Friday, July 30, 2010


Boy-o has been attending a morning summer camp at the local Y this week, and though clearly loving and thriving on it, he has also been much more tired and moody this week.  It made me start to feel a bit nervous about our decision to send him to pre-kindergarten this September.  This decision is a bit trickier for us, as Boy-o is a December baby, meaning that he could start either a half year "early" or a half year "late."  The question being: when he's in high school, do we want him to be the one buying the beer for all of his friends, or will he be the one depending on others to buy the beer?   We chose the latter, not because we're opposed to him buying beer later on, but because he seems ready for much more stimulation than I am able to give him at home these days.  His joy at attending summer camp programming seems proof positive of this.  (And truth be told, the kid is so frickin' tall, he'll likely be buying everyone's beer anyways!)  BUT:  the moodiness and tiredness has me worries that perhaps his intellectual and emotional growth aren't necessarily working along the same ahead-of-the-game curve.

There are so many questions involved in whether or not kids are ready for school, and what kind of school (or homeschool) environment is right for them. Are we sending them too soon?  Too late?  Are they intellectually AND emotionally ready to start?  How will the teaching philosophies affect learning?  How does the philosphy actually translate into the classroom practices?  Is it laid back or rigid?  Too laid back?  Too rigid?   What are the hours?  How many days a week is too much?  What does the discipline policy look like?  How does it coincide (or not) with how we do things?  How is the classroom set up for kids who are kinesthetic learners (learn through movement and activity)?  These are just a few of the questions we started out with in looking for the right schooling environment for Boy-o.   And then we had a few extras that lots of other folks don't necessarily have to worry about (but SHOULD anyways), like, how do families get talked about in the classroom?  Are the teachers going to go out of their way to make sure my child doesn't feel left out or ashamed when talking about his family?  What is the school policy on homophobic bullying?  How does this work in practical terms in the classroom?  The list could go on forever, particularly here in ole Redneckville, which makes me concern about the aformentioned questions soar off the charts.

On the plus side, we've found a school we're really pretty excited about, (even though it means a 20+ minute commute each way, each day), and though the school runs for 4 days out of 5, we aren't too concerned about him sitting out any days that seem too much for him.    And we're pretty chill around whether he moves on to kindergarten next year, or does another year of pre-K.

So I guess there's not much to do now but wait and see how it all comes out in the wash (or, erm, at the liquor store)...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

mad dialling

I just called my wife's machine at work to inform her that I was going to off our number 1 progeny and named a litany of perfectly good reasons.  At least, I hope it was her machine.  I was a bit, um, frothy... so it might not have been.  How bad is it to call some random crown prosecutor to tell them you are going to off your child?  Just wonderin'.  (They might not get my sense of humour, I fear, what with having to deal with actual child killers and all, and not you know, knowing me and how much I love said progeny.  Anyhoo.)

Off to have a panic attack about them impending visit from Child and Family Services.  Or possibly the police.  And to cope with the young, nap-refusing, crying and screaming at the drop of a hat, waking up the baby, outwardly defying, just plain contrary child of mine.  And pray to the gods of zen bestowance (no, I don't actually know if this is a word) to throw some scraps my way.

And yes, I'm sure I'm gonna miss this when he gets older.    It's the here and now that seems to present a bit of a challenge.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Calling others parents: What do you do when you've reached the last straw?

So lately, I've been really tired and depleted.  And having difficulty with, you know, the difficulty of toddlerhood.  And I've been losing it more than I care to admit.  And I've sort of been feeling like my old coping tricks aren't working to keep me on the even keel.  

So I'm sending a call out to the blogosphere:  I need some new zen-like-inner-calm-accessing tips!  What do you do when you start to lose your cool?  And does it work?


As much as I hate having he inevitable lousy parenting moments; I really, really hate it when my less than stellar parenting moments are audible/visible to others.  I just lost my shit on a very contrary Boy-o, right by the open window, so the entire neighbourhood got to hear my amazingly crappy parent-y-ness. 

Oh well, I guess this was just my special way of making sure the really super-dooper crap-tastic parents down and across the street (who actually don't seem to mind presenting their less than stellar parenting in public at all) can have something to feel smug about.  They're sitting there thinking:  "That's right, those crazy-hold-hands-and-sway-in-the-forest-lesbians ain't so special."   So it's a public service, really.


Wish I could have a do-over.  

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reflection/An ode to single parents

Awhile back, when I was in the throes of treading some really, really, especially lousy, difficult, challenging and nasty parenting waters, I'd been posting some FB statuses discussing some of the difficulties I'd been having. (Knowing me, probably too many. And knowing me especially well, probably too woe-is-me, which, let's face it, I am a bit prone to).

Anyhoo - someone commented on my FB that I should imagine how much harder it would be to be a single parent, or something along those lines.  And at the time, (although I am absolutely certain it was not in any way intended to make me feel shitty), this comment threw me even deeper into the sticky mud of self-doubt and guilt and inadequacy.  I was barely coping, barely making it through each day, crying far too much of the time. And though my (alone) work-day from 7 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. is long (particulary with a two month long run-on tantrumming toddler and a brand new baby), I knew that I had help coming at the end of the day fom my loving spouse, who is also a loving parent.   How much of a fuck-up was I, to not be able to handle the daytime stuff on my own, when I had help at night?

Somehow I made it through that particular parenting tailspin, more or less in one piece, and I'm not naive enough to think it will be my last.  But that FB comment still lingers, stays with me whenever I feel overwhelmed, overworked, or just plain exhausted.

These past four weeks, L. was co-pilotting a three week long trial which was a boatload of work and then away for a week-long (very annoying) work-y, developmental thing-y.  My mom came to visit from Winnipeg to help me out for two weeks.  I cannot, cannot, cannot even begin to fathom how I would have survived without that help.  How would I have been able to get the kids down to sleep at night when Girlio's bedtime routine starts at 7, and Boy-o's bath starts at the same time?  How I would have been able to give them both the time and energy they need during the day when Girlio has been up an average of 6 times a night for weeks on end and I am running on nothing but fumes (and chocolate and Diet Pepsi, of course, because I eat really shittily when I'm past the point of no return)?    Of course, I would have found a way.  Single parents everywhere do.   Even when they're running on fumes.  But it would have been so much more challenging.

Even with all that help from my mama, I still got sick at the end of the month from all the night-time sleeplessness and exhaustion and shitty-coping-eating.  So here's the thing: regardless of the absolute unhelpfulness of that FB comment for me way back when I was losing my shit, the comment itself is bang-on.  True.  For real.  Accurate. 

Single mamas (and yes, single papas, though let's be clear, this is more of a rare bird) have to do it all.  Be it all.  And they have to do it all of the time.  They have to wrangle kiddies without regard of their own needs, and they don't have partners to spell them off at the end of the work day.  They can't crap out and say "you put Junior down because if I have to look at him for another second, a murder will occur."   They just have to, you know, not murder.  They have to put their kids down to bed at night by themselves, deal with their night-wakings by themselves, and deal with the effects of splitting themselves in half and being sleep deprived, by themselves. They can't say "I need a girls' night" and know that their childcare solution is sitting right next to them on the couch (not that I actually do this with any regularity... but I really should).  And most often, they can't make the choice to stay home with their kiddos long term, a job I often bitch about, but know I am so, so privileged to be able to undertake.  

Parenting is hard.  Hard.  Really really really fucking hard.   (And I not so humbly submit that if it isn't hard, you either aren't doing it right, or you are raising some weird-child-of-the-corn who is devoid of contrariness, personality, and other forms of the child-pizzazz that make our kiddies simultaneously so clever, so interesting and so freaking difficult.)   Sometimes it's fun.  Sometimes it's exciting.  Sometimes it's less fun and less exciting.  But it's always, always challenging.

So - this is an ode, a shout-out, a salute, a big-up, a toast, an accolaide, and a woot! woot! to all the single mama's out there. You have my undying respect and admiration.  And I'd like to send you out a big ole hug.  And some zen-like inner calm (not that I generally have much of this to spare).  And some chocolate.  LOTS of chocolate. 
And when you are feeling tired and overwhelmed and start playing the international-sport-of-mothers- everywhere (alternatively titled "self-blame and self-doubt"), take a moment and remind yourself that you are tired and overwhelmed because you are undertaking a job an entire mob of mama's would (and do) find challenging.  

Here's to you, mamacitas. 

** Fine print: Though I would still like to maintain that is is largely unhelpful to tell people who are having a rough time to buck up because other people have a more difficult time than them.  Please do not try this at home. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Mom Kvetch

So I got a haircut the other day.  I wasn't immediately in love with it (though, by the by, I was immediately in love with the styling product I bought with the haircut that you can use in wet hair, tousle and go.  NICE!)  Anyhoo - so I was freaking out a small bit on the way home, thinking that I had received a style that shouted "Mom Hair."  And then I paused to think about the utter ridiculousness of this freak out.   What the frig is Mom Hair, exactly?  According to various sites on the net, it's meant to signify any "low maintenance" hair-do, typically done after giving birth.  I guess maybe I had Mom Hair prior to becoming a  mom.  I was never one to spend an hour primping, straightening, blowing-out, up-doing etc., except for special occasions (I'm a low-maintenance kinda princess).  Is there such a thing a "Mom Face"?  Cause I think I might have that too.  A bit of mineral foundation, a splash of blush, some mascara and off we go.  Though again - this routine hasn't really changed post-children. 

It seems like "Mom Hair" is just one of many ways we put down women and insinuate that women 'let themselves go' after they become moms.  (As you may have already guessed, I think this is utter horseshit. I don't know about the rest of ya'll, but I know some pretty smokin' mums).   But it seems like when we have kids, we all of the sudden go from having been totally objectified to being totally desexualized, culturally speaking.  To put this in Monopoly speak : "Go straight from Whore to Madonna, and do not collect 200$" Neither of these two poles are ideal, nor, as you may have already ascertained by the title of this blog, are they appreciated by yours truly.  (As a bit of an aside, I have this friend who has made it her mission to flirt with other mamas, because as she so correctly points out, us mamacitas almost never get flirted with.  And she is right.   As an aside aside, she is also very good at it :-)  Anyhoo- what an awesome mission.  Motherhood does not equal dead, folks.  Just sayin').

We have many terms currently bandied about towards and about moms, their personalities and their appearances,  and a good chunk of them are used with negative connation.  MILF, or 'mother-I'd-like-to-fuck,' is problematic for a number of different reasons.  The first being the obvious women-are-here-just-for-your-viewing-pleasure attitude so prevalent in our delightful culture, and the second being the assumption that most mothers are not, in fact, fuckable (having naturally followed the course of nature and 'let themselves go' and/or having transferred all of their attentions from the attentions of other adults to the attentions of their children.   Terms like "yummy mummy" and MILF are supposed to be all "you go girl" but are usually used to "reward" women who haven't "let themselves go" (by patriarchal Western cultural standards, naturally) post-motherhood, thereby actually serving the purpose of becoming the exact opposite - a tool of policing mother's bodies, appearences and behaviours.  Cranky-making.

Then we have other designations for moms - We've already discussed Mom Hair.  Then you've got your  "Mom Jeans," implies that moms wear nothing but jeans because they have no one to impress but their children (as stay-at-home moms, natch).

"Soccer Moms" is usually said in a condescending tone, even by other moms.  According to Wiki,  "soccer mom broadly refers to a middle-class suburban woman who spends a significant amount of her time transporting her school-age children to their sporting events or other activities."    Boy-o did soccer this year.  And dance class.  And gymnastics.  And story time at the library.  And swimming lessons.  Am I a (insert tone of derision here) Soccer Mom now?  I'm not really suburban, but everything else fits.  Sigh.  So I guess I'm totally lame now (as if I wasn't already!)

"Minivan Mom" is another term of non-endearment used to describe moms.  Again - I've thrown around the idea of getting a mini-van.  Is this such a bad thing?  Are mini-vans really the kiss of death to coolness?  These terms both get thrown about, in my opinion, as a way to belittle the work of mom-ing. 

I wasn't cool (and by this I mean emphatically uncool.  Not even a little) before having children, so maybe this whole MILF/Mom Jeans/Mom Hair/Soccer Mom/Minivan Mom thing is a bit lost on me.  My wife thought I was pretty smokin' before having kids, and having kids doesn't seem to have changed her opinion.  I pretty much always wore jeans before becoming a mom, having been a student and researcher and social service-y type grrrl  for most of my life, so not much has changed in that department.  My hair changes on a regular basis, and I wasn't that obsessed with it to begin with.   I do drive my kid to soccer and gymnastics and dance class and stuff.  (But he's a bit young for public transit.)  And I drive said child to activities in a Kia Rondo folks.  Not a mini-van, but pretty damn close.  It's functional, pretty good on gas, it fits lots of stuff, and I actually think it's kinda saucy-looking (perhaps this is my "mom brain" talking though).

So - if all of those things mean I've lost my cultural capital (insofar as I had some to begin with), so be it.   I'm not really happy with how our culture doles out 'capital' to women anyways.   I'm a 30 something, stay-at-home-parent, mom-jeans-wearin', mom-hair-sportin', almost-minivan-drivin', take-my-kids-to-activities-all-over-town kinda grrl.  And you know what?  I've still got it.  And you know what else?  I'd still have it even if I did drive a mini-van.  

Oh yes I would.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Boy-o tells it like it is...

Yesterday, at the mall, we took the elevator with one of the mall cleaning staff.  Boy-o looks in amazement at the cart full of cleaning supplies and asks the man: "What's that?" 

The man replies "That's a broom and dustpan." 

"Heyyyyyy" says Boy-o excitedly.  "We have one of those at home, but we don't have anything clean!"


Monday, July 19, 2010

Miss Chatelaine

I hate it when people tell other people to "smile".  I find it obnoxious.  Why are we as a culture so obsessed with keeping up the facade of total bliss and happiness?  Life is a mixed bag.  It's tricky shit.  Sometimes, gasp, a frown might actually make sense.  Anyhoo, apparently I've been remiss in my annoyance.

This month's edition of Chatelaine would like us all to know that smiling will 1) help us live longer, 2) help us stay married and 3) if we aren't happy, we should just fake it.  No kidding. 

Apparently researchers at some Wayne State in Detroit studied pics of baseball players from the 1950s.  They found that those who had bigger smiles lived longer than those who didn't.   Those who smiled bigger in said pics apparently lived longer.   And apparently, smiling has also been similarly linked to marriage success by other (unnamed) researchers.  I can't help but think this research is a bit, well, flawed.  Does one not think that it might be, you know, the actual happiness (as opposed to the physicality of smiling) that helps one live longer and remain contented in their marriage?  Do we really think that a totally unhappily married person who just, you know, smiles is going to have a successful marriage?  That seems goofy to me, and I am happily married.  I can't help but think people who either aren't happily married, or who are happily no longer married might find this somewhat overly simplistic at best and kinda offensive at worst.  (Hey - you're partner's a total bastard?  JUST SMILE!)

Further though, Chatelaine informs me that faking a smile tricks our brain into being happy.  Now I'm fairly certain that my brain isn't actually that stupid, but Chatelaine insists that the "scientists" say so. 

Well - if the scientists say so....

C'mon girls and boys. Feeling depressed?  Pissed off?  Got issues in your relationship?  Don't actually let yourself, you know, express what you're actually feeling.  Pull out the Crest Whitestrips (who very probably sponsored the research for Wayne State University...).  Throw on some lipstick or chapstick, or whatever else floats your boat. You gotta turn that frown upside down. 

Just smile, close your eyes and think of England.   It might save your marriage. 

Hell, according to Wayne State University, it'll save your life. 

And if it does - don't thank me.  Thank Chatelaine.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

20 random bits of me-ness, just because

1.  I hate the telephone and avoid it like the plague.  I know this doesn't really win me friends.  I just can't bring myself to pick up the phone and call.  Hate the phone.  Hate.  Most people do not understand this.

2.  I still harbour affection for Bon Jovi.  It's true.  I do.

3.  My favourite thing to do with the kids is "kitchen dance party" which is exactly what it sounds like.  Boy-o can really bust a move (without a lick of rhythm, but still).

4.  I speak fluent sarcasm, and I don't understand people who do not. 

5.  I'm not an optimist.  Surprise! 

6.  I totally crave being alone, which is strange, because being alone was one of my least favourite things pre-kids (and one of my worst fears in this life).

7.  I have a horrible time falling asleep at night because that's when I apparently think I should solve all the world's problems.

8.  I really miss Winnipeg. 

9.  I really miss Halifax.

10.  I am slowly starting to grow a bit fonder of Edmonton (but I still can't stand the redneckiness).

11.   I make really yummy cakes.  Mmmmmm buttercream. 

12.  My wife tells me I am very funny.  If so, it is mostly accidental.

13.  I have a difficult time with black and whiteness.  It's grey.  Almost always.

14.  I used to love roadtrips, pre-kids.  Now I loathe and dread them.

15.  I really love weddings (because underneath all of this pessimism and sarcasm, I'm actually a bit of a romantic.  How's that for confounding?).  I would totally be a wedding planner if I wasn't absolutely certain that people would constantly piss me off with their complete and utter lack of imagination.

16.  I wish I could take beautiful pictures.  I have a few friends who should really be professional photographers, and I am so jealous because it's one of my favourite art mediums.

17.  I'd like to be a rock star when I grow up.  (Okay, maybe a singer-songwriter ;-)

18.  I'm a total scaredycat, yet somehow seem to have spawned fearless children.

19.   I have anxiety, um, issues and am generally convinced that 1) the other shoe is gonna drop anytime now, and 2) everyone probably hates me. 

20.  I'm totally still waffling on baby #3...because, as I'm sure everyone already knows, I am a total nutjob.

Friday, July 16, 2010

the weirdness of kids, toys and gender

After blogging/kvetching about the gendering of kids and how utterly insane it makes me, a friend emailed me asking for 'Boy-o approved' less stereotypically "boy" birthday presents for her son's upcoming birthday.  I wrote up a big list of the 'girly' (being tongue-in-cheeky here) toys Boy-o loves, and it got me to thinking about the utter silliness of gendered toys and how they are marketed and sold to us.

1.  Transportation toys. 
Planes, trains, boats and automobiles are purely marketed to boys.  For example, a Tonka ad campaign a fwe years ago was "Tonka: We have the blueprint for boys." (With the noted exeption of the line of pink Barbie transportion.  You know, the pink Corvette, the pink Jeep, whathaveyou).  Of course we only want to market these toys to boy children, as girls will not ever grow up to drive (or fix) cars, engineer (or build) trains, captain (or sail) ships or pilot (or engineer) airplanes.  Don't be ridiculous.

2.  Dolls
Marketed only to girls.  Meant to teach girls important life skills, like empathy, caring for others, nurturing, which may even someday help them become loving parents.  These are not skills we want to teach boys.  Oh hell no.  What would the neighbours say if my son one day grew up to be a highly capable, empathetic, caring, nurturing father?  I'm quite certain that I would never, ever live it down.

3.  Cooking toys
Marketed mainly to girls.  Girls who will one day grow up to warm the hearth of their home using their grown-up pots, pans, tea sets, electric mixers and groceries in their real, Barbie-eque dream kitchen.  We don't need to encourage boys to play with these sorts of toys, as everyone know that men do not eat, cook, make tea or frequent the kitchen.  They certainly never grow up to be highly accomplished bakers or chefs (naked or otherwise ;-) or anything of that sort. 

4.   Cleaning toys
Again, marketed mainly to girls.  Why would we want boys emulate such emasculating work?  Nuff said.

5.  Sports toys.  Although I am sure that you can probably purchase a pink ball and bat set somewhere, sports toys are mainly still advertised to boys.  We recently purchased the Little Tikes basketball net for our kiddos, and it has not one, not two, but three little boys on the box.  And no girls.  Zero.  Zip.

The above toys are really quite overtly still directed to one gender or the other.  But then you get toys that both boys AND girls can supposedly play with, which are marketed to each gender differently.  This presents a whole 'nother can of stinky worms. 

You've got your pink princess/Barbie/fairy queen/Dora lunchboxes for the sole consumption of girls and your primary coloured car/truck/action figure/Diego/dinosaur lunchboxes for the sole consumption of boys.  (Because a girl couldn't possibly like primary colours.  Or dinosaurs.)   Lego seems innocuous enough, but it too comes in pink for girls and  primary coloured for boys.  Should you buy the regular looking doctor kit or pink doctor kit - because the little 'lady doctor' in your life might really need a pink thermometer.  C'mon -You know that she does.   Little People markets an airplane that actually sort of looks like an airplane and a pink one (though to be perfectly fair, I have flown on a pink airplane.  The airline is now out of business.  It was a really pretty plane though, as far as planes go).  A toy cellphone that actually looks like a phone, or a pink one with sparkles?  Bicycles - pink for girls, with sparkles and/or ribbon-y things on the handle bars.  Red, yellow or blue for boys - and flames instead of ribbon-y things. 

Sensing a theme here?  There are toys for boys and toys for girls.  And even the toys that we're supposedly 'okay' with both genders playing with must be gender separated by colour and subject matter.  Because apparently boys like things that are bright, primary colours and more realistic looking.  And girls need toys and playrooms and bicycles that look like somebody vomited Peptol Bismal all over everything. 

It's a curious state of affairs.  Especially in this day and age, where we like to pretend like feminism is dead and the genders have achieved parity in the home and the workforce.  

Apparently not in the world of play.

(And yes, I know I'm beating a dead horse here.  But I'm posting it anyways.  Poor horsey.  Apparently July in the kids and gender installment of my blog.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

i live with a sleep terrorist

Girlio likes to visit.  At night.  A lot.  And nurse.  And chat.  And practice her fake sneezing.  and pick our noses.  And cry.  And just generally make sure we are still there.    We are.  Still there.  But just barely.

I know lots of folks are comfortable with the cry-it-out method.  It works for them, and they are happy with its results.  I never have been.  I feel like it works because kids just eventually learn that their parents just won't come for them.  The idea that Girlio should have that very realization about me makes my heart hurt.  A lot.  I wonder how parents differentiate between a "my baby wants my company" cry and a "my baby has a fever and threw up all over her bed" cry.  I tell myself that I signed up to be a parent, and I can't just turn the job off when it's inconvenient for me.  Those are my issues, and my worries (Again - I don't begrudge other folks doing things the way that works best for them.  I'm a pro-choice kinda parent). 

But I am at a total loss.  Total, total loss.  Yes, Girlio is teething.  10 teeth and counting at 13 months.  That's a lot.  But this isn't just teeth.  And it has been 13 months since I have had any kind of decent sleep (I'm talking 3+ wake-ups a night.  And usually on the + side of 3).  That's a fair chunk of wakings and a fair chunk of time to function (though the word function might be a bit of a stretch) with such craptastic sleep.  It affects my mental health.  It affects my ability to parent.  It affects all of my relationships.  It affects my ability to live.  It affects L.'s ability to stay awake at work. 

So what next?  How do my lofty-ish parenting goals and my ever increasingly desparate need for sleep meet in the middle?  The sleep experts are polarized into two camps.  You have varying degrees of cry-it-out, or no-cry, attachment parenting and each camp thinks the other camp is full of neglectful idiots.  The general arguments go: It's actually kinder to let your child cry because you need to teach them 'valuable sleep skills' vs. you will cause long term emotional damage if you let your child cry and need to be there, connecting and nurturing, etc. etc.  (The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, I'm just not entirely sure how to pull that off.)  Though they like to call them all sorts of different names to make us buy a zillion books, thinking they might tell us something different, two camps is all it really boils down to.  I know this, because I've pretty much read them all.  Desperation is a highly effective spending motivator. 

Something's gotta give.  But is it going to be my morals, or my sleep? 

(Just between the lot of us, I';m beginning to wonder if morals are just a teensy bit overrated.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"I have confidence in CONFIDENCE A-L-O-N-E! . . . . . Oh help."

Ahhhhh Maria....

Seriously though, a friend and I were chatting about confidence the other day.   And she got me to thinking about the ever elusive concept.  I know what confidence is, theoretically speaking anyways.  But why do some peeps have so much of it and others (like moi, for example) seem to fall a bit shorter in supply?  If some folks have it in spades, how do the rest of us less well-endowed people get a better hold on its slippery reins?  The short answer is:  I don't know.  (And given the recent blow to my confidence, I'm probably the last person who should be writing about it!)   In that vein, the long answer is also likely to be: I don't know.  But I nevertheless think it's worth at least a bit of rumination.

I think I tend to start out most days feeling reasonably confident.  Kind of like Maria before she sees the Vonn Trapp mansion. I'm emotionally fresh (well, fresher let's say), having slept (okay, maybe not slept, but at least become temporarily horizontal) on whatever myriad of mistakes, missteps and oopsies I've managed to step in the day before.  I think to myself, "Self - I have a masters degree. I am a smarty-smarty-smarty pants. If I can wrangle and wrestle (and deconstruct, naturally!) several postmodern philosphers at the same time, surely I can figure out how to wrangle some kiddies, clean the house, throw in a load of laundry, buy some groceries and squeeze in a clever blog?" 

You can be sure the internal dialogue at the end of the day is slightly less, well, kind.  It's getting through the whole (long) day with that same level of confidence that seems to be the real challenge.   Little things happen throughout the day that chip away at my confidence.  I lose my patience here, deal with a tantrum poorly there, can't get my house clean, can't get my brain uncluttered, can't think of anything to write, or can think of something to write but can't get it out in any intelligent way, can't get supper underway with kids underfoot, feel guilty for wanting kids not underfoot... this list drones on, the confidence goes down.  But the end of the day, I'm not ashamed to say I feel a little, well, downtrodden sometimes.  Sort of lacking in faith that I've gotten anything right in the day's adventures in parenting and writing and just general living.   It's probably no accident that you can't get a master's degree in say parenting, or in just general living.  Because that shit is seriously tricky.  Trickier than Foucault, that's for sure.  Trickier than Habermas.  Maybe even trickier than Judith Butler.  (And yes, I do know that you have to be seriously, seriously nerdy to get those references.  In my former life I was a nerd.  Hardcore.  I aspire to be a nerd again some day.) 

All that being said - I think I'd rather be little old down-a-pint-of-confidence me than be the opposite, particularly in regards to parenting.  I feel like it's far better to think, re-think, second-guess, and reevaluate on a fairly regular basis than to blow through decisions assuming I must be right.  Because underconfidence notwithstanding, I have this perennial niggling suspician that I'm often a bit, you know, off the mark.  You can say I have a 'poor self-esteem' (blah blah blah) until the cows come home - but I kind of feel like a little bit of self-doubt might be an important part of this living (and especially parenting) business.  We only really get one go at it (parenting and life both).  I'd like to try to be a bit conscientious, and do as little damage as I possibly can.  Leave as little footprint (or baggage) as I can, metaphorically speaking. 

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe being a little bit of a mess at the end of the day actually makes a bit of sense...

So to return to the initial question of how we might get more confidence? 

Short answer: Still don't know. 

Long answer: Still don't know. 

Bloggy postulation:  Is it really that important?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Less is clearly More.

So my mom-in-law gave me some fabulously trashy mags to read when she was done with them.  I do love a trashy magazine now and again.  It's voyeuristic and weird and I'm not sure why I care what Brangelina is up to these days, yet somehow I do.  I can pretend that I don't, but I do.  I'm just not very cool that way. Anyhoo.  One of the magazines was called More: Canada's Magazine Celebrating Women over Forty.  It looked sort of promising, albeit in a not-so-trashy way.  It even had the words "candid, BOLD, natural in MIDLIFE" emblazoned on the cover.   

Anyhow... I flipped through the magazine as I was going to bed last night, cover to cover.  And then found myself in a frothing frenzied full-blown panic about aging.  Saweet Jesus!  I am aging too fast.  Didn't someone call my ma'am just yesterday.  Again?!   I'm hideous!  I have too many wrinkles.  I should, at the very least, get out of bed and wash my damn face.  And maybe apply some moisturizer.  And then tomorrow I will run out and buy some $100 wrinkle cream.   Maybe $200.  Daytime and nightime cream.  Two creams.  Yes.  That will help.  The thought of some kind of proactivity mollified the rising tide of panic and dread enough that I was able to fall asleep.

When I woke up this morning I was able to be a bit more circumspect.  How did reading More magazine, which claims to "celebrate women over forty" and advertises itself with words like candid, BOLD, natural in MIDLIFE, turn a 35 year old woman into a panicky mess about aging?   Well, I'll tell ya.  I flipped through the magazine again, with an eye to this very question.   There are more than 20 full page ads in this magazine geared to making women panic about their age, and then promising the products to fix it. 

The magazine begins with a double page spread for Olay Pro X, a three part system promising age protection (What the frig is age protection?), deep wrinkle treatment for problem spots and reducing the look of wrinkles overall.  

Skip a page and then head onto another two page spread with Sarah Jessica Parker hocking Garnier Ultra-Lift Pro Gravity Defying Cream.    Now there's a mouthful.  Ultra-Lift Pro Garvity Defying Cream.  Whew.  And it's "cinically proven" to give us "skin so tight, so toned, it defies gravity." 

Moving on to the next page - another two page ad spread, this time with Andie MacDowell selling us some L'Oreal hair colour.  (Excellence Creme, in case you were dying to know).  And guess what womens?  Not only is your face too freaking old and saggy - well, your hair is too!  That's right girls - this hair dye has got a "triple protection system now with Pro-Keratine for younger looking hair."  Uh-huh. 

Next page - just a single page ad this time mind you.  MARCELLE New Age Anti-Wrinkle foundation.    It wants us to "embrace our beauty."

And don't forget the rest of your saggy body folks - Olay has got a "7-in-1 ANTI-AGING POWER" anti-aging shower gel.   (They'd also like to remind us to "love the skin we're in").

And then, phew.  We've made it to the table of contents.  There's plenty more, of course.  There's Ellen schlepping CoverGirl anti-wrinkle shit, there's a contest to win a Juvederm "makeover" which looks suspiciously plastic surgery-esque.   There's an ad for Restylane injections.  Aveeno would like us to know that "natural beauty is ageless" but they would also like us to know that we'll be even more beautiful when we use their shiitake mushroom complex to take years off of our face.  Revlon encourages us to use their foundation with "Botafirm" which sounds a little bit like they've put botulism in their make-up.   NeoStrata will give us INTENSE Solutions for dramatic results."  And Almay "Smart Shade Anti-Aging" promises to make us look "instantly younger".   And then, for the fatties, LipoSonix will get you one size smaller with just one treatment! 
So - there you have the reason the 35 year old woman felt like utter shite after reading More magazine.  They really really want me to.

 So that I can go out and treat my fat aging body, my limp aging hair and my saggy, wrinkly aging face with their ion2, shiitake mushroom, pro-retina, proX, Ultra-lift Pro, Pro-Keratine, regenerist, biopeptide, Retinol, Hyaluric acid, Botafirm, oatmeal, reparide, intensive-spot-targetting, fat reducing, firming, activating, gentle microcurrent using, gravity-defying, resculpting, beauty enhancing, correcting AND concealing,  Complex/Emulsion/Serum/Formula/ Treatment/Cream/ Injection/Chemical Peel/whathaveyou.  

We need a "regime." "We are in a daily fight" against "free radicals" and all sorts of other terrible things that are "attacking" our skin, hair and butts.   It's even possible that the free radicals are wearing fatigues and combat boots and are fully armed with semi-automatic weapons.  They are "ravaging" our skin.  This is SERIOUS. 

Deep breathe.

But you know, advertising doesn't really affect me. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

50's fantasy

Sometimes I get sorta a kick out of envisioning myself as a fifties housewife.   (What?!  I'm so sure there were queer, feminist 50's housewives!)  L. comes home after a long day at work, and I run to the door to meet her, bring her slippers, scotch on the rocks and a smoking jacket, (whilst looking oh-so-fetching in my be-apronned, stylin', dress-for-dinner dress and Mary Janes (naturally).   The kids are playing quietly in the corner and the house is spotless and the smell of meatloaf and potatoes (What?  Isn't that what they ate in the 50's?) wafts from the kitchen, ready just on time.  Just like clockwork.

In reality of course, I'm nowhere near that good!  I don't greet L. at the door (that's Boy-o's job), and there's no scotch, no slippers, no smoking jacket (or smoking of any kind), and very, very sadly, there is no fancy dress and Mary Jane heels and I generally look far more frazzled than fetching.  One kid is hanging from the rafters (guess who?) and the other is eating leftover Cheerios from breakfast off the kitchen floor that I either haven't managed (or bothered) to sweep yet.  If dinner's ready then there's probably a pile of unfolded laundry on the floor somewhere, and if there's no pile of laundry, then dinner's not ready.   Did I mention that there's no smoking of any kind?  (I really, really miss that sometimes).

I am a crap, crap housekeeper.   Super crap.  Everyone is always kind about it.  You know, saying "but you are running around after the kids all day," etc. etc.  Yes, it's true.  Having exuberant smalls does put a damper on that whole cleanliness business.  And add a certain amount of extra frustration as well, because even when I do attempt to herd in the chaos, they follow me around messing my clean rooms faster than I can clean 'em.  But here's the thing.  I was a crap, crap housekeeper before I had the smalls.  They've just provided me with a really good excuse.  I have friends who have far less trouble than I keeping their abode less erm, bio-hazardous than mine.   I have friends with kids who manage to spring clean their closets.  Who have a cleaning day and actually stick to it.  This is not fiction folks - some people can do these things.  They will forever hold my awe (and  the vague suspician that they are not regular people but rather a remarkable species of superwoman.  Straight-up.  No sarcasm intended.)

My technique goes like this.  Wait until the house is so messy that it is absolutely oppressing me (and/or it's possible to lose the children amongst their toys).  Then clean in a frustrated, self-denigrating flurry filled with choice cursewords, and firmly believing that I will do better next time.   Or alternatively, wait until the rare occassion that we are having company, and then rinse and repeat above cycle.   

For the brief time the house is clean, I feel better.  Saner.  Happier, even!  But then, as quickly as the clean came, it's gone again.  Seconds flat.  All that hard work goes BAM.  Or maybe it goes POOF!  I don't know.  It just freaking goes.    

So - though I fantasize about my marvellous 50's housewifeyness... I think it's safe to say my housewifey-ness is, um, not anything to be marvelled at.   But it's a nice fantasy, isn't it??   The order, the clock-workiness, the children playing quietly in the corner (the sassy dress with strappy Mary Janes, the ciggys, the scotch)!

Where can I get me some of that?

all done

Alrighty then.  Pity party over.  Back to your regularly scheduled programming :)

Friday, July 9, 2010

please take a moment

and add your voice to this petition.  Sakinah Mohammadi Ashtiani has been imprisoned and confessed to adultery under torture.  She was then sentenced to death by stoning.  Iran has since backed away from the stoning sentence under internation pressure, but has not ruled out the death penalty by other means.  Please take a few seconds and add your voice to call for her release.  Then take a few more seconds and share this link.  Thanks!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

identity crises

I've had many crises of identity in my life.  Oodles.  Motherhood was a big one, for sure.  Still is, some days.  I embraced it wholeheartedly from the beginning, threw my entire self and soul into life at home raising the kid(s) and being a supportive, help-my-wife-get-out-the-door-to-work kind of wife, and then woke up one day awhile back and realized that I didn't know where heck I'd gone.   This realization is, in large part, what led me to this blog, and to writing.  In so many ways, big and small, this pithy, sarcastic, and yes - often grouchy - blog is where I could balance the me part of me with the wife and the mother parts of me.  It's been a bit of a lifesaver, really.  It's space where, to steal a phrase from second wave feminist discourse, my personal can be political.

After starting the blog, I also discovered and starting writing for a web based mothering zine, which was a huge boost to the self-esteem that had been waning for quite some time.  I started to entertain thoughts of trying to freelance for, you know, actual pay.   Then I started getting really grandiose and thinking that maybe I could write a book, or a collection of essays.  Even more grandiose - maybe, just maybe, someone might publish it.  And then the downer.  I got an email today from the site I'd been writing for suggesting that my writing is too negative, too reactive, not constructive enough.  There were other criticisms, but the main gist was that I wasn't the "right fit" anymore.  (To be fair - they said "I love your writing but..... it doesn't fit our site."  Talk about taking me down a notch.  Or three. 

I wrote back a really cordial response.   (For real, not for sarcastic).  I (quite grown-up-edly I think) refrained from saying things that were, you know, not constructive.  And then I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling kinda like the houswife who thinks she's gonna make it big selling Mary Kary and win The Pink Cadillac, only to discover she's crap at selling shit.    (Get those stars outta your eyes, Mama T).    

Here's the thing.  I am cranky by nature.  This is part of my dubious charm.  I am sarcastic by nature.  This is also part of my dubious charm.  I am highly sensitive by nature.  Again, dubious charm.  I am also fairly depressed by nature.   This is not part of my dubious charm, but it seems I'm kind of stuck with it.   These  things in combination work together to create my sense of the world and how I see it.   It's not always pretty (Really. You can ask my wife for verification).  It's not always sunny.  It's certainly not always positive  (although I do crack myself up more than I should admit -whether or not I have the same effect on others is again in the dubious department).   But it is always profoundly me.  I'm cranky.  I'm often mad at the world (though frankly I think the state of the world should make more people pissed off, which, you know, makes me madder).   I have trouble seeing the silver lining sometimes.  Okay, oftentimes.  I'm unrepentantly sarcastic, which probably comes off as caustic now and again.  I'm fairly self-absorbed.  And I'm hyper, hyper aware of all these short-comings (and many, many more that I could add to this list).  Us cranky, sarcastic, pissy people tend to have deceptively thin skins.

But there you have it.  The reason I no longer have the "you can read my posts on _________", is because you probably can't read my posts there anymore, at least not on a regular basis. 

Now me and my thin-skinned, reactive, non-constuctive, negative self are off to lick some wounds.  And maybe drink some wine.  And ponder this next crisis of identity.

Can we change princess culture?

When I speak of my disdain of the Disney-fication and/or princess-ification of girl culture, I am often met with a "Oh just you wait," or a knowing "You'll see!" (these usually come in a very sing-songy voice that could make a girl, even a 'princess' like me, prone to throttling but that's besides the point), intimating that of course Disney and all its sexist princess-y glory is, you know, a given for all girls.  And it got me to thinking.  Maybe it is.

Certainly, once my Girlio heads out into the world without me (Oh God!  Do I have to let my kiddies out in the world??? Some parents worry about the influence of drug culture or sex, and me, me I worry about the impact of Disney.  Anyhoo...) she is going to be immediately bombarded with all of the things (Disney princesses included) that I have tried my absolute damndest to avoid. 

So - if a princess phases is really somehow a given (I'm still not entirely convinced, but I'm going to say it is for the sake of this blog!), can we re-message and re-package what "princess" means and looks like in a way that makes princess life empowering and not merely about external appearance, wealth, and netting a hot young prince?

Can we revise the message of Snow White, for example, that tells girls that their beauty will make other women hate them?  Can we find something empowering amidst prevalent messages that men fall in love with women for what's on the outside, that men are women's rescuers, that a heterosexual marriage (preferably to a wealthy, handsome prince) is the most important life goal?

I remain entirely unconvinced.  But I'm open to suggestions...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

spilled milk

I wonder if the person who came up with the saying "don't cry over spilled milk" was actually the one who had to clean it up every time it spilled...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I'm a FB loser...

I have an announcement to make.  I'm sure this will come as a surprise and shock to many people (well, at least all 30 of my dedicated followers, who by the way I am totally in love with for reading my bloggin' from time to time). 

Here goes:  I am a Facebook loser

Yes.  It's true.  The kind everyone talks about behind their back.  "Gawd - I just can't stand those people who talk about their children nonstop on Facebook, I mean get a life!" 

Or alternatively, "Gawd - why do people update their status so much on facebook, I mean get a life." 

Or alternatively alternatively, "Facebook is not actually communicating with people, get on the phone or send an email or talk to someone in person... get a life".

1.  I have a life.  I do.  It's just in a smaller world (though not, I would like to point out, narrower) in scope than some people's.

2.  I am a full-time stay at home mama.  My kids are my kids.  My kids are my job.  My kids are my co-workers (my itty, bitty, mouthy colleagues).  My kids are my bosses.  They are the people I deal with most on a day to day (and let's face it, on a night to night) basis.    I talk about them because I love them.  Because the neat things they do in a day are a sign of a job well done.  And the crappy things they do in a day are a sign of working for super-tough-demanding bosses.   I talk about them because I need to believe that what I do here is not unimportant, not invisible, and that I am not the only one who cares.

3.  I am lonely.  My chosen vocation is a lonely-making one.  Just the way it is.  I frequent facebook on and off all day long because it is a way for me to feel connected to something bigger - to a world outside of my  inner sanctum.  I update my status a lot because  I like to think that people, particularly my peeps in a similar situation to me, might read them and, I don't know - give a shit?  Have a giggle?  Commiserate? 
And just so ya know, they do.

4.  I don't get on the phone because I hate the phone.  I don't like picking up the phone to chat.  I'd love to chat in person, but I have two little adorable and loving ball and chains that make such face-to-faces a bit tricky.  And my children (as well as most people's children) HATE THE PHONE.  When I pick up the phone to chat with someone, misbehaviour (of the definite purposeful variety), crying, whining, and general yuckiness abounds.  So I'm here to tell ya - communication via Facebook is all kinds of better than communication by telephone. 

5.  And email vs. Facebook... really?  Can somebody please tell me what the difference is?

So however people want to trashtalk facebook - I'm here to tell ya, I'm not quittin'.  (And I know I'm not alone in my FB dependency). 

I'm a FB loser... and I'm okay.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

coffee talk

It's 10 a.m. on a Saturday.  And I am sitting in a coffee shop.  Drinking, well, coffee.  Munching on a yummy morning glory muffin.  And I am alone.  Well, not alone.  The coffee shop is full of people.  But not one of them will look at me and wail "Mammmmmaaaaaaa" while pushing at my shirt and slapping my chest to be breastfed (at least I hope they won't because that would be pretty weird).  They won't punch the person next to them and start screaming and wailing for me to break up the kerfuffle (and yes, kerfuffle is a technical term).  And if they do start pushing and shoving and wailing, I can call the cops on them, which I cannot do with my childrens shenanigans.  The coffee people won't ask me to play with them, entertain them, put them down for naps, change their diapers or wipe their bums.  And hopefully, none of them will get all friendly-like and try to chat.  Because I'm having a morning off.  Off off.  Not like, the-kids-are-napping-or-sleeping-and-could-wake-up-any-minute kinda off.  Because that's not off.  That's on-call.  I mean really off

I cannot remember the when or where of the last time I did this.  By this I mean, went somewhere physically apart from my kids.  What I can tell you is that it's likely been too long.  Because I can actually feel the relief of it viscerally.  The relief of separate-ness.  Of detachment, however fleeting.  The constant feeling of being needed, which is conversely elating and draining, is rolling off my body.  I can feel my shoulders and jaw unclenching.  My fingers can fly across the keyboard as long as the ideas keep coming and no one will ask me to put the computer away.  This is mine.  

I look up at the door and see parents walk in with kids Boy-o and Girlio's age.  It gives me a bit of a warm fuzzy and I am able to smile and think about my beautiful peeps, who are waiting for me at home, and who will easily forgive my absence.  But it also gives me a feeling of tremendous relief, that right now, I am alone. 

And no one needs me but me. 


Friday, July 2, 2010

politics on kids

I recently (after posting my lovely links on cool lefty kiddie wear) perused an article that was very critical of parents who chose to put their politics on their littles, literally speaking.   It seems some folks get bent all outta shape at the idea of parents pressing and advertising their belief systems on their kids' t-shirts. 

This is a contention that took me a bit by surprise.  The surprising thing being, we ALL make personal and political statements about ourselves as people and as parents on the bodies of our children  every day. Rockabilly parents dress their kids all rockabilly.  Punk parents dress their kids all punk.  There are some parents with kids sporting mohawks or green/blue/pink/whatever hair and I'm going to bet the farm those parents are the ones attending the right-wing fundamentalist church down the road.  The baby girls with pierced ears reflect their parents' beliefs about femininity or gender and/or various other cultural beliefs.  The kids who only ever wear khakis and sweater vests or conservative looking Laura Ashley dresses reflect their parents' world views. The parents who only dress their babies in very girly or very boy-y clothing reflect their own values, just as surely as the parents who choose to ignore stereotypically gendered clothing.  Golf nuts dressing their kids in golf shirts and soccer nuts dressing their kids in soccer gear and hockey nuts dressing their children in Oilers (erm, I mean hockey) jerseys all make statements about their parents' passions (because I'm pretty sure my kids didn't actually come out of the womb sayiing "Go Oiler Go!"  and dressed in blue and orange.  That would be their mommy's and their papa's values reflected right there).  Parents who dress their daughters in sexy bikinis (which I personally find all kinds of revolting) and their sons in shirts that say "future pimp" (and yes, you can actually buy this shirt for your children!) reflect their own (high questionnable, in my not nearly humble opinion) morals.  So no matter what our beliefs are, our children reflect them until they are old enough to make choices about their own appearence preferences and political preferences.   So making a big deal of babies sportin' Obama onesies seems to me to be a bit, well, disingenuous. 

I personally would love to see the kids sportin' a "I'm trusting the man with the moustache" tees with a photo of Jack Layton (and by the by, if any of Jack's ad team is perchance reading this, I think a little humour would go a long way in distinguishing him from his robotic middle and right wing counterparts!). Or, "Go Green Go" with a photo of Elizabeth Whatshernose from the Green Party (because those are the political direction this household rolls, in case you hadn't already surmised).  And as you already know from my previous shopping links and the fact that I made our entire family be-rainbowed shirts for Pride - I'm all for kiddie "billboarding". 

All within reason, naturally.  Do I think people should be allowed to send their kids to school with "White Pride" shirts?  Um, no.   (I personally think people should get beat up for wearing "White Pride" shirts, but that's just me.)   Do I think it's appropriate for kids to be wearing "Hooters" shirts?  Give me a freaking break, people.

I guess what I'm basically saying is this - if it agrees with my own lefty politics, kids should be allowed to wear it.  Naw - I'm just kidding!  If people want to send their kids off to the playground with a shirt that says "My Daddy Voted for Stephen Harper", have at 'er.  (Just be forewarned that  probably isn't going to make them the coolest kid on the monkey bars).

Seriously though- if it's relatively age appropriate and not hateful - I don't see what the problem is with parental values being overtly reflected on a cute little onesie, given that they are covertly reflected in so, so many other ways.