Back-to-School Angst

The new school clothes were folded and put away and the lunch bag was ready and waiting  It was time for back to school.  Part of me couldn’t wait.  Two months, mostly on my own, with the Dudes full time has been tiring… but, as I gathered the gear on back-to-school eve, a very big part of me felt only regret.

I have to say… I expected to be like that guy in the staples commercial… you know, the one singing about the best time of the year.

Two months seemed like such an expanse of time.  I planned trips to the beach, museum travels, educational outings and lots of books.

I managed to read lots of books… but mostly because I have been housebound due to this damn foot.

Granted, housebound at the cottage beats being at home any day, but I still feel like I have missed out on my summer.

I was so wrapped up in my own angst over the end of the summer that never was, I forgot to reflect on those that really count.  When faced with greeting a new little girl starting school for the first time at the bus stop this morning, Big Dude burst into tears.  After weeks of bravado about being excited to go back, Dude was suddenly anxious about the end of his summer too; new teacher, new classmates, new challenges.  Suddenly he was longing for lazy days at the cottage too.

What I forgot was that September is a time of change and that change does not discriminate, no matter how old we are. 

What I also forgot was that people thrive on change.

Big Dude came home literally vibrating with excitement over his ‘awesome’ day… and I managed my errands and started working my way into the new routine.  I’m not sure I’m thriving yet but I’ll adjust. 

Maybe I need a few new crayons to get excited too.

Posted in motherhood, school | Leave a comment

Mommy Confesstions: My Bumpy Bear Crush

I have begun to covet my son’s teddy bear.

Now, you could be forgiven for sneering a little at the idea of a 36 year old woman wanting a Teddy Bear but you haven’t met this bear.  He’s a pretty fantastic bear. 

He even has a book written about him…

and sat for his own portrait

…he’s not your average bear. 

You can see why I might be a bit smitten.

It is not, however, just his worldly experience that has prompted my crush.  He’s got just the right amount of stuffing, he’s a very good cuddler and he’s got the most soulful eyes.  There are many stuffed animals out there ready to play, but only a true child’s love toy can look at you with the perfect mix of understanding and compassion.

Best of all, Bumpy Bear always makes things better.

That’s what I covet most about this special bear.  Bumpy Bear came into our lives in a very special and meaningful way. Since those first dark days he has continued to offer the simple comfort all of us need.  Many times I have found myself cuddling my son and holding Bumpy Bear just as tight as the Dude.  There is something about his eyes.  They understand.

For Bumpy Bear it is simple; a hug will make it all better.  As an adult, I know it is not that simple.  Life is complicated and balancing responsibilities is hard.  Whether it is illness or arguments, bills or exhaustion we learn to just power through and get it done.

I think maybe that’s what I love so much about Bumpy Bear.  He lets me think, just for a moment, that maybe it is that simple.  Maybe a quick cuddle will make it better.

So Big Dude…. I know he’s yours and I’ll never take him away or donate him to another child… but if you do find him missing from time to time, look for me.  I might just need to borrow him for a little while to let myself believe, if only for a moment, that a hug will make it all better.

Posted in bumpy bear; love; motherhood, dad | 2 Comments

Things I learned this summer:

  • Don’t step in a gopher hole… it’s a conspiracy and the little buggers are out to get us.  They are after us one stupid broken foot at a time.
  • Hauling babies and car seats and laundry and backpacks and extra wipes/diapers/snacks/juice/clothing/toys for six years does not mean you have any upper body strength.
  • I really need to loose weight… hauling around my own fat arse (even if I had lost that 20 pounds) on crutches sucks!
  • Putting on spanks while wearing a cast requires feats of contortionism as yet unseen in even the weirdest of circus freak shows.
  • Taking off said spanks after a wedding and a few drinks (well, maybe few is the wrong word but we’ll go with that for now) is only slightly easier.
  • Hotel luggage carts make for a comfortable ride home. 
  • Giving an 11-year-old a sharpie and a blank casts means there will be no room left for anyone else to write anything.
  • Struggling through the West Edmonton Mall Water Park on crutches just because you feel some misguided need not to miss the family vacation ‘fun’ is stupid – and causes freakishly purple toes when said crutches give way on the wet floor, causing a rather spectacular dance move reminiscent of the Electric Slide. 
  • I am not graceful.  Crutches do not help that fact.
  • Going down the stairs on your ass looks like a good idea… until you have to find a way to get upright again.
  • Wheelbarrows also make for a comfortable, if somewhat dirty, ride home… though the driver probably should be sober if you attempt this mode of transportation.
  • People are either remarkably helpful when they see you struggling through a door with crutches and two young children… or they will stare at you like they are driving past a particularly gory car crash and make no move at all to help.
  • Breaking this damn foot will not get the best of me and I will salvage what is left of this summer… if it kills me.
Posted in 20lbs, exercise, lifestyle, motherhood, physical activity | 1 Comment

When grief sneeks up on you….

They kept telling me there would come a day I wouldn’t want to get out of bed.

I thought I’d escaped that prospect.  I thought in five months of grieving and focusing on life after terminal cancer, I had put some of this behind me.

I thought wrong.

I am constantly amazed how grief can catch me unaware.  I was mired the chaos of the end of school year activities.  I was even in the midst of writing a post of how all this felt like I was caught up in a horse race with the current intensity of activity and the prospect of everything coming to a screeching halt after the last day of school.

Now I feel like I’ve been knocked off my horse.  Nothing particular caused it.  There have been little things, like the approach of the burial after months of frozen ground and my first time picking up the phone to call my mother with news only to remember she wasn’t there, but overall I’ve been feeling like this spring has helped me moved past all of this.

I think it boils down to this perpetual struggle between wanting to be the grown up and wanting some to take care of you.  It’s something we’ve battled with endlessly with The Girl.  She wants to make her own decisions about studying and spending but doesn’t want to wash the dishes or her clothes.

Now that I’ve achieved what The Girl sees as the Holy Grail of freedom (but who feels free with three kids hanging off me?), all I want is a Mommy to take care of me… or at least make some of these endless decisions.  I feel this intensely as I prepare for the visitors coming for Mom’s burial.  Planning  menus, allocating beds, organizing the reception; these are all things my mother would have done, and would have done well.  However, I just feel like throwing myself down on the floor in a tantrum.

I guess that’s the problem with growing up.  Once we get this so-called freedom we so desperately want, we find it comes attached to a heavy load of responsibility, and the older we get the fewer people we have to carry the load.

I started to conclude this rather maudlin post with a wish that The Girl was able to see the freedom she does have is freedom for which many adults can only wish, but I’m not sure that’s the only lesson this household needs today.

The reality is I have people to take care of me and I don’t have to do it all alone.  It just feels like it when I’m caught up in my grief.  Even today a dear friend caught wind of my doldrums and offered to make some muffins or sweets to help with the service.  I gratefully brushed her off… too caught up in my own self-pity to see that what she was offering was just what I needed.

I preached to a good friend this week about gratitude.  She was having a tough time and, while it wouldn’t solve her current struggles, I reminded her of the positive side of her family feud.

I need to take my own advice.  I am grateful for the family I have left and I am grateful for generous friends.  I’m grateful for great kids, even if they don’t always behave perfectly, and a wonderful husband.

I miss my parents… but that’s okay.  They were taken too young but I couldn’t have them forever.  I need to let myself say goodbye and need to let in the people I have left.

Posted in cancer, grief, motherhood | 1 Comment

Stop this crazy teen ride!

I often write to help myself find some kind of  lesson in my daily confusion or at least to help myself, and hopefully others, find some answers.  I guess that is why I haven’t been posting much lately.  I find myself opening a blank page and then staring at it.  Where are the answers when you watch your teen dig herself deeper into a hole of her own making?
With the Dudes I can take away toys or withhold promised treats… motivating a reluctant teenager is like nothing I have experienced before.  I feel like the character the boys’ favorite story book Sleeping Dragons All Around.  I must “tip toe, tip toe, softly as I go” for fear of waking the angry teen and facing the wrath of near permanent PMS.  Only I don’t get the mocha maple chocolate cake at the end of our story (though comfort eating is, unfortunately, in full force for me).

This is also where the great disadvantage of being a step-parent comes into play.  I have taken on all the love, worry and responsibility of being a parent yet only Daddy gets the unconditional love.  We try to do what’s best for her.  We try to instill a sense of responsibility she so desperately needs as the end of high school looms closer and closer.  The more she fights us, however, the more I fear my relationship with her may not recover.

I’ve tried playing the softy. I’ve tried letting Daddy do the disciplining.  I’ve tried being her friend.  The reality is we’re just going to have to hold on and ride out the rebellion ride.  I knew there was a reason I never like the amusement park rides.  They are too much like life; careening out of control and then coming to a screeching halt.  I’m hoping summer is the end of this particular ride, or at least at least the valley before the roller coaster goes back up another big hill.

When do I get my girl back?

Posted in motherhood, teenagers | 1 Comment

Praise… and a plea… in the fight against cancer.

I am so encouraged bu all these great people who are working so hard to fund raise for the Canadian Cancer Society through Relay for Life.  It is really nice to see people so committed to eradicating this plague.
At the same time, I see such a fundamental problem with the public education around the carcinogens that are so ubiquitous in this society.  I don’t want to criticize the people who are fundraising for this great cause but I also want people to know that curing cancer is about more than just fundraising and about doctors in lab coats.  It is about making a fundamental change to society and to how individuals choose to live their lives. 

A recent neighbourhood yard sale was a great example.  There were lots of people raising money through coffee sales and BBQs for their Relay for Life team.  These action has wonderful intentions but the food our society finds acceptable for sale at these events are loaded with carcinogens and sugar and other disease causing ingredients.  The hot dogs are loaded with nitrates.  According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, three different studies have come out in the last year linking nitrates in hot dogs to childhood cancer.  The pop people were selling  is linked to obesity (a major cause of cancer) and chronic illness like diabetes.  Sugary sodas have also now been linked to pancreatic cancer.

Now, I can’t say it enough times, I am not criticizing the well meaning and committed people who are raising money for the Relay for Life and other cancer fundraisers.  They are doing important work and I support them 100%.  What I am criticizing is society and its belief that the solution to this problem lies with someone else: with the researchers or the doctors or the food manufacturers.  It has to start with education and personal choice.  Our grocery stores think its okay to sell products loaded with known carcinogens.  The product manufacturers will continue to make and sell the products with dozens of ingredients you can’t even pronounce, let alone have any idea of their origin.  They will continue to do so unless people stop buying those products.

We need to speak with our wallets.  Other products, once with fewer toxic ingredients (isn’t that a sad comment on society that I have to writer ‘fewer toxic ingredients’ as opposed to none), are starting to make their way onto the shelves.  Please, buy the hot dogs or deli meat made without nitrates.  Buy the bread made with flour, yeast and ingredients you understand. Read the labels and understand what you are feeding your family.

Please, demand more of your food.  In the month two more close friends have been hit with cancer diagnoses, one of them terminal.  Raising money is an important part of eradicating cancer but the biggest impact you can have is in your own life and in that of your family.  Educate yourself and help us all make healthier choices.

Posted in cancer, lifestyle | 1 Comment

Oprah… energy… and a bad business call.

I’m shaking.

I just got off the phone with a man I had hoped to interview for a story.  It is a simple home improvement story and he is a local business owner who offers a home improvement product.

In 15 years of reporting, I have never had anyone respond to an interview request like that.  The man admitted he was tired, which I can understand, even relate to, but then he proceeded to berate me having called and interested in only how it would benefit his bottom line.  He claimed to be in the business of educating people about his product but apparently only if it directly generated sales.  Thankfully, he declined the interview and I don’t have to speak to him again (and certainly not buy his product when it comes time to start our summer home improvement project).

I’m surprised at my physical reaction to the experience.  My jaw is clenched and my hands are shaking.  If I look at this objectively, I can understand this man was tired and probably not in the best mental state to be accepting a call from a reporter.  At the same time, that does not give him the right to jump down my throat and then accuse me of being rude.  I am deeply offended. 

I am not a regular Oprah viewer but I did make time to watch yesterday’s final episode.  I felt it was a cultural moment I didn’t want to miss.  Some her words, especially today, struck a chord with me.  She spoke about how people need to be responsible for the energy they bring into a room.

She’s right.  It’s my business if I am in a bad mood but it is not my right to put that mood onto someone else (like poor Little Dude who has to deal with distracted Mummy after that darn phone call).  That’s what this man did today.  He works in a physically demanding business and he has every right to be tired.  He has no right to put that negative energy on me. 

I was having a nice day today… it’s time to find a patch of sunshine to regain that mood before I perpetuate this cycle and put that negative energy onto someone else.

Oprah’s right… be responsible for the energy you bring into a space… dont’ be the guy on the phone today.

Posted in writing | Leave a comment

Motherhod vs career… conflicting or complimentary?

Sometimes you just need a little adult conversation.

I had a meeting today… complete with work clothes, makeup and… gasp… contact lenses!

I got up, had a shower and left the entire morning routine to The Husband (with the exception of one poopy bum… but, well, you can’t have it all).  I left the house carrying a briefcase and wearing heels.  I even stopped for a coffee en route.  I felt like a real professional.  It felt great.

The meeting centred around ideas and creativity and professionalism and no one spilled their apple juice.

After that was done, I went to the gym.  I felt energized and accomplished and had my best workout in months.  I wasn’t dragging my ass as I normally do.

When I returned home, Little Dude and I had a great lunch conversation about zebras and elbows and I felt engaged and happy to be with just him.

As Little Dude approaches school I have been struggling with the idea of how, or if, to expand my professional life… considering work potential both at home and in the workplace.

This morning was food for thought.  For today… working outside the house made me a better mother.  Stimulating all those parts of my brain that don’t have to do with my kids, left me appreciating them that much more.

Posted in motherhood, work-at-home | 2 Comments

While others are celebreating us as Mothers today… lets take a moment to honour ourselves.

My mother didn’t see herself as a good mother. 

It always surprised me. 

She would marvel at, what she perceived as, my endless patience with the children (wow, what a difference of opinion that was… I’ve always found my lack of patience my worst failing as a mother).

I have always counted myself lucky to have two such incredible parents.  I always knew, no matter what, they loved and supported me.  What more could a child ask for?

My mother wasn’t the type to sit down for hours and play dolls.  What does that matter?  She did spring for a hotel room so the birthday party that was ruined by cruel preteen girls could be salvaged at the only water slide in town.  She sent me my childhood teddy bear in university when the boy I thought was the love of my life (what was his name again?) broke up with me.  She dropped her suitcases after returning from a long trip to turn around a drive two and a half hours to rescue me when The Husband was away and I was so sick with pregnancy number two that I couldn’t stand up, never mind care for Big Dude.  I call that good mothering.

In fact, I call any mother who can raise kids who are secure in the knowledge that they are loved, good mothers.

I read an article today about how people think mothering was easier in the 70s.  Parents could do the laundry while their kids walked to ballet class or soccer.  Parenting was letting kids discover themselves while Mom took care of the rest.  It’s a pretty simplistic view.  I am a parent and I’m not willing to claim any mother had it ‘easier’ than I do.

We all face challenges, whether it’s my mother’s lack of confidence or my friend’s challenges balancing motherhood and working full-time.  We all have successes and we all have failures.  I’m simply looking to tip the scales in my favour.

I thought today, my first Mother’s Day without one, would be really difficult.  I had my sad moments and, when I dressed this morning, I consciously wore jewelry my mother had given me.  What I realized as the day wore on was that I was carrying my mother with me, not in the jewellery that I wore, but in the woman that I am.

That is the success of my mother and that is the success of all mothers.  Our children carry us with them, in their faults and in their shining moments.  Lets cut ourselves some slack and take a moment today, when our family stop to celebrate us, to honour ourselves. 

We are doing the best we can…. and that’s enough.

Posted in motherhood | 2 Comments

Royal Wedding Confessions…

Okay… I admit it.  I got up early to watch ‘the wedding.’

I remember my mother did the same thing with Charles and Di (though we were on the West coast so her sacrifice was a little greater than my paltry 6:30 am).  I also remember not being allowed to get up to watch the event… and being really mad at her for it.

As a young girl I was in love with Prince Andrew and thought Sarah Ferguson was the most incredible princess ever.  I wanted to be just like her (considering her current standing with the Royal Family, I wonder what that says about my life goals?).

I speared headed my television station’s coverage of the Queen’s visit for Alberta’s centennial and, while jaded by the British press and the intricate rules, did find myself a little in awe of Her Majesty and impressed by her poise and grace under pressure.

I was even tempted to keep the collection of Royal memorabilia we found in my mother’s house.  There were ashtrays and mugs and pins.  I didn’t keep it in the end but, I have to admit, I was tempted by the gaudy mug with Charles and Di’s photos.

In reality, the wedding of Will and Kate has absolutely nothing to do with my life.  I may be electronically mobbed for saying this but I didn’t even like the dress.  There service was somewhat dull, though it was a nice sermon and the boys choir was wonderful.  It was a pretty anti-climactic morning.

That said, it was also a cultural moment that I wouldn’t miss.  This week I’ve heard my generation talking about the wedding of Will’s parents.  In the toy box at the cottage we have an antique View Master with slides of the Queen’s coronation.  Diana’s death has become a bit like the JFK assassination… people ask ‘where we you when…’.  Even if we bitch about them, we seem to mark our cultural moments with their significant events.

The monarchy may be increasingly irrelevant in our modern society but I still believe there is a role for the Royal Family.  They are so much a symbol of our past and our present.  Their own troubles mirror those in society… the marital problems, the financial pressures, the difficulty the older generation has in acclimatizing to this new reality.  I think the Palace is doing a wonderful job marrying tradition to reality.  The day began with the traditional Westminster Abby event complete with Queen Victoria’s myrtle in the bouquet, it will end with the dance party Harry is said to be holding at the Palace tonight. 

Now, if only I hadn’t misplaced my invitation.

Posted in royals | 1 Comment