What About My Kids’ Right-to-Life?

My mother was assaulted tonight. Someone snuck into her apartment and she’s called me in a panic. She is so upset – and her first worry is my kids and whether or not this could happen to them. It’s taken me a half hour now to calm her down and understand fully what’s happened to her.

The worst part about this whole ordeal is, THEY’RE STILL THERE IN HER LIVING ROOM!!

Okay, so let’s take a minute to gather our thoughts…

If, in fact, someone had physically been lying in wait for Nana as she entered her home, alone, after a long and tiring day, and proceeded to act in a way that both frightened and upset her, I would be able to call the police, get help, and try to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

But I can’t. Because, as far as I know, there is nothing illegal about this assault.

Mom grabbed her mail on her way in. She kicked off her shoes, settled herself, and checked through the envelopes, which included a sealed, plain white envelope on which was printed a single quote with a red arrow:

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
— Abraham Lincoln

As there is an election coming up, Mom figured it had something to do with that, and opened it. Inside was postcard, and, before she could fully understand what she was looking at, she had already committed to memory the gruesome photo of a butchered baby in a trash can. She threw it on the table, only to face a second photo on the reverse. She called me to warn me not to open my mail with the kids around. And to, once again, live through all the reasons this is so upsetting to her, still, after all these years, haunted by two traumatically difficult miscarriages before she was finally able to deliver me.

Now, I don’t give a rat’s ass what your stance is on the abortion issue. That’s not what I’m writing about today.

What I am fed up with, is the sheer audacity that the right-to-life movement has in taking up these horrendous scare tactics to attack my family. Whether they’re hanging banners over the railings of bridges as I drive by, or gathering outside of high schools where my children – and they are still children – have no choice but to attend, and now, invading the personal security of our own homes, they have no right to assault me or my children in this fashion.

To see such graphic photos in any media, there are warnings as to the disturbing nature to follow. I can choose to change the channel, log off, or turn the page. My kids don’t have that option at school – if you want to get your message to my children, there are proper procedures for that: contact the school board, gain approval, schedule a presentation, and give me the option to protect my child from your extremist views. If you would like to advertise anything on public property, there is a municipal sign permit process for such things. And if Canada Post doesn’t start insisting on clear and accurate return information on every piece of mail they deliver, we should be looking at changes there.

As far as I’m concerned, any group can defend whomever they please. But I must defend my children, my family, against displays and demonstrations that are unfit for their eyes. We should all have the right to free speech – something that is not as free in Canada as it is in the U.S., by the way. But with that right comes responsibility. When your right to free speech impinges on my right to safety and security, and my right to raise my children as I choose, to introduce them to life as I deem appropriate, my children’s rights must win out.

Take your stand. Spread your word. But get out of my face. Stay away from my family. And get the hell out of my house.

It’s Valentine’s Day – Prove Your Love

Wondering what to buy your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day? What can you do that proves your love? Something that proves you care, something valentine heartthat says, ‘You are the most important person in my life. I couldn’t live without you. But just in case…’

No it’s not funny. Seriously, if you have anyone in your life that fits the bill – spouse, kids, friend, sister, father, (insert any other title here) – you need to read this.

Having recently, suddenly, and unexpectedly lost my happy, healthy, active husband, I am begging you, and anyone who will listen, to make sure your family will be okay without you.

Here’s a list of five things I know now that I’m beyond grateful we did then:

We had wills. After our first son was born, we went to a lawyer. We had matching wills drawn up, standard, generic documents, leaving ‘everything we owned’ to each other. Naming an executor and beneficiaries if we died together. And – truthfully, this should be law – naming a guardian for our son. The wills were worded so that they would include any future children, property, assets, and debts. That son was 18 when his dad died. The will stands. And it has been the single most important document of my life. Two half-hour visits, twenty years ago, $300. Without a shred of doubt, the best purchase we have ever made. Start bequeathing!

We bought lfamily handsife insurance. We took the mortgage insurance, the loan insurance, and enough term insurance to make sure that we would each be able to continue our lives with our kids as we always have. We never missed a payment – no matter what. With everything that happened that dreadful day, the slow-motion memories that constantly play through my mind, the only brightness I recall, was the looks of sheer relief on the faces of my mom, my sister, and my kids, when I was able to tell them, ‘Yes, dad is gone, but we’re going to be okay. We get to keep the house. We don’t have to move. You stay at the same schools, with the same jobs, and the same friends. We get to miss him without having to worry about what will happen to us.’ It’s something you couldn’t possibly understand until it’s too late. Make that call.

We talked to each other. About a lot of things – final wishes, organ donation, re-marrying. Most of the conversations were quite tongue-in-cheek; we made some entertaining threats, depending on the mood. intimate talkingThe only thing we both agreed on, every time we joked, talked, considered, was that we would do whatever we thought best for the ourselves and the kids. This was crucial when I was faced with some of the hardest, fastest decisions I’ve ever had to make – many with the unexpected and adamant disapproval of other family members – without the one person I had always counted on most to help me get through the tough times. Start talking.

We were organized. At least our finances were, anyway. That’s not to say they were in great shape – we have five kids! That’s to say that all of our bank statements, bills, taxes, mortgage updates, insurance policies, wills, marriage certificate (!!!), passports, ID, health cards, and employee numbers were handy and available at all times. Same with passwords for voicemail, bank accounts, debit and credit cards, employee portals, email. Even the passcodes for his phone and computer. Write it down, lock it up, keep it handy.

We left nothing unsaid. The last morning of his life, Paul left the house grumbling at everyone – the younger kids were all off school that day, and he, the teacher, wasn’t – we teased him, laughed because he’d cut himself shaving, the son who attended the same school wasn’t ready yet, still in bed, ignored the repeated calls of ‘time to go.’ My final ‘have a good day’ was mocking with sarcasm. Two hours later, he was dead. There were so many people who expressed such regrets at not having called him back, or made time for coffee, or answered that email, or, or, or… I told them all the same thing I told my kids. When dad left for school that morning, no one was dying. We can’t live every day as if it’s our last – only people who are dying do that. Living is enjoying life without the cloud of death hanging over you. We knew he loved us. He knew we loved him. Period. That’s how we lived – every day. Everything else is just a part of a regular day in the life of a typical happy family. Stop worrying.feet

Nobody wants to talk about this stuff. No one wants to admit they’re mortal. No one wants to envision their own demise. But ignoring the fact that you will die one day will not prevent that destiny. And the only people who will pay for your sticking your head in the sand and hoping for the best are your kids. Your loved ones. They will pay and pay and pay – at a time when the last thing they need are more worries and problems. Prepare now. Put your affairs in order. Six hours. Two weeks. Tweek the budget just a bit. It’s the best investment you will ever make.

Then you can enjoy your Valentine’s Day with chocolates and champagne knowing that if the worst does happen, you’ve given your loved ones everything they need to carry on without you.

How To Get The Kids To Help Around The House

Mom medalIt’s finally happening!! The reward that every mother longs for, yearns for, over years – nay, decades – of perseverance, dedication, and wine!

“Mom, if I have to teach one more person how to do his laundry, I’ll throw him in the dryer. Thanks for not sending me away to school as a total idiot.”

AHHHH! Giant mom tears roll slowly down my cheek. There is an unfamiliar clenching in my throat. Where is my medal?!?!?

My kids, all five of them, have always done chores. And over the years, I’ve had many moms ask me ‘how’ I manage this. “How do you keep your house so clean with five kids?” “OMG, you only have the one bathroom? Where’s all the stuff?”

Really, friends. You know me. So you know it’s not me doing all the cleaning. It’s my kids. And I’m beginning to understand that there are more than a few of you who would like to know how I still manage to get five teenagers – okay, one just turned 20, but it’s close enough – to help around the house without so much as a heavy sigh. Here’s my best advice….

Start early. Seriously, I’m talking 6 months old. Babies first toy should be some blocks and a shoe box. “Okay, sweetie, yes! Block in box! YAY!!” Child with broomNobody goes anywhere, bed, play, dinner, until all toys are thrown back into the toy box. Yes, let’s learn how to throw a dinky car across the room and hit the bucket – after all, serious basketball skills could end up being your retirement plan. Make a game of it. Put on some music. When he’s ready to walk, don’t let him hang on to the table; give him a broom! Much more developmentally challenging. Tall enough to see over the top of the washer is tall enough to do her own laundry. If she can get herself a drink of water – even with a step stool – she’s old enough to learn how to wash dishes. Seriously, don’t underestimate your kids!

Be persistent. This is key. I know it’s hard to keep repeating the same thing over and over, day after day, year after year, kid after kid. On the plus side, I now hear the older ones spouting off things like, “We never leave an empty roll of toilet paper for the next person!” to younger siblings. This pays off in the end. Trust me. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Not for a day. Not for a moment. The smallest crack in your armour can be turned into a pothole in a flash by one smart-ass kid. Then watch how fast he can take the others with him. Much easier to stick with the plan than to get it back on track.

Respect and explain. I’m not talking about, “Johnny, do the dishes please. Johnny, please do the dishes. Johnny, the dishes need to be done. Johnny did you hear Mommy? Johnny? Hey! Did Johnny just slam front door?!!” Oooh, there is nothing that grates my nerves more than parents pleading and bargaining with their kids. By respect, I mean simply telling your kids what needs to be done and standing over them until they do it. We don’t make up things for them to do. We don’t make it harder for them. We explain. The bathroom needs to be cleaned regularly, or it will stink and grow mold and we will get sick. Leave it clean for the next person. This is how and why we do each and every one of these chores. I am a firm believer that people are far more compliant to an unsavoury situation when they understand why. Kids are no different. “I know you don’t like it. Neither do I. But that doesn’t change the fact that it needs to be done.”

My successful chore chart - click on it for a downloadable PDF version!

My successful chore chart – click on it for a downloadable PDF version!

Find a plan that works. But be prepared to change it. Regularly. A plan that works when your kids are 5 and 7 won’t hold a lick when they’re 14 and 16. Job jars, reward plans, calendars, time sheets, bonus points – whatever works for your family.

Use it. If it doesn’t work, get rid of it and try something else. There’s no shortage of great ideas online. My best success came from the fridge magnet chore chart. Each kid has a colour-coded magnet – the two youngest shared one – and the magnets rotate around the schedule every Monday. The first few weeks were iffy. The kids who didn’t have to clean the bathroom left it in shambles for the one who did. By the time the last kid got bathroom duty, even the toilet was spotless all week as they all learned how much work/pride goes into a clean bathroom. I, myself, have not cleaned a loo in over 20 years…

And last, but most importantly,

mom with wineSit down. Yes, this is the Golden Rule of child-rearing. Mom, grab a coffee, a magazine, a glass of wine, a romance novel, and sit your tired ass down. I learned a long time ago that my pitying my kids does not help them. My doing everything for them does not increase their competence on any level at all. I am the coach, the foreman, the director. I am there, present, available. But I don’t actually do the work. No child can clean his bedroom by himself – even up to 16/17 years old. They all let their rooms fall into ‘disaster area’ status, then they have no idea where to start. (You certainly cannot send an 8-year-old to his room to clean it and expect any sign of success.) Instead, from about age 4, pull up a chair and instruct. Put on some music, prepare some snacks – only time the kids are allowed to eat in their bedrooms, supervised, planned, and they can’t get away! – and direct the begat in the process of the cleaning. Collect the dirty laundry – perhaps you hold on the hamper while you point and she picks up. Next comes garbage. You hold the bag, he gets better at throwing. Sort through stuff – maybe even make a special trip to the dollar store for some hangers or bins to make the process a little more special. At the end of the day, you’ve spent some serious quality time with said child, had some fun, made some memories, taught a lesson, relaxed a bit, and ended up with goal accomplished – one clean bedroom. Accept that this will happen again and again X #of children. But these days, my kids will ask for this help, not so much for the help, but for the company. A very worthwhile investment.

Sure, sometimes it’s just easier to move the kid out of the way and get ‘er done. But in the long run, that’s not the easier thing to do. Remember the big picture. The end goal. Everybody, ready, responsible, and out of my house!! In the end, it’s all about the empty nest…

So moms, share your wisdom; what’s the best idea you’ve found to get your kids to pitch in?