Monday, April 30, 2007

Today in the garden...

Frank's back, everybody!!

Today, the weather was so perfect, the two littlest girlies and I sallied forth into the garden to begin the Big Clean-Up. And with us, came Frank. That's what we call our little statue of St Francis, who winters in the basement, but every spring is placed gently in the flowerbeds where all the resident critters can admire him.

I even bought myself a gorgeous new stainless steel gardening fork for the occasion. It's a wonderful tool-- sharp as a knife, with an special padded "ergonomic" handle. My wrists and elbows feel great after an afternoon of digging, but my back is killing me!! It was worth it, though-- digging in my garden is the ultimate tranquillizer... I feel better, I sleep better, and hey, it's cheaper than therapy!!

Welcome, spring. And welcome back, Frank, we missed you.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bought today...

The World's Greatest Door Mat.

This will be going at our front door... since all our friends know to come to the back door and just walk on in...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Rules at Our House...

No jumping ON the furniture.

No jumping OFF of the furniture.

No cartwheeling down the stairs.

No dancing on the pool table.

No brain stem injuries.

No subdural hematomas.

Only one kid in the bathroom at any one time.

Vaseline is NOT hair gel.

Try three bites before you can be excused.

Don't eat the play dough.

No barfing.

Clean up what you mess up.

See a void, and fill it.

No using Adult Words... However, Mummy has a degree in English... and if SHE decides to use an Adult Word, then it is the RIGHT word for the circumstance. Don't be questioning it, just run and take cover.

Last but not least:

Be Kind. Or Else.

Friday, April 27, 2007


Ladies, try THIS one at the playground...

Oh no!! I did it AGAIN...

I count myself as one of the Fortunate Few who has a handful of friends who are, without a doubt, the Salt of the Earth. I have asked around, and I understand that there are not very many people who are as lucky as I am to know a couple of people who, if I ever sent out a tiny email containing the single word, "help", would be on an airplane and standing on my doorstep in about six hours flat. That's saying something, considering that these people live in British Columbia, and I live in Ontario.

I met my best girlfriend, we'll call her "Bud" (heck, I always do), just before I got married. My then-fiance introduced us. She was a desktop publisher at his company, and he was hoping that if she and I hit it off, she would be able to talk me out of my wild and crazy theatre career and into something more stable, with regular hours... like desktop publishing.

I met up with Bud at a coffee shop one afternoon-- I had never laid eyes on her before, but I knew it had to be her, because she was wearing the most incredibly artistic outfit I had ever seen. When I asked her where she had gotten the cool duds, she answered, "I made them myself". The friendship was solidified right then and there. And no, I never did "get into" the computer stuff-- instead, we talked incessantly about our obsession with clothing design and theatre... It was one of those weird connections, where you look into the eyes of another person that you have never met before, but you feel as though you've known them your entire life.

Bud and I have shared everything in our lives for nearly two decades now. We have done all the "little stuff" like sewing and shopping together, we have shared the intense highs-- we were at the births of each others' children-- and seen one another through the lows-- I could not have managed to make it through my grandmother's death and funeral without her... Even though we now live about a quarter of the world away from one another, we are still just as close as ever. We try to pick up the phone on a regular basis, even if it's just to leave a message on the other person's answering machine. But, if a little time passes between calls, we can still pick right up where we left off and carry on as though the lull never happened. We're connected by WAY more than just a telephone wire.

So WHY is it that I can NEVER remember her birthday??!!

I confess, I'm just not a birthday person. Never have been. When I was old enough to speak, I swear one of my first requests was to ask my mother NOT to throw me a party. I hate being the centre of attention... and age doesn't mean much to me.

I don't think I have EVER been able to remember Bud's birthday, in the nearly twenty years that we've been friends. When I turned thirty, my husband offered to throw me a party, and I asked him to fly her in for a nice, long visit instead. When the travel agent we were dealing with asked how old Bud was, and for her date of birth... I was mortified to realize that I couldn't come up with either answer. I had to secretly telephone her son for the information...

Me: (in a fierce whisper, as if ANYONE else could hear me) Hey!! It's Auntie Heather!! Listen, honey, what's your mum's birthday, and how the hell old is she?? NO, I have no idea!! You've got to find out, and DON'T YOU DARE TELL HER I CALLED, or she'll never forgive me!!

But do you know what? She always does forgive me... I'm not sure why. But I'm immensely grateful that she does, year after year... Because it would be no fun going through this crazy life without Bud. She makes everything better for me, and helps me see the funny side of things. We laugh together. A lot. She is as dear to me as my own flesh and blood.

So, Happy Belated Birthday, my friend, I love you. If you can put up with me a few years more, I'll still be by your side when we're in our rocking chairs on the porch at The Home... And I'll sure as hell never remember your birthday THEN.

Hey, if nothing else, at least I'm consistent, right??!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Okay now I've seen everything... I think.

My kids are going CRAZY over their new musical toothbrushes.

Okay, people, NOW I've seen everything!! A MUSICAL TOOTHBRUSH??!

I'm not kidding. The dentist recommended them. They are an electric toothbrush that plays music for two minutes, indicating how long a person should be brushing their teeth... especially useful for kids who use the "quick swish" method, rather than giving their teeth a thorough cleaning. The music also amuses the two-year-old, and makes her stand still and open her mouth long enough for me to do a decent job on her, for once in her short life!!

Interestingly, the music is not loud enough for innocent bystanders (or sleeping siblings) to hear. As you see above, the music reaches the ear via vibrations that are passed through the teeth and jawbone. It's quite amazing, actually-- my kids happily listen to the Pussycat Dolls, Smashmouth and the Village People after every meal... and sometimes even MORE often. The six year old toted her toothbrush down to the family room this afternoon...

Mother: What are you doing with your toothbrush?? Please put it back in the bathroom.

Child Number Two: Aaaawwww... I just wanted to listen to some MUSIC...

Mother: Hey, remember the CD player? Listen to THAT, instead, and put your toothbrush away, please.

These kids are having SO much fun with their oral hygene, I'm starting to wish that Toothbrush Tunes would come out with one that plays my current favourite band, OK GO. But, as my husband reminded me last night, we have already spent a small fortune on the electric toothbrush the dentist talked me into purchasing for myself LAST year... It doesn't have tunes, but it does have a little timer that sends a jolting vibration into my mouth every minute or so, reminding me to "change quadrants", and start brushing the other sections of my mouth. How anally retentive is THAT?! I tend to use it more to help jolt me awake in the morning, rather than to guide me in the art of tooth-brushery.

Now, if they could invent a musical DENTAL FLOSS... THAT would be great. If there's one routine I HATE, but perform grudgingly every evening, it's flossing. Flossing to "Here I Go Again" by OK GO, however... Now THAT I could manage.


"Smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other, it doesn't matter who it is, and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other."
--Mother Teresa

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SandyPants, Inc.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Today, I spent the entire morning and afternoon searching for this stuff, shown in the picture above. THIS, people, this stuff you see up there... is called PLAY SAND. That is to say, it is the type of sand that is fit for children to play with. It is clean looking. It is soft to the touch. It absorbs water well, and so long as you don't put too much water into it, the sand holds a shape when you mould it... for example, the shape of a child's bucket. A "castle-shape", if you will.

I am absolutely gobsmacked that I have had to spend nearly the entire day painstakingly explaining to any merchant who would listen (and even some who wouldn't) exactly WHAT play sand IS.

You see, I'm trying to re-fill my kids' sand box for the summer. Apparently, all the store keepers around here who, for the past ten and a half years, have been stocking proper, washed "beach-type" play sand have completely lost their minds this spring. Almost none of them had any idea what on earth I was asking for... or WHY I would be asking for it, for that matter, clearly forgetting that it is THEY who have been selling me the stuff for just a little over a decade.

Let me tell you what went on around here last weekend. Last weekend, my family discovered precisely what "play sand" ISN'T. Ironically, "play sand" is not the stuff that is currently MARKED "play sand" in any of the hardware stores.

On Saturday morning, my husband arrived home with a trunk full of six bags of what our local Lansing Build-All calls "play sand".

Mother: What on earth is THAT?

Father: It's sand. For the sandbox. You asked me to buy six bags of sand for the sandbox.

Mother: That's not sand. THAT is MUD in granular form. If you put water in that stuff, you'll get instant mud puddle. That, friend, looks like a dirt jello mix to me.

Father: Well, that's all they had. Let's just try it.


Okay, so we tried it. We tried two bags of it.

And then, we invited my nephews, ages 2 and 4, to play at our house for the day on Sunday.

It was a beautiful day-- the sun was shining, it was warm, it was glorious. On such days, all that our children want to do is be OUT. And when they go out, the hose inevitably comes out, too. Those kids played with the muck in the sandbox for at least five hours. They had a wonderful time. They were in and out of the house for bathroom breaks and meals and snacks... It was a super visit.

What wasn't so great was the part after they left. My house. My garden. My kids. They were all covered with muddy grit, in all of it's many forms. The "play sand" had been tossed out of the box and trodden underfoot... That was to be expected. What was NOT to be expected were the zillions of grimy feet marks that trekked all over the patio and straight into the house. The floors were gritty and gooey, from the back door, all the way to the front. The bathrooms were TOTALLED, the fixtures all covered in muddy slime, from kids attempting to wash their hands. What didn't wash off came off when the children wiped the residue onto the walls in the halls as they walked by...

And their CLOTHES... It's been three days, now, Mt Washmore has been tackled twice this week already, and I've STILL got grimy stains (on the knees of all the pedal pushers and the fronts of all the shirts) soaking in Oxy Clean...

And the kids... THE KIDS!!! I hardly recognized them before they had their baths, they were so filthy. After scrubbing them all till they were pink again, I had to then scrub the rings off of the tub and shower stall before the job could really be called "done". Mr Clean does it again!! Now, when is he going to make laundry detergent... and baby soap, for that matter??!

Oh. My. God.

After the kids went to bed, my husband and I tackled the walls and floors. And he swore, on his hands and knees, weilding a Magic Eraser, that he will NEVER be suckered into being sent on an errand for play sand again.

So, today, at long last, The Domestic Goddess left the laundry tub, grabbed her sword and sheild, jumped in the Loser Cruiser, and sprung into action. The Quest Was On.

I FINALLY got through to the manager of our local Home Hardware at about three o'clock this afternoon... I made him understand what I was looking for, basically by painstakingly explaining to him precisely what "play sand" ISN'T. Bless his heart, he listened patiently to the Crazy Lady till she had finished her ranting, and then gently took her by the elbow and propelled her in the direction of the gardening supplies...

And there stood two bags of beautiful, sterilized beach sand, fit for children (and their mothers) to play in. There were only two bags, but he kindly placed an order for four more, which will be delivered on Friday.

In the meantime, my kids are gingerly playing in their freshly cleaned sandbox... being careful not to waste a single granule by accidentally spilling it on the patio... This is clearly precious stuff we're dealing with, here.

Let's just hope the Nice Guy from Home Hardware isn't the next play sand amnesia victim... or I might just have to start importing the stuff by the truckload myself.... Now, THERE'S a business idea for me... Maybe I could call it "Sand in my Shorts"? How about "SandyPants"?


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Kiss me, I'm FIFTY??!!

This afternoon, the two youngest girls were engaged in a raging fight in the back seat of the mini van (a.k.a. "The Loser Cruiser"). Child Number Three (age 2) was bawling out her older sister (age 6) for some sort of deviant behavior... I don't remember exactly WHAT Child Number Two had done... I was concentrating on not going off the road at the time. This exchange made me sit up and take notice, however:

Child Number Three: STOP IT!!!

Child Number Two: Whatcha gonna do?! YOU'RE not my mum!!

Child Number Three: Am SO a mum!!

Child Number Two: ARE NOT!! You're not FIFTY, so you're NOT a mum!!!


Time to get rid of my Dianne Keaton-esque "granny glasses"... among other things...

"I'm thirty-seven, I'm not old!"
--Dennis, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

It's our birthday...

It's the eleventh anniversary of my first child's birth... but it's MY birthday, too.
Today, eleven years ago, I became a mother for the first time. And what a time it's been... I can't believe that eleven years has passed already-- it feels like the blink of an eye. And yet, I can't imagine a time before children... what on EARTH did I ever do before I had my daughters? They are so very much a part of me, so much of what I am... and, probably, they are a part of what I have always been, my entire life.
Does that make sense?!
Happy Birthday, Child Number One!! You're the first of the three best things that have ever happened to your Dad and me...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

WHO'S in charge, here???

The resident two year old and her mother locked horns this morning over whether or not she was going to get dressed before the company arrived...

Mother: Okay, kiddo, are we going to do this the EASY way, or the HARD way?

Child Number Three: NO way.


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Of bicycles and training wheels...

Child Number Two, who has just turned six, is growing up. FAST. As is her fashion, in an "all-of-a-sudden" kind of way.

This afternoon, after less than a week of riding her new two-wheeler WITH training wheels, she wanted those training wheels OFF. And she wanted them off IMMEDIATELY.

Child Number Two: I just saw a teeny-weeny THREE YEAR OLD go by on a big two-wheeler!! And guess what?? NO TRAINING WHEELS.

Father: Oh, I don't believe it. That can't possibly be true. Three year olds don't have enough of a sense of balance to ride a two-wheeler without training wheels.

Child Number Two: Yu-HUH. And the kid was THIS BIG. (indicates down near her own ankles) So I can ride without training wheels, too!! PLEEEEEASE canIcanIcanIcanI???!!

My husband and I had a quick, private powow on the subject. We were NOT confident about this situation at all. Our second daughter is tiny, but she has the willpower of a charging bull. And she's the kind of person who Wants It All... the trouble being, that she Wants It All, Yesterday. She sets extremely high standards for herself. She believes with all her heart that Everything Is Possible.

Hell, she's the one who famously said, as I applied a very large ice pack to the very large goose egg appearing on her forehead and checked her pupils for dilation:

"I can TOO fly, Mum... Just not UP."

Oh, she's determined, all right.

And because of all this, when things DON'T always turn out as perfectly as she plans, her levels of disappointment can be absolutely catastrophic. Borderline terminal, not only for her, but for all those around her, too. Man, when she gets Let Down, you'd better look out and run for cover. Because a tantrum's comin'. And It ain't pretty.

SO. When faced with the dilemma of whether or not we should remove the training wheels, we were in a bit of a panic. In the end, we decided to try and use "dissuasion and warning" as our plan of action. After all, we have never actually been successful at preventing her from trying anything in her short life-- we've only, to this point, been "just in time" to catch her (and/or avoid her being caught and subsequently incarcerated).

We warned her that she hadn't been riding her two-wheeler for very long, even WITH the training wheels. She really hadn't had enough time to begin figuring out the balance-thing yet. We warned that the bike was heavy, and would hurt if it fell on her. We warned her that it was higher than her trike, and it would hurt more when she fell off. We warned that she WOULD fall off many times before she would get the hang of it... that it would take time... she would have to learn to start, and stop, and turn, and... and... and...

And she still wanted the training wheels OFF. NOW.

So, my husband looked at me, picked up her helmet, packed a few band-aids in his pockets, and marched out the back door with the Mighty Six-Year-Old.

I sat down and wrote a blog entry about our eldest child, in order to take my mind off of what was transpiring down the road outside...

About twenty minutes later, the back door burst wide open. A small streak flew past, and up the stairs. My husband followed, looking ab-so-lute-ly EXHAUSTED. He deposited the child's helmet on the kitchen table, collapsed into a chair, and raked his fingers through his hair...

Mother: WELL???

Father: Yeah. She can ride the bike. She'll have perfected it by sometime tomorrow.

And according to Child Number Two, she didn't even fall. Not once. She was going WAY too fast for that.

Fast and Furious.

That's our baby.

Remember to be "a soft place"...

My eldest daughter turns eleven years old on Tuesday. It's been a difficult couple of years for her... being a pre-teen girl in this day and age is every bit as difficult as it was in my day, and then some. What I've decided about a lot of little girls at this age (and I know this isn't going to come as a Great Revelation to many of you), is that they are... MEAN. Really mean. Not necessarily to their parents and their families... and not necessarily when they are in front of other adults or "authority figures", but when they are alone with their peers (also known as "the competition"), the emotional knives come out. And, man, are those knives SHARP.

I am fortunate to have a wonderful ten-year-old daughter. I know I am deeply biased, but my girl is articulate, clever, imaginative, and gloriously funny. She is beautiful, talented, and as my mother always says (and people, there is no higher praise than this from my mother) "she is MUSICAL". She is!! She does everything with music, even if she has to sing it herself.

Above all else, she is a sensitive and kind person. She has always been able to empathize with other people, often to the point of troubling her own psyche-- if she sees other people hurting, she feels their hurt. I am confident that she would do anything to help anyone who was troubled or in need...

And this is why I cannot even BEGIN to understand how other girls her age can bring themselves to exclude her... How can they justify their behavior? How can they bear to live within their skins when they see the awful hurt in her eyes? It mystifies me, especially since the grade five teacher at their school has done EVERYTHING in his power to stamp out this behavior; to try and educate these children that emotional bullying is hurtful, dangerous and utterly unacceptable.

This has been a crummy week at our house... My girl is having a tough time. Her grades are wonderful, her teacher is pleased with her academics and her behavior, but... It's the social scene, the "playground" stuff, that is so hard for her. And she is so frustrated!! She brings it all home and emotions spill over and I wonder how on earth I'm going to deal with the whirlwind. We haven't even HIT the teenage years yet!!

I was visiting a good friend of mine this morning, and I poured all my worries about my daughter to her. She has a sixteen year old girl, herself, and has been through ALL the same troubles that we are experiencing at school right now. She gave me some wonderful advice... advice that I am going to have to write in big letters and post somewhere where I will be able to go and unwind and take deep breaths while I read...

"Whenever she's driving you crazy... when she's yelling at you and you're taking the brunt of ALL her frustrations... Remember this: YOU HAVE TO BE A SOFT PLACE FOR HER. No matter what!! She NEEDS a soft place to come to for comfort. Life is so hard!! REMEMBER TO BE A SOFT PLACE."

Life IS hard. And I don't think it gets a lot easier, from my own social experiences. We just get better at dealing with the hard stuff. We train ourselves to be resilient. But my friend is absolutely right-- we all need friends, we all need that soft place. And right now, I have GOT to remember to take lots of deep breaths, so that I can be all those things for my daughter, and at the same time, be her Mummy, too.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gots a QUING, Mum?

This morning, over juice (for her) and very strong coffee (for me), I spent about an hour trying to teach my two year old how to play the card game, "Go Fish". She has been DYING to play cards with me, ever since she saw her older sisters playing a rollicking (and sometimes vicious) game of "Uno" several weeks ago...

While I was hurriedly searching through the top drawer of my desk this morning, looking for a piece of paper for my husband (a document I was certain didn't actually exist, but it was easier to look for it than to fight about it), Child Number Three toddled up and discovered a tiny pack of playing cards that I have had since I was a child, tucked underneath all the other junk.

Well, we spread them ALL out on the table. And she solemnly divided them into three groups-- one for her, one for me, and one for the "pile". I started asking her for numbers, showing her the cards and indicating what each of the numbers looked like. She, of course, denied having any of them, and I had to root through the "pile" till I found them.

Then, it was her turn to do the asking.

"Do you have any BIRDS?" she queried.

She was, as it turned out, holding her cards up backwards, so the decorative pattern of a little sparrow was showing on every single one.

"Yes!!" I replied, time and again, as she cleaned out my first hand. She was delighted, and giggled appreciatively.

After that, I straightened her cards around and tried again to show her the numbers and teach her a thing-or-two. Unfortunately, all that she seemed to absorb was the idea that the face cards were different.

"Gots a QUING, Mum?" she squealed.

"Quing? Hmmm... Well, I've got a couple of queens AND a king, so I guess you should have them all, right?"

"YES!! I WIN, right Mum?"

She wins...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Renewing my faith that Spring WILL come...

Thank. God.

Just when I was absolutely CERTAIN that we would be doomed to psychotic, Siberian-type weather patterns for the remainder of 2007, the sun FINALLY decided to show itself today.

And with the sun came my friend the robin.

It never fails. Whenever I'm feeling particularly low, a robin shows up and renews my faith. Today, he was all puffed up in my birdbath, and he made sure I was watching him through my kitchen window, gave me a particularly HARD stare, and then began the intricate, shivery little "dance" that birds do when they're trying to get clean. Actually, I'm not all that sure that the objective of cleanliness is the MAIN reason, because to me, it just looks FUN. Fun, and silly. My absolute favourite combination.

Thank God. It might just be spring after all.

Desperately seeking...

Seriously, folks.

Today, I would do almost ANYTHING in order to get a babysitter, a single hotel room, and a tranquillizer pill, all at the same time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Overheard at lunchtime...

My two youngest children, ages six and two-and-a-half, were sitting at the table today, supposedly eating their lunch. Beside each of their bowls of soup, I had arranged beautiful, green slices of fresh kiwi on their plates, in an attempt to get them to ingest a few vitamins...

Child Number Three: What dis?

Child Number Two: That's kiwi. It's delicious!! It's like CANDY.

Child Number Three: I no like it. I yeeeuuuuccccchhhhh... YOU eat it?

Child Number Two: Yeah, okay, I eat yours, too.

Child Number Three: Okay!! YOU eat it! You eat it ALL UP!! NO TELL MUM, 'kay?

I prefer to think that they were trying to spare my feelings, rather than deliberately pulling a fast one behind my back like a couple of expert con-artists...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Climbing Mt Washmore...

When people hear that I have three daughters, the response is always the same.

"THREE GIRLS??!!" they gasp, "THREE??!! Oh, my God, the HORMONES in your house must be UNBELIEVABLE!"

Well, let me tell you something. The hormones I can handle.

It's the laundry that's going to kill me.

I am absolutely dumbfounded by the amount of dirty clothing my children have the ability to produce on a daily basis. At our house, EVERY day is laundry day... it has to be. Otherwise, the rapidly accumulating pile that I have come to know as "Mt Washmore" will eventually grow to a capacity capable of asphyxiating me, should it ever collapse in my general direction.

Is this laundry crisis my fault? Well, MAYBE. After all, isn't every problem eventually blamed on The Mother?

When my first child was born, I was completely besotted with her. She was so tiny, so beautiful, so perfect in every way... and the CLOTHES FOR GIRLS WERE SO DARNED CUTE!! I don't know any mother who has been able to resist the almost biological urge to wrestle their newborn daughter into one frilly, be-ribboned outfit after another. Especially when it's your first baby. I absolutely confess, it was probably ME who instilled the idea that it was acceptable-- ENCOURAGED, even-- to change clothing no fewer than about ten times per day. And we're talking changing for pure pleasure here, not just for the obvious reasons of spitting-up and explosions from the other end... By golly, we were going to get the MAXIMUM use out of all those glorious little tiny outfits, before they were outgrown!!

Child Number One turned into a BIT of a fashion plate, as a result. My background in theatre costuming didn't help the matter, either. Not only was I buying for her, but I was sewing for her, too. And then taking PICTURES of the things that I had sewn... Number One loved every minute of it-- she embraced the whole gig, posed for the photos, and smiled sweetly...

The real trouble began the minute she learned to undress herself. It seemed that no sooner did I have that kid all dressed up to the nines, hair-face-and-teeth shining... but she wanted to tear it all off and start all over again. It had become Sport. There were clothes strewn all over the place, and it was useless for me to try and decide whether things had been worn for any great length of time... I just raked it all up at the end of the day, and threw it into the laundry basket.

Child Number Two, aged six, on the other hand, is a TOTALLY different specimen. To this kid, clothes are a pain. They are here to cover our parts, protect us from the elements, and that is all. This kid has a closet so full of books and hand-me-down frilly dresses, we can hardly see the books. And the dresses NEVER get worn... except on those rare occasions (ie. trips to Grandma's house, or photo day at school) when looking presentable is necessary, and I'm up for The Fight. Actually, I need to stockpile energy drinks for about three days prior so that I'll be PREPARED for The Fight. She's that feisty.

Child Number Two not only produces laundry, she NECESSITATES laundry. Her nickname is Twister for a reason. Wherever she goes, she leaves horror and havoc in her wake, and her clothes show it. She goes through a minimum of three to five outfits per day... most of which she just blows through from sheer wear-and-tear. Interestingly, once she is home from school, her outfits of choice are always summer clothes, no matter WHAT the weather is doing outside. We can have just returned home from Kindergarten in a BLIZZARD, and the child will rip upstairs to change from her paint-and-white-glue-encrusted jeans and sweatshirt into her favourite glittery Minnie Mouse tank top and a pair of shorts. That is, unless she can lay her hands on her favourite mint green polka-dot bikini first. I tried convincing her to wear seasonally appropriate clothing for the first couple of years of her life, but have since decided that it's just easier to let it GO, unless we're going OUT.

Child Number Three, by comparison, is a dream come true. She's just two and a half, and I'll be damned if I'm going to teach her to dress and undress herself until she's ready to leave for university. No button, snap and velcro demonstrations for THIS kid, that's for sure. The trouble is, she's messy. REALLY messy. And fast. She can climb up on counters and cram that stash of leftover Easter chocolate into her mouth faster than you can blink. She can get her mitts on my makeup box and have "decorated" her brand new shirt with my brand new lipstick in under five seconds flat. And, most recently, she proved that she can stand on a stool and two phonebooks, reach across the bathroom counter for the vaseline, and THOROUGHLY mousse her hair with it before anyone even has an inkling that she's missing from the group... When I do her laundry, I'm tempted to throw that little shrimp into the washing machine, too, just to save the effort at bathtime. Of course, I'd have to add a little more detergent and a couple of extra rinse cycles... Oh, it's tempting, all right.

So, bring on the hormones, girlie-girls, bring 'em on. If I can survive a decade of scrubbing out your toughest stains, your puberty ought to be a walk in the park by comparison. Unless, of course, scaling the peak of this next load does me in, first...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mother Among Mothers, Goddess Among Goddesses...

What the world needs now... is more women like June Callwood. She was Mighty, all right-- a Mother in every sense of the word, and not just to her own four children, but to ALL peoples' children: the impoverished, the abandoned, the sick... Whenever she heard of a good cause that needed support, she'd simply say, "Sign me up!" And immediately, she'd set to work trying to right the wrongs, and fill the gaps that she saw in our society.
Her life was far from easy. She had a difficult childhood, and left school to take her first job at a newspaper at 15. Most difficult of all, she endured the ultimate hardship: losing a child, her youngest son, Casey, in a drunk driving accident when he was only 20. The idea of outliving my children is absolutely unfathomable to me... but again, June led by example, summoned all of her strength and courage, and soldiered on. She founded "Casey House", Toronto's first AIDS hospice, named it for her son, and began supporting and caring for AIDS patients (and their families) at a time when the disease was still "taboo" in this country. She also founded "Digger House" in 1967, as safe housing for hippies (her eldest son was one of them), as well as "Jessie's House for Teenagers", "Nellie's" women's shelter... The list of causes that she championed is nothing short of staggering.
Where did a woman who was a busy wife, mother of four and career woman find all of that extra time and energy to do so much GOOD? This is an important question, people. It is one that we must all ask ourselves... because now that June Callwood is gone, we've got some pretty big shoes to try and fill here on this earth. Perhaps if we all make an effort to do just a little bit more with our lives... to reach out just a little bit more to people in need... Maybe as a GROUP we can carry on one Goddess' great legacy.
"If any of you happens to see an injustice, you are no longer a spectator, you are a participant. And you have an obligation to do something."
--June Callwood

Lookit ME, Mum!!

My second child, who is six, approached me this morning, fresh from performing her early morning toilette.

Child Number Two: Lookit ME, Mum!! I'm having a GREAT hair day!!

Mother: Wow, kiddo! Looking good!!

She then skipped away, on clouds of happiness...

Mother: Amazing what happens when she actually BRUSHES it...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I am reading...

"My Life in France", by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme

I love Julia Child.

Her enormous frame crammed behind that old wooden chopping-block counter of hers, merrily juggling carving knives and occasionally dropping large cuts of meat on the floor... all the while, whooping advice, such as, "Remember!! You are ALONE in the kitchen!!" Hers was one of my favourite shows. That voice... that je ne sais quois... she was encroyable.

This book is chock-full of Julia. It is written in her voice, using her "lingo", complete with all of her colourful interjections: "Ouf!!" " Phooey!!" and even, "Merde, alors!!"

Hers was a fascinating life, and she was a colourful, intelligent and diligent person. She was always striving to better herself, to become more "worldly", and to share her incredible knowledge and enthusiasm with other people.

She was also an intensely humble and private person. Her husband, Paul Child, was not only the love of her life, but also a great inspiration and help to her. As well as being a highly talented artist and successful American diplomat in France, Germany and Norway, he actively supported Julia's work in every way imaginable. He took the photographs to instruct the illustrator of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", he taught the wine component at her cooking school, and even hastily washed dishes in large tubs of cold water behind the scenes at her book promotions/demonstrations... Their relationship was one of two truly dedicated soul-mates.

This book is delighting me. It makes me laugh. It makes me hungry. It makes me want to work at becoming a more curious and adventurous cook...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Yeah, but...

This afternoon, I was looking after my friend's little girl, who is about to turn four. She is, unlike my two youngest daughters, the quiet type... You know, the one who always behaves, who is gentle and sweet and just makes you melt every time you so much as LOOK at her...

And then there's my two. They are delightful and lovable in every single way imaginable (I won't go gushing on here, just need to make enough of a statement to qualify as a disclaimer)... but let's just say that at ONE point this afternoon, their behavior was LESS than perfect. It was at craft time, to be specific. All three little girls were seated around my enormous kitchen table, wielding glue and scissors and markers, and cutting-and-pasting as though their lives depended upon it. Things got a little RAUCOUS, shall we say, when Child Number Two, who is six, began "showing off" for the company. When I politely suggested that she pipe down, she all but flipped me The Bird.

Mother: (appalled) THAT'S not appropriate behavior, especially not in front of company! I CERTAINLY don't think that your little friend would talk to HER mother that way!!

Child Number Three: (after a moment of thought... and she's TWO AND A HALF...) Well, HER mummy NICE...

Help me, I'm drowning, here...

A little life secret revealed...

People, I'm going to let you in on a little life secret... If you have a good, big macaroni and cheese casserole stashed in your freezer at all times, you have a secret weapon against all the trials and tribulations that life throws at you. Macaroni and cheese is the ULTIMATE comfort food. Over the course of my reign as Domestic Goddess, I have learned to keep not one, but TWO in my downstairs freezer, just in case: one for me, and one to give away to needy and deserving people. I have taken this dish to people who have just given birth, moved house, have been stricken with all manner of illnesses, from cancer right down to the flu... In many cases, it has been the Mother of the house who has been stricken by illness, while the rest of her family is in fighting form and ab-so-lute-ly STARVING... I'm telling you, this dish is The Bomb.

Because I am a benevolent Goddess, and because I trust that all of you reading this share my feeling that There Is No Better Gift Than Food, I am going to share my recipe with you. I warn you, however, this is not food for the faint of heart (or the intolerant of lactose). This macaroni is a caloric orgy; a complete bliss-out for the senses. I promise that it will not only fill your stomach, it will lighten whatever load of worries you are carrying.

Now, throw that diet book right out the window and get cooking!!

The Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese

6 c cooked macaroni
1 small package of Velveeta cheese (or half of a larger package)
3 c old cheddar cheese
1 c Monterey Jack cheese
1 c Swiss cheese
3 eggs
2 c half and half cream
1 c sour cream

Cube the Velveeta, and grate all other cheeses (use a food processor for this, if you have one, or you're going to wind up with a sore elbow, and a few grated fingers to boot). Beat the eggs and cream in a large bowl, and then add the cheeses and stir. Combine with the cooked macaroni.

Place into a one huge, greased casserole... or two, smaller round ones. Top with additional grated cheese.

(Now is the time to cover one casserole firmly with heavy duty saran wrap and tin foil, and put it in the freezer. Thaw it completely before putting it into the oven.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

This recipe is courtesy of Oprah Winfrey... obviously from her pre-diet phase...

April Showers... not to mention the Freezing Rain...

Okay, Raffi, bring it on!! We need sunshine around here, and we need it BADLY. It's absolutely British outside (hey, if anyone's allowed to say that and use it as a derogatory comment, it's ME). Let's suffice it to say that if "April Showers Bring May Flowers", well then, my garden had better be friggin' SPECTACULAR in a couple of weeks...

The kids are exhausted and whiny, and the damp cold and lack of light is fraying what's left of my nerves right down to their exquisitely sensitive nubs...

This calls for SERIOUS measures, people: a fire in the fireplace, a "televisual feast" on the goggle box this afternoon ("Singin' In The Rain" with Gene and Debbie and Donald, what else?) and comfort food for supper. Let's hear it for home-made macaroni and cheese!! AND... maybe a niiiice glass of chardonnay for the hard-working mum...

I'm starting to feel better already.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Don't mess with Mum...

This morning, my husband and I were in the kitchen and engaged in a Loud Discussion. To be honest, I can't remember exactly WHAT we were Discussing, but it was clearly a doozie of a subject, because I wound up storming out of the room.

From a distance, I overheard:

Child Number One: Daddy? DON'T BUG MUM.

Father: Huh?

Child Number Two: Don't make her mad, Dad. She'll ground ya, and I'm SERIOUS.

Yet another Great Victory for the Domestic Goddess...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

AAAUUGGGHHH!! Okay, you caught me...

Okay, you caught me. Stacy and Clinton, I confess. I'm guilty. I wear the uniform of a mother: I don the same outfit... EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

All you mothers out there know what I'm talking about. We all wear it. It's that wonderful, comfortable ensemble that WORKS... We find it, and then we buy MANY of them, so that we can rotate them through the laundry over and over and over again...

My uniform varies with the weather. When it's cold out, I wear jeans and a turtleneck. When it's warm out, I shorten the jeans to capris, and top them with a t shirt. I have these outfits in a multitude of colours, and I confess that I buy in bulk... When I find something that fits me, is wash'n'wear, and doesn't cost me an arm and a leg, I buy it. Okay, I buy MANY. Black and white are staples, but depending on the season, I'll wear the same shirts in every colour of the rainbow.

Stacy and Clinton, it's no secret that you have NO idea what it's like to raise children. Saying that you have "nieces and nephews" that you occasionally spend a little time with doesn't count. Until you've been through the incredible yo-yo experience of pregnancy and post-partum figures, and then the very PHYSICAL act of mothering small children, you have precisely NOTHING helpful to say about this matter.

For my clothes are not simply things that make me look good. At any given time, my clothes must be able to withstand being barfed, slobbered and snorfled on. They have to see me through children's birthday parties with ridiculously outlandish themes, through gruelling hours of laundry, house and yard work, and through the grocery store with three kids swingin' off of the sides of my cart. I have to be able to go from baking a zillion cookies with a toddler, accompanying a hysterical six-year-old to the dentist, to looking semi-believable at a PTA meeting in under 30 minutes flat.

I don't have TIME to change my clothes, much less worry about them.

And as for accessories? Well, let's just say I ain't no Imelda Marcos. This simply isn't the type of lifestyle that can accommodate "kitten heels", or any other sort of heel, for that matter. When you're chasing children, you need basically two types of shoes: trainers and crocs. Oooohhh, I LOVE my shoes, all right, but according to you, not for the "right" reasons. They're comfortable, and they allow me to go FAST. Almost as fast as that two-and-a-half year old who is hurtling top-speed down the driveway on her tricycle... Luckily, in MY choice of shoes, I can sprint just fast enough to GRAB HER before she hits traffic. Do you SERIOUSLY think I could accomplish this in the footwear you two are touting?? Nay, nay!!

And purses... Hmm. Well, I WAS actually paying attention last fall when the Large Handbag came into vogue... My first thought? "I wonder how many diapers I could fit into that sucker..." Mothers of the world rejoyced when that trend hit the runways! I now feel TOTALLY prepared, wherever I go, with only ONE bag to lug around. However, somebody who WASN'T prepared to deal with my new purse was the security man at the front door of a huge theatre event my husband and I attended several months ago... I handed my bag over for inspection, and passers-by stopped to stare at the myriad treasures he slowly revealed from its depths. There were no fewer than seven pacifiers, several matchbox cars, five diapers, a burnt-out halogen bulb, a chocolate chip cookie, an empty apple juice box, two asthma inhalers, a Polly Pocket with one leg missing, a comb with two mis-matched barrettes clipped to it, an unfinished application for summer camp, a bic pen that had run out of ink, and an empty bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol. Go figure. The kicker was, I discovered that I had completely forgotten my wallet.

So, Stacy and Clinton, I will not be surprised if I wind up on your "Worst Dressed" season finale... But you know what? I like my clothes, and I'm proud of the job that I do... My kids are happy, abundantly loved, and relatively well-adjusted. What's more, so am I. The clothes that I wear are not really a "uniform" per se... They're more like a super-hero outfit. I may not LOOK exactly like Wonder Woman, but I am.

I'm not so sure I could do what I do, and feel this good about it if I was wearing, say, $200 shoes and dry-clean-only pants, and someone dropped the top-half of her rocky-road ice cream cone on me...

So you know what? You can keep your $5000, unless I'm allowed to use it exclusively at Old Navy.


"Getting Ready for School"

Tuesday morning, 8am. Children are supposed to be upstairs brushing teeth, washing faces and doing hair. Mother is downstairs in the kitchen, frantically attempting to take a stab at cleaning up the breakfast rubble, while at the same time packing lunches, checking emails and putting on her makeup.

A squabble breaks out on the upper floor...

Child Number One: MOOOOOOOMMMMMMM!!!

Mother: (wearily) Yes?

Child Number One: This little CREEP has been in the bathroom just running the water and pouring soap down the drain for the past FIFTEEN MINUTES!!!

Mother: (clearly onto her) How do YOU know? What have YOU been doing for the past fifteen minutes?

(Squabbling abruptly stops)

Mother: (quietly satisfied) Ex-aaaaaaaact-ly...

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Books are Taking Over the House

I've got a spring cleaning resolution to try and keep this week... I have to go out and buy new shelves. A LOT of new shelves. You see, the books in this house are taking over.

To say that we are book lovers is quite possibly the understatement of the century. We are bona-fide book NUTS in this house. My husband and I are Readers... I've got a degree in English literature, and as well as his full-time job, my husband is also a journalist... Words are important to us. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, we are record-breaking library fine offenders, because we just can't seem to let good books GO once we've got them in our house.

But, to tell you the honest truth, it isn't actually the grown-ups' books in this house that are causing the crowding problem... It's the kids'. The "Kiddie Litter", as I affectionately call it. Even with all my high-fallootin' education-- I studied at the place where, on any given day, you could find Northrop Frye, Robertson Davies and Margaret Atwood strolling around and lecturing-- I still find that children's books are my absolute favourite things to read. I began collecting in my teens, and frustrated the hell out of some of my university professors by drawing quotations from authors like A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter and Robert Munch into my formal research papers... MOST of those papers were actually SUPPOSED to be about Shakespeare... HOWEVER, the points were always relevant in some shape or form, and the profs kindly indulged me, whilst encouraging me to PLEASE take the actual courses offered on Children's Lit and purge this obsession out of my system.

The formal Children's Lit courses didn't sit well with me, however. I didn't WANT to look deeper into the subtext of The Wind in the Willows and discuss the possibility of Rat and Mole's homosexual relationship. I didn't want to even THINK about what was actually going on behind the scenes with Pooh and Piglet, much less muse upon why Pooh was ACTUALLY called "Pooh"... What I discovered from these courses was that adults run a very great risk of RUINING children's literature, because they take it Too Seriously.

So, I went back to book-collecting, in the hopes that someday, my future children would enjoy them as much as I do.

And WHAT a library those children now have! Raising Readers has never been an issue in our house... They have not been raised with any other option. In this house, we read. We HAVE to read. We have to read, because there are books EVERYWHERE. They're in our bookcases, on our bedside tables, on the ends of our beds, in the toyboxes, on the stairs, on coffeetables, wedged between the sofa cushions, in the bathrooms, in the car... and falling out of everybody's clothes closets. Can you BELIEVE it??!! We've actually run out of space in everybody's bedrooms, so we've been storing books in our clothes closets. This is a big problem, because I'm raising three girls... and like me, my girls LOVE CLOTHES. Tonight, I had no choice but to face the fact that books-in-the-closets technique just isn't working anymore... While attempting to put away my children's laundry, a large pile of hardcovers teetered dangerously and collapsed, and the multiple impacts with my shin-bones are going to result in some interesting bruises...

So, it's limping off to the furniture shops I go tomorrow... Looking for wall units to line our upstairs hallway. My goal is to have all of the books OUT of my girls' rooms and in the hallway instead, so that if I want to read a certain bedtime story to someone, I won't have to cringe when I realize it's hostage in the bedroom where the two year old has just fallen asleep...

My husband thinks I'm nuts. Why on EARTH would we invest in shelving for massive amounts of children's books that will just be outgrown??

Well, honey, the little girls may eventually outgrow their book collection. But I hate to tell you, this big girl definitely won't.

Back to school TOMORROW...

Mother: Okay, girlies, everybody get your backpacks and clean 'em out!! Time to get ready for school tomorrow!!

All Children In Unison: (slightly muffled because of mouth-fuls of chocolate) AAAAAAAWWWWWWWWW!!!!

Child Number Two: Hey, Mum, what day is it today?

Mother: Today is Monday. Tomorrow will be Tuesday.

Child Number Two: I don't think I hafta go back TOMORROW. I'm pretty sure my teacher said not to come back till... till about THURSDAY.

Mother: Well, SHE may not want you back till Thursday, but you're going back TOMORROW. Now go and get your backpack!!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Overheard at the Easter Dinner table...

We enjoyed a wonderful Easter Dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's house today, with all family members in attendance. It was an absolutely delicious, dignified repast, until...

Child: I'm done. I want to get down and go and play.

Mother: (wildly attempting to maintain polite atmosphere) And HOW could you rephrase that request?

Child: If I have to eat any more, I'm gonna BARF.

So much for atmosphere... Sorry, Grandma...

Buuuurrrppp... Sorry, kids.

The Easter Bunny Was Here!! This morning at 6.35 am (a record sleep-in for Child Number Two) we discovered baskets crammed full of all manner of delights... and that The Bunny had shared a late night snack with our two guinea pigs, Cookie and Cupcake. As well as leaving a few remnants of the bunch of parsley we left out, The Bunny left a few half-nibbled slices of cucumber-- Cookie and Cupcake must have been feeling generous and tossed them to him from their cage. The Bunny also made free to help himself to the large bag of timothy hay, kept under the gp cage... Hay everywhere. AND, a large, dirty "bunny mark" on the floor just in front of the back door, where he must have landed after jumping into the kitchen. No wheelbarrow tracks outside, though-- it's STILL snowing out there.

We're now "on our way to grandma's house, with our little baskets" for the rest of the day. Hope the highways are clear, and that the extreme, chocolate-induced sugar high doesn't wear off of me before we pull into her driveway!!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Happy Easter!!

Some Things That Easter Brings

Easter duck and Easter chick,
Easter eggs with chocolate thick.
Easter hats for one and all,
Easter Bunny makes a call!
Happy Easter always brings
Such a lot of pleasant things.

--Elsie Parrish

We can't wait till tomorrow!!!

The baskets are decorated and filled with coloured eggs, little dresses and hats are laid out on chairs, tiny pairs of shoes have been shined up...

"Do we have any carrots to leave out for the Bunny?" Child Number Two asked.
"Um.... I think we're going to have to put out parsley, instead, the Guinea Pigs polished off the carrots last night," I informed her.
"Well, that's okay... EVERYBODY leaves carrots. He can see in the dark just fine. He'd be happy to have a change, right Mum?"
"I suppose so," I mused.

"I gots the biggest Easter basket, so I'm getting the most chocolate, right Mum?"
"I don't THINK it works that way..." I said.
Child Number Two thought for a minute.
"Well, IF IT DOES work that way, I'M getting the MOST!!"

It's going to be one Sugar-High of a weekend, folks...

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Happy Part of Good Friday

Three words, people:


I LIVE for Easter, when I can get my hands on these things. Toasted lightly, and loaded up with melted butter... Well, if a life experience can get better than this, I'd probably expire while trying it.

It's not surprising that this indescribable wonder of the bread world has its origins in Pagan ceremonies. Later, the Christian church attempted to ban them, but they were just too damn GOOD... So... gluttony won the day. The Christian Powers That Be concluded, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em", and faster than you could say a Hail Mary, the Hot Cross Bun was converted!! Apparently, the buns are a metaphor for the resurrection of Christ: the flour "comes to life and turns itself into bread". Sounds like a BIT of a stretch to me, but what the hell, right? So long as these things hit my breakfast table every Easter, you can spew just about any religious metaphor you like, and I'll buy into it.
Perhaps it was just this sort of human weakness that prompted Queen Elizabeth I to create a law that limited the consumption of the Hot Cross Bun to religious ceremonies, such as Christmas, Easter and funerals... Liz was quite the rich party girl herself, so I'm PRETTY certain that even if the law applied to HER, she could have dreamed up some excellent excuses for getting her mitts on a few of these fruit-and-nut-stuffed babies whenever the fancy took her...
Can't you just hear the old girl shrilling, "ALL THE MORE FOR MEEEE!!!!"
I sure can.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Library Police are after me...again.

The phone rang just now, and unfortunately, it wasn't a crank call. It was the local library-- or, let me rephrase that-- it was the AUTOMATED local library.

Since our library went AUTO, things have apparently become much, much easier for those phantom shadows lurking in the background who USED to be our librarians, and much, much more difficult for the borrower: namely, me.

The machine-gun-like voice on the other end of my telephone regretted to inform me that I currently have NINE books overdue. That's GOT to be some kind of record for this family.

I should tell you that we only just recently "got back on to speaking terms" with our library. Or, we WOULD be on speaking terms, if I could just speak to someone there. The automated phone message informed me several months ago that I was in posession of a four page children's board book entitled "Into The Woods", that was running me just upwards of a ten dollar fine. Well, I had not taken out any such book-- the only board books we ever keep in THIS house are our own. I happen to know first-hand that nothin' says TEETHING to a toddler like a good piece of cardboard kiddie lit. We prefer to keep our board books-- and our germs-- to ourselves, and make sure that we specifically steer clear of that particular aisle.

It took weeks and weeks for me to solve this dilemma... mostly because I couldn't find a human being in charge of the children's department to talk to me face to face. I finally resorted to sending assertive emails, but by the time I received any response from the phantom librarian, they had racked up an added $6.50 "search fee" for apparently sending a human being to the shelf to glance around for the book in question. Hell, for $6.50, I would have jumped into the minivan, driven over and done it myself. They also took the added precaution of suspending my card, which they claimed was "standard policy" for anyone with a fine over $10. It's as close as I've ever felt to being on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list.

I finally gave in and paid the fine in full during March Break, using my debit card at the machine, of course. After all, how long could my girlies do without fresh books to read? I mean, without bankrupting me at the bookstore and driving me crazy in the meantime??

I gave in. And it was worth it. My kids charged into that children's section like dehydrated desert travellers bolting towards an oasis... We whittled the selections down to three books each, and headed for the checkout terminal.

That was exactly three weeks, less two days ago. By my calculations, the books that tonight's automated telephone voice claimed were overdue AREN'T actually due back at the library until Saturday. But, after the last experience, far be it from ME to argue with machinery. I've learned the futility of expending one's angst and frustration upon a giant, all-powerful and utterly unfeeling computer system.

"Maybe they'll want our car this time, " commented my husband when I finished ranting about how much the fines would be THIS TIME.

"Maybe they'd settle for the kids," I mused hopefully...

The Spring Concert

Today, we were at the very first school concert for our youngest daughter, who is two. Actually, she is just a little bit over two-and-a-half, and I know this because in Ontario, a child MUST be a minimum of exactly two years and six months before they are allowed to attend a registered nursery school. My daughter and I started nursery school together in September-- the very kind staff allowed her to begin with her peers, providing that I stayed with her until she came of age. This turned out to be of tremendous benefit to both Tiny Two and me-- I was delighted to be able to "ease" her into the new environment. We were able to get to know the other children and parents in the class pretty much from the get-go. It's thrilling to work with very small children and watch all their "lightbulb moments". I hope that I was able to help the teachers get all of those delightful little kids off to a really good start.

By the end of December, my baby was ready to be left "alone" in the classroom, and I had gotten to know the school and the teachers so well that we had absolutely no qualms about it... Our favourite teacher still scoops Tiny Two up every day and carries her to the "goodbye window", which is the window where the children wave to their parents as they depart each morning. I leave with a full heart, but knowing that she is literally in loving arms.

Today, Tiny Two dressed for school with special care. We managed to talk her into a beautiful little corduroy dress with flowers all over it, rather than the frilly little organdie number we had chosen back when it was still SPRING around here... When we arrived at the school, she was a picture straight out of Mary Engelbreit as she waved to me at the window.

My husband and I arrived back at the school an hour later, armed with the usual parental parephenalia of a camera and videocam. Tiny Two is our baby-- our LAST baby-- and we're not going to fall into the "third child" trap and miss out on it.

As soon as she saw us, our little daughter leaped from the chair where she was sitting "on stage" with her classmates, and instinctively rushed towards us. And why not? This is the way she always greets us-- arms wide open, grin so big it could bust her little cheeks. Her favourite teacher caught her just in time, gave her a cuddle, and seemed to be re-explaining the concert procedure. Our little girl sat back down, looked at us wide-eyed, and gave a teeny wave.

The concert was wonderful. There was plenty of good, loud singing, lots of action, and great costumes (including hand-made bunny ear hats and little cotton-ball tails fastened to behinds with big safety pins). Everyone clearly had a super time.

Throughout all of this, however, our Tiny Two stayed silent. No singing, no actions-- just big, wide shoe-button eyes taking us all in. At one point, she rolled up her skirt in her hands, but that's about the most she did. The teacher she was sitting next to provided plenty of encouragement and reassurance, but our girlie remained the best little statue on the stage.

We videotaped it all, anyway. And, on the way home in the car, I held up the camera and said, "Hey! Why don't we watch this on tv, and then you can show Daddy and me how you sing and dance, WITHOUT all those people watching you? You could teach us how to do all the songs, too!"

It was then that she revealed that she had NOT, actually, been nervous about performing in front of an audience. She proudly said, "Teacher said I had to sit down on chair and NOT MOVE! I NOT MOVE, Mum!! I did it best of all!!"

My baby. My daughter. An absolutely perfect "chip of the ol' block". Above all else, she does as she's told. And she'll follow instructions to the letter, no matter WHAT other people are doing around her.

"Poor little kid," muttered my long-suffering husband.

Oh, well. At least we've got ONE obedient child...

The Easter Bunny had better be a Snowshoe Hare...

By golly, the Easter Bunny had BETTER be a Snowshoe Hare... or at least know how to get AROUND in snowshoes... The temperature here dropped like a bomb during the night, and my girls and I awoke to a frightening amount of the white stuff (what we call the "s-word" in this house. THAT's how much we hate winter).

I made the mistake of muttering to myself about The Bunny and Santa Claus getting mixed up this year, and Santa showing up here on Saturday night by accident. I was clearly overheard, because the panic-stricken six and two year olds immediately fell about howling in unison. Yessiree, it's clear which holiday is preferred in THIS family. Santa may bring the toys, but The Bunny brings CHOCOLATE, which is hands-down the undisputed preference.

Who knows, kids? Maybe Santa will show up anyway, and offer to HELP the poor Bunny, who is certainly going to have a rough time getting that little wheelbarrow of his up the hill in our back garden this weekend... Maybe Santa and the reindeer will give him a lift in the sleigh. But, they'd better not sample too much of the Easter merchandise, or we'll have to get a MUCH bigger chimney in preparation for Christmas, 2007.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Many Faces of Dinnertime

God, I hate dinnertime... you know, that awful period between about 5 and 6.30 pm, when the kids are BEYOND exhausted, bored out of their skulls, and NOTHING will amuse them, not even television. Above all else, they are STARVING. Ravenous, even. But, because it is so late in the day, you don't want to give them a snack, for fear of spoiling their appetites. Of course, what eventually results from all of this is an absolutely mind-blowing, life-threatening, boneless, spineless fit that usually takes place in the middle of the kitchen floor. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you what we at my house call the Arsenic Hour: you either wind up giving it to the kids, or taking it yourself.

So, my question is simple: after all of this incredible fuss has subsided, how is it possible that the three little people I live with TURN UP THEIR NOSES at the dinner table, no matter what delectable meal I painstakingly prepare for them? They're hungry, right? They need FOOD. So, why not GOOD food?? More specifically, why is the food that I slave to plan and prepare never acceptable to them?!

Let me just say this in my own defence: I was a child of the 70's, a generation definied not only by the revolting clothing, but also the revolting casseroles our mothers lovingly provided for us. I swore blind that when I had my own kids, I would NOT prepare meals boasting "Crunchy Cornflake Topping!!" or sporting names like "Green Bean Supreme", or "Hamburger Hot Dish" (something my brother, sister and I came to refer to as "Burger-Noodle-Barf"). I would also not stoop to the level of the quick-fix: no "Helpers" or "Sides" out of packages for my progeny.

You name it, folks, I've tried ALL the alternatives. I've bought the specialty children's cookbooks, written by dieticians from every major health facility. I've tried the "cute food" cookbooks that instruct you to cleverly disguise nutritious morsels into ridiculously intricate works of art on a plate (I had to give up this nonsense as soon as baby #2 arrived, and time completely evaporated on me). I've even tried the cookbooks that get the kids to make their OWN meals, only to have the children screech "Now we're supposed to EAT IT??? EEEEWWWWW!!!!!" upon the recipe's completion.

I also confess... reluctantly... that for a time, I embraced that Dark Side of Parenting... and made two meals every night: one for the kids, and another for the adults. The kids' meal consisted of precious few ingredients: usually cheese, bread, peanut butter, milk and bananas... with the occasional green grape thrown in for good measure... But, it allowed my husband and me to occasionally eat what WE wanted, without all the exuberant, offensive fuss.

What happens when you fall into that nasty trap of constantly catering to your children's culinary whims, besides spoiling the living hell out of the little critters, is that Mother Eventually Burns Out. It's just not possible to keep up the job of being a gourmet short order cook for five different customers, three times a day, without 1. being well-paid to do it, and 2. getting days off on a regular basis. Needless to say, the pay and the perks stink.

So, this year, when my youngest turned two, had offically outgrown her baby seat and proved that she could chew and swallow just about anything that would fit into her mouth (but that's another story for another time), I laid down the law with my kids. I told them that from that point on, I was going to cook good, regular food from a good, regular cookbook (let's hear it for the "Best of Bridge" series!!), and they were going to sit at the table and politely try a minimum of three bites of everything on their plates. ONE meal for the whole family. And if they didn't care for it, well then, tough. As Buddy Hackett once famously said, at his house he always had two choices for dinner: take it, or leave it. We were going to try the Buddy Hackett system!!

Well, the system has some flaws, undoubtedly. My six year old has become our resident Rude-Face-and-Noise-Maker, while my ten year old has perfected the WHHHIIIIINNNNE... The two year old throws things: forever burned in our memory is her first full sentence, "NO din-der!! ALL DONE!!" followed by tossing her entire plate of food halfway across the room.

Yup, the system has flaws all right. But, I guess the key to making it through the Arsenic Hour, the "Hour of Power", is to remember who actually HAS the power... We parents have the power to be firm and consistent. And, most importantly, WE have the power to insert wax earplugs before sitting down to dine with the children.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Let's hope that tonight goes better for the Little One... and Me

I am reading...

I am currently three-quarters of the way through Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, "Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia". It is an autobiographical novel, and nothing short of spectacular. It is the story one woman's journey out of despair and confusion, and her quest for spiritual enlightenment and understanding.

Here is a passage that really spoke to me... In it, Liz is at an ashram in India, trying to "lose some of her life's baggage", so to speak. Interestingly, one of the most spiritual and influential people she meets during her time in India is a lanky, irreverent older man from Texas, Richard. He nicknames her "Groceries", because of the heavy emotional load she constantly carries around with her. This conversation that Liz and Richard have marks a monumental turning point in her journey towards spiritual self-understanding:

There is so much about my fate that I canot control, but other things do fall under my jurisdiction. There are certain lottery tickets I can buy, thereby increasing my odds of finding contentment. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I eat and read and study. I can choose how I'm going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-- whether I will see them as curses or opportunities (and on the occasions when I can't rise to the most optimistic viewpoint, because I'm feeling too damn sorry for myself, I can choose to keep trying to change my outlook). I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.

This last concept is a radically new idea for me. Richard from Texas brought it to my attention recently, when I was complaining about my inability to stop brooding. He said, "Groceries, you need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you're gonna wear every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That's the only thing you should be trying to control. Drop everything else but that. Because if you can't learn to master your thinking, you're in deep trouble forever."

This is an amazing book. I have never been a "self-help manual" fan. I don't have the patience to read them, quite frankly. But I know that the story of Elizabeth Gilbert's experiences and realizations is going to affect me for a long time to come, and hopefully I'll grow a little more self-aware as a result.

How we spent last night...

Child number three would not sleep!! Not unless she was on my lap, that is...

It's only seven in the morning, and I'm dreading dinnertime already...

Monday, April 2, 2007

Hey! Don't feed the... Oh, what the hell...

Last fall, I bought somewhere in the ballpark of 150 snowdrop, crocus, daffodil and tulip bulbs and lovingly inserted them into my flowerbeds. I had just trotted over to Sheridan Nurseries, the vastly expensive mecca of gardening in our neighbourhood, and chatted with the local Guru about what I should be planting, what colours, and the sequence in which everything would bloom. I envisioned that Spring 2007, and all springs thereafter, would be a TREAT! The wash of colour would begin sometime in March (the Weather Gods willing), last right through till the perennial beds kicked in and the annuals were planted. It would be uplifting, and downright inspiring: the "bonus" before the Digging Season began!!

What I didn't count on, of course, was critters. We have critters in our garden. And I'm not talking about your "Oh, look, there's a sparrow", "Pooh, I just smelled a skunk", "Who knocked the g-d garbage bins over AGAIN?" kind of critters... WE'VE got critters that think they own the place. They think the People Owe Them A Living.

It's my own fault, really, because I listened to my father and started feeding the birds. To say that my father loves birds is a wild understatement. My father is the man who puts up a multitude of birdfeeders every year, choosing different, exotic seed mixes to attract the birds he likes the best, and even hand-grinding his own suet to entice his beloved woodpeckers and nuthatches. I witnessed one of his suet-grinding exercises one unfortunate afternoon, and all I can say is, he prepared that revolting fat and stuffed it into the holes of the rustic log-feeder with the same kind of tenderness that a mother prepares homemade babyfood puree for her firstborn. That's Love.

As much as my father adores birds, he detests squirrels. When we first moved into our new home, one of the first gifts he bestowed upon my husband and me was a squirrel-baffling birdfeeder. Birds who are acceptable to feed, in his eyes, are those who are light-weight (ie. NOT PIGEONS, whom he considers to be rodents in feathered clothing). When small birds land on this feeder, the vast seed-trough remains open... but if a pigeon or a squirrel attempts to nosh, a lid comes crashing down and hides the food, not unlike some sick-o psychological "conditioning" experiment.

My children were not overly impressed by this birdfeeder, although they delighted in the rapidly increasing population of birds we were attracting to our garden. They quickly figured out the feeder's elitist intentions. It didn't take long for the seeds scattered on the ground to attract grey, black and even tiny red squirrels, and the grandiose acrobatics that all three varieties performed in wild attempts to alight our contraption kept the girls in stitches at the kitchen windows for hours. However, in order to reward the squirrels for their Hurculean efforts, my girls began... dare I confess it? They began tossing peanuts out the back door, as adoring audience members toss roses at ballet dancers during curtain calls...

Well, as time went on, the squirrels got bolder. They started rushing our back door every time they saw movement in the kitchen. One enormously fat grey squirrel, when unable to coax the desired meal out of me when he all but banged on the glass, climbed up the brickwork of our house and glared HARD at me through the window over my sink, where I was plowing through a load of dirty dishes!

"DIRTY BEGGAR!!" I heard the voice in my head roaring (with an English accent... WHOSE voice was I hearing in there???) "DON'T. FEED. SQUIRRELS!!!"

But we did. Mainly because, as my middle child pointed out belligerently, "SQUIRRELS ARE PEOPLE, TOO!" What can I say? My kids have me wrapped around their fingers, and I'm a sucker for small, furry creatures. Even if those furry creatures chase me every time I set foot outside...

But back to the flower bulbs. I spent an entire back-breaking day socking those bulbs into the ground, all over my garden. The task was unintentionally thwarted by the "assistance" of my two youngest daughters, who love to help their mummy whenever they can, and never give up a chance to get their hands in the dirt. I had arranged all of the packages of bulbs in piles on our patio, according to the colour-scheme I had drawn up in my mind. While I was in the garage hauling out my garden fork and spade, the girls delightedly "helped me" by opening every single package and pouring the contents into one gigantic pile. Now, the crocus and snowdrop bulbs are smaller, and a no-brainer to separate from the larger ones... but to this entirely self-taught gardener, tulips and daffs look pretty much the same... and the colour scheme? Forget about it.

But, nonetheless, we planted them. By six o'clock, we were filthy and exhausted, and we retired to the house with a sense of tremendous accomplishment and anticipation.

It took me till about noon the next day to notice that the squirrel population in the back yard was slightly busier than usual... and not up to their usual tricks of grand-jete-ing their way onto the birdfeeder. Nope, they were IN the flowerbeds, not flying high above them... At first, I thought, "Huh... it's a little early for those guys to be burying nuts for the winter..."

And then, I saw one. I saw that fat, grey, furry THIEF make off with a bulb in its mouth. By suppertime, I swear, the entire garden had been ransacked. Our local critters must have made like one of those old fashioned Breck shampoo commercials and "told two friends, and so on and so on...", because my garden was OVERRUN with squirrels, and the flowerbeds were TOAST. My beautifully planned springtime treat had turned into a Treat, all right-- my back yard looked like the aftermath of a cop convention at the local Tim Hortons Donuts.

The Sheridan Nurseries Guru had a tremendous laugh at my expense when I returned to consult him about my problem the following weekend... Apparently, that's the reason why he had sold me twice as many daffodil bulbs as he did tulips... But, he neglected to tell me that I should be planting the daffs in a tight circle AROUND the tulip bulbs, because, while tulips are the Big Mac of the squirrel diet, daffs smell and taste bad enough to them to put them off altogether. Had I planted the daffs AROUND small clumps of tulip bulbs, apparently none of this would have happened.

Well, all I can say is, thanks ever SO for SHARING. Too late. Because I've just provided enough sustinance to see the entire squirrel population of my surrounding area through the winter AND mating season, as well.

Twice as many squirrels this spring, and not a tulip in sight. Better buy me another baffling birdfeeder or two...

Or cleaning up after, for that matter...

"Do not, on a rainy day, ask your child what he feels like doing, because I assure you that what he feels like doing, you won't feel like watching."

-- Fran Lebowitz

Monday morning at our house...

My girls LOOOOVE to dress up... and wear my makeup. Sometimes the urge comes upon them at inopportune times, and there's not a whole lot I can do about it (well, not without threatening their little lives, anyway).

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