It’s almost that time of year – summer! Strawberries, asparagus, corn on the cob, peaches, oh, and of course, their awkward cousin, (you know, who makes everyone laugh a little uncomfortably while avoiding eye contact): rhubarb.
Seems innocuous enough – don’t be fooled.
Before this time of seasonal enticement begins, I’d like to get ahead of the inevitable propaganda that comes along with it. Why are we all still pretending that rhubarb is delicious? I have a theory. Someone put it in a pie by accident and no one wanted to hurt their feelings. Kind of like The Emperor’s New Clothes, but with dessert.
Rhubarb can’t stand on its own. Somewhere along the line someone thought, “Hey, strawberries are just too sweet and delicious, let’s add just a smidge of bitter and stringy stalk bits – oh, perfect!” Rhubarb is Strawberry’s longstanding friend that poor Strawberry just can’t…
We took you for granted, I see that now. All those years you sat by, quietly supporting us. You welcomed our friends and family with no questions asked.
Slightly greasy in some spots.
Oh, Curb Couch, you’ve come to mean so much to us. And it wasn’t until now, as we set you outside for pick-up that I recognize your true value.
You, our faux-sueded wonder.
Majestic two-person sofa.
As with all things, your season has come to an end. You can no longer take a jump like you used to. Despite my many Pinterest-inspired cleaning attempts, that black Sharpie isn’t going to come off. Nor will the half-eaten red lollipop I recently discovered behind your cushions. So to the curb you must go, old friend.
Not many pieces of furniture receive a custom-made photo essay farewell tribute. But not all are worthy enough to be called the Curb Couch.
Gone, But Not Forgotten: a Tribute in Photos Taken on My Phone
Was I worried that we would look less than classy with living room furniture sitting by our driveway? I don’t think Curb Couch is going to change our neighbours’ opinions of us me that much. They’ve seen me strolling to the park in my pajamas or shuffling slowly by looking for a signal when our wifi is out. There’s little I can do to surprise them at this point.
But wait! Our time is not over. We have been gifted with another two weeks of our mystery-stained, but surprisingly comfortable, chesterfield. How? Our youngest child informed the garbage collectors that “nope, it’s staying” when they stopped to collect it. Never trust a five-year-old sitting on a curb couch. THEY ARE NOT RELIABLE.
And now, sweet Curb Couch is being held in furniture purgatory in our garage.
Come on by.
Sit a bit.
I’ve got mediocre snacks and a great view.
We’re the house with couch sitting by the curb. Intermittently.
It’s important to have your children learn responsibility. Teaching them to be part of something bigger makes them think beyond themselves and become outward-focussed.
At least that’s what I tell myself when it’s time to clean the house.
When I was home full time, I shouldered most of the house-keeping duties and that was fine. Now that we are both working, we’ve required the boys to step up their involvement in some of the household chores. Don’t worry, it’s not that extreme – clean their rooms, help out with a job or two in the general home, hang up their own stuff. We’re not monsters.
I’ve learned a lot through the process of making house-cleaning a family affair. Topping the list is that calling dusting a room or mopping a floor a “bonus job” does not convince anyone that it’s a fun thing. I know that now.
Also, predicting that something should only take “a few minutes” does not guarantee that it will. For example, “dust your rooms and vacuum, boys, it’s easy – fifteen minutes max” translates into approximately forty-five minutes once you factor in the complaining and pleas for mercy help.
And so, dear reader, based on my dubious experience, I present to you:
My Five Rules for Cleaning With Kids
Be Prepared. Make sure you have had your coffee, you’ve eaten, you’ve charged your phone, and you’ve hidden some chocolate in various locations because trust me, you will need it.
Be Realistic. Kids are not going to be as thorough as you are when cleaning. Manage your expectations. Give them jobs they can handle. Want a streak-free mirror? Do not assign that task to your offspring. Stick with things you can touch up easily when they aren’t looking. Like putting photos back in their original place (that seems quite challenging).
Be Specific. Kids hear what they want to hear. When you say “dust the living room” the part about “every surface, make sure you move things, maybe put any dishes you find in the dishwasher” might be implied, but is certainly not inferred.
Be Appropriate. You might feel frustrated, peeved, dare I say even angry. That’s no reason to use salty language. However, I have found a loophole. It’s not a bad word if you say it quickly and drop a letter or two. For instance, totally okay to tell your reluctant cleaner to “quityerbitchin” because that’s not actually a word. Don’t worry, I checked. My mom said it’s perfectly fine and I turned out alright.
Be Prepared. I cannot stress this enough, hence it gets a repeat mention. We all have our systems, find what works best for you. Personally, I like to finish with protein and chocolate. Like after a Dementor attack, your body will need to recover from the trauma. You are going to find random socks strewn under coffee tables even though they promised they had picked them up. Chewed gum will have been stowed behind the couch. But you’re going to be okay. Deep breaths.
Savour those cuddles, before you know it they won’t want to hug anymore.
Don’t blink – they grow up so fast.
I listened to those wiser, more experienced moms. I heeded the words of grandmothers in grocery stores who doted on my newborn offspring (except for the advice to put socks on, it was summer after all). I enjoyed babyhood while it lasted. Just as I love the stages that our boys are at now.
And yet, I want to go back.
I do not want another baby. Our family is complete, of that I have no doubt, but I want to go back.
Oh, to relive the moment I laid eyes on each of them for the very first time and heard the announcement, “It’s a boy!” Meeting that tiny person who I already knew so well.
I want to have a newborn lie on my chest sleeping and feel his breath on my cheek. But not just any newborn, I want to hold one of my boys like that again and take it all in. For a day, an hour, a moment.
If only it was possible to travel back and see that little face peeking through the rails of his crib. To hear the way my second-born snorted when he laughed at seven months, how our oldest pronounced “restaurant”. I remember these things just fine, but I wish I could experience them again.
I’d savour it a bit more. I’d pay a little bit more attention. I’d appreciate those small things for the fleeting experience that they were.
This is not to say I regret anything. I’m not sad to see these boys turning into young men. Life is good and each day brings something new. I love reading chapter books at bedtime, watching Star Wars through their eyes, playing games that are more complicated than Candy Land.
And yet, I want to go back.
I’d like to see my third born dancing as a toddler, push one of my babies in the swing at the park, see a little face turn because he recognized my voice above all others.
This desire to travel back to those moments makes me cherish this time with my boys now. It causes me to stop doing dishes or folding laundry when I hear a small voice ask me to play cars, or ride bikes, or take a swim. When my oldest asks if he can sit on my lap after dinner, I always say “yes” because one day soon I will long to travel back and relive that moment, too.
Enjoy each moment, they go by so quickly.
Savour those cuddles, before you know it they won’t want to hug anymore.
It’s wise to take some quiet time and reflect. Some people pray, meditate, or contemplate life’s bigger issues in solitude. In the past I used the long drive to work to centre myself. Others do yoga, walk, or wake up early to catch the pre-morning peace (they are robots, just FYI).
I tend to take my quiet whenever and wherever I find it. Some days it’s at the kitchen sink as I wash dishes, other times it’s when I’m angry-cleaning the basement bathroom. Most recently, it was the dentist’s chair.
Due to some lacklustre flossing coupled with the presence of three baby teeth, I needed to get some cavities checked (if my dentist reads this, I floss daily and must have a genetic predisposition to cavities, I’m sure that’s a thing). It’s fine, I can handle needles and if we’ve ever met in person, you know I am quiet capable of distracting myself. What follows is the rabbit trail of thoughts I contemplated during that hour of blissful mostly-quiet time. Fun Fact: it’s amazing how the definition of “quiet time” changes as you age.
I know pretty much every song playing on this station. I wonder who chooses the music? Probably the dentist, or do they vote on it as a staff? Do they change it to a different station when the boss isn’t here?
Premium Plus is a weird name for crackers. Premium plus WHAT? If it’s already a premium product, what could they have added? Also, they aren’t really all that premium.
I should have peed before I got in the chair.
If I opted not to get the topical anesthetic, would that cut some of the time? I just want to get out and hit the dollar store. I can take the pain.
Kimmy Schmidt says you can do anything for ten seconds. I can live with this plastic wedge in my cheek. I can do it. When will season three of Kimmy Schmid be out? I miss John Hamm.
Is Rod Stewart still alive*?
That cup of coffee at the end of the school day was a mistake. I see that now.
I used to want to grow my hair as long as Crystal Gale’s. But how would you wash it? Wouldn’t your neck hurt? Was she Loretta Lynn’s sister? Loretta. Lor-et-ta. Loretta.
If the zombie apocalypse started right now, I’d be in big trouble. Would the staff stay to help me get this rubber dam out of mouth? I think that would be a serious disadvantage. I’d be fine for the first few hours, but once this freezing ran out, I’d be toast. Death by gaping hole in my tooth. WHY DIDN’T I FLOSS MORE I AM SO SORRY FOR MY PAST DENTAL HYGIENE TRANSGRESSIONS.
I really need to pee. It’s worse every time they rinse my mouth.
I could practice some kegels, I guess. Just sitting here anyways.
Roche Voisin’s singing sounds an awful lot like Anne Murray. You know, that lady can really pull off a short hair cut. Not everyone can. Is she still alive*? I’ll google her later.
I miss the Muppet Show.
If I owned this dental office I would offer facial waxing/dental work package. Cavities filled and moustaches removed, all in one trip.
What happens if the freezing reaches my nose? Will I stop breathing? How will I signal that problem? Lift left hand for suction, right hand for suffocation?
I think I might actually pee my pants soon. I wonder if that has ever happened? Are there protocols for patients peeing their pants because they drank too much coffee before their appointment?
With age comes wisdom, sure, but plenty of other things accompany maturing age, too. Shifting priorities are one example. Instead of searching for the perfect radio station in the car, you use the optimal lighting in your mini-van to find and extract chin hairs.
Age also brings discovery. As I progress into my forties I have discovered that debit machine screens suddenly have a glare requiring me to hold them at awkward angles. Also, noises are exhausting. All the noises: loud voices, medium voices, the whirring of the dishwasher, the wind lifting the tarp off the table in the back yard, the way my husband eats cereal, and my son sniffing. Tapping of any sort induces high levels of stress (maybe that’s just me, but it’s real. STOP IT).
A few unexpected surprises have come along. My children all sleep through the night now so, of course, a new pal, Insomnia, visits more often. Whereas I used to be awakened by a newborn, now I wake up trying to recall the theme song from “Simon and Simon” or wondering if a hard-boiled egg is really called a Ten-Minute Egg. I discovered I have “good rags” and get annoyed when someone uses them to clean the bbq grill or the tile around the toilets.
My threshold for thrills has been lowered dramatically as my age increases. Recently I was ridiculously excited about buying a new foot cream. Just buying it. Don’t even get me started on actually trying it, that’s a topic for a whole other post (spolier: my heels no longer got caught on my workout leggings). Ordering clothes for my kids is almost more thrilling that shopping for myself – how did that happen? Dad jokes are not nearly as painful as they once were, in fact, I employ them. REGULARLY. “Oh, hello, Thirsty, my name is Mom.” Hilarious.
While a few years ago, I looked forward to going out, now I am quite content staying home and watching Netflix while browsing youtube for how-to videos about knitting projects I will never do. Or something like that.
There are some nice perks of getting older, too. I have learned scores of lessons since hitting the big 4-0. Your time is valuable so I will share one of the most profound epiphanies:
Self-care is vital to mental health. Time spent with friends, reading a book, meditating, or enjoying a hot cup of coffee can feed the soul. One word of caution, dear reader. If you unwind one afternoon by soaking in a steaming, hot bath, that is fantastic. However, trying to put on skinny jeans right after towelling off could be hazardous. You might end up stuck in your own pants weighing the pros and cons of wriggling around on a tile floor or giving up until your skin cools down. Neither option is pretty. Or do you carefully shuffle around to find a pair of scissors and “jaws of life” your way out? How much did the jeans cost? Is it more than your pride? Can you discreetly dispose of cut-up jeans to avoid uncomfortable questions? Why did you even buy those jeans in the first place sure they give a nice silhouette with your slouchy sweater but AT WHAT COST WHAT COST I SAY?
Decorations and softly glowing lights, friends and laughter, and anticipation of the magic of Christmas morning. Every December memories come flooding back. I loved slowly going through the Sears Wishbook and carefully writing down my hopes for gifts: a Slinky, Miss Piggy Baby, Monchichi, Cabbage Patch Kid, a Care Bear, a diary.
As the holidays approached, our house transformed into something magical. Some of the decorations have long been given away and replaced, but when I think of Christmas growing up, I picture the tinsel garland my mom hung over the front hall mirror, the reindeer stuffies perched around our family room, and the red felt stockings hung on the fireplace. I remember a steady flow of visitors dropping in, the white noise of conversation, the small metal candy dishes filled to the brims. And of course, the glow of flickering flames during the Christmas Eve candlelight service, my favourite service of the year.
A week or so before Christmas every year a special package would arrive from Minnesota. We never knew for sure what the contents would be, but they always included Hershey Kisses (you couldn’t get them in Canada back then) and some fun homemade decoration with a newsy letter updating us on all things Minnesotan. You see, years before, a young couple with two small children decided to reach out to a Canadian family in need at the Mayo Clinic. The backstory is not my story to tell, but they (among others) provided support and stability to a young patient when her parents couldn’t be with her as she received treatment. A friendship that spanned years began.
Fast forward to my adulthood. Through social media I have met lovely people from all over. One Christmas not long ago a package arrived from Rochester, Minnesota from a family I had befriended (or they befriended me. Either way, we became friends). Inside was a bag of American Reece’s Peanut Butter bells and Rubik’s Cubes for our four boys. Seeing the return address made my eyes leak and my heart leap at the connection. But wait, there’s more. The sender worked for…the Mayo Clinic.
Your memories are different from mine. And the memories we create now with our children are different again, too. Our family has traditions now that weren’t possible when I was young. We send and receive cards and packages to and from all over the USA. We have received dozens of packages of Oreos and M&Ms from them, too. Each year since the “Rubik’s Cube Christmas” our list of “friends we have yet to meet in real life” grows. And it is amazing.
As we put up our tree this year I set aside some ornaments that I wanted to hang myself. They hold a special place in my heart as a representation of my internet people and a reminder of how sad things can be turned into the fondest of memories.
Merry Christmas, friends.
*not pictured are the packages of Oreos and M&Ms because self-control is hard