How the hell are ya?

I feel like we’re strangers, I haven’t seen you guys in such a long time.  6 days in the blogosphere is practically forever.  It’s nice to see y’all again. What have you been up to?

I’ve been doing some of this:

And this:

And of course, this:

Jon and I went on our white water rafting trip on Friday, and we camped out and partied Thursday and Friday nights.

Which means my parents got to hang out with the three kids and the puppy.  My kids exceeded our expectations and were practically angelic throughout the two days – and had a fantastic time on all the outings that had been planned.  As expected, they repressed all the shrieking, wailing, naughtiness and repeatedly waking up at night for us when we got home.

We paddled a total of 15 km punctuated by violent class 4 and 5 rapids.  No, neither of us fell out, though I somehow managed to get bruises all over my knees and lower thighs.  It’s a mystery.

We cliff jumped off a 20 foot high rock.  Jon will tell you that he saved me from certain death.  Phsaw – lies.  I was totally fine.  I might have been swimming blindly back to shore after jumping off that rock because I might have forgotten to tighten my helmet and it slid right over top of my eyes.  I had almost made it entirely by myself anyway.  It was only slightly embarrassing.

The rest of the trip (the parts when I wasn’t knocking on Death’s door), was incredibly relaxing.  It was so relaxing that my brain is still a puddle of sludge on the floor.  Or that could be the sleep deprivation talking.   The only thing we had to actually remember all weekend was getting to the rafting meeting at 7:45 and the bus at 8:30.

No responsibilities.  No chasing little humans.  No cleaning.  No cooking. No prescribed bedtime.  No routine.

You should try it sometime.  Ditch the kids and get away for a couple nights.  You won’t regret it.

Surprisingly, I didn’t miss the kids too terribly.  Not until we were packing up to go home, and a wave of anxiety settled over me like a dark cloud.  I knew in my head that everyone was fine and probably having a dandy time, but I couldn’t wait to get my snuggles and count all their fingers and toes.

We’re sixty for sixty.  All is well.

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MOM = Maker Of Memories

Though I do think I had a pretty great childhood overall, I don’t have a great memory of my childhood like my husband or many of my friends do.  They can recall with detail that I envy, specific events that happened over the course of their coming-of-age.

Sometimes they’ll ask, “remember when we…” and more often than not, I really can’t.  (And no, not just because part of my adolescence is a narcotic-and-alcohol-induced fog.) Unless I’ve reviewed pictures or retold stories of the memory ad nauseum, it just flits away into the recesses of my brain as if it had never happened.

Not to say that having a bad memory is entirely negative.  I can’t hold a grudge to save my life (I consider this to be positive) and every experience tends to border on life-altering enlightenment and childlike awe.  Sometimes I have to learn a lesson over-and-over again painfully before it is really ingrained – but then it is damn near guaranteed I’ve learned it for life.  When a memory decides to stick, it is with a depth of emotion that is as tangible as anything I could feel in the present, and though I’m a practiced stoic, those emotions are often difficult for me to rein in.

While ruminating over my own memory issues and trying to remember long forgotten memories and lessons during my childhood and adolescence, the lines between my psyche and those of my children began to blur as I stepped into their shoes.  I wondered what it was specifically that they would remember about their years of growth, when they were adults.

Will they at all remember the years where their mother worked hard to the point that her sanity and patience were tested; bringing friends’ and family members’ children into her house every day; desperately trying to keep everyone coordinated, growing intellectually and emotionally, and trying to teach them some life lessons along the way?  It’s very possible they might not.

Will they remember our before-bed snuggles, nightly massages and philosophical conversations?  Our walks to the park?  Trips to festivals?  Mom bickering playfully with their Dad?  Being thrown into the lake at the cottage?  Using me as a jungle gym or being tossed forcefully in the air with all my strength while they squeal and giggle, over and over and over again.

Will Julia remember the days when I finally took a brush to her dreadlocked curls, causing her pain because I had neglected them for too long or will she remember the days when I delicately stroked the brush through her hair, careful to make it as enjoyable as possible. 

Will they remember their mom trying to show them the affection in the evenings that I have to mute during the day in the attempt to not play favorites to the detriment of my daycare children?  Or will they only remember my attempts at being uniformly attentive to all the children, and in the process possibly denying them an inner need for constant physical reassurance?  I pray it’s the former.

As my children are getting to the age when they are really beginning to retain memories for the rest of their lives, it is occurring to me more and more that as a mom, I’m in the business of creating those memories.  I think the balance will be swayed with careful deliberation of my tactics, ensuring that Jon and I create powerful positive memories by building our own traditions and rituals.

Besides the very best and very worst experiences of my young life, the bulk of the things I remember are those that were repeated day after day, year after year.  The smell of apple pies baking and listening to Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas album at Christmas; my mom and dad’s excitement for dressing up and scaring the daylights out of neighborhood children on Halloween; all the elaborate parties my mom played host to; picking gooseberries with my Nanny (grandma); blackmailing my brother into letting my toy horse have magical powers (I refused to play with him otherwise); drawing pictures of horses over and over until I’d achieved perfection.  My childhood revolved around live music, mouth-watering food, and the world of fantasy I’d created in my head.  As a teenager it was largely the same, but more independent of my parents – adding, of course, the copious amounts of alcohol and narcotics.

My children’s memories will certainly be different from my own as a child (and they had better bloody be different than mine as a teenager), but I hope that even if they don’t remember everything, they will at least remember the best of times.

Now that I’ve become conscious of my own great power to affect those memories, I’m going to work very hard to ensure that the best of times will greatly outweigh the worst of times and make a better effort at creating and continuing some new family rituals.

I’ve decided to start this endeavor with reading Harry Potter to James every night.  I just bought the series and I think he’s mature enough for it.  Am I mature enough to maintain the nightly ritual?

I think I finally might be.

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Parenting help needed.

On the way home from the cottage a week ago, the kids were being deliciously quiet, meditating in the back when James blindsided me.

Mom?”

“Yep?”

“Why doesn’t Santa ever die?”

The whole world dragged, wheels grinding, to a stop, only to focus on a little blonde angel, ravenous for knowledge that he knew I could give him.

“Um…”  I dug deep for some brilliant response, refusing to lie to him.  I have this thing about lying.  I have vowed never to tell even the slightest fib to my kids, even if it would make my life easier.  I find I’ve become extremely adept at speaking in half-truths, and though it’s not entirely honest, at least the words coming out of my mouth are all fact.

I haven’t been able to dig up any half-truths for this particular question. Now, if he asked me if Santa was real then I could probably think of something (Santa is alive in our hearts and is the spirit of giving, etc.).

“Um… That’s a great question, James.  I’ll look into it and get back to you.”

He contemplated my response, suspicion dripping from his blue eyes.  I think he’s catching on.  He knows I’m trying to evade him.  Trying to distract him, hoping he would forget about his question and move on.

My plan is failing.

Anyone have any ideas?  I could seriously use some help here.

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Holy Hormones Batman

Testosterone, Estrogen, Pheromones…

It’s what causes grown and perfectly rational women to behave like 13 year old boy-possessed lunatics.

Since I very much enjoy acting like a lunatic, a friend and I decided to take a trip to 1996 and go to the Backstreet Boys/New Kids on the Block concert last night.

Imagine my surprise when all nine of the fellas came out looking like sexy versions of Glenn Hughes.  I was riveted.

There was a lot of this

And this

And this

And entirely not enough of this.

In fact I was completely disappointed in the distinct lack of abdominal musculature the Backstreet Boys were displaying.

Thank God for Donnie.

The force is strong in that one.

Laureen Harper got dragged up onstage by Howie D (my other husband).

photo c/o @stuntmanstu

The poor lady looked nervous enough as it was and then she got booed.  I don’t care if your husband is the Spawn of Satan or Stephen Harper – that’s just not nice, people.

Can I tell you?  I’ve been to a lot of concerts (including a couple BSB concerts in my early teen years, not to mention Metallica and many other heavy hitters) and this is the first time I’ve ever been seriously concerned about being knocked out cold by the shock-wave resulting from the decibel level of screams at a concert.

I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone in that arena has permanent hearing loss.

I’m not going to talk much about the musicality of the main acts, since they both delivered very nearly what I anticipated.

I was slightly baffled by the Backstreet Boys’ obvious attempt to make their music seem more worldly by having their backup band occasionally play international and jazz style music instead of the traditional drum machine/pop as the background for their vocals.  It wasn’t necessary and they didn’t really pull it off very well anyway.

NKOTB, however, stayed mostly true to their original music and any alterations did actually enhance the experience rather than hinder it. Well, apart from one point where Joey McIntyre, I think, was meaning to act melancholy, though his jaw was hanging open like he was really stoned.  For several (in hindsight, probably really embarrassing) minutes.  I do not see acting in that boy’s future.

Speaking of being stoned, I’m a little worried about Nick Carter‘s supposed sobriety.  He was acting like a total dork the whole concert.  I’m hoping he was high on… life.  That he was flopping on the ground and running randomly and talking sort of funny because he was, uh… really excited the tour was ending.

Before I forget, I must give props to Matthew Morrison of Mr. Schuester (Glee) fame.  He was a very pleasant surprise, seemed very sweet, and totally nailed his performance.

The first band on the bill, Neverest (dorkiest name ever), was also good if you like that sort of thing.  Personally, if I’m going to see a boy band play pop music, they had better be mindlessly attractive and unattached to instruments so they can parade around, gyrate, and occasionally take their clothes off.  But yes, Neverest are talented boys.  I think they could put that talent to use better by playing good old fashioned rock and roll, though.

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Blue Skies is the best place EVER!

So says my son, James.  I ardently agree.

It’s very rare for a person not to fall head-over-heels in love with the three-day-and-night-long music festival located in B-F-N (aka Clarendon), Ontario.  When I was the same age as James is now (6), my parents brought me and my brother (then 3 years old) for the first time.

Most of the memories of my first Blue Skies are fuzzy and sepia-toned like my other childhood memories.  I do vividly (and sometimes painfully) remember my own past emotions, and when I think about those first years I recall with striking detail feelings of being overwhelmed by the bombardment of stimuli juxtaposed with complete peace and relaxation.  I recall total satisfaction and my amazement of the beauty of the people and the environment.  I remember an insatiable curiosity and learning at an accelerated rate.

It was and still is perfect in its magic; otherworldly and bewitching.

It was a place that a painfully shy little girl could find some independence and release all her anxieties, fears, and expectations for herself.  I was alone among thousands of people.  I could sit in the woods, ponder, and just exist in my solitude.  I was a freak among freaks and I found friends there.  I stored away most of the truly important occasions for personal growth for those three days every year.  At Blue Skies, that painfully shy little girl turned into an exuberant teenager and that same unaffected teenager became a slightly more wise woman.

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that the festival and all its patrons own a not-insignificant piece of my soul.  Sadly, because of extraneous circumstances (early pregnancy nausea/wedding planning, young baby, and a family member’s destination wedding respectively), it had been three years since we’d been able to go to the festival and I had partially forgotten how much I owed to Blue Skies.

I had forgotten the joy of visiting with old and new friends and acquaintances; of drinking and laughing and sharing stories around a bonfire.  I had forgotten the experience of discovering a new musical act that rocked your socks off, gave you goosebumps and made your whole body tingle with awe.  I had forgotten dancing as if no one was watching and singing as if no one was listening.  I had forgotten being lulled to sleep by the sound of distant drums, guitars and merrymakers.

I had forgotten how uncorrupt the night sky is and how your eyes can’t help but drift upward now and then to gaze at the extreme clarity of the stars.  It looks like God took his brush and with one mighty stroke, painted the Milky Way.  It’s so shockingly beautiful that you try not to blink and when you finally look away, the echo of the pinprick lights dance in your vision.

I had forgotten waking up each morning, baking under the hot nylon of the tent, filthy from the night before.  You might choose to shower in the wooden outdoor enclosure made for the purpose; the wooden floors cool and slick under your feet; frigid well-water trickling from the shower-head sending shocks of adrenaline up your spine.

Or perhaps not… you might choose to let the sweat and dirt build up layer by layer like a papier mache mask, coarsening your features.

Your feet, however, are a lost cause.  Regardless of your bathing routine, they can’t help but acquire a sort of wonderful gangrenous and leathery appearance.  “Blue Skies feet” is the technical term.

There is some sort of odd freedom in going home to look in the mirror and realizing that there’s a stranger in front of you.  You may recognize in your reflection that it isn’t just your physical features that have changed, but also everything inside of you.  That is something that never fails, no matter how many years you’ve attended.

To be able to bring my children and allow them to have the same experiences that I did, knowing how it will shape them, will be one of the greatest gifts I could ever give them.  Come hell or high water, we’ll be going.  Every year.

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10 Reasons why Puppies are Easier than Children

As you may know, a few months ago we decided a puppy would be an excellent addition to the family, and we put a down payment on a beautiful and intelligent little Rottweiler/German Shepherd pup.

Everyone had me absolutely convinced that having a puppy was like the worst newborn and the worst toddler put together.  Basically, pure unadulterated evil.

All lies.  Children still hold that particular trophy.  Why?

  1. No dirty diapers.  No poopy underpants.  Takes all of 30 seconds to clean up an accident (provided you keep pup off the rugs).  House breaking is usually instinctive and often 100% complete within a couple of months, as opposed to 18 months of hell, in the case of my first-born.
  2. If you’re not in the mood to snuggle or be used as a jungle gym, you can kick the dog off you without guilt or having to listen to a half hour tantrum.
  3. Puppies are cheap when compared to kids.  No clothes to continually purchase, no extra-curriculars to pay for, no education, future wedding or psychotherapy to save for… Just food, treats, a few vet bills, maybe some obedience classes and you’ve got a bud for life.
  4. Dogs are so simple.  Trying to be a good parent, we’re constantly peeling back the onion layers of our kids psychologies and adapting our parenting techniques to suit them.  Dogs need obedience training, consistent leadership, and love but that’s it.  Simple.
  5. Yelling at your dog feels good and relieves stress.  Yelling at your kids?  Guilt and more stress.
  6. Dogs don’t talk. Which means they don’t talk back.  
  7. If you buy a dog a good bone, you can practically guarantee at least an hour of total silence.  When’s the last time you bought your kid a toy that entertained them for that long?
  8. You can tie the puppy up outside the grocery store instead of dragging them in with you to cause chaos.  It’s considerably less stressful to be viewed as the slightly neglectful dog owner than the mom with the out-of-control kid.
  9. Getting a dog involves a two things – a bit of thought and a cheque book.  No charting basal temperatures, no nausea and vomiting, no sciatic nerve pain, no weight gain, no birth plan, no labour, no recovery, nada.
  10. It’s generally frowned upon to keep your kids in a cage – though understandably tempting.  Following you into the bathroom?  Into your cage!   When they’re all fighting?  In your separate cages!  If they’re in a snit?  Into your cage you go.  It’s like time-out, but better!
It’s pretty clear that anyone who thinks that raising a puppy is more difficult than raising a child has:
A) never had children
B) has completely forgotten exactly what it feels like to have an 18 month to 2.5 year old.
Or
C) perhaps, they simply don’t mind leaving their kids in a cage…

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My shit don’t stink.

I was sitting on the can, minding my own business (taking a big poo), when James decided to be a peeping tom come visit me.

I instinctively regulated my breathing in an attempt to keep my shizzit together and not to freak at him for the invasion of privacy.  Hey – I can’t be responsible for my behaviour immediately before dinnertime.

Teeth clenched and trying to tamp down my adrenaline response, I asked him politely to vacate the bathroom.

He laughed at me, wiggling his butt in my face, completely unaware of how I was visualizing back-handing him out of there.

My 2nd line of defense?  The gross-out factor.

“James, seriously, this is one nasty poo.  You’re totally gonna get smoked out if you stay in here.”

Instead of fleeing as I thought he would, he made a big show of taking as deep a breath as he could manage.

“Ahhhhhhhhh….” he exhaled dramatically.  “No, your poo smells AMAZING, mom!”

He ran straight out of the bathroom to tell his father just how amazing.  (Like flowers, apparently.)

What.

The.

Hell?

Crazy child.

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Blog OTW – the Mombshelter

It’s a rare thing when someone’s blog post gives me goosebumps and makes me tear up, but Nicole from the Mombshelter did it.  Her latest post  is a work of art.

Also, she has wonderful taste in music.  I think I’m in love.

Go visit.

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Cottage Life is the Good Life

As you read this, I will be relaxing at a cottage cradled in the Laurentian hills in Quebec.  The lake on which the cottage is situated, called Lac Corbeau, is cold and deep and has steep, densely-wooded slopes running around the outside.

As you swim across the ancient mountain lake, you can’t help but feel impossibly tiny and insignificant compared to the depth of the history of the area.  The mysteries your imagination fires off about what might be buried beneath the black water tend to be somewhat alarming.

One of the perks that came with marrying into my husband’s family is access to this cottage.

It’s rustic.  The cold-only water comes straight from the lake and needs to be boiled (we bring bottled water for drinking or use an ionizer); bathrooms don’t exist – you go in an outhouse (occasionally inhabited by dock spiders) or in the bush; the cottage is 50 meters down some steep log-and-dirt steps from the parking area; if you want to bathe, you do so in the lake.  Thankfully, the cottage has had electricity and telephone access for some time now, but it didn’t always.

I love it.

Yes, the size of the spiders makes me squirm and I get far too much exercise from all the swimming, canoeing, walking and hiking up and down the steps.  There’s no television, which means I will have to skip True Blood (for two Sundays in a row!  Gah!  How am I going to survive??).  Thank God for PVRs.

I’m usually forced to play games with my kids and other adults, which is truly a hardship.  I wish that was sarcasm.  I seriously loathe playing board games, card games, games of every sort, really… I can’t remember a time when this hasn’t been the case.  Every minute I spend playing a game – Oh lawdy – even thinking about playing a game, is a minute spent being subjected to mind-numbing torture.  Sitting at a table, taking turns, waiting… waiting… waiting for people to make their moves…  it all makes me feel jittery, nauseous, extremely irritable, impatient and out of control.

The sleep is blessed.  Your head hits the pillow at 9PM and you wake up in the morning being baked by the sun, but ultimately refreshed.

Sometimes I even get to nap.  I know!  Whaaaat?

The air intoxicates me – it’s uncomplicated, earthy and totally clean.

You can go for a walk with the kids and bring home a bucket full of whichever berries are in season at the time.

The places to explore are absolutely unlimited.

The children have so much freedom and thrive and learn so much.

Time at the cottage is like pushing the “reset” button on all your vices.  You relearn how to listen to your body.

We’re motivated to eat fresh and healthy foods – raw fruits and vegetables, granola, yogurt, nuts, eggs… and you just snack all day.

You come home from the cottage with a new appreciation for everything you have, and also a realization that all your precious acquisitions aren’t nearly as important as you thought they were.

You remember that what’s important is spending time with your kids.  It’s an easy thing to forget when there are so many chores to do, so many blogs to write, so many memories to organize, and whole futures to plan.

There is absolutely nothing that can teach you how to live in the here and now, like spending time at the cottage.

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Fess-Up Friday

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N!

See ya suckas!  I’m gone!

I’ve written a few blarg posts to hopefully pass the time while I’m suntanning on a dock, swimming with the kids, canoeing, eating freshly picked berries from random bushes in the area and having lots and lots and lots of naps.  Ahhh… jealous?

I would be.

If you can tolerate my nonsensical babblings, or even if you’ve just wandered here and are wondering what the hell I’m talking about, please vote for me!

Look for Creating Little Monsters on Babble’s infinite list of mommy blogs.  I’m not stopping until I’ve hit #1!  

… No actually, I’d seriously settle for getting into the top 100.

… to be honest, my ego is pretty damn satisfied that I miraculously made it on that list in the first place since I’m pretty sure 90% of my blog hits are from my mom.

Also, I’d really like to know who thought it would be funny to describe my blog posts as charming.  Hah!

… Oh.

… oh oh oh!  *facepalm*

That was probably my mom too.  My #1 fan.

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