Thursday, June 30, 2011

Post # 30 of 30 - What I've Learned and a Challenge for July

Last month, my friend Moe (who's penning an incredible story, which I hope she'll one day publish because it's just that good) tossed out a challenge. I was to write 30 blog posts, one a day, during the month of June. She was to write or edit one page per day for the same period of time.

Here's what I've learned:

 1.As much as I chatter on all day long, not all of what I say has relevance or even meaning. Who knew? I know, I know. Some of you out there are snickering into your drinks right now, because I do tend to blather on, but still. Trying to write something meaningful or worthwhile EVERY day? Is hard.

2. I love comments. I can't help it. When I first began blogging, I wrote solely for me and the Reds. I wanted a place to record their journey out of babyhood and into childhood and to record my own journey as a "work-in-progress" mother.

Somewhere along the way, I became aware of a larger audience and since the Reds can't read, my stories began to reflect that realization. Even as I post blog links to Facebook and Twitter, I hit the "Stats" button feverishly, waiting, hoping, praying for someone to comment.

 I don't know what that says about me, actually, but there it is.

3.This challenge has been humbling. And such fun. And addictive, though not enough to continue churning out a new post every day. There's a weird, though not unpleasant pressure to actually WRITE when I know that somebody's waiting on me. It's sort of like having a few dozen editors sending gentle email reminders about a pending deadline. Turns out, I don't actually write well under pressure.

Note to self: Blogging requires discipline. And proper sleep. And maybe more less coffee.

5. I was supposed to write about soother fairies and clapping for babies. Or something. I can't quite remember, since June 1st was so long ago. 29 posts ago, to be exact. I WILL write about them, because I promised that I would. It's just gonna take me bit longer to keep that promise. Moe, I know you understand.

6. I am more confident about my writing and more inclined to TELL people about my blog, than I was a month ago. I'm not sure why the shift happened or when, but it feels pretty darned good. For as much as I crave comments and feedback, I am just as happy sending my thoughts out into the ether, if only to get them out of my head.

7. July's Challenge: 30 minutes of exercise EVERY day. I'm terrified. But game.

And you? Are you game and willing to join the "Belly Get Fit(ter) Challenge?"

A Message From God

Yesterday, I wrote this to God:

Dear God,

No doubt, the universe is unfolding as it should and according to Your plan. I am doing my best to let go of my controlling ways and trust that You know what's best. As always, my lessons are about patience and letting go.

I'm listening. I get it. But if You could hurry things along, just a teensy bit, that would be great.


This is Life With Bellymonster  today:

I waited and waited and waited for the plumber who showed up full of contrition, explaining that he can't come today, due to an emergency elsewhere. 

Next Thursday it is.

I've been waiting and waiting for  S. from Loyalist College to call me back and she finally did, with good-ish news. My acceptance letter, though written, cannot be officially submitted until next week.

Thursday, as it turns out.

Just received an email from Luke's coach. She needs to change the date that I'm responsible for snacks, even though the date that I originally chose was the one that worked best for me and our schedule. So, instead of bringing snacks on July 14th as planned, I'll be bringing snacks next week.

Next Thursday, to be precise.

That God.

He's so funny.

And you? Heard from God lately?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

To Whom it May Concern II

Dear Summer Holidays,

 Please be sunny and warm, but not too warm. Please let there be long days spent frolicking near water and cool nights, perfect for snuggles before sleep. Let there be frog songs while camping, more fruit for the picking, new parks to play in and cool caves to explore.

These halcyon days are so fleeting - I want to remember them all. Please remind me to take the camera but not to spend so much time capturing the moment that I forget to be IN it.

Thanks in advance,
Mama to the Reds

Dear Matthew,

I promised you that tomorrow is a sleep-in day. Please do your part and sleep in past 7 a.m. In return, I promise to take you to do or see someplace new and different at least once a week, all summer long. I can't wait to see the world through your eyes.

I hope that you'll enjoy our adventures. If not, I promise to drag you along anyways,because it's for your own good/educational/I paid for the experience/I promised Luke.

Even when you don't love me and you accuse me of loving your brother more, I love you with all that I am.


Dear Luke,

Thank you for trying your big-boy best to stop pooping in your underpants and for finally accepting that it will not be your teacher's job to potty-train you come September.

 I'm very proud of your efforts, though I do wish you'd refrain from peeing on the big pile of dirt in front of our house. I don't mind so much, but I think the neighbours might and the construction crew whose dirt it is keep giving me funny looks.

 Even when you punch my knee for fun and blame every naughty thing on the ghosts who live in the closet, I love you with all that I am.


Dear Friends and Family,

Thank you for giving me your queen-sized sheets, your best advice and Baileys before noon. Thank you for lending me your shoes, your ears, your husbands to help me move stuff and for driving my sons around in your car simply because they asked.

Thank you for reading my blog, retweeting my stuff,  folding my laundry, fixing my hair and for watching my kids while I run errands, run off a mad or just run, period. Thanks for coffee in to-go cups and for leaving grapes, chocolate milk and hummus in my fridge.

I couldn't do this - any of it -without you all and I am very, very blessed.


Dear God,

No doubt, the universe is unfolding as it should and according to Your plan. I am doing my best to let go of my controlling ways and trust that You know what's best. As always, my lessons are about patience and letting go.

I'm listening. I get it. But if You could hurry things along, just a teensy bit, that would be great.


Dear Elizabeth,

You are still a work in progress, but you are finally hitting your stride and baby, it's a sight to behold. These are halcyon days, my girl - remember to BE in these precious moments and remember to give thanks for them all.

Trust me. The best is yet to come.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dear Teacher II

Dear Teacher,

Two years ago I handed you my very Heart, trusting you to guide and love him in all the ways that I cannot. And you did, so wonderfully. Thank you for all of it.

Matthew: September 2009 ,Age 3

Ms. M. leading Matthew into the classroom for the first time.

By June, he was brimming with new words, making new friends and utterly enamoured by his dear Teacher:

 Last Day of School: June 2010

Best Kindergarten Teacher EVER!

 The sweet boy I brought to school this past September had grown taller and more confident as he returned to your classroom and the warmth of your familiar and welcoming smile.

September 2010: First Day of SK

Tomorrow, Matthew will bid farewell to Kindergarten and to you, Teacher.

Graduation Day 2011

He's a lucky boy, to have been allowed to grow and thrive in your care for TWO years, instead of just one. I think that returning to your classroom was good for him. I know that it was good for me, as I was not quite ready to let him tumble into the unknown.

Now, that little boy walks and talks with healthy confidence and boundless spirit. He tussles with his friends and rolls his eyes in exasperation, even as he hurls himself into my arms at day's end, eager to tell of his day, but happier still, to be done with it. Ah, boys.

Matthew: June 2011: Last Day of Kindergarten

Thank you for being a friendly face at the end of the hallway, the voice on the other end of the phone expressing concern for Matthew's hearing, the one who can actually GET Matthew to use his French words when asking to use the bathroom. For your endless patience, enthusiasm and pride in your students.

Mostly, thank you for being a wonderful introduction to school life. Our first teachers can mark us indelibly and imprint on our hearts for always - they way you've imprinted on ours.

Matthew's Mama


Dear Ms. M.

Thank you for giving me a beach ball. That's all I want to say. It's the only thing I can think of, in my head. Oh wait...have a good summer! Oh, thank you for lending me all those books.

Matthew McL.

P.P.S. Enjoy your summer. Sleep in. Drink up. Luke is alllll yours, come September!

These Are Days : Bye, Bye to Kindergarten!

Any "Dear Teacher" letters to share? Favourite memories of your own Kindergarten teacher?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Click on "Gentle Warrior, Gone..."


Am a technological idiot and cannot work out "Pages" vs "Posts" and so there's a page called "Gentle Warrior, Gone."

Go there. Erm...CLICK HERE!

It's a piece about my brother and how it was, growing up in his havoc-wreaking sphere. It's sort of funny. A lot scary. All true.

Should you be thinking about forwarding it onto the the preggos in your life, do so.

It's a cautionary tale, too.

THIS is what happens when you drink during pregnancy, people. No, a glass of wine likely won't cause this kind of angst, but why take the chance?


Thursday, June 23, 2011

School Days and Talents Discovered

This is a bit of a housekeeping post. Ok. Not really.

Really, it's a bragging post, but I didn't want to write that straight off, lest you stopped reading.

'Cause Imma gonna let you you get back to your life, just as soon as I tell you this:

1. I am going back to school. Well, I hope to go back to school. IF I get accepted, get off the wait-list and get funding. That's a lot of "ifs" but I have faith. IF all goes well, I'll be studying Social Service Work at Loyalist College.

I am very, very excited and have been thinking about this for some time. It feels good when I wrap thoughts of study and learning around me - it feels right to be learning how to be helpful member of and asset to my community.

Now, if only I could kick the asses of all those potential students ahead of me, I'd be set!

2. When my Mum retired, she decided to try her hand at learning to paint. Water colours, to be precise. She soon moved onto to drawing and sketching to oil on canvas and without so much as a whisper of bias I can tell you this:

She. is. amazing.

Who knew? Certainly not Mum, who's as dazed by her awesome talent as we are, but who gamely creates beautiful works of art all the the time. In fact, she has so many pieces, my Dad convinced her to enter her (our) favourites into an exhibition north of Lakefield.

Shameless, absolutely shameless plug forthcoming:

It's worth the drive to Lakefield! Beginning this weekend,  Mum's work (along with other artists') will be hanging  at the Harbour Art Gallery ( all summer and you really ought to see it. Seriously. She does great work. Here, for example, is something she whipped up for my husband, for Father's Day:

Just like that. She does outdoor scenes, too. And the prettiest lighthouses. I'm just sayin'.

3. Matthew graduated from Kindergarten this morning. That's actually all I'm planning to say about it tonight. I'm saving all my tears and weepy "where'd-my-baby-gooooooo???"-ness for his last day, which is only six  blog posts away.

You have been warned.

And you? Got any cool stuff going on that you'd like to brag about share?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What Luke Did

Today, Luke did not wet his pants.

He did not punch me in the knee, which for reasons I cannot explain, he finds hilarious.

He did not rip any pages from Matthew's "Berenstain Bears" books, nor did he stretch an entire roll of Scotch tape from one end of the antique dining room table to the other.

He did not spit his apple down the side of the couch because he "hates the bits, Mummy!"

He did not squeeze toothpaste into the Q-tip container.

He did NOT manage to steer clear of the mud.

He did not attempt to shove the second "How to Train Your Dragon" DVD into the player by himself, like he did with the first one.

He did not pout and say, "NO!" when I asked him to take the toilet paper rolls back up the stairs.

He did not run away in the grocery store and did not bang on the glass in the fish section, hollering at the lobsters to "Wake up, crabs! Wake UP!"

He did not roll down his window in the car and spit.

He did not complain when I read Matthew's storybook first and did not run away and hide in the porch, hissing, when I announced that it was time for bed.

He did not snatch Matthew's stuffed snake down from the top bunk and cackle like a loon.

He did not stick his tongue in the fan nor did he dump two bottles of perfectly good water onto his floor so he could "swim in a carpet lake."

He did not offer a simple "Cheese!" when asked.

He did not stick his tongue up my nostril when I leaned in to kiss him goodnight, nor did he put his hand over my mouth and plead, "Don't sing, Mummy. Your singing hurts me!"

He did not beg for one more cup of water, another story or to sleep with his "Cars" crocs on.

He DID, however, pat my cheek as I tucked him in and say, "Mummy, you're the best."

That he did.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cats in the Cradle

Tonight we ate dinner with my friend Jack and his daughter, Emily. Jack and Emily's mum have recently separated, so there's been a period of adjustment for everyone as they learn to live apart while still being a family, for Emily's sake.

So far, so good.

But for whatever reason, Matthew chose today to quiz me about Emily's new living arrangements. Naturally, I was utterly unprepared for his questions and wonder if I said anything right.

This is how the heartbreak went:

Matthew: Why does Emily get to live in two houses?
Belly: Because her parents live apart from each other and they each have their own house.
Matthew: Why do they live apart?
Belly: Because sometimes grown ups get along better when they don't live together.
Matthew: Why?
Belly: Umm...because sometimes grown-ups end up not wanting the same things anymore and they argue.
Matthew: Or they're sad?
Belly: Or they're sad.
Matthew: So does Emily live with Jack more or her mummy more?
Belly: Emily stays with Jack for one week and then her mummy for one week. And Jack brings her to school every day, even on the days when she's with her mummy. So she doesn't really have time to miss him, if that's what you're thinking.
Matthew: I'm not thinking that. I'm thinking about where Daddy will live.
Belly: Mummy and Daddy live together, Matthew. With you and Luke. It's not something you need to worry about, ok?
Matthew: I don't worry about it Mummy. I just think that if Daddy lived in a different place from us then we'd get to see him more often. We could live with him for one week and you for one week.

HUGE pause for me to pull the stunned look from my face, and turn the rearview mirror so that Matthew and I can see one another.

Belly: Why do you think you'd see Daddy more if he lived somewhere else, Matthew?
Matthew: Because he'd miss us so much he'd leave work early, like he does on Fridays and we'd play and go to the park, just us boys. And for the weeks we live with him, he'll drive us to school, too.
Belly: I see. But we all live togeth...
Matthew: MUMMY! I know! Can you ask Daddy if sometimes we can pretend that he lives in a different place and he's missing us and then we can go to the park?

Small pause for me to take a deep breath, to prevent myself from bursting into tears.

Belly: I'll talk to Daddy about making some special Daddy-Boys time this weekend, ok?
Matthew: Ok. Thanks, Mummy. That'd be great.

And you? Please share your kid-question heartaches. Surely mine isn't the only one...

Monday, June 20, 2011

To The Girl I Was....

 My son Matthew "graduates" from Kindergarten on Thursday and I can't help but wonder, "How the heck did that happen?"

I don't mean the graduation part - I mean the SON part. I have a son. In fact, I have two sons and a husband and we live in Ontario. My beloved mother is still alive. My baby brother is not.

How did this life happen? It wasn't the one I had planned for myself, way back when. And while I am grateful for all the experiences that brought me here, I still wish I could go back and offer the girl  I was some hard-won wisdom:

Smoking is so not cool. It wasn't overly cool in 1989, but it is DEFINITELY not in 2011. Quit while you're ahead and learn to run, while your ass is still high and pregnancy hasn't ruined the arches in your feet.

Don't stop writing. Do NOT let rejection and insecurities about who you are (not) stop you from doing something you love. You write well. Don't let your envy of others who write better stop you, either. Let their talent inspire and force you to do better yourself. Don't let a decade pass before feeding your soul with words.

Take more pictures. Record the small moments, the quiet moments and a smattering of stuff in between. Take photos of yourself with everyone you love, because life will fling you in all directions and sometimes, you'll need a reminder of where you came from, in order to see where you're going.

Listen more. Talk less.

Don't quit piano lessons. Your parents might follow through on their "if you quit piano you must quit singing lessons" threat and it will break your heart, even though you'll try not to show it. Suck it up, princess. You have a lovely voice and a musical ear. Stick with it.

One day, when you're 21 and sinking into a steaming hot bubble bath, the theory of displacement will suddenly make sense the way it didn't in Grade 9 Science class. In telling yourself that you don't understand something, you won't. Tell yourself instead that you WILL understand, in time. Because you will.

Try out for the high school musical.
Your parents are right. About everything. Trust them.
Your instincts are right. Trust them.
Wear your retainer.
Stop biting your finger nails.
Tell Andrew you love him. Tell him again. And again. And again.
Save your money, pay off your first credit card every month, without fail.
Save your prom dress.
Join the church choir.

One night will change your life, if you let it. One terrible, awful, shameful event will define you and guide your actions for years afterward, if you allow it to. Trust your instincts and walk home with your friends, instead.

The mountains will always beckon, once you've breathed in their beauty. Find a way to visit them more often.

Your best friend has been there all along. She's your Mum. Thank her.

Travel more, sleep less.
Drink less, read more.
Take less.
Give more.

It's a grand life and someday, as you watch your own smile light up your son's face, you will know that you've always been beautiful.

Never forget it.

This post was inspired by Jeff Goins' post called "Advice to Your Younger Self". Write your own and share it with people in your life. Go on. Just do it. And once you have, head over to Twitter and let him know via hashtag #dearcollegeme

But first...tell me what you'd say to your former self, if you could.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day, Bellymonster-Style

As I type this, Mark is sleeping on the couch behind me, while the Reds shovel cereal in their mouths. We're going bike-riding shortly, leaving Daddy to enjoy his sleep-in without me nudging him to wake up every 15 minutes.

Matthew made a "Happy Father's Day" present at school and it includes a tiny coupon book. The coupons are for things like, "Taking Out the Trash" and "A Big Hug."

There's also one for "Sleeping In," which Matthew solemnly informed me he would honour today. He's been tiptoeing past his sleeping father and shushing Luke for 20 minutes now and I am so stinkin' proud of him. I'm sure Mark would feel the same.

If he were awake, I mean.

My gift to him has always been golf, which he played yesterday. This morning, I'll sweeten the pot by NOT nudging and nagging him to get up and will bring him a coffee without complaint when he finally comes to.

Sleep + Coffee + No Nagging = HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, MARK! xo

Am also wishing my own Dad a Happy Father's Day! He was likely up with the birds and enjoying the special quiet of a early morning, crossword puzzle in hand. This morning, he'll go to Mass and pray for all of us: my Mum, Mark and me, his beloved grandsons and for his only son, gone two years now.

I will call him in a little while and wish him a wonderful day and I'll tell him that I love him and hope that behind those three words, he hears: Thank you. You're the best. You're my hero. Cheers!

I suppose that's how it is, on Father's Day.

No matter how old we get, if we got a good one, our father will always be our hero.

God bless 'em all!

And you? How do you celebrate the fathers in your life?
How do you honour his memory, if your Dad has passed away?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

There's No Place Like This...

Yes, if you're from Ontario, you'll recognize that title. You may even already be humming the Tourism Ontario commercial tune in your head. You are, aren't you?

You're welcome.

And thank you.

Thank you to my across-the-road neighbour, Nick, who mowed my lawn.


Nick's lawn in perfectly manicured and green. My lawn? Not so much.
Nick's gardens are symmetrical and tidy. Mine?

It probably drives Nick crazy to look out his window and gaze upon my unkempt, bicycle-strewn li'l postage stamp. But he's a decent sort and so far, all he's done is tease me about "mowing my lawn." (Insert innuendo-laced leer here).

And then we laugh and I go back to ignoring my weeds and he goes back to spraying down his driveway and sometimes we meet in the middle of the street in a rainstorm and talk for an hour.

Yeah. It's like that around here.

In any case, promptly at 8 this morning, Nick hauled his mower across the street and mowed my lawn. He's done it once before too -  on a Friday afternoon, thereby ensuring that we could enjoy the weekend without having to wade through the grass to find the children.

What can I say? Yes, I have my own mower - I just can't START the dang thing. And to be honest? Nick looks way hotter mowing my lawn than I ever will.

I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

And you? What's the best part of living in YOUR neighbourhood?

A Wish Come True

This isn't the post I meant to write today. It's better. In fact, it's probably the happiest update I've ever had the pleasure of writing.

If you've been reading Life With Bellymonster for awhile, you might remember how hard it was for me when Matthew started Junior Kindergarten in the Fall of 2009.

Matthew was so tiny and so lost until an older boy took him under his wing. That boy was William, Sweet William and I will always hold a special place in my heart - and our home - for him. With his quiet grin and smiling eyes, the then 6-year-old boy was the sweetest part of a bittersweet time.

A short while later, I discovered that the little girl I called "Pinky"(because I only ever saw her in pink on the schoolyard) was actually William, Sweet William's sister.

Her name was Isabelle. She was 8. And she had cancer.

In the two years since, I've befriended William and Isabelle's mum, Erin. I don't see her as much as I'd like to, but am always pleased when I do. We sort of burst into each other's homes/lives every few months and spend two or three hours laughing or crying as we catch up.

Sometimes, we do both.

In any case, Erin is an amazing woman and I am deeply honoured to call her my friend. She is funny as hell, cheerful even when frazzled and calls it like she sees it. I admire her strength, am in awe of her grit and truly believe that God chose the perfect mother for Isabelle and William. She is their doctor, their nurse, their best friend and a fierce advocate on their behalf.

For her - for all of them - I am ecstatic to pass along some amazing news:
Isabelle is now officially cancer-free and today The Make-a-Wish folks were waiting for the Lemke Family after school, with Isabelle's wish hidden behind a tarp.

Her wish for a camper trailer had come true.

And the tarp?

Was pink.

And you? What's your wish come true?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

When Good Intentions Go Awry

Today was the day of Good Intentions.

Good Intentions-Gone-Awry, that is.

Oh, it started out well. The Reds bounded out of (my) bed at dawn, found Doritos in the kitchen and scarfed 'em down before I'd even brushed my teeth. So with breakfast taken care of, we headed outside to ride bikes and shoot water from the ginormous water guns the Reds received yesterday.

(Thank you, Ecnerwal. You turn will come.)

I weeded.

Came in for a snack, bottles of water and to check emails (read: Tweet, FB, Camp)

More shooting.
More weeding.
A lot of giggling.
Some crying.
A scraped knee.
A lost shoe.

But by noon, it was too hot to do much and that's when things sort of fell apart:

  • Luke pooped in his underwear. Twice.
  • Matthew got sassy and ended up in Time-Out, muttering that he knows that I love Luke more, why don't I just admit it?
  • Luke confessed to peeing in the dirty clothes basket, clobbered Matthew, broke some crayons and then punched me in the knee for good measure.

When I stumbled over Matthew making shoe obstacle courses for some ants, I knew I had to do something cool.

So, we went to Lowe's and came home with a nozzle for the garden hose...and a sprinkler:









And it was magic.


And you? What was your magical moment(s) for the day? Week?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Welcome to Canada, eh?

Awesome blogger Kelly, of Dances With Chaos fame, is coming to Canada! And while she's not coming to see me (*sniff, sniff*) she will be hanging with the most talented bitches I know: Leanne, Trish and Elena from Word Bitches.

The Bitches United, as I've taken to calling them in my head (and thusly hashtagged on Twitter) will be hanging in Calgary, being brilliant and witty and looking gorgeous. It's what they do.

In the meanwhile, I want Kelly to feel entirely welcome to the greatest country in the world. She's from Texas, so Cowtown won't be a HUGE surprise, if she happens to spot a dude in a cowboy hat.  I wanted to send her a toque and some maple syrup, but just in case ' Canada Post doesn't get it together in time, I've settled on a playlist for her journey.

Please feel free to add your own "Quintessentially Canadian" tunes, eh?

Dear Kelly (American Woman),

Soon you'll be Alberta Bound - how excited are you? For Five Days in July, right? The Word Bitches are anxiously Waiting for You in Canada and I just know that you'll have a wonderful time. I hope that it's warm enough to sit outside, wine in hand, gazing at pretty Patio Lanterns.

A long, long time ago, Calgary Used to Be Our Town but I beat a hasty retreat back to Whistler, toque and wussy-it's-way-too-frickin'-cold ass in hand. It was the place I loved best and where I knew I was destined to live. If not for a long time, I was there For A Good Time.

If you were here, I'd bring you to Bobcaygeon, which is pretty cottage country and quintessentially Canadian, especially if you're from "There's No Place Like This" Ontario. But since you're all the way over there, way past The Wheat Kings, I'll be happy for you from afar.

Just don't be looking to be Drawn to the Rhythm of the sea or anything. Calgary's got the Bow River and that's about it. Unless you get to drive -  hope the Truck doesn't Get Stuck - to Banff,  (singing "Life is a Highway") where you'll be awed and overcome with the perfection of the place and think, "Hallelujah!"

I am delighted that you'll be able to spend real face-to-face time with the Bitches - they're sisters, mentors and friends, all rolled in, aren't they?  It's as if they urge all of us who dream in quill, "Let's Go Higher!"

All they ask of themselves and of you, is to Try, right? I've no doubt that being in their real live presence will inspire you and bring your heart much joy - as though they've held out their arms, saying, "I Will Give You Everything!"

Enjoy yourself, my friend. May every day you're here be no Ordinary Day. And know that wherever you travel, you are loved and admired and that maple syrup and real poutine are but a plane ride away.


P.S. When it comes time to go Home for a Rest, remember it all fondly.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Upside to Feeling Down...

Short and sweet:

Matthew: Mummy, do you know what the best part of my surgery was?
Belly: The popsicles?
Matthew: Well, that was cool, but no.
Belly: The codeine?
Matthew: Is that the woozy medicine?
Belly: Yes.
Matthew: No. The best part was getting to hang out with you longer.
Belly: Aw, thanks, bug. It was pretty special to me, too.
Matthew: So, how 'bout I don't go to school tomorrow so we can hang out more?

And you? What has your kid said today that made you laugh, despite yourself?

Goddess Off the Rails...

The life of a domestic goddess ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Don't get me wrong - I dig being home with the Reds and watching them move -swiftly, leaving mess in their wake - through their days and I love being the first person to see them master a new skill or use the phrase "Fer CRAP's sake!" in the right context.

It's the OTHER stuff that sort of gets me down. Meals, I've got sorted - I like cooking and the Reds aren't as fussy as they once were. We eat simply and on a schedule, which leaves me time for other stuff.

Or should.

Mostly, I ignore the pile of stuff on the kitchen table until it threatens to topple. My junk drawer is actually a "junk counter" and while I try to keep it tidy, it drives my husband loopy.

On Sunday, I learned that practically all aspects of our life drive him loopy and that the house, in particular, overwhelms him. Dude's got a lot going on, life-wise, between his job and wanting to spend more time helping out his parents. I get that.

But because he was home last week, he got to witness the cheerful, everyday chaos of life with two kids and it sort of freaked him out:

 The phone rang incessantly, friends and neighbours popped by unannounced, friends came asking if the boys' could come out to play, our street is filled with the noise and mess of construction, workmen toiled at the bottom of the driveway and needed into the basement to mess around with the water pipes or something, toys lay strewn from kitchen to front door and the boys played hockey in the house....

It overwhelmed Mark, who leaves for work when the boys are still sleeping and trudges home long after they're in bed. By the time he comes through the door the house is tidy, the toys are away and his supper is waiting on the stove. H e has control of the remote because I am usually blogging and all is quiet. Peaceful.

But not, apparently, peaceful enough.

Our house is small and old - there is very little in the way of storage and there are LOTS of things that ought to be stored away. Mostly toys, books and paper - bills, pictures, notes, etc. I think part of Mark's issue is that even the things that are put away are still visible, as our shelves are open as are both bookcases.

The boys' room looks best when I close the door and I'll admit that I am crap at putting laundry away. I could live out of a basket forever, actually, if it meant never having to put clothes in drawers again.

The kitchen, even when completely tidied up, still looks cluttered and...too full.

I am pretty good about making the bed every day and the bathroom is always getting cleaned because I live with three boys and only one of 'em has decent aim.

But that boy is NOT happy about Life with Bellymonster and the Reds.

Not. one. bit.

So, beloved readers, I need advice. And a garbage truck backed into my driveway so I can scrap it all and start fresh, but since that's unlikely, I'll take suggestions:

How do YOU control the clutter monster in your house?
Do you and your partner have completely different ways of doing things?
How do you balance the needs of everyone in the family?
Do you schedule certain tasks or tackle things as they come up?
Would you please come and heeellllppp meeeeee?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Monica Bata and Why I Dig Chicks

Spent last night at Wenchy's cottage and it was glorious. From the time Dolpin and I arrived early yesterday morning, until we left late this afternoon, the three of us did nothing but eat, laugh and talk.

Well, and drink.

Over Baileys with coffee (not coffee with Baileys, you'll notice. It's an important distinction when one is cotttaging sans children) we caught each other up: Dolphin and Wenchy are both professional working mums whose friendship was forged while being two of a handful of women in a male-dominated field and they've remained close ever since.

I have no "professional working mother" stories to share, but am full of funny, pithy observations about parenthood, I brought chips and I like washing the dishes, so they let me tag along for these mini-holidays.

Over lunch (bags of chips and dip with sugar donuts and strawberry daiquiris), I told them about my blogging friend Kelly's new blog, "I Survived the Mean Girls", which is a place for girls (and grown women) to share their experiences with mean girls and bullies. It's a collaborative site and Kelly encourages readers to share their own stories - to inspire, to find comfort, to heal.

Wenchy and Dolphin were as fascinated by the concept as I was to learn their stories of childhood cruelty and adolescent angst. So, we refilled our glasses and regaled one another with tales from our own childhoods, describing in vivid, agonizing detail, all the wrongs that were done.

And then, two or three drinks in, the stories began to change. Positive women by nature, we stopped revealing the crummy bits and began to remember the good stuff:

Dolphin felt completely invisible in high school until Grade 13 History class, when an older girl beckoned her over with a friendly smile and patted the seat next to her: "Sit here, with us!"

That girl was me and I was so touched and awed that such a small gesture had made such a difference for her that I burst into tears. Yeah, I'm a goober like that. Three drinks and I'm a sappy mess.

Our hostess, Wenchy, is a warm and wise woman, whose adult life is far, far removed from her hardscrabble beginnings. She puts me in mind of spunky Li'l Orphan Annie, if Daddy Warbucks had never come into the picture. And you can bet your bottom dollar that she's got some tales to tell.

So, as I dried my eyes on the dog, Wenchy offered her own example of the power of friendship:

A veteran of  B.C.'s  foster care system, Wenchy was accustomed to being the new kid in school. She never attended the same school for more than two years and grew a thick skin over her sensitive heart - "never let 'em see you cry", might have been her motto. She was not, however, immune to the tears of her friend Stacey, who was nervous about starting Junior High in a new school, while Wenchy moved onto to high school.

High School began a week after the Junior High, so Wenchy hatched a plan. She enrolled herself at Stacey's school, adopting the name "Monica Bata" as her own, and registering for all of Stacey's classes.

At roll call each morning, Wenchy dutifully answered "Here!" when the teacher called for Monica Bata and stayed by Stacey's side as she gradually relaxed enough to make some new friends. When the week was over and Wenchy was satisfied that Stacey would be alright, she simply nodded and walked out the school doors for the last time. On Monday, she would walk through the doors of a strange school herself, but her concern was first and foremost, for her friend.

Dolphin and I howled with shocked laughter at young Wenchy's bravado - our shared small-town Ontario upbringing had never included not knowing our classmates or living with people who were not our parents. We applauded Wenchy's tale-spinning and cheers'd her alter ego, Monica Bata.

We were still laughing about it over dinner (Greek salad, souvlaki and cranberry/vodkas) when Wenchy claimed that if we did call up Stacey, all these years later, and asked for Monica Bata, that Stacey's first and immediate response would be, "HERE!" before collapsing into giggles. I was tempted to convince Wenchy to let me call her, just so we could hear firsthand how the power of female friendship resonated in her life.

Maybe next year, we'll call. Next year, when we gather in cottage country to recharge from our busy lives as wives and mothers, employees and bosses, to celebrate each other's spirit and to simply "be."

Until then, I'd like to officially call our girls' night "The Monica Bata Memorial Weekend" - to honour the kind of friend I wish every girl could have and the ones I am blessed to call mine.

And you? Who was your Monica Bata?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gone Fishin'!

Today's "Going to the Cottage" soundtrack includes:

Bobcaygeon - The Tragically Hip

I left your house this morning about a quarter after nine
coulda been the Willie Nelson coulda been the wine
when I left your house this morning
it was a little after nine
it was in Bobcaygeon I saw the constellations
reveal themselves one star at a time

(Quintessential Summer Song)
The Joker by the Steve Miller Band
'Cause I'm a picker
I'm a grinner
I'm a lover
And I'm a sinner
I play my music in the sun.
I'm a joker
I'm a smoker
I'm a midnight toker
I get my loving on the run

(Favorite Song for Driving on a Sunny, Summer's Day)
The Boys of Summer - Don Henley

But I can see you, your brown skin shinin' in the sun
You got your hair combed back and your sunglasses on, baby
And I can tell you my love for you will still be strong
After the boys of summer have gone

Red, Red Wine - UB40

Red, red wine, go to my head,
Make me forget that I
Still need you so.

I Gotta Feeling - Black-Eyed Peas

I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night
That tonight’s gonna be a good night
That tonight’s gonna be a good good night

Home For a Rest - Spirit of the West

The gas heater's empty, it's damp as a tomb
The spirits we drank now ghosts in the room
I'm knackered again, come on sleep take me soon
And don't lift up my head till the the twelve bells at noon

You'll have to excuse me, I'm not at my best
I've been gone for a month, I've been drunk since I left
And these so-called vacations will soon be my death
I'm so sick from the drink, I need home for a rest
Take me home

Friday, June 10, 2011

Now I Lay Me Down to F*cking Sleep...

Ah, sleep. How I miss getting a full night of it.

To be fair, the Reds are pretty good about going to sleep. It's the STAYING asleep that confounds them. That they can rush about all day, full of energy and yet awaken mere hours later, ready to play confounds me. Many's a night that finds me wearing a path between their room and mine, refilling water cups, rubbing aching knees, banishing monsters, drying tear-stained cheeks.

And if by chance I don't go to them, I can rest, assured that my darling boys will always come to me.

Most mornings find Mark protecting himself with all the pillows, me clinging to the edge of the bed with someone's tiny elbow lodged in my nostril, and somebody else's whole body curled between my legs.

I drool. Two of us snore and three of us grind our teeth.

Isn't that a lovely mental picture?

It could be worse. It used to BE worse, when Luke was born and nursed every 10 minutes. Matthew kind of lost his mind and took to shrieking like a banshee at odd hours - usually after midnight and before dawn. It was, as you can imagine, a very challenging time as a parent. DH could - and still does - sleep through anything so I was on my own. How I wish I'd had this book then:

"Go the Fuck to Sleep!" by Adam Mansbach

It's pure, unadulterated, adult-oriented, parent-centric, HYSTERICAL genius.

I know you've heard of it, because it's been all over the news and discussed heatedly on parenting boards everywhere. Some parents are shocked and aghast, but they're usually the parents of newborns, who believe that they've come through the worst of the sleep-deprivation.


Most parents cheer and applaud Mr. Mansbach's brutal, potty-mouthed honesty and this book was written for them. For all of us, really, if we're honest about it.  My friend Moe sent it to me and UPS (yay, man in uniform!) dropped it off today. I've been giggling and reminiscing and reciting it under my breath ever since.

A snippet for you because I think that you should go and buy up every copy you can find - give it as a shower gift, parting gift, gag gift, whatever. It is, quite possibly, the best bedtime story I have EVER read:

"The tiger reclines in the simmering jungle.
The sparrow has silenced her cheep.
Fuck your stuffed bear, I'm not getting you shit.
Close your eyes. Cut the crap. Sleep."

Pass it on. Genius such as this deserved to be celebrated and shared!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bucket Lists, God's Grace and Finding Your Rock

I spend a lot of time (some might say too much) reading other blogs. Every day, I am delighted to discover incredible pieces of writing offering glimpses into the lives of complete strangers.

I am often awed. Sometimes I weep. I laugh a lot - so much that I try to get through a least one caffeinated beverage before firing up the computer and logging in. More than one blogger has caused me to snort coffee from my nose before my eyes are fully open, and how I love them for it.

Here then, are the blog pieces that have stuck with me as I've moved through the week:

Alice Pyne is 15. She is also dying.

 To that end, she created a blog so that she can share her final months with her loved ones and let them witness her quest to fulfill her "Bucket List". Alice listed "trending on Twitter" as one of her life's wishes.

Her voice - so young, so brave - has haunted my sleep for two nights now and I cannot stay away from her site. THOUSANDS of people have commented on her posts and therein lies the true magic of the internet. I spent an entire HOUR this morning, reading the comments, feeling the outpouring of enormous love for Alice and cheering whenever I came across someone offering to make one of her wishes come true.

Need your faith in human goodness rekindled? Visit Alice.

Mary Kathryn is a fellow blogger I've "met" on Twitter. According to her blog tag, she is "abiding in grace, one day at a time."

 I think she's the person I'd want to be, if I weren't me.

Mary Kathryn brings light to my days and forces me to re-examine my own faith, daily. She is quirky and funny and so very, very wise. She is also a redhead and a true beauty and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why she is still single.

In any case, popping by Beauty for Ashes every few days fills me up with all that I need to keep going. Often, I feel as though she has somehow found her way inside my heart and is healing it from the inside out.

Need a spiritual lift or to see what true joy looks like, written? Visit Mary Kathryn.

C stands for commencement. It also stands for Chase McFadden, whose Commencement Speech titled "Go Find Your Rock" should be read aloud at every graduation ceremony, everywhere.

I was so impressed by the speech I posted it to my Facebook wall and watched as FB friends re-posted it all over the place. All is as it should be and my hope is that Chase's wise words will echo in the hearts of children forever.

Big words, eh? Well, Chase's words inspired big feelings in me - there, on his blog, were there things I long to teach my children. Heck, things I long to learn myself. It's just a bonus that the dude's funny to boot.

Seeking direction and purpose and an encouraging, friendly voice? Visit Chase.

And you? Where have you been this week?

Moody Mother Nature meets Fickle Bellymonster

I love Mother Nature - she's a fickle creature, just like me.

Unfortunately, I don't always appreciate the results of Mother Nature's fickle behaviour, especially when they involve me packing "basement bags" in case we need to sleep in the cellar. Thankfully, last night's awesome storm rendered the street powerless, but left my children sleeping in their beds.


Still, I suddenly miss winter and have been praying for the skies to darken, the wind to cool to freezing and a pile of snow to land on my lawn. I long to hurl myself into it and stay there until October.

Other "Cool Weather" things I'm suddenly missing:

The need for socks and a hoodie once the sun goes down.
Hot chocolate.
Mittens, drying on the windowsill.
Rosy cheeks
Peeling off layers of clothing to reveal a slimmer self. It's amazing how many pounds longjohns add on. Puffy, long coats have a similarly slimming effect, once removed.
Flannel pyjamas
Hot showers
Hot Weetabix for breakast
Wearing a blanket while watching TV.

I realize that come December, I'll be pining for these shimmering hot days and missing iced tea but for now? Dreaming of  winter's snow is what's getting me through summer's sunshine.

Well, that and my husband's promise to install the a/c units soon...

And you? How do you get yourself through the seasons?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Goodbye to Guckies

Matthew has been using a soother since birth. He has steadfastly clung to a handful of beloved and well-loved "guckies" for his entire life.

I have argued with practically everyone about his use of them - a thumbsucker myself, I KNOW the immense comfort he draws and will never willingly take it from him.

Then today happened.

Matthew's care nurse - once she'd properly arranged her features after expressing shock and derision at his soother use - has expressly forbidden the use of soothers, straws or anything that involves sucking. It would render today's painful surgery futile and in all likelihood, cause more discomfort for Matthew.

Matthew kind of overheard this conversation, as it took place over top of his precious, snoozing head. So tonight, when I told him that bedtime will no longer include his gucky, he simply nodded.

Sadly. Tears shimmered. And then my wee man squared his little shoulders, stuck out a brave chin and said,

"It's ok, Mummy. I know."

And it has broken my heart. I find that I am grieving -  not just the loss of his gucky for him, but also  the loss of his little boyhood...for me. It's not that he's not ready to leave these precious days behind.

He is.

He has.

But me? I am not ready. Not yet.

Not yet.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The One in Which We Discuss Boobs

Sometimes, blog posts write themselves. Today's is one of those, courtesy of a delightfully cheerful Luke.

Mark is home this week, trying to cram a year's worth of household chores into 8 days. He's actually travelling between our house and his parents' farm, pitching in with their chores as well.

 In a word? The dude is busy.

Thankfully, he's not too busy to help Luke put a puzzle together. Here is an almost-verbatim conversation between them. I say almost because I couldn't hear some stuff over my attempts to stifle my own snorts of laughter:

Luke to a shirtless Mark: Daddy, you have small boobies.
Mark: Uh..yes, I do.
Luke: And I have smaller boobies and so does Matthew. But not Mummy.
Mark: Really?
Luke: Mummy has bigger boobies.
Mark: You think Mummy has big boobies?
Luke: Well, bigger than yours, for sure!

At this point, I peered around the corner and caught Mark's eye - he raised his brows in helpless, silent mirth and carried on sorting puzzle pieces.

Mark: Luke, I bet that's the first time Mummy's ever heard that her boobies are the biggest.
Luke: Daddy! You're so silly. I didn't say biggest. I said big-ER! Phffftt!

Awesome. Sauce.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Grouchy Bellymonster: By the Numbers

Am completely stealing this blogging format/idea from the awesome IronicMom for two reasons:

1. She's awesome and
2. I'm uninspired. And grouchy.

I guess that's technically three reasons.

Anyway, here's the sum up (get it? SUM up? Heh.):

7. Baskets of laundry waiting to be hauled to laundromat, washed, dried and put away.

2. Pairs of underwear left in Luke's drawer.

4. Average number of times Luke pees in his underwear on any given day.

1. Number of times Luke usually poops in his underwear on any given day.

9. Times I asked the boys to put their Lego away.

2. Times I turned the vacuum on to scare the boys into gathering Lego faster.

3. Happy Meals I ordered for the three of us at McDonald's tonight, because I got tired of standing in front of the fridge opening and closing the door, hoping something yummy and delicious - and already cooked - might appear.

11. Number of words Mark and I have exchanged today.

15. Minutes before I finish this post and head off to bed, to shake this "Hmph!"

6. Kilometres I walked this weekend.

0. Kilometres I ran this weekend.

72. Times it occurred to me that there may be a correlation between my grouchy mood and my lack of exercise.

72. Times I ignored above-mentioned realization. There's little room for guilt on top of grouchy.

8. Number of days left until my husband's week off ends and the world gets back to normal.

1. Washing machine I hope (please God!) to have installed and working in my basement by week's end. Ditto the dryer.

1. Bottle of Baileys I may well smuggle to bed with me.


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Yard Sales = The New Catholicism

One of my early-morning tweets inspired today's blog offering:

"Neighbours' having a yard sale. Am awed by the prompt arrival of cheerful strangers, seeking treasures.
It's like church or something."

Hmmm... I mused, sipping coffee and watching follks flocking together across the road. It really kind of IS like going to church...

 Planning (The Night Before)

Church: Plan outfit, find prayer missal, find tithing envelope/collect change for offering, put in purse, find proper footware, place by door.

Yard Sale: Plan outfit according to weather, find GPS/map/Kijiji listings, find hip purse filled with coins and bills in multiple denominations, find suitable footware, place by door.


Church: Approach with hushed reverence. Scan pews before choosing and quietly move down the aisle. Unless you're that lady who totters in on heels and reeks of "White Linen" perfume. If you're her, then march purposely toward the altar, trailing scent.

Yard Sale: Approach with "don't-be-so-eager", almost reverence. Scan tables before choosing a starting point, moving down the makeshift "aisles" of clothing racks and knick-knacks. Unless you're that lady who totters over on mule sandals and reeks of "Poison" perfume. If you're her, march purposely to the furthest table, leaving your husband to trail behind.


Church: Fervent and heartfelt, we are usually on our knees when bargaining with God, both literally and figuratively. Our "wheeling and dealing" might go something like this:


Yard Sale: Fervent and heartfelt, the goal is NOT to end up on your knees, but the bring the seller as close to his as possible, while still smiling cheerfully. It might go like this:

"How much for that lamp?"
"Ten bucks."
"I'll give you two."
"Three and two bits, plus toss in that shoe rack. And those bowling shoes from 1983."
"Amen, friend!"

 Castoffs and Left-Behinds

By 10 a.m. it's mostly all over: a few stragglers may dot the aisles, smiling gamely, hoping to be among "The Chosen," but most folks have sailed off into the rest of their day.

Church: She's the overlooked woman who lingers after Mass, long after the rest of the congregation has filtered out. She might be a widow, single or married - she is definitely lonely and looking to belong to something bigger than the life she's presently living. There may be an air of desperation about her that urges others to back away smiling nervously, guiltily.

Yard Sale: They're the looked-over pieces that sit in boxes, long after the early-morning hoarders have filtered past. They might be what's left of a dining room set, a stand-up vacuum cleaner or a box of knick-knacks - they are all longing to belong to a bigger, better household.

The air of desperation that lingers in the air around them causes late-comers to back away, smiling nervously, feeling guilty.

Ah, guilt. The cornerstone of any religion worth its salt.


Got anything to add? Toss your ideas onto the pile!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Brothers McLennan

Like most siblings, despite the blood that binds them, the Reds are very, very different.

Matthew is eager to please.

Luke isn't eager to please anyone, except Matthew.

Today, Luke spent the afternoon in Matthew's classroom, learning about Kindergarten life. Here they are this morning, being so entirely themselves, I laughed out loud:

"Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero. "
~Marc Brown

And you? Who's your superhero?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Love Letters?

Dear Canada Post,

Perhaps you've not noticed - the Internet is changing the way the world communicates. You can't possibly expect us to believe that you're overworked and underpaid. Perhaps you're lonely and looking for attention?

Grow up. Ante up. Give it up.

Belleville, ON

Dear UPS,

Helllooooo, there, hot stuff! Loving the uniform shorts, your quick and affordable same-day service and the fact that the UPS driver waves back. Thanks for being you. See you soon!


Dear City of Belleville,

Yes, it's a bit dusty here on Charles, but thank you for the complete and sorely-needed street overhaul. The crews are professional and quick, friendly with the kids standing agog on the porch, eager to help AND they look awesome in hard hats.

You won't be getting any complaints from this taxpayer. Nope. Not from here.

Happy "Friendly City" Dweller

Dear Ovaries,

Enough, already. First it's baby lust, now it's guy-in-uniform lust.  I sincerely hope that this is not harbinger of menopausal behaviour to come. For now though, cut this crap out. It's embarrassing.


Dear Children,

Please forgive Mama for the furniture-moving, the random sobbing, maniacal laughter and my obsessive need to slobber all over other people's babies. It will pass, my darlings. Trust me, you are all that I can handle need.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Giving God the boot...

Seems that Luke - darling curmudgeon Luke -  has given God the boot:

Luke spent a good portion of yesterday telling me, retelling me and not-so-gently reminding me that God lives in his heart. In fact, he let the whole neighbourhood know, every chance he got:

Man-cutting-down-tree: Hey there, big fella!
Luke: God lives in my heart.
Man: Uh....
Me: Sorry. He's just learning the "God is everywhere" thing.
Man: I'm not a religious sort...
Me: Oh, that's alright. Luke doesn't mind. And since God lives in Luke's heart, I reckon He doesn't either.
Man: Uh....right.
Me: You didn't see the humour there, did you?
Man: Sorry.

Evangelist [ɪˈvændʒɪlɪst] n
1. (Christian Religious Writings / Bible) any of the writers of the New Testament Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John
2. (Christianity / Protestantism) a senior official or dignitary of the Mormon Church
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

Today, my wee apostle spent the morning with my friend Heather. This is what she posted to my Facebook wall, after snack:

Heather: Luke would you like a glass of water?
Luke: God died.
Heather: Pardon? Would you like a glass of water?

Luke:  God died. He died yesterday.
Heather: Here's your water, li'l man. Drink up!

I am sensing some Divine Intervention in Luke's future. Or therapy. Whichever...

And you? Got a fickle evangelist in your family?