Category Archives: parenting

One Thing To Rule Them All

I had planned to blog last week during our holiday. Not cause I have to. Because I really want to.

I envisioned myself writing deep thoughts about God and life in my brand new notebook as our mini-van winds its way through the Rocky Mountains. Or perhaps curled up with a pen and paper in front of the fireplace, trying to recapture the hilarity and wonder of a new family adventure. At the very least, I would have time, away from chores and telephones and teetering piles of laundry, to polish up one of the many half-finished posts in my drafts folder.

But no more whiney posts about parenting. Not again. I’ve done way too much of that.

This holiday week was chock-full of inspiration.

  • Easter week… bringing one of the greatest showdowns of these modern times – Jesus Christ vs. Chocolate. Who will capture the heart of our generation?
  • The Rocky Mountains – my very favourite place ON EARTH. Ten thousand Japanese tourists can’t be wrong.
  • Spending time, real memory-making, road trip taking, in each other’s pockets until you want to scream, time as a family.
  • Glen’s Grandma’s 90th birthday – bringing in cousins and uncles and one incredibly beloved nephew from far and wide; showing off our new addition for the first time; celebrating a woman who isn’t Great because of her many years on earth, but because of who she is and how she loves.
  • Finally introducing the boy to MY Grandma (clearly we have an embarrassment of riches in the Great-Grandma department) – by the time we left he had decided she was his favourite adult, ignoring the rest of us and dragging her away when the rest of us tried to talk to her.
  • My brother-in-law changed his FaceBook profile picture to a red equal sign (the internet is awash in the gay rights and the bible debate). I wanted to “like” it, but I wanted to explain that to everyone who might not understand why I do.

So I started about a dozen different posts, in my head and on paper. I tried. I really did. To write something touching or eloquent or provocative or even readable.

But the voice in my head sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher.


I was defeated by the one thing that trumps inspiration. It puts basic intelligence in a headlock and flushes all my emotional energy right down the toilet. It squeezes my physical body like a dish rag, until I am literally begging for relief. It is the one thing that rules them all.


Specifically, a desperate lack of sleep.

430amThe boy has discovered that he can escape his play pen at nap and bedtime. So he does. Over and over and over again. Apparently, this is so much more fun than actually sleeping. He cruises right past tired (which is a sweet time of eye rubbing and snuggling and big yawns) right into over-tired (which involves frantic hyperactivity, screeching at the top of his lungs and dramatic tantrums).

We tried everything. Rocking, singing, cuddling, co-sleeping, absolute quiet, ignoring him, gentle discipline, cough syrup, putting him down early, staying up late, skipping nap, liquid melatonin, begging, yelling, praying… we asked for ideas on Facebook. We even drove into the city to buy a tent to put over his playpen (which he broke in about 5 minutes). In the end, we spent hours and hours holding him in his bed until he fell asleep. Every nap. And every bedtime.

One night we played this game until 4:30 am. By that time, both he and I were crying.

I am barely human after 3 am.

Naturally, he wakes up at 7 am. Every morning. No matter what.

This changed the trajectory of our family holiday. Glen and I barely saw each other. I barely had time to shower, much less think or write or create. We didn’t tackle nearly as many activities as we had planned. We weren’t as witty or interesting or wow-look-how-cool-they-still-are-even-though-they-have-such-a-chaotic-brood-of-children as we had planned.

I’m not going to lie. These are the times I wonder… what have we gotten ourselves into? I’m not nearly as calm and patient and put-together as I hoped I’d be. I’m not the Mom I should be. I rely on DVDs and iPhone games and counting down the minutes until nap time.

And the selfish part of me resents all those people relaxing in the Banff Hot Springs while we usher two screaming, poopy children back out after the least relaxing 3 minutes of our day. And I wonder if I’ll ever finish a conversation at a family gathering without darting away to rescue someone’s purse or flower arrangement or too-close-to-the-edge-of-the-table drink. And I’m tired. So incredibly tired. All the time.


And here’s the part that matters, even though it’s not all that touching or eloquent or provocative.

For every miserable, smelly, irritating, exhausting challenge they bring into our life, there is a heart warming, sweet, wonderful, life affirming moment that makes it all worthwhile.

At 4:30 am, I cried tears of frustration as the boy screamed and fussed. In his thrashing he managed to twist himself out of my arms and smash his head against the wall on the way down. The sound just makes me feel sick. It was a low point.

He immediately stopped screaming and fighting and scrambled into my arms. “Mama! Mama! Mama!” Rubbing his face into my neck while I checked for a lump and kissed it better. He stroked my hair and wrapped his legs around my waist and his eyes finally, FINALLY closed.

I guess I’m easy to please. Because that little cuddle made the whole wretched night worth it.

He’s still my favourite boy in the whole world.

So here’s us, home to recover from our “vacation” and not a moment too soon.

It’s a Sibling Thing

My Mom is a true pacifist. She craves peace: genuine, co-operative, Kumbaya, why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along peace. She finds the debating and discussion our family dabbles in unsettling. She prefers to play for fun, and not to win. She is quick to point out the dark side of competitiveness and ambition. And she has ZERO TOLERANCE for violence.

My Sisters and I

sistersAs the (much older) sister, this meant my fights with my sisters were semantic, never physical and rarely even verbal. Just a simmering annoyance and sly pokes at one another. At 7 and 10 years younger, they were always the babies compared to me. I couldn’t get away with much, without coming across as the bully. So, I teased and tormented one and babied the other.

My Mom’s strict censure on all physical conflict had an unintended side effect for the youngest two. In the space between the back of the couch and the living room wall, my sisters found a way to battle for dominance anyway.

Silent fights.

Not a word. Not a sound. Just an all out brawl in absolute quiet. Until one would burst into giggles, at the ridiculousness of it all, and the other would stomp away angrier than ever.

Now we’re all grown up. And though we were told repeatedly, “you do not have to be friends, but you do have to treat each other with respect,” I not only respect, but consider both to be friends. The kind of friends that you don’t have to keep up with regularly, but can still pick up and hang out with when life allows. The kind of friends who can disagree fundamentally, but still laugh and wax nostalgic and know that it doesn’t really change anything important. The kind of friends who actually have a lot in common, and not just our back story or complexions, but our taste in books and sense of humour.

My own kids

I want that for my kids: a true, meaningful friendship. And not someday. I want it right now. I want to be the Mom who says, “they are so close, they love spending time together and they get along so well.”

But they don’t.

Sure, they spend a lot of time together. The two oldest share a room. The two youngest enjoy the same toys and shows. They play together and enjoy each other. But never for very long… inevitably fighting ensues.

There is nothing semantic about the conflicts in our house. When B is upset she will systematically remove all of her brother’s toys from his room and hide them in her own room. S is much more straightforward (being both a boy and 2); he screams at the top of his lungs and charges (watch the teeth). I’m not sure which one is more problematic.

The big girls are even worse. They are ones who really worry me. And frustrate me. And make me say things like, “I don’t want to hear it” and “work it out” on a regular basis.

The phrase, “she can outpester any pest” comes to mind when C decides she wants something from her long-suffering roommate. While C is prone to emotional outbursts, we’ve been around long enough to realize that L is often the one poking the bear, then sitting back with a contented smirk while little sister gets herself in trouble. There is no issue too small, no provocation too absurd, no slight too obviously imagined to escape their notice.

They are both kind girls with tender hearts. They are helpful and gracious. They are generous and considerate.

To everyone else.

Is this normal?

I’m told it is. I hope it is. For some reason we are our worst selves to our siblings. Because we can. Because they’re there. Because they’re ALWAYS right there in our space and into our stuff and generally making us crazy.

I find myself saying it a lot these days: “You don’t have to like each other, but you DO have to treat each other with respect.”

This sibling rivalry must have been hard on my peace-loving Mom. I know I long for the days when they will finally cut each other some slack. They would never dream of treating anyone else the way they do each other.

They are each other’s worst enemy. But, even though they may not admit it, they are each other’s best friend too.

So here’s me, feeling a little bad for the way I treated my sister. Sorry Esther Pester.

Does Mommy Get a Sick Day?

I spent this weekend crawling from bed to the couch and back again in a haze of Gravol and ginger ale. The 3 girls had a lighter version of the same (more vomit, but less crawling).  There’s nothing worse than cleaning up their messes when you’re choking back your own sick. Wretched stomach bug.

sick dayNaturally, our little Energizer Bunny, 2 year-old S has been healthy and raring to go. On Friday afternoon he played in the rain puddles on the deck, still wearing his PJs, while his sisters and I watched bleary-eyed from the couch. Tracking mud in, throwing his toys and random items of kitchen ware over the railing and screeching for our attention whenever we drifted off. Stellar parenting.

Daddy’s arrival home was greeted with a family wide sigh of relief. He brought Subway sandwiches and ginger ale. He popped the littles in the bath and bundled them off to bed, while I watched Netflix and dozed off again. My hero.

C was devastated to miss a friend’s birthday party that afternoon. Normally I would roll my eyes at her over-dramatic reaction, but I had my own taste of tragic unfairness having to text my sister to find someone else to go with her to the Opera the next night. I had been SO looking forward to it. It’s NOT fair!

We consoled ourselves by watching an old video. That’s right, a video: a clunky black rectangle that goes in an old-fashioned machine called a “VCR.” These “videos” are so outdated that they can be bought for only $1 at the thrift store and are eagerly handed down to us from friends. We have stacks of old movies in our storage room – REALLY old according to our girls, like, from the 90s. Cause that’s how we roll.

This was C’s introduction to Jane Austen. Gwyneth Paltrow as the irrepressible and often oblivious, Emma. I had tried to draw my girls into the fold before this, but they weren’t at all interested in the strange costumes, stilted language and bizarre customs. But this time she was intrigued. We discussed the class system, gender roles, courtship rituals and, of course, the amazing hairstyles. The next night we watched Newsies and tackled poverty, child labour, unions and cheesy dance moves.  Teachable Moments FTW!

It wasn’t the weekend I had planned. And I sure won’t be looking to repeat it anytime soon. One of the hardest parts of parenting is the unrelenting nature of the job. It used to be that my sick days were about ME, but now they’re about everyone else. Rearranging the plans, leaning on friends and family, using what little energy you’ve got to change diapers and sing lullabies and scrape a meal together… because you can’t take a day off of being Mommy.

But it’s not all sacrifice and sucking it up.

I’m blessed to have a man who jumps in as much as he can to carry the load. And maybe he doesn’t do it all the right way my way, but it gets done, and he works his ass off to take care of us. And maybe he isn’t a natural caregiver, but he’ll drop everything to get me what I ask for (including the middle of the night, no questions asked). But it’s a good lesson for me in spelling out what I want/need instead of expecting him to notice (because he really doesn’t).

I’m blessed to have pre-teen daughters who still want to spend time with me. And maybe those days are fleeting. And maybe both they and I are too busy and distracted most days. But I enjoyed some of the best mother-daughter talks we’ve had in a long time, lying side by side with a plastic bucket between us.

I’m blessed to have an 8 year-old who thinks it’s fun to take care of Mommy every chance she gets. And maybe the blanket she pulls up over my head isn’t as gentle as my pounding head requires. And maybe she wakes me up when she climbs in bed behind me and pulls the pillow out from under my head so we can “share.” But those snuggles are worth it and the loud, off-key lullaby she shouts sings to me is too.

I’m blessed to have a busy, noisy 2 year-old who stayed healthy. And maybe it’s just a matter of time. And maybe he seemed like more work than ever this weekend. But I’ll take a happy, dancing, climbing on my head, aggressively affectionate boy any day, because there’s nothing worse than a sick baby.

It was easier being sick Before Children. It was certainly quieter. I’m not going to lie. I miss that. Still… though the lows can feel so much lower when you have all these little responsibilities blessings in tow, the highs are so much higher, and that’s what keeps me pushing through. Well, that, and ginger ale.

So here’s me, finally feeling better. But I just noticed that my shirt’s been on inside-out all day. Guess I’m not 100% just yet.

Parents Need to Get a Life

I’m tired of it. The saintly, June Cleaver-ish, I-simply-exist-to-service-my-children-and-husband ideal that I keep running into. There’s a religious version. And an organic-hippie version. And a sleek, modern-day tiger-mom version. And yes, even a special needs, therapy-is-our-life version. Their parenting may look very different from each other, but they are all entirely consumed by it. And it’s not just the women. They’re martyr parents.

martyrmomIn this day and age, parenting is the last bastion of acceptable nobility. We no longer expect to lay down our freedom, our identity, our dreams… our lives on the altar of marriage, or country, or vocation. But when Jr. Me arrives on the scene, we’re prepared to gift wrap all of the above. And pat ourselves on the back for doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of selflessness. It’s something our culture could use more of. It’s something I could use more of. But good parenting is about a lot more than sacrifice.

To clarify, I’m talking to good parents here. Not the pseudo-adolescents who barely show up, much less engage their offspring. Nor the workaholic yuppie with a trophy child they stash away until family photo day rolls around.

The rest of us. Most of us. Regular folks who desperately love our kids and feel desperately overwhelmed and underqualified a lot of the time.

To compensate, we read more. We do more. We sleep less. We are the hardest-trying generation of parents who have ever lived.

And sometimes we forget that good parenting isn’t about giving more, it’s about being wise.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long haul. And we need to conserve our energy and recharge our batteries from time to time. That’s not selfish; that’s smart.

The Center-of-the-Universe is subpar housing. No one should live there. Certainly not an impressionable child. The most miserable adults began as children who believed they deserved what THEY wanted, when THEY wanted it, no matter the cost to others. It is good for children to wait, to pitch in, and to sacrifice for others, especially their parents. It builds this old fashioned thing called respect.

Kids grow up. Ouch. I know. And it happens so fast. Which makes you want to soak it in as much as you can (unless they’re really whiney; then you send them to visit the Grandparents). But someday when they need you a little less, or when they are grown and gone, your life will go on. If you have no life anymore, you are in for a shock. You are more than just a parent.

Life is happening now. Life can’t be put “on hold” until your busy child-rearing years are over. Although we are technically “adults,” we are still growing and learning and becoming. If we neglect ourselves we will be stunted phsyically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. One of the worst mistakes a parent can make is to sacrifice the health of their marriage to the immediate needs of the shortest family members. In the end, everyone suffers for that.

Whatever stage in life you are at, whatever unique circumstances you find yourself in… find something that is your own. In those first few crazy weeks/months, that might be nothing more than a quick, hot shower. Take it. Own it. It’s good for you. And that’s good for them. A good parent has their own life.

The week our baby girl was diagnosed with Down syndrome, we met with the hospital social worker. She handed us stacks of brochures and articles and tax benefit forms. But the best thing she gave us (apart from heartfelt congratulations) was this advice:

“Don’t change your whole life for her; let her fit into yours.”

Down syndrome will always be a part of her life, but we don’t build her life around it. Down syndrome will always be a part of our lives, but we don’t build our family around it.

Nor do we build it around our son’s adoption or his special needs. Or our eldest daughter’s consuming passion for dance. Or our 10-year-old’s absolutely-essential, must-have-or-she’ll-never-be-happy-again, latest trend/toy/hobby/obsession. In our family, everyone gets to have a life.

A good parent gives selflessly and sacrifices and often puts their kids first, but NOT always. A good parent has hobbies and friendships and goals and needs. A good parent goes on dates and takes long hot baths and reads books and takes holidays. A good parent can say NO, and a good parent actually does.

So here’s me, and I’m my own person.

Along these same lines… I love this article: Stress Less Parenting: What Everyone Can Learn from Lazy French Mothers What do you think?

Winning the Parenting Game

It’s like hundreds of playground meetings I’ve had before. Sideways glances. Indulgent smiles at a stranger’s child.

“He’s adorable. How old? Is he your first?”

As we politely exchange information, the tone shifts. There’s an edge of competition. No matter what we talk about, she seems determined to ‘outdo’ me.

“How insecure she must be,” think I. “Who DOES this? It’s so silly.”

But I play anyway.

We’re toe-to-toe, with our kindest voices, and our saddest stories. Let the games begin.

I’ll see your three kids in three years and raise you four kids and a disability. Ha!

I win.

Or do I?

scoreboardI’ve been keeping score ever since my friend Emily Wigle got two more stickers in Sunday School than I did. We were three. And it stung.

It’s not just parenting, either. We play our triumphs and our tragedies like cards in a poker game. It’s how we (especially women) have lived for so long, it becomes second nature. How do I measure up? Where do I fit in the pecking order?

I find myself counting kids whenever we meet someone new.

Just the three. I win! My life is harder.

Expecting number seven? How do they DO that? What’s wrong with me that I’m so overwhelmed and I only have four?

At one point, I decided to factor the special needs into the count. I have four, but the two littles count for double. We’ll call it an even six.

Never fear; you too can earn extra points:

  • Dad or Mom travels a lot +1
  • Living in a small space (trailer, cabin, apartment, RV) +1
  • Maintaining your figure +2
  • Work full-time + or -3 (depending on my mood: if that seems like it would be an extra hassle or a welcome break)
  • Fishbowl existence (pastor, missionary, politician) +2
  • Children born within a year of each other +1/per or +3 for multiples
  • Mother-in-law lives with you +1
  • Hippie Bonus Points (grow your own food, make soap, sew, no TV) +2
  • Single Mom/Dad +1000

Because everyone knows that parenthood is all about keeping score. How many hours of labour? Are you sleeping through the night yet? How many words does she have? How goes the potty training? (At this point my eye starts twitching uncontrollably) Is he in any sports? play an instrument? performing in dance competitions? composing sonnets to her loving mother to post on her weekly blog about honouring parents and not getting married until she is 30 to the man whom her father chooses?

There’s no point in even playing with a single parent. If they manage to get dressed and out of the house, automatic champion.

The constant comparison is exhausting. And pointless. Nobody wins. That moment of feeling superior/busier/more-hard-done-by is so fleeting. Right around the corner there is someone who has more on their plate, or more accomplished children, or better hair and skinnier jeans.

How about we just agree: You have your life and I have mine.

I can celebrate your success and support you in your struggles, without making it about me. I can hear your advice, without feeling judged or defensive. I can make small talk at the park with a strangely insecure woman and let her one-upmanship roll right off my back.

Parenting is not a competition. When we make it one, we all lose. Plus, it makes the playground really uncomfortable.

So here’s me, trying not to be such a loser.

Our Very Own Field of Dreams

The boy leads the way. His little legs motoring down the grassy hill, a controlled tumble to the bottom. With a shriek he flaps his arms and lifts his face to the rapidly setting sun. Daddy scoops him up and spins him around. He seems to be tasting the moment with a wide-mouthed, toothy grin. Enthusiasm personified.

His sister runs after him, arms akimbo. Not the most graceful gait, a half prance/half sprint, but joyful… elated to be free. The crunch of the frosty grass beneath her feet competes with her breathless giggles.

A game of tag ensues, although she is much more interested in the “getting” than the “being gotten.” Perpetually “It.” We are her willing quarry.

We’ve abandoned our stroller at the sleek, state-of-the-art play-park long ago. Wilder pursuits beckon. Wide open spaces begging us to stretch our legs.

The little people notice their oversized shadows. Tall gangly silhouettes do silly dances on the sun-kissed grass. The world is a buttery yellow.

baseballWe wander onto the baseball diamond, stirring up clouds of red dust. Daddy demonstrates the Right Way to fake a pitch. The girl “catches.” The boy cheers with gusto. We run the bases. Then again for good measure.

I try to capture a few images on my phone. But they are pale reflections of our unexpected adventure. It’s too precious to hold in my hands.




It’s what we were meant for. Somehow a simple walk to the park, as much like worship as any sacred tradition. In the thrill of everyday beauty, I feel God’s pleasure.

So here’s us, where play belongs to all ages.

Mommy’s Superpower

hero signThe ability to fly.

That’s my answer. To that classic nerd conversation starter: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Invisibility? Super Speed? Visions of the Future?

I can see how each one would enhance my parenting. Invisible Mom knows exactly who started it, and her children would be motivated to behave even when they are “alone.” Super Speed Homemaker gets more done in a few minutes than the rest of us in an entire day, and still has time to watch her favourite Food Network show. Psychic Mama can prevent the tantrum/fight/locking-keys-in-the-van/decorating-the-walls-with-sharpies BEFORE it even happens.

Sadly, none of these are my actual superpower.

That’s right. I have a special strength that allows me to perform beyond normal human parameters. It empowers the whole household to run smoothly (okay, smooth-er). It helps me endure when my strength is almost gone. It carries the weight of our whole family without breaking a sweat.

Routine is my superpower.

It’s not the sexiest, most exciting one out there. And it doesn’t require a cape or comic book inspired costume (though I’m not ruling that out). But I promise you, it packs a wallop!

I brush my teeth every morning. I don’t think about it. I don’t have to plan. I simply do the same thing, at the same time, every day. My lack of morning breath and significantly fewer cavities may not count as “saving a damsel in distress,” but a similar process also allows me to take daily medication and feed my children and keep my house (relatively) tidy and get our crazy family out the door each day. All these add up to a pretty heroic feat.

No matter what your age or stage or particular brand of dysfunction, you too can harness the power of routine! If you happen to have children, it can be a lifesaver. If you happen to have children with special needs, it’s an absolute necessity. Here’s why:

Routine frees up valuable time and energy.

Remember science class when you learned about levers and fulcrums and how they allow you to lift a heavy load with less effort? Routine is like that. As you shift behaviour from “intentional” into “something we do without even thinking about it,” you are able to do more, with less effort.

Get out the door in the morning. Keep the household mess from coming to life and eating us whole. Make bedtime and sleep time mean the same thing (we’re getting there).

I don’t know about you, but I need all the time and energy I can get my hands on. Trying to remember every little thing that needs doing, reacting to behavioural problems, and doing everything myself gets exhausting. Routines simplify life, prevent problems and empower children (and spouses, let’s be honest) to keep things going.

Routine makes life feel safe.

Secure children (and adults, FYI) know what to expect from their world. The stress of wondering what will happen next, and if I will-like-it/be-able-to-handle-it/am-entitled-to-watch-more-tv-right-now-instead, makes for grumpier children and parents. All children, even young toddlers, flourish when they can predict a first/then schedule and simple cause/effect.

For instance, when you get home from school you must sit on the potty, THEN you can have a snack. First comes pajamas, THEN music, rocking, cuddle and finally bed. If you throw your plate on the floor, THEN you lose it. If you do a cute dance and smile really big, THEN you get attention. If you do all your chores without complaining, THEN you can go out and play. If you do all the dishes and clean the kitchen, THEN your wife will be much more likely to give you a massage.

We’ve used pictures and symbols to reinforce routines with our children. B had a long strip of velcro on the wall; she had a picture of each morning task stuck up there (thank you Boardmaker software and Aunt Emily), and each time she finished a task she would put it in the “Finished” box at the bottom. We put new ones up for the afternoon and then a batch for before bed. She no longer needs such a detailed routine aid, but at the time, it gave her the sense of control she needed and made necessary transitions productive and less like a scene from the WWE.

Routine is inevitable.

Systems and structure aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. There are some weirdos people who prefer to wing it, to live reactively spontaneously. That may work for you in most areas, but everyone has some routines, whether we choose to or not. The unintentional, destructive ones often go by the name: bad habits.

I have just as many negative routines as positive. Sleeping until the last possible second, even though I know it’ll make our whole day much more rushed. The fight with C about proper outerwear on every rainy/cold/day-that-ends-in-y day. Eating a snack before bedtime, so it will be converted directly into fat. There is a dark side to every superpower: we are our own arch enemies.

The best way to conquer bad habits is to replace them. If you can figure out a positive routine which will supplant the destructive one, you are halfway there (you’ll have to read an article about willpower somewhere else, since it is NOT my superpower).

Routine is a servant, not a master.

This is where routine can get a bad rap. Especially from people who either a) don’t understand it or b) have an unnatural fear of change. When you are learning to cook you need to follow the recipe closely, but once you get the hang of it you can be creative, change things up, all while staying true to the spirit of the dish. In the same way, routines are not set in stone. Once they are established, they can be stretched, tweaked, negotiated and even temporarily suspended until they work for you.

Routines are a tool, not a destination. Make a plan. Try it out. Give it time to sink in. If it doesn’t make life easier, scrap it and start again.

So here’s me, saving the world one chore chart at a time!

There’s No Such Thing as a Perfect Day

Monday was a good day.

Let me rephrase. Monday was a GREAT day!

The sun was out for a change. I dropped my happy children off at school and took an impromptu detour to the zoo. Just the boy and I with 14 squirrel monkeys, 1 kangaroo, 2 pythons, 4 ducks and a dozen baby bunnies. Only a handful of words two months ago, but today he was talking my ear off. So exciting, and his attempts at the word “duck” were particularily funny (but I’m just immature like that).

When we got home he “helped” me vacuum the whole house AND mop the kitchen floor (apparently it IS still white under there); we did laundry, cleaned the kitchen and sang songs together. By “we” I mean he came behind me and undid everything I was doing, spilled a bowl of Cheerios on the kitchen floor and danced to my off-tune rendition of “This is the way we clean our house…” During nap I read a chapter of an actual book, worked out, and wrote a blog. After school I read to my children, prepared a delicious edible meal – and if this all isn’t amazing enough for you – I MADE JAM!

NOTE – the making of jam is approached with much stress and trepidation since the Great Jam Debacle of 2005 (a long story involving broken shelves, a video camera, and a pile of shattered jars of blackberry jam), and also the Tragic Jam Overflow of 2008 (which filled the stove top, stained the counter/floor/cupboard below and destroyed every cookbook I owned at the time). I would stop doing it altogether, but in his most pathetic voice, my husband tells me that he can only eat MY jam, because it’s just so much better than anything else. Let me tell you, flattery works.

Suffice it to say, I was flush with my unprecedented success. I surveyed my domain with a sense of deep satisfaction. Eat your heart out Proverbs 31 woman!

Once I got the boy to sleep, I could head out to coffee group with my girlfriends. FINALLY, I was going to show up (I have cancelled more often than not lately) AND I was going to be in a good mood. Wearing make-up and jewelry and a clean shirt. With GOOD news: I think I’m finally getting the hang of this!

In 23 minutes, I went from Overcomer, Valiant Keeper of My Home and Queen of my Universe, to a bawling, frustrated hot mess.

Just like that.

There’s something about a screaming toddler. The sound is designed to jangle our nerves and disrupt our calm. And he was MAD that night. And his teeth hurt. And he didn’t want me to leave him. Or rush his bedtime routine. Or lay him down in his bed. Or let go of his hand. And Glen was busy with B, so I was on my own.

Most nights, this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s not that unusual. After a bit of a snuggle, some rocking in the rocking chair and rubbing his forehead, he usually calms down.

But tonight I could feel my temperature rising.

I had PLANS. The is THE DAY. The day when I got it all figured out and things worked like clockwork and I reign supreme. How dare he defy me?

I made one of the most crucial parenting mistakes: I took it personally. In my head, it wasn’t bedtime or sleeping or being alone that he was fighting – it was ME. My success. My plans. My time to myself.

So I made the situation worse. Soon I was too frustrated to snuggle or rock him. Turns out harsh whispers of: “Just. Go. To. Sleep.” are not as helpful as you might think. Even though we aren’t supposed to let him cry it out with our adoption so new, I had to leave the room to collect myself.

After an hour, I ended up leaving the house. He had chewed through two soothers that day, so I ran to the store to buy some more. By the time I got back he was finally quiet and Glen was ready with a hug for me.

Sigh of relief.

Then, from the next room, B started wailing for Mommy. Somehow, I ended up in bed, wearing flannel pajamas, blubbering something like, “I’m done. I’m just done.”

So here’s me, and I missed coffee group that night. But I watched a show with my husband and the boy slept through the night and my jam… is delicious.

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. What do you think?

The Halloween Compromise

The “Happy Scarecrow” C made for our front lawn. It passes the test. Thanks S&J!

We didn’t celebrate Halloween in my house. There are a handful of pictures of Preschool Me as Red Riding Hood, but by the time my sisters came around, my parents’ “liberal trick-or-treating” urges had been thoroughly quashed. No carving pumpkins, no “what-are-you-going-as-this-year” discussions, and absolutely no witches, ghosts or monsters.We also didn’t do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy.This sounds weird to most of you, right?

I don’t regret my somewhat unusual childhood. I didn’t miss anything important. I learned that I didn’t have to be like everyone else. And I didn’t often feel deprived (also, I snuck out with Jen Mastre to go trick or treating several years in a row… sorry Mom).

But, my husband comes from a very different culture than mine (most North Americans refer to it as Middle Class Normal; we called it “worldly”). When our cultures collided, I was forced to evaluate exactly what I think and believe about Halloween. And what it means to be a Christian.

Christians feel a great responsibility to represent Jesus to the whole world. When you love/admire/respect someone so deeply and feel that your every action reflects on them, well, that’s a lot of pressure. And sometimes, we can get weird about it. Halloween is one area where we as Christians sometimes overreact and freak the hell out (pun intended).

There are belief systems which are repugnant to me. Satanism, Aryan Nation, Rampant Consumerism, “Not Liking” Chocolate… to name just a few. But I’ve come to a point in my life where I am no longer threatened by them. God is not panicked by Halloween, so why should we be?

Whatever position you take on the Origins of Halloween debate (evil demonic ritual or harmless harvest party), at this point in history, right now, it has become a mainstream celebration of masquerade and candy and general creepiness. What matters most is not what it once meant, but what it means now. A lot like that pagan festival at the end of December that we’re all so fond of these days.

Make of it what you will. October is full of teachable moments in our home about what we believe and why we’re weird and how we live and how it’s okay for people to do things differently than us. And there are many good things about Halloween, especially for Christians:

  1. It builds COMMUNITY. It’s a rare chance to spend time with your neighbours. And show off your kids. In really cute costumes.
  2. It is an opportunity to be GENEROUS. And kind. And neighbourly. And hospitable. And all sorts of Jesus-y things. A unique chance to do all this in a culturally appropriate, non-obnoxious way. Plus, the really cute kids in costumes come right to your door – how convenient is that?
  3. It is FUN! This seems like the weak post-script at the end of the list. I mean, Christianity isn’t about having fun, right? Except for all the talk of joy and love and endless feasts/celebrations throughout the Bible which paint a different picture. I can’t see Jesus as the disapproving sourpuss with a dark house; more likely he’d be out there high-fiving the neighbour kids and enjoying the cute costumes. I know I will. Well, that and making sure the appropriate Candy Tax is levied on each child.

That said, I still don’t love Halloween. It’s just not my thing. We have friends who absolutely adore it and enjoy every minute. According to some consumer reports, it is second only to Christmas in holiday popularity.

But I find much of it unsettling. Years ago a neighbour strung up the corpse of a child in a tree, noose and all. Of course it was fake and supposed to be a fun decoration, but that year we knew two children who had been murdered. To say this was an upsetting would be an understatement. It gutted me that anyone could make light of it.

So we drew our line in the sand.

We do not celebrate fear and violence. This is our Halloween compromise. We enjoy the good. We avoid the bad. And for us, that means no spooky, scary, gorey, creepy, bloody, or (and this one is the rule throughout the year) slutty.

So here’s me, and this is how we redeem Halloween in our house.

Where do you stand on Halloween? Anything goes… the creepier the better? Or are there limits?

A Mom, a Preschooler and a Toddler Walk into a Restaurant…

Hmph. Stiff neck. Eye roll. Snort of disdain. Overly loud comment about “SOME people’s kids.”

I see you. I know you’re talking about me and mine. I’m not the negligent, lazy mom who simply tunes it all out. I’m busting my butt to keep things socially appropriate. At least some of you have the grace to look ashamed when you realize one of my daughters has Down syndrome. But that’s beside the point.

Not one of you sprang into existence as fully formed adults. I have no doubt that your beginnings involved just as much snot and noise and dirty diapers as any of my kids. You were no less human then. You had just as much right to exist in this world.

Airplanes, restaurants, waiting rooms, museums, stores… I’ve felt your irritated glares in all these places. And I used to feel badly, shush more loudly, work harder to contain and dance faster to avoid stepping on your toes. But I’m sick of it. This is life – my children and I deserve to be part of it too.

We’re here. We’re loud (though we’re learning to use our inside voices). And we’re not going anywhere. Deal with it.

Someday you are going to be grumpy without your nap. Someday you will speak overly loudly and inappropriately. Someday you will gum your food and spill half of it on the way to your mouth. Someday you won’t quite make it to the bathroom.

Your lack of patience and understanding just might bite you in the ass when that someday inevitably comes. Ageism isn’t so appealing when the shoe’s on the other foot.

Why should the same children you barely tolerate now put themselves out for you? Why not stash you where you don’t offend the eyes or the senses with your inconvenient humanity? After all, who wants to be bothered with messy and smelly and troublesome? Why not simply hire a caregiver to keep you out of sight and out of mind for the rest of your days?

Karma’s a bitch, people.

So here’s me, and in my circles we call this “reaping what you sow.” Just sayin’.

This is my contribution to the Daily Press writing challenge. Answering the question: How do you feel about children in adult-oriented places?

Assuming we’re not talking about bars, R-rated movies or adult-only resorts, my vote in the poll was: “Kids are people too. They should be welcome where adults are.” What do you think?

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