The peace of a productive family night

We had what was, to my mind, a perfect moment this evening after supper. 

Bridget was building and playing in her fantasy world (Minecraft), learning how to spell words like “diary” and “no one” and “secret” and “allowed”.

Jack was finishing his math homework, relaxed and focused, having brought home stellar progress reports from the first month of school.

Hubby was sitting next to me on the couch while I knitted my scarf, occasionally sharing funny videos and articles with me. And playing with the dog. 

   
    
 The TV was off, unneeded. It’s amazing how much easier it has become to turn it off without cable, having our favourite series and films completely on demand without ads. Much preferred over the old stand-by.

And now, as I sit waiting to pick up our teenager from karate, Hubby is helping Bridget with her math, exhibiting much more patience and firm guidance than I could have with her. To be perfectly honest, I sometimes struggle to keep the emotional coolness needed to help with homework after a long day. I get frustrated trying to help her. But Mark understands her and how her mind works, to a far greater degree, in part because she shares many of his personality traits and likely has similar learning disabilities. Certainly, the diagnosis last year of Bridget having a mild intellectual disability fits, and while it’s not quite what he had to struggle against in his youth, it’s close enough. He can relate to her and be the firm voice that she needs. 

   
 I think kids just listen differently to one parent than another, especially when one tends to be a pushover (I blame years of being over-tired, particularly while anemic). Or they listen to certain authority figures differently than a mom or a dad. That’s why it takes a village to raise a child: it’s far easier to tune out the voice that’s around even fractionally more frequent, than the voice called in to take over, pinch-hit, or teach a skill set that is one’s own weakness.

It’s much later, now. Bridget is in bed, and by some miracle, she not only finished her math with her dad, she also VOLUNTARILY learned to — by the holiest of Holies — wash the toilet. 

Bridget. Cleaned. The. Toilet. 

  
This child, who whined and outright refused for MONTHS whenever I told her to clean the toilet, begging for other jobs to do (and doing them with less and less fanfare), sulking on the couch earlier, scrubbed the toilet with Scrubbing Bubbles’ disposable brush thingy. 

I am in heaven. 

And I made time to layer the front of the Necronomicon with papier mache — got creative with a little corn starch (and salt for preservative), seeing as I forgot to bring glue home. 

   
 
Yes. It’s been a good night.

Teaching the Two-Step through (Pre)Teen Emotions

First middle / junior school dance* of the year, tonight. Bridget was so excited to learn about it yesterday, she was practically vibrating. She had her outfit put together last night, and repeatedly squealed how nervous she was. Jack was more laid back, nearly waiting until the last minute before deciding to go. 

*younger kids went from 6-7:45, older kids/young teens went from 8-10

Bridget didn’t even look back, once I paid her ticket. She drifted forward, Cinderella at the ball, found her friends and there were happy hugs all around. When I picked her up, she didn’t want to leave, of course. Her crush wasn’t there, but she wasn’t too disappointed. She’d chased a different boy down and made him slow dance with her. 

We had another chat about consent on the way home. 9 and a half, folks.

Jack didn’t have quite as good a time as he’d hoped. I won’t go into the details here, but suffice it to say that he finds himself wishing life were scripted. Doing my best to help him figure things out.

This is the part where I concentrate on remembering the roller coasters of fresh hormones at 14. And at almost 10. It’s been getting harder, though. Maybe that’s why some writers focus on youth fiction — it might become easier to reconnect with those memories and be able to empathise with the kids. 

In which my son is introduced to Supernatural . . .

Heh heh . . . watched an episode of Supernatural tonight, a season 1 episode about Bloody Mary, and my fourteen-year-old son decided to join me after his shower. Now he’s all freaked out and doesn’t want to go to bed. Avoiding looking in reflective surfaces . . . I had to put on a comedy for him. Like PewdiePie goes to look at fluffy kittens after getting scared playing Slenderman. I’m trying so hard to keep a straight face . . .

Nope.

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HOOOOO boy . . . I understand, totally. I freak myself out once in a while, too. That night hubby saw the reflection of a woman in a long white nightgown in the pictures on our wall, when I was in bed in purple jammies — I couldn’t look up from the floor at night for a whole week. And the morning after he and I watched 30 Days of Night, when he had to go to work in the dark hours of morning in the middle of winter JUST LIKE IN THE MOVIE, he was watching the rooftops for vampires, he told me. And oh, this kid’s reaction when his dad told him, one night, in an ominous tone, “Don’t look out the window, Jack” — yikes! Our son is an imaginative and sensitive soul with a fantastic imagination. You fuel that thing with fear and it runs for hours.

Some of his friends like watching Supernatural so he said to me, close to the end of the episode, “I’ll have to watch from the beginning. I’m sure the others aren’t horror.”

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Oh, my poor, sweet, dear firstborn child . . .

BRB — I have to stand in the kitchen with him while he gets his bedtime snack.

*

*

*

Aaaaand I lost it. And now he’s upset. Get it together, woman! THIS IS YOUR CHILD!

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See, here’s the thing: I really do enjoy the show BUT I have not been able to watch it for YEARS because it came on right when I would be trying to get the kids to bed / keep them there. We didn’t have a DVR / PVR so I couldn’t tape it. And even streaming — well, when you have your youngest always wanting to sit on your lap and cuddle the minute you sit down, you’re not watching scary awesome TV. So I have missed almost all eight seasons and honestly, Mama wants to do some catchin’ up with those nice Winchester boys.

Seems as though I’ll be doing on my lonesome from now on.

I think I’m okay with that.

#badparent

Randomness!

Inappropriate game for road trips: Roadkill Bingo!

. . . am seriously considering making one for the next long drive. So . . . Patent Pending, right?

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Got my hard drive back at last! My files, oh, my files . . . how I missed you! Sadly, I cannot access the photos stashed inside, but my desktop probably wouldn’t be able to handle the load anyway. I’ll be able to get to them again, right? RIGHT?

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I live in a house of a thousand corpses. Mosquito corpses. Stuck to the walls and ceiling.

I know. It’s gross.

However . . . TROPHIES OF MY VICTORIES AGAINST THE PESTILENTIAL INVASION!

I should make little tiny plaques documenting the date and time of each kill.


A watched pot never boils. A watched 9 year old never washes her plate. But you go and take a shower and suddenly she’s doing it . . . WHILE YOU ARE SHOWERING.


Two weeks ago I was looking for socks and bundling up in a sweater. Today my region had a heat warning and I went out in a sundress with sunscreen and a sunhat and I still got a bit burnt. #wtf but also #lovingit


The 9 year old started researching hotel prices and flight costs to Paris, France, for her future trip when she is 18, and recording them in a chart. This is the child who hates math. WHAT IS HAPPENING?


The teenager did a sink full of dishes this morning without complaining, in lieu of mowing the lawn because he was running out of time to do a chore before going to a friend’s house. I repeat: WHAT IS HAPPENING?


Oh. The Road Kill Bingo is already a thing. But we need a CANADIAN version, right? With porcupine, moose, goose, doughnut, Tim Horton’s cup . . .

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AND THAT’S RANDOMNESS!

Dreaming, reading, writing: my nature as an escapist

With the edits on the proof of Crystal and Wand finally in the hands of my awesome publisher (YAY! Release coming SOON SOON SOON I promise!), I am finding myself a little adrift. The creepy dollhouse story aside, there are any number of other ideas that I could look at as well — most of them being on my harddrive, which I’m still waiting to get back from the repair guy (long story short: don’t let your bearded dragon poop on your computer!).  Plus my list of other things to do. Household organization (and reorganization), parenting, bill paying, gardening, and the like. You know. Grown-up stuff.  The trouble is I’m an escapist. I just want to read. I finally read a book for myself, for the first time in months, just yesterday (still need to write up a review for you), in the space of four quiet hours. Normally, you see, I skim around my favourite blogs and hubs, reading nonfiction, informational, quirky or human-interest stories, finding out what’s going on in the world and learning about stuff in general. I like doing that, too. But because I tend to get interrupted often, I rarely get the luxury of sinking into a lovely drawn-out fiction. It now feels a bit decadent to devote a whole afternoon to a book, although let’s face it — if it’s not a book, it’s article after article after article through io9.com or Gawker. Or Buzzfeed. Usually brought to my attention via Facebook.   

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If I’m not reading SOMETHING, then the other temptation I face is to go sleep for a while. I love dreaming, even when it’s got the annoying element of being in a car that brakes too slowly, almost drives off a cliff into a river, or I discover it’s driverless and I’m having to take the wheel and find the pedals by contorting myself from the passenger side or the backseat. The problem is that sleeping too much is unhealthy, and is rather too escapist. Plus, I always forget to write the damned dreams down so that activity becomes pretty unfruitful, except for the temporary enjoyment.

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Anyway, maybe I’ll keep on with the creepy dollhouse, see where it takes me — there are an awful lot of what-ifs in my head. Maybe I’ll do a light-and-dark concept, with a romantic / fluffy piece to counter the dark / freaky thing that feels like it’s coming. There will either be evil, vengeful Wee Folk or ghosts. Hey, my imagination says, Why not both? 

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And in the meantime, stuff to do. I was feeling a bit bad again today, thinking I hadn’t been productive enough, but when I was chatting with my friend David and related that I’d taken Bridget to her doctor’s appointment, made a few needed phone calls, helped her learn / practice some math skills by letting her budget some money sent to her by my great-aunt so she could buy some crafty things at the dollar store and pay for them herself (sincere apologies to the nice lady behind us at the till who just wanted to pay for her iced tea and leave but was held up by Bridget’s anxious confusion between the value of a loonie and the value of a toonie in counting out seven dollars and ninety-six cents — we thank you for your patience!), took her on a walk to the school she’ll be going to for grades four through six, with Elizabeth on her leash clinging to my chest (tomorrow we take Skittles on the journey), and attended Jack’s soccer game after supper. He pointed out to me (bless you, Dave!) that in fact I did have a productive day and it was okay to feel tired. I am NOT Wonder Woman or Mary Poppins or a Time Lord. (Maybe that should be my mantra?) I can only do what I can do. All the wonderful things I envision happening in a musical montage of whirlwind cleaning, sorting, training (hey, both kids have done their laundry this week AND done a few dishes!) are just not humanly possible.

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Although . . . Wonder Woman, Mary Poppins, Time Lord — that’d be one helluva cosplay mashup, now wouldn’t it? And isn’t Mary Poppins really Gallifreyan ANYWAY???

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Yeah, Moffat’s all over that one.

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I want to sigh, and yet I can see the possibilities there  . . . and so off I go, finding yet another fun way to dream, avoid the chores (they’re always there anyway), because if it’s not reading or writing, it’s designing and crafting.

Good thing I’m not a maniacal villain determined to take over the world, now, isn’t it? Take ON the world, on the other hand . . .

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I need chocolate.

The 9-year-old’s Boyfriends, or a Look at the General Philosophy of Romantic Love

Well. I wish I had recorded THAT conversation.

And I face a slight ethical dilemma in sharing this with you, because when she saw that I was transcribing what we’d talked about, she didn’t want me sharing the story with anyone but her grandparents. And honestly, I won’t give you all of the details, because even though she’s only nine, I get it. It would be like taking a page from her diary (if she had one) and posting it online for all the world to see. Too personal, even for someone not quite an adolescent.

But my Bridget — my precocious, adorable, creative, maddening nine-year-old — has been describing to me the three (THREE!) boyfriends she has had so far in school.

Now, I know that the childhood definition of “boyfriend” changes substantially when you’re into the teenage years, and there’s perhaps a subtle distinction between a teenage boyfriend and an adult boyfriend. But the central idea is still the same: a chosen, special companion, singled out from all others for individual attention and care, playtime and comforting. Forget the physical intimacy of those old enough to partake: it’s enough that your partner will hold your hand, when you’re a kid.

Hell, I still love it when my husband holds my hand. Maybe that in of itself is a gesture of intimacy. After all, you wouldn’t normally hold a stranger’s hand, or very often, a friend.

But back to Bridget.

This conversation all came about while she was playing with playdough, and at some point she started singing the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”, and she asked me why Dad had fallen in love with me. I said I didn’t know and she’d have to ask him. Then she said she thought it was because he wanted to be tortured.

O-o-o-kay.

I don’t know, maybe there is something to that. Science has shown that powerful chemicals are at work in the process of choosing / pursuing a partner, and the concept of lovesickness has been chewed over by countless poets and authors and songwriters. That lyric, “Boys only want love if it’s torture” — so often, we (boys and girls and most of us in between) crave that which is most out of reach, forbidden, or dangerous, because that suspenseful high resulting from the risk makes our hearts beat faster and those stolen moments all the sweeter. Who wants a love that’s easy? 

Look how many romance novels and movies and plays are all about the struggle. The angst. The “what-if” and “better-not” and “you’ll-get-in-trouble” of it all. My nine-year-old is already experiencing some of these things, even though they are limited to heads resting on shoulders and hands being held at recess. For her, dating a boy isn’t yet about anything more than those simple, brief acts that make them both happy. After all, she’s never spoken to me about making a boy hold her hand who didn’t want to (we have had a couple of conversations about the idea of consent — guess we’d better keep going!), or been devastated by losing her favourite’s attentions. 

So . . . if romantic love is about finding companionship with someone who makes you feel special and cherished, but experience suggests that we only get that through emotional and physical struggle, deprivation, and mistreatment, is it still romantic love if it’s a couple of elementary school kids who say they’re boyfriend and girlfriend for a few recesses at school? Is that something that we should deride as being cute and harmless, or take seriously?

I vote for the latter. Because I remember liking liking boys and girls when I was in elementary school, and the struggle that went along with deciding whether to admit to those feelings. Opening yourself to that gives those who are cruel a fresh chance to spike your most vulnerable spots. No matter how much you want to show that you like someone more than everyone else does, maybe by blending your personal space bubbles by joining your hands, you’re taking a risk that bringing the feelings out in the open will encourage the other kids to make fun of you. Or get you into trouble, particularly if your school has a no-touch rule. Or start rumours about you. No, romantic love is a serious business even when you’re a child, perhaps even more so in some ways than for adults who are not exposed to the wolf-packs of the playground twice or three times a day. 

I told Bridget tonight that I wish she had told me some of these things when they’d happened, but I understand and respect why she kept them to herself. And I hear my mother’s own voice in my words. My daughter is developing her capacity for and understanding of affection beyond her immediate and extended family, growing her ability to love others for themselves. She has given herself (and I have reinforced) boundaries for expressing her feelings. And for now, it’s a stable course. Interestingly, too, her experience so far has been completely different from my own: her way of seeing others, her ability to make those romantic connections, her attitude when the connections are over, all are separate from my own memories of kindergarten through grade 3. This doesn’t mean I have less to worry about — instead, I have to start considering alternatives that she might go through. I can’t just imagine her in situations like those I experienced, and that’s awesome. What’s less awesome is that I’m now in some unfamiliar territory as a once-girl and now-woman, pushing 40 in a world substantially different than the one in which I grew up, raising a daughter to be confident, self-aware, etc. If she was more like me (as my son is), this job wouldn’t be as much of a challenge. But who ever said parenting shouldn’t — or couldn’t — be challenging?

Fever and all that comes with it: A Parent’s Poem

Heat under my palm where cool should be

Sleepy eyes ringed with circles over pale cheeks

Hoarse cough and hoarse voice 

Dry and baking little fingers clasping my own

She asks for water after her medicine.
Not her first time with fever, nor the last

But her colds are rare, often sickness undaunting —

She turned down bouncy castles today

Choosing couch, pillow, blanket, quiet

Not her typical personality.
I count my blessings always that she’s healthy

I watch her drift into sleep with flushed cheeks

I hope and pray it’s just the virus others have had

A temporary shift into discomfort

Try to keep her happy.
But knowing there is only so much

Life goes on and due dates tick closer

Guilt and apologies, letting go her hand

She’s old enough to understand

Not sure which part aches more.