The best birthday present ever…

My Mom called and asked if we could have lunch together, one day after my birthday, at the local Indian restaurant we like. I agreed and we all got together for a scrumptious lunch. Then my Mom handed me a fat envelope, which I looked at in surprise. It was too fat to be money and envelopes don’t tend to hold much else. It turned out to be a one night/two day stay at Ste. Anne’s Spa for myself, my Mom, and my two sisters. A girls’ getaway.

My anxiety immediately kicked in. I’d been assured there were vegan options. But what if my breakfast option was oatmeal and bananas, neither of which I liked. I stewed about that one night until I finally fell asleep then woke up and checked their menu online. They don’t even serve oatmeal. I don’t think bananas were on the list either.

I stood outside on the morning we left and stared at the torrential rain. This was so not what I’d hoped for (but was definitely what I worried about).

pouring rain on the way to the spa

Jen might as well have been driving through a waterfall

But luck was with us and the rain stopped shortly after we arrived at the spa. We got dressed in our white robes and bathing suits then puttered around the spa and outside.

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The back view of the spa

It was amazing! We sat in the eucalyptus steam room until we couldn’t stand it anymore then went outside to the hot tub. They actually had three tubs, a hot tub, an absolutely freezing plunge tub, and a bigger cooling tub. Everyone else cooled off in the plunge tub while I enjoyed the cooling tub. And I loved the massage chairs, especially the foot massage!

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My sisters are adjusting the massage settings, not playing on their phones

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Me in the massage chair

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The hot tub in a quiet moment

Soon it was 4pm and we could collect the keys for our cottage. We were staying in the Farmhouse cottage, just a short walk away from the spa. Like everything else, it was absolutely gorgeous.

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The Farmhouse. My room was directly above the front porch

My room had the cutest triangle door…

My room's triangle door

… and sloped ceilings. It had two steps down and I was a bit worried I’d forget about them in the middle of the night but I didn’t. It was so cozy!

my room

I think the hardest part of the meals was the food was all so good, we ended up stuffing ourselves until we were as round and plump as butterball turkeys.

my ratatouille dinner

My vegan ratatouille

I could go on for ages, it was just a wonderful trip, and we did so much in such a short amount of time. I haven’t mentioned our free facials or the spa treatments or the pool or the dalmation spotted great dane.

Great dane in the garden

Look at that wittle face. He’s a 9 year old puppy

We all kept saying, over and over, that there was way more to do than could be fit into two days and that we have to go back. It won’t be soon but maybe sometime in the next couple of years we’ll be walking through the gardens again.

Me, Jen, and Mom

Me, my sister Jen, and my Mom walking to the spa from our cottage

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Happiness is…

Happiness is… spending time with Jeremy, either playing Mario Kart or swimming, and just having fun. We’ve been going to a different pool lately, one owned by the same landlord but in a nearby building. Jeremy loves it and I love that it’s warmer than ours.

1221 pool

“I’ll race you Mom!”

Happiness is… picking out the perfect presents for Jeremy for Christmas. Yes, I know I shop early. Yes, I know there’s still 130 more days left and it’s still only August. It’s just that Christmas is my favourite holiday of the year and they really will love  all of them.

Happiness is… watching Jeremy’s happiness at finally buying the laptop they’ve been wanting for years. And seeing their confidence bloom again. I’ve watched for several years as Jeremy hid much of their feminine side and today they casually bought a pink and white laptop bag because it’s “perfect” and a hot pink keyfinder button for their keychain.

new laptop

“I am smiling!”

Happiness is… needing to work on a suicide prevention plan and asking friends permission to add them to a contact sheet… then getting so many friends volunteer it might turn into a contact booklet. I don’t know if my friends realize how much this means to me, how much it feels like I’ve been wrapped up in their caring.

Happiness is… going for a whirlwind vacation in just under two weeks and listening to Jeremy chatter about it several times a day. We have so much planned from the butterfly conservatory, to the waterpark, to the antique aerial car over the Niagara whirlpool; I’m not sure how we’re going to fit in sleep.

fallsview waterpark

“I can’t wait until we get there Mom. What do you think we should do first?”

Happiness is… waking up to two adorable kittens snuggled beside me. Their antics amuse me and warm my heart every single day.

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So much adorable in such a small package!

Happiness is having so many things to be happy about 🙂

There’s no place like home…

Update I moved the chipmunk video over to YouTube and it’s working now 🙂

We got home on Sunday afternoon and I’m still happily appreciating all the comforts of home. I love camping but truly enjoy spider free indoor plumbing… especially at 3am.

This trip involved a fair bit of uncertainty for me. We’ve camped on the same site at the same campground for years and I knew exactly what to expect there. I’d have camped there again except for one thing. The price. Fifty dollars a night is a bit steep for a vacation that involves heating my dish water over a kerosene stove and peeing with spiders.

Jeremy promised that Unicamp was really nice and that the swimming pond was huge. As big as one football field or two… or maybe even three. Got to love how specific zie is when it comes to measurements. Zie even took a picture of a small stretch of woods with a dirt path. Which let me know there were at least a few trees but otherwise I was flying blind. The website itself has no pictures except for an aerial view of the campground via Google and Jeremy was even less descriptive. What convinced me to register for a site there was the fact it’s half the price of our usual place so we could camp for twice as long.

campsite 40

I was unimpressed with the site when we arrived. Not only was it fairly open (and right beside the basketball court, hence the basketball in the photo) but it also had an outhouse right in the middle of the site. And, thanks to the location of the firepit, we’d need to position the trailer so the indoor kitchen table had a lovely view of the outhouse.

The first option we were offered was an alternate site that used to be a laneway. It still had the tire grooves. Then they offered to move the firepit, which made all the difference. The trailer tire is over the old firepit. For most of the week there were almost no other campers because it was youth week so the outhouse was only being used by me (and the spiders). It wasn’t until our last evening that other people started using it. Which was uncomfortable enough for me to not want to camp on that particular site again but by then we had less than 24 hours left until we were gone.

Jeremy talked about swimming all week so it wasn’t a surprise that zie wanted to go swimming almost as soon as my parents left. Luckily zie was willing to wait until after dinner as we missed lunch during our drive up; my parents weren’t stopping for anything. And luckily for me I’d planned a quick and easy dinner because zie wasn’t going to wait too long.

Jeremy had only been there for a weekend last year but zie was reasonably sure zie remembered the way to the beach. First we headed out past the goats…

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Doesn’t every campground have goats?

… and down the trail to the beaches.

bench on beach trail

The trail looked like most of the campground. Lots of trees and undergrowth and quite a few meandering creeks. Further along there was a marshy area with lots of cat tails and frogs. Then came the main beach.

Jeremy at the main beach

Both beaches were sandy and had a dock and a picnic table. Plus there were beach toys, life jackets, and canoes free to use. Jeremy (of course) refused to swim in any normal fashion. Instead zie took pool noodles and threaded them through zir shopping buggy and swam with that. It looked completely awkward but zie loved it.

Jeremy and zir shopping buggy

I enjoyed the beach as well. We’d swim from one diving platform to another, with me diving in from each. Plus there was a big concrete block at the end of the pond. As far as I could tell, it worked as a drain, pouring water over the edge then under the nearby road to flow into a creek. But it served a second purpose… as a jumping platform. Jeremy refused to try it but I went up several times.

Michelle jumping

The water was freezing at the bottom of the pond!

We went on several walks, mostly to the nearby Cowpye Hill (accurately named) to look at the full moon. Poor Jeremy got dragged onto a hike on the Bruce Trail despite insisting that zie’s a computer nerd and doesn’t need exercise. It was a great trail, absolutely gorgeous, but it came with a warning that it was “more advanced”. I loved it. Jeremy sat and took a break on the trail while I explored the surrounding area.

The trail pretty much consisted of scrambling over rocks and roots.

The trail pretty much consisted of scrambling over rocks and roots. Also, yes, Jeremy is a foot taller than me.

Since our hike went so well, I decided to try out splelunking. To be fair, Jeremy wanted to try it as well. I think zie didn’t realize how small the caves were. I certainly didn’t. I pictured caves we could walk into and then got faced with this…

No, it wasn't any bigger on the inside. In fact it got appreciably smaller.

No, it wasn’t any bigger on the inside. In fact it got appreciably smaller.

This is me leaving that same “cave”. Jeremy couldn’t even fit. Zie did try however and went into every other cave.

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Jeremy and I splelunking

There were plenty of things I liked about the campground. It was quiet, friendly, and informal. There were trails everywhere for me to explore and signs dotted throughout the grounds…

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I found five signs and am sure there are more.

What I loved the most about our camping trip was that no one, not a single person, stared at Jeremy. In fact the only people who gave zir even a slightly long look were the ones who followed it up with a huge smile and a “Hello Jeremy! I remember you from last year!”

Jeremy claims not to notice people staring at zir (even the hugely blatant ones) but it was obvious that zie felt the lack of negative attention. Zie never goes outside without a shirt on. Never. Not even on our own balcony. And swimming is something that requires zir swimming shirt (an almost too small mesh Spiderman shirt zie’s had for years). By the end of the week zie was going swimming without zir shirt, in front of other people.

And now we’re home. Back to our kitties, our microwave, our running water, and our consistently working internet and phone service. I can’t wait to see how much Jeremy grows when we go back to Unicamp next year.

OMG muffin wrapper

Clicking on the picture will bring you to the accompanying video.

This is new…

Every year since Jeremy was old enough to talk, he’s had huge plans for his birthday. The plans start around Christmas, usually a little before but sometimes a little after. Then the next half a year is spent scaling him down to something affordable.

His biggest party was his 11th birthday. He insisted it had to be something big and memorable because both numbers were the same and that wasn’t going to happen again for a long time. The long time was only eleven years, but since that was his entire lifetime I decided not to argue. That year I had a Build a Bear party for him.

This year he wants to invite two friends Go-Karting at a local indoor activity centre. That’s definitely feasible. They can each get three turns go-karting then come here for dinner and a swim. So all seems to be planned… except for the cake.

Every single year Jeremy has planned something big for his cake. Back in January he saw an ice cream Jaffa cake and loved it but that’s no longer being sold. His next request was a working TARDIS cake, which lead me to inform him I’d made the cake, it was up to him to find out which time and dimension it was in. Even a non-working one is beyond my skills. He had no other suggestions.

I mentioned at work today that I needed to find a cake for Jeremy’s birthday. One middle aged coworker perked right up.

“I know,” she said enthusiastically. “Boob cakes! We used to make them at my old work.”

Even if Jeremy was interested in breasts, I didn’t think that would be an appropriate cake for me to make him. I only shared the latter part with her.

When I got home, I went online and showed Jeremy several videos of cakes being decorated. He wasn’t interested in any of them. Although he was willing to say maybe a pie would be okay. Jeremy doesn’t like pie, other than a peanut butter pudding pie I made a few years ago. I dug out my peanut butter pudding recipe and figured I could make it vegan. He agreed that sounded good but wasn’t enthusiastic. Which means he didn’t really want it.

While I’ve been writing this, I got onto the Silk website and started browsing for any sort of cake recipes. Then I stumbled upon a vanilla bean ice cream recipe which sounded good and remembered how excited Jeremy was about that Jaffa ice cream cake.

“Jeremy?” I called. “I found a recipe for vegan vanilla bean ice cream. If it works, would you like an ice cream cake for your birthday?”

“Yes!!!” he shouted back enthusiastically.

I searched up ice cream cake recipes and came up with an Oreo ice cream cake. Oreos are vegan and if I’m going to make a cake, I want to be able to eat some of it too. Jeremy loves Oreos. He was just as enthusiastic about the cake recipe.

Back in January, we bought a special candle. This is going to be one heck of a cake:

So this is new in two ways. The first being that Jeremy had no idea what cake to have for his birthday, only a month away from the actual occasion. And the second by finding out what cake he wanted while writing this blog entry.

Jeremy and athletics…

Those two words are not commonly found together.

Jeremy was not a rough and tumble little boy. When Emma first learned how to walk, my Mom and I took her to the park and set her on the grass. She loved it and went running around madly. When Jeremy first learned how to walk, I set him on the grass and he stared at me in sheer horror. What the hell had I put him on? He burst into tears and raised his arms to be held again. After some coaxing, he finally would walk on the lawn but his exaggerated step, each foot raised as high as possible, showed how he felt about it.

Then there was the petting zoo. Emma loved it. We had to rein her in a little because she wanted to hug every animal there. I have vivid memories of taking Jeremy into a petting zoo. He wandered around for less than a minute then looked at me in disgust.

“Mom! Those animals are pooing and peeing ON. THE. GROUND!!!” he announced both loudly and emphatically.

He turned and bolted, waiting outside the gate for us, looking away in case one of the animals did something else on the ground that they weren’t supposed to.

Jeremy enjoyed the playground and quickly learned to love bike riding via Emma’s outgrown bicycles. He even grew to enjoy camping. But as he got older and playing on the playground became less frequent, I tried to find him something else to do.

Our first attempt, when Jeremy was still small, was swimming lessons. Jeremy loved the water but hated having it touch his face. This was a mandatory part of the lessons and we eventually pulled him out of classes because he was slowly beginning to hate swimming, which wasn’t our goal.

Then I tried dance. We had a dance studio across the street from us, which Emma already enjoyed. One fall afternoon we all walked over and I checked to see what classes were available. The biggest issue turned out to be his age and not his gender. He’d never taken dance before, wasn’t athletic, and wasn’t particularly coordinated. Signing him into a class with his peers, especially ones who’d been dancing for five years already, wasn’t going to work. But there was a hip hop class aimed at beginners and he’d be only one year older than the oldest child in the group. So I signed him up.

He loved his dance class. He loved the movement, he loved the music, and he loved dancing with his peers. Then came the recital. I discovered his costume two days beforehand. A black, sports themed hoodie and black pants. Jeremy was underwhelmed, he’d hoped for something with some sparkle. I brought him to the recital already dressed in his costume. Then he stood in the hallway by himself while the rest of the group hung out in the change room, which was the largest room. He couldn’t join them because there were girls changing. So he stood outside listening while they laughed together, got pictures taken, and practised. I’d been promised the girls would be joining him in the hallway before I went to my seat. That wasn’t the case. He refused to join the following year and wasn’t willing to give the school based dance classes a try.

Karate was a dismal failure. His best efforts to get into position failed and his teacher assumed he wasn’t trying, which lead to Jeremy arguing that he was trying and had just done what the teacher asked, which lead to him joining me in my kick boxing class. Which was just as dismal a failure because we were kicking and punching which was boring. And the music was gross.

Soccer, ironically enough, was a success. I signed Jeremy up for two community run programs where we used to live; soccer and a drop in playgroup. I figured he’d love the playgroup with its variety of activities and offers of ice cream and would tolerate the soccer practises. The reverse was true.

The playgroup was very loosely organized and minimally supervised. The volunteers set up the stations then sat back and kept an eye out for blood, while chatting amongst themselves. Somehow they missed Jeremy’s small but vocal fan club who followed along behind him, calling him a fag. Jeremy didn’t find this anywhere near as entertaining as they did and flat out refused to go after two sessions. He told me the kids were “bugging him”. I didn’t find out how much or what was being said until almost a month later when we were on our way to a soccer practise and they happened by. I was walking closely enough to hear them but far enough away that they didn’t know I was with Jeremy.

Soccer, on the other hand, was highly organized but minimally competitive. The volunteers set themselves up to help out small groups of children and they loved having parents there to cheer the kids on during their games. With one adult for every three children plus a group of avid parents, the bullying was non-existent.

The first half of practise was just that, practise. Jeremy enjoyed this part. The ball was stationary and he simply needed to try and kick it.

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He was enthusiastic, I’ll give him that.

The second half of practise was the game. His team was divided into two then set to play against each other. Jeremy stood in the centre of the field and watched as they ran around him, occasionally wincing when the ball came too close. At one point they tried him in the goal, figuring he was standing around anyways so he might as well stand there. This worked as long as everyone was on the other side of the field. When the ball grew closer, Jeremy simply abandoned the goal and went to find someplace a little safer.

His favourite part of soccer was the outfit. He loved the silky material of his soccer uniform and wore it everywhere. Even now, his favourite shorts are soccer shorts.

His last time playing soccer was almost three years ago though. We have a gym in the basement of our building but Jeremy refuses to go to it because it’s boring. He’d be willing to go with me but the gym is segregated by sex so that’s not an option. We have a pool downstairs as well but it’s small and he considers that boring too.

We had to run to the bus stop last week. It was just a short run but Jeremy nearly keeled over once we reached the shelter. Obviously watching YouTube videos isn’t good for his health. I need to find him something else to do.