Aaaaand scene.

This is real life with my 5 year old daughter (the bean). Context: I recently got a terrible sunburn across my back and shoulders – the first I’ve had in a decade, probably – and she had just fallen on a wet rock in our front garden, skinning her knee.

Bean: Ugh, I wish I could make scabs happen.

Me: What?

Bean: It stings so bad! But it will feel fine when it scabs, and I wish it was a scab now.

Me: Ahh, got it. Yeah, well, wait a day or so and you’ll get your scab. We have bandaids in the meantime.

Bean: You know what would be great? If I could use the pieces of skin that are peeling off your sunburn and stick it on my knee and make a scab right now.

Me: …with my skin?

Bean: Yes.

Me: …that’s among the grossest things you’ve ever said.

Bean: It would work! I’d just stick your peely skin on my knee and it would be like a scab but right away. Can we do that?

Me: No. I’m gagging.

Bean: It’s a good idea, Mom.

Me: Actually, here’s a medical thing called skin grafting that is sort of similar to that, I guess. Like, you take a thin layer of skin off your butt or leg or wherever and cover the damaged part of your body with it. Like if you were in a fire and had a serious burn.

Bean: What!?! THAT is gross. Does it hurt? THEY USE SKIN FROM YOUR BUTT?

Me: Sometimes, but a doctor does it and I think the person is asleep. Frozen, at least. We are not doing that, by the way.

Bean: Wow.

Me: Do you want a bandaid?

Bean: Yeah. I do.

Advertisements

Oh, What a World

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a post I wrote several weeks ago and left incomplete. I wanted to add a sense of hope and a call to action, honestly, but got stuck. It’s been sitting in my drafts for a while, and I think it’s time to let it go and publish it. I still have no answers, but at least I’m talking. Bear with me!

. . .

Oh hey there you, it’s been a while. Summertime, and the living is easy, right? Except not at all, because the kids are off school and work is really busy and I am a woman, not a machine. Please, send coffee (and a housekeeper).

Is it just me, or has the world gone crazy lately? Yeah, I’m jumping right into that. THERE IS NO TIME FOR SMALL TALK, FRIENDS. And no, it’s not just me, though it’s easy to feel alone when any time you hear or read the news, you end up yelling inside until your guts ache. Fun fact: when you yell out loud on a regular basis, you’re “crazy”, and nobody listens. If you yell on the inside, you’ll stress yourself sick. And if you simply push your head into the sand and ignore everything that’s going on, you’re blissfully unaware – but your apathy will kill others like me, slowly but surely, because quite frankly: if you aren’t helping to solve a problem in society, you’re contributing to it.

Wow, that got dark fast.

I do this thing where I stay up really late, by myself, reading or watching late night television until my eyes burn or the clock hits an outrageous number that forces me to bed. It’s the impossible goal of postponing the next day, ripe with responsibility and the unknown. And lately, the unknown has felt a little awful. Sure, I wake up in a lovely house with a beautiful family. We have food in the fridge and cars in the driveway, friends we can call, and plenty to be thankful for. But looking outside the safety of my bubble, it’s madness.

There has always been political unrest around the globe, but most times, it’s seemed far away. Close enough to make us care, but not so close that we think much about the effect on our own communities. We feel genuine empathy and donate money or volunteer, and then we go back to our safe, warm beds and turn on Netflix. But as weeks and months go on, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pretend that nothing is happening.

Recent tragedies abroad have broken my heart. France is but one of many countries affected by a horrific act of terrorism, taking innocent lives and leaving a permanent mark on so many lives. And do you want to get me started about refugees? Probably not, unless you’re ready for a long, sad diatribe about how nobody cares and humanity is falling apart. Not exactly light summer conversation, I know. But the truth hurts, and so does my heart.

Taking in all of the happiness in my world, I worry so often that it is fleeting. Furthermore, I feel a constant, low buzz of guilt knowing how much (white, middle class, Canadian) privilege I truly have, and that I’ll never truly understand the suffering that others face on a daily basis.

So I enjoy the little things – sunny days, swimming in the lake, ice cream with my kids, a long walk with my husband, stupid articles on the internet, my job, a great book, my comfortable bed and safe home – and I try to breathe.

I’ll stop, and take it all in, and appreciate it. But I won’t stop thinking about the rest of them. I can’t – and I hope I’m not alone. Because France and Syria and Libya may seem distant and surreal, but America is only only a stone’s throw away, and that shit is going down whether we like it or not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resume of a Three Year Old Boy

Profile: Charming, handsome and precocious male child with over three years of experience in human existence. Sweet, outgoing, very smart, and prone to occasional bursts of rage. The Boy is extremely capable in all aspects of art, music, physical activity, humour, and snack food negotiation.

Highlight of Skills:

  • Able to recite ABCs, count to 20 using mostly correct numbers, write name, and perform a vaguely-inappropriate, music video inspired dance to ‘Uptown Funk’
  • Proven ability to sleep in on school days (but not weekends)
  • Exceptional selective hearing; independent leader and free-thinker (possible anarchist)
  • Excellent capabilities in grandparent manipulation, particularly in the areas of extended bedtimes, television exposure and sugar consumption
  • Highly capable in Timbit acquisition from a variety of sources (see: excellence in unapproved sugar consumption)
  • Innovative (see: using t-shirt as napkin, using napkin as hat, etc)
  • Confident (see: thinking he can swim/fly/drive a car, etc)
  • Encyclopedic knowledge of dinosaurs, reptiles, sharks and some mammals (“the good ones”)
  • Outstanding conversation skills; demonstrated ability to project voice across rooms, public spaces and/or entire provinces, regardless of appropriateness
  • Experience in one-on-one sibling combat; skilled in provocation and takedown (conflict resolution skills emerging – beginner level)
  • Exceeds expectations for cuteness, hilarity, affection, and amount of physical injuries to self/parents (see: two sets of stitches by age two; mild facial injuries to mother)

Education:

  • Attended preschool; not expelled (yay!)
  • Completed several extracurricular programs; only kicked out of one sports class for fighting (moderate success?)
  • Watches lots of Little Einsteins (must count for something)

Work Experience:

  • Has done nothing to earn his keep, ever, really
  • Will perform menial tasks in exchange for snack foods

References:

  • Depending on the day, parents may oblige
  • Same goes for friends
  • Grandparents are probably your best bet (see: manipulation)

Hello, 32

it is your birthday

It’s the eve of my 32nd birthday – but no, wait! It’s after midnight now, so really, it IS my birthday. And here I sit, alone on the couch, wrapping up an assignment at nearly 3:00 am. There is an empty can of coke on the side table to my left, and my hair is ‘styled’ into the same top-bun that is always is when I’m staring into my laptop. Honestly. Has much changed since I turned 22 a decade ago?

Well, yes and no. I still love writing, live music, art, travel, adventures, and coffee. I still sleep terribly, cry easily, drink too much caffeine. I still leave my clean clothes heaped in a pile near my closet, but not in my closet. I’m with the same person (married now, and with two children) and I like him just as much as I did, most days. I’m getting paid more and writing less for free, but I’m not exactly living the high life yet. I assume that will happen sometime in the next six months, because that’s when EVERYTHING happens in my imagination. Oh, the future me, so attractive and successful – you’re always right around the corner! It’s good to have goals.

Obviously, a lot has changed. I’m a mother and a (semi)functioning adult member of society with a house, a minivan and a responsibility to be out of bed before noon. I love the first part so much, and will forever hate the last part.

(My daughter has inherited my love of sleeping in, but my son has yet to discover the joy. COME ON, KID. Catch up to the rest of us so we can be lazy AS A FAMILY.)

I have many of the same friendships, though some of my closest loved ones are far away at the moment.

I have many of the same goals, personally and professionally, though I’ve achieved far more than I give myself credit for, when I make myself think about it.

I’m still anxious, emotional, and obsessed with all of my minor and major regrets.

But I’m still hopeful, ambitious, loyal, and filled with love.

I’m definitely going to be tired in the morning, and my son is showing signs of (another) (goddamn) ear infection. It may not be the same birthday as it would have been ten years ago – in fact, it definitely won’t be – but it will be a good one. I’m going to get up early because I have to, work even though I’d rather be napping, and probably get yelled at by my beloved children for ridiculous offences such as offering them the wrong pants. THE WRONG PANTS, again, how dare I hand them weather appropriate clothing? I’m clearly a monster.

In conclusion: happy birthday to me. I’m going to try to squeeze in a mani-pedi, but if not, whatever. I already have everything I need.

 

 

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.