For Mother’s Day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a heads up for the folks who have read a lot of my writing, this one isn’t funny.  It’s a bit sad, hopefully a little inspiring and it likely won’t happen again.  This thought has been rolling around in my mind for weeks now, and I can’t get it out of my head, which usually means I am meant to write it down.  So here we go:

Moms experience almost constant worry and guilt.  From the moment our children are born, or even when we first feel those little flutters and kicks, it consumes us.  We worry about our children every second of every day and for many sleepless hours in the darkness of night when things are dark and quiet and our minds can really take control.  And this worry and guilt, it’s forever.  With one child now in high school I am grappling with the very real fact that in three short years, she could be living somewhere other than under my roof.  I can only imagine what my nighttime thoughts will be then…. Moms worry about every single step of parenthood.   Did I stop breastfeeding too soon? Did I breastfeed too long? Should I have tried harder to breastfeed? Was it wrong to let them cry it out?  Was it wrong to pick them up right away? Did I start solids too early and cause allergies? Did I wait too long to start solids and cause allergies? Do they eat enough vegetables? Do they eat enough of anything? Should I be more firm?  Why do I yell all the time? Why aren’t they speaking?  Why aren’t they walking? Why won’t they use the toilet? Am I pushing them hard enough in school? Should I push them harder in school? Should I know their friends better? Should I respect their privacy? Should I have let them quit the team?  Should I have pushed them to try out for the team?  And on and on and on and on and on, and the emotions are always the same.  Worry and guilt.  Because no matter which direction we took, or which decision we made, we always feel guilt about the outcome and question if we are somehow letting our children down.  It’s exhausting. But I have a message for all of you amazing moms out there.  It’s going to be ok.

When I was a little girl my parents rented a farm for the first truly memorable years of my life.  My father was an alcoholic and a pathological liar, so obviously things were not easy for my mom.  We were extremely poor.  My father spent every penny that he could get his hands on to buy alcohol or eat out at a local pub, while his children and wife were at home with nothing to eat.  My mom doesn’t talk about those years very often, but I am always surprised when she does.  There is such sadness and regret in her voice when those memories resurface.  She talks about the fear, and the sadness and the poverty.  About feeding my brother and I oatmeal for breakfast, lunch and dinner because it was filling and there was no money for groceries.  She talks about buying large men’s jeans at the Salvation Army and using them to cut and sew overalls for my brother and I.  She talks about surviving thanks to our large garden and our animals.  I can hear the guilt in her voice.  I can hear how desperately she must have wanted a different life for us.  But here’s the thing.  I don’t remember what she does in the same way at all.  I remember a magical place filled with rolling fields and animal friends.  She remembers a crappy plastic swimming pool and a rusty swing set.  I remember a place where I pretended I was in the ocean on hot Summer days and swings where I used to imagine I was flying to far off lands.  I had no idea that our garden was the only reason we would have food into the Winter.  I remember that a carrot pulled freshly from the ground while she was weeding, with a bit of dirt still clinging to it is delicious.  I remember watching her can and preserve and the jars filled with colour and the time with her in the kitchen.  I remember her showing me how to knead bread and the laughter we shared while doing it. I had no idea that our chickens were the only reason we ate some days, I just remember how proud I was when she showed me how to collect the eggs and then made it my own special job. I didn’t know that we were “missing out” on store bought yogurt.  I only knew that I loved the goats that provided our yogurt desperately, and that I got to help my favorite goat bring her triplets into this world when I was a very little girl.  I remember adventures across fields where the wind blew the tall grass, taller than I was in some areas, to find the fiddleheads hidden in the dark, cool woods.  Or to where the chokecherry bushes were, and helping my mom pick them and then watching in our kitchen when she made jam.  No matter how much pain, frustration, desperation and yes, guilt she may have been feeling, I don’t remember.  I had no idea.  I know she worried constantly about not being enough and not having enough, and she didn’t need to.  I remember a woman who was always laughing with us.  A woman who always had hugs and cuddles and read us extra stories no matter how exhausted she must have been.  I remember a woman who knew how to grow anything, cook anything, bake anything and who taught me to respect animals and respect the earth, probably without having any idea she was doing it.  I remember thinking my mom was the strongest person in the world.  And that has never changed.

Fast forward to my twenties.  Even though my mom went on to leave my dad and eventually meet my step-dad and our lives changed dramatically for the better, I still managed to meet and marry a man almost exactly like my father.  And I had my first two children with him.  He was also an alcoholic with assorted other addictions and emotional issues and life wasn’t easy.  After our children were born I spent almost every day worrying about what I had brought them into.  I was consumed with guilt that this was their lives and I felt powerless to change it for them.  If the funds were not available for their father to spend on his assorted habits or whatever material possessions he felt would make him happier, he would turn into an angry, emotionally abusive person who would fill me with such fear and dread that I would simply give in.  Letting him have what he wanted kept the peace.  Until the money ran out….and then while he got what he wanted, I couldn’t pay our bills and struggled to buy groceries.  There were countless dinners of hot dogs and macaroni because I knew the kids would eat it and it was all I could afford on our insanely tight budget.  So many hot dogs…and I worried and worried about not feeding the kids properly.  I felt like a robot.  I was getting up every day and doing what needed to be done to get through the day at work and then the very long nights.  I remember the guilt of feeling that I wasn’t emotionally available for my children.  There were no vacations or special activities because I couldn’t afford it.  But there were walks in the swamp and the woods, and frog catching and turtle finding.  And yet I always felt I wasn’t doing enough as we watched other families go away on amazing trips, or head off to weekends at water parks.  And then the money became even tighter if that was possible, and I couldn’t find the funds to indulge their father’s whims.  And he became even angrier the yelling and insults increased tenfold.  So, we stayed in the tub far longer than we needed to or should have, every single night, waiting for their father to pass out and for the coast to be clear.  And we sang and sang and made up games and stories in that bathroom, and we survived.  And the guilt continued to consume me.  How could I let them live this way?  And finally, one day we ran.  And we didn’t go back.  And life became so much better and so much easier, and I married an amazing man who is an incredible father to all four of our children (we had two more).  And even though we left that life behind, the guilt followed. And the worry followed.  And I still questioned every single day what damage I had allowed to be done to my children by staying for so long.  And then one day, my older two children and I were watching television together and the people on the cooking show were asking what memories people had of their childhood kitchens.  What did they smell and feel like?  And my oldest son turned to me and said, “Mom, do you know what I remember from being really little?”  And I cringed inwardly.  Here it was, the moment I had been dreading.  And then he said, “I remember hot dogs and love.”  Hot dogs and love? Really? I was as shocked as I was relieved, and then of course amused.  So the three of us started to chat a bit.  And the kids talked about all the songs I sang at bath time that they loved so much, and the extra stories at bedtime.  They talked about how funny it was to watch mommy climb into the muddy swamp barefoot to try and catch them frogs, and the countless walks and animals we spotted and trips to our free local zoo.  Whether or not they remember how truly awful things were at times, what they have focused on is the love.  They remember the time I spent with them and the loved I showed them.

So here’s the thing….this Mother’s Day let’s just take a little break from the worry and the guilt shall we?  Life is challenging and heartbreakingly difficult at times.  But at the end of the day, what our children remember are the stories we read, the snuggles we gave, and the time that we shared with them.  The time we spent showing them how important they are and what they mean to us.  When we made them feel safe and valued.  Those are the memories and moments that will sustain them through the hard times in their lives.  And we can worry ourselves sick and let the mommy guilt eat us up inside, but all that truly matters to our children is that we love them.  And that we show them every day.  Love.  That is what they will remember the most.

Reasons Why Parenting Teenagers and Toddlers is Exactly the Same Thing

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If you are currently parenting toddlers, you probably tell yourself daily (over a glass of wine or six) that it’s just a phase.  The assertion of independence, the tantrums, the sleep deprivation…I could go on.  But as someone who is currently parenting at both ends of this spectrum I have to tell you to buckle up butter cup. That light at the end of the tunnel is really, really far away.

You will, after the toddler years, hit this wonderful twilight zone of time where your darlings suddenly seem to understand the importance of wearing pants, and you might actually get out the door without losing your mind and even make it to places on time. I know!!!! It’s crazy talk!  But wait, there’s more.  You will suddenly feel somewhat rested and in control of your life.  You might even make the brave and noble decision to purchase new furniture or, and yes this is really hard to imagine I know, make dinners that your children will eat!  It’s like a dream really.  A beautiful parenting paradise.  And you will think to yourself, “I’ve got this.  I am a parenting pro. ”  And then, suddenly and without warning, your little darling or darlings become pre-teens.  Pre-teens and teens are really in same category here because the only difference is that the teens are taller and can drive, otherwise, the same. And suddenly, you will no longer have any control over your life, punctuality will again become a joke, you will be stocking the pantry with boxes of wine (because braces are expensive and you can only afford the cheap stuff now),  and that new furniture, let’s just say party food is always full of artificial colour.  All of a sudden you will be entering the world of parenting giant toddlers….And here are the reasons why nothing really changes:

1.) Bedtime:  Babies and especially toddlers are notoriously good at avoiding sleep.  The never ending trips out of bed because apparently bedtime is a cause for extreme thirst (drinks of water) and hunger (but I’m STARVING), and monsters, and missing stuffies, and one more story and one more hug etc etc.  It can literally drive a person to the edge of sanity.  If you are one of the lucky ones, your children will at some point learn to go to sleep a little more easily and actually stay asleep, thus the parenting paradise I mentioned earlier.  Once the pre-teens/teens hit, you will again have children that refuse to go to sleep.  Also appearing to have constant and spontaneous needs for drink and food, only now you will also be battling the television or the all consuming cell phone.  “So just go to bed” you may be thinking, but no.  Toddlers may be awake because they can’t explain why they can’t sleep, but pre-teens/teens are often awake because they won’t explain why they can’t sleep.  So, now my dear parents, you will lay awake in your own bed all night worrying yourself into a frenzy about what could be wrong.  Is it school?  Is it a friend?  Have they joined a cult? Did they start an underground smuggling ring of snacks filled with artificial colour? Worry, worry, and no sleep.  And we have officially returned to the land of total exhaustion.

2.)  Morning Routines:  Yes, toddlers are typically early risers, but that doesn’t mean they care what your agenda is.  They just happen to be up early.  The fact that you want them to be ready to go somewhere on time is irrelevant.  Guess what?  pre-teens/teens also don’t care.  Even when the agenda is their own!!!! Early morning sports or other extra-curriculars that they love during waking hours? Meh. School? Super meh.  Have you ever tried to wake up a pre-teen/teen? It will challenge you to the very core of your being.  The very core….I don’t want to compare the experience to climbing Everest but….there will be screaming, crying, begging, pleading, bribery, threats, the sudden and inexplicable inability to locate a left shoe….sound familiar yet?  And guess what?  There goes that precious punctuality you had come to cherish.

3.)  Food:  Toddlers will eat boogers, bugs, dirt and other assorted delicacies, but the mere appearance of a vegetable or a new food on their plate will send them running like you have just tried to feed them rat poison.  You constantly worry about whether or not they are getting enough to eat and the proper nutrients.  Guess what?  Food issues all return in the pre-teen/teen years. Pre-teens/teens will eat literally anything that has artificial color, saturated fats, artificial flavor and essentially anything that comes out of a vending machine.  They have their own money and often access to a local corner store or school cafeteria and you can no longer monitor and police everything that they put in their mouths.  So we are back to constant worry about nutrition and fights over healthy meals.  I will admit that pre-teens/teens bring a whole new food issue.  Cost of groceries….seriously, I can walk into my house and leave $400 worth of groceries on the kitchen floor while I run to go pee and come back out to find it all mysteriously gone.  Except of course the broccoli.  They are kind enough to leave that behind.  See, this is another reason why you will now be drinking wine from a box.  Silent, ravenous ninjas.

4.)  Music and Television:  Toddler years are filled with music and television that no one understands.  “Teletubbies”, “The Wiggles”, and the always awesome and rage inducing “Caillou.” Your road trips will be filled with the sounds of whatever kid friendly music they love at that moment.  Today, I had to hit repeat on Bing Crosby’s rendition of “Jingle Bells” more than thirty times because it is my two and a half year old’s current favorite.  I used to like it….Fast forward to the pre-teen/teen years….I could seriously live my entire life as a parent with Youtube.  If my pre-teen tries one more of those godforsaken Youtube challenges, or explains to me again that everything will be ok because he is going to be a famous Youtuber one day and make tons of money being, as far as I can tell, a jackass, there will not be enough boxed wine on this planet to keep my sanity intact.  And music? Music?  I shudder….have you leaned how to “dab” yet?  Or “juju on that beat”? You will….oh yes….you will.  See? Music and television that no one understands.

5.)  Clothing:  Toddlers usually have very specific clothing preferences. My four year old only wore shirts with dinosaurs on them.  My two and a half year old wants to wear a princess dress every single day.  It’s white.  I guess I should be happy that she stopped insisting on dressing as a unicorn every single day.  That costume is also white.  So is my favorite wine, but I digress….even though toddlers may insist on wearing a certain theme or color, you can usually force them to leave the house looking presentable and relatively clean with faces washed and teeth brushed. You know, on a good day.  Pre-teens/teens also have very specific ideas and demands regarding their attire.  The problem is that they are much bigger than toddlers, and angrier, and supposedly capable of washing their own faces and brushing their own teeth.  But they don’t…they just don’t.  Oh, and if you think taking a pre-teen/teen shopping for clothing would be easier than taking your toddler shopping for clothing, you are in for a world of hurt in a few years.  A world of hurt my friend.

6.) Tantrums:  Oh the toddler tantrums.  The screaming and crying for usually unknown reasons or unrealistic and often impossible demands. They are asserting their independence you tell yourself.  They are trying to communicate their emotions…fast forward to the pre-teen/teen years.  Exactly the same scenario, for also usually unknown reasons, as well as unrealistic and often impossible demands.  Only now they are quite possibly taller than you. Toddlers trying to express intense emotion and pre-teen/teens dealing with hormone overload cause exactly the same response in the human brain.  Ok, I don’t actually know that for sure but I would be willing to put money on it.

So there you have it.  Enjoy those years between toddlerhood and the pre-teens because you will need those times sustain you and keep you strong.  Good luck my fellow parents.  Pass the wine.

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Mommy/Daddy Bloggers The Crazy and The Brave

 

 

 

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I have always loved to write.  For as long as I can remember, I was writing short stories, long stories, poems etc.  So it was only natural that when I became a mom, that love of writing became my way of finding humor in not so humorous days, and of reaching out to my fellow moms.  I have never understood why we try to hard to appear perfect as parents, since there really is no such thing. Everything I write about parenting tends to be dripping with sarcasm and not even remotely serious, because honestly if you can’t laugh at yourself as a parent, you aren’t going to make it out with your sanity intact.  That’s not just my opinion, that’s Science.  Having my writing published was always kind of a bucket list thing for me, so you can imagine my excitement when a friend, working for a parenting website, decided my writing was funny enough to do just that.  I was ecstatic!!!! Thousands of people would read articles that I had written.  “They will appreciate my honesty” I thought.  “They will relate to me” I thought.  Wrong.  I was in absolute awe of the number of people that read my articles.  But then the comments started rolling in…..now don’t get me wrong. I am totally open to constructive criticism, and of course people are entitled to their opinions, but holy crap!  Swearing, threatening, flat out calling me a terrible mother…I am pretty sure most of the “helpful” comments came from people who hadn’t even read the article.  One woman accused me of making fun of children with behavioral issues which cause them to hit their heads off of walls.  First of all, I would never, under any circumstances do anything of that nature.  I reread my article three times and I still have no idea where she got that idea from.  Especially since the article was about annoying moms on-line.  Ahem, point made….

I had been reading lots of posts by parent bloggers.  Some made me laugh, some made me cry and some filled my heart with joy.  Others I disagreed with, or just didn’t find interesting. I responded the same with all of them. If I loved them I shared them and if I didn’t, I didn’t.  Either way, I put my phone down and simply went on with my life.  It never even once occurred to me to read the comments. Not once. Until I had my own comments to deal with.  So I decided to check the comments on other writers articles to see.  Was I just a really crappy writer, or are people just nuts?  Oh. My. God.  That is not a road you want to go down unless you have several hours to spare and a bottle of wine to sustain you.  It’s like a car wreck that you can’t look away from. Like a really twisted social experiment that people don’t realize they are participating in.  And the interesting part was that the comments were the same regardless of the content of the article.  In fact, the actual topic of the article often had NOTHING to do with the contents.  Here are the most common comments, regardless of the topic:

1.)  Vaccinations:  Remember before you had kids and the two main topics to avoid at a dinner party were religion and politics?  After you have children those things no longer matter.  The only topic that you absolutely do not want anyone to mention is vaccinations.  Unless you want your home to be featured on an episode of COPS, you simply do not bring it up.  Period.  What I found bizarre was that no matter what an article was about, someone at some point will comment about vaccinations. “How I Got My Child to Sleep in Their Own Bed” BAM! Vaccinations. “The Importance of Color Choice in the Nursery” BAM! Vaccinations. And four hundred comments after that one comment about vaccinations is dropped like a roadside bomb, and no one even knows what the article was about anymore.

2.)  Breastfeeding or Bottle Feeding:  Again, why?  The topic could be “My Child Has too Much Homework” and then BAM! Feeding.  “The Best Car Seats for Baby” BAM! Feeding. And one more time, the second that comment is made, the sanctimommies come  running from all sides and actual content of the article? Who could remember?

3.)  You are lucky to even have a child:  This one kills me….honestly I cannot even fathom the pain of infertility and the idea of dealing with miscarriages is just beyond devastating.  That being said, parents absolutely need to share the frustrations that come with having children.  We need to vent and hear other parents vent and realize that we aren’t the only ones with a two year old who only eats macaroni. Or that someone else’s child refuses to sleep in their own bed because their imaginary friend is taking up too much room…It is vital that we reach out to our fellow parents.  On every single article I read about any sort of frustration or trial of parenting the comments would appear.  “You shouldn’t complain.  You are lucky to even have a child.”  “At least you have a child to feed at dinner time.” Etc, etc.  As much as my heart hurts for these people, I have to question why on earth they are torturing themselves by reading articles about the trials of parenting…And if they must torture themselves, don’t jump all over the author.  He or she didn’t tie you to a chair and force you to read it.

 

So I learned a few things from my little, self serving investigation:

1.) People actually are crazy.  However, parents are by far the craziest people out there.

2.)  I am not as thick skinned as I thought….

3.)  Mommy/Daddy Bloggers are the bravest people on the internet.  Seriously.  Swearing, death threats, verbal abuse and full on attacks on their parenting skills don’t stop them from writing articles and posting. They are sharing their parenting experiences and personal triumphs and traumas with the most terrifying, judgemental  and self righteous group of people on the planet. Other parents. I have nothing but respect.

 

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Body after baby…it’s ok.

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Other than a healthy baby, is there anything that concerns a pregnant woman more than wondering, “Will I ever get my body back?”

The answer is no.  At least not the way it was before you became pregnant.  You cannot grow a human being for nine months, go through labour and push something so big out of an area that is so small and expect to have the exact same body that you started with.  Seriously…you will have some stretch marks, or some extra weight, or perhaps your feet will be a size larger and your rings will be tighter.  You may find that your boobs, hips, any number of body parts don’t appear to be in the same spot they were before….and you know what?  THAT’S OK.  Really!  It is!  It’s perfectly normal and we all need to just calm the hell down and give ourselves a break.

Nothing makes me more crazy than these front page stories about movie stars that are showing off their amazing “post baby bodies after only six weeks”!  “Learn how they did it”, the ads scream at us while we stand in line to buy diapers with a crying baby, in our sweat pants and a pony tail unable to remember the last time we showered.  So we buy the magazine.  Desperate for a miracle.  And we read about the special foods she ate and the exercises she did and we wonder why we can’t get our s&*% together.  Well, can you afford a nanny, a personal trainer, a home gym, a personal chef and a nutritionist?  You can’t?  Neither can I.  That’s why.  And again, THAT’S OK.

And yes, there are those women who appear to walk out of the delivery room looking even better than they did before they peed on the damn stick, but I am 100% certain those people are robots.  Fitness clubs are paying some government agency to build them, and place them into society as pregnant women to force us all to run out and buy gym memberships the second we realize our pre-pregnancy jeans don’t fit us anymore.  I haven’t been able to prove it yet, but I will…oh I will.

Body image is a struggle for many of us from start to finish, and I am certainly not going to pretend that I have found the magical solution to feeling completely comfortable in my own skin, but I’m working on it.  I have had four babies and the one thing I have learned about this topic is that we have our entire lives to worry about how we look.  What we don’t have, is all the time in the world with our precious babies.  They grow.  They grow really, really fast.  One second you are smelling the top of your precious newborn’s head, dreaming about who they will be and feeling your heart swell with joy and the next second you are watching your thirteen year old head off to a grade eight dance…it happens in a heart beat.  And you can’t get it back.

So don’t waste a second of that precious fleeting time worrying about how you don’t stack up to the model on the front page of the magazine, or the neighbor who strapped her baby on her back on ran a marathon two hours after giving birth, or the robot walking out of the delivery room looking like someone else had her baby.  Don’t do it.  Take a deep breath of that amazing newborn smell and let it go.  Then have a cupcake…because you know what?  THAT’S OK.

 

People I Have Encountered as a Parent That I’d Like to High Five in the Face…

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Since becoming a mom, I have encountered a number of people that really need a high five in the face….sounds a bit violent?  Well perhaps once you see my reasons you will understand.  Here they are:

1.)  Time Management “Experts”

First of all, these people never have kids.  Seriously, if I only needed to manage my own time I would be a Time Management Expert as well.  Nothing is more frustrating than a perky, beautifully put together, recent college grad telling you how to better organize your day.   When I had my first two children I worked full time, and commuted to get to the office.  This meant that everyone had to be out the door on time, but also with all the gear for the day in tow as well as looking presentable.  My employer at the time liked to have the occasional seminar for us where a Time Management Expert would come and talk to us about how to be on time, organize our day etc. etc….She would tell us things like, “Try leaving the house fifteen minutes earlier than you have to, to create a buffer for yourself if you start to run behind.”  Lady,  I could leave the house an hour before I am supposed to, since I probably haven’t been to bed, but these things are still going to happen:  First, the toddler will get fully undressed while I am buckling the baby into his seat.  Then, while I am dealing with redressing the toddler, the baby will either spit up or have a diaper explosion which will require me to remove him from the seat to change him.  While I am doing this, the toddler will undress again, this time losing one of her shoes in the process.  Then, the baby will decide he does not want to go back into the seat and will refuse to sit, thus causing a wrestling match that will go on for several minutes while the toddler tosses the shoe I just spent fifteen minutes locating out of the vehicle.  I won’t notice this until I arrive at daycare, and will then have to go back and retrieve the shoe.  So, take your fifteen minute buffer and stick it.

Then she would tell us about how to allow ourselves time to get ready and look professional when we arrive at work.  My favorite tip was to lay our clothes out the night before for the next day….really?  First of all, anything I lay out the night before is going to go missing since my toddler likes to hide things in the toy box, laundry hamper, any available drawer, under the bed.  I was late for this seminar because my car keys and cell phone were stashed in the caboose of a sit and ride train toy…Second of all, I could lay my outfit out a month before I have to be at work, it isn’t going to stop the baby from spitting up all over me, the very second I cross the threshold into daycare….

If you want a working mom to take a Time Management Expert seriously, hire another mom…have secret underground meetings about tips no one tells you about.  How to hog tie, and bribe with Smarties….just a suggestion.

 

2.)  Grocery Store Eye Rollers:

Oh I’m sorry, are you not enjoying my child’s tantrum?  Strange, because I love it!  In fact we rehearse this before we leave the house because it makes running a bunch of errands sooooooo much easier.  If you aren’t going to get off your high horse and help me carry this stuff to my car while I desperately cling to this writhing, screaming child, then at least keep your eye rolls to yourself.  Thank you.

3.)  Doctors that Don’t Listen:

There is not a team of scientists on this planet that can rival a mom with a sick child and access to Google.  We will do anything to help our children, so don’t treat us like we are overreacting when we show up in your office.  We don’t get paid to worry this much, you do.

4.)  Parenting “Experts” with No Children:

NOTHING and I mean NOTHING is more infuriating than someone without children telling you how to parent your children.  How on earth can you even call yourself an expert in something you have never actually done?  Do you need some engine work done on your car?  Well I just read a book about it so why don’t you tell me all about what a terrible parent I am while I tear your car engine apart for you?  I also took a course recently online about the importance of cardiovascular health.  Why don’t you hand me a scalpel and I’ll take care of that blocked artery for you while you tell me why I shouldn’t bed share? Seriously, stop it.  If you don’t have children, don’t tell me how to raise mine.

You know you have a larger than “normal” family when…..

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I hate the word “normal.”  Unless it is being used to describe temperature, rainfall, or a setting on your appliances, it can be a very frustrating and sometimes insulting way to describe a person or a situation.  Who gets to decide what’s “normal” in society?  There was a time when it was considered “normal” to have a large family.  Years ago it wasn’t unusual at all to have six or more children in a family and in fact it was considered a blessing and at times a status symbol.  In fact it was considered strange if you didn’t have lots of children.  Fast forward to today…..by the third child you start to get raised eyebrows and unwanted remarks.  My personal favorite is the always popular, “You do know how this keeps happening don’t you?”  Hilarious…..just once I’d like to respond with a perfectly straight face, “No, but could you please tell me because I’d sure like to figure this mystery out.” If you have more than three children the assumptions are usually as follows:

1.)  You own a farm.

2.) You are having lots of children for religious reasons.

3.)  You are trying for a specific gender.

4.)  You are trying to get your own reality tv show…..

Here’s the thing, there are some people, apparently not the “normal” ones, who actually want a large family.  Some of us love the chaos and insanity that comes with having extra little people running around our homes like amazing little maniacs.  We love the fact that dinner will be a crowded table with lots of voices either sharing bits and pieces of their days, telling fart jokes or fighting over the last roll.  We love that there will never be a clean towel left, the laundry will never be done, someone will always be missing a shoe or a homework assignment because someone else put it somewhere “safe” and that when anything gets broken, it will collectively be no one’s fault because there really is safety in numbers.  We love that our many children will always have each other in this life, and even though they regularly try to kill each other off at home, heaven help the kid on the playground who dares to mess with one of them.  We love that the bathroom will never be free, we won’t sleep for years, and those moments when we peek into a room unseen and witness our older child helping a younger sibling learn to read, or simply giving them comfort after a hard day.  It is truly magical.  So call us crazy, but we love it.  Will we complain about it, blog about it and sometimes lose our minds over it?  Of course.  But we would not have it any other way.  So, for those of you wondering if you are one of us crazy ones who have a larger than “normal” family here is a checklist:

1.)  When grocery shopping, if a product is marked as “Family Sized” it means that you need two, possibly three of them.  Also, at some point in time you have had a cashier look at your cart and ask if you work in a group home…..

2.) Your grocery bill is often more than your mortgage payment.

3.)  You feel like you run a 24 hour diner, with rude guests who refuse to tip and often complain about the service.

4.)  You own a mini van and you still need one of those storage things for the roof, and your spouse drives a second vehicle if you all go away on a family vacation.  This is because of a lack of space and not because your spouse doesn’t want to drive with all of you….although I would suggest you make him take the one who gets motion sick….just saying….

5.)  If, like myself you do not live in a mansion, your bathroom will require the use of a finely tuned and closely monitored schedule to keep everyone clean and avoid world war three.  You also wash at least two loads of towels a day, constantly question if anyone uses any of the toothbrushes in the pile on the sink, and keep the folks at Lysol in business dealing with toilets….

6.)  You are always playing referee to such arguments as, “That’s my spot!”  “That’s my cup!” “That’s my shirt!”  “Those are my snow pants!”  Etc…..

7.)  You live with what feels like a small village of people and yet no one ever knows how anything got broken or who put the empty carton of milk back in the fridge.

8.)  There is always an empty carton of milk in your fridge.

9.)  You never sleep because someone is ALWAYS awake.  I am pretty sure they take shifts.

10.) Keeping track of everyone’s doctor’s appointments, after school activities and homework assignments is like some sort of marathon in your house.  This should really be considered for an Olympic sport and the time management gurus come to you for help.

11.)  Getting everyone to school on time fully clothed, with their lunches and both shoes should also be considered an Olympic sport in your home.  I’m deadly serious about this.  I’ve written letters to the folks at the Olympics….they think I’m joking….I’m not.

12.)  You haven’t spoken to your husband since the fourth child came along, but you are pretty sure he’s the guy with the beard that shows up around dinnertime to eat at your 24 hour diner…he also doesn’t tip.

13.)  And last but not least, even though your life is utter chaos,  your house is a disaster, you don’t eat, sleep or shower and your account balance regularly hits 0, you know that one day they will all move on and have their own lives.  Suddenly, as quickly as it all began it will be over.  Your house will fall silent.  And that very thought breaks your heart into a thousand pieces.  So you will take a breath, pour some wine, and savor every last minute of it all.  Because you simply wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

 

 

How to Speak Toddler….a Basic Translation Guide

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Toddlers are pretty amazing little people, because they are in fact, little people.  All of a sudden they are no longer squishy little babies who are content to simply sit or lay down all day while you put them wherever you want to put them or take them wherever you decide to go.  Suddenly they have their own ideas about what they want and when they want it, and they are incredibly dedicated to their own little whims.  If you have ever had the opportunity to care for a toddler you will know that this is putting it extremely mildly…..a toddler who wants something that you either don’t understand, or are not able to provide or allow is very much like a tornado, and you my friend are a trailer park.

Heading into the land of toddler myself for the fourth time, I thought that a translation guide of sorts might be helpful.  So here you go:

1.)  “No!”  Or “I not!”

Remember in College when you were insanely dedicated to a cause and decided that you would join your fellow  protesters in a sit in?  Nothing, and I mean nothing was going to deter you from making sure your message was heard and that change was implemented.  This is now your toddler…..if you plan on accomplishing anything on the day that these words are uttered, clear your schedule and make some calls, because you are not going anywhere anytime soon.  These words are usually used when it is time to leave the house and socks, shoes, or possibly pants are required.  These words are also very popular when trying to buckle a toddler into a car seat when they will suddenly decide to “plank” and use their super human toddler strength to prevent you from doing up the buckle.  These words are almost always used when you have to get to work, or you have an appointment which you are likely already running late for.

2.)  “I try it.”

These words will be used during mealtimes.  They mean that your toddler is now going to abandon their own plate, which contains the exact same food that you are desperately trying to eat yourself, and will now proceed to eat every scrap of food on your plate.  For some reason, toddler logic dictates that your food is better than theirs, even though it is exactly the same…it’s best to just develop a taste for cold, tiny bites of food because unless you hide in the kitchen to eat, you may be trading plates for awhile.

3.)  “I no did it.”

These words will often be uttered when you have been out of the room for a few minutes.  It absolutely means that they did something….the trick is what is it?  Sometimes it will be obvious because there will be a puddle of something or the writing will literally be on the wall.  However, if it is not obvious, do not assume that nothing has happened.  Search high and low until you figure it out because this is one of those times when weeks from now you will be wondering what on earth that smell is, only to discover half a banana crammed into the back of the toy garbage truck….

4.)  “No worry mommy.  I clean it.”

This is also usually uttered when you have been out if the room.  This one is a bit more alarming.  It’s nice that they have taken ownership over whatever havoc they have caused, however they have also attempted to clean it up.  So, what was the mess?  And what exactly did they “clean” it up with?  This often involves a defective sippy cup and a throw cushion from your couch, or, worst case scenario, a diaper and an afghan…probably knitted by great grandma and irreplaceable.

5.)  “I big helper.”

This is a tough one because it is so darn cute…but it’s a trick.  Do not be fooled by the big innocent eyes or angelic smile….this does not meant they are going to help you.  This statement means they are going to, under the guise of helping you, do absolutely everything in their power to prevent you from getting the activity done.  If you give in to this request, as I foolishly do at least once day, pour yourself a coffee and just abandon all hope of getting anything accomplished.  Oh, and make sure you allow for time to clean up whatever messes will now be caused by your “big helper.”

6.)  “I hungry.”

Brace yourself….you are about to be told no to every single option of a snack that you provide and even though the toddler could actually be hungry, there will not be a single food item in this world that will be acceptable.  If there are older children in the home, your toddler will also be aware that you have cookies….so you know that sit in from College?  You are about to meet the sit in King or Queen.

7.)  “Mine.”

Toddlers are only capable of understanding their own needs.  So this statement could refer to a toy, a toilet brush or even your left shoe.  It doesn’t have to make sense.  In fact it often doesn’t.  Just assume that everything they see, touch, hear or smell belongs to them in their little world and roll with it.

8.) “It so pretty.”

This rarely means that you will find whatever is happening “pretty”.  It could mean that those paints and crayons you thought you had hidden have been located and in the time it took you to pee, your little artist has provided you with a custom made mural in your living room.  This mural will likely include walls and your couch.  It could mean that somehow your toddler has found a pair of scissors (even safety ones will cut hair) and given themselves a “pretty” new haircut.  Or, it could refer to the fact that your toddler located a tube of lipstick in your purse and has given themselves a “pretty” new makeover.  It could also refer to the fact that you have thirty seconds to get out the door for an appointment and your toddler has removed every scrap of clothing you put on them and opted for a diaper and a tutu, a pair of your underwear on their head and one glove instead….they may combine this with the lipstick make over….

I will be happy to provide more translations for common toddler lingo as they arise….now if someone out there could provide me with some translations of pre-teen language…that would be great.

 

Exercise and raising small children….also known as “Mission Impossible”

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If you have small children, you likely spend a great deal of your day outside, which is wonderful.  Unless of course, it is Winter and you are experiencing some of the coldest temperatures on record since the last ice age.  For so much of this Winter I simply have not been able to get outside with the littlest members of our crew.  This has led to me question why we did not have a wine cellar built in the basement instead of a laundry room, and also desperately feeling in need of some exercise.  Now, exercise and small children seem like they should go hand in hand….but they don’t.  Not actual, real exercise.  Have you ever gone for a “walk” with a toddler?  Earlier this week the temperature finally crept high enough that with the sun shining away I was able to bundle up the two and a half year old, pile blankets on the one year old in the stroller and GO OUTSIDE!!!! Oh glorious day!!!! I would finally be able to stretch my legs and save my sanity.  I suggested to my little man that we go for a walk….we made it to the neighbor’s driveway….at that point he made a lovely snow angel for the neighbors on their front lawn, returned their recycling bin to their garage (even though ours are apparently just fine to leave in our ditch until next recycling day) and then the garbage truck came.  Oh, and a plane flew over.  This all took nearly an hour, at which point we needed to make the strenuous hike back home, one driveway over, to go inside and warm up.  Sigh…..

Rather than suggesting to a toddler that you should go for a walk, some more appropriate suggestions would be the following:

1.) Let’s go sit on the side of the road and look at a rock you find fascinating.

2.)  Let’s go draw masterpieces in the dirt with sticks and then spend an hour arguing with me over why I won’t let you run with those sticks.

3.)  Let’s go sit on the side of the road and wave at cars.

4.)  Let’s go outside and point at birds.

5.)  Let’s go outside, walk about five doors down thus giving mommy false hope, and then throw yourself on the ground having a massive tantrum because I won’t let you put a caterpillar in your pocket.

And there are always those folks that will very helpfully suggest that you simply make junior ride in the stroller…..um ya, thanks.  I hadn’t thought of that.  That may work occasionally, but once your little darling finds their feet and realizes they can use those amazing things to “gasp” RUN, good luck convincing them to sit, and ride in something resembling their car seat….which they also hate.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love seeing the world through the eyes of my children.  Having the opportunity to experience nature as magical and awe inspiring again, is truly beautiful.  However, sometimes mama wants to work on her muffin top!!!!!!

So, I devised a plan.  My wonderful mother in law gave me her elliptical machine and my wonderful husband hauled it into our basement.  I was on a mission.  I would hop on it and work out for about four minutes at least three times a day.  Four minutes was the amount of time I felt I could safely leave the munchkins to play.  Sounds doable right?  At first I used the dryer timer….since there is usually laundry in it that needs to be fluffed, it made sense.  But staring at the heat ducts and listening to the dryer going was really boring so I upgraded my fancy home gym to allow for the use of my cell phone and whichever song I could find on You Tube that I felt would rev me up…Unfortunately, if listening to music, it is hard to discern which sounds from the floor above are bad sounds or good sounds…are the kids playing or staging a coup?  Is it fun, sing along time or Lord of the Flies? Also, have you ever tried to leave the room to do ANYTHING for longer than 30 seconds without disaster striking?  Or this lovely chorus following you?  “Mommy!!! MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!! Mom? Mommy where are you?  I come?  Mommy I come?  I help? Mommy I come help?  Mommy I come help you? MOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYY!!!!!! I hungry.”  Put this little ditty on repeat and I don’t care what song you are trying to listen to, it is not going to drown it out, and after less than two minutes your increased stress level is doing battle with whatever health benefits you might be achieving from your increased heart rate.

So, I have decided to cut myself some slack….running up and down the basement stairs to retrieve laundry is technically cardio, driving dinky cars around the floor is basically yoga, and bathing multiple children in a day is now classified as water aerobics….the muffin top will have to be dealt with when they are all in University.

Pregnancy Dos and Don’ts….for the non-pregnant

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Pregnancy. Unless you are an adult film star, never in your life will your body belong to so many people other than yourself. Doctors, midwives, family, friends, co-workers, cashiers in the check out line at the grocery store, your hairdresser, that woman on the subway….everyone will have an opinion or a piece of advice about every single thing you do. You will spend more time naked, with your legs in the air then you ever thought possible, and every single bowel movement, burp, outbreak of acne and passing of gas will be up for discussion and on display. Suddenly your body belongs to the world. Books, magazines and of course Google will tell you what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat it. Your doctor or midwife will tell you a cup of coffee a day is ok, but the raised eyebrows of the woman in the next cubicle will make you doubt that decision. People, often strangers, will tell you exactly what you should do with that body of yours. Food, exercise, clothing and even hair and make up. After all, it isn’t your body anymore. The second you announced you were growing another person, everyone around you suddenly bought stocks in the investment that is a baby. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have been blessed enough to have four healthy pregnancies and each one of them was an amazing miracle from start to finish. But every one of those pregnancies was a bit different. And even miracles can be ridden with anxiety and a little messy. Growing a person is mind blowing, and the pressure we put on ourselves while pregnant to make sure we give our baby the best and healthiest start in life is enormous. So guess what world? We are already worried enough for everyone, so unless you are handing out donuts with that advice, or we actually asked to hear it, kindly back off. Having been pregnant four times, I have compiled a little dos and don’ts list for the world surrounding pregnant women, both in and out of the delivery room. It’s time we reclaim our bodies….at least a little bit.

1.) Don’t ask her when she is due. If she wants you to know she will tell you. Out of four pregnancies, three of mine went more than ten days past my “due date”. I am usually a very mild mannered mama, but by day five I was not a woman to be messed with. In fact, I am pretty sure that the poor girl in the drive through at Tim Horton’s that made the mistake of asking when I was due may still be off on stress leave….Trust me, she is more obsessed with her due date than anyone, and once that date has come and gone the last thing in the world she wants to is constantly explain that to strangers. And, unless she is your best friend from birth or you are her doctor, do not ask about her mucus plug….I mean seriously.

2.) Do not EVER guess how far along she is in the pregnancy. This is the equivalent of that game where the carny guesses your age at the county fair. Every pregnancy is different, every woman is different and everyone gains and carries their baby weight differently. Asking this question almost always leads to responses such as, “Oh wow, you are still so small.” This response leads to the poor pregnant soul immediately worrying that she is somehow starving her baby, not eating enough, not eating the right things, putting her baby at risk for low birth weight etc, etc. Or, my personal favorite, “Really? You are already so big! Wow. That must be a big baby.” Why? What on earth makes anyone say those things to a pregnant woman? First of all, you are making her paranoid in our already weight obsessed society at a time when she really shouldn’t be thinking about weight, and second of all, and most importantly, are YOU pushing that baby you just called huge out of your lady parts in a few short months? No? Well then shut the hell up.

3.) Don’t touch her….please don’t touch her. This single act reminds pregnant ladies again and again that their bodies became time share properties the second they started to show. Unless she invites you to feel those amazing, miraculous kicks, hands off. She is spending far too much time being groped by doctors inside and out, has an actual person taking up real estate in her womb and even her partner hasn’t been allowed to touch her in weeks, so why complete strangers feel that what she really wants is a good belly rub is beyond me. Pregnant bellies are an invite only event.

4.) Don’t tell her what to eat. Eating during pregnancy is extremely stressful. Things that you once ate without thinking about it are now dangerous, and things you may have never eaten may be touted as a miracle food for your developing baby. Pregnant women read every scrap of information they can find about pregnancy including nutrition. They know donuts are not vegetables, they know coffee is bad and they also know that their bedtime burrito habit is causing their heartburn. Here’s the thing, when they are gaining weight, dealing with sleepless nights and losing control of their bodily functions, that bedtime burrito habit may be the only thing helping them maintain their sanity. So, unless you see her enjoying a bag of dishwasher tabs, back off. She already knows….

5.) Do not ever underestimate food cravings. This “don’t” may actually save the lives of a few partners out there, so pay attention. If a pregnant woman is craving something, that and ONLY THAT thing will do. Do not ever, ever substitute, regardless of how closely related you may feel the two items are. If your spouse asks you to pick up an apple pie from her favorite bakery on your way home from work, it means she really, really wants apple pie. If, for some reason you feel inspired to instead purchase a gluten free, sugar free, mini apple pie, don’t go home. Just keep on driving….a life on the run will be far easier than what is waiting for you at home when you present her with that sorry excuse for a craving substitution. Trust me on this. Also, do not ever question the cravings. In her logical mind she knows that waking up at 2 a.m. to fry bacon and dip it in spicy mustard isn’t really a good thing….especially when she is usually a vegetarian. But those cravings simply cannot be ignored and you pointing it out to her just makes her feel bad. So, grab some dipping mustard and a piece of bacon and call it a night.

6.) Don’t tell her how busy she is going to be. This is one for those mom’s that already have a little one, or two, or three at home and usually have them in tow while waddling with a very pregnant belly through town running errands. I got this one all the time. “Oh wow, you sure are going to have your hands full.” Really? I hadn’t thought of that. Aren’t babies usually born with nannies and maids as part of a package? Don’t you just select the self feeding, self changing and self washing babies when you are growing them in the womb? Isn’t there a button for that? Oh, and thanks for mentioning that this next child will suddenly make me “busy”, because right now I spend all my time lounging on the couch in my pajamas eating chips, so good to know that my life will suddenly change. We know we will be busy!!! We are already busy!!! So, unless you are going to join us while we run errands and keep one of those other children from running off or knocking over a store mannequin please respond with “what a beautiful family you have.” Because that is what we are actually trying to accomplish.

7.) Don’t tell her she’s glowing…unless she actually is. Pregnancy has a different effect on everyone. With one of my pregnancies I had beautiful, glowing skin and gorgeous hair. I felt beautiful. With the others I had acne, pregnancy mask, dull hair and gas….with those pregnancies I hated it when people gushed that I was glowing. I knew it was a load of crap and they just didn’t know what else to say. Becoming pregnant doesn’t mean that we suddenly remove all mirrors from our homes. We know if we are “glowing” or not. It’s ok, if we don’t look like pregnant supermodels. Just tell her she looks healthy, or better yet, don’t mention her appearance at all. Just ask her what she’s craving….

8.) Do not tell her stories about terrifying deliveries. What the heck is wrong with people?? I don’t know why, the minute a woman announces her pregnancy everyone from her sister in law to her dry cleaner feel the need to traumatize her with horror stories from the delivery room. Stop it stop it stop it!!!! She is already obsessing night and day about doing everything in her power to ensure a healthy baby and a healthy delivery. Why add to that worry with stories about your neighbor’s cousin’s hairdresser who was in labor for three days with a fifteen pound baby that was born sideways? Vaginas are tender areas on a good day, so the idea of pushing a baby out of there is scary enough without your tales of terror. Instead, talk about that insanely magical moment when your baby was placed on your chest for the first time. Or the sound of your baby’s first cry. Keep it positive people.

9.) Do no question her in the delivery room. For all those partners out there, whatever she wants in the delivery room goes. You may sit down ahead of time, especially if this is your first, and develop a detailed and beautifully organized birth plan. This will fly right out the window when active labor kicks in. Do not stand over her, frantically waving the birth plan around, demanding to know why she suddenly prefers silence over the soothing ocean sounds you selected together, or why she hurled your wedding photo across the room when you held it in front of her to focus on during a contraction. Just roll with it. Simply be grateful that her new, on the fly birth plan still allows for you to be in the room, and do whatever she says.

10.) Do not mention her pooping on the delivery table. I cannot stress enough how important this is. It may be the most important point of all. After nine or more months of weight gain, morning sickness, heartburn, hair growth, hair loss, acne, gas and loss of bladder control, if you feel the need to ever, ever mention that she lost control of her bowels while giving birth, you are on your own. You will likely be sleeping on the couch indefinitely, and that couch will likely be in the garage. Some things simply do not ever need to be spoken of. This, is one of those things.

 

 

Parenting induced insanity the sequel….

 

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9.) Bathrooms:

This is an area that I thought I was prepared for….the trouble with bathrooms is that the level of issues simply change with the changing ages of the children in the home. So, there are always any number of things to push you over the brink. Wet towels are a constant. Mountains of wet towels. I don’t know why one preteen needs four towels for every shower, but apparently they do. I also wonder if my big kids are running a secret dog grooming service that I am unaware of. The amount of hair left behind when they finish in there is terrifying. For some reason, whenever hands are washed (if hands are washed) some sort of flood happens and the area surrounding the sink looks like something out of natural disaster footage on the 6 o’clock news. Oh, and someone will always place a full roll of toilet paper directly in the flood waters. This means that the next time you reach for some, you will be met with a lovely pile of mush. Potions will be made out of half full bottles of shampoo, sculptures will be carved out of bars of soap and no matter how much you beg, plead and threaten, things that should be in the toilet will be found on the outside of the toilet and things that should not be in the toilet will regularily be a cause for some emergency amateur plumbing. And it won’t matter how often you clean that bathroom. Within two minutes of you leaving triumphantly with your cleaning supplies in hand, that room will look like the nasty truck stop bathrooms you once refused to use.

 

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10.) Car trips:

This may be the only other area of parenting that can rival the family portrait for causing a typically mild mannered parent to completely and absolutely lose their mind. Family trips always seem like such a wonderful idea. Until you actually set foot in the car. If you already have children, and those children travel well, you are my hero. My children do not….at all…even a little. There is a brief window of time when your infant sleeps peacefully in a car seat while you embark on a six hour road trip with the occasional nursing stop. When this period ends, so does life as you know it in a car. There are an assortment of travel types. The barfer, the crier, the “are we there yet?” and the kid who is always sooooooooooooo bored. Someone will always be hungry, thirsty, nauseous, or need to pee. No amount of pre-planning, snack packing, gravol dosing or activity providing, will prevent any of this. At some point in the trip a fight will break out in the back of the mini-van that will rival that of a professional cage match, someone will spill something that won’t be found until it starts to smell, and a diaper blow-out will leave you on the side of the highway trying desperately to clean up and air out. By the hundreth “are we there yet?” your husband will ask that you book the van in to have privacy glass installed behind the front seats. The memories made once you arrive at your destination will make this hell on wheels all worth it, but when heading out, maybe dose yourself with some gravol, and perhaps invest in some ear plugs.

 

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11.) Gum:

Kids LOVE gum!!!!! In our house it has always been a rite of passage.  A sign that one has now matured enough to be trusted with not swallowing this mouthful of chewy joy.  But not swallowing gum is merely the tip of the ice berg in gum induced insanity. Somehow the gum rarely stays in the child’s mouth.  I don’t know how but they seem to manage to leave chewed gum everywhere.  Under the couch in the rec room, by the bathtub,  on nightstands, beside the garbage can but not actually in the garbage, in hair, on clothes and on the floor of the minivan…..My husband outlawed gum in the van after this discovery in what we now refer to as “The Great Gum Prohibition of 2014”.  However the ban was lifted when he recalled the few minutes of silence that could be purchased when offering gum on those fateful road trips.  Parents are shameless back trackers and hypocrites when it comes to trying not to lose their minds.

 

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12.) Homework:

Have you done any grade four math lately? Open some wine and brace yourself when that time rolls around.   How about a family tree when every single person in the tree has been divorced and remarried more than once? Did I mention you are also required to give this project pizazz and it’s grade two, so you need to find a way to explain why there are so many folks on the tree without paying for a lifetime of therapy?   Or, my personal favorite, the research project on the Canadian Beaver?  When your turn comes I have two of those Beaver projects in my basement.  Just let me know….it will cost you a bottle of wine.