Thursday, 10 April 2014

The desperate needy one

Almost two months!

I didn’t mean to stay away for so long. March got away from me and before I knew it, I was looking mid-April square in the eye.  Whenever I’m away for too long, a pile of posts builds up in my head and when I try to tease them out, separate one from another, and write the most pressing ones down, it never works out. The lesson I always come away with is that I need to keep up a regular rhythm. Because to be honest, I love writing here and I still dream of making this space better all the time.

We finished up with hockey (!) and swimming (!), enjoying very much this glorious break before soccer starts in May, and came away learning that the next time we sign Naveen up for any extracurricular activities it will be too soon – he refused to step one toe into the swimming pool with the other sea otters and after the third skating lesson, felt he’d learned all he needed to. When you add up the wasted expense, well I don’t have to tell you what that could have meant to my shoe collection.

Nothing spectacular has happened around here since I last wrote. 

I got tired of cursing the weather and wearily accepted that spring was likely not around the corner. We painted the upstairs bathroom and the spare room in an attempt to get the house ready for selling. Shaune and I are still negotiating (read he doesn't see why we can't stay one more year) the timing, but I'm feeling optimistic that we could be in a new home by (ahem) Summer's end.

Let's see, what else?

There were two very stressful days when Naveen refused to give up a pacifier he found amid the moving of furniture and laying down of drop cloths. I thought I'd gotten rid of every last one last summer!

I watched as Deaglan’s pants got shorter and Naveen’s saucy little mouth got bolder. That kid, well I don’t know what to make of him. His teachers often tell me that they wish there were a dozen just like him. Yet at home he’s the cause of so many of Deaglan’s unhinging moments.

He’s confident and entitled, chatty and bright. And unlike his older brother he is entirely frugal with his affection, leaving me too regularly feeling like the desperate, needy one in our relationship.  

I guess I can see how he might have his teachers at Daycare fooled. I mean look at that innocent-looking face.

And everyday I looked at this big, tall guy here.

And wondered where my baby went.

Oh, and I naively thought we could get a good family shot. I was sooooo wrong.


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Often it's about getting out the door

This morning I was able to get Naveen to eat most of his scrambled eggs by promising he could wear his pajamas to the hockey rink. It was my third attempt at bribery. Candy and money were surprisingly ineffective. It’s sad when you’ve used every trick in your book before

It won’t surprise you to know that I believe parenting isn’t about achieving perfection.

Often it's about getting out the door. I think it’s also about showing our kids that we are human and just trying our best. Almost every weekday morning, I apologize to Deaglan and Naveen on the way to school. That’s because for the half hour prior, both boys lose their sense of hearing which triggers in me the opposite of good calm parenting. And I know it’s temporary, localized deafness they suffer from, because a few minutes later they hear my apology just fine.

But “Put on your socks and shoes!” at the top of my lungs 28 times? Not so much.

After three years of the same old speech, I feel that Deaglan and I understand each other, the way an old, weary, married couple might understand each other; they don’t always like each other but they know they can’t change the other person either. As soon as I say something like, “Guys, Mom’s really sorry for all the yelling this morning. You’re both really good kids and I love you very much,” he usually responds with, “we understand Mom, it’s okay, we know how hard it is for you to get us out the door every morning.”

That he says it with sincerity and sympathy, well, I think it means he’s not planning on divorcing me anytime soon.

And I don’t think this Arctic Freeze we’ve been victim to is helping me grow as a parent.

This afternoon, I peeked out from under the comforter on the couch and asked in my most excited, positive voice, “Guys, isn’t it great that we have three days off to do whatever we want? Mom can “work” on my computer (aka peruse Pinterest) while you play whatever you want.”

I wasn't afraid to proclaim this several more times over the next few hours to get them fully on board that Mommy sitting on the couch completely ignoring them was indeed great. What can I say? I will go the distance for a cause I believe in.

Oh, in case you're wondering, I look sorta like this guy today, only my hair is a little more Jack than his, my pajamas aren't as cute and I don't have a fraction of his energy.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

When did this happen?

My university roommate once told me that for a while, her younger brother was calling their mother “Old Yeller”. She, her sisters and Mom could not figure out how he knew of the movie or the main character’s name. Finally they asked him, “Tyler, why do you call Mom Old Yeller?”

“Because she’s old and she yells at me.”

He was five.

I haven’t been called anything so offensive, and frankly downright ageist, yet, but regularly hear that I’m really, really mean, or unfair, and often when no words carry the weight of the fury they’re feeling, simply, “I hate you Mom.”

Also, I’m not sure if my kids understand age. Naveen still thinks it’s all cyclical for some reason. He’s always starting conversations with, “Mom, when I’m weally, weally big and you ah a little boy…” or “Someday when you ah in my tummy and I’m the Mommy…” Deaglan on the other hand, could use a few lessons on regression; that kid can count too high for my liking. Sometimes he’ll ask me how old I am and if I’m feeling particularly girlish and extremely non-premenstrual, I throw caution to the wind and ask him to guess. It goes without saying I’ve finished the better part of a glass of wine at these times.

Lately I’ve thought about my age and mortality more than ever before. I’m trying to come to terms with the idea that I’m “middle-aged”. I mean when did this happen? And while I’m on the subject, where does the kid at the bank get off calling me Mrs. McNamara? Do they not teach simple psychology at bank telling school? Mrs. McNamara = I’m now irritated and defensive. And also? I hate your stupid tie. On the other hand, Kim, in a flirty tone that implies you think we’re close in age = unsolicited calls to your manager raving about your customer service skills.

Have a nice day my ass.

It’s not like I’m on a crusade. I don’t buy anti-aging creams or lotions. I don’t fantasize about Botox. And it’s not for the reasons you might think; it’s not because I don’t believe they work. I’m just too cheap to spend the money and too afraid of the unknown side effects.

A cheap coward.

Also, a part of me hopes to be able to just get on with it. Get old but still have the energy I’ll need to live my life. Get old but deal with it in some semblance of grace. Except when it comes to my hair. I will not deal with grey hair with grace. I will fight those greys right up until the end.

Fight them, do you hear me?

Speaking of aging, Shaune had a birthday at the end of January. He had the nerve to ask me how old I'd be this year. I didn't dignify him with a response. Seriously. How rude. Just wait till next year when he turns 40. He won't be feeling so smug.

I had a bit of time to write a second post today.

Shaune took Deaglan to a birthday party. It left me and Naveen together at home. Here's what I made him for lunch. He'll only eat "snack plates". You can put just about any combination of  his favourite things on it, just make sure you address it properly. Snack plate. Not lunch.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

This weather is making me hungry.

Yesterday after the gym, I ordered a heaping plate of deep fried potato wedges instead of green salad with my chicken breast. I doused them with vinegar and on the side plopped a good fat dollop of ketchup for dipping. I was a ninja getting back to my desk; short cuts and no eye contact.
Quiet. Stealthy.
Nothing to see here folks. As you were. Please talk amongst yourselves.

Back at my desk. It wasn’t pretty.

I ate as if I’d come off of a thirty day famine. The wedges were crisp and golden, heftier than their French fry cousins. They’d been seasoned with salt and pepper then tossed with dried rosemary; still piping hot, perfect for dunking into the ketchup. An ice cold pint of beer would have been perfect. I gulped water.

I munched and read through the emails that had piled up in my inbox over the lunch hour. When every last wedge was gone, every last bit of ketchup sopped up, I sat staring at the screen.

Full. Yes.
Complete? No.

Then, the faintest whisper.
Something very familiar.
I typed away furiously, doing my best to lalalalala.
It got louder.
Twenty minutes, I mouthed over and over, twenty minutes.
It started to shout then.
Five pounds, five pounds, five pounds I chanted desperately.
But it drowned me out: CHOCOLATE!

My fingers stopped typing. My legs automatons.
There was no drinking water till it shut up. No tricking it into submission with a rice cake and peanut butter.  
Before I knew what was happening, I was running to the escalators, bee lining it to the coffee cart, running my finger over the plastic enclosure on the platter of dessert pastries: Date square? No.
Éclair? No, no.
Oatmeal bar with raisins? Absolutely no.
And then... Yes, yes, yes: Thick chocolate cover, layers of peanuts and rice crispies, glued together with firm hardened caramel.  

Hello Dolly. How do I know your name?

I scurried scurried my ninja-self back to my desk. I sat. Looked around.
Had anyone noticed?
I cut the square in two and sliced one of the halves into thin pieces. I lay the slices out flat on a napkin.
I’ll take the other half home. Dessert for the kids.
I then responded to the emails. Popped each slice into my mouth.

Sweet, crunchy, chocolaty. Salty. Calming.

I looked down and the slices were gone. I cut a sliver off the other half.
They’re so picky, I reminded myself. They won’t like this.
Another sliver. Another slice. And another.  
I looked down and it was all gone.

The sugar was now swirling in my head.
I was dizzy.
Water. I needed water.
Ughhhhh. Oh my geeeezzzzz.
My pants are too tight.
Why? Why????
I need to lie down.
Or throw up.
Oh godddd, why?
Why did I eat the whole thing?
I need the couch.
I need my comfy pants,
To run ten miles.


This is the last time.
I swear.

I'm yearning for these kinds of days.

Monday, 20 January 2014

The long road to Spring

We’re more than halfway through a new month of a brand new year and you’ll be comforted to know that nothing much has changed around here. Mornings are still harried as I race against the clock to get myself and two boys out the door looking our parts: me – business casual, them – ready for running, jumping and whatever they do that has worn out the knees on just about every pair of pants they own, all the while remembering everything it entails: a packed lunch and backpack, dry mittens, hats, zippers and snowpants, homework and signed notes, and often, a toy or well-loved stuffy to bring the familiarity of home to where they spend their days.

Many mornings go as smooth as these things can, meaning I’ve used minimal bribery for cooperation, I’ve not had to yell (too much) to be heard, and our goodbyes are said without tears or resentment.

But many mornings have been the exact opposite of this.

Our nights fare about the same: pick-ups spent gathering wet mittens and hats, slapdash dinners from whatever we remembered to put on the grocery list, homework and note-signing, bath-times and bedtimes, and a generous glass of wine to tie it all together.

Always a glass of wine.

Since I posted last, I’ve read halfway through two books, built three Lego vehicles, straightened out four junk drawers, donated five bags of clothes, and ice skated for the first time in almost 26 years. I also started drinking more water, and watching The Guardian on Netflix.

Two words: Simon.Baker.

It’s that long, hard part of winter and I’m doing my best to make the best of it. By practicing radical self-care (as Anne Lamott calls it), I’m hoping to cheat the system. I’m cleaning and purging, organizing and hydrating, reading and sticking to my routines. I'm also staying far, far away from sugar and cuddling the kids as much as I can.

And if I can remember to do it, I’m thinking good, wholesome, positive thoughts. Sometimes it's the only way to neutralize the winter blues.

One morning last week, I woke Naveen up, and held his sleepy little body on my hip.  With his arms around my neck he asked me if it was the weekend yet. It was only Tuesday. I kissed his head and tried to think of a way to answer that without making it sound like Saturday was eons away. 

It sure felt like it to me.

Santa left Jenga under the tree for Deaglan. We played the intended way a few times but he found more fun ways to use the wooden pieces.

Please ignore the empty raisin box. And the empty playdough container. And the unswept bit of floor.

That's a tiny Lego Mutant Ninja Turtle on top of that tower.
 Leonardo, to be accurate.

There's been lots of time spent in our favourite pajamas.

Lots of time spent watching our favourite shows. With Raphael.
Are you impressed with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle know-how? Naveen always is...he asks me at least five times a day who my favourite Turtle is. I always say  the same thing. Hands down Michaelangelo, Dude!

And I got to wander a thrift store for a few hours to start this gallery wall.
What about you, what are you doing on these long cold winter days? 

Monday, 23 December 2013

You will be six on Christmas Eve

Dear Deaglan,

Early this morning you shouted from your bed, “Mom! Is it time to get up yet?” I didn’t answer even though your loud question woke me from a dead sleep.

Mom!!” this time louder. “Is it time to get up yet????”

“Not even close,” I said turning over, “go back to sleep.”

Then a raucous climb down the ladder of your bunk, a jump from the last step to the floor and then thud, thud into the bathroom.  And then, thud, thud thud toward me. 

“Mom! One more day!” 

This is how we’ve started every morning for the past week. The countdown to your birthday.

To be accurate, it’s how you’ve started every morning for the past six years.  

One second you were tiny, gripping the sides of your crib, fussing eagerly to be picked up. And the next second, bam! All of your pants are too small, your feet are gigantic; and you are sounding out words on the sides of buildings.

On the night you were born, the moment I first held you in the recovery room, the world melted away. I forgot that this kind of thing had happened before. Babies had been born before. Mothers had become mothers. Families finally felt like families. 

I forgot everything.

I forgot about the possibility of separation. I couldn’t imagine a day when we wouldn’t be close. I forgot that kids grow up. Become independent. Disagree with their parents. Learn to want different things. I forgot about families who become estranged from each other.

I forgot grade seven.  

I forgot about elaborately folded secret notes denouncing parents as annoying and downright dumb. I forgot high school where I was sure that if I could just get my own place, I would be free of their tyranny, stay out late, apply all the eye make-up I wanted. I forgot the escape to university where I could finally get my nose pierced without permission, embrace grunge without disapproval. I forgot all those years where phone calls home felt obligatory.

I forgot all of it.

Because that night I first held you, I knew with great clarity that you and I were going to be different. We would reinvent the mother-child dynamic. It would be different for us. You would always want to be with me, always need me, always look to me for the answers.

You, I could tell then, would always be agreeable, always attentive. Always compliant.There would never come a day when we wouldn’t see eye to eye on everything. 

That day did come though.

My fog lifted and there you were, already a whole person, separate from me.  You had opinions on just about everything: Your new winter coat “sucks”, you said, because it takes too long to zip up. You can't wear the waterproof thermal mitts because they don’t allow for proper snow ball formation. You hate plaid. Naveen can sit on your bed only if he takes off his socks, holds in all toots and burps and refrains from coughing on you.

When I was sad, you told me you liked my shirt. And when I was really sad you said "I love everything you're wearing Mom!" And sometimes.  Well sometimes, I noticed that you said things just because it was easier. You appeased me.

This year, you understood the vastness with which your brother adores you. At a birthday party a few weeks ago for one of your mutual friends, I watched as he hid behind you, waited for you to pioneer the way; his shield in this life.

His guide.

You love your family and tell us so all the time. You love school, your teachers and your friends. You love your grandparents, aunts, uncles and all of your cousins too. You love candy and popcorn, hockey and forts. 

Oh and Lego, you love Lego.

And you are itching for adventure every minute of the day. When we tell you about an upcoming trip, you want to go that minute. Time is such a nuisance. Are we there yet? You ask over and over.

Are we there yet?

Well no. We aren't there yet. I don't want to be there yet, is that bad? I want it all to slow down. I want to marinate in the you of today, bask in your light and sparkle. Get caught up in the world through your eyes. 

Happy birthday my big, big boy, thanks for letting me live it all again, through you.

Love Mom.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Jesus isn't the reason for our Christmas*

I took a sick day on Monday.
But because I can’t seem to relax anymore, I poked around under the basement stairs, found some left over paper from last year and wrapped the few gifts I’d bought for Shaune and the kids so far.
Once wrapped, in the very opposite way Martha Stewart might have done it, I laid them neatly under the tree, grouped together by their intended recipients. It was my small attempt to atone for the lack of effort I’d put into bringing the season into our home this year.
A small thrill of excitement lit through me as I imagined the kids running through the door, notice the pile of presents, and then excitedly ask who they were for.
What I hadn’t imagined was Naveen crying for four days straight because I’d had to break it to him that they were not to be opened until Christmas morning.
It stirred in me two things:
The first was sympathy for this three and a half year-old of mine, who had with alarming grace and composure, watched his older brother only a few days earlier, open an enormous pile of birthday gifts and who was now expected to understand that this here pile was not to be opened either.
And the second was a mild sense of guilt that I hadn’t yet discussed the true meaning of Christmas with my boys this year. There’d only been non-stop talk about what each hoped Santa would bring. And on my part a lot of warnings that Santa would bring only socks and underwear if they didn’t behave. What can I say? I like to make the most of an opportunity.
Mixed in with both of these sentiments was that same old malaise I always feel around this time of year: that feeling that I’m not so sure myself what this season is about.
Lately I’ve felt an even greater clarity that for our family at least, Christmas is not about the birth of Jesus Christ. And it’s not because I don’t like the story of Jesus. I like it just fine. I get that’s why we Christians say we celebrate Christmas.  I grew up Catholic after all.  I teach my kids Christian values all the time: be kind to your fellow person; treat others as you’d want them to treat you; give to those who have less than you.
I even own a Nativity set.
I just don’t feel right about making the connection between Christmas and Jesus’ birth.  It doesn’t make sense for our family. We don’t go to church. We don’t talk about any orthodox religions on a regular basis in our home. There’s not a crucifix or religious photo in sight.
The thing is, my God, the one I commune with daily, well, he is very private. He has very little resemblance to anything I’ve read about in the Bible. He’s a higher power I’m not sure can be attributed to religion. I'm not even sure he's a he. A sacred and safe place inside me, for which I feel ill equipped to explain to a six and three year old.
I like the idea of giving as the true meaning of Christmas. But let’s face it, mostly we’re giving gifts to each other and I’m not sure my husband needs another set of tools. And besides, real giving, the kind we’re trying to teach the kids about, well, that’s something we talk about all year long around here.
So it occurs to me that I can tell the kids what Christmas has been about for us and our family. A time to spend more time with their extended family. A time to refresh their toy supply. A time to appreciate each other. A time to decorate the house and feel festive. A time to believe in the magic of Santa. A time to create family traditions.
When I think about it that way, I can relax and enjoy the season.
* I got the idea of the title from one of my favorite bloggers.

 I don't think I'm going to get a chance to do Christmas cards this year. If I change my mind, these pictures might be contenders.

 Poor Shaune's been sick as can be for the last two weeks. He put the tree up even though he could could barely stand.

Most of the ornaments are this low on our tree. Like so many moms in the same predicament, I fight my urge to spread them out.            

As usual we had Deaglan's birthday party early since his real birthday is Christmas Eve. Here we are at Adventures on Wonderland.

Poor little cousin Leo - "Stop pushing on my bloody face Naveen" is what I imagine he'd say if he could talk.

As usual, Shaune kept me humble with his photography.  In the photo above please note the extra roll around my hip area.

In this one I like that I look like I'm listening to my sister-in-law Chrissy while actually just stuffing my face. 

And finally, just in case you didn't know that I don't have a flat's a reminder.


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