Thursday, January 20, 2011

Not exactly Zen

I've been reading a book by Geneen Roth called, "Women Food And God".  Near the end of the book Roth recounts the story of when Mahatma Gandhi was shot and the first words out of his mouth were a Hindu name for an incarnation of God, "Ram, Ram".  She compared this to what we in North America first say when faced with a difficult situation like a car crash, a crisis, a death, or anything unpleasant, "Oh Sh*t!" She calls it our North American Mantra. I'd never really thought about my first response in those kinds of situations before and I wondered if I fell into the "oh sh*t!" category too.  I didn't have to wonder long.

Yesterday I was driving home after picking the kids up at school and I was approaching a red light.  I wasn't going fast (I swear!) and I was well back from the car ahead of me as I applied the brakes. Unfortunately when I pressed the brakes I didn't slow down, I slid.  My van started picking up speed.  I could feel my ABS trying to kick in but there was nothing to grab hold of.  We slid about four or five carlengths and the back of the car ahead of us was getting closer in a hurry.  There wasn't even a snowbank I could drive into because it was a residential area and parked cars lined the street.   It was dead silent in the van.  I turned my head to the right to brace for impact as an "OH SH*T!" involuntarily escaped out of my mouth.  A split second later I saw a gap between two parked cars.  I drove straight into it.  In the end I had avoided collision by about one metre.  As I tried to collect myself I thought, well I guess that answers that question...

Besides being shaky for the rest of the drive home I kept expecting my kids to comment on my swearing like, "Mom!  You just said a bad word!" but they continued chatting happily like nothing had happened.  I decided the lack of reaction was because they have no idea what a "bad word" is.  They're not exactly exposed to them at home after all.  Well, not usually.  Since they didn't know what I said I decided not to talk about it figuring if I don't make a big deal about it they'll just forget I ever said it.  Which I felt good about until a few hours later when Ava was walking downstairs with an armful of toys and I heard the thump-thump-thump-thump sound of toys rolling down the stairs and a very annoyed, "oh sh*t". 

Did I just induct her into that category?  Apparently I have a lot more meditation to do.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lessons in totally missing the point

Tristan has a fairly obsessive personality.  From photos taken three summers ago, I give you example A:  (Also, I'm pregnant in the last pic just, you know, in case you can't tell...)
Tendency towards obsession + Wii for Chrismtas = kid who eats, sleeps and breathes all things Wii, especially Mario.  When we first got the Wii and all the cousins were here over Christmas everyone just kind of went to town.  Now that real life has resumed limits for gaming are back in place.  I have watched Tristan's obsession progress with some concern.  Every conversation I have had with him over the past two weeks has been about Mario - the worlds, the powers, yoshi, how much he loves playing, how he beat this level or that level, yoshi, the worlds, yoshi, the levels, the powers, yoshi....  It's driving me insane!  I thought if he knew he had 30 minutes every day to play he wouldn't think about it for the other 23 1/2 hours.  Wrong.  On Saturday after his 30 minutes of play he looked through the Mario instruction book.  For two hours.  TWO HOURS spent looking at the same four pages in English, French, Spanish and Chinese.  The kid can't read in English nevermind other languages.  What could possibly have been that interesting for that long?  I can appreciate the focus he showed in sitting still for that long but why can't I channel that into looking at non-video game related reading materials or activity books meant to help him with his pencil-holding skills?  I know this is an increasingly digital age but being able to hold a pencil and draw a line without it looking like it was drawn by a 90-year-old grandmother with shaky hands is pretty fundamental.

At dinner the other night we were having general conversation and I was asking the kids a bunch of questions about school and friends.  Tristan had been pretty quiet so I asked him what he was thinking about.  He perked right up and got super animated as he told me how he was going to beat the ghost house in World 5 in Mario.  Which is when I freaked out and told him I was worried he was going to grow up and be 35 and still living in our basement and he'd never get married and he'd never have kids and he'd never have a job and his whole life would be lived online or through a game and do you really want that kind of life, DO YOU?  Apparently he does.  Apparently to a six year old that actually sounds like the best life ever.

I tried again.  I said, I thought his passion was great, his focus was amazing that I loved the perseverance he showed but that I wanted him to have more balance.  I told him no one in a job interview would ever ask him how many levels of Mario he beat and if he saved Princess Peach or not.  He's the kind of kid who wants to quit if he doesn't get it on the first try and I told him I wanted him to put the same kind of focus and determination he puts into the Wii into actual life skills like learning how to tie his shoelaces or sound out words.  His eyes were looking pretty blank by this point so I tried speaking his language.  I said it's kind of like when you were trying to beat the first Bowser castle and you kept dying and dying and dying and dying but you didn't quit, you didn't give up you just kept going and then you finally.... "I beat him!" he interrupted me.  "And I used the fire power and then I lost it but got an ice power and I picked up the guy and threw him.  All you have to do is press 1 and wiggle the remote Mom and you can pick up anything!  I can't even believe I beat the Bowser castle!  I can't wait to play it again.  I'm totally going to beat the next level.  I'm going to win every level because I'm the best at Mario."


And that was right about the time the calm, patient mother exited the building. "AAAAAHHHHH!!!!  STOP TALKING ABOUT MARIO!  ALL YOU TALK ABOUT IS MARIO, MARIO, MARIO!  NO MORE MARIO! IF YOU DON'T STOP TALKING ABOUT MARIO I AM GOING TO LOSE IT!"  And that was the end of dinner.

One thing we're trying to do more of with our kids is have one-on-one time even if it's just taking one kid on an errand while the other kids stay home.  I had a chiro appointment this morning and Hugh had the day off so I asked Tristan if he wanted to come.  After my quick appointment I took him to Starbucks for a little date.  It was so nice to have some time with him that had nothing to do with disciplining him, worrying about him, arguing with him or being exasperated by his contrariness.  He has always been the kid who seems to have the most issues, who requires the most patience and hard work from his parents.

Right from womb-hood when the x-ray tech told me Twin B (which turned out to be Tristan) had a Down's Syndrome marker on his heart he has been the one I've agonized most over.  He is also the most stubborn and likes to learn every lesson the hard way which means we've had some pretty intense battles of the will.  Maybe it was because I never thought I'd have sons, or maybe it was because I had been so worried about him in the womb, but as I held all five perfect pounds and one marvelous ounce of him, he crept into my heart and created his very own room.

Sometimes at night when I look in on him and I see him so peaceful and relaxed in sleep, I smile. Sometimes I see that peace and I pray. For a future bright with possibility, for the bigness of God to be on him, for the strength to endure when trouble comes. And then other times I see that peace and I cry.  Because maybe it's been a hard day and I feel like all the interaction we've had has been discipline-related and the only peace we have together is when he's asleep.  I cry because I wish he wouldn't make everything a battle of the wills and I wish I knew how to channel that stubbornness into a strength he can use for good.  I cry because I don't know if I'm helping him do that, I don't know if I'm failing him, I just know I love him so much it makes my chest ache.  I see his long legs draped over the bed you could barely see him in three years ago and I cry because we don't get to keep our sons in the same way we get to keep our daughters and what if I haven't done enough, given him enough, shown him enough?  What if how much I love him gets lost in our battles over his stubbornness?

I need to clarify here.  I love all my kids. I pray for and smile over and cry over all my kids.  They all have their own special places in my heart, it's just that the sweetness and ease I often get with the other two is more rare with Tristan and therefore all the more precious when it happens. Today on the way home from Starbucks, a time when we got to laugh and be silly together and there was no whining or arguing and all the attention I gave him was entirely positive, I made sure I looked Tristan in the eye and told him I loved him, that he had a very special place in my heart.  He gave me a slow bashful smile that grew to a brilliant grin and he said, "Is there a Wii there?"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Things I noticed while watching 90210, Episode 2

1. Brandon has lost his mullet.  His bangs are still feathered though.  What a relief.
2. Brenda now has a little fringe of baby bangs.  I think they look ridiculous.  I had those same bangs in Grade 8.  They looked equally ridiculous on me. 
3. David Silver's voice is still shockingly high-pitched.  Also he's a freshman.  I thought he and Donna were in the same grade?  Did they change this or do I just forget the details?
4. Speaking of Donna.  In three hours of screen time over two episodes she has only had three short appearances and two lines and yet she's billed as one of the stars in the opening credits.  Thanks Daddy!  When does she become a real character?
5. Speaking of characters, Dylan has finally made an appearance.  1990's Dylan is HOT!  I forgot that. 
6. Speaking of hot, Brandon really has the most gorgeous eyes.  Totally makes me forget how short he is.  Until I see him walking away with his arm around Brenda....on tiptoe.
7. Even though he's short Brandon gets the girls.  Two episodes in and he's already loved and lost twice, seen past the shallow/party girl facade and the bimbo/surfer girl facade into the inner person of both girls and even managed to save one of their lives in an alcohol/surfing related accident which just happened to wake her up to get the help she needs.  Brandon = saviour.
8. Also, every time Brandon says Andrea's name he pronounces it Andrea not On-dreya.  And she never corrects him!  When does she become Ondreya?
9. It doesn't seem like it's possible for the series to be so old but there is nary a cell phone to be seen, portable phones have to have the antenna pulled out, and mail comes as actual letters on paper.  
10. Dylan wears a lot of denim overalls with one strap undone.  Was that really cool?  It seems the antithesis of the bad boy to me now, did I think it was cool then?

If you want to relive your past, enjoy the opening credits of Season 1 courtesy of YouTube.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nothing overwhelmingly important or exciting. Don't you want to read it now?

Every Monday night Hugh has a music practice for the upcoming Sunday morning.  For whatever reason this week Tristan and Ava were inconsolable that he had to leave.  They tearfully watched him through the slats in our living room blinds as he got into his car and drove away.  When he was finally out of sight they collapsed sobbing into each others arms.  They were really working themselves up, each feeding off the other, cries getting louder and louder and more hysterical.  It was quite comical really and then Sebastian - the younger brother - pipes up and says, "Guys! Guys!  Don't worry, Daddy will be back.  Daddy will be back guys.  Don't worry.  It's okay, it's okay."


I watched Beverly Hills 90210 religiously when I was in highschool.  Just for kicks I watched the series premier the other night.  It was hilarious.  The clothes! White shorts and white socks on girls... and guys - Steve Sanders I'm looking at you - was quite the trend.  The hair!  Brandon seriously rocked the mullet. The synthesizer in all the mood music.  The fat girl no one wanted to be chemistry partners with which is how Brenda and Kelly first meet.  SO not an okay story line!   Brian Austen Green.  Is so wee in the first episode his voice hadn't even dropped yet.  Also, Dylan?  Where was Dylan?  Why wasn't he in the two-hour premier?  I need to know when he shows up.  I guess I'll have to keep watching...


 Tristan hates change.  Last week I took the kids to the video store to rent a movie.  It was a cold grey day and nothing appealed to me more than gathering my little chicks under my arms and cuddling all up under a blanket and watching a movie.  After ix-naying a Power Rangers we've already seen, and a Justice League we've already seen, and another Power Rangers we've already seen, and a Barbie I didn't want to see I used my parental rights and decided to rent Nanny McPhee.  Oh the tears!  Oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth!  If there had been sackcloth and ashes handy my kids would have walked out of Blockbuster wearing them.  Can you say no concept of real suffering?  

After declaring my intention of watching the movie by myself they all caved and sat and watched it with me.  Surprise, surprise,  they loved it.  And watched it at least three times over the week we had it.  Today it's -26.  It's cold and grey and snowing.  On the way home from Costco I decided to whip into the video store and pick up another movie.  Since they liked the first one so much I thought renting the second one, Nanny McPhee Returns, would be a hit.  Oh right.  I forgot who I was dealing with.  The first thing Tristan said was, "But I wanted the other one!  I only like the other one!"  This is also the kid who will not try chocolate cake if it comes in any other shape but a square, chips other than Creamy Dill, and generally anything he doesn't recognize or hasn't tasted before.  He is a walking catch 22.  


I am making my kids popcorn for lunch.  Don't judge.  We just got back from Costco and there were a lot of good samples today.  So many that we don't actually need lunch.  I told the kids I'd make popcorn for the movie but they can't quite wrap their heads around the fact that 12:00 has come (and almost gone) and they haven't had lunch.  So I told them we're having popcorn for lunch. Which I better go make before they decide to mutiny.  

How do you survive grey days with kids at home?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Life on the Prairies with Prarie people

Saturday night was our 11th wedding anniversary.  We celebrated in flannel.  We've been recovering from the Holidays and I was fighting a cold and it was blizzarding outside.  Here's a short video Hugh took Saturday night. 

It really doesn't do justice to what it was like and you can't see the trampoline at the end because it's too dark but you get the idea. When that big ol' Prairie wind is combined with a whole lot of snow you get drifts.  Really, really, really big drifts.  The kind that buries the trampoline that the wind tossed across the yard like a rag doll.  The kind that strands vehicles in back lanes and in front of your house.  The kind you have to literally dig yourself out of.  Hugh did a whole lot of shoveling yesterday morning so he could get the van dug out and take the big kids to church.  (Sebastian and I hung out at home in our jammies.  The cold I was fighting Saturday took me down yesterday.)  Then later that night he went out with the kids again and dug out our sidewalks, the walk up to our house and all the snow that had built back up between our van and the road.

This morning I woke up feeling way better so I pulled on some workout clothes and went to go start the van.  I opened the front door and all I could see was snow, snow and more snow.  Gone was the walk up to our house.  Gone were our sidewalks.  Back was a huge mound of snow between our van and the road.  For a minute I thought I was living the movie Groundhog Day.  Didn't Hugh just shovel?  I dug out my Sorels got the van started and tried to plow through the huge hill of snow.  Now I'm sure this will come as a big surprise but try not to be too shocked, it's not good for the heart.  I got stuck.  High-centered to be exact.  Hugh came out and tried to push me out with no success.  And then we were surrounded.  Not one, not two, but three, trucks stopped to help. Three!

With all that help I was out in a trice (sorry, while I was sick I reread Pride & Prejudice and Persuasion) and on my way to Curves.  Several hours later I am still amazed at how many people busy with their own lives and their own errands and their own reasons for why it would be inconvenient to stop, stopped anyway.  To help out a stranger.  It challenged me. How often am I so caught up in my own life and my own concerns that I see a need and literally, or figuratively, just keep driving?

I'm not really sure where this post is going except I felt a sense of community, of pulling together, this morning and it touched my heart in a big way and I just wanted to share.  Also, Hugh has a whole lotta shoveling to do again today!

Friday, January 7, 2011

There's always tomorrow

I mentioned in my first post of 2011 that I'm feeling just a bit, well, "meh" about this year.  Normally I'm really excited to start a new year.  Everything feels so fresh, so new, so possible.  Well, it's Friday today and I haven't got more dressed than Lulu's since last Sunday afternoon.  It's been a pretty steady rotation of getting up and exchanging my pajama pants for Lulu's to work out in and then having a bath and putting on fresh Lulu's.  I almost wore jeans a couple days ago.  I even got one leg on and then I felt the restrictiveness of the denim and was suddenly all, get it off! get it off! get it off! get it off!  The denim meant I had to move on, get things done, be all productive, clean my bathrooms.  I frantically kicked my leg until the jeans flew off, grabbed my Lulu's and slipped, with great relief, back into slow motion.

Yesterday I tried again to come back to life.  I was feeling chilled so I set the kids up with a movie and went to have a bath.  I wanted to spend some time connecting with God and get some fresh vision and inspiration for this year.  About 15 minutes in I had two little boys hanging out in the bathroom with me.  Don't you want to watch your movie, I asked them?  Nope.  They wanted to feel how hot the bath water was.  Well then their sleeves got wet so they had to take their shirts off.  Then they wanted to sit on the edge of the tub and dip their feet in.  Which made their pant legs wet.  And they had to take those off too.  Had to.  Apparently.  And then suddenly instead of having some alone, refresh time I had two little boys in nothing but briefs wading in my tub and putting their faces in the water to see where my legs were so they wouldn't step on me.  Cuz Mom, they said, WE DON'T WANT TO INTERRUPT YOUR BATH.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sebastian makes an announcement

Excuse me everyone! I said excuse me everyone! I have something to say.



 And you know what?  It was soooo easy! 

(not at all like my older brother, shhhh.....)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Not exactly starting with a bang

January 4th huh?  Hard to believe we're already four days into 2011.  I usually take time each January 1st to transfer birthday and anniversary details from the previous year's calendar to a new one.  As I go through each month and reread all the appointments and details that made up my life last year I remember what was good or hard or sad, I think about what worked and didn't work, I recognize that I will never get that year back and then I journal a bit and spend some time in reflection thinking about what I want the coming year to look like.  I give myself a little check-up about my relationships, health, writing goals, the womens ministry I lead at our church and I make some intentional decisions about how to make each area better.

Sounds good right?

Well, December passed in a blur of tradesmen and Christmas prep.  Then the Holidays passed in a blur of company.  Hugh's brother, sister-in-law and their two youngest children (8 and 6) and Hugh's parents were all here over the Holidays.  It was crazy!
And oh so much fun!  Lots of laughing, lots of bonding between the cousins and lot's of co-op Mario - for the adults.  Hugh's brother and fam left on the 28th (I think...days had no meaning over the Holidays!) and his parents left on Jan 2nd.  And then I crashed.  As soon as the door closed after waving them off I changed into my pajama's and went to bed.  And stayed there for the rest of the day.  Yesterday we were finally able to take our tree down and get our house de-Christmased and last night we were finally able to go downstairs and take a moment to say, hey guess what?  OUR BASEMENT IS DONE!  And then we fell onto our couch, which quite literally is the most comfortable couch I've ever sat on, the way it envelops you and makes you never want to move again, (though that could be the exhaustion talking) and basked in the glory of a finally finished project.  Minus a few pictures to hang and all the boxes we've never unpacked in the five years we've lived in Alberta.

The point is, although we stayed up till 12:01am New Year's Eve, although I technically know it's a New Year, it just hasn't had a chance to register yet and I feel like I'm starting 2011 a bit wrong-footed.  Though I did finally get my calendar details transferred today.  And found out my kids first day back to school is not Friday, it's tomorrow.  They alternate Wednesdays with the other Kindergarten class and I had it in my head it was the other class this Wednesday.  Apparently not.  Which means I have a bunch of laundry to do and I have to find their water bottles and lunch kits and other assorted school paraphernalia so my journaling and all that other reflective stuff will have to wait.   Also? When I got to June and wrote down that Hugh is turning 37 this year I felt a terrific jolt of panic.  37 is old!  We're not old! When I picture someone 37 I picture my parents and their friends like they were when I was in my teens.  They were old!  We are not old! 

Hey did you hear that?

The chaise on our couch downstairs is calling my name.  It's quite insistently really.  I should probably go see what it wants.  And I should probably take my tea and a book.  You know, just in case.