Who Wants to go for a Swim?

I grew up with a pool and it was awesome. We were in there all the time. We made up the best games and were exhausted by bedtime. So, when we were house hunting a few years ago and found a place we loved and  it had a pool, the decision to put in an offer was very easy.

This is not me.
This is not me.

We are not a family that goes camping (not sure why I’d chose to spend a week living in third world conditions, but more on that another time). We also don’t really cottage; however, if you have a cottage you’d like to invite us to, we’re game. So, having a pool is the perfect fit for us. We love having people over for the day or an hour (it’s a sliding scale depending on how much we like you and how well-behaved your children are).

Swimming as I recall it from growing up was fun and almost limitless. You throw on a bathing suit, run out back and jump right in. Take a few warm up breaks, eat some chips or Rice Krispie squares, maybe go on the swing set or read a book, then right back in. That has not been my experience as of late. Being a parent has really been a killjoy when it comes to pool time. (Obligatory good mom disclaimer: I do love my boys and mostly enjoy swimming with them.)

Now when I want to enjoy the pool, I have an entourage, which is fine, but the whole process is way more involved. Bathing suits to start: we have a drawer full of trunks – at least 23 pairs. Once people know you have a pool, you get a lot of bathing suits as gifts. However, even though there are 23 to choose from, only one pair is the right pair. Searching bedrooms, railings, and random piles on the floor takes time. Multiplied by three at the very least.

This is who I pretend to be when I do a killer handstand.
This is who I pretend to be when I do a killer handstand.

Once bathing suits have been procured, we begin the “Put your Clothes Away” dance. I tell the boys to put their clothes away, they say they did. I tell them that “away” does not mean they are left in the bathroom. Sighs and blustering ensue, but they go back upstairs. I ask again, they insist they did, I remind them that “away” does not mean on the floor of their bedroom. Repeat.

Alright, bathing suits are on, clothes are “away”. Now we move on to the “Sunscreen Debate”. It’s short, I win, sunblock applied. This quickly moves into the “When can we go in?” chant.

We’re at a good stage of pool life with the Bigs. They jump in, play games and have a blast.

This is me in 30 years.
This is me in 30 years.

Mostly they just ask me to watch their super cool pencil jumps or cannonballs or ask me to count how long they can hold their breath under water. But the Littles – they seem to think that I am out there solely as a conduit for their personal swimming fun. And neither of them can swim on his own yet. So, I’m doing a lot of bobbing up and down and “helping” and promising not to let go.

“Don’t let go, Mommy.” “Hold me, Mommy.” “I want to be with you, Mommy.”

And now, right now, as I type this, I realize that maybe it’s the Littles who are at the good stage.

“Don’t let go, Peanut.”

Kindergarten: The Good, The Gross, and The Amazing

You remember Bill, don't you?
You remember Bill, don’t you?

Back in the Dark Ages, before WiFi and SmartBoards, when Bill Nye the Science Guy was still cutting-edge, I began teaching. My first assignment was kindergarten and I liked it and thought I’d try it out for a while since “I’m no kindie lifer.” Fifteen years later, I’m still in Kindieland, but it’s not because it has gotten easier, it’s because I continue to learn. Every day. Teaching Kindergarten has clarified my gross threshold. I can calmly bandage a scraped knee. I can witness a child throw up and clean up vomit without batting an eye. Nose bleed? No problem. I am a

star when it comes to yanking out loose teeth. But on any given day, I am one booger away from tossing my lunch. Even writing it down makes me – hold on a second….ok, I’m fine now. I have learned that simple things are really complicated. Don’t believe me? Pop into a kindergarten hall at Home Time (okay, really, any time). Among the most challenging of tasks are the following:

  1. Putting on boots/sandals/running shoes
  2. Putting on a coat/jacket
  3. Zipping a coat
  4. Unzipping and removing a coat because someone thought the teacher wouldn’t notice they hadn’t put on their snow pants (this applies only in winter, we’re not cruel)
  5. Numbers 1-3
  6. Zipping up a backpack (easier if mittens aren’t already on, but that strategy is met with great resistance)
  7. Staying in line as the class travels outside
  8. Keeping one’s hands on one’s own body
  9. Not stroking the walls as we walk in the hall
  10. Refraining from applying excessive amounts of sunblock to self and others

Kindergarten has taught me to be a Jenga Master. Can’t fit your sandwich container back into the bag? A little twist, a flip – BAM! There you go. Backpack too full to cram in your library book? Just a little nudge to the right, a few shakes – all set!

Over the years, I have garnered many useful phrases:

I have yet to meet Arnold's standard of discipline
I have yet to meet Arnold’s standard of discipline

What are you learning when you squish him with a pillow?

We don’t lick our friends.

Only snack goes in your mouth.

I’m wondering what you’re learning when you put blocks down your shirt?

Sticking your tongue out has no power over me.

You don’t need to high-five my students, this is not a petting zoo.

If you have to lift, you can’t pretend that toot was accidental.

Steady, everyone gets a hula hoop – it’s not Hunger Games. 

There’s no crying in British Bulldog.

 This year I have had the privilege of a new assignment and I taught about 130 kindies every day while their teacher had planning time. It was crazy and busy and incredible. I learned so much from their educators and from those little people. Perhaps most of all, kindergarten has taught me that life really is made up of the small things:

Recognizing your name for the first time is empowering.

Snow is its own kind of amazing.

Reading your first book on your own is unforgettable (for the teacher, too).

Dancing is fun, and even better when your teacher dances with you (with abandon).

Sometimes, a hug really does make everything better.

Now I cannot wait to see what is in store for next year. What are some of your memories from kindergarten? Good, bad, or ugly, don’t be shy.

My Polyester Dad

My dad and I have a special relationship. It might be because we are both the baby in the family or just the way the genetics worked out. Nature versus nurture – who knows? I do know that it’s been a good thing, mostly.

I was born in the seventies, so our photo albums are rife with interesting clothing choices. He had a lot of polyester. A LOT. Our family photo from 1976 shows him sporting a sweet red suit. And he had the fashion sense to match it with something like this (and yes, he had tinted glasses – better to go all-in, right?):

Courtesy of dressthatman.com (really wishing I'd saved some of Dad's stuff right now).
Courtesy of dressthatman.com (really wishing I’d saved some of Dad’s stuff right now).

Then there was the infamous animal shirt. I think my brother at one point refused to be seen in public if Dad wore it.

It was just like this, but with more ducks.
It was just like this, but with more ducks.

Guys, these examples pale in comparison to The John Deere Snowmobile Suit.

One piece.

Bright green.

And, according to Dad, it wasn’t limited to snowmobiling.

He wasn't being ironic
He wasn’t being ironic and yes, it was that green.

It was the early eighties. I was about 9 or 10, tagging along on some errands with my dad. I guess it was winter because he was wearing the JDSS. We must have gone to the usual spots – gas station, possibly Canadian Tire, with a final stop at Big V Drugstore (raise your hand if you remember those).

I was in the cosmetics aisle checking out the various choices of nail polish and lip glosses when from at least two rows over I heard, “Jan! JAN! JANICE!!  Something in his voice told me to duck and cover but it was too late. He rounded the corner and spotted me, held up a big blue box and asked, “ARE THESE THE TAMPONS YOUR MOM USUALLY BUYS?”

Dad, I am grateful that I inherited many of your excellent qualities, one of which is the ability to laugh at yourself. I am equally grateful that I inherited Mom’s “indoor voice”. Happy Father’s Day.

BM44is3CMAAs2Np
Dad was always game for the photo booth at the mall.

Playtime: It’s Complicated

Playtime.

For years I thought I had this covered. I was the babysitter who played Hide-and-Seek, Barbies, store, puppets – whatever their hearts desired. Later, I was the auntie who sat patiently waiting behind the easy chair with a toddler nephew on the lookout for cheetahs (cheetahs often nest in living rooms, it’s a Canadian thing). Want to go to the park? Sure. Ride bikes? I’m in.

When I first became a mom, I diligently engaged in daily “Baby Blanket Time” and “Tummy Time” (this was with firstborn son, I was really on my game with him, sorry #2, 3, and 4). Toddler play is pretty straightforward – you just do whatever the boy wants: Ok, I’ll drive my car that way. Yup, I’m the bad guy, no problem. Oh, this plastic pizza is delicious!

Then the preschool years hit and I was COMPLETELY OUT OF MY ELEMENT.

My playtime strengths are as follows: Play doh, painting, puzzles, crafts, books, TV (someone has to turn it on), and sidewalk chalk. And Little People. I have discovered, however, that the way I play Little People varies greatly from how they play Little People. I reenact realistic scenes from every day life. The boys reenact scenes from every day life with – DINOSAUR ATTACK. Please note photographic evidence below.

Alright, I'm the one who posed this one.
Alright, I’m the one who posed this one.

Okay, okay, here’s the real carnage scene:

Wait, this dinosaur needed to take a quick potty break before bringing on all the mayhem and destruction.

Well, maybe not carnage, but certainly a focus on toilet humour which is another thing the boys bring into playtime. Coincidentally, also a personal strength of mine. Hold on, this evidence isn’t supporting my position in the least. Let’s leave Little People out of this for now, but trust me, there’s a lot of eating of houses and smashing of personal property when these playsets get brought out.

Playtime outside isn’t quite what I envisioned. We began with chalk and bubbles and somehow it has evolved into “Vehicular Accident Scene Recreation”.

Multi-car pile-up. Expect delays.
No children were inured in the staging of this accident.
No children were injured in the staging of this accident.

And then there’s just the weird stuff they come up with: Bedroom Hurdles, Underwear Tag, Naked Run – I CANNOT RELATE TO THESE GAMES.  I have pretty much given up on them playing safely as evidenced by the fact that instead of suggesting this son stop walking around with pants over his head, I told him to hold on a second while I took a picture.

You think you look like Sonic the Hedgehog, but...no.
You think you look like Sonic the Hedgehog, but…no.

I surrender.

What is the strangest game your kids have made up? Or you? Be honest, we’re all friends here.

Told You So

Parents give a lot of unsolicited advice:

Maybe you should wear a coat.

Underwear goes on first.

If you do your homework now, you can forget about it for the whole weekend.

Just pretend you don’t want that (insert coveted toy) and he’ll let you have it.

Parents also give gentle reminders:

Company is coming, put on some pants.

Just because you aren't listening, doesn't mean I'm wrong.
Just because you aren’t listening, doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Don’t lick the boot tray.

Doors are not for licking.

Parents make “Cause and Effect” statements:

If you lick me, then wrestling is over.

If you ask again, no Wii for the day.

If he makes that sound, he wants you to stop.

We’ve been in this parenting thing for about eight years now. I have uttered and witnessed many such parenting statements (I had no idea so many would be about licking). Perhaps the most lengthy yet poignant one is this gem:

Well, maybe you wouldn’t have pink eye if you had listened to me and not bounced your super bouncy ball in the washroom where it landed in the urinal. And maybe putting it in your eye and saying, “Hey! I’m a pirate” right after wasn’t your best move, either.

– Bearded Husband, June 2013.

What is the strangest thing you’ve said to your kids? (extra points if it includes licking).

Rhubarb – It’s Time to End the Conspiracy

It’s almost that time of year – summer! Strawberries, asparagus, corn on the cob, peaches, oh, and of course, their awkward cousin, (you know, who makes everyone laugh a little uncomfortably while avoiding eye contact): rhubarb.

Seems innocuous enough - don't be fooled.
Seems innocuous enough – don’t be fooled.

Before this time of seasonal enticement begins, I’d like to get ahead of the inevitable propaganda that comes along with it. Why are we all still pretending that rhubarb is delicious? I have a theory. Someone put it in a pie by accident and no one wanted to hurt their feelings. Kind of like The Emperor’s New Clothes, but with dessert.

Rhubarb can’t stand on its own. Somewhere along the line someone thought, “Hey, strawberries are just too sweet and delicious, let’s add just a smidge of bitter and stringy stalk bits – oh, perfect!” Rhubarb is Strawberry’s longstanding friend that poor Strawberry just can’t shake. They both know it’s time to move their separate ways, but clingy Rhubarb just doesn’t take the hint. Strawberry knows he’d be better off solo, but doesn’t know how to break it to Rhubarb.

The enemy within
The enemy within

This cover-up in modern cuisine is everywhere and social media is the biggest tool in this propaganda machine. Yes, Facebook, I’m talking about you.

“I just made the YUMMIEST rhubarb muffins.” Nope, ‘rhubarb’ and ‘yummiest’ are mutually exclusive.

“Check out this strawberry rhubarb cookies – SO good.” Stop dragging strawberry into this.

“Oooh, rhubarb coffee cake for dessert – can’t wait!” Liar.

Deception in a jar
Deception in a jar

Now, you might be thinking that I have it out for rhubarb, and you’re right, I do. But let me close with these two indisputable facts and then you can decide which side to support.

1.  Rhubarb is a vegetable. (yup, I looked it up)

2.  Rhubarb is a result of the fall:  “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles and rhubarb for you.”  Genesis 3:17b-18

 I rest my case.

Adam and Eve – Littles Style

At bedtime, when both of us parents are home, we tend to divide and conquer – one of us takes the Littles, the other has the Bigs. Trust me, it’s just easier that way.

We are once again reading the Bible story book I grew up with: The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Ken Taylor.

IMG_1593

The stories are short and sweet with very accessible language for young children (that’s the teacher in me speaking, I’ll tell her to be quiet from here on in). However, the length of the story does not correspond with the length of time it takes us to read one. Allow me to demonstrate.

“These are the people God made. Can you see them in the picture? Yes, that’s a tree. Oh, a kitty cat? I think that might be a cheetah. They are behind the flowers in the middle of the – fingers out, that’s yucky – picture. Can you point to them?  He can point, too – wait, wait, ok, can you point now? At the people. The people. WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE!?”

(brief pause while I compose myself)

“Continuing on. The man’s name is  – no, not Daddy, he might look a bit like Daddy. That’s not Uncle Ken, is Uncle Ken in the Bible? Yes, he does read it. Yes, he’s Jesus’ friend, too. His name is Adam. The lady’s name – please say ‘excuse me’ when you do that. Her name is Eve.

(pause while we relocate due to ungodly smell)

“Adam and Eve did not have a mother and father. No, they didn’t have a grandpa or grandma either. Well, I guess they had to get their own breakfast. God made Adam out of dust from the ground, and then – yes, I heard the train, too. No, they didn’t have Chuggington in the Bible. And then He made Eve. Yes, God made you, too. Just get a Kleenex, don’t wipe it on your pants.

(pause for some personal hygiene)

“God made them happy and good. They love God and God loves them. In the picture you see them looking up toward God. No wonder they are so happy. Yes, some day we can look up and see God.”

Sometimes reading this book for about 36th time feels rote. Sometimes bedtime can be another chore to complete before the freedom that follows tucking them in (the most wonderful time of the day, to be sure). And sometimes through that, little nuggets of truth sneak in: Bible time is important. Spending quiet time with the boys is a special moment of the day. And some day we will look up and see God.

Now You See Him, Now You Don’t

The toddler has the amazing ability to disappear in the blink of an eye. He accomplishes this by merely not making eye contact. Don’t believe me? See if you can spot him below.

"Please put your shoes away."
“Please put your shoes away.”

See what I mean? Vanished.

All I said was, "Let's change your diaper" and he was gone in a flash.
“Let’s change your diaper.”

He can even disappear at church.

"All done with water."
“All done with water.”

And he can use his super power in any room, to avoid any chore.

"Let's put your cup away."
“Let’s put your cup away.”

Yup, any chore.

"Time to clean up the toys."
“Time to clean up the toys.”

Or any perceived unpleasantness.

"Mommy's turn with the toothbrush."
“Mommy’s turn with the toothbrush.”

Toddler son might outgrow this ability, only time will tell. His dad and I are just hoping he can turn things around and use this gift for good.

Why I Don’t do Organized Sports

Bearded husband says I pulled a bit of a bait-and-switch on him.  He claims that when we were dating, I was sporty… and into sports…. and liked sports and stuff. He’s deluded. WE WERE DATING.

Ok, ok, I admit I was more into that stuff 15 years ago. But we clearly remember the past differently.

Him: You used to play baseball with me.

Me: I let you practice pitching with me as back catcher. It hurt. A lot.

Him: Remember how you used to play badminton?

Me: In the backyard with lots of lemonade breaks.

Him: Well, we played squash together.

Me: We were dating.

Him: You played beach volleyball for a while.

Me: Until I went home in tears, remember that part?

Him: Alright, but we would go for runs together, remember?

Me: I had a wedding dress to fit into.

Truthfully, I actually do enjoy sports, but not enough. I like to play for fun. FUN. Don’t count on me to get the winning goal or the impossible save. The only good game is one where I get to laugh. A lot. Mostly at myself.

I chat when I exercise, it’s how I know I haven’t pushed myself too hard. In between at-bats is the perfect time to catch up on the latest news. Right after the serve is a great opportunity to tell my teammate I like her shoes. Waiting for a pitch is when I do my best meal-planning. This is who I am. This is who he married.

If anything I have gotten better with sports. Now, when I go to watch a game, I bring along really good snacks and sometimes even a chair, not just a blanket. Oh, and I also bring four small spectators with me. Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge the effort that takes.

Sometimes I even pretend to follow along when SportsCentre is on. And not just the Top 10 stuff, the real clips and commentaries. And for each professional sport, I memorize one or two players’ names so I can act like I know what’s going on. Kirk Gibson still plays for the Tigers, right?

Maybe he’s right, though. Maybe I did pull a bait-and-switch. I baited him with a mediocre sports enthusiast and switched into the Spectator Extraordinaire. That guy always wins.

Why Mommy Needs Wine Most Nights

Our dinner table often resembles the opening segment of “The View”, but with small interrupting boys instead of loud, interrupting women. Recently the boys were discussing good artists they know. That is to say, their teachers. The almost 4 year old does not like to be left out. What follows is his contribution to the discussion.

A4YO: Mrs. Winston draws good pictures, too.

Me: Who is Mrs. Winston?

A4YO: You know, Mrs. Winston.

Me: Who is Mrs. Winston? Is she from church?

A4YO: No. Not church.

Hubs: At preschool?

A4YO: No. (insert condescending chuckle)

Me: I’m wondering about this Mrs. Winston. Is she at the boys’ school? (sidebar to older brothers reveals no such person exists at the local public school).

A4YO: You know, Mrs. Winston.

I’m beginning to suspect this Mrs. Winston is completely made up and sad that it took me this long to figure it out.

Me: Tell me more about this Mrs. Winston.

A4YO: The one who lives with JACOB (slightly exasperated, definitely incredulous that I am unaware of the elusive Mrs. Winston).

Me: Who is Jacob?

A4YO: He lives with Mrs. Winston.

Me: I got that part, but who is Jacob?

A4YO: The one in the red shirt! (obviously)

Me: Ok, but who is this Mrs. Winston who lives with Ja—……who wants dessert?

I know when I’m beaten.

———

Sometimes you let them win, but sometimes you have truth on your side. I now offer you Example B.

We’re in the van on the way to SportChek. A4YO announces that busses are really a truck.

Me: Well, they LOOK big like a truck, but they’re not, they’re a form of transportation

A4YO: Actualleeeeey, no. They are a truck.

Me: Nope. They are a type of vehicle.

A4YO: Well, actualleeeeeey, they are a truck.

Me: You might think they are a truck, but they are a different vehicle.

A4YO: Actualleeeeeeey, they really are trucks.

Me: A truck would carry cargo or something, busses are for people. Vehicle.

A4YO: No, actualleeeeeey, you’re wrong.

Me: You think I’m wrong, but I’m right. Vehicle.

A4YO: I know, they are trucks.

Me: You can keep saying it, but it doesn’t make it true. Type of vehicle. (insert slightly hysterical sing-song voice).

A4YO: Actualleeeeey, no. You’re wrong.

Actually, I’m just going to accept that a preschooler’s mind cannot be changed. Even in the face of indisputable truth.