Browsing Posts published in July, 2011

We have been working on building our eight year olds’ self confidence for the past couple of years. As parents, we try to understand how a child might perceive the world and one of the biggest challenges we face is worrying about whether they are “normal” with regards to same age children. We concluded in most aspects, she appears to be where she should be; torturing younger siblings, obsessed with t.v., Taylor Swift and desperate to pierce her ears and wear make-up.

We didn’t always feel there was anything to be concerned about until our second, middle daughter arrived on scene and approached each day with such a winning attitude, she wanted to take the world by storm which highlighted the gentler, more thoughtful approach to new experiences our oldest was taking.

How does one “work” on building confidence in a child when their degrees are in English Literature? Right, we wing it.

We start with a lot of praise over the little things. We have heard from teachers over the years we might have a child who is a perfectionist, easily frustrated when she can’t do something exceptionally the first time around and therefore doesn’t try at all for fear of failure. This was tough for us to hear but so much better than our conclusion, that she was lazy. Thanks Chaucer, if I haven’t said it before, you have taught me nothing.

With the summer half over, one measurable difference has been her approach to biking down the hill on our street. While our five year old often flips over her handle bars because her yippee-kay-ay, feet straddled in side splits simply can’t handle the speed wobbles, she giggles pigtails over helmet into the bushes.

Hanna on the other hand has been known to get off her bike and walk it down the hill having witnessed her sisters’ pre-concussion antics.

Occasionally I walk beside her, sometimes sad to know she’s missing out on some carefree moments that I know she would love if she was simply willing to take a risk. Confession, sometimes I’m downright angry she won’t just act like every other kid and do something I know she would enjoy…..because I enjoyed it? Hmmm.

I explained to her she has to believe in herself if she wants the rest of the world to.

I told her she should chant things like, “You can do this Hanna. You can do this Hanna.”

The bike ramp has been a thorn in her side for the past two years. She’s watched neighbourhood children jump, cheer, tear their pants and be humiliated by a parent who angrily discussed the price of said pants and how ones genitals might now be rendered ineffective for life in front of a group of gasping onlookers.

She watched as her little sister lined up time and time again to ride the ramp, grinning from ear to ear under a mess of sweaty helmet hair while she cautiously circled the wagons with the adults.

Finally her day had come. I saw her mouthing something to herself as she walked beside her bike towards the ramp while all of the other kids rode down the narrow path, tall grasses brushing their bare legs.

When I got close enough to hear, she was whispering, “You can do it Hanna. You can do it Hanna.”

As she rode down the ramp, the first of at least thirty times she yelled, “You can do it! You’re Hanna Schlotzhauer!!!!”

Okay, so a proud moment for us as parents, the summer is half over and we felt we had accomplished greatness. Not because she made it down the ramp without requiring stitches, because she believed in herself and trusted she could try something new.

Ellie’s turn.

She took note of how much praise went into the last jumper’s fairly uneventful ride and decided she too should be the recipient of a few cheers.

“You can do it Ellie. You can do it Ellie.” She looked at us for a nod of approval.

She headed down the hill toward the ramp she had jumped at least a thousand times. When she reached the peak, bike now in the air she shouted, “You can do it Ellie! You’re Hanna Schlotzhauer!”

Close enough.

More nights than not there’s a stall tactic to either a) keep me in the girl’s room a little longer, b) let them stay awake a little longer c)have me entertain them with delicious stories of my youth (almost always 100% fabricated).

I indulge for a couple of reasons. The first and most obvious is because even Greg and I feel guilty about tucking them into their beds when the sun is busy bleaching their furniture. It’s still so bright at 8pm but whoever designed this house spent time ensuring this particular window would track the sun’s position in the summer sky to the millimetre and for that reason it seems cruel and unusual to ask them to close their eyes and attempt to get any rest.

The second is because even if they find my stories boring and wouldn’t trade playing Wii ski, blowing up balloons or riding bikes to hear them during the day, I now have their undivided attention regardless of whether they think they’re playing me.

Last night I was headed for the door when I was attacked with a wooden back massage tool that was being punched into the small of my back, the masseuse thinking I would melt to the floor a relaxed ball of jelly. Instead I turned in a karate stance expecting to punch a vertically challenged intruder in the neck.

Hanna: Welcome to your spa Madame.

Me: Hmmm. Okay, I’ll bite.

Ellie (in what I think might be a Middle Eastern accent): Pleasa, sit downa Madam.

Hanna (born in Britain but lived in Canada most of her adult life accent): Would this chair be to your liking?

Me: Indeed.

My treatments weren’t that far off from what I think an actual day spa might serve up. Given the girls see a Mom who spends basically zero minutes a day on personal grooming, the girls selected the 1L bottle of Huggies baby lotion to rub all over my feet and hands. Their technique was deliberate and I was impressed they knew enough to use cream with the added bonus of alleviating any skin irritation from urine.

Hanna (now from Brazil?): Are you getting ready for your date?

Me: Oh yes, my date.

Ellie: Is he RICH?

Oh dear. My spa treatment is now going to have to be a lesson in money isn’t everything and I was so enjoying the tingling of the zinc oxide in between my toes.

Before I could begin my speech about finding someone who makes you happy regardless of income they were squirting my face with more cream and pushing me back on the bed. This relaxing day spa is feeling slightly more like a form of torture and I’m waiting to be gagged with an iCarly night mask, tarred with glitter glue and sent to a Taylor Swift karaoke contest.

Ellie begins brushing my fingernails with a set of Cinderella pick-up sticks. She jabs me every now and again but that’s the price of beauty I guess. She asks me to close my eyes and with the sharp end of the stick starts scraping my eyelids while pretending to, “putta on you eyeshadow yesa?”

Hanna tells Ellie to get her licey head away from her. This lack of professionalism simply would never fly in an actual Argentinean/Sri Lankan spa.

Hanna begins to rub my temples, make that eyeballs: You are getting very sleepy. Beware (now Turkish and extremely creepy whispering in my ear) of the world….

Hanna: Your feet are gross Mom.

Ellie: We should do Dad’s feet next.

Hanna: No that’s gross.

Ellie: They’re the same as Mom’s.

I’m not sure who should be more insulted.

Off I went smelling like diaper hoping the tiny incisions in my eyelids would heal by morning. My hair was combed sometimes with the two day old ponytail still intact, others with it pulled out. My back throbbed from the earlier jabs from an aggressive five year old shiatsu master and the tops of my legs were almost completely sunburnt from that dirty, rotten window.

But I felt great hanging with my two new favourite aestheticians, regardless of their insanely late hours of operation.

After my third bum change today, Ellie informed me I shouldn’t ask Chloe, “Do you want to go and change your bum?” I should instead say, “Do you want to go and change your diaper as she has a perfectly good bum.” Mark the time, my five year old is officially smarter than me.

I did think it might be fun to bring out the old Dora potty seat and see how Chloe would respond to sitting on the toilet for the first time, recognizing this being the third child, I still have no chance at getting her to do this in a timely and/or efficient manner so I’m not pressuring either one of us to become experts at this unless the week before she starts school she’s still in a pull-up. Only then will I have no choice but to rub her nose in any accidents and generally make her life miserable. Until then, it’s breezy.

She immediately got comfortable on the cushiony seat, though confused by this unknown character plastered all over it. The Dora theme is old news now that the older girls are onto yeast infections and Canesten commercials so poor Chloe doesn’t have a lot of choice in what she watches. She’s confused by this Spanish kid with the backpack dancing around her bare bum. It’s certainly not the first kid she’ll see with a monkey on her back (both literally and figuratively) but for now, the strangeness of the experience coupled with the interesting characters is holding her interest.

I’m impressed with her immediate smiling, “Psssssssssss, pssshhhhhhh.”

She says, “peeps” and “poops” and “all done,” before quickly leaping onto the floor and sticking her head in the bowl to see if there is anything of interest to examine like the monkey, map or backpack would be canoeing across the brown log, swimming through the amber river before reaching the highest waterfall. There isn’t but these are better signs than screaming to get down or sinking through the hole a la Winnie The Pooh and becoming stuck (which may or may not have happened to me at age five during a sleepover at a friend’s).

She insists on carrying the Dora potty around like a trophy, wearing it around her neck on occasion, placing it on the ottoman, the couch, the kitchen chairs. This list is actually more of a reference guide for me for future places to wipe down with vinegar and possibly bleach.

The more I hear people’s horror stories about potty training the more I’m once again dreading this experience. I have a friend who is not proud of putting her son in a cold shower after defecating on just about everything in the house. She’s obviously changed her name and had plastic surgery to disguise her face but it’s not surprising the lengths people go to when feeling the pressures of competition from other parents and diaperless kids wandering around rubbing our noses in their seamless panty-lines (huh, a full circle moment).

If you want to pee once at 19 months and then not again for another year? Fine by me. That was your big sister’s trick and if twitter had been around then, I would have looked like quite the braggety fool.

For now, I know I’ve enlisted the help of a willing partner in Dora. She’s been around the bowl a few times.

You can tell a lot about the t.v. shows your kids are watching based on the advertising.

I used to love Treehouse and their commercial-free policy. I have no idea how the network agreed to that one but I did find it peculiar that Dora was always drinking Gatorade, wore Reeboks (the kind that lifted and toned your butt) and that pearl bracelet with the heart pendant she never hopped in Tico’s taxi without was clearly from Pandora’s collection that Swiper had stolen the other charms from over the years.

My almost eight year old has moved on from The Backyardigans, Diego and those characters from In The Night Garden that certainly didn’t help a child nod off to sleep, if anything they were the cause for a lot of tossing, turning, questions about ambiguity and perhaps played a key role in her addiction to marshmallows.

She likes Nick Jr. and Disney channels that are obviously happy to accept cash in exchange for prime placement of products in between iCarly episodes.

I was okay being asked if I would buy the girls dollies that peed on command (who didn’t want those when they were young?) make your own ice cream machines and various sugary cereals. The answer of course is always “no” but they wouldn’t be kids if they didn’t ask and yes your marketing departments are doing their jobs, your products are being seen by an extremely captive (albeit penniless) audience.

This morning however, when Hanna snuck down the hall at her usual 6:00am to turn on the t.v. beating me by ten minutes out to the kitchen/family room, I guess I just wasn’t prepared for the conversation that ensued.

Hanna: Mom, what is a yeast infection? Is that from bread?

Me: Ahem.

Hanna: Do we have Canesten? It works on yeast infections. You only have to use it once. There’s an oral kind and another kind…I’m not sure what the other kind is.

Me: Oh.

Hanna: What’s oral?

Me: ?

Hanna: The girl who takes it is really pretty. She has a nice pink dress. I love it. And she smiles all the time. Can we have Canesten? It’s really good for you. I think Taylor Swift uses it (doubtful) because she’s on this commercial for something too. It makes you healthy and I know you like healthy things.

Me: Sure, we’ll pick up some Canesten for you.  Anything on Treehouse?

I’d like to say this is a new conversation but it isn’t.

It starts with one of my two oldest daughters asking make that, begging for a play date and me agreeing to the idea based on previous good behaviour or length of time served from the last play date.

Once we establish who the “winner” of the play date is arrangements are made to determine who the friend will be, where the meeting spot/hand-off/group activity/tattle-fest will take place.

Not before of course a lengthy battle over how the other sibling will comply to the rules and regulations of her sister’s date.

With Ellie (age 5) the older sister (age 7) is a huge threat to her play date fun. She recognizes the appeal another five year old has towards spending time with an older, cooler version of them. Ellie of course just sees the older sister as the girl who laughed hysterically the one time she forgot to firmly affix her bike helmet and sling-shot herself into her handles.

Ellie: Hanna, you’re not allowed to steal my friend.

Hanna: Why would I want to steal your friend, I have friends of my own.

Shouldn’t that be enough? Oh no. This conversation drags on until I start googling “How to deal with sibling rivalry regarding play dates,” “How to avoid play dates altogether,” “How to make your home a play date-free zone,” “Play dates are for suckers,” “Play date Shmay date.”

When we did finally make it to the park, after Hanna’s third signature was stamped by a notary to confirm she would in no way interfere with Ellie’s one on one time with her same aged friend, playing with them only during activities that not only worked but required a third party representative otherwise the game would fall dormant, only then would she be permitted to look in their direction and off of her own crocs while at the park.

We met, the two friends hugged, Hanna counted to seventy-five Mississippily before removing her seatbelt allowing for an uninterrupted greeting.

Then something happened none of our documents had prepared us for, secret option “C.”

The friend took one look at nineteen month old Chloe waddling towards the sand. She lifted her in the air, twirled her around and asked for a hug. She asked if it would be okay if she was the Mom, my baby was her baby and they could play house.

The two older girls toasted each other with a frozen yogurt tube and carried on to climb some maple syrup trees.

On the way home, I suggested to Hanna she stop licking her lips or she’ll….

Hanna interrupting: Or what? I’ll get a hernia?

I’m learning to just expect the unexpected.

Life doesn’t get any better than a day at the park with the girls.

Hanna: Good day Madame. How may I be your waitress?

Ah yes, the restaurant game. This is where I sit on the end of a sand-encrusted, wet slide and the girls dump more sand clumps, twigs, bark, dead weeds and grass clippings on my hands and any exposed skin in the name of imaginative, make believe restaurant play.

Ellie becomes distracted and heads towards the trees for some serious climbing and also to begin a series of complaints ranging from her fear of heights to prickly things scratching and/or poking her, to swarms of angry bees circling each and every branch she plans to make contact with. My favourite of course was when she approached, simulating some sort of sticky, tacky substance covering her skin.

Ellie: Do you have any water? I’m covered in maple syrup from that tree.

Hanna: Today’s specials are: cheesy broccoli with seafood medley for $1.99. Lemonade is $100 but free for Merfolk.

We really should cut the Merfolk a deal. Especially for a cold, summer drink. They must be exhausted from all of that swimming.

The simple pinecone is always a major player in any park visit. Today it was an intercom for ordering $100 beverages (no discount if I could not produce a colourful tail) and also a walkie talkie for those who had climbed a little too high up the maple syrup tree.

Ellie was excited when she saw our snack bag had a small container of Wheat Thin crackers.

Ellie: I love Weed Things! We don’t need to buy Weed Things anymore. We have tons of weed at our house.  We could make our own.

That last part was a little more mega-phoney than necessary (even if the megaphone was a pinecone) especially with the absence of that ever-so-important letter “s” on the end weed.

Next it was onto Croc Toss. The kids enjoy displaying their expertise at throwing things…anything. It could be the recently disposed of cheesy broccoli tray, pine cone or the baby’s crocs.

This game keeps them occupied and is fine until packing the car and realizing I’m short one baby’s shoe. I resign myself to the fact I may never see imitation cheesy broccoli again but an actual shoe, that, I’m going to need.

Me: Have you seen a croc?

Everyone looks around for an adult sized shoe despite the fact I am clearly wearing two sandals.

ME: No, no, it’s small, about the size of a Weed Thing.

I took swimming lessons every summer at an outdoor pool when I was a kid. My lessons included the old version of CPR, the one where you actually made mouth on mouth contact with your drowning victim. I can’t remember at what age they stopped forcing kids to blow up each other’s lungs in the name of a red crest to be sewn on some macrameed banner hung from a piece of dowling through a nail but I’m glad they did.

I can’t recall how far along I made it towards full lifesaving/lifeguard status but I know I learned some basic strokes, never ever able to figure out the accurate breathing for front crawl without cranking my head completely to one side and taking several breaths as opposed to just the one out of half of my mouth the instructors always encouraged. For that reason, it’s hard to be disappointed in my kids for hearing the same constructive criticism from their leaders. Perhaps it’s genetic.  Our necks are just built to crank an extra 45 degrees. Maybe instead of shaming us, we should be studied like the misunderstood common owl. Maybe I had used up all of my breath forcing air into some stranger’s lungs.

The breathing technique got in the way of a friendly wager Greg & I had while on vacation with our friends “Team Cat Balls” a couple of years ago in Cuba. The bet was to determine which husband/wife team could swim underwater the furthest. I can’t remember what the trophy was but I’m sure it involved a big hunk of cheese and a fresh loaf of bread with a tray of miniature, paper, resort cups filled with beer.

We lost by at least a pool length and not for lack of trying. My husband could have beaten them handily if it hadn’t been for me anticipating that sweeping, owl-like motion of fresh air.

Yesterday, I noticed when flipping through the guide on our t.v., several stations were broadcasting “Swimming” specifically, “Women’s final 3M.”

Three metres—finally a race for the breathing impaired.

We arrived at Magicuts for Daddy’s bi-monthly, white board option four, plain-clothed-officer hair-cut and made our plan for pick-up.

I rolled away in the Grand Caravan en route to pick up coffee for Greg a steeped tea with double milk for myself, careful to lose as little air conditioning as possible when ordering through the intercom, then realizing I was ordering two large scalding drinks so why did that really matter?

Hanna was pouting and I asked her why.

Hanna: Because when we left the hair cutting place, there was a tree that looked exactly like my tree in our front yard and you didn’t even notice.

Agreed, I had been paying far too much attention to pesky traffic signals and pedestrians when I should have been solely focused on mini-mall landscaping—my bad.

When we returned to pick up Greg, rather than unbuckling three children, one of whom, who shall remain nameless (rhymes with Zoe) is almost impossible to settle into her seat and wrestle back into her seatbelt after disembarking for short trips like to check to see if Daddy’s hair is kitteny soft at the back and landing strip flat on the top.

I sent Hanna in to find out what stage he was at in the transformation from networking sales guy to “Sir, do you have any idea how fast you were driving?”

Minutes later when we were all on our way to the Home Depot, I noticed Ellie crying in the back so I asked her what was wrong.

Ellie: You sent Hanna in to check Daddy and his hair cut and I never get to do special things.

When we returned home I handed Chloe her cup of cold milk and continued busying myself preparing lunch.

Chloe (19 months old) pointed to the microwave with one finger and held her cup in the same direction with her other hand and said, “beep, beep, beep, beep.”

You want your milk warmed up?

At least one of our kids knows how to communicate.

You know that section on your child’s year-end report card encouraging parents to continue working on that specific skill with your child over the summer, read, “please introduce that specific skill to your child over the summer” and not only have you not broached the subject, you haven’t even filed away the report card envelope?

I simply hate the idea of cracking open the math homework or disguising a legal pad with regrouping homework as a fun, summer activity when we could be miming our swimming techniques in our non-existent pool or looking for head lice.

Will I feel guilty the first day of school when ALL of the other kids have honed their addition/subtraction skills over the summer and my child’s gaze focuses intensely at her teacher’s scalp, specifically targeting those areas around the ears, top of the head and back of the neck? Perhaps.

It’s not as though the kids haven’t learned anything this summer.

For example, Chloe at just nineteen months has learned if she removes her diaper early enough during her afternoon nap, she can guarantee a lot of extra work for Mommy including getting to be my special helper, hauling her mattress onto the back deck with our bucket of soapy, warm water and our second with vinegar. She’s also learned to repeat the words, “Are you kidding me? Not again,” impressive for such a young, sly little thing.

Ellie has learned she no longer needs to walk from her bedroom to the family room in the morning if she claims her legs are numb. Someone is sure to come along offering a piggy-back or fireman’s carry before dumping her on the couch.

Hanna has discovered tip-toeing down the hallway to the t.v. might arouse suspicion but if she slides on the hardwood wearing buttonless p.j.’s, she has a far better chance at victory.

Chloe has learned to point to the freezer and shout, “Freeze!” demanding a frozen apple juice freezie. Communication of any kind is progress.

Ellie has learned that on “retro” day at camp if you ask to wear a princess costume you will instead be forced to wear a “flower power” outfit. When you arrive at camp and two girls in your group are dressed as princesses and one boy is dressed as Thor, she learned not to trust her Mommy.

Hanna has learned that if you eat the entire bag of marshmallows during a s’more-a-thon, you run the risk of a week of spasmodic sleeping episodes and all of that flailing and thrashing will never get her down the hallway to the t.v. quietly.

Ellie has learned her hair is not long enough for pony-tails or braids but if she uses her left hand to yank most of my hair out by the root and her right to tie an elastic band of knots around it, she can claim she knows how to make a pony-tail.

Hanna has learned to look through the clump of discarded hair for nits with a magnifying glass.

I have learned Ruby Red helps ease the pain of a throbbing scalp from one too many visits to the pony tail factory. It also makes me smile when I fill in the report card comments, “We will continue to work diligently with our child over the summer on her method acting.”

Cannonball!

We received a notice home about head lice found at our daughter’s camp yesterday. There were three kids and one counsellor sent home and all other campers/counsellors/ janitorial staff/stilt re-alignment specialists were all thoroughly examined by rubber glove wearing experts.

The good news is my children were cleared. The bad news is I’m vomiting up blood every time I see a piece of lint on furniture or clothing mistaking it for a bug. I even resorted to stabbing a small fluff I found on Ellie’s pillow with the tweezers and then examining it under a magnifying glass to confirm it was a combination of viscose rayon, fleece, crocheting thread, with traces of Banana Boat sunscreen and thankfully not a creepy crawler coming to invade our home.

I want to turn on the dryer but here’s my dilemma. Between the months of May and September, I can’t bring myself to waste energy by using the dryer. Also, unlike many, I don’t mind a fresh from the clothesline crispy fried towel for an extra loofah post shower but I’m torn.

The notice home specifically states you should use a hot dryer for twenty minutes (minimum) in order to kill any nits/nats/scallywags that may be on your sheets, towels, clothing, hats etc.

I can’t help but think neighbours will see my dryer vent flapping in the humid breeze and immediately conclude, we have lice, why else would our dryer be running when it’s forty-six degrees Celsius? Surely she’s not trying to shrink that one pair of shorts she owns any shorter than they already are they’ll gasp. And isn’t lice really all about bringing shame to your family? Further, if heat kills them, I’m not sure there’s any dryer in the world that could spike to the temps out on my back deck at the moment.

Also, when did lice become a year round epidemic? We received notices monthly during the school year but in July too? Is there no incubation/hibernation/Florida snowbird period for which to stock up on supplies? For the men to shave their heads to see how they’ll look bald in the heat as opposed to doing it in November when everyone will just assume there’s an infestation?

We discussed the fatal flaws in the camp life system when it comes to passing lice from one head to the next with the girls. Under no circumstances were they to share; hats, hair brushes, lice combs or shower caps with any of their friends at camp.

At 4pm, I was the first to arrive in the gym to pick up my children. The gym was empty as the kids had not yet returned from their late afternoon swim. I noticed two objects strewn about the floor that had been littered by one of ninety children throughout the course of the day. The first was an empty apple sauce container that must have fallen from someone’s lunch bag en route to the garbage can, an innocent mistake. The second was, you guessed it, my daughter’s hat.

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