My Mom, My Warrior

When I am nine years old, my dad travels for work a lot. It's not what we're used to, and my mom puts up with a lot of shit from me and my siblings. She solo parents four kids (aged 12, 9, 5, and 3.5) for a year and somehow manages to not lose her sanity. My mom is a warrior. (So is my dad, by the way. He works hard to provide for his family. But this story isn't about that so you'll have to take my word for it.)

One day, the stomach flu hits our home. My mom runs from child to child, holding back hair, emptying buckets, encouraging sips of apple juice, and finally piles all the sickies into her own bed for the sake of efficiency. Because she is my mom (and if you know my mom, you know exactly what I mean,) she decides to sleep on the floor beside the bed so she can be with us as soon as she's needed.

Finally we are all asleep. My mom, haggard from the demands of sick kids, exhausted from parenting without a break, unzips a sleeping bag...and the metal zipper pull breaks and plunges into her finger. And gets stuck. My mom can't get the zipper pull out of her finger and she can't detach the zipper pull from the sleeping bag. My mom is home, alone with four sick kids, in the middle of the night, with a sleeping bag attached to her hand (in pain! Because, you know, impalement.).

I slept through the entire incident so I have no first-hand memory of it but as the story goes, my mom called our neighbour for help, she ended up in the emergency room where the staff told her they thought she was carrying either a sick child or a bomb into the hospital, the zipper pull was removed from her finger, and she was home in time to power through our morning shenanigans.

We joke about turning into our mothers but in my case, I kind of hope I do. My mom moves mountains for her kids. I want my kids to grow up knowing I would do the same for them.

Thanks, Universe

I grew up in a margarine household. I am so Team Butter now it's not even funny but growing up, it was all margarine, all the time.

Opening up a new tub of margarine was a big deal to me and my siblings. My mom used to buy the big tub from Costco so even though we're a family of six, untouched margarine was a rare occurrence. The surface of a fresh tub of margarine is a sight to behold. Smooth, creamy, unsullied by crumbs, with the perfect little knob in the middle where the stream of margarine flowed into the tub. This little knob, or the margarine's "belly button" as we called it, was the highest prize amongst us kids.

We would eagerly anticipate the opening of a new tub of margarine. When we noticed the old tub running low, we would strategically time our margarine consumption to better our own odds of being present when the new tub was opened. When the day finally came that the old tub was scraped clean and the new tub ceremoniously took its place in the middle of our table, my siblings and I would campaign to be the lucky one who took the margarine's belly button. We couldn't tell you what we did in school that day but we could say, with certainty, which kid opened the last tub of margarine, even though it was months before.

The negotiations did not go smoothly. Feelings would be hurt, alliances would be forged, promises of future support would be made, and finally, my parents would tire of our bullshit and instruct one of us to just eat the damn margarine belly button already. My dad would physically cringe as the victor would scoop the little knob of margarine from the pristine surface. One does not scoop margarine, you see. We do not mar it with craters. We live in a society. We scrape the top of the margarine in a uniform fashion and we do not leave crumbs behind goddammit. We aren't animals.

But he gave it to us; despite his feelings on proper margarine management, my dad let us kids scoop the damn margarine belly button every time (but heaven help us if we left toast crumbs behind).

It seems insignificant, the defacing of a tub of margarine, but it's just one tiny example of how kids are literally the worst and grandkids are sent as some sort of retribution from the universe.

Grady is the light of my life. He is my heart and soul and my very favourite boy. He is also challenging me in ways I've never experienced. This morning I made chocolate banana muffins for breakfast. My stubborn picky eater attempted to "pick out" the banana because he didn't like how it looked. He couldn't taste the banana. The texture of the banana wasn't the problem. He just didn't like how it looked. There were no banana chunks or slices; I had mashed the bananas thoroughly before mixing the batter. But my mash job was obviously sub-par because he was able to discern a few banana bits. I sat and watched, in broken silence, as he crumbled an entire muffin in an attempt to remove the few offending bits of banana. And it made me think back on my childhood margarine belly button brawls and wonder: why don't we eat our young?

It Won't Always Be Like This

I'm in the shower. It's 9pm and it's the first time since 6am that I've been alone. The hours flew by in a haze of dirty dishes and dirty diapers, putting the baby down and the dog out, discussing / cajoling / arguing food choices with Grady at every meal, and the other assorted chaos that comes with winter break (no routine! Lots of sugary treats! Less sleep! More sass!).

The door opens slowly and Shawn cautiously comes into the bathroom. He knows I need this break. He doesn't want to interrupt. But he's holding a grinning Poppy, milky vomit dripping from her chin and a full diaper peeking out from her pyjamas. "She just exploded," he tells me, trying not to gag, "from both ends."  

He strips the baby and hands her to me and all of a sudden my steamy oasis becomes a wrestling match. I rinse Poppy the best I can while she tries to squirm out of my arms, and hand her back to Shawn so I can quickly rinse myself while Poppy howls her displeasure at the indignity of having a clean diaper and fresh pyjamas put on her. 

It won't always be like this, I tell myself through gritted teeth and shoulders that have found their way up to my ears. One day I will stay in the shower until it runs cold. No one will need me. No one will be standing outside the door waiting to ask me to go get them a glass of milk before I even have the chance to towel off. I will wash and condition my hair and exfoliate my face and shave everything I want to shave all in the same shower instead of inspecting my legs to see which one I shaved last time and which one gets the special treatment this time. And it will be wonderful and terrible at the same time. 

It won't always be like this. But this is what it is right now. It is messy and exhausting and relentless and mine. I will hold onto it -to them- for as long as I can.  

Raised Right

Yesterday was a difficult day. Not a terrible day. Nothing in particular happened to make it a bad day. It was just challenging.  

When I realized at 5pm that we were completely out of dog food and we'd have to head back out into the heat, I almost cried. Shawn's out of town for work (lucky butt) so I couldn't ring him and ask him to pick up Wolfgang's food on the way home from the office. I had to be a damn grownup and go to the pet store. 

Grady had already changed into his pyjamas and didn't want to change back into clothes, and I'd reached the level of "do whatever you want as long as it's safe" survival mode. Grady went to the pet store wearing glow-in-the-dark skeleton pyjamas is what I'm saying. Oh, and a Santa hat. Because flair. 

We got to the pet store and the guy working did a double take as we walked through the door. Grady looked amazing, obviously, and I was a hot mess express hoisting Poppy's car seat in one arm and trying not to drop my wallet, keys, or phone with the other.  

The guy was young. Maybe early twenties. And he was alone. He could have stayed behind the counter and rung up our bag of dog food and I would not have complained. He would have done his job and we would have gone on our merry way. But he did not stay behind the counter. He jumped up when he saw us struggle. He complimented Grady's outfit. He helped us find our specific brand and flavour of dog food. He carried it to the counter for me, and after we paid, he carried it out to my car. He was kind and went way above and beyond what you'd expect from the dude who works at the local pet store. And he didn't have to! There was no manager there, watching him to make sure he treated the customers exceptionally well. There were no young gals there who would be impressed by the cute pet store clerk who was nice to the crazy suburban mom with the quirky kid and screamy baby. He had no audience but he was still kind and helpful. 

I want to find out who his parents are and make them teach me their ways.