I Will not Take Your Trash

If you are a parent you have probably experienced this scenario.

You are out somewhere in public. A grocery store. A park. Church. A festival of some sort. Your kid puts something in their mouth and then promptly decides that they do not like it. They hate it so much, in fact, that they indicate they simply must spit it out. Right! Now!

So what do you do? Without thinking, you hold out your hand for that child to spit into. Sexy? No. But at least it keeps the partially chewed food off the ground where other people will be grossed out by it and/or slip on it.

trashThis happens less and less as kids get older, thank heavens. But the habit, once established, asserts itself in new ways. Kids give you their trash. Their apple cores. Their friend’s trash. They have learned that if they have something that they want to get rid of, you will take it from them. And without thinking you usually do.

What happens once you have this half-chewed food / gross apple core / used tissue in your hand? Inevitably you look around and realize that there are no signs of a garbage can in the vicinity. As in, you could walk for three fricking days and not find a garbage can. Or a compost bin. Or any sort of likely place to leave the crud you’re holding.

Unless you’re at Disneyland. There are trash cans everywhere at Disneyland. But really, how likely is it that you’re at Disneyland?

This is why my purse contains old cheese string wrappers and wadded-up napkins and popsicle sticks that have been licked clean and sometimes even chewed on. I usually persist long enough to find an appropriate receptacle for things that will rot or very sticky things, but the rest has a way of ending up stashed somewhere for the moment and then of course I immediately forget about it because I’m in public with kids and my mind is sort of occupied.

This summer while visiting the PNE, which is the annual summer fair in Vancouver, I experienced this scenario when my daughter attempted to hand me her empty snow cone cup. Without thinking I started to reach my hand towards her to collect her trash. And then mid-stride I had a moment of clarity.

Amber! the voice in my head spoke, you do not have to carry your children’s trash around. You can just say no.

And so I did. My daughter looked puzzled. She asked where to put it. I told her that, in fact, I didn’t know. I do not have magical garbage disposal abilities. But she could look for a trash can. And she did. And then we continued our day.

It’s funny how you get into these parenting habits when you have two-year-olds and then just carry on for years without a second thought. Of course you’re going to deal with gross stuff when you have a two-year-old. Toddlers are gross. And loud. You’ll go a long way to avoid exposing others to their grossness and loudness. If they’re melting down because their tongue touched cheddar when they were expecting mozza you’ll hold out your hand just to avoid the stares of passing strangers.

But then, one day, you realize you’re taking your 11-year-old’s trash for no good reason. Or tying your eight-year-old’s shoes for him. And single-handedly doing all the cleaning and meal preparation and so on. Because you’re used to it. Your kids are used to it. And it’s just easier. With each realization, you have a decision to make. Are you ready to take a stand? Are you ready to go through the effort to change things?

On the trash collection front, I am ready. I am taking a stand. From here on in, my kids can throw out their own trash. And maybe the next time I rifle around in my purse for my keys, I won’t pull out a half eaten cereal bar and three empty food sample cups in the process.

A mom can dream, right?

Poem for September: Goal Setting

Recently I re-embraced my adolescent love of writing poetry. Many of them are written just for me, but others are for sharing. And so, a blog series is born.

And now, here is a poem I wrote over a year ago. It actually feels pretty apt for my life right now. I just finished my teaching degree and I’m working as a teacher on call – or a substitute teacher, as you prefer. I’m waiting around for dispatch calls to come in and it’s hard for a planner like me. I’ve had one dispatch so far and it went well. But because the paperwork from my degree is still working its way through the system I can expect things to be slow for the next month or so. Even so, I need to be ready just in case. It’s a strange sort of limbo and I’m not as zen about it as I would like to be.

And so, this poem, which is about handling anxiety and chaos, seems perfect. Here’s to embracing the unknown!

substitute teacher student teacher poetry

Goal Setting

I’ve always thought my goal was to remove
Every anxiety, until I just felt perfectly
Calm – All. The. Time.
In my imagination I am serene, silent, strong,
My vision focused and my discipline absolute.

I realize, now, I could never be this person
And I doubt any such person really exists
(Although I do allow that my experience
Of people is hardly complete)
I’ve discarded my old goals and I’m lost.

I am tired of meditating and exercising
Getting enough sleep, eating right
Eschewing alcohol and caffeine
Good behaviour sucks all the sparkle
Out of life when it’s not freely chosen.

My new goal: learn to accept chaos
It’s going to insist on creeping in
Fraying the corners of my mind
Upending furniture, ripping up schedules
Bring every messy thing on.

This is real strength:
To dwell in the land of the lost
Without losing yourself.
To make plans in hope even as you
Know it won’t turn out as you expect.

All You Need is Love…Thankfully

We have reached that part of summer where everyone’s a little tired of being on vacation. It’s the most ridiculously first-world problem ever, I know, but I’m out of patience, my kids are bored and we’re all ready to get back into a semi-regular routine. To cap things off my husband is out of town right now, which really isn’t helping with my utter lack of motivation.

The one thing that is helping to see us through all of this is music. No matter what else is going on, some good tunes can really be a pick-me-up. My playlist is a bit eclectic. Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” motivates me when I’m washing the dishes. My children have learned how to “Vogue” thanks to Madonna. Lukas Graham’s “7 Years” was a personal favourite of my son right up until he turned 8 a couple of weeks ago. And when all else fails, I’ve got the Beatles.

I’m hoping that love really is all I need, because sometimes it feels like it’s all I’ve got. I’m just keeping it real, people.

love beatles beat bugs netflix

The Beatles are a slightly controversial topic around my house. I am a fan. When I was in my early 20s I bought a massive CD boxed set (remember when those were a thing?) with all the band’s greatest hits. I listened to it constantly, blown away by the breadth and scope of the music. They were amazingly prolific and their music really holds up.

My husband, on the other hand, is not such a Beatles fan. His father loves the Beatles, so I suspect that my husband’s dislike may stem from some youthful rebellion he never outgrew. Or maybe he just can’t hear what I hear. I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that I have overruled him and shared the Beatles with my kids.

If you’d like to share the Beatles with your kids the new Netflix series Beat Bugs can help. Watch this video to hear my kids and I attempt to cover “All You Need is Love”, and find out how you can win a 3-month subscription to Netflix Canada.

So, get singing or share your favourite Beatles song covered by the Beat Bugs in the comments!

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

Finish Line

student teacher sfu pdp

My last official day on campus as a student teacher

Almost three years ago now, in October 2013, I sat in a classroom in the Education Building at Simon Fraser University. I was there because I was starting to seriously think about going back to school to become a teacher and they were having an info session. I sat in a room with a bunch of people, most (but not all) of them much younger than me. As I listened I sketched out a plan of what would be required and how long it would take and I realized it would be almost three years. Three! Years! That felt like a really, really long time. That alone almost put me off the idea.

But it didn’t.

It didn’t put me off because of that little voice in my brain that has been there for as long as I can remember. The voice I have been ignoring since I was 15 years old. The voice I suppressed through the end of high school and engineering school and years of work and family. The voice I ignored because I wanted a solid, well-paying, prestigious career. The voice that said I was meant to be a teacher.

Oh, sure, there were moments along the way. Moments when I was discouraged and disaffected and starting surfing the Internet reading about prerequisites for my teaching degree. But always those moments passed and I sucked it up and moved on. Until one day, when my son was in kindergarten and I knew I needed more. As I spent more and more time thinking about it, I got more and more serious. I attended the info session. I talked to my husband. I ran the budget numbers. And then, finally, I made the leap and applied to go back to school.

Along the way I committed to taking things slowly. Embarking on a new career as a mom with two kids and a mortgage and all that stuff is a much different proposition than embarking on a new career as a twentysomething with no responsibilities. I had to be sure. I had to really know.

And so I took classes to get all the prerequisites I needed to apply. I volunteered in a local middle school. I spent time in the Faculty of Education. And then, once I applied and actually started I considered and re-considered at every step along the way. After all, spending a semester in school and then dropping out might feel like a waste oftime and energy and money, but it’s much less of a waste of time and energy and money than spending a year and finishing and maybe even working for a bit and discovering that you really hate teaching.

Fortunately throughout the journey one thing has rung true: I love teaching. School was stressful and difficult and time-consuming. I was occasionally extremely discouraged. I wasn’t sure I would make it through. But even on my worst day that faded when I was actually in the classroom with my students. When I was teaching I knew I was right where I was supposed to be. I finally really fit.

I didn’t get here alone. My professors, my sponsor teachers, my fellow student teachers, my friends, my husband and my children all supported me. I am immensely grateful. I am especially grateful to my kids who had to put up with the fact I had very little time and energy for them, and that I was often not at my best. My hope is that by watching me go through this they have learned something themselves, about setting goals and following through and not being afraid to try new things.

All of my classes are finished now, and all of my marks are in. I’m officially done. Pending approval from the University Senate and the Teacher Regulation Branch, I am a teacher. I have been hired as a substitute teacher in two school districts, and I am looking forward to being in the classroom this fall. It feels great to be here.

Three years ago this moment felt impossibly far away. But now that I’m here, I can’t believe it’s already over. I guess time flies when you’re doing what you were always meant to do.

Jacob + 8 years and 4 days

On Saturday my son Jacob turned eight years old.

Just like every year on one of my children’s birthdays, I once again became ridiculously sentimental. How did this happen? How did my chubby-legged little baby turn into this big kid who can ride a bike and read chapter books and calculate three times 24 in his head? It’s baffling, which is strange because I am the one who was there every step of the way.

But, you know, there’s something about birthdays that makes you stop and take stock and realize just how much growing your kid has done. When you slow down for a second you can really see just how much change has happened during the past year, and the past eight years.

So what is my eight year old son like? He’s very good-natured. As a testament he completely took it in stride when his birthday present was broken and had to be returned to the store. He loves to tell a joke – in fact, maybe a little bit too much. He’s friendly and outgoing. He’s still committed to his dream of one day being a YouTuber. He likes to play video games and he recently learned to ride a bike. When he grows up he wants to be a chemist so that he can do experiments and make things explode. He’s played baseball for the last three years and he is a good hitter. He’s finally tall enough to ride the big roller coaster at the amusement park and he’s almost as much of a daredevil as his big sister.

During the past year I was at school full-time earning my teaching degree. Now I am out the other side and looking forward to a great year spent with my eight-year-old. If things go to plan there will be family vacations and school breaks that we can enjoy together. We bought family ski passes for the winter, so we will all hit the slopes together. I want to take advantage of this time and make memories while I can. If the past eight years have taught me anything it’s that time flies, and this will all be over before I know it.

Happy birthday to my boy!

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

Happy birthday Jacob

The Joys of Napping

My children have never been nappers. They both gave it up promptly right around their second birthdays and didn’t look back. This didn’t surprise me, because my mother always said I wasn’t a napper, either. By all reports I gave it up around the same age that my kids did, and the only time I ever slept during daylight hours after that was when I was sick.

When I had newborns I heard the same advice every new mother hears – sleep when the baby sleeps. I just rolled my eyes. I couldn’t possibly sleep during the day. I would just have to go to bed early and hope for the best. And for the most part it worked. On bad days I sucked it up and repeated the mantra this too shall pass in my head, and fortunately there weren’t too many bad days.

In recent months, however, things have changed. It’s hard to pinpoint why. Perhaps it’s advancing age. Perhaps it’s befriending a couple of committed nappers. Perhaps it’s letting go of my identity of a non-napper and discovering that it was only ever a story I told myself. Perhaps being back at school finally made me tired enough that I needed to nap. Whatever the reason, though, I have become a napper. And it’s wonderful.

nappingThere’s something so indulgent about sinking into bed at 3:15 in the afternoon and sleeping. 15 or 20 minutes of dozing makes me feel like a new person in a way that few other things can. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t do it every day, of course. Life has a way of interfering with sleep, whether it’s daytime or nighttime. We’ve all been in that place where we struggle (and fail) to get the bare minimum of rest we need. On those days when I can give in and nap, though, it transforms me and leaves me feeling happy and relaxed and taken care of.

They say it’s the little things in life. I agree. A nice meal. Holding your child’s hand. The way the world smells after a spring rain. And a good nap.

During my time as a student teacher I spent a lot of time discussing and thinking about how to meet students’ needs. None of us are at our best when we’re tired or hungry or hurt or we’ve just had a fight with a family member. Kids are no different. If we actually want them to learn, it’s not enough to come up with a list of math questions. You need to create the right conditions for learning.

And yet, as adults, we don’t do this for ourselves. Or, at least, we do it all too rarely. It took me almost four decades, for instance, to figure out that a nap is a good thing. And so I wonder – how would things be different if we actually took care for ourselves? Not in a judgy, don’t eat sugar kind of a way, but in a genuine take 15 minutes for yourself kind of way. I think that a little more of that could really make the world a better place. We might not be in school anymore, but everything is better when we’re not exhausted. Right?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I could use a nap.

Celebrating my Roots

Tomorrow is a holiday here in British Columbia. The first Monday in August is officially BC Day – a date that was chosen both to give everyone a chance to get out and have some fun at the height of summer, and to commemorate the formation of the Colony of British Columbia on August 2, 1858.

My family celebrated a little bit early today. We joined some friends for a picnic at the lake. And while the water was more than just a little cold, my husband, daughter and I braved it. I made it in up to my armpits, while my daughter made it up to her neck and my husband dunked himself. We’re made of hardy stuff, we Canadians. Although, to be fair, we British Columbians are generally less accustomed to cold temperatures than the rest of the country.

bc day buntzen lake

We had an extra reason to celebrate as well – as you may recall my son Jacob broke his arm on Father’s Day. His cast came off on Friday. Things are looking up!

As if all that isn’t enough, this isn’t the only celebration we’ve enjoyed recently. July was book-ended by long weekends. We kicked it all off with Canada Day on July 1st. This is a month of honouring our roots as Canadians and British Columbians.

We have a lot to be proud of. While my family was off eating and enjoying the lake, Vancouver was celebrating Pride. Justin Trudeau became the first sitting Prime Minister to march in the Pride Parade, and my Instagram feed was full of photos of him pushing a stroller with his sleeping child. We may have gotten our start as a British colony, but we are now a very diverse country, and I love the ways that we celebrate that. My favourite may be the 44 special citizenship ceremonies held on Canada Day to welcome new Canadians, but it’s all good. We don’t all have to look the same, love the same or be the same to join together and do great things. Or, you know, just have a party.

bc day buntzen lake

Our increasing diversity isn’t the only way that things have changed since the province and country were founded. One of the things that I can’t help but notice when I’m driving around these days is our thriving TV and movie industry. It literally feels like there’s some kind of filming going on every three feet. One of my favourite things when I’m watching TV is spotting a local landmark and realizing it was filmed here.

Some of my favourite shows are shot right here in Vancouver. The one that I’m watching on Netflix right now is Supernatural – I’ve been binging and I just started season 6. I’m honestly not sure how I missed this one for so long given my affection for creepy shows that are filmed locally. My first love, of course, is The X-Files and I’m thrilled that has just been added to Netflix as well. I’m adding that to my list to re-watch once I’m finished with school (next week!). And while it’s not creepy, I have been enjoying watching the locally-filmed Once Upon a Time from the beginning with my daughter on Netflix as well.

And while he’s not local, Russell Peters is the funniest person ever. Of course, he’s Canadian.

bc day buntzen lake

I live in a beautiful place, and my roots here are deep. I’m thrilled to be raising my children here. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that people from all over the world would come here to build a life. Or that studios would come here to film. As I watched families of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds out grilling and throwing frisbees and laughing and eating today, I saw once again just how special my little corner of the world really is.

I was inspired to write this post because I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team. The opinions in the post are my own, but take the fact that I receive cool promotional swag from Netflix as you will.

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