Notes from Mother’s Journal: Uphill From Here, in A Good Way Edition

The first day of Christmas vacation was not the best day of my life. I felt like I was getting a cold; the kids have both been sick and now have those clear-the-room coughs; we had nothing to do and no one to do it with; it was raining; still six days till Christmas, yes, six days, yes, that’s six sleeps, yes, almost a week, yes, 24 hours in a day, let’s do the math, ok that took up fifteen minutes NOW WHAT.

You, and by you I mean I, get used to having even that ten minutes of time or whatever it is that I get in a day. It takes a few days to get used to the routine change. You know. Togetherness. Which leads to bickering; the bicker bone being connected to the scream bone, the scream bone connected to the stress bone, the stress bone connected to the WINE. No bone. Just wine.

We muddled through, me feeling a) like crap and b) like a total parenting n99b (that’s, like, even n00bier than n00b)(get it?) and c) that Doom/Panic feeling that comes from feeling like crap in one way or another for MONTHS and like it will never end, but trying not to complain about it because no one likes a complainer that’s why I’m sneaking it into this paragraph handwave and the kids reacting to that and being assholes and me being a bigger asshole just to prove that I AM THE BOSS ASSHOLE. In case there was any doubt.

I am the boss asshole.

Saint Aardvark came home at the end of the day and took the kids upstairs and put them to bed (but not before a parting shot re: how hungry they were because I forced them to bed without supper, oh wait, no I just asked you to SIT at the TABLE more than FIVE TIMES and so I assumed when you started dancing around the room that you were done, oh you weren’t done? Go to bed for 12 hours and then you can have breakfast. BOSS ASSHOLE.) and everything got better.

At the end of the evening I saw the broken bag of reindeer food on the shelf and told SA the story and he fell on the floor laughing and then I laughed too and realized that actually it’s all just funny.

Oh you want to hear the reindeer food story?

One of Trombone’s teachers gave him a card and a bag of reindeer food. You folks all know about reindeer food? I didn’t until recently. Without meaning any disrespect, it’s bullshit. It’s 2 ingredients: oatmeal and glitter. And a little tag that says sprinkle me on the lawn and reindeer will come! Except usually it rhymes.

Like, great, who’s going to clean up all the reindeer poop? Oh, my mom will get it, don’t worry. She’s already cleaning up everyone else’s poop.

I think there is a third ingredient: Magic, but since we are a low-key Santa-acknowledging household, we don’t sit around all day talking about where the reindeer will land. We live in a townhouse and we have a gas fireplace. Let’s not get into the details.

Anyway, it was 10:30 am and I was about ready to lock myself in the bathroom for the rest of the day, hang the expense, because I was trying to get the children to put on their coats and walk with me to the store. You get to a certain point, a tipping point, maybe? I haven’t read the book, where the the children both NEED exercise and CANNOT BE PERSUADED to do anything that will facilitate that exercise, so there I was, in all my outdoor clothing, with the kids half-clad and Trombone whipping the bag of reindeer food around, pretending to be a Ninja or something, yelling “Hooooowayyyyyahhhhhhhhhhh!” when of course it broke. Oatmeal and glitter all over the kitchen floor. < --- word count: 666. "OH NO!" Trombone said. He was dismayed. As was I -- I don't want reindeer in my fucking KITCHEN are you kidding me? "Uh," I said. I leaned against the kitchen counter and surveyed the chaos. "I'll sweep it up," he said. He went to get the broom from the bathroom, walking right through a puddle of oatmeal glitter. Then he commenced to sort of wave the broom around, making the lightweight glitter float through the air. "I want to help!" said Fresco. "You can hold the dustpan," said Trombone. "OK!" "Not like that. Hold it flat. It has to be...Oh now it's all going everywhere. YOU HAVE TO HOLD IT FLAT." "But I am..." "No you're not, you're holding it sideways. I have to sweep it in and it has to be FLAT." Fresco dropped the dustpan and made his mad face. "HEY PICK UP THE DUSTPAN YOU HAVE TO HELP ME." "NO. I DON'T." "MOMMY TELL HIM HE HAS --" "Put your coat on." "But we have to --" "Put your coat on." "But the floor --" "Put. Your. Coat. On." Next time I will just look at this photo, which I will be printing to poster size and putting up on my wall. Happy 2nd-to-last-week-of-December! Trombone and Fresco, looking at Christmas lights through glasses that turn lights into hearts (We went out to look at Christmas lights with these “Happy Glasses” that are like 3D glasses except what they do is turn the pinpricks of light into heart shapes. Like acid, without the acid.)

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For Posterity

Supper table. Both children and I, eating. Each child has a glass of water and a glass of apple cider. Non-alcoholic.

Trombone: When I’m done this apple cider, can I have more apple cider?
Me: No.
Trombone: Why not?
Me: Because you need to drink water or milk. One glass of apple cider is enough. It’s juice, you know.
Trombone: No it’s not. It’s cider.
Me: … (shoveling food in my mouth)

Trombone eyes Fresco.

Trombone: Fresco. Drink your cider.
Fresco: What?
Trombone: Drink your cider. Do you still have some cider?
Fresco: Yes I do. (holds up his glass)
Trombone: Drink it!
Fresco: No. I will drink my water. (Drinks his water) Water is good for me.
Trombone: (sighs)

several minutes pass

Fresco: (drinks his cider) THERE! It’s all gone.
Trombone: Aha! (to me) See, I was tricking him. I wanted him to drink all his so that then I would have more!
Me: Ah.
Fresco: But I win the cider race! I win!
Trombone: Whatever. I don’t care.
Fresco: (singing) I win I win I win I w —
Me: — So you both got something you wanted.
Trombone: (ignoring me) I still have some cider. And you don’t have any.
Fresco: But I WIN!
Trombone: No you DON’T. I do. Because I tricked you.
Fresco: Nope.

The End. As if.

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Dear November

Dear November 2011,

Fuck you. Seriously.

It wasn’t enough to start the month with two kids with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, a time change, and a smack-tonne of rain. You had to give me a 13-day headache, neck spasms, a head cold, four canker sores, and my period.

Fine, one of those things would have happened anyway. BUT COME ON.

I tried, November. You know I don’t hold a grudge against you, like some people. I wrote a novel during you, once. I wrote a blog post a day, one year. This year, just to be funny, I wrote a post about how to survive you. It was just supposed to be a cute post. It wasn’t meant to be a challenge. You ass.

This morning, when I woke up, my head didn’t hurt. At first I thought I was probably dead. I spent an hour in the middle of the night listening to it throb and wondering if that doctor I saw last week was wrong and maybe I do have a tumour the size of Shangri-La pressing on my whatchimasomethings. But no — I was not dead, my head was attached, and yet I did not feel much pain.

No fool, I sat up very slowly. Still, it didn’t hurt. I stood up — ah, there it was. My old friend, Spike In the Brain. But when I moved around, the pain kind of … faded, instead of intensifying.

I actually felt better.

Holy fucking hallellujah and pass the beans.

I have made it through six hours of my day without taking a muscle relaxant, an ibuprofen, an excedrin, let alone several of each. I have not heated up my magic bag once, let alone every fifteen minutes. I can sit here and type this which, frankly, is a miracle. I haven’t been able to sit at my computer for longer than 10 minutes in days.

Why don’t you want me to write, November? What do you think I’ll tell the world? THAT YOU’RE AN ASS?

Your parting shot this morning, where we arrived home from walking Trombone to school and my key stuck in the lock and I couldn’t get it out so I had to take the deadbolt off the door and then I couldn’t get it back on for two hours and it was freezing cold and I had to keep my neck bent the whole time? Nice touch. But I still win.


Because tomorrow it will be December.

Don’t the door hit you on the way out, November. I’m done being nice to you. Next year I’m going to Belize.

Yrs in readiness,

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The Bag

What’s in the bag? What am I carrying with me right now? What can I let go?

Gwen Bell asked this personal question for reflection and this morning, just out of bed, I reflected on it.

It’s apropos because I have been suffering with neck and shoulder tension for a few days now, and it’s buggered up my head. I get these tension headaches periodically — at least I think they are, I’ve never been formally diagnosed — and on Thursday morning, I woke up with a sore neck and shoulder on the right side. It’s always the right side. So I went about my day, feeling kind of tired and off, but that was the second day I’d woken that way so I wasn’t surprised.

After supper, the headache started. It was a bad one. I ignored it for the first little while and then it got worse when we walked out in the snow up to the school to watch them light the giant cedar tree on the corner. With lights, I mean. Not on fire.

Incidentally, it was our first year attending this annual event and instead of raining like stink, it snowed like stink instead, and all was bright and cold and festive-feeling.

We got up the hill to the school and suddenly my headache began making itself known, in that I’m in trouble, I need an ibuprofen right this second sort of way. It was too late to go home and come back in time for the tree lighting so I just held steady. It was one of those headaches where you can’t bend over because the blood goes rushing to your head and then you feel intense pain and also like maybe you are going to throw up.

It took a double dose of ibuprofen and a heating pad on my neck to get me to the point where I could sleep.

I woke up yesterday all groggy from the pain medication and my neck still hurt. I took ibuprofen when I felt the first twinges of headache and it didn’t come back. The neck and shoulder tension is still there, though.

Back to the question! What do I have in my bag? I was noticing yesterday at the mall that the bag I was carrying cross-ways over my heart (symbolic?) was pulling at my right shoulder. Yet, across my other shoulder it is clunky and interrupts my walking.

It contained:

– my wallet
– a powder compact in case I decide to wear powder. It hasn’t happened this year, but it could. At any moment.
– a shirt that I was returning to a store at the mall
– a ‘first aid kit’ with drugs, bandages, antiseptic spray
– a shopping bag, for when we got our groceries
– several pens (but no paper)
– lip gloss
– tissues
– cell phone
– candy
– an apple

My bag is a ‘ready for anything’ mobile unit. Almost everything in it is just in case.

In light of my recent realization about the rope — no, not a thread, much weightier than that — of anxiety that connects me to both my father and my son, I am hyper-aware of the tendency I have to be prepared. As if being prepared for 90% of what life hurls at you will help you when you turn a corner and run smack into Ms. 10%. Wouldn’t it be better to spend one’s energy learning how to deal with adversity, learning how to be healthy and happy despite the 10%, and then you would be prepared for the entire 100. Without having to carry around way too much stuff in a bag.

I don’t remember what I used to carry in my bag before I was a parent. I think it was more like notebook, pen, music player, wallet. Having kids made my preparation gene go into overdrive. I think this happens to a lot of people, judging by the massive diaper bag market. There are systems man.

I digress.

Is my bag — and baggage, ho ho — causing my shoulder and my neck and thus my head to ache? I don’t know. It’s as likely as anything else. I don’t hold my body properly all the time; sitting at this laptop, for example. My position in the car when I drive. My tendency to sit down facing one direction and then turn my head to look at things over *there* instead of turning my whole body. It could also be: hormones, the weather changing, that my children (weights: 45 and 37 lbs, respectively) like to dangle off me like monkeys.

The purse part is kind of irrelevant. The part about being prepared helps to foster the illusion that as long as I have everything with me, nothing bad can happen. Maybe it’s time to just let shit happen and deal with it when it does. Seriously, by now, I have the tools I need, right?

Dear Universe: Please don’t answer that.

Can I possibly practice being less ready for anything? Perhaps, yes.

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How to Survive November

The first few days of November, riding high on a wave of pumpkin pie and autumn leaves, we think, it won’t be that bad. This year, it’s sunny. This year, the air is apple-crisp! This year, there won’t be dark, or rain, or sickness, or cabin fever.

Then, the clocks go back an hour. The rain starts. Leaves start to drift, then plummet, from the trees. It’s dark when we wake up and dark when we eat dinner. Noses run, and run. Our eyes are always bleary. There isn’t enough coffee in the world.

November isn’t my least favourite month (that’s January) but it can be trying. I recognize this more in recent years; with the children around, many experiences are intensified. A little tired becomes Exhausted. A time change becomes A Crisis. Three days of rain becomes Holy Fuck Will We Ever Go to A Playground Again.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to keep myself relatively regulated.

Five Tried and True Ways to Survive and Even Enjoy November:

1. Make Your Own Light

You need it. Open all the blinds, take out your window screens, check yourself periodically to make sure you aren’t sitting slouched in a dark room waiting for the day to end. Of course, using too much electricity will result in the early wreckage of the planet, so rather than destroying what little happiness you have in a day, light candles. I pull out all the tea lights (IKEA 100, 10 years ago) and just leave them lit — in the kitchen, bathroom, wherever. It’s a bit of trickery that makes me believe I am in the dark on purpose. Also: everything looks better by candlelight.

2. But Don’t Fear the Darkness

The other day was a dark one. Lots of cloud, lots of rain, bad news all over, and sickness all around. Fresco insisted on playing the same Elliott Smith / Eels / Richard Buckner set on the CD player. I did some breathing, lit my candles, and smiled at myself in the mirror a lot but it didn’t do any good.

At one point I gave in, said to myself, Today is a dark day. Embrace it, don’t fight it. Stay away from social media. Listen to Elliott Smith and be glad you are alive. Tomorrow will be different.

Using energy to try and banish the dark can sometimes be as fruitless as shoveling Jell-O. Sometimes it is more productive — more energizing — to dive into the darkness, revel in it, feel low and slow and nurture yourself and then? Unfurl.

3. Eat Comfort Food

I’ll repeat it in case you don’t remember what I said last November: Put cheese on it and bake the crap out of it. Whatever it is. I don’t care if you gave up dairy. Take it up again.

Remember in July when it was so hot you could only eat watermelon for dinner? Rejoice, for now you can casserole. Also, baking things will warm up your house.

Salads are for lettuce season. It’s cheese season now.

4. Don’t Drink Too Much

You will want to. It is dark and cold and raining against your window and good lord can we just be drunk until April? No. We can’t. It would be bad for us. We must drink responsibly because in the morning? We have to get out of bed and do things. We are not 20 anymore.

Also, remember: even if it is dark at 3 pm, that doesn’t make it happy hour. Have some tea.

5. Go Outside

You won’t want to. It is dark and cold and raining and windy. There are leaves blowing at your face and the children are whining about how far it is to school (Three blocks, everyone. Three damn city blocks.) and how cold their hands are. Put on rubber boots, wool socks, a rain coat, a hat, gloves and go outside. Walk around. You don’t have to go far. The fresh air will replenish you.

If you are a parent, take a walk without your children once in a while. Walk fast. Walk like you used to walk before you had children.

And; go places and see other people. Make dates and keep them. In the warm light of a pub or coffee shop, who cares what month it is.


Avoid the mall. It is probably decorated for Christmas, overheated, and full of keen shoppers and viruses.

…what works for you? SAD lamp? Vitamin B/D/Everything?

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