Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Whither Sturm und Mom?

Enjoy the entire 39 days of a Canadian Summer!

I’m not sure what’s going to happen to this blog.  I just realize that a this puppy’s been gestating about as long as a baby.  Is this thing my 7th kid?  I don’t’ know.  But I DO love list posts, so I thought I would summarize myself in one.

5 Truths I Learnt in 9 Months of Blogging

1. Consistency is (often) way more important than brilliance.

People want what they want.  When I started blogging, I thought I would write commentary on social issues related to Motherhood.  That proved waaay too time consuming for a hobby.  I also felt uncomfortable writing about religion, like I was wearing my mother’s interview clothes to a party of older people, thinking that would make me fit in.  Since I’m not a programmer/chef/expert about anything, this leaves general purpose Mommy blogging.  But, having going through all these permutations over the last few months, means that anyone who liked my blog in the first month, probably hates it now.  Successful blogs are uni-purpose.

2. As far as a money-making opportunity, you’re better off working at Starbucks

As Wordtabulous wrote, we’re doing this in some way to be discovered, and that’s okay.  But just like that small town gal with great gams and a big heart, there’s a million others out there.  As far as I can tell, the business model behind most “Make Money Blogging Guides,”  is to sell the guide to other people who want to make money on the Internet.  Besides, most well-read bloggers are constantly referencing their lack of cash, so if they can’t make it, don’t count on anything other than an occasional free product sample to review.

3. Blogging is more about community than writing

If you want a widely read blog, you must promote yourself via whatever Social Media you can get your keyboard on.  You must also seek out others with the same “brand”/message/genre and start trying to entice their readership to check out your page.  If you have a product, like a book or a consulting service, that you are already trying to promote, then this is just another day at the virtual office.  But if, like me you have forgone real paid employment to spend time with your kids, this can become a shockingly draining hobby.

4. If the real you wasn’t popular in Highschool, the Internet isn’t going to change that

Blogs are driven by one of two things — information or personality.  If your high school personality was more Square Pegs than Beverly Hills 90210, it doesn’t get any better on line.  Sure, you’ll find more people who see things your way — but the majority still won’t.  This isn’t good or bad, but it is the truth.  Not only that, a lot of what will be kicking your stats is total junk.  Pages of inspiration boards as you seek the perfect Fall lipstick.  Rants about how some organic snack doesn’t meet some standard in Europe so it shouldn’t be sold here.  Nasty tales of what you did to someone’s daughter at a bar last Saturday night.  The cream may always rise to the top, but so does the garbage on Lake Michigan.  (Sorry for the Goodtimes reference.)

5. Blogging will teach you something about yourself that you didn’t really know…

…and with that knowledge you can do something that you really need to be doing.  You’ll learn what style of communicator you are, get used to being critiqued by strangers, learn how to tailor your ideas for an audience, and some of how the Blogosphere operates.  At the very least, you’ll figure out what doesn’t work for you.  With that, you can go forward to accomplish what will make you most happy.

I finally realized that I have been put on this Earth to succeed at something.  This isn’t being selfish, it’s being who I am.  I really like writing and explaining complex ideas with words, and I don’t really like the spotlight.  And I want to earn some money before I die.  I’ve finally accepted that I’m driven, and rather than being a character flaw, it’s my DNA.  By accepting this, I can manage my life to reflect my values, rather than just fumbling around wondering what’s wrong with me.

Being a typical, wacko INTJ female I couldn’t just publish a Gone Fishin’/Closed for Renovations post as I took the summer off to get my head in order and this blog back on track.  But you probably are used to that since you’ve all been here before.  Which is awesome.  I couldn’t wish for a better group of commenters, and “Like”-ers, and Facebook friends and all the rest who have taken time out of their lives to give this a read.  You are all the best, or as Princess would say, “Bestest in the world.  Even better than McDonald’s!”

Have a great summer, folks!  Take it easy and God Bless!

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My Little Commando

My little man just can’t stop moving!

Big Boy ran across the floor of the Toy Section, jumped at least 12″ up and landing 180° around, feet in a Sumo stance. “Ta Da!”

“It’s s Shaving Kit!  Just like Dad.”

There is something about being under 40lbs. that allows you to punctuate your sentences by leaping a third of your body height into the air.  Big Boy does it all the time.  He jumps, and kicks, and points, and air punches.  Like when he found a Junior Shaving Kit, complete with a can of foaming soap, a cracker sized mirror in a yellow frame, a tomato red Barber’s comb, and a plastic toy safety razor.

“Now,we can shave together,” he announced to the young salesgirl who was following us surreptitiously. “Me, and Dad.  Together.”

But he couldn’t wait that long.  As soon as we hit the back deck, he was scrapping white cream off his face with his blue and red Shaver.  “How do I look?”  Big Boy stuck out his chin, as if it was a pre-Prom inspection for missed spots and toilet paper First-Aid.

“Two big thumbs up, Dude. You’re perfect.”  Like you always are, Dude.

Big Boy is all of 3, and if you don’t know, hanging around with a 3 year old is a like keeping time with a non-stop one liner machine.

“When I grow up, I’m going to dance like SpiderMAN does.”  Punctuate this with a donkey kick or two.

“I wasn’t playing with the curtains, Mom.  I was just wiping my Boogy-juice.”

“But I can’t stop fiddling with my nose.  I’m exercising it.”

This morning I handed him an outfit straight from the dryer.  “Shirt, shorts, and underwear,” I said.

“Underwear?  Underwhoawhoawhoear,” he giggled and saluted the suddenly ridiculous garment toward the ceiling.  The invitation to Big Boy’s world includes the the letters:  U.O.L.O.L. or, Underwear Optional, Laugh Out Loud.  Never has anyone found anything so funny or so dispensable as Big Boy does his BVD’s.  I find discarded boy’s underthings – perfectly dry and clean, mind you – in the most unlikely of places.  Beside the powder room floor (tucked behind the waste basket,) on the TV couch, under my bed, by the kitchen table, and in with a bunch of doll dresses.  He’s never naked, just less dressed, you could say.  (We’re way beyond the stage where he come down “ready” in the morning, sporting nothing but sweater, Tee and socks.)

This all reminds of the time he was running around in his Board Shorts in the sprinkler.  They were big, baggy, Hawaiian print swimwear, and while the string ties were keeping things in place in front, the back was totally different universe.  I was blinded as two very round, very white cheeks reflected the sunlight straight into my eyes.  Sort of the pants version of a Mullet:  all business in the front, all Moon in the back.

“Dude!  Pull up your pants!”

He bent over at the waist and started twisting furiously back and forth looking evidence of immodesty.

“What?  Looks perfect to me, Mom.”

Yes, Big Boy.  You’re perfect.  Like always.

Happy Father’s Day to the Best Guy in the Entire Universe!

I never thought I could ever find such a great guy as I have in you, and you happen to be the best Father ever!  Who could be so lucky?

Here are some ways you rock, Sweetheart:

You are (in no particular order of awesome-tude) funny, kind, an amazing cook, handy around the house, defender of the weak and innocent, interesting, well-read, well-thought, a philosopher, a play-fighter, Daddy Robot, reader of bedtime stories, endurer of bubblegum pop, extremely competent, sympathetic, reliable, and you always have our backs.

We love you so much!  Have a great day!

Today, I’m Gonna Parent Like It’s 1929!

Speak up, Sonny! I’m a very old lady!

Sigh.

It started off a good day.

Sun shining, breeze blowing, and I’m on time for once for dance class.  The MOST IMPORTANT dance class for my 5 year old, Princess, because we all get to come in and watch.  She was so happy to have Big Boy, Baby and me in her audience for once — even if it was just an ordinary class, and this was just a preschool introduction to dance at our city Recreation Centre.  Did I mention that I had left in time to be a little early?  Well, except my cell rang with an emergency phone call from Art Girl, who wouldn’t stop crying.  You see, her legs were cold.  Nothing more.  Her legs were cold in her shorts, so she spent the morning bawling at her seat, and I had to calm her down.

Just on time, I finagled two kids to the last available spot in the very corner in the room.  The other Parenta-razzis had brought every single relative within the local dialling area to watch their 4 year old jump in a hula-hoop with pointed toes.  I swerved  out of the way of some dude’s 8″ telephoto, past the kid who got pulled out of school so he could film sister with his own iPhone (exactly like Mom beside him was doing, ) and settled beside a guy with both video camera and a point and shoot, who spent down time from watching “Put your arms out reeeaaaallly straight!” to do editing on his touch screen.  I spent the next 45 minutes vacillating between utter cuteness-induced giddiness, and trying to keep a 13 month old off the stacks of weighted bars beside the floor to ceiling mirror, all while hissing “Quiet!”  to Big Boy so he wouldn’t end up ruining someone’s scene.  Kinda good times.

Then:  Race to the lobby of the kids’ school to collect them.  Suddenly, a woman I am sure I have never seen before, stops me.

“You know every time I see you, (?!) you remind me of my Grandmother.”  She starts.  I’m wondering if it’s because Grandma’s far, far away, which is where I’d like to be.

“She said that the first 5 kids were hard, and then after the 6th, they just all took care of themselves.”  I glanced nervously over at my eldest and smiled timidly, wondering if this was a veiled accusation of foisting the other kids’ upbringing onto her shoulders.

“Of course,” she continued, “that was a 100 years ago.”

Of course it was!  Here, I was thinking that I was a relevant, contemporary, with-it Mama, but I guess when I called penicillin “emerging technology,” I gave myself away.

Now back home, I’m sitting waiting inpatiently for the kids to get home from the park, so I can go and run an errand, except Tall Girl is late because there are no numbers on her Justin Beiber watch, since it would get in the way of his “dreaminess.”

Sigh.

Don’t listen to me.  I’m just having one of those Mommy days, where everyone else seems to be entering Mom-entrepreneur contests, and buying Franchises, and finishing their novels, and combing their hair.  My biggest accomplishments as of late are figuring out new ways to hide leftovers with Club House Gravy Mix, and how tight I have to pull a ponytail so that it hides the fact that I need a shampoo.

But things will look up.  Princess just invited me to Big Boy’s Birthday Party.  He was born in November and it’s now June.

“We’re serving Rock Cakes,”  she says and points at mounds of road crush left by the previous house owners.  Sounds good.  I hear that was a real delicacy about century or so ago.

You Just Don’t See Her

Twice, I’ve had my psychic gut sucker punched this week.  The first was by David P. Goldman aka Spengler, who blogged “Everything important that we do in life, we do alone, and in our own way, for there is no-one else to do it for us.”  The second was by my friend Marie’s mother (who’s quite the case study in psychic sucker punches all by herself.)  Marie was telling her mom she was finally wearing the braces at age 48 she first needed 35 years ago.  Her Mom commiserated that they just didn’t have the money then, but she knew “that God would make sure that one day, you got what you needed.”

For a 21st century snow-plowing, helicoptering, handholding, Purel squirting, extracurricular chauffeuring Mom, this hurts.  Somehow I developed the idea that, if I do everything right, my kids would be set.  They would arrive at the doorstep of 18, or 21 (or if things continue the way they are, 37) and not have a problem in the world.  They would ace exams, pick perfect partners, pay their full balances, never visit payday loans.  The drops of life-sucking misfortune would sheet off the oily feathers of their healthy self-esteem.  They would never doubt themselves, or feel unloved.  I had come to believe, that even though we live approximately 80+ years, my kids would do all the important living sometime in the first 20.

Yet in my own life, most of my big stuff happened waaaay past 18.  And, as for the “good foundation” trope:  I’m not denying a good upbringing is a precious gift, but in my case I was raised by a people with mental illness, drug addiction, chronic unemployment, and I had been walked-out on by not one, but two different fathers.  Why this might explain volumes about my constant twitching, I still wasn’t sentenced to a life spent in Ontario Housing on the Finch/Jane corridor.

Why I can’t fight my kids’ battles — well, not all at least — and ensure that their life is easy-peasey-lemon-squeezy, there is something more precious I do owe them.  My epiphany happened during a concert at Tall Girl’s school.  She had “problems” with a girl in her class, and I when I heard that name called out behind me, my head snapped to the face .  A typical mean girl, she was indistinguishable from every other insecure, gawky tween in the gym.  Suddenly, she jumped up and ran to an adult entering the auditorium.  Polished, professional, 4″ heels, hair that had been properly attended to after she got out of the shower, dressed all in navy and cream.  This was a lady who was someone in the world.  But to this little girl, she was Mom.   And all the meanness dropped from her face, and she tried to desperately get Mom’s attention.  Pulling gently on her arm, pleading, swerving her head between eyes and Smartphone.  Then, the resignation that comes from being dismissed and ignored.   And as the heels clicked off, I realized that this is where the poison my daughter sees weeping from the tree, pulled down by gravity onto the next victim.

All this girl wanted, was to be seen.  All everyone really needs, is to be really seen.  Everything important, we do alone.  But it is this alone-ness that I can help, by loving the real kid I have, not the kid of my dreams,  or the kid that I think should have.  What a burden is lifted from us, when we know that the other knows us and accepts us that way.  The first thing you learn in crisis counselling is active listening, or how to rephrase what someone has told you and say it back to them.  I’ve heard you.  We can’t fix every problem, but we can be present, always with love, as our precious children solve their own problems.  And we can hear them, and accept them as they are.  My job as Mom isn’t always to move mountains for my kids.  Sometimes, it will mean being the rock that they can rest on, and letting them know that the true them is never really alone.

Post-script:  That very day, Tall Girl came home with the former-Mean Girl’s phone number.  Bullies often turn on their own, and so too with this girl.  After breaking down in tears in class, Tall brought her to the bathroom and calmed her down.  (“It’s just a natural reaction to help someone who’s crying beside you, Mom.”)  After, she asked for her number.  Like I said, sometimes you just need someone to see the real you.

The Dog is Dead. Long Live the Dog.

Please let me rest in peace. Please, please, please!

“Look — cute doggie toys.  We should get them.”

“That’s a nice jacket for a dog.  Why don’t we buy it for Karma?”

“There’s a picture of Karma doggie in the doctor’s office, Mom!  Look.  Look.  Looklooklookloooook!!”

“Mommy! You have to buy that dog food for Karma.  You should put it in the cart!”  Big Boy shouts as the bag of Mainstay floats by on the way to the Pringles.  Everywhere Princess and Big Boy go lately, they are on the lookout for stuff for our dog.  Food, toys, accessories.  They spy photos that look just like her, and little rubber boots to keep the salt off her toes.  I dread the Hartz section of Safeway, and all the requests for squeaky toys and flea collars.

There’s just one problem with all this.  The dog is dead.  Like over two-and-a-half-years dead.  Like dead when Big Boy was only two months old.  Our faithful, dopey Springer Spaniel was a great pet, super with children and a devoted companion.  But years of ear infections and allergies wore her down, and now she is taking her eternal afternoon nap in the great beyond.  If I could only explain this properly to my children…

“Um..Yeah…Honey, Karma went to heaven, remember?”

“Yeah.  That’s okay!”  He pipes.  “We can send it to her.”

Now, I’m flummoxed.  How do you explain to a 3 year old that heaven includes a meal plan?  Oh, wait — I’ll let the 5 year old do it.

“You don’t need food in heaven.  They give you lots of dog treats,” Princess states like this is common knowledge to everyone in their pre-Kindergarten year.  I start to relax and add something to the cart out of Baby’s reach.  Crisis avoided — or not.

“You know when you go to heaven, you can see Karma.  But I’ll go to heaven first.  No wait.”  She scrunches her face and looks at the ceiling.  “First Auntie D. will go, then Mom–”

“–And then Biscuit!”  Big Boy injects to make sure that Auntie D.’s Yorkie is not left out of the Big Dog Park in the Sky.

“Right.”  She points her finger at him in accord.  ” Auntie D. Biscuit.  Mom.  Me.  And you.”

Standing in front of the Miss. Vickie’s I realize that the sole determiner of mortality for my children is a) have we seen you with a dog lately, or b) are you currently in front of our faces.  If neither of these conditions apply, it seems that you’re going to live forever.  Forget the vitamins, healthy eating and all those laps at the pool — just plan your route to a drop off at the SPCA well away from us, and you are making it to at least 150!

This is my life:  one long theological debate with children.  If God can do everything, can He do something bad?  It’s not okay to hit, unless the person’s evil, right?  So, what if we hit them before they do something bad, and then we would be making them good?   And isn’t’ that good?  Why did God make mosquitos who are so ugly?  And bite me?  Why?

Usually, I answer these questions, and try to help little, forming minds tackle the tough stuff in a way they can handle.  But this Doggie Death March is just too much, even for me.  “When’s Auntie A. going to heaven, Mom?  Is it soon?”

Big Boy stares at me, all smiles and wide-eye innocence, waiting for an answer.

“You know what Karma told me?  That she wants you to stop talking about this and pick out chips.  Who wants treats?”

The crinkling cellophane chorus drowns out the nagging voice in my head that I am a terrible, terrible Mother, whose kids will be 16 and wondering why their departed relatives aren’t getting their postcards.  I’ll just tell them the truth:  Mail delivery is really spotty to the Pearly Gates.

Is There Ever Enough?

Baby Girl came into bed at 6:30 this morning, and insisted on sleeping on my neck. But I didn’t mind. The wind was cooling the room, and the sky was the over-cast helmet of a day of rain. Perfect napping weather, except I had to crawl out of my cocoon and start the day. I smiled at my Sweetie as he read his iPad, the blue glow on his face. When I’m like this I’m all haimish and happy. Then, I get up and the spell is broken.

I worry.  And worry and worry.  Will there be enough?  Enough to cover piano lessons, enough milk in the fridge for cereal, enough time to remember the project for school before they dash out the door?  Will I have enough patience not to snap, not to shout, to jump in the air for the 40th time that day and pretend to be surprised when she stomps up behind me and yells “Boo?”

Who will pay for our retirement?  What if something happens to one of us?  Maybe I should go back to work and help out around here.  It’s so hard to always say “no.”  No, you can’t have that.  No, it’s too much money.  No, we don’t have time today.  No, your Father and I don’t think it’s a good idea.  So, no.  Face falls, shoulders slump.  “I knew you’d say that….”

For years now, I’ve been researching the ancient pilgrimage route, the Camino de  Santiago de Compostela (the Way of Saint James), which crosses from France over the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain.  It is my Sweetheart’s and my dream to one day walk it together.  A common thread seems to unite the reflections of the pelegrinos (the name for all “pilgrims” on the route) is that the Camino is life, and life is the Camino.  Everyday you get up and keep walking.  Did you have great day?  Super!  Now, keep walking.  Things going bad and everything’s wrong?  Rats.  Keep walking.   Just like daily life with it’s tiny victories and humiliations — just keep walking.

But what is so illuminating about a physical pilgrimage, is that it’s pretty hard to hide our decision to stop walking.  By Day 3 of your “Rest Stop” sitting in a Pub in some picturesque Spanish village, it has become apparent to everyone, including yourself, that you are going nowhere.  In the river of daily life though, it’s easy to be caught up in some little ebb and happily bob along there until it is too late.  The race was run and all you’ve got to show for it is a really awesome DVD collection, and a decent on-line gaming personae.  Trying to avoid the pain of the step after step after step, you missed the entire journey.  The gnawing in the pit of your stomach that you took the easy way out.

It seems I can walk the Camino without ever leaving home.  (This is awesome, because with trans-Atlantic flights costing what they do, I feel like we’ll be using walkers by the time we save up enough.  But who knows?  Maybe by then it will be Wheelchair Accessible.)  The question is whether I can keep going, step after packed lunch after messy room after bill to pay after step.  And if I don’t look at the big picture, but just do the little bit in front of me, well, I think — I hope — I can.  Just do the next thing and somehow we’ll all get to where we are supposed to go.

Update: I realized that I should have listed some of the Camino resources/reflections that I stumbled across that might be of some interest to you all.  As Brother James mentioned in the comments, there is the excellently reviewed movie The Way, which is hovering at the top of my to see list.  However, the rest of these I have had the chance to check out personally:

I just recently read this reflection by Dr. José Pereira, a Palliative Care Doctor at the Nothing More Beautiful Event sponsored by the  Archdiocese of Edmonton on May 10, 2012.  It is not a description of the Camino but a spiritual reflection of the impact the journey had on Dr. Pereira and his faith.

I was struck by several similarities to a programme on CBC Radio 2 I had stumbled on a few Sundays previous.  The program was called Inside the Music and it highlighted the work of fiddler/composer Oliver Schroer (1956-2008) who walked the Camino and recorded his own work in various Churches along the way  and collected in the album Camino.  The description of “keep walking” was a paraphrase of (what must of been previously recorded) Schroer’s.

Finally, if you are looking for a well-written travelogue with some wry commentary on just how weird thing can get with a bunch of women, get a hold of Jane Christmas’ What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim.  This book has a lot of great information on the nuts and bolts of the Camino, and some “funny now that it’s over” observations on traveling en masse with fellow females.

Am I a Narcissistic Psycho for Putting My Kids’ Pictures on My Blog?

No, really.  That’s a real question for you all, not a prelude for me to shout in ALL CAPS for the next 400 words about how everything is OK.  I’m wondering if I’ve made a mistake decorating this page with pictures of my still-minor children.

All this comes down to those nasty Stats and Search Engine Terms.  Yesterday, I had a (mild) spike in traffic (for those of you with lives and not blogs 😉 that means visitors to my blog page,) and upon closer investigation, it all came from a Google Image Search from Switzerland.  Which reminded me that “Boy Playing with Barbie” brings up Big Boy as the 5th top image in Google — at least on my computer since Google and other search engines trick us into thinking the little customized version of the world that they present us is the same for everyone.   But it started to creep me out, and leads me to wonder where were my kids’ pics are going, who was looking, and would they end up somewhere weird one day.  Its not just creepy deviants — are these photos going into advertising, viral emails, Internet memes?  Are their faces going to be Photoshopped into the Joke of the Day at the latest Lumpen Prol Mock Site?

I’m trying to not have delusions of grandeur here.  My kids — while they will always remain in my eyes the most beautiful creatures alive — realistically land the middle band of “pleasant” in the attractiveness scale.  And Ansel Adams I ain’t (which is probably good because I don’t think he was known for his portraiture.)   And I know that “everyone does it,” and with no ill effects so far for the most part.  Plus, kid shots are 96% of the photos that I have.  It’s them or the tulip, baby.

This has really started to bother me, to the point that I thought about pulling down my blog while I figured it out.  However, considering my deep seated aversion to quitting anything even when it sucks, the whole idea of giving up caused me too much anxiety, and I had to write a blog post to calm down.  *Sigh*  What’s a crazy person to do?

Am I a terrible woman using the likeness of my unsuspecting offspring to attract eyeballs in a feeble attempt to brand myself, never considering the long term damage my profligate posting may be doing?  Or am I just a boring old housewife livening up the drab Internet with my random pics of innocence and domestic bliss?

Psycho or Mrs. June Cleaver?  I guess I’ll just have to think about it.  Feel free to wade in below.  In the meantime, here’s that picture of the tulip.

Update! I took Dr. Drew’s Online Narcissism Test and out of a possible score of 40, I got a 4 (the average is 15.) So, I might be crazy, but I’m probably not a Narcissist. I’m going to go think about myself for a while — looks like I’ve fallen down in that area so far….might explain why my idea of me-time is folding laundry.

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