You Say It’s Your Birthday?

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No, YOUR child’s birthday is exactly eleven days away and you have made exactly ZERO plans to celebrate it.
 
This isn’t a call for help with ideas on how to celebrate. Captain Sassypants has had a new idea every week since before Christmas on how she’d like to celebrate, which may in fact be why we have no confirmed plans at this late stage. I’m not sure what’s gone wrong this year, because in previous years, I’ve had this birthday party thing totally wrapped up at this point. I’ve been a master-planner in the celebration department for the six years we’ve celebrated her birthdays, and each one has been a blast, if I do say so myself. Maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps I’m suffering some sort of party-fatigue brought on by my own obsessive need to outdo myself every year to give her a dreamy party she’ll never forget. Only to find out that by the time her next birthday rolls around, it’s me who is reminding her what she did last year and all the other years too. I know she’s just a normal kid, but it broke my heart that I had to remind her how three years ago, we took her to Disney for five days and did the whole “Bippity Boppity Boutique” experience and dinner with Cinderella on her birthday. I mean seriously – don’t the price tags of these things guarantee indelible inscription in their little memory banks?
So this year I’ve sort of given up. We’ve discussed so many different options; originally we were going to do New York City for her birthday weekend, but that fell through for a few reasons. Then we discussed a movie party to see the long-awaited live-action version of “Jungle Book” coming out, but I hate having to wait until the week before to confirm the exact show time. Yeah, I know. There was a brief excitement over laser tag, until we found out that the kids need to be a certain height and weight to comfortably carry the backpacks required. This eliminated about half of her friends who somehow don’t seem to be growing quite as quickly as she is. Each idea had some negative aspect or two that cause their elimination, until now we really aren’t considering very many options and I’m feeling like a play date party at our house just pales compared to the rainbow of bashes we’ve thrown for the past six years. Don’t worry, I’m getting over myself as you read this.
I’m trying new approaches to life this year, and *winging it* has never really been something I’ve embraced in adulthood, so I could simply say that’s what I’m doing now and sound very goal-oriented, right? Except I’d be lying. I’ve simply lost my ambition to create “memorable” kids’ parties that cost a fortune and end up making me painfully aware of how we spoil our kids. We stopped doing birthday parties for my stepson when he was ten and offered instead “experiences” like horseback riding. I tried this approach with Baby Girl this year, despite her only turning eight, and initially she liked the idea, but being the social butterfly that she is, quickly cast suggested experiences aside for group activities with her friends.
Part of me is really ok with my lack of motivation regarding this important milestone, but there is a sliver of hope because I do recognize something needs to be done really soon or I’ll risk utter disappointment from the star of my life. I’d call it a mom-fail, if I believed in such terminology. Instead, I’m going to classify it as a “Mom-exercising-last-minute-creativity-challenge” and get my ass in gear. Tomorrow. Possibly.
birthday

On #InternationalWomensDay – Be You, Because You ARE Strong

Happy International Women’s Day!

You might be surprised to know that history records the first International Women’s Day as far back as 1911! Women have been fighting a loooooonnnnnnnggggg time for equality, and will continue to do so. I hate this fact, but to avoid dwelling on the negative, I will take pleasure in seeing how far we’ve come! Keep up the fantastic work, my sisters!

I’m seeing so many quotes and memes on social media today about women, and I’ve observed many of these quotes and memes focus on the word STRONG. Why is that?

Even my personal favorite: “Strong women: May we know them, may we raise them, may we be them.” urges us that being strong is the ultimate goal. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if this battle-cry is being interpreted the same way across the board.

Naturally, the physical sense of the word is a positive goal. Being physically strong isn’t just about how many pounds you can bench-press, but about being healthy. Everyone wants health for themselves and those they care about, right?

But what about being strong in other ways? How do we define that? And what about the women who don’t exude the “traditional” traits of “strength”? I use quotation marks simply because these words are so open to interpretation.

I worry that International Women’s Day is moving towards a different meaning – a celebration of society’s perceived “best of the best” so to speak. That’s not what it’s about.

The woman who doesn’t run marathons for herself or charity can still be strong simply running after her toddler at the park. Or watching Netflix marathons on TV.

The woman who doesn’t own a financially successful business or have a high-powered career can still be strong owning the responsibility to feed her children by working hard at her minimum-wage job.

That woman who doesn’t prepare kale-qinoa-chia seed-avocado crust-less pie to feed her family can still be strong asking her kids to set the table and put the ketchup and plum sauce out for the frozen chicken fingers with tater-tots her family will devour with enthusiasm.

That woman who never declares loudly “Fuck that shit!” can still be strong when she sobs into her pillow because someone hurt her feelings.

That woman who can’t be Ms. Independent-I-Can-Do-It-All-Myself can still be strong when she asks friends or family for physical or emotional support.

That woman who doesn’t kick that asshole partner’s ass to the curb can still be strong when she stays in a seemingly unsatisfying relationship for complex reasons that nobody but her really understands.

That woman who doesn’t proudly don her swimsuit while ignoring her obesity can still be strong when she avoids pools and the beach.

Nobody defines “STRONG” for everybody.

As far as I’m concerned, anyone who opens their eyes and confronts the challenges of life each day is strong, and even those who open their eyes but then decides to close them, stay in bed and avoid the world are still strong in making the decision to do just that.

If you are human and trying to live your life as best you can – you are strong.

Should women be equal with men? Youbetcha.

Should women stop being human to try to fit into someone else’s definition of “strong”?

I think you know my answer to that question.

Be you. That’s strong enough.

 

25 Reasons Why I’m Not Hip, and Probably Never Will Be

Baby Girl came home from school last week singing “It’s hip to be a square”, which on one hand, made me laugh because it’s a terrible old song that somebody was witty enough to turn into a shape-teaching tool, yet on the other hand, made me think about how un-hip I am. In so many ways.

Let me run down a few of them for you:
1. I don’t eat quinoa. I may try it one day, but probably long after it’s not hip anymore.

2. I use the “kids in a sandbox” approach to making adult friends – I actually invite people to have coffee if I think they’re cool, or I may even invite them to my house or out for lunch. Sometimes I even do this after only meeting someone once, briefly. Aloof is not my area of expertise.

3. I worry that people are mad at me or don’t like me for some reason (yes, even people I’ve never met) if they don’t reply to my tweets. I want people to like me and feel bothered if they don’t. But only if I like them, of course.

4. I don’t watch SOA, Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, or any other TV (with the exception of the quality programming found on ABC’s Revenge, The Weather Network, CBC news or CP24). In related news – we don’t even have Netflix.

5. I’m not on Pinterest, Instagram, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, Vine, LinkedIn or any other social media than Facebook and Twitter.

6. I wear Crocs in my house. All the time, as slippers. Sometimes even when people come over.

7. I like typing on a laptop more than a tablet or smart phone. I like buttons more than a flat screen image of a keyboard. I actually miss my old Blackberry.

8. I like ending conversations of any sort (yes, even on social media) with some traditional form of pleasantry like “Bye!” or “Talk to you later!” or “Have a great day!” instead of just leaving a discussion dangling in the wind with no closure.

9. I double space after periods. That’s how I was taught to type back in 1984, so I will not apologize for learning it well.

10. I don’t find humour in people getting the shit scared out of them, or people getting the beats (not the Dr Dre kind) or imitations of people with physical or mental challenges.

11. I don’t do any sports that I can talk about on social media. I don’t do any sports that I can talk about anywhere. Ok, I don’t do any sports.

12. I wear my pyjamas under my yoga pants to drive Baby Girl to school. And pick her up.  I remove the yoga pants for the hours in-between.

13. Kale revolts me. And yes, I’ve tried kale chips.

14. I have 3 cats. I adore them and I’m not ashamed to admit that. I post pictures of them online, and convince myself that I am not a crazy cat lady because I draw the line at owning clothes with animal pics on them, or having little animal chachkies around my home.

15. I am verbose. Why say it in one sentence, when you can use five or six? I joined Twitter to practise limiting my words to 140 characters. #EpicFail.

16. I follow people back on Twitter if they follow me and they’re not trying to sell me more followers, don’t have a profile that’s in a language I don’t read or speak, don’t have an egghead profile picture with 1 tweet and 254,592 followers or don’t give me the heebeegeebees for some reason.

17. I respond to almost all of the comments on my blogs – good or bad, almost all tweets to me that aren’t weird or rude or trying to sell me stuff, and all emails that aren’t from spambots or marketing firms trying to buy ad space on my blog.

18. I feel awkward talking about my experiences with depression, so I don’t. I don’t judge those that do – in fact I may have a bit of envy that they are comfortable sharing, but I’m not. I’m not ashamed, I just can’t do it. Yet, at least.

19. I put myself “out” there. I comment on blogs of people I don’t know, I tweet to strangers.

20. I still get zits.  I still refer to them as zits.

21. I didn’t dig the Kendrick Lamar/Imagine Dragons mash-up at the Grammys. I’d never heard of half of the nominees at the Grammys.

22. I constantly worry about my phone battery dying because I don’t own one of those little portable battery charger packs.

23. I get manicures biweekly, but my eyebrows resemble Frida Kahlo’s. I cut and colour my hair 3 times per year, and I’m fastidious about my pits, but I declare a moratorium on leg-shaving between November and April to avoid wearing long-johns. Don’t even ask about the equator zone, unless I will be sporting a swimsuit the next day. Basically, I’m a confused sasquatch.

24. I don’t dig zombies.

25. I’m not fake. I’m a sincere, loyal and sometimes overly-friendly person. Most of the time I’m pretty content being just who I am – hip, or not.

Bonus Addendum: I can’t believe I forgot about this in the original post, but that’s just another testament to how unhip I really am: I don’t play Candy Crush.

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A Different Breed of Good

“I’m a bad mom.” 

“Wearing my “Mom-of-the-Year” sash and tiara.” 

“Rotten Mom Club President.”

Just a few of the sarcastic-but-not-really comments I’ve seen recently on social media and blog posts.

Every time I read these comments, my inner voice screams inside my head:

MOMS!  STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!
(If you’ve written any of these or something similar recently – don’t worry – this post isn’t about YOU specifically.)

I know the feelings behind those words, trust me, I really do.  The guilt about some parenting mistake that you’ve made.  I’ve been there.  Repeatedly.  I’m no mothering expert or pro.

But in addition to the numerous resolutions I quasi-made for 2014, I am really trying to give up on mom-guilt.

Do you know why?

It accomplishes nothing except making us feel like shit about ourselves.  How does that do anyone any good?

So what, if you don’t make all those stupid designer lunches for your kids – most kids just throw out their food half-eaten or bring it home uneaten anyway.

So what, if you did the happy-skippy dance when your kids walked out the door on the first day back to school after the holidays – you and I and about a million other moms did too.

There seems to be a growing trend of mothers expressing their mistakes publicly – which is awesome.  Let’s be honest with one another – we all screw up.  Every single one of us.  Hearing about other moms’ mistakes makes us feel normal and supported – we are a mom-munity.

But how does it help other moms to feel like part of the community if we talk about our screw-ups in such a negative way?

I’m not suggesting we brag about what we’ve done or pat ourselves on the back. “Woo-hoo!  I lost my shit on little Johnny last night because I have PMS, so I sent him to his room with no dinner – isn’t that cool?” isn’t going to make other moms feel that sympathetic or connected to you.  But sending out the subtle message that you are a bad mom if you make a mistake or if you enjoy time without your kids or if you get mad at your kids sometimes (a lot) for annoying the bejeezus out of you or any of the million other things that moms feel guilty about – that’s not cool either. Just tell it like it is – you made a mistake, you maybe feel guilty about it (or you feel guilty because you don’t feel guilty), but in the grand scheme of things, you’re still a great mom and this isn’t going to turn your kid into a disaster in the humanity department.

All of your guilt and shame and screw ups and oopsies – they are NORMAL.  Do you really want your kid having documented evidence of reasons to hate you or rebel against you or blame you for needing therapy when they get older?  Nuh uh.  Documenting your very normal HUMAN behavior under the label of “wrong” or “bad” is simply putting the idea into their heads, other mom’s heads and even YOUR head that you’re not good at what you’re doing.

And that’s bullshit.

Unless you are abusive or neglectful or doing other stuff that might require help or improvement – you are all good moms.

We are a different breed of good.  And that’s ok.  We don’t need to be perfect, or even perfect-in-training.

Personally?  I’d rather be the mom I am and demonstrate to my kids that I’m imperfect, flawed and I make mistakes, but I keep getting up every morning and trying again the next day.  I keep trying to learn from my mistakes and trying desperately not to repeat them.  I apologize to them when I think I should.  I’m human.

I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking they need to be perfect.  I’m not perfect.  Nobody is.  They don’t need to be, either.  And they definitely don’t need a perfect mom.

Imperfection is the new black, so stop beating yourselves up, moms.  Be kinder, gentler, easier on yourselves.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:

Good enough is still good.

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The Spirit of Christmas Past

Christmas is over.

I can’t say I’m sad about it, either.

For a number of reasons, I really didn’t have much self-created Christmas spirit this year.

It’s been bugging me since early December, but I’m trying to let it go.

As part of that, I’m sharing the most touching, good moments so far over the Christmas break:

1.  I totally scored with every single gift I bought my stepson.  This is a record.  He is not picky, but he has everything, and each year becomes harder and harder to buy for him.  This year I really had to rack my poor, tired brain to think of creative, fun, useful, educational gift ideas, but he LOVED every single one of them, and I was one happy mama, especially when he showed genuine appreciation for my efforts.

2.  Baby Girl opened a present from my parents that turned out to be a doll that she already has at home.  My mom began to pack it up for return to the store and told Baby Girl she could come along and pick something else she liked in place of the doll, but my sweet Sassypants had other ideas.

“I already have lots of dollies. Why don’t we give it to a boy or girl who doesn’t have any money and doesn’t get nice presents for Christmas instead, Nanny?” she suggested.

BUSTING.  WITH.  PRIDE.

3.  I’ve spent some really good times with my kids.  Not just sitting in the same room as them, using my iPhone or laptop.  I actually got down and dirty and made gingerbread with them, and ate a bunch for them as they were decorated.  I played old board games (You’ve got Trouble? Wait don’t run! THIS kind of Trouble is LOTS of fun!) and new games that Santa brought and genuinely talked with and listened to my kids.  I took Baby Girl to Disney on Ice with good friends and really chatted with her on the train ride there.  I held her hand in the scary parts of Walking with Dinosaurs.  I laughed with them.  I feel closer to them.  Nothing beats that.

4.  I watched my daughter – who prior to Christmas Day couldn’t stop talking about all the THINGS she wanted to get from Santa – get out of bed and show far more excitement about handing Huzbo and I the handmade pinecone glittered-to-the-max tree ornament she made at school and boxed in a self-decorated box, than she showed over almost all of the gifts Santa gave her.

5.  On Christmas morning, I finally woke up Baby Girl at 7:30am because I couldn’t wait any longer.  I crawled into her bed and wrapped my body around her sweet little warm curl.  As she slowly wakened, she asked if it was Christmas yet.  I told her it was and asked if she wanted to go see if Santa had brought her any gifts.  Her reply?

“In a minute, mommy.  The only present I want right now is for you to huggle me.”

MELT.

Turns out my Christmas spirit wasn’t something I had to find to create excitement and enthusiasm for myself and my family.

Christmas spirit was there all along – waiting to wrap its loving arms around my heart at the most unexpected moments.

Today, and Every Day

Four years.

Four years since I first looked into those dark eyes and was lost forever.

Four years since the Magistrate signed the papers declaring me her mother.

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How can four years feel like four seconds and forty years all rolled into one?

What a ride those four years have been.

I used to think parenting was about teaching your children –

four years have taught me that I am the student.

She is the balm that soothes my wounds.

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One gentle touch from her can make my day, one shoved-away attempt at affection can ruin it.

She is my world.  My destiny.  My life.

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I never expected motherhood to be so incredibly all-consuming, so powerful, so hard, yet so full of joy.

I never expected any of this.

Yet I’m still surprised daily.

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Surprised at my own motherly instinct to protect her, no matter what, at any expense.

Surprised at how quickly and easily she can push every emotional button I have, some of them unknown prior to motherhood.

Surprised at how easily my heart (and eyes) well up with pride at moments I never thought I’d experience before I became a mother.

Surprised at the explosions of love and affection that slam into me over and over and over again.

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So on this day, I celebrate her.  I celebrate this life that brought me to her.  I celebrate the gratitude I feel for having the privilege of knowing her, let alone being her mother.  I mourn her losses that brought her to me.  I mourn my losses that brought me to her.

Yet, my losses all seem worth it.

I know hers are not and it’s hard for me to acknowledge that if I had the power to make her losses disappear, I would also be making my presence in her life disappear, but I would do it if I could.  For her.  It’s so hard to speak of all my love and joy without acknowledging the pain that brought me that love and joy.

That’s the legacy of adoption, if you are honest about it.

However, today, we will celebrate.

We love her.  She loves us.  We are a family, and that is something to be celebrated.

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Today is our day to celebrate a myriad of circumstances, good and bad, that came together to turn four incomplete people into a complete family.

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Not-So-Hot Buns

Often people will ask me if I “did” my daughter’s hair.  I laugh.  They think it’s weird that I’m laughing, but they have NO idea how ridiculously incompetent I am in the hair-doing department.  With my OWN hair, nevermind a 5 year old black girl’s hair.

I take Baby Girl to a salon every 2 weeks to have her hair done, because I know my limitations and I find workarounds that compensate for them.  Usually.

For my own hair, I am extremely low maintenance.  I generally go with the high, messy bun-ish look, or the low, messy bun-ish look.  Sometimes I get fancy and do a messy ponytail or even a SIDE messy ponytail.  I rarely wear my shoulder-length hair down because I just can’t stand hair in my face or ears or mouth or eyes. It might be important to note at this point that all the messy-ness comes from the fact that I have naturally wavy/curly hair that is very fine and therefore very layered to make it look like there is more of it than there actually is.

I was recently waiting in line at Walmart and perusing the crap goods that they try to market to you in that location.  I generally don’t fall for that stuff, but something caught my eye that day:

hot buns full box

Yep.  A bun-maker.  But not a MESSY bun-maker!  A sleek, smooth, GLAMOROUS bun-maker!  A HOT BUNS bun-maker!  Like ALL the celebrities wear!  I could now carry my bun addiction into more formal settings!

SOLD!  Kim Kardashian – eat your heart out!

I paid my $14.98 for the “hot buns” Simple Styling Solution because I wanted  hot buns.  Not my messy, shaggy, do-it-yourself buns.  I wanted the buns that the girl on the box had.  I wanted to take my buns to a Whole. New. Level.

I read the box, noting the “Simple” and the “Roll, snap and wrap” part of the description instructions.

Hot buns Simple

It SAYS Simple, so it MUST be simple, right?

Hot Buns instructions

Roll, Snap & Wrap! Hearing Special Agent Oso singing “3 Special Steps” in my mind…

I was sweating with anticipation!  Simple was MY kinda styling technique!  I could DO this!

This is what the “Hot Buns” tool looked like before I put it into action:

Kinda creepy lookin' huh?

Kinda creepy lookin’ huh?

You put this thingy at the end of a ponytail (high or low, depending on your desired bun placement) and then roll the thingy up until it’s covered by your hair and near your scalp.  Then you make a donut with the hair-covered thingy and there are these little snaps that you press together to make it stay in the donut formation.  You wrap the little elastic band around the bun to keep it steady and PRESTO!  Beautiful, sleek, stylish bun (a bit of gel or styling pomade is optional, for flyaways, according to the enclosed leaflet).

Well, I think you all know where I’m heading with this story.

After 45 minutes in the mirror and tired, aching arms, here is what the last of my “HOT BUNS” looked like:

Why yes! I AM wear pyjama pants in this photo!

Why yes! I AM wear pyjama pants in this photo taken in my bathroom mirror!

I’ve accepted that cold buns are really where it’s at…

(My apologies to the manufacturer of Hot Buns.  I am 100% positive that the failure to create a Hot Bun in my hair had NOTHING to do with your product.)

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