How the Smallest Things Can Change Your Soul

Turkey Happy Thnks FB timeline 2015

Thanksgiving we are reminded to count and cherish our blessings. Years ago, many people were starting to post about “Gratitude” and how the smallest things could completely change one’s inner soul and almost “attract” more blessings. I,for one felt that I was quite grateful and all this noise over being thankful for the smallest things, was way over done.

Many moments etched their memories on my soul over the years. As with any beautiful carving, it is usually through pain, sweat and perseverance that base materials become works of art. People have disappointed me, and I have experienced loss in many ways, most recently with my mom leaving this world. Someone told me once that if I wanted a better outlook (and not to let the darker, creepier moments fill my reality); I should make a list of all the things I am grateful for in my life. I thought this was nuts! I write down a few dumb words on paper and presto I am cured! (Really?)

Grattitude Changes Attitude2

I continually pushed the thought of a list of things as a fix for my saddened inner being, right out of my mind. Until one day, when I was particularly down, I thought I would give it a try. It seemed way too easy. The first words on the list were things like grateful for peace in my country and that I had I a job, and that my children had groceries. Then I thought maybe I was to look a little deeper. Nah, a quick list was supposed to fix everything, I tucked my notepad back into my night table and turned out my light.

Next morning, everything seemed the same. Except instead of trying to forget that list I kept thinking about what it really meant. Having a million things in my head (and being a little ADHD) the depth of the promised cure somehow eluded me. I was now fixated on “the list” and very discouraged that my dark, inner self, was still in full blossom.

Then I came across a quote on Facebook that read:

What if you woke up tomorrow with only what you had thanked God for today….?
(Author Unknown)

 

That hit me like a ton of bricks. Now I understood. I was taken everything I had for granted and whining and complaining about my life whenever I encountered some hurdles.

So I began another list that night, and it was at least a page long. I drifted off to sleep and then woke up again and added more. Before daylight, I had three whole pages as I pretended that if I had not noted a thanks for something, it would surely be missing from my life by sunrise. When I reread the pages, I kept remembering other things that should be grateful for as I did not want to lose any of those either.

The following night, I began my newly formed gratitude ritual with reading the pages that I was collecting in my night table drawer and then adding what I did not want to leave my life at sunrise the next morning. I was amazed how extremely blessed I am and continue to be.

So yes, that crazy list started something. It made me aware of what I take for granted all the time. The items I am grateful for is (beyond the huge blessing of nine, beautiful and healthy kids, family and friends) everyday type stuff are like being happy there is still enough hot water left for my bath, or a little bird sitting on my fence.

If one can focus on all that is good and is a blessing, regardless of how small or how previously it was taken for granted, then all the bumps in life are much easier. Thanksgiving is a day to reflect with deep gratitude for all the blessings I have in my life. Ones that I would dearly miss should I wake up tomorrow without them.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian followers!

GGG (Grateful Garden Goat)cdn happy thanksgiving NEW CORRECT1 FB

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Time Stands Still for No One

I know that it has been a very long time since anyone has heard from this Garden Goat. This summer 2015 raced by and included the ending of this goat’s external employment at a corporate communications position held since 2003. Instead of a full run down on all that has happened this summer, I just thought I would jump right back into the fray. So here goes…

"..always hoping to get enough time to get everything done..."

“..always hoping to get enough time to get everything done…”

As always, it is crazy at my house. I scurry through my day trying to pack as much in as possible including a variety of impromptu activities driven by the on-the-fly needs of the small village I am currently trying to raise. I am always hoping to get enough time to get everything done so that I can afford a couple of “fun” hours. Some of those hours are with which to pack up the littlest of the offspring and head over across town to where my mom lives in a nursing home and have a visit with her.

Wait, someone is on the phone, it is a teacher. I guess I had better turn the car off and let the kids out of their car seats, this call is going to take a few minutes. Well, now I understand who did not complete homework (and who may likely serve jail time in their adolescent years). I have made notes to help the child improve where possible and profusely thanked the teacher for taking the time to call. (Also noted to be sure this teacher receives painkillers as part of their Christmas stocking delivered to the school from this house.)

Now everybody, back out to the car.

No, wait, the dog is barking, and that lady in my neighborhood is about to have the by-law officer incarcerate me for real. Run inside and get the dog in from the back porch. Finally some peace.

Back out to the car, now one of the little people needs the bathroom, okay move the whole show back inside and do a round of bathroom visits.  This activity will likely include plunging at least one toilet, hunting around for toilet paper (the teenagers used it all up) and probably one change of clothes for someone.

Good, we are all ready to go, back out to the car and into seatbelts.

Someone forgot to shut the house door, and our little dog has just run off down the street. I bribe an older child to remain standing guard over the car (lest I waste any more time taking little kids in and out of car seats). With the car now secured, I run like an idiot down the street, all the while sounding like a high-pitched version of Mickey Mouse. All is in the hopes of attracting my run-away-pooch back into captivity (the leash in my hand). Someone’s car alarm is competing with my canine calls, and sadly, my little white dog has now disappeared into the distant bushes.

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Forget the dog. I will get one of my other kids (of the high-school student variety) to mission all over the neighborhood making these ridiculous sounds while I escape with the younger kids, who are still sitting in the car. Teenager kid can track down the missing critter.

Suddenly realizing that the car alarm is, in fact, my own car’s horn, as the small fry thought playing with my key-chain and auto lock panic sounds would be fun. (!!!) My neighbor lady can now call by-law for reasons other than my barking animal.

Finally, I am back in the car; everyone is in seatbelts.

I go to put the gear into drive, and just then I remember.

My mom is no longer at the nursing home waiting for me to visit. She is now in Heaven and watching me running around trying to make time for everything including visiting her.

"...but opted for the perfect moment to do so..."

“…but opted for the perfect moment to do so…”

So many times I could have visited my mom but opted for the perfect moment to do so. That moment in time when I could round-up everyone, (when no one had colds) after I was “sort of” caught up on chores (including playing chauffeur). Only once everything was done in my busy life did I feel could I squeeze in a visit with my mother. My life has not changed; I am still super busy. Just now, my mom is no longer across town waiting for me to visit.

My mom was 86 years old. Her mother and mother before her lived well into their nineties, the latter till almost 100 years old. Somehow, deep in the recesses of my brain, I thought I had many years ahead to cram in those visits around all my busy moments (and as I age, perhaps less busy moments). Life abruptly taught me otherwise.

My mom was reasonably healthy. I had visited her eight days before her fall, the one that led to her leaving this world. In that last visit, my children had brought my mom a “Froster” from Wendy’s as a surprise. Mom sat among her older friends (one was 100 years young) as they looked on in envious approval as my mom enjoyed her frozen treat. I have great memories of that summer Sunday afternoon.

Due to a head injury (resulting from a fall), my mom went swiftly from stable health into the loving arms of her Creator, in what seemed to be an instant. Forever halting any and all visits in the future, I thought I would get around to having with her and my children.

I painfully learned that time waits for no one, and I must change how I do business accordingly:

  • I will invite others over even if the house isn’t tidy or the occupants pleasant.
  • I will leave housework and chores at the level where they belong…a necessary evil but they ought not to be the focus of all my waking hours.
  • I will call people because I was thinking of them and not worry if they are busy (or worse yet that I might be bothering them).
  • I will answer mail and email right away instead of always waiting until I have time to craft the “perfect” response.
  • I may let my dog (and older kids) find their way back on their own without staying behind to use my guardian angel superpowers.
  • Instead of waiting until the house is clean before I draw or read with my children, I will just make the time regardless. (Perhaps that is how we will start chores, by doing the fun stuff first).

Most of all, I will make every moment, the perfect moment, regardless of what else is going down around me.

I will remember forever, that I will never know when it will be the last time I will get to be with the souls I treasure. So I will make whatever time I have on this planet count, with those I love.

The Garden Goat

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!)

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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

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. “

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!

March Break …

...according to the kids it is their “holiday.”

…according to the kids it is their “holiday.”

Well, where my kids go to school it is March break… according to the kids it is their “holiday.” If five days of no running to catch the school bus, not doing homework and being able to get dressed without a single thought about being noticed by the “popular” kids is a holiday… by all means …dear children… please enjoy.

Depending on one’s level of awareness this “holiday” could be bigger than Christmas. Sleep in, snack, hang out and chill for 5 days without any restrictions sounds amazing. Enter the bad mom.

At a minimum, I insist that dishes are done, baths are taken and clothes are washed (including having the dog walked) … apparently I am the “fun” killer. This March break I will only be on hand for 2 of the 5 days in question as this year I do not have enough vacation days to fund the entire week.

My poor darlings are left to the evil intentions of their Dad who is home for the entire break. (!!) Before everyone thinks that the guy I am married to is loafing around “sleeping in” every morning, our 18-year-old offspring (who resides still here), apparently requires a drive to work every morning, before the crack of dawn. (I could give the child a lift…sparing the slumbering spouse except I am already at work at before this ungodly hour).

... back into bed for a much deserved “sleep-in”

… back into bed for a much deserved “sleep-in”

Day one of March break… husband thought he could sneak out, take the young adult to his place of employment while all those “March Break kids” were happily “sleeping in” planning to tip toe back into bed for a much deserved “sleep-in” (well say at least until 8:30 am).

Dad arrives home, strategically he tip toes silently up the stairs, all the while imagining what glorious a moment it will be when his head is reunited with his pillow. He made it to the bed… completely undetected by the natives. As he slips into the sack, he realizes the 4-year-old (who was sleeping in our bed when he left)…is now missing. (!!)  Once you have kids, everyone knows that silence is never a good thing.Things are TOO quiet.

Then the husband hears the 2-year-old talking in her crib and some type of muffled whispering. Thinking that he might still be able to steal a few winks (while the toddlers are playing) he draws the covers up around his ears and nestles in for what he hopes is perhaps an extra 40 minutes of beauty sleep (this guy can use all the help he can get).

Then he hears the chomping sound.

It appears that there is also sounds of licking and smacking of lips and little voices exclaiming “yummy.” Okay… husband is out of bed and into the babies’ room. There, awaiting the sleep-deprived “man-of-my dreams”, were the two children in question. The 2-year-old in her crib and the 4-year old by her side.

At first glance, the sight was overwhelming.

At first glance, the sight was overwhelming.

At first glance, the sight was overwhelming. There was brown, creamy spots everywhere. Both children were covered in the substance. (I am sure the husband contemplated calling emergency services praying that some agency would take the children through a car wash and the other responding agency might be plumbing specialists). It was not until the 4-year-old said “Do you want to try some Daddy?” did “Mr. Mom” realize that the brown creamy spots were, in fact, CHOCOLATE CHIPS!

After interrogating the 4-year old as to how this candy arrived in the baby’s crib and who opened it, a quick shrug of her shoulders allayed all fears… “Daddy, the bags opened all by themselves and the chips jumped into the crib.” That kid is no longer allowed to watch Disney…EVER!

“Daddy, the bags opened all by themselves and the chips jumped into the crib.”

“Daddy, the bags opened all by themselves and the chips jumped into the crib.”

“Daddy” was busy. Far from sleeping in, the other half in my marriage spent the entire morning bathing cherubs, scrubbing chocolate slime out of toddler hair, and removing the confection from everything imaginable. After the spent hours washing sheets, blankets, and toys while laundering a sundry of other items (including a rather large assortment of half-dressed baby dolls), it is doubtful that I will ever be allowed to purchase chocolate chips again.

Just for the record, there WERE TWO FULL bags of chocolate chips.

I like to keep two bags of Chocolate chips on hand for making fudge. Good thing this sanction is occurring in Lent!

The Garden Goat (Chocolate Obsessed)

P.S. For those who love fudge check out below for my recipe.

Garden Goat Favourite Fudge Recipe

2 pkgs milk chocolate chips

Garden Goat Favourite Fudge Recipe

Garden Goat Favourite Fudge Recipe

I can sweetened condensed milk
1.5 tablespoons vanilla extract
Line pan with waxed paper. Heat in saucepan over medium-high setting the condensed milk, gradually add all chocolate chips, stirring constantly to keep from burning. Once all the chips are melted and the mixture is very smooth, remove from heat and add vanilla, stirring until well blended. Pour out onto wax paper and refrigerate for 4 hours. Enjoy!

FLUFFY!

Fluffy is one of those words you want to hear when you are buying a pillow, squeezing a stuffed animal or perhaps describing your bedroom slippers. When you look up in the sky and observe “fluffy” clouds all seems right with the universe.

“Fluffy” as a body type is NOT good…period.

Fluffy Cartoon Sheep captioned " ..."fluffy” would be the sheep!"

…”fluffy” would be the sheep!

When you separate the goats from the sheep, “fluffy” would be the sheep.

This goat is now known as “Fluffy.” A term bandied around by my family, affectionately addressing my dissatisfaction with my middle-aged body shape as I struggle to remain fit and not succumb to my body’s urge to “fill out.” Those reading this who do not know me likely are not aware that weight was always a struggle for me. Although, in the last 25 years, no one could tell as my usual size was an 8 (in most things) regardless of having given birth nine times. (!!)

In my teenage years, I was always a little heavier than the average goat.

Fluffy…It started slowly. Suddenly what I was used to eating everyday was now causing me to gain weight. I was always blessed because normally my body reacts to stress by rapidly losing weight. Full time job, kids, pets …and, oh, yes… a husband…stress was my friend. Up until now this has been great…I never really had to think much about size beyond moderation of intake.

This new body of mine is clearly receiving its messages from the underworld. If I even look at something edible, the scale in my bathroom berates me the following morning where I learn I gained another half pound even though I skipped dinner. Even changed scales…sadly that did not help.

Fluffy-Scale captioned as "...the scale in my bathroom berates me!"

“…the scale in my bathroom berates me!”

Running with the crowd I do, I am not exactly languishing around in the prone position more than perhaps 4. 5 hours per day (and that would be in the name of a night’s rest). Sure my 9-5 job is somewhat sedentary, but I have always made up for that with the Olympian effort required in housework staying on top of the brood I am raising. (Never one or two trips upstairs in a day…more like 20 trips). Not to mention the bath and bedtime hours in which I haul, lift, drag and carry a medley of toddlers, young kids and preteens to the bathtub with herculean force in the interests of household hygiene.

A while back, when my body first started to give indications that a revolt was on the horizon (as evidenced by a seemingly substantial matter accumulating under my skin from my neck down), I decided to take immediate action. I quickly registered at the local gym in the hopes that using those implements of torture would stave off my body’s sinister motives. Alas, not so easy especially when I became the poster child for EPIC treadmill FAIL.

(see post from April 19, 2012 https://gardengoatquote.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/cool-not-mom-versus-the-treadmill/)

TREADMILL…NOT…next idea.

In testing out what works for me, I have come to the conclusion that there are some demon foods that I just cannot eat. I have also discovered that I cannot hope to live to see tomorrow on a planet where chocolate is deemed contraband.

In my youth, if I skipped the odd meal, my efforts were rewarded by drastic weight loss…a few pounds in a day or two. Now the demon scale reads either the same number or adds a half pound. Forget weighing my food by the ounce (an old Weight-Watchers’ trick) I need an instrument that weighs me by the ounce so that I can appreciate and arrest the transformation before another “Fluffy” molecule is added to my carcass.

Husband is very supportive as he tells me to give away the clothes that are too small, get in the game and get some outfits in the “right size.” I quickly tell him that I do not want to reach my seventies with a closet that is out of “Goldilocks and The Three Bears” … containing sizing in small, medium and large.

I am now out of denial (first stage of fluffy) and hoping that 2014 will be the year I take charge of the subversive creep and stem the tide of “Fluffy.”

NO FluffySheep-FLuffy-JCA

While others  bravely struggle to keep their New Years’ Resolutions of weight loss and healthy eating I  stubbornly  continue to deny being on a diet while I try to secretly defeat and deflate “Fluffy.” Perhaps I should chronicle these non-diet adventures and force my subconscious into reality. An appropriate title for such scribbles might be “Enough of Fluff” or maybe “Fluff vs Buff” or better yet “Get tough on Fluff”…no doubt best sellers all of them.

Enough of Fluff book captioned as "Perhaps an appropriate title might be “Enough of Fluff”..."

“Perhaps an appropriate title might be “Enough of Fluff”…”

My battle with “fluffy” still continues as I am sure it will until it is either augmented or replaced by the next chapter in my life …“Baggy” …oh.. I can hardly wait.

“Fluffy” (I hope NOT for too much longer!)

The Garden Goat

New-JCA-Goat

Walk a mile in my moccasins before you judge me!

Years ago, when I was younger, I used to notice toddlers having meltdowns, in stores as their embarrassed and seemingly strict parents read them the riot act,  promptly removing the child from the premises. I remember thinking,”oh… that poor child … if I was its parent, I would never let a child cry like that.” In those days, the parents in these scenarios were all monsters. After all who could possibly get upset at a two-year old? Had the number for child services been readily available I might have been one of those to register my disgust, especially in the case of one kid who literally was dragged out of the store. Back then, I thought I knew what saw. Clearly, no child should ever need to be wrestled with or dragged anywhere.

"...promptly removing the child from the premises..."

“…promptly removing the child from the premises…”

Fast forward about 25 years.

I am now the woman with the howling toddler who cannot understand why they cannot buy everything their baby-child brain decides should go in the cart. My three-year old has an obsession with baby dolls (stop laughing …the child, I am convinced, would be like this regardless of the fact she is the youngest of nine!) and thinks each trip to the store is about getting a “new” baby. If finances were not an issue, I might be okay with adoption of all these dolls, except that this kid insists on naming each baby “Meatball.” (I have no idea why.) This clearly indicates there is likely no recollection of the first half-dozen “baby” purchases or any acknowledgement that her crib is stuffed with “Meatballs”!.

Recently, while at a store, trying to get a hockey helmet for one of her brothers, my youngest decided that she should have some of the toys and candy, handily marketed at knee-level. Well, the affirmative answer my kid was expecting never arrived. Instead, I dared to tell her “NO…not this time! You have already had things bought for you this week.” I am thinking that this will be perfectly reasonable as an explanation and there will be no more fussing.

Wrong!

Howls and wails, stomping of feet and a torrent of tears as this kid loudly proclaimed she was taking the candy home anyhow. Husband-of-the-year was out with us on this excursion, and he offered to remove the screaming child while I continued checking out of the store. This was an offer I could not resist as by now the decibels were being appreciated (not) by the other shoppers who were nearby waiting to also check out.

Exit the possessed, annoyed toddler and very embarrassed husband.

"...the possessed, annoyed toddler... "

“…the possessed, annoyed toddler… “

My purchase was completed in stony silence as I think even the cashier was nervous to say much. By the time I reached the van (yes with this number of progeny …naturally I drive a bus) the toddler was belted into the car seat and all smiles.

As my husband tried to back out of the parking spot, a car was stopped, and the front passenger was staring at us. My husband asked why they were stopped right in his way. Well the diatribe of screaming from the passenger side of the car was deafening. I guess they had watched the toddler get escorted to the vehicle (minus the coveted treats and toys) with brisk and determined resolve on my husband’s part. The passenger continued to scream that she was going to call child services because no toddler should ever be carried crying out of a store. We are terrible parents and deserve to have our child removed. I have no idea whom these people were, only that they were out in their car and had no children with them.

My husband was incensed, as was I, for a moment or two; then I remembered what I used to think of tantruming kids before I had any. I realized that I would never be able, to explain adequately, why this little child, (obviously against her will) had to leave the store right at that moment…nor the million “Meatballs” at my house.

I am glad, that in my younger, childless days, I did not stoop to judge too quickly (other than to take mental note).  Otherwise, I am sure there would have been numerous, needless calls to child services, on perfectly decent parents. Until one is in the position of having to navigate the terrible-twos, out in public, purchasing the necessities of life, one will never completely understand.

Sometimes, it is just better knowing in your heart, you did your best, regardless of what any passerby thinks or dares to say.

"Walk a mile in my moccasins before you judge me."

“Walk a mile in my moccasins before you judge me.”

Please, walk a mile in my moccasins before you judge me.

Garden-Goat-Logo-_JCA

Please note: I would not hesitate to call child services in the case of legitimate abuse. Just interesting how my lens has completely changed, as now, I am a parent and often in these situations myself.

THE GARDEN GOAT

What really scares teenage boys

There are people out there that sometimes criticize those of us with larger families. One of the predominant negative reactions is based on the notion that the older kids are forced to “parent” the younger kids in a large family. Well, no, that is not the case for the most part. (Although many of us with larger families do expect the older children to lend a hand here and there when really needed.)

An example of how the opposite of just that is true happened a few years ago when my older teenage boys did a token few hours of babysitting for a noble cause (I was delayed at work). (Had my family been like the stereo-type image of the large family these older kids would have been mini-parents and known just what to do!)

What really scares teenage boys...

What really scares teenage boys…

My husband and I work opposite shifts. So that up until now there has been no outside daycare arrangement. Our hours of work have been scheduled and sought out to achieve a situation where the kids are continuously cared for by one parent or the other. This makes for very little impact on the siblings, is financially cost-effective and allows the other parent to not worry in the least knowing that the children are in the other parent’s care.

However, the odd time there may be a situation where an “older” kid is expected to care for a younger sibling. But on the whole this is not the usual scenario.

This one particular day I was delayed at work with a very important meeting that ran overtime. While on this day I was not terribly late leaving work I would be delayed by about an extra hour (even if I leave only a little later than I usually do, the delay in traffic commuting home often is as much as an extra hour or more).

This particular day my three eldest boys were home alone (as the teenage daughter was staying at school late for a music rehearsal). In order to appreciate what this meant, the ages of the teenage males were 18, 16, 15 years respectively and they were left caring for the 2-year-old baby for about an hour. Dad had to leave at the usual time and I was stuck in this important meeting. Not to much of an imposition. Although up to this point none of these young men had ever had (in their entire life) to change a baby diaper (not bad for being the elder siblings of a family of 9 kids!).

"...caring for the 2-year-old baby for about an hour."

“…caring for the 2-year-old baby for about an hour.”

This meeting was pivotal and involved senior management and government stakeholders. Sadly I totally forgot to turn off my cell phone as is customary protocol when attending one of these meetings. Just before the meeting was about to wrap up my cell phone goes off and it is my home number trying to reach me. All I can think of is the baby must be up from her nap and these guys would not be calling me unless it was an EMERGENCY.

I slink down under the boardroom table to figure out what can be such a crisis that this team of teenage boys had to call me. First question “Mom…when are you coming home?” I am now under the table trying not to be obvious telling them I “will be home soonest…why?” The middle boy proceeds to explain. “The baby needs a new diaper!” Hmm, okay… then change the baby…no big deal…right?

“Well mom it is not that kind of diaper (!!)…You have to come home NOW! We are not changing THIS!”

Great… I am still under the boardroom table feigning rummaging in my purse. Speaking in the most sepulchral of tones (so as to be completely inaudible to the folks up five feet higher perched around the meeting table) while maintaining the air of serious authority (!!). “That baby cannot sit in that diaper as I won’t be home for a least an hour! Take the diapers, wipes and change her on my bed (big queen sized bed). Surely the three of you can figure it out. DO NOT CALL me again. Love you all…bye!”

I stuck the phone in the bottom of my purse hoping to cover up the fact I had even taken the call. I then slowly squirmed back into my seat and continued with the meeting. Pretending all the while that my under-the table dive was merely to locate a throat lozenge hidden deep in the black hole known as my purse and nothing more.

As I drove home that evening from the meeting the phone was strangely silent. I smiled to myself and thought …silly me; three teenage boys…one messy diaper… these awesome guys of mine must have risen to the occasion.

When I got home the two-year old met me at the door. I had to laugh the diaper was on backwards (tape at the back) but she was diapered all the same. I asked how it went and the boys told me it was “no problem.” Again smiled to myself thinking that a new level in maturity had been reached and I need not worry in the future the few times I might be late coming home from work. These fellows had it covered.

"I had to laugh the diaper was on backwards (tape at the back) but she was diapered all the same."

“I had to laugh the diaper was on backwards (tape at the back) …”

After supper I went upstairs to my bedroom en-suite bathroom to get baths started for the children. I looked at my queen bed dreading to see what small mishaps or spills might have occurred during the DIAPER FIASCO (possibly requiring a full laundering of my bedding). To my surprise none, everything was pristine…with the exception of a whole bunch of duct tape seemingly placed strategically all over my bed (????)-

Back downstairs to talk to the boys.

"why Duct Tape?"

“why Duct Tape?”

“Why the duct tape?”

The answer… “Well Mom you told us to just handle it and we did not want the baby to squirm and get THAT STUFF all over us…so we duct taped her to the bed so she would be still. Don’t worry it didn’t hurt her, we put it over her shirt and socks (not on her skin) and we did not get covered in that nasty diaper junk!”

"...did not want the baby to squirm and get THAT STUFF all over us!"

“…did not want the baby to squirm and get THAT STUFF all over us!”

Really glad that this was not a day child services planned to drop in and visit me.

Thankfully the baby was smiling (even with Elmo facing the wrong way on her behind) and the duct tape was easy to remove from the bedding.

Memo to self…next time hide the duct tape and be sure turn my cell off before entering the meeting room!

The Garden Goat

Memo to self…next time hide the duct tape and be sure turn my cell off before entering the meeting room!

Memo to self…next time hide the duct tape and be sure turn my cell off before entering the meeting room!