To share or not to share…

It has been almost a year since I gave an update and maybe you thought…she must be living it up with no gripes. NO, I just didn’t have any really good rants to share; we had a year free of car accidents, for the most part. My luggage arrived at every vacation destination. Our Jewish Holidays were fairly uneventful and my kids only quasi threw me over the edge.  But now, I do have something to share.

I may not be the most sophisticated tech person and I have been known to ‘reply to all’ when I most certainly should not but one thing I am not – I am not an over sharer on Facebook. With the holiday season approaching and everyone busying themselves with travel plans, I think it is important to keep something in mind – especially those over sharers.

  • One picture of your child doing something cute – okay, two pictures and you are pushing it. Honestly, by picture three, we begin critiquing if the kid is actually cute.
  • One picture of the meal you ordered – eh, interesting I suppose, but I couldn’t care less about what you eat. Two pictures, I think, eat the damn thing, it’s getting cold. Three pictures, full on personal assassination. The  evaluating of what kind of restaurants you pick and what you eat. It’s vicious, but by picture four, fully deserved.
  • One vacation picture – good for you getting away. Two pictures, looks like a nice place, glad they are enjoying. Third picture and claws come out. you are judged from head to toe.

For those thinking, pshaw you are such a cynic, people add lovely compliments when I post that umpteenth picture of nonsense, they love it. Not true, people may write something nice on your post but they are not so nice when reviewing your page with their friends. So, in the virtual world of things, everyone is nice but in reality, not so much.  As a general rule of thumb, it is not likely that ANYTHING that is happening in your life is worth more than two pictures on Facebook. Not because the life event, even if it is a fricken piece of cake, isn’t important or doesn’t mean that much. It is more about the fact that only YOU care enough to take a second look or to make a mental note. After a few of those posts, you become the virtual version of that cousin who tells uninteresting stories but leads with a very intriguing opener to draw you in.

Good news fellow cynics, there is a new feature on Facebook – SNOOZE. You can turn off notifications for 30 days from a friend. By my calculations – if it is initiated in mid-December, that could cover the whole holiday period! Stay tuned – I will have my Peaks and Pits for 2018 later next month.

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Peaks and pits of the year that was…

And another year is ending, have to say – this wasn’t my best year. I know, thank g-d everyone is healthy and we have a roof over our heads but…..when I reflect on the peaks and the pits of the year, there seems to be a little imbalance.

I will begin with the peaks. So as to avoid any backlash, let me say that of course, of course, my family is my peak – couldn’t be luckier. I could maybe be a little luckier but still, they are great. All four of those boys keep me on my toes, ALL THE TIME! They remind me nearly every day how testosterone can take a perfectly clean room and make it look like a tornado hit. I appreciate that they give me the opportunity to exercise my vocal chords and make sure that I still can yell. Knowing that I cancelled my gym membership, my boys give me plenty of kneeling and squatting opportunities to pick up shirts, pants and that bloody lone sock. So boys, thank you for being so attentive to my needs in 2017.

I did get to squeeze in a little travelling in 2017. Went as a family to New Jersey, it’s always a great shopping destination. I went solo to Vancouver, having a hotel room to yourself is priceless. And, I did a European cruise with my father. This excursion is a true double edge sword – the privilege of travelling with my father is the peak, the dynamic of traveling with no luggage is definitely a pit.

But, before I jump into that pit, I have a few more that came before. The year began as any other – excited at the anticipation of what will come. Here is what came my way; two car accidents within ten days, my high school graduate was kicked out of prom and suspended for three days and Air Canada lost my luggage, leaving me to travel Europe with the clothes on my back. As if those hardships weren’t enough – Tim Horton’s cancelled the pretzel bagel and SIRUSXM switched their love channel to holiday music starting in November – MADNESS!

So to recap, I had an accident in mid-April, car was totaled, my driving skills scrutinized but I was okay and that’s what’s important. Two weeks later, my son has an accident with his two brothers in the car, again car was totaled but this time no one questioned his skills. All was okay no one was hurt and that’s what’s important. Same son went to his prom and as all 17 year old boys do – he planned on enjoying the prom but especially enjoying the ‘after-prom’. Except, he brought his ‘after-prom’ drinks onto the party bus and the driver heard the clanking and told the principal. There I was, 10:00pm in a banquet hall amongst dozens of gowned and suited teenagers, embarrassed as the principal schooled my on how inappropriate my son’s actions were. Three day suspension, lesson learned a laughable moment. I try to get to that mental state that everyone suggests; all that is important is that everyone is okay. At this point, seeing the glass half full is becoming harder and harder for me.

In August, after much planning, I embark on a European vacation with my 85 year old father – really a treasurable moment! From the moment I arrived in Rome until a week after I arrived home, my luggage was nowhere to be found. I have already griped sufficiently about this in my last blog – 10 DAYS, 7 CITIES AND TWO OUTFITS. All I can add here is that this truly was my point of no return – I tossed that half full glass away and tore of the rose coloured glasses. How could it be that I finally get to Europe, I am with my father – truly a picture perfect concept and I am left without a change of underwear!

Still, it took a little while but I did come to a more peaceful place and acknowledged that the important part was that I did have that quality, once in a lifetime experience with my dad. I soldier on as I always do. Then, my Tim Horton’s barista, yes I have Tim Horton’s barista, tells me that the Pretzel Bagel is no longer, how could that be! It was true – they cancelled the one bagel I really liked. Alas, worse could happen, I won’t let that knock me down. Then SIRUSXM changes the Love Channel to the Holiday Channel as early as November 1st! So essentially, even my indulgences are being sabotaged. How could I not begin to think that somehow, somewhere there is a reality show that I am starring in and not getting any of the proceeds?

As I say good-bye to 2017 I think of my friends and family – there would be no peaks without you! Here’s hoping that we all have a 2018 filled with more peaks and less pits! Happy New Year.

Mother of the year

Stand back mothers, this year’s Mother of the Year award is clearly being given to me. About a month ago, my youngest came home from school complaining that he hurt his finger playing basketball. With three boys, injuries are a daily occurrence and I feel like I’ve got a good read on what’s legit and what’s just whining. I am a great mother; I can decipher truth from fiction. This alleged injury would cause him pain over the next three weeks, off and on. Again, being the good mother I am, I can gauge a complaint.  I considered the timing, is it when he needs to go to bed?  Is it just as I’ve asked him to do a chore? To me, the good mother, this was nothing. Suck it up buttercup!

Finally, after three weeks, I caved and booked a doctor’s appointment. I can’t decide if it was out of sheer frustration or as a reward for his persistence.  So the next morning, his 85 year old grandfather, took him to the doctor. I was not going to take a day off for this none sense. The call after the appointment made me begin the journey of……am I really such a good mother?

The doctor sent them for an X-ray. I think to myself, weird, why does he need an X-ray. I got my answer the next morning when my doctor called. He got the X-ray and there appears to be either a fracture or a break. His secretary tells me to go get the X-ray and take him to emergency where they will assess better. I innocently ask if I could do it later that day – I had a day of meetings! She says she will pass me over to the doctor.  Now I know I am in a little bit of trouble. The doctor explains that seeing as I’ve waited this long, going later won’t make a difference. He may as well have kicked me in the shins! I call hubby to tell him this somewhat funny outcome. He is not particularly amused. He tells me that HE will take him and he will take him NOW. Fine, be that way.

Off to emergency he goes and……yes, in fact, there is an issue. Temporary cast was put on and he is officially injured – two fractured fingers. Yes, not one, TWO! So now, I have to find my way out of my logic of ignoring him. I told him I am making him more resilient. For now, the 12 year old bought it. Hubby, not so much.

 

10 days, 7 cities and TWO outfits

Two weeks ago I embarked on the journey of a lifetime with my dad. We took a Mediterranean cruise beginning with two days in Rome. The flight seemed to go by quickly and we arrived energized and ready to explore, and then… I can’t find my luggage! I don’t panic; I roll with it and wait patiently. I wait and wait, it never appears! I watched the luggage from two other flight’s roll across that fricken turnstile and still, nothing. The ‘lost luggage’ counter was neither helpful nor hopeful. With all this drama, we missed our prepaid lift to the hotel. But, I was in Rome with my dad, how lucky was I!

We get to the hotel and check in; the hotel manager offers to contact the airport to track down my luggage, great. As we get into our room I can’t find my phone. It took me about a half an hour to come full circle and take the ‘glass half full approach’ which as you know is NOT my disposition of choice. Okay, I don’t have my luggage, I don’t have my phone but damn it I am in Europe with 85 year old father, how lucky was I? Downstairs in the lobby, the taxi driver appears with my phone; one of the happiest moments of my life, really. I quickly grab a few Euros from my purse and hand it to him. He smiles and says ‘madam, you give this to a church mouse’. I thought, how humble, he wants me to make a donation in honour of his kind gesture. No, he was insulted. I didn’t get it. I was stressed and all could think of is where is my friggin suitcase. He stands there, almost imposing. The hotel manager says something in Italian to him and he leaves. The manager explains that I was offering the equivalent of about $5. Okay, I am sorry but in case that driver didn’t notice, I had NO luggage, give me a break!

We did a brief tour of Rome and had dinner, beautiful. I did expect my luggage at the hotel when I returned….nope. No big deal, I am in Europe with my dad, fabulous, surely, that suitcase would arrive at the ship. Just in case, I dropped into a store to get a couple essentials; underwear, t-shirt and pajamas. Turns out, English isn’t THAT common in the department stores in Rome. Through broken English I found what I was looking for, or a Roman version of them. Apparently their underwear section only had sexy versions of even the basics. But, when in Rome….

The next day we toured through Rome. It was stiflingly hot and that 85 year old father of mine did the tour like a champ. In yesterday’s clothes, I saw the Colosseum, the Forum and more. Once we got to the ship my search for that suitcase continues. Again no luck but I am hopeful because now the ship is looking for it too. In the meantime, I popped into the ship store and bought the only two dresses that weren’t floral tourist gear with the ship’s name emblazed on the front. I soldier on despite not having any of the things that I packed; make-up, contact lenses and any kind of jewellery. But I am nothing if not flexible; in my airplane comfortable shoes and touristy dress, I head to dinner. Here I am, in Europe with my dad, how lucky am I?

First port on the Father/daughter cruise is Florence, another beautiful city and another heat wave. In 31 °C we saw Piazzas, Palazzos, Statues and other pieces of history that until now, I had only seen in pictures. All without any of my clothes! And new fun bit, my father tells anyone who will listen that I am his daughter and not his girlfriend. Cute, if you know my dad, none of these people knew my dad so it landed more awkward than cute! The ship has offered to laundry my clothes every night, if I have it out by midnight, they would have it back by 6am. Only one glitch; I would be enjoying the casino until well into the night. Here’s a fun fact for travelers, yes they can separate the king size beds but no there is not more than a quarter of an inch between the two beds – literally.

Cannes is our next port and my dad takes a break from touring. He felt comfortable leaving me to go solo because I had made a couple of friends. I can see how he thought a middle aged woman, in less than stylish attire could be at risk in Cannes. Monaco and Monte Carlo were simply stunning, it was right out of lifestyles of the rich and famous. All of it was beautiful and that excruciating heat wasn’t nearly as bothersome as the repetition of my clothes.

Palma Majorca is the next Jewell of a city on our cruise. This time we opt for the Hop on-Hop off tour, it was less structured than the other tours and my dad needed a break. This was perfect, in the comfort of a bus, and in those same damn shoes we saw gothic castles, ancient Arab baths and cathedrals. Then, out the window I see what appears to be a lingerie store. I told my dad he should stay on the tour and I will catch the next one, I will see him at the ship. He would have none of it, off he came with me. Again, the 85 year old man was going to protect his middle aged daughter, charming and a little painful.  Instead of sitting on the nice bench in front of the row of stores, he comes into the store. Picture it, an elderly man who’s sweaty from the heat with a much younger girl who’s wearing disheveled clothes walk into a lingerie store, who wouldn’t judge! The good news is, I was able to remedy my undergarments situation. The bad news, this bra shopping expedition is a scar on my brain forever.

We get back to the ship and I make my daily call to Air Canada and speak to yet another call centre representative about my bag. Again, they have no idea where it is. I have been patient, I’ve been understanding but now I am furious. I bark out at the less than helpful customer service rep that ‘if there was bombs in that bag you would be really sorry that you didn’t find it’. One of the ship crew members hears this exchange and offers to take over the search; she says to leave it with her and to go have dinner with my dad. By now, many of the guests have heard about the girl whose luggage never arrived. People are offering me clothes, lovely really. But even better was the tequila shots they bought me at the casino.

Beautiful Barcelona is our next stop on this father/daughter trip of a lifetime, in the same pair of clothes EVERY day. The city is exquisite and the architecture is unreal. During the free time I got a couple of more articles of clothing and a pair of sandals. I am good.

Return to the ship, do my call to Air Canada and again, they have no idea where my luggage is. This time, the aggravation builds in me and I literally erupt. I ask the useless customer service call centre rep how he would feel if his wife, mother or daughter was wearing the same pair of underwear all through Europe! Obviously the question was redundant but he does attempt a feeble answer of ‘that seems terrible’. Again a ship crew member comes over and takes up my fight. I go for dinner with my dad. Later that night, at 2:30 in the morning, I hear ‘pisque’ (mouth in Yiddish), I turn and see my 85 year old father. He has come to look for me and is all worried. Where could I have possibly gone – with my comfortable shoes and by now much worn outfit! He’s mad, I am embarrassed, and we call it a night!

Day five is a day at sea and my limited wardrobe didn’t include a bathing suit. My dad and I had by now exhausted our topics of conversation. We’d revisited every childhood birthday party, family vacation and high school mishap. So there we were, looking at each other; he, with great happiness and me, still so bitter about my luggage. To be fair, he did play Deal or No Deal with me and he did participate in other ship activities that I’m sure he wouldn’t have otherwise. Of course I did take the opportunity to again find my long missed items. This time the useless Air Canada call centre person asked a whole whack of new questions. She wanted specifics of what was in my bag; sizes, colours, brands and so on. Obviously, they had found something. Obviously, they had articles to compare to. As it turns out, that is not the reasoning of that ridiculous line of questioning. They were just amusing me, they did not have a bag; they did not have a clue where my bag was! Once that was made known, I lost it, literally. I uncorked a boat load of anger that had been building for at least four years. There I was at the beautiful guest services counter with hundreds of people around me yelling at the top of my lungs. Sadly, it felt good, despite no positive outcome.

Our final day is in Naples and I do a fabulous tour. I’ve by now gotten over the luggage fiasco, sort of, and used to my limited wardrobe. When I wrapped up my last night in the casino I became excited at the prospect of coming home. Packing up was easy, my stuff literally fit into a Walmart shopping bag. We get off the boat, go to the airport, get on the plane, transfer planes and finally get home – it was a 20 hour journey. In the cab ride home I reflect. It really was a great trip and I really was lucky to have had that experience with my father. And the luggage thing, it appears to be an on-going story – today is day 20 of not having all of my summer clothes.

One done….

Our oldest crossed the stage to receive his high school diploma last week – the end of an academic era. Being our first – every step of his school career brought lessons for us. We learned early on that parents typically pack healthy snacks for preschool kids and not Ian 2 yrs old 02mini-chocolate bars. We learned the hard way that a warm winter jacket is not just a suggestion.

His schooling until graduation was colourful. He cried himself to sleep the first day of nursery and then continued to doze off in class well into grade one. He insisted on wearing only yellow for the first three years of school to be like Greg of The Wiggles. Once in high school, he seemed under the impression that some classes were ‘optional’ and didn’t attend. He went from a class sleeper to a class skipper but embraced both patterns with serious commitment, that shows drive or at least that’s what I tell myself to keep my temper in check.

Through it all, he always made an impression on his teachers and was a trailblazer of sorts for his brothers. Some memorable comments from his teachers include when his SK teacher commented on how independent he was and how he never once wanted to sit next to his brother during identified family time, like sibling photo day. Or, when his grade 10 math teacher told him that his long eye lashes will only take him so far, he better apply himself more.

IBF Graduation - cropped

With his high school years behind him, he is setting sail on the next stage. He leaves our nest and heads to university in September. I do wonder; who will give him that 8:00am wake-up call, who will have dinner options for him and who will do his laundry. He is wondering; who will let me know about the parties, who will have drink options for me and who will do my laundry.  I am hoping that his independent disposition and those long eye lashes continue to make the right impressions on this whole new audience. I am very proud of my baby (I can call him that for as long as I am supporting him), I hope that the road ahead is filled with challenges he can handle and good times he will always remember.

 

 

Year in review…

With 2016 coming to a close I started to think of the peaks and the pits of the year. The peak and pit concept I stole from the highly influential Keeping up with the Kardashians, who go around the dinner table at the end of some fabulous trip and offer  their peak and pit of the trip (as if their whole life isn’t one BIG peak). So, my peaks and pits…definitely my family is a peak. If I didn’t lead with that people would think I am cold and thankless. Yes, it is a wonderful peak to have a healthy, happy collection of messy males to come home to everyday! I am beyond thankful for that. Buried deep in that happiness are a few pits; I would say about 25% of my time at home is spent driving the kids places, I estimate at least 30% is spent cooking (microwaving, but whatever, same thing) and easily 30% is spent cleaning up after them. I am no math wizard but I can figure that leaves me 15% of my time at home to enjoy the pleasure of my family – that’s the peak, that 15%! Another peak this year, unusual for us, the Filers did a little travelling. We started with San Francisco in January at my niece’s bat mitzvah – huge peak. A manicurist mistook my 28 year old sister-in-law as my daughter – slightly offensive pit, but still I was in a peak mode. In the summer, while the boys were away we went to Vegas – really great peak. Among the many Vegas peaks, I played alongside Cindy Williams, yes Shirley Feeney,  at the slot machines! I didn’t win but that would be the only pit of the trip. Weird for me to only have one pit but it’s true. Another peak, I went Vancouver solo – left all the boys at home! I am not sure which the bigger peak is for that one – getting to see the city or having time alone in the city. In between these little trips there were other peaks – everyone had a birthday. Everyone except that first-born who won’t turn 17 until noon on December 31st! Surprisingly, he is not keen on spending the night of his birthday with us, not even a Loblaw’s cake could sway him! He has actually evolved into a decent young man; he got a job, hunkered down on his studies and mapped out his academic next steps. His university ambitions are heavily tied to ‘going away’. As if life at home is challenging, please! Maybe it is inconvenient that I clean his room, do the grocery shopping and drive him to where he needs to go. I could see how that could irk him.  Peak plus, we celebrated our 21st anniversary – a real slap in the face to those who thought we are way too different. I talk too much, he says nothing. I usually side step the details, he is all about the details. I enjoy all of the incredibly intriguing reality TV, he enjoys Star Trek and timely podcasts. Still, together we stand! More valuable peak – I continued to enjoy my job, the pit is the more than hour long commute each way. Another peak – my dad is doing really well. Of course tied to that is the lowest pit of all, not having my mom anymore.

When I think back, yes, 2016 did have moments that tested my patience – endless Facebook posts from friends of the best night out, the best recipe, the best vacations, the funniest thing their kid did and on it goes. Really, that Zuckerberg genius should give some thought to a tool that would require approval by other friends before someone declares anything as the best. Or limit how many times you can classify something as ‘the best’ or ‘so adorable’. Once people knew that those labels had limits, maybe they would think before they post every fakakta thing they do as the best! Okay, I can feel my bitchy demons taking hold, I will stop. As I say good-bye to 2016 I think of my friends and family – there would be no peaks without all you! Here’s hoping that we all have a 2017 filled with more peaks and less pits! Happy New Year.

How I create madness from a kind gesture…

Another Jewish holiday begins on Sunday night, or in my house, another round of Matzo Ball Roulette. Yes, I am near certain that at least two of the dozens of matzo balls I make will have a tiny piece of egg shell in it. The uncertainty is WHERE that bloody matzo ball will land! As already been addressed in this blog -I’m not an expert in the kitchen, I am not even a novice.  Odd, it should be in my DNA, my mother and grandmother were exceptional cooks. I sell a holiday dinner invite as more of a loving night with family – not a delectable meal. And really, why put that on someone; those expectations of good company AND good food. I have it hard enough navigating all the moving parts; cleaning the house,  setting the table, preparing the meal, making sure the three hooligans haven’t tracked dirt through the house – so I fall short in one area. Anyway, my matzo balls may or may not have tiny, tiny particles of egg shell, so what, maybe it adds flavor?

My aggravation is not limited to those ‘delicate’ matzo balls, it starts long before. My father, so sweet, sees how the holidays are trying for me – doing what my mother should be here and doing for all of us! He tries to help, asks if there is anything he can do or if there is anything he can pick up. Really, he was never a presence in the kitchen. My mother would shoe him away even if he came in for a glass of water. But now, in our new normal, he struggles with wanting to help and not knowing how. We’ve resolved, he begrudgingly and me with relief, that I will NOT be going to a Russian delicatessen to get food for dinner.  Then there is the asks from guests of what they can bring. Easy enough, right. A couple of the guests offer dessert, I say yes and they arrive with said dessert. My mother-in-law, not so easy. She says – should I bring a fruit tray. I say sure. Round one. Two days later she says, should I bring a big or small fruit tray? I say, there is going to be a lot of people, you decide. Round two.  Literally, the next day she asks again if she should bring one or two trays, big or little trays. Round three throws me over the edge. Seriously, I am making the whole dinner and the only job you have is to show up with a fruit tray.

Fun side fact on the asks from guests. My cousin messages me that she’d bring a cheesecake and ‘another cake’. I have horrible vision without my glasses and the attention span of a tsetse fly so I skim all messages – read it as ‘a mother cake’. I was moved because we’ve both lost our mothers. I responded ‘awe, a mother cake, that is so sweet, they would be very proud of us making the holiday’ and I carried on to say other sentimental things. Imagine what she thought when she got my answer, it must have confused her. She’s offered cakes and I launch into some kind of madness. She must have thought I was drunk! She answers ‘yikes, I have no idea what a mother cake is but I will try my best. Yes, our mothers would have been proud’. She was polite and all but I was confused when I saw the response – thinking you offered the damn cake! I go back, see the error and try and figure out how I spin this without looking like an idiot. I left it as drunk, I honestly felt that was a better angle! And so, with the new year upon us, I remain on this journey to a kinder, gentler me.