Spoiled Rotten

Some days it all works – my offspring can occasionally go for hours at a time being cheerful, polite and helpful.  The moments fill me with a warm, fuzzy feeling and the glow of a job well done; what a fine demonstration of excellent parenting.

Then there are the other days – when I feel like I should broadcast a public apology for the monsters I’ve unleashed on the world.  Clearly the responsibility for those moments must lie with the school system or society.

No prizes for guessing which today was.  I woke up early and thought how nice it would be to make a special breakfast for them to wake up to.  A surprising treat compared to the usual fight for the last dregs of cereal in the box, or rooting around for a piece of bread that isn’t mouldy.

So I went out and bought the fixings for a family favourite; cheesy-scrambled-egg-and-bacon-bagels.  Yum!

Roxy was the first to stumble down and she asked what smelled so good.  When I told her it was the bacon, she slumped in disappointment and said “Oh, I thought it was sausages”.  That’s right, I found myself apologising for picking the wrong breakfast meat.

But things only got worse.  Hoss, the youngest, actually cried because the bacon wasn’t crispy enough.  It is a weird and interesting fact that floppy bacon makes him gag, but really … was it worth crying about?

Then Sunny Jim sat there and moaned about the fact that the car his grandparents gave him is too nice.  Apparently because it’s a newer car it will be more expensive to install a new sound system.  He honestly expects me to tell them thanks for the car, but we’re going to sell it and get something grottier.

At moments like this it’s important to remind myself that they are basically good, but a work still in progress.  Thank goodness for the dog – she thinks everything I do is simply perfect, and is droolingly, tail-waggingly grateful for every tiny thing.  Maybe I should have been a mad dog lady instead of a mother.

Extreme Mothering

It’s mountain biking season again, which means regular trips to the local ski hill, where they adapt the lifts and set up biking trails in the summer.

Aah … memories of my own mountain biking day (yes, day – there are some things you only need to do once).

When the hill hosted a ladies day a few years ago, I thought, hey, I’m super cool – why don’t I go with my daughter?  In hindsight it’s always something of a mystery why I do these things to myself.  There is such a gulf between the sporty, adventurous mother I would love to be, and the rather uncoordinated and slightly frumpy reality.

I get these grand ideas to ‘step outside my comfort zone’, but inevitably I end up with a manic grin frozen onto my face and every muscle in my body clenched in terror.

The first run started well, as I affected an air of fearless nonchalance; until a huge great clod of dirt flew up into my eye.  It was immediately apparent that my eye didn’t intend to forgive the indignity, and no amount of tears would wash away the irritation.   A trip to the washroom to rinse it out did little but run my make-up.  No matter, I still had one good eye.

Every now and then we would come across one or other of the boys with their friends, and I have to say I was rather warming to my super-cool-mum image.

That is, until I tried some aerobatics over the handlebars.  How graceful.   Trying to look as though I meant to do that, I lay on my back in the dirt and waved away any would-be helpers.  Then I rushed to get back on my bike so that I could weep uncontrollably without having to endure any sympathy. I’m not sure which bothered me most – the pain, the shock, or the humiliation.

We carried on for a couple more runs, but boring-old-spectator-mum was suddenly looking a lot more attractive, and it was a huge relief when I could respectably hand in my bike.

As we pulled off gloves and helmets the young lady who had registered us came over to check in, and to effuse about what an inspiration we were; a mother and daughter out having adventures together.  “I should take your picture and put it on the website for next year”, she said.

And what a picture it would have been – me with my eye swollen shut, all grazed and bleeding down one arm, covered in dirt from head to foot, except for the tear-washed streaks down my face.  Yes, that would be an inspiration indeed.

Well at least that’s one thing off my list that I never have to do again.

What’s in a Name?

When I started this blog I made a conscious decision not to use names, for the sake of anonymity.  As it turns out no amount of cajoling or begging will persuade anyone I know to read it, but I still like the thought that I can be rude about people without fear of repercussions.

Still, as much as I rationalize I’m finding it quite unwieldy having to introduce everyone by their role in the story, rather than by name.  So I have come up with the ingenious ideas of using aliases.  Wow – brilliant, right?  I bet the publishing industry wishes it had thought of that.

I have decided that the two boys will henceforth be known as Sunny Jim (the 16-year old) and Hoss (the 13-year old).  Those are the two nicknames which, inexplicably, my father gave to my two brothers when we were growing up.  My daughter will be known as Roxy because it’s a name that is dear to her heart; when she was about 8 she was frustrated that her given name was too unusual and none of her classmates ever had the same name.  Roxanne, apparently, presented itself as a simpler, more conventional alternative.

I hope I remember to use them next time I’m writing about the children.  It could go sideways – realistically, I find it hard enough to keep track of their real names, without having to cope with three more.

Hold Your Horses and Watch Your Spouse

Aah, Stampede time in Calgary!  For nine days in July the entire city forgets about stress, drudgery and morals in one great big citywide party.

It all begins in a city nicknamed Cowtown, where the vehicle of choice is a pick-up truck; the hockey stadium is shaped like a saddle; and the major accolade for visitors is not the key to the city, but a white cowboy hat.

Not surprising then that 51 weeks of the year are really just considered the lead up to Stampede Week.  In fact, ‘stampeding’ is actually a verb here.  It’s ostensibly about the rodeo and chuckwagon races, but the real excitement’s generated in the midway, with its rides and games, and in the bars where pretty much anything goes.

That atmosphere downtown right now is electric.    Top executives have abandoned their suits in favour of  Western duds, including jeans, cowboy boots, plaid shirts and stetsons; even the police officers and paramedics are sporting cowboy hats.  It’s like a great big costume party where everyone gets to pretend to be a cowboy.  And the streets are filled with overexcited stampeders carrying cheap prizes and talking in funny voices.  Yeehaw!

We’ve got nightly fireworks, free pancake breakfasts all over the city, corn dogs (a disgusting hot dog deep fried in batter which is apparently a Stampede essential) and just about anything else deep fried you can imagine, including mars bars, pop tarts and coke (I know, I’m not sure how you deep fry a liquid either).

On the flip side – if you think Vegas has a reputation for forgiving and concealing debauchery it’s a tea party compared to the Stampede.

Yes, a certain sub-section of Calgarians seem almost proud of the motto “drink triples, see double and think single”.  Some bars operate a ‘wedding ring check’, and you might suppose the telling white dent left on the wedding ring finger would be a problem – but only if anyone cared.

They call it The Greatest Show on Earth which seems a little opimistic, but then as Edmonton calls itself The City of Champions I guess anything goes.

This year I announced with some pleasure that I would be foregoing Stampede – the children are quite old enough to go with their friends, and definitely don’t want old people cramping their style.  Stampeding as a parent consists mostly of standing around in the scorching sun anmid the stench of sweaty horses and people, watching the children go on rides for hour upon hour, followed by a trip home on an overcrowded train with a  bunch of overtired, sugar-hyped offspring.

I have surprised myself, though, by rather missing it.  So A-Stampeding we will go!  Hubby and I are off this afternoon, sans kids, to laugh at would-be cowboys and eat some junk.  Fun!

Where to Start

I haven’t posted for a while and it’s not for want of things to write about … I suppose it’s more a question of working out where to even start.  My life is a cornucopia of absurdity.

My weekends in June were spent sitting on a deck chair in the parking lot of a local mall – with a big sign promising trees for sale.  It was a concept that will be filed firmly under ‘s’ for ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’.

You see, having invested every spare penny, for the last 18 years, in my husband’s tree farm it has come to our attention that at some point the investment should yield some return.  No, I’m regularly assured, we don’t need retirement savings, or an education plan because the trees will keep us in our dotage and pay for the kids’ schooling.  Well, guess what – we have one child going to university in September and my mind has definitely seen better days.  And, as yet, no sign of the promised riches.

For the first few years there were enough trees to supply my husband’s own landscaping projects, then as the numbers gradually increased he was able to supply a few to other landscapers.  This year we need to make some serious retail sales.  But how?

Hence the contract to sell from the mall.  And, the landscaper of the house being somewhat busy at this time of year, I co-opted myself to do the sitting … in the pouring rain, the howling wind and the complete absence of eager buyers.  Thank goodness for modern technology and Terry Pratchett, without either of which I would have lost my mind (and further hastened the aforementioned dotage).

I’m pretty sure I put on about 10lb during the month; the Starbucks across the parking lot was like a shining beacon of comfort and the time spent ordering a chai tea provided some precious moments of human contact.

It was rather like running a lemonade stand, with a slightly inflated price structure.  Do you think I get cosmic brownie points for the greenhouse gases those trees sucked up while we sat there amid the exhaust fumes?

Let’s Define ‘Fried’

This is a time of change … I’m getting myself emotionally prepared for the children leaving home, and as I get closer and closer to 50 I’m wondering what I can do with the next half a century rather than just sitting on the front porch moaning about the weeds and shaking my fists at the neighbourhood children.

As I look at my husband I am also startlingly aware that he is the only member of the family likely to stick around for much longer.

So I guess it’s time to do something about his high blood pressure and generous beer belly.   I have warned him that if he doesn’t lose a bunch of weight during the course of the landscaping season then I’m putting him on a diet in the winter.  He doesn’t seem to have taken the threat to heart and I’m not sensing any commitment to the concept of healthy eating.

In fact, just the other evening when faced with a delightful dinner of left-overs I found him frying up a pork chop, which I felt was somewhat counter-productive to the weight loss goal.  “I’m not frying”, he said “I’m just warming it up in some melted butter”.  Seriously?  Isn’t that pretty much the definition of ‘frying’?