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The Super Fun Literary Kitchen Table

So Happy New Year to you all! I’m currently still in a house with a Christmas tree but lack the energy to dismantle so we are still in holiday mode. It was a whirlwind last week, travel, booze, food, travel, booze, food, booze, food…more booze. We have decided to go for a cleanse this week and so far 4 days without it feels like we have run a marathon. I don’t know what the next few days will hold but so far so good. But that isn’t what this post is about. Nope. Today I am talking about something way more fun.

BOOKS!

I have come to a realize that I have been buried so far in my Kobo that I’ve forgotten how amazing tactile books are. I have 549 books on my device, which is the perfect place for them as they are novels and not the flip through type variety. This year I focused on giving books as gifts, funny and cute books. Books that look amazing on a table, readily available to enjoy. I’ve done this before, placing a pile of adult cartoon books on the kitchen table to replace a centrepiece and the results were people popping in and immediately pouring over them. Reading the good parts out loud for everyone to giggle over.

The Table

Our kitchen is our hub, most walk through the door, grab a beer and go no further then the 10-15 feet that encompass this room. We have a small round table, which I normally have the typical candles, vase or strange ceramic creature perched on, but after the holidays I decided to bring back the books and so far it’s a style I need to keep up.

This week I placed an old (gigantic) book of fantasy Manolo Blank photo shoots, an Orly Kiely pattern book (one of my fav designers), Rosie Revere, Engineer that Wren got for Xmas, Amazing animal facts, Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea (another comic gem for Wren), The Jose Bautista Bat Flip book (thanks Chad!), and 2 editions of Ladybirds comic genius – The Midlife Crisis, and The Shed.

Narwhal – Unicorn of the Sea is so cute

Narwhal - Unicorn of the Sea

A wide variety and one that the kids and I have enjoyed every day this week. Wren was obsessed with the pattern book, Finn, the bat flip one, and I pick up a random one daily, flip through and giggle, every time I sit at the table. It makes me so happy to see them stacked, or strewn open as the kids look through each one, laughing or pointing at something interesting. It’s made me realize that static centrepieces aren’t really my style and though it might look nice, it could be so much better with something that can make us think, dream, or imagine.

Wren and I poured through the Manolo book the other day which I was in awe over, no wonder they cost more then our car. Lately I have enjoyed the random book section at Homesense, the design and travel books alone are a great start to a Literary Table and so much more amazing then some dried flowers, or a bowl of fruit. Instead of watching TV, the kids can learn about Italy, or giggle over a comic book. Chapters is a HAVEN for me, the large size, colourful kids books are incredible even for an adult to look through. I have a wonderful friend who sends me kids books all the time and they are my favourite things.

Rosie Revere is a great message for wee girls

Rosie revere, Engineer

People always say they want to read more, the resolution I’ve heard so many times, but it doesn’t have to be a 700 page novel, that is overwhelming and sometimes unattainable with our schedules. It can be as simple as leafing through Zombie Apocalypse comic manual, or a gorgeous book on pattern or colour. Architecture books are incredible, or even a lovely cookbook that inspires you to try something new. You don’t have to read adult content to enjoy reading. I firmly believe a little imagination is mandatory in our daily lives. Embrace it and so will your kids. Happy Reading!

This Orly Kiely book is incredible

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The Shed is my husband to a tee…

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How Calvin & Hobbes made me (ME!) get emotional

This post is going to make Kristin laugh. I know, I expect the jabs to come soon. Aw Kelly, you’re going soft! But I can’t help it. I had a moment last night. A genuine top ten moment and as it nears 5:30AM this morning I’m laying here thinking about it and I need to write it out. Record the occasion.

Let me backtrack a second, like I always do. My son Finn is now in grade 3. I mean, he looks about as tall as a 10 year old, but he’s still just in grade 3. Reading is supposed to be a regular thing now, I see his other classmates crushing chapter books with a vengeance and yet Finn has never been jazzed over it. I’ve sat through countless PAINFUL reading sessions, choosing quirky books to get him at least interested in reading but he’s always done the groan and eye roll when I suggest we read together. And when he reads it out loud, it’s almost painful. That monotone voice he uses, just reading the words, not really getting the story.

Anyone who knows me, knows that his reaction will have me screaming in pain from the inside. Reading is beyond important to me. I run through about 8 or 10 books a month. I just prefer it over TV, and I love jumping into a new world for a few days, the book wraps up, I get closure and then I delve into another one. It satisfies my overtly non committal nature and relaxes my whirring brain.

I know it’s a possibility, I know I can’t force a love of reading on my kids, but it’s something I’m not ready to admit defeat to. I’ve begged to read Harry Potter to Finn, but he’s (GASP) not into wizards or the supernatural or anything of the sort (DOUBLE GASP). At least there’s Wren whose already has shown a fondness for monsters, so I’m hopeful.

Anyways, Finn’s never been that way, preferring watching cartoons over anything. So as he continued to read a chapter books out loud, a painful monotone retelling of a subject that even I’m bored of, I had to think. I had to come up with a new plan, this wasn’t working.

For either of us.

He still hated to read, and I hated to listen to it.

One night I watched a doc on Bill Watterson. Creator (genius) of the comic Calvin & Hobbes. It was a fascinating watch, due partly to the fact that I grew up reading and adoring these books. These books that I can still pick up, flip to a page and almost recall the strip. So this would be 10…ok…15…OK! 25 years later and it’s still relevant, still funny, still incredibly witty and astounding to me.

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The books belonged to my sister, which she still has, so I realized I needed to get some comics in here…stat.

My new plan unfolded.

We began to read 10 pages a night or so. I would read them, out loud, frame by frame, and obviously explain it as we went. Calvin isn’t a normal little kid, he’s brilliantly smart and understated. His imagination might be hard for a little kid to grasp in comic form, wondering why all of a sudden the strip is drawn from the Jurassic period. Or understanding the political references during G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy Girls) meetings in the treehouse. Finn would only smile at first, not truly figuring it out but loving the drawings and relationship between a boy and his stuffed tiger.

But eventually he started to giggle.

After a few weeks, he would carry around his 2 large books and ask me when we would get cozy in bed and read them together. HE ASKED TO READ (TRIPLE GASP).

As Seuss would say: my heart grew 3 sizes that day…

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I’ve decided recently, my kids watch too much TV, not that I care, I mean I grew up in front of the tube, and I turned out ok…relatively, but they turn into little A-Holes for some reason and I had had enough. Restricting the TV didn’t bother Wren in the least. Last week I took it away all week and when I finally put on a movie, she walked away to colour. Finn on the other hand was DEVASTATED. But after a few days, we came to a routine. We’d play cards (which was right up Troy’s alley), or lay in my bed with Calvin and start to giggle (this was my alley).

So last night was my moment.

I told him we would read out loud for 30 minutes and then he would do it quietly beside me. But as we sat and laughed together it was so much fun, we continued for an hour. Then it happened…

MY SON READ ON HIS OWN AND LOVED IT!

I picked up my kobo, but found myself peeking at what he was reading, smiling when he smiled. His lips moving over the long words, I mean, some of those are really hard words for a kid. I did have to explain what a tyrant was and why Calvin’s mom was being one, but after my dictionary lesson, he would smile and keep going.

So yes, I had my moment, I almost verklempt at the sight. It will be a top ten, ingrained, a flick in time that maybe I did something right as a parent (those are few and far between, it feels). I mean these are the times I will remember when he doesn’t want to hang out with me anymore, when he’d rather spend his night with his friends, when he leaves for university one day to start his own adventure. I will always remember last night. Cuddling in my bed, the snow falling outside, reading the best comic ever written, and laughing uncontrollably over a little kid, his imaginary tiger and decapitated snowmen. It was perfect.

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Don’t Forget to Remember, Canada

Remembrance day is tomorrow and I hope that we aren’t so anger fueled by our southern neighbors that we don’t stop for a bit and think about our own country. I get insanely nostalgic for this day, from birth to now as it holds so much significance. Adding to that, 8 years ago tomorrow, I gave birth to Finn, so it’s a pretty important date in the eyes of an 8 year old as well as to me. No less important, in fact it’s even more so as I reflect on this world and the things our ancestors went through to make it so amazing for my kids to grow up in.

Let’s backtrack for a second. I’m sure most of you know I was born into a military family. A base brat through and through for nearly 2 decades of my life. So much so that when I thought about my future I almost enlisted to remain in the military circle. See we moved every 3 or 4 years, we were far from actual relatives, we only had each other but I never once felt bad about that. In fact, I remember with such distinctness all those faces that were always popping by in civilian clothes but then seeing those same faces, dressed in their crisp uniforms when I woud visit my dad – Sarge – in his office. I recall very clearly spending some time there, but it could have been just a handful of times.

From the terribly painted hallways, an extremenely shiny paint, everything was always so similar, gleaming in this whitish paint. All furnishings had a purpose – utilitarian but always clean. From base to base, it remained the same, but then again maybe that happened for alternate reasons – maybe it was a way to make it feel familiar, so that you didn’t get homesick. You were there, after all, for more important reasons. It wasn’t just a job to many. It was a way to give back, serve your country, but to me it was all I ever knew. To me it was my whole universe, or so it seemed in my kid brain.

Those faces, I recall so many, and really it was the best life. THE. BEST. LIFE. I never felt strange always moving, it was part of it and every one I met, every new kid, was living the same life – we had free reign of the base, or again, so it seemed.

My favorite place to live was located in northern Alberta, close to the B.C. border. It was a tiny speck of Canada, the smallest base perched on a hill, neslted in Albertan trees and rough terrain. We woud ATV around the woods, play tennis in a court in our backyard and then they would flood it in winter to entertain us during all those frigid months. No one was worried about strangers taking us, my best friend, Erica, and I would roar around on bikes, playing spies, organizing wee baseball games due to the miniscule amount of kids – the ages ranging from very young to teenagers. We all had to play together as there was no one else but it was fine, no one seemed to be too bothered by it. We’d head to the Canex for 40 cent candy bars, and there was even a small theatre on base that showed all the best movies on Sundays.

As a kid it was amazing.

I don’t know if my parents would agree with that, I mean we had to live in a tiny trailer to start with. There was one channel and it was blurry at best. Although we did get our first VHS there which led to my obsessive watching of The Lost Boys to the point that I could recite it. Sigh, my first vampire love…

In order to get to town for groceries or a Zellers fix, my mom had to brave countless winter storms and always that winding hill going up the side of the mountain was a freaking nightmare. My older sister has since lamented on how awful it was to be a teenager there, I mean, parties in ‘Beaverlodge’ were impossible to get to and she had to deal with me all the time. Sorry Laurie, I love you!! But for a little kid, I just needed a bag of chips, Corey Haim movies and I was content. There would always be parties for the kids, it was extrememly family oriented. Military life was, in my mind, the very best way to grow up.

Sure I missed out on being close to biological family, but I also learned from birth to adapt. I could move tomorrow and be ok with that. I’ve lived all over Canada, my appreciation for this country is vast. It was tough but being forced into a new class every few years sure makes one self-sufficent, and making new friends was old hat. I didn’t have to sit with the same people for years, growing up with the same circle, I had new ones every couple years. Perhaps it makes me flippant about relationships a tad, I’m not sure, but it’s given me the ability to walk into a new place and quickly turn around a social life.

This isn’t saying that I don’t care about the ones I leave behind. I care greatly, I miss them all very much, but I can also see the possibilities of gaining new people to excite me, entertain me and add to my life. I view it as a gift. Something maybe my parents know about, maybe not. If you’re reading this mom & dad – thank you!

I feel so much fondness when I think of my life as a military brat that I actually physically miss it. During Air Show days I sometimes feel like bursting into tears. Not that I’m sad, but I just miss that ‘family’ connection with all those people in uniform. I wasn’t a solider, I didn’t do a damn thing, but I was there for the ride and I loved it. I was included and felt a part of something bigger, something amazing.

Every November 11, I attend the ceremony (well aside from that morning I was pushing Finn out), and again I’m close to tears. When I see the vets in their blazers, their medals displayed proudly, many with watery eyes, plus the men and women in their crisp uniforms, their shoes shined to perfection (I recall my dad shining his every single morning…like every day…I even remeber the box he kept with all his supplies, shining a mirror into his toes). Then I see the young cadets and their adorably perfect outfits, I can’t help but feel sad that I’m not one of them anymore. I feel like I should be able to walk up and share that bond like everybody on base had. No matter who you were,  you belonged and you were in it together.

When I think about my job now and how little I contribute to society, how these men and women devote their lives to our country and risk their lives in combat to keep our lives safe, I wish perhaps I would have chosen differently. Not that anyone reading this could picture my hair in such a tight bun, keeping the collars clear of hair and to code! Or see me running through physical training with 50 pounds of gear on, in the pouring rain. Or having to wear the same thing every day, or shoot a gun…although I have been thinking of taking up archery…

Regardless, I think about all of this every single Novemeber, I feel sad but so very blessed to have had that connection…and now I get to add a happy component to the day. I get to watch my kid beam with pride that he was born on ‘Poppy day’. I get to eat cake (Pokemon cake in case you were wondering) and I get to celebrate the day with my new family even though I will always remember my first one. The life my mom and dad chose, I will always be grateful for and I thank them for giving me that. I am also so so beyond happy that they are here for another Remembrance Day, their health still going strong :) They are so important to me and my kids, I just wanted them to know how much their sacrifices meant to me.

I also spend a few minutes of tomorrow looking up to my grandpa in heaven, thanking him for his navy service, and I ALWAYS blubber (espeically with my sister!) during the procession – darn those fecking bag pipes…

Happy Poppy Day :) Cheers mum and dad!

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Troy, (Sargeant Lawrence) Dad & Mum 

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Live your Dream! Or don’t…who cares

So the other day I read an interview and I can’t even recall where I read it, which I apologize for as it has stayed in my brain for days and this person deserves a shout out :) Regardless it was about following your passion. I typically don’t write about this stuff as I am no expert and I don’t want to sound hokey…I prefer to bitch and moan and make the odd person laugh at the ridiculousness of my life. But today I felt inspired and I haven’t blogged in so long so it brings me full circle back to one of my own passions. Writing.

The quote was a simple one: If you think about your passion every single day then you should never let it go. Never let it die. Never.

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Simple right? Simple but not always easy with the follow through. Kids, work, social lives, yard work (RAKING IS MY NEMESIS), house work, yard work (ugh), laundry, crafting Halloween costumes, trying to keep up with the school schedule, yard work (the worst), trying to keep up with some sort of personal workout, keeping up in general … I mean, I pretty much sit on the precipice of ‘failing miserably’ most days.

This past weekend, according to my mum, I should have a scrubber on hand at all times in this house (and javex, and lysol, and sponges, and comet) and I didn’t and I’m thinking holy shit, I can’t even keep general cleaning supplies on hand! I had to throw that joke in there for her … and Kristin :)

Nailed it.

OK, so that aside, let’s get back to your passion project. Hard (impossible some days) to keep that up when you have a life to manage and money to make, right? I’m constantly in awe of those people who pop their kids to bed and write the next best novel all night long. Or work double, and triple, and quadruple time to build their business. It’s unbelievably daunting and I have my own business! I’ve built it to the point that I can manage fitting it in during the school day but once I get those kids, feed them, play with them, organize the school shit for the next day, I’m toast. My success is great for the lack of initiative I have, I’m so very lucky to have this life, but it’s still missing something.

That fucking passion project.

So what do you do? How do you be the person you want to be, put your own dreams first, or basically do anything in the slightest to fulfill your goal when all you want to do is lay in bed, read slutty books or binge watch Misfits on Netflix (I ADORE ROBERT SHEEHAN).

I have no fucking clue.

But still, I hold on to that passion. I haven’t let it go for 8 years. I’ve written almost 3 books which is sad over that amount of time, but I guess it’s a start. And then I think of all the other things I want to do and I tell myself, you are no Printemps Poulet, you need to start this shit before you get too old!

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I guess the fact remains that it’s been 8 years and I’m still doing it, that’s something I suppose. I get a high every time I write a great scene, I’m super pumped about finishing this last one, and still, I’m messing with my concept for my NaNoWriMo project (writing 50,000 words in November). It’s there and it makes me so happy when I actually get a chance to do it. Even this morning, I’m pumped to write a blog, it’s been forever! But let’s not stop there.

I want to learn to play guitar – there I said it. My lovely friend Kristin, has graciously cornered a local girl after a workout class and pressured her to take on a number of us for a class this winter. So I guess sharing your passion is key as well. Get others working with you to follow through.

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this is mine!

I also want to make t-shirts, like all the other zillion people in the world, I know. But I don’t want to make a million bucks or sell them anywhere. I just want to make my own wardrobe of inappropriate sayings on a t-shirt and then make them for my friends. Valid passion right? It’s very important I do this, so on to buying the press … Christmas Troy?

So my thoughts are this. Don’t get bogged down with the whole passion project. Don’t feel pressure. Don’t worry about it. Don’t feel like a failure if it takes you 7 years to learn to paint, or 25 to become a black belt. As long as you are alive, and not letting it go, that passion is yours and yours alone and no one can ever take that from you.

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Hunkering is Almost a Good Thing

I’ve not written in so long, I have no idea where to begin. I wanted to touch on my trip to Cleveland in August – the most magical city ever (no i’m not kidding!), back to school drama, my dance mom induction, so so much to say. And so I’ve put off posting in order to gather my thoughts and write something good and interesting but time is slipping and I’ve not written anything in so long I feel massive guilt and also like I’ve had to shut down that creative side of myself which is likened to a phantom limb, but perhaps that’s a tab dramatic so I’ll get to the point and stop talking about nothing.

I’ll start this post with saying it’s been an expensive summer. LOTS of outings, gathering, hosting large groups, a few flights out east, some ball games, a trip to magical Cleveland, visits to breweries, Sunday ball team shenanigans, I mean, I feel a little drunk thinking about the summer but you know I don’t feel bad for any of it. We decided in April when my mom’s health took a bad turn that we were going to do whatever we wanted this summer and suffer the consequence in September. That being said, we didn’t go into debt or anything but man oh man, there was no saving going on.

And so as September started we began the Hogan Hunker. Our friends coined the ‘hunkering’ term a number of years ago which basically means you buy only essentials and the cheap wine which let’s be honest, that’s the hard part. Back to Carling light and the dreaded drug store hair products. That was a hard one for me obviously.

Regardless, we jumped into September with the whole family on board, it’s time to HUNKER kids – yay! Wren is oblivious to money so really she was a non issue. Finn on the other hand was, to put it mildly, devastated. He spent 3 weeks this summer in PEI basically cleaning up every dollar store he could find, trapsing home with a suitcase full of garbage, so I put my foot down. NO MORE. No more useless spending on dumb things that break in seconds. Nope, September meant even HE couldn’t spend his allowance, and we could not, as a family, buy anything personal. No clothes, shoes, back to school shit. Nope. Hunkering.

We do this from time to time and I have to admit, I secretly love the challenge. I find myself moving things around my house and using them in new ways for a fresh take on an old item. I clean out my clothes closet, remove the junk I don’t wear and search out old accessories that I haven’t worn in awhile, trying out new things with them. September is also a great month to hunker as you can unearth all the fall shoes, sweaters and wraps that have spent the summer in the back recesses of your closet. It’s like you get a whole new wardrobe for free!

I also enjoy watching fashion vlogs to get ideas on new looks that I could achieve with my old clothes (I love this girl Jenn’s style!). I think it makes you see what you have with new eyes. Eyes that don’t continually search for things to buy buy buy.

It’s a great lesson for the kids, well except for the one blow out with Finn who walked off the bus in tears, chucking his scholastic book order forms for September with an exasperated ‘WHAT’S THE POINT! WE’RE HUNKERING! I CAN’T EVEN BUY BOOKS!’, flinging them at my face.

We live in such a consumeristic world, it is hard to hunker, I won’t lie. But it also forces us to realize how much we do have and how much we spend on useless crap that ends up in the diabetes donation bags anyways. I also discovered the Kid’s Closet second hand store scooping up all of Wrens dance shoes for like 4.00 bucks a pop.

I did not buy back to school clothes for the kids, no new lunch bags and Finn is perfectly happy trudging to the bus with an old Magna backpack from Troy’s work. Who says we need to buy hundreds of dollars of clothes in September? My kids didn’t give a crap what they wore on the first day of school. I know that will change, but for now, why indulge in a tradition that isn’t necessary?

So as September winds down, Finn has been asking when October begins with an allowance savings that is burning a hole in his pocket. I have banned dollar store stuff for awhile but I will take him out on Saturday to spend a little cash. He deserves it. He put in the work. As for me, I just might have to invest in some good wine as I head into a weekend with Troy out of town. With all the hunkering as well as a single parent weekend, I think I deserve it too.

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