Gallery: Outside My Front Door

Well my planned gallery post dissapeared. So here's my last minute entry!

This time of year, outside my front door is muck (our city uses dirty gravel on the roads), melting snow drifts, and peeks of summer and fall detritus still half-bried under winter's embrace.

I won't show a picture of that as it's just depressing.

Well, okay, here's one from this time last year:

See the dirt, the snow, the children playing none-the-less.

But come summer it'll look more like this:

Somehow my driveway becomes a magnet for all the neighbourhood kids.

I think it may be because we're one of the few houses with a paved driveway and young children.

We live in a neighbourhood that includes a lot of subsidised housing. Families come and go a fair amount. On any day I might meet 2 or 3 new children to the neighbourhood only to have them dissapear and new ones show up the next day.

But we've a nice paved driveway and a nice big and open front yard which is perfect for all the children to gather and it means I can keep an eye on my scallywags. Growing up our house was the same as we had a huge backyard and an involved father who would build obstacles courses and clubhouses and set up archery targets and the like.

The best part of having such a big front lawn (our back is a muddy messhole) is that I can have the kid's parties outdoors!
Making fairy potions on the driveway, Teaghan's third birthday.

What's it like outside your front door?

This post is my contribution to the community of posts for the Gallery at Sticky Fingers.

This week's prompt was Outside My Front Door.

Go check out the other posts - there's a whole world out there!


Fair Trade Worries

photo courtesy of Ten Thousand VillagesFor much of my teen and young adult years I volunteered in an amazing store called first Self-Help Crafts and then Ten Thousand Villages. Before "fair trade" was the catch phrase of the day, the Mennonite Central Committee was running these stores all across Canada and each was an oasis of international culture, social justice and well . . . fair trade.

The first time I went into the store, with my brother to visit his girlfriend who volunteered there, I came across these Guatemalan Worry Dolls. I'm sure at 15 I was full of very important worries, and I found the concept comforting. Basically you whisper your worries into the dolls ear and then place it under your pillow to allow you to experience a decent sleep, worry-free. The doll takes your worries and holds them or does your worrying for you. Of course I purchased some, not sure what's happened to them since.

I've got a million thoughts racing through my mind and no idea of when I'll sleep tonight. Tried losing myself in a book, music, wine. None of it worked. So I'm going to try the worry doll method.

Poor you. Now this blog is my worry doll.
  1. We're broke. We're beyond broke actually. We're putting groceries on the credit card and the electric bill and phone bill are both overdue. I had hoped my column would be syndicated by now and I'd be contributing at least a little more to household expenses. But that hasn't happened. It's hard times to break into the newsprint world. We received a notice about swim lessons today, not too bad, $40 for 8 weeks. But we can't even afford that. Two kids would mean $80 that we don't have. I cried because we've already not enrolled them in music classes, skating and ski lessons because we can't afford it.
  2. Despite the fact that we're broke, I just don't see how I can go to full-time work outside the home. First of all, it'd be hard enough finding a job that pays well enough to allow us to afford childcare. We'd be looking at almost $400 a week. Minimum wage, which is what most places pay around here is $400/week and that's before deductions. Second of all, we have one vehicle. My husband finds it hard enough getting our eldest to school and himself to work on time. Add to that at least one, maybe two more drop-offs for children plus me getting to work - I'm just not sure how that would work. Finally, I'd lose the job in the first month for all the medical appointments. This past week alone I've been to 5. And they aren't just half hour appointments. Anytime Emerson sees a specialist or doctor it's usually a good hour and a half, calculate in wait times and it's much longer.
  3. Speaking of Emerson. I know it does no good but I worry about him. I get angry about the response of the medical professionals to my concerns. I don't know why he doesn't raise his right arm much or flops to one side when he sits. The physiotherapist sees it too but doesn't seem to care why. I don't know if he'll be behind in his speech - all signs point to yes. I don't know if he'll need intensive speech therapy or if, like his older brother and some cousins, he'll eventually just talk fine on his own.
  4. Speaking of his older brother. He's had diarrhea for 5 years now. That's excessive, isn't it? Okay, not constantly, but off and on. I've cut down juice. I've cut down sugar. I've got out additives, artificial sweeteners, food colouring, fatty foods, spices. I think it might be gluten intolerance. If it is gluten intolerance what will we eat? Where will I find the time to make even more of our food from scratch.
  5. And that's not it. He's tired a lot. He drinks and pees a lot. Does he have diabetes? He's been tested 3 times already. But is it time to ask for more thorough testing?
  6. Also, still the behavioural problems from him. Still the anger and the inability to listen and/or control impulses. Such a sweet, sweet boy torn by his emotions - it's painful to watch and hard to live with and I know there are things we aren't doing right by him.
  7. And then there's Teaghan. She's a princess. A real princess. With real princessy behaviour. The intensity of her emotions are scary. She's incredibly volatile. Hubby and I have always joked that she's bipolar; we're beginning to think it's not a joke. She's also incredibly clingy and needy and doesn't let me get the housework or much else done. Even my blogging and writing is done with her hanging off my arm or prattling away next to me demanding at least half my attention. I try to give her full on attention while the baby is napping but that's also my time to prepare lunch, clean the kitchen and get the laundry folded. I don't know how to do it all in 1 and 1/2 hours.
  8. There are things I'm not at liberty to share. Other people's issues that impact my life. Nuff said?
Yeah, well that's shite. Didn't work at all. Now I'm even more worked up. The worry dolls worked better than you lot.

Do you think you could slip on a colorful woven scarve, shrink yourself to mini-size and jump in under my pillow? I might feel better then.

What are your worries. Take mine, I'll take yours; it'll be our new version of "fair trade."


The Funniest Thing I Heard Today

See I thought I'd done I good job educating my children on their various body parts and the difference between boys and girls. Obviously there's a little more work needed:

Scene: A red van filled with Mommy, Hubby, son, daughter and baby.

Son: Mommy did you know Erica jumped out her window?

Daughter: And peed on it too!

Mommy: What? You must mean Cocoa peed on it. (for reader information, Cocoa is a dog)

Daughter: Cocoa doesn't have a penis, she can't pee.

Mommy: Well you don't have a penis and you manage to pee just fine.

Hubby: (under breath) Too well sometimes.

Daughter: Yes I do! I have a little half-penis!

Mommy: No honey . . .

Hubby: What!

Mommy: (aside to hubby) She thinks her clitoris is a penis . . .

Daughter: (adamantly) I have a penis and a bagina (sic)! You can't see my penis cause it's hiding in my bagina.

Mommy and Hubby: Laugh loudly

Daughter: Hey! Why are you laughing at my penis!?!

What do your kids call their "privates?"

And yes, I did write this post just to see how many new hits I'll get by including the search terms penis, vagina, and clitoris.


Quarter Inch Dowel

Typical night-time discussion at our house goes something like this:

Setting: Kitchen

Hubby and Mom clearing dishes and listening to some foolishness like Cross Country Checkup on CBC. I'll be ranting about Rex Murphy being a controversy-stirring lump of uselessness while hubby attempts to play devils advocate.

Children offstage left. Quibbling. Bickering. Altogether fighting.

Enter Harrison, with hand to head, a limp and a pronounced whine:
"Mom. Teaghan hit me in the head."

Teaghan (still offstage, voice heard loud and clear though): "I said sorrry!"

Mom: "Yes, well, there you go. Steal her kiwi, she hits you on the head. Take your lumps."

Harrison: "I didn't steal her kiwi."

Teaghan (still offstage): "Yes you did!"

Harrison: "Mom . . . ."

Mom: "I don't care! If Teaghan hit you on the head, I don't care. If you bounce a piano off her skull, I don't care! If she drops a 2X4 down your pants, I don't care!"

Mom then breaks into "I don't care" dance, shuffling feet, kicking legs singing "I don't care. I don't care. You can kill each other, I don't care."

Everyone gathers to laugh at mom. Quibbling forgotten for a moment.

Husband shaking head.

Husband brightens.

Husband: "I've got a 2X4 in my pants!"

Mom: "Yeah, right. More like a 1X1 or - not even - a piece of stripping maybe."

Husband (dejected): "Don't you mean quarter-inch dowel"

Mom: "Yup, quarter inch dowel, about this long a piece." (holds fingers about 2 centimetres apart)

Husband: (head hanging in shame) "Okay."

Kids laughing - though they've no idea what we're talking about. Mom laughing uproariously. Husband trying not to laugh.

What kind of conversations do you have?


Best Dollar Store Find EV-AR

Back a couple weeks ago when we were talking about homeschooling, Harrison made it very clear that he expected we have a "treasure box" at home school just like at his school school. Now I usually do keep a few special treats tucked away for when the kids have been extra good - like slept in their own beds all night or done something really nice. But I decided to stock up as my supply was running low.
Overall we've been avoiding the dollar store for anything but craft supplies. I find their craft supplies are the same ones that are sold in the craft store next door for  about 4 times the amount. But their toys and books are cheaply made, quite likely dangerous, and most certianly involve child or slave labour.
But, I couldn't pass up this:

It's a 3-D Foam Puzzle Playset of the Three Little Pigs. It came in a flat package and there was no way the kids could have put it together, but Harrison did help punching the pieces out.
It took me most of the morning to get it together but it was completely worth it!
The kids and I played with it most of the afternoon. As soon as Emers woke from his nap he got in on it too - he loved taking off the roofs and putting the pigs and wolf inside.
We played different versions of the story; different endings; different plots.
We didn't play their bathtub version, though:

And seeing as how this is the kids favourite folk tale (well that and Little Red Riding Hood - they have something for wolves I guess) it was well worth the $2 I spent (and, yes, the hours of construction).

Four hours later and Harrison is still enthralled:

I just hope if it was made by child labour they at least had some fun looking at the cute pigs!

Okay, that's just wrong. I really, really hope there was no child or slave labour involved in producing this item.
Do you shop at the dollar store? What's been your best find?


Male Answer Syndrome Defence makes me M.A.D.

In a recent column, Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail blathered on about all bloggers being men because the compulsion to blog is primarily male as they get off on the thrill of immediate communication.

She was, of course, quickly attacked in the online comments by any number of female bloggers and their readers. So The Globe and Mail, ever one to flog a dead horse to drive up page views decided to host a debate between some of Canada's pre-eminent female bloggers and Margaret Wente.

If they had asked me, I wouldn't have taken part. It's obvious Wente knows nothing about the blogging world and being asked as a female on a panel of all females to defend my role as a blogger just feeds into more gendered mythologies about the "difference" between males and females. Not that I don't agree there are differences. Indeed there are. But these all-encompassing descriptions such as Wente's "Guys seek thrills and speed . . .They want lots of action and instant gratification. That's also why guys like blogging - instant opinions and lots of them." are more apt to be spouted when you have a discussion going on that has already, in the panel itself, lent itself to categorizing.

In fact, the two female bloggers they chose to take on Wente were . . .you guessed it: "Mommy" Bloggers.

And so statements like the following were made:
I think that men and women to some extent use blogging for different purposes. The Mommyblogs are an obvious example -- they create an all-female world of mutual interests. I've noticed that Mommybloggers are extremely sensitive about not being taken seriously (for example, by The New York Times).  Margaret Wente in Response to a statement by PhDinParenting. Female Bloggers Take On Margaret Wente
Now, there's a reason I called my column and this blog Readily A Parent. And it's not just for the cutesy double meaning. When coming up with a name for my column I purposfully avoided any "Mom" reference because I wanted it clear that it was about parenting, not being a mom. There is a difference.

And do you know I'd say my readers are half and half. I get plenty of comments from men who have read my columns. Maybe the blog is a little more female centered as I've discovered a community of women to engage with. But I still have male subscribers. So is this "an all-female world of mutual interests?" Or is it just a place for parents to gather?

I'm not sensitive about being taken seriously. In fact, the only thing I worry about is that I don't take myself seriously enough and sometimes dumb-down what I say in order to not ruffle feathers or come off as a snobbish, smarmy, smarty-pants.

In my column, as I'm paid for it, I do have to consider my readership and audience and try to appeal to a vast range of education levels and interests. But my blog allows me to just be myself and say what I want. I'm just beginning to understand that.

Which brings me to my major argument with Wente. First she stereotypes men, then she dismisses female bloggers entirely and then she decides to back up her statements with a personal observation that she felt that as a woman her opinions were opressed either because of cultural norms or a gender-based difference in desire to express them. Apparently expressing opinions is like have a pissing contest; women don't:
I managed to complete five years of university without raising my hand, and the idea of a dinner party used to make me faint. Several of my female friends tell similar stories. No matter how brilliant they were, they lacked the confidence to express themselves in public.   Margaret Wente, Why Are Bloggers Male
In the debate she goes on to ridiculously clarify her statements. She decides to backtrack and explain that she only meant current-event blogs. And then she brings up this:
There really is a thing called Male Answer Synndrome , which means that men are pretty quick to shoot their mouths off in a very competitive way. Margaret Wente in Response to a statement by BernieBernie. Female Bloggers Take On Margaret Wente
I'm sorry. What. There really is this syndrome? Or is it just a silly phrase that was coined back in the early nineties by another columnist looking for a little attention by spewing sexist views at her readers?

I did a search. I admit it wasn't overly extensive but it was done properly. See, I do love to do my research. I found one psychological journal entry for the term Male Answer Syndrome in the Journal of Educational Psychology. Apparently a study of 70 men and 181 women in three university psychology courses found that the men were overconfident of their answer when incorrect. Not just men, though. Men and women both. But especially men.

I have a few problems with this study, the non-equal samples being one. But let's say it's true. Let's just say that men are sometimes more prone to think they're right even when they're not.

Are you in this mind-frame now? Okay. So even if that's the case it doesn't back up what Wente says about men talking without thinking and women being more reserved with their opinions. It just means men are more confident in their answers.

And then all these grown adults go on to discuss univeristy and how men spoke up in class more than women. This apparently proves that mean are quicker with their opinions and act in a way that opresses female voices. I graduated university 10 years ago. It doesn't define my world any longer. But I can offer a response to that. I too have noticed that men sometimes tend to answer questions or offer opinions without thinking things through as thoroughly as women, sometimes. Only sometimes. And I believe it's because men like to engage in discussion and the back and forth of argument a bit more than women. Women seem to, on the whole, like to win "discussions" and so will hold back and make sure they have a zinger.

So Wente's whole characterization of the competiveness of blogging being a male domain is weakly argued for me. And her idea that blogs are competitive doesn't hold any water either. I read tonnes of blogs: crafting blogs, food blogs, book blogs, author blogs, parenting blogs, news blogs, current events commentary blogs. I don't find them competitively thrashing it out for most page views. I know this does happen and I know that for those trying to make a living blogging things such as page views are very important. But when Wente characterises men as those who send out an opinion and then lurk the follow up comments looking for responses has nothing to do with being a man, it has to everything to do with being a human being raised in an age of narcissism brought into our homes through the domain of the internet.

To Wente (who will probably never read this) I say: presenting Male Answer Syndrome as some kind of real pscyhologically documented syndrome was wrong; marginalising women through your discourse was wrong; stereotyping men and blogs was wrong. And I personally find it hilarious that you stereotype men as being quick to comment and express their opinions in a commentary style column that was obviously written based solely upon your opinions with a sad lack of research. So the natural conclusion is that you were wrong. Admit it and move on. Or are you going to get all man-like on it and try to defend an indefensible position?


Umbilical Ambition

It's funny, you know. When my children were conceived and I carried them through my pregnancy I had 10 million dreams for them: what they would look like, what they would be like, what gestures they would have, what they would be when they grew up. Soon after they were born, though, the dreams disapated and I was left with just awe at who they are now and curiosity about who they will become. Sure, I still have dreams, but they are not the forces of power they were during the pregnancies.

I have always wanted to be a doctor. The plan had been I would pay off my student loans, have my family and then go to medical school once the children are school age. Perhaps that's not the most practical plan nowadays. I am slowly and reluctantly relinquishing that dream. But with that reliquishment comes a certain amount of hope and intrigue.

What will I be? What will I do? Can I make a livlihood and be happy writing? Will I accomplish another dream in the health field (a picture is emerging in my mind of a whole health practice, offering psychological counselling, fitness training, dietetic consulting, and workplace therapy)? Will I do something else entirely, maybe finish that application to law school finally and settle for that dream?

Of course, the moment my eldest mentioned he'd like to be a doctor I was all over that dream! And then my second-born followed suit. I was in heaven. I mean if I can't that doesn't mean they can't right?

But I don't think they really want to. Their dreams change weekly - day to day sometimes. So far my eldest has wanted to be a pilot, an astronaut, a doctor, a rockstar, a transformer, a firefighter, a policeman and a Mommy.

Now some of those are completely impossible: Mommy and Transformer. Several are highly unlikely: rockstar and, unfortunately due to his strabismus and vision I'm pretty sure pilot and astronaut are out.

When I was pregnant with him and in those early months when we saw his aptitude with manipulative skills and puzzles we thought perhaps he might go into engineering of some sort, or maybe architecture. But now we don't know if he has the attention span for such pursuits. Of course, he is only five years old. And his interests will change a million times before he graduates high school even.

And many have suggested he may be writer. He does, after all, have a vivid imagination and a true gift for "storeytelling" (or,as some say, lying).

Where will he go? What will he do?

There's a very practical side of me that wants to know now exactly where his main interests lie. I want to be able to prepare him for his future: enroll him extracurriculars or enage him in learning that leans towards his future career pursuits. The world is becoming so competitive these days, even amongst the younger set. I worry sometimes that we haven't pushed computer skills on him or drawn a star chart on his ceiling.

And then the even more practical side of me says to myself "Yes, and what interviewer ever asked you at what age you learned to use the computer? When has your astronomy interest ever helped you in anything besides impressing a boy or now your children?"

The dreamer in me is the one that rules though. The dreamer that sees his future wide open: the questions, the hope, the intrigue - just like for myself. I've always been reluctant to chose a single career path because that means closing off several other paths. I guess I am a road-not-taken thinker in some ways. I love that right now my children have a million roads to chose from and switchbacks, shortcuts, and side alleys to adventure on.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor - I really don't care. As long as they're happy overall and have an adventuresome journey to their future, the careers they chose will only be waypoints anyway. I know that the futher they travel, the narrower their choices will become and I'm interested in seeing how they navigate the maps of their lives. Will they go straight and fast down a narrow route? Will they turn around, maybe get lost, and end up somewhere completely unexpected? Will they skip and turn and flutter about from waypoint to waypoint with no idea of a destination? The only thing I hope is that they never come to a standstill and that they learn not to take the forbidden and dangerous roads to self-destruction. Other than that, the way the take to get to their destination is as of much interest to me as the destination itself and I'm waiting and watching to see what happens.

This post was written in response to prompt #3 What do you secretly dream of your children doing? in response to Josies Writing Workshop prompts at Sleep is for the Weak.


The Gallery - I on Me

Another Sticky Fingers Gallery posting. I find Tara's themes intriguing and who doesn't love digging through photos.

The theme for this week was "Me." I didn't really want to post a photo of me, though I considered it. Two reasons: I have very few photos of me as I'm generally the photo taker; the photos I like best are not digital ones and I didn't want to go scanning anything.

So I thought the best way to introduce you to "me" is to show you the world through my eyes. These are some photos I've selected that are shots I spent a lot of time on, trying to set up the picture just right. Some are candids of my kids, some are nature photos, all are what I've found beautiful or intriguing and preservation-worthy.

And I've arranged them into the letter I. Cause I love double entendre: the I of my eye and all that. If you click on it you can see all the photos up close.


I Bet You Hate Me Right Now

So, here's the deal: I've been planning this column on parents judging other parents. I've done some research; talked to parents; read some blogs; you know, did my background and all. I could write it completely from my perspective, but because I think parenting is a collective experience I really try to get input from other parents on my column ideas (and hey, if you want to provide some input than head on over to my facebook page).

The plan was to write this "we're all in it together, let's just be nice to each other" column. But then I do my background and damn us parents are a judgmental bunch. Really. We are pathetically, ridiculously insecure to the point of being dismissive of anything that challenges our views, opinions, or ideas.

Is it the media's fault for trying to report on wars that don't exist like that between working moms and stay-at-home moms? Is it the parenting experts' fault for presenting their ideas as true fact and dismissing all others so that we're forced to join camps?

Or is it maybe our fault? Are we so worried that we're doing things wrong that we feel we have to proclaim to the world that WE ARE RIGHT and everyone else is wrong?

Who knows. It's probably everything tied up together into a neat little bundle of judgement making.

But I figure, you know, someone out there is going to judge me on everything I say or do. I've seen it already in responses to my columns and amongst other bloggers in the hate mail they've received. I`ve heard it at playgroups, church, the school yard - anywhere parents gather.

So if you`re going to judge, get your facts straight:
  1. I am currently still nursing my 19 month old. It doesn't turn me on. He bites.
  2. I force-weaned my daughter (2nd child) when she was 21 months. She'd probably still be nursing now if I hadn't. I was pregnant with number 3 and everytime I nursed I had to throw up.
  3. My first child didn't talk until he was three. My second child was almost two before she walked. My third child has been behind in everything.
  4. Sometimes I put my children to bed without a bedtime story. Sometimes it's because I let them watch a movie and stay up late. Sometimes it's because I'm too damned tired to read a story. Sometimes it's because if they don`t go to bed and leave me alone I will probably beat them.
  5. I think about beating my children. I joke about beating my children. I have actually caught myself making a fist at my side while "talking" to my children. However, I do not beat my children.
  6. I have, however spanked them, rarely and when the occasion called for it. I have also threatened to spank them. I'm not happy about it, but I have. It has worked, but is not a tool I want in my parenting arsenal.
  7. I let them cry-it-out - or I tried. It's not for us, though.
  8. I let them sleep in my bed.
  9. My 5 yo wets his bed.
  10. My 18 month old is not now and will not soon be potty-trained.
  11. I let them feed themselves from about age 8 months. Messy? Yes. But way less boring for me than standing over them with a spoon.
  12. I sometimes let them climb up the slide at the playground.
  13. I have occasionally let them throw rocks on the slide and watch them tumble down even though I know it makes the slide dirty and your child will get dirty pants from sliding after they've done it.
  14. I don't let them watch violent tv shows or movies.
  15. My son's call their penis a penis - not a bird, a dick, a wiener, or anything else equally cute.
  16. My daughter calls her vulva a vagina. It seems to be the more accepted term and is almost anatomically correct. She does not call it her front-bottom or her bum or her tushie. If you call it that she would loudly -and with attitude - correct you.
  17. Sometimes I let them go out with no underwear on. Pure laziness.
  18. Sometimes I let them go out with no socks on. See above.
  19. I don't make beds. I don't make my kids make their beds.
  20. I have not enrolled them in music, dance or sports lessons and we don't engage in as many family activites as we should - anyone who judges me on this one must have at least three children and only one income.
  21. I found tummy-time boring.
  22. I find dinkies, barbies (yes, my daughter has barbies), and the majority of their games boring - but I do it because they love it.
  23. I took them on long, cold, windy hikes when they were babies and they only wore two layers of clothing and no hat.
  24. I have been known to buy their Christmas presents at the thrift store.
  25. I don't always remember sunscreen.
  26. I never have bandages in the house
  27. Oh yeah, I blog. I blog about parenting and whatever else striked my fancy and sometimes I ignore the kids and/or housework to do so. I also write about my kids in my parenting column.
So I think that's enough. Pick one to judge me on and tell me how wrong I am okay?

In the meanwhile, here's why I may judge you:
  • If you never even attempted nursing because you thought it was gross or would ruin your boobs than I think you're an idiot. If you tried it and it didn't work out for you than kudos for trying.
  • If your child under the age of ten regularly watches violent TV and movies - or plays violent and sexualised video games than you're a clueless nit whose child's bad behaviour as a result of those influences will affect my child.
  • If you think it's cute to dress your three year old daughter in gold lame mini-skirts and belly tops and have her wiggle her bottom and gyrate to Beyonce than you should have your children taken from you before they are molested as a result of your actions.
  • If you believe any advice you are given or ideas you overhear without actually looking into them and thinking about them wrt your family and your children than you're not putting enough thought into parenting and will probably end up blaming "the system" for your failures.
I think that's it.

So, do review and let me know if we can still be friends, okay? Cause I really hate talking about people behind their backs.

Please do direct all hate mail to my gmail account: idon'tf_*kingcare@gmail.com


I Can't Believe I Wasn't Committed

This post has been spurred by a discovery of one of my old writing journals (in a box in the basement where it belongs) from my teen years.

Now I'm sure that any grown woman (or man) now blogging probably wrote as a teen too. So I'm creating a new meme - the crappy teen angst poetry meme.

I actually have had this line "I think I am dead and my sentiments too" going through my head at odd moments throughout my adult life. Could never place where it came from, though I searched through my old Pearl Jam album covers for the lyric.

Anyway, I have now discovered it's source. T'was me of course! So in a continuance of reliving my teen years as in yesterday's post, I give you crappy teen angst poem "I am Dead." All I can say is that if I found my teens writing this bullpoop I'd book them both a writing lesson and a shrink appointment.

I Am Dead

"Penny for your thoughts,"
he said.
I think that I am dead
And my sentiments too.

"My life rots,"
he said
Mine too.
Like death.

Baby's last breath
Infant's last cry,
Now I go to sleep,
Pray that I may die.

My soul you keep
twisting like a tree.
You are my wind.
Never set me free.
Nothing like mixed metaphors, eh.

So, I've shown you mine, you show me yours. I'm going to tag
Entropy Girl
Notes From Lapland
Sleep is For the Weak
Me, The Man & The Baby
Very Bored in Catalunya

Please don't take offence. I've picked you because I'm sure you've all got some teen angst poetry lurking in a box in the basement too - I'm not neccesarily saying yours is crappy.


A Story of One Girl's Ever After.

photo courtesy of Rachel McAdams Tribute Photo Gallery, www.rachel-mcadams.net

This is a story about a girl. It's a story about the choice a girl made,  a choice made without thought and one that has haunted her. Her life has become the moment before that choice and the Ever After.

Really, this is a story about two girls, but I don't know the ending for one of them.

There was a girl, sitting at that desk right there, see? Her teacher had ordered them alphabetically.

Sometimes that was a relief; it meant no jockeying for position closest to the cool and popular nexus. For this girl was not in the nexus but just ouside it's periphery. Those within the nexus, she was sure, did not worry like her about where to sit or what to wear or even what to eat.

This girl was firmly on the periphery, she teetered on the age of coolness. She knew what held her back. She was fat and fat girls do not belong in the nexus. Oh yes, there were one or two, but they had confidence and charisma that she did not. It's okay, she was taking care of the fat.

Of course there were other things that held her outside. She was too nice. She knew that. But she wasn't willing to change it. She was too smart. Again, not willing to change it, though perhaps she could hide it a little. And she was too good. A downright goody two-shoes who could not do anything without her conscience torturing her.

She thought with all these weaknesses she could never be IN the nexus, but the corona would be good. The outer ring was better than just outside the outer ring. She'd be invited to the parties and maybe even meet some of the boys but she wouldn't have to worry as much about being toppled, would she?

She had set her sights and nothing was going to get in her way.

But this seating plan was not working for her. There, across the room, see them? There was the nexus. Nine or ten of them, similar in everything including alphabetical order of name. It began to burn an idea into her head. Perhaps it was pure coincidence: they were seated together in Kindergarten and remained that way since. But it couldn't be that easy. She had the formula; she knew the steps to her salvation.

The trick was to never stay outside too long. Flit into their group, interest them, pretend you're not interested. Hard to do from across the room though. And even harder to do surrounded as she was by the alphabetical losers.

She cursed her name that day. For there she was admidst the overweight, four-eyed, asthmatics with urinary incontinence or ADD or some other equally socially death-giving affliction.

And there was that Other girl. A red-head. Overweight, big glasses, pasty looking, completely the wrong clothes. And what was that? She was smiling! Smiling at The girl. Smiling at her in that pathetic way she imagined someone stuck in quicksand might smile as they reached their hand toward you.

It was the most pathetic save-me smile The girl had ever seen. But the pure audacity and puppy-love charm of it made her smile back. That and she was nice and couldn't not smile at someone who was smiling at her.

This of course, is the moment of the death of her dreams. For one cannot make it even into the corona with a fly stuck to one's shoulder.

And that is how The girl begins to feel about the Other girl: a fly, a pest, a flittering annoyance that buzzed around her disrupting her day. They had nothing in common. Well, okay, they were both fat. But even The girl looked glamourously fat in comparison to the Other girl. The Other girl wasn't even very bright. She attended special education classes.

The girl began to be teased about the Other girl. "She has a crush on you," they would call from the nexus. "I didn't know you were a lesbo," someone would inappropriately say from the corona. Even her own very-good friends began to avoid her because of the nuisance of her companion.

The girl prided herself on being different. She was in rugby and drama. She was in choir and Model UN. she was WELL ROUNDED. She was SMART. She was GOING PLACES. But not with this millstone around her neck.

The girl dressed carefully but non-conformingly. She might wear something verging on ridiculous but edging on cool. She would be noticed and someone would say "cool outfit." Her week would be made. However, the next day the Other girl would show up in some horrid imitation of her outfit. "Don't I look cool," she would ask, her eyes big and innocent. And The girl could not be mean. She could not tell her what she really thought. She could not even tell the Other girl to go away.

Instead, she complained to her very-good friends who sometimes avoided her. They began to call the Other girl The Pest. They joked about bringing bug spray to school to ward her off. The girl was not quite comfortable with this joke, but it was funny and fitting.

And then there came the day. Of course there would be one of those days wouldn't there? The girl, who has sworn to never regret the choices she makes made the one choice she has always regretted that day.

The girl was excited about something. Who knows what young girls were excited about then. A part in a play? A party? A boy? A trip with one of her clubs? She was talking with her very-good friends at their lockers. The Other girl approached. She was wearing a truly disastrous outfit modeled on The girls clothes of yesterday. She had died her hair to match The girl. She had the same bookbag. She was bordering on stalking.

The girl resented the interruption. "Don't I look cool?" the Other girl asked. And that was the breaking point. Anyone who is anyone knows you don't ask if you look cool. The girl went into her zone. The special place she reserved for rugby tackles and on-stage anger. She went to her mean place and she pulled out her imaginary bottle of bug spray.

SPRITZ. SPRITZ. She pretended to spray the Other girl. "Do you hear that little fly?" she asked her friends.

Their eyes widened. They breathed in and never out. The girl felt her stomach drop. She was whisked from her mean place and straight into the reality of her real place. The place where she had just hurt someone. The place where she had become one of "them:" a mean girl.; an uncaring beast of a girl who destroyed another person's happiness.

The Other girl fled. There were tears. There were stares of recrimination. She couldn't quite cut her ties, but she never idolised The girl in the same way again.

And The girl realised that there are some things more important than the corona or even the nexus. There was the right here and now of being who you are.

The girl is older now. Much, much older. And one would hope she's wiser too. She has children of her own. She worries more that they will be bullies than that they will be bullied by others. She worries for a good reason. She knows that within herself, on that day, she pulled a bully from her mean place. She promptly tucked her back away but the power and the ease of it frightened her for life.

She doesn't know where the Other girl is now. She's heard things sometimes. The Other girl works at a daycare. She saw her once on Facebook. She looks happy. There doesn't seem to be a husband or children. She didn't "request" they be friends. It seems a little too late for that now. She wonders if she said sorry if the Other girl would even remember what she was talking about. She wonders if the Other girl's world shifted that day like hers did.

She doesn't want to say sorry. Not because she isn't. She truly, deeply, everlastingly is. But because she doesn't want to be forgiven. For The girl with no regrets has this one regret. She thinks perhaps one regret in life is healthy - a learning opportunity. She will hold it forever. It is fitting punishment for the pain she caused that day.

This post was written in response to one of the prompts at Sleep is for the Weak's Writing Workshop. I chose prompt number one. Tell me about someone from the past who you lost touch with and who you often think about.


The Colour of Spring

Here's another photo post prompted by The Gallery at Sticky Fingers. I do reccomend checking out everyone's posts. The interpretations of the prompts and the pure skill of some photographers is amazing!

If you're not a blogger, Tara will post an emailed photo on her blog for you. Isn't that nice?

This week's prompt is "Colour." Took me a long time looking through my photos to settle. I've lots of colourful pics and some really nice themes I could have pulled together. But, as the sun is shining today and I'm anticipating Spring I thought I'd pick one that reminds me of Spring. It's three actually, but they have one colour in common.

And I do mean common.
The common yellow of the Dandelion.

To me, the dandelion is the flower of Spring. Some say crocuses but crocuses are the first peepers from the winter-wet soil. To me, it's not truly spring until your lawn is covered in yellow.

What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than eating some rejuvenating dandelion greens or brewing up some dandelion cordial to mix with "fizzy juice" (my kid's term for club soda) and enjoy throughout the summer. Some call these flowers pests. Some destroy their lawns in attempt to kill the beautiful yellow freckles upon it. I say those people are crazy. Any mom who's been handed a "bouquet" picked from the lawn knows that dandelions are the most beautiful flower of all!


Remind Us How We Used to Be

I'm having a bad day. It started out pretty good. In fact at 10:00am I looked around amazed at everything I had done already today. No sign of last night's migraine; lots accomplished;children happy. Everything seemed great.

Then things started going downhill.

I won't go into details, but it's just been one of those days you wished you hadn't gotten out of bed. One of those days where you think longingly of the magic ponds and wishing wells in your childhood fairytales that could send you into a transformative world. One of those you wish it were a prince but turns out it's a frog days.

I'm having the kind of day where I look at my children, playing earnestly, and hope they never have one of these days. One of those days, like in the song, where I "let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be."

And of course this is one of those bad days that's going to lead into a bunch of bad days.

But it's all worth it. Because right here in my house I have the three most beautiful children in the world. Talented, smart, strong children who I know will grow up to be amazing people.

My eldest son is going to be such an amazing teenager. He's so responsible now at 5 that I know we won't have too many worries from him. He's impressively sensitive to the needs of others and will never turn his back on a friend. And yet, he's strong. Strong enough that though the occasion may arise when he is bullied, he will come through it wonderfully and learn so much more about empathy from it that his brilliance will be blinding.

My daughter, the princess, is a true princess. Sensitive like her brother, but strong in the most assertive way. She knows what she wants from the world and she's not afraid to take it. She'll never have to "make-do," because she knows how to make the world bend to her will. I swear she's the type that could kiss a frog and turn it into a prince. And then she'll order the prince to fetch her a treat and carry her home. She's so bright and verbal that I can see her ending up in some very expressive career: theatre, journalism, marketing. Takes after her mom in many ways, and yet seems so much stronger than I ever was.

My youngest son is just this little bundle of brilliance. We've always worried more about him but we've never really needed to. He's so quick to catch on to things these days that we wonder if we might have a mini-genius on our hands. To think how far we've come, worrying that he'd be intellectually delayed to now worrying that he won't be challenged enough. Yes, he's been cursed with a genetic disorder, but of all our children he's the one that I know can carry the curse with grace and strength. He's so easygoing and content. A lover of all the sweet things in life, he's able to see his way past anything nasty.

I know they will make mistakes; I know there will be failures; but I also know that the promise within them is stronger than anything the world will throw their way. They will be happy. They will be good, kind people whose hearts are strong. I know they'll fall in love with the most amazing people and produce their own children that will outshine even them. I won't let it happen any other way.


The Best Mommies are Mommy Bloggers!

I swear, it's amazing all the friends and support you can find among mommy bloggers. Unlike the playground, you don't need a battle plan to make friends in the blogosphere. I've met moms I have tonnes in common with but probably never would have guessed if we met on the street. I've also met moms I have absolutely nothing in common with except for the feeling that we're all in this together and by sharing and supporting each other we can get through it! Not that parenting is a battle. No, it's actually quite a fun and exciting adventure. But like any quest, the quest to raise decent children has its perils.

Blogging is kind of like parenting at times. You want to create a great blog, but there's no instruction booklet with your account. You wonder if you're doing it right. You wonder if you're good enough.
And out there, other moms are wondering the same thing. But the amazing thing is that they're sharing it. And not only are they sharing your doubts so that you don't feel alone, they're also sharing their experience and offering support.

The absolutely most supportive experienced bloggers I've found along my journey are Heather at Notes for Lapland and Karin at CafeBebe. These two women are astounding. Not only are they great bloggers. Not only are they supportive and offer comments on your blog when they've probably got tonnes to read. Not only do they create posts that teach you how to blog better. They also put in a lot of work to make sure we're all having fun! Heather hosts the Secret Post Club and, with Karin, just co-hosted her first absolutely amazing Just Vlog It challenge. Karin provides all kinds of advice and support for bloggers, is hosting the Mummy Tummy Begone challenge and created Just Vlog It with Heather.

So when I just went to congratulate Young Mummy at Young and Younger for her superb winning video entry (check it out - you'll love it), I thought Heather and Karin really need to be congratualted too! Twenty entries at 3 to 4 minutes each meant these two lovely ladies had the difficult task of watching about 1 1/2 hours of video and then choosing two from all the entries. And they didn't need to do this. They created and carried off this contest all by themselves and guess what! They're doing it again. We'll have to wait for the first month of April to see the new challenge, but I'm willing to bet it'll be amazing. With people like that behind it, how could it not be?

Ladies - kudos, cheers, congratulations and thanks. If I had more time I'd creat a badge, but I don't so accept my gratitude instead.

Mabel's Labels BlogHer '10 Contest - Passions and Poetry

The Internet is about to die. Blasted by electrical storms, it will be wiped out. Perhaps it will never come back.

At least that’s the premise according to the contest run by Mabel’s Labels – the company that knows that parents shouldn’t label their kids, but they should label their kids’ stuff.

According to the contest, I have 300 words to reach out to you, the blogosphere, in a last ditch effort to assert myself upon the world by writing about my passions. So, here it goes: (hey judges, I hope you didn’t count these intro words!)

When we are babies, the world is our mother, our father, our family. Snuggled tightly in blankets and loving arms, we gaze at those around us in awe and wonder. Ever learning, we stretch our limbs - and our imaginations.

I have never lost that wonder or that constant search for new knowledge and experiences. I am passionate about the world: my world and the world I don’t yet know.

When I discovered the Internet, it opened the world to me a little more. I’ve chosen the Internet as one of the mediums of my own expression.

For that is my second passion: expression and communication. As a child I wanted to be a ballerina, doctor, or writer; then it was a pilot, photojournalist, or farmer; then it was an actress, play-write, or doctor; there’s one constant.

I am a writer. I’ve always wanted to be one and I’ve always been one.

I am passionate about people: their knowledge and experience; the world according to them. I love the thrill that comes with a new friendship, the slow development of an atlas of knowledge about that person. Each one is like a new romance.

The Internet has opened new worlds to me with regard to meeting new friends and learning more about old ones. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you; I’ve loved staying in touch.

People are knowledge; knowledge is power; power is passionate

And poetry is another thing I'm passionate about:



HECTIC! And some good news.

So here's how it goes. Yesterday my husband comes home from work and informs me his parents called him at the office. They're coming on Friday. To stay. For a week or more. I love my in-laws. Truly I do. But they require a lot of work when they're here and even before they come. You know how it is: your mother-in-law was the greatest housekeeper and child-feeder in the history of the world and you are not measuring up.

Then, my friend who has started freelancing calls me. There's a possible book deal in the offing and she wants to share the opportunity with me. We need to have our pitch ready for Monday. Our pitch includes each of us writing a graded level reader and outlines for a few more readers and then proofing each other's work before we send it off.

Then, at the last minute, I find out about the Mabels Labels BlogHer contest. Now, I know my chances of winning are slim, but to go to that conference and make those contacts is something I could never do on my own. Plus, they're offering a year-long blogging contract with the contest. And the deadline is also Monday.

My Secret Post item isn't out yet. I haven't even finished making it. I already set Monday for myself as my deadline. I will not default my own deadline.

Not to mention I also have the baby's needles on Tuesday. HIs follow-up developmental psychology appointment on Wednesday and have to get him in to see the doctor about his toes. Oh, and I have to schedule follow-ups for all three children with various health professionals - Baby to the pediatrician, dermatologist and opthamalogist (and we might be looking at a speech pathology referral as well); Little Princess to public health for pre-school checkup, doctor for a skin problem that hasn't cleared up and orthopedic surgeon because her feet and legs are not getting better; Big Boy to opthamologist as his eye hasn't straightened  - wait, only one for him! Yeah! Although next week is music festival and St. Patrick's Day so I'm sure school will keep us busy.

And then the week after that is my husband's birthday and I've promised curried chicken, roti, rice and peas, and raspberry trifle - so a trip to the grocery store and an internet cruising for recipes is in order.

It is going to a busy weekend for sure. So if you don't hear from me, don't worry about it, okay?

Meanwhile, the good news:

I was feeling pretty stressed and bummed that I've been so busy and knew I wouldn't get the post I wanted to write for Josie's Writing Workshop done. But now that I've written this post I'm pretty sure it applies under prompt #5: "What is making you feel under pressure right now?" What do you think?

The night before last I got an uninterrupted full night's sleep for the first time in ages! I think it was 6 hours before any of the children cralwed into our bed or cried for a nursing. Miracles do come true! (Okay, so I'm not sure if this is good news or just pathetic, really)

Emers (Baby) had his  second ever appointment with developmental psychology today. As you may remember from a previous post, I have been somewhat worried about his cognitive development given his condition. Turns out, not only is he not "slow," he's cognitively advanced! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, introducing Baby Genuis as he will now be called. Some of his physical development is behind, and we don't have the full report yet, and we need a follow-up to assess him further including his speech etc, but all signs point to normal or above! This is huge considering his first appointment he was bordering on the low-side of average and we didn't feel he'd advanced much since.

So claps and hurrahs for my boy. Only the first of many obstacles and tests, but he's passed with flying colours!


F&*^ You Too Nasty Newsreader.

Why do I do it?

Really, the $30 per column is not making that huge a financial difference to our lives. It's not worth the yelling at my children every Sunday afternoon as I try to finish up the column and they interrupt every five minutes. It's not worth the stress when the emailed column bounces back or, like this week, the saved column dissapears somewhere in my harddrive and I have to rewrite from a rough, first draft.

So why do I put myself out there and open myself up to comments from the judgmental, nasty masses?

A blog is one thing. I have control over the comments. If something is offensive, I can delete it.

But having my columns published in the paper and printed on their online site means I no longer have any control.

Oh yes, I've received lovely feedback. Feedback from people who really feel supported by my columns, who are thankful for my sharing, who hear what they need exactly when they need it. Even feedback from people who disagree with me but at least put thought into it.

And then I receive comments like this one
me2u from nl writes: OMG, an article about diapers and potting training?
Is this how far we have come in 40 years of consicousness raising and women's struggle for rights.
Dara, to clear up confusion, why are you wasting your time and newspaper space?
In response to columns like this one.

I'm trying to be professional and not respond to these comments on the paper's website. I refuse to enter the fray and I know how petty people can be in online forums. But I've got to get this out of my system.

Well Ms. Nasty Me2u,
 I see you have nothing better to do with your day then waste your time insulting others. I guess your children never wore diapers? Perfect from birth I imagine, just like you. I'm not exactly certain what women's struggle for rights has to do with dirty diapers. I mean, regardless of how much of a feminazi I could be, there would still be shit to deal with, wouldn't there?
So I really appreciate your giving me more shit to deal with. Go f*&^ yourself - you don't need a man for that; should make you happy.
People like you make feminists look like idiots. So thanks for insulting me, my writing and my gender. Now why don't you go find yourself a child you can steal candy from to make your day complete.
Can we say jealous? Oh and just to let you know, my 130 odd fans on Facebook actually asked for potty training to be covered as a topic. So again I say, Go F&*% yourself.

Not what I mean to post today. But there you go.

In the meanwhile, it's the comments like this one:
Melanie Callahan from Corner Brook, NL writes: Love your column Dara! As a parent of young children, I find the the topics of your column to be very relevant.
In reponse to columns like this one. That make it worthwhile.

I guess .  .  .

The Gallery - 100

I decided to follow along and enter The Gallery at Tara's blog this week. I was too late last week for the Beauty competition but enjoyed everyone else's entries. My camera has been broken for 7 months now. It was under warranty, but my husband lost the receipt (i.e. threw it out even though I told him not to).

So my photos are not the highest quality. The camera still takes pictures, but only under auto command and I can't make any adjustments.

So, this is the best photo I could get
It's the sign my son and I made for his classroom to celebrate 100 days of school.

The kids were all asked to bring in a collection of 100 of something. All my son could talk about was how his friend was going to bring in 100 dinkies and another friend 100 Star Wars Figures. Shag it, I thought, yet another opportunity for the school to teach them crass consumerism. Oh yeah.

So I said "Well what do you want to bring in?"
"100 pennies!" he replied. Yup I can just picture it now 100 dirty, grubby pennies getting even dirtier and grubbier and lost all over the classroom.
"How about something we can make?" I asked. "Oh yeah," he said, remembering the fabric scraps bags I had been putting together for them to play with, "100 scraps of fabric?"

We went with that, and I had the idea we could just line the scraps up and put a running stitch through them making a long line. But then I pictured what the boys in his class would do with that long line. Not wanting to be responsible for the hanging death of a child I came up with the idea of 100 stitches instead. So this sign is made of 100 stitched lines.

Harrison did the word "Kindergarten" and I did the rest. His teacher likes it too. You can count them if you like. And by the way, this makes great practice for children learning to print their letters


How to Win Friends at The Playground

 photo courtesy of Hakan Dahlstrom http://picasaweb.google.ca/hakansfotografiI'm not talking about teaching your child to make friends. I'm talking about making mom friends. Because let's face it, when you have young children your single and childless friends somehow seep away - whether because they're tired of your stories of where Jr has smeared his poo now or you're tired of their stories of which corner of the pub they've throw up in last.

So of course, your only option is to make new friends. This is somewhat harder as an adult. And it's incredibly hard if, like me, you've moved to a cliquish city where nobody really wants a new friend as their social plate is full.

In Newfoundland, one of the first things people ask you upon meeting you is "where are you from?" This is not meant to judge you. Rather they just want to figure out if they "know" you. Perhaps they'll decide they do:
I know you! Your father is from Botwood and my father's uncle is from Millertown. Your grandmother ran a ballet school, didn't she? Yes I know you!
In Corner Brook, on the other hand, instead of being asked where you're from in a nice friendly way, I've learned that more commonly you'll be accused: "You're not from here are you?!"

I don't know how they figure it out. But once they've established you're not, they often just walk away. Don't ask me why; I don't understand it either.

So, in such a challenging environment, you have to grab any opportunity you can find to actually make a friend. If you live somewhere similar, here are my secrets:

1. Go where people are desperate. New mom groups and playgroups are great. The people there are usually new parents who are just discovering that their childless friends have abandoned them or people, like you, that "aren't from here."

2. Come prepared. Now some people will tell you that the essentials for your diaper bag are wipes and diapers. I beg to differ. Number one priority is a pen and paper. You don't want to lose the chance on making a new friend because you have no way to give them your phone number. Playdate cards are cute and all, but you risk the chance of looking foolish and snobby. Business cards, again, could be a good idea but you risk the chance of looking braggy and snobby.
You should also have extras of everything. Again, you're looking for desperation - some Moms actually forget stuff and there's nothing like coming to their rescue in their time of need to make them feel friendly towards you. Pack: tampons and pads; breast pads; diapers in a variety of sizes; extra bottles of cream and small packs of wipes that you can hand to them and say "no, that's okay, keep it;" snacks and drinks for everyone; tissues; bandages; a well-stocked first aid kit; changes of clothing for everyone; blankets; rain hoods; the latest, greatest parenting book with your name and number on the inside cover  - loan it out and you'll be sure to get a call when they want to return it.
This may sound like a lot to carry, but really isn't a sore shoulder a reasonable cost of friendship?

3. Don't be an idiot. Really, this one is supremely important. Sometimes Moms and Dads get tired of talking about their children. I know it's rare for that to happen, but you must be ready for it. Like a geisha catches a sponsor by appearing charming and knowledgable, you can catch friends! Read up on current affairs or listen to the radio news on the way to playgroups. Have an opinion on the latest parenting book or local controversy. Do not. I repeat DO NOT blather on about something you know nothing about. If the topic discussed is one you can't discuss, blame it on the children - "Jr. has taken to shredding the newspaper" or "The Baby cries everytime she hears the newscaster's voice." are good excuses.

4. Dress the children appropriately. It's a fine line, really. You want the other parents to not think you neglect the children and leave their faces unwashed while you spend your morning blogging. But you also don't want them so well turned out that they put other people's children to shame. The balance between neglect and overbearing is essential. Grass stains on the knees are okay as long as the outfit matches. Non-matching outfits are okay as long as they're clean and you're ready to say the child dressed him/herself. Grass stains on the face are never okay, but a dirty face from snacks that were obviously eaten in the car is okay (i.e. encrusted oatmeal is not good, cracker crumbs is acceptable)

5. Love your children. Okay, everyone likes having a good moan and complain about how the kids kept them up or they miss working at the office, but you must always end such a statement with a huge smile and "but they're worth it aren't they?" or "I can't imagine life without them." If the only reason you're at the playground is because you figured the only way to prevent yourself from beating the children is taking them out in public, don't let this on! You're hoping to present yourself in such a way that they would feel comfortable leaving their own children with you  . . .

That's about it. You, of course, don't want to be judgmental when you offer advice or talk about your sex-life at the first meeting. Those are pretty obvious. Smiling is important. Appearances are important: harried mother who can still find a clean pair of pants even if her hair is in a ponytail is a good look.

Appearing too desperate is dangerous, though, so if you print off this list for reference make sure no one sees you referring to it!

And if all else fails, just start a blog, hit facebook and twitter, you'll find all kinds of people that want to be your friend!

Have you had to make new friends since having children? How do you do it?


The Mummy Tummy Challenge

Anybody who saw last week's vlog can probably tell just how out of shape I am. I've never been a skinny-minnie, but it's getting really ridiculous. I'd love to blame the kids and all, but the pregnancies didn't make me overweight, my lifestyle did. Plus my metabolism is as slow as molasses. Mmm.... did someone say molasses?

The c-section for my last child certainly didn't help matters. Stomach muscles just don't rebound from c-sections the same as they do from labour and vaginal delivery. Of course, if I had done my crunches and such after the c-section than they probably would have rebounded better.

The sad part is that although I'm horridly overweight and out of shape, I'm actually pretty fit. Long walks and runs don't bother me; I can carry two children up the stairs at a jog. So I've always been able to massage my damaged ego with "well perhaps you're not meant to be skinny, as long as you're fit that's all that matters."

Oh Bullpoop! That's just not true! I want to lose this weight. And while fitness is great, with diabetes in my family, being overweight is pretty much a killer.

I don't want to have to shop in the plus size stores, but it's getting really close to that now! And it's got to stop.

So today when I read Karin at CafeBebe's blog on her Mummy Tummy I was inspired. And I've decided to do the same.

She posted a pic of her at her daughter's last birthday and has proclaimed that by Little Miss' next birthday, in 12 weeks she'll have lost weight. Her aim is a sensible pound a week, which shouldn't be too hard but will still give noticeable results.

And I've picked up the gauntlet and will now do the same. My daughter's next birthday is 11 weeks away. At the weight I've been, I've been avoiding pictures. But you can't avoid pictures at your child's birthday party, can you? So here's one from last year:

This one makes me really question why I liked that dress! I think I'm actually bigger now.

And here's one from Christmas past. It's the most recent I have.

As you can see, little change in the tummy region and I think I'm wearing control tops in this photo.

And here's my challenge. Do the same. If your child's next birthday is 10 or more weeks away than join myself and Karin in posting a pic too and challenging yourself to look better at the next party. Karin's blog has some great suggestions for losing weight (read the comments too!). I'll post some more here over the coming weeks, as well as updates.

It's a Mummy Tummy Challenge! If you decide to join in than do up a blog post along the same lines and link to it in the comments below. Or if you're not blogging or don't want a personal photo on your blog, email it to me along with the date of your child's next birthday.

Next week, I'll do a post linking to everyone else's or posting the photos you've submitted and ask for updates from everyone.


Why I Wish My Son Were an X-Man

Today my baby boy is covered in hives. Again. He's needed his inhaler. Again. I'm pretty sure it's the cashews that caused it. Though he's had cashews before. But then I remember he's had them just once before. And it takes the first time to sensitize him.

Today his face has been covered in snot. He has a cold. Again. And I'm praying it doesn't turn to croup. Again. I spent most of the night up with him. Again. But I'm glad it was a night at home and not the hospital.

Today my baby boy has walked from the living room to the kitchen, back again and then broke out into a little run. For the first time. He's almost 19 months old and we're so proud of him for walking.

Yesterday he said mama. Again. But the last time was 2 months ago. And it broke my heart to hear it and know. My heart broke because he said it or because I know it might be another several months before I hear it again; I'm not sure.

Today I am trying not to worry. Again. About why his stomach seems swollen or his legs turned out or his back slightly twisted. Or whether he'll be "slow" or "behind" or dead, for that matter.

He has allergies and he has asthma and he tends towards croup. He is a bright angel of a boy who can get into the worst kind of mischief and always be forgiven. He is loving and his kisses come with full on contact and tongue. I don't think I've ever seen him angry, except when I have not given him a treat he desperately wants. I'm sorry to say I have seen him sad. Unconsollable tears and jaw quivering have marred his beautiful face. Yet, he is the easiest to comfort baby I have ever known.

Yesterday I thought of how he's not anything like his brother or sister and how they were at his age. Nothing like them at all. And I wonder how two parents can produce three such different children. What twist of genetic fate made one tall and another short. What DNA recombination caused one to be tempermental and another easy-going. And why a little teeny tiny coding error, like using a comma instead of a semi-colon, could make my son a mutant.

For that he is. Of two healthy (I use the term loosely) sets of DNA was produced his slightly modified version. An error that elsewhere on his genome could have resulted in nothing - nothing at all  - or maybe a cleft palate or some strange birthmark has instead made him a mutant. Not a super-power kind of mutant like an X-Man, but a boy with a disorder hardly anyone knows about.

Somewhere in there on chromosome 17 - on the long (q) arm at position 11.2 to be exact - a teensy little error happened. Something more akin to a drop of milk on the chin than a full glass of spilt milk. But it is something to cry over - and I'm crying right now - though I thought my tears on this subject were depleted.

My son has Neurofibromatosis. I am scared. I am angry. I am able to joke about his mutant status. But, I want to punch in the face of the woman who stared at his spots.

I am crying. Again. Because I don't know what will happen. Because I have no control over his future. Because right now a tumor could be wrapping itself around his organs and except for a slight swelling in his stomach, I won't know. Because his legs may turn out when he walks because of a deformity in his bones, or a tumor on his hips. Because he may never be able to learn like other children, but until he's older I won't know. Because hidden there somewhere amongst his hives might be a neurofibroma and when it comes there is nothing I can do about it.

I cry because I want my future teenage son to show his shirtless body to a girl and have her be impressed, not curious, or worse - horrified. Because I don't want him to have to decide whether or not he wants children based on the liklihood of passing on a disorder. Because I'm afraid his gentle nature will be ruined by schoolmates if he does turn out to be slow and if they tease him.

I am crying because I can't even firgure out how to prevent him breaking out in hives or how to keep his lungs clear and common colds at bay and I wish that that were all we had to face. But it's not. Is it?