Sometimes you take a break; other times you break a little

There is a lot I could write about right now, at 2:00 in the morning on a school night, when I’ve finally cracked open this page and typed words into the screen. A lot has happened since my last post – when was that, anyway? not recently – but honestly, it all seems too big to tackle right now. An adult-parent divorcing their spouse, critical life and career choices, the sudden death of a much-loved friend. It’s all hovering in the back of my mind at all times, waiting to be talked out and written about. And yet, right now, I’m tired, or not there yet, or both. Maybe I’m tired because I’m not there yet, and the idea of putting my feelings into words is still overwhelming. I don’t know. (It could also be because I never sleep, and my brain is in a constant state of fatigue that can only be fought with the venti-est of caffeinated beverages. Does Starbucks sell IV-drips, yet? Well, JUST GIVE THEM TIME.)

But on writing – a part of me has probably been procrastinating to protect my own mental health, knowing that some hills are too high to climb until you’re ready. Anything I would have written over the past few weeks would have felt inauthentic, knowing that my heart and mind were elsewhere. Sure, I could have banged out a few half-assed paragraphs about the crazy shit my kids are doing – they are never NOT doing crazy shit – but it didn’t matter. Not to me, not at that moment. Of course, the kids always matter – but I wasn’t up for taking a funny spin on poop-disaster stories and the other indignities of mom life.

So what brought me back here? Well, two things.

1: I took a four day vacation to visit my brother in northern Ontario, along with my sister. We hiked until our limbs nearly fell off in protest, we drank bad caesars (and later, delicious ones), we talked and laughed, and then slept in for hours. I feel recharged, and somewhat recovered, even if I was deluged with calls and emails the second my plane hit the tarmac back in Toronto. Thanks, reality. And also…

2. I saw a headline I was interested in reading, and clicked the link, and it led to a podcast. I hate podcasts, so naturally, the raging writer in me burst forth. DAMN YOU, PODCASTS. I just wanted to read words on a screen, not listen to a full-length radio show! Do you know how much effing commitment a podcast is? Seriously. And now you know what my next post is going to be about, maybe. (Actually, it’s what THIS post was going to be about, before I tried to explain my absence and delved into the emotional rabbit hole that ALWAYS opens up under me. DAMN YOU, FEELINGS.)

So it’s a new day in many ways, and back to the grind in others. Let’s see how long I can last before I break again, in the way life tends to break me, if only a little bit. And soon: podcasts, aka, UNREADABLE SPOKEN WORD THINGS THAT YOU CAN’T READ ON YOUR PHONE OR SKIM BEFORE BED OR REALLY DO ANYTHING WITH UNLESS YOU HAVE 45 SOLID MINUTES TO DEVOTE TO THAT SHIT, seriously, it’s like radio mixed with internet but disguised as typed-word articles, always, just to fuck with me. Why are they so popular? Am I this old and lame? Am I even allowed on this internet thing? Someone bring me a thick paper storybook that smells of dust and pine, and I’ll be happy forevermore.

sea lion

 

Why I can’t have nice things

I’ve always been a person who has pets in the house, and loves them fiercely. My childhood dog lived for 18 years and was basically the love of my life, up until I met my husband and had actual human babies. I’ll admit that I love my human children more than I loved my dog. A lot more, actually, even though I really, really loved my dog. (Those people who think pets and children are on an equal plane? NOPE. You can love your pets genuinely and wholeheartedly, and you should – but if your house is on fire, you BETTER be fucking RUNNING for your actual children before you help the dog. Right?)

But anyway, pets.

Our dogs have been gone for a few years, and our cat had to be put down when my youngest was a baby. We’ve had a house full of humans for the past few years, until we moved into a new home with in-law suite in the basement. And so followed cohabitating with my mother (easy) and her cat (not).

Don’t get my wrong; I love the cat. Mostly. Like, I care about his well-being and think he’s beautiful and  as far as cats go, among the friendliest and most charming I’ve ever come across. My kids adore him, and I like him a lot – except for the fact that he destroys everything in the house and gets away with it, because he’s a goddamn cat.

What has he destroyed? Well, for a start…children’s toys. My running shoes. A vase. Paperwork. Miscellaneous textiles. Anything that involves string. Actual walls of the house. Plants. And most importantly, cut flowers.

A few days ago, it was Mother’s Day. One of my kids was vomiting uncontrollably, so I spent most of the day on the couch with him, holding his puke bowl and offering comfort while we watched 2700 episodes of Dino Dan: Trek’s Adventures. It was not exactly what I envisioned for Mother’s Day, but that’s life with kids. It happens.

A bright spot occurred when my husband popped out to grab some pho from a local Vietnamese restaurant, forcing a half-assed celebration of motherhood amid the horrific puke-fest. He returned with with a large bouquet of spring flowers in my favourite colours – pinks, purples, greens and yellows – a lovely surprise that I was grateful for.

Here’s where the cat comes in, and ruins my life. In short: he loves to eat flowers – particularly the leaves. He smells them from a mile away, locks eyes on them, climbs over hell or high water to reach them, and then gags them down like it’s a punishment. Like, he basically chokes on them, and keeps going until he throws up violently. LIKE AN IDIOT.

Mother’s Day was no different. It happened almost immediately, like it always does, and is the reason my husband rarely buys me flowers anymore. As I mopped warm cat puke off of my dining room table – THE PLACE WHERE WE EAT DINNER AS A FAMILY, GODDAMMIT – I swore I’d keep him away from my beautiful flowers if it killed me.

We started out by shutting the basement door, locking him downstairs with my mom for the rest of the day. It’s not cruel; it’s a 1000 square foot apartment and it’s supposed to be where he lives because HE IS NOT EVEN MY CAT. But anyway, he can’t be locked down there forever; he’s used to having his run of her place and ours. Cut to hours later, when I’m trying to work, flowers a few feet away on a table.

He looks at them, looks at me, and quickly makes his move. Within seconds, he’s choking down a chunk of decorative greenery as if his life depends on it. I chase him away, move the flowers to the end table beside the couch, and sit back down to work as he eyes me from the ottoman.

He pounces. I AM TWO FEET AWAY. He doesn’t care. More gagging, more of me chasing him away, more attempts on his part. What is it with this cat and flowers? It’s like it’s meth, and he’s an addict, and I’m some asshole narc who repeatedly gets in his way.

I finally win, sort of, when he gives up for a while. But I have to pee, and also, it’s getting late. I need to make my daughter’s lunch and go to bed before the sun comes up.

I chance it by going to the bathroom for 30 seconds. Bad call, obviously. When I return, he’s gagging and several of my flowers are in shreds next to the vase. DAMMIT.

It’s time to make school lunches, so naturally, I bring the flowers to the kitchen with me. This was my Mother’s Day gift, remember – I will save these flowers if it’s the last thing I do. Which it might be, because the stupid cat is now full-on chasing me as I dart away, cradling a vase of half-destroyed flowers in my arms like some sort of deranged bridesmaid. This is so stupid. I am running away from a cat in my own home. BUT I NEED TO WIN. If the cat wins, my husband will take his victory as a sign and never buy me flowers again. Ugh. We need a dog.

Now at my breaking point, I gently toss the cat back downstairs to my mom’s apartment, closing the door and placing the flowers at the centre of my kitchen table. They look magnificent, despite their slightly torn appearance, and I feel that I have protected through yet another day. Maybe I’ll get flowers for my birthday after all, if these survive.

Probably not. But a girl can dream.

Published: Our Homes Magazine, Spring 2016

our homes cover spring 2016

Yes, I’ve been writing a lot of mom stuff lately. But hey, look! Sometimes I do other things. Professionally, even.

If you’re in the GTA, please look out for my latest article in Our Homes Magazine – a home and architect feature piece on a stunning contemporary build in Burlington, Ontario. Or, click below to read the article in PDF form.

Our Homes Magazine – Modern Family Home Feature, Spring 2016

Enjoy!

This is probably the start of a downward spiral (or maybe one of those Oprah moments)

Between major sleep deprivation, personal stress, and an above average workload falling horribly on a PA Day week, my brain’s a little fried right now. Or a lot fried. This is the actual train of thought I had to pull myself out of this morning:

Realization: I have the keys. The keys are in my hand.

The keys are always in my hand.

Literally. The keys to my house/car are usually in my actual hands when I am searching for them. Like looped around my thumb, just out of sight, while I look on every flat surface in the house. Shouldn’t they jingle or something? Why does it always take me so long to realize that I’m holding my stupid keys?

Wait. Is this a metaphor? Are the KEYS in MY HAND? Like the key to life, or some shit?

Like, I’m in control. I’m the master of my own destiny. I have the key. I just have to find it, and everything will be fine. I just need to look at my hands.

(The back of my brain starts pulling up lyrics from The Safety Dance; I force it to stop.)

Right. They keys. I have them. I have the key to life.

WTF am I even thinking right now? WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK. I need coffee.

Is this brilliant? Should I tweet this? What is my Twitter password? It’s probably saved in my phone. This isn’t brilliant. I’ll probably tweet it anyway. Or blog about it. Gotta work out these thoughts somewhere.

The keys are in my hand. Hmmm. I’m an idiot.

Coffee.

The Participation Medal (Motherhood Edition)

Hello, my name is Erin, and I’m a pretty good mom.

Not like the gold standard, probably, but definitely more good than bad. I try, at least. I’m never not trying.

My kids are typically clean, fed, and reasonably well behaved (the older one, at least). I volunteer at their schools, help the older one with her homework, and drive them both to a plethora of dance and sports classes, which I watch with genuine enthusiasm. I raise my voice more often than I’d like, but not so much that they’re going to need therapy to get over their childhoods. They’ve never been neglected or hit, and they receive constant love, boundaries and affection.

I don’t feed them organic produce that I grew in my own garden, but they get fresh fruit and veggies every day. At least, I put fresh fruit and veggies in front of them, and it USUALLY gets eaten. Close enough.

They also eat a lot of Timbits. I don’t NOT help them finish the box. I mean, I paid for them.

We have a decent bedtime routine, and they get baths every couple of days, and I usually remember to trim their nails before they develop full-on claws. Except sometimes I forget about the nails until the younger one gets mad enough to stab me with his toddler-claws, and then I remember, and trim them. So, you know, it gets done.

I don’t know what essential oils are, or why they’re a big deal, and I don’t care. My kids seem unaffected by this, to date. Oh, and they’re vaccinated. Like, to the max.

My kids wear a lot of hand-me-downs, and I’m not ashamed. Because they look great, and free clothes are fucking awesome. HAND-ME-DOWNS 4-EVA.

They also sometimes wear unnecessary, overpriced shoes that are 97% glitter because that’s also awesome, and I am teaching them that #TREATYOSELF is an acceptable reason to buy pretty, shiny things, in moderation.

I answer ten thousand questions a day. Literally ten thousand. Every single day. About where the wind stops, what colours mix to make purple, where electricity comes from, why vegetables are plants, what plastic is, what happens to dead bodies, what does nocturnal mean, how old the cat is, what animal bacon was, and why they can’t have more Timbits. I put genuine effort into my answers.

In the afternoon, I put on cartoons and sit down and read the news on my phone, and check Facebook, and answer emails, and text my friends. While TV rots their brains, I do this. Like a jerk.

I bake with them and do (super basic, not at all Pinterest-worthy) crafts, and even play with play-dough. I hate play-dough. It smells gross and feels weird. But I do it anyway.

I happily read stories and sing songs and play board games for hours, but I zone out when they want to play house or hide and seek or whatever elaborate imaginary-play thing they’re into at the moment. And then I feel horribly guilty, of course, because it seems like it should be so natural – pretending to be the doctor or the teacher or whatever they’ve assigned me – but I suck at it. I get distracted and bored, and then feel like a shitty mom, because who gets bored playing with their adorable, amazing children? But I’d rather watch them play house than be the pretend-mom in their game. I have real-mom shit to deal with. All the time.

My husband is really good at imaginary play.

I keep trying, and judging myself, and wondering if it’s ever enough. Do they need more attention? More freedom? More discipline? Less Timbits?

My kids are heartbreakingly beautiful. They’re incredible. I love them so much my heart could explode.

The older one is a bright, loving, funny, sweet child who occasionally gets weird and baby-talks in public because she’s very shy. Last week, someone asked her a question and she panicked, licked my hand, and then laughed.

The younger one is an incredibly smart, outgoing, hilarious, emotionally intense child who is prone to angry outbursts and sometimes, hitting people. He could rule the world or end up in jail. I’m hoping it’s not the latter.

Both of them are going to grow up to be incredible, though very different, adults.

I’ve heard that if you consistently wonder if you’re a good enough mom, you probably are, because you care.

I like that a lot, because by this theory, I am awesome.

Or at least pretty good.

 

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lion

Oh, March, how you’ve done me wrong.

FACT: I love springtime, and have been craving the change of season since the first flakes of snow fell.

FACT: March has been a terrible, terrible month in my household and if you could punch a month in the face, I’d do it now and feel no regret.

For those of you who didn’t just run away in fear – what happened? Let me provide a summary.

My kids have been sick for weeks on end. They’re still pretty sick, actually, with ear infections and strep throat and runny noses and spontaneous vomiting. Holy hell, the germs in this house. I could grow the penicillin myself.

As part of that illness marathon, my son puked in his car seat, violently tossing vomit throughout my van like blood spatter on CSI. It was bad. We ended up getting the van professionally shampooed, and then replaced the car seat. It wasn’t cheap.

And then lights came on the dash. Because an animal had nested under the hood of my van, chewing many wires and ultimately costing me $400 to fix it.

squiirrels

(Inside my van after it was attacked by wildlife)

Days later, the animal had made another nest. I bought a lot of moth balls. My van smells like an elderly woman.

Then my husband’s car unexpectedly needed a new transmission-something or other, to the tune of $500. Did I mention we are not wealthy venture capitalists, or even YouTube sensations with impressive ad revenue? My wallet is sad.

The kids are still sick, and now so am I. My husband is finally better, which is great because man colds are the #1 cause of marriage breakdowns in North America. Did you know that? It’s true, and we’re lucky to have survived. That said, there are still 9 days left in the month. HEY MARCH. Guess what? I’m done. You win.

But on the horizon – blissfully, mercifully close – there is a long weekend full of chocolate, a spa weekend with some of my closest friends, a boatload of birthdays to celebrate, a romantic weekend getaway with the husband (wait, are we still doing that, post-car expenses?) and yet another weekend away, this time to the North country with my siblings. There will be hiking, and cheese, and vodka. And sleep, hopefully. I have loaded my schedule with AWESOME.

And, perhaps best of all, there’s this – somewhere in England, there is probably going to be a research vessel named Boaty McBoatface. Honestly – how can you feel stressed or sad in a world where that is possible? Bless you, internet. Bless your stupid boat names forever.

 

 

Please, let this be my legacy.

Some days, I kill it at this mom thing. I pack awesome school lunches, actually remember that it’s Show & Share day at preschool, make homemade crafts with the kids after school, and tuck their freshly-bathed heads into bed at 7pm. SOMETIMES, that happens.

Other days (ok, most days), I feel like The World’s Ok-est Mom, wearing leggings for the ninth day in a row while getting by on enthusiasm and caffeine. Silently mouthing curse words into my coffee while hurtling my half-asleep kids into the van, I may realize that my son is missing his mittens and my daughter is supposed to return a library book that is probably lost forever, dammit. This is my life. I may be failing, but I’m trying!

And here’s the proof: I recently had a #momfail so great, the Internet declared me “hysterical”. As in, “a spectacular failure”. BEHOLD, my attempt at homemade play-dough, now immortalized on Pop Sugar Moms:

placenta playdough fail erin pepler

Yup. That’s my Instagram, and my play-dough. As my husband often says, we are living in a golden age. Bless you, internet. Enjoy my #momfail, now and forever.

Things I’ve Actually Googled (or considered Googling) this week: An abridged version

“How little sleep does it take before sleeplessness murders you”

“At what age does a boy start having Man Colds”

“Signs your three year old is a sociopath”

“Signs your three year old is a psychopath”

“How much rage is normal in a three year old boy”

“What is a Shopkins”

“Five year old girl acting like teenager is this normal”

“Kids dancing along to Justin Bieber ‘Sorry’ video – bad parenting?”

“Explanation of vegetarianism vs omnivorism for kids”

“What happened to Dino Dan on Trek’s Adventures”

“Does Dino Dan have a father”

“Children refusing to wear pants is this normal”

“Children refusing to wear socks and shoes is this normal”

“Summer camps”

“All inclusive vacations CHEAP”

Draw whatever conclusions you will, friends. I’m off to develop the wine habit I’m obviously lacking.

Because memories are not premeditated

Perception is a funny thing. I can clearly remember looking out the car window as a small child, studying the yellow lines on the road. I couldn’t have been more than five, and I didn’t have any understanding of road rules, or how cars worked, or why every drive felt like an eternity. All I knew was that the yellow lines seemed significant, and so I asked my parents what they were. “The dashes let drivers know they can pass other cars,” my father explained. “The solid lines can’t be crossed.”

For whatever reason, I took this to mean that you could not physically cross the solid yellow lines. It wasn’t a matter of “should not”, or any sort of regulation – it was could not, end of story, impossible. Envisioning some sort of forcefield separating the lanes, I’d hold my breath when my parents drove too close to the centre line, picturing us being hurled back into traffic by an invisible energy. DRIVING IS SO STRESSFUL, I thought. So dangerous! Was there not a better way?

I don’t remember when I stopped believing this, or if it was all at once. Did I question it out loud, leading someone older and wiser to explain? Did we cross a solid line with undramatic results, leading me to conclude that my parents were wrong? Or did I simply forget, slowly and gradually, as I grew up? I’ll never know.

My children are at an age now where their interpretations are spectacular. They question everything and take in the answers so willingly, with so much trust, and yet it’s impossible to know how their minds will process the information they are given. The simple words I offer in the car or at bedtime could create a lifelong imprint without me ever knowing it – a realization that is both remarkable and terrifying. What was surely a forgettable, throwaway conversation to my parents so many years ago meant something completely different to me. It’s a memory I still drift back to occasionally, when the roads are dark with rain and the yellow lines gleam brightly in contrast. There’s a magic in how wrong I was and how sure I was, and in only being able to wonder what mysteries are unfolding in my own children’s minds.

But like my parents never knew, I likely never will. It is a pure joy and utter burden to teach all that you know without ever planning a lesson, hoping that everything will fall into place, more or less, and the memories you leave are warm. Parenting is often rooted in happenstance, which seems ridiculous but is so true. Plan all you want, and then watch those plans unravel as you improvise and make do. Just do your best, we all say, and I know I try. Some days are wins and some are fails, and often I don’t know which it’s been. The most important job in the world, and all I can really do is cross my fingers.

M is for Marriage (and Murder)

Marriage is a polarizing topic. Not just the cost of weddings, or the fight for equal rights for same sex relationships, or the religious ideals and restrictions that factor in. NOPE. All marriage is controversial. While many view it as the ultimate declaration of love and commitment – for some, a MUST before children, cohabitation, or even sex – others perceive an awkward, unnecessary legal contract that has more to do with government than with love. And you know what? I’m totally cool with both opinions. Do what you will, lovers! If you’re both adults, it’s your call. Marry or don’t; have babies or do not. Just live your life and stop being judgemental jerks about it all, some of you.

What is universal about all couples – married, dating, gay, straight, monogamous, not, etc – is that they have to figure out sleeping arrangements. Sure, there is the odd long distance couple that rarely spends the night together, or those who opt for separate rooms out of preference, but typically, couples share a bed. And with that comes sharing a blanket. And here’s where I cease to understand humanity.

SHOW ME ONE PERSON ON EARTH WHO HAS EVER ENJOYED SHARING A BLANKET.

You can’t, because that person is a unicorn. They don’t exist. You like sharing a blanket, you say? You’re a liar.

Unless you’re curled up on the couch watching a movie and cuddling romantically, blankets are not meant to be shared. When we are sleeping, we our bodies need to be comfortable. This means moving; adjusting your body and your covers until you feel just right, and then re-adjusting repeatedly throughout the night.

Unless you are a robot or a clone, your partner is not going to have the EXACT same sleep habits and preferences as you. They will move, they will mess up your blanket flow, they will sweat up on you or graze you with their ice cold feet, and if you’re married to my husband, they will steal your cozy, perfect duvet away completely in order to wrap themselves like a deranged adult sleep burrito. At this point, you will be cold, tired, and angry. So what do you do? You smother your husband with his pillow, obviously, and steal back the damn blanket.

EXCEPT MURDER IS ILLEGAL AND MORALLY WRONG, I guess, so there has to be another way. And there is! Behold, my one and only tip for a successful (murder-free) relationship: same bed, separate blankets.

My husband and I share a queen sized bed. We snuggle up together when we want to, avoid each other’s hot breath in the night, and occasionally have a small child wedged in between us. He freely drapes his limbs across my body while snoring away beside me, and that’s fine. We don’t kill each other, because we have two queen size blankets on our bed, and thus, he can enter his weird,  man-swaddle duvet cocoon while I lay under a flat blanket with my feet sticking out (it’s too hot otherwise). We’re together, but apart, and it’s bliss: the perfect combination of intimacy and personal space. Honestly, why isn’t this the norm? I can’t tell if other people are masochists, or just in better relationships than I am.

So go forth, married and unmarried people of the world, and get your own blankets. They don’t even have to match, because you can hide one under the other. It’s the holy grail of cohabitation! Which sort of makes me, like, the Jesus of bed-sharing (or at least one of the apostles – not Judas, hopefully). In conclusion: two blankets, you’re welcome, and sweet dreams.