Cross Cana-don’t

A beautiful summer evening at the community park is the perfect setting for playground games with neighbours. Or so you’d think.

It started out as a casual and active game of Mulch Man (a combination of the classic Tag and Sandman, but on mulch). There was laughter and joking and connections between friends. The squealing when a player just missed being caught could be heard across the field. Glorious. Just glorious.

Until it wasn’t.

Some of the children suggested we move on to a different game, namely Cross Canada. Essentially, all participants line up on one end of the playing area while the Tagger calls out a characteristic. If you have the characteristic, you may cross safely to the other side of “Canada”. After that, everyone just books it. If tagged, you join the Tagger until one player remains.

Just another classic game, right? Some harmless fun.

Nope.

The first round or two were innocuous: “Cross Canada if you are wearing blue” and “Cross Canada if you are older than seven” and “Cross Canada if you have kids.” Innocent enough. Then there was an almost imperceptible shift. The sky darkened (nevermind that it was sunset, that is just a coincidence) and a breeze travelled across the playing area.

“Cross Canada if you’re wearing shoes”. That eliminated myself and three family members because we are clearly lax in our footwear safety.

“Cross Canada if you took a bath this week.” We have a pool, we’re on a hygiene holiday. It’s fine.

“Cross Canada if cheese is your favourite food.” This feels like it’s getting pretty personal now.

That’s when I heard one of my children whisper to the neighbour kid, “You don’t have to be the fastest, you just have to be faster than my mom.” First of all: hurtful. Second: accurate, but please refer to previous point. I do have feelings.

“Cross Canada if you are wearing underwear.” Only two out of the five of us could rightly travel to safety on the other side of the field. This was beyond personal and was going to require answers none of us were ready to provide.

“Alright, everyone! Looks like it’s getting close to bedtime so I think we’ll just wrap this up before any more family secrets are spilled. Thanks for the play!”

Despite me being the one to shut down this session of Cross Canada, make no mistake, reader. I intend to use this new knowledge to my advantage. I volunteer to be Tagger all the time.

“Cross Canada if you loaded your dishes into the dishwasher.”

“Cross Canada if you are the one who broke my earbuds.”

“Cross Canada if you recently spilled pop on the basement carpet.”

“Cross Canada if you just put your clothes back in the dirty laundry because you didn’t want to refold them.”

Cross Canada. Cross Canada, indeed.

 

 

 

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It’s All About Consistency

Raising kids is not easy, as any parent will exhaustedly tell you. There are universal challenges like temper tantrums and picky eaters, and more unique issues such as my sons’ habit of putting trash just behind the kitchen garbage pail where it gets shoved to back of the cupboard. All the time. Which means I strain my shoulder reaching back there to retrieve the wrappers and that has nothing to do with my less-than-ideal exercise regime. No, YOU need to stretch more often.

ANYWAYS. If I have learned anything over the past thirteen years or so of this motherhood gig, it is the importance of consistency. Children thrive on knowing limits and it’s our job as the adults to care enough to put those boundaries in place. So consistency is super important. Consistency and the ability to hide the good snacks to eat when the kids aren’t around. There is no point in wasting the fancy chips on the same kids who like door handles. But consistency, yes, that is very important.

It’s also a good idea to have a cover story for when your kids happen upon you while you are shoving peanut butter cups into your mouth.  I find something like “it’s spicy, you won’t like it” or “it’s just a sugar-free protein bar – tastes like sadness” usually does the trick. Being prepared is also important.

Consistency, hiding snacks, and lying being prepared – all key to successful parenting.

Claiming the essential role of consistency is easy, but executing it is a whole different scenario. For instance, you declare that screen time is over, but then fall asleep for thirty sweet, sweet minutes. Tough to nail your kids for playing longer than allowed when you benefited from their disobedience. And so you enter into a silent agreement not to tell Daddy that Mommy is lax in the enforcement of the screen rules. Or (hypothetically) you allow your offspring “just two cookies because we need to be healthy” but then find yourself jonesing for a third so you proclaim it “Three Cookie Day” and again agree to keep it amongst yourselves*.

Consistency, hiding snacks, preparedness, and discretion. The four tenets of solid parenting.

Once you get into the habit of saying what you mean and meaning what you say, it becomes easier. For instance, years ago I high-fived one of the boys for a stellar belch and now they consistently look to me for an atta-boy whenever they rip one off.  See? They know what to expect. Consistency.

There are critics out there (i.e. spouses) who might call your consistency into question. Why just the other day my husband pointed out an infraction of our agreement to avoid potty talk or the inappropriate use of the names of body parts. And I must admit that he had a point. We have routinely told our boys that discussing private parts or bodily functions is not the criteria for intelligent or polite conversation. However, the four brothers were sitting together giggling as they reassigned the nickname on the iPad to “Penis”. Hearing Siri say that in casual conversation is hilarious and if you can avoid laughing about it then you are a robot. It will never not be hilarious and I will laugh every time. Consistently.

See? It’s easy.

You’re welcome.

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Whoopie Cushions will never not be funny. Fact.

The Game is Afoot

For twelve years the house has been the battle ground for a war no one saw coming and no one wanted.

Good versus evil, dark versus light, brother pitted against brother. Wait, no, mother versus all the boys.

The invasion was slow and insideous at first. A few dinky cars here, a rogue block there. Then another son was born, and the arsenol grew. Legos entered the fray, more dinky cars. Soon action figures could be found strewn across the steps. It was no longer safe to traverse the basement, a talking toy could be triggered at the slightest movement.

This home was no longer the mother’s domain, the children had taken over.

As the offsprings’ numbers and independence grew, so did the snacks. The crumbs, sweet Moses, the crumbs! Entire muffins were decimated and left as a warning to future carbs. Beware, no bread product is safe from these kids. RUN WHILE YOU CAN.

Silly Putty in the furnace ducts, abandoned socks on coffee tables, Nerf bullets in the toilets, Star Wars figures in the nativity sets. The horror.

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Not staged. Actual event.

The mother’s cries of “THIS IS NOT A PRESCHOOL” and “WHY ARE THERE MARBLES IN THE FRYING PAN?” were met with silence or half-hearted attempts to tidy. She raised the stakes and threatened “if it’s on the floor it’s out the door” but everyone knew she wouldn’t follow through.

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Also real

“I just want one clear space for my coffee cup,” the mother whisper-cried as she tossed “art” into the recycling bin. “Everything has a home! Let’s keep our things in their home and please stop using my scarves to build forts” she sing-songed manically while gathering up granola bar wrappers from the underneath the couch.

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Why?

And then it happened.

Was it just a happy little accident, that years of stepping over Lego minefields seemed to solve itself? Perhaps.

Her weapon? Bobby pins.

Did she leave them in her pockets on purpose? Was it her plan all along that the pins would end up going through the wash? Did she know that this oversight would result in bobby pins ending up in bedsheets, hoodie pockets, and bath towels for the family to disover with great annoyance? Was her subconcious exacting retribution? And now that the family has discovered how frustrating it was to have a house overrun with tiny and pokey objects left haphazardly in her wake, would she be more careful?

Answer? No, no, no, maybe, and nope.

_________

Daily Prompt – Dominant

 

 

2017: A Snack-filled Year in Review

Top Ten Movies of the Year

The Most Influential People of 2017

Master Reading List of the Year

Toy Trends of 2017

Top Five Pencils of 2017 

(joking, there is only one pencil worth mentioning and it’s the Staedtler HB #2, everyone knows that)

As a kid, I loved perusing Life: The Year in Pictures. I didn’t know who most of the people and events were, but there was something satisfying about seeing a full year neatly wrapped up in a glossy-page package. Lists are fun and few can resist them. As I bid farewell to this past year, it caused me to reminisce about the highs and lows of the last 365 days.

I contemplated a twitter thread because isn’t that what all the youth are doing these days? Then I thought, no, be yourself. Be authentic. Stay true to your brand. And so, I give to you, dear reader…

2017 in Review: Snacks I Ate After the Kids Went to Bed

1. Sour cream and onion chips

2. Goldfish

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They DO melt in your hoodie pocket if you don’t eat them quickly enough

3. Discounted Easter candy

4. M&Ms

5. Sweet Chili Heat Doritos

 

6. Leftover icing

7. Cookie dough I told the kids would make them sick

8. Mini M&Ms

9. Goldfish and olives (I was feeling fancy)

10. Girl guide cookies I was saving for Christmas

11. Brownie batter

12. The remaining Sweet Chili Heat Doritos (hid them so well I forgot for a few days that they were still in the house)

13.  Ketchup Pringles (I left a few in the can for plausible deniability)

14. Reese’s peanut butter cups that mysteriously appeared in my coat pocket

15. Chunk of cheddar (store brand – barely worth it)

16. American Oreo I received in the mail

17. Caramilk Easter egg I found in my nightstand drawer

18. Jujubes

19. Sour jujubes

20. Fruit juice jujubes

21. Peanut butter off the spoon (did NOT double dip)

22. Crackers and blue cheese (the good kind, did not share)

23. Chocolate covered acai berries I did not know we were saving for the holidays but I would have eaten even you’d told me

24. Saturday cereal (it’s fine because I’m the grown up)

25. King-size Three Muskateers

26. Frozen butter tart – totally worth the sore tooth

27. Cinnamon hearts

28. More cinnamon hearts even though my tongue hurt from the first round

29. Lime sherbet directly from the container (definitely double-dipped)

30. Post-workout chocolate chip cookies, but I pretended they were power bars so it was totally fine

31. Ketchup Doritos (limited edition, but not limited taste)

32. Mini Kit Kats we bought for the trick-or-treaters

33. Sweet Tarts (purely medicinal)

34. Goldfish and grape tomatoes

35. Hunk of baguette dipped in hummus because I’m classy like that.

I’m not saying you need a decorative box to store your secret snacks, but I highly recommended it.
**Yes, all of the above are 100% accurate and true. Your turn – what’s your favourite evening snack?

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.

——-

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.

The Greatest Parenting Tip of All Time

Pull up a chair, I am about to impart the best parenting advice I can give you. Even better than “never sit on a toilet seat in the dark”.

Forget “sleep when the baby sleeps” or “enjoy it while they’re young, they grow up so fast.” And don’t even try to tell me “buy the off brand cereal, they’ll never notice.” No, my friend, the best advice I can offer after some twelve years in the parenting trenches is a simple phrase. If committed to memory, these three words will get you out of most, if not all situations requiring answers you do not have.

Sometimes you don’t have wifi, sometimes your device isn’t handy, and sometimes you just don’t want to exert the effort because thinking hurts your brain. There’s no judgement here. The questions might be too complex, or illogical, or ridiculous (please see previous about brains hurting). That’s when this handy phrase is your best friend.

A word of caution: use this in any situation, but pace yourself. If your children hear it in too quick a succession they might retort with “stop saying that and just tell me the answer!” in which case you have to pull out the big guns. Yes, you might need to tell them to “save that question for when you get to heaven.” It is question kryptonite, so use it carefully.

Alright, enough preamble. The most important phrase you should commit to memory is…

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“I know, right?”

Skeptics might doubt me, but years fielding questions from hundreds of young students and my own four offspring provide enough anecdotal evidence (plus my twitter friends agree with me). What more data do you need? None. Just trust me. Below I have listed just a small selection of questions that I have answered with a sympathetic, “I know, right?” ALL QUESTIONS WERE SHUT DOWN.

What if your hand was just made out of the foam fingers and you had to switch every time for different numbers?

Why do you have so many pillows on your bed that you don’t use?

Why do extra boogers fall down into your mouth?

Why are light sabres so hot?”

How do they build buildings that are taller than the builder?

How does the microwave make things hot?

Why is honey sticky?

Why do stores have those restaurants in them? Like you buy lumber and a sandwich?

How can we stand on the earth when it’s round?

If cucumber is a fruit, why isn’t there cucumber pie?

How did they make the very FIRST ruler and make IT straight?

When something new is made it takes up space so the sky should get smaller, but it doesn’t. Why?

Why are tongues wet?

Why is it Saturday?

How do people that don’t have the same eye colour know that they’re really seeing the same colour?

Why do spiders go in the water if they can’t even survive?

Why is our van so dirty (I feel like this one is obvious)

Why do moms like coffee?

Why do moms like wine?

If used effectively this response can get you out of almost any situation. I have even applied it to the trickiest question of all:

Where did all the jujubes go? I was saving them.

I know, right?

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…”