Life Happens

I don’t mind when my husband goes away on a boys’ weekend – really – I don’t. I have noticed, however, some fairly significant differences between a boys’ weekend and a girls’ weekend.

golf

For starters, men don’t know how to count.  A boys’ weekend is never forty-eight hours – it’s more like ninety-six hours.  Women have a different word for that – it’s a freakin’ vacation, is what that is. A girls’ weekend on the other hand, starts on Friday and ends on Sunday. It’s. A. Weekend. We’re gone for maybe forty-eight hours, but usually more like thirty-six hours.  That’s ok though, because by my counting, I can plan two girls’ weekends for every one boys’ weekend.

Planning a boys’ weekend is pretty easy too:  pick a date, pack your golf bags and head out the door.  Planning a girls’ weekend involves, um, more.

I’ve noticed most moms, myself included, are exhausted just getting out the door for a girls’ weekend given the Herculean effort involved in organizing a weekend away.  Yet, despite the effortlessness that seems to accompany planning a boys’ weekend, I have noticed that they don’t seem to come home very well rested at all.

During a girls’ weekend, I may text my husband that I arrived safely, ask if he found the casserole in the freezer, and remind him about our son’s baseball game. I would never text my husband asking him, “Can you check on our line of credit?” or better yet, “I talked to the police officer and it’s cool”. There’s not much to text from a girls weekend.  “I ate and I slept” isn’t all that exciting. I could ratchet it up a bit and say, “I laughed so hard that wine came out my nose” but am not sure if anyone at home would be interested in that one either. Or better yet, “spent four hours at the spaspa today – better than sex.” Yeah, I pressed cancel on that one too.

Returning from a boys’ weekend and walking into the house involves the onerous task of dumping the dirty laundry into the hamper and storing the golf clubs in the basement.  Returning from a girls’ weekend and walking into the house, well, it just brings tears to my eyes.

So despite their differences, what happens at a girls’ weekend, stays at a girls’ weekend and for sure, what happens at a boys’ weekend, stays at a boys’ weekend.  Maybe the texts should too.

Soul Sisters Weekend 2014 seems just a little too long away…

There it is …

The deadline is looming…

Just a few days away…

We can see the “Submit” button from here…

Just have to click it and we’re done …

admissions officeI’ve been helping my teenage son complete his post-secondary school applications.  It wasn’t that long ago that I remember filling out my own university applications.  Actually, I do remember now – it’s been over three decades since I even looked at a university application!  Oh well, those applications – they were some great memories.  

I can’t believe how streamlined the entire process is now.  This whole world wide web online application thing is pretty nifty.  Since Canadian schools are the only ones on his radar, there are no SATs to take or scores to submit, so the application itself is fairly standard – at least for the Ontario universities.  What it lacks in applicant differentiation, it makes up for in efficiency and simplicity!  We entered his OEN (Ontario Education Number), his student number, his high school code, then pointed and clicked our way to the Submit button.  His application to Manotick Co-Operative Nursery School back in 1999 wasn’t even this easy – and that involved an in-person interview – because arranging an interview with an alumnus would have been over the top, right?

Now comes the hard part:  the waiting.  This I do remember being extremely tedious.  What follows, God willing, is the equally challenging task of deciding which post-secondary institution I want to visit on a regular basis – I mean – which is the right environment for my son.  Of course, the task of paying for that choice – er –  opportunity of a lifetime – is also still a task at hand as well. As I was saying, God willing …

I’m not sure about my son, but I found the entire university application process so easy, that in fact, I told him that I was thinking maybe of applying to university all over again myself.

Silence.

“You’re kidding, right?”

Of course I’m kidding dear!  I can hardly leave your father in charge of redecorating your bedroom, now can I?

Bring on those offers, Admissions, I got my paint chips all lined up!

paint chips

So, there needs to be a reason? Certainly not in my books, but in this hilarious book, Reasons Mommy Drinks, Lyranda Martin Evans and Fiona Stevenson (Three Rivers Press, 2013) give 100 reasons that Mommies drink, along with 100 cocktail recipes (seriously ladies, you couldn’t come up with 365?!) that are almost as funny as the motherhood anecdotes after which they were named. I highly recommend reading it (and copying down the recipes!).  It was a little tough reading a book about drinking during my annual month of detox, but then again, it was refreshing to recall all those ‘new mom’ experiences of new mothers – mostly because I’m well past that stage and can actually laugh at them now.

There is the cocktail aptly named “The Silver Scream” named after mommy’s first foray into humanity after childbirth at a Mommy and Me movie, or a yummy concoction called “A Mudslide” which follows a not so yummy experience with explosive poo.  Well, who hasn’t had an experience with explosive poo and who doesn’t need a drink after it? Of course nothing celebrates baby’s first steps like a drink called the “Walk ‘n’ Roll”, and nothing will restore your sanity after listening to children’s music all day, like the “Raffi-tini”, best served “with Baby Beluga caviar” – bwahahaha! (Oh, yes new mothers, you WILL have that song in your head for the rest of your lives).

The book chronicles the first 18 months of motherhood and though I am now 18 years into motherhood, I still remember all those crazy, sleep-deprived baby days – and how badly I wanted a drink!  Sadly, the book starts off with a series of mock-tails (buzzkill alert) until page 31, beyond the anecdotes of nursing.  And sadly that’s pretty much how motherhood started in real life too, wasn’t it? I wish this book had been around when my first born was 18 months old and my second was already 4 weeks old.  It would have given me great comfort – and great inspiration for cocktails – to know that, a) I wasn’t losing my mind, and b) I actually was losing my mind but I was in very good company!

The only negative I have about the book was the ridiculously small print size.  I don’t know my fonts – all I know is I needed my 1.50 reading glasses to read this book instead of my 1.25’s and that made me feel old. Feeling old sucks.  Feeling old makes me feel like making a cocktail…

The Old Fart Work of Art

Ingredients
Sparkling wine, Prosecco or champagne
Crème de Cassis

Instructions
Pour a small amount of the crème de cassis in a chilled champagne flute
Top with sparkling wine then sit back and wonder where your teenagers are…

reasons mommy drinks

My dog Koda has a problem with impacted anal glands. Wait … don’t leave. I swear that’s what the vet told me! Let’s just say, she could have told me he needed canine breast implants, and I would have just handed over my credit card. Vets are awesome. I vow never to shake hands with one again.

So now Koda is on all kinds of meds for about two weeks.  Five pills a day, a syringe full of something else and – you probably guessed – antibiotic ointment twice daily to his badunkadunk.

Remember that stage when you disguised all your kids’ medications in every which way just to get them to take it?  The crushed Tylenol in strawberry jam? The liquid antibiotic sundae? Yeah, that’s the week I’m having.

“Peanut butter for breakfast?!” drooled Koda. “Yes! Yes! I’m a good boy! Yes I am! Gimme the peanut butter! I want the peanut butter!”

His brother Murdoch slinks out of the kitchen. He’s no fool. “You idiot!” yapped Murdoch, “It’s a trap. Why do you think you’re wearing the cone of shame?!” He knew well enough to stay clear during med rounds.

I was able to dispense Koda’s meds a total of exactly three times this way before he figured it out and licked all the peanut butter off the pills.  Time to move on.

“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I get wieners for dinner! It must be Christmas!” panted Koda. “Yes! Yes! Gimme the wieners! I want the wieners!”

Murdoch looked disgusted, “You forgot to say, ‘Hold the Cephalexin’, you twerp!”

Twice burned now, Koda is not falling for any more food tricks, much like my second and third children didn’t fall for the antibiotic sundae. Murdoch is clearly coaching Koda much like my firstborn coached his young siblings I now realize.

“Here’s what we gotta do,” arfed Murdoch, nudging Koda with his snout, “You just gotta suck it up, Man! It’s not a bad gig. Down the pills … fake a whimper … and presto! The bacon comes out! Don’t worry. I got your bacon – I mean – tail!”

Easy for Murdoch to say. He didn’t endure a reverse-Brazilian!

Another whole week of this circus.

koda cone of shame

When our kids swore up and down that they would look after whatever pet they’d begged us for, we all know that it’s me who was going to end up looking after it, right?  Will I ever learn? A lot can happen in 24 hours.

hamster1I’ve been left in charge of my 12-year old daughter’s pets while she is away at camp. I’m a little surprised this responsibility was conferred upon me again given the humiliation suffered in the summer of 2010 (the hamster and I).  The elaborately masterminded jailbreak (hamster) and lots of screaming (me), is now affectionately referred to in our family as The Pumpkinseed Redemption.

Nevertheless, my daughter has a new hamster now (not my fault; just a coincidence) and once again, she asked me to look after her. For a full week I have dutifully changed her water and fed her, even taking her out of her habitat thingie once or twice and letting her run all over my daughter’s bed (hey, she lets the hamster do it so why not me?).

Then last night before my own evening ablutions, I went to check on little Miss Maggie (so named after my daughter’s middle name, which is probably more socially acceptable than saying she named the hamster after her great-grandmother).  Maggie was standing on her sleeping cave just staring out into space.  She was alive, but somehow overnight she had grown these two massive tumours on the side of her neck.  I mean, MASSIVE.  Quasimodo had a pimple on his back compared to Maggie’s contusions.  “Oh no. Oh no. Please, no.” I started muttering to myself. “Please don’t die” but I couldn’t help imagining the letter I would be writing the next day:  “Dear Emily, It’s about your hamster …Yeah, I know…  again.”  Just how does a hamster go from the picture of health to stage four Hodgkin’s in 24 hours?

Because I am not qualified to administer chemotherapy, I quickly run downstairs and grab some lettuce. If she was going to die she was going to damn well have her Last Supper.  I coaxed her to the front of the cage with the lettuce.  She looks at me.  She looks at the lettuce.  She looks at me. She looks at the lettuce. I know I should have washed it first but there wasn’t any time.  Ignoring my lettuce and my pleas she waddles to the back of her cage, behind the hamster wheel, to breathe her last breath I am sure.

Only instead, she proceeds to heave her two massive tumours in a neat little corner of her cage. Lardass Barfarama was a day in the park compared to Maggie spewing what looked like three times her body weight (oh sorry, were you eating?).  It was the most horrifying and revolting thing I have seen since my kids were in diapers.  What she does next is even more appalling.  She walks back over to where my hand is still frozen in its outstretched manner, still holding the lettuce offering which she now peacefully takes it out of my hand and proceeds to munch.  Just needed to make some room, I guess.

So Maggie is not, in fact, dying of cancer, but she is, however, bulimic.  I am now off to google nutritional and psychological counselling for hamsters. Keep Maggie in your prayers.

 

Seems I’ve been pondering effective communication quite a bit these days, more recently about at what frequency I should target my interaction with my children, and now today about my communication with my other half.

The other day I said to my husband, “Look, we need a new yew.”

And what he heard was, “Look, we need a new ‘you’.”

He stopped in his tracks, dropped the wheelbarrow, and responded, “What did I do this time?!”

Apparently I didn’t make it any better by adding, “Nothing. It’s not a big deal; I’ll just go out and get a new one”.

The look on his face was not entirely one of concern for our landscaping, so I then pointed to the dying perennial in our front garden.  “Look at it!  It’s all brown and disgusting!  I don’t want that to be the first thing people see when they walk up our front walk”.

I can only imagine what he would have thought had I made fun of the absence of green thumbs in his genes.

As I set to pulling out the old ‘yew’ from its roots, I got to thinking about how fewer the misunderstandings there are between my husband when I just text him; no verbal communication whatsoever.  Certainly the mix-up over whose ‘yew’ and who’s ‘you’ would never have happened if I’d just texted, “I’ve gone to the garden centre to pick up a new healthy green yew. Brb!”text talkOur textual relationship is pretty strong for a couple now married 22 years. Actually, it’s great in fact, especially when you consider that we only just got the ‘text talk’ maybe four or five years ago. And from whom did we get the ‘text talk’? Why, our kids, of course. IKR?! We rly nEded 2 b schooled 2 B kewl! We’re just amateurs but we text all the time now.

When we argue, there’s no eye rolling, no door slamming, no hanging up the phone, just a lack of signal (or at least that what we both plead). The texting naysayers will say we’ve lost that loving feeling but honestly it’s the most civilized form of communication we’ve ever experienced, except for the occasional premature autocorrect. If he gets bored with our routine, I don’t really care because I know our online personas are so reliable and faithful. There are just so many fewer misunderstandings. It’s not like one of us is from Mars and one of us is from Venus on this type of communication, we are both equally and joyfully inexperienced and experimenting.

Anyway, all is well now after I fully explained myself and my need for a new yew. I’m not sure if he was relieved or not.  Maybe he was looking for a new yew too.

tuck3As the school year is quickly coming to an end, I am getting my three children ready for camp.  I never went to camp as a youngster but they’ve each been going since they were each 8 years old.  You can hear about my personal experience with ENST (empty-nest syndrome training) here and more fun with Summer Camp Math here, but what do I really know about their camp experience?

I don’t actually know a thing about my kids’ camp experiences beyond what I’ve gleaned from their Tuck Shop accounts.

tuck1The term ‘tuck shop’ originated in Britain, used in many Commonwealth countries, generally means a store that sells candy and sweets. It has taken a broader meaning at camps in Canada selling emergency sundry items, but still the primary vendor of candy at camp. As a result, the camp tuck shop is the mirage in the desert, the oasis of the seas; kind of like my Friday happy hour, I imagine. With my fee remittance, I am asked to include a sum to credit to their individual tuck accounts.

The camp my two boys attend annually charges me $70 each for their camp tuck shop account. They are charged $1 for each piece of ‘tuck’ (candy) and are only allowed 3 pieces a week.  It also carries emergency toiletry items like soap, toothpaste and deodorant, though I have no idea what these toiletry items cost since neither have ever touched the ones I pack and therefore has never has no need to ever purchase them. They also sell postage stamps.

DID YOU HEAR THAT, BOYS?  YOUR TUCK SHOP SELLS POSTAGE STAMPS!!!

Anyway, absent the cost of personal hygiene and letters home, the accounting is pretty easy:  At the end of 4 weeks I am refunded $58 ($70- ($3X4)) each.  I understand that “tuck” candy has become a heavily traded currency given its scarcity. I casually hear statements like, “I’ll give you two pieces of ‘tuck’ if your Mom’s brownies” and “trade you my three ‘tucks’ for your new bottle of Deep Woods Off” are covertly whispered during Visitor’s Day.  I can only imagine the tuck debt that is accumulated over flashlight poker games. I pray my boys’ have the discipline to trade their ‘tuck’ responsibly and in moderation only.

tuck2Compare this to my daughter’s camp that charges me $375 for her tuck account.  Clearly her camp tuck shop is a mini-Neiman Marcus with pine shelves. I was pretty curious what would necessitate a 500% difference in tuck shop credit, as I am sure anyone would.  Obviously, the purchases of camper note pads, waterproof notebooks, pens, stuffed animals, carves, toques, towels, song books, lip balm, necklaces, hoodies, charm bracelets, charms, sunglasses and flashlights really adds up.  Yes indeed, it really adds up. On the other hand, she avails herself of the laundry service and I am able to bail out some of her clothes from death by incineration, unlike the clothes of her brothers.

The good news is that the camp fun does not end when the ‘tuck’ account is depleted, otherwise they would not return year after year.  I guess the most important lesson I’ve learned about my kids’ camp experience can be summarized as follows:  What happens at camp, stays at camp, and parents are gone but not forgotten – because they pay the Tuck Shop bills.

Do you or your kids have a camp Tuck Shop story?

on strikeIt seems I am surrounded by labour strife.  The contentious replacement of NFL officials, the tiresome lack of progress in the negotiations between NHL owners and the NHLPA, and the squabbling between the Ontario government and both the elementary and secondary school teachers’ unions seem to be ongoing dinner table topics in our household.  I should also mention the most recent epic collapse in negotiations which saw me cracking under pressure and buying my 12-year old a strapless dress for a recent family wedding.  When will it end?  Soon enough I am sure for the athletes and teachers; probably not soon enough for my 12-year old and I.

However, the labour conflict that provided the highest relevance and entertainment factor to me was between Jessica Stilwell, aka The Striking Mom, and her children. Ms. Stilwell received quite a bit of notoriety when she declared a strike in her own household. She conducted a week-long experiment in her home free from picking up, putting away, cleaning, sorting, clearing, washing – most importantly – reminding and nagging. She made meals but only washed and put away her own dishes. Despite the fact that she had no teenage boys in her household , no pets that I could discern, and not a single hockey player among them, she still had a lot to write about.  Nevertheless, her reflections on her ‘week on strike’ are worth a read with your next glass of wine.

In thinking (and drinking) while I read her blog, I wondered…

How many times this week have you made a simple household request, and got the following answer: either no response at all or “Yeah, in a minute.” Kidspeak translation = “never” or “remind-me-every-two minutes-for-the-next-hour- until-you-threaten-to-ground-me-from-all-known-manner-of-social-interaction-for-the-rest-of-my-life- because-watching-your-blood-pressure-is-entertaining-but-will-soon-be-boring-and-then-I’ll-probably-do-it“.

And about as many times the same week, I would answer with the question, “I wonder what would happen around here if I took on that attitude?” I wouldn’t have the nerve, would you? Or the persistence. Or the patience. Or the budget for the post-apocalyptic cleaning bill.  I’m not really sure what would happen in our household if I took on this mission, because I simply do not posses the intestinal fortitude of Jessica Stilwell.  I do, however, possess astute scientific hypothesizing abilities and can predict what would NOT happen.

I’m pretty sure that the back door and the garage door would NOT ever be closed and remain open 24/7, making anything of value in our garage (including my Christmas supply of pinot grigio) entirely available to the neighbourhood.

I can say with some certainty that the dogs would NOT survive on love alone, would starve and die (although their life expectancy would likely exceed that of the fish and the hamster because the dogs, at least, know how to beg).

The toilets would NOT ever be flushed (unless I am using one; then for sure it will be flushed and then for sure it would overflow and then for sure I would be blamed for that).

All the lights in the entire house would NOT ever be turned off nor would the TV.

We would NOT have any tops for any of our tubes of toothpaste.

We would NOT have curbside garbage collection anymore because the garbage will NOT make it to the curbside.

Everyone would NOT have any clean laundry but on the upside, I will NOT run out of laundry detergent.

kitchen-messWe would NOT have any clean dishes from which to eat but again, on the upside, perhaps a new set of dishes for me is sitting under the tree (but, Honey, in case you’re reading, that would be pretty pathetic).

There would be NO dry towels in the entire house, though there would also be NO need for a humidifier with all these damp towels on the floor and beds.

There would be NO need for me to get my sports update from TSN for each newspaper would remain on the kitchen table spread open at exactly that day’s sports pages.

There would be NO milk in the kitchen frig because NO ONE will walk out to the garage to get more.

Oh, I know, many of you would suggest that I am to blame; that I have raised a household of slack and unappreciative dependents. In the end, I guess it the end the question really was a rhetorical one.  We all know that mothers were long ago declared an essential service without the right to strike. Meanwhile my right to seek redress for domestic grievances is – well – chilling in the garage.

 

What would NOT happen if you went on strike?

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation is ramping up its labour action once again. My kids’ after-school clubs and sports have already been curtailed as a result of the  labour action initiated in September and now I have  heard that teachers may refrain from hallway and cafeteria supervision as this activity  is not part of the essential functions of teaching and marking.

Rather than wade into a polemic debate, I thought I would wade into the high school cafeteria instead.

Hey boys, I’m thinking of volunteering for caf duty at lunch at your school, since your teachers may no longer be doing it. Won’t that be swell?

They actually left the room because they could not contain their excitement. So sweet.

 So just because I’m nice and all that, I have created the following Lunchroom Credo for other parent volunteers considering sharing this prominent volunteer position along with me:

I hereby pledge to …

– Hug and kiss my own children as soon as I see them enter the caf [very important].

– Refer to my teenagers by their toddler nicknames.

– Make sure to hand deliver my teenager’s lunch in a brand-new Hello Kitty lunch box (please note: only for boys).

– Dress appropriately by wearing a blouse and skirt with knee-high stockings and Church Lady shoes; alternative attire might include my leopard print leggings, black leather bodice and red high heel boots (in which case exposed bra straps are entirely acceptable).

– Call all teachers by their first names; better yet, make up a few nicknames like Bri-Bri the History Guy.

– Wink at every cute teenage boy.

– Randomly dispense advice about Canada’s Food Guide.

– Reapply lipstick repeatedly and smack lips loudly.

– Pull underwear out of butt crack at various intervals while walking between tables.

– Endeavour to pass gas at least once while walking past the popular girls’ table.

– Quiz every girl who talks to my sons (list of appropriate questions is available upon request).

– Alert all girls to their exposed bra straps, as required.

– Sing along to all the songs playing over the PA system (even if I don’t know the words).

– Remind my children of their after-school wart removal appointment, in front of their friends.

-Share swigs from my flask with the custodian (in other words, set a good example).

This Lunchroom Credo has been well-received and endorsed by all the mothers I know. Somehow, my kids are not quite as enthusiastic. In fact, they are suddenly no longer complaining that I have a full-time job.

It’s fun being a mother, isn’t it? I can’t wait until my prepubescent daughter’s teachers union begin its labour action.

So how do you endear yourself to your teenagers?

I am very curious to know exactly where the term “dinner hour” came from since I usually have my family’s undivided attention at the dinner table for about – oh – 13 minutes.  Sometimes you just want to get the conversation going at the dinner table and it’s exceptionally tedious.

Not that every dinner time is always quiet in our household.  Heaven knows that the clang and clatter of five dinner plates and two dog bowls served up with mismatched cutlery, a main entrée with a side of door slam, a salad tossed with two insults, two Oreo cookie dunks courtside with a basketball commentary (replaces hockey talk for the time being), one random physics factoid followed with an appropriately timed bodily noise, and one pre-pubescent female served up with a drama or two usually provide for ample dinner din.

But everyone seems tired tonight.  The weekend is not even close and I sense everyone here is still reeling from the clocks switching back an hour.  Judging from the looks on their faces from my end of the table, it seems that extra hour of sleep has hurt more than it had helped.  I am sensing that tonight will be one of those dreaded one-sided, motherloaded conversations and I need to spring into verbal action.

Let me see now; how can I get their attention?

“My bra strap came undone in the middle of a meeting today.”

Nothing…

“My security card fell in the toilet today and I had to fish it out.”

An eye roll…

My skirt was stuck in my panty hose as I left the public washroom.”

A slight movement in the corner of someone’s mouth…

So I set up for the ace …

“Oh – and I accidentally farted in yoga today.”

Yeah, the clatter and clang of the dinner dishes are back in full swing, but the last one might have just been a little over the top.  I’m about to open my mouth in a half-hearted retraction, and my daughter gives me the “Please stop talking” hand gesture, my sons actually get up and leave the table and my husband serves me the, “Are you happy now?” face.

Needless to say, pretty soon I am finishing my dinner entirely alone.  My plan has backfired.

Still…

It’s kinda nice…

Once in a while…

I just might try this again sometime.

What was the scintillating conversation at your dinner table tonight?

 

About Astra
Ottawa mom of 3 poking fun at myself, motherhood, and minor hockey! I am steering through life dodging stinky hockey gear and empty wine bottles.
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