Monday, October 29, 2012

That First Kiss Feeling (Monday Listicles #15)

Oh Monday Listicles…how I have missed you.  Life has just gotten too busy and I have been neglecting one of my favourite Blog linkups.

And I’m very glad that I am back this week because I love the topic – Firsts. I love when the subject matter is so open to interpretation…I mean I could go in so many directions with this post.  And as I considered all my options I kept coming back to one thought…first kisses.

Hubby and I have been together a very long time and while I love him and our life together – the one thing that I miss is that first kiss feeling.  Because that’s something that you can never really get back once you are in a long term relationship.

Even the first kiss after a long separation doesn’t compare to that first electric, hesitant moment so filled with promise and excitement.  I tell you – if some genius could figure out how to bottle that feeling – every woman I know would be lining up to buy it.

So – in honour of that elusive first kiss feeling – here is a list of firsts that I wish I could experience all over again. And don’t worry…I’m not going down a dirty road here…lets stay out of the gutter for this one post shall we?

First Hand Holding:
Very similar to the first kiss…but this is a first tentative touch of skin. Could be just your pinky fingers or maybe it was a full link of all fingers. Either way…total shivers…

not my pinky of course...but you get the picture
First time you got the job you REALLY wanted:
I was 24 and it was my first real office job.  I was over the moon to finally get out of retail and join the huddled masses in a downtown highrise.  I literally jumped for joy after I got off the phone.

First Dinner at a Fancy Restaurant:
Hubby and I were still babies – just 19 when we went for a Valentines Dinner at one of the cities nicest restaurants.  Both of us were in awe of our surroundings.  Especially when our waiter pulled a little metal device from his pocket and use it to neatly clean up our bread crumbs.  Ooh la la indeed.

I googled "crumb sweeper" - it looked just like this. Pure genius.
First Night in Your Own House:
We were way too young when we moved out together – that’s why our first attempt at co-habitation only lasted 4 months – but I loved the feeling of having our own place.  Sure it was decorated using hand me downs from various family members…but it was ours and ours alone. I felt like a real grown up.

Driving off the lot in your first new car:
A black Honda Civic that I LOVED. And no one had to co-sign for us…nope…we qualified for financing for that sucker all on our own.  Another further step into the land of the grown-ups.  And into increasing consumer debt.

First time someone calls you Mrs.:
After the wedding I was excited to change my name on all my identification. It was a long and arduous task but was oh so rewarding the first time I was called by my married name.  That Safeway cashier had no idea the impact she had on me.

First Time in a Foreign Land:
I will never forget the moment when I stepped out of the Gard du Nord Station and onto the streets of Paris.  It was like being transported to a different world. It was vibrant, exciting and terrifying all at the same time.  We were definitely not in Kansas anymore. 

First Positive Pregnancy Test:
We were in a hotel in London on our last hurrah trip to Europe. After 2 negative test the day before in Paris I was desperate for this damn stick to show a plus sign.  And when it did…we were in shock.  We hugged and exclaimed “oh my god” and then we got on with our day as tourists.  The first person we told was the inn keeper as he served us breakfast. He hugged me.  It was cool.

Holding your newborn for the first time:
This is a no brainer of course – what parent could ever forget this feeling.  For me it was so bittersweet in that I had to wait 12 hours to do it. Holding that tiny little bundle was a truly amazing moment because it meant the dawn of a whole new life for me...she made me a mother. 

oh so tiny...
Second time holding your newborn for the first time:
Okay…this is cheating a little bit but there is no way that this doesn’t make the list. The experience with my youngest was so different.  I held her right away…looked into her lovely face…and realized that I could actually love another person as much as I loved my first child.  Up until that point I didn’t think it was possible. And add to that the fact that I was pretty sure we were stopping at two and this would be my last first time holding my was a very emotional moment for sure.

please ignore my bloated, sickly face. focus on lovely newborn face instead.

There you have it…10 firsts I wish I could recreate.  Alas I will have to be content with reliving the memories.

What about you?  Any firsts you wish you could live all over again?  What did I miss?

Pumpkins and a Party...

Confession time…I don’t love Halloween.  It’s never been my favourite holiday.

Of course as a kid I loved to dress up and go out trick or treating…but I never really gave my costumes much thought.  I went with the crowd…picked whatever was cool at the time.  There was certainly never any creativity put into it.

And carving pumpkins?  Meh… I could take it or leave it really.

That all said – when I had my kids I made a deal with myself to not let my own preferences rub off on them.  I wanted them to make their own independent decisions about what they liked and what they didn't.

So for the past 6 Halloweens I have tried to make Halloween as much fun as possible.  We do everything you are supposed to do – trips to the pumpkin patch followed by carving our jack o’lanterns and roasting the seeds, costume shopping and Halloween make up, etc.

And you want to know something?  I still don’t love Halloween but it’s certainly starting to grow on me.

This week was all about Halloween in my house. And I must admit I was grateful for the escape from reality it has provided.  It’s been great to be able to unplug from all the troubles and focus on my kids and what makes them happy.

And that meant 2 separate trips to the pumpkin patch (both in the rain) and the throwing of a Halloween Party for all the kids in our complex.

First up – Pumpkin Patch Trip #1 with my youngest.

We have a fantastic local pumpkin patch…they go all out.  There are farm animals, hay rides, a dancing pumpkin and corn, free apples, mini-donuts and a Pumpkin Princess.  All of these things – it has to be said – are much better when enjoyed in the dry. 

Sadly…the Pacific Northwest in October is rarely that.  And this day was no exception.

Little T and I donned our requisite galoshes and rain gear and headed out into a lovely downpour with 17 of her closest friends (and their equally soggy parents).  It could have been a disaster…should have been a disaster…but it was actually a ton of fun.

Once I came to terms with the rain and the mud and the cold wind I was so taken by the enjoyment I saw in my daughters face. She was absolutely LOVING it…and so I decided to as well.

Our day in pictures:

we got there a little early and had some time to kill in the car...
not really sure what was going on here...
say cheese!

...self portrait taken by T.

a little rain couldn't dampen her smile!

trying to get  a group picture. everyone say "matching muddy buddies"
rain boots...

on the hay wagon...heading out to the patch.

Getting closer to the patch...friends are getting excited!


somebody LOVED the mud...and only fell down 6 times!
The best apple ever!
Of course the pumpkin she picked turned out to be completely rotten and we had to throw it out…but no big deal because there was always Pumpkin Patch trip #2.

Friday morning I headed back to the patch – this time with my oldest and her grade one class.  It was raining even harder this day and I was again having trouble psyching myself up for the day ahead.

With my little one it was just her that I was responsible for – it was like it was our own private little field trip.  This time however I was assigned 3 other kids to watch over. So four kids to account for at all times, four pumpkins to carry, four noses to wipe, four hoods to keep pulling back up.  Awesome.

Not surprisingly…it wasn't nearly as enjoyable a trip as the last one.  But I still loved watching the joy on my daughters face…and riding on a school bus for the first time in over 16 years!

Another day at the pumpkin patch in pictures:

School bus flashback...
we’re heeeeereeee

my little group for the day.

on the hay ride...

sooo muddy...

still smiling...just barely.

finding some hay to chuck around helped a lot!

high fiving with Korny Korn.

another day...another apple.
By the time I left my daughter’s classroom I was in dire need of a shower and a nap.  But I still had much to do – for the next day – I had committed to putting on a Halloween Party for all the kids in our complex.   And that meant decorations to buy, sandwiches and treats to make and more…

A little background on how this party came to pass.  For more than 20 years one or more of my family members have lived in my apartment complex.  My aunt was the first to buy in – and we rented from her for a while – then my mum bought in and my grandparents followed not far behind.

When my aunt lived her and my cousin was little there were kids running around everywhere – I think there were kids living in practically every unit.  So of course there were tons of kid’s events – Easter egg hunts, Canada Day fireworks, Christmas parties and – of course – Halloween parties complete with costumes and pumpkin carving.

They were all awesome…I remember enjoying them so much even though I was a fickle teenager by that time.  When we bought my mum’s apartment 4 years ago I expected that it would be much the same – kids everywhere.  It was one of the key selling points.

But that wasn't the case – the place was a wasteland in terms of kids.  For the first year we were here I don’t remember seeing (or hearing) one other kid. It was a big disappointment.  We spent a lot of solo days in the playground.

And then – it all changed – there was either a huge influx of families that bought into the place…or they all came out of hibernation at once.  The park was full of laughing kids, the roadways full of bikes with novice riders.

When our oldest started kindergarten - 4 of the 18 kids were from our complex. Bonds were formed between the kids…and similar bonds were formed between the parents.

It was the kind of community I had always wanted to raise my kids in.  And it got me thinking about the days of old…and all the parties I had attended with my cousin.

I decided to bring up the subject with the other mum’s from the complex and see if they wanted to help bring the kids parties back to “The Cove” (the dated moniker given to our common room).

They were all on board and the 5 of us put our heads together to form a plan.

Saturday afternoon – in the midst of another dreary downpour – The Cove was transformed into a haunted house and played host to more than 20 kids and their families.

It was – in a word – FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!!! 

Kids and adults alike had a great time.  We played games, coloured and ate ate ate.  My god the food…so much sugar…I don’t think I have come down from high yet.

The party in pictures:

Let the party begin!

musical mats...

table decor

Busting out the TP...

...time to turn our volunteer dads...

...into mummies.

both dads were such good sports...

...but need to work on their mummy moves.

a selection of the less-shy kids and their awesome costumes!

The kids reacting to the story of how a Zombie came to lose his brains...

Love the look of horror on my girls face!

brains in a pot!


time to carve some pumpkins.

design by committee...

this is what the day was all about!

As soon as the party was over the other mum’s and I were already talking about what we can do for Christmas.

The tradition continues...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reality Bites (Quotable Bits #18)

No one that knows me well would accuse me of being an overly positive person.  I'm no Debbie Downer either...but rather I am a realist. I try to deal with all situations in a logical manner.  I weigh my options and make the best possible decisions based on facts. 

No matter what I have faced in the past - when I try to focus on a positive outcome - for the most part I have been satisfied with the outcome. Until now…until this past week pretty much came out of nowhere and totally bitch slapped me.

I was unprepared for it. Even foolishly thinking that we had turned a corner and might finally be on a path towards achieving some of our goals and actually getting ahead.

But life had other plans...

There is no doubt about it...this past week I have been mighty depressed.  I have felt literally weighed down by life. And I have definitely been bringing everyone else around me down too.  This sadness thing is contagious it seems.

My kids for sure have been feeling the brunt of my negativity.  My fuse is so incredibly short these days…the smallest thing sets me off.

I told hubby today that I think that this past week has been the worst of my life. Maybe even worse than when our oldest daughter was born and spent several weeks fighting for her life in the NICU.

I felt guilty even saying that out loud. 

Because how could this week – with its work challenges and sinus colds and toddler temper tantrums and promise of financial ruin – even compare with watching your child struggle for each breath?

“We had hope and faith back then,” hubby said oh so matter of fact-ly. “We believed she would be okay. But I don’t believe anything about this situation will be okay.”

Damn…sometimes that man can just nail it on the head. 

I’m outta faith…I’m outta hope.  And try as I might…I can’t stop feeling sorry for myself.  I just want to curl up in a ball and sleep for days.

But the realist in me knows that I can’t continue like this.  I need to come to terms with what I am facing and allow myself to see the good again. 

Because in the midst of all my sorrow…there is so much good.  There is love in my life.  There is laughter in my home.  And for now…this is still our home.

What I need to remember is that my home is not defined by the walls around me or the roof above me. It is defined by the life we live inside it…by each member of my little family.

So…I am pulling myself up by the bootstraps…and am going to make every attempt to put an end to my tragic little pity party.

I can’t change what has happened…but I can control how I deal with it and how much I let it consume me.

And I will look to one of my favourite quotes to help me achieve this.  This mantra has gotten me through many rough times before…

So bring it on “week after the week after everything fell apart”…you can’t nearly be as bad as the last one.

Can it?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

And the walls came crashing down…

Last night we got news that our condo buildings need major repairs.  I mean MAJOR repairs.  We aren’t talking about doing a few patches…we are talking about buildings that have basically been neglected for 35 years and are now literally crumbling around us.

Total expected cost of these repairs? $6.2 MILLION DOLLARS.  (And no that’s not a typo…although I wish to god it was.)  And with only 75 units to share the cost that breaks down to almost a cool $85,000 each.   


Last night, as I sat listening to the building engineer highlight all that was wrong with our buildings – and it was a long list – I could only laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.  He even said at one point that the owners he felt the most sorry for was those that had bought 3 years ago – at the peak of the market – and had been hit with multiple special assessments already.

He wasn’t talking directly to me but he may as well have.  Because that’s us.  The poor suckers that bought a money pit…a place that the value has only depreciated since we signed on the dotted line.

So because some jackass strata council members – most of whom have long since moved on - decided to ignore major maintenance issues and only patch what was visibly broken…our little family may lose our home all together.

Because let’s be honest…how are we supposed to come up with almost $100,000?  We would get laughed out of the bank because - as the saying goes – you can’t get blood from a stone.  Even if you say pretty please… (trust me, I tried.)

The last several years have been the darkest for us financially. Two kids in full time daycare, hubby making a career switch that in the short term had him laid off every winter, buying the money pit apartment that saddled us with special assessments from the get-go, etc. etc.

And just when we were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel…we get hit with this.

Sigh…I feel like I am constantly cycling through the 7 stages of grief over and over and over again.  I know that sounds a little dramatic…I mean no one is sick, no one has died.

But in a way…this is kind of like a death. It’s the death of our dream of one day owning a house.  We always knew that in this crazy Vancouver real estate market achieving that dream would be tough.  And so we were content to wait it out in our little apartment because we are happy here.  And because at least we were “in the market”.

Now – faced with the possibility of losing that apartment and walking away with nothing to show for it but increased debt…well…that just pretty much sucks.

I’m a planner…I find comfort in knowing what comes next. I like certainty. I need to be grounded.  And I wanted that for my children too.  So this situation – which is completely beyond my control – has thrown me off my game completely.

I am angry. I am sad.  But most of all…I am afraid.  Because I can see no positive outcome to this situation. All roads lead to unhappy endings.

So much for the best laid plans. I need a drink.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Things I Wish I Wrote: "The Mom Stays in the Picture"

There are times when I read an article and it speaks to me so clearly and hits me so hard that I can't help but think "Man...I wish I had written that."

And this article - by Allison Tate - is one such article. Reading it I realized just how often I am guilty of taking myself out of the picture.  And how much I need to change that...

not a perfect shot...but a memory was captured forever.

The Mom Stays in the Picture 
by Allison Tate

Last weekend, my family traveled to attend my oldest niece's Sweet Sixteen party. My brother and sister-in-law planned this party for many months and intended it to be a big surprise, and it included a photo booth for the guests.

I showed up to the party a bit late and, as usual, slightly askew from trying to dress myself and all my little people for such a special night out. I'm still carrying a fair amount of baby weight and wearing a nursing bra, and I don't fit into my cute clothes. I felt awkward and tired and rumpled.

I was leaning my aching back against the bar, my now 5-month-old baby sleeping in a carrier on my chest (despite the pounding bass and dulcet tones of LMFAO blasting through the room) when my 5-year-old son ran up to me.

"Come take pictures with me, Mommy," he yelled over the music, "in the photo booth!"

I hesitated. I avoid photographic evidence of my existence these days. To be honest, I avoid even mirrors. When I see myself in pictures, it makes me wince. I know I am far from alone; I know that many of my friends also avoid the camera.

It seems logical. We're sporting mama bodies and we're not as young as we used to be. We don't always have time to blow dry our hair, apply make-up, perhaps even bathe (ducking). The kids are so much cuter than we are; better to just take their pictures, we think.

But we really need to make an effort to get in the picture. Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves -- women, mamas, people living lives. Avoiding the camera because we don't like to see our own pictures? 
How can that be okay?

Too much of a mama's life goes undocumented and unseen. People, including my children, don't see the way I make sure my kids' favorite stuffed animals are on their beds at night. They don't know how I walk the grocery store aisles looking for treats that will thrill them for a special day. They don't know that I saved their side-snap, paper-thin baby shirts from the hospital where they were born or their little hospital bracelets in keepsake boxes high on the top shelves of their closets. They don't see me tossing and turning in bed wondering if I am doing an okay job as a mother, if they are okay in their schools, where we should take them for a vacation, what we should do for their birthdays. I'm up long past the news on Christmas Eve wrapping presents and eating cookies and milk, and I spend hours hunting the Internet and the local Targets for specially-requested Halloween costumes and birthday presents. They don't see any of that.

Someday, I want them to see me, documented, sitting right there beside them: me, the woman who gave birth to them, whom they can thank for their ample thighs and their pretty hair; me, the woman who nursed them all for the first years of their lives, enduring porn star-sized boobs and leaking through her shirts for months on end; me, who ran around gathering snacks to be the week's parent reader or planning the class Valentine's Day party; me, who cried when I dropped them off at preschool, breathed in the smell of their post-bath hair when I read them bedtime stories, and defied speeding laws when I had to rush them to the pediatric ER in the middle of the night for fill-in-the-blank (ear infections, croup, rotavirus).

I'm everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won't be here -- and I don't know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now -- but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.

When I look at pictures of my own mother, I don't look at cellulite or hair debacles. I just see her -- her kind eyes, her open-mouthed, joyful smile, her familiar clothes. That's the mother I remember. My mother's body is the vessel that carries all the memories of my childhood. I always loved that her stomach was soft, her skin freckled, her fingers long. I didn't care that she didn't look like a model. She was my mama.
So when all is said and done, if I can't do it for myself, I want to do it for my kids. I want to be in the picture, to give them that visual memory of me. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped around them in a hug, how loved they are.

I will save the little printed page with four squares of pictures on it and the words "Morgan's Sweet Sixteen" scrawled across the top with the date. There I am, hair not quite coiffed, make-up minimal, face fuller than I would like -- one hand holding a sleeping baby's head, and the other wrapped around my sweet littlest guy, who could not care less what I look like.