Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Am So Smart...S-M-R-T...

Isabella: Liz, are dads smarter than mums?
Me: No. What makes you ask?
Isabella: Because Matthew just said that mums are smarter than dads.

(Big pause for me to turn my back and grin like a fool.)

Me: The truth is that mums and dads are both smart, just at different things.
Matthew: Mummy, you're smarter than Daddy, right? Except at parking. And starting the lawn mower.
Me: Um....yes. Something like that....

Genius Girl and Mr. Smartypants

From the Trenches...

Matthew: Let's play Scooby-Doo! I'll be Shaggy, because I'm hungry!

Isabella: I wanna be Daphne.

Luke: Freddy's not scared of anything. I want to be Freddy.

Matthew: Then you have to be in love with Isabella.

Luke: Why?

Isabella: Because Freddy's in love with Daphne.

Luke: No, Freddy's scared of Daphne.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Joining the Social Media Revolution...One Baby Step At a Time...

After worrying that what little time I SHOULD be spending doing other things (like raising the children, cleaning the toilet or having sex) will be spent online, I have joined Twitter.

I am a bit lost, a LOT confused but cannot curb the giddy sensation of having joined the party. If I were a preteen with a cool older sister who lent me her clothes and invited me to a high school party, this is how it would feel!

How long, I wonder, will it take for me to begin thinking in 140 characters instead of status updates?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who They Might Become (or: Waiting for Spring...)

This is how life looks when the sun comes out to play on a winter's day in Canada:

 This is how it looks when I glimpse what and who they might become:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bieber Fever?

Tonight's Facebook status update: listening to Matthew and Isabella play "Justin Bieber":

Matthew: Baby, Baby, Baby, Ooooohhhhhh!!!

Isabella: I'm your girlfriend, right? We sleep in the same bed.

Matthew: No we don't. Mummy, do girlfriends and boyfriends sleep in the same bed?

Me: No, they don't Matthew. They sleep separately.

I shall go to Hell for the lies that I tell, but at least I will die laughing!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

20 Ways to Say, "I Love You!"

I am not a particularly romantic person.

I don't care for candlelit dinners, although that's not to say I won't happily eat by candlelight. It's the eating bit that I like best, not the loving words or seductive background music.  To me, the trappings of romance made popular by Hallmark society feel false and contrived and I resent the expectations - unspoken or otherwise - that come with store-bought sentiment or champagne flutes on a beside table.

I cover my face during cinematic kissing scenes, late night phone-chat commercials and ones advertising Viagara. I am easily flustered by things like rose petals, anything piped by Yanni and lingerie. By easily flustered, I mean "completely freaked out."

I am not a cuddly sort of woman, either - at least, when it comes to people other than my children. Once my husband and I have finished..erm..."being close" I  don't crave cuddles or soft words. Instead, I crave space, the cool side of my pillow and no one's feet touching mine. That's  it. That's all.

Mark on the other hand - he is a romantic fellow, in spite of my best squashing efforts. He likes sitting close on the couch, soft lighting and lingerie.(Me: "I'll take off my flannel and socks as soon as the room is pitch black.") and would whisk me off for a romantic (read: child-free) weekend once a month or so if,

a) we could afford to and
b) he somehow tricked me into it.

Alas, money, time and his wife defeat him. My poor, poor husband.

Despite ourselves, we have survived 7 years of marriage and have been driving each other crazy since 1999. (Sooner, if attending the same high school counts. He drove me crazy then, too. But I digress...) During that time, I've come to realize that we express our love for one another in ways that makes sense only to us and that Hallmark will never be able to sucessfully market.

It's an everyday, ordinary romance...and I wouldn't change a thing.

Top Ten Ways My Husband Says "I Love You!"

1. "I filled up your car with gas and there's a new jug of windshield-wiper fluid in your trunk."
2. "Go get a new dress for the party. New shoes, too."
3. "Sorry, I'll just move my feet over here."
4. "Here's a coffee. The kids have eaten breakfast."
5. "Is this the right brand of tampon? I got confused in that aisle..."
6. "I love your ass."
7. "Thanks for dinner, it was great!"
8. "If I was too tired to drive, I'd feel safe going to sleep while you drive."
9. "I saw this J.D. Robb book at Shopper's. You haven't read this one, have you?"
10."I'm sorry."

Top Ten Ways I Say "I Love You!"

1."It's only receding a bit - no one will notice."
2. "Dinner's in the oven."
3. "Here's your coffee. The kids have eaten breakfast and lunch."
4. "I shaved my legs."
5. "I saved $15 on groceries this week, just by clipping coupons."
6. "I called your mom, emailed your sister and your aunt and sent our replies for Rob's wedding. The hotel room is booked and my parents are taking the kids. I plan to shave my legs."
7. "Want me to rub your back?"
8. "I tagged you in my Facebook status."
9. "I shovelled the drive."
10. "I'm sorry."

And you? How do you and your looovvvaaahhh say "I love you?"

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine's Day Revisited: alt. title "To My Sons' Future Valentines"

I am totally stealing this blog idea from another blogger (Single Dad Laughing, Dan Pearce. He's in my blog roll, check him out. I promise that you will never be the same) but his message bears repeating.

In fact, his message bears calling from rooftops and deserves a full-page ad in every newspaper from coast to coast. Heck, every newspaper, EVERYWHERE. Every FB profile, tweet and email forward should be this "Single Dad Laughing's" post: Memoirs of a Bullied Kid

Obviously, it's about bullying. Bullies. Mean Girls.But more so it's about surviving childhood and how we, as parents, as neighbours, as HUMAN BEINGS, need to step the EFF up and stop this insanity.

I worry about my own children, especially Matthew. He is so sensitive and trusting. Smaller than most and so eager to please. I worry that his wonderful, open, amazing heart will be broken and trodden upon and forever hardened by some mean, lashing-out kid. Or kids.

 I worry that Luke, so cocksure and stubborn at three, will retreat into himself and become even more standoffish, because of some insecure and cruel classmate. Or punk neighbourhood kid.

I worry that the Reds won't always have each other's backs as they grow and travel through their days - in different classes, different grades, different social circles. I worry that they won't protect one another when I am not there. I worry that my love will not be enough to carry them through and that who they are and who they become will be shaped by their peers instead of me, the one who loves them best.

I worry that one, or both, will be me.


I was not bullied in the classic sense. I mean, sure I was called names and got teased a lot because I was an awkward, bespectacled, buck-toothed, chubby nerd, but most of my childhood memories are good ones.

I had girlfriends, friends who were boys and had grown up with most of my classmates - typical small-town life. My husband is from that same town and while his memories are different, his views and beliefs have been shaped, in part, by these same people.

When I was in 7th grade, my best girlfriends were beautiful. I mean really, truly beautiful. They were the Beauty Trio and they sailed through adolescence with nary a pimple, never seemed to have a bad hair day and were, of course, the object of all the boys' ardour. You know them. Perhaps you were them.

I was that friend - the one who was easy to talk to and whom most boys approached first in order to get closer to Beauty. You know me. I might have been you.

Anyway, 7th Grade. Thursday. The classroom buzzed with excitement because the next night, we would attend our first Valentine's Day Dance. My friends and I giggled and gossiped endlessly about what we would wear and whose father drove the biggest car so as to accommodate as many of our gaggle as possible.

That morning, with half-formed romantic visions floating through my mind (Would there be one boy, one special, cute boy who would see past my outward geek to the girl inside who longed to be Beauty, too?), my fingers closed over an intricately-folded note, mysteriously appeared in my desk.  Where had it come from? Eagerly, I peeled back the layers to reveal the cryptic message inside:

"Are you going to the dance?
I hope so.
I like you and hope you save me a dance."

It was unsigned and the handwriting was messy enough that I believed in my suddenly-wildly-beating 12-year old heart, that it was indeed from a boy. A mystery boy. But who?

I showed my girlfriends, the Beauty Trio. They smiled and giggled along with me, guessing in excited whispers. Maybe it's Ted. Maybe Sean? Could it be Jeff - the cocksure-cigarette-smoking-forbidden-and-so-therefore-impossibly-attractive bad ass?

We tittered and clucked and blushed and swooned at the romance of the note - a love note! I was breathless with pleasure and peered around the room, trying to catch the eye of my admirer I felt hopeful, happy and for the first time in my whole life, I felt pretty.

Next, I straightened my shoulders and boldly began visiting my male classmates, coyly asking each and every one if he was going to the dance. Surely I would know with a glance who'd written. If he blushed, I'd know. If he looked away, I'd know. If he stuttered I would know.


Most of the boys grunted out a "Yeah"  the way that prepubescent boys do. Some smiled a bit mockingly, as if to say, "Sure, nerd. What's it to you?"

But no one blushed with pleasure at my query, not a single one turned away in embarrassment, his love discovered.

Dejected, I returned to my seat and to my circle of giggling girlfriends, let their sympathy wash over me as I puzzled over the identity of my secret admirer, basking in the brand-new, heady feeling of being desirable. Desired.

It took a few minutes but all of a sudden, I  began to notice the furtive glances that passed between the Beauty Trio. There may have been a smirk. Or two.  There was definitely Blinking, I turned to K - the most likely to spill whatever secret they were hiding.

"What's going on?" I asked, not really wanting to know, feeling my heart sink slowly...sllllowwwlly....

K. raised pleading eyes to mine and then shifted her gaze to R. the prettiest of the three, she of willowy limbs and flawless complexion, innate physical grace and the best hair ever.

R. raised her chin defiantly, her sympathetic smile gone. She rolled her eyes: "WE wrote the note, Liz. As a joke. And you totally fell for it! Did you really think a BOY wrote it?"

This last, incredulous, mocking....sneering, even.

And then they burst into fits of laughter, delighted at their trick and my gullibility. Delighted.

I began to laugh, too. Not because it was funny but because I wanted to cry so very, very badly.

Somehow, I managed to grin and chuckle and smack my own forehead with a self-deprecating "DUH!", chortling along with my so-called BFF's. The clown, hiding tears.

But inside? Inside I was reeling with utter humiliation, the sheer agony of this terrible, hateful "joke."
25 years later - 25 YEARS! - I can still hear my own brittle laughter and taste the anguish of that moment - the moment I realized that I would never be Beauty and that pretty should never be trusted.

A lifetime has passed and  I still cannot get through the telling of this story without tearing up and feeling abject humiliation all over again. When the Beauty Trio come up in conversation, as they have from time to time, I do not think of them fondly, the way one does when speaking of old friends.

I feel instead a deep and burning resentment and must resist the urge to snarl and wish fat asses and divorce upon them. (Sometimes I don't resist - I wish fat-asses and misery and cheating husbands upon them. THEN divorce and more misery. Yes, I may have aged but there is some question about whether or not I've matured!)

Having said that, even though I do feel the pain all these years later, I am grateful that my experience was so very, very long ago. How much worse might it be if I were navigating my way through adolescence now -  in this age of cyberbullies, when Beauty hides behind her Blackberry?

And while I am grateful to be raising sons instead of daughters (I could not bear it if my daughter became a Beauty) I believe that it is up to all of us, as parents, to teach our children kindness and love and compassion - and not just on Valentine's Day.

I implore the mothers of the girls who my sons will one day love: teach your daughter that her value lies not in how she is seen by the world, but how she treats those in it.

It matters. It matters more than you might never know.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On Letting Go...

My brother died two years ago, tomorrow.

Two years ago yesterday, I spoke to him for the very last time.

Had I known that it would be the last time, I might have lingered longer. I might have told him again that I love him. I might have told him again. And again. And again. And again.

So that he might carry my love into whatever comes after we're done here and so that the words that reverberate in my mind are not these ones, casually tossed at the end of a hurried phone call:

"Ok, Bam. I love you. Be good. I'll call you tomorrow."

Only tomorrow came and I didn't call and then he was gone forever.

Two years on, I'll admit that I am surprised by my tears - that today they flow easily and often and I keep having to rush off to lock myself in the bathroom to weep, so that the Reds aren't frightened or confused. While I am all for sharing my feelings, they don't need to see their mother bent over with grief, unable to fathom - all this time later - that he is entirely, utterly, simply gone.

Though I miss my brother every day, most of the time, I am not sad. Mostly, I recall happy times and often share stories of my own childhood with my sons. They love to hear about all of Uncle Andrew's silly antics. Matthew, in particular, seems to enjoy knowing that my younger brother drove me just as crazy as his younger brother drives him.

I've probably romanticized Andrew - his brawn, his wit, his charm. Well, maybe not his charm. I've wondered if this is normal and have decided that it is - that we paint those we miss in brighter colours, more vibrant hues because it makes the mantle of grief easier to carry.

These days, I wear my grief quietly. Well, quietly for me, anyway. No longer do I find reasons to say his name out loud or examine the "WHY?" behind each and every choice he made during his all-too-brief life. I no longer feel as though my heart might crack in half as the words, "My brother died," come out of my mouth.

It no longer hurts to breath or takes everything I've got to get through the day without shattering into a hundred pieces. And funnily enough, I no longer see the man with the dog whose path began to cross mine immediately after Andrew died. Oh, I'm sure he's still around - it's just that my eyes no longer see him.

And yet...

And yet I fall asleep every night still fervently wishing that he'll visit me in my dreams.

And yet, I have very detailed daydreams about being able to somehow manipulate time and space to create a world in which my brother still lives. Only this brother isn't haunted by demons and his heart - so big, so broken - beats strong and healthy.

And yet, in the days that lead up to this sad anniversary, I am almost undone by missing him. By missing the uncle he was to one of my sons and the uncle he might have been to the other, had he lived. I made it through Christmas and the dawning of another new year with barely a tear. But last week, sitting up too late with my father and drinking too much of his Baileys - the tears fell unchecked.

My dad suggested -gently, gently - that perhaps it was time to let Andrew go. I surprised both of us with the immediate and vehement shaking of my head. No. NO! I am NOT ready to let him go.

Today I wonder if I will ever be ready to let him go. If ever there will come a time when the thought of writing him a goodbye letter or some other symbolic gesture fills me peace and a sense of rightness instead of wild panic and a kind of choking, swiftly-moving anger.

Today, I wonder if every year will be this way - if the week leading up to February 10th will always find me on edge and furious with my sons for bickering and fighting and blaming and tattling, the way that siblings do.

Today, I will wish once more that my baby brother will visit me in my dreams - so that I can apologize for every time I hollered at, told on, smacked, wished away, was angry with, stopped speaking to...him.

And so I that I can tell him this:

"Ok, Bam. I love you."

And have those words be the only ones he carries in his heart for the rest of time. Not a broken promise from a big sister who will carry only his memory in hers.