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Friday, 17 July 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY KING


Today the King is 5.  It’s a very hard one to swallow. It just sounds so…big. And of course in my parental brain I’m already calculating how many willing hugs I have left until he turns his lip up at me and tells me to stop embarrassing him (I will of course enforce many a hug when he’s past the age of willingness). At around this point – or who am I kidding, this started long ago – one finds themselves going through old photos and videos in weepy realization that their child has lost their baby fat and is no longer that sweet little blob of…well, baby. And it's a terrifying moment because you realise there is nothing you can do about it. Time does not go backwards as much as sometimes wish it would. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are many advantages and amazements that happen with a five year old. They can feed and wash themselves; they are no longer a potential hazard (ahem) or loose cannon (in public places, airplanes and the like…actually, the jury is still out on this one); They can actually sit still for longer than two seconds and engage in things in a more profound way and somewhat grasp the concept of reason (and if that fails, bribery works like a charm). And of course, they have developed an intricate personality of their own and have the communication skills to back it up. Which of course has its positives and negatives. The ironic thing is that you spend the first few years aching for them to actually say something so that you can communicate with them and then when they reach four or five, you realize that there is no off switch and every thought they have comes out their mouth like a tsunami. In the case of the King, some of his thoughts are utterly charming and insightful and you wonder where they heck they got them from, and other times when he’s discussing his poo and private parts in front of all the wrong people, well, not so much.

The other thing that occurs for us one-child parents is that you realize this is it. This is your one. And your one is growing faster the weeds out back and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Of late I have found myself doing things purely because I know that one day soon things may change (I’m of course being dramatic as my 14 year old nephew still hugs and kisses his mother and damn it, the King will do the same) and I will no longer be the apple of his eye. In short, I turn down nothing. If he wants to sit and hug for me for 20 minutes, I’m there. If he wants to kiss for so long that my face starts turning blue (for some reason long kisses at the moment are his thing), I do it. If he wants me to lie down next to him and talk about how great Lego is and what Ladybugs eat, I do my best to accommodate him (Note to self: find out what ladybugs eat). If he asks me to pick him up, I….sod that, he’s huge, and I have a bad back, I tell him it’s no longer an option. 

The overall point being, I know soon enough his bedroom door will be locked and he will find his phone/tablet screen much more tantalizing than anything else I can put in front of him and that will be that. Obviously, I will fight like hell not to let this happen (or I will just put my face across his phone screen in a big annoying flashing image…or a hologram, by then we'll definitely have holograms in every room), but part of it is inevitable. Kids grow, change, seek their independence, and then, gulp…go out into the world and forget to call their mothers.

So for now, I embrace five and all that it entails. And pray like hell it will still mean that he views me as the greatest thing since sliced cheese. And man o’ man does the boy love cheese.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

X AND Y


With all this talk in the press lately about nature vs. nurture and being who we’re meant to be, whether it’s gay, transgender, heterosexual, bi etc. it is easy to forget that from conception, we are simply one big recipe that thanks to our parental chefs could’ve gone either way in terms of our genetic combinations. And trust me, there are no choices in what we get, it’s a set menu if you will, like it or not.

The interesting and most ironic thing about the entire debate that most people don’t know - especially those uber male dissenters who insist that being macho is the ONLY way to define masculinity - is that we all began in the womb as female. Yes, you heard me, no matter who you are, be it a macho, beer guzzling lumberjack or a gay male dancer…or for that matter, a gay lumberjack dancer, we began in the womb as females and followed that blueprint for the first few weeks of development. Then, thanks to hormones, we progressed down one gender path or another. But when you look at it in those terms, you (hopefully) realize that not only did we all start from the same (female!) place, but it’s a fine line between masculine and feminine; furthermore, the cooking process is a bit haphazard in terms of how your human cake will turn out. Take a highly testosterone male, vs. a more metrosexual, female oriented one, it’s simply a difference in the amounts of hormones that ended up in the final product. It wasn’t chosen by your parents, it wasn’t bought, it was decided almost randomly in the womb. It just is.

For those skeptics out there that refuse to believe that in utero they were female (take that misogynists!!) let me break it down for you scientifically (with help of course). In short, we all start as a generic embryo. We have a set of female or male sex chromosomes, but the differences don’t really kick in until your hormones enter stage left. So without, say, testosterone, you would remain on the path to womanhood. So, for those of you that have not had your coffee yet, I repeat, we all start the same. It is our sex hormones that make us different in the long run. Furthermore, scientists explain that the mere existence of men’s parts emphasize that lady parts were indeed beginning to form in utero. So, you myopic, pig headed homophobes out there, get a grip, once upon a time, you too had a vagina!

The first telltale sign that men started out as women: nipples. Yes, there isn’t a day that goes by that the King doesn’t ask me what they’re for. At this point, his are just decoration. But in my belly, with the right hormones introduced, the King’s pointless nipples would have developed into potential milk machines later in life. And how happy he would’ve been, as I secretly believe that if most men had (real) boobs, they wouldn’t leave the house.

The second sign: a man’s beloved unit. During a boy baby’s development, various hormones are produced that cause the internal and external genitalia to develop differently than their female counterparts. So because of a hormone called DHT, the little bud, if you will, then grows into a penis. But without it, it would grow into a clitoris. And with the help of another hormone called MIS, it means that men won’t grow reproductive tracts. But of course, the existence of hermaphrodites is proof that sometimes the recipe isn’t as fine tuned as one thinks.

Lastly – and yes, I’m going to throw more fun biological words at you – the last sign that you males were once up for gender grabs, is that seam running down your, ahem…joystick, so to speak. In scientific terms, it’s called a raphe line, and if you didn’t have it, well, you’d have a vagina. In utero, at one point, all embryos have an opening at their genitals. Depending on the hormone contribution, the opening is either fused together (and you become a dude) or isn’t, and you ‘remain’ a woman.

So, as you can see, hormones (as I’ve always screamed from the rooftops) are the most powerful little forces out there. And of course, it’s a delicate balance and depending on how you’re marinated, so to speak, will determine how female or male you become. So all you men out there that think you’re the sh*t cause you’re oh so manly, well you started out female, so simmer down the next time you feel like railing against men who want to throw on a dress and to be frank (or Shirley) you could’ve gone either way.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

BIG, FAT, PROBLEM ON A STICK


America has an obesity problem. Visit any amusement park, airport or concert hall and you’ll get the sobering reality like a smack in the face. (This isn’t opinion sadly, this is fact). Currently, More than 68% of Americans are considered to be overweight or obese and the annual medical cost of obesity (thanks to obesity related disease such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gout etc.) was 147 billion in 2008. I’ll let you digest those little morsels for a moment. If that’s not bad enough, about one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese.

And this is of course is fast becoming a global epidemic; the UK is now the fattest country in Europe and other countries once known for their admirable diets and physiques are now catching up thanks to the Western gift of ‘fast’ food. Fast. The worst, most insidious euphemism ever, what they mean by fast, is the fastest way to fffing kill you. Yes, I’m on one today. What of course put this bee in my bonnet was a recent (and harmless in its intent) article about what delectable (ahem) food items could be found at the Minnesota and Iowan State fairs this summer. Cause we all know a fair is a great place to sample gastronomic delights of the highest caliber.

Now, before I launch in, this is not an assault on America. It’s where I’m from and I hold it dear. Additionally, one only has to visit Scotland or the like to see that it’s not only America that is trying to kill its citizens (greasy take-away and deep fried Mars bar anyone?). But, America for some reason is on the fast track to worldwide domination in the obesity category and this should not be a subject of pride. From where I sit, our diets resemble how many Americans live their lives: Big. Fast, unfettered consumption with very little consequence. Can’t afford to have it, who cares, let’s have it anyway.

Now back to the fair. Apparently on the menu is an array of items guaranteed to give you a heart attack, and most items strangely come on a stick. Not sure why everything is put on a stick, maybe it’s so you can poke the person next to you for help as you’re falling for the ground, clutching your heart, screaming ‘dear god, this donut is giving me a freaking heart attack.’

For starters, at the Iowan State Fair, they are ponying out the deep fried Nacho ball. It is comprised of ground beef, jalapenos, cheese and a deep-fried Dorito Crust. Yes, you heard me right. Deep fried Doritos. If that isn’t enough, there is also apple pie on a stick (deep fried of course) covered in caramel sauce. Something called a toasted coconut caramel cluster, which is comprised of a pretzel, chocolate and caramel on stick. Minnesota, not to be undermined by Iowa, one can find something (on a stick!!) called a bacon explosion, which is brisket wrapped in bacon. Cause the brisket wasn’t enough to clog those arteries; as well as deep fried ribs, Italian desert nachos, a mac n cheese cupcake and for the denouement of a coronary bypass, the Stuffed Italian meatloaf. And you guessed it, ON A STICK.  I seriously feel ill just writing about it. I am all for the odd treat, and couldn’t live without my dark chocolate, but for god sakes people, if you are still eating anything deep fried covered in goopy sauce, you are asking for problems.

Here is the truth, being thin, athletic, in shape etc, is not easy. If it were easy, the whole country would look that way. It’s a choice, a commitment, a priority, and like most things in life, it’s about moderation and making wise choices. And yes, for many, it can be downright boring; but if I only have one round on this merry go round, I’m going to make it last as long as I can and feel good about myself. Do I have to be a size zero? Of course not, be the best you can be for the body type you were given. And of course, enjoy life. Have an ice cream now and then; just don’t eat the whole darn carton 7 days a week and wonder why you’re shooting insulin into your leg three times a day.

Furthermore, if you are raising children, PLEASE GOD stop setting the example that overindulging on a regular basis is okay. It’s not okay. This comes down to health, plain and simple, and teaching a child that he or she should take care of their body – and make actual choices - should be a priority for most people. Of course the King could bathe in bread and cheese all day, but he knows there is a limit and if he weighs 200 pounds at the age of 5, riding his bike is not going to happen (or we’d have to get him a much bigger bike). And that kid loves his bike more than cheese I can tell you that much.

So if it’s deep fried and comes on a stick, it’s probably a good idea to take one bite (if you must) then run like hell in the other direction and grab yourself an apple.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

MAGIC MIKE IN A HOSPITAL GOWN


You will hear a phrase often amongst parents – usually between couples, as they each try to take credit for their kid’s more likeable and impressive qualities - exclaiming their genetic contribution to their child: ‘Oh yeah, he gets (his unbelievable charm and good looks) from me.’ It’s a cross between ego driven pride and…well, it’s all ego, who are we kidding. Conversely, in some instances, there is also mild horror when you realize that like it or not, less than admirable qualities can also be passed down from generation to generation.

Then of course, there is that moment, where it dawns on you that this little person in front of you is in fact their own person, and on many levels, they are much cooler, and more clever than you could ever dream to be. And you find yourself almost envying your child, wishing that some of their youthful unblemished ‘newness’ could find its way into your own genetic code (not to mention the King's grasp of numbers. I'm freakishly hopeless).

The King has many qualities that of course I tell myself that I had as a child (and through adulthood, reality set in and kicked the sh*t out of my best qualities like rebellion, fearlessness and nonchalance) and then of course, I realize I can take credit for very little and purely have to sit back and try to adopt some of his 'je ne sais oblivious goofball', into my own life.

Yesterday was a prime example of that parental moment where I looked at my kid and realised that in many ways, he is simply, a bad ass. He went in for minor surgery (ears/adenoids) and I of course had prepared myself for epic meltdowns, tears, and nervousness abound (yes, I’m talking about me). But in true King style, after we talked about the process exhaustively, he set out to the hospital in his Justice League t-shirt, and his Lego truck with an ‘I got this' attitude that made me think twice about grabbing my Xanax tablets. By the time we got to the hospital, I could tell that he found his nurse, Atlas, pretty darn cute; he soon set up shop in his number 10 bed (for some reason he loved that his bed was numbered) and started making jokes with the anesthesiologist who taped numbing cream to his hands (where the IV line would go) telling her that it looked like crushed eggs.

I of course was pacing a fair amount, checking out to see how ‘with it’ the surgeon seemed, and was making damn sure they were labeling my child with the right name and birthdate so they didn’t remove a kidney instead. See, fearlessness, OUT the window.  By the time we were called upstairs, the King was happy to saunter into the lift barefoot in just his hospital robe like he was Hugh Hefner. When we got to the operating theater, they had warned me that some kids freak out, especially when it’s time to be put under (they like the parents there to keep things calm, then again, who the hell is going to keep the parents calm?). I had told the King that they were going to give him ‘magic potion’ and he’d go to sleep very quickly. He emitted one loud OW, when they stuck the line into his hand, then started to laugh at something the nurse said. He then looked at me and said, ‘I feel something in my throat,’ and CONK, out he went. (As an insomniac, I can tell you that I have never felt more envious of someone at that very moment). Of course as any parent can tell you, watching your kid go limp like that can weaken the knees of even for the most formidable of people. At that point the nurses asked if I was okay, as I had that look. God, why didn’t I bring the Xanax?

As I waited downstairs for the King, I of course paced like a loon as they wheeled child after child past me, each one struggling to wake up from the anesthesia, some bawling in pain, others passed out cold. When they finally wheeled him in, he was asleep in a little ball, with his stuffed animals beside him. Of course, that didn’t last long. After about 20 minutes of punch drunk, trying to come to with some crying and moaning about pain, he popped up, took up Atlas’s offer on a box of Lego and proceeded to spend the next hour singing at the top of his lungs, dancing, making jokes and building a three story garage. It got to the point where the nurses were laughing as he Magic Miked his way to the bathroom in his underwear (the kid loves to twerk, I have no idea where he got this from; okay, I have some idea), passing the other kids who were out cold in their beds (yes, I had visions of us happily cat napping for hours in a hospital bed watching movies). Then of course, his stomach woke up too and he proceeded to eat everything that wasn’t nailed down. By 1pm, there told us we were being discharged, most likely to give the others a break from the King’s singing so they could actually rest.

By the time we got home, he was on full tilt, eating, running, singing, and I started to wonder if post anesthesia is like crack for certain children, or if the surgeon was a total liar and was watching soaps instead of operating on my kid. There went my week of playing nurse to a half out of it child while I snuck away and tackled things on my to do list. Clearly nothing holds this kid down, and I can honestly say, I had nothing to do with it….then again….

Saturday, 27 June 2015

FLY THAT RAINBOW FLAG


For anyone not living under a rock, the Supreme Court rocked the United States of America this past Friday - in the best possible way - when it ruled that the Constitution guaranteed the right to same sex marriage. [Whip out those rainbow hot shorts and let's get this party started!] In short, it deemed it a liberty that could no longer be denied – when you hear it in those terms, can you believe it took this freaking long? 

Justice Kennedy went on to say, and so eloquently I may add: “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.” Furthermore, he exclaimed that the plaintiffs in this case, those that have tirelessly championed for same sex marriage, were simply seeking equal dignity in the eyes of the law. I will say that again for those in the cheap seats: 'equal dignity in the eyes of the law.'

That last sentence is a mouthful and if one looks back through history those two huge words (equal dignity…I could say them all day) are not only the fundamental catalyst for change, but it’s a marvel we still have to demand such a basic right. The suffragette movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement...all inspired by the same exact driving force, equal rights and dignity for all. It’s utterly shocking it has taken our country – or any for that matter – to grasp this concept and extend it to its citizens. But then again, we fight hard for ahem, positive things like guns and annihilating universal health care, why on earth would we expect a nation to grant all of its citizens equal rights.

And for most part, this past week, the rainbow flags are soaring, tears are flowing, and the widespread approval can be heard from coast to coast; even – gasp – support for this decision crossing party lines (oh M. McCain, you rock). But then of course, there are the dissenters who simply can’t grasp that we as a nation are going to progress, and I'm sure they're sitting in a shack somewhere clinging to their confederate flag, screaming, 'why god, why!' And for that matter, not only progress, but that our constitution be allowed, or is actually designed to evolve as we as a people evolve. As I simply can’t say at as eloquently as Justice Kennedy has:

“The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”

It’s quite a beautiful sentiment, and one that I think we should all heartily reflect upon. We are a different society now than decades past (like it or lump it); we now (hopefully all) understand that love is love, no matter whom you love, and every couple should be entitled to the same rights, benefits, and stability that marriage provides. Cause in truth, there is no argument anymore that stands up against same sex unions. Not from where I’m standing. From the religious standpoint (or argument), it is far time we understand that the seed of any religion is love (and I’m not talking about organized religion which is sprung from a far more insidious thing). And whether you pray to Buddha, Allah, or Jesus, I’m pretty sure none of those three care who you love, as long as there is love in your heart. Jesus hung with lepers and prostitutes for god sakes while guzzling wine, the man (as far as I can remember back to my Catholic school days) wanted us to love - not hate and discriminate. And as far as those dissenters that say ‘marriage is sacred.’ Well, we heterosexuals have proved that it’s about as sacred as a trip to Vegas for a quickie divorce. In fact, we have treated it so poorly, that it’s a wonder why we want to keep it all to ourselves.


SO, change is here people, and it’s covered in a rainbow flag. So get on board, realize that we’re now a melting pot of a country where no matter what shape size, colour or creed, love is the only thing you should need to get a marriage license (but of course women still earn less in this proud country of ours) and for that matter, two grooms  (or two brides) can sit upon a wedding cake. If you don’t like it, don’t do it yourself, but put a sock in it, cause rights are rights. And if you want yours, then your gay neighbor is entitled to his.
Copyright © 2014 Anthea Anka - Delighted And Disturbed