I saw a notice posted on the bulletin board at our school the other day.
“Babysitting Course!” with a bunch of dates and times to sign up.

 

 
I noticed it said, “Open to kids ages 11 years and older” and I thought, hey, I have an eleven year old.

 
Wait. I have an eleven year old.
Let’s just let that sink in for a moment.
I have a kid who is old enough to babysit? Or at the very least, old enough to be in a room with people teaching a course about how to babysit.
This was shocking to me.
Not in a my-babysitting-prayers-have-been-answered kind of way or date-night every Friday–yippee!
It scared me, a lot.
I have an eleven year old who will soon be legally allowed to care for someone else’s kids. To care for her sisters. To care for herself.
Have I done my job as a parent to prepare her for this kind of responsibility?
Then I remembered babysitting at not much older than Hanna is now.
I remember walking into someone’s house who had a newborn baby.
They handed him to me and said, “Okay, something something bottle, something something bed time, something something burp, something something crib.”
Are these people really going to leave me alone with this precious, little guy?
They arrived home at a respectable 3am.
I had pretended to be awake because that’s what a good babysitter does. They force themselves to watch Saturday Night Live and then they surf around hoping there’s an episode of Three’s Company (this was the 80’s) where Jack Tripper gets himself into some hilarious predicament (every episode). But even Mr. Furley’s crazy antics weren’t enough to keep me awake until the sun came up. I don’t think it actually did rise while I was there but it was all pretty blurry. Ultimately, I landed on the channel with that bearded guy who paints landscapes on white canvases in front of a black curtain. I had so much to learn.
Good luck Hanna.
Thank God for Netflix.

Mr. Furley

This morning started like any other.

 

 
Greg asked me at 6am, “Are you awake?” As I thought to myself, I am now.

 

 
I showered then got dressed, I made the bed and headed to the kitchen to fill the kettle and get the bowls of oatmeal ready.

 

 
Chloe wandered out with pink fuzzy wrapped around her body like a be-speckled second-skin and asked, “Mommy, can you sit down on the couch beside me for one minute?”

 

 
“Sure, I just have to pour the water out of the kettle and I’ll be right there.

 

 
Then Ellie came on the scene with her arm in a tensor bandage. Had she slept like that? I don’t remember her putting that on.

 

 
“Good Morning Mommy, my arm hurts from when I fell yesterday.”

 

 
Well, let’s take a look at it then.

 

 
Chloe, “Mommy, will you sit with me on the couch for a minute?”

 

 
Yep, I’ll be right there Chlo, I just have to check on Ellie’s arm and put the blueberries in my oatmeal and then I’ll be right there.

 

 
“Mommy? Can you come here?”

 

 
Sure. It was Hanna calling from her bed.

 

 
“I can’t get up. I’m tired. I’m not going to school. Tell them I’m too tired.”

 

 
After a few minutes of talking Hanna out from under her nest of pillows, I heard a voice from down the hall, “Mommy, will you sit with me for one minute on the couch?”

 

 
Yep, I’ll be right there.

 

 
But then it was 7:30am and I had to get school lunches packed and water bottles filled and breakfast on the table and kids dressed and inspect teeth and present Chloe with four or five wardrobe options before she nixed them all and went with jeggings, a long sleeved shirt, dress and multi-layered ballet tutu.

 

 
Priorities Liz, priorities.

 

 
I set down the spoons, the lunch bags, the three ice packs, turned off the tap, dried my hands and quickly ran over to the couch.

 

 
I sat down just long enough for the cushion to reach deflation before popping up and suggesting Chloe get up to the table to eat some breakfast.

 

 
“Mommy, I want you to sit beside me, just for a minute.”

 

 
Okay, but I have hair elastics to find and agendas to sign and a note to write in your lunch Chloe so you’ll know I’m thinking about you all day.

 

 
Sigh.

 

 
I sat down beside her on the couch and she reached up to put her hand on my back.

 

 
Then she said, “Can you move this way?”

 

 
I leaned in closer, waiting for a hug to melt all the stresses of the day.

 

 
“Thanks, you’re blocking the sun. Now I can see the tv.”

blocking the sun

The other night we attended our kids’ school Book Fair and Open House.

 

 
The kids had been talking about the book fair specifically for weeks.

 

 
Despite having pile after pile, mounds and stacks and heaps and hills of books kicking around the house, they couldn’t wait to get their hands on a new one to toss on the tippy-top.

 

 
Actually, what they wanted was a poster with adorable kittens surfing, a comic book and Chloe wanted a Barbie toy (requiring batteries–forget it).

 

 
Book Fair –yes! Books–no

 

 
When we checked out this terrible Barbie thing I nixed it right away.

 

 
For starters, it was $25. If it had been less than $1, maybe, but even then I was leaning towards no. I could picture the parts, the voice of someone pretending to be Barbie coming out of a slotted speaker system, then slowing down when the batteries started to die and sounding like a scary robot coming from one of our toy bins every time we stepped into the room with a shaky, slow-mo, James Earl Jones: “P-l-a-y-with-me-mwha-h-a-ha-a”. I pictured a series of broken, plastic records, yes RECORDS tucked neatly into a fold for display that would be found in our bathroom vents or used as doll house plates before the night was over.

 

 
I told Chloe this book was just too expensive.

 

 
I think it’s an important lesson for kids to hear their parents say, “We just don’t have the money for that right now.” Even though, my kids have been rumoured to tell people, “We can’t have toothpaste or blankets. We don’t have money for that right now.”

 

 
Chloe looked confused and explained to me, “No Mommy, the people at the Book Fair give us the money and we choose what we want. Just like at the grocery store.”

 

 
Mastered the concept of commerce and at just four years old.

 

 
There were a few, quiet tears and a few louder ones as she hugged the craptastic Barbie non-book and we wandered into one of the classrooms.

 

 
I watched as a girl a little older than Chloe picked up the Barbie toy and walked out of the Book Fair without paying for it.

 

 
If it was a toy store, I might have said something or made a citizen’s arrest but this was inside our school so I wanted to see how this was going to unravel.

 

 
I watched as the little girl presented the item to her Mom who I think said, “They’re giving these to everyone?”

 

 
Chloe cried harder.

 

 
“Someone else got my book!”

 

 

Two things; 1) it’s not a book. 2) She stole it. Bail–“We don’t have money for that.”

Book Thief

If a Gardening magazine were to call right now for an interview, here’s how it would sound.

 
Green Thumb: Hi Liz, we saw you working in your garden this morning. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being you’d rather shave your head with a cheese grater (Sam Malone), 10 being, Hydrangea is your middle name), how much do you love gardening?

 
Me: Negative one thousand.

 
Green Thumb: Liz, were you aware your rudbeckia have really taken over your garden and are completely out of control?

 
Me: I am FULLY aware, wait, are those the yellow ones? Then yes, a couple of neighbours have mentioned it (and also my Mom).

 
GT: Did you know there are no poisonous snakes in this part of the country?

 
Me: Of course I did. Everyone knows that.

 
GT: Oh, because you were really hopping around in there like you were afraid of something biting or attacking you.

 
Me: I burn more calories the more I move around. Also there was a headline about two cougars this morning and it got me thinking.

 
GT: Liz, do you think Dollarama is the best place to buy your gardening gloves and other tools?

 
Me: Well if there was a store that sold nothing but gardening supplies…..there is?

 
GT: When your Mom says, “Just cut it all back” Do you know what that means or how to execute? Do you think she has any understanding of how many weeks that would take to do?

 
Me: Next question.

 
GT: Liz, it’s time to split those hostas.

 
Me: Yep.

 
GT: When you say to your husband, “We really messed up this garden, planting all kinds of extra things and not sticking to the original plan,” Do you think it’s fair to be using the pronoun “we” instead of “I”?

 
Me: Did Greg put you up to that one?

 
GT: If you were to plant this garden all over again….

 
Me: I would pave it.

 

 

Our kids participated in a cross country meet yesterday at a neighbouring school. Actually, it wasn’t neighbouring at all, it was far.

 
Hanna joined cross country for the same reason she joins any school clubs and teams. Participation might result in missing a few minutes to a full day of school.

 
Ellie joined because this is the first year she’s allowed to participate in any school clubs or teams and she plans to stamp her name on every sign-up sheet within a 100kms radius. The number of clubs joined is directly related to the number of pictures you will make it into in the yearbook.

 
Hanna waved to me as she crossed the finish line while sweetly mouthing the words, “I’m totally gonna barf.”

 
Ellie tripped early on in the race but thankfully, they had to run 20kms (or more) so she had time to recoup.

 
When Ellie crossed the finish line, she was very emotional. I too am emotional minutes after finishing a marathon run which at this point in my life is zero times. (and counting)

 
She told me she hurt her wrist when she fell and she cried for most of the race.

 
I thought the tears were from pain or embarrassment from the fall but they weren’t.

 
Ellie said two kids from two different schools passed her during the race. One turned to her and asked, “Hey, are you okay?” The other said, “Good for you for getting up and finishing the race.”

 
She said it was the nicest thing she’d ever heard.

 
Random acts of kindness that bring kids to tears. Let’s have more of them.

The kids played an actual game in the car on the way home while their electronic gadgets cooled and they dreamt of the moment they were fully charged so they could get back to what matters most in life. Building a tree where flamingos and turtles could live together in harmony.

While the title of the game is not yet known, the concept is simple. Each player (after checking the battery life on their iphones, then shaking them to see if that would speed up the charge) takes a turn telling the group one lie and two truths.

It’s up to the group to decide which of the three statements is the lie.

Rules include; no siblings can tell the group if it’s something they know about their sister. This is the only rule but it can’t be over-stated. In fact, more than any truths or any lies, what I heard most was, “Shut up! You can’t guess!” Ah car games. So turtles and flamingos together you say?

There were a few discrepancies as the game progressed. Someone might say, “I like the colour orange” as their lie but they secretly adore the colour orange so we had to pull over a few times to hit the gavel on the dashboard with a firm ruling from the judge.

When it was Chloe’s turn, she couldn’t wait to tell everyone the three things she’d been dying to share.

“One, my second favourite colour is red. Two, my third favourite colour is red. Three, those strings you tie and they make a big ball together and you can’t pull them apart.”

The group paused, I heard a couple of giggles and finally someone said, “Can you explain what you mean in number three Chloe?”

She said, “You told me to tell two truths, and one knot.”

I remember hearing about a restaurant in New York offering a $100 hamburger on their menu.

I wondered at the time if anyone was buying the burger but with the right publicity, the right restaurant’s endorsement, the right executive chef standing proudly behind the perfect picture of a happy cow it would probably sell.

$100 for a hamburger.

Yesterday, I wrote a cheque for $90 for school-lunch pizza.

The $90 afforded two of my kids the luxury of eating two lukewarm slices of plain cheese pizza (and one for my four year old) at school every Wednesday (if the person reading the “Who gets pizza?” list could pronounce “Schlotzhauer” and if my Kindergartener was not ensconced in an art project and if my older two weren’t running cross country or sick that day) until Christmas.

The program begins in October and there are twelve Wednesdays between the start date and Christmas holidays.

Twelve Wednesdays = $90.

Maybe it doesn’t seem like a lot for five pieces of pizza divided by my three children each week. It just seemed odd when I wrote in the memo line: pizza on the cheque for $90. Kind of like a bad dream. The kind where hot cheese burns the roof of your mouth.

I placed the cheque in my four year olds princess backpack which also struck me as odd but our school’s policy is to exchange forms with parents through the reliable messenger services of your youngest (or only) child.

I have never understood why the policy wouldn’t be the oldest (or only) or even just say, oldest (why do they have to isolate the onlies when it should be assumed if you’re the only kid in your family, by default you are the oldest as well as the youngest).

I’m not going to put in writing which of my three children we consider the most responsible but I can’t think of any family where the four year old should carry the burden (in addition to a larger-than-their-torso backpack) of moving the family’s finances from the house to the school. Too much can happen. There are too many temptations. Too many variables. Too many puddles, too much mud, too many ways to fold that $90 pizza cheque into the shape of an airplane and launch it out the window. Too many willing kids to accept the cheque in exchange for a unicorn.

I have no idea if the cheque made it to school or whether to expect a sack of magic beans to arrive home at the end of the school day.

I do know my kids are going to start appreciating the gold medal standard that is cheese, dough and sauce.

I also know from here until Christmas, no one is going to be sick on a Wednesday.

Saturday was no different from any other weekend now that the kids are back at school and activities are in full swing.

We had a two hour parent orientation meeting while two girls swam, which landed us 30 minutes late for birthday party number one for Ellie but just enough time to scarf back a dusty bunny and get Chloe to birthday party number two.

Greg then retrieved Ellie from birthday party number one with our apologies for the late delivery and drove to soccer game number one with Hanna.

We reconvened at home to snack, iron our delicates and get back out for soccer game number two.

Any given Saturday.

I took on the parent meeting while Greg and Chloe had some father-daughter bonding time. Saturday’s adventure: shoe shopping with Chloe.

I’ve mentioned Chloe’s foot odour problem so rather than tackle it head on, we decided to completely ignore it and just throw away the shoes in question and start from scratch.

I raced home with one or two of our kids in the minivan to make it to our next activity (details are sketchy) and Greg, doing a happy-Dad dance in the kitchen said, “Guess what? Chloe and I went shoe shopping. We think you’ll be very happy Mommy.”

Except I wasn’t happy when they flashed me the exact same pair of princess shoes I just bought for Chloe to wear as indoor shoes just a couple of days ago.

Those of you familiar with the concept of indoor and outdoor shoes will understand, there’s really only one rule with having a pair of shoes assigned to mud and grass clippings and one assigned to story time on a colourful carpet. They must not be identical or the child will never know which pair he/she should wear outside at recess and to come home at the end of the day.

I really thought that was just universally understood.

“But you said, ‘Buy anything. Let Chloe pick.’ I believe your exact words were, ‘I don’t care, just throw out the smelly ones.’”

I couldn’t believe the busiest day of the season was going to end with me being caught on a technicality.

Chloe came home from school with a paper plate with her name printed on the back and a sixth place ribbon attached with an enveloped stapled to the ribbon.

“Chloe, what is this?”

Chloe opened the envelope and flashed everyone a loonie that was inside.

“I won art.”

“You won art?”

“Yeah, I got money to buy candy at the store.”

I doubt that’s how the winnings were explained but that’s how it translated in my four year olds mind.

Chloe’s entry into the fall fair was under the category “Family” and I guess it’s implied the criteria was monochromatic tones, family sketch, stick figures and most importantly, missing one person.

To the untrained eye, this portrait does in fact represent a family, it’s just not our family because if you look closely, you’ll notice there are four people in this picture, four complex characters each with a story to tell, but our family is made up of five people.

When I asked Chloe who was missing she said, “No one. No one’s missing.”

I had her point out who everyone was in the picture.

“That’s Hanna, that’s you, that’s Daddy, that’s Ellie.”

Right, but where are you Chloe?

“I drew it. I know what I look like.”

Winner.

I thought Hanna got off pretty easily with her eye injury last weekend. No corneal damage, just some abrasions on her conjunctiva (a word I can now spell without having to look up). The only meds are four simple drops into her eyeball daily. How hard could that be?

Step 1: make Hanna think I am her friend through a 15 minute process of joke telling, snack eating and basically letting her do whatever she wants so she will agree to allow me to come at her with a tiny squeezy bottle filled with a liquid she claims stings her eye.

Step 2: dim the lights, remove any and all sisters from the room, set a noise cancellation fan, close the blinds, draw the drapes and endure a series of deep breathing exercises while holding hands, smiling and making guttural, humming sounds in unison.

Step 3: Ask Hanna, “Are you ready?”

Step 4: Hanna says, “Yep” at the same time, closing both eyes so tightly, the lids disappear entirely and I see just eyebrow and top of cheek on both sides of her face like those dolls made out of cotton stuffing and nylons.

Step 5: Hanna peeks to see where I’m at with this arrangement, not even close to long enough for me to randomly spray the drops in her direction.

Step 6: Ask again, “Let me know when you’re ready, okay?”

“Okay.”

Step 7: Hanna exhales violently, arches her back like she’s being restrained and undergoing shock treatment and stares at the ceiling. At no time does she say, “I’m ready” or “Go” or “Ariba!” Nothing. Just upside down eye ball pose.

Step 8: I gently pull down her lower eyelid as she kicks me in the shin.

Step 9: “Can I pull down your eyelid and drop it into the bottom part of your eye?”

Sure.

Step 10: I pull down her eyelid and she glues her eyes closed, urging them to fully envelope the bottom eyelid I am attempting to lower.

Step 11: I drop the bottle in between the couch cushions, little sister enters singing “Let it Go.” Wouldn’t I love to.

Step 12: Back into position, I am tempted to rest my knees (ever so gently on her shoulders and pin her down) she says, “Ready!” before jerking her head and looking away.

Step 13: I squeeze a drop out of the bottle and it hits her right nostril.

She says, “It’s in!” (No it isn’t!) “It’s in, I can feel it.” She’s lying, it’s in her nose. She wipes the drop from her nose holding firm that it landed directly in her affected eyeball.

We discuss the negative effects lying has on a family.

Step 14: Repeat 3 more times.

photo is a likeness. Photo is actually not even close.

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