Patience is a Virtue. Until you get electrocuted.

Everything was going fine until I got electrocuted.

Yup, that’s how we started a 36-hour east coast solo parenting mission. With electrocution.

Actually, it began with me making a promise to myself that I would be more patient with my children so this story isn’t ALL bad.

We’ve had visitors for two of the last three weeks and while they’ve all been wonderful (no, really) the lack of privacy, mostly cloudy weather and living in an 800-square foot cottage have taken their toll on my mental health rendering me a tad snappy with the little people who call themselves my children.

Full disclosure: patience is not one of my strong suits, even at the best of times. I’m the kind of person who thinks instant coffee takes too long, who wonders why the first car in the advance green lane is so slow off the mark, who has broken more than one appliance by forcing it to stop before its cycle is complete. So when it comes to small children, I tend to get a bit murdery over things like baby talk, rapid-fire “why is that plate blue”-type questions, and hysterics over spiders so small they are invisible to the naked eye.

Maybe it’s because I have zero experience with kids under four and have never learned to love and appreciate the baby stages. Or maybe I’m just an asshole. Either way, I think God knew what she was doing when she gave me two four-year olds instead of infants because I’m a much better mom when my children are not acting like children.

Don’t get me wrong, I think babies and toddlers are amazing. Every time I see a bassinet or a snowsuit with ears my good ovary practically explodes. And I can appreciate how nice it is to have a little tiny being that depends on you for everything and actually gives a rat’s ass about your opinion. But as much as I tell myself I have to appreciate these years where they’re small and impressionable and gentle, I sometimes find it really difficult to step back, summon my zen and live in the “poop” / “vagina” / mind-numbing cartoon / selective-hearing / milk-spilling moment.

But enough about me.

With Daren on his way back to Toronto for a night, I woke up to a picture-perfect day of bright sunshine and calm water – one of those days the maritimes gives you once or twice a month, if you’re lucky. So it felt like the right time to give myself the “today is a new day / cherish the little things / don’t be such an ogre” speech.

This lasted through breakfast and even into the late morning, as we headed to the barn for Harmony’s riding lesson. As Harmony was tacking up, Leila asked if she could go and see the horses out in the field. At this point, two things happened. First, I thanked heaven for blessing me with ONE child who bothers to ask my opinion. Second, I made the curious decision to touch the fence myself deciding, apparently, that this would be better than simply staying away from it.

Needless to say there was a rather strong electrical current running through said fence and upon touching it I received a nice little morning pick me up, along with a mild heart attack. The entire incident resulted in a minor setback in my Kumbaya attitude but the presence of my eyebrows helped get things back on track.

And tomorrow is another day.

 

 

The Black Dog

 

BlackDog

There’s nothing I can say about Robin Williams’ suicide that hasn’t already been said. I can’t mourn his loss,  celebrate his talent or rage against the demon that is depression any more eloquently than has already been done. But one of the crazy things about depression is this: even though people who suffer with it generally experience the same symptoms, it is a very individual and very personal disease. There are few experiences  that are so universal yet so isolating. Depression, thought it might manifest in the same or similar ways, grabs us and keeps us and affects us very differently, which is why I believe that sharing our experiences (without comparison or judgement) is so important.

Mental health is a tightrope many people walk every day, and depression is often triggered by a major life event. For me, it was an ovarian cancer scare followed by pulmonary emboli, surgery and recovery. (Sorry to make light, but anyone who’s given themselves needles in the stomach and been forced to wear a horse-sized maxi pad for weeks knows these aren’t things you easily recover from. I can’t even see a white surfboard without breaking out in hives.)

After hearing those amazing words – “there’s no cancer” – and being sent on my way sans left ovary, everyone around me celebrated (except for the right ovary, who was very lonely). But returning to normal life and trying to put my body and mind back together quickly became an insurmountable task. Some people describe depression as “the black dog” (sorry Austin) or a dark cloud. For me it felt like being trapped in quicksand (now that I have kids I would describe it as silly-putty on steroids.) It was a persistent pressure that smothered me from all sides every minute of the day. It made getting out of bed or off the couch feel impossible. I cried over everything and couldn’t feel happy, let alone ecstatic, that I was going to be okay. I had terrible nightmares about being told they’d made a mistake in surgery and that there actually was cancer but now it was too far advanced to treat.

Predictably, the people around me didn’t understand this. How come I wasn’t happy? How could I be sad when I’d just received the best news ever? So what if I hadn’t pooped for 17 days and my bedtime ritual was a needle in the stomach … there was NO CANCER.

I was emotionally drained, exhausted, sore, mad and VERY hormonal. All before noon. I was like an angry hornet: pissed off because I wasn’t invited to the party and determined to ruin it for everyone else. I didn’t want company but I didn’t want to be alone either. The things that always gave me pleasure, books, my dogs, my favourite TV shows, FOOD…. I didn’t enjoy any of it. Intellectually I saw my emotional state as ridiculous, but I couldn’t do anything about it which only made me feel worse.

The missing ovary and resulting hormonal instability (“hormonal instability”, THERE’S an understatement) probably deserve some of the blame, but whatever the cause I was a MESS. I tried counselling but that got off to a rocky start when my therapist left the office early the day of my first appointment. Apparently she forgot I was coming.

Even before the surgery I’d been taking a low dose anti-depressant. Depression and mental illness lurk among the branches of my family tree so I’ve always been a bit obsessive about my mental health. I told myself taking anti-depressants was just being proactive but in truth they made me feel like a different person. I was less irritable and emotional and better able to manage setbacks. Minor disappointments were no longer the end of the world, and I was now able to enjoy myself and my relationships with more of an even keel.

In her amazing book “Twenty Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed”, Sherrie Eldridge wisely counsels parents to “Evaluate Your Emotional Health” during the adoption process. Often, the stress of infertility, the waiting for a child, the setbacks, the multiple disappointments can all lead to depression. And then when you actually get your child, there can be challenges you were completely unprepared for and ill-equipped to manage. It’s a cruel fact that the thing you’ve yearned for and waited years for, can be the thing that sends you down that rabbit hole. When you realize that the serene fantasy you’ve spent years envisioning is never going to happen, it can be a real shock to the system.

But we soldier on. We all do. Each of us finding ways to manage our demons and our stresses. Some work and sadly some don’t, but as long as we’re trying and hoping, I think there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Even at my worst, I never even contemplated suicide and for that I am incredibly thankful because I know that place exists, and I can scarcely imagine a hell any more real than that.

 

Dear Daren…

It’s been 7 days since you escaped left for the cottage. I hope you and your buddies are having an AWESOME time golfing and that the weather has been spectacular. I hope you’re getting lots of sleep and enjoying many delicious meals and adult conversation. Don’t forget to try that new seafood place we talked about!!

Not much is new here. The girls have now memorized the entire soundtrack from Frozen and sing it to each other every night, substituting key words with “poop” or “vagina”. Last night they fought for 25 straight minutes about whether dolphins or mermaids were better. I’m not sure who won because I was smashing my head into the concrete and could not hear, but it seemed pretty heated.

Yesterday Harmony asked “why?” when I told her she should not open the door of a moving car, so I’m pretty sure we made the right decision to send her to summer school. Speaking of which, a bunch of artwork came home on the last day and I saved it for you in the recycling bin.

Good news about the plumbing! It was NOT a diseased muskrat after all. Turns out they had not been flushing the toilet in their bathroom for a few days (thank you environmental science unit!) so we had a talk about conserving water in more practical ways. And speaking of water … here’s what went down in the pool this afternoon:

This is Harmony crying because Leila accidentally hit her in the head with a golf ball. Where did those come from I wonder???

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This is Leila crying because Harmony yelled at her for hitting her in the head with a golf ball:

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And this is the toad who had the misfortune of hopping into our yard but mercifully kept them busy for the next 5 hours. Expect a call from PETA.

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And this is me, taking my first selfie just for you.

You wish

You wish

Can’t wait to see you on Monday. Don’t be afraid to bring wine to the airport.

Your loving wife.

 

 

 

Solo Mission Part II

Daren and the dogs have departed for PEI, kicking off another solo mission for yours truly.

Yay.

As I write this I can hear the girls in the bathroom, filling up a bucket of water. I have no idea what dastardly deeds they’re planning but as long as no one is bleeding I’m going to sit right here and pretend I’m childless nothing’s happening.

This morning I took them to school in pajama bottoms (cleverly disguised as leggings) and a Jack Daniel’s t-shirt. I’d like to say it was a low point but that’s probably wishful thinking.

Believe it or not we’ve actually come a long way since the last solo mission. The girls are getting along and can play together for hours without fighting (at least, I think that’s what they’re doing when I’m watching Netflix and wearing noise-cancelling headphones). Even though their bickering can make me want to run into traffic, in all the ways that matter they’ve settled beautifully into this new life.

Much of the peace at chez Millard can be attributed to the fact that Leila idolizes her big sister. If Harmony wants milk, Leila wants milk. If Harmony’s wearing a dress, Leila’s wearing a dress. Unfortunately, Harmony does not believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but she’s happy to take advantage of her new little servant and orders Leila around like a tiny prison wife.

prisonwife

So as we buckle up for another mommy-daughter stint I have to remember – in the midst of the fights over who’s looking at who and who gets the pink cup – that I’m ridiculously proud of how they’ve both embraced this change. They not only function, they flourish. Two months ago they barely knew each other, and now they’re sharing a room, a family, a life. Just like prison.

 

 

 

UPDATE re. Octopus Pizza and feelings of murder

Update to my post from earlier today:

First, my sister-in-law Aja has helpfully pointed out that the octopus pizza I lovingly prepared for my children last night was ACTUALLY inspired by a character in a very successful major motion picture. You be the judge.

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

Pizza

davy jones

Terrifying dude from Pirates of the Caribbean

Pizza, terrifying dude. Pizza, terrifying dude. Go ahead, scroll back and forth.

The pizza is still worse than a Jennifer Lopez rom com but at least it proves I have some artistic talent.

Second, after feeling all murdery last night I captured this little gem today. It has temporarily restored my faith in my children as well as my ability to survive them.

Smile or she will kill us

Smile or she will kill us

J xo

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 COMPLETE

I did it. I survived. 13 days of solo parenting has come to an end. (Actually it came to an end 2 days ago but the whole experience has been too raw to talk about until now. I’ve also been making sweet, sweet love to my bed for about 48 hours).

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Now, watching the post-game press conferences for the Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals and the US Open*, I’m reminded how important it is thank those closest to you after a victory. Especially when you’ve triumphed over adversity and beaten the odds, as I clearly have.

So here are the people and things (I’m talking to you, corkscrew) who helped along the way:

First and foremost: Daren. Not just for getting his ass home (we’ll overlook the lack of duty free booze for now), but for working so hard for our family. It sounds glorious (really, REALLY glorious) to be away for days on end but I know it was hard, especially with so much going on at home. I often tease Daren about how “tough” it must be to watch hockey for a living. It’s not easy to live in hotels, sleep alone in king size beds, eat at nice restaurants, visit New York and LA. Those things really take their toll on a person. Not to mention the …. wait, what was I saying?

But on the bright side, Dad's watching mixed martial arts...

But on the bright side, Dad’s watching mixed martial arts…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZdcaCRtJIQ

A close second, if we’re keeping score (which you should NEVER do in a marriage, even if you are the one who took out the recycling the last 6 times) is everyone who has ever encouraged me to document our family adventures. Even if you just read the first one post, got the gist, then pretended you read them all, thank you. It’s been a blast and it will continue.

Third, my beautiful, fun, spirited, crazy, adorable and amazing girls.

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We are hiding from mom in the car.

And thanks to Leila and Harmony as well.

These angels endured 13 days of wake up, go to school, make a terrible craft project, get yelled at, eat mac and cheese, watch mommy drink wine, get yelled at again, go to sleep, repeat. And they still seem to love me. I don’t care what Daren says, kids ARE amazing!!

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“Let’s see if we can get her to cry BEFORE lunch.”

And then there’s my mom, who called almost every day under the auspices of chatting with her grandchildren when we all know she was carefully assessing the situation, like Bruce Willlis in “Hostage” (except not with a penis). Like my bathing suit and my yoga instructor, mom did not judge. Just kind, soothing words and reminders as to where the emergency numbers are located on my fridge. Thanks mom!

Lastly, I would REALLY like to thank my single-mom friends who somehow resisted the urge to get in their cars, drive over here and PUNCH ME IN THE FACE for all my incessant whining. You ladies have always had my respect and admiration, and now you have my tears (and also my Xanax, if you’d like).

Honourable “thank you” mentions go to:

Wine, who I love with all my heart in a non-sexual way (most days).

The dogs, who got just three walks in 13 days (two of which were to the end of the driveway).

The guys renovating our basement, who worked a solid 11 hours in 13 days. Way to go guys.

Netflix, because you complete me.

And finally, coffee, for giving me something to do before wine o’clock.

I’ll leave you with a shot of the parade they held for me today in LA. So thoughtful.

Ticker tape? You shouldn't have.

Ticker tape? You shouldn’t have.

 

*HAHAHA. Me watch golf. That’s hilarious.