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Relying on the Kindness of Strangers

It was last Sunday afternoon, we were making good highway time driving between home in downtown Toronto and Bonnechere Provincial Park – the intended destination for the week. The kids were enjoying the drive for the most part, my friend/photographer/pseudo uncle to the kids, Brian was with us, we had just stopped at Honey’s Diner, outside Apsley for ice cream and leg stretching.

slashed tire on ford escape

Then, about 18 km away from reaching Bancroft on highway 28, a sudden “bump in the road”! The low tire pressure warning on the dashboard came on and it was serious judging by the thumping noises coming from underneath the car. I did what any responsible driver would do – I googled how far away we were from a gas station to get air in the tires. Seeing we were on the map, I pulled over, assessed the situation and luckily we were in a cellular service area so In called CAA. Dispatch initially said a tow truck would arrive in about 45 minutes, so we waited, I got impatient and the kids were getting restless strapped into the back seat still, so we took a closer look at the flat, unloaded all of our gear from the back of the vehicle and located the jack and tire iron.

PRO TIP – There are two hidden compartments in the trunk of a 2011 Ford Escape.

It turns out that each wheel had a security lug-nut on it, and the key was nowhere to be found – it was at one time in my trunk, but wasn’t at this moment (I did locate it once I got home, wah wah). This meant only four out of the five nuts could be removed, but the wheel itself would not be coming off. Now I have to tell you, I’m the queen of being prepared and in this instance, I was not. Learn from me kids.

Flat tire ford escape

By this point, one gentleman driving by had stopped to lend a hand and helped us extract the spare tire from the underbody of my Escape. This gentleman was an absolute gem, genuinely wanted to help and see us on our way. I have to admit, I was surprised to this selfless act of kindness. We had been stuck on the roadside for almost an hour at this point and I didn’t expect anyone in the least to slow and check in to see if we were okay. The whole idea of taking time out of your day to assist someone else just isn’t something we do anymore unless there is something in it for us.

We were at a stalemate, the tire wouldn’t come off and we had no way to extract that last lug-nut. CAA’s online status page now said the tow would not arrive until 7:30 pm, and that was still about two hours away! I called to verify this was a fact or a digital blip and unfortunately, it was a fact.

While we were all standing around wondering what to do next, I learned a few things about this gentleman, whose name I never caught. Last year, his daughter was driving from the Prairies to Tobermory in a Volkswagon Jetta, when she hit a moose on the TransCanada highway just outside Thunder Bay. She was banged up really bad and one of the nurses at the hospital knew a guy who had a storage facility and could store her stuff. Instead of storing it, the guy from Thunder Bay DROVE it himself all the way to Tobermory to help out, staying with friends and family along the way. The gentleman who stopped to assist us was simply just trying to pay it forward in life. Our situation was not nearly as dire or even on the scale of desperate, but he still saw someone in need and decided to help.

kindness of strangers

At just the right time – and by right time I’m talking about the kids wanting to run amuck and get out of the car, a second guy pulls up on the shoulder behind us. He runs up, assesses the situation, dashes back to his van, pops his hood, and starts running an extension cord towards us. As it turns out, he just happened to have an impact wrench along with a 12-point socket and a small sledgehammer, and was able to remove the locked lug-nut with brute force. Turns out he’s a mechanic on the side, that was super handy for us.

And then… One jack wasn’t enough to raise the car body high enough off the shoulder, so a second one was used underneath the rear strut to raise just the wheel assembly high enough to replace the blown tire with the spare. This of course was all figured out on the fly without any hesitation from our helpers.

 

While they were lowering the jacks, a third vehicle pulled up to our little roadside party. Turns out it was the second guy’s family who were swimming at a nearby lake, wondered why dad hadn’t showed up yet, and drove back to see what was going on. We were done at that point, so he packed up all his gear and drove off with his wife and kids leading the pack – he left before we could get his name or offer a token of appreciation. The first fellow stuck around for a bit longer to chat, declined a bottle of wine as a thank you and soon he was on his way as well.

It was 7 pm now, approximately two hours since we pulled over. Nightfall was still a few hours away and the weather was great. I called CAA to cancel the tow, Brian and I packed the stuff back into the trunk and we both got back in the car. We could still make it to Bonnechere before the park office closed for the evening at 9 pm… except now the car wouldn’t start! FFS, for real. The hazard lights had been on the whole time. Normally that shouldn’t cause any problems, but it turns out that there was a dead cell in the car battery and would need to be replaced. At that exact moment of my about to lose it into a anger induced tirade laced with profanity, the tow truck from CAA pulled over… A quick blast from the portable jump starter and we were finally on our way again!

But what really made the difference was the generosity of two strangers, strangers that likely held different political ideals than us, who likely had different careers and upbringings and that didn’t matter to them, who took an hour out of their Sunday evening to help us out.

Neither took any payment, so all we can offer them is our thanks and a promise to pay it forward. And we will.

 

*** Much of this post has been compiled from Brian’s comments on a Facebook photo album of the debacle. I have edited and added some details here and there ***

 

 

Spelunking With Kids in Tyendinaga Caverns and Caves

Have you ever taken your children spelunking? I took my children spelunking for the very first time last week in Tyendinaga Caverns and Caves.

What is spelunking? It is literally the hobby or practise of exploring caves.

entrance to tyendinaga cavern and cavesGrowing up in Belleville area, I definitely did not take advantage of everything that was in the vicinity and even now, I’m only learning about all the cool attractions and things to do. Visiting the caverns and caves of Tyendinaga, that opened to the public in 2008 has been high on my list of places to go and now that I have the time with my kids to take take in these sights, we are!

The Tyendinaga Cavern and Caves are located on Mohawk Territory, take the 401 east of Belleville, exit and head north at Shannonville Road for a couple kilometres, then turn left on Harmony Road.

From the road, it looks completely unassuming, much a like any other farmer’s field that you would drive past.

 

This property is touted as Ontario’s oldest natural cavern.

 

spelunking with kids tyendinaga

Tours are guided, start every 20 or so minutes and prices are:

Adult … $12.50
Youth (13 to 17) … $10.00
Seniors (65 and up) … $10.00
Kids (5 to 12) … $9.00
Children 3 to 4 … $5.00

 

The tour starts outside under a wooden shelter with a display of medium rocks, but what they are really doing is showing you fossils (nautiloids, corals, crinold rings and ammonoids) that were found on the property. The age of the caves is also talked about – it’s estimated to be at least 100,000 years old. You’re shown samples of stalactite -a type of formation that hangs from the ceiling of caves, drip stone/soda straws – tubular stalactites, “cave carrots”, flowstone and “cave mushrooms”, all found growing in the cave.

sink hole indicating a cave

Next, you’re shown a couple of medium sinkholes that were found on the property. Sinkholes come in all shapes and sizes, some are small and simply look like dips in the land, while others are so large that entire city blocks collapse into the ground. These ones on the property might be large enough to swallow a car if one drove over top. These sinkholes were indicators to the property owners that there were caves and caverns underneath.

 

spelunking with kids

Finally – we descended into this large cave that was only 10 degrees celsius, while we were the middle of an intense heat wave. It was welcome relief! Keeping that in mind, you might want to bring a sweater if you visit and wear shoes that are decent, the walls are hard and really are rock formations, tripping in flip flops would be painful (also note, you’re not supposed to touch the walls here as oils from skin can affect the geological growths). The stairs and floor are all concrete – man made. There are handles on the stairs, but I would not recommend this trip for anyone needing mobility assistance.
The entire cavern is roughly 300 feet, the largest chamber, 35 feet below the surface, measures 22 feet floor to ceiling. It is dark in there, the guide does have a flash light and there is a lighting system inside, but if you have a smart phone with a flashlight, keep it in your pocket just in case. If all the lights went out, you would not be able to see your hand in front of your face, it’s that dark!

 

The entire tour runs between 35-45 minutes depending on size of group. No one will get lost and there isn’t far to wander, so parents have no fear about kids who like to explore on their own. This really is a cool place to take kids if you’re passing by the area and want some time out of the car to see fossils, learn about flow stone deposits, cave curtains, discover a place where time stands still and give your kids a whole new experience – spelunking!
spelunking with kids in cavern wishing well in spelunking cave

Put On The Damn Bathing Suit and Quit It With Excuses

Here’s the scene; Sandbank’s Provincial Park in Ontario, Dunes Day use area off West Lake. Hundreds of families on the dunes, in the water, splashing, laughing, swimming, having a great time. The beach is just gorgeous, like I remember in my childhood, the dunes a discovery of immense flora, memories of geology and geography classes in high school spent here, the water clear and warm and welcoming.

put on the damn bathing suit
photo courtesy of sandbanks provincial park

Mothers are with their children in the water. They’re wearing bathing suits of all different sorts – the women are. Moms. With mommy bellies, with cellulite, with saggy boobs, with all the imperfections we deem unworthy or shameful to ourselves.

Except in this scene, no one gives a damn. These moms put on the damn bathing suit. Bikinis even. Mid-drifts showing here and over there. Strings tied on the hips, around the back of their necks. These women with post-partum bellies are wearing bikinis. The horror!

Or is it?

Laughter. Memories being made. Kids jumping up and down in the water, gleefully holding Mom’s hand. Mom smiling with their children. Buckets of water being dumped on each other. Sand castles being built.

No hang ups here.

So where are these insecurities we keep pushing to the front? Do they only exist here, in this interweb space? Is this the space where we continue to make it a thing? I saw lots of women in the water and lounging on the beach where it wasn’t a thing. If they cared what they looked like, it didn’t show in their demeanour.Home for the summer with this guy

And here’s me watching over my two kids and another friend of theirs. Bathing suit covered with a sham, partly for sun protection, partially so no one sees my roll. Sitting on a chair in the shade, toes swirling circles in the sand… “What a waste of time, I should be playing with them. Screw it, I’m going to play with them, I don’t care if someone is looking at me or not, I’m hot as hell, Mom bod and all” I tell myself.

Out I go.

Moms, put on the damn bathing suit and quit it with excuses. Go make memories with your kids, they’re counting on you. Set an example for your daughter, let her see you smile, be confident, roll in the sand. Show your son how beautiful Mom is with her enjoyment.

Just go do it.

 

I’m Home With The Kids For The Summer and I’m Terrified

I’ve been a working mother for almost nine years and I think I balance it all okay. File me under one of the “world’s most okayest working moms.” If it wasn’t for the father of my children, I’d be in the category of “mom who enjoys work more than life itself.”

Aside from the foggy, sleep deprived, lactating, painful, hormone-filled maternity leave that we enjoyed, I have never, ever been a stay at home mom with my kids. I work from home during the day, my children are at school and daycare and after-hours care until 5:30 pm. But summer is approaching, and this is the first time that I will be taking the time to mother them all day long for a full two months.

 

I’m terrified.

 

Home for the summer with this beautyI made the decision to keep them at home as a bid to save money by not paying the outlandish thousand dollar fees of summer camps and daycare. I’m choosing instead to bond with the kids over camping weekends, mid-week hiking excursions and trips to theme parks on Fridays (mostly to “save” money).

But now I am questioning if I thought out the reality of what I signed up for. Two children, one aged nine and one aged four, home alone with me…the grumpy Mom who is always on a deadline and cursing under her breath at the insane messages and job performances of certain colleagues.

Now, I have significantly cut my work contracts back this summer to accommodate all of the incredible bonding time I am going to be spending with my children, but I cannot cut all work off completely or else I will be broke. And if I am broke, then I’m no further ahead (I know, I know, time I will never get back with my children, it’s priceless, etc…I also have a mortgage and electricity bills to pay, people!)

Today’s case in point; My four-year-old son is home sick. He’s already watched 3.5 hours of television while I responded to emails, did an hour video conference call and attempted to edit some footage into a timeline as I have an episode of a show I’m working on due tomorrow. In this time alone, I believe I have gotten for him four cups of water, three hot dogs, and two additional snacks. Not all at once. Individual requests peppered between assistance getting new show started on Netflix, turning on the light in the washroom, locating a misplaced train toy, convincing him my iPhone is not suitable to dunk into a bowl filled with water and cleaning sand out of a dump truck.

How do I entertain them?

 

Uninterrupted work time as of 2:18 pm: 8 minutes.

 

Home for the summer with this guy

Eight minutes of work is not even worth invoicing for an hour. It’s disjointed, uninspiring and panic-inducing. Literally, nothing got done. This is a taste of my summer to come. My emotions are aplenty.

Send free help or lottery winnings… PLEASE!

 

My words were originally posted on Reality Moms and have been reprinted with permission here.

Best Diaper Bag For The New Dad

Back in the good old days of when I was having my babies (as in the long, long time of 9 and 4 years ago), all of the marketing schemes and ploys were directed at just the women and designer diaper bags were number one on the list as the “MUST HAVE ITEM FOR THE NEW MOM”.

our super awesome diaper bag hanging from our stroller I had this really awesome brown diaper bag with pink trim and pink skull and crossbones sketched on the front pockets that my girlfriends had gifted to me at our baby shower. I was so in love with it – It had three front pockets perfect for stashing extra bottles with formula or milk (or a beer) and a spacious inside that could hold an iPad, 8 diapers, wipes, change of clothing for baby, extra shirt for me, vaseline, moisturizer, hand sanitizer, a folding change pad, toys and a couple wooden books. In fact, I think I could still find a use for it as a laptop bag or overnight bag for one of the kids.

 

It looked cute on me or hanging off the stroller for sure, but that diaper bag slung over the shoulder of my baby daddy?

 

Kind of ridiculous.

I guess the thought had never crossed our minds to actually go out and buy one specifically for him. I mean, the selection out there was all pink, pastel, flowery or just plain old geared towards the woman. I guess a quasi laptop bag might have worked? It wouldn’t not have been ideal though.

E.C. Knox diaper bagThankfully, someone stepped up to the plate and has designed the best new diaper bag for Dads. The Ellison Diaper Bag by E.C. Knox is fashionable, designed by a hip New York male and grows from a diaper bag to a messenger bag once those diapers, board books, blankies and sippy cups are no longer required. It’s a super evolved bag that literally meets the demands of parents EVERYWHERE.

Check this out:

For Baby      

Removable, washable, liquid-resistant liner featuring E.C. Knox signature paisley

Zip-out changing flap – includes removable changing pad

A removable liner that can be washed, replaced even removed so the bag grows with dad (or mom) as a stylish messenger bag devoid of baby reminders.

Quick-access to wipes from side of bag (magnetized shut to keep wipes moist)

Integrated fold-out changing pad

Four pockets for diapers, creams and changes of clothes

 

For Daddy

Bag grows into professional messenger bag…much more smoothly than baby grows into professional drama queen

Two more pockets to hold a bunch of things you’ll forget you even packed

Padded computer sleeve

Three more pocket slips to hold wallets, sunglasses or pens

Inner carabiner holds keys and your collection of fuzzy key chains

Includes a flashlight for particularly desperate midnight searches for that one special pacifier the little screamer demands

 

E.C. Know diaper bag giveawayNow, to help out all those brand new dads out there, we have an awesome giveaway!  Enter below to win an E.C.Knox diaper bag of your choice… and lets get this parenting thing off to a good start!  Open USA and CA. Item will be sent from brand.

 

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Birthday Ontario Resident, Renew Your License

I try so hard to be organized and get on top of things. I make lists and check them off as I go. Gives me purpose.

I double check emails, messages, paperwork. But, sometimes I forget to open mail. Even worse… I open mail, make a mental note of it and then forget to take care of what I need to do. 

Every year in Ontario, your birthday is a blessing and a curse. If you own a car, your license plate sticker needs to be renewed yearly or bi-yearly on your birthday. Your drivers license? Every 5 years. This shouldn’t be a shock to any Ontario resident turning 39 years old. Except to me. Today. The day before my birthday. 

I vaguely remembered about renewing the sticker on my license plate. So this morning I went on the hunt on the disgusting mess of my desk for the form that I had received in the mail, opened and left on the valley of might as well be dead and gone (AKA – my desk). I eventually found it, below my super neglected planner and a stale cracker my son must have left lying around, opened it and realized there was two pieces of paper. What was the other? A drivers license renewal form. Effective tomorrow, both my drivers license and my license plate would be expired. No problem I think. I’ll move around my work day and take care of this early afternoon. Easy peasy. 

Just after noon, I race off across downtown Toronto to Service Ontario to get in the long queue of citizens renewing the same as well as other Ontarian bureaucracy that requires this office. When it was my turn at the wicket, the woman asks me for my emissions test results. What? But I bought this vehicle new… it’s in good shape… it’s oh. It’s seven years old now. 

Ontario drive clean test result

Crap. I now have to find a place this afternoon for an e-test. Of course, I went over on my data plan this past weekend on my cell phone for the rest of the month, so now this search is going to cost me money. After a couple phone calls, I found a place that I could drive right into this afternoon! Great! I drove back across downtown and got in line. Two cars ahead of me. I wait… Both cars pass… my turn… HUZZAH! I passed too! Now to fly home, go online and renew the sticker for my license plate.

But not before I forget to grab the copy of the ownership out of the glovebox, the current insurance policy, and make note of the odometer reading.

I’m trying to cut myself some slack, I’ve had a long couple weeks of getting major things done while balancing being a decent parent, delivering completed projects to clients and being pleasantly surprised by the variables that have popped up and have diverted my attention in a good way.

All told, the cost of having a birthday and owning a car in the province of Ontario for today:

  • driver’s license renewal: $90
  • e-test: free
  • license plate sticker renewal for two years: $240
  • GRAND TOTAL: $330.00

Now, I have to grocery shop because there is no food for the kid’s lunches. Maybe I’ll actually get to do some work way later tonight. So happy birthday to me. I’ll be 39 years old tomorrow, working late tonight and still figuring life skills out.