Two badass moms, two ginger boys, two indifferent/insistent petsand now two seasons of our podcast Fashioning Families! I guess good things really do come in pairs. So over the last year this is how life has rolled out. Junior is walking and Ben never stops talking. They have finally realized that the other is a verifiable playmate and now the ruckus never stops.
Ben has become the CEO of the distinguished organization, KMH (Kid Monster Hunters). VP Junior suddenly has important responsibilities and paperwork, since he learned to use a crayon. Junior has also learned to take his socks and pants off every time we turn around.
Junior has also learned the meaning of gentle and our cat has learned to be graceful about being petted, even if he still disdains Junior when he crawls into the cat bed with him and rolls around. The dog is a little pissed with all the chaos even if she likes going to the park with the boys. She is is sure grateful for Ben, her walker extraordinaire!
Kelly rolls up her carpet when Junior is at the dinner table and they all expect that Junior will need a bite of everyones ice cream afterwards. Erin has transitioned to a life of carting Junior to daycare.
We have all suffered the plagues that both kids bring home. At last count, at least three bouts of cold for all, one bout of pink eye for Ben and Kelly and one Norwalk like curse for her, Junior and Ben. Now we are just waiting for the locusts.
Kelly’s hands are getting used to doing reflexology three days a week and writing her fingertips off. Erin and Kelly are both trying out intermittent fasting and would be really doing well if Kelly would just stop baking.
And now at long last Erin and Kelly have streaked through dinner times, bath times and bedtimes to get some recording time in to bring you Fashioning Families Season Two. Now you will get to hear double the laughs, double the groans, double the insanity and certainly double the love!
Kelly here and yes she did drive me crazy and no I am not talking about my steadfast friend and housemate Erin. I have been on a winding journey that felt more like I was a ping pong ball and life was the paddle that was spanking me! The task; learn to drive. My best cheerleader; Erin. And now after five damn tries I can final say I passed my G2 Drivers Test, I am officially a lesbian with a licence!
The start of this nerve wracking commute to adulthood began at Young Drivers. Actually it really started before I made the call to purchase my in class lessons, after the exhilarating realization that this was actually happening! If I had a dime for every bead of sweat I dropped over this whole ordeal I would be able to pay for a personal chauffeur, but I digress.
I have been a nervous driver since I was a teenager, I may have had an overdeveloped sense of self preservation. From the moment I failed my G Exit test I have been too afraid to get back into the drivers seat. When I moved to Toronto I figured I was in the land of public transit and would never need one. Cue the ironic overture of the single mom by chance. It was time, and with two growing boys to cart around I could not avoid it any longer.
The first time I got in the car with my sarcastic and highly amusing instructor Peter I had to pull over. I made a left turn at a busy intersection and nearly hyperventilated. Yet to my surprise, after just a few sessions I was more comfortable than I thought I would be. By the time we did mock testing with I was an A student! I loved his constant refrain when I pulled a beautiful parallel park or navigated the shenanigans of careless drivers:
“Nothing wrong with that!”
Fast forward to August 2019. Beautiful balmy morning ride with Peter to the Port Union Driver Examination Centre. I was sweating as we went to sign in. Unfortunately we were informed that most of the examiners were off “sick” and I could not be guaranteed an appointment before we had to go pick up my son from school. Strike one.
Fast forward to September 2019. Lovely fall day back at Port Union. I actually got to do the test this time! I did well but she failed me on a technicality. Erin assured and supported me like no tomorrow. Strike two.
Fast forward again to November 11, 2019 specifically. Why not rock it on the day my (driving) wife passed away? Make her proud! …. Then the icy blizzard rolled in that morning. Ben and I visited my mom so I could retake the test in Belleville (smaller town with less traffic). Too bad her winter tire appointment had been bumped. I was driving fine on the suddenly snow covered streets, until we pulled into the examination centre, or at least tried to as we slid sideways into a ditch. Tests were cancelled due to unsafe weather conditions… DUH!. Strike three.
Fast forward December 2019. Made it there! Failed. Realized I’m a great, safe driver but the pressure of test defeated me. The “she” who drives me crazy was the glinty eyed examiner who really didn’t help. Erin and my mom were both great about it, but may have had some interesting expletives to use when explaining this woman to others. Strike four.
Fast forward to February2020. Gave myself a good talking to; I’m not here to make friends. I’m not even going to look at the examiner. I’m just here to get this damn thing done. I got the same sharp eyed examiner, nearly pooped my pants, then resolved not to let her freak me out. This time she told me “well, you passed the ministry standards” in an exasperated tone. Awww and I thought she didn’t recognize me from last time. Finally, mom and I went for a G and T. VICTORY!!!!!
I FaceTimed Erin and we had a very quiet freak out. She was on the streetcar coming back from Sick Kids Hospital as Junior had broken out into into a wicked case of hives! That evening Ben, she and Junior were all infected with something akin to the Norwalk virus. Once I got home I was the last lesbian standing and everyone had a “just in case bucket.”
And the moral of this story is…
Challenges of life will never stop. They just get more irritating and yucky the longer you have to wade through them. The thing that makes it bearable is your family. I must say I have so much love and joy in my heart for my family that sometimes I think it will burst.
Ben: Read a book on his own.
Junior: Learn to use even more words. Except I secretly want him to keep saying “die” when he means “bye”.
Erin: Finish editing Season Two of Fashioning Familieswithout throwing computer through the window. Glad we have our producer Anika to help despite the fact she is a busy new mother!
We all need a loving kick in the pants sometimes. A little while ago there was a particularly difficult week concerning Ben. Eventually I just sent him down to Erin because I couldn’t deal anymore. He had not been helpful cleaning up the living room. I asked him to clean his room and when I checked on him he was playing. When I went back twice he was still playing. That was when I lost it, then he told me that I didn’t do anything and that he was “doing my dirty work.” Yeah I was done.
Once those emotional hooks get in there is no room for patience or calm. It didn’t help that this week we had to reprimand him for rough-housing with the baby and making some very unsafe choices. We had a talk about thinking through things. Then Erin caught him taking a pair of gardening sheers to the hall carpet…yeah. It was consequence city.
After the “dirty work” day Erin sat me down and started a difficult conversation. She was actually making some helpful suggestions of things she used to try and keep her own household from overwhelming her. I just felt a lot of shame and frustration and came away feeling pretty shitty about myself. I didn’t sleep that night and it took some time to process, but in hindsight those helpful suggestions were just what I needed.
Basically it amounted to, if there’s something you can do now and get it over with; Do it! That way when you come back to the kitchen or bathroom or pile of laundry you won’t feel shitty about the fact that it wasn’t done. Things like put the lid back on the peanut butter and put it into the cupboard, wash the dishes in the sink and make sure all the food is put away. Erin’s golden moment was when she said something like, I’m not saying this because you did anything wrong, I am saying this because I want things to be easier for you. Then she smiled and yelled “for fuck-sake put yourself first!”
So now when I think about the things I need to do, I think of them as an act of self-care, for fuck-sakes. I thought about it this morning as I was cleaning the kitchen and chopping some forgotten fruit. I was making a fruit salad to take care of myself and you can too. Try my recipe I will call this creation the….
For Fuck-Sake Fruit Salad
1-2 Granny Smith apples
1 cup strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup raspberries
Hand full of fresh basil leaves
Squeeze the juice of two limes into a sealable bowl or Tupperware. Then slice orange and grapefruit and squeeze a little of the juice into the bowl. Cut out sections and add them. Slice Granny Smith apples and add with any fruit that happen to be hanging around. Add basil leaves, seal container and shake, shake señora!Refrigerate and toss before serving!
I particularlythought of myself as I washed the grapes and sliced them cleanly down the middle. I wasn’t going to but then I thought they look pretty and I’m doing this for me…for fuck-sake.
When it comes to parenting Erin and I have learned there is a lot of guess-work and she is quick to say the challenges that she is now helping me puzzle through are going to be the same struggles she will have to work through with Junior. It makes me feel better that we are in this together.
She notices when I am shaking with rage and so lost in my own emotional reaction that I momentarily cannot function because Ben has been rude or thoughtless. I know when she calls because the baby has been up five times that night and she is walking into walls she is so exhausted, that she needs me to tag in.
We are a team, we are confidants and we saved each other’s bacon when we needed it most. I can honestly say God only knows what I would have done without her. I am thinking about this because Tess Kalinowski from The Toronto Star published an article on us about cohabitation and co-parenting; because we have to be strong allies when other people question our relationship from the outside and may not seen the intricacies and the intention with which we have build our unusual family; because my wedding anniversary is today and Erin knows how to hold space for my grief and my love for my lost partner.
It is a beautiful living thing that Erin and I have created that rises up to support us in our times of need. It is the continual tide pushed forward by honesty, commitment and respect. It is the container of joy that allows us to celebrate the courageous moments like when I sold my house, when Erin became a single mother, as well as the absolute silliness of enjoying time together. Just ask the melon ball that Erin launched across the table last night that landed exactly in the collar of Ben’s shirt.
I love my family. I love Ben, I love Junior and I love Erin. No matter what happens in the future, where we move, or when and if romantic partners come into our separate lives – WE are a TEAM. When I was widowed in 2012 I could not imagine having a partnership again, especially in such a unique way. So in the end this post is just about my heart, trying to understand that when something is ripped away from you, you get something back; a healing balm (or bomb) that offers you the opportunity to heal and live the life that you were meant to live.
To those who love and adore me it is no secret, I am not so good at minding the time. It was actually the bane of my late wife’s existence. I guess it doesn’t help that I didn’t have watch…until now. Then comes Christmas 2018 and Erin’s bid to try and keep Ben and I to a schedule. Erin is also a non-time-minder by her own admission, so it was an easier pill to swallow.
Erin was obliged to mind time for professional purposes, and now I don’t wonder why there is a clock in every room of her apartment…even the bathroom. To me this lends credence to the old adage “she can be taught.” Time management has changed in our co-habited house, not just because her gift to me was a Garmin watch, but also because it was her gift to Ben as well.
I have issues with my wrists so I’ve have never worn anything more than an ultra-light bracelet. Perhaps it was also my stubborn streak to avoid time minding… But now with this fancy watch that keeps me on schedule and counts my steps, time has become my friend!
As a family with Garmin watches we can participate in step challenges. With the kids watch Ben can earn “coins” towards rewards for chores on an app . Until he lost the watch and my mother and I spent three days after Christmas trying to help him find it… It eventually surfaced a few weeks later.
Erin and I designed a schedule for the mornings in 15 min increments which I can now monitor, and we have not been late this semester once!
Now I don’t have to be afraid that time has escaped me, I can just tip my wrist for an instant reminder. This allows me to relax during my daily activities. Since this little gadget is waterproof I don’t have to struggle minding the time for myself, even in the bathroom. So Erin as well as Kara was right, it was time to get a watch, and now there is someone on the other side of the pearly gates of heaven doing a happy dance! Love you babe, but don’t be so smug…lol.
I was so incredibly lucky to have an ample supply of breast milk that I really wanted to give back. I know some women, including Kelly, have struggled to breastfeed and my heart really goes out to each of you! There is so much going on in those first few hours, days, weeks, months after you baby is born, and a lot of messages are given to new mothers about how to nurture this new little human (i.e. “breast is best”). So much pressure, plus whacky hormones and no sleep, all parents really deserve a medal!
I started freezing breastmilk in the first month and when a friend suggested that I could donate it, I jumped on the idea. The process to become a donor took me almost 5 months, with a few delays for doctors appointments, forms, and blood screening. They have to be strict, and even though it was a bit of a hassle I’m SO happy I did it. The nurses told me that my milk will be given to premies that weigh as little as 1 pound. Wow! I can’t even imagine what those parents go through. If I can make their lives even a tiny bit easier, that’s amazing!
Please check out the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank at Mount Sinai Hospital www.milkbankontario.ca to hear some inspiring stories! Be warned… there are tear jerkers!
How to Enter:
Using the photo above, guess the amount of frozen breast milk I donated. On Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter, tag a friend who you think would be interested in our podcast and enter your guess in the comments. You can enter as many times as you like, with unique tags and guesses. If you don’t have any of these social media accounts, no problem, enter through our blog contact page or comment below. Contest closes on March 1st, 2019!
Three pairs of Foot Traffic socks, two in sizes 10-1Y (ages 4-7) in “adorable hedgehog” and “yummy taco” patterns and one in size 12-5Y (ages 7 to 10) in a “pigs really do fly” pattern. They have nice flat seams for picky sock wearers and wash well.
Ep 8: The Cliffhanger, our final episode of Season One has finally arrived. Erin wakes up from a nap to record and Kelly is overjoyed at the thought of finally cuddling that baby, she just needs to get those “pad-cicles” made before they arrive! Check it out and stay tuned for Season Two of Fashioning Families.
Ep 7: Prenatal Preparation is here, we are gearing up to the big day! Midwives, birth plans and emergency interventions oh my. Kelly tells us about how her birth plan went sideways and Erin talks about her birth plan/wishful thinking. To quote Kelly “until shit hits the fan you’re not going to know you need clean up!” Check it out!
There are benchmarks when you arrive at something and the situation suddenly feels more significant than the literal interpretation. Ever since those hours in swimming lessons Ben has become a diving, fluttering machine. So when we head down to Regent Park Community pool its a real treat. The water slide doesn’t hurt either. However this was not just any old buoyant family outing.
Erin healed up from from the cesarean business (feeling so much sympathy for that) and she wanted to take Junior swimming. It was a painful ordeal for Erin to abstain from the lake in August during our cottage trip, so she was raring to go. I was sure Junior would love it as he has a laugh and a half at bath time, creating a small tsunami in the baby tub.
At first he was not convinced about the cold air and the the loud echoing room, but as soon as he hit the water he pretty much lost his mind with excitement. As Ben dove for rings floating up and down like a wounded fish and Junior was splashing and swooshing, that is when Erin thought she recognized someone in the pool. She couldn’t place them at first until she, The Walking Dead fan, knew where she was from. Just like that we were swimming with the stars!
The beautiful actress in question was ogling Junior in his cuteness and we chatted with her while her family swam around us. Under her gaze I felt even more like a family unit. It was a peaceful feeling and everyone’s joy just accentuated that.
As Erin went to throw rings for Ben, I got Junior and we puttered around the pool, swishing his little legs in my current. Making faces and over exaggerated moves my little star fish rewarded me with the quintessential wide smile and infectious giggle. That’s when I felt it, my heart melted.
I know it was our intention to “fashion” our own family but suddenly, emotionally it felt like we actually had. I love Junior, he feels like mine just as Erin feels like Ben is hers. They are ours and being there together cemented a beautiful feeling between us. This is what our boys will know, two parent figures who love and support them, a wide community of family and friends and a home that feels…like home.
Now it’s you turn: so you tell us, we love stories at Fashioning Families. What have been your most memorable family times?
Ep 6: Baby Showers and Minor Catastrophes arrives with a bang! Ben has a heartfelt realization that he will have a pseudo sibling. Erin learns when life knocks you on your ass (literally) sometimes it’s the best place to be! Check it out!