Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tidy Up

It's official: the Mighty household has been downgraded from 'domestic disaster' to a 'bloody mess.'  In the past week I think I've handled every last thing we own at least twice and still there's work to be done. 

Mouse and I spent Monday morning arranging her room, putting her toys away and sorting her clothes.  The following are a few pictures I took after we were done that I plan to make into 'My Room is Tidy When It Looks Like This' cue cards:

I've yet to do the same with Emma, but then she's in school twice as long. As it stands, her room is tidy in the 'out of sight, out of mind' sense. Ask her to find something and I guarantee she'll draw a blank. Does it matter? Yes, and for a number of reasons: 
  1. Possessions are a privilege: too many children in this world go without basic necessities.
  2. Predicability: next to food and shelter, knowing what's going to happen and what is expected are essential contributors to a child's psychological well-being.
  3. Planning: ordering their physical space can be a child's first lesson in planning.  Where do you want to keep your dolls? Where do you like to play with them? By including kids in the process, they are more likely to maintain the results.
Interestingly enough, it's my own room and bathroom that will be the last to receive the Mighty touch. The kitchen was the first. Read into that as you wish. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The prettiest part of my new house...

... is outside it. Our things have finally arrived from Switzerland and they're everywhere.  What a mess! 
For the record, I'm not complaining. 
Just an observation. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Simple Pleasures: Cardinal Sighting

For the past five years, cardinals have been characters in books or the subject of songs, not something that can visit the back yard or fly in the school bus window.  Beautiful...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cultural Drift

We've been on American soil two days short of a month and already I sense change.  Emma is coming out with expressions like, 'That was shack-a-lackin!' and Mouse has a sticker of Hannah Montana that she carries with her everywhere.  She isn't quite sure who Hannah Montana is but she wants to see her movie. What's happened to Emma's 'Oopla!' and Mouse's obsession with snails? It's as if we've jumped into a river without knowing which way the current is flowing or, for that matter, if that's the way we want to go. 

There are almost a dozen children living within shouting distance of our new home—a mixed blessing if there ever was one.  At one point on this weekend, I found all of them in Emma's room.  We've never lived so close to playmates before and, even if we had, there would have been two meter tall hedges and Swiss propriety to keep spontaneous visitors at bay. To complete this quintessential picture of American assimilation, the Captain and I have already consulted a lawyer over the moldy basement.  We've not bought a big screen TV or a recliner with cup holders yet, but these things take time.

Ambivalence is running high: I want to get settled, yet I'm homesick for Geneva and the life we had there. I'm thrilled to see the girls so happy with their new school and friends, but worry for their French.  And then there's the house: I love it, but it's also a huge source of stress. Not to mention, it smells. Thursday our furniture will arrive and, with it, some semblance of normalcy. 

One thing's for sure: this life needs a rudder.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

**it Happens

76 bags x 2-3 piles of poop per bag = 152 - 228 times 
I've had not-so-nice thoughts about the previous home owners.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


My basement, the first one I've ever owned, has flooded. A faulty sump pump appears to be to blame. A wet dog smells better. Our neighbour was kind enough to tell us that this isn't the first time. We've been in the house less than a week! Wah!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Good Words

"I'm frustrated because you won't stop bothering me and I've asked you THREE times!"

We were driving from the second mattress store of the day to the third when Emma said this to Mouse. Obviously, the two weren't getting along but what I was hearing gave me pause, in a positive sense. Emma's voice was firm, not whiny, and she was speaking to her sister, not complaining to me. 

"Good words, Emma," I said.

In the back seat Emma's frown relaxed, validation smoothing the creases. Mouse, on her part, backed off and peace settled over the valley... for about five minutes.

How often do we ask kids to stop fighting without teaching them how to negotiate? Likely too often, and I am no innocent in this. It's far easier to fire off rules like 'no hitting' than it is to delve into why a child felt compelled to slug her best friend. Emma and Mouse argue. They've even been known to push, pull, snatch, scratch, and bite when the spirit moves them. But they are also being taught to negotiate and, given enough reinforcement, will eventually gain independence--I hope. So far the trend looks good.  You be the judge.

That's Mine, This is Yours
A Play in Infinite Acts
(for our purposes I'll keep it to two)

Act 1: Let's Share 
Scene 1
Emma, age 3; Mouse, age 1.  Emma is playing with toy blocks. She puts one down while searching for one of a different colour. When she reaches back for it she sees Mouse has picked it up.

EMMA: Hey! 
EMMA snatches the block from MOUSE.
MOUSE howls. 
When that doesn't work she bites EMMA on the leg.
EMMA howls.

Scene 2
Hours later...
EMMA is playing blocks again. MOUSE joins her. EMMA quickly moves the blocks out of reach. 

MOM: Mouse, do you want to play blocks, too?

MOUSE nods.

MOM: Say, 'Emma, can I play, too?' 
MOUSE: (to EMMA) Me, too?

EMMA gives MOUSE three of at least a hundred blocks. MOUSE is happy.

MOM: (to MOUSE) Say thank you.
MOUSE: Tanko.
EMMA: You're welcome.

Act 2: My Turn
Scene 1
EMMA, age 5; MOUSE, age 3. 
EMMA enters the kitchen from outside. 

EMMA: Mouse won't let me play on the swing.
(Rough translation: Make Mouse give me a turn before I clock her one.)

MOM: She's allowed to have a turn, Emma.

EMMA: But she's not even swinging. She's using it for Pink Bear's bed.

MOM: How about we put on the timer for five minutes. When it goes off, it will be your turn.

EMMA: Okay. 

EMMA walks back into the yard with the timer in hand. When it finally goes off, neither girl nor bear is using the swing. 

Act 2, Scene 2
Later that day, in the bathroom, after the bath. MOUSE is combing her hair--poorly. EMMA is still in the tub.

MOM: (reaching for the comb) How about you give Mommy a turn, chickadee?

MOUSE: No. Me do it.

MOM: You've done it long enough. It's Mommy's turn now.


EMMA: Maybe you should get the timer, Mommy. I think it's by the slide. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

Gruyère: the back story

Five years ago when the Mighty's moved to Switzerland, Emma the Brave went off all food except milk and bananas. For two weeks my willful three-year-old shunned everything from apple juice to pasta, claiming she didn't like the taste. Granted, nothing tasted the same--not even the milk.  Progress was made but was painfully slow.  Almost two years later we took the girls on their first ski holiday. We arrived at the rented chalet in time to feed the girls lunch. When it came time for dessert I gave each girl a cookie I'd bought especially for the occasion. Mouse, then almost three, accepted it, but handed it back a few minutes later untouched. "Save it," she said. She meant for home. Suffice to say, change hits my kids in the taste buds--hard.

Five years has done little to change the girls' characters. We've had one meal in two weeks that we've all enjoyed and that was sushi. Perhaps we'd be better off in Tokyo than the American Midwest.  After five years of Swiss-style selection--or lack there of-- I should be thrilled. Do I want baked beans sweetened with brown sugar or molasses? Hotdogs made of turkey or beef?Hmm...let me think. Instead I find myself with three jars of pickles in my fridge that my family won't eat and a block of Wisconsin Gruyère that isn't awful, but isn't Gruyère either. 


This is the part of moving that is tough to bear: the part that you spend wishing you were back where life was just a bit more predictable. A trip to the grocery store should not be over-stimulating. A brand-new clothes dryer should work past the first load. And when you buy a house, you shouldn't have to clean up after the previous owner's three dogs before you step into the yard. I still attest that this move is easier than the last, but it's going on six weeks since we left home and I'm tired. 

Tonight I'll sleep in our new house for the first time on a mattress on the floor. It may not be an illustrious beginning, but it's a step in the right direction.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Reality Check

We all have our challenges...some more than others. What follows is a video montage in honour of the Hospital for Sick Children's annual Change Crusader fundraising campaign. Ashley's my cousin and, in every way, a hero. Way to go, chickadee! You've come so far.

Children from all over the world come to Sick Kids for medical care they can't either receive or afford any place else. 
Give you what you can. They change lives.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Mighty's Economic Stimulus Package

With all the big ticket items we've been buying, it's beginning to feel like we are single-handedly trying to turn around the American economy. A house, five appliances, a car, and a million other odds and ends are taking their toll. It makes me think silly things like, 'Do we really need this box of cereal or can we wait a few days?' It's not that we can't afford the cereal--we can. I just have a strong urge to stem the flow. Ah, well. Profittez America! It won't last forever.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


It's been over a week now since we left Geneva and with it the last vestiges of home. I'm dying to get our new life underway but due to multiple factors beyond our control, we're stuck in a holding pattern, at the 'Not Bad, but Not Yours' Hotel.  I'm doing my best to be grateful: at least there's a pool, a half-decent breakfast, and the morning paper. The room is quiet and Honey, our dog, is welcome. There's a kitchen with four of every utensil and a fridge the size of our old shower stall. But, to be perfectly honest, there is big part of me that is impatient and jealous. I want my home, my time, my privacy. I want to cook my own food in my own kitchen.  I want to have a routine that doesn't include getting quarters for the hotel laundromat. I have a novel just sitting there, a school to apply to. It's times like this that bring to mind a label I intrinsically loathe: trailing spouse. What about my career plans, my goals? I know it is only a matter of time before I'm back at it, but for now I'm the link between our old life and the new, a plain-Jane bridge without even a troll for drama. 

Then again, maybe I'm the troll.

Sulky self-pity aside, time spent with the girls has been well spent and necessary. When not poolside or walking the dog, we've made good use of the hotel's stock pile of board games. Emma the Brave is a top Clue investigator and just plain lucky at Uno. Yours truly happens to be reigning champion at Sorry, an accomplishment I'm a little too proud of given my age and that of my opponents.  I can tell Mouse is just biding her time until we break out Monopoly. The kid's a pint-size tycoon and wins by pure tenacity, if not skill.

As a future educator and parent, I can't overstate the value of playing games with kids.  Even in the most simple card games, kids must:
  • remember and comply with rules
  • take turns
  • win and, more importantly, lose with grace
  • negotiate 
  • use numbers  
  • strategize
  • and see a task through to completion
How many grown-ups do you know who still struggle in these areas? Far too many, if you ask me. Computer games, if not played against a live and in-the-room opponent fall short of many of these objectives. Rules are dictated by the program and, unless you have a junior code-cracker on your hands, can't be broken. If you lose against a machine, you can play again or quit without consequence. Perhaps my week has been a little under-whelming, but in my heart I know progress has been made, no matter how small.  

Now where's that Monopoly...