Birthday Vows!

I recently turned 33 this last Sunday, and if you hail from a christian background, you will note that I have now entered my Jesus year. Not that that means anything, but it does provide a conversation starter as well as a good epicentre for crucifixion jokes. In that spirit, I have decided to give myself 10 commandments in order to avoid the tedious process of crucifixion and resurrection. I mean really. Who needs it?

Commandment numero uno:
Refrain from telling people my dreams. Just a heads up people: if you can’t explain the dream in one sentence, don’t do it. Nobody cares about the nonsensical world of your subconscious. Although it might be very fascinating to you, it makes your audience want to RUN AWAY.
(confession- I don’t actually tell people my dreams unless it involves some obvious anxiety-like the time I dreamt my daughter and I were on an escalator and she got sucked under trying to get off. See? one sentence.)

Commandment numero dos:
Refrain from airing my body image issues to my husband. I can’t even stand myself anymore, it is so boring.

Commandment numero tres:
Refrain from body image issues. This might be a little harder, as it is akin to telling an alcoholic that the solution is to simply refain from drinking, but perhaps since I won’t be talking about it anymore it won’t exist (it is always good to start the year off with a healthy bout of denial)

Commandment numero cuatro:
Cease the senseless sacrifice of time to the god of television. This is a lot easier during this time of the year, when the only things to watch on the two television channels I get are the hockey play offs and dancing with the stars (I would rather do my taxes thank you very much).

Commandment numero cinco:
Write more. I feel like a productive human being when I write. I think I will cultivate that feeling…

Commandment numero seis (I have no idea if I am writing these numbers correctly-in fact, I have no idea why I am writing these in spanish at all):
Worry less about time. This is a big one folks as I am pathologically punctual in a city that is pathologically not. It is also hurting my relation with my children with whom I am in danger of being only the drill sergeant. I have a vision of me shedding off the time shackles and taking the time that it takes. I will arrive at my destination in a calm, tranquil non-flustered manner. Yeah. Right. I don’t even believe that one. This is the perfect example of how commandments are meant to be broken.

Commandment numero siete:
Refrain from bragging. It is not bragging really, but little comments slipped in as if I was fishing for some compliments. I am embarrassed for myself. Man the truth hurts, doesn’t it?

Commandment numero ocho:
I am running out of commandments…hmmm. I can’t think of anymore… Maybe it will be only the seven commandments for me this year. Who needs ten? Ahh there we go- stop thinking in terms of nice round numbers. The odd ones are good too. So they do not pair up so beautifully. Will the world stop turning if there is a group of three? I think not.

Christina and me or how to bring some of the joy back

Watching my daughters these last couple of months with their feverish anticipation of birthdays and other extremely fun activities, I realised that I just don’t look forward to anything anymore. All of a sudden, I am feeling the weight of my 32 years.The awareness that I am indeed,okay, wait for it, an adult ( the italics are meant to indicate a horrified stage whisper) hit me like a stack of tax receipts or like the word amortization. I needed an event and I needed one bad. Along came my friend Kirsten who just happened to receive the ultimate birthday gift: two tickets to go see Christina Aguilera. And who should she pick to go see it with her? Me! Me! (It might have had something to do with the fact that I was jumping up and down on my chair and yelling “pick me!” over and over again.) And so this last Wednesday night, we headed to the Bell center to go see Christina and, as if we needed some icing on the cake, the Pussycat Dolls.
Now this is funny because I would have rather have voted for Mulroney, or worn stonewashed denim skirts with white lace fringe than go see a pop show of this caliber. Nope, I was a strictly punk rock, hard core, sometimes rock and roll girl. The pop bands were an incomprehensible and rather distasteful phenomenon. Not to say that they still aren’t, but at least I can appreciate the spectacle. The Pussycat Dolls were a hope to strippers everywhere. They showed you what can happen if you have a body to die for, mediocre voices and some dignity for sale. Christina Aguilera however, was, well, fabulous! What a show people. The sequins alone were dazzling enough, but add props, dancers (who actually had some booty to shake I was proud to note), costume changes, video montages and certain special effects and you have a very entertaining evening. Of course, half the fun, I realised, was doing something completely out of character. You know shaking it up a little, suppressing the momentary glimpse of my life laid out in front of me like a seemless patchwork of non descript days bleeding into each other.

Here is a video of one of Lady Marmalade from the Montreal show (you got to love youtube). Aahh, it does the body good to have a premature midlife crisis.
Of course, the adult (the italics are now supposed to indicate a slight irritation with myself) in me could not be completely repressed. The biggest trauma I received from my foray into the world of commercial pop, was the fact that mothers had brought their daughters the age of my (horrified again) daughters to the show. Barring the fact that each ticket cost almost 100$, these little girls were dressed like mini little slutwhores and were prancing around, doing lascivious dance moves to songs called “dirty” or “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was as sexy as me”. I became a very boring, slightly embarrassing date to poor Kirsten, as I sat there mouth agape, mesmerized by the sight of this warped family bonding. A prude I am, and it seems, a prude I will remain. Still, I was very happy to be there and I thank Kirsten profusely for consenting to take me. If I could have afforded the 35$ Christina Aguilera underwear, baby, they would have gone to you!

I Hate Homework

Once upon a time, there was a mother, young and relatively poor compared to her affluent, older mommy neighbours. She voted for the green party, recycled, and generally tried to be a good example to her children. She dreamed of one day home schooling her two children, as school for her represented the worst sort of institution in society. She likened it to the Lord of the Flies, but worse because it included adults. Her children were not going to be another brick in the wall, no sirree. As time went on she realised that being poor, well, sucked, and that if she and her husband were ever to leave the financial kingdom of her parents a career might be in order. And so , when her daughters were five and three her husband and she packed up everything and moved towards the village of higher education. In order for the mother to be able to go to school herself and one day have hopes of supporting the family, the two daughters were forced to go to school as well. Not only were they obliged to go to school, they had to do so in another language. All sorts of trials and tribulations befell the poor sisters. Getting up early in the morning, spending 6 hours of your day not doing what you want to do, learning the particular pecking order of the school yard. But the worst trial the oldest had to suffer was homework. After spending the whole day cooped up in a large, brick building, she had to go home and spend an hour with her tired, grumpy, overworked mother going over syllables and drilling in words for dictée. Whereas the mother used to worry about her children being able to learn at their own pace, she was now anxious about not having her daughter’s homework done on time and incurring the wrath of the first grade teacher. Every week day the mother would come home exhausted and sit her unwilling daughter down. Everyday the mother would lose her patience and make her daughter cry. This went on for all of the first grade until the mother decided that this could not go on. At this rate her daughter would hate her and, well, she was beginning to hate the tyrant she had become as well. So she decided to send her children to an alternative school. Although the children were happier there, and had more freedom during the day, the oldest still had to do homework. However the mother tried, everytime she helped her child she would reduce her to tears. In her heart she knew it was her fault. She was tired after a long day of work and there was only a certain amount of time alotted to do homework. If her child was not able to grasp a concept in that alotted time, the impatience would set in, frustration would take over like a storm cloud and they would be fighting. The mother still though whimsically about homeschooling and felt ashamed of herself. She decided to blame it on her lack of time although in her heart she knew it was a deficiency within herself, that she was a slave to her schedule and shook like rainman about to board a plane if there was any deviation. And so the status quo was maintained, with the mother unwittingly chipping away at her daughter’s self esteem, and the daughter trying her best to do what was expected of her, exactly like a brick in the wall.
The End

Fable #2-The sequel

The Smug Husband
After losing her wallet, the woman called her husband to tell him that she was stranded and could not pick up the kids from daycare. A short time later the husband stomped down into the children’s department followed by his wife. She was not crying anymore, but the expression on her face was that of a child who has just been reprimanded for something she already felt bad about. The husband continued to the reference desk, muttering to himself in his anger, “ I knew it, I knew it , you can’t be trusted…”
The woman followed meekly behind. He slammed the books on the counter and asked in an I- am- very- angry -so –you- better- tell- me- what- I –want- to- hear voice, what could be done about his wife’s card. The librarian told him that all had been done, that the only thing left to do was to go back upstairs and declare her card lost and get a new one. The angry husband muttered, “fine” and stomped back upstairs. Two minutes later a young boy approached the desk and handed the librarian a wallet he had just found on the stairs. It was the husband’s wallet. When he realized it was gone, the husband came running down stairs in a panic. The librarian gave him back his wallet, noticing that the sheepish expression had transferred to the husband’s face and that the woman hid a secret smile in her eyes.

Lesson- Let s/he who has never lost their wallet cast the first stone.
Lesson- If you treat your wife like shit bad things will happen to you.
Lesson-Smugness is usually rewarded with pain and misery.
Lesson-Don’t be an asshole or you’ll pay in karmic bad luck.

Well, you get the point….

Library Fable #1

The kids and I recently read a selection of Aesop’s Fables and thought, hmm, what a wonderful way to be deliciously morally superior for a moment and create some witty little moral lessons of my own.

Library Fable #1

On a cold February day in Montreal, a young mother made her way to the large library in the middle of town. Although it was very cold outside, the library was warm and welcoming and soon she began to get very hot. She set her bag down and took off her parka, her hats, her gloves and her scarf and tucked them under her arm. This library was bigger than any she had ever seen. “I will just get some books to read to the children tonight,” she told herself. But the coat and the bag were heavy and she was tired. She then said to herself, “I will settle myself down at this table here, and then go get my books. That way I can look at them before I take them out and will not have to drag my belongings everywhere.” Indeed, this solution was convenient. She draped her coat over a small chair painted blue and placed her pack sac on a small chair painted yellow. She then went to the picture book section to select some books for her children. She took her time, relishing the minute she had alone and unencumbered. When she finally made her way back to the table it was with a large stack of books from which she would select a few to bring home.
When she got back, she noticed that her coat was on the floor and her sac was not in the same position she left it. Panic gripped her heart as she peered into her bag. Her wallet was gone, along with her bus pass and all of her important identification cards.

Lesson: Never ever let your guard down.
Lesson: Convenience at the expense of common sense leads to much inconvenience.
Lesson: People suck so don’t trust anybody.
Lesson: HEED the sign that says never leave your belongings alone. This is a PUBLIC library right across from the BUS STATION for the love of pete.

I can’t decide. It’s like my chess game. I can get through the whole match and create bloody havoc with my opponent’s team, but I just can’t seem to achieve checkmate. Feel free to leave your suggestions for moral lessons in the comments!

To call in sick or not to call in sick?

It’s official. I have a major case of the February Fuck its. I called in sick today not because I was actually ill, but because I was sick and tired and could not face the world. I got the kids to school, came home and wandered aimlessly around all morning not knowing what to do with myself. I had all these grand plans for “catching up” with our lives. You know, actually sweep the floor, tackle the budding ecosystem in our bathroom. Instead, I opted to fold the laundry in front of daytime television which made me wish I was at work.
Because I only get two channels, I had the choice of watching cartoons on CBC or Regis and Kelly and their nauseating “beautiful baby” contest. Who the hell are these people anyway? There was one photo of a semi-finalist (I am not even kidding-people actually call in to vote on which baby they like the best, as if they were colour swatches or american idol contestants) who looked exactly like JonBenet Ramsey. Granted, the rest were just your average everyday cutsey pics that any parent can (and does) take of their kid. I know I should be appalled at the exploitation of our own children, how we are already setting them up to feel bad about themselves and all that jazz, but really, all I could think of was how deluded people were, thinking their kids were cuter than anybody else’s. Come on, people! Let us freebase some reality here. For the most part, kids are pretty cute. Sometimes, when they snuggle up to us and say “I love you mommy” while stroking your face they are even adorable. How about we leave it at that and let everyone keep their dignity? And what is up with this obsessive need for voting? Demoracy gone awry much?
But I digress. I quickly pushed in Roger & me by Michael Moore and watched the little people get kicked in the ass. That is when I decided that the tv needed to be shut off. Laundry finished, I made myself a HUGE lunch and sat down to read. And then I found it. My playing hooky groove. I finished lunch, took my book with me to bed and actually napped. I then took my book with me into the bathroom and had a bath. I feel better now, like I might even be able to face the world tomorrow…Maybe. We’ll see.

Why I am a Wire Monkey Mama

This summer, while visiting some friends in Peterborough, I heard the story of the experiment involving baby monkeys. The monkeys were given a choice of a wire monkey that was hooked up to a milk supply and a plush one (I can’t remember if she was attached to a milk supply- hang on, maybe I should just use the good old interweb and not rely on hearsay-here seems to be a reliable enough source to describe the experiment: whyfiles) that was not. The baby monkey would drink from the wire one and then go hug the (correction) cloth one. In the conversation I had with my friend, the metaphor of the wire monkey had come to symbolise a mother who gave her children what they needed but in a harsher less pliable manner than most. I immediately related. This image was brought home to me a few weeks before commencing this blog when I was randomly browsing other mommy blogs and came across an entry that described this one mother’s horror at witnessing an impatient mother with her child in the bathroom. This particular blogger was appalled at how the mother was standing in front of the stall door, asking every two seconds, “are you done yet? come on, let’s go!” or something to that effect. The bloggermom was even more appalled to see the same mother with her daughter just leafing through magazines when she got out of the washroom.Well folks, I am ashamed to admit it (okay, not as ashamed as I should be) but that mommy is me. I am impatient. I don’t like to spend hours in the bathroom (and if it was up to my little one, that is exactly what we would do-hence the impatience). I can completely understand the mother who would rather be looking at magazines than watching a stall door.
I am a drill sergeant. I like things to be done when I ask them to be done. If they are not, the domino effect would occur and our lives would topple one unfinished task on top of another. I am deathly afraid of the chaos that would ensue so therefore I adopt a military attitude when it comes to potty breaks and snow suit wearing. So sue me.
And just to give a brief synopsis of the other traits that make me a wire monkey, for the sake of getting it out of the way once and for all. I am not that cuddly. I need my space. I tend to be very unsympathetic when it comes to nightmares and waking up in the middle of the night. To my utmost chagrin (and this is something I will write further about), I make my daughter cry almost everytime I try to help her with her homework.
Wow, I sound like a shrew but there you go. I guess you can’t be a wire monkey without a bit of shrewness…

On advertising: Or how the devil shops at IKEA and probably dates Brooke Shields

I only really became susceptible to advertising after the birth of my daughters. Now this new found sensitivity manifested itself in two ways. The first was an obsession with the IKEA catalogue. If only I had the right storage compartments, the perfect sized plastic boxes for all of those oddly shaped toys I would be a happier, more organized individual. Since at the time we lived on an island that had not been blessed with a vast yellow and blue gift box from the consumer gods, going to IKEA became a destination, a mecca for motherhood. It took me a few years and the realization that the only way my home could look like the room in the catalogue was if A) I lived in Sweden, B) Only wore white shirts, C) Got rid of my husband and children who are maddeningly uncooperative when it comes to my organization schemes, D)all of the above. Since I was not willing to take any of these steps to triumph over my personal chaos, I became at first disillusioned and then bitter toward this land of false hope. I am now convinced that the devil lives in a bachelor sized apartment with a bed that easily converts into a sofa and a bunch of stackable plastic bins with which to neatly store his torture tools.
The second way that parenthood lowered my advertising immune system was a little more unexpected. Yes folks, it struck me where it hurt the most: body image. Seriously, although I have always been slightly on the plump side (reubanesque, chubby, rotund- insert favourite adjective for not skinny here), it never occurred to me that it was something I needed to do something about until my daughters were born. The women in the parenting magazines looked so serene, so coiffed while wiping their babies behinds. It was clear, the only good kind of mom was a slender mom. I also had the bad habit of reading The Globe & Mail (with its finger firmly on the pulse of…Toronto) and their “special features” on yummy mummies (I am not kidding). Nowadays, the equivalent would be watching Brooke Shields take care of her dazzling smile while being a super successful mom to her children (we will not mention the post partum depression and the drugs that allow her to smile in the first place.) Now, just to bring this entry full circle, I started the day with a big blueberry stain on my front teeth that I desperately tried to rub off with my fingers. Sigh.

Green Boots & Old Man Sweaters

When I was a kid, I used to say that I wanted to grow into a doddering old woman who walked around with her hair dishevelled, wearing rubber boots and her dead husband’s cardigans. Well, I just realised that I may be reaching my goal faster than I thought. Perhaps for psychological reasons best left uninvestigated, my favourite piece of clothing is the old grey cardigan I purchased at the second hand store. You know, the kind that your great grandfather wore on his voyage to the new country, the one made from the wool of a sheep he probably sheared himself. Old man cardigans are the cat’s pyjamas (okay, no, but you can wear them over your cat pyjamas which is even better). You can wear them over anything, and because it is a dull grey it matches everything. As an added bonus, it has two perfectly sized pockets for holding used kleenexes, small chocolates and other sundry useful tidbits. I loves my old man cardigan. In fact, my whole history could be viewed from the perspective of my favourite ugly sweater.
1989-1990:this is when the trend began. Somehow I got a hold of one of my deceased great grandfather’s brown polyester cardigans and wore it over my black turtle necks. Other choice garments from this period included black buster brown’s (that looked like they might be orthotics for an eighty year old).
1990-1995: here was a bit of hiatus. Unfortunately, I was living on the west coast right at the moment of the huge grunge earthquake, which meant that there was an excess of flannel plaids and half shaved heads (do you remember this look? where girls could still have long hair but still be semi hard core by shaving the back of their heads? I am shuddering as the memory of it washes over me).
1995-now: aahhh, the years I have spent with J. There has been a number of old man cardigans (and old woman cardigans) shared between the two of us.
Now, to share your own very favourite old man cardigan, used kleenexes and all-it must be love…

Of course, the love might not last that long if he keeps on making comments like the one he made when I came home with some new winter boots. Green suede on the outside, beautiful emerald faux fur on the inside, with a rubber sole to get me through any slush the Montreal winters throw my way, I proudly showed my new purchase to J who promptly told me that they looked like rubber boots. Despite the fact that he could not recognise good Italian craftmanship when he saw it, his comment gave me pause. I harkened back to my youthful desire to become an eccentric old bat. With the wisdom of my years, I concluded that we don’t in fact change much over the years. Or perhaps we cast our dye very early on. Or perhaps we make our bed and then must lie in it. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I need some more of that wisdom stuff….

Oh and by the way, the boots in fact turned out to be sock eaters.