Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Kid-Crap Explosion

A couple of days ago, my son called me from upstairs.

Him: Mom, mom! Come see what I made!”
Me: Ok, bud, one minute. (I trundle up the stairs) 
Him: (proudly displaying his new chapter book from the library complete with an entire pad of sticky notes—one stuck to each of the 120 pages)Bookmarks!
Me: AAAaagh, (I growl and his face falls) That is such a waste of paper, Oliver.

Now a better mom might have had the courtesy to react with a 'Wow, that's quite the project! How long did that take?' before launching into a serene speech about the value of using resources sparingly and only for useful purposes. Or maybe a better mom wouldn't get to the growling point over what was just a pack of sticky notes, but you know what? In my house it is always just something. Like when I get the marker box and find that 25% of the lids have been left off for a week. Well, they're just markers. Or the day I discover that the kids have gotten it into their heads to take a lick of each lifesaver from a pack of 200 and leave them in a sticky mess ('Mom, we made a lifesaver snake!'). Well, they're just lifesavers. Or the time when my children and few of their friends perfect the art of paper airplane making by utilizing an entire pad of construction paper and then some. Well, it's just paper. Need I go on? Because I can.  I'm not lying when I say things like this come up on a near daily basis at my house, and I am anything but proud of that. It seriously makes me wonder how I, who was raised in a house where we were reminded constantly to count the number of squares of toilet paper we used, could raise kids with such a wasteful mentality. I am actually disgusted. Now I like take responsibility for messing up my kids as much as the next person, and I am certainly not blameless here, but when I ask myself AGAIN why this is happening in my house, the answer is always the same. TOO MUCH CRAP!

Maybe you're wondering why I wasn't on the ball when my son was mindlessly wasting an entire pack of sticky notes. Well, do you know what I was doing?? Looking for the f#&king marker lids. And do you know where I was when they were carelessly losing marker lids? Trying to create a new organization system for the bookshelf—one that does not involve cramming and bending them into an already overflowing space. It is an absolutely endless battle against CRAP, and I know I am not the only parent who feels this way. First world problems, I know, but the values (or lack thereof) that are instilled in my children due to this process are downright scary. They think all material goods are disposable! Why wouldn't they, say, draw a gigantic red X on every page of their new coloring book? They have 30 more over there, and their mother is quite frankly too busy growling and arranging and rearranging the other CRAP to engage in any more meaningful activity or a discussion about how the situation is out of control. And that's what it is. OUT of CONTROL. It's like I'm always a step behind the crap that is already in our house, and more crap is already coming in the front door.

Where is all of the crap coming from, you ask? Well, this is where the mommy-blame train stops. It is NOT from me! Let me take you through a typical week in our house...
Sunday: Kids go to Sunday school and return with activity booklet and small baggie of chocolate Easter eggs.
Monday: Kids have knick knack sale at school. Both kids return home with two dollar-store type items each, all trashed by the end of the day.
Tuesday: Auntie stops by for a visit with chocolate bunny and Easter coloring book and mini markers
Wednesday: Kids day out with Granny takes them to not one, but two(?) different fast food chains. They return home with several Happy meal items, candy (just because) coloring pages and, you guessed it, more mini markers.
Thursday: Kids free(?) books arrive in backpack from school
Friday: Easter party at school! Kids empty back packs full of jelly beans, balloons, pencils, chocolate, mini pots of playdough, and two fundraising forms, one to purchase cookie dough (for the Grade 6 class trip!) and another for clothing with the school logo
Saturday: Kids attend workshop at hardware chain and return home after 45 minutes with self-crafted bird house, tool apron, Easter candy, and certificate of achievement (I kid you not).This is followed by an afternoon of Birthday parties! Yea, balloons and loot bags!

…eeeffectively rendering the Easter bunny scheduled to come the next day redundant, but that's another story.

Honestly, it is this endless and if you think this is isolated to the week leading up to a special occasion, you'd be wrong. There is always a special occasion, and if there isn't they invent one (case in point: 100 days of school, wtf?). EVERYONE, it would seem, is in on the conspiracy to destruct my sanity and household piece of crap by piece of crap--well-meaning relatives, friends, teachers (dance, karate, and piano), store clerks, large corporations, community organizations, local businesses, fast food restaurants, slow food restaurants, and the neighbor who routinely doles out full-size chocolate bars to my three-year old. They all have their sweet, unsolicited, junky or otherwise treat to contribute. Truly, it is nothing short of an unrelenting shit-storm of kid-crap. Where will it end ?? At this point, I’m waiting for an explosion.

Well this mom is DONE. DONE DONE DONE with all the crap! I don't even know where to begin as to how wrong this phenomenon is socially, environmentally, and morally--one could write a book on that topic alone--but let this be the first of many 'NO THANK YOU'S' that I’m going say in the upcoming weeks and months… Hang on a minute… My son is just got home from school…

Him: Mommy! I got a prize from milk!
Me: You what?
Him: I got a prize from milk!
Me: What (the hell) does that (even) mean?
Well, apparently, this…

Me: Wow (Cyber Scream). That (stifle growl) is (WTF?) really (AAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaa) cool, Oliver!


Suggestions, anyone?

Saturday, 13 February 2016

pppsst...I Like Being Married

I like being married. No. Scratch that. I love being married. All the obvious stuff like having someone to cuddle up with at night, having a someone to relieve me of a hated household task now and then, a listening ear or a helping hand when the going gets tough, and let's not forget the sex! I love it all! But it seems to me that there is some unwritten rule that one doesn't proclaim such ridiculous notions publicly. I can only assume that this is all for a noble cause. People don't want to speak too fondly of marriage in case they upset another friend who is married but perhaps less enthusiastic about the whole affair or rub salt in the wound of another friend who is not married but wishes to be. Instead people seem to prefer the 'marry and moan about it' club, and, since I have frequented a few of their meetings, I can say with some authority that I think it is all a bit of a farce. I think there are plenty of other love birds basking in joys of their marital bliss under more of rooves than care to admit it, so, because it's Valentine's day, I'm just going to come out and say it (again), I love being married! What's so great it about, you ask? Well, let me remind you...

HE is so great! I am wildly, madly, crazily in love with the person my husband is. I had all these wonderful, romantic, notions about him back when we were dating, and you know what? It turns out, I was right! He is all those things, but as a husband, he is SO much more. If you want to know someone's true colors, you're probably not going to find them in first kisses, roses, restaurants, declarations of love, or even adventure dates, as the Bachelor series would have you believe. Nope. You will find them in the middle of the night when your beautiful baby is sick, and you listen to his gentle singing and the creak of the rocking chair in the next room. You will find them when he attends yet another of your family's gatherings after his long work day with a smile on his face. You will see them when he chooses the PTA over his long-standing Tuesday night pool game with the boys. Or when he lets you sleep in even though it's his turn because he knows you're struggling. And do you know what I found in my husband`s case? He is pure GOLD!

Marriage is so great. My husband and I dated for 5 wonderful years before we tied the knot, and those were good times--lots of adventure, romance, and the sweet surprises of getting to know someone to the core. But getting married was really awesome too, though the its true potential wasn't clear to me ten years ago on that day I still proudly call the best of my life. The best way I can think to describe it is this--when we made that commitment, it was like driving a stake in the ground on the land on which we intended to build a life, and that stake was the beginning of SO many awesome things. We built homes, children, businesses, friends, communities, and even our very selves on that land. None of those are small things. And there is no where I'd rather be than running this small-but-impressive empire with him by my side. ♥♥♥

In fact, it is perfection. Well, it can be. So I don't know if any other married people can vouch for this, but according my own small study, life is 98% compromised of menial tasks that center around the core grind of feeding, cleaning, transporting, sleeping, and providing for the members of your household. Marriage, from a time perspective, is therefore as much about commutes and showers and picking up Little Sally at dance class and scheduling conflicts and arguments about toilet paper and wiping up splatters of yogurts as it is about the 2% (if you're lucky) hearts and flowers stuff. Add to that, that all members of the marital household fall short of perfection, and that the smaller household members and sometimes even greater society conspire to divide or wear marital unions down inch by painful inch. That, my friends, is a recipe for one of two things...disaster or perfection.

So if you're out there still choosing  each other day after day, amongst all other choices, in spite your individual short-comings and whatever circumstances life has thrown your way, that is pretty awesome! Congratulations on your little piece of perfection! I wish for your marriage health, happiness, and a good dose of patience and I hope this Valentines day you find a little time to enjoy it as much as I do!♥♥♥

Actions speak louder than words
For A, who shouts general awesomeness and love from the hilltops♥

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Parenting with ‘Choices’ and Common Sense

Meet the Awesome Family. There's Mommy Awesome, Daddy Awesome and their delightful son JJ Awesome. A typical morning in their household goes down something like this...
Mommy Awesome: Morning, JJ.
JJ: Morning, mama.
Mommy Awesome: Did you have a good sleep?
JJ: Yes, Mommy.
Mommy Awesome: Come on, let's go have breakfast. What do you want today?
Mommy Awesome: Coming right up! (makes toast and little JJ scrambles into his booster seat) Do you want peanut butter or jam?
JJ: Jam! (Mommy Awesome obliges)
Mommy Awesome: Here you go, dear!
JJ: (seeing Daddy Awesome's peanut butter toast) I want peanut butter!
Mommy Awesome: But you said..
Mommy feeling slightly-less Awesome: Ok! You can trade with Daddy. (switches plates)
Mommy perplexed Awesome: What? What's wrong?
JJ: I want it on the GREEN PLATE!!!

Fast-forward 10 minutes…
Mommy Awesome: Time to get dressed, JJ.
JJ: No. NO! I don't want to get dressed.
Mommy Awesome: Do you want Mommy to help you today?
JJ: No. I don't WANT to get dressed.
Mommy Awesome: How about you choose! Who do you want to help you get dressed today, mommy or daddy?
JJ: No, I don't want to.
Mommy Awesome: You can't go to daycare in your jammies! Come on, I'll help you pick your favorite shirt.
JJ: No, I want DADDY to do it.
Daddy Awesome: Ok, bud, let's go pick a shirt.
JJ: I want to stay in my jammies.
Daddy Awesome: You can pick your Lightning shirt or you Buzz shirt!
JJ: Yay! BUZZ! (5 minute search for Buzz shirt ends when JJ triumphantly pulls it out of the laundry complete with Sunday night's pizza sauce) BUZZ!!!
Daddy Awesome: Oh, buddy, that needs a wash. How about your Lightning shirt?
Daddy Awesome: What about your Mickey hoodie from grandma? Do you want to wear that? You LOVE Mickey!

Fast-forward half an hour similar through battles with footwear and carseats…JJ arrives, still in tears, in his jammies.

If you've been dabbling in the parenting of young children in the past 10 years or so, maybe you have encountered the Awesome family. You see, they and all their like-minded friends like to do the parenting thing ‘by the book.’ And not just any book—the newest and most revolutionary books from the best-educated and renowned parenting experts in the western world. The Awesome family vigilantly employs all the latest strategies and lives in perpetual fear of inflicting childhood trauma by allowing their child to play with plastic toys or by accidentally exposing them to phonics. And every Awesome family knows that the best way to secure their child’s future as a philanthropic astro-physicist requiring minimal psychological intervention is to give their child choices, lots of them! So the Awesome family never misses an opportunity to engage their child in that oh-so-crucial decision-making process. JJ’s little voice is heard on every aspect of the day, from which potty he chooses to pee on in the morning to positioning of his 10 stuffies in bed at night. This can be tedious and, at times, a little trying for Mommy and Daddy Awesome, but they are determined to stick with it. What Mommy and Daddy have forgotten, something that might make their lives infinitely less complicated, is a dusty little nugget of wisdom way at the back of their overflowing book shelves. They inherited it from Grandma Awesome and, though they never refer to it because they largely consider its philosophies to be passe, they have kept it for nostalgic reasons—It is called “The Book of Common Sense.” And this book has a few tidbits that Mommy and Daddy Awesome might find useful as they apply to ‘choices’ and parenting:

More is not necessarily better—When it comes to choices, more choices do not necessarily equal better choices. Think food buffet. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t say my most shining nutritional moments have occurred in a buffet-type situation. The same applies to JJ. Just because you have offered him 6 different snacks, say, it does not follow that his food choice will be any better than if you’d just given him an orange. Or from a slightly different angle, engaging in the decision-making process ad nauseum, at every possible juncture, does not necessarily equate to better decisions either. For example, I have been engaging the choice to eat or not to eat chocolate daily since I was 10, and to date there has been no improvement in result. Sometimes more is just more. And further, sometimes, more is just unnecessarily confusing. Does JJ really need to consult the entire collection of books to choose his bedtime story? Or can Mommy and Daddy cleverly pare it back for him a little?

Actions speak louder than words—With all best of intentions, the Awesome family desires that JJ move forward with a solid foundation of good decision-making skills. But what’s the most powerful way to teach your child anything? Example, of course. That is, a child can as easily learn the decision-making process by seeing mommy and daddy acting decisively. So Mommy and Daddy Awesome simply need to move through their day swiftly making decisions about everything from plate colors to clothing to food to entertainment, and JJ will eventually mimic this. Could it be that dabbling in half an (unpleasant) hour of choosing a shirt every morning is really just modelling to JJ that getting dressed takes a long time and involves a lot of upset and cajoling? Which leads me to…

Take cues from your child—If the choice to choose a breakfast item results in weeks of upset every morning for JJ…the Awesome family might take that as their cue that, for whatever reason, he is not ready to make that decision. Though it may not be clear why to an adult, making a choice can be heavy burden for a child, so why not spare them the hassle from time to time. If they were to put toast and apple on a generic white plate, what is the worst that can happen?
As an aside, once I ran into the Awesome family in the supermarket and had the good fortune of watching the following scene unfold--Mommy is pushing JJ in the shopping cart down Aisle 10. JJ sees a Kinder surprise, and demands to have it. When Mommy says “Not today, JJ,” he turns up the volume a little, “I want a Kinder surprise!” There is a bit of escalating back and forth before JJ totally loses it. Mommy Awesome slips into choice-offering mode and asks him if he wants a raspberry instead (yes, because they are made of fruit and have no surprises inside???). A goldfish cracker? Does he want to hold a balloon? Does he want to ride in the cart with his stuffie? Does he want to say Hi to this nosy Nora passing by? At this point, I just want to scream… STOP with all the choices! You may as well offer him a trip to Disneyland and a Ferrari for all the good it will do. What he wants is the blimmin’ Kinder surprise and, since he can’t have it, he wants the next best thing… And that is to exercise his god-given right to blow a shit-fit on the matter. Let him! Would you want someone up in your face when you were upset about something offering you a bunch of choices? ‘Oh, your cat died. Do you want a KitKat (sorry bad pun)? Do you want to want a latte or some biscotti? How about going to theater?’ Might you just want to scream, ‘Get out of my face! I just want to cry about my cat’?

With freedom comes responsibility—Or as this applies to the decision-making process, with decisions come responsibility for consequences. The Awesome family subscribes to the idea that involving JJ in the decision-making process is a way of empowering him. And that may be true enough. JJ does gain a certain feeling of control through, say, having the final say in whether or not they are going to have a playdate with cousin Simon Awesome today. The Book of Common Sense, though, would argue that since JJ, being 3 and half years old, doesn’t exactly understand the responsibility he holds to Cousin Simon (who is REALLY excited to see him) and his parents (who have cleared their morning and booked the bowling alley), JJ just isn’t quite ready to make this decision. Never mind that JJ’s parents KNOW that he will have a whale of a time if he just gets past having to turn off Teletubbies and get ready to go. Perhaps this an opportune time for Mommy and Daddy Awesome to model some decisiveness? And finally...

Let kids be kids--If you ask Mommy Awesome, what the best part about being a kid was back when Grandma Awesome was alive, do you know what she says? She says, “Oh, times were simpler then. We just played and we didn’t have to worry about anything and we didn’t have any responsibilities!” Ahem…Yea, you didn’t have to make decisions all the bloody time! People, namely your parents did that for you, so you could just be a kid and focus on the type of things that matter to kids like whose turn it was to be ‘it’ in hide and go seek or who got be ‘Slimer’ in today’s game of Ghostbusters. And, what’s more, they left you to figure this stuff out on your own! Great practice (the best!) for your lifelong future in choice-making! And lo and behold, Mommy Awesome, though not an astro-physicist, didn’t turn out to be a miserable failure by any measure!

Luckily for JJ, his parents’ hearts are in the right places, so he will grow up to be just fine, but maybe, just maybe, Mommy and Daddy Awesome could make this whole parenting thing a little easier on themselves.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

STOP the press--I quit the positive-thinking club!

If you're like me, you've seen a few of these babies circulating around social media, and, if not there, maybe you're getting an earful of something similar from that soul-searching friend of yours. Or maybe the whole 'positive-thinking' thing just seems to haunt you just for shits and giggles, always in the back of your mind as something you could be a little better at. Whatever the case, it's a hard concept to refute and an even harder thing to get away from. Yes, I said 'get away from,' because, if you're like me, (and quite possibly you're not) you are downright sick of it! Stop the press! I hereby quit, revoke any membership from, and halt any fake attempts to belong to the 'positive-thinking club.'

For one, isn't this whole movement just another case of ordinary people ambiguously assigning a name to their latest cause, and in the process creating a whole (and lesser) sub-category for people who disagree with them. “Oh, you're not in the positive-thinking club? Well then you must be in the negative-thinking club, and I don't associate with negative thinkers.” No, that's not the case you say?

Well, have a look at these doozies, and, believe me, this is only a small smattering...

My heart is full of positivity, 
 there's no room for you
-Rachel Wolchin-

Beautiful things happen in your life 
when you distance yourself from all the negative things 

Poisonous people are not allowed to take my peace. It's difficult sometimes 
but I can't take on other people's negativity. 
 - Alex Elle -

Poisonous people? Like people with mental illness? Addictions? People who have experienced trauma or loss? Or just an ordinary person going through a hard time? Who are we talking about here? Because dissociating yourself from this just makes you a miserable person in my opinion. If you are a truly prolific member of club, wouldn't the philanthropic thing to do be to share some of that positive-thinking shit around? Just saying.

And what business do people have labeling emotions (even entire people!) as 'positive' or 'negative' anyway? I have news for you...Grief, sadness, fear, anger—these are not 'negative' emotions. They may be unpleasant, but, they are not negative. They are necessary, understandable, and universal things we all go through from time to time, and how dare the positive-thinking club interfere with someone else's god-given right to experience and work through that stuff. As for labeling entire human beings as one or the other...You know what EVERY single person I have ever met has in common? They are ALL doing their best. Where's the club for that?

And, who can forget...

It could always be worse. 
- annoying people everywhere -

You can't argue with that! And until I am in the position of having lost all human abilities other than that of feeling excruciating pain while having just experienced the loss of all my family members to some terrible calamity, that will ALWAYS be the case. But has this philosophical tidbit every actually succeeded in making anyone feel better? So, yes, I hear you, there are starving kids on every corner of the planet. Thanks for that, my pink-eye is so much more palatable with a side of guilt.

As an aside, have anyone else ever had a club member tell you in throes of your illness that a little dose of positivity is all you need for symptom relief? Or that maybe the whole illness itself is a manifestation of your deep-seeded negativity? To this, I have to say, “Friend, I love you dearly, but STOP TALKING, and when you are at the tail-end of three years of bad health, you may resume.”

I won't bore you with the details, but do you know the BEST thing I ever did for myself with regards to chronic health struggles? It wasn't anything to do with positive thinking. It wasn't telling myself that things would get better. Nope. It wasn't visualizing laying on a beach watching my symptoms float off in a balloon. It certainly wasn't thinking how much worse off I could be nor was it smiling bravely uttering no complaint (I think I only lasted 10 minutes at that). You know what it was? I simply accepted that I did in fact have a chronic illness and that I hated ever minute of misery it had bestowed on me, and that, going forward, I would probably continue to hating that. Oooooo, So bad-ass!

So, if this all sounds like a load of crap to you, that's fine. There are tons of other like-minded positive thinkers out there with their irrefutable philosophies and catchy sloganeering, and you can all synergize your awesomeness into oblivion for all I care. But, in the event that this shit ain't working for you, I've started my own club. It's called the 'I own what I think and feel' club. Here we assign no positive or negative value to our thoughts and emotions. We just accept them and move on...and we're currently accepting new members.