The Magic of Alice At Naptime

It’s so close to Mother’s Day and I want to share something that’s not about these turbulent times but rather universal truths and wee ecstatic bits of joy. Let me tell you about Alice at Naptime the loviest, easy to order gift for new moms, older moms, moms to be be – dads too of course.

Naptime- those words evoke a sense of peace and calm. Calm if you are the one indulging in a nap – but even more tranquility if the sleeping person is your busy little one.

Alice at Naptime is the sweet and dreamy latest book by Canadian artist and mom, Shea Proulx (full caveat – my daughter). Moms with children of all ages will delight in pouring over the colourful depictions of the sleeping child and lose themselves in the narrative carefully created for adults and children. In this graphic story a baby’s naptime gives the mom a welcome chance to turn away from its need of constant attention but the artist can’t – the baby is her muse.

As Shea Proulx says, “At its core, Alice at Naptime tells a universal story, of a parent pining for past freedoms, while simultaneously descending down a rabbit hole of all-encompassing maternal love.”

It’s the perfect gift for new moms, artist-moms, moms we’re grateful for – and admirers of all of those. Anyone really – moms, dads and children – can lose themselves in the artwork that winds around itself in an ever changing pastel wonderland. There is a limited edition gift set that includes a signed hard copy, two charming pins, and a special chocolate bar – a Mother’s Day present extraordinaire. Support a Canadian publisher (and artist) and order it here https://renegadeartsentertainment.com/product/alice-at-naptime/

This lovely and captivating book can also be ordered from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Alice-at-Naptime-Shea-Proulx/dp/1988903521

Watch for a new book from Shea Proulx to be available soon.

Taking Care of Grampa in All This

Dear Mom, I started writing you these letters months after you died on a day I felt I just had to talk to you. I was here at the lake place, where I am again – but who could ever have imagined I’d be writing you this one. I still can’t believe it all – we were isolating here with three of the adult kids, and one girlfriend. I still don’t know what I believe Mom – whether you are somewhere watching all of this or not. But it helps to write.

I have to say right off that I never ever would have left Dad in the city during this corona virus crisis if I was still allowed to see him. Even though there are no cases in his senior’s home they aren’t allowing anyone to visit at all. And we all came up here to the lake because a few of us had traveled out of the country and had to be isolated. (We came before there was any advice not to and would return if any of us weren’t well). Still Mom I lay in bed at night aching over whether somehow we could have managed his care in one of our homes. But he’s just so weak right now. (Though not weak spirited.) With his CHF it’s almost a struggle for him to walk from his couch to the washroom. I’ve been convinced that the safest place for him is right where he is, where he’s health needs are being met. Oh my Mom, we’re so not alone with our worry over a senior separated from loved ones. And I think Dad ‘gets’ it. He watches that damn news station all day long. All of us smile about how we’re giving him the same advise when we talk to him, trying to get him to switch the news off when we tell him to change channels (that TV remote is not his friend), to move around the apartment more, open his blinds to the sunny skies, and no Dad you don’t have to stay up til midnight just because you always did.

We’re talking to him Mom. Lots. And lots. I rack my brain trying to think of what special treats our wonderful helpers who live across from his residence could drop off for him to have in there in his apartment. Dad’s such a social creature and I know dementia has made that more so by 100 percent. He loved to just get out and about. You know how going out for coffee was a daily event with him and his brothers. Before all this happened and after he lost you Mom – his North Star – we’d set his life up so almost every afternoon one of us visited or took him out – and without you the evenings were so long and lonely we hired those angels across the road to visit every night. Of course they can’t go in either. You know how Dad keeps a straight face but can be such a funny guy, with old time expressions he likes to use. When we call he says loudly, “Thanks for the call.” When we leave he tells us, “Don’t be a stranger.” And he likes to say, “The latchkey is always out,” and the oddest one, “Don’t take any wooden nickels”. He’s frantic and lonely but still funny. I talked to him for a bit just now, and I told him I’ll call you again soon. He said, ” I’ll be here.” Funny Daddy.

Anyway Mom – we’re not alone or special in this – having the head of our clan kept away from us. Your generation, they’ve seen the shit show the world can come up against. Dad talks about when polio hit his little town when he was a kid and how kids couldn’t leave the yard. You had the dirty thirties depression and he saw his older brother and Dad prepare to go to freaking war. And I remember you showing me your food rationing cards. As they are saying on social media – in comparison we’re just being asked to stay home.

I’ll share a funny one. Our helpers across the street called and asked Dad if he could drop anything off at the front desk. Dad requested apple pie and milk. When I asked him if the staff brought it up to him, he said, “Yeah, I don’t know why I got that.” When I told him he was kinda amused. Who knows what he might throw out as a request next. Still my heart aches for Daddy being kept from us for everyone’s own good. We’re doing our best Mom, to take care of him, the way he cared so hard for us, like we told you we would. Love you Mom. Forever and ever. Write back? xoxo

(If you would like to read more of my writing follow my blog or you can read my book Text Me, Love Mom : Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – https://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Letter to Mom – Written Two Months After She Disappeared

Dear Mom,

I’m so sorry about all of this. If there was something wrong with you before you broke your hip and had surgery for it, why didn’t we figure that out? I’m not supposed to think like this – because you were old and old people die.

God Mom, I miss you so much. I want to talk to you. It’s just little things that I’d say. Today I’d tell you that I went for a swim in the rain. And that I’m scrapping off some old wooden chairs to repaint. You’d admire the chair job because it’s frugal – and will be bright and colourful. You lived a whole long life without learning how to swim so you might not think of it as enjoyable in rainy weather, but it was.

And I’d tell you about going to the farmer’s market at the near-by community hall. Remember, it’s not like the ones in the city. Out here at the cottage they really are farmers selling cucumbers (got some) and zucchini’s (got those too) and fresh potatoes and corn (our supper). Maybe I wouldn’t tell you I bought a beautiful little bird house made by a local artist. It’s exquisite but you’d wonder how many bird houses I could own?

Did I ever tell you that we got the birdhouse off your garage before your house sold? How many birdhouses do I have to own before I’m a bird house collector?

Those are some of the things I’d talk about with you if you were still here. But you’re not and so what I want to talk most about is Dad. God it’s so hard with him. When you first left us (where did you go Mom?) his dementia seemed suddenly less of a factor. Like he was shocked into being clearer. Mom, I know you were 89 and I guess in worse health than we thought, but we were shocked when you died. (You know Dad doesn’t like the term ‘passed away’ so I try not to use it.) When you were first brought to the hospital with that stupid broken hip you said, You didn’t want to do ‘that hip thing’. And I knew what you meant – how a broken hip and surgery can lead to a slow downward spiral. But it wasn’t a spiral at all. It was way faster than that. I’m angry with myself for not staying with you at the hospital 24/7 but I had no idea we were going to lose you. If I could go back in time – I’d go back to then, but I’m guilty of magical thinking believing that I could have changed anything by being there. Your lung collapsed Saturday night but no one knew that . I’m glad I had a sister with me at the hospital, holding your hand and wiping your brow, but she and I are also glad the others didn’t see you, so they can remember you differently than that.

So yeah it’s hard with Dad. Cause he’s not clear now like he was that first week. He’s so lost without you. But maybe I shouldn’t tell you that. Though is there some way that you know? People I’m close to are saying there is. I don’t know what I believe. Are you looking over my shoulder at my fingers moving quickly over my iphone keys right now? Or are you just gone? I thought that I would have somehow felt you by now. There was one morning when I saw you in a dream and it was comforting then, but it wasn’t enough. I’m waiting for something like that again.

Mom we’re doing our best with Dad. It’s so hard as he doesn’t always seem to know that. And they are wonderful with him where he lives. He’s getting out a lot – like really a lot. He asks us to take him places constantly and none of us can say no, even if we’d taken him on a long drive in the country the day before. But we’ll barely have him back and he’s asking when we can do it again.

You’d be proud of your grandkids – they’re visiting him too. Hey, we made the family jelly – your special rose petal (maybe I felt you watching me that night), and raspberry jelly, and the peachy pear. I think we did alright.

Oh – and in this high tech world I taught my granddaughters how to embroidery one evening at the lake. I knew that would make you happy. Oh mommy. I miss you so much. I thought this letter might help. Maybe the first try is the hardest.

I could just imagine your response. I know you’d give me advice about the jam (it all set, but I did have one runny batch). And you’d just love that your six and nine year-old great-grand daughters were embroidering. It was cool to see how much they liked it and went free hand with their names above their carefully stitched puppy and butterfly.

I think you’d tell us we were spoiling dad and we don’t have to take him out so much. I know behind the dementia is my ‘real’ dad, who would never be so demanding. But both that dad and this dad are so lonely for you. I’m sitting here on the end of the dock, feeling as lost as daddy. I’ll slip into the lake and swim, I guess. I don’t know how to sign off.

Love you forever Mom.

Ps. I haven’t done the best job with your bills. Some got paid late. I know you’d hate that. I’ll do better.

Pps. Did I ever tell you that Rose says if she ever had a baby girl she’d name it Vera – after you. I hope I did.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

As I hustle and bustle and get ready for three of my grown and flown kids to return for Christmas,  and dream of a little bit of snow, I thought I’d post my reader’s favorite holiday blog.

“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.

IMG_8336

“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.

IMG_8337

“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. 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.

IMG_8339

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 still purchase Text Me, Love Mom tales for a mom on your list (or a feel-good gift for yourself) online and in print at  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 

Oh – For the Glory Days of Halloween

 

We grumble about change. Who likes it? But damn, I miss the glory days of Halloween in our neighborhood – which takes me right back to being a kid, and what the great spooky candy-fest was all about back then. WE never had store bought costumes, except maybe for those horrible hard masks with the cheap elastic on the back – who cared though? Our mom would haul out black shirts, and tights, and rip up sheets and voila – the five of us would be a rag tag team of cats, witches, hobos and ghosts. My folks never followed us into the dark scary night – they kept the youngest inside and let the rest loose, but Holy Cow Batman, we weren’t ever alone. We tore through hedges and across lawns following a band of trick-or-treaters hooting and hollering through the night, stomping our feet on door steps where someone’s dad was insisting we sing before he would drop caramels or suckers or candy corn into our pillow cases. Yep pillow cases, always pillow cases.

pumpkin face

 

Halloween got more la dee da for my four kids. I bought them big plastic orange pumpkins for their loot (pillow cases held more). l encouraged them to fashion their own costumes but was a sucker for buying green make-up and shiny witches hats. And admittedly, for as long as they’d let me I tried to keep up to their scampering feet, but not for safety, more for camaraderie  with the neighbors and because – Dang it! – I delighted in the excitement of Halloween.  I shared the thrill of the kids running through the dark, costumed as something they imagined as scary or comic, trying to decide should they go this way or that, amid rumors of haunted houses and neighbors giving out unheard of amounts of loot.

My kids have grown up and buy elaborate costumes at ‘Halloween Stores’ to wear to parties on the Saturday before the 31st. The kids have grown and flown but a lot of us parents in this community have stayed put. It gets referred to as ‘an old neighborhood’ especially the day after Halloween when we lament the small number of trick or treaters, and talk about all the leftover teeny-weeny chocolate bars we have to eat ourselves. The afternoon of the 31st I was in a local mall and as dusk descended parents were bringing their tiny kids, dressed as mice and princesses, to the brightly lit shops to get free candy. Okay, it was cold and raining – I’ll give those moms and dads that, but parading through the malls just isn’t the spirit of trick or treating outside after dark, with pumpkins all aglow. It galls me to think that while Halloween gets steadily more commercialized the old-fashioned fun of it is being destroyed by overly anxious bubble- wrapping parents, though friends assure me that out in the new neighborhoods, stacked with children, you can still experience throngs of trick-or-treaters.

creepy house

Part of our Halloween gig is for me to pick up my costumed granddaughters (this year they’re Batgirl and Gotham’s Harley Quinn) and whip them over to their great-grandparent’s house – even at age eighty-seven my mom would never dream of turning out the lights and hiding when there were ghosts and goblins outside looking for treats. On the way we stop to stare and shiver at one of those houses that go all out – bearing witness to the most devoted display of Halloween spine-chilling hair-raising dare-to-come-up-the-path to-our-house fun. Watching this couple adding dry ice and flickering lights to their freaky yard restored my faith in the occasion, and I doubly felt my granddaughter’s urgency to get home to trick-or-treat.

bat girl and harley quinn

My daughter brought little batgirl and Harley Quinn to our house after they circled their own block, still revved up enough to come visit lonely neighbors with me. Like I said, it’s an old neighborhood, the streets are far too quiet and we all want to bend down and regal Batgirl and Harley Quinn with stories of the glory days on the block when there were gangs flying down the street calling out into the night, “Trick er Treat. Halloween Apples.”  But the girls, sleepy eyed and contend, and just the right amount of scared, don’t seem to be missing what they never knew. And hey what’s with the apples anyways?

PS. I’d like to engage with my readers – please leave a comment or tell me, what was your Halloween all about? If you’d like to read more about my own four monsters and their journeys into the wide scary world check out my book, Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest. 

 

Ah – Summertime – Sweet, Sweet Summertime.

It’s June 23rd. The days are long but we’ve past the very longest day of the year – which might make me melancholy – accept I’m forever mindful of that schools out schedule, and so feel that summer stretches before us still, in all it’s short sweet Canadian glory.  apple blossoms

The apple blossoms have faded but the peonies are still blossoming and hanging their lovely heavy heads. yellow peony

It’s disheartening to know they will droop and scatter their generous petals soon but in a few days the garden vegetables will be ready and my favorite – the raspberries – will follow.

 

One of my earliest memories is of picking raspberries beside my grandmother in a magical patch of juicy red sweetness that absolutely enveloped me.

raspberry summers

And there will be days and nights at the lake – kayak and canoe trips sliding over the still water, swims at sunset and campfires after dusk. rose swims

 

 

Evenings with family or friends gathered around an outside table slurping up the sweetness of peaches and cream listening for the call of a loon on the lake and seeing flashes of fireworks on another shore. girls play

So the longest day has come and gone but summer is only just begun …

Do You Remember the Feel of Bike Pedals On Bare Feet?

Remember long July afternoons  when you were maybe, say ten? I do.  I can sit on the front steps with the sun on my face today and recall sucking on homemade orange Tang popsicle while I plotted the rest of my day. Or sharing secrets with a friend in the park, both of us perched on big wooden swings, our feet scuffing in the groove in the earth below us. Or how about being sent off walking to swimming lessons with my siblings, with our underwear rolled in a towel and a quarter for the locker.  Or the jubilation of the hottest nights when my dad said yes, to the sound of the ice cream truck.

IMG_1367

For all of that late July is just the most languidly indulgent time of year. Schools long out, and summers in full swing. The never ending winter is almost forgotten – not like in the crisp days of late August when you can hear it whispering again, “I’m coming, I’m coming.”

But now the afternoon sun heats the sidewalks and bee’s and cricket’s sounds make me lazy and nostalgic for days when I rode a bike in my bathing suit – helmet-less in the days before safety rules – and sometimes even barefoot. Do you remember the feel of bike petals on bare feet? You had to slow down your ride by bumping over the curb and onto the lawn. Or how about summer vacations and roasting a hot dog over a fire that someone else was managing – your bare bug bitten legs hot from the flame, your butt cold from the night temperatures. You couldn’t eat the hot dog fast enough cause after it came the marshmallows – gooey and likely burnt. And if you didn’t bother the grownups around you too much, you could run off after that into a sandy tent or cabin bunk and read Archie comics, or share some giggles with a friend or cousin before you were shouted at to go to bed.

thumbnail_IMG_1303

And so I promise myself on this hot July vacation morning that I’m going to just float in the lake and watch the blue sky, and not chastise myself for this weeks calorie ridden snacks by doing laps from the dock to a buoy and back. I’ll skip the Archie comics and barefoot biking, but I’ll bring out the new bag of soft fresh marshmallows and perch by the fire, immersing myself in a moment in time under the full moon. Which reminds me that the shooting stars of August are coming. Ah August and beach blankets spread over a grassy slope for falling star gazing. Okay – August then is very fine

…if you’d like to read more of my writing check out the book Text Me, Love Mom – available at http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

IMG_1474

 

Interviewed by the Wall Street Journal On Texting My Kids!

Texting, text, text, text. Text, text, text. Texting. It’s what we see all around us.  We are all staring down at our phones. Aliens spying from the heavens would believe it is the way us humans choose to communicate.  Sitting in a restaurant recently, gabbing away with a big group of family, we observed two young women sitting opposite each other in a booth waiting for their meals, but not looking at each other, just  texting, texting, texting.  One of the teens in our party suggested that they might be texting each other.

IMG_3968

I titled my book about the years my kids were departing home and all the transitions and escapades and sometimes strange and frightening times – Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest (available from Amazon).  It’s doubtful as I first started typing  away in my little office –  looking out over a snowy back yard, and then fresh buds of spring turning to leafy summer foliage, followed by autumn leaves scattering across the yard, and so it went round and round the years – that I could possibly have imagined how much even I would text.  Text, text, text. Text, text.

My pace was slow walking along Vancouver’ False Creek Seawall while texting my eldest daughter back in my home city. Walking and texting – one of those things you say you won’t do, but you do. The ding of an old-school style email interrupted the trill of another text.  The email was from Sue Shellenbarger, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal and the author of their ‘Work & Family’ column. Shellenburger was asking if she could interview me about how parents and children communicate via text.  Wow, could she ever.  It’s a hot topic that I am known to go on about a bit too much, even as I continue to evolve my texting style with my twenty-something kids.  I’d tell her how the guys text differently than the girls, how my peers text differently than young people and that my sons have actually given me direction on how to illicit responses from them.

Nervous about being interviewed, in the next forty-eight hours I met up with or called, and yes texted, Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily. It was fun, and again educational to chat purposefully with my kids about texting.  I took copious notes and referred back to my own book. Shellenbarger was a calm and reassuring interviewer.  We had a long and engaging conversation.  I don’t know how that will translate to what appears in her Sept. 9th column in The Wall Street Journal.  It’s always curious to see how an interview is interpreted into a column.  I’ll share a link to it in a blog post next week, and if she doesn’t cover all my tips on texting with adult kids I’ll share those, too.tmlm with backpack

Vancouver, Canada’s most splendid west coast city has had a dry, hot summer. We were there to see our son Hudson’s film, Faith, win the  Audience Choice Award in a student film festival.  The weather turned the next day and the rains beat down as I drove to our cottage in B.C’s interior on the shore of Shuswap lake. Yesterday the clouds hung low, with rays of sun dappling the still green leaves only intermittently.  There was a melancholy mood to the day as I prepared for my upcoming departure to our Calgary home, stacking lawn chairs, scooping water out of the paddle boat before covering it for winter, bringing in a geranium too beautiful to be ravished by fall storms.  Yet, during all that I was involved in text conversations with all four of my kids. That isn’t a common occurrence anymore.  Days and days can go by without me communicating with some of them.  (The boys anyways.) They all had something novel come up and were sharing it with me; exciting, frustrating, a new challenge.  Each kid’s texting was representative of their personality, from fervent and fast-paced to calm and sporadic. kayak with feet

Today is different.  They’ve all gone back to their other tasks. It’s my sister and a friend whose texts trill to me this morning. The lake is calm. The sun is out. I vow to leave my phone in the house and go out in the kayak to paddle and wonder what Sue Shellenbarger will make of our conversation about text, text, texting in her ‘Work and Family’ column in The Wall Street Journal next week.  Stay tuned.