What Should Coping Look Like?

The kids have been gone over a week now.  They’ll be back in three short days.  I made it through mostly okay.  In fact, I kept so busy the first seven days that – by Friday – I was longing to crash and have some mental re-grouping time at home.

I still don’t fully understand the exhaustion that overtakes me sometimes.  Do I feel like hiding away and becoming a sloth because I don’t get enough sleep for me?  Is it my iron? Maybe it’s too low again.  Or is it more of a disease of the spirit – needing time to cocoon because I’m a secret introvert and need that away time to recharge the creative batteries as well as to sincerely enjoy being around other people again?  Sometimes I wonder if I “get low” if I simply go too long between journaling or blogging it all out.

If that last possibility also resonates with you, you may like the following link: The Psychological Benefits of Writing Regularly, by Gregory Ciotti.  It’s an article that really spoke to me recently.  :)

In any case – after a week that included kayaking, dragon boating, a couple of walks (with Alice, including a downtown day and a day at Ottawa’s totally fascinating Mer Bleue Bog, post to follow..), some great music at Bluesfest, and dog-sitting a lovely little poodle that has certainly done more than her share to keep loneliness at bay – by Friday all I wanted was to lie on my bed and think about my own projects and lists once more.

The only problem with that is, at home, there is nothing but the lovely numbness of Netflix to keep me from checking out my own belly button lint somehow mentally, no matter what other chores I find to busy my body with.  In other words, I start to stew.  Things that more social forms of busy-ness keep at bay start gnawing at the back of my brain when I take my alone time.  So – even as I binge on Orange is the New Black and assemble the new drawers I picked up at Ikea on my way home from volunteering at ORCC – reflection somehow sneaks back in.  Even though, honestly, the dog does help (She somehow really does help me).


Doggy keeps loneliness at bay!  Film at 11.

I love my lists.  There are lots of projects I want to do right now.  I started reading True Wealth (Juliet Schor) and had scarcely begun before becoming obsessively interested in one point.  Her observations about the changes in perceived value of textiles in the past 100 years or so resonated with me deeply.  I too have noticed that the price of a new shirt or pair of pants has remained unchanged for the last twenty plus years.  When I (in the past) needed retail therapy, I tended to take it out on my closet.  It was a place BG neither looked nor cared, a tiny island of autonomy in an otherwise constricted life.

The consequence of that I live with still.  Clothing litters my closet shelf and floor.  Packing boxes still sit, full of things I haven’t dealt with yet, even though I’m now the proud owner of a 9-drawer dresser and a separate lingerie tower (both filled) that are  “mine all mine.”  Not to mention my ample closet space.


I have too much clothing.  I forget what I own and buy more.  When I remember something I would, in particular, really like to wear on any given occasion, I typically cannot find it.  More than once a rainbow avalanche of knit sweaters has rained down on my head as I’ve searched for something on that high shelf, with tears and frustration.  Instead of making my bedroom look tailored and classy, the ottoman at the foot of the bed, always strewn with discarded “half-dirty” items, makes my space resemble a dump.

Clothing is an area in which the feeling of plenitude has eluded me, despite the bulk of my possessions.  And I’ve realized I want my life back, bedroom floor included.

I won’t shoplift from Juliet Schor by paraphrasing too much from the book, but I do tend to agree that all this needing and shopping and going out of style and discarding and “so around we go again” is a self-inflicted social illness that has negative consequences for the planet, as well as for (obviously) my own home, which is swimming in cloth while I still continue to believe I have nothing to wear.  I am sick sick SICK of that and really want to change it.  Beginning to read True Wealth crystallized that for me personally and made me realize it’s something that the time has come for me to deal with.  I shelved the book (which I think is great) for the time being, to be continued once I deal with my demons.

On Thursday – while I was out downtown with Alice –  I picked up another book: The Upcycled T-Shirt by Jenelle Montilone.  Another book that spoke, again, directly to this waste of domestic resources that’s now sticking so badly in my craw.  I decided to take my current batch of (necessary!) discards out of the cycle.  I’m going to re-use these textiles MYSELF.


Yesterday I assembled an Ikea drawer unit in half of my massive bedroom closet.  I pulled out the cardboard boxes of unprocessed clothing and dumped them out on my bed.  Then I sorted the contents.

I made three piles:

  • Stuff I want (going to live in the new drawer unit)
  • Stuff I don’t want but shouldn’t dismantle (off to Goodwill with this!)
  • Stuff I’m going to pull apart and re-use the material from (my Upcycled Shirt pile)

I successfully cleaned up my room, leaving only a tidy pile in one corner: the cloth to be processed.  This pile consists of overly tight t-shirts, old gym pants, excess fleecy pj pants, and a few nice pieces of fabric too (mainly consisting of badly tailored blouses I should never have bought but did because I couldn’t resist the piece of cloth they were made of).    Last night I settled down in front of Orange is the New Black with a small pile.

I cut off the binding around the necks of my shirts.  I cut off the cap sleeves at the shoulder seams.  Then I consult my new bible for how to reduce what remained to “yardage” for all the fun projects in the book.  I can’t go any farther.  I need a rotary cutter and a self-healing mat.  A seam ripper too.

Mentally, I add these items to a list that is – once again – growing.  I need an iron to make a straight edge before I hem the Ikea fabric for Lou’s new curtains.  I no longer own a decent glue gun (my go-to tool for so many great projects in the past).  And I still need some equipment for camping on my coming vacation with the kids (even though I already spent over $300 to purchase my own pots, pans, plates, bowls, and campstove).

This is the way of it still.  Even something as mundane as tearing up an old pair of pajamas serves as a reminder that the infrastructure of my life has been completely dismantled.  First when I left the prospect of replacing everything and starting over was an exciting one.  As it goes on and on and on it has become depressing.

I drifted to sleep last night trying to remember the details of the backyard at my old house; the location and appearance of stairs, railings, patio stones, the feel of pea gravel, grass, water being thrown from the sprinkler.  Are my kids and husband there now, back from vacation?   How did I become this outcast – the only member of my band not present when the rest take trips we always planned, and postponed, doing together?  Has anyone missed me this past number of days?  Has anyone felt a twinge of remorse, or regret?

Somehow it’s hard, it’s bitter, to accept that I was unloved and unwanted by the other person to that extreme.  That he’s chosen the life of being a stranger, even to the extreme of denying me the knowledge of where they’ve gone or when they’ll be coming back.  I don’t know how to reach my children if I miss them and just want to hear them say “Hi Mumma, I’m okay.”

Grief is like malaria.  It strikes again – a relapse – just when you think you are better.  You mustn’t get overtired, over-exert yourself, or wait too long between meals.  Grief will find you again, and leave you too weak to so much as raise your arm.  You will find yourself, again, sitting in the driveway in the driver’s seat, unable to get up and go into the house.

Separation has been like a cancer diagnosis and chemo for me.  It’s been my battle, my triumph and defeat, the thing that – some days – lays me to waste.  I surprise myself by finding the mental energy and self-sufficiency to track down and change the water filter in my fridge today.  These are the little victories that keep my confidence up.  Somehow, I continue to exist.

My mother always told me “God only gives you what you can handle.”  I’ve handled so much now, so many things that – once upon a time – were the stuff of my worst nightmares (separation, loneliness, trusting the world with my children when I am not able to keep them safe here with me).  The thought that God might throw at me anything I can handle is a terrifying thought.  I’m not sure what I couldn’t handle at this point.

All for now,






Much Ado About Parsnips

I’ve just started volunteering at a natural garden here in Ottawa.  It’s an area within the Central Experimental Farm that has been entrusted to the Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club, basically a demo garden with native and “naturalized” Ontario plants.  It’s a vision of what a home garden could be – a welcome home to bugs, bees, bats, and butterflies and a riot of healthy wildflowers, starring vitamin V for Variety.  This is the Fletcher Wildlife Garden (FWG) or “Fletcher’s” as its friends call it.  Those are all links, btw.  If you’re in Ottawa and like botany you should check them out.

My job (as it were) at Fletcher’s is to remove the ultra invasive Dog-Strangling Vine (DSV) overgrowing my little plot.  I am charged with at least getting the seed pods bagged, so the DSV doesn’t send its thousands upon thousands of fluffy seeds scattering about the garden come September, furthering its glossy but insidious invasion of the precious garden.  If possible, I am told, it would be good to also uproot as many as possible.  Dog-Strangling Vine is perennial by its root stock as well as its dandelion-like seeds.

I won’t get into how I got lost in the garden on my first day there.  I did do some damage to the DSV, but I’m pretty sure the area I attacked wasn’t the assigned plot Sandy showed me a couple days earlier.

Since I was wandering at FWG, and have also had lots of evenings at the ORCC (Ottawa River Canoe Club, which I recently joined), my mind has started thinking about plants again.  Last night, as I walked back up the hill to my car out at the ORCC, I found myself identifying all the wild plants I could.  While far from a complete job, I was able to name quite a few and found myself once again excited to learn more.

I’ve written about Canadian flora before and  – surprisingly – I’ve observed over time that these posts are my most popular.  So – yay! – other people find this stuff interesting too. Therefore, this summer I’m going to do a series of short posts on wild plants of Ontario, inspite of the fact that being part of FWG is so humbling and makes me aware how very little I do know.  It’s fun researching and learning a little more and I love that my readers enjoy Canadian flora as much as I do.

À propos of that, I got a very timely question on one of my previous botanical posts earlier this week. Corina from Newfoundland’s Northern Pennisula wrote:

I have a question that I’m hoping you can answer. I live on the northern peninsula and we have a weed that grows rampant here. I’ve only ever heard it called hemlock but I’m not sure that it’s the actual name. The liquid that comes from it when you cut it can leave burn like blisters on your skin. It does resemble hogweed but not entirely. Any ideas?

This interested me a lot because there was a lot of hype last summer on Facebook about a similar type of (giant) weed that has been plaguing Ontario, and I’d even seen “warning – please share” type posts from as far away as the UK with gruesome pictures of the resulting burns.  Most of this focused around an invasive species known as Giant Hogweed, but it turns out there actually is a little more to the story.

When I wrote about plants previously I got a little bit into the problem of language and folk custom and geographic variation that can make absolute identification of some species by us amateurs such as quagmire.  I’m from Newfoundland but now live nearly 3000 kilometres away.  Canada is a big country.  So when Corina mentions a plant I haven’t seen and suggests a couple possible IDs she’s heard around it’s pretty hard for me to give her a definitive diagnosis, even if I was an expert.  And I’m no expert.

There are a bunch of Canadian wildflowers that are all relatives, belonging to the carrot family, and comprising the antecedents and wild relatives of the carrots and parsnips we eat at the supper table.  Here’s a bit of friendly advice, DO NOT eat these plants.  DO NOT gather these plants.  Let these plants be.

Here’s why…


Queen Anne’s Lace. Bowring Park, St. John’s, Newfoundland, July 2014.

Here’s a pretty close-up of some Queen Anne’s Lace.  Actually did take this shot in Newfoundland, by the by.  Queen Anne’s Lace is the “great grandmother” of the domestic carrot (the root is an edible, carrot-like thing).  Notice the tiny white flowers, in umbrella-shaped clusters.


Spotted Water-Hemlock Flowers.  copyright Daily Telegraph, UK

This is Spotted Water-Hemlock, generally regarded as THE most poison plant in North America.  Again, notice the tiny white flowers in their umbrella-like clusters.

Can YOU tell the difference between these flowers?  Me neither.  There might be some slight difference in the leaves, but the flowers are readily confused.

Hemlock, of course, is famous in folklore as the active ingredient in the drink given to Socrates to do him in.  Not to be confused with carrot juice.


The Socratic method dictates we must ask our students which they think right – to drink the carrot juice or to merely admire the drinker from afar?

Because one of these plants could do for dinner and the other for a murder, with little to distinguish them it seems obvious that it’s sensible to “look but leave it” in the case of these two.  The next two I’m about to discuss – their relations – make the case for leaving it even clearer.

Be warned:  The following image is gruesome.  Scroll past fast if sensitive!


Third-degree burns from Giant Hogweed.

Giant hogweed or Heracleum mantegazzianum is an invasive species now found growing wild in northern latitudes and is a matter of record in areas such as Hamilton, Ontario (found some good info from City of  Hamilton).  I have read some “please share” type posts on Facebook from out of the UK as well.  Seems it’s spreading all over.

Giant Hogweed was brought to the UK as an ornamental plant in the 19th century and it spread from there to other UK gardens, and the wild.  Now it is found wild in Great Britain, Europe, and in North America, having been imported to New York in about 1917 and recorded in British Columbia by about 1930. As shown above it is actually very dangerous, causing phytophotodermatitis due to the furocoumarin derivatives in the leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seeds of the plant.  This is a plant that turns your own skin against you, rendering it hyper-sensitive to UV.

On a “spread of invasive species” note, BTW, DSV is in our area now as a result of eager gardeners who admired its glossy foliage and imported it here.  There’s a lesson here about bringing non-native species to new areas (getting it out again’s a bitch and may be impossible so don’t choose these plants in the first place, perhaps?), but ‘nough said for now.  Still, it’s something worth inquiring about before you present the local nursery with your MasterCard maybe.

Giant hogweed is native to Central Asia and the Caucasus.  It has various aliases, giant hogweed, cartwheel-flower, giant cow parsnip, hogsbane and giant cow parsley among them.  Adding to the confusion, in New Zealand it is also sometimes called wild parsnip, or wild rhubarb.  And – possibly – “hemlock” in Newfoundland. J

So what does it look like?

Giant Hogweed has been described as “Queen Anne’s Lace on steriods.”  It’s considered a “noxious” weed in most jurisdictions, and – in fact – it’s so alien outer space freaky that, in 1971, Genesis even wrote a song about it (“The Return of the Giant Hogweed” – it’s “US” versus “THEM”, folks!).  It’s dangerous; if you spot it the first recommended countermeasure is to let the local authorities come in and handle it.  They’ll be wearing hazmat suits.

If you can’t get anyone else to remove it and you really must remove it for the protection of children and pets, wear your full armor of PPE (personal protective equipment).  Cover every part of yourself and use plastic and tape to ensure nothing passes to your skin.  A rubber suit would not be overkill.  You’re handling dangerous chemicals.

Eye protection is especially important. Furocoumarin can cause permanent blindness if it comes in contact with the eyes.  If skin is exposed, the affected area should be washed thoroughly with soap and water and the exposed skin protected from the sun for several days.

And, yes, Corina, I’m sorry to say the list of affected areas I saw also includes “isolated areas” of Newfoundland (as well as most of Canada in general).  I’m afraid this is one nasty cat that is well and truly out of the bag.

So, how much should we freak out?  Do we need teams with blow torches to come to our local woodlots and leave not a Queen Anne’s Lace standing?  Can we tell these devils from the angels they so resemble?

Well, yes! That’s the good news.

Giant Hogweed has the word “Giant” in its name for good reason, it stands often over 2 metres tall, with stems 10 cm in diameter.  Giant hogweed should stand out from Queen Anne’s Lace on the basis of sheer size alone.


copyright unknown – not my picture



unknown copyright



Giant hogweed is biennial – the plants grow large one year, produce seeds, and then sort of disappear in the second year.  Then, in Year 3, the cycle starts again.  Perhaps that’s why I haven’t seen any of these stories this year.  Watch out in 2017 tho’.

I mentioned a partner to this plant, one we perhaps might confuse in our enthusiasm and naivety.  I wasn’t thinking of Queen Anne’s Lace.  I was actually thinking of our sometime friends, the Wild Parsnips.

Wild Parsnip, Cow Parsnip, and Common Water-Parsnip have a  similar habit to all the other plants we’ve discussed.  The erect stems appear similar.  The umbrella-like clusters of little white (or yellow, in the case of Wild Parsnip) flowers are nearly identical.  I do think Queen Anne’s Lace has something about its habit that makes it the super model of the group, but my grasp of this is somehow a bit ephemeral, and not I’m still always sure (and I’ve looked a LOT!) that it’s Queen Anne’s Lace I’m looking at.  In any case, I once read they were Katharine Hepburn’s favourite flower and – on good days – I tend to agree with her.


Beauty is as beauty chooses in the forest, perhaps?

In general, Wild Parsnips will have yellow flowers, which I believe they can be distinguished by.  With a maximum height of about 150 cm, they can are quite tall but not quite as shockingly enormous as Giant Hogweed.

Cow Parsnip and Common Water-Parsnip can vary in height between one and three metres, making them a bit more difficult for us non-botanists to distinguish from Giant Hogweed.  All are found throughout North America.

The most interesting fact I learned in reading up on this for today’s post is that BOTH Wild Parsnip and Cow Parsnip, like their cousin Giant Hogweed, have the ability to cause phytophotodermatitis.   Common Water-Parsnip does not, but is so VERY SIMILAR TO HEMLOCK that it is not worth risking it.

I found this handy chart, showing the relative intensity of phytophotodermatitis by  plant species.  Copyright as shown.


The moral of the story?  Well, I hope – for starters – this post helps Corina accurately ID her mystery plant.  I’ve also given some tips if you have to deal with these plants (do not eat or touch, and use PPE if you must remove).  If you suspect Giant Hogweed, call the appropriate local authority.

The big moral, I think, is that these friends are best left alone.  Don’t pick or transplant them (even though with Queen Anne’s Lace it’s ever so tempting!).  Don’t ingest them.  Keep them away from children and pets.  And always think twice before adding any new unknown factor to your own garden.

Talk soon,




P.S.  That’s Wild Parsnip in the picture.  Love the colour.

I look up my tree and whisper "Namaste" and sometimes I think I hear "Namaste" back.  Or maybe it was the wind...

Back to the Future

A long time ago I shared some thoughts here about New Years’ Resolutions.  I believe in wishlists and resolutions because – frankly – I can’t imagine how you can get where you’re going in life without thinking about where it is you actually WANT to go first.

Resolutions and bucket lists help us resolve our focus to our real priorities.  Even the craziest heartfelt dream can be a necessary first trembling step down a new path in life.  I know that because I’m lying on my bed in my own house right now, which is somewhere I once never thought I would be, even though I knew I’d be better off here.  And it all started when I realized I am a Time Lord.

I’ve been thinking about that – our visions of tomorrow – a lot again lately.  In part, this reflection comes because I wonder what sort of vision for our planet’s future OTHER people might have.  What sort of future are people aiming for when they, say, vote Leave in Brexit, support Donald Trump for POTUS, or tell you at a cocktail party that they simply don’t believe in all this “global warming stuff”?

Are these folks, like me, hopeful about a future they are even now aiming to achieve?  If so, what inspires them?  What do they read?  I’m not criticizing.  Honestly, I’d really like to know.

I suspect some people’s actions aren’t driven so much by their hopes for their children as by their anger, cynicism, or spite.  I’m not sure about that, but the evidence is pointing that way.  Honestly, it makes me despair that schools, at least here in North America, are doing us a disservice.  People are falling through the cracks.  The current wave of “anti-intellectualism” is a frightening trend.  As President Obama suggested, how could it have become “cool”  to “not KNOW stuff” ?

For me, I noticed a while back that my reading was slowly turning away from novels and pop psychology towards social sciences, technology, and current events.  I’m impressing myself right now because – up until lately – I was always the one sticking my head in the sand.  Bad news was scary, demoralizing, and depressing,  I couldn’t handle it.  But now I’ve become fascinated with what’s going on in the world, why people feel how they feel, and what might happen next.  I guess that’s because my recent experiences have taught me that I really can make a difference.  It’s hard, and you have to be super-determined to keep trying even if you’re not an immediate success, but it’s true.  You really can make a difference.

A good friend told me once individuals can’t make a difference, that it’s all up to governments and big corporations to change stuff and the rest of us are basically helpless. I’ve thought about that conversation a lot over the years, and I finally reached my conclusion about that:  She was wrong.  We’re not helpless.  We can do something.  We all can.

We are at a new intersection of science, ecology, and economics right now.  And even though not every member of the public recognizes this watershed moment consciously, most everyone seems to be picking up on the social Zeitgeist somehow.  I am asking myself what I can do.  How can I participate in a way that gives more people that awareness?

Your vote matters.  What you think matters.  All the small ways you help, or hurt, or stand aside passively and watch how things unfold…  they matter, matter, MATTER.  Sometimes I think what we all need right now is a planet-sized psychologist’s appointment.

So I’m also watching events unfold right now, as I get back on my own feet personally, because – of course – I’m wondering what is next for me and my children.  Not just what will happen to us that I (that we) have no control over.  What COURSE should we set next too.  What can happen to us, if we take the wheel.

Once I get all of this processed a bit more clearly I will let you know.  I may have a better idea of my own personal direction, in a general sense, soon, but I don’t want to go all “big announcement” all over anything until I feel more sure that I am setting a true header for the next period of my life, not just taking some winding detour while I’m still feeling unsure about a good many things.

That may be my lousiest, most vague update ever.  But at least it was short.

Talk to you soon,




I should be cleaning so I think I’ll blog. (Plus our Sleep-piphany!)

I should be cleaning up my house, but I haven’t written in ages.  So I’m going to do a quick update that possibly has some subconscious motivation in avoiding housework.  That’s the abstract.

I’m feeling great.  Summer has arrived.  We are having perfect weather.  The kids finish school in another week (yes, it’s ending late for them this year).  I’m thinking about ways the three of us (myself plus Boo, my 8 year-old, and Lou, my 5 year-old) can keep more active and – hopefully – sleep better at night.  That’s a project I’ve started, and continue to chip away at.  Today, I wrote more than I planned, resulting in the near-disaster of almost forgetting an appointment this afternoon, thus an accidental reminder of the fact that I’m still having trouble with forgetfulness.   That may be the most ironic sentence of all time.  I remembered that I forget. Lol.

Anyhow, those are the details.

I could focus on the negatives right now.  I haven’t made a really proper budget or committed to changing my spending habits in any way that matters.  Nothing much has happened with me looking for a job yet.  I’m having trouble with absent-mindedness, which isn’t only irritating but also sometimes kinda scary.  I’m alone and very single (haven’t talked to Miguel in a while and it’s feeling like I’ve finally lobed the ball back into his court for the last time).  When the kids aren’t here, I still sadly miss the wonderful craziness they bring to every nanosecond when they’re around.  Sometimes I binge watch TV when they’re gone, but – on the bright side –  at least I’m more caught up on pop culture and news then I’ve been for quite a while.  I also use my kid free time to enjoy some really nice sleeping in in the morning.  When they’re gone I don’t cook.  Sometimes I go to bed hungry (or with chips).

In fact, the positives are huge.  I feel terrific a lot of the time.  I’m less anxious, jumpy, and angry.  I’m still absent-minded sometimes (see above), but I deal with it more calmly when it happens.  I’m still overweight but finding some shorts and spaghetti-strap tops that are flattering enough for me at the moment.  My ego wasn’t huge to begin with.  Anyhow, my arms look pretty strong and not too too flabby and my skin and hair don’t seem as stressed out now either, so all is well.  I like me okay today, forgetfulness about time and all that aside.

I’ve kept busy with positive, bucket list type things.  I know I can’t do everything I want to do (or even need to do) all at once.  It might all get done, or it might not.  All I can do is chip away at it.  And it may be good to have a better to-do list/summer fun balance.  This season is pretty short and sweet in Canada.  School starts again September 6th, whether the weather’s still great out or not.

So I might not re-do my porch or fix my front door this year.  The cold storage is still sitting too (even though I think it would make a great “safe” place in case of a tornado or whatever, and am contemplating making it comfy and well-stocked for this purpose).  I’m thinking re-grading the front garden beds with 2% slope by myself this summer is sounding a little ambitious too.  There are other things in life that have already been on hold for me way too long.  Now’s a good time to do some of those as well.  Some of the fun stuff.

When the kids were with their dad for a longer stretch at Christmas, I had a tough time.  I was honestly worried about them as he was still acting pretty volatile.  I also wasn’t used to them being gone for so long; it was insanely lonely, even though there was much to be done around here at the time.  Worry for their safety and happiness coupled with sorely missing them is a pretty depressive combination.  It’s too easy for me to wind up sitting around in a heap, letting my anxieties take over.

Dad has them for a longer stretch again soon.  He has them in July for over a week of vacation time, then again in August when it’s his turn for a stat holiday.  And I love summer.  I don’t want to spend another one blue (other than my hair, which I’ll dye again soon).

I’m working on my plans.  To stay busy every day.  To keep a decent wake and sleep cycle (it always gets messed up when the kids aren’t here – they’re gone 3 nights normally and there are always one or two when I’m still awake after 1 am.).  It feels hypocritical to be so adamant that they get better sleep and realize bedtime is a choice they can make that makes the next day better.  I mean, we’re doing better on this because we make it a priority now when they’re here.  What I feel stupid about is falling apart on bedtime myself when they’re gone.

Sleep’s a big deal.  I used to tell myself not to overthink it, that I would only feel more exhausted if I kept an accounting of the hours I DIDN’T get (especially when the kids were smaller), but now I realize that a lot of our trouble with moods, behaviour, and not learning well at school has to do with the fact that my two kids are still overtired much of the time.  I’d love if their father could realize that too, but it appears to be something I have no control over.  Still.

33058814 - young teen sleeping front of a laptop computer and on a bed

I’m finally facing the hard realization that what my kids need is less screen time and more sleep.

At court recently my soon-to-be ex submitted a lengthy statement (which, ironically, did not go over well at all with the judge as it betrayed bags about his own character and his on-going anger).  In the statement, the kids’ dad very clearly stated he does not believe in bedtimes for children.  He explained to us all (rather pompously) that – if woken the same time daily – a “natural rhythm” would kick in and the kids would begin falling asleep at an early enough time each evening.  This, in addition to a great many other details in his own statement, painted a disturbingly accurate portrait of the man I have been unable to communicate with or work together with in raising the two kids.  The judge summed up a lot of the content by saying that my ex’s “angry words and spiteful actions benefited no one.”  He reminded my former husband that it was more important to do what was in the best interests of the children rather than what showcases best how much he hates his former wife.

In terms of the bedtime thing, the kids’ father obviously never noticed either the 10 pm “second wind” they both seem to get or the overtired cranky screaming that ensues when a sleep deprived demon child decides to fight you for “one more show!” at 11:15 pm.  But – hey – he hasn’t had much time to make observations or draw any useful conclusions.  He’s still brand new at this parenting thing, never having participated in any until the moment I left.

I’ve decided that all the new sleep research is right.  My two kids probably need at least 10 hours a night.  Which means they need to be out cold at 10 pm if they’re going to have a decent chance of waking refreshed at 8 in the morning.

Another important part of this research, in Canada at least, is that our ParticipACTION  guidelines – which now include sleep recommendations – get into the fact that sedentary children (the ones spending all day playing Minecraft and watching Teen Titans Go!, eeps…) are restless and not settling well for their night’s sleep in the first place.  Of course, then again the next day they are too overtired to get out and be active, so they do screens and junk food AGAIN.  You can see where this is heading.  A little thing called a vicious circle.

I’ve been trying to break the cycle of over-tiredness and vegetative behaviour in our house.  I’ve got them biking and going to swimming lessons.  We rode to the beach for swimming when I had them an extra day on the weekend (my own turn for a stat) and last week we all ventured out to the Ottawa River Canoe Club and had a great time at a family Learn to Kayak session (thinking to join the club, BTW, super great time!).  We’ve been  getting to the pool as a family every week too.  Suddenly we’re spending all our time in the deep end, where Lou Lou appears to be one of the very smallest kids tackling the rope jump and the water slide.

I even got Boo out to try a little regatta.  He recently raced in a team boat, a K3 (3-person kayak) in a 2 kilometre race at our new Canoe Club.  They gave him a donut “medal” (his team came in “second” out of the two K3’s in the race!).  The kids love it out there.  Afterwards Boo paddled Lou (who is a very lazy paddler!) out to the dock, where they jumped into the river again and again.

All this physical activity has cut into their PlayStation time, yes, but it’s also upped their sleep.  It’s also good because – to be quite honest – I am just a teensy bit worried that, for the first time in his life, my little boy may be gaining too much weight.  That’s a problem I’d like to nip in the bud.

What the new sleep research + our family resolution means for me is that I need to be busy enough on my kid-free days to be worn out by 10 pm too.  8 and 1/2 hours of sleep is generally fine for me, but getting up at 6:30 would make my days more productive (so – hey – why not?).  I have always been a dedicated night owl (that’s the best time for binging on Netflix, no?), but even I have to admit I get more done on the days when I wake up refreshed and getting moving earlier.

I’ve been walking still, although somehow busier with paperwork and end of year kids’ activities as of late.  I don’t always go to sleep earlier at night on days that I walk, but – overall – I suspect it helps regulate the insomnia that women my age do sometimes get (and I get much less often now).  Of course, having two kids in the deep end means my weekly swim is now actually a SWIM, and not a “stand around in water while your preschoolers play” anymore.  That’s also good.  Swimming is something I love.

Those things aren’t enough to keep me out of a rut, however.  At most they’re getting me out of the house an hour or two a day.  And there are still lots of days I do nothing at all.  So I’ve made some resolutions.  I booked a very active vacation with the kids for the end of August.  I bought a 3-day pass to the Ottawa Bluesfest (Duran Duran is coming!).  I’ll be at Bluesfest on three days when I don’t have the kids, even already committed to taking in one of the outdoor concerts (Duran) with a friend.

And – as I mentioned before – we’ll be joining the Ottawa River Canoe Club.  Members can go out there any evening during the week and between 9 am and 2 pm on Saturdays and take out a kayak (don’t forget the PFD if you go!).  So that will be something I can do with the kids, but also something I can do on nights by myself, when they’re not with me.  It’ll get me out on the water too, a place I feared I’d permanently lose access to when I left my canoeist husband.

The girls at the Canoe Club even asked me if I’d like to come try out the Dragon Boat team.  I promised them I’d attend practice next week.

I also told a friend I’d dog-sit while she’s away.  The dog arrives the day the kids leave.  Taking her for walks ought to help make sure I’m out daily.  Alice helps too.  :)  I’m hoping all of this not only helps me look better and feel better, but also gets me out to make some new friends.  And helps get me snoring at pillow time.

So, yeah, sleep.  Something I gotta change.  Something I’ve already started to change.

Back in April, I committed to a bunch of activities and events coming up in May.  Those were exciting commitments , but I’m just enough of an introverted couch potato that – I must admit – a part of me watched the days passing toward them in dread.  Would I enjoy these things?  Would I look foolish?  Did I even have the energy for this stuff?  Maybe I should wimp out and just stay home.  But no, I’d already committed and paid.  For me, this is a good strategy.  I loved the busy things I did in May; I really had fun.  And – honestly -I really would have wimped out and stayed home if I hadn’t already committed to them ahead of time like that.  Right now I’m attacking summer the same way.

I see that the kids feel better when we “do the ten” of sleep.  I’ve even noticed that Lou is happy to get even more (recommendations for children her age are 9 to 11 hours a night). Perhaps, for my 5 year old daughter (whose just lost her first tooth, BTW!), eleven would be even better.  Hey, other parents are doing it.  Why not me?  A busier, more physical lifestyle ought to help with that.


Lou just lost a tooth and suddenly seems a lot more grown up in every way.  Five is closing in on six.  (Excuse the dirt; she’s been busy.)

So I’m going to spend this summer being active and having fun.  I want it to fly by.  I want to fall on my bed, snoring, by 11 pm the latest, even on night’s my kids aren’t here.  I don’t want lists and guilt to keep us from truly doing better by being active and getting tired right out.  Booba might even start doing better with reading and math as a result.  Maybe I’ll even lose a couple pounds myself.  Maybe our adventures will make us better geographers because we learned about Canada with our boots and canoe paddles.  We’ll be doing a pretty nifty Ontario road-trip in August.  Can’t wait to tell you the plans.

Hey – you never know! – maybe being active and sleeping more really can do all those positive things.  I’m hoping so.  But, even if it’s not magic, I’m still in.  I’m ready for that kind of a change.

All for now,



ParticipACTION activity guidelines (including sleep) for 5-11 year old children