Space, Schmace

Having four boys means I have no real personal space. I’ve accepted that (mostly). We recently installed locks on our bedroom and bathroom doors which has given me the illusion of privacy. But no.

I’ve tried to claim the master bath as my territory only to have one of the boys politely ask me, “Could you please wash your hair over the sink because you leave so much in the tub that I have to rinse it out before I can take a bath.”  “OK, deal – when you guys stop leaving poo deposits in there. That was not a Milk Dud I found on the ledge.”

This means YOU.
This means YOU.

The boys will be playing happily together upstairs which is my cue to leave them alone. I busy myself with checking Twitter cleaning the kitchen until the noise level reaches maximum volume. When they start coming down wearing my clothes, playtime is over. “Look, I’m a mom”, says the son wearing my bra overtop my favourite sweater as he clomps around the kitchen in my snazzy pair of flats. “Hey, I’ve been looking for those sunglasses!”

I have learned over the past years of the Boy Invasion to hide my Peanut Butter cups in a rotating locations so they never get suspicious. I’ve also learned how to eat M&Ms and convince them I’m snacking on some raisins. Those are mommy treats and I’m not sharing.

Even my purse is subject to their prying eyes and hands. “You’ve got gum? Can I have some?” “Hey where did you get this candy?”

I would like to use the laptop without little eyes peering over my shoulder. “Why are you laughing? Can I see? CanIcanIcanIcanI?”

This lack of boundaries became abundantly clear not long ago as I was gathering up materials and resources before I went to work to prepare for the new school year.

“Hey! Cheese strings! Cheese Strings?! Guys! Mommy has cheese strings. Mommy, why do you keep cheese strings in this pocket?”

Those are not cheese strings. Stop going through my backpack. SOME STUFF IS JUST FOR ME.”

See? No boundaries.

Editor’s note: They were not cheese strings and I was not prepared to launch into the “talk” just then.

Alone time – how do you make it happen?

No, YOU Go Fish

Two year olds do not know how to play Go Fish.

That will not stop a two year old from wanting to play Go Fish or insisting on playing Go Fish.

You will agree to it because a) he’s cute and b) you’re a good parent.

To play Go Fish with a two year old you will need the following:

– cards

– ibuprophen

– wine

– a whistle

– tissues

– bandaids

Once you’ve gathered up your supplies, it’s time to deal the cards. Five, seven, four, it doesn’t matter how many because you are playing against a toddler. The other opponent might care, so do make an effort to pretend to count them out.

Let the game begin!

Little, ask Big if has an eight. No? Ok, then go fish. Pick up a card. Yes, you. Just one card. One. ONE. The top one. Now hold it with your cards. In your hand. You don’t need to pile them, keep them in your hand. Hold them, hold them. HOLD THEM.

I might have an Ace. Let me check.
I might have an Ace. Let me check.

Mommy’s turn.

Little, do you have a four? Yes, you do. It’s right there. I can see it. You need to give it to Mommy. Yes. Yes. Yessss. It’s okay, you’ll get another card. No, not yet, your next turn. Just wait. Wait. Big gets to go now.

Big’s turn.

Mommy, do you have a three? Thanks.

Round Two.

Little, you have a pair. They match. Put them together. Yes, together on the floor. You make a pile. Oh, look! See? They are the same. Yes, they are. No, you don’t hold them now, they go there. Right there. Right. There.

Okay, Big does have them same card, but that’s his match. They stay in his pile. Yes, they do. No, not Little’s. You have your own, see? Those are Big’s. He keeps them.

Keep the bandaids within arm's reach.
Keep the bandaids within arm’s reach.

Round Three.

There is no round three.

——

Ever try to play games with young, ego-centric children? How did that go? Was it a glass or a whole bottle of wine experience?

Katherine’s Five Rules

Katherine and I met recently through twitter and discovered that in addition to both having four children, we’re kindred spirits on many levels. This is her first post on my blog (hopefully not the last) and also the first in a new regular feature: My 5 Rules.  This is a lady who loves to laugh and share the crazy in her day – be sure to follow her and her crew on twitter @grass_stains .

Five Rules I Never Knew I Needed To Establish

1. Don’t climb the walls. And if you do, stop climbing after you make the first hole.

It's just a small hole, Mom.
It’s just a small hole, Mom.

2. Close doors after you open them. Yes, that one. Yes, that one too. AND THAT ONE.

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3. Piggyback rides are limited to one rider.

Hold on tight!
Hold on tight!

4. Do not drop your 2-year-old sister from a height of four feet.

5. DO NOT teach your 2-year-old sister to trust-fall. BUT IF YOU DO, do it on a bed.

——-

Go forth and check out Katherine and all her internet wonderfulness.

Pesto? No.

I can’t seem to convince our family to enjoy curry (aside from our second born), but we do have a varied and mildly adventurous menu. Our boys enjoy shrimp and seafood, olives, and I do not shy away from adding a little extra heat to the main dish. We regularly try new recipes, and some have become favourites. Gnocchi with pesto is always popular with our crew.

A few years ago our toddler was quietly finishing his lunch, content in his highchair. He was always a jolly little guy, so when I heard a small voice say, “Uh, oh” I turned quickly  to see what was wrong. He held up a chubby little hand and repeated, “Uh, oh.”

Poor little guy. He got pesto on his hand.

I grabbed a cloth and wiped his hands and fingers. Then I carried on with folding laundry and he continued his lunch. Or so I thought.

A moment later, “Uh, oh,” and the chubby pesto-covered hand. I wiped it off again.

Sheesh, he’s really make a mess of it today.

Laundry-folding and lunch-eating ensued again.

Two seconds later he held up his hand and beckoned for help.

Where is all this pesto coming from? Poor little guy keeps getting in on himse–wait a minute. I didn’t serve him pesto today. Where is all this pesto coming from? It’s not pesto. IT IS NOT PESTO.

——

When was burning a wash cloth your only real option?

Because I’m Four

Join me as we take a peek into a typical day of the average four year old kindergartener.

_________

Ah, good morning! I know it’s morning because everyone is still asleep except me. Rise and shine, family!

Seems like no one has heard my beckoning so I’ll need to go with Plan B: walk stealthily to my parents’ bedroom and stare at them silently until they sense my presence. I know they are ready to start the day when Mommy finally opens her eyes and seems surprised to see me. I have to remember to ask her what “serial killer” means.

Once the mundane task of choosing my clothes is done (no, not that shirt, no, no, maybe, okay that one, wait, let me see the first one again) we move on to breakfast. I prefer my cereal with just a splash of milk. Not too much or the whole experience is ruined. Daddy seems to have that mastered, but I don’t put much faith in Mommy.

And now we’re off to kindergarten!  Oh, wait, Daddy is insisting I put on a coat. Fine. I can do the zipper myself. I got it. WHY ISN’T HE HELPING ME?!

And now we’re off to kinder —- my hood! my hood is interfering with the comfort of my body! I cannot walk to school under these conditions.

And now we’re off to kindergarten. We seem to be walking fast today and Daddy is muttering something about being late. Guess he shouldn’t have overslept.IMG_1487

I love going to school, but I think Daddy misses me, so I like to make a bit of a fuss about lining up, just to make him feel better. He pretends he does not want me to cling to his legs, but I know he secretly likes it. I line up and then make one or two return dashes for one final hug before the bell. You have to invest in relationships.

I wonder what we’ll do at school today? I hope the teacher got new glue sticks because the ones that were out yesterday tasted awful. I think I see some fresh play-doh, that’s good because I may or may not have sneezed on the last batch.

We finally all get our coats and shoes put away and now it’s Carpet Time. I’m not sure what “criss cross applesauce” means exactly, but if you tuck all your body parts in, you’re good. We check that everyone is present, I like to help the teacher by telling her if someone is at school or not, by calling out “not here” at random intervals. Her voice says “stop it” but her eyes are saying “thank you”.

Uh oh, I feel a booger in my left nostril. This cannot wait. As long as I don’t make eye contact with my teacher, I can extract it undetected. Almost….almost….got it! Quick and easy disposal in my mouth, mission accomplished. No, I wasn’t picking my nose, it was just itchy way high up.

Centre time! Where should I start? Sand? Paint? Blocks? Maybe the Discovery Table? No, I saw Jason lick all the pine cones yesterday. Paint it is! I create a fantastic piece using mostly swirls. It’s definitely fridge-worthy.

I think I’ll head over to the blocks. My buddy and I build an elaborate garage for the cars. It is great until Jason thoughtlessly knocks it over. The maker is the breaker, Jason.

The rest of my day passes in a bit of fun-filled blur. I spend some time writing about my snack (it is an apple and a Wagon Wheel – delicious). I rebuild my garage and put pylons around it to keep Jason at bay. Change my book at the library (yes, I’m a bit winded, but that doesn’t mean I was running in the hall). I help at tidy up time and show off my sweet dance moves. We play outside until someone pees against a tree. My teacher and I read together and now I can find the words “is”, “mom” and “me” all by myself.

The next thing I know, it’s Home Time. The day went by so fast. I get all my stuff shoved into my backpack and I’m all set. Oh, wait, forgot to change my shoes. All set! Oh, yeah, that’s my lunch bag you’re holding up, just give me a second to pack that. All set!

And there’s Daddy, waiting for me. He’s always early because he misses me so much. He gives me a big hug and rubs my head. I grab his hand and we head home.

As we avoid all the goose poop on the pathways Daddy asks me, “What did you do at school today, bud?”

I give him my standard reply.

“Nothing.”

Playing “Terry Fox”

Today our second oldest and his two neighbour friends started playing a new game: Terry Fox.

One boy would run down the sidewalk with his foot rigged up in a skipping rope to simulate Terry’s prosthetic leg.

Resourceful and creative
Don’t pull too hard, we’re going for authenticity

When he got close to our house “Terry” would call out, “I’m in Thunder Bay, ohhhhhh” and do a slow collapse to the ground.

The second boy would act as his support crew and call for an ambulance. Now it was time for the third boy to jump into action. He zoomed down the street on the kettle car, frantically peddling in the interest of saving Terry. He would jump out and rush to the scene asking, “who are you?” at which point the main character groaned and replied, “Terry Fox.”

Together, they loaded “Terry” onto the makeshift ambulance and brought him back to home. Roles were swapped, and the game began again, with a new “Terry”.

Don't worry, we'll take good care of you, Terry.
Don’t worry, we’ll take good care of you, Terry.

At first I was little bit horrified. I stopped myself from interfering and decided to watch how it all played out and I’m glad I did.

These boys were acting out a piece of Canadian history. It is a story that is familiar to most of us, but they are experiencing and beginning to understand it for the first time. I chose not to say anything, but rather stood back and took it all in. However, I wondered about some of the liberties they took with their reenactment – I doubt Terry drove his own ambulance.

Terry Fox is a Canadian icon. He is a real life hero. I’m actually glad they were playacting someone who inspired and encouraged so many people with his Marathon of Hope. They weren’t mocking Mr. Fox, they were putting him up on a pedestal, among the ranks of Transformers, Superman, and Batman. This is what parents long for and I almost shut it down.

As we honour and commemorate Terry Fox this September with the run in his name, it was good to see things through the eyes of some six year olds. My oldest sister went through a very similar battle with cancer just after Terry passed away, but survived. She is a hero, too.

“Even if I don’t finish, we need others to continue. It’s got to keep going without me.”

-Terry Fox

Thank you, boys.

Thank you, Terry.

Moyerangelo

Welcome to the Sneak Peek of my upcoming Art Extravaganza! You might be surprised to learn I am just four years old, but talent and inspiration can strike at any age.

Currently, this exhibit is housed in my bedroom. I like to think of it as a constant work-in-progress since my roommate has very little impulse control.

This piece speaks to my love of gum. When I was young and reckless, I occasionally left my chewed gum on the carpet. Mmmm….gum.

Tribute to Gum
My Gum, My Love

This next display was a random inspiration I had when Mommy called up that it was time for breakfast. I tossed those sticker frames down and when I returned, I was just as smitten as you are.

The lines, the use of space. Inspired, I know.
The lines, the use of space. Inspired, I know.

It’s funny, when I began this particular piece, I was going to go with one or two sheets, but once I got started I realized more is always better. See how the creepy wooden bear accentuates the pumpkins? And I love how the multi-colured squirrel plays off the green in the monsters.

Haunted Monster Mash Up
Go Ahead, Choose One, But Not THAT One

I feel it’s important to encourage the artistic drive in others, so I let my little brother try his hand. I really like how he played up the different textures here: carpet, bed skirt, paper. He might be ready for his own exhibition soon, that little Picaso.

Sticker Carpet Study
Sticker Carpet Study

Here I tried a little something with metal and wood. I like the contrast of the black sticker against the white canvas of the closet door.

Closet Door: Gateway to Diapers
Closet Door: Gateway to Diapers

A different approach with furniture as my framework. Not as bold as the white, but the warmer look works, too, don’t you think?

Top Drawer
Top Drawer

Now this one I am particularly proud of. I tried my hand at something more whimsical here just for Mommy. “Oh, no, another diaper change – wait! What’s this? A darling sticker from my favourite son.” (I just know that’s what she’ll say).

Diaper Surprise
Diaper Surprise

This final selection has me stumped. I’m not sure which look to use. The first is the safe, classical approach.

Retro Sippy Cup
The Cup

This one is just a little edgier with the dirt clod in the background. Maybe it makes my work more accessible?

Retro Sippy Cup Slumming It
The Cup Rebellion

Please cast your vote to help me decide. Any art forms you’d like to see in my next exhibit? I’m very strong with glitter glue as well and I’m not afraid to delve into papier mache.

Camp Rules!

Camp counsellor in training.
Camp counsellor in training.

Trying to decide if a summer day camp is for your child? Debate no longer! The answer is “yes”.

Day camp is a great opportunity for friends and strangers to gather together for a week or more to explore a common interest. Lego, sports, nature, faith, games and crafts – there’s a camp for you!

Concerned about the qualifications of the camp leaders? Not to worry! Camp counsellors are born with special DNA programmed for this very role.  Most CCs come out of the womb chanting, “Peel bananas, peel peel bananas.” As toddlers, you frequently here mini CCs telling their playmates to “Stop, Look and Listen” – any kid who doesn’t reply with a speedy, “oh, yeah!” is stricken from future play date lists.

Still not sure? Maybe you’re worried that there won’t be enough structure and rules. Or maybe too many rules. Nope, not at camp. There is just the right balance of routines and freedom. Okay, there are a few rules, but they are important (and universal).

Camp Rules

Stick with your crew.

Follow the leader.

Keep it peanut-free.

Wear sunscreen.

Grates are not for jumping on.

Stay with your crew.

Don’t lick other campers.

STAY WITH YOUR CREW.

Socks stay on your feet.

Wait.

STAY. WITH. YOUR. CREW.

Camp is a rite of passage – whether as a camper or a leader. You start learning life’s lessons at camp. Look out for your group. Travel with a buddy. Ask for help when you need it. Take turns. And always stay with your crew.

Queen for a Day

This week I had the privilege of co-leading the story telling station for the week at Vacation Bible School. My partner felt I should be the one to take on the role of Esther. She said it was because I had done this station last year, but really, I think she sensed the royalty bubbling up inside me. That, or she recalled that I am the sole female in a house of 5 males and thought I deserved some dress-up time as a girl for once. Either way, it was a win.

It's okay to be a little jealous of my Esther costume.
It’s okay to be a little jealous of my Esther costume.

After playing Esther five times in row for the morning, I felt I really had a handle on this Queen. Then I got home and the differences between her highness and myself became quite stark.

Esther is touted as a brave and godly woman. I am not disputing that. She really stepped up when it came time to save her people and all that, to the point of possible death. But ASIDE from that, she had it quite easy. Before all the bravery and whatnot, her life was pretty cushy.

Let me paint you a picture.

For a year, one WHOLE year, she received beauty treatments. Twelve months. Fifty-two weeks. Three hundred sixty-five days of pampering. I’m guessing no one pounded on the door while she plucked her eyebrows – nope, because someone did that for her. She probably remembered to put mascara on both eyes since there was no preschooler digging around her make-up bag and applying excessive eye shadow on himself. Probably.

If you read the book of Esther, you’ll see that she also had special meals prepared for her for a WHOLE year. That’s about 1095 meals she had that were not leftover Kraft Dinner. Or brown apples from morning snack. Or Goldfish crackers (okay, if I was Queen, I’d still eat those, they’re delicious).

Esther also had seven attendants at her disposal. This is in addition to the free spa treatments and all-inclusive meals. Vacuuming? No, my attendant will look after the rugs. Laundry? Nope, another servant takes care of that, thanks. Run out of toilet paper? Got it covered. Chances are, Esther had people laying her clothes out for her and helping her change. I’d settle for getting dressed without discovering the toddler is using my bra as a helmet or the 6 year old commenting on the size of my underwear.

Do I wish that I were Esther? No, not really. I can’t say I like the odds she faced of being killed to save herself and her people. But I wouldn’t mind being more like her: brave, wise, respectful, and humble. And a working lock on the bathroom door wouldn’t hurt either.

—-

Thanks to Carolyn Marles for the picture. I can’t seem to shake the paparazzi. 

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