Tag Archives: life lessons

Lies I Tell Myself

Sleep is for the weak.

I’ll just have ONE bite.

This is the best I can do.

I don’t know how this happened.

It’s not like she’s going to wear diapers forever.

That’ll wash right out.

I’m sure it’s just a phase.

There’s probably some nutritional value in it.

These pants must have shrunk in the wash. Again.

I’m just resting my eyes.

It’s not my fault.

And the TRUTHS that make all the difference:

I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Sex burns calories and releases positive endorphins.

I AM doing the best I can.

We’re in this together.

They’re worth it.

God made me special and He loves me very much.

So here’s me, preaching the gospel according to Bob and Larry. I think Preschool Theology is highly underrated.

Note: I do realize that “doing the best I can” made both sides of the list. I shuffled it back and forth several times. Figuring out if it is a lie to let myself off the hook OR a truth to accept about myself is the real trick right now. Well, that and naps. I’m pretty sure a nap will help too.


Age 12 and On the Threshold

Another beautiful birthday cake from Aunt Erin. Thanks!

12

We are teetering on the brink of Teenagehood. And it shows. Some days you could easily pass for 16. And others I find you still playing like a girl. There is something bittersweet about these threshold years.

It seems to be flying by. Even you have wondered at how quickly time passes this year. Trust me, it only gets worse the older you get.

I will miss the child you’ve been. Not my first-born, but my first-grown. My first panic about exactly the right baby food consistency and the proper potty training technique and how exactly to broach the subject of sex. My first vicarious thrill as you stuck your little toes in the ocean and met the “Real” Cinderella and fell in love with characters in a book.

Once again you are blazing a trail for your siblings. And strangely for us as well. We don’t always know what to do or say, if anything. And I’m pretty sure you’ll have a few things to discuss with your therapist someday. Whether it is because or in spite of us, you have become a lovely young woman. And we are so proud of you!

You are kind, thoughtful, easy-going, nurturing, gracious (with the glaring exception of your closest sister, hmmm…), intelligent, and talented. We hear all the time how mature and responsible you are. But the compliment that thrills me most, are the frequent ones about your gentle, loving spirit.

We see it everyday with your baby sister and your new brother. You are like a second mommy. And though we try to protect your own childhood, you (and your other sister) have eagerly jumped in to help out when we need it. You have been such a blessing to us this past year.

As you look forward this year and childhood fades behind you, I hope that you will use that analytical brain and extreme love of planning to prepare for life you want to lead. This is the time to make many important decisions which will carry your into adulthood. Who do you want to be? What will you devote yourself to? Where are your limits and boundaries? Who is your God?

We’ve made most these decisions for you as a child, but in the next decade we will slowly hand all the control over to you. It is not easy to step back, but we are not worried. We can already see glimpses of the woman God intended for you to be and we are thrilled with what we see.

The teens are an exciting, overwhelming time and there will be times when life and hormones and emotions may seem to overwhelm you. It’s easy to simply react. So many poor decisions are made impulsively, without the bigger picture in mind. Don’t let anyone or anything take your purpose from you.

Be calm and easygoing, but don’t be a doormat.

Be kind and thoughtful, but don’t be people pleaser.

Be nurturing and generous, but find a balance.

Be responsible and conscientious, but let other’s take the lead too.

Be creative and orderly, but get messy.

Be godly and devout, but open-hearted.

Be yourself, but try new things.

More and more our role is to be a consultant rather than a manager. We will always be here to listen and advise and pray and hope the best for you. You may outgrow stuffed animals and clothes bought in the children’s section and bedtime hugs and kisses (though you WILL continue to give them, for my sake if nothing else), but you will never outgrow your Mom.

I love you. I believe in you. And I am incredibly proud of you!

Happy 12th Birthday L!

Love Always,

Mom

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Happy 12th birthday, my almost-teenager!

It’s funny… as I sit down to write this letter, I realize that I’ve been thinking of you as older than you are. Truthfully, I have a hard time believing you still have another 365 days left of “childhood” before we officially enter a new era.

Today, you’re legally allowed to babysit for other families. You’ve been babysitting for us for a year already.

At the age when other dancers in your school graduate into the seniors’ class, you’ve been dancing with the seniors for two years already.

;

Though most parents would think of their 12-year-old as “one of the kids,” we think of you as a seriously contributing member of the family. Your return to school in a week and a half will not be a relief or a break for us; it will mean that our best helper is now away for most of the day, busy with school and dance and friends and youth group and everything else that fills this life that you’re building for yourself.

;

We’ve been spoiled by you this summer. Spoiled by your role as second mommy to The Littles, as you’ve selflessly cared for them and helped us manage the chaos of adding a toddler to the family. Spoiled by the joy it brings us to have someone else in the house that we can talk to at an almost grown-up level.

I hope you know that we appreciate all that you have given to this family this summer. I know there are times when we have been consumed by the chaos, and we have barked an order for you to “Watch The Boy!” as we have dashed off to care for someone that needs caring for, without a please or a thank you or an I love you. We’re big believers that, in a family, everyone is expected to chip in and do their share. But that doesn’t mean that we take it for granted that we do, or that we don’t notice and appreciate the sacrifices you have made.

Of all our kids, you are the one who was gung ho about adoption right from the start. You didn’t care what it might cost you personally; you knew there was room for one more in our family. You’ve backed that up since we brought S home, giving so much of your time and energy to be with him, and to help us wherever we need helping. I thank you, I appreciate you, and I love you. Again and again, I have told people that I have no idea how we would have survived the past three months without L and C. Your support has meant the world to us, and has given us a glimpse of the caring, generous young woman you are becoming. We couldn’t be more proud of you. Happy Birthday!

Love from,

Your Daddy


Nothing Hurts Like Family

Writing is a funny thing. There are times when it bubbles up pure and fresh, almost effortless. It feels like magic, and the blank page fills with words. A gift, not for readers, but for myself.

There are other times when I squeeze it out, a few recycled words. Predictable. Mundane. And I dress them up with a garnish and a little paper umbrella, pretending that no one was really thirsty after all.

I sat down to write about our family holiday. Something sweet and palatable about lazy beach days and toasting s’mores in the flickering firelight. We had a wonderful vacation! Idyllic moments punctuated by the exhaustion and chaos of our newly expanded family. The past few weeks we have connected with cousins and siblings and parents. We have laughed and reminisced and made several more “remember when” stories for the dinner table.

But no amount of garnish can dress up the bad writing I’ve produced on the topic. I can’t make it work. It’s a cheesy tourism brochure.

The truth is, I am consumed by the turmoil of family politics. Somehow it seems to overshadow all of the Norman Rockwell we’ve experienced. Like the fog that rolled in on our last day at the beach house, obscuring the spectacular view we had already begun to take for granted.

So this post is not what I intended. It is messy and vague and somewhat depressing. But honest.

Nothing hurts like family.

I write this with the sad comfort that I am not singling out any family member or particular conflict. On every side of both our families is a complex web of hurt feelings and disrespect and misunderstanding. I’m beginning to think it is normal, though it feels very unnatural. Most of the time we sit on the periphery and try our best to play peace-maker. But we’ve played a few rounds ourselves lately.

You don’t need the details to know the story. Over and over again in a thousand little ways and in the big ones too: nothing hurts like family.

Normally, I prefer the irritation and necessary pain of honest interaction. My advice to others almost always involves gentle confrontation. It’s not fair to be angry with someone and not tell them. Words. Words. Words.

Yet in reality they aren’t the magic fix I imagine. Some things are more complicated than diplomacy and amateur psychology can address. And let’s face it, the walking wounded make terrible diplomats. In my own life it is absurdly easy to settle for a thin veneer of civility atop a bubbling cesspool of resentment. I hate to admit that. It makes me a terrible hypocrite.

My husband reminds me to let things go, to be kind and forgiving, to do good, even when others don’t. Even when others don’t notice, which is the most annoying of all. For him, the relationship is more important than the fight. He is the master of conflict avoidance. But sometimes this peace feels like a lumpy rug. Eventually we’re bound to trip on all that skillfully concealed debris.

So we vacillate between conflict and cover-up. And I don’t know which is better. And I don’t have any more answers. And I don’t know what to do next.

But I love my family. All of them. Even the ones who hurt me. Even the ones whom I’ve hurt.

I don’t have a great insight about this subject, not yet. No pithy conclusion. No 10 simple steps to fix what ails us. Just a prayer for wisdom and hope that my words, and actions, and inactions will make things better, not worse.

So here’s me, trying to figure out how we imperfect jerks can love each better.


From Precipice to Poopy Diapers

A life hangs in the balance. Literally.

Stretched to the limit atop a precipice, men form a human chain, intent on saving the one who has fallen over the edge. Their strength begins to wane. They are slipping closer and closer to gruesome death. Dangling over the edge, the last man realizes what is at stake. With a sigh of resignation and a look of absolution, he lets go; plunging to his death, rather than risk the lives of his comrades.

“NOOOOOO!” Cut to primal scream of the main character.

I can think of half a dozen movies with this scene. Change a few details, rearrange the sequence, tweak the wardrobe… it’s a classic bit.

Sometimes it’s a bullet. Sometimes it’s a bomb. Sometimes it’s a grizzly bear. Sometimes it’s a burning building.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13)

We replay it in the media over and over again, because it resonates. These hero stories appeal to us. Like Christ, who sacrificed himself to save us all. We want to believe that sacrifice like this happens. We want to believe that WE would do the same thing.

When push comes to shove comes to the edge of a precipice… I like to believe I would. Especially for my family or my friends, but even for a stranger. In my daydreams, these Messiah moments are bold and dramatic, with a stirring soundtrack playing in the background.

But it’s not a likely scenario. The closest I’ve ever come is the time I fell down the stairs with baby in arms and turned to take the brunt of it on my back while holding her out of harm’s way. That was maternal instinct, and over in a split second.

The really great love, the kind our world needs more of, is not as glamorous and sexy as those cinematic scenes. It is giving up myself to help someone else in a thousand small, everyday ways. It doesn’t feel heroic, but it is.

Not running into a burning building, but listening to that elderly relative tell the same story for the third time in one phone call.

Not fighting off a rabid grizzly, but scrubbing the bathroom, doing the laundry and making dinner.

Not throwing my body on a grenade, but mopping up vomit, changing the sheets and putting on a sympathetic face.

Not throwing myself in front of a bullet, but calmly handling one more screaming tantrum, knock-em-down-drag-em-out fight or weepy confession.

Not sacrificing my life, but sacrificing my time, my energy, my comfort, my sleep, and maybe even my chocolate (gasp!).

In some ways, it’s a lot harder than the big dramatic exploits. I’m pretty sure I could make the impressive gesture, if given the opportunity. But the daily grind kind of sacrifice… mine is not an Oscar worthy performance EVERY time.

I whine. I get frustrated. I am consumed by my own performance. I overlook all the heroes around me. I resent.

But sometimes I love. Sacrificially. Heroically. Not anything they’ll make a movie about. Not anything people will notice or applaud or hand out awards for. But that’s kind of the point of sacrificial love, isn’t it?

Scroll down to the comments section. How many acts of sacrificial love, that will never make a movie trailer, can we think of?

So here’s me, wondering if diaper changes would feel more heroic with the right soundtrack in the background. Next time I’ll play this song:


Too Tired To Think of a Title

Apparently, happily ever after doesn’t involve a whole lot of sleep.

It’s been several years since we took part in the dawn patrol. Like many difficult times (exam week, giving birth and potty training come to mind) the true feeling of the experience quickly fades. It becomes a collection of “me too” and “I remember when” anecdotes you can whip out at parties to impress people with your fortitude and earthy wisdom (or maybe that’s just me). There remains the vague sense that it was miserable and hard, but the sting has passed.

Then you find yourself there again… and Hokey Dinah, it sucks!

Between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00 am, our little man needs to be held. He is not screaming. He is not inconsolable. As long as he is safely snuggled in my arms, he is relatively content. But woe on all our heads if we try to put him down, or bring him to bed, or fall asleep on the couch, or attempt to lean in a non-nurturing-sneaking-a-nap way (they know, they always know).

So, I rock him and pat his back and walk around and rub his forehead and he rubs my face and holds my hand and pulls the glasses off my face and snuggles close and eventually nods off JUST as the sun peeks over the horizon and the question arises: go back to bed? or stick it out for the day?

So yesterday, Glen asks me, “do you really mean what you’ve written on your blog?” Because it seems that there’s a whole lot in there about the blissful experience of cuddling the new kid.

Sneaky Bum, when he puts it that way, it’s pretty much everything I’ve been begging for. And come to think of it, it IS kind of wonderful.

And somehow it was easier last night, because I remembered to enjoy it. And somewhere along the way I lost my expectation of sleep (unless it is Glen’s turn, of course). And I knew I would fit a nap in today, because the age-old “sleep when the baby sleeps” is a classic for a reason.

Of course, the relentless busyness, general aura of neediness in the home and all-around emotional upheaval of this MASSIVE life change probably has just as much to do with to the exhaustion as our little night owl. He’s waking up in a relatively new place with new people each night. Of course he needs some comfort. He’s been such a trooper so far. Of course we will give him the comfort he needs.

So here’s me: tired, so very, very tired. But very, very happy just the same. And totally stoked that I finally have something to contribute when the “my baby was so colicky he never slept” conversation crops up (because Mommyhood is 9 parts unconditional love and 1 part bragging/one-up-manship).


Painting the Pink Room Green

She had her sulky face on. This is how it started. Petulant frown – check. Furrowed brow – check. Disgusted sneer – check.

Don’t ask me how she manages to sneer AND frown at the same time. It’s a natural talent. Thanks so much hereditary traits (yes, Glen, I’m looking at you).

“But it’s too crowded already…”

“We’re MUCH too busy…”

“But that is MY room…” (nevermind that she has been living in her NEW room for almost a year)

Then the kicker:

“Riley says that little brothers are a pain.”

And what do I know compared with Riley? Nine-year-old wisdom is unassailable… to other nine-year-olds, anyway. At the end of each conversation, she would grudgingly concede that maybe, just maybe mind you, it might be okay to have a little brother. She was willing to tolerate the situation, but wasn’t exactly thrilled about it.

Different words, different excuses, but each one a tentacle of the same monster. The I-Don’t-Like-Change-a-Saurus has been stalking our family for many years.

How We Feel About Change

She doesn’t like it. She doesn’t want it. And she sure as heck is not going to enjoy it.

Five-plus years after our move, her face still morphs into a mulish expression when we discuss the topic. It doesn’t matter that she LOVES her new room. Regardless of the fact that her BFF lives only 3 houses down. Completely overlooking the huge backyard and playroom. “I liked my old house. I don’t know why we had to move.”

She cried for weeks when we bought a new van (I did too, but mine were tears of joy and relief).

She orders exactly the same thing each time at the restaurants we frequent. Kraft Dinner at White Spot, really?! I can barely stand to allow it. But she likes what she likes, and frankly, it’s not worth the fight.

I knew this adoption would be hard for her to accept. Even a good change, but especially a challenging one is a hard pill for her to swallow. I knew, because she comes by it honestly. She is cut from the same cloth as her Dad, though he orders the burger platter with a ceasar salad. And, I’m not going to lie, I’m part of the club too (orange beef stir-fry, in case you were wondering).

She inherited a double dose of stuck-in-a-rut-itis. It’s hard to explain the angst and discomfort of change to you who fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, taking life as it comes with a smile of your face. You may wonder, “Why would he fish those raggedy old boxers out of the trash?” or “How come she chooses to stay home and sort laundry instead of joining an impromptu dinner party?”

Because there is nothing as comfortable as what we know. And what we expect. And what we’ve done a thousand times before.

That shiny new thing may be better: more fun, more interesting, more tasty, less drafty, even more life-affirming, but it is NEW, and there is nothing scarier than that.

What Made All the Difference

So, how did we turn it around? What was the twist that unlocked her sense of adventure? How did we get to the place where she is now: proudly displaying pictures of her new brother to everyone she meets, pestering us to find out when we can finally meet him and scrounging through the toy box to find the perfect stuffed monkey?

CONTROL

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. If change is frightening, control is soothing. She needed to be in charge of something, so this change would be HER choice, HER endeavor, and suddenly, HER adventure.

When Glen left on business a few weeks ago, he told us that we should paint the pink room. At the time it was a step of faith, trusting that this adoption would continue to move forward. Inching our way toward bringing him home.

I decided to turn the project over to the girls. A friend took B for the day and we set out on our mission. They were calling the shots.

First step: suss out the situation. I introduced them to a little obsession I like to call “Pintrest”. Before long, I had two opinionated interior designers debating the merits of blue vs. green. We discussed the concept of neutrals, but they discarded that ridiculous idea immediately (apparently it is not a concept that either 9 or 11-year-old girls embrace readily). They nodded their heads sagely as we discussed the need to decorate in increments – let him come home to a simple, uncluttered space and we will add to it over time.

We read through every e-mail from Foster Mom. He is a busy boy; he loves to climb and is into everything. He loves nature walks and playing outside in the dirt. And so, the concept of a jungle room was born.

When our little neighbour, the third member of their 3 Musketeers, came over with a dossier of ideas she had printed up, the ball really got rolling. Seeing how excited her friend was worked wonders for C’s enthusiasm.

Before I knew it, I found myself in an empty room with a full can of paint and three eager, though inexperienced, helpers. I’m not usually one to hand a loaded paint roller over to a 9-year-old (not even one with 10 and 11-year-old cheerleaders to advise her). But this was IMPORTANT. It was their first act as big sisters.

I wrote this in my journal that night:

Dear Little Brother

Your sisters painted the pink room green today. They looked at every single paint chip in Home Depot and picked this colour especially for you. They sorted through all the stuffies we own to find “jungle animals” for you to play with. And they set aside a few special ones that they knew you just HAD to have. Because all the babies in our family have had them.

They painted your room themselves, with help from our neighbour-friend P (who spends so much time with us she’s part of the family too). There were a few spills. There are more than a few touch-ups needed. And it doesn’t look exactly perfect.

Except it is. Because they did it for you. They were so careful. And they worked hard all day long. Your big sisters love you already and they can’t wait to show you your new room!

So here’s me, pretty sure that this blotchy green paint job is the best one I’ve ever seen.


Waiting is a Baked Potato

Last month was an ordeal. Our microwave broke… again.

There was weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I told my husband to suck it up and be a man.

Poor Glen. This is our third microwave. Not the sitting-in-the-middle-of-the-counter, edges-encrusted-in-crumbs, easy-to-replace version. Oh no, not us; we have the fancy schmancy over-the-stove-top-built-in-hood-fan model. Which requires a tricky installation, risking the sanity and daily bliss of anyone who is not married to Bob the Builder.

Glen the Good-at-Everything-Else had trouble facing ANOTHER installation debacle, and who can blame him? In fact, this microwave had been installed amidst many not-suitable-for-young-children outbursts only 7 months ago. Which is when we realized that it fell into that glorious category: Not Our Problem Due To Warranty!

Except it still was our problem, since we had to track down receipts, visit Home Depot, fax the documents to the manufacturer, connect with a local repair company, book a visit, and then wait 3-weeks-to-forever for the necessary parts.

In the meantime, we found ourselves in the dark ages of food preparation. Not a good place for our family. How to defrost? How to reheat leftovers? How to make popcorn in under 2 minutes?

Never have I been more cognizant of the fact that my culinary life revolves around fast and easy. The most glaring difficulty was my almost daily lunch option – the nuked potato. Throw it in the mic, add some veggies and a bit of meat – et voila, my favourite meal. There is no fast or easy way to cook a whole potato without a microwave.

In the meantime, we were wading hip deep in adoption angst. We’ve found a child we very much want to adopt. The social worker is on board. His foster mom is on board. The guy at the checkout in Safeway seemed to think it was a good idea.

We had asked the questions, heard the stories, explored the issues… We poured over every e-mail and revisited phone conversations late at night in bed. We have prayed about it. We have discussed it as a family. We have painted the pink room green. We’ve figured out a timetable for the transition. We’ve adjusted our plans for the summer.

But, there is no fast and easy way to adopt a child. Social services is not a microwave-esque industry. Nor should it be. The paperwork has been held up a number of times. Glen had a business trip. Meetings are hard to schedule. There are more questions to be asked and even more stories to be heard. And we can’t even see a picture of him, until everything is official.

So, his other family is tucking him into bed at night and singing him songs and teaching him all the important little lessons a toddler learns each day: how to hold his fork, how to pet a dog gently, and a thousand other things I can jealously imagine. And it feels like we are missing out. I’ve never met him. But I miss him.

In the meantime, I discovered something amazing. Potatoes baked in the oven for a long time are the BEST! I suppose I always knew that. I imagined my Mom was just a better cook and Wendy’s had a magical potato machine. Despite the wait, the crispy outer skin and the soft, even, potato-y goodness of a truly baked potato is SO much better than one nuked in the microwave.

How often are the most important things in life easy and convenient? Things like love, and learning, and parenting… They require something of us. Some patience. Some commitment. Some risk.

And maybe it won’t turn out just right. When I throw something in the microwave and it bombs, it’s easy to scrap it and start again. But where I have invested myself in a wait… there is no easy out.

In the meantime, I am learning that waiting is not such a bad place to be. I had braced myself for a great deal of frustration during the uncertainty. And I’ll admit, it’s not easy, but it’s not the waste of time that I had imagined.

Our pastor gave a sermon about “Waiting” just last week. It’s a powerful spiritual concept. Because this time between what is and what is promised is important. It is a time to learn, to trust, to prepare and to dream. And I’m better for it.

But those who WAIT/HOPE/TRUST in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31 (from Msg/NIV/NLT)

Waiting is a Baked Potato. No shortcuts. No quick and easy. No fast forwarding the process. But worth it in the end.

So here’s me, in the meantime. Turns out, that’s not a bad place to be.


You Can’t Make Me, But I Might Be Persuaded

I made a critical parenting error several years ago. I let the hairdresser talk me into restraining B on my lap while she tried to cut her hair. Hmmm… a sharp pair of scissors + screaming, thrashing child = all kinds of stupid. Leaving with one side quite a bit shorter than the other was the best case scenario.

In retrospect, I’m sure the big chair, strange women in smocks and tray of tools on the shelf reminded her of the lab. A frequent flier in the blood test game, she was already pre-disposed to hate doctors, dentists and white leather recliners. Unfortunately, this experience added “Hair Cuts” to the list of things to despise. Her reaction from that day forward involved kicking, screaming and wedging her body in the doorway of every hair salon we tried to take her to.

The next few years, we trimmed as best we could at home. A full hair cut could take weeks to finish – a snip here and a snip there, trying to even it out as quickly as possible, before the crying and head thrashing began. Sitting up with a snack, in the bath… I even found myself sneaking into her bedroom at night with a pair of scissors (yes, after typing that out, I realize how creepy it sounds).

Finally, my hairdresser (and friend) Rhianna came to our rescue. We slowly introduced her to the idea. At first she simply came and watched me get my hair done. Then, watching her sisters and sitting in the chair. Once she sat up and had a clip put in her hair. Each visit ended on a positive note; that was the key. At the first sign of trouble, Rhianna backed off. It was a good experience.

We didn’t push her and one magical day, she sat up and had her bangs trimmed quite happily. And then the next time, the whole enchilada! All that attention from the ladies in the salon and, later, from everyone who appreciates her funky pixie “do” have done wonders. In the space of a year, she became not only cooperative, but THRILLED to get her hair cut.

Until today.

She was singing in the car, SO excited to see Miss Rhianna and telling me how “pitty” her haircut would be. But we hit a speed bump along the way. For some reason, though she has done it several times before, she decided she was NOT going to get her hair washed.

I told her that she had to get her hair washed (or even wet down) so that it could be cut. I made it very clear. She was unwilling to budge. I had chosen my battle.

I’m not opposed to the occasional change of mind as a parent, but I was sure we could get this done. I dug deep into my rather large arsenal of parental manipulation. Every lady in the place (including the one with foils in her hair) offered a suggestion, or 10. We tried it all.

I let her choose – which chair do you want to sit in? which shampoo? who do you want to do the washing? I gave her control – climb up yourself, tell me when you are ready, you hold the shampoo. I set the example – close watching while both sisters had their hair washed, then I stuck my own hair in the sink and even got it wet (I straightened my hair today, so this is one of the greatest examples of maternal love in the modern world). I talked it through – reason, logic, persuasion, outright begging. I offered bribes – chocolate granola bars, a new clip for her hair; I literally held a lollipop over her head to get her to put it back. Rhianna made it a game – lots of counting, tickling, fun things to look at. I played it cool – “it’s up to you, wash and cut or we can just go home,” then tried to look bored and unconcerned. I tried to make it happen – picked her up, put her in the chair and held her head back (for about 2 seconds when she started freaking). I let it go – “okay, let’s go home;” then she would call me back and get close, so very close to actual H2O, and it would all start again.

“I dunno. I dunno. I DON’T KNOW!” – her answer to every other question.

The other answer, her favourite word – “nnnnnnnoooooooo! NOOOOOOOOO! nnnnnnooooo!”

She didn’t want to get her hair wet, but she wanted to get her hair cut so badly.

If we hadn’t come so very close, so many times, I would have given up much sooner. As it was, she left with a wet shirt, 3 clumps of damp hair and a grumpy, grumpy mom. Only B can take 2 hours to NOT get a haircut.

All this on the same day as our IEP meeting with her teachers, where we discussed her recent bathroom strike. After months of staying dry, she now refuses to even try on a regular basis. At home, the bathroom is going well, but tooth brushing has become an epic battle of wills (and ultimately a headlock and quick swish, swish… since dental hygeine is not remotely optional). This is our life.

I try to remember that determination (a much nicer way to say stubborn) can be a strength for a child with special needs. I have no doubt she will need every little bit of it to succeed in this world. And I’m not going to lie, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. We’re pretty sure B’s personal motto is: You Can’t Make Me, But I Might Be Persuaded (also the title of a book by Cynthia Tobias).

If parenting B has taught me anything, it is this: There are certain things you CANNOT force a child to do, no matter how much you want to. There are tricks and techniques, but ultimately you cannot MAKE them eat, pee, blow their nose, sincerely apologize or, apparently, cooperate with the hairdresser.

So here’s me, and this is my inconvenient truth.

Can you think of anything else you cannot force anyone to do? Have you ever tried?

Also, thank you Rhianna, Kristen, Sasha and lady getting the foils in the next chair, for all your help this afternoon!


Relying on the Kindness of Strangers

Blanche Dubois, a character in the play A Streetcar Named Desire, is NOT my ideal woman. I’ve always thought she was pretty much an idiot. As she is led off to a mental institution, bewildered and weak, she spouts her famous line “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers”.

Apparently, she’s not the only one.

This afternoon I made a crucial error. I bumped the car door as I got out to fill it up with gas. Which apparently locked it. With the my keys inside. And my bag. And my phone. And my sanity!!!!

I was on my way to pick up my kids from school. Glen was unreachable. I felt the panic rising… What am I going to do? Who am I going to call? Why does my Dad have to live so far away?

The gas station attendant barely spoke english. Poor guy couldn’t understand what this crazy lady was babbling about. Each time I tried to explain the situation, he would ask if I wanted a receipt with that.

Using the international language of charades I managed to communicate my need for a phone and called the school to let the administration know that: I was a loser, and deadbeat parent, and had NO idea how or when I could get to the school to pick my kids up, and p.s. I’m kind of freaking out.

The school secretary was calm and understanding. She assured me everything would be fine; they would sort things out.

Thank you Mrs. L for being a friendly voice when I needed it most!

A young couple overheard my frantic call and witnessed my rather undignified mime to the clerk. They offered to help.

My new friend Nick rummaged through his van full of tools with a capable air. In one of my most unfeminist moments, ever, I let out a sigh of relief that a man had come to save me. Though, to be honest, a handywoman would have been every bit as welcome as a handyman.

When nothing seemed to work, they drove me home to fetch a wire coat hanger and waited while I pounded on the door and yelled “It’s MOM!”, trying to convince my at-home-sick eldest that just this one time she should come open the door. Back at the station, we spent another 1/2 an hour trying every trick in the book to jimmy the lock. I had never met these two before and maybe I never will again, but for that 1 hour, they were my best friends.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Nick and Megan!

Trying to break into a distraught lady’s car works like catnip for the macho-protector type. Guy in the blue hoodie, chef from the nearby Sushi restaurant, grey haired man in a sedan… they flocked to me, eager to weigh in on the process. Some tried their hand at my fishing-for-the-lock-with-a-coat-hanger game. It reminded me of that claw arcade game or something from a carnival. Step right up, for the ultimate test of skill and manliness! Sadly, much like the fair, no one can actually win this game.

Thank you random strangers for trying, anyway!

 Meanwhile, in the gas station, shift change (thank goodness). As I approached the woman my slow, deliberate speech probably seemed somewhat obnoxious and faintly racist. Especially considering her english was every bit as good as mine; probably better, since at this point I was pretty flustered. She didn’t blink as I made something like 27 calls on their phone – to the school, to my daughter, to the only friend’s number I could remember…

What? I don’t need to remember that kind of stuff. I have an iPhone, SO that I can have immediate access to every number I’ve ever called, tweet about the situation in real-time and keep Facebook posted on every boring detail. You know, for the times when I don’t lock the stupid thing IN THE CAR!

Thank you gas station lady for letting me tie up your phone lines!

Not only did the SEAs and teachers supervise my children during this time, they managed to unearth an old booster seat and drive them home. What’s more, we now have a poster coloured during this after school session which can commemorate this special time forever.

Thank you already overworked, underpaid teaching staff for going above and beyond the call of duty!

Despite the seemingly unending line of car-thieves-in-training, I decided to call BCAA. But apparently the membership is under my husband’s name. And he has to be there. With the card. And I can’t reach him.

Unfeminist moment #2, as I tell my sad story, beg for help… and cry. Like a pathetic, helpless girl who really wants her husband to rescue her. Or her Dad. Or MacGyver, ’cause I’m sure he could get me out of this with a toothpick and a piece of lint.

Anyway, the crying thing… totally works.

 Thank you soft-hearted man at the other end of the phone!

As I waited for the locksmith, it occurred to me, I didn’t have my wallet with me. Instead, it was by the front door. In my other purse. At home. Another fine move, on an already stellar day.

I was told I would need to provide ID, proving I was at least the WIFE of an account holder. Now, in a rational moment I would have thought: oh well, what are they going to do to me if they open the car and I don’t have the ID right there? Lock it all back up again? Sue me? Raise their eyebrows? Speak to me sternly?

All terrifying prospects, so I started calling my one phone friend, again (btw, sorry for all the messages/hang ups on your answering machine, you shouldn’t have such a memorable phone number if you want privacy and stuff). She was able to swing by my house and bring me my wallet.

Thank you G, for bailing me out! As usual! Please don’t ever, ever, ever change your number.

Now we get to the really EXCITING part of the story. The locksmith came and I recognized him. I played it cool, because he was obviously working hard to be incognito. He popped open that door in 20 seconds flat. He assured me it happens to everyone, which is what we call a “kind lie” in our house. He asked if my kids were okay. He told me not to worry.

He was slightly more svelte than I expected and he had shaved off his beard. But I recognized him: the white hair, the moustache, the rosy cheeks, the slightly German accent, the fatherly glow, the jolly… I’m sure it was him.

Thank you Santa-in-coveralls, for saving me. And my phone. And my sanity!

It’s easy to be cynical these days. In a world of Amber alerts, sex offenders and identity theft, strangers usually seem like a threat. We’ve had our credit card info stolen 3 times in the past few years. Our car has been broken into even more often than that. We’ve called the cops twice since we moved to this town; once because a man was being beaten senseless in our driveway. There are a lot of creeps out there.

But, if nothing else, today proved that there are a lot of good people in the world too!

So here’s me, not my finest moments… but I’m happy to know that the kindness of both friends and strangers is pretty reliable when I need it most.

When have you had to rely on strangers?

Also, any stories about locking yourself out? 

That helps me feel less stupid, or at least less lonely in my stupidity…


How Do You Find The Time?

It’s a question I’ve asked many times. I ask people who garden, people who decorate their homes, people who floss… How do you find the time?

It’s also the most frequent question I get about blogging. How do you find the time? The answer is simple.

You don’t.

Time does not spontaneously appear when you say the magic words. (Unless they happen to be “we-don’t-really-need-TSN-in-our-house”, because I’m sure my husband’s free time would grow exponentially at that point.)

Time is a limited resource, and often one that feels out of our control. I’ve always admired those buttoned up, disciplined souls who manage their time with military precision. I’m an orderly person, but trying to emulate them leaves me exhausted, cranky and desperately unhappy. Usually I find myself somewhere in the middle – enough routine to keep life moving, but margins for the unexpected (and the occasional hour of blissful uselessness).

Whether you wing it from one moment to the next, or plan your day down to the minute, we are all subject to the same limitations.

86,400 seconds

1,440 minutes

24 hours

Each day, everyday, it’s all we’ve got.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating. In this day and age, we can do almost anything, but we can’t do everything!

When I choose to make something a priority, then I am going to have to sacrifice somewhere else. The older I get, the more comfortable I am with this necessity. No one has it all together – even if they look the part. Look at Martha Stewart. She has a large, talented staff and a bazillion dollars to help her get things done. But even she drops the occasional ball along the way. Her foray into white collar crime wasn’t terribly successful.

This is why my backyard looks like the set of Jurrasic Park. Who decided grass was the superior weed anyway? Dandelions are cheerful and prolific, plus my kids love them. This is also why I have boxes of pictures in the garage, not from our most recent move, but from the one before that nine years ago. I’m honestly working on the flossing thing. My brother-in-law is training to be a dentist and I don’t want him to know that I’ve had five cavities in the last year. Shhhhhh.

You don’t find time for the things that matter to you, you make it. In my busy life stage, this tends to be in bite-sized pieces scattered throughout the day. We pray in the van on the way to school. While driving, I’ve also found time to discuss important issues with my kids – like sex, work ethic, the value of money and whether American Idol is better with or without Simon Cowell. I talk on the phone while I fold laundry. I write my blog posts anytime, anywhere… there are notebooks all over my house, in my purse, in the car. I have written entire posts in blue crayon, because that was all I had at the time.

This is my very first blog post.
Written in my daughter's My Little Pony colouring book.

Right now:

Mount Clean Laundry is mocking me from atop my bed.

Life-Span in Human Development is taunting me from the kitchen table.

I can hear echoes of crucial sibling posturing in the hallway.

So here’s me, quite happily blogging away. THIS is how I find the time.

How do you find the time to do what matters to you? What are you willing to sacrifice?


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