It’s been a rough week, folks. This parenting gig is hard shit sometimes, and we have had some doozies this week. Just this morning my dog ran away while the children were having a meltdown and then daycare continued its Fatwa on my parenting style (read: continual experiment in trying to get some sleep). I need a reminder that I am ok at this junk, and I suspect some of you do too.
Canadian Tire has this commercial.
I did not know about this commercial thanks to the magic of PVR, but when I purchased this behemoth of a ten-person tent for a 5 day family camping trip, Coleman was unwittingly fulfilling all of my unexpressed desires. I wanted to be the envy of all the tenters out there, all one amongst the army of 30 foot trailers. I wanted a tent that would house me, my camping-averse husband, my four-year olds, and my wayward dog for 5 days in a temperate climate during a family trip without causing a domestic dispute.
Is that too much to fucking ask? Yes. Yes, it is.
Pros: YES. FUCK YES. BUY THIS TENT RIGHT NOW.
Setting this tent up set me up for a level of optimism I can only describe as “overly confident” at best, but “delusional” is a more realistic term.
Cons: The worst part about setting up this tent was that I had to set down my beer to do it because the poles have clicky things that require two hands. I really tried not to set down my beer, friends, but things just couldn’t be helped. My husband fiddled with this random piece of material that we think is some sort of fly or perhaps, OH MY GOD I JUST FIGURED OUT IT’S PROBABLY A WALL FOR INSIDE THE TENT THAT IS SO SMART BUT HAS VIRTUALLY NO USE TO US NOW BECAUSE I AM HOME WITH ACTUAL WALLS MADE OF DRYWALL AND I AM GOING TO KISS THEM.
But really, this delivers on the promise of the instant easy set up, if you subtract the hours worth of fiddling with mystery material.
Staying In the Tent
Pros: This tent is large. There is lots of room. It seems durable. There are lots of windows. It is a rectangle. I am a tallish woman and can stand up straight in it, if you don’t count me nailing myself in the head with a lantern at least six times during this trip because I evidently don’t have a short-term memory anymore.
Cons: You guys, being dry is all well and fine when you’re in a car wash for a few minutes, but what do you get when you’re in a downpour with two small people with only passing knowledge of potty training, a camping-averse husband who said (for real, I am not shitting you) “I didn’t change my clothes for three days because I kept thinking we were going to shower” and a dog who prefers feces and rain-soaked kibble to anything else?
The answer is condensation. You get condensation.
This is what I figured out as I clung desperately to the side of the brand new air mattress that required complicated re-pumping every day after having seven children (five not my own) abuse it to the point of disrepair. I had four-year old feet in my face, I was half out of my sleeping bag, and I was getting dripped on. So I had some time to think. And I thought “FUCK YOU, Coleman. Fuck you for making a completely sealed off “family” tent.” No one wants to be sealed off with their family. That is why suite hotels and boarding schools were invented. It’s all well and fine that you can make a neato commercial, but the practicality of having a completely sealed off tent is nil. So basically, I was having angry thoughts.
And then, just as I was getting some sleep, the voice of my dad appeared from the heavens. He’s not dead, so it was especially weird that he was offering us respite in form of a the hotel room key that he and my mom were checking out of, so we could take a hot shower. So weird that I grumbled “but there’s pay showers here”, and he retreated as quickly as he came, but left wine. I thought it was a dream until my husband lost his shit over the fact that there was no hot showers to be had and I tripped over the wine bottle on my way out of the tent. I am drinking that wine right now you guys, and nothing ever tasted so good.
Take home message: Coleman denied me a hot shower by making me think too hard. It does not matter how big the goddamn tent is, friends, if there is no ventilation and five mammalian bodies, you have a problem.
Pros: Take down of the Coleman Family Tent is relatively easy because of the magic of presto buttons and neat shit like that. I completely fooled our spectators (my cousin and the assorted kids) that everything was fine because we got it all sort of down minus all the massive air/ventilation problem seen above. And they left for the beach, with us promising to follow shortly as soon as we got our tent in the bag.
Cons: And that is when the proverbial wheels came off the proverbial fucking piece of shit tent.
Friends, I said and did things this morning that I don’t care to repeat. A lovely, lovely couple staying in the campsite next to us who were quietly having breakfast, and who live-in-the-same-city-as-us-so-I-will-probably-run-into-them-at-the-Farmer’s-Market-tomorrow-because-they-seem-like-the-type and their two-year old daughter, did not need to hear the things that they heard this morning. There was a domestic scene of epic proportions, rivaled only by our camping neighbors trying to park a 35 foot trailer in pitch black the night before. I feel ashamed, dear readers. Ashamed at what that tent made me do.
I have many reasons for yelling, but that tent became the lightning rod for all of my frustrations this morning. I was furious at Coleman for disabusing me of the notion that a family camping trip could be the joyous family fun times that I was envisioning. Mostly though, I was furious at them for saving the shitstorm right for the end of the trip, when we had lost all organizational capacity. All I wanted was a hot breakfast, Coleman. What I got was a maelstrom of throwing shit around, patronizing, and accusations. Where is that in your goddamn commercial, Coleman?
But on the bright side, at least we didn’t leave the camping tradition of having a major domestic incident aside. It’s right up there with roasting marshmallows and beer fueled hikes.
Pros: I was lulled into a false sense of security that everything was going to be ok.
Cons: I do not enjoy 1) being disabused of notions and 2) having all the shit saved for the end of things. I like the shit up front so I can deal with it.
This tent is recommended for the camping-averse and those with short attention spans. This tent is highly recommended if you have lost your sense of smell, prefer moist environments, and you can afford to just abandon it at the end of your trip.
This tent is not recommended for actual families, those in shaky marriages, or people with dogs of any kind, especially ones who have earned the moniker “Smelly” by a horde of children becoming collectively more odorous by the moment.
Hi Universe! I have been avoiding you for a while, well, because I don’t want your special brand of attention to be honest. Good or bad, I think we can agree that you’re very dramatic at times, I mean your origin story is a little over the top, don’t you think?
Anyway, I am not criticizing. Please don’t smite me. I have a question for you.
How is this mathematically possible?
I have spent approximately 11% of my day for the last four years trying to find matching socks for children. Is the problem with children’s sock manufacturers that they can’t produce a package of socks that are all the same colour? Are we overburdening ourselves with consumer choice? Should I reevaluate our sock matching priorities? Am I just terrible at organizing? Is this an example of entropy?
I feel that the answer to all these questions is yes, Universe, but I’d like you to provide me with a sign. Maybe in the form of an organized sock drawer. Or, you know, just keep ignoring me as usual if you can’t think of anything nice to say.
Tonight you were playing with my boys in the playhouse at the store. I noticed you were watching me more than playing. You kept asking me questions, pretending you didn’t understand what my boys were saying to you, why they weren’t speaking English. I laughed, and feeling conspiratorial, commiserated about how crazy they were being. But I secretly wanted to get on with my shopping and end this long day. Then you popped your head out the window of the playhouse and shattered me.
“You remind me of my mom”
I smiled, and was about to turn away.
“You remind me of my mom. She died.” Then you popped back in the house.
I was at first convinced you were just being morbid, as kids sometimes are, and I looked around for your mom. Then your head popped out the window again, after gaining a bit more courage. “You have hair like hers. They had to cut it off when she got sick and then she died.”
It popped out of your mouth with the blunt matter-of-factness only a 5 year old can have. There was nothing delicate about it, no adult’s finesse to soften it. You were telling me something important and sacred. I don’t know what I said in return. Something wholly inadequate. Something like, “you must miss her a lot, I am so sorry.”
You turned away and carried on playing, your moment of remembering over. I saw you later with your dad, I saw you watching me again. I wanted to be your mom. I wanted so badly to just be your mom for a minute, and I wanted to scoop you up like your mom would have. To bury my face in your neck like I do to my boys and swing you around until we were all giggling. I wanted to be a shape shifter, a mind reader, a mystic, whatever it took, so I could be your mom for a minute and do that.
I wanted to do that for you. Obviously, your world is upside down and it is on your mind enough that you want to talk to strangers about it, enough that you are seeing your mom in places she’s not. That’s as normal as it gets in this mess. You are coping. Children are resilient, and not afraid to feel out loud, no matter how loud it is. But I wanted to give you a moment of relief, and that cocooned, snug, safe feeling from Before It Happened.
But more, I wanted to do that for your mom. I know she didn’t want last time to be the last time she did that. I know she wanted to be the one you peppered with questions as she shopped. I know she wanted so much more. I know she’s glad to be remembered by you, and to see you out in the world. Little girl, your mom is everywhere in all the good things in this life.
I have certain traits that I don’t have to think very hard to figure out where they came from. In many ways, I am my dad in female form.This is not surprising; until my tumultuous teenage years I was my dad’s shadow. I would watch him carving ducks in his wood shop, happy to go retrieve the dead mallard from the freezer when asked. I was reasonably competent with power tools for all of my overachieving art projects. He would let me sit on his lap and drive the big blue GMC around the prairies when I was merely 8 years old (or maybe it was the red Dodge by then?). We went for family bike rides in the prairies and hikes into the coulees and we would stop along the way to check everything out. Our annual family vacations were just roaming with only a final destination in mind; stopping along the way to see anything that interested us. Saturdays were for mowing my grandma’s lawn, and Sundays were for going; anywhere and everywhere. Even in our small prairie town, I grew up as cultured as we could manage because my dad challenged me to try new foods and see new things wherever we went. And oh my god, we had to watch so much PBS.
Because of him I had a free childhood, and I learned to explore. This is probably the best gift that I have from my dad, although my power washer was a close second.
About a year ago my dad sent me copies of slides from the 70’s that he had scanned and I laughed and laughed when I realized how much of my dad I have become.
That fierce, get’er done, explore everything, be afraid of nothing, kind of guy that he is. And I love that he now passes this on to my kids, and reminds me to do the same even when I want to wrap them up in bubble wrap. I think he would have been a natural raising boys, but I think I did my best despite being a girl.
Now, life is not without it’s challenges being raised by your exact personality match, but I am very glad now to have a dad that will bravely go approach a beehive with a screwdriver at midnight after I have wussed out and gotten stung three times already. In his shirtsleeves. Thanks for taking one for the team, Dad.
Happy Father’s Day.
HERE I AM! Rocking you like a hurricane. Or maybe more caressing your face like a gentle breeze. I don’t even know anymore. I have a lot happening right now all the time. It’s all good stuff, but it’s so much stuff that I don’t have time for other stuff. Like blogging stuff. I have missed you all though, I swear.
When I started work two months ago I was all manicured, pedicured, spa’ed out, well rested and excited.
Now I have been through training and trial by fire. Adding to that is field season, in that being a biology type person who works on industrial type things, spring and summer are the time when all the critters have to stand up and be counted. I am terrible at that sort of thing, so my job is to do paper work while the more talented among us are out enjoying the sunshine. That suits me just fine; I get to go pick up my kids at 5:15 every day and they’re happy to see me. It makes my life.
May is also stupid with birthdays in my family, along with Mother’s Day, inlaws visiting for two weeks. And me insanely deciding that we have to put our house on the market RIGHT NOW the day our inlaws arrived, and despite no evidence that we are going to be able to get our house in show condition without an intervention from that hoarders show.
Did I mention I am in a beekeeping workshop? Yeah. So there’s that too. Although I hate the snow, I am glad at least that our late spring delayed the bees for a couple of weeks this year so I could catch my breath a bit. My hive from last year gave me a lot of grief and I am just going to do a separate post on that for the bee lovers among us.
Did I also mention that I am taking a running workshop? I AM GOING TO LOVE RUNNING, GODDAMMIT. Or I am at least going to do it. Because since kids, I can endure basically anything for any amount of time.
This may have been more than I was up for, but in typical rollergiraffe fashion, I careened right into it. As a result, all of that pampering and pedicuring wore off quickly. This is a recent photo:
My kids are totally validating my daycare provider’s assumption that I was really shitty at parenting. When they started daycare they were hot messes and we were limping in every day barely alive. In the last two months they have learned to dress themselves, mastered potty training, learned all the continents and many countries, learned to write their names, done art projects that I can’t even do, grown grass, and learned a whole second language. I worked for TWO YEARS on that potty training thing. So, basically feeling pretty amazing about my daycare picking skills, you guys.
But they’re FOUR! My babies are four, and of all the things I have been through this month, that is the most exciting and fun. They’re so cool right now. I love every day that they come home with something new.
Anyway, I make no promises about blogging right now, but do know that I do my best to keep up with y’all’s prodigious blogging pace. So tell me, how are YOU?
I wanted to reblog this today to celebrate the fact that so far no one has vomited today. ENJOY!
Originally posted on the rollergiraffe:
We got flooded at Thanksgiving last year and then we had bronchitis and other family disasters at Christmas time. We’ve endured a lot of complicated living situations and crud, so I figured a really fun Easter might turn things around. I was prepared; I had the eggs, the Easter baskets, enough chocolate to put us all in a diabetic coma, adorable Easter cards made and photos taken. I talked the kids into being excited about the Easter bunny, or at least remembering that there is something called an Easter bunny, which they only understood in a vague way. This was going to be the best motherfucking Easter ever. (just like the best motherfucking Christmas ever.. sigh, I should have known).
Then on Wednesday night just as I was drifting off to sleep, early for once after weeks of being an idiot watching episodes of Mad Men all night long…
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My time at home with my babies is over. Four years ago, almost to the day, I was heavily pregnant with twins and left my job with only a vague idea of what was to come. I had notions of heading back to work as soon as my maternity leave was over. I was all “I am woman, hear me roar” about it and there was no way I was going to give up a career I had worked so hard for.
That didn’t happen. A different kind of feminine notion took hold in the minute between the first and second of my sons was born. In an instant, holding them both in my arms for the first time, I grew up, got wise, and became the fierce mama I am.
Being a stay at home mom has been an experiment in extremes, punctuated by life events that were completely out of control and all the expected things that kids bring, but double the intensity. The highs are higher and the lows are lower with two, and we have ridden that rollercoaster 1398 days now.
My boys are wild, loud, beasts who will take over the world some day with sheer force of abandon. My Unicorn has imagination beyond compare and an incredible depth of kindness. My Engineer has an aptitude and precociousness for figuring out how the world works and he does it with wit. These are things I already know about them, and I know in my heart who they will be long before they get there. And so I don’t worry for that; I know that they will be themselves, and if they’re lucky, be happy at that.
And tonight, tonight it hit me with the force of a speeding railway, after they were snuggled into bed, after all the dishes were done, and the wine drunk, the relaxing over. Tonight, as I went to check on them before I turned to bed myself, I realized that tomorrow we will wake up and be a different kind of family. I will be a different kind of mom.
I know that the fact that I had a choice to stay home and now go back to work was a great luxury, so I won’t dwell on it. But I will grieve a little for this shift in my universe; this separation that I never wanted. I will still do all the mom things that moms do everywhere every day. I will still be there in the morning and at night and every minute that I am able. They will still need so much from me.
And oh my god, I am grateful, so profoundly grateful that I had nearly four years to spend with my little folk and grateful that I found it in me to do it, because I was so afraid that I didn’t. I am grateful for the things that they have given me; the patience, the knowledge that time passes whether it’s good or bad, and how to find joy in those small moments even when the day has been hard.
So tomorrow I send them off into this world a little bit in a way I am not prepared for yet. I will have to approach it the same way I approached becoming a mom; vague notions and blind faith that it will all work out alright. And it will, because I am armed now with the knowledge that as long as those two little goofballs are in this world with me, everything is ok.
So way back in October we went to New York. We saw many fabulous sights, including Broadway Shows, a taping of the Daily Show, a concert at a bowling alley in Brooklyn, and a lot of people buying toilet paper in preparation for Hurricane Sandy. I am told that last part worked out fine.*
All of those things were very exciting and deserve a long post about how much I love New York. But I am here to talk to you today about Chess Tourism.
All my knowledge is courtesy of Mr. Giraffe, who spent his youth playing chess. Needless to say, (and thankfully) we don’t run in to legions of old girlfriends.
Tournament goers are very diverse, but tend toward eccentric. The one thing that they have in common is that they are brilliant with the sixty-four squares and seem to enjoy sitting. Forget your notions of ornately carved wood and comfortable leather chairs, this is low rent but serious business.
A typical chess trip is something like this:
1) Study chess. This requires reading books full of diagrams like this:
2) Cram into car with as many chess players as you can fit (they’re more flexible than clowns this way due to budgetary concerns).
3) Check in to crappy hotel, and prepare not to see the sunshine for four days.
4) Sit with your head in your hands for six hours without movement, food, or breaks, occasionally moving a piece as needed. Other player observe in silence and occasionally nod in approval or defeat.
5) Hope to repeat #4 as often as possible because that means you’re being successful.
6) Review games with other players and fret over all of your key mistakes in life.
Anyway, because of all the hours invested into such things it was natural that when we hit New York we were going to fulfill a lifelong dream to hit all the chess landmarks.
There are three.
Washington Square Park
This is where the chess players play outdoors in all the movies. We met a charming man named NaShawn at Washington Square Park who held his own against Mr. Giraffe for many hours on a sunny fall afternoon.
This gentleman kept me company while Mr. Giraffe was playing and insisted I take his photo.
I assure you there was nothing untoward, as he was mostly showing me pictures of his girlfriend on his iPad complete with Barry White soundtrack. Their living situation is tragically complicated by his parole conditions, but I think those two are going to make it.
The Chess District
South of Washington Square Park in the hopelessly complicated maze of streets that is Greenwich Village, there is the largest chess district in any urban dwelling. There are over two stores packed to the rafters with chess books, sets, t-shirts, clocks and any kind of chess related paraphernalia you could ever imagine. My favourite part was that I was allowed to use the bathroom there because Jesus Christ, where does anyone go to the bathroom in Manhattan? Are you all chronically dehydrated? Is there a special brand of Depends for Manhattanites that gives you all pert asses?
Marshall Chess Club
Two blocks north of Washington Square Park, inhabiting a beautiful townhouse in Greenwich Village, is the Marshall Chess Club. Some enterprising chess guy dedicated an expensive piece of Manhattan property to the pursuit and study of chess. The door is so elusive it will only appear to you if you know what a Spassky is. Grandmasters from all over the world have honorary memberships. This inspires a bit of class warfare between them and regular members who pay steep dues only to have their asses handed to them at tournaments. Even chess players have problems.
Chess Tour Notes
Mr. Giraffe had thoughts about all of this ranging from awe to being underwhelmed by certain aspects. Unfortunately, I don’t play chess. Instead I contemplated the socioeconomic implications of the down and out players at Washington Square who eke out a living hustling chess not knowing that the high falutin’ Marshall Chess Club existed only blocks from them. On the whole, the players at Washington Square seemed to be having a better time.
The Rollergiraffe recommends the NYC chess tour for those who enjoy chess, chess history, and chess politics. All eleven of you. It may also be of interest to those who enjoy wafts of pot smoke, observing racial and socioeconomic tensions, conversing with ex-convicts, and watching old white men attempt to wrap bologna sandwiches in wax paper. Bathrooms are located in the Starbucks at NYU on the east side of the park, in the chess stores and NOWHERE ELSE IN MANHATTAN.
*Hurricane Sandy did not work out fine at all. Please catch up on ongoing relief efforts at http://sandyrelief.org/
This post was inspired by the redoubtable Carrie Rubin, who braved a magic convention with her son. She also wrote a book while still being a doctor and a bunch of other stuff, and I am more or less convinced she’s actually Wonder Woman.
Alternately titled: Extended leave from the hardest job ever of being at home with the kids
It’s been almost exactly four years since I waddled off the job seven months pregnant with twins. A year later, I would be fired by voice mail when returning from mat leave, all of my stuff would get lost, and I would vow to never go back to consulting again. After a stunning existential crisis I have reversed this decision and decided this is the best possible move. I have a life path! Probably full of landmines! So freaking freaked out about it, you guys. Here’s why I am doing it:
1. I am only reasonably sure I brushed my teeth today.
I had a sock on inside out today. Sometime in the intervening hour the sock was turned right side out. I can only reasonably conclude that I did that myself, but I have absolutely no memory of said event. Therefore, I think it’s safe to infer that the habit I have every morning of my life happened, but I have also forgotten to use deodorant on multiple occasions in the last year, so who can be sure? Anyway, what I am saying is, I think that going back to work will provide a little structure and force me to pay attention to myself a little more.
2. Cash money
I thought being a kept woman would be delightful. Turns out I am not very delighted. Despite the fact that Mr. Giraffe
has learned does not seem to mind when I spend his money, it doesn’t feel good to not earn a salary. I know that stay at home parents provide a gazillion dollars worth of service every year and all that shit, but guess what? No one shows up with a goddamn cheque. Not even a funny novelty one as a thank you. I think that would have been nice. So now I can earn my own money. And use that money to buy more bees, thus ensuring an exit strategy from the workforce when I one day quit to address a looming honey over-supply problem.
3. I have a theory that time outs are going to be effective in the workplace
If there’s one thing motherhood has afforded me, it’s a firm hand for discipline and zealous need for control. This will either make me the best worker ever or completely unbearable. Or maybe I will relish the fact that my coworkers can do up their own pants and just kick back. My emotions are a totally unknown quantity here. Adventure awaits at every turn.
4. No one will yell at me in the toilet
I hope. I had a job once where the boss got very mad when I used the washroom, but she also had a piece of popcorn stuck in her hair for 3 days once so I don’t think that was a typical experience.
5. A job will probably solve my ongoing cell phone crisis
I have been trying to pick out a smart phone for about 4 years. I am guessing that my new company will make my decision for me and I will be grateful. That is one aspect of communism I think I would really enjoy.
6. If I have to make one more meal in my life I am going to lose my shit
I recognize I still have to cook food for my family to reject and ferry everyone about, but it’s not all I have to do forever.
7. This year is ALL ABOUT ME
There, I said it. Say what you will, but I feel like I am going to be healthier, happier, and a better parent by going out into the world and bringing new stuff back to my family. And I will delight in each uninterrupted lunch hour like Nichola Tesla gazing upon his pigeon. If you’re not familiar with Tesla, trust me when I sat that is quite a lot of delight.
(Probably) Next up: The Rollergiraffe has a crisis over abandoning her kids at a daycare while she goes to a fulfilling job every day. I CAN’T WIN AGAINST MYSELF.