Children are Tiny Brain Invaders

Children are Tiny Brain Invaders

Children are like tiny human sniffer dogs that can sense your every weakness and flaw. When they find that deep dark character issue or emotional damage that you carry, they capitalize on it like ants at a picnic. They know the exact wrong thing to say, at the wrong time. For instance they somehow know precisely what you think of your Mother-in-law and how much you fear the dentist even if you hide those things very well. Got issues? Ya,  then those are the ones the children focus upon, talk about or replicate with an exactitude that is unnerving. Don’t know what I mean? Here, let me give you an example. If you have social anxiety that shames you… shabam…. one of your kids will come up with those precise behaviours no matter how well you have hidden your stuff. They will do it with flair like they are wearing a big fat neon sign that says “Hey look at what my Mom passed on to me!!”. Trying to hide your fear of spiders? Then it is guaranteed that Junior is totally going to collect spiders. Conversely, he might make a fool of himself at one of those annoying “pet the arachnid” birthday parties by squealing in terror. Time to share your Atavan with that child. Either way, whatever you have going on, they know about it. If you are so tired you can hardly cope, they get needy. (So do dogs and husbands by the way, it is their super power).  Whatever you like least about yourself will bubble up in at least one of your children… guaranteed. It is like a rule or something. I still remember one of my parents telling me they couldn’t stand the way I talked… now I realize it was because I emulated the asshole in the house pretty accurately. How do they know? How do they see your soul? How come my inability to do basic math exists in my child? Is it genetics? Is it quiet unspoken cues that we give them? No… it is the fact that they are evil mind reading little energy leaches… they see your heart, and they will reach in and pull it out… I am going to make myself a tin foil hat and hide in the closet.   This post ran originally on...
My Son is Going to Military Boarding School

My Son is Going to Military Boarding School

Not really… but he thinks it is a very real possibility. I don’t even know if they have military boarding schools for 12 year olds. If they do, I may need to find one and start the paperwork. As parents, we all hit the wall with our kids… often… we are ploughed under regularly. You think it won’t happen to you, but it does. You talk and cajole and bargain and threaten… to little effect. When your kid is a donkey with an agenda, even the best of parents have their spines ripped out an handed to them. I truly thought we would be at this stage only when one of mine hit their teens. Not so. By the time my boy made it all the way to age 12 without being traded in for a less challenging model, he ramped it up even harder. He is “that child.”  The level of stubborn, un-cooperativeness has been there since his early days. Every single item, chore, obligation or expectation had to be negotiated all along the line, from homework, to bed time, even the consistency of yogurt in his lunch was a point of contention. Picture the scene of a hapless farmer trying to push and pull an ornery pack mule up a hillside. That is our life. We are not wimpy parents either; we’re totally on the ball and delivering consistent rules rewards and punishments. We have one shining example of that in the other kid, so maybe we just got more than we bargained for in the younger one. There comes a time when you have to pull out the heavy artillery. In our plan, we have a sit down meeting with Captain Contrary and lay it out for him. It resembles a formal summit at the dining room table. Picture Dad looking stern and Mom with a file full of official looking papers at the ready. We inform the boy that we are done trying to get him to do the basics. We have had enough of the backtalk and bargaining, the shifting of workload and the overall neglect and the constant forgetting of important tasks. We say “we have looked into schools where they teach all that stuff, and students learn to do it in a scratchy wool uniform.” In addition to academics and grueling phys-ed classes, he would learn valuable life skills such as scrubbing toilets with toothbrushes or sweeping a two-acres marching plaza with a paint brush. They have a great program to keep kids connected with family… meaning they let them come home at Christmas and in the Summer. When I fantasize about this threat conversation that we haven’t actually had, his reaction is instant and full of regret and apology....
In Praise of Grandparents

In Praise of Grandparents

Although many of us have dubious relationships with our parental units, once we have children, some of that changes. Not all of it of course and sometimes the worst bits don’t get better, but we gave them grandchildren, so at some level we become golden. The most perfect of all possible human relationships is that of Grandparent and Grandchild. They love each other for merely existing. They accept each other completely in a state of grace that says “you are perfect in all ways and I will indulge your every whim”. Of course those self same Grandparents sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time telling us what flawed parents we are, or that our children aren’t as well raised as we were. They stand there in their polyester pants gazing disapprovingly into our pantries judging the nutrition of “their” grandchildren. They question our choices and generally make us crawl into the nearest liquor store crying for enough liquid to make it stop screeching in our ears… However, the babies, the grandchildren, the perfect little beings live in the light of beauty and tolerance that we have never seen emanate from the parents. From the perspective of the children themselves, the best Grandparent time is any old time, but maybe if that time is spent at the toy store. They wallow in the sunshine of approval and acceptance with no rules to follow and lots of candy to eat. Really the symbiosis is perfect in every way if the Grandparents are good, and part of the children’s lives. It does give all of us Moms a sense of smug satisfaction to see our parents helpless in the grip of the cuteness of our children as they rule their world. At least I would hope that is how it goes. Families can be whole, or fractured. They can be functional, or not at all. I would hope that every child has somebody who is that perfect love in their life, where the rules are elastic, candy is ok before noon, and the hugs are soft and frequent. Oh and do I have plans when I become a Grandmother…   This post ran originally on...
Are Your Children Too Busy?

Are Your Children Too Busy?

People piss and moan about how busy they are with their kids. I want to talk about that. First let me say, this post is not for the families that have to work multiple jobs to keep the roof up, or for people with special needs kids who are run off their feet medically or rebuilding a struggling child. This is for typical families that are running themselves into the ground to serve their children up to the altar of ambition and achievement. Kids are so highly scheduled these days that they are hardly given the chance to be little heathen free wheeling discovery monsters that they are meant to be. If you are shoving a snack or a bag of fast food into your child’s gob running from soccer to dance 4 nights a week, you need to stop for a minute. What exactly are you teaching your kids? Are we training them to busy, ambitious, driven and regimented in order to prepare them for life? Or are we telling them that is what life is? Does your 7 year old really have to specialize in interpretive veil dancing, or violin or hockey? What does it do for them to have 5am practices on Sundays if you have to drag them there? Is your child actually so highly motivated or are they somehow channeling what you want? What about the money? And it is A LOT of money. When I ask people why their kid plays on multiple teams 6 nights a week, and spends weekends and holidays at tournaments, I get a the same answers. “We do it as a family”, or “he made the team”. I just kind of wonder what the driving force is. It could well be that the child is in control of that, but who knows. In Canada, it is about hockey. Everybody thinks their kid is going to make the NHL. If you read the stats, you can safely assume that they won’t. In fact, according to the book Outliers, unless your kid is born in the first three months of the year, the chances drop to “powerball lottery winner” level odds. The physical checks need to be done as well. In our school, there are 11 year old girls who need physiotherapy on their knees from soccer. When is it too much? I know exactly ONE parent who had their son make the all glorious “rep” team. She said “Nah, he can play local so we can have a life”. He got over it, she saved $5000 and the world didn’t end. I know that some countries take tiny little kids and put them into Olympic track training and they perform until their bodies give out for the glory...
Bond, James Bond – The Good The Bad and the Sexy

Bond, James Bond – The Good The Bad and the Sexy

Ok ok, put down your pitchforks, you don’t even know what I am going to say about this fictional character and his 26 movies. You either love James Bond or hate his flagrant womanizing, either way, hear me out. There are two aspects that I think need to be discussed about James Bond movies. First, we all have to admit that this franchise has lasted for over 54 years by being consistently entertaining and cleverly done. We all know what will come on the screen while we munch our popcorn, and we like it. However, we should also talk about how the premise of all of the films are also crashingly sexist. I mean profoundly, epically and many other adverbs level sexist. They are so flagrantly chauvinist that it is almost comical. All the James Bonds have been sexy and unapologetic playboys and we seem to love them for it. I would not want to play a female lead in these movies though, who wants to be called Pussy Galore anyway? At least Bond always had a strong female boss. He didn’t cross “M” for any reason, and I suspect Miss Moneypenny had him by the balls as well. On the overall though, they would not be movies I would show at my daughter’s sweet 16 party as an example of strong women in film. The pressing topic on my brain is far more critical than any impertinent on screen groping done by 007. I need the film makers to bloody well decide who will play the next Bond for shit’s sake! This is important people…. why are we not rising up in protest, burning our DVDs in the streets!?! (Except for Skyfall because Adele). The first 007 flick was Dr. No in 1962. Arguably one of the best 007 played by Sean Connery, I mean the man could have done bare chested action sequences well into his 60’s. He is dead sexy, but that is just my personal opinion. There have also been some truly unremarkable Bonds, like who the frig thought Timothy Dalton could play the same bad ass spy as Roger Moore? Pierce Brosnan was ok, but I think he only got the role because he had a porn star name. The most recent Bond has been Daniel Craig. I have to give it to him, he is a pretty cool customer and tough as shit. I mean he was repeatedly smashed in the ‘nads with a knotted thick rope, and yet he was still up for a roll in the sheets under 24 hours later. Damn bro’ you are the king of bang. A selection for the next movie must be made. The Hollywood rags say that Daniel...
No Regrets

No Regrets

You know what is almost worse than a terminal cancer diagnosis? Regrets. Not to diminish the torture that is cancer, and the chaos it causes in your head, but the disease comes with its inseparable henchman, regret. There is nothing that forces a review of your life like receiving notice of your own expiry date in the form of a terminal cancer diagnosis. It went like this for me. I have cancer, and it is a nasty beast with relentless progression which cannot be negotiated. So in the depths of the night hours, I ruminate about my disease. Sometimes I think I can feel the tumours destroying my lungs, my brain, my spine and wherever they plan to lodge next. But other times, when I am not trying to echo-locate the corrupt cells in my body, I think about my life in retrospect. No point in thinking about the future, so the unfinished novel that has been my life becomes the chapters I lovingly review all night long. I touch the ephemeral pages of my stories and smile, or cry, but they are indelible, so I let the words and memories wash over me. Herein lies the lesson. I also spend time exploring regrets from my life, and how I chose to live it. Why did I do that which I am now regretting? This is a huge question, because when you land where I am, you don’t get a second chance to go back and rewrite specific chapters. Your story won’t change when the lights do finally go out. Fortunately, I have very few regrets… really…. I have looked at my memories with a magnifying glass, and in the overall, I feel pretty good about the score sheet of good and bad in balance. I am so thankful for my little bag of regrets, rather than having to cope with a big dump truck load of them. The regrets I do have are more about people I have hurt, rather than opportunities I didn’t take. This is an important distinction in my mind. I cringe when I think about the insensitive unfeeling injuries I have inflicted on the people who drifted in and out of my life. If I could make those things right before the clock runs out, I would. I ache for the people who made the mistake of standing in my line of fire when really, my bullets were about my issues, and not usually theirs. On the happier side, there are very few regrets on the list of chances I didn’t take. There are even fewer on the ledger of items I wanted to do and didn’t. I have always done precisely what I wanted to....
Little Boys and Hammers

Little Boys and Hammers

There have been many little boys in the storyline of my life. They have been a mixed bag of babies, toddlers, kids, young men and full grown (but not grown up) ones. They all, from time to time, pick up a hammer, and wield it. No matter what age, they all do the same thing. They weigh it in their hand, look at it for a long moment, savouring the potential. I can still picture my little brother wearing nothing but a diaper stumbling around the house with our Father’s hammer, like a little drunken avenging angel. The hammer was too heavy for him, but he was going to find a nail to hit,  and hard. My son has built a lemonade stand and learned the hard way that a hammer requires a measure of accuracy to operate. It was the Summer of the black thumbnail. Although power tools are likely the preferred implement these days, the hammer is one of the most basic tools since man used rocks to hang skins on cave walls. Generations of men and boys have felt the satisfying smack of a perfect delivery when the hard metal head connects with the head of a nail, or a cat. Hammers are integral in the acquisition of hand eye coordination and visual accuracy. They are also a great motivator for emergency response systems. Nothing can cause a mother to move faster than seeing her son careening along behind his sister, wielding a hammer. Setting aside the murderous potential of a five year old and his Dad’s hammer, the male and hammer construct is important. The role of modern males is so fraught with contradictory messages, they must be strong, and gentle, and fatherly but also warriors. Men must be everything. To this I say, let them have a hammer. Let them learn to put up pictures, scare their siblings and drop it on their own toes. These are all critical life lessons. Nothing teaches planning and caution like a blackened impact wrecked thumbnail. And ladies, the next time you see a hammer just lying around, pick it up and feel the power of potential mass construction. It is exhilarating.   This post ran originally on BluntMoms.com  ...
Who Would Be On Your Island?

Who Would Be On Your Island?

Have you ever played the game where you have to decide who you might want with you if you were stranded on a deserted island?  The other night I was asked the question at a party. I didn’t give a good answer because I was busy trying to get alcohol soaked fruit bits from the bottom of my sangria glass and grunted something about Gilbert Godfrey. The next day, the question popped into my head again, and I ruminated on it, probably for too long. In any case, I started to imagine this island and who I might want there with me. I pictured a spot with palm trees, white sand ocean beaches and fresh water streams trickling through the forest. It occurred to me that I would be some pissed off if the actual island I was marooned on was in the North Sea with all craggy rocks and shit, because that is not how these fantasies work. Back to my beach island…. I would want somebody with me who knew how to build stuff. You know, shelters and such. The person would also need to have expertise in the architecture of palm frond layering to keep the rain out at night. But it would be warm nourishing rain, so it would make my skin and hair fabulous (clearly, in my head, this is a Dove commercial.) My island person would also have to be able to find food and cook delicious meals over the skillfully built fire pit. If you have to eat squirrel or seagull it might as well come with a berry reduction sauce. I would also like artfully carved toothpicks to get leftover rodent bits out of my teeth. Being that I am a sanitary kind of chick, there would need to be an outhouse, with a supply of leafy greens that can be used for wiping, and are for sure not poison ivy. Somebody would need to be able to build it, dig the hole and find the right plant to use for harvesting bum leaves. While we are supplying for the more delicate parts of the human body, I am hoping there is something soft growing on the island that can be woven into a useful item for shark week. A girl should’t free bleed, not even on an island. It would be super awesome if the person happened to have been shipwrecked along with something helpful. I am thinking radio transmitter, tool box or even a still to make hooch. If for some reason there is no way of making shipwreck martinis, at the very least we should be able to find mushrooms or something that produces the same effect as...
Don’t Say Nothing When Facing Tragedy

Don’t Say Nothing When Facing Tragedy

I have a list in my head of what people said to me when they heard that I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. There were those whose words, presence and actions were real comforts. Then there were those who probably meant well, but totally missed the mark — and they are the reason for this list. To be sure, talking about a terminal diagnosis is one of the most emotionally fraught conversations you’ll ever have. It is devastating to hear from a loved one that they are dying. How you react to the news matters, yet most of us have no idea what to say when somebody we love shares their tragic news. In that spirit, I offer my own personal don’ts and dos. DON’T say “let me know what you need.” A generalized “call me for anything” is nice to hear, but understand that those of us who are really sick can only tolerate certain people washing our hair or driving us from a chemo session as we barf in a bucket en route. A good thing to text or email would be: “If there was one thing I could do today in your house or garden that would be helpful, what would it be?” and then be prepared to do it. Empty offers are just cruel. DO make sure you ask if they can handle flowers or scent of any kind. Before showing up with lilies or spritzed with Chanel No. 5 just check. Many medications create bizarre and shifting sensitivities, most of them to smells and flavours. Perfumes, flowers, cotton candy and even spaghetti sauce have sent me to the bowl for a gag. DON’T pelt them with 20 questions. I know that for some people getting all the gory details is the only way they can absorb the news. But detailed questions can be exhausting to answer. Never ever ask how much time they have left. There is a really good chance that, like me, I told the doctor I didn’t want his estimate. A good question might be “What is the plan for your treatment?” then let them talk. DO notice when they are tired, and leave. Are they blinking longer? Shifting uncomfortably? Maybe they don’t want to admit being tired or unable to stay up. Notice, and then make a loving and speedy exit. DON’T touch them without permission. Sound strange? Consider this: Maybe they are just barely holding it together and leaning on you in that moment might result in a meltdown they can’t bear. Depending on your relationship, you might want to ask them if they would like a hug, and be ok with whatever their answer is. DO let them know...
Gazing at Memories

Gazing at Memories

Today I am hanging pictures on the walls of my home. I had a box of framed photos that just hadn’t been dealt with for some time, and today was the day. The pictures are of my children, their friends, our family, vacations and happy times. They are of moments I snapped from behind a camera that were so beautiful, they merited a frame. When I put them into those glass and wooden dedications, I didn’t think things would ever change. I thought those toothless smiles would be forever. Chubby cheeks, sand covered little fingers and cupcake smiles, it was our world in that golden time of sunshine. Looking at the pictures, I realize I somehow blinked for a few years, and haven’t framed anything new. My golden babies sat in a box all this while. I look at them now and ache for the moments I had the sense to capture. The new moments, the now, is where I live. Time has moved forward and teeth have grown in. Feet and fingers are no longer chubby, but are starting to resemble the adult appendages they will become. Cute is fading, and we are entering the age of interesting challenges and tearing away slowly. “Mommy” is turning to “Mom” and the photos are of reluctant poses with embarrassed slightly tolerant smiles. No longer does my lens get the love of big fat easy grins. They no longer run to me when they hear the shutter click and say “Mommy see da piture??”. I walk around the house clutching my framed babies as they were, and find places of honour for them. If I had known that their years of being so little aren’t endless, in fact they are breathtakingly fast, I might have done things differently. Like a roller coaster ride that suddenly screeches to a halt, you wonder why you closed your eyes on the big hills, because now you realize you could have enjoyed it more. You were safe and it was ok. I cried over some of those pictures today. Because like the period of life in which they were taken, time has moved on. I know how lucky I am, I know that many people can’t glance up from the picture of their toddlers and look at their happy healthy older children. That doesn’t mean I am not going to take this day and look at pictures of the way we were. Pictures don’t belong in a shoe box. They cover the walls of our happy home and in a few years I will be missing the people they are today. Time to take some more pictures.   This post ran originally on BluntMoms.com...