Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down

 

Wow! Two posts in one week? What kind of bizarro land is this? Man alive how things have changed! I remember a time when I would write two posts in one day. Man I was egotistical and obnoxious. Thanks for hanging in there you guys. Because now, now my friends I am the most self-adjusted, well-rounded, down-to-earth person I know. I’m so awesome.

So I’m not even exaggerating here when I say that I had THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE yesterday. Sure nobody died. And yeah I went to bed with a roof over my head, warm socks on my feet (yes I’m the wierdo who sleep with socks on) and a belly full of a delicious dinner digesting ever so happily in my stomach. But either way, it was THE WORST DAY EVER.

It wasn’t the face that I had been painting the office at work all day that got me down. Even though that is a bitch of a job and nobody in their right mind should want to partake in such activities. And it wasn’t the raging customers that seemed to continue to stroll through the doors yesterday either. It wasn’t even that one guy who kept comparing us to Subway and asking why we didn’t have certain menu items that they did. Despite the annoying eye twitch in the corner of my right eye, this was just another day at the grind.

The real problem was the furious case of mom-guilt that had slowly been inching its way up the back of my spine and burrowing itself deep into the back of my brain.

I should have seen it coming. I should have known that it would be on the brink of my psyche any day now. The signs were all there. I had been so busy with work. My spirits had been way up. I was actually feeling pretty damn good. The mom-guilt is there to knock you back down to size.

All day long this skulking just under my skull was telling me that I could do better. That I must read more with Lars. That I must listen to his long and drawn out stories of Super Mario Brothers more intently than the mere nod of a head and smile I usually offer.

This thing that was wrapping its long, antiquated talons around all that is good in my memory was reminding me that I must spend more time with Sophie. I must get her into the singing lessons she so desperately wants to be in and what about those art lessons she was asking about last month?

The mom-guilt had broken me and by midday I was nothing but a withering urchin shirking my obligations as an operational human being of society. Where is that dark hole and how long can I hide there?

Perhaps it had had enough of telling me how terrible of a mother I was because soon after lunchtime it began in on the other aspects of my life. The mom-guilt never straight up tells you you’re doing a shitty job. It just gives you a little nudge in the right direction. Hints, if you will.

*Boy oh boy, Jamie sure does work a lot harder than you.

*Oh look, that mom can handle her kid having a temper tantrum in public without totally losing her cool, why can’t you?

*Just a reminder friend, you have guests coming to visit next week and you’re home is literally the most squalid habitat on the face of the planet.

That evening when I drearily trudged into the house, I told the kids to play quietly downstairs. Meanwhile the mom-guilt laughed excitedly at how easily I had dismissed the homework portion of our routine. I ran a bath and sobbed; desperately trying to drown away this teeming culpability that had been building up inside of me all day long.

After I hugged and kissed my kids goodnight I too retired to my bed. I didn’t think about much. I literally zoned out on Gilmore Girls and wondered what it would be like to live in the magical hamlet of Stars Hollow. I needed sleep.

This morning I found the mom-guilt had disappeared, gone for now but certainly not forgotten.

Maybe it wasn’t the absolute “worst day of my life”. Probably not even in the top ten. But what I do know, is that the mom-guilt is real and when it takes holds it can be a hassle to break free from. For a long time I used to think it was just me, that I was just the worst mom ever, I was letting the mom-guilt win.

Now I look at it in a different way. I take what it so very subtly tells me, mull it over to see if any of it is viable information (mostly it’s not) and then quietly and matter-of-factly tell it to fuck right off.

And then I go back to being awesome.

So when I use this idiom, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down” I mean the mom-guilt. Don’t let the mom-guilt grind you down friends. Because we all know how much of a raging bitch she can be sometimes.

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Night Time Rescues

My eyes spring open, they are hot. My eyeballs are actually hot. Or maybe burning, yeah, burning sounds about right. A quilt of darkness shadows the room and my hands instinctively go for the bedroom lamp.  Someone is screaming my name.

My heart begins pounding rapidly once that filmy layer of sleep slips off of my conscience. I listen to her shrieks as though they are the only sound I have or will ever hear. I fumble for some pants, a long shirt, something because my brain is telling me relentlessly that I must get to her immediately.

Jamie rolls over, “what’s wrong” he sees me struggling and I can see the panic and confusion setting in behind the sleepiness of his eyes.

“Sophie is screaming.” I say as I step out of the room. He is behind me within seconds.

We make it downstairs and our daughter is huddled under her blankets. She screams, “MOM!” and the urgency in her voice sends a shiver down my spine.

“Whats wrong baby?” I ask as I snug my body next to hers.

“I had a nightmare.” She says emerging from the protection of her blanket cocoon. She is sobbing and it makes even her words sound wet.

I glance at Jamie, go back to bed Hun, I say without saying anything at all. Everything is okay now. He leans over and kisses his daughter on the forehead.

I don’t ask what her dream was about, kid nightmares are typically the worst. Their imagination is still so unsullied and ripe, even their good dreams are scary as shit. Instead I wrap my arms around her and try to make her feel safe so sleep will come easy.

I really don’t want to fall asleep in her bed because Sophie may very well be the worst person to share a bed with in the entire universe. She kicks and moves and sometimes merely crawls directly on top of you because your body seems to work as a better mattress than the actual mattress.

So I will myself not to sleep. As an alternative I think about motherhood. I think about how seconds ago when my daughter was calling for me it was the only thing that could have mattered in that moment. I think about how the label, “mom” has become synonymous with day to day life but also a sentiment of caring that is far too profound to even try to begin to explain to the layperson.

I think about how the stresses of money and work and all of that day to day hullabaloo doesn’t begin to compare to how I felt in that instant when I didn’t know why my daughter was screaming in the dead of night.

I squeeze her a little tighter and hear her flush breathing of sleep. I slowly get up to leave when she sleepily wraps her arms around my neck and says, “I love you so much Mom. Thanks for rescuing me.”

I want to tell her that her and Lars have saved me, time and time again. Their existence is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced. I want to say that I love them beyond comprehensible logic. I want to tell her that our little family is mine and her Dad’s reason for fighting so hard in this life so of course I will rescue her.

However, I think that may be a bit overkill. Sleep is about to take her again soon so for now I reply with, “Any time my love, any time at all.”

Life: Open For Business

So going back to work has been a bit of a learning curve.

You know, I really didn’t think it was going to be that difficult to get back into the swing of things. I imagined I would breeze in there all like, oh yeah I’m Queen Bee of working and moming and I am the master of both my domains!

**followed by exaggerated maniacal laugh. **

Except this is not at all how it has been going.

Every day I drag my tired screaming body out of bed and wonder what the fuck I’ve gotten myself into. I think about how easy my previous life was in comparison. I fondly reminisce about all of my worry-free days of stay-at-home mom-ery and I fawn over those memories with longing.

However after a cup of coffee, I punt myself back into reality while I slather on some mascara and get on with life-as does every other person on the planet.

I do the mornings at the shop while Jamie does the long afternoons. I can’t complain. Jamie typically bests my nine hour shifts by two or three hours more each day. He almost lives there. But I do complain, a lot. Not about the fact that I’m tired and I am having a difficult time getting into a routine—these things will come. I complain about the tiny, minuscule things I miss about the ‘before times’.

I miss Sophie’s haphazard and dazed look when she awakens and trudges her way upstairs in search of cereal. I miss the way Lars would hide around the corner of the kitchen only to yell, “GOOD MORNING MOM!” as loud as he possibly can in those wee hours as I myself would be trudging into the kitchen. I miss Jamie rolling over still half asleep, putting his arm around me and whispering that the kids can wait just five more minutes as he nuzzles his cold nose into my neck.

These are the little things that I complain about not getting enough of anymore. And although they are small, the price seems like a big one to pay.

Aside from the mom-things that have been effected, there are a few other aspects of this new life that are quite daunting.

Let’s begin with the fact that Jamie and I are business owners! Do you know how different that is than being an employee?! When I worked outside of the home I always considered myself a pretty star wage earner. I’d show up early and stay late if needed. I went the extra mile. I was always friendly and courteous. I was one hell of a trainer when necessary. And I felt like I treated my position with as much respect as I would if I owned the place.

Except I didn’t. Not. Even. Fucking. Close.

The truth of the matter is, one doesn’t know what it’s like to be a business owner until you are, in fact, a business owner. Before, I never understood exactly how much was on the line if something (anything) happened to screw up. You don’t realize what one bad review of your company could mean. You have no clue how completely and utterly accountable you are until it is only you, you have to answer to.

We’ve done well thus far but the sneaking knowledge that our entire future is riding on this venture is always weighing in the back of our busy minds. It’s a large burden to bear to say the least.

So there’s that.

And about a hundred other things that continue to make me look back on the days before The Hot Wire, before moving, before everything changed, with fond recollections.

How easily it would be to slip back into those days of carefree living.

That is, until I dredge up how ‘carefree’ it wasn’t. Perhaps before the Panini shop (which now feels somewhat like a lifetime ago) we may not have had such *pressing* (see what I did there) issues but we did have issues none the less. We felt like we were standing still and not progressing in the life we were living. We felt like we were teaching our kids to sit and complain about all of the woes in life rather than going out and doing something about it. We felt lost because we simply weren’t doing what we were meant to be doing. We didn’t feel in control of our own lives and there is actually nothing worse than that kind of a thing weighing you down.

Now, those feelings are but a mere story of how we started on this current journey.

I think anywhere we go in life there will always be the learning curve. There will forever be challenges and worries that we aren’t doing right for ourselves and our family. There will be doubt.

It doesn’t matter how far you move, what new challenges you face, there will sometimes be moments of suffocation. There will always be moments of victory. I don’t think any successful human being can have one without the other.

So whatever it is you are doing, keep doing it. Keep trying the new. Keep yourself on your toes. Be scared and excited and thrilled by anything. And do it every single day.

Life is weird and uncertain and totally terrifying at times. But at any given moment it can also be very very magnificent.

 

 

2 Cent Saturday

 

Some days I can do three loads of laundry, make a pancake breakfast, and get a week’s worth of writing done all before nine a.m.

Some days I find myself huddled in the corner of the bathroom with a bucket of Nutella attempting to scarf it down as fast as I possibly can without the offspring locating my whereabouts.

It’s all about balance you see. It’s about having the ability to discover what kind of day you’re going to have before it has even started. Will it be an “I am Wonder-Mom” kind of day? Or, more likely, will it be a pajama pants because you can’t even bring yourself to squeeze into the yoga pants kind of day? It’s about accepting the plight that is parenthood and giving into it gracefully.

Because when it comes down to the nitty gritty we can’t do the Wonder-Mom thing every God-damn day. Well not without a vessel of Valium and about thirty-five martinis that is. And you know how the Granola Moms frown upon that these days. So we are left with having to accept that some days we just can’t do it all.

It is either one or the other—slobby do-nothing Mom or Wondrous Wonder-Mom. Black. White.

Or at least that’s what everyone’s been telling me.

There is this strange mentality that I’ve noticed popping up lately and that is that everything seems to have to be all or nothing. Perhaps it has always been like this and I’ve just been too wrapped up in myself or apathetic to notice. But I’m noticing now, and it’s weird and makes me feel uncomfortable.

As parents we seem to categorise ourselves into these sections. Like “hover moms” “free range parenting” “no preservatives” “McDonalds parents” and we hang on to these stereotypes like they were our first born child.

Let’s get real here people. I try my damnedest to feed the Lars and Soph clean healthy food, however when I’m pressed for time or simply having a PJ pants kind of day they are getting a big ole box of KD with extra ketchup. I let my kids play in the backyard unsupervised because I’ve smashed “stranger danger” into the farthest depths of their brains. However I still go and check up on them every single night before I turn in to assure they are breathing. I’ve been doing this for eight consecutive years now and in all honesty I can’t see myself stopping any time soon.

Picture this if you will: me, sneaking into Lars’ apartment when he is 25 years old and stealthily popping my head over his bedside to investigate whether or not he has breath sounds. It will be when I ever so gently place the small mirror I’ve brought (because I like to think ahead) over his mouth to see the breath in question that his girlfriend at the time awakens. Resulting in extreme awkwardness. For them.

Motherhood is weird and poor Lars will never be able to keep a steady relationship with my crazy shenanigans.

I think as a society we need to expel this notion that when it comes to parenting there is only wrong or right. In most cases at least. Obviously some things are just downright wrong and some things are gloriously right. Like Tacos.

Ain’t nobody gone tell me tacos on their wrong list.

Ahem, Oh look once again I’ve been sidetracked by the fabulous thought of tacos.

Anyway, it’s the ego’s downfall that we are constantly at war with each other over issues like which parenting methods are best and what colour a dress on the internet is-I don’t know why I’m still on that, it was like a million years ago.

If we could for one moment set aside those big pulsating ego’s we could see that in most cases there is a middle grounds that we can all come to reside in and be overall contented with. And if there isn’t? Then allow your self-image a few moments of humility and try to see something from another’s point of view. The stubbornness we exhibit does not progress us as a society. We stay stagnant at an impasse because none of us can agree on what’s best.

If we open ourselves up we may learn a thing or two, moving forward into new potentials.

Or, you know, just go sit in the bathroom and consume copious amounts chocolatey Nutella, whateves.

Yet Another Post About the Infamous Sleepy Bear

 

As mothers we stress. I think it must be something in our chemical make-up. If I told you how many times a day I find myself getting all worked up in the feels about some random thought…Well, I just wouldn’t tell you because it’s embarrassing.

Jamie is a stress-case too, which you would think would make things super awful pretty much all of the time with us both riddled with anxiety. However that’s not the case. My husband is an entirely logical man. He looks at the world through rational and balanced eyes, which is one of the hundreds of reasons why he is so good for me.  So when Jamie stresses he stresses about issues that are right there in front of him and how to fix those things that need fixing.

I stress about different stuff. The stuff that has no real value in this day to day life because if it were to happen it may probably change the course of history as we know it. I stress endlessly about zombie apocalypses and how I would save my brood from an undead army. I stress about that time I said a snappy comment to that cashier and she looked like she was about to cry. I stress about make-believe conversations I might one day have with my arch-enemy. Then I stress about the fact that I actually have an arch-enemy.

I stress about what the hell would happen if we ever lost Sleepy Bear.

This last thought hits a nerve. That bear is Sophie’s world. Literally, her entire existence revolves around one grimy disgusting bear that wears a pink and white polka doted hat.

I’ve tried to teach her that we shouldn’t rely so much on physical things to make us feel happy and content. It is our loved ones and our inner happiness that truly keeps us satisfied. Whenever I say this she just looks at me with a blank look and squeezes the bear tighter as if I am about to yank him out of her little grasp right then and there.

Last night as I was tucking her in I asked her if she was enjoying her new after school program. She said she loved it but she wanted to bring Sleepy in her backpack tomorrow.

“I don’t know if they let you play with toys from home there sweetie.” I said to her thinking that a little time away from the bear may be good for the kid.

“That’s okay I will just have him in my backpack.” She paused but then realizing that I needed further explanation continued, “Mom, I just feel better when Sleepy is with me. Even if I can’t play with her I just like knowing that she is near me. She’s like my kid.” The frankness in her voice was beautiful for a child of five years old and in that moment I had two emotions punch me in the gut.

First, pride. Pride that my little girl could so eloquently explain her love for the small stuffed bear that she holds so dearly. How amazing it is that she can open up to me and effortlessly describe her feelings when it comes to her plaything.

Secondly anxiety. Which brings me back to the stress of losing the damn thing. She referred to it as her kid for the love of God!

And so there it is, just one more random thing to get pushed into my already crammed brain when it comes to things that keep me up at night.

I think life would be a lot easier if I was a normal stress-case and worried about typical things like money and the economy and whether or not Trump is going to one day take over the world.

Whatever type of stress you have it can be a really scary thing. But I think the answer to all of it remains the same. Confront it head on, let it know you won’t be scathed and move forward with confidence.

 

Helping Our Small Humans

Change is great. Change is healthy. Change is good. These are the things I keep telling myself because if I don’t I will spiral into a pool of self-pity and sorrow. Okay perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, although, our writer-reader relationship has probably evolved to a point where that doesn’t surprise you.

The Brown household has been feeling the pressure of change in these last few weeks and despite my valiant attempts at embracing it all, I find myself withering fast.

Jamie and I are having to work double time at the shop hoping to have it ready for production by early May. However, even that seems to be a long shot now as there continues to be issues popping up left right and center. This in turn leaves the poor children dangling helplessly over the precipice of neglect and abandonment. Again, with the dramatics.

We’ve enrolled them in an afterschool program which I am positive they will love, however it hasn’t started yet. So we’ve been doing what so many Ma and Pop shops have done since the dawn of Ma and Pop shops. We haul our small humans to the Panini factory and they hang out there until we are done our work. Lars definitely has it better as he is in full days of class so it is rare that we need to bring him, but Soph is still in kindergarten which means only half days. Every morning Jamie and I load her and approximately 700 teddy bears into the car to make the journey across town to work.

We then toil away with whatever is on the chopping block that day while Sophie interrupts us every five minutes. She is very good about keeping us in the know when it comes to her hunger or her boredom or when something smells slightly strange in her general vicinity. Occasionally her left toe is bugging her and when it’s not any of that you can be sure that some other peculiar five year old woe has hammered down upon her.
It pains me to say it but we can see the agitation in her everyday life. She is ornery and short tempered. She continues to try haggling with me for mere sport.

“Mom, I will clean my room if you give Sleepy Bear a birthday party tonight. With cake. And presents.”

“Umm first of all that bear has had like ten birthdays already this year and secondly you will clean your room so it doesn’t develop an army of bug creatures from all of the filthy clothes that are peppered around the place.” This is just one example of our bartering conversations.

Oh and the tantrums. How could I forget the tantrums?

There we were in the parking lot of the school while she was screaming louder than I’ve ever heard any human being scream. Her little face was nearing purple while tears streamed down her cheeks.

She was perturbed that her brother had gotten into the car before her.

As the child stomped her feet on the pavement I reimagined the song Hello, by Adele.

 

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As the lyrics swept through my skull I started to think. I knew that these temper tantrums were stemming from somewhere. Sophie wasn’t inherently angry like this—no kid is.

Other Moms were walking past the spectacle side-eyeing my dilemma. In that moment I felt like the worst parent to have ever walked those school grounds. Although I’m sure that most of them just looked at me with a sad pitying kind of stare. Let`s face it, we’ve all been there.

It didn’t take much to realise what the problem was. My daughter was simply missing me. She has never had to share me with a full-time job and that is a big challenge for our little family. So instead of threatening her with no ice cream after dinner. Or pulling out that notorious whisper-demon voice and telling her to get into the car. I wrapped my arms around my little girl and I hugged her hard.

I did say something into her ear as I embraced her, and that was that I loved her. It took a few seconds but she relaxed, melted into my hug and eventually told me she loved me back.

Change is great and change is healthy and it is good too but we must remember that change can only be all of these things if we take the time to help escort the people we love most through the difficult times.

 

Fan Mail

I’ve been writing my blog, The Blogging Mama, for close to four years. I’ve been writing my column, Me Plus Three, for two. In my history of publicly writing I’ve heard things like, “you are so funny, and descriptive!” and “I love that you are so in touch with your emotions.” This last one is a little questionable, they may just be getting my irrationally unhinged personality mixed up with being “in touch”.

I’ve also had complete strangers message me saying that writing such intimate stories about my children for anyone to read is immoral and just plain bad parenting.

It startled me I’m not going to lie. The day I opened that message on my Blogging Mama Facebook page my heart stopped for a moment and my breath was taken away. Did someone actually think that my writings were hurting my kids? Like, screw you lady…is what I wanted to write back.

For about a millisecond I thought about quitting. But then an uplifting Taylor Swift song came on and my confidence came dashing back upon the crown of my stalwart imaginary pony. I told my friend Scott about this message I had received. Scott’s in the movie biz and has had his fair share of awful to unusual fan mail so I figured he’d understand my dilemma.

He told me to ignore it, that’s always the best way to deal with these types of people. So I did, I ignored it. Not only because it was obviously the right thing to do but also because I keep hoping that sooner or later Scott will introduce me to some famous people and when he does I can talk about how I too have to disregard “all” of the wearisome mail that comes piling in sometimes. I envision the famed folk talking a lot about their fan mail, it seems like that would be a regular topic of convo in that circle of peeps.

**I am imagining my friend Scott reading this and shaking his head right now.

The thought of celebrities has gotten me so off track I can’t remember what the hell I was talking about.

Ah yes that’s right, me, being the worst mother alive because I have gained fame (well that’s stretching it) and fortune (now that’s just going way too far) off the innocent stories of my small humans.

I guess it comes down to a waiting game of sorts. Right now Lars and Sophie think my job is cool. Lars is always asking what my blog is about and Sophie is closely following her Mama’s footsteps as a descriptive storyteller. She is amazing!

Perhaps in years to come the novelty of my writings will wear thin for them. Maybe they won’t enjoy me spinning these tales about their life and times. Of course if and when that day comes I will revolutionize my subject matter to some further newfangled theme.

The greatest writers all say the same thing and that is to write what you know. Well I know my children. I know them better than I know anything else and I love etching down their everyday lives into permanence.

It’s been over a year since I received that message in my inbox. Maybe the woman was just having a bad day and needed to take it out on a perfect stranger. Maybe she actually read some of my stuff and realized how incredibly hilarious I am and immediately felt terrible for writing such things to me. Or maybe she went on with her day never thinking twice about her words and how they could affect their recipient.

I wish I was the kind of person who could easily breeze over these types of situations, but sadly I’m not and probably never will be. They sting. They eat away at the depths of the soul (too much?) and sometimes in the still of the night I wonder why people needlessly aim to hurt others. It is a sad state of affairs but one that we have little control over. So I think the best I can do is stand up, be kind to others and keep doing what I’m doing with glitzy jazz hands.

Faultfinders will follow you to the ends of the earth. I’ve decided that I am going to take it as a compliment. It means I’m doing something with my life worth talking about. If these people want to chat about my comings and goings like I’m some sort of…CELEBRITY! Then I thank them kindly.

That means I’m just one step closer to that exclusive circle of legendary humans whom tête-à-tête all day about fan-mail.

WINNING!

 

Pressing The Button

The trek to school is a lot longer since we have moved into the new house. Before it was quick jaunt down the back alley behind our home—a minute and a half tops. This was nice because if necessary we could leave two minutes before the bell was to ring and still make it there on time. Of course that very rarely happened due to my obsessive compulsive need to be early for every event I’ve ever been involved in throughout the history of my entire life. It’s sort of a problem.

Typically, even with the convenience of our close living accommodation, my children were the first to arrive at school almost every single day.

Now however, it takes us about ten minutes to walk to their new school and there are some obstacles we must overcome while doing so.

The first time we hiked it, we hadn’t yet discovered the short cut. The treacherous journey took us nearly twenty minutes. We had to walk beside an increasingly busy roadway which did not do well for my nerves as Sophie continued to absentmindedly wander annoyingly close to the racing by vehicles. I must admit that I have done an awful job so far in preparing my children for the “real world”. For example, when I go grocery shopping, instead of bringing them along and teaching them something about food costs and preparation, I do my best to ditch the babes at home with Jamie or wait until they are in school. This is probably why seemingly normal aspects of life tend to astonish them.

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Which brings me to my next point.

Once we found the shortcut to the school, life got a bit easier. I wasn’t as paranoid that they were going to fatefully walk out in front of one of those speeding city buses. Not to mention it cut down our walking time by half! Plus there is only one busy junction we must conquer on this route which makes things a lot simpler. Or that is what I originally thought.

Apparently, the crossing button, is officially the coolest thing in the entire universe. Ever since having to explain that we mustn’t ever step out on the street without pressing the button Lars and Sophie have become infatuated with it.

I believe my exact words were, “We cannot go on the road until we press the button and the sign tells us to walk.” They may have read a little too far into that.

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As we approached the dreaded button this morning, Lars began running full bore towards the thing. My heart stopped momentarily because I envisioned the kid not being able to stop in time and haplessly running out into oncoming traffic. Will that lurking paranoia ever end? You know, the imaginings of horrible and awful things. Maybe it’s just a parent’s lot in life.

Anyways he was able to stop and before I could tell him to let his sister share in the pressing of their beloved he had already made contact. The BEEP-BOOP sound pitched high above us and we moved to cross the street. Well, at least Lars and I did.

Sophie had plopped herself on the sidewalk and was crying to the Gods above asking why oh why she was never granted the gift of pressing that God forsaken button herself. (Even though she had pushed it not even twenty-four hours before).

“Sophie what are you doing?!” I said halfway across the street. Lars was already on the other side and the anxiety was beginning to build inside of me. Three cars were now lined up awaiting our crossing. One kid on either side of the street and me stuck in the middle. Sophie wasn’t moving and Lars wasn’t listening to me as I stridently screamed at him to come back to the other side. I had to make a decision where to go because I surely couldn’t stay in the middle of the street. The look of the motorists faces were that of pure loathing. They hated me and my current awkward predicament.

I ran back to grab the girl child as I figured she had the highest flight risk.

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“Okay there, you can press the button.” I say as I pull her off of the ground, all the while keeping a firm eye on my seven year old who was halfway down the block by this point.

Sophie immediately turned off the waterworks and gaily hopped towards the crossing switch. She pushed it with a dainty finger and waited for her queue to move across the street.

I was still quaking with nerves and I had to wonder if our morning exercise was worth the years I was losing in mere stress over the event. We caught up with Lars and he nonchalantly asked what had kept us so long. I didn’t answer but instead told them that from now on, I think I will do the button pressing when it comes to crossing the street.

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The Toothpaste Predicament

My son has a certain way of doing things. He is stubborn and persistent and to tell you the truth he probably gets that from yours truly. The kid has a mind of his own and will most likely continue to do things in his own weird way. And it’s really never been a problem, well, until it was.

One of the small and seemingly insignificant things he does, is when putting toothpaste on his toothbrush he lays the tube on the counter horizontally over the edge while holding the brush directly beneath the nozzle. He then will lean his entire weight down on the tube, generating a magnificent surge of peppermint smelling sticky stuff onto his brush.

I have told him time and time again not to load his toothbrush this way since he is wasting paste, making a god-awful mess and not to mention annoying me to no ends. I have made him scrub away the caked on mess he gets on the counter, cabinetry and floor and I have showed him how to properly remove the toothpaste from the margins of its cylinder.

At the time he listens to my advice with knowing eyes and a complacent smile.

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However he rarely abides by my suggestions and when I am not glaring over his shoulder he continues to use his unconventional ways when preparing to brush his teeth.

This morning, like most mornings, I woke up and had the overwhelming urge to pee. I stumbled to the bathroom still half asleep, plopped myself down and let flow.

Maybe I saw the bright green gob of paste on the toilet paper out of the corner of my eye. Maybe I did not notice it at all. Or maybe at the time I simply did not care to comprehend what the effects of using that particular piece of paper would do to my poor nether regions. What I know for sure is that soon after, I experienced a kind of unease that no human should ever have to endure that early in the sunrise hours.

As I stood up it happened. The slight burning sensation commenced.

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I paused mid stance and thought, “Well that is rather uncomfortable.” But engaged in a little shimmy thinking maybe that would help.

To be clear that made it absolutely worse.

Before I could know what was happening to me, my entire front bum was encompassed with a burning awareness that would have made the depths of hell envious. I froze to the spot, wondering what in the name of Hades Torch was happening to my fuzzy peach. The tingle had evolved into a scorching attack of soft skin and tenacious pink flesh. It seemed to creep into every crevice of my cave of wonders, not missing a single cranny!

I let out a yelp and instinctually grabbed for my lady garden, but straightaway realized that that was a terrible idea. I’m not sure why the contact of my hand made my plight even worse but it did.

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It was then, as my entire hoo-haw was being consumed by the horror of this red-hot suffering that I looked to my right and saw the toothpaste container hanging guiltily over the porcelain counter. There was a gob of green toothpaste on the floor beneath the toilet paper roll…And slowly I began to put the disturbing pieces of this predicament together.

Without thinking I hopped bowlegged into the bathtub, cranked the cold water and began splashing soothing fluid onto and around my notorious V.A.G. Instant relief came to me and I began feeling a bit more relaxed. That was until I heard the doorknob rattling.

I considered the spot that I was in.

Legs spread as wide as the Grand Canyon, pelvic thrust towards the serenity that was the flowing cold water tap, and an expression of pure horror combined with an unsettling look of reprieve plastered on my face. I didn’t know who was on the other side of that door, all I knew was that I wanted NOBODY to see me in such a perilous position.

It was not my voice that next exited my person, but something else…Something from somewhere deep within me.

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A half-hoarse demented demon creature shouted in the darkest and most sinister way, “DON’T COME IN HERE! I’M BUSY!” I then continued splish-splashing the pacifying water on my Susie Q.

Finally the horror of it all had passed. Completely and utterly worse for the wear, I hobbled out of the bathroom.

I found my son.

I crept up close to him, leaned in so my words would hold a little more value and ominously told him that if he ever left toothpaste anywhere in that bathroom other than his toothbrush I would throw the thing in the garbage and he would never be able to brush his teeth again.

He nodded his head, his eyes were wide and I could tell he knew in the deep of his soul that something terrible had just happened.

To this day the bathroom has been kept incredibly tidy by the small humans I share it with. However I’m no fool, never again will I let my guard down and allow my velvet underground to fall victim to the dreaded toothpaste predicament.

Bedtime Struggles

There is this pivotal moment in all of our lives when we must sit back, stifle the urge to scream out in exasperation and simply give in to the methodical twitching that has currently taken over our left eye socket.

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It is the bedtime routine…No let me rephrase: It is in the aftermath of the bedtime routine and I am moments away from finding the closest underpass, befriending the patrons perusing the space and brown bagging a bottle of cabernet sauvignon with them simply to escape the lunacy that is Motherhood.

“It is an hour after your bedtime Sophie, you need to go to sleep.” This is what I say to my daughter who has been slumping around the living room for the last half hour. I think she thinks I don’t notice her.

The girl slinks closer to me as though apologizing in advance for the fresh hell she is about to radiate. She then places her lips about a quarter inch from my earlobe and says in a half whisper half scream, “I’m so hungry.”

What in the…I won’t finish that sentence as it is in no way appropriate for newspaper reading. I think you get the point though.

“You ate your dinner and you had desert there is no possible way you can be hungry.” I pause and look directly into her eyes which are unwavering in her quest for a midnight snack.

“HUNGRY.” She replies in that guttural, Paleolithic sort of way.

The eye twitch is coming back but I will it away by shutting my eyes tightly for ten consecutive seconds.

“What are you doing, you look weird.” I am attempting to ward off the insanity, I want to tell her.

I shove a piece of bread with butter into her tiny hands and tell her that will do for tonight. She looks greedily at it and moves back downstairs to her fortress of teddy bears and sparkly lip gloss. After a few minutes quiet erupts in the house and a cool shiver creeps every so steadily up my spine.

Now, you’d think that after all of my troubles with trying to get her to sleep, quiet would be a welcome change. But you see, you’d be wrong. At least not in a mothers psyche. Suddenly thoughts of my baby girl somehow forgetting how to chew and swallow food correctly flood my good sense. I imagine her choking on the bread and how she, at this very minute, could be coughing and sputtering and completely helpless down there. All because I carelessly gave her bread to shut her up and get her back into bed. It’s the ole ‘Bread in the Bed’ predicament.

So I make my way towards the girl child’s bedroom. All seems quiet upon first inspection. I can hear the soft snoring of Lars coming from his room which sort of makes my heart swell because at least I have one child who slumbers deeply throughout the entire night.

I pop my head into Sophie Anne’s Room. She is not on her bed—substituted for my daughter is a pile of ragged and torn looking bread pieces laying delicately atop her pillow.

I spot the top of the kid’s head behind her nightstand. She is crumpled on the floor and by the slump of her shoulders and the angled look of her head I can tell something is amiss. Before I can ask her what the problem is her head shoots up and there staring me in the eye is what looks like a war-torn Sophie. She wears crinkles of fret across her forehead and her cheeks are lined with a thick layer of tear streaked dejectedness.  “SLEEPY BEAR IS MISSSING!” She yells out in anguish. “HE IS GONE! GONE TOTALLY GONE!”

I look to my left and see the grimy leg of a bear wearing a familiar pink polka dotted jumper. He lays half under a pile of dirty clothes. I pick the thing up assuring not to hold it to close to my face because as much as my daughter seems to adore the ripe tang of the squalid plaything I prefer to keep my distance.

“You found him! Thank you!” She says as though he had been missing for years. I am about to tell her that if her room was cleaner Sleepy wouldn’t go missing, but instead I just smile.

At this point, after the night we’ve had, sometimes we parents need to recognise when to pick our battles.

Now, would somebody please buy me a bottle of wine and direct me to the closest underpass?

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Sophie’s Bus Ride

There is a bus stop that sits directly outside our home. Ever since we moved into this house Sophie has been pretty much obsessed with it. She plops herself down in our front room window and simply stares out at all of the people waiting for their transport.

I have a sneaking suspicion my daughter may follow in my footsteps when it comes to spinning a story. She loves to create tales about the humans who pause in front of our home. However it gets a little awkward when said humans happen to turn around to see a big eyed, wild-haired five year old gazing intently into their soul. Some have even went as far to move on to the next stop. This infuriates the child because it has ruined her ability to finish her deeply thought out yarn.

Once she told me that the person left because he was about to “diarrhea in his pants” it was then I realized she has indeed taken after ALL of my literary skills.

So imagine Sophie’s surprise when I told her that we would be riding on that very same bus.  She was elated! I may have even seen a single tear of joy roll down her cheek.

Lars on the other hand shrugged his shoulders and said, “oh yeah, that will be cool” in the most unconvincing voice I’ve ever heard. Soph didn’t take any notice however, she just skipped away with Sleepy Bear propped under her arm while speaking to no one in particular about how splendid the bus ride was going to be.

My family had come for a visit and it was with them that we ventured downtown on the bus. As we waited at the same stop in which Sophie had been staring at for the last month I could see the anticipation growing on her face. Of course, as with most public transit the bus was a little late.

“Is it not coming!?” She cried to her Uncle Dustin after we had been waiting for a considerable amount of time. Just as he was about to answer the sound of the buses massive air brakes came whistling down the street.

 

“IT’S HERE!” She screamed as the doors opened. It was from that point until we reached the downtown terminal that Sophie was the star of this specific bus route.

The population inside including the driver could immediately tell that we were newbies at this public transit thing. If it wasn’t me asking how much we owed him for boarding, Sophie definitely gave us away when she organized a joyful twirl while walking down the aisle and saying, “it’s so awesome Mom!”

I like to believe the seven of us were more of a humorous attraction to our fellow passengers rather than a disturbance. We were quite vocal in our queries of which terminals or stops to get on and off of but everyone seemed to be very forthcoming with information and assistance.

Meanwhile the only one of us who seemed completely at home on the large means of transportation was Lars. As my mom said it seemed like “old hat” for the seven year old. He had plopped himself down on the seat propped an arm up on the armrest and sat idly by waiting for his stop.

“Lars are you enjoying the ride?” His Auntie Ashley asked him about half way to our destination.

“Yeah it’s alright.” He replied.

“What do you mean it’s alright?!” Sophie screamed, “It’s amazing!” Her gusto made everyone smile and I had a feeling that taking the bus downtown would end up being a regular occurrence. This was fine by me since I had been swept away with nostalgia from the time I stepped onto the vehicle. Before having the kids and moving back to our small hometown of Sylvan Lake I was a bus riding professional in the cities I wandered. It was surreal to be brought back to those times but now hand in hand with the children I never knew I’d have back then.

We had a great time exploring City Center and some of its eclectic shops and cafes but once again Sophie’s real point of delight was sparked by getting back on the bus to ride home.

There are days in this new city when I miss Sylvan Lake. I miss our friends and the easiness of hometown living. But experiencing simple yet extraordinary moments like we did on this day allow me to realize how much this new home of ours has to offer.

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The Beauty of the Season

There was once a time when I loved Christmas. I loved the smell of cinnamon that would waft through my grandmother’s home while we tore through gifts piled high under the tree. The fun my brother and I used to have stuffing ourselves full of turkey and mashed potatoes until we were ready to explode. The laughter that we’d share with the people who we loved was so unforgettable in those days of carefree Christmases. There was just something about that time of year that brought smiles to faces and a feeling of cheer to the air.

But then adulthood hit and the reality of this god-awful month became painfully clear. Let us remember the fact that you will probably be plunging yourself into thousands of dollars of debt in order to achieve the “perfect” Christmas experience for you and your family. Not to mention the high-stress state of affairs that is the “family get-together”. All of the scheduling around each other’s plans can be enough to drive a person bonkers.

And please don’t get me started on the “one-upping” of the Jones’ at this sacred time of year. Right down the street we have our very own Griswold family who seem to think it is appropriate to drain the electricity grid every evening to show off their superb light show. How the hell am I supposed to compete with that? Here I am with a pitiable Charlie Brownish wreath that hangs lopsided off my front door and I am calling myself Martha-fucking-Stewart!

Well, don’t I sound like the Grinch? Before I know it I am going to be growing green body hair and people aren’t going to want to touch me with a thirty-nine and a half foot pole.

Each year when this month rolls around I tell myself that I shall not succumb to the scroogery. However every year once the pressure of Christmas envelopes me there I am yelling at Christmas carolers to get off my porch and telling the children that the Elf on the Shelf was too tired to get into any shenanigans the night before. Ugh it makes me guilty even writing it. Christmas is a difficult time of year and it only seems to be getting more and more complicated as I get older.

I had been telling the kids for weeks that after Lars’ birthday we would put the tree up. This is yet another Christmas event that has become more of a task than a treat. Each year it always seems to be a fight over who gets to put up what decorations and where on the tree they should go and how the proper way to string a strand of lights are and how much tinsel is too much tinsel—you get the point.

So begrudgingly I pulled out the tree from our storage area and began to set up. Something happened however as I placed the synthetic thing together…Some might say my, ‘small heart grew three sizes that day’. I watched as Sophie sorted eagerly through the antique decorations that my Mom had given to me several years back. Any other year when the kids have eyed the priceless bulbs I’ve stopped them in their tracks and told them that those decorations were for adults only, they’d be left with the paper-chains and popsicle stick picture frames they had made in preschool.

Maybe it was the way she ever so gently handled them or the gleam of wonder in her eyes as she sorted through these very old treasures but I decided to let Sophie and Lars do all of the decorating this year. After setting the tree up and stringing the lights (which seemed surprisingly easy when you forgot about the stress of it all) I found a seat on the couch.

I took that time to appreciate the joy that they were getting out of this tree decorating occasion. I played Christmas carols and made hot chocolate—the real kind of hot chocolate that my mom used to make for us.

After all was said and done the tree looked beautiful! All at once I didn’t care about coordinating the colors of the decorations or if the bulbs were evenly distributed, my heart was too warm to feel anxious about anything.

It was then that I realized that it isn’t childhood that makes Christmas a carefree and joyous time. It is having the ability to let go and simply be grateful for the people you love and the delight of the season itself.

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A Bit of Quality Time

Sometimes our lives get busy. Lately there has been a bit of an upheaval in the Brown household and our routine and schedules have been thrown for loop.

Unfortunately at this time the disruption is something that cannot be avoided. So I’ve decided to embrace it. Sometimes when unexpected change comes upon us the best thing we can do for our family is to show them how to roll with the punches.

It occurred to me lately that I’ve been so wrapped up in the “big things” that I’ve let the truly important stuff fall to the wayside. The best thing for my babes (and me for that matter) right now would be to make up for some much needed quality moments together.

Sophie and I set out on an early Tuesday morning and ended up having more fun than I think either of us anticipated. Our first order of business on that brisk November morn was to visit the lake and go for a, “beautiful autumn walk” (Sophie’s exact words). Sophie gathered all sorts of nature-stuffs; from dried colorful leaves to funny looking rocks to pieces of bark with moss growing off of it. We placed all of her goodies into an airtight container in which she was to bring for show and tell the next day at school. With every treasure that we stumbled across a bigger smile grew on my daughters face, allowing my joy to surface too.

We then took some time for a little park play. Sophie sat me on the car shaped jungle gym and asked where I’d like her to drive.  I told her Mexico was nice this time of year. She agreed and we took a left then a right and then went down a very long and winding road and in virtually no time at all we found ourselves in sunny Mexico. I asked her where she got her superb drivers training from and in true Sophie fashion she answered with a reasonable and matter of fact reply.

“Well of course Mom, I got it from the dollar store. Don’t you know that you can get ANYTHING there!?” And once again I think my frequent perusing of our local dollar store may be rubbing off on my daughter.

Lars has entered into a different kind of age where nature walks and pretend car rides to Mexico just don’t seem to cut it anymore. Sometimes I wonder if he is growing up too fast. I worry that the allure of video games, tablets and technology has jaded our children in a way that we never were. Maybe this is true, or maybe we just need to start thinking outside of the box when it comes to raising our children.

I asked Lars what he would like to do while we spent some time together. To no surprise of mine he said he’d like it if I watched him play Angry Birds on the tablet. I met him halfway and offered to watch for half an hour if he’d do some reading with me afterwards. He seemed happy enough with this decision.

“You see Mom; if you just pull the slingshot back like this and aim right here…BOOM! OH YEAH! See that Mom I totally nailed it!” The kid’s pure enthusiasm over what he was doing gave way to most all of my reservations about the games. He is so confident when playing, I can see it is an outlet for him and that is most definitely okay in my books.

After a very in depth look into the world of Angry Birds we found a few books to read. He read to me and although we read daily I still am baffled at how far he has come.

Somehow we got on the topic of the Harry Potter books and how my mom (Granny Colleen) used to read the series to me and Uncle Dustin every night. I explained that it was a book about wizardry and a school of magic called Hogwarts. Immediately Lars was hooked, and just like that we found ourselves another “something special” to bond over in his growing years.

I think it is natural for our lives to sometimes become heavy with all of the “big stuff”. We are all human and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the daily grind. What’s important is taking the time to find the perhaps small, but extraordinary, moments that we can one day look back on and contentedly say, “what wonderful times we’ve had.”

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The Truth About Bullies

A long time ago, back when I had a toddler and an infant, I was at the park with the two of them. Park play was a lot more difficult back then because I had to be right beside them in pretty much everything they did. Well, perhaps I didn’t but I was kind of a hover-mom back in the day.

Anyways there I am at the park with my almost four year old and my almost two year old. I am pushing Sophie on the baby swings when I notice Lars trying to play with a kid a little older than him. Back then Lars wasn’t as reserved as he is now, so even though the kid clearly didn’t want anything to do with my four year old, Lars was persistent. Funny thing about kids, they don’t really have that insecurity thing going on. I was about to tell my son to give it a rest and come over to the swings with me and Soph when the kid up and pushed him to the ground and began to scream at him that he didn’t want to play. This invoked a white hot rage in myself that I was not actually aware of and for a split second I envisioned myself in a jail cell due to punting a seven year old to next Thursday.

The kid’s mom had witnessed this too and went over to discipline her child, rightly so. Thank God she had seen the spectacle because if I were to have to tell her that her child was the little shit weasel that pushed my son, I probably wouldn’t have been tight-tongued about the issue. No amount of censorship could have stopped the atrocity of words that would have exited my mouth. Admittedly I go sort of ballistic when somebody comes after my own.

After the park incident Lars was a lot more cautious around strange children, never again running up and worming his way into a game of tag. In a way it makes me sad, and I wonder if the bully at the park that day took away a little piece of Lars’ Larsness. Nevertheless it is something that every child will probably endure at some point in their adolescent life, the hard truth is, there are bullies around every corner.

My dad has taught me many things over the years but something that has always stuck is that family must stick up for one another. Maybe that is where the deep seated anger came in when I saw my son being bullied. Maybe it was simply a primal motherhood instinct that I experienced. It wasn’t the first time I’d witnessed a family member of mine being tormented and it wouldn’t be the last. Sadly children aren’t the only people who get picked on by their peers. And each time I see someone I love being hurt by another I can feel that familiar anger begin to bubble.

A girl I know who is much wiser than her years once told me that she feels sorry for the people we as society deem as bullies. Me, being the hot headed person that I am, disagreed with the statement as soon as it left her lips. How could she feel sorry for the browbeaters of this world?

Just hear me out, she said. These people who try to damage others by physical hurt or name calling are so unimaginably broken in their own lives that they must project that misery upon the other people, the happy people.

She was right. It is so obvious and I’m sure that deep down we all know why bullies walk among us and how they’ve been created. The truth is we don’t want to admit it because it is so much more satisfying to meet hatred with hatred. Understanding takes work.

One day in the future I or another human I love may feel the oppressive hand of bullying once more. I will want to retaliate. I will want to meet hatred with hatred. I will want to stoop down to that level of name calling and crudeness.

However then I will bring to mind the words of my friend. I will recall the happiness that is experienced everyday in my family. The absolute love we have for each other and the euphoric feeling of togetherness that we share.

In the end, once the initial anger has flit away, all there will be left to do is feel sorry for the unhappy people. And then maybe we can begin to spread joy and understanding to those who need it most.

Partnerships Aren’t Always Pretty

When I was twelve I played badminton. I loved it. I was never a diehard sports fan but when it came to playing badminton with my best friend Janelle, we were unbeatable—of course I mean that in a metaphorical sense. Janelle was the brawns…And well let’s face it, she was the brains too.  I was mostly there to make weird and erratic gestures at our opponents to distract them while ole Nelly smashed the birdie into their court.  What can I say, we had a killer system.

Now maybe it was our genius strategy that made us great, or maybe it was just that we had a perfect partnership. We knew how to work together and we ran with that. Have you ever been the other half of a truly amazing duo? I hope so, it’s a wonderful feeling.

Luckily for me, my badminton days weren’t the last of the great partnerships in my life.

“MOM! You’re the worst!” Sophie yells at me because I will not open up the third bite sized chocolate bar she has requested in the last fifteen minutes.

“Nope, you don’t need anymore!” I say because I can blatantly see the cataclysmic sugar rush she is already coming down off of.

“YOU NEVER LET ME DO ANYTHING!” She screams. I wonder if we will one day have this same conversation but instead it will be about her wearing a skirt that is too short or going out on a date with a dude whose pants are held up by his ankles and cannot form full sentences when he speaks. I’ll have to worry about that later though, for now I send her to her room and she slams the door.

Ten minutes later I hear a CRASH-BOOM-BANG coming from Lars’ room. In all honesty I am not in a huge hurry to discover what has happened because I have simply had my fill of drama for this day. I can already hear the children squabbling.

“Okay guys settle down, what’s the problem?” I ask. It seems that they don’t hear me. “Sophie, aren’t you supposed to be in your bedroom right now?” Again my words manage to be drifting directly over their tiny heads and straight out the window. How curious. “Ahem! Children- listen up.” I raise my voice to a point that is just louder than there caws.

Lars slightly shifts his head towards me, it reminds me of the way a deer does when danger nears. Sophie slowly turns her gaze to meet mine.

“OK listen up guys, I don’t want to hear your screaming and yelling. Sophie you are in your bedroom, Lars you can clean up the mess in the living room that you conveniently forgot about. I don’t have time for this, dinner is burning!” I make sure I’ve made eye contact with both of them for this last part, “No more fighting, it doesn’t solve anything. If you have an issue with each other we will talk it out after dinner.”

I turn to go back to the spaghetti sauce on the stove. Maybe it is the burnt smell of tomatoes or the fact that the kids just wouldn’t listen today, but I break. Tears begin running down my face while I attempt to salvage what I can from the now smoking pot.

I hear the door open. It’s funny how one simple noise can sound so much like salvation.

Being the superb man that my husband is he moves towards me instinctively when realizing I am upset. I begin to tell him the happenings of the day and how I have come to the point of sobbing hopelessly into a heap of scorched spaghetti sauce.

“Man those guys are little jerks, like who are their parents anyways?” He says while making exaggerated and bewildered face. I laugh, because, well it sort of funny, and at the moment it is the only thing left to do. “Now don’t worry, I actually brought home some leftovers from work today and I will go and talk to those little worms.” He is so calm and in that moment I am actually envisioning him as a knight in shining armor. That Jamie, he is always saving me.

I’m not sure what he says to the kids but it must be effective. Moments later they enter the kitchen and both of them begin hugging my legs.

“We love you Mom, sorry we weren’t listening.” They say.

Most often a perfect partnership delves much deeper than what meets the eye. Even though Jamie and I bicker endlessly about the small stuff, disagree on many of the trivial pursuits of life and can quite often be found in headstrong heated debates, this thing we have works. Because in the end, we’ve got each other’s back and that is something I’ll take to the bank any day of the week.

 

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The Never Ending Memoir of a Sleep Deprived Mama

“Jamie will you get up with Lars today?” My words float across our queen sized bed listlessly. For a moment I wonder if I actually have said them or if I was only thinking the sentence in my head. No, I’ve definitely spoken aloud as my husband lets out a groan and rolls over.

The garish nightmare that was my reality only several hours before comes raging back to mind. There I was in middle of the night cursing horrendously under my breath as I cleaned up popcorn smelling vomit. Just reliving this for even a moment makes my stomach curl and throat tighten.

Sophie had fallen asleep fast, this should have been my first clue. However I was more concerned about Lars and his “ear ache”. Do you remember six months ago when our darling son stuck that bead in his ear and had to undergo surgery to get it removed? Well it turns out this incident has caused a few psychological issues in the boy wherein he now is paranoid that random objects continue to get lodged in his eardrum.

It was ten o’clock at night and I was brushing my teeth when I heard the sobbing coming from Lars’ top bunk. There he is fanatically pulling at a very bright red earlobe insisting that there is something stuck in it.

“Well did you put something in there?” I asked.

“No but I think I can feel something!” Now if you need to know one thing about Lars it is that the kid is an awful liar. In the extremely unlikely case that he would shove ANOTHER object in his ear, there is no way he could spin a fib about it. So my next guess was that it was either an ear infection or it was all in his head.

I took him into the bathroom to get a better look and after a half hour of desperately trying to convince him that there was nothing in there I gave him some children’s Advil and sent him back to his room. This seemed as good of temporary solution as any, and as I lay down to go to sleep I reminded myself to check his ear in the morning before school.

It felt like I had closed my eyes for about two minutes when I heard the wailing of another child across the dark hallway. In a moment of selfishness I attempted to yell back to her, “What’s wrong?” The response was not that of any string of legible words but a dire sounding moan that was enough to shoot me out of bed.

“Mama” she said. It was in the liquid sound of her speech that clued me in to what was about to happen.

NOOO— I thought to myself.  I seemed to be slow motion running into her bedroom when I realized at some point in the last twenty seconds I had also grabbed the bathroom’s garbage can. I dove ever so awkwardly towards her to insert the can under her head. It was too late.

Oh how the scent still lingers at the base of my nose hairs. It tiptoes around that part of the brain that associates moments in time with certain aromas, certain stenches. I shall never eat popcorn again, and it saddens me greatly.

“WUGH!” That is the sound of me dry heaving while I cleaned up my daughters yuck. Last year we were wise enough to get our flu shots before the start of the sick season. Therefore the entirety of sickness in our home over last winter involved one bout of croup and a bead in the ear. This year however I dropped the ball and now as I was cleaning up half digested popcorn (why out of all things did I have to feed her popcorn the night before!) I was beginning to feel a sore throat coming on myself.

After I had fixed Soph up and put her to bed I checked the time. 1:30am. I fell asleep fast, but again was woken up by the distinct sound of yakking three more times during the night.

“Babe I need you to get Lars off to school this morning.” I say as I keep one ear open for the sounds of Sophie in the next room. Finally it seems she is sleeping soundly.

“Sure sweetie, everything okay?” I half hear him but am already falling fast into dreamland. I should tell Jamie to check Lars’ ear I think. Instead I allow sleep to take me. Somewhere in the far corner of my brain I know soon, “Mom” will once again be summoned, and so will continue the memoirs of a sleep deprived Mama.

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The Arrival Home

The house was dark and still when Jamie and I rolled our suitcases into the front foyer. As we made our way into the house all of its usual smells sprung to memory and I realized that even after a short week I had begun to miss this place. Or perhaps it was just the thought of the small people who lived here that had my heart skipping a beat.

Daniel, Jamie’s brother, was asleep on the couch. The hallway lights were turned off and I’m positive at that moment I had never felt quiet quite like that. The time was somewhere around eleven o’clock at night as I made my way towards the children’s bedrooms.

After all of these years of parenting, all of the frustrations and meltdowns, I really didn’t think a week long break would be that difficult to endure. And believe me I’m not complaining. You know, the sun, the sea, the amazing quality time that my husband and I got to experience in our seven days of childfree time was very much treasured.

It seemed however that so many of the activities we participated in while visiting the Mayan Rivera would remind us of our little darlings back home. As I snorkeled with sea turtles I could only imagine how elated Sophie would be to meet those massive sea creatures too. Or whenever Jamie and I would stumble over one of the hundreds of iguanas that roamed our resort we couldn’t help but think of Lars and how fascinated he would have been with the small reptiles.

Needless to say our flight home was filled with anticipation. We both couldn’t wait to give those first initial hugs and kisses to our babes after what seemed like a lengthy time apart.

As it sometimes happens we got a bit held up in our arrival back to Canada and found ourselves at home much later than we expected. Despite my efforts of “accidentally” waking the kids up by clumsily dragging the suitcases up the stairs and flicking on every light in the place, that evening they slept right through the night. Go figure.

I decided to unpack the suitcases that night, because well, I’m that kind of a type A human being. As I created a mountainous pile of beach wear that needed washing I wondered how the kids’ time away from us went. If you remember a couple of weeks ago  I had poked fun at the fact that they were so excited for us to leave that they couldn’t help but verbalize it in their honest adolescent way.

A major part of me expected that this is exactly what happened. I was sure they had hardly thought about us or our absence at all and they had had the time of their lives while we were away. But I must admit there was a tiny part of me that hoped we were missed.

The saying “distance makes the heart grow fonder” I’ve come to discover is true in so many different circumstances. Here, I realized how our time away from the kids has made me appreciate their beauty and uniqueness in a way that I think we all as parents can sometimes overlook in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. But I have to wonder if children experience that same kind of logic and reasoning when away from the people they love?

“Daniel?” Sophie called from her bedroom faintly. I rolled over to look at the clock, 6:30am. Jamie’s brother Daniel had tucked her in the night before and she must have forgotten that we were coming home.  I moved eagerly towards her room.

“Good morning my love.” I said.

“Mom?” She asked.

“Yes, sweetie, it’s me.”

“Mama, it’s you!” Tears began to immediately stream down my daughters face as she jumped out of bed and ran towards me. “I missed you so much Mom! I love you.”

I knelt down to hug her; I too was now crying because of this unexpected emotional response from her—the kid who usually is least likely to show this kind of sentiment. She grabbed my neck to pull me close to her, “I really love seeing your face right now Mama.” Lars then joined us from his room and we all moved towards mine and Jamie’s bed for a cuddly family reunion.

I guess it goes to show that distance certainly does makes the heart grow fonder and that is true for any age group.

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Worry “Warting” About Nothing at All

Well, it was finally happening. After years of me yelling in an enraged and demented voice, “I NEED A VACATION!” Jamie and I were doing it.

Jamie’s boss, aka: the most magnificent boss in the world had offered to take us to Mexico. Six months ago when the offer came up I was dumbfounded. I could hardly believe what was being proposed to us—a full week of sun, sand, multi-coloured beverages and relaxing in a way I haven’t even dreamed of since giving birth to my children. Yep, you heard it; this particular vacation was going to be child free.

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In all honesty the days leading up to our departure filled me with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to be sitting poolside in almost nothing but an excessively large wide brimmed hat sipping some kind of tropical beverage–that hopefully had far too much tequila in it–whilst the hubs and I heartily laughed about all the suckers still toiling away in the deep freeze of our Albertan fall.

(turns out fall isn’t that cold this year and I’ve suddenly turned into this old prude when it comes to nude beaches)

Maybe I was going a little too far. In reality as I prepared for Jamie and mines week away I was nearly soiling myself in fear that my darling children wouldn’t be able to cope without me. What if I’ve coddled them so much over these last seven years that anything more than a mere sleepover will send them spiralling down a self destructive path of sucrose overdose and tantrum overthrows? What if they miss me so much that some weird medical incident ensues and they end up becoming completely mute for an undetermined amount of time? What if…I should probably just stop myself now.

Of course I didn’t actually believe any of this would happen (or did I?) Probably not as it was going to be a combined effort from our friends and family members to look after our wee clones. And we felt so very gratified that we had such generous people in our lives willing to watch our most precious little people—while we get drunk on a beach somewhere.

This was the beach...It was FAB!
This was the beach…And it was FAB!

However this still didn’t prevent the constant worry that had pitted itself in the back of my brain. I’m sure that any mother feels like this when taking leave from her babes. I think about how Sophie still sometimes wakes up in the night because she is afraid of the dark. What would happen when she cried out for me and I was nowhere to be found?  Or what about when Lars gets one of his nosebleeds because of the dry weather? Would he keep his calm like Jamie and I have been teaching him? Or because of our non-appearance will he become overly upset? Thus creating a surplus of bloody tidal waves exiting his tiny beautiful nostrils.

There is also their calendar to think about. Luckily they aren’t in any extracurricular activities at the moment, but even their school schedules are quite involved. Will the babysitters be able to handle it all? Probably, once again I was letting my fears whisk me away.

Not to mention I had concocted a detailed ten page synopsis on how to live with the legendary Lars and Sophie. This included their usual routines down to the tiny quirks that I feel were necessary information for the adults who will temporarily be taking the place of Jamie and me.

But was it really enough? Will their hugs be the same as mine while watching that scary Scooby Doo movie? Will their taco Tuesday meal be as gloriously fun-filled as ours usually was? Will they know there is extra toilet paper underneath the bathroom sink?

As I wrote this heartfelt commitment of love about my darling miniatures, Lars sauntered up to me.

“What is your column about this time Mom?” He asks.

“I’m actually writing about when your dad and I go on our trip.” I say tentatively, assuming this will start a torrent of emotion to flow freely out of my oh so sensitive son.

“Cool! You should tell them that I am so excited for you to leave so I can have a sleepover at Uncle Dustin’s!”

His exact face when he told me this. How matter-of-fact of you dear son.
His exact face when he told me this. How matter-of-fact of you, dear boy.

And that was that my friends. Gone are the days of over-romanticizing my title as Mom. Hello beach lounging and tequila shots.

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Removing The Energy From Kids…Or at least trying to.

The kids are bouncing from wall to wall. Their shrieks of merriment are carried easily throughout this otherwise peaceful house. They are currently playing a rambunctious game of hide and seek. Sophie makes her way, rather surreptitiously, into another room to hide but when discovering her ideal spot she continues to giggle explicitly until Lars follows the sound uncovering her location. I’m not sure if this is part of the game or if it is just Sophie’s inability to keep her glee under wraps.

Upon learning her whereabouts, they will both let out an ear piercing screech of surprise and then proceed to run at top speed back to the living room to start the game over again. It looks like fun, but at the moment I’m too exhausted to give it a go.

Yesterday I spent the day at my parent’s house in the garden hilling potatoes. I have the blisters on my palms to prove it. It was hard work but, of course, worth it for that oh so lovely yield that will be soon to follow.

I woke up this morning with the idea that I would tire my babes out today so we could get at least one early night in on these summer holidays. So I decided we’d walk. Enough walking in a day will drain the excess energy from anyone…Right?

We walked down to the lake for our morning swimming lessons. This was a good enough plod in itself not to mention their strenuous half hour lesson fighting against the hammering whitecaps of Sylvan Lake. Well, maybe the conditions weren’t that dire, but the water did look awfully cold.

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Any sane person would feel like this was enough for one day, not me however. I was on a mission and I needed to secure my success. It had been awhile since we had paid a visit to the kids’ granny so I decided we would hike over to her place after lunch. This was an even longer journey than our beach jaunt so I told the kids they could ride their bikes. Now keep in mind this would be our first long ride of the season with Lars on two wheels and Sophie riding her own bike. It was going to be interesting.

We started off on a good note. At least while we were journeying on the bike paths, far away from other human beings and cars and various dangers of that sort it was good. There are three rather long bike/walking paths we take to get about half way to this particular granny’s home. After these paths ran their course however it was nothing but sidewalk—a sidewalk that ran parallel to a very busy street.

Lars is still a bit wobbly on his two wheeler and there was more than one occasion where I was sure that his handlebar was headed straight for the shiny paintjob of a parked car. When there weren’t any parked cars around he seemed to gravitate straight towards the road and the oncoming traffic. Luckily the kid is phenomenal at stopping short when I cry, “LARS HOLD UP!”

Sophie on the other hand was painstakingly laid-back on her bike. Whether it was her seat felt weird on her butt, her handlebars were bugging her or a bird in a tree above us was singing a wondrous princess song and she just had to stop to enjoy the beautiful melody the distractions the girl discovered were plentiful. I actually fear when the day comes that she begins to drive because if her concentration skills while bike riding are any indication of what kind of a driver she will be then anybody on the road in those future days had better watch out!

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Eventually, after a lot of, “HOLD UP LARS!!” and “Hurry up Soph!” we got to Granny’s house and had a wonderful visit.

The way home seemed to actually go smoother since everyone was moving at an acceptable pace. I was sure that the near nine kilometers that we journeyed around town that day would have tuckered the kids out so my anticipation was growing as we neared the house.

However my high hopes have been shattered as it is currently 9 pm and the tiny humans are still at it with the high pitched laughter and hyperactivity. And here I am simply struggling to keep my eyes open and my body from collapsing into a calling bed.

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Moral of this story; children are much too unpredictable to promise yourself a relaxing evening of rest simply over of a few kilometers trekked. Now please excuse me while I fall into a deep and comatose slumber. Until next time friends…

An Enlightened Day at the Beach

We’ve officially participated in our first beach day of the season, and let me tell you, it was fabulous! I cannot begin to explain to you how important these days are in ones mothering career. They go hand in hand with the coffee/play-date, popcorn for dinner and the elusive, “Mom, we are going to play in our rooms quietly so you can get some work done.” These moments may not come often but when they do they are the ultimate blessings in disguise.

I’ve been feeling a great love for my friends recently, not that I don’t always, but as of late I’ve really been appreciating them all. So I decided I would plan a day at the beach where the kids could frolic and splash gaily in the water while we relaxed, watched our babes and conversed over all the weird and wonderful things we do as mothers of small children.

The kids managed to mash up together beautifully. There was no, “I don’t like him!” or, “She’s being a farty butt head…” They all seemed to get on quite, “swimmingly”.  As did the grownups. It is a wonderful thing to be able to sit back and appreciate the coolly self-assured age we all have grown into. Gone are the days of catty remarks behind a fellow friend’s back or simply not being sociable with someone because your current friends don’t approve.  Now, in these mature and confident times we live in, we simply do what we want. Fancy that.

The day was one of the best days I’ve had in a while. There were laughs, snacks and good conversation between like parents. I was just beginning to think that nothing could ruin it when Sophie began walking towards our blanket bow legged with an odd look on her face.

“What are you doing?” I ask her eerily.

“I had an accident.”

Not now. Not here. This had been happening as of recently. For some reason in the last few weeks these “accidents” had been on the rise and it was maddening. The worst part was upon inspection there were no pants involved and the accident in question had smeared in a slapdash mess beneath the flowered sundress she wore.

I lost my cool. I admit it here and now, that the bad mood monkey attached itself to my back and from that point on I was no flower to be around. I grabbed Sophie by her arm and dragged her begrudgingly to the dingy beach bathrooms to clean her up. While we did our business in there I began explaining to her (quite loudly) why she must use the potty every time.

As I sit here writing this I think about my daughter in a few years and wonder what she will think of me writing these kinds of tales about her and Lars for all to read. My finger lingers over the back space button. But then I chalk it up to a little payback and leave it.

It was near the end of my exasperated rant that I realized Carla, one of my newer friends from our play-date group, had made her way in with her daughter to use the washroom. Oh no, I thought, did she hear me yelling at Sophie? This is one of those make or break moments in a new friendship isn’t it? Maybe I’m not as assuredly aged as I had hoped.

We made our way out of the stall and approached Carla and her daughter as they washed their hands. I, perhaps with a sheepish look on my face, moved towards the sink. She gave me a knowing smile.

“Ugh, sorry about that, it’s just so frustrating sometimes.” I said because really, honesty is the best policy in most ill at ease circumstances.

“What?! Don’t be sorry, we’ve all been there! I’ve went through the exact same thing with my kids too. Don’t even think twice about it.”

When regression happens with potty training or any kind of milestone it can make us feel like the worst parents in the world. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, motherhood can be a dangerously lonely game. But it makes it that much easier when we have new and old friends alike to help us through those tough moments. To know there is someone else who understands.

When Soph and I made our way back to the spot where everyone sat on the beach I realized how lucky we were. Surrounded by good friends a beautiful day and contentment. So in the end a mishap made for an enlightened day; and isn’t that all we can ask for as parents?