How Winter Tiptoed Up and Slammed Me On the Head

Image I was a victim of seasonal denial. Sometime before Halloween I was saying – “Wow, this is amazing.  It is actually seven o’clock at night and it is still sorta kinda warm out.”  Not only that, I was marvelling at the display of radiant red and orange leaves glorifying the trees.  And being a really slow learner, I left the rake out in a pile of garden debris and wandered away from the task at hand mid-job to enjoy some frivolous distraction.  Then I decided to wait for another equally sunny day to finish the job, refusing to go do it the following chilly afternoon with a forecast of snow.  I believed autumn would go on and on and on. 

So it did snow – a gentle flurry of fluffy flakes, and I watched my neighbours’ set their yards and decks and lawn furniture in order through my livingroom window.  “Silly them, don’t they know there is always snow on the Eve of Halloween and this will pass, the sun will shine and melt all this fluff that they’re making a fuss about.” Image  

Wrong-o Daddy-o.  Yesterday I bought bananas and then realized I now had to venture home instead of making a scheduled stop unless I carried my bananas with me, because otherwise I’d be poking them onto a stick and eating them as a frozen treat as it was seventeen below – the temperature at which bananas and milk and other squishy and liquid materials freeze.  I pulled out of the grocery store parking lot and passed by a mound of snow three times the height of my vehicle, plowed into a mini-mountain that cars could park in a hap hazard fashion all around.  The lost yellow parking lines  would be covered with hard packed snow until spring.     Image   

 

Image  It was time for boots and gloves and travelling with survival gear in the car – a tin can and matches and a fat candle. Yes, winter had crept up on me and was clearly knocking me on the head – my rake would be leaning against the fence until the next calendar year and the hose, frozen standing up in the shape it was in when I twisted it from the tap, would stand that way until March. Yep, this is winter.  And we’re deep in it.

Phone-less in San Francisco

In response to reading melancholy blogs from parents experiencing  withdrawal from kids gone away to college and university, I promised to re-post a couple of those learning curves of my own.   So here is PHONE-LESS IN SAN FRANCISCO

Seven P.M. on a Sunday night my twenty-year-old daughter calls,  obviously near tears.  “Someone stole my phone,” she cries.  “I feel so cut off without it.”

But she is on a phone, one the cell company she’s been dealing with, has given to her.  Born in 1959 myself, it takes me a minute to catch up.  It’s not the phone, it’s the information in the phone.  “I feel like I have to start over meeting people, making contacts.  I feel so alone again, Mom.”

“Honey, honey, I get that you’re upset.  But those people will call you.  You’ll get your numbers again.”

“Mom, it doesn’t work like that.  I’ve done this enough to know lots of those people were never going to call me.”  What she’s done enough, is move around, this daughter of mine.  This is the third time in her young life that she has by choice surrounded herself with absolute strangers – situations where she had to work to have even a single friend.  From our home in Calgary, at age sixteen, she bravely did a high school exchange in Rome, Italy – isolating herself further by having to learn Italian.  Her siblings went to school on the west coast, but she headed east to Concordia University in Montreal.  Now, trading another cold Canadian winter for a foggy one, she was taking part in Concordia’s school abroad program by doing a year at SFSU in San Francisco.  “People here have their own friends.  I’m the new one.  I have to call them,” she explained further.

I was alone in our renovated, too big house, when she’d called.  Her dad had taken two of our nephews to an early hockey game.  The weather outside was shifting, from a Indian summer to light flurries.  Earlier I’d been in the yard pulling down sweet pea vines and raking leaves, and wishing I was cooking a Sunday dinner like some of my friends would be, for kids who stayed in the city for jobs and school.

“What are you doing right now, Mom?” she asked quietly.

“Missing you guys.  Dad’s gone to a hockey game.  I was going to make toast but the breads gone moldy.

“Mine too,” she said.  “My bread’s gone bad, too.”

“I guess we need each other to finish a loaf of bread,” I said, from where I watched the sky turn dark outside the living room.

“Yeah, we do.  I miss you guys so much.”

“You’ll get your numbers back, Lily.  You’ll run into people.  And some friends will call.  It just seems bad now.  I’ll email you Zoe’s and Hudson’s and Cole’s and your cousin’s numbers.”

“Will you do it now?”

Of course, I told her, yes, I’d do it right away.  And I would add a note to her email, about how brave she was, and how I knew the next time we talked she would be okay again, having found her friends.

Come Back, You Summer Revelers

Tell me, how can it be that my husband wants to go back to the cottage this weekend and take the motorboat out of the water.  As usual, as is my role, I protest.  “No, no, no, it can’t be time to take the boat out.  Summer is hardly over.”

It was only a month ago that we had sixteen people at the cottage, some bedding down on air mattresses or couches, others wondering if they could sleep in the boat, rocking on the water through the night.  And a few weeks after that we had loads of folks again, and in exasperation of emptying the dishwasher another time from meals of fresh buttery corn and juicy burgers and failed popsicles – I declared – “When will this end?”

And then it did.

Come back, you summer revellers.  I don’t want to put the floaties away and stack the outside chairs and tie up the canoe against the rising water of next spring.

Let’s squeeze our eyes shut from the smoky fire and then squint into the night sky at the mid- summer comets.  Let me get mildly upset that someone’s used my beach towel in their impatience to dry off from a swim so that they could slice the last peach in the box, before dribbling it with cream.

I want to not be able to decide between reading my book on the dock (yes, that silly book), and chatting with my visiting kids and their gregarious friends, or trying again to make those popsicles.

Even more so I want to take another solo early morning kayak ride on the lapping lake, watching in awe as the osprey flies over.

And so I wish now, that with each swim I had stayed in the lake even longer, floating on my back, adrift in water that was ever so, never so warm.

Peas, Ice Cream, Smarties and a Little Blue Potty

Hey, while Grandma’s trying to catch her breath – I’m writing this on her iPhone to let you know what’s going on here, Mommy, but first I have to shout at Grandma, “No, No!” because there is a tiny piece of blueberry stem in my breakfast and she will come remove it from my presence.  You know how I hate anything nasty like that cluttering up my highchair tray.  I’ll digress, Mommy, to tell you I have Grandpa trained, too.  Yesterday he found out some other grandfather has his grandson call him ‘Bronco’, so decided he wanted to be called ‘Cool Guy’.  I say it and he’ll watch the ‘puppy’ movie with me another fantastic time. Image
So the morning I found you’d left me, your two-year-old sweet baby girl, to go reclaim your misspent youth at that music festival for what?  Five sleeps? –  I was fine, really.  I had my cousin to hang with and the other Nana and Papa before I got plopped in the car with this Grandma and caught up with some zzz’s all the way to the city.  Grandma’s first stop was Toy R Us – what’s with you never taking me there?  I think she was nervous when she saw my eyes bug out – she bought another potty and had me packed out of there in no time and over to Great Grandma’s (GG’s) and Great Grandpa’s so I could amaze them with my dexterity and climbing abilities and they could say over and over, “I’m just afraid she’s going to fall,” and encourage me to eat my dinner.   Grandma didn’t want to let on that when I started to squawk the last twenty minutes of the three hour car ride (I mean really) she had passed me back a big old bag of potato chips and ruined my dinner.

The first night was hell going to bed without you folks.  I started to cry – like seriously wail, and you won’t believe this Mommy, but somehow Grandma had left ‘Baby’ behind.  Her and Grandpa started dragging other ratty old dolls up from their basement but Mom, Baby is Baby, no substitute was filling that void.  But then ‘Cool Guy’ offered a movie and Grandma remembered you’d pulled the plug on my viewing ‘Bolt’ for the summer – the flick that I cleverly refer to as ‘puppy movie’ to help you all forget that the action packed animation is scary and that amazing puppy, Bolt, demolishes a ton of bad dudes.   Well, that was the old folks solution to my frantic tears.  Grandpa found it on his big screen TV.  It was bliss Mommy, cuddling with them and watching puppy movie.  Grandpa was such a fan of it that the next morning while Grandma ran out to buy me a big bucket of fat baby Lego and stock the fridge with my favourite healthy fruits and juices (like that lasted) Cool Guy and I watched puppy movie again.
Grandma’s been showing me off to her friends.  It’s a pretty easy gig – she get’s me to say a few words that come out clearly, and you know, I show them that I know where my nose is (duh)  and they are down on the blanket doing baby Lego with me or asking Grandma in a challenging way if she’s spoiling me with ice cream – and then she does. She had invited two grandma wanna-be’s-but-not-too-soon over passed my erratic bedtime and I know they were looking at us like the whole situation was out of control.  But really, Mommy, it was late and I was bored with the fat Lego.  She didn’t want me to watch puppy movie again (Cool Guy wasn’t home yet), they’d kiboshed my attempt at grabbing that glass ball dangling over the window seat (who makes a ball out of glass anyway), and I was so over toys.  Someone came up with the ice cream idea and yeah, yeah, I know I’m supposed to say “all done” instead of mucking in it and pushing the dish off the tray, but honestly I was spent, and Grandma was frazzled.  I knew if she’d just put me in the bath I could amuse her again.
Speaking of amusing people – the other great-grandparents came to see moi and were spellbound by my using Cool Guy’s iPad – iPad, iphone – it’s not rocket science – you scroll, you push, you tap – a baby could do it.  Even more exciting – as time goes by Grandma lets me get into the cupboards she’s said no to earlier – so why wouldn’t I give that a go?  Isn’t that what they’ll want from me when I’m older – persistence – going the extra mile?  So finally I got to play with the glass candle holders and the fragile Easter decorations tucked away behind them.

Did I mention that people bring me presents – a new doll – so cute, but not Baby.  Speaking of Baby – what’s this I keep hearing, something along the lines of, “do I understand about the new baby?”  Seriously folks?  Word here is that I’m too little to stress about a new sibling yet.  Oh, and speaking of stress…  Grandma gave up on the potty thing.  Hey, don’t get me wrong.  I like this new potty.  She thought the other one wasn’t comfy. This one is so comfy and supposedly my using it for my business instead of perfectly acceptable diapers could have something to do with eating Smarties.Image  Hey, I can’t believe you’ve kept those from me too.  I guess we’re even – you’re having a wild time at the music festival with Daddy and I’m kicking it up here with those chocolate bits of loveliness.  It seems Grandma thought she could train me, but she handed over the Smarties when I whimpered at bedtime and she sort of whimpered herself about how she trained her four kids – you can train me, and good luck to you.  I think it was a weak moment.

Today she took me out to visit another sweet grandma wanna-be… for more presents and you know it – ice cream.  Grandma was super late getting there and I have to tell you, Grandma told this friend that she can’t believe she suggested to you, Mommy, that maybe you could do some of your art while I sleep.  “As if!” she said to her ice cream serving friend.  “I totally get that when this toddling ball of energy stops spinning circles all you want to do is catch your breath, or clean up the mess, or maybe for fun throw in the laundry and watch it go around,” Grandma said gulping back a glass of vino.
ImageShe brought me home and for dinner she let me pick and eat a zillion peas from what she calls her slug invested garden.   After that I tried once more to stand at the top of the stairs to the lower level and shout what Daddy shouts at you when we’re all here together, “Zoe, are you coming?”  Just hoping that you might be down there.  That really got to the old folks – Grandma hugged me and told me “just two more sleeps” and Cool Guy said he’d watch puppy movie. They were both asleep before Bolt returned from his exile.

You two have fun – we are. But it will be blissful to snuggle with you and see ‘Baby’ again and get off this ice cream diet.  Love you guys.  XO Tessa (Grandma says I need an alias in case this is all too embarrassing later.

Challenge – To Buy a Thing (anything) I Must Get Rid of a Thing

It started a few years ago.  I was reading something in my long quest to live a more Zen existence.  (When my four kids were infants I actually, in desperation, attended a class on how to be more organized at home – and nervously laughed at (not with) the anal instructor who only let her kids wear two different colors from the whole rainbow of colors).   Part of organizing was major de-cluttering and gaining space in my space. With that in mind, for the last two years, if I bought an item of clothing (a weakness) I gave one away – buy one, lose one – no breaking the deal. It wasn’t that hard – my closet was dreadfully full but now, on that road to feeling free-er, I just made a new deal with myself – this could be a much bigger challenge.  Now, for every single thing I purchase – I have to rid my home, garage, yard, or car of something.  Yet, buy one, lose one can’t become an excuse for careless consuming, it has to be more of ‘I have too many things surrounding me, and if I believe I need something else – ie. a book for winter reading, a snow shovel that isn’t annoyingly bent, a colourful (hopeful) spring table cloth, a basket for the growing collection of granddaughter toys … I need to give something up. If there is nothing to let go of – there is nothing to gain, sort of thing.

My dear grandmother was a bit of a hoarder – having raised her family through the depression when people darned socks instead of discarding them, and sewed clothes from flour sacks (seriously).  When she passed away we would marvel at what she had kept, and then my mother would say, of course she kept that – she kept everything.  Her saving grace was that she didn’t buy a lot.  She seldom went shopping just to be tantalized, mesmerized even, by a new fancy thing.

I like to have the objects that cheer, inspire or comfort me near by.  But I can’t stand clutter.  When I was raising four kids in this house – kids who might be on a total of six sports teams, working on x number of  ridiculous dioramas for school, building their own collections of fairies, celebrity paper dolls, heart shaped rocks, animal bones (they thought dinosaur carnage – most likely cow’s), or snowboard parts – back then, I was a sucker for every de-cluttering book that came down the pike.

So awhile back as they were all in stages of leaving home I took up a ‘get rid of one hundred item’ challenge.  I kinda have an aversion to throwing things away.  I’ve made solo trips to the well managed local dump but I can never help thinking, as I toss my broken junk into the seagull filled pit, that maybe someone, somehow could use this or that.  So I mostly take it to the Society for Women In Need, even though I’m pretty sure that as I drive away (rip out of their parking lot so as not to be recognized) the staff are cursing my back, demanding to know which women in need could possibly need my junk.

The first twenty-five of the hundred was easy-peasy – clothes that never fit, linens without destinations, other kids lost articles.  The second twenty-five went slower, shoes I wanted to wear but never wore, useless kitchen gadgets, smelly lotions, soaps, and bubble baths that were never opened.  I picked up speed again after a few calls to the kids asking permission to ditch the floppy frayed stuffies – agreeing to keep a certain large teddy, a ratty twisted tail cat, and Bunny Ding Dong (I never would have tossed Bunny Ding Dong).    

I flipped though my library of de-cluttering Zen books and gave myself permission, as instructed, to give away gifts that just never hit the mark.  “If you thanked the gift giver and felt appreciation for the gift – you don’t have to keep it.”  I think I hit my stride at around sixty items packed into boxes and bags or handed to friends.  Two of my neighbours started their own one- hundred item cull as I reached eighty, and then ninety items, and pontificated over how exhilarating  it felt to look around my living room and say – hey, I don’t even like that vase collecting dust on that high shelf, and pull it down along with the stupid angel ornament.

That was two years ago – today I start – You-can’t-bring-anything- in-without – bringing- something-out.  With some zany misplace enthusiasm I got groceries yesterday and thought – does this count?  If I buy two tomatoes, sure I can compost those two potatoes with the long eyes growing out of the bag.  The peanut butter is to replace empty peanut butter, and the dish soap likewise.   Slow down, I told my hyped-up self, looking at the three bags of groceries on the floor.  Clear up the pantry for the food bank – like, hungry people want my unopened anchovy paste – but stick with the original plan.  Groceries don’t count.  Hubby might wonder what’s happening, if you become a crazy extremist de-clutter-er.

But if I really needed a new rug for that spot beside the bed – something has to go.  And if I buy those flower pots at Ikea to put some sunny-wishing-for- spring flowers in, what will they usurp?   The goal is to never own more objects then the ones I have accumulated already.  Luckily, hubby isn’t much of a shopper – except for an occasional foray into Costco to buy a container of juice that won’t fit in the fridge and mustard for one thousand hot dogs. 

 

Ding Ding – You Have A Text

Texting has been a part of the way I communicate for so long I can’t remember doing without it.  The urban dictionary’s sassy and irreverent definition of text is “text messaging is the act of sending a typed message via cell phone; a very efficient and addicting way of communication,”  but their alternate definition is, “The dumbest thing in the world, why would you spend 15 minutes writing something on your phone, when you can call them up and tell them in a minute. F – ing waste of time and money.

I have to say, I agree with both definitions.  But if it is a waste of time, and I could talk instead of text, why did I glum onto to text and never let go?  Because with our boys it was their preferred way of communication – fast, efficient and when they were younger – one of them hanging with his snowboarding crew at Whistler, or the other during his first months at university, I imagined they could hear the little ding ding of a text and swiftly text me back.  I do think they wanted to communicate with home, and in the new world of texting that they were part of, they could whip off a message to me, just to let me know that everything was cool, and none of the guys around them with bent heads and tapping thumbs knew it was mom they were updating, it could just as easily be a girlfriend or someone getting directions to the next party they were off to.

My first feeble attempts to text back when Hudson, our youngest son, first started university away from home had him sending me a mocking text, Mom, lernt to text and spel. My keyboard was tiny, three letters to a key, and my thumbs inexperienced.  Plus I had autocorrect and my messages were constantly being autocorrected to autowrong. When my three youngest let me into their texting world they used abbreviations with me, but after too many texts saying, Hudson, I don’t know what rofl (rolling on the floor laughing), or Cole, I’m stymied. Did you really mean to type PMS?  And him explaining, Mom it’s P.M.S. meaning Pretty Much the Same.   I thought I was catching on to some of the lingo and at the end of a sentence to our youngest daughter, Lily, wrote Peace.  She had to text back, Mom, Peace is like Peace Out, when the conversation is over.  It DOESN’T mean its the other person’s turn to talk. 

I once texted Lily a funny story about her dad and I finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning when we didn’t have to play the parent role in a house empty of kids, and she sent me back this – “Oh Mom MSOOMN”.  I was finally onto the Urban Dictionary and looked that one up –  “An acronym for Milk Shooting Out Of My Nose. An alternative for ROFL or LMAO (laughing my ass off).” Wow, MSOOMN – I’ll use that one, I thought.  But the kids stopped using text abbreviations with their old school mom.  They spell it all out.  I spell it all out.

Our oldest, Zoё, would rather talk then text, maybe because her hands are busy creating art, and she can tuck a phone under her chin.  Cole is a fast efficient texter, and almost always responds to my text queries.  Hudson, like Zoё, is text stingy, but I can get his attention, and if asked a direct question he would sooner text me back then listen to my voice mail message.  In fact, he’s let me in on a youthful secret.  Don’t leave voice mails, Mom.  Nobody does that any more. If I see you’ve called.  I’ll call back.  But if you leave a voice mail, then I know what you want and I’m less curious.  I think I get it – it’s a lesson in technological manipulation.

During our years of texting I have been guilty of many infractions, as defined by my new resource – the often helpful, but occasionally annoying Urban Dictionary.  Cole, Lily and I might be text addicts, but not textaholics, though according to Urban Dictionary definitions during our text volleyball we have of course, engaged in text tiffins (arguing via text messaging), and even text tirades, which has of course, caused text anxiety defined in the Urban dictionary as- “when you are texting someone and they don’t answer creating anxiety of why they aren’t texting, are they mad, are they being arrested, or what is taking them so damn long?

I have been entertained by lively text-versation, have sent countless text-minders (“Grampa’s birthday tomorrow – call him, he doesn’t text”), and on days when I was busy with my own work, or trying to avoid it, I’ve sent all my family different text missives, having learned on my own to only ever ask one question at a time to receive an answer, and then waited for the little ding dings indicating one of them have answered me.  I have sent far too many text pas, usually involving sending a text to the last person that texted me, instead of the intended recipient – yikes!  Hudson has frustrated us all with his many textascapes  – an escape from all texting or other text based communications. Commonly occurring due to losing ones phone, and realizing shortly there after just how relaxing the break from technology is. 

    I’ve witnessed my kid’s blossoming text romances right from the text mackaginga message sent with the purpose of ‘macking’ or ‘hitting’ on a person of desire. Flirtatious in nature, usually cryptic or ambiguous in hope for a response. And then seen them go on to engage in back and forth text flirting.  And let me tell you, any text sex better have taken place behind closed doors.  If I have butt into their text business it was to warn them against ever being so pathetic as to commit the text relationship dump.

Myself, I have tried not to be a text stalking mother, or to suffer text blindnessA person afflicted with text blindness is so absorbed by walking and texting that they have lost the ability to see oncoming danger. I have caused textafusion with unchecked typos.   I know I have used the text stretch or even the text embargo to try to illicit a response (usually to no avail – it was probably in my first enthusiastic days of texting and some quiet from my cell phone was what they wanted)

On the other side of that I have been the recipient of the text that said simply, “Mom, I’m lonelyOr the more practical, “How much milk do you use to scramble two eggs? I’ve gotten a photo with a text that said, Does this raw beef look edible or like it’s gone bad?”  And of course the, “Please help, I’ve got 58 cents in the bank and my phone bill is overdue.”  There has also been the late night text, “Mom, you awake?” before a long conversation in the dark living room. Best of all I have felt the thrill of the text surge on a quiet day at home, missing all the chaos and noise of a house full of our family, when I’ve heard the repeated ding-ding of a new text, and then – oh joy – another and another.

Bridesmaids, Popcorn and Babies

Now here is something that didn’t exist when I was home with babies –  Stars and Strollers, the afternoon matinees just for parents ( and grandmas, and eager aunties, and friends) and – get this – babies.  My daughter,  Zoe, and my oh so adorable one-year-old granddaughter came to visit and we decided we had to give this a try.   We picked a movie that we really wanted to see (maybe that was a mistake), which unfortunately was only playing way, way across the city (perhaps our second boo-boo) and headed off to meet a friend of Zoe’s and her one-year-old little guy, and to observe the darling chaos of it all.

The movie was Bridesmaids and for a Wednesday afternoon there appeared to be a pretty big turn out of mostly new mommies and teeny weeny babies. I noticed a few grandmothers in the crowd, amongst the stroller pushers.  My youngest daughter, Lily, wanted to see the movie, but not as much as she wanted to hang with her out-of-town tiny niece at the theater, so she was with our group, as well.

The lobby was a stroller-a-thon though the  two women purchasing tickets ahead of me were being charged regular price for not having a under two-year-old with them (which is what the fine print on the Cineplex web site says would happen), but they successfully argued they should be entitled to the same discount the rest of us were getting for the inconvenience of being surrounded by all those babies.  Now I have to say right off, if they really came to enjoy the movie, the constant interruption wasn’t worth the discount, but if they came to take in the sight of forty plus moms trying to take pleasure in a movie while nursing and changing and soothing and bouncing forty plus babies – now that was worth the price of admission.

Our driving across town had given grand-baby the chance for a solid nap so after a short period of calmly taking in the dimly lit room full of her baby peers, and then staring at the larger than life characters of Annie and Lillian on screen,  she was ready to sit on mommy’s head, or travel from mommy’s lap to grandma’s lap to auntie’s lap and back again, while experiencing the new sensation of being fed little iddy bits of popcorn. None of the babies cried for very long, rather they all took turns at crying for short periods of time.  Zoe and her friend were critical of the character development in the zany comedy, but who the hec knows how they could have possibly have followed the plot lines while keeping their babies entertained – though they and their movie going peers were all learning to be the mothers-of-all multi-taskers.

I figured twenty-one-year-old Lily would say that sitting amongst a roomful of wah-wah-wah-ing babies was a stupid way to watch a flick, but she loved her niece’s visiting her seat-side to press crumbs of sticky popcorn into her mouth, and insisted she was able to tune out the babies bawling over top of  clever lines such as the bride, Lillian, asking her messed-up bridesmaid, Annie, “Why can’t you be happy for me and then go home and talk about me behind my back like a normal person?”

At the  front of the theater was a changing table, a slightly lit-up spot where you would not miss a second of the soundtrack, but the audience had a clear view of you tending to your infants soiled diaper needs.  We noticed only one man in the entire theatre, and when he was the one to come stand in that light and expertly change his baby, I know most the moms were watching this macho figure in his baseball cap rather than Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph and wondering if their own baby-daddy would be so bold?

Stars and Strollers was an event, a gathering, shared camaraderie amongst a group of pretty new moms, allowing themselves – despite the squawking and wiggling of their infants – a  bit of entertainment on a weekday afternoon.  But I think I’ll go see Bridesmaids again – because I don’t feel like I’ve seen it yet.