It is a joyful, crazy life…

Ever had one of those days when you think you have all the time in the world, and then you discover you’ve forgotten something particularly significant?  As in, picking up a child attending an after- school program?  Yeah, me neither.  But, let’s just say that “were” this to happen, it might go down like this:

If it were to ever happen that I forgot someone so essential, so important, as a child, I would probably have left work earlier than usual; and as I never really allow myself relaxation time, I might have given in to the fatigue and had a forty-five minute visit with my friend who also happens to babysit for us.  I just might have left her house at 4:30 p.m. so as to get home in time to make supper.  But, as I would be nearing our driveway, I would notice my son’s Robotics Instructor driving into the driveway of our next door neighbor’s house.  Strange, I might think to myself, but who knows?  Maybe he has made a new friend in the quiet grandmother who lives in the house next to ours?   She could use the company.

I would then pull into the lane leading up to our house, and I would just be about to get out of the vehicle when my cell phone would ring.  Then, the Robotics instructor also would pull in beside me at precisely the same time as my cell phone is ringing.    I would probably not have to worry about the fact that everyone in the country side would be aware that I had forgotten my child (as all my emergency contact information would by now have been called) because I would not know this small detail until much later on. It would turn out,  in this imagined scenario, that my son would be stranded at the school with only the principal and janitor for company, and he would have been waiting for me for at least 40 minutes, prior to my grand entrance with hungry, tired siblings in tow.

As I would pull into the school parking lot, I would then make a feeble attempt at an apology to the principal, who would be waiting on the bottom of the steps with my son.  His reply to me would be this, “It will make for good writing material for your Huff Post column.”

Thankfully, I am not notorious for forgetting my children in all manner of places as well as being late for pretty well everything I am involved in.  And if I was, I would certainly not admit it on Facebook.

So, needing a bit of a break from my day dreaming, I quickly throw supper in the oven tonight and sit down for fifteen minutes of further mindless entertainment, otherwise known as creeping people’s Facebook statuses on my homepage.

To say this is a mistake is a bit of an overstatement.  Let’s just say this:

Supper was stellar tonight. Who knew that cooking food at 475 degrees would actually not only save time, it would also ruin appetites?  What with the burned chicken fingers, the four bar-b-qued hotdogs leftover from Sunday and the corn that arrived half-way through the meal, as I had too many items lined up for the microwave to cook in time for the meal’s commencement, it was a burnt offering at best.  Part way through the feast, a little one jumps up and makes a run for the toilet.  Minutes later, same child calls me from the bathroom.

“Moooooooom, I’m dooonnne.”  I look at my plate with its meager portions.  Growing colder by the minute.  More pitiful under the light of our candelabra, minus its two burnt-out bulbs.  And I decide that eating it cold makes no difference.

In the bathroom, I try to hurry up the job as quickly as possible.   Wiping at any time of the day is not my forte.  And as it all vaguely resembles something on my plate, particularly now that the darkened chicken was charred beyond recognition, I am also trying not to inhale the fumes.  Unfortunately, I drop a wad of used toilet paper on the floor, soiled side down.

So now I have to clean the floor too.  Just great.

And so it goes.  And so it goes….

“It might be a crazy life” (a.k.a. Jon and Kate Plus Eight), but if there was ever any financial offer made and a reality television show to boot that would pay us to video tape our lives for an audience of millions, I’d do it all over again.

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Bird poop, clumsiness, and other funny stuff: JOY!

I am.  An accident waiting for it to happen.  I also am a magnet for any kind of weird and crazy happenstance.  Take yesterday, for instance.

We were driving to Husband’s parent’s house, and as it was a beautiful day, I had my arm out the window.  For about two seconds, mind you.  And all of a sudden, something wet fell from the sky, something not considered rain. Just sayin’.  I looked at my Husband and I said, “I think a bird just pee’d on my arm.”  He just kept driving as things like this are not really surprising for him anymore.  So when we get there, I am doing my best to limit the use of that one arm with the contamination, and as I gingerly open the door with the other awkward arm, my daughter starts crying and complaining of being too tired to walk.  Something about being sick.  I can’t remember.  All I know is I tried to pick her up with that useless arm, and she had the nerve to ask me if I was using my “pee arm” to carry her.

Exactly what I was thinking: beggars can’t be choosers.

But I’ve gotta say, who else but me would have two run-ins with a bird within the course of a month? (note: blog entry about the bird pooping all over my house…)

On the other hand, I can’t count the number of times I have run into people at work with full glasses of water.  Thank goodness I don’t drink coffee at work, that’s all I have to say.  A week ago, I was coming down an empty hallway.  Everyone was in class as the lunch bell had already rung.  I left the class in the capable hands of my Educational Assistant only to escape the zoo for a minute or so to fetch myself a drink of water.  As I never remember my water bottle, I am forever carting around breakable glasses, so I was barrelling down the hallway with my glass of water, thinking to myself, “What would be the odds?”  I guess I should play the lottery more often because seems the odds are usually in my favour.  Just as I passed by the gym doors, I happened to see what looked like a human figure on the opposite side of that door.  But she looked like a blur, and I was going a wee bit too fast.  So just before I finally cleared the path of that door, she burst through it like a streak of lightening.  There was enough time for me to scream and the water to travel in a slow arc up over my head.

And that is the second time I have run into that particular teacher.

I have also reached a high point in my life where I must by necessity tell my legs to lift as I am going up the stairs.  It is a concerted, coordinating-effort on the part of my brain and my extended limbs.  Sometimes I think they are duking it out over who gets to choose their own way: feet get to pick first or brain.  And sometimes it’s neither.  That’s the point when I land on my face in the middle of a stairway, and the brain checks out of the game entirely.  Recently, I tripped going up the staircase at the end of the day, and happened to do so in front of the junior high wrestling team members that were visiting our school.  I near did a face plant on the top stair.  Thank goodness the boys were just visiting for the day. I’d like to think they will never remember the woman with the long curly hair that near killed herself in front of them.

I have so many, many other stories that span the course of my life that I look back on and cringe with horror.  “Did I really do that?” I ask myself, disbelievingly.

Sadly, yes I did do that.  And then some.

I remember years ago visiting my grandparents in New Brunswick.  The day I remember with horror was when I was outside playing in their yard which happened to be located at the top of a hill.  I was minding my own business when I discovered someone was calling me.  Or so I thought.  I thought that this same someone was waving for me to come join them down at the bottom of my grandparent’s yard.  I don’t know why I thought that…maybe it was the fact that there was only myself and the one other person (whom I did not know, by the way) on the top of that hill.  What would be the odds it was the other person being called?  But, I digress.  So, I waved,  and the person at the bottom called out for me to join them.  As I am also deaf, I started running towards the person, calling out, “What? What?” all the way.

Turns out they were calling to the other person on the hill.  I, feeling like a complete idiot, tried to save face by continuing to run past that person, all the while yelling and carrying on like there was another person calling to me from some farther distance.  Not sure if anyone was really ever convinced by that stunning attempt to garner an Oscar nomination.

I know I’ll never forget it.

I am glad we can all laugh about it at the end of the day.  Makes for a jolly good time for everyone.  If I wasn’t so accident prone, and my kids were not so gosh darned funny,  what a boring blog I would write.

It all happens for a reason, folks.

The Joy of Being Half-Glass Full…

Reminded today that our children love us as we are: unconditionally, uninhibited, unequivocally.

Children see in us beauty, strength, patience and understanding, things we often do not give ourselves credit for.  They make us the hero-  champions of all things wise and wonderful: beautiful princesses, brave knights, diverse and varied role models and mythic magicians.  We are larger than life.  We often sit on pedestals.  We occupy seats of honor in their creative minds.

How is it that we underestimate ourselves so and that of the value we are given through a child’s measure of worth?  For they hold us in such high esteem in their mind’s eye.

The other day, I talked to a mother.  She spoke of being weary of homemaking and the monotony of daily routines inside the house.  The laundry piled up in the basement, the dirty floors, the clutter, the flower beds to be weeded.  Add to the mountain of household responsibility, the labour of love that is owed a child.  The blood, sweat and tears.  The agony and the pain.  The joy?

The joy.

Her daughter wrote an essay for school, then came home and told her mother that the topic for such was titled this: “My Hero.”  Her mother laughingly said, “Oh, did you write about me?” never supposing this could possibly be the case.  After all, this is a working mother with very little time on her hands to spend hours of one-on-one with her child.  To be your child’s hero must be conditional on the quantity of time as well as the quality of time, is it not?

Her daughter paused, and then looked at her mother, a surprised expression on her face. “How did you guess?” she asked.

Her mother: her hero.

And as my friend relayed this story to me, we both marvelled that our children could think of us as heros- we who feel pulled in every direction, we who never feel we have given each child enough, we who always have one hundred and one demands pulling at our attention each and every day.

Today, I asked my students if they thought their mommy was a person too.  Of course, they laughed!  I pushed deeper, does Mommy ever feel tired? Disappointed?  Sad? Mad? Frustrated?

I asked the children, when mommies  get mad, just like kids often do, what helps mommies to feel better?  One little guy pipes up, “My Mommy says ‘let’s make cookies’ and that makes her feel better.”  I later relayed this story to the little guy’s mother, emphasizing how sweet his response was in the telling.  She said matter-of-factly to me, “I have never, ever baked cookies with him when I’m feeling upset!”

To which I give this response.  That is exactly why you are your child’s hero- you are everything they want and you are even more than this.  You are enough. They will often overlook all your flaws in the re-telling of your story because they don’t see you as glass half- empty-  you are glass half-full!  And to be completely truthful, you are more often than not, a cup over-flowing.  If they see it, then so should we.  We are more than enough for our children.  They love us just as we are.

And so should we.  Because we are more than enough for our children.

And it is time we started believing such.

The Joy of Stolen Kisses and also of Puberty

While the birds and bees are busy buzzing around the countryside reminding us all of springtime flings hither and yon, I am drawn to listen carefully to conversations about kissing and puberty and other such exciting topics for mothers to eavesdrop in on.  Nature is not the only expression of growing up and falling in love.  Apparently, children also do grow up too.

How sad, and yet, oh how necessary!

This little story made me laugh, but yet still want to cry at the same time.   The other day, it happened that a few of our kindergartners and Grade 1 students were found kissing each other outside during second recess.  I felt it necessary to drive home a valuable and totally worthwhile lesson to my own class of kindergarten students on how kissing is inappropriate for kindergartners or any school-aged child, for that matter, to be doing on the playground.  The minute you think you’ve nailed it, and done a bang-up job telling them what’s what, one little girl pipes up, “Mrs. Gard, I know who has a crush on your daughter Sarah!!!”  Talk about killing me softly.  My daughter is in Grade 2!  I am not ready for boyfriends…kissing kindergartners is enough to throw me over the brink!  Let alone my own daughter possibly having a secret admirer.

And then there is my son who has been making many references to his own swiftly approaching  pubescence.  How did this come upon me so quickly?  It seemed that it was always far off, in the distant future. And here we are. While on our way home in the van from Huntley’s, a local greasy spoon not far from our house, our oldest informed us that he had learned via a health lesson at school that he is soon hitting puberty and thus now needs a bigger bike.
I guess puberty’s going to be expensive.
We are still getting lots of mileage out of the “puberty” card even days after that little conversation.  Last night, it was a very hot evening.  As the children went to bed, a fight broke out over who would get to take our one fan into their bedroom to cool things down.  Son told his sisters that boys sweat more, and since he was hitting puberty soon, he should be the one to have the fan this particular night in his bedroom.
I don’t ever remember being so excited or vocal about the life change when I was his age….
And so, even as the June bugs hit our windows with a loud smack, I must remember that there is romance in everything.  Birds, bees and pre-pubescent boys who use puberty as leverage- all are tender expressions of the changing seasons of life, each in their own unique way!
Nature’s wonderful magic at work in the hearts and minds of animals and human-folk alike.

Mama’s Ready to Let Some Heads Roll After This Joyful Day…

A half year ago, we bought tickets to attend the Prince County Exhibition.  As part of the tour of the grounds, our family went inside the small animal’s barn.  We all looked into each pen, yelling with shrieks of delight over each new exhibit. The kids called out excited exclamations to each other when a new animal was located and then proceeded to ooh and ahh over the tiny babies found crowded around their mama.

What caught my attention was the sow.  She lay sprawled on her side, her eyes closed with a dreamlike expression on her face.  Meanwhile, about ten or so little piglets vied for a spot on her placid body from which to get nourishment.  They grunted and squealed, fought and tugged, pushed and pulled.  But Mama never cracked an eyelid.  In fact, I think she was purposefully ignoring them.  It was as if she had transported herself to another dimension where life was nothing but flowers and clover stretching out for miles in an endless field of dreams.  She was tuned out to the little ones around her worn-out body and nothing was going to make her move unless she decided it was of the utmost importance to her.

I often think of that sow.  She is somewhat of an inspiration to me.  Because when all is said and done, she seemed to have it all together.  Happy piglets content to independently look after themselves and a happy mama intent on getting the R&R she so desperately needed.

One thing that sow and I do not share in common, amongst other important features, is that I am pretty sure she has never suffered from a panic attack from losing a child.  I am pretty sure she doesn’t even notice when one little one goes wandering off outside the pen. She is too busy dreaming about slops and half-eaten corn cobs. Flowers and clover.

Today, while manning a table at a yard sale, I lost a child.  This is pretty much the first time this has ever happened, but I must say the panic that washed over me was unparallel to none.  I arrived home after the yard sale only to find out that she was neither with me nor travelling with her father, and the fifteen minutes it took to locate her at a friend’s house up the road was the scariest fifteen minutes of my life to date. I actually had to see her up close and personal to believe she was truly there, as I had already planned out the next line of action which involved immediately calling the R.C.M.P. and involving as many other emergency personnel as was humanly possible.

To say I was relieved is an understatement.  Relief trumps a scolding at times like this.

After I got my emotions under control, and had a brief nap to calm the nerves, I decided against my better judgement to take the four kids on a short road trip.  Another way I am not like that sow is that I am pretty sure she also has never had to buckle up those cloven-hoofed youngsters and cart them off to the store.  Because I am absolutely sure that one trip to the mall would wipe that dream-like expression off her face forever.

We are driving towards town, and all is currently under control.  Fortunately, the trip there is usually somewhat of a breeze as the novelty of leaving the house has not yet worn off.  I only have to run interference a couple of times, and stern warnings are enough, so it seems.  There is the promise of a bike, for one, and that seems to hold things at bay.  There is peace in the Middle Seat. (shuffle those letters around, and you will see how seriously clever I really am…)

We arrive at the restaurant of choice, and again, I am somewhat in shock at how easily this is going.  A slight squirmish over who gets what to drink, but again, …the bike. It is working like a charm.

We eat, and then set off on our adventure.  Four kids, a pocketful of yard sale money and the Mama Sow generously following the troop around the store, keeping a steady even calm flowing from her aching body. Placid smiles flashing everywhere.

We try out a few bikes, but they are not quite right.  So, I load the little piglets into the van, and we drive across the road to Store#2.  Upon arriving in the bike section, the child with the money realizes how truly expensive a bike really is, and deals begin to be cut.  While we are still working out the details, the youngest tells me that she needs to pee, and that she has “half” pee’d already in her pants.  I start to panic as we are clearly a mile or so from the washroom, or so it seems from the back corner where we now stand.  As I have already issued the help of a store clerk, and she is on her way to retrieve tools by which she will adjust a bike seat for the buyer, I again plead with the oldest to stay and ‘man the site’ while I take the younger two to the washroom.

I help the youngest, then I tell her that mama has to use the washroom too.  I close the door, and stand hovering over the seat so as to keep an eye on her through a crack in between the door and the wall of the stall.  In the minute it takes for me to get the job accomplished, I hear the youngest say to her sister, “I am just going to go outside the washroom.  You wait here.”

I can see her open the door and slip out through the slip of space allowed for her by means of her tiny strength.  I holler, “Don’t you leave the bathroom.  I’m almost done!” but to no avail.  She is gone like a flash in the night sky,  a streak of grease lightening.  And she has given me no indication that she has even heard me speak a word.

I am caught, suspended over the toilet.  Caught between two worlds.  Forced to choose between a job well done or a quick swipe and then out the door.  Visions of Mama Sow whirl through my head.  I have already lost a child once today, I don’t need to relive this nightmare for a second time.  Without a second’s hesitation, I choose the latter.  I bolt out the washroom door, crazed expression on my face, only to find the little escapee standing along the wall smiling.  I am ready to knock some heads together.

I truly understand that some animals have no other recourse but to eat their young.  But as that is not an appropriate option for me at this time, I think of Mama Pig.  I realize that like her, you never sweat the small stuff, and that at the end of the day, you just gotta be glad that what seemed like big stuff turned out to be pretty little.

Thank the Good Lord for that.

Joy of Being Transparent…

My students are all colouring pictures of teddy bears which they have all coincidentally named after themselves.  I am standing in front of them trying to re-cap a lesson we have just finished on healthy living.  A visit by two public health nurses, one teddy bear clinic and seven booklets of information later, we are at that point of the day where teacher and students are all waiting for the recess bell to ring.  So, out of curiosity, I quiz them on what the highlights of the morning were and try to figure out if they retained any of the valuable information imparted by these two most knowledgeable ladies.

We talk about how food and exercise and sleep are important factors in healthy living, and then I get the bright idea of making a practical application to today’s review.  I stand up and say to the students:  “Look at Mrs. Gard’s head…is it bigger than yours?”  “Yes,” they all say, “Your head is bigger.”  So, I proceed to tell them that my head is bigger because I am older and have more things that I think about inside my head, and that I have fed my brain with healthy foods so as to grow it to this size.

One little guy takes a look at me and he says this: “You also have more lines across your forehead than we all do, so that means you are older.”

Ooomph…deflate my balloon.  Blasted wrinkles!

You gotta love the absolute, unabashedly honest answers that come out of a five-year old’s mouth.  If we could all only be so transparent!

I have been thinking about transparency.  I strive to lay it all on the line when I write, and in doing so, I take great risks: the risk that people may misinterpret my writing, the risk that some may judge me, the risk that some may label me as too happy or too sad, too sarcastic or too saccharine.  And on and on it goes.  And I realize that we are not to care what others think about us, but let’s be real.  Of course we do. We care because inside us all is a place that craves acceptance and understanding.  This desire is there to greater and lesser degrees.  And because it is there, we try to find a way to satisfy the desire, by connecting to people around us through private conversations, Facebook, activities, dialogues, writing, book clubs, organized events, e-mails and letters of all sorts and on and on it goes.  Through that connection, the hope is that understanding will light a flame of acceptance.  And that acceptance will lead to deeper connection, and that we will find ways in which to see each other through eyes that do not belong to us.

We will then view life through another human’s eyes.

And when this transformation of thinking occurs, we will be that much closer to understanding and acceptance.  And that much closer to tolerance and peace.  To joy.  And we will truly know what it is to love others and see them as God sees them.  Wonderfully and fearfully made.

Wrinkles and all.

Be the joy

Another day, another inner struggle to find joy amidst the rubble of the stuff from which we build our stories .  Stories that tell of who we are.  What we are.  What we want to become.

My story: I want to find joy, and oft I have tried to claim it.  I have even chosen it as my trademark by which I want my life to be defined.  I write about it, think about it, blog the topic, try to embrace it in my everyday interactions.  But, oh how often I live without joy in my day-to-day life, and particularly devoid of such as it concerns the ones who matter most.

We, my Husband, children and I, wake early.  We have a journey to make in these early hours to a hospital in the capitol city.  The children are easily aroused from slumber and before we know it, we are off.  We make the necessary drop-offs for children attending school for the day, and settle the one accompanying us, now sitting in the middle seat of our van, down with a movie.

I draw deep breaths so as to calm myself.  I cannot seem to shake the tension.

As we drive away from home and the familiar, I sit glumly reviewing the events preceding this day.  The stressors of life: demanding work schedules, cranky children, marital tension from lack of time to truly communicate, over-committing to things I could have refused, illness, the death of our dog.  Add to this list, private pains and griefs to deep to share.

Life is so hard. So many disappointments faced in this brief expanse of time we call our life.    Many of these former recollections listed above have acted to bring me down to a place that is joyless.  Whoever said life was easy has not walked in my shoes.  And quite possibly these same ones are walking in shoes much sturdier than my own.  For my shoes are threadbare and worn.  The soles are thinning.  The laces stretched.  The canvas ripping.  It is time for a new pair of shoes.

Joy-less.  It is a feeling that overpowers and blinds.  It strips the soul bare and lays it wide open.

I settle my husband for day surgery.  As I leave, I think to myself, this is another event in a long line of worries.  We commit our ways and the doctor’s hands into God’s care.  Still, we worry.  For we are but human. We are frail.

I drive off while Husband is on the operating table; the nurses have assured me that I cannot be there in the recovery room, and they will call me on my cell phone when he is ready to be picked up.

As I pass the time, I find myself driving through the city.  I am in no mood to shop, but I hate to waste precious time that has been given to me.  I rarely have a moment without the children.  To be alone and free to come and go is a rare gift.  As I drive, I feel myself sinking again.  Pity.  I feel pity for myself.  It is such a weak emotion.  I see myself as small and insignificant.  Who am I in comparison to others that seemingly have it so much better? Who have accomplished far more?  Whose lives are full and joyful?  I feel emotions changing from pity to resentment?  Why me?  Why should I have to endure disappointment in life?  Or disappointment with life?  Why can it not be more joy-full?  After all, that is what I am pursuing, am I not?  Is my search for joy only in vain?  Such cruel punishment to bear.

I drive, and as I come up to a corner on a busy intersection, I spot a sign on a church billboard.  This is what it reads: Life is not a remote control.  Be the Change.

Be the change?  Is it that easy?  What I am after, what I strive to choose is joy.  If that is what I desire, it is that I must do.

Be the change.

In order to find joy, I must be joy.  I must be joy in whatever form joy can be represented.  Because to know joy, is to be joy.

I think hard.  Being joy is easier said than done, is it not?  Can I do this?  Am I up for this challenge?

Being joy: can it be a smile? A gesture of goodwill?  A word of kindness?  A thoughtful gift to a heartbroken mother on Mother’s Day? A phone call to say you are thinking of another and care enough to make the call?  Can it be an extra measure of patience with a child who possibly deserves no more chances?  Or is it simply done by making time to read together, play together, talk together with the ones you dearly love?  Is joy found in showing grace for one who seems beyond the scope of love?  Is it found in understanding for those that walk a different path than my own?  Or acceptance that this is my own lot in life and that life is truly good?  Is it peace with myself?  Charity towards others?  Self-sacrifice for the greater good?  Gratitude in everything and for everything?

Joy. Is it not all-encompassing?

But of course! All of life encompasses joy.  For joy is courage, perseverance and strength to carry on.  The joy of the Lord is my strength.  I can be joy because to do otherwise is to never know the mystery.

Joy.  I choose it.  Daily, I can be it.  Even if but once in that cycle of darkness changing to light and again to darkness.  A day is not too long a time spans within which to be joy for another.  And when I am joy, I will finally know it.  For in the giving the blessing is incurred.  Joy rewards seven-fold to the giver.

Be the change.  Be the joy you wish to be in possession of.  Be the joy.