So … About that Easter Bunny….

easter-bunny-and-jesus-1

Confession: I just Googled “What is the religious meaning of Easter?” Because when your almost-5 year old asks “Why do they call it Good Friday?” and the best answer you can come up with is “because there’s no school,” you know you have some work to do.

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

Easter or Resurrection Sunday,is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred three days after his crucifixion by Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.

Hmmm… Still a little fuzzy. Let’s try “What is the religious meaning of Good Friday?”

Good Friday is a Christian religious holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary. The holiday is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, Black Friday, or Easter Friday, though the last term properly refers to the Friday in Easter week. Based on the details of the canonical gospels, the Crucifixion of Jesus was most likely to have been on a Friday (the day before the Jewish Sabbath).

That clears things up a bit, but how does all this translate into a giant bunny breaking into our home to leave chocolate and over-priced pastel-coloured stuffies?

Glad you asked. Another quick Google search of “What is the connection between Easter and rabbits?” turns up a Huffington Post article from 2011, which states: “The Easter Bunny is perhaps the biggest commercial symbol of Easter. But how did a rabbit and eggs become associated with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Well there clearly seems to be no correlation between the secular symbols and the Christian holiday.”

Great. Let’s try again.

Discovery.com says “Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots. These tropes were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honoring the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Bunnies, eggs, Easter gifts and fluffy, yellow chicks in gardening hats all stem from pagan roots. These tropes were incorporated into the celebration of Easter separately from the Christian tradition of honoring the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead. According to the University of Florida’s Center for Children’s Literature and Culture, the origin of the celebration ‚ÄĒ and the origin of the Easter Bunny ‚ÄĒ can be traced back to 13th-century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses. The Teutonic deity Eostra was the goddess of spring and fertility, and feasts were held in her honor on the Vernal Equinox. Her symbol was the rabbit because of the animal‚Äôs high reproduction rate.”

So let me get this straight: in order to explain the religious origins of Easter and Good Friday and why we celebrate these days the way we do, I have to talk about death, resurrection, goddess worship and sex. And not just any kind of sex: rapid, frequent and very effective sex – the kind that only rabbits and pro athletes are (fortunate?) enough to be having.

I think I’ll stick with “Because there’s no school.”

Back in the Blog Saddle

So it’s been a few (okay…. 10) weeks since my last blog. But I have a series of really good excuses lined up.

Ready?

1. My parental leave ended and I returned to work.
2. My oldest child was diagnosed with ADHD and I lost my sense of humour for a wee bit.
3. I joined a swim team. Stop laughing.

How’s it all going, you ask?

Well, let me see. I’m no longer working but my daughter is doing GREAT and I love being back in the pool. So, kind of a mixed bag.

First, the job. My position was eliminated, effective March 31. Being eliminated, terminated, restructured or whatever you want to call it is not a pleasant experience. On the upside I’m free to spend more time feeling guilty about the hot dogs and fruit roll ups I pack for lunch, not to mention the lack of clean underwear and tights.

I’ve also been watching a tad more television which has been entertaining and educational. For example, I recently learned that for the low price of $199 you can buy a DNA test kit online. I used to think you could just get your mom drunk on Zinfandel to find out if “Uncle Mike” is really your Dad, or just grab a Venti latte to find out if you’re lactose intolerant, but apparently there’s another way. So that’s something.

I must confess that I do love being at home. More accurately, I love how things run much more smoothly and how everyone is happier when I’m at home. The laundry actually gets folded before it’s worn, the dogs actually get walked and dentist appointments are made and kept. Could losing my job be the universe telling me that binge-watching Netflix is my new profession? Probably not, but I’m delighted to have more time and energy to look after my family and get back to Wine and Smarties.

Second, the ADHD. We’ve always known there was “something” there with H. And thanks to a great and varied support system we’ve been able to pin it down. The latter half of January was spent agonizing over whether or not to medicate and 8 weeks later I can say that I’m thrilled we did. My daughter is thriving in school and our biggest fear – that her sparkle would be dulled – has not been realized.

Q: How many ADHD kids does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Wanna go for a bike ride?

Ha! I love that one.

Third, the swim team. I haven’t swam competitively or even done a flip turn in 25 years, so getting out of the house two or three nights a week to shower by myself, talk to adults and do the one sport I don’t actually suck at has been exhilarating. I wish I’d done it years ago. My long-term goal is to swim the straight between New Brunswick and PEI (and when I say long-term I mean like, before I die, not 2016).

So what’s next?

I am torn between feeling like the world is my oyster and that the sky is falling in and I’m never going to wear high heels or earn a decent income again. I’m sure the truth is somewhere in the middle so for now, I’m going to enjoy every minute.

J xo

Letter to Myself re. Christmas 2015

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December 1, 2015.

Dear Jen,

By now your Christmas preparations will be in full swing.¬†You’ve pulled out the decorations, circled the tree-buying date on your calendar and started a “who’s getting what” list. But if past behaviour is any indication, you will start to go a little crazy around December 20th. You’ll be tired, overwhelmed, stressed and a little bit bitchy. Think PMS with mistletoe. You will resent all the running around, the obligatory social engagements and the pressure you’ve put on yourself to find the perfect gifts. The purpose of this letter is to save you from yourself.

Christmas is like birthing a baby (I think). There’s excitement and anticipation leading up. You are organized, you are ready and you have a pan. You even get a little cocky, congratulating yourself on everything you accomplished in advance, pitying those who weren’t as smart as you.¬†Then it¬†begins and you want to get off the ride. You wonder how you could have miscalculated reality so severely.¬†You beat yourself up. You beat your husband up. And before you know it you are screaming for drugs and vowing¬†“never again.”

Jen, the most important thing you need to remember is that¬†Christmas is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be joyful. It’s not supposed to cause stress, anger or bankruptcy and if it does, you’re doing it wrong. Remember the spirit of Christmas, how it promotes love, togetherness and peace. You got so caught up in having the right stuff with which to celebrate that you forgot a little bit about why we were celebrating in the first place. Yes, there is a lot¬†of shopping that needs to be done: gifts, decorations, food, toys and warm clothes to donate, the all-important sparkly top … these are all part of our enjoyment of the season. But you need to know when enough is enough. If you can’t relax until the garland is up and you’ve found the perfect twinkly lights then, once again, you’re doing it wrong.

Remember the day you went to three stores to find the perfect little ornament to go with the neighbours’ cookies? That was stupid. Your heart was in the right place but you got caught up seeking¬†picture-perfect presentation instead of thinking about¬†the reason for the gift. They are wonderful neighbours who tolerate our dogs, pool parties, overgrown foliage, squeaky trampoline and occasional hot tub nudity. I’m thrilled our kids are growing up together and I hope they never move. Wouldn’t that have been a nicer sentiment to put in the card (minus the nudity) instead of scrawling¬†“Love the Millards” 30 seconds¬†before flying out the door?

Do you remember what caused you the most angst¬†in 2014? I do. It was shopping for people outside our¬†immediate family. Let’s be honest:¬†shit got crazy. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make someone happy but¬†for God’s sake, the 15-year old who babysat once is probably not expecting diamonds. So chill.

We are not a religious family but this year we need to find a way to teach our daughters about the true meaning of Christmas. In 2014, the Kindness Elves helped us promote random acts of kindness that hopefully they’re¬†continuing¬†to practice.¬†I’m not suggesting we erect a live nativity in the front yard but maybe it’s time to stop being so afraid of talking about God and Jesus. It’s okay if you don’t always know what to say, and it’s okay to not have all the answers. When in doubt,¬†refer to chill out instructions.

In short, you need to take it easy. Less is more.¬†Christmas is all about the kids, and they don’t care if the garland comes from Walmart or Pottery Barn. They don’t even know what garland is, and in a few years they’ll be spending most of their down time with friends.¬†What they do care about is a warm, loving home, time and attention from¬†mom and dad, and presents under the tree. If your kids are happy, your family is healthy and we’re all¬†together, then everything else is just noise. Don’t give in to the temptation to make Christmas about more than that.

And as an extra bonus for sticking to that healthy eating plan (you look fabulous, by the way), here¬†are¬†a few more suggestions for making¬†Christmas 2015 a little easier. You thought of them while lying¬†awake wondering about¬†amazon.ca’s Christmas shipping cut off.

1. Organize a pancake breakfast for staff at school. Hold it the morning after the winter concert. This will be your gift to everyone who interacts with¬†the girls outside their homeroom teachers. Nothing says “I appreciate¬†how much you care for my children” like a table full of syrup and bacon.

2. Almost¬†no one appreciates knick knacks, coffee table books or joke gifts¬†that clutter up their home (except for Daren, who could open a museum). But everyone appreciates something delicious¬†that has¬†the added bonus of disappearing when you’re done with it, so give more edible gifts.

3.¬†Your friends will be feeling equally frazzled and clueless as to what to get you. So instead of stressing over gifts, plan a night out¬†in January as your gift to each other. A kidless night out is better than a new scarf or lip gloss any day,¬†even it means pitching a tent in someone’s driveway¬†and watching SITC reruns on an¬†iPhone.

4.¬†Resist the pathological need to see that person you worked with¬†in 2011¬†“before the holidays.”¬†Unless she’s leaving the country on December 25 you can see each other AFTER the holidays. It won’t be any less special.

5.¬†Know this: Twisted Peppermint¬†is NOT THE BOSS OF YOU.¬†If you don’t have Bath & Body Works candles and hand soaps scattered throughout your house, Christmas is not ruined. Resist the temptation to buy 13 soaps to get nine free, and spend it¬†on wine instead.

Love,

you.

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.

 

 

It’s me time, dammit!

After being ripped from sleep at 5 am to deal with Austin’s explosive diarrhea and Harmony’s explosive diarrhea covered foot, I spent the first hour of¬†the school day¬†on my hands and knees wiping, flushing, blotting, spraying and steaming in the girls room. Then I lit a scented candle and contemplated a wee nip of Pinot Grigio. Cleaning poop with the consistency of almond butter is not fun, but it’s REALLY not fun when it cuts¬†into me time.

Me time …¬†¬†those glorious hours between 8:30 and 3:00 when my children are¬†in school (also known as the fastest 6 hours of life).¬†As a temporary stay at home mom, I’m on duty in the mornings and most days after school (also known as the longest 6 hours of life). So the only time I really get to myself, when I’ve had enough caffeine to enjoy it, is during the school day.

I will save the “I am not a maid / slave / handmaiden and just because I’m not working doesn’t mean I should have to do everything” debate for another blog but suffice it to say, my Women’s Studies¬†professors would not be happy about the gender roles my husband and I have recently taken up (or the amount of naked Barbies littering my backyard like a Patricia Cornwell novel). Nope, those are topics¬†for another day (like when the house is in my name).

So I try to protect me time as much as I can, which means¬†as few boring errands and chores during the day as possible. I prefer to spend my me time watching Netflix, writing, catching up on a novel (while snacking, because I’m not an invalid) or meeting a friend for lunch. Occasionally I will throw in a load of laundry or pick up a broom, but then I have to reward myself with another episode. Perhaps I’m okay with being the 2014 version of Peg Bundy because I know¬†it’s a limited time offer.

One of the few exceptions to this “rule” is grocery shopping, because grocery shopping with two kids sucks even harder than 5 am dog diarrhea. Ditto hair appointments. But vet appointments, trips to the LCBO (of which there are many), library book returns, prescription renewals … these are all done with kids in tow because I have better things to do with my time, like find out what Mary Crawley is going to do about all those blasted suitors!!

Having said all this, there are a few things around the house I can’t ignore for much longer.

Like this, the outdoor painting session gone awry (two weeks ago).

Let's hope those are water-based paints.

Let’s hope those are water-based paints.

Or tossing the flowers that Daren gave me for our anniversary (on September 10).

RIP

RIP

Or Daren’s bedside table which makes our room look like it’s been burgled.

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This is bad.

So much to do, so little time.

 

Meet Your New Microwave. You’re Welcome.

Last night, while lying in bed listening to my seven-year old cough up a lung, I designed the perfect microwave. The one I have is pretty awesome. It looks good, is conveniently located, and it even convects (whatever that is). But what I really want is something that performs the desired function with the push of ONE button, not two or three.

If you’re like me (lazy and impatient with a brutal backlog of Netflix shows to watch), you pride yourself on cutting as many corners as possible in your domestic life.¬†Standing in front of an appliance when I could be watching Downton Abbey? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So I present to you … drum roll please …¬†a newly designed¬†microwave featuring helpful¬†buttons for everyday life.

1. DON’T BOTHER – for when you know they won’t eat it, no matter what the temperature.

2. COFFEE Рspecially programmed to reheat that last inch in the mug, for the third time. Especially useful on those mornings when you want to drop the kids off at school and keep walking.

3. JUST THROW IT OUT ALREADY – for meals you spent an hour preparing despite a sneaky suspicion that no one would eat it.¬†Bonus feature: “Let it Go” plays as the food reheats.

4. FROZEN. FROM A BOX ¬†– when it doesn’t matter what it is or how to cook it. Because it’s frozen from a box and you just can’t.

5. NUGGETS OF INDETERMINATE ORIGIN – the equivalent of speed dial on your phone.

6. SURPRISE! – when you’re not sure what it is or how long it’s been in the fridge. State of the art sensor determines¬†if reheating, cooking, or total detonation is required.

7. DATE NIGHT – for that holy grail of leftovers: restaurant meals. Reheats perfectly every time then dries your tears.

8. SCORCHING – for those times when you find yourself saying “Your noodles were cold, darling? Here, try this instead.” Automatically dials 911 for you.

9. FUCK IT Рfor everything else.

 

 

 

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:

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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.