The Easter Bunny is on the way! – Living Life in The Middle of a Sandwich

I’m on vacation right now but home is always on my mind. For most of my time away, I try not to think too much about the work waiting for me when I return but there is one bit of work that I’m actually looking forward to and it’s Easter Brunch!

Now that our parents have aged every year, my sisters and I alternate houses for the holidays – Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Mom’s birthday. This year, it’s my turn to host everyone for Easter and I’m really looking forward to it. My Mom and sisters will be there (except for Lorraine as she’s off to Vegas baby!) but thankfully her kids will join us so that means all 11 cousins (+ 1 nephew’s girlfriend) will be together which is a rare occasion! Plus, Frank’s sister, brother-in-law, niece (+ 1 girlfriend) and nephew (+1 girlfriend) and Mom will be there too. It’ll be a full house – 24 people!  Eek!

Anytime my family gets together for a formal or informal occasion, there’s always lots food involved. I think I’ve written about this before. Pics to follow after Easter Sunday but for now I’ll share the menu I’ve put together:

  • Frittata with goat cheese
  • A variety of crepes – sweet and savoury
    • smoked salmon and cream cheese
    • cinnamon and cream cheese
  • Wild blueberry scones
  • Fennel and maple bacon (pork and beef)
  • Galette (like the one I learned to make in my baking class a couple weeks ago)
  • Hot Italian sausages with tomatoes and onions
  • Shrimp balchao – an East Indian dish made of shrimps or prawns finely chopped and stewed with tomatoes, garlic, ginger and chillies – it’s beyond delish and a family fav!
  • Coffee, tea, mimosas, of course!

Shenanigans, laughs and probably dancing – even though it’ll be early in the day – are all guarantees! And for the little kids, there will definitely be an Easter egg hunt.  It makes me happy just thinking about it.

So I guess this means, I should take advantage of my last couple of days of vacation and rest up!

 

Anything boys can do, girls can do too! Living life in the middle of a sandwich

Every year, once a year, Franklin and I take off on a vacation from life. This year, we decided on Saint Lucia for a beach holiday. We’d never been so we thought we’d check it out. We’ve been to the Caribbean many times over the years, with and without the kids. In fact one year, we did a group trip to Cuba for my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday. Our boys were  quite young at that time but the memories will last a lifetime. They had two of their nine cousins with them who incidentally are exactly the same age. Two of my sisters and my mom came along as well as a couple of Franklin’s aunts and uncles. We had a blast.

Fast forward to today, and here we are on vacation on the beautiful island of Saint Lucia, no kids, no moms, no sisters, no aunts, no uncles…it’s just Franklin and me.  We’ve left our responsibilities back in Toronto and we’re ok with that!

So today, we decided we’d do nothing except lounge around on the beach with our biggest decision being what to have for lunch. btw – I had chicken salad sandwich and Franklin had a burger because he can. You see, this is how it works. He eats burgers and fries and I gain the weight. We agreed on this arrangement when we first got married. That’s just how it is.

Back to my story of today. After breakfast, we settled on our beach loungers and hunkered down for a long day of sun, sea and sand. Off in the distance we heard a lady on a loud speaker saying something that we couldn’t make out. In the background, there was calypso music pumping out of the speakers. This is not unusual on any of the Caribbean Islands so we didn’t think much about it. On and on it went. I read my book and Frank was taking care of some emails. At one point I looked up from my book and saw a line of swimmers in a race in the ocean. Well! I had to put my book down to watch this! From a distance, it looked like women racing – I made this judgement based on the smallish arms doing a front crawl stroke. I watched for what felt like a long time totally engrossed in the action. The swimmers were definitely in a race – there were bouys as markers laid out in a course which the swimmers swam around.  There were also officials in dingy boats and kayaks moving along side the swimmers. I watched and watched and watched. The swimmers, swam and swam and swam. It seemed to be taking a really long time so I went back to my chair and kept on watching and eventually went back to my book – Scare Tissue, Anthony Keidis’s memoir (perhaps I’ll tell you about it in another blog post but I’ll say this – holy hell! He’s got a story to tell and I highly recommend the book).

A little while later, I looked up and saw that the swimmers were still going! It must have been a good 30 minutes by then. I was fascinated and couldn’t believe the stamina I was witnessing. I marvel at anyone with athleticism and I was in awe of these athletes. I’ll be honest I was hoping the people in the water were women because it was a pretty awesome site seeing a line of 10-12 swimmers swimming in a row, clearly battling it out for first place. I couldn’t take my eyes off of this spectacle.

Over the loud speaker, the commentator was excitedly urging the swimmers to keep going and told them that they had one more lap to go. Well…, I had to get closer to where the swimmers were going to get back to shore. I should mention with all of this going on, I was so engrossed in the race it didn’t occur to me to get my camera!  So sorry folks, no photos or video! Really sorry about that!

When we got close to the finish line, the first place swimmer was just about to arrive! How exciting! A couple of more strokes and the swimmer was there! And out comes a tween boy hustling up the beach (to get to the finish point)! I heard the announcer say that the boy had placed first in the 3KM race. Wow!!

Then the second place swimmer was about to arrive so we watched and lo and behold, it was a tween girl! Yay! The third place swimmer?  You guessed it – another girl! Whoot! As it turns out, these were the only two girls in the race (I didn’t see any others). It was quite an awesome thing to see, boys and girls as equals in an athletic competition. In this day when gender equality is once again (and still) a hot topic, seeing this race, made me feel hopeful for our future. So kudos to the organizers of this race. It just feels like this conversation has been going on for a long time – like pretty much my entire life.

Growing up as one of six girls, I never really gave much thought to gender inequality. I was raised in a traditional household where my father pretty much laid down the law. He ruled and we followed his rules. Or else. But despite how I was raised, it never occurred to me that my gender would prevent me from becoming anything I wanted to become. It just didn’t occur to me. Sounds strange doesn’t it? Maybe even naive. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe it had something to do with growing up in the 70s when the women’s lib movement was in full force? Or maybe it had everything to do with watching my mom work full time, raise kids, keep the house immaculate at all times, drive, and cook, shop, socialize etc. She did it all.

So today, watching a physical race, as gruelling as swimming, with girls and boys racing against each other, it reinforced that there should be no question as to whether girls are fully capable of doing anything boys can do.

While I didn’t get a photo or video of the race, I did capture a bit of scenery from the lunch table today:

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Taking time for myself – Living life in the middle of a sandwich

I talked before about the importance of taking time for yourself, away from the family and your daily responsibilities. When I endeavour to do this, it’s rare that I do something very specifically only for me. Aside from the twice a year massage, I generally do things that benefit the family and I’m ok with that. My family is the centre of my world. Always has been and always will be,

So,  this past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a baking class at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto and it was awesome!

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The kitchen high above St. Lawrence Market 

This class was meant to be something for me but the reality is anything that I learn to improve my baking is really for my family because I’m not going to eat everything I make!

The class – Spring Pies – taught me a few things about how to get the best pie crust. I learned a few new techniques like the importance of:

    1. Slowly filling your measuring cup using a spoons of flour at a time to get the exact quantity listed on the recipe rather than digging your measuring cup into the flour bag or container (my previously technique).

2. Rolling out dough from the centre then doing a 1/4 turn after each roll for even thickness and a perfect circle.

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Not a perfect circle but the thickness is even all around!

3. Using shortening when you want super flaky crust and lard for a more condensed product e.g. cookies

4. Butter is always better – for flavour, for texture for colour. For everything. Because butter is EVERYTHING!

5. Knowing your ingredients. Did you know that Bumble Berry is not actually a berry? It’s a compilation of berries and other fruit!

Finished Bumble Berry Galette on the left and unfinished butter tarts on the right. Yum!

 

I still have a lot to learn about baking but taking time for myself this weekend, allowed me time away from my daily responsibilities to focus on something that brings me almost as much joy as my family and was well worth it!

Better late than never – Living life in the middle of a sandwich

I thought a lot about what my blog was going to be about and it took me a while to figure it out but it suddenly came to me a few months ago (roughly 10 weeks ago to be exact).

Long before I considered a blog, I often searched for information on the Sandwich Generation to get tips on how best we can peacefully (and with our sanity) transition from parenting children to having adult children living with us. And then adding to the household, my aging mother-in-law. As I continued to search. Search. And search, I asked myself:  What information can’t I find and what is the biggest gap in the information I do find?

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of information on the topic of the Sandwich Generation.  But what I found defined it as adults in their 30-50s who are responsible for caring for their young school-aged children and aging parents. Some live in one household with three generations while others care for their aging parents who retained a separate residence.  This description doesn’t at all fit with our situation. Nor that of many people I know. So I continued my search and continued to find limited information.

Thus the Momwich Blog – Living life in the middle of a sandwich was born.

I don’t claim to be an expert in any way but I think it know about what I’m talking about given that I’m living it. It’s my life after all that I’m sharing with anyone who chooses to read so I guess I can actually claim to be an expert. In my life, that is.

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The expert in my life

My hope for this blog is to inform and entertain others who are searching for coping strategies of living life in the middle of a sandwich.

I realize now that this post is better suited for an intro post but it didn’t occur to me to explain my thinking until now. I’m taking a course – Foundations of Digital Communications Strategy and Social Media at the School of Continuing Studies at U of T where I’m learning about the best ways to build, manage and maintain a blog. So if I knew 10 weeks ago what I know now this very likely would have been my first post. But then again, I likely wouldn’t need to take this course. Oh well, better late than never?

What do we have in common with Elephants? – Living life in the middle of a sandwich

In general I love animals, especially dogs. We have two – Prince (Lab/Sheppard) and the Revolution (Yorkie) and you can guess which one rules! Prince is docile, sweet and very loving. He plays his role of protector of the family simply by the way he looks. People are intimidated (and some people are down right scared) by his size – he weighs roughly 80 pounds! But to know him is to love him. And he loves being with the family so he fits in with us perfectly given that we are all so close.

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Prince..
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and The Revolution

My family, the extended clan, in-laws and outlaws and the three generations living in my house including the dogs – we all look out for each other, no matter what.

I am fairly certain this is why I am drawn to elephants. By nature, they are family oriented and take care of their herd for as long as they can stay together.

For our 25th wedding anniversary,  Franklin and I decided to go to Thailand as a second honeymoon. Before we left,  I did research on where I could see and connect with elephants.  I had no intention of riding on the back of one nor was I going to watch them “perform”.  So I was really excited when I found an animal sanctuary in the mountains of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand and that’s where I really fell in love. The Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary that rescues animals and gives them a place where they can roam free and interact with each other and people.

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A little bit of paradise on earth. Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai

I can’t help myself but I am always skeptical and this place was no exception. After all, the animals are not exactly, completely free, given that they are contained within the fences of the sanctuary but I accept that it’s better than where they were prior. What made me skeptical is the opportunity tourists are given to feed the animals, help them bath (I opted out of this – eww – I’m pretty sure, the animals don’t need human hands to bathe :)) and to interact with them.

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Me feeding one of the teen elephants

The elephants at this sanctuary, were rescued from across Asia where they were used for work on farms and in the entertainment industry and most are treated with cruelty beyond belief. We heard stories of forced breeding that caused the hip of one these majestic creatures to break – several times, resulting in a perpetual limp, eyes being poked out if they didn’t perform causing blindness and more unimaginable treatment. What happens to humans to allow them to think this behaviour is acceptable? It’s beyond my comprehension.

This wonderful organization saves these animals and gives them a loving and beyond beautiful farm on which to live, play and love. There was only one baby born on this nature park and the rest had been separated from their families long ago. I could see the sadness in their eyes, especially the females (actually there was only one male elephant there). Heartbreaking and overwhelming to say the least.

I was so busy being mesmerized by these animals that I didn’t think to take a lot of video but I did manage to get this one clip of two elephants who came to socialize with the tourists as we arrived at the park.

Our trip to Thailand was an experience of a lifetime and it’s a memory that will stay with me forever. The 15 days we spent there reconnecting (Taking Time – remember tip #3 in my last post) with the love of my life reinforced for me of the importance and power family.

Top 5 Things You NEED To Know – Living Life in the Middle of a Sandwich

Love them or hate them, Listicles are informative and frankly quite in fashion for quick consumption reading. I first noticed this phemon four or five years ago after a conversation with a work colleague during which we were brainstorming ideas for an article. It was then that we discovered what we were trying to describe actually had a label! And so my fondness for Listicles began. Now, I see one at least 10x a day on FB, Twitter, news reports etc..

Professionally, Listicles changed a lot for the way we communicate to our audience. For those of you who may not know, I am in the business of internal communications. Generally, we – people – have lost patience and prefer not to spend a lot of time reading up on something we want to learn about quickly. Where I work is no exception. And so listicles serve a purpose. Some call it lowbrow but I say whatever to that – it serves a purpose in the technology driven digital world in which we live.

So here goes – I’m sharing my Listicle on the top 5 things you need to know about living life in the middle of a sandwich.

  1. Stay true to your convictions – My parents’ generation has a particular way of thinking and living. Some may call it old-fashion, I call it traditional. My mother-in-law, Irene – is somewhat of an exception. She’s quite liberal and open minded in her thinking. BUT she also has traditional values to which she holds tightly. Similar to my parents, she is a staunch Catholic and they go to church every Sunday. While Franklin and I are not atheists, we no longer subscribe to organized religion. We were married in the Catholic Church (post-ceremony photo below), baptized the boys, supported them while they received their first communion and confirmation – all to appease our parents. Feeling like we fulfilled our obligation, we no longer participate and feel better for it. We believe in a higher being and believe that being kind, considerate, loving, and forgiving to all people, animals and the environment is our ticket to a peaceful afterlife. We also know that it’s better to avoid conversation about religion with our parents. There’s no changing their way of thinking and they’ve now resigned to the fact that there’s no changing ours.

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    Left to right: Irene (Franklin’s Mom, Franklin, me, Lawrie (Franklin’s late father) on our wedding day October 13, 1990
  2. Find common ground – not all of the tips in this listicle are as heavy as the topic of region! With my mother-in-law our common ground is love for family and food! We share recipes and often try to outdo each other’s cooking! Let’s be honest, what kind of Indian daughter-in-law would I be if I didn’t try to replicate my MILs recipes? With Jacob and Thomas the common ground is music. We all love music – most genres – and often have debates on whether Heavy D is the best rapper of all time compared to Eminem or Future or Lil’Wayne. The one thing we all agree on is that Prince is the greatest artist of all time. Hey – this is my blog so I win the argument 😉
  3. Take cover! – There’s no way to sugar coat it – it’s challenging when three generations live under one roof. Everyone needs their own space and time away from everyone who lives under the same roof. Be it a week away for a vacation or an overnight stay somewhere else or simply a few hours being somewhere other than where everyone else in the household is. Taking the time to be by yourself is how you’ll keep your sanity.

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    Franklin and I, taking cover on our 25th wedding anniversary at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto 
  4. Know your boundaries – Our kids don’t want to be parented anymore and my mother-in-law doesn’t know how not to parent everyone and I mean EVERYONE. She makes it a point to make everyone feel like she has a stake in their life – this includes our friends and extended family. She treats everyone the same. I admire this quality but it doesn’t work for everyone.  Her way has taught us that we need to back-off our sons now that they are in the 20s. We’ve done our job and instilled values in them that will help them do what’s right (we hope) in life.  Now it’s up to them.  They are still learning their boundaries as they still believe everything from our car, money, and their father’s clothing and more is common property!

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    Frank and the boys in a scuffle over a t-shirt or something or other 🙂
  5. Do your part! – Everyone should pitch into the household chores one way or another. This is our greatest source of frustration! Remember I said that our boys want to be treated like adults? Well this is where that boundary gets a bit blurry. Unless asked, they will not proactively do ANYTHING around the house. On the daily – I trip over a giant pair of runners because it’s simply too much trouble to not take them off mid-stride. At the front door. Shoes on a shoe rack  – literally 12 inches from the front door (it’s true I measured)? You must be crazy – that’s waaaaay too much trouble. Not leaving a pile of clothes on the bathroom floor is also out of the question. We all know – the maid will be around shortly to pick up after us. NOT. Well, unless their maid’s name is Franklin or Irene (I stand my ground on this one and refuse to 1. use the same bathroom as the boys and 2. pick up after them. I will phone, text or holler at them to do it themselves).  We don’t charge them rent or take money for anything other than their cell phone bills, so the least they can do pick up after themselves and once in a while proactively pick up a vacuum. Right?

Life is about choices – sometimes it’s the middle finger. – Living life in the middle of a sandwich

It’s March break for most kids in Ontario and as people with school age children talk about their plans for a holiday in the Caribbean or elsewhere, it reminds me how much has changed over the years. Growing up in the 1970s, March break wasn’t a big travel season as far as I remember. It was simply a break from school when we could sleep in, make snowmen, have snowball fights and go skating.

Summertime…well that was a different story. That’s when we packed up the station wagon with loads of luggage and lots of food and headed south to Florida (btw in those days, seat belts were optional!). Truthfully, it was a lot like the Griswald family in the movie Vacation. In fact, our station wagon looked very much the same!

My Mom loved clothes (still does) and had a tendency to dress us the same when we were on vacation <insert eye rolling here>. Mortifying for us as we got older but we complied because we had no choice. I don’t know about you but saying “no” to anything our parents told us to do was simply not something we did. Ever. Or. Else. We did what we were told. No options. No Choices.

Here’s a picture of one of those holidays …

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Mom in the back, (left to right) Natalie, Lorraine, Me (I cherished those Mikey ears and no that’s not my middle finger..) and Jacqueline (who desperately wanted those Mickey ears!)

Times have changed in so many ways

My kids were raised to say yes or no at will. They had choices for pretty much everything. What to eat, what to wear, who their friends were, go to post-secondary or not. Don’t get me wrong, we did have lots of rules. Frank and I were supportive no matter what (of course within reason).

BUT

If I had to do it all over, I would probably have pushed them a little harder to go to University. Jacob went to College and graduated on-time so I try not to complain too much. Thomas…well he’s still a work in progress..

Left – Jacob – to those who say “don’t chase a dream”. Right – Frank trying to get Jacob to do a secret handshake. Jacob was non-compliant. Remember what I said about giving our kids the freedom to say yes or no to us? 🙂

When I compare my childhood to that of my kids, I often wonder what would be different if parented my kids the way I was parented. Maybe my kids would be more independent? So yesterday, I had a conversation with Jacob and asked him what he would be doing if he didn’t have the freedom to try his hand at running a business. He said, he’d probably be working at a job he hated simply to pay his way in life rather than trying to make a living fuelled by his passion. After hearing him say that, how could I ever question whether I made the right parenting style choices?.

I’m so proud of him and his commitment to building a successful career doing what he loves to do.  Maybe it’ll work and maybe it won’t but at least he has the option.

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Jacob in his music studio – Terminal 16-

Life is about choices after all. I didn’t have many growing up but I make sure my kids have the freedom to choose their path.

 

Being lettuce and tomato middle of a sandwich

I have a lot to be grateful for and family is at the top of my list. For me, every day is family day and this weekend, thankfully, there was one extra day to spend with family be it for a few moments or hours. And as usual there was laughter, food, food and too much food.

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Check out these beauties from a bakery owned and operated by a family around the corner from my house! These pastries have become a staple at our famjams!

Food has always been at the core of our family. Now that I have claimed my spot in the sandwich generation, I am reminded that much of my life has been spent in the middle of a sandwich. I’m number four of six children so that puts me right in the middle.  I recently read a study that revealed the first born child is more likely to be smarter than the rest of their siblings. Hmm.. my birth order puts me waaay down on the list of smart. Not sure what to do with that… nonetheless, I’ve been the lettuce or tomato, never the top or bottom slice of bread and never the cold cuts, tuna, egg/chicken salad whatever the focus is of the sandwich. For years I struggled with trying to get more attention from my parents, but not too much because then they’d really know what I was up to! I tried to get attention from my sisters, even it meant doing things I really didn’t want to do (like ALWAYS being the witch puppet so they could be the Queen and Princesses – not that I hold any resentment!).  But as I get older, I realize that I prefer to be in tucked in the middle complementing the whole – that is my place and that’s where I’m most comfortable among my siblings.

#FamilyDay2017

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Snapchat Nana!  Snapchat cred: Jennifer Francis
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Left to right: Thomas (my baby boy), Jordan (my giant nephew), Franklin (my hubby), Lorraine (my sister-in-law, thrilled beyond words to get so close to her brother!)

Car stolen, car found – Life in the middle of a sandwich

3 a.m. Wednesday, February 7, 2017 – a date and time we won’t soon forget..Not because Feb 7 is my Mom’s birthday….but because we reported one of our cars stolen and then reported it found within hours..!

Being awake at 3 a.m. is not unheard of in our house. Having an aging senior citizen and two young adults living with us often causes sleepless nights. The most frequent cause? Waiting for one of them to come home – be it a late night at work or a night out with friends.  Even though our sons are technically adults, we just can’t stop worrying about them. Yes, my mother-in-law also strolls in at odd hours after nights out with friends on occasion!  And we worry about her too.

But on Feb 7 we found ourselves awake in the wee hours of the morning for an unusual reason!

Frank woke up around 3 a.m. to see if Jacob – our oldest son – made it home from work. Instead of checking Jacob’s room, he looked out of the the living room window to see if Jacob’s car was outside – it was and Jacob was in his room – so, sigh of relief, right? Not so fast..It was then that Frank realized his car was missing!

He called the police to see if the car had been towed but they said there was no record on file and provided a phone number to a towing company. They too said there was no record of any car being towed from our street. He called the police again but this time to report the car stolen. That’s when I woke up and he told me that his car was missing.

My first thought was, hmmm – where’s Thomas – our youngest son? He’s been known to make a late night jaunt for a snack…. but he was snug as a bug in his bed.  So while Frank waited for the officer to arrive – by then it was 4am – Thomas strolled down to the kitchen – for a snack of course – and was surprised to see Frank wide awake.  Frank told him that his car was stolen, to which Thomas responded, “No, it wasn’t stolen! I moved it because I was worried you’d get a ticket”.  You see we live in Toronto where parking on some residential streets is prohibited during specific hours without a permit. Ours is one of those streets. Frank recently got a new company car and hadn’t yet gotten around to getting the parking permit. Thomas was trying to do a good deed for his dad by moving the car to the street parallel to ours where parking is permitted over night.  Let’s give him credit for his thoughtfulness! <slow clap everyone> Maybe next time, he’ll give us a heads-up!

Frank called the police to report the car found. Case closed.

Oh and lest we forget it was Mom’s birthday on Feb 7 but we celebrated on Feb 10 with our ever growing family – 6 sisters, 5 brothers in law, and 13 grandchildren – photo of Mom and her grandchildren (and a random kid – someone always brings a friend to a famjam! “It’s how we roll” – the kids keep saying..).

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Never a dull day in the middle of our sandwich.

 

 

 

Getting started

I’m getting started on many fronts, everyday. Today, I’m getting started on my blog where I will share stories about my momwich life.

momwich life? Yes, that’s my life. My husband, Franklin, (of 26 years, the man of my dreams and partner in life – more about Mr. Wonderful later…) and I are card carrying members of the sandwich generation. I don’t want to assume that you don’t know what the sandwich generation is but for those of you who don’t know…simply put this generation is defined as 30-60 somethings who are caring for aging parents while raising kids. Check out this wikipedia link Sandwich Generation for more.  In the meantime, here’s what the sandwich looks like during happy times – sometimes defined as alone time:

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Us at a Jays game, summer 2016

I don’t think Franklin and I fall 100% within the text book definition.  It’s complicated…we’re not exactly raising kids anymore – our sons – Jacob is 24 years old and Thomas is 22 years old. I think we’re done raising them, don’t you? The thing is, they live at home so by the very nature of our living arrangements, it’s hard not to feel like we are still raising them.  Perhaps in future posts, I’ll share more about them. But for now, let’s just say that I’m  getting started trying to figure out how not to parent my adult kids!

 

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Jacob and Thomas – March 2016, NYC. All expense paid trip – you’d think they could crack a smile? But we all know smiling for millennials is sooo not cool 🙂

Two added complications:

  1. My 83 year old mother-in-law  (who has the vitality of a 45 year old) lives with us. She’s a woman with the best of intentions and unconditional love for her children and grandchildren. We’re just getting started with helping her see that we and our sons don’t need constant attention like we did throughout childhood…
  2. My 74 year old mother, who lives with one of my sisters, was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I try to help her out as much as I can. We’re just getting started dealing with her disease…

Finding humour is everyday life is how we get through. Getting started? Yeah, we are Just. Getting. Started…