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.

elie-run-gg3

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

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Raid my kids loot?

Survived another Halloween…the day after should never have been a Saturday. The Halloween pumpkin JCA _GGcreatures that live here got into the loot and then hid it all over the house. While the kids thought, they were cool and great spies…only to have their hiding spot discovered by the trail of wrappers and half-eaten candy bars. If that was not enough, the toddler crew got a hold of bubble gum and spat out what they did not like…(without the benefit of a nearby garbage). Part of this bedlam has lots to do with just being too tired this year to police the spoils.

I too… must confess. I am one of those parents who look forward to raiding the children’s Halloween loot for a few extra goodies to nibble on at work. This year that plan did not work so well. Just as starters, this year, I had only minimum child labour working the streets. I officially only had five kids out actively collecting goodies in costumes and two of these kids were four years old and under (sadly…they tire easily and the yield is minimal). At my revered age, this goat was too exhausted to sort all the candy except for the mandatory weed out of ALL peanut products to protect the severely allergic family members (myself included).

Years, gone by when there were 7 or more little goats working the streets (and I was younger and on my game), the loot would last for literally weeks. I had it locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Often, I was still enjoying Halloween spoils long after celebrating New Years, the following January.

Sugar-HeartIMG_1783_SMALLER

Unfortunately, this year, I underestimated the spell sugar still casts among the older crowd. Those who tell me daily they are adults (namely ages 22, 20, 17.5 and 15 years old), also lack any vestige of a social conscience. Those older teenagers surreptitiously raided the little kid’s loot as the children slept. Less than 48 hours past Halloween and not a chocolate bar could be found.  (!!) Okay…there must still be all that other junk like jaw-breakers, gum, licorice, exploding pop candy (I kid you not…actually one of my favourites). Nope, nothing…except the wrappers leading a trail to the older culprits.

Chocolate and prayer GG

In the old days, I used to go to work with enough goodies to share with co-workers right up to the Christmas Holidays. This year, on Monday, there was not even one tiny chocolate bar left to be had.

Halloween is a karma-type ritual where the universe gives parents all over the world…some payback. The sleepless nights with sick and crying kids, diapers, last-minute-homework (and a whole pile of other crisis and chaos) as each of us earns our stripes as parents.

Raid my kids loot?…Absolutely!…Halloween candy clearly is a perk of parenthood.

Candy-Halloween-GG

Whether I believe in all the reasons for or against Halloween, I am heavily invested. From early summer, when the little ones start planning costumes for Halloween to the ensuring all participants have costumes and on through to securing enough candy for an entire village to hand out on the day. Months of planning, scheming and saving up funds is dashed when as an adult I am forced to go to work without so much as a hint of sugar.

Last Monday, I sat in my office, no longer any evidence at work (post-Halloween) that I have a super-sized family (actually any kids for that matter). My childless co-workers have more chocolate than I do for the first time in forever. Memo to self for next year…raid the loot late on Halloween night stashing the goods at my office(across town) and bring select treats home every day, after work, but only for the under 12-years-old crowd.

In the meantime, I can be found scouring the Halloween sales until it is time to raid their Christmas Stockings, looking for chocolate!

The Garden Goat

There are no answers…only prayers

Canada-Flag-Half-mast-JCA captioned athan Cirillo was laid to rest with full ceremonial honours as Canada said goodbye to one of her sons.

Nathan Cirillo was laid to rest with full ceremonial honours as Canada said goodbye to one of her sons.

On Wednesday last week, something terrible happened in Canada. A young, innocent, noble man’s life was brutally taken by a violent attack as he stood guarding Canada’s national monument to peace and freedom. This murder happened at the war memorial in downtown Ottawa, Canada. In the wake of this horror, we as a nation, are learning some of the details. The murdered, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was a soldier with Canada’s reserve military and also the father of a 5-year-old child he was raising alone.

This is the second murder of military personnel in as many days with the ambush and killing of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, on Monday October 20th, 2014. (When he was struck in a targeted hit and run, in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.) Things have forever changed in Canada as we a nation struggle to understand what has happened as we will never understand why.

Words cannot describe the feelings here in Ottawa and throughout this country. Today, October 28th, 2014 Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was laid to rest with full ceremonial honours as Canada said goodbye to one of her sons.

While the public outrage focuses on the innocent victims, there are two other victims less known, the mothers of both the murdered and the killer. I cannot begin to fathom how either of them must feel. The soldier’s mother, with her hero son, violently and senselessly ripped away from her forever in 30 seconds of horrific brutality. The murderer’s mother, also losing her son as he is swiftly gunned down by federal security authorities.

As some of the background is explored, and the details are filled in, we are learning that mental illness may have played a role in the killing of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. It does not change for a moment that this young man in Canada’s employ had his future mercilessly and cruelly stolen in an instant. Nor, that the nation remains mourning the tragic loss of innocent life, and a little five-year-old has been left an orphan.

The murder’s mother released a statement indicating her anger at her son. She said that the tears she was shedding were for the victims of her son’s outrageous act and not for the loss of her own son.

Any mom that has had to deal with mental illness in a child is aware there is no quick cure and no easy fix. You straddle the path between love and support for your broken child and total abhorrence and shock for the actions of your own flesh. You seek help from mental health experts where you are counselled try to live each day as best you can. The path forward is a maze of opinions, stigma and at best, complete misunderstanding, even from family. You know there are issues. You stand alone with no clear answers. There is no easy solution. Outsiders and family alike judge you, they judge your actions and those of your child as though they are one and the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mental illness does not discriminate in choosing its victims. It is not well understood nor are the signs and symptoms that first appear in the teenage years and often ignored as just part of growing up. Parents are left bewildered as no matter what resources are engaged; no one has all the answers.

In the game of life, if we roll back the clocks, both moms were once in a hospital delivery room meeting their babies for the first time. Both the victim and the killer were once just tiny babies, wrapped in hospital blankets. Adorable, new human beings with a lifetime of potential stretching out in front of them.

We need to be sure that each child whom mental illness strikes down has the help they need, when they need it. As a nation we need to continue to advocate better support in the form of mental health research, awareness and access, especially for our teens and their parents.

Soldier-and-Canada-Flag-JCA The murdered, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was a soldier with Canada’s reserve military and also the father of a 5-year-old child he was raising alone. Rest in peace.

Rest in Peace.

Heartbreaking for a mother to watch over a lifetime, her baby grow up through mental illness, his life culminate in being a murderer who brought a country almost to its knees.

When we pray and think of the victims, let us keep a special place in our hearts for the mothers of both the victims and the perpetrators. Many of us parent troubled kids in this game called life without all the answers and enough support …we could use your prayers.

The Garden Goat

 

 

What Bugs Me

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

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

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

I soon developed “the bug protocol.”

I soon developed “the bug protocol.” ©copyright2014GardenGoatQuote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…resulting in many funny stories along the way ©copyright2014GardenGoatQuote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Garden Goat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunglasses

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

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

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

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

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

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

 The Garden GOAT

Goat sunning

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

 

How I do it…Minute to Minute

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

Denial-bottle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A very Blessed Garden Goat

PEST GUEST- A Hair Raising Experience

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

our pest guest

our pest guest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

garden-goat-logo-_jca

The Garden GOAT

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

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