Our Hectic Mundane… and A Book Recommendation

It’s a quiet Friday morning in September – it was 3 degrees (Celsius) when I woke up and I can feel in my frozen toes that winter is coming.The boys have headed back to school, but like most people around here, that has meant nothing in terms of routine. As of today, we are officially on our specific schedules which still seems to involve a lot of juggling with varied timetables even though we opted (optimistically) for in person learning. My contract was reestablished and I headed back into the office on a scaled-back schedule.

While I have a few hours to myself (the oldest is only out of the house for 3 hours, every other day) on this dedicated “day off”, I sat down with a Tetley gingerbread tea latte (featuring a combo almond/coconut milk and oat milk froth because I’m eliminating reducing dairy) and realized I have a to-do list, yes, but nowhere and nothing that NEED to be done. If I want to sit in my pajamas all day and read, well, I could do that – guilt-free. (I won’t though, because I don’t think that’s what my body needs today. Yesterday, yes – I worked, I napped, I ate (ugh) cup-o-soup for dinner instead of the veggie stir fry I prepared because I wasn’t feeling up to anything. Not all days are a success on this journey.)

I have been scaling back on my NetGalley reads – the to-be read list is still ridiculously long, but so is my pile of books I’ve actually invested in. I most recently picked up The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri from the fabulous Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge. (It’s one of my favourite independent bookstores – probably my favourite locally!) I’ve been tip-toeing my way through this title because I’m feeling book burnout. It’s an unfortunate state of being. So instead of reading what I “need” to – as I felt I was sometimes missing the pleasure of the read and therefore, perhaps unconsciously skewing my reviews – I opted to read something that grabbed me in the moment.

The Wikipedia summary of this title blandly states: The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a 2019 novel by Christy Lefteri. It deals with the flight of refugees from Aleppo in Syria to Europe during the Syrian Civil War. While a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience over two summers volunteering in Athens at a refugee center.

What Wikipedia fails to mention is the passion, heartache, and beauty that has gone into this work. I don’t have a full review for you – I’m only half-way through, but I would, based on reading to date, recommend this title to anyone and everyone. It’s captivating and moving and almost too much for me to read in a binge session. It’s heavy-weighted and I need air in between passages at times, but it’s beautiful. Perhaps my view is a little slanted because as I read, I can’t help but relate the carefully crafted words to the experiences those of my own limited acquaintance have encountered as they lived the plight of the refugee.

So today, I leave you with that recommendation and quick glimpse into our current life. Myself? Well while the dishwasher runs, my toes warm under a blanket on the couch, and the kittens (yes, we adopted two kittens this summer) run amok through the house, I will take a few breaths, enjoy my few hours of freedom, find joy in the sunshine, and peace in our special hectic mundane (which may or may not involve unclogging a shower drain – oh the glamour!)

Happy “Terrible” Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day (or as my youngest has said via our lightboard, Terrible Mother’s Day… storm clouds and all!)

Let me tell you all, it started like every other morning, and there was a glimmer of hope for all the hearts and flowers. Then it peaked very quickly – soon after my husband gave me a hug, Justin brought me a homemade card, I “watched” church, and then we discussed breakfast. I didn’t want heavy bacon and eggs and he didn’t want to attempt crepes (my favorite!) He gave in and amidst much thunking and sighing in the kitchen, came up with a pretty decent crepe while I tidied, made the filling, made coffees, prepped dinner and threw it in the Crock-Pot so no one has to worry about it later. (Dinner was “meh” but the crusty bread I made was delicious.)

I had big dreams (and I think this is where it all fell apart – unreasonable expectations and all that) – big dreams that I would feel the love and appreciation just exuding in happiness with hearts and flowers from my guys.  (Note: were really not the warm and fuzzy type. Hearts and flowers just ain’t our thing...) I thought that maybe all the little things I do endlessly (and yes, sometimes with complaint) would be reciprocated back. I just wanted a hot breakfast, that we all ate together around the table, with stars in our eyes while sharing all the ooey-gooey gushy stuff they love about me.  (Ha!)

Instead, we staggered our plating, Kev ate standing up, Kaleb snapped at me more than once, and I lost my cool…  Then Justin got upset, everyone gave me a wide berth, Justin changed the light sign message (it started with a heart and a happy) and I said well if we can’t have a nice day we’ll just have a normal miserable day and you can all help me. I then dove into a sink full of dirty dishes and tidied the kitchen because I had bread to make to go with dinner.  And you know what? That’s where the “terrible” came in, and no, it wasn’t actually a terrible day.

I feel bad and yet, I think we forget that moms experience disappointment and frustration and want their special people to “see them”.  I also think that expectations get mixed up due to a lack of communication.  I mean isn’t that the reason usually?  Did I think it would be a perfect day?  No!  Did I think I’d be having a temper tantrum at the age of 38 at my breakfast table?  Uh, not in the least… but it happened… and that’s on me, not the ones who tried to show me love. (Sorry, dears!)

Motherhood is real life, y’all – it’s not all hearts and flowers and stars in the eyes.  It’s messy and imperfect and miscommunication and unrealised expectations and mixed personalities and all the real things.  It’s endless love and wanting to shake sense into your offspring.  It’s worry and wonder, tempers and teacups, sunny days, and stormy weather, laughter, longing, loneliness.  The most joyful of joys and lowest depths of disappointment.  So why would a day, merely marked on a calendar, to celebrate motherhood, actually be any different than the messy complicated relationships that define motherhood itself? 

So, yes, I’m grateful for the crepes, the homemade card, the hug… even though I complained… and I’m even more grateful for my children and husband themselves, even though they drive me crazy.  And I know I’m fortunate and blessed to be a mother with her children near, but I’m also human and I mess up ALL. THE. TIME – so kids, please remember, I love you even when I’m grumpy! Now, go fold some laundry and actually do the things without arguing, please? Also, stop shooting ping pong balls out of your balloon at me, mmmmkay?

A Pondering Insomniac…

I have been struggling with insomnia the last week or so… ridiculously struggling considering a few weeks ago I was in bed by 10 p.m. most nights and sleeping a solid 8-10 hours. I close my eyes and will myself to sleep, eventually drifting off only to jolt awake with my heart racing and absolute alertness a short half hour later. Then I toss and turn for hours, while Kevin snores beside me and I want to silence those snores with his pillow (pure jealousy) or invest in some really good earplugs. I give up on sleeping and start to read until blessedly, I nod off mid-chapter – bringing me some sweet relief until morning comes when I fight the lingering headache that remains of my troubled eve.

Tonight, I haven’t even attempted to close my eyes, though I have been clenching my teeth. My mind is racing, pondering life and all its dichotomies, thoughts zinging and pinging, bouncing around like the ball in a pinball machine. I know sleep is a phantom I have no hope of catching until my mind quiets itself. I hope putting pen to paper, so to speak, will help do the trick.

Tonight, I learned we lost another uncle – another loved one. There’s yet another hole in our family tapestry, another individual who will be absent at family picnics. I honestly want to stomp my feet, throw a fit, and say, “No more!” I am heartbroken for my aunt who has lost her partner, lover, friend; for my cousins who won’t feel his arms around them in hello or his whiskers on their cheeks as he gives a farewell kiss; for my mom, the baby of the family who lost her older brother and holds just memories of moments together, but didn’t get a chance to actually say goodbye.

I feel angry because those who loved him will not be able to comfort one another in person or gather to celebrate his life. I’m upset that what will already be a difficult time of adjustment will be complicated by the restraints of this current climate. I know we can share words of compassion and sympathy, but who will be there to hold the Kleenex or a hand when reality hits hard?

I feel guilty, because while I know Uncle Joe will be missed, while his family mourns tonight, I tend to my family as though life continues just the same. Because life does continue and I have a “baby” who is turning thirteen in two short days who wants his mama to make his day extra special because he can’t celebrate as planned. I feel guilty because we’re embracing life with excitement and I feel like we *should* be subdued. I feel like it’s not fair to be celebrating while another family mourns.

However, as much as “babies” want special surprises on their birthdays, Mama’s tend to want to make things extra special when things don’t go as planned. So my mind is filled with thoughts about life, and love, and loss, and I have teary eyed moments interspersed with to-do lists and visions of chocolate layer cakes “with a surprise” and DIY birthday escape room puzzles because as of this afternoon I heard, “So if I can’t go to an escape room for my birthday, can you surprise me with things I have to solve to find my present?”

As I sit here wide-eyed and restless, I’ll use this moment of insomnia to continue to ponder, to think, to plan. I’ll remember that life is a balance and it’s the little things you celebrate and the special but ordinary moments you look back on when all is said and done. If 40 years from now we find snapshots of a 13th birthday under quarantine and my then 53 year old can smile at the memories he made with his mother and know he was loved beyond measure, then I’ll know that we successfully drove home the life lesson that our best laid plans don’t matter… but love and people do. ♥️

Martha Stewart? I Think Not…

Being home the last little bit has transported me back to my coveted days as a SAHM.  I’ll be honest, I’ve missed it.  While the kids are older and come with a whole separate set of concerns now, my time is pretty much my own, even though I’m working remotely and our youngest really likes company. 

I’ve puttered around the house.  Dishes are done. The neverending pile of laundry is slowly dwindling and doesn’t seem to be growing at the same exponential rate as usual.  I feel more rested (even though I also find myself a little tense and stressed by end of day – too much worry and social media.  My bad!)

Thankfully, I’ve also spent more time in the kitchen.  My boys haven’t magically become appreciative of home cooked meals.  There are definitely still complaints around the dinner table.  However, I’m able to try things and make things stretch and even laugh at my disappointments.  I really, really do miss this.

On Monday night, I had a flattened Portuguese chicken available.  I had picked it up at the grocery store in shrink wrap packaging and with a discount sticker a few weeks ago. Threw it in the freezer as a shortcut meal and refused to feel guilty about it. (Lies… shortcuts still tend to make me feel guilty.  Something I know I have to figure out for myself.)

Monday, I made the chicken with roasted mini potatoes and a spinach salad.  After dinner, I simmered the carcass into a beautiful, flavourful broth.  

On Tuesday, I used some of the broth as the base for a quick and easy tomato soup – broth, a can of whole tomatoes, half a red onion, a couple handfuls of spinach, some almond milk for creaminess, a generous sprinkling of dried basil, and a medley of various spices. (But not cumin…. that fell out of the cupboard and spilled all over my floor last week.  Note to self: remember to add cumin to your next shopping list!) It was a tasty comfort food dish that was simple to prepare if you didn’t count the hours the broth simmered the night before.

I’ll admit that Wednesday, I had been out (but still social distancing) and saw my husband (who ordered a huge lunch for us.) By the time dinner rolled around, I was still stuffed.  It was a fend for yourself night that included nachos and cheese, waffles, grapes, cereal, etc.  Not our healthiest shining moment.

Thursday, as I glanced in the fridge for lunch options, I saw my mason jar with leftover tomato soup.  I put it on to simmer while I wrestled some bread dough into submission. (I don’t think I was the victor in this case.  It never seemed to rise properly.)

To jazz it up, I added a handful of frozen corn with jalapeno (to the simmering soup, not the bread dough.) Topped it with cheese and some leftover tortilla chips to give it a new taste profile.  I had one generous bowl of yumminess awaiting my delight!  As I’m about to dig my spoon in, the youngest finds me.  (Between Justin and Diesel, someone always knows when there is food available.)

“Oh, that looks good!  Can I have a bowl?” and eagerly he wanders to the stove.  Sorry kid – there’s none left but I’ll share with you.  (Often, this approach means that I’m allowed to partake of my entire meal.  He doesn’t like mom-germs and I get points for generosity – it backfired today.) Off he goes to grab a bowl and I begrudgingly kindly part with half my soup. 

But he ate it and raved about how tasty it was and shared some genuine appreciation and comfort from the same pot that’s served us well multiple times this week. I don’t have the opportunities or time generally to feed my family like I ought, (excuses, excuses) so I’m enjoying these moments as blessings in disguise and taking the compliments as gold.

My Sad, Tasty Loaf of Bread

Am I a culinary goddess with unknown powers at my fingertips?  Not a chance.  Yesterday I made a smoothie for breakfast and it literally made me gag… as in my kid told me to run to the bathroom because he thought I was going to puke based on the wrenching noises as I tried to get it down.  Also, that bread?  It was one dismal tasty disaster. 

Meal Plan Monday (On A Tuesday): Random Rambling

It’s late Tuesday evening and my boys don’t yet want to call it a night. Meanwhile, I’m in my jammies, already in bed because my body is craving rest and my mind is craving quiet. I know the next 4 or 5 days are going to be out of the ordinary and I’m taking advantage of the mundane moments while I can.

I put together a meal plan over the weekend and then put together a whole new one yesterday when the first one just wasn’t ticking all the boxes for me. There was a lot of prep involved in the very tasty options I selected the first time around and simplicity is the name of the game for us in order to not rely on takeout this week. I’m only here for a couple dinners, with busy, busy, busy days, and then the guys are doing the bachelor thing.

I’ve decided I enjoy simplicity. Quick and easy meals. Comfort food. Dinners that don’t require hours of prep but that also don’t come from a tinfoil tray in the freezer. Savoury soups. Fresh salads. A sandwich or stew or stirfry.

This evening’s menu called for sandwiches – fresh buns and a variety of deli meats, cheeses, veggies… but I wanted more. And by 4 pm my 12 year old was asking for dinner and he really wanted soup. We put together a quick and easy tortilla chicken soup. He filled up. I filled up. There’s plenty left for lunch and dinner tomorrow. Two meals out of the way although I’ll add a salad to my plate tomorrow night.

Thursday and Friday is up to the guys. They have a variety of choices. Breakfast for dinner, pasta, chicken and veggies. They’ll make do. Their meals may not end up as well-rounded as when I’m in charge, but I know they won’t be starving. Saturday, half of us are walking with The Coldest Night of the Year. Dinner should be provided after the walk. Sunday will be whatever piques my interest when I open the fridge.

Some weeks, fed and family time feels more important than what’s actually on the menu. Three out of four loved the soup tonight – it’s one of the meals that always tastes delicious even though I don’t follow a recipe and the seasonings and ingredients change each time. (Tonight the pot featured red beans, jalapenos, tomato, corn, and spinach.) A different three out of four enjoyed some sandwiches tonight. We all enjoyed eating. At home. In the comfort of each other’s company. And that’s what all this menu planning is about – a fed family grateful and fortunate to have enough to eat, even when it’s simple.

All the I Love Yous

Today I said I love you by letting you sleep in. We have things to do around the house, but I know you’ve been exhausted this week. It may be a slightly selfish I love you because this means I could sleep in as well.

Yesterday I said I love you by picking up your favourite fast food burger on my way home from work. You were home by yourself all day and I was sure you kept opening the fridge and the cupboards, but still managed to find nothing to eat. (There is fruit on the table… always!!!) When I show my love this way, I can only hope that you’ll still eat dinner (and you did.)

The other day I said I love you by sending a text reminding you how awesome you are before you headed into your first ever exam. I probably even used the words “I love you” in this one, but I never got a reply. I can only hope that you really, truly know your value and that beyond a shadow of doubt know you are loved, despite your grades (which I’m sure you rocked!)

Last week I said I love you when I folded your laundry. The three baskets of it that you let pile up just waiting for someone to fold. It’s one of those things you’re supposed to be responsible for now, but I didn’t mind taking the time to do this for you while you were at school.

Every day I say I love you. In the meals I cook – yes, even the ones you complain about. In the reminders to try your best. In the lectures about contributing to the society of our home. In the responsibilities given. In the trust exercised. In the chauffeuring. In the questions about your life that drive you crazy. In the call to wake you up each morning and the call again 10 minutes later because you haven’t made a sound yet. In the words “I Love You” when you’re frustrated with me or just passing you in the hall.

You don’t always hear “I love you”, but child, my I love yous are being shouted loud and clear or soft and quiet every single day and I’ll be sharing them until I’m no longer here to tell you. Never, ever doubt you are loved and know that I hear your I love yous too, even when they’re not spoken.

The Dream of Silence

This morning as the alarm went off, I had visions of a leisurely day ahead. I pictured myself resting in some comfy clothes, book in hand, between loads of laundry, cups of tea, and dishes. The dog would snuggle up to me, I’d turn the ringer off on my phone, I’d bask in the silence.

Then real life set in and my dreams were but a puff of smoke. One child yelling about how much he dislikes school and telling me I’m not his mother (a familiar 7 a.m. refrain.) The other boy slept in a little and woke up grumpy. The buses were late because of the cold and my hard won silence was more of a mad, rapid descent into pandemonium.

J. made it onto the bus, albeit late, bundled up head to toe. Once he made it out the door, I though we were in the clear. Kaleb made it out as well, without any posted delays. I erroneously prepared to indulge in my comforter again a short time before meeting the day.

But the text messages started. “Mom, the bus isn’t here. It’s cold. Is there a delay?” This followed by him coming into the house asking the same questions. While I try to track the bus, I hear it from the recesses of my bedroom, driving past my driveway – child still in the house. No big deal. Just a little hiccup. I will drive him in. He’ll still be on time and no, child, you’re not missing school. It’s an organized study day before your exams.

Except, I forgot to plug in my car last night and it wouldn’t start. Now what? We plug it in for a short time and I get him to school just minutes after the bell rings. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough. I’ve taken care of the immediate fires, but I’m frazzled and the bliss of silence needs to be fought for again. It’s fine – a great excuse for a chai latte and a muffin… and now that I’m out, I might as well do something with my day. Shopping, anyone?

My No-Resolution Resolution

We have been flung full-force into real life once again. I made no resolutions this year because I’m pretty darned perfect! (I kid, people. I kid.) I made no resolutions this year because I’m honest enough with myself to know that unless they involve books, I’m probably not going to keep them, and in all honestly, my bad book habits probably aren’t going to change either. (I’m talking about my piles of unread books from years ago, but can’t walk past a bookstore or book table habit.)

We started the new year sunkissed and refreshed. I had a few very brief day-dreamy moments where I considered the possibility that maybe life would slow down a little in 2020. (Hard no.) And yet, I’m already yearning for a slightly slower pace of life. I contemplate the far off reality of retirement with eager anticipation, but I’m in no rush to get there – just rushing in general.

Today on Facebook I read this beautiful post by The Life on Purpose Movement. It struck a chord. Then I commented “Goals.” right below it, and didn’t see the dichotomy of the image and my statement until later this afternoon to much amusement. Maybe it resonated so deeply because it’s such a deep seated need in so many of our lives.

This week we jumped back into life full swing. We’ve dealt with miscommunication, misspending, and mistakes. We’ve prepared to do lists, we’ve ticked off items, we’ve created (and veered from) meal plans. We’ve tried to balance family time, chauffeuring, volunteer commitments, friendships, household routine, and when we’re tired and frazzled and empty, our relationship and our alone time.

We’re no different than anyone else, but this frenetic, constant pace of life has left me empty. Not a soul-deep, heart shattering emptiness – but after giving (and biting my tongue and just listening) and living, even though our tanks started out so full, I’m running on fumes and it’s literally been a week. I need a moment to feel, to breathe, to find my feet again.

So, no, I haven’t made resolutions on a calendar – no weight goals, no lists, no accomplishments. Instead, I resolve to continue to strive to find a healthy balance. I continue to try to see more than a list of things to be done. I will continue to prioritize faith, family, and friendships. I will learn to speak up for myself (oh the value of “no” and “no, thank you!”) I will keep my ears open to listen to others and practice the pause before responding. (I’m sorry if I fail on this one and you get the sharp edge of my temper or my tongue.)

I will find grace to forgive myself in my mistakes. I will humbly apologize when I’ve messed up. I will grow. I will change. No doubt, I will generally stay the same, but hopefully improve each day by small interactions, little blessings, and finding quiet peace in cherished quiet moments.

So what’s my view for 2020? Here’s to a happier, healthier, still-the-same-at-heart me.

Living the Dream… On Drama Behind the Scenes

Today’s post is brought to you in total transparency. It’s so easy to see things that are Insta-worthy without seeing behind the scenes. A perfect snippet of someone else’s life is never the full story and while many people have it all together, I don’t think anyone has it all together all the time. Not me. Definitely not me. We’re a hot mess over here and I’m not even sure about the hot part.

Today was one of those days. I’ve written about them before. It started out with potential, but slowly went downhill. I quit running my errands because I thought life would be a bit smoother from the comfort of my home. Alone.

I had about 10 minutes. Then I heard rattling in the drawer under my oven (I keep nothing in this drawer anymore.) Child #2 came in off the bus. No big deal. Compromise over snacks and how many episodes of Bizaardvark he could watch. Told him to check the drawer before sitting his butt down on the couch.

We’ve caught a mouse… but he’s a feisty little guy and somehow only got his back leg trapped. I cried. (I hate mousetraps, but I hate mouse mess even more.) Little buddy decided to try and escape the drawer while dragging the trap and he is frantic and fast. I ended up bagging him and slipping him out of the trap out the back door. I have no hopes for him and now think I’m the worst kind of person. At least I didn’t poison him and the birds of prey too.

Things settle down. Cue the drama surrounding chores and homework. No more negotiations. Child 1 comes in off the bus and stirs the pot. Okay, then… it’s going to be one of those nights. Cue the raised voice reminding both brothers to leave each other alone and do. their. things. without causing a hassle.

Child 2 decides that instead of chores, he needs to use the bathroom. Fair enough – except he always seems to need to use the bathroom ONLY when he should be doing something else. It’s remarkable how his 12-year-old body rhythms work with hardly an interruption to TV or other screen time.

While in the bathroom, he got bored. Bored! So does he finish and go about his (other) business like any child who isn’t interested in driving his mama to near-meltdown status? NO. He starts playing with the spring-like doorstop near the baseboard (with his stinky toes, I’m assuming.) He’s pushing my buttons. He’s irking his brother. For the love of pizza, please just use the toilet quietly, wash your hands, and GET. TO. WORK.

Silence. Sweet blessed silence. Followed by a frantic, “Mom, you’re not going to be happy.” (Hate to break it to you, kid. Mom’s already unhappy.) What did my darling delight of a child do? Not use too much toilet paper. Oh no, he did better than that.

He managed to get the doorstop IN THE TOILET with his turds. Thank goodness he didn’t flush. That would have done a number on our pipes… Mom to the rescue with fury on her face (“Why didn’t you listen and stop when you were told to???”) Trusty tongs in hand and problem solved. Apparently, he has grounded himself for a month… plus the dishwasher was unloaded in record time and he’s now doing his homework quietly. Does that count as a victory?

So parents, when you’re feeling like you don’t quite measure up and life isn’t always picture perfect, at least your almost-teenager didn’t make you stick your hands in the toilet today. Dad says he’s not sure whether he’s angry or proud. Mom thinks we have more than one pest problem. We’re living the dream, right here.

I Stood Outside

I stood outside our township offices today. I was wrapped in my winter dress coat. It has a beautiful shawl collar which stupidly gapes across my neck and upper chest allowing snowflakes to settle in. I wore a warm pair of dress pants with my office flats. Without socks. It snowed. The temperature was -2°C. By the time I returned to the car, my toes hurt from cold. In my office, I’ve turned on the little heater under my desk. My toes are slowly thawing.

I stood outside our township offices today. I smiled in pride at the lines of elementary students from a local school standing alongside me. I gave a nod of my head when a young lady who is a part of our local fire department walked by in her dress uniform. I worried when a frail old man walked across the slippery sidewalk, wreath in his hands. I wiped away a tear when I heard the same family name called three times. I stood in silence as those around me stood in silence too.

I stood outside our township offices today. I stood with legions of others across Canada, putting aside our own discomforts and priorities to honour those who have served, who have sacrificed, who have given their very lives for a better world. I stood with hope that we can learn from past mistakes. I thought of those who marched, who lived in trenches, who found themselves tortured, imprisoned, illness and injury. I stood with gratitude, deep in my heart, that we stand a country, a nation, strong and free.

I stood outside our township offices today. I stood for freedom. I stood for honour. I stood to remember. I stood for those who can no longer stand for themselves. I stood outside our township offices today in front of a cenotaph, names of those loved and lost, but not forgotten. I stood outside our township offices today to remember… lest we forget.