Thursday, 28 March 2013

I take none of it lightly

You people.

You lovely, kind people. The things you said in your comments on that last post. Well, words can’t explain how much those things mean to me.

Thank you.

And to my Facebook friends: the ones who always comment on my posts (Frank I’m talking to you), the ones who send me private messages to let me know that something I wrote struck a chord or just that they liked it, and the ones I see in real life in the halls at work who stop to tell me they read one of my posts; to all of you, thank you. Thank you!

You should know I take none of it lightly.

I was feeling good about this and  about life in general despite the fact that we seem to have entered phase two of winter around here, the opposite of Indian summer, when I realized I forgot to tell you that in a few short days, Shaune will once again be a homemaker. Then I realized that I forgot to tell you that he got another temporary teaching job in the first place.  The technical term for which is long term occasional or LTO if you’re in the business.

Yup, lucky for us, once again someone needed surgery.

Last year he replaced a teacher who was having his elbow operated on. It gave him six months of work. Yay bum elbow! And then this past September he got a call to step in because another teacher needed his shoulder fixed. Greedily, my first thought was, that other shoulder isn't going to fix itself.

Maybe you’re thinking we should be taking a long hard look at the obvious. Elbow replaced? Shoulder surgery? What kind of work has Shaune gotten himself into? Will he one day come home and tell me they need to operate on his thumbs? Replace his forearm? We have thought of that and it’s hard to say for sure so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.  Besides, on most days I remember to tell him to be careful.

But it is hopeful that in the two years since graduating from teacher’s college, an industry everyone thought he was crazy to get into because of all the budget cuts our province has been making, he’s worked steadily at least half of each year.

He’s developed really good relationships with two principals and many, many teachers. Just last night a group of lady hospitality teachers took him out for dinner to celebrate the end of his LTO and to let him know how sad they were that he was leaving. They’d all told him on different occasions how much they liked working with him. A few said they appreciated that he always came over to their classrooms to say hi or discuss a lesson plan.

He was hesitant at first about going, just him and five ladies, some who are close enough in age to be his mother, but in the end he went and I think, had a good time. I heard him come in around ten so it couldn’t have been all talk about grandkids and gardening. Although, if they had discussed gardening for any length of time, they would have had his undivided attention.

He’s a food nerd on all levels.

Now he’ll go back on the supply list; take substitute teaching gigs whenever he gets calls. But more importantly I’ll have gained a Nanny. A handy, handsome nanny who does windows! Oh sweet, sweet unemployment. If last year is any indication, he’ll take the kids to their respective places. Every morning (!)

He’ll pick them up. 

Every afternoon (!)

He’ll have the house clean and dinner ready.

Every day (!!)

And if that isn’t enough to make me want to increase my pay scale to make this situation permanent, he’ll tackle another big project in the realm of home improvement. I’ve thought it through and already have come up with an itemized list in descending order of importance. It’s been just short of impossible to not fantasize about coming home to brand new curb appeal. I stay up late imagining the possibilities for the upstairs bathroom.

Obviously, and not to mention ideally, we need him to be gainfully employed. I mean it isn’t right that I’m over the moon at the thought of him being available should the school or daycare call because one of the kids is sick. Or that I'm practically giddy because now I could seriously consider doing one of the morning classes at the gym. It's not right.


And finally, we can get back to eating like this. These are all dishes he's made in the past when the only kitchen he cooked in was ours.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Not writing is unacceptable


I’ve been trying to write this post for over an hour now.

But I’ve got Naveen smooshed in  close. My left arm is practically sewn to that side of my stomach. I tried to lure him over to the long couch where Deaglan is watching a mildly disturbing cartoon on Teletoon called Rocket Monkey. But he insisted that he wanted to cuddle and because I’m no fool and totally get that my days of unprovoked cuddling are likely numbered, here we are.

It’s the usual way I get any writing done around here.

It forces me to pre-think my posts for a few days. I let an idea roll around my head until the thought of not writing it is unacceptable. I rifle through some of the stuff I’d been taking mental note of: Things the kids said. Comical scenarios I conjured up on a run. Ridiculous interactions I had with people. A song I heard. Something I read that stuck with me. Rare moments I might have allowed gratitude to fill me.

And then when I can’t take the not writing of it anymore, I sit down on the recliner in the living room, and do my best to create a first draft. By then I need to get this post idea down, so I can usually keep the nagging insecure voice in my head at bay for a few minutes.

The relentless voice that wants me to know what a stupid piece of writing this will be. The one that reminds me that only a handful of people read my blog these days and most of them do it out of obligation because they know me and think I might expect it. And they will definitely think it’s a stupid post. And another instance of over-sharing.

I also force myself to tune out any pre-conceived notions of good writing pestering me. I just want to tap the idea out onto the screen first.  Once it’s all there I start editing. Sometimes this part takes me a few days. I might sit down after dinner three nights in a row and keep rewriting the essay until it feels right.
But sometimes the editing takes only an hour.

My only gauge is whether or not I’m happy with it. If I am, I hope like crazy there’s a photo on our camera I can download. In the summer there’s never a shortage. The light is good and lasts long into the evening. It helps that we’re outside all the time, unburdened by layers of clothing. Shaune is usually more willing to cooperate with my insistence that we capture the kids. It helps if I remind him that time is just flying by. The kids are not going to be five and two forever!

But in the winter, good clear light is a commodity. And even I know how lame the flash setting can make a picture look. I always hope for a good shot of the kids in natural light. And if there is one or a photo relevant to what I’m writing about, then I take a few minutes to edit that too.  

I then upload the picture (s) and copy and paste my piece into Blogger. This is   precisely when I play around with the publish preview button to get a sense of what the post will look like on my blog. I’m always amazed how much more editing I need to do at this point. Something that might seem to work in a word document might read totally wrong in a blog post.

I edit and preview, edit and preview and edit and preview. 

Then I bite the bullet and hit publish.  I read the post again, live and on the internet. And because there's no threat of something I've written going viral,  I might edit again if something just isn't sitting right with me.  I also check to make sure my post published to my facebook account.

The last thing I do is take a deep breath. In more recent years the deep breath is accompanied by a conscious letting go. 

I hope for the best that my writing will be received well and I carry on with the rest of my night with these knuckleheads.

Like any good mother, I take every opportunity to dress them alike. Gramma and Grampa brought these T-shirts back from their recent trip to Portugal. The shirts say "My grandparents are cool." 

Chapstick is a really big deal around here. I try not to analyze how gross it is that they both find it delicious.

Friday, 15 March 2013

The necessary transition from serial killers to swim suits

We took the kids to an indoor water park in Michigan for the March break this past week. 

On the three hour drive I was viscerally alert to the sinister. I noticed things. A few very suspicious looking items caught my attention.  What appeared to be an adult-sized body had been wrapped in an ugly plaid blanket and tossed ever so delicately just beyond the shoulder of the I-69 West. Why, I asked myself, had the driver (killer??) chosen this exact section of the interstate to dispose of the body?

I’ll tell you why.

The shoulder there was narrower. And the ditch a good few feet deeper so that should someone with my scrutinizing abilities notice the evidence, it would be almost impossible to pull over to get a better look.

Twenty or so miles later when we pulled into a rest stop, I scanned the parking lot. In the sizeable yet rustic bathroom, I held my breath to fend off the porta-potty stink, peeked under the stalls and inspected the alignment of the ceiling tiles. When I was sure there was no one lurking in wait, I hurriedly did my business and ran breathlessly back to the van.   

You can never be too careful. These things are almost always connected.

A hundred miles later at the water park, I fine tuned my radar.  I was on the lookout for serial killer types.

Incidentally, that evening when I connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, I could not find my show on Netflix. I felt something close to panic at the prospect of waiting three whole days to find out how Dexter would deal with the murder of Rita. The season four finale was a crushing blow and I was desperately in need of a tidy explanation.

After a few hours poolside though, I was able to transition from serial killers to swimsuits. I am equally fascinated by both in a sick twisted sort of way. I never want to be (in) one but can’t resist their demented charm when confronted.  

The water park was teeming with parents of young children. In other words, I was among my own people. Men and women in the sophomore and junior years of parenthood, milled about; their babies and young children in tow, outfitted safely in water wings, life jackets and swim diapers.

Almost every mother there seemed to shrink behind some semblance of swim outfit she’d pieced together, wondering like me, why she’d allowed herself to be talked into this type of ‘vacation’ destination when it meant walking around helplessly parading the wreckage child-birth had tolled on her body.

There were plenty of tankinis. I assessed each one, hoping to see at least a few variations with the right built-in bra structure and enough give in the mid section. I was ready to ask for the shopping details, if the perfect one should cross my path. But no such luck. They all fit the same.  Plunging V-neck with little to no support and a too narrow cup area, so that half of each post partum breast hung low and exposed.

There were also many sporty one pieces, which without exception made the wearer look as if she had a short, squat, square torso. The exact opposite effect any of us wants when so scantily clad. I’d gone down this road after Deaglan was born. It was a very dark period of my life. One I am appalled Shaune caught on camera and one I can only hope to someday forget.

Some of my colleagues thought they could hide the damage with a strategically tied sarong or fetching beach cover-up, a tactic I’d used a few summers ago when the stifling heat and unbearable humidity had us driving to the beach at least a few days each week.

Yet most commonly worn, I noticed, was a throwback to a bygone era - a variation of the one piece with the added skirt/skort so that we looked like a modern less modest version of this.

After two and a half days of sucking in my stomach and walking around with a wet knotty bun, I was ready to move on. 

Our plans had included sidetracking so we could squeeze in a visit with my sister and her gang near Detroit. On route I spotted a DSW, a coveted oasis amid the desert of kiddie care I'd been lingering in. I convinced Shaune that I was in dire need.  In 20 minutes I was a new woman; refreshed and ready for the next phase of the trip. 

I hold these two beauties solely responsible.

The kids had a wild time reconnecting. Ashalina, my youngest niece, even fell asleep on the ride from the playscape to the restaurant. My brother-in-law Rick kindly turned around so we could capture her in this group shot.

I was relieved to get home late last night. I did a little reconnecting myself. I'm happy to report that Dexter was again in my queue.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Assume nothing

Earlier this evening a young woman came to the front door. She had good news for me she announced. She would take care of the installation charges if I agreed to switch from my cable and internet provider to her company. She was bright and hopeful, young and pretty.

I cut her spiel off at the knees. It felt bad to do it. It’s a tough thing; going from door-to-door during the dinner hour, in the cold.

But still.

We have that sign on the door prohibiting exactly this kind of thing. And besides, she’d come in the middle of a presentation I was giving to an audience of two. Two small boys were refusing to eat their dinners.


And until that loud knocking at the front door, I’d been on somewhat of a roll. I was saying things like, “there will absolutely be no more dessert or treats (dramatically tapping at the treat cupboard) if you don’t eat your meal,” and “you have no idea how lucky you are to have so much food, some kids (pointing meaningfully out the back door) aren’t so lucky.”

I was perfectly aware that my beautifully delivered oration was being met with complete disregard by Naveen who was busy wrapping noodles around the wheels of a mobile cow. And Deaglan had only one question he kept interrupting with, “How much do I have to eat to get a chocolate pudding?”

I’ve learned one very disappointing truth on my parenting journey so far: Assume nothing.

Shaune and I are hearty, willing eaters. And we excel at sleeping.  Our favourite things are to eat and sleep. In fact, a long-time dream of mine is to be allowed to only eat and sleep for days at a time. Give me food. Give me a bed. I’m happy.

Our boys?

Failures on both counts.

I was discussing this very thing with a mom friend of mine a while back. She wasn’t as good at commiserating as I’d hoped she would be. She admitted that her son was a very good eater and he’d slept practically 12 hours straight since the day he was born. When she saw me wincing she kindly pointed out some of his failings. “He’s two and he hardly says a word. I mean, didn’t you say Naveen can practically read from the Encyclopedia?”   

And” she added, “my little brother was a really picky eater. My mom had the worst time ever making meals and packing his lunches.”

“Oh yeah?” I perked up a little. “Did he grow out of it?”

“You know what? He did. Two years ago when he moved to Toronto for work, he started hanging out with a more sophisticated crowd of people. Now he eats sushi and all kinds of vegetables.”

So basically she was saying that I might have to wait till Deaglan’s almost thirty to see a change in his eating habits. He won’t even be my problem at meal times then!