One morning this week, I had the house to myself. This is a rare and much appreciated happening. For the past two years, I’ve listened to audiobooks using earphones while cleaning and cookiing so as to not disturb or distract others in the house who doing homework or work-work or are maybe just slightly less interested in my literary choices than I (although why they wouldn’t be riveted, I haven’t the foggiest idea. I have excellent taste). On this particular morning though, I stumbled across a mixed CD that I compiled close to twenty years ago. And it is pure magic. The fact that the newest song on the CD is circa 2003, just adds to its wonder(fulness). I popped the shiny disc into the CD player and turned it way, way UP. The puppy did not appreciate the disruption to her nap time and routine. I just looked into her confused little face and shrugged my shoulders at her. I’m not a saint. I have no regrets.
What was this magic playlist, you ask? Well, buckle up buttercup, because this is a mix of the ages (or a mix for the middle-agers who refuse to give up their 20’s card? I dunno. No apologies).
The Ultimate (and Possibly Embarrassing, if I had that gene) Music Mix
1. Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-a-Lot – 1992 2. Wild Thing – Tone Loc – 1988 3. This Love – Maroon 5 – 2002 4. Come on Eileen – Doxy Midnight Runners – 1982 5. Valley Girl – Frank Zappa – 1982 6. Key Largo – Bertie Higgins – 1982 7. You Sexy Thing – Hot Chocolate – 1975 8. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne – 2003 9. That’ll Be The Day – Buddy Holly – 1957 10. Three Rows Over – Bobby Curtola – 1963 11. Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polkadot Bikini – Brian Hyland – 1960 12. It Wasn’t Me – Shaggy – 2000 13. One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer – George Thorogood – 1977 14. High School Confidential – Rough Trade – 1980 15. The Gambler – Kenny Rogers – 1978 16. Gasoline Alley – Rod Stewart – 1970 17. Lime in the Coconut – Harry Nilsson – 1971 18. Alison – Elvis Costello – 1977 19. I’m Too Sexy – Right Said Fred – 1991 20. Boom Shack-a-Lack – Apache Indian – 1994
I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed listening to this oddball mix and how much I can’t wait to inflict, I mean SHARE it with my smalls when they get home from school. If the homework situation doesn’t allow for the blasting of music, I can wait until I have them trapped in the minivan. I’m just that kind of patient and giving parent.
Pitching hard for #MumOfTheYear over here. ~A. xo
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For the past couple of years (read: COVID-years), Saturdays have been home made pizza/panzo and movie night around here. After I make everyone his/her dinner, I head down to Newmarket to do “the big” grocery shop at 2-4 stores, while my youngest four smalls (all now bigger than me) eat dinner and watch a movie with daddy.
This past Saturday night, I toured the first of two planned store stops, followed my list, and filled my cart. I had three free product coupons that I was planning to use, one for milk (mailed from the company because a bag of milk was sour long before the date on the bag, so I called to report it), one for Pringles (never buy these, but “free” is my tipping point) and one coupon for a free box of Special K. I was also price matching a few items, namely four loaves of Country Harvest bread (2/$5 at Giant Tiger, $3.49 each at No Frills).
As I approached the checkout, scanning for an open cash, Lane 3 had the light on and no other customers checking out. I hadn’t seen the cashier who was standing behind the plexiglass barrier before but since she didn’t have a queue, I navigated my cart to her lane. I should have known better, but, no. In hindsight I don’t know if she was having a bad day, found my mask-wearing objectionable, resented having to lift the (5) 6-lb bags of apples I was buying (looking at mostly at Paxton for that expenditure), hated price-matchers, or just thought I was a jerk for wearing skinny jeans with running shoes (no argument here), but Grumpy Gertie (herein known as “GG”) was sour from the onset. She appeared to be annoyed when I declined to buy plastic bags and instead showed her the cooler bag stuffed with bags that I brought with me. Maybe she thought I was bragging? Considering my grocery cooler bag is half-torn from the strain caused by me regularly stuffing it beyond capacity with 4-5 bags of milk (20-25L) and forcing the zipper closed, it is hardly what I would lead with, were I trying to show off my bounty of riches. 🙄
Onward we push. Past the apples, through the cheese bars and the black beans (burritos this week, yum!), over the cucumbers (on sale, $0.69 each, yay!) and then, full stop. We had reached the lone bag of milk. She lifted the coupon from where I placed it on top of the bag and breathed out loudly. Almost as though she was trying to balance her chi or find her patience and resist the urge to thrash me. She looked at the coupon for a long time. An uncomfortably long time. I began to feel a bit warm, a mildly prickly heat down my back, despite the fact that I was wearing a lightweight shirt and long cardigan, no coat, and had done nothing more strenuous than lift groceries onto the belt. She looked up and off, far into the distance, perhaps looking to call someone? Maybe she was new to the job and was uncertain how to process this type of coupon? I was about to say something friendly and reassuring when she looked at me with barely concealed contempt, “can I see your i.d.?” This surprised me a bit, but since the coupon had my name printed on it by the company that mailed it to me, I unzipped my wallet “um, yes, sure. I mean, you shouldn’t need to, but it’s fine.” I showed her my drivers license, feeling my cheeks grow warmer. She looked like she’d like to spit on it, but she doesn’t. She scanned the milk into the system and then keyed in the coupon, just like any other coupon. I looked at the Pringles and cereal sitting, oblivious, on the belt and started to feel a bit sick. I’m not one who enjoys confrontation with strangers. With family I’m all over a good argument or debate and am willing to die upon whatever hill I have chosen as mine to defend, but with strangers I begin looking for escape routes at the first sign of battle. On this particular occasion I took a minute to remind myself that I had done nothing wrong, the coupons were legitimate and valid and I was not wrong for using them.
She plucked a loaf of bread off the belt. I showed her the competitor’s ad on my phone. She objected because I had chosen a raisin bread “Not this one. It’s not included. It costs more.” She looks triumphant. “Um, I think they are all the same price? $3.49? And they all weigh 600g?” My words splutter out, making everything I say a question. She scanned the raisin bread. $3.49 appeared on the screen. She scowled deeply and almost growled. She completed the price match with all four loaves. She doesn’t appear to have any issue with the packages of chicken breast that I had chosen, so I started to relax and feel a bit better. She reached for the Pringles. I handed her the coupon. She doesn’t make eye contact with me and spent the next two minutes reading the coupon, reaching out a hand for the phone and jerking it away again before picking it up. The Ghostbuster theme song played in my head. “Who you gonna call? Ghost…” Stupid head. Shut up. Ugh. I could almost see an angel and a devil, one sitting on each of her shoulders, arguing about what to do with my milk coupon. Another, younger cashier appeared beside her. Startled, GG scans the Pringles and punched the coupon value with her index finger held rigid. The other cashier asked to empty the garage and GG looked relieved. I wondered what GG thought the girl was there to do, was she worried that she was about to be told off? Maybe something like “just scan the lady’s groceries and get on with your life, GG!”? But, probably not and in any event, our time together was not quite done. There was still the matter of the cereal.
She scanned the cereal and I handed her the coupon. “Another free one?” She’s barely able to push these three words out past her clenched teeth. “Yes, ma’am. Last one, I promise.” Smiling. I was almost certain at that moment that if she had a vaporizer and didn’t need her job, she would have ended me there and then. As it was, she didn’t and she did, so after she entered the coupon amount and told me the total, I paid and started to pack up my offensive groceries as quickly as I could.
An older mother and daughter pair were next to be served and while I packed my bags, I was mildly aware of the conversation going on between them and GG. It sounded friendly and congenial. They were talking about the 30lbs of apples I had yet to secure in my mess of cloth bags. I looked up, surprised because GG sounded nice and conversational but not surprised by the topic of their chat. It’s a given that my weekly apple and produce haul always elicits commentary, guesses and judgement from cashiers and other shoppers about what I’m doing with it all. Am I baking pies? Running a daycare or school? Am I a hoarder who can’t stop herself? I’ve heard just about every guess people have. I have given up trying to justify my shopping to strangers so I usually just smile and shrug apologetically and say “the apples are for one of my sons. He goes through about 30lbs of apples a week.” The shock value along usually gets me out of the conversation fairly quickly. This was the explanation I offered GG and the other two women that night. GG’s jaw dropped. Success! Instantly I could see she thought I was probably enabling some 700-pound grown man to eat himself to death. She didn’t say a word. I continued with “well, it’s better than endless bags of chips or junk food, right?” I sounded about as perky Elle Woods and I made sure to smile sweetly. GG let her mouth to close while ever so slowly she nodded her head in agreement. I loaded my final bag into the cart and began to push it towards the exit. I could feel GG’s eyes on me until I got outside into the parking lot.
My first job, as a young teenager, I was a cashier at IGA. I know what the job is like. I get it when you have customer after customer being ugly or unreasonable, taking frustration out on you over things that you, as a lowly cashier, have no power to change or control. Allowing those people to change the way you approach and serve all customers is a lose-lose situation. It causes bad feelings for the cashier and the customer. In that spirit, I hope that GG is having a better day today and that she can find some tiny morsel of hope or goodness that will help carry her through her future shifts. I will shop there again because they tend to have what I’m looking for, and if GG is working again next week, I’ll go through her cash again. Even if I’m price-matching or using coupons. And I’ll be friendly and ask after her day and wish her a good evening/weekend. If I do this every weekend, week after week, eventually she’ll like me. I just know it. And no, there is no end to my pathetic need to feel like people don’t hate me. It’s on my list to work on. Right after finding my six-pack abs and mastering the art of baking the perfect baguette (and yes, I’m aware that those two goals are counter-intuitive).
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This is a true story. There is not one word of a lie, no single misleading statement nor exaggeration included herein.
I was going to start this post with “Honestly” but remembered that is a sure fire way to know that there’s a lie coming your way. Maybe not a pack of lies, but at least one, hidden away on a plate of full and half-truths. And really, honestly, I just would not do that.
Ha! See what I just did there? But again, a lie, no. Humour, yes. Poorly executed, perhaps. Well intentioned? Definitely.
I can already see that this post has gotten off to a very tumultuous and scattered start, so I will begin again. Now.
My daughter is, what we now know of as a “tween” but when I was her age, we called “eleven.” She is growing up, getting taller, discovering new interests and just generally not shadowing me as she did when she was younger and I was her whole world. *insert ugly cry face here* I’ll finish boo-hooing about that later, maybe over a litre or two of Moose Tracks because this post isn’t about her. This post is about me. So, when I started thinking about how she is growing up, I remembered myself at her age and that made me think about shaving. Shaving my legs, to be specific. I was probably 11 or 12-years-old when I first lathered up my baby-skinned, peach-fuzzed leg with a bar of soap, popped the plastic cover from the disposable pink double-bladed Daisy razor (that I likely found under the bathroom sink), and giddy with nerves, made that first long drag from ankle to knee cap up my right leg. No doubt that it was within the first three swipes of that deceptively innocent razor, that it bit into my previously un-scarred, taut ankle skin that kept my bones from protruding from my body in such a way that would have prevented me from wearing conventional clothing, like, well, socks or pants without making a bloody mess.
I remember seeing the shock of red oozing from my ankle and feeling the sting of the slice as the soap mixing with the water ran down my leg and over the cut. Today, such an injury may deter me, for I am now old and wise. But then, I was young, foolish and believed that hairless legs would change my life, so I preserved and finished the leg, with two more hateful bites from my razor to serve as proof of my bold and new-found hairless womanliness.
With hardly more trepidation than a toddler with a fork and an open electrical outlet, I lathered up my left leg This time, Daisy attacked immediately and the skin just beside my inner ankle bone split and began to bleed. Refusing to quit, because the thought of walking around with one shaved leg and one reverse-mohawked leg was not only unthinkable, but more because it did not occur to me that I could quit at that point, I carried on. I believe I had a total of seven incisions by the end of that shower.
My pride was bruised, my ankles were shredded, but I had done it. I felt battered but damn it, I was not beaten.
Over the course of the next twenty or so years, I steadily improved my skills until reaching the point of never cutting myself while shaving (preparing food was bumped up a notch as the activity I was most likely to bleed to death while doing. Progress, see?). Of course, by the time I could shave my legs, unscathed, with my eyes closed, my hair growth slowed down, I got old, and it really was not as important anymore because mini skirts and shorts were not a viable option anymore. Irony, see?
Back to it though, in thinking about how my daughter will, likely one day fairly soon, ask to start shaving her legs, I was flooded with these memories of my own introduction into one of the (million) self-injurious practices in which girls and women were (are?) encouraged to participate in order to avoid social ostracism. I decided that I would respect her life choices long ago, respect her autonomy and encourage her to fully own her decisions over her life and body, and even though it may sound absurd, choosing to shave (or not) falls squarely into this category. So when/if the time comes I will arm her with shave foam (or ratchet bar of soap for my girl!), a razor (with a lovely gel strip attached), and carefully show her the ropes, so to speak. It will be a Hallmark moment. Or at least, that is my plan.
Like all good plans, a snafu has come up. Last week, while I was so busy patting myself on the back and marvelling about how far I have come, in just a few short decades, I looked down and realized that I was probably due for my monthly leg shaving ritual. This time, I did not procrastinate (progress, see?) and I remembered to lather up before getting out of the shower (I take every win, no matter how small, gratefully). Wielding my five-blade, moisture-strip-having Gillette Venus razor in my right hand (freebie received in the mail – holla!), I reached down to begin. All the while, still full of a sense of pride and accomplishment, not really paying attention to what I was doing, because I’m aces at shaving, right? Top drawer, really. The first three passes are routine, and then right at the beginning of the fourth pass, it happened. A sting, so foreign and yet somehow also so familiar to me that I failed to fully process it and so I carried on, until I was almost done that leg, and then it hit me. I was bleeding. I was cut. I had cut my ankle shaving. “Ah hell, no!” I said to myself (and probably said it out loud because I was alone and talking to myself just happens sometimes) and I lathered up my other leg, childishly refusing to even look at the first leg, and to acknowledge the shame it had just delivered unto me. First pass on my left leg resulted in immediate ankle injury and I was so throughly shocked and disgusted that I lost the motivation to care about the possibility of bleeding out on the shower floor and just finished it up, barely glancing at that leg either.
My feelings of self-loathing, disappointment, and sheer unadulterated humiliation threatened to overwhelm me as I turned off the water in the shower. I dried off, but refused to allow the towel to even graze my calves, for they had so let me down, they did not deserve the comfort of being dry. Then, it hit me. I could turn this around. I could take this stupid, humiliating, humbling moment and turn it into folly for others. In that way, I could take shit and turn it into sugar. Or something like that, right? Metaphors, much like shaving (apparently), are not my thing. Plus, if you will recall, I recently lost a lot of blood (don’t let the appearance of teeny incisions fool you), so I am not working under ideal conditions here.
The moral of the story, you ask? It is this: When you begin to think that you have this adulting thing all figured out, when you are almost giddy at the thought of how capable and proficient you are at [fill in the blank], when every fibre of your being is urging you to treat yourself to a reward (trip, vat of ice cream, monster diamond ring) for being so accomplished, so pulled together, don’t. Just don’t. For it is at that precise moment that you (or the universe) will find some way to almost sever your Achilles tendon with a grapefruit spoon that you don’t own or know why you have in your kitchen because you hate grapefruit and its pink sourness or make an online bill deposit and accidentally put the decimal point one space further to the right than you intend to, thus paying $2500.00 against your $250 hydro bill and thereby proving once again that you are in no way, shape or form ready to be left unsupervised with pointy objects or financial decisions.
My friends, I just couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried (and yes, I have tried *sigh*).
Oh, and if ya’ll maybe want to say a little prayer for my daughter, that would be great. I have a feeling she’s going to need all the help she can get with me at the helm (I think that’s a sailing metaphor, but I could be wrong, see admission of ignorance above).
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Heading into these lock downs and the physical distancing mandates back on March 13th (oh, yes, Friday the 13th strikes again. The irony is not lost on me), I never imagined that I would fall prey to a level any higher than my usual for madness. Last night, that changed when I did something that I always thought that I should do but knew I never really would because, well, tedious. And because too much math. And because just plain UGH.
I have done this type of thing before when it involved very simple variables. Like figuring out that price per hamburger patty when I make them fresh vs. buying pre-made or frozen patties. Easy-peasy, right? Exactly, that’s why I would/could do it and then use the results to artificially boost my ego with just how clever I was. Last night though, I raised that bar, and now I’m afraid I may have overshot and will need to keep at it, because my competitive nature will not allow me to stop.
So, what did I do? I calculated just how much money I save each time I prepare our weekly pizza and panzos ritual at home instead of just ordering pizza from Pizzaville (Sutton location only, if you please) for dinner (seven people). As you know, I’m a sharer, so I’m going to give ya’ll the break down (again, the irony is not lost on me that this break down helped to self-diagnose the beginning of own breakdown. Go figure).
Each week (just about), I prepare six panzos and one large eight slice pizza. This serves seven people dinner and leaves enough pizza for Mr. K.B.’s lunch the following day. When we ordered pizza for dinner (back all those months ago when we did such wild and crazy things), we would order one party pizza and one large from Pizzaville. After feeding seven people, leftovers did not really happen, so this was enough for seven dinners, so lunches. It would cost us $38.40 (no drinks or sides and I always picked it up, so no delivery charges), or $5.49 per person. Which is an unbeatable deal if you’re planning say, like, a wedding or a funeral, but for a typical eat-at-home dinner, that’s a bit rich for my budget, and while I would take it from the “Entertainment” or “Restaurant” line from the budget and not my “Grocery” money, it would still equal just over of $150 a month. $150 for weekly pizza dinners!?! *Hanging head in shame*
To make our pizza nights at home, I make a double batch of pizza dough, grate a bar of cheese, cut up the onions, mushrooms and pepperoni, nothing is pre-made or pre-cut. Last night, I used homemade sauce with tomatoes from the garden, so there was no real cost for it, but typically I do use a large jar of Classico. Here’s the break down: Ingredient Costs: Pepperoni: $1.99 Onion: $0.20 Mushrooms: $0.50 Cheese: $3.97 Sauce: $2.00 Flour: $0.42 Yeast: $0.14 Olive Oil: $0.72 Sugar: $0.01 Salt: $0.01 Water: $0.00 Total: $9.96
For just less than $10 I can make eight meals, feed seven people dinner and have lunch for one of them the following day, so the cost is $1.25 each portion. Monthly, this equates to $39.84, so in terms of just cash in hand, making the meal at home saves me $113.37 a month. With everyone one home with me 24/7 and no end to that in sight, this extra $100+ helps to cover the extra grocery and sundry costs we are incurring during this first decade of 2020.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It is more time consuming and labour intensive to prepare all of our meals from scratch. At least that’s the rational I remember using when I used to order pizza or we would head out to a restaurant for dinner. If nothing else though, this pandemic has forced me to re-examine some of my favourite go-to beliefs when I’m trying to get out of doing something I don’t want to do. I mean, when you think about the time spent ordering online, deciding who, if anyone is coming with you, getting out of the house, driving to pick the order up, waiting around the pizza place for it to be ready, driving home, getting all set up and eating, it’s no longer really “fast” food. When I order at 5pm, it was usually ready for pick up around 5:30pm, sometimes there would be a wait, so there was another 10 minutes spent hanging around, and then the 15 minute drive home and by then I’ve already spent an hour getting dinner to the house, and about 30 minutes in the car. It’s 6pm. So, I maybe save an hour by ordering, but it’s cost me in other ways, not just financially.
When I start the dough at 4 pm, in the privacy of our own home, the first panzos are on the pizza stone in the oven before by around 4:45pm, the last one (mine), goes in just before 6pm. I haven’t needed to leave the house, I haven’t even needed to change out of my pj’s if I am so inclined that day, and I’ve kept the money I would have spent safely tucked away for the next time I venture out to replenish my pizza supplies. I mean, grocery shop.
It is not a myth. We all do have a price. No, wait. Mine, apparently is $113.37? Putting it that way and in writing makes me think that I may be looking at this issue entirely wrong-headed. This quarantine-brain defect condition of mine is no joke, I tell you. Quickly! More math – $113.37 x 12 = $1360.44. Okay now, that’s better. Saving over a thousand dollars makes me feel WAY better about my choices AND gets me 1/20th of the way to a new (to us) family car. Zoom, zoom!
How is your pandemic grocery budget going? Spending more, less or about the same? Any tips, tricks or strategies to share? Tell me! For us, staying out of restaurants and away from take-away food has been a huge money saver, but I do admit to sometimes wishing that I could hit that virtual “easy” button and let someone else do all the work involved in feeding this crew. Ugh, talk about your first-world problems. Yikes.
Cue the intense privileged class guilt.
P.S. Physical distance with me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
Also, if you happen to like what you read, please consider signing up to receive updates via email, just in case you decide, like I recently did, that social media is doing your head in but you still want to read things that will make you feel better about your life choices (and stories about my daily life tend to have that effect on people). xx ~A.
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Now, I don’t like to brag (kind of lying to you, right out of the gate here ??♀️), but I’m almost positive that last summer I was a too-cool, quasi-popular, bubbly and perky fourteen-year-old with poor curling iron skills, hanging with my friends, sporting heavy electric-blue mascara, crop tops, mini skirts and my amazing white Tretorn canvas tennies (true story).
So, really not entirely sure how this summer I find myself staring into the rapidly falling face a forty-something-year-old bedraggled, unkept mini-van-driving mum with (at best) smeared eyeliner (typically applied hastily to one eye), living in a Costco-special skort, Walmart flip flops and food stained tee shirts that passed “the smell test,” driving to yet another soccer game while asking my twelve-year-old in the backseat to please stop shoving Cheddar Penguins up his nose, no matter how close he is to “the record” while simultaneously pleading with Jesus to “take the wheel” because this just cannot be real life (second true story).
Also, pretty sure that I did not see this situation on the horizon last summer, when I was still young, impossibly cool and had never even heard of Cheddar Penguins (or at least I’m pretty sure that this time existed).
I don’t mind admitting to you that all of this is really causing me to call into question the basis for my belief in my innate “coolness” in a whole new and frightening way. I believe that I may have crossed a line that cannot be uncrossed (truest story of them all).
Now, I gotta run. The umpire is about to blow the whistle or shoot the pistol or whatever it is that happens at soccer games to let the kids know that it’s time to score some baskets, drive some balls or steal a base. Never a dull moment here and see? If nothing else, I am finally figuring out soccer-speak. ??♀️
P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Also, please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery. I dig it.
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I often have full blown conversations in my head (well, when we’re all lucky they stay in my head anyway). I provide the dialogue for both sides of the conversation, yours and mine. In this context, “you” aren’t you though, “you” are what I imagine anyone outside of myself would say, listening to me talk. This conversation is one that has been playing, over and over in my mind for months, perhaps even years (before the “baby” door was forever closed, maybe?) and today I think that if I share it here, then just maybe, my mind will resolve the conversation and move onto one that is more productive and positive, less pitiful, woeful and futile. Or maybe it won’t, maybe this melancholy broken record will just become part of my new normal internal dialogue. Sometimes, for the smaller things that gnaw at my soul, just getting it off my chest is enough to lay it to rest but for the bigger things, I can say from experience, it can take years of writing, talking, crying and sorting through the muck in order to find a peaceful resolution.
On the daily, it goes something like this:
“I mourn the loss of my fertility. I’ll never feel all of those pregnancy feelings or delivery another baby.” I cry to my myself during those moments when either my house or my mind is quiet.
“How can that be? How selfish can you be?” You ask. “You have a handful of kids and you are constantly running around, cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, mending, tearing out your hair, complaining, not sleeping, and almost never really ever done with a task (there is always more laundry to do, food to prepare, carpets to vacuum, errands to run). You are forever thinking about the time when you’ll have the time to achieve a few of your other goals. Goals other than elementary school homework, edible packed lunches and motherhood. You have enough kids, they’re growing up, life is finally about more than wiping bottoms, noses and tears – they can now do most of that stuff themselves. It’s great! Your kids are becoming competent humans, just what you always wanted them to be!”
“True, true,” I say, nodding my head and then shaking it violently back and forth. “But that changes nothing. Their growth feeds my grief. My grief for what is no longer as much as it grows my pride in them. What I would not give to have that one last pregnancy. That one last bump. The discomfort of pregnancy-induced heartburn, swollen limbs and looser joints. One last time to feel that “that’s it! I’m done being pregnant – this baby needs to evacuate now!” feeling. That one last precious (and quick) delivery and that wrinkly, squinty and puckered newborn brow to kiss. Those fingers and toes to count, that tiny human to marvel at. Priceless. To have that one last infant to nurse and cuddle and carry – EVERYWHERE. I wouldn’t trade what I have or who I have, but I would be completely complete, given just one last turn.”
“So have one then, what’s one more? You want it so badly, just do it. Or is it menopause? It’s got to be, doesn’t it?” You ask.
“No, no, not at all. I am not menopausal or even peri-menopausal. My cycle is as predictable and regular as ever. My body still functions. My marriage still functions. My ova though, they are past their ‘sell-by’ date and there is nothing left of them to create a viable, healthy human anymore. And it is cruel for my body to behave like that of a younger, fertile version of myself and deprive me of that one last chance. Better ‘the change’ happen and at least give me the reprieve of the monthly bleeding and bloating with no ‘prize’ for my troubles and inconvenience.”
You, now exasperated “Well, get on with things then. Sounds like unless you’re willing to take some extreme and expensive measures, your baby-making days are behind you. Suck it up, Buttercup. You’ve caught your quota, time to pack up and go home, as the saying goes.”
Me, now defensive and defeated, “yes, I know that. I understand all of that. And I fight against feeling sad and distraught and I feel a right fool for feeling this way at all. I KNOW how blessed I am to have my children, I know how blessed I am to have the family that I have and I understand just how stupid and selfish and ridiculous it is, that I AM, for feeling this way. But I feel it anyway. Grief and mourning are real feelings, whether anyone believes I have a reason to feel this way is neither here nor there, because, at the end of the day, I DO feel this way. The puzzle for me then is to figure out how to have these feelings without letting them own me or stop me from living out the rest of my life with light, love and hope, rather than regret, loss and sadness.”
You, really fed up now, “Focus on the positive, you idiot! You have FIVE frickin’ kids. Each of them are healthy. Each of them are intelligent. Each of them has a kind and generous heart. Each of them are lovely (not a Quasimodo among the bunch). And you get to actively participate in their growing up, you get to help shape them into healthy, productive and kind humans. YOU get to do that, YOU get that privilege. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and count your blessings. ALL OF THEM. Babies you do not have, who did not make it to term, or were never conceived to begin with were not meant to be with you, they were not part of the plan for you. Everything happens for a reason, even sad things. The sooner you accept that and work within the light and blessed space you have, the sooner you will realize that while six may have been your dream, five is your perfect space.”
You continue, tired at this point with my tears and endlessly sad face, “Stop being sad when you hear news of another woman your age (give or take) being pregnant or having a baby. Be happy for her, for she is creating her perfect place. Maybe it is her first baby, maybe it is her last, it matters not, because it is part of the plan for her life. Be happy for yourself because you have your perfect place among a family who loves and needs you, a family who looks to you to steer the ship. You were a mother when you had but one baby, one child. You felt complete and never ‘less than’ other mothers with more children. Think back to that young woman, and remember how proud, competent and sure of yourself you felt. That is still you, you just look a lot older, fatter and more tired now and you have somehow figured out that you don’t always need to drown your fries with ketchup before you eat them. Sometimes, french fries are perfect just as they are. Like you, like your family, perfect in your imperfection.” You say.
“Thank you,” I say. “I needed that,” and I get on with my day, until next time.
P.S. Join me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes, I post info, ideas or photos everywhere, and other gems (and duds) only get posted in one place. Some things are totally worth skipping, occasionally there are things well-worth sharing. Either way, I’m happy for the company (as long as we can both stay in our own homes, in our jammies, with no actual face-to-face contact. #IntrovertProblems). Please feel free to like, comment on and share any post, for any reason, including blind rage and mockery.
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Kids need to play outside. I mean, fresh air, physical activity, rosy cheeks and bright eyes, right? All good things that help promote healthy mental health (awkward, much?) and all that super popular back-to-nature stuff that I keep seeing posted on Facebook, right?
So, being a ‘good parent,’ my kids are outside. All bundled up and ready to frolic and play in the snow, fight with their siblings until eventually one of them breaks and tears and fists fly. Yes, I can see their mental health getting healthier by the minute outside these four walls.
So, out they go. Except one resister. My nine-year-old. He’s active and full of energy. Brilliant, funny, and cuddly as all get out. Unfortunately (for him) he was not built for winter (just like his mama, so believe me, I feel for him). He finds very little joy in sub-zero temperatures and being outside in the snow, just for the sake of it (again, I get it. I’m sitting bundled up in my kitchen and decidedly NOT outside improving my mental health) and while he won’t be openly defiant about going outside, he will delay the trip as long as possible. Someone else may let it slide and let him stay in. But I’m not that mother. One of the few perks that come with this title, is that I get to toss the kids outside to play every day and they have to do it. It’s in the rules.
So, now that I have (I hope adequately) set the scene, here is the exchange P and I just had at the door.
The exchange: Me: No gloves? Here, at least take this one. I don’t know what you’ve done with the other one, but at least one hand won’t freeze. (Notice how much adulting I’m doing here. It’s breathtaking, yes?)
P: Nah. I don’t need any. I’m just going out to play dead.
Me: Um. Huh. Dead? That doesn’t sound like an awesome game, but okay. Take the glove. (Clearly, this kid is in dire need of outside play time. His mental health needs a boost. It’s okay. I am on it like he’s a cheesecake and I’m, well, me).
P: But I’m going out to play DEAD. I don’t need gloves.
Me: Well, when you decide that you’re not dead anymore, won’t it be nice to have at least one hand not get frozen in the snow trying to get up? (I’m on my June Cleaver game today, people. I’m owing this parenting thing).
P: Fine (taking the glove). But I’m telling you, I’m only going to be lying dead in the snow, Mummy.
Me: Okay, baby. Have so much fun!
He trudges outside with his sister who has been waiting patiently for him to get ready and I skip away, into the kitchen to wash pears and marvel at just how obvious it is that I was born to parent. When it dawns on me. “Um, did he just say dead?”
To make a short story long and back to short again, I am making a pig’s ear out of this parenting gig. Pray for my small humans. And someone, please. Start a GoFundMe to cover their future therapy bills. Those clinical hours add up quickly and the bills are going to be astronomical.
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Everyday we are all inundated with tales of perfect children being perfectly parented by pristine, perfect parents. As much as I may wish that I could claim even one of those stories of perfection as my own, alas, perfection in any form was not my destiny.
Tonight was a typical Tuesday evening. The kids and I tumbled out of the house juggling Thumb Chucks, bouncy balls, keys, sweaters and whatever else they managed to smuggle into the van and off we headed for an appointment with the foot doctor for one of the boys.
We navigated our way through town and got there with two minutes to spare. Everyone piled into building and the kids all gathered around the water cooler. Moments later, we filed into the examination room and everyone crowded around the patient chair. The kids bickered over who got to sit in the other chair, who got to play with the skeletal model foot until the one kid who was actually there to be examined said “everybody stop looking at my foot!” and the foot doctor kicked the offending three out into the waiting room so that she could continue her job in relative peace.
Once back in the waiting room, two of the boys started to wrestle, so I stepped out and tell them to take it outside. Conveniently, “outside” just happened to be completely visible from the examination room windows, so we were all treated to a shoving match, some screaming, and a tongue-out-spitting finale. Sweet.
Then, my youngest son decided to share this with us: ” ‘K, so at school, I had this plan to get out of doing work.” He pulled up his sleeve to expose a previously skinned elbow and continued. “I was going to pick the scab and make it bleed so that I could go to the office and get a band aid. Buuuuuut Madame had band aids in the classroom.” He shrugged. “So my plan didn’t work.” He shrugged again and smiled sweetly, clearly having no idea how devious the plan he just shared might sound to the average listener. The foot doctor and I looked at each other and I could tell that she was unsure how I was processing this admission of attempted deception. As usual, wherever possible, I chose to laugh. Because I try to refrain from crying in public. It tends makes people feel uncomfortable and then things are just awkward. And today was one of the few days that I remembered to wear mascara.
Our lovely foot doctor had now been witness to a bar-style brawl in her parking lot and heard a thwarted, yet diabolical plan of a third-grader to avoid doing his school work, and this only represented 3/5 of my children.
Time to head home, our work there was done. I re-arranged the bodies in the minivan for the ride home with the idea of limiting the opportunity for further brother-on-brother violence. This time, I was mostly successful. Only one primal scream for the entire eight minute drive home. #winning.
Needless to say, by the time we pulled into the driveway I was 88 years-old and they were back to laughing and being ridiculous. Good times. Always good times.
And that, my friends, is how a typical half-hour outing goes with my crew. Please form the line up to babysit my babies on the left…
It is no secret that my Paxton loves him some apples. Like, he LOVES apples. All four of my smalls do, but Pax, in particular, is the most emotionally invested in them. Our household will easily go though 20 or more pounds of apples in a single week. Raw.
But right now, it is also the second-coming of teething season here at headquarters, as all four of them are now in one stage or another of losing baby teeth and growing ‘grown up’ teeth to replace and displace them. So, biting into an apple, at times, becomes an issue. Particularly if the apple is lovely and crunchy the way I prefer and the way they used to prefer our apples.
So, being the mindful and caring momma that I am (stop snickering!), I starting to set a bowl of apples out on the counter for those of them who either were in the ‘sensitive to cold’ or the ‘it’s wiggly and hurts to bite down’ stages of his or her teething journey. And Paxton, seeing the apples so readily available on the counter, just started to default to the bowl instead of the refrigerator every time he wanted an apple (often 6-8 times a day – no lie).
But one day last week, he by-passed the bowl and opened the fridge. He found himself eye-to-drawer with an entire produce drawer full (15 lbs, give or take) of freshly washed and ready-to-eat apples. He dug around for the largest one, closed the fridge and took a bite. Then he turned to walk out of the kitchen, shooting me the side-eye and saying suspiciously, “Oh, I see you’ve been hiding apples from me. Huh.” He took another bite and sauntered out of the room, clearly a changed boy whose trust had been compromised on the deepest of levels.
He still tells me he loves me everyday but I wonder, if, in the back of his mind, the idea now lurks that I’m just not quite meant to be fully trusted.
He’s keeping a close eye on me now. I can feel just it.
EDITED TO ADD: I don’t know WHY the picture is sideways. It appears to be right-side up on my screen, in WordPress, in my previews and in my media library. But here? On Facebook? It’s freakin’ sideways. The universe is messing with me again. Like I really need outside forces playing with my fragile grip on sanity. ????
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