Happy Chinese New Year!

Okay, I started 2016 with the notion that I would be posting every week, and here I am four (actually almost five) weeks later with finally a post. First of all Happy New Year 2016 (at least in time for Chinese New Year). This year will be a great year in spite of it not being the year of the goat; it is actually the year of the red monkey.

The year 2015 was a year of change, sadness and mourning for this Garden Goat. My mother passed away, as did my mother-in-law. Many of you know that I also hold down full-time employment with a large corporation, well that has also come to a close. The office where I worked for almost 13 years closed, and, therefore, I am now seeking other employment.

A terrible crisis happened to one of my children, suffice to say prayers are welcome, and this goat’s faith in humanity has been shaken. Now you know why it has been a little quiet at my end.

A new year, 2016 I believe will be the best year ever. So no time like the present to hop (cavort) back into entertaining and communicating with my faithful, although likely estranged, readership.

Best Year ever 2016 GG

Those of you just joining the conversation today, I moonlight as a goat and comment on just about everything. I am secure in the knowledge that this pseudonym allows me to be me (goat self) reporting from my home and still have the teenagers that dwell here acknowledge me, at least monthly (and more often if I disconnect the Wifi).

I am humbled on Facebook (and also in reality) by everyone’s commitment to their New Year resolutions, which appear to be a cross between getting fit, losing weight (I thought that they were both the same…apparently NOT) and putting more meaning into their lives.  I on the other hand, will be happy to know that I have survived yet another day, possibly showered and kept the kids I preside over, alive to see tomorrow. I am hoping to overachieve on this front, this year!

Other New Year’s Resolution fans are working on great plans for cruise vacations, shopping and home renovations (never to be ever compared with a vacation). I am living for today; tomorrow is just too complicated.

As of February 2nd, I am competing in the open market for a day job. Some of the interviews I have had with prospective employers are all again about New Year’s Resolutions.

Happy Hours glass wine1

One such potential employer prides themselves on having the best work environment including running an “exercise boot camp.” At my age, not a selling point. I was hoping more for maybe a “Happy Hour” afternoon, where those that imbibe can and then perhaps not notice that those of us not indulging got to leave a little early.  Another potential employer offered a health bar resplendent with vegetable smoothies. In spite of my goat attributes, a definite no. Now searching for a company similar to one I worked for years ago, where chocolate came to the office by the truck load, and we the employees, were encouraged to graze.

“There is nothing in this world that prayer and chocolate can’t handle!” –Unknown-

Given that I am out of practice regularly writing this blog I think I will pace myself and save some stuff for next week.

So those of you pursuing Greek-God-like bodies, go for it, I will be in my corner “grazing” on chocolate and counting down the hours until chasing it down with a little Baileys is more socially acceptable.

Love,

The Garden Goat

Santa is real to those who believe

“For those who believe (in God), no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible” – – Author Unknown

Christmas-TimeWith the first snowfall comes the eager anticipation of Christmas…at least here in Canada. Those of us with a wide range of ages in our children are familiar with the question that seems to pop up as early grade school “Is Santa real?”

When all my little ones were under the age of 6 years old, I never worried about such a thought. The questions back then we “Can Santa Claus bring me… (such and such)?” or “Please don’t tell Santa I did that bad thing…promise?” I think the best one was “Don’t worry mommy and daddy about getting a new car, I asked Santa and I just know he will bring one for you on Christmas!” (!! Love it!)

Then came grade school and with it a multitude of layers of belief and questioning attitudes.

Some 7-year-old at school is all the talk this year because she managed to pull the beard off the Santa at the local shopping mall. Therefore, exposing all of her grade two classmates to her discovery, there is no Santa. This is until the mom over here points out the facts…that all the 7-year-old knows for sure is that Santa’s beard, on that day, was detachable. Bad hair day…so what! Cartoon-Santa

A very nice child in grade six took it upon himself to let my 6-year-old know that Santa was “fake.” All this because he sat up all Christmas eve at his window, did not see a sleigh, or reindeer and the next morning did not get what he had wanted for Christmas. Mom over here was able to mention that any child who stays up ALL CHRISTMAS EVE will not see Santa and possibly will not get anything from him…or so the rules go. Nothing new discovered here either.

Candycane-North-Pole

Then I got teenagers. They think they have EVERYTHING figured out. Occasionally, to change the balance in a family dispute, the 13-year-old, in a moment of defiance might offer to tell his siblings that he KNOWS there is no Santa. Again, I am able to let the small fry realize that the older sibling is only trying to make himself feel better. As due to his poor  behaviour…he won’t be getting what he is hoping for and that does not in itself mean there is no Santa.

I still have very little ones here at home. Thanks to society (and occasionally their disgruntled older siblings), I often find myself being grilled by the toddlers and little kids (cross-examination-style questions) on the reality of Santa Claus. For me, this discussion is easy. Santa Claus is actually St. Nicholas, a Catholic saint with access to heavenly powers and lots of magic. (Any further questions?)

Magic-for-GGThe distribution question on how does one man, eight reindeer visit an entire world’s worth of children in less than 24 with gifts for everyone…is also easily answered. Many saints have been known to bi-locate and employ the help of angels and have access to supernatural powers.

When asked “is Santa Claus for real” …my favourite answer is “Santa is real to those who believe…and not real to those who do not!” Followed up by “Who here BELIEVES in Santa?”… (a big show of little hands) I thought so…

Believe-Christmas-Do-dec-2012-EDIT-JCA-GG-2014

Looking forward to another magical December 25th for kids big and small at my house!

The Garden Goat

One who believes in Santa Claus

Do you also live in a well-meaning neighborhood???

To those of you who live nearby … (and others who might be jealous of how the other-half actually lives)!

" I love that I am surrounded by such support."

” I love that I am surrounded by such support.”

Some of you are likely very delightful people and perhaps if you knew me better, you might think the same of me. However, there are some of you located near (and around) where I live that for some reason, have absolutely no idea why our city, has a By-Law department. This department has been established to reinforce and assist our city with issues of real concern to the taxpayers.

It is possible that you and I differ on what could be considered a real issue.  I have never called “By-Law”… on anyone, in my life. Perhaps I might be tempted too, if I worried about my children being eaten because someone has decided to adopt a wolf and pass it off as a dog and allow the critter to run loose in the local playground. Or… should I discover that the party music next door is still in full decibel, well into the wee hours after midnight, for the tenth night in a row. This after I have (several times) politely requested the party-goers to respect the noise curfew.  Although, in reality that would only amount to being tempted to potentially look up the “By-Law” number to keep as a handy reference for “next” time.

There are some things you may want to consider BEFORE you call “By-Law.”

There are some things you may want to consider BEFORE you call “By-Law.”

There are some things you may want to consider BEFORE you call “By-Law.”

If I have a half-dozen bicycles on my property, it does not necessarily mean that I am running a hot, stolen bike ring. It could actually mean that my larger-than-average family has numerous biking enthusiasts residing within our abode. If you happen to see one of my kid’s bikes, on the street, there is no need to also call the police and report that you have found stolen property. (Really? What?  Stolen from the alleged bike fence I am running 10 feet away on our lawn?). This required me booking a week-day off work, to go down to the main clearing house, (located at the opposite end of town),  to reclaim, after proving ownership of same (once I turn the entire house upside down to locate the original receipt) not to mention dealing with the distressed kid whose bike got “turned in.”

Celebrations and holidays are celebrated with family and friends visiting…usually identified by the doorbell ringing. My neighbors celebrate my every breath by calling the “By-Law” officer. I love that I am surrounded by such support.  In life, there are things that happen to all of us. Sometimes one’s pet pooch can make a jail break and be running around on the streets WITHOUT immediately rendering me an incompetent pet owner.  Nor does ownership of a large dog necessarily mean that ALL barking in the neighborhood is emanating from my property.

"Dear By-Law informer I have yet to stoop to these infractions (however…there is always tomorrow)"

“Dear By-Law informer I have yet to stoop to these infractions (however…there is always tomorrow)”

A car I have removed tires and brakes from (to fix my other car with) will be momentarily heading to the recycling department. This does not mean I have opened a car repair depot on my driveway, and you, the faithful can expect inconvenience as customers line up and down the streets waiting for undercover car repairs.  I will admit the vehicle is less pretty on blocks; however, that is to keep it from moving (i.e. running over small children). Not really sure how you even viewed the vehicle as it is parked way in the back behind my other vehicles. The car in question is significantly safer on blocks than sitting poised to roll down the driveway. In fact, I am not sure how anyone could have gotten far up enough on the property to view the end of the driveway (undetected by the rest of us) to notice all these details.

But then coming up my driveway, (once you trip over all the kids’ toys) is nothing new to the neighborhood peeps.  Some well-meaning soul alerted “By-Law” that I was moonlighting as a garbage collector at the side of my home. (??) I, too, collect family refuse in hopes of participating in garbage day (another city service)…but with the numbers here it is not just ever one bag.

Running the family that I do, we are basically a small institution. In having said that, there should be some understanding among the faithful in my neighborhood that some of these “infractions” are actually just little things that occasionally happen, perhaps more often than they might in smaller families. No one intends to upset anyone else because of allowing one’s kids to park their bikes on the driveway, or play with sidewalk chalk or Heaven-forbid…lay interlocking brick.

"Surely there are By-Laws against peeping Toms and STALKERS."

“Surely there are By-Laws against peeping Toms and STALKERS.”

The attention I receive from the “By-Law” department is second-to none. My attentive neighbors seem to overlook that perhaps with the number of family members living together, there are a dozen more times my door opens (per day) as kids race in and out, providing the family pooch with endless fantasies of freedom. The dog manages to get out every once in a while, so if you have all this time to summon “By-Law” then why not help me locate the pooch? If you call “By-Law” and report the supposed stolen bike ring, then surely no need to make a separate call to the police and have them remove a little boy’s bike found less than 20 feet away from the alleged stolen bike sale. A car parked one hour longer on the street enabling little girls the space on the driveway to decorate with sidewalk chalk. Ohhh another NO-NO…“By-Law” came to visit on that occasion too (by the way the city official LOVED the kid’s artwork!).

My best friend visits with her dog and within the hour…you guessed it…“By-Law” is at my door. For those of you who keep this city office in the loop, I would like to know how you are always so on top of my every move. Surely there are By-Laws against peeping Toms and STALKERS. I will find you!!! (Don’t be too worried that I will hunt you down immediately as by the time I have the dog tied up, the garbage hidden, the cars parked in the driveway, the bicycles locked in the garage…I will be too exhausted to bother!)

Calls have included; grass not as short as some would like, children’s toys in the driveway, an excessive number of bikes (more than 1?) all over my  driveway, vehicle imperfections (albeit undergoing some repair) as the car is older and perhaps not appreciated by the natives. The interlocking bricks that were awaiting the landscaper, had to be covered for a day, and then covered again while they were being laid on the patio so as not to offend the “By-Law” patrons.

I pay taxes too. I expect By-Law to enforce laws that are important. I also would not dream of calling “By-Law” on anyone unless I simply had to have the situation remedied, and it would need to be a serious matter. This made me wonder what other laws exist in other areas of the planet so that I can appreciate what other poor-devil-By-Law-officers must contend with in other lands. This list is quite entertaining; I can assure all of you I have not attempted (yet) any of the following. However, rest assured that should I even contemplate such an activity I will likely be carted off to the city jail. Given the bigger items I have to deal with every day, in real life…perhaps a break, at taxpayer’s expense, in the city jail is what I truly deserve.

Dear By-Law informer I have yet to stoop to these infractions (however…there is always tomorrow):

  • In Washington State, it is against the law to boast that one’s parents are rich. (No danger of this one…my kids would be lying!)
  • In Alabama it is illegal to play Dominoes on Sunday. (It should be illegal to recognize Dominoes as the only food group!)
  • In Minneapolis, double-parkers can be put on a chain gang.
  • In 1313, King Edward II enacted that “You are forbidden from dying in parliament.”
  • An old statute in Kentucky states that men who push their wives out of bed for inflicting their cold toes on them can be fined or jailed for a week.
  • A 100-year-old law in Willowdale, Oregon makes it illegal to swear during sex. (WOULD LOVE TO KNOW WHO REPORTS THIS ONE!)
  • An odd law in Minnesota makes it illegal to hang male and female underwear on the same washing line.
  • In Melbourne, Australia it is illegal for men to parade in strapless dresses – but they are allowed to cross-dress in anything with sleeves.
  • An old law in Russia allows a police officer to “beat a peeping tom soundly.” (SHOULD YOU NOT BE CALLING  By-Law FIRST??)
  • In Texas, two categories of men are exempt from peeping tom charges: men over 50 and men with only one eye.
  • A pregnant woman can urinate anywhere she wishes, including a policeman’s helmet, according to a London local by-law.
  • But in Vermont, women require their husband’s permission to wear false teeth.
  • In Virginia, horses of more than one year old are prohibited in a place of worship. (Get it right when you report it …a very LARGE dog!)
  • In Tennessee, shooting any game other than whales from a moving automobile is against the law.
  • In Oklahoma you could be sent to prison for “making an ugly face at a dog.”

This is where I will restrain myself admirably and not make ANY ugly faces at any of my neighborhood peeps.

garden-goat-logo-_jca

The Garden GOAT

(ssshhh By-Law does not know a GOAT lives here!)

A friend like no other….

...won a forever place in my heart.

…won a forever place in my heart.

I first met him when I was thirty-six and expecting my 6th baby. He was full of life and energetic. I was tired and sick as I was close to delivering my baby. My husband worked nights …and I was all alone. He became my close friend. His insight and patience won a forever place in my heart.

He was always the kind of friend to cheer you up. You know the one you could completely rely on to be sympathetic in any situation. One of his great strengths I valued the most was his innate sense of where I was at in my inner world. I never once had to voice my concerns he was just so sensitive he knew what I was thinking without even a word being spoken.

No matter what was going on with him I was always more important. This would be so evident in everything he did.  When I would walk into the room, he would make me a priority. I instantaneously felt that I was his whole world, his hope and that he truly loved me. He never burdened me with any of his issues as he was only concerned with me. When we were in the same room, his eyes met mine and would maintain eye contact as I spoke to him.

One of the only friends I have ever known to say so much to me with nary a word. Something I treasured about our special friendship. Days when my world was crashing he was there letting me know that regardless of whatever made my heart heavy… be it stress, pain, sadness… he understood it all. When I laughed he smiled and when I needed a friend there was no one more true. The days when my heart soared and was filled with joy he was there happily celebrating with our family.

I never worried about what he would think of me as I always knew I was on a pedestal. He loved me with his whole heart. I knew this…I could feel this. I was honoured to have such a pal. When I was sick, or after I had the babies, and did not have as much time for him, he never complained. He just understood. He was like that. I often thought about his qualities as a friend and realized that he was perfect. He had the whole package, tender, kind, thoughtful, patient and understood the most about unconditional love. He loved me even when I deserved it the least. He loved me…no matter what. I loved that about him.

He loved me…no matter what.

He loved me…no matter what.

He loved to go out with me but also understood when I needed my space. If I needed to talk in the middle of the night, he would gladly forgo his sleep just to listen. When I spent time with my best friend, he was never once jealous; in fact, he was just as nice to her too. I introduced my children to him. He became their friend and confidant too. He was the kind of friend that you could totally trust your children with and never once worry about anything. The children would climb all over him and he would gently respond by patiently listening to their chatter and banter. He was happy regardless of what mayhem the children would cause. He would not interrupt ever. Many times he joined us for dinner. He loved a good meal.

I did what we all sometimes do with a good friend… I took him for granted. I never stopped to think one day he might not be there.

He started to show signs of aging. I knew he was years older than I was. Still somehow I thought he would live forever.   Our conversations became quieter. It was my turn now to understand his silence. His eyes still lit up when he saw me but less brilliant than before. He was becoming very tired. His once bright insight into my world became more of a gentle nod of understanding as I now focused on him and trying to reach him in his world. I realized that he had grown old as my friend and was now sick with fatigue. I shuddered at the thought of ever having to say goodbye to my friend. He totally trusted me and wanted me take over decisions for him once he got to a point of no return in his illness. I had to face the reality that goodbye to this friend was inevitable.

My last visit with him was sad. He was resting, with barely the energy to lift his head. I kissed him and hugged him, but this time it was strange…he did not respond in like kind…he lay quietly breathing with his eyes closed. I knew my friend was getting ready to go through the gates of Heaven…he had nothing to fear. His whole life was one of pure and gentle friendship based on unconditional love. He knew and was this truth his whole life. My life was changed by his devotion and loyalty to me and my entire family.

He was our dog, “Joey” and will live forever in our hearts.

He was our dog, “Joey” and will live forever in our hearts.

He was our dog, “Joey” and will live forever in our hearts.

Miss you Joey!

The Garden Goat

(Oh …and yes, all dogs do go to Heaven!)

He loved me with his whole heart.

He loved me with his whole heart.

PLEASE report me…NOW!

This weekend, while feeling terrible (the entire tribe was sick with high fevers and sore throats… a mystery illness… including this old goat) …my doorbell rang. As is customary in this place when someone is at the door literally a crowd of children run to the door and I am lucky if I even make it to the door (stepping on bodies everywhere) far less if I am able to even determine why the interruption (as the kids always get there first) occurred.  This is largely due to the fact that the majority of people coming to the door are friends of the inmates that live here. When you have the brood I do…very few people come to actually visit me.

This day was different in that the seven-year-old told me that “Mrs. Thatcher” was at my door and she MUST speak with me…NOW. Not really knowing a “Mrs. Thatcher” …I said tell the lady your mom is sick and get her number so I can call her back. The 7-year old did as I asked except only to return moments later reporting that “the woman” said she must speak with me NOW as it is very serious and urgent I come to the front door at once.

Nice. I was prostrate on the couch after several rounds of cheap medication (Tylenol and Advil) and fighting a fever of well over 103° (f)!

Well after struggling to get up and to the door I am greeted by this vision, an older, well dressed, British (?) lady very upset who was angrily telling me that she is “going to have to report me.” Now not too sure it was either the medication or the fever speaking.. so I asked to whom or what body this “vision” would in fact be reporting on me (and my ailing carcass) (?) The answer was astounding…“the authorities.” ( I wondered for a moment if the invasion of aliens as a zombie apocalypse was already upon us and must confess to being secretly excited for a change of pace from being sick!)

"I am going to have to report you..."

“I am going to have to report you…”

Having had high hopes in the past of being carted off for any number of reasons that might force a rest/vacation on my weary soul… I am not one to wave away such offers of incarceration casually. While grasping the wall (as I leaned against it) I did manage to crook my head in such a way as to see past this older women’s silhouette enough to ascertain that there were no “authorities” present that the naked eye could detect.

The thought of being treated to an incarceration where I would be relieved of my duties presiding over this tribe, given clean clothes (I did not have to wash or press) and a bed… plus regular meals and I could stay on this holiday until some jury decided otherwise…was all too tempting!!

I explained to this woman that I was in spite of my cheery disposition… I was rather ill and therefore confused as to why she wanted to apprehend me in the first place. Meanwhile in my head I was trying to account for all the natives in the house wondering if while I was languishing on the couch perhaps some inmates escaped…possibly causing havoc in the neighborhood…maybe trampling the poor dear’s spring tulip bed (?). No, seemed like everyone was accounted for. Besides in scanning for “the authorities” I had not detected any child protection agency representatives as evidenced by no unusual vehicles in the vicinity (when you send those guys to an address like this one you need several vehicles to manage the number of kids being seized).

Now this woman was a mystery.

I took a chance and told her to go right ahead and report me to the authorities. I deserved whatever she had in mind. (!!!) (Had I not been so sick I would have managed at least an evil grin!) Well she looked a little shocked that I would be so compliant and then started to explain.

Goat in Jail best

PLEASE REPORT ME
“An incarceration where I would be relieved of my duties presiding over this tribe, given clean clothes (I did not have to wash or press) and a bed with regular meals and could stay on this holiday until some jury decided otherwise”

Apparently this woman felt I did not care enough about someone who lived at my house. (Now she had my attention.) Could not be the husband (although I am sure he often thinks I do not care enough about him as he reclines in bed trying to heal his ankle from his most recent surgery unable to bear any weight on this limb until at least 12 weeks have passed) but unless he is sending out smoke signals from the bedroom how would his plight have reached the ears of the woman on my doorstep? Doubtful it was any of the kids as this was Mother’s Day and it is the one day a year I am considered “a saint” in my own domain. Could not be one of them complaining…on Mother’s Day.

Now I am figuring this senior gal has perhaps mixed my address up with someone else’s…right?

No…WRONG!

Apparently this whole commotion is because my little white dog managed to get out the front door as the hot water tank technician came into our home on an emergency visit (thank goodness for him…9 kids…everyone sick and no hot water …Mother’s Day notwithstanding) to reinstate baths and loads of laundry for the faithful. All of this because of a little dog.

I think I stood in total disbelief staring…(and NOT because of the Tylenol and Motrin).

...after several rounds of cheap medication (Tylenol and Advil) and fighting a fever of well over 103° (f)!

…after several rounds of cheap medication (Tylenol and Advil) and fighting a fever of well over 103° (f)!

This lady went on to explain she has a little dog and that if I am this careless in allowing this dog to escape then she will have to notify “the authorities” and I will have to “suffer the consequences.” In all fairness my little dog escapes way more often that a little dog ought or should. Then again with the numbers of kids (and friends) opening and shutting the doors in the house, playing with the dogs, taking them of their leashes (including dogs wiggling out of their collars)…just the general bedlam here…small wonder that this dog’s escape is so swiftly noticed by us.

And no, the woman did not stop there. She went to unusual lengths to describe her passion for pooches (highlighting my apparent disregard for same) and that she had noted this was the second time in ten days that my little white dog had gotten past the front door and taken off to party in the neighborhood. I was not only irresponsible, but what I was subjecting this animal to was criminal (9 kids fussing over her…well maybe). This little dog of ours loves to run. If this critter gets a chance to make a run for it she is gone like a shot and will not come back…even for treats. She cannot be caught until she is good and tired out (much like some of my kids)!  Although the moment the little dog goes missing a search party does go out after this animal.

She cannot be caught until she is good and tired out!"

She cannot be caught until she is good and tired out!”

I guess “Mrs. Thatcher” observed that my little dog was out a whole 20 minutes (last Tuesday to be exact!) until I went in the car to rescue the canine. The observation was completely oblivious to the jail break having occurred as the children boarded the school bus thereby necessitating readying two babies into outdoor clothing and then securing in-car seats so that I could chase down the mongrel of mine in my car. I was going to try to put the effort into the conversation to let this woman again understand NONE of this is intentional and then I simply realized this woman was likely suffering from not able to mind her own business.

I reached a new level of understanding. My chaotic life was giving this woman purpose. So be it (possibly the migraine strength now Advil talking).

In the end I was disappointed that “the authorities” did not apprehend me. I could use a night or two of decent sleep, clean clothes (I did not have to wash), a hot (uninterrupted) shower and three squares a day that I did not have to shop for, cook, serve or clean up after. It did occur to me that often the 7-year-old is on the loose in the neighborhood and I have yet to have so much as one tantalizing offer of incarceration.

Who knew…the dog is missing for 20 minutes and my break might be just around the corner…thank you Mrs. Thatcher!

The Garden Goat (happily anticipating a future incarceration)

The Garden Goat happily anticipating a future incarceration

The Garden Goat happily anticipating a future incarceration

I am now “Busy” … legit …who knew?

I hate the word busy. It indicates a certain level of snobbery. People are always trying to communicate their value and superiority with the buzz word “busy.”  When someone tells you they are too busy to have been in touch or have called my feelings so often get hurt. Somehow this word denotes to me that in the important things in your life, my friend, I was not one of them. (!!) After I get over the initial slap to my ego the rational side of my mind reminds me that life does often go by in a blur. I guess “busy” could describe this. Sadly I must admit to doing this to several friends myself. I think the word I should be using is “unorganized” or a better descriptor might be (NO REALLY is) my “chaotic” lifestyle.  Memo to myself… change my priorities (a future post no doubt!).

Don’t get me wrong I think I know a thing or two about “busy.” As most of you know I have 9 kids, a fulltime job (beyond the one my offspring thinks is spelt M-A-I-D!) not to mention being the chief protector of my home against the in-house home wreckers (…a 24/7 service)!

These days I get up in the morning, stiff, every bone aching and think if this is what I feel like in my forties I can hardly wait until my sixties.(!!)  I attribute most of this to either being too busy or not busy enough.  My grandfather was known to tell his children that the human body rusts out well before it wears out (words of encouragement no doubt to lounge-lizard teenagers). I am determined to prove the opposite. I swear there are body parts on me that if I was a car I would have been deemed “scrap metal” a long time ago (and no not “those” parts just ‘cause I have a bunch of kids…don’t even think it)!

so busy I am so busy

I guess “busy” could describe this!

As a child I had to be kept busy even if it meant I had to ask to do chores. In order to alleviate the anxiety caused by having nothing to do I would invent all sorts of wild activities much to the chagrin and horror of the parental team (babysitters included) charged with my care. My goal in life has always been to pack in about as much as can be squeezed into a day (something my husband has grown to loathe and detest about me). That worked well when I was younger. I was always “busy.”

Lately there just seems so much left to do after the day is done and my forty-year-something-old eyelids are closing in disbelief it is already midnight and “the day” is truly over. The good news to this is that I have absolutely NOTHING in common with those who toss and turn restlessly hoping that sleep will come and take them to slumber in oblivion.  I can barely remember turning out the light, far less my head hitting the pillow. I used to tell everyone (those jealous insomniacs) that I was enjoying the sleep of “the just.” I have come to realize it is more likely to be just total exhaustion nothing to do with any righteousness on my part.(!!) As I lay flaked out on my bed the caption on such a sight should read “I am woman…hear me SNORE!” I seem to think some of my fatigue is due to being at least as busy as my fellow human.

In trying to raise (I use the term loosely) my kids the notion of organized sports has often come up. I have been most successful in keeping any of such commitments to a minimum. This has meant that I have managed to elude “hockey” up until the 7th child was well past his 8th birthday.  (Not too bad.. eh?  After all I do live in Canada).

We had a very dear friend whose son was in hockey (he actually ate, slept and breathed hockey) and this kid really influenced my son. Sadly the friends moved away I thought with them would go the desire my kid seemed to have to play hockey. Well not so much.  Three years later still a burning relentless desire for hockey is alive in this kid.

So in spite of driving “a van” for years (no sports mom here! ) don’t you know I now have kid #7 in hockey. (!!)

Not sure what it is but as soon as anyone has heard that this kid is in hockey suddenly now I am being referred to as “busy.” Really?  You mean 9 kids, laundry, groceries, (more laundry) chauffeuring, refereeing, supervising, diapers, more laundry, appointments (not to mention the school stuff times 7 kids), husband and a full-time job outside of home apparently does not count as ”busy.”

Put a kid out on the ice in a league and you are at once “presto” a “hockey mom” and recognized as legit “BUSY”!

Hockey stick hitting puck words saying hockey mom animated graphic

Put a kid out on the ice in a league and you are at once “presto” a hockey mom and recognized as legit BUSY!

Now to be fair to the other hockey moms out there “busy” can apply. Emails show up with practice times for whenever the team could get the ice time and then you have to scramble and shuffle the rest of the family’s itinerary to comply. Compounding this is that your arrival at practice could be for 5:30 am (bring it on… a “sleep in” for me usually is not past 6:30 am). Don’t forget one has to arrive 30 minutes early (to suit up) and there may be extra travelling time if the practice or game is in the next town or two. Then there are the fundraisers, the meetings, the pictures and the special events. Uh-huh…yep “BUSY” is right.

Being “busy” is definitely the superior position as it somehow denotes an innate value far above your average fellow-man. People nod and discuss others as being “busy” and suddenly the listeners are held captivated by the worth and integrity of the person being described. Then some people will talk about in spite of so-and-so’s “busy” schedule they made time to do such and such. More value. More nodding of heads in awe as we imagine that this “busy” person is kind of like superhuman and already floats above the rest of us lay about slackers.

We are so caught up with the word “busy” no one has stopped to think what “busy” really means. “Busy” could be cleaning out one’s basement, playing cards, alphabetizing the cans in the pantry…I don’t know…taking a bubble bath…who knows? “Busy” always sounds so legitimate boasting both integrity and discipline not to mention the inherent superiority factor.

Perhaps it is not so much about the word “busy” that makes one valued as it is the rampant fear that until we attain recognition as “busy” by our peers any one of us might be is vulnerable of being identified as the opposite  …”LAZY!”

Definitely “busy” implies a distinct value of almost superhuman proportions…and now thanks to hockey I can now join this elitist club. I am now officially “BUSY”….only thing… I am left wondering what I was before. (??)

A verifiably “busy” Garden Goat

Hockey mom goat wearing helmet with hockey sticks

Hockey mom goat wearing helmet with hockey sticks caption reads I am now officially “BUSY”….only thing… I am left wondering what I was before. (??)

P.S. Don’t forget to like me on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/GardenGoatQuote

Laughter… truly is the best medicine!

I certainly know time flies. Why only a little while ago I had my first baby and suddenly it is now twenty years later. (??) They (those I live with) tell me that baby is now an adult (I better tell her that!). Twenty years make me sound ancient (hopefully I don’t look the part or I might end up as goat soap!). I just did what I thought I should be doing day after day with the baby …and voilà …here we are two decades (and 8 more kids) later (!!). So I guess the same thing happened with this blog. While I was writing here and there a whole year has gone by since The Garden Goat made her debut.

Happy Birthday Garden Goat

Happy First Birthday Garden Goat! Looking forward to many more of these birthdays!

People have told me for years that I should write a book. So haphazardly last September I thought I would start a blog and post the occasional rant and might eventually have enough “rantings” to possibly collect into a book (at the pace I started I imagined it would take another 20 years to complete). So I posted a few grunts here and there from this Canadian Goat. I never knew that while using the blog to discipline my inner thoughts (or demons…same difference) I would be having so much fun or that I would be meeting so many people interested in what a goat with a herd of kids has to say (and/or complain about)!

None of this fun (not to mention the escapism from my day-to-day life) would have been possible without loyal readers who tolerate my twisted sense of humour and thankfully take what I say with a LARGE grain of salt (hence I have not yet had to spend a moment in jail)! I am constantly amazed at the number of kind comments and emails that I receive. In reviewing my readership’s responses I think the ones I like the best are the ones tell me I made them laugh…”uncontrollably.” This goat is so happy to be guilty of causing laughter, smiles and fun. I have tackled a few more serious topics (again with my demented sense of humour) still my readership endures and tolerates me!

Garden-Goat-Happy-1st-birthday

Besides as a Goat I get away with a lot. (!!!)

It felt a little odd in the beginning to just rant and then post it “out there” in cyberspace. I often wondered if it would only be the occasional alien life form stumbling around late at night on internet who might find this goat interesting. Au contraire, I have received many visits to my site by my fellow human beings! The Garden Goat continues to gain popularity…all thanks to you, my readers, (I would have said perhaps “followers” but that would just confirm my kids suspicion that The Garden Goat is some type of cult that I secretly belong to) for sharing with your friends!

One post in February was so popular it became “freshly pressed” on WordPress (chosen as one of the top ten posts for the week out of nearly a half million blogs!) and it was translated into several languages and is now available as an e-book online. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Answers-those-questions-families-ebook/dp/B008Y90R2K)

How this Goat actually got online is all because of a very precious friend’s encouragement to write and her reassurance that I was entertaining to listen to. This gal moved away to another town and so we began emailing each other between visiting, sometimes writing to each other as often as almost daily. Many of her emails would start with how excited she was to see my name in her inbox and how hard she was laughing (out loud by herself…”uncontrollably”) at what I wrote (I did not think it was THAT funny). I loved hearing from her (always)  and to learn that the laughter I caused her was often referred to as the highlight in her day. “Promise me you are going to write a book” was something she kept telling me! (This is the same friend that decided when reviewing the birthday signs that, I, as a Capricorn was not the “Mountain Goat” but a “Garden Goat”). Without her ongoing encouragement and belief in me I doubt The Garden Goat would have ever ventured out to graze and rant on the internet.

Many of my day-to-day challenges are made easier when I see the funnier side (or I would have given up years ago). Although another friend did tell me it would take her more than just a few hours/days to be able to laugh at a few of the disasters I seem to attract! It would likely take her several years!(!!)

Happy birthday goat

How this Goat actually got online is all because of a very precious friend’s encouragement to write and her reassurance that I was entertaining to listen to.

Not too sure what the next year will bring. (My children shudder at the thought.) Some readers have pondered why I am known still only as the Garden Goat (people have actually noticed this might NOT be my real name…No seriously?). The answer is that with the size and age of the tribe I preside over…I would be scared to lay my head down at night should one of my offspring (specifically the teenage crowd) be able to be identified in a story worse yet because of this be branded by his peers/brethren as “NOT COOL” – I might need to increase my life insurance (!!) Ergo my pseudonym is my identity.

Besides as a Goat I get away with a lot. (!!!)

So as I put a cloven hoof forward into new another year of Garden Goat adventures I hope to continue to be accused (and delightfully guilty) of causing you, my loyal following and new readers alike to laugh…uncontrollably.

Happy First Birthday Garden Goat! Looking forward to many more of these birthdays!

Gardengoat_polariod_angle-Laughing-text

So as I put a cloven hoof forward into new another year of Garden Goat adventures …

Yes, FACEBOOK… “To be or not to be”… truly THE question!

“To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles”

William Shakespeare

(Hamlet, Act Three scene one)

Yes, FACEBOOK… “To be or not to be”… truly THE question.

If I ask the teenage members of my household… it is a no-brainer! You are not considered alive (or with a pulse) unless you have a Facebook account you regularly contribute to and update. Facebook among many of the kids is a lot like Pokémon … “you got to catch them all.” Friends are collected online like nothing I have ever seen before. I know of kids who have Facebook accounts (younger than the mandatory age of 13) and have a whopping 848 friends! If you were to see each of these “friends” only once a year one would have to see 2.3 friends every day of the year. Other teenagers have as many as 2,100 Facebook buddies (I kid you not). Really makes you wonder what “friend” even means on Facebook.

To be or not to be that is the question

Yes, FACEBOOK… “To be or not to be”… truly THE question.

I was invited to join Facebook by my kids several years ago. My answers (one through ten) were “No, NO, Definitely NOT and NEVER.” Then I realized that in order to monitor my kids in cyberspace (prior to any possible incarcerations) the best plan would be to accept Facebook and have some (although minimal at best) understanding of what my kids are doing on the Information Highway.

Some of my kids think it is great I am now on Facebook. Although others hang their heads in shame that I have only a small number of “Facebook friends” compared to them. (!!!) Many months passed and I had only 15 friends … half of which were my own kids. I was told I was “lame” (not the first time for sure!) Facebook is not as easy as it seems.

“I have learned that some people swear by Facebook and others abhor it!”

First of all one needs to completely understand that any information shared on this utility is forever available in some database and can be resurrected to suitably embarrass one in the future or impede career advancement.

Kids just don’t get it. Kids do not understand that “sharing info” needs to be done with great caution. That old rule “don’t say or write anything that cannot be published on the front page of the local paper” has surely escaped this generation. Sure the usual banal stuff the teen squad has out there around sleepovers and makeup (before and after pics) could just be considered nuisance info until someone posts pictures of the teenage girls’ sleepover with the kids resplendent in PJs (if that). Where it gets even more serious is when some of these kids (albeit age 18 or 19) are drinking with their friends and compromising comments and pictures get posted.

Stories everywhere about how people forget what they shared and who they shared what info with. One employee had “friended” his boss and then called in “sick” for work one day. All was well until the employee shared his pictures of himself working on his car that afternoon with the caption “I played hooky from work today!” See… when you have several hundred friends you forget who you know and what you said. Needless to say…the guy’s boss messaged him with few words …“YOU ARE FIRED!”

At first I did not like Facebook. I did not want to share much (that is nothing new for me) and with 15 friends (mostly the offspring I reside with) there was not much activity either way. Then people started adding me and I loved seeing pictures and updates that I normally would not get to see. Being someone who loves quotes (also with images) these often become my “status” updates. Sometimes my quotes are shared by others or copied.

Things that I have learned are to question my kids friendships with such Facebook Profiles (albeit it is true you know me as “a goat”) as “Monster Guy” and “Rob the Tomato.” This has part of me wondering if they are not perverts incognito waiting to be collected (“friended”) on Facebook (the goats I am not too worried about).  I have learned that some people swear by Facebook and others abhor it. I used to think the older the friend the least likely they use Facebook…not necessarily so.

No matter what anyone says “unfriending” on Facebook does hurt. Tears have flowed in our house because of “unfriending” with no advance warning or discussion only to be followed up by blocking (ability to prevent someone from seeing your profile or trying to connect on-line with you). Facebook allows people access and control that in real life they would think twice before using. It discourages talking or personal communication.

Sadly many friends I do have (and would like to be more in contact with) do not “do Facebook” and the reasons are varied. The less technically savvy aren’t in any hurry to get on board, the introverts can’t stand it and the right-wing traditional folk view it as a dangerous information collecting tool (likely run clandestinely by some government agency).

“…you are not considered alive or with a pulse unless you have a Facebook account you regularly contribute to and update.”

Pictures are another big deal on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong I love pictures however it does raise many questions like: Who should own the picture? The one who took it (as is customary within copyright laws) or the one who is rendered in the photo? I have had friends take pictures with their children and then post photos of both my children and theirs on Facebook. At first I was concerned, then realized that the exposure was limited to just the immediate circle of friends so I could live with this. Photographs are still a very iffy proposition. I am not completely comfortable with pictures of my kids being taken by other kids (especially without my knowledge or prior consent) and then being modified (including the possibility of adding inappropriate content) and then posted on-line by others.

There is some advantages to Facebook. Community groups on Facebook are a phenomenal source of inspiration and advice. If you are lucky enough to find a community group within your interest scope this is a valuable source of information, opinion and support.

The chat feature of Facebook that becomes available when your friends are on-line I have come to understand is crazy at certain teenage hours (always after about 10:00 pm). I have watched my own daughter maintain a running commentary across no less than 30 friends simultaneously texting messages back and forth with everybody at lightning speed. When I found this incredible my daughter then showed me that there were over 101 of her “friends” all online on Facebook all at once. Overwhelming! That night I retired and thanked God (I am no longer a teenager) I had a few close friends as I would never be inclined (or able) to sustain that kind of following…and with absolutely no interest in entertaining those masses with the minutia of my everyday life.

Facebook has crept into almost everything you can think of. Last year my 12-year-old was visiting friends in Eastern Canada and these friends were making a day trip to the United States. I emailed a letter granting my daughter permission to cross the border (in the company of the other child’s parents) along with a scanned image of her birth certificate. Once my daughter arrived at the border, the Customs Officer asked my kid if she had Facebook and then took her inside the customs office to “log-on” thereby proving who she was. Facebook providing the on-line confirmation of photo ID. I was stunned!

Facebook maze

“Facebook is truly a love/hate relationship at this end.”

Games are all over Facebook. I was never much of a game person until I got hooked on Bubble Witch and trying to beat the levels without any additional help from spending any money whatsoever. Managed to get to level 117 so far (and completely for free)…and, yes, very addicting. I like it because in a few moments the lives are all gone and I had a five-minute break (likely preventing a few  strangled teenagers at this end) and have to wait a few hours before more lives are granted.

A cross-section of statuses I have read on Facebook include:

  • I am craving some albatross tonight…(!!)
  • Anyone seen Batman tonight ? (Maybe at my house…then again my cape is probably in the washing machine…again)
  • Sleepless… again (Nah that does not happen to me…too exhausted…many nights I have no recollection of turning the light out.)
  • Only had four-hours sleep (hey that is my usual night.. that is a good rest)
  • I am soooo bored (wish I had that much time to myself)
  • Who likes me (not going to answer…likely same kid who ditched his chores)
  • Inbox me if you want to date me (thankfully no one posted this from my house and NO I did not answer back!)

Things my children hate about me on Facebook is that I can see when they are on and often comment including busting some of the younger teens for not being in bed. Other progeny have decided to totally disown me and block me. From what I understand likely a good thing too as I don’t think I am missing much that one son tried to shave with a pineapple and cut his ear at a party (actually the same son is likely very grateful that thanks to his blocking me on Facebook I cannot comment on his profile) I can live without seeing.

I am a Canadian goat and Facebook stats in Canada recently indicate 17,716,820 as  the number of users in this country (our entire population is approximately 34,482,779) meaning that more than 50% of fellow Canadians can be found on Facebook.(!!)

According to what is readily available on internet there are 835,525,280 million Facebook users worldwide (as of March 31, 2012 http://www.internetworldstats.com/facebook.htm).

If that were not enough shopping and consuming is rapidly advancing through social media with commerce sales possibly totalling $9.2 billion by the end of this year and sales expected to climb to $14.25 billion in 2013 and $30 billion in 2015 (according to Social Skinny http://thesocialskinny.com/99-new-social-media-stats-for-2012).

I think we are on the brink of social media changing everything we do. As very soon we will see everyday purchases aided by social media being made online with a smartphone.

So while my kids sit around and think I am a dinosaur because I can remember a time without cellphones, microwaves, email and MP3s… the new reality is our children’s kids may be totally in awe of a time where their parents (the real dinosaurs) actually visited friends, spoke on the phone and went to the store to buy something.

So yes…I am taking “arms against a sea of troubles” as Facebook is truly a love/hate relationship at this end.

After all of this…don’t forget to “like” The Garden Goat on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/GardenGoatQuote

goat-typing-facebook

“I am a Canadian goat and the Facebook stats in Canada recently indicate 17,716,820 as the number of users in Canada!”

The Six-Year-Old “gets it”… Friends are very Important

In watching the games children play among themselves… I am often reminded how really important friendship can be and should be. How wonderful it is when things are going well and how wretched it feels when things are not. (There is a huge difference between how the girls handle friendships and how the boys do …such a big topic that will have to wait for another post).

Friendship cartoon calvin and hobbes

“True friends are family you choose for yourself. This road called “life” is made much more bearable with these special friends to share your joys and divide your sorrows.”

My six-year-old son stopped in the middle of supper recently to announce an emergency. “Mom I have to go right now and see (so and so)…I miss him I want him to know I am still his friend!” Sure, how about when you have finished supper? He did not have a chance to answer before the other kids (lots of those in the peanut gallery here) chimed in with “THAT is SO NOT an emergency.” Some older (more jaded) siblings added “Isn’t he the guy that got mad at you over that toy?” and “Well I would make him wait if I were you…let’s see how long it takes until he comes to see you! Besides you can always make new friends.” This reaction was met with immediate tears from my six-year old. Between the tears he stammered “But I want him to know I am still his friend no matter what…. and I am thinking of him NOW and I want him to know that!” (Perhaps I should introduce this kid to “immediate” tools such as email…social media? LOL)  I realized that if we understood friendship more like the six-year old does how much happier and less complicated things would be for all of us.

“A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.” (and maintain!) ~Francois de La Rochefoucauld~

Real friendships are precious. Loss of a real friendship is devastating. Many compare the grief from the loss of a best friend to the sadness suffered when one lives through a death or divorce.  Too many of us take our best friendships for granted. These are special bonds we have with other people we  consider will always be there because they are people we care truly about.  Not necessarily so.

True Friend

“A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.”
Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Friends are a lot like plants. With care and attention they blossom into untold beauty but when left unattended for too long begin to fade. Eventually withering and dying with no lasting trace of ever existing.

As moms we tend to put ourselves last and with that the attention we would ever give to ourselves by way of indulging in a close friendship. The complete laundry list of other priorities often all but obliterates some of these most important relationships.  We often tell our friends that we are busy and will be in touch as we balance a multitude of ever-changing priorities and hope that perhaps next week our schedule will allow for a few moments to spend on ourselves in time with that friend. Many “next week” promises get deferred to the week after and pretty soon an entire six weeks has passed. Pretty soon months have elapsed and eventually years.

Since almost creation, women have been raised culturally with the notion that once you have children you must sacrifice any “free time” for the good of one’s family. With larger families this is ever more the reality. The list of important things to do is never-ending. I know for me it looks something like this:

Laundry, Groceries, Laundry, Meals, Laundry, General housework, Laundry, errands, more Laundry, cleaning (bathrooms constantly) and then more laundry still. (OK agreed…a little LAUNDRY obsessed over here).

Somehow it is programmed into our heads that having any time to ourselves is an evil to be avoided and worse yet it would be positively diabolical to use such time to visit or have a friend visit. Growing up we are often taught that time with friends is a “privilege” only available to us once all our chores and duties are accomplished for the day. (Like any of one of us with a family would ever have everything accomplished …certainly not all on the same day! I am good …but my cape and tights no longer fit!) Some of us feel so guilty just grabbing a couple of hours to ourselves that we find reasons not to do the things that should matter most. Others of us can get lost in the ever-growing and endless list of chores. In the end… life is busy and can blow past all of us.

I have learned a few hard lessons with friendships. True friends are family you choose for yourself. This road called “life” is made much more bearable with these special friends to share your joys and divide your sorrows. These friendships and their memories are written on your heart forever.  Sadly, I have also learned that friendships are delicate things that can often break for reasons that are not apparent or easily understood. Heartache from a broken friendship is devastating and can last a lifetime.

“These friendships and their memories are written on your heart forever”

In a landmark study by UCLA (The University of California, Los Angeles) “On Friendship Among Women An alternative to fight or fligh” (by Gale Berkowitz©2002) found that friendships among women provide nurturing, perspective, laughter and act as an anchor in sanity protecting our emotional health. UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more.”

I hope that someday I will live long enough to see some very special friendships healed and restored in my life. One very special friend in particular I am so lost without. I believe in tomorrow but only if I am strong enough to change what I do today.  In the meantime I am going to take a leaf out of my six-year-old’s book… tread more softly among my friends, be grateful for the blessings they are in my life, try harder to not take offence easily (nor to their preoccupation with their own lives) and arrange things in such a way that I am not too busy for the very relationships that help to keep me (and others around me) grounded! (Of course… all this while staying on top of the laundry!)

The Garden Goat

Goat washing Laundry

!OK agreed…a little laundry obsessed over here!”