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

One’s Example is the Message

Monday we voted in a federal election in Canada.

The ads for the various parties reminded me of the playground antics at school. Most of the parties were busy extolling their opponents’ deficiencies at the expense of standing strong outlining their party strengths, vision, and values. When it happens at school, we call it bullying. When it happens in Canada during elections, we call it campaigning. We teach our children to lead with belief in themselves, and that a child’s super strength is their commitment to self-confidence and integrity. We also teach by standing strong in defense of themselves, and not descending to the same tactics as the aggressor, they will overcome the bully and in the end win the battle. Sadly, that is not how it often plays out in the school yard.

Canada-flag
The one thing that has happened in this election campaign period is that the small-fry started to notice some of the political parties were attacking other parties and then started quoting some of the attack slogans. If there was any benefit to such antics, it was that it, in general, it did raise awareness of the elections race, among a much younger audience than has ever been aware of elections in the past. As evidenced by my daily scramble to answer election-based questions from my children, including the kindergarten duo. Now when I ask why one child did not help another child clean his room or complete a chore, thanks to the Progressive Conservatives campaigning, I am told that the child in question is “just not ready!” (The reality is I may not be ready to deal with the kid!)

While I may not necessarily support the party that won in this election, one thing is clear, the winning party did not partake in the attack advertising that other parties used. I believe this had a profound effect on the voting here as Canadians are tired of the bullying tactics so commonly tolerated in political campaigning.

A message I tell my children Just not ready text framealmost every day is to look past what others are doing and resist the urge to respond in like kind, step up and be more. Do not respond to attacks with counter-attacks. I am often told by my children (the older ones), that no, being the “nice guy” is a weak position and does nothing to stop bullying and bad behavior.

Well, today I have news for them. Not responding in like kind to attack campaigning did net a landslide win across this nation for the one party who refrained from those tactics. This same party, in the previous election, was unable to hold enough seats to form the official opposition, making this win all the more incredible. Clearly the “how” of what you do is as important, if not more important, than the “what” you do.

My two youngest boys play hockey (after all we are Canadian) on a house league team. I am still relatively new to hockey (in the last couple of years) as three older boys (all 18 years or older) have never once played ice hockey. While attending a meeting for the hockey team to discuss administration and fundraising, a tried, and true method was highly recommended, the hallowed bottle-drive. The fundraising game where you use your vehicle to follow a team of little hockey players (suited up in their team’s official garb), through one neighborhood after the next. All in hot pursuit of collecting the “empties” (empty beer, wine, and other alcoholic drink bottles) to take back to the store and cash in the bottle deposit amount to the credit of their team. This traditional form of hockey fundraising is almost as old (and as treasured) as the sport itself.

That was until one mom in the group stated that she did not approve of a bottle drive, given the ages of the team members (11-13 years). This lady stated that if we wanted to set a good example for our children about responsibility with regards to alcohol, the team should not be in receipt of funds resulting from alcohol indulgence. Even more importantly, we should not expose our pre-teen kids to how much alcohol people (often folks the kids know) do drink behind closed doors.

beer bottles Jca1 plus

As the kids are the ones hauling the evidence to the vehicle and processing these numbers as “normal.”  This angle I had never given ANY thought to before now. At first I thought, yep, always one freak in the crowd and then I started to think about it. This lady is right. Children learn from example and actions more than any words. If my kid is picking up an average of 20 -50 beer bottles from most of their neighbors, how does a soon to be teenager understand the limits or respect one should have for alcohol consumption? Thankfully, our team chose another fundraiser this year.

But it made me think. Is what I am teaching my children coming from what I am saying or is more being taught to them by how I am living me life day-to-day? I know the answer lies in not only what I do, but how I do it.

The people of Canada have said it is time for a change that is for sure. Perhaps it is also time, to teach our kids that the attack slogans in this campaign backfired, and a party rose to the top of the polls by not stooping to bully tactics and by “being more.” I guess they were more “ready” to “be more” than anyone imagined.

In the meantime, if I am missing, I will be deep in my walk-in closet, under all the piles of laundry, slowly sipping my Bailey-infused coffee. Savouring each swallow with the full acknowledgment that I will be walking, under cover of night, while my charges are asleep, to return my empty bottle to the store.

The Garden Goat

baileys bottle Jca2

 

Hiatus

Okay; don’t die of shock to finally hear from me, the Garden Goat.

I realize it has been a while. I thought the word “hiatus” might be applicable to describe my absence, naturally I used internet to look up the definition just to be sure.

On the first site, this is what I read…

hiatus

hi·a·tus

hīˈādəs/noun

  1. A pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process.”there was a brief hiatus in the war with France.”

This first definition was a little strange. It seemed to imply that I had a break from something like a war. Meanwhile the truth, I had a break but I felt like I was fighting a war.

Then below the definition was the list of synonyms…they are fun.

Let’s see:

Synonyms:    pause, break, gap, lacuna, interval, intermission, interlude, interruption, suspension, lull, respite, time out, time off, recess;

  • Pause: Nope (that sounds intentional…and my absence was anything but intentional).
  • Break: NOT (it infers I needed a rest, and perhaps lot of caffeine was served)
  • Gap: Maybe (I am sure my readership might agree with this one).
  • Lacuna: Hmmm (sounds too close to “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King and      insinuates “No worries for the rest of your days”)…Definitely NOT.
  • Interval:    Sort-of (though more musical than what actually happened)
  • Intermission: Well, lots of drama (but no popcorn or rave reviews), so NO.
  • Interlude:    Sounds romantic and musically planned (and that did not happen), but NO!.
  • Interruption:  I do believe we are getting closer
  • Suspension:  If as a reference to my sanity, then a definite maybe.
  • Lull: While I like the sound of this, one might think I was catching up on sleep…I will have to decline as this definition would be very misleading.
  • Respite: Insinuates that I got a rest and some poor devil took my place to give me said rest. A RESOUNDING NO!
  • Time Out: I would love to have one; however, I am usually the “Time Out” specialist at my house…so again, Nah.
  • Time Off: NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH
  • Recess:    Implies either that I am back in Grade School or that I am in a courtroom, neither of which are applicable.

Then in researching the term “hiatus” in a more modern definition I stumbled upon the following definition:

“A temporary gap, pause, break, or absence can be called a hiatus. When your favorite TV show is “on hiatus” it means there are no new episodes— not forever, just for a little while. The key thing about a hiatus is that it’s an interruption of something that was happening, but it’s not a permanent break.”

SO yes, HIATUS in this sense seems to fit the bill. The only difference is there were many new episodes just not written and published.

As many of you know, I do work full-time while also playing parole officer, financial wizard, health inspector, game warden and laundress to a multitude of minions that share parts of my DNA. I rang in the New Year 2015 with more responsibility at work.  I went from a 37.50-hour week to an average of almost 50 hours per week. I get to take this extra time earned as paid time off in the future. None of this changed my bank’s impression of me for the better but did change how much “free time” was left to get anything done, blog included. Then my husband, who was on a two-year waiting list, received the news that his shoulder replacement would now be in Feb 2015 (as opposed to waiting until 2017 in pain). You guessed it, the patient’s recovery, plus the herd of kids, the full-time job (and extra hours)…and let’s not forget the laundry; yep…weeks blurred into months. I now find myself having arrived at mid-May 2015. Sadly, this is my first post for this year (!!).

The update on the patient is that he is making an awesome recovery and will be headed back to work shortly.

This goat hopes that “the HIATUS” is now over, and the laughing can resume!

The Garden Goat

New-JCA-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

Gratitude…self-measuring of one’s blessings

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~ G.K. ChestertonGG-Gratitude_IMG_1555-Copyright-2014

If one more person asks me how can I work a full-time job, look after 9 kids and still maintain and keep the house in check…I will have to resort to showing pictures of the zoo my house really is! Okay, I get that for the rank and file parent out there; just managing one or two kids is exhausting. Not to mention the kid’s stuff, a spouse (their stuff), work (lots of stuff) and a home (even more stuff) and then balancing schedules… plus laundry!

People meet me and after they pick their jaw up off the ground (after learning this goat has 9 kids)…the very next statement that rolls off their tongue is “Well…it is nice that you can afford them and don’t have to work!”

What?

Not sure why this is an automatic assumption on the part of the rest of the world …but so often it is. When I fill in the blanks… “No, not quite…I work full-time.” I often have to state that “work” is “outside” of running a household that size (which in itself is a full-time occupation)!” The reaction varies from “I do not know how you do it!” (Actually… neither do I), through “you are crazy!” (Ah…yes, tell me something I don’t already know) or “I guess you pay a cleaning lady!” (The short answer is NO!). The best one of all “Then surely you must drink” (okay…maybe I should?).

The reality is I do not try as hard as the rest of you do and that is where the difference resides. I lowered my standards eons ago. I just take care of the basics (for those of you that are worried …laundry and regular bathing are considered basics at my house).

kidsA key tip in managing a tribe of this size is never to visit Pinterest. Then I do not have to view the crafty, clever and creative solutions, better minds than mine devised to ensure one’s home looks like it came out of a magazine. Nor do I have to see the endless recipes and ideas for animal themed cupcakes and haute cuisine/couture for the kindergarten crowd. I am spared understanding that the furniture currently located in my living room is something neighborhood services would decline to sell in the local thrift store. Furthermore, I will be isolated from all the cute and clever toddler hairstyles that scream to the world “Mommy REALLY cares.”  Instead, I just do the basics.

I try to be sure the bills are all paid, there is good food, adequate clothing (sometime even “cool” stuff in my daughter’s own words) and that the house is well enough maintained that neither child services or public health has had to issue an edict against me (so far…so good)!

Along the way, there are some things that have slipped by the wayside.

Years ago, when I was a younger goat and only had 4 or 5 kids, I would do some of those AWESOME mom things like baking each child’s class their own gingerbread house, decorating it with tons of candy and personally delivering to each child’s classroom. (That would be when I wasn’t baking other treats for the school or writing I love you notes in my children’s lunches.)  I also used to publish a family newsletter every year detailing the each child’s adventures and exploits from the previous year and send this epistle out to the faithful. (At one point, complete strangers were asking to be included on the newsletter list as apparently it had HUGE entertainment value). I used to bake, knit sweaters, sew and draw while still working full-time. People always marveled at how I could balance all that I did while working for an external employer.  Those were the days. Then number “7”, “8” and “9” babies came along in tandem with advancing age forcing this goat to slow down a little more.

People always assume I am trying to be super mom. Nothing could be further than the truth. I am human (mostly) and any cape and tights I might lay claim to are likely to have been stolen by some kid as their Halloween costume.

The real issue is not how I handle anything, it is the preconceived notion that I have to get everything right or my child will turn out as a delinquent (at times each kid has had their moments). Perfectly wonderful human beings have been raised in less than ideal circumstances while convicted criminals have been known to come from well-kept homes, designed by Martha Stewart and raised in accordance with societal norms.

Lowering my standards means that when I sit in maple syrup at my house …and it is no longer still sticky…it is a good day (no kidding)!  Perhaps a better phrase than “lowering my standards” would be to say increasing my gratitude for everyday things.

These are the things that cannot be found on Pinterest, in magazines or in anyone’s well-kept house.

Blessed_GG_IMG_3604-copyright-2014

My collection of “things” reside in my heart, captured forever in my memory, the everyday thrills of my adventure raising more kids than the average goat. These include all “I love you mom” whisperings in my ear, snuggles with the little folk at bedtime, random kisses & hugs.

Before anyone thinks this is a Hallmark greeting card (my life that is), my gratitude also extends to the lively debates (some heated) regularly held with the teenagers (with broken or ruined décor in the house to prove it). I have the same frustrations and stress on my path as the average parent. Sometimes sheer numbers makes it seem like much more (thankfully I do find comfort in one” mistake-eraser” I count on… my washing machine).

I choose to acknowledge with gratitude my place in life as I celebrate how truly blessed I am with the family I have, including all the ups and downs along this road called “life.” (There are some things I could live without…like having to flush toilets for teenagers who seem to be too busy for the basics in life.)

Today, as we celebrate the Canadian Thanksgiving I am reminded how grateful I am for all that happens in my life. It has made me who I am today and will shape who I am tomorrow.

I look at my family and realize that I am blessed beyond belief.

If my house looks like a tornado hit a trailer park, laundry is piled up (socks hanging from the chandeliers) and old pizza residing in the corners of the couch (what is left of it)… so be it. The fact that my interior decor is several shades of paint intermittently displaying early toddler scribbling (amongst the evidence of teenage angst) and there isn’t “Live! Love! Laugh! = FAMILY” in lettered wood cut-outs in the front hallway…it is still my home. It is the hub where my children lives are being lived and I am most grateful to have each of them in my life. (I am equally grateful that family services and public health in this area are understaffed!)

GG_Happy-Thanksgiving_IMG_2323_copyright-2014

I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving Day celebrating with gratitude all the blessings family and friends bring into one’s life.

A Grateful Garden Goat!

 

What Bugs Me

“From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night, good Lord deliver us.” (Old Cornish prayer)

Not sure how this happened…I have not had psychotherapy or hypnosis to figure it out why…but I am completely terrified of bugs. I do not care about the notion they are smaller than I am (likely as I am almost 6 feet tall)… it matters not. I realize that screeching at the top of my lungs like I am being murdered is likely not the best reaction (ever). As “the mom”… I am (apparently) supposed to be “cool.” I am to cradle the creature kindly in my hands, removing it by gently placing the critter in his natural habitat…outdoors. No way!

Early on, I realized that if I continued to react with my natural response, my children would all be screaming every time so much as a mosquito dared to enter our abode. In trying to correct my behaviour in front of the children, I soon developed “The Bug Protocol.”

I soon developed “the bug protocol.”

I soon developed “the bug protocol.” ©copyright2014GardenGoatQuote

Bug Protocol “A”: Bug is discovered…if husband is home…shriek (just like the old days) and pray the man is not in the bathroom and can run to your side and instantly murder the insect intruder. Also, a further bonus, the husband is known to remove and destroy any DNA evidence of such a life form and then search the rest of the house to ensure the bug’s family have been notified and forcibly evicted. Failing this…”Plan B”…the children.

Train the children that big prizes are available to the bravest and only reward those displaying this attribute. However, prize offer is only valid if the protocol is followed to a “tee.”

The Bug Protocol (Plan B): After bug is identified (usually by Mom’s shrieks) then promptly kill bug (dead). Then remove evidence with tissue and give appropriate burial at sea (flushed down the indoor plumbing by way of the toilet). This service is worth a treat at my house. Better treats are available to the bug bounty hunters that identify the intruder covertly, execute the critter without waiting for the sound of mom shrieking to signal discovery of said bug. Rescue bug killers and covert bug killers alike must prove the captured creature has been terminated by mom, personally witnessing the final disposal via flush down the toilet..Over the years, many yummy treats have been handed out to encourage new generations of bug-slayers and to ensure that my offspring did not keep my phobia alive beyond the odd cell or two in their DNA makeup.

While raising this tribe, there have been many opportunities for the children to hone their bug-identification and destruction capabilities resulting in many funny stories along the way.

One such story happened when “number four” child was about six years old. Naturally, I was screaming, thereby announcing to anyone that would hear me (that would be anyone in a 5-mile radius) that there is a horrible bug in the kitchen. (Always hopeful that the bug-slayer-kid arrives before I have to resort to climbing up on tables and countertops to keep the creature from coming nearer to me.) The terrifying creature this time was an earwig (horrible looking critter). The first bug killer to arrive on the job was the 6-year-old. Who promptly pinched the bug with his bare hands and was headed for the customary burial at sea when it became known that the “downstairs” bathroom was occupied. (!!) No problem…the 6-year-old headed up the stairs holding the earwig in his hand. When Mom shrieked “Don’t go upstairs as I do NOT want a family of earwigs up there…put the corpse in a Kleenex and wait until the downstairs bathroom is free!”

I had barely uttered these words when the 6-year old said “Mom, first of all this earwig is DEAD and secondly you NEED TWO earwigs to start an earwig family! “ I hung my head in shame. No treat could make up for this…my irrational fear now forever exposed…and to a 6-year old!”

Green-Bug ...resulting in many funny stories along the way

…resulting in many funny stories along the way ©copyright2014GardenGoatQuote

I think the best story is told by my husband. Who arriving home from work, very late one evening, (shortly after we had moved to a new address) found a large, duct-taped package on the front porch. Not expecting any deliveries, he was quite puzzled and took the package inside to examine further. Once some of the layers of duct tape and green garbage bag plastic was removed, he was shocked to realize it was actually a vacuum (one that looked a lot like our new one). Now confounded and wondering if it might be some nasty neighborhood vandal, “the husband” came upstairs to wake me up. He went on to ask me if there had been any trouble in the neighborhood and went on to describe what he found on the porch.

Imagine the husband’s surprise to learn it was indeed our new vacuum. (!!)

The story went like this…earlier in the day I had discovered a horrific, ugly, large, black bug-thing in the upstairs bathroom. My resident bug killers were all at school. I could not take the chance that this creature might leave the bathroom and perhaps haul off the baby to its underground lair. So after using as many attachments from both the old vacuum and the new one, I built an extended arm spanning about 15 feet. I turned the vacuum on and then sucked up the creature (the 15 foot arm allowed me the luxury of standing at the opposite end of the house while manning the contraption). I then left the vacuum running for several hours as extra insurance that the bug was contained. I was worried that a bug of such meaty proportions might be able to climb out of said 15 foot arm, in spite of the suction of air pulling the opposite way.

Realizing that teenagers would be coming home from school soon (and I would never hear the end of it), I placed a green garbage bag over the vacuum (while it was still running and quickly unplugged it) and ran for the front porch. I was obsessed that “meaty-bug” would escape and bring reinforcements (thus invading my home again). I wrapped the entire vacuum in duct tape and left it on the porch for the husband to dispose of (forgetting to mark the mystery package as refuse).

Bug-Vacuum-Imagine the husband’s surprise to learn it was indeed our new vacuum.

Imagine the husband’s surprise to learn it was indeed our new vacuum. ©copyright2014GardenGoatQuote

Many weeks later, number four child, whose hopes were to  be an entomologist…(cannot be my kid) found a picture of “meaty bug”…it was now identified…I had taped up my new vacuum because of a cricket!

My problem will be when all the little darlings in my tribe move out…then what? Back to shrieking for the Prince-charming-husband…no doubt!

The Garden Goat

Summer 2014…a rest for a goat…maybe not!

As many of you may have noticed…this goat took some time off this summer and while in retreat did not write as often on this blog. No excuses…however, this goat was not SUNlanguishing around soaking up sun rays (seriously…this is Canada) as one would normally expect one who had taken a rest over the summer. No, sadly it was more about working and managing a tribe as the husband had to have more surgery.

Other things happened…one of the older offspring left home for college in another city. I am sure some of you out there are saying…great or finally!…(Don’t get too excited… I still have eight other kids at home.) I was never one to want the kids to go too far as I always loved summers when the kids were out of school and around where I was. I wish college-kid well…but I do miss him…even more than I thought I would.

Then my youngest started junior kindergarten and now it seems odd not to have a baby in the house anymore. I went to the school with “Miss Kindergarten” met some of her classmates and their parents. They are all so young!  After consorting with the mirror on the wall, I now know why these parents are so youthful…I am running with the kindergarten crowd as I am very close to the 50-year race line. No wonder it seems like such an achievement every day to just get out of bed, get dressed and head to work.Trying to raise my weary skeleton for work in the morning after carrying around fussing babies all night (not to mention more laundry, feedings, diapers). In my head. I am youthful with energy to burn (obviously in complete denial of my body’s physical limits). Good job I have an honest mirror-on-the wall.

This goat has waited for years to have a kid-free moment, spent at home. This is something that has not ever happened in the last 21 years. (!!) I keep myself motivated by thinking one day I will have time for all I want to do (and sadly need to do) once the kids are gone. Well, that day came today. All the children that live here were in school including the littlest (who is now in daycare as “the husband” is still recovering from surgery and I work full-time). I had taken the day off from work to use up some of my vacation time. Yippee!! The day to myself…first thing …a NAP…yup, it was not even 10:30 am and I went for a snooze! That was fun. Then it was onward to tackle the laundry, floors, clean out the cupboards…the list was endless!

The husband was home recovering from surgery over the summer. That complicated things no end. My superhuman list of housework (amplified and fueled by the guilt of taking a mid-morning nap) was totally sidetracked by “the husband.” He thought we could go do something together (??). It is very different for us to have time together with no kids.

Sunglasses

We ended up going for a walk on a nature trail and discovered many things (including just how out of shape this goat is) and that even adults with GPS phones can get lost. We (and by that I mean “the husband”) found folks, we recognized (they had parked where we had) that seemed to know their way and  followed them for a bit…only to learn they were just visiting the city from Nova Scotia. These people had no clue where on the trail they were and actually were more lost than we were. The long and the short of it, after wading through waist-high weeds, we finally arrived at civilization (several km down the road from where we parked the car).

There is a silver lining in this story as when we trekked back down the main thoroughfare (after wading through the waist-high foliage) to where the car was parked, I got to observe a most beautiful butterfly that let me get some spectacular pics.

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Once I was back home, it was time to meet the bus and run the usual gauntlet of kids running everywhere, homework, crayons, and scuffles about what belongs to whom…(oh let’s not forget the scramble to get supper over with before hockey)…baths, bedtime…you name it…the chaos was endless.  The house was back to being noisy and busy once again.

Sadly, my superhuman list of crazy housecleaning went by the wayside…the surface barely scratched. I tried to soothe my ambitious soul by recounting the many loads of laundry I did do as proof something from that original list, did, in fact, get done.

I realized that while time with “the husband” was wonderful (and I will be sure to plan more of it), I am not ready to have the sustained rest that one day I will get, when all the children have moved out. I sincerely hope, when the house is that quiet again, I will be at so venerable an age that napping could would be my all-day venture.

In the meantime, all laundry set aside, I will attempt to more regularly write about life in the fast lane over here!

 The Garden GOAT

Goat sunning

You know you are doing well when you hear that he has cancelled his workout at the gym and he wants to know if you have found ANY of his laundry

 

How to get a kid to WANT to wear his bike helmet!

When it comes to wearing helmets, tried as I have to instill a sense of safety in my kids, many of them are just not compliant, especially when out of my sight (they all know better). Even though most of their childhood memories involved resounding “NOs” for any head-challenging activity, unless they wore helmets. Little children are not my issue as usually they listen. The mere thought of breaking the rules (or disappointing me…often one and the same) is enough to keep helmets on, even long after disembarking from their bikes. Regularly, the 2 and 4-year-olds, after biking, can be seen at the park playing on the structures, slides and swings still sporting the required protective head-wear.

". Some will wear helmets and some will not...others not ever. "

“. Some will wear helmets and some will not…others not ever. “

Then there are the teenagers…basically a law unto themselves. Some will wear helmets and some will not…others not ever. The dumb reasons why the teenagers will not conform, vary from not wanting to look like a geek (since when do geeks own the helmet look), afraid of owning “a sweaty head” (would imply something in that vicinity was actually engaged) or “ruining” their hair (a wash and brush away from anything a bike helmet could wreak on one’s hair follicles).

Sadly, the middle children (ages 7-11), after observing the cavalier attitudes of their older siblings, feel that bike helmets are truly something to wear when you leave home (so Mom and Dad will let you go) and then remove… once out of sight.

Recently, I happened to be speaking with a neighbor down the street, when my 8-year-old came racing by, on roller blades, without the benefit of a helmet, moments from where I was standing. This neighbor has been most patient over the years, observing my children tearing around and their apparent disregard for “the rules” when out of parental sight. (This kid in particular likely owes his life to this lady, as if it were not for her looking out for him, I am sure this kid would have been hit by a car long before now.)

"...when my 8-year-old came racing by, on roller blades, without the benefit of a helmet"

“…when my 8-year-old came racing by, on roller blades, without the benefit of a helmet”

I reminded the speeder that the helmet was immediately to be reinstated, or the skates would be confiscated. I had my car with me and would drive him home…roller blades and all. I had to hear how this poor boy’s head was too hot in a helmet (I offered to shave his head).  I went about my usual speech about how one’s head is most important and that one fall could change all that. The 8-year-old appeared to be listening. That is if standing in once place (not skating), not rolling his eyes and watching me is any indication of concentration. Lots of shoulder shrugging when I reminded the child that this is not the first time he has heard this admonition, or the fact that since birth he has had to wear helmets for any bike, skates or sport activity.

I then reminded my boy, that without a helmet, should he encounter a severe blow to the head, he could end up in the hospital, completely “out of it” (and likely in diapers). Again, the forced up and down motion of his noggin, confirmed to all, his agreement (and boredom) in hearing the same spiel, a million times before… another speech from Mom

Until the neighbor asked me if she could speak to him. My reaction…”Be my guest!”

The neighbor went on to explain that she was a nurse and knew a friend of hers, who years ago sustained a serious car accident injury and was left for life in a wheelchair. This got a sort of “sorry for your friend” look from my kid. The neighbor continued to say that anyone with a serious head injury could end up not able to ever walk, talk, get out of bed, eat or go to the bathroom on their own. That such a head injury would also mean that one’s natural emotions would be mixed up. They would be angry and sad for no reason. It could also mean that they would still look fine on the outside but might not recognize their friends and family. In some cases, they would not even be able to move at all. At this point, my little guy has a pensive, but somewhat distant look, one I know well. This injured person would NEVER be him.

The neighbor pressed on with how important a helmet can be as my child nodded in premature gratitude, for the seeming nearing end of the conversation. I must say the kid listened. However, other than the odd, wide-eyed look, a chasm existed between the graphic details the nurse was warning of and any thought, by this boy, of committing to a future of consistent use of a helmet (his face said it all).

"...anyone with a serious head injury could end up not able to ever walk, talk, get out of bed, eat or go to the bathroom on their own. "

“…anyone with a serious head injury could end up not able to ever walk, talk, get out of bed, eat or go to the bathroom on their own. “

As my kid started to walk backward towards my car, the nurse apologized for being so graphic. I thanked her for her “help” in trying to give a real reason for my little guy to wear his helmet, especially when out of my sight. I knew my son was thrilled because the serious talk was now over. Both he and I started to head for my car.

The nurse then turned around and told the still-disinterested-child that if he did not wear his helmet and happened to sustain a head injury, wearing diapers was just the beginning of his potential troubles. If diapers were required, it would mean someone else would have to attend to them. He could end up having his “bum wiped by a stranger (nurse)” each time the diapers had to be changed. This story then went on to confirm that once in diapers, always in diapers. This diaper gig would last his whole lifetime…until he died as an old man. The look on this kid was incredible. He looked as though he had seen a ghost.

Again, I thanked my neighbor and told her I hoped her stories would keep my kid wearing his helmet, got into my car with my “spooked” child and drove down the street to my house. The kid sat in complete silence.

When we reached my driveway, this kid looks at me and says “Was all that diaper stuff true?”

I responded with… “Yes! … If you do not wear a helmet, all of those things could happen to you.”

My kid then says “I mean the part about a stranger wiping your bum all the rest of your life?” (I thought I would die laughing…is this all he got out of this conversation?)

My answer “Well, yes… but that was because you would be in diapers…that must gross you out…no?” Kid says “I am not scared of diapers, but I am scared of a stranger wiping my bum…Quick let’s get in the house and warn my brother…I bet he doesn’t know that if he rides his bike without a helmet …a stranger will be wiping his bum even when he is an old man!”

What could I say? Whatever works!

“Yes…quickly run in and let your brother know how important bike helmets really are and to ALWAYS wear one!”  All these years, so many children later…who knew the lady from down the street knew just what my boy needed to hear. Since that day, I must say I have not had to remind as often about the helmets. Although, on occasion, I can be caught whispering the word “diapers” to my 8-year old as he runs outside to put his roller blades on!

"Since that day, I must say I have not had to remind as often about the helmets. "

“Since that day, I must say I have not had to remind as often about the helmets. “

How I do it…Minute to Minute

People always ask me how I manage…Something about having 9 kids, working fulltime …the expectation is that I should be crazy by now…the truth is I am. So after having asked me a bazilion questions concerning why (and often how…sadly) and if the tribe all have the same father (or how I can afford this or how I, personally, am contributing to the overpopulation of the planet), there is the odd, honest, interested folk that just want to know “how” I manage. The real answer is that I truly don’t. My idea of managing is a lot different from what people assume I might be doing.

Denial-bottle

“The older I get, the more I live like a recovering alcoholic…instead of “one day at a time” it is more like one moment at a time. “

The older I get, the more I live like a recovering alcoholic…instead of “one day at a time” it is more like one moment at a time. I lowered my expectations to below reality and that way I am almost always happy (this confuses the heck out of the husband)! It is a “good” day when I sit down and discover I sat in maple syrup and it is not still sticky. (!!) I often reflect on the wise words of Abraham Lincoln … “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”

I used to get my knickers in a knot if the whole house was not clean. Now I realize that would be a completely unrealistic expectation. I focus on a bubble area of about five feet all around me, if it is already clean I am delighted. If not, a few minutes of hurried activity and my bubble-space is tolerable again. Since I have welcomed denial as a permanent state I no longer struggle with having to accept the reality that a clean house, in good repair will likely elude me until the youngest I care for is at least in Grade 10 (or about another 14 years from right now).

"all looking as though they had stepped out of a bandbox..."

“all looking as though they had stepped out of a bandbox…”

When I only had five small goats (kids), on Sunday mornings, I would show up at church with the kiddos all looking as though they had stepped out of a bandbox. Suits and ties for the guys and pretty dresses for the gals. Then the teenage years showed up. The nature of a teen is to not want to be caught dead with their parents …(ever) and certainly not in public. This common attitude meant that I again lowered my standards. My cup was overflowing in gratitude that any of the resident juveniles were willing to be present on a Sunday morning, in our vehicle …much less wearing pants that were reasonable (not pajamas) that did not show their underwear/behind or advertise their nudist creed.

Denial offers me the advantage of being in the grocery store buying yet more sustenance for the hordes and not remember or fully appreciate this trip is not the first one of the day. The more I manage my crew minute-to-minute, I find the rest of the world quite tolerable. Due to dealing with the natives at my house I have unlimited patience elsewhere. This totally pays off as I have zero road-rage, always allowing other cars in ahead of me (husband hates this) and in general completely oblivious to the errors and issues other people have waiting in line or being frustrated by customer service representatives. I have seen and heard more than I would ever want to at my house. Again, denial is my friend.

Therefore, in living moment to moment (albeit somewhat in denial), I can enjoy many idyllic “now” moments, focusing on what went right and gratefully remember those forever. As for the other moments, since I have few expectations and revel in my denial, I hardly notice.

Some things escape my state of denial and one of those is bathing. No negotiating. Head to toe washing is mandatory every 24 hours regardless. I could easily manage without a stove sooner than I could without a washing machine or bathtub. Cleanup around here usually involves a blow torch and a belt sander and that is just for bath time.

I no longer freak if supper is not made (or eaten), if dessert is consumed before dinner, and the bathroom is disgusting. I obsess enough to be sure that I might pass the minimum health regulations for where I live.

I just think someday everything will stay just the way I left it …C-L-E-A-N…and then I will know the youngest of the children is now all grown up. Though to most of you reading this, it means F-R-E-E-D-O-M! I think the shock of something remaining CLEAN will be enough to shake me from my complacent denial into the reality; the messy days are now over. Sadly, so would be the days of the children living here.

I will take every chaotic, messy, crazy moment life gives me (including LAUNDRY) and enjoy my blessings as when life goes back to what is considered “normal” by most, it will spell S-A-D-N-E-S-S (in the extreme) for me as this chapter of my lifetime has come to a close.

"I will take every chaotic, messy, crazy moment life gives me..."

“I will take every chaotic, messy, crazy moment life gives me…”

A very Blessed Garden Goat

PEST GUEST- A Hair Raising Experience

I am one of the lucky ones. Twenty years in the kid business and other than having to read “those” warning letters from school…luckily, I never had to worry about any lice issues. That was until my 10-year-old daughter, with the waist-length hair, came home with a different letter.  According to the letter my daughter was harbouring an entire civilization beneath her auburn tresses. I could not finish reading the letter because the very thoughts of any additional life forms (beyond the children), was more than I knew I had enough alcohol to combat (and no, not the rubbing type)!

our pest guest

our pest guest

The only responsible thing to do was to enter complete denial that my last name was in the addressee field on the envelope. This letter must totally belong to some other forsaken household as there is no way my children (the ones scrubbed within an inch of their lives nightly in the bath) could be the host to any insect whatsoever. Alas, a complete re-read of the letter dragged me partially out of denial confirming that we did indeed have company.

. Alas, a complete re-read of the letter dragged me partially out of denial confirming that we did indeed have company

. Alas, a complete re-read of the letter dragged me partially out of denial confirming that we did indeed have company

First trip (still in denial mode) was to the pharmacy to check with a pharmacist on what product could be used to exterminate the guests and not harm the kid. Over the years, this pharmacist has come to know my family. She insisted on conducting her own, official investigation of my kid’s unfortunate situation. Thanks to this professional I had to reality face reality. Not only did my kid deserve the lice letter (evidence of the creatures confirmed by the pharmacist), but the joint (my kid’s head) was jumping!

This is one of those moments you wish there might have been a kid-wash that I could have sent this child to (similar to a car wash/dry cleaner) where they would be humanely fumigated (including clothing) and returned lice-free, ready to go home. Sadly, no such service exists.

My friendly pharmacist (after helping to confirm this news …no longer considered that friendly) then went on to mention the effects that lice can have on your entire family. You know the drill, the washing everything you own in hot water (at least twice), the hair products, the combing, the worry, the sealing all stuffed animals/toys in plastic for weeks…all of this effort is for the average person. My family is a herd of 11! My mind raced ahead trying to figure out all the implications. I no longer wanted a kid/wash for this child I was thinking more like depositing her anonymously at a local orphanage and waiting it out.

Then my lovely pharmacist reminded me that since my child was so symptomatic the rest of the kids were likely victims of the same invasion of PEST GUEST. The orphanage scheme was looking very appealing (except even if my kids were ninjas…there is just no way to drop that big a number off at such a place anonymously, cover of night, notwithstanding). In all of this, I had a four-month-old baby. All I could think of was shaving everyone’s head (the baby only had a few wisps)…oh the thoughts my evil mind was thinking (like starting with the husband’s mop first!). It must have been a look of horror/fear on my face (as all the colour had drained away) that prompted “pharmacist-gal” to show me the products one could buy to treat these unwelcome guests. Each box of the recommended solution was about $12.00 and I would need to have two boxes, for each one of my family members … (Forget the orphanage…I need to take the baby and escape).

the rest of the kids were likely victims of the same invasion of PEST GUEST

the rest of the kids were likely victims of the same invasion of PEST GUEST

I called my pediatrician and he was able to issue a prescription that my benefits covered…thankfully. I left the store with enough ammunition to rival a commercial exterminator’s entire vehicle load of pest-combating formula.

Then along came the process of washing everyone’s hair and applying the solution. Then the comb out part with the tiny toothed comb.  Fun like you cannot imagine. The older kids were in tears from all the combing. (All I wanted to do was take the baby and run away.) Only to be followed by the excitement of cleaning up and sterilization of anything and everything. Again, more fun.

Pest-host child came home from school the next day horrified to see all her jackets and sweatshirts hanging up outside the front of the house drying. “Mom, take those clothes down or everyone in my class will know I am the one with the lice!” I answered… “Considering I got a letter …doesn’t everyone already know?” Apparently these letters are very common and go out weekly to at least one classmate’s home. At the class level, the kids are not supposed to know who has the dreaded guests (you would think scratching your head often would be a sign). Because of the numbers I deal with BOTH the front and the back yards had laundry drying everywhere.

Well, I must say I am very proud of myself as I did want to BURN everything. I washed EVERYTHING, TWICE in hot water and bravely combed everyone’s locks through two rounds of treatments.  Friends who know me and family kept more than a polite distance from the invested retinue I lead.

Then the comb out part with the tiny toothed comb.  Fun like you cannot imagine.

Then the comb out part with the tiny toothed comb. Fun like you cannot imagine.

While being ostracized by everyone (family, friends and the rest of the human race in general), my best friend was amazing. My son and her son were friends and she invited him (and I) to visit her place including a sleepover. Did she just not get what I had told her? Nah… as she said “what is a louse here or there between friends?”…besides I was being too “nit-picky”!  I was stunned. I never forgot how I felt. Someone saw past our pest guest. This friend thought I was worth more than the louse.  I learned at that moment sometimes we focus on what we are afraid of missing the reality of who we are and should be…I was an invited as a guest regardless of the potential of “Pest-Guest” tagging along.

I also discovered other products to remove these unwanted guests, some are easy, and some are messy. I resisted the urge to listen to the kids’ version of when “Arthur” gets head lice (something about mayonnaise and a shower cap…way too low tech for me)! The best product seems to be tea tree oil. You can add it to any shampoo and “PEST GUEST” disappears (child remains). If you continue to dab a little on the kids’ hair (back of the neck) each morning…you can further identify your scalp as being unfriendly before the pests move in and take over. I also hear the same is true of Lavender oil, although I have never used it. (There is something after all to that smelly bubble bath and old lady perfume smelling like lavender).

Needless to say, I still cringe when rifling through a backpack I discover one of these letters indicating some child’s family in my kid’s class will be doing a lot of laundry. Only to realize, I did live through this and in the grand scheme of things…it is not as big a deal as I had previously thought. Compared to the illnesses and accidents that can befall the school-age crowd…lice is no big deal. Though I will admit not a pleasant experience and one that make me itchy just thinking about it!