Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

Imagining Norse Rock Stars

Al Gore may have thought he created the Internet to enable people to publicize climate change documentaries, but it’s really to help housewives find recipes from the 1960’s edition of the Chatelaine Cookbook.  Like this one for Mayonnaise or Potato Scones with Raisins (which I didn’t have so I used currents.)

Even better warm with butter.  Mmmmmmm…..

I discovered this recipe when I was a teen and I had to do that group project on World Cultures. We picked Great Britain and, as a result, I still know some of the words to Knees Up Mother Brown, and have a fondness for this recipe, which I made over and over. By the way, you may notice that it is called Mayonnaise or Potato Scones, but there are no instructions for using potato. This made me laugh, because I never made the potato version and apparently, neither did anyone else.

The kids helped out and rocked out, as well.

We may need to start calling Princess, “Nordic Princess.”  My Sweetheart and I, while tracing our cultural roots to German and Ukrainian, actually trace a fair chunk of our ethnic roots to Norwegian and Swedish relatives that were (and remain) long gone.  We often joke that all our Norse DNA conglomerated in little Princess.   (Which reminds me of the time  I was chatting with a fellow Mom about our kids, and how blondie didn’t look like anyone else.  She shouted out, “DID YOU HAVE AN AFFAIR?  BWAH HAHA!!  WELL, I HOPE IT WAS A GOOD ONE!!  BWAH BWAH HAHAHA.”  Why yes, as a matter of fact, it was in the lobby of our kids’ Catholic school.  Anyways….)  My Husband got a surprise when he fired up the video for Little Talks by the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men (which I am sure you hear everywhere, or at least at Save-On-Foods at 9:45 in the evening.) He said that the co-singer, Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir’s eyes looked a lot like Princess’.

Though here she sorta looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal

This one’s better.

I’m a little nuts for everything Icelandic since I read a mystery novel by Arnaldur Indridason. Even their names are cool. Wouldn’t you love to be called Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir? Though I supposed in Reykjavik there’s some girl wishing her name was Emily, or Meghan.  Or Liz.

Anyways, my kids are crazy for Little Talks, which is great because it replaces Little Lion Man (and we all know how that goes.)  Seeing a photo of the band, they were convinced that one of the members was a contestant on a kid’s game show called Zoink’d, where he balanced a chair on his face.  This lead to a bunch of face balancing of our own.

First, toys.

Then, when that didn’t work out, baby bibs.

Look at me! Look at me! Look at me, now!

All this fun made Baby cranky, so I had to walk her around and watching the Chokecherry wave in the wind. This is the time when I think. Like how did someone think of Mayonnaise Scones with Raisins? You could just mix up a paste of wheat and water, and choke it back. The nutritional value might even be higher without a vitamin killing trip through the oven. It was someone’s ability to imagine that food should taste good, mentally create the idea of a recipe and then execute it that led to my nummy snack, and for that matter, led to pretty much the entire man-made world. Even the most mundane things embody part of what makes man human: the ability to conceptualize reality and act on it, whether a song, a scone or a sonnet. Even the Internet is nothing more than a big idea, represented by the written word and picture, and transmitted through electronic signals throughout the world. So that we here can rock out to Icelandic bands, while eating Canadian treats, on a sunny morning.

But maybe I think too much. I should go eat some leavened sweetened dough before it’s all gone. Skál!


Dear Chauvinist Pigs: Please Come Back and Help Me

Today, I had three little kids in the SUV, a low tire pressure warning on the dashboard, and the complete inability to read the PSI recommendation written on the sidewall of my tire.  Oh, I know it was there somewhere.  It’s just with pouring rain and all the road dust it was a little obscured.  I was also wearing a fashionable spring jacket that looked nice, but came with a completely impractical hood that made me look that that Darth Sidious guy from Star Wars when he was in evil disguise.  Plus, the air pump at the gas station was positioned right beside the freeway that the drive-through to the coffee shop located inside the gas station store.  (As in aside, I will never be comfortable buying “fresh” food from a place that specializes in motor oil, propylene glycol, and other extremely volatile fluids.)  So, eveytime I had to walk around the truck with my little metal stick to check the pressure, I took my life into my hands as some caffeine deprived driver finally noticed me at the last possible moment.  Which brings me to the big question of my morning:

Why couldn’t one of those drivers be some old-fashioned chauvinist pig who gets his ego boost out of helping females in distress?

Hey, I won’t complain — and I don’t.  When the mover jumped off the back of the truck to take a box headed to my trunk out of my arms and into his, I said “Thanks.”  When some youngster Rig Pig wanted to pull me out of a snow bank with his 3/4 ton truck, I said, “Tell me when to hit the gas.”  You got jumper cables?  Hook ’em up.  Wanna push my flats onto the cart at Ikea?  Knock yourself out.  When the older gentleman asked if he could carry my vacuum cleaner down the escalator at The Bay, I couldn’t offload it fast enough.  Hell, I married a guy who won’t let me operate his lawn mower!

You know, when I was in my teens, I would have been horrified.  I (mistakenly) thought that this meant that I was proving that women were the weaker sex.  It was as if with every door held open, we somehow morally surrendered power to men.  What we needed were sensitive men who just let us muddle through everything like equals.

Except the last thing I needed this wet, cold, frustrating morning was Phil Donahue telling me he knows how June Cleaver stereotypes must make me feel.   I needed some knucklehead who feels he knows everything about tires, and it’s his duty to come and save me.

‘Cuz ladies, after bearing down on six kids, I don’t feel I need to prove anything anymore.  But I could sure borrow some of that up body strength every so often.

Please come back chauvinist pigs.  We won’t yell anymore, and I really need some help with my car.

Community That Lifts You Up, and Holds You Down

I love my new backyard!!!!

I am now typing this in my brand new address.  The movers came a week ago to take the heavy furniture and the too large boxes in their (what would turn out to be too small) truck.  Auntie took the little kids, school took the big ones, and an installation appointment took my Sweetheart to the new house, leaving me all alone with an open front door.  Desperately needing to keep out of the way least I cause a Worker’s Compensation Board claim, I stood at the kitchen island, trying not to look indolent.  The multi-coloured activity that is recess at the playground of the school down the block caught my eye.  Suddenly, I realized now that I was leaving, how much I had connected myself to that swarming mass, even though they weren’t necessarily my children out there.  I had a kinship to those kids and those parents that I saw everyday out my kitchen window, even when my own little ones were sitting beside me eating apple slices and Triscuits.  The melancholy realization struck me that my moving way meant losing a community that I didn’t even know I had.

How much of our sense of community is more than just physical?  Location, work, Church, sports — these are the easy identifiers to where we belong.  But we all carry around in our heads an idea of who we belong to, and who belongs to us.  Much the same way that search engines customize their results based on past search requests, we start to view the world as a collection of groups, placing ourselves as members in or out of them.  But what happens when we find that our self-selected group doesn’t think we belong?  Like when your favourite comedy suddenly turns the jokes on what you hold most dear, and you realize that they see you not as a co-conspirator but as ridiculous.  Or when a group of Moms organized a playdate in front of my friend, making a conspicuous effort to let her know she wasn’t invited.  There is something psychically jarring about finding out that as far as part of your identity is concerned, everyone voted and you don’t belong.

People often write, often quite beautifully, (like Jen at Conversion Diary did recently about a horrible motorcycle fatality in her neighbourhood,) about how community can stitch us together, bind us up, and make us whole.  But in my sadness in leaving my familiar haunts, I also mutter “and good riddance to that.”  Community can lift us up, but sometimes it keeps us down.  My last neighbourhood paired streets of McMansions straining at the setbacks of their city lots, with blocks of status seeking starter homes and condominiums.  People worked so hard and long to take constant trips to Mexico, carry flashy purses, and buy their 8 year olds Macbook Pro’s for Christmas — they got their iPhone for Kindergarten Grad — that they were never around.  Every evening at 5:55 PM, it was a line of luxury cars down that same school street as parents rushed to make it to After School Care pick-up before the fines kicked in.  I saw my neighbour with kids twice in the year that she lived 5 doors down from me.  She was such a stranger I walked right by her at the Public Pool, and didn’t clue in until I was 20′ past, that I had just snubbed her.

I hoping, praying, that things will be different in our new digs.  We’ve already met more neighbours here, than I did the entire 7 years I lived in my old house.  Perhaps this house will bring more of the same, but it’s too soon to tell.  And until then, I am hoping that we have landed into a community that’s more chatting on the sidewalk, and less chasing after the latest win.

If It’s Mother’s Day, I’ve Already Forgotten….

Looking in the mail for your card, Mom? Don’t be silly! They’re right here on my counter.

Some years ago, (I think I was preggers with Big Boy,) we took the family on vacation to the sunny shores of Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, an area known for hot, dry summers.  We were staying in a two bedroom “guest suite,” which is basically someone’s walkout basement that they rent out during the summer to tourists.  Late one sticky afternoon, we were watching TV in the tiny living room/dining room/entrance area, trying to get a weather report for the next day.  Tired kids whined, and Princess cruised, since at 14 months she refused to walk, and I was fed up trying to keep the under 7 set occupied.  But as the 10-Minute Update theme caught my attention on the Weather Network, I noticed something strange about the date.

July 3rd.  Wasn’t there something special about July 3rd?

I racked my brain.  I made that strange thinking face, where you tilt your head and furrow your brows.  What was so special about July 3rd?  OH I KNOW!

“HONEY!”  I shouted.  “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!”

This true story illustrates just how bad I am with dates.  (And so is my husband.  I guess that’s why we work well together. :-)) It’s not that I can’t remember them, though that is part of the problem.  There is just some part of my mind that doesn’t associate, oh let’s see, May 13th as Mother’s Day, with the May 13th that is the day after tomorrow.  So, I fully expect that on Sunday morning I will be awoken by proud children baring homemade gifts and wondering why they are giving me presents early.  Since it can’t be Mother’s Day yet, because that’s not until Sunday.

In other words, unlike other bloggers who are posting lovely, heart-felt reflections on Motherhood, and their Mothers, and their children, I will have forgotten — until the 14th, when it will be too late.  Combine this all with the fact that the Mover’s are coming to take all of our stuff to our new house on the 14th, and I’ve got a daughter away at Guide camp, and I have to get three sets of green clothing ready for a big park dedication at the girls’ school on Monday, well, Mother’s Day has been pushed off the radar for me and any other Mother’s I might owe due homage to on Sunday.  To all of you I would like to send my deep, heart-felt apologies.

And….thanks.  Because that is one thing that I love about Motherhood:  forgetting.  Forgetting about myself, and losing myself in the moment of life with my family.  Children have a way of drawing you out of your head, and the mundane, silly, disappointing world we live in, and connecting you to the greater, happy, hopefully world that we should live in.  Like when Big Boy shouts out with joy at McDonald’s that we “are the best Mom and Dad in the whole world.”  (They don’t call them Happy Meals for nothing!)  Or when Art Girl looks at me with her chocolate brown eyes and whispers, “You know what I want to be when I grow up?  A Mom.”

“Really?”  I beam.  “How many kids do you think you’ll have?”

“5.  No, 6.  No, 7!  I want to beat you and Dad.”  She giggles, and then grows thoughtful.  Looking down at the floor, I she says to herself.  “I really hope I have at least one.”

Yes, sweet girl of my heart, I really hope you have at least one, too.  Because Motherhood is a gift everyday, and I am very happy to receive it.

And one more thing before I forget:

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

Baby Shower Gifts That Are Total Don’ts

Now that spring is upon us, I’m sure most sane people’s minds turn to thoughts of Bridal Showers and Wedding gifts.  But since I’m nuts, everything becomes about babies.  It occurred to me that there may be thousands of childless people out there, scouring the internet, looking for gift suggestions and never realizing just what a minefield they are about to step into.  So in the interest of saving well-intentioned Baby Shower invitees pain and suffering, I present:

A Mom of Six’s Guide to Baby Shower Gifts That Sound Good — But Aren’t.

1. Gifts which reflect a lifestyle decision.

Examples: cloth diapers, waterproof diaper covers, bottle warmers, slings, playpens, breast pumps, etc.

Why it’s trouble:  Parents, especially first time parents, can be extremely touchy about their choices and a gift, which you assumed was in every home, may just lead to a five minute monologue on formula companies’ third world business practices.  Also, they may not be able to use them — slings, for example, can be extremely hard to fit, and don’t get me started on those pumps.

2. Parenting books.  Period.

Examples:  Anything with the words “Train” “System” “Attachment” “New” “Case” “Discipline” or “Sleep” in the title.

Why it’s trouble:  I have witnessed more fights between mothers over competing child raising ideologies than I proud to admit.  Most diehard adherents have convinced themselves that the other side has embarked on a course of child-abuse, and must be set right at the first, and every subsequent opportunity.  This would include saving an unsuspecting Mother-to-be from the terrible curse that your evil proselytizing tome will bring.  And when the fight starts, all the other guests will probably be more interested in keeping the peace then defending your free speech.  Leave these sore points on the shelf.

3. Gifts that (accidentally) create work.

Examples:  Baby food makers, scrap booking kits, books of kid crafts.

Why it’s trouble:  New moms are too busy to shower.  Don’t accidentally hand them a bunch guilt over all the stuff they an’t going to get done.

4. Ironic clothing gifts.

Examples: Onesies with pictures of rock bands, questionable sayings, “Future ” whatevers, jokes at the expense of the child who is wearing it.

Why it’s trouble:  Yeah, it may have seemed cool at the kiosk at the Mall, but would you entrust a child to the guy selling them?  I rest my case.

Luckily for you dear Gift Shopper, there are a million other good options:

  1. Board books — after reading the same 6 pages over and over, Mom will thank you for the variety.
  2. Children’s Classics in hardcover — baby may be able to pass them down to his own children.
  3. Feeding plates, spoons, and sippy cups — you can never have too many of these.
  4. Clothing that makes you involuntarily emit vowel sounds its so cute – see above.  Plus, new parents tend to be broke, and have to scrimp on the fun clothes in favour of the necessities.
  5. Anything that the Mom asked for — yes, even if it contravenes those laws above.

I hope this little list saves you from the dreaded group stare, the “oohhh — well, oh, that’s different”, the cold shoulder at the punch table.  ‘Cuz anyone who says that women are the gentler sex has never been to a Gift Shower.

Happy gifting!

Happy Gifting!

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