Archive for May, 2009

Memory Loss

I recently lost my Mother suddenly, and although I’m told the grief process is long and involved, comes in fits and starts and is unique to each person depending on the nature of their loss, the suppost system, circumstances etc…I am often surprised by the specific things that often shake me to the core.

I realize that aside from the obvious loss of someone I loved dearly, losing my Mother has actually meant losing a little bit of my childhood, there are things that only my Mother knows or can appreciate, certainly things that only she would remember. And pondering these things  often brings me intense sadness.  

No one else remembers every little detail of my childhood like my Mother. First tooth, first step, favourite pureed food, dates of all childhood illnesses, and which bad word I used (and which potty mouth taught it to me!)

No one can remember the name of every single schoolyard bully that picked on me. And exactly what she said to him and his mother to put a stop to it.

No one else in the whole world thinks that my children are as cute as I do, especially when they are naughty and cheeky, only my Mother would tell the world they were absolutely perfect.

No one else will ever want me to sit on their lap and brush my hair.

No one else will ever reminisce about stealing the “Board-Man’s” plank or remember why yelling “CASH!!!” is so funny.

No one else would collect every copy of my first published article she could get her hands on, and send one to everyone she knows, whether they cared or not.

No one else thinks to buy pyjamas and easter basket treats for my kids, b/c that’s what Nannie did.

No one else can remember the trips to Mexico and Cuba, because it was just the two of us.

No one else makes scalloped potatoes like her, no matter how many times I attempt it, they never come out that good.

No one else can pull off the giant white fake fur coat that looks like it was made from 50 pure white teddy bears.

No one else can appreciate how much my daughter loves the dog and can possibly be as pleased by that fact.

No one else can make a huge turkey dinner as perfectly and with all the elements hot and ready at the same time.

No one else knows that my children really DO get their rebellious streak from their father, b/c she KNOWS that I was NEVER like that!

No one else knows why my father was wearing a blue denim leaisure suit and bow tie to their wedding.

No one  else can remember what is depicted in the solid black painting I created in pre-school. A family? Flowers? Nuclear Fallout? Who knows?

No one else remembers how sorry I was the morning after I decided alcohol was a good idea, or remembers how hard it was to clean the carpet. No one else can confidently say, “Doesn’t your Mother know best?”

No one else wants to hear about every ache and pain I have, or bug me about why I went to the Doctor.

No one else will ever call me Gingersnap or say she “Loves me more than life itself”….no one else will love me like she did.

25 Random Things About Me

1. I am truly the MOST unorganized person alive! I couldn’t keep my house tidy to save myself, (without a little supernatural help)

2. For most of my life I never wanted to have children or be a mother and now I am a stay at home mother of 2 wonderful children and it was the BEST decision I ever made!

3. I have inherited what I call the “CookBook Gene” from my Mother and Gran…the ridiculous hobby of sitting around reading recipes in cook books. Recipes I will probably never make, but enjoy imagining…jeesh, no wonder I can’t lose weight.

4. I am inexplicably fluent in Spanish. After taking french for like 9 years in the public school system I can’t remember anything except the french teachers green sweaty armpits. And yet I have picked up the spanish language with considerable ease.

5. I am a vat of useless and trivial information…I retain a lot of things that I read and recall them at a moments notice and tend to have an answer for everything…a trait my husband finds particularly irritating.

6. I once spent 17 hours in the casino playing blackjack.

7. I can’t keep my clothes in drawers, if I can’t see them all out on a shelves, I go crazy.

8. My absolute favourite movies in the whole world are the “Barbie” movies. Rapunzel, Princess and the Pauper, The Nutcracker, Mariposa, Fairytopia and the 12 Dancing Princesses…

9. If I was dying of thirst on a desert island, I would choose Diet Coke or Coffee over water in a split second.

10. I am a compulsive photo-taker….the digital camera was the best invention EVER!!

11. I love the George Lopez show and nearly pee my pants every time I watch it.

12. I drink 12-15 cups of coffee every day (about a full pot and a half).

13. I don’t like to let my daughter play with her new Barbie’s b/c she messes their hair and they always end up looking like Bob Marley.

14. I get a proper haircut about once a year, the rest of the time I trim and layer it myself.

15. I love strawberry baby food and miss my children being small enough that I could by jars without looking weird.

16. I grit my teeth, when I am angry, stressed or hugging kids or dog! I grit them so bad my front teeth are wearing down.

17. I spent nearly a year in Chile, South America (which gives insight into #4) where I met the love of my life, who I later married and have now spent 10 years in wedded bliss…most of the time!

18. Both my childrens names came from television characters…so sad!

19. I think Penelope Lopez, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep are the most overrated talentless actors in Hollywood, and I don’t care what the Academy thinks!

20. My feet control my body temperature, they have to be free to breath or I feel like I’m suffocating…I wear flip flops from March till November. If I have to wear shoes and socks for too long my whole body gets overheated.

21. I am addicted to Dollar stores, I never leave without having spent at least $20.

22. My dream vacation is a suitcase full of books, pina coladas and a personal massage therapist.

23. I speed read, I can read a Harry Potter size novel in one sitting given the opportunity and believe it or not I actually enjoy and absorb what I have read. I thank my mother for my love of books and reading and hope that my children will appreciate the wonderful feeling of being lost in a book so deeply that they don’t notice the sunset and then rise again before they finish.

24. I love having my hair washed or brushed, and it will put me right to sleep.

25. I have NEVER seen any of the following Pop Culture movies, to the disdain of every movie loving friend I have…All 3 Lord of the Rings, The 3 Prequil Star Wars movies, Pulp Fiction, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Psycho, Jaws, Farenheit 9/11, Monty Python, Texas Chainsaw Massacre…

Perspective

Yesterday as my 4 year old princess sat on the floor of the ballet studio defiantly refusing to rehearse the recital routine; I was reminded that, less than 20 hours previously, I had been frantically searching the neighbourhood for her. While playing outside, Her Highness decided to come in and sneak upstairs to watch t.v, without telling anyone. It wasn’t until 30+ people had fanned out to search for her did we finally hear a quiet giggle from the upstairs window, and discover that she was not lost, but rather hiding.

 If you have ever experienced the terror that accompanies momentarily losing a child, then you know the overwhelming relief as you hold them tightly, showering them with tear-stained kisses while sternly warning them to never scare you like that again. These incidents have always served to put things in perspective for me, they remind me that I have been blessed with two amazing children; this is the perspective that stabilized me in the ballet studio yesterday.

Our children are so valuable, personally I couldn’t live without them, and yet they drive me crazy on a daily basis! How is it possible that the same small creatures that scrunch their noses up at the meals we slave over and spend hours whining and bickering about everything under the sun with their siblings, can grip our hearts so intensely?

 I believe the scary times as a parent are a gift designed to help me through the inevitable trying times. In my life I count 2 miscarriages, weeks in the neo-natal intensive care, falls down the stairs, disappearing acts and inexplicable high fevers among my “perspective-building” experiences. Memories of those times are what I draw on when I find the dog hog-tied or every stitch of clothing on the bedroom floor. It’s what I think about when I hear stomping up the stairs and the spiteful retort “You’re the Meanest Mommy EVER!” 

It’s good to have perspective sometimes…

Things I Swore I WOULD Do…

I often find that I deal with life’s difficulties, stresses and battles with various forms of humour; self-depracating humour, sarcastic humour etc. in an effort to not take life too seriously and to make light of the experiences that would otherwise drive me to insanity.

Recently, when speaking with someone after knowing them only a few days, I was told that I often come across as negative in my jokes or recounting of events in my life as a Mother. Perhaps she’s right, maybe I am too negative; or perhaps she needs to get to know me a little better, to understand my brand of humour. The truth is there is nothing in the world I would rather do than be a mother, and despite my short-comings I hope that I am doing a fairly good job; I just find humour an excellent way to de-pressurize any situation.

 

Nevertheless, in an effort to be less “negative” as a parent, and less critical in my musings I am compiling a list of things that I purposed to do before becoming a parent and have in fact…done.

Let’s call it a Counter-“Things I Swore I’d Never Do”-list if you will. So here it is, my Things-I’ve-Done-List (it’s not exhaustive, but anyways…)

1. Volunteer in my children’s school regularly.

2. Let my children jump on the sofa.

3. Take my children to the cinema, and buy the expensive snacks.

4. Purchase (and USE) Season’s passes at Canada’s Wonderland.

5. Let my kids play in the bathtub for a long time until the water is cold.

6. Take my children swimming in a pool, lake or slip-n-slide, regardless of how I look in a bathingsuit.

7. Go on any and all school field trips for which I am permitted to chaperone.

8. Do crafts with my children, involving glue, sparkles, pipe cleaners, and popsicle sticks.

9. Let my son collect bugs despite my phobia of all things crawly.

10. Act excited when I am presented with said creepy crawly things by a smiling child proud of his treasures.

11. Make the kids hot chocolate whenever they feel cold, and even add marshmallows.

12. Teach my children to use their manners whatever the circumstance.

13. Let my daughters hair grow uncut for as long as possible. So far so good…

14. Read as many books and magazines as possible with parenting advice and tips, researching my job as a mother.

15. Have at least two children…I didn’t enjoy being an only child.

16. Teach my children to address all grown-ups as Mr. Mrs. or Miss despite popular practice in today’s society.

17. Make a family tradition of picking out a real Christmas tree together.

18. Regularly have sit down meals together with all family members present.

19. Sign my daughter up for ballet…yes she is living out one of my dreams, but she seems ok with it…)

20. Teach my children to love reading and enjoy books.

21. Make homemade cookies and muffins, although I often cop out and get store bought cookies too.

22. Take lots of photographs of my children as the grow up…thank goodness for the advent of digital photography…

23. Play board games together as a family.

24. Carefully monitor what the children watch on television.

25. Let my kids “help” with baking, cooking, and cleaning despite that it take 2x as long and makes 2x the mess when they help.

26. Buy character bandaids even though Barbie and Batman are less practical and more expensive.

27. Pray every night with my kids.

28. Take family vacations, making memories that will last a lifetime.

29. Save every piece of artwork, crafts and drawings…although we will likely need a small storage unit soon to store it all.

30. Be flexible, teachable and constantly evolve as a parent, always striving to be the best Mother to my children I can possibly be.

As I look over this list I realize that I am successfully fulfilling my imaginary to-do list on a regular basis. I must not being doing as bad a job as I tend to think…perhaps I should be more positive!

My Most Memorable “Mom Moments” So Far…

Being a Mom is the most rewarding, frustrating and stupifying job in the world! I have been a Mom for the last 7 years and sometimes I am blown away by the incredibly, silly and simultaneously wonderful things my children have done! Here are some of my favourites, perhaps you can relate…

1. My son painting the cat with peanut butter from tip to tail…very funny but have you ever tried to bath a peanut butter-covered  cat?

2. One July afternoon, my son playing outside in his snow suit in 39 degree weather…insisting he wasn’t hot.

3. My boy running in front of the house buck naked with nothing but rubber boots on his feet.

4. My son reaching through the cat hole in the basement door to yank the cat through to the other side.

5. A creepy collection of hundreds of snails in a bug catcher one summer afternoon.

6. My daughter colouring her whole face with black magic marker.

7. When she tried to paint the dogs toenails with nailpolish…he was NOT happy about it.

8. The day she went to sunday school in a lovely blouse and skirt with no underwear…so embarrassing!

9. The day my 3 year old slipped into her brothers classroom to hear the story, I guess the supply teacher didn’t realize she was too young to be in grade one.

10. When at 18 months, he ate an entire package of raw hotdogs.

11. Finding my 9 month old son inexplicably sitting in the middle of the dining room table eating a bag of cookies.

12. The rubber duck that found it’s way flushed down the toilet and impossible to dislodge…Daddy had to remove the whole toilet from the bathroom just to get it out and stop the floosing.

13. My son falling asleep in the jolly jumper only to rouse and keep bouncing, then fall asleep and rouse and bounce again….over and over and over.

14. My firstborn ripping the wristband off twice in the first five minutes outside the womb…should have been a clear sign that this kid would have a mind of his own.

15. The summer of the red rubber boots…my little girl wearing them with every outfit, every day in all weather…

16. My princess running through the back yard buck naked except for the beloved red rubber boots…what is it with my exhibitionist children anyway?

17. Bathing my daughter in a canning pot on the dining room table.

18. Bubblegum in her hair and nailpolish all over her feet and ankles.

19. Camping with an 8 week old one rainy weekend in Sauble Beach…nothing says nature like sterilizing bottles and nipples at a campsite.

20. My 18 month old boy less-than-gently tossing baby kittens into the Christmas Tree…

21. Seeing my daughters full head of hair clearly during the 32 week ultrasound.

22. My son’s infatuation with infomercial products, and his purchase of a sham-wow mop for me (with his OWN money), convinced that it was the solution to all my cleaning woes.

23. My 3 year old catapulting himself from one couch to the next singing the theme song to Spiderman.

24. Waiting hysterically for the lifeguards all-points-bulletin at Canada’s Wonderland in search of my son at the splash park…he’d slipped away from me and gone to the wave pool by himself.

25. My daughter lounging on top of the family dog to watch television, it would appear she thinks he’s a bean bag chair.

26. Sitting expectantly beside an Neo-natal incubator for 15 days straight waiting for the words “you can take him home today”.

27. Going on a “date” with my 5 year old son to see Shrek 3 and finding that we were the only two people in the whole theatre…it was the most exciting thing for him!

28. Being locked out of the house by my 18 month old daughter and having to remove the kitchen screen and shove my son through the window into the kictchen sink, which just so happened to be full of dirty dishes.

29. My 9 month old son opening his mouth to show me the dead fly that he found.

30. Finding teeth marks in the pound of butter AND my apple cinnamon candles!

Things I Swore I’d NEVER Do

I have a tendency to think that I know everything about everything, I often think that I know the best way to handle a situation even though I may not have much experience in the area. Take Mothering as an example, I had the handling of every obstacle and hot button issue mapped out before my eggs were even released from the ovary.

 

As I gain more and more experience I often find myself remembering all the things I swore I would “never do, when I have kids”, and yet find myself doing some of these things on a regular basis. Sometimes I think about tasks that I thought would be easier and realize now that I make compromises just to get through them, these choices don’t fill me with pride. However there are many things that I used to think I couldn’t do or wouldn’t do them no matter what, and yet I have found that God has given me exactly what I need to do them and that’s a good thing, because I’m probably a better mother for them. Through trial and error I have also learned that many things are really not that big a deal and it’s ok to adjust my plan as I go, it’s always a good idea to be flexible when you are a Mom.

So in no particular order, here are some things that I currently do or have done as a mother, despite having claimed that I would “Never Do” them in my pre-children naivete.

1. Let the television babysit my children…now I turn on the DVD player in the van just to drive 3 blocks to school, anything to keep them quiet.

2. Feed my children food that comes in unnatural forms…now yogurt tubes, fruit-by-the-foot and cheese strings are regular lunch items.

3. Wear my hair in a ponytail for 67 consecutive weeks…now, I don’t even need an elastic to hold it anymore, it just grows that way.

4. Use dinnertime battles to educate my kids about starving children who would be happy to have the meatloaf they are refusing to eat…now it’s a standard lecture at our dining room table.

5. Look forward to time away from my kids…I love them more than anything, but some days a weekend away starts to look like heaven.

6. Ice skate, skateboard, swim in public, play soccer, practice tae kwon do, slip n’ slide, Chuck E Cheese…now I find myself participating in all of these activities with my children regularly, except Chuck E Cheese, I try to avoid that place like the plague!

7. Let my daughter play with objectifying or unrealistic toys like Barbie…now they are my absolute favourite toys, dolls and movies. My daughter is lucky if I let her play with MY Barbies.

8. Let my little girl leave the house without perfectly styled and orderly hair…now I find letting her sleep with braids makes for good get-up-and-go hair the next day…anything to make the mornings run smoother.

9. Be capable of cleaning up vomit, wiping snotty noses and picking lice out of hair…and yet I am now an expert in all these undesirable tasks.

10. Respond to questions with “Because I said so”…unfortunately sometimes I just don’t feel I need to give a better reason. After 24+ hours of labour this is a good enough reason to obey me.

11. Let my children watch Spongebob Squarepants…I am embarrassed to admit that I caved. No excuse, no honourable goal, I just can’t come up with a valid reason to prohibit it other than it’s just stupid.

12. Let my babies have soothers…when my son was born they gave him a soother, to my outrage, I quickly realized what a useful tool I had been given. It was a well-utilized device for both my children and not so hard to give up after all.

13. Go Camping, I have always had an intense dislike for the outdoors…now I pack my citronella candles, coffee maker and inflatable raised mattress and I am as game for nature loving as the next city girl.

14. Let my children eat froot loops, chocolate milk, pez candy, gummi worms, fruit roll ups, dunkaroos and cotton candy…because they never got these things when they were small, they have healthy appetites and more often than not make better choices, so I can give them these things once and a while as treat and they don’t get out of hand.

15. Have Children…yes, that’s what I said. I swore for years that I would never have children, people who knew me will remember my vehement argument against it…and yet now, there is not a day that goes by, no matter how difficult or stressful my job gets, that I regret my decision to have children. They are my life and bring me more joy than anything I could have planned or imagined!

The Sorority of Expert Mothers

When we are young and we have no idea about marriage, raising children or life in general; there are so many things about which we have preconceived notions. Ways that we will do things, methods to handling certain situations, all of which are good in theory but often become ineffective in the practice of real life. Our intentions are good, our goal honourable, and yet in our youthful arrogance we look at the world around us with impatience and barely supressed smugness.For example, we know exactly what kind of wife/husband we will be, and who we want to marry. We know exactly the best time to have children and how many years to leave between the birth of each child. We know the best way to feed our baby, our children will “never” be picky eaters, nor will meal time ever be a battle. We are pretty sure that we know how to calm a crying baby, although it is unlikely we will need this skill because of course, “our baby” will NEVER be difficult. And the most definitive opinion that most people have before they become parents; is regarding discipline and punishment, we know EXACTLY how children should behave and have a pretty good plan for how to achieve the elusive “well-behaved child”. In public places the words “MY child will NEVER behave like THAT!!” can oft be heard on our lips as we make a mental note to nip that in the bud before our child has even begun breathing on his own.

 

So if we all have this perfect plan, and we all know the RIGHT way to handle every situation, what happens? Why do we find ourselves on the receiving end of a flying shoe or cringing at the sound of spiteful words like “you’re the WORST Mother EVER!!”?? Where did we go wrong? What happened to all our wisdom and certainty?
The answer is…children. The Children happened. No matter how many books we read and no matter how many times we dissect the public temper tantrum of “someone else’s child, we can never really know how to handle a situation like that until we are face to face with the screaming “I-want-a-treat”-monster!!

I often find myself in a store trying to stop the bickering between children or quell the constant whining for this treat or that toy, and just when I’m reaching my breaking point (you know the place, when you don’t even care who hears you…) I look over and there is inevitably a woman staring at me. She’s usually trying to stay focussed on her task, but she is having difficulty keeping her eyes to herself.

In that moment I wonder, is she looking at me because she has been in my shoes and she feels badly for me? Or is she the kind of woman who raised “perfect” children, did everything “right”, you know this woman…the one who has fogotten that her children whined too? Usually I never find out. I am doomed to wondering if this stranger that I will likely never see again, looked on me with compassion or contempt. That is frustrating.

With my personality, I instinctively react to every frustrating situation with a change in my behaviour at some level. And so I have developed a habit that drives my husband crazy, causing him to beg me to stop talking to people in public. Every time we are out and about, at the mall, amusement park or dollar store, and we come across another mother battling with her child or trying to put a temper tantrum to rest; I go out of my way to lean over and tell the frazzled mother-on-the-verge that she is doing a great job. I can see my husband visibly shrink back into the woodwork when he sees this impending exchange, nonetheless I feel very strongly that it is important for mothers to show solidarity in the midst of difficult parenting moments.

After all, haven’t we all been in a situation where we felt less than capable in our role as authority figure to our children, at the mercy of those passing us by with pity or compassion-filled looks. And how much better it would have been if someone (anyone) had given us a thumbs up and encouraged us, how much easier would it have been to stand our ground and not buckle under the pressure? So I plan to continue to give my fellow mother’s a thumbs up in their time of need, a gentle voice of solidarity any time I see someone giving their screaming dragon-child a “stop right now or we are going home” warning.

And please, if you see me stuck in a mire of public humiliation, just give me a little thumbs up, because despite all my preparation and pre-child “expertise”, I have no idea what I’m doing and I could use the encouragement!

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