A tribute to my beautiful daughters on Mother’s Day

The author's daughters on a boardwalkThere was a time in our lives when Dave and I didn’t think we could have children.

Then Grace was born.

Followed four years later by another baby girl, Clare.

We always said we would be happy even if we weren’t blessed with children. I know this to be true, but I always thought of having kids like a kaleidoscope.

Without children, the wheel of life takes us on a journey of twists and turns, revealing an array of pretty patterns and colours. With them, the cylinder opens wide, to unfurl a mesmerizing display of brilliance and untold adventures. Children are not are whole lives, but they make our lives whole.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I want to pay tribute to the greatest gift in my life: the gift of being a Mom. Here is my love letter to my beautiful daughters.

Thank you Grace and Clare.

For making me laugh,
For hugging away my tears.
For making our family and table full,
For the endless hours skating on our beloved lake, and talking on our evening walks.

For filling our house with music
For infuriating me,
For doing your chores even when I don’t ask you to
For the highs and lows and all the in betweens

For your silly, stupid jokes,
For making me feel like a child again,
For telling me I’m beautiful when your beauty outshines us all
For being my friend.

It has been a pleasure and joy to watch you grow into the spirited, independent young women that you have become.

Be bold. Be strong. Be true to yourself. Live your dreams.

And know that I will always be here for you.
Love, Mom.

Girls in bathtub

Girls at a Santa Claus parade

Desperate times call for desperate measures

funny quote on houseworkWe are living in desperate times. No, I’m not talking about Trump, Syria or ISIL. I’m talking about the division of labour in our households.

Let’s just say I was not a happy camper last week. It started last Sunday. We got home from Clare’s hockey game. Dave went to lie down and do his exercises for his knee, Clare flaked out on the couch reading a book, Dave’s Dad sat in the sunroom reading the papers and Grace retreated into her lair to do homework and spend endless hours on her iPad.

Instead of curling up with the latest People Sexiest Man Alive issue, I did laundry, drained and scrubbed the hot tub, made supper and did the dishes. At one point I asked the kids through gritted teeth for help with sweeping the floors and folding some laundry.

Help. I hate that dastardly word. It implies the sole responsibility for keeping a household running is one person’s, with the others just “helping” out.

Then Tuesday came. After a 10-hour day, I came home to find supper not started, the wood not brought in and the dogs unfed even though my children get home 2-3 hours before me and my husband was at home all day (albeit still recuperating from his knee surgery, but well enough to make a salad I reckon).

I resorted to the most shameless, childish trick of all time—the silent treatment. I admit it. I’m not proud of myself, but I was angry, tired, and frustrated. The worst part was I had this utopian hope that with Dave’s surgery, the girls would step up their game and help with the cooking and cleaning. I was so wrong.

One brisk walk and one quiet night helped restore my equanimity, but I wasn’t happy with how I reacted and worse, knew it wasn’t a long-term solution. So the next day I came up with the idea to introduce a new rewards system, “Two Things a Day”. I made a chart and explained that everyone in the house had to do two things a day to keep our house running. If at the end of the week, the chart was full, there would be a special reward.

What a change. Yesterday morning, the girls did chores around the house without being asked. We had fresh sheets on the bed, swept floors, wood in the wood box and sand for when the snow and ice comes.

It’s early days yet. But I’m hopeful my evil master plan will work, and my family will accept that we are all responsible for doing housework and keeping our busy household running and I will be a happy camper once again.

Ed. note: When Dave and I first got married, we had to take a marriage course. The minister asked, what is the biggest source of most arguments in a marriage? People answered finances, family issues. I answered housework and the class laughed. Guess what? It was housework.

Lavish praise not criticism

flowers bloomingThe world needs more praise and less criticism.

If you’re a parent, you know the power of praise. Praise is like the warmth of the sun that nourishes and helps the petals of a flower unfold. Criticism will cause the flower to shrivel up and die.

This week’s Happy Act is to praise someone. Your child. Your partner. A co-worker. Tell them what a great job they’ve done then watch them blossom and grow.

Give the gift of happy and make someone’s day

mug, notebook, platterThis Mother’s Day, I received a very special present from Clare. It was the gift of Happy. A bright yellow mug with a smile on it, a yellow notepad that said “I’m so happy”, a pretty platter that said “Today I will make magic happen” and a cheery notebook with “Sunshine is instant happiness” on the cover. It made my day.

As parents, we hope we do right by our children. Teach them right from wrong. Be a good role model. Be kind. Lend a hand. But most times you wonder if your kids hear anything you say, let alone learn from you.

Case in point. For the past three months, I’ve been asking the kids to take their breakfast plate and cup and put it in the dishwasher instead of the sink. Have they listened to me and done it? No. But I know one day they will shock the h-e-double hockey sticks out of me and the dishes will miraculously start appearing in the dishwasher instead of the sink. That’s just how it works with kids.

My kids don’t read this blog. The odd time they’ll check it out when they know I’ve written something about them. Dave is a regular reader, but I think it’s more to check up on what I’m saying about our family than for his own pleasure. But when I got that beautiful gift of happy for Clare for Mother’s Day, it made me feel like maybe, just maybe a little part–the best part of me–was rubbing off on my daughters. It was a double dose of happiness.

This week’s #HappyAct is to give a happy gift. For all you Moms and kids out there wondering what to buy your child’s teacher for an end-of-school-year present, or Dad for Father’s Day, give the gift of happy.

Reach out your hand in peace and friendship

Paris, Brussels, Lahore, Pakistan.

The world has become a bloody place.

I don’t claim to understand these terrorist acts, but I have been thinking about what drives a person to destroy human life and what we can do to turn hatred into love and acceptance.

I’ve also had a lot of different experiences in the past few weeks that continue to send these thoughts swirling in my head.

On Easter Weekend, we took Dave’s Dad to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton. There was a special exhibit on Anne Frank that detailed her journey into hiding alongside Hitler’s rise to power. It was the week of the Brussels bombing and as I stood looking at the images of the Nazis in the 1930s, it was easy to draw parallels to today and how circumstances can make otherwise good people conduct acts of horror under the philosophical banner that the end justifies the means in fighting evil.

Leaving Hamilton and arriving at Union station in Toronto during rush hour on Easter Monday for business, I tried to imagine the destruction if a bomb exploded in the station. I thought of those people in Brussels and the images I had seen on television earlier that day of the Easter bombing in Lahore, Pakistan. Years ago, I had been in London, England a month before the bombs went off at the Kings Cross tube station. We had been in that station at least two or three times a day.

When my kids ask about these terrorist acts and whether they could happen where we live, my answer is always the same. “Yes, they can, but we cannot live in fear.”

Later that night, over dinner with a friend, we talked about everything going on in the world. We both admitted despite being “good people” and wanting to accept all races, creeds, cultures, we were not above profiling people (see an earlier blog post on stereotyping kids with autism).

Then I went and saw Johnny Reid and his What Love is All About tour at the KRock Centre in Kingston. I’m a huge Johnny Reid fan. I was fortunate to sit next to him on a plane to Nashville once. He was so genuine and generous with his time I became just as big a fan of Johnny Reid the man, as Johnny Reid the musician. During the concert, he said that one of the reasons he loves Canada so much is because it is one of the few countries in the world that truly accepts and celebrates diversity. His message was clear: love is the cure for the evils of the world.

It is hard to hate someone you know. This week’s #HappyAct is to say a kind word, or reach out and offer your hand in peace, friendship and acceptance the next time you experience fear or prejudice without basis. Get to know the person. Together we can try to change the world.

Wear a funny hat

mother and daughter in animal hatsDo you ever wonder if your house has a black hole? I swear ours does. The latest thing sucked into the dark vortex of our home is an entire bag of hats that went missing during the annual switch over from summer to winter clothes. All of my best hats went missing, which means we’ve had to rely on our collection of “funny hats” this winter.

I like wearing funny hats, but I usually just wear them when I take the dogs for a walk or out on the lake. They’re warm, and they usually bring a smile to people’s faces. (Well, I’m not sure if it’s a smile or a grimace on Dave’s face, but we’ll go with the smile.)

Here is a picture of me in my favourite funny hat, my Elmo hat my girlfriend Elaine gave me for my birthday last year and a few more pics from a funny hat fashion show Clare and I put on yesterday. Hope it makes you smile.

This week’s #HappyAct is to wear a funny hat and keep warm.

Woman in Elmo hat

girl in rabbit hat

woman in funny hat

Christmas sweaters, me stuff and Father Time

Clock with time for me

Important stuff

Hi there. I should probably introduce myself, I’m Craig from Todays Chapter. Don’t worry, Laurie will be back next Sunday, but she has kindly offered to hand over the reins for a guest post. I’m a huge fan of Happy Act and Laurie’s thoughtful weekly advice to achieve happiness, so I’m fully aware just how big these shoes are to fill. Here goes nothing…

There is phrase often used when talking about personal finances, “Pay yourself first”. The basic concept is before you try to pay down debts or buy new things, you should carve out a little something for the ‘you’ of the future. It’s generally agreed that for this to be effective it should be done automatically, not something you consciously have to decide to do each payday. Money is finite but the list of things to buy with it is seemingly endless, so you should carve out a chunk to put aside before you blow it on that hand-knitted Christmas sweater that suddenly seems like an essential purchase.

Xmas sweater

Not important stuff

While I am terrible at paying myself first financially, I am a strong believer in applying this concept to my time. Just like money, time is a finite resource that needs to be carefully managed to achieve your goals. Unlike money you can’t earn more of it. This means we all try to cram more and more into a day.

As a new parent I particularly felt this strain. Overnight my time became someone else’s. In my initial panic to keep our darling daughter alive and happy, I stopped going to the gym; there simply wasn’t time. Then I stopped reading, then writing, then sleeping and showering. I did all of this for good reason, but the net result was a happy baby and a tired, stinky and grumpy Daddy. I’d forgotten to pay myself first. When I finally figured this out it seemed so obvious, but at the time it didn’t seem that way at all.

The solution was simple. I carve out 30 minutes a day just for me. Each day I figure out what to ‘spend’ it on, sometimes it’s a nap, others a blog post. I even manage to occasionally sneak in some video games. The other 23.5 hours a day are to spend on ‘stuff’, but that 0.5 is all mine. The difference that simple change makes is staggering, I feel like a new person. I have transformed into a tired, stinky but happy Daddy!

My advice to achieve happiness is simple, pay yourself first. Carve out a tiny slice of your day and make it all yours, then fill it with whatever makes you happy. Make this a habit, not something you do every now and again, because if you don’t you will always find other ‘stuff’ to spend that time on.

Ok, that’s it, I’m handing the controls back to our resident happiness guru. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy a new Christmas sweater…