The time I got Pinterest-y

How hard can it be? I thought to myself after an encouraging chat with my sister. I had decided to make this fancy rainbow cake for my daughter’s 7th birthday.

 

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We were having a ‘My Little Pony’ party and other than a plan to throw a bunch of ponies around the back yard, the theme was pretty weak. Not only would the cake be perfect for the party, but my kids had a day off school and we had some time to kill. A towering rainbow cake seemed like it might be a solution to a few mini problems.

It was fun at first.

We mixed the colours and made the thin cakes. Our colours did not resemble anything found in any rainbow I’ve ever seen but otherwise, it was going well! By the end of the day before the party, our six thin cakes were baked, and ready to be stacked and frosted the following day.

The morning of the party, about an hour before the start time, my husband went to get ice and whatever else we’d forgotten while the kids and I finished the cake. I knew it wouldn’t be exactly like the picture but my kid would like it, I was sure.

We put the purple on the plate first. All went well.

Then the blue. No problem!

In the excitement, the yellow somehow missed the stack. It landed with a muffled thump (and some shrieks), on the floor.

“Pick it up!” begged my children. “No one will know.”

“We’ll know,” I told them. “We can’t serve floor cake to our friends. Especially not floor cake from our floor.”

“But it won’t be a rainbow without yellow,” they protested.

“Oh I’ve seen rainbows without yellow,” I lied.
We glued the orange on top of the others with icing. Then the red hot pink.
 A few rainbow sprinkles on top and it was a masterpiece!

It is an understatement to say that we were impressed with our amazing creation.

At first I thought I imagined it. Could the cake have moved?

It shifted again, then a crack that looked a lot like the San Andreas split the cake. Smaller cracks spider-ed out from the original fault.

We screamed.

I lunged forward to protect the cake with my arms and body but I couldn’t hug it back together.

“Call Daddy!” I told my kid as I held on for one final moment.

I had to let it go. And clean icing from my armpits. The day was not going as planned.

“Can he fix it?” she asked.

“No. Just tell him to pick up some cupcakes with that ice.”

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And life goes on….

via Daily Prompt: Cake

 

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50 Things

A friend recently told me about her high school principal and two key pieces of advice she imparted to the graduating class:

  1. Always maintain your own bank account.
  2. Have a filing cabinet.

Hmm. 

It did get me thinking about the good and bad advice I have been given (such as when my mother told me to say “I’ll think about it” to any and all proposals of marriage) and what I would like to share with my children. I decided to start a list.

My list does not cover great big moral issues – that is what I am trying to get through to them on a day-to-day basis. My list consists of a bunch of random things (that I think I know) that I want to make sure I cover with my daughters at some point. Here is my list so far:

  1. Listen to music as often as you can.
  2. Do not ever, under any circumstances, try to take Spanx off over your head.
  3. Do not buy shoes that hurt you no matter how much you love them.
  4. Do not stay with a partner that hurts you, no matter how much you love them.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  6. Whatever job you have, be it cleaning toilets or running a country, do it to the very best of your ability every single day.
  7. Learn to drive as soon as possible.
  8. Sit up straight!
  9. Vote. Even if your side is ‘guaranteed’ to win. Or lose.
  10. Volunteer.
  11. Say ‘no’ when ‘no’ is what you want to say.
  12. Skip the tattoos.
  13. Or don’t. But don’t get a dolphin or anyone’s name. Or anything on your neck or chest.
  14. Do not put olive pits in the garbage disposal – they are nature’s bullets.
  15. Mind your own manners but let other people worry about theirs.
  16. Use your manners to make people feel comfortable not inferior.
  17. Learn to cook.
  18. Don’t eat and walk. Or drive.
  19. Actively contribute to your friends’ success – show up to the book launch, re-Tweet that Tweet, run the charity run, help make a connection, whatever is needed.
  20. Always RSVP in a timely manner.
  21. Be a great tipper. Especially for breakfast.
  22. Do not buy gossip magazines.*
  23. Say ‘thank you’ (and mean it) to everyone who helps you in even the smallest way.
  24. Don’t jay walk.
  25. If someone tells you that they are a jerk, you should believe them.
  26. Do not go to work or school when you are sick. People will not be awed by your heroics.
  27. Don’t make assumptions about people based on anything other than what they actually say or do.
  28. Just because everyone believes something doesn’t make it true. Think for yourself.
  29. Send thank you notes (or emails) whenever there is a reason.
  30. Floss. Every day.
  31. Eat breakfast.
  32. Don’t waste your time on pastries that aren’t fantastic. If you bite into a disappointing croissant, leave it.
  33. Only butter is butter. There are no substitutes.
  34. Save or invest 10% of your income.
  35. Keep a mini pack of tissues, and a wet wipe or two in your car and purse.
  36. Negotiate your employment terms. Always. Don’t just accept the first offer.
  37. Always ask for a better deal – more often than not, you will get one.
  38. Never buy peaches or corn out of season.
  39. Wear sunscreen and a hat.
  40. Open all crinkly candy wrappers BEFORE the movie starts.
  41. Do not take your phone out at dinner.
  42. Do not text and drive. You can park and text.
  43. Say ‘yes’ when someone asks you to dance (unless you hate them).
  44. If you aren’t sure what to get at a restaurant, order the Special.
  45. Be brave but not stupid.
  46. Stay informed.
  47. Stick up for other women.
  48. Less is more when it comes to make up and eyebrow plucking.
  49. Don’t participate in phone surveys.
  50. Never buy any clothing unless you love it. Even a white t-shirt. Or a too-good-to-be-true sale thing. You have to love it!!**

 

* Read them for free at the hairdresser.

**Courtesy of my step-mother who follows this excellent advice much more consistently than I do.

This is just a starter list. There are so many little things that I’d love for my girls to learn the easy way.

What else should be on here? Please share your thoughts!

 

 

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Parenting Like an 80s Drug Lord

“Is this the real stuff?” my daughter asks warily.

What she wants to know is: ‘Has it been cut?’

She is right to be suspicious because that is what I do. I cut the product.

I wasn’t always this sneaky.

Maybe she did know what she was missing!

Maybe she did kind of know what she was missing!

My first child was virtually refined ‘sugar-free’ for a long time.
Family members grumbled and made comments like, “What are you going to give her for Easter? An avocado?” But the world is a sugary place and it couldn’t go on forever…. Once she tasted the sweet stuff, I knew the golden era of perfect eating was over.

That was okay, but I still wanted to keep things as healthy as possible.

I got the idea from a re-run of Miami Vice – an easy way to shrink the sugar intake was to make like a sleazy kingpin and cut the goods. It was a eureka moment in an otherwise sluggish, too-tired/lazy to turn off the TV and go to bed situation.

There was a learning curve and if I really were a drug lord I would’ve been killed and left in an alley long ago (hundreds of times over). Fortunately, my product is much more benign (cereal, flavoured yogurt, and juice) and duping my ‘clients’ isn’t dangerous.

It is all about finding the perfect ratio.

Mix plain Cheerios with sweet treat Honey Nut ones at 50/50 and you’re golden. It is still a ‘treat’ cereal. They don’t get it often but when they do, it is half as bad and just as tasty. Go 60/40 and you’ll get complaints so why even bother?

Yogurt is the same. Two tablespoons of plain mixed with two tablespoons of the fruit-flavoured ones (that would more accurately be described as pudding) is truly delicious. The alternative is serving all plain with a generous teaspoon of jam and letting them mix their own.

With juice the ratio is more like 80/20 juice to water. Any more water, and the kids start to get cranky. I’ve pushed the limits and that is why my two-year old insists on watching like a hawk when I pour the good stuff.

“Pour it here!’ she shouts. “I want to seeeeee!!!!”

“You need to relax,” I tell her. “Hey, is that a squirrel out there?” She’s no fool but the second she looks away, I am going to add some water.

In the words of Tony Montana: I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.

What other things can be ‘cut’ and still taste great? Does anyone else do this? Does anyone have any other valuable insights from the criminal underworld? Please share your thoughts.

Snap and become a happier parent!

Almost everyone goes into parenthood with high hopes about how they will do things and the wonderful people they will raise.

The problem is that before most people ever become  parents, they’ve already judged all sorts of other parents for their ‘shortcomings’ (as they, or ‘In Touch’, ‘People’, assorted Twitterers or the rest of the internet perceive them) and in doing so, have set themselves up.

Perhaps you had all sorts of opinions about drug-free labour, even thinking less of someone who had an epidural (though it was never any of your business). In agony, at the hospital on Delivery-Day, you suddenly have to either live up to those expectations or take relief with a side order of guilt.

Or maybe before having a child you knew that you would never give a binky, or a pacie, or sucky – or allow such babyish words to be used in your perfect baby’s presence. Except you never know. You might need to change your mind.

In both of these scenarios, it would be easier if you weren’t up to your neck in potential failure to meet your own standards (as inflicted on others) when you decide.

The judgement epidemic is not isolated to so called ‘bad’ things. We also tend to get awfully tough on people who appear to be super-parents like the Gwyneths (seriously, why do we care that her children speak multiple languages and eat like jet-setting vegans? And how is it bad?) and Pinteresters of the world.

Either way, judging others is self defeating. It makes us less kind and more sensitive to the opinions of others which makes us even harsher judges of ourselves which makes us less confident and happy parents which makes us compare ourselves to others and do more judging. A vicious cycle!

There is a solution and it is simple if not easy: We need to stop judging each other’s parenting! 

Here is my idea: Slip a rubber band onto your wrist and give yourself a gentle snap each time you catch yourself thinking uncharitable or judge-y thoughts about someone’s parenting (or your own).

You’re in line at the grocery store, eyeballing the latest gossip rags, wanting to flip through and find out why everyone is so worked up about some Jolie-Pitt kid’s hair. Or did Suri really lose it in a park? Are the royals going to abandon their tiny prince for a holiday? Give yourself a snap! It is none of your business.

Instead of an inward (or worse, a snarky outward): ‘At least I am raising my own kids’ comment about the mom with the nanny, or the family with kids in extended daycare, ask yourself: do you really care or are you just being mean? If this doesn’t work, give yourself a snap and try again.

Snap as required before you judge the parents of the kid who:

Is disheveled;

Has a bad haircut;

Needs a haircut;

Is taking a long time toilet training;

Has tantrums;

Is hyper;

Sleeps in the parents’ bed;

Cries it out;

Eats sugary cereal;

Wears weird clothes;

Eats Lunchables;

Eats only ‘organic’;

Picks their nose;

Watches lots of television;

Goes to bed at 6PM;

Or goes to bed at 10:30PM.

SNAP as needed then ask yourself: Who cares?

Decide that you do not care and, if my theory is correct (and I think it is based on my completely unscientific experiment on myself) your life will be instantly improved because when you cut everyone else some slack, you can give some to yourself as well.

Does it matter how long someone else breastfeeds or doesn’t? If you said yes, take a snap!

Feeling the urge to side-eye a pregnant woman enjoying a coffee as she struts by in high heels? Snap!

There is advice everywhere but what matters is this: if you love your kids and meet their basic needs for affection, safety, shelter, food, healthcare and human interaction, that is good enough.

Obviously, we all have a responsibility to speak up if we see or suspect neglect or abuse, but there is a BIG range of normal and healthy and we need to embrace it.

As a parent who loves and cares for your kids, you don’t need to impress anyone except yourself. It is in your best interest to do what you can to make yourself easy to impress.

Going easier on other parents, will make it easier to give ourselves a break. And if we give ourselves a break, we can actually enjoy some of this parenting stuff.

Vomit roulette and other travel fun

Whoever said  ‘getting there is half the fun’ clearly never traveled with small children.

From the terrible cold-sweat feeling of trying to silence an irate toddler on a packed plane, to the panicked horror of hearing your retching child*, travel can be rough! (* The panicked horror of recognition is not a problem the first time it happens because the first time, you just think it’s a cough. You have no idea what is coming. That time, you just end up queasy and dazed, outside a Tim Hortons, trying to clean up with a golf towel and some bottled water, thinking about selling your car but knowing that no one in their right mind would ever buy it now.)

I’ve survived these and worse and I have learned to be prepared. Over-prepared and then even more prepared than that.

But no matter how prepared you are,when you’re going traveling with the family, something is going to take you by surprise and probably not in a good way. You have to go with it and try your best to make it fun. Here are a few of the ways we try to stay cheerful:

Vomit Roulette

For car trips, my husband and I lay odds with each other on where, when and from whom car sickness will erupt. This makes the whole ride a little more interesting and, if the worst happens, at least someone gets to be right. If it doesn’t, we are perfectly happy to be wrong. For example: on our last long car trip – Christmas trek from Toronto to Ottawa (normally a four and a half hour drive that took eight and a half!!) – I predicted that the puker would be Eloise, before Whitby. My husband called Hazel in Belleville. I ‘won’. So at least I had that.

I Spy

Great for cars, trains or airports, a little game of ‘I Spy’ can kill as much as fifteen minutes and can be played pretty much anywhere. If you decide to start a game of ‘I spy’, I strongly recommend setting the rules to exclude other people to avoid shouted clues like: “I spy with my little eye…..A WITCH-LADY WITH A SCARY MOUSTACHE” (hint: she is always sitting immediately beside or across from you ). ‘I Spy’ will distract them, but by round three, a tantrum may start to feel appealing.

Is that a statue or a real kid?

Good for rest stops or waiting at the airport, this game is all about making your kids stand still (and silent) while you try to figure out if they are a statue or a real kid. I learned about this one from my sister. The big plus with this one is the silence and it never fails to make them laugh. The drawback is that you have to participate like crazy (repeatedly asking, “HEY! Is that a STATUE? or is that a REAL KID?” and poking at them etc) or the game will fizzle.

Hop on the spot

This is a decent time killer but louder than ‘Is that a statue or a real kid?’. The trick here is to find a corner (anywhere off the main path as far from others as you can manage at whatever airport, train station or rest stop that has become your temporary hell) and throw down a challenge. Start by creating a boundary and make a contest. Who can hop on one foot longest? Can you do 20 jumping jacks? How about jumping straight up and down? etc. Do this until they are complaining about being tired then offer a prize and do it some more. They will be worn out which is what you want for the next portion or your trip. There is no downside to this one unless you have a sore loser. In which case, be sure to have everyone win a category.

The main thing is to remember that you will get to your destination eventually and hope that no one wins at Vomit Roulette.

Things I thought I would never say but said today before 11:15AM

Before I had children, I had all sorts of ideas about how it would be. I pictured myself as a serene, endlessly patient mother, usually wearing something white and billowy (it was my imagination, I can’t help the cliche!), laughing happily with my babies around me (perfectly behaved, snot and puke free of course!) most likely under a leafy tree or in a meadow.

I didn’t imagine repeating myself endlessly, or giving time outs, or that wearing white would be courting disaster.

Obviously I was disabused of most of my crazy notions within 30 minutes of the birth of my first child and the rest shortly after. But one of the biggest surprises I have had are the things that I hear myself say when I actually stop and listen to the words that come out of my mouth. Words I never thought I would utter. Ever.

For example, here are some things I said today before 11:15AM.

1. “Poor you! You bit your finger? Again?” I am beginning to get concerned about this one. It happens A LOT. And she always reacts like it is the first time…

2. “Do I have to put you to bed right now?” It was 9:45AM and I meant it.

3. “I think I just stepped in scrambled egg.” This is unusual only in that we did not eat scrambled eggs this morning. Or yesterday. Gross. Where did it come from???

As usual, there was no white flowy outfit. No leafy tree.

There was just one kid with a sore finger, another one complaining repeatedly about breakfast, and me with a foot-full of scrambled egg.

Ms Information

My mother had what could be described as a hobby of giving my me and my sister questionable information. The ‘information’ we would get from our mother was often outlandish and completely inaccurate, or, funny but not useful or appropriate.

To this day, I cannot look at Queen Elizabeth without picturing her wearing skin-tight jeans, farting loudly into a microphone, and knocking over a centenarian. Yes, it sounds crazy,  but this came from a conversation that started with me asking my mom about the queen. My mother looked at me seriously and said, ‘Well, she isn’t as nice as she pretends to be. Have I told you what she did last week?’

And though I have since found out that my mother told the truth (sort of) about clergy and hosiery (many wear support hose to help with  all that standing up!), the priest at my school did not care to discuss the subject during a pre-First Communion Q & A session with my class.

I used to think that my mother made things up because she felt like a laugh but have recently started to suspect that at least some of the time, she created bizarre and inappropriate ‘facts’ because she just didn’t have an answer.  I think this because almost every day, I realize, courtesy of my three children, that I am woefully under-informed.

My plan as a mother was to be as honest and accurate as possible with my children but I  had no idea they would ask so many hard questions!

For example, just today it has been revealed that I have no idea:

  • Why sharks are so mean. I am not even sure that they are mean. They are just hungry and everyone gets cranky when they are hungry….
  • How fish sleep. Do they sleep??? I feel like they don’t but then they must be exhausted! And if they do sleep, how do they avoid those mean sharks? 
  • The names of most dinosaurs and how they died. I vaguely remembered this from grade school but had to look it up. I understand that it might have been a massive asteroid that hit Earth. This is the kind of detail that  will lead to all sorts of other questions that will NOT help me at bedtime.  I want to honest but I want them to sleep at night more!

The temptation to make stuff up is strong.

Perhaps I should just send them to visit their grandmother.