Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My bad. Actually, my kid’s bad, but I’ll fix it.

Two things happened yesterday that left me confronting my own anxieties and making apologies for my rotten children. There’s nothing earth-shattering here, and I’m certainly not going to be up for any parenting awards, but I feel like an adequate mother and person, nevertheless.

When I picked up the kids after school, Lisa immediately said, “I have to tell you something in the car.” “Are you in trouble?” I asked. “Maybe.”

The story is that Lisa and her friends were playing Manhunt on the school grounds after school. Lisa found something on the ground, but couldn’t identify what it was. A group of grade 3 girls (Lisa’s in grade 6) came rushing toward her and she threw the object behind her. It landed on the school’s roof.

The little girls asked her why she had done that and explained that the object was a piece of another girl’s scooter. The scooter-owner is the younger sister of one of Lisa’s friends. Lisa responded with a weak/snotty “Sorry!” and walked away.

By the time she reached the end of the story, my face was fully flushed and my ears were ringing with rage. “Why? Why would you throw the thing at all, let alone on the roof?” “When you knew you had done something horrible, why did you respond with such disrespect?” “How would you feel if someone from your class had done the same thing to Bart or Maggie?” “How would you have felt in grade 3 if a grade 6 kid had treated you the same way?” She didn’t have an adequate response for any of my questions.

In the 5 minutes it took to drive home, I had decreed that: a) she would call the girl as soon as she got home to deliver a sincere and heartfelt apology; and b) she would be responsible for replacing the scooter, from her own money, if the part could not be recovered from the roof. As I was looking up the girl’s phone number, our phone rang and it was her mother.

Now, this mother is cool. She understands that kids will be kids and that her own are not angels. I told her what I knew and she really appreciated my outrage at my daughter’s behaviour. Apparently the school custodian had come out and thought he could probably get the thing off the roof the next day. I repeated the offer to buy the girl a new scooter if the part could not be retrieved or was damaged in any way. The next thing I did was to ask for the girl to come to the phone so that Lisa could still deliver her apology. She did, and I could tell that it was excruciatingly painful and embarrassing for her. I hugged her afterwards as she cried a little.

The next thing I did was to prepare her for a trip to the principal’s office. I instructed her to be humble, make no excuses, to apologize sincerely and to just take whatever she has coming to her. She agreed. It weighed heavily on her the rest of the evening and this morning (this is not a kid that’s accustomed to trips to the principal’s office). I’m dying to call the school and see what (if anything) went down, but I’ll resist and wait until I hear it from Lisa.

The second thing wasn’t nearly as bad as the first. Maggie had a bunch of papers jammed into the bottom of her backpack. I pulled them out and she explained that they were old papers from her desk. In amongst the mess was a small sealed envelope, about the size of an invitation. It didn’t look fresh and I opened it, hoping that it was either a thank-you card, or that it wasn’t too late to RSVP if it was an invitation. Of course, it was an invitation… for a party that was to have taken place on November 20, 2011. Yikes.

I actually found the invitation in the morning, and proceeded to stew about it all day. I know how I feel when I have sent out party invitations and get no response from some people. It’s annoying, it’s frustrating and, ultimately, I think less of the parents. Even though I told Maggie to tell her friend what happened, I quickly concluded that the message would more than likely get lost between 6-year-olds.

So, last night I called the RSVP number. The mom wasn’t home, but I talked to the dad. I explained to him what happened and apologized profusely for any frustration it may have caused them (4 months ago!) He was super nice, and admitted that his wife had been a little upset about it (I wasn’t the only one, apparently). He took my number, saying that he was sure his wife would want to hear this too. I felt so much better and so much like an actual grown-up; a grown-up who could easily pick up the phone and right a wrong. A grown-up who could set aside her phone anxiety and make someone else feel a little better.

Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with such grown-up things too often.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It's enough

In October, my friend and I started a 5k clinic at The Running Room. We signed up both for social and fitness goals. We only live about 35 km apart, but with us both working full-time, her l-o-n-g commute in the other direction and six kids between us, we rarely found the time to get together.

So, the running clinic became our social outlet with a side of running. We were asked on the first night why we were there. A lot of people were there for their second 5k clinic, hoping to improve their endurance. Others were following up after having been in the Learn to Run clinic and wanted to increase their intervals (from 5 min running, 1 min running intervals up to 10 & 1’s). Many of them had set a marathon or half-marathon race as their goal. When it was my turn, I admitted that I did not like to run, but I wanted to like to run, and that I had little to no interest in running a marathon.

That seems to be the goal for a lot people, the marathon. But, here’s the thing: I can’t think of many things I want to do for 4 to 5 hours (or more), and running is not even close to getting on that list. Running is boring, even with your best friend running and chatting by your side or your iPod pumping your favourite tunes or podcasts. The Running Room promotes a training strategy that includes regular intervals of walking periods. By the end of the clinic, both my friend and I felt that we didn’t require the 1 min walk after 10 minutes, but we looked forward to it as a mark that we were that much closer to being done.

When the clinic was over, many people were asking if we would be signing up for the 10k clinic.


We’re still going to run. We’ve signed up for another 5k in March to help in the motivation department and we have put together our own training schedule that builds on what we learned in the clinic. We’ll still get together a couple of times a week to run together. But, we’ve decided that 5k is our distance and our only goal is to finish the 5k faster.

I'm not a running convert by any means.  I don't dread it like I used to, but given the choice between going out for a run and reading a good book, I'll choose the book. There are no marathons or half-marathons in my future.  I could maybe see doing a 10k if I can get to a point where I would be done in less than 45 minutes, because 45 minutes is pretty much my maximum tolerance level for pounding the pavement.  It's certainly not a lofty goal, but it's enough.

This is a picture of my friend and I (right) after our 5k race. Each of the 4,000 participants wore these Santa suits - it was quite the thing to see!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Maggie’s Rich!

So, I have hesitated posting this because… well the last time I posted (in FEBRUARY) I was recounting a story about Maggie when she was not on her best behaviour and the following is a new Maggie tale. She’s really, truly, not a bad girl. She’s comical and precocious and sometimes sneaky, but not bad. Ultimately, the story is a good one. When I look back at this online journal when the kids are grown, this is a story I will want to remember.

Homer came home late one night with nine $100 bills (a friend had repaid a loan in cash). He put it on my nightstand under a notebook so I would remember to take it to the bank.

The next morning, Maggie saw the pile and said, “Is that a hundred dollars?”

“Yes, it is. Please don’t touch it,” I said.

We went downstairs and continued with our morning. Homer was driving the kids to school and I left for work.

At the schoolyard, the three kids scattered to meet up with their friends, leaving Homer standing with a group of moms, still carrying Maggie’s backpack. He decided there was no reason to wait around for the bell, since the kids were all happy and playing, so he went to give Maggie her backpack.

Maggie took the backpack, gave Homer a big hug and said, “I love you, Daddy!”

As he walked away, he heard an excited small person exclaim, “Maggie’s rich!”

He took another couple of steps and then thought to turn around to see what the kid was talking about. The kid was holding a crisp $100 bill. So was the kid beside that kid.

Homer recovered the $200 immediately, then frantically patted down Maggie, ripped apart her backpack and questioned each member of her posse. Bart’s teacher approached him to ask if everything was okay. He told her that Maggie may have distributed another seven $100 bills to her little friends. He offered no explanation as to why we would have cash in such large bills just lying around the house (potential teacher thoughts: drug dealers, housewife hooker, money launderers…). The teacher promised to pass along the message to Maggie’s teacher, politely stifling a laugh.

As it turns out, Maggie had taken ‘only’ two of the bills from the pile. When asked why she did it, she said she wanted to prove to her friends that we were ‘million-billionaires’.

She was adequately punished. She’s really not a bad girl.

Monday, February 28, 2011

I’m here to make you look good.

So. Saturday started out pretty well. It was Parent Observation Day at the girls’ dance studio. Lisa and I watched Maggie’s class, then Maggie and I watched Lisa’s class. That’s 2 hours of bagpipes, but it was entertaining, none the less.

When it was time to leave at 11:30, I retrieved Maggie’s jacket from the hook in the change room. Apparently, she wanted to get the jacket off the hook, which sent her into pouty, stubborn mode. Putting the jacket back on the hook didn’t help. Coaxing her gently didn’t help. Bribing her didn’t help. She refused to get ready to go. There were other parents in the room, so I was very conscious about being a “good parent”, doing the “right thing”. After 10 minutes of this nonsense, my patience had vanished and I had spiralled down into threatening mode: “If you don’t… then I will…” I was saying this quietly into her ear so no one else could hear. Other parents were giving me sympathetic smiles, some regaling me with tales of stubborn fits by their own children.

When the other parents had finally cleared out, I picked her up and carried her outside, Lisa trailing behind carrying her coat, hat, mittens and boots. Our car was about a block away, parked on a residential street. She was kicking and screaming the whole time.

When we finally got to the car, she wouldn’t get in. She somehow splayed herself across the doorframe and I could not get her in. Finally, Lisa went in the other side and pulled while I pushed with my arms and a leg. We wrestled her into her booster seat, buckled her up and closed the door (with child locks engaged).

Before I could even open my door, she had unbuckled herself and she was sitting in the front seat. I tried to speak to her quietly; tried to calm her down, but she was too far gone. I got her back in her seat and buckled (by pulling her from behind) and told her that I would throw her things into the snow bank if she didn’t stay buckled. She didn’t, and I did.

I threw her things over the car (she was on the driver’s side; the snow bank was on the passenger side). One by one, her coat, boots, stuffies, hat and mitts sailed over the car and into the snow bank. In between each toss, I was pleading with her to get buckled. I then told her that I would retrieve the items, only if she sat back in the seat and re-buckled. She wouldn’t, so I started the car and threatened to drive away, leaving her things behind and letting her take her chances with the police.

Then the homeowner, whose snow bank I had been using for dramatic effect, pulled into his driveway. He could hear the screaming child and he could see the various articles of clothing and toys strewn about his lawn. Perhaps he thought the screaming child threw them? Another sympathetic smile.

I sheepishly picked everything up and threw them in the trunk. I buckled her again and Lisa volunteered to try and keep her from unbuckling. We finally got going and she unbuckled again after not more than 10 seconds. She stayed in the backseat but kicked her leg in the front and kicked the gear shift into neutral. I was seriously prepared to throw her into the snow bank.

I don’t even know what I was threatening her with at this point. I just wanted to get home where I would have the help of another adult.

Once again buckled, we started out. Lisa was able to fight off her unbuckling attempts until we were about a kilometre from home. At that point, Lisa just tackled her and held her down until we pulled into our driveway at about 12:10.

Homer took over and all was well after about 15 minutes. She has been sternly and sufficiently punished. If you ask Maggie what happened, she’ll tell you that Mommy took her coat off the hook and that made her mad. Thank God for Lisa.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Too much storage space = hoarding enabler

I’m kind of the opposite of a hoarder. I don’t hang onto much for ‘sentimental’ reasons, I make almost weekly trips to the donation centre and I don’t buy anything without evaluating where it will be stored (including food – only so many bread products will fit in my breadbox, you know?) Homer was quite amused when I was putting away some Christmas presents - I got new stainless steel measuring cups, so I put those in the place where my measuring cups live and immediately put the old plastic ones in the donation bag. I got a new travel mug and donated an old one (there’s only so much room in the ‘mugs’ cupboard). As soon as I read a book, I give it away. If I buy a new sweater, I’ve already made room for it by donating one or more of the older ones. I don’t like stuffed closets or jam-packed drawers - I like to be able to find my things easily and always have a place to put them away.

Homer does not have the same practicalities. He has bought sets of books that he never intends to read, but wanted for our bookshelf (SETS! Like, 12 volumes). He accumulates video games, gadgets and watches like no one I’ve ever seen. He’ll hold onto a piece of clothing for years, even decades (sometimes items just ‘disappear’ and he doesn’t seem to notice). He’ll drive me nuts by bringing home a case of something (food item, cleaning product, etc.) and plopping it in the middle of the kitchen with a big, satisfied grin. My first thought is a panicky ‘where will I put all this?’ The result is that there’s almost a line drawn down the middle of our room. My side is sparsely adorned and orderly and his has stacks and piles and lots of things that don’t have a permanent home.

Still, I have my issues. I still have a whole stack of cloth diapers taking up space in a spare closet, even though my youngest is 3 years out of diapers. Why? I don’t know, except that I haven’t found anyone to give them to and I’m afraid that they’ll be wasted if I give them to a stranger (I loved cloth diapering). I have a small cupboard that’s stacked with the few pieces of memorabilia I do want to keep for my kids (class pictures, hand-print art projects, etc.), but it’s literally a teetering stack with no rhyme, reason or organization. It’s been on my to-do list for years (YEARS!) and I never even get around to starting the project. Hand-me-downs between the girls (from Lisa to Maggie) are getting a little out of control – I need to go through them and really evaluate what is worth hanging onto and what is better thrifted now (there’s a 5-year age gap, so it has to be something really special to justify taking up space for another 4-5 years).

It helps that these things are behind closed doors, but it’s those closed doors that have allowed me to not deal with them (enablers!) I have this theory that people who have big walk-in closets or massive storage areas, whether or not they are well-organized, are just putting off the purging and rationalizing that ought to be as routine in a home as changing the furnace filters, getting your gardens ready and changing your smoke detector batteries. Maybe I’m just jealous of people with big walk-in closets and massive storage areas. In any case, it’s definitely time for me to deal with my little hoarding issues.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Health kick in progress

‘Tis the season for sharing resolutions and fitness goals.  There’s nothing like a new year to bring on a fresh spark to ignite that fitness fire.  It would appear that I am far ahead of the game this year, because my health kick started in November. 

I was one of four people involved in a fitness study.  Researchers were studying the effects of a moderate level of exercise on cholesterol, blood pressure, heart rate while exercising, body fat, strength and endurance.
There was no nutrition component to the study, just exercise.  The exercise portion was not at all daunting.  I was required to walk at least 10,000 steps a day (they gave me a pedometer), including at least 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity walking 5 times a week.  The third week in, I also added 30 minutes of strength training three times a week, guided by a personal trainer.
Oh, and my progress was to be monitored by a CBC camera crew for a segment on The National news program (it aired last night).
For the science part of it, I had a bunch of tests both at the beginning and end of the 6-week period.  They drew blood, took my blood pressure, measured my body fat, put me on a treadmill for a stress test, weighed me and tested my leg strength.

For the story part, they visited us at home (such a thrill for the kids!)

I checked in with the journalist, Reg Sherren.  Here, he's watching a video of my progress report on his treadmill in Winnipeg.

And of course, there was a lot of walking.  10,000 steps a day was, surprisingly, not too much of a challenge.  I had to wear the pedometer a couple of days before the study started and it turns out that I was already registering about 8,500 steps a day.  I made a concerted effort to take the long route to meetings, parked my car a little further away and added a 30-minute walk at lunch.  Just like that, I was seeing numbers like 14,000 on the pedometer.  One Saturday I suggested that the whole family walk to the city's Santa Claus parade.  That was a 20,000+ steps day!

At this point, I don't know the specifics of my individual results.  At the post-testing, I was told that my endurance had improved and that my strength was "way up" (apparently I was the strongest in the study, both in pre and post-testing - woot).  I don't know, nor do I care if there was any change in my weight.  I do, however, feel fantastic.  I know I am more toned.  My clothes fit better.  I have more energy.  That's my kind of success.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Win-win teacher gifts!

This year, as in past years, I am begging my family to go easy on the gifts for the kids.  They don't need anything and are hard-pressed to come up with things they even want.  We have put an end to birthday party gifts for my kids and when we give out loot bags at their parties, it's usually one item, like a book or drawing kit.

For Bart’s birthday party, we wrote on the invitation: “In lieu of a gift for the birthday boy, please bring a contribution to the ABC School outdoor play bin.” Kids brought balls, Frisbees, skipping ropes, bubbles, sidewalk chalk and all kinds of great items that they then had the opportunity to play with at school.

For Maggie’s birthday, instead of sending in cupcakes for the class (which is now frowned upon due to a healthy schools initiative), Maggie picked out 5 books to donate to the classroom.

Lisa’s birthday is coming up and she’s trying to decide what kinds of donations she will ask from her friends.  Because it's near Christmas, we may adopt a local family in need and ask for gifts for the family.

These are all win-win-win initiatives. The kids feel really special making these donations. We don’t continue to fill up our house with toys that are rarely touched. The recipients of the donations are always grateful and appreciative.

Have you read Swistle’s latest teacher gifts posts? I get miffed every time I read one of these and a few (certainly not all) teachers chime in that a gift card and cash are more appreciated than the #1 Teacher Mugs, the baked goods (which are often tossed) and the little (useless) trinkets.

In Swistles’ post, someone was asking a question about whether or not she should contribute $35 so the class could present a ‘better’ class gift for Christmas, Teacher Appreciation Week and end of year. If I were a teacher I. WOULD. DIE a thousand deaths if I knew the families in my class were being asked to spend $35 on personal gifts for me. DIE!

I wrote this in my comment on Swistle’s post, but I’m going to repeat it here. I think teachers should take the lead and reject the notion of personal gifts in favour of classroom gifts. Teachers won’t get anymore crap they neither want nor need; parents and kids get to pick out something they know will be used and appreciated.

Here’s what the teacher should say:

As we approach the holiday season (/Teacher Appreciation Week/the end of the school year), I would like to thank you for the support you have given me and ABC School so far this year. Your participation in fundraisers, Scholastic orders and in providing classroom supplies is very much appreciated. I know many of you will feel obliged to purchase a “teacher gift” and I want to free you of this obligation. I know budgets are tight and I certainly don’t need anything personally. If you are still inclined to purchase a gift, may I suggest something that can be enjoyed by everyone in the class? Perhaps a copy of your child’s favourite book, some glitter glue for the creative centre or skipping ropes for the playground? It is truly a pleasure teaching your children and that is more than enough reward for me.

The best teacher ever :-)

Seriously, teachers, it’s win-win and you can make it happen.