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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Times, They are a'Changin' !

I got a lop-sided grin on my face this evening as I read Christy's blog which refers to her daughter's inevitable transformation from girl to woman, and the angst it can bring out in us mothers.

I felt a little like an older, wiser woman since I've already had a year or so of digesting the whole concept of my bras sharing the same washing machine as my daughter's.

Still, it amazes me how times can change in a generation or two. When I was a young girl, my mother never gave me "the talk". I relied on a booklet my worldly friend brought to school, and to the helpful tidbits that my big sisters offered me. What a contrast to the kids who frequent my kitchen table.

Just today, over fried egg sandwhiches and fruit salad, my daughter came running down the stairs and clunked this book on the table while I shared my lunch with her auntie, a couple of my kids, (including brothers), and a neighbor girl. She laughed outrageously in grade six style and threw the book open to the diagram of the man and the woman complete with all the mysterious parts. My sister and I reacted in an understated way (none of what was on the picture was shocking to us!!) and I commented to all the kids around my table- "Yup, there they are-- all the bits and parts that make up different sorts of human bodies. Yup, that's part of the story of where babies come from." No one stopped chewing their sandwhiches, or turned any of the various shades of purple that I would have seen in my day and age if that dirty little word "pregnant" had slipped from someone's lips. We may as well have been discussing what movie to rent at the local Co-op as Jane's little friend wiped some mayonnaise off her lip and offered-

"We have a book at home- know what it shows how to do? It shows how to use a tampon!"

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Melancholy Muses

It's spring break which means Brian is not working. I 'm not working real hard myself, as I have only a few daycare kids over the break. This means that really, I have time to be creative and delve into some projects around the house. But, I have a low grade case of melancholy, and can't seem to connect to any great inner power source and even consider the possibility of conquering my domestic world.

I could try the role of super mom and take the kids on some neat spring break outings, but the boys have the flu and I wouldn't dare take them more than two feet away from a toilet or bucket. Sammy got it so bad that he was unable to hold anything down, or even remain conscious for any length of time. The constant eruptions have taken their toll on his little body. Four days of fasting took with them the last little bit of his baby look- he's looking taller someow, and decidedly thinner. Last night, Micah erupted.

That puts a dent in the one exciting plan that we did have for our time off. We had planned to take a trip to visit some of our favorite people from our old home and spend some time playing on their farm property. The kids play on hay bales, surrounded by goats, chickens, dogs, cats, cows, and friends. The adults drink coffee in the ancient farm house, inspire one anothers creativity and spirituality,take walks through the meadow and look for newly born calves and wild roses, and balance the whole event with a lot of laughs and good eats.

I love Rose too much to bring her this very wet and untidy illness.

Then there was the energy draining experience of psycho mom and her child, and me finding the strength and confidence to deny her entry into my life. A second oppurtunity of assertiveness followed in short order when a guest we invited for dinner showed up bleary eyed and staggering. Knowing that I had to confront him didn't make it any more pleasant or enjoyable to do so.

This melancholy births itself in little and bigger ways. I can't be bothered to grind coffee beans in the morning, I'd rather just make some java with superstore yellow brand ground coffee. It takes less effort, and less enthusiasm. I seem befuddled by the dust and stuff that I usually stay on top of. Noisey toys seem especially grating. Kids hanging over my shoulder with endless requests overwhelm me. When I get dressed in the morning I torture myself with the "twelve pounds ago" stack of pants. As if by putting them on I will respond to my own criticism and suddenly melt away.

I know that my life is extraordinarily good. I know that feelings do not always reflect reality. And I'm glad that on good days, I not only know that as fact, but I've got the laugh and the energy to go with it.

Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Semantics, Part two

"Yeah, hello- well do you still have that daycare opening? Okay, well what should we bring? And if you go into the city to do shopping, I'm not comfortable with my son going with you so I'll get someone else to watch him that day".

me: "Oh. Well, is it the drive that you're concerned about, or the outing?"

Her: "Well, how would you handle three kids in a store? If one of them ran away, would you leave the other two alone?"

me: speechless. (Is this the time to tell her that I actually have eight children, but have lost four at Superstore over the years?)
me: "I need to know if you are all right with your son going into my vehicle because I can really not guarentee that he won't. I do have four children, and there are times when we do go places, without advance notice."

her: "Oh. Well, do you have carseats that are up to code?"

me: speechless. (Is this a timely moment to mention that we use stacks of yellow pages and phone books so that the kids can see out the windows better?)
me: "So, how about field trips then?"

her: "Well, I guess we'll see when the time comes."

Further translation:
You actually look like a moron who can not be trusted. However I am in a situation where I am left with no choice since I have a VERY important job that I must go to because of the mortgage and all. I've checked the yellow pages for "anal retentive daycares inc." and came up empty. I then reduced my expectations, and began looking for moderately safe daycares. They are all full. So, I've further reduced my expectations to include anyone with a pulse but most of them didn't want me. So now I'd like to pay you a pittance, and nothing on stat days, and for that price, I would like to control your life. However, one false move and I'm calling you in to the authorities faster than you can say "play dough shapes".

The sigh is turning into something of a daycare-induced-rage.

All it takes is Careful Planning

Did the genius who came up with the "nature/nurture" arguement ever take the time to procreate more than once? Anyone who has spent more than 30 seconds with any number of children knows that parenting only has so much to do with the finished (or "in progress") result. We've all met those parents who gave birth to one child who slept through the night at 48 hours old, without a soother or a bottle, learned to say please and thank you by two weeks, then was fully potty trained with nary an accident by the six week mark.

There is a terrible temptation to self- righteously assume that this is because of some superior parenting style. Clearly the pregnant mommy listened to all the right music, read all the sensible parenting books, and ate all her folic acid and brightly coloured veggies. The daddy never stressed out the mommy, always brought home a fat paycheque, did fully half of the housework, maybe more, rubbed mommy's belly and sang to little fetus nightly. At the time of labour, not a pharmaceutical was in sight. Mommy focused on some spot on the wall, breathed deeply while her husband tirelessly rubbed the small of her back. Mommy pushed once or twice, then produced a cherubic, perfectly "gerber-shaped" little offspring.

Well, you get the picture. The crazy thing about kids though is that they come in their own packaging. With my first pregnancy, I exercised, ate lots of veggies and all the right vitamins, and read all about what to expect. By my fourth time around, I took a head start on pharmaceuticals from day one of conception, always forgot my prenatal vitamins, ate when and what I wanted to and yes, took sips of Brian's wine. (DO NOT SEND ME HATE MAIL, or I will instantly go post-natal crazy, stalk you and probably have to kill you.)

So, if it were possible to custom make babies, I'd recommend that you all follow my fourth child formula. Through my carefully planned, deliberate pregnancy, I managed to produce a child who was extraordinarily easy going, nursed like an old pro, slept at night, lay on the floor content as can be, and never once projectile vomited. He potty trained himself, never did the anal retentive "I'm never going to poop again" experiment, liked eating vegetables, never tried to take a bite out of the cat.

Maybe I should write a book.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

It's all in the Semantics

"Hello, yeah, well I think we'll probably be sending (our son) to your daycare but I just want to let you know that we haven't made up our minds yet. I'm just waiting to hear back from another daycare to see if they have an opening."

Translation: "You SUCK but you may be our only option. If a half decent spot comes along, we'll grab it, but its looking pretty slim, so we'll probably have to resort to you."


--SIGH---

Monday, March 20, 2006

the thing about people

"What goes around comes around"; and "you reap what you sow" are two of the sayings that have been rolling around in my head for the past few days. They are cousins or sisters of "let love be your greatest aim", and "Love your neighbor as you love yourself".

Anyone who stays at home with their children knows the isolation and loneliness that can stalk a woman and make her question her worth on this planet. We badly need one another. People are created in a highly relational format, and tend to seek out interaction with one another in whatever forms are available to them. I find it interesting that while millions of people could be spending their computer time researching any topic known to mankind, we instead pleasure in using it as our water cooler, photo copier, or coffee room as an oppurtunity to connect to another soul out there who is craving personal interaction.

The same goes for many other typical interactions. That's why I don't watch church on television. There is absolutely no chance of getting the flesh and blood contact with people that for me, is an integral part of worship. This past Sunday, for example, I managed to participate in a few songs and about three sentences of the message before Sam got so loud that I took him out to try ONCE AGAIN to leave him in kids' church. Now, at first lick, it sounds like I didn't get to go to church on Sunday. But that's why I don't watch church on television.

The two or three sentences that I did get to hear were about being church to one another, using the areas where we have been gifted in ways that aid and bring healing to the people around us. It is within this community that I find church. People unafraid to love their neighbour, speak the truth, get their hands dirty, smudge their mascara, and to know the pain of loving "too much".

Which is why I've been thinking about the saying, "You reap what you sow". I have always thought about that in negative terms- like I had better behave or I'd get it good. Lately I've thought of it in the context of people loving each other and how wonderful and functional it can be. In moments of clarity, regular imperfect people speak truth and goodness into the people around them. I said regular and imperfect people because nobody is brilliant and giving all the time. The time comes where the loving giver comes to church discouraged, disullusioned and just plain on empty. That's when "what goes around, comes around", and the sower is on the receiving hand of affirmation, encouragement, and understanding.

I don't believe in going through my life looking for injustices. I know that it exists, and I recognize that life is not fair. But if we're all in it together and we'll reap what we sow, isn't it wise to love our neighbour like we love ourselves?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Policies

I think its starting to come together for me. I've been wishing that I was just a little bit "type A" so that when people come to interview me as a prospective daycare provider for their children, I could have a tidy handbook to hand them. Or, at the very least, a print-out.

One of the main problems with this good intention is that I think in "dribbles and blurbs, and occasional splashes of colour", so having to come up with something resembling intelligence and competency can be a bit of a challenge.

This morning, after another family came to observe whether or not I was a freak, or could possibly be trusted with their child, a few "policies" came to me.

1. I try to stay out of the liquor cabinet until after lunch.
2. Healthy snacks are a priority. I regularily set out giant bowls of fortified cereals such as fruit loops,pebbley bam bams, and cocoa crunchy trans fat balls.
3. We watch tv whenever possible. I especially like Jerry Springer, as it reinforces powerful interpersonal relationship strategies.
4. I encourage the children to play alone in the basement, so that they can learn survival skills by lighting fires with the help of the hot water tank's pilot light.
5. Running with scissors promotes dexterity.
6. I don't put much stock in all that "book learnin' ". We save a lot of time by just going straight to the movies.

I really think that things are going to begin to come together for me now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Things that make you say: "Hmmmmmm....."

I previously mentioned that coming home has been quite a shock. I honestly wonder how I deal with this level of noise and activity day in and day out. Its like I got out on a day pass, remembered who I am, then got tossed back in with the lions. I caught myself envying the cat today until I noticed she was laying in the sun, and licking her own rear end.

Is it a coincidence that I came home on Sunday, then broke out into inexplicably itchy hives on Monday? I got the same thing last year about this time, and remember wondering if it was an allergy to the hamsters, but we've since purchased and killed dozens of them, and the hives have not been consistent with their life spans.

I think its time I faced the facts. Its not the hamsters, or the cats. I am allergic to this notion that people have of me. Millions of people in my circle of influence think that I can meet all of their needs. When they are hungry, I will feed them. Sad? I will cheer them. Lonely? Hug them. And on and on it goes.

The shock of going from 48 hours with fully functioning, relatively intelligent, and self- sufficient adult women to this other pool of people (Who will go unnamed to protect their privacy and their pride) is JUST TOO MUCH. Its enough to make me break into oozing hives and slowly scratch myself to death.

Either that, or I'll have to sprout some fur and learn to lick my own bum. It's an option that allows me to stay in my home, laying on a comfortable old quilt in the sun, responsible for no one and never faking enthusiasm.....

Monday, March 13, 2006

Contrasts

Going away to recharge is really fantastic, but can anyone relate when I say that coming back is just crazy culture shock? It makes a person wonder if its useful to get away to gain perspective, or to just slog along machine-like and never know the joy of having a complete thought, a meal sitting down, or an entire conversation (at times spanning several hours) without falling asleep, or having to give someone a time-out or a snack.

As much as I anticipated the weekend, and dreamed of how good it would be, I will now hold onto the thoughts of it- the many things we laughed about, the things we learned about each other , the snowy walks, bad movies, and the totally unbelievable food that we enjoyed.

Among my favorites was the roasted vegetables and cous cous, spinach salad, fruit salads, black olive spread on flatbread, and hummous. My contribution to the entire weekend menu consisted of 5 grapefruits, a box of crackers, and a ring of camembert. That's the combined result of being last-born, and not having the early start to the weekend that I had planned on.

After food and company like that, its no wonder that potatoe stamping art and chocolate chip cookies just seem unreasonably harsh today.

Just 365 days till my next sister retreat.......

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I'm Back!

Favorite weekend quote: (thanks, Laura)

No Joyce- those aren't JOWLS. Those are facial muscles that you've developed from talking so much!

Friday, March 10, 2006

When it Rains.......

When it rains (in Manitoba, in March) it STORMS.

On the departure day of the long awaited "sister weekend", the Weather Network warns of a Colorado low descending on us with possible severe winter weather, some rain, and possible heavy snow. As I tap at the computer keyboard, chewing the inside of my lip to shreds, I see occasional gusts of wind carrying humungous, wet blobs of snow past my window. This is typical spring weather on the prairies, but what's not typical is that I was really hoping and planning on getting away this weekend.

I had jumped through a few hoops to take off at 2:00 this afternoon, and have the pleasure of picking up Laura at the airport. She sent an e-mail yesterday, suggesting that we hold up a sign for her because we may have trouble recognizing each other. (We are 5 carbon copies of one another, with slight variations). Laura mentioned that she got her hair coloured, had been going to the gym, and had whipped up a wild shirt on her sewing machine that she was calling her "Manitoba Party Shirt". Carol had mentioned that she may fly in wearing her full-length pink flannel pig costume which was completely unrestrictive, would stand out in a crowd, and then she could start eating right away without the fear of popping out of anything.

Anyhow, about the hoop jumping. My dear, generous friend agreed to come to the house this afternoon and finish off my day of zoo keeping so that I could go find the pig and bermuda lady at the airport. Unfortunately, there is a wicked flu bug that came in on the hocks of the Colorado low. Substitute nanny is unable to get out of her own bed, never mind run THIS side show.

Appearing completely desparate, I then called everyone in town who has even a faint pulse to beg them to come and baby-sit. Apparently everyone has call display. (or real jobs).

So, this captain will go down with her ship. I was going to take advantage of the trip to the city to pick up some fun food for the cabin, but by the time I work my way through the entire inside of my lips, then chew my cuticles until my fingers are bloody stumps, I may just not be hungry.

However, if I manage to navigate through the freezing rain and wet snow once Brian gets home and the last day care child finds his mother, I just may be ready for a tall, cold drink beside a crackling fire in a cozy cabin by the lake.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I wonder how many SUV's I've thrown out?

How's this for a schoolyard scrap? Two kids and their parents and a school teacher fighting over a discarded Tim Hortons coffee cup? How will this affect playground politics? When said teacher is on outdoor duty, will he also fight kids for his turn on the swings and climbing structure?

If the kids are smart, they'll sue the teacher for drinking an addictive property on school property. If the teacher is smart, he'll take his toys and go home, and maybe return to grade school himself. If the parents are thinking, they'll take the oppurtunity to teach their kids about what's truly valuable in this life.

And I'm not referring to the SUV.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I mean, I really stink

Like I said: I stink at selling anything, ever. I forgot to list one more of the basics in my prior post: I will insist on wearing modest flannel pajamas every night so that when I sleep in and you have to stand on my deck in the freezing cold, ringing the doorbell that only works one in five times and I come stumbling out with hedgehog hair, at least you and your frightened child will not have to endure looking at an old woman in lingerie, as well.

Yup, that's what happened on day two. Do you think they will refer me to all their friends?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Annual Sister Weekend




















It was with tremendous joy and anticipation that I received this card in the mail just yesterday.
About eight years ago, my four sisters and I began a winter tradition of heading off to a remote cabin somewhere and spending weekend together, sans kids, husbands, jobs, and responsibilities. From year to year it has been necessary to make certain adjustments. Twice in 8 years, I have brought along a nursing babe, and once we needed to forgoe the cabin entirely to attend our auntie's funeral, and stay near our mother, who had just lost her dearest friend. Sometimes not every sister was present, as Carol spent several years working internationally. This year, I eagerly anticipate connecting with all my sisters, in a great little cabin on the lake.

Our highlights include: Lots of treks through the snow, hunting through some abandoned cabins,"chic" food (hummous, fruit, grainy breads, chocolate, stirfries, NO STEAKS, lots of wine, and maybe a flask or two of sour puss. ) We like to hit the liquor commision together on our way so that we can find something unusual and bizarre to try together. Then Laura usually loads up on several thousand magazines to stack on the coffee table, and Kathy comes armed with a few billion candles to burn. Mary and Carol are sure to come with a new project, Carol's is usually a tree-hugging concept like rug hookiing using recycled felted wool strips in burlap. Mary will obsessively crochet something, thrilled at each little design that appears under her nimble fingers. Now, lest you think we wander into the woods to have a dull time, I would be amiss to leave out the important features of this event.

Over the years we have been known to laugh until we peed (okay, not all of us, but I have to maintain some sense of dignity and privacy here), we have laughed until we cried, we have cried for each others hurts and struggles, we have shared deep, somewhat dark thoughts by the light of Kathy's candles, we've seen each other go through relational, financial, personal, and health challenges. We've had to watch Laura complete quilting projects while nearly simultaneously writhing on the floor to windsor pilates. We've witnessed the liberation of a yellow chair,a red suitcase, and a snow-covered coffee table from a lifeless existence in rubble, and see them go on to live full and productive lives. We've patiently endured Kathy's pedicure treatments, and selflessly munched through Mary's loaves of nutty bread just to give the poor gals a sense of belonging.

And although I think I know these people, I recognize that every year I get to see a little deeper into their personal realities. This is a tremendous honour and blessing.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Just for Something Different

Because I don't spend enough of my time with preschoolers, I volunteered this morning at a MOPS program at a nearby church. (Moms of preschoolers). I used my clever methods of deception and distraction to keep the little monsters from running out of the room, screaming for their mommies. Promises such as: "Don't worry- your mommy will be right back, right after we make this little boat craft". Not a lie at all. Except that after the craft is a game of fishing for paper fishies, a billion or two action songs, a snack, plus a few games of London Bridges, (one little girl was singing: "All them bridges falling down; my old lady"). When the program ran 15 minutes overtime, (putting us at the two and a half hour mark), I nearly burst into tears and ran down the hall calling for MY MOMMY!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I stink at selling anything, ever.

I'm waiting for a woman to come to the house this morning to see whether she should trust me with her son before and after school, as she is returning to work.

Should the house have an honest, lived-in, "don't sweat the small stuff" look? What's the acceptable amount of crumbs crunching beneath ones feet before it goes from "comfy" to "condemned"? If the house looks immaculate, I don't think a kid would want to hang out here. Bare minimum, I should probably have a shower and get out of the flannels, maybe try to make my hair lie down and behave. Its grown just to that hedge-hoggy stage now. Speaking of lying down and behaving- how do I give the kids a crash course in making eye contact with strangers, saying "hello", and looking like they've turned out relatively human-like under my care?

What I need is a walk-in closet that I could just shove several hundred toys and some miscellaneous furiture into. I have the master bedroom, which is currently doubling as "sanctuary" and "storage". It's easy for Oprah to go on about the proper use of bedrooms, but come on, how many actual walk-in closets are in her mansions? And whenever she wants to minimize, all she has to do is have on of those "My favorite things" shows, and give a couple of million of things away.

And then there's the whole issue of me not looking like an idiot. Once when I was asked about my policy on sick kids my reply was that short of kids sweating or puking blood, I was pretty easy going. Now, that sounded intelligent. I'm usually worried that people will ask about "policies" at all and I'll just start staring blankly and say- "Duh.... I dunno- whaddya mean?"

Maybe I should just come up with some basics:
Do not send your child with knives, hives, or bags of candy. (unless he is willing to share)
Please pay me on time, otherwise I'm likely to say something like: "Yeah, I know sometimes it gets rough, just pay me half, or don't pay me at all. I'm just doing this for fun anyway" After that I'll probably have to tattoo "stupid" on my forehead. Or maybe "Stoopid".
It is required that your child have an unnatural craving for chocolate milk, and nutella spread. So far, nearly every child who has crossed my threshold has met this criteria.

Of course, if I were actually good at marketing, would I really be working for pennies a day? I guess I'll go with the "comfortable, homey, relatively safe, and always loved" theme.

God bless us, every one.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Daycare Etiquette: Take Two

Brian's first day without a call to sub.
Brian teaches the preschoolers how to do belly raspberries, and finds a "fart button" on the computer.
I think I need a refresher course.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mom



My mother's attitude towards life has been a testament to me. Mom was in her forties when I came along, number 8 in a long line of healthy boys and girls. Her last hurrah, you could say. As a young child, I was aware of my parents being older than some of my friends parents, and wondered how long I would have a mom and dad, or whether they would ever have the privelege of grandparenting the children I hoped I would some day bring into the world.

Somewhere in the 1970's, mom decided that it would be a good idea to get some exercise , so after dinner every night she left me and my sister with the dishes and she walked a brisk two miles down our country road. This was no passing whim. Four seasons came and went many times, and mom would be out there, clearing her mind and moving her legs. In time, especially after mom and dad sold the farm and moved into town, dad began to join her on this daily walk.

My mom and dad are 83 and 79 now, and still going strong. They have spent many hours over the years contributing to their community with their volunteerism. Dad has been known to get up in the middle of the night to drive an "elderly" gentleman to the hospital for medical attention. Mom puts her nimble fingers to work every day sewing denim blankets out of discarded jeans from the local thrift shop; she bakes all her own bread, makes real noodles and perogies out of farm eggs and cottage cheese with no preservatives. They still live in their own home, with a spacious yard and garden that they tend with no hired help when the sun warms the earth in spring. They have a large crab apple tree at the edge of their property which they harvest together, dad climbing his step ladder placed onto the back of his trusty half ton truck to glean the apples that are out of reach. Then mom spends hours turning them into crab apple juice which we get to enjoy at Christmas, mixed into punch.

Every couple of weeks, dad uses his truck to pick up a load of day old bread from the grocery store and then delivers it to a downtown mission in the city. In recent years, dad has begun to move a little more slowly, but I don't think it crossed his mind that he might be getting on in years and so should stop giving of himself. Instead, they worked out a system of team work where mom was designated to climb onto the back of the truck and load the bread that dad passed up to her.

On their most recent bread loading excursion, as mom was coming down off the back of the truck, her feet slid on the ice and she was suddenly lying face up underneath dad's truck. Did this yogurt munching, walking machine rush off to the hospital? Nope. All those years of selfless , sensible living had made her bones and sense of resolve strong. Those underpriveleged people in the city needed their bread, so mom had to remain focussed, and not dwell on herself too much.

My mom is a testament to me. While some of my friends' much younger parents gave in to aches and pains and stopped giving so much of themselves, mom kept on giving and walking and serving. Not to seek glory for herself, not to make into some fitness magazine about the benefits of regular exercise. Mom just has a great no-nonsense attitude about her place in this life, and its certainly not all about herself.

My children have had the privelege of healthy grandparents for almost twelve years nowand I have had the honor of watching my parents make good, simple choices that will leave a legacy for generations to come.