This summer the kids and I had the pleasure of spending over a month and a half with my family in Toronto, Canada. I wanted them to hang out with their cousins, bond with my dad who was visiting for a brief period from Dominica, connect more with my sisters and get to know the City that I grew up in and called home for a period of time.
The last time we spent the entire summer in Canada was three years ago when my mom was going through pancreatic cancer treatment, and spending those last moments with her was such an honor. We stayed right up to the opening of school, and since this was a transition period for them, moving from New York to Palo Alto, it definitely posed a few challenges.
This time around, it was more of a relaxing experience, that was just for me and the kids. I am sure that it was extremely tough on my husband to be away from his family for so long, but he was able to visit us briefly during that time while on business in Toronto. Furthermore, since he travels so much, we were hoping that he would spend less time missing us.
This vacation meant so much more than spending quite a few days with my family. It represented an emotional growth spurt for me, that I can attribute to my family’s knowledge, wisdom and their ability to impart so many everyday commonsensical ideas to their baby sister. Some of which I want to share.
My two sisters seem to find every opportunity to celebrate special occasions. I was so touched when they threw the most amazing celebration for my daughter for her 9th birthday. They started early in the morning and baked cupcakes decorated a sunroom in my younger sister’s home, made her a very special breakfast; took her and the other kids to the movies and in the afternoon doubled down on another very rich chocolate cake, put all her favorite things on the grill and we cheered her on till dark with music and dancing.
I realize that you don’t need a caravan of activities, lots of people to have a great time. Sometimes the more intimate celebrations are more meaningful.
Throughout our time there, they continued to celebrate my nephew’s graduation from middle school, Father’s Day, Canada Day, my Dad’s farewell, my birthday before we left, Ronan’s birthday before we left. It was refreshing to have such amazing experiences, and this is what they usually do for every occasion. I recognized that those memories have a lasting impact on young growing minds and solidify that we should take a moment and celebrate the now, and show gratitude.
This seems to be the mantra that my sisters live by, they make it their duty to spend quality time as a family. We were right in the mix, being shuttled from home to home. My sister’s husband was often home from work early, and they did quite a few things together and included us. It is not like our family of five, are not blessed with the gift of time, or getting to explore our surroundings, but we often spend more time driving kids around town to various activities and playdates, running errands, meeting unrealistic deadlines while working beyond our 8 hours, and having our umbilical cord tied to our devices. Sometimes just tuning out of everything and taking in the simple things in life, and focusing on family makes life so much more meaningful.
Learn new ways to do things
We feel so blessed that everyone in my family has these creative traits that just makes us unique. Having three girls, I can see how challenging it was for my mom to help us craft our God-given talents. My older sister Maureen is gifted in organizing, she has a knack for finding a home for everything and making clutter history. Her home is immaculate where everything has its place and did I mention that she has an amazing green thumb. My sister Marva is the baker and chef extraordinaire she can take a variety of lonely ingredients and turn them into something spectacular. They refer to me as the event planner, who not only loves to throw parties for everyone but often enjoy taking a simple idea and turning it into a not so simple idea . I was very open to learning from them, and being able to be influenced by their talents.
This time, I learned some really cool things from my sisters. A few of which come to mind: my sister Marva taught me a new quick baking trick. If you want your pre-mixed cake to turn out moist and masked as a homemade special, add mayonnaise to the mixture. She transformed a simple no name brand chocolate cake into such a rich moist cake that was fitting for any high-end bakery. Even as an advocate for using organic, healthy ingredients, she advised that sometimes it is ok to go outside the mold, and indulge a little.
Maureen taught me that planting my own garden is not only therapeutic but it is also a great source of healthy vegetables and herbs. Her garden is bountiful with a wide variety of colors, aromas, textures and variety of veggies and herbs. The commute to fresh veggies every day was so convenient. The way she nursed her garden and attended to every plant made my idea of gardening elementary compared to her skills. I attempted to plant a garden last year, but my garden lacked the required TLC it needed to thrive. I am determined to get one going and have the kids enjoy the experience and help in the process. My new goal is definitely garden to table.
I also can’t deny that having the built in childcare my sisters offered was phenomenal. This allowed me to reconnect with old friends and to focus long uninterrupted hours on my company and help fuel our growth out of beta, allowing Konstella.com to be one of the fastest growing unified school communications solution. We are currently in 30 states, 107 school districts, over 2.4 million registered users on the platform and growing.
Sometimes I wished that my family was much closer and I could be with them and share special occasions, moments and milestones. Being so far away, and not being able to tap into their inspiring lifestyle makes it harder to continue to share that sisterly bond, but with increasing technology like Skype, MagicJack, Google Hang Out, Viber, What’s App, FaceTime, Facebook, the world seems more condensed, and we try to take advantage of all of it to stay connected. Since my mother is no longer with us, we need each other more than ever. Last year they both visited me for a short period of time. After spending such a long time with my sisters, I realized why my love for them is so strong. They are the most generous, caring, grateful, considerate people I know.