Yuletide Confessions of a Kindergarten Teacher

I didn’t know.

Honestly.

I thought it was something everyone had to do, that is was part of my job description.

If you looked around, you’d see every staff member was doing it.

How was I to know?

Not one to rock the boat or question authority, I joined in.

It’s hard to admit this. It’s not like I really want people to know, but confession is good for the soul, so finally, after fifteen years, I will tell the world the truth.

I used to own a Christmas sweater and not ironically.

Fun, yet conservative. The collar makes it work-friendly.

Fun, yet conservative. The collar makes it work-friendly.

It was December of my first year teaching. I walked into the staff room one morning with my Tim’s coffee in hand, to discover that all but two staff members (me and the only male teacher) were wearing thematic sweaters. But wait, it gets better. They were all the same. Not exactly identical, but a variation on a style. Blue jersey sweatshirt with a Christmas scene sewn on the front.

My blood ran a bit cold and I panicked. Did I miss a memo? Is this mandatory dress for the month of December? THEY DID NOT COVER THIS IN MY TEACHING PROGRAM.

A solution quickly availed itself. A kind parent said she’d like to make me a Christmas sweater, but something more “contemporary” as a gift. I jumped all over that opportunity. And then, within a week, I was part of the Holiday Embellished Sweater Brigade. It felt good to be part of something bigger.

Yes, it felt good to be part of this group, even if it required wearing shirts with parts that jingled and jangled. Just as I was relishing my new place in this like-minded crew, all was revealed.

No, I was not contractually obligated to wear a Christmas sweater (or vest, or necklace, or even earrings). The reason that nearly twenty people had matching sweatshirts for December was that another staff member used to make them and they all got in on it.

I kept my sweater for two more years, then I transferred.

Ho ho NO

Ho ho NO


Double Double Guest Posting

It’s a two for one!

Today I’m guest posting at the always delicious and freshly-brewed Coffee Shoppers again. It’s fun and delicious. Ever wonder what people really mean when they ask you to go for a coffee? Wonder know more – I explain all over there: Let’s Have Coffee. If you like that, take a minute and read past guests posts, a review of “Balzacs“, and some thoughts on Tim Hortons.

And, I have a post up on What the Flicka for the first time. I have four boys and find I get a little punchy when it comes to stereotypes about “boy” and “girl” toys and stereotypes in general – you can read that right here: But That’s For Girls.

As always, thanks for coming along for the ride.


DIY Cheese Strings

Parents, are you like me and feel that cheese strings are an overly-processed waste of money? Then have I got a solution for you. Read on to learn my incredibly easy way to make wholesome, 100% Real Canadian Cheese strings that fit any budget. Yes, ANY budget (as long as you don’t overspend on the band-aids).

Step 1.  Choose your big brick of cheese.

I went with the Old Cheddar, but marble, mozzarella, medium all work equally well. Feeling adventurous? Why not Havarti?

I went with the Old Cheddar, but marble, mozzarella, medium all work equally well. Feeling adventurous? Why not havarti?

Step 2. Slice a large chunk of cheese. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, it’s the slant that makes it interesting.

Not too big, keep their expectations manageable.

Not too big, keep their expectations manageable.

Step 3. Slice in half, lengthwise.

Again, symmetry is overrated.

Again, symmetry is overrated.

Step 4. Serve. Any complaints that these don’t actually pull apart into “strings” are covered by stating, “You can have cheese in strings or you can have Netflix. Choose wisely.”

Step 5. Wipe up any blood and elevate your hand. Ok, maybe this should have been Step 4.

I do my own stunts.

I do my own stunts.

You’re welcome.


It Was Just a Car

It was just a car, but it was my first one. After many a misadventure in good old Gold Turismo, I had a teaching contract and new wheels. The goal was to have a reliable car that I would not be afraid to drive on the highway, preferably with a working radio – tape deck was optional, I’m no princess. This little beauty delivered.

It was just a car – a 1999 Honda Civic Special Edition. The “special” part being automatic, keyless entry and air conditioning which YES, I realize is pretty much standard now, but this was 1999. I was living the dream.

It was just a car, but it drove me safely as I garage-saled for toys and games for my very first classroom. It’s AM/FM radio helped me stay alert on the short, but at times tedious commute to school. It was the sole witness to countless laughs and serious debriefs with my carpool friends.

It was just a car, but it drove me to our wedding, on our road trip honeymoon, and across Canada one summer. With Bearded Husband behind the wheel, the Civic delivered me to the hospital when our firstborn decided to arrive one month early. Three days after, it brought home our family of three. Twenty-one months later, we made the same trip and came home with our second son.

My attempt to cover up the "au de smelly socks".

My attempt to cover up the “au de smelly socks”.

It was just a car, but it transported our babies to my childhood home where we relived the magic of Grandma and Grandpa’s house. There they played with my favourite old toys, swam in the “best” pool, and explored the creek where just moments before I was climbing trees and throwing pebbles in the water.

In the beginning, I hand washed that silver beauty every weekend.  I scrubbed the car mats to maintain the “new” smell. With time, it was cleaned less and less. Eventually, carseats replaced space for shopping bags and Cheerios littered the floor. In 1999 I never imagined that I would have spare clothes and diapers in the trunk or that I would wash down the dashboard with baby wipes. As with everything, the Civic’s time came to an end.

Confession: I am not that attached to “things”. I don’t really care about cars or electronics or having everything new and shiny. But friends, I actually cried when we decided not to repair the car and let it go to its final resting place. Real tears. And yes, Bearded Husband laughed at me. A lot. He still brings it up.

Here’s the good news, we bought a slightly used Mazda 5 and for a girl who doesn’t “really care about cars”, I LOVE that thing. So much has changed in the auto industry since 1999, I can’t even tell you. I don’t like driving much, but I make excuses to get out at night and “run some errands” (most days I have the oh-so-exciting-van) just so I can zip around. The sight lines! The seat warmers! The working rear wiper!

Can the Mazda hold as many memories and milestones as my sweet Civic did? Well, just last week I was strapping Little into his carseat and as I pulled on the tether strap, BH whipped open the driver door and clipped me RIGHT ON THE FOREHEAD. I didn’t cry, but I wanted to. Only kidney stones and labour have hurt more than that did. It’s possible that this car is enchanted, because even though my head developed a sizeable goose egg, it never bruised. Thus, I have dubbed November 30, “Mazda Miracle Day”.

RIP, Honda Civic.

RIP, Honda Civic.


Tell Us Where the Clicker is and No One Gets Hurt

No one is in trouble, we’re not angry, Mommy and Daddy just really need to know where the remote is. Think hard, boys. It’s the tiny, lightweight, easily lost clicker.

Ok, close your eyes and concentrate. You were all sitting on the couch, remember? Then I came in and said it was time to pause the movie. Who got off the couch first and where was the clicker? You think you had it in your hand? Left or right? How certain are you? And then you walked where? And what were the rest of you boys doing exactly? 

So no one can remember for certain that the clicker left the coffee table yet it isn’t there now. Let’s play a fun game I like to call “Everyone Empty Your Pockets.”

Alright, alright, *deep, calming breath* if it’s not anywhere we can see it, it must be in or under something. Everybody up, I’ll check the couch, you boys check the toy bins.

Thus began The Great Clicker Hunt of 2014.

Toy baskets were overturned and the contents sorted. Repeatedly, you know, in case we overlooked something. We found an incredible selection of old elastics, Happy Meal Toy components, and random bits of Lego, but no clicker.

Next we launched Operation Couch Query. After reaching into the cracks and crevices and discovering enough cereal and pretzels to make lunches for the next day for the entire family, no clicker turned up. We decided to be more thorough. Bearded Husband stepped on the springs while I bravely reached even farther into the depths of the chesterfield. This time I came upon eight Hot Wheels cars, more snack food, two allen keys (what?), and a small piece of my sanity. Since we were being thorough and still clicker-less, I took a few moments to vacuum up the shame-filled couch.

Our hopes would rise and fall in rapid succession as our offspring discovered treasure they’d long forgotten resulted in me saying through gritted teeth, “No more saying ‘look what I found!’ unless it’s that clicker. I don’t care how excited you are that you found Gary from the Guess Who game, my heart can’t take it.”

It was there one minute and gone the next. Everyone was perplexed. We reviewed our search grid looking for oversights. The only thing to do was double check. And bribe the children. We offered a $5 reward to the son who had any information leading the safe return of the clicker and ice cream for the whole family to celebrate its return. This infused the search with a new energy and children scattered throughout the house and hunted with gusto.

We had narrowed down the possible locations based on the testimony of our eldest son. He was “pretty sure” he had the clicker in his hand when he stood up to move his army men. But his memory is fuzzy after that. Where else could it be except the couch.

Despite our thorough ferreting around we concluded it must be there, we just needed to look deeper. Brace yourselves, dear reader, this is where things get real.

We turned the couch on its side and shook it. Yes! I hear that rattle, too. Out came the crowbar, screwdriver and flashlight. We took the cover off the bottom and delved into the underbelly of the sofa. Nothing.

I wouldn't lie to you, here's proof.

I wouldn’t lie to you, here’s proof.

I reconsidered the nine-year-old’s testimony and expanded the search grid. No possibility was dismissed. I pawed through the kitchen garbage and touched raw chicken with MY BARE HANDS, but I would not give up! Sure, now we had the tools to assemble a desk from IKEA, but I had shows to watch – THIS WAS TOP PRIORITY. 

“Let’s go over this one more time and remember, no one is in trouble here, we just want to find it. Full immunity to any party involved in this devastating disappearance.”

As I descended the stairs after a fruitless search of the bedrooms, our oldest son gleefully announced “I FOUND IT”. Then that little darling turned his spiteful little face and announced, “it was on the counter under the lunch bag that MOM put there.”

Allegedly.

Full immunity, remember?

We repaired the faulty back rest, you know, since we'd opened it up anyways.

We repaired the faulty springs, you know, since we’d opened it up anyways.


I Blew It

I blew it.

Again.

Every day I wake up and tell myself to make the most of the day. To be patient. To be understanding. To be the parent our boys deserve.

Some days I hit a home run. I engage, create, play, listen, comfort, and console. Those days I tuck them in at night and feel content and hopeful. Hopeful that I’m doing this whole parenting thing right. Hopeful that this day’s good will spill over into the next one, and the next, and maybe even the day after that.

But the next day there are shortened tempers, tattling, demands for favourite pants that are still wet from the washing machine. But I cling to the good from yesterday and dig in deeper to make it return. But this day there are battles over diggers, refusals to put on socks, back talk over packing vegetables in their lunches.

There’s still hope to turn this day around before yesterday’s good slips away completely. I take a deep breath and remind myself that they are young and selfish and sometimes just jerks. I need to model patience and compassion, tolerance and forgiveness.

He’s giving you a message, are you listening? He’s asking for that back, talk it out.

I feel yesterday’s good seeping out via yelling and slamming and stomping and then finally realize that I am doing it, too.

Don’t talk to me that way! STOP IT. STOP. IT. I WON’T HAVE IT.

My hand comes crashing down on the countertop for emphasis.

Emphasis? Or just frustration? Anger? It is anger.

Anger that they are cruel to each other. Anger that they deliberately set each other off. And anger at myself for losing control of my temper – the very thing I try every day to instil in their young personas.

I blew it.

Again.

We talk it out and we try to smooth over the powerful emotions. Apologies are offered and forgiveness received. But yesterday’s good is long gone – there’s nothing reserved for today. Today we start from scratch.

A friend texts and I share the struggles of the morning. I’m getting better at that, the sharing of the real stuff. Admitting that sometimes parenting is difficult makes you vulnerable, but I’m learning that I can’t do it on my own. I can’t even do this with just my husband. I need to be honest with my friends and let them be part of the funny anecdotes and the uglier moments.

I blew it.DSC_0200

Again.

This day I tuck our boys into bed and whisper into their hair how much I love them and I get a giant squeeze around my neck. There it is, I can see it – tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day, full of good.

————

Thank you,  friends who walk this path of parenting that is both terrifying and joyful all at once. I could not do it without you.


Love, With a Side of Passive Aggression

Gathering together to enjoy a meal is a powerful pastime. It brings people closer, allowing us to pause from busyness and share stories or solve problems as a family. If not for Family Mealtime how would we know that a classmate at school can burp the entire alphabet? If we didn’t eat dinner together we’d never know about the time our seven-year-old’s class put a whoopee cushion on the music teacher’s chair. I still don’t know who broke my hairband, but we did find out who keeps forgetting to flush. But most importantly, how would we teach the boys about passive aggression?

Allow me to explain.

After a lovely meal that everyone enjoyed (as always) and praised their doting mother (me) for cooking from scratch, the light-hearted banter transitioned into Family Devotion time. It began with a simple question: How can we show God we love Him? and the answers were as follows (I wrote them down as soon as I could for the sake of accuracy).

What’s for dessert?

We’re having Halloween treats, remember?

Let me try that again, “How can we show God we love Him?”

By not saying “shut up or stupid”.

By not hitting.

Asking before you take someone’s Lego that they were only putting down for a minute to go use the washroom.

This line of response was deteriorating quickly into a laundry list of sibling infractions – they started throwing everyone under the bus.

Stop waking up so early.

Not arguing about sleeping later.

Not arguing about having no clock in your room. Ahem.

Not whining about taking off your shoes by yourself. (that was mine, I confess)

Not poking people.

Not peeking at your birthday presents.

Not breaking toys and then they are broke.

They were volleying their thinly veiled digs back and forth at a rapid pace. I tried to change the tone of responses and frame it more positively.

Maybe say ‘sorry’ if you break something?

Yeah, and not staring at people when we’re at the table.

Keeping your feet off someone else’s leg. (that was Bearded Husband, he really likes his personal space)

Not pitching a fit when it’s time to get in the van. (me again)

Letting me someone else empty the top rack of the dishwasher instead of always calling it first because it has less dishes.

Or how about not always taking the seat closest to the TV every time?

"Letting me off the swing when I said I was done"

“Letting me off the swing when I said I was done”

I’m sure God appreciated the many specific examples we generated. And that we followed it up by holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” like we do every mealtime. Scouts honour.


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