Serenity Now

It’s a cool summer morning in August. The family is spending some laidback time at home catching up on some chores and starting the day slow and easy.

Mom serenely ties party favours with ribbon, anticipating the fun of the birthday party the next day. The four boys hover nearby watching her deftly curl the yellow ribbon on each package. She demonstrates the technique for the oldest son and encourages his efforts to try his hand at it. The brothers stare on in amazement as she turns out ribbon after ribbon of perfect(ish) curls. Excited banter about the upcoming party ensues: the pinata, the pizza, the games. Everyone is smiling, everyone loves each other and maybe someone starts humming “Kumbaya”.

Then the toddler spies a package of Angry Birds Gummies.

Highly addictive. May induce temper tantrums.
Highly addictive. May induce temper tantrums.

Mom gently responds to the toddlers demands for high fructose deliciousness:

“Those are for tomorrow.”

“Later, you can have a treat later.”

“Not now, treats are later.”

“I wonder what Daddy is doing? Is he outside?”

“I WONder where DAddy could be?”

“I think he might be moving rocks. Bet he could use a couple helpers. Shhh, listen, he IS moving rocks.”

“Who wants to dig for worms?”

Nope. The toddler will not be moved. Neither will any of the other three boys. Once digging for worms has Mommy’s approval, it loses all its appeal.

Mom brushes stray hair out of her face, regroups to finish the party favours, takes a deep breath and —

“Ok, what’s that smell?”

Thus begins the “Dance of the Diaper Change” which follows the same pattern every time: Accusation, Denial, Avoidance, Retrieval, Capture, Cleansing, Clenched Teeth Utterances, and Release.

The sound of a toddler protesting a diaper change is a siren call to the brothers. Suddenly, it is of the utmost importance to find out if they can have iPad time that afternoon. Or to locate a certain Pokemon card. Or to nail down the exact time and menu for Snack. Or to ask for help counting the money in their piggybanks (because nothing reminds you that you have a jar full of coins to tally like the smell of poo).

This day is like all the rest, and the moment Toddler Son starts his war cry, one brother is at Mom’s side asking questions in a very soft voice, another cries at the bottom of the stairs, while the third loudly denies any culpability in making anyone cry. So naturally, Mom leans over the banister and kindly, but authoritatively says:

“STOP CRYING I KNOW YOU ARE FAKING AND WHATEVER YOU DID TO HIM WAS NOT OKAY I CANNOT ANSWER YOU RIGHT NOW BECAUSE I AM DEALING WITH POOP STOP WIGGLING AROUND AND LET ME CLEAN YOUR FOOT EVERYONE JUST STOP YELLING.”

And then it is (mostly) quiet.

Oh, the windows are wide open.

Bearded Husband chooses 2 minutes after this exchange to return to the house and glibly remark, “Oh, that was you, I thought the crazy mom came by to visit.”

To which Mom calmly replies with expansive hand gestures, “Let me paint you a picture…”

—–

Ever have a moment that made your eye twitch? Share.

Insideous

Generally speaking, I’m a pretty cautious boy. Sure, I’ve ridden in a laundry basket a tad too close to the stairs, but who hasn’t? I have fallen out of the tub, but I was young and didn’t know better. Doesn’t everyone run around a pool? It’s far too tempting.

I have done my share of jumping on the bed and to her credit, my mom has told me repeatedly to stop it. Usually she references the kid across the street who broke his arm jumping on his bed (dummy). But it is so springy. And I have some pretty great dance moves that just cry out for a mattress to showcase them.

Ok, I’ll admit that naked wrestling with my brothers showed a lack of good judgement. Ditto on naked couch hopping. But I stand behind my invention of underwear bedroom hurdles. It’s amazing.

In hindsight, I’m relieved that Mom shut down some of my riskier activities. She was probably right that box-tobogganing down the stairs was dangerous. Putting a lanyard around my brother’s neck as a dog leash did restrict his breathing so, good call, Mom.

For all her warnings and worrying, you’d think she would have foreseen the real safety hazard in our house. It’s been sitting in our cupboard for years – and she’s the one who brought that menace into our home.

I’m not talking about matches, sharp knives, or scissors. I’ve never done anything questionable with those. No, the real instrument of pain was lurking in the sewing basket all along. It beckoned me with it’s tempting blue switch and curved exterior. I admit that part of my motivation was to make the brothers laugh, but you never know the purpose of a new tool unless you test it out, right? Who WOULDN’T think it was meant for your underarm?

There was pain, skin was broken, blood appeared. And then I heard Mom say, “Next time, check with me before you use the clothes shaver on your armpit.” Too little, too late, Mom.

I blame myself. I blame the manufacturer. Mostly I blame my mom.

Do not be duped by it's size. It's gonna get you.
Do not be duped by it’s size. It’s gonna get you.

Let’s go for a “Walk”

“We’re going for a walk – get your shoes!”

I feel that instruction is pretty clear. We are about to embark in a jaunt around the neighbourhood and all you need to do is wear some shoes (crocs, sandals, runners, I am not picky).

I said “walk”, right? Oldest son decides to ride his scooter. Number 2 barely agreed to put shoes on and is sullenly waiting on the driveway. Number 3 wants his bike. No, wait, the wagon. No, no, his bike. Hold on, nope, the Little Tykes car. Toddler opts for this beat up 20 year-old push-train. I have tried to pitch that thing numerous times, but some small person always comes to its rescue. It whistles. IT WHISTLES WHEN YOU MOVE IT. And it looks like I snagged it from the side of the road. For the record, I did not. It was a kind hand-me-down from friends when our oldest was born (but it looks really sketchy now).

The Littles on wheels.
The Littles on wheels.
The little engine that will not give up despite my best efforts.
The little engine that will not give up despite my best attempts at sabotage.

We’re off to go around the corner. That’s all. Just killing some time before dinner. The Bigs take the lead and go ahead. I’m back with the Littles. Both are quite enthusiastic about the walk, especially since they are using equipment. This excitement lasts until we pass the third house. Better take a break and catch our breath from that intense shuffling. Go on without us, Bigs, we’ll catch up.

After we rally, Number 3 decides it’s just too much effort to “drive” his car so he is going to get out and push. I kindly start pushing it for him until he spots a weak moment and jumps back in and “lets” me push him in it. Parenting fail. But I plod on because he is having a really good time and won’t fit in there much longer.

I'll just lift my feet so we can go faster.
Let me help, I’ll lift my feet up.

At this point, the Bigs are a small dot on the horizon. We need to speed things up a bit. Toddler is unhappy with his train’s performance, so he decides to push it. Good choice, he’s much faster, but the whistle’s intensity matches the speed. It’s loud.

Turns out, that train is more cumbersome than originally thought, so toddler abandons it on the sidewalk. The Bigs are barely visible. I grab the train in one hand, push the car with the other, when toddler says, “Back! Back!” (translation: “piggyback, please, my sweet, beautiful mommy”). No.

Anyone see the Bigs? Anyone? 

Next time, I’m just lacing up my runners and anyone who spots me sneaking out of the house can join in.

Your turn – riding toys – love ’em? Hate ’em? Bit of both?

Oh, Canada!

The Maple Leaf forever
The Maple Leaf forever

July 1 is Canada Day and I thought it would be good to test the boys on their Canadian facts.

According to the 8 year old:

Canada Day is Canada’s birthday which means it got alive that day. It’s 100 years old and before that it was a whole bunch of different cities. The boss of Canada is Prime Minister Bob Kevin (he’s very clear that Bob is his first name, Kevin is his last name). Canada is the second biggest country in the world. We speak French and English. The only difference between the US and Canada is that the US is more famous.

As most countries do, Canada has it’s share of ethnic foods, including ice cream, yogurt, lemonade, olives, pickles, and pickled corn (coincidentally, all of the 8 year old’s favourites).

Canada’s national animal is the beaver, but it is also famous for polar bears, squirrels, spiders, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Canadian money has a beaver, a loonie, a caribou, a maple leaf, and a boat. Our money also has the Queen of England on it. The Queen is the boss of the Prime Minister, in case you were wondering how that all worked.

As far as famous Canadians go, we’ve got the Toronto Maple Leafs people*.

In Canada you can do anything, like swimming.

A little geography lesson: Ontario is a province, there are ten in total. There are three territories. Territories are cold, provinces are not.

If you’d like to double check any of these facts, click here for verification.

*The six year old chimed in that we also have Don Cherry, you know, “The hockey guy that does stuff, just talks. He’s

Our most famous Canadian
Our most famous Canadian

old and that’s it.” I was saddened that they did not know about Megan Follows or Anne of Greengables. Also disappointing was that David Suzuki was overlooked. When questioned further, eight year old said, “he’s the guy that’s on Daddy’s shirt.” (See “So, I Married David Suzuki” for more on this famous Canadian and his connection to our family.)

The four year old’s session was more question and answer.

What is Canada Day? I do not know.

What should we do on Canada Day? I do not know.

What is Canada? I do not know.

Where is Canada? I do not know.

That's Anne with an "e"
That’s Anne with an “e”

Where do you live? With you

Where do I live? With me!

What can you find in Canada? Don’t know

Who is Don Cherry? I do not know.

Who is Megan Follows? I do not know.

What is the Littlest Hobo? I do not know already.

What’s the Canada song? Waving Flag.

Do you like Canada? NO ONE likes Canada.

Do you have any interesting Canadian trivia to share? Any questions about Canada? Ask away, we’re pretty polite.

*Click here for the follow up interview

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.”

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).