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

Advertisements

It takes a village to raise a child…that is WHY!!!

In a recent (wee hours of the morning) visit to the Emergency room, I found myself engaged in a reasonably fun conversation. The other person had come to this oasis for the same reason I did; a pediatric specialist consult for a small, sick child (as we each had one in tow).

...how I could possibly (and truthfully) answer her incredulous “Why?”

…how I could possibly (and truthfully) answer her incredulous “Why?”

Normally, when two parents who are strangers meet, the ensuing conversation flows easily as the unspoken common denominator is the child (in this case two sick little ones).

This conversation was similar to others I have had before. This young mom told me all about her child, the health concerns she was managing, including funny stories and anecdotes from her extended family.

While waiting on the pediatric guru, I was enjoying the company of the other mom as we both sat, nearby each other. The interchange with the other parent distracted me from counting the seconds as they dragged into half minutes and slowly rounded the clock again completing another minute with no medical relief for the little one in my lap.

"... completing another minute with no medical relief..."

“… completing another minute with no medical relief…”

At first glance, the other parent assumed that the two-year old, sick infant in my care was mine. I clarified the relationship was one of grandmother and granddaughter. (!!) Conversation continued. At some point, other family members became the topic where (probably to fatigue as I do know better) I revealed I had 9 children of my own. (!!) The mom I was talking to sat bolt upright and said “Why?”… Only to be immediately followed by “Oh I am so sorry …I did not mean that… but really WHY did you have 9 kids…I have two, and that is more than enough for me!”

I

... how I could possibly (and truthfully) answer her incredulous “Why?” (??)

… how I could possibly (and truthfully) answer her incredulous “Why?” (??)

was stunned. What part of “why?” should I be addressing? The only thing I could come up with was to ask her “why?” she only had two. (!!) The answer… “too much cost and way too much work”… (No really?). Then this mom further qualified her answer indicating part of her decision to limit her family size was she did not want more than a one-child-to-adult ratio. I guess her personal experience with raising kids was more that of a zoo-keeper trying to keep the lions calm between feedings (hand-held gaming devices notwithstanding). I still was trying to consider how I could possibly (and truthfully) answer her incredulous “Why?”

Many thoughts came to mind…

If, it takes a village to raise a child then I am raising a home-grown village to ensure optimum results!

"...then I am raising a home-grown village to ensure optimum results!"

“…then I am raising a home-grown village to ensure optimum results!”

Thankfully I did not really answer her question…other than to say I believe I am blessed beyond belief… and yes, I am aware that two kids can be a challenge though more (children) is often easier… (…although, yes, definitely, more work).

I thought about what the conversation might look like if we were not talking about each other’s children and let’s say we were talking about pets. Many people have 3 or more pets; some have 3 or 4 dogs plus cats, turtles etc.. I cannot imagine meeting a pet owner (perhaps at the vet), learning they have several pets and then proceeding to ask them “why?”

Better yet, meeting someone who mentions they are recently married for the second time…and I ask “why?” I am sure that I would be shut down pronto as rude. Then how can it be that people think it is appropriate to say “why?” when they discover I have a larger family than the average Joe? What if every overweight person I know who announces they are on a diet is met with my response of “why”? Or someone else shares that they own two houses, or 4 cars, or travel twice a year to Europe…would it still be appropriate to answer “why?” ???

Then why is it appropriate to ask me that about my kids? At a base value, I will assume the “why” is not because the person posing the question is clueless about how children enter our lives on this planet earth. Instead, I have discovered (in many similar conversations with other parents) that it is more about the other parents’ need to justify their own family size than it will ever be about mine. The explanations that are volunteered, by perfect strangers, in defense of their personal decisions to limit their respective family’s size … is astounding. Considering this guilt is being divulged in a public place without the benefit of even a prompt (by way of a question from me)…and only an as a rhetorical answer to a rude questioning they aimed at me is actually rather funny. I have been privy to what would almost amount to a full-scale confession by perfect strangers trying to justify their reasons (very assorted…some VERY odd) for limiting their offspring…just because I went out in public with SOME of my kids.

Many thoughts came to mind...

Many thoughts came to mind…

I have now developed a full retinue of pre-canned answers to be served up to those inquiring souls (albeit total strangers) who feel the need to continually ask me “why?”!!

To: All those who have never met me before but feel they must ask me “Why” I have 9 children:

  • Because, I heard that children are cheaper by the dozen.
  • I believe in reincarnation, and most of my family is dead and depending on me to give them another chance.
  • Because, the GOVERNMENT will allow me to have my own planet if I can meet their quota.
  • Because, many hands make light work, and we are hoping to have a farm.
  • Because redheads are recessive genes (and a dying race)…I am trying to even out the odds.
  • Because a relative of mine, left me an inheritance that pays a huge dividend with every child I add to our family.
  • Because my husband makes so much money, this is the only way I don’t owe the government anything.
  • Because I do NOT know any better.

"...Because I do NOT know any better!"

The Kid-Keeper (The Garden Goat)

Bathroom Humour NOT

Not sure what goes on in other people’s houses but I am left thinking that indoor plumbing (although I profoundly appreciate it myself) is a concept completely wasted on the teenage crowd.

Garden Goat cleaning "The few miserable moments I take to pursue the call of nature myself are often lengthened as I find myself forced to whirlwind clean every time I happen to avail myself of the facilities."

Garden Goat cleaning “The few miserable moments I take to pursue the call of nature myself are often lengthened as I find myself forced to whirlwind clean every time I happen to avail myself of the facilities.”

Generally speaking the little kids (ages 12 and under) tend to use the bathroom for what it is intended for (within reason). You know a quick race in when nature calls (hopefully the younger crowd make it in time) a quick turn of the tap with some attempt at the soap and race back out to what they were doing before. Perhaps an entire two minutes devoted to the more basic functions in life (and hopefully not a scene from “Daddy Daycare” where Eddy Murphy rolls his eyes all around the bathroom ceiling after one of his little charges says “I missed”).

This stage is however counter-balanced by having to drag the same child hours later into a bath. Somehow bathing is a waste of time and the kids (especially boys) would just rather spent the time playing anywhere than the bathtub.

For years it seems that you are coaxing and insisting on regular bathing. Kids become experts in assuring you they have had their bath pointing to damp towels and less wet hair. That is when I head into the bathroom like a drug sniffing police dog to see if the evidence they have left behind truly supports the barely wet hair and the nearly dry towel. Most occasions they have forgotten some clue and are discovered for having feigned bathing.

When I was a kid, my sisters and I coined the phrase “skip-a-bath.” Basically the game was to spend the time we were allotted to bathe, dressing up the bathroom for the parental-detective audit making sure there was water spilt everywhere and most of a tube of toothpaste squirted in the sink. (No kid using toothpaste for the right reasons is EVER that messy!) Not to mention actually allowing our feet to step into real water (in the sink) so as to accurately leave “realistic” wet (as in water) footprints for the edification of the parental snoop team. When I think back I certainly wasted more time than a real bath would have taken trying to fake that I had bathed when I had done nothing of the sort. I still have no understanding as to why it was so important to not bathe likely because it meant it was the end of the day and I saw it as a waste of time.

This aversion to baths, (unlike with pets) does rapidly reverse once the child hits the teenage years. Not sure if it is part of the teenage DNA why this happens or if it is only driven by attraction and notice by the opposite sex. Either way the results are the same. The kids who were notorious for not bathing are suddenly spending every waking moment in the bathroom. The child that would not bathe regularly is now availing himself of your en-suite washroom for hours at a time and often several times a day. If that was not bad enough this age group uses multiple towels each time. The towel that is used on the hair cannot possibly be allowed to touch another part of the same body. This would explain the half-dozen towels on the floor. I really do not want to know what body parts rate getting individual towels or why this is…some things are just better left unknown.

(In the beginning I used to smell the towels or laundry to see if it in fact needed to be washed. Teenagers cured me of this. I sniff NO MORE and will wash everything just in case and to be safe!)

"If I worked for McDonald’s at least I would be paid for the bathroom breaks and not have the further insult of the mess makers sharing some of my DNA."

“If I worked for McDonald’s at least I would be paid for the bathroom breaks and not have the further insult of the mess makers sharing some of my DNA.”

The scene becomes much more complicated if you have female teenagers…then all of the above applies plus an array of sprays, lotions, hair products (not to forget a million hair clips, brushes, curling irons etc.) razors. Upon closer examination you realize that most of the mess left behind did not even belong to them. Your stuff has been raided, used and left dripping, broken and laying about the bathroom.

Parents with one child pretty much have it made. They clean the bathroom and when it is a mess there is only one person to blame. In this place where I am the minority with four blooming teenagers (not to mention 4 other younger kids) I am beginning to understand what it must be like to work either in a fast food or truck stop restaurant where someone checks off the list of chores on the public bathroom door hourly. The few miserable moments I take to pursue the call of nature myself are often lengthened as I find myself forced to whirlwind clean every time I happen to avail myself of the facilities. The ONLY thing missing is completing a checklist and signing it off (and of course a PAYCHECK). One 30-second trip devoted to my humanity in the bathroom is always followed by a full Tasmanian devil moment of pickup up the floor, clean up the toothpaste, wipe the counter, change the toilet paper roll and put out yet another clean towel.

"If I should use the ladies room again, even if in less than an hour has elapsed, guaranteed I will have to repeat the tidy up routine all over again. "

“If I should use the ladies room again, even if in less than an hour has elapsed, guaranteed I will have to repeat the tidy up routine all over again. “

If I should use the ladies room again, even if in less than an hour has elapsed, guaranteed I will have to repeat the tidy up routine all over again. If I worked for McDonald’s at least I would be paid for the bathroom breaks and not have the further insult of the mess makers sharing some of my DNA.

The other mystery that takes place is the toilet paper. My children eat it. There is no doubt. NO ONE could possibly exhaust the amount of toilet paper I regularly haul home. In the absence of Michael Angelo papier-mâché creations or the neighborhood decorated in “TP” one has to assume that the toilet roll was consumed…completely. (Of course watching the older kids help themselves to most of a paper towel roll to soak up two drops of water…perhaps the toilet paper is not that much of a mystery). Oh and yes we have a plunger in all the bathrooms. (!!)

Toliet paper

Toilet paper captioned “My children eat it. There is no doubt.”

The other reason I don’t like indoor bathrooms while raising teenagers is it becomes the perfect place to wait out any impending responsibilities. Nothing like assigning a child the dishes to have an “attack” of something strike rendering my workforce held captive in the bathroom. I have one child who has been known to watch a complete movie (while on the throne) being “indisposed” while the chores got all done without him.

I am thinking that perhaps the husband does have it right. Move out into the outback and look for a shack where a few satellite outhouses could be constructed.

The ANSWER ". Move out into the outback and look for a shack where a few satellite outhouses could be constructed. "

The ANSWER “. Move out into the outback and look for a shack where a few satellite outhouses could be constructed. “

I live in Canada so for at least 6 months of the year it would be doubtful that anyone would be brave enough to freeze their neither regions in the hopes of not having to do the supper dishes with a camp out in the outhouse. With the rest of the months here being either brutally hot or rainy I doubt that anyone would want to be outside in that little (no doubt in those months…”smelly”) place for too long either.

As for having to clean up the bathroom hourly… without a place to plug in the hair-straightener, no running water, no toilet to unplug… no towels…I would gain so much time…perhaps enough to drive into town and used a public washroom.

The Garden Goat

PS I have been nominated in TOP 25 MOMS WITH BIG FAMILIES – 2013 on circle of moms. You can VOTE for this goat every day until July 24, 2013. To VOTE go:

http://www.circleofmoms.com/blogger/garden-goat-quote

Does “family” have a limit?

Presiding over a family of eleven (sometimes twelve…depends who is home) I often find that our size of family is discriminated against in mainstream society. (!!)

I have yet to win one of those radio family vacations. However I can just imagine the radio announcer now… “Congratulations you have won a family trip to Disney!” …and my response “Will all 11 tickets be booked on the same flight?” Ah…then I will likely be told to pick and choose which family members I am allowed to take as the contest only provides for a family meaning… a mom, a dad and two children (and the small print likely indicates they have to be under 12 years of age). Thankfully I have not been in that position, however I often wonder how it might play out…and what the legal ramifications are (if any) regarding advertising “Family” and then limiting “Family” to only be a maximum of four people.

It begins at the grocery store with the limits imposed on sale items (quantities allowed of only four or less of a sale item…more on that later) but does not end there. If I go to a restaurant indicating that children under 12 eat free and then present 5 children under 12 for the free meal I am told that it only includes two children. (!!) Strangely enough the sign advertising this special said nothing about any limits. What are the other 3 children if not “family”? (Very difficult to explain on the spot whose family!)

I can be in the grocery store and spaghetti sauce is awesomely priced at a dollar a bottle but there is also a large notice indicating a limit of 4 bottles per family. Lovely …that is most reasonable as the average family (in Canada with 1.25 kids) is able to make 4 complete spaghetti dinners with this store imposed ration. I on the other hand would be hard-pressed to make even two dinners (for everyone) out of only 4 bottles. Some stores are very accommodating as once they realize my family is the size of a small private school I am usually given the deference of 3 to 4 times the store-imposed-limit to fairly purchase sale items for private use. (Most store limits are to prevent small restaurants and commercial enterprises from “stocking up”).

It gets better. Where I live we are now trying to cut back garbage collection services and in turn force all residents to become greener thereby reducing the neighborhood garbage output by taking advantage of composting and better recycling practices etc. The city planners in order to achieve such utopia have determined that each household will be allowed only four bags of garbage every two weeks. (!!)

There must be some hidden garbage this homeowner was trying to smuggle out

There must be some hidden garbage this homeowner was trying to smuggle out

Okay…if the average family is considered to be the sum total of 3 humans* and I have 12 then I suddenly have 16 bags of garbage every two weeks. This family has two babies living here. Not being someone who wants any more wildlife at my house than I already have (teenagers included) I looked everywhere for solutions. Basically my family size is almost institutional (stop laughing!). I looked up all the city’s policies and discovered that if you have family members using incontinence products (diapers etc.) you could qualify for a “bonus bag” picked up weekly from your house. While reading about this there were many admonishments about how those who misuse this service would face the full extent of the law. Key requirement was there was to be NO OTHER trash sneaked into this “bonus” bag beyond the incontinence material. Two kids in diapers YIPEE!  I can at least ditch that refuse weekly….so signed up for that.

"...could qualify for a “bonus bag” ...."

“…could qualify for a “bonus bag” ….”

Wednesday is the magical day where this “bonus bag” would be removed. I happened to be in the front room this past Wednesday and noticed a white, unmarked pickup truck stop in front of my home and a man dressed in a white (head to toe) mechanic suit, sporting industrial gloves and headgear (not quite a miner’s light attached) jump out and approach “the bag.” Not sure this was the city’s special garbage collection (perhaps more aliens checking on the earthlings…again) I thought I might spend a moment and observe through my front living room window. With clipboard and cellphone in hand, this guy summoned his fellow helper (the driver of the truck) with a look of such arrogant disgust. (Living here it is hard to tell if the million kid’s toys, bikes, helmets, hockey sticks, nets and pet bugs in jars strewn all over my front walk might have been the cause of such derision).

"I perhaps generate 4 times the average garbage but also 6 times more than the  national average of eventual taxpayers! It has got to balance out…no?"

“I perhaps generate 4 times the average garbage but also 6 times more than the national average of eventual taxpayers! It has got to balance out…no?”

Obviously our “Bonus Bag” ended up being a large green back with several smaller white bags inside screaming “FRAUD.” There must be some hidden garbage this homeowner was trying to smuggle out. (!!).. I think these two Garbage specialists felt they were on to something… clipboard was readied and both men opened my special bag together. My special pickup bag was clearly in contravention…that is until they proceeded to open the other white bags…after two bags were opened…an extra pair of gloves were donned, the clipboard was then hurled into the back of the truck and the bag carried about as far away from the guys’ body as his outstretched arm would allow ….then tossed through the air and into the back of the truck. I expect next week’s special pickup will not be subjected to any more audits.

There are actually a few of us around the country with more than the average national number of offspring. Good thing too…I should be recognized as having definitely contributed to society I perhaps generate 4 times the average garbage but also 6 times more than the national average of eventual taxpayers! It has got to balance out…no?

The Garden Goat

Goat in Garbage can

I am patiently waiting for the next “Garbage Day”

 
 
 
*Canadian census 2006

It is over…March Break that is!

"... the smaller children (you know the ones garden decoration size)"

“… the smaller children (you know the ones garden decoration size)”

The saddest words ever if I listen to the 6-year-old in my life. “I was finally getting to like not going to school and now I have to go again!” Well, I was going to let the child know that this feeling will continue and amplify through his life. Sunday evenings are the same always getting ready for the work week to start-up … again. Then I thought, nah, maybe I should not let this child know how most of the adult world is living just for the weekends and holidays.

Considering my crowd really did not do anything very spectacular this break I was sure that going to school this morning would have been a highlight to the boring week. Apparently hanging around one’s house (for the most part.. with the exception of a troop tour of the science museum, the doctor and a movie….although not all in that order) being hassled to do chores and spring cleaning was more exciting. Who knew? I despair of ever getting these kids out and on their own before they are fifty (I have no idea how the husband thinks they will all be independent by age 21!). With the exception of the 13-year-old (NO… she already WANTS to go back to school and how)!

I have heard all week about the kids’ friends and their trips on the March break to all over the globe. I did consider leaving home and taking a trip…then I remembered the fire regulations…so in a nutshell…NO…decided to remain home!

Families this size cannot just “pickup and go” on a trip. Yep, I hear some of you thinking well if I had fewer children this would be possible…well actually not necessarily so. About 16 years ago my brother-in-law passed away in another town about 4 hours from here. In order to attend the wake and the morning funeral, I took all the children (plus “the Husband”) to this town. At the time I only had four children the youngest of which was a newborn and the eldest was just 5 years old.

I called the main hotel (small town) and asked for a room with 2 double beds and a cot (baby would be in a carriage) thinking that this was a reasonable request. Well I got quickly acquainted with “fire regulations” that apparently dictated that no more than 4 to a room regardless of the fact that all three children were hardly bigger than Garden Gnomes. After many rounds of rationale I was able to strike a bargain, I would get the one  (and only) “suite” they had that also came with a sitting room therefore I would be allowed the 3 gnome children and the tiny baby. I was charged $350 for the suite. I chalked this up to a small town and a super vigilant representative of the hospitality industry. By comparison a double occupancy for the fire regulation friendly family (only 2 kids) across the hall only cost $87 per night.

"...regardless of the fact that all three children were hardly bigger than Garden Gnomes"

“…regardless of the fact that all three children were hardly bigger than Garden Gnomes”

A few years ago I tried again, this time to take a tribe that had grown to the size of seven children (youngest just weeks old and the eldest only twelve) although still sporting several kids the size of lawn ornaments. Well the hotel told me that to accommodate my family I would require three rooms at the approximate combined cost of about $500 per night (!!!). (This was eight years ago.) The money issue set aside, I could not get the inn keeper to understand that traveling with only two parents meant one of those three rooms would be “unsupervised” definitely more dangerous than by the book fire regulations.

The hotel manager told me he understood and would be sure that all three rooms would be linked together. I was worried some of the smaller children (you know the ones garden decoration size) would escape and be wandering all over town (not to mention at large on the hotel premises). No matter what concern I had the hotel was focused on the fire regulations. I cannot imagine how having unsupervised school-aged children in a room could be so fire-safety friendly (at least on the paperwork) as opposed to less fire-safety compliant but fully supervised by parents.

In the end we were able to find a motel (in the same town) where the owner had a corner banquet room he let us stay in and moved in queen bed (and pullout couches/cots) to support the entourage. This was quite a bargain as nightly it only cost $125 and included a kitchenette.

So unless something wild happens March Break around my house continues to be a time to have some free time, see friends, go to a few local places and spring clean like mad.

Memo to myself: I must work harder next year to make sure school is seen as more attractive than hanging out here (perhaps add home repairs to the ongoing list of chores)…Although I must admit my greatest moments are when the kids are home….(no comment on them being here and fifty!) and happy to be here.

The Garden Goat

The Garden Goat

Table for twelve please! More answers for those who need to know “lots” about large families!

Going anywhere with the bunch I look after is often not only an experience but can be quite entertaining. Going out for dinner is no exception. The plan of attack is that I go into the restaurant ALONE (while the natives sit in the 12 passenger battle wagon in the parking lot as to avoid the looks of a “swarming” in the entrance of the eatery) to ascertain if in fact there might be room to accommodate the troops for dinner.

"Next I head back to the vehicle and begin to have all twelve members disembark in various states of excitement."

“Next I head back to the vehicle and begin to have all twelve members disembark in various states of excitement.”

The hostess approaches me with a sweet smile saying “seating for one?” to which I respond “no, actually seating for 12.” The look is always the same. The hostess performs a quick total glance of my persona head to toe just to verify that perhaps I am not delusional as I am clearly standing all by myself requesting the bus-sized table.

The answer back from the restaurant is usually a calculated one trying to delicately balance the need to accommodate my request against a ghost attendance. Once I add the information concerning the participants such as high chairs and booster seats (not to mention children’s menus) the look on the hostess becomes one of “Big Birthday Party Mess” (lots of noisy kids and maybe lower gratuity) and the table at the furthest end of the establishment is then readied for our family’s entrance.

Next I head back to the vehicle and begin to have all twelve members disembark in various states of excitement. Families our size rarely eat out (cost is close to almost a mortgage payment). As we process into the establishment and to the newly prepared table setting… pretty much anyone with a pulse has their eyes on our entourage as we pass by. Older couples are busy holding up their fingers as they count out how many kids they think they see…others are pointing and several are craning their necks to get a better view.

The rest is pretty straight forward if you can get past the frequent comings and goings of the waitress as she administers to the 12 passenger table.

Then the questions start as other patrons feel the need to have their curiosity satisfied. As the food orders are placed (and while we are trying to keep the kids busy with the crayons that are customarily provided) …the “curious” folks, one by one “drop by our table. Let the games begin:

” Big Birthday Party Mess”

” Big Birthday Party Mess”

Is this a daycare? (Part of me wishes it was…then the bill could be evenly distributed among a larger group of working parents.) “NO these are mine … no one pays me (as yet) to look after them…. So..NO… not a daycare!”

Which children are yours and which are his?  “Madam…NOW we are worried …up until now we thought all the children were ours. Which ones do you think look different?” (Kids are killing themselves laughing and are all making silly faces). Meanwhile I struggle to keep my face reasonably serene throughout the interrogation. (Really just want to laugh!) .

Are these REALLY all from the same marriage? “I think so (husband and I exchange looks… older kids seem bewildered) well…we never thought to have that checked (!!)”

You mean to tell me you have been married to the same man all this time? Course the husband now dons an angelic look as the children (some of the older ones) are wondering if we should have traded “Daddy” in for a new model. “Well, it is true he is getting older (Dad looks totally guilty) but we haven’t found a model we like better or who wants to be around so many kids.”

I certainly hope you (my husband) help this poor dear (as they point to me) with all the housework after giving her all these children? I can hardly keep a straight face I am wondering if this older soul might like to come back to my house and run housework boot camp for the natives. I think she has the right attitude to get the male of the species (I have 3 teenage specimens at my house) all fired up! Then some child says Oh don’t worry about that MOM MAKES him help ALL the time!” (!!)

How can you afford to feed all of them? “Not sure lady… I came in here prepared to have some stay after dinner no doubt and do dishes…any leftovers from your table you want to share?” (The look resulting from this is usually priceless…jaw dropped WIDE open)

You must make a lot of money to be able to eat out? “Ever since I started printing up $20 bills the basement it is no longer an issue…besides this way I don’t have to waste my time doing the dishes at home.”

After the newness of our tribe among the other restaurant faithful has subsided (usually the food has arrived) and we are left in complete anonymity while some kids eat and others play at eating (hopefully no food fights!).  Usually before dessert can be served there are more people dropping by our table…similar questions along with some compliments.

I will never forget the woman who told me how well-behaved everyone was and inquired if I was “a group home mom?” No doubt observing the mashed up fries and gravy down the side of my coat, the salad dressing in my hair or the other equally as galling indiscretions on the table that would warrant deliverance of a rather substantial gratuity in appreciation of our server. When I answered “No…why did you think I was?” …the response “You just seem so calm in all of this I thought you might be a professional. (Died laughing! )

...inquired if I was “a group home mom?”

…inquired if I was “a group home mom?”

As I am leaving a lady pulls at my sleeve as I pass by her table…“Tell me dear…What made you decide to have so many?”

(Love that the kids all get to hear this one)…“Well…I wanted to be sure that there were enough taxpayers that when it is time for me to retire I at least know that there are 9 kids paying into the system to help make the seniors years of the average person (and me in particular) more enriched with better government services.”

Back to the battle wagon…until next time!

The Garden Goat

P.S. Reminds me of a story where two sisters each with five children went shopping. At one point one of the husbands was left for a few moments presiding over the combined tribe. Many people stopped to talk to the kids and felt sorry for the husband. Then the sisters  watched the kids while the husbands ran an errand. When the husband came back an older was woman passing by and only seeing one “mom” and all these kids with the dad …walked a few paces away and muttered “Pervert” under her breath.

You can’t hope that everyone will understand.

I am now “Busy” … legit …who knew?

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

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

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

so busy I am so busy

I guess “busy” could describe this!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hockey stick hitting puck words saying hockey mom animated graphic

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

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

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

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

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

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

A verifiably “busy” Garden Goat

Hockey mom goat wearing helmet with hockey sticks

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

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

Never “Total Recall” …but it is ALWAYS in a “SAFE place”

 

Well… as I get older I am realizing that either I am in the midst of the beginnings of Alzheimer’s (reticent to admit that I perhaps have been this distracted all along) or in very deep denial. First of all you would need to understand that I have a close-to photographic memory and can easily remember random facts, relative’s birth dates (same difference for some folks) and have total recall of a sundry of information. Illustration of this gift is that I can remember every single item and its correct price without exception on a $400 grocery order. I can often remember the most detailed account of any given situation not to mention recount of childhood memories in full Technicolor. I never write anything down because I have relied on for years on the ability to recall almost anything instantaneously. Can I remember where I put the keys, the bank card or even my cell? No… not unless I make a HUGE, conscious effort to retain in my head where I stashed them….I almost never remember where they are.

At first I thought this failing memory was due to being “the keeper” of so many kids. As I am distracted and often doing a million other things while trying to remember what I am doing with the everyday, regular, boring stuff such as the keys. Then I realized it was a much deeper problem (although I do have talents that might offset this handicap). Honestly, if my services are required to break up a scuffle among the troops, attend to the wounded, court-martial the perpetrator how in the world can I be expected to know where the keys to the army tank are? This is why I could never join the army. I would be marvelous at planning and scheming for the battle, plotting the attack, coping with the casualties and delivering the aid and rations. Just do not ask me where I parked the tank and for Heaven’s sake DO not ask me where the keys are. I just will not remember. I draw a complete blank…almost every time.

“I smile and tell everyone that my brain is busy somewhere else (I am in total denial)”.

Up to this point in my life I found this a debilitating part of my personality. The reality that I needlessly live on the edge of crisis and chaos as I spend hours searching through my purse (may as well be the black hole of outer space) for such mundane items as the bank card, my car keys and more often than not my cell phone (which is usually discovered later…on my lap UNDER the very purse I am searching through!!!).

My husband hates being in any store at the check-out with me as I then can never find my bank card. I must say the stores I frequent are very patient with me. Now my husband (if he is with me) tries to remind me to look ahead of time (like before I go in the store) for my bank card (no doubt to save him reoccurring embarrassment as the people in line become exasperated with my seeming incompetence.) I smile and tell everyone that my brain is busy somewhere else (I am in total denial).

This “forgetting where I put stuff” is becoming very frustrating. It gets worse because for very important things it is disastrous.  I am conscious of placing those items in a very “safe place.” When asked later to reveal the location of the “safe place” (you know where one might store things like the mortgage papers, birth certificates and health cards)…my mind draws another blank. Now before the whole world thinks I am totally “non-compos mentis” much of the strategy behind finding a “safe place” has to do with the little fingers that live here.  Depending on the item, not only must it be safe but it also means that it is kept dry, flat, high-up, enclosed (no dust) while being retrievable. The little kids will search and destroy (and occasionally snack on the item) and the bigger ones will do crazy things like take out their birth certificates to school (presumably to show friends and hopefully not to create fake IDs) and then lose them costing time and money to replace. So my “safe place” often becomes so “safe” that I have no idea where the loot actually is!

Memo to self… “Understand you are an old goat and start making writing this down!”

This not remembering where I put things terrifies the children. They BEG my husband to confiscate items being seized through disciplinary measures. The kids tell their dad “please don’t let mom ground me off that …by the time she remembers where she put it I will be in college!” So TRUE! One little guy’s Gameboy I put in a “safe place” (largely to protect it from his thieving brethren) and when I finally discovered it a year and a half later not only was the battery an issue but the child had completely outgrown the game!

But in spite of my hapless mind it does work wonders for saving money. I put the funds in a “safe place” and decades later I find dollars I forgot I was trying to save. While there are those that would feel badly for the distress I cause to my family with my absent mindedness…I this memory issue also help me to forget most of their trespasses and therefore they all live to see another day. I am not the grudge bearing type…good thing too I am not as I doubt I would remember to stay angry!

There is the ultimate “safe place” I am still working on finding. It would be one where my tribe might not find me for whole 30 minutes…(I can dream) or maybe if I forget where I have hidden myself I might have a forced vacation (and like it)!

There is the ultimate “safe place” I am still working on finding. It would be one where my tribe might not find me for whole 30 minutes…(I can dream) or maybe if I forget where I have hidden myself I might have a forced vacation (and like it)!

Memo to self… “Understand you are an old goat and start making writing this down!” (Problem is l would like put those notes in a “safe place” too!)

The Garden Goat

 

A “hairy bird” goes back to school

Well…summer raced by as I played cook, nursemaid, parole officer (same difference) and supreme ruler of my universe to the multitudes in the absence of my husband (gone for about 12 weeks of medical care in another city following serious surgery to his ankle). There are certainly many freedoms in being the only one looking after the entire tribe. Basically it looked like this…my way…or else. (!!) On the flip side…12 weeks of being the only parent 24/7 to a tribe of 9 (8 months and up) is completely…exhausting! Oh..and yes the husband was doing helpful “things”  all along that I took for granted and discovered this truth in his absence.

Sadly it is now time for school and the summer has come to a close.

Sadly it is now time for school and the summer has come to a close. The majority of my offspring are NOT looking forward to joining the ranks of their peers on the yellow buses headed for “higher learning.” With one exception, a little boy who starts Grade One this year can’t wait to start school and be “gone” for the whole day. Wait until he finds out the truth about school. Yep…I can see me in about a month dragging the same child out from under the covers and trying to regale him with “fun” things about school. The sad reality is more often than not Grade One heralds the end of a carefree imagination and is replaced by doing things “the right way.” It will be a year where his imaginary friends will die mercilessly …slaughtered by the cold words of “cooler” kids on the playground. I won’t hear about how he has packed all his toys and together he and the toys have had adventures all over the world in one day. Some other realist out there will be sure to let my son know this is also IMPOSSIBLE to do. I hope that after a year of Grade One he still believes in the IMPOSSIBLE. As belief in the impossible is the only way I can get through a moment (never mind one FULL day).

“Back to school” would not be complete without back to school shopping (very last-minute over here). This is truly very overrated. A national school supply chain heralds this season as “The most wonderful time of the year.” (See you tube ad at bottom of post.) Nothing could be further from the truth!

The younger crowd does not care about any school supplies other than having a “cool” back pack/lunch kit. The older kids would prefer NO lunch kit…as this is so “lame.” (??) Apparently to show up in school with a plastic bag in a world conscious of green decisions to protect the environment is somehow NOT lame (?). This is because “everyone else is doing it.” If I hear the rationale just one more time that “everyone else does this…” I will have a bird (Not to worry my kids and their friends really want to see this). This is just the shopping for the mundane luggage to cart one’s lunch and paraphernalia around in. It gets better!

Then we get to school supplies. When I went to school mostly everything was provided and it was a public school system (although throughout life I have been a connoisseur of private, and public and homeschooling). I used to be so excited for the new coloured pencils and crayons. Well that has all changed. Some schools want everything provided from the paper and pens, through glue sticks, rulers and scissors and on to calculators, tennis balls (for the feet on your kid’s chair) and then (let us not ever forget) huge amounts of KLEENEX. With the numbers I deal with… to be providing 6 boxes of tissues per child is way more than this crowd will ever use (or want to use…sadly) in a year. I got to wonder if the excess supplies are to stock the yearly school garage sale for future fundraising. No, perhaps the secret behind the copious amount of tissues required is the teachers are in dire need of Kleenex  themselves as they have to deal with a cross-section of humanity in dwarf sizes and varying degrees of maturity.

The older crowd are busy regaling me with the need that not only do they need calculators but now most of their buddies have their own laptops. So what? Then it is time for the (newly) teenager-daughter to pipe up that she CAN’T go to school without a cell phone in her possession. When I point out the fact that this child rides the bus to and fro school and is supposed to be in school learning … so “like” what would you need a cell for (?). The answer slays me. It is so that she can “text” her buddies…the ones sitting in class with her (you know the ones less than an arm’s length distance away)…oh and also to be sure she not ostracized for being not “cool” as she MUST be (at least) “seen” with a cell phone. “Mom a cell phone is a basic necessity!“ The phone is mostly for show, taking pictures, texting and in short a distraction to any school work that actually might occasionally occur. So, nah… a BIG NO when it comes to a cell phone for this kid. I am real popular at this point.

One a side note I love the “MUST-HAVES” list no one seems to care how all of this will be funded or afforded. I have learned in the eons of years I have been at this game that most of the requested school supplies are “nice to haves.” If I miss something critical you may be sure the teacher will let me know (in addition to many reminders from the child in question).

Chalkboard with lines only spend what I need

One a side note I love the “MUST-HAVES” list no one seems to care how all of this will be funded or afforded!

Moving on to the clothing (or lack thereof)…the little kids are fairly easy to please. A pair or two of shoes, some shirts and jeans (hand-me-downs) and everything is fine. The older kids…not so much. “Oh I can’t wear that”, “too lame”, “I look too fat” (child who is less than average weight), “I am too old for Disney” (did not think ANYONE was ever TOO old for Disney). The comments continue “I am not a nun…I am not wearing that!” The latest, “I need clothes that cover my hairy legs mom because you won’t let me shave!” (This kid is barely ten and I cannot locate “peach fuzz” on her…even with a magnifying glass!). Course then “the-who-is-allowed-to-shave” becomes the topic of conversation as we move on to the next store. Finally I offer to supply the new teenager with a disposable razor. Well the lip is curled up (Duh…Mom goofed again) “when I said shave I was sure you would take me to a spa and have my legs waxed like so-and-so’s mom does!” Again…a definite “NO” at my end. Disposable razor…take it or leave it. I know people older than I who t have worked all their lives and never been to a spa. Since when did “waxing” at a “spa” become the norm for a kid still in grade school?

Morale of the story …more is less. My kids have rulers, some paper, new shoes all bundled into existing backpacks (ones that weren`t overgrown with too much lunch mould from last year) and a few lunch kits and are now ready for school.  Decided to keep the bulk of the tissues here to mop up the tears from those disappointed from not getting “the basics” on this shopping trip.

No longer need to threaten to have a hairy bird…apparently one lives with me already!

Goat scrubbing bathtub spa

Have yet to find a SPA that accepts goats!

The Garden Goat

(Have yet to find a SPA that accepts goats!)

An “ALIEN” because I like having my kids around in Summer-(thought I was one anyway with a Large Family)

Summer is half way over and I am astonished at the number of people I meet (when I spring lose out of my cage occasionally) that look at me and say “I bet you can hardly wait until they are all back in school!” This statement is hilarious given that it is usually delivered to me by another mom of two (maximum three) children and often after I have witnessed this parent’s exasperation at the antics of their offspring in public. I am often incognito. Shopping or running errands with just a nominal few from my tribe. I appear in the grocery store as someone who can be trusted as I almost pass for “normal” by society’s standards by having only 2 or three kids with me.

School closed for summer

“I bet you can hardly wait until they are all back in school!”

I am afraid that my answer to this question is the one that reveals my true identity as a keeper of a large number of kids. I always answer “No…not really… I like having my children around and miss them when they are in school!” At this point the interviewing parent tilts their head while looking me over head to toe (likely in hopes of spotting ALIEN skin or other extraterrestrial attributes). After checking me out they say “Really?… No one has ever told me THAT before. It must be that you have a lot of help from your husband and family and you never have to spend much time cooped up with kids and no help.” (!!)

At this point the interviewing parent tilts their head while looking me over head to toe (likely in hopes of spotting ALIEN skin or other extraterrestrial attributes).

By this stage it is all I can do to maintain a straight face. This entire summer I have been with 9 kids or more…(counting a grandchild and “other” children coming over to play) all by myself as my husband had surgery in another city and has had to recuperate there to avail himself of the post-surgery physiotherapy care in that location. Yes… “cooped up” might be a way to describe it…although not mine.

Big marketing bucks are spent by retailers every fall hyping up the back to school season. One office / school supply store (national chain) is famous for their rendition of a Christmas carol played in late August/September recognizing the joy with which parents shop for back to school using the tune “It is the most wonderful time of the year….” (A time it is assumed parents eagerly await more than children wait for Christmas.)

In my attempts (although feeble) to fit in with mainstream society I thought I would answer in the affirmative the next time this question came up. Well that went well. I told this woman I could NOT WAIT until the “rug rats” where back in school. She looked at my three and said she could understand as she only had one and did not know how I managed the three little ones I had with me that day. I could not keep the deceit up any longer so with a broad grin I said “no…the ones I wanted back in school were the “other six” I left at home.” Yep back to looking like an Alien again. Total shock is immediately registered on the “other” parent’s face.

But seriously, I do admit there are challenging times and moments here and there where I do think about what it was like when everyone had a place to be (school) but on the whole I like my kids and I like being around them. I am bold enough to tell people exactly how it is. I like that summer lets bedtimes be relaxed, that more time is spent on creative relaxation (with the exception of a few teenagers with employment commitments) and that there is no homework. I also love that playing outside (like when I was little), making friends and playing with each other are rediscovered.  I like getting reacquainted with my kids in their more relaxed state. Not racing to complete homework, stay late for choir, gym practice or other extracurricular activities. I love watching them play the kind of games they invent (especially our crowd as the numbers often outweigh the equipment available at any one time) and the dynamics as they unfold between all of them.

cartoon kids playing summer

Things I have learned is the children get along much better when no parent is watching.

Fall comes all too fast and with it the hurried life of school schedules, homework, extracurricular activities and I close the book on the pages of another summer’s carefree playing and imagination I do so with some sadness. Sometimes I look back and think I learned the most about who my children truly are during the summer months. Don’t get me wrong it is all not a bed of roses and I have some scars to prove it. I am often cleaning the house with a blowtorch and power-sander (and that is just bath time!).

I profoundly miss them once they return to school. Things I have learned is the children get along much better when no parent is watching. When push comes to shove they do care about each other (regardless of the atrocious insults they have been known to hurl at each other), and no activity or equipment can match the creative solutions and games this bunch will come up with on their own. By far the best expenditure this summer was $20 to purchase 5 sets of second-hand roller blades. Hockey is being played as are races. The older more accomplished kids have set themselves up as the “skating coaches” for the younger kids. When my kids show up back in school, while they may not boast about what fun they had on a cruise or family vacation I do know that this summer will go down as one of the most fun…with each other.

kids summer

As for “most wonderful time of the year” that would be now…when everyone is home!

So,YES…I will miss my kids when they return to school, and NO, I am not looking forward to the fall. As for “most wonderful time of the year” that would be now…when everyone is home!

The ALIEN Garden Goat

Circle of Moms Top 25 Moms with Big Families - 2012

You can vote for me EVERYDAY (until Aug 1) at: http://www.circleofmoms.com/top25/Top-25-Moms-With-Big-Families-2012#_

EXCITING NEWS! The Garden Goat has been nominated for a contest featuring top 25 blogs written by moms of large families. You can vote for me EVERYDAY (until Aug 1) at: http://www.circleofmoms.com/top25/Top-25-Moms-With-Big-Families-2012#_