10:14 AM

P.C. Rant

I believe that society's claim on political correctness is a universal embracing of dishonesty.  While I believe strongly that no indi...
10:53 PM

Tomato Bliss

I am a lover of soup.  Not soup from a can.  Not any minimal effort, just add water, "I've given up on life" affair.   My l...
8:38 PM

"Dat's So Weird!"

Liam:  Ten we dough visit Michael Dackson? Mommy:  No, honey, Michael Jackson died. Liam:  Why? Mommy:  He got sick. Liam:   Is dar...

It's Bwhy!

"Dander... Da nder ... DAAANDERRR!!! " His 6 a.m. voice echoes through our little house, amplified by the baby monitor beside my...
10:53 PM

Fancy A Dip, Skinny?

My sister's have shiny stories of spontaneous bouts of nudity with their intrepid high-school girlfriends.  Tales of impulsive dips in...
10:35 PM

Pizza Hut was her Nineveh

We didn't make the forty-five minute trek north very often.  My family seemed quite content to stay at home on the weekend.  I had my bu...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

P.C. Rant

I believe that society's claim on political correctness is a universal embracing of dishonesty.  While I believe strongly that no individual or demographic should be excluded, defamed or diminished I stand by my own freedom to express myself honestly, with no qualms about how that might make someone feel towards me.  I don't strive to hurt with my words but come on, if they forget the mayo on my Tim Horton's sandwich I'm going to feel gypped.

I will not discuss the Fireperson who saved the baby.  Fireman is like Batman; you lose all the sexy without the man.  Policeman.  Spider-Man.  Mailman.  (What can I say?  I like the over-the-shoulder bags they carry.)

In the second grade my son did a unit on our northern neighbors.  I asked him to tell me five things he'd learned about Eskimos.  He was horrified.  "Mommy, NEVER call them that!"  So, Eskimo is derogatory and I've offended my son.

I don't want to tiptoe around a person's nationality.  Can't we embrace where we came from?  I'm a mutt.  I'm English, German, Irish - who knows what else.  I'm a stew.  I'm Canadian.  Eve was my Great Grandma too and she came from a rib and wasn't even ashamed until that snake came along. What's so offensive about African, Asian, Russian or Anglo-Saxon?  Who are we if we squelch our heritage beneath a tentative Band-Aid of colour?  (Heaven forbid we call him African American when, in actuality, his father was born in Egypt.)

My husband is my husband and though he is my partner for life I will not introduce him to you as my life partner.

I will not tack on my sexuality like a name tag because, though it is a part of who I am, it is not the sum of the whole and I will raise my children to understand God's design for sexuality regardless of the Canadian government or the school board.

He is bald, not hair disadvantaged.  She wears glasses and is not optically challenged.  It's a paper bag, not a processed tree carcass.  It's a pet, not a non-human companion.  It's a butchered chicken, not a voiceless victim of speciesism.  I am a woman, not a human animal.  It's a bouquet of wild flowers, not a botanical soul mate.

If you sneeze I will ask God to bless you.  Go ahead, be offended!

The Urban Dictionary defines political correctness as "the way we have to speak...so we don't offend whining [insert politically incorrect word here]."  I say, get over your whining.  We can speak truth without offense if everybody would just grow up and gain some self-confidence; otherwise, we all need to take a vow of silence - adopting muteness as our creed - so the only offense we can render is an obscene hand gesture.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm Just A Nut-Job On A Bungee Cord

Routine welcomes me like a butt grove in a favorite chair.  I settle at the kitchen breakfast counter with my cinnamon toast, morning coffee and sticky-keyed laptop.  ("No, Zander, you can't be on the computer when you're eating chocolate!")  Exhaustion tugs at my brain, making my head heavy and my eyes ache.  I showered as soon as I got home but I still feel sore and campy and there's dirt beneath my toenails that refuses to wash away.  Four days.  Four days of unwashed youth, bass that vibrates through the grass at my feet - up into my chest - so strong it makes me feel nauseous, soggy mac & cheese and sloppy oatmeal, showers that dribble, toilets that don't flush, girls in pajama pants and boys in skinny jeans.  Four days of dirty feet, dirty showers, soggy bedding and damp denim.  Four days to help my family recognize and appreciate how much Mommy actually does for them.  Four days.  It's a long time.  I wouldn't trade it.

I'm a veteran by now with at least thirteen years under my belt.  It feels cliche to say it, but this may have been the best year yet.  I don't believe that I'm a wonderful spiritual leader, I think, instead, my gifting lies in my ability to connect to the kids on their level.  I am able to leave behind my mommy-grown-up-mind and just be among them and the amazing thing is, they just accept me and include me and I think they actually like me.

I love my role as a mother.  It's what I believe I was made to do but there's something inside me that comes alive when I give some of myself to these kids.  That piece of my high school self that lay dormant, that piece that embraced life and lived for experiences - no matter how trivial - seems to resurrect and take off like some nut-job on a bungee cord.  There's some strange freedom that is born in events like Pitch and Praise that can't be duplicated anywhere else.

I kiss my kids goodbye.  I sit in the front seat of the bus after I do a head count and pray for our journey.  I like the front.  The kids like the back.  I take the drive to shift modes - get my head where it needs to be so I can be fully present when we get there.  I'm a little concerned because Scott's never had all three kids alone for this long.  He is far from being domestic.  He's feeling resentful that I get to go away for a weekend and he has to do the job of two parents.  I say, "Welcome to my life."  I'm thinking it will be really good for him and good for the kids but I'm sad because I had to give a rushed goodbye to Zander when he left for school that morning and Noa was asleep when they dropped me off at the church so she didn't even hear my goodbye.  I read.  The bus stereo is pumping out some KJ52 which seems to be a youth road trip anthem.  The bus turns heads.  The custom flame grill gets people pointing and the pounding bass and squealing kids draw stares.  I'm a chapter away from the end of my book when we stop at McDonalds in Elmira.  "15 minutes," I announce then book it down the street to the Tim Hortons because I'm already feeling tired and need a shot of caffeine to regenerate.  I'm back in ten.  We leave twenty minutes later after a milkshake spill and another head count.

There's cheering as we pull in to the camp.  Tents are erected in record time.  Kids helping each other.  I walk to the main office to get us registered.  I return to a completed site: couches arranged in a circle beneath our large tarp shelter, music pounding out from the sound system we bring every year, patio lanterns and rainbow rope lights flicker, the Canadian flag hangs at the apex.  Rules are announced.  I call each person forward for their name tags which will get them into sessions and meals.

Sessions are amass with screaming youth - hair of every colour under the sun - outfits as strange and wonderful as their array of piercings and footwear.  I feel the music as much as I hear it.  A clock is counting down on the screen.  We pick up the count when it reaches one minute.  In unison the numbers are shouted out to zero when a euphoric cheer erupts and shakes the tent over our heads.  It has begun.

The worship band appears in a fresh burst from the smoke machine.  Girls are already falling in love.  The lead singer is the Edward Cullin that Stephanie Myers really wanted, the bass player is a Jonas brother and the fiddler is a dead ringer for Coldplay's Chris Martin.  They own the stage in their rock star jackets and tight black jeans.  Their energy is contagious.  There is a struggle with the mix but nobody cares.  I decide that fiddles should be mandatory in worship.  I'm clapping and bouncing - bungee cord, remember?  The evening speaker is dynamic and quick-witted and calls everybody "man" and "dude".  He looks like a Baldwin brother with a faux-hawk and stabs each person with his piercing blue eyes, the direct eye contact is unnerving but he makes me laugh until I'm wiping tears.  He paints on stage.  It's fast and amazing.  I want to go home and start painting again.  The tuck shop has onion rings this year.  I'm planning to gain five pounds before I go home.  There's Kareoke, Open Mic, a 70's Cafe, games room, sports tournament, Pitch Has Talent, swimming, Battle of the Bands, a dance club, seminars.  To any kid that complains of boredom I say, "Are you kidding me?"  Morning sessions are led by an acoustic guitar and a youth pastor in a questionable tank top.  The speaker is a 50 year old southern black women who says things like "Holla!" and "Girl!" and "Ohhhhh Lordy!"  There is a moment where the entire congregation sings Queen's We Are The Champions and I think that's amazing.  There's a bombardment of timbits, carafes of coffee that taste like earwax, the bailing out of my tent with a styrofoam cup following the torrential downpour on Saturday, the girl who laughs like Woody Woodpecker, communion together with my small group, an airbrushed tattoo of the Batman symbol because I know my boys will like it, the blue-haired boy who bought his jeans at Ardene and can put on eyeliner better than most girls, too little sleep, grumpy morning people and wanna stay up all night people.

 the Batman tattoo

My favorite moment?  T-shirts are thrown from the main stage to promote the merch tent.  There's a dive for it - like single girls going after a wedding bouquet.  Five guys and a boy about eight.  The little boy gets knocked around and one of our youth wins the fight over the shirt.  The boy goes back to his mother, crying, hurt and disappointed.  He sits in his chair, tears on his cheek, arms crossed, shoulders shaking.  When our guys realize he's hurt they take the t-shirt and give it to the little boy.  He refuses to look at them, taking the shirt without raising his eyes, his mother saying thank you for him.  The shake of his shoulders stills.  He unfolds the shirt carefully, checking out his prize, tracing the design with a finger.  A small smile starts to spread across his face.  He hugs his mother.  And I'm fighting back tears like a blubbering idiot and am so ridiculously proud of our guys that I want to hug them - and I'm not a hugger - for giving up the shirt they got grass-stains on their own by fighting over.

I'm happy to be home.  My kids survived without me.  Scott survived.  He even did the dishes.  I feel affirmed in my choice to volunteer with the youth.  Through a seminar I attended on tapping into creativity I feel affirmed in my desire to write.  I also feel like I could sleep for the next two days but my kids were yelling for cereal at ten after seven this morning.  C'est la vie!  And I wouldn't change it.

sleepy me the morning after

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tomato Bliss

I am a lover of soup.  Not soup from a can.  Not any minimal effort, just add water, "I've given up on life" affair.  My little pantry may be stalked with cans of mushroom and tomato and vegetable with the little alphabet noodles and the carrots that squish like a sponge but that doesn't mean I like it - I'm just ready to survive on Campbells if another tornado slams off our power.

There are two kinds of soup:

  1. This is what was set before me by my childhood babysitter in her sagging house that smelled of cats: either tomato with a skin (eat your heart out George Costanza) or mushroom with unstirred chunks that tasted a little like the phlegm in the back of my throat when I was sick. With enough saltines a child can choke down just about anything but come on Mrs. Newell, there's a right way and a wrong way.  
  2. This is what my mother serves for a Sunday lunch or holiday brunch or brings by my house when I'm sick with some mushroom soupy phlegm plague that has me bedridden and wanting to be taken care of.
My mother makes amazing soup.  I do not.  Hers are thick and hearty.  Mine are not.  Hers make things like chickpeas and zucchini taste good.  Mine do not.   I really, really, really want to make soup like my mom.  I can't figure out what I'm missing.  Is it my pot?  Is it a special flick of the wrist or dice of the knife?  Broth soups.  Noodle soups.  Vegetable soups.  Nope.  Can't do it.

My mother has blessed me with the gift of an idiot-proof recipe for Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup.  Out of the hundreds of soup recipes it is the one that I can follow and produce something that feels like home.  It is my fail-safe.  It's thick and chunky.  Pretty, even.

For all you soup-dumb soup lovers out there, I give you - drum roll, if you please -  my mother's tomato soup:

from the kitchen of: MOM

1 tsp chopped onion (I use more than that - like 1/4 c)
2 tbsp butter (never said it was calorie-wise)
3 tbsp flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 c canned tomato
2 c cold whole milk

Saute onion in butter until transparent.
Stir in dry ingredients.
Cook until smooth and bubbly.
Remove from heat.
Stir in tomatoes.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly and boil 1 minute.
Add cold milk.
Heat rapidly, stirring constantly - do not boil.
Serves 3-4

It's even written in her hand on a cute little card with pictures of herbs along the bottom.

Link to this pageI eat it with garlic croutons and parmesan cheese and a big spoon.  It's good every time.

I may not have the artistic touch that makes chickpeas and zucchini taste like a little piece of heaven but I have this and that's enough.

Besides, my mom lives like 5 minutes from me and she always has enough to share.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm No Spinner But I Like The Sound It Makes

It clicks and whirs.  It whines and squeaks.  The hard, moulded plastic seat makes my tailbone hurt.  We bought it for $45 in 1999.  It sat in the porch of our first apartment for a year.  It moved with us to the house by Lake Eugenia, sitting unused by the piano while I got fat on crackers, cheese and Judge Judy.  It wasn't until I had a baby and was relocated to my parent's basement that we became "friends".  Turns out having a baby is hard on your body.  I had constant back aches.  My wise physiotherapist mom said a little exercise might help.

The bike was set up in the barn where stone walls sweat and rabbit cages hung empty and musty.  I would venture down when Zander napped, equipped with water bottle and a firm determination to be skinny and back-pain-less.  My little CD player would bounce The Elms off the walls and I would power through, panting, wheezing and sweating in an ugly blue tank top and grey cut-off sweatpants.  It hurt.  It worked.  My back pain stopped.

Eight years later.  It lives in the kitchen now.  I try to make it a priority - especially when my jeans feel a little tighter than they did the week before.  At least three times a week.  It's still horrible.  The odometer crawls along that long path to a completed 10 kilometer ride.  10 kilometers because it's a nice even number and because it's long enough to make me feel like it's too long so I figure it's got to be long enough to do some good.  I usually watch television, turned up way too loud to hear over the bumps and clicks. Or, if Scott's watching a basketball game or something equally as boring, I'll prop a book on the handlebars and get in twenty minutes of reading.  

Kilometers 7 and 8 are the hardest.  I'm tired by 7 and I'm thinking it would be okay to stop - no one's keeping track except me anyway.  By 8 my thighs are burning and I'm breathing a little heavy but when I pass 9 I know there's only 1 left and anyone can bike 1 kilometer, right?

I doubt I'll ever join a gym.  I'm no spinner.  The idea of being in a room full of sweaty men in wife-beaters and svelte women in spandex terrifies me.  So, I will limit my exercise experience to a stationary bike sprint in front of the kitchen window and the endless sport of chasing after my three kids who, when distracted from their video games, can really move.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

With A Feather In His Hair

"Is it powdy time yet?  Is it powdy time yet?"  This has been the rhetoric of the week.  Powdy is Liam's three-year-old pronunciation of party.
"On Saturday, Liam, as long as the weather is good."  And we added "please bring the sunshine on Saturday" to bedtime prayers because the world would surely end if Saturday brought rain.

The excitement was born on last week's declaration: Liam, if you can wear underwear for a whole week we will have a Pull Up Burning Party [bon fire, feathers in our hair, dancing around said fire and, you guessed it, the burning of the cursed Pull Up who's retirement is LONG overdue].

Saturday dawned cold and dreary.  Heavy grey clouds hung oppressively.  The only sunshine came from Liam who bounced down the stairs with his proudly booming announcement projecting through the house, "My underwear is Bwhy!!!!!"

I warned Liam that it might rain.  He said, "It won't wayne."  I told him that we might have to do it another night.  He said, "No we won't."  I was skeptical.  He didn't have an ounce of doubt in him.  He glanced out the window and shrugged, strong in his convictions.  "It won't wayne."

And it didn't.  By 3:00 the sun was peaking through those heavy clouds and by 5:00, as we left for the fire pit, there were blue skies and it was almost warm.  Four poles hung with Pull Ups stood as beacons for our event.   We played.  Baseball.  Swing.  Bubbles.  Trampoline.  Falling off swing.  Dandelion picking and seed blowing. A lesson in the art of summersaults.  Headbands holding feathers in our hair. Liam chasing a ball and falling - "Owie, my butt-hawks!"  Liam trying to straddle a post - "Owie, my penis!"  (Apparently things are a little more sensitive without the protective layer of diaper.)  Dinner consisted of hot dogs roasted over a fire that was too hot to do anything but burn them, ham and cheese biscuits toasted on wires that bent into the ashes and s'mores, melty, gooey, ashy s'mores.  Perfection.

When it came time for The Burning, Liam needed no encouragement.  He ran from post to post, freeing the offensive big boy nappies, throwing them on the fire in a flourish too fast for my camera to capture.  I did a politically incorrect dance around the fire in celebration.  No one joined me.  I tried to start a "One, Two, Three, Four...Burn the Pull Ups to the floor!"  No one joined me.  I clapped and cheered.  They all laughed at me.  I didn't care.  It was worth celebrating.

Good job, Liam.  I'm proud of you!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Dat's So Weird!"

Liam:  Ten we dough visit Michael Dackson?
Mommy:  No, honey, Michael Jackson died.
Liam:  Why?
Mommy:  He got sick.
Liam:  Is dare anudder one?
Mommy:  Another what, Liam?
Liam:  Anudder Michael Dackson?
Mommy:  No, but he was a daddy.  He had three kids.
Liam: Where are dey?
Mommy: At their house.
Liam: Who are dey?
Mommy:  Hmmm...I think one of them is called Prince and one of them is called Blanket.
Liam: What?  O-tay, dat is so weird!  What's da udder one's name?
Mommy: I don't remember.
Liam (finger in the air in an I've Got It moment): I know... I tink it's Pillow!

R.I.P. You Piece of.....Scrap

When we first bought it we loved it.  It had slick lines.  It smelled new even though it had something like 80,000 km.  It was fast with reliable cruise control.  It was reasonably good on gas.  It was the kind of car that you felt good-looking in.

Oh, how far we've come.  It has seen two babies home from the hospital.  It has witnessed innumerable back seat fights.  It has been the subject of Eye Spy and the arena for Who Am I?, Paddidle or the Rusnak invented travel points game (involving Canada flags, water towers, McDonalds, churches and graveyards). It has hosted many nights at the Hanover Drive-In amid piles of blankets and spills of popcorn and chips and drinking boxes.  It has heard giggles at the car wash and it has plugged the vacuum with it's excess of stale donut pieces and hardened french fries.  It has witnessed the cacophony choir of Mommy and Daddy singing with the radio while Zander turns up his DSi volume with Liam spouting off quotes from Toy Story and Noa tossing about a "La La La," trying to keep up with it all.  Oil changes.  Spark plugs.  Brakes.  Transmission.  Thousands of dollars in gas.

A piece of the wiper mechanism has come loose and bangs against the windshield.  The fan control buttons have snapped off.  The gearshift light that shows the P R N D down the left hand side has blown.  There is an incessant clicking coming from somewhere in the front console - it sounds like the blinker but it isn't.  A cancerous rust has been slowly eating through the paint job.  At least two speakers are blown.  The passenger side mirror is missing.  The driver side automatic window is finicky and sometimes doesn't work at all.  The cup holders are sludgy from too many Tim Horton's coffee's.  The horn doesn't work no matter how hard you push on the button.  The high beams are as bright as the low beams.  A super-size porcupine met it's untimely demise beneath our front end which is now a mess of smashed bumper and plastic and dented radiator sporting tell-tell quills that scream, "THIS CAR IS A MURDERER!"  There is a dent on the front driver side fender from being hit by a deer - that's right, it ran into us, we were stopped.  It is the ugliest car in the WalMart parking lot even when we're parked beside an old station wagon.

I no longer feel good-looking when I drive it.  I hide behind big sunglasses and pretend I don't see the raised eyebrows when people pass.

The insurance adjuster called this morning.  We had dropped it off at the auto body shop, planning to have the front end repaired.  He said it wasn't worth fixing.  They can't justify the cost.  They're writing it off.  Scott's stressing.  He's going to try and fight it.  I'm thinking maybe it's a blessing.  I'm thinking it may be time to usher in the age of the Mini Van.  I'm also thinking that maybe we should dump insurance and buy a horse instead.

Rest in peace 2002 Grand Am of blue-green rusty sheen.  For six years you have cradled those I love most with stained seats and sticky seat belts along these busy streets of our life.  I was sure we would drive you until your tires fell off or you blew up (which I expected every time we zoomed along a 400 series highway and you started to vibrate), but your ticking tourettes and near 300,000 kilometers have beaten you.  Farewell, my friend.  And good riddance.  May your successor be everything you weren't.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Boat With Your Dinner? {The Dummies Guide To Celery Boats}

Dummies Guide To Celery Boats

"I don't want my peas!"
"I don't like beans!"
"This cauliflower smells like feet!"
"I want dessert!"
"Can I be done?"

Sometimes I have to get creative.  I've learned that adding apple sauce makes everything edible - even carrots.  (When it's home made and sugar free I don't see the harm.)  Sometimes just drawing a happy face with a bead of ketchup helps the potatoes find their way to a mouth.  There's always the threat of no dessert but that only goes so far.  They learn quickly to negotiate or, "well, what's for dessert anyway? (Because if it's not awesome, I don't even care!)"

Tonight was Mommy's Diner Night.  Chicken fingers and fries. This happens on a night that daddy is away.  Usually it is served with sliced apples.  Tonight I crafted celery sailboats.  You've seen them before, I'm sure, but I thought they were adorable enough to document.

The Dummies Guide to Celery Boats:

Dummies Guide To Celery Boats

1. Wash and cut fresh celery
{*Mommy tip: peel celery - it makes it taste sweeter and minimizes the stringy bites that turn some kids off}

2. Fill with Cheez Whiz or Peanut Butter (both valid food groups in our home)

3. Add raisins as little sailors
4. Secure cucumber sails with toothpicks
5. Enjoy watching your kids devour their veggies and beg for more while ignoring their french fries.

celery boats

Link to this page

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's Bwhy!

"Dander...Dander...DAAANDERRR!!!" His 6 a.m. voice echoes through our little house, amplified by the baby monitor beside my ear which I don't even need because I feel a warm one-year-old body stirring beside me in the bed...I wonder when she got there?  Or how?  I don't remember getting her.
Zander is righteously annoyed, engrossed in a Pokemon world that I don't even attempt to understand.  "What?" Like a growl.
"Dander - my underwear is BWHY!!!!!" and he's giddy over it.
Zander offers a half-hearted, "Good job," without missing a beat in his video game.
I can hear Liam's feet pad along the floor, approaching my room.  He's talking to himself.  "I have to tell mommy.  Mommy will be happy.  I have to tell mommy..."  I smile into my pillow and wait for him.
He enters my room.  "Mommy...Mommy...MOOOMEEEEEEE!!!"
I squint through one eye and wrangle up my best so happy to see you even though it's six o'clock and the sun is barely up and I'm tired and I'd just like to sleep for another three hours please smile.  "Morning, Liam."
"Mommy!!!" He can hardly contain it.  He's bouncing beside my bed.  "Mommy...my underwear is BWHY!!!!!!"  Pride is practically pouring off him.
"Great job, Liam.  That's amazing!" and I offer my hand, palm exposed for a high-five.
He slaps with vigor and a jump and it stings.
"You should go potty right away, Liam.  You probably have to go, right?"
"O-tay!" And he races off to the bathroom where there's a great shuffle and bang as he dances out of his Bob the Builder pajamas and climbs onto the toilet.  This in itself is a feat.  There's no simple settling of the bum on the seat.  No, with Liam there is the perfect arranging of the Sesame Street potty seat, the hoist up so he's standing on his seat, the placement of both feet on either side of that potty chasm, the trepidatious turn and the lowering of himself to a comfortable sitting position - all before the tiles are blessed with a piddle puddle.  It's practically an art.  He's a potty ballerina.
"Are you done, Liam?"
"No, I'm still peeing...it won't stop...it just teeps tuming."
"Good job, Liam!  Dry pants all day, okay?"
"O-tay!  I'm done!"
"Wash your hands."
"Waaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyy???????"  Pathetic fake pout and ugly scowl.  What a treasure he is!

Potty-training is the bane of my existence.  If there was any facet of parenthood that I would gladly relinquish this would be it.  It is tear-my-hair-out frustrating.  He is two months shy of turning four and four months shy of starting school.  Something had to give.

We were in the car on the way home from Great Grandma's 88th birthday party when I announced that beginning next week I was going to make him wear underwear because enough was enough and he was going to have to deal with the mess or stop being so lazy.  I told him that if he starts school wearing a Pull Up he would always be the diaper baby - even into high school.  He thought that was funny.  I told him they wouldn't let him go to school if he wouldn't use the potty.  He said, "I don't want to go to tool!"  I told him if he could wear underwear for a whole week and do his very best and try very hard we would have a Pull Up Burning Party and we'd build a big fire and wear feathers in our hair and dance and chant and throw pullups on the fire in some significant Leave the Baby Behind and I'm a Big Kid Now ceremony.  "O-tay!!!"

The next morning he came downstairs proudly sporting his Buzz Lightyear underwear.  "Look, Dander, I'm wearing underwear!"
I wasn't feeling overly confident.  We were going to church.  I was imagining scrubbing puddles from the foyer carpet.  "I'm gonna teep it bwhy all day!"  How could I discourage him now that he was actually excited about trying?
So we left him in the pre-school class, letting the volunteers know this was his first underwear day and he was fine.  He went on his own.  No problems.   We went to my sisters for lunch.  He went on his own.  No problems.  Just a "Mooomeeeee, wipe my bum!" Happy Mother's Day to me!

He insisted on underwear to bed.  I insisted on plastic under his sheets.  He said it sounded funny.  I said it was better than a wet mattress that smelled like pee.  He got up in the night on his own.  He almost made it too.  The floor in the hallway is really clean now.  I'm not asking for perfection - just an honest effort and I think we're on our way.  He didn't let his accident discourage him and last night he made it through.  "Mommy...my underwear is BWHY!!!!!!"

Tomorrow I'm off to buy feathers for the big burn.  You should come - it's going to be off the hook!  (Yeah, I didn't think I could pull that off either - let's just say, it'll be fun!)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lock The Door (Story-Telling 101)

Step 1: Set the stage...
Friday morning.  Sun leaks through frosted glass, feeling warm against ceramic, casting wild, morning hair shadows on mocha-mauve walls.

Step 2: Introduce Protagonist...
She pulls the door closed but doesn't let it latch on the very likely chance that one of the kids will need her in the six minutes she allows herself to shower.  Her sleepy bare foot shuffle skews the bath mat as she pulls back the white waffle curtain to turn on the water.  A yawn, audible and ugly, stretches muscles that lay slack for the last seven hours.  She holds her hand beneath the running tap, testing the temperature, wondering what it would be like to have time for a manicure.  She hangs her robe on the hook but it falls into a puddle of fabric on the floor - it's not a very good hook.  She steps into the tub, moving aside the Spider Man action figure that's upside down in the drain - victim of some terrible torture the night before (though he seems none the worse for wear).  She sighs beneath the strong stream of water, so hot it steams the windows in the next room.

Step 3: Introduce Villain...
His sock feet make no sound against the tiles and he coaxes the door open with no protest.  His glasses fog but he quickly wipes them clear.  The heavy hum of the ceiling fan drowns the sound of his stealthy approach and the bip bip bip of his cell phone buttons as he brings up the built-in camera.  He's laughing through his nose.

Step 4: Insert Conflict...
She's mid lather when the curtain shakes.  A shadow moves.  She keeps her eyes open.  An arm sneaks around the end of the curtain, cell phone poised.  The click comes in the middle of her karate-esque kick and scream.  The hand is withdrawn followed by a disappointed, "Ahhh, it's blurry!"  She's on the look-out now, a wet slap when the lens appears over the top.

Step 5:  Resolve with a crowd-pleasing conclusion...
His attempts are futile.  She's fast as lightening.  Five wasted clicks.  He's preparing for the sixth.  She cups her hands beneath the stream, her makeshift bucket filled to overflowing.  The curtain shakes.  She tosses... "HON!!!!!"  Bulls eye!  He's wet.  His phone is wet.  Every picture is blurry.  She wins.  There's water on the floor and the walls and the ceiling.  She doesn't care.  It was worth it.  He pouts.

Step 6: And the moral of the story is...
Next time, she'll lock the bathroom door.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Amy Adams Made Me Do It

You'll never catch me cooking dinner in pearls.  I rarely wear an apron - though I own a couple of adorable pieces I found at various thrift shops.  I will never attempt to bone a duck and I can't bring myself to boil a live lobster.  He refused to watch the movie deeming it stupid and "I can't believe they would make a movie about that."  I found the trailer appealing (though I kept that to myself to avoid the inevitable eye roll).  Woman is a little lost.  She decides to cook her way through Julia Child's french cook book.  Woman finds herself.  I watched Julie & Julia while he was at work.

First of all, Amy Adams is adorable.  Secondly, her journey through 524 recipes is riddled with culinary wit - yes, adventure does exists within the tiny world of a city apartment.  Thirdly, her daily blog of said culinary venture lands her a book deal.  Yup, I'm sold!

For a few years various people have been pushing me to blog - apparently they think there's something within this dusty head of mine worth spilling into this wonderful world called web.  I made excuses of time.  I made excuses of "I would have nothing to say."  I made excuses of "maybe in some other season of my life."  All lame.

I've discovered that there is value in sharing our stories.  There is interest in what to us is simply life.  There is community built and friendship strengthened.  There is beauty in the simplest triviality.  And there is a deep satisfaction in capturing a moment and hitting that orange [PUBLISH POST] button and waiting with bated breath to see if anyone has anything to say about what we've poured out - which, no matter how mundane, is surely a piece of our heart laid bare.

I'm not jumping into this with some grand delusion of autheric fame (yeah, I made that word up) but oh, to be published!  And I kind of am now, aren't I?  I mean, you're reading it - so that's something!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Fancy A Dip, Skinny?

My sister's have shiny stories of spontaneous bouts of nudity with their intrepid high-school girlfriends.  Tales of impulsive dips in Marl Lake or the freshly filled baptismal tank - yes, you read that right and no, I won't tell you which sister.  Or the story of the ditching of last class to go to the beach which somehow became a high-pitched, squealing 'bras only' affair.  And I am jealous.  Ridiculous, I know, but I feel like somehow I've missed an important piece of growing up by not experiencing this abandonment of all inhibitions, this thoughtless desertion of modesty.  JEALOUS spelled E-N-V-I-O-U-S!

It took me 29 years.
We had twenty-four hours without kids.  (In the parenting world that's like liquid gold.)  We attended a beautiful wedding on the beach.  I wore a dress cut down to there and he was appreciative (in a lustful, voulez-vous coucher avec moi? sort of way) and very generous with his compliments.  (It's criminal but I think it gets forgotten that beneath all this mom is a woman who's dying to be told that she's beautiful.)  The reception was beneath an open-sided tent, paths through the yard lit by tea lights in mason jars, twinkle lights in trees, tables at which to sample delicate hors d'oeuvres made with cucumbers and creamed cheese, jazz, reunions with people we hadn't seen in years, laughter over wine glasses - it didn't matter that mine only held water - I laughed as much as the rest of them.  We stayed until the end.

It was nearing 2 am when we pulled into our driveway.  The air was heavy with humidity.  We still had eight hours left.  "Let's go swimming!"
He laughed at first then realized I was serious.
Ten minutes later we were stumbling across the bridge at the middle dam.  It was a very dark night.  The water was black.  The silence was heavy, broken by our giggles as we abandoned shoes and towels and t-shirts on the lonely picnic table to venture into the river which can only be described as FREEZING!  It took our breath away.  We started in slowly, clinging to each others hands, doing a strange little hop against the cold until we decided to just go for it and we dove beneath the smooth surface and raced to the dock bobbing gently a little ways out.
Suits were abandoned on it's slimy surface - and immediately it was there - this freedom born in the Eden of the Saugeen River in the dead of the night in the heart of the summer.  Freedom in the minnow-infested cold water as it engulfed my goose bumps, unhindered by any garment.  Freedom spelled N-A-K-E-D.  

It took me 29 years.
I didn't get to do it with giggling girlfriends but he was tittering almost as much as a girl so I think it counts.  Stick me in your club, dear sisters, I finally understand all the hype.

And the best moment?  His skinny little bottom catching the moonlight as he ran up the beach to grab his towel.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Pardon Me, Your Sudoku is Showing

There's something ridiculously satisfying about fitting the last number into a diabolical puzzle grid, as if that accomplishment has significant effect on the state of the world.  I like the stretch it exercises on my brain.  I like how it reduces stress to a simple combination of the numbers 1 through 9.  I like how the dollar store shelves stock the books in a seemingly endless supply.

It's become routine.  Put magic blanket in microwave.  Brush teeth.  Wash face.  Arrange magic blanket against mountain of pillows so it hits my lower back.  Turn on a sitcom or an old C.S.I.  Do a sudoku (or three).

Somehow I can channel any stress from the day through my pen, into the numbers and onto that grid, readying myself for a good night's sleep.

Scott will poke his head in the bedroom door and roll his eyes - what good's a wife in bed if she's got her nose buried in a puzzle? - so he'll sneak outside for one last cigarette, trying not to disturb our nocturnal odoriferous pet (read: skunk) that lives under the studio.  And he'll savour the cancer he's habitually breathing into his lungs, trying to time his re-entry for the moment I'm replacing my pen in the spiral binding because, surely, without the distraction of a silly puzzle, I will be ready to properly bid him bonne nuit.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pizza Hut was her Nineveh

We didn't make the forty-five minute trek north very often.  My family seemed quite content to stay at home on the weekend.  I had my butt-grove claim on my favorite chair and squandered many a Saturday on a good book and little else.  In retrospect I understand my mother's frustration.  She tried so hard to impart her wisdom.  Tips in the kitchen.  Tips in the garden.  And I would just nod and turn another page - not hearing a word - not caring because I wouldn't need any of that in the "real world".  Like algebra.  Or gym class.  Turns out you do need it.  I am forever calling my mother with tedious questions like, "do I cook the turkey with the lid on?" which I have to ask her every time I stick a bird in the oven.  (What a fowl mess I'd be in without her.) And I used algebra last week - sorry Mr. Smith...you were right, I was wrong.

When my mother proposed a rare trip to Owen Sound I was all over it.  I don't remember the purpose of our journey.  We only went that way for shopping - either back to school or Christmas - so it was one of the two.  And I must have been young because Owen Sound still held some spark of magic (birthed in the A&W with the sunken dining room and the 360º fireplace and the kids meals in wicker baskets and the suckers that tasted like root beer).  

So we had our day of shopping at the mall and the little bread shop hidden down an ally, in a basement,  that mom always stopped at on any trip to the big O.S.  Good bread, apparently.  I only remember the stacks of red plastic skids piled beside the door and the flour on the floor.  We always left our footprints behind.

My sister's and I voted for pizza.  Mom consented.  We went to the Hut.  We ordered.  And we waited.  And we waited.

And we waited.

They had lost our order.  I don't know why it took them so long to figure that out but it was FOREVER. I can remember giggling with my sisters, thinking it was a great joke, while mom steadily grew more and more frustrated.  When they finally re-took our orders there was nothing offered in the way of apology.  Not so much as a free Coke.  Mom was disgusted.  We kept giggling, our snickers a little more greasy now that we had the long awaited pizza in our mouths.

Mom was gracious as she paid the bill.  I wrote a witty little note on the receipt and left it for the waiter.  Something about forgiving them their trespasses.  As we got in the car with our left-overs mom declared firmly, "I am NEVER coming here again!"

>> Fast forward about sixteen years >>

We're in Owen Sound again - no longer the sparkly experience it once was but it had a Home Depot and we needed a bathtub.  My parents came with us since it was going to be my dad installing it and he knew what we needed to look for.

Bathtub purchased.  Dinner time.  The kids want pizza.  Mom didn't say a word beyond, "lead the way." 
We order.  Our drinks and salad arrive quickly, immediately followed by our pizza's.  And mom's amazed.  "That's an improvement!"  And we have a laugh remembering that night so long ago when she swore, never again.

Pizza Hut was her Nineveh.  Pizza loving grandchildren were the whale that spit her up and got her in the door.  Picking up the check for all of us was her letting go of a silly bitterness she had harbored for so many years.  And she may not admit it but I think she even enjoyed it a little bit.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Youth Group Hang Over

I woke to a throat on fire, a throbbing headache, sore legs and kids giggling that mommy lost her voice - I hadn't, I was just dialing a little more bass than usual and struggling to understand the logic of my dear, sweet children who insist on getting up at 7 am on a Saturday.

It was midnight when I arrived home - just shy of turning into a pumpkin, I'm sure.  Exhausted.  Exhilarated.  Happy for clean sheets on a cool bed (thank you Purex 3 in 1).

There are nights when I struggle with the commitment I've made.  Am I actually making a difference?  Am I changing lives?  Am I worthy of the title of role model or mentor?  I am not spiritually superior.  I am not some radical Jesus preaching prophet with powers to part the sea...And then, just by their receiving of me I am reminded that it's not about right answers.  It's not about knowing all the right scriptures.  It's not about knowing who that new break-out Christian artist is.  It's about relationship.  It's about connecting on their level - not by text messaging (I still pride myself on the fact that I have never owned a cell phone!) or facebook or twitter (whatever that is) but as real live face-to-face people having real live face-to-face conversations about life, school, parents, boyfriends, girlfriends, hurt, joy, whatever.

Eight years ago in a conversation with my old youth pastor, with no prior consideration and no idea beyond divine intervention as to what made the following words spill from my mouth in some thoughtless verbal vomit I said, "I'd like to help with senior youth."


And he was all over it.  Two weeks later I was leading a grade nine small group of fifteen kids.  I went home that night and cried - completely overwhelmed and terrified of what my big mouth had gotten me into.

I don't want to fool anyone by saying it's gotten easier because it hasn't.  I am constantly forced out of my comfort zone.  I am forever pushing myself to meet new people, initiate conversation, include outsiders - all things that my normal personality doesn't naturally accommodate.  I am a happy home-body and would be very comfortable to stay home on a Friday night with a good book, bubble bath, cup of tea and a Harry Connick Jr. CD.

Early to bed, early to rise...is there really reward in that?  Late to bed, early to rise...this is true sacrifice.  I believe I am a better person because of it.  By offering five hours out of my week I am building into lives of kids in ways I have no way of knowing and you know what?...they're blessing the socks off of me!
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