Meet criminal Barbie

If you read my last post you know that naked Barbie dolls are littering my backyard, turning the space between the cedars and the school yard fence into the set of a slasher film. Venture back there and you’ll see a dozen naked blondes covered in dirt, painted eyes staring vacantly up at the sky.

Of course I wasn’t happy about this (Barbies aren’t cheap!) but as we also established in the last post, I am not great at attending to domestic chores in a timely manner.

Now it seems the Barbies have suffered yet another indignity. One that involves being shoved through the holes in the fence so Harmony and her friends can play with them at recess.

I know this because I was asked to stay after school and speak to the teacher about it. I also know this because a young boy was apparently “quite traumatized” by finding naked girl dolls in the school sandpit. I also know this because I happened to see Mermaid Barbie sitting on the Principal’s desk during a meeting that, thankfully, was NOT called to discuss the tiny sex offender living in my house.

Sigh.

So we had a talk with Harmony about not bringing toys to school, and about why a little boy might be surprised to find a naked female form that looks nothing like his mother buried in his playground.

Shame on me for thinking that would be the end of it. Double shame on me for not realizing what she was doing outside the next morning before school.

Can you guess?

Yup. PUSHING THE BARBIES BACK THROUGH THE FENCE. A tidy little “F you” to the powers that be including, or perhaps especially, her mother.

Then, later that day at recess, my little criminal upped the ante by lying to the teacher who came to investigate the crowd gathered around the sandpit.

Harmony, whose credibility might have been hurt by the fact that she was sporting a leopard-print vest, pink tights, blue rain boots and a tiara, could sense her reign of terror was coming to end. Refusing to go quietly, she calmly lied through her baby teeth and said “Nope, no Barbies here.”

To his credit, the teacher figured out pretty quickly that he was being sold a bill of goods. A bill of dirty, naked, anatomically incorrect goods. So he reached into his arsenal of shame and manipulation tactics and said: “Harmony, you empty my bucket when you don’t tell the truth so I’m going to give you to the count of three to tell me what’s going on here.”

Finally, Harmony caved. But not until he got to three, of course.

Now, all of this wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t been elected Chair of the Parent Council last week. Thankfully, I insisted the morality clause be removed from my contract but how long until I’m impeached is anyone’s guess.

 

 

Nesting. It’s a Thing.

Like many people, I think September is truly the start of a new year. For years, Labour Day has been my January 1. Whether it was going back to school myself, starting a new hockey season or sending my kids off to school, the first few weeks of September have always by synonymous with change and opportunity, making it my favourite time of year. After all, who’s motivated to embrace fresh starts in the middle of winter? Not this cat.

To me, September represents a gentle transition from the frantic pace of summer, when we’re determined to keep the kids busy and make the most of every sunny day, to the slower rhythm of autumn with its wood-burning fires, crisp air and gorgeous sweaters.

Every year, as I reluctantly move indoors, there are two things I do consistently, without fail. First, I look around and think “how can I possibly celebrate this season of renewal when I’m surrounded by all my old stuff?” And so I march off to Homesense or Urban Barn looking for the “seasonal accents” that will take the sting out of spending the next nine months indoors.

The second thing that happens is that I start paying more attention to food. I spend hours (okay minutes… but lots of them) pouring over cook books and magazines in search of new recipes, healthy tips and creative lunch box ideas.

This bizarre phenomenon is called “nesting”, and it’s a thing. Oddly, it’s most common among pregnant women who are driven by a biological need to feather their nest, so to speak, during the latter months of pregnancy. I assure you there is no bun in my oven yet every September I start caring about things I normally ignore (namely keeping a nice house and meal preparation). If I didn’t have a kid in the bath and a kid …ummm…. somewhere else… I would do a little research and hit you with some impressive psychological jargon. I’d talk about nesting as a product of our primal instincts, bears hibernating, changing seasons, etc etc. But in the absence of any real effort on my part you’ll just have to trust me: nesting is the real deal.

But sadly, it isn’t all scented candles and pumpkin patches. Nesting can be a cruel and sneaky mistress. She can also be a bit of a bitch, if you want my honest opinion.

One of the biggest traps I fall into when nesting? Believing that ads like this represent real life. Believing that with the right throw pillows, blankets, furniture and “seasonal accents” we too can have a picture perfect family. Take this Ikea ad:

newly-IKEA-kitchen-catalogue-2011

I mean, WHO LIVES LIKE THIS?? No one I know I can tell you that.

In my house the chairs would be mismatched and crusted with dog barf. And they most certainly would not be white. The “accents” would be leftover from my student days, not stylish and colour co-ordinated. And don’t even get me started on the idyllic family scene. At chez Millard the kids would be fighting, crying and looking homeless.

Lately I’ve also spent a lot of time at Michael’s carefully selecting craft supplies I think we both know I’ll never use. I’ve never even HAD a wreath let alone made my own. A recent craft cupboard inventory found hot glue, spray paint, dollar store feather boas, decorative bird cages, push pins, fake pussy willows and a 24-pack of Martha Stewart Crafts Essential Colours glitter. So if Cher ever offers to babysit, we are in business.

Another nesting trap? Convincing yourself school lunches aren’t the anti-Christ. The nesting instinct makes you believe you can make them fun and healthy, that with a little extra effort you’ll be rewarded with smiling, well-fed, academically advanced children envied by their peers because their mom sends “Where The Wilds Things Are” themed lunches.

Are you f-ing kidding me?

Are you f-ing kidding me?

During the first week of school I went slightly berserk with the heart-shaped cookie cutter, using it for everything from sandwiches to cheese. Then I pre-wrote a week’s worth of lunch box love notes, baked up a storm and spent a small fortune on bento box accessories because for some reason having all the food in one container is no longer socially acceptable.

Being on parental leave (ie. surfing Pinterest and Googling “DIY body scrubs” all day) means the nesting sickness has been able to escalate beyond a minor affliction (think bee sting) to something more acute (think smallpox). And like most diseases that result in physical scarring, nesting has left its mark. What have I got to show for all this shopping, crafting, pinning, cooking and creating? Pretty much nothing, unless you count the bento boxes that have been lost, melted in the dishwasher or eaten by a dog. And aside from my daughters’ teachers thinking I am bat-shit crazy, I’ve also managed to set a ridiculously high standard for lunch box cuisine that, upon my return to work, cannot possibly be maintained. Now I have to start reintroducing poor overall presentation, processed snacks and general ambivalence much earlier than I anticipated. Fiddlesticks!

But it’s not all bad. Truthfully, I’ve enjoyed putting more effort into all things domestic, and I’ve really enjoyed having the time to make cookies instead of buying them, and to search for the perfect kid-sized gloves that will make my little Cinderella and Elsa absolutely giddy with happiness on October 31st. Turns out I don’t hate being domestic, I just hate being too busy to enjoy it.

I also joined a swim team and two weeks ago I had my first legit practice in 25 years. Naturally I haven’t been back since, but whatever. Baby steps. And I’ve found a great organization to volunteer with. If you’re interested in child welfare and want to see an aggressive, optimistic and visionary plan for finding homes for 30,000 foster kids by the year 2020, please check out http://www.untilthelastchild.com. If you’re mean and heartless, don’t bother. And if you want more tips on nesting, just let me know. I’ll get them for you as soon as I find my other kid.

 

 

So About That Homework…

Dear Teacher,

I have a confession.

Actually I have several but I’m sure you’re not interested in hearing about the cupcakes I ate last night or the recurring dream about my dentist. The confession you’ll be most interested in relates to the promise I made to you in June. You know, the one where I said I would practice reading and writing with my oldest daughter, your student, every day this summer? Well that didn’t exactly happen, and here’s why.

First, you might remember that we adopted another little girl right at the end of the school year. Needless to say the adjustment was a bit overwhelming and what passed for routine at chez Millard quickly descended into chaos and anarchy. Structure and good intentions went out the window faster than you could say “stop throwing grapes at your sister.” Despite my best intentions to carve out daily reading and writing time, we were sidetracked by that pesky little thing called “life” (an umbrella term for stuff like cat vomit on the carpet and dog poop in the living room. Also Netflix). As we adjusted to being a family of four instead of three, practicing capital letters and figuring out what five fish plus two fish equals kind of fell by the wayside. Sorting out ownership of toys and clothes and planning for a summer getaway to promote family bonding (and day-drinking) took precedence over graduating to chapter books and two syllable words.

Even though you suggested many ways to “make learning fun”, I still failed you. To be fair, my daughter is now reading the back of the cereal box every morning and combing through the cupboards looking for words that are easy to sound out, such as “Jam” and “Tam-pon”. But the reading of the street signs? Bad idea. I’m certain I’ve caused at least three accidents by slamming on the brakes when screams of “I CAN’T SEE” assaulted me from the back seat. And helping with the grocery list? No offence, but if I had the patience to spell “carrots”, “wine” and “boxed brownies” out loud, not to mention a spare two hours to complete this exercise, I might-MIGHT-be less of an abject failure in both motherhood and culinary arts.

I didn’t stress too much about these first few weeks of summer because I was certain that once we got to the cottage we’d get the learning happening. Long lazy days with no plans and no urban distractions would be PERFECT for playing school, I thought. It will be a good opportunity for one-on-one time, I thought.

Except it seems that I miscalculated my willingness to sit inside spelling and adding while the sun shone outside. Also overestimated? My daughter’s desire to sit at the kitchen table instead of on the beach. I can’t sugar-coat this for you, Teacher. During the five weeks we’ve been here we didn’t open a single workbook or pick up a single pencil. Simply put, my daughter didn’t learn squat about reading and writing this summer.

Wave Watching: B

Wave Watching: B

Crab class: B

Crab class: B

Bubble Studies: A

Bubble Studies: A

However, if you’re willing to let us substitute “beach studies” and “welcoming a new sister” for reading and writing, I can proudly say that we’ve been racking up straight As in sand castle building, shellfish carcass identification, surfing, sea glass collecting and discreet ocean peeing. I’d also give us a solid B- in sharing a room, forcefully rehoming hermit crabs and personal hygiene (see ocean peeing). So while our book learning has suffered, our life learning has not, and I figure as long as I keep buying cereal, everything will be fine.

 

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Version 2.0

Today was Leila’s first day of pre-Kindergarten. Here she is looking perfectly adorable and ready to kick some academic butt.

Doctor? Astronaut? Prime Minister?

Fact: 89% of successful women brought kitten suitcases to school.

Someone sent me Robert Fulghum’s “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten” and even though it’s chocked full of wisdom I’ve taken the liberty of suggesting updates for a (less) mature audience. Here goes:

  1. Wear underwear everyday, no exceptions. They’re called privates for a reason.
  2. Do not put anything in your nose, ears, mouth or anus that doesn’t belong there. This includes play doh, lego, crayons and your fingers (all of them).
  3. Don’t follow the big kids. They’re all following each other and pretty soon it’s going to be like the zombie apocalypse in your school (without the flesh eating). So do your own thing.
  4. Don’t let your mom talk you out of wearing fleece pants underneath a taffeta Christmas dress if that’s what makes you feel good. It’s not your fault you’re the only one in the family with any fashion sense.
  5. It’s okay to have pet hair all over your clothes. The kids with goldfish will be jealous.
  6. Brush your hair only if the mood strikes you. You’ll spend plenty of time in front of the mirror when you’re older.
  7. When it comes to lip gloss, less is more. Mommy should not need a spatula to get it off you.
  8. Your mom has no idea where your library books are so don’t bother asking.
  9. It’s okay to poop at school. It’s not okay to hold it all day then run home screaming, clutching your butt.
  10. Wash your hands 30 times each day. 50 if the turtle/chicken/lizard is in your classroom this week.
  11. Change your food preferences daily. Just because you begged for it yesterday doesn’t mean you have to like it today. And if you’re not hungry, just take a small bite out of everything in your lunch bag so it cannot possibly be reused the next day.
  12. Include everyone in your games, invite everyone to your party. You never know when you’re going to be the one who needs a friend.
  13. If mommy goes out with her friends you are probably going to find a bag of chips and a brownie in your lunchbox the next day. Embrace it.
  14. If it’s not blood, broken bones or barf mommy will not be coming early to get you so don’t bother calling.
  15. Know that mommy and daddy don’t expect you to get straight A’s but they do expect you to try your best.
  16. Good behavior is EXPECTED and will not be rewarded. Deal with it.
  17. The promises mommy makes when you are screaming and clutching her leg may not always be honoured. It’s never too early to learn that life is full of disappointments.
  18. Don’t bother asking to bring the turtle/lizard/baby chick home. The answer is no.
  19. Be especially nice to the kids who aren’t nice to you. They are sad and could use a little bit of your smile and your light.
  20. If those kids are still mean to you, kick them in the shins and run away.

 

Day 2 of THE REST OF MY LIFE (cue sobbing).

Yesterday was not a good day.

It started off fine, even better than usual. It was the second-to-last day of school and I was certain H was not going to be down with going while L stayed home with me. But to my surprise there were no issues at drop off and they even played together through the fence at recess. And by “played together” I mean Harmony commanded Leila to throw things over the fence and Leila complied.

The problem came after school. And it was big. It was plastic and it was pink. I know what you’re thinking (filthy) and no, that wasn’t it. Those are made with high-density polyethylene. I checked.

It was these:

2014's version of the shot heard round the world.

2014’s version of the shot heard round the world.

SOMEONE who has only been living here for 24 hours and should OBVIOUSLY know the rules had the gall to wear someone else’s flip flops to school pick up.

Now I know it was more than just Leila wearing her shoes. I get it. It was about all the changes happening in her life including the end of school. Harmony did so well on “gotcha day” that I should have seen this coming.

And I really do understand. It’s hard for her to see mommy and daddy pulling someone else in the wagon, hearing mommy and daddy call someone else “sweetheart”, and watching them hold someone else’s hand. The book “Siblings Without Rivalry” includes a brilliant analogy. Having a second child, they say, is like one day your husband coming home and saying “Honey, I love you so much I’ve decided to get another wife.” And when this “wife” arrives, you see that she’s young and cute and everyone makes a fuss over her. You suffer the indignity of having to watch them play and cuddle and be sweet to one another, and he even has the nerve to ask you to look after her for a couple of minutes while he’s on the phone. She also gets all your old clothes (because you’ve put on weight) and gets to use all your makeup and your (GASP!) appliances. She can do no wrong.

Sounds shitty, right?

So I get it. The flip flops were the last straw. So it started there and moved on to Harmony not sharing the front seat of the wagon or the water bottle we’d brought along on an ill-fated and desperate “who wants ice cream?” attempt to distract and restore the peace.

Everything culminated in an epic meltdown helpfully located directly outside the grocery store. Screaming, crying, promises to move out and “take Daddy and all the pets and the money” (HA! Good luck kid). I know the last thing you’re supposed say here is “let me help you pack” but at this moment it was tempting.

Harmony screamed obscenities at me all the way home. Fortunately they were kid obscenities such as “you’re stupid, you’re mean, I want a new mommy” and “I hope someone hits you in the face.” This last one is new and I had to award silent points for originality.

Poor Leila, she was looking at me like she’d been dropped into an alternate universe where everyone speaks Finnish.

It took over an hour for things to calm down at home and then, in my infinite wisdom, I decided to make something fun for dinner. Forgetting that kids are extremely literal and cut you NO slack, I asked “who wants octopus pizza??”

Naturally they were horrified and after a few more tears I explained, glass in hand (time stamp: 4:48 pm), that this was pizza SHAPED like an octopus, not pizza WITH octopus. (Though if I had any octopus on hand those little buggers would have eaten every last bit of mommy’s delicious “chicken” just for being cretins).

In retrospect, octopus pizza not the best idea. After a tough afternoon, mommy stressed and fast approaching her wit’s end, combining two of the things I am least adept at, cooking and creativity, was a literally a recipe for disaster.

But when this arrived out of the oven looking like the creature from the black lagoon they were shockingly cheerful and ate it with minimal complaint. Even the side of beans. Because hey, I just managed to make green beans look delicious.

I know....Just...Please...

I know.

Now it’s 5:30 pm, hours to go before bedtime and my fallback distraction, the pool, is not an option because it’s monsooning outside. Normally, in times of crisis such as this, I would call on my old friend and favourite parenting equation: cough syrup + warm bath = early bedtime. But I really wanted the day to end on a good note and, if possible, without chemical assistance.

Cue Shrek. It is impossible to be in a bad mood watching Shrek. Even when Thing 1 accidentally kicked Thing 2 in the head after an aborted couch head stand and there were tears and (invisible) red marks on Thing 2’s face, we survived until Daddy got home and mercifully took over.

And today is another day.

 

 

Solo Mission, Day 11

Well, it’s come to this. We’re into double digits. Day 11. I’m pretty sure if I looked in the mirror right now, my eyes would be only slightly less crazed than Jack NIcholson’s in The Shining.

We had a good day. A great day even. The beautiful Miss L is back in the house and the girls kindly let me pull both of them home from school in the wagon, which was nice. For them.

Our mom's a sucker

Our mom’s a sucker

The pool is open and even though penguins would find it a tad nippy, they took their first swim of the season this afternoon.

The Titanic sailed in warmer water

Watch out for polar bears

After that, we snuggled into jammies and watched a mind-numbing movie about fairies and friendship and sisters which I barely managed to get through without euthanizing myself.

Bedtime was a struggle but it generally is with both girls here. Adjusting to sharing a room is tougher than I thought, and I don’t mind telling you that, as the song goes, “you’ll have to excuse me, I’m not at my best” when it comes to bedtime.

By the time I utter those four magic words – “go brush your teeth” – my patience is thinner than Kate Moss and I cannot always be counted on to make good decisions and demonstrate the patience and serenity I’m sure lies deep, deep within me.

So bedtime freak out done, I decide to climb into bed with a book. Yes, it’s not even 9 pm but I have wine and Twitter so at least I’m being social. (And when I say “my” bed, I mean the bed I’ve shared for the past 11 nights with Harmony, Scout, Austin and Sam. And by “shared” I mean been allowed to occupy about 9 inches across and 4 feet in length. My Chiropractor looooooves me.)

photo-53

Hi. I’m Austin and I like being close to you.

So I pull back the duvet and, behold, there is a giant wet spot. Which is curious because I don’t remember spilling anything in my bed. It’s freshly wet too. Like not seeping into the mattress, still kinda pooling on top of the sheet kind of wet.

So I contemplate this and try to decide whether it’s a “change and wash the sheets immediately” kind of wet spot (usually reserved for bodily fluids involuntarily ejected or something dead and stinky the dogs have brought in) or is it just a “don’t ask don’t tell it’s probably nothing” wet spot.

Before deciding, I must conduct a thorough investigation. In the absence of CSI-like technology, which allows crimes to be solved by hot, shirtless detectives in under 44 minutes, I launch my own inquiry.

Is it sticky? Yes. Does it smell? Thankfully not really.

What the hell?

Not being smelly rules out a few things, things like dog or kid pee that I would not want to sleep on even though my personal hygiene standards are at an all time low. It also means it’s probably not something a dog has pilfered from the green bin. The latter is important because it means this wet spot is unlikely to further rot or ferment while I’m sleeping on it.

We eat garbage. On mom's bed. Every day. Sometimes twice.

We eat garbage. On mom’s bed. Every day. Sometimes twice.

So at this point, I’m not really inclined to do much. I’m tired, I have a glass of wine on the nightstand, a blog to update and I’m in the middle of a really good book. I’d like to go to bed. What’s the worst that could happen???