On Selfies and Motherhood

IMG_20150623_141413

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.

Advertisement

Juicer

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.

Variations:
-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!

To Get You Through June: Desiderata

IMG_5173

A friend sent me this poem and I share it with you in hopes that you find clarity and calmness in the hectic days that fill the month of June.

_______________________

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,

even the dull and the ignorant;

they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,

be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, written in 1927

Family History: a map for the adventure of life

larch-forest-358059_640Last month I had an incredible experience. I was present for the birth of my nephew. It’s not the first birth I’ve been present for, I have three sons of my own, but it is the first where I was fully overwhelmed by the intensity of the situation. I wasn’t listening for my cue to push or holding my breath and bearing down. I was just there, committed to the moment, and as trite as it sounds, witnessing the miracle life. And what a miracle it is.

When my nephew took his first breath I was unprepared for the flood of emotions. Unlike the birth of my own children, at a time when my adrenaline was pumping and my heart exploding with love and gratitude, I was enveloped by a fury of anxiety and devotion. This perfect little person came into the world more loved than most with years of life to live.

And life can be messy. Life can hurt.

But knowing family that will always support him and stand by him through the valleys and peaks of life, will give him the courage to get messy. To get hurt.

When we’re born, we’re born into a family with complexities, eccentricities and deep-rooted psychologies. We’re not simply a mash-up of genetic material. We’re a complicated, mash-up of generations upon generations.

And if for nothing else, preserving my family’s history serves as a map for the adventure of life.

Family Heirlooms According to a Purger

FullSizeRender (1)

Yesterday,while other families spent the day outdoors enjoying the soaring temperatures and sunshine followed by a festive display of fireworks, I spent it indoors doing something that gives me great pleasure.

Purging.

Closets, drawers and cupboards that is.

I delight in giving things the toss to the donation bin or garbage bin, it doesn’t matter; the high I get is the same. Thankfully, my partner in life shares my need for clutter-free living. Some extol the comfort they feel in keeping playbills and movie stubs, bric-a-brac and dated magazines, first teeth and hair clippings. I simply can’t relate.

Years ago we moved house and before any piece of paper, item of clothing or page of a book was packed, it had to pass muster. Do I really need this? Do I really want this? Have I looked at/used/wore/thought about it the past year? The past two years?

I held up a stack of my wedding programs. Toss. The pale blue cardstock littered the recycle bin save for one. A small shoebox overflowing with cards and letters was given the once over before dumping much of its contents in with the programs. I have saved a few items: baptismal outfits and meaningful, heart-felt cards and pictures (rarely get rejected), but for the most part, rightly or wrongly, I like to attach my emotions to people and memories and not to stuff.

I am not a complete Scrooge. I do own things that I care deeply about. Our champagne flutes that I carried around Europe on my back come to mind. Recently there was a casualty and our set of 6 diminished to the odd number of 5. My husband and I both looked at the cracked glass, and for a minute there was a moment we wished we could turn back the clock and be just a bit more careful, but it was short lived and I mitigated the blues by toasting the fun times we’d had with that glass.

The pottery my boys made, the hand-knitted blankets and sweaters, and my grandmother’s ring are among the material things that I own and would be sad to lose because they are truly irreplaceable.   I like to think that I have a carefully curated collection of material items from books to clothing that won’t burden my sons too terribly when I die.

I don’t expect the boys to keep much, and I’ve made the task an easy one. Just like my mother and grandmothers (all extremely Spartan women), I have little to bequeath.

But if I am to tell the tale of our family’s history through one object, it is one that is explicitly off-hands to curious, little fingers. It is the cake topper that adorned my grandparents’ wedding cake 67 years ago.

The bride and groom are stoic, with linked arms and pursed expressions, as if knowing that marriage and the years ahead are not made of taffeta and butter cream.

This small, ceramic figurine serves as a reminder of the long marriages that make up my family’s tree. Certainly they weren’t marriages without flaws and struggle. Certainly they weren’t marriages that were perfect or even near to, but certainly they were marriages built on something to last decades and serve as the foundation for a generous number of descendants.

When the time comes, many years from now, for my family tree to add branches, I will carefully pass the bride and groom down to my boys to serve as a symbol of unity, commitment and yup, hard work.

Attention Toronto Parents: The Great Kids Stuff Sale is coming!

11120553_10153243999317269_1724565510_nIt’s that time again!  The North Toronto MOMS Group is hosting their bi-annual Great Kids Stuff Sale.  This large-scale mom-to-mom consignment sale benefits several charities in the Greater Toronto Area which is just one of the reasons that make this a must-check-out event.

In the past, I have picked up two bikes for $20, a pair of all-leather, never worn shoes for a baby for $5, an almost new GAP coat for $8 as well as a bag of clothes for less than $50.

It’s the perfect place to pick up baby gear for a fraction of the price.  Bumbos for $10, Bjorns for $20, strollers for a less than a third of the retail value!  There are mounds of clothing, stacks of books and so many toys that it could easily take hours to sort through it all.

Here are my insider tips for you:

–        Arrive early.  The doors open at 9 am and there is always a line-up.

–        Bring a large bag to carry around your finds.

–        Have a plan of what you are looking for.  The sale can be overwhelming so it’s better to know what you’re looking for before you get lost in the piles.

–        If you can, leave babies and kids at home as the sale can get crowded

–        Become a vendor!  Clear out the outgrown clothing and never played with toys that are cluttering up your home.  It’s not uncommon for vendors to make hundreds of dollars!

SATURDAY, APRIL 25 from 9:00 am – Noon @ St. Clement’s Church (70 St. Clements Avenue, at Duplex)

11123620_10153244002907269_1089574694_n

Just check out the rows and rows of clothes!  Everything is organized by gender and size so finding what fits your little ones is much easier.  Shoes, formal wear, and outer wear are also separated so make sure you know what sizes you’re looking for!

It really is a sea of clothing!  The first two rows have bedding, receiving blankets and room decor.  It’s not uncommon to find the original price tags still on sheet sets.

11051235_10153243999327269_1389430677_n

Need a bouncy chair?  How about an extra one for the upstairs or grandma’s house?  For $15 or less, it’s hard to say no.

11101938_10153243999322269_1853857274_n-1

And you thought your toy room had lots of stuff!  Toys run the gamut from baby to six years old.  Games, puzzles, books, DVDs, – if your kid wants it, it’s here!

A Parenting Trial

I thought for a good while about what I’d like to post for today and realized I couldn’t do much better than to re-post an anecdote I wrote almost five years ago (five years ago!).  I’m not sure how to introduce it, except to say that sometimes life’s like that, and to give thanks to my husband’s robust sense of humour, which helped him through this and many other trials.  And, of course, if you have your own, please do tell!

~~~~~

It happened on the way to the cottage.  We got stuck in traffic, as we often do, in congestion worse than usual.  Also worse than usual was the mood in the car, due to bickering between my husband and me.  We were headed for a long, long drive.

My husband tried to pacify himself with an extra large coffee at the Tim Hortons drive-thru.  I don’t like coffee but used to take a mouthful or two when he would douse his Tims with double sugar and double cream.  Lately my husband had cut these indulgences out though, so he alone made short work of the bitter blackness.

As we continued to idle in the middle lane going pretty much nowhere, our then 4 year old son announced that he had to pee.  No one can really agree on whether it’s better to have boys or girls (thank God), but there are indisputable advantages to sons when it comes to peeing in a pinch.  Seizing the day, and the fact that we were barely moving, I unhooked the boy from his car seat.  In inspiration I grabbed the empty Tim Horton’s coffee cup as a urinal while he stood up in the car and peed into it.  My son silently followed all of my instructions with the acquiescence of the child aware he is in the midst of unusual and interesting permissiveness.  When he was done, I snapped the plastic lid back on the cup, returned it to the cup holder, and re-buckled my son, feeling pretty satisfied at the efficiency of it all.

As the going nowhere waxed on, my husband got bored.  He pulled out one of the harmonicas he keeps in the car.  He likes to play them when he’s driving.  I think it’s unsafe driving practice to play an instrument while driving, but my husband ignores me and it’s not illegal and I have to pick my battles.  That’s why we have a full set of harmonicas in the car.  Except that it’s rarely full.  There is usually at least one harmonica missing because the kids love to play on them, and freely I allow it, and reluctantly so does my husband, and somehow the little instruments don’t always make it back to where they belong.  And when they don’t, my husband blames me for it.  It’s kind of The Harmonica Issue.

Anyway, on this motionless car trip, during which my husband and I have given up trying to talk to each other, he tried to entertain himself by making a little music.  I was looking out the passenger window, but still saw his arm lift to bring the little silver instrument to his lips.  I heard his deep inhale.

But the expectant brassy blast of sound didn’t come.  Instead, flipping his head from left to right, my husband was sputtering in disgust.  There was some old mushed up peanut butter and jam residue in the harmonica, and he had sucked it right into his mouth.

I knew he wanted to blame me for this incident (if I didn’t give the harmonicas to the children then they wouldn’t be able to input their lunches into them for later resurrection, blah, blah, blah).  But since he wasn’t talking to me, he couldn’t.  So he said nothing and I continued to look out the window, trying not to laugh.

Then, suddenly, from the corner of my eye I saw his arms waving  all over the place.  I turned to look.  My husband’s face was red, eyes darting.  There were more sputtering noises, louder and more dramatic than before.  Also a good bit of cursing coming from him.  His window went down, Ben stuck his head far out of it, and spat and spewed and then spewed some more.

He had tried to cleanse his mouth of the peanut butter and jam residue in his mouth.  By drinking from the Tim Horton’s coffee cup.

Post printed with reluctant permission of husband.

Children’s Artwork from Minted: Help Me Choose!

I love stationery and pretty paper products. In fact, one time I was in an elevator and met a stationery buyer for Indigo and it was akin to my son meeting the garbage collector. I peppered her with questions and basked in envy the entire 8 flights down. A stationery buyer, I thought that was a job of lore.

I spend hours searching out the perfect invitation, be it for a baby shower or a birthday party, and I love every minute of it. If I am in a store, I handle each card with care, weighing the paper in my hand, my fingers taking in the texture of embossed letters or fine linen grids. But I can’t always make it to a store, and the boys don’t seem to share my passion for loitering among note cards so, on-line must suffice.

My newest obsession is Minted. Minted is an on-line stationery and paper art store that allows artists to share their designs, all of which can be customized, to fellow paperphiles. The site is a visual delight tempting me to throw a party, get in touch with long lost friends and update my wall décor. It’s a beautiful rabbit hole to fall down and I recommend that you get lost!

My first order from Minted was my Christmas card for 2014. I was able to play around with various colours and tweaks to the design before settling on my favourite. An easy to use spreadsheet allowed for me to upload all of the addresses and when the cards arrived, all I had to do was stuff and seal.

My brother and his wife are expecting their first baby early next month and needless to say the entire family is very excited. My sister-in-law has spent the past few months agonizing over every detail of his nursery. She chose a gender-neutral palate of grey and white and the walls are decked out with these adorable animal prints. All that remains to do is find the perfect print to add to one remaining wall.

Aly has agreed to let me choose the final piece of art, and Minted is where I intend to find it. Perhaps you can help me to narrow it down?  The pictures that I pulled are a bit small, so I have include the links if you want to look at the artwork in closer detail just click on the title, or click here for the entire art collection.

An alphabet print is always a safe and classic option that can work for many years.

MIN-0CG-NCA-001_A_PD

Paper Cut ABCs by Ampersand Design Studio

 MIN-0DE-NCA-007B_A_CP

Animals Alphabet by Alethea and Ruth

MIN-0LG-NCA-007B_A_CP

These hearts by InkDot are precious and will serve as a reminder of how much he’s loved.

I completed an extensive family tree and the idea of incorporating his ancestry into his room décor tugs at my heartstrings. A few of my favourites:

MIN-00D-FCA-007B_A_CP

Family of Oranges by Heritage and Joy

MIN-00W-FCA-007B_A_CP

Folk Family Tree by Heather Francisco

MIN-GL4-KNA-007B_A_CP

The baby will be the second addition to their family. Molly, a yellow lab, was their first and this print It’s a dog’s world by Sheila Sunaryo would probably be her pick.

MIN-0AC-NNA-007B_A_CP

Dogs may not be the best choice since the other animals featured are decidedly more exotic than domestic. This map of the animal world by Jessie Steury would tie everything together nicely.

MIN-JIZ-KNA-007B_A_CP

If only this was goodnight Toronto instead of goodnight New York.

MIN-0LP-KCA-007B_A_CP

Since he remains to be named, this one may have to wait for his first birthday. The other prints allow for customization with his name that I have to forgo.

The selection of frames is swoon-worthy and the preview option allows for a complete once-over before committing. The turnaround time is 5-7 days, enough time for it to arrive before the baby shower.

Help me decide! Sound off in the comments and let me know your vote. Follow us on Instagram for the big reveal.

Kids Need to Be Doing It For Themselves

karyngordon

I had the great pleasure of going to a presentation by Dr. Karyn Gordon at Eldest’s school recently.  Her talk was entitled “Raising Kids in an Age of Overindulgence,” and I came away from the night with so much practical help.  If you ever get a chance to hear her in person, take it.  She’s not only a wonderfully dynamic speaker, her talks are crisp, on-point and so well organized.

The piece that resonated most strongly with me, and that fits so well for our month of posts on Doing It Yourself, was her discussion of how parents have to stop over-functioning for their kids.

Are you your child’s alarm clock/maid/chef/chauffeur/laundress/bank machine?  Do you find yourself resentful and stressed in one or more of those roles?  Do you notice that your kids are not in the least bit motivated to act for themselves because you are their snowplow, clearing their path through life for them?

Gordon used the image of a teeter-totter to illustrate her point: when one person does all the work on the see-saw, the other person slacks off and stops working.  When you do too much for your children, they not only fail to learn how to cook/clean/manage time/manage money/eat well/etc, they stop looking for ways to learn those skills.  Why should they?!  You have removed all their motivation to do so by doing it yourself.

Well, in the spirit of DIY month, I did an inventory of the ways I may be over-functioning for my kids, and I handed in my resignation as the household alarm clock, bank machine and short order cook.  “Kids,” I said, “from now on, you will be doing more for yourselves.”

You know what?  It worked beautifully!

Eldest is already his own alarm clock, and at 13 he gets up, out the door and onto the subway before I am awake most days.  But I sat down with Middlest and Youngest and helped them to write up their morning routine and timetable.  I’m still prompting them to look at the clock, but there’s no more nagging about time to get dressed/brush teeth/pack backpacks.  Glorious.

Then I took the little kids out to the toy store with their wallets and let them loose.  When we travel without their money, it’s an endless litany of “Can you get me this?” from the snack booth at the subway to the candy machines at the rink to the impulse items in the check out lines.  I am very good at sticking to my guns and not giving in, but I do get so, so very tired of saying no.  This time, I took them to the bank machine to check their bank balances and then set them loose.  They spent over an hour looking at Lego and video games, then they spent about $10 each.  That’s it, that’s all.  Littlest also bought himself a pack of gum at the subway newsstand and then proudly spent the next week offering all and sundry a piece of gum.  It was wonderful to witness their care and generosity.

And, beginning this week, Eldest will be cooking one family meal a week.  It must be balanced and it must be healthy.  From the age of 13, Gordon says, kids should be able to prepare a simple family meal, and I don’t think I could be happier to let one night of meal prep go.  He is already an able helper in the kitchen, and he makes the most beautiful fruit and vegetable platters, like this one he made for a Habs playoffs game party last year.

habs

 

I think we are both more than ready for him to take the reins one night a week.

How about you?  What have you happily delegated to your kids?

The War on Sugar-AHHHHHH By Guest Bloggers, Leigh and Meg

lollipops-602441_640Our guests this week are Leigh and Meg from the popular motherhood blog, Me and Meg. Leigh and Meg blog about ups and downs of motherhood with just the right amount of snark. They are witty, humble and kick-ass at Cross Fit (and other fitness-y things!). Think you’ve heard of them? I wouldn’t be surprised because they are contributors to Global Morning Show, Parentdish.ca and “What She Said” Canada Talks on SiriusXM Radio.

Thank you ladies for giving us your two cents on this topical issue.

_____________________________________________________________

The War on sugar is real! We fight it daily with our kids. Our war consists mainly of our kids asking for some sugar-laden snack and us saying “no”.  We are very conscious of how much they consumer daily. That means water is what you can find in their bottles always and they rarely get anything at the arena snack bar – we are real drags as mothers.

It doesn’t stop at sugar, what about preservatives! There is a whole world of bad food out there worth avoiding….

What we have seen happen in our children’s school is an increase use of candy as a reward in class, quite the opposite of a sugar ban.

With so many “fads”  one can prescribe to now and ever-changing research on the food industry it’s difficult to say what is the right choice or the “most” healthy for our children – just ask a vegetarian or talk to someone who adheres to a paleo diet. Could you find a larger chasm in what is nutritional and optimal for our health than that? Recently we read that it’s not sugar itself that is the nasty school yard
bully but sugar and fat TOGETHER. Right okay. Like ice cream, give us some. Our kids go crazy over it too. Do we think it’s bad for their overall health? No.

Do we think a world where schools do not allow sugar is the right choice? No, that’s ludicrous. The path to a healthy lifestyle involves moderation, which means having the odd juice box, and treat. We are better off teaching our kids what healthy choices are and empowering them to make well-balanced decisions.

The schools should focus on a holistic approach to health, remember getting changed for gym class? We do. Our kids don’t do that. Let’s bring back physical activity EVERYDAY in our schools and not make any one food forbidden.

As for the  birthday treats at school-we say skip those too.