Tell Us Where the Clicker is and No One Gets Hurt

No one is in trouble, we’re not angry, Mommy and Daddy just really need to know where the remote is. Think hard, boys. It’s the tiny, lightweight, easily lost clicker.

Ok, close your eyes and concentrate. You were all sitting on the couch, remember? Then I came in and said it was time to pause the movie. Who got off the couch first and where was the clicker? You think you had it in your hand? Left or right? How certain are you? And then you walked where? And what were the rest of you boys doing exactly? 

So no one can remember for certain that the clicker left the coffee table yet it isn’t there now. Let’s play a fun game I like to call “Everyone Empty Your Pockets.”

Alright, alright, *deep, calming breath* if it’s not anywhere we can see it, it must be in or under something. Everybody up, I’ll check the couch, you boys check the toy bins.

Thus began The Great Clicker Hunt of 2014.

Toy baskets were overturned and the contents sorted. Repeatedly, you know, in case we overlooked something. We found an incredible selection of old elastics, Happy Meal Toy components, and random bits of Lego, but no clicker.

Next we launched Operation Couch Query. After reaching into the cracks and crevices and discovering enough cereal and pretzels to make lunches for the next day for the entire family, no clicker turned up. We decided to be more thorough. Bearded Husband stepped on the springs while I bravely reached even farther into the depths of the chesterfield. This time I came upon eight Hot Wheels cars, more snack food, two allen keys (what?), and a small piece of my sanity. Since we were being thorough and still clicker-less, I took a few moments to vacuum up the shame-filled couch.

Our hopes would rise and fall in rapid succession as our offspring discovered treasure they’d long forgotten resulted in me saying through gritted teeth, “No more saying ‘look what I found!’ unless it’s that clicker. I don’t care how excited you are that you found Gary from the Guess Who game, my heart can’t take it.”

It was there one minute and gone the next. Everyone was perplexed. We reviewed our search grid looking for oversights. The only thing to do was double check. And bribe the children. We offered a $5 reward to the son who had any information leading the safe return of the clicker and ice cream for the whole family to celebrate its return. This infused the search with a new energy and children scattered throughout the house and hunted with gusto.

We had narrowed down the possible locations based on the testimony of our eldest son. He was “pretty sure” he had the clicker in his hand when he stood up to move his army men. But his memory is fuzzy after that. Where else could it be except the couch.

Despite our thorough ferreting around we concluded it must be there, we just needed to look deeper. Brace yourselves, dear reader, this is where things get real.

We turned the couch on its side and shook it. Yes! I hear that rattle, too. Out came the crowbar, screwdriver and flashlight. We took the cover off the bottom and delved into the underbelly of the sofa. Nothing.

I wouldn't lie to you, here's proof.
I wouldn’t lie to you, here’s proof.

I reconsidered the nine-year-old’s testimony and expanded the search grid. No possibility was dismissed. I pawed through the kitchen garbage and touched raw chicken with MY BARE HANDS, but I would not give up! Sure, now we had the tools to assemble a desk from IKEA, but I had shows to watch – THIS WAS TOP PRIORITY. 

“Let’s go over this one more time and remember, no one is in trouble here, we just want to find it. Full immunity to any party involved in this devastating disappearance.”

As I descended the stairs after a fruitless search of the bedrooms, our oldest son gleefully announced “I FOUND IT”. Then that little darling turned his spiteful little face and announced, “it was on the counter under the lunch bag that MOM put there.”

Allegedly.

Full immunity, remember?

We repaired the faulty back rest, you know, since we'd opened it up anyways.
We repaired the faulty springs, you know, since we’d opened it up anyways.

Love, With a Side of Passive Aggression

Gathering together to enjoy a meal is a powerful pastime. It brings people closer, allowing us to pause from busyness and share stories or solve problems as a family. If not for Family Mealtime how would we know that a classmate at school can burp the entire alphabet? If we didn’t eat dinner together we’d never know about the time our seven-year-old’s class put a whoopee cushion on the music teacher’s chair. I still don’t know who broke my hairband, but we did find out who keeps forgetting to flush. But most importantly, how would we teach the boys about passive aggression?

Allow me to explain.

After a lovely meal that everyone enjoyed (as always) and praised their doting mother (me) for cooking from scratch, the light-hearted banter transitioned into Family Devotion time. It began with a simple question: How can we show God we love Him? and the answers were as follows (I wrote them down as soon as I could for the sake of accuracy).

What’s for dessert?

We’re having Halloween treats, remember?

Let me try that again, “How can we show God we love Him?”

By not saying “shut up or stupid”.

By not hitting.

Asking before you take someone’s Lego that they were only putting down for a minute to go use the washroom.

This line of response was deteriorating quickly into a laundry list of sibling infractions – they started throwing everyone under the bus.

Stop waking up so early.

Not arguing about sleeping later.

Not arguing about having no clock in your room. Ahem.

Not whining about taking off your shoes by yourself. (that was mine, I confess)

Not poking people.

Not peeking at your birthday presents.

Not breaking toys and then they are broke.

They were volleying their thinly veiled digs back and forth at a rapid pace. I tried to change the tone of responses and frame it more positively.

Maybe say ‘sorry’ if you break something?

Yeah, and not staring at people when we’re at the table.

Keeping your feet off someone else’s leg. (that was Bearded Husband, he really likes his personal space)

Not pitching a fit when it’s time to get in the van. (me again)

Letting me someone else empty the top rack of the dishwasher instead of always calling it first because it has less dishes.

Or how about not always taking the seat closest to the TV every time?

"Letting me off the swing when I said I was done"
“Letting me off the swing when I said I was done”

I’m sure God appreciated the many specific examples we generated. And that we followed it up by holding hands and singing “Kumbaya” like we do every mealtime. Scouts honour.

My Worst Car

Growing up, our family of six always had two cars – one big enough to for the entire crew all at once, and the second, a smaller one (typically a hatchback) to supplement our transportation needs.

It looked just like this except with a big white stripe down the middle.
It looked just like this except with a big white stripe down the middle.

The first cars I remember were the wood-panelled station wagon with vinyl seats and optional seat belts, and one of several “second” cars, an orange and white Mercury Capri. Both cars were AWESOME. The Capri resembled the “General Lee” a bit, and you honked the horn by pressing the handle of the turn signal. What kind of engineering magic was that?! Forget getting my license, I just wanted to honk that horn.

Sadly, the Capri gave up the ghost before I was able to drive. But it was replaced by an even better hatchback: a Chrysler Turismo. And guys, it was gold. Gold. GOLD. It was painted gold with matching beige interior. That little gem was a demo car for the dealership our cousin worked at so we got this fully-loaded two door for a great deal.

I got this off wikipedia, but it could be ours, there's a limited market for gold hatchback.
I got this off wikipedia, but it could be ours, there’s a limited market for gold hatchbacks.

When I say “fully-loaded” I mean it. This 1985 Turismo came with the following features:

– AM/FM radio with tapedeck

– Swivel light for map reading (or lipgloss application, whichever need arose)

– Air conditioning

– Hydraulic action hatch

This beauty even had a hidden perk that I did not discover until I drove it myself: in a small town, a gold hatchback really stands out. My parents did not need GPS to know where I’d been or what I’d been up to  – I was my own one-car parade. I drove around and people waved even before they saw who was behind the wheel, because it was A GOLD TURISMO. I may as well have been driving the Pope-mobile for all the camouflage that car provided.

Although we treated old Goldie with respect and care, it did not take long for things to start going wonky. And my parents, being financially responsible and never having to drive that car, decided it was best to avoid most repairs and just live with it.

First to go was the driver’s seat tilt option. If you were foolish enough to adjust that from the leisurely position my too-tall brother had set it at, your loss. It took a lot of prayer and tears to get it to stay in the upright position again. I spent many hours sitting up perfectly straight and clutching the steering wheel for leverage.

Next we lost the eject function on the tape deck. But it turns out I was a bit of a MacGyver – all we had to do was press eject and yank the cassette out with a pair of tweezers that became a permanent fixture in the ash tray. (Do not attempt that manoeuvre in a moving vehicle).

The air conditioning went next. And since “you only drive it in hot weather for really a few weeks, we aren’t going to spend the money to fix it”, we learned to live without it. A decision I support now as a parent of four on a budget, but COME ON – it was so hot.

Apparently the Turismo didn’t like the AC decision either and started to really act out. The clutch had always been a bit finicky, but now it took things to a whole new level. If you adjusted it one way, it would stall at every intersection or slow-down. If adjusted the other, it would run on after you turned off the ignition (hard to roll into the driveway or school parking lot incognito when followed by ca-klunk, ca-klunk). We opted to go with the “stall” option and learned to pop it into neutral regularly, earning Goldie the title of “Automatic Car that wants to be a Standard”.

This temperamental car didn’t stop there, though. Next it went on to overheat – the vehicular equivalent of holding one’s breath. Any time it was in stop-and-go traffic the engine temp would rise at an alarming rate. This was both scary and embarrassing. BUT WAIT – we figured out how to deal with that, too. All you had to do was crank the heat at maximum power to offset the heat from the engine. And good news, it only overheated in the summer so you were already dressed for the temps and had the windows down anyways (remember, no AC).

The hatchback feature was perhaps the most amazing part of this car. If you folded down the back seat you could move the contents of your entire university bedroom in one trip. The demon that possessed the Turismo decided to thwart that, too and within a few years, the hydraulic doo-dad that held the hatch open stopped working. BUT WAIT. We dealt with that, too – it was nothing a hockey stick couldn’t fix.

The university years were hard on our relationship, but we wouldn’t give up on old Goldie. The passenger side door no longer opened from the outside, so the driver would get in, then lean across to open it for the others. That was fine except for my sister with whom I shared the Turismo  insisted on locking that door anyways. So that meant one lunge across to open, realize it was locked, lunge across to unlock, and a third to open the door. We did not agree on this method. Also, no one would want to steal that car.

Once winter hit, the fun really began – all the quirks of the Turismo came together. The doors froze shut so the only way to get inside was through the hatch, but remember, it wouldn’t stay open without the hockey stick technique which was precarious at best. So you always had to travel with a buddy who could hold the hatch open for you and then pull on the outside handle of the door while you body checked it from inside. Thankfully, living in student housing, there was always someone around willing to help out for a free ride to campus.

Winter was also the Turismo’s time to shine. Perhaps it was the overheating engine, or the over-running clutch, but that car would start in the coldest of weather. The Polar Vortex would have been no match for Goldie.

The attempted sabotage this car tried to inflict on me only managed to give me wizard status. As the car aged, it became more finicky and eventually only two people on the entire planet were able to get it to start and stay running. I wore that title with more pride that I probably should have.

Eventually the Turismo’s time here on earth came to an end. It was on a dark and slick highway one evening in March. The interior lights started to fade, the radio grew faint, and I barely managed to coast into a gas station to call the Clean Shaven boyfriend (who later became Bearded Husband) to come rescue me. We all had to agree that sinking any more money into Goldie was a fruitless endeavour. We had her towed to a wrecking yard and I think I received enough cash to cover the last tankful of gas I’d put in.

Oh, sweet Turismo. You never ceased to cause anxiety levels to rise. You always kept things interesting. I’ll never forget some of the phrases often spoken in that car:

It makes that smell all the time.

It’s okay, it’s when you don’t hear that noise that you need to worry.

We’ll make it, just give it a minute.

That noise is completely normal. 

Hold on tight.

Open your window, we just need to crank the heat for a few minutes, then it’ll be as good as new.

Hold the steering wheel, I want to change the tape.

 

Gone, but not forgotten. Gold Turismo, the worst car I ever had.

Miss you.

_________

Worst car experience? Could have been in the Turismo with me, it’s okay to share that, too.

 

 

 

 

My 5 Rules for Eyes-Closed Tag

We planned to go skatingtobogganing (American translation: sledding) and play some shinny (street hockey) with the neighbours. But what do you do when it’s too cold outside even for hearty Canadians like ourselves? After multiple races on the Wii, a game of “Apples to Apples” that got a little too physical, and some heated debates about various pronunciation of words, we moved things to the basement. I never know how these games get started, but I was quickly roped into playing another game of “Eyes-Closed Tag”.

To play this extremely safe game, one person is It and closes his/her eyes while attempting to find other people in a sectioned-off area of the basement. If you are tagged, you are then It. Pretty simple, but we needed a few ground rules.

My Five Rules for Eyes-Closed Tag

1. Protective gear is not mandatory, but do move slowly to avoid serious injury (this applies primarily to the one who is It).

Give yourself wide-bearth.
Give yourself wide-bearth.

2. You can’t hide directly behind someone. Ok, you can, but not behind me. I refuse to be a human shield.

3.  Throwing small toys to create a diversion is acceptable and at times encouraged, but try to avoid hitting fellow players.

Nylon pants are noisy - choose your clothing wisely
Nylon pants are noisy – choose your clothing wisely

4. No peeking.

5. No, really – no peeking.

A few extra bits of advice….

According to BH, if you don’t cheat and really keep your eyes closed then “your other senses will be even stronger” (I think he has watched “Daredevil” too many times). The truth is, we all know when you don’t – subtlety is not your strong suit. Plus, only peekers completely avoid bumping into things for the entire game – you are not that skilled.

It’s okay if you prefer to watch, but if you’re going to give hints to your brother keep in mind that “he’s right there. Right there. RIGHT. THERE.” while frantically pointing, really tells nothing (please see Rule #5). Also, consider learning your Left and Right.

———

Your turn – what questionable games did you devise as a kid? Was a helmet required?

I Never Knew

As the adults in the lives of young children we seem to spend so much of our time teaching them. And we do. By our words, our actions, our inaction, by how we spend our time with them. But the small children in my life have taught me a lot. Before I became a parent, I did not know so much.

I never knew how selfish I could be.

I never fully grasped how much my parents love me.

I never knew how much I would appreciate those teachers who really get to know their students and meet them where they are. Thank you.

I never knew how outraged I would be when another kid hurt one of my boys.

I also never knew how upset I would feel when my toddler hit a non-family member (but he certainly found out in a hurry).

I never knew how selfish I could be.

I never knew how much my attitude and response impacts those around me.

I did not realize that sometimes a hug and a kiss really can make it all better.

I never knew the true power of the words, “I don’t know – what do you think?”

I never knew that milk does taste different depending on the colour of the cup you use.

I never knew that I could enjoy buying clothes for small children even more than for myself. Or that shopping for new socks could be an outing on its own.

I never knew how selfish I could be.

I never knew my heart could grow so big and yet always be so full.

I never knew the truth behind the phrase, “I might not like you right now, but I will always love you.”

I never knew that raising our family together would make me love and appreciate my husband even more.

I never knew how amazing giggles sound.

I never fully grasped how much my parents love me.

I never knew how flawed and imperfect I am.

I never knew, really and truly knew, how selfish I could be and yet how much I would be willing to give up for the sake of the four boys I call my own.

I never knew that having children would give me a clearer glimpse of just how much God loves me. Selfish, flawed, imperfect me.

I never knew. But I’m beginning to.

My Five Rules: Ice Storm

When you are trapped enjoying a day at home due to an ice storm, there are a few simple rules to keep everyone happy.

1. You may only play the “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” 100 times on the record player if:

a) you let it finish

b) turn the volume down

c) LET IT FINISH

d) stop changing the speed.

2. Attendance at the family meeting is mandatory. Agenda as follows:

I. Bickering: What’s your role?

II. It’s an Ice Day, not the end of the world. Snacks will be served at their usual time. Stop asking.

III. Where can you play “Chase?

3. If Mommy’s eyes are closed, leave her alone. (NOTE: This rule applies to most days.)

In the event that the power goes out:

4. Do not open the fridge unless it is life or death.

5. When reading in the makeshift camp, no methane emissions of any kind.

We're in this together, no Dutch Ovens.
We’re in this together, no Dutch Ovens.

Let’s Get on the Bus

No childhood is complete without a ride on the bus. The city bus. So being responsible and caring parents, we recently packed a backpack full of water, snacks, and spare diapers and hopped in our van to begin our latest family adventure: Moyer Bus Day.

It was raining quite a bit that morning, so Bearded Husband kindly dropped the five of us off at the depot while he parked the van. As I herded my crew into the main foyer, we got to see the security guard shoo away the “greeter” from the front door. Good times, I felt very safe now.

The Bigs were quite excited to note that we would be using an escalator. An escalator. We might not need to take them to Disney after all. The thrill of riding the escalator was only matched by their anticipation of using it again upon our return.

With bus passes in hand and our route mapped out, we went to find The Number 7 (real bus talk, guys, that’s how you say it). Littlest was quaking with fear, but I reassured him and hopped on. We found six seats facing each other and waited and watched.

Stay with the group
Stay with the group

I forgot. I forgot what it’s like to ride the bus. I forgot about the cross-section of society that you can observe on the bus.

First I spotted Vacant Staring Guy. I smiled at him since he was staring, but got nothing so then I had to focus on not looking in his direction (but I could still feel the stare, the vacant, vacant, stare). What’s your story, VSG?

Next onto The Number 7 were The Nails. These girls had the longest fingernails I had ever seen. Even though I knew they were fake, I was in awe and kept looking. Now who was staring awkwardly? How did they get such amazing texting abilities? How do you anything without hurting yourself?

The final addition to The Number 7 entourage arrived at the first stop. This was after our 4 year old took a short fall off his seat when the driver jackrabbit-started at the same time he peeled around the corner exiting the depot. Man down!

Bluetooth was having a loud and detailed conversation with who I hoped was his addictions counsellor. In our brief time together, we learned that Bluetooth really wanted to kick his habits and stop the methadone.  Detox would help, but he needed a clean start so he wouldn’t fall back into old habits when he returned from up north. No Twelve Step program for him because he wanted nothing to do with any higher power. To his credit, Bluetooth kept his language clean and only raised a few uncomfortable questions from the boys. Mommy, what’s rehab?

Guys, this was only 4 minutes into our bus ride. FOUR MINUTES.

I forgot. I forgot what the bus can be like.

Boys, look! There’s the hospital where you were all born. Oh, I see a Tim Hortons. Yup, I saw that firetruck, did you? Well-timed questions can help diffuse awkward moments like full disclosure about substance abuse.

We had a great time schlepping through the rain and checking out some local sites. Another highlight of Moyer Bus Day was eating lunch at Taco Farm. Our oldest said, “Like, it’s not my favourite place ever, but I’d eat there again.” That is high praise coming from him.

We're going to walk in the rain and you're going to like it.
We’re going to walk in the rain and you’re going to like it.

Fed and rested, and grateful the rain had subsided, we walked to the bus stop. The anticipation was still in full force and the boys kept craning their necks looking for The Number 7. It arrived and we all piled back on. This time the bus was fuller so we scrambled to find seats. And this time, if was the 6 year old who took a short fall on the steps when the driver peeled out before he was seated.

The boys gasped and grinned and I had a smile plastered on my face enjoying their excitement. We shared a seat with a young urban professional and I broke the ice by pointing out, “This is their first time riding the bus, in case it wasn’t obvious.” Awkward chortle, chortle.

He smiled back, looked at the two boys sitting with me and replied, “I vividly recall my first time riding the bus. It was so memorable.”

I forgot. I forgot what the bus can be like. It can be an amazing adventure and that’s exactly what I hope our boys will remember.