All posts by conniptionmissfit

About conniptionmissfit

I am a happy and content mother of two boys and wife of one guy. I retired from roller derby when I opened my own business; an indoor play centre for children. I am addicted to Pinterest, Candy Crush, Words with Friends, and watching movie trailers. I love red wine, reading novels, and taking long baths...I cannot remember the last time I indulged in any of those.

A heartfelt “thank you” to Robin Williams for his death

Now, that title alone is going to get some tempers flaring. No dood aboot it.  However, while I wish Robin Williams, the world’s funniest man, was still alive – not for me but for his family who loved him dearly – I want something good to come of his suicide.

So, it’s time for me – a literary nobody – to throw in my two cents because as someone who also suffers from depression, I’m basically an expert, right?  Not a fucking chance.  I know a lot about my own diagnosis but on the whole I don’t know jack about the disease.  Most of the people around me know very little about it either.  Despite our supposedly enlightened age, society doesn’t allow people to talk about depression without feeling like lazy losers most of the time. Shit, my supervisors at work still don’t know I have depression.  I don’t plan on telling them anytime soon.  Or maybe I’ll tell them tomorrow when I get back into the office.

robwill

Look at that face.  Really look at it.  I’ve never seen that picture of Robin Williams before I found it in a Google image search and it haunts me. Before Monday August 11, 2014 I would have looked at that picture and said to myself, “Man, he has more talent in his forehead than some people have in their whole body”. I would have thought that photo was just about good acting. And on the particular day it was taken, maybe it was.  But as someone who has depression (and is therefore an expert, remember…) I know there is more going on behind that face than anyone knows.

I had no personal relationship with Robin Williams.  I never met him.  I’ve never even seen him from a distance on the street.  I only know him from his movies and interviews.  But I’ll admit that although I was a huge admirer of his acting and improvisation skills, many of his interviews made me feel awkward and I was never able to figure out why until now.  Watching his physical comedy, the constant hamming on camera, the contortionist in the interview chair, the never-ending stream of jokes and one liners…it reminded me of my own antics throughout my childhood, teens, and even into my adult years.  If I wasn’t the funny one making jokes at my own expense, I was no one. Invisible. Lonely.

(For a great blog post about funny people and depression, read this: http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/robin-williams-why-funny-people-kill-themselves/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=fanpage&utm_campaign=new+article&wa_ibsrc=fanpage)

If the coroner determines his death was a suicide and it was his depression that lead to that suicide, I want to say thank you for his celebrity passing.  Maybe, just maybe much-needed attention will be turned to the topic of mental health and depression.  I mean, if the world’s funniest man lost his battle to “the dark” and the literally the whole. entire. world starts talking about depression and the lives it claims maybe something will be done about it.

I’m not going to go on and on and regurgitate the same stuff that has already been said in the less-than 24 hours since news of Robin’s death broke.  I won’t tell you a sad story about the tears behind every class clown you ever knew.  I refuse to go into some pseudo-scientific explanation about medicine vs. herbal remedies vs. exercise vs. institutionalization.  I am not going to jump on the soap box telling those suffering from depression to seek help.  You’ve all read countless posts, blogs, and articles spewing all of that already.  All I want to do with this post is say thank you to Robin.  Thank you for bringing awareness to the horrible disease that is depression.  If your death brings anything good, let it be that.

Blah, Blah, Effing Blah

blah: /blɑː/

informal / Noun
  1. (also blah-blah)[mass noun] used to refer to something which is boring or without meaningful content: talking all kinds of blah to him
  2. used to substitute for actual words in contexts where these are felt to be too tedious or lengthy to give in full: he said nations great and small could come together to blah blah blah
  3. (the blahs) North American depression: a case of the blahs

So, I went to the endocrinologist the other day to discuss my PCOS diagnosis in more depth.  I have to get more blood work done in a few weeks once my menstrual cycle starts again. What an asshole doctor!  Why would he inflict that kind of punishment on a poor, unsuspecting Phlebotomist????  Jerk.  Anyway, we need to check my hormone levels, yadda, yadda, yadda and figure out a plan to manage my PCOS more effectively.  He’s worried about diabetes, the difficulty I have losing weight, and other stuff.

Oh, for those of you who have zero idea what I’m talking about, here’s a PCOS link: http://www.pcosfoundation.org/?gclid=CPiKsoWPsLICFcY-MgodLWAAbA

Yesterday, I had an appointment with the doctor replacing my regular GP since she’s off having another baby.  This supply doctor was blunt, to-the-point, and border-line rude.  I love her.

I told her I was feeling pretty “blah” and wondered if my antidepressants needed to be adjusted.  She asked some really good questions that I didn’t even consider including; how many servings of fruit and veggies I get, how are my sleep patterns, what is my exercise schedule like.  I answered honestly and told her I had originally made the appointment to discuss my feet (I have heels spurs and plantar fasciitis) and how I’m just plain ol’ tired of my feet hurting ALL THE TIME.
Doctor: “Well, there’s a pretty simple solution to that.”
Me: “Lose weight, right?”
Doctor: “BINGO!”

What a bitch.

So the plan is as follows: stay on the current dose of my meds, add 4000 international units of vitamin D every day, stick to the exercise routine through the “crappy first weeks” and in 4-6 weeks or so I will see a drastic improvement in my energy levels, moods, and overall disposition.  I’ll be a regular Mary Freakin’ Poppins in no time!

What is this thing you speak of? Moat-iv-ay-shun?

mo·ti·va·tion / moh-tuh-vey-shuhn
Noun
1. the act or an instance of motivating, or providing with a reason to act in a certain way: I don’t understand what her motivation was for sitting on her ass instead of going to the gym.
2. the state or condition of being motivated: We know that she has a strong motivation to be healthy. Or does she?

3. something that motivates; inducement; incentive: Clearly, that lady’s long-term motivation is to reduce her back cleavage.

If I was my own personal trainer I would slap myself.  Really hard.

Here is my list of excuses for not following through on the pretty simple changes I laid out for myself in my last post *clears throat*

  1. the kids went back to school and new routines had to be established
  2. we had a tenant move into our basement and the house is a total disaster I can’t help from staring at in bewilderment
  3. I have been stressed because my business has not seen a lot of customer activity
  4. I had a little battle with my depression and decided to eat my feelings
  5. I haven’t been sleeping well and therefore I’m really tired
  6. my feet hurt
  7. blah, blah, blah, and blah…

A complete load of crap, right?  How many of those things would have been able to manage better if I exercised for even 30 lousy minutes?  Yeah, all of them.  And the thing is I KNOW I should get “out there” even if it’s just walking the dog.  I shouldn’t tell my hubby I’m going to the gym only to hide out in my car eating a banana split (yes, I do this).  I should follow through on the promise I made to my son to be healthy.  Cripes!  I made a pinkie promise to the kid.  What kind of mother am I????

Anyhoo, as I sit here eating the sodium-laden breakfast sandwich I bought in a hurry this morning at Tim Horton’s and follow it up with a über sugary chocolate chip muffin and fattening double-double chaser, I will attempt to analyze why it’s so hard for me to get off my ass and stick to a healthy routine.  I mean, the last thing I was dedicated to was roller derby (I actually lasted almost 4 years at three practices/week) but even that has fallen by the wayside.  Why?

Time and routines: If I went to bed earlier I could actually get up at the ungodly hour of 5:30am and get to the gym for 6am.  Then I’d be alert and feeling productive once at home again.  Those boys of mine would be fed and dressed, lunches would be made, they’d make it to the school bus on time, and I’d be on top of my game for the rest of the day.  Just thinking about it gets me excited!  Almost excited enough to actually follow through with the plan tomorrow morning!

Reorganizing the house avec tenant: When our friend moved into our basement we brought up all of our furniture and placed it in our main floor living room.  Holy crap!  I used to complain the room was so sparse and uninviting.  Now moving through it should be considered an Olympic agility event.  The drum kit in the corner doesn’t help even if it does look really cool.  But instead of cleaning a little each day I just stare at it not knowing where to start.  30 minutes on the elliptical machine would have helped me think more clearly, no?

Stressed and eating my feelings: I come from a long line of depressed people.  And eaters.  And smokers.  And drinkers.  And living-in-denialers…Instead of doing something productive to solve a problem we generally choose a vice and go wild!  May the gods help me from passing this bad habit on to my own offspring!!!  Even as I’m heading to Dairy Queen, I’m telling myself what a bad idea I’m having and it’s not healthy and I won’t feel good when I’m done eating and…and…and…but I don’t stop myself.  I hide my eating (can you say addiction?) and make sure all wrappers and cups have been thrown out in a public trash can before I pull back into my driveway.  I think I need to find myself a sponsor I can call when I feel the need to go eat something bad for me.  What’s the food equivalent of AA?  Gotta look that up.

My feet hurt: That one is easy.  STOP FORGETTING MY ORTHOTICS!!!  There.  Done.

So will I make it to the gym today?

That’s right. I said “Fuck Salad”!!!

See? He gets it.

sal·ad/ˈsaləd/
Noun: A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing: “a green salad”.

OK, I didn’t say “fuck salad”.  A friend did.  However, that little quote appropriately illustrates my hatred for leafy greens. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a darned thing wrong with salads or the people who love them.  It’s just, for me, interest in this boring course faded years ago when the novelty of the salad bar wore off as a child (there was something fun about picking out watery iceberg lettuce, pickled beets, cottage cheese, and shredded carrots topped with simulated bacon bits).

No. For me salads are a necessary evil I try to avoid.  In the past I have forced myself to buy supplies with the best of intentions to make healthy meals at home.   But whether it’s a prepackaged salad kit or fresh bundle of romaine, it ALWAYS ends up rotting somewhere deep in the back of my refrigerator.

It’s gross when I find/remember it.  100% of the time.

Anyway, salads are not the sole topic of this blog post.  I should introduce Mirror Mirror properly.

On the slippery slope to my 40th birthday (six months from now), I have vowed to not look at myself in a mirror from the neck down until that special day on February 23rd, 2013.  I will inspect my face regularly for zits, boogers, crumbs, and shit in my teeth but as for the rest of my person, I will NOT look.  I’m not avoiding my reflection because I hate myself or think I’m horrible for being 5’7″ and 205 lbs.  I am doing this in order to get over my personal obsession with how my post-two-large-babies body appears.  I have flab.  I have rolls.  Most of them are self inflicted and the result of too many milkshakes and late-night snacking sessions with the hubby (who is in amazing shape by the way).  I want to concentrate on how I feel, not how I look.

I am also throwing out my scale.  That thing is a superficial, judging piece of shit anyway.

So, though I have PCOS, scoliosis, depression, and a very busy life with two incredibly amazing yet crazy sons I am determined to make some major changes in my life.

#1: I have joined a gym.  As much as I hate, HATE getting up early, I will get there for 6am because it is literally the only time of day I have to work out.

#2: I am going to seek out “salads” I like.  These will not contain leafy greens I know I won’t enjoy (think real greek salads).

#3: I plan to incorporate about 75% of the gluten-free, dairy-free nutrition plan my homeopathic nutritionist gave me a few years ago.  I honestly can’t give the plan 100% because, well…I just can’t live like that.  I tried.  For now I think “reduced” vs. “free” is good enough.

#4: Every day will start with a fruit smoothie.  I am honestly surprised I don’t have scurvy or rickets.

The end result of these changes is to be healthy.  Not a supermodel, not a playboy centerfold.  Mainly, I want to be around long enough to laugh at my sons when they have children as insane as they are.

The Blame Game. Parents…it’s your fault!

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED: THIS POST CONTAINS SOME POTTY WORDS.  If you don’t like swearing, stop reading here.

This is one of my longer posts so grab a cup of something hot, lean back and scroll on…

I am a mum to two amazing boys who routinely drive me insane.  Like, legitimately insane. They make me cry, scream, pull out my eyelashes, take the long way home after work, and hide in the toilet.  I’ll admit that sometimes I will send them to the basement to watch TV with pizza pockets in hand just so I can have 30 minutes to get the ringing in my ears to stop.  But I love them and I’d do anything for them.  On the flip side of the parent coin, all three of us are lucky to have my husband living under the same roof.  He is my long-suffering and patient partner who supports me and every/any crazy thought, project, rash decision I have.  He’s not a romantic fellow.  I proposed to him and I can count on one hand the number of times he has given me flowers.  However, I won the matrimonial lottery when I met him.  He is loyal, kind, hard-working, heeeeeelarious, and puts up with my ridiculous shit.  He has also carefully educated our sons about PMS and the best way to handle me when I become irrational (I’m one of those lucky ladies who suffers from hostile PMS, postpartum depression, and take happy pills to keep me sane).  If the tables were turned I probably would have run away from home a long time ago.  I am blessed to have him as my co-parent and life partner who keeps me on a straight enough path (it’s not like he can control me but his opinions DO matter).  The boys are gosh-darned fortunate he can mentally retreat far enough back that they have avoided serious injury due to their attitudes and shenanigans. He’s a good guy and a brave man.

As parents, we look at the world through judgmental and suspicious eyes. Our boys are growing up in a very different world than I did and it is fucking scary.  For me and my friends, our teenage years focused around big hair, tight jeans, underage drinking, smoking, getting our driver’s licences, and pre-marital sex.  My evenings were spent trying to pick up Detroit radio station WLLZ on my small boom box from my small room in my small Canadian city.  There was no Internet and no cell phones.  Information came fairly slow (in comparison to today) and music videos were just beginning to show us the nasty underbelly of entertainment industry marketing.

Nowadays, kids have to worry about cyber bullying, eating disorders, body issues, and  convinced they have to look “hot” at 12 years old. Compared to our childhoods think about the stuff our kids have access to with a couple of clicks.  Just last night I was talking my 8-year-old son down from a self-induced hissy fit because he was on YouTube and came across a video that scared the shit out of him.  He saw a bloody and violent cartoon and now he couldn’t sleep.  He didn’t even go looking for it.  That BM inducing video found him!

Now, I can already hear the tongue clucking from a wave of readers who are about to tsk tsk me for allowing him to be online without supervision.  The truth of the situation is that I was at work and my boys were being watched by my mother.  She’s 69 and not tech savvy at all.  She wasn’t in the room, didn’t know what content they were accessing, and therefore nothing was being monitored.  But you know who is to blame for the whole situation?  The #1 person(s) who should be held accountable for my son’s nightmares?  It’s not YouTube.  It’s not my mother.  It’s not the creators of the cartoon.  The people at fault are me and my husband.

Ultimately, what/how/when my children access television, games, online content, and books is to be monitored by my husband and I.  It’s up to us to talk to our sons about what is appropriate for them at different ages.  We are the ones who need to impose limits and guidelines to protect them.  But most importantly hubbs and I are the ones who need to promote conversation with our kidlets.  We need to talk to our kids about anything and everything no matter how awkward that conversation may be.  I’m not the most conforming person out there but there are some conversations you MUST have with your children in order to help push the next generation forward toward becoming good, decent folk.  For your convenience and to help get your creative conversation juices flowing I have listed them below.  Feel free to change-up the vocabulary to suit your family.

  • Don’t eat snot.  Not your own or anyone else’s.  It’s gross.  Go ahead and pick your nose, everyone does.  Just please don’t be “that” kid and eat it.
  • Stop sticking your naked crotch into the dog’s face.  I know you’re just trying to say “hi” like she does but once again, don’t be “that” kid.
  • Don’t be mean.  I would consider myself a failure as a parent if you grew up to be cruel, demeaning, and an asshole.  I am going to do everything I can to make sure you learn empathy and sympathy, patience, and acceptance of others.
  • Don’t base your self-worth on the opinions of others.  If they don’t like you the way you are, fuck them.
  • Do NOT try to blame anyone for your mistakes.  If you did/said something and it didn’t work out the way you wanted to, say you’re sorry and accept that you screwed up.
  • Turn to people who know more than  you and ask questions.  If you’re surrounded by idiots then go to the library and ask for help at the front desk.  Don’t trust Google to answer your questions correctly.
  • As your parent, I am making up shit as I go along.  I have never had children before you so I severely lack the expertise.  If I don’t have answers I go looking for them from people who know a lot more than I do.  I am trying and I hope you appreciate that.
  • Call me on my own bullshit.  Just because you’re smaller and younger than me I can concede that you are pretty smart and know a lot I don’t know.  If I’m having a grown up temper tantrum remind me I might need a time out.
  • I’m going to make a shit ton of mistakes raising you.  Don’t hold them against me as I won’t hold your mistakes against you.  Unless of course you honestly know better and you’re choosing to be an idiot.  I mean, c’mon!
  • Earn the respect of others.  No one should give it to you “just because”.  You might be the world’s next Einstein but if you’re a jerk no one will respect you.
  • I honestly don’t care if you like girls or boys or both.  But if you love someone treat them with honour.
  • If I ever find out you have disrespected someone based on the clothes they wear, how they style their hair, how they dance, what music they listen to, who they choose to love, what they choose to do (or not do) to their body I will tear you a new one.
  • Give everyone you meet a chance to earn your respect.
  • Learn from others and make sure you share what you know.  Just don’t be obnoxious about it.  Again…don’t be “that” guy!
  • I am sure I have others but I’ll never publish this post if I try to remember everything I want to talk to my boys about…

I am so tired of people blaming the internet for their children’s issues.  It’s easier to look at someone else and say they influenced your child to do something, say something, wear something, or twerk against a door and accidentally set herself on fire.  Stop blaming the Miley Cyruses and Robin Thickes of the world.  Don’t blame the classmates your kids hang out with.  Don’t blame Playboy or Penthouse.  Don’t blame Victoria’s Secret or Maxim Magazine.  Don’t blame Cosmo, either.  Don’t blame the movies.  Don’t blame the musicians and performing artists. Stop passing the buck, parents.  Raising our kids to be responsible and respectful men and women is our job.  It is our responsibility.

I’m going to share my opinion here and it’s not going to be popular.  What ever happens to our kids is our fault.  Good or bad, it’s our fault.  We are living in an age where we have convinced ourselves that we don’t have any influence over our children.  Bullshit!  Or children want us to help mold them.  They may be rolling their eyes when we offer advice or say, “Sit down.  I want to talk to you about something.”  They are going to hate us for calling them on their crap and stupid behaviour.  But I can tell you one thing for certain; our kids would rather have us take an interest in their lives than let them stumble along on their own and raise themselves with the help of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace (does anyone still use that?), or Google+.

Sure, sometimes no amount of love and guidance will instill good morals in our kids.  Yes, there are situations where nothing short of professional help is going to help our child with a mental illness or deal with a traumatic event.  Most definitely there are times when we want to throw our hands up and say, “Fuck it!  I tried!”  But did you really?  Did you REALLY try?  Did you really ask your young daughter about that picture of her you found online?  The one where she’s posing in front of the bathroom mirror, looking over her shoulder, wearing only her bra, panties, and a duckface?  Did you honestly turn to your son after you heard him joking around with his buddies by calling one another “pussy”, “little bitch”, or “cunt” (for the life of me I cannot figure out why men insult one another using terms that pertain to females).

Look, I am the least perfect person in the world.  Despite my mom doing her absolute best I had a pretty shitty childhood.  I attended six elementary schools and three high schools, lived in three different provinces, was kidnapped by my own father, and watched my parents channel their inner Dick and Liz by marrying and divorcing one another twice.  Add to that family alcoholism, bullying, depression, and deeply hidden generational closet skeletons and we have one spicy soup of dysfunction.  In all honesty I should have been a statistic.   Fortunately, one of the things my mother did right was put me in as many therapeutic groups and workshops as she could. She didn’t have the tools to help me after my father put her and I into a women’s shelter so she turned to the people who did.  I learned a lot in those groups and from the counsellors I worked with.  Thank Zeus for their guidance because I shudder to think where I may or may not be today.

But this is what I’m getting at, people!  If you don’t already have the tools to help your kids make good decisions then find the people who do.  Are you a single parent, sign your kid up for Big Brothers or Big Sisters.  Find a support group you can attend so you can get the help you need, too.  Do you have 23 kids and burn the candle at both ends?  I’m sorry you’re tired and frustrated but those kids still need you.  If there are no resources in your community then take a giant leap, grow a set, and start something yourself!

I honestly believe there is no excuse to blame anyone else (i.e. the media) for our children’s behaviours.  We chose to have children and therefore it’s our job to give them the tools they need to survive in this world.  Talk, talk, talk.  I mean, don’t be a pest about it.  You don’t have to be hanging over their shoulders every moment but when you see something good, bad, celebratory, or troubling talk to them about it.  If you don’t, they might turn to Lil’ Wayne for advice.

Chat later,
Judy

ps…NO!  I don’t hate Lil’ Wayne but I have to wonder if that guy got enough hugs when he was a boy.

It’s not blackmail, it’s teaching life skills!!!

S’up?

So, as a mother and wife who works full-time (and then some…) running my own business with only one day off during the week, I decided I had to come up with a system to get my sons on board with helping me keep the house tidy.  I mulled over a number of ideas, did a poop load of research online, and tossed out the plan to set fire to my house and start from scratch.

When you’re deciding what threat system is going to work best for you and your family the thing to remember is motivation.  What will motivate your family to help around the house?  What is important to them and what are they willing to do to get what they want?  For my children, the #1 motivator is screens.  Screens =video games, internet/computer access, smart phones, and TV shows.  They could care less about allowance, ice cream, staying up late, or even special outings.  They know these other things will come their way eventually (mainly ice cream as a reward for not fighting for five minutes) so earning their screen time is the biggest motivator to getting anything done.  For the record, I also ground them from screens as a consequence for misbehaviour.  I mean, I could ground them from going outside and force them to stay home but what kind of masochist would I be if I did that?!?!

Thanks to my new boyfriend, Pinterest I modified an idea I came across.  There are many other bloggers out there who have posted amazing looking Family Command Centres.  I don’t have a lot of room or wall space to work with so I minimized the command centre idea and created chore boards.  I’m sorry I didn’t keep track of the entire process but I have included pictures of the final stages and finished project.

Step 1: My sons and I took a trip to our local Michael’s craft store and each picked out a piece of patterned scrapbook paper.  I also let the boys choose one for Daddy since he wasn’t with us as he would rather shove bamboo under his fingernails than go is often too busy for outings to craft stores.  We also picked up some sheet magnets and wooden circles and stars.

Step 2: I found some very inexpensive black frames at the dollar store.  In hindsight, I might have spent more than $2 for each frame because the sheet metal I used behind the glass proved to be WAY heavier than I expected (I’ll explain that in a bit…).

Step 3: After about three months and a few hundred harassing text messages reminders, my hubby (a Sheet Metal Mechanic) brought home some pieces of sheet metal cut to fit the frames.  These are to go behind the paper and glass and provide a magnetic surface for the project.

Step 4: I got my husband to spew a string of expletives recut the sheet metal because I gave him the wrong measurements for the frames.  He loves me to no end and did this happily and silently.

Step 5: While hubbs lovingly recut the sheet metal, I glued the labels I made to put on each piece of scrapbook paper that would indicate each family member’s board.  I wanted to make pretty printed labels but my printer decided to be a jerk and refused to line up properly.  After about three wasted sheets of sticky labels I gave up and just printed names on paper and cut them out.

Step 6: My sons and I assembled the chore boards in the following way: frame face down, glass, scrapbook paper, sheet metal, frame backing.  When I turned them around they looked great and were stupidly heavy.  Forget the idea of hanging these on the wall as originally intended.  These are now going to lean with the help of some dollar store plate holders.

Step 7: As I mentioned above, my printer is a jerk.  I wanted to make really nifty looking wooden magnets that would have our family chores written on them.  No sticky labels so I wrote on the wooden pieces with a black paint marker (found at Michael’s).  I had some downtime at work so I did the writing there…and they don’t look very uniform.  They aren’t perfect but the more I look at them the less I mind.  There is no denying Mummy wrote them, therefore instilling each wooden piece with more authority and power, right?

Step 8: Next I glued flat sheet magnets on the back of my wooden pieces. Though they were self-adhesive I used a glue gun to give the pieces a bit of extra strength.  I excitedly placed my first completed chore magnet to the glass and watched it slide to the bottom of the frame and fall to the floor.

sheet magnets suck

Step 9: I found some stronger magnets at my local office supply store.  I re-glued the new, stronger magnets to the wooden pieces.  I then watched them slide down the glass and fall to the floor.

These suck too

Obviously the %$*#@! glass from those %$*#@! dollar store frames is too %$*#@! thick and I must come up with a better idea.  Once again the thought of throwing everything on to the BBQ and starting from scratch.  But then hubbs saved the project by suggesting I find some rare earth magnets.  I call every place I can think of in my city only to find out no one sells them…

Step 10: Order “rare earth magnets” from Lee Valley and wait a week for them to arrive.  Rare Earth Magnets are amazing little things and have more insane attraction than me to Robert Downey Jr. after an Iron Man movie marathon…or me to Captain Mal after watching Firefly and Serenity in succession…or – sorry about that.  Where was I?

OK!  According to Wikipedia, “Rare-earth magnets are strong permanent magnets made from alloys of rare earth elements. Developed in the 1970s and 80s, rare-earth magnets are the strongest type of permanent magnets made, producing significantly stronger magnetic fields than other types such as ferrite or alnico magnets“.

SAMSUNG      SAMSUNG

Step 11: Stop cussing because these magnets finally work.  Like, these magnets are seriously strong.  I got 50 for $12.50 CAD and it was totally worth it!  I have extras and much to my hubby’s chagrin, I have been able to hang all kinds of extra crap on the refrigerator.

chore collage

Here is the finished product.  I’m pretty pleased with them and the boys have already started earning their screen time.  You’ll notice that even hubbs and I have our own boards because really, I can’t NOT be a part of this whole thing.  What kind of diva would I be?

I also decided to divide the chores and assign them a rating depending on grossness.  For example: one “red dot” chore = 30 mins of screen time, two “blue dot” chores = 30 mins of screen time, and three “black dot” chores = 30 mins of screen time.  Red dot chores are things like doing doggie poop patrol in the backyard (funny how that one always seems to get skipped…), blue dots cover cleaning toilets and bathtubs, and black dots are the things they are just expected to do like unpack their lunch kits and hang their back packs.

Now, to move on to the pantry.  Stay tuned!

SAMSUNG

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Kids don’t care about your sushi!

S’up?

I’m a mom who has hosted many a party for my two young boys.  I also operate my own business catering to people with young children, mainly 6 years old and under.  I help these people throw wonderful birthday celebrations for the special littles in their lives.  I see a lot of happy faces, memories made, and families reunited for the sole purpose of honouring a young person’s birth and life. I also see A LOT of waste.  Full drinks dumped down the drain, cakes with only the icing scraped off, and untouched pizzas filed away in the garbage.  Having worked in the hospitality industry in the past as well, wasted food has always bothered me; especially when you think of how many people out there would do anything to take home that discarded pizza pie.

No, I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on anyone reading this.  I would also be a complete liar if I said I never throw anything away.  I grew up in a Polish family and underestimating how much food is needed for an event has never been our problem.  I can go overboard and I have a nasty habit of assuming people can eat as much as I can (which is quite a bit).  Including children…

Anyhoo, in an attempt to help parents, grandparents, foster parents, aunts, uncles, and anyone else out there who is thinking of throwing their pride and joy a super awesome birthday bash I’m going to share what I have seen work well and what has failed miserably.

December 2011 088

Food: There are the typical kid-friendly foods that work well for birthday parties; pizza and hot dogs being the most popular.  However, most parents will give their children a snack of some kind before they head off to your kid’s party because 99% of the under-3-foot-tall set are picky eaters who will turn up their noses at whatever you are planning to serve. Soooo, mom and dad may or may not pre-feed their child to avoid embarrassing empty tank syndrome.  Have some healthy appetizers like cut fruit or cheese and crackers at the ready.
Having a celebration at home obviously gives you more flexibility when it comes to your party menu however, if you are planning a party at a play centre, bowling alley, or amusement centre you might not be able to bring your own food.  If you are having the party outside your home talk to the owners of the business.  These days, with food allergies and sensitivities in children on the rise, you might be able to come up with an alternate menu that will take everyone’s needs into account.  Regardless of the arrangements, keep the food simple and easy to eat.  Here are a few ideas to help eliminate food waste:

  • Brown bag it! Make fun little lunches for everyone and put them in paper bags with each child’s name on it.  I always recommend talking to parents of invitees and find out about any food allergies.  This way you can make sure each child enjoys their customized meal and it’s safe.
  • Finger foods. Little hands do better with little food.  If you’re having pizza, cut it into squares rather than long awkward slices.  Make mini sandwiches and pinwheels.  I saw one family bring in hot dogs cut up into small pieces and then baked inside corn muffins (think mini corn dogs).  Also try a meal on a stick; cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, and some rolled up sandwich meat.  Kebabs for wee hands = perfect.
  • Keep it simple. I have seen parents fret over why the littles aren’t eating the mini quiches or rice paper avocado rolls (seriously, I have seen this) and then have to deal with hunger-induced temper tantrums.  For some parents, this is the hard thing to hear; not every child likes sushi.  If you have a mini foodie at home, that’s awesome!  However, your son’s classmates likely do not have the same sophisticated palate.  If you want to get fancy, save that for the other parents (if you invite them to stay for the duration of the party).  Wow THEM with your culinary skills.  For the kids, you can stick to ham & cheese or even PB&J and they will be happy.  Trust me.
  • Offer choice. Kids love, LOVE making their own decisions.  Give them the tools to build their own meal and you’re pretty much good to go.  Set out a variety of breads, crackers, fillings, and condiments and let them go to town!  My boys love making their own chicken and cheese burritos rolled up in mini tortillas.  Personally I think they are the driest sammies ever created but they love them.  No butter, no mayo, not even mustard.  Weirdos.
  • Beverages: Forgo the cups!  They spill.  Provide small water bottles – I wouldn’t bother with full-sized bottles because, even though the kidlets will be running around and working up a sweat, they rarely finish a whole 500 ml serving.  There are companies that make 330 ml bottles, so get those.   If you can manage it provide juice boxes.  Even better, if you can find smaller juice boxes (like Junior Juice) I would go with those.  OH!  I almost forgot – I see countless juice boxes go to waste because kids forget which one was theirs and they don’t want to risk getting cooties from another pint-sized party guest.  Provide markers and label each and every water bottle and juice box.  They will likely finish their drink if they know 100% only their own backwash is in it.

Cakes: Kidlets don’t have a lot of room in their tummies.  If you try to feed them cake after getting them to eat a whole hot dog, you are going to have many, many plates of left over cake with only the icing scraped off.  I promise.  I have seen whole pieces of cake thrown away.  Heck!  I have even seen 3/4 of a slab cake dumped in the garbage because even the parents didn’t want to take it home and deal with it.  My suggestion; cupcakes, mini cupcakes, or cake pops.  And I’ll say it, cake pops are my favourite option out of them all.  Each provides just enough sweetness to round out the meal and you aren’t dealing with a massive sugar overload (and crash).  Hire a cake maker to do them for you or invest in a cake pop maker.  Dead easy to DIY!

Pinatas: Pinatas are great fun but can be a hassle.  They can also be dangerous.  I kid you not, there is an online group who talk about pinatas in relation to gang activity and as a gateway to future violent behaviour (www.downwithpinatas.com).  Weird, eh?  Anyway, pinatas are also messy.  And heavy.  And hard to hang.  And hard to break.  And…and…and…How do you still give kids the fun of a pinata while keeping things safe and exciting?  Try finding pull string pinatas that eliminate the whole whacking-with-a-stick-and-accidentally-giving-someone-a-bloody-nose-or-swollen-junk aspect.  Or you can make a punch box where the kidlets punch through a hole covered with tissue paper and pull out a prize.  Just google “pinata alternatives” for a whole whack of ideas.  Tee hee…whack.

Loot bags: Ask any parent and many will tell you they hate loot bags.  They hate making them and they hate taking them home.  Usually loot bags are filled with dollar store toys that break five minutes after the child starts playing with them.  Or, worse still, if there are siblings who weren’t invited to the party, seeing their brother or sister come home with a bag full of goodies usually starts a fight.  I’ve seen it first hand.  Why not try something different?  One mom I know gave away home-made candy apples with sprinkles.  All of the kids loved them and I was able to cut it in half for both of my own boys to share later.  Another mom I know gave away $5 gift cards to the local book store along with a thank you note signed by the birthday child.  There are a million loot bag options to replace the candy and plastic toy idea.

candy apples

Gifts: To open or not to open? That is the question.  This topic has been getting a lot of attention lately.  We all love the idea of our children surrounded by friends and family and graciously accepting gifts while using their “pleases and thank yous”. It really depends on the setting and the ages of the children but truthfully, I have never seen this happen in groups of less than three kids.  Yes, the grown ups love seeing the look of surprise on cute faces and yes, as parents we want our children to show gratitude for the gifts they have been given.  But in reality, what I see about 70% of the time is a group of kids very excited to give their gift and watch it be opened but then they want to take off and play again.  If it’s a large group of children getting them to sit through the opening of every. single. gift is torture for them.  They are having too much fun playing with their buddies.  At one party I recall the birthday girl asking if she could stop opening presents because all of her friends were sneaking off to play in the jumpy castle and she wanted to join them.
Granted, this is a situation that is completely up to the parents/party organizers.  Showing gratitude is very important, I agree.  But if you choose to take the gifts home, ensure the child writes a thank you note or calls everyone to express her appreciation.

Every family, every child, every celebration is different.  Do what works best for you, your special little, and your little’s friends.  Above all, don’t stress and remember to take in the event because it will be over before you know it.  Oh, and take lots of pictures!!!

Why Everybody Be Hatin’ on the Little Prince?

It has been a while since an event has divided the world in such a way.  When it comes to the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, (do I really need to tell you who his parents are?)  the way I see it, there are three groups of people out there; Group #1 is over the moon and frothing at the mouth over the third in line to the British throne.  Group #2 are so irate that this little (not) nobody is getting oodles of press time when there are more important things in the world to discuss.  Group #3 really doesn’t care either way.  I am somewhere between #1 and #3.  Maybe I should make a fourth category?

My two cents on the Royal Baby? I ain’t no Royal watcher but I’m pretty stoked!  Many people are upset by the amount of coverage this little lad is receiving. Personally, though the Royal family has no effect on my daily life, I am more than happy to be bombarded by news of a little person making his way safely into the world.  It is a much-welcomed change from the drama of war, starvation, GMOs, murder, debt, environmental disaster, politics, earthquakes, rape, bullying, and general destruction that normally fills our airwaves.

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As a global community it would appear we are all so desperate for good news that it is no wonder we choose to cling to events such as the birth of a famous child.  A child represents hope for the future, an innocent person free from prejudice.  A clean slate.  A new start or in come cases a “do over”.  The little Prince was famous before he was even born and though the media has a way of convincing us what is “important”, why is it so hard for some of us to admit we got sucked in to the hype?  I’ll admit, I checked the news tickers daily to see if Kate had gone into labour.  And hooyah!  I got excited when I saw them on the steps of the Lindo Wing debuting their son – I even watched the live feed on my laptop.  So what?  I am a parent and I am happy for them.  They have a new little person to get to know and I can relate to the fears and joy they are feeling at this very moment.

The royal birth has made a bunch of people happy and I see nothing wrong with that.

Father’s Day can suck it! It’s OK, there’s a happy ending.

So, today is Father’s Day. It’s a day that has always filled me with a sense of weirdness. I can honestly say I did not have the world’s greatest dad.  Not even close.  In fact, I didn’t really have a father at all. I mean, I had a father but he wasn’t around much because, as a heavy equipment mechanic, he would often choose jobs in mining towns in the middle of nowhere. My parents divorced when I was about six years old and then remarried when I was 14. Those in between years were filled with dreadfully boring visits that seemed forced on his part and definitely were forced on my part. Neither one of us honestly wanted to be in the other’s company and I used to beg my mother to let me stay home. “Tell him I’m sick or something!” But she always made me go because, “He’s your father and you need to spend time with him”. Ugh. I hated those visits.

My father would arrive at our apartment to collect me and honk his car horn from the parking lot. He was always late. Always. We would drive in silence to Smitty’s for all-day breakfast where I would order “silver dollar pancakes”. I actually didn’t mind this part of the “date” because my father allowed me to order as much extra bacon as I wanted and turned a deaf ear when I told the waitress I wanted a large milkshake.  Or two.  I swear if my father raised me I would have been 500 lbs by the time I was 10.

smittys

While I kept myself occupied with my pancakes, bacon, and massive milkshake my father read the newspaper and smoked cigarettes (this is back in the day when restaurants actually had smoking and non-smoking sections). He was nice enough to pass the comics my way. We hardly talked.

After a few agonizing hours my father would drop me off at home. He literally dropped me off. He would pull into the parking lot and leave the engine running. Shit, the guy didn’t even put the car in park. I would say thanks for breakfast and run upstairs. I was safe for another few weeks or months depending on when he planned on breezing through town again.

About five months after my parents remarried the second time they split up again. There are more details to the final split that don’t really need to be shared but let’s just say this time it was permanent. Shortly after this split my father stopped communicating with me. I was partly relieved and partly devastated. But whatever, eventually it became my new norm. I got used to not having my father in my life and on Father’s Day I would often give my mother the requisite greeting card telling her she was the best father and mother a girl could have.  Things were fine and my father sort of slipped out of my mind.

Aside from the time he caught me off guard by calling me on my 21st birthday I didn’t talk to my father at all for several years.  That is until my half-sister called me to update me on our father and the fact that he had cancer.  He was eventually moved into a hospice and I decided to stop in and see him while on a family trip to my hometown.  By this time I was married with two sons of my own.  A huge part of me wanted to show him I didn’t grow up to be the loser he once told me I would be.  I wanted give him a dose of “in your face!”.

As tough as I felt making the plans to go see him I can admit that it took me about 20 minutes to actually get my ass into his room.  After so many years to ponder the abusive man I sort of grew up with, my father’s image exploded in my mind.  I had convinced myself he was a 7 foot-tall behemoth with hands that could put Andre the Giant to shame.  I walked down the hallway of the pristine hospice and rounded the corner to his room all the while clutching my husband’s hand.  I was scared.  In many ways I was still terrified of my father and the small child in me wanted to run and hide from him like I used to.  I got to his door and almost threw up.

The first time my husband and boys met my father he was a mere shadow of a man.  He was laid up in bed with tubes going in and out of his frail gray body.  Obviously the boys were terrified and didn’t even come near him. They are naturally shy but for them it was like meeting Skeletor only my father’s stockiness and barrel chest had been replaced by heart monitors and IVs.

I cried.  I had a full-on panic cry.  I tried so hard to keep my shit together but I couldn’t.  My kids stared at me as I tried to catch my breath and get myself under control.  What in the hell was wrong with me?  After a time I figured I should just get the meeting over with and I went inside.  The asshole acted like my visit was no big deal.  I introduced him to my family and the only comment he made was about my boys asking, “What’s wrong with them?”.  Uh, gee Skeletor.  I don’t know!

He was still so cocky and flippant.  Once I saw that even cancer wasn’t going to change him the sadness I felt  for him melted away.  I honestly could look at this man, my father, and feel 100% fine about our relationship as it was.  I had no regrets and just like those visits to Smitty’s all those years ago, I couldn’t wait to go home.

As I drove away from the hospice with my family I looked over at my husband and realized just how amazingly lucky I was.  Statistically, I should have ended up in an abusive relationship with a man similar to my own father.  But somehow the universe sent me a gentle, quiet, and ridiculously funny man who was showing me what it takes to be a dad.  I didn’t know what to look for in a co-parent when I met Jay.  He was kind and we had similar views so I figured we would work the rest out as we went along.  Jay has surprised me time and time again with his ability to take on his role as a father.  Coming into parenthood neither of us had a clue about what to do.  We didn’t know how to be responsible for two little lives.  Who in their right mind allowed us to become parents?

He may not be the “World’s Greatest Dad” (whatever that means) but I could not have asked for a better guy to help me raise our two monsters.  As I fought post-partum depression Jay took care of our boys.  When I balled up crying from an exhausting night of constant feedings he took the boys for long walks so I could sleep.  As they got older and tested me he had my back.  When they desperately needed an adventure, he took them into the forest.  The boys know Jay to be the “fun” parent.  He’s the one who will jump on a bike and explore trails with them.  He’s also the one who easily gives in to ordering pizza and eating in front of the TV when I insist on family meals around the table so I can check in on how everyone is doing.  He’s the one who reminds me the boys are “OK.  Just fine.”  He tells me to relax and allows them to slack every now and then.  He has smartly educated them on the warning signs of PMS.  He reads bedtime stories in a variety of accents that can literally make the boys pee their PJs.  Jay is also a wonderfully firm father.  Even though he will dole out consequences for bad behaviour the boys know they have a dad who loves them.

I envy my boys.  I don’t know what it feels like to love a father.  I don’t understand the excitement a child has when dad comes home from work.  I don’t know what it feels like to jump into the arms of a man who would do anything to protect me.  I can’t tell you how it feels to hear my father say, “I love you.”  And I certainly have no clue what it feels like to crawl into bed after a horrible nightmare and know my dad will put his arms around me and make me feel safe.  I envy my boys but feel an unimaginable amount of relief that they can feel all those things and more when it comes to Jay.

I also feel sorry for them.  Some day their dad will be gone and the amount of pain they will feel will be akin to someone blowing a hole in their chest.   When my own father died I did cry but I cried for very different reasons than they will.  I cried for the relationship I never had.  They will cry for the relationship they did have.  However, no matter what, they will have great memories.  So many great memories that they won’t be able to keep track of them all.

Now!  Let’s go eat some pancakes!

SAMSUNG

Nothing reminds you of how short life is than being scared

Hey there.  I honestly don’t know how to begin this post but I feel like, regardless of the outcome of the next few weeks, I need to write something.  I could be at the beginning of a very long, difficult journey or everything might be fine and all my worrying will have been for nothing.  Obviously I’m hoping for the latter.

I want to say, first off, that I know many beautiful and strong people who have been through various health issues and come out victorious on the other side.  I admire these women and I have no idea, like zero clue, what it must be like to be diagnosed with a major health issue.  I don’t know what it’s like to go through therapy, take too many pills to count, literally lose a part of yourself, and yet still carry on.  All I know right now is that my head has been uncontrollably swimming with thoughts and preconceived outcomes.  I don’t know if any of the scenarios in my head will actually come true but I cannot stop thinking…

The plain truth is I began having breast pain a few months ago.  I didn’t think too much of it at first because 1) I just turned 40 and figured some stuff was happening in my body that signaled my downward spiral to oldwomanhood and 2) I hadn’t exactly been taking care of myself (drinking too much coffee, not eating enough veggies…).  Who knows?  I could have cysts or maybe I’m becoming peri-menopausal.  But as the pain seemed to become more noticeable and constant I began to think I should maybe stop using Google as my go-to medical expert and actually talk to a medical professional.  Crazy, I know. I wanted to make an appointment with my doctor but would have had to wait about six weeks (redonkulous).  So, I paid a visit to the walk-in clinic.

I tried to keep myself preoccupied in the waiting room but had that annoying little bug in the back of my brain whispering, “It’s bad.  It’s going to be really bad…”  After about 90 minutes I was called into an examination room and in no time the doctor came in.  I’m not sure why but just seeing her made me feel both terrified and relieved at the same time.  I was relieved because, being a professional, she would tell me I’m fine and worrying needlessly. Or, wait, her thin fingers with years of experience poking and prodding might find a lump my untrained fingertips missed.

She couldn’t find anything.  Phew!  But she’s sending me for a boob sandwich anyway.  Wait.  What??

I expected her to say, “I’m going to send you mammogram.  It probably won’t find anything but let’s just be sure.”  She didn’t say that.  In fact, she didn’t say anything that might lead me to think I’m just overreacting to some sore old lady tits.  I mean, she didn’t say anything that would make me think she had a solid reason to worry.  But…but she didn’t say anything to set my mind at ease either.

Bitch.

Okay, okay…I’m chalking her reaction/non-reaction to too much experience in this very situation where it’s best to lead women to just expect nothing/expect everything is wrong.

I texted my husband, “I am on my way home…with a referral for a mammogram.”  He texted back, “Oh.”

That night, as I was having some snuggle time with my youngest son, I began to think.  A lot.  Too much.  Damnit, I hate when I think too much.  In the dim light I looked at the back of his head and inhaled his little boy scent which clearly indicated they skipped bath while I was at the clinic. Just before he dozed off he squeezed my hand as it rested on the small of his waist.  “I love you mummy.”  I told him I loved him too and I began to quietly cry.

I have the luxury of knowing what life was like without him.  I remember my life before he entered it.  Though I never wish to not have him in my life, I at least have that point of reference.  Once upon a time he didn’t exist.  He never influenced a decision I made.  He didn’t play a factor in whether or not I made a certain meal for dinner.  I had yet to live through the glorious experience of being thrown up on after a night out at the Chinese Buffet (true story).  I didn’t miss him because, like the old saying goes, “You don’t miss what you never had.”  However, he doesn’t have the same luxury.  He does not know a life without me or his father.  Or his brother for that matter.  He has awakened every day in a home where these three people have always been.  As I snuggled up against his tiny body, breathing deeply as he sunk further into sleep, I thought about not being around for a Christmas.

I have spent every special holiday with him.  I was there when he was evicted from the womb for being too stubborn.  I gave him his first bath.  I changed his first tar-streaked diaper.  I was there for needles, birthdays and first days of school.  There has been very little I have missed in his life.  He doesn’t remember those early days.  And though he, at 6 years old, isn’t thinking too deeply about life and death and the universe, all he knows is that mummy has always been around.  I’ve been there after school, at dinner, school events, and most importantly at bedtime.

I tried to imagine how odd, strange, and horrible his life would become if suddenly a permanent fixture from it suddenly disappeared.  Or worse…what if I disappeared slowly and painfully?  I mean, how does a kid work through that?  Adults have some life experience that helps them get through tragedy but kids, how do they make sense of illness and death?  Sure, there are books out there and counsellors trained to help them through the worst parts but really, once the funeral is over and wake guests go home what does a kid do?  Once the number of sessions have been exhausted and there isn’t really anything left to talk about with the shrink, what does the kid do to move on?  Family and friends will (hopefully) be there and eventually the sadness will go away.  But for a child, that hole will always be there.

Ugh…I know I am overreacting but this blog is like my diary.  I just write and babble when I need to get stuff out. I had my mammogram yesterday and now I’m just waiting to hear back from my doctor.  I was told “no news is good news” but still…I hate waiting to be told I’m okay.  Or sick.  Or anything.

I think I’ll call her next week.