Santa is real to those who believe

“For those who believe (in God), no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible” – – Author Unknown

Christmas-TimeWith the first snowfall comes the eager anticipation of Christmas…at least here in Canada. Those of us with a wide range of ages in our children are familiar with the question that seems to pop up as early grade school “Is Santa real?”

When all my little ones were under the age of 6 years old, I never worried about such a thought. The questions back then we “Can Santa Claus bring me… (such and such)?” or “Please don’t tell Santa I did that bad thing…promise?” I think the best one was “Don’t worry mommy and daddy about getting a new car, I asked Santa and I just know he will bring one for you on Christmas!” (!! Love it!)

Then came grade school and with it a multitude of layers of belief and questioning attitudes.

Some 7-year-old at school is all the talk this year because she managed to pull the beard off the Santa at the local shopping mall. Therefore, exposing all of her grade two classmates to her discovery, there is no Santa. This is until the mom over here points out the facts…that all the 7-year-old knows for sure is that Santa’s beard, on that day, was detachable. Bad hair day…so what! Cartoon-Santa

A very nice child in grade six took it upon himself to let my 6-year-old know that Santa was “fake.” All this because he sat up all Christmas eve at his window, did not see a sleigh, or reindeer and the next morning did not get what he had wanted for Christmas. Mom over here was able to mention that any child who stays up ALL CHRISTMAS EVE will not see Santa and possibly will not get anything from him…or so the rules go. Nothing new discovered here either.

Candycane-North-Pole

Then I got teenagers. They think they have EVERYTHING figured out. Occasionally, to change the balance in a family dispute, the 13-year-old, in a moment of defiance might offer to tell his siblings that he KNOWS there is no Santa. Again, I am able to let the small fry realize that the older sibling is only trying to make himself feel better. As due to his poor  behaviour…he won’t be getting what he is hoping for and that does not in itself mean there is no Santa.

I still have very little ones here at home. Thanks to society (and occasionally their disgruntled older siblings), I often find myself being grilled by the toddlers and little kids (cross-examination-style questions) on the reality of Santa Claus. For me, this discussion is easy. Santa Claus is actually St. Nicholas, a Catholic saint with access to heavenly powers and lots of magic. (Any further questions?)

Magic-for-GGThe distribution question on how does one man, eight reindeer visit an entire world’s worth of children in less than 24 with gifts for everyone…is also easily answered. Many saints have been known to bi-locate and employ the help of angels and have access to supernatural powers.

When asked “is Santa Claus for real” …my favourite answer is “Santa is real to those who believe…and not real to those who do not!” Followed up by “Who here BELIEVES in Santa?”… (a big show of little hands) I thought so…

Believe-Christmas-Do-dec-2012-EDIT-JCA-GG-2014

Looking forward to another magical December 25th for kids big and small at my house!

The Garden Goat

One who believes in Santa Claus

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

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.

IMG_1037_copy2014

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

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

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

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

 The Garden GOAT

Goat sunning

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What could I say? Whatever works!

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

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

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

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!

Does “family” have a limit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…could qualify for a “bonus bag” ….”

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

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

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

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

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

The Garden Goat

Goat in Garbage can

I am patiently waiting for the next “Garbage Day”

 
 
 
*Canadian census 2006

PLEASE report me…NOW!

This weekend, while feeling terrible (the entire tribe was sick with high fevers and sore throats… a mystery illness… including this old goat) …my doorbell rang. As is customary in this place when someone is at the door literally a crowd of children run to the door and I am lucky if I even make it to the door (stepping on bodies everywhere) far less if I am able to even determine why the interruption (as the kids always get there first) occurred.  This is largely due to the fact that the majority of people coming to the door are friends of the inmates that live here. When you have the brood I do…very few people come to actually visit me.

This day was different in that the seven-year-old told me that “Mrs. Thatcher” was at my door and she MUST speak with me…NOW. Not really knowing a “Mrs. Thatcher” …I said tell the lady your mom is sick and get her number so I can call her back. The 7-year old did as I asked except only to return moments later reporting that “the woman” said she must speak with me NOW as it is very serious and urgent I come to the front door at once.

Nice. I was prostrate on the couch after several rounds of cheap medication (Tylenol and Advil) and fighting a fever of well over 103° (f)!

Well after struggling to get up and to the door I am greeted by this vision, an older, well dressed, British (?) lady very upset who was angrily telling me that she is “going to have to report me.” Now not too sure it was either the medication or the fever speaking.. so I asked to whom or what body this “vision” would in fact be reporting on me (and my ailing carcass) (?) The answer was astounding…“the authorities.” ( I wondered for a moment if the invasion of aliens as a zombie apocalypse was already upon us and must confess to being secretly excited for a change of pace from being sick!)

"I am going to have to report you..."

“I am going to have to report you…”

Having had high hopes in the past of being carted off for any number of reasons that might force a rest/vacation on my weary soul… I am not one to wave away such offers of incarceration casually. While grasping the wall (as I leaned against it) I did manage to crook my head in such a way as to see past this older women’s silhouette enough to ascertain that there were no “authorities” present that the naked eye could detect.

The thought of being treated to an incarceration where I would be relieved of my duties presiding over this tribe, given clean clothes (I did not have to wash or press) and a bed… plus regular meals and I could stay on this holiday until some jury decided otherwise…was all too tempting!!

I explained to this woman that I was in spite of my cheery disposition… I was rather ill and therefore confused as to why she wanted to apprehend me in the first place. Meanwhile in my head I was trying to account for all the natives in the house wondering if while I was languishing on the couch perhaps some inmates escaped…possibly causing havoc in the neighborhood…maybe trampling the poor dear’s spring tulip bed (?). No, seemed like everyone was accounted for. Besides in scanning for “the authorities” I had not detected any child protection agency representatives as evidenced by no unusual vehicles in the vicinity (when you send those guys to an address like this one you need several vehicles to manage the number of kids being seized).

Now this woman was a mystery.

I took a chance and told her to go right ahead and report me to the authorities. I deserved whatever she had in mind. (!!!) (Had I not been so sick I would have managed at least an evil grin!) Well she looked a little shocked that I would be so compliant and then started to explain.

Goat in Jail best

PLEASE REPORT ME
“An incarceration where I would be relieved of my duties presiding over this tribe, given clean clothes (I did not have to wash or press) and a bed with regular meals and could stay on this holiday until some jury decided otherwise”

Apparently this woman felt I did not care enough about someone who lived at my house. (Now she had my attention.) Could not be the husband (although I am sure he often thinks I do not care enough about him as he reclines in bed trying to heal his ankle from his most recent surgery unable to bear any weight on this limb until at least 12 weeks have passed) but unless he is sending out smoke signals from the bedroom how would his plight have reached the ears of the woman on my doorstep? Doubtful it was any of the kids as this was Mother’s Day and it is the one day a year I am considered “a saint” in my own domain. Could not be one of them complaining…on Mother’s Day.

Now I am figuring this senior gal has perhaps mixed my address up with someone else’s…right?

No…WRONG!

Apparently this whole commotion is because my little white dog managed to get out the front door as the hot water tank technician came into our home on an emergency visit (thank goodness for him…9 kids…everyone sick and no hot water …Mother’s Day notwithstanding) to reinstate baths and loads of laundry for the faithful. All of this because of a little dog.

I think I stood in total disbelief staring…(and NOT because of the Tylenol and Motrin).

...after several rounds of cheap medication (Tylenol and Advil) and fighting a fever of well over 103° (f)!

…after several rounds of cheap medication (Tylenol and Advil) and fighting a fever of well over 103° (f)!

This lady went on to explain she has a little dog and that if I am this careless in allowing this dog to escape then she will have to notify “the authorities” and I will have to “suffer the consequences.” In all fairness my little dog escapes way more often that a little dog ought or should. Then again with the numbers of kids (and friends) opening and shutting the doors in the house, playing with the dogs, taking them of their leashes (including dogs wiggling out of their collars)…just the general bedlam here…small wonder that this dog’s escape is so swiftly noticed by us.

And no, the woman did not stop there. She went to unusual lengths to describe her passion for pooches (highlighting my apparent disregard for same) and that she had noted this was the second time in ten days that my little white dog had gotten past the front door and taken off to party in the neighborhood. I was not only irresponsible, but what I was subjecting this animal to was criminal (9 kids fussing over her…well maybe). This little dog of ours loves to run. If this critter gets a chance to make a run for it she is gone like a shot and will not come back…even for treats. She cannot be caught until she is good and tired out (much like some of my kids)!  Although the moment the little dog goes missing a search party does go out after this animal.

She cannot be caught until she is good and tired out!"

She cannot be caught until she is good and tired out!”

I guess “Mrs. Thatcher” observed that my little dog was out a whole 20 minutes (last Tuesday to be exact!) until I went in the car to rescue the canine. The observation was completely oblivious to the jail break having occurred as the children boarded the school bus thereby necessitating readying two babies into outdoor clothing and then securing in-car seats so that I could chase down the mongrel of mine in my car. I was going to try to put the effort into the conversation to let this woman again understand NONE of this is intentional and then I simply realized this woman was likely suffering from not able to mind her own business.

I reached a new level of understanding. My chaotic life was giving this woman purpose. So be it (possibly the migraine strength now Advil talking).

In the end I was disappointed that “the authorities” did not apprehend me. I could use a night or two of decent sleep, clean clothes (I did not have to wash), a hot (uninterrupted) shower and three squares a day that I did not have to shop for, cook, serve or clean up after. It did occur to me that often the 7-year-old is on the loose in the neighborhood and I have yet to have so much as one tantalizing offer of incarceration.

Who knew…the dog is missing for 20 minutes and my break might be just around the corner…thank you Mrs. Thatcher!

The Garden Goat (happily anticipating a future incarceration)

The Garden Goat happily anticipating a future incarceration

The Garden Goat happily anticipating a future incarceration

Is Labeling ever okay?

My six-year-old recently came home sporting a nicely designed label on his shirt. At first glance I thought that my kid had achieved some type of next level recognition in his class at the institute of higher learning…Grade One (to be exact).  With some squinting on my part (40-year-old something eyes) I was expecting to see the usual primary school accolades that regularly show up on these youngster’s homework. You know the ones:

"...see the usual primary school accolades ... You know the ones..."

“…see the usual primary school accolades … You know the ones…”

Great Job!”

“Well Done!”

“Awesome!”

“Fantastic!”

“You ROCK!”

Instead …the label read “Please watch me…I bumped my head today!”WHAT????

WOW!

Instead …the label read “Please watch me…I bumped my head today!”…WHAT????

Instead …the label read “Please watch me…I bumped my head today!”…WHAT????

I guess calls home from the school can be really reduced with the new label system. I might have been able to accept:

“Need special care have a small boo-boo”

“Be nice to me…I had a bad day”

“I fell and scraped my knee…I might need some TLC

“The school nurse checked me and I am fine but could use extra TLC”

Watch me I bumped my head 2But “watch me closely…I bumped my head”? Seriously….what are these people (the folks at the school) thinking??? The only saving grace about this label was that it was adhered on the child’s shirt as opposed to his forehead.(!!) I am wondering if the rest of the first aid container at school might include “Was unconscious earlier please watch me overnight” or “Unresponsive at school please return to sender” only to be out done with “Intellectually unresponsive please investigate!”

Then again that opens up an entire list of labels a parent might like to have for the teacher.

“Watch me my head is very sore…too much homework”

“If I can’t understand what you teach in school hours don’t think my parents can teach me in non-school hours.”

“Was dropped on my head…well…the rest is history!”

“My family calls me …ANIMAL!”

“Today is a bad day… someone kidnapped my imaginary friend”

“Be careful…I am ALMOST toilet-trained!”

Better yet might be the labels one could (perhaps should?) arm a high school teacher with:

“This kid need not come to school…ever again.”

“Return to sender…only resend once mouth is sealed with duct tape”

“If this is what your family has to offer the world for the future…hope you have a backup plan!”

This label thing could likely save all of us time and therefore money…oh the possibilities!

I as a parent might choose to wear (sometimes more than occasionally)

“I am currently having an out-of-body experience…stay tuned …take a number…it could take a while!”

“I did hear you…but no…I still DON’T care.”

“Possessed…again…by Aliens

“Whatever!! Duh!…(unless you are asking for the car)…then NO!”

“FYI…take cover I am in a VERY BAD MOOD!”

I guess when all is said and done, the label “Please watch me…I bumped my head today!” is definitely not anywhere near as scary as “Toe-tag required…please call the coroner.” Though it still leaves me wondering …are all students given the “bumped my head” label or are these labels only reserved for the children whose scholastic performance leaves something to be desired while the children perceived as having superior brilliance get a REAL call home (oh and then perhaps a label)??

Teacher says well done

A quick call to my local school regaling the receptionist with my take on the whole thing and she is horrified… “Oh I guess we FORGOT to call you and JUST gave him the label INSTEAD of calling. He is fine but really wanted a label. He did bump his head though earlier in the day but seemed okay.”  (???)

I think I will be in my corner designing labels we can all wear (and hand out) for everyday use. Can you imagine what one could “get away with” saying at work with just wearing a label??? Just saying….

Labeled “The Garden Goat”

Labeled  “The Garden Goat”

Labeled
“The Garden Goat”

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.