Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's Never Too Early To Start Dreaming Of Summer.

Since moving to Calgary almost seven years ago I've complained about winters slightly more than my fair share. Last winter was a particularly bad one, with little relief from the relentless cold and snow, and at one point I actually threw a tantrum that would match that of any six year old girl: I was shoveling snow one day, cold through to my core, my hands and face red from the -20 wind. Worst of all, it was April. Sodding April.

I threw down my shovel and stomped inside (at that point I may or may not have burst into tears) and began my outpouring of the unfairness of it all. I protested that I couldn't live here any more / it was too much / no human being should have to put up with so much winter / it was NUTS / it was ALL WRONG / other people were at that moment living in warm, sunny climes with cocktail umbrellas and floating pool beds. I mean! Really! Cocktail umbrellas!

And then I took a breath and a hot bath. And before long it was summer and everything was okay again.

This winter, on the other hand, has been fantastic. And by fantastic I mean totally manageable for a Calgary winter. And after not having endured a bad winter this year, I can almost smell Spring in the air. And even if Spring is still in reality a few months away it doesn't matter because it's all good.

The thing I absolutely love about this time of year, is the anticipation of all the great things summer brings. But it wasn't until I saw this picture a few days ago on Design Mom's site - an irresistible display of colourful ballet shoes which I immediately Pinterested - that I felt it. And just like that I was in the mood for spring and summer.

These are the things I'm looking forward to this year:

1) Holidays: we've booked our flight and we're going to England. All four of us: two adults, two children and a whole heap of electronic games, colouring pens, candies and anything else that helps us survive the 9-hour flight. I'm excited about the trip - of seeing my family for the first time in a while, and of meeting my brand new little nephew (who I might have to steal and bring back in my suitcase).

2) Summer fashion: As usual, when it comes to summer, I can't get my mind off stripes. As far as I'm concerned every item in my wardrobe should be stripey.

This t-shirt from Joe Fresh reminds me of a t-shirt I bought when I was in Paris about ten years ago.
Every woman needs a great summer dress. I love this light, floaty one from H&M

This year I'm in the mood for a pleated skirt, too. Whether or not I can pull it off remains to be seen. This pretty white one is from Top Shop.

A feminine shirt is always great to have on hand for long summer evenings or to slip over a bathing suit. I like this white embroidered one from Zara.

I love this simple, long gold chain with turquoise beads from Charm & Chain. It would go with so many outfits.

These wedge sandals from Barefoot Tess feel like summer to me. I wonder what colour pedicure would go with them?

3. Ice cream: There's a great little ice cream store a short drive from where we live with the most amazing assortment of flavours, and one of our favourite things to do on a lazy afternoon is to take the kids down there and hang out with our ice creams in the park across the road.   

4. Long summer evenings: I'm a woman of simple wants. A patio barbecue, a glass of wine, and nothing but the rest of the evening to watch the children exhaust themselves in the paddling pool, is my idea of heaven. 

5. Pedicures: It's the only time of year I do it, but I love the look of freshly-painted toenails.

What are you looking forward to this year?

No compensation was received for any of the above mentions. All content is simply my own opinion.
Stumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To Reddit Bookmark Twitter

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cautious Parent Or Internet Snoop: How I Used Social Media To Check Up On A Potential Babysitter.

When it comes to social media, like most people of my generation, I'm knee deep in it. I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends; Twitter to talk to other bloggers; Pinterest to collect pretty things I find online; YouTube to watch everything from how to clean grout to music videos; and LinkedIn for my professional thingimajigs.

So it should come as no surprise that when, last week, I received an email from a girl applying for the babysitting position I'd posted earlier that day, that the first thing my social-media-trigger-happy fingers did was, look her up.

The girl - let's call her Polly - seemed fine in her email. More than fine, in fact. She gushed about how much children loved her and how much she loved children and how she would love to work with us. It was all love, love, love with Polly. Her enthusiasm hooked me. If I'm going to hire someone to spend time with my kids why wouldn't I chose someone with a glass-half-full, everything-shiny-rainbows-and-unicorns attitude? I responded right away, asking her for more information.

As our email stream ping-ponged back and forth, I googled her. Because - well, naturally. It's all very well saying you love kids but what if really you're a troll with warts and spikes? What if you're telling me one thing and hiding something else? What if what if what if? (and breathe....) One paragraph in an email tells me very little, but the Internet? There's no telling what you might find out about a person there from a few search words. When it comes to my kids, there's no room for error. If someone's going to look after my children, I need to know who they are.

Of course, ten years ago I wouldn't have been able to dig any deeper into Polly's past. I would probably have spoken to her on the phone, then met her and hired her and been no wiser to whatever else was going on in her life.

So I googled her. Among other things I came across her Facebook page - the crown jewel of biographies. I clicked onto her page and read it. All of it. Most people I know have fixed their privacy settings to limit access to their profile. But Polly had not. Polly's Facebook page was wide open for the world to see. There she was - her photographs, her wall posts (an hour-by-hour account of her life), her friends, her hobbies, the music she listened to and the books she read. All of it right there, available for me to ponder with my cup of tea. It was a detailed insight into this girl's life I would otherwise never have seen.

Admittedly I felt strange looking at Polly's Facebook page with all her private stuff on display. I felt like a snoop - a sneaky impostor peeking through someone's living room window. But then I remembered that she was going to be looking after my children and ditched the guilt.

The first thing that struck me were the number of expletives in her wall posts. But okay - she was eighteen. So, okay. 

The next thing that struck me was the pattern of negativity: "my life sucks", "my life is bull s&$%", "everyone sucks", "I need a job", "I really need a job", "why will no one hire me?", "keep your F'n job I don't want it anyway", "I'm bored", "I'm bored", "I'm bored". Etc., etc.

Suddenly positive Polly was no longer seeming so positive.

But maybe she was just going through a bad patch. 

Then one wall post caught my eye in a way that made my stomach turn slightly. And then another. Apparently, in Polly's world, it's okay refer to women as "bitches" in casual chat. And apparently, according to Polly, "bitches" should not be allowed to drive. In fact, "bitches"shouldn't even own a car. Worse of all, in the land of Polly, talking hatefully about one's own mother on Facebook is an acceptable thing to do.

The expletives I could handle, the negativity could be overlooked, but the blatant sexism and the mean remarks about her own mother? It all gave me a very bad feeling in my gut. I couldn't erase the things I'd read from my mind and at that very moment I realized I'd never be able to confidently leave this girl alone with my kids.

I wrote to Polly and canceled the meeting.

Then I went to Twitter to throw the subject out for discussion: what did other moms think about this? What would they do? Was I wrong to have snooped around on her? Within minutes I heard back from several moms, most of whom said they would have done the same thing.

When in doubt, always ask Twitter.

I then paid to join a nanny finder web site, feeling the need for a little extra security. Or a little extra something - I don't know. Now I have some great-looking, background-checked, references-coming-out-of-the-wazoo babysitters lined up for interviews.

(I may still have to don my Internet sleuth hat though, you know, just for good measure.)

What do you think? Is it okay to use the Internet to check up on someone you're hiring? Is reading their Facebook wall crossing a moral line? Where is the line between wanting to protect your children and being a snoop?

What would you do?
Stumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To Reddit Bookmark Twitter

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Strange And Random Things That Make Me Cry Since Becoming A Parent.

Something must have happened inside my brain when I was expecting my babies - some kind of permanent chemical change. Perhaps too many hormones crossed over from the placenta into my bloodstream. Or perhaps all the jumping, prodding and jabbing those babies did when they were growing inside me dislodged something (part of a rib, maybe?) and sent it elsewhere (I got it! Part of a rib relocated to my brain!). It's the only explanation I can think of. Because since becoming a mother my emotional filter - the one that stops me from crying over completely random and pointless things in public - no longer works.

It's the reason I sometimes avoid listening to the news. It's the reason I refuse to watch Saving Private Ryan or basically any sad movie. It's why I carry a supply of tissues in my purse.

The only semi-good thing about this, is that I've managed to narrow down the specific moments that these emotional outbursts tend to happen.

Weddings: It's just a matter of time before I'm rustling in my bag for a Kleenex. The moment the ceremony starts, and the couple begins reciting their vows, there I am, crying (sometimes even more than the mothers of the bride/groom!). There I am, digging around for more tissues and trying to stifle my slightly-inappropriate sobs.  

Airports: There's something about airports. The arrival and departure lounges - the long sad goodbyes and the emotional hellos. People hugging one another with that slightly-too-tight-for-comfort embrace because the thought of letting go just yet is too hard. The moment I step in, my eyes begin to water. I tell myself to stop but those damn hormones (or that piece of rib) won't listen. And so, next time you're checking your bags and you notice a woman with dark glasses power-walking through the terminal with tissues falling out of her back pocket - it might be me.

Sad movies: Enough said. I know you know what I mean.

Sad songs: Don't ever play the song Landslide near me. (Seriously, don't even click on that link.)

And one last thing. One random, bizarre thing that's sure to prompt the snivels.

Hallmark Cards: Specifically the ones with the really long, cheesy verses that go something like...

 Through the years...
You've been there for me...
You held me tight...
When I was sad...
You picked me up...
When I was down...
You were always there for me...
Now I'm here for you too...
Blah Blah Blah Sadness Sadness Boo Hoo

And I know! Those cards are so tacky and impersonal! But still. There I am with my soggy tissues.

It's bloody madness! 

Dear hormones, go screw yourself. Thanks.


How about you? What makes you cry since becoming a parent?

Stumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To Reddit Bookmark Twitter

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Life Keeps Getting In The Way Of Blogging.

I once read one of those What Is My Ideal Job? books where you go through a series of questions that lead you to your best-suited vocation. It was about ten years ago when I was in a miserable spot in my career in marketing, eager to break away and do something different. One part of the questionnaire asked me to write about my ideal day. Not one to hold back in the imagination department, I wrote something like this:

(You should probably start hearing harp music now.)

I wake up at 8:00, refreshed after a good night's sleep. Before breakfast I slip into my bathing suit and swim twenty lengths of my swimming pool. After that I sip a hot cup of coffee and eat a healthy breakfast while looking out through large french doors, admiring the beautiful morning and the huge trees in my garden. I go into my office and sit at an antique walnut desk overlooking the ocean through a large bay window. I write for a couple of hours and then break for lunch and take a short stroll by the ocean. My work day ends at around four, when I start preparing dinner, glass of wine in hand, in my humongous kitchen, a great big feast for family and friends who will arrive later.

The end.

(Dear author of What Is My Ideal Job?, please send me a refund. Thanks a bunch.)

My ideal day never did happen. This is what happened instead:

(You can start hearing drums mixed with fingernails on a chalkboard and crying monkeys now.)

I wake up at 7:00 to my three-year-old shining his flashlight directly into my eyes and asking me what I am doing. Before I can properly wake up, my other son is there, also asking random questions. I shuffle into the kitchen with one eye open and one closed and start putting breakfast together. Then it's time to get everyone dressed. Getting two boys dressed is like getting ten monkeys dressed. Into clothes, shoes, boots, mittens and hats before heading out in the snow to school/playdate/other activity. Later, in between clearing away one meal and making the next and sticking a load of laundry on, I type emails that usually begin "I'm so sorry I've taken so long to get back to you...". By five o'clock I'm so tired I feel like my head is actually going to plunge into my dinner and it's all I can do to plead with my spine to keep me upright for a few more hours.

My expectations are lower - much lower - than that twenty-something-year-old girl with the list of how things in life should be. She can keep the swimming pool and the ocean view. I'll even give up the bay window and the walnut desk. All I want is a little bit of balance - that elusive thing we talk about all the time, as if achieving it is even achievable.

But I want some anyway.

My new thirty-three-year-old ideal day includes spending time with my kids and going to work for a few hours. That's about it folks. Nothing jaw-dropping, nothing spectacular. No french windows or strolls on the beach. Just a little of both: life as a mom and life as someone with other things going on that are not all about family all the time. C'est tout.

And not to be greedy, but I want just one more thing too.

I want to write more blog posts and I want to write them while the idea is still fresh in my head in the morning instead of waiting until the evening when brain has turned to swamp juice and all I can type are things like sploocrnachfl44iggy2lorp87 (or worse, let them pile up in my drafts folder).
Stumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To Reddit Bookmark Twitter

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In The Land Of Unpublished Blog Posts.

For every blog post I publish there's another sitting idly in my drafts folder - one that's been written and then shoved aside, never to make a public appearance. And like the committed procrastinator that I am, I don't often get around to deleting them. So they remain there forever, unread, unloved, cast aside in the land of forgotten posts. Forever unmemorable.

Usually there's good reason for my not publishing these posts: they only make sense to me; they're not entertaining, funny or interesting in any way; they reference things that've happened in my life and are way too personal to publish; I wrote them when I was over-tired; delirious or inebriated.

But it's sad. Don't you think it's sad? All those unpublished posts that'll never be read, never given the opportunity to make someone chuckle, grimace, oppose, lob something at or at the very least nod their head at in empathy.

I feel bad for them.

I'm strange like that.

So on behalf of those discarded posts, and because I know you're super sad about it too (I'm pretty sure I can hear you crying), here are a few samples from my pile of rejects.

(They even have proper titles, poor things.)

Love On A Moving Device.
In which I write an entire post in the style of a really bad romantic novel about my new treadmill: how I met him online, fell head over heals for him, then brought him home (much to the dismay of my husband). And how, though our families say it won't last, we'll go far together (miles and kilometers).

Alien Movies And Other Reasons To Always Have The Remote Control.
In which I go into (way too much) detail about my loathing for alien movies and tell the story of how I was tricked into watching one about not just aliens but aliens and cowboys (double whammy NO).

Sexy Libraries.
In which I try to convince you that libraries are really sexy awesome places and get all up in your face about how we should all be reading smelly old books a lot more and then show you a riveting slide show of libraries from around the world.

Mommy Does A Really Good Impression Of You!
In which I explain why you should never impersonate your son's eccentric music teacher with the thick accent.

Hair Is My Problem.
In which I recite a crap poem about my how I can't decide what to do with my hairstyle. 

About That Skeleton I Wanted For Christmas. 
In which I reveal a conversation with my husband about how unfair it is that he won't let me have a skeleton (for anatomical purposes), and how I could call him Jones Bones and sit him in different poses around the house and dress him up for special occasions.

So now you know.

My utter nonsense that is better off in the drafts folder hidden treasures.

How about you? What hidden treasures are in your drafts folder? In fact, why not do your own post and then let me know! I'd love to hear about them.
Stumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To Reddit Bookmark Twitter

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mess With My Brother, Mess With Me.

As any mother of boys (plural) understands, there are moments of heart-warming camaraderie and moments of hair-raising hellishness. And they often happen back to back. Within minutes they can be playing nicely and then threatening to rip each other's heads off. Laughing and joking around and then hissing through gritted teeth. Smiling and then screaming.

And it's like this a lot of the time - this back and forth, schizophrenic relationship that hangs on the verge of love and trouble. As the mediator, care-taker, whatever you want to label me - it's utterly exhausting - this watching, soothing, intervening, reassuring, reuniting. And repeat. More exhausting for me, apparently, than them. Because they're skipping off to the next thing, the last altercation a distant memory, while I'm sitting down with a cup of tea to try to collect and revive myself.

But if there's one thing I can rely on, it's that aside from the bickering and the up-down turbulent friendship, they'll put all their differences aside to stand up for one another.

I've witnessed it a few times now.

It warms my cockles like no other cockle-warmer.

I had taken my sons to a gymnasium for drop-in play time. It's a fantastic way to burn off energy and I watched as they leaped from one trampoline to another, moving so sprightly and energetically that I wished I was four years old again.

Then a little girl who was also playing at the gym brushed past Oliver. I'm not even sure what happened next, or why he did what he did, but Oliver walked up to the girl and wrapped his arms around her. I watched, confused. The little girl was horrified. She wriggled free from his embrace and backed away several steps. Then she stuck out her tongue at him and pulled the meanest face she could muster.

Oliver was visibly upset by the little girl's display of hostility. But Matthew? Oh he was just mad. I watched his face turn red with anger and then he took a step forward, toward the girl.

"Don't do that to MY BROTHER." He spat.

The girl stood firm, maintaining her spiteful face.

"It's okay." I barged in. I explained to the boys what had happened and they went on with their jumping and leaping and swinging. But I could tell that to my son, the reasons didn't matter - just that the girl had behaved unkindly to his little brother.

Aside from feeling a little bad for the girl (her sisters came to rescue her), I felt a great big gush of pride for the way my son had stood up for his brother so vehemently. It's times like these I realize that despite all the bickering they really are there for each other. It's comforting - especially to a mother - to know that her children, no matter what, will always have each other.

And maybe one day the ratio of getting along / bickering will switch from 50% / 50% to 90% / 10% (some bickering is healthy).

Stumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To Reddit Bookmark Twitter

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Ugly Photographs.

For as long as I can remember I've had this naughty habit of deleting every unflattering photograph of myself. It drives J mad. He thinks I should keep all photos - good, bad or ugly. My thinking is that when I'm eighty and I'm looking through pictures of myself from my younger years, I want to think wow, I was an attractive young woman. Not, wow, I looked like the back end of an elephant. Too bad I didn't consider reconstructive surgery.

Back in the pre-children days there weren't so many unphotogenic angles. Now I'm pouncing on the delete key when I see even a hint of a double-chin (it was a trick of the light!) or a wobbly tummy (it was the way I was standing!) or chubby arms (okay okay it was the cakes!).

The worst photo I ever saw of myself was taken at my baby shower, one week after I'd give birth to my first son. To say that my eyes practically popped out of my head like cartoon eyes on springs at the sight of that photo is an understatement. I could hardly believe it was me. The baby weight, instead of falling off like it was supposed to (in my dreams), was still there like a great big fat suit of armour. And then all I remember is nailing that delete key in kind of a happy delirium so that not a trace of that whale-person remained.

So that's what I do. I delete. 

And it's not like I delete ugly pictures of other people. No way do I do that! That would be so wrong!

Okay maybe once.

But what do you do when someone else owns an ugly photo of you? What do you do when you're a fanatic ugly-picture-deleter and the ugly picture is not yours to delete? And what if that ugly picture is circulated among friends and family and there's not a thing in hell you can do about it? 

It's bound to happen: think of all the places you go and get-togethers you attend where pictures are being snapped without you knowing. You can't dive into a perfect pose every single time. And unless you're Scarlett Johansson or Sofia Vergara there are bound to be some angles that aren't entirely favourable.

So what do you do?

Well... for one thing, you do not stomp around the house, waving your arms in protest, pouting and hissing profanities. You definitely do not consider stealing the guilty camera and erasing all evidence of it. And no way on earth do you tell everyone within earshot that you definitely do not look like that. That, in fact, that was probably not even you! It was a fake you! An impersonator wandering around the room! That must be it.

No, you don't do any of those things.

What you do is, you remember how to breathe deeply. And then you remind yourself that even though there are ugly photos of you floating around the universe, the world will keep on turning.



Stumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To Reddit Bookmark Twitter