Identity Crisis

Photo by Jesse Milns

Photo by Jesse Milns

This blog has been alive for six years. SIX YEARS! I can’t believe how far I’ve come from when I started writing here. When I began blogging, I was newly single after a tumultuous four-year relationship hot on the heels after separating from my ex-husband. I was just about to max out a credit card on a trip to Paris, all by myself. I can see you rolling your eyes and shaking your head – you’re right, things were messy. So messy, but I was so filled with hope.

Now I’m a mom, a partner in a rather unconventional relationship (new readers, see this post!), an artist and entrepreneur, and more of a grown up than I’ve ever been. I’ve found so many of the things I was craving back when I began writing here, and I’ve found them in my way, on my own terms.

Adventures in Schnooville was a name I came up with because a work colleague and friend had nick-named me ‘Schnoo’. It’s a very silly name for a blog, but it suited my purposes – I wanted to remain under the radar, and I mostly wanted my mom to have some peace of mind while I explored Paris without much of a safety net. I never could have imagined then that over 50,000 visitors would land here and read my reflections.

Over the years I’ve had so many touching emails from people encouraging me to write, and thanking me for helping them feel a little less alone out there. What a gift that has been, to know my sometimes narcissistic indulgences are actually serving to help in a way that touches me so deeply in my soul.

Today, Schnooville is going pro!

I’ve had other blogs. I’ve written as my stage persona La Minouche for the theatre company Les Coquettes. I’ve written as a modern-day answer to Dr. Ruth as a girl-next-door sex and relationship advice blogger, I’ve even published some fiction out there on the Internets. Schnooville has always felt like my most authentic voice, and has always been the place where inspiration comes easiest to me, but the name of this blog is hopeless for branding, useless for marketing. It’s cute, but I just don’t feel like its time has passed. After today, I’ll be posting at my new site, where I’ve migrated this entire blog – Playboy Mommy.

When I began to realize that motherhood was an experience with which I was actually going to be blessed, there were definitely people who were shocked/surprised/afraid of the idea of me as a mom, based largely on what my world looks like from an outside perspective, and based on their own ideas of what motherhood should look like. It seemed that wanting a family of my own to nurture and love was incongruous with my lifestyle. This was the age-old Madonna/Magdalene paradigm coming to life, and that’s a seesaw I’ve always strived to straddle firmly in the middle. Ahem.

Playboy Mommy has such delicious, fun connotations, doesn’t it? I think of a free-spirited nurturer who can sip a martini while whipping up a prize-winning batch of brownies. Playboy Mommy sounds like the kind of mom who has made some very interesting, very colorful friends along the way who can certainly help in a pinch. I relate on so many levels to the character this moniker conjures. When I discovered the domain name was available, I was shocked, and took it as a sign.

I’m so excited about developing this blog. Here are a few tips for how you, wonderful readers, can help take this little corner of the Internet universe to the next level. I wouldn’t be here without you, and I’m grateful for you each and every time I post.

1. Subscribe to the new blog, either by email or RSS feed so you can read posts as they happen!
2. Follow me on Twitter @Playboy_Mommy
3. Like my new Facebook page here and share it on your timeline so your friends can enjoy.
4. Be sure to write your comments in the blog comment section if you want to comment on a post, rather than on Facebook. Blogs are more successful if you can build a community of readers who engage.
5. I’ve started an advice section! Help me populate it by emailing me at I promise to protect your anonymity.

Tell me what you’d like to see more of at Playboy Mommy!


Hello out there!

I’ve been very naughty, and haven’t written a single thing all week, but I promise you it’s for a good cause! Mama S (who is some kind of determined genius) and I have been working away at my new website, which I hope to launch very soon. We are basically teaching ourselves CSS and WordPress web design, so it’s been a real lesson (for me) in patience. I have none.

I don’t want to completely neglect my posts, so here’s some highlights of the week, complete with fuzzy iPhone photos.

2013-05-27 16.51.54We’re heading to the country this weekend to plant our seeds and seedlings into our garden. I sprouted some seeds with Aylu this week, and it’s amazing how quickly they’ve poked their little heads up. We’re going to sow the rest directly into the soil, which we’ll have delivered on Saturday morning. Before we can plant anything, we have to seal the wooden beds with an Eco sealant and line them with landscaping fabric. It’s going to be a busy weekend!

Last night I actually put on makeup and went out with Mama S and Nekky. Two of my beautiful Coquettes donated an aerial performance for a friend’s benefit, and we wanted to support the event. We lost one of our moms at school to cancer this year, and her children are each in Aylu and Hannu’s classes. She was the same age as me when she died after battling first breast cancer, then a brain tumor for about seven years. It’s so easy to feel totally helpless in the face of that kind of loss, adding to the event with some of our performers really seemed like the least we could do. There was an amazing band who played. CAI.RO is the name of the band, and they have such a wonderful sound. I’m so jaded, because I’m used to seeing bands that are really mediocre at these kinds of events, so it was a real treat to enjoy the music. They describe themselves as ‘cinematic folk pop’ and I’ve decided that I’m just going to love any music described as ‘cinematic’.

2013-05-24 14.58.53Noodle had a bunch of firsts this week. We visited my girlfriend Oonagh and he had his first play date with a boy his own age. Noodle cried and reached for me as he realized that boys play much rougher than his older sisters. By the end of the date, the little fellas were passing toys back and forth, so I think it ended well.  He also tried his first bites of sushi. We’ve been hitting a huge Asian supermarket in Markham called T&T for lunch on Saturdays while the girls are at Ismaili school. Last weekend we tore apart several California rolls for the baby to enjoy. Noah loves the grocery store, especially now that he’s big enough to ride around in a cart.2013-05-28 13.39.23

We’re a month away from moving, and I feel like I’m in a bit of denial. Boxes fill every room, as yet unpacked, but I just can’t bring myself to fill them. There are so many other things to do like writing, gardening, playing with the baby. I’ll figure it all out next week.

Temporary Ta-Tas

Temporary Ta-Tas

I'm willing to bet they are both dreaming about the same things...

I’m willing to bet they are both dreaming about the same things…


Yesterday I asked Nekky what I should write about for today’s post. His carefully considered reply was “Your boobs.” Never one to shy away from a challenge, I picked up the gauntlet and ran with it, in slow motion bouncing everywhere Baywatch style. He was a bit incredulous, so perhaps this post will help him take a moment to think before he speaks next time.

I’ve never been particularly well endowed (at my leanest, I’m lucky to be an A), and without the help of my girlfriends at Victoria’s Secret, I really wouldn’t have had any cleavage to speak of, so my breasts were not really something I gave much thought to. I’ve always had other assets to work with, if you know what I mean.

I knew I was pregnant with the Noodle LONG before it was even time to do a pregnancy test because my breasts suddenly and inexplicably increased a whole cup size. This steady increase continued throughout pregnancy and then when my milk came in I was a generous C cup for the first time in my life.

I would be lying if I said that having bigger boobs isn’t awesome. I love the way they look, and I LOVE the way my clothes look with these new breasts, particularly the corsets I sometimes wear on stage. Summer dresses are luscious, and for the first time ever I know how it feels to have total strangers looking at my boobs. Once I realized that’s what was happening, I stopped checking to see if I’d spilled something down the front of my shirt. Objectification can be fun when it’s novel and new!

Of course I realize I’m objectifying myself here, but I also realize that these melons are on loan until Noodle and I are no longer breastfeeding. There was a time not long ago when I didn’t even think we would make it very far into our breastfeeding foray (check out that crazy story here.) and now we’ve become such pros that I’m feeding him anywhere and everywhere the mood strikes.

My love of these breasts I’m rocking isn’t strictly aesthetic. I feel a real sense of pride in my ability to tough it out and get mad resourceful to trouble-shoot my way through breast feeding hell. So many wonderful, amazing moms aren’t able to breastfeed, and I really, really wanted to enjoy this part of the baby-having experience. Now when Noodle can reach in and grab them on his own (as he demonstrated at the Jewish Community Centre Second Cup yesterday) I feel so grateful that we are able to experience breastfeeding together, and share it with so many amused on-lookers. Of course I’ll still feel awesome once I return to the land of A cup, or whatever the case may be after we’re done nursing. I’m not pinning my self worth on my breast size. Like all reasonable women, my self-worth lies entirely in my ability to get back into a small bag of pre-pregnancy clothing before the end of this season. Just kidding. Sort of.

All that said, you can bet your sweet asparagus that I’ll be wearing a lot of cleavage-baring sundresses and halter tops this summer. Noodle will likely be weaned by the next time summer rolls around so my loaner titties and I are going to make the most of the time we have.

What are your favourite features or body parts? I’m talking about your own bodies, of course.


Retail Reflections

Retail Reflections


I cemented something for myself last week – I hate the mall. Noodle was having a really fussy day, and Nekky was at a lunch meeting for most of the afternoon, so I packed up and headed to Yorkville Mall because I knew I’d get nothing done at home.

Shopping is the last thing I should be doing during these very frugal days, but I had a stack of gift certificates for Gap Kids and Gymboree, so I decided to take advantage and see what I could find for the monkeys. Noodle and I caught a lift with daddy, and soon we were fully immersed in the artificial oasis.

I’ve been doing a lot of thrifting lately. Most of the kids’ clothes, almost all of the baby’s clothes, and a large chunk of my maternity clothes were second hand. The women in my family have always loved a good treasure hunt. My mom and her sisters grew up very poor, and my clever grandmother managed to turn salvaging other people’s cast offs into a fun adventure. The glee with which my aunties can pour through a Value Village or Salvation Army was contagious as a child, and now I share that love of discovery.

I remember frequent trips to the nearby Amity with my Grandmaman when I would come to visit. We were allowed to pick out a simple toy to add to the toy box in her modest little apartment, and the result was a constantly refreshed trove for her many, many grandchildren to enjoy. One of my favorite playtime activities while visiting was to hand wash an entire vintage pillow case full of baby doll clothes using my grandmother’s own wash board. Then I would lovingly hang each tiny item to dry on the line she kept on her balcony. It’s no wonder that laundry is a chore I actually still enjoy.

My aunts invented Shabby Chic long before it was ever a thing. Each of them owns a collection of unique treasures discovered at antique markets, yard sales, and estate auctions. They’ve worked these gems into their décor with seamless elegance and whimsy. With a tilt of a head, they can re-imagine a sturdy chair with a new coat of paint or refreshed upholstery. They are such wonderfully creative women. market6

As Noodle and I strolled from one brightly lit store to the next, assaulted by the loud, obnoxious music, and overly friendly staff I began to feel more and more stressed out. The prices seemed ludicrous, even on the sale racks, and I couldn’t find anything that I wanted to use the gift certificates on. Soon Noodle began to fuss, because I think he felt affronted by all of the obnoxious over-stimulation. He began to return the overzealous employee greetings with stink-eye, and started trying to rip clothing off the racks while grunting like a little ape.

It was inevitable that I would soon feel the guilt creep in, I am a fallen Catholic after all, and I began thinking about all of those poor people in Bangladesh who died so horribly because they were neglected by a property owner who only cared about making money. In a sense, they died because we want the cheapest deal on manufactured goods, but so many of us are too proud to be caught re-using perfectly good items that are available everywhere for unbelievable prices.

The cheap labor debate is one that I have mixed feelings about. Some overseas factories really do offer people a livelihood and a means to support their family in the face of some seriously heinous alternatives. This is no excuse to neglect people or take such horrible advantage of their position. I think so many of us get caught up in our tendency towards commercialism that we don’t think much about how those much-coveted items arrive in our malls and how lives are affected in the process.

Of course I want adorable clothing for my kids. I also don’t want to waste some perfectly good gift certificates that were gifted to us. I LOVED the Joe label before this Bangladesh catastrophe gave me pause, but how can I spend money on their products when 300 people died and Joe doesn’t seem in any hurry to make their factory conditions better? The company website states that in the face of the Bangladesh tragedy they are “taking steps” to ensure better conditions, but I’ll be more impressed if they dedicate a portion of their website to seeing how that plays out. A carefully crafted press release feels a bit like lip service to me.

I’m not militant about these things. I’m lazy, and cheap, and I’m sometimes a real consumerist pig. I love Target for example, and I’ll probably keep shopping there, but we need to think about this, don’t we? How badly do we need “stuff”? Is it worth taking advantage of people who are already struggling so that we can get a cheap deal? Can’t we cough up a couple of additional dollars so that they can make a more decent wage?

It’s easy to just hit Walmart and drop some dollars to get the best deal. We do it every week for our groceries because the savings is unbelievable. How does a family of six justify spending hundreds of dollars more each week to buy locally raised meat and local produce? Costco has saved us SO MUCH MONEY!

I don’t have answers to these questions, and I’m not going to be a preachy hypocrite. I think it’s because I’m feeling my own disgust at all of the stuff we’ve amassed over the years that I feel so grossed out by consumerism. How do we make these issues better without extending ourselves beyond our means?  What can we actually do?

I suppose a place to start is buying clothing more responsibly. Here’s a great article from the National Post with some ethical shopping tips. I’d love to hear from readers about how this. Are you shopping ethically? If not, what’s stopping you? If so, can you give us tips to make this work for our large family?

Making Our Beds

Making Our Beds

sledgehammerThis past weekend, we ran away from the city to begin work on our vegetable garden at the Niagara house. Our goal was to build four raised beds – three for veggies and one for cut flowers – using this tutorial from the awesome Pioneer Woman blog. We packed up the car and a small mountain of laundry (our city dryer has been broken for over a month and it’s hard to keep up with the laundry demands of six people) and we set out at seven p.m. which is the time to travel on the Friday of a long weekend.

Saturday was a late start. I needed the extra sleep, because the Noodle has taken to waking as of 2:30 each morning, and then every hour or so after that. At first, he was just interested in eating during these waking moments, but now he’s into trying out all of his new moves; scooting, crawling, sitting up, standing, all with his eyes closed and mostly still asleep. Thankfully, on Saturday he was into sleeping in, and when he was done, extra hands made it possible for me to get a little bit of extra rest. After a leisurely breakfast, Nekky and I set out for the Home Depot at around noon, while Mamma S stayed behind to tackle the epic chore of lawn mowing. Both adventures turned out to be day-long investments.

The finished product

The finished product

Nekky and I took Noodle with us because he’s a fussy monkey these days. His little teeth are ready to burst forth, and he can fight a nap with UFC flair. Once he was secured in his car seat, he was k.o’d and remained that way for the two hour duration of our Home Depot visit, where he slept in a cart, still in his car seat. He really must be a man’s man (whatever the hell that means) because the smell of sawdust and paint and dudes really lulled him into deep sleep. Not even my stacks of garlic and onion bulbs disturbed him from his reverie. Also, if you want to see cute, take a wee baby to a hardware store. Even the burliest men were cooing at him, and straining to get a look inside the cart to watch him sleep. 260355_10151635320720535_312581582_n

We cut down on some material costs by choosing untreated fir over cedar or pine, and we’ll be sealing it with an Eco wood treatment. Our real surprise came in seeing just how much wood we ended up with. There was no way it was fitting in the car, so we had to rent a Home Depot van to drive it back to the house, ten minutes away.

Of course the baby’s car seat wouldn’t work in the cargo van, so I hung behind with the Noodle, who was still out. I grabbed myself lunch at Subway, and got three quarters of the way through it before the baby woke up, all smiles and game show host charm for the seniors lunching around me. Man this baby can work a room!

He can also work his shorts, and so after I finished lunch, we wheeled back into the Depot for a bum change and some boobie. By now we were on a first name basis with the staff, who were all happy to see the awake Noodle, riding in the cart like a pageant queen on a pride float, clapping his hands and squawking with glee. (Our baby is so happy to have everyone’s eyes on him. I don’t know where he gets that from.) The restroom was kitted out with a big comfy leather chair so we had more privacy than the patio furniture section afforded – this is where I’d scoped out some breast feeding real estate earlier.

After Noodle’s snack we waited for daddy (and Ayla, who decided to come for phase two of the shopping excursion, which was Costco) in the garden centre. Noodle loves flowers, birds and old ladies and all were plentiful in the garden centre.

So, yes we tackled both Home Depot and Costco on a long weekend Saturday and lived to tell the tale. Needless to say, not much building got done on day one, though us three parents ran outside after dinner to take advantage of the waning sunlight and cooler temperatures. We got quite a lot of the more tedious stuff knocked out too – measuring and drilling pilot holes and such. There was also some beer drinking, which we all know is essential to any home improvement project.

building2Sunday was building day, for real. We got a much earlier start and got a lot of work done before noon, when the sun became unforgiving. There isn’t a lot of shade at the Niagara house, so our veggies will be happy, but us laborers were not. Coconut water has become a staple for us and the kids. It’s a greater source of electrolytes than those sports drinks, and it’s delicious, especially with vodka and a twist of lime. No, the kids don’t get vodka.

We took a break for lunch, and then hit Home Depot again, because one trip is NEVER enough, no matter how thorough you think you’ve been. After lunch I got to learn how to use a jigsaw (terrifying) and a drill. Yes, it’s true, I’ve barely used power tools. I’m more of a sanding, staining, finishing, painting kind of worker bee. I’m also really good about planning, and I quite like being the foreman.ayladrill

I’m very pleased with the results of our efforts. Lulu got in there and worked with daddy, and was very proud of herself. She was also thrilled when I pointed out that she’d been in homeschool wood working class all day.

Next we’ll need to seal the beds and line them with landscaping fabric, then order dirt and compost and get planting. I can’t wait to get my hands in there and plant our little seeds. I’ve never attempted a vegetable garden before, so I have no idea how successful this project will be, but it’s really been wonderful working together towards a common goal.

Zombies, Boobies and Bamboo

Screen shot 2013-05-14 at 8.39.04 PMSome pretty bizarre things can occupy my brain space, and this week has been no exception. Have a listen and let me know if you think I’m nuts.

 The Walking Dead

We’ve started watching the AMC series ‘The Walking Dead” and of course we’re hooked. We polished off season one last night, and though I love the show, I feel consumed with guilt because Noah is usually up while we’re watching. We don’t let him actively see the TV, because none of our children watch much TV, and because I don’t think his infant brain should be exposed to rotting animated corpses, but I’ve convinced myself that the mere sounds of the living dead eating human flesh will corrupt him.

Today he began making this low, grunting noise all day long. At first we were jokingly calling him Randy Macho Man Savage. However, watching him sitting at the head of the table, half asleep with a glazed expression, gaping mouth waiting for the next spoonful, growling loudly, I could only think one thing. Zombies. I worry that despite all of our careful efforts, the wrong ideas are still seeping into our kids’ melons.

Further evidence to this fact was Hannah watching daddy prepare the massive beef tenderloin he grilled for dinner tonight. She squealed with delight and said, “Daddy! Pick up the knife in your bloody hands again! You look like a murderer and the tenderloin looks like the leg of a sexy lady!”

Jesus. Christ. How much of Dexter was wafting up the stairs and permeating their sleeping minds??


Angelina’s Boobs

You’ve all heard the news by now, of course. If not, check out the scoop here. I woke up this morning feeling pretty impressed by Angelina sharing her story so publicly. In fact, I will freely and openly admit that her actions inspired me to also get tested for this gene at my next physical. I will also admit that because an enormously famous sexy babe elected to have her breasts removed (and no doubt replaced with a pair of awesome fake boobs) I absolutely feel like that decision is one that I would be just a bit more comfortable making for myself.

What does that make me? A lemming? A sheep that is too easily influenced by the media? I don’t know why Angelina suddenly made lopping my boobs off okay. Actually, I do. It had little to do with Angelina and more to do with how cancer has ravaged too many people who I am genetically linked to, and taken them away from us too soon. Something about a superstar admitting so publicly to their own bold decisions to protect their family from the tragedy of cancer was inspiring. The end.



Our eldest daughter has been working hard at her first independent study project this week. Her class each had to choose a traditional home structure to research and build on their own. The structure needs to be one that is man-made and the materials used in this project had to represent these kinds of materials. Hannah chose an Iraqi reed house.

She determined that woven materials would work best for building the house, which is made entirely of reeds. We determined that Chinatown was the most obvious place in the city to shop for woven things. Nekky and I grabbed the girls from school and set off, planning to have Mamma S meet us there for dinner when she was done work.

The first shop we hit was Plaiter Place. We had our big stroller to contend with and a sleeping Noah inside, so Nek parked it as strategically as he could near the cash. The store was tiny, but we managed to find a spot that didn’t block the cash from the customers or block in the lady who was working at the counter. The store was a goldmine. We found all of the supplies we needed in short order, and then a whole bunch of other beautiful things for our homeschool classroom, and a couple of fun trinkets for Ayla.

As we respectfully made our way through the shop, admiring everything, I noticed a man who was working there in some kind of serious frenzy, racing around. He seemed very irate. While Nekky and Hannah were making their final decisions at the back of the store, Ayla and I headed to the front of the store to check on Noah and to decide on which little delight she would go home with.

Irate shop-keeper man came charging to the front of the store, and rather than going around the stroller, or letting me move it out of the way, as I clearly offered, and he ignored, he shoved the stroller and rushed past it, knocking over a basket full of little wallets. As I stooped to pick them up and collect my baby and my Ayla, the shopkeeper revealed that he did, in fact, speak some English when he uttered “FUCK!” In front of my seven year old.

I ushered Ayla and Noah outside, texting Nekky to let him know what happened. He sent the girls and I ahead while first he checked the next store to make sure they had supplies we could use, and then he exchanged some choice words with the shop-keeper at Plaiter Place. In front of some more would-be customers.

We used this as an opportunity to teach the girls about customer service, and how we only spend our money in places where they treat their customers respectfully. Ayla was a bit stunned at how rude the guy was. Hannah was worried that we wouldn’t be able to find materials elsewhere.

Fast-forward to after an exhaustive hunt of Chinatown with two sleepy girls followed by a fairly epic Korean feast when we realize that one key piece we’ll need for windows can only be found in Plaiter Place. What were we to do? Send Mamma S on a covert operation of course! Yet another instance where three parents give us an advantage.

Of course the kids IMMEDIATELY figured out what was happening, and totally called us out with a classic “But YOU said…” We’re not perfect. Not by any stretch, and so I used our hypocrisy as another life lesson and said that we would go to great lengths to make sure our children succeed with all of the projects they tackle in life. Sigh.

Project reed house has blown our minds. No surprises, Hannah is brilliant. I’ll share some of her mad skills later this week. Meanwhile, let’s pray my children don’t start eating brains, stalking hookers, or getting into fist fights with shopkeepers.





Embracing the Hell of Moving

moving-2I hate moving, which is hard to believe when you consider how nomadic I’ve been over the last several years. I think the longest I’ve stayed in any place at one time is about three years, and of course there is the hilarious number of times I moved in and out of the Fortress of Solitude. (I had an apartment leased by my friend’s parents that I moved into no less than three times, each after a breakup. They, thankfully, managed to keep their eyebrows at a level position over all of this.)

I suppose having so many moves under my belt has honed my skills when it comes to packing and purging, but moving a house of six people plus a business may be my greatest challenge yet. By that I mean, I’d really rather crawl into bed with a stack of books and a thermos of gin and watermelon slush and re-surface when it’s over. It’s hard to not feel overwhelmed, and I will admit to some actual tears being shed over the volume of work ahead. (Read near-daily mental breakdowns, particularly in conjunction with PMS.)

These last couple of months have been beyond stressful with several years of income taxes to prep and file for two businesses, some hard decisions to make about our life, and now the spectre of purging and moving looming again. Add to that cocktail a teething baby, and mama NEEDS some cocktails to get through it all. My good friends at the LCBO are on a first name basis, and have started giving out cookies to my kids with each visit. Kidding. Sort of.

Here are my patented Schnoo-tested tips for tackling a move:

  • Whenever possible, book your move for mid-week. Movers charge more on weekends. Also, avoid the end of the month, if you ever can. We have gotten very, very lucky here and sometimes you’ll find sympathetic landlords. It never hurts to ask about the possibility of moving in a little early, especially when displaying your cleavage.
  • Collect boxes from places like No-Frills or your local grocery store. Small to medium sized boxes are easiest to manage. The liquor store is a gold mine for these (I should know). Make friends with your store manager (Hi Chris!), and find out the best days and times to pick boxes up.
  • Grab stacks of those free newspapers that seem abundant in the city, (especially the stupid, elitist ones who no matter how hard you’ve tried over the last ten years, refused to write about your theatre company) or save any newspapers you may have at home. You’ll need them for packing fragile stuff. Grab felt sheets from the dollar store for packing precious dishes. The felt is nice to layer between plates to make sure they don’t scratch/chip.
  • Go room-by-room and purge, purge, purge. Take this opportunity to turf any clothes you haven’t worn, books you’ve already read, accessories that are collecting dust, and useless knick knacks. Be critical and don’t let yourself hang on to things you don’t need and aren’t using. You’ll be so happy to lighten your load, especially at the end of the day when you get the bill from the movers. You can either sell your stuff or donate it to charity. Some charities, like the Diabetes Association, will even come to you to pick stuff up!
  •  Plan to have a yard sale just before you move. Put prices on stuff as you pack them into labeled boxes for your sale. Think of cute and clever ways to get rid of things. For example, we packed collections of the girls junky little items into brown paper bags that we stapled shut and labeled ‘surprise bags’ and we hope to sell these for a dollar each. It was easy to convince the girls to part with lots of their old toys and such by telling them they could keep the profits from their sales, and I’m hoping that their adorableness will help move more goods. In some instances, I am in favor of child labor. More yard sale tips in a forthcoming post.
  • Before you start packing everything up, take photos of each room of your house for posterity. This is a great idea, especially if you have kids. It will mean something to them to be able to look back on where they’ve lived, and it will be amusing for you to have at least one photo of each room really clean and clear of clutter.
  • Pack fragile items carefully, with lots of extra padding. Movers aren’t always as gentle as one might hope. Especially if you’ve made the brilliant decision to offer them some brewskies. Lesson learned.
  • Label your boxes. I once used a floor plan and a color-coding system with corresponding labels so that our movers would know where each item went. This worked for about half an hour, and then they stopped giving a shit. I once had a colleague who insisted that all movers were ex-cons who couldn’t get work elsewhere, so perhaps my expectations were too high. I was disappointed, but the system was useful for us later. I think a less crazy-lady alternative would be to label each box on two sides with the room it will belong to and a brief description of the contents. I find it useful to add a star to any of the items you will need quick access to once you’ve landed at the next residence and you can ask the former criminals to keep those boxes accessible. There is a slim chance that they might not look at you like they want to strangle you. Eek.
  • Pace yourself. Try to do a bit each day, rather than leave it all to the last minute. Make a fun afternoon project (complete with treats and grown-up drinks) of big rooms like the kitchen.
  • Enlist helpers! Kids love to get involved in home projects, and some of your family and friends can be drafted too. Even if you’ve used up your quota for packing help (for a lifetime), maybe your friends can keep the kids busy at the park so that they aren’t under foot. (Ahem…wink, wink). Pet sitting will also be a huge help, if you have a pet. Or a husband who hates packing.
  • Pack a last minute box with toiletries, sheets for each bed, pjs, books, towels, etc. This should basically be an overnight bag that includes something to sleep on and shower with. Count on sleeping on mattresses on the floor.
  • Expect moving day to be long! Usually double the length you had imagined. Provide snacks (for everyone, including the movers), make a dinner plan that is very low maintenance and keep the refreshments flowing (DO NOT GIVE THE MOVERS ALCOHOL until they are finished, and then limit them to one cold beer. Try to have fun (I know…easier said…) and remember that the kids don’t know that moving seriously sucks.
  • If you can afford a cleaning service to clean the place you are moving to ahead of the movers, do this. It is money well spent. Be sure to budget time and energy to do a decent cleaning of the place you’re leaving, and build good moving karma. Don’t leave your crap behind for the new tenants either. I’ve actually arrived at new residences to find closets full of clothes and dirt caked all over the kitchen and bathroom. Yes, I cried.
  • Don’t rush to get all of the unpacking done, and definitely enlist the kids for this one. It will be really empowering for them to help set up the new space. Think of it like a ritual to claim your new home. In fact, if you’re a closet tree-hugger like me, you could even do a ceremonial sweep and sage smudge.

So in summary, here is what I’ve learned over a total of fifteen moves in as many years; keep it fun, especially for the kids, use alcohol to maintain your sense of humor (unless you are driving or operating a forklift), remember that some movers might be ex-cons, throw out your crap before you move it to yet another home where it will sit untouched, and DO NOT give your movers booze. Also, don’t forget to bring the dog with you.

Do feel free to share your moving tips! I can use all the help I can get.

Allowing Allowance


Our girls are now nine and seven, and lately our eldest has been asking for an allowance. All three parents grew up with allowance once we reached a certain age, so we weren’t opposed to this concept, but we definitely wanted to have some shared goals in rolling this out to the kids.



  1. We didn’t want to tie doing basic helping tasks to a monetary reward. We all help take care of our home because we love our home and each other. We don’t want anyone to feel like they are getting paid to do the tasks that we’d like to nurture some pride in.
  2. We didn’t want the girls to get competitive over allowance. Rather than tie monetary value to chores, we agreed on a set amount per week that was the same for both girls. These two monkeys will compete over who can get the most air. Homeschooling them is going to be a real trip.
  3. We wanted to teach the children smart money management, social responsibility, and some value around money.

Here’s what we did:

Using the Melissa and Doug Responsibility Charts that we bought for the girls a while back, we create a list of suitable household responsibilities that were the same for both girls.

On a Sunday night after dinner we let them know that now that they are seven and nine years old, we felt like they were at the right age to take on some added responsibility in our home. We directed them to have a look at their charts and had a chat about what their responsibilities were, and how we expected them to take pride in caring for our home together.

We let them know that another part about growing older and more responsible was being given the responsibility of a weekly allowance (here there was much cheering and celebration) and that every Sunday they would each receive five dollars.

Then we explained that an allowance was a great responsibility because it helped them learn how to be respectful of money. We let them know that they could spend or keep two dollars of their allowance, and that they would save two dollars of their allowance, and give one dollar of their allowance to our family charity of choice – the Aga Khan Foundation .

To keep their allowances straight, I got them colour-coded glass jars from Dollarama, with one for each portion of their earnings. We’re also keeping track of our wages in a spread sheet, and (probably after the move) we’ll open a bank account for each girl.

Generally, it’s going very well, with the exception of the time we were over a week late with paying out, and my mother suggested we add a dollar of interest. The kids definitely thought that was a good plan!

How have you handled allowance with your kids? How are you teaching them to be responsible with money?

School of Mom

Things my children have taught me:

  • The importance of play, even for grown-ups
  • How to inject new life and meaning into household tasks/chores
  • A whole new pleasure in cooking for (and with!) my family
  • How to view everything like it’s fresh and new
  • How to slow down
  • How to lower my expectations of perfection (from myself)
  • How to be okay with not being on time sometimes
  • How to be creative and make art every single day
  • To enjoy sewing!
  • To be thrifty and frugal
  • Patience that I never thought I’d have
  • How to laugh at myself
  • To turn inward and really work on my own struggles
  • To respect money and resources
  • That I want to be a writer, who writes books for them to enjoy
  • To be reverent and terrified of the passage of time
  • That there are one million outlets for my imagination
  • That their opinion of me is the only one that matters (after my own)
  • How to melt away my hard exterior
  • To (always try to) speak with love and respect even when I’m feeling frustrated or tired
  • That their ideas, insights, theories and notions are often more touching, profound, brilliant and pithy than those of most adults I know
  • That I am a good mother and dedicated parent
  • How to (strive to) make them feel how loved and cherished they are all of the time
  • That I belong somewhere, to someone
  • That my family, in all of it’s quirky, evolving, unusual glory is the most important thing in the world to me
  • That their amazing, delightful, beautiful selves are proof positive that I am good and doing something good for the world

City Mouse No More

Two gals who are very excited to move to the country.

Two gals who are very excited to move to the country.

It’s our so-called spring here in Southern Ontario, and new beginnings are the theme around here in Schnooville. After finally sharing the news with all of the most important people in my life (namely, my children) I can now leave an update here. I’m leaving city life behind, at least for a little while.

Our family business has left us wanting more, and so while we contemplate the future and hatch our next great plan, we will be heading to Niagara-on-the-Lake, to the house in the country that we love so well. We call it ‘The Lincoln House’, and that’s how I’ll refer to it here. With 30 acres of secluded play space, our children will hopefully thrive in a way that just isn’t possible in the city.

We’ve built up a nest of memories here in our Toronto home – equal parts good and bad. It’s sad to leave because I love this house, I love our neighbourhood, I love the school our children go to, and I love having the energy of the city at my fingertips in those rare moments when I want to venture out. I haven’t lived in the country in about a decade, when I did a brief newlywed stint on a very isolated one-hundred-and-fifty-acre nature preserve in upstate New York. That was another lifetime ago, and an experience that still feels bittersweet.

There is no Waldorf school to speak of in the area, and another round of private school tuition just doesn’t make sense right now, so I am undertaking the wonderful challenge and adventure of homeschooling the girls (and I guess little Noodle) with Waldorf curriculum created for homeschooling families. At first I thought this idea was insane, (I mean, I never imagined myself as the marm of the polyamorous family who lives in the country and homeschools) but now I’m really, deeply inspired, and feeling so passionate about this opportunity. I already feel closer to my children. We’ll do this for a year and see how it goes, and see where we’re at. The ideal end goal is to set up home in a slightly more urban area with a Waldorf school nearby, but who really can tell what will happen next?

All of the adults in our home feel the need to simplify, and so we’re going to extensively pare down our material goods, selling everything and keeping only the very basic things we need. I’m overbrimming with glorious information gleaned from the countless, inspiring blogs I’ve found from homesteader types who have dedicated their life to family and simplicity. I can’t wait to purge, pare down, cut out, and free ourselves from so much STUFF! Stay tuned for the yard sale to end all yard sales.

We’re leaving the city at the end of June, when the school year is through. Before the move, we are planting an extensive vegetable garden at the Lincoln house as both a teaching tool, and a way to nourish our family with vegetables that we know are organic and safe to eat. I’ve never undertaken anything quite so extensive, and to say it’s an experiment will be a bit of an understatement.

The girls took the news so much better than we expected. They were excited, and very accepting, with lots of questions, and the predictable concern over friends and keeping in touch. We’re hoping some of the families we’ve gotten close to will be up for weekend play dates, but we’ll be sure to find some extracurricular activities that allow for creating a new social circle.

I’ll still continue with Les Coquettes, because I love performing with them, and I love creating shows. I do wonder what we’ll have in store after this year? So many of us are having families, and/or our priorities are shifting, and I personally find that writing satisfies my creative energy in a way that nothing else can compare to. Perhaps my Showgirl Madame days are coming to an end?

My new life will afford so much more time for writing. I want to share each step of this experience, and all of the little nuggets of wisdom we can pick up along the way. I used to think maintaining a certain glamorous, artsy, sexy persona was the key to my happiness, but with each passing day I realize that my happiest moments are with my children, and they are the greatest legacy I can leave behind. They afford so much opportunity for creativity and connectedness, and I have never experienced anything as inspiring as them. I feel like they are the catalyst that has led me to step into the next pair of shoes I was meant to wear – the pretty, yet comfortable ones that feel much better than the platform stilettos of old.

There is a giant field of question marks that I stare out into every day. This field is daunting, some parts of it scary, but  the breeze that rustles through it whispers of excitement. Change is a wondrous thing, isn’t it? By taking charge of our life, and making some big decisions, I feel like we’re empowering ourselves to be bigger and better.

What’s the biggest, scariest decision you’ve ever had to make?