Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Summer I Almost Gave Up Blogging

Oh, hello there. Are you still visiting this dusty old place?  Remember me? I used to post here fairly often before I was struck by the soul-crippling days of summer. And then vacation hit, the gremlins scuttled off their respective busses, and I was quickly buried by my seasonal responsibilities.

...What responsibilities? Did you seriously just ask me that? Do you read my posts?

Stay-at-home-moms work their aprons off when Summer hits. There is no time for bonbons. There is no time for daytime trash TV. We put on full protective gear and cute matching camo outfits and run into the fray for 2.5 months.

The tasks assigned to me over the summer included (but were not limited to): chambermaid, professional organizer, short order cook, event coordinator, life coach, lifeguard, personal shopper, personal assistant, complimentary shuttle van driver, payroll manager, and overworked referee --very overworked referee. And I did all of this for the low, low cost of my sanity.

By mid-August, I had completely lost the will to live my ability to blog. Being able to write involves having time to sit down and think about stuff. It involves not having to get up every two minutes to break up a fight, get someone a snack, or help someone figure out how to not be bored.

I seriously contemplated giving up blogging altogether. I really did. I thought that perhaps my time to share the crazy in my life with the world was coming to the end of its natural life. That maybe I should shut the whole operation down and turn this subprime piece of internet real estate into a mail order bride outlet: "Canadian Wives: We Got Your Beaver Right Here."

Why are you laughing? That part wasn't funny.  I was talking about closing my blog down. It's a sad thought that is undoubtedly reducing you to big, wet tears, right? Right?

I was at a very low point in my creative life: feeling burned out, overwhelmed, with no hope in sight.

And then, yesterday, just as I had given up all hope of ever being awesome again, this little yellow dot appeared on the horizon.

Was it a canary?

A loud banana?

The Man with the Yellow Hat?

Nay, friends.  It was the school bus. The wonderful school bus, packed to the brim with wonderful children going to wonderful school!

And just like that, I felt fucking wonderful again!

So, here I am, writing a blog post on day 2 of many, many glorious days of public education. Am I subpar parent for the joy I felt when I could hand two of my children over to the system five days a week? Probably. Do I feel guilty about it? Not really, no. I'm over feeling guilty about parenting stuff. I could find things to feel guilty about every single day. Do I want to be depressed my entire life? Do I want to feel like a failure 365 days a year? No. So I turn the guilt dial way, way down.

Then, I drown the rest of my conscience out with coffee. It's better for everyone that way.

And, with my guilt dial being held down with a popsicle stick and half a roll of duct tape, I did another great thing: I enrolled Spawnling in a pre-kindergarten program 2 days a week. That's six hours on Monday and six hours on Wednesday for a grand total of 12 hours each week, or 48 hours every month. If I do the math - and believe me, I have - that will be about 480 hours this school year that are entirely dedicated to The Maven and her craft. Minus sick days, of course.

But who's counting?

Don't look at me like that. He's ready, you know. He's been begging me to go to school for two years. And besides, after well over a decade of raising kids full-time, I could use a little scheduled breathing room. I deserve this. I've earned it. Been there, done that, have the after hours comfort food binge rolls to prove it.  Stop judging me! I don't need your repressive eyes upon my person.

... Oops. I think someone moved the popsicle stick. Anyone see the tape?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Just a quick one

A year ago tonight, I went to sleep in a hospital room next to our very sick two-year-old. It would be the first of several nights. The nurses had given me something for my headache - it was so bad it felt like my head might explode from all the stress inside. As the medication slowly kicked in and I could listen to the beeping of machines without wincing in pain, I wondered if Spawnling would make it through the night. 

Today, we had friends over. Spawn tormented his four-year-old pal and chased Gutsy off the tire swing.  He ate homemade pizza, told his dad stories about the Lego creatures he had just built, wrestled with Intrepid, stole forkfuls of my cheesecake, ran way ahead of us on our way to the park and held my hand on all the way home. Tonight, he kissed me, rolled over, snuggled his purple stuffed cat, and fell asleep with my arm around him.

I am so grateful. We were so lucky last year. He is so healthy. We are a good, strong family of five with a tough little guy to complete us. 

What a difference a year makes.

I'm done being sappy. I just needed to get that out.

I love you, Jackson. Always.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who are the budding criminals in your neighbourhood?

I'm pleased to say that I am still feeling significantly better than I have the last few weeks. I'm well aware that depression is a cruel mistress and can come back to scratch my face and boil the family rabbit at any time, but so far the restraining order I filed against her seems to be working. That crazy bitch can take her ice pick and go elsewhere.

... Wait. That was a different movie. A movie with no panties. A naughty movie.

One of the great things about breathing in some happy is that I'm finding stuff funny again. Not in a manic way where one might laugh at a car accident or something terribly unfunny, but in slightly more appropriate stuff that makes me want to write a blog post. For example: graffiti.

Being a writer, I react strongly to the poor use of language. If I'm in a bad mood, I scowl and point my Mavenly finger at the defilement in question. Double negatives, for example. I ain't got no time for those unless they're in rock lyrics. A surefire way to get a laugh at parties is to casually slip a double negative into conversation and watch me wince as I try to find my happy place again.

If I'm in a good mood, however, I find bad English ridiculously amusing. If it happens to be scrawled upon a wall and I just happen to have my trusty smartphone with me, I will take a picture of the crime scene so we can make fun of it together. I'm nice like that.

Now, a bit of a disclaimer: I live in suburbia. This is not urban graffiti which can sometimes pull off the title of art.  This is lame spraying and engraving created by bored, over-priviledged kids who go all emo because their step-daddies didn't buy them the right colour iPod for graduation, those bastards.  Let's look at our first shining example found last night at the park:

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm feeling like I might not want to bump into this pre-teen in the dark. Anybody who smokes at the park and then announces it with a can of paint is terribly badass.

Let me tell you, it was really fun explaining to the boys why someone would A) choose to deliberately breathe carcinogens and/or illegal substances into their systems and then B) choose to commemorate the event on a wall right next to the play structure.

Next up, I bring you to my seven-year-old's school, where we went to shoot some b-ball a few days ago. This is where we found this on a picnic table:

In case you can't quite make this out - and believe me, it took me a while to decode the mysteries of this text - it says

"Jastin Biber eats poo."

I don't really disagree with this statement, to be honest. However, it takes a sharp eye and a great deal of patience to be able to read it.  I just wish it were written properly so that this important message of truth could be shared more readily with the masses. This is where the gift of language is so important, kids.

Last but not least, this steaming pile of cryptic crap was left on a neighbouring schoolyard table:


Let me try and type this with a straight face.

"Poo lick to weare derdie underpant"

I totally failed at that. I snickered when writing "poo" and was in full blown belly laughs by "underpant."  I could never be a standup comedian.

My best guess is that this is a play on a line in the first Alvin and the Chipmunks live action movie. In one scene, Alvin sings "Dave likes to wear dirty underwear!"

It was pretty funny in the movie.

This graffiti is funny in a different way. It's funny in a disturbing way. Who is Poo, and why does he lick Derdie's underpant? That's disgusting.

It's so poorly written that I want to find out who wrote it and drop by their place with a sympathy card for the parents and a dictionary for the kid. If this child speaks English as their first language, it is time to hire a tutor, stat. If English is new to them, then it's time to have a talk about defiling public places in the child's strongest language.  If you're going to do it, do it right. There's a song about that.

I would very much like to see a higher calibre of graffiti in my neighbourhood. Frankly, I'm a little worried about our future generation. They seem nearly illiterate and/or completely lacking in creativity. When I was in grade 5, I carved stick figures doing rude stuff into a wooden play structure at that same school*, and I am quite sure I spelled "they are doing sexy things" properly.

Read to your kids, folks. Teach them how important language is. Then they can break the law better, like me.

*A teacher at the school heard about my defilement, came by my house and made me not only apologize, but remove my graffiti. Thus was the end of my budding career of petty crime. Now I'm just a mom.

** I had to edit this post twice to fix spelling and grammatical mistakes. Maybe I should just give up and  find a picnic table.

Monday, August 09, 2010

One Year Later

I can't believe it's been an entire year.

A year since my son got frighteningly sick with what was at first a mystery illness for several days. A year since he suddenly spiked a fever of 104f that wouldn't come down, and slept all day and all night with only brief periods where he would wake up and drink something.

Nearly a year since I rushed him into the hospital with sores all over his mouth, where I was told he could be dying; since I signed consent forms and we waited - for results, for answers, for some sign that he was going to be okay; since I walked around in a daze and prayed to an entity I don't fully believe in to please make this a bad dream and please - please - just wake me up.

Only a few days short of a year since I watched his eyes turn red, saw his swollen insides on an ultrasound screen, his blistered lips caked with scabs, his peeling hands and feet. Since we counted the symptoms: 1, 2, 3, 4 and a stubborn high fever, and realized this couldn't be anything but Kawasaki Disease, thank the Powers that Be, because the alternatives were far scarier and deadlier.  We treated that night, and waited. It was the longest night of my life.

The next morning, he woke up from his listless state and looked at me. He ate some Doritoes - his first meal in days. He was pale, shaky, one of his eyes wasn't working properly. His heart was slightly enlarged from the disease and that made his prognosis worse, even with treatment. It would still be weeks before Kawasaki ran its full course and did any possible permanent damage. But he was okay: alive, breathing, here with us. And that meant I was okay, too.

Except I wasn't, and I wouldn't be for a long time. Spawnling's illness was the start of a downward slope for me that I didn't fully grasp until recently. It was a bumpy year to follow, which meant I didn't have time to fully process what had happened. I had to be strong, I had to try and keep it together for the things that were happening now: Gutsy's emotional state was deteriorating, our income dropped, a crazy (now ex-)friend faked cancer. So it sat in me and it festered for months. I didn't deal with it, I just pushed it back. Be strong, be happy, just be grateful he's here, I told myself.

But when I don't process stuff - go through the motions, have a few good cries, talk about it, maybe see a professional - I don't get better.  There were signs, little and big. For one, I haven't blogged in nearly three weeks. I dare you to find another time in my blogging history when I went that long between posts. In the last couple of months, I started sleeping more, eating less (not necessarily a bad thing in my case, to be honest), avoiding people and situations because I just felt too overwhelmed to deal with life. And bam! just like that: depression.

Yep, it's true: Just as things are getting a lot better around here, I was getting worse. It's as if I was finally giving myself permission to deal with my own shit because I'm not dealing with everyone else's. I was feeling down, crying over nothing, finding little joy in watching my healthy kids run and play and do childhood things that should warm my heart as a mother.

Depression. Why didn't I see it sooner?

Last week, I hit my bottom. I felt completely crippled by the darkness. Once upon a time, I had postpartum depression. This felt similar. So, I did what my therapist at the time taught me to do: I talked to Geekster and a handful of friends and I admitted that I just wasn't okay. The support I was received was stellar, and I instantly started to feel a little better.

Then, Saturday morning, I packed a bag and jumped in a car with my sister and a friend and we took off to upstate New York for a shopping extravaganza. The timing couldn't have been better. For two whole days I had no parental responsibilities, a sizeable shopping budget (we had been saving all year) and a whole lot of belly laughs. The weekend was perfect from start to finish. It refreshed me, reset me, centered me.  It was exactly what I needed.

More importantly, I bought a Coach purse. Now I'm trendy and centered.

When I got home, Spawnling ran up and threw his arms around me. He kissed me and stroked my hair, saying "I really missed you, Mommy." Frankly, I missed me, too. I missed the happy-go-lucky me. I missed enjoying life and the three little boys in it who need me to be in good form emotionally, mentally and physically.  I feel like maybe I can start to give them that again. They deserve it.

Last year sucked - there's no way around that. August will probably be a challenging month for a while to come. But I won't let the darkness creep up on me again. I'll recognize it and do what I need to do to make it disappear. Next time, I'll beat it to death with my new purse.

They're guaranteed for life, you know.