Often one step away from paranoia, Bob and Kathleen explore their experiences of being parents and working at home. They chronicle their thoughts and interpretations of the everyday, of the ordinary that often times is extraordinary.
It’s happened to everyone: you’re lying in bed and a list of things you
need for the morning starts running through your head. Most of us just get up,
quickly jot down the list, and go back to bed unencumbered by pesky and
potentially panic-inducing details. When you’re only 11, however, you don’t
necessarily think of making that list. Nor does the list of things come all at
once. Cue: sleepless night for Mom.
Milo’s class organized a Cafe afternoon with their French teacher to put
their current unit into practice. Each student was responsible for bringing in a
food item, either juice or water or small baked goods, like one would find at a
cafe. Then as a class they created a menu and common phrases they would need to
serve customers. An invitation was sent to parents to attend their French Cafe
after lunch. It was quite lovely: the desks were arranged in groups and set with
table cloths and fake candles, students wore aprons and berets, dress shirts and
ties, and French music (think Edith Piaf) played in the background. The night
before all this, however, was not quite so quaint.
About 45 minutes after Milo went to bed he knocked on our door. “Mom, do
you know where my tie is?” Yes, Milo, it should be in your closet. Go back to
The second knock came about 30 minutes later. “Mom, I need my good shirt.
Do you know where it is?” Yes, Milo, it’ll be in the closet with your tie. Now
go to sleep!
The last straw – I mean, the third knock woke me at 11:30 pm. “Mom, did you
make the muffins?” No, remember you said I could bring them in at lunch, so I’ll
make them in the morning. “But, no! I need to bring them with me in the
So up I got, mixed up a double batch of banana oat muffins and set my alarm
for 6:30 am to bake them. All while Milo slept soundly, his pesky list all
safely jotted down in my head.
I remember hearing a story about Albert Einstein being so absent-minded that his wife would have to wait for him when he walked home from work. She would watch him approach the house then, apparently, forget where he was going and turn around and head back to work. It is this type of story that gives us hope, as parents, that our children will not struggle forever.
Sometimes our children are brilliant beyond their years. Ask 11-year-old Milo about Quantum Physics and he’ll grab a few props to demonstrate time-bending. He can name all the US States and their capitals (and we’re Canadian!) and can rhyme off all sorts of stats like nobody’s business. But ask him to go put socks on, and you will wait a very long time only for him to return with a book. And bare feet.
The other day Milo went into the freezer for ice cubes. He took out the full tray and struggled to get the ice out. “Ugh! These are all frozen!” he groaned in frustration as he returned it to the freezer.
Well, we survived March Break here at
ContestHound. Because we are a home-run business, we had our three lovelies home
with us for the entire week. We certainly didn’t get as much work done during
the week as we normally would, but we’ve never really had too much problem
keeping them entertained. Mostly because they’ve always been good at
So what did our kids do during their 10 long
days? Besides our regular karate and mom-torturing kick boxing classes, there
were visits with friends, a trip to the toy store, hours spent texting and
face-timing, and the mandatory outside play that I enforced every day. Milo also
spent three nights with a good friend at a cottage on Lake Huron, which was
unquestionably the best part for him.
The best part for me, however, was
Milo and Willa “camping out” in the living room for the first half of the week.
Willa had a friend stay the night the first weekend of the break and, instead of
putting the sleeping bags away (or perhaps to get out of that chore), she asked
if she and Milo could have a sleepover too. I thought this was pretty sweet:
I’ve always loved that these two play so well together (when they’re not
fighting, of course) and I rarely object or interrupt when I witness it. I’m
surprised and thankful that, at 11-1/2 and 10 years old, they’re still such good
friends and include each other. Apparently Milo was thinking the same thing. "We
should do this every night for March Break, Willa. ‘Cause when I’m 12, I
probably won’t want to anymore."
Although I didn’t sense any
disappointment or hurt feelings from Willa, I decided to camp out with her while
Milo was away. Because, just as you hit an age to be too old for something, you
will hit another age where you’re never too old for it!
Our kids have been taking karate lessons for about three years and the younger two have just earned their blue belts. This means they are about a year and half from earning a Junior Black Belt. Milo has embraced each advancement with the same commitment he gives any sport. Willa, on the other hand, became increasingly nervous as she approached this new belt, despite her obvious talent for the martial arts.
The dojo where our kids practise offers mixed classes every day of the week, so one day you might be the highest belt in the class and the next you will be the lowest rank. In each class, the lower belts are encouraged to keep up with the highest belt level in that particular class. Now that they have reached blue belt, Milo and Willa will always be the lower ranked students and, therefore, will need to keep up with the junior black belts. They’re not expected to perform at that level, certainly, but the core drills are tougher and this is done deliberately, to gradually prepare the lower belts for the endurance training required for black belt. And this is where Willa’s anxiety ratchets up: she feels intimidated by the power and keen focus demonstrated by these older kids. And this, unfortunately, is where I get dragged in.
I have become more and more sedentary in my lifestyle over the last year or two and have the waistline to prove it. Not to mention the fact that I can’t seem to make it up to the office in the loft without become breathless. (That last flight of stairs is mercilessly/unnaturally/heartlessly steep!) I have been making honest but feeble efforts to be more healthy. But I am not a “go to the gym” person and have learned that I need to go with a friend if I’m going to get anything out a fitness class. I discovered this after I took a 10 week boot camp with a few friends and had a blast, but barely enjoyed my trial month in kick boxing class at the dojo. Oh, did I mention the dojo also offers kick boxing classes? Yes, not only does it offer kick boxing classes, but I sit listening to them while I wait for my kids in their karate classes. And, yes, I have been doing this for about three years. I have also known for half that time that parents of karate students can join kick boxing classes for half price.
Now, before you start filling my inbox with “what the heck have you been waiting for?!” emails, let it be known that last night I signed up for kick boxing – a six month commitment even! And I did it, in part, for Willa. When she was expressing her anxiety about her new classes being “too hard”, I asked if it would help if I were to do kick boxing while she was doing karate. That way we could face the challenge together. When her face lit up I knew I was sunk – I mean, sold. I was sold! Because we do things for our kids, that somehow end up being equally as beneficial for ourselves.
So yesterday as I was anxiously getting my gear together I told the kids they needed to bring something to keep them occupied for the half hour while they waited for my class to end. Milo grabbed his iPod and Willa told me, “Oh, I have something to keep me amused. I’m gonna watch you!”
As I sit here, neck muscles tight as a rod, abs whining and quads screaming, I think I may have gotten the fuzzy end of the lollipop on this deal.
It’s time again for a musical production
at the kids’ elementary school. This year they’re putting on “Oliver!” and both
Milo and Willa are participating. Willa, who’s in Gr. 4, is in the ensemble
dance numbers but because Milo is in Gr. 6, he had the option of having a
speaking part. Because the school is small, no auditions are held – students
only had to sign up for the part they wanted. So Milo will be one of two
Rehearsals have gone into full swing now, one week before the
show. And today a photographer was in after lunch to take head shots of the lead
roles. I am at the school every day to do lunch hour supervision so when I
brought the students down to the gym for photos, I enjoyed watching some of the
kids posing for the camera.
The first few girls I watched looked only
vaguely uncomfortable taking directions from the photographer. Certainly Willa
would have been more than happy to strike a pose had she been there! But as I
looked at the group of kids waiting their turn, horsing around and being silly,
I wondered how that photographer was going to get all those 11- and 12-year-old
boys to do anything but “awkward” for the camera. I can’t remember the last time
Milo didn’t make a goofy face in a picture. So I left the gym, unable to handle
the pressure of watching my kid – wonderful and beautiful as he is – pull one of
his beaming but forced ear-to-ear, bug-eyed grins. And I will have to consider
bringing an extra 5x7 glossy of one of his less crazy faces when I go to the
show next week. Just in case a replacement photo is needed!
The flu has hit
the Gunther family. We're not quarantined certainly and nobody's confined to bed
rest or subsisting on NeoCitran and Tylenol. Thankfully (I think) it seems to be
getting us only one at a time, first with a day of "blah" followed by a day or
two of fever, sore throat, headache and coughing, then several days of hacking
up a lung.
We certainly learn a lot about one's character when one is
sick, though, don't we? No, not moral character, but that of physical fortitude.
Milo was the first to be hit but he suffers so quietly and solitarily, I didn't
even know he had a sore throat until he told me that's why he hadn't been
eating. For two days! Good thing too, I guess, since he's the kid who refuses
anything that is outside his rather limited repertoire of acceptable edibles,
even if it might make him feel better. Not even good old fashioned chicken
Willa, on the other hand, began complaining about not feeling well
on the first day of feeling "blah". She is somewhat more needy than her brother
and certainly is more vocal about how miserable she is feeling. I don't blame
her, of course. Nobody enjoys being sick. Even when you're 10 years old and it
means missing school, getting out of chores and staying in bed with books and
your iPod all day.
Neva, the oldest, hasn't come down with anything - and
hopefully won't. But I know that she's like her sister and
requires more attention.
What I've noticed, however, is no matter how
different each kid's need for comfort is during the day, it's a level playing
field when the lights go out. Each one wants my company at bed time. Whether
it's to hold a cool cloth to their forehead, or to lie down with them or to
simply "stay here a little", they just want Mom. I might fuss and complain about
how little work I get done during the day with all the extra requests and
interruptions, but night time is different. I feel I need to be with them as
much as they need me. So I’ll be there. And I will be there when they're 20
years old and still just need a little TLC.
I just hope by then Milo
will finally eat some chicken soup!
I might not be
the kind of Canadian that plays hockey or spends weekends snowmobiling or
skiing, but I am a true Canadian who loves the beauty of the snow and,
occasionally, loves to play in it. Not always, however, in particular after I've
had a tiring day. Unless the stakes are high enough apparently...
night on the drive back from karate, almost-10-year-old Willa asked if I would
play outside with her when we got home. Although I knew I would likely enjoy
myself, I had had a busy day and I still had things to do before I was
"Maybe Milo will play with you," I suggested, looking to her older
brother beside her in the backseat.
"No," he responded, "when I get home
I have to practise my clarinet."
Knowing exactly how to work this to her
advantage, Willa said: "See Mom? Now you'll really want to come outside
As the youngest of nine children, I was
often accused of being the "spoiled baby" of the family. I have never understood
why my siblings would take it out on me, though, since I had nothing to do with
either being the last born or having (alleged) extra attention paid to me.
Whatever their reasons, I think I now understand why parents might dote
on their youngest more than the others. It's not because the baby is smarter or
better looking than the older sibs (well, that may have been the case in my
family, but anyway...) It's because getting older means life gets more
complicated. And so too does the teen or young adult going through those awkward
stages. We parents are simply trying to cling to the innocence of the younger
years. Let's face it: while it might be sweet to hear your 4-year-old tell you
about all the boys who kissed her at recess, it's not cute anymore when it's
your 14-year-old telling you the same thing. And the schoolyard problems of the
8-year-old have far fewer long-lasting consequences than the teen whose
highschool is in the downtown core and across the street from a methadone
I now have one kid fully entrenched in the drama and hardships
of adolescence and another banging on its door. So it is understandable that I
might indulge my not quite 10 year old and her childhood whims. "Mom, will you
colour with me?" Absolutely! Break out the crayons. "Can you build a snowman
with me?" Let me get my boots on. "Mom will you lie down with me when you tuck
me in tonight?" I would love to, the laundry can wait. "Mom, will you watch 'Dog
With a Blog' with me?" Okay, so maybe not all her whims.
she left for school this morning, Willa didn't ask but told me I had to look
after Mabel. Is Mabel her sick guinea pig or pet goldfish, you ask? No, she is
one of Willa's many baby dolls. Not just any baby doll, Mabel is the one that
Willa fell in love with the moment her sensor-embedded bottom touched her
sensor-receptive potty and made a tinkling sound. Bob and I have been charged
with Mabel's care before and since she is an exceptionally well-behaved baby
doll, I agreed to look after her again today. And so I find myself with Mabel.
When Willa asks me to look after her baby, I don't just put it out of my
mind until she walks through the door after school. Nope, this mom brings Mabel
with her around the house to engage and stimulate her tiny mind. We read
stories, do laundry, wash dishes, maybe have a playdate and occasionally get
some work done at the computer. You may wonder if I actually accomplish anything
on these days. Well, no, not much really... But I document what I've done with
Mabel so Willa can have a good idea of how Mabel's day went. (All the best
daycares do this, I'm told.) Besides, Willa loves to see the pictures of Mabel's
day and I love to see the smile on Willa's face when she looks through them.
After all, if I am trying to hang on to the sweetness of my baby's
childhood for as long as I can, what's the harm in indulging in it myself? I
can't keep her from growing up and all too soon she won't be so eager to play
with me. So I will revel in it while I can. I will colour with her, play
hairdresser, make snow angels and drink hot chocolate with marshmallows. And if
my kids can't stay young forever, I suppose I will always have Mabel!