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CSI – the drama I could do without

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CSIMy three children are all teenagers now and like many today, they are home from school before my husband or I are home from work.  I am generally the last to return home at the end of the day, and while my own housecleaning habits see me tidying up the kitchen before I leave for work, I am not likely to find it this way upon my return. My keen eyes are trained to decode the evidence before me and I know just what to nag about. Because my kids now know:  I am highly specialized CSI expert. I am a Cuisine Scene Investigator.

“Nobody move!” I shout, with the anticipated impact:  none of my teenagers has moved nor has any intention of moving.  Securing the scene is not as challenging they make it out to be on TV.

I begin my preliminary analysis:

I study the spatter stains and I know right away that my son has made himself a big glass of chocolate milk.

I examine the trail and I know my daughter has been into the popcorn.

I analyze the dishevelment of the dishes and I know my oldest son has emptied his lunch bag.

As I evaluate all the physical evidence and the possibilities I try not to jump to conclusions, but it hard not to.  And as I walk around collecting evidence I make sure that my kids do not interfere with my examination of the data.

“Don’t touch that!” I shout.

“But I was just about to put that away.” they lie.

“Too late! I caught you! You are now one of my suspects!”

“You should not be eating cookies right before dinner!” I bark at my son. How does she know? I see the querying look in his eyes. “You left the cookie bag completely open in the pantry!” He rolls his eyes.

“Did I not tell you that the ice cream was for dessert?” testing my daughter. How does she know? says the look in her eyes. “You could have at least rinsed off the ice cream scoop before putting it in the sink.”

Even today, I walked into the kitchen and found a half-filled coffee travel mug on the counter and know that my husband, too, is home from work. Clearly he did not pick up on the trail of evidence already before him. Clearly he is not a cuisine scene investigator – he’s just another instigator.

I finish wiping down this scene and catalog the evidence before the dogs decide to catalog it themselves (knowing the dogs they’re already accessories to many of their crimes that will go unsolved). I then begin my own cuisine scene and start making dinner. Sigh.

CSI … not for sissies … only for moms.


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You can tell an awful lot about a woman by the contents of her freezer.

I have a friend who, despite having three kids, has a truly immaculate home, unlike my own home with three kids which seems to be rife with kid clutter and dog dirt. Whenever I come home from her place, I am inspired to tidy up just a little.  If nothing else, to at least wipe the dogs’ drool off the patio door. Well, this time I went for broke:  I cleaned out my bottom-drawer kitchen freezer!

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about my kitchen freezer. In fact, a freezerful of je ne sais quoi. As I was cleaning it out, I was not at all surprised by the number of containers with unidentifiable contents, or the amount of food with freezer burn beyond rehabilitation.  I was, however, a little grossed out with the amount of dog hair I cleaned out of my freezer – which seems to be immune from freezer burn. Pretty sure this explains the string of declines for any dinner invites I extend.

Delighted with my Saturday morning’s accomplishment, I gathered the family (except the dogs) around the kitchen frig and presented them with my handiwork. “Ta da!” I announced, to a primarily indifferent audience.

“What’s that?” asked my husband, pointing to a little square Tupperware container amongst the ice cube trays and frozen treats.  “It’s Fishy” I whispered. “It’s fishy?” he asked. “Why does fish get its own corner of your freezer?” which would be a very good question in a normal household. “Shhh! Not fish,” I corrected, “Fishy.

“Fishy’s alive?!” screamed my daughter jumping up and down. Sigh.

“No honey, Fishy is not alive.  He is still very much dead.  He just happens to be still very dead in our freezer.” A now thoroughly confused husband then said, “I’m going to regret asking this, but what is a dead Fishy doing in our freezy?”

“Well, when he died, we were on our way out the door and didn’t have time to give him a proper funeral.”

“Sooo, when exactly did Fishy die?” asked my husband, glancing over at the fish bowl on the kitchen counter that contained a very much alive Beta fish.

“Three years ago.” I answered “Give or take …”

Needless to say, after having her dead fish replaced with a new alive one, the urgency surrounding a proper pet burial had diminished, and we all sort of forgot about the whole thing – until today.

Despite the wasted food and a long-overdue funeral, I truly feel like I accomplished something that morning.

The patio door, however, is still covered with dog drool.

This essay was written for the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition.  It didn’t win but was great fun to write.  I put on my best “Erma”.  As many of you know, I learned so much from the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop held every other year in Dayton, Ohio, its faculty and most importantly its attendees.  You can read the winning entries here.

The New Year is a Time for Purification

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I keep all my New Year’s resolutions to myself – that way no one can hold me to them.

alcohol freeAs many of my friends know, every January I abstain from alcohol.  Stop laughing, I’m serious. This annual resolution – or 1/12th of a resolution – seems to be difficult to keep to myself and elicits much commentary by my friends and family alike. They are all very supportive, in a this-I-gotta-see kind of way.

I do this because, like many, I tend to overindulge in the all manners of food and beverage during December and have convinced myself that abstaining from alcohol for one month will set my life back to  Zen.  No way am I giving up comfort good in January so alcohol seems to be the appropriate sinful pleasure to slash instead of slosh. I’m pretty sure I can pull this off. God knows I was pregnant three times and breastfed three kids while abstaining from alcohol. But as the gap has grown considerably between the present day and my birthing and breastfeeding days, and I find it more and more of a challenge to do this annual “cleanse” – or is just because now I am mother to three teenagers? Judging from my Christmas presents, my teenagers may also think it’s a challenge for me.

For my first cleanse five years ago, I decided to go flat out and tried ‘Dr. Joshi’s holistic detox – 21 days to a healthier you’ made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow. I know, but I liked her back then, didn’t you?  Joshi promotes a detox diet regime – with no red meat, no dairy, no fruit, no wheat, no alcohol, no coffee, no sugar and no artificially processed foods. Yeah, so basically cardboard (you might know this as rye crackers). I recall reading a Canadian Living magazine writer’s review of this cleanse at the time and she wrote that she felt awful the first three days, then rather “kittenish” when she awoke the fourth day.  Clearly the kittens she knows are starving, acerbic, hypersensitive creatures with a razor-sharp tongues because that’s pretty much how I felt the fourth – and subsequent – days.  Of all the forbiddens on Dr. Joshi’s list, the hardest for me to give up was my coffee. It was not an enjoyable January and I have since then decided that giving up the alcohol is going “cleanse” enough for me. My friends and family generally agree.

The January detox doesn’t start until after the Kingston hockey tournament and it ends January 31st when the Nepean and Cornwall hockey tournament begin. Am I making excuses? Have you ever tried to make it through a minor hockey tournament weekend without alcohol? I rest my case.

So right out of the gate, my month-long January cleanse is reduced to 27 days. I am almost half way there, already.  Hooray! A toast to me! Oh wait …

Wish me luck on the home stretch… and keep all sharp objects (and chardonnay) away from me.

What are your New Year’s Resolutions?

no alcohol

I’ll never shake hands with the vet again.

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My dog Koda has a problem with impacted anal glands. Wait … don’t leave. I swear that’s what the vet told me! Let’s just say, she could have told me he needed canine breast implants, and I would have just handed over my credit card. Vets are awesome. I vow never to shake hands with one again.

So now Koda is on all kinds of meds for about two weeks.  Five pills a day, a syringe full of something else and – you probably guessed – antibiotic ointment twice daily to his badunkadunk.

Remember that stage when you disguised all your kids’ medications in every which way just to get them to take it?  The crushed Tylenol in strawberry jam? The liquid antibiotic sundae? Yeah, that’s the week I’m having.

“Peanut butter for breakfast?!” drooled Koda. “Yes! Yes! I’m a good boy! Yes I am! Gimme the peanut butter! I want the peanut butter!”

His brother Murdoch slinks out of the kitchen. He’s no fool. “You idiot!” yapped Murdoch, “It’s a trap. Why do you think you’re wearing the cone of shame?!” He knew well enough to stay clear during med rounds.

I was able to dispense Koda’s meds a total of exactly three times this way before he figured it out and licked all the peanut butter off the pills.  Time to move on.

“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I get wieners for dinner! It must be Christmas!” panted Koda. “Yes! Yes! Gimme the wieners! I want the wieners!”

Murdoch looked disgusted, “You forgot to say, ‘Hold the Cephalexin’, you twerp!”

Twice burned now, Koda is not falling for any more food tricks, much like my second and third children didn’t fall for the antibiotic sundae. Murdoch is clearly coaching Koda much like my firstborn coached his young siblings I now realize.

“Here’s what we gotta do,” arfed Murdoch, nudging Koda with his snout, “You just gotta suck it up, Man! It’s not a bad gig. Down the pills … fake a whimper … and presto! The bacon comes out! Don’t worry. I got your bacon – I mean – tail!”

Easy for Murdoch to say. He didn’t endure a reverse-Brazilian!

Another whole week of this circus.

koda cone of shame

Domestic Labour Unrest …

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on strikeIt seems I am surrounded by labour strife.  The contentious replacement of NFL officials, the tiresome lack of progress in the negotiations between NHL owners and the NHLPA, and the squabbling between the Ontario government and both the elementary and secondary school teachers’ unions seem to be ongoing dinner table topics in our household.  I should also mention the most recent epic collapse in negotiations which saw me cracking under pressure and buying my 12-year old a strapless dress for a recent family wedding.  When will it end?  Soon enough I am sure for the athletes and teachers; probably not soon enough for my 12-year old and I.

However, the labour conflict that provided the highest relevance and entertainment factor to me was between Jessica Stilwell, aka The Striking Mom, and her children. Ms. Stilwell received quite a bit of notoriety when she declared a strike in her own household. She conducted a week-long experiment in her home free from picking up, putting away, cleaning, sorting, clearing, washing – most importantly – reminding and nagging. She made meals but only washed and put away her own dishes. Despite the fact that she had no teenage boys in her household , no pets that I could discern, and not a single hockey player among them, she still had a lot to write about.  Nevertheless, her reflections on her ‘week on strike’ are worth a read with your next glass of wine.

In thinking (and drinking) while I read her blog, I wondered…

How many times this week have you made a simple household request, and got the following answer: either no response at all or “Yeah, in a minute.” Kidspeak translation = “never” or “remind-me-every-two minutes-for-the-next-hour- until-you-threaten-to-ground-me-from-all-known-manner-of-social-interaction-for-the-rest-of-my-life- because-watching-your-blood-pressure-is-entertaining-but-will-soon-be-boring-and-then-I’ll-probably-do-it“.

And about as many times the same week, I would answer with the question, “I wonder what would happen around here if I took on that attitude?” I wouldn’t have the nerve, would you? Or the persistence. Or the patience. Or the budget for the post-apocalyptic cleaning bill.  I’m not really sure what would happen in our household if I took on this mission, because I simply do not posses the intestinal fortitude of Jessica Stilwell.  I do, however, possess astute scientific hypothesizing abilities and can predict what would NOT happen.

I’m pretty sure that the back door and the garage door would NOT ever be closed and remain open 24/7, making anything of value in our garage (including my Christmas supply of pinot grigio) entirely available to the neighbourhood.

I can say with some certainty that the dogs would NOT survive on love alone, would starve and die (although their life expectancy would likely exceed that of the fish and the hamster because the dogs, at least, know how to beg).

The toilets would NOT ever be flushed (unless I am using one; then for sure it will be flushed and then for sure it would overflow and then for sure I would be blamed for that).

All the lights in the entire house would NOT ever be turned off nor would the TV.

We would NOT have any tops for any of our tubes of toothpaste.

We would NOT have curbside garbage collection anymore because the garbage will NOT make it to the curbside.

Everyone would NOT have any clean laundry but on the upside, I will NOT run out of laundry detergent.

kitchen-messWe would NOT have any clean dishes from which to eat but again, on the upside, perhaps a new set of dishes for me is sitting under the tree (but, Honey, in case you’re reading, that would be pretty pathetic).

There would be NO dry towels in the entire house, though there would also be NO need for a humidifier with all these damp towels on the floor and beds.

There would be NO need for me to get my sports update from TSN for each newspaper would remain on the kitchen table spread open at exactly that day’s sports pages.

There would be NO milk in the kitchen frig because NO ONE will walk out to the garage to get more.

Oh, I know, many of you would suggest that I am to blame; that I have raised a household of slack and unappreciative dependents. In the end, I guess it the end the question really was a rhetorical one.  We all know that mothers were long ago declared an essential service without the right to strike. Meanwhile my right to seek redress for domestic grievances is – well – chilling in the garage.


What would NOT happen if you went on strike?

The Cool Caf Credo

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The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation is ramping up its labour action once again. My kids’ after-school clubs and sports have already been curtailed as a result of the  labour action initiated in September and now I have  heard that teachers may refrain from hallway and cafeteria supervision as this activity  is not part of the essential functions of teaching and marking.

Rather than wade into a polemic debate, I thought I would wade into the high school cafeteria instead.

Hey boys, I’m thinking of volunteering for caf duty at lunch at your school, since your teachers may no longer be doing it. Won’t that be swell?

They actually left the room because they could not contain their excitement. So sweet.

 So just because I’m nice and all that, I have created the following Lunchroom Credo for other parent volunteers considering sharing this prominent volunteer position along with me:

I hereby pledge to …

– Hug and kiss my own children as soon as I see them enter the caf [very important].

– Refer to my teenagers by their toddler nicknames.

– Make sure to hand deliver my teenager’s lunch in a brand-new Hello Kitty lunch box (please note: only for boys).

– Dress appropriately by wearing a blouse and skirt with knee-high stockings and Church Lady shoes; alternative attire might include my leopard print leggings, black leather bodice and red high heel boots (in which case exposed bra straps are entirely acceptable).

– Call all teachers by their first names; better yet, make up a few nicknames like Bri-Bri the History Guy.

– Wink at every cute teenage boy.

– Randomly dispense advice about Canada’s Food Guide.

– Reapply lipstick repeatedly and smack lips loudly.

– Pull underwear out of butt crack at various intervals while walking between tables.

– Endeavour to pass gas at least once while walking past the popular girls’ table.

– Quiz every girl who talks to my sons (list of appropriate questions is available upon request).

– Alert all girls to their exposed bra straps, as required.

– Sing along to all the songs playing over the PA system (even if I don’t know the words).

– Remind my children of their after-school wart removal appointment, in front of their friends.

-Share swigs from my flask with the custodian (in other words, set a good example).

This Lunchroom Credo has been well-received and endorsed by all the mothers I know. Somehow, my kids are not quite as enthusiastic. In fact, they are suddenly no longer complaining that I have a full-time job.

It’s fun being a mother, isn’t it? I can’t wait until my prepubescent daughter’s teachers union begin its labour action.

So how do you endear yourself to your teenagers?

The Dishwasher Doctrine – Tips from a teenager…

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In these days of entitlement and helicopter parenting, I feel it is of vital importance to teach our youth about responsibility and independence.  Like any well-intentioned (and disillusioned) parent, I insist upon my children cleaning up after themselves and helping out around the house.  My boys, they are a wealth of knowledge they are, and I fully expect them to share this wealth in teaching their younger sister how to help with kitchen chores.  I’m proud to share the discerning advice my teenage boys bestowed upon their baby sister in teaching her acceptable methods for loading a dishwasher:

  1. “Just so you know, the dishwasher is a what, not a who. I know, I was confused at first too.”
  2. Make sure all the dirty cutlery is stuffed into the very first basket, leaving the remaining baskets entirely empty for no apparent reason whatsoever.
  3. Those prongs in the dishwasher rack? They’re apparently just a guideline.
  4.  Loading the dishwasher with greasy hands from eating pizza means less dishes to load… guaranteed.
  5. It’s better to feign ignorance later than ask for instructions now.
  6. “Do not empty school lunch containers of their left-overs; the dishwasher has a built-in garbage disposal.  Well, ok, it should”.
  7. “It’s not important to rinse off the dishes but if you do, make sure the faucet sprays tap water and food bits all over the kitchen window.  Extra points if you can reach Mom’s curtains.”
  8.  “Mom loves it when you use her electric toothbrush to get out that soured milk at the bottom of the glass.”
  9. “What are you talking about?! Of course it’s dishwasher-safe!”
  10. If the fork, spoon or knife has only been used once, it can go back in the cutlery drawer – don’t fall into their bourgeois trap about “clean” and all that.”
  11. When the food is really good and dried and caked on, apparently  Great-Gram’s [heirloom] carving fork works really well.
  12. Breaking my wine glasses is part of their seditious strategy to get me to stop drinking so much wine.  They won’t admit it, but I know their plan.

These kids are WIPs (works-in-progress) and it takes a lifetime to build a masterpiece. After all, Rome … blablabla. As you can appreciate, I’m not yet pushing them to do the laundry but we are working on vacuuming (“I know you’ve grown attached to it my dear, but that is a dust bunny, not a pet.”).

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