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Family Matters

Family Matters

Cabbage Patch and The Girl

AmericanGirlBox

Mom Says:

It was 1982 and Cabbage Patch Kids were everywhere..and nowhere. Legendary stories have passed through the years of 6 hour line-ups, fist-fights and the “hunt”. The search for a pervasive Cabbage Patch kid in the height of a Christmas craze.

It was commercial carnage.

My mom has a great story on trying to find a Cabbage Patch Kid right up to Christmas Eve. She ultimately worked her illustrious magic and somehow managed to have one under the tree for me that year.  It was the BEST and most memorable year of my childhood.

Sophia Lauren - My first "Baby" growing up
Sophia Lauren – My first “Baby” growing up

My Cabbage Patch Kid’s name was Sophia Lauren and we did EVERYTHING together. The responsibility of motherhood first played out as I filled out the adoption papers to officially adopt Sophia. I loved her with all my might.

A new “Cabbage Patch Kid” has come to our world this Christmas.

Her name is My American Girl and she is this year’s IT GIRL. 

I thought we had managed to avoid it.

And then one little girl got one at school….

And that (as they say) was the beginning of the end.

I have to give them credit. The My American Girl has done a brilliant job of marketing their franchise. They have extended their line from the original historical BeForever doll to include My American Girl, Girl of the Year, Bitty Baby and a thousand additional accessories. They have apps and books and movies and online presence. Oh my!

Discussions though of My American Girl dolls seems to bring venom to some mommy’s lips.

Yes, its American. I get that. I actually looked hard at supporting the MapleLea doll. I gotta say its feels a bit like buying a BETA in a sea of VHS. In a world where a User Experience can make or break a product, MapleLea maybe needs to step it up a bit. Be engaging and entertaining, active on social media, tell us the story of the Canadian dolls, create emotional ties and extend product offerings beyond the doll.  If you are going to market in this space during THIS time… You HAVE to market with strategic intent.

The bottom line is that my child wants something desperately for Christmas. Who could forget Ralphie in The Christmas Story when all he wanted was a Red Rider bb gun?

As much as I might not agree with the commercialism of it all, this is her one big present. It is what it is.

We still have my Cabbage Patch Kid. She’s currently hanging out in my daughter’s room, looking forward to her new friend, the My American Girl Doll.

BFF's - DD's Cabbage Patch and my old one.
BFF’s – DD’s Cabbage Patch and my old one.

Dad says:

I never had a cabbage patch doll, but I did hold one hostage to get a ball back from a neighbours yard when I was 9. Complete with a ransom note. Sorry Donna, wasn’t meant to be traumatic or scarring.

I am of two minds on this; the abhorrent hyper capitalism of the holiday, the real reason of Christmas, blah blah blah.  It is awful, but getting mad at the retailers about this years trend is like yelling at the teller about your interest rate. The other side is this: we are able to provide our child with something that may well be a lasting joy, and so that is the end of this discussion.

Do what you want, don’t hurt other people. It’s that simple.

American Girl and all its glory
American Girl and all its glory
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Family Matters

My Life as a Playlist

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On the way to school yesterday, April Wine’s Say Hello came on the radio.

Mushily I look to the back seat and say…”Ohhhh do you guys remember this song?” This is the song Mommy used to put you to sleep with when you were babies. My brain zipped instantly back there. To a time of exhaustion and survival and bliss. To when the kids were babes and we were trying everything to get them down. (Who knew Classic Canadian Rock would be so effective?)

I realized that songs have become my way of categorizing and time-stamping vivid memories of my lifetime.

I started thinking of my life as a playlist and what would it include. (Jenn’s Life – A Canadian Girl growing up in the 90’s and 2000’s with a big love for all kinds of music)

If you were to hit play, here is a snippet of what you would find.

Erasure’s Oh L’Amour and Depeche Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough both take me home to a teen dance club we used to frequent on a Saturday night. White jeans sitting just above the hips, pinned down through the calves (to look like jodphurs), a floral button up shirt or V-Neck sweater and floods of Obsession or Eternity floating through the room.

Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama reminds me of May 2-4. A kids right of passage in Canada, likely the first long weekend you went camping with friends, in mixed company, overloading the car with too much stuff and too many people.

Martin Sexton’s Black Sheep and The Holmes Brothers Amazing Grace brings me back to sunny days, magical voices, workshop tents and the Winnipeg Folk Fest. What I always and affectionately have termed my Peace Place.

Spirit of the West’ s Home for a Rest will forever be that LAST big broohahaaa, get out on the dance floor, jump with as much energy as you can yelling “TAKE ME HOME!!!” at the top of your lungs, last song before the bar closed on any given university night out.

The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony brings me back to a New Year’s Eve where I danced with my friend Jake. We were 21 and that was the last time we saw each other. Shortly after, Jake was going shot for shot with vodka shooters against a group of Russians at a wedding. He ended up choking on his own vomit. (To this day you will find me rolling super drunk people over onto their side). I also have a firm belief that every time I hear Bittersweet Symphony, its him giving me a little “Hi”.

Jake - No one was as goofy or as loveable as this guy
Jake – No one was as goofy or as loveable as this guy

Cake’s I will Survive brings me to insanely fun house parties we used to throw when I was almost too young to own my own house. The guitar solo in the middle is one of those glorious, you just gotta air guitar, can’t help but dance kind of middles. If ya know what I mean.

James Taylor’s Fire & Rain was the night Chris and I got engaged. As JT played that song at the Molson Amphitheatre (an open air concert stage by the water), Chris had his arms around me and we gazed at the stars. When we got home that night, I had said “This was the most perfect night”. He said back “Not quite. It would be perfect if you did me the honour of being my wife”.

Newly Engaged (& with hair!)
Newly Engaged (& with hair!)

Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes was dancing in our kitchen, massively pregnant (with the best hobbit feet a girl could want) and then again dancing around our kitchen with a brand new baby. So tired but so much in love with this beautiful little boy who would make me weep just by smiling up at me.

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Sheer exhaustion but sheer delight

The songs are too recent to carve out a space in my permanent playlist (yet). But I have a feeling that all our Friday Night Dance Party memories (something we do every Friday as soon as we get home) will be part of my next round.

These kids fill up my heart and my song list
These kids fill up my heart and my song list

I’m curious what does YOUR PLAYLIST look like?

 

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Family Matters

Our Superhero: Captain Underpants books

Dav Pilkey

Do you remember your first comic book? I think I read my garage sale compilation of The Fantastic Four and eerie Dr. Strange issues about a thousand times, wondering what superpower I would want if such wishes were granted, and if I would use that power for good or evil?

Hero’s have evolved over time; now they are more human and flawed, some would say odder as well. See Batman and Squirrel Girl for prime examples.

Now, my son has discovered a new superhero, amazing on so many levels. Let me tell you why: This one gets children to read chapter books. Seriously. Over video games and YouTube. So take that. What’s better than that? Power of Flight? Invisibility? Not even close…He makes children laugh. Out loud. If you can find a more powerful force in the universe, I’d love to hear it.
Our hero is Captain Underpants, and he is truly special. His super powers include a variety of underwear-related skills, his exploits are full of word play and alliteration BUT the real mark made by this caped commander of the commode is his creator.

Dav Pilkey began his career at 8 years old, crafting his first captain UP comic in the hallway of the school after being removed from class for a single picture. He was told that underwear is NOT funny, and that he can’t just draw pictures for a living. Wrong on both accounts, , and add to that he had to deal with learning disabilities along the way.  Now, I appreciate a good story. I appreciate what he had to overcome to rise to success. But why he is now my hero is his treatment of children who are different.

Let me set this up for you, as Dav Pilkey took the stage at the #Inspire Book show in TO a few weeks ago. The children are bunched up on the floor, the parents comfortably settled in surrounding chairs. I have secured a front row seat, more to have a launch point to intervene should things go awry than interest in getting a better view of the author. Dav starts off with a brief history of how he got here, and then interacts with the kids, drawing pictures and asking questions. As this is going on, he is getting interrupted by one excited guy who won’t stop putting his hand up and answering questions before they are  asked because, well, he literally can’t help himself.

Our enthusiastic Superfan on the left
Our enthusiastic Superfan on the left

Dav doesn’t filp out, doesn’t ignore, doesn’t do any of the standard stuff. He addresses the questions, acknowledges the child, but doesn’t reward him with extra gifts or the like but by treating him like EVERY OTHER KID. Amazing. Then after an excruciatingly long wait in the book signing line, (like 5 minutes), we make our way to get our favourite copies signed. All Spence can say is, hey, Dad, that’s Dav Pilkey!!. Can barely look at the man. And Dav smiles and thanks him for his questions earlier, and draws a special picture in his book.

Dav Pilkey

Then Dog Breath gets a treatment for his sister, and we are off for a subway ride home.

Dav Pilkey

Now, these rides are usually a running commentary of which stop is next and who we know who lives near. But today, all I got was a ‘Dav Pilkey remembered me…’, and he’d stare out the window.

Well, I remember Dav too. And thanks to captain underpants books, from all the odd superheros out there (and all their parents too).Tra-la-la.

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Family Matters

We’re Not Dead Yet

kids in scotland

There is a classic skit in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” called Bring Out Your Dead. Set during the Black Plague, it portrays a village collecting up dead bodies that had passed on from the plague. A man approaches the cart full of dead bodies with has his grandfather (oh so alive) slung over his shoulder and tries to add him to the pile.

While the grandfather keeps protesting with the likes of “I’m not dead yet!”, the man works on convincing him that he is near death’s door. The skit plays out, ultimately he gets clubbed over the head and that’s the end of that.

Those words keep noodling around in my head these days. I’M NOT DEAD YET.

Facebook helped me stroll down memory lane this year as myself and the majority of my friends celebrated turning that epic age of 40. Birthday notifications popped up and many a TBT pic took me back to simpler times.

My fellow thespians
My fellow thespians

 

Rotary Exchange
Rotary Exchange

We have gotten older. Wiser. We give far less of a shit in terms of what other people think.

That part of 40 is awesome.

But we’ve kind of hit this no man’s land. This funk.

Not so awesome.

Our sense of adventure has somehow atrophied.

Going out dancing means sourcing a club that won’t make us look (or feel) like cougars.

Going to see live music has become a REALLY big night out.

A movie is the activity of choice if you can get a babysitter to come during the week and we are already Rock, Paper, Scissoring for New Year’s on who will get to be hungover in peace the next day and who will get up with the kids. (AND it takes 3 days to recover from said hangover)

I see so many of us settling into a world of domestic drudgery. Groundhog day in, day out of dropping kids off at activities, making dinners, making lunches, staying home to watch TV, living but not really living any more. We’re tired. We’re surviving. We are overwhelmed.

We have somehow accepted our fates that as parents, this is our life.

And it is.

But it doesn’t have to be so….in the middle.

WE’RE NOT DEAD YET.

We are at a time in our lives where there has been many losses.  Parents, friends, family. Our constant now seems to be going to more funerals than weddings. The word cancer is so prevalent in our sphere. People I love and adore facing this in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.. and not just a few. A LOT.

So why when life is reminding us how precious it is, are you not taking more moments to feel grateful for what you have? Why are you not going after life with fervor and excitement?

What is stopping you from going after something you want to do?  What is stopping you from taking that trip? Trying that class? Checking out a new hobby?

It requires effort. Yes. SO MAKE THAT EFFORT.

Take one step forward in doing something different every day. GO on that trip you have been meaning to go on. DO IT.

Because having this beautiful life of ours should be filled with moments not things. Mountains of moments and memories not mountains of money owed and debt to be paid.

CHECK YOURSELF before you WRECK YOURSELF.

Teach your kids the value of solid friendships. Not quantity but quality. Encourage your kids to go for what they want, not let them see the inability of their parents to do the same. Create those important moments with those you love. You are not taking any new appliances to the grave with you. You are leaving a legacy of you as a person.

Make a mark.

WE’RE NOT DEAD YET.

 

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Family Matters

Marriage is in the little things.

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Marriage.

Ebbs and flows like an ocean’s tide.

Most times, you feel tight and strong and perfectly in sync.

Other times, you can’t remember who the person is sleeping beside you, let alone the last time you had a complete conversation. It feels so long & so busy since you’ve connected.

You focus on survival, getting the kids to the zillions of activities you stupidly signed them up for to keep them active & engaged. You both have pressures at work. You’re both just going and going and going at such a frenetic pace that you seem to just high five at the door as the next round begins.

It’s easy to be busy. To fail to appreciate the reasons behind why you decided a lifetime with this person. To keep going about your daily life. Day after Day.

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Then there start hints of a desire and need to reconnect. Mentions of how long its been since you’ve been out together.

Marriage requires effort. You get out what you put in.

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It doesn’t have to be huge effort but effort nonetheless is essential.

The other night I came home. Spent. I was ready to take care of the kids and get through a night of children’s stuff but then my lovely amazing stellar husband had organized a massage, a glass of wine and a bubble bath.

The hubs welcome home set-up
The hubs welcome home set-up

It started a trend. Today as I was out doing one of the thousand errands we have on our to do list, I started thinking of how I could come up with something special to let him know how much I appreciated the effort he had put in.

I drummed up a simple picnic on the floor of our living room, with memories of past moments (before children) when we had all the time in the world and hardly a care to deal with. I brought home flowers, wine, cheese, salami, olives and Tiramisu. All important food and drink that reminded us of those good times.

As I led him to the living room and surprised him with this little set-up, he started to laugh and then took me to a tray of menu items he had set up to surprise me in the kitchen. We sat there on the living room floor, laughing, conversing and catching up. We just sat in the present and embraced what the night brought our way.

It doesn’t matter how intricate the surprises were. All that matters is that we wanted to do something for each other. A simple gesture. The little things. Even after all these years, the idea of doing something romantic is what keeps our relationship alive.

So next time you think of how long its been since you have connected with your spouse, don’t worry about what you get. Worry about how you can show it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Family Matters

Pillow fight- My wife’s addiction

Pillow fight

Dad Says:

Ok. It’s happened.  I am sure, well relatively sure, that every guy goes into marriage thinking that he will maintain that little element of cool.  That maybe a man cave will suffice for the real thing, that caveman logic will somehow prevail and leave you a bit of that control over your environment.

The changes come slowly.  A seasonal hand towel, festive for the winter season. A scented candle, that certainly does change the mood of a room. And who among us hasn’t let go that 1981 double album of the Pink Floyd The Wall from Japan, cause really you don’t even have a turntable anymore…

All this makes sense at the time and you don’t fight it.  Then slowly, inexorably, the grip tightens.  Pantone becomes a colour wheel you are familiar with. You know, without even thinking, that a change in throw pillow covers would instantly brighten up a room.

Then this.

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Nothing wrong on the surface.  In fact, it looks pretty good actually, with a definitive use of colour, shape and texture to create an appealing environment.  But then comes a keener observation: the actual space used for sleeping has been tipped in favour of throws and accent pillows, none of which provide any level of warmth or comfort!  We are now 2/3rds overwhelmed with fashion over function.  Hell, it takes me 2 minutes to strip this thing down to a usable space at bed time, don’t even ask about a nap.  The re-assemble in the morning has totally thrown off routine, and Gawd forbid if I miss a green/texture/sham arrangement and have to start all over…I will be lucky to get the kids to school for lunch.

I know that marriage is compromise.  I know that in the grand scheme of things, this is puny.  I know all these things.  But at the end of the day, I really just want a place to lay my head without fear of impalement from the latest accessory.  Too much? I don’t think so.  After all, I didn’t get a say in the new couch fabric and I have no idea what just showed up from Urban Barn, but I am sure it is in my colour compliment so I should make out ok…

Mom Says:

For a guy who seems oblivious to the subtleties of married life, I am slightly in a state of shock that this has even registered on his radar. I honestly don’t even know how to argue this. Except maybe all the pillows will just go right on top of him when we head to bed…or we might just have a pillow fight.

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