You’ve Got No Common Sense!

Ok, full disclaimer: I read ambiguity into sentences where most people wouldn’t. Part of the reason I am a good technical writer is that I appreciate and use clear language to describe concepts and list instructions.

In my non-work life, when I’m helping move a heavy object or do other physical task with a partner, I follow instructions exactly. If you tell me to move right, I will move to MY right. If you tell me to Lift up the object, I will ask how high or I will ask why, because otherwise I don’t know. A better instruction for me would be to Lift it up a few inches, or Lift it up to get it past the newel post, or Lift it up so we can make our way up these stairs. When I lift and move forward (or backward), I put my back into the task, full steam ahead, so you’d best be prepared or else tell me beforehand that I should move slowly.

(Oh! Another great development at our house is that boy midget is now old enough and strong enough to help move furniture and other heavy stuff. Awesome.)

When I was hoeing weeds in my childhood, or picking up large rocks in the field in preparation for planting, I kept focussed on the task in front of me. I didn’t scan the ground at the sides of me, just in front, unless I was told to do otherwise. Because of this focus, in which I would let me mind wander so as to keep myself from dying of boredom, I would not see weeds or rocks that were outside of my chosen path. And for that I was told I had no common sense, because if I had, I would know enough to look around.

I don’t respond well to YELLING. I don’t like those boot camp workouts where the instructors are from the armed forces and tell you you’re a quitter who won’t be able to finish the set. I’m in fact working out for fun, not to be insulted. Otherwise what’s the point? Why would anyone sign up, take their precious time and money and give it to someone who is mean? It doesn’t make sense. And to talk to a kid like that, well, that won’t work out very well for the instructor and kid’s future self either.

We are constantly being told that to love someone else we need to love ourselves first. Does any of that self-flagellation make sense in the context of self-love? No. And that’s why I think fat-shaming and dieting doesn’t work, like, ever. If you love yourself you will treat your body well. Maybe sometimes I treat my brain well by eating some ‘junk.’ But still. I love myself. I don’t yell at myself.

I still have goals and I challenge myself physically at times. I’m not a gym person but I get outside and I love doing yoga. Doing yoga at home hasn’t been that successful, partly because my novice form needs an instructor present and also because my dogs simply will not leave me alone when I’m doing a downward dog. Yes it’s true, they think I’m playing and get right under my face. Then the barking starts. Then a midget needs something from me. So effing peaceful and zen, right? Augh. It’s easier to say Bye guys, see you in an hour or so after yoga!

Boy midget belongs to Scouts and has done for about 5 years now. Scouts teaches common sense, there’s no doubt about it, but it teaches through calm instruction, teamwork, and positive outcomes. Before I get too preachy here, I have to say I sometimes lose my patience. I yell. And then I apologize and we all move forward.

I would love if my kids would see me struggling with bags and get up and help without me having to tell them. This might be a woman passive-aggressive thing. To me, this is a big part of common sense. I teach my midgets to be more responsive and we all benefit.

On Wednesday evening when Husband arrived home with a carload, I helped unload it even though we were all sick at our house. The next day boy midget mentioned that he felt bad about not being able to help with that. Success! That’s what I want; not the guilt but the common sense.

I leave you with this.

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Absorption

Husband drives to New York State quite a bit because his elderly mom lives there and because he often has paid work waiting for him there too. I have mixed feelings about his absence here but I always encourage him to go nonetheless. It’s all for the greater good, both to check on his mom and to make significant cash in a short amount of time, to say nothing of the personal satisfaction he gets from a job well done.

Without fail, he shops for our household while there. Mostly he comes back with food items for the pantry such as snacks and staples, in what I consider enormous quantities. When the car pulls into our driveway I brace myself for the unloading. Now, these are all things we will (eventually) eat and use, but we don’t live in a sprawling suburban house with the proportionately-sized kitchen. So storage is a big issue.

I do my best to absorb all of the items, surprising myself at how much I can tuck away here and there. During the last few trips Husband has noticed the impact his shopping has on our home and has actually scaled back slightly. He thinks before he buys, though he still arrives like Santa with a huge sack of surprises.

Tonight he returned from a business trip to the states and he helped unload the car and absorb the groceries. It’s a big deal and I often joke that I’m the only thing standing between him and an appearance on the tv show Hoarders. But alas his hunter-gatherer heart is in the right place, and I love him for that.

We Don’t Burn Our Food

A few weeks ago, after smelling burnt cooking oil through our vents one too many times, I sent a text to our basement tenants: “I look forward to the day you are no longer burning your food.”

Our tenants are 2 young men from Venezuela, who are here studying English. From the smells emanating from the basement I have concluded they are learning how to cook. They are troopers, I’ll give them that, based on the frequency with which we are subjected to cooking odours that have not been created by us.

The response to my text was the title of this post: “We don’t burn our food.” No smiley face accompanied that message, either. Just 1 more week of this cooking until the tenants move on. I can only imagine the work ahead of us to rid the apartment of manly body odour and cooking oil. Last time we were faced with this was from a family who liked to prepare fried fish. That was a big job, complete with odour-absorbing chemicals and vigorous scrubbing.

These are just 2 examples of why I don’t like to rent the apartment for longer than 2 months at a time. Our next guests are a couple, 1 of whom is a pastry chef. I’m really hoping she likes to cook at home, because that’s a smell I could enjoy.

Handwashing: You’re Doing it Wrong

This, according to a Yummy Mummy post I just received in my Inbox. Of course I am doing it wrong. OF COURSE. We are also destroying our environment, don’t worry I haven’t forgotten that my children and grandchildren will live in a barren wasteland by the time they are my age.

I’m in the office a lot these days (as opposed to working from home, which I had been doing, because of the project I was working on previously), and so I do a lot more browsing in the stores around here. This activity is sort of fun for me, no guilt, just browsing. Today I cruised around Bed Bath and Beyond, and enumerated all the ways in which my home could function better, be cleaner, and be better decorated. I do have a good supply of Febreeze at my house and I use a lot of it. Otherwise, my home would be taken over by teenage boy smell and dog smell. I had to actually tell boy midget that now that he is 13, he must shower every day, and that shower must include shampoo and soap. If I am not specific about using cleaning products, he simply gets himself wet, then jumps out and considers the matter of showering settled.

It seems that either I’m being convinced I need to buy something through browsing, or through TV commercials. That is, if I choose to be influenced this way.

I have a kijiji problem. And a craigslist problem. These problems feed into my furniture-moving-and-exchanging hobby, although I haven’t moved anything in a while. Mostly I’m focussed on purging. I think that’s a typical January impulse, once I put away all of the holiday decor (and why hasn’t anyone mass-marketed Hannukah stuff yet?) and all of the new items we have been blessed to receive need to find a new place in our home.

I am very interested in tiny house living, and regularly watch Tiny House Nation. I love miniature stuff, so this concept really appeals to me, but also because living in such a small space would cause me to prioritize my belongings and simplify my lifestyle quite a bit. Today I came across an article that explains the downsides of tiny house living, in terms I can well understand and makes me wonder why I thought it would ever be a good idea for me to live in a tiny house in the first place.

I also read a lot of articles on Apartment Therapy, on which there are a lot of articles on how to live in a tiny space, and an annual Small Cool contest on the best laid-out apartments. So, one could drive oneself crazy with only the minimum of effort. Or one could arrive home after working all day, throw a frozen meal into the oven for the family, and plop face-down on one’s soft warm bed and lay there for 45 minutes.

 

God Got a Dog

This book was introduced to me this weekend, and I like it enough to share here:

God Got a Dog

This book portrays God as a real person, one who write fan letters, attends beauty school, works a desk job for a day (and as a result eats 37 Snickers(TM) bars to get through that 1 day), and eventually gets a dog. In this book, sometimes God is a he and sometimes a she.

Today on my to-do list is to refrain from getting offended about being Christian-raised instead of Jewish, due to the elderly views of someone who is both irrelevant to my every day life and also deeply cutting with her thoughtless, meddling, and tactless commentary.

Last week one of my co-workers asked how many children I have,  as in, how many did I give birth to and am raising. Well, I have 2. So, she said, I just have to worry about those 2, right?. Hell and No, that’s not how it goes.

The actions, successes, failures, needs, plans, and outcomes of my step-children are never far from my thoughts, since it all affects dear Husband. And how should I compartmentalize those relationships anyway? I don’t think I could or should. These ‘children’ need their Dad, and so I support them through him. I give him advice when he asks, I help him through their transitions and I listen to him talk about them when he needs an ear, same as he does for me with my midgets.

Husband has had a huge impact on my midgets, mostly because they were so young when Husband and I met. Some of my midgets’ humour, sayings, and attitudes are exact copies of Husband, which I find amusing and wonderful. Husband is right in the parenting trenches with me. This morning boy midget was feeling poorly, maybe ill enough to stay home from school, but I wasn’t sure. So I sent in the most objective adult in my household to evaluate the situation. Husband concurred; boy midget is down for the count today.

Today also marks the first day that I am letting boy midget be at home alone while sick. Usually I would immediately announce to my work that I am staying home due to having a sick child. I will probably not be in the office for the entire day due to me being too worried about boy midget and his breathing (which is fine at the moment but that can change quickly), but I’ve made an appearance and that counts for something. I am woman, and I demand to be counted.

 

The most dangerous phrase ever!

“May help prevent cancer/diabetes/Alzheimer’s/general decay of body and mind.”

Well in that case I can keep drinking a river of red wine, eating my weight (which is going up because I haven’t felt a hunger pain in about 6 weeks) in dark chocolate, and occasionally some granola or a smoothie, plus a salad. That’s good, right? Antioxidants, etc. I eat nuts too, high in calorie but supposedly amazing for you. Whatever.

Look, anyone who knows me knows that nutrition and general health is my hobby. Sometimes it’s been a personal part-time job for me. And yet. I still look like an average middle-ager, trying to keep all the figurative plates spinning. Dr. Oz has been discredited in pop culture and I agree with that verdict. Dr. Campbell and his 2 PhD children are still blazing nutritional trails. The China Study really blew my mind when I read it. I need to read it again.

This past week Husband and I had a little getaway to his mom’s empty condo (she is currently in Florida). During this vacation, we each had a 90 minute massage. I was looking for some relaxation, to wake up refreshed after sleeping all night. Husband has pretty significant hip/walking issues. He left the massage feeling like he had been kneaded like a loaf of bread dough. But at least the problem has been determined – the muscles on his inner thighs are way too tight, which affect his back and hip, and makes walking any distance more than 2 city blocks nearly impossible. It’s sad. I’ve entered the age when my spouse and I might be way-laid by any number of ailments at any time, unless we are absolutely vigilant about maintaining our bodies. Luckily though, we are still young enough to turn that around, if we want to. It’s not fun for me. Exercise just for the sake of burning calories makes me weep.

Making it all the way to retirement age and then being healthy enough to enjoy those golden years is like winning the lottery, I imagine, and just as rare.

Hit the Books

When I was a kid, school seemed like an endless flat road in front of me: monotonous; unavoidable; and no matter how far along I walked it, never ended. Sometimes a fun event would happen at school, like hot dog day or rehearsal for the holiday concert, but mostly it was one long bummer; a necessary evil. Even rarer still, I would occasionally feel ill, or have a dentist appointment, or doctor’s appointment so the regular school day would get interrupted. I would get a nice break from the classroom and the required cooperation with my teacher and fellow students.

I feel sorry for my kids, having to go through this day in and day out. Seriously. I wish I was wealthy like Will Smith and my kids were in the same position as Jayden and Willow Smith, who are free to hypothesize and learn what they want to learn, instead of the prescribed school curriculum. The dictated subject matter at traditional schools is staid, boring, and mostly impractical, in my opinion (obviously my opinion because this is my blog).

Can’t teachers make history more interesting? I love reading about ancient times and not so ancient times, and finding out the origins of companies; ones that morphed from being a parts supplier for airlines into building high-speed trains. Basically it’s too bad science and technology in school isn’t presented like on the tv show How It’s Made. And how hard is it to bring in artifacts to support school history lessons, such as those found in the tv show Antiques Roadshow? Using real examples to teach abstract concepts needs to be brought to the forefront at schools. I know there are alternative schools that do this. My friend’s daughter attends such a school and if I could send my children there, I definitely would. At that school they learn about basic math by thinking up a concept for a business and figuring out profits and losses. I’ll bet alternative high schools teach about income tax, including what it is, where it originated, and how and when to file. Meanwhile mainstream schools can’t gather enough information about practical applications for mathematics to support their lessons. Their defence is that math has always been taught this way, and so it will continue to be so. How about asking senior elementary classes to figure out the new playground or landscaping that’s being planned? Type and amount of materials, cost, time, etc? How about using those young pink brains to think of an innovative way to build something the school really needs? But today’s students aren’t prepared to be that creative; they want to get the day over with so they can do the required homework and then get on with the fun parts of daily life. Heaven forbid school should be productive, fun, and something students (and teachers) look forward to.

I’m not a teacher but I have a lot of opinions on the subject, after having gone through the system myself and now re-living that experience twice over. This morning I advised boy midget to figure out which professions meet the following criteria: pays well, least amount of training required, and easiest to do, and then go do that thing. Never mind trying to figure out what you’re interested in at age 14 – 17. I believe that’s what contributes to that quarter-life crisis everyone seems to go through, when you have a shiny new degree and no idea on how you should apply it in the ‘real’ world. Being a student takes a committment; it’s not a lark. Universities need students to buy into the ‘learning for the sake of learning’ mentality to keep that post-secondary machine funded. Students should have more (or some) practical career guidance throughout university or college. Instead, students are encouraged to study what interests them and that their profession will naturally follow. It’s a bill of goods, not practical in the least.

 

Do I Even Know What I’m Talking About?

It’s important to know your audience when you speak.

I take inspiration from other bloggers who figuratively let it all hang out, consequences be damned.

I am fairly naive when it comes to raising my children. I assume that if I raise them with love and respect, they will be loving and respectful toward me and others. But I’m not supposed to be their friend, right? I’m supposed to maintain an air of authority so that occasionally I can redirect them when they need it. Then again, I’ve met lots of kids who have varying degrees of discipline and guidance imposed upon them by their parents, and their level of involvement seems to make little to no difference in how they turn out. At all.

When I try to predict how I will act in future situations regarding the maturation of my kids into adults, I feel as silly as I know I sounded before I had any kids:

  • My kids will eat what I prepare for meals because I won’t give them any other choice, and their palates will be used to the tastes of foods I like because I will not alter my cooking to suit my kids.
  • I won’t watch kid movies and neither will my kids.
  • The father of my kids will be just as good at caring for them as infants as I will be.

Some things I planned and have been right about:

  • I don’t speak in ‘baby talk’ to my kids no matter how young they are.
  • I pick my battles and don’t make a big deal out of small issues.
  • I don’t hold back on words and actions that express my absolute adoration for my kids. In fact, I tell them how great they are, how cool they are, how amazing they are, all the time. I don’t believe a kid can be spoiled with words of praise.
  • I teach my kids that I’m a real person with feelings, likes and dislikes. As a result, my kids listen to me when I’m upset, happy, and everything in between.
  • My kids can talk to me about anything.

For future though? I’d like it if these things I am right about:

  • My kids are a good judge of character.
  • My kids are going to attend some sort of post-secondary education so that more doors are open to them.
  • My son respects women and chooses a smart, self-assured partner.
  • My daughter doesn’t feel the need to change herself to convince a boy to like her.

Note: Both of my kids have expressed that they are hetero, without any prompting from me. So I feel safe in predicting they will look for partners of the opposite sex.

  • My kids, when they are adults, will keep in touch with me because they want to, not because I’m forcing them. (But I will if I have to!)
  • I’m able to let my adult children live their lives and make their own mistakes. Little by little, I can let go of them and trust them to make good decisions (big decisions and the million little decisions we make every day).

I don’t doubt my kids can make decisions, but I’m worried about me being able to let them go. As it is now, I tend to swoop in and rescue them for the smallest of difficulties they experience in their very limited lives. When is the right time to really let go? What constitutes letting go in the first place?

For all of my know-it-all attitude about how parents of adult children should conduct themselves? Geez I hope I live up to my own standards.

Fickle Jerk

I’ve been called fickle, impulsive (the bad kind, and yes there is a good kind), rash, careless, short-sighted. Wow I suck, huh? No not really. I’m simply a many-faceted adult, same as everyone else.

I’m not fickle, though. I love being a Mom, I just need a little break now and then and I need to see the fruits of my labours. When I see my midgets acting generously with others, showing kindness and patience, and being socially smart, I feel like I’m doing a good job.

I don’t feel ambivalent about being a parent, even though boy midget is no longer a midget and is now a Sullen Teen ™ with a split personality that comes along with that age. I swear he noticeably grew in height during this past week. He eats for 2, sleeps for 3, has opinions for 4, and yet I don’t want to kill him. Same as when he was a baby, when no matter how many times he woke me in the night for no good reason that I could figure out, or how many times he mightily pooped his diaper at the most inopportune times, I didn’t want to erase his existence. That fierce love you feel for your children is impossible to describe, but I try here occasionally.