Monday, February 28, 2011

Groove

I am so on it.
It's Monday, there's a snowstorm outside and the gremlins are home for March Break (which also started early because technically it's still February, so really I'm just going along with things.) I have an extra child here for the day, and his mom insisted that he bring his Justin Beiber music with him because she knows how much I love it!

Please try not to drown in the sarcasm. It's thick and heavy this morning as I gasp for air filled with canned pop lyrics. She will pay dearly.

With ample eye twitches and a decent amount of caffeine in my veins, I have decided that it's the perfect time to jump on the NaBloPoMo bandwagon again - to save my blog.

In case you didn't know, NaBloPoMo is short for National Blog Posting Month. The concept is simple: you sign up on the site and commit to one post a day for the entire month. I've participated all of one time, in November 2009. That's me, always the go-getter. I was feeling in a slump when it came to writing - which is much like I'm feeling now - and I needed some motivation. So, I decided to take the plunge and post my face off, even if I didn't have much to say. It worked. Let's hope it works again.

It's come to this: I need to rekindle my love of humourous, narcissistic, attention-seeking writing, or abandon the blog altogether. Either I find my groove or I pack it up and let the dust settle on stay-at-home-mayhem for the last time. In the end, I don't need to post every day, but it should flow out of me far easier than it has been. I've been spinning my wheels of creativity for a while now, and it's time to do stinky things or get out of the bathroom.

Oh, dry your tears, already. Now you have to reapply all that mascara - what a waste. What's your boss going to say?

I'm the fat lady, and I'm not singing just yet. What you're hearing is the Beiber Fever oozing out of my living room walls. It's an honest mistake; he kind of sounds like a chick. I'm not willing to give up on a nearly five-year-old project that easily. This blog is older than my youngest child; it's a collection of our life stories over the last few years. It documents the ups, the downs, the scary, the wonderful, and the funny - especially the funny. It's so important to me that it practically has its own social insurance number. I don't want to let it go, but I don't want to do a poor job at capturing all my family's awesome in word form, either.

Some big things have happened in the last few months. Some of it I've blogged about, some of it I probably never will because I'm such a private person (yes, you may laugh now). But let it be known that I am a fundamentally changed woman: Maven 2.0, if you will. This new Maven is stronger, more capable, more interesting, and is faster than a train.

Oh, and while I'm at it, she has great abs and perky breasts. True story.

I'm no longer a full-time stay-at-home-mom, sort of. I regularly take writing and editing contracts, and there are two days every week - barring the occasional preschool plague - when all three gremlins scuttle off to school, leaving our home a quiet place. My entire diet has changed thanks to my good friend Mr. Gluten Intolerance. I've lost a fair bit of weight and am down nearly two dress sizes. My relationships have grown and evolved, my determination to live a happy life is more paramount than ever. Life is morphing, and I along with it.

I need to find a new groove: hence the word I've chosen for this post.

Every day for the month of March, I'm going to pick a word and write about it. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to post them as a comment here or anywhere on the blog's Facebook page. Go ahead, just throw them out there. I need to come up with 31 of them and am begging you to give me ideas.

And, if you haven't already figured it out, I'm an attention whore.  I love when you whisper sweet little nothings in my comment field. While you're at it, why don't you feel up my sidebar and become a fan or "like" me. Yeah, baby. That's like getting to third base in the blog world.

I might even respect you in the morning.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let's Talk about Girl Fights

I need me some of these. So awesome!
Can we talk about girl fights?

I'm not talking about the ones with bikinis and mud/jello/pudding that old dudes load up on Pay Per View on Thursday nights when the wife is at bingo. I'm talking about the games many a girl starts playing in the school yard and keeps playing well into her adult life. 

This is already starting to sound like a vaguebook status, isn't it?

"The Maven is annoyed with people who need to grow up. Sighhhhhhhh...."

I can assure my readers it isn't. Maven don't play that. I am not a vaguebooker whatsoever. Being a writer, I'm legally not allowed to use words to attack someone, whether directly or indirectly. My hands are considered deadly weapons and must be used in self-defence only -  or for drinking coffee. 

This post is about me, about growth, about how damn wise I am - or not.

I don't fight; If you know The Maven in real life, you know she screams "pacifist".  I used to think it made me a better person than those drama queens who get all up in each others' grills. My motto has always been "This, too, shall pass." It's a great motto, but not in this context. I avoid the situation, the person, the confrontation. I tell myself I'm being mature and sensible. I tell myself I'm keeping quiet so I don't lose my cool, say the wrong thing, and hurt someone I care about. Then I pat myself on the back for being so great. But really, I'm not being fair to either of us. 

Not too long ago, I had a fight with a friend of mine (no jello or hair pulling - sorry guys). We hadn't spoken for a few days and both had our own interpretation of why. Tensions built up, and built up, and finally exploded when we did talk - and it was awful. We had a fight of words, accusations, and assumptions. An argument that grew from a small seed of resentment into a mutated monstrosity of mismanaged anger. Words flew all over the place like wicked little razors, slicing through the tension and cutting us both deeply. When it was over, we both went back to our corners to lick our wounds and wonder what the hell had happened.  How did we get to this place?

A lack of balance on both parts, that's how. Not talking, not asking, just being silly girls on the playground.

Now, I talked about finding balance in my previous post in which I questioned being a stay-at-home-mom. But, as I'm discovering, there are a lot of other parts of my life that require a similar tune-up. How is not talking about things any better than yelling at each other? How am I a healthier human being by avoiding the person altogether? Here I am, smug as anything, feeling rather great about myself and how mature I am, and suddenly I'm knocked off my pedestal and falling - fast. The sudden realization that, by not talking, I helped make things worse, was not the least bit enjoyable.

Why is it that, while we may grow up into women, many of us don't stop being girls when it comes to confrontation? Why are we so afraid of talking about things, of asking for clarification, of knowing for sure instead of assuming? How is it that, at thirty-four, I'm guilty of this? You'd think that with my years of therapy, self-help groups and self-reflection, I'd be da bomb at assertiveness and confrontation. But I'm not. I kind of suck at it, actually. If I had been hired in the fact-checking department of a news office, I would have been pink slipped after the first week - or demoted to stamp-licker if I had a good union rep.  I over-think instead of finding out. That's just stupid.

*~*~*

The only way to turn a bad situation into a good one is by figuring out the lessons within. 

(See? I actually read the self-help books I own sometimes, so quit judging me. Oh, sorry. What I meant was: "I feel as though you're reading a couple of sentences back and judging me. Is that the case?" There, that's better.)

Anyway, I try to look at negative situations and pull something good from the rubble. What I've learned this time is that even though I'm awesome - and insightful and gorgeous and smart and terribly funny - I need to communicate better, more often, more clearly. I need to stop being the hopscotch girl in pigtails and be the woman I am in so many other ways. I need to respect myself and those I care about enough to let them know how I'm feeling, and give them the opportunity to share their side of things. And if we catch it early enough, we can avoid those big, epic battles of words that don't do much but hurt. 

My friend and I are okay. We're better than okay, actually. We had a very long, honest talk after that awful argument and cleared the air, and I think our friendship grew as a result. This is good, because otherwise I might be too upset to blog this week and then what would you do with your time? Actually work? Clean the house? Read something intellectual? Ick.

Growth hurts - especially the emotional kind. I'm going to be a better communicator from now on.  I'm going to go put my chalk away and find a sensible pair of slacks (in hot pink).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Raise Your Glass

Some days, I dream about having a job-- nay, a career. (Sounds fancier, doesn't it? And if I stick "path" at the end of it, it raises its trendiness level significantly.)

Some days, I dream about coworker lunches, pats on the back, raises and accolades. I want to hear "Nice job, Maven!" or "You're a real asset to the team, Maven!" And I might even like to see people make "TEAM MAVEN" shirts or sparkly handbags. Frankly, I don't know why this hasn't been done already.

Some days, I want to be able to shop for me without guilt. I wish I had a reason to buy nice clothes or shoes or put highlights in my hair. I dig the red and a I totally rock the locks, but a secondary hair colour and a straightener might be nice things to have if I had a good reason (and the means) to get them.

Some days, I would love to be able to leave the house and all responsibilities therein in the capable hands of another while I drive off to work for eight hours. Or, better yet, I dream of dropping off my little mess-makers at somebody else's house while my home spends eight hours not getting messed up. Coming home to a clean house: that's the equivalent of a domestic orgasm.

Some days, I don't want to say "I'm sorry, but we can't afford that right now" to my kids. I would love to be able to surprise the gremlins with a vacation that involves hats with ears, ridiculously long lines, stupidly expensive food, and-- actually, screw that. I'd take us on a really big boat. The idea of little umbrellas in my virgin drinks on a floating resort definitely beats fighting our way through a sea of tiny tots just to get a picture with a giant mouse.

Some days, I tell you.

There are some days - like last Friday - when I look at my life and feel, well, a little dissatisfied. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. I feel like I do the same thing day in and day out: Wake up, breakfast, get kids to school, clean, cook, lunch, clean, play, snack, clean, homework, dinner, clean, bedtime, clean, rinse and repeat. Fight to get them to school, fight to get them to bed, fight to get them to do their chores. Break up arguments, solve problems, find missing mittens. And for what? So that I can get yelled at, talked back to, told that my meals look gross with a push of the plate? It's not exactly motivating.

Sometimes, like on a frigid Tuesday night when I have a bit of money in my pocket and I'm off to get groceries for my family -- only to discover the heat in my van isn't working - I panic because I don't know how we're going to afford to fix it and buy food. I think about getting a job to make our money situation easier, only to realize that I've been out of the workforce for years, and jumping into a career at 34 isn't exactly simple. I feel frustrated and want to kick things. Instead, I drink tea and eat chocolate and hope to the Powers that Be that it was a glitch brought on by the extremely cold weather (It was, and it worked on Tuesday morning. Phew.)

Some days, I wonder if I made the wrong choice to dedicate nearly a decade-and-a-half to raising my kids. I worry that I may have given up the opportunity to do something greater, something bigger than my domestic life. Maybe I could have been a great novelist, a doctor, a teacher, a politician. All except that last one are very meaningful careers.

The last few days have been a time of reflection brought on by doing way too much on far too little sleep. I looked at what I've given up: formal education, bigger retirement savings, better financial security, a feeling of personal accomplishment, a life of my own outside my family - and I wondered if I made the right choice.  On days like that, it feels like I've spent 14 years helping other people achieve their goals at the expense of my own. Mothering is pretty much all I've ever done in my adult life.

And that's the dark side of being a stay-at-home-mom in the 21st century. Because there are choices available to women these days other than slapping on an apron and procreating (not necessarily at the same time, but whatever floats your boat); because the norm is to live on two incomes, not one; because the question of "what's best for our children?" is a blurry, hot topic in our generation; because it's considered an outdated practice, circa 1952.

Being an at-home parent flies in the face of today's societal norm. There aren't a lot of us around these days. When you think about it, it's kind of badass. Rebelliousness of the stick-it-to-the-man variety.

I'm feeling a little bit rock n' roll right now. Maybe Pink made this song for me.



(I have a bit of a crush on Pink. It's hard not to.)

Yesterday, I kept a coughing Spawnling home from school. We made hot chocolate, sat by a warm fire in the living room and watched Sponge-Bob together. We cuddled under a blanket in our pyjamas, cozy and warm. It occurred to me that I didn't have to worry about missing work, because this is my work. I don't have to worry about using up sick days, or about sending the gremlins to school or daycare hoping that that they're not as sick as they seemed in the morning. We may be stressed about money sometimes, but I'm not stressed out spending time with our little demons. I consciously savoured the moment.

Later, I received a phone call from one of the support professionals we deal with for Gutsy's and Intrepid's hearing loss. I gave her a rundown of everything going on and the list of all the things we're doing to try and improve the situation. She complimented me on my efforts. I realized then that I could only do everything I'm doing because I have the time to do it. They are my full-time responsibility, and I can do a bang-up job because of it (which is an expression and should not be confused with violent acts toward my children. I don't beat them; I only think about it - sometimes in a great amount of detail.)

Later still, I experimented with some gluten-free baking. I whipped up a pan of peanut butter chocolate blondies that probably cost a whole $2 to make. I would have easily spent $8 or so at the store for a specialty baked item like that. So I may make less, but I also save us a lot of money, too (minus the coffee habit that I can quit any time so why don't you step off about it and back away from my grill?!)

My life isn't perfect, nor are my choices. But the epiphany I had is that there are no perfect choices, and that's okay. There are pros and cons to absolutely everything. I've spent 14 years witnessing first steps and first words, but as a result the gremlins three have witnessed their dad and I stress over paying the bills more than if I were working full-time. I can spend all day cooking, cleaning and eating bon-bons playing with Spawnling, but that stuff doesn't show well on a resume. I can be there when they come home from school, but we often have to say no to after-school activities. I can feel accomplished when I've reorganized the pantry, but no one is going to present me with an achievement award.

Choices, balance, acceptance. This is the path I chose for me, for my family, for us. It means a lot of things both good and bad. It means that I will probably never have a great career unless I forge one for myself as a writer. That's okay, I'm an excellent writer and destined for greatness - or at least some Maven-infused mediocrity. In the meantime, I'm going to stop being so hard on myself, quit questioning my every move, and fully throw myself back into the fray pure joy of full-time parenting without guilt.

And hope beyond hope that one of these contracts I'm bidding on comes my way very soon so I can keep the caffeine mainline going. Just sayin'.

I am the stay-at-home-Maven, after all. Raise your glass.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

My Parking Lot Superheroes



This morning, as I walked the length of the frigid parking lot into our local coffee establishment, I had an epiphany.

Sort of.

I had just dropped Gutsy and Spawnling off at their respective schools. Admittedly, I was not in the greatest of moods. I knew I needed something to make my day a little more caffeinated, so I pulled into the Tim Hortons down the road before heading home. Two twenty-something guys got out of their car in front of me. The minute the passenger door opened, a stream of curses flowed out. As they walked ahead of me, I noticed they weren't particularly well-dressed.

Sort of.

I mean, their clothes could be nice, but they hadn't taken the time to, like, pick appropriate sizes off the rack, or match them all that well. It was sort of a mishmash of fashion, like they had gone to Winners - the Canadian J.C. Penney - and just grabbed whatever had a brand name on it because it had a brand name. The two young gentlemen walked ahead of me.

"And then I was all like, bleep man! What the bleep is her bleeping problem? She's such a bleeping bloop. Motherbleeper. Bleep!" explained the passenger to his friend.

He must just not notice that I'm two feet behind them, I figured.

"Uh-huh" said the other guy. Then, he turned sideways - away from his friend - closed one nostril, and blew snot out the other. I had to sidestep so I wouldn't walk on his what was now his ice Kleenex. Barf. It became increasingly obvious that they didn't know I was there.

I promptly named my new special acquaintances Snotman and Fuckboy.

As we got to the restaurant doors, Snotman walked in first. Fuckboy followed, and then did something that changed my whole view of them: Without looking behind him, he held the door for me.

They knew I was there the entire time.

"Uh, thanks," I said as I walked through.

"No problem," Fuckboy smiled. They even let me go ahead of them to get my coffee. Behind me I heard more swearing and sinus manipulation, but I was deep in contemplative thought. Snotman and Fuckboy had opened my eyes to a new way of living: not giving a crap.

My new superheroes knew I could hear them swearing. They knew snot could have hit my shoe at any moment. They probably know how to pick out clothes that don't make them look like sandbags, too. But the difference between them and me is that I care too much.

I've been feeling pretty overwhelmed the last week or so. Gutsy's having problems at school, Intrepid's having his own set of motivational problems, too. Spawnling had three time-outs at preschool on Monday (he says he only really deserved one - that's mommy's little lawyer). I've had various phone calls with various employees of various schools, all wondering how we can work together to make a particular gremlins's learning experience a better one. I have meetings lined up; email chains longer than my family's grocery list; commitments to various friends, family, clients, organizations and, of course, my children and spouse; a house to clean; a blog to write in; a book to write; gluten-free baking to do... In short, I am one person feeling stretched in many different directions.

I don't want to let anyone down, but I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water most days. I think a lot of parents - especially mothers - feel this way. It's one of the main reasons I don't have a full-time job outside the home; I can't imagine having to do that, too. I'm way too lazy to balance 40 hours of work and a family. I'd rather be broke and able to breathe - most days. Other days I'd like to be living a life where I may not see my kids that much, but we all get to go to Jamaica together every year and forget about all the phone calls and emails for a while.

Anyway, here I was, feeling all stressed out and miserable and non-caffeinated, when along came the Unkept Wonder Duo to give me an entirely new way of looking at things. What if I just didn't care anymore? What if I, like the protagonist in the amazing cult classic movie known as Office Space, suddenly just stopped caring about everything? Maybe I could have a series of operations to remove my responsibility neurons, stress processors and compassion gland.

What do you mean "Those aren't real body parts, Maven"? Are you a doctor? Didn't think so. Doctors don't read my blog. My high level of functional insanity would challenge everything they learned in their pricey medical schools.

Sometimes I really wish I could stop caring, or at the very least gain a bit of perspective. I get so wrapped up in myself and my family and the unique set of problems we deal with that it's easy to get overwhelmed. Sometimes reminding myself that there are worse issues out there makes a difference. Sometimes it doesn't. Just because someone else has it harder doesn't mean it isn't hard here. It doesn't make all the stress go away.

But I'm not willing to throw on some tights and go moping through the streets as Captain Bringdown just yet. I have gratitude, I have laughter, I have season 6 of Grey's Anatomy. I have a husband who lets me rant, friends who give me hugs and coffee, kids who make me smile when they're not making me want to strangle them. Gratitude keeps me going. If I can just reach out and grab hold of one of the many good things that are good in my life, it helps balance me out. Sometimes it takes a couple of days and some gross guys to remind me that there's a happy medium out there.

Gather 'round, kids, so that Mother Maven can explain the moral of the story: Everyone's life has problems, but you don't have to wreck your fucking vocabulary for it, fuck. So, while blowing snot onto a parking lot may sometimes seem like the only option, it isn't. Just remember: There are always good things in life to remind you to breathe, to enjoy, and to smile. And when you're staring at a sales rack, always make good choices.

Love,
Mother Maven

Monday, February 07, 2011

In Which The Maven Admits to Feeling Freaked Out

Have I ever mentioned I have an onion allergy?

Not that it's ever been confirmed by an allergist, but raw onions (not well-cooked, for some reason) make my tongue and throat go numb, and make it a little harder for me to breathe. I've been known to vomit after accidentally consuming them, too. My doctor has recommended I get tested and carry around an epi pen just in case, but I have yet to do that. You'd think I have more pressing items on my to-do list, like raising three gremlins and meeting all their medical needs. I'll get to it - eventually. Hopefully before I actually need epinephrin.

But the most interesting thing about my allergy - or sensitivity I guess, since we don't know for sure if it's an allergy - is that the smell makes me feel sick. For whatever reason, I get nauseous whenever I'm around a cut up onion. This is why we don't have onions in our house. We don't cook with them. If my husband wants his onion fix, he gets it at work - far away from yours truly. It's been like this pretty much my entire life. The smell is overpowering to my senses and my body goes into revolt. But I can live with that, because my day-to-day isn't terribly affected. 

Recently, I've started getting grossed out by the smell of bread. I've been gluten-free now for almost four months. For the first month I missed the stuff terribly. I would breathe in the delicious smell of something I could not longer taste and pathetically pretend I had just had a bite. Gluten-free bread has nothing on its wheat-filled counterpart. The vast majority of it wants to make me scrape off my taste buds. It's heavy, flavourless and dry. I've found a couple of decent recipes, but they still don't come close to a good french loaf. 

By a couple of months into this whole no-gluten thing, I started dreading going down the bread aisle at the grocery store. The sweet, yeasty smell of hundreds of loaves made me feel a bit sick. I don't like the smell anymore, but I can manage the aisle with only a slight look of disgust on my face. 

But today - oh, today - I was blown away by my body's reaction to, of all things, toast. 

I make kid sandwiches (uh, sandwiches for the kids, not made out of kids - I'm not that burned out, people) every night to pack in their lunches the next day. It's part of my Awesome Mom routine, which is to be expected from me. I've got it going on in all the right places, and stuff.

-- Oh, sorry. What were we talking about? 

Anyway, while I don't love the smell of bread these days, I can still manage to make sandwiches. I wash my hands after, throw the cutting board in the dishwasher (to avoid cross-contamination) and go on about my life. But this morning, the boys decided to switch up their breakfast menu and ask for toast - something they haven't had much of since I went gluten-free. Generally, we don't use a lot of regular bread in the house (see cross-contamination reference above), but we do have a side of the toaster dedicated to wheat bread, so I popped a couple of slices in and left the room to do my makeup.

When I came back in, Geekster was buttering their toast, and I almost hurled all over the kitchen floor. The smell - that sweet, wheaty smell I used to love more than anything - made me turn around and head to the bathroom. 

It's official: my body hates gluten. It onion hates it, even.

I didn't puke, thankfully. But I gagged. And my stomach was in knots for a good half hour after I left the house to drive the gremlins to school. And no, I'm not pregnant. If you read my posts from last week then you know it's not cyclically possible. Besides, my husband got the big V in the Summer of '08 and I am not having a torrid affair with a fertile man (or an infertile man, for the record). But if you've ever been pregnant, then you know the feeling that overcame me. It felt like morning sickness, except I was fine before and am just fine now. That one smell sent my body into chaos. 

Geekster was so concerned that he said we should stop toasting wheat bread from now on. I told him that's silly: The kids should be able to have toast, and I'm 34 for crying out loud. I can handle feeling a bit woozy sometimes. It just took me off guard today, that's all. But then again, just about everything about my body since going gluten-free has caught me off guard.

First of all, I still get the occasional flare-up. It's usually a few hours to a day after I've been to a restaurant or wasn't vigilant about washing surfaces and hands in my own kitchen. I'll start to feel run down, sick, bloated, sore, and the digestive issues will kick in. It's like a mini stomach flu or a mini food poisoning that passes in a few hours. I had one this past Friday and had to cancel my plans. I was too sick to do anything but have a hot bath and sit in my jammies with some tea. These flare ups are rare, but when they happen they yank me out of my happy place and into the pity place of "this is so unfair". I've heard they're pretty common in more sensitive gluten-intolerant/celiac people. I was just sort of hoping I was of the less sensitive variety. Dammit.

Secondly, I am losing weight. And, while I'm happy about it, I'm also a little freaked out. Anyone who's lost weight after being heavy for a long time (in my case that would be my entire adult life) knows what I'm talking about: It's fucking scary. It's exciting, but terrifying. The Fat Activists are going to hate me for this comment, but I don't know what I look like under my fat suit. My cellulite-filled self is changing by the day. The jeans I got two weeks ago are already far less snug than when I tried them on, and not because my M&Ms-filled belly is stretching them (it really is full of M&Ms of the peanut variety right now. Mmmm, candy lunch.) 

For the first time in a long while, I'm not trying to lose weight. I still eat chocolate and chips when I feel like it. I still unflinchingly put butter on my air-popped corn. I eat when I'm hungry and stop when I'm satisfied, as I always have. I do a minimal amount of exercise - nothing like I used to when I was trying to shed pounds - and yet I'm watching my waistline shrink every week. I've discovered that I do have cheekbones after all; they were just taking an extended vacation in Blubberville, USA. My chin is a little lonely now that there's only one of her, but she's seeking a bit of comfort in her long-distance relationship with this thing called a "neck" that we found hiding under my head.

In short, I have no idea who this person is that's emerging from the archeological dig that is my body's weight purge. I have no clue if she's pretty, what her bone structure is like, what size her hips will eventually be. Thankfully it's a slow process, so we're getting to know each other without a lot of pressure. I have always identified myself as overweight; it's become part of who I am. My weight, as much as I have loathed it and worried about its repercussions over time, has been a shield of comfort, of protection from the world. And now it's leaving. After all the times I tried to get rid of it, how often I cried over it, I didn't realize I might actually miss it. 

And if you didn't think I was crazy before, I've now written an entire post to convince you otherwise. The Maven has a psychosomatic gag reaction to onions and toast, and is mourning her fat.  I may be nuts enough to warrant my own psychology study. Please send money to the following address. Thank you. 

Thursday, February 03, 2011

What I'll do for a Coffee

Yesterday, after the arrival but of not one, but two coffees at my doorstep, I obviously bragged all over Facebook and on my blog. "Look at me!" I declared with only slightly more tact. "I have a coffee! That someone brought me! In a snowstorm!" Followed an hour or so later by, "Neener, neener! Another coffee just for The Maven! It's great to be me!"

Naturally, people asked how this could happen. What do I, The Maven of Mayhem, do to deserve such gifts? And, honestly, I had to give it some thought, too. I'm so grateful to my wonderful friends, but what on earth makes people want to do nice things for me?

Is it because I'm generous? Not exactly.

Kind? Um, I guess. Sometimes. When I feel like it.

Thoughtful? Only when I have time to be because I'm not dealing with kids in crisis - which is, like, never.

Insightful? The only sight I'm full of is the mess in my kitchen. I'm not exactly a wise guru on a mountain (unless that mountain consists of laundry).

I couldn't come up with an obvious answer, which made me realize that others probably can't, either. So, I need to dispel a possible conclusion before it turns into rumours:

I am not a hooker. Let's just get that out of the way, ok? I do not have sex with people for material gain. It's not that I'm anti-escorting per say, it's just that it's not my chosen career path. I'm already plenty busy. I'm a writer and editor and doula, after all. It would be hard to fit another job description on my business card:

The Maven
Writer/Editor/Postpartum Doula/Call Girl

It doesn't flow very well. And besides, if I were going to put out, I would be charging a lot more than coffee. Just sayin'.

So now that we all know I don't have a secret stash of fishnet stockings I'm willing to don in the name of caffeine, there's really only one viable reason people might be so nice to me:

Animal magnetism.

That has to be it. If I'm not particularly generous, kind, thoughtful or insightful, then what else could it be? I must be a sexy beast of epic proportions (well, I'm only a size 18 - not exactly epic, but significant). For whatever reason, people are drawn to my hotness and feel the need to show me by giving me hot things, like a steamy cup of java. They probably don't realize it themselves; it's just something they have to do.

(... What do you mean, I'm wrong? I can't be wrong! There's no other good reason! Well, other than the giant squid. I mean, that fine piece of art could potentially evoke feelings in others they may not know they even have. Regardless, I'm going to ignore you and go with my original theory of sheer hotness.)

Not only have my friends been kind, but Karma herself decided to treat me extra gently the last couple of days. Gutsy, determined to get caught up in school, has been on time two days in a row. He also did 45 minutes of homework and cursive writing practice with me last night. He's definitely struggling with cursive, but I think it's because he's afraid of not doing it perfectly. Nevertheless, he stayed calm and did everything I asked him to do.

I could throw a damn parade, I'm so happy. I very nearly cried tears of joy this morning after I dropped him off at school. It's funny how we can take small things for granted, sometimes; a reminder to celebrate the little things with my gremlins three. Geekster and I have been showering the boy with praise every time he works hard. The glow in his face is a beautiful thing.

And, not to forget the other two horned ones, I should mention that Spawnling is learning to sound out words and read a little bit: cat, hat, mat, fat, sat, lion, truck, plane. He's since called me "fat" and/or "fatty" a few times when angry. I've created a monster. Pleasant. Where's the "undo" option? Maybe I should teach him how to spell R-U-D-E.

Intrepid was one of 12 kids in his school asked to participate in a city-wide week at university in May. The courses he's chosen are all in biotechnology, medicine and psychology. He'll hopefully get one of his top picks, but it depends on availability. You know, I'm just happy to have a fourteen-year-old who isn't expelled and drinking every day, which was what I was doing at his age. The university thing is icing on the cake. We're beyond proud of that big boy of ours. I look back at the naysayers who thought us fools for having him as young and unexpectedly as we did, and I secretly hope they read my blog. And, while I did worry myself sick sometimes wondering if we had doomed him to a life of demographic hardship, he's proven to us that awesome genes do traverse generations. Way to go, Intrepid. We're fiercely proud of you!

And, finally, stay-at-home-mayhem has its own Facebook page! It's about time, right? Since I'm an admitted Facebook addict, I'm on there a lot and will be updating regularly. So have a look, click the "LIKE" button, and join in the fun. It hasn't even been up 24 hours yet and there's a fair bit of fandom going on. I promise not to let it go to my head - much.

Must run. This sexy animal and her spawn need to head out for a coffee date.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

I don't need a snow day, I need a damn chocolate day

This is what we woke up to this morning.

Brrr.

(FYI, the big numbers are celsius. This is Canada, eh?)


Lovely, except when you have to go out in it. Not surprisingly, the local school board didn't close the school or ground the buses, even though our neighbours just across the river in Ottawa made sure no big yellows graced the snowy streets (but their schools remained open, too). We don't get snow days over here. Our board directors must be tough as nails and moonlight as plough drivers.

After much deliberation, a team of scientists, psychologists and I have concluded that the board will only consider school closures in one scenario:

I wasted my morning making this. You're welcome.

Yep. I'm pretty certain that if a tsunami were to hit the city, bringing with it a swarm of ravenous giant squid, there is at least a 50% chance of bus cancelation.

Since I transport Sir Spawnling to preschool by way of a two-wheel-drive minivan, I decided we should stay put. I did, however, manage to get Gutsy the four blocks to his school before the roads got nasty.  The bus takes him home, and I'm fairly sure it can make it through the snow (and it's too cold for tsunamis).  Intrepid, of course, bounded off to junior high to see his friends, snow be damned. I did hit the Tim Hortons after drop-off and downed most of an extra large coffee before there was a knock at my door. A very snowy coffee fairy handed me a second one. Then another coffee-gifting friend arrived with a cup at my door, and now I am positively high on caffeine - shockingly high, even. This means that I can type twice as fast as I usually do, thus guaranteeing a blog post in half the time - despite the twitching. I'm feeling intensely motivated!

Yesterday afternoon I did a lot of crying. I got a call from Gutsy's teacher, telling me that he's simply not motivated at school and is falling way behind. Unless someone is sitting there looking over his shoulder, very little work is being done. There are big chunks of his report card that are not yet marked because he's missed too much school and won't catch up. She thinks that maybe he's not quite as advanced as we think he is, although I respectfully disagree (with a great deal of bias, I admit). He just doesn't show her what he's capable of, so I can definitely see where she would be getting that idea. He has a hard time doing a page of basic addition and subtraction for her, but he'll easily do simple multiplication and even algebra with me. This is the kid who teaches himself programming languages, makes movies with elaborate editing using a variety of tools, reads and writes just about anything, and is always coming up with new inventions.

But, for whatever reason, he's not bringing that love of learning into the classroom. He fights tooth and nail about going, comes home exhausted, and isn't trying in between. It's both heartbreaking and frustrating. I guess this fits well with his recent declaration that he hates school, hates learning there, finds it really hard, and that he only goes to see his friends.

Why this news always has to come when I have my period and am an emotional basket case, I have no idea.

So he cried, I cried, we hugged, we talked, and we came up with some ideas.

First of all, I think he should be screened for learning disabilities. Let's find out if he's actually struggling with any subjects, or if he's just unmotivated - or overwhelmed - with the amount of work. Second, Geekster and I went out last night and purchased some curriculum books on subjects he says he finds difficult: math, french and cursive writing. Gutsy has committed to working 30 minutes each day on a subject until he feels more confident. He's been so tired at the end of the school day that we haven't even been pushing homework on him most nights, so this is going to require a little extra effort on his part and a little extra on mine.

But that's okay. It's not like I do anything, anyway. I'm just a stay-at-home-mom. The life of leisure and all that. It might be good for me to be productive sometimes.

There's a real sense of hopelessness when you get a phone call like that from a teacher. I remember feeling this way about Intrepid before we found his hearing loss; a powerlessness, like I was losing the grip on my child and he was about to fall through a crack in the system. We're missing something that could make all the difference for Gutsy, and I'm not sure what it is just yet. But we need to figure it out soon and find a solution.

I will homeschool him if we feel there's no other way to rekindle that love of learning, but I'm kind of hoping it won't come to that. Sure, it's mostly selfish on my part: I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after being home for fourteen years. In 18 months, all three of the gremlins will be in school, and I will be able to - gasp! - do something with my days besides parenting. I can, like, be a full-time writer and grow my business. I'm so ready for it that I can taste it. I feel really bad for saying this, but if there's any way we can make Gutsy a happy camper at school again, I'll take door #1 rather than the home learning option. Can I buy a vowel, Alex?

But I'll also do anything for my little horned wonders, including stepping out of my educational comfort zone. It would be a big adjustment for me, though. And put a kink in my dreams of being a world-famous writer and supermodel.

See? Me, me, me. Selfish, selfish, selfish. So sue me. The Maven is about as close as you can get, but no one is perfect, okay?

Anyway, that's a long way off. There are many things we can try before getting to that point. Things are improving with our gentler approach to discipline. Gutsy seems to be feeling safer, because he's opening up to me a lot more about what's troubling him. That's how we're going to get to the bottom of things around here: communication. So, even if this turns out to be a shitty year, we'll have accomplished something big.

Because, more important than a lack of motivation, school woes, or tantrums, is the relationship with a wonderful, beautiful, smart, funny, creative, original little boy in my life named Gutsy. We'll get through this together.

As long as we don't get eaten by giant squids.