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Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

My Annual Christmas Bitch Session

December 13, 2013 1 comment

I’m walking a tightrope, stretched between two Christmas trees, taut with the pressure of time, money, and expectation.

On the one side is the me that loves Christmas. Loves! The hype, the decorating, the giving, the madness, the merrymaking. The stories, the movies, the traditions, the magic. Did I mention merrymaking? I buy in. I believe.

Christmas cookies aren't  one of my strengths. Party tricks, on the other hand...

Christmas cookies aren’t one of my strengths. Party tricks, on the other hand…

On the other side is the me that loathes the tremendous hassle involved in making it all happen. And by all, I mean all. Food, decorations, charity, presents for the world at large. It’s a lot for one sister’s shoulders.

As I teeter on this thin wire, below me is the pit of despair, experienced in Christmas’s past, that I can fall into if things go awry. Trust me, it’s not fun down there. Life does not imitate art. If the Grinch steals all of our gifts, or Santa or I fail to deliver the coveted items on their list, my children will not hold hands in a circle and sing.

Oh no.

Yet I somehow magically order things the day after they can guarantee delivery to Canada by Christmas. Never the day before or, say, weeks in advance. Who thinks of this shit in November? It’s much more exciting this way. Will it arrive, or won’t it. My legs quiver with anticipation, and that pit is looking uncomfortably close. Back ups are stashed. And then I forget what I’ve stashed. And where. This is life on the edge, right here.

Come December, I could use thirty-hour days. Because while Christmas must be extraordinary, still, life goes on. Which is why I lost it when my children remarked on the cleanliness lacking in my car yesterday. Something’s got to give – a trashed car over myself, ideally.

Obviously, there is room for improvement in the process. In my world, best case scenario means Christmas Eve is purely for stocking stuffers. And a rum and eggnog-infused search for that thing I know I bought, but likely won’t find until Easter.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without that special feeling – that I’m losing it.

Notice the wrapped presents? I'm impressed, if you're not.

Notice the wrapped presents? I’m impressed, if you’re not.

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Surprising Things I’ve Learned About Parenting

November 19, 2013 5 comments

I had preconceived notions about motherhood before I joined the cult.

I thought that newborn babies slept all the time. I imagined I’d set our round kitchen table for three balanced meals a day, but not much else would change. I believed my children would flock to me for advice, and once they were comfortably seated at my feet, I would begin my teaching moment. I thought my children would be exactly like me, just smaller and with better hair.

I remember thinking these thoughts, and now gently ask myself, self: were you on crack?

If motherhood is anything; good, bad, ugly, wonderful, transcendent, frustrating, confusing, beautiful (it is all of these, and frequently within the space of fifteen minutes), it is mostly full of surprises; reality has tossed my crazy ideas right on my perpetual ponytail.

Too late, I learned that newborns rarely sleep (except when you want them to be awake). Our place mats still have price tags attached. My life bears no resemblance to its former self, back when I mattered. The more advice I offer my kids, the less they want to hear. And my children are as different from each other as they are from me. But with better hair.

So, preconceived notions cast aside and thrown in the garbage alongside an astounding amount of candy wrappers, everyday I learn new things about motherhood that surprise me. Shock the hell out of me, in fact. A short list of recent surprises:

  • I didn’t realize I would be the butt of all jokes in our house, and that the only thing that unites my children is their collective laughter at me. Apparently, and without even trying to be, I’m hilarious. Forget surviving middle school relatively unscathed – if I can survive my daughters scorn, I can survive anything.
  • We spend more time discussing my teenaged daughter’s social life than socializing.
  • No matter how many groceries I buy, my kids can’t find anything to eat in our house.

I’m not exactly that all-knowing role model I expected to be. Surprise. But, and sorry to overuse the word, another surprise. Mostly, it is my children who teach me. I knew (or hoped) it would happen in time, but I’m astounded by how fast it’s happened. Here’s a short list of things I’ve learned recently, courtesy of my daughters:

  • The eldest educates me about important things like eye primer (did you know there was such a thing? She owns five.) and the vast difference between my mascara and the BEST mascara. Needless to say, I’m not meeting her expectations.
  • My twelve-year old patiently explains the rules of hockey to me. Every week. (Penalty! No mom, they’re allowed to do that.) She doesn’t play the sport, but grasped an understanding of the game – even an appreciation for the fighting – that I have failed to achieve in my lifetime. (Still, those refs are blind.)
  • My nine-year old signs me up for Instagram, and then explains the apps I should download and the filters I should use for an optimal experience. Her fingers fly across my iPhone like butterflies around a flame, and I’m like but wha – whoa – hey – where – wait a – how did you get there? Kids these days.

And then the more profound surprises, of course.

I knew I would need patience, but the frequency with which I meet its limits is astonishing.

I knew my children would need me, but didn’t realize how much it is actually I who needs them.

I knew I would watch my children grow, and by definition, overcome obstacles, but didn’t think about the pain and restraint involved in watching them struggle.

I knew I would love my children, but the depths of which I love them, still, is shocking.

Motherhood hasn’t been a smooth ride – on the contrary, it’s filled with potholes, sharp curves, and the occasional road block. And no driver’s test required, amazingly. It’s not a one-way street, and frankly, I’m not always in the driver’s seat.

But oh, the places you can go.

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Have You Seen My Teeth – Chilling Words On Halloween

October 31, 2013 2 comments

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I regretted the words as soon as they were out of my mouth.

My kids are all set, they’ve given their costumes a few test runs. They’re totally ready for Halloween.

This non-apologetic brag comes after years of running around like the headless horsemen without their horse on Halloween morning, as the kids dressed in costume for school. I felt entitled. Like I’d earned the bragging rights after so many disasters. It had taken a lot of costume mistakes to arrive at this comfortable spot.

Still, I should have known better. Because every parent knows, the instant you brag about your kids, the bragging fairy will turn on you and bite you on the ass.

And so, as I lounged a little longer in bed, listening to the pitter patter of my children donning their costumes, I heard the words that made my blood curdle.

Where are my teeth, asked my nine year-old vampire. Her black gown with elaborate red lace cost $34.99, but it was the $1.99 set of vampire teeth that were the clincher. The teeth that she had put for safe keeping in her miniscule plastic goodie bag that she’d received on the weekend at the Haunted Village. The plastic bag filled with candy wrappers that I had thrown away Monday morning.

It’s always the accessories that come back to haunt you.

It was also, bizarrely, at this moment when I heard the garbage truck’s banging progress down our lane. I had a fleeting nightmarish vision of me, standing in line at Spirit of Halloween, or worse, Walmart, today along with fifty other frantic parents, only to be told all the vampire teeth have been sold out since Tuesday, since Bella from Twilight has made vampires a hit with girls of all ages.

Fortunately, for both her and me (but not, you’ll see, my husband), it was not garbage can pick up day, only recycling and green bin day. Our garbage was intact. It would only take rooting through a few or six bags of garbage to find the missing vampire teeth.

And that’s where my husband comes in.

10 Signs That I Need to Get A Job

September 16, 2013 3 comments

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This is not to say I don’t work. I work alright. I work day and night, weekends and holidays, with no pay cheque in sight. A bit like slave labour, but legal. It’s called Raising Children. Not to be left behind in these texting times, we even have acronyms, SAHM, SAHF, SAHP, or CEO when the mood strikes.

Lots of people have opinions about this job; but I’m not going there. Let’s just say I’m hanging them up – whatever they may be. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. Six years to be precise. But you know how the universe sometimes speaks to you? Well, now it’s screaming. Louder than the two-year old next door, which I didn’t think possible. It’s yelling at me by way of signs.

Here are one or ten signs that I need to get a job, depending on your attention span.

1. Garbage day has become freakishly important in my calendar, now ranking somewhere between Christmas and Labour Day. I know, it’s not a holiday, but it’s even better because it involves purging. And two men show up right at my door to help me do this – when else does this happen? Never, that’s when. (Note: those garbage bins are filled with stuff I’m sick of picking up. Bye bye.)

2. I’ve installed a water cooler in our house, and I find myself hanging around it, asking what my weekend plans are.

3. There is a glare on our television during the daytime that drives me insane when I’m trying to watch Orange is the New Black. While folding laundry, naturally.

4. I’m not done my bitching and complaining, not even close, but I’ve run out of people who will listen. Time for new material.

5. I used to have six hours of peace and quiet. Now I field about twenty texts from my children between 9 and 3. Mostly about their social calendars, which only serves to rub salt in my wounds that I have none by comparison. I was fun once.

6. Homicidal thoughts can’t be healthy. Purely mariticidal, I hasten to add.

7. Delivering their forgotten lunches and homework to school ignites me with rage that they have no respect for the work I do and the sacrifices I’ve made.

8. Complaints about my cooking fill me with rage that they have no respect for the work I do and the sacrifices I’ve made.

9. I’m developing anger issues.

10. The fact that I’m at number ten and haven’t even mentioned shoes yet, speaks volumes. Hello, mama needs a new pair of shoes? And then when I do indulge, that conversation. You know, the one where he says “Where are you going to where those? It’s not like you work.” Then I lose it. See number 6. Now you know the definition of mariticide.

I can’t find fulfillment at the bottom of a wine bottle. Trust me, I’ve tried. Time for plan A.

In your opinion, what is the absolute worst thing about being a stay at home parent? We’re venting here, so keep it negative.

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Summer – In a Word

September 3, 2013 1 comment

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It’s the generalization I have trouble with. And it’s always the summer. When was the last time you casually asked someone, how was your winter?

When people ask me tomorrow, on the first day of school, “How was your summer?”, as is friendly and customary, I’m momentarily confounded.

First of all, I have trouble remembering last week, never mind a two month period. Three months, if you want to get technical, but that hearkens us back to June and June is always a white-out . A cupcake laden, certificate wielding (best reader/runner/joker/slacker) month of gift bags of wine for teaching/driving my child/managing the team/feeding my family. Surely, June can’t count as summer.

Really what they mean is how was your July and August, the time since I last saw them. August was really only 4 days ago, if I need to break it down. I can get there, that’s not so far. July is a stretch, but August is doable. An image is coming – a soccer ball, a concert, sushi takeout. Okay, so that was the Labour Day weekend, not exactly August, but close enough.

It will do in a pinch.

My short-term memory aside, I couldn’t possibly summarize my summer in the three words it will take to past my acquaintance, so I leave it at “Great!”. Although not strictly true, there were moments of great, alongside those moments of frustration and wanting to clone myself.

Summer is never as idyllic as I hope. Or as simple as the name suggests. But it’s inevitable end is tempered by those three magical words.

Back. To. School.

How Hard Can A Triathlon Be, Said No One, Ever

July 9, 2013 7 comments

Taken in isolation, a 1500 meter swim isn’t hard. A 37 km bike ride is certainly not daunting. And a 10 km run? Please, I could do that in my sleep. Backwards.

So entering my first Olympic distance triathlon, I told myself, was nothing to write home about. (Sorry about that, mom.) It would be an interesting experiment, a way to celebrate my year of finally learning how to swim, Phelps style. (Because in my mind’s eye I swim just like him.) It would be – and I really thought this – easy.

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Get. This. Wetsuit. Off. Where is that cord?!

And what better place to spend a few hours splashing around than Squamish? Fresh from the running Whistler Half Marathon in early June, I put the Squamish Triathlon on my race calendar for early July, enabling me to wallow away the remainder of summer nights reliving my triumph over copious glasses of Pinot Grigio, until it was time to cheer on my (crazy dedicated) friend Chrissy and her (crazy dedicated) buddy Steph in the #Ironman late August. You know, a real triathlon. The big show. At which point the celebration would kick up a notch.

Typical me, I under-trained and paid the price. But you just never know until you try. So. Now I know.

Still, a very cool and gratifying experience, if heavy on set up time (and supposedly training time, who knew?). I balked when the website requested athletes be on site at 7 am despite a 9:30 am start, to set up transitions. My sleep requirements go way past the beauty, and verge on the sanity, so this threw me off. Unlike running races, there is no fall-out-of-bed-get-yo-ass-to-the-start.

And transitions remained a rather murky concept to me – what did I really need for each one? Towels, food, iPhone to text for help? I hated the thought of needing something I hadn’t thought to leave myself. What if I was bored out of my mind and craved music for my run? What if I needed a cheeseburger after the bike? Or a bed to rest in? What then?

I managed to figure it out by simply attaching myself to a couple that seriously looked the triathlete part (sculpted cheekbones and Oakley’s) and were so in love with each other that they didn’t notice me skulking around them the entire time. And beside them at each transition. Stalking has its advantages. I watched them hawk-eyed as they hung their bikes and carefully laid out a tiny towel on which to put their accessories. (Me: folded my beach towel to look tiny and placed socks and gels inside my shoes, just like the beautiful couple, then stealthily put my sandwich I’d prepared to the bottom of my bag before anyone noticed.)

There seemed to be a discrepancy as to wear a wetsuit or not, but when the charming ones donned theirs, I donned mine. I could use this duo in my everyday life. Decisions have never been so easy.

A fellow swimmer didn’t crack a smile when I asked him if he’d mind zipping me up – hard on my ego, but then those swim caps aren’t for everyone – but redeemed himself my giving me a few tips. And then I realized he was gay, so redemption all around! He encouraged me to get in that water and warm up so the start will be less biting, and to swim wide of the buoy markers to avoid the traffic jam. Noted.

My game plan was to hang back and swim wide of the chaos, in my own little world. And so I did, zigzagging myself towards buoys (sighting still not my strong point), and by the time I’d reached the second of the three turns, I started to get into my groove. Basically, just in time to get out of the water. Which would be the theme for the day.

So I made some mistakes. People flew out of transitions like they were on fire while I debated eating my Cliff bar. I had to stop and ask the crowd for directions on the bike, and asked a competitor, how many laps are we doing again? By the time I started the run (what were my words, in my sleep, backwards?), the relief I expected to feel (finally, my sport, this one I can do!) never came. Instead, just point me to the finish line please, I want this to be over.

That mouth is full of Cliff bar. Again.

That mouth is full of Cliff bar. Again.

And so with 1 km to go, and my legs finally beneath me and my stride lengthened at long last, I missed a pesky rock on the trail and took one on the chin. Literally. Sailed through the air and landed on my chin in front of two volunteers, shocking them out of their engaging conversation, in my best Jack Tripper imitation.

So there was that.

But also, there was this: Accomplishment. Pride. Sweat. Happiness. Triumph.

And the best part was that my two biggest cheerleaders, my girls (my oldest away with friends so MIA), were there every step of the way, and were more excited than myself when I finished.

Success, and love.

Still eating.

(Still eating.)

Father’s Day Reflection

June 13, 2013 16 comments

Dad at work

It’s been twenty years since I’ve seen my Dad, so Father’s Day can be difficult. All those ads for barbecues and razors fill me with sadness because I’m not part of the marketing frenzy this holiday presents. Instead, Father’s Day is simply a time to reflect, a time to remember my Dad and who he was and what he meant to me.

It was cancer, an explanation used too often, but there it is. He died the day before Father’s Day, when the lilacs were in full bloom and the the dichotomy of that has never left me, lilacs being my favorite flower. He’d had cancer and a heart attack before, so it was somewhat of a shock to my naive twenty-two year old self that this happened, that he could actually die.

He was a character, my father.

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At times he drove me crazy, as parents are likely to do. There were moments when I wished he were different from who he was. Perspective is a funny thing, because looking back, it’s these same differences that made him wonderful.

Ah, there’s the rub, that’s what he would say.

He wasn’t perfect, but as a parent myself, I have a better appreciation for him now, knowing what the constant pressure of raising a family feels like.

And I only have three children. He had nine. It puts his fatherhood into its own category, right alongside the crazy category, but I’m thankful my parents persisted, being the ninth. Sacrifice was not fleeting, it was a way of life when you have nine children. I could not have done it.

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But he was indefatigable. He thrived in the chaos of our family, he was our wise and fearless leader, larger than life and full of stories. When he laughed, he threw his head back and it could be heard for miles around. The man loved to laugh.

Looking back, he seemed to be involved with anything that came his way – the church, the cancer society, the Kinsmen, whatever that is. On top of supporting us, he made time for positions on boards and volunteered heartily – yet frequently when I was walking home in the pouring rain, his car would appear and the door would fling open. He drove around until he found me.

He appeared in unlikely places at unlikelier times, and when no one else was thinking of me, he thought of me.

I once read that when you lose someone you love, it’s like a crater landing in the middle of your life that is never again filled; you simply learn how to navigate around it. And so it is. I miss him, but I’ve learned to live life without him, as you do. The world keeps turning. Last week I was in a used book store in Washington and I took a picture of a set of books he would have appreciated, maybe I would have given them to him for Father’s Day. In that moment, I felt the hole of his absence. Grief does that, creeps up on you, and you feel the loss and the shock, all over again.

He’s gone but not forgotten. I have his blue eyes and skinny ankles. His impatience and stubbornness, his passion for words, his love of sports. I see myself reflected in him, both his good traits and his bad.

He wasn’t perfect, but he was mine.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads, and especially to the fathers who are still with us in spirit, wherever we go.

Dad and I