Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

My House Has Told Me That We Need to Talk

I think our house wants to kick us in this region.

Yep, my house is starting to figure that something is up.  It’s noticed that I’ve been a bit more distracted lately.  That I’ve been stepping out for afternoons and coming back with empty boxes.  It’s tried to listen to my phone conversations and heard words like “possession” and “keys.”  But the lipstick on my collar was when a  guy walked through the house and shouted that with three guys and a truck it would be “easy to clean out.”  This house is no dummy — it’s figured out that we are leaving.

And it’s letting us know it’s displeasure.  This is no house to be easily scorned.  First, there was the tiny-tiniest rivulet of water from the door of the washing machine to the floor.  The repair man came.  He pronounced it a “non-specific leak” and told me to wipe my gasket.  But the house has other tricks up her sleeve.  The dishwasher has started making the strangest hum while running, yet isn’t sick enough for the fellow at South Appliance Repair, who was all too anxious to cash my $375 cheque just 18 months ago, to come out.  And somehow, the only bugs to come out of dormancy in this frozen wasteland I call home, have managed to die in the upstairs flush-mount light fixtures.  The ones I just washed 2 months ago.  The ones I guess I’m going to be washing again.

I’d bring home some flowers for the kitchen, but this house has upped its passive-agressive game, and now I know it would be a good $35 wasted.  As if to cover its eyes in horror, both light bulb on our porch blew at out at once, leaving our night-time coming and goings in darkness.  No cheery, bright welcomes anymore, just stumbling toward the keyhole by street lamp.  Then it brought out its big guns.  Friday morning I tried to open the door of our bathroom door and – nothing.  The lever handle had total ceased to engage the mechanism when you turn it on one direction.  In other words, a person could in a moment of er, urgency, find himself fumbling in futility as he tried to reach the fixtures on the other side of the door.

I realized that this was our house’s equivalent of hardball.  “Fine.  You want to leave?  Not until you clean up a bunch of carpet stains caused from some very small children with very large bladders.”

House, Baby.  I’ve avoided this conversation for way too long.  Yeah, we’re going, but you’ve got to know:  It’s us, not you.  Seriously.  Have you seen what a single bedroom with three girls packed in it looks like?  It ain’t pretty, unless you think being inside a room after a IED stuffed with nail polish, Barbie Dolls and used Kleenex has gone off is pretty.  And what about the time I nearly got hit by a bus putting the Baby in the truck?  In the rain?  WHEN I HAD A HEAD COLD?   Yeah, I’ve met someone new on a quiet street, but I only started looking because we’ve grown apart.  Or we’ve grown by three kids and have to part.  You get the picture.

Look, I know you’ll meet a new family real soon.  Yes, house I can guarantee it, because Transfer of Title is a legal document.  So buck up Sweetheart.  Us leaving is the best thing that could happen to you.

And please, please, please stop breaking things.  I promise I’ll buy you flowers.

Raising the Next Generation of Barbarian

Nothing says crazy like a tinfoil hat.

Big Boy was at the park when a gaggle of older girls came upon him.

“Hello cute little boy.  Do you want to be our friend?”

Big Boy was scared very of these big, bossy Kindergarteners, but he didn’t run back to his Mother’s skirts. Instead, he scrunched up his face, hunched his shoulders and balled his fists.

“I’m a tough guy,” he said.  “I don’t want friends.  I’m going to go fight my sister.”

He waited until they had walked away, and then directly hid behind his older sister, shielding himself with the thick denim of her pant leg, squinting his eyes at any further threats from those intimidating females.

Some blogging Moms get to brag that they are raising a new generation of leaders, or artists, or healthy eaters. I get to state that I’ve got the next generation of barbarians.

Spring has brought delightfully warm weather, and the kids begged me to let them lower the windows of our black Expedition as we tooled around the neighborhood.  Soon, three kids were cutting the wind with their snouts, their hair pushed back and eyes barely open.  It was then that I heard shouting.

“HEY!  HEY, there people.”  Art Girl hollered in her best stadium voice.  “How you all doin’?  YEEAAAHHH!!”  she called out to her audience on the sidewalks and parking lots.  The show continued as we pulled up to the curb on our busy street, just as a bus was pulling away.  Art Girl leapt out of the truck onto the boulevard, assumed the Power Stance, and pointed.

“Hey there! Mr. Bus Driver!  How’s your day on the bus?  Go drive that bus!  Oh YEEAAAHHH!!!”

“Dear God!  Stop it!  Stop it!  You sound like a crazy person!”  I screamed in horror.  But what can I expect from a kid who hums the Imperial March from Star Wars while pumping on the backyard swing set.

My face will scare you to jail!

Well, at least she’s keeping her inner Mongolian Horde somewhat under wraps.  Unlike Big Boy.  In addition to scaring off 5 year old girls, he has created a new game called Dr. Scary Face, who uses his incredibly angry face to, well, scare off bad guys.  But if that doesn’t  work, he’ll bring out the big guns.  Or big cucumbers — on Friday at Walmart he grabbed a $1 English Cuke and used it to “BANG BANG BANG!!!!” every passing shopper and toilet paper display.  Luckily us Prairie folk tend to have a sense of humour.  (I’m not sure about the toilet paper.  Its silence may have indicated extreme offence.)  I doubt they would have been as understanding of our bath night superhero:  Super Naked Boy.   Or maybe they would have been fine.  Our Church’s Sacramental Assistant thought it was funny that she had to cajole Big Boy into putting his shirt back on during Children’s Liturgy.  Since become a parent I have developed the ability to smile while slowly dying inside.

With all of this mucho-macho action, I wasn’t surprised to hear Big Boy tell Princess that in their game he was going to be Iron Man.

“Iron Man?”  I asked.  “Are you going to fight some Bad Guys?”

“No.  Today, I am going to have a tea party.  With Spider Man.   Then I’ll fight the Bad Guys.”

Maybe things are totally wild.  Yet.

When a Baby is Born

When a baby is born you realize that the life you were living which seemed complete, really wasn’t.   You thought your heart was full, but now you realize that it was really one adorable 6 lb 13 oz size too small.  You see that even though you thought you had it all figured out, most of the wonderfulness of life is beyond your control, and you are just lucky to go along for the ride.   And you suddenly see how photogenic yoghurt can make a face.

One year ago today I went for an appointment with my Doctor, and 4 hours later I had a baby girl.  By the time the kids walked in the door after school, they were one sibling up the family ladder.  Nothing with parenthood is how you expect.

In this past year Baby, you’ve charmed our hearts.  You giggle at strangers in the shopping cart, and play “tickle tickle” with any belly you spy.  You are a sweet joy, and a blessing to our lives.

Yesterday as I gazed at you in the morning sun,  I hoped one day you get to hold sweet, pudgy babies in your arms, and grow crows feet from laughing, and grey hairs from too many happy years.

Happy First Birthday Boobah!

What Makes a Good Mom?

Letting a baby play with a plastic bag probably wouldn't qualify as good Motherhood.

This last week my chest felt like it was in a vise, but not from anything physical.  I was fighting off anxiety over the kids’ crazy baking schedule.  Brownies for Tall Girls’ class on her birthday, stollen for Sweetie Pie’s class on her “Share a Bread” day, and gingerbread cookies for Art Girl for her presentation on family traditions.  I tried to convince Art Girl that our new family tradition was hiding in bed trying to ignore all the coloured sheets of paper in her backpack announcing more school “FUN!!!”, but she didn’t buy it.

I know what you’re saying.  “So, Mrs. Busypants, just say no.”  But no one wants to be the Mom whose kid doesn’t bring the treats on her birthday, who’s presentation didn’t include the snacks that the student teacher suggested that you could provide (in a letter to the whole class, by the way.)   Motherhood has become a competitive sport with kids as our proxy players.

But why?  How did things get like this?   This debate was brought to my mind by the whole “Never worked a day in her life” kerfuffle.  Which then reminded me of the times when I was out with my stay-at-home mom peers and heard that Moms with nannies, “don’t love their kids as much as us.”  And the time my friend worried aloud if her son’s autism was due to the TV she let him watch.  Or the sadness I felt reading that Veronique at Vie de Cirque she went to Grad school in part over feeling “that (she) was a rather lousy mother,” (which I totally don’t get because her blog always makes me feel like a couch potato slacker.)

This self-loathing coupled with drive-by character assassination and the endless busy-busy-busy, is due I’m sure to that the fact that are target is worse than just moving.  It flies around the room like a laser pointer piloted like a toddler, landing on everything for exactly 3 milliseconds.  There is no consensus on what makes a good Mother.  When is your job done?  What do you owe those little angels of yours?  A college education?  A Tiger Mother study schedule?  Non-stop “advocating” until they are placed in the gifted class?  A TV?  Trans-fat free diet?  Perfect spank-free discipline delivered in a monotone voice?  Three meals a day and roof over their heads?  Lots of money?  Frugality and simplicity?  Really, I ask what?

And God forbid if you get it wrong.  Your adult children have the licence to go on about how their mistakes in life are somehow due to you.  (Thanks Dr. Freud!)  And that’s what we’re fighting against:  someone someday looking at our messed up offspring and thinking “what kind of bad mother let’s that happen?”  After all the sleepless nights, the money spent, the stretch marks from here to your ankles, this is what just might come your way:  a judgement of failure.  You should have done more.  What that more might be, that’s not so forthcoming.  But judgement, as a society we’ve got loads of that.

What makes a good Mom?  You try your best with what you have.  Period.  Really, what more can anyone do?  But more importantly, we are about to pass this toxic hate cult on to the next generation.  I’m not sure how happy I’ll feel watching my daughters fall as casualties in the Mommy Wars.  While I’m not sure where this all began, I feel deep down in my bones that this is where is all should end.  I believe we need to have a conversation on the Philosophy of Motherhood.  As a society children are now (mostly) fed, clothed and sheltered.  We need to look at the opportunities this affluence has given us and decide what we are going to do with it.

Because I can’t believe that God and nature intended Motherhood to be a guilt laden taxi-service marathon, and until we figure out otherwise, that’s just what it’s going to continue to be.

The One I Am Leaving Behind

No, I'm taking this one.

We are moving in a month and my feelings are on a seesaw. As much as I’m anxious to set up in our new home, I feel like a shadow is chasing me. Unwelcome thoughts of loss poking into the edges of my mind.  A baby blanket draped over the banister turned, out of the corner of my eye, into a child standing with bare legs. When I looked again, there was nothing but shadow.  I feel like I am losing someone, and I realized that I am: this house.

It always surprises me how human inanimate objects can become to us — well, to me.  Just like a friend or family member, this house has a personality. It is much more than just a backdrop to our memories, it has become a silent partner in many of those memories. How many times has someone told you a story about someone, only to have the surrounding architecture play a pivotal role in the outcome? And just like any family member, I’m blind to some of its worst faults, I make excuses for its bad design and location, but a minor quirk will drive me nuts and lead to complain constantly about it to my friends (the poor choice of tile colour comes to mind here.)

Did I miss my last house — our first house — this much?  The answer was always no, until I was scanning some old photos and I realized that I don’t miss it because part of me has never left.  I just haven’t been there for a long while.  I know it’s irrational, but I’m sure that the kitchen’s still yellow, and the curtains and rod we bought on sale right after we married are still hanging in the basement, and all our pictures are still on the walls.  If I walked in and found it all changed, I think I would faint!

The landscape of the man made world is just as real as a physical landscape but so much less reliable.  I can recognize peaks of mountains we’ve hiked by in 100 year old photographs, but I don’t even know if our second floor Vancouver apartment is still standing.  What happened to the tiny oven, the green bathroom, the double closets in the living room?  Are the anchors of my memories hanging in the breeze 12 feet up?  Stuck between two floors in a new upscale condo?  Or are they still there growing more decrepit with each passing year?

I said good-bye to the physical shell of this house while cleaning and polishing before the first buyers walked through.  But our home was much more than just a building.  It became it’s own emotion, almost like a member of the family who was always there, and part of everything that happened — good, bad and mundane.  And it’s that part that I am having trouble parting with.  I suppose it will always live on inside my memories and pictures, and through stories that start “Remember when…”  And it will have a new job to play in the lives of the family that will soon, well, call it home.

So here’s to houses past, present and future, and to the special place they hold in our hearts.  Though we may be long gone, you dear buildings, are not forgotten.

It’s Tall Girl’s Birthday Today…

…and it should be happy.  Because that’s one thing Tall Girl does really well is be happy.

Look! I'm official!

Except when she’s not.

Bad hair day.

I know that you’re getting older and it’s hard being stuck between this:

Happy 3rd Birthday!!!!

and this:

Going on 16...

But you’re super smart, and kind, and funny, and loving, and pretty, and helpful, and resourceful, and likeable. Don’t forget the world’s biggest Harry Potter geek.

And you’ll do just fine. We love you Tall Girl. Thanks for making our lives all that much more brighter for being here. And for your birthday we’ll give you back your nose.

It’s Been a Long 40 Days

…so let’s party!

And eat some candy. No, make that a lot of candy.

Have a happy and blessed Easter everyone!

Parenthood: Wimps Need Not Apply

It was Maundy Thursday, and for some reason I always think it’s called Maudlin Thursday, (and sometimes I really screw up and call it Maude-y Thursday, like Maude, the TV show.)  Ssince it’s not a sad day, I have no idea why I want to misname it something so depressing.  Unless, of course the weather forecast for the days leading up to Easter weekend look like this:

With warnings like this:

All this when yesterday, the kids were outside in the backyard doing this:

I suppose it toughens you up when you are 3 days outside of Easter, and the kids have to put their snow pants back on. Makes you more hardy. Toughens the skin.

So, just like everything else in life, we look on the bright side and soldier on.  Got my traditional Hot Cross Buns ready for Good Friday, and left them to rise.  Started cleaning the house.  Hung up sopping snow pants and showed everyone the forecast that predicted warm temperatures and sunny skies.  Told the kids and myself that it would melt — just give it a day or two.   Ate supper and hustled the kids into the car for Church.

We arrived in time to sit in front of a family we knew. In fact, their eldest daughter babysits for us. They had a someone new sitting with them — a teenage boy I hadn’t met before, clean cut with a pleasant face. I didn’t give him too much thought.  I was too busy feeling pride that my eldest, Tall Girl was finally taking an interest in her appearance.  She was wearing a pretty purple tunic top, with her hair swept back into a low ponytail, and for the first time in weeks her shoulders were held back, not slouching forward.

It came time to shake hands during the exchange of Peace. The new boy was sitting directly behind Tall Girl, and she couldn’t see him. He was doing the bob and weave with his hand stuck out. I recognized the look of someone with no one to exchanged a greeting. I stuck my hand toward his, and wished him peace.  His face fell. Disappointment. He politely shook my hand with a small smile, and then went back to his bob and weave.

I couldn’t miss the look on his face. He didn’t want to shake a hand, he wanted to shake the hand of the young girl sitting in front of him. I boy, a teen, wanted the attention of my daughter for something other than to return a soccer ball, or talk about a teacher, or just be companionable. He wanted to her attention for the sake of having a girl’s attention.  I felt like my heart broke a little bit over and over again.

I remember all my Grandmas telling me as a young Mom, to not wish the baby days away, that I would miss them when they were gone and kids grow up too fast. I wish now that I had listened better back then.  And that I was a lot tougher.

At least I still have the buns.

PS – I used a Hot Cross Bun recipe from Canadian Living, which I have been doing for 10 years and they always turn out fantastic.

Part III: Does Fate Make House Calls?

Housekeeping is back to normal around here!

When you last left this blog, I was just rushing my entire family out the door into a massive snowstorm so that another family and their Realtor, who were 30 minutes early I might add, could view our house that we were trying to sell.  (Part I and II of the Incredibly Funny Story of How We Sold Our House is detailed here.)   And when I say I was rushing the troops out I do mean solo.  My dear husband was trying to clear the layer of snow in the back alley, and as he walked back to the front yard, he was greeted with a convoy  of idling cars and all his kids sliding down the front steps with snow boots and open jackets.  Quelle surprise!

I flipped on the fireplace and dashed out.  As I shut the door I decided that I should leave it unlocked.  We had a keybox for the Realtors to use, and I knew they had been getting in since there was a card from the showing this morning, but it seemed to rude to just lock a door in someone’s face, so to speak.  I let the very affable fellow waiting on our side walk know, and climbed into our SUV as the other family climbed out of theirs.  Then we went for a 30 minute drive which considering the weather, was one of the most nerve-racking journeys I have ever been on, and will remain the subject of another blog.

As we swung back in front of our house, we saw the Realtor’s car pulling away.  Then a cell phone call!  Hopes rise!  It’s our Realtor!  Hopes soar!  She has a very important message from the other Realtor!  Hopes atmospheric!  She said that he couldn’t get the key to work, and he was concerned that our house was unlocked.  Hopes back to normal.

We went out to dinner at friends that night and everyone commiserated that our house would sell, just be patient.  They gave us pep talks and remembered how hard it was.  We drove home, and as I paid for diapers at the Shopper’s Drug Mart, my husband read the email on his iPhone with the Offer to Purchase attached.  After some back and forth on price we reached a deal.  By the time my Sweetheart picked up Sweetie Pie from her Guides’ sleepover, we had a sold our house.

The buyers’ Realtor was still really concerned about those keys, so much so that the wanted us to let him in for the home inspection, instead of relying on the keybox.  I thought this was overkill since it worked for other showings.  It must of been the bad weather causing problems with the lock.  But for hundreds of thousands of dollars, I’m willing to humour someone.

Friday morning he arrived, opened the keybox and pulled out the keys that I saw our Realtor put in — same tag, same key.  And then I watched as he put them into the lock, and nothing happened.  The lock would not turn.  I tried and the entire mechanism totally jammed.  I compared them to the key that I have used nearly everyday for 6 years and they were exactly the same.  I tried another set of keys that I had cut at the same time and they worked perfectly.    And it dawned on me then:

That if they hadn’t all shown up 30 minutes early in a snowstorm, and I hadn’t left the door unlocked, they probably wouldn’t have bought this house.

So, here’s the $64,000 question:  Fate or coincidence?  Were they destined to buy this house, or just the first of a string of potential buyers?  Were we having good luck, or was some sort of intervention at work?

I’m afraid I’ll never know.  But I am glad that I don’t have to shout at the kids for disturbing my throw cushion vignette.  And I hope I never again am forced to ask someone for help retrieving my pants.

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