I am running up the uneven and worn sidewalk blocks, grass growing up between them. Frost from past winter’s freeze has shifted and changed their original direction. Water soaks the ground beneath my feet, splashing up and over the sides of a rather closely situated water slide. I run towards the entry point high above so that I too might ride, running towards the staircase as if I am ten years old again. Ten years old: just like my Sarah who made this milestone today at exactly 6:26 p.m. this very evening. I race up the slope towards the inclined steps that lead to two rather small and well-used waterslides. Small but perfect- that’s my view. These waterslides: ‘just right’ for the forty-year old woman who believes she just might have a ten-year old heart. Perfect for me.

And oh! the exhilaration. To stretch one’s body in pike position and feel the speed. The water beneath and the wind above. Yes, for some it might be a small thrill. But for me, I am just satisfied. Satisfied! With this. All of this. This day and the juxtaposition of special and mundane. This weather, a mix of rain and sun. This park, this place, these people.

I’m satisfied.

Satisfaction. It’s a form of contentment. A feeling of being fulfilled. It is an experience of pleasure, happiness and joy. A state of being gratified. Grateful for what one has, whatever that “what’ might happen to be. Grateful for the small- grateful for the vast. It is a sentiment that calls one to give thanks for the gifts ones has been given, seeing the gift in the ordinary simplicity of everyday life. Feeling satisfied with commonplace, everyday pleasures. Commonplace, everyday blessings. When we are no longer able to feel satisfied, something happens. We start feeling ungrateful. Unappreciative. We start looking around, noticing that what we have is less than what others might have- not as special and unique as what someone else has in their possession beside us or next to us. We start evaluating our stuff, our things, our situation, our people- on the basis of what we see around us. We place unfair expectations on the gifts we’ve been given, unwisely wanting them to be something they were never meant to be. And then, there is a feeling of desire that ensues. Desire that craves something more, something bigger, brighter, better, bolder. Something beyond.

It’s a nasty cycle. And it can lead to darker places by the name of Greed and Envy and Jealousy and Dissatisfaction. Trust me, I’ve been there. They are not places you’d wish to visit.

We all know our vulnerabilities. Our area of weakness. It’s how we shift our thinking so as to make our response one of satisfaction, one of sweet contentment rather than one of discontentment and irritation. This is what that determines our joy.

And what a difference a day can make.

Yesterday morning, I woke up feeling frustrated. I was not happy with anything- the state of my house, the state of the day’s affairs, the people around me, the fact that it was August. I mean August: the summer might as well just end RIGHT NOW, now that August has arrived. Am I right?

And no. Nothing made any difference. I was just miserable. The more I thought about how miserable I was, the more miserable things were. I found bugs in the beds (seriously? Gross me out the door), dirt on the floors (okay, so this is every day, all day), clutter on every conceivable living space in my house (ditto). I couldn’t seem to get out of the kitchen for the life of me, one project led to another and then to another and so on. By noon, I was hot, sweaty and tired. I felt a headache coming on. And I was just ready to throw in the towel.

I might have thrown in the towel. There have been a lot of towels going through my washing machine lately. But at the end of the day, I went to bed, only to wake up again this morning. And I discovered something. I have a lot to be thankful for in this little house of mine. This little world I call my own.

What a difference a day makes.

Nothing in my environment really changed with the dawning of this new day. Same house, same mess, same people. It’s just that here we are together again- in this brand new beautiful day. We are alive, we are together…and we’re here. And what’s not to love about a fresh start? This is not to say that feeling frustrated and discouraged is wrong or shameful. It’s just to say that it is not really much fun. It’s actually depressing. And so I choose today- joy. Joy, and peace and contentment. I choose to see all that I have as the gift it is, rather than as the burden it might seem to be. I choose to see what I have been given as delight rather than trouble. And in so doing, I find myself feeling more and more content.

In so doing, I find myself satisfied.

So today, I am satisfied for the fact that I found no bugs in my bed. Score. Satisfied again because I wasn’t baking anything today- I bought a store-bought cake for precious Sarah- and she loved every bite of it. Score again. And I got to race my Husband and beat him FOUR TIMES ON THE WATERSLIDES. Score, score score. And they say that three times is a charm.

It all is- it’s all a gift. And for all this and so much more- I’m satisfied

The Casserole Card

So…let’s talk about one of the best kept secrets that the parenting advice books will never touch on in their slick columns, and that is the art of pulling “the casserole card.”

One of the greatest weapons in my arsenal of combat tactics, tricks and other such knick-knacks is this infamous casserole card trick. Whenever something special is about to happen, like a trip to an amusement park, a movie night or when special guests are about to arrive, I play the casserole card to my sole advantage.

How it works is this: I save all the gross leftovers that somehow never made it to the end of the line, and I create a dream concoction that I like to refer to as “the BIG surprise.” The BIG surprise, a time-saver which saves me from making a brand new meal, is usually a mixture of a little of this and a lot of that and it all goes into one big dish (and a few smaller ones) that I serve up with gusto right before we are about to have a BOATLOAD of fun. I will swear to the grave that the BIG surprise is not really just decaying compost that hasn’t quite made it to the bin yet.

Double pinkie-swear.

If I was to serve this delectable delight on a night other than which we were about to have the TIME OF OUR LIVES, it certainly would not fly. Everyone would balk at its grossness. There would be copious amounts of throw-up in all the Littles’ mouths. Even I would stealthily try to dump my plate into the compost bin as I was diligently “cleaning-up” the dishes.

However, all this changes when we are about to embark on an EXCITING adventure.

Tonight, the “cousins” are arriving home from North Carolina. This is the highlight of some of our summer. It is akin to the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy all arriving in the same night. Everyone is STOKED. And most are willing to trade in their left lung (or half their taste buds) in order to spend the evening with them.

So I can, at long last, pull out ‘the surprise’ casserole/ensemble of mouth-watering dishes and serve them all up for our last meal together before the long-awaited “cousins” visit.

Which is exactly what I did for lunch today.

Here’s the menu: we had a little leftover spaghetti sauce/chilli/sloppy joe meat that served me quite well for the last number of meals. We had the burned sausages which I de-tubed, crumbled and then added to leftover potatoes. It became a lovely ‘farmer’s hash’. I served up the three leftover chicken cordon bleu and chicken kiev that were remaining from Son’s birthday supper and we had the thirty or so leftover green beans (covered in my late grandmother’s fashion in a little white pudding dish) along with two rolls which we broke communion style. A colourful array of goodness that was all possible because…THE COUSINS ARE COMING!!

Whenever a child says, “Ew…..this is gross!!” I just smile and say sweetly, “You want to see the cousins, now don’t you?” Works like a charm. Or, if they start to consider what they are eating and balk at cleaning their plate, I just have to demurely say the word ‘cousins’ and they reconsider.

It is one of my best-kept secrets as a mother in getting my children to eat what I dish up.

About halfway through lunch, I suggested we were going to also have QUICHE for supper. (Cue the sad faces and forlorn expressions all around the table.)

(magic word)……..”COUSINS!!!!”……….

Every speck of food- gone. Just like that.

The casserole card…there’s really nothing like it. Makes these crazy, wonderful, special days on which we embark on great adventures some of my most ‘favourit-est’ days ever.

*(Added bonus: my fridge has never been cleaner.)