Thursday, November 12, 2009

A little teaching perspective

I'm not a teacher by trade, but of course as a parent, I'm charged with teaching my kids in the ins and outs of the world, manners, ethics, morals, and all that wonderful stuff in my attempt to build them into decent little characters. I taught my oldest, now 4 the wonderful lesson of perseverance and trying when at first you don't succeed. This is a story that falls into the "TMI Mom!" category, for when my child is 15 and is trying to convince me that I don't love him, because I said no to some outrageous demand, me telling this story online is going to be his evidence. Nevertheless, it's too freaking funny, so I'm going to share and pay the teenaged devil which will inhabit my child in all too short a time, his due when it's time.

So yesterday I'm driving my little ones home after picking DS1 or The Ninja up from Montessori school. In this type of school at this age, kids are allowed to self direct which activities they want to do. They're encouraged to try, but if the kid resists, then so be it, they'll try another day. Anyhow, my son was telling me about how he tried out this activity, but it was too hard, so he's never going to do it again. I turned on my gentle mom encouraging voice (as opposed to, "You're going to do this NOW" mom voice-reserved for tidy up time) and explained to him the value of perseverance. I wasn't getting through, so using what little brain power I had left after this very bad week, I half remembered, half plaguerized the story of The Little Engine That Could. It worked! I'm driving in insane traffic, weaving a yarn and I had them mesmorized! I poured my heart and soul into remembering and embellishing this story. Even the little guy was listening, in awe that mommy was telling such an amazing story without a book. I threw in the phrases "try, try, again" and "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" I don't even know if they both belong to the original story, but it was driving the point home. At the end of the story, which coincided with the last leg of our journey through our ravine, I saw my point had really sunk in and I sat so high on my laurels.

We went into the house and carried on our afterschool business of snacks, toy playing, dinner prep and my usual mom chat with a friend while we make our families their food. After dinner, I was preparing a bath for the guys, when I noticed them in the downstairs bathroom. My big guy was on the toilet, the little guy playing with the tap. The Ninja was shifting a little, I asked him if he was having a hard time, and he said, "If I just push with all my might, I can do it!" to which I started giggling and the kids looked confused. The Ninja then started sound effects for my benefit, which cracked his little brother up, boys start so young. As I was leaving, to check on the tub, The Ninja then applied my lesson, I overheard him saying "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!" Followed by a "Yippee Oh Ki Yay!" and "Mommy! You were right!" least he understands the value of perseverance. Hopefully in the future, he'll apply it to more than just the bathroom.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rememberence Day

Haven't posted in a bit. Getting ready for DS1's birthday and all that insane mom stuff got in the way of whatever part of the brain wanders to the more creative side of things. I was reading a forum where a poster was criticizing military powers to be for sending our Canadian troops to their deaths time and time again. Not the government, but the actual generals and colonels, people on the ground in Afghanistan. Given that he, like most Canadians knows little about how our military works, I wonder what sort of insight he had that I didn't.

I think as Canadians we are lucky to have one of the finest military in the world. We need better equipment and god knows way more support for our soldiers, but day after day, they put their lives on the line knowingly to protect people millions of miles away while we sit and play armchair quarterbacks. I don't think any other modern military can stand on a record of honour, bravery, compassion and hard work quite like our own. They have one of the world's crummiest jobs and I think they are making the best of it.

Should we be imposing our ideas of how the way things should be working in Afghanistan on the Afghan population? I don't know. Part of me thinks that real change is only going to come from within. It's happened before, but poor people are so outclassed nowadays by evil forces, armed to the teeth and far better funded. It is wrong to want to help? I'm not trying to keep the rose coloured glasses on and think that this is just about help, but is it okay to stand by and let this be sorted out for itself? We did that in Rwanda, where a Canadian soldier begged for help and by the time it came, nearly a million people were brutally slaughtered.

I don't agree with these conflicts, I mean, who agrees with conflict, but I know that I don't go to bed worrying every night about our military abusing their powers and wantonly wreaking havoc. I worry for everyone involved, but as a Canadian of course feel some kinship with those overseas and hope that they come home safe and sound to their loving families.

My job is to poke the government (and you know I will *g*) to at least get them to throw a bit more support behind them, or get them out. It's one thing to send them off, but lets take care of them too.

I know a lot of people think that people of my generation (I'm 30) don't care or give thought to our military. My grandfather served in WWII for Canada. My dad served in Vietnam (he's American). My friends serve in Afghanistan. I care and I remember. I don't know whether that makes a difference, being that one drop in the bucket thing. I feel I should share that any time I go to the bridge to honour one of our fallen soldiers in my small way, in my part of Toronto, there are Canadians of every shade and background. Some were not born here, some were, young, old, English speaking and not. We're all there. We understand the importance of our military and we respect it, and I know it's not something said often enough, but you guys out there are doing a good job.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Eulogy for an Immersion Blender

I'm a bit of a foodie. I love to eat, I love to cook. I am happiest when I'm getting a big meal together, or decorating a cake, as much as I might complain. I get a glass of wine, turn on some music and dance my way around the kitchen while making dinner. I can have a 50 point discussion about cilantro, love it or hate it and I'm a groupie of chefs. I get together with my foodie friends and watching cooking shows, swap recipes, roast a turkey and drink wine. I am one day going to die a horrible death being buried under a mountain of cooking magazines that I have yet to archive. Get the picture?

I fancy myself a pretty darned good cook, at least that is what everyone tells me, maybe they're just afraid of me, but I'll take them at their word. And every good cook needs good tools. Having only been able to afford good tools in the past two years, a lot of my current selection needs to be retired. However I grow attached to certain things that I work with frequently, ones that don't jam up or break down, that serve me faithfully day in and out, and none has been more faithful than my immersion blender. It died as it lived, beating the hell out of food and with my vision, us creating a beautiful masterpiece of food splendor. Here are my final respects.

My beautiful immersion blender. You've followed me out of the inner city community I grew up with, where as a girl, I destroyed my mother's kitchen with you experimenting on many fantastical dishes. I sowed the seeds of my Martha-dom by trying to make homemade mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup with the limited amount of ingredients my mother's minimum wages could buy. As I grew up, you joined me in making whipped cream and smoothies. You've tried so hard to get me to lose weight, alas, even an appliance as mighty as you failed, but you stuck by me. As my ability to afford better ingredients, and cookbooks grew, you joined me on quests to make more dishes, each more beautiful than the next. You plowed along with me as I tackled the dreaded gravy, and you showed me how to rock it! As I became a mother, you tenderly mashed up the veggies and fruit I'd cook, right in the pot, so I had limited clean up. You did not put one scratch on my Lagostina's and I loved you for it, I still do.

You died a valiant death taking on some frozen berries and juice. I shouldn't have taxed you, being 20+ years old, you deserved to take it easy, but I know you'd never have it that way. I don't know if I'll ever find another appliance that I will love as much as you (well, other than my KitchenAid stand mixer, but you always knew you could never compete with it, and STILL, you stood by me) You will always be fondly remembered as the destroyer of flour lumps in so many beautiful sauces and gravies. Maker of baby food extraordinaire. Slim Fast buddy, and master of disguising veggies in sauces so a certain 4 year old can grow up big and health, despite his wishes to avoid veggies at all costs.

I will have to move on, gravies, sauces, veggies undercover and smoothies await, but you will always be my first, my true and my only immersion blender. Rest in peace dear friend, and know that I will never sucuumb to the temptation of one of those big clunky crappy blenders, you started it, and I'll never disrespect your memory

Love, MamaJoy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Babies and Mommies and Airports

Well, it's starting to make a buzz on twitter and on a few parenting forums I visit, but for those not in the loop, a mother has recently come under fire for telling an inaccurate story of what has happened to her at an airport. She is a fairly popular blogger and posted about how TSA airport staff removed her baby from her sight to assess the security risk of a soother clip she had left fastened on him and set off the metal detectors. Her blog post was filled with heart wrenching emotion and scared the heck out of any mother. It was quickly circulated and made the round on most mom networks I am a part of and I received the information via one of my many BFFs on twitter. I did my part, I got very upset reading her account, twittered about it, posted on a few forums, told all my mom friends and anyone who'd listen. I nattered on about it at a dinner party last night.

A day or two later, TSA released CC film of what happened. The video and her story did not meet. Crap!

The mom has been facing some particularly nasty backlash. Especially after posting her explanation, which to me was kinda weird. Some of it is not right, though I can understand the anger, name calling, and nastiness is just uncalled for.

I started wondering why this affected me so much. Normally I don't believe everything that I read or take everything at face value. I'm not cynical to the point where I won't help someone, I'm often giving out spare change, carrying bags for others, what have you. I do like to know what I'm getting into though if I had my choice.

This also coincided this week with that family in Colorado, who claimed that their boy was up in a balloon unsupervised, only to find out it was a big hoax. But everyone bought it hook line and sinker, only to be outraged that their emotions were taken for a joy ride.

The only similarity I can draw between the two stories is that these are parents. Parents who have sounded the alarm that their kids were in trouble or mistreated or distressed in any way. Many of us being parents or just having some instinctual program wired into us to be concerned for little ones, didn't ask questions, we didn't stop to think that these might be stories. Because who would ever lie about their child being in danger or mistreated? Isn't there enough bad things in the world happening to children that we don't need to fabricate more? Heck, I'd be terrified even to feign a cold in my little guys to miss a playdate or too early swimming lessons, because then they might pick up the fly (yes, that is my insane logic). So of course assuming everyone thinks the same way I do and doesn't want to use their child as a point of a great big fabrication, I just figure they're telling the truth.

Well this time, I ended up with egg on my face. I felt wronged, angry, annoyed, I felt like closing off and never ever believing any story ever again. Hmph! But in the end, I can't do that. I actually refuse to do that. I know that sometimes when I give money to a person on the street, they're going to make a poor choice with it, but I also know someone who might go and buy a coffee or a slice of pizza. I cannot risk shutting those people out for others who make bad choices. I cannot shut other people with their legitimate needs and requests for help and support because of the actions of some goofs who told some stories for whatever reason. I will not allow them that power over me. Because as much as I don't like being taken for a ride, I can accept it's a risk I take for making a quick judgment to help others when I don't have the time or resources to thoroughly investigate. I imagine to some I'm sounding like I'm just going to continue walking in willy nilly with my support, left right and centre, but it's not normally the case....really! I like helping people who legitimately need it. I like that all warm and gooey feeling inside, but I also like being connected to someone who feels vulnerable, just to let them know that someone else has been there and cares enough to give you a hand. Some times that is all that's needed.

The sad thing is though, not everyone will keep on trucking. Events like these shut people down, it jades them a little more til they get to the point where they simply don't care enough to take that risk, and in doing so, a lot of calls for help and support go unheeded. This, if anything, makes me angry about this situation. I hope the family in Colorado and the mom who said TSA took her child think about that, I hope they realize that they've taken some serious positive energy away for our collective pool (which is growing smaller each day it seems) and they give something back. I don't personally feel like I'm owed, but I do feel strongly that they need to pay for their actions, recouping costs and giving something back to the community that they've harmed. I know it will be hard for them to think outward when they are busy on the defense because everyone is probing into their lives, but I think in moving forward, it's very important that they do.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oh turkey day, oh turkey day

Well, today is Thanksgiving, we actually had our family dinner together yesterday and will spend the next week consuming the leftovers. I always err on the side of caution, as a result, I end up making too much food. I'm sure a lot of it will be going in the freezer tonight, once I thaw out.

Today I took DS1 to the farm, the FREEZING COLD FARM with two mom friends I've had for nearly 4 years. One friend I met at a coffee shop after putting out an ad online, desperate for company while on mat leave. She was larger than life, still is! She had a little girl about a year older than the rest of us. She was the only one who couldn't sit still as her baby wasn't content to just cuddle in our arms, and she kept warning us "Just wait!" Several months later, she laughed, watching me stumble through the same stage...what are friends for?

My other friend, the cold hating friend (who ironically suggested this freezing cold outing and cheered us out of our warm houses) I can still remember meeting her at a playdate, bringing in her baby in the carrier, we didn't hit it off, I don't even think in the chaos, we managed more than a few words. It wasn't until later in the year that we started meeting regularly for coffee with larger than life friend, and that we started getting close. However by then, it was getting close to the end of her mat leave, and I wondered if she too would drift out of my life as many mom friends do after that first year. Top that off with Larger than life friend moving 50kms away, I was worrying.

Well larger than life friend started getting scarce as she was by then pregnant with her DD2 and went on self imposed seclusion as she had a habit of biting people's heads off, almost literally too! But despite mat leave, cold hating friend and I continued to build our friendship. Spurned on by our two little guys who adored each other.

Well, three years later, we were at the farm, shivering and chasing our broods around, trying to prevent them from breaking some limb on the play equipment and snapping obligatory photos here and there...when our fingers weren't threatening to snap off as they froze. Somehow, we managed to get in some jokes, share some stories, compared notes and herding the group of kids, aunties and mommies having the same sort of authority over the kids, who over the years have gotten used to aunties telling them what to do just as much as mommies, in addition to kissing boo boos, cheering them on and giving hugs where needed.

I tried hard this weekend to try and single out something to be thankful for, but amid the chaos, it's been hard. However somehow out in the freezing farm amusement park, I felt thankful for the friends I made. I just mentioned two of them, who have been constant fixtures in my mom career for the past 4 years, but I've been lucky in this span of time to make many more. Friends who I cook with, friends who I craft with, friends who I torture husbands with, or friends to share movies, hockey, TV shows, or a non mom friend who my kids adore as much as any member of their family.

Some friends have only made brief appearances in my life, and some haven't worked out, but I don't open up very easily, so all of my friends have made an impact on my life, for better or worse. I don't have a large family, in fact, much of my childhood was dysfunctional and I craved the stability of people I could always count on. You can't very well conjure up a brother or sister for yourself, but you can count yourself blessed by finding good friends and my kids will always have aunties and uncles to call on, and for that I am thankful.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Is there anything more exhausting than parenthood?

I'm sitting here, sore, somewhat hungry, still soggy and absolutely exhausted. It's Saturday just after noon and I feel like I've been going for a lifetime. I'm remembering the days when I might just be returning from brunch, ready to sleep the morning indulgence away, or even better, just waking up. Today I was up at around 7, got my two boys up, running and dressed, dragged my poor sick husband out of bed, and was out the door by 8:15 to take my oldest to his first swim lesson sans parents in the water.

It's cold, it's wet outside, fortunately no one is on the road yet, they're all still in bed, or having brunch, reading the paper with a coffee, or something far more civilized than running to a pool looking like you just fell out of the laundry hamper. It's just us parents on the road, shuttling our kids to swimming, hockey, indoor soccer, or some other type of lesson meant to enrich out little one's life. Why, do they insist on putting these things at such an ungodly hour? Who really wants a bunch of sleep deprived parents on the road on one of the few mornings where they might actually be able to sleep in til, you know...8am! It's a public safety issue people! I guess since it's just us out on the road, they don't really care, but one day you'll need to drag your sorry butts out of bed at this hour, and WHAMMO! My soccer mom Cute UV (think small SUV) will be up your Smart Car's tailpipe. Anyhow, enough bitterness on this point.

I schlep my kid into the pool changing room, he's turning 4. I reflect on the mad race I had to run to try and get a spot, when the city, who runs these programs in all it's wisdom sets the registration time at 7am in the morning (see a trend) where about 300,000 flood the call centre and website trying to get the coveted 9:15 swim spot. Late enough to sleep to 8am, early enough to get the lesson out of the way so you can continue on to playdates, birthday parties, playgrounds or more lessons, if you're particularly masochistic. I got the 8:45 class, egg on my face to all my friends who are laughing behind my back, even though one took pity on my panicked FB updates and tweets about how I'm not getting through. I'm still bitter about the time, I NEED that half hour! It's steamy and hot in there, way too hot for the hoodie I threw on in an attempt to hide the fact that I'm wearing a tank that has yogurt on it. My yoga pants are too long and are dragging on the wet floor. My son is thrilled, but trying to negotiate by any means to avoid the shower. I somehow get him wet, I also get my arm soaked and half my leg too.

We're finally out to the pool area, where it's just parents, kids and lifeguards. We go take our seats waiting for our class and I try to keep a 4 year old from exploding from excitement. We do take him swimming, we have a pool in fact, but it's been a solid month that he's been out of the water and he's losing his mind. By now, the water has seeped up from my dragging pant legs from my ankles to my knees, who needs to be dry right?

Finally it's time to escort my little deranged monkey...uh son towards the kiddie pool. His instructor couldn't be a day over 18, but it doesn't matter, he's thrilled. After 5 minutes, I watch as this poor lifeguard not only attempts from keeping 4 kids from drowning, but actually teaching something. It's like the water has ecstasy in it, the kids are literally bouncing off each other. Somehow, she manages not only to keep them all quite alive and well, but getting them to do their floating, jumping in, kicking and even getting them to put their faces in the water. Their WHOLE faces, something I couldn't accomplish in a summer's worth of bribing and pleading. Obviously there is something in the water to make the kids hyper, but very pliable. I must get some of that.

Thinking back, I think to myself, really, I could teach him all this, at my time and leisure, is it really worth dragging us both out for 1/2 hour of lessons? Shouldn't we be inside and warm, having pancakes, singing silly songs with daddy and his little brother? Can I keep my lower legs dry? But I found that I couldn't stop watching my little guy. The calls "Mommy! Can you see me?" "Mommy, watch this!" "Don't you think this is cool?"And seeing a smile that brings back those wonderful memories of smiles when he was 6 months old, of pure glee, not contaminated with anything like toys, food, his friends or wondering if he could doing something even BETTER. No, he was so proud of himself for getting into the pool without mom, but making sure she was close enough that he could demonstrate every new victory. I got to see him graduate into a new part of his life, where I don't always need to be holding his hand, and it's funny how his face reminds me of when he was very young. He's growing up at the speed of light, but I guess I finally had that moment where I truly felt that he will always be my baby.