More Than Coffee

Walk into my kitchen right this moment and you might think you smell coffee, freshly brewed and filling the room with it’s cozy aroma.

And you would be wrong.

Sure, there is a pot of coffee waiting to be served, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a portal to the past. A glimpse into the summers of yesteryear.

On a summer evening with the windows open and the coffee on, I am transported to my childhood. To summer evenings as the sun slips away and the busyness of the day settles into contented quiet.

I hear the laughter of my extended family as we wrap up our annual holiday weekend barbeque. I detect voices of unseen passers-by taking in an evening stroll behind our house. If you’re still, there’s the sound of the tree frogs, the crickets, a motorcycle far off in the distance, the unique squeak of our backyard gate.

Walk back inside and there’s the aroma again and immediately I’m ten years old, rushing into the house for a drink between rounds of “Ghost in the Graveyard” or “Hide-and-Seek”. I can almost taste the Rice Krispie square I grabbed on my way outside to join in again.

Cousins, friends, family.

It’s not just coffee, it’s the backdrop to hospitality, gathering together, shared moments.

Memories.

Love.

Few things have this power for me. There is a magical force when open windows let in a summer evening breeze and waft that dark elixir into the air.

It’s not just coffee.

_______

Miss you, Maggie.


Baseball Pledge

It’s here.

Welcome back, baseball season!

Sure, I’ll take you boys to watch Dad’s games, but first…

Please raise your right hand and repeat after me
You ate a full meal, stop asking for snacks.

You ate a full meal, stop asking for snacks.

I do solemnly swear to refrain from begging for snacks, especially right after I ate one.

Bleachers are for sitting. Not climbing. Not racing, not drumming. On or off, I will choose one.

If I must pee against a tree, I will do so discreetly and without spraying bystanders.

I’ll do my best to let Mommy watch the game.

I will not heckle my father mid-throw.

I will not heckle my father while he’s at bat.

I will not heckle in general.

All small toys I bring to the ball diamond are my sole responsibility.

I will refrain from using the following words: butt, butt crack, penis. I recognize that additional words may be included at the whim of either parent.

I vow not to give my brothers wedgies.

I will do my best to let Mommy watch parts of the game.

Again, I vow not to harass my mother for additional snacks.

Any and all clothing I choose to remove is as mentioned above, my sole responsibility.

I will let Mommy catch a few glimpses of the game.

This is my promise.

Play Ball!

Swing batter, batter!

Batter up!

 


Affection Journey

When I was a kid, my dad would intermittently pop little notes in my lunch bag. “Daaaad. That’s so embarrassing” I would moan after finding one of his I love you, Princess! post-its. (He also liked to torment me by cutting my sandwiches into 8 or more pieces, but that’s a story for another day).

Confession: I acted like it bothered me to discover these written displays of affection, but I secretly liked it. You’re never too old to be surprised at lunch time. Who doesn’t appreciate an unexpected note of encouragement?

Recently I realized that although I occasionally send similar notes to my boys, I could improve my performance in this area. Pinterest will tell you that you should use hand-crafted paper, calligraphy, and flowery rhymes to create odes of love to your offspring, but I’m here to tell you that any gesture is valued. I’ve recommitted to speak love into the lives of my children on a more frequent basis. Won’t you join me?

Here are a few samples, to inspire you on your Affection Journey.

photo 1-24

photo 2-21

photo 3-14

I like to have a theme, but it’s not essential. You be you.

photo 4-5

photo 2-22

The direct approach is always in style.

photo 3-15

Above all, be specific.

photo 1-25

Are you with me? Let’s do this.

Have an inspired note you’ve sent with your little angel? Share it over on my Facebook page and help inspire other like-minded parents. Alright, alright, commiserate, we can commiserate together.


Smug Laundry

It was after a sleepover trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I can remember where I was when I heard, time stood still and the moment was instantly ingrained in my memory.

My oldest son looked at me with bewilderment and quietly said, “I saw something at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They had this machine.”

Okay.

“Yeah, and it was so weird. She put the wet clothes inside it.”

I think I see where this is going. Did the clothes come out later on and they were dry?”

“YES! How did you know?”

Well, son, I guess it’s time you learned the truth. Some people in this world, yes even people in our own family, these people, they own “dryers”.

“What’s a dryer?”

(Big breath) it’s a machine that dries your laundry.

“Wait, they have a machine that is just for drying clothes? Well, that’s dumb.”

Now before you judge your grandparents too harshly, a lot of people do that. Alright, most people. Most people do that.

“But why would you bother having a machine do that when you can just hang stuff up?”

Why indeed.

——-

Secrets. We all have them. I feel compelled to share one. Some people are privvy, and you might have pieced this together already, but others might be shocked to learn that…

We don’t own a dryer.

You read that right. Not “we don’t use our dryer much” or “we hang some things to dry”. We really don’t own one.

Missed a day? Look for alternate drying arrangements. Again.

Missed a day? Look for alternate drying arrangements. Again.

I’ve hesitated to spill this somewhat little known fact because I didn’t want to seem smug. It’s kind of hard to tell someone “Oh, I don’t own a dryer” without lumping yourself in with those who tell you they “don’t watch TV” and sometimes “forget to eat.”

To be clear, I’m not ashamed, but I don’t feel the need to flaunt our “green-ness” or rub your nose in our energy efficiency.

We started hanging clothing to be more environmental. There was occasional use of the dryer for heavy things like towels and jeans that tended to get “crunchy” when exclusively hung to dry. Once we bought a front loader washer, the drying time was cut in half as was the crispiness of clothing. When we sold our first home and the buyer wanted our dryer, it wasn’t difficult to agree. I had intended to buy a cheap one for the new house, but we adapted to being dryer-less and never bothered.

I can hear you asking “Why?” maybe accompanied with an eye roll. Don’t worry, I get it. You’re not there yet. It’s hard to imagine life without the convenience of tossing wet laundry in a machine and an hour later poof! it’s ready to fold. It’s really not a big deal. Once you get a routine going, you’re all set. All you have to do is NEVER FORGET TO PUT A LOAD OF WASH IN AT LEAST ONCE PER DAY. Wet laundry takes a while to air dry, if you skip a day you are behind for a week.

What's underneath this bed sheet? More laundry, of course.

What’s underneath this bed sheet? More laundry, of course.

After a while you get to know some tricks and develop effective strategies. For instance, jeans take longer to dry and will smell “off” if you don’t hang them near the top of the rack with room to breath. Socks and underwear take hardly any time at all. Same goes for sheets, sports shorts, and lightweight sports clothing.

A word of warning, if you put off hanging laundry one evening, you have guaranteed that someone will throw up or wet the bed. It’s a fact.

Do my husband and I always agree on laundry-hanging techniques? No. But that’s okay because even though he’s wrong, the laundry still dries. Eventually.

Yes, I have tossed a blanket over the drying rack when there is an abundance of underwear on display. And yes, there have been times it looks like I’m taking in other people’s wash to make an extra buck (please see previous note about not getting behind). But overall, it’s not that much extra work. And it’s worth it.

Try it, your clothes will last longer, your house will never need a humidifier, and the extra damp really opens up your pores.

I forgot to mention, we also used cloth diapers.

For nine years.

I’ll see myself out.

Please note the careful placement and spacing to maximize drying.

Please note the careful placement and spacing to maximize drying.

More of the backstory can be found here.


Outdoor Education

Spring has finally arrived which means tugging on our rubber boots and heading out for walks in the local “forest” after the morning drop-off at school.

“I’m just going to get that big stick.”

“Actually, it’s still in the ground, so it’s a tree, not a stick, we’ll find another one.”

“Ok. Hey! Look at the bird’s nest – another one! Another one! ANOTHER ONE!”

And so it went. We tromped around in the newly thawed earth, enjoying the sound of our boots sticking in the mud.

“There’s that green stuff! And there, and THERE!” Today we learned that “green stuff” is moss and likes damp, dark places. Followed by a timely reminder of why we empty our lunch bags every day.

“I can see that tree used to have three parts. Why is it on the ground now?”

As we discussed the possible reasons a tree might fall, I basked in the glow of the intermittent sunshine, the smell of the world finally waking up to spring, and the sounds of birds chirping. I might have even been feeling some pride at my laissez-faire approach to the day. I have no agenda, I’m just going to relax and savour this time with my little guy, look at me being so “in the moment I’m not even taking any pictures.”

My reverie came to a screeching halt.

“AHHH! AHHHH!”

On the path, less than one metre away was…

a

dead

duck

And it was HORRIFYING.

We both gawked in silence for a moment and then ran away. I mean RAN.

I don’t know why I was running, I’m an adult, but Little told me “I thought he was going to eat me.”

At this point, I tried to get back to our previously fun adventure mode. I suggested we take the long way home, maybe check out the creek. Little wanted nothing to do with that. Offers to go to the park were declined. “Let’s just go home,” he told me.

I could not get the dead duck image out of my mind and wondered how much it scarred my youngest until he chirped up, “I HAVE to tell the boys what we saw.” And moments later we spied a worm on the sidewalk that he concluded was “napping.”

Childhood innocence remains intact.

As for the duck? I took care of it. I left a long, detailed voicemail for the people who take care of those things. I’m sure they’ll have no trouble finding the duck corpse “in the forest behind the school right near the fence that lines the soccer field, not the field by the road, the one at the back of the school yard. On the mud path, by a tree.”

Now I know what to do if I come across a dead dolphin.

Now I know what to do if I come across a dead dolphin.


House Rules for a House Full of Boys

Nothing prepares you for being a parent of a house full of boys. You can read a multitude of online posts or buy all the parenting books you like, but reality is the best teacher (and she’s merciless). Since I’m in the midst of raising four boys aged ten and under, I will try to help you out a bit and share a few of our house rules. Shake your head and dismiss them if you like, but one day you’ll discover your son cleaning his penis with a toothbrush and you’ll whisper, “She was right, about all the things.”

House Rules for a House Full of Boys

1. Pants are not optional. Ok, they are, but there are conditions. For instance, when we have company. If the doorbell rings, you find those pants and put them on as quickly as possible. Also, you are not permitted to suggest pants removal to any of your friends. Mommy doesn’t want to get arrested. And no matter how much you enjoy the “comfort” and “freedom” of wearing just your skivvies, pants must be worn for any and all meals. Especially in the dining room. Yes, even if it’s just pizza.

2. Change your underwear. Every day. Clean ones. They might look clean, they might smell clean, but no. It’s non-negotiable.

Clever, but seriously, stop it.

Clever, but seriously, stop it.

3. Potty Talk: There’s a Time and a Place. I get it, farts are funny. I can appreciate a well-executed burp, I’ll even join in. But you have to know when and where this is okay. Hanging out in our basement? Sure. But the grocery store line is not the place to announce that your “penis is sticky.” If you do let a silent and deadly one rip, don’t feel the need to announce it, especially in the middle of a restaurant…with your grandparents. Randomly tossing out phrases like “butt crack” and “poop” are only hilarious to you and your brothers, move on.

4. We only lick food. Preferably your own. Doorknobs, seat backs, and other people are not recommended. And please refrain from telling your brother he will get super powers if he licks the bottom of his shoe.

5. If the bathroom door is shut, walk away. I get it, you know I’m trapped and you’ll get my undivided attention, but your request for “more Netflix” or the need to tell me your pants “feel weird” will be better received once I’m done. Same goes for tattles about your siblings. I’m not willing to play Judge, Jury, and Executioner from behind a closed door. Go away. And while you’re at it, ignore any sounds that resemble candy wrappers being opened, that’s strictly your imagination.

6. Mommy’s appearance is off limits. Unless of course, it’s a compliment. Please refrain from observing that my arms are “floppy” or my bum is “fluffy”. I don’t need confirmation that I look tired or that my legs are “scratchy”. I have a mirror, I’m self-aware. Please resist pointing out my gray hairs or a new wrinkle. Those are your fault anyways. I’d like to blame you for stray chin whiskers, but let’s at least pretend they aren’t visible. And my tummy is squishy because of you and your brothers (possibly from apathy and chocolate consumption, but mostly from you.)

7. Outside Stays Outside. Water guns do not get used indoors. I don’t care how much you love and cherish the cricket you found in the garden, it’s not a pet you’re keeping in your room. Baseball equipment was specially designed for outdoor use, act accordingly. Snowball fights in the front hall would be amazing. No.

8. Listen to Your Mother. I might not have pinched my penis in a dresser drawer, but I have life experience on my side. If you drop a bouncy ball in the toilet, I recommend you just throw it out, but at the very least do not put it in your mouth. If you breakdance naked, you will get carpet burns. Just because you “tried it with Daddy and no one got hurt” does not mean it’s a good idea.

Parting words of advice: It helps, but saying “voila!” after you do something naughty will not get you off the hook.


The Long Game and Exercise DVDs

It’s been a busy week for contributing at other sites.

Moms Magazine just published The Long Game.  Parenting doesn’t get easier, it just changes. Moving on from the baby years and raising kids with the long game in mind.

For those who want to get fit, but gradually start plotting an elaborate plan to “take out” the instructor on home workout dvds, fear not. My recent post A Workout DVD for the Rest of Us was shared at What the Flicka (while you’re there, check out some other funny posts from some pretty witty ladies).

Thanks for reading – you guys are the best.


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