Thursday, November 27, 2008

Past Deadline: Finding Quality Time in the Bathroom

Here is the latest "Past Deadline," published Wednesday, Nov. 26/08 in The Perth Courier. Yep, it's kinda bathroom humour....

Finding quality time in the bathroom

One day my mother-in-law passed me a little newspaper clipping, as she is wont to do. Although I cannot currently find it amid the clutter (I am pleased to report that earlier this fall I started my spring cleaning from 2002), the gist of it was that once a child turns three, a mama should stop catering to her every need and encourage her to do more for herself. You know, drive the car, carve the roast, chop the firewood – big girl stuff.

I’m not sure whether the article was useful advice or a subtle observation that I live with HRH Bossy McBossypants. Either would be true.

I remember the period with Boychild when I suddenly felt less like Important Provider Mama and more like Cinderella. He would have been about three. I also remember the feeling of immense freedom when Boychild could do more for himself, which gave me time to do blissful, luxurious things like, say, go to the bathroom by myself. Sometimes I could go in there and no one would even call my name!

My name, incidentally, is: “Mom? Mom! MOM!!” My middle name is “Ineeda.”

With baby number two those glorious minutes of solitude disappeared like so many dust bunnies rolling under the couch when someone walks through the living room. Now she’s three, and we’ve returned to Cinderella time. Girlchild has Attitude. Half the time she can darned-well-do-it-myself-don’t-touch-me-thank-you-very-much, but the rest of the time she’s in full blown diva mode, conveniently unable to put on socks or pants. (Who could blame her, though? Why wear socks and pants if you don’t have to?)

Like any exasperated – I mean patient – mom I try not to scream – I mean I try to encourage her to hone those skills and be a big girl. Sometimes, though, you’ve just gotta get out the door, which means cramming flailing legs into snow pants and showing little interest in whatever Tragedy Has Befallen Our Heroine, be it that Mars and Jupiter are not aligned or she doesn’t want to wear those pink mittens but, rather, the pink ones with the silver hearts on them.

First child and second child also develop an interesting little conspiracy. Suddenly there are a lot of things first child forgets how to do because he sees mama doing them for second child. “Apple juice, please!” Sometimes it takes a while for a sleep-deprived mama to catch on to this.

So, whether you call me Cinderella or MomMomMom Ineeda, I want to know – if the shoe fits, do I get a prince or just another shoe to clutter up the place?

In my spare time which, I assure you, is not spent in the bathroom because that is most certainly when I will be needed urgently for something, I find myself wondering about the olden days of child rearing. I know other people think about this, too, because it says so in Sunday’s Ottawa Citizen.

I have a newspaper clipping on my desk (not actually from my mother-in-law) called “Listen to the ‘suck-it-up lady’” by columnist Elizabeth Payne. It details how popular Ottawa clinical psychologist Maggie Mamen (author of The Pampered Child) is a proponent of parents regaining control of their families and learning to say “no” to kids. Her theory is we have become a “child driven” society and that many parents feel the need to keep their children happy at all times and to meet their needs immediately. This leads to many parents behaving like servants.


Ms. Payne suggests this need for immediate gratification and the inability to wait for things is part of the reason we now have a global financial crisis: people have been going out and buying things they want right now even though they can’t afford them. People have lost the ability to save, and wishing for things, Ms. Mamen says, is one of the joys of being human.

Again – hm.

Patience is definitely something little folks I know need to practise. Perhaps one of the first new house rules I’ll impose is “don’t disturb MomMomMom Ineeda in the bathroom unless there is carnage or mayhem.”

A few quiet moments in the bathroom! Dare to dream, Cinderella.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Past Deadline: Confessions of a Waste-Management Junkie

Call me trashy, but here is the latest "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Nov. 19/08. Someday I hope to find a few minutes to scribble down some regular posts here again!

Confessions of a waste-management junkie

“This is so exciting!” I said to my six-year-old son as I pulled our brand-new shiny GreenBin into the kitchen. I prattled on at some length about how thrilling it is to be able to sort garbage again. “We can do this as a family!” I bubbled, explaining some things won’t go into the trash can anymore.

For a moment Boychild looked horrified, probably because it dawned on him his mother is a bit odd. “But I’ll never remember all this!” he moaned.

“You’ll get used to it,” I reassured, “and if you don’t know where something goes, ask me.”

He wandered off, undoubtedly trying to push worrying thoughts of his waste-management junkie mama out of his head.

See, back when I was a reporter for The Perth Courier one of my “beats” was the county’s now-defunct waste management committee. I was immersed in trash – and not of the tabloid journalism variety. It left me with opinions.

When Perth announced it was launching a GreenBin (curbside organics) program in an effort to divert smelly waste from our almost-full landfill site I was delighted. After all, everyone knows landfill sites are easily offended and don’t appreciate smelly stuff. When the town said it was bringing back our depot so we could recycle more items, I actually did a little dance in my kitchen. I can sort! I can divert!

Yes, I am just that odd.

Sure, it’s not perfect. Change isn’t always lovingly embraced. There’s more to remember, such as what goes into each bucket, bin or bag and when it goes out to the curb. We have to drive farther to the depot than before. The GreenBins may get stinky on hot days. Garbage is only collected every two weeks.

But this is good stuff on so many levels! First of all, the town’s educational materials are first rate. The lists and the handy dandy schedule are on our fridge. Secondly, this will become routine eventually. Now I scrape my plates – even meat – into the kitchen pail instead of the garbage can. I have to look at labels to determine whether an item goes into the blue box, the depot bag or the garbage. I’ll learn.

Yes, the depot is farther away, but it’s open every Saturday morning so you don’t have to think about when to go. Besides, family trips to the dump are, er, great fun! As for the messy smelliness of things, it’s a fact of life. We’re consumers and our landfill is going to have to close in not so many years. That’s gonna be a whole new kettle of stinky, expensive fish. I’m happy to have a new use for my newspapers as bucket liners.

In terms of garbage collection every other week, I’m all for it. For one thing, it shouldn’t be too smelly since all the ickies are in the GreenBin. Diapers would be an exception, I reckon, which certainly makes one understand why moms of days-gone-by had their children potty trained before they left the womb.

The whole thing also helps me to think about what I am buying and how it is packaged. There is still a lot of stuff going to landfill! The relaunched depot doesn’t accept as much as the old one did, but perhaps that is a sign (I hope!) that the town has found actual markets for these recyclables. I always wondered whether all our sorting work resulted in the material being landfilled or dumped in the Pacific or a rainforest somewhere.

It’s not easy to change one’s habits, but there are things we can do to reduce what waste we bring home. Ultimately, though, we need some help at the other end – less packaging at the source. It’s not always easy or possible, as the consumer, to make perfect choices.

Congratulations to the town for taking some proactive and interesting steps to help us manage our waste. There are some other nifty waste-management ideas at – check it out!

Now, if I can just convince my kids I’m not a nutbar and make this a truly exciting family affair, wouldn’t that be great? Dance of joy, dance of joy…

…and people backed away slowly.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Past Deadline: Witches and monkeys and wizards, oh my!

Here's the latest "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Nov. 12/08. You gotta love the theatah!

Witches and monkeys and wizards, oh my!

There are so many good reasons to go and see a Perth Community Choir show. For one, you’ll see lots of people you know dressed up in strange ways. It’s a chance to expose your children to the arts. You can see people you haven’t seen in weeks/months/years because a) they don’t live here anymore but come back for PCC shows or b) you just don’t get out much.

I’ve been trying to remember how long it has been since I’ve seen a PCC show. Was it Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in 2001? Could it really have been that long ago? Well this year it was finally possible for us to make it a family affair. No babies nap in our house anymore, so we made our way to the Sunday matinee to see The Wizard of Oz.

Now, before you gasp and shudder at the thought of us taking Boychild, 6, and Girlchild, 3, to “that scary show,” don’t forget that in my official capacity as Mother of the Year I have already frightened the bejeebers out of them with scary witches and flying monkeys. No, not me and Groom-boy!

A couple of months ago I purchased the DVD of the 1939 version featuring Judy Garland as Dorothy – you know, the one we used to watch fearfully once a year as children when it was on TV, covering our eyes and ears for the scary parts. I inflicted the movie on my kids. A certain boy in our household is fascinated by tornadoes, so he was quite intrigued during that potentially scary part. He laughed about the flying monkeys, too, and called them “ninja monkeys.” Later, though, as Dorothy sobbed through what might have been her final moments in the dark and spooky witch’s castle, I had to talk a couple of people off the ledge.

“I don’t want to watch anymore, Mom!” they beseeched. I laughed (because I’m Mother of the Year), and said, “But you HAVE to see this next part! Everything works out. Watch what Dorothy does to the witch. It’s soooo funny!”

It’s all in the marketing, you see. They waited and watched and then they laughed as [Caution: spoiler!] the witch melted away into a puddle of dry-ice goo. Phew! And then we watched the DVD over and over again – to the point I was almost thinking back fondly to the Teletubbies. Almost.

Needless to say, the short people in the house were quite excited to go to the play. Girlchild was warned in advance that this particular venue would not favour dancing in the aisles. She would have to remain seated. Not a problem. For two and a half hours they were entranced by a show that was both familiar and not, offering some enticing new snippets. In particular, the Jitterbug number was exciting. Anytime you combine tap shoes with singing and glow-in-the-dark jewellery you’ve got a showstopper.

My munchkins were also well prepped for the scary parts and had their hands over their ears in anticipation of scenes they knew would be loud. As the kids sat enraptured by all the activities onstage – including set changes – Groom-boy and I enjoyed seeing familiar faces dressed up as, well, familiar faces. Some folks lost accents and others gained them, some made mighty fine trees and others were projected onto screens in entertaining ways.

It was great! Well done, everyone!

What a treat to peek at Girlchild as she watched the show and see her face glowing with happiness – a huge grin and eyes wide with wonder. Boychild was able to take an intellectual approach in his review, comparing differences and similarities between the movie and the musical. It was good suppertime banter. We discussed our favourite characters, and we all have different ones. I was particularly impressed with Toto. What an awesome dog! You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn Girlchild loved Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, who looks remarkably like a pink princess, after all.

If you have a chance to see this classic show in its final week presented by our fantastic Perth Community Choir, I say run, don’t walk, down the yellow brick road to get there!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How Do I Loathe Thee, Time Change

Let me count the ways:

1. Sunday, Nov. 2. Girlchild, who usually sleeps until between 7 and 7:30, is up at 5:30 a.m. Boychild up at 6:30 a.m.
2. Monday, Nov. 3. Girlchild is up at 6 a.m. Has a huge tantrum about not being allowed to go downstairs yet. Boychild has adjusted to the time change. Lovely Boychild.
3. Tuesday, Nov. 4. Girlchild is up before 6:30 a.m. This may not be early for some folks, but I'm a 7:30 girl.
4. Wednesday, Nov. 5. Girlchild is up at 6:30 a.m. Huge tantrum ensues about something trivial. Her, not me. I'm now certain she is trying to kill Groom-boy and me.

Boychild has adjusted to the switch and is now sleeping to his usual 7 a.m. He can also tell time and knows there's no point in trying to get us up before 7 a.m. Girlchild, however, cannot tell time. When you suggest to her it is too early to get up she peeks through the blind and looks at you as if you are crazy. "No, Mom. See? Night's over."

I never used to mind the time change, but I never used to live with people who didn't need an alarm clock to wake up and needed my supervision. (This excludes my parents, who are crack-of-dawn people but didn't force me to get up with them.)

I know the whole notion of moving the clocks an hour ahead and an hour back is to take advantage of the daylight and save energy, but if I've got to brew two pots of coffee in order to wake up, how much energy am I really saving? Hm?

Past Deadline: Halloween Is Like a Bump on the Head

Here is the latest "Past Deadline," published in The Perth Courier on Wednesday, Nov. 4/08. And my head feels better, thanks.

Halloween is like a bump on the head

A couple of weeks ago I bent down to scoop something up off the kitchen floor and knocked my forehead on the knob of a wooden chair so hard that I staggered upstairs to weep for a bit.

The similarities between that incident and Halloween are noteworthy.

With Halloween, although the moment of impact (trick or treating) is far less physically painful, the subsequent bruising and aching (begging for treats from the bag) goes on for days or weeks. There are people in my house who have a wicked sweet tooth. Lots o’ people, actually. Some folks manage to avoid sweets easily because they are not presented with the temptation. Others are constantly tempted.

In other words, if I’m doing the shopping, I probably won’t buy that sinister box of mini chocolate bars. If said box is brought home by some other household shopper, though, those chocolate bars – along with my hips – are doomed. Not only that, but when small people spy treats in a cupboard, it always sparks a “Can I?! Can I?! Can I?!” kind of debate, to which I, as Mother of the Year, respond, “It’s ‘May I.’ Now go away.”

Then along comes Halloween, when there is not only our own leftover candy with which to contend, but whole new bagfuls supplied by the urchins. This means I must now navigate a daily barrage of candy begging from the short people. Pre-Halloween, I have sometimes looked in our cupboards and thought [cue old-timer voice]: “In my day, we used to go to our grandparents for treats and junk food. At home all we ever got was fruit and vegetables and healthy stuff.” Now, though, I sometimes think they eat better away from home.

Okay. I’m exaggerating slightly. But there is so much C.R.A.P. (Cheap Rotten Atrocious Product – how’s that for an acronym?) on store shelves that it’s hard to escape it. On top of that ongoing hazard, once a year we go begging door to door for more C.R.A.P. “In my day, Halloween was a time when we could get the candy we never got to see at home.” Now we just add it to the C.R.A.P. that’s already in the cupboards.

What’s wrong with this picture? Why can’t Halloween be a time to go door to door collecting fresh, locally grown organic fruit and vegetables and a year’s supply of toothbrushes? Oh, and gold bullion. Boy, do I ever sound like a parent. Or a dentist. Or a pirate.

So now I’ve got a few weeks’ worth of extra C.R.A.P. to navigate. In past years I’ve rationed the stuff, doling out a select few morsels a day, but some moms suggest letting the little urchins gorge on it immediately so they’re sick of it right away. Short-term pain for long-term gain? I’m considering it.

Groom-boy and I used to cull the bags a bit when the kids were too teeny tiny for most of the stuff. We can still thin out Girlchild’s collection, but Boychild is much more adept at inventorying. So long, mini chocolate bars for mama. An added “thrill” this year is removing the “Made in China” products from the bag (sorry, China, but I’m a little spooked) in addition to looking for razor blades, damaged packages and stale dates.

Last year I opened a bag of chips for Boychild and didn’t notice until I took the first bite that they were a full year past due. Fortunately I only sacrificed my own mouth. It’s good to have a personal taster on staff. I threw out the bag and spent the next half hour gargling.

Good times, Halloween. If it wasn’t for the sheer glee observed on the faces of my little Spiderman and pink fairy princess (can you believe Girlchild dressed up as a pink fairy princess?) as they went door to door happily collecting “treasures,” I’d probably suggest a family vacation somewhere remote until it was all over. Actually, that sounds good anyway – Halloween or not.

All I know for sure is my forehead still hurts and I think I should wear a helmet for the next couple of weeks as I continue to symbolically smash my skull into hard objects while doling out candy.