happiness

The Good Ship Kangaroo

I was texting with my sister this morning and we were reminiscing about childhood and cousins and grandparents, brought on by talk of how our kids love seeing each other (even if now it’s only through FaceTime). She brought up a memory of my son taking her son to watch a Star Wars movie had how even though he was very young, he still holds that memory.

Memories are funny things, some of them are dark and gloomy, but some of them are like little rays of sunshine that show up to brighten our days. My children hold dearly to the memories they have of time spent with their grandparents, and whenever I sit in this kitchen in Grandma’s house I’m filled with the same sort of memories.

I was 7 when my grandpa died, and my sister was only 3 yet we still have memories of Grandpa doing things with us. Some of these are clear as day for me – I remember riding from an uncle’s place to Scott Lake (which was a fair ride considering I was 5 or 6) with my Pony Club. Grandpa came along as one of the chaperones and I remember riding along beside him feeling so small – me on my tiny (but incredibly stubborn) Shetland pony from hell Tango, and him on his giant (maybe 16’3 hh) mare, Toots. I had my little English saddle and he had his Western one with his ropes attached. I remember asking him why he had a rope attached to his saddle, and without missing a beat he said it was to pull me out of a gopher hole if I ever fell in. This seemed reasonable to me (although I kind of knew he was kidding), and we carried on.

I hold many memories of bouncing in the truck beside him while he checked cows or did various jobs on the ranch. But both my sister and I remember sitting in the living room here, her on his lap, while he sang The Good Ship Kangaroo. Actually, all I really remember is him singing the title of the song and kind of howling out the Kangarooooooo part. But I do remember singing and laughter. We were remembering this memory today and I had to go searching to see if it was in fact a real song (it is).

We have told that story so many times, it’s helped keep our memory of Grandpa alive. And I think it’s a good thing to keep the good memories of those we love alive. It reminds us of where and who we come from, the values they instilled in us, and the love they shared.

And I’ve also realized that pretty much all of the lullabies my mom sang to me as a child were Irish Sea shanties.

Standard
happiness

50 new dishes

While we close the door on 2020 and officially walk into 2021, I soon will enter a decade change of my own. Although I still feel like I’m totally faking it as an adult, apparently I’m turning 50 this year.

If you know me, there was no way I was going to run a marathon, jump out of a plane, or climb a mountain. Instead I’ve decided to honour my love of good food by trying 50 new (to me) dishes.

And having a chef at home is really starting to pay off. It’s wonderful to see him be able to showcase his talents.

We started the year off with a dish I’ve always wanted to try but knew I’d never make – Beef Wellington. The ingredients were actually much less than I’d anticipated (sigh of relief) and the meal was fantastic. This will definitely be a meal I’ll ask my boy to make again!

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2021 and time spent with loved ones (fingers crossed).

Standard
happiness

Christmas Eve 2020

This afternoon I had a lovely chat with an old family friend. For as long as I can remember our families spent Christmas together, and the season doesn’t feel right unless we touch base even though we’ve not been able to spend the day together for a couple of years.

At the end of our talk I told her how glad I was that she’d called and how it didn’t feel like Christmas unless we’d made contact. She agreed with me and said that was one of the beautiful things about this time of the year – we spend time with the people who we truly know and love and it grounds us and reminds us of who we really are and of what‘s important. I couldn’t agree more.

The monsters and I enjoyed our Christmas Eve tradition (without the church part) by having a fondue pig out and watching their favourite Christmas Movie – Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

Standard
happiness

Skating with Brian Pockar

When I was a kid, I spent a few years as a figure skater. My parents wanted me to grow up as well rounded as possible, and they put me in tons of different activities so that I could figure out what I truly enjoyed (horses, mom… it was always the horses).

Anyway, I enjoyed skating at the Winter Club, but mostly because I really loved our skating instructor Mrs. Silverthorn. She was strict and precise, but also someone who made you want to work your ass off to impress.

I found a write up on her on Wikipedia. There was one way I knew she was “famous”, but I didn’t realize she had competed in the olympics.

Winifred Ellen “Winnie” Silverthorne (3 March 1925 – 7 March 1998) was a British pair skater who competed with her brother Dennis Silverthorne. The pair won the silver medal at the 1947 European Figure Skating Championships and finished fourth at that year’s World Figure Skating Championships. They then finished fifth at the 1948 Winter Olympics and sixth at that year’s World Championships. She was born in Brighton, England. (From Wikipedia)

So, how did I know she was famous? Well, along with us regular students, she had a student who had become quite famous. Brian Pockar was not only a talented figure skater, but many of us young girls were quite giggly about his good looks.

One day we showed up for our lesson, and there was someone skating solo in the rink with Mrs. Silverthorn. We stood there and watched as we realized it was her prior student, now an Olympic level skater. And as he finished his skate, we were allowed to start our warmup in the corner while we watched.

I love watching people who are good at their sport, or really good at anything they do. The grace and ease with which he moved on the ice was quite fantastic. And we watched his coach (who was also our coach) beam with pride, I realized how talented this instructor was that I’d lucked into getting.

Sometimes it’s inspiring just being around greatness, and there was a lot of it at that rink.

Now I’m a non skater, one level down from being an awful skater. Whatever talent I had seems to have vanished with the years, but I do have fond memories of the rink.

Standard
happiness

Gingerbread Houses 2020

Gingerbread houses have always been a big deal in our house, which is not to be confused with us being good at decorating them. When the kids were little I found a great kit at the Whole Foods in RI that we’d bake and decorate, then later they made ready baked ones which made things easier. Those kits would get packed in our suitcase and travel home to Alberta with us so we could build with cousins and grandparents.

This year the boy had the Millennium Falcon, the girl had an Oreo cookie house, and I had a Troll Doll village. Just in case anyone is wondering, the Troll Doll village is the lowest quality crap house I’ve ever bought.

So, as I was struggling with my house, discovering none of the walls and roofs lined up, that some of them were missing from the box, and that the whole thing was made of such poor quality cookie it kept crumbling, the kids started laughing at my village. At one point I got so frustrated with a house that I may have punched it out (which felt great), and it ended up in the trash. When I was done, the kids announced that it looked like Santa’s crack village.

And that’s when things became fun. The girl made Christmas Trees that looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy had diarrhea, the boy laid out Santas along the path, unable to get themselves home. Then the girl decided she didn’t want her Oreo house next to Santa’s crack house, so she started building a wall… out of Santas… to protect her home.

By the time we were done, the houses still looked like crap, but we were laughing, covered in icing, and quite pleased with ourselves. For me, this is the magic of the gingerbread house. We have very little skill, and rely on having good quality houses (not this year), and a ton of extra candy to create yards for our houses. But no matter how bad we are, or how bad the houses are, we laugh and truly enjoy the moment.

While the Falcon was easy, it was pretty plain
The crack village and the wall
Apparently this Santa is breaking in looking for candy

Standard
happiness

Weeeeeeeeeeee

Yesterday the boy and I made a trip to Costco to mass buy water so that when it gets to be -30 I don’t have to drag the big bottles through the parking lot. It’s an issue when we don’t have water that is safe to drink to make sure that we never run out, so usually around this time of year I stock up. A lesson I clearly learned from my mom, as it was a good 6 months after she died before we ran out of either water or toilet paper here.

I did feel a bit like an “end of the world” person at Costco since my trip came the day after the announcement of our upcoming lockdown, but we can’t always help timing. And I did add in a couple (yes, more than one) of containers of those raspberry crumble cookies to kind of even it out.

On the way to the car, the boy showed me why it’s a great idea to fill the carts full of those giant water bottles. We were walking, each pushing our cart full of water, when suddenly he grabbed his cart, did a couple of running steps and then jumped on the back of the cart and went for a ride.

Not knowing what else to do, I did a couple of running steps myself and followed suit.

While others in the lot probably thought we’d lost our minds, I really needed that moment of simple joy. As we climbed into the car, the boy expressed a similar statement. Sometimes you just need to let go, jump on the cart, and yell “weeeeeeee”.

Standard
happiness

Cheese, UNO, and the Simpsons

We have a tradition of having fondue on Christmas Eve, so a few weeks ago I picked up some ready to go packages for our supper. However….. we discovered a new bakery in town (omg the doughnuts are to die for) and had some good bread that needed to be eaten. So we broke down and had fondue.

I love meals where you can play with your food. It’s part of why I love meals like fondue, sushi, and charcuterie boards (I’m not sure if you’re supposed to play with your sushi, but I do). We’ve all been stressed out, feeling COVID fatigue, and ready for all of our classes to take a break for Christmas. So a pause in the regular routine for some fun was necessary.

While we were getting ready, we stopped for a quick round of UNO which is our official family game (even though the girl kicks our ass all the time).

One thing this year has reminded me is how grateful I am that I deeply love the people I live with, and I’m so thankful we all get along. Honestly as a teenager I can’t think of anything much worse than having to spend 10 months locked in a house with my mom (sorry mom) and I’m feeling pretty lucky that these two are doing it with grace.

Standard
happiness

Oh My Lord

I waited a full extra day this year before starting the nonstop Christmas music, but it’s now going strong. Really, Christmas is just a time when I can play my favourite song of all time over and over and over and over….

I kid myself that when I put Mary’s Boy Child on repeat that the kids are singing along, but I’m pretty sure it’s just the “Oh My Lord” part, and I don’t think they’re singing. They’re good sports until they get tired of it and then I have daily limits.

It’s been a rough couple of days – no real reason – but spending some time this afternoon on self-care has recharged me. It’s the little moments, like a good song, a cup of tea, time with loved ones.

And of course, this nutbar

Apparently this is how she sleeps now.

Standard
happiness

A beautiful night

This feels like it’s been a long week. School has been challenging for all of us, we are on top of each other, and to top it off the doggies decided to visit the skunk today.

And yet, no matter what goes on in our human lives, the world carries on. One benefit of life being quieter is that there is more time to notice the beauty that God put out in our world.

Tonight the girl and I were making pizza when we had to drop everything and run outside. Not only is it a balmy 9C, but there was a beautiful sunset lighting up the mountains. I am so grateful this is where we call home, I am grateful I love the people I live with, and I’m grateful we are all healthy and safe.

Standard
happiness

Let’s talk about Bear

Yesterday I wrote about Sky Food, and how much fun we have with Bear. It’s had me thinking about just how precious that dog is to our family.

Bear arrived in our hearts a little more than 2.5 years ago. My little Dotted Dog was getting older and having some problems (although she lived more than 2 years longer – she really loved her life with us) and I decided to take a casual walk through the SPCA in town. I’d decided to look at smaller dogs even though I’m not a small dog person. The Dotted Doggie was 45 lbs and I was thinking that one more in the 20 lb range would maybe be easier.

I know there were other dogs there, but all I remember is this big black dog named Shine (it’s still weird to see his “old” name, he’s so clearly supposed to be called Bear) lying sadly at the back of his cage. When I asked about him, I was told that he had been rescued from a reserve in Saskatchewan, had been adopted out of their SPCA three times and had been returned each time, and now was becoming a long time resident. They also said he was wouldn’t be good for long walks because he was quite lazy and needed to live in the country.

2 hours later the kids were back at the SPCA with me walking this 100lb black ball of hair down the road. Sure enough, after a few steps he just lay down and refused to move. After some gentle prodding we convinced him to get back up, walked a while longer, decided we were in love and returned to the centre to adopt him.

I think they thought we were crazy.

He’d torn up the last house he lived in, before coming to the SPCA he’d spent his whole life as an outside dog (and he was 5 at that time). But his eyes. There was something about his eyes.

Somehow in the adoption process, he became the girl’s dog. It’s almost like God knew she would need him and directed us to where we could find him. I didn’t know it at the time, but my girl was in crisis and over the next year or so that dog loved her, grounded her, and helped heal her. I have gratitude for this old man that I will never be able to adequately express.

So there’s the thing about Bear, he’s not the lazy dog I was lead to believe he was. He’s an “independent dog” due in large part to the fact I’m fairly sure there’s Pyrenees in his blood lines. This means that he knows what we ask of him, but he chooses whether or not he will respond. Independent thinking is what makes guardian dogs so good at their job, but when you want him to come inside it is hard to remember that. Just like Bear can go from 50 to 0 in a second, he goes from lying completely still to 100 in the blink of an eye.

Not only has Bear’s loving soul touched the hearts of the humans in our home, but he is loved by all the other animals too. He’s the one who found Jasmine the kitten who had been abandoned by her mom at 3 weeks old. She was screaming in the compost bin in the old garden which was a ways from the house, and in a place where we never would have found her. To this day, if Bear is in the house there’s a good chance Jasmine is attached to him. Abu the anxious has recently started rubbing up against his legs. In fact, it’s not uncommon to walk into the kitchen and find Bear lying on the floor with at least one cat curled up with him.

He is so patient and kind with the crazy bundle of energy puppy I got this summer after my beloved Dotted Dog died. She sits on him and jumps on him, and when he’s tired of it he flattens her with no effort, but has all the patience in the world for her.

When I think of the kind of person I’d like to be, I am inspired by this dog. He is huge, he’s got vicious and powerful teeth, he could rip anyone apart in a second. But instead, he lays down with the cats, he plays with the puppies, he lets the humans hang all over him. And he does it with love and kindness.

He carries with him years of abuse. I can see it if I grab a stick, or move too quickly. Instead of becoming aggressive, he cowers. When he came to live with us, Bear was severely depressed. His entire world had been turned upside down, he didn’t have love or people, he was so, so sad. So he knows there’s bad stuff out there that could happen. But that’s not how he lives. He is basically just a happy dude living his best life with his family – life goals.

Standard