Saturday, December 31, 2011

Working on my edges....

Disclaimer: this piece has not been edited. It's long, with enough dangling participles to make any English teacher weep, but hey, it's from the heart. Fair and square. Consider this your warning.

I woke up this morning feeling shitty, for no good reason. My husband was downstairs with all the kids, giving me a rare opportunity to sleep in. I don't think I've slept for longer than three hours straight for the past seven months. But guess what? Instead of enjoying the gift of silence and extra sleep, my ungrateful little self woke with a start, looked and the time and thought, "Shit! I can't believe I slept this long. I'll never get through my list of things to do today." You see, I had big plans for today. HUGE. They involved a full-scale assault on the clutter in our home, in my feeble attempt to start the new year...well, what's the word for it...clean. Pure. And then, somewhere in the panic it dawned on me. This here needs to be my lesson for what I need to change in the new year. Screw a clean house.

Sadly, I'm wired this way. I don't know how to be gentle on myself. Shy of going on an epic bender in an attempt to unravel my DNA strand and wake with a newly tuned double-helix, I sometimes feel at a complete loss. My focus always gets interrupted. I'm doing my best to be a wife, a mother, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a career woman, a writer and sometimes all I'm left with are feelings of frustration, sadness, anger, inadequacy, melancholy - all culminating in a storm of feeling completely undeserving of those who love me unconditionally.  In my quest to be everything to everyone, I'm left feeling nothing...aside from the feeling that I'm not getting enough done. That little chestnut refuses to dispose of itself.

I think this is why I hate yoga. Loathe it. Holding those positions for an eternity without feeling like I'm getting anything done. And I told my yoga instructor this. "Why is this pose called Happy Baby?" I yelled, "Angry f*cking pirate would be much more suitable." You know what she told me? She told me that's the point. I feel this way because I'm working out some edges. And maybe mine is that I have no patience with myself, and that I get angry when I feel like nothing's getting done (ouch). She went on to say that yoga is not about getting comfortable in a position and holding it there, faking the pose; that's apparently called cheating. It's about finding the pain, just enough of it, to feel the edge, holding that edge, working through that edge, and breaking through to the other side. Being better because of it. Yoga being the backdrop, I believe she was talking about life.

This is the first time something in yoga has made any sense to me. Working on the edges. And friends, do I have edges. This is difficult to admit, but in the past few years, life has beaten me down a little. Without getting into details, I feel hard. Harder than usual. (And sadly, this is by no means a reference to my ass, or any other body part with muscle underneath.) My spirit feels light not burning quite as brightly as it used to.

I used to laugh...a lot. I still do, but not enough for my liking. In the past, people have told me that if I ever want to be taken seriously, then I had better stop fooling around. What about the hazards of taking yourself so seriously that you forget how to laugh? I’m not sure who ever decided that you can’t be intelligent and have a sense of humour; rather, I think it’s pretty hard to have one without the other. For those people who are bothered by my humour, I extend a hearty invitation to stay clear of me (that, among other things...). 'Cause I'm back, baby. I'm going to start loving me for who I am, not loathing myself for who I'm not.

In my 37 years on this planet, I've learned you’ll have days when you feel on top on the world, and others where you want to mutter, "F*ck this. I’m going back to bed.” And that’s alright – knowing it may not be your day of crowning glory, just pin on your participant ribbon and head out for the day. If that's your best for the day, then hell, wear it proudly. I think perhaps Margery Williams penned it best when she wrote The Velveteen Rabbit back in 1922. In case you aren’t familiar with this childhood classic, two toys are having a discussion in the nursery. Here’s a paraphrased version:

“The poor little Rabbit was made to feel very insignificant and common-place, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse. The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out…and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it. “What is Real?” asked the Rabbit one day, “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real.” “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.” “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?” “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Above all, this is what I want to teach my children. Beautiful people don’t just happen, they become. It’s only after someone has dealt with life’s hardships and trials that they come out shining. Flaws are beautiful – they make you raw, real, human. I don’t want my children to ever confuse beauty with what they look like; that’s just genetics. Rather, beauty stems from that inner light that burns brightly. Beauty comes from being the best part of someone else’s day. Beauty comes from being real...from working through those edges. This is what will make you unforgettable.

I may have lost my way a little. But I'm going to find my way back..and when I get there again, I'll be staying for good. You can bet on it.

Happy New Year, friends. Stay real. Stay flawed. Stay beautiful.

p.s. here are some of my favourite moments from 2011...I have a feeling 2012 is going to be epic.


Jack learning how to wink...

Flying his super hero...

A couple of my very own super heros...

Going on an adventure with Daddy...

Making fun of Mommy and enjoying every second of it...

My first born...he made me a Mommy...and how I love him for it.
He has one of the biggest hearts I've ever seen, and how blessed I am to be on the receiving end of it.

Sweet little girl of mine...her big soft heart and zest for life...

She loves to explore everything around her...

And never wants to miss a thing...

She's already given me enough happiness to last an entire lifetime.
She's our angel, a gift from above...may she hold that in her heart all her days.

The arrival of this little bean?
Well, this little surprise, he stole my heart...

Just when I thought I was all filled up, he came along...

Be still my beating heart...I think it's going to burst.

I can't imagine my life without him.
The way he reaches for me, that smile, his eyes telling me I am enough...

I am complete.

My family...I have no idea what I've done to deserve them.

And to see them loving each other?
That's what it's all about...
love that cannot be measured, described or contained.

May they always know that their best is good enough...
may they know that they have always been loved.

My husband asked what I wanted for my 37th birthday this year. I asked him to take photos of me with the kids. Of course, they refused to sit near one another so I got some 1:1 cuddle time with each of them. Over the past few years, I've dreaded my birthdays...I don't like the reminders of mortality. I want to grab hold of everything too tightly.
This go around, I had just one wish, "I want to grow old with these beautiful souls. That is all."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The perils of over-eating...

We just returned home from a gluttonous 4-day Christmas celebration in Manitoba.  A fairly solid hint that you've had enough?  You're experiencing violent kicks from deep within your belly. And you're not pregnant.

I'm going to have to break this down in bullet this point, my comatose carb-damaged brain will not allow anything more elaborate. Top 10 signs you're at, or have recently been to, a Van de Velde family gathering:
  • There are 50+ people milling around, all of whom you're related to, although you'd be pressed to find one person who can assign the appropriate age and name to each person. My mom, if given a moment of rest and silence, could likely pull it off. But that'd be it. Most of us would like to blame our shitty memory on alcohol consumption, when really, we've simply tossed in the towel when it comes to keeping track of who has sired what child, never mind in what year. It's a mathematical nightmare.
  • With much trepidation, we reinstated the wrap something from around the house you don't use rule for the adult gift exchange (for full details of the initial disaster, click here The gift of the rooster and two hens...) In the full spirit of giving, everyone is truly terrified of picking a gift one of my brothers has brought. Therefore much attention is paid to who is carrying what gifts into the house; hugs come later. Much, much later. Conversely, there's no greater sight than one of my brothers sitting there, fuming, having just opened a twice re-gifted cuckoo clock.
  • Being a Godmother to some, I choose gifts with special care and attention for these adorable loved ones. Although even I have to admit, giving your 14-year old niece a packet of Dora panties is an awkward, albeit honest, mistake. Really, where did the last 10 years go?
  • The kids rip through the presents like a school of piranhas; paper, teeth and skin flying everywhere. I wouldn't recommend reaching into that feeding frenzy for anything; you'd likely lose a hand. In fact, it's not at all uncommon to find a small child buried in the wrapping come time to clean up.
  • Line-up for the toilets are's best to be carrying a small, screaming child with a really dirty diaper so you have a good excuse to cut queue. If not, you may find yourself outside in the cold, dashing off to take your business off-site. Here's a tip: be sure to grab a tray of chocolates or a household plant on your way out the door, so you can easily whip into a neighbours house and say: "Why, hello! Merry Christmas! Just thought I'd pop over to drop a little something off. Where would you like this plant? No, please...not another word. It's my pleasure. I insist. You want it in the bathroom? That's a wonderful idea."
  • There's a large pallet of Turtles sitting in the one corner, casting an ominous shadow over the tree; Costco would be hard pressed moving that many units in a day.
  • Throughout the day, you'll hear shrieks of horror and assume it's coming from one of the kids; chances are high it's from an adult. This usually occurs after someone has made the heinous mistake of dropping something green onto their plate. Comments range from: "Who the hell brought snap peas? What's this...a spinach salad with raisins in it? I may vomit. Put that back in the fridge and grab that taco dip while you're in there." The idea of eating anything green only appears to be a wise choice when stepping on the scale post-holiday season. That, or when your gums start to bleed, an early warning sign that you're about to get scurvy.
  • My family has an insatiable need for carbohydrates, particularly mashed potatoes. This is clearly an Irish mutation that somewhere along the lines has bled into our gene pool. And we're not complaining. (This may explain the swearing as well...) My husband got stuck peeling the potatoes this year; he asked my mom when the army was going to stop by to collect their rations. This joke gets lost on my family. In fact, any joke about excess gets lost on my family. 
  • Ever seen someone demolish a loaf of home-made bread inside of 10 minutes? Me neither. I was too busy knocking siblings and small children out of the way as I mowed down loaf after loaf. Come to think of it, who fed my kids these last 4 days? Thank God for Santa.
  • The senseless gorging is not considered over until someone takes a knee (à la Tim Tebow) and says, “I have a twist in my stomach. Like a cow. Fetch me a bottle of Bloat-Go.” 
Any mention of the word bloat takes me back to my teenage years, to a dark, cold night when I was rudely awakened in the wee hours of the morning by one of my brothers. He was in a panic and told me I had to quickly hurry outside to help him with the cows. I’ll always remember it as the night I technically learned how to siphon gas – albeit from the gut of a bloated mammal. Apparently the cows had broken out of their corral in the back and had made their way over to a old, wooden bin full of barley, somehow gained access, and then proceeded to gorge on the grain until they reached an alarming state of belly bloat. Their poor stomachs were ridiculously stretched from excessive gas. By the time we got out there, some were already frothing at the mouth, staggering around like drunkards, while others lay on their sides, calmly awaiting the call of death (In fact, very similar to what my family looks like after Christmas dinner...)

My brother had already spoke to the vet and she was on her way with more Bloat-Go, but in the meantime, she told us to prod the cows up and force them to keep walking around. Our goal was to make them belch; it was the only way to get them to expel gas. So what to do? Save for feeding them a Coke through a bendy straw and urging them to burp the vowels, we really only had one alternative. Had we been prepared, we would have had a trocar and cannula on hand, or a sharp knife, and we could have punctured a hole through the sides of their stomachs. Truth be told, we likely could have found a knife but neither one of us had the stomach for that, pun intended.

So that left only one trick…we had to manually siphon the gas. (Translation: set up your sister, who has no idea of the level of stench and horror that awaits her, and then walk away to have a smoke and wait for the vet.) I watched as my brother went up to a cow, stared at it straight in the face, and whispered some soothing words. The Heifer Whisperer. He then inserted a rubber tube into the cow’s mouth, all the way down its throat and presumably into the stomach. He told me that within a few seconds, the insertion of the tube itself should lead to the release of gas; I just had to stand there and supervise. But if I really cared about these animals, he added, I should quickly blow on the tube to make sure it wasn’t obstructed, and then, if nothing was happening, he told me to start sucking to help get the gas out. With the gift of hindsight, I can now say with certainty that my brother had no clue what we were supposed to be doing, he just knew there was no way in hell he was putting his mouth on the tube. He said he’d help do it if he didn’t have such a weak stomach. (Cue walking away, lighting a smoke…) So I was left standing face-to-face with this mammal, both of us extremely uncomfortable with the violation of personal space. As I stood there staring into its big wet eyes, hairy jaw-line, snotty nose and very sloppy mouth, it reminded me of similar disastrous dates throughout high school.

After blowing through the tube to clear it, I counted to three to work up my nerve and then I started to suck. Moments later, the response was explosive. Success hit me with a mouthful of gas so rancid that it could be bottled and used for chemical warfare. The cow stumbled back and looked at me with such gratitude that I almost felt good about what I was doing. Almost. No kidding, I seriously thought I was going to collapse and perish from the vile vapours attacking my senses. But since I was certain my brother would tell the vet to save the cows before helping me, I resolved to stay conscious. Not that the vet and her extra bottles of Bloat-Go would have done me any good at that point anyway.

So as the holiday season grinds to a shuddering (merciful) halt, remember this...before reaching for that third helping of mashed potatoes and gravy, remind yourself there’s no such thing as Bloat-Go for humans. So unless you trust one of your family members to administer a stomach tube, just put down your plate and call it a day.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I got skills...

Just not for anything remotely useful. My skills used to include drinking vodka and chain-smoking...I suspect if we go far enough back, I'm of Russian descent. As a parent, I've had to hang up my shoes in these arenas and have attempted to better myself in the areas of baking, cooking, knitting, know, all that shit that involves heavy levels of patience, mental strength and talent. These descriptions don't bode well when stacked against my God-given natural abilities.

To give you an example of my complete and utter lack of ability, let me tell the tale of my recent trip to a Kindergarten classroom. Along with all the other parents, I was there with Jack to make Christmas tree ornaments with the kids. It was all going moderately well, however having James slung across my chest was not entirely conducive to seeing exactly what my hands were doing in my attempts to sprinkle glitter and apply glue. Wrong order. Apply glue, then sprinkle the glitter. See, I learn.

At one point, I mercifully engaged my brain-to-mouth filter just in time, and avoided uttering something to the effect of, "This f***ing kid-friendly glue is absolute shit." Seriously. Back in the day, I recall being handed a vat of contact cement, along with a pat on the head for good luck. And what was so wrong with that? At least you had something to show for your efforts once the glue dried, which was immediately. The fact that you likely had some skin nicely layered in there along with a piece of your shirt was beside the point.

Needless to say, we made it home with something that looked similar to the Abominable Snowman. Jack was terribly pleased and went to hang it on the tree. Exhibit A: Jack's face moments after he hung it.

In hindsight, this visual of Isla (known widely in our circles as Peanut), rubbing her hands together and making her way over to the area where Abominable was hung, should have been my official warning that things were about to go sideways.

This dreamy moment lasted for about a minute, that is until Peanut made a run for it and had that thing beheaded and de-limbed (Is this a word? If it isn't, it should be. If pressed, I guess amputated would work just as well.) inside of 4 seconds. Jack lost it. "Bad, Peanut. BAD!!! Mommy! You have to fix BOMBNIBLE!" To which I assured him I would do.

I went hunting for some real glue though, and found it in the form of some heavy-duty crazy glue crap. As I was preparing BOMNIBLE's parts, I was having some fun reading the instructions on the glue. It went something like this: "Do not let glue come into contact with eyelids. If eyelids are glued shut, call Doctor immediately." Well, I guess you wouldn't be able to do that, would you? 'Cause you wouldn't be able to see. I hate stating the obvious but it should likely read, "If eyelids are glued shut, immediately run into the streets screaming. That, or kindly ask your husband, who's likely sitting in the adjoining room watching sports, to drive you to the hospital." The label went on to say: "Do not under any circumstance touch glue to skin. If this happens, contact your local Poison Control Centre immediately." This my friends, was the final clue that this is the type of glue that'll stick. There ain’t no 2-year old peeling parts off anything once this gets laid down.

Midway through the reconstruction of BOMBNIBLE, I recall thinking: "How big of a loser do you actually have to be, exactly, to get this glue all over your ski...F**K! F**K! Roddy! Come here quick! This fur ball is stuck to my finger! Aaaaaaaaaaaah...hurry. Rip if off. OMIGOD, OMIGOD, OMIGOD...."

Yes, I'm reminded that in moments of unabashed arrogance, sweet baby Jesus gives me a smack to the head. And rightfully so. Here's a photo of what remains of BOMBNIBLE today.

Yes, I'm rather embarrassed to admit that in my ensuing rage, I chucked out the ball that was meant to be the left leg, carelessly tossing it into the trash along with a chunk of skin. Which is likely a good thing. That would have been throwing down some serious smell by this time next year. I really have no idea what happened to the right leg and nose. I suspect Peanut ate them. 

My ill-fated attempt to repair Jack's ornament got me thinking about a recent episode in church. My sister (Fry) was holding Peanut, and they were scribbling away in Peanut's book. My daughter brings this little sketch pad with her everywhere, and can often be seen scribbling away furiously, almost like she's a journalist at the scene of whatever crime happens to be occurring at that moment. At some point, she'll usually ask someone to draw her a bunny or a kitty. Which is exactly what she asked my sister to do in church. So Fry drew a kitty. Or some mutant version of such. Moments later, all I heard ringing out in church (along with every other soul within a 50-yard radius) was, "Kitty's boobies, Auntie. Biiiiiiiiiiig ones."

I looked down at the drawing, then up at Fry and gave her a look of, "What the @#$% are you doing drawing boobs on a kitty? What's the matter with you?" She was laughing so hard, trying to contain her mirth (I ask you, why do the laughs that require this level of intense suppression always happen in church?) All she could manage to whisper back was, "They're paws. Those are paws." Yes people, apparently those pendulous abominations are meant to be paws; they are not a set of enormous Mama-nursing breasts.

All told, suddenly my artistic ability is looking pretty good. I guess it's all relative to who you're comparing yourself to. This injection of (false) confidence is exactly what I need right now as I venture to the bowels of the basement. With Christmas just around the corner, we're mounting a full-scale attack to complete Project Playroom (stay tuned...). God be with us. Knowing of my plans for tonight, a wise friend emailed me and said, "I wasn't going to contact you today as I know your to-do list involves breaking the time-space continuum to get it done. Be gentle on Roddy. More importantly, BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF." Wise words (except for the Roddy part).  I have to keep reminding myself that with anything in life, it's not about being perfect, it's about doing your best.

Merry Christmas, friends. xo

Saturday, December 17, 2011

p.s. I love Jesus

I have a statue. It’s a regal woman who stands about five feet tall, and she’s holding what appears to be a horn of plenty. That, or she’s fondling her left breast, I’m not entirely certain. At any rate, when I placed her out in our front yard last year, the neighbours in our bay started a pool on how long she would last. I didn’t see the problem but they were like, “Don’t you remember what it was like to be a teenager? That thing will be smashed by a hormonal, pimply-faced angry person inside a month. It’s a perfect double-dog dare. You’ll see.” Well, I chose to stick to my guns and hoped for the best, but secretly I feared for the sultry woman’s life. 
And so the days passed. Months. Every morning on the way to work we’d back out of the driveway, and there she’d be, standing proud, erect, and protecting our front yard. At one point she did get kidnapped and held hostage by a gaggle of burly rugby players, although they returned her alive (well, not really) and unharmed. Apparently she was a hot ticket item and scored big points for their scavenger hunt.

But for the most part, she was left alone. That is until this past summer. I was wandering around the house in early August, gearing up to do some housework, when mercifully the phone rang thus distracting me from doing anything useful. As I was chatting with my sister on the phone, I happened to look out my front door just as two girls were approaching my statue, giggling, whispering, elbowing each other as if to say, “You do it. No, you do it!” I almost knew it was going to happen before it did. And then it came – an arm shot out and shoved my lady, and she went ass over horn of plenty into the shrubs. I went flying out of my house wearing a bright purple dress with a large patch over the top of my chest, covering the stitches from a mole I recently had removed. In hindsight, it may have looked as though I had just got home from heart surgery. Needless to say, whether it was from my outfit or me trumpeting at the top of my lungs, I must have looked completely bat shit. The girls jumped ten feet in the air and took off like their pants were on fire. I shouted out after them, “Hey, I saw that girrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrls!” I wanted them to know that I had witnessed the whole thing unfold and that I could easily identify them. Sort of.

When relaying the details of said event later that evening to my husband and sister, I said they had to be teenagers, close to six feet tall if they were an inch. In all likelihood, gang members with sleeve tattoos. I rather shamelessly admitted that what I had done was extremely dangerous and brave, and should not be attempted by the average person. In my mind’s eye, I was a small-town hero, avenging neighbourhood crime and statue bullying. I boldly declared, “Now, one of two things will happen. Either my statue never gets harassed again, or by tomorrow morning, it’ll be smashed to smithereens. Either way, I’ll be here waiting.” By this point in the story, I could see I was dangerously close to losing my audience so I was about to make minor adjustments to the story to amplify my heroic behaviour, when something caught my eye. There was a letter hanging out of my mailbox. My inner detective lunged outside and greedily opened what appeared to be a handwritten note. Here’s what it said:

In the interest of protecting said juvenile, I've withheld name and photo.

Now at first glance at the spelling, I thought perhaps one of my older brothers was in town – upon closer inspection however, I realized the punctuation was far too advanced. My sister took one look at the letter, then the photo, then looked at me and declared, “So really, what you’re trying to say is that you spend a large portion of your day terrorizing small, adorable children. Nice.”

I snatched the letter back and stared at the photo. What a clever child she was, attaching a picture of herself most likely taken years ago when she was still young, dewy and innocent-looking. Point to you, Miss Petty Crime.

For some reason, this whole incident reminded me of a letter my mom recently found (Particularly the bullshit p.s. part...what's with postal scripts anyway? I hereby declare I'm going to stop using them.). While going through old boxes containing report cards and other school crap, pardon me, memorabilia, she came across two letters written to her, one from me when I was eight years old and one from my sister, who would have been five at the time. My mom had been in the hospital for a bit so my note went something like this: 

"Dear Mom, I hope you are having fun in the hospitle. We are havng fun. I helped Dad do dishes. Dad took us bowlng. I did not win. We miss you. Come home son.”
Now for the bootlegging pirate's my sister’s letter:
“Dear Mom, I hope you are having fun in the hospitle. I am havng fun two. I helped Dad do dishes two. Dad took me bowlng two. Janita did not win. She got mad. We miss you. Come home son. p.s. I love Jesus.”

The little goober had pretty much copied my letter word for word, and then to add insult to injury, added in the clinching postal script, p.s. I love Jesus. What kind of 5-year-old does that? It was sheer brilliance on her part, one-upping me with a near perfect God-fearing statement that put her right up there with the Big Guy. It also made her look more spiritual than me, swiftly depositing her as rightful owner of the favourite child badge. Not that her competition for that has ever been fierce.

What did I learn from all this bullying? That it’s not about being perfect. It’s about being a big enough person to apologize to someone when you’ve done something wrong. (Fry: this is a direct hint...) That little girl who tormented my statue? She got it right. I wish I could meet her, give her a great big hug, thank her for the laugh, and tell her parents that they’re raising her right. I would also tell the clever little kitten that I totally got a kick out of how she dropped her friend in the shit while apologizing. There's nothing quite as entertaining as stopping mid-apology to kick someone else under the bus. But hey, I enjoy that sort of humour.

And remember, if you can’t bear the thought of saying sorry to someone's face, then drop a letter in their mailbox. Hell, attach a photo of yourself from high school to really throw down the charm...who can get mad at a mullet wracked by a Toni Home permanent? If they're still angry after seeing your un-photoshopped Grade 10 photo, then they have no heart. Move on. If it’s a particularly heinous crime, then don’t be afraid to throw in a “p.s. I love Jesus”. After all, he’ll be making the final call so best to have him on your side all the way.

I’ll be writing a few apology notes myself this holiday season...although I plan on attaching my sister’s photo to all the letters. No sense in being a damn fool about it.

Merry Christmas friends, and may 2012 bring you everything that's good.

p.s. I'm totally kidding about never using a p.s. again.
p.p.s. They're actually the perfect place to drop a bomb in an otherwise friendly, "Hey, how's it going? Kids adorable as ever? Hope this finds you well! p.s. where's that f*&%ing report you were supposed to have done?"
p.p.p.s. Jesus loves Janita. It goes without saying the feeling is completely mutual.

A version of this article recently appeared in the December issue of Grainews.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What not to do 2 weeks after giving birth...

Disclaimer: No, I'm not talking about having sex. For that, I highly recommend getting a Doctor's note for a 2-year pass. This type of birth-control is 100% effective. Unless your name is Mary. Then who knows what may happen.

Recently, I dumped all my videos onto my computer...I came across a few little rubies, but this one in particular had me wincing with pain, in remembrance.

Let me set the scene: I had just given birth to my third child a couple of weeks prior to this video, and I was out visiting my parents in Manitoba. Jack was hollering from the bathtub to come have a look at something they were doing, which incidentally sounded like lots of fun, so I grabbed my video-camera and ventured in. Now, because I was filming upon entry into the can, I wasn't fully aware of where I was going to sit. I had quite a few stitches and was still a little worse for wear. So I spotted something blue out of the corner of my eye and thought, "Most excellent. That's the little blue stool Mom keeps in here for the kids." So I go to sit down. Hard. Because I know the height of these stools. And tell me it's not just me, but the force at which you go to sit on something is largely based on known height, firmness and strength of said object.

Well my friends, turns out that blue thing I spotted from the corner of my eye was a miniscule and flimsy plastic wetwipe holder - the ones that sort of look like a box and could pass for a stool if you're not looking directly at it. Needless to say, I misjudged the height and strength of said "stool", sat down way too hard and, with high levels of embarrassment I admit, I crushed that thing right to the floor. It was so fucking painful; I knocked my coccyx north of my esophagus.

Again, if pressed to identify the most disturbing aspect of this video, I'd be at a loss. However, it'd be a toss between the following:
  1. Jack's interest in my well-being is absolutely zero; and he comes by this honestly. After witnessing a clumsy mishap, we're a family who laughs hysterically first, then asks if you're OK later. Much later. Like once-our-amusement-has-ended later, assuming we ever reach this point. Did I mention this affliction runs rampant in my family? Particularly my siblings - yes, I grew up with this sort of support. And I believe it's an actual medical condition. Yeah, it's called horribilus anus maximus - or simply asshole for short.
  2. That I felt the need to shriek, "Mommy just fell!" Yeah, that's a No-Shit-Sherlock statement if I ever heard one.  Afterwards, I was amused to see that because the video camera handle had twisted in my hand, it ended up capturing Jack's absolute glee at my misfortune, as I lay dying on the floor. He's laughing so hard he can hardly breathe.
  3. It's quite obvious I abruptly spliced the video at the end. In the interest of not having my blog receive an R-rating, I felt obliged to cut. Quite frankly, the multiple f-bombs that flew out of my mouth is embarrassing, and may reflect poorly on my application for Mother-of-the-Year award, which incidentally, I'm going to win. Clearly.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to kill a mocking turd...

Warning: putting an end to a tyrant turd may require attempts to grab it out, or asking a bystander to go fetch a rope.

Let me preface this story by sharing some of the highlights of potty-training Son #1. His fascination with all things deposited in the toilet has no rival, and his running commentary leaves me breathless with anticipation. His comments have ranged from, and I quote (because yes, I've written these down): "Mommy, please move. I have to drop another bomber." to "Whoa. That's a big poop to put in a little bum." to "That poor little poop. He's so little. He's all by himself. He's going to fly back into my bum to find his family."  He's four. I suspect by the time he's a teenager, he'll be dictating novellas from the john.

And don't ask me where he gets his material. When gripped with need, my thought process rarely veers from (the ridiculously clever): "God, I need to hit the can."

And he always wants company. To him, privacy would be a waste of such fun. Without fail, within seconds of settling on the toilet for his daily constitution, he'll call from the bathroom: "Mommy! Come in here so we can have a chat." To which I inevitably wander in, take a whiff, keel over to the wall and say, "No, Jack. It smells like shit in here. Can we chat later?" He loves this line; it leaves him giggling with mirth, proud and ruthlessly unapologetic of his stench. He then gets all serious and says, "You can't leave, Mommy. I need to rest my head on your arm. It helps me." I suspect Freud, had he the opportunity to study my child, would have added an addendum to his theories on anal stage fixations.

The following video capture lands squarely in the "Whoa. That's a big poop to put in a little bum" category. I didn't measure it. And no, I didn't film the final kill shot. I'm not that sick. But believe me when I say, the end result was not something you'd expect a 4-year old to produce. The Loch Ness Monster perhaps, but not a child.

I'll admit, if pressed to disclose the most disturbing aspect of this story, I'd be at a loss. But it's a definite toss between the following:

  1. That he admitted to trying to grab it out
  2. That he suggested we get a rope (and that I do the tying)
  3. That when summoned, I felt compelled to bring the video-camera.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How to hold on tight to your Christmas spirit...

Hint: It’s not about learning how to bake a batch of sugar cookies, which incidentally, is much harder than it sounds.

In anticipation of the holiday season, I herd my family outside, usually sometime in late fall, to partake in the annual torture I now call: attempting to capture a $*%@!#% family photo for our Christmas cards. There’s nothing quite like it to bring on the festive spirit. Last year’s attempt can best be summarized as follows:

“Fancy” dress shirt for spouse...$8

Hair gel to support entire clan of hairy creatures...$5

Photographer (bribed with batch of cupcakes)…$4 (Not including my donations to the swear jar, which are inevitable when I attempt to bake.)

Photo that focuses on house in background rather than family....priceless

I’ll admit, I’d rather pull out my eyelashes, one at a time, than take a family photo. Without fail, everybody ends up getting ridiculously irritated and getting a picture with everyone looking at the camera, at the same time, both eyes open, with a wide, we’re-so-darn-happy-to-be-here smile proves more elusive than obtaining photographic evidence of Sasquatch. And I find myself asking: why do we do this do ourselves? At this time of year, I often feel like I have to achieve a certain level of perfection; find the ideal gift for everyone, learn how to knit a magnificent scarf, take the perfect family photo, get cards mailed out on time, decorate our home in a way that would make Martha Stewart swoon and make resolutions for the New Year to help ensure I’ll become a better person one day. Why do we always forget what’s truly important? I swear, one minute I’m driving down the streets, enjoying the wondrous glow of the streetlights gleaming off the freshly fallen snow, humming some Christmas carols, you know, counting my blessings and really feeling my divinity, and the next I have to damn near restrain myself from attacking the person who cuts me off with their tank-sized cart in Costco to snatch the last gift set I was about to pick up.

A few years ago, my Mom instituted a new rule about buying presents. The rule was simple: we would not buy presents. When conversing with my family members, this type of simplicity is strongly recommended. Her theory was that no one needed anything, so why put ourselves through the pressure and hassle of Christmas shopping when we could be enjoying that time with our respective families instead? Fair enough. To keep things interesting though, and because secretly we all enjoy the torture, we decided to wrap up something from around our house that we didn’t use anymore. It’s important to note here that we were fully aware the gift would still be considered useless (enter submissions from my brothers), but no one would have to spend any money and we could still have some fun with it.

Game on. All of the gifts were wrapped and placed in the middle of the living room, and we picked numbers from a hat to decide the order of play. When it was your turn, you could steal a gift that had already been opened or you could pick another one from the pile. I realize this sounds remarkably simple, but like anything in our family, the explanation of how to play turned into an hour-long production, which resulted in most people wandering into the kitchen to get another drink. After an ironclad process had been laid out in meticulous detail for the A-type personalities, the three-hour hostile combat, pardon me, family bonding commenced.

Mere minutes into this ordeal, with two pending divorces on the table, one of my brothers announced that a box in the middle of the room was moving. The box did look a little odd, particularly as it wasn’t wrapped and had several holes cut through it across the top. Someone had definitely embraced the concept of not spending any money. Nevertheless, my Mom made eye contact and motioned for me to remove the remaining vodka from the table, suspecting that some of her offspring were dangerously close to overdosing on Christmas cheer.

It so happens that two of my friends from the city had joined us on the farm for Christmas that year. Just my luck, one of them decided to pick the tattered box in question. He was all smiles and in childlike delight, slowly put his hand into the box to retrieve his “gift”. Almost immediately, he started screaming at the top of his lungs (and I could have sworn I heard him squawk), scaring the living daylights out of everyone present. We jumped up and pushed though the crowd to see what all the fuss was about.

It turns out that someone, in their infinite wisdom, had gifted a rooster and two hens, alive, unharmed, claws up, chillaxing and comfortably nestled on a bed of straw (Did I mention no animals were harmed in the making of this Yuletide memory? I think PETA would be proud to know that the chickens found a good home in the city and now have a chance at a university education), thus explaining the mystery of the moving box, and the barnyard squawk. Apparently there were individuals in attendance who did not understand the seemingly obvious phrase, “Wrap up something from around the house.” This statement was not intended to include things that were found running wild, laying eggs in the barn. Did I mention that I really miss my family at this time of year?

Although our social experiment failed, I think my Mom was onto something. It’s not about finding the perfect present for everyone, or getting your Christmas cards out on time, or heaven forbid, learning how to bake the perfect batch of sugar cookies. I think the Grinch, in his moment of wondrous clarity, said it best. “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” In your panic and flurry to make it all happen this holiday season, take a moment to reflect on the true importance of this special season. It may look a little different for each one of us, but in the end, I think it’s about shouting out a big thank you for our blessings. It’s about saying, “I love you” to our family members, even though many of us tough farm kids would agree that drinking cyanide is more palatable than showing some emotion. Well I say, what are you waiting for? Make your peace now – release your burdens, love your neighbours, forgive your foes, and most importantly, love yourself. You’ll feel a whole lot better for doing so. After all, that nasty little concoction in the Christmas punch bowl gives you the perfect excuse to get a little crazy.
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