Gone are the days when we all read one revered parenting bible, now we turn to the web for answers to our biggest parenting questions. For better or worse, I am one of those parenting bloggers. Since 2009 I have written about 2,000 posts about parenting, for my own blog embracethechaos.ca and Today’s Parent, among others. Not all of my posts were good, most of them have at least one typo, and all of them had too many commas. I hope a few of them made people feel a little less alone in this crazy world of parenting. Read my listicle of the 23 off the top of my head things I learned as a mom blogger...
Let’s get this out of the way. Pokemon makes no sense. The card game has no rules other than the ones that your kids make up as they go. The kid who makes up the best rules in their favour wins.
So my son wins. Or won.
My boys aren’t particularly athletic and in the schoolyard politics of elementary school, that can be a problem. When my oldest, who is now 14, was little he wasn’t great at making new friends in the chaotic insular world of a schoolyard. He is competitive but not skilled. He is hilarious, but doesn’t always know the rules.
But when he was in Kindergarten his reading buddy gave him a binder full of Pokemon cards. And suddenly he had something in common with other kids. He could sit and trade for hours, he started with a small pile but would come home with binders. He educated kids older than him on the intricate hierarchies of Charzard and the difference between the cockamamie versions. He was suddenly King of the Nerds.
Along with is royal ascent, came playdates and relationships. And an increasing confidence in the playground and classrooms. I was shelling out money for Pokemon cards, but the cost was small in comparison to what he was getting back for it.
It makes me laugh now, how I checked in with my friend about the violence level of the Pokemon cartoons before I would let him watch. I was so conscientious back then!
When my middle son got a DS, the two of them would spend hours on the Pokemon Gold and Silver games. They can still talk about the evolutions of each character. And I am not exaggerating when I tell you that my 14-year old spent the Christmas holidays playing the new Pokemon Omega Ruby game on a DS2 (thanks to Nintendo’s generosity). The entire week. Some habits die hard.
Super Mario is a mere sidestep from Pokemon. And our family became immersed in all things Nintendo. Our Wii gave hours of family, and friend fun. A decade later, we still play Mario Kart as a family and it ranks as our favourite game ever. (But I will never understand Super Smash Brothers.)
From Nintendo to Star Wars and then off on other geekery including Doctor Who, superheroes, Mineceraft and a long list of video games (some of which I am embarrassed to mention). He found his place in the world and I find that I enjoy it too.
I used to force myself to engage in a conversation about the different evolutions of some obscure Poke-characters and now I find that I am even interested. I can talk origin stories of superheroes, DC versus Marvel, and I can even sort of follow a conversation about Doctor Who. And I am now a reluctant fan of Dean and Sam Winchester of Supernatural. (because Hello? Sam!))
I am raising nerds, and I couldn't be happier. One of the reasons is because nerds think about things, and talk about them. No conversation is off-limits. Sometimes the things they are into are dark and have complicated messages and sometimes they just don’t make sense. But we can pick it apart and in doing so, talk about the world we live in. Their media is part of what makes them who they are, and who I am too. I have fallen down a dark hole of geekery and it’s all because of Pikachu. Thanks, little guy.
You have to meet your kids where they are. And you may find that a little part of you is there too.
I admit I am part of that strange subset of people who like grocery shopping. Some people hit their zone when working out – I do it in the aisles of a grocery store (I really wish the adrenalin hit me working out, though).
But that doesn’t mean that I always have the time. Or that I am organized enough to do it one complete shop. Sure, I do make a shopping list, and I store it on my phone – but I generally ignore it. (Don’t ask me why, my husband would like to know that too.)
I am finding the feeding of children riagamorle particularly challenging right now, with gymnastics and dance and skiing and life of a busy family. I am trying to find ways to cut down on my running around that also keep me organized so that I can get dinner made, kids to things and my sanity intact. This is where Loblaws Click and Collect comes in.
As you probably know I am a Loblaws apologist. My mother and I used to pore over the Insider’s Report together, Loblaw’s is my default big grocery store and well, I was in those commercials with Galen sitting around my kitchen table.
The people at Loblaws know this, so they asked me to try out their new Click and Collect program (and they did give me some gift certificates to cover some of my grocery bill.) You may have seen those Click and Collect ads all over the Internet, or at least they are seriously following me to every page I go to, (which is a little better than some other ones that follow me all over the Web.)
Click and Collect is a program where you order your groceries online, choose a two-hour pickup window time, and then arrive at the Loblaw’s at the appointed time, call the number, and two nice people load your groceries into your car. You never get out of your car. In fact, you don’t even need to get dressed.
Currently, it is only available at three stores – the “secret” Loblaws at Redway, Leslie and Lakeshore and on High Tech Road in Richmond Hill. Luckily, two of those stores are extremely convenient for me.
Last week, I ordered my groceries (in my pjs) on a Monday morning and I chose a Tuesday pickup time between5 p.m. and 7 p.m. I received an email saying that my groceries had been packed at 4pm and would be ready for me. I dropped my daughter at gymnastics and headed over to the grocery store. I pulled into the pre-determined spots at Loblaws and phoned the number on the pole. It was minus 11 out. Two, extremely polite young men, checked my order with me, asked if they could charge the credit card I put on file, and then loaded my trunk with groceries. I was listening to the radio in the warmth the whole time.
Okay, not the whole time – they renovated the Redway Loblaws and made it fancy, so I ran in there to check it out for a minute. But now I will never need to go in again – unless I choose to. When they renovated it, they added a door and some refrigerators at the back of the store for the Click and Collect program.
There are obviously up and downs to this form of shopping. I didn’t get to pick my own fruit and vegetables so my avocados were hard, and the sweet potatoes were smaller than the ones I usually pick. I thought that I ordered a bag of oranges, but I only ordered one. Shopping online will never quite be the same as shopping in person – when I ran in the store I saw that there were Jaffa oranges which I didn’t see online but I would have ordered if I had.
Loblaws sends you an email with what products they were out of that you wanted, outlining the substitutions that the shoppers made. They give you two chances to accept or reject the substitutions but that’s not the same as you choosing your own.
When I remember, I bring along the Loblaws bins to pack my groceries in and skip the plastic bags. When I asked how to avoid loading up on plastic, the staff said I could make a note on my next order, and then bring my bags/bins to them when I come to pick it up and they would pack into them.
I have been raving about the experience so much, that a couple of my friends have tried it too. One friend ordered from up north and then picked it up on her way back home. Brilliant! Except they forgot her milk. Still, she’s committed to give it another try.
My grocery list has been saved and I can use that as a base for my future orders, I can even search it by aisle or by past order, or favourites. I find that ordering online cuts down on my impulse purchases and means that I can research recipes at the same time. So, theoretically that all means that I will be better-organized, and since I am at gymnastics twice a week, I have no excuse for running out of groceries.
This is theoretical of course, there is only so much a person can do….
(Just in case you forgot how I pronounce quinoa....)
BTW: This is a SHOP.CA sponsored post. (But still full of important kitchen essentials.)
What are your must-haves in a well-equipped kitchen? I have been thinking about this a lot since we just bought a small chalet up north and I have to furnish a tiny kitchen. I grew up in a kitchen store – my grandmother opened the first (and best) kitchen store in Toronto – the Compleat Kitchen. I spent most Saturdays of my childhood there, I thought it was because I am a natural when it comes to retail but I now realize was a parental dump for a free Saturday. My grandmother taught me, spend money on your kitchen -- your kitchen loves you, nourishes, and feeds you. It is the heart of your home and it deserves to be filled with equipment that work well.
Good pots and pans heat more evenly, expensive knives stay sharper longer and slice and dice with more precision. As I was telling a friend – bad cooks need good quality kitchen gear even more than experienced ones.
All this to say that I am trying to think of my 10-must haves for my new kitchen for first day in the kitchen. I have been stalking the SHOP.CA site as I can send all my purchases straight to the chalet and not have to fill my trunk with more stuff! I know that it will be there within the week with NO shipping charges and no duties. And a bonus, I get Aeroplan points which is good because I will need a trip south after a winter up north.
This is what I have narrowed down my list to so far:
1. Enamel Cast-Iron Pan
This 12” pan is the workhorse of my kitchen. I roast, fry, sauté absolutely everything in it every single day. It goes from stovetop to oven. And I am in love with the colours, which is a good thing because I don’t even bother putting it away. The downside is that it weighs a ton. (The above is a chicken with the backbone removed, seared and then put in the oven with some veggies underneath.)
2. Single Shot Blender
I always feel a little embarrassed admitting this but I loved my Magic Bullet. You know the single shot blender that you see on late night commercials? That thing is brilliant for smoothies, and salad dressings. The kids use it on their own and there isn’t much cleanup. I loved it so much that I have bought three of them – every time one wore out I just bought another one. But now I am going to upgrade to the Cuisinart Compact Blender. It’s not plastic so I think it will churn out more protein shakes for hungry skiers without breaking. Once you own it, you won’t know how you lived without it!
3. Not just scissors, kitchen shears
They cut bags, opens rigid plastic toy wrapping and can also debone a chicken, cuts up Miami ribs and shreds herbs. An all-purpose kitchen shears that goes in the dishwasher that acts as a second knife is a must.
My desert island pick. There is nothing that tongs can not do. These spring-loaded ones with the silicone tips are my favourite.
5. Wooden Spoons
A kitchen without wooden spoons is not a kitchen. Buy many. And never put them in the dishwasher.
6. Global Knife
This is my favourite knife in the world. And when you find a knife that you love, you cherish it, take care of it, sharpen it and you buy a second one for up north. Bad knives can make you a bad cook. Good knives will make you a better cook. I cannot repeat this enough – buy good knives. Find the one that works for you.
Good Grips. Good Grips. Good Grips. And yes, we love the apple cutter.
8. Instant Read Meat Thermometer
Twenty dollars for a thermometer, 30 seconds to see if meat is ready, knowledge that you have not poisoned your family – priceless.
You didn’t think I would have a chalet without a slow cooker did you? It has so many uses, it keeps hot chocolate and mulled wine nice and warm for those needed après get-togethers.
10. Peugeot peppermills are the best pepper grinders because of their internal mechanisms. I have been giving them as gifts since I worked at my grandmother’s store. Feel free to buy me these as a housewarming.
I haven’t even mentioned the pasta pots, and paring knives (I need lots), and the plates and dishes and a really good teapot. But it’s okay Boxing Day is coming!
Infusable is a long word, it must contain many anagrams. This word, these nine letters can distract me from the larger issues.
Like the sounds of my sister weeping. Or my Uncle's labored breath, and the green skin that would horrify the vain, proud man in the ICU bed with the IV bag hanging over his head. The one with the grammatically incorrect infusable written on it.
But the word isn’t long enough, and my mind can’t quite make it past the fact that each word seems to relate to my Uncle in some way: able, fun, sun, enuf (bad spelling is okay in crisis anagram-making situations).
And it was enough/enuf.
The life support was pulled and my Uncle died from complications of a stem cell transplant.
That’s the short version. The longer version is that he lived with MDS, a type of blood cancer, for years and tried different kinds of treatments, including a Hail Mary in the States. He was in remission when he checked in to the hospital but the only way to cure MDS is a stem cell transplant. So, my Uncle walked into Princess Margaret knowing it all, and he chose to do it anyways.
He opted to try the radical treatment with the idea that a “normal” or “near-normal” life was on the other side. Instead, he leaves a widow and two sons and the rest of us. (The fact that it didn’t work, in no way diminishes the importance of cord blood donation and registering at onematch.ca.)
The even longer version is contained in binders, folders and file cabinets; and in the memories of doctors, nurses and countless attendants; it is in the thousands of discarded needles, face masks, tissues and vials of chemo drugs and in the one empty bag of stem cells of a nameless young man who tried to something good.
You won’t find me using the words: battle, victory or losses. My Uncle faced what he had to do with courage most days, with resigned fortitude some days, and with sheer self-pity on others. He didn’t lose a battle because that implies his mind could overcome his biology, or that the sides were somehow equally armed. It's a ridiculous idea that a strong mind can beat cells splitting at a rapid pace. He was determined, but that doesn’t mean anything when your bone marrow is failing, or your kidneys can’t function, or the infusable bag is hanging behind your head.
It’s trite to say he was a one of a kind, but he was. He was loving, and mercurial, he was moody and hilarious. He was outrageous and also shy. He loved luxury, his wife, his sons, his dog, my husband, family and his friends. He was unpredictable and had no filter that stopped the rush of his thoughts to the open air. That could be disconcerting or wonderful. Sometimes both. He loved love.
But now he is not here. I have become a cliché, driving around with boxes of his clothes in my trunk. I can’t drop them off at Goodwill, but no one wants them. The suits are beautiful but they don’t fit anyone, or it’s too weird to wear them, or they are too him -- and so they get put in my car and taken out again.
I am surprised by the irrationality of grief. My mind is at war -- I still expect I will open my door and see his car parked illegally out front. But that is the past, not the future.
Weekends are hard to manage without our standing Dim Sum date. Little things become minefields. I am overcome as I drive by his tailor, or his apartment, or Lake Ontario with its memories of summer days on his boat. My husband and I weep at movies where there is any loss at all. I find myself defending myself to my friends -- explaining that he was more than an Uncle, he was a male figure in a fractured family, he was -- he was just him, and it's not really anyone's business to measure my grief against theirs (a lesson I hope to hold on to as I become a bystander to other's losses).
I would like to be a good parenting writer and say that my kids have learned lessons; that they have said beautiful and deep things that have helped us all heal. But it’s not true. They go about their days and nights. They aren’t so keenly aware of the passage of time, of how missing someone is forever.
Once in a while, a small voice says to me – I miss Uncle David, and I just say me too. My husband whispered to me that life isn’t as good anymore. And it’s true.
Life will go on, Dim Sum will continue. Life is good. The waters of grief will recede, they already have slightly. But the hole can’t be fused. Anagrams can’t hold. This is growing up. There aren’t enough anagrams in the world to piece it back together.