cold night. By now we were well acquainted with the City of Ottawa’s website detailing the conditions of their famous canal.  I even got chatty with a staff member that told me, quite honestly, that it was touch and go at that time of the year, though he added, just the previous season the canal had been open a record long sixty consecutive days.

 

We explored the city in the deep chill, following our friends in out of the cold to browse international art collections in Ottawa’s stunning National Gallery. My husband, still eager for me to do this, encouraged me to stay another day while he went home to work obligations.  I kept my chilly fingers crossed, indulged in another sweet crusty Beavertail, thought about dreams and how we feed them, and with enough hours to skate before my flight the next day checked the city web site again – damn. I’d missed the season, the ice conditions had deteriorated too much to rectify it so late in the year.  My canal skating dream was dashed.  Before hailing my cab I texted my four kids with the big lesson I had learned, “When you have a dream that is weather dependent and you arrive in the place to pursue the dream, you should pursue it immediately.”  Such is life, I came home determined not to pout, and immediately bought a basket of bright spring flowers for the kitchen – blue, pink and yellow primulas.  Winter was ending. It was time to herald spring.

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To read Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – Candace Allan’s book about the crazy and chaotic launching of her four artisticly inclined kids – Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily into the wide, wide world – click here  http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Big, Big Text-Me-Day

For a number of years, I’ve been following a website which is especially for parents with kids leaving home called, Grown and Flown.  It’s been fun and informative to find the moms (some dads) talking about all the feelings surrounding kids jumping ship to paddle off to the wide, wide world. Of course, I was a captive audience  – I mean really, I wrote a book about that very topic – Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest. My kids matured while I wrote, and then published, my family’s experiences of our four young adults moving away from the nest through various winding paths of education, travel, and simply growing up.  Yet, at this time of year I’m still able to relate to the Grown and Flown parents talk of young adults coming home for the holidays and turning the house upside down with the chaotic energy my husband and I loved and (usually) miss.  Still, I told myself, I’m well passed that now.  I’ve adapted to the house filling with noise and hungry people and shoes and friends and laughter and shouting – for a busy week, and then going quiet again.

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But our youngest, Lily, recently came home for a much longer time – almost six months.  Lily house-sat for us in the summer while working here, and then stayed on, establishing roots again and managing contracts with her photography business. Lily has based herself from home now and again, but she is a traveler and not ready to stay put, yet every time that she returns – a little bit older and wiser – our sharing this house gets better and better.  (Lily is an organized and tidy offspring – she keeps me in-check when things get messy.) She does a great deal of photo editing in the quiet of an upstairs office, and being a twenty-something still keeps the midnight oil burning into the wee hours – so her presence has been charmingly easy, far past teenage parties and silly spats.

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Two days ago our Lily left again. I knew it was coming – another departure of a ‘kid’ from home.  I haven’t shed tears, but I have sought out friends, and talked aloud to myself, and sat alone in the living room for too long missing … just missing her. Her dad agrees that it’s funny how you get used to sharing the house, and being part of their life in a bigger way for a while. Lily drove to her Vancouver destination – six hundred miles away – on winter roads, and after her first nervous report of road conditions far worse than she was used to, I had her text me as she made her way through the mountains. She called the first evening feeling shattered by traveling through sleet, snow and speeding drivers on a moonless night.  She promised to complete the journey in daylight and the next day I went about my business slower than usual, in a bit of a distracted way, listening for the ding ding of her text as she traveled in and out of cell zones and even more miserable weather. I texted her instructions that she already knew, “Keep your wipers clear of ice, replenish the washer fluid, remember there’s no gas station or anything much from Merritt to Hope.” She wasn’t bothered by my nagging, rather seemed to need to keep connecting.  As for myself, I couldn’t concentrate on anything until finally she text to say, “It’s okay now, Mom, I’m here.”IMG_8927I sat again in the quiet living room, slowly let my breath out and sent the other three a message, “Just Text Me, Love Mom”.

 

To read Text Me, Love Mom – the book – go to:    http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712/

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

“I’ll be home for Christmas; you can count on me” … such simple words, but where is home? – I suppose my immediate answer is where my mom and dad are.  I did spend all my Christmas’s with my folks until I became a parent myself – I recall the bustle of Christmas Eve, so pleasurably and wildly chaotic with five siblings and later  girlfriends and boyfriends and always so much to do, the early dusk arriving and still wrapping perfume sets, or walkie talkies  and macramé plant hangers, someone calling out for tape, or shouting for their turn in the shower, or sneaking into the once-a-year-special marshmallow peanut butter squares, too sugary delicious to wait for, then curling our hair for church and marching through snow drifts to get to the car.

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“Please have snow and mistletoe And presents under the tree” … And suddenly there was a transition.  I was married with our first little baby and though my parent’s house was just a ten minute drive away – home had shifted.  I wanted to leave the jumble of family at my parents and wake up with my tiny girl and husband to share something sweet together around our first tippy decorated tree.  Since all those years ago we’ve usually managed a crazy mix of several homes, my parent’s, mine and my in-law’s  -except the two years that we brought home our wee baby boys, both born weeks before the holiday.  Those years we stayed put on the coast where my husband was in law school, more for the baby’s sake and mine.  On each of those home came to us – our parents or siblings arriving with tiny outfits and trinkets to fill the stockings of bright new Christmas babies.

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“Christmas Eve will find me, Where the love light gleams”…   My four kids are grown and have almost always come home for Christmas.  I’ve felt the exhilaration of them returning from university with plane loads of students, most thrilled to be away leaving independent lives, but back in parents arms at the airport you can hear the audible sigh of home. The first year that one of our four didn’t join us for the big unwrap fest and Christmas morning wife saver egg strata with o.j and champaign, all three of the females in the family hid our weepy tears. Our eldest son was gainfully employed working through the holiday season as a liftie on the slopes of Whistler resort, and the rest of us couldn’t have been more conscious of the miles and miles between him and home as we steamed the Christmas pudding, carved turkey and settled in around the table.

“I’ll be home for Christmas….” Of course, home is here now in this house where I raised my kids. I’m cooking today for Christmas Eve tomorrow. In the wee hours I searched through recipes for something new, thinking that perhaps I’d switch it up, try a fish pie or seafood casserole, but sometimes you just want the same in this life.  Like the year I finally got too embarrassed of the poorly stitched oddly shaped stockings I’d made when the kids were small.  I bought lovely, bright, too big felt ones – who knew that my four darlings were quite attached to my sloppy efforts from years past?  I imagine they’ll be looking for the same old-same old Christmas Eve fare – cracker crumb fried oysters, rice pilaf and rich butter tarts.

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It’s quiet in the house this morning. Snow is falling in the backyard, covering the urban rabbit tracks.  The peace will change soon with adult kids home for the holidays, coming and going, calling out to each other. Tape will be missing again and showers coveted.  But that same son, who left us for Whistler years back, had a rare chance to go travelling.  We’ll try to be more grown up about it.  He’s in Thailand where I imagine on the eve of the 24th in a quiet moment it’ll be odd for him, too.  He’ll imagine us gathered around the tree or the table and maybe, despite his exotic location, he’ll close his eyes and for a few moments – our boy be home for Christmas, if only in his dreams…

You can read more Text Me, Love Mom tales at  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

A toast to American Thanksgiving and Kids Coming Home

In honour of American Thanksgiving and the tradition of young adults coming home for the first long weekend from college, I wanted to share a glimpse into our household during the Canadian November reading break and the first time my eldest returned to the noisy house of siblings she’d left behind.  So I give you this from Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – only the nest wasn’t empty yet – just reeling from the departure of the eldest…

And so we had Zoë with us for her short fall reading break.  On the Friday and Saturday nights the house filled up with family and three or four of her best friends.  But Sunday, close to dusk, each of my four kids trickled back home from separate outings.   From upstairs I could hear them talking softly in the living room.  Coming down I found them in the dark – the boys showing their affection for their sisters in their odd boy way.  They had dog piled on Zoë and Lily.  It was reassuring to witness them that way, like a big pile of puppies heaped on top of each other.

One of my few friends with children older than mine had warned me that Zoë would have changed.  “I know it hasn’t been long,” she said, “but trust me, she’ll be different, more grown-up.  You’ll see.”  I had been nervous.  I didn’t want her to change, or even grow up particularly.  I would still rather spend a small part of my evenings driving her to piano lessons or to her girlfriends’ houses instead of e-mailing her in Vancouver or fighting for phone time with her long distance boyfriend.  But my friend was right.  My eldest daughter was different.  Oh, she didn’t have a total epiphany or anything.  She didn’t say, “Mommy I’ve realized how burdened you’ve been looking after us four kids.  Put your feet up and let me vacuum up the nacho crumbs before I massage your tired shoulders.”

But she was different.  I noticed that the first evening she was back as we lingered around the table after dinner, bombarding her with questions. It was a look on her face, a quality it was hard to put my finger on, except to say that she had drifted away a little bit.  I had gazed around the room at the others, Cole and Hudson and Lily, and imagined us all reuniting after future ventures.  Zoë swore that she would travel to the far north someday, being captivated by the notion of a trip to Yellowknife of even Inuvik, whereas Cole insisted he was going to snowboard in the southern hemisphere in Queenstown, New Zealand.  Hudson was harder to pin down –I think he aspired to travel back and forth in time, and back then I wrongly viewed Lily as a home body.

christmas bird-1In the upcoming Christmas season I would be happy to imagine them all staying put.  I was going to pretend for the three weeks that Zoë would be home that she had never left.  We would decorate a too tall, slightly lope-sided tree together and Will would insist once more on putting up the pissed-off looking angel Zoë made in kindergarten.  I wanted it to be a holiday season full of my kids dog piling on top of one another, and watching Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, all of us singing aloud to the Sisters’ song –

All kinds of weatherWe stick togetherThe same in the rain or sunTwo diff’rent facesBut in tight placesWe think and we act as one[1]

I intended to encourage Zoë to humor Lily and I, and come skating with us on the lake near their grandparent’s property, after which we three would go for steamers, before coming home to whip up a batch of date-filled butter tarts for Christmas Eve.  She’d be impatient to go hang with her friends, (who would happily devour the butter tarts), but I hoped I could convince her to indulge us with a skate around the lake first.  I’d ask, but I promised myself to be a grown-up about it and not harass her to join us – just to ask.  She needed time to reconnect with her same-age peers.  At ages eighteen and thirteen my daughters couldn’t really act as one, but I knew that on Christmas Eve they would raise their voices together and happily sing about it.wooden santa

You hear it both ways.  Some people say girls are easier than boys.  “Oh, no, no, no,” others will tell you, “boys are easier”.  I’m not sure what exactly easier encompasses.  Easier to get along with?  Easier to discipline?  Easier to lose your mind worrying over? I do know that when Zoë went off to study art at Emily Carr – I thought a mother must only feel this out of sorts once.  But a year later I had to launch, as they say in those swishy mother circles, her exuberant brother, Cole.  Kids being kids, no two alike, and all that, there was hardly an ounce of knowledge I could borrow from Zoë leaving our nest when Cole decided to follow suit…

Happy Thanksgiving from your Canadian friends and if you want to read more of Text Me, Love Mom and the rest of all that …please check out http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

[1] Berlin, Irving. “Sisters.” Lyrics. White Christmas. The Movie. 1954

Our Dreamy Souls – Travels With My Young Adult Daughter

Staring out my office window a week ago, the last sweet peas still arched towards the sun, a late yellow rose had put out a new bloom, but now that is behind us for months to come.  The snow has arrived.

I tend to do more fall cleaning then spring cleaning – getting ready for time spent inside during the cold, and so came across a little journal I kept while my youngest daughter and I travelled together for a few weeks.  As much as parents like me, who managed busy households, dreaded all the kids moving out, this little journal reminds me of some of the best times with those young adult children.

My daughter Lily, was just eighteen and almost a year out of highschool.  It was her ‘gap year’. Lily had travelled solo back to Italy where she had done a language immersion program in high school. Her dad was nervous about her traveling on her own, so when she suggested maybe Mom could meet her over there for ten days or so, it was an easy sell. We both thought we should meet in Paris and then travel to the South of France.  Just the phrase, ‘the south of France’ stirred our dreamy souls. After a few exotic lazy days on the beaches near Antibes we took a train to see Milan, after which I was to return home and she was resuming her trip by meeting friends in Barcelona.

This was the journal entry I came across on the chilly November day, written on a warmer day several years ago in May –

“We’d arranged a taxi to pick Lily up at the hotel at 5:30 am this morning and bring her to the bus station. From there she will shuttle to the airport for her flight to rejoin her young friends in Barcelona. If she was anxious to get back to the freedom of being on her own, she never let on.

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It made me happy to buy her a pretty summer dress and she wore it in the street of Grasse and Antibes, but she put on her black jeans and a t-shirt to travel.  I watched her gather her things from the hotel room and thought about what a sweet time we had together, sitting above Paris on the steps of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre – Lily describing the type of man she might like to marry, or lying on the beach in Côte d’Azar, trying to pretend we belonged there.  We had joked that perhaps we would have a spiritual experience when we went to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and then afterwards whispered in the sunny square of the basilica that of course, we had been moved by the majesty of the work.  That was just before a priest clucked his tongue at the hem of Lily’s dress, indicating it exposed too much of her legs – after we agreed that he had taken a long look at their God created beauty.”IMG_0865

I finished that journal entry by saying, “Lily and I have made memories to share to keep me happier when she goes off to university in September, and for other times, years from now. Lily knew she was running late this morning but let me go back for three more hugs and French ‘cheek kisses’.  I didn’t think I’d go back to sleep after climbing the stairs back to our small room but slid in between the sheets of the bed she’d occupied, where the balcony door was open to the breeze, and I fell into dreaming. When I have trouble sleeping with all of them gone off, I’ll try to remember the meals I shared with my youngest daughter, the sunsets that fell over our evenings, the fashions we clamored about in Milan, the late night conversations we whispered across our pillows – so that when the house is empty, with her and her siblings all living away, I’ll be able to bring it all back to mind.”

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The Sparrow Perched and Flew Off Down the Lane.

It was a bit of a panic helping my youngest daughter, Lily, leave home again.  Her big sister, Zoë, came by to do a necessary last minute repacking of an overstuffed suitcase hours before the flight was to depart.  Lily was exhausted, and wired – finishing a work project while simultaneously debating her travel outfit and fixing a turkey sandwich in an effort to avoid plane food on the eight hour flight. She hadn’t packed her toiletries, had to call her cell phone provider for overseas coverage, and was still debating over which photography equipment to bring.girls packing

When you don’t know what to write, but feel compelled to say something the tried and true advice is to always write from your heart .  I’ve been dealing with confused emotions by writing stories since Miss Simon’s grade four class, but once I had kids – four of them – taking care of them, mothering, and managing a home was the other thing I did – along with the story writing.  Some of my most intense, pleasurable days occurred when the words and ideas poured out of me while I was working amidst a buzzing household of six people.  As a young mom I formulated a plan to adhere to a schedule of a three hour block of writing time that could happen between two school bells – the morning bell and the noon time bell, even when I still had little Lily at home busy at my knees with a box of toys.   That schedule might have been do-able, but when I was really in the zone, I’d whip my kids up some lunch, push them back out the door (ours were neighborhood schools) and let Lilly sit on my lap when she got bored with Mommy’s insisting she was going to stop typing soon …very soon.IMG_1801

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We’d rush to piano lessons or a baseball diamond with me still rewriting the story in my head.  And I know more than once I told myself I’d stop once the rice pot came to a boil, but instead the rice would burn and finally I would say, “Okay, okay, Mommy’s back”, and I would return to all that family and household management. And so the years went by until the kids started to leave.  Zoë, the oldest, went off to university when I was just forty-three, the age some women have babies at now.  Cole and Hudson soon followed their big sister with ambitious travel and school plans.  Lily was just seventeen when she finished high school so we naturally assumed that we’d have a kid in the house for a while.

Our kids are close, tight knit, a little band of connected individuals.  That makes me happy.  Proud even.  But Lily felt so close to her siblings that when three of them wound up on the west coast, Cole and Zoë sharing a house while attending two different universities, and Hudson a ferry ride away, Lily decided she belonged on the coast too… and so the nest emptied just like that.  It wasn’t exactly a smooth transition and more than one of those kids had us all on high alert from time to time making their way in the wide, wide world.  Still most of the interruptions and interferences to writing became of my own making . Yet at times like these, with school bells part of the distant past, and kids on work paths and in their own homes and apartments, I miss working amongst the chaos of their noisy lives.

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Staring out at the autumn colours in my back yard, I’m amazed at the deep pink and violet sweetpeas still clinging to the tall vines.  I think again of the wise older neighbor two doors down, who told me when I was blue about my kids leaving that they would come back.  I doubted her words,  but in fact they have all four returned to perch here now and again.  Lily, the most travelled, spend this summer, caring for the house and yard while I was away at our cottage.  Turns out she has quite a green thumb and was more diligent about watering and weeding then I ever was.  I returned in September to share time with her and a garden that still showy with the blossoms from her organized efforts. During the weeks when we were all here Lily would often come home after we went to bed, and leave for work before we were up, but on some level, through our slumber her dad and I were aware of those sounds of a young adult with us again.

With the wonders of technology I already know that Lily’s walking through a neighborhood in London, England today.  She’s carrying on with her life and I’m carrying on with mine.  I watch a little sparrow land in the golden leaves of the apple tree and fly off down the lane and feel just a little melancholy.  It will be their dad and I again, passing the winter evenings together, eating our late night popcorn alone. Before we fall asleep we’ll imagine each kid in their place, including our Lily, home for a while and now far away.  I am now the neighbor woman that tells you – don’t be too blue – they do come home to perch. xo

To read further tales of Candace Allan’s go to http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

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Whimsical World of Grown-Up Coloring

Something wonderful is about to happen in my family.  It’s not a wedding or a baby or a career move – it’s a book. A year ago Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest was published – my story  about my four kids launch into the wide, wide world and my transition from a mom that ran a household –  to someone who was nervously helping her children get their bearings during this next stage of parenting. Now I’ve had the honour to work with my oldest daughter as she makes a dream of her’s a reality. Her truly lovely adult colouring book, Alice in the Womb, will be published this month.

_25A0448My daughter, Shea, (Zoë in Text Me, Love Mom) is an artist and mother or two little girls. She studied at Emily Carr and then received a MFA from the University of British Columbia.  When she learned she was pregnant with her first baby she found comfort and relaxation in creating fine pen and ink drawings of the transformation of that odyssey of egg to tiny baby.  These  are a series of accurately drawn images of the development and wonders of growing life, but are surrounded by a whimsical fantasy world of flora and fauna, birds and bees, and butterflies.  Shea always intended this wonderful palette of drawings to be published as a fine art book for women to discover page by page, and curiously suggested that some of her audience might like to colour them in with any variety of crayons, pencils or brushes adding brilliant or muted colour to this dreamlike collection.

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Neither of us imagined that thousands of people would have  discovered the calming and creative world of adult colouring as her first beautiful book is about to be released.  Her younger sister, Rose, (our Lily in Text Me, Love Mom) just did an elaborate photo shoot of the artist, her studio and her little daughters so that Shea can now invite an audience of colourists to sign up for preorders of Alice in the Womb._25A0132

If you would like to preorder copies of Alice in the Womb (it will be approximately $18 CAN and it is perfect for colourists, art book collectors, new mothers or shower gifts) private message Shea your email at https://www.facebook.com/sheaproulxartbooks .  All photos by Midnight Train Photography.