When Cancer Came


My story was first published at www.larrysbook.ca

When cancer comes to call, it is entirely unexpected. We have spent no anxious days wondering about a suspicious lump, and no sleepless nights waiting for test results. Except in hindsight, there isn’t a single suggestion of cancer’s imminent visit. No, on this raw January day, cancer broadsides our family when it causes my husband to have a seizure in the middle of a Lone Star Cafe where we’re eating lunch. In six hours flat we speed from fajitas and salsa in the suburbs, through two local hospitals, and on to a big downtown ER. There, we’re warehoused until we can see a neurosurgeon about the scary grey mass that shows up on a CT of Paul’s brain.

My thirty-nine year old husband is tall and athletic, exuding togetherness and in-chargeness. He’s always the voice of reason, and very self-sufficient, so out-of-control seizures on the floor of a restaurant aren’t really his thing. I think this loss of control, shakes our children, fifteen-year-old Scott and Beth, thirteen, as much as the actual event.

When I finally get home that night, where my parents have taken the kids, I’m in shock and beyond exhausted. Huddled alone in our bed, cold, and so tired I can’t get to sleep, I picture Paul and I being forced to load our family into a boat, and then, with no warning, we’re launched onto storm-tossed seas. What I don’t realize is that the vessel we’re aboard is a canoe, and for the next twenty-one months it will be my job to keep us afloat.

Surgery is planned to remove as much of the now-confirmed brain tumour as possible, and for three days Paul must lie in his hospital bed and wait. It makes him crazy. Although the doctor, and a multitude of white-coated residents who populate this teaching hospital, frown and shake their heads when discussing our case, no one has out-and-out said what I already know. I work as a secretary on the palliative care unit of a hospital. At this moment two patients with his kind of tumour are spending their final days just a few feet from my desk. Continue reading

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I’ve written before about Hillside Public School, a small redbrick building that still stands across from the Toronto Zoo in northeast Scarborough. Many of us Hillsiders traveled from Kindergarten through high school together, and that, I believe, is the magical bond that has joined us for all of these years.

Grades 6, 7, and 8.

Grades 6, 7, and 8.

Until a huge government expropriation of farmland in the early ’70s, families of most of my schoolmates farmed there. In many cases, our parents attended Hillside together, as had their parents before that, but that rich history ended with our generation. High school graduation was followed by college, university, travel, or jobs. None of us ended up all that far away, but for the most part we lost contact.

Careers were forged, marriages celebrated, and children were born, even as some of those unions ended. Our extended families thrived, but as life always goes, illness and loss darkened our paths at times. No matter where life took us though, it seems that each of us felt a longing to reconnect.

Some of us are related, and we kept in touch with visits and family gatherings. In one instance, jobs at the same place meant our random paths crossed. We’ve had a couple of get-togethers over the years, and they were okay, but a few days ago another reunion took place, and this time it was girls only.


I can only describe the time we spent together as magical. The years fell away as we caught up on each others lives. News of jobs, spouses, and children  — along with some of the not so nice stuff — was shared over excellent food. Late in the evening, requisite pictures were taken, and yet we were reluctant to part. It was Thursday, a work night for most, but midnight found us still dawdling at the door,  new conversations breaking out as easily as they had earlier in the evening. It was hard to go home.

We’ve decided to make it all happen again, and I’m sure this isn’t a hollow promise to ourselves. When we greeted each other, there were no air kisses, cheeks lightly touching. This was an evening of full-on hugs, laughter from the belly, and genuine interest in each others lives. It was a time of joyful reunion, and delight in the fact that no matter how we had changed, we really hadn’t changed at all. Schoolyard cliques and childhood hierarchy no longer existed, and we visited on level ground, confident in the people we now are.

Thank you for a wonderful evening new/old friends, and now that we’ve found each other, let’s never lose touch again.

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Woodburning Kit copyThe year I was ten years old I received a woodburning kit for Christmas. I had never seen one before and my parents had to explain how to use it. I’m pretty sure it got plugged in right after breakfast.

The tool was an unwieldy thing in the hands of a child, although in my mother’s it had looked easy. The hot tip of the tool came with different attachments (as show on the box cover above), and each made a different shape: a circle, an X, a fine line, and so on. The only problem is, the small tool provided for changing tips didn’t fasten then very securely so they were always coming off. But when things went well, it was a lot of fun. Continue reading

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Today has been a really great day. One of the main reasons I’m enjoying it so much is because days like this seldom happen. For starters, I’m off work and it’s perfect fall weather. The sun is golden and warm breezes  blow through the open doors and windows of the house. It’s also a good day because I realized something important about plain old me.

I’m not extraordinarily well-educated, nor am I a world traveler, unless you count the many vacations I’ve enjoyed via friends’ Facebook photos. I’ve never done anything great or accomplished a monumental feat. Instead, what I am is a fairly down-to-earth collection of small abilities and random bits of knowledge and that’s okay. More than okay, actually, because these small, random, practical things come to my rescue on many occasions. Today was one such day.

This morning I decided to pull out a rug that I really love but haven’t used in awhile. This rug, hooked by hand using strips of woolen cloth, is about eighty years old. Unfortunately, one of those cloth strips was pulled loose and needed to be repaired.

IMG_0353When I was a child my mother hooked rugs. Mennonite ladies did things like that in their spare time during the winter. I remember being intrigued by the process: poke the hook down through a hole in the burlap, grab the strip of cloth, then pull it up to make a little hump the same height as the one beside it. Coloured pictures grew on the brown burlap as my mother worked, like in the photograph below. It seemed to take no effort at all.RugAfter much pestering she let me give it a go, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked to get those loops exactly the same height. I remember that she actually left me alone to try a row of the background colour on my own. I think it went fairly well but she may have a different recollection. Whatever the outcome, I’ve always wanted to learn rug hooking. I even picked up a hook once, but I’ve never made the rug.

Today that hook came in handy.

IMG_0355In just a few minutes I was able to put that strip of wool back where it belonged — although not quite as nice as the original — and the rug was ready to be used.

IMG_0356I think it looks nice at the bottom of the stairs, don’t you?

IMG_0365Which leads me to another reason why today is so great. Do you see the wooden thing sitting in the corner in the photo above? It belonged to my grandfather, a harness maker by trade.

Awhile ago, I bought a piece of leather and some coordinating fabric with the idea that I’d like to try making a purse. Over the past few weeks I’ve done research on sewing with leather. I’ve looked at pattern after pattern, finally deciding on one that should work for me. Now, on this beautiful, golden afternoon, I’m ready to cut into that leather (she said confidently). While I sew, you can bet that I’ll be remembering my heritage and feeling thankful for all of the random, useful skills I’ve acquired.

I’d like to hear about some of yours.




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I’m a Small Cog On a Big Wheel

ER-SignI’ve been reading a number of articles lately, written by grateful doctors about nurses who work in the Emergency Department. While I was reading them I pictured the busy ER where I work and I imagined my friends’ faces as they work hard, caring for patients and saving lives. Their collective knowledge and years of experience are vast and impressive and I admire and respect each of them.

After I finished reading these pieces, however, I started to wonder about something. The nurses are, quite rightly, heroes of any emergency department. They deserve all the kudos they receive. But what about the unsung folks toiling behind the scenes? What about the Unit Secretaries who keep it all happening?

A long search on Google, using every word and combination of words I could think of, revealed nothing. No blogs by nurses to say they could never deal with everything that goes on in the department without the help of little old us. No articles by doctors remarking that they have no idea how a shift in the ER would pan out if there wasn’t a secretary in sight and their nurses had to do all of that stuff. Not even a bit of writing by a secretary about Emergency Department secretaries, so I decided to change that.

I’ve worked as a Unit Secretary in many different departments of our community hospital for over twenty years. All of those years were interesting but I’ve never enjoyed anything as much as my job in the ER. When people find out where I work, they usually ask if I’m a nurse. Fair question.  When I say I’m a secretary, they kind of narrow their eyes, as though thinking, and then ask, “So you’re the person I register with?” No, that’s an entirely different job.

ER-Station copyHere’s a snapshot of what I do.

**All patient stories have been changed, but are representative of actual situations.**

I answer phones. A million times a day, I answer those phones.

“Good morning. I’m the daughter of Mr. A. Can I have an update?” (Find nurse. Does s/he have time to come to the phone? No? Anything I can tell the family member that will satisfy them? Return to phone and complete call, hopefully without family member asking multiple questions before saying, “I’ll be there in half an hour so I’ll get caught up then.”)

“Hi, it’s CT calling. Can I have Mr. F now? He’s getting IV contrast with his scan, so make sure he has a 18 gauge in his AC, then send him on up.” (Don’t know patient. Find nurse. Check on status of IV. Call porter to transport patient. Make a copy of the patient’sCT order.

“Hi. I was in the Emergency Department yesterday and I saw Dr. Medicine. I had a terrible pain in my abdomen, and my husband brought me in about 3:15 in the afternoon…”

At this point I cut to the chase because three other lines are ringing and I have two nurses standing beside me with charts in their hands. “And what is your question today?” I always ask.

Here are some of the answers:

“I was supposed to have an ultrasound done today, but they don’t have any record from your department requesting the test so they can’t do it.” (A bit time-consuming, but easy enough to deal with.)

“I’m calling from Shoppers Drug Mart. We have a prescription here from a doctor and I can’t read the name/dose/name of medication.” (Sorry, you’ll have to fax it to us and someone will follow up on that.)

“My mother was there last week. She lives in a retirement home and she was brought in by ambulance because she was having trouble breathing. They took her to, I think it was a room in the Blue Zone, Room 9, I think, or it might have been Room 10.”

I’ve already cut in once to ask what her question is, but I’m going to ask again because the specialists have come to write orders, and charts are starting to pile up on my desk. I’m not ready for the shouting that follows my gentle request to know what she specifically needs today.

“Don’t you dare push me around. If you’d just show me some common courtesy and listen to my story, then you’ll find out what it is I want.”

Here’s a bit of information: If you yell at me, I’ll listen for a minute because nothing is gained by interrupting a rant. If you don’t stop yelling pretty soon, I’ll hang up.

This lady stops yelling, but she proceeds to give me every detail of her mother’s hospital visit, all leading up to the fact that she suspects an allergic reaction this morning to one of the medications her mother received in the ER several days before.

She talks for five minutes (I time her while I work at other, more pressing things during her harangue) and it gives me great satisfaction to calmly state, “Your mother’s chart has been sent to the Medical Records department. I’ll transfer you there now.” My trigger finger has gotten real quick on the transfer button. Buh-bye.

“Hey, there, it’s ultrasound calling. We need Mrs. R. here in an two hours. Do you know if she can drink?” (No idea.) Does she have a catheter? (No idea.) Well, we’ll need her to have a full bladder before we do the scan.” (Okey dokey. Message to nurse to get patient drinking/turn up IV, and clamp catheter/tell patient not to pee. Copy U/S order in chart, and set my phone alarm to ring  so I remember to call the porter in a couple of hours.”

“Hi, Phyllis, it’s Friendly Nurse calling from Red Zone. Do you know if Ms. W. has a breakfast order? Can you check the computer and see? If not, will you order her a tray?”

“Sure. What kind of a diet is she on?”

“Oh, just a regular one.

I check and there’s no diet ordered for that patient. I enter the order in the computer and send an extra request for a late tray for breakfast. After breakfast arrives, the  nurse comes to say that the patient is a total vegetarian so can eat very little of her meal. Alrighty, then. I’ll just re-do my earlier work and order her a vegetarian diet this time. No problem.

I’ve heavy into processing orders by now — that is, deciphering mostly indecipherable handwriting — entering the requested labs and diagnostic tests correctly into our user-unfriendly computer system. Many of the tests and computer entries are so standard that I could do them while standing on my head with my eyes closed, but they still take time. Orders for admitted patients  in the ER are another can of worms though, and they can be long and complicated. With constant interruptions by phones, staff, and visitors, it’s sometimes a challenge to make sure that each order is entered correctly. Check, check, and re-check is especially important when it’s busy.

Sometimes, amidst the calling of specialists, the answering of questions for patients or families who come to my desk, the to-ing and fro-ing of patients for tests, or to their rooms on the floors if they’re admitted, there is a genuine emergency. In addition to STAT orders to enter, doctors may need to be put in touch with specialists at downtown hospitals via Criticall.

While the physician and nurses are busy stabilizing a patient or saving a life, the decision may be made to transfer the patient out. Then there is an ambulance or helicopter to arrange, patient information and a chart to copy, and a CD of diagnostic tests to get. There may be phone calls to and from the ORNGE dispatcher. Finally, once the patient leaves by EMS or the ORNGE team arrives, the department starts to feel calm again. Except when we have more than one emergency at a time.

We do have lovely times at work though, and when you see us chatting or sharing a laugh while you’re waiting, please know that you are still being looked after. There are many reasons why it’s possible to share a minute or two of camaraderie, but it’s never at the expense of patient care.

Sometimes the quietness is measured in minutes, sometimes it’s hours, but always there’s a feeling of looking over your shoulder, wondering what’s about to come in. And that’s the beauty of working in this department, and of being a small cog in this well-oiled machine. I don’t like that some people are critically ill, but I do love watching the professionals around me literally spring into action to care for them, and I love the small part I play in the whole thing.

So, there you have it. Now you know a tiny bit of what I do each time I go to work. You know why I enjoy being there, and I hope you have a small understanding of what a great team I have the privilege of supporting.

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A Breakfast Adventure

We recently made the long drive from our home near Toronto, Ontario to visit our grandson in Virginia. We also went to see his parents.

Because we don’t get to spend a lot of time with almost-four-year-old Nolan, I try to make our short visits fun. One morning when he woke up he wasn’t ready for breakfast so I asked if he’d like to pack breakfast into his backpack and we’d go on an adventure. He thought that was a great idea, but only if he could bring his drill.

We headed out, Nolan on his bike and me walking. Because Daddy is a university student and Residence Director, they live in a pretty apartment on campus. It’s a great place for a little guy to ride his bike.


Off we went, heading down wide sidewalks and across roads and parking lots, until we found just the right place to eat breakfast in the shade of a big tree. Of course, we unpacked the drill too.


The view from our breakfast spot was superb. Nolan wanted to go swimming in the fountain after he ate, but we just dipped his feet instead.


After Nolan finished his PB & J sandwich, we decided to get on with our adventure. First, he wanted to go to the sandbox. The sandbox? For university students?? I didn’t understand until we got there.


Too bad the bucket and shovel were still at home. Nolan covered up my toes instead.


A nearby building was under construction and Nolan noticed some green flags, all in a line.


He asked if he could pull them out and play with them, but I explained they were marking the spot where a pipe ran under the ground. He went back to the sandbox and dug in his toes. “I don’t feel the pipe,” he said.


We were getting hot, so Nolan sat down and had a cold drink.


We were sitting right beside the art building and while he was resting we noticed something very funny in the concrete. I didn’t know what it was, but Nolan told me that it was a nest for one very large bird, or maybe for lots of small birds.


Next on the list of places to see was The Cave, so Nolan hopped on his bike and pedaled away, leaving me in his dust.


The Cave is a special spot created by a walkway to the library. It’s shaded and cool, and the perfect place for little boys with big imaginations to play.


First, Nolan decided to drill in the stones. It worked very well because the drill actually went down between the stones, just as if it was making a real hole. He was thrilled.


Next, he added fuel to the campfire.


And then he told me he had to drill for samples all around the large rock.


Apparently that operation wasn’t successful, so we decided to collect samples of leaves, seed pods, and flowers instead.

We spent a long time playing in the cave, but then it was time to go home. Nolan biked on ahead. He was going very quickly down a long, long hill that would eventually take him to a busy road, so I called out “Stop!”, and he did. Do you know how excited a four-year-old boy can get when Nan points out that he’s laid a patch? The rest of the walk home took a long time as he tried to do it again and again.


When we finally got back, we put all of our samples into water so Mommy could keep them. We even found a big leaf. Nolan told me it was a Maple leaf. True Canadian, my boy.


I thought our adventure was finished, but there was something even bigger in store for us the following day. I had packed a cardboard airplane kit and tempra paints, with the thought that we could make and paint it together. The plane fit together like a big, slightly more complicated, banker’s box.


While I watched, Pop helped him paint it, and then we added buttons. I painted blue buttons on the dashboard so he could start the plane and make it go fast. We painted two more blue buttons on the outside, one on either side, to make the rescue stuff work. On the back of the plane we painted a red hook. Nolan said he needed a hook in case a car fell into the ocean and he had to pull it out. We also painted many flames on the outside for extra speed.


And then the fun began. Nolan stepped into the plane, grabbed hold of it (see hand-holes under his left arm, above) and started running around. “I need a rescue adventure,” he said.

Fortunately, Daddy had walkie talkies in his office and he gave one to Nolan, then went inside. A minute later, Nolan’s walkie talkie crackled and a voice said, “Daddy to Nolan. Daddy to Nolan. A car has fallen into the ocean and it needs to be rescued. Please hurry. This is an emergency.”

I showed Nolan how to press the talk button. “Nolan to Daddy. I’m on it,” he said, and off he ran.

Over the next half hour, the plane got a workout, the red hook and the blue rescue buttons got a workout, and so did Nolan’s little legs. There were plenty more rescue operations, always called in by Daddy. A giraffe and an elephant were unstuck from a swamp, and several more cars were pulled out of deep water.

Eventually, a reluctant rescue pilot had to stop for dinner, and afterward we went out for ice cream. When we got home a couple of hours later Nolan headed right for the plane, now sitting on top of his little picnic table, and climbed right in.

“Emergency! Emergency!” he said. “This is Nolan in the rescue plane. I’ll be right there.” And off he soared into the evening skies on his biggest adventure of all.


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Sometimes it’s fun to look at life through the eyes of small children, so whenever I hear the kids in my life say something memorable, I try to write it down. Here’s the collection so far.

The Players:


Maggie is in Gr. 2, and will soon be eight years old. She a bit of a worrier, a real bookworm, and great kid.

Ohio Kyle's Wedding 2013-61

Noah is 6 1/2 and in Gr. 1. He seems to have had the most quirky observations and interesting views.


Annie, 4 1/2, is in Junior Kindergarten. She’s a super-cutie, and is a real bookworm. This girl marches to her own drummer.


Thomas is just 2 1/2. He talks a mile a minute, but I haven’t caught him saying anything “recordable” yet. I just thought I’d add his picture.

Ohio Kyle's Wedding 2013-8-3

Nolan is a cousin to the other four. Like his Daddy, Nolan didn’t talk until after he turned three, at the end of August. Now he’s making up for lost time, but he lives ten hours away from us, so I don’t get to hear all of his cute little sayings. Fortunately, his Mommy has written a few things down and I’ve kept them along with the rest.

The quips and quotes that follow are in no particular order. At first I collected them on random scraps of paper and when I compiled them into a document I didn’t bother to sort them by date. Sorry about that, but here goes.

* * * * *

I was talking to (my husband) Murray’s mom Fran, known as “Granny Franny” to the little kids. Maggie (4) and Noah (3) were at my house, so she wanted to speak to them.

All was well with Maggie who remembers Fran, but Noah obviously confused the word “Granny” with my own Granny who had recently passed away. When I handed him the phone he said in a casual, conversational tone, “Hi Granny. I thought you were dead.”

* * * * *

Annie (Just turned 2) heard their front door open so she peeked from the kitchen and gasped: “Oh, my dood-ness! Daddy home!!”

* * * * *

Maggie (3) and I were unpacking my Nativity scene. As we unwrapped each piece we named them.

MAGGIE: Here’s baby Jesus.

Then she unwrapped the next piece and exclaimed, “And here’s his nest!”

* * * * *

I was working in the kitchen and Noah (3 ½) was quietly playing with toys in the living room.

Awhile later, I heard a little noise and looked up to see Noah standing in the doorway with his hoodie pulled up around his face and a toy drill held out like a ray-gun, his current favourite toy.

In a quiet, bashful voice he said, “Nan … do you need a superhero at your house?”

* * * * *

Noah had just learned about toilet training and the family was eating dinner when he pushed back his chair, jumped down, and pounded to the bathroom shouting, “I gotta pee! I gotta pee!”

Maggie (4) watched him go, then rolled her eyes and commented, “Well, that was graceful.”

* * * * *

My sister Arlene and Annie (3 1/2) were looking a photo album and came across a picture of my 70+ year-old Mom on a merry-go-round. (That’s a story that I’ll tell you someday.)

ANNIE:  Who’s that?
ARLENE: That’s Grandma.
ANNIE: What she doing?
ARLENE: She’s riding on a merry-go-round.
ANNIE: (leaning in for a closer look): She’s so cu-u-u-te!

* * * * *

A friend had just posted some wedding pictures on Facebook, and Annie was looking at them with me.

ANNIE (3 1/2): Oh, Nan. That lady is so nice and sparkly wif her pretty flowers, and the man is beautiful.

* * * * *

Noah came for an overnight.

ME: Do you want to wear the jammies you brought along or the ones that live at my house?
NOAH: I’ll wear yours. That will save Mommy some laundry.

* * * * *

In the wintertime Noah (5 1/2) and I were having a discussion about global warming and how Antarctica is melting.

NOAH: Do you know how I help global warming, Nan? I turn on the fan when it’s hot. And this season is really helpful too. It’s a lot better when the cold weather comes.

* * * * *

In a store with Annie (4).

ANNIE: What are you doing, Nan?
ME: I’m looking at glitter gel pens for you to use.
ANNIE: Hey! Did you just call me Jelly Pants?
ME: You mean Glitter Jelly Pants.
ANNIE: (Giggling) Annie Alice May Glitter Jelly Pants!

* * * * *

“I was tucking Annie (3) into bed with her baby doll and her monkey.
ANNIE: Nan, can you please give me my baby?
ME: Sure, sweetie.
ANNIE: Thank you, Nan.
ME: (with my hand resting on the monkey) You’re welcome.
ANNIE: That’s not my welcome. That’s my monkey.”

* * * * *

Annie (3) is holding the door open for Nolan (1 1/2).

ANNIE: Here, Nolan. Come inside now.
NOLAN shakes his head and walks away.
ANNIE (rolling her eyes): Oh, for pete’s snakes.”

* * * * *

I took Noah out for his 5th birthday lunch and we got chatting.

“NOAH: When I get big I want to drive a motorcycle.

ME: Ohhhhh … buddy, sometimes motorcycles aren’t that safe.

NOAH: Don’t worry, Nan. I’d only drive it on the sidewalk.”

* * * * *

NOAH (4) holding up a piece of celery: Nan, I think this celery used to be Peter Rabbit’s.
ME: Why do you think that?
NOAH: Because it tastes like bunny spit.”

* * * * *

I dropped in to see Nolan (14.5 months) for a bit this afternoon.
ME: Okay, Nan has to go home now.
NOLAN: (Smiling, as he takes my hand and leads me to the door.) Brrrm, brrrm, brrrm.
He had to cry when I left without him.

* * * * *

“Maggie (5) and Noah (4) playing store:

MAGGIE: Hello Sir, what can I get for you?
NOAH: Quick, I need cake and money!”

* * * *  *

ANNIE: (2 1/2) Nan, I can please watch The Nutcracket?
(She also enjoys eating cheese and crackets!)”

* * * * *

“NOAH (4) squatted down to examine a fuzzy caterpillar:

“You know, Nan, caterpillars lead a really simple life.”

* * * * *

MAGGIE: (Age 5 — staying overnight and looking forward to helping me make food for Thanksgiving the next day.)

“Nan, we’ll have to tell Grandpa and Grandma who prepared the food so they’ll know who to thank.”

* * * * *

NOAH (4): “Hey Mommy, look at this!” (He makes a face) “That’s what I look like when I have a sneaky plan.”

* * * * *

NOAH (4): (handing me a beautifully decorated bottom half of an egg carton)

“Here, Nan. This is a big boat for your bathtub. You can get our rubber duckie out of your cupboard and give him a ride while you bath.”

* * * * *

MAGGIE (5): Nan, do you know why home is the best place of all?
ME: No, why?
MAGGIE: Because home is where the love is, and your place is just like another home.

* * * * *

ME: (to Noah and Maggie) So, you’re going to visit Kylah and Liam tomorrow. Are you looking forward to playing with them?
NOAH: (age 4) Me and Liam aren’t going to play with the girls. We’re just going to be by ourselves and growl at them!

* * * * *

ME: Annie, would you like to have a baby tomato to eat?
ANNIE (2 1/2) running into the kitchen: Yeeeee haw!

* * * * *

NOAH (4): (looking at the big white jug sitting beside the cat’s litter box) What’s that Nan?
ME: It’s cat litter.
NOAH, after some thought: Why do you put oil litter in Agnes’s bathroom?

Come to think of it, the big white jug of litter does look somewhat like the big white jug of vegetable oil his mom uses!

* * * * *

MOMMY: Noah, do you remember about being safe on your bike? If we say STOP!, what do you do?
NOAH: I apply my brakes!

* * * * *

Maggie (excited): When I grow up, I’m going to be a teacher, Nan!
Noah (big sigh): I’m just going to be Superman.

* * * * *

Noah saying his bedtime prayers:
“It’s taking too long for my baby brother to come out … and I don’t know how to look after a butterfly … and I don’t know how catch a rainbow either. Um, I think I’m done, Nan.”

* * * * *

Written on Facebook to my nephew Kyle, RN:

“Happy birthday, Kyle, the guy my grandchildren love to “be”; as in, “Let’s pretend to be Kyle today and we’ll be nurses”. Or, (Noah) “See Nan, I’m Kyle and I’m holding Maggie’s hand and we’re going for a walk”.

* * * * *

Noah and I made crispy butter/chocolate squares called “Bark” — like “almond bark”.

Beth and Jon (Mommy and Daddy) and his siblings came for dinner and at one point I had to leave the table for a few minutes. When I came back, Beth said, “What on earth are we having for dessert?”

I told her I’d made Bark.

“Ohhhhh,” she said. “Noah told us we were having DOG!”

* * * * *

Last night I took the kids home. Daddy was at work so I gave them dinner, and helped them get jammies on so a very pregnant Beth wouldn’t have too. When I gave them hugs goodbye Noah gave me a huge one, then looked at me and said, “I’m really going to miss you, Nan.”

* * * * *

There is NOTHING in the world like being snuggled into cozy, flannel sheets, a grandchild in each arm, discussing why only some dragons breathe fire and whether or not they eat eels.

* * * * *

Noah (nearly 4) and I were discussing the coming of Spring.

Noah: When the ice melts, the monsters of the deep return, don’t they?

Me: Speechless — trying to figure out what the heck he just said.

Noah: You know, Nan. That’s what it says in your movie, right?

Hmmm … I guess I’ll have to take a look at my Planet Earth movie about oceans so I can figure out where that comment came from!

* * * * *

Annie (2 1/2) running in her sock feet, slipped and fell.
Me: Are you okay, Annie?
Annie: I otay, Nan.
Me: So it’s all good, then?
Annie: Ya, Nan, it all “dood” now.

She slipped her purse over her arm, grabbed her little stroller, and went back to playing.

* * * * *

Noah (almost 4), pointing to our road: Turn this way, Nan.
Me: Okay
Noah: And I’ll show you where to turn in your driveway.
Me: Thanks, Buddy, that would be great.
Noah: You’re welcome, Nan. You don’t need a GSP, you’ve got me!”

* * * * *

Noah (4) and Maggie (5) were playing together.

Noah: I’ll be the sick.
Maggie: Okay, I’ll be the nurse.

A little later …

Maggie: Come back here Noah. You can’t go home from the hospital until I touch your heart with this skelokope.”

* * * * *

Annie (nearly two) came running to me, holding out her baby and exclaiming:
“My baby dying, Nan! My baby dying, Nan!”

It took a minute to figure out that her baby was CRYING. Whew!”

* * * * *

Maggie, just home from JK: “So you know what, Nan? We learned about perseverance in school today.”

Me: “You did?? What’s perseverance?”

Maggie: “It’s when you keep on trying. If you can’t do something you don’t give up, you just ask for help. It’s really good to learn perseverance.”

Me: Silence as I shake my head in astonishment.

* * * * *

Noah (3) was chasing kitty Agnes until he had her cornered and quite upset. He called out to me, “Nan! Agnes just ‘snored’ at me!”

* * * * *

Noah – 3 1/2 (very seriously): Mom said I couldn’t have a ray gun for Christmas but Santa doesn’t know that so I hope he brings me one anyhow.”

* * * * *

“NOAH (3 1/2): Mom, what do you think God’s doing right now?
BETH: I have no idea, Noah. What do you think God’s doing?
NOAH: I think he’s eating marshmallows and watching TV. Um … I think he’s watching Max and Ruby.”

* * * * *

“Me to Noah (4): “I love you, Honey.”
Noah: “Don’t call me Honey.” … big grin … “You can call me Peanut Butter.”

* * * * *

NOAH (3): “Nan, I have a rescue ladder so I can get people out of bad things and I can be a hero.”

* * * * *

Maggie and Noah, eating dinner here, raise their glasses to each other and say, “CHAIRS!”

* * * * *

Maggie (4 ½): “You can’t smile or play if your heart doesn’t beep“!”

* * * * *

I lifted Noah (3) out of a shopping cart today and he said, “You’re just like a crane, Nan!”

* * * * *

Maggie (4) dressed up as a bride: “Noah, I need you to be my Handsome Prince.”
Noah (nearly 3) wearing hard hat and tool belt: “I don’t want to be a Handsome Prince, Maggie, I’m Bob the Builder.”

* * * * *

NOAH, (5 1/2): Mommy, isn’t it disgusting? I don’t even like Annie!
ANNIE,( 3 1/2): Don’t you say disgusting to me. I’m beautiful. Do you like me now, Noah?
ANNIE: You should. I’m nice.

* * * * *

And a few from Maggie when she was young – four years old and under:

  • When her throat was sore she said, “My neck hurts on the inside”.
  • When her mom was expecting #3: “Mom, are you tired of carrying that baby around?”
  • She knew the names her parents had chosen, so when I told her that Mommy had the baby she asked, “Is it an Annie or a Levi?”
  • When Maggie was at our house one day, I called her mother. When I got off the phone Maggie asked, “Was that my friend, Mommy?”

* * * * *

ANNIE – Dec. 2012, Age 3 1/2

“This is not dangerous, Mommy. You can’t fall anywhere!” (she says with a pair of scissors in her hand and another pair on top of the stool)

Annie 1.






* * * * *

Annie 2Annie (3) drew this picture.

It’s the Beaver and Wally (from Leave it to Beaver) in their room with spider webs everywhere and the spiders are trying to take away their clocks (the things that look like stoplights) and give the clocks back to “the people”, whomever they are.

What an odd, hilarious masterpiece. :)



Annie (4) was sitting at the kitchen island, quite intent on colouring a picture of a kitten, when she looked up and said, “Noah (6) can’t be in my secret club because he eats boogers”. Then she went right back to colouring.

* * * * *

Annie (just turned 4) stayed overnight, and the morning was full of her observations:

  • I told her that I would make breakfast and wondered if she’d like a cup of coffee.
    ANNIE: No thanks. Kids don’t actually drink coffee because that would make them die, I think.
  • “I heard someone say ‘exquisite’, Nan. Isn’t that a BEAUTIFUL word?”
  • “We watched-ed some doctors on Mommy’s iPad give a person a new heart. Maggie (7) and Noah (6) thought it was disgusting but I thought it was so interesting.”

* * * * *

Annie (4) was at my sister Arlene’s house and two of her three grown sons, Jeff and Chris, were also there.

After awhile Chris went downstairs.

ANNIE: Where’s the boy that doesn’t look like Jeff?
ARLENE: He went down to the basement.
ANNIE: No, I mean where is the boy that doesn’t look like Jeff or Chris?

Patrick, number three, was at work!

* * * * *

Nolan (just about to turn 3) came from Virginia to visit for a few days. My parents dropped by, and when they went out to the yard where he was playing, he looked at them and shouted, “Grandma! Grandpa!” He went running toward them but kept going, straight into the house.

A minute later he came back out, holding up a framed picture of the two of them.

“Look!” he exclaimed as he ran over to hold up the picture beside them. “The same. They match!!”

* * * * *

We were in Virginia, visiting Nolan (3) and his parents. They live on a university campus, and one of Nolan’s little joys is to sit in Daddy’s lap and “drive” once they turn off the street and into the huge parking lots.

Today his mom, Sarah, took us out for the morning and when we were almost home, Nolan piped up from the backseat, “Me drive, Mommy?”
SARAH: “No, not today. You can drive with Daddy.”
NOLAN: “But we on CAMPUS Mommy!! I can drive on campus!”

During the same visit, we  were invited to visit with one of Scott’s profs, and Nolan was pleased because his assistant always has lollipops on hand.

When we arrived, Nolan looked around and asked, “Where’s Gretchen?”

Told that she had left for the day, he lifted his shoulders and held out his hands in and exaggerated shrug and said in a sad little voice, “Oh, well … accidents happen.”

* * * * *

Nolan (just turned 3) is going through a growth spurt — shoes two sizes bigger in just two months, and growing taller too.

SARAH: “You’re growing up too fast, Nolan,” and then she pretended to cry.

NOLAN: “Mommy don’t cry, it’s not sad, me big…be happy mommy,” as he touched her face and gave her a hug.

* * * * *

Nolan: 3 yr. 3 mo.

NOLAN: Mommy, I have a baby in my tummy.

MOMMY: How did it get in your tummy?

NOLAN: Me eat it.

And a little later on …

NOLAN: Mommy, I have a baby in my tummy and it’s going to crawl out soon. It hatch out of an egg and be a tiny, baby boy!

MOMMY: Wow, Nolan, that’s crazy!

NOLAN: Yes, Mommy, it is! I am going to make him a tiny bed too!

* * * * *

And the grand finale, from our son Andrew. He’s twenty-six years old and a high-functioning young man with an intellectual disability. He calls every afternoon for his daily check-in, and on this particular day he was quite pleased about the day-long First-Aid/CPR course he’d just completed. He also wanted to ask about his Grandma who was in the hospital.

ANDREW: How’s Grandma Stewart doing?
ME: Well, they did surgery on her broken hip this morning, and she’s doing fine now.
ANDREW: How did she break her hip?
ME: She fell.
ANDREW: That’s what I do.
ME: You fall?
ANDREW: No, I keep my eyes open when I walk around town. If people fall down I help them. You know, give them CPR and stuff.

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