Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It's a Wrap!

I just read an article in the paper that said, and I am not making this up, 'Why put up one Christmas tree when you can put up three?'  I had to pause and read it again.  But yes, that's what it said.  The article talked about how three Christmas trees looks so much better than one.  Well, I've got three reasons why you should not put up three Christmas trees:  1) Sanity 2) Sanity and 3) Sanity

I guess these people subscribe to the 'it's not done until it's overdone' theory.

Then I read an article about how some people spend $20,000.00 decorating their 'homes' (yes, that's plural) for Christmas.  They pay interior decorators these outrageous amounts of money to do it!  Amazing!  I guess it's these people who can afford to put up three trees in one living room.  I say these people can take their trees and... decorate them!

This year I'm doing pretty well.  I've put up my one Christmas tree.  (I'm such a minimalist.)  I've gotten smart (you know, relatively speaking) and I've been doing some gift wrapping every night.

Last year I left all the wrapping until the very last minute.

I started off strong.  I wrapped each present with extreme care. I folded corners neatly and put nice little squares of tape discreetly along straight lines. I wrote lengthy and thoughtful Christmas notes on each gift card.  I matched the colours of the bows to the colours in the wrapping paper. I curled the ribbon painstakingly.  I chose wrapping paper based on the age of the recipient.  It was wonderful.

By hour four, I had lost it.  I was whimpering.  I had long ago run out of clear Scotch tape so I was ripping duct tape with my teeth and sticking it carelessly on the package.  I could have cared less if any part of the present was showing.  "Whatever!"  I snarled.  "They're going to find out soon what's in it anyway!"

I had abandoned all care for colour combinations.  Ribbon?  Ha!  It was just another obstacle in what had become a major fight to the death.  And those nice little festive notes of good cheer?  Vanished.  If I remembered I would scrawl an initial right on the wrapping paper and then throw the present viciously into a garbage bag.  I began to hate every last remaining present, feeling they were taunting me.  I vowed up and down that I would NEVER, EVER leave the wrapping until the end again.  "How can it possibly take so long to wrap every gift?  How?  How?  How?"  I would ask myself hopelessly and morosely.

Far from feeling the Christmas spirit, I felt like it was giving me a good kick in wrap.

Anyway, that was last year and this is this year!  Why am I posting in my blog anyway?  I've got to go wrap!! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Respect This!

My five year old was trying on an attitude for size.  I got down to his level and looked him right in the eye. 

"Listen, mister.  I carried you in my stomach for nine months.  I fed you, changed your diapers, and rocked you to sleep.  You WILL be respectful!"

He looked up at me and saluted.  "Yes, Sir Commander!"

That's more like it! 

I nodded in satisfaction at him.  "At ease, soldier!"

My son is funny.  He loves to give me zerberts all over my face and arms.  My husband says this is a boy's way of showing love.

I asked, "Is it also showing love when he burps in my ear?"

My husband nodded.  "Definitely."

So the next time Ryan blew a large, noisy zerbert on my forehead, instead of wiping it off, I said, "I love you too, Ry!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Merry Hanukkah!

We were enjoying the Christmas CD from the Barenaked Ladies.  My son asked me who sang it and I didn't even think about it.  I've known the name for so long that I didn't even think of the implications, so I told him.  Then I realized what I'd done. 

My eight-year old had a field day.  "The BARENAKED LADIES?" he asked incredulously. 

"No! You heard me wrong.  I said, 'The Fully and Tastefully Clothed from Head to Toe Ladies'.  Honestly."

Too late.  He was off.  "The BARE naked Ladies?  The bare NAKED ladies?  The..."

Thanks a lot, 'Fully Clothed Ladies'!

For the Christmas season I've been trying to teach my son manners.  I've been trying for the last eight years.  That's the hard part about being a parent, isn't it?  You have to repeat yourself constantly.  If you could just say it once it would be fine.  But no.  You have to say it about a million times.  "We do not sneeze all over our sister!"  "We do not punch our brother repeatedly in the head.  It's just not done."

Anyway, my oldest is pretty good now.  He says thank you when he receives gifts.  But it's that pesky honesty thing.  At his birthday recently when he received this one gift, he said, "I have one of these already."  I gave him the look of death, but he just breezed on anyway.  "I'll probably take it back or give it away."

So I had to go back to the drawing board to re-rehearse saying thank you with him.  I sat down with him.  I looked him right in the eye.  And I said, "Colin.  Listen to the words coming out of my mouth very, very carefully.  You get a gift.  You have five hundred of the exact same thing and you absolutely HATE it."

He looked at me with hesitation.  "Ummm...?"  

I leaned forward to emphasize my point.  "You say THANK YOU!  THANK YOU SO MUCH!  THANK YOU!" 

He looked at me doubtfully.  "You mean you want me to lie?"  

Finally he gets it! 

"Yes!" I said enthusiastically.  "I want you to lie.  Lie through your teeth!  It's all part of good manners, trust me." 

I don't understand the confusion, is it just me?

My 5 year old son has (some) manners but he is confused about the whole holiday thing.  I explained what Hanukkah was to him.  I explained about Christmas.  Then he watched the Polar Express in his class at school.  He came home with a little bell like they have in the movie. 

He said, "Mommy, listen.  If you ring this bell and you can't hear it, that means you're old and you don't believe in Christmas anymore.  So when that happens, that's when you celebrate Hanukkah."

Back to the drawing board!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Anaphylaxis Angst

I had a bad experience in the grocery store the other day.  I had been trying to find a nut-free gingerbread house for my son to decorate.  I had gone to three different stores looking for one.  Finally I found one that was pre-assembled, which was crucial, because I've tried to put gingerbread houses together before, only to have them fall over or look terribly lopsided and it didn't put me in a festive mood, to say the least.  Anyway, I was at the check-out.  The cashier couldn't find the price of it on file so he had to call a manager over.  When the manager came back after looking for the price, he had a different gingerbread house in his hands.  He told me he couldn't find the price so he wanted me to take the other house.  I shook my head.  "No, I can't take that one.  It has nuts.  My son has a nut allergy.  That's why I picked THIS house."  The manager began to look panicked.  "But how do you know that one is okay?"  I was quickly losing patience.  "I have had a son with a nut allergy for eight years and I know what I am doing," I informed him, not very nicely.  The manager went away again and came back with a woman who worked there.  She asked me how I knew the house I was buying was safe for my son.  I showed them the label that listed allergens such as wheat and soy.  It didn't list nuts.  The woman told me that unless it had a 'no nut' symbol on the box that it wasn't okay.  I was really getting frustrated.  "No!" I insisted.  "That isn't true.  There is a law that allergens have to be listed.  That's why they listed the other allergens!  The product was made in Canada and that is a law here."  The manager looked anxiously at me.  "I'd hate to guarantee anything from our store."  Okay, that was it.  My son has to eat, doesn't he?  Food comes from a grocery store, doesn't it?  What do they want me to do?  Forage in my backyard for wild berries and mushrooms?  Start taking out the small animals that cross my deck with a slingshot?  Let's be rational, people.  Pour me an eggnog and make it a double.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Maternity Leave Mayhem

For our second child, my husband took some of my maternity leave.  Notice the language, there.  I said 'took' and 'my'.  That was how I felt, anyway.  People are divided on the issue.  Some people thought it was great that he was doing that, while other people couldn't believe it.  I wouldn't have minded at all if it didn't take away from my time.  (There I go again!) 

Maybe I shouldn't have felt ownership of it; I guess it is only fair.  I think dads taking parental leave is a great idea.  I just wanted the whole year to myself.  First of all, I was breastfeeding.  And yes, as the time approached I began pumping milk, but my pump and I did not get along.  I thought of it as an instrument of torture, to be honest.  Which doesn't exactly pave the way for a positive relationship.  Anyway.  My husband and I argued about it.  He wanted six months and I didn't want him to have any, which is how we settled for three months. 

I felt like after carrying our child for nine months, conscious of everything I was doing and eating and its effect on him, and abstaining from alcohol, and don't get me started on giving birth to him, that I deserved the whole year.  I admit it!  And I was still breastfeeding through the night.  Jerry would lie there without a care in the world snoring while I sat there wanting to gouge him with a fork just to even out the sleeplessness....but I wasn't bitter.  Do I sound bitter? 

It was really hard for me to leave my son when he still seemed so small.  I mean, I had trouble going back to work (part-time) with each and every child (it doesn't get any easier) and I'm sure I would have at any age (except maybe when they were 16 years old). 

I was getting all upset and anxious and wondering to myself how I could possibly leave my sweet vulnerable little baby with - gasp - his FATHER?  What was I thinking?  (Okay, I was a little irrational.  Give me a break.  I hadn't had a good night's sleep in three years!)

I think my husband was picturing time alone with a sweet little baby who would laugh and smile and then sleep the rest of time while he napped on the couch.  Unfortunately, life at home with children is not a Hallmark card.

I warned him.  I said he didn't know what it was really like.  While I wanted to stay home, I also had already had one maternity leave and I realized how hard it could be.  He waved off my concerns.  "Pfffft! I'll be fine!  No problem!  I can handle it."

On my first day back at work he paged me at 11 a.m. with a #1 page.  That means a crisis.  I called home in a panic.  My husband yelled, "You've got to come home RIGHT NOW!"  Apparently Ryan was refusing to drink milk out of the bottle.

Another time he asked me seriously, "Do you ever have to psych yourself up to get through a day?"  (Ummmm, is that a rhetorical question?  Do I love chocolate?)  As someone I talked to about it said, "A day?  Try every day!"

Another day he met me at the door when I arrived home, yelling that Ryan hadn't napped all day and that he was teething and he couldn't handle it anymore. 

The good thing was that it really helped Jerry understand how hard it can be at home, and how the parent at home isn't just lying on the couch watching TV and eating truffles.  I was just visiting a new mom and she lay there on the couch holding her sleeping baby and saying hopelessly, "I planned on painting the entire house while I was on maternity leave...but I haven't even done one room yet."  I patted her hand, saying gently, "No more crazy talk, please.  Don't say another word.  It's enough just to deal with the baby!"

I remember how the midwives visited me at home a few days after the birth of my first child, and I had struggled to have a shower and get changed into clothes.  When I greeted them at the door, they looked at me in horror.  "You shouldn't have gotten dressed!  We expect to see you in your pyjamas still!"  I collapsed against the door in unmitigated relief.  "Well, thank GOD for that!"  It was the greatest feeling ever.  I've never forgotten it.

And of course there are great things about being home.  You get all the hugs and get to see all the developmental milestones happening in front of your eyes.

When I was expecting our third child, I said casually to my husband, "So, this time...are you planning to..."  My husband interrupted me quickly, "No! NO! Nooo!"

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cutting Down a Christmas Tree

We got our Christmas tree today.  We did it the old-fashioned way.  We drove out to a tree farm and cut it down. 

It was so festive.  Especially when the kids were fighting over which tree to pick.  "MY tree is better."  "NO, mine!"  "Mine has character!"  "We don't want character, we want perfection!  Who's with me?"  Surprisingly, no one.  So we got a tree with character.  It's beautiful.

And when we were tying the tree to the top of our van, that was great too.  Especially after we had painstakingly thrown the rope through the double doors and the front doors several times until it was good and rolled up in the rope.  And then we realized we couldn't shut the van doors with all the rope.  "Okay!  Plan B!"  my husband announced, still smiling but not quite so cheerfully.

While we undid all the rope, the guy beside us set off his car alarm while tying his tree on his car roof.  And it was the alarm to end all alarms.  The macho-guy alarm.  The 'you touch my car you will pay and so will everyone within a 5 mile radius' alarm.  It sounded like a fire truck siren.  And he couldn't shut it off.  We were trying to sing 'Jingle Bells' but we couldn't hear ourselves.  So we sang louder.  I think all the people around us really appreciated it.

Once the tree was on top of the van and we could shut all the doors, it didn't seem that secure.  My husband told my son he would have to sit on top of the car and hold the Christmas tree all the way home. 

My other son thought he was serious and panicked, shouting, "If you sit on the top of the car, you could FALL OFF AND DIE!"

We assured my son we hadn't really meant it - that it was just a little Christmas joke.  My husband and I were laughing until Ryan yelled, "The Christmas tree just fell off the top of the car!"  My husband jolted upright in his seat and the car swerved while he checked the mirrors to see if he could still see the tree.  For some reason, he didn't think that was a very funny 'little Christmas joke'.

When my husband saw the price list for the tree as we were driving out of the lot to pay, he paused.  "You know," he remarked, "there are Christmas trees for $20.00 at the No Frills."

"Yes,"  I conceded, "but you can't put a price on memories, honey.  Does anyone ever say, fondly, 'Remember that time we drove down to the No Frills parking lot and picked up a tree?  I'll never forget that shiny asphalt.'  Of course not!  But will they say, 'Remember that time we drove hours to the tree farm and froze our @sses off?'  Yes, they will! They will LOVE it." 

My husband handed over the $50.00.