My public school exit letter

Dear Public School System,

We are parting ways this summer. I entrusted my youngest to you and you have let him down. I happily listened to the promises of extended second language teaching, manageable class sizes and quality teachers. We were smug in the fact that we were lucky enough to live in the right zone for this school and were not in need of a coveted transfer from out of zone. We even had at our door busing ( the irony of this will be seen further on )!

How great – private school perks at a public school price I thought to myself.

Well, how foolish was I.

It is funny. The two times in my life as a parent that I remember feeling the most ill prepared, frazzled and out of my depth surround the education of my boys. While the situations are somewhat similar ( they are brothers after all ), the first led to a quick change of path within a receptive school system.

This time we were not so lucky.

I still wonder why, when in October, when I asked for insight into why my son was not thriving, we were not listened to.

And then again in December. December, when we started with our own investigation into why this little boy was…just being missed.

And then why in February, as the result of my phone call, finally it was agreed that he was not where he should be. But he is lovely, not a problem at all in class. By then we were well into the private process of assessment. Finally he was receiving some extra support at school…but to the detriment of his self esteem. See? He knew he was being pulled out because he was not as smart as his friends.

I know, I know…that is not the case, he is very very smart…but when you are 6 and being reminded daily that you are not getting the answers right, and that it hurts to write and that you didn’t understand what the question said…well, it is much easier to just slouch down in your chair, rub your eyes and tell your teacher that you are tired. That you can’t do it. That you won’t do it. And then he is just a little less lovely to his teacher, still nice but…

And then the long waited for IEP meeting. Is he getting enough sleep at home? Are you reading to him every night? And we know he changed teachers in the last 6 weeks of school but kids adapt. And he is an August 30th baby and a BOY. So…you know. It is just a case of maturity. He needs to step up. He will adapt. We don’t have many kids with his intelligence in resource. We will let next year’s teacher assess him without giving her too much information. We will reassess him in October.

October?

October?

No, no you won’t. Why? Because if we wait until next October, we will lose my son in your school. He will never be trouble in the class, he will never stand outside the classroom banging on the door, screaming at the teacher, he will never stab another kid with a pencil. He will just quietly fade away until he thinks he really can’t do what his friends are doing until the point he really can’t. It will be a quiet loss, but a very real one.

So, we as parents are left as the ones screaming at the teacher’s door. But we didn’t. We played by the rules and it took eight months to get a meeting that really led nowhere. Well, it led us out the door of the school.

Which is a shame because my kid has lovely friends in the school, and so did I. I was class mom. We were involved. We cared about the school. It was our community.

And when the school let us down in the worst way, the day the school lost him and sent him home to sit by himself on the stairs of an empty house, alone, sobbing for an hour and a half, we did not completely lose our minds.

Even then we did not leave the school. Although we did ditch that originally coveted bus service. We worked with you, biting back our anger and disappointment,  so this would not happen again to another child in our school community.

But dear school…you lost our son in another way. You helped him lose his interest in learning and now we are left trying to recover that spark he had at the beginning of the year, the one that had him curious and excited every day. This is why we must leave.

We simply can not afford another year in your public school. The price for my child is too high.

Decorating Paralysis

That is what I am suffering from right now.

I am sure Mark will be thrilled that I am finally explaining why we have had a huge hole in our main floor hallway ceiling for months ( okay…if you count the first hole we had fixed after the first leak…then we may be looking at over a year of hallway hole-i-ness ).

The hole has nothing to do with a lack of handiness around the house.

The hole has nothing to do with a lack of qualified professionals available to do the job.

The hole is not something we think adds to the rustic modern aesthetic I would like to aspire to.

No. The hole is evidence of my absolute inability to commit to fixing the problem because it involves decisions and choices and commitment.

While I spend hours photographing and mooning over beautiful rooms, capturing the details and workmanship and essence of what makes a room livable…I am terrified of one room. One master bathroom. Mine. Terrified.

The first part of my resistance started with the fact that this is a perfectly good bathroom. It is well designed with quality materials. It has lovely light. It has a shower that sold us when we saw it for the first time ( yeah, back when I swore never to live on the West Island. It is all this bathroom’s fault I am here). BUT. The shower is leaking. Big time. Although apparently only when I shower.

The water, seeping into the underneath of the tiles, drips down through the ceiling onto the hallway floor below, leaving puddles for unsuspecting family members to slip in. The poor dogs even bore some blame before we realized what was happening.

So, we need to tear apart our perfectly good-on-the-surface shower. Well, we needed to do this 9 months ago. But this is where the paralysis comes in. How do you choose? Floor tiles, wall tiles, shower floor tiles, shower wall tiles, fixtures, grout colour, porcelain, natural stone…so many decisions. Shower surround. Built in niche. Do we need a new countertop? New sinks? New vanity?

What if nothing matches!!!???

I do have a guiding light. The woman who created this bathroom.

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Bathroom designed by Lux Decor, Pointe Claire, Quebec

And this bathroom.

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Bathroom designed by Lux Decor, Pointe Claire, Quebec

And THIS bathroom.

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Bathroom designed by Lux Decor, Pointe Claire, Quebec

I broke down and begged for guidance ( okay, I asked quietly because I do not want to abuse her talents in the name of friendship ) and she told me to grab a pen and start writing down a plan of design attack. It was genius. Now I just have to do it.

So, here are my befores.

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See? A lovely bathroom. That is now warping my downstair floors from a leak we can not fix. Sigh.

We are keeping the tub, and maybe the vanities, and the light fixtures (they are PINK!). The rest is up for discussion. Now to just do it. Let’s see if I have an update before another year passes. At that point it may be “bathroom designed by over the edge husband”.

It may not be such a good look. I better get on it.

Swapping on a Sunday

Yesterday was our 4th annual clothing swap!

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We ( Holly and I ) held our first swap the very first year we moved to Montreal. I had always wanted to hold one and finally got my act together and committed to it. With nothing but 4 clothing racks, 100 dry-cleaning hangers, 40 cupcakes and the secret ingredient…wine… we waited to see if anyone would come.

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Well, come they did! With their jeans and blazers and shoes and scarves and purses and dresses. Armfuls of clothing, all pretty and pristine and ready for a new home.

A tradition was born.

We have observed some universal truths since that first swap.

We learned that people always bring more than they take. And that everyone has something in their closet with a tag on it.

That there are sizes for everyone. And that everyone loves shoes, shoes, shoes.

That teens need their own space to swap. And that moms love the teen space because we all buy our kids nicer clothes than we buy ourselves.

That the first time a swapper swaps, they are tentative and a little worried. The second time they swap? They are right in there at 2PM, ready for the first grab. 4th year? They do not even make it past the mannequin at the front door before finding something awesome ( yes, you can undress the mannequin…we do not have any stuck up store rules! ).

Cupcakes and brownies are the universal food of swapping…but all the grapes and tomatoes will disappear as well.

That there are swappers who love the dressing room. And swappers who never disrobe.  Ever. Not once in four years.

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 Why, when you can just fit that dress right over top!

Wine.

We have honed some details since that first swap. We made a lot less rules. Tooling around on the internet ( yes, Pinterest ), I found that there are a lot of clothing swap rules. Hell, there was even a clothing swap where the hostess spelled out a dress code to best complement her clothing swap decor.

Nope. We are simple…bring the items sitting, lonely, in your closet that you would want your best friend to wear. The best of your unloved. The pieces you bought because you could not resist them…but that somehow let you down once you got home. You know how that happens. Too often. And then swap them,  allowing them find life again on someone else.

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We really believe that there is clothing waiting for everyone. Especially beautiful jackets that everyone coveted but…like in Cinderalla…was only meant for one!

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In the early years, the swap was totally and completely free.This year we switched that up. We had a dedicated charity and asked that every participant donate 5$ to the cause ( the Sheela Bal Bhavan School in Jaipar, India, if you are curious ). This was awesome and several hundred dollars was raised for an extraordinary cause. Girls helping girls.

And of course, as in the other years, all the left over clothing will be donated to charities supporting women. The teen clothes will go to teens in need  and to India with Holly’s trip. The casual clothes will go to young moms. The business clothing will go to women needing to revamp their wardrobes to re enter the work force. Women helping women.

And so as I look around at my post swap home, waiting to undress those racks and pack up the hangers for another year, I am smiling.

And already planning next year’s swap.

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Let me know if you want in on the fun, new swappers always welcome!

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Oh, this year, we had a photo booth. While this may come across as one of those over the top Pinterest fuelled ideas, let it be known that we had the backdrop and all the props on hand already. So only a little bit crazy. Teeny tiny bit cray cray. Kind of like the photos…

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i can feel the tide changing

There was warmth in the air today. Almost.

Yesterday was a record bracingly cold day, according to CTV’s Lori Graham. I really did not need her to tell me that, but I am glad for the support.

I really thought I would post a day or two of sunshine and we would be back into spring here…but much like the Montreal Canadians taking it in four…it just did not happen.

But I am holding out hope for tomorrow. Sunday. A day of hope.

For the weather and the hockey;).

Let us hope the sun has set on winter, finally…

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sunset in sandiego, california

I really did not think we would get to this point

It is still freezing. And so I keep posting photos of sunnier times until I am warm.
This morning?
Not warm. Not even close.

Do you remember when you were the hottest you have ever been? The one place that immediately comes to comes to mind for me was Jamaica in the month of September (I can not even imagine summer months!), on a trip with Dabble Magazine. The temperature hit 40+ degrees celsius and I thought I might melt.

Photographing the resort of Goldeneye in Oracabessa on that day, I spotted this ladder descending into the ocean and I wanted nothing more than to jump in…

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ladder + ocean at goldeneye resort, oracabessa, jamaica

I would welcome melting right now.

( That is Nicholas Rosaci up on top, soaking up the heat in long pants and a blazer! Chic until the end, that guy! )

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Springy Ding a Ding

It is here, it is finally here!

Sunshine and blossoms and green everywhere!

Wait.

Or not.

This is Canada. So maybe Spring is taking it’s sweet time getting here. Again. And maybe it is more rain and muck and brown than the lovely hallmark colours of yellow and purple we so desperately need.

What to do. What to do. On instagram, I have been posting daily photos of sunshine and oceans and that wonderful shade of blue that happens in salty sea air. And so I have decided that I will do that here as well.

At least until we are waking up to warm breezes once again.

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surfers in the water in san diego, california

Sigh. That is better.

the long, slow road to traveling in my forties…

Some people love travel and adventure from minute one. It has taken me a little longer to get here.

As a kid I got to visit PEI, take long, winding road trips through the Eastern Townships, invariably ending up on some American highway, and spent lazy summers in Vermont, in the dusty attic of our friend’s guesthouse. Those memories smell of wrinkled comic books, old woolen blankets and usually have an Elvis song playing in the background.

As far flung as I got in  childhood was a trip to Disneyland…so enjoyed that it cemented the idea of California forever more being the epi-centre of everything cool for me.

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But travel? The kind where you  learn something other than where the beach is travel? I missed out on that. I vacationed. I didn’t travel. I did not even like airplanes.

Until I was over forty.

Over the last few years, I have been developing a lovely relationship with Kimberly Seldon’s Dabble Magazine. Dabble, marries a love of travel, food and design in a digital magazine, ready to be devoured anywhere you may be. And for the first time in my adult life…I began to travel. By myself.

My first trip abroad ( oh, how lovely that sounds ) with Dabble was a foray across France, from south to north, from sunshine to fog.

While part two of this trip is still underwraps, waiting patiently for the sun, much like the flowers in one infamous garden I luxuriated in, on a small iconic bridge ( hint…hint…), I shared the first part of this experience with Dabble’s tres sympa Victoria, exploring Toulouse, from sunrise to sunset.

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Jamaica was next ( although in magazine issue world, it was published first ), shared with Toronto designer, the king of colourful shoes and ever the chicster,  Nicholas Rosaci.

From Negril to Oracabessa, we traveled the coast fueled by Red Stripe, roadside BBQ, fantastic Jamaican company and with a healthy dose of luxury ( Goldeneye, I will never forget you ). We also had a good education in the past and future of Jamaica, thanks to our fantastic guides from Paradise Travel and the Jamaica Tourist Board.

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And then just a few months ago, I joined Jameson Fink, wine guy and a fine guy, in exploring the neighbourhoods and beaches of San Diego, California. This issue came out in February and allowed me to discover a part of California I had only briefly touched upon previously. Which of course only added fire to my already well fuelled love of all things Californian…

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I come back so much richer after every trip, brimming with experiences and photographs. When I edit the images, never knowing which ones will end up published, I always feel sad for the photos left behind. I feel like there are little bits of the story left untold. Little details like how it felt walking through Montmartre, by myself, in the rain, with a baguette and cheese ( no lie, all I ate in Paris ) in my camera bag. How I managed to get lost ( but are you ever really lost in Paris? And even if you were…would that be a bad thing?) but then finally found the view I was hoping for, soaked to the skin but happy. Crazy happy. Like I needed a soundtrack to my moment happy.

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Aside from the regular sharing I do for the links to my published images, I am going to start sharing some of my until now unseen favourite places and moments and experiences. Travel is such a personal thing and I hope that some of my photos encourage…nay…propel you to get to traveling yourself. Because on a cold winter day, there really is no better escape than the memories of somewhere else.

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Even if it was just a cold rainy afternoon in Montmartre.

I said I would never…

which of course means, I did.

But how could I say no?

After all, I took the photos of the first prom they went to ( his ).4607561724_5c8b0e80c7_b-2

And then the following year, the photos of their second ( hers).

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So, when they came to me with the news that they were getting married…how could I say no?

Engagement photographer? Me? Really? I was not sure I could do this. Food? Sure. Interiors? Of course. Kids running away from the camera? Absolutely. But an engagement session? Yikes. Those photographers are imaginative and cute and crafty. And romantic. I am not romantic.

Just peek on Pinterest she said, I have ideas I like posted there. Awesome!

Wait.

Pinterest terrifies me.

Now, I got a bit of a reprieve because the couple in question wanted a winter shoot. With the way that our winter had been going, I figured we would likely have to wait for spring for an appropriate window.

However, a beautiful day dawned in February and the couple bundled up and trundled out to my place. Snowflakes were falling, and the temp was not ( well, not as much as it had been ), so we took to the rink and the lake, skates, blankets and hot chocolate in hand.

And you know what? It was not so terrifying after all;).

Congratulations to my favourite couple in love. I wish you nothing but excitement in the build up to your wedding, knowing that you are surrounded by family and friends and are creating good memories every step of the way.

Now I just have six months to worry about shooting the wedding;).

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Interiors

I love homes. Some of my earliest remembered thoughts about the concept of “home” came from books. As a child, the opening pages of Lousia May Alcott’s “Little Women” planted an idea in my head about how a home should feel.

“It was a comfortable old room, though the carpet was faded and the furniture very plain; for a good picture or two hung on the walls, books filled the recesses, chrysanthemums and Christmas roses bloomed in the windows, and a pleasant atmosphere of home peace pervaded it”

This simple description lives in my imagination as a room, not very large, lit by natural light, overstuffed with large, soft sofas, books and love. There is a soft haze that permeates the image in my head, with little particles of dust that explode and float all around you when you take a seat. This is not so far from how the homes of my grandparents felt. One filled with voices and people and antiques and paintings and baking. The other filled with the smells of the orchard and maple syrup and the mysteries that only small, crooked upstairs rooms filled with blankets and old pictures of relatives can offer. So I bring all of this to adulthood with me. I am always hoping that the home we are creating now holds the same kind of authenticity of family that the homes I knew so well as a child did.

I am not sure that I will ever know if I have been successful. At least not until my grandchildren come and scramble and explore and find corners to read quietly in, surrounded by bright bits of dust in the sun. I still hope to have an attic room one day, secret and dark and lit by a single window, where I can leave a chest of photos to be discovered by my children. Or my children’s children.

Until then, I take immense pleasure in getting to explore the homes of others. As a photographer, I have had the good luck of finding a friend who has a passion for creating spaces and for whom the meaning of home runs deep and dear. I find it fascinating to see how these houses are transformed into homes for others, everyone so unique and different in details and energy.

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I am not even sure why I am thinking about this today. I have been away and maybe I am just taking a minute to recognize how much happiness there is in being home. It is quiet here today and that does not happen often.

One of my kids has just left home for the first time. I only hope that for all the adventures he will now have, that he misses him home a teeny bit as much as home misses him. I am just adding this little section to my blog to share images that strike me as home. From new projects to photos from my history that I am organizing, this is just a space for those caught details that bring that simple feeling of comfort back to me.

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