His Ego Approximates to That of the Psychotic

Is my son "normal?"

I always argued he was. Even when he was 15 months old and moving furniture around the living room. Even when people continually used the code word "active" to explain to me how "bad" he was. Even when he was three years old and had a vocabulary of about 20 words. Even when a pediatrician treating my other child pulled me aside after 15 minutes in the room with him and explained that he could be referred for his behaviour.

He's mine. He's normal. And even if he isn't I don't want you medicalising his behaviour.

But he's not. Not, really. And everyday it breaks my heart to see him struggle to live in a normal world with abnormal actions and feelings.

He's not bad. He's sweet and loving and generous to the core. He's the child that manages to share just two cookies among 5 friends, always looking to make sure he's not forgotten someone.

But he's also the child that gets up at 5:00am, climbs onto the counters to reach the cookies hidden in the cupboards and then hides and hoards them in his room. He's the child that obsesses over foods of all kind, from absolute hates of anything vegetable-related to absolute fixations on carbs and sugars.

Not normal. Right?

He's smart as a whip. He has an old soul and regularly spouts insights that astound me. He's the child who can rationalise anything by analysing it.

But he's also the child that spends 2 hours in a tantrum almost every day after school. He's the child who struggles so hard to read and has the most difficult time understanding simple concepts. He's the child that still can't button buttons or zip zippers even though his younger sister has been doing it for ages.

Not normal. Right?

He's so responsible. At five I can leave him in charge of his younger sister and brother for a couple of minutes outside while I run into the house to grab my camera or drinks for everyone. He can walk to the store by himself. He's the child that reports the class bully for bullying a friend and guides the younger kids at the playground.

But he's also the child that lies constantly. He sometimes doesn't even seem to know the difference between an outright lie and the truth and those who don't know him can be easily misled. He can't be trusted to follow rules - at least not at home. Even simple ones that he's known for years. He will challenge even though he knows it will end in his defeat.

Not normal. Right?

He's jovial and social. Everyone at school is his friend. He takes just moments to find someone to play with at the playground.

But he doesn't have a best friend. And he can't stand new situations and people. He turns into a quivering, self-doubting boy when faced with unfamiliar surroundings. Despite his jovial nature he is in constant torments of anger. He'd like to buy a gun and shoot me. He wants to burn our house down with everyone in it. He knows I hate him and he wants to kill himself.

Yes, my five year old has told me he wants to kill himself.

Not normal. Right?

He wets the bed. He has horrible nightmares. He has a completely irrational fear of abandonment. His self-doubt cripples him in many situations while his grandiose ideas endanger him in others.

Yes, he's a boy. Yes, he's only five. But I know something's not right. Little pieces of  "oh that's normal, my cousin's son is just like that" add up to a whole of not-normal

So finally we realise that arguing he is normal is actually wrong. He's not. I'm almost certain of it. And whatever it is - whether ADHD or Bipolar Disorder or Oppositional Defiance Disorder or whatever - that makes him different could possibly be treated and then he might have a chance to be happy and content with himself.

But once we finally realise that and decide to face it, everyone argues with me that he's normal. His teacher thinks he's fine. The pediatrician is not at all alarmed. Even friends who previously expressed doubts about him are now trying to reassure me.

Is it not bad enough that I question myself every minute of every day, must I also be questioned by everyone else too?

Some days I wonder if I told the world he was white they'd argue that he's black.


I Think Too Much To Write Good Poetry

Poetry, though it's an intellectual art, cannot be overthought.
Otherwise you end up thinking
"Hey, it's been a long time since I've even read, let alone written, a villanelle. I shall wiki it and see the structure again."

And then upon seeing the structure you will think
"perhaps I can do it. I've done it before, though never well."
 And then upon realising that you're not particularly feeling anything to write a villanelle about you'll end up analysing the word itself and seeing the word "ville" in it (though it isn't really there) and deciding that since "ville" means city you'll write about the city you once called home.

And it'll still suck. It'll still turn into an awkward melancholic love-song that's pretty much meaningless. And it'll be filled with cliched statements and awkward turns of phrase.

But you'll be an eensy bit proud because you actually managed to do it and all in the matter of a half hour or so. Even though you did engage in the trickery of half-rhymes - you also managed some decent alliteration.

And then you'll realise that even though mostly you hate it but are a little bit proud that doesn't really matter cause you have no one to share it with: you're not in a class any longer, your sleeping husband dislikes poetry, and you're pretty sure no one will be impressed.

So then you'll think
"well, hey, I have a blog. And hardly anyone reads it. But that's actually a bit of a bonus cause now I can put this poem - this vilanelle, if you will - up there and it wouldn't be hardly as embarassing as if there were a hundred people reading it."

And the bonus is that you know someone will actually say something nice about it. Which, let's admit it, is the whole reason you've engaged in that charade.

And that, my friends, is the reason why you should never over-think the whole poetry process. Because then you end up with a mess, like grafitti sprayed on pristine walls, posted to your blog and your poor dear readers will have to be subjected to said mess.

Though I suppose they could just not read. After all, most don't (can you hear the violins). And you never did claim to be the next Dylan Thomas

A Villanelle pour Ma Ville
(You can never go home again)

Her streets wind proud,
And strong with stone,
Where footsteps ring loud.
Candy-coated crowd
Of clustered homes -
Her streets wind proud.

Art lived aloud,
In graffiti-hued tones,
Where footsteps ring loud,

Boutique endowed
And pubs set down
Her streets wind proud.

The hill is a cloud;
The ocean a groan,
Where footsteps ring loud.

Natives disavowed
Can never go home.
Her streets wind proud,
Where footsteps ring loud.

Freaky, Free-Flowing, Friday Thoughts on God and Religion and Evolution

Last night I thought about God. Specifically, I contemplated whether my belief in my personal God was based more on my innate feeling of connection with said deity or on the beliefs that were revealed to me through my upbringing and studies.

When did I begin to believe? How has my belief changed. Whose God do I believe in? My own, my parents, my religion's?

And then it occured to me, or really it occured to me to think about, how at some point in human history there must have been a first belief. Finally I understand why creationists are so adamnant about sticking to the Biblical version of human history. For if we believe in evolution - which frankly I find impossible not to believe in - then at some point in the interim between animal and homo sapiens we had to have come to an awareness of God or spiritual powers of some kind. This means that at some point we were not aware. It also means that the idea of God as a creation of humans rather than the other way around is leant some credence.

When did it happen I wonder? I remember from my anthropolgy and archeaology classes that there's debate over whether the seeming symbolism of Homo Neanderthalensis burial sites points to a religiosity. If so, is it something they learned from observing co-existing early homo sapiens populations or something they understood on their own? What were the differences between the two emergent populations?

What happened between 60,000ya (the date of early burials) and 5000ya (the approximate date of Abraham's assertion of monotheism) that lead us to God. To one God as opposed to a pantheistic system.

And if burial rites are a strong indicator of religiousity do we perhaps not give animals their due? What of the legendary Elephant Graveyard? Sure it has not been proven that such exists, but scientists have found the Elephants recognise thier own skeletal structure and definitely seem to mourn their dead. Chimpanzees, too, seem to have an awareness of death and if not a ritualised burial rite, they do engage in mourning. And what of all the salmon that return to where they were born to spawn and die? Is this truly just instinct or is there ritual inherent in it? Are there salmon that don't go home? Can we prove that none stay in the ocean, choosing not to spawn and subsequently die.

So if death and burial rituals are to be taken as one of the first signs of religiousity and awakening of spiritual awareness, and animals engage in such, does that not mean they are capable of religiousity? And if so, perhaps some of the things we pen as animal "instinct" are actually ritual. For would it not take just one individual diverging from the prescribed path of "instinct" to show that it is not actually biological, but could be spiritual or emotional?

Which brings me back to my original questions: at what point in our evolution did Humans become religious beings? Was it at the beginning of homo sapiens or could it have happened sooner. Could it have even happened before our earliest ancestors developed into the homo species lineage at all? Was Australopithecus not only walking upright, but kneeling in prayer?

What do you think?


Taking Care of Business


First up. I'm writing an article on helping a friend cope with miscarraige for Everything Mom.

I'd love some input from my readers. If you've suffered a miscarraige, what was the best help/advice/act/statement from friends or family? Or what was the worst. You can comment below or email at darasquires AT gmail.com

Also, I'm writing a column on childcare and at what age our children can be left alone or care for younger siblings or friends. What are your thoughts?

Finally, Mrs. Mad, this is for you! I promised a dandelion cordial recipe. Hope it's not to late.

Here's what you do:
Find some dandelions away from traffic or places where pesticides may have been used.
Pinch off their heads. However many you want.
Next is the hardest part. You have to seperate the "petals" from the greenery. Some suggest using scissors, I just folded the dandelion head over on itself and pulled the yellow and white bits out.
Keep going till you can't do anymore. Put them in a bowl.
Give them a little rinse and then add enough water to cover. Also add the peel of an orange or a lemon or both. I had neither so I used grapefruit peel and it came out good.
Cover the bowl and let sit. How long you let sit is up to you. One to three days is best.
Strain the "juice" and remove the dandelion flowers and peel. I did this by using a colander and pushing down on the pulpy mixture to make sure I got all the liquid out.
Measure how much liquid you have.
Pour an equal amount of water into a pot (if using a stove-top method) or a microwave proof bowl (is using microwave).
Add sugar. This is up to personal taste. Some recipes read to add an equal amount of sugar as water. I used half as much plus 1 TBSP honey.
Heat until dissolved.
Let cool and mix in with juice.
Keep your cordial refrigerated. When ready to drink mix half and half with water (sparkling water is nice). If you want to get fancy, add a wedge of lemon!


Still Here

I'm still here.

I'm just not out there. I'm very much inside here.

It's kind of nice in here, like laying under murky waters.

When I was a child I loved to lay beneath the surface of the water: at the pool, at rivers, at muddy swimming holes. I could see the lumbering legs of people around me. I could hear the screams of other children - whether in fun or murderous play. But I felt nothing but the limbic bouyancy of the water. I could concentrate on nothing but the burning urgency in my lungs.

In the midst of everything, I found my solitude. My special place was an everywhere. People talk of floating above their bodies as escape. Or of getting away from their known world as escape. But as a child I mastered the possibility of escaping into my body in the midst of everything.

Once I was buried in the sand. I was playing at the beach with my father. A wave caught me and tumbled me in the tide. It spewed me onto the shore and then covered me with sand and shells and wavely detritus. Everyone was looking out to sea, trying to trace the wave's trajectory. I lay under their feet. I remember hearing them but being unable to move, to talk, to respond in any way. The sand held me stuck fast and I needed to be found and pulled free. Not an escape, but something to escape from.

Escape is not being buried, but being unobtrusively present. The waters are clear and hold you up, they don't diminish you from sight and presence.

So I'm still here. I just need a little escape. You might not see or hear me but I can see you lumbering around out there. I can hear your comments and read your posts.

I just needed to get away for a bit. To listen to my breath and feel my heart pound in the closeted fear of what ifs.

Soon I'll have to come up for air. Sinking just isn't something I do.

This is for Josie's Writing Workshop. This week we can pick our own prompts based on single word. I picked Escape. Or it picked me. For that's what I've done these past days. Sought escape. For me, escape is a place within myself. Escape is retreat.

Where's your escape?

The Gallery: Friendship at a Distance

Randy and Faith are our youngest son's godparents.
Randy is one of my husband's oldest friend.
Faith is one of my newest friends.
They live far, far away but we see them almost every year.
We hardly ever talk on the phone or even email, but we always know we can.
They have "been there" for us many times, we've "been there" for them fewer times, but they know we are always here and we know they're always there.
Randy was Darrell's best man. Darrell was Randy's best man.
I made their wedding invitations and even surprised myself by making their wedding!
I love them dearly.
I wish I could be there this fall when their child arrives.
But they know I'll "be there" if they need me.

This week's Gallery theme at Sticky Fingers is "Friendship." Click on the cup and see everyone else's entries.


The Difference Ten Years Makes

At 23 you break up with your boyfriend but stay on birth control just in case. You don’t mind the monthly expense and no matter how much alcohol you’ve been drinking you always remember your pills. If an accident happened your life would be ruined.

At 33 you’ve discovered that children are the best form of birth control. The monthly expense would go better towards groceries and clothes for your ever-growing children. Besides, no matter how much coffee you drink, you never remember to take them. If an accident happens, what odds, your house is already magotty with kids.

At 23 you work two part-time jobs, plus volunteer and go to school full-time. If it’s 5am and you’re still up partying and/or writing a last-minute essay, you find it easier to just stay awake and hit your 8am class or shift, barrel through the day and catch up on your sleep the next night.

At 33 you have one never-ending job plus, possibly, a full-time job and your kid’s school work. If it’s 5am and your kids have woken you for the third time you find yourself calculating how many minutes of sleep you could grab if you lay your head on the kitchen counter while they eat their cereal. You know that you will never sleep again.

At 23 your life is before you. There is nothing you can’t do. You’ve got degree in hand, a handsome boyfriend - or at least a good prospect - and are starting to save towards your down-payment for your first home.

At 33 you have no idea where your life went. You feel like you did nothing. Your degree is packed in a box somewhere, your husband thinks you need more exercise and your house repairs are eating into any retirement savings you’ve managed to build.

At 23, on a night when you’re not working or studying, you find yourself absently wandering your basement apartment. TV is boring, no one to call, laundry is done. You feel lonely and aimless

At 33, on a night when the kids went to bed on time and the housework is actually done already you find yourself absently wandering your home. TV is mindless, housework is done, no one to call. You sneak up to your children’s rooms, stare at them sleeping, kiss and tuck them in and then cuddle in your husband’s arms.

Life is good.

What differences have you experienced?


Abortion, Infertility, A Nation's Responsibilities, A Woman's Rights

**NOTE: This is my newspaper column for this week. I've decided to reproduce it in it's entirety here as I'm interested in what others have to say on this topic and the questions I raise.

I’m not normally a wishy-washy person. Nor am I, despite what some may say, a non-feminist. But I do often question my stance on abortion. I often say I’m pro-choice politically, but pro-life personally. If you understand that, you’ll understand where the incentive for this column came from.

Despite the fact that I don’t consider abortion an option for myself, I know not every woman feels that way. And I don’t want to take away any woman’s right to make that decision for herself. I don’t think anyone is really for abortion itself, rather for a woman’s right to chose what happens to her body.

In support of abortion, I understand that there are some women, and girls, for whom abortion is a very valid and reasonable choice. Certainly any woman who has been raped should have the option open to her. So should any woman whose health, either physical or mental, is at risk. Crack-addicted 14 year olds and perpetually drunk mothers of seven are probably better off not bringing their progeny forth. That’s my personal opinion; I know some will differ in their beliefs.

I know that these are not the only people who seek abortions. It is open to all. Every woman in Canada, whether I personally believe her choice is valid, can make the choice to have an abortion. I think that that’s the way it should be.

Interestingly, Canada has no real abortion laws. Certainly, abortion is legal, but only in that it’s not illegal. It is completely and utterly unrestricted. A woman in her 38th week of pregnancy could, if she could find a doctor willing to do it, have an abortion. I think this is an area that does need to be addressed. However legislating anything around abortion is a political minefield and could lead to a very slippery slope.

A woman would not find a doctor willing to perform such a procedure. Apparently it is getting more difficult to find a doctor willing to perform an abortion at all. Outside of actual abortion clinics, the procedure is hard to get.

However, when a woman does decide abortion is her best choice and she finds a practitioner willing to do it, it is covered one hundred percent by our healthcare system. No matter who, where, or how old, it is covered.

This, too, I don’t think is wrong. I would certainly rather see a scared sixteen year old at the Morgentaler clinic than in some cheap motel room having her boyfriend beat her until she miscarries. It is a tragic enough decision for a woman to make, she shouldn’t have to be forced out of it due to financial restraints.

However, while I don’t think it’s wrong for our healthcare dollars to fund abortion, I do think it’s wrong to do so in the absence of funding the opposite. And while terminating a pregnancy is completely unrestricted in Canada, creating one is not.

It is illegal to purchase donor sperm, eggs, or embryos in Canada. It is illegal to pay someone to be a surrogate mother. And while in rare cases some fertility treatments are covered under provincial healthcare plans, the majority are not.

Every woman in our nation who chooses abortion has it legally and financially available to her. But women and couples who chose to have children do not have the same rights. Their rights are not protected by our healthcare dollars or our laws.

A couple that desperately wants a child but cannot reproduce in the “natural” way face some hefty costs from $100 for a single round of clomid to $17,000 for in-vitro fertilisation or intracytoplasmic sperm injection. And, unfortunately, the success rates are often low, meaning couples may have to pay those fees two or three times before they experience a successful pregnancy.

In Newfoundland, our government will pay you $2200 to have a baby. That’s $1000 upon delivery with monthly instalments of $100 for the next year. I’m not arguing against this.

When our youngest was born, that money came in very handy. But to someone who finally did conceive and carry a child to term after spending $30,000 of their own money, it would be a mere drop in the well of their child-related debt.

To those families that cannot afford fertility treatment, the $2200 is a slap in the face. Our government will not invest in helping them conceive, but it rewards those who do.

In my mind I picture two women. One has just peed on her fifth pregnancy test, all positive. Another has done the same, all negative. As much as the first woman is devastated, so is the second. But there’s a key difference. One has power over what happens to her body, the other does not.

We, as a nation, protect and help the first woman; we turn our backs on the second.

I don’t think that’s right.

What do you think?


The Gallery - Self Portrait: Fertility Goddesses

 I've got the camera working again, so I'm taking part in The Gallery again. This week the theme is Self Portrait.

Do you know those stone carved fertility goddesses - at least that's what it's assumed they are. The ones with the huge bottoms, round bellies and breasts you can see jiggling even in the stone?

Do you know how they haven't got faces or even heads and often no arms or legs? While that's what my photos for this week's gallery remind me of.

The theme this week was self-portrait, but although I've got the camera working again it's still wonky, flash is doing weird things, colours are being recorded strangely. It was hard to get any kind of decent photo. I think it's telling me time for a new camera!

Kodak, HP, any of you digital camera people if you'd like a honest review, just send me one!
Anyway, I improvised a little and did a teensy bit of editing to take out backgrounds and thought I'd concentrate on my body. Turns out my body looks like one of those stone figurines come to life. And here I thought I looked like Kate Moss!

Can you tell I'm prattling on and one cause I don't want to actually show you the photos. I wasn't as upset about them as I thought I would be. But please don't say "you fat cow I can't believe you put that on the Internet!" or I'll lose my fertility goddess resemblance dream and realise it's one too many bowls of pasta, not my latent Earth Mother power that's made me look like this.

Okay. Here goes
I imagine those fertility goddesses had stretch marks too, they've just been rubbed smooth over time.

Yes, that's my belly. From the side. Rather rotund isn't it. Can't see the c-section scar, but it's there - bet the fertility goddess didn't have one of those.

Anyway, now for a body part I like. My eyes

There. That's a much nicer image to leave you with. Though I do need a wax on the eybrows, don't I?


Another NF plug

This morning CBC radio aired my interview about Emerson's NF. They had cut down parts of it, like the part where I complain a little about our healthcare here: how in other cities there are NF clinics but we don't even have a regular doctor overseeing his NF care. But that's okay. They needed to cut a little and that was the least important thing I said. It's not easy doing an interview with two small children in the house!
Anyway, if you want to hear it, look over there ---> at my share bar. It's at the top. I'd embed it but for some reason my network won't allow me to open it - I could only listen through ITunes.

Old Work, New Locale: Looks like Effort

It's a crazy-busy medical appointment week. And I've got writing assignments up the wazoo.
Speaking of wazoos The Princess is doing great with her poo chart but I think I'm going to have to downgrade the prizes. Plus there's the whole question, if I promise her two stickers on her chart for letting me adminster the enema, does she then get another sticker for the enema-related poo?
So now that I've shared the hilarity and grossness of my life (actually this didn't even come close). I've decided to share some old work of mine.


Wait where is it.

Ah. Here. My first column written back in November. Thought my bloggy readers might enjoy it too.

Will the Real Parenting Expert Please Stand Up?

I’m not a parenting expert. It’s pretty self-evident, really. I have a five year old who has not allowed a recognisable vegetable to pass his lips in over two years; a three year old whose temper tantrums could not be bested by the residents of Bedlam; and a toddler who, although sweet and loveable and mostly well-behaved, has a devilishly good time tormenting and hurting his older siblings.

I suppose you could say I have an expert’s experience, though. Being the mom of three of the clingiest, crankiest, pokiest, brightest, most active kids around gives one plenty of opportunity to practise one’s skills. I have tried every trick and suggestion in the books – and some you’d never find in the books. But I can’t call myself an expert because I don’t feel like I’ve reached any kind of pinnacle of skill. Every day there’s a new issue I have to muddle my way through without knowing if I’m muddling rightly or wrongly.

I’ve read magazines, books, weblogs and skywriting to try and find the answers to my parenting questions. I have even (gasp) consulted with my own parents! After all the research, I suffer not from a lack of knowledge, but too much. If I were to take just the suggestions on getting my children to sleep through the night and try each one for a week . . . well, the baby will probably have moved out of the house before I’ve tried them all.

I’ve often wondered how one becomes a “parenting expert.” After all, I’ve never seen a degree or even a diploma program offered in parenting, though there might be times we all wish such a course were offered. After extensive research, involving copious use of Google, I’ve seen that many of these experts rely more on their experience as teachers, social workers, nannies or child psychologists than on any parenting experience they might have. I’ve also discovered a disturbing truth; some of these parenting experts aren’t even parents themselves!

Would you send your dog to an obedience school where the trainer doesn’t own a dog? Would you take baking advice from someone who doesn’t own a whisk? How can someone be an “expert” with no real experience? Yet, as parents, we eagerly read the advice of these self-styled experts who have us walking in and out of our child’s bedroom every five minutes at night and designating “time-out” mats in every corner of our house during the day. If we spent as much time thinking through and working out our own solutions to parenting problems as we do reading about and implementing the latest expert parenting advice, we’d probably all have model children.

The problem with thinking it through ourselves is that parents never get a moment to think. We’re running from one crying child to another in bionic speed time while simultaneously wiping spills from the floor and cooking a nutritious meal with no discernable vegetables in it. Have you ever noticed how parenting experts seem to specialise in key areas: discipline, communication, sleep? If only parents could do that! All the effort we expend each day concentrated in one key area would create miracles.

That’s not how parenting works, however. It’s more of a “general knowledge” than a specialist program. Unfortunately, there’s no training or probationary period. We’re all flung into the middle of the action without even a helmet to protect us. And the majority of us survive, even thrive. We grow, we learn, and, along with our children, we do make it through fairly unscathed.

For every “expert” out there, standing outside the real action of parenting -- directing our bedtimes, mealtimes, homework times and playtimes -- there are hundreds of parents muddling through just like you and me. Each has their own approach, their own philosophy and, I’m sure, more than one trick to share. Yet, they all also have their own frustrations. Those times when you feel like the worst parent in the world, there are hundreds of other parents feeling the exact same thing at that exact same moment.

So the next time you find yourself flopping down on a kitchen chair and eying the dishes in despair after having finally gotten your child(ren) to bed two hours late, relax. You’re not alone. Each of those struggles teaches us more about our children and ourselves. Perhaps we’ll never be experts. We’ll surely always make mistakes. But in the way we handle those stresses, persevere through, and show our children that they’re important enough for us to struggle over, we’re teaching them some of the most important lessons they’ll learn. And one day, when they have kids of their own, they’ll put down the latest “parenting expert’s” book and ask for our advice. And I’m sure we’ll have lots.

----------- The End----------------------
But really it was the beginning. For it was my first column. I've now written 26 with more to come. It also made me think I should start my own blog and here I am.
Okay, okay, I'm still no expert, but I am really, really good at doing what I do and helping others see that what they do isn't all bad either. I think I may just maybe sort of possibly be somewhat succesful at this whole lark, even if I do only have 39 followers (that I adore!!!!)


Motherhood = Guilt?

After a difficult night involving two extra bodies in our bed and lots of whining (not coming from me) and a rude awakening featuring my 5 year old son's naked butt pressed into my face I put on my bright and happy mommy face and crawled out of bed.

Despite the four day headache which has morphed into a combo migraine/sinus/tension headache I actually felt like I could get stuff done today.

The kids went to bed really late last night but didn't sleep in at all, so it was nice and early. I had writing to do, housework to do, wrap a present for a birthday party, unshelve all the books from our upstairs bookshelf so it could be moved downstairs . . . blah, blah, blah. Typical day, basically. And I was ready to tackle it.

First order of business: breakfast.

T's been having tummy problems so probiotic capsules have made their appearance in our house. Despite the live-culture yogurt and probiotic enhanced bread we've decided to up the ante.

So, I crawl into the kitchen to whip up a batch of banana strawberry smoothie with live culture yogurt and probiotic powder. I pull out the whole grain plus flax seed sweetened with honey bread I made with my daughter yesterday - a recipe that allowed us to practice our math skills with fractions and counting.

I give the baby some homemade dandelion cordial that we also finished making yesterday, packed with Vitamin C.

And when I get it all on the table and survey my work with what should have been pride, I feel . . . GUILT!

What the?

Really. Okay, so when I don't make enough of an effort and I snap at the kids and throw them dry cereal for breakfast I feel guilty for being a bad mom. But when I do make the effort, handle my stress and tiredness and respond to their needs, give them a very healthy, effort-rich breakfast I feel guilty that maybe I'm being too good a mom.
photo courtesy of clix, stock.xchang.com
"Prison" courtesy of Clix

Maybe I shouldn't give my "all" because then they will expect it and not learn independent skills. Maybe I am denying myself in a way that acts as a bad role model for my daughter. Maybe I'm creating false impressions and setting her up for a lifetime of feeling like a failure and my son's up for a lifetime of feeling like no woman can measure up (okay, I know I'm not THAT good).

But the number one reason I felt guilt is because I was about to feel pride. Pride in being a good mother.

We're not supposed to be too proud of it, you know. After all, it's "just" mothering. And if we feel a sense of accomplishment and maybe even brag about it a little then we're making other mothers feel bad while at the same time reinforcing the anti-feminist belief that women can only be mothers.

And yes, I have been told this by a "feminist." A real, working feminist who works with a women's council once informed me that the "back to basics" mothering movement was going to destroy the work of generations of women.

I didn't know I was part of a movement. I just thought I was taking care of my family.

Because you can say what you want about the importance of parenting, but I chose to have children. And with that choice comes responsibilities. I am now responsible for them. I am responsible for keeping them healthy and supporting them. But I am also responsible for raising them, educating them, and preparing them to become citizens of our world. It's not just what I do that will have an impact now, but what they do. My influence on the world and the reach of my ideals has increased exponentially.

So when I felt that pride, and yes, maybe a little tingle of power, I should have been able to embrace it.

Instead I squashed it with inane guilt. Guilt that makes no sense.

As a feminist myself, my only true wish for future generations of women is that they not be saddled with this damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't guilt.

One thing I know is that the guilt I feel for being a "bad" mother sometimes is an internally created feeling. But the guilt I feel for being "too good" a mother is something that's been placed inside of me by the things I've read and been told.

So, out you go guilt. I'll sweep you away with these breadcrumbs. And please don't reappear tommorrow with the next batch of breadcrumbs.

Where does your guilt come from?


Making it Up As I Go Along.

When I first started blogging I remember reading people's posts about their 100th post and thinking "Wow! How did they come up with 100 things that people would want to read?"

And here I am. Apparently I, too, can come up with 100 things for people to read - or at least skim. And most of it I've just been making up as I go along.

So in honour of this achievment on both of our parts - me writing and you reading - I've decided to have a little give-away.

Actually it's a huge giveaway! Really! It is!  You don't believe me do you?

I think it's a pretty neat one, anway. There will be three (or more) winners and the prizes are as yet undetermined. Because the winners get to determine the prize!

Okay, yes, there are some restrictions. I will be making the prizes and I refuse to make conterfeit money; so sorry about that.

But I am pretty handy with a sewing machine and all kinds of handmade loveliness. I can make clothes, toys, or books for your children. Or I can make bath fizzies or bookmarks or a blog or digital scrapbook or a mazillion different things for adults.

A Princess and the Pea playset and individualised story book.

Here's the way it works. If you're a follower or subscriber to this blog tell me so in a comment. If you're not, than follow or subscribe and then leave a comment. That will get you one entry.

Because my 100th post falls smack-dab in the middle of Neurofibromatosis Awareness Month and because my son has Neurofibromatosis, you can earn extra entries for engaging in educating the public about NF. Go to The Children's Tumor Foundation or another reputable source of information and read a bit about Neurofibromatosis. Come back here and leave a comment about one thing you learned. That will earn you an extra entry.
Want even more entries?
  • Tweet an NF fact on Twitter and copy @ReadilyAParent when you do so - that's another entry.
  • Create an NF fact status update on Facebook and come back here to leave a comment with the link to your update - that's another entry.
  • Do both and you earn another entry for doubling up.
  • Blog about NF and/or this contest and earn another three entries.
  • Not on Twitter or Facebook or own a blog? That's fine (though, really, what DO you do?). I'll take your word for it if you leave me a comment telling me you've told at least one friend about Neurofibromatosis. One entry for that.
In order to enter you have to follow or subscribe. That's the only stipulation.

You've got time to get those entries in. I will use a random draw tool at the end of May (that's over two weeks) to pick three winners. I will announce the winners on June 01. At that time we'll decide what your prize will be.

AND to make it even sweeter. If I decide to make and sell the same item at craft fairs/farmer markets/flea markets this summer, 10% of the profits from the sale of each item will go to a charity of your choice and 10% will go to NF Canada.

AND to make it even easier to win: those extra entries for facebooking, tweeting, blogging, or telling a friend about NF are unlimited. Each time you do it, let me know and you'll continue to get extra entries.

AND to encourage you to tell your friends and enter as often as possible: if there are over 300 facebook status updates or tweets (remember to include @ReadilyAParent) before the end of May about NF then I will pick an additional 3 winners.

What did I tell you? It's pretty neat isn't it? Potentially six winners each getting something they really want or need. But the real winners will be me and my son and all the other NF sufferers, because I'm hoping there will be lots of awareness about Neurofibromatosis spread this month.

*Edit: Just found out about the giveaways list over at sewmamasew (yet one more reason why you should always subscribe to a blog rather than just bookmarking it!). So if you're into winning handcrafted items, check out their list


Strawberry Pudding Recipe

Yet again we've run out of food before the next payday (it's only one more day, thank God!).

We've almost run out of overdraft too to tell the truth.

So there I am last night trying to pack my son's lunch. A burrito I managed to save from the supper stuff-your-face-fest; some blue corn tortillas that had somehow escaped raiding in the cupboard. And. . .. no fruit, all out. No yogurt, all out and not enough milk or even some starter to make it with.

But I did have enough milk to make stovetop pudding. I asked son what flavour he would like: chocolate or vanilla or lemon and he replied: STRAWBERRY!

Fortunately I actually had some frozen strawberries. I couldn't find a single recipe online. So I invented one. It's pretty simple really. The end result is a very creamy, very thick, very pinkish custard-like pudding. I'd have loved to take a pic, but the camera is wonky.

So. Here goes:

You will need:
Thick bottomed small pot
A blender.
About 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
About 1 1/2 cups milk
3 TBSP raw sugar
3 TBSP corn starch
pinch salt
1 tsp margarine or butter
1/4 tsp vanilla

First put the strawberries in the blender. I just dumped them in till they reached the 1 1/2 cups mark on the blender. Add enough milk to get to 3 cups.

Puree - stir - puree some more.

Dump it in the pot and put it on med. high heat.

Go gather up your sugar and cornstarch. Give the milk in the pot a swizzle to make sure it hasn't burned on.

Add your sugar and cornstarch (I'm sure regular sugar, a syrup or honey would be just as good - raw sugar is what I had).

Whisk. Remember the pinch of salt and throw that in. Keep whisking (you could use a wooden spoon but I find the whisk keeps it from burning on better) while your milk comes up to a very gentle boil. Should be about 10 minutes (no need to be anal about it. If you have to scratch your nose or pour a cup of tea, go ahead, just come back and whisk vigourously to make up for it).

It'll be pretty foamy. Now you add that bit of margarine or butter. Stir it in well and it should disperse the foam and give the pudding a nice glossy look.

Remove from heat and gently stir in the vanilla.

Let cool 5-10 minutes before you put it in the fridge covered. Try not to eat too much of the warm creamy strawberry laden yumminess as it is meant for school the next day! It thickens considerably when cooled. So if you don't like it thick, cut back the cornstarch to maybe 2 TBSP.

Made another today with the dregs of milk and some leftover coffee but it didn't turn out quite as yumnmy. Good, but not blog-worthy.

When it Looks Like I'm Doing Nothing.

When it looks like I'm not writing - not blogging or posting new posts, it's just that I'm writing elsewhere. This week's column was one of my best yet, I think. You can read it here. It discusses the idea of what mothering truly is as Naomi Stadlen investigates in her book, "What Mothers Do: especially when it looks like nothing."

I'm also guest posting over at Notes From Lapland today. I'm linking to the blog, not the direct post and after you read it you'll know why!

I've also found this neat free software that allows me to create an flippable e-book from image files. So I'm writing out some of the children's manuscripts and ideas I've been working on and creating rudimentary illustrations to go with them so I can offer these e-books free to you, my readers. The eventual goal is to create some that I will charge for and/or create a paid subscription site that will give access to a new book every month or couple of weeks.

I have two half-finished and will be posting them as soon as I can figure out a free webspace to use to do so (they go beyond the limits of this blog).

So there you go. I'm not doing nothing after all. Oh yeah, and did I mention I have three kids! Most of this morning was taken up convincing the eldest to go to school and getting the middle and youngest ready for the middle child's doctor's appointment. And this afternoon I will be creating a poo chart with my middle child. Yes, you heard me right - a POO CHART. I'm sure the doctor had no idea the sh*tstorm she was unleashing with that suggestion! Ah, much fodder for my blog!


Living a Life by Example

This week I've noticed a few things that have made me feel a little proud of myself. Or, really, it's proud of our family.

Once upon a time, in the era before kids, I was a little bit of an activist. You know, one of those young people that believes if they speak "the truth" loudly enough and have a pamphlet to back it up then people will listen. Listen and obey. And change their horrid ways.

I don't think anyone ever changed their horrid ways because of me. But I did end up being told in not-so-polite terms that I shouldn't visit the country of Guatemala. Apparently lightly-vieled written death threats, even from 12 year olds, are taken rather seriously there.

I've mellowed a little, like a fine wine, with age. Part of it is increased awareness, understanding, and empathy, and the other part (probably the bigger part) is that I'm just too tired to be an actvivist!

But, I've discovered a new kind of expression. I've found that just be quietly living my life my way, by example, I can encourage people to rethink their ideas.

Last year we bought a reel mower. Okay, I admit, partly it was because reel mowers are much cheaper than electric or gas ones. But I was charmed by the idea that I would be getting exercise while mowing and using a healthier alternative for my lawn as well. Plus, I really didn't want to be part of the populace that spills more than 17 million gallons of gas each year - more than the Exon Valdez spilled in oil - while refueling (fact).

When I took the mower out of the box, it was about 10 minutes until it was assembled and hitting the lawn (about half of that just finding the right screwdriver). Within another 10 minutes half the neighbourhood kids were over checking it out and wanting to try it. And their parents were curious too! How the heck did I get their kids to mow my lawn for free?

It's safe enough that even my five year old can use it (he was four then) with some supervision. There's a guard so your toes don't go under the blade as you're walking and the blade stops turning the minute you stop walking. I hadn't even realised this other benefit to it until we started using it (I actually personally know three people who lost or nearly lost fingers in mower accidents).

We also decided to use a weed pincher to pull our dandelions rather than spraying or using chemical means. Our neighbours laughed at the effort, but guess who didn't burn their lawn with chemicals and guess who's currently resoiling and reseeding his dead lawn!?  That self-same neighbour has now purchased two weed pinchers and has extolled the virtues of natural lawn care to anyone who will listen.

I didn't walk around the neighbourhood with pamphlets proclaiming the benefits of reel mowers, but two of our neighbours have recently bought them. I didn't condemn our neighbour for using chemicals, but he learned his own lesson and is now ready to follow our lead.

I know not all the credit is mine. After all, they live in the same society I do and perhaps have done the same research; but it feels good to know that even though I'm no longer an activist, I can still be an examplist - living my life by example and gently and kindly sharing what I know with others. It feels great.

And it also makes me realise that as much as I wail against the deadening of our culture, the dumbing down of our society, the immoral attitudes reinforced by public media, etc, etc, if I can set a good example for people who see me once a week, then my children must be learning something from me. And that feels even better!


You Know You've Been Together Too Long When . . .

Right-o. So, if you read this blog at all, you know I enoy a little fart humour and have a potty mouth. If you've got a problem with either of those it might be best if you go somewhere else right now.

I am about to reveal how intimate my husband and I are.

It's pretty disgusting. So I definitely understand if you decide to go click on something else.

OK. Still here? Wow, you're brave. And probably not too smart.

Here's what happened:

Scene: The Big Cheese and I sitting on the-world's-most-uncomfortable-and-smelly-plaid-couch in the basement. We're watching "Couples Retreat" (which actually did have some pretty funny moments, especially involving a toilet, but was a little too boring in parts and saccharine in other parts).

TBC: Smell this (his wine! Please, get your mind out of the gutter)
Me: (take a sniff, not notice anything particularly great) Mmm, yeah, good.
TBC: You can read all the wine books and take all the courses in the world, but I'll tell you the one secret to picking a great wine.
Me: (rolling my eyes) Yes, honey, what's that?
TBC: It must smell like . . . winegums! A perfect wine smells just like winegums.
Me: Really?
TBC: blather, blather, blather - something about winegums and wine and he's very pleased with himself and thinks he's being funny.

*Note: something about my husband's librarian-ish sense of humour (he is a librarian after all, he's entitled to it) makes me flatulent. I tried my best. I put my hand over his mouth to stop the blather, blather. I told him "shhh, we're watching a movie." I asked him very politely if he ever wanted any form of sexual favours again. I even threatened that his foolishness would wake the children (ever the clowns, they wake at the slightest sniff of silliness goin on). None of it worked. I let out a little inaudible whimper of a fart. Husband didn't notice.

Another thing you must know is that our couch often emits odors of it's own. And it's so uncomfortable that we squirm so much that you could never tell if someone was squirming due to gaseous release or if they were just regular squirming.

Me: (sniffing the air suspiciously) Did you just fart? Please tell me you farted!
TBC: (indignant) No, to answer your question, I did not fart . ..
Me: Oh God!
TBC: What? I thought you farted.
Me: I did! But it SMELLS JUST LIKE YOURS. Dear Lord, that's wrong!
TBC: Some couples end up looking and sounding like each other. We fart like each other.
Me: I can't believe my farts smell like yours!! (almost falls on floor laughing)
. . . .
After a long and hysterical break
. . . .
TBC: You're going to blog this tommorrow, aren't you?
Me: I was just thinking the same thing. Yes. Yes, I am. Have you a problem with that?
TBC: No. I'm sure it'll send all your British best friends atwitter.
Me: I love you so much.
Disgusting, right?
Sorry for that.
But just out of curiosity. Have you ... well ...you know? Do you smell like your partner? And, if you do, are you ever-so-slightly offended that you smell like him/her rather than your partner smelling like you? (not that I am, mind, just curious)


The (Magic) Weighted Blanket Giveaway

I want a weighted blanket for each of my kids. Teaghan has always loved having gentle firm pressure, but gets too warm and kicks off her blankets and then gets cold. Harrison is a snugglebug who would probably sleep much better and have many fewer nightmares with one of these.

What do you think? Would your kids benefit from one too?

The (Magic) Weighted Blanket Giveaway

I Love My New Look, But I Hate it Too!

Arghh! I have to take the time now to go back through every single bleeding post on this site and click on "post options" and then "allow" because for some reason when I switched the template it defaulted to "don't allow, hide comments." Not only does this mean that you can't comment or see comments for older posts. It also means that everytime I write a new post I have to check that darn button again. And I can't seem to fix this default function.

Soooo, while I work on that. I just wanted to say what an amazing feedback from my column yesterday. I heard from people all over the world. Some with NF, some parents with NF, and some parents of kids with special needs. I heard about how thankful everyone was for my column, but I also heard some pleas for help and understanding. I've been working to respond to all of those emails and comments because I know how important and hard it is to reach out to someone.

One absolutely incredibly, multi-talented young adult with NF emailed me. Her name is Jenni and she's very self-deprecating - aren't we all? But not only is she thriving with NF she's got TWO (count em - 2!) blogs and is really developing an amazing voice and talent for writing. So here, from Jenni's baking blog is one of the funniest and most well-written posts I've read in a while. Who knew you could do yoga in the bathroom!

Getting Out of My Head: Food Version: Yoga


Little Wonders; Big World

Come, let's go on a little walk shall we?

Gone are the days when I trod purposefully down a trail or blazed my own path through the woods. These days I must stop and examine everything.

Being closer to the ground must make it easier to see the little wonders that rest there. But truthfully, though I miss the exercise of a quick walk, I love that my kids are learning to look at the world with eyes of wonder. In fact, it's often me that points things out to them!

Here are some of the little wonders we've seen on our journeys to the beaches and trails in our area:
"It's a good thing that snail left it's house before we stepped on it Mommy"

"Look a snail in the rock!" (Gastropod fossil)

"A fairy dust flower!"

"Dinosaur bones" (actually driftwood)

"Stop! Stop! A great big bird!" (An Eagle)

"I think if I push really hard I can make it fall off."

"The caterpillar wants to go for a slide too!"

"Oh Mommy, let's stop and pick some flowers"

"Mommy, shhhhhh. There's someone sleeping on that rock. See his legs?"

"Hey! There's fish!"

"It's like a fireball sun came and grew on the flower."

"Pink! Pink! It's pink! My favourite!

"No, Teaghan, that's not a biting spider. But we can't pet it cause we'll break it's web."

"I think THAT one is a biting spider!"

"Look, those stinger flowers look like Sea Ammmemmmanies. And they sting too" (Sea Amenomes)

"A berry tree! Let's eat 'em! Can we? Can we?"

"Watch out Mommy! That tree has fingers. It'll tickle you."

"That tree is going to fall off that rock!"

"The tree made a bench for me!"

"Mommy! Look! A fairy umbrella!"

"Who was eating these munchrooms?"

"Don't step on Mr. Fuzzy Green! He's so green! And fuzzy!"

That's it for our world. Not all quotes are exact but the spirit of the statement is there. What little wonders have you discovered?"

This post is for Stickyfinger's Gallery Week 10: "The (Secret) World We Live In."Check out the other entries here.


Dara's Got (No) Talent

Sadly, yes, I am still playing with my blog layout and colours. But that's okay because you love it, right?

I have always been the type of person that's really good at envisioning something artistic but completely and utterly lacks the talent to do anything with it. The only "art" I've ever been good at is sculpting. Perhaps because it allows me to work in three dimensions.

Crafts galore - give me some paper mache or a glue gun and I can create masterpieces. But give me paper and a crayon and I'll end up drawing a sun, a green hill, a blurry tree, and some flowers.

I've tried drawing from the right side of the brain (or is the the left) and I can't do that either. My perspective is screwy.

I'm the same with music. I hear wonders in my head. Sometimes I can even sing a beautiful and haunting melody for some song I've invented for the children. But ask me to pick out a tune on a piano and I'll always revert to Ode to Joy.

I think that's why I like writing. No translation needed, really. What I picture and hear in my head can be instantly converted using words.

Perhaps if I had immersed myself in painting classes and art gallery trips as a child instead of Enid Blyton, LM Montgomery, Roald Dahl and CS Lewis I'd be a better artist. Perhaps instead of learning the vocabularly and nuance of language I would have learned the technique and art of drawing. But if wishes were fishes and all that . . .

So, there it is. Blame Enid Blyton for being so interesting I couldn't pull myself away from Five Go To Mystery Moor long enough to attend art classes. That is precisely why my blog will never be a beauty and a wonder.

As long as it doesn't make you want to puke, I'm happy.

And please note, I am trying to fix this darn comment system. I think I'm done playing with the look for now - if I could just get that black side border off the header I'd be happy (ps: if you want to view my code and tell me where I went wrong playing with it, please do). But in the meanwhile, if you've something nice to say you can always email me at darasquires at gmail.com or catch me on Twitter.



This road is closed for construction. I'm afraid you'll have to take a detour. (What that really means is I'm updating the look of the blog this weekend and don't have time for posting. Suck it up and deal with it. 'Kay?)

I recommend you take the scenic route. I'm not going to draw you a map as my drawing skills are limited to stick figures (and even they have wobbly arms), but here's a written route suggestion. I have all the goods Google Maps is missing.

Over the next couple of days you could go find some food for thought at New Day New Lesson. You can join the kindness club while you're at it.

Then a trip to LOL at Notes from Lapland (sign up for secret post while you're there) and Vegemitevix.

Say hello to my twin sister seperated at birth over at Organic Motherhood with Coolwhip (if you don't PMSL at her fart machine post than you don't deserve to read blogs)

Head on over to Deer Baby for a pondering of the beauty of life and some beautiful writing.

Join The Moiderer and check out her penpal club.

Head over to Jerry Battiste for some free fiction

Provoke some discussion over at Typecast and pop into the Cancer-Your Story page while you're there for some moving accounts of dealing with cancer.

Pop by and visit Battling On and tell her I said hello, she'll invite you in for a cup of tea for sure.

Check out Bringing Up Charlie and sign up for the exciting new Creative Writer E-Course (free!)

And then on Monday (or maybe Tuesday depending upon how many times my son pees the bed between now and then) hop on the roundabout and head back here. The road will be open and it'll be full steam ahead. (apologies for the mixed metaphors)

In the meanwhile, if you have a route suggestion fo your own (i.e. if you want to pimp your blog) just plug it in the ol' comments system down there. Make sure you get your passport stamped at each route stop - I will be checking!