Category Archives: Claire

How to turn your Mini-Van into a Man-ly Van

I have a special post today for dads on How to turn your mini-van into a man-ly van.  Look no further – today you will learn how to improve the self-image of your mini-van!

If you’re reading this post to get ideas on how to surprise your dad by converting the van for him, let’s cover the basics:

1.  First of all, it’s important to remember that a mini-van and a mini are two different cars.

2.  If you don’t know the difference then here’s a clue:  If you have more than two kids in your family, it is not very likely your dad drives a mini.

So ….

For the dads out there, here’s a wonderful video.  The site is not rated, so please make sure you’re young enough to watch.  You should be fine if you can say, “Mini-van Manly” out loud at least ten times in a row!  Enjoy ….

The Manly Minivan (please click on the link)

For those of you who weren’t able to say, “Mini-Van Manly,” don’t be disappointed.  We aren’t all perfect.

Our next treat of the day is our Father’s Day Gift.  The kids and I finally narrowed down our choices for AJ and here they are:

1.  A tie

2.  New underwear

3.  A tie

4.  Soap on a rope

5.  A tie

6.  Loofah sponge mittens

7.  A tie

8.  A funny YouTube video sung by us

As I have had a croaky, hoarse throat for two weeks, we decided on a YouTube song of course.  Move over Simon!!!  Actually, this one definitely won’t win Canadian Idol (or any Idol for that matter).  Here it is …

Our Superdad (please click on the link)

To all the wonderful dads and AJ …… HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!!!  We love you!!!!

Acknowledgements for “Superdad”

Original tune:  “Now you see him” from Little Mermaid

Words:  Chocolatecherrypie

Croakals:  Chocolatecherrypie

Vocal backup:  Claire

Piano:  Chocolatecherrypie

Camera:  Violet

Music recording:  Therapynotesfrommypiano

Editing:  Chocolatecherrypie

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Soft, warm and … scary?

There are only two conditions that cause me to become naked in public.  One of those is my daughter, Claire, who has no inkling of what I go through to keep myself decent when she is around, and the other is the introduction of someone’s small, furry dog.  The combination of the two is highly embarassing.  It is also very difficult to wrestle my skirt back down over my head while trying to pry Claire’s foot out of my mouth as she desperately clambers up my body in an attempt to escape what she considers is certain death.

Julie, being visually impaired, has never had any exposure to pets other than the sensations of soft, warm, and furry.  She’s heard us yelling at goats trying to eat her wheelchair, deer trying to consume her science projects, and seagulls divebombing her sandwich … but has considered this a wonderful joke.  When she was younger she happily experienced hippotherapy (believe it or not, this involves horses not hippos) and has a soft spot for dogs.  Unlike her calm, collected older sister, Claire’s relationship to canines is tentative at best.  I have assisted her to overcome her fears – mostly in a gentle way – but have failed miserably!  After all, she’s still scared of dogs.  I’ve tried almost every technique I could think of, including persuasion, rational emotive therapy, and a Rogerian approach whereby I encouraged her to “just talk” about her fears.  The only technique I haven’t tried is “flooding.”  I will describe flooding for those of you who have never taken Cognitive Psychology, but please, please send all children out of the room while you read – it’s nasty and you may scar them for life …. are they gone? … here goes …

If, for example, you’re using flooding to cure someone who is arachnophobic, then your goal is to expose that individual to spiders.  You may start off with introductory visualization exercises – ie., “Picture a spider on the opposite end of the football field.”  Eventually, though, you may progress to locking that poor harmless innocent in a room with hundreds of spiders until she calms down enough to realize that she is still alive.  (Honestly, though – do you think a person would appreciate this type of therapy?????)  If I were locked in a room full of spiders I’m sure I would say a lot of things I would later regret.  I might even fake a heart attack to teach that nasty therapist a lesson!

Strangely enough, Claire’s fear extends to dogs but not to other animals.  She is the self-proclaimed “guardian” of the garden, watching vigorously for errant squirrels, crows, racoon, and deer.  Fortunately for our little animal-lover, we live in Crazy Camera, Canada – which is teeming with wildlife.  Today, alone, Claire managed to stalk a squirrel, “rescued” five slugs from her murderous mater, and stood sadly by the grave-site she had built for “Alice” – a young squirrel who had died in a windstorm.  (I’m rather glad Alice is still there, actually, as she wanted to dig her up to show to a friend last week).  Claire is also the “protector” of Julie’s strawberry and tomato plants.  Bounding up the rocks yesterday and screaming the blood-curdling scream of a five-year-old banshee, she charged an adolescent stag at full tilt in order to save Julie’s greenery.  She was completely oblivious to the fact that this badly-behaved beast sported adult-size antlers.  Apparently he was too, judging by the expeditious rate at which he turned and bolted!

While Claire may not appreciate canines, she is very aware of the wildlife around her and our role as protectors of the environment.  For Claire, this fragile balance was never more obvious than this weekend when we went for lunch at an outdoor beach cafe.  She watched impatiently while crows and seagulls dive-bombed our platters of saturated fat and then decided to chase them away.  After running around and screaming, “Caw! Caw!” at the top of her voice she managed to scare all the crows and seagulls for miles.  She soon realized that she had made a big mistake – birds are much more interesting than going for lunch on the beach yet again!  For the next ten minutes we were relegated to the sight of Claire running round and around in a circle, waving her arm in the air and trying to tempt the birds back with a large, crispy onion ring!

As a parent I find it difficult to understand why a child would be comfortable with most animals and be terrified of dogs.  I suspect that because we warned Claire at a young age to be careful of strange dogs that she may have mistakenly assumed all dogs were vicious.  Julie, being confined to a wheelchair, received no lessons in fear as she was unlikely to run after any little dogs with the intent of pulling their fur.  Our lives aren’t exactly fraught with danger at every turn (ok … I’ll admit we sometimes have cougar sightings in amongst our picturesque rose bushes), but we often feel the need to protect our kids from their natural inclination to explore and experience.  Unfortunately for me, I will now have to “undo” the damage that has been done – which means that our future might well contain leashes, walks with Daisy-belle, and pooper scoopers.  Until then I will have to embark on my obligatory duty to protect Claire from all public beaches, parks, playgrounds, friends houses, schoolyards, tv shows,  and internet sites that have been exposed to snarling coal-eyed canines!

PS.  By “subscribing” to this blog you will receive an alert when I add new posts 🙂

Anne’s dream

Just a note:  Thank you everyone for responding so heartily to my latest post.  I had to change the kids names once again (in order to be more obscure) as this site is starting to be more well-read than I had realized.  It’s better to do this at the “beginning” but rest assured I won’t do it again.  Sorry for the confusion.  Back to my blog ….

This evening I heard very sad news from a friend.  Her dear father passed away today after battling cancer for many years.  He went in peace, but leaves a legacy of people who love him very much.  His daughter, who came to be known in our family as “Anne of Green Gables,” lived with us for over a year as a foreign adult student from Taiwan.   Anne’s dream was to finish her graduate degree in an English-speaking program, and she eventually “toughed it out” and now has her doctorate.  This feat is amazing, no less because she had all the cards stacked against her.  Having done a graduate program myself, I fully understand the pressure and sheer amount of determination to complete the workload.  Not only did Anne surpass many of her classmates who speak English as their first language, but these were the years during which her father was dreadfully ill.  Supporting him from afar, she was alone with her fears and grief.

We are surrounded in our lives by an invisible mesh of friends and acquaintances who touch us in ways we can’t comprehend.  We will never know how hard it was for Anne to pursue her dreams, and we can only hope that we were there to support her at the moments when she needed it most.  We have a happy home – perhaps this helped Anne to “stay the course.”  To be honest, though, the happiest parts of our lives are those spent with family members and those who have shared in the lives of our dear ones.  Anne was a valuable part of Julie and Claire’s life experience, and was actually living with us when Claire came home from hospital for the first time as a baby.  I would like to think that I altruistically helped Anne, but to be honest I think that she helped me as much as I helped her.  My previous experience of pregnancy, with Julie, had been fairly grim and she was three months premature.  Eight years later we were finally brave enough to consider have another little one, discovering almost simultaneously that our older daughter Julie had life-threatening issues that involved her liver.  As if this weren’t bad enough, we were told halfway through the pregnancy that I was going to have a really rough time … and that we should consider termination.  Apparently my life was at risk, the baby’s life was at risk, and/or I would end up with another child who had disabilities.  Deciding to continue with the pregnancy was a terrifying decision, but one I have never regretted despite the outcome.  Claire was delivered at 31 weeks, did remarkably well, and now runs circles around us.  The effect on my body, however, was severe.  Due to post-surgical complications I didn’t clot, needed five units of blood, and had to have the incision reopened to drain over several weeks as the swelling from the internal bleeding started to cause nerve damage.  A short time later I developed auto-immune disease and it took many years before I was free of pain and before my iron levels (with the help of multiple transfusions) returned to normal.

It was while I was in hospital following Claire’s delivery that I met Anne for the first time.  I was surprised at how well she spoke English, but also quite surprised that she managed to walk right into a terrible situation like this and not be bothered by it.  When I returned home she was kind and non-demanding, and I found that I really enjoyed her perspective on life.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that Anne was struggling with the illness of her father and was willing to talk about “issues” … or perhaps it was due to the fact that Anne had a soft-spot for Julie and the discussion seemed to often focus on the topic of disabilities.  Either way, we found many things to discuss, including the treatment of individuals with disabilities in Canada and in Taiwan.

Anne confided in me that life is not always good for kids with disabilities in her country.  I had heard of this before but I was, nevertheless, shocked at what she had to relate … As Taiwan has no nationally supported education system, families have to pay for their child to attend school and have to pay for the extra supports that are needed by that individual.  If you are born with a disability in Taiwan, as in many other countries, you may be relegated to a life of incredible misery and deprivation.  If you come from a well-to-do family who can afford to send you to school then there is no problem.  However, you may fall through the cracks and experience abject misery if you are born into a low-income family.  In some cases, Anne related, the child is left on the floor next to a pile of food, and the parent will depart for work.  She told me that this happened very often … this was almost inconceivable to me.  I can’t comprehend the decision tree that would lead a parent to make such a bad choice for another human being  – their own child.  I would rather not try to imagine being that child.  Being alone and crying … but with no-one to hear or respond.  No-one to care for you or comfort you.    As we have “lived the life” with our Julie, this really bothers me.  Julie can’t talk or walk, struggles to use her hands, and is considered deaf-blind.  However, she is so sensitive and emotionally fragile.  So … alive!  It just breaks my heart when she becomes sad and her big grin is replaced by tears.  In the case of these poor children in Taiwan, they are not considered “human” in the same way we are.  The community and government have forgotten about them.  They have become “non-entities.”

I hadn’t meant to write a blog that was SO sad today, but I wanted to prompt my readers to think very carefully about their own lives.  Sometimes there are things we can do without, and sometimes there are excesses we don’t need.  For as little as $35 a month you can actually change someone’s destiny by sending a child with a disability to school.  We have had many heartaches in our family in recent months, and have struggled in many areas.  All around us, the effects of the recession rage.  Our reaction to those events have the potential to destroy our very soul within us and render us sub-human.  Within this darkness we have a chance to redeem ourselves – as we reach out to others we are, in fact, healing ourselves.   The potential of what we can do may be far-reaching and change the destiny of one child – or perhaps entire families or villages.

Five years ago we found a young boy in India to sponsor so that he could attend school, and have watched his progress with baited breath.  His daily educational struggles haven’t been easy for him, and we appreciated the charity for charting his progress in an honest yet respectful way.  Now that he is older and becoming fluent in sign-language for the first time, we are feeling very proud of his progress.  When we first “found” him I was a bit disappointed as I had wanted to sponsor a child in Africa.  However, it took many phone calls before we found a charity that actually had enough information on each child that they could tell us within a day or two who the child was, their level of disability and support needed, and other needs of the family.  Most charities said they would “research” the question but never actually found us a child with a disability.  The Christian Children’s Fund of Canada guaranteed that they would assign a child with a disability to us.  They had special sponsorship requests for kids with disabilities, had partnerships with local schools in developing nations such as India,  and – despite their Christian mandate – would accept any child of any religion for sponsorship within the support of their own family and culture.  In addition, local groups within certain countries have formed partnerships with CCFC so that they can take a greater initiative in improving their own community.  Our “child” attends one of these schools in just such a village.  The community surrounding this boy decided not to let their kids with disabilities suffer.  They took it into their own hands to improve his life, and the lives of children like him.  We are happy to say that due to our sponsorship this boy is able to attend his local school, is now receiving transport to a school for the deaf several days a week, has had orthopedic support with braces and surgery for his cerebral palsy, and has even had enough money to take a small “holiday” with his parents.  Throughout the year we are also given the option of gifting his family with chickens, cows, goats, or other items that can be used in a micro-enterprise to improve their economic status.

There are many days when we go about our lives in much the same way we did the day before.  We “act” upon the world around us, but our actions merely affect how much cream goes into our coffee, how much detergent goes into the laundry, how much plaque we brush off our teeth, etc.  It is Anne’s dream that children with a disability will be given a chance for an education.  Please join our family and act in a way that really counts – help to change the life of a vulnerable child with disabilities.  For those of you who know Anne, please consider sponsoring a child today as we remember Anne’s father.  For others who have joined this blog, please consider helping in honor of those we love who have cancer, and also for all the brave children in our lives who have disabilities.

Christian Children\’s Fund of Canada

Graduation

I dragged myself out of bed this morning, madly throwing clothes at people, and finally we were all dressed for Claire’s preschool graduation.  Except for me, of course.  For those of you who don’t know, we are staying with the in-laws while our house is being “renovated.”  Challenges on days like today include finding items that you just knew were there last time you looked.  I looked everywhere for my good shoes but eventually had to clunk to the car at top speed donning wide-toed flats.  Under normal circumstances these shoes look rather good with dress pants.  Today, with an elegant skirt …  well … let’s say they weren’t exactly the height of fashion!

To be quite honest, my five year old thinks I’m beautiful in a variety of unlikely circumstances and I also don’t have any challenges from my thirteen year old who can hear my voice but whose visual impairment protects her from knowledge of my flaws.  How could your mother be anything but beautiful if you can’t see her clearly!  Even if I was the most ugly woman on the planet, their view of me is guaranteed to make me feel like a million dollars no matter how I’m dressed!

The other day I heard a radio announcer discussing physical appearance – most specifically the “average” woman.  For those of you who don’t know, Barbie is not the average woman!  The average woman is, in fact … ME!   After listening to the John Tesh Radio Show I discovered that I am the epitome of “average.”  I am the average height and weight of all women in North America.  Just imagine – even if you don’t know who I am, you could get an idea by walking down the street.  Anyone who looks “average” could actually be me!

In my desire to look a little better than average, we were actually late for Claire’s graduation.  When we arrived there was a cheer in the room where the kids were anxiously gathered, and I hurriedly took out my makeup purse, powdered Claire’s nose, dragged a brush through her hair, and then chased her with lipgloss while the kids started to line up at the door.  It was definitely worth it.  When her class entered the auditorium she was literally glowing!

Claire wore a long pink cotton dress and looked so cute!  She rubbed at the powder on her nose, scratched at her leggings, but then soon settled down.  She looked so gorgeous up there – my heart glowed and I was a really proud parent today!!

Claire’s best friend, Daisy, was in the front row.  Her biological dad hadn’t come, just her adoptive grandparents, and it was hard not to notice how sad she looked.  My heart went out to her, and I wondered if he knew how much he was missed.

Claire surprised me by knowing all the words to the songs.  She, and her fellow grads sang about fishes bubbling in the sea, monkey’s in the trees, and God’s love for everyone.  After this, she lined up with her fellow grads for her graduation certificate and a photo with Miss Terry her favorite teacher who has a lovely smile and long, blonde hair.

The mood following the party was somewhat jovial, spoiled by a momentary fight between Claire and her friend Daisy, who was still not feeling as happy as she could be.  Claire ended up in tears until Daisy relented, and then the little divas had a goodbye hug before piling into their respective cars.

We took our kids, the happy grandparents, and Julie’s helping friend Violet to Tim Hortons for a celebratory doughnut.  Poor Julie had sat so patiently through Claire’s graduation ceremony, and decided to let us know that she was not going to sit still a moment longer.  It’s very difficult when a child who is in a wheelchair doesn’t like to be thus confined, and she cried and fussed until AJ lifted her up.  When I returned to the table with our doughnuts and coffee, it was to the sight of AJ sitting with our thirteen year old draped over his shoulder – a rather tall thirteen year old who was obviously experiencing cramps in her crooked back from sitting still for so long.  When she had been given a backrub and returned to her chair, she did what teenagers do very well, and inhaled everything she was fed.  It was lovely, for me, to have her helping friend along today, as Claire didn’t want to share me with anyone on her special day.

As a special treat, Claire was allowed a small iced cappuccino, which became self-evident on the way home.  After bouncing up and down a few times, rolling her window up, rolling her window down, rolling her window up, rolling her window down, rolling the window up, rolling the window down, etc. (I’m sure you get the picture), AJ finally reached the end of his patience and clicked the “parent control” from the drivers seat.  I caught a gasp and a momentary look of dismay on Claire’s face as her window closed.  “What’s wrong?” I asked.  “Nothing!” she hissed softly.  Then, seeing the look of enquiry on my face she leaned over and confided in a whisper … “When the window closed, my piece of snot was trapped!”

Well … so ends another wonderful day in chocolatecherrypie land!

Hello world!

This is my first exciting day blogging as chocolatecherrypie.  So …. grab your cuppa cocoa and read with me.  I want to write about an amazing journey as the mom of two very special children, and the wife of a soon-to-be-nominated saint.   I had a very eventful day, as days go, as I had to take a certain young lady to her kindergarten orientation.  It was a proud moment as I walked away to the parent room, knowing that I had fully prepared her, held her back a year to improve her self-esteem, and that she could handle anything!  My world fell apart in the car when she announced, “Mommy, why did they say Claire (not her real name) is a boy’s name!  It isn’t but they said I had a boy’s name!”

Suffice to say that I lost my breath and could have had a car accident!

“You were named after a princess,” I said reassuringly, thinking quickly.  “A Disney Princess!  How many princes do YOU know who are called Claire.  None?  That’s right, because Claire is a PRINCESS’ name!”

Arriving home, the little princess ran upstairs to watch tv while I plotted my next move … stop her from starting school altogether and have her remain in preschool for life …. or ask the principal to let her skip kindergarten altogether and forge straight ahead to grade one.  Two emails to the principal later, I opted to take a deep breath and try to recover from the trauma I was experiencing.  You know it – the trauma of being a mother when your youngest is starting school for the first time.  It is almost as bad as when they start preschool.  I still remember the moment.  Claire turned three and then announced casually a few days later, “Mommy, I’m ready to start school now.”  Shocked and bewildered, with all my dreams of homeschooling dashed, I took her to the local preschool to “check it out.”  My little baby marched right up to the supervisor and said, “Hi!  My name’s Claire.  I’m here to start school today.”  She started two days later, and I was still in shock two weeks later saying to myself, “What happened!”

Well, here I am reeling with self-pity and blogging about her first kindergarten experience while she calmly snores away in our bed, plotting in her little five year old brain how she is going to explain her sleepwalking the next day:  “Mommy, when you take me out of your bed and put me back in mine …. I feel ….. REJECTED!”   – and not even noticing where she spilled her glass of water all over the sheets.  C’est la Vie!  Soon she’ll be thirteen!