Anxiety wrapped up in a big ball of awesome

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

I’ve always embraced this John Lennon quote. Ok, I’ll be honest. I wish I could embrace this John Lennon quote.

If there’s anything being a mom has taught me, it’s how to go with the flow. Understand, this has not been an easy adage for me to adopt. As creative as I am, I’m still a list maker who dreams of organized sock drawers and an empty inbox. Instead, I’m lucky to find matching hosiery and I have 3083 email messages that silently mock me from the safety of my computer.

Still, today – at our house - I floated with the current.

Now that she’s three, I like to encourage my daughter to choose which art supplies she feels like working with. On this day, she dug out a few little pots of acrylic paint, some paintbrushes, small paper plates and oil pastels. While she laid out the materials, I filled a small bowl with water.

Together my girl and I dabbed bright juicy colours onto little round canvases. Until, it occurred to her that she might like to move the paint water from the bowl, into an empty coffee mug that was sitting nearby.

She actually has decent fine motor skills and has pretty much mastered the art of pouring apple juice. Still, I twitched a little bit (ok, a lot) as I sat back to watch the experiment unfold.  I’m sure there’s a scientific term for what happened next. As is so often the case with preschool-aged children, the cup is never big enough for the fluid being presented and so, a convex meniscus (hello science!) formed just before the water volcano erupted onto the floor.

I carefully placed the bowl beneath the mug to collect the drips and a few quick wipes with a towel took care of the rest. But my daughter wasn’t satisfied. After asking her dad, nana and I if we had ever experienced such misfortune (and after we all regaled her with tales of coffee spills, orange juice mishaps and paint catastrophes), she decided to come at the problem from a different direction.

“Maybe,” she pondered out loud, “if I had two mugs, it wouldn’t spill over.”

Our art minute had morphed into science hour within a matter of seconds. I think this is what folks refer to as one of those “teachable moments”. As a sometimes-rigid (yet still quite imaginative) person, I call it anxiety wrapped up in a big ball of awesome.

I handed my budding Einstein another mug, which she positioned carefully on the table. She dumped the water from the full mug back into the bowl (which was still reasonably occupied) and set it down too. Slowly and carefully, she poured some water from the bowl into one mug, then the other, taking turns between the two until eventually, both were full and none overflowed. There had been no need for the tray I had hurriedly placed.

Then, the littlest one stood back, raised her arms and cheered – as did I. The only thing left to do after that, was to celebrate. With cinnamon toast.

Creativity is an unpredictable and sometimes elusive gal. People often expect to find her dressed up in a bright, flowing gown. But the truth is… most of the time she sits quietly in a watermelon-stained t-shirt, trying to find new ways to approach old quandaries. 

And she rarely (if ever) has time to look at lists.

No, really.

Chickens freak me out

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

I can’t express how happy I am to be living in the country, far away (at least 20 minutes) from civilization and the nearest Tim Hortons. The air is clean, the water is pure and the people who live nearby are kind and industrious.

However, now that we live in the wilds, I’m finding there are certain requirements.

From what I can tell so far, there are at least three.

Number One: If you have a dog, it should be larger than a beaver and it should have significantly sharp teeth so it can fight off any and all eagle attacks. In fact, adopt a raccoon instead. Then, set it free.

Number Two: If you see a coyote, you must kill it and place it at the end of your driveway and position it so it looks relaxed, or drugged. I’m not sure if this gesture is meant to attract more coyotes, or if the intent is to scare away additional coyotes. Either way, I need a gun. And a morphine drip.

Number Three: You must “keep” chickens. And by keep chickens I mean, you must like them.

Here’s the thing. I don’t like chickens. I might even hate them. I think my vile feelings stem from the fact that once, as a kid, I was chased by a chicken. A big-ass chicken.  Maybe it just wanted to be friends. Maybe it was just a dream. Maybe it was a dog and not a chicken. I don’t know, but the fact remains… I don’t like chickens. I even stopped eating them for two solid years. In protest. Then, I thought about it.

Chickens remind me of the mean girls in school. It’s the way they parade around, moving their heads like they are “all that”. Chickens write love letters, pretending to be the boy you like. Chickens cackle like witches when you (after finding the letter in your locker) walk over to talk to the boy you like. Chickens snort with delight when the boy you like looks at you like you’re a zit with a unibrow and says, “As if I would write you a love letter. Ha, ha, ha.”

Yeah, chickens are bitches.

original image:

My daughter on the other hand, loves chickens and so, was overjoyed at the chance to get up close to a cluster (gaggle?) of them at our delightful neighbors’ house (not the ones with the coyote lawn ornament). Our neighbor was kind enough to talk to my 3 year old about the chickens and he even showed her how to feed them. He explained that chickens are a lot like dogs in that they need time to get used to new people and that they can be a little skittish around strangers. 

When I asked him if his chickens ever smeared red lipstick over some girl’s butt when she was in grade nine and told everyone she had her period, he just looked at me like I was crazy.

I think he’s hiding something.

When I told my friend Sharon that chickens freak me out, she said, As they should.  Cut their head off and they still run around!?  What kind of demon animal is this?”

This is why I like Sharon. She understands me. And, it would appear that she knows how to kill a chicken, which will come in handy when and if I decide to “keep” some.

No, really.

Keeping the balance... with a dance move

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

This week, I stubbed my toe on a hammer that had been forgotten in the previous night’s cleanup. 

So much for childproofing.

It was early - still dark outside - but (thanks to the irresistible scent of freshly brewed coffee) I was on the hunt for a cup of caffeine. 

As I bent down to squeeze my throbbing foot, I backed firmly into the dining room table. I managed to stay upright only by employing a less-than-elegant twirl somewhat reminiscent of a move I once executed at a high school dance. 
Then, I noticed Geoff – coffee mug in hand – smiling at me from his chair in the corner. 

“Um. What are you doing?” he asked with a grin. 

“Isn’t it obvious?” I smirked, “I’m practicing my balancing skills.”

Maintaining a state of equilibrium has been a bit of a challenge these days.  

We’ve gone from building a house on our own (what, are we nuts?) to living in the unfinished house we are still building, in a matter of months. 

One week after moving in - after peeing in a bucket for a few days (yeah, I don’t recommend that) - we cheered at the first flush of our new toilet and were hopeful when our plumber told us our shower would be installed shortly – right before he went home with the parts. 

Then, another week went by.

Understand - there are many frivolous things that I secretly wish for… my pre-pregnancy hair, my pre-pregnancy energy and my pre-pregnancy shoe size to name just a few. But, after two weeks, I was willing to forget all of those desires  – and give up my toes – in exchange for the ability to bathe in something larger than a laundry tub.

The plumber did eventually come back with the parts just before we were about to begin a series of neighborhood bathroom break-ins. We now have a shower (and thanks to Geoff’s formidable abilities – two more toilets and a bathtub and hardwood floors and painted walls...) but now we are trying to keep on top of the bills, mostly by selling winning Roll up the Rim cups at a profit.


But… amid all the uncertainty (and hush-hush anxiety attacks in the bathroom), great things have been happening. Just after moving in, I was asked if I would like to blog for Todays Parent. Um… yes!!! And, in spite of developing a wicked case of writer’s block shortly after agreeing, I was able to come up with some words that I am incredibly proud of, thanks - in part - to chocolate and coffee. 

Ta da!

To read the above post (and others throughout the month of April), visit:


Jantje has been rounding up artists for a folk art show she is organizing, while she also prepares a piece for a sculpture competition (and works on taxes).  

Geoff was contacted by a Hollywood company who provides artwork to film and television sets. They want  his work. We send his paintings out next week.  

And, to top things off… my incredibly well-adjusted and ridiculously happy 3-year-old daughter,  has been playing guitar, dancing and printing the letters q, u, w, x, o, j, f, i, m and t with abandon.

Life is good and so far, I haven't fallen over (today).

No, really.

And that is why the modeling career didn't pan out...

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Years ago - while on vacation in Ocean City, Maryland - a photographer approached me and asked if I would pose for a shoot he was working on. The client was a surf shop and all I had to do was sit on a board with a guy named Gabriel (or Mike, or something). 

It was all very professional. I signed a form. My wardrobe consisted of my own jeans, a surf shirt, a hat worn backwards and a pair of Chuck Taylors. There was a crew, sort of. A girl was holding one of those aluminum foil umbrella things and there was a kid standing by to shoo the seagulls away. A tourist stopped to take pictures.

I have to admit though; I figured the whole thing was bogus, until, a few weeks later when a copy of the ad (as it appeared in the The Baltimore Sun) arrived in my mailbox. It was the beginning of a lucrative modeling career. Not for me you understand. But I think the guy that sat on the surfboard with me went on to do big things. 

The problem is, I’m not (nor have I ever been) model material and now that I'm forty, I think it's time for me to give the dream up once and for all. Sorry Tyra. The issue is obvious. I'm the opposite of photogenic, plus, I don’t take direction well – especially when a camera is involved.

Case in point… recently, I had to have some shots taken for a writing assignment and all I can say is, thank you baby Jesus for digital cameras with giant memory cards.

I was going for "friendly, approachable blogger", but instead I ended up with this.

 If I wanted to shoot a diva, I would 
have pointed a pistol at Beyonce.
That was the best of the outdoor pictures. As you can imagine, everyone involved was very disappointed. It was decided that an indoor shoot might produce better results.

  I was going for drunken Dutch girl here. 
I think I nailed it.

  Can you do crazy eyes? 
YES! I can do crazy eyes. 
That I can do.

Oh dear God. Don't try to be cute. Just don't. 
Really. Stop it. You're forty.

This is my smart but sexy pose. 
It's a miracle I'm married.

This is me channeling Christina Aguilera.  
"I am beautiful, no matter what they say..."  
It didn't work. Clearly. 

It was getting late. 
I thought my breasts might have tried to escape. 
But they were still there. Thankfully.

Can you look friendly? Nevermind.
 Well, then can you at least tilt your head so we can 
see your viciously huge left ear? 
OK. Perfect!

 This is NOT what Tyra Banks means 
when she says "Look fierce."
And enough with the crazy eyes. Seriously. 

Eventually, no... miraculously, I managed to sit still with my mouth shut and my eyes steady long enough to have a half decent photo taken. The antihistamine pills helped tremendously. I highly recommend them.

Meanwhile... I found the the surf shop photo - otherwise known as the last picture of me where I don't look like Chandler in that "engagement photo" Friends episode.

 No, really.