Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Check Out My Article at YummyMummyClub.ca!

Wow!  I’m really honoured that my article,  Get Those Kids to Pitch In , is being featured at the Bring Back the Break hub at YummyMummyClub.ca.  It’s filled with quick, easy, and big-brood-Mom-tested ways to get your kids to help with housework.  There are a lot of other awesome articles posted there as well, like how to take better digital pictures, time management advice from an organization whiz, and tips on grammar for blogging Moms (hmm…better check that last one out!)

Take a few minutes and mosey on over!

Stollen Angst

Every Christmas I make Stollen, German Christmas bread with fruit and nuts. And every year I experience a near panic about whether it will turn out. This year I decided to try to a new recipe from my very fancy, award winning bread book.  However, because it is a high-brow culinary recipe, the bread is quite dense, which is what good bread should be.   But, being just a plain old housewife, sometimes I just want an over-abundance of yeasty, bubbly, big bread that rises up and spills over the side of the pan, and domes the plastic wrap. Why?  Because it it looks better. You see where the angst comes in.  Or, I suppose I should say I’m a plain old Hausfrau.  Though, part of this year’s angst comes from the fact I couldn’t cut the bag of icing sugar open properly because I didn’t have any sharp scissors.   (I covered the counter – and my cell phone – in it.)  This automatically precludes me from being a proper Hausfrau, as I believe sharp scissors are imperative in the kitchen for cutting off the beak of any Grimm-esque talking birds which have found their way into your house.  Or Grimm-istch.  Whatever.

I know my tag line says “residually cynical,” but I also would describe myself as “residually German,” since the last ancestor of mine from any Heimat left for citizenship in the Commomwealth 80 plus years ago. Yet as Canadian as I act the rest of the year, for some reason I resurrect all these weird Teutonnic food fetishes at Christmas. Hence, the Stollen angst. Or maybe Stollenangst would be the term, to go with my Mutterschuldfreude (mother guilt joy).  Then there’s the Pfeffernüsse cookies.  These can best be described as round little balls of playdough that have been sweetened and spiced with ginger, and then left out on the counter to almost dry.  Then someone coats them in a white glaze, and maybe dips them in chocolate.  I’m eating one right now, and it’s freaking awesome.  Who cares that I got them from the drugstore when I was searching for extra bows.  ( I didn’t find any.)

Stollen to me, and Pfeffernüsse, and Lebkuchen (spice cookies — yes, there are more) for that matter, aren’t just Christmas treats.  They’re un-remembered memories.  Memories of people who came before me, the ancestors who farmed the hamlets of Burkovina, who toiled in the coal mines of Silesia, who nursed sick infants across the Atlantic in steamer ships, who bore the first child in a sod hut all alone in the dark days of November.   These are the people I don’t know, who never left any records, or diaries, or blogs, other than their descendants.  They are who I am trying to remember.  So this food takes on a greater meaning then how much the bread rose, or if I used the proper spice mix.  It’s the only way I know of connecting to those that came before me, and who sacrificed so that I could enjoy the life I have now, and in turn pass it along to my children.  And it is also an act of hope, that someday, somewhere, an angst filled mother will be debating whether to force rise her Christmas bread.  Someone will able to do that, because I was here doing this right now.  And that woman will be doing it, as an act of trying to remember me.

Something Found for Christmas

One of the many nice things about having kids hanging about at Christmas, is that they act like purifiers against the vapours of jadedness lingering around us adults. Take Tall Girl, for example. I took her out to a pancake house – just her and me – for a celebratory lunch. She ordered something called the “Cinnamon Stackers,” four pancakes “stacked” with cream cheese icing on top. She then criss-crossed four types of syrup back and forth. Finally, she dug in.

“Is that any good?” I asked, worried that she regretted her meal. That’s a whole lot of sugar, I thought. She stopped, looked me in the eye, and with a smile starting to to play at the corner of her mouth, answered:

“This is the most delicious thing ever!”

So with Christmas Eve upon us, I find I don’t have a lot of time for radio stations that want to play Post-Ironic Bobby and the Atheist Trio Re-interpret Christmas marathons. I’d rather hear a choir sing Alleluia.

Before I forget, this is the correct way to eat a gingerbread house.

Around here, we’re too busy to be bored with the holiday. Too busy checking out where Santa is the NORAD website.

Too busy writing letters.

To busy catching up on our baking.

As my tag line reads, I consider myself residually cynical. I find a weird solace smirking along to Leonard Cohen as he sings “Everybody Knows.” I look at my kids and their unbridled joy, and I know it can’t last. One day they’ll know what I do about what’s real, and they’ll smirk, too.

Or maybe they’re the ones that know what’s real, and I’m the one that’s forgotten.

Have a very blessed and Merry Christmas everyone!

It’s the Week Before Christmas…

…and all through this house, I am running at full speed to get ready for the holiday.  But with a joyful heart.  Bring it on!

However, that doesn’t leave much time for blogging, but I hope to post a few more times before Sunday.  In the meantime, I’ve learnt a few things in the last few days that I would like to share.

Stuff I’ve Just Learnt (or Re-learnt)

People Are Awesome

I was at the Opening Day Sale at a new Safeway by our house with four (yes,1-2-3-4) kids age 6 and under, because I just positively, had to get their One Day Only 2/$5 butter (and yes, that is the cheapest you will ever see butter around here.)  The kids were very good, and I cheerfully settled in for the 30 minute wait to check out.   Then the lady in front on me insisted that I go ahead of her.  She said that I didn’t know how long I had before my mini-powder kegs went off.  What a terrific person!  I truly hope she has the merriest Christmas ever.  It also reminded me to pay it forward.  When the kids are older, I will remember and go around doing good deeds for Moms with little ones.  If I don’t, please feel free to remind me on Facebook, which by that point nano technology will have embedded on the inside of our eyelids.

Babies in Santa Hoods are Also Awesome

Goof Off Dissolves Silly Putty Inside Gloves

I (re-)learnt that when you ask a nearly-7 year old, “Did you put the Silly Putty in your glove?” she hears, “Did you intend for the Silly Putty in your hand to melt into your glove lining, ensuring that your Mother will spend 20 minutes tonight breathing in noxious fumes, and then 45 minutes tomorrow trying to get rid of the smell?” She answered “No.”
(The Silly Putty and smell are both gone. Yippee extremely toxic smelling miracle juice!)

When Mom Gets Mad, It Counts

The kids all told me that when I get mad, it means super trouble. Apparently, I never lose my temper unless it’s, to quote Sweetie Pie, “like, you’re a Serial Killer, or something.” She also wanted to know why if cereal was healthy for you are serial killers the most evil type of murderer? But I digress. Apparently, I can also use my powers of just anger on my Significant Other. Tall Girl was riding shotgun in the truck with my Sweetie and he called another driver a rude name. Tall Girl wanted a definition. Dad refused. “That’s okay, Dad. I’ll just tell Mom what you said, you’ll get into trouble, and she’ll tell me anyway.” She stared at him, arms crossed, expression smug.
“Go ahead.” He said.
He told her what it meant 5 minutes later.

Middle Children Have it Hard

I learnt this whenArt Girl began treating her younger sister rather shabbily. I realized it was because Princess has been bragging that she is starting Kindergarten next year, and this means that “School Youngest” Art Girl, now becomes another middle child there as well. I’ve been trying to help her out, but I guess this is one thing she is going to have to work out herself. If only would believe me when I tell her she’s such a great big sister.

The Best Way to Avoid a Stressful Christmas Dinner is Planning

Note the diagram mapping out where all the food is going in the fridge. I think ahead.

Real Christmas Trees are Super Awesome

Neither my Sweetie or I had had one of these beauties since we were kids, and now we are hooked. Oh well, what’s an extra $100 a year. But the smell…

 

Blueberry, the Pom Pom Monster, Cannot Survive Baby, the Destructo Monster


Sorry Art Girl.

Well, I didn’t know that the last few days were so illuminating. Good luck with your Christmas preparation, and may the last few days of your Advent be very blessed.

Tall Girl’s Big Shoes

‘Cuz it’s been a trying day.  I had to take Tall Girl shoe shopping.  With.  All. Six. Kids.

By myself.  Oh dear.

It began as a good day, until my Sweetheart asked which one of us would be taking Tall Girl out to buy dress shoes this evening.  I tried to create an imaginary day between Friday and Sunday, and convince him that we could take her out then, but he saw through me.  And since one of us has been out every evening this week, and will be out evening from tomorrow through next Wednesday, I decided that the pain of a group shopping trip was nothing compared to the happiness of putting my feet up and watching Damages on Netflix.  So off we went.

Now Tall Girl, age 10, has nice sturdy shoulders.  That’s good, since she has the world’s largest chip on them.  Somehow, sometime she thinks that she had made the following deal with the world:

Tall Girl’s Deal with the World

World, in return for existing in you, you hereby agree that all articles of clothing, footwear, hosiery, millinery, or jewellery I will ever touch or wear, must be extremely comfortable, extremely stretchy, free from the slightest discomfort, preferably animal print, and can never be grown out of. If you violate these terms World, I will seek redress by wearing the same camp shirt, over-sized pair of yoga pants and mismatched tennis socks in perpetuation. Or until my Mom freaks and makes me put on something else.

Tall Girl takes it as a personal affront that you can’t wear a skirt and go upside down on the monkey bars.  She sees it as a design flaw in the skirt, which she insists on ignoring to prove a point.  Her idea of “stylish” is a hot pink baby doll shirt, paired with a black and white cheetah print skirt, and in place of nylons or tights, the world’s thickest black leggings.  And yes, those tennis socks again.  White tennis socks.

Which is so weird, because Sweetie Pie, who’s almost 9, is a born fashionista.  She comes downstairs in the morning wearing outfits that look like she just fell out of a magazine, and drifted Zooey Deschanel-style, to the breakfast table.  She wears her winter touque with her PJ’s and pulls it off.  And I was trying to enlist her support in tackling that problem which is her sister.  Her sister which thinks that if she fells comfy, she looks great.  Even if 4″ of ankle is showing below the hem of her boot cut jeans.

“Why should I?  I don’t care what my feet have on them.  I have a nice dress, why can’t I just wear my (very, very white) runners?  I hate shoe shopping, I have the world’s worst feet.  Nothing fits.  Just buy me whatever.”

“Even if I buy you shoes with great big yellow Happy Faces on them?  Starring up at you everywhere you go?  Maybe some that light up?”

“Sure, whatever.  As long as they’re not itchy.”

So, with Captain Good Attitude in tow, along with all the other troops, we drove to the shoe store.  I was so stressed that I gave in and broke my rule of not acting like a weird reality TV show family, and made the big kids buddy up with one of their younger siblings.  We didn’t all change into matching coloured shirts, so I feel that it was a compromise I can live with.  The Baby wouldn’t wake up, so I had to put her into the folding umbrella stroller fast asleep.  This caused her to slump forward against her restraining straps and slide into her snowsuit, like some kind of purple, baby origami.  Half way through the excursion, she woke up and stared at me with these big eyes that seemed to say,  “Why have you folded me into purple, baby origami, Mommy?”

If there is such as thing as a forced march of shoe shopping, I had Tall Girl on it.  But before we could get serious, she wanted to try on a pair of high-heels “for fun.”  Oh, did I mention that my little girl has ladies size 7 feet?  She grabbed these 4″ black suede stilettos with a ¾” platform sole and tried to stick her white socked foot in them.  Then she took off the sock, got her feet in and stood up.  Broadly smiling, she began showing off to her (younger) sisters by kind of swaying back and forth, the way you would expect a mannequin might do if it came to life on Christmas Eve.  It was the most disturbing thing I have seen forever — this sweet, smiling 10 year old face on top of these big, clunky, way-to0-old shoes.  I started screaming and she took them off.

Then the real fun began.  The secret to shopping with a difficult child is to never let them get a second to argue or escape.  So as fast as she could try, and reject, a piece of footwear I was back with another.  The process was impeded by the mini-hissy fit Tall would throw between every second pair.  “I hate my feet, nothing fits, I hate everything, why is this happening, I want to cut my feet off…”  Finally, I had enough.

“Where do you live?  Perfect land?  Why do think there are all these shoes here?  No one goes into a store, finds the perfect pair of shoes, tries them on, finds they fit, see they’re the right price and then runs giggling out the store.  This is life.  You keep trying on shoes until you find one that fits that you also like.  There is nobody else who has it better than you.  Stop thinking you’ve got it so bad.”

She stopped, apologized, and calmly tried the next pair.  It fit nicely, and looked quite smart.  I made her do a lap around the store.  We boxed them and took them home.

But on the way to the cash, I saw these awesome boots.  I took the display, tried it on, found it fit perfectly, grabbed them in the box, and bought them. I giggled internally.

Please don’t tell Tall Girl.

Have Yourself a Little Bit Sad Christmas

It’s Christmastime around here, and that means one thing — cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning.  Between decluttering to make way for whatever Santa brings, and the scrubbing and polishing everything else to get ready for Christmas Day company, I’ve had my arms elbow deep in Murphy’s Oil Soap for a week.  All this is made harder by the constant cry of “Don’t go in there!”  whenever I venture toward a closed door or closet.  With 8 people exchanging gifts, the entire house becomes one big booby trap of secreted packages.  One of our Christmas morn traditions is the game “Guess where I hid it?”  I still win with my husband’s 40th Birthday Present.  I merely wrapped the 2′ by 3′ box in colourful paper and placed it on the shelf overhead of his work area.  Here it sat for two or three weeks, in plain sight, as he typed daily at his computer below.  Well, at least I can’t accuse him of wasting time while he’s working, staring at anything but his computer…

This Christmas has me a little pensive, too.  Not regretful or sorrowful, but a bit sad.  As 2011 comes to a close, I realize that another year with my young ones has also slipped pleasantly by.  While I am no big fan of the baby stage, as I made painfully clear in my post on walking 3 kids to school in 90km/hour winds, I still can’t believe that my little baby is closer to 1 year old than she is to being a newborn.  This September will also usher in a new phase for this big brood Mom.  Princess will be 5 and starting Kindergarten.  In 8 short weeks I will be attending the school’s Open House, and filling out her registration papers.  And that first fall day that I walk her into her classroom, will also mark the first time I have the majority of my kids out of the house during the day, rather than at home with me.

2012 will be a year of firsts — and a year of lasts.  This time next year, Tall Girl will be gearing up to attend Junior High Information Nights with us.  The first of our children to leave Elementary School.  But it will also be a year of packing up baby clothes, and sending maternity wear to the local thrift shop.  Baby will stop needing to be rocked to sleep this year.  Big Boy will learn how to zip his own jacket.  Someone will take off her training wheels.  I’ll be hands on mothering just a little big less.

This makes be both happy and sad.  I know many Moms make a joke or a boast about how they’re “done with that.”  And trust me, I get what they mean.  But I still treasure the warm hands in mine, or the little boy who just needs a hug.  These milestones come and go, and you don’t even realize that suddenly, you have a Tween in your house, who listens to strange music, and get’s pinched by the boy sitting next to her.  It was just 5 years ago that you packed her first snack for Kindergarten, and walked her to the bus stop.  Now she’s telling me she wants a bikini, and to dye her hair blue “temporarily.”

That’s why this Christmas season, I know now that no matter how many times the camera clicks, the glasses clink, the children squeal, that no matter how “perfect” the moment is, it’s all fleeting, tomorrow’s memories.  So with all the joy, there is ever the slightest tinge of sadness, because I know that the moment, however wonderful, can’t last.  So no matter what, I will have a Merry Christmas.   Why?  Because all this passing of time has helped me realized that happiness isn’t something you achieve, it’s something you have.  And I have it in spades.

Plus I made two loaves of my kick-*ss Light Cherry Orange Fruitcake.  It doesn’t get any better than that.

The Magic is Gone

Well, the magic is gone.  Today, I was so thrilled to receive a Canada Post delivery at my door on Sunday.  But…it wasn’t my long over due Christmas cards from the big, photo printing company that I ordered in November.  Yet hope flames eternal, so I make the quick walk down the block to the mailbox, to check if they had delivered my parcel on the weekend.  Then I made the long, sad walk back up the block with empty hands.  This now confirms that my WordPress Dashboard does not grant wishes, as previously hypothesized in this blog.  No million dollars and book signing in my future.  Sigh.

Not that I have any time for writing any book even if a publisher was clamouring for it (however, I always have time to cash an inheritance cheque.)  Putting on Christmas with six children, is like planning a wedding.  Seriously.  We have to organize for two Christmas concerts, three teacher gifts, 6 dressy outfits, two “activity” Christmas parties, and 3 times 3 weeks of piano lessons to reschedule.  And then there are the stockings.  Those evil, evil Christmas stockings.

I wish I could go back in time.  No, not for the sleep, (which let me tell you, I would load up on,) but to give a message to 6-Years-Ago-Liz.  This is a lady who only has three children, and decides something very fateful that will rue her life for the next decade.  She decides to sew and embroider matching Christmas stockings for all the members of her family.  She thinks, “Oh, how fun!  I will buy bolts of lovely green fabric.  I will carefully sew these lovely stockings.  And, as a special personal touch, I will cross-stitch, by hand silly! each of my lovely family’s names on the cuff.  How cute!  How caring!  I don’t care if I have five children, I will never abandon my commitment to matchy-matchy crafting!  Because nothing says love and good parenting, like hours spent in mindless handiwork that is only displayed two weeks a year.”

Perhaps bubbling in my sub-conscious, I had a secret “Guilt Wish,” much like Freud’s Death Wish.  Maybe I unknowingly wanted more guilt in my life.   Because that’s what these dumb stockings have bought me — guilt.  Princess is almost five, and I am finally finishing putting her name in burgundy floss on her stocking.  Previously, Art Girl (then 5) wrote her name in bubble letters, coloured it in with a green pencil crayon, cut it out, and taped it to the top of the stocking.  Merry Christmas, Honey!   Your parents love you!  Really!  And now I have the Baby.  Yes, I have a “Baby’s First Christmas” stocking for this year, but that’s just delaying it, isn’t it?   The moment of truth is coming.  The moment when it’s December 20, and I don’t have her stocking done.  And instead of pride, I feel guilt.  ‘Cuz 6-Years-Ago-Liz, this was such a good idea.

You see, Years-Ago-Liz didn’t care what Future-Liz wanted to do with her time.  Or what her priorities would be, or her interests.  Maybe Future-Liz would rather be blogging, or baking, or knitting, or being less precious, than making matching Christmas Stockings.  Maybe she would find the idea of 8 identical stockings a tad too, I don’t know, crazy, hanging in her home.   Maybe Future-Liz would be resentful of Years-Ago-Liz for committing her free moments to a hobby that she wasn’t in to anymore.  All this pain for me, so that Years-Ago-Liz could feel cute one November in 2005.  Yay!

My consolation is that I’m not alone.  Us Mom’s all have projects like this in various states of incompleteness littering our storage spaces.  The Mom at piano lessons told me she needs to stitch on the cuff of her daughter’s stocking — it’s held on with a safety pin.  Other people have quilts, (ahem,) Easter dresses, murals to be painted on walls.  Maybe we are too ambitious, or maybe the stuff is a lot funner to look at finished than it is to do.  But I bet we could come up with a pretty big bonfire, if we persuaded the average suburban block to give up it’s unfinished kid crafts.  And baby, would it feel good to see it burn.

I’ve decided to make 2012 my “Quit Year.”  One of the things I will quit, is starting new projects before the old ones are either finished or permanently trashed.  So that means, since I’m too cheap to buy something I already have, I have one more stocking to make.  But let this be a warning to you young Moms out there.  Beware the never ending craft project.

Just say NO to matching.

This Post Grants Wishes

I must blog today.  Why?  Because on Wednesday I blogged a list of observations (complaints) entitled Oh Why…, where I asked (whined) why :

if someone is going to ring the doorbell, it will come during the one time, on the one day, I actually get the baby to nap through the afternoon?

Well, that must of pleased the blogging fairies, for the very next day as the Baby was finally taking nap, the door bell rang not once but twice.  Not only did my WordPress Dashboard somehow create the very reality that I wrote about, it perfected it by making sure the Baby never woke up.  Wow.

Having discovered my magical Twilight Zone-type property of this post screen, I will now blog that I am about to come into a multi-million dollar inheritance, or receive a book contract to write about my amazingly funny and interesting life.  At the very least my bloody Christmas Cards will arrive from huge photo printing website from whence I ordered them in the middle of November.  Like by Monday, please, so I can send them to my Mother.

Though, I’m not sure anyone but me cares.  I’m not trying to be disturbingly harsh, but maybe it’s true.   Every year I spend all this money on custom photo cards, and all this time selecting the picture, and retouching it, and then turning it sepia, and then black and white, just to try to my family look the best that I can.  Then, I hand address all the envelopes, and write cute little personal messages, and lick them, and stamp them and run then to the post office.  And all I get back are three cards:  from the Dentist, the Chiropractor, and a Ford Dealership we once stopped in at.

I’m starting to get the picture.  No one wants Christmas Cards.  Oh, you say “Thanks for the nice card, Liz.”  But what you are really saying is “I tossed your Christmas Card, Liz, but I still like you even though you act as if you are 80 years old with these dumb cards you keep sending out, which I don’t even get because I only check the mail every 10 days, since no one under 100 sends anything by the mail anymore.  I’m only thanking you so you don’t go looking for it when you come to my house, but instead assume I’ve squirrelled it away in some special place where I will treasure it forever.  But I haven’t.  Unless you call the recycle bin a ‘treasured place.’  Sorry.”

I realized that I am like the last person on the desert island who speaks some two thousand year old pre-historic language which is about to go extinct unless I keep speaking it.  I should just admit that the days of speaking Bo, or Beothuk, or Northern Pomo are done, and get on with my life.  Instead, I try to talk myself into giving it another year.  I think that what the entire Postal Service and greeting card industry couldn’t do, I can — reverse the decline in Christmas Cards.  Somehow, all these 40 people are going to get a piece of folded cardstock with my kids’ faces on it and go “Holy Santa’s Knickers!  I gotta start sending these out right now!”

But this is all just Pixie Dust right now, for I have no Christmas Cards to send.  They haven’t arrived, because the huge company who printed and shipped them, doesn’t provide tracking numbers to Canada.  Being so close to the North Pole, they thought, Santa would take care of it.  I ordered these cards back in November, so I would have them by December 1, and I could send them out early.  This would be like a little Christmas present to myself.  It would prove that even though 90% of my life are controlled by 6 other people, there is only little sliver of real estate that I have total utter control over.  And now that’s all gone.

So, I am including the following note with my cards, if they ever arrive:

Dearest Recipient,

This card should have been sent out X weeks ago, but big, huge, photo printing company who was supposed to get to them to me in time didn’t.  Now, this card is late, but I wish you to have full knowledge that it is not my fault.

Love

Liz

c.c. CEO, Big Huge Photo Printing Company that ships late

I’ve made up my mind.  This is the last year of these shenanigans.  Christmas 2012 is going to be different.

I’m going to write about it in my blog, and my magic WordPress Dashboard will send them out.

Bang! Bang!

In case there is anyone out there who still thinks that a boy’s behaviour is still determined by environment, I snapped this photo of Big Boy playing with a Barbie doll.

He’s shooting you.

Oh Why….

…does the baby start waking up and screaming all night, after sleeping 8 hours straight for months?

…do the kids think their floor is clean, when it is covered with towels, and paper, and socks, and hair scrunchees?

…think that the proper place for their backpacks is 1½’ in front the back door?

…do all the towels end up rolled into a ball and lying on the floor as soon as someone finishes washing her hands?

…no matter how much you spend to get the kids nice clothes, they still wear their old camp T-shirt to school twice a week?

…that if someone is going to ring the doorbell, it will come during the one time, on the one day, I actually get the baby to nap through the afternoon?

…do I have to remind the girls every single day to brush their teeth? twice?

…is there too much food leftover to throw out, but too little to make another meal?

…do the kids love watching cheaply animated shows with blaring, grating music and really loud voices, over and over and over again?

…is the willingness of a pre-schooler to wear mitts, hat, and boots correlated inversely to how cold it is?

…when you say to kids “Be ready to leave at right at 10:00,” they hear “Be ready to spend 15 minutes getting ready at 10:00”?

…are six kids with the same genetic material, raised in exactly the same environment, so different?

…did God give us tween girls that think that they know everything there is to know?

…when kids find a jellybean on the floor, do they eat it?

…do I make sure everyone has clean laundry, except myself?

…do I dwell on all this stuff when in 20 years I probably won’t remember it, and instead only remember the happy times?
…aren’t I just happy now?

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