A Proud and Grateful Son

From a very young age my Mother and I were good friends. We had four years where I was the only child and we grew a strong bond. Even though she was really almost a child herself she spent time with me, read to me, played with me, and talked with me. I’m convinced that anything good in me has come from my Mother. Watching how she handled and sacrificed herself through many trials she never gave up. She always did what she saw as best for her family even if I didn’t always see it at the time.

Being young and a bit rebellious, as many teenagers can be, she found herself in a relationship and married to an abusive alcoholic. Having moved across the Country with no friends or family I can only imagine how stuck and helpless she felt. This whole part of her life could easily be a best selling novel. Thankfully she found a great support system within a Church. Despite the abuse and very real threats on her life if she were ever to leave, and with the Churches help, she found the courage and the strength to take us three kids and get away.

It took lots of planning and one day while he was away at work we packed up what we could and flew away. The actual leaving was only the first part though. We were essentially in hiding. We couldn’t move close to family for fear of being found, so we moved close to friends she had made within her Church community. I’m still amazed at the strength this had to take. It’s not hard to understand that after an experience like that, and the support received, she would then become deeply involved with the Church.

We spent most of my child hood living on social assistance with my mother doing what ever she could to make ends meet. Knowing how much money we lived on blows me away. How she ever kept us all fed and housed let alone with the extras we managed to scrounge is almost unbelievable. Although I didn’t always see it this way. There were many times I was angry at her when we couldn’t do things like other families, or I couldn’t get something I wanted because there wasn’t the money for it. The way my mother handled this though taught me how to work hard and how to manage money.

For the next seven years she raised three kids on her own. I get overwhelmed with my four kids and I have an amazing wife and the support of all my family around. Knowing that you weren’t going to have anyone show up to give you any sort of break had to be demoralizing at times. It’s no wonder that when she finally met a man who recently started at her Church she ended up rushing into marrying him.

Unfortunately he didn’t really share the values she was looking for, and he certainly didn’t want to be a family man. He was still a step up from her last husband as there wasn’t physically abuse. But things like lies, unfaithfulness and lots of fighting are certainly not the building blocks of a healthy marriage. The one good thing that came out of this short lived union is my youngest sister. He showed his true colours even more after she was born by not being a part of her life at all.

It was about this time that I started falling away from the beliefs of the Church I had been brought up in. Although I very much appreciate the people who supported my family I can separate the community side of things from the religious side. I love the community aspect just not everything else that came with it. This falling away partly caused me to rebel against my mother and the beliefs of the Church, this put a large strain on mine and my Mothers relationship.

A few years later she was introduced to a man who had been a long member of her Church but not from our local area. He was also divorced and they met at a single adult event the Church put on. This man truly held the same beliefs my mother had and is a kind a gentle man. He worked hard to to get to know all of us and was completely fine with the fact that my mother was a single parent of four children and that we were a package deal.

When he proposed I was happy for her and I knew he would treat her the way she deserved to be treated and be a faithful and loving husband. However I was not happy for myself. After moving around a lot in my early years and struggling to make good friends I was finally in a place where I was happy. Being only a couple years away from graduating from high school this would mean I would have to once again pack up and move away. By telling my mother that I was not going to move with her it almost caused her to call off the wedding. Thankfully I had the good sense to set aside my selfishness and told my mother to go ahead with the wedding and that I would move with her.

Once they were married, and the move was complete, it didn’t take me long to make my way back to my friends leaving my family behind. This put even more stain on our already rough relationship. In fact long periods of time would go by where I wouldn’t even talk to her. Although I feel ashamed at the worry and grief I must have caused her, almost throwing my life away by dropping out of school and not having a fixed address, I feel I learned a lot about myself and gained experiences that has helped me become who I am today.

Eventually I moved back with my family but I was still head strong to go my own way. I’m quite certain the birth of my oldest daughter is my what saved me, putting me back on a proper life path. No matter what I did or the pain I must have caused my Mother still was always there for me when ever I needed her. When my relationship with my oldest’s mother came to an end she welcomed me to move in until I got back on my feet again, no questions asked.

My mother has spent the last 18 years raising her kids and turning the 200+ year old house that she had moved into with her husband from, what my youngest sister described as a haunted house, into a warm and loving home. A few years ago though my youngest sister left home and this left just the two of them. Recently my mother has also fallen away from the Church. With no children left to worry about, and their diverging beliefs, it was just a matter of time before the marriage would come to an end.

Just like the rest of the Church community, I will always be grateful to her husband. He played a great role in all our lives over the years and helped raise my sisters. When ever I needed anything he was always there and happy to do what he could to help as well. During their lives together my Mother was able to grow from a single parent on social assistance to an even stronger and more brave woman than she already was. She actually works two jobs where she will be able to provide for herself and one of them is an absolute perfect fit. She works at a shelter for women and children. Her personal experience and her grace under pressure give her the ability to make a difference and help people the way she was once helped.

Yesterday I went and helped her move out of this home she had built. The whole time all I could think of is how proud I am of her. It has to be a scary thing to move out on her own and leave a home and a marriage she as put almost two decades into. Let alone away from the safety of a two income home and the Church community she has dedicated so much of her life to. It won’t be a popular decision with everyone and I’m sure there is going to be hurt feelings and eventually sides chosen. I hope that isn’t the case, however it seems inevitable in times like this.

I’m proud of my Mother, and I’m extremely grateful that we worked through our rough times so we are once again friends. She is finally going to have the opportunity to live her life for her. She has dedicated so much time sacrificing for other people she has earned the right to do what ever she wants to be happy. As her son, and friend, I will do what ever I can to help her achieve that.

Skylanders Obsession

My son may take after me a little bit. When I was young it was Super Mario Bros. 3 for the NES. The hours I spent on that game is likely unbelievable. I would get books and magazines that showed secrets and how to beat levels. I remember my hands getting sore and dreaming about the game. Probably not very healthy.

My mother likes the story of when one morning, after being grounded from the Nintendo for a while, she woke up to get me ready for school, but found I had already been up for hours playing because it was the day I was allowed to play again.

My son seems to share the ability to obese over things like this with me. For Christmas we bought him Skylanders Giants for the Nintendo Wii and he has fallen in love. For a while he was happy with just the three characters that came with the game, but then friends started bringing over other characters and he found the list of characters on the back of the game box. Luckily he’s not really greedy but there were a couple characters he really likes.

Skylanders Saturday Morning

We’ve spent a number of mornings lately looking up different characters on the computer. Giants is an older version of Skylanders so it’s not easy to find the characters it seems. I thought I would surprise him and I ordered one of the Skylanders he really wanted off of eBay. After it arrived we gave him an option, he could either get his little allowance that we give him when he is helpful with chores around the house, or he could instead get a surprise. He chose the surprise. I think that has fuelled his obsession even more though. Now he knows you can get other characters. He has one or two more characters that he really likes so we may see if we can get him these at some point as well.

I kept thinking that we would get over the game soon but it seems to be escalating. Now he is searching Google Images for pictures of Skylander characters and watching YouTube videos of game play. He is actually playing the game less but still involved with it. We’ve already picked him up another version of the game that we will give him likely for an Easter gift, I think this will start him playing the game more again.

The makers of this game are geniuses. Not only have they created a game that is pretty much impossible to pirate, because you also need the actual characters to play, but you can also keep buying more and more characters and get a new experience in the same game by doing so.

I’m making it sound probably worse than it is. He doesn’t spend the hours on this stuff that I did when I was little, although if we let him he probably would. It’s my feeling that a little bit of obsession over things in life can be a good thing if you can handle it right. My mother always called it a one track mind that I had, but doing so has allowed me to get pretty good at specific things by throwing a lot of energy and time behind it when I was learning. It’s just important to not lose focus that there are other more important things in life as well.

More kids means less sleep and more sickness

Lately I feel like I’m always complaining about something. I really don’t mean to and honestly my life is pretty fantastic. But it always seems like there is something going on and I’d love to just have a stretch where I don’t get woken up at night and everyone in our house is healthy.

There were colds where people couldn’t breath at night, there was a migraine so severe we were at out patients on an IV. From there we moved into a kid with chicken pox.

Now yesterday it seems like the flu has hit our house. After last night I got thinking of this video a friend shared the other day.

The part that really hits home with me is it seems like there is always one of them that is getting up in the night. If it isn’t one of the kids the cat decides to have a turn and throw up on things to wake us up.

I’ll end as I started though I really do love my life and family, I just wish I wasn’t sick and could sleep at night.

Discovery Centre Fun Day

We had a great family day in Halifax today. The Discovery Centre has a couple new exhibits set up that we hadn’t been to yet so that was our destination today in between shopping stops.

One of the new parts was a Sherlock Holmes mystery. They had eight chapters to the storey, each with their own clues and rooms. You had to walk through and try to figure out the crime. Maybe it is all the games of clue we’ve been playing but the kids really liked it. We might not be the best detectives though as we missed a couple pieces in the beginning that would have helped us solve it.

We always have fun even at the usual displays. I have to be careful when we go here though as they have a great Lego section and I could likely kill a lot of time there.

Alexandria took a spin in the chair.

Ella and I had fun building our own roller coaster.

I don’t care what you call her

We were in Costco today and Noah saw someone he knows from school. It’s funny because Costco is over an hour away but we almost always run into someone we know. 

As we walked past Noah said “Hi Lara”

I asked, is her name Laura? 

The store was busy and it was hard to hear. 

No Lara. 

Laura?

Noah then obviously fed up with me but very politely at the same time says:

You can call her that if you want, but that’s not her name. 

Snow Shoeing

Feeling like I had been trapped in the house too much lately after the stormy weather I finally decided to get out side and do something besides move snow. 

It started by making a quick detour on the way to the grocery store to my favourite walking trail. I didn’t make it far because I was just in jeans and boots but it looked very nice and so I decided to get out a bit more. 

  

Luckily good family friends have snow shoes so Sam and I took a long lunch break and went for a walk through the woods. It was the first time I was really on snow shoes. I was surprised how much of a workout it was. 

It was a beautiful day out and just what I needed. 

   

               

So Much Snow

Pretty confident that the last time we had this much snow was February 2004, in the storm that was dubbed White Juan.

Here’s a few pictures of the front yard so far this month, where’s my bench?

Watching the wind blow around this morning made me try to wait as long as possible before going out to clear the driveway.

It also gave me the idea to set up a webcam looking at the backyard. Not sure how long I’ll keep it up but for now you can see it here: Backyard Cam.

It was still howling when we did get out there, but wanted to at least get the first bit done while it was still light.

The snow at the end of the driveway is now above my head, but the snow blower worked great.

Caile is still not feeling well, the chicken pox have started to crust and hurt her. She’s a trooper though and for the most part staying in good spirits. We’ve watched some TV and some movies. Caile has had a few soaks in an oatmeal bath as they seem to help her.

ClueSo far we’ve played a couple games of Clue. I’m so glad we picked it up. The kids already really like it and so do I. We’re planning another game of it before bed time too.

Here are a few more pictures of the driveway during the storm and it cleared.

Always Something

It really seems like there is just one thing after another that comes along. Just two weeks ago it was poor Alex at the hospital with an awful migraine. Last night it was Caile’s turn to end up there because she had a bumps all over her. It started with just a couple but before long there were many more.

Yup, that’s right the vaccine for chicken pox vaccine doesn’t completely prevent you from getting the disease. Now that I process that I’m sure I knew it at some point but for some reason I had gotten it in my head that it did. Though it isn’t 100% preventative even those who do catch it have milder cases than those without the vaccine. Hopefully as both Jen and I had mild cases anyway she will have a real easy time.

If this had to happen at least it had OK timing as it is a long weekend thanks to the new holiday this year in Nova Scotia. She will miss a Birthday Party and a Wedding but so far she seems OK with that. But now I have a purple shirt I’m wearing to the wedding and won’t have Caile to match with me. But I’ll wear the  shirt anyway because apparently a WordPress hoodie isn’t appropriate.

But other than those things we’ll have a nice quiet weekend with another storm called for on Sunday. I’m predicting lots of games and some movies on the addenda. Jen is out now picking up some things, one of them is hopefully the game of Clue. I haven’t played it in many years but it was always a favourite and I think the kids will like it too.

Things Not Working? Change It Up!

Last week was the first week at Automattic that I was starting to feel stressed and a little burnt out. This weekend I took sometime to try to figure out why, because nothing had changed.

Reflecting back it seems like it was a combination of things. Luckily all the things are in my own control to resolve. The first thing that I changed was that I was obsessing a bit about my stats. Trying to push myself to do better and be more efficient, the funny thing is that this pressure was all coming from me. We all set goals for our selves, I take them very seriously. I try to set reasonable goals but because of that if I don’t hit them it’s disappointing and frustrating.

One of the great things about this position is that I get to make my own schedule. One of the downsides to this position is that I’m responsible for making my own schedule. That sounds dumb but having all those options can make it difficult to find what works best and there is no one else to pass it too, it’s you’re responsibility to make it work. So I really looked at how I was typically spending my day and how I can make it work better for my personable life and be more efficient at work.

In the afternoon my day can be broken up due to picking up kids from school and getting them to where they need to go. So this morning I started with a new approach. I moved my tasks that are better suited for uninterrupted time to the part of the day that is less broken. Today, felt much better again and it flowed really well. Previously I felt like I was working a lot of hours to meet my goals. Where today I met and exceeded my goals and worked a much better portion of my day.

I’ll keep trying this schedule for a bit and hopefully now that it is better organized I can work at just getting more efficient.

Another change I’m working on is becoming a more efficient typist. All of my communication with users and colleagues is done in text, so any improvements I make in this area will have longterm benefits. So I’ve been teaching myself to use the Dvorak keyboard layout. Right now my speed is much slower than it is with QWERTY, but from what I’ve seen the speed will come and my fingers seem to move a lot less. That can only be a good thing my fingers and wrists. Right now I’m only using it during personable time as I’m way to slow to use it at work.

Natural History Museum – Dinosaur Exhibit

We’ve been trying for a while now to find the time on a weekend to get into Halifax to do something fun with the kids and get some errands done at the same time. It seems like there has just been one thing or another get in the way though. There have been a few storms, and last weekend Alexandria was sick.

We waited a bit before we left just to give the roads some time to melt off but besides that we had a smooth day. It was also very cold, but the sun was actually shinning so it was a nice drive. There were a couple shopping stops first, but then on to the Natural History Museum to see the Dinosaur Exhibit which is visiting.

On the way home we made our last stop at Costco. That’s always a fun trip especially on a Saturday afternoon. It helped remind me how much I don’t miss living and commuting in the city. Even short distance drives can take forever because of all the traffic. The one good part of stopping at Costco though is the fact that I was able to sneak away and grab a hot dog without anyone noticing. Because of the time we left we ate an early lunch and I knew that we would end up having a late supper so the hot dog was a smart move.

We still had some left on a gift card from Christmas so we had Swiss Chalet for supper. It’s always a nice treat to not have to cook and clean up after at home. We were even treated with a table side magic show by Al Bernard.

All and all it was a great day spent with my family. It seems like things have been leaning heavy to the work side of the work life balance, so this was a welcome day.