From apple to appetite.

I’m not a religious person, but I’m open to the possibility that anything is possible. I guess you could say I practice WhoFuckinKnowsism. I choose to believe in the Creation story just so I have someone to blame for the heinous experience they call giving birth.

Let’s do a little Biblical recap. 6,000 years ago, Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, even though God specifically told her not to. If it had been a big hunk of Belgian chocolate dangling from that tree, perhaps I could see the error of her ways. But an apple? That’s just weak. Her punishment? God took away the Wii and, to top it off, added this: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing… Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16) Thanks a lot there, Female Numero Uno. And thanks a lot to you too, Almighty One. It wasn’t enough to send her to her room or her treehouse or whatever?

So mamas and gal pals, we must suffer. It’s the legacy we’ve inherited, whether from Eve or from Evolution. (Eve-olution?) For starters, we must menstruate. (The average woman spends about $10,000 on pads and tampons. Bloody hell.) We must carry our offspring for nine months – that’s a good chunk of our lives! – during which time we must endure nausea, swollen ankles, and any number of physical and emotional complications. Then the fun part – we must squeeze a human being into the world through a poorly designed pelvis. This is simply inhumane. Terrorists would list this as “torture technique #7”, meaning six other methods of lesser torture would be utilized first. Inmates at Guantanamo Bay would not be subject to such cruel and unusual punishment. No, this torture is reserved for the true dregs of society – women.

Then comes the breastfeeding. A task that’s draining enough, let alone the nipple pain, the plugged milk ducts, the mastitis and thrush and countless other toe-curling boo-boos of the boobies. “Feed through it,” the lactation nurses tell us. Okay sure, no problem. Got a mukluk I can chew on? A piece of metal? An apple???

I won’t even get into the incontinence, the scar tissue, the hemorrhoids, and the lifelong struggle with body image. And lest we forget the menopause to come and its slew of sucky symptoms that serve to remind us we’re drying up like a desert camel’s scrotum. Yay.

Long story short, womanhood comes with a lot of ouch. AND DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED on the common perception that men get sexier with age while women just get old. How did men get off so easily (so to speak)? All they have to do in this life is shovel snow, lift heavy boxes, put the windshield wash in the car, and mow the lawn. Is this fair? Hell no. Especially when Adam ate the freakin’ fruit too! How was he punished for his defiance? The Bible says God made him toil for his food from a ground full of thorns and thistles. Whoopdy-freakin-doo. Adam probably just turned around and made his loyal minion do all the work anyway. He definitely made her harvest his twig and berries.

Eve, and us, got a bum rap. (And our bums are not the half of it.) Adam got but a slap on the wrist. He should have gotten a smack on the wiener; a bag tag at the very least. Where’s the justice?

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Classic toys… for poor people.

Are we still in a recession? Not sure what the official word is from the money people. But let’s face it, we all po’. How in the love of loot-bags does anyone afford to buy a home these days? I see these ginormous houses being built to the moon and I’m like – what do those people DO? It’s got to be drug money. They definitely don’t have kids. Or maybe the kids are running the meth lab.

Kids are expensive! Of course, my lack of a social life cushions the cost, so it kinda works itself out. But I do have to be cautious of overspending in the face of so many cute outfits and baby gadgets and – my favourite thing on earth besides rhubarb martinis – toys!

How many of you have given your kid a gift, only to watch him or her toss the pricey present aside and play with the damn wrapping paper? How ungrateful. And when your poor, deprived offspring have opened their skyward heap of gifts, don’t they often pick the cheapest ol’ thing to play with first? GAWD. Why waste your hard-earned money? Max is getting one gift for Christmas this year – a telescope. And by telescope I mean an empty paper towel roll.

Here are a few classic – and I mean really classic – toys for your wee ones. Each one fosters imagination and creativity, and guess what? They’re all… wait for it… wait for it… free!

The Cardboard Box. A classic among children everywhere. It comes with a built-in, saloon-style door, and windows can be installed custom. (Well, more like cut-out than put-in… even easier.) The cardboard box is incredibly multi-functional; it can be a house, a cave, a hospital, or a totally pimped out go-cart. For entrepreneurial kids, it makes a kickass lemonade stand. People spend a fortune on these child-size kitchens, but why? Just toss a few pots and pans in the box and your pint-size chef is good to go, money saved. For easy storage, the cardboard box can be folded flat and stored under the couch or bed. Sizes may vary. A refrigerator box = a swagadelic luxury hotel.

The Blunt Stick. Please note: this is different from the Sharp Stick, which is a toy for nimbler kids over seven. The ancestor of the Swiss Army Knife, the Blunt Stick is mega multi-functional. Is it a hockey stick, a golf club, a baseball bat, a fishing rod, or a javelin? All of the above, sports star. It’s also a light-saber for a young Jedi knight. It’s a sword, if your youngster wants to get medieval on another kid’s ass. (Please note: I endorse chivalry and theatre, not bullying.) It’s a baton for your future gymnast, and, for the big-boned child, it’s a trusty roaster of marshmallows. (Oh wait, that’s the Sharp Stick, nevermind.) Best of all, the Blunt Stick is eco-friendly, as long as you don’t snap it from the endangered St. Helena Gumwood.

The Empty Pill Bottle with Macaroni Inside. Note I said macaroni, not pills. Take an empty, plastic pill bottle – preferably one of those chunky, bulk-size vitamin jars – and toss in a few rotini. Whatcha got? Instant maracas! Shake that baby booty! I recommend making a new label for the bottle so others don’t think your kid’s toybox doubles as a medicine cabinet.

The Wooden Spoon. A mere spoon? To the unimaginative, perhaps. This common kitchen utensil is actually a magic wand. Seriously – bang anything with it and that thing magically transforms into a drum. Throw in a stainless steel mixing bowl and it’s a percussionist’s starter set. At Long and McQuade, something like this would cost major coin. But lucky for you, the elves that live in your cupboard dish out this playtime fun for free.

The Pet Rock. A knockoff of the 70s fad. (Yes, this really was a huge novelty in that era.) Create your own 21st-century model by going no further than your own backyard, preferably un-landscaped. Fat ones or skinny ones, bumpy ones or smooth ones, sedimentary or igneous, your child can choose the pet that he or she wants, not necessarily the one that doesn’t shed. Disclaimer: If you live in a glass house, get a cat.

The Imaginary Friend. The success of this “toy” depends on your level of commitment. Start talking to the space next to your child. For example, when I ask Max, “Would you like to read a book?”, I then move my head 20 degrees to the right or left and ask the same question again. At first, Max looked confused. But within days he started to realize – there is someone there. A friend! In two to three weeks, your child will be enjoying the constant companionship of a kid you never actually have to feed. Or give birth to.

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A toy story…

The toy people are pretty smart, aren’t they? Bringing back all the toys from the 80s, to play on the sentiment of the 30-ish crowd who are now parents with Christmas lists longer than Barbie’s dream home. Every toy section is a labyrinth of dolls and trucks and games and gadgets. A multi billion-dollar industry indeed. What’s going to catch my attention? The familiar face of a Cabbage Patch Doll smiling back at me, of course. (RIP, Casey Gwendolyn.)

Or a Smurf. La la la la la la… la la la la la. Best lyrics ever.

My Little Pony. I brushed that horse’s hair ‘til the cows came home.

The Etch-a-Sketch. A love child of the 60s, it’s the great-great-grand-daddy of PhotoShop. And it’s so simple to use. I mean, why draw with crayons on paper when you can twist knobs to move a stylus to displace alumimun powder on the back of a screen in a plastic frame?

Strawberry Shortcake. I had the complete bedding set – bedspread, curtains, pillow shams, booyah.

These and more are all back with a GI Joe-caliber vengeance. I’m holding out for a Popple – the “soft fuzzy ball that turns into a friend.” Who needs a friend with soft, fuzzy balls when you can have a friend who IS a soft, fuzzy ball? Simple logic, really. The other day, I saw a Monchhichi and for a moment I was six again, minus the buck teeth and mullet.

Every jar of Play-Doh slingshots me back to a time and a place when life was as simple as a Rubiks Cube. Er, scratch that. A Slinky. That’s better. It was a time when fun was all that mattered. When my problems extended no further than my Flintstones toybox.

Max is just a toddler, so most of these retro toys are too advanced for him yet. He’d bake himself in the EasyBake Oven. But he does have a couple truly classic toys in his stash, in all their uncomplicated, no-instruction-booklet-no-assembly-or-batteries-required glory…

The Jack in the Box. This toy dates back to the Middle Ages, invented by some dude named Jack who got in a box and popped out and everybody laughed. Max has a Sock Monkey jack-in-the-box. Crank the lever to churn out the classic yet creepy “Pop Goes the Weasel” and – BOING! – a Sock Monkey, doing a poor job at pretending to be a weasel, springs out from inside. I’m glad it’s not a clown popping out of there; I watched Stephen King’s “It” way too early in life. Sock monkey – way friendlier. He’s made from a SOCK, for cryin’ out loud! But Max was frightened shitless of the thing nonetheless. As soon as I started to turn the handle, he’d start to back up in sheer terror. And when the song came to an end and the monkey popped up, his lips would start to wriggle – a prelude to tears. And yet, seconds later, he’d set the little metal box on my lap once again. “Do it again, mommy,” his big brown eyes beseeched me.

You can buy a Sock Monkey jack-in-the-box at Chapters online for about $25. Or scope out a local boutique store. I bought this one at Target in Florida for about $18 US.

Wooden blocks. These date back a trillion years. I bet young Jesus had such blocks; his father was a carpenter for Christ sake. (SFX: short drum roll with cymbal crash.) Max’s blocks are extra classy, each one sporting the Montreal Canadiens logo. A gift from daddy, straight from the Bell Centre. They’re chunkier than most blocks you’ll find in stores – a better fit for a curious but clumsy hand. Though they feature letters, numbers, and pictures to boot, Max has learned nothing from them except how to incorporate them into his arsenal of weapons.

Blocks are pretty easy to find. Winners has a decent set by Melissa and Doug™ for about $15. Or take one for the team and order a set of Habs blocks on ebay for about $25, or get the real deal at the Bell Centre for about $30.

The Spin Top. This toy is older than dirt. In fact, clay tops were uncovered in the ancient city of Ur, near modern-day Baghdad, dating back to 3500 BC. Even Shakespeare wrote about the “whipped top” in his plays. To us, it’s a classic toy from the 1960s, revived in the 1990s, and still adding a touch of old school charm to playrooms everywhere.

If you’re lucky, you’ll find a metal “push top” at Winners for about $15. For just a little more dough, get a metal Thomas the Tank Engine spin top at the Railway Coastal Museum on Water Street.

Up next: MY version of classic toys for toddlers, for fun-seeking but frugal folk. 🙂


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Basketcase

Our house is about 900 square feet. Not a lot of space for a man, a woman, a dog, a new baby, and a zillion big and little things that either entertain, clean, clothe, feed or soothe said baby.

It wasn’t so bad when Max was a cooing infant. I could organize the chaos around us, create a manger of inanimate onlookers with my swaddled miracle in his bouncy chair smack dab in the middle. (Our black and white pooch also bears a striking resemblance to a cow. Bonus.) There were breast pump attachments curled up on tabletops, receiving blankets and teeny tiny facecloths stacked to the sky. It wasn’t necessarily clean, but it was neat. Even the dirt was categorized into perfect little piles: cooties here, scuz there, crud up there, gook and gunk over there. Everything had its own spot or shelf or basket. I even have a basket for orphaned socks; as we all know, the dryer eats them.

“Another fuckin’ basket?” the husband would scold when I’d bring home yet another wonder of wicker weavery. He just didn’t understand. “It’s not a lowly basket, honey. It’s a cozy home for a bunch of CRAP!” As my dad used to say, even Moses was a basketcase.

Then, my perfectly immobile baby turned into a wrecking ball. I remember when I first declared on facebook that he was walking. A co-worker and father of three boys commented, “Take it from me, push him down, push him down!” I quickly understood what he meant. I have scratched “trip wire” off my shopping list at least twice.

He skipped the walking stage and graduated right to running, his tootsies chauffeuring his hands to the next item on his list of “Things I Must Destroy”. He climbs the couch, King Kong style, and throws the remote behind it, where adult hands fear to forage. He hurls toys into the bathtub, then stands there, watching them lie facedown and helpless at the bottom of the porcelain ravine. He jabs his mini hockey stick at the flatscreen TV, a frequent cause of Daddy Angina. As soon as I put his wooden blocks into their designated basket, he dumps them out. And God forbid I try to build a tower with them. It’s crashing down before I get to two, which means it’s never actually a tower but a pathetic block on a sticky floor.

Around his first birthday, sitting amidst the clutter, compounded by the dread of going back to work, I snapped! I needed to simplify this house and this life – pronto. A clutter-free home is a clutter-free mind. Amen, Oprah, amen.

I realized the key to this endeavour was having less. Getting rid of the excess. Not necessarily spending less, but buying fewer – but higher quality – things. Things that last. Overall, I needed to have less “stuff”, and, in turn, lessen my carbon footprint. (Eco-Mother of the Year award imminent.)

So I started giving things to charity. The guy driving the truck with the clothesline on the side – my hero. And I started saying no to charity. Do I want your hand-me-downs? Nope. Stuff with stains on it? Dude, we’re in Torbay, not Bangladesh.

I was getting things under control, embracing my newfound simplicity. Then, a couple of months ago, I met someone, and my Sort-of-Utopia began to unravel. His name is Thomas. The cheeky one. And he wasn’t alone. He brought his whole red and green and brown and blue posse with him. There are trains and tracks everywhere. On the floor, in the couch, in my butt crack. Max goes to bed with a smiling locomotive in each hand, and wakes up with them, still in his death grip, often with a chassis impressed into his face. By Christmas, our living room will have morphed into the Island of Sodor. If Sir Topham Hat walked into my front door right now, I would not be surprised. But he would get a startle, because he’d be getting a swift kick in those high-waisted pants.

And apparently this is just the beginning. Next up? Dinkies, then Transformers, then Legos, then what? Little parts and doodads and gadgets up the yin yang. Clutter-free simplicity up in smoke. But hey, while my matchbox home is chock full of stuff and toys and trains, my beautiful boy is brimming with joy. So what are ya gonna do? Buy more baskets, that’s what.

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Expect the unexpected.

You’ve probably read at least one of the “What to Expect” books. What to Expect When You’re Expecting, What to Expect the First Year, What to Expect During Labour, etc. Do these books prepare us for the joys and challenges of motherhood? Or do they just give us a false sense of preparedness for a journey one can’t possibly be prepared for?

Take my wonderful (sarcasm) birthing experience, for starters. Did I have a birth plan? Not really. I knew I was going to have to play this sucker by ear. I just had one request – drugs, and lots of ‘em. Seriously. I was THIS close to making a t-shirt that read “Stick that epi in my dural,” for my arrival at the hospital. Just so they were 100% clear on where I stood.

Things couldn’t have gone more tits up. I got induced, and when the Sauce of Satan (oxytocin) kicked in, things went from 0 to 60 faster than you can say episiotomy. Just a couple hours into it and I’m begging for narcotics. In comes the anesthesiologist – my handsome knight in shining scrubs. Thank you, baby Jesus. But my world is suddenly shattered with the sound of Nurse Ratched’s voice. “Sorry, hun, you’re fully dilated. No drugs for you.” Like a horror scene in slow motion, I watched the anesthesiologist wheel away his wares. That ugly, stingy bastard.

Long story short, I gave birth without so much as an aspirin. I felt everything. EV-REE-THING. As the doctor stitched me up, I kept kicking him out of sheer reflex. Yeah, my birth plan was really working out. Give birth like it’s 1865 – check! Roundhouse kick the doctor in the throat – check! So far, so good.

thought I was prepared to bring baby Max home. To my husband’s horror, I had all the gear. All of it. Max hated the swing, the sling, and his 800-dollar crib. I’m selling the works of it, and the next kid is going in the sock drawer, Benjamin Button style.

I was prepared for the sleepness nights, but I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to sleep train a ginger. In the dark of night, I could see his orange wig glowing like the fires of Hades as he howled for hours on end. As soon as he started sleeping through the night, or so I thought, he’d cut a tooth or discover a third lung and resume his vociferous battle with slumber once again. At first, when people asked me if he was sleeping through the night, I’d say yes and knock on wood. Now I (yawn) just pretend (yawn) I don’t hear them.

Nobody prepared me for the Great Boob Catastrophe either. Sure, I knew breastfeeding was going to be draining. But I thought the extra boobage would last, like an eternal token of gratitude from Mother Nature for suckling her latest creation. She is an Indian giver, clearly. Why didn’t anyone tell me my boobs would wind up looking like golf balls in tube socks? WHY??? I went from a D cup while breastfeeding, to an A. I haven’t worn an A cup since grade 8. Not cool. I need at least a B to achieve equilibrium with my ass.

So, does reading everything under the sun tell us what to expect? Sure. It gives us some insight into this scary, unknown world called motherhood. But alas, we must remember – nothing in life works out exactly the way we plan. We are in control – to a point. We have to just go with it. Roll with the punches. Tuck our boobs into our socks and embrace the unexpected.

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Time waits for no mom.

So this is my first official blog entry. It’s for working mothers, which includes all mothers, really. (Stay-at-home mothers have one of the hardest jobs on earth, next to lion tamers and North Atlantic crab fishermen.) But I won’t bore you with things you already know. I’m here to say something different. Of course, I’m not sure what that is yet. I’ll just wing it and see what comes out, kinda like giving birth. Is it going to be ugly? Is it going to have goo all over it? Am I going to poop? Probably. But hey, it’ll be entertaining.

So, my first topic – time. There is never enough of it! I remember when I was on maternity leave, I’d go days on end without showering and eating nothing but muffins. I used to wonder what mothers did on mat leave, with all that TIME! Bah! Max sure showed me. He consumed me – my time, my social life, my nipples. Every three days, I’d look in the mirror, pick the blueberries out of my teeth and scrape the puke off my shirt. MILF? Yeah, if the F stood for Flog.

Now that I’m back to work, there’s a different kind of timelessness. I get up, wrestle with Max (and my hair) to get us both ready for the day, drop him off at the sitter, and get to work right on time, and by “right on time” I mean 10 minutes late, thanks to the Torbay Road shit snake. I work all morning, buy diapers and food at lunchtime, go back to work for the afternoon, and get home in time to feed, bathe and tuck the boy into bed, with some love jammed in there somewhere. Then I look at the husband. Nope, no time for that. I have bills to pay, work to finish, and sheep to count.

Then again, when you’re home with the kids with no escape except death, there is a little too much time, isn’t there? It’s barely noon and you’re already asking for sweet release, aka bedtime. We know we shouldn’t wish our time away — life is short! We’re fully aware that in 10 or 20 years, our hearts will ache for these days of choo-choo trains and apple sauce. And yet we urge time onward. Because, in spite of our superhuman, multi-tasking maternal skills, we are human.

I don’t have time for anything. Especially not this blog.

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