Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why I Know I Must Be Part Leprechaun

• I have devilishly mischievous moments of evil intent. For example, my husband was speaking to me about nothing in particular and I was listening intently when suddenly into my head popped a thought – “I could reach out right now and sucker punch you right in the face.” There was no reason for the thought, but it made me laugh. Please note that I did not act on the impulse.
• I have taken several major life leaps (ie. Take a flying leap off the cliff) and risks that appealed to me – like starting 2 business’, shopping for first home while husband was chronically sick, etc – and, with some positive vibes and inspiration, everything will work out in the end. You have to trust that you are exactly where you should be. A little devil-may-care or a sound life philosophy?
• I like green. I’m currently writing this blog entry while sitting on my apple green couch, wearing my lime green t-shirt, etc. It’s not an overwhelming colour in my life but it does consistently wind its’ way into it.

• I like a good joke (practical or spoken) as much as the rest of them. (See blog entry October 5/08) In fact, I can clearly remember relishing the times spent with my extended family (paternal) as they were all great jokesters and I found great glee when I began to express my own inner comedienne.
• Short pants and a pipe…I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Emotions Bigger Than Your Body

On days when your emotions are bigger than your body – what do you do? Does parenting life allow for a “mental health day”? (I heard your sarcastic guffaw over there). Parenting doesn’t permit the more common “sick day”, let alone a I-need-a-moment-alone-before-I-completely-freak-out. So what do you do?

There are a thousand reasons for an I’m-going-to-lose-it days: no sleep, unreasonable demands from your child(ren), the dog vomit at the bottom of the steps that you didn’t see when you were going downstairs in the middle of the night to get an advil for the splitting headache that woke you up, the spaced-out demeanor of your pre-schooler while you ask over and over again for simple tasks like “open the door” to be complete while you are all standing in front of it to go out to the car for school. Honestly, we would still be standing at the door waiting for it to open itself if I hadn’t finally got to the point of “honey, push the handle!!! Push the handle!!! Push the handle!!!” In short, there is a whole series of little irritations that lead to your fast-paced call to your husband after you’ve dropped off the kid to tear a strip off him for absolutely nothing – you simply needed an outlet to vent off some of the pressure that was building in your head!! Poor man. Poor, poor man.

Here’s the “it” moment though – in mid-rant to my targetted spouse I had a moment of clarity. This was not about him and the fact that he had not left the five-dollar bill on my purse like I was hoping he would (this is what I was ranting about) because he did not read my mind last night when I thought to myself “I need that fiver for the morning for a coffee”. So when I called him after walking away from the vomit rug, dropping off the dopey preschooler and scrounging under the floor mat for change for coffee, he had no idea what the hell was wrong with me, what he’d done to contribute to it and what to even say! This was not fair to him – honey, I am sincerely sorry. My moment of clarity as I was working myself up to a fevered pitch in my tirade was this – my emotions are bigger than my body. Simply put, I was over reacting to most everything and it didn’t make sense, nor, did it feel good. Was I PMSing? Was I simply needing the sleep that I’d missed? Was I in need of a quiet morning to regroup and refresh without stressful demands and frustrating life events? Yes to all of the above. We’ve heard it before but we often ignore it so I’ll say it again. Only you know best what it is that you need. People can not help you if you yourself don’t know what it is that you need. Whether you can see clearly what your own thoughts and behaviours are telling you depends on how willing you are to listen and put that attentiveness to regular practice. You will be a happier, less stressed, person for doing so and, in turn, your family will not feel those stresses piled onto their own stressed out shoulders. In theory, when each family member puts this into practice (ie. Hubby, don’t dump your junk on me either) then your family takes a collective breath, relaxes their shoulders and better supports one another through the hard moments. Referring back to my telephone tirade with my husband who was in the process of talking faster and getting more and more stressed out by my overloading rant, as soon my overhead light bulb clicked on and I said to him “you know what!? I’m stressed and I’m certain it is all because I’m tired and PMSing so please don’t take any of this to heart, just let me vent” then I actually heard him sigh and take a moment to digest that. And then he said exactly what I needed to hear “Babe, you’re going to be alright. Try and put this stuff out of your head and go get yourself a nice coffee”. My rant did an immediate shift from I-want-to-kill-someone to I-could-burst-out-crying-right-now and it was all back in perspective again. At least one crazy had been replaced by another. My emotions were still bigger than my body but I was at least on my way to recovery, a tall latte and a much needed quiet morning. Cheers.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I Can Confirm The World Is Flat

Happy New Year Everyone! I have just climbed my way back onto the face of the earth. I was just minding my own business – about a month ago – and wham-o! I fell off! For years – nay, decades at least – scientists have been telling us that the world is round and safely traveling along its’ own orbit so you can imagine my surprise when I fell off!!

Have you ever been broad-sided by life? Completely knocked off your course and didn’t see it coming? If you’d asked me a month ago if I could see myself where I am today, only a few weeks in future, I’d have laughed and assumed that YOU were crazy but here I am. Life has taken a profound change in direction with a high, a low and a grand dose of sanity. Welcome to a fresh start in 2009.

Parents beware – you are people too, individuals with identities independent of your family, your children, your favourite TV Show – and if you ignore this fact for too long you might find yourself falling off the edge too. Have you had a life changing experience this year? Do you have a fresh start planned for the New Year? I’d like to kick off this year’s blog with your stories and an open discussion to be shared on Gingerbread Families – No Cookie Cutter Life! This is your invitation to join that forum and hear about my stories from the edge.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gingerbread Trivia Question #1

Which would you choose?
1) A good night's sleep for 1 night

2) Dinner prepared - shopping, preparation and clean up - for 3 nights

Post your choice in comments below - I'm definitely curious...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lullabye...and good night...

Today, my DD - age 3 - was again helping me fold laundry. We had two basket-fuls splayed across the bed and one of our chihuahuas was sunk in a pillow watching our activity. Both DD & Dog have been slowly establishing a friendly relationship but it is still fraught with occasional turbulence - like DD bugging him while he sleeps and Dog barking at her to leave him alone. Well, despite this new-found camaraderie, DD still has urges to antagonize the dog and a sleeping dog sitting unawares while she is tossing about laundry - er, I mean folding laundry - is just too tempting. She threw a sock at the dog.

To Dog's credit, he actually just opened his eyes and peered at her to ensure there was no further garments heading right at him. I remonstrated DD with a gentle "hey, treat Dog nicely, he's not doing anything to bother you. Now, go get that sock and apologize". DD moved tentatively toward Dog and was fully expecting him to lunge at her in retaliation - instead, he blinked and held her eye contact. DD moved ever so slightly closer and tried to figure out how she was going to retrieve the offensive sock that was draped just behind Dog on the pillow. Dog sighed. DD gingerly stretched out her hand to see if Dog might make a move but promptly withdrew it when Dog moved his tail an inch to the left. DD was nervous... She paused in contemplation then (get this) ... begins to sing "lullabye, and good night..." I can't believe that she came up with that idea. Sing the dog to sleep and then get the sock. Brilliance!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The New "S" Word

by Andriana Mantas of Collaborative Minds

Coping in a stressful world can be tough on all of us, especially children. As our times are changing and we enter a fluctuating economy, adapting to environmental initiatives, and balancing work-time with family-time.
There are many 'stress contributors' that affect each and every one of us in a different manner.

In 1990, my second child who was 4 years old at the time began to blink excessively. Nothing had changed in our lives, but there was something that had changed in our world - 'operation dessert storm' had begun. Even though, the conversations in our home were limited, as was his exposure to any media coverage, he still required more information about this event. We provided him with certain details in order to give him a sense of reassurance that was necessary for him to cope and understand. He didn't want to know about the fighting in the other country; instead he wanted to know how this event would impact his family.

There are many books at the bookstore about stress - one of my favourites, which I often reference, is David Elkind, The Hurried Child, in his book he states that "stress is the wear and tear on our bodies that is produced by the very process of living." Elkind also states that one of the factors that contribute to stress in children's lives is the hurries - to get ready, to go from one place to another, to do well and to grow up. Family disruptions due to death or divorce, health problems, tension and conflict in the home may cause children to develop fear, anxiety and emotional overload, and may contribute to chronic stress.

Children display 'stress signals' that can sometimes go unnoticed and without their own or even our awareness. The more obvious signs are continuous complaints of headaches, tummy aches or neck pain. Nervous habits may become apparent (nail biting, hair twisting, thumb sucking). A child may exhibit a difference in their sleep patterns or excessive energy and trouble relaxing. Subtle signs are a child becomes lethargic, daydreaming and not want to participate in activities. They may also become a little introverted. If you ask your child what's wrong, they may not be able to connect their stress to their actions, or you may have to play detective and look for clues.

So let's look at some 'stress relievers' that can help alleviate the stress for both you and your child. One of the most effective reliefs is to hug your child; this relaxes them and builds self-esteem. It's important to listen to them and when doing so, make a mental note to track changes in moods. Use words of encouragement whenever possible; applaud your child's effort - all of it; help yourself and them to identify their strengths. Be as honest as possible and promote open dialogue for them to express themselves. Insert humour in your daily routine and allow for quiet time, where all you just sit and hang out.

Is stress really the new "s" word?

For more information, please contact Andriana Mantas of Collaborative Minds at 416-803-5321 or collaborativeminds@sympatico.ca

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jump In

Metaphorically speaking, this is an invitation – listen closely and you’ll hear it…”Jump in, dear reader, jump in”. Children bring an exuberance to our lives that we often ignore. I’m guilty of enticing my daughter outside just this past weekend with intention to rake the leaves into a pile and snap photos of the resulting mayhem. But as I search about for the rake, I begin to collect the toys off the lawn and this leads to gathering up the bigger things for packing away for the season, which leads to sweeping off the deck because, hey – now it’s empty, and this leads to, at most, a push on the swing for my daughter…but no great big leaf pile to blow apart with glee because mommy got too distracted by all the things I-want-to-get-done. Moment lost. We came inside then because we were starting to feel chilly (we’d been outside awhile!) and no leaf pile has been built in or around our home. I feel a little tap on the shoulder from the Guilty-Mommy Fairy and could really work this one into a full self-flagellation. My inner therapist is hard at work to keep me from wandering this road again. I’ve been down it enough since giving birth.

With that said, I think there is merit in reminding ourselves that we do need to pause and really be in the moment. Yes, I have been unusually busy and having even 30 minutes outside to tidy up and prep for the cooler weeks ahead was nice BUT that was not the reason I went outside in the first place! My daughter was quite content to amuse herself and sing songs along with me while we both tottered about outside BUT she would have been over the moon to land kerplunk into a waist high pile of leaves. I believe I lost my ‘moment’ and I implore you to not do the same. It’s what life is made of, these moments that come to mind when we are reflecting on happy times with our kids. When we might have actually created a memory for them to reflect on of their own.

Life is like this – my inner therapist won out in convincing me to not spend gobs of energy in the self-loathing department and rather look for (or create) the next moment to remember. It came today with the washable markers and the bath-time approaching disbursement of clothes. Without great detail, we’ll suffice it to say that it is a hoot to draw happy faces where happy faces are not normally seen and then jump into a mile high bubble bath to wash it all off. Too fun! My daughter was giggling like crazy and so was I and it was not lost on me that she, in fact, jumped into a pile of something – even though it was bubbles…

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Why I'm So Glad I Taught Myself to Knit Again

by Guest Blogger Margot Stevens of A Party Shade of Green

My grandmother was a prolific knitter. In every one of my aunts' and uncles' homes, you will still find her afghans in daily use. In every one of my cousins' keepsake boxes, a sweater knit especially for us. When the local paper in Port Alberni ran a story on her, and how she took in more than 20 foster kids, some of whom I now count as aunts, there are her knitting needles sticking up in the bottom of the photo. She didn't even put them down for the interview.

But like so many things, I didn't treasure her skills until she was gone. I could only remember the knit stitch she taught me, but not how to cast on or off, and without a beginning or an end, I had nowhere to go. So a few years ago I set out to re-teach myself the skill of knitting, and re-connect with my Granny's gift.

I started with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Knitting, which provided a very strong foundation for the skills I have built over the years. From this really excellent book, I re-taught myself to cast on, knit AND purl, how to increase and decrease stitches, the basics of lace and cables, and finally, how to cast off and construct a garment. After completing a few washclothes and scarves, I decided to try some more complicated projects, and learned how to knit lace shawls and mittens at a yarn shop in Kensington Market. I experimented with hats and baby sweaters, and even a stuffed animal or two.

Once I felt that I could produce knitted items nice enough for gifts, I started knitting mitts and scarves for family members, and I finally realized what drove my grandmother to knit. I have found nothing more satisfying than knitting gifts for others, because it is so much more than just buying a gift at the store. I carefully pick the right pattern for them. Then I choose a yarn that I think would suit them. Then as I knit it, I find I spend a lot of time thinking about the person for whom I am knitting, and this is such a wonderful way to spend the little spare time I can find in my day.

One of the most satisfying moments I had was last winter, when my father-in-law told me that he had been out looking for a new scarf, but could not find one that fit his needs. They were all too scratchy, too colourful, too thin, or too short. So together we designed a scarf that was in essence a very long tube, so that it was always double-thick, and it was knit with two strands of a very soft acrylic in a neutral tone. It took me weeks to knit, but once he had it, he wore it every day for the rest of the winter.

I also found, during my first year of motherhood, that knitting brought me some solace when I was afraid I was losing my mind. There is nothing like the exhaustion, overwhelming anxiety and paranoia of being a new mom, in addition to feeling like you've completely lost your identity in your new role and responsibilities. I found that having a simple knitting project that I could pick up in those few quiet moments, or when I needed to focus on something else so that I wouldn't completely lose my mind, was extremely helpful and relaxing.

If you are interested in learning, or re-learning, how to knit, or just want to find some other knitters to share a cup of coffee with, join us in November of Friday mornings at Gingerbread Lane. Starting Friday, Nov.7th, and then for the next 3 Fridays, I will be facilitating a beginner's knitting project class, along with an intermediate knitting motivation.

For more information on Margot's knitting club, launching Friday November 7th, email info@gingerbreadlane.ca or call 905-271-2900

Margot is the found of A Party Shade of Green, providing parents with environmentally-friendly alternatives for kids' parties.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Night of Crazy, Make Believe

I feel as though I’ll fit right in. Running about like a maniac – last minutes costume touches, groceries for the night, party supplies prepared at-the-ready (work requirement), laundry so there is clean gitch to even put on under the costume, tidying the front foyer for those intrusive neighbours who step-inside-for-candy, etc, etc has me wishing to clutch my hair in both hands at the root and run hell-bent down the street while screaming and/or drooling with a glazed non-sugar-induced look in my eye! People, I hope, will just assume I’m putting on a show for Halloween night and not be fully aware that I have, in fact, lost my mind…

Happy Halloween everyone.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Fun - Trick It! Treat It! or Eat It!

By Guest Blogger - Andriana Mantas of Collaborative Minds©

As Autumn is upon us, there are many events and activities that take place including apple picking, Thanksgiving, Halloween, raking and jumping in leaves etc. So let's get into the Dos and Don'ts of Halloween.

Let's begin with the excitement of a choosing a costume. This can either be a very quick decisive process or it can be 'tricky' - and by tricky, I mean that your child may change their mind over and over again. If your child is at an age where you can discuss likes and dislikes favourite characters, heroes, sport teams and players this allows you to create a short list. By narrowing things down and prioritizing, certain items can be hand-made or produced from home. If a trip to the costume shop is necessary, have fun with it and make it adventurous. Now that you have the costume ready to wear, be prepared to see your little one dress up and down over the days or weeks before and after Halloween.

Candy is also a big part of Halloween; in fact there is too much candy just before Halloween, that evening and of course the days following. What to do with all that junk-food? What else can we 'shell out' besides candy to our 'trick-or-treaters'? Some ideas include bubbles, stickers, washable tattoos, pretzels, gift certificate, and beach balls. Other options to help keep the amount of sugar from entering the house is to keep trick-or-treat outings short. Planning an activity helps to get them home quicker without them feeling like they are missing out! Encourage your child to sort through their bags of candy and be selective about which pieces to keep. This provides an opportunity for you to examine the treats and toss candy that may be unsafe. Allow your child to select one or two treats on Halloween night, then find a spot for the excess candy - the location should be out of the child's reach and not easily accessible.

Have a fun and safe Halloween and enjoy all the tricks and treats. To get you into the spirit, below is a song about the 'five little pumpkins'.
Five Little Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate
The first one said "Oh my, it's getting late"
The second one said "There are witches in the air"
The third one said "But we don't care!"
The fourth one said "Let's run and run and run"
The fifth one said "I'm ready for some fun!"
WOOOOOO, went the wind
And out went the light
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight!

For more information, please contact Andriana Mantas of Collaborative Minds at 416-803-5321 or collaborativeminds@sympatico.ca