Monday, February 27, 2006

Gender Confused Feline

Mindy and Flo-ey joined our family in August of 2005. We had spent a few days with friends on the farm and Arianna and this little tabby kitten were inseparable, so I played my guilt card with Brian and then came home with not only the tabby, but this little grey number as well. She reminded me of the cat I grew up with who lived to about a billion cat years and gave us countless numbers of spring time litters.

Now, I'm not dumb enough to think that free farm kitties are really free. Priceless: maybe ,but certainly not free. I know that by the tender age of six months or so, they hit puberty and do their utmost to hit the streets and get busy. So, I've been tucking away little bits of money for the inevitable trip to the veterinarian where these little girls are going to be subjected to female genital mutilation, er , I mean I'll be a responsible pet owner and get my kitties fixed so as not contribute to cat over population.

True to cat nature, a few weeks ago, the girls started acting in bizarre and desparate ways. The meowing became unbearably loud and whiney, they rolled around on the floor like furry contortionists with little shame, and they begged to go out, completely disregarding curfew. The appointments with the vet were made, and it was just a matter of waiting out the two weeks for our turn in the O.R. and the hope of our beloved pets behaving in less embarrassing ways.

Now, I appreciate any nudges from nature to open a discussion about the natural occurences between genders amongst any creature group. I had taken advantage of the "in heat" behaviors of the teeny-bopper kitties to explain to my own girls some more about the birds and the bees. However, Nothing could have prepared me for their next area of exploration. Flo began to aggressively mount Mindy and bite the scruff of her neck in typical cat mating fashion. Thus began "chapter two" of the birds and the bees.

"Mom!! WHAT are they doing?!"
"Mom, do brother and sister cats have sex with each other?"
"Mom, aren't Floey and Mindy both girl cats?"

And my own question: Do even cats have issues of sexual orientation? and, what qualifies me to
navigate this complex world of gender confused felines? I saved enough for a tubal ligation, but CAT THERAPY??!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Livin' it up in the city

I pride myself on humble, simple living- I don't shop in malls much, I've never been called a trend setter, and I certainly can't walk in anything classier than a good hiking shoe. Occasionally though, I wonder what I'm missing and so I try to be just a tiny bit sophisticated. I had an excuse to go into the city today, as Brian had ordered some books from Chapters and was dying to get his hands on a new piece by Donald Miller. Now, I've heard about Starbucks coffee from some pretty classy people, and had recently heard a rave review on Christy's blog about a particular confectionary known as the "Marble Mocha Macchiato". With a sudden surge of worldly sophistication, I resolutely joined the throng that weaved toward the counter, and with bold confidence I announced; "I'll have one of those marble mocha thinga-ma-doozies, please". I was really looking forward to the marble chocolate stirstick that Christy had promised me, but soon realized that this culinary delight must be unique to Saskatchewan. Here in Manitoba, the coffee was efficiently stirred before I ever got my hands on it, and never once did I observe an edible stir stick. This was the first blow to my newfound identity as a woman of the world. The second blow struck nearer my heart- or my left hip to be more precise, since that is where my underweight wallet rested within my shoulder bag. Did that cute young thing behind the counter just ask for $4.95? For a cup of coffee?! Had I fallen through a giant pot hole and was actually somewhere in Europe at some outdoor cafe? I considered asking if that came with an espresso machine and a crate of chocolate stir sticks, but thought that would blow my cover for sure. Better to pretend that I go to the mall all the time, I can pronounce the names of really fancy hot drinks (I just choose not to), and that in the right light, I could look amazing in a little black dress and stillettos.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A budding new blogger?

The entry reads as follows: Pigs are very stinky. They always have a stinky tail and they have a long snout. When they have a litter that means when they have more than one baby sometimes it gets stuck and then if the pig doesn't die the next day we would have to kill it before it spreads germs all over. and that is my say, thank you for your time.
Their feet are black they also eat grain and boy do their feet and farts--oh do they ever stink.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Rag Dolls

Arianna's rag doll sits beside "monkey" who is quite possibly the most beloved childhood stuffy of all time. Raggy is wearing a remake of a dress that Arianna wore when she was flower girl for her auntie at the age of three.
(Okay, edit: This was her self named "berry picking dress" that she liked to wear when we went to auntie Mary's farm. She loved to pick raspberries and nan king cherries in her garden.

This is Jane's rag doll. She is wearing a dress fashioned out of what was Jane's very most favorite dress when she was three years old. Her hair is made out of tea dyed strips of chenille that I found at the thrift shop.

Camp Arnes part two

Thursday morning at 8:15, grandma and grandpa Hildebrand arrived. There were 6 kids eating breakfast at the time, lunches were getting packed, and Arianna and I had our sleeping bags waiting at the back door. We were to be at the school for 8:30 and did our best to meet that deadline, but between getting the school kids out of the door on time, and lying creatively to my three year old (Mommy is going out to get some milk, and I will come back), we got there by 8:45. The meeting for teachers and parent helpers was already under way. I was grateful to see that all the information had been printed in a booklet- at least I can read! The whole "switching of hats" felt a little awkward. Every where I go, my mouth, hands, and feet are in perpetual motion, reigning in pre-schoolers,; maintaining order. Now I was just one single adult.

After the meeting concluded, we ventured out into the hall where about 50 excited grade sixers bounced about. The adults formed nervous alliances as we all headed out into the cold towards the big yellow school buses. I was prepared. In my shoulder bag were reading materials (optimistic?), juice boxes, granola bars, water bottles, advil, kids tylenol, and a package of Rolos. I was invincible. If the bus were to break down somewhere north of Winnipeg, I was sure I could survive for a time in my MEC fleece pants, my $2.00 Arctic parka, with my coffee and chocolate firmly gripped in my woolen mittens.

It took about two hours of bouncing along the highway to arrive at our destination. The kids were excited without being dangerously ridiculous. Having been gifted with the ability to fall asleep even on a rock with wolves circling, I managed to doze through a lot of the trip up. The sleepy feeling ended abruptly when we rolled into Camp Arnes and ventured out into sub-human temperatures. We got a tour of the facility while we waited for our luggage to arrive. Everyone was grateful that lunch was first on the agenda, since we knew for sure they wouldn't be cruel enough to ask us to do that outdoors.

The rest of the afternoon was spent mostly outdoors and we enjoyed activities like fire building and bannock, cross country skiing through the bush (beautiful), survival skills (DUH! just get in out of the cold!!), and an oppurtunity to visit the camp's collection of animals. This event was practically tropical, since the snakes, iguana, mice, hamsters, bunnies, ferret, and tarantula were all warm and cozy under their heat lamps. Between activities we were treated with really delicious meals in the spacious dining hall. Not the typical mess hall fare, but lots of fresh salads, real mashed potatoes, and gravy without lumps.

When the sun went down, the false hope that the bright sun had given us also vanished from sight. Even the horses refused to come out of their warm stalls so the scheduled hay ride was replaced by indoor games. The adults huddled on camp couches hoping to get their circulation back while the younger crowd enthusiastically worked on their teamwork skills under the camp staff's guidance. Next on the schedule was a trip to the indoor pool. Even if I felt fabulous in a swimsuit, I couldn't even imagine paring down to two tiny pieces of lycra. I stayed in my full fleece get up and sat poolside watching the staff and parents warming in the hot tub and the kids screaming and having belly flop contests in the pool.

After a snack, it was off to bed. The girls were lucky to have been given the rooms in the lodge, instead of the outdoor cabins. Our rooms were toasty warm and the kids were fabulous. We decided to tell progressive stories in the dark. I knew that if I got every girl onto their bunk and the lights were out there was no way that they would be able to fight with their tired bodies for long. Especially not after playing outdoors for a whole day. By midnight everyone was fast asleep.

At breakfast the next morning, we learned a few more things. The boys had not fared so well in the sleep department. Between getting housed in freezing cold cabins, bunking with snorers, sleep-walkers, and farters, it was obvious who would win the bed head contest of the morning. Furthermore, the camp directer had the nerve to annouce that the temperature had dropped a further six degrees overnight. A few cell phone calls home led us to discover that the schools in our division had been cancelled due to the extreme cold winter temperatures. The irony did not escape me.

After modifying the morning's activities to ensure that we would deliver everyone's children back to the school complete with fingers and toes, our Camp Arnes trip was coming to an end. By this point, I had grown accustomed to having coffee with my fellow volunteers and staff, feeling like an adult with enough arms and legs to navigate my responsibilites, and enjoyed watching my daughter with her peers (God give me strength, adolescence is coming upon us at full bore....). Time to board the bus again and head home to change hats once again.

What a privelege to be in grade six again for just 24 hours. To remember the joys, and the pressures, to recognize anew that everyone's reality is valid and complete with its own set of challenges, relationships, and rewards. To remember again that when our kids come home to us at the end of their day, they need to be coming home to their sanctuary; a place where they never have to question their value or sense of belonging. To know that no matter how many hours they spend in the classroom that at the end of the day, we parents still get to be their teachers, complete with all the hugs and kisses and affirmations in the world.

Lucky we, lucky them.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Sometimes in life , we are allowed the rare privelege of experiencing most of our mental planets lining up simultaneously and for a time to bask in the bright light of Truth. Went to church this morning and experienced a service that seemed orchestrated entirely for me. I'm not sure what that couple of hundred other people were doing there, but from the first song to the last prayer, I felt the soothing comfort of being loved, valued, and well. I don't mean to describe an emotional experience because that could be achieved just as easily by discovering an antique at the thrift shop, or by watching a really awesome movie and feeling that sense of connectness and goodness that we can all relate to. No, this was different.

The old has passed away- behold all things have become new. Or, as the Message puts it:
"anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!"

If indeed I am new, then why would I identify myself by my weaknesses or perceived failures? If I could really achieve being the person I want to be, then I would not need God for any reason. I could shout up at Him:
" Hey! Am I okay yet? Am I trying hard enough for you yet?"

I like the way Chris Tomlin puts it in his lyrics "Indescribable"
"Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
Incomparable, unchangeable
You see the depths of my heart and You love me the same
You are amazing God."

Paul says it well in 2 Corinthians:
"Dear, dear Corinthians, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!"

He who began a good work in (me) will be faithful to complete it in (me). As I fully grasp the truth of having been given an extreme makeover by the maker Himself, I look forward to recognizing my new face and refusing to mask it in failure and inadequacy.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Camp Arnes, part one

Back from camp. There's so much to say but I'll start with my favorite.

Back in 1987 I worked at Camp Arnes as a camp counseller. One of the programs they ran at the time was called "Outpost" where a counseller or two were taken out into the bush for 5 days with a number of hardy campers to experience camping in a more authentic style. We brought in enough food to cook for ourselves for the duration, and everything was cooked over an open fire which we ourselves constructed using tinder, kindling , and fuel which was scrounged from the surrounding woods. In '87 there was some extreme summer weather, with temps rising above 35 degrees. It was so hot that we were unable to use the lake to cool off in since the algae really loved the hot, hot weather. You guessed it- these were the circumstances within which me and a couple of miserable kids tried to survive 5 days in the bush. Imagine the idea of having to COOK over a fire in weather like that!

Fast forward to February,2006 and two bus fulls of grade 6 kids travel up to Camp Arnes. Our winter this year has been unusually balmy- warm enough for daily walks even with pre-schoolers. About 3 minutes before the scheduled trip to Arnes, we were hit with a cold front which caused the temperatures to plummet to below record temps. When we arrived at camp, it was minus 32, and minus 44 when you calculate in the windchill. It was SO COLD!!! As we received the tour, some kids had to be taken indoors because they were unabashedly crying from the pain of freezing feet and faces. We all emptied our duffel bags and donned every scarf, undie, sock, sweater, and pair of pants that we could. Then it was off to outdoor activities.

On the agenda? Building a fire in the bush, using birch bark, tinder, kindling, and fuel found in the surrounding woods. This time, the idea of slipping off my double pair of mitts to snap the tinder into burning size filled me with dread. Wrapping bannock dough around sticks with bare hands made me whimper like a wee baby. One of the boys in our group removed his boots and two pair of wool socks beside the fire to warm up his toes before they succombed to frostbite. I selflessly sacrificed one of my four scarfs to a girl whose cheeks were turning from deep ruby to spotty white.

All this in the very same woods where I nearly grew chaffed, sweaty, black-flied boils when I built fires to cook Camp Arnes food some 19 years ago.

Only on the Canadian prairies.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Cry for Justice and Truth

Who is the idiot that coined the title of "terrible two"? Did he become so overwhelmed and frustrated that the child was given into care before he reached the ridiculous age of three?
If I track this genious down, I will lie flailing face down on the floor, drooling and screaming until I get my way and get this misperception cleared up. The terrible twos are merely a warm-up exercise for what's on the cirriculum for stage "three" of child rearing.

God be with us all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Getting Ready

In two days, I am accompanying my daughter's grade six class on an overnight field trip to Camp Arnes. I've cleared my schedule and made arrangements with Brian's folks for our other three kids to be cared for in my absence. There's nothing like the impending visit of the parents-in-law to get a girl motivated around the house. Not that this is any reflection of my mother and father in law, who couldn't be nicer to a marry-in like myself. Still, the idea of me taking off for two days and leaving them in the house to look after the little one and get the bigger ones off to school kind of puts me in a bit of a cold sweat. So far I have managed to clean the top of the fridge (I'm so sure they'll be checking!), get the girls to clean their bedrooms (truly disgusting spaces), and last night even spent several hours in the boys room, trying to bring it back to bedroom-ish standards.

The fridge is still cultivating things, the laundry is sky-high, and I'll need to wash some sheets if I want to have overnight guests and not scare them off. This is where it gets complicated. Yesterday the washing machine went on strike, it looks like there must be a belt problem or something. (do washers have belts?) All I know is that it sounded like it might just bust through the back wall and into the yard at any moment, and I dare not tempt fate and use it today.

It's a good thing that my parents-in-law are coming. When Grandpa needs a break from nintendo he can go and fix my washing machine so that when grandma gets done cleaning the fridge, she can get some laundry done.

There's only so much a gal can do!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Home Sweet Home

I love my home. I especially like it when I've had the privelege of getting away from it, then come back with a renewed spirit and feel like I'm seeing it through new eyes. Over the weekend we accepted the invitation to a house warming party- new friends for us. I was much looking forward to this party for more than one reason. First, I don't get out that much, and when I do, its generally with 50 to 1150 small children and therefore doesn't quality as "getting out". Secondly, the hostess is quite a classy woman, and being a hand-me-down yoga pant and comfy sweater type of gal, I don't often attract this type of person as a friend. Thirdly, the party was in the city, so we planned on travelling in with good friends with whom there are no taboo subjects and many, many things to laugh about.

I was not to be disappointed. The street address was so brand new that we had trouble finding the house. There was light streaming out of its numerous, generous windows. We were greeted at the door by an impeccably dressed host and hostess who made us feel like VIP's, threw their arms around us, (like we were the prodigal son ourselves), and whisked out coats and shoes out of sight into a closet in an entirely different room. When the next guests arrived, they too would get the sense that they were the first and only most important people in their lives.

The house was perfect. The interior design was not accidental. The table was spread with the finest appetizers laid out in unchipped china and crystal. The kitchen, even without the spread of wine and sparkling cider, was breathtaking. The fridge was stainless steel, with one of those cool drawers at the bottom which is actually the freezer. Justice cannot be done to the rest of the kitchen, since I am of the unsophisticated mind that when a kitchen smells good, its magazine material. I can just tell you that as Brian began to drool uncontrollably I knew we must be in a place of greatness. We were ushered upstairs for the "penny tour", past the luxurious family room, spacious home office, into the master bedroom. It was one of these rooms that has space for not only a king sized bed, but an inviting loveseat under the window, and a gorgeous wardrobe closet. The bed was too pretty to be used for drooly nocturnal snoring. Each of the 47 pillows was carefully positioned, colour coordinated with its neighboring textures.

Time for the party to begin. We lounged on white leather in the living room, sitting like ladies sipping our wine. There was a diverse variety of people filling the place. I was glad I had kicked up my standard a notch and not shown up in old yoga pants or the skirt and shredded nylons I changed out of at the last minute. (Jane keeps steeling my nylons, punching holes in them, then returning them to my drawer). I needn't have worried. These people were genuine, no matter what was draped on their exterior. This wasn't one of those parties where you nervously seek out the people you know , then stick to them like flies on pie. There was a constant rotation of people mingling and interacting, real conversation, real depth, real belly laughs.

We stayed out much later than usual, choosing not to dwell on the fact that we had yet to drive the sitter home, and that our kids were no respecters of time and would rise early and loud the following morning. We talked and laughed deep into the night, then all throughout the drive home.

I slept in as best I could the following morning, then stumbled out of bed towards the coffee machine. Getting out of bed, I found myself very nearly in our doorless closet, taking care not to bash my knees into the dressers crammed into our "cozy" space. My feet slid across the two toned linoleum floor. No- wait a second. Its not two toned. Its two different pieces of flooring duct taped and stapled together, with cracks so deep you can see the plywood underneath. I tripped over some toys and steadied myself on the bannister leading up to the upstairs bedrooms. There is some cheap plastic christmas garland wrapped on it, barely hiding the one coat of priming I coated it with about two years ago. I had thought at the time that if I primed it, I would surely finish painting the house. No such luck, I'd merely gotten used it. The living room's hand-me-down furniture was littered with cereal bowls and juice cups, the table too sticky to be used to eat off of. Besides, it was literally covered in craft supplies as Jane and her friend busily made greeting cards together. In the kitchen I noticed again that we never did get baseboards put in, and there is a scarey collection of honey nut cheerios and toast crumbs in their place.

I started piling dishes into the dishwasher and kicking toys into a corner of the room, meanwhile mumbling under my breath; "Look at this place! The clutter! Gross!!" Simultaneously, a grinning kid skipped through the room and exclaimed:


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Loaded Quote of the Day

"Those boys have sure got themselves in a wet situation."

Somewhere between posting the question of the day, and promising a little five year old (Today is her birthday!) that we would make cupcakes together, these two "faster than the speed of light" boys managed to get themselves in a very wet situation. They took it upon themselves to take their miniature construction worker figures for a big, deep, satisfying swim in the bathroom sink. They failed to heed my bellow of "I'm sure that's enough water!!" and insisted on giving construction guys the platinum package for water sports. Within the fifteen seconds it took for me to find a cake mix, the boys themselves were very nearly swimming on the bathroom floor. Perhaps they thought that a swimming pool for plastic people was a great start, but a waterfall would add a lovely dimension and really bring out the happy customer in them.

Hence the summation by a suddenly older and wiser birthday girl: "those boys have sure got themselves in a wet situation"!

Loaded question of the day

I've heard of rich people fitting through the eye of a needle, but how does a hamster get out of a cage when the door is closed and the walls are secure?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Professional Development Day

It sounds like such a good idea, professional development day . And , If you're a teacher, it just might be. If you are a child care provider, the only things that are developing are grey hairs, a hoarse voice, and a strong craving for gin.

It's two oclock in the afternoon. There are more cookie crumbs under the booster seat than there are in the cookie jar. We've made crepe paper flowers, pencil toppers, and ham and cheese pizza. There have been board games, pretend games, trips to the skating rink. There have been two milk spills, one poo in the pants incident ,one charge of assault (okay, a scratch on the arm), three time outs , and countless phone calls.

En route to the 40 millionth phone call I hear:
"Joyce, my milk spilt".
"Joyce , can I have another cookie?"
"la la la la la la la la la la la la la " (3 year olds- if somebody has something to say, then SO DO WE!)
"Joyce- Help me tie my skates".
"Mom- can I have money for McDonald's tonight?"

Gosh, I think- this phone call better be important, it better be a friend doing a sanity check, or Readers Digest telling me that I won the sweepstakes or something. (or how about an extra pair of arms and a couple of spare heads?)

"Hello, Mrs Hildebrand? Meez Heeldebernd? Hooww are you today? Today we have VERY Special offer........"

I'm gonna need something a little more helpful than a pd day.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Thank goodness I noticed.

I'm so glad that I always carefully check labels when preparing my children's lunches for school. Noticed an important word of advice on the jar of peanut butter just this morning:

Contains peanuts".

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


I've always been a list person. There are the grocery lists, homework lists, bills to pay lists, things to create lists. When I was younger, my lists reflected my preoccupations of the time. In elementary school I remember writing a list of all the friends that I had and all the people that I hoped would become friends. When the barn cat had kittens , I would list potential baby names to choose from. I have a list that I wrote when I was in my early twenties that outlines all the attributes I wanted to find in a man someday. In university I would memorize content by making lists and achronyms. For making tough decisions, listing pros and cons has often been helpful. These days most of the lists involve fairly mundane chores that need to be attended to: Pay for dance uniform, bake some cookies, rearrange my schedule to fit in chaperoning a grade six field trip.

As I was tidying up 50 million toys again this morning, I realized that I was compiling a mental list. It may have been entitled: "How to not be a screw-up mother" and went something like this:

Give the kids multi-vitamins every day, then maybe you could get some quiet time, since they wouldn't be home sick so often.

Start doing Micah's home reading with some consistency instead of trying to cram 6 books in on Sunday night when he's yawning and scratching.

Teach Arianna how to be a student, how to study effectively so she starts doing well on some more tests, (and see above, re vitamins so that she is actually getting to school to learn something).

Pay closer attention to Jane: she's a lovely and grateful middle child who could easily slip through the cracks, out of my sheer gratitude that she is not demanding much from me.

Wash Sam's hands and face more often so he doesn't look like a snot-encrusted neglected child in need of some parenting.

Be sweeter with my husband, who is a real find. (see above, re list from my 20's).

Then my eye wanders to the kids in my care, and another mental list is conceived. How will I fare on my list of 2006? If each day continues to give me only 24 hours, which lists should I invest the most in? My tidy rows and columns will have to function as hopes and goals, and be an encourgement as I strive to put tidy check marks behind each line. Real life and real time will not submit to my bookkeeping.

(Clean up the toys, check.)
(write a post on my blog, check.)