How the Smallest Things Can Change Your Soul

Turkey Happy Thnks FB timeline 2015

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

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

Grattitude Changes Attitude2

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

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

Then I came across a quote on Facebook that read:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian followers!

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

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Christmas at School…Secret Santa NOT!

Secret-Santa_2013-GG2

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, if you are like me, your kids deluge you with handouts, notices and invitations to volunteer at the school all in the name of celebrating the upcoming holiday. This would be fine if this is where it ended…but sadly… no. My kids then go on to tell me verbally  not only the school’s plans but how some kid’s parents go all out with the holiday celebrations and send trays of homemade treats to the school and how they wish I would do that for them. (!!!) Before I sound too cynical, in my youth (years ago), when I had only two or three (kids) in school, I was the young mom, carrying the baby and hauling in full-size, homemade gingerbread houses full of candy to each classroom. Much to the delight of my own children who would then bask in the glow of fellow classmate’s appreciate as the ensuing afternoon turned into a zoo. Those remaining hours of the day were apparently quite entertaining as the children were lost in thought “scheming” to steal a bite from the house while the teacher struggled to keep the class on task. I never once considered the nightmare I had created for the class teacher.

Now years later, I am much wiser (although much older and tired). I have now streamlined my celebratory spirit to (sometimes) include a general Christmas card delivered to the school secretary on the last day before Christmas holidays.

Goat-and-santa-hat-and-gingerbread-house

The pressure to celebrate is alive and well in our school system. Enter “Secret Santa.”This is supposedly a program designed to have each child bring in a token gift to exchange anonymously with a fellow classmate. Sounds like something from a greeting card. The note home, at first glance conveys the thoughtful, peaceful spread of some holiday classroom fun…at least on the surface. “Secret Santa” started out last year in my daughter’s grade 6 class as a very benign activity spreading holiday cheer with each child drawing a classmate’s name out of a hat and shopping for an item less than  $5.00 in cost. It sounded reasonable.

secret-santa-logo

“Sure” was my answer to the 11-year old wanting to be the “Secret Santa” and shop for a surprise for her peer. This was doable as I had an entire week in which to make this happen.

Next morning, making the lunches the 11-year old says “I can’t go to school because we don’t have Rice Krispy Squares”-??? Did I miss something? Yep-apparently in the week leading up to the “Secret Santa” gift, each day there are to be special things happen to the peer (the one whose name was picked out of the hat).  These “special things” are designed to give “clues” to the unsuspecting recipient. Well, to this “week-before-clue” thing, I said “sorry sweetheart, you will have to give some of your snack (carrots) as your special clue.” The answer …this boy (secret Santa kid) doesn’t like carrots …HE HATES THEM! I guess each child was to fill out a sheet indicating their favourite things and this little darling made sure everyone knew what he hated. CARROTS! (This vegetable is not normally a culinary custom at this time of year…not sure why the kids had to be so specific!) Oh well, packed up a conciliatory treat of some cheese and crackers as “the clue” for the CARROT HATER.

No-Carrots

Next day, just before bedtime (when the stores are closed and I am ready to call it a night),  the Secret Santa Helper announces that I need to pick up “Gatorade” as the clue for tomorrow! (Really?) Race out to the corner store, purchase the requested liquid and then turn into bed for the evening. Tomorrow will be a breeze…or so I thought.  Next morning…more tears… the “helper” forgot to mention that it HAD to be BLUE Gatorade!!! I guess the CARROT HATER does not like orange anything! While out shopping later in the day, I found a few chocolate bars (on sale) and thought that would help with “clues” for the CARROT HATER. Next morning, more tears…”I can’t take in chocolate… my teacher said the next clue HAS to be a small toy!” UGH! (I am thinking I should take time off work and bake a candy laden gingerbread house, deliver it early in the morning to this teacher’s class and let the zoo begin…just out of badness!) Day three…I now have several little toys from the dollar store that can serve as clues. My daughter will be proud of me today as will the CARROT HATER and the teacher. As I proudly present “the clues” to my daughter (in the hopes of regaining some morsel of appreciation) I am told that this day the teacher said that the clue needs to be “handmade.” I am done. I tell my kid to get the teacher to call me. (NOOOO…gingerbread is TOO GOOD for this teacher) No phone call. (Teacher is likely sick from eating all the carrots other parents must have sent in for the CARROT HATER).

Later that night the daughter wants me to take her shopping…again… I ask why. Apparently we still need to get the Secret Santa gift (?). It is not enough that I have already spent more time, money and THOUGHT on a child I do not know (and I am beginning to loathe)… I now have to shop for a gift? The rules are:

  • under $5
  • nothing smelly
  • no liquid
  • must be thoughtful
  • no cash

After an entire hour shopping for the CARROT HATER we are still no closer to find a gift my daughter thinks the teacher will endorse. Frustrated… I ask what about just enclosing a $5.00 bill in a really, really nice hand-drawn card?? This was answered in the negative (of course) all because the teacher said NO MONEY…period. At this point I am seeing the teacher as a diabolical force intent on ruining Christmas ahead of time with this demented secret-Santa scheme.

5.00 bill

Christmas I thought was supposed to be fun. Instead it has become a make-work project engineered to exhaust the parents, create turmoil and conflict and somehow in all of this, the kid receiving these clues/gifts is to be happy. I will show you HAPPY! Finally found some puzzle, gender and colour neutral, toy/game that just squeaked under the limit at $4.99! Slam –dunk done! This was the official day for Secret Santa. No more clues, lists, late-night trips out, tears …WE ARE ALL DONE (carrots not withstanding). Hurray!

Real Santa Claus

Real Santa Claus

That is until my kid comes home from school with her secret Santa gift…you got it…a FIVE DOLLAR BILL! Naturally I need to know about what “clues” were given…apparently none. Why money when the teacher said NO? Because this giver’s mom said it was stupid to run around and shop for someone you do not know and that everyone accepts money. Then I find out the parent who sent the $5 bill is the CARROT HATER’S mom…who knew?

I think all matters regarding Santa should be left to the one and only REAL Santa. As for the teacher…there are no words to describe what I wanted to say… I think the teacher should get a carrot-shaped lump of coal in their stocking.

The Garden Goat Goat-in-Santa-hat

Walk a mile in my moccasins before you judge me!

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

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

“…promptly removing the child from the premises…”

Fast forward about 25 years.

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

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

Wrong!

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

Exit the possessed, annoyed toddler and very embarrassed husband.

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

“…the possessed, annoyed toddler… “

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garden-Goat-Logo-_JCA

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

THE GARDEN GOAT

What really scares teenage boys

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

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

What really scares teenage boys...

What really scares teenage boys…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back downstairs to talk to the boys.

"why Duct Tape?"

“why Duct Tape?”

“Why the duct tape?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Garden Goat

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

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

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.

Does having baggage mean I am on vacation?

If the definition of taking a vacation starts with packing one’s baggage then I have enough of that on board to take a vacation anywhere anytime!

If the definition of taking a vacation starts with packing one’s baggage then I have enough of that on board to take a vacation anywhere anytime!

Well… nearly everyone I know is either just returning from or planning for a holiday. You know one of those times you get to spend (with or without loved ones) on yourself. Hopefully away from where you live and definitely away from work. My whole life I have wondered what that might be like.

Catering to the tribe that I am responsible for has not afforded me to date any time to myself in which to have to weigh the intricacies of planning one’s life away from home. Though it does sound delightful to have to ponder where on the planet to go, what to see, how long to be there. Ruminating about how others are caught up with these specifics are about as close as I will likely get to such an escape until at least the smallest members are toilet-trained.

Many folks tell me that life is about choices. On the one hand, very true and yet in another way although we may choose (or think we chose) wisely, fate will sometimes twist the entire situation regardless of the stellar choice selected at the beginning. In some ways choices is a bit like a game show with doors one, two and three…all being of equal value but different. A five-thousand dollar ring money-wise is dollar for dollar comparable to your entire street being paved in waffles (10 feet high) but I for one would prefer the ring (unless it is dinnertime around here…of course).

Life is not made to order regardless of all the appropriate check boxes being selected. Some of the greatest plans get sidetracked and some of the most random, spur of the moment stuff actually pans out. I think vacations are like that. The weather might not cooperate, the attractions were not quite like the brochure, the perfect day for the beach is the day you are sick.  Not to mention other things like losing your luggage (not baggage that would be too easy) or finding out the hotel was slightly better than a group home.

Goat in bathtub

“I know several moms of little ones that would think they had died and gone to heaven to be able to spend 40 minutes ALONE in the bathroom..”

Relative to what you are used to (and what you need to) recharge your batteries… a vacation could be anything. I know several moms of little ones that would think they had died and gone to HEAVEN to be able to spend 40 minutes ALONE in the bathroom and emerge with hair, nails and relaxing bath all completed. I personally would settle for just ten minutes without the customary pounding on the door, crayon scribbled ransom notes slipped underneath, screwdrivers shoved in the door handle or shouts of “fire” as I try to forget (for as long as it takes to brush one’s teeth) that I am needed NOW….(again) by the natives.

Not really complaining…just noticing that I am content with less…and that is good thing.

A trip out to have my haircut without my loyal following is amazing. The thing that speaks the most to me is the space in my head (no… not because I was having my hair cut) but the ability to complete whole thoughts without hearing “mom….” I can only imagine that a true vacation would be hours, days and weeks without hearing “mom…” Sounds out of this world…perhaps I should plan one soon. I cannot imagine all the ideas I will have when I can be alone in my thoughts.

Then I come home from having my hair cut and the three-year old races to the front door throwing her little arms tightly around my neck “Oh mommy where have you been? I missed you!” Hugs and kisses from the littlest…I am done! I totally forget my resolve.On Second thought… while I like little snippets of time to myself…I think I will gladly postpone a longer vacation until this little one is older. (Although I think I would like to increase the time in the loo by a few more moments).

Part of making good choices is to recognize one’s limitations and plan for success accordingly. Next move will be to plan a vacation in my own bathroom. I will leave the ransom note ahead of time mentioning that I have been abducted and that I gave all my magical powers to Dad, (whom they never bother in the bathroom…go figure) oh and maybe leave some delectable snack (not chocolate or anything too messy) on the counter (in arm’s reach) in the kitchen while I pursue my mini vacation.

Goat in the bath

“Next move will be to plan a vacation in my own bathroom.”

It will be revitalizing to say the least. Clean body, hair, face and clothes all on the same day! If the definition of taking a vacation starts with packing one’s baggage then I have enough of that on board to take a vacation anywhere anytime! (At the rate someone here tries to scream “fire” when the bathroom is occupied by mom, perhaps a better plan would be for me to yell “fire” call emergency services and while my progeny run all over the neighborhood in disbelief head into the shower for five minutes to myself.)

I now think I will plan such a vacation…wonder if I will have a chance to run the bath long enough to make some bubbles before the local authorities catch up to my moment of indulgence. If I get busted, I guess I will have to resort back to daily showering in the dark (before anyone wakes in the morning) for a whole three minutes and then slither out in the cold darkness, hair now frozen and damp (no need for hairspray) to my car and go to work. Where as I drive in to my place of employment I remember who is not at work but “on vacation.”

A Garden Goat with a plan.

"Next move will be to plan a vacation in my own bathroom."

“Next move will be to plan a vacation in my own bathroom.”

To have and to fold from this day forward…

or how to train the average male to do his own laundry…for life!

Many years ago I was at a friend’s wedding seated with other friends. A rather traditional bunch in which I was clearly the most forward thinking at the table. As a variety of speeches were made and toasts offered to the new couple, many innuendos alluding to old school expectations regarding housework were evident. The majority of these couples were young and many of them were one-income families with young kids. I was one of the few at the table from a two-income family. Everyone at the table decided to watch my reaction, which was observant silence, until the friend to the right of me talked about how to get her husband to help with the laundry… All eyes were on me.

how to get her husband to help with the laundry… All eyes were on me.

how to get her husband to help with the laundry… All eyes were on me.

Then it started. I asked what laundry was this husband not doing…his own or the family’s (i.e. the kids). It turns out that “Romeo”, being the chief breadwinner, felt he was exempt from any laundry duties including his own dirty clothes. Betty Crocker was busy taking care of four children and trying to keep up to Romeo’s extensive laundry. After a few moments of conducting further fact-finding, the dirty details were divulged. This boy was wearing many different outfits during the day, going daily to the gym, the office and then dressing down for casual outings with “his friends” and so on.

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

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

Answer from my end …really simple. Just don’t do his laundry he will get the picture. Well apparently this would not work for Romeo because he will just go out and by “more” clothes. This friend reminded me that I had been known (in the circle I moved in) as the one who motivated her newlywed husband to amazing ownership of his personal laundry in spite of being raised by a mom who did all the laundry in the house.

I had to start somewhere, “Where does your husband leave his laundry?” The answer was so typical “In piles on the floor.” Oh good this will be much easier than I thought.

Start collecting all the laundry the dear boy leaves around the house and place in a green garbage bag and then hide the bag. DO NOT REVEAL the location. Check for clothes in gym bag and do likewise. The most important item to collect is underwear. All of a sudden you will notice Romeo taking an interest in the dryer and where the laundry is stored. Do not get prematurely excited that he is now interested in the laundry. Under NO circumstance reveal the location of the intimates. You will have to get creative where you can store the evidence. Be smart and do not choose such places as his golf bag or behind the lazy boy in the TV room. Pick hiding places like where you keep the mop and bucket to wash floors (or where the vacuum and/or other cleaning supplies) reside.

Then proceed to the local department store and buy a package of the exact opposite colour and style of the undies he usually wears

Then proceed to the local department store and buy a package of the exact opposite colour and style of the undies he usually wears

As the circle of clean undies dwindles the gym guy will become more frustrated and head out to buy new underwear (preferably white). Either way just continue capturing the dirty linen and hiding it. Romeo will suddenly start paying attention to where he is leaving his laundry. He will suddenly become very considerate and mindful of where he drops his drawers. Do not give in and think this the training is complete. This is just the beginning.(!!)

Hiding the dirty clothes will get harder and harder as the dear husband begins to retrace his steps and takes better notice of where he is leaving his clothes. One day he will snap and announce that he has no more undergarments and demand to know what is going on. Smile sweetly and tell him you will make it a priority to locate his finer things and see they get washed. Then proceed to the local department store and buy a package of the exact opposite colour and style of the undies he usually wears (if he wears white buy dark coloured and vice versa hopefully in a size smaller and 100% cotton). Call up the husband at work and offer to do something like make a special dinner or watch a movie. Sweetly hand him the new (incorrect) underwear you just bought. This will hopefully be met with some appreciation for effort (although not always).

Next day husband likely to roar again when he realizes the only clean stuff he owns is the dreadful stuff you bought. 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.  Wait until the husband has vacated the premises for more than a few just a few moments. Now locate all the dirty gym clothes /underwear lot and put everything in together (the more colours in with the whites the better). Throw some random favourite clothes (ones you never liked anyway) and then pour about a ½ bottle of Javex bleach in and set the wash to very hot and the most aggressive cycle possible.

Remove from washer and dry on hottest setting possible. Do NOT worry that certain prime locations in the underwear are threadbare (or less) nor that the once white underwear is varying shades of pastel tie-dye or that the dark underwear has large spots of what looks like a highlighter marker was used. JUST DRY and do not add fabric softener. Lovingly fold the fresh, moth-eaten, shrunken undies and stack in a laundry bin. If he is not home… phone him and tell him you have great news… you found the laundry and got it all done for him… it is waiting in such and such a place.

Believe me, when he catches up with his stuff you will NEVER again be ALLOWED to touch his laundry, (far less wash or fold it) and he will never again take off clothes and leave them lying around anywhere…even twenty years later.

Believe me, when he catches up with his stuff you will never again be ALLOWED to touch his laundry, (far less wash or fold it)

Believe me, when he catches up with his stuff you will NEVER again be ALLOWED to touch his laundry, (far less wash or fold it)

After regaling the table with my domestic version of “home economics 101” I do not think anyone believed me. Dark looks around the table as this crew of ladies all thought I was nuts.

Many years later, after forgetting about all of this a friend called me because the gal I had spoken with at the table (so long ago) had made the mistake of innocently shrinking her husband’s sweater and instead of passing it off as a random accident apparently some saucy girlfriend (myself) from years ago was blamed. (No wonder that couple never invited me over.) Too funny!

I hear all those guys from that table have been doing their own laundry for years…(!!)

I hear all those guys from that table have been doing their own laundry for years…(!!)

I hear all those guys from that table have been doing their own laundry for years…(!!)

The Garden Goat

“Love is…” Valentines Day February 14th 2013

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always and perseveres.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 

"Love is ..."

In honour of Valentine’s Day every single parent I know is living through a very busy the-night-before getting heart-shaped things ready for the school-aged crowd. Evidence of this celebration is everywhere. The 14th of February is the second largest card-sending holiday of the year (according to the Greeting Card Association) with an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards sent each year. Even one of the gals I work with spent time on the 13th getting Valentines for her children… 25 and 28-year-old sons and their wives/fiancés.

I got home from work and felt like someone a hundred years older than I am. Hundreds (nah just a half dozen or so) of children (granted …my own) met me at the door asking if I had their valentine cards and stuff for their classmates. Yep…I bought those months ago…except, sadly, I cannot remember the safe location I stored them in. Try and explain to a Grade One student how you cannot remember where you put an item when you have placed it “somewhere safe.” Thank goodness for the local dollar store. Dozens of red, heart shaped lollipops … (albeit a few bucks later) and my raging mid-forties Alzheimer symptoms can (hopefully) remain a secret for another year.

For many years I never celebrated Valentine’s Day as that was the day many moons ago a stranger asked me out for dinner and I turned him down. That particular day I had returned home from working all day, and getting ready to go out with a male friend for dinner and then on to a choir practice. The stranger (who had bumped into me a few times in the lobby of my apartment building) had knocked on my door that evening with card and chocolates in hand. Not being someone easily deterred the stranger persisted asking if I might be interested in “going for coffee” after the choir practice. Here comes the embarrassing part…I had to decline again because I had already accepted another invitation for just that (actually more “coffee & dessert”) with another boy I knew. Thinking that declining this guy’s advances not just once but twice would completely negate another request from this guy…but no, the stranger persisted. Was I doing anything at supper time the next night (Feb 15th)?  The stranger caught me off guard and I answered that I had nothing planned.

So I had dinner with the valentine-chocolate-bearing-stranger on February 15th and pretty much the rest is history. This summer we will be married 22 years! It is only in the last 3 years that we have celebrated Valentine’s Day on the 14th…most of my married life my husband has told everyone he refuses to celebrate Valentine’s Day as that was the day I spurned him!!

A person who truly loves you

You worked to restore the relationship and did not give up on people

Among the crowd I run with, this question was posed on Facebook recently ..  “why can love be like it was 50 years ago?”  I will leave it up to you to imagine the type of responses that question drew. Many answers were centered on a male-dominated world of yesteryear where women could not easily stand up to abusive men. Another answer was to say that overall empowerment women have today (as a whole) compared with the societal restrictions place on women (in general) half a century ago- have created a more balanced arena in which to play the dating game. I watched to see how the teenage /young adult crowd would answer.

One answer that stood out was “Because 50 years ago when things broke we fixed them!” So true…our relationships were mostly maintained by face-to-face time, phone calls and the occasional letter. If something “went down” (or was misinterpreted) it impacted your life immediately and had to be handled in person. You worked to restore the relationship and did not give up on people. Nowadays you can break up by text, email and Facebook and then block the person you want removed from your life. Next step is to find brand new people to fill the void left by the friend you have thrown out. Same thing with marriages, breakup, move on, shop for new relationship (wash, rinse and repeat).

Family isnt always blood

…”remember everyone in life we love.”

Valentine’s Day should be a day to remember everyone in life we love. Regardless of water under the bridge. If you truly love someone you will never give up on them no matter what happens or even if they give up on you. Love bears all things.

Goat Valentine love you

The Garden Goat

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…”

1 Corinthians 13:7-8

Heads Up!

So I entered the New Year 2013 just like everyone else on the planet (pretty much) vowing to make significant changes to my everyday life that would turn my life around in “good” ways. One of those vows was to get a little more consistent in writing this blog and be sure to deliver a new post once a week. Seemed reasonable and achievable as it was not as though I was promising to go on an extreme diet and eat my way through mountains of carrots while neglecting my true love in life.. Chocolate. No, writing for me comes naturally and this would just mean being a little more organized and focused.

New years resolution sticky notes

“He said NO ONE really ever keeps those New Year’s resolutions.”

Being someone who often thinks I truly have “superpowers” I also often bite of more than I can ever hope to chew. Understanding my irrational exuberance (as evidenced when planning the lives of those around me) is something my husband seems to understand quite well. He said NO ONE really ever keeps those New Year’s resolutions. According to him it is more about recognizing that you have to make some changes, feeling great there is an actual day out there when your fellow humans (in droves) are doing the same and “fitting in.” Reality is, in less than 60 days there will be no trace of the enormous changes I wanted to make … so accept the reality and don’t waste the effort on something that will only fall by the wayside in mere weeks. Yep…like the great wife I am my inner voice screamed “I’ll show him.”

Not being one to  want to arm the natives where I live with anything more they can use against me there was no way I was writing down any resolutions that I was making. I would just store them in my head and then I would not have more than just personal accountability to wrangle with day-to-day. There is just something terrible about announcing to your entire family you are on a diet and being discovered and called out by the 3-year-old. “I saw mommy eating chocolate…in the bathroom BEFORE breakfast”-uh-huh…much easier to just commit your good intentions to memory.

a-charlie-brown-christmas-ice-skating

“One of my resolutions was to be more consistent in taking the small fry skating at the arena.”

One of my resolutions was to be more consistent in taking the small fry skating at the arena. I personally love skating and now that the littlest is a little older (more importantly I have the scoop on the teenagers in my life and can blackmail them into my service as babysitters.. THANK YOU Facebook!) and can be left home, my resolution was to take my 6, 8 and 11-year-old (and their cousins) public skating once a week.

Week 2.5 into the new year and things are going well…sort of…I still had not posted a new post but in my defence I was not only doing the weekly skating but also doing double duty at the outdoor rink at the end of the street (yes in my perverse mind extra skating made my tardy blog post schedule seem almost righteous!).

Skates

” I personally love skating!”

Well this all came to a crashing head…literally. With less than 10 minutes left of public skating time, two midget skaters (oh I would say Grade three level) not too much higher than my hips (I am almost 6 feet tall) crossed in front of me. The notion to fall on them and protect myself never occurred to me. Although my husband did point that “viable” (no really?) option after the fact. No, I instead whipped around to be sure I did not fall on them and instead lost my balance and smashed my head into the ice. All I saw was white light. Thinking I might be lucky enough to be having an out-of-body-experience I was caught up in what was happening (not too clear but bright light and pain) when I heard many people and kids (shucks NO out-of-body experience… I can still HEAR KIDS) all wondering if I was okay.

Skating Goat

Being someone who often thinks I truly have “superpowers” I also often bite of more than I can ever hope to chew!

Ice packs, more ice packs, paperwork from the arena and a drive home from my husband, I figured I am fine. Did all the “Dr. mom” checks…no dilation of eyes, no pressing need to vomit, no real confusion (beyond the normal I usually have)…if I was one of the kids I would have deemed the child fit. Three days later and I still have a headache…I write that off as everyday life. Who does not get a headache? (Rephrase…who with children does not a reoccurring headache?) After my family doctor sent me for a CT SCAN…the verdict arrived…massive concussion…off work for a week to rest.(!!)

Thinking perhaps I had scrambled the priority of what my resolutions should have been, as I wait for my large cranial bump to heal I am thinking that weekly blog posts are underrated almost as much as helmets.

The Garden Goat (and Helmet)

Garden Goat in Helmet

The Garden Goat (and Helmet)