Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mamma knows best...or at least I hope I do.

This is a bit of a continuation of a discussion that has taken over the wall of my Facebook profile since yesterday. As usual I have more to say than is feasible on facebook so decided to move it over here.

The background story is that my husband discovered two days ago - by walking behind her and reading over her shoulder - that our eleven year old daughter was online and chatting with a stranger. She was on the website called "Sketchfu", which is basically a place where kids can draw pictures, post them, and share them with their "friends". I am shamed to admit that I thought that was all there was to it, so didn't investigate any further. Now we know it is a glorified chat room. The kids set up a profile page, add a picture and a short blurb about themselves and then they are open to chat with whoever happens to see their drawings and wants to comment. Sounds innocent enough, right? Well at the time that her father walked by and got curious, Morgan was chatting with a "15 year old boy" who was telling her how pretty she was and wanting to know her name and what school she attended. That still gives me the shivers to think about. Thankfully Morgan had the sense not to divulge anything personal, but she did enter the conversation willingly enough.

We, of course, took this very seriously and immediately began combing over the history of her usage of this site and then moved on to her email account to do the same. Unfortunately there were several conversations with people neither of us knew on that website, although none as alarming as the first. I told her she was very lucky I didn't email them all and tell them just what I thought about approaching strange girls on the Internet, but did make her tell me who all of her "friends" were and made a list of those I knew. Then I called their parents. Later, I felt a little guilty for that, like I was the cliche nagging parent who is no fun and rats everyone out the second I get dirt on them. But I know deep down it was the right thing to do; if the shoe was on the other foot I would have been furious if one of those mothers knew and didn't tell me. The scary thing is: none of those mothers had any idea it was a chat room either.

That account is currently in the process of being cancelled (apparently with that site it isn't as easy as just pressing a 'cancel my account' button), and all her Internet activity is being carefully reviewed by us. She had begged us for months for an MSN account and we flatly refused for a long time. Then came the posting message and the realization that it was a great way to keep in touch with her friends. I joined the messaging world first, in an effort to get a feel for the way it worked, its privacy settings and how easy it was to track the history. Her email account is linked to mine and I check it regularly, so recently we allowed her to sign in to Messenger. So far we have had no issues. Why I didn't do the same for Sketchfu, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps it was that I had no idea it was a chat room, or that they had no real privacy settings to speak of. But that would be an excuse. The reality is that in our busy lives it is far too easy to overlook the details and to assume that because our children are smart and have been lectured on Internet safety for years that they will know what to do when approached. I am shocked to find this is not true and scared enough to now explain to my child exactly WHY she needs to be aware of Internet stalkers.

Having said all this, I do not believe the answer is to ban the Internet altogether. The Internet is an integral part of today's society, it is an excellent research tool and will continue to be a large part of our future technology. Not allowing our children near the Internet creates a naivete that is dangerous and unfair. We are instead choosing to use this as a teaching opportunity and to make her and her siblings more aware of specific dangers they are not currently aware of. They have heard the words often, "the Internet can be a dangerous place", but clearly do not completely comprehend what they mean. I do not for a moment believe Morgan was deliberately trying to defy us - I think she truly didn't know the danger she was in. By now we have sat her down, given her details on what can and does happen to young girls who are lured in from chat rooms and my heart breaks remembering her face and the shock registered there. I feel like we have stolen a little bit of her innocence and pushed her into that realm of mistrust before she was ready. However, I know it was the right thing to do. This is the real world and I need her to be ready for it.

Most recently has been lobbying for a Facebook account. I am thinking that can wait for a little while longer; I have enough grey hairs at the moment!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A visit from the Green-Eyed Monster

Did you ever walk into someone’s house and instantly feel that yours is somehow inadequate? That their house is so clean and tidy that surely no one lives there? Sure they call it home, but do they really “live” here? This happened to me yesterday and I feel ashamed to admit that for the first time in years, I felt a little jealous.

I know my son and youngest daughter came away with the same feelings that day, but for a very different reason; we had gone to visit our neighbors’ brand new puppy. While everyone else was gushing over this tiny, 4 week old, sleeping ball of fur, I was trying to be as discreet as possible while marveling at a home that looked staged - and for the most part unoccupied. Sure there was furniture, a tv and a computer, but they looked as though they might have been cut from a catalog. I was amazed. Here we showed up completely unannounced on a random weekend afternoon, summoned by their two young kids to meet the newest member of their family, and it was as if they had just spent the day scrubbing every surface in anticipation of company. Even their laundry room was spotless! Not an article of unwashed clothing to be seen – at least not by my quick glance as I passed by the open doorway. If you were to stop in to my house on a similar occasion you would come across any number of stray dishes cluttering up the table or counter tops, shoes kicked off and abandoned in all corners of every room and you needn’t go looking for dirty laundry – it would find you.

Its not that I don’t clean my house of course, in fact I spend much of my day tidying, folding, sweeping and washing. But on a weekend you’re more likely to find me hanging out, having fun with the kids and catching up on the week’s events with my husband. I once had a neighbor tell me, “Michelle, I have never seen anyone mop their floor as often as you do.” Its true, I am pretty particular with the cleanliness of my floors - counter tops, kitchen table and living room furniture too. I am not, however, a neat freak. Clutter doesn’t bother me – I consider it a fact of life in our busy house. Until of course I walk into a house such as the one three doors up from mine.

Sometimes I like to think that when the kids get older and there isn’t as much “stuff” around, it will be easier to keep a “nice home”. But then I remember that if their stuff isn’t around, then neither are they. A poem that I was given years ago comes to mind:

“Cleaning and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow
For babies grow up, we’ve learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.”

I am well past the baby rocking stage, but the fact remains that I would rather spend the precious time I have with my children while they’re young than to be constantly cleaning up all their small messes. I will just have to repeat this poem the next time I stop by my neighbor’s house and be thankful that the kids want to spend time with me.

And besides, with a new puppy in the house, surely it won’t be staying so spic and span for long!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A very LONG, long weekend in May!

Three very early mornings after three very late nights, three gallons of primer, four gallons of paint, $96 in beer and $90 in pizza later....the house is painted. Phew, what a weekend. Instead of trying to recount all the hours of hard work and re-tell the numerous moments of hilarity, I will share a sort of "photo blog post". While I've said before that this blog is my preference for sharing my stories, Facebook remains my choice of avenues for sharing photos. However I can't leave my friends who've left the facebook world hanging so here it goes!! (I also can't figure out how to get them in the order I want so I apologize in advance for any confusion)

There's no way to express how grateful we are to all those who've helped us the past couple weeks, getting the house ready for such a big job and then the painting and hard work involved this past weekend. We are so blessed to have such great friends and family and we've made some great memories none of us will soon forget!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Confessions of a Stess-aholic

Hello my name is Michelle and I am a Stressaholic. I may say that I can't wait to have everything worked out and settled, organized and finalized, so that I can sit back and relax - but don't let that fool you. I will just find something else to worry about, to obsess over and to nag my loved ones incessantly over. Welcome to life with me.

All sarcasm aside, I am beginning to see some merit to my (very tolerant) husband's years of branding me the "worry wort" and am just realizing there may have been a reason for the multitude of comments such as, "calm down honey" and "relax, it'll be ok." In fact, his favorite line to torture me with (after the obligatory "I told you so") is "See? Everything always works out". And it does. However, that does not stop me from stressing out over it.

In a life such as ours there is never any lack for things to worry over. There is always someone who needs something, someone who fell and injured themselves, someone who didn't do their homework or who is being punished for something. As soon as one problem is resolved it is quickly replaced by two more. After years of managing the daily lives and trials of our entire family, I am only now realizing that I thrive on the constant search for peace and resolution. I feel needed and complete when I am working to solve a problem so what happens when all the problems are solved? Thats where my addiction comes in.

I am not writing this to look for a means of "curing" myself of this affliction, but rather to understand it. When I stress about things, they get done. Issues get worked out and we turn a problem into a productive situation. My answer to my husband's favorite line? "Yes honey, things always work out because there is someone in the background making sure they do." Me. It is another example of how we are perfectly balanced and I am smiling now thinking of how often we've had that very conversation.

This week the focus of my stress is the fact that we've (and by that I mean, I've) decided to paint the house. It is something we have talked about doing for years and it has become apparent to me in the past month that we need do all we can to update the house in order to make it marketable. My main concern is not selling in time and having to stay behind - in a house I hate - while my other half makes the move on his own. I am trying to be as proactive as I can to get things done that I would want done (things I've wanted done for years!) if I were looking at this house, and to make it attractive to buyers.

Of course even I know that my obsession over things like paint and trim are coverups for the stress of having to leave this town we've called home for so long and the people we think of as family. That particular stress I will leave for after the house renovations, and any other physical changes I can think to make, are complete. You know, that time when the house is sold, our new one is purchased and I can just lay back and relax.

Haha, as if.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Free at Last!

Stone free, that is. I am happy to report that after just two sessions of lithotripsy and many evenings spent on the couch with my trusty hot water bottle pressed against my back, all the stones have broken up and made the great escape. For the first time in my adult life my left kidney is completely free of stones. Now that we know that, I will be seeing my family doctor next week to discuss the laundry list of blood tests I had done two weeks ago and determine whether or not my parathyroid is indeed acting up again or if I’m just getting old. Haha, sometimes I feel so very, very old.

This is week 4 of my “program” and although I wish I could say I was as excited as I was when I first began it, it is still going well. Week 3 was probably not as active as it should have been; my schedule last week was much more hectic than usual. As a matter of fact we've changed it around a bit and made some allowances for my circus of a life. Still, sometimes other things take priority and it seemed like last week so many urgent things came up. I did do very well with my meals though, didn’t skip breakfast even once, and I did make it to the gym or for a run a few times. I was actually beginning to feel bad about my poor week until this past weekend. While getting ready for work on Saturday I put on my “fat capris” and low and behold: I required a belt. Woohoo! Progress at last. That of course lit a fire under me once again so after a long day at work yesterday I came home, changed into my workout gear and headed out for a run in the rain. Clearly I am doing something right so I’ll be damned if I stop now!

I want to take a moment and thank those of you who have taken the time out of your day to read this, sometimes leaving me words of encouragement or even just letting me know that you’ve been reading. It means a lot to know that the things I say matter and that when I am feeling insecure or down there is always someone there to pick me back up. As I’ve said before, it is becoming more and more apparent to me as I get older that the people we surround ourselves with are the people who shape and mold us, and its so important to have that network of support. I am so lucky to have such great friends and family in my life and I just wanted to say that once more.

This week promises to be another busy one: dentist appointments, preparing for the start of soccer season next week (which for me consists of entering every single player from U8 to Men's Master's into Soccer NS's IT system. Thats about 350 players and several hours of typing), a gigantic pile of laundry threatening to take over my laundry room, a trip into Halifax with a friend (hopefully several trips to the weight room and a few runs in among there somewhere), painting all the trim and window sills on the outside of the house and endless hours of yard work. All of this outside work will help prepare us for the biggest job of all this coming long weekend: the painting of the house.

Seriously, is it July yet?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life:

Canadian Cancer Society Relay For Life:

It is an indescribable joy to watch your children grow, to see them have new experiences and to see what they learn from them; its even better when the people they grow into are people you truly like and are proud to know.

Our daughter Morgan has always been a head-strong, independant, very social child. She is assertive without being aggressive, exudes a self confidence that even I envy and once she sets her mind on something she finds a way to make it happen. She is polite, kind, very "motherly" and well liked among her friends. I have always been so very proud of her, and now I see that her generous personality is being put to good use.

A couple months ago she came to me and said that she and a few of her friends had an idea to put together a team to participate in the Relay for Life. Morgan is well acquainted with this charitable event, as her father has been involved in the Middle chapter for some time. We take them up every year to experience the festivities and to help celebrate all that the Cancer Society does, along with the good people of our community. Last year however, was an eye opener for us all. My mother-in-law, Morgan's beloved and cherished grandmother, was recovering from lung cancer. It was a fluke that it was caught and because it was, she had a great portion of her lung removed and was given a clean bill of health. As weak as she still was, she drove down to do the "survivors walk", walking proudly among her fellow cancer survivors in yellow, holding her grandchildren's hands. It was very touching for us all and apparantly left an impression on Morgan.

After some organizing and a parent volunteer, the group of girls started fund raising and amazingly are currently in 4th place for money raised online for the Middleton Relay. Words cannot describe how proud we are of her and her friends, their selfless attitudes and their desire to make a difference. I have attached the link to their page on the Cancer Society website, please feel free to visit and read the info on how you can help fight back.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Counting my blessings

A lifetime ago - before the days of responsibility and parenting, when sleeping in was a given and the most important decision I had to make was what movie I wanted to see that evening - I thought I had it pretty good. I was working a job that I was proud to have gotten, I was happily planning a future with a wonderful guy and couldn't wait to get it started. I was in a hurry to grow up, without any real idea of what that actually entailed, and my life seemed already pretty full.

Then along came Morgan.

When you're a young girl and you think of having kids, you think of having babies. They are so cute, they have that "baby smell", they wear adorable tiny clothes. And then that baby comes out and all of a sudden your world turns upside down. The life that seemed so full just last week is now but a memory, and all of a sudden you can't remember life before this miracle. When I look back on those years sometimes it seems like a blur to me. Its like I put my head down and got lost in the day-to-day circus that comes along with babies. I have never learned so much in all my years of school as I did that first year of being a mother and it was a journey I will cherish forever. In those early years I learned to function on virtually no sleep whatsoever, to change a squirming toddler in my lap in almost any location you can think of, how to tell the severity of a fever with the back of my hand, how to scare away the monsters in the closet, to cure almost any ailment with a bandaid and of course how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. We added to our brood two years later with Owen and through those precious times I learned the real meaning of unconditional love. I have had the joy by now of three babies, Rhian coming along four years after Owen. It could be said that she had it easier than the first two, being the last and some six years later than my first. But I sometimes think she has it worse; she will always be the baby.

Every Mothers Day my wonderful husband takes it upon himself to make me feel special, to make me breakfast in bed - from that first year when Morgan was four months old and could only lay on the bed and stare at me waiting for her turn to be fed, until today when the kids needed only slight supervision and even carried the tray to my bed on their own - and to show me just how much he appreciates me. The kids make me cards and draw me pictures, dote on me all day and never let me out of their sight without calling out, "Happy Mothers Day Mommy!" Today I looked at my kids and realized they're not babies anymore. All of a sudden its like I lifted my head finally and I see these three people who are here all because of us, and who are at once so alike and so completely different. I watched them all very closely, remarking on their mannerisms, thier personalities, the way they interact with eachother and I was overcome with pride. From all those late night crying spells, dirty diapers and countless time-outs, the mountains of baby laundry and marathon teething sessions, came three wonderful, caring, respectful individuals. From my beautiful eleven year old daughter who is wise beyond her years, kind and caring and who shows amazing talent for music, my wonderfully funny and adorable nine year old son who has an insatiable curiosity for how things work and how he can make them better, to my giggly, spunky and wildly fun five year daughter who keeps us on our toes and whom we affectionately refer to as our "wild child" - I am pretty sure I am the luckiest girl alive to call these beautiful souls my children.

This year I got to share my special day with two very special women: my own mother and my beloved mother-in-law. I am blessed to have these inspiring examples of motherhood in my life and am grateful I got to spend the day with them both. I know my mother hasn't had a breakfast in bed like that in some 20 years - I hope she has recovered! And it was well worth the drive to see the look on my mother-in-law's face as she watched her sons and her many grandchilren playing and enjoying each other's company. What joy to watch your family grow and expand, how wonderful to be able to experience that with her.

For all you Moms out there, I wish you all the best on this day set aside especially to celebrate us and all we do. There are no words for the bond we share with our kids and no way to describe the journey we take from that first moment we join the "club". But we share an understanding of what it means to create, nurture and unconditionally love our children and for that gift we should all be so very thankful.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Rude boys and bad manners

There is a thing called gym etiquette. I understand I am new at this and I've only logged a mere four sessions total in the weight room, but even I know that its not polite to stare.

I've been doing very well on my new journey, if I do say so myself. I've been tracking when I eat, what it contains and have followed my carefully planned out gym schedule to the letter. The best part is that while at work on Sunday I repeatedly experieced a feeling I've rarely felt in my life: hunger. I was so famished I ate all the small snacks I had brought (after devouring my lunch) and nearly teared up with relief when I dug to the bottom of my work bag and found a long-forgotten cereal bar. This, coupled with the fact that both my cardio lengths and my weights are increasing slowly tells me what I was hoping to be able to say - its working. My metabolism is waking up, my strength is increasing and my spirits are high. Until this morning.

I admit I was on a bit of a high to start with. I knew from the beginnig that by no means do I love working out; if the routines we picked for me to do became complicated or cumbersome, I would not continue them. By now I've had several cardio sessions to tell me I did not like doing it in the cardio room at our gym. I had been dreading this morning's routine so at the last minute I decided to go for a simple run instead. I never fancied myself a runner but I must say, out in the beautiful, warm spring morning all by myself I finally came to understand the joys of running. Well, I'm beginning to. I am the first to admit I don't have much stamina yet and will not be entering any marathons any time soon, but I think I have found a way to make peace with the dreaded cardio and for that reason my day started off pretty great.

So I met Steven at the gym later for my upper body workout and immediately these two guys sat down on the bench opposite me and didn't take their eyes off me the entire time. At first I thought I was being paranoid so I kept sneaking quick glances at them, expecting to find them having moved on. But no, I met their eyes several times. Then I felt my blood burn. I mean, its bad form to stare openly at anyone in public, who doesn't know this? And I'm not talking about a "oh look, a hot girl at the gym, I can't look away" kind of look. I am clearly not and they were very openly curious and judging. At one point I was on a machine that was in open view of the main hallway (this gym is not set up for any kind of privacy what so ever), doing bench presses of all things, when one of the guys came and sat on the bench directly outside the weight room and five feet away from me. By the time I'd caught him staring overtly at me several more times I wanted to go over and say, "listen buddy, you guys all want a girl with a tight ass and a lean body but you can't expect us to work up the guts to work on that if you keep rudely staring and making us feel downright stupid." (Insert a few colorful swear words and insults throughout). I chose not to engage them however; this is a gym my husband spends a lot of time in and I didn't really want to make a scene.

It did however make me work just that bit harder and with the never ending encouragement of my fantastic husband by my side, I got through it. I may not have that tight ass and lean body yet, but I refuse to be put off by rude boys and bad manners.