I really should not be posting, but…

28 05 2008

It is just after midnight, and I should be in bed. Phase one of the Blister Family’s official re-location is about to begin and I have to be awake in 6 hours. In 10 hours I have to get on an airplane with my 3 kids. And our tranquillized cat. I have to be as calm, cool, and collected as possible. I’m sort of wishing I could take the cat’s tranqs. But I know the cat needs them more than I do. In 13 hours, I’ll be trapped settled in a hotel room with my three kids. Our tranquillized cat will be at a swanky cat hotel. 36 hours from now, I’ll be in a van with my 3 kids and 2 parents, on the way to their little house in the big woods where we’ll be trapped vacationing for a few days. I’ll need to be on. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. At the top of my game. I need to be able to sing silly songs, read stories, breast feed the baby, and deal with the outside world simultaneously. For hours on end. Able to carry kids and cats and baggage. Able to avert crises of all sorts before anyone else even realizes there is a crisis. Yeah, I should be asleep instead of writing this post. But my mind is racing. My adrenaline is surging. And this feels like the first moment I’ve had to myself in days. To hell with tomorrow, I need that cat tranquilizer now. But I’ll settle for a glass of wine. And for a few hours, my mind and my body can forget about what needs to happen when I wake. I can forget about boxes and bags and dealing with the outside world. I can just sleep in my own bed next to my darling Mister, which I won’t be doing for a while after tonight since he’ll be staying here to pack and drive our life half way across the country, then taking a few days to set up our new home before we officially move in. Tomorrow is just the beginning. I’ll do my best to get some posts up in a couple of days’ time. But right now, the cat tranquilizer wine is kicking in, so I really should be in bed. I’ve got a big day ahead of little old me.


May Moving Mayhem

21 05 2008

No time to write a proper post. No time to collect thoughts and string together words in coherent fashion. No time to go into a detailed chronicle of all the things I don’t have time for. The Big Move will officially be in motion this time next week, and despite the dozens of boxes we’ve crammed full of belongings, it seems like the ol’ Blisterdome is messier, more cluttered, more disorganized than ever. And it has certainly been an eventful few days. There have been many little happenings that I could have easily parlayed into a post. If only I could learn to write in my sleep. Add that to list of things to do. So, here’s a highlight reel, Domestic Blister Style:

Friday, Last Week: Took Neener to optometrist. Unsurprised to learn that she needs glasses. With the enthusiastic aid of two well-coifed, doting, middle aged women who, much to her pleasure, call her Young Lady, Neener selects her own specs: Chunky purple cat’s eye Nine Wests. The well-coifed women proclaim them adorable. Neener proclaims them ‘Her New Glasses.’ I proclaim them ex-pen-sive. But, like a good doormat, I shut my trap and pay the bill, only slightly jealous that my five year old now has nicer, more fashionable, more expensive glasses than I do. Or at least she will on Friday this week when we go pick them up.

Leaving without Her New Glasses proved a struggle for Neener. The walk down the street was accompanied by periodic wails of “I can’t see! I’m blind! I neeeeeeeeed my new glasses now!”

I encourage acting calm, like the Young Lady that she is.

“Yes, I am a young Lady.” she agrees. “And what’s the other thing young Ladies need?”

 I’m stumped. “Lunch?” 

“No. A purse. Let’s go get me a nice purse so I can be a real Young Lady.”

She settles for lunch at a hip Mediterranean Bistro. Young Lady likes her chicken nuggets and fries.

Saturday: In the pack and purge process, we open the Emergency Trunk we stocked in the wake of the Original 9-11. Have a good laugh at what we figured we’d need. A flask of rum. Birth control pills. Deodorant. Apparently we anticipated some post- apocalyptic date nights. Also find monogramed gas masks, coffee whitener and several jars of applesauce. Learn that jarred applesauce turns green after 7 years.

Sunday, 4 a.m.: Baby Squiggles and I wake up simultaneously. From between her crib bars, she looks me squarely in the eyes and says, clear as day, “Bub bub bub, ma ma ma.” Ma ma gets up and gives her a bub bub. Not sure if this means Squiggles is starting to speak human, or if I’m starting to understand baby. Either way, I am too tired to be sufficiently impressed or alarmed. 

Monday: Me and my BFF (a.k.a Second Wife) take Neener and Roo to Kids Festival thingy downtown. We proceed to wait in various lines. After 40 minutes, Neener and Roo finally get their balloon hats. we decide to forgo waiting in line at the food tent only to have to eat outside in the cold, wind and drizzle, and opt for a more civilized sit-down ladies’ lunch at a nice restaurant. Kids enjoy chicken nuggets and fries, Second Wife and I enjoy half litre of over-priced wine. The afternoon pleasentry comes to abrupt end when Roo tumbles backwards in her chair, smacking her head so hard on the concrete floor that she can’t stand and asks repeatedly where she is. I panic. Second wife stays calm, which is why she is Second Wife. I take Roo to a nearby ER, Second Wife calls the Mr, and takes Neener home. Mr meets me at the ER with Roo’s health card, and upon seeing him, she can magically walk and talk just fine. We look around at the throng of people, and listen to the loud complaints of a large, stinky family who’d been waiting for 2 hours. We talk to the nurse and decide to go home, where Second wife waits with Neener and Squiggles.

Working carefully around the massive bump on her head, I put Roo’s hair in rag ringlettes. Working less carefully around the bird’s nest tangles on her head, I put Neener’s hair in rag ringlettes, and we see the children off to bed. Mr. Blister, Second Wife and I enjoy a few drinks and a plate of nachos. I officially propose to BFF/Second Wife, in the hopes that she will move with us. She declines. I smile on the outside but cry on the inside as I knock back another vodka n’ soda.

Tuesday: Neener and Roo head off to school with a bevy of lovely curls in their hair. Roo proclaimes that she is now “A Real Girl With Curly Yellow Hair!” I don’t have the heart to tell her that her hair is brown. I worry that I may be forced to put their hair in rag ringlettes every night from now on. I wonder if perms are ok for five year olds?

  Roo and I go to Little India for shopping and lunch. I buy the first decor item for our soon-to-be new home: An awesome handmade wall hanging. We learn that paying with cash means paying no tax. We window shop a little, then go to a vegetarian Indian restaurant and gorge ourselves on chana masala, samosas, uthapam and mango lassi. When we arrive home, Roo proclaims our afternoon Beautiful! and informs me that I must learn to make mango lassi. Add finding mango lassi recipe to my to do list.

Wednesday: Mr. Blister informs me that Squiggle’s first word when she woke up this morning was ‘yoga.’ I tell him it is a sign: Either stop drinking beer for breakfast, or start doing yoga. 

Yes, life trudges along in spite of the chaos. The next week is bound to be even more hectic, and I’m sure I’ll have more stories to tell. Just not sure if I’ll get many chances to tell them here in a timely manner. But it is on my to do list. Ahhh, there are so many loose ends to tie up! Did I get the job? Is Squiggles really starting to talk? How does Neener like wearing her glasses? Did Roo talk me into perming her hair and dying it blond so she could be a real girl? Is Mr. Blister going to take up yoga? Stay tuned to find out.

The Wonderful World of Human Food

18 05 2008

She sat there near the table, drooling. Howling. She seemed to be begging for a scrap of the delicious meal we were enjoying. That’s when I figured it was time. Time for, as Neener so aptly describes it, “Human Food.” No, the she I speak of is not a puppy. We are not nearly insane enough to have a dog just yet. She is baby Squiggles, and she has made it clear that she wants human food. Now. Before she gums her own toes off. For the first five and a half months of her life, Squiggles has enjoyed an eclectic mix of breast milk and Enfamil A+ formula. However, neither breast milk nor formula is really considered human food here in the Blisterdome. The formula is a mixture of modified milk-like food products and expertly engineered nutrients that smells like a blend of eau d’goldfish, sugar and chalk, and tastes like liquid feet. Luckily for me, Squiggles likes the taste of feet. She doesn’t yet realize that feet taste pretty bad. As for the breast milk, well, the official line on that is that breast milk is only for babies. As I’ve had to remind Neener and Roo on numerous occasions, when they’ve complained of thirst and suggested nonchalantly that a sip of breast milk would hit the spot. Since that’s a big fat NO to breast feeding my five year olds, the point had to be made loud and clear: Breast milk is only for babies. And according to Neener and Roo, babies are not quite human. They see Squiggles more as a glorified puppy than a person, and therefore anything she has consumed up to this point does not meet their strict criteria for human food. So as Squiggle’s envious supper time protests grew louder and more insistent, it was obvious what needed to be done. Squiggles needed human food.

One morning a few weeks ago, Neener, Roo and I gathered around Squiggle’s chair with all the essentials for Squiggle’s first human food meal. Cute little baby spoon with smiling frog face? Check. Bib that fails to close around her chubby little neck and so must be firmly wedged beneath her chubbier little chins? Check. Oatmeal “cereal” watered down to the point of appropriate liquidity? Check. Big sisters with their own bowls of oatmeal, and orders to demonstrate proper eating technique? Check. With spoons poised, and an electric anticipation crackling in the air, I made the obligatory airplane noises and flew that first bite of human food to Squiggle’s little mouth, which remained tightly shut. Until, through the magic of mimicry, Squiggles got the hint by watching her much adored big sisters shoveling oatmeal into their gaping gobs. Mental note: Do not use Neener and Roo to teach Squiggle’s proper eating etiquette. In went a spoonful of mush. And out came the same spoonful of mush. Then back in went the same spoonful of mush, until finally, Squiggles got the hang of eating like a human. 

But the fun food frenzy was short lived. Within days, Squiggle’s bum had erupted into an angry red rash. The type of rash I formerly proclaimed could only be the result of diaper negligence. When I laid off on the cereal, the rash went away. When I re-tried the cereal, the rash came back with a vengeance. So, a few weeks ahead of schedule, we’ve moved on to even more human food. Real food. And I’m not talking about the shit they stick in jars and call baby food. Back when Neener and Roo were brand new to the world of human food I made the mistake of licking a bit of jarred baby pea puree off my hand. After my gagging fit subsided, I decided that if I was going to spend the next few years covered in the food my kids were eating, I’d bloody well better be able to stomach licking it off my hands. So I went out and got a bag of frozen peas, cooked them well and mashed them through a strainer. It was nothing short of amazing. They were a bright, fresh shade of green instead of a weird sickly greenish-grey. They smelled like peas and tasted like peas and did not make me gag. And Neener and Roo loved them. Then I discovered homemade sweet potatoes. And apples. And carrots. And green beans. Even chicken. All fresh and real and custom mashed to adjust the texture and consistency as Roo and Neener grew. Yes, it takes a little more time and preparation, but it beats the hell out of the creepy coloured food-like slime in the jars. Just taste that stuff some time, I dare you. So as a die-hard DIY baby food convert, I am thrilled that Squiggles is taking a rain check on the cereal. Now I can start creating proper feasts fit for a little human.  

Last week, as per the new recommendations that protein should be introduced before vegetables because babies need the iron, Squiggles tried chicken. Today, it was sweet potatoes. I could say that Squiggles savored every bite of her new adventures in the world of human food. That she smiles and coos ‘Mmmmmm’ as I pop spoonfuls of freshly mushed human food into her waiting mouth. Just as I remember Neener and Roo doing when they were her age. But if I said that, I’d be lying. There are no eager ‘Mmmmmms’, no smiles during Squiggle’s daily meal. Now, that’s not to say that she doesn’t enjoy what she is being fed. She does. Thoroughly. But rather than focussing on eating the food, she is clearly more interested in trying to wrestle the spoon from my hand. Or in giving herself a sweet potato facial. Or in putting her feet in her mouth to wash down a spoonful of pureed chicken. And that’s ok. I’m not going to rush it. This is all new to her. I know I can’t expect her to act like a mini gourmand just because I took the time and the effort to feed her the finest homemade baby food. Her exploration in the brand new world of human food is more about touch, texture and experimentation than it is about taste, or actual eating. Squiggles still thinks feet taste ok. But someday soon she’ll come around. She’ll realize that feet actually taste bad, especially compared to Mommy’s homemade sweet potato mush and pureed chicken. And I’ll be there, smiling frog face baby spoon firmly in hand, waiting to take her on the full introductory tour of the wonderful world of human food. Next stop, peas.   

Nothing to Fear Except Pants With Nobody in Them and Little Bunny Foo Foo

15 05 2008

When I was a child, there were two things that completely and totally terrified me. Two things that created that nauseous, head-hurting fear, the type that triggers the fight-or-flight response: The song ‘Hey There Little Red Riding Hood’ and the Dr. Seuss story ‘What Was I Scared Of?‘  That’s the one about the pale green pants with nobody inside them. Even as an adult, even though I know it’s irrational and those things were meant to be funny, they still give me a substantial case of the heebie jeebies, to the point that I can not listen to ‘Hey Little Red Riding Hood’ without getting more than a little freaked out. And I flat out refuse to read the story of the pants with nobody inside them to Neener and Roo. Which is probably for the best. The last thing we need is to add to the list of things that cause Neener and me inordinate amounts of anxiety. We’ve both got enough to worry about, thanks. 

I am no stranger to the world of anxiety disorders. Despite the fact that I was a pretty happy, secure, confident child, I was also an anxious worrier. Things that did not affect other kids frightened the bejesus out of me. I spent a lot of time dwelling on what I would do if my house caught on fire, or if there was an earthquake, or if robbers tried to steal me, or if a moose or cougar started chasing me. My solution was to cross my fingers, and repeat soothing little phrases in my head until my anxious thoughts and feelings went away. Now as an adult, despite the fact that I am a pretty happy, secure, confident grown-up, I am prone to spontaneous panic attacks, and for twelve years or so, I’ve grappled with a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder known as trichotillomania. When I am stressed or anxious, I literally pull my hair out, as a way of coping with and releasing tension. But I’m lucky. My anxiety issues are fairly mild and do not disrupt my daily life much. I have been able to manage quite well with Cognitive Behaviourial Therapy techniques, and without medication. And I know what to look for in my kids, the subtle little signs that they may have inherited my propensity for such issues.  

I was expecting to see anxiety issues emerge in Roo, what with the Autism and all. And they still might. But right now, it is Neener I’m more concerned about. She too is a happy, secure, confident kid most of the time, and she too is suffering from disordered anxiety. To a point, it is developmentally normal for kids to have fears and worries, both rational and irrational. But when those fears and worries begin to impact a child’s – or a family’s – social, physical and emotional functioning, it’s a big ol’ red flag. That is where we are right now. That’s where we realized we were back in October, when Neener’s bedtime rituals of very precisely arranged blankets, and specific phrases that must be said just the right way became even more rigid, more complex, and more necessary. Then suddenly, she did not want to go to school anymore. Then she began covering her ears as soon as we entered the building. Then she began spending most of the morning hiding in the class bathroom.  Her teacher figured it was a sensory issue – an aversion to ambient noise, similar to Roo’s – and suggested we have Neener evaluated for Autism too. The principal figured she was doing it for attention – that she was being ignored at home due to her twin sister’s issues – and suggested that she simply be locked out of the bathroom to change the behaviour. I figured she was afraid of something, but could not for the life of me figure out what because Neener staunchly refused to talk about it. So I did a little detective work, and finally managed to put the pieces together. She was afraid of the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. A supposedly playful alphabet book they read nearly every day for a few weeks. A book that inspired the bulletin board decorations. A book they listened to on tape and sang songs about. To the other kids, the book was funny. To Neener, it was frightening because it was about 26 little letters who ran away from home, climbed a tree, and fell out of the tree and got hurt. Separation from parents and physical injury? A smart, sensitive, anxiety prone kid’s worst nightmare. And it didn’t end there. After an innocent comment about people being litter bugs and making the earth messy, she obsessed for days about every piece of garbage she saw. After an innocent comment about her father being ‘an old fella’, Neener spiralled into hysterical screams that her daddy was not old. All because we had used the concept of age to explain death to her- that people tended to die when they got old. After an innocnet lesson on how to make her bed, she spent night after night after night obsessing that her bed was made the wrong way. She stopped eating tomatoes because she was scared of choking. She worried that apple juice would give her a tummy ache. And then, there’s the song Little Bunny Foo Foo, which sends her into an ear-covering, face-hiding, heart-racing, paralyzed-by-fear cold fit, that no amount of talking, no amount of rationalizing can reverse. Why? Because at the end of the song, Bunny Foo Foo gets turned into a goon, and Neener loves bunnies dearly. The though of one, even one with the audacity to disobey a fairy godmother and bop field mice on the head, being turned into anything goonish is horrifying to her. 

Tough love would say that she just needs to toughen up, to be told that her fears and her worries are silly, and that she must simply get over it. But knowing that kids with anxiety disorders are much more likely to become depressed, abuse drugs and alcohol, and suffer from low self-esteem and countless other issues as adults, I know not to react that way to her anxiety. I know, because I understand how she feels. Neener’s fears may be irrational, but they are very real to her. Telling her that she is being silly won’t do her self-esteem any favours, and certainly won’t do anything to lessen her worries. It will only add shame and embarrassment to the already complicated mix. Neener must be handled with compassion. That is not to say that I will indulge her anxiety and go along with her efforts to control everything around her through perfectionist and obsessive compulsive tendencies. But I will acknowledge her feelings, and attempt to give her the tools to release her stress and anxiety in a healthy way. I am teaching her a few Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tricks. I am teaching her relaxation methods. I am encouraging her to be brave and face her fears, to talk about what is on her mind when she can, and to distract herself when her worries get too big and too loud. And sometimes, when I know she needs it, I am protecting her from the things that trigger her anxiety. “No singing Little Bunny Foo Foo” is a hard and fast rule in our house, at least for now.

Our lives have faced much upheaval in the last few months. Neener and Roo started school. Baby Squiggles was born. Both our goldfish died. And now, in two short weeks, we are moving to another province, and undergoing countless other changes, big and small. Frankly, it all makes me feel a little panicky and stressed, so I can well imagine what it is doing to Neener. But, we keep reassuring her that it will be ok. And it will. We just have to work harder than the average family to keep stress, anxiety, and worry levels manageable for everyone. And we have to employ a few therapy strategies from time to time in order to do that. Which makes me think of something else I may try with Neener one of these days. When I was a child, my parents had a recording of ‘What Was I Scared Of?’ on vinyl. One day, when I’d had enough of being scared of that damn story, I stole the record. I took it up into my closet and completely destroyed it. I knew that ruining my folks’ record was wrong. I knew that I’d probably get in trouble if they found out, and that they would not understand why I’d done it. But I did not care. It made me feel better. It made me feel like I had gained some power over something that caused me a great deal of distress. Facing your fears is all well and good, but literally smashing them to bits and pieces…now that’s empowering. Maybe when Neener has a bit better grasp on her bravery, we will go buy a Bunny Foo Foo book and we’ll wreck it together. I know she is terrified of Little Bunny Foo Foo, but I also know that she loves parentally sanctioned destruction. Maybe it will give her the same sense of relief, the same sense of power it gave me when I was a kid. Maybe we’ll even wreck our copy of ‘What Was I Scared Of?’ too, just for good measure. That will probably make us both feel better.




Happy Mother’s Day to Me

11 05 2008

Nothing says Mother’s Day like getting up, slightly hungover, at 5:50 a.m with your boisterously chipper children. Unless it’s getting up, slightly hungover, at 5:50 a.m with your boisterously chipper children and stepping on a half-dead mouse in the hallway. That was how my day began. Happy Mother’s Day to me! But this day, and this post are not about me. Or my hangover. Or the half dead mouse which my sweet Mr. turned into a totally dead mouse prior to its disposal. This day, and this post is about Neener and Roo because it is their birthday. So really, to me nothing says Mother’s Day like reflecting on the day, a Mother’s Day five years ago, that my first borns came into my world.

I joked about marrying the man who is now my husband back when he was just some dude in a bar. I joked about having twins on the way to my 7 week ultrasound when I was pregnant with Neener and Roo. I joked about giving birth to those twins on Mother’s Day. And sure enough, I married that dude from the bar, I came back from my 7 week ultrasound with a picture that showed two budding babies, and I gave birth to those babies on Mother’s Day, a full six weeks before my due date.

I could go into great detail of the story of their birth. I could tell you about the “false alarm” two nights before that was not really a false alarm at all. More like a very early alarm. I could tell you about calling the L&D triage desk at the hospital on the night I was admitted, and about how the bitchy nurse on the other end of the phone responded to my nervous, first-time-mom-to-be questions with abrupt answers and the advice to decide for myself if I should head to the hospital. I could tell you about how we did head to the hospital, and how the nurse was not actually bitchy at all, but alone in an extraordinarily busy maternity triage room, with no time for the nervous questions of a first-time-mother-to-be. Or about how we gave that tired, stressed nurse a box of chocolates during our six hour stay in the triage, and how she then kindly brought in a comfy recliner for my husband to sleep on. Or about how, when we finally got into a labour and delivery suite, I waited another three hours for an epidural. How I pushed for two hours before being rushed to the OR because my OB mistakenly believed Neener to be breach, and was ready to put me through both a vaginal delivery and a c-section because he didn’t take the time to look at the most recent ultrasound. I could tell you about how we set him straight; about the small army of doctors and nurses in the room as I pushed against the numbness of a too-strong epidural, breathed through an oxygen mask, and squeezed my husband’s hand; about how my baby girls were finally born, 15 minutes apart, each weighing over 5 pounds; about how they were promptly whisked away for medical attention; about how it would be hours before I saw them again, and days before I held them. I could tell you, in even greater detail, about their Respiratory Distress Syndrome, the NG tubes that fed them, the respirators that helped them breathe, the incubators that kept them warm, the many wires and tubes and machines that went in and out of their tiny bodies. I could chronicle the ups and downs of the two anxious weeks we spent going between the Special Care Unit at one hospital, and the NICU at another. I could tell you about the 36 hour period during which both of my baby girls finally came home.

All of these details are part of their birth story, and there are many tangents, many secondary stories about their birth. All of these details are part of my joys, my fears, and my passage into motherhood. They are forever etched in my heart and mind. But none of those details really matter to anyone but me. So, I’ll focus on the here and now. I’ll focus on what matters in this moment. Like the fact that they are healthy, happy and five years old today. The fact that we’ll be opening Mother’s Day and birthday presents and eating Mother’s Day and birthday cake. And the fact that they know nothing of slight hangovers, half-dead mice, or the details of their birth. Tonight, after I’ve tucked my first borns into bed, after I’ve sung happy birthday to them one more time, after I’ve kissed their five-year-old foreheads, I’ll sit down with my glass of Mother’s Day wine and look at the handful of pictures that were taken on the day they were born. I’ll remember the details of that day. I’ll probably cry. I’ll reflect on the joys and the fears of the past, knowing full well that I have many years of maternal joys and fears ahead of me. Then I’ll probably cry some more.  And I’ll soak in the details of those angelic little five-year old faces that just planted gooey kisses on my cheek, and sang Happy Mother’s Day to me.





We Will, We Will Quack You!

9 05 2008

Last night, I had an all-access backstage pass to one of the hottest shows in the city. It was a wild time. There was the typical behind the scenes drama of tired little girls who missed their moms demanding divas dripping with attitude, and restless boys with nothing better to do than clobber each other rock-star tough guys looking for trouble. There were hordes of parents aggressive photographers chasing down the stars, flashes firing at every turn. And the after party…oh man…I have not seen such hysterical neon creamsicle consumption substance abuse since 1998. Through the blur that was last night, I am slowly managing to pluck out little snippets of memories, moments I want to remember for the rest of my life. And behind those little mental vignettes runs the soundtrack of the night, the group’s opening musical number. A catchy tune that will be bouncing around in my brain for weeks to come. Quaaaaaaack quack quack quack quack! Quaaaaaaaack quack quack quack quack! In case you don’t recognize it, that infectious little ditty is ‘Ducks Like Rain’ as performed by Neener and Roo’s kindergarten class in the school spring concert.

My behind-the-scenes gig was helping wrangle a group of 40 little kids, as they waited as patiently as possible for their turn to take the stage at May Musical Magic. Some sadistic bastards  practical-minded folks decided that it would be best to put the kindergarten kids on very last, so that their parents wouldn’t try to leave early. What they did not take into account is that most of these kids are normally in bed before the time the concert ended. And, that keeping 40 five year olds – that’s two whole kindergarten classes – entertained in one room for an hour and a half is nearly as challenging as trying to get Guns n’ Roses (circa 1995) on stage and semi-sober, without a riot ensuing. But, with baby Squiggles snug in her carrier, and Neener and Roo all gussied up, I volunteered to help out while Mr. Blister suffered through sixth grade swing dances and recorder performances waited in the audience with the video camera. 

Once all the kids were in the room and all the parents were out, we set about keeping everyone occupied until the cue to get ready came. And what better way to keep a mob of kids quiet than with movies and chips. But after a bunch of kids, including Neener, were found hiding under tables, sufficiently terrorized by the action adventure flick some other sadistic bastard thoughtful parent brought in, it was clear that we’d need some other activities. So, I took the group that was scared senseless by the movie over to a quiet-ish corner and read stories until it was time to get into costume. It did not take forever, contrary to my belief at the time. Finally, the call came, and the teachers and I sprang into action, rounding up the tired, the nervous and the chip crumb covered children. I was put on duck duty, and in a matter of minutes, I had half the class transformed into little ducklings, while the other half got decked out in raincoats and boots. Then, it was time for my little girls and their classmates to get out there and wow the crowd. And wow the crowd they did. But not in that ‘Wow! Those kids are talented! They must have practiced so hard’ kind of way. No, that type of ‘wow’ was reserved for the other kindergarten class. The organized, calm, ‘good kid’ class, with relatively elaborate songs and costumes. The class who really had their act together. The ‘wow’ that Neener and Roo’s class drew was more like ‘Wow! Those kids managed to not fall off the stage, not tear down all the decorations, and not even come close to singing together and/or in tune!’ But they were still awesome.

They opened with the pre-recorded song “Ducks Like Rain”, blasted over the silence of several kids frozen like ducks in the spotlight  the sounds of a few very enthusiastic quackers. It was at some point during this number that Neener, dressed as a duck, turned her back on the crowd to give them a taste of the infamous Blister Family Butt Waggle dance. The second song, “The Rain Drop Song” accompanied by a piano, was where Roo tried to steal the sparkly decorations off the back wall spotlight while sporting the crummy blue raincoat provided for the kids whose parents didn’t bring in raincoats. And that’s not because I didn’t bring her nice yellow raincoat, but because, as she pointed out to me several times, raindrops are not yellow. They are blue. And she was a raindrop, dammit.

I have a long history of being on stage in a variety of capacities. Plays, public speaking, singing, and doing something that vaguely resembled dancing. Watching my daughters on stage is a bit of a test for me. I struggle to not be a stage mom, especially when I see my girls getting on stage to perform as I have done a million times before. I don’t want to be one of those mothers who harps on her kids about how much they should be rehearsing, or stands in the front row mouthing the words, or pushes them to pursue the centre of attention, the spotlight, at any cost. I don’t want to live vicariously through them. At the same time, if I see that being on stage is something they love the way I loved it, I want to support them, and share what I know to help them hone their skills. It is a delicate balance. Right now, their only real on-stage experience has been quacking and singing their little heads off, while doing the Butt Waggle Dance and stealing parts of the set in a raindrop costume. But I’m sure there will be many a performance to come. Who knows. Twenty years from now, they may find themselves on some other stage, doing the Butt Waggle Dance and stealing parts of the set Broadway. And where ever they are, whatever they are doing, I’ll be proud and I’ll be happy. As long as I get my backstage pass.  


It’s Their Party, and I’ll Cry If I Want To

5 05 2008

Everybody has one of those birthdays: A birthday that will live in infamy because what was supposed to be a celebration of your life ended up making you want to curl up in a ball and die. I’ve had two such birthdays. My 18th birthday disaster involved a quickly consumed pint of gin, my boyfriend cheating on me, and one of my supposed friends threatening to drag me out of a car by the hair and beat me with a baseball bat. But that was peanuts compared to my 4th birthday. Worst birthday ever. That birthday there was a snow storm, and nobody could come to my party. My husband has one of those ‘nobody showed up’ childhood birthdays traumas seared into his memory too. Funny how it’s not the birthdays that are totally wonderful, where all your friends come to your party, where you get awesome presents, where no one threatens to beat you up, that get woven into your life story. It’s the ones that suck that stick in your mind. I am terrified that this weekend, Neener and Roo are headed for one of those birthdays. 

While it seems hard to believe that anything could top last year’s barfday birthday, it looks like that could be the case. For the first time, we have planned a real party. A Garden themed party at a local party room, with loot bags, balloons, decorations and, most importantly, other kids. Up until now, Neener and Roo have only had our adult friends at their birthday parties, which they have thoroughly enjoyed. Lots of great presents, getting to be the complete centres of the party universe, and all the more cake for them to gorge on and barf up at 3 a.m. But this year, they are in school, so in the spirit of inclusion, we diligently made invites for every kid in their class and handed them out a week ago. Today was the RSVP deadline. It said so on the little green construction paper leaf, so carefully affixed to the flower full of details. You’re invited to Neener and Roo’s Birthday Party. Please RSVP by May 5th. Today is that day. And so far, our confirmed guest list stands at a grand total of 3. Four, if you count the big brother of one of the kids. Six if you count the younger siblings that might tag along. Nine if I include the birthday girls and Baby Squiggles. It’s not as bad as a complete no-show, but 3 kids out of 20? Seems a little thin for what was, in my mind, going to be the party of the century. 

This whole birthday party thing has dredged up the awful feeling that my kids have no friends. And really, it’s more than a feeling. It’s a fact. Neither of them has what could be considered friends in school or in the neighbourhood. They have peers. They have acquaintances. They have kids they like, kids they talk about, kids they pretend to play with. But they don’t have any real friends. Most of their social experience has been with adults, so other kids are a mystery to them. I’ve watched them on the playground at school, standing on the periphery talking to the teachers, scratching their backs on tree trunks, stuffing their pockets full of rocks, and quietly observing the other kids running around like a little herd of maniacs. But the little herd of maniacs are all laughing and playing together. My kids – who don’t even play with each other outside of home – are the loners on the playground. And they aren’t even being loners together! Still, you don’t need to be friends with someone to go to their birthday party in kindergarten. You just need your parents to take you there. We invited the whole class, and even made it clear that presents were not necessary, in the hopes that we’d get a decent turn out. I was hoping for a throng of gleefully screaming five year olds to show up, throw some cake, rip up some decorations and shriek out an off-key version of Happy Birthday to my daughters, thus relieving my on-going anxiety that my kids are social misfits. But three kids? Or even six? They couldn’t possibly throw enough cake, rip enough decorations or sing/scream loud enough to ease my mind, and make this party feel like the raging success I’d envisioned. So, it’s on to plan B.

The first part of Plan B is to find more kids. Invites are now extended to kids outside of their class. Kids whose parents I know and like. Kids whose parents I happen to bump into in the next few days. Kids left unattended in the park on the day of the party. The second part of Plan B is to invite more adults. Our friends. The ones Neener and Roo love. The ones who will help it feel more like a party. The ones who will throw cake, rip decorations and scream/sing happy birthday, then come back to our place and drink wine with me. And the third and most important part of Plan B is to stop feeling sorry for myself. When I tallied up the RSVPs in all of 2 minutes this afternoon, my initial reaction was to sulk and cry. Why waste my time and energy blowing up balloons, hanging streamers, making chocolate mud pies and planning garden themed party games for a small handful of kids? Why put together a garden party soundtrack, and blow money on supplies for the flower pot decorating craft activity? And what the hell am I going to do with 20 giant fake bugs, 20 magnifying glasses and sheet after sheet after sheet of butterfly and frog stickers? Why bother with this stupid party idea at all if there aren’t going to be a shitload of kids there to appreciate it? Why? Because when I stop and think about it, I am not doing this party for all those other kids who aren’t even my kids’ friends anyway. I’m doing it for Neener and Roo. I know they will love the balloons, streamers, mud pies, games, music and crafts. I know they will put all the giant bugs and magnifying glasses and stickers to good use. I know they will have just as much fun with a few kids as they would with a bunch of kids. Maybe even more. As long as at least a few people show up, and as long as no one threatens to beat them up, it’ll all be just fine. It won’t be one of those birthdays afterall. And years from now, they won’t remember a single thing about it. But I will.