One on One Kid Dates

One of my favourite traditions that we started a few years back, is to go out on one on one Christmas shopping dates with our kids.

It’s not very often that we get to spend time alone with one of the kids so it’s nice when we get to do it.

We put let the kids draw either a Mom or Dad name out of a hat. This way we each get two dates. This year it actually worked out the exact opposite as last year. Ella and Noah came with me while Alexandria and Caile went with Jen.

The kids choose where they want to shop and we go pick out little gifts for them to give their siblings. We keep it small so under $10 for each gift.

The shopping is only part of it though. We also let the kids pick out a little snack of some sort and we go and do that with them as well.

I did both my dates today. Noah wanted A cheeseburger for his snack so we went to McDonalds for lunch and then hit the shops. When we were done and home at a good time  Ella and I decided to head out in the afternoon for our date.

While Noah and I were able to do the shopping all in one store, with Ella we ended up at three different ones, but she was happy in the end with what she picked for everyone.

Then to top off the Big Mac I had for lunch, Ella and I had a hot fudge sundae from Dairy Queen. So many calories for a day but also a lot of fun too!

 

Christmas Café with Hot Chocolate

Tonight at our Church we held our annual Christmas Café. We get together with friends, very talented people get up and perform, and there are snacks and hot chocolate for everyone.

This year my two youngest Daughters Caile and Ella along with my twin nieces decided they would sing The First Noel. They did a wonderful job.

Last minute Alexandria found the courage to get over her stage fright and went up and sang Silent Night a capella.

Noah didn’t perform but he enjoyed the snacks. He even patient waiting for the hot chocolate to cool off. Just as it reached the right temperature he went to take a sip to test and promptly spilled a bunch on his leg. Without missing a beat he looked, grinned at me and said:

“It feels just about right.”

The Café is always one of my favourite nights and I’m very proud of my daughters for sharing their songs with everyone.

Hillbilly Cappuccino

Recently I picked up an AeroPress coffee maker which is absolutely fantastic. I’ve been making a pile of Americano style coffee.

Tonight I tried something different I made a very hurting attempt at a cappuccino.

I put some milk in a mason jar and shook the crap out of it. When it was all foamed up I put it in the microwave to hear it up.

From there I dumped the milk into the coffee and the foam on top of that. It was far from a real cappuccino but not absolutely horrible either. Next time I’ll heat the milk a bit more.

Why you should use WordPress.com

Sandy McFadden:

This is something I’ve given some thought to recently as well. Dan does a great job explaining the benefits of WordPress.com.

If you need a new website you should really check it out.

Originally posted on Dan's Site:

automattic-shirtsnlogos

After starting working at Automattic, I was surprised just at how little we advertise WordPress.com. Sure, we power ~24% of the sites, across WordPress.com and WordPress.org software. Yep, a quarter of all the sites available are currently run by some version of WordPress. However, after trying to simply Google “Why should I use WordPress.com”, or “Why should you use WordPress.com”, or “Benefits of using WordPress.com”, I was surprised to find out that neither of those answer the right question. What you do get instead:

* Why you should use WordPress.org.

* Why you should use WordPress.org plugins.

* Differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com

* Random pages from WordPress.com support forums.

This sucked to find out. I’ve been working with WordPress.com for the past couple of months, and in all honesty, it could probably be ideal for 70% of all the people who are looking to build a site. The rest might benefit more…

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My family went to Ottawa and all I got was this colostomy

Each year we try to take our family on some sort of vacation. Lots of times it’s somewhere fairly close by but other years when we can we try to go a bit further. Usually my wife and I decide where to go and what fun things to do while we’re there. Typically Jen does most of this as vacations are her thing. She loves them. In 2011 however I decided I wanted to go to Ottawa. It’s our Nations capital and I’d never been there before. Jen wasn’t overly keen on going though so it was this year I did more of the planning than usual.

Planning went really well. We ended up being able to time things so that we could take over a University class mates from home while they came to Nova Scotia for their vacation. We have friends in Northern New Brunswick so we would stay with them on the way there and back to break up the drive. It is while we were there visiting before Ottawa that I started having the pain in my abdomen.

I could likely go back many years talking about the issues I’ve had with my bowels, it was never anything I considered serious. I chalked it up to my poor diet and lifestyle in general. Usually I had the opposite problem though, this time I always felt like I had to go but just couldn’t. As we were on vacation I was eating even less regular and more fast food than usual so again I figured diet issues.

By the time we made it to Ottawa I was having issues even walking around. I would get waves of pain that would almost double me over, but other times it would pass and I would be pretty good. Constantly going to the washroom but having nothing happen at all was very frustrating and was causing me to miss out on our vacation fun while we were out. Quickly things got so bad that I wasn’t even going out with the rest of the family anymore. Much of my time was spent on the couch in pain. The day planned for seeing the Parliament Hill and taking a boat ride down the Ottawa River I drug myself out to go along as this was my main highlight. We didn’t go into the Parliament buildings but did get to see them outside, it wasn’t as enjoyable as I had hoped as I was in a fair amount of pain.

Finally Jen convinced me to go get checked out. Luckily there was a walk in clinic not far from where we were staying so I went there. They did a few tests but couldn’t figure out what it might be, they sent me home saying they would contact me with the results of the tests but if the pain kept up to go to the hospital.

The Hospital

The morning we woke up to drive home things had gotten just too bad, I could barely get myself dressed. My wife too me to the Emergency Room at the hospital and they took me in right away. With nothing showing in the tests they sent me for a CT scan.

The hospital and sent my family away as there was no need in four kids sitting in the waiting room. Being there alone was hard. Not knowing what was wrong and not having anyone I cared for there was both stressful and scary. This had to be bad for my wife as well. We were supposed to be heading home, but instead she was trying to entertain our kids in an unfamiliar city by herself and not knowing what was going on with me.

After what felt like forever, but probably wasn’t, the results of the CT scan came back. It was determined that I had diverticulitis. Little pouches which formed in my bowel became infected and inflamed. This likely explains some of the issues I had previously, but this time things were so bad that these little pouches actually perforated. Now I would need to wait for a surgeon to see what was going to happen next.

It was shortly after this that I started feeling very faint and dizzy. A nurse came and took my blood pressure which was very low. This prompted them to get me back in a bed, pump me full of IV and get me some pain medication.

Once I started the pain medication details started getting blurry, I’m unclear on time frames etc. But I finally got to talk to a surgeon who let me know that he was going to have to perform surgery and that I would end up with a colostomy. He also let me know I would end up being in the hospital for around ten days.

Not long after I was given all this information I finally was able to talk to my wife who had tried calling the hospital a number of times. She was so calm and comforting even though it was obvious she was stressed out herself. The whole family was able to come in to see me for a while as the surgery wouldn’t be happening until later that night.

The rest of the time before the surgery is mostly a blur to me as well. Likely from the strong pain meds, the stress, and other emotions I was feeling. The next thing I remember was groggily waking up in recovery.

After the Surgery

As I woke up after the surgery I remember the surgeon talking to me but things were not absorbing properly. It wasn’t until I could hear him in the background speaking to my wife on the phone and explaining things to her, that I started to grasp everything that happened.

He had expected that he wouldn’t be able to perform the surgery laparoscopically and indeed he did have to switch to laparotomy, so I had a large incision from my belly button down. He left the incision open to heal and close on it’s own which was something I didn’t really expect to deal with. He was also telling her that I would need to wait a full year before having the surgery reversed. Before hand he had mentioned that it would be between six months and a year, so I was on the long end of that. The other big news was that I would be in the hospital for around two weeks before I could make the long trip home.

The outcome could have been a whole lot worse but all I was thinking about was spending the next two weeks in a hospital, in a strange city, without my family, and then the next year carrying around a bag of my own waste. It was a strange mix of emotions. I was thankful that he was able to repair me, but at the same time frustration, anger, fear, and loneliness all set in.

As I came in to the hospital on the day we were supposed to be driving home to Nova Scotia, it wasn’t possible for my family to stay for another two weeks. Even though we hadn’t had a chance to talk about it yet I knew my wife was going to have to drive home with the kids herself and leave me to recover. After that I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to get home.

Looking back I can’t recall the first time I actually paid attention to the actual ostomy and wound. I know it didn’t take long before I accepted the fact that it was there and would be there for some time. I still wasn’t thrilled with the idea by any means but it was certainly better than the alternative.

The next day when my family was able to see me I learned my wife had been busy. Two of my sisters were flying in to help with things. One sister from Nova Scotia flew in to help my wife with the kids and drive back home with them. My other sister from Alberta was flying in to spend at least a few of the days keeping me company and helping me out in the hospital. She wouldn’t be able to stay for the whole time so my Mother was going to fly in and stay until it was time to go home.

One of the other major issues we had was the peoples whose home we were staying in were coming back. Therefore my family was out of a place to stay until we got things straightened out. Some close family friends all arranged to take up a collection from our other friends and book a hotel for my family to stay for the next couple days. Things were still less than ideal but some of the major things that were concerning me were all of a sudden taken care of.

By and large I’m not an overly emotional guy but this whole situation certainly had me emotional. I had shed a few tears the day before when the surgeon explained everything that was going to be taking place, and once my family left I shed some more thinking about the generosity and selflessness of my family and friends. Just toss a couple more emotions onto the pile I was already experiencing, gratitude and humility.

The Next Year

Over the next year I had to get used to a lot of things. Everyday things like dressing yourself, showering, and going to the store, were all different. I’ve never had the greatest self image but I was even more self conscious when ever I was out or around other people.

Like everything in life I got used to it though. As I worked from home the vast majority of the time this made things both very nice and difficult. Nice that I didn’t have to be around anyone and could wear comfy clothes. Difficult because I was self employed and didn’t have a steady income stream or any health benefits. Therefore all the supplies I needed would come out of our own pocket. Luckily I made contact with a great specialist Nurse here who ended up getting me on a trial with a company who supplied me as long as I answered a survey about their product. This was a huge blessing.

It was during this time however that I realized working for myself, at least the way I had been, could no longer go on. We needed a steady income and health benefits in case anything else like this happened to anyone else in my family. Thankfully we are all pretty healthy people, but just having that security now means a lot to me.

A great opportunity came a long doing IT support for the Michelin tire plant near my home so I jumped at it. At this point I already had my scheduled appointment to have a reversal of my colostomy performed so they graciously waited until that was done and I was healed before I started.

It was a very tough year for me, but it really helped change my life and set me down a new path. It also helped me realize what a lucky guy I am to have such great support in friends and family all around, and even complete strangers. It would have been a lot harder to get through without them all, so I am eternally grateful.

Remembering Melba Green

Much of my childhood was spent growing up in a trailer park in rural Nova Scotia. It was very much it’s own little community with all kinds of interesting characters, my family included.

One of our neighbors was Melba Green. In many ways she was a stereotypical stay off my lawn kind of seniors. At least I think she was a senior, I don’t think I ever really knew how old she was. For as long as I knew her she never worked and I assume it was old age pension that she lived on, but it very easily could have been a disability benefit.

She was single and I don’t believe she was ever married, she had a brother and sister in law who lived about an hour and a half away but visits between them were seldom.

She was quite overweight and had mobility issues. First using a cane but then eventually required a walker for most distances.

She would spend most of her days sitting watching TV or peering out the window waiting for us to do something that she could yell at us to stop.

When I was about about 12 years old I ended up doing odd jobs for Melba. With her mobility issues she had a hard time doing even simple tasks. One of the first things I started doing for her was grocery shopping.

Once a week we would hop in her old Chevrolet Chevette and drive to the grocery store. She couldn’t reach back to pull the seat belt across so usually she just drove without it. The drivers seat was broken and in fact the whole car leaned to the drivers side. Eventually we started taking a taxi as the car was too old and she really shouldn’t have been driving anyway.

We always drove past three or four stores to get to the one she liked as it was familiar and it had a little dining area where she could sit while I went around the store getting the things on her list.

When I was done I would bring the cart back so she could inspect everything and give me the money to go pay. She had little money so I really had to pay attention to what everything cost to make sure it for the budget.

Once I gained her trust with the grocery shopping she also had me start doing her banking. So we would stop at the bank and she would either sit in a waiting area or stay in the car. She had a different account for every bill so I would deposit her Government cheque and then transfer funds into each of the accounts so the bills could be paid. I would also get envelopes with cash in them for things like groceries and my pay.

House cleaning became another service I would do for her. Dishes, floors, bathrooms, and laundry. Like most of us she had a oil furnace for heat. There was something wrong with it as everything in her home was always covered in a black film of soot coming from it. It was very unhealthy but I knew she couldn’t afford to have it fixed. It was about this time that my feelings for Melba Green changed. It became obvious that my helping her was as much about companionship as it was anything else. I was someone to talk to, a break from obvious loneliness.

Her yelling out the window at us neighbourhood kids came from that boredom and loneliness. Even though she had family fairly close, they had their own lives and her finances made even that distance of travel difficult.
Instead of just going and doing my job I tried to have more conversations with her. We would every once in a while sit and have meals on TV trays while watching soap operas and chatting.
Melba taught me a number of things and looking back I can see them even more clearly. Not just the practical life skills but also perspective.

There are reasons people are how they are and it’s important to have empathy and try to see things from their perspective.

When she finally was moved to a nursing home I was happy for her. She wasn’t someone I worked for now, or the cranky old lady across the street, but a sort of friend. The environment was going to be much healthier without oil soot in the air. The food would be healthier and there would be people closer to her age for companionship.

Once she moved we only visited her a couple times, but she seemed so much happier and even started losing weight.
We lost touch when my family moved away as well, but I hope she knew that she had an effect on my life and I believe I’m a bit better of a person for having known her.