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I was 14, he was 15. The very first day we met, he kissed my hand, very Cinderella style. Little did he know he was kissing the hand of a hopeless dreamer. An incurable romantic. A girl who, even at 14, had learned how to exit the world of her reality and dwell in the world of books, movies, plays and music. My fantasy world was the real one in which I dwelt and the reality of school and homework and parents and such were just the nuisance that had to be endured between escapisms.
Our first date. How ironic it was to a movie. Escapism please!
We went to see The Little Mermaid. When it was first released to theatres (am I dating myself, much?). The song “kiss the girl” was the backdrop to our first kiss. He with his towering height and me with my fantasies and already I had us married off with kids and living in a far away land.
Cut to now, and we’re married with kids and moved provinces, so in a way, my 14 year old dream came true.
My number is inverted now. I’m 41. I still use books and movies and plays and music as a way to leave the trappings of the adult world, a world VASTLY more disappointing than I was led to believe as a child. Sure, I can eat what I want and go to bed when I want, but I also pay taxes and clean and raise children and have a job. But I have my dreams. Tucked away where I can call upon them when needed. I still read books and fall in love with the mythical worlds weaved for me. I even write books where I can bend the fantasy to my own will and whimsy. Songs still transport me and movies are where I give over my heart and soul to be drawn into another place and time.
So, it’s no surprise that when the live action Beauty and the Beast was announced that I immediately professed that I would not only see this in theatre, but that we would all go, husband, wife and the three children still remaining at home. No one minded. When your mother is a dreamer, she tends to influence her children.
The day approached and the closer we got, the more excited we became. The kids would frequently play the trailers on the internet and I, the eternal crier, would more often than not, feel my eyes growing hot with anticipation.

On Sunday we crammed our five adult forms into the car and drove to the theatre where Belle awaited. As we sat in a row at the back of the theatre, I leaned over to my husband and whispered “I love that 22 years of marriage later, you’re still taking me to Disney movies. Only now we bring our children.” He tried to pretend like that didn’t make him “catch the feels” too, but I know it did. He has been much more sentimental since his heart attacks.
The show started and transported is exactly what we were. My youngest, the 15 year old, 6’2 man-child sitting beside me, spent the entire show holding my hand, or laying his head on my shoulder, or hugging me. My girls sat at the end silently letting tears fall. The movie was perfection. It should be held up as an example of how to bring a beloved animation to live action. I won`t go into the details of the myriad of ways I loved it, because this post would simply be too long.
It was beautiful visually, artistically, musically and in it`s composition. The casting was perfect and I truly wanted to step through that screen and into Belle`s world.
We left the theatre that evening to go home to the world that we built. It`s warm, inviting and loving. It`s full of laughter, and yes, sometimes tears. Usually mine. It`s teenagers and adult children who still hug their parents. It`s kids who were brought up to love and to treat people with kindness and dignity and inclusion. With all the mistakes and pitfalls I’ve taken in my life, it`s my deepest source of pride to see the family that we built and what we`ve built it into. Even with my love for escaping through books and music and movies and plays, it’s still that Prince Charming of mine that I come back to.

And he still kisses my hand.

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** Warning ** I intend to speak on sexuality. If you don’t wish to read this from me, I suggest you skip this one.

When my oldest daughter was about nine, she came to me and told me that she liked girls. D’uh, I told her, of course you do, all your best friends are girls. No, she said. I LIKE girls. Oh, okay. Well….
I asked her to wait for a few years before deciding whether or not she wanted to talk to people about this and for her to feel more sure of herself (which in hindsight, this kid has never been anything BUT sure of herself, but I was a young mom and didn’t want her to be feeling any societal push-back before she was mature enough to deal with it). She agreed and again at about fourteen or fifteen she told me she was gay. Cool. Keisha has always known her mind, and we raised her in a home that is accepting of people no matter how they identify. I always told my kids that I don’t care who they date as long as the person is a good person who loves them and treats them well and as long as they are happy. Because really, isn’t that all we can ask for our kids? Besides, I have adult friends who were so scared to come out that they married into hetero sexual marriages and even had children before they were able to fully be themselves. I can’t imagine the pain/courage it took for them to face their partners and speak the words “I’m gay” and then have every single thing in their lives change. But, I’m drifting.
I had a gay teenage daughter. And she dated. We met her girlfriends and some of them we liked and some of them we didn’t. We watched her fall down the rabbit hole of teen love where everything becomes about the other person and you feel like you can’t breathe without them in your life and then we watched her heart shatter after a particularly hard breakup, as a teenage heart does when love ends. There was NOTHING unusual about this with her. It’s the same for all teenagers, regardless of whether they are dating same gender or not. It was no less easy to watch her go through it. She has the same struggles now as any single person, trying to meet someone she can share her life with. Being gay has only changed the players, not the game.
What breaks my heart is that in this day and age there are STILL so many people who think she is something less than simply because she is gay. I am, in fact, incredulous about it. She didn’t ask to be gay. She didn’t decide it. She certainly isn’t trying to be “en vogue” because gay is “in” right now. She just is. And she is still just my daughter. A sister. A cousin. A niece. A grand daughter and a great-grand daughter. One day she will be an Auntie. A wife. Hopefully even a mother.

Now.

Last night. My 14 year old son came into my room. It was around ten thirty and we were all winding down for bed. He had his phone in his hand. He asked me if I remembered him mentioning his friend T. I did. He asked me if I would read something and then he handed me his phone. My 14 year old son gave my his text message to read. T is a biological girl. But, feels like a boy. T has two friends, my son, and a young woman in their class. They are the only two who don’t question T for feeling like he does. T’s parents DO NOT accept this. I get it, and I explained to my son that not every parent can deal with discussing such things, let alone accepting them. I explained that if Keisha had come to me to say she was transgendered, while I would absolutely accept her, I would definitely have to mourn the loss of my daughter before accepting my new son. It’s a complicated process, but, he wanted to know, wouldn’t I still love her? Of course I would. My love for my children is unconditional.
My son started to cry. T tried to talk to their parents about it and now they refuse to discuss it and they are forcing T to by hyper feminine. They insist T wears skirts and dresses. My son wanted to know if T could come live with us if it became necessary.
I read the texts. T is in pain. There were a lot of very sensitive and well, scary thoughts, expressed. Depression, cutting, feeling like everything about T’s body is fundamentally wrong. And the agony of not have parents to talk through this time with. My son cried.

I told him we cannot know everything that is going on in that family. Because it’s not our family, and we are only hearing one side of the story. And no, asking T to come live here would likely do more harm than good. But, that he can continue to be T’s friend and that T is welcome here anytime to visit, to hang out, whatever.

My son asked me how a parent couldn’t just….love their kid. Why the need to try to force that kid to be something they are not. Why not at the very least BE THERE to talk and most importantly, to listen.

I had no answer for him. Because I truly don’t understand that. I wish I did. I told him instead that I loved his heart. That I wasn’t worried for him for his future and his future relationships because he is such a strong, loving person. His heart is so open. It’s just what I wanted in my children. Because they are, after all, the legacy I’m leaving on this earth. What better legacy than a child with an open heart who just loves people, regardless of who they are?

I know my generation is different to previous ones when it comes to understanding that gender is a fluid thing. The age of the internet has made it so that this is an actual social conversation now, which is only to the benefit of us all. People are afraid of what they don’t understand and the more we talk about it, the more understanding can be borne.

I gave birth to five children. Two boys and three girls. One of my kids is gay. One of my kids is a science nerd. Of of them is a music junkie. One of them had a brief problem with drugs and has come full circle to sobriety. All of them are my children and I love them all.

No matter what. Or who. They become.

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I have friends who are just now (or within the last few years anyway) starting their families. I, as many of you know, had my own family ridiculously young and although it was super hard then, I’m really grateful for it now. My teenagers value their weekend sleep in time almost as much as I do. I can leave them without supervision, they can do their own laundry and cook for themselves and even for the hubs and I from time to time.

It makes me giggle to myself occasionally when my friends complain of the sleep deprivation and the constant questions and interruptions.

BUT

Although my teens (and my two in their twenties) come with many perks, there are some things that never change.

Sunday night for example. First of all, there was a wicked wind storm that night and so it was very loud outside the bedroom windows, but, I was starting my new job on Monday morning so I needed my sleep. My 22 year old had come home briefly that night around 8 pm to tell us that he was heading out for his work belated Christmas party. Great. It was nice of him to check in in person. We went to bed that night at around 11:30 and I was slightly restless as I had first day of new job jitters.

I had FINALLY fallen asleep and my phone rang just around 12:20 am. Who the EFF is calling me after midnight. I jolted awake (it’s always my phone too, they never call dad, interrupt dad, text dad at work. Always mom) and reached for my phone praying that no one had been in an accident or had (god forbid) died.

It was my 22 year old calling from his party. He wanted to leave his car and cab it home (Yay, smart kid didn’t want to drink and drive) and wanted to know if I would drive him in to get his car in the morning. I probably wasn’t very kind in my reply of “no”. I already had to leave early to drive the teen girls in to school (they both needed to go in early to see teachers) and no way was I going to be late on my first day.

It took me an hour to get back to sleep.

I had my alarm set for 7:30 am as I didn’t have to be at work until 9:30. At 7 am my phone rang. Miffed, I rolled over and answered.

It was my 17 year old daughter. Calling from DOWN THE HALL.

She said that the power had ‘flickered’ overnight and she thought it might have turned off my alarm. My alarm is on my phone, I reminded her. It’s set to go off in half an hour.
Oh, she said. Nevermind then.

So you see, even adult kids and teen kids still mess with your sleep patterns. They still come ask me questions when I’m in the shower. They still wake me up in the middle of the night or early in the morning.

But you know what? (Apart from being slightly perturbed in the moment) I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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If you follow social media with any kind of zeal, you will likely have heard of the hashtag that went viral last week: #standingwithStoya

An adult film actress went public with the fact that her adult film actor boyfriend had, on more than one occasion, forced her. Ironically, shortly after she came forward with this, another ex of his (also an adult actress) said that the same had happened with her.

I hate hearing these kinds of stories. The whole Bill Cosby saga felt like it destroyed a staple from my childhood. Charlie Sheen came out with HIV, not because he was trying to be brave and raise awareness, but because he had been hiding it, even from his partners, and was being blackmailed by some in the know.

What in the hell is wrong with the world???

The thing that made me angriest over the #standingwithStoya issue was the comments from men that “you can’t rape a porn star” or “you can’t rape a prositute”. I fumed.

I was so angry that my three younger kids, (17, 15 and 14) asked me what was wrong and we spent an hour in the kitchen while I prepared dinner discussing it. My 14 year old son, upon hearing the “can’t rape” theory of some said that it made him “physically angry”. As well it should. I’m just thankful that I have raised boys who know that no means no. No matter WHERE you are on the sliding scale from kissing to full sex. A “NO” is to be respected. Whether the girl says it or the guy does.

We talked a lot that night, as the conversation spun us in many directions. Like, why is Bill Cosby being (rightfully, in my opinion) vilified in the media and Charlie Sheen is not? We also talked about statistics of women who experience sexual assault. We discussed their own relationships, as they have happened so far, and we talked about boundaries and why they are important. Why standing up for your own personal beliefs is important and why it is socially responsible to speak out against actions like rape and say that no, it is not okay, and we won’t stand for it anymore.

They’re not easy conversations, but they are needed ones. I believe firmly in keeping a very open dialogue with my kids and so far, all I see is good coming from it. They are strong, independent, free thinking, moral and socially responsible kids/young adults and I am proud of each and every one of them. They are fiercely loyal to their loved ones, both friends and family and they are quick to stand up to injustice.

That’s partly why my heart broke so hard tonight when I heard the news about San Bernardino. A senseless shooting in a place that helps people with disabilities. It’s going to spark a conversation again, and while I never mind having deep and in depth conversations with the kids, I’d really like to have one about something really positive for a change.

That being said, I still believe that any conversation with your children is a worthwhile one. They’re fascinating. And incredibly insightful. And delightfully funny and witty and caring. I will keep on having these necessary, but not necessarily fun, conversations with my kids. And we will discuss how the world can be scary, dangerous and mean.
However, ESPECIALLY leading up to the holidays. I also plan to talk to them about art, music, dancing in our kitchen, silly things and sad things and super amazing things. Because there’s only a few years left when the culmination of all these conversations is what I’m going to send them out into the world armed with.

I’m not ready.

But I think they just might be.

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As November quickly winds down and December shows that it will, as it does every year, fly in and through the days faster than any of us are ready for, we find ourselves in the position of analyzing our Holiday wants and wishes once again.

When the children were young the holidays, as an entity, were relatively easy. Shop for pressies, Christmas socks (of course), some new clothes, toys and maybe a few movies. Small children are fairly simple to buy for. And the delights on the morning of were always something great to see.

But, our kids are so much older now. We are so lucky, if they need something, we can almost always provide it. If they want something, well, we can usually take care of that as well, within reason. So the much discussed Christmas wish list has become more of a lot of hmmm’s and I don’t know’s. Oh sure, they want bigger and better things but they know it’s unreasonable, no matter how well we do, for three teenagers to expect a laptop each for the holidays. It just ain’t happening.

So we talk. What do we all want? Well, we’d like to spend loads of time together, we’d like to be in our kitchen a lot cooking and baking. And, we’d like to see family. And of course, Christmas socks and oranges in the stockings. That’s about it.

We live a pretty good life, all things said and done and the older the family gets, the less the holidays are about ‘things’ and the more they are about each other and making new memories.

So, ahead of the Holidays, I’m not stressing too much about getting my shopping done. Because this year, as in the last few years, it’s much more to do with quality of time than quantity under the tree.

And that’s just fine with me.

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I’m used to a certain amount of background noise in my life.

I’m the second oldest of seven children. Growing up there was really, no such thing as “quiet time” much as my parents may have liked. It *may* be part of the reason I used to sit up and read so late in the night. No one else was awake. Of course, I had one sister that talked in her sleep and another who occasionally walked in her sleep and a mother who was also a night owl so even then, there were sounds. Our house was a century house. It made all kinds of noises, most of which you could only hear at night. As if even the house was uncomfortable when there weren’t the shouts and foot-falls of children, it too would stretch and moan and groan at night.
I married and moved out before twenty and had five children in eight years. So, my own house was never quiet either. Babies crying, or laughing, children shrieking in either mirth or frustration, a television on here, a radio blaring there. An endless circus of neighbors and friends and classmates and pets swung through our doors. We lived in a busy neighborhood, and the cars rolled by all the time. People shouted outside our windows and on hot summer nights, the sounds of our community often buzzed well into the wee hours of the morning.
The kids grew older and we moved to a smaller town. However, older kids have computer games and video games and hand held electronics and cell phones, all of which beep and whistle and click and bee-boop all day and night long. We joined a theatre and although it was MASSIVE fun, it only made us all louder and more boisterous, if you can imagine.
We now live out east where life in general, is quieter. The province in general doesn’t have the same sense of mad-dash to it. People are quieter (unless they’re laughing) and things just don’t seem as…frantic.
My kids are older, which means, even though they are still at times, the loudest creatures that ever were blessed with lung capacities, they also appreciate silence now and then. Which means, there are moments, few and far between, sure, but bona fide moments in my life that are quiet.

I don’t know what I’m going to do when the dogs have lived out their time and all the kids have moved out and moved on. But I do know this. I will enjoy it when the noise in the house is the noise I create, and I can decide on where and when it happens.

Even so, a part of me knows I’m really going to miss it.

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Let me set the scene. It’s a weeknight. It’s just before 9pm. The married couple are tired, but, it’s been a while since they had some decent “mom and dad” time so, they inform their children that they are going to bed early. They are really tired and please don’t disturb them. What a glorious recipe for calamity.

Earlier this week, Shawn and I decided to take a night to ourselves. We rarely get to bed much less to sleep at the same time and, with our schedules, making time for play doesn’t happen with the frequency we would like it to. Occasionally it’s so bad that we simply have to make time for one another, or the valves that need releasing will burst open and, sadly, someone will die. (I *may* be a little melodramatic, but you get the point – you HAVE to release the steam valves or murders will happen)
Anyway, we decided to take an evening for us. We went up to our room, closed our door and locked it. We actually began our evening with talking. Because god knows that’s a very important part of intimacy and another thing we don’t always make enough time for. There we were, snuggled up together, warm in bed, talking, and the first door knock comes. It’s one of the kids with a concern. She has zombie prom for band at the school IN TWO DAYS and she needs a prom-like dress that she can tear up and cover in fake blood. Do I have one?

DO I HAVE ONE?

Sigh. I throw on my robe and explain that there is a green 80’s style prom-like dress in a bin in the spare room from Halloween’s past. She can have that.

She leaves.

Hubs and I look at one another. Of course she gave us two days notice. Actually, she most likely gave us more notice than that, but, as I said, we’ve been busy. We kiss. It’s nice. Really nice. We’re just getting comfortable again and the door knock happens.

The dress doesn’t fit. It’s too big.

On goes the robe, the door gets unlocked and we come out. We spend a few minutes with her and yes, the dress is too big, it slumps down her front, NOT what you want for your 15 year old. Dad agrees to take her to the thrift store the next night to find her something. We send her away and go back to our room. This time we get a full half hour before the next interruption. Of course timing is just perfect. To be honest, I don’t even remember which kid asked what. I only know that my husband handled this one. And let me just say that derailments do NOT go over well in our house. Once the train is derailed, you have to circle all the way back the station and re-board.

10pm.

A knock at our door.

We both yell WHAT??? at the door.

It’s our son this time, the 14 year old. He says he forgot that he has to interview us. For school. For tomorrow.

It’s ten o’clock! We exclaim to him. A sheepish sounding sorry comes through the door. Which we then open, again.
He climbs up onto the bed with us with his note paper. Oblivious. (thank goodness)

The questions are all about how things have changed in the workplace since we were young. We talk about minimum wage and cell phones and internet and such. It’s a lovely little conversation. He leaves and we shut and lock our door again and I SWEAR TO GOD fifteen minutes later there is a knock.

WHAT???

Our daughter says she has a hangnail and needs my cuticle clippers. Hubs yells at her that we don’t have any. She calls us liars and leaves.

Shawn and I looked at one another and laughed. F’n cuticle clippers. Well damn.

And that, my friends, is why small children are NOT the greatest hamper to your love life. Teenagers are.

Then the train finally made it’s journey through the mountains and all the villagers could rest at peace knowing there would be no murders.

The End.

(This has been a mostly true story: no actual villagers were at risk for murder)

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