Category Archives: The Boys

My Fish is Smart Because He Went to School

This is Kevin.

Kevin was a prize in an “Every Game Wins a Prize” fishing game at a local fair.  It cost $3 – a fact I am still processing.

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Do you want to know why I chose this fish? Because when I get my real fish, he will have a friend. Kevin.

Wait a second, we never agreed that you’d be getting a fish. Remember what happened to the can’t-be-killed beta fish that died?

So, anyways, want to know why Kevin will be a good friend to my pet fish?

Go ahead, but I’m not making any promises.

1. Kevin is already really smart.

Kevin must have spent a lot of time in school

Kevin must have spent a lot of time in school

 

2. He can work my Hexbug. He’s a fish, but he knows how.

Kevin must have taken the Robotics elective during his undergrad

Kevin must have taken the Robotics elective during his undergrad

3. Kevin loves baseball and my pet fish will, too.

Careful, that's official Blue Jays memorabilia

Careful, that’s official Blue Jays memorabilia

Caring for a fish stuffy is not that challenging. I’m still not convinced.

Well, if I had a fish, it could keep me company.

Allow me to refer to the can’t-be-killed yet still dead beta fish.

Fish can be very relaxing.

We had to hold a fish funeral. You made me say a eulogy.

You’ve said we can’t have a hamster, dog, or cat because you’re “allergic”. Well, you can’t be allergic to a fish.

I’m allergic to disposing of dead fish.

I’ll take care of it, it won’t get lonely.

Like the dead beta fish that tipped over on the dining room table.

He survived. 

That time.

Please?

Dead. Beta. Fish.

Is that a maybe?

I’ll think about it.

I’ll clear off some shelf space.

DEAD BETA FISH.

Sounds like a maybe to me.

Go play with Kevin.

_______________

Where do you land on the fish-as-pets spectrum? I’m more of a pet rock kind of gal.

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The Case of the Mysterious Pee Puddle

Nothings turns a bunch of brothers into what could rival the Salem Witch Trials than a mystery infraction. There was a pee puddle in the bathroom. No one was a suspect and everyone was a suspect.

“I only use the upstairs bathroom.”

“I NEVER miss.”

“Sure, I’ve used that bathroom, but not today.”

“It. Wasn’t. Me.”

Finally,  my years of reading Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew, plus watching 24 – Season One (let’s be real, it’s the best season and the only one worth referencing) would be put to good use.

I gathered up the usual suspects, but really, I figured it had to be the youngest. He holds his pee until near-bursting level and then panics. You don’t have to be Jack Bauer to deduce that he was the most likely culprit.

There was only circumstantial and anecdotal evidence at this point. Plus, all the “witnesses” had a vested interest. Further investigation was required. And as I investigated, other crimes came to light.

First, there was the second offence of “Who Stuck a Sticky Octopus on the Ceiling After Mom said to Stop Throwing it in the House and Everyone Promised Not to Do it Any More?” Were the two cases related?img_20170930_1720013011713758010456723.jpg

Next, a savvy vandal had replaced all the pawns from Chutes and Ladders with updated versions. Could it be one and the same? Or perhaps, a ring of unsavory characters had infiltrated our home?

img_20171001_1350151460625439463605876.jpgThe range of drawing ability indicated perhaps more than one culprit. Or was it a red herring?

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Finally, I strolled into the basement to discover this storage bin carnage. What band of hooligans had sought out our family and why? The crimes definitely must have been related.

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It was time to turn up the heat. No more Mrs. Nice Mom-playing-detective. It was time to employ Cuddle Protocol. For the uninitiated, this involves inviting a youngster to “come here for a second” and then gently prod them for the truth. Key point in this strategy is to allow the suspect to forgo eye contact. I like to use the “Get-Along Chair” but any cozy furniture will do. Bluffing is not required, but it is recommended.

“Hey buddy, I know what happened in the bathroom, but I’d like you to tell me. You’re not in trouble, we just need to problem-solve.”

“I didn’t pee my pants.”

(when met with denial, go with facts, reader)

“That’s funny, because I also discovered a pair of soggy pee socks in the garbage. Almost like you were trying to hide evidence.”

“I didn’t pee my pants.”

These two identical statements were very specific and he was adamant. Obviously this indicated he did something, his guilt was almost palpable. Let’s look at what he did not say. He never said he didn’t do it, just that he didn’t pee his pants. Very telling. Very telling indeed.

Again, I remembered to avoid eye contact and maintained a mellow and relaxed demeanour.  Then I went in for the closing argument and he crumbled like an overbaked muffin which of course I would know nothing about since I pay close attention to all baking endeavours.

“Did you use the bathroom right before we left for school this morning? And did you have to pee really badly? Did you, in fact, pee through the toilet seat and the bowl thus producing a giant pee puddle on the floor? And upon realization you removed your wet socks hoping to destroy the evidence even though they were brand new? And finally, did you or did you not dash out of the house without even a hit of the urine apocalypse that would await your mother after a hard day at work? IS THAT NOT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED? Remember, I’m not mad, just disappointed.”

“Fine. Yes, that’s what happened, just don’t tell the brothers.”

Case closed, but my work was not done. Now I had to move on to my next mystery: Who Ate Mommy’s Super Secret Stash of Chocolate That Only A Grown Up Could Possibly Reach?

Me to Bearded Husband, “Hey buddy, come here for a minute. I know what happened to that bag of mini-Twix I bought, but I’d like to hear it from you. You’re not in trouble…”

 

 


The Best is Yet to Come

I cried when I went on the hospital tour twelve years ago before having my first baby.

I felt the same tonight at the middle school tour.

Twelve years ago Bearded Husband rubbed my back and asked me what was wrong. It was as difficult to articulate then as it is now.

I’m excited about the next step, but I am frightened to lose what we have. This is the point of no return. This baby is coming out soon and our lives will be forever changed. As thrilling as the future will be, I am mourning the loss of what is right now. We are moving from the two of us and changing into a family of three.Am I excited to become a mom? Of course. Am I scared of losing my identity, my freedom, my career, my “me-ness”? Definitely.

But that seemed selfish, to be afraid of putting someone else’s needs first, of giving up my naps/free time/flexibility for this new little person we cannot wait to meet. And so twelve years ago I replied, “I’m just scared, this is all becoming real. And you know I don’t like hospitals.” O's feet

And now it is here. The moment I have anticipated and dreaded since last year when I realized this was our baby boy’s final year in his elementary school. He is moving on.

He has already moved on. I know that. He has increasing freedom which means we have decreasing insight into his daily life. He spends more time with his friends and less time with us. He is developing his own identity, his own set of values, his own experiences. As he should.

But I feel sad.

Sure, I feel happy and proud and excited for him, and grateful for who he is becoming. I am thankful for the friends he has and the young man he is turning into. But I feel sad.

And that is okay.

I can mourn this change. He is moving onto a life apart from us. We are no longer the centre of his life. I grieve that soon I won’t walk him to school or meet him on the playground when the day ends. I can cry at the loss of my little boy as he slowly transform into a teen.

It’s okay because I keep that part of my heart tucked away. I put on a brave face and attendws the middle school open house. I joke about wearing matching t-shirts and blaring VBS music out the windows when we arrive at his future school. I toured the classrooms and explained “home room” and “rotary” to him and told him that “yes, we will give you permission to go to the plaza at lunch time” and “sure, we can buy you a combination lock for your locker” all the while holding back by shuddering sobs that our days of Lego and Hot Wheels and reading at bedtime are done.

When I got home from the tour, my husband commented that “wow, you’re really having a hard time with him growing up, aren’t you?” I tearfully replied, “Yes, yes I am.”

But that is not all of the truth.

I am not sad that he is growing up, I know that is a reality of life. I am sad that a chapter of our life is closing. This is the point of no return. Again.

As he headed upstairs tonight, my boy stopped and turned, and gave me a big hug. And I didn’t let go until he did first.

Just like when we welcomed him into the world, I need to remember that despite my mourning, the best is yet to come. No, correction. It is already here.


Cleaning With Kids

It’s important to have your children learn responsibility. Teaching them to be part of something bigger makes them think beyond themselves and become outward-focussed.

At least that’s what I tell myself when it’s time to clean the house.

When I was home full time, I shouldered most of the house-keeping duties and that was fine. Now that we are both working, we’ve required the boys to step up their involvement in some of the household chores. Don’t worry, it’s not that extreme – clean their rooms, help out with a job or two in the general home, hang up their own stuff. We’re not monsters.

I’ve learned a lot through the process of making house-cleaning a family affair. Topping the list is that calling dusting a room or mopping a floor a “bonus job” does not convince anyone that it’s a fun thing. I know that now.

Also, predicting that something should only take “a few minutes” does not guarantee that it will. For example, “dust your rooms and vacuum, boys, it’s easy – fifteen minutes max” translates into approximately forty-five minutes once you factor in the complaining and pleas for mercy help.

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“I didn’t play with this either.  DO YOU HEAR ME COMPLAINING?”

And so, dear reader, based on my dubious experience, I present to you:

My Five Rules for Cleaning With Kids

  1. Be Prepared.  Make sure you have had your coffee, you’ve eaten, you’ve charged your phone, and you’ve hidden some chocolate in various locations because trust me, you will need it.
  2. Be Realistic. Kids are not going to be as thorough as you are when cleaning. Manage your expectations. Give them jobs they can handle. Want a streak-free mirror? Do not assign that task to your offspring. Stick with things you can touch up easily when they aren’t looking. Like putting photos back in their original place (that seems quite challenging).
  3. Be Specific. Kids hear what they want to hear. When you say “dust the living room” the part about “every surface, make sure you move things, maybe put any dishes you find in the dishwasher” might be implied, but is certainly not inferred.
  4. Be Appropriate. You might feel frustrated, peeved, dare I say even angry. That’s no reason to use salty language. However, I have found a loophole. It’s not a bad word if you say it quickly and drop a letter or two. For instance, totally okay to tell your reluctant cleaner to “quityerbitchin” because that’s not actually a word. Don’t worry, I checked. My mom said it’s perfectly fine and I turned out alright.
  5. Be Prepared. I cannot stress this enough, hence it gets a repeat mention. We all have our systems, find what works best for you. Personally, I like to finish with protein and chocolate. Like after a Dementor attack, your body will need to recover from the trauma. You are going to find random socks strewn under coffee tables even though they promised they had picked them up. Chewed gum will have been stowed behind the couch. But you’re going to be okay. Deep breaths.
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I certainly did eat the whole thing. Eventually. Didn’t share. Didn’t apologize.

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Sometimes we have to manufacture joy during a weekly cleaning, and that’s okay, too.


Tension and Turntables

It was a typical Saturday in that the boys were oscillating between playing nicely and pushing each others’ buttons. In an attempt to keep the peace and remove a certain younger brother from the mix, I retrieved our old record player from the basement.

Sometimes I think I need a life coach, or at the very least a Jiminy Cricket-type friend who will caution me when I’m about to make a huge parenting mistake. Someone who will whisper, “Really, do you not remember the last time you got that out and how many times they played ‘Snoopy Versus the Red Baron’?”

But I digress.

Old favourites from my childhood were dusted off and played. If you haven’t heard “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” on high speed (but just the chorus) you haven’t lived.

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In general I would be described as a laid-back mom. I don’t tend to micro-manage and the general chaos that is our family life does not phase me (except for tapping, that’s the worst). However, I seem to have strong feelings about playing records. I was unaware of this side of me. What follows is a sample of phrases I uttered while my old LPs were spinning, unedited.

Gentle.

Please pick a speed.

Stop flipping between the speeds.

How about we let the whole song play right to the end?

Gentle.

Leave the volume at one setting.

No jumping, it’ll scratch the record.

Put the record back in the sleeve.

The sleeve, the box-thing it came in.

GENTLE.

Just let the song play the whole way.

That record made it through my entire childhood, it better make it through this afternoon.

GEN.TLE.

Stop jumping.

Hey! I have an idea – just let the song play through.

Pick a speed and commit.

We can’t repair it if it breaks, stop fiddling with the switches.

JUST. PICK. A. SPEED.

We don’t put Lego figures on the turntable, I don’t care if it looks cool.

LETTHESONGFINISHBEGENTLESTOPJUMPING

Here’s the part where I say something profound about how I changed my perspective and savoured the sweet moments of them having fun together. How Psalty the singing songbook isn’t creepy in hindsight and the boys delighted in my ability to recount all the lyrics to Muppet Movie soundtrack.

Nope.

They had fun, the record player still works, and no albums were damaged.

Okay, okay, it did bring back good memories for me. It conjured up images of the old blue velour couch from my childhood home where just yesterday I was curled up listening to The Three Little Pigs on my portable player. Or cozy winter nights spent indoors while another album dropped onto the turntable (our hi-fi was quite fancy and held up to five records in the queue). Rifling through the large selection of LPs in our family collection – Burrell Ives, Bobby Vinton, Rick Springfield, Tom Jones, and of course Kids Praise.

Sunday afternoons spent playing games, napping, or reading. The house buzzing with the sound of friends and family visiting. The smell of coffee brewing.

You can’t hang on to everything, but we should hang on to some things. Today I’m grateful for vinyl, varying speeds and all. It’s okay, Jiminy, I’ve got this.

 

 


Poke-a-what now?

“Mommy, see this card I got. It’s an EX.”

“My skirnigorf has evolved!”

“I thought that was a good trade, but then I realized that mine had way more energy than the other one so I didn’t.”

Hold on – cards can have energy? They evolve? Tell me more no wait, that’s okay.

Pokemon.

I’ve tried. For years I have tried. I think I am a reasonably intelligent woman. I can hold my own in a conversation and can even watch movies with subtitles. But Pokemon is something beyond my comprehension.

And that, dear readers, is a problem because not only do I have four offspring who are all into Pokemon cards, our house is the trading hub for such activities. On any given day there could be up to nine or ten kids congregated on our front porch actively discussing and negotiating with these playing cards. They stroll over with their binders full of plastic sleeves housing these colourful and shiny bits of paper and huddle on the cold concrete for an hour or more. They only stop to pee or hydrate. And I teach in an elementary school so basically 75% of my waking hours have some element of Pokemon in it. I want to be an engaged mom and neighbour, but I’m struggling.

In an effort to be an invested parent and a teacher with a working knowledge of this craze, recently I agreed to let my son show me his Pokemon collection. It took a long time. A really, really long time.

What follows is a photo essay of sorts chronicling the longest 45 minutes of my life.

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I am watching you and trying really hard to follow along, honest.

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Those are a lot of cards

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I mean, when did you get so many? WHO IS FUNDING THIS CARD-BUYING FIASCO? 

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HOW many pages?

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No, I’m listening. Really. I am. Something about energy and wait, I’ll be right back, your brother needs me to move the van.

Do I want to see your Pokemon? Depends. Will you be serving snacks?

 


Everything Has a Home

“Cleanliness is next to godliness” – ancient proverb

“Out of clutter, find simplicity” – Albert Einstein

“Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions” – Barbara Hemphill


Oh, yes. I agree – clutter is the worst. Once upon a time I was organized. Everything had a place. What a sweet, sweet time that was. Counters were clear, laundry was folded and put away, recycling was taken out, and if something wasn’t needed then off to donation box it went. The floors were clear and end tables held only lamps and maybe a coffee cup (okay, definitely a coffee cup).

Glorious days, my friends. Glorious, tidy, streamlined days.

Then we had kids and our house became inhabited by these little people and all their little people things. But I was determined to keep our home clutter-free. We bought storage containers and decorative baskets. There was a Car Basket and a Book Basket and a shelf for puzzles. For a little while this worked, but eventually the grown-ups were outnumbered and the children were expected to take on some of the cleaning responsibility, and things changed.

“Clean” became “clean-ish”. Tidy meant that stuff wasn’t laying around on the main floor, but only a brave soul would venture into other regions of the house. And closing the basement door was all that was necessary for it to be deemed “put-away”.

Standards were lowered. But not forever and not completely. The anti-clutter side of me comes out every now and then. The family knows it’s coming when I start saying things like, “this is not preschool!” and “EVERYTHING HAS A HOME PUT THINGS IN THEIR HOME”. This generally results in me being offered some “quiet time” and Bearded Husband quietly ushers the children from the home amidst whispers of “she’ll be fine, everything will be okay, just get in the van boys.”

That’s when the magic happens.

Jackets are hung up on their hooks. Bedding is folded and placed on the correct shelves. Receipts are thrown out and library books are gathered for return. The craft area gets purged and all the art supplies fit in their decorative bins. When the house is tidied, I feel calm and smiley. It’s a great feeling.

And then the family returns and this happens.

(These photograph have in no way been altered or staged)

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EVERYTHING HAS A HOME

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PUT THE THINGS IN THEIR HOME

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One day I will miss the clutter and chaos that a house full of kids brings, it’s true. But I wouldn’t mind being able to close a closet door all the way. Just once.