Home, Sweetest Home

Last week was a week of heaven for me for a number of reasons, the main reason being I was able to fly home to London (UK) for one whole week. All. By. My. Self.

The arrival of my first nephew was the original cause for my decided trip home and I intended to stay only a few days to meet the newest member of the family however my husband, who is the most wonderful man in the world, insisted I stay for at least a week. His reasoning was that I hadn’t been home to London in 3 years and I needed a boost of UK goodness! And what a boost it was!

After waiting nearly 5 months for the trip the day finally arrived! I packed a weeks worth of clothes into a tiny carry on bag and after a very wet and thunderous drive to Pearson Airport I whizzed through Toronto security and was at my gate in record time! (It’s amazing what you can accomplish when there aren’t two kids and much luggage in tow!) I boarded my plane and had 7 uncomfortable hours trying to pretend I could sleep in next to no space before landing at sunny Gatwick airport the following morning. (Side note: if you fly AirTransat, don’t expect too much: for ‘dinner’ there was pasta or chicken. One girl asked what the sauce was on the pasta. The reply? “uuuh…pink sauce?…”)

I must have looked like a complete loonie walking through Gatwick as I spotted familiar stores and heard familiar sounds; a massive smile spread across my face and stayed there for quite a long time! I boarded the Gatwick Express and was lulled into utter homey comfort as I raced towards Victoria Station and my Mum, who was waiting impatiently and excitedly for my arrival. The beautiful countryside flew past, rolling green fields, neat row-houses and little allotments before things started turning more industrial and city like. Soon I could spot red double-decker buses and black cabs winding through streets, landmarks appeared like the Battersea Power Station, now going through a revitalization. In the distance I could see the heart of the city with it’s weird skyscrapers with equally weird names – the Gherkin? The Shard?! A very British female voice announced our impending arrival to the station and as I arrived at Victoria I was thrown into the mad chaos that is London – I had completely forgotten how manic and fast London is!

After a warm, loving welcome from my sparkly-eyed mother we walked the short distance to the flat and I downed a much needed Advil and an incredibly fat crumpet before heading back to Victoria and hopping on another train to Bromley to meet my beautiful, smiley nephew.

My week flew by in a flurry of nephew cuddles, reunions with friends, sightseeing and dinners with my parents. It was just the three of us, something which hasn’t been like that for about 13 years or so. It was actually quite lovely; we talked about life, kids, family and future. Just me, my Mum and my Dad. During the day my Mum and I gossiped and story-told as we walked through Carnaby street, marveled at Selfridges ‘Wonder Room’ and gazed at exhibitions at The Imperial War Museum. I breathed in London life, the frantic pace and bustling streets and caught myself at how much I had forgotten and now remembered. It was pure heaven! Through it all my husband was back in Toronto keeping our two kids assured that Mummy would be coming home soon! We Skype’d every day and as my return trip loomed closer, they became more animated and excited (although that may have been due to the fact I had found gifts for them too!)

As is always the case with vacations the week flew by far too quickly and suddenly it was time to fly home. Gatwick Airport security was in full swing and after being ‘randomly’ searched twice I boarded my plane and flew home with very mixed emotions. I was sad to be leaving home, yet happy to be going home. I couldn’t wait to see my babies and husband yet I felt sad at leaving my family behind. I arrived to three very excited family members and received the warmest welcome home any mother and wife could wish for.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to visit London again but I’m hoping its in the not-too-distant future. I got my boost of home: smells, sounds, sights, foods, tv shows and magazines. Silly little things that make a huge impact for someone living abroad. Compared to London, Toronto is much slower, calmer and politer!

Growing old not so gracefully

I’m not that old! I’m in my 30’s so even I am surprised by how sensitive I have become recently to people not having good manners. A few things have happened this week that has left me to wonder if I am loosing my marbles or if I am just having a bad week.

It started at Home Hardware. I went looking for a new fuse for my brand new fairy lights. They worked the first time I switched them on, then stopped. A new fuse can sometimes fix the problem so off I went. Every time I have been in the store the staff there have been friendly…except this time. An older gentleman walked up to me and said, “can I help you?” I explained my problem and asked if he had fuses for fairy light plugs. The guy stared at me with a ‘what the hell are you on about?’ look and he didn’t say anything for so long I started to wonder if he had heard me at all. He then asked me to repeat what I had just said, which I did. He continued to look at me like I was an idiot. He then asked what the voltage was to which I replied I didn’t know and that’s when he scoffed at me, raised his eyes to the roof in a ‘bloody women shouldn’t be doing a mans work’ sort of way and then reprimanded me on how that piece of info was the most important part before huffing off to a rack. Suitably offended I didn’t follow him, I walked out the store. F**k you, thought I, the lights aren’t that important anyway! I know the voltage part is important but I genuinely didn’t know that piece of info.

My next venture was with the gas man. I have an automatic sprinkler in my garden to deter raccoons and squirrels from digging up my garden. I have it pointed towards the garden and you have to be within range to set it off so walking around it to get to the meter is easy if you are smart. Not this guy. I wasn’t aware of the altercation until I heard my garden gate forcefully slam shut. Knowing I had locked the gate the night before I was surprised to hear it so went out to investigate, my 3 year old son behind me. My gate was swinging in the wind…strange…then an angry voice from behind me exclaimed, “I just got wet checking your meter!” Turning around I saw the gas man, hands in the air, yelling at me. 

“Well, if you had let me know you were there I could have switched it off,” I replied, stunned at the outburst. My son looked up a me and asked, “why is that man shouting at you?” Hands still in the air the guy stormed off. You would have thought he had been hit with slime. I checked my gate to make sure it was still intact, which it was only a little looser than it had been before. Seriously?! All because you got wet? You wanna break my property? A call was put into the complaints department that afternoon.

Lastly, this morning, the city of Toronto pissed me off. Not the actual city, just the lovely individuals who work for it. We have a public footpath next to our house which need maintenance, grass cutting, tree trimming etc. Our house is also at the top of the dead end road. A white city truck pulled up and rather than parking opposite our house, where there are no driveways, they park right across my driveway, blocking both myself and my neighbors cars.  What though process goes through people’s head where they think, ‘hey we’ll just park here and block these people in.’ It happens all the time. Had I been able to find the individuals i would have politely asked them to move so I could get out but they were nowhere to be seen. 

Am I getting old and crotchety already or am I right to feel the way I feel? It kinda upsets me sometimes that the general public can’t be nice all the time! If this carries on I am going to be a very grumpy old woman by the time I’m 40…

There is a line, but can I cross it?

If someone told me how I should mother my children, I would tell them where the shortest cliff was so they could take a long walk off it. Recently, however, I have found myself itching to do just that: to tell parents to do or not do something involving the care of their child.

When I was a kid I grew up under the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ rule. I was taught it was rude to behave badly when out in public. I had to to be quiet when in a shop or cafe or museum and I was always informed of my manners (or lack thereof!). When at home I was free to do what I wanted (within reason) but if I went to a friends house or out with my parents, the Good Act had to be played as I’m sure it did with most kids. Keep in mind I lived in the UK where people are much more outspoken and you got in s**t for anything so I’m wondering if being in Canada things are a little different or if it is just a sign of the times? Remember that age old threat, “Wait till your father gets home!” Apparently that doesn’t work anymore.

What the heck happened?!

Today, as I was enjoying a coffee in my favourite cafe with my three year old son, I witnessed a whirling dervish of a child who was a ball of running, screaming, dangerous energy. He couldn’t have been far off my sons age and his mother was looking after something even smaller. I know what it is like to have two kids under the age of three – I did that – however I don’t think that can excuse you for knowingly letting your child run up and down a very small space, screaming loudly and disturbing other patrons. This child was a health and safety nightmare! The cafe is on a major road with lots of cars, trucks and large streetcars. The front door is usually always open during the summer to let in the cool air so it wouldn’t take much for him to run clean out and meet with an unhappy accident. There are also shelves with breakable items on them and, let me see, oh yes! People with scolding hot coffee walking around. If he ran into them, another accident. And yet his mother just sat there, watching, with a look of, ‘isn’t he precious!’ on her face.

Looking around I could see patrons were getting irritated by the noise. The staff within the cafe were also looking nervously at each other and I’m sure one of them was wondering if something should be said.  When I worked in a restaurant I did have a few occasions involving unruly children – any kids who ran around or were uncontrolled I had no issue telling their parents to deal with it. I told them it was too dangerous and we wouldn’t be responsible for any damages to their kid if he/she got burned, tripped or walked into. I have also seen other patrons taking matters into their own hands but it never worked out too well. I think parents get embarrassed and angry, even though they have no intention of fixing the problem in the first place.

In this situation there were a few things I wasn’t sure of, for example was the mother a previous employee and a friend to everyone there? Was she the owners sister? Perhaps she was well known in the community and this sort of thing was the normal routine! Regardless of all that would it be bad to say something about her child’s behavior? Would it be bad if I walked up to her and said ‘Shut your child up and control him before he has an accident!’ Should this be the line that can be crossed?

I’ve had a total stranger walk up to my infant daughter and physically pull her thumb out of her mouth because they said it was wrong of her to so that. The person was lucky to be able to walk off the subway train. That is a line wrongly crossed. However when it is something that is inherently annoying and rude and potentially disastrous, is it OK to assume something can be said or just wait for the inevitable to happen and then think, ‘I told you so,’ before feeling guilty for not preventing the disaster.

Before I had the chance to actively carry out this thought the delightful party left but it made me wonder: if I had stood up and said something, would it have caused a huge fuss? Would I have been glared at for crossing that line?

Your thoughts? Would you say or have you said something in a similar situation? Have you had a total stranger tell you how to be a parent and was it positive or negative?


The Great Parental Debate

Before we had kids my husband and I didn’t really give flying whatsit about how people were as parents. We would see all sorts of things and judge in a way we had no basis to do so. Living in a city I see a lot of kids being brought up by nannies because Mum and Dad are working. For many this isn’t a choice if bills are to be paid and for others a career is too important. The weekends are clearly a massive nightmare for the biological parents and some simply don’t know how to handle their kids; we once over-heard a father says to his small boy, “Behave yourself! Stop acting like a child!” His son could not have been older than 6 years old. Perhaps this father works hard to provide for his family and was tired that particular day, I don’t know, but to tell a kid to not act like a kid…?

Anyways, my husband and I are parents to two fantastic children who are rambunctious, fun, artsy and loud. They are also two of the most loving and caring kids I have ever known. My youngest son adores his older sister and follows her around like a puppy while my daughter pretends not to enjoy the constant attention and bosses him around like a diva! As parents we haven’t really attempted to mold our young breed too much as we want them to learn for themselves, we just like to guide them and try to stop them from nearing danger so it stuns us when we see other parents going against the grain and doing things that we feel is potentially dangerous and incredibly selfish.

Everyone is entitled to parent in their own way but I ask you this: is putting your child’s health at risk because of your beliefs really worth it? For example, not getting your child vaccinated because of all the hype around autism. I recently listened to a parent on CBC news radio claiming vaccinations weren’t safe and posed more of a risk than the disease itself. ‘ARE YOU CRAZY!’ I screamed at the radio. If you decided not to vaccinate your child, are you really keeping them safe or are you potentially putting them at even greater risk? Do these parents stop to consider just how  lucky they are to have access to these potentially life saving drugs? Do they stop to consider how many children and adults have died throughout history before vaccinations were found? How many parents would have begged for a way to save their dying child? Some of the diseases and illness are still around today and children do die so flip that coin and ask the question: Do I want to protect my child or do I want to put them at risk?

I feel the same way about parents who try to mess about with feeding young infants. I read an article on the web about a mother who kept her 6 month old daughter on breast milk alone. No other foods. She went on to say she knew her daughter was hungry all the time and woke up every 1-2 hours through the night yet she continued to say nothing was better for her child than what she was giving her. Well, correct on the breast milk but NO to consciously letting your child be hungry. Again, there are children in countries that don’t have the access to foods and here is a mother actively denying her daughter nutritional foods. Iron, Vitamins, essential nutrients are all babies need for healthy development and it can be found in egg yolks, bananas, vegetables. Why, why, WHY do people do this? Why doesn’t she try living purely on breast milk and see how far that gets her before she keels over?

I understand there are some children who, for heath reasons, really can’t have the vaccinations and I know of children who have such severe allergies that their diets are a minefield of trial and error so I understand that some parents and children just don’t have a choice but for all the others, there is no excuse. Do the research, learn about Andrew Wakefield and his little ‘conflict of interest’ while putting out his so-called research on the MMR vaccine and it’s ‘link’ to Crohn Disease and Autism. Look for those magical words that say, ‘no real evidence has been found,’ because it pops up quite a lot.

I am no doctor, healthcare provider or medical guru; I am a mum who knows that I will let my kids be as healthy as they can be by putting their needs first before my own. I will vaccinate them so they can go to school  and travel easily, I did eat peanuts and sushi while pregnant and I even had a beer – all in moderation. My kids adore couscous and quinoa and snack on bananas, not because I force them to but because they like it and want it. I let my kids try anything once so they learn what they like or don’t like and of course I stop them from trying to eat a whole tub of Nutella! Parents are bamboolzed by ‘expert advice’ and some of it is complete rubbish. Global news reported last week that ‘experts’ are now saying pregnant women shouldn’t be driving because they are more at risk of having an accident. Again, no real evidence to support this and pregnant women are at risk no matter what they are doing and sometimes they can have something go horribly wrong while sitting at home, reading a paper.

Right, that’s my 2 cents – if you have a view, if you think I’m wrong then I’d love to hear why. As I said previously there are two sides to the coin. If you are expecting your first child, what horror stories have you been told? If you have kids have you had people try to sway you into a different mindset? Which side are you on?

Can you be married AND be good friends too?

Once upon a time my husband and I started working together in an upscale restaurant in Midtown Toronto. We were young and newly married and we liked to joke around and have fun. My husband was a Chef and I was a server. After a particularly grueling Saturday we all went out collectively to catch last call at the local pub. On our way down the street I was talking to a fellow server and she asked me why I had a British accent while J had a Canadian accent.

“I was born in London, he’s from Kitchener,” I replied.

“But aren’t you guys, like, brother and sister?” she asked, clearly perplexed.

I must have looked slightly shocked, perhaps a little green, as I gasped and cried, “Dear God, no! We’re married!”

It was then her turn to looked shocked.

“But…But…you’re such good friends!” she declared.

I was amazed by this response. Apparently no-one had told them we were married so everyone had assumed we were related due to having the same last name. It’s true, my husband and I do have very similar senses of humor and we can be very silly together but it had never crossed my mind that by being so was maybe not how a husband a wife could be around each other. I quizzed her further on why she felt this way and she just assumed husbands and wives perpetually got on each others nerves and wouldn’t dream of working so close with one another, let alone be as warm and friendly towards each other. She told me she’s never seen a married couple so happy with each other. I thought that fact in itself was a little sad and at the same time I was quite stunned.

Ask people who have been married for 60, 70 or 80 years what the secret is to a long marriage and the answer is usually always the same; ‘I married my best friend.’  I often wonder now what makes people think they are ready to marry. Not too long ago girls weren’t given a choice – if you weren’t married by 16 you were in danger of being labeled a spinster by the time you reached 25. Marriage meant you were set for life, you had a home, an income of sorts and you had a household to maintain, regardless of whether you liked your husband or not. Unfortunately there are still beliefs in arranged marriages these days, not that I agree with them, but each to their own. During the two World Wars, people didn’t know if they would see each other again so there was a desperate passion when together and an appreciation of having the chance to love and be loved.

In today’s world rights and ways of life have changed. I suppose factors that may have always been in place, just never voiced, are now no longer taboo; divorce, women in a strong career position, better education, better travelling opportunities. There’s more to life now than simply getting married yet although people are given time to get to know each other it’s perhaps not always taken. Not everyone is doomed though! I’m sure there are many married couples out there who share the same easy relationship that we do and have a good working commitment to each other. It can be done and it’s a beautiful feeling; you have to work for it, with it and through it.

Nowadays my husband and I are in a different field of work – hospitality can suck it – and we also have a young family to look after so nights out are few and far between and usually involve just the two of us. Our friends are in other various fields and have young families so getting together with them involves moving mountains at times! Date Night for us is very important! It lets us reconnect and talk about things other than work or kids. It’s almost like the Man Cave theory; getting space to recharge the batteries and to remember what it’s like to be a free adult, even if it’s only for a few hours. During that time we will laugh and joke, share stories and reminisce. We are friends and we enjoy being with each other. We have felt like that for the 13 years we’ve been together, 10 of which married to each other: Isn’t that the point of finding the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with?