On Selfies and Motherhood


Until Nathalie brought it up, I had never given much thought to the selfie. Largely because I don’t see very many, with my kids too young to selfie and me too old to know people who do. In theory, I don’t see much wrong with a selfie, or even a load of them, although in practice wouldn’t it get dull fairly fast?

As for me? No, I don’t selfie. It hadn’t occurred to me to, but because I gave it some thought because of this blog, I can now illustrate more reasons why not.

Remember the foster kittens I mentioned?  Well, the last one was finally released from the vet yesterday and he returned to my house. I assumed the reunion with his siblings would be a happy one.  Then, as I was about to sit down to dinner with the kids (husband works nights), I heard myself say, “I smell cat poo.”

Frozen, I sniffed again. “I think it’s on you.”  I pointed to middle son, seated at the table.

“I don’t have cat poo on me,” he said, as if I were ridiculous.

My eyes scanned down until I saw the blobs and smears on his shirt. I helped him take it off and went upstairs to the toilet to scrape, wash, soak (and silently cuss).  I was drying my hands when middle son walked up the stairs, swinging his pants.

“What are you doing?”

“My pants smell like poo, so I took them off.”

“Stop swinging them then! You could be flinging the poo everywhere.”

“They just smell like poo,” he said patiently, “they don’t have poo on them.”

But of course they did, all across the middle section. I scraped, washed and soaked that up too, then searched for the cats. I caught the culprit, and cleaned her up. What could cause such strange behaviour? Perhaps her brother’s return stressed her?

I finally return to stiff risotto and soggy salad but before I sit, the boys point to the couch: “There’s poo there too.” What? I walk tentatively over. It’s everywhere! All over my iPad case, the floor and who knows where else? Stop moving! I cry. The two youngest have stepped in it and trekking it around.

One is sent hobbling on his heels to the bathroom; I carry the other. I run the bath, and quarantine all the kittens in the bathroom. I go back to the kitchen and start cleaning all the disgustingness. My youngest is three; I thought I was done with this nonsense.  By now, to avert contamination, my eldest is basically standing on his chair.

The doorbell rings. Seriously?  I hate solicitations anyway, but never more than now. I am so going to send the person away, or maybe we can just pretend we’re not here.  Except all the lights are on and she can see me through the window in the door.

Arg! It’s the Toronto Environmental Alliance, and I actually want to support them and have done for years. I tell her that I have to clean up cat poo and it’s everywhere and can she please come back in 10 minutes. I go back to cleaning up the cat crap in the kitchen and then notice I am getting dripped on. I look up.  O.M.G.

I run upstairs and my youngest is bailing water out of the bathtub onto the floor and the flood is leaking through to the kitchen below.  I freak out, just as effectively as I have every other time he’s done it. Only his size prevents me from flushing him down the toilet.

Cut! I could continue, but why bother. You get the picture.  There’s not a word of a lie, and it’s only a bit more outrageous than many a night around here.

Why would I selfie this??

And yet…

Anyone who’s into it could tell you that parenthood is equal parts gore and glory, and they trade places with schizophrenic alacrity.

For today I took my youngest to the beach, in search for his brothers who were spending the day there with their school.  It should come as a surprise to no one that I could not find them, but all was not lost, not at all. My baby has been asking me for days to go to the beach, and we were finally here. Just us two. Instead of trailing along for his brothers’ events, my youngest took centre stage. We played at the beach, and I gave him the best that I have: my full attention.

It was gorgeous outside and in, and I took quite a few pics of him with my phone to record it.

And then: I took a selfie.

IMG_20150623_142133Lopsided pony tail, wisps of hair flying with the wild wind, sporting gold rimmed sunglasses found in the car and almost certainly bought by my husband from the thrift store along with 15 others as a joke three Christmas dinners ago.  Retro is in again, and I think I could actually look pretty cool in those shades if only my face were 40% bigger.

I had a sense of what I looked like, but I took the selfie (and some selfies with my little son) anyway.  I took it because on that beach I had survived the day before and was still standing there in the sand, in the present – truly, madly, deeply. I took it because there was no one else to take it, and that wasn’t good enough. I took it because when my son looks at pictures of this stunning day, I want him to know that I was there too, that I looked at all the rocks he showed me, that we dug for pirate treasure together, and that I gave him my sweater when the windblown sand stung his skin.

I took the selfie because I was satisfied, and I wanted to remember it.


Guest Post: Kristina Cerise

Husband cookies

Husband cookie (noun): small, flat and round baked treat which, for any number of reasons (e.g. unintended merger, over-cooked edges, contact with kitchen floor) has been compromised in a manner that makes it unsuitable for guests and available for consumption by spouse.


Kristina Cerise is a Seattle writer, editor and mom trying to find meaning in the madness. Her essays have been feature on Brain, Child’s blog, in Working Mother, and most recently in Motherhood May Cause Drowsiness (Second Edition). She blogs about words and what they mean to her on Defining Motherhood.


FullSizeRenderjuicer (n): an intensely delicious kiss on the cheek whereupon the lips of one are pressed firmly into the cheek of another lasting for at minimum 5 glorious Mississippi-seconds.

-the kisser’s hand cradles and presses the head of the receiver, creating counter-pressure to intensify the kiss.
-the kisser’s lips attach to the cheek with an open-mouth creating a suction seal, producing a delicious, slurpy sound when pulled away.
-rarely, but much loved by the receiver, the kisser, while lips attached to the cheek, vocalizes Muuuuuu-wah!

Childhood Diaries Long Gone and All Is Well

book-855708_640I had a good laugh when I read Nathalie’s post a couple of days ago, but was surprised at her surprise in discovering the schlock that existed in her diaries.  I’ve known for ages about mine, which is precisely why I have long since recycled all of it.  I’ve never missed it either. Partly because the writing is hopelessly bad, and partly because personally I found being a child quite a bit harder than being an adult, and reading about what now appears to be non-events to my adult self seems to mock the real hardships of that earlier time.

So the crummy diaries are gone – not burned, but gone nonetheless.  I can’t tell you what I wrote in them and all is well.  I can tell you what I wish I had written though, and it might have been something like these excerpts from The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend.  I read this book as a teenager, and was not too much of a child or an adult to appreciate it completely.


Monday January 12th

The dog is back. It keeps licking its stitches, so when I am eating I sit with my back to it. My mother got up this morning to make the dog a bed to sleep in until it’s better. It is made out of a cardboard box that used to contain packets of soap powder. My father said this would make the dog sneeze and burst its stitches, and the vet would charge even more to stitch it back up again. They had a row about the box, then my father went on about Mr Lucas. Though what Mr Lucas has to do with the dog’s bed is a mystery to me. 

Tuesday January 13

My father has gone back to work. Thank God! I don’t know how my mother sticks him.

Mr Lucas came in this morning to see if my mother needed any help in the house. He is very kind. Mrs Lucas was next door cleaning the outside windows. The ladder didn’t look very safe. I have written to Malcolm Muggeridge, c/o the BBC, asking him what to do about being an intellectual. I hope he writes back soon because I’m getting fed up being one on my own. I have written a poem, and it only took me two minutes. Even the famous poets take longer than that. It is called “The Tap”, but it isn’t really about a tap, it’s very deep, and about life and stuff like that.

The Tap, by Adrian Mole

The tap drips and keeps me awake,

In the morning there will be a lake.

For the want of a washer the carpet will spoil,

Then for another my father will toil.

My father could snuff it while he is at work.

Dad, fit a washer don’t be a burk!

I showed it to my mother, but she laughed. She isn’t very bright. She still hasn’t washed my PE shorts, and it is school tomorrow. She is not like the mothers on television.

June 28, 1988: The Mystery of the Murdered Kid

I wrote this for creative writing when I was in grade 2.  There are no illustrations, simply text because I was going for “novel” and not “picture book”.   I am surprised that psychological services were never called after I wrote this story.IMG_5742

June 28, 1988 Grade 2

The Mystery of the Murdered Kid

 Once in a land called Monster Berry-Chew, there was a monster called Monster Berry-Chew.

He liked to murder and to pick out the brains and cut off heads. When he cut his nails he didn’t use ordinary scissors. He cut his nails with huge chompers. Now let’s get on with the story.

A very long time ago there was a girl who was hiking. Her name was Sue. She found a cave, a big cave, a big big big cave. Inside the BIG cave was a coffin. She opened it and there was Monster Berry-Chew.

Then he murdered Sue. He got loose and murdered three girls he loved.

When he found out he had murdered the girls he loved, he was very upset because now he was all alone.

Then he found one poor family. He brought everybody back to life, with his powers.

One night the townspeople went to check on Monster Berry-Chew. The monster was not there. They searched and searched.

Then somebody said “He is not here and he won’t be murdering people anymore.”

“You are right,” said the townspeople.

The End.

Nathalie Reads her Teen Journals and Wishes She Had Burned Them

journalI grew up as a TCK.  Third Culture Kid.  We didn’t have a fancy name for it back then, of course.  The closest thing was “military brat,” and who wants to be called that?  We did have second families in schools that housed other kids like us, though, and I will be forever grateful for the international schools that made all of those transitions bearable.  When more than half the class is new each year, it makes it much easier to start over and over and over again.

Anyway, long story short, none of my juvenilia survived the eight country-to-country moves I made before I turned  15.  Photographs of me in hideous outfits, yes.  Evidence of my early literary brilliance, no.

Once my treasured possessions could travel under my steam, which they did when I left for university, my shit stuff traveled with me.  Therefore, the only remaining evidence of my younger writing self is the box full of journals, beginning with myself at 14, that lives under my bed.

I so very much wish I had left them there.  I so very much wish that I had just made up the post that was due for today.  I sit here feeling rather traumatized and thinking that no deadline, no sense of pride in our publishing record of five posts a week for five years, no adoring audience of three friends and several thousand strangers, nothing on earth, in short, could have made it worth wading through so.  many.  pages.  of.  crap.

I put it off until the very last minute.  I assured myself that something funny, something wry would appear in some of those pages.  I have a treasure trove of material under that bed.  How hard can it be to find something funny?  It will be fun, I said.  It will be a hoot, I said.  How bad can it be? I said.

All that and worse.

On the bright side, I will suffer no writer’s block when I sit down tonight and make today’s entry in my gratitude journal.  I am immeasurably grateful that I am not a teenaged girl.  I am also grateful to my very poor memory, and to the empty glass of beer that sits on my desk, that I will soon forget having had to wade through so.  many.  pages.  of.  crap.

After all of that, I leave you with a mercifully brief selection of entries from the journal I kept when I was 15.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent.


The ABCs of Teen Love

September 1985

(Please picture big bubble letters, artfully shaded, and little hearts floating around them)

I love Andrew.

October 1985

(Please picture even more elaborate lettering and floating hearts and, God help me, butterflies.)

I love Benjamin.

December 1985

I had decided I needed to type my love.  I filled an entire page with this:

I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  Does Christopher love me?  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.  I love Christopher.

And for some reason, I saw fit to keep it.

Beth-Anne and Carol, good luck to you.

Things We Wrote As Kids


Podcasts are my new favourite thing. Nathalie and I lost hours of our life to Serial and I listen to Meditation Oasis on my walks back from school drop-off and tune into Ted Talks for inspiration. But when I need a laugh, I stream Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids.

The 60-minute podcasts are exactly what the title states. Grownups read excerpts of their journals, diaries, letters, stories and homework assignments they wrote when they were kids. In front of a live audience. Kudos to them! I don’t know if I would have the courage for public embarrassment.

Rather coincidently my mother dropped off a box of my school days treasures and among the folders are a considerable number of humiliating stories that I wrote while in elementary school. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly name my mother the GREATEST MOTHER EVER because not only did she keep a straight face when I read these aloud to her, she actually wrote supportive notes in the comments section. Bless her.

Without further ado, this week we pay homage to Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids and share with you, a piece of writing from our childhood.

If listening to people embarrass themselves is your thing, Grownups Read Things They Wrote As Kids is coming live to Detroit, Windsor and Toronto in May. Be sure to check their website for tour dates.