Friday, January 27, 2012

Project Playroom...

You may recall that back in December, I made reference to my quest to create a play area for my children. With that dream came great trepidation, for being crafty ain't way up there on my list of core strengths. (Please see I got skills post for more details on my lack of ability.)

The following picture captures the exact moment when I knew I had to create a stimulating space for my children to play in...I left the room for one minute to get my camera, and came back to find this:

a) Jack attempting to climb the bunk bed using only a skipping rope, b) Isla attempting a yet-to-be-named gymnast move, and c) James looked completely horrified at the thought of being crunched by a 30-pound carcass.

The time had come. I needed to take action. But what to do? We had a space in the basement that housed a majority of the toys. But friends, it was downright frightful. Hell, I didn't even to be down there, never mind sending the kids there to play. There was wall-to-wall debris; I hardly dared using the bathroom down there because that meant walking through the dreaded zone. It was all but guaranteed I would slip on a ball and/or crush my sole on an errant piece of Lego. I F***ING HATE LEGO. There. I said it.

And so came the genesis of Project Playroom, a term that my husband has come to loathe. I may not excel at execution of creative ideas, but friends, can I plan. I drew pictures, came up with spreadsheets, cut out ideas from magazines and built this wondrous display of stimulation and mind-blowing excitement in my mind.

First up? Painting old furniture. One of our neighbours recently moved to a condo and he left us a couple of old desks for the kids. They were perfect, although the old brown and teal on the school desk wasn't cutting it for me, nor was the paint colour on the other desk a shade that I would consider inspiring...shit beige doesn't bring out the best in me. I forgot to take a before shot, but you all know what those school desks look's the after shot:

Now let it be said, I had to leave these bad boys out on our driveway for a full week before the paint fumes subsided. You see, I had walked into the paint store with a very specific request, and it went as follows: "I don't scrape. I don't prime. I need paint that'll cover wood and metal and I need it to be in the most vibrant colours you possess. What do you have for me?"

I'll tell you what they had for me. Some oil-based chestnut sitting in the back room - a paint that no one had asked for in over five years. Paint that would give me the biggest rush I've had since University. I was higher than high. I felt no pain that entire week, which says something, cause I was crawling under those desks and contorted in some awful positions trying to paint those damn things, just weeks after giving birth. And just look at the result! How fun are those colours? (or am I still high?) If it was up to me, all schools would be required to paint their boring desks...I could even help pick out the paint. Not only would kids be more stimulated, but the little buggers would be so cut on fumes that productivity would surely go way up. Retention, maybe not, but at least they'd be quiet and pay attention.

Now where was I? Right. Desks, complete. Next up was ordering some fun stuff for the wall, specifically some letters to spell the following three words: READ, PLAY, LOVE. To me, that covers the basics of childhood - read to feed your imagination and be transported to new worlds, play like you mean it and love hard, knowing it's the most important thing you'll ever do. So I Googled wall letters, or something like that, and found this outfit in the States (sorry, totally forget the name on the place...) that created exactly what I was looking for. But all the fun was in that phone call. It went something like this:

Me: Hello! I'm calling from Canada. I'd like to order some letters however your website does not allow me to enter a Canadian address.
Him: Not a prob. I can hook you up. What are you looking for?

Important to note here that dude sounded way BAD. Still very polite but the voice said it all. Been there. Know it well.

Me: I'd like the word love in red, play in green and read in blue. All arial font, uppercase.
Him: That shouldn't be a problem. OK. I think I have this down. Let me read it back to you. Love - L.O.V.E in red.
Me: Yes.
Him: Play - P.L.A.Y in green.
Me: Uh-uh.
Him: Read - R.E.E.D in blue.
Me: What was that?
Him: R.E.E.D in blue.
Me: Ah, no. Not that type of reed. Although that would be extremely funny considering I'm putting it up over their library area. Hahahaha! Oooooh, hahahaha, that's good." snort.......(I have a sick propensity to laugh at my own jokes, even when, especially when, others don't find them to be funny.)
Him: So, OK, what then?
Me: Sorry. Read - R.E.A.D in blue.
Him: Cool. Done. (Did I mention he was really nice?) So now I just need your billing and mailing address. Let's start with your name.
Me: I'll just spell it for you. It's like, almost the entire alphabet. Capital J, a, n, i, t,a SPACE Capital V, a, n, SPACE, small d,e SPACE Capital V, e, l, d, e (I just had a flashback of having to call almost every single government agency back when I lost my wallet and all of my ID. You can imagine the horror on my co-workers face after round 57 of Capital J, a, n, i, t, a SPACE Capital V, get the idea. Michelle, do you still spell my name in your sleep?)
Him: OK. I got up to the e. Then you lost me.
Me: Which e?
Him: Uhm, not sure really. Let me read this back to you.

This continued for another few minutes until we successfully spelled my name. And then, somewhere between my city and my province, came his mewl of horror.

Him: OK, can you spell that for me?
Me: Regina, Saskatchewan. Capital R, e, g, i, n, a SPACE Capital S, a, s, k, a, t, c, h, e, w, a, n
Him: You're killing me here. (he actually said this...he made me laugh so hard I wrote it down.) You're really killing me. (he said again, and laughed...)
Me: No worries. I'm killing myself. In fact, you had better read that Saskatchewan part back to me 'cause I'm not entirely certain I got that right. For the record, I realize it sounds extremely funny but I'm not making any of this shit up. My name is real, the name of the city is real, and the province is real. I swear it.
Him: Oh, I believe you. It's just, WOW. Of all days.

See, I knew it! Hung-over. I was dying to tell him that I was actually a Dutch lap-dancer from a city that rhymes with fun who was hired to call him up to talk really slowly and breathe heavy. But I didn't want to confuse the poor dude with another one of my bad jokes. Clearly, as it was, he was hanging on by a claw, plus I really needed those letters.

With the letters on their way and the furniture starting to take shape, we had a small matter of excess to deal with. A serious toy purge was in order. We decided to get Jack to help choose which toys would stay, and which ones would be donated to charity. We starting doing this with him last year, just after he turned four. I figured that was old enough for him to understand how blessed he was in comparison to others, who have so little. The conversation last year went something like this:

Me: Jack. We need to go through your toys and you need to help Mommy choose which ones we're going to give away.
Jack: Why do I have to give some away?
Me: Cause. There's lots of little boys and girls who have no Mommy or Daddy, or any toys to play with, that's why.

He looked completely uninterested; like that wasn't a good enough reason to give his stuff away. Clearly, I had no choice but to up the stakes.

Me: Some of these poor kids have no arms, either. It's very sad.

Jack looked at me, shocked. I felt a little bad.

Jack: Well, if they don't have arms, then how can they even play with the toys?

But this point, Roddy's staring at me, shaking his head, and mouthing: "Why did you say that?"

Me: Jack. Mommy has no idea why she just said that. I'm wrong. They actually do have arms. And anyways, that's not the point. The most important point here is that Mommy will have a heart attack if I have to look at this pile of shi...OK, let's get busy sorting through this, shall we? (WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME?)

Donations made, we were ready to rock and roll. The goal was to have Project Playroom ready to go for Christmas, so we could unveil their new space as their big present from Santa. It only took Santa a half-bottle of vodka and a litany of hateful obscenities to put the kitchenette together. Note: when the instructions indicate "assembly requires 2 adults, 4 - 6 hours", they are not joking. That means one clocking in 8. Hey, I was busy doing other shit. Santa'll get over it. Eventually.

The only other episode occurred when I was helping Santa space the letters to hang on the wall...I left for no more than four minutes, came back downstairs to find that he had hung the "Y" in play without my supervision. Here's a snippet from that lovely discussion:

Me: What the hell? Why is the "Y" so far away from the "PLA"?
Him: Don't know what you're talking about. Just looks that way because it's a "Y"
Me: What?
Him: The spacing is perfect. Quit being so anal.
Me: I'm not being anal. It looks like that two-headed monster from Sesame Street splitting the word to teach kids how to pronounce each syllable. However in this case, "PLA" and "Y" don't make much sense. You'll have to move it.
Him: You actually want me to rip this off the wall and move it? This is the same glue that you adhered to your skin when attempting to fix Jack's ornament. We all remember how that went down. Do you have any idea what that'll do to the drywall if I rip it off?
Me: I really don't care. It's gotta be moved. I'm going to look at that every day and it'll drive me wild.
Him: I have to be around you every day and you drive me wild.
Me: Stop with the compliments. We don't have time for sex right now. Move it.
Him: (as he yanked the "Y" off the wall, stripping a chunk of drywall with it, he uttered...) May this chunk of missing drywall always remind you of how anal you are. You're a freak.
Me: Ah, but it won't. Cause you're going to patch that up.

Oh, it was lovely. All joyful and merry and shit. But friends, the good news is that we came out the other side. I'm pleased to present you with the following before and after photos.


I can't even believe I'm showing you these photos...I'm a dirt bag. More importantly, Where's Waldo?

The backhoe to the princess tent: "I will eviscerate you! Die! Die!"
Stuffed bunny, to no one in particular: "Please, I beg of you. Pull me from this hole or shoot me. Now."
Truck to the red barn: "Your barn door's open. AGAIN. Do us all a favour. Tuck that shit in and zip up." 
And that's about all I can make out.


It is absolutely amazing what bright colours can do for a space, not to mention adding
stuff to the wall. Even when everything gets messy again, which it did within minutes,
your eyes are drawn upwards to the wall, distracting you from the carnage.
 (except for the drywall damage, brought to you by the letter "Y").
The trick is hiding everything in storage containers; those bright pails all over the place
house crayons, markers, Play-Doh and "food supplies"  for the kitchen.

And the Cars bed? It had to be moved somewhere when the bunk bed was required upstairs.
Rather than sell it, we decided to set it up in the basement for the kids to play on.
They love it. They love jumping on beds - who doesn't? It's one of their favourite things.

Red storage unit from Ikea; it was remarkably easy to put together and great quality.

Little desk given to us by a neighbour, chair from Grandma; both painted yellow.
Oh, did I find a flower knob and paint that green to match the other desk?
You know it. Peanut is currently obsessed with Olivia, hence the artwork over her desk.

The almost "REED" area; books are stored in baskets at the top with favourite toys in the bookshelf.
I framed a few photos of the kids loving on each other. Doesn't get much better than that.

Little Thomas the Tank Engine houses their favourite cars and trains,
and the little four-drawer bin that Thomas is sitting on has all their craft supplies in it.
It's the perfect size to store construction paper, scissors, glue, glitter, stickers - the works.
Spending $45 on a toy organizer from Costco may have been my best purchase...
the kids can now access their favourite toys from bins, rather than from a heap on the floor.
Boring, yes...but the chance of stepping on a small plastic ball and
landing on your back has been significantly reduced. Again, yawn.

The frames on Jack's desk are a family photo, a caption that reads "I love you just the way you are"
plus one of my all-time favourite Winnie The Pooh quotes:

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh!" he whispered.
"Yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet,
Taking Pooh's paw.
"I just wanted to be sure of you."

And yeah, you spotted him! Our good old elf-on-the-shelf named Sam Cooper (sitting on the easel), helped us out immensely in the week leading up to Christmas. "Oh, look what Sam Cooper did!
He must be getting stuff ready for Santa. Oh, what a cheeky little devil!"

I'm assuming as our family grows, there'll be changes to this area. But for now, we all love it. It was definitely worth the pain. And the look on our kids' faces when we showed them for Christmas? Priceless. I'll never forget their expressions of pure joy. That right there, made it all worthwhile.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Swamp People...and my very first blog award!

No, the two things aren't connected. Well, they sort of's some background for you. My son Jack is a huge, I repeat HUGE fan of Swamp People. If you've yet to watch this masterpiece, then may I suggest you do yourself a favour and tune it. There is of course, the network issue; you may find yourself looking for it on the Comedy Network or TLC but no, it airs on History Channel, right next to that other historically significant gem, Ice Road Truckers. Small wonders never cease. Regardless, watching these boys shoot, drag and treble-hook gators the size of their boat is a wild ride. The fact that subtitles are required, and they're speaking English, just adds to the overall dramatic effect. Recently, we received Jack's midyear portfolio from kindergarten (fancy now, eh?). In it, he was asked a set of interview questions while his grade eight buddy recorded the answers. The following slayed me:

What do you want to be when you grow up? A cop.
And if you can't be that? A swamp guy who wrestles alligators.

Dream big, little dude. There's no reason whatsoever why we can't knock out a few of your teeth, work on your slur, dangle a smoke from your lips, and set you floating out on a boat in the middle of a snake-infested swamp without a life jacket in sight. You go out there and get it! Don't let anyone tell you no. That's just jealousy talking.

What's the connection to this blog award? Well, this is my first (and most likely last...) blog award for a cash prize of $1,000,000 and life-time supply of alligator meat and I'm so excited about it! The darling who nominated my blog is originally from Louisiana. And I quote: "Because I am from Louisiana and actually lived in a swamp, I am frequently asked if I lived like the 'Swamp People' and the answer is NO. I know how to enunciate." A huge thank you  to Britt from The Magnolia Pair for presenting me with the Liebster Award; she's hilarious, insightful and adorable and being recognized by her is a real honour. Do yourself a favour and check out her blog. Liebster in German means dearest, beloved, or favorite, and it's for bloggers with less than 200 followers. There are five simple rules:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog
2. Link back to their blog
3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog (you can see where this technical stuff was starting to get very difficult for me...only took me...uhm...not going to tell you how long it took me...)
4. Reveal your top five favourite blogs (with less than 200 followers)
5. Let them know you chose them by leaving a comment on their blog

6. Beg the people who regularly read your blog to become an official follower. (All you have to do is click on the blue button on the right hand side of my blog that says "Join this site") Oh, look! There it is - look to the right. There's the blue button!!! Did I plan that? Could I be that crafty? Friends, you know it. Click the button, add your email address and that's it. Be not afraid. My shots are up-to-date and I (usually) don't bite.

Without further ado, my top 5 Blog Picks for those blogs with 200 followers or less are (in no particular order), are as follows:

Da Grumpy Mudder
Mama Views
Writing...and other life lessons
Ross Knows
life is but a dream

Do yourself a favour and check them out. Have a wonderful week. xo
p.s. I totally added rule #6. I want to feel loved by you. Is that wrong? Transparent perhaps, but not wrong.
p.p.s. You can order Swamp People t-shirts from History Channel that read "Choot Em!" In my opinion, this sounds much better than shouting out "Shoot Them!" - that sounds a little too proper and pompous, does it not? Especially considering the activity in question. Without a doubt, I'll be ordering family t-shirts for our next gopher hunting expedition.
p.p.p.s. For those of you wondering "Why the incessant use of p.s.ssssss? Is this woman 8-years-old? Please see here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wait a minute...I'm not Jesus!

Last week, I was attempting to carve out 5 minutes to myself...truthfully, I can't even remember what I was trying to do. Pay bills online, maybe, or fill out some government form for James's SIN number. Regardless, it was something where I needed just a few minutes to focus and get shit done. Isla and James were sleeping and Jack, being that he's 5, was asked (kindly, the first 47 times...) to entertain himself. But no. He kept whipping into my office, asking me to help him kick a field goal on his NFL PlayStation game. I informed him that I was completely useless in that arena, and that I hadn't kicked anything since the days of the joystick. He was like,

"What's a joystick, Mommy?"
"Precisely my point, honey. Mommy ain't got the skills."

He kept coming back, in and out, requesting the following (but not limited to): apple juice, granola bar, chocolate milk, field goal attempt, wipe my bum, new pair of pants, cookie, come watch my replay, crayons, movie, book from school, come watch my pick-off...I'd go on but it's too painful.

At one point, I got up and told him that he was going to work on his numbers and letters while Mommy finished up her stuff. So I set him up with his workbook, some markers, juice, granola bar, new pair of pants, pack of smokes, vodka, whatever the hell was within a 10-yard radius, and left him there at the table to get back to what I was doing.

A second later, maybe two, I heard him walking over to where I was...feeling the need to shout flag on the play, I shrieked, and I mean SHRIEKED LIKE A CRAZY PERSON:


Undaunted, and completely unconcerned about my potential mind loss, he turned the corner into my office, tears in his eyes, and stated: "But Mommy, I just wanted you to tell me how to spell Jesus."

It's rather easy to fall to your knees and hug your child when you feel two inches tall. Mercy. I felt like the biggest asshole on the planet...and really, of all words your child is attempting to spell when you go completely bat-shit on them? Jesus.

All this got me to thinking about a video taken a few months ago. Last September, Roddy and I were about to head off to Spain for a couple of weeks with James, our three-month old son. It's a tradition - we take our newborns there to escape from our other children for a couple weeks of bonding. So because we were leaving two kids behind, it was time to update the will, leave everything in order, just in case. I also made sure that we took a lot of videos that week leading up to the trip; if the plane went down, I wanted Jack and Isla to have some memories from the last time we spent together. (Very morbid thought, yes, but hey it happens...better to be prepared.)

The following is footage was taken the night before we were leaving. I'm cuddling with Jack, saying our usual prayer for the evening, which goes as follows:

"Lord as I lay me down to sleep
I pray thee Lord my soul to keep.
And the angels watch me through the night,
And keep me in their blessed sight. Amen."

This time, I wanted to say more. I wanted Jack to know how to thank Jesus for all he's been given...his family, his friends, the country he lives in and so on. Again, I wanted to get it just right as this was part of his legacy, should I not return. And so I began:

"Thank you Jesus..." and I paused, for a millisecond, because I wasn't sure how to proceed. Do I say "Thank you Jesus for my family" or do I mention everyone in the family and say "Thank you Jesus for Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Henry....and on and ON AND ON? Mercy, that could take hours. (Belgian Catholic family...need I say more...). The reason I was contemplating this at all, is because Jack's favourite thing to do before he falls asleep is to turn to me and ask, "Can you tickle my back and count my people?" (translation: tickle his back while I recite every single family member, and dare I skip someone to accelerate the process, he'll remind me that I've messed up and I have to start over, from the beginning.) OK, Moses, no problem. That'll only take all night, but what the hell, let's do it. I digress. So in that pause, right after "Thank you Jesus..." as I was thinking of how best to approach this prayer (at times, my anal tendencies shock even me...), Jack opens his mouth and declares:

"Wait a minute...I'm not Jesus!"

I was momentarily stunned as I wasn't quite sure I heard him right. But yes, I paused just a fraction too long, and because verbal statements come with no punctuation (save for the dreaded "air quotes"), what he heard was: "Thank you, Jesus." and not my intended, "Thank you Jesus..."

Dear Jack,
I do not suffer from (full-blown) dementia. I'm fully aware you're not Jesus. But in my mind, you're right up there.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

How to survive a Prairie winter...

Weather reports for Regina indicated it was minus 53 with the wind chill last night. (That's degrees Celsius, for my non-metric friends...yeah, it's as bad as it sounds. I don't even know if Fahrenheit records that sort of horror.).

My advice for surviving a Prairie winter? Don’t. Go. Outside. Animals with massive fur pelts tend to thrive in, perhaps even enjoy, sub-arctic climates. If you're of a species not born with a rug of hair covering your entire body and/or your name is not Chuck Norris, then you may have a harder time embracing Prairie winters.

My distaste for cold weather is directly linked to the following incident. I was the seventh child in a batch of eight, and I made my appearance in the fall, just as my parents were building a new house to accommodate their expanding brood. (At some point during the path of evolution, stacking three kids per bed was considered cruel and unusual punishment. The shack had to be replaced.)

My first real crisis on planet earth happened that first winter, when I was a mere wisp of a creature, barely tapping the three month mark. By the time winter rolled around, the frame of the new house was up but the basement was the only part finished. So for a few months, we all lived down there like a family of badgers. As the story goes, my little crib was tucked safely against a wall, right up under one of those sketchy basement windows. You know the type - the ones that can get pushed in very easily. The ones that when not latched properly, certainly won’t withstand a massive snowstorm. Well my friends, on that fateful night, the howling winds blew that window wide open and subsequently, my helpless wee body was covered in a blanket of snow.

As my older sister likes to recall, I resembled one of those ramps you launch a snowmobile over. She’s pretty sure I was covered for hours before anyone realized where the mewling noise was coming from. My mom swears this isn’t true. According to her, I was covered for a few minutes, at most, before she responded to my wails of terror. They’re all suspect in my mind.

Here's a photo that was taken in said basement many years ago. From the look on my face, I'm presuming this image was captured shortly after my near-death experience...I look to be about three months old so the timing makes sense. I'm staring off into space, suffering from the mother of all brain freezes. Clearly, with my head resting on my wee fist, the caption should read: "I'm praying there's been some horrible mix-up at the hospital. As soon as I'm old enough, I'll be demanding a DNA test." Most importantly, why does it look like I'm wearing snap-on Lego hair? Speaking of pelts...I likely grew that mane in genetic response to the frigid conditions.

So how do I handle the cold now? By avoiding the outdoors as much as possible. I despise glacial temperatures, and you will never receive an apology from me for that statement. And yes, I was born here, grew up here, choose to live here, blah, blah, blah. But guess what? That doesn’t mean I have to proclaim my love for a wind chill that will freeze my face in under two minutes.

On days like this, my mom will often call up and initiate a wildly hilarious discussion, which inevitably goes as follows:

Mom: Oh, what a beautiful, crisp day today! That blue sky is absolutely amazing. Have you taken the kids out yet?

Me: Hmmmm. Right. Is Manitoba, like, 55 degrees warmer than Saskatchewan today? ‘Cause last time I checked, it’s not fit for humans outside.

Mom: Oh for heaven’s sake! It’s only minus twenty-five. And that blue sky! That's the one good thing about this cold weather, it almost always means a clear, blue sky. Bundle the kids up and get out there and enjoy some fresh air. They need their vitamin D. I love seeing kids with healthy red cheeks!

Yeah. Here’s the thing. That healthy red is also known as the onset of frostbite. As for the vitamin D, it now comes in drops. That, or I can set the kids by the window – our old double-panes offer up a bit of a breeze. And lastly, for the record, here’s my definition of too cold: if today you decided to wander outside for a stroll in your leisure wear, would you be dead inside the hour? Yeah? Then stay inside.

My mom also informs me from time-to-time that I should pick up a hobby, do something with my hands. She tells me this would help pass the cold winter nights and more importantly, stave off arthritis. Arthritis? Is this what I need to start worrying about?  The last bit scared me so I decided to sit down with her one evening and learn how to knit. Actually, truth be told, we started with crochet, however we aborted that mission shortly thereafter. I couldn’t really see what she was doing, and she couldn’t seem to slow it down to a pace where I could make heads or tails of what the hell was going on (translation: stop and hold for several hours so I could take pictures and make notes). It’s rather embarrassing to admit but I have this thing where I can’t figure something out unless it’s right in front of me, and I’m looking at it from the angle at which I’ll be attacking it. Like if I’m holding a map, I’ll turn it in the direction I’m actually driving, even if this means the whole thing is upside down. My husband has kindly informed me that this is an odd, rather disturbing, behaviour. (Perhaps that part of my brain doesn't work anymore as a result of lying frozen in a snow bank, left for dead by my entire family, when I was no more than twelve weeks old. Oh, sorry…did I mention this part already?) Needless to say, watching my Mom crochet from across the room was completely useless so I had to go and hover over her shoulder. Apparently my garlic breath was disruptive.

We then moved on to knitting. According to my Mom, I kept dropping the stitches, a term that makes little sense to me. If something doesn’t exist in the first place, then how does one go about dropping it? Either way, she suggested I use larger knitting needles. She then whipped out a set that were large enough to roast a coyote over an open fire pit. But still, the task proved too formidable for these (apparently arthritic) hands of mine, and after inadvertently spearing my cheek with a needle, I threw in the yarn and called it a day. My quest to make a scarf ended in a chorus of muffled sobs; mine as a result of my dire absence of ability, my mom’s from the sheer entertainment of watching me sweat. At one point, she asked me point blank if I was faking the whole thing. Faking what exactly? Incompetence? A complete and utter lack of skill? That kind of ignorance is hard to fake. (My final word on knitting? Go to Etsy, buy it, then tell your kids you made it...)

In the end, I tried to save face with my mom by suggesting that I would love for her to teach me how to bake bread. I think I even successfully faked a look of complete interest. This statement brought forth a fresh set of tears; she has yet to stop laughing. But when she does, I’ll secure a date with destiny and report back to you on what will likely be my finest (and last) hour in the kitchen. Really, how hard can it be? Yawn.

p.s. My 30-day date with Jillian has been postponed due to flu germs destroying all occupants of our household over the course of the last week. Just the thought of starting *The Shred* makes me all nauseous and queasy...or perhaps it was the large poutine I ordered from Dairy Queen last night, which seemed like an appropriate choice after not eating for two days. (My intelligence often surprises even me.) At any rate, I think it's about to repeat itself so I must dash.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A donation worth making...

Some of you will remember this story I shared almost two years ago...grab a box of tissues and read it again. (Nella Cordelia - A birth story)

It's a powerful message. I've followed Kelle's blog for years now and you know what? I've learned a lot...about myself, about life, about how much we take for granted when our children aren't faced with extra difficulty. I've also learned that I sometimes say things without thinking - things that have the ability to hurt, even when it's not your intention. Example? I use the word retard. Quite a bit. Growing up, my siblings and I used the word enough to cause confusion when it came to remembering our actual names. It was just a word - we never thought too much about it. Even now, when I do something stupid, like turn around and run straight into a wall (don't ask)...I can be found muttering, "F*ck, now that was retarded."

Guess what? I'm going to stop using that word. Reflecting on it now, I don't think it made me a bad person; my intent was never to hurt or ridicule those who have Down Syndrome. To those I may have hurt in the past, I'm sorry beyond measure. But now? I know more now...knowledge grants us access to becoming a better person. Nothing is ever just a word. Words carry weight. In using that word, I'm propagating hurt and sadness, and I don't want to be part of causing someone that kind of pain. I don't want my children growing up thinking the use of the word retard is acceptable. I'm stopping it right here, right now.

So I ask you now, if you are in a position to do so, make a donation to the National Down Syndrome Society. On Kelle's blog, click on the “2 for 2” right under the header or on the sidebar. Their goal is to raise $200,000 to honour Nella's 2nd birthday...with just under a week left, they have $40,000 left to go. Think of a small fee you could give up for this week - make your coffee instead of buying one, carpool instead of cab, watch the news instead of buying the paper, eat Kraft dinner vs. ordering take-out….every little bit counts. And for those who can do it, think of doubling your contribution to honour those who can’t quite afford to at the moment. From time to time, we all need a helping hand.

All I know is this: Kelle, Nella & co. have taught me a whole lot about living life with joy, finding peace and indescribable beauty when life turns out a little differently than you expected and spreading light and goodness wherever you go. I ask you to donate to this cause so that one day, the world will embrace every single beautiful soul and not diminish anyone’s light because of their differences. Do it for Nella. Do it for your kids. Do it for you. xo

Sunday, January 15, 2012

If it's stuck, have at 'er...

Since Friday night, my husband and I have been taking turns wiping up vomit. In our glory days, it was usually our own however now that we've matured, we find ourselves assuming the role of responsible parenting. I tell you though, I have a gag reflex on me that makes 7-year-olds hawking loogies giggle. So when I ripped around the corner into the bathroom holding my precious daughter, who was in the throes of a heave, only to find myself 4 seconds too late, let's just say my beloved was called in to clean up the spatter, which incidentally was reminiscent of a scene from The Exorcist. How does a 2-year produce something like that?

In my bid for Mother-of-the-Year award, I share the following excerpt from the weekend.

"Jack, run, hurry! Go and grab me the puke bucket from upstairs for Peanut!"
"I can't, Mommy. I'm sick."
"You're not sick. Peanut's sick. Quit faking and run and get it. H.U.R.R.Y."

He dashed off, comes back with said puke bucket, deposits in at my feet in tears and states:

"You hurt my feelings, Mommy. What's rule #1 in this house? It's that we love each other. You're not loving me right now because I'm sick and you're making me do chores."

"Running to get a bucket for Mommy is not considered chores, honey. Stay tuned for that list."

What happened just hours later? We dashed out to meet some dear friends for supper - we were going to cancel but our sitter was like, "Dudes. I deal with much worse most days. Go. Be gone. Have fun." (Name of said sitter I shall never disclose because she's that wonderful, and we're not up for sharing her greatness...)

We arrived home a few hours later to find that Jack, the faker, had deposited the contents of his stomach onto the couch, afghan, throw cushions and everything else within a 5-yard radius. He was still up and he came running to me for a hug and said:

"See, Mommy. I wasn't faking."

Bless his cotton socks.

"Mommy owes you an apology, honey. I'm really sorry I didn't believe you. And I'm sorry for calling you a faker." You just reminded me so much of your Father providing excuses on cue when asked to help do something (other than scratch) during football play-offs, heaven forbid. What? Where was I?  

And the fun continued throughout the night - let's just say, I'm officially out of sheets.

So, at the moment, the house reeks to Clorox bleach, I'm midway through the piles of laundry, and all three are blissfully sleeping. As for those house rules? Yes, we've started a list. Rule #1 is that we always love each other. We're up to 14 rules, pending revision. I'll share the final list once we're ready to frame it and hang on the wall. I'll leave you with this video, depicting the importance of rule nose-picking. When I penned the initial draft of said rules, I reviewed them with Jack, asking for his input. When I read the one on nose-picking, he countered:

"But what if it's stuck? Then you have to pick."

Fair point. If it's stuck, have at 'er. If God hadn't intended for us to head on in there, he wouldn't have made our fingers fit so beautifully, as Peanut so wonderfully demonstrates in the following video.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, friends. Looks like winter has officially arrived. Now that's something that makes me want to hurl.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Eating naked...

I recently read an article in Women's Health magazine (Subscription to said magazine was a gift from a dear all likelihood, a feeble attempt to reform me.) It happened quite by accident. I was doing my usual - cruising through the magazine rather quickly, looking for yummy recipes and/or photos of supermodels to yell at - when I stumbled across an article about Marissa Miller. For those of you who aren't aware, she's one of the top models for Victoria's Secret. There's an interview, followed by a section on diet tricks, where Marissa shares some of her stay-slim strategies. And I quote:

"Eat naked. Eating smart is all about having an awareness of your body. The most obvious way to do that is by seeing it. So when you're trying to lose weight, spend more time wearing less. I don't think I could eat a plate of nachos naked - could you?"

My response?

Dear Marissa Miller,
I could demolish a plate of nachos inside of 3 minutes, hanging upside down from a hook on the wall, eyes closed, using no hands. Whether or not I'm wearing clothes would not even factor into the equation. The only thing that would stop me from doing this is the therapy sessions that would be required for my family after witnessing this horrific event. Having said that, if I had a body like yours, I would trot around naked all day. Mostly because I wouldn't be able to stop staring at myself. I would likely park myself in front of a full length mirror and just stare at myself and eat nachos. Yes, if I looked like you, I would eat naked. Hell, I would run to the grocery store naked.

Sincerely, Janita (OK, I lie. I wouldn't run.)

The article went on to describe some exercise tips but I've long since forgotten them all...I was too busy laughing to focus. I do need to start exercising, though, of this I'm aware. I was going to title this post: "How to incorporate exercise into your daily routine..." My husband walked by and saw that title, snorted really loudly, then politely suggested I stick to writing about what I know...more on his numerous disorders later.

Simply put, I don’t exercise. Regularly. I've had many of false starts on various regimes. I last about 3 - 4 days, just to the point where I can't lift my arms to get my bra on, then I stop. Sadly, I’m not even a big fan of walking. I can safely blame my parents for this one. Growing up on the farm, they frowned upon any sort of frivolous behaviour, including the act of walking just for fun. That would have been considered a pointless waste of time and energy. When I was a teenager, there was nothing cooler than strapping on your Walkman and a pair of velour shorts to go power-walking down the main highway with some friends. When I would ask my Dad if I could go, his response typically didn’t vary from the following:

Dad: “Where are you walking to, exactly?”
Me: “To town and back.”
Dad: “What for?”
Me: “To hang out with my friends and get some exercise.”
Dad: “I don’t think that’s a very smart idea.”
Me: “Why not? It’s not like anything’s going to happen to us! It’s just a few miles away, and we’ll be back before dark. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

At this point, my heart would swell with love and gratitude; I was overwhelmed that my Dad was so worried about my safety.

Dad: “Oh, I’m not worried about that. What I am worried about is your ability to waste time. If you want to get some exercise, why don’t you strap yourself to the back of that push-mower, and power-walk your way over to those grain bins out back and clean up that long grass? You didn’t get around to it last week.”

What? Didn’t get around to it? And deliberately miss out on all that fun? Crazy cat. Who in their right mind would pass up the chance to wander perilously through waist-high grass and randomly chop up snakes and mice with a mower blade? Why on earth would I forget to do that? You can’t put a dollar on that type of fun.

To this day, I blame (well, credit really…) my Dad for my lack of a gym membership. After all, who in their right mind would walk, or worse yet, run, just for the hell of it?  I'll admit, over the years, I have come to see the benefits of exercise and why it’s necessary - it can help protect you from premature heart disease and stroke, diabetes, obesity and yes, it can even help improve your overall mood, that is, once you get past the actual pain, sweating, swearing and panting. Yes my friends, I get why it’s important and I will eventually whip myself into shape. Odds are much better that I’ll whip myself into cardiac arrest, but hey, at least I’ll go out trying. My first thought was to start small and find exercise books written for people like me, the exercise impaired. Recently, I found a book that explains things in a great amount of detail; for the one-arm triceps extension, it instructs you to find a sturdy chair, put your feet flat on the ground and then hold a dumbbell in one hand over your head with your palm facing in and your elbow and wrist directly above your shoulder. And just when you’re about to lose heart because you’re so confused as to what arm is supposed to be doing what, and where the weight should even be, you read on: ”…slowly lower the weight behind you, taking care not to hit yourself in the head with it.” It's moments like these that make me smile...some people are indeed worse off than me.

Up next? Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred...I've had several false starts but this time, my husband's doing it with me. I'm not sure if this is a good idea because he's actually fit. I'll want to punch him in the face. But hey, I'm up for trying anything at this point. Our goal is to do it 30 days in a row. Some may think the title, 30-day shred, was self-explanatory. I was all for spreading those 30 days out over a 6-month period (then demanding a refund when it didn't work).

Stay tuned, ear to the ground, for a full report. Better yet, hold one of those conch shells up to your ear - not only will you hear the sound of the ocean, you'll also hear the sound of a grown woman crying.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dude, did you skin The Grinch?

Do you often find yourself wondering if you still have it? No, me neither. That would be shallow.

For those of you who have children, you’ll understand the following dilemma: when one of your friends organizes a night out with the girls, your initial excitement of getting out of the house is immediately eclipsed by the sheer panic of making it happen. Is my husband around to watch the kids? Will I have anything entertaining to talk about other than my adoooooooorable children? Is it physically possible to keep my eyelids open past 10:00 p.m.? And most importantly, how long will it take me to get ready? Nowadays, it’s a task that seems as monumental as climbing Mount Everest, or more appropriately, fastening a post-baby belly the size of a Sherpa into the folds of my jeans. This nauseating visual is immediately followed by the equally nauseating question: do I still have it? Can a completely dishevelled and out-of-touch mother of three, with permanent deposits of baby vomit on her shoulder, get back out on the scene? Or more appropriately, hit the town and not cause a scene?

To prepare for a public viewing, I start by working on my face. Some mornings I look in the mirror and could swear some of my facial features have migrated during the night; my eyes have mysteriously splayed down towards my ears, making it appear as though I’m on the cusp of morphing into a hammerhead shark. Simply put, a touch of lipstick doesn’t cut it anymore.

It's embarrassing to admit this, but recently I got reeled in by one of those coma-inducing infomercials; one with a magical voice that promised to reverse the effects of hard living (translation: university diet of vodka, Export A "Green Death" and Kraft dinner) and aging. In all likelihood, the product is made from snake venom and the collective sperm of all endangered species, but when you're desperate, you really don't give a shit. These details become trivial. In a giddy trance, I dialled the toll-free number and waited in anticipation to place my order. I was having visions of my former dewy skin reflecting back at me in the mirror and was so lost in my daydream, that I almost didn't hear what the lady was telling me. I asked her to repeat the cost. Then I giggled nervously and asked her to repeat it again. I had erroneously assumed the price I saw on the infomercial was the total cost, not four regular instalments of said amount. I politely declined and said, “For that price sweetheart, I’d be expecting you to mail me a new face.”

I recall a particular incident from a few years ago; I was ready to call my friends and back out from a night out on the town, with some lame excuse involving a highly contagious, rash-inducing, unfortunately timed illness that mysteriously surfaced in my first born just as I was about to walk out the door. One of the benefits of having children is that they provide a built-in excuse for dodging any sort of social commitment. I just didn't feel up to it...mostly because I had actually forgot how to look presentable. Seriously, you know you look rough when you laboriously spend an hour getting ready, putting some serious effort into it, start to feel pretty good about yourself, only to answer a knock at your front door to find your neighbour standing there, who takes one look at you and says: “Oh. So sorry to wake you. Can I borrow an egg?” Ooooouch.

I won't lie to you. It hurt. But fear not, my friends, I soldiered on. I journeyed into my closet to find a suitable outfit to mark the occasion. I should mention here that in regards to overall fashion, I let myself go just a touch while enjoying my maternity leaves. Nothing major. It usually starts with wearing the same pair of green sweatpants every day, followed shortly by the addition of a green t-shirt and a green sweater. May I add that the greens rarely match; in fact, offensive clash would be a more appropriate description. In my head, because I'm wearing all green, I sort of feel put together. Don't ask. I have no answer.

I would have gone on washing and wearing the exact same comfortable outfit for the entire year had my sister not intervened one afternoon with the following declaration:

“Dude, did you skin the Grinch? You look horrendous.”

Now if this had been the first reference to the Grinch that week in question, I could have handled the insult like a mature adult. As it happened, earlier that week, Jack and I were playing when he (purposefully) whacked me over the head with a metal car. I gave him my dirtiest scowl and demanded an apology. I was pissed off. He looked me straight in the face and said:

“Mommy, you look like the pwince from that movie.”

My heart instantly warmed.

“Honey, don’t you mean the princess? Mommy’s a girl so I can’t be the pwince.” (Being hit up with flattery, I instantly forgot my request for an apology. At times, my vanity knows no bounds.)

“No, Mommy! Not that movie. Not the pwince, I said the GWINCH.”

Aren’t 3-year olds adorable? Particularly when their mouth is sealed shut with duct-tape.

In the end, pulling yourself together and getting out of the house is always worth it. Bonding with girlfriends is like a soothing ointment for the soul. So even if you don't feel like it, I urge you, get out of the house once and awhile. Heck, throw on a balaclava and poncho if you must. It's one of the benefits of living in the Praires...we can wear a get-up like that and not look like a stalker. Warning though, amidst the stories and giggles, you’ll inevitably find yourself thinking that the music is far too loud, the floor of the bar could really use a good scrubbing, the young girls, who clearly raided your toddler’s closet for their t-shirts, should think about covering their kidneys so they don’t catch a cold, and as you crouch precariously over the toilet seat you wouldn’t dare sit on even if ordered at gunpoint, you’ll be tempted to tidy the bathroom stall whilst you urinate because your capacity to multi-task cannot be tamed. And at some point during the night, you’ll wistfully think of your children, wishing you’d been there to tuck them into bed, read them their favourite story and kiss them goodnight. And at that very moment you’ll realize that yes, you still have it – you have it all, plus more.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mommy, I snipped my nuts...

This admission ranks right up there with things you never want to hear coming from the mouth of your four-year old son. Heck, you wouldn't want to hear it coming from the mouth of anyone, never mind the age. Ah, one of the many joys of raising sons when you really have no idea what you're doing. Last year, after suffering through months of a particularly dismal winter (and a husband who continually turns down the heat because he's cheap AND his people are used to running around in kilts so my guess is that they're of hardier stock), I decided to buy the kids warmer PJs. You know the ones: they're fuzzy, they're cozy, they've got feet. The ones you wish came in your size. The ones where you don't want to be messing with a classic combo of zipper and private parts.

This particular night in question, my husband was away on a business trip. Goes without saying that the first thing I did was crank up the heat. Being that I was heavily pregnant, within minutes the soaring heat threw me into a lather. But I soldiered on, because I wanted the house to be warm enough for the kids. I was bathing my daughter, intermittently laying against the cold tile on the bathroom floor in an attempt to regulate my body temperature, while my four-year son sat in the living room watching Treehouse. (You know the station...the one that makes parents want to saw on their wrists with a butter knife but we don't turn it off for fear of being physically assaulted by a toddler. I pick my battles).

Things were ticking along smoothly until I heard an earth-shattering shriek from the living room...the type that makes the hairs in your unshaven pits stand on end. I quickly wrapped Isla in a towel and went racing (waddling really, like only a heavily pregnant woman can do) from the bathroom, and rounded the corner just as my son screamed out, "Oooooooooooweeeeeeeeee, Mommy! Hurry! I snipped my nuts." As I met him in the hallway, I dropped to my knees. The sight of him clutching his tackle amidst the wreckage of a long-zipper had me praying to Baby Jesus and all things holy. I had to focus, friends...I had to pull myself together quickly. All I could picture was that scene from There's Something About Mary and I tell you, I was already mentally preparing for the 911 call because I'm not good with these sorts of things. Truth be told, until that point, I'd never really stopped to consider, "Hey, would I be good in a situation where my child has erroneously clamped his genitals in a 2-foot zipper?" But now I can answer that question for certain. No. I would not consider this to be an area of strength.
Mercifully, by the time I got in there to survey the damage, I could see that he had already dislodged "his nuts". I was crying. Tears of relief were streaming down my face...albeit heavily laced with tears of laughter, which I desperately tried to hide from him. Snipped my nuts? Where does he get this from?

Of course I had to ask him, mostly because I was downright curious:

Me: How on earth did you manage to snip your nuts?
Jack: I was hot and my nuts needed some air so I pulled the zipper down and it snipped my nuts.

I was without words. How to kindly tell a 4-year old that an alternate method of obtaining fresh air would be to step outside? Needless to say, I turned down the heat. Let’s just say that now when the footed PJs get pulled out, there's a rule that we always throw gitch on first. Precautions, people. Crap like that should be in bold font as a warning on the footed-PJ label. In my opinion, that information would be much more useful than how to wash it. (Like really, all kids clothing is going in one cycle anyway, regardless of colour and fabric, no matter what the label recommends...that's just how this Mama rolls. I'll suck up the odd casualty.)
As luck would have it, around the same time of the snipping-of-the-nuts incident, I had to have a discussion with Jack about scratching his nuts. He was doing it a lot. My final attempt at seeing progress in this area went something like this:

Me: Jack, you really need to stop playing with your nuts.
Jack: Daddy does.
Me: You are correct. Daddy does. But you shouldn't do it around other people.
Jack: Just read the book, OK Mommy? (We were engrossed in Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney.)
Me: OK, I'll keep reading but you have to promise you'll quit scratching your nuts.
Jack: What if my nuts are itchy?
Me: Then scratch. Just not around other people. It's gross.

Mother-of-the-Year speech over, I continued to read Guess How Much I Love You. That is, until we got to the page in the book where the cute-as-a-button Little Nutbrown Hare is rubbing his eyes, getting sleepy, staring up into the great big’s my favourite part of the story.  For copyright reasons I can’t show you an image of the actual book, but here’s my best crack at replicating the photos.

I'm about to turn the page when the following flies out of his mouth:

Jack: Hey, look! Little Nutbrown Hare is scratching his nuts.
Me: What are you talking about?
Jack: He's rubbing his eyes, then he's scratching his nuts. See? His paws are down there and he's scratching. Look, he's smiling.

By this point, Jack was laughing hysterically and I all but released urine in an attempt not to laugh; I wanted my message about not scratching nuts to be serious. But that lasted all of...oh...let's go with 2 seconds, before I collapsed in a helpless heap of body-shaking laughter. Seriously though, is something the matter with his brain? When I finally pulled myself together long enough to speak, I conceded:

Me: You're right, Jack. It looks like he may be having a scratch. For the record though, I don't think he is...I think he's just resting his paws down there. But what great imagination! Wow! Well done. Just remember, if he is in fact scratching his nuts, it's OK because he's in the woods and no one's around.
Jack: So I can scratch my nuts in the woods?
Me: Be my guest.
Jack: What does that mean?
Me: Go for it. In the woods.
Jack: Thanks, Mommy.
Me: You're welcome, my little nut-scratcher.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Let's start the New Year off with a bang....

Albeit at the expense of my son cracking his head off a light fixture. I should have downloaded these home videos months ago, they're that much fun.

Some people are just accidentally funny...I don't think they mean to be, they just are.

This video requires a little introduction:
  1. We loaded the family into the van for a 7-hour trip to the West Edmonton Mall to celebrate Jack's 5th birthday. All this with the use of little more than prescription drugs. Jack wanted to stay in the Truck theme suite at the Fantasyland Hotel. I was all like, "Right on, little dude. It's your birthday! We'll go there for sure." Enter Scottish husband, who almost had a cardiac event after looking at the prices. (Something I should have done first, prior to making promises.) So we comprised; two nights in a cheap hotel followed by check-in to the absurdly over-priced theme suite for the big birthday night. Incidentally, I was much more comfortable having James roll around on the floor in the "cheap" hotel...not sure if 'ole Fantasyland has had a carpet update in the last, oh, let's go with 40 years to avoid the risk of over-shooting. But as for the cool factor? It's got that covered off like an ace.
  2. You may want to skip to about 2:15 on this video...quite frankly, my running narrative up to the incident is rather embarrassing. I think I'm going to keep a roll of duct tape next to my video camera with a sticky note as a reminder: "Please adhere thick strip over lips prior to recording."
  3. If you choose to watch the entire video, you may find yourself asking, "Is there a pair of great horned owls in the room?" The answer is no. It's just my husband and I exchanging ill-sounding ooooo, ooooos and aaaaaahs. Please, don't be alarmed. We were not mating at time of recording.  In addition to sounding like a bird in heat, there's a vein of meth-addled junkie in there, with all my: "Oooooooooooh, Woooooooooow. How cooooool is that? Look, look, looooooook. Oh my gooooooodness. The green light just went on....wooooooooow. Bunker Beds. Cooooooooooool."  (We've been watching The Wire. Trust me. I sound like I have a serious drug problem. If anything, I'm just a touch more animated.)
  4. Having cleared the light fixture on his initial walk over, Jack makes the fatal error of a horribly timed turn and jump (a touch more painful than an ill-fated turn into someones burp and blow), and is caught completely unaware of the giant light fixture hanging just above his head. The way he looks up after and scans the sky to see what could have possibly hit him with such force...have mercy. I was laughing so hard, I was wheezing. I could barely squeak out the obligatory, "Are you OK?" (you MUST find a way to say this if you're the mother...if you're not the mother, you can continue laughing for days, that's OK); there was no way I dared look at my husband, who I could hear choking it back behind me. Hell, one look at his face would have done me in. As it was, it took every ounce of strength to keep from soiling myself.
  5. When Jack turns to give me shit, and says, "Don't yaff", rather than stopping, I toss him the (very weak) low-ball, "I'm not laughing at that anymore." Not only am I cruel, I'm a liar as well. He then proceeds to jump off the bed in the most ungainly manner, at which point I was officially cooked, quite literally thinking of death to stop the laughter (tell me I'm not the only one who does this). 
  6. Little dude, you sustain me. Don't ever change. (And one day I'll have to tell you that in all honesty, I yaffed about this incident for the entire 7-hour drive home.)
  7. And, need to judge me. I'm fully aware I'm an asshole. (Which incidentally, is a bona fide medical condition. New readers, see here What not to do 2 weeks after giving birth...

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