A perfect moment of joy between friends

Brandon has a friend at school whom he adores. This other little boy, who I'll call Dennis, kinda reminds me of Dennis the Menace, but in the best possible way - we really like him. He also seems to get Brandon like no one else. They've been in the same class for three years, and they've been mostly inseparable for the past two years.

Dennis has been out from time to time this school year - I think his family must be having one of those cursed years of one sickness after another after another. (I really feel for them on this!) On one occasion, he returned to school the same day Brandon asked me to pick him up early. I was able to get him early, but I found out later that Brandon had a really hard time leaving Dennis behind. He wanted to be with me, but he didn't want to miss a single minute of his friend being back. He actually got teary-eyed when he hugged Dennis goodbye. They have a really sweet and special relationship.

Brandon often comes home telling me plans that he and Dennis have made. We take them with a grain of salt. If moms or dads haven't been in touch, there aren't any actual plans. But a couple weeks ago the boys decided they were going to meet at the school playground to play after dinner. Matt picked Brandon up, heard the plan, and was able to take him at the time they said. Dennis wasn't there. 

A week later, I was doing pickup. Once again, a plan had been made. But I had a work commitment and I told Brandon I wasn't sure we'd make it back in time. He went with me, helped me, and I rushed to finish so we could get back to the school as soon as possible. We were 15 minutes late and Dennis was once again not there. 

While Brandon and I rushed to get to the school, I called Matt and begged him to meet me at the school so I could go home and change out of the shirt I spilled chipotle sauce all over (I was a literal hot mess). He met us, as promised, as we were walking back to the car and offered to stay with Brandon so he could play even though Dennis wasn't there. I got about 20 feet away, heading back to my car, when Matt called out to me.

I turned around and saw Brandon running for all his might toward Dennis, who was running just as eagerly to hug his friend. 

Their faces radiated happiness and their little bodies practically vibrated with joy. 

Even though I didn't have a camera ready, that image is etched in my brain as one of the sweetest things I've ever seen. 

Later, I found out that Dennis had to work pretty hard to convince his parents to let him go and I'm so thankful they humoured him.

The stories that come out of schools about mean kids and bullying (even some of what Brandon has experienced) can make us sad, depressed, and angry.

But those aren't the only stories, thank goodness. There are stories of kids who meet and form a bond that has the potential to last if life circumstances work in their favour. Whatever happens, I hope these boys will always remember the years of their friendship as happy times growing up knowing they have a friend to lean on no matter what.

Peekaboo Beans - quality children's clothes with some pretty cool benefits

I was compensated for the following review with a pair of pants that didn't fit me well so I gave them to Brandon. Opinions are my own.

My good friend, Vicky, sells this Canadian brand of clothing - Peekaboo Beans (PB) - and the quality is amazing. When she asked me if I would do a review, I was happy to oblige. 

Brandon calls his Peekaboo Beans clothes "peas in a pod" because of the company's logo sewn on to all their clothes. It's seriously cute.

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PB clothes are meant to be comfortable, functional and allow kids to play. (This is mostly why I was so disappointed that they didn't fit me. I like comfy clothes. Sorry, Vicky; there's a downside to every product.)

The tags even encourage children to play!

All the pertinent stuff we parents need to know is right there on the front of the tags.

All the pertinent stuff we parents need to know is right there on the front of the tags.

Rather than toss it away, you can give it to your child to turn into a wee little piece of art.

Rather than toss it away, you can give it to your child to turn into a wee little piece of art.

As the mother of a child with autism who also has sensory processing disorder (SPD), I have so much appreciation for the thought that has gone into PB clothes. That tag being removable means that kids who are bothered by tags won't have problems wearing Peekaboo Beans. 

Even though the big tag is gone, I don't have to wonder what size Brandon's clothes are with the less bothersome smaller tags left behind.

Even though the big tag is gone, I don't have to wonder what size Brandon's clothes are with the less bothersome smaller tags left behind.

Another bonus is the thumb holes that are so helpful to Canadian kids and parents for roughly nine months of the year (maybe 6 depending on where you live). Thumb holes mean arms of your child's shirt aren't going to get bunched up when it's time to bundle up. (No doubt this is also helpful for kids with SPD.)

Brandon really loves his pirate ship shirt with the thumbholes. (Don't try saying that too fast.)

Brandon really loves his pirate ship shirt with the thumbholes. (Don't try saying that too fast.)

He doesn't wear this shirt without using the thumb holes.

He doesn't wear this shirt without using the thumb holes.

The pants have fake ties for the younger kids, but Brandon is old enough now to wear pants that have a real drawstring. 

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So, how does this outfit look now that I've talked about it so much?

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Not too bad at all when it's sitting on the counter.

Though I think the best part is when there's a cute kid filling it out. ;)

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In addition to selling Peekaboo Beans, Vicky is just a really great person to know. You can get to know the uber-fabulous Vicky by following her on Twitter or liking her Facebook page.

I've been a little behind on my writing (as you may have noticed since there's been a two-month gap between this post and my last), so the PB line has moved on from winter and is into spring and summer. You should definitely check out the new line!

We all need a better mirror and a little kindness

I was in sixth grade when I started noticing the things about myself that were different. The most obvious difference was my skin. I don't tan. I burn and then go back to my pasty white skin.

I was dubbed Casper. It could have been worse, I suppose.

And then it got worse.

"Did your mama drop you in a tub of bleach?" was just one of the cracks they made about my pale skin. 

It wasn't bullying. No, it was just inconsiderate children not knowing when to stop because they're hurting another human being.

The day it stopped was the worst day of all. Incessantly pointing out how pale I was. Making jokes that weren't funny...at least to me.

I felt like less and less likeable the longer the barrage continued.

I finally left the room without a word to my teacher or fellow students. I ran to the bathroom and cried, wishing with everything in me that I was not the person I was.

If you can’t see something beautiful about yourself
Get a better mirror
Look a little closer
Stare a little longer

Eventually I stopped listening to the voice in my head telling me that being different was a bad thing. I learned to appreciate my pale skin. I stopped caring so much what my peers thought about me. I figured out how to like myself as I was. 

It may seem like a trivial matter, this issue of having pale skin. So, let me add some context: I was eleven and lived in Florida.

It mattered to me, even if it didn't matter to anyone else.

It's still a battle sometimes to like parts of me that I view as less than perfect. But I have never let myself go back to feeling as if the person I am isn't good enough.

I hope everyone who sees this video goes out to find a better mirror, take a closer look and stare a little longer until there's no doubt in their mind that they are beautiful and valuable, just as they are.

Kindness Week in Ottawa is wrapping up today - let's go be kind to one another every day for another year, my friends.

Sunrise to sunset: a beautiful, but tragic day

As I drove in to work this morning, I had the urge no less than about 20 times to stop the car and get out my camera to capture the sunrise. I was so captivated by it. The sun was this huge orange ball in the sky, slowly rising into obscurity behind a bank of clouds, only to slowly peek out again over them. For 30 minutes, I watched as it got higher and higher, hoping that when I (finally) got to a place where I could stop that it wouldn’t be too late to take the pictures I wanted.

This wasn’t the most stunning part of the sunrise, but it was still very pretty. The day started out with this beauty that fascinated me. I became obsessed with capturing that beauty, even if only a piece of it, to look back and remember.

It’s hard to believe that with such a beautiful start to the day it would just hours later turn to grief and heartache for the community of Newtown, Connecticut. The sun no doubt rose over Sandy Hook Elementary in similar brilliant fashion. But I’ll never understand what drove a young man to murder his mother, eight of her colleagues and 18 children. There is no doubt in my mind that he was a very troubled young man. 

This mass shooting - a horrendous tragedy - has had a profound effect on me. I’ve never cried before. I did today. I cried because my own little boy is in school and I know I would be devastated if he witnessed or was injured or even killed through similar circumstances.

All afternoon, I fought tears in my effort to maintain a professional front. All I wanted to do was go pick Brandon up from daycare and hold him close. Though I ended up working late, that’s exactly what I did. I gave him a big hug and then we just hung out together. 

He helped me smile again, despite the sadness of the day.

The best part of the day was bedtime. I lay in his bed snuggled with him where he told me he loves me very much. And I cried, because I love him so much too, but also because hearing those words out of my little guy’s mouth is one of the sweetest things I could ever receive. I can count on my hands how many times I’ve heard those three words pass his lips, but tonight he said it three times. 

It’s almost like he knew I needed to hear it. He let me snuggle with him and hug him close and tell him I love him back. And I stayed with him until he dropped off to sleep.

My heart aches for the parents and loved ones who won’t ever hear their children say they love them or get to hug and snuggle with them again. I hope and pray that they have beautiful memories to cherish. Most of all, I hope they find peace. The Sandy Hook children and faculty will not be forgotten. 

The key to selflessness is having children...yeah, right.

I have often said that parents are the single most judged group in society. I have no statistical analysis to back up my claim, but there has never been a stage of my life where I’ve felt looked down on or held to a certain standard more than since I became pregnant with Brandon.

I think many parents (especially mothers?) feel that way at one point or another. Matt and I have talked about it a lot and decided early on not to get too caught up in comparing what Brandon is doing with other kids. I’ve had those discussions where we all talk about the age our child did something and how they went about it, but that’s rarely purely comparison so much as it’s sharing different experiences. Every child is different, after all.

One discussion I don’t think I’ve ever had with friends is why they had kids. I have no idea how I’d answer that question myself. I’ve always wanted to have children and I can’t tell you why. The desire for a child became overwhelming after I had a miscarriage - a pregnancy that wasn’t “planned”. The topic of when I was going to have kids came up a lot after I miscarried, mostly among people who didn’t know I’d lost a baby.

In one instance, a chauvinist pig coworker decided to ask me when I was planning to have kids. It had been over 18 months since I miscarried, but I was still raw and this guy was the last person I would ever confide in. I lied and told him I didn’t know if I would have any kids. (Well, I guess it wasn’t a complete lie - you never know 100% for sure you can.) He proceeded to ask me why and tell me I really should think about because parenthood is so great.

His persistence on such a personal issue left me without any words other than the sarcastic ones ringing in my head: “Yes, I’ll be sure to let you know just as soon as Matt and I decide on the when. You’ll be the first on my list to tell.” 

After the grilling I received, I vowed never again to ask someone if they want kids or when they will have them. (Well, unless it came up in conversation and there was a natural opening that wouldn’t make me sound like a total busybody. There’s a difference between getting to know someone and being nosy about their decisions.) The main reason? Because it’s none of my business what someone else’s life plans are. 

The expectations that are default in society are being challenged and changed by each new generation. Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in controversial ways. 

Somehow, though, there are still some archaic ideas out there that shock me:

Having children used to be the point of being a pair. It was the great aspiration — along with finding love everlasting — a biological impulse to go forth and multiply and, later, once your babies reached a certain age, to cajole them about the merits and benefits of doing their bit to join the ranks of parenthood while giving Mom and Dad some grandkids.

This is a quote from Joe O’Connor’s recent piece in the National Post (my favorite rag this week), “Trend of couples not having children just plain selfish”. Sure, there’s some truth to what Mr. O’Connor says, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right reason for “being a pair”. I didn’t marry my husband for his sperm or ability to procreate; I married him because I wanted to spend my life with him - kids or no kids.

I remember a couple telling me years ago that they were too selfish to have children. And you know what? I respect that. Life changed for that couple and they now have a child. They’re great parents who are involved and unselfish. But I certainly wouldn’t fault them if they’d maintained their “selfish” stance and remained childless. I think there is an overburdened foster care system that proves truly self-centered people who refuse to change are not good candidates for parenthood. So, why should anyone be faulted for knowing they don’t want or shouldn’t have kids?

So, while this article focused on the lavish lifestyle of childless couples, which is a suspect claim to say the very least, it completely left off many very legitimate concerns. What about the following situations?

  • Are infertile couples selfish?
  • Are couples with financial troubles selfish?
  • How about adults who grew up with abuse and fear doing the same? Also selfish?
  • And a couple who finds out both carry cistic fibrosis or another life-threatening genetic marker?
  • Or perhaps a couple where one or both have a debilitating disease or disability?
  • The article addresses life partners who choose not to have children, but what about people who choose not to enter a relationship and have children? Are they also selfish? 
  • Am I selfish for having only one child? Because having another isn’t a guarantee.
  • What about couples who make a conscious choice to adopt rather than have their own biological children? (I would say that’s the most unselfish option of all, personally.)

I wonder if Mr. O’Connor and the people who (in the comments) agree with him have stopped to consider that their tunnel vision perspective on this issue is unfair and rather exclusive to what is likely a small minority of people that choose not to have children. And if they genuinely are too selfish, having kids isn’t likely to make them less so. Let’s consider that there are legitimate reasons that have nothing to do with selfishness that drive couples to remain childless.